You don’t realize how little you understand about pregnancy, birth and parenting until you get pregnant. Pre-pregnancy, I knew of one type of childbirth class: Lamaze. I had no idea what a birth plan should include. I didn’t know anything about the placenta or the third stage of labor.
We knew that we would start trying for a baby right after our wedding, so it was convenient that we had a few close friends and family members deliver their bundles of joy right before our big day. Of these couples, two of them took and recommended The Bradley Method classes, also known as “husband coached childbirth” classes.
It was my husband who first brought Bradley classes up to me. He liked the idea of the father having a more active role in the delivery process and being a trained coach for the mother. He explained to me that The Bradley Method focused on natural childbirth with the idea that women’s bodies are fully equipped to give birth without intervention.
Here is an actual quote from the Bradley website:
“The Bradley Method® teaches natural childbirth and views birth as a natural process. It is our belief that most women with proper education, preparation,
and the help of a loving and supportive coach can be taught to give birth naturally.
The Bradley Method® is a system of natural labor techniques in which a woman and her coach play an active part. It is a simple method of increasing self-awareness,
teaching a woman how to deal with the stress of labor by tuning in to her own body.
The Bradley Method® encourages mothers to trust their bodies using
natural breathing, relaxation, nutrition, exercise, and education.”
If I remember correctly, my response to his interest in the class was, “When you birth a baby, you can do it without drugs.”
Clearly, I was not immediately on board.
The truth is, the idea of a natural birth scared me. Would I be able to take that level of pain when I had no previous experience to compare it to? Would labor be a miserable experience that I would hope to forget soon after? But I’ve always been a bit of a hippie when it comes to health. I prefer using lavender oil to ease my migraines. When there is an effective natural solution, I try to go with it.
So, I decided to do some research of my own. Not through Bradley resources, but through the documentaries “The Business of Being Born” and “More Business of Being Born.” These documentaries take a deep look at modern birth, natural birth and the work of midwife Ina May Gaskin. I LOVED both of these films, mainly because they used science and experience to back up their claims. Yes, these women were hippies. But they were hippies with case studies and statistics.
I loved the documentaries so much, I made my husband watch them with me. And by the end of watching and discussing, I was on the natural train for both my health and the health of my baby.
Typically, Bradley Method Classes are not covered by insurance. But we were able to fill out a form that allowed us to get a portion back of what we paid for the class. In the beginning, I thought that I would want to take both Lamaze and Bradley, but Lamaze at my hospital was $75, and for around $119, Bradley soon started answering all of my questions.
Our class included two other couples (one has since had their baby, and the other is ready to pop any day now!) We meet every Monday at 7 p.m. at a church north of Pittsburgh. Classes typically go until 9:30 p.m. The class lasts for 12 weeks, and we’ve just finished up the curriculum (you get a workbook on your first day of class) for class 7. That’s a lot of time to sit in a birthing class – but there is a lot to learn. Our class is taught by a doula, a woman trained in assisting mothers and families during and after birth. All Bradley instructors are trained in the Bradley Method.
An obviously difference between Lamaze and Bradley is that while Lamaze teaches the “hee hee – hoo hoo” method of breathing, Bradley teaches deep, slow breaths similar to the breaths you might take during yoga or meditation. Breathing is just one tactic for managing pain during labor naturally, and the class covers your options, including pain medication and C-sections.
About 90% of mothers who choose the Bradley Method have a natural, unmedicated birth.
The class also covers the stages of labor and how to prepare your body for birth through nutrition and exercise. There is one “hands-on” portion of every class where we practice massage moves, exercises, relaxation techniques or dance moves. Our instructor is HUGE on dancing your way through birth. I even got to play a little bit of DMX at one of our classes.
So far, Bradley is a great fit for us. Our instructor helped us write a birth plan that we ran by and got approved by my OBGYN, which makes me feel much more confident about the type of birth I’m going to have, even if the plan veers away from that. I feel like all of our questions have been answered, and we’ve learned so much that we didn’t even know to ask. One of the most important things that Bradley has taught me is that just because it’s “typical” to do something in labor doesn’t mean it’s “necessary” or in the best interest of me or my baby. I feel so confident in the decisions I make on behalf of the baby now!
These classes are not for everyone. If you’re someone who believes that we should take advantage of technology and not feel pain if we have a choice, you may not want to take these classes. If you’re extremely scared of having a natural birth, you may not want to take these classes. But there is SO much research that goes into becoming a new parent, from which products you should put on your registry to whether or not you want the antibiotic goop on your baby’s eyes after birth. I urge every parent or couple find a class that they are truly comfortable with and use their instructor as a sounding board for their questions.
For us, that class is Bradley.
If you’re interested in learning more about natural birth or Bradley, here are some resources to check out:
- The Business of Being Born
- More Business of Being Born
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
- The Bradley Method Website
- The Bradley Method on Facebook
If you’re in the Pittsburgh area and want to hear more about my experience or get in contact with my instructor, contact me a email@example.com!