Why I Chose The Bradley Method for My Natural Childbirth
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As a child of the 70’s, I’m from the generation who rode our bikes without helmets and had our skinned knees treated with merthiolate. I still remember my grandmother putting that awful red stuff on my sister and me and thinking it hurt worse than whatever injury we had suffered.
I remember the pains of splinters, stubbed toes and cut feet from rocks in the river - all minor injuries, but visceral memories.
I can’t remember my second grade teacher’s name, but I can remember the cut on my palm where I grabbed the windbreaker of the boy my friends asked me to chase on the playground.
I never handled pain well, no matter what the cause.
So one of my first thoughts when I found out I was pregnant was how in the world would I handle the pain.
Yes, I was excited about having a baby, but honestly, I wasn’t around other moms and didn’t know much about what I was getting myself into.
Without a lot of guides in my initial days of pregnancy, I turned to the Bible of Pregnant Moms Everywhere - What To Expect When You’re Expecting.
Man, did I ever mark up that book and devour it, trying to learn and thus prepare myself for the great unknown phase of life I was in.
It was in this book I came across the first reference to The Bradley Method for delivering my baby. And as soon as I read their very brief description, it rang true with me. Instead of distracting myself from the pain, something I knew I wouldn’t be able to do, I was intrigued by the perspective that my role would instead be to work with the pain and let it do its work to birth my baby.
I reread that blurb in the book over and over and then read it out loud to my husband when he got home from work. We loved the idea of a natural childbirth and I decided to pursue it.
My doctor’s office didn’t know much about The Bradley Method and didn’t have the resources to guide me to an instructor. I had to find one on my own, not as easy back in the pre “everyone having internet access all the time” days.
But once I found my instructor and classes, I found a place of communal moms who helped me develop some of my own thinking about health, wellness and general all around “crunchiness.”
So to help you decide if The Bradley Method is right for you (or even if it’s something to consider), here are some thoughts about what it is, why I chose it and how it impacted my birth experience(s).
What is The Bradley Method?
The focus of The Bradley Method is on a natural childbirth experience and their classes stress “healthy baby, healthy mother and healthy families.”
If you want to have a child birth free from drugs and unnecessary medical interventions, their website boasts an 86% success rates of “spontaneous, unmedicated vaginal births.”
With a 12 week course, the preparation for childbirth begins early and a large part of the focus is on nutrition and physical preparations getting your body ready for the experience of giving birth. Instead of working against your body’s design, The Bradley Method teaches you to embrace your innate knowledge and relax while your body does what it knows how to do.
By working with your body instead of against it, you can “reduce pain and make labors more efficient.”
Just like athletes train with a coach, the Bradley Method teaches your partner to be your coach during childbirth. Your coach will be the one who helps you stay on track in the midst of the chaos that can sometimes invade your birth experience in the modern American hospital.
Why I Chose the Bradley Method
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was enrolled in a Master’s degree program in Cultural Anthropology. While studying how people live and function in so many different ways, I began to develop an interest in the universals that humans experience.
Childbirth is one of these universal experiences women who have given birth have in common no matter where or when they’ve lived. The traditions and procedures which surround the event itself may differ, but our bodies do the same thing to bring a child into the world.
My “academic” perspective at the time played a role in my choice to find a method that had more in common with women throughout time than just the medicalized procedures found uniquely in American hospitals.
I knew I wanted a birthing method that was as natural as possible. Now that being said, I never considered home birth, water birth or any of the other approaches that are considered even more natural.
So “as natural as possible” to me meant “as natural as possible in a hospital.”
And, as I stated earlier, I knew my pain tolerance was scarily low and there was no way I could “distract” myself from the pains of labor. The breathing and relaxation techniques taught through The Bradley Method sounded more in line with a way women could manage the pain of childbirth without missing the empowerment of birthing their babies.
My Birth Experiences
I used The Bradley Method with all three of my daughters’ births - births that were in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I avoided medication and unnecessary medical interventions all three times.
I do realize things in birth don’t always go according to our plans which was one of the reasons I chose to have my births in hospitals and not go completely on my own at home.
I did notice changes in the hospitals from the birth of my first daughter in 1996 to my last child in 2011. There was much more focus on allowing women to make informed choices by the time my third child was born than I had experienced the first time around.
That being said, at all three births, the labor and delivery nurses were all extremely supportive, and actually welcomed, my decision to have natural births. I think they enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of a less medicalized birth and really take care of me as a woman and mother and not as just a patient.
Any pressure for certain medical procedures came more from the institutions themselves than the individuals involved in my care. And each time I expressed my wishes to the nursing staff and doctors, they quickly adjusted to my requests and there were no necessary “fights” with medical staff.
If you are going to go with The Bradley Method of any other type of natural childbirth, I recommend you discuss your birth plan with all the medical professionals you can access ahead of time. Visit the hospital and talk to your doctor at each prenatal visit, ensuring everyone knows your wishes. I hope you find them as receptive as I did. (If you have questions on advanced maternal age, below is a link for a printable PDF to take to your first doctor’s visit).
I could bore you with a complete play-by-play of each of my three birthing experiences, but suffice it to say that pain issue that got me started on The Bradley Method in the first place? Yeah, there was still pain, but I managed it. I’m convinced that the deep breathing and knowing how to relax my body, especially my abdomen while my body contracted and did its work, allowed the labor to progress more quickly and effectively.
I’m not a medical professional and this is only meant as information about my specific experiences. Each woman and baby is unique and childbirth decisions are deeply personal, and all mitigating factors must be considered. (You can find a list of the pros and cons of The Bradley Method here).
But if you are searching for a rewarding, natural childbirth experience where you feel empowered as a woman to bring your baby into the world, take a look at The Bradley Method.
And even if you don’t choose to take classes, the book “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way” by Susan McCutcheon contains useful information regarding nutrition and physically preparing your body for the marathon that is childbirth.
If you have any experience with The Bradley Method, I’d love to hear your stories. Please share information you think others considering using this way of birthing would find helpful.