by Amanda Gunderson
A woman labors quietly, eyes closed, concentrating. Her partner is close by, giving verbal encouragement and touch. She nods to her partner as a contraction begins. He goes into action immediately, knowing exactly what to do to help her through the contraction. He talks her through relaxing her body, at the same time rubbing, massaging, and giving counterpressure where needed, as the contraction peaks in intensity and then fades away. The months of preparation for this birth have given the couple time to communicate and to practice for this labor event. They are ready and are working as a team. He is her strength and anchor. She is learning that she can do this, that she can give birth naturally. With one final push, the baby is born and gently brought up onto the mom’s chest! Baby boy is alert, wide-eyed, and testing out his vocal chords. A family has been born! The new mommy and daddy gaze in awe at this new life and are struck with the power and wonder that accompanies birth.
What an amazing image of birth! This description above is from my memory of the birth of my son, two years ago. My pregnancy with my son started my husband’s and my journey into the world of natural childbirth. My husband is a chiropractor, and as such, we had been practicing a wellness, healthy lifestyle for several years as a couple. When we got pregnant, it seemed to only make sense that we should look into how to bring a baby into this world naturally. We didn’t want the interference of drugs or medical interventions. We believed that birth was a natural process and that my body was made to birth naturally. However, I will be the first to admit that I have a low pain tolerance. I knew that we needed help, education, and practice to achieve our natural birth. We heard about the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth and found that the closest instructor was in St. Paul, Minnesota. So thus began our commitment to natural birth as we traveled to St. Paul weekly for twelve weeks to complete our Bradley Method® training.
After our son’s natural birth, we knew we were changed. We’d witnessed the power of the human body in giving birth without drugs, and we became passionate about sharing this knowledge with our community, the Chippewa Valley. My husband and I became provisional Bradley instructors in September of 2012 and began teaching immediately. We became affiliated instructors in May of 2013. A Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth instructor is a professional, trained to help pregnant couples obtain the birth experience they desire. Instructors go through intensive training and evaluation and are required to re-affiliate each year.
So what is different about the Bradley Method versus other methods or other childbirth classes? Our class series is twelve weeks long, with a large focus on couples attending class together and class size is kept small (three to six couples). While other methods seek to control the sensations in labor (emphasizing distraction as their primary labor control technique), we encourage mothers to trust their bodies (emphasizing relaxed abdominal breathing and relaxation throughout labor).
A twelve-week Bradley Method Childbirth Series is in-depth and covers a lot of information, with the hope that the expectant couple feels completely prepared for their birth, however it may turn out. In our series we cover topics such as prenatal exercise, nutrition, stages of labor, complications, postpartum care, and breastfeeding. Classes are engaging and fun with lively discussions, guest speakers, and many visual examples of birth from both DVD and online resources.
Through our Bradley Method Childbirth Classes we teach and endorse the following twelve ideas:
1. Natural childbirth 2. Active participation by the husband or partner as coach 3. Excellent nutrition (the foundation of a healthy pregnancy) 4. Avoidance of drugs during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, unless absolutely necessary 5. Training: weekly classes starting in the sixth month of pregnancy, continuing until birth 6. Relaxation and natural breathing 7. “Focusing in” and working with your body 8. Immediate and continuous contact with your new baby 9. Breastfeeding, beginning at birth 10. Consumerism and positive communications 11. Parents taking responsibility for the safety of the birth place, procedures, attendants, and emergency back-up 12. Parents prepared for unexpected situations such as emergency childbirth and cesarean section.
This past April I gave birth to our second child, a daughter, born naturally in a water birthing tub.
Again, the experience was moving and emotional. It is a bonding moment for the couple as they realize how their hard work, team work, and dedication to giving their baby a great start at life have all played a role in achieving the natural birth. I know my husband and I feel we could not have had two natural childbirths without the preparation and knowledge given to us through the Bradley Method.