Giving Birth Naturally
by Amanda Gunderson
Lisa is thirty-nine weeks pregnant with her first child —round, radiant, and ready. When a friend asks her about the upcoming birth, she smiles and casually replies, “Oh, I’d really like a natural birth, and I don’t really want any drugs…but I’m just going to go with the flow and see what happens.”
One and a half weeks later, Lisa is lying on an operating table, exhausted, frightened, and in shock…after an induction, some pain meds that were supposed to “take the edge off,” an epidural, and twenty-eight hours of labor. Soon she will be meeting her baby via abdominal surgery.
The author of a Pathways to Family Wellness article entitled “The Pitfalls of Going with the Flow in Birth” explains this scenario well by saying, “‘Going with the flow’ can be a safe way of saying I have no idea. I am scared stiff. All I hear are descriptions of excruciating pain, and watermelons coming out of places they shouldn’t. I am just going to put myself in the hands of the experts, and hope I am fine. Women may be inclined to turn to this approach as a form of default, not knowing any other way, and as an acknowledgment that childbirth is out of their control. An understandable justification. And understandable fears, when you look at the way our culture views birth — as an event that must be endured to extract an offspring. No wonder many of us become frozen in our tracks, looking for guidance” (Issue 40, Winter 2013).
This was the exact place I found myself in when I became pregnant with my son in 2011, frozen and looking for guidance. I was interested in natural birth but had no idea how to achieve it, nor did I really know much about labor and delivery! Then I heard this great analogy: If you were told that nine months from today you would have to jump in a pool and swim, but currently you don’t know how to swim, wouldn’t you start learning about swimming starting right now? My husband and I were motivated to begin our journey of education into the world of childbirth.
Good friends recommended we take Bradley Method® of Natural Childbirth Classes. The twelve-week class series was an amazingly thorough preparation for birth and parenthood! After finishing our series we realized several things:
• We were extremely informed on all aspects of birth and delivery due to all the research we’d done. • We were a team, excited for and anticipating our birth, having prepared for it together. • We were confident; birth did not scare us anymore as we knew what to expect. • My husband had naturally grown in his leadership role in our family, as he realized the importance placed on him as my labor coach.
Now, two natural deliveries later, my husband and I are Bradley Method® Instructors to the Chippewa Valley! Our first natural birth changed us. We were empowered and deeply moved as we witnessed how the body was designed to deliver a baby naturally. In our twelve-week Bradley Class Series we cover topics such as prenatal exercise, nutrition, stages of labor, complications, the coach’s role, postpartum care, and breastfeeding. Classes are engaging with lively discussions, games, and many visual examples of birth from both DVD and online resources. Through our 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 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 backup 12. Parents prepared for unexpected situations such as emergency childbirth and cesarean section
As we are coming up on our two-year anniversary of teaching, we are amazed at the couples who continue to contact us and truly want to soak up all the information they can to prepare for their birth. The interest in our classes is varied:
• Those expecting their first baby • Those just wanting to learn about birth but are unsure about doing it naturally • Those who are single but can bring a supportive family member or doula to each class • Those who had a traumatic birth experience and now desire a more natural birth
We feel blessed to be a part of this special time in an expecting couples’ journey! More information about our classes can be found at www.bradleybirth.com/amandagunderson!
Amanda Gunderson, a former Spanish teacher and current stay-at-home mommy, was changed and empowered after experiencing the natural birth of her son in 2011. She and her husband, Tim, now teach Bradley Method® Childbirth Classes out of their home in Altoona.