Husband-Coached Childbirth?

bradley

From the moment a woman announces her pregnancy, she is bombarded with advice from other mothers and horror stories of labor and incompetent husbands and breathing techniques that did little more than frustrate and break concentration. Because we are choosing to give birth in a birthing center (more on that later), I strongly desire to be as prepared and educated as possible before going into the birth of my daughter. The problem is, there are so many choices of “methods” and “classes” that all claim to do that! Here are a few of the options presented to the expectant mama:

Lamaze– What your parents probably think of when it comes to childbirth classes. I don’t actually know anyone who has had a baby in the last few years that has taken a Lamaze class. Lamaze focuses on breathing and movement strategies to make a natural birth more comfortable, but also educates women on interventions as well. Classes are typically 12 hours of instruction, broken down over several class sessions, and are held in large groups (typically around 12 couples).

The Mongan Method (Hypnobirthing)- focuses on deep relaxation and a degree of self-hypnosis, coupled with visualization. Not as crazy as it sounds, and I have had a few friends who tried hypnobirthing and loved it, including some hardcore home birthing mamas! My favorite part is the “anchoring” effect that the husband is supposed to have- when he even touched the wife, she is to associate him with strength and serenity, and immediately be focused. Classes are typically 5 weeks of 2-3 hour classes, and are available in group or private settings, depending on your instructor.

Birthing From Within– A very spiritual approach to childbirth, probably the most “hippie” of them all. I actually read the Birthing from Within book a few weeks ago, and if you can wade through the semi-crazy, hallucinogenic art therapy-esque chapters in the beginning of the book, there are actually some great and helpful suggestions in there as well. They also have meaningful ideas for baby showers called “blessingsways” that I am going to try to incorporate into my own showers this fall/winter. Six one-hour classes.

International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)- This is a pretty generic child birthing education organization, and the content of the classes varies depending on the instructor.

There are a few other options, but these seem to be the most popular, at least within my circles! So, what are we choosing? We’ve decided to study The Bradley Method- and our classes start tonight!

The Bradley Method is a philosophy based on years of research and observation by obstetrician Dr. Robert A. Bradley. The classes consist of 13 weeks of 2 hour classes, which focus on nutrition, exercise, pain management techniques, coping through proper body positioning and movement, education of the stages of labor, and birth rehearsals. Of all of the classes I mentioned above, Bradley seems to be the most holistically based, but also seems to give the most practical preparation as well (don’t you want to have a birth rehearsal?)

The role of the husband (or partner) is integral in the Bradley Method. Also dubbed “Husband-Coached Childbirth”, the labor partner is basically trained to be a doula and labor coach- to remember the things that the mother may forget in the heat of labor, and to know how to tend to each stage of labor’s specific physical and emotional needs. The coach is also responsible for the mother’s preparation- making sure that she is held accountable to Bradley’s nutrition standards and performing the designated exercises as often as portable to give the body the best preparation for the birth event.

There are two Bradley Method books that I have read- one, Husband-Coached Childbirth, written by Dr. Bradley himself, seems to be the book that started it all. The book is actually written to the father, though as mothers I think it’s good to read as well. It explains the development of his philosophy, the success that he has seen in his practice, and the various techniques used to achieve a peaceful, natural labor. I don’t think that reading this book alone is enough to fully prepare you for the birth, however- it is best used in conjunction with classes, as I think it was intended.

The second book, Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, written by Susan McCutcheon, is much more detail oriented, outlining specific nutrition guidelines showing photos of the different exercises (almost every time with a completely naked pregnant woman, so be aware), and going into great depth about each of the stages of labor. This book is written to the couple, and addresses both the mother and the coach at times. If you don’t have time or money to take a full Bradley class, but want to be educated on the philosophy and prepare your body using these techniques, I highly suggest this book. In fact, I know some couples who completely skipped the classes, just read this book, and had beautiful, natural Bradley births!

In short, here’s why we are choosing the Bradley Method:

The support of our community. We really, truly know a large number of couples who have used this method successfully and loved it. Veteran Bradley parents can’t seem to speak highly enough about the experience, and I value that a lot.

-The development of the husband and wife team. Many birth education options focus on either the mother “doing it herself” or with the help of other experienced women, and leave the husband on the sidelines. While I certainly see the merit of having other experienced women at your disposal, this simply isn’t what I envision when I think of a graceful, Biblical childbirth- diminishing the husband’s role? In our marriage, we work as a God-ordained team, and I think that should transfer to the birth event as well.

-The importance of nutrition and exercise. If you’ve ever read this blog you know how important this is to me, so there’s no surprise here. The Bradley exercises are simple but effective (think kegels, full squats, pelvic tilts), and the nutrition is comprehensive. For example, I am supposed to eat two baked potatoes a week- with the skin on- to help with mineral and iron consumption! I just never would have thought of that. Thank goodness for Bradley ūüôā

-The time commitment to the classes– thats more than 24 hours! While this may deter some people, I am excited to fully immerse myself, have plenty of time to chew on what I am learning, ask questions, and practice. I feel confident that if anything is going to prepare me, these classes will.

-Birth rehearsals. I am fully aware that you can never truly rehearse your birth, as birth, by nature, is very unpredictable. However, if you can get the main coping and support techniques down for the various stages, it will be much easier to deviate when the time comes and incorporate something new. Our birth center also holds mandatory birth rehearsals right in the labor rooms- that will be exciting!

-Emphasis on breastfeeding. I haven’t actually started the class (like I said, we start tonight!), but one of our required textbooks is La Leche League’s “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”. This is a small point, as I already had the book to read anyway, but it makes me feel better to know that they emphasize things that I find very important.

I can’t wait to go to class tonight and start this journey! I look forward to sharing what I am learning along the way ūüôā

Book Review: “Half the Sky”

PrintA few weeks ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the 2013 Justice Conference, held in Philadelphia, PA. ¬†I’ve been wanting to attend this event for several years, and was incredibly grateful for the scholarship that helped me get there. ¬†The Lord knew it was what I needed at that time- an awakening, and an inspiration.

Having attended a Christian university filled with young, enthusiastic activists and having worked in the social justice/nonprofit field for some time now, I can see in retrospect a numbness that crept into my heart and stole my fire- one that couldn’t link statistics to individuals, one that had heard all of the horror stories, one that silently acknowledged that there would always be problems, and there was only so much we could do. ¬†It was a numbness that was comfortable knowing the “sound bite” of an issue, feeling informed by a radio broadcast, but not knowing the depths of an issue or the nuances of what it would take to properly address them. ¬†The Justice Conference, however, rekindled the call in my heart to the work of justice and the desire I once had to be informed and to be a voice for those who may not have a voice- and to speak well on their behalf, in a way that would truly benefit them, not just inject western culture into their lives in a way that would be harmful.

One of the many speakers to grace the stage was the captivating Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize winner and wife of NY Times’ Nick Kristof. ¬†As with each speaker, she spoke of a specific injustice taking place in the world today- her speech was focused on injustices towards women, as she chronicles in her and her husband’s recent book, Half the Sky.¬†As she eloquently engaged the audience in her stories of horror and hope from around the world, I knew that my next step would be to read her book- so I did!

The journey that reading Half the Sky has taken me on in the past week has been one that I will never forget- I don’t think I will ever look at the world the same way. ¬†To think about the 100 million women who are missing from today’s population because of forced/coerced abortion, infanticide, genocide, spousal abuse, malnutrition based on gender preference, and honor killings breaks my heart. ¬†Stories of young girls being tricked into sex slavery and trafficked far away from their home haunt me each time I see a small child. To read the studies that detail the power that putting funding into girl’s education in Asia could have, or even the difference that something as menial as iodizing salt could make, is infuriating and confusing. ¬†To read about the millions women who are sentenced to be ostracized as pariahs because of fistulas that form during unattended births makes me almost as sad as thinking of the one woman- every MINUTE- that dies in childbirth, almost always from an entirely preventable, common complication. ¬†The young girls forced into genital mutilation. ¬†The women who must ask their alcoholic husbands for permission to leave their homes. There is so much more- and so much work to be done.

I really appreciated the honesty that the book brings to the table, especially in chronicling US foreign aid.  While certain efforts are celebrated, others are questioned, all when appropriate.  Stories of aid efforts failed are told alongside of brilliant plans to support cultures, giving the reader a deeper, more holistic understanding of the issue of injustice towards women. The most effective part, however, is that WuDunn and Kristof tell real stories of real women in the book- stories that you will remember and that will come alongside you in your journey to understand this issue.

If you read one book this year, make it this one. ¬†Just as racial injustice didn’t see any measurable improvement until the public banded together and put pressure on governments and cultural norms, so will be the fight against gender injustice. ¬†This fight will not be won by ¬†quoting soundbites, but by understanding the issues on an intimate level and being able to articulate the problems and possible solutions in the most informed way possible. ¬†Don’t settle for knowing the surface of the horror that millions of women around the world face. ¬†Know their names, let them make a difference in your heart, and join the fight.

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There is also a “Half the Sky” documentary series available on PBS and Netflix. ¬†I haven’t seen it yet but I am thinking about holding a screening- let me know if you would be interested!