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Natural birth in an unnatural city

July 16, 2009

A couple from my husband’s school first talked to me about the Bradley method. This method makes natural birth its mission. I listened with interest and I knew a lot of it fit well with my general views but was wary so as not to be “taken-in” by it. Then my husband brought home the book “Husband-coached childbirth” from the library and as I feared, we’ve both bought into it almost entirely. The Bradley method preaches natural birth in every way imaginable – a vaginal birth sans painkillers, minimal monitoring equipment and hook-ups, the husband/partner more important than the doctors themselves, the baby in your arms the second it’s born, and preferably leaving the hospital a few hours after birth. Of these I feel varying degrees of passion for each of the missions. It’s not hard to want natural – at least for me. We live a fairly natural life eating food with few or no preservatives, are not big fans of drugs in general. Moreover I do buy into the theory that when the perpetuation of an entire species depends upon this, procreation need not be that mechanized. Below are my priorities for the birth:

  1. I’d like to avoid a c-section. This is of utmost importance to me. Sujatha wrote here about the growing percentage. Of these in urban areas, a minority are ‘emergency” c-sections – most are preferred either by doctor or patient or both. I live in NYC, one of the most urban, commercialized cities in the world. My hospital Cornell Medical while world renowned for dealing with complications has a very high scheduled c-sec rate. This scares  the crap out of me. But I’d like to stand my ground.
  2. No epidural: Make no mistake, I am a wimp. I don’t have any crazy threshold for pain and I milk every bruise for what it’s worth. A cat scratch on my knee and I’ll limp for days. But I’d like to try to go without. Studies show that the spinal epidural can be found in the baby’s blood 3 mins after being administered to the mother. Epidurals can slow down labour and be counter-productive. They prevent your body from giving you the necessary codes like when to push so that you are more a puppet in the doctor’s hands rather than understanding your body’s cues. There are other studies that show slower lactation, breast-feeding etc. Of course the Bradley method will select the studies it thinks fit to promote its mission but regardless of the studies, I’d like to try.
  3. I’d like to labour as long as needed: I don’t want to be induced. I don’t understand induction entirely. Although I know that rate of induction is related to c-section rates. I don’t need my birth to be quick and convenient. If the bus comes the minute I arrive at the bus-stop, I am happy for the convenience. The birth of my child is allowed to be inconvenient.
  4. I’d like the child in our arms immediately: My child doesn’t need to cleaned/ bathed before I hold it. God knows I’ll be dealing with all sorts of gross stuff after, why not right away.
  5. I want information: I don’t want to be an obedient patient. I want to understand what is being done to me and why. Most importantly I want a clear understanding of what is medically necessary versus a nice-to-have. I want to know what’s an emergency and what’s not. None of the points 1-4 are as important as the health and safety of my baby so instead of fighting me I’d like the docs and nurses to explain things to me and be collaborative. My birthing experience is not more important that my child itself.

Want to know what happened to the friend who turned me on to the Bradley method? She said her delivery was a “horrific nightmare”. She yelled “Fuck you” at her doula. She screeched with pain since she had a posterior baby. She threw up in her hair and demanded an epidural the second she got to the hospital.

I get it. We can decide these things and want these things but the experience is not entirely in my control. I am ready to be flexible, open and sensible. If I am unable to be, my husband will take the lead. But I also plan to rigorously practice the positions and pain management techniques taught at the Bradley class. I plan to take the precautions and act the way I should for the next few months leading up to the birth. I don’t do things haphazardly and I will dedicate myself to the method but I will not be disappointed if things don’t go the way I hope.

What do you think? Have you heard of the Bradley method/ know anyone who’s tried it? How much of this resonates with you? How much is hogwash? Also do you specifically know anyone in NYC and experiences they might have had?

I’m all ears. And thank you.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2009 8:24 am

    none of it is hogwash, atleast not the version you’re talking about. your 5 pointers are brilliant, and do-able and would have been on my list if only I knew it then.
    Vaginal birth, any day.
    ps: howz the baby and the belly and wearing maternity clothes to work? have you had someone stop and pat your belly yet?!

  2. August 7, 2009 10:46 am

    This method sounds awesome. And there’s actually a class you can go to where you learn the techniques?

    • girlonthebridge permalink*
      August 7, 2009 1:22 pm

      Hi Ro- welcome. Yes, it is a 8 week class, 3 hours each session. The class teaches techniques but also is a lot of discussion on how in the modern world the definition of “natural” has gotten muddled. I have been to 2 so far and feel better already. What i mean by that is that so far I found myself actually being alone, and often defensive while explaining my choice. I no longer feel that way. I still don’t talk about it much but my convictions are stronger. How this will eventually turn out is anyone guess (as you will attest to, I read your story) but I want to know that I gave it my all.
      Cheers for your second time 🙂

  3. August 20, 2009 3:35 pm

    GotB, I went with the Lamaze method and it worked beautifully for me (and my husband – he felt part of the process). Don’t get me wrong – it hurt both times and I would have gladly hurt anyone who came close enough to me. Wait a minute, I did. I dug my nails into my husband’s palm and into my nurse’s palm. But I got what I wanted out of the classes – information, a knowledge of how the process was expected to go, the confidence to tell my doctors what I wanted (no epidural and minimal intervention), and although it did not deteriorate that far, enough sense to understand that I needed to let go if the process went beyond my control.

    I took the classes only during my first pregnancy but what do you know, that sort of stuff doesn’t leave you apparently. Six years later, I used the same stuff.

    You might already have this book – What to Expect When You’re Expecting – although I would recommend you peruse the index for the specific topic on which you need an answer when you need it. Reading the book beginning to end is not a good idea. It threw me into a tizzy. Another good one (and fun to read) is Vicky Iovine’s A Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy.

    If you feel like you need more info, don’t hesitate to write to me. I’d be delighted to help. Hugs.

    Sujatha, am so glad you replied – I was secretly (not anymore) disappointed that you hadn’t. THANK YOU – this is not a perspective I hear often. Mostly people are given to sharing horror stories. While I know their experiences are legit it helps to hear that sometimes things do work out and preparation does help. I am mostly not excited about my doc or the hospital. Not because they are against natural birth but because they are very text-book clinical in their approach. But I want the same as you – minimal intervention and my classes also teach that. I guess if anything I’d ask – how did you handle the co and nurses around you. My biggest fear is fighting them or resisting intervention when I should be spending my energy in labor, and focusing on managing that. Thanks for your help, it helps!

    • September 6, 2009 1:03 pm

      GotB, I would talk to the doctor about what you want and expect. Make her (or him) part of your plan. The main thing is that you have to be convinced that if the doctor says it’s time for an intervention they are saying it because you really need it. I think over these past few months you must of seen enough of the doctor to guage if you feel that. Plus you are reading enough to know if the doc says something it’s not hogwash. For example, my doc said that because my water broke, if labor did not proceed at a steady pace and stretched for longer than 24 hours they would have to do a C-sec for fear of infection. To help labor proceed quicker, they put me on pitocin. Although a C-sec or pitocin did not fit in my scheme of things, it seemed reasonable. It was not something she said or did just to rush me through.

      Just with the amount of thinking you and your husband are doing, I know you will get there. Don’t worry about it.

      And sorry about the delayed comments – have not been online much over the summer at all.

      Take care and if you have more ????… 🙂

  4. August 25, 2009 7:03 pm

    did you read Tharini’s birth story – when she had Thambi?

    and on a giggly note – *Squeal!!*

    you’re one of us. A birth story reader!!! my baby is all grown up! :p

    Haha yes, and writer too apparently. No I haven’t read hers…do you have a link handy?


  1. A birth interrupted « Girl on the Bridge
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