It’s no secret that I’m a planner. I find a lot of joy in mapping out a plan for myself when it comes to everything in my life – marathon training, vacation planning, social activities. I even plan for a living as a financial analyst. When I started thinking about how I envisioned the birth of our child, I knew I’d need a plan to help me. Funnily enough, everything about labor and delivery is unpredictable and impossible to actually plan. No one can tell me when the baby will arrive and how she will arrive, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be prepared.
I’ve had quite a few friends have children over the course of the last two or three years, so I’ve been able to get some insight into the birthing process but I never seriously considered how I would want my labor and delivery to go until I got pregnant myself. Right when I started trying my sister in law gave me a book to borrow called “Expecting Better” which digs into pregnancy “dos and don’ts” based on the hard research, not just general guidelines (for example, she found that there is no reason why you can’t drink coffee while pregnant and even have a glass of wine but you definitely should not be gardening). Of course there was a section on birth in the book and after reading it and doing my own research online and speaking with friends, I decided that I would try for a natural birth.
At first, I was in the camp of “I’ll try for the natural birth but if I cave and get the epidural I won’t beat myself up.” However, the more I have learned, the more confident that I have become that I have the tools and willpower to avoid an epidural. Obviously I can’t control if I need a c-section, but the epidural is something that I definitely can say no to. Women have been birthing babies without drugs since the beginning of time, and if they can do it, I can do it.
To be clear, I have no judgments about anyone who decides to have an epidural. I certainly see the advantages and there is no solid proof that an epidural harms the baby in any way. If you chose pain management, that is your choice!
Once I decided that natural birth was the route for me, I knew I wanted to take a live birthing course to learn as much as possible about the process. There were a few reasons why a live course was what I wanted:
- I want Mike and I to learn about birth together. Birth classes are a great way for a couple to learn and grow together even more as a couple before becoming parents. Mike is very open minded and I knew that despite some initial discomfort he would enjoy the process of learning about what we are getting ourselves into!
- I knew that a birth class would help ease Mike’s fears of the birthing process (he doesn’t like to see me in pain!) by not only providing him with knowledge about what is to come but also tools for helping make my experience more comfortable so that he feels less helpless on the big day.
- I wanted to meet other couples who are at the same point in pregnancy as us to share tips and experiences with before and after the birth of our babies.
- I wanted a class that emphasizes the husband or partner as coach. We aren’t hiring a doula and I want Mike to be my birth coach. There is no one in the world I feel more comfortable and at ease with than Mike and he always knows how to motivate me and calm me down.
Of course, not all birth classes a natural. Once I narrowed it down to only natural birthing classes, I have 3 choices: Lamaze (which is not as popular anymore), Hynobirthing and Bradley Method. To summarize the other two methods quickly, Lamaze focuses on pain management breathing techniques but the main principles aren’t focused on an intervention-free birth (this is what you tend to see in the movies) and Hypnobirthing focuses on eliminating fear and pain in the birthing process through hypnotic techniques.
What drew me to the Bradley Method (read more about it here) was that it is a very holistic approach which includes nutrition advice, pre-natal exercises, and breathing and relaxation techniques to prepare the mother for a natural birth. It also greatly emphasizes the coach-mother partnership. The philosophy isn’t so much that we should fear pain in childbirth, but rather embrace it as part of the process. This resonated with me as a runner – during a marathon, there is a lot of pain, but the pain is harmless and meaningful. It gets you to the finish line and is not to be feared but rather conquered. I also appreciate the fact that my Bradley Method classes give me a guide for prepare for birth – as a planner, I love to have a list of things to check off. I know that I will be a lot more calm on the big day knowing that I’ve done everything I can to prepare myself. Just like a big race, the day won’t go exactly as I’ve planned and all I can do is make sure that I keep my mental state as focused and positive as possible and take each minute as it comes.
We’ve attended two (3 hour long) classes and I’m very happy with the teacher and course content so far. We have 6 left to go (the class is often 12 classes but ours is broken into 8 classes at 3 hours each) but I’ve learned a lot already and feel like if I were to go into labor tomorrow (let’s really hope that doesn’t actually happen) I’d be more prepared than I was two weeks ago. I’ll write another post listing the reasons why I’ve chosen a natural birth – it’s definitely a post in itself. I’d also like to share the exercises that we have learned and are supposed to be incorporating into our routine daily ( I say supposed because it’s a bit easier said than done!). It’s also been nice to meet other couples in the same boat as us – oddly enough there are 7 couples in the class and we are all first time parents having GIRLS! Our teacher is also pregnant with a girl. It’s the year of the girl!