I’m a natural childbirth educator. I never thought that I would become an advocate for women in their most vulnerable and their strongest moments–pregnancy and childbirth! So as I meet and talk to more and more mothers, I feel so lucky that I had my natural childbirth experience with my first child. I didn’t have to go through a traumatising forceps delivery, or an emergency c-section, to look more into birth and end up discovering what and how to achieve a natural and drug-free childbirth. I didn’t have to jump through hoops like VBAC candidates do to attempt a natural childbirth. My shot at a natural birth was more straight-forward and easier than those who had their first child via a traumatising experience.
How did I discover the Bradley Method®? It all started with watching Ricki Lake’s documentary, “The Business of Being Born,” with my husband before we were even pregnant. It was completely by chance that we decided to watch this documentary. Maybe we were already thinking about having children, but I guess the description of the film on Netflix sounded interesting enough that as a young newly-married couple, we sat down to watch this life-changing documentary about hospitals treating birth like a business. It was eye-opening: watching what piton (syntocinon in the UK) does to babies, watching nurses talk about mothers without visiting them and instead making decision of their care from a wall-sized whiteboard full of scribbled names and numbers, seeing the fear in the eyes of these mothers, hearing the resentment in their voices as to how they were treated by these nurses and doctors, it goes on and on. Seeing as we weren’t yet pregnant, I filed this documentary away in my mind and didn’t really pull it out again until 26 weeks pregnant!
We were thrilled that we were pregnant. We tried to conceive for over 2 years, and when we were finally pregnant, it felt like God was smiling down upon us. This fuelled my desire to do anything and everything right for the growth and safety of our baby. We went to an obstetrician who came highly recommended by several of our church friends. Though the pregnancy was perfect (no morning sickness), my number one fear was that I would end up having a c-section. I started to google “how to avoid a c-section” and the term “natural childbirth” kept coming up. I further googled “natural childbirth” and read through countless natural childbirth stories. These women sounded Amazonian in their strength and ability to birth without an epidural, without forceps, and without any tears! This is where the terms “Bradley birth” were mentioned. As I continued doing my research about the best way to avoid a c-section, the Bradley Method® was resoundingly the highest recommended! Though the cost seemed high, all the online reviewers said it was worth it, and I must say it was the BEST thing we have ever done for our little baby.
The Bradley Method® taught us how to labour at home, how to manage the pain of contractions without drugs. It taught us what childbirth without drugs looked like; it taught us what to expect physically, mentally, and emotionally in childbirth; it taught my husband how best to help me in the first and second stages of labour; and it taught us all the different “standard procedures,” options, and protocols that we would face at the hospital. Beyond training us on physical, emotional and mental preparation for the marathon of natural childbirth, we also learned of every intervention that we would be offered and when/why we should accept or need assistance. Though I started to dislike how medication was being pushed on almost every pregnant woman, I also learned to appreciate how lucky we were to have access to medical interventions if necessary.
As we went through the class, we realised more and more that our doctor was not at all interested in natural childbirth. When we took our birth plan to him asking that I be allowed to labour in any position I desired, he denied our request stating that I would have to lie on my back on the delivery table when it came time to push “so he could see.” He thought it was ridiculous for a woman to push out a baby in the squatting position (which happens to open the pelvis up up to 30% more than the supine position). The hospital’s c-section rate was at an overwhelming 35%! The doctor also refused to tell us his personal c-section rate. Amongst our friends, he had delivered all of their babies VIA C-SECTION! Needless to say, we ended up hiring a home birth midwife and left our OB at 35 weeks pregnant. Don’t worry, we still made sure that we saw a hospital practice that was only 15 minutes from our house in parallel to home birth midwife care to ensure that they had my birth plan if there was an emergency and we needed to be transported to the hospital.
What amazed me was how calm and peaceful we both felt about our planned home birth. I knew there was still a risk of c-section, but it was minimised due to our determination to birth without interventions. Our daughter was born at home in a birthing pool without medication or any kind of intervention. It progressed very quickly and I was fully dilated after 2 hours of labour! Second stage (pushing stage) was 3 hours long because my husband was driving back from a work trip (he was FaceTime-ing me as he drove back home). I blew through the contractions instead of pushing, and was able to keep her in there for 3 hours; my husband only missed the birth by 10 minutes! He was able to cut the cord and do skin-to-skin with her as I transitioned from the birthing pool to the bed. I didn’t need stitches since I only had one slight tear and I was able to walk immediately after birthing the placenta; I even climbed up my stairs into bed just two hours after the birth! I give all the credit to my Bradley Method® classes for putting me on a high-protein and nutritiously balanced pregnancy diet, for keeping me accountable in my pregnancy exercises and relaxation techniques, for filling my head with the knowledge and confidence of birth without intervention, giving me the knowledge of medical options in case of an emergency, and lastly and most importantly for teaching me and my husband how to work together as a team to safely and calmly face labour and birth.
Our positive birthing experience encouraged me to become a Bradley educator. We were transitioning from the US to moving to the UK at the time, so I flew to Chicago for the weekend certification workshop and became certified after submitting reading, testing and loads of coursework. Ever since becoming a natural childbirth educator, I’ve become more and more passionate about natural childbirth. The public health system for pregnant women is highly medicalised and the need for natural childbirth education is paramount. Current c-section rates are still unnecessarily high (25% in the UK, 33% in the US) and I believe it is due to the average pregnant woman’s lack of knowledge of her own body and the natural processes of labour and birth. I hope to help more and more women become empowered in their births and help change prenatal care to include natural childbirth education for every woman.