Two weeks ago Michael and I started birth classes to prepare for our little one to arrive in April. I joke around that we are spending 12 weeks (one class per week) just to learn how to give birth but it's actually a lot more than that.
To back up a bit, I must say that my birth experience with Avila was wonderful. I think back to that day often, with such joy, and I really wouldn't change a thing. She came into this world exactly how she was supposed to and I thank God that she arrived safe and sound. Because I ended up getting an epidural so close to when I had to push, I actually didn't feel a thing when she arrived (which some would say is a good thing!), however, after reflecting on it for a while now, a part of me feels like I missed out on something. I want to be able to overcome any fears that I have and experience this process in it's entirety. Which is why I hope to be able to have an unmedicated birth with our next baby.
When initially discussing this with Michael, I proposed the idea of having a doula (someone to assist us at the birth). However, we came to the conclusion that if anyone should be my coach, it should be my husband - simply because he is not a "sit on the sidelines" kind of guy and he really wants to be involved. And this is why I really wanted to try the Bradley Method. Dr. Robert Bradley was an initial proponent for having husbands in the labor room not only to witness the birth of their child but also to assist their wives in the process. The goals of the Bradley Method are not just to have a "natural childbirth" but rather to give mom and dad all the information necessary to make informed choices and have the birth be as close to the experience that they want. Their motto is "healthy mom, healthy baby." It just so happens that almost 90% of parents that take these classes end up having an unmediated birth.
Some of the topics covered in the classes are: nutrition and exercise, relaxation as the main pain reducer, husband as coach (giving him the tools he needs to be effective), labor rehearsals, and what to expect when things don't quite go as planned (C-section, medication, etc.). I have to keep a daily log of certain exercises I must do (some alone, some with Michael) plus a daily log of everything I eat, including the amount of protein. Studies show that protein levels have a huge impact on the health of the mom and health of the baby. For example, women who eat on average more than 75 grams of protein a day have a 0% chance of developing preeclampsia. Our goal is between 80-100 grams per day. (On a side note, I also found out that having too much protein can beef up the size of the baby! After keeping track, I realized that I was having about 120 grams per day. Maybe that's why Avila was 9 lbs...)
When bringing up the topic of having a natural childbirth I have found that many women get defensive - on both ends of the spectrum. Some take the position that having an unmedicated birth is the only healthy way for mom and baby and anyone who has an epidural is weak. Some others take the position that having an unmedicated birth is simply impossible and they try to justify why they chose to have an epidural (or other pains meds). As for me, childbirth is not a moral issue. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to give birth. I respect women who have had babies and who have chosen what is best for them. What it comes down to is making the most informed choices we can, and in an age where labor and birth are seen as a medical condition and not something women have been doing for centuries, we need to make sure that everything done "to" us is necessary and beneficial.
I am really enjoying the info we have received thus far, and no matter how things turn out in April I know spending this time in preparation can only be beneficial. Just as it takes intense training to prepare for a marathon, labor should be approached in the same way. But as my husband always says, "pratice like it's up to us and play like it's up to God."