Last Wednesday we went to a reunion of our Bradley Method class and it was fantastic. Bradley Method is a natural approach to childbirth, rooted in the idea of "husband-coached childbirth." Did you know that? Me, I had no idea, until friends (who had recently birthed a child this way) told us about it. The only class on natural birth I knew was Lamaze, with its odd, but effective breathing techniques. But we didn't stay with friends who'd done a Lamaze birth. We went to visit these friends with their Bradley experience and after hearing the birth story of their second son I thought, yep, that's for me. Forget your drugs, forget your doctors, forget your hospital nursery. At that point, nine weeks in, I was ready for it. Bring on the home birth!
Matthew put the kibosh on that idea.
However, he did get on board with the natural childbirth idea. He particularly liked the Husband part and he really, really liked the Coach part. I think it fulfilled all sorts of dreams for him. I imagine visions of a delivery room with a grassy surface, him gigged up in a ball cap with a whistle around his neck and everyone else- doctors, visitors, myself- wearing some kind of Lycra uniform danced in his head.
We found a Bradley Method instructor in Knoxville. The course ran twelve weeks, every Wednesday night from 6:30 to 8:30 and was around the same cost as a plane ticket (much thanks to Dory's Grandpa and Granny Suzanney for assistance with that). The price made sense, I realized later, as we settled ourselves on the floor, shoes off, mildly pregnant women propped up against pillows with flustered, uncertain husbands settling down next to us. We were on a journey not many take.
Not having a baby, of course. Seems like everyone is doing that. But having a baby this way, intending as little medical intervention as possible, relying mostly on the strength of ourselves, individually and as a couple, to carry us through a truly stressful experiences. A wife saying, I'm going to be in the most vulnerable, moving, terrifying, exhilarating, intense experience of my life and you're the one I want in the room holding me up. A husband who answered, I'm your man.
Almost no one understood.
Only a few people I knew (specifically my parents, especially my mama, and some friends) supported us. Pretty much everyone else, when they heard we were going, as they thought of it, the no-drugs route balked. Some went farther than balking. There were lots of opinions about our decision, ranging from, "are you sure?" to "are you *#@$^!& crazy?" I had one family member who, every single time I spoke to her, approached the subject from the angle, "Are you still planning to..." followed up with "Take the drugs! You want the drugs, get the drugs, take them!"
It was trying. *#@$^!& annoying might be the other to say it. But I should be grateful. As with so many responses in life, the more people disagreed with us, the more it shored up our decision and firmed Matthew and I up as a team, the two of us planted strongly on the side of preparation, forethought, and intention and everyone else on the other.
Yet having our Bradley class, every week, for twelve weeks, was a cool, refreshing glass of water in a desert of people with too many opinions they couldn't keep to themselves. We started the class talking about that week's pregnancy changes, who was having what test, how far along, any thoughts, concerns, problems with the medical team? Then our teacher, the funny and fantastic Lisa Paul, guided us through our thick Bradley Method manuals, videos, and books, all generated toward convincing and reassuring women that birth the way God intended was a viable option.
I loved this class and the end of it was difficult for me. First, because I enjoyed the people in there with us and who knew when we would see them again? Second, because the end of the class meant I was almost thirty-seven weeks pregnant and at a to-be-determined, not-so-distant date, I'd have a baby. Odd how we spent so many weeks going towards this goal and I still felt like I'd been snuck up on by Fate and Fortune when the class actually ended.
Well, the second premise happened first. My labor did start, we had it pretty much as we intended, at a birth center, with no medication and the most wonderful midwives. Our baby arrived, we found out she was a girl and Life as we knew it changed irrevocably.
The first came back together about four months after that. One couple hosted, we all RSVPed Yes and we came bearing brand-new babies and potluck Italian dishes. It was a good time.
I wasn't surprised to see the dads (once known as husbands) as involved with their babies as they had been with their wives' pregnancy. You know you have five good men, when each in his turn, says, "You go ahead and eat. I've got Little One." We had great conversations about recovering from the birth, who did you call when you were in labor, who brought you food when they came to visit, was it good food, how completely changed is your life? You know, light chit-chat.
Over the period of the evening everyone relived snippets and pieces of their baby's birth. Of the five couples, two did have Cesarean deliveries due to unexpected medical complications. Regardless, both couple agreed what they learned in class went so far beyond only the birth. Watching each couple, I could see, regardless of Baby's preferred entrance, how much the class strengthened their bonds and belief in each other.
Whatever the intention going into your birth, a baby arrives at the end. And it is, to say simply and yet to understate it, a miracle. But what I found, the unexpected gem, hidden away in the mysterious due date, broken waters, sweat, contractions, deep breathing, blood, various medical strangers, encouragement, potential problems, the great gasp before a baby appears... what I discovered was my husband and I were exactly the right people for the jobs at hand. Maybe an obvious thing to realize, something many, many people could have told us. Yet it was a tremendous, joyful, silly delight to know as they placed our girl on my chest, when Matthew said I'm your man, he was right. And it was a point of pride, a glow in the deepest part of my heart, to realize I was, not just the only, but the best woman for it.
Now, fingers crossed, if we can just come close to being the parents this bright little girl deserves...