Pregnant the first time and sharing our intentions for a natural birth, we would get the "wink-wink sure you do", or the "you don't have to be a hero - take the drugs", and the worst, and most motivating, "just wait - you will be begging for the drugs".
My initial motivation behind a natural birth was my intense fear of having anything in my spine. As a dancer, I grew up believing that my back was sacred, and my study of yoga confirmed that belief. Why in the world would I take a chance with a huge needle in my back when I knew women had been having natural births for eons??
We were so blessed to have one of our friends tell us, "If you really want a natural birth, you need to take Bradley™ classes." I will be forever grateful for the person who gave us a point of action instead of an eye-roll!!
So off we went to Bradley™ classes and learned about having a natural birth. Although we only made it to 9 out of 12 classes, we tracked our nutrition, didn’t do the exercises due to complications with our pregnancy, and after a 28-hour labor, had our first vaginal birth with penicillin, Pitocin, and an episiotomy. At the time, I was grateful for the vaginal birth because the OB on call really wanted to “help me out” and roll us into the operating room for a cesarean.
With our second, we knew enough to sign up early enough for classes to complete a whole 12-week session. We loved the classes, tracked our nutrition, did our exercises this time and had our easiest and shortest birth. The only intervention this time was penicillin every four hours after we checked into the hospital because I was Group B Strep positive.
We went on to have two more children (links to all our birth stories are on the “About Us” page). When we had a homebirth after three hospital births, we felt like we only had one truly natural birth, although all four were born vaginally and epidural-free.
Now I believe that a “natural birth” is one where the mother is left alone to follow her instincts, work with her body, and tune-in to the work she and her baby are doing. Obviously, the childbirth method we teach encourages partners to become coaches in the process. It is their role to facilitate the natural birth by advocating for the MotherBaby, making sure that her needs are met and that their birth plan is honored as much as possible by the people attending the birth.
My journey as a childbirth educator involves a lot of reading. As I learn more about birth, the natural process and what a truly natural birth looks and feels like, I am even more motivated than ever to equip our students with the tools they need to have as few interventions as possible, where ever they choose to birth.
Scientists are proving out what Dr. Bradley hypothesized after reading Childbirth Without Fear by Dr. Grantley Dick-Read, and his own observations growing up on a farm in Kansas. You do not need to interfere with childbirth. You need to educate parents about the birth process since so few of us have seen an uninterrupted vaginal birth and don’t have a point of reference for true natural childbirth. Birthing spaces need to facilitate natural birth choices in birth settings. You need to keep babies skin to skin with their mothers and keep your hands off the MotherBaby. Breastmilk is the best first food for babies.
Why do we believe in natural birth? As a generation and a society, we are waking up to the idea that birth is important (enter Ina May Gaskin’s book, “Birth Matters”). Welcoming our children gently, with love and intention is important. Maybe a mama is roaring at the time of birth (I was with our last!), however, the welcoming is loving, transformative, and deliberate. It is an experience where the child and mother have fully participated in the process to birth together. In The Bradley Method®, it is an experience in which most mothers are proud of their achievement and are happy to have done it as a team with their Coach.
What about those of us who can’t have a vaginal, unmedicated birth, you say? I say, “Blessings, mama”. I know many warrior women who will not be having vaginal and/or unmedicated births because that is not what works for their bodies. To those women I say, “Take the best from the natural birth principles and apply them to your situation.”
I am glad that someone as high profile as the Duchess of Cambridge brought the dialogue about natural birth to a wider audience. I hope that she is forthcoming with the details in the future so that more people are open to the message that natural birth is possible and accessible to families in all walks of life.
Since I am writing this post two years to the day after it was taken, I thought it was appropriate to share in this post: