I am a big scared-y cat about having huge needles injected into my spine. I knew there was NO WAY anyone was going to stick anything into what I consider to be one of the most important and vital body parts. Nor did I think that exposing our baby to drugs was an option that I was willing to entertain. We knew we had to find an alternative to the standard epidural that is common in hospital deliveries. Someone we knew from church told us about the Bradley Method® and it turned out to be the best choice for us.
The Bradley Method® of childbirth is aptly named “Husband Coached”. As a team, we enrolled on a twelve-week course to learn about pregnancy, nutrition, writing a birth plan, and having a plan after the baby comes. Oh, yes - you parents know that there is life after pregnancy. The most important topics covered for us were relaxation and the concept of “healthy mom, healthy baby. We only got through week nine before we delivered, and dad only attended five classes with me - thankfully, we had made plans to have a doula attend our birth!
I went into labor about 2:30 on Monday, January 24th, 2005. My water broke first - yea! - an obvious sign that labor had started. Contractions didn’t start coming until about an hour later. Our plan was to do the majority of labor at home, so we did our relaxation and showering to stay calm. Doula Madelon showed up around 6:00 am, and by 8:30 am, my contractions were lasting over a minute and they were 2-3 minutes apart. Time to go to the hospital!!
We got to the hospital and labor stopped. Not just slowed down - it stopped. They did the swab test for “rupture of bag of waters” in OB triage - sure enough, my water was broken (duh - I needed a nurse to tell me this). After we got into our labor and delivery room and walked around a bit, labor started to progress again.
Madelon and our nurse coached us along through labor, trying to get things back to where they were in the morning. After a couple of vaginal exams, they determined that our baby was in the wrong position and that we needed to work on turning baby around. So Madelon coached Bruss on how to help me do exercises on our birthing ball, hip rolls, pelvic tilts, all in an effort to get baby posterior. By eight o’clock that night, we had succeeded in turning baby around. Unfortunately, labor was still in First Stage and we were getting close to our 24 hour window. It is a common "window" of time in which many hospitals and obstetrical practices expect a baby to be delivered once the mom's bag of waters has ruptured.
After discussing the pros and cons, and keeping in mind our mantra, “healthy mom, healthy baby”, we decided to take a small dose of pitocin and hope to start the contractions again. Well, after the meds kicked in, I started having eye-watering contractions. Madelon coached us through our relaxation and I was chanting “Om” and channeling the energy God put in the universe to hang with these contractions.
About 2:00 am on January 25th, our nurse (new one) decided it was time to start pushing based on my body signs. I had definitely hit transition and my cervix was "complete" and ready to get baby out. So doc was called in and pushing began sometime between 2:30 and the 3:00 am hour.
I have to say that I had no urge to push. It was just the nurse and doctor looking at my body that decided it was time. So we pushed and the head kept crowning, but baby did not come out. Doc said you can either let me cut and you can push this baby out, or you can keep struggling and you are going to have to think about other options.
At this point, we had been in labor over 24 hours, I was tired because I hadn’t slept, and I knew his “other option” was a C-section. So cut he did - a stage 4 episiotomy - OUCH! (In case you were wondering) But, the next push, the head came out, and the push after that our baby came sliding out onto the table at 3:19 am. Welcome to the world, Ysabella Marie Bowman!!
Our Queen of earth, Queen of heaven was welcomed joyfully and thankfully. I am comforted by the fact that the pitocin was administered late in labor at a very low dose and she seemed to suffer no ill effects from it. She came out wide-eyed, looking at the world around her. Once the nurse took her away so the doctor could sew my mangled pieces back up, he actually barked at the nurse because he couldn't hear the baby. She was too darn busy wrapping her daddy around her finger to be bothered with crying.
Here are the lessons we learned from our labor that we applied to our other births:
To anyone who is reading this during their own pregnancy - do whatever you can to avoid an episiotomy. Dr. Bradley offers many suggestions in his book Husband-Coached Childbirth. It is surgery, and it can be a very painful recovery. I wouldn't let my husband near me for at least nine months after Ysabella was born - everything in the vaginal area HURT for a very long time. I thank God for a patient and understanding husband!!
Another lesson we can share: keep mom in a state of complete relaxation if you are going to transfer from a home setting to a hospital setting. Have the car completely packed before you move her; either Coach or Assistant Coach/Doula can do the legwork. Secondly, have someone in the car that is doing the driving and a second person who's only focus is to keep mom relaxed and the contractions going at the same pattern. The goal is to avoid the "flight or fight" response that can slow or stop labor.
Third lesson: Do your paperwork ahead of time. Admitting procedures, insurance documents, etc. - everything that is required for "patient intake". You can ask for these on the hospital tour and fill them out before labor starts. Go in and have them register you on their system, so when you get to the hospital during labor, all they have to do is find you in the system and get you into the labor triage and then to your Labor & Delivery Room, also known as the LDR. With the time saved, there is likely to be a faster arrival to the place where mom can "nest" to get down to the joyful work of birthing your baby.
Fourth lesson: Until it is over, you will not know how long your labor is-was. Coaches - if your partner can sleep through contractions, relax her to the point when she is completely rested or actually asleep. No one has a magic wand to wave over your partner to tell her how long she is going to be "running the marathon". Especially if this is your first baby, this is hard advice to heed. It is so exciting that you will be meeting your child! And there is some element of apprehension for some couples of, "Can we really do this?"
You CAN do this. If you have any doubts, you can talk to people who have had a natural birth and support your choice, call your Bradley teacher, hire a doula, or sometimes you get lucky like us and get a nurse who wholeheartedly believes that mom's body was designed to give birth and will help you find ways to support you through your labor.
Rest assured that an un-medicated mother has NEVER slept through a birth. In order for her body to work efficiently and for both of you to make rational decisions, you will both need to be nourished and alert. You can make all the difference in your outcome by sleeping when you can. Even late in labor, mom can get some rest by closing her eyes and resting her head on coach between contractions. As long as she has a warning before the next contraction starts, it is a great way to catch up some energy for the second stage, or "pushing phase" of labor.
Ysabella just celebrated her 6th birthday, and we are still in awe of the miracle of her pregnancy and her birth. It is such an amazing gift to be on the journey of life with this human being who is part of us, and yet entirely her own person.
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. This note contains information relevant to our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained in this note do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.