Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Preparing for Natural Childbirth

I've had several inquiries lately about natural childbirth so I thought I would share how I prepared for the big day.  I went natural with my first child which to be honest was a big challenge but very doable with the right preparation and groundwork.  And I am still reaping the rewards of natural childbirth with a fast recovery, an active and alert baby girl and an amazing bond between the two of us that just keeps growing stronger every day.

I didn't decide that I wanted to go natural until 28 weeks pregnant - the beginning of my third trimester.  So it is possible to start this journey at the tail end of your pregnancy but I do feel you need a full 12 weeks to prepare.  I read Husband-Coached Childbirth at the recommendation of a lady in my discipleship group and by the fifth page I knew.  It's what I had always wanted (natural childbirth) and the idea of an epidural never sounded quite right to me.  But I was afraid.  There was no one in my life that I was super close to that had chosen natural childbirth so I just didn't know much about it.  Another friend mentioned Bradley classes (thank goodness for those who have gone before me) so I did a little online research and found Elizabeth Bowes, a Bradley Instructor in the Memphis area!

I could not have had a natural childbirth without Elizabeth.  She was an invaluable resource in so many ways.  She offers a 12 week Bradley class series for couples and her next one starts this Saturday, January 25th.  Last year, my husband was out of town on military training for three months so we couldn't make the classes.  Elizabeth graciously made an exception for us and gave us private classes.  We took two classes at 29 weeks and 30 weeks pregnant and had a final class when I was 39 weeks!  The first two classes gave me lots of time to study and prepare and the third class really helped my confidence since my due date was just a week away.  We also got to hear about Elizabeth's recent trip to The Farm which was really neat.  During our time with Elizabeth, she taught me what my nutrition should look like during pregnancy and which exercises to practice, introduced me to my doula and recommended helpful books and movies about natural childbirth.

1.) Nutrition = I feel I have good nutrition in general but the Bradley curriculum recommends watching your sugar and loading up on protein.  It recommends 65 to 80g a day.  It was hard for me to hit 65g a day but being aware of my protein intake helped me to double what I normally would have eaten.  I am positive this emphasis on nutrition greatly attributed to my feeling good in the third trimester and gave me the stamina I needed for labor.  

2.) Pregnancy Exercises = I don't work out.  I'm a walker and that's about it.  Just running errands during the day and staying active (active = not staying on the couch ALL day long) was enough of a work out for me.  By "pregnancy exercises" I mean squatting, pelvic tilts, butterflies, etc.  I would do these every night before I went to bed.  And my baby was in an excellent birthing position.  Maybe too good!  She was so low that I could feel "things" near the end of my pregnancy.  Those pelvic tilts definitely did their job.  There's no way to know if she would have been in that great of a position without the exercises and if I did it all over again I would definitely be just as disciplined in practicing them.  *A list of pregnancy exercises are found in The Bradley Method Student Notebook which you will receive once enrolled in The Bradley Method classes. 

3.) Doula = At our second private class with Elizabeth she asked if we had been practicing the natural childbirth techniques together as a couple.  Since my husband was out of town mostly during this time we hadn't really practiced as much as Bradley recommends.  After hearing our response, she highly encouraged us to use a doula.  Best decision ever.  Even if we had practiced 10,000 hours as a couple I still say four hands are better than two.  When you are in active labor you need constant assistance.  Your husband can't time contractions, get you ice chips and rub your back all at the same time.  Plus there's something about having a nurturing woman by your side during labor from start to finish.  My advice is to interview a couple of doulas and pick the woman that you feel would be the best person to be by your side on the big day.  Go with your gut.  You know yourself better than anyone and you know the type of personality that calms you and relaxes you the most.  That is the person you need in the room with you.  Message me if you would like some names of doulas in the Memphis area.

4.) Reading List = Start with Husband-Coached Childbirth by Dr. Robert Bradley.  It is an easy read and it will cement in your mind the advantages of why you are choosing natural childbirth.  Then have your husband read it so he is on the same page with your decision to go natural.  The second book I read was The Thinking Women's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer.  This book was very informative on hospital interventions during birth and helped me make decisions when writing my birth plan.  The last book I delved into was Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon.  I read this one in a hurry and really should have read it through twice!  It is so well written and I got a lot of great tips out of it.  Next time I would like to read a book or two by Ina May Gaskin.  Either Spiritual Midwifery or Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

5.) Movies = I enjoyed The Business of Being Born produced by Ricki Lake and Birth Story starring Ina May Gaskin.  I thought these movies would persuade me to have a home birth vs. hospital birth.  They actually made me confident in choosing a hospital birth.  I thought it was interesting that two out of three birth stories in the first movie ended up going to the hospital after they had planned a home birth.  I think my ideal birth place would be a birthing center like The Farm.  But since there are none in our area my second option was a hospital birth.

I also enjoyed taking childbirth classes at the hospital that I gave birth at.  It helped me to see natural labor from the hospital's perspective.  I think taking the extra time to double up on childbirth classes really paid off because I was so familiar with the hospital and their practices.  I knew going in which items on my birth plan they would easily comply with and which ones they would be more hesitant to agree to.  And if it is not obvious you must have a supportive husband.  I could have done all the preparation in the world but without my husband by my side every second, supporting and encouraging me it would have all been for naught.  And as always prayer, prayer and more prayer.  I started my journey of natural childbirth in prayer and that was the defining factor of my healthy pregnancy and natural birth story.  You prepare as best you can and trust the Lord to work out the unseen details.  There were so many things that could have gone a different way that day and I am fully aware that the Lord was my strongest Help that day.   

2 comments:

  1. So interesting. Thanks so much for posting this. I don't have children yet, but I've always wondered about natural childbirth, but I, like you, haven't had many friends who have gone this route. One that did did it at home, which I respect greatly, but just can't imagine forgoing the safety net of a hospital myself. Epidurals always seemed so strange to me as well. I appreciate all this helpful and candid information! Filing it away for someday!!

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  2. I loved reading this! We, too, took a Bradley class and I loved Ina May's books. I had my babies at home, but think you mamas who go drug-free at the hospital are amazingly strong. I'm fairly certain I would've taken the drugs had they been easily accessible. Thankfully, I had a warm birthing pool to sit in. That helped a TON!

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