How it Worked for Me
So what exactly is it about the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth that really helped me?
Besides the fact that this method follows the natural inclination of a pregnant woman’s body, having her husband as a labor coach and being able to identify which type of laboring woman I am, the most helpful of all for me (and my husband) during labor were the Emotional Signposts. Studying these signs based on how I was feeling emotionally really helped me recognize where I was at during labor. Yup, it isn’t just physical.
The book, Natural Childbirth the
calls this The Emotional Map of Labor. Check out my notes below.
The Emotional Map of Labor
The First Emotional Signpost: Excitement
When the first sign of the onset of labor is quite obvious, we start getting excited. Baby’s coming! Baby’s coming! (Oh finally!) This is even more true when you’ve been waiting for weeks for your baby to finally make an appearance and you can’t wait to say goodbye to that big belly and aching back! This signpost is quite easy to spot.
Here’s what to do when you’re in this stage:
· Just keep a relaxed tummy throughout the contractions
· Keep abdomen hanging loose at all times
· Observe proper breathing & close eyes during contractions
· Read, watch TV, continue activities
· You are feeling happy, excited, elated, nervous, can still smile (means a long way to go)
· For coach hubby: Encourage her to relax and enjoy
· Keep your wife at home, don’t rush to the hospital just yet
· Take care of whatever is left that still needs to be prepared – get camera set, take pictures if you like, make arrangements or drop off your older child at a family member’s or friend’s place.
I remember that during this stage in my labor with Natalie, I was still working at home and had a coordination meeting in the morning. I tried to finish as much work as I could because I had a feeling that this was it and it won’t be long before the baby comes. I was definitely excited but not raring to go to the hospital just yet.
Hard labor keeps her wrapped up she can’t even smile for the camera or talk so much. So if she can manage an easy smile (yes, there’s such a thing as a hard smile during active labor without anesthesia! Trust me! :D), that means she’s still in the early phase of labor.
The Second Emotional Signpost: Seriousness
As labor progresses it gets more difficult to ignore. Here’s what to watch out for and expect when you are in this stage:
· A few (or several) hours after the onset of the first sign of labor, you will finally feel a need to sit down, lie down, and get comfy
· You need to concentrate on getting some real relaxation and listen to your breathing. Work with the contractions.
· If you have a backache, you are serious about getting a backrub at this stage
· Physical sensations are stronger, good working contractions last about 60 seconds.
“Anything less than 45 seconds isn’t doing much work at getting the cervix open.”
· Total concentration, do-not-disturb, get-to-work attitude
· Coach should be serious too – wife is totally absorbed, determined, intense focus, no jokes or laughing, busy and ready
Now I just have to comment on the previous two notes. When my contractions were getting stronger, longer and closer together (60 seconds long and 5 to 8 minutes apart to be exact), I was already really quiet and focused. I was so serious about concentrating and working with the contractions that when my husband opened the TV and started watching Newsroom (a show with lots of talking!), I asked him to turn it off with a serious tone because it was too noisy for me. At first he jokingly asked me if I was in the serious stage, but when I didn’t smile back, he knew that he was right. Haha! I still find that incident so funny because it was so true. These signposts were just spot on.
· Get a good number of these hours of work at home before going to the hospital – no need to dash at the first sign of seriousness
· Usually contractions 4 minutes apart, lasting 60-70 seconds
· For the coach: Get ready with the backrub, ice chips, wet cloth, coach your wife in relaxation and breathing. Be sensitive to her needs and don’t wait for her to get frantic before you start helping her out.
· Rub her back, talk to her over and through the contractions.
· Concentrate intently on helping her to really let go and let her body sag (These relaxation exercises and techniques are taught in the book but if you don’t have a copy, just remember not to tense up and stay relaxed)
· “The primary goal at all times is total relaxation”
· “Run through the 6 needs of a laboring mother:
1. Darkness and solitude
3. Physical comfort
4. Physical relaxation
5. Controlled breathing
6. Appearance of sleep and closed eyes”
The Third Emotional Signpost: Self-Doubt
This stage is the most crucial especially if you are planning to do a drugless, epidural anesthesia-free birth.
Here’s what happens and what to watch out for at this stage:
· Uterus now shifts into high gear and goes from 7 to 10 cm
· Mother begins to wonder why destination isn’t reached yet
· You may not notice but coach sees you’ve become uncertain, indecisive.
· You don’t know what you want to do and cannot explain when asked.
· You suddenly are not sure you can do this and may even say it aloud.
· The self-doubt signpost really means that you are almost done.
· Contractions may last 70, 80 or even 90 seconds, with rest periods of 1.5 to 2 minutes.
· Backache is stronger and a backrub is definitely needed now.
· Relax and let go. Breathe with a quiet, steady rhythm.
· Focus on a super limp, relaxed body. Think your way through the contractions.
· The mother looks to the coach for support, depends upon you for confidence and reassurance. This is the hardest part of the work but also the fastest.
· “PEP: PRAISE her for her efforts
ENCOURAGE her to redouble her efforts
PROGRESS – let her know she’s almost there” (baby’s coming!)
· She might take offer of medication at this point because she thinks she’s not doing well and things are not going the way she expected.
I’ve asked a few moms who opted for an unmedicated childbirth and they have told me that they recall feeling a wave of doubt as their contractions just got stronger and stronger. If it wasn’t for the encouragement of their doula or midwife (who acted as their coach for the birth), they would have given up and asked for the drugs right before the baby came out. In the book I also read about one mom’s experience during the Self-Doubt stage wherein she was begging for the epidural because she couldn’t take the pain anymore and doubted that she could go through with it, but her husband stopped her and encouraged her to go on without medication. Twenty minutes later, the baby came out. Whew.
As for me, I honestly didn’t want to think about not being able to deliver naturally at any point during labor. I tried my best not to give room to doubt. I think I was so set on NOT having another C-section and anesthesia’s horrible side effects on me again that not finishing what I started was just not an option. I do remember thinking and wondering how long this pain would last and how it’s almost impossible for it to get even worse because it was way too painful already. If there was any doubt in my mind, I just didn’t entertain it. I honestly prayed for this moment for so long and so hard that I didn’t want to let doubt take the place of faith. I just had to believe that I could do it. :)
Here are some more pointers in the book worth remembering that will help you in analyzing where you are in labor:
“The actual amount of dilation is the least reliable guide as to where you are in labor.
How far dilated you are is not nearly as important as the:
Emotional Signpost, along with
How Far Apart and
How Long the Contractions are.
There is no way to predict the time.
What you almost always can tell is this:
If she has been working at labor for hours, and her contractions are 2 and 3 minutes apart and lasting 60 to 90 seconds, and she has the Self-Doubt signpost, you can tell her with complete honesty and assurance that she is down to the end of her work. Still, don’t put a time on it, for if she goes over, her will may crumble.”
For the coach – just remember to Praise, Encourage and acknowledge your wife’s Progress during labor. Be sensitive to her needs and help her relax as much as possible. Going through labor and giving birth is definitely the hardest physical work that a woman has to go through so be extra supportive! J
This post is dedicated to my friend Mia and baby Shiloh
Reference and Quotes from:
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition by Susan McCutcheon