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First Childbirth, Natural, the Bradley way...

During my first (and only, so far!) pregnancy, I knew that I wanted a natural childbirth. I had heard of the Bradley Method from a very good friend who had a baby the Bradley way about 7 years before. At that time, I thought she was "alternative" and supported it, but I'm not sure that I understood or had any desire to follow it. But when it became my time to think about it, that's exactly the way I wanted to go.

I am very health conscious, and had no desire for artificial pain killers and medicines that can have all kinds of unpleasant side effects, and potential effects on the baby. Also, I didn't want to be powerless against the drugs. I wanted to have the freedom to mobilize and participate actively in the delivery, and have control over and feel my muscles when it came time to push. Lastly, part of me was curious as to what the pain could really be like, and knowing that millions of females have experienced it gave me confidence that I could too. So, on to the prep for the big day.

We attended the Bradley classes, I did Kegels, Yoga and exercised daily, and I wrote our "Birth Plan" for the big day. My doctor had never heard of the Bradley Method before. It was very beneficial to visit the Labor and Delivery floor ahead of time, to meet the head nurse and other staff nurses to learn how they are accustomed to running things, and to let them know what was important for me.

A set back when creating my birth plan was that I was Group B Strep +, meaning that I must be given antibiotics during labor to insure my baby gets protection against it. Ideally, the antibiotics should be given a few hours before delivery and a second dose closer to delivery. To allow for this, my original goal of wanting to stay at home until contractions are consistently 2-3 minutes apart for an hour changed to 5 minutes apart for 30-60 minutes.
Okay, onto the labor.

My LMP due date was November 13th. Oliver was born on the 17th, 3 days later.

Total Labor Time: 9 hours ( 5 at home, 4 at the hospital, 45 minutes pushing, stage 2).

The day that labor began, I remember during my daily walk at the park (5:30p.m.), I felt a bit crampy and uncomfortable the entire walk, but it was more of an intestinal discomfort. I didn't think too much of it, as much as I wanted it to be it! That evening my husband and I had discussed what my doc had said about natural ways to get things going. The doc had told my husband and me to "go home and act like teenagers."

9:15p.m. Well, without elaborating, we had considered following his advice but didn't. It was the last thing on my mind ( perhaps because I was moments away from labor starting!) I began to feel a tightening, which was slightly awkward and I didn't feel like moving.

9:30p.m. Bloody show! Oh, my gosh this was an exciting moment. I knew it was finally happening. Now a note on this: from the books I gathered that a "bloody show" was just something that happens once, and not continuously, so when I found myself bleeding lightly for hours, I was worried. We called the hospital to give them a big heads-up and to inquire about this. They said that it was normal.

Contractions started at 10:00p.m. and were only lasting about 23 seconds and about 5 minutes apart, but this changed immediately to only 2-3 minutes apart, so I didn't get much of a break in between. This went on for a while until they were lasting about 45 seconds, 2-3 minutes apart. During this time I didn't want to walk as I had hoped, but I stood, sat, kneeled, and lay on my side, and sitting felt best.

While at home, it was more efficient for me to remain in the bathroom most of the time due to the bleeding etc. The bowels were also working hard. I wanted my husband on the other side of the house at this time, and I just wanted to be alone dealing with this. I showered at some point, and this felt so good I didn't want to leave. I sat on the floor of the shower for a long time. I remember at this point getting a bit nervous that I could get too comfortable here with the warm water flowing on me, and then we could be in a panic to get me out, dried off and ready to go to the hospital. Things were already at a pain level I could not imagine before.

I began to be preoccupied with the antibiotics that I needed for labor, so we started getting ready to go around 2:30a.m. (time flew by, even though it had been 4.5 hours since contractions began). I also began to worry that maybe the 45 second contractions were really lasting 60 seconds and I was telling my husband when the "peak" was over, but not necessarily the end of the contraction. I was really ready to go after these thoughts. My husband Simon said this is when I turned into a drill sergeant. I had the bags packed, but we had to feed the cats, get orange juice, water to drink in route, take rings off …. and I wanted things done immediately as I thought of them so I could move on with my thoughts to the next thing. "Zip up my bag. Put it in the car. Get water. Feed cats." "Did you zip up my bag yet? Simon, zip up my bag. Why haven't you zipped up my bag yet?"…Now my husband just went along and got it all done, it just didn't seem fast enough for my demands at the time.

I had a few old towels to sit on in route. This was a good thing because my water broke during a contraction. In the parking lot at the hospital, I see my friend who had the same due date walking in right ahead of us! And as we arrived inside, another had just arrived, and another 15 minutes before! The nurses were overwhelmed. I came in a few minutes behind the others but I was demanding to be looked at. I knew I was much further along. Finally they checked me at 4:00 a.m. The doc said I was only 3 cm! I felt as though I was much further along, with 5 hours of strong labor. He checked again, and said "Oh, your right. You are 4 cm." They normally send you home if you are less than 5cm but since I had slight meconium in my water, they admitted me. They called my doc at 4 a.m. and he figured he'd be coming in around noon for my delivery.

Finally (~4:30a.m.) they wheeled me into a room that is normally a prep room before surgery. It was very small and crowded, but this was my delivery room. I was left alone with my husband. It wasn't until 5:00a.m. or 5:30a.m. when I received the antibiotics (1.5-2 hours post arrival). In this room I experienced the most difficult time, not wanting my husband to leave my side, not even to go across the room (as he did once to reference the Bradley workbook to confirm that I was in "transition".) I was begging to be checked. They didn't want to check me because my water had meconium in it, and so they didn't want to unnecessarily check my dilation. At one point they said that they'd check me in an hour! An hour?!! That was unbelievable, I planned on having the baby sooner than that! I was on my side at this time. I felt my lower body take over, sort of pushing on it's own, lifting up off the bed. When they finally checked me at around 6:15a.m., sure enough I was 10cm and ready to go!!! Who knows for how long I was ready. So, I went from 4-10cm in a little over 2 hours. They were not ready for that. They called my doc then, and brought in other doctors in the meantime.

I was determined to squat on the bed for delivery (I had been on my side for over 2 hours), so that process began. I was thrilled at this point. My labor tunes tape was crooning out Barry Manilow's Copacabana and everyone appeared to be having a good time. They sure had never seen anything like this before, as I squatted on the bed and smiled and felt really good at this point. About 15 minutes into it, my doctor comes running in, and couldn't help but grin at the scene. Forty four minutes later, Oliver Franklin was born, weighing 8 lbs., 3 oz.. I had a 2nd degree tear, but no episiotomy. Life was great. And it has only gotten greater since!

- Linda Seelig



For more information on The Bradley Method, for an international listing of instructors, or to contact the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth directly, please contact: The Bradley Method, Box 5224, Sherman Oaks, CA 91413-5224 - (800) 4-A-BIRTH or (818) 788-6662 -