Now that Kerrigan has arrived safe and sound and is fast asleep in his hospital crib, I would like to take a moment to tell you about the manner in which he made his appearance. That is, I want to share with you our experience of natural childbirth using the Bradley method (www.bradleybirth.com).
Have a baby without anesthesia, or any type of pain relief other than natural breathing and relaxation, is an exhilarating and awe-inspiring experience. The reason is that it requires you literally to prepare months in advance, and it affords the husband a central and essential role as labor coach. Rather than sitting on the sidelines while the professionals manage your wifeâ€™s labor and delivery, you are smack dab in the middle of the action, helping your wife through each contraction, applying your training and education, and making critical split- second decisions that will affect your wife and impact the welfare of the child being born.
I have to admit, I was a bit incredulous at my wifeâ€™s decision to have our baby au natural. After all, isnâ€™t that one purpose of modern medicine, to alleviate what in ages past was a painful ordeal? Why suffer needlessly with the availability of pain relieving medicine? Well, as it turns out, the administration of anesthesia during labor and delivery is not the panacea it portends to be and in fact carries its own set of complications, affecting the vivacity of the baby and possibly elevating the risk of cesarean section.
The essence of the Bradley method is this: getting through labor contractions through deep relaxation. Other methods, for example Lamaze, use artificial breathing patterns and various forms of distraction to get a woman through the pain. Bradley, on the other hand, asserts that relaxation makes the contractions less intense, because a woman is working with her body instead of against it.
The other benefit of learning the Bradley method is the plethora of information on all aspects of the birthing process, including a critique of certain medical procedures which are considered fairly routine for most births. One example of this is the episiotomy, a procedure in which the doctor makes an incision to allow the baby more room to exit the vagina. However, the Bradley literature points out there is little evidence to support the routine use of this procedure for most deliveries, and that many women who have had it say it is one of the most painful aspects of their post-partum recovery.
Taking the Bradley classes, reading the books and practicing the physical and relaxation exercises, required a considerable investment of time and energy. Bradley likens an unmedicated birth to an Olympic event, where an athlete must train for months in order to prepare mentally and physically for a race. Itâ€™s not enough only to possess the know-how – although that knowledge empowers you to make sound decisions about your birth experience – you must also possess the requisite skills.
Having taken the time to acquire those skills, and having selected a physician who would respect our preferences, enabled us to experience a birth which resulted in the optimal well- being of our son, Kerrigan, and the rapid recovery of my wife Zuzana, giving her the wherewithal to transition from pregnancy to motherhood and respond well to the challenge of caring for an infant who requires round-the-clock attention and care.