When Hannah and I got pregnant with our first baby, we had no clue how to prepare for it; the experience was so new, the options so many, the advice from family and friends so conflicting, we just threw our hands up in the air and shot blindly.
We ended up dipping our chips in a little bit of everything; we signed up for a birthing class with a doula and had a mainstream delivery experience at a local hospital.
We chose a doctor recommended by a friend, but she was nothing to write home about. A small, Asian lady with a thick Vietnamese accent (“pregnancy is not a diseah,” was her motto), she never went out of her way to make us feel that pregnancy was a special thing, a miracle; she talked about the cord blood bank, abortion options if the baby had down syndrome, offered some synthetic vitamins and supplements, mocked me once in the ultrasound room because I picked up one of her medicine books and flipped through the pages (“Are you a doctah, now?”), the works.
When labor started, Hannah was uncomfortable. She got scared and decided to get to the hospital a bit too early. Once there, she was in great pain, as it turned out that she was experiencing back labor. Not good. Doctor and nurses offered epidural and even morphine to relieve her pain. We said no to the morphine, but yes to the epidural. Hannah felt better, but that slowed down labor quite a bit, and deprived Hannah of the ability to feel her lower side of her body, which is important during the pushing stage. And it gave us a drugged baby, groggy and not very alert, delivered by a colleague of our Asian doctah. The colleague was friendly.
The second time around was similar, but we had a doctor we loved. He was a natural guy, super friendly, his office plastered with awesome pictures of him surrounded by lots of smiling babies he had delivered. The only problem we had with him was that he was a one-man show, always late (two hours late kind of guy).
The labor experience was similar to our first one in our hospital choice and the decision to have yet another epidural; this latter choice, however, would prove to be quite painful, as the anesthesiologist spent 45 minutes trying to find the right spot for the injection; don’t know about you, but when you have a doctor sitting behind you, poking you in your spine with a very long needle for 45 minutes, that does not make for a very fun experience.
That was when Hannah knew she done with epidurals.
And, of course, that slowed down labor a lot. It wasn’t all so bad, though, as that happened to be the last day of the 2008 summer Olympics, so we watched the marathon and a few movies.
The great thing about the delivery of our second, groggy baby, was that our doctor made it to our room just in time; not bad for a guy that was always two hours late during our pregnancy appointments. Not only did he make it, but when the baby was entering into this world, he told Hannah to pull her out. Hannah gave him this bewildered look, as if to say, “Pull her out? Are you crazy?”
“Pull her out, you can do it,” said the doctor with a smile.
So she pulled the baby out. To this day, Hannah thinks it was the most awesome experience ever. She still talks about it with her mom-girlfriends when the childbirth topics comes up, and all of them try to one-up each other with the most incredible childbirth story. I think Hannah’s is pretty up there because they all ooh and aah when she brings it up.
But the baby was still groggy from the epidural; I’m told a combination of drug-cousins of heroin and cocaine cannot be that good on a newborn, and I can attest that our two children were not very alert when they made their first appearance; or for the next three days, for that matter.
When our third child was conceived (yes, we have a TV), we decided to have a natural birth with the same doctor that delivered our second child. A friend recommended the Bradley method, so we purchased Dr. Bradley’s book The Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth. The book reinforces the ideas that drugs are not good for mom and baby during pregnancy and labor, gives women lots of advice on how to best prepare for labor, with exercises and proper nutrition, and gives priceless tips on what husbands are to do during each stage of labor (early first stage, first stage, transition – this one hurts – and second stage or delivery).
A highly recommended book.
We also purchased The Bradley Method: Student Workbook, which is a practical, well-structured book that reinforces the Bradley techniques for couples practicing in a Bradley class or by themselves.
How did the Bradley method work with the delivery of our third child?
There is something special in delivering a baby naturally. It is so empowering to the mother. She feels — rightly so — that, if she’s able to deliver her baby naturally, she can do anything. It also makes the husband highly involved with the delivery experience, to the point where I doubt the wife could do it without him; During contractions, I was helping Hannah relax, my hand on her tummy to guide her abdominal breathing, while whispering soft love talk in her ear; between contractions I was massaging her lower back and giving her ice chips or orange juice to replenish her fluids.
It was the most beautiful bonding experience.
Labor went fast. Soon she wanted to lay down sideways on the bed, right before transition started. I will never forget the look on her eyes when the first big contraction hit her; they opened wide and big, with the same reaction you have when you are caught off-guard and get punched in the stomach.
Thank the Lord, that went quick (I know, easy for me to say); after fifteen minutes, transition was over and was time to push that little girl out. Shortly after, little Luisa was born, a beautiful baby with super black hair.
Very alert too.
And now here we are, waiting to have our fourth child, our first boy.
He’s due any day now.