I have to admit that I had been dreading the nearly hour long birth rehearsal that our Bradley teacher had been promising us was in store for our last class, but it turns out that the combination of low lighting, relaxation techniques, and a whispering husband can make time pass very pleasurably.
Our teacher had a pre-recorded tape cassette of silence interspersed with increasingly frequent minute-long snippets of music, which were to represent our labor contractions. It was a surprisingly effective way to get into laboring mode – and to not only to practice all of our positions and techniques, but to talk about our expectations and hopes for the birth. I thought I might use my book and notes to remember everything more clearly, but I think it would be a better test for me to see what I can recall on my own.
First stage is the beginning part of labor that is often characterized by restlessness and lighter or irregular contractions. The Bradley Method recommends walking and having some activities planned in advance for this early stage. I would probably call my midwife, Karen, but wouldn’t expect her to come until my contractions were “3-1-1” or three minutes apart, one minute in duration, for about one hour. This stage lasted a long time for me when I had Bella, and I plan to follow my Bradley teachers advice and try to rest (and let Chad sleep) if the contractions start in the middle of the night as they are wont to do. More specifically, Chad’s okay with me waking him and telling him when contractions start and I’m okay with lying in bed next to him sleeping during the early part of labor.
If we’re awake and out of bed during first stage, here are some things we’ve thought of doing (remember, with Bella my water broke on a Friday night and she was born Monday morning, so we potentially have lots of time here):
- Light our birthing candle (I bought a 90-hour one so I wouldn’t feel any pressure or rush! It’s been in our bathroom since our San Fransisco trip.)
- Clean our bathroom. (Many women like to labor in the bathroom because it’s a natural place to feel less inhibited about pushing and leaking. I’ll feel less inhibited if it’s CLEAN.)
- Bake cookies. (I figure we may as well have snacks around)
- Watch a movie together. I’m thinking about watching Tampopo again.
- Reading a book out loud together – but I haven’t found one that would seem appropriate yet.
- Tidy up the bedroom in preparation.
- Walk around the neighborhood.
- Take a warm shower.
Late second stage is characterized by seriousness, lack of modesty, and regular, more intense contractions. During this stage I think I will be more internalized and depend on Chad to help me relax and remember that all the contractions are about getting my cervix to OPEN. The main thing for me will be to work on giving in to the contractions. We may or may not try all of these relaxation techniques:
- Rainbow (where Chad leads me through visualizing all the colors of the rainbow, starting with the brilliant red of rising sun bursting up over the horizon)
- Progressive (where Chad runs his hands from the top of my body to the bottom)
- Tense and relax (where Chad leads me through tensing and relaxing each muscle group in the body)
- Massage and Gentle Stroking
- Sensory (where Chad leads me through imagining one of our recent hikes)
- Wet Washcloths
- Heated Bed Buddies (long socks filled with barley or rice heated in the microwave)
- Deep Breathing or Meditation
In any of the following positions:
- Runner’s Pose (a modified side lie with pillows)
- Sitting up with Chad behind me
- Kneeling on the ground with my head resting on the bed
- Standing and leaning, resting my head on a table or bureau
- Standing, supported by Chad
- Squatting, supported by Chad
- Leaning against the wall
- Sitting on the toilet (with a pillow on the water tank)
- Hands and Knees
Transition is generally considered the toughest time of labor; it’s the time just before pushing; the time when women are most likely to ask for pain medication. It can be characterized by self-doubt, fear, and sometimes doubled, very intense contractions. As a coach, Chad’s supposed to get right up to my face and ask if this might be transition when I show these signs. I’ve asked Chad to tell me how glad he is that I am having his baby when he thinks I’m in transition. I think that I will want him very close so I can feel his warmth and smell him when the contractions are that strong.
Second stage is characterized by pushing, which many women find very satisfying. I was scared of pushing with Bella because I felt like I was going to rip in half. I didn’t. In fact I didn’t really tear at all – I needed only two stitches for a minor medial tear. But this time I know that I am capable of pushing a baby through to the outside world. And I know that it’s okay to take it slowly. I’m thinking that it would be nice to have Chad “catch” the baby, but he likes the idea of being behind me and letting the midwife “catch.”
Third stage! Is when the baby is out and up on my belly skin-to-skin. We’ll all be talking in hushed tones, with dimmed lights, and the blanket will be over me and the baby. The baby will not be bathed, poked or prodded, but he or she will be able to transition to the outside world in the warmth of my belly and breasts. Nursing and bonding! Lots of gazing. And floods of loving hormones. A Chad and Jeannie baby!! Bella will love this baby.
Now I really am getting excited.
So far, it looks like it will be me, Chad, Bella (??), Karen the midwife, and her assistant. My parents are going to be in town too, arriving from a trip to Korea on the due date June 3. At first, the thought my parents were going to be around threw me off-kilter, but now I think that as long as Chad and I have the space and quiet in our bedroom to labor peacefully on our own, they are welcome to attend the actual birth part.