Okay, is everyone ready to talk about pushing a baby out of your bits? Just kidding. Calm down.
I wanted to write about our child birth classes, because they were pretty awesome and someone, somewhere, might want to hear a candid assessment about learning the Bradley Method.
First of all, the Bradley Method is referred to as coach-led, meaning that you need a coach to come with you to each class. You know the person you want to be there with you at the birth, be it the baby's father, your partner, your mother, etc. etc. Originally it was called husband-coached, which is a bit behind the times, though you still might find that terminology used (probably by monks).
Anyway, the basic premise is that the coach learns to help the woman relax and cope during birth. The extra bonus, as far as I'm concerned, is it helps the coach stay relaxed by giving him a number of signals to monitor and tasks to focus on. So, if your coach is anxiety prone, get thee to Bradley Method classes.
The classes focus on maternal nutrition - special emphasis on protein, exercise, and accurate information about pregnancy, labor, and birth. Here's where I need to say that the Bradley Method is largely focused on natural, medication-free child birth. That said, our instructor wasn't at all pushy about avoiding medication, though some of the materials were definitely biased in that direction. I would recommend that even women expecting to use medication consider the Bradley Method classes, because sometimes, even though you expected a pain-free labor, things don't always go as planned. For instance, one of my good friends completely panicked when her baby was lying on a nerve, making an epidural completely ineffective. And by completely panicked, I mean she tried to get up and leave, screaming that she wasn't doing this. Another woman I know had to be put on medication that was incompatible with pain-relieving drugs. Neither of these women had any idea what to do and reported that their births were terrifying, so, IMHO, it's a good thing to be prepared.
Knowledge is power **cue the sappy music and start fighting over which person actually said that first - was it Sir Francis Bacon or Helen Keller?? Or maybe that came from G.I. Joe? Anyway...**
Here's a brief summary of the Bradley Method course: In addition to being assigned an ungodly number of kegals, there is a scheduled set of exercises to do each day. You track what you're eating. You learn to do progressive relaxation. You learn different positions for different stages of labor and your coach learns different ways to help relieve tension, pain, and discomfort in these different positions. You learn all about labor, things that slow it down and speed it up, what to do at each stage of labor, etc. You learn about the different tools and procedures you can expect to encounter at different birthing environments (hospitals, birthing centers, etc.) and the pros and cons of each. You also watch a fair number of videos showing women giving birth. I know how that sounds, but after seeing it go smoothly so many times, it actually starts to help you feel better about what you're in for.
Basically, the Bradley Method is about putting you in a position to take charge of your baby's birth. I really liked the practical approach: exercise, nutrition, information, and support. You're encouraged to ask your healthcare provider questions, which can really put you at ease. For us, it goes very well with how we were already preparing ourselves for our little guy's arrival. Also, instead of funny breathing, you learn about relaxation and other comfort measures. It completely involves my husband in the process. And, because there are 10-12 classes (usually 12, but ours were 10 extra long classes), you get to know a lot of expecting parents whose due dates are close to your own.
I'll let you know if I like the approach as much after I actually go through labor.