What Technique Worked for Us
At 19 weeks, I went online to find a local instructor. There was only one person in our county who offered the class, but luckily she had room in her next session. A few weeks later, we gathered with five other couples for our two-hour class. There was a lot of ground to cover, and with our first quiz, I discovered how little I knew about biology and childbirth. I didn't know what exercises would tone my perineum, never mind where my perineum was (it's the skin and muscles between the vulva and the anus). I didn't know about the natural alignment plateau (a normal point during labor when contractions may continue but dilation stops or slows) or transition (the last stage of labor before pushing).
Through class discussion and our Bradley workbook, we learned these terms as well as every detail about what to expect during labor. It truly amazed me how so many body parts worked instinctively and in unison to deliver the baby. With each new thing I learned, I gained confidence that I could deliver our baby naturally. For example, once I knew that each contraction was simply uterine muscles working to open up the cervix and push the baby down, they were less scary.
At the same time, Lou grew more comfortable in his role as coach. He studied our workbook on his train ride to work each day. The two pages he valued the most included a chart listing the emotional and physical signs of each stage of labor; he photocopied them so he'd have them during labor.
We also learned specific exercises that help condition the birthing muscles. I did Kegels at red lights, sat Indian (tailor sitting) style to watch TV, did pelvic rocks during commercials, and squatted to reach pots and pans.
Practicing our relaxation techniques, the key to the Bradley method, was not as easy. Our assignment: to spend at least 20 minutes every day until the birth training my body and mind to relax. It sounded good, but there were often nights when we had no energy for practicing. When we did, I wasn't sure I was reaching that completely relaxed mental state, and I wasn't convinced I'd be able to do it during labor. Sure, I can relax when I'm getting a massage or lying in bed listening to waves washing ashore. But I'd never felt a contraction -- how could I simulate my reaction to one?