Selah was born at the Austin Area Birth Center, where they encourage all of their patients to take a Bradley class. Before I took the class, I read Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon-Rosegg and Husband-Coached Childbirth by Dr. Robert Bradley. Dr. Bradley’s book is older, has no pictures, and is not quite as practical as the other book. I very highly recommend Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way…I have read that book over and over, and I loan it to every single pregnant friend that I have! I especially like the pictures, drawings of exercises and positions, and the stories of how various labors begin and progress through the Bradley method.

I really like the Bradley method because it focuses on very practical and simple things: relaxation, exercises and positions, and training the birth coach. There is no complicated breathing pattern or technique to remember. It is all about becoming a team with your coach, learning what really helps you relax, and working together to birth your baby the way you want to.

I am not the type of person who regularly exercises, but the recommendations in this book for labor preparation are so simple and helpful, that I was able to do them daily throughout my pregnancy. I prepared for my birth experience by regularly stretching, squatting, doing Kegel exercises, and walking. I love telling people how great squatting is for pregnancy and birth! It takes some practice to do a really deep squat (feet flat on the floor), but then it becomes such a great position for opening up, moving a baby down during labor, and then giving birth. During the last few weeks of my pregnancy, whenever I played with Emma, I would crawl on my hands and knees and sit in a squat. I really believe that those exercises helped Selah get into such a great birthing position, and be very low and ready for birthing.

My absolute favorite part of the Bradley class was the night where we practiced all of the massages and relaxation exercises. Our fabulous instructor, Chan, created stations for each type of massage and relaxation tool. Everything felt so great, and it was so helpful to actually practice all of the techniques. That night, I told Ryan that I couldn’t wait to go into labor, so that I could have more back massages and warm compresses!

The Bradley method also focuses on the ultimate position for relaxation – laying on your side, completely supported with pillows. It is incredibly difficult to stay still in this position in the midst of powerful contractions, but when I finally tried it, it was amazingly effective at making my labor quick and more relaxing!

However, the key component to a Bradley birth is the coach. All of the classes are intended to create a coach who is knowledgeable and prepared to actively help the birthing woman relax, remember her plans, and birth the way they had hoped. Ryan was such a wonderful coach! Just as I wrote in Selah’s birth story, I had given Ryan some specific tips and things to say that I knew would help me in labor. (I found these tips in the Bradley books, and wrote them down on a cheat sheet for Ryan!) Throughout labor, even though things moved so quickly, Ryan was able to help me because he had been taught so many ideas for helping me relax and focus.

Maybe I’ll become a Bradley instructor someday – I like it that much! Well, I won’t be doing that anytime soon, but I do have something else that I’m working on…

Soon, I will be sharing my very own Birthin’ Mama Kits, full of tools and tips for a relaxing pregnancy and labor (whether or not you are using the Bradley method). So, check back soon!