Updated: May 4
Teaching Bradley® was not a given. I felt a longing to teach childbirth classes after the birth of my second child. And I had always had in the back of my mind those little flyers the AAHCC sent out about teacher trainings. It took me awhile to even get to the point of actually pursuing becoming a childbirth educator because, frankly, I was so completely immersed in the craziness of my first decade of mothering and the many responsibilities I had that I waited until I knew I could really concentrate on being a good teacher – that was important to me.
With my first pregnancy, I found out about the Bradley Method® from a neighbor. I went out and bought Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon. I loved this book; I still love it – it had a profound influence on my life. My neighbor didn’t like her teacher very much (I should have asked what the problem was, but I just took her word for it ), so I was kind of at a loss of how to find a different teacher (we hadn't even heard of the internet - it wasn't even a "thing", so no Google searches for me.) While waiting for a prenatal yoga class to begin, I heard another expectant mother talking about her Bradley class, so I asked for her teacher’s name and number. I reached out to this teacher, and my husband and I ended up taking her Bradley classes. Which I should rewrite as “Bradley” because as this was not the full 12-week series (no where near that length), it was not really a Bradley class.
So, Rule #1 – ask a lot of questions; please don’t assume that a teacher who says they are a Bradley teacher, but who does not teach the whole 12-week series, is doing you a favor. She’s not. I am a trusting person. I always try my hardest to do a good job. So naturally, I thought that we were getting the "real deal." My husband and I did not investigate enough and just went along with what was presented to us. We were so excited to be having a baby.
What did I get from this experience? The nutrition component was great. Loved that! We saw some birth videos. We understood the stages of labor and felt trust in the process of birth. I went to a La Leche League meeting and read about breastfeeding. I practiced my side-relaxation religiously every day (my dog often lay down next to me when I practiced.) Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way was a great resource and source of inspiration. So I was calm and ready for the big Birth day.
We labored for a long time at home. However, as we did not do any labor rehearsals in class and my husband did not learn any skills to help me at the hospital, this had a huge impact on the birth. I had an unnecessarily difficult experience at the hospital. Very practical skills sets were missing (for both of us) that would have completely alleviated the distress I experienced. My husband was unprepared and felt panicked. I did have a natural birth – it was spontaneous and non-medicated. However, the suffering I experienced, physically and emotionally, was unnecessary. I experienced a third (almost fourth degree) perineal tear, and my baby was unnecessarily separated from me for many hours after birth.
I know now that most of the challenges we experienced were avoidable with the right education. Unfortunately, there were many, many lessons that were skipped over in our class. Going into a hospital birth missing critical knowledge and not having a skill set (that's practiced over and over again) is an unenviable position to be in. It’s not a great start. This birth was traumatic for all of us. We were so happy to have our baby, but we were a bit wounded. Breastfeeding went great, though, and that ended up being the first area I gained knowledge and skills to help families
It was four-and-a-half years before my second birth experience. I needed to do a lot of work to prepare myself. I went back to Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, did a lot of my own reading, and also focused on my own instinctive preparation. Halfway through the pregnancy, I switched over to midwifery care with plans to birth at home. I really appreciated my husband’s support, because the first birth was really scary for him and he worried about the blood loss that I experienced. I knew it was a big step for him to support me in my instinct to birth at home. My second birth was very healing for the whole family – my older child got to be there, too. And I knew then that I wanted to teach. I wanted women and babies – the whole family – to have good experiences, whether in the hospital, home, or birth center. Birth is profoundly powerful and leaves an imprint, whether that experience is negative or positive.
I looked at many different childbirth methods to determine what I would teach. I knew I had learned a lot from my two experiences and I wanted to incorporate the lessons that I had learned, but I also knew that I wanted the guidance and structure of a program that would help me make sure that I was giving expectant families the tools they needed to have a good start. I did not want to repeat the educational experience my husband and I had (or didn't have.)
I looked at the hypnosis methods. I felt the class lengths were too short – I knew there was not enough time to learn what new parents needed to know, plus I was suspicious of the whole “no pain” thing. Seemed a bit of a stretch to me. And I had never used hypnosis, so it didn’t feel authentic for me, either. I looked at Birthing from Within. I hadn’t read that book when I was pregnant, but as part of my research on what method to teach, I saw that I had instinctively used a lot similar ideas as those proposed in the book. I felt that the course was, again, too short and not practical enough for hospital birth and new parenting with no emphasis on the father's important role. It sounded interesting from a psychological perspective, but too ambiguous. Lamaze – no, I just could not do it knowing the history of the Lamaze method. And there was not a set program - a teacher just created her own thing right out of the gate after getting training. How on earth would I know if it was effective and worked? I did not want to experiment on pregnant couples.
I read Husband-Coached Childbirth for the first time. I had not read it during my pregnancies. I agreed with so many of the principles (although, I will say it's a challenging read.) They made sense to me. By this time things were online and I could see the course outline of the Bradley Method. And, of course, Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, was my go-to book. The requirements for the training and the process looked rigorous. Even though I had felt a little let down by the Bradley Method after my first birth, it was the program that resonated the most for me. It was established and had a good reputation. So, I signed up for the training.
That’s when I discovered it wasn’t really the Bradley Method that let me down – it was the extremely shortened series that did (this teacher is not teaching anymore, btw.) I cannot remember what the circumstances were for that shortened series, but I do know that I was simply shocked by the amount of critical information that my husband and I were denied by that experience when I took my teacher training and then started teaching provisionally. My husband and I spoke about it many times during the first years that I taught Bradley classes. We got some good things from the class we took, but the stuff we missed – that was a big, big loss. My husband definitely wanted to be able to support me the physical ways that are in the curriculum, if only he had known. If he had a check-off list (it’s in the Bradley Student Workbook.) We wanted and needed that information and that training.
Now I teach the Bradley Method. I teach the full 12 weeks. I hold my end of the bargain by teaching the whole thing because I know there are couples who are really going to need the whole series. It does take time to take in everything and truly learn the material. What you don't know can, unfortunately, sometimes hurt you. I give the couples taking my class the information and training they need to have a good birth, to make informed decisions, and to be be prepared for life after their baby is born. I encourage them to ask questions. To listen to themselves and take actions that they feel are right. Most importantly, I want them to have support because that is sorely lacking in our culture.
Many of my couples want to do the birth experience themselves without a doula. The partner is the “dude-la” as some people call Bradley dads. I feel rewarded when I hear that he felt prepared. He knew how to support and advocate for his woman. They worked together as a team. This is the point of a Bradley series – working together as a family. Being aware of and able to handle the many decisions new parents need to make - during pregnancy, during the labor and birth, and after the baby is born. A natural birth can result from a Bradley Method class, but that’s not the real point of the series. The point is becoming a family and making this baby’s birth the best is can be, full of love and support.
I love teaching this beautiful course! It's the most wholistic and complete childbirth preparation available; the length of the series allows me to integrate all my knowledge and skills into the course. I am honored to walk the journey with the amazing families that take my classes. I definitely made a good choice choosing the Bradley Method.