The Immersion Method

Tuesday night was what I would call the first birthing class Janelle and I took really aimed at birthing (unlike the yoga class we took, which is really just a sort of corollary to birthing). We decided to look into following the Bradley Method for the birth. The Bradley Method’s “selling point”, beyond all the standard tenets about nutrition and exercise and breathing, is that it follows the notion of father-coached childbirth.

What does that mean exactly? As of right now I’d have to tell you that that is a very good question. It’s a once a week class over the next nine weeks (typical class-lengths are 12 weeks, but Janelle would be 38 weeks by that point and may not be in shape enough to finish out the class—or really do much of anything—depending on how the pregnancy progresses), lasting 2 and 1/4 hours. We covered the very broad strokes of the plan (which I have synopsized pretty efficiently above) and did some very basic pregnancy exercises and relaxation techniques.

Relaxation is the other big factor in the Bradley Method. Dr. Bradley, back in the day, lived on a farm and grew up noticing how animals don’t really seem to get too stressed by giving birth. They just sort of give a groan and then drop a baby a couple feet onto the ground. (REENACTMENT: HUUUUURGH. *florp-thud*) When Bradley saw how hospitals were handling birth for human mothers (this was in the days of full sedation delivery and, yes, strapping women to tables), he was fairly well horrified and began to ask why it was that we couldn’t be better at it, like cows. A flattering conclusion.

As I understand it now, my job is essentially to nag in a helpful way. If I notice Janelle carrying tension in a particular way, I touch the area, point out the tension as something to be avoided during childbirth, and then massage the tension away while pointing out that this relaxed state is what we should be aiming for. She can do that on her own, really, but I’m there to make sure she doesn’t forget. Same with basic exercises and nutrition. Another class, by the way, that seems to focus heavily on massages for mom. Another good deal there.

That’s something that I’m beginning to understand more and more. Being pregnant is about the mom and dad. It’s about learning and bonding and preparing. Part of that preparing, though, needs to be realizing that the birth itself is going to be 99.99% about the mom, and you get to be in the room. This is not to be cruel or because we live in some Vago-Centric Hegemony (yes, you just read that). It is because of the two people about to have a child in the room, only one person is about to have horrific (read: “magical”) things happen to their bits. It’s harder than you would think to realize that you need to be ready to really focus in and indulge mom for a bit. There’s a lot of ego involved in being a dude, and there’s a lot of desire to be focused upon and taken seriously as a soon-to-be-dad, but neither can really factor in when it comes to the birth.

What else will I be learning at the Bradley class? I’m going to hazard a guess that I won’t learn much that isn’t common sense. And I certainly won’t learn much that I couldn’t just get very easily from a book for a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the time. But while I might not get a wealth of knowledge, I am getting valuable training. Not so much training on how to relax Janelle—I’ve learned those cues pretty well over the past nine years—but immersion training.

Janelle is pregnant 24 hours a day. It is present in everything she does. For me, much as I think about it, it’s possible to simply not have it factor into my day for broad swaths. I don’t, for example, have anything kicking me in the bladder to remind me that “Hey, I’m in here, chief.” But we’re in the period of the pregnancy where the momentum really starts to get building. More and more our lives will be all about the pregnancy. First come the classes and exercises, then the increasing physical strains that start to affect normal routine, then we start to restrict our activities to ensure a smooth home stretch, then the big day.

We’re not in the deep end yet… but we are learning how to tread water.

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  1. #1 by Jenna on February 24, 2010 - 10:10 AM

    “This is not to be cruel or because we live in some Vago-Centric Hegemony (yes, you just read that). It is because of the two people about to have a child in the room, only one person is about to have horrific (read: “magical”) things happen to their bits.”

    stellar. juuuust stellar

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