29 November 2007

Lies of the Bradley Method Part I: the self-doubt phase

When I got pregnant with Baby the First, a friend who'd been in the mission field when her baby was born sent me a copy of Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way. This book and I have a combative relationship. It tells me something helpful, and I like it. Then it lies to me and I get REALLY, REALLY, REALLY angry. On balance, I'm glad I have it. But I'm an angry person and think the truth should be available, so here it begins.

One useful thing from Bradley is the "emotional signposts," which help your labor coach to know how far along you are (in our experience, they're very accurate). The third and final emotional signpost is the "self-doubt phase." For those of you who have been through this, it's that point of utter despair when you honestly think you can't do it and you're going to die. I really hate that part. This is the first lie of the Bradley method that requires exposure. They're right about your first baby: you reach the self-doubt phase shortly before you deliver. But on your second baby, the self-doubt phase actually begins when you're about two months pregnant and continues for the rest of the pregnancy. Then on your third and following babies, the self-doubt phase begins immediately after the birth of the previous baby.

The self-doubt phase is a lousy place to live. It makes sleeping at night awfully difficult. To see the precedent-based projection of my life stretching out into untold numbers of labors is terrifying. I (naturally, what with the Velveeta-based brain) can't remember if I've been this neurotic about it with every baby since the first, but it sure feels like it's been worse this time.

I know: who of you by worrying can subtract a single minute from your next L&D? And that precedent-based projection is also not ok. But there they are. Kyrie eleison.


Gauntlets said...

Here's an answer to life in the self-doubt stage: Read Romantic literature. I'm not talking about romance novels (and HOW am I not talking about romance novels), but about those long, flowing skirt, 12 happy children all hoeing the garden and bringing lilies to mom in the springtime type books. Babies in these books are always born mysteriously, sometime between sending the kids away to grandma's and a sweet-smelling morning . And mothers are almost never actually pregnant; they just need to be kept from getting too excited and then, POOF! there's a baby!

Anyway, for what it's worth, I work at least one of these little dandies into my reading schedule a fortnight. It's nice to live in Avonlea, occasionally. ;)

Adam Roe said...

As it relates to the self-doubt phase, I still often think of the point my wife stated "I can't do this" in the birth of our first son. It was followed up with "help me" and I have never felt more powerless. It was one of the most humbling, frustrating moments of my life.

I recall two days later, though, when said son came home, cried the entire night, and I was the one yelling that "I can't do this!" I THINK I'm finally reaching the point where "I can't do this" feels normal, but it's definitely a paradigm buster.

Rebekah said...

Gauntlets, my problem is that all I can think about is poor Mrs Sowerby laboring her way up to 12 babies out there in her little cottage on the moor. And how does she feed them all, really?

And Adam, I know you poor husbands whose presence at such events modern notions demand don't have the greatest time of it either, and aren't even allowed to say how lousy it is for you. Mine wishes he could be sitting in a lounge smoking and waiting for a nurse in a silly hat to come out with an announcement, and he doesn't smoke. My dad says being present for a birth is the second most helpless feeling in the world (after watching someone die, which as a pastor, he's had occasion to do). So thanks for sticking it out, dude. One thing Bradley does get completely right is that a good husband is the best possible labor coach.

Reb. Mary said...

Gauntlets, I love your remedy. You should post your favorite titles; I'll be wanting to look some of them up shortly. Right now the reality of labor hasn't sunk in yet for me; I'm still in the euphoric stage of "Hey, I'm not throwing up just by walking into a grocery store or thinking about food!"

I'm 100% with Rebekah that a good husband is the best possible labor coach. Unfortunately, part of the reason for that may be that we feel so free to be mean to them in the process (or maybe i'm the only one here who can get a bit, uh, snappish in labor at times.) But they don't mind so long as we make it up to them afterwards, and then too, they can use the mini-martyrdom to expunge some of their guilt for our being in that condition in the first place :)

I keep meaning to look up Bradley; maybe I'll finally get to it this time around. Both times so far for me, that "I-can't-do-this-I'm-going-to-die" feeling has been very shortly followed by "I'M GOING TO PUSH! NO I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE DOCTOR!" So there must be something to it.

Gauntlets said...

Ha!! I will post my titles one of these days, but for starters head to Rainbow Valley by L M Montgomery. I would really like to live in that book . . . *sigh*

Pr. H. R. said...

Correction: the best labor coach is a husband in short shorts and nothing else save a confident mustachio. Those who have actually read the Bradley Method book will understand.


Gauntlets said...


Rebekah said...

This is probably my problem. We've both been dressing wrong for the event.

Sarah Yost said...

I've actually been a bit embarrassed that during labor I said (after 20 relatively confident and easy hours of contractions) that I couldn't do it. I couldn't push anymore. I wouldn't make it and maybe a c-section was a better idea. I had forgotten about the self-doubt signpost. thanks for the reminder!

And has anyone seen any of the Bradley videos? They give the books fashion statements a run for their money.

Rebekah said...

Hi, Sarah--I've gotten to the point with all three of mine where I announced to those present that I couldn't do it. With the first two I actually told everyone that I was going to die (this only horrified my husband the first time). Last time I was proud of myself for just resorting in my mind to a C-section. I was so confused when after informing my midwife that I was done, she just stood there patiently and waited for the next contraction. Evidently she knew something about emotional signposts too.

Haven't seen the video--thank goodness!