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Happy Father’s Day, You’ve Come a Long Way Baby!

On Father’s Day 2000 my husband took me out to breakfast. Then he took me to the hospital—St. Luke’s Allentown—to give birth to our second baby. She was (and still is) a stubborn child, she waited until 3:30 a.m. the day after Father’s Day to be born.

My husband accompanied me in the labor and delivery of each of our 6 children, providing support that I truly think I could not have done without. Ironically, the man who was instrumental in making this possible, Dr. Robert Bradley, died less than 2 months after the birth of our first baby. Dr. Bradley revolutionized childbirth in America, yet many of today’s parents do not even know his name.

When my husband’s parents were expecting their first child they went to the same hospital that our first child was born at. My father-in-law tried several times to sneak into his wife’s room—somewhere that my husband was allowed to be openly. However the nurses kept shooing him out, leaving him to express his joy at the birth of his first son by giving a cigar to a random pedestrian.

Dr. Bradley, understanding the importance of having expectant fathers with the expectant mothers in labor, lobbied strongly to move the father from the waiting room to the delivery room. He even went so far as to arrange boycotts of hospitals that would not allow fathers in the delivery room. For my parents-in-law it came too late. St. Luke’s Allentown, then Allentown Osteopathic, allowed fathers into the delivery room the year after my husband was born—their third son and last child. My father-in-law never experienced the joy of seeing one of his children be born.

In 1965 Dr. Bradley wrote the book Husband Coached Childbirth. This book was the foundation upon which the American Academy of Husband Coached Childbirth was founded in 1970. This organization trains childbirth instructors to teach expectant parents the Bradley MethodÒ of Childbirth. My husband and I chose to take these classes in preparation of the birth of our first child. The multi-week series of classes give extensive time to preparing the father/partner to be an effective coach as the mother labors though the athletic event of childbirth.

The satirical role of a father in labor in many Hollywood productions is someone to boil water…what that water is to be used for is never quite made clear other than to perhaps keep the father occupied. My husband, however, had a very meaningful role in the birth of each of our children. He walked with me; massaged my back; let me hang my entire weight off of him when sitting/laying was too painful, but I was too tired to really stand; whispered words of encouragement; and helped me to relax. I have a picture of him the morning after our first daughter was born that I highly treasure—he is holding our daughter looking incredibly proud, but incredibly bleary eyed. I think he was more tired than I was!

I truly believe that the education we got in our Bradley MethodÒ classes helped me to avoid cesarean in my first two labors. Many women have told me stories of their labors with less “cause” for cesarean than I had, and they indeed had cesareans. For example, in my first labor I was “stuck” at 9 cm dilation for 7 hours, most women are moved to the operating room after 2 hours without dilation progress, sometimes after only 1 hour at such high dilation. However I was prepared for this from my childbirth classes. I told my care providers that if my baby was fine, I was okay with a slow labor and preferred to avoid augmentation. So my OB never even suggested that I needed Pitocin, let alone a cesarean. After all, my baby and I were both fine, my labor was just slow.

The statistics support my belief that my education helped to avert cesareans. Expectant couples who take comprehensive classes have a c-section rate that is 30-50% lower than the national average in any given year. Knowing this makes my heart grieve when I hear women say that they “don’t have time” for a comprehensive class, opting for short classes or no classes at all.

Our third child was born at home with two midwives present. This time around my husband got to fulfill the Hollywood directive and boil water—gallons of it, which we used. But if you want to find out what it was used for you are going to have to ask him about it. By the time our sixth child was born last September his role had morphed significantly from that of his father—Steve caught our third son as the midwife looked on from across the room. Perhaps this son will catch his children while a midwife paces in the waiting room like my father-in-law did so many years ago.

Posted in Birth Stories and Home and Parenting 5 years, 9 months ago at 1:06 pm.

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