I highly, highly recommend Bradley-method classes, which emphasize husband/spouse-assisted natural childbirth. I have to also highly recommend my Bradley teacher JoAnn Peterson, who is also a doula. JoAnn used to hold classes out of her house in the Lake Minnetonka area, but I think she was moving to Minneapolis. She is wonderful – such a pleasant, easy-going, comfortable style. JoAnn is such a fountain of knowledge about childbirth and natural/attachment parenting, including the practices of local hospitals. I loved all the interesting things we did in class, and I really loved all the videos we watched. (My best friend’s Bradley teacher is Karen Bruce, and my friend has fabulous things to say about her.)
Before I attended Bradley classes, I thought I was completely ready for childbirth; initially, I didn’t really think I needed them because I already knew everything there was to know as I had read tons of natural childbirth/parenting books before and during my pregnancy. My husband and I decided to attend Bradley classes because my homebirth midwife Amy Johnson-Grass recommended them (although she said Birthing From Within classes were also great) and I wanted the rite of passage of attending childbirth classes. (Silly reason, I know!)
The Bradley classes were so helpful. I had planned on having a natural homebirth, but I ended up with a C-section hospital birth after an induction and 24 hours of pitocin-altered labor. I frequently tell people that while Bradley classes would have been helpful for homebirth, they were absolutely essential for a hospital birth. (And I never thought I would have a hospital birth.) In the four days of induction leading up to the active labor, Bradley classes (and of course my midwife, husband, and all my family and friends) helped me with keeping my spirits up, switching positions, moving as much as I could (while tethered to all the hospital machinery), eating and drinking, saying no to interventions, and hoping for a natural childbirth. Bradley classes also helped me in labor. While it seems that I had every other intervention possible, I was happy that I was able to labor (with Pitocin-induced contractions) for 24 hours without pain medication. My friends and family told me that it appeared that I was sleeping the entire time (which is so funny b/c I definitely was not sleeping!) That is a credit to how well the Bradley classes prepared me for relaxing and working with my labor.
Bradley classes were also invaluable to my husband. He was such a wonderful partner during the labor and he was a great advocate for me/us/our baby during our hospital stay. As labor became stronger, I could not communicate. He was the one who understood what I needed and communicated it to the nurses and doctors; he was also my advocate when I literally could not speak.
While I did not want a C-section, and looking back I so wish I could have avoided that induction in the first place, I am very thankful for my Bradley classes and JoAnn Peterson. The next time I am pregnant and planning for my homebirth VBAC, I plan on consulting or taking refresher courses with JoAnn.