The Bradley Plan and the Illusion of Control

The whole Tiger Parenting style is predicated on the notion that we parents have control.  I became a Panda Mom precisely because I learned the hard way that this is simply not true.  Any illusion that we as parents can manipulate and control our own obstetric destiny melts away on the floor of the maternity ward.

My husband David is a family physician by specialty, but he occasionally still delivers babies.  He is that old school, cradle-to-the-grave doctor whom we once knew and watched on TV.  The best part is that David occasionally brings some nuggets of gold home for his blogging wife.

For example, he says that whenever a woman in labor comes walking in with a piece of paper spelling out her labor plans, his entire nursing staff roll their eyes in unison.  These directives are also known as the Bradley Method Birthing Plan, and the word on the maternity ward is this:

“When a woman walks in with a Bradley

Then everything will go very badly”


The plan usually specifies things such as

- No pain medications

- No IV

- No internal monitoring of the baby.

- Minimal external monitoring

- No Pitocin (medicine which induces labor)

- Don’t even suggest epidural

- Hold baby immediately upon birth

- Nurse immediately after birth

- No artificial nipple such as the bottle or binky

…and on it goes.  Many of these demands are not all that unreasonable.  Unfortunately, though, more often than not these plans go right out the window and the moms end up with an emergency C-section anyway.  In fact, David thinks that there is a direct correlation between the presence of such plans and the greater possibility of needing an emergency Caesarean.  Perhaps the heavens are trying to send down a message.

My friend Liz had such a plan ready to go and was looking forward to an all-natural, no-pain meds, perfectly smooth labor and delivery.  Well, you can imagine what happened.  As they wheeled her away to surgery for her emergency C-section, she was heard wailing, “But I haven’t read that chapter yet…”

My husband also tells me that when a laboring woman walks in with a Doula, the nurses smile and turn to one another and laugh in their own foreign language right in front of the patient, “Go back home and give your birth there.”  It’s their little rebellion again the demands of these Type-A mothers who increasingly show up at their door trying to control their own destiny as well as that of their babies.

I had my own little plan, though at the time it wasn’t known as the Bradley Birthing Method, and I only had a mental list with nothing written down.  It would have been nice to go without Pitocin, but when my water broke and the contractions which started in earnest slowed down to a crawl after about an hour, it became necessary to consider medical intervention.  There was only so much time before infections set in; we had to get things moving for the sake of the baby.  Hello Pitocin.

It also would have been better to go without pain medicatons, but when push came to shove (literally), my pain level became such that I was ready to surrender my bragging rights.  Hello epidural.

Nursing not going well?  Hello bottle.

Cloth diapers not working out?  Welcome, disposables.

They say knowledge is power, but I wonder how true that really is, at least in this case.  I’m certainly glad that we live in an age where we do have medical intervention necessary should things go very badly during the birthing process.  Of course, as expectant mothers, we want to learn as much as we can about this new adventure we’re embarking on, so we read whatever literature we can, especially those of us who want to do everything just right.  However, my husband often says that the body is going to go into labor and the baby is going to eventually come out whether we intervene or not.  He’s just there to assist the inevitable process and let nature do its thing.  We just like to think we’re still in control.

In 1 Corinthians 8:1, we read that “knowledge puffs up but love builds up.”  We mothers all learn, one way or another, that our love for our children overrides even what the experts say in these books.  Some of us take longer than others, but we eventually get there, and that’s when we begin our slow transformation from Tiger to Panda.

Probably the most useful information I got from one of my pre-labor research was that when I’m approaching the final moments before the baby comes out, I should freshen up my makeup.  Why?  Because simultaneous with that final push, the camera bulbs start going off to capture the moment.  Lots and lots of photos are going to be taken, and they are going to be seen over and over by your family and friends. These photos are going to last forever, at least for the next three generations.  You don’t want to look like hell in those pictures.  Thanks to my epidural, I was in the moment and was able to touch up my lipstick and redo my hair just in time.  When people see photos from that momentous occasion, they always comment, “Oh he’s so beautiful!”

Then they always say, “Wow, you look so nice for just having given birth!”

A beautiful baby and a hot mom.  Who needs the Bradley Plan?