The Bradley Method Review: Calling Out on this Technique, Again
Here we go again, I am calling out The Bradley Method. While I honor the progress this method established for all birthing people and how it changed the conversation about birth for generations; I can’t sit by without saying anything as their message is creating trauma and divisiveness.
For those that do not know me, my name is Staci Berrey, and I own and operator of Labor of Love Birth & Postpartum in Orange County CA. We are a full-service doula agency offering birthing families everything from childbirth preparation, education, birth, and postpartum doula services, lactation education and consultation, and placenta services. Since 2013, Labor of Love has supported 1000s of couples through childbirth education and doula services. I personally have sat by the bedside of over 300 laboring people. Most recently, I have started working with people that need healing in this space from birth trauma; and, I am really tired of the divisiveness The Bradley Method propagates.
When I first became a birth worker, I truly felt many of us were missing out on a beautiful, connected human experience when birthing our babies. I felt that if we had more mental and physical preparation, had more support, and a better understanding of what birth is, we could achieve a better experience for ourselves, make better memories, and be more equipped to handle such a major life transition. This has ALWAYS been my goal - better preparation to process birth and ALL of its BIGNESS.
So, as many of you know, in 2012 I became affiliated with The Bradley Method and taught it for 5 years. I loved it and was really great at it too. My classes were successful as they were always full. I spread their brand loud and clear throughout Orange County, CA.
As I truly believe that childbirth education is the BEST way to prepare for one’s experience.
However, if you read my previous blog: Breaking Up with The Bradley Method, you will understand why I had to leave the organization as I believe that they are fear-monger and create a culture of failure for birthing people. Words and feelings that should NEVER be associated with birth!
You see, the more people I support, the more my empathy and understanding for the birthing space grows and I am tired of listening to stories about failure connected to The Bradley Method. I am tired of the anxiety The Bradley Method is placing on birthing people. I am tired of the false responsibility and “ownedness” of birthing outcomes that The Bradley Method places on a birthing person when birth doesn’t go as planned.
Here are several reasons I feel The Bradley Method fails:
1. The organization fear-mongers creating trauma and a culture of fear for birthing people.
It propagates that an unmedicated birth is best and if you need or choose medication YOU (regardless of circumstances) are putting your baby at risk.
The handbook states (not a direct quote) that the use of doctor-supervised administration of "caine" type labor drugs (bupivacaine being the major medication in an epidural) is a close equivalent to a pregnant person abusing illegal street drugs throughout her pregnancy and the effects on the unborn child...
Such choices could leave the child more prone to being a drug addict when they get older and the loss of four IQ points meaning you are putting your child are a risk for drug addiction and being dumb when you choose labor medication.
Um, where is the data behind such a statement? While you will find option pieces on this topic that make the giant leap from labor drugs to our current drug crisis in America, I can't seem to find much scientific data or research that draws this conclusion. For those making this large claim, there is no accounting for big pharma, or incentivizing prescriptions, or a medical system that medicates versus heals, doctors that are overworked, our quick-fix culture, chronic disconnection from human interaction, our lack of understanding on how trauma plays out in our lives, not understanding depression … I could go on but that is not what this blog is about.
The use of such language, blaming labor drugs for your child's possible drug addiction, creates trauma, harm, and frankly, is just not true.
Working in the space of birth healing I have heard a too people quote this statement as they try to process their birth experience. They may logically understand that decisions needed to be made in labor, baby had other plans, certain risks developed and medication was needed; AND, this language still tortures them.
I am well aware that any intervention comes with risk, and as birthing people, it is important to educate ourselves about the options that are part of birth. AND, of course, the goal is always that mothers, dads, babies, everyone is healthy after this experience. AND, that means emotionally and mentally too.
Fear-mongering has NO place in birth!
Also, let’s not forget that women fought for pain medication in labor in the late 1800’s - early 1900’s. As with anything, it has been a process, and I recognize that it has not been a perfect history; however, women wanted options in labor. I certainly would not want to go back in time and I don't hold any utopian idea about what birth was like for women back in the day ...
2. The Bradley Method sets unrealistic expectations for partners supporting the birthing person.
This was a BIG one for me as a doula. The Bradley Method basically places the responsibility of being a doula on the partner. That means that they are responsible for:
understanding (so specifically physiologic labor) to help guide it
offer up position changes
understanding the nuance of mood, posture, physical sensations of labor
controlling environmental stresses
supporting fatigue and exhaustion
knowing when to leave for the hospital
helping navigate decisions
keeping the laboring person focused
supporting the laboring person's ideals
ensuring that the laboring person is informed
ALL the things including being a loving partner and trying to be present and enjoy the birth of their baby too. This is an enormous amount of responsibility for a person that has never gone through this themselves.
I can not tell you how many times a woman has (after they gave birth) felt dissatisfied, frustrated, and not happy with the way their partner performed in this space. AND, why wouldn’t they?
Your partner is NOT a doula. They too have never done this before. They too are in a heightened sense of awareness as they watch the person they love the most do something so vulnerable. They need support, confidence, and guidance in this moment too.
This is not to say that there aren't many partners that thrive in this space, there are; however, it is not the majority of partners. Placing this amount of responsibility on their shoulders isn’t really fair.
Your partner's #1 job is just to love you, help you feel safe, and focus all their attention on you. NOT be your doula.
3. As noted in Breaking Up with Bradley, The Bradley Method believes that birth is “One Size Fits All” and that means unmedicated.
Which couldn’t be further from the truth. Birth is dynamic and with it comes all the things that we like to hide… all our vulnerabilities, insecurities, fears, traumas, and losses.
Birth is so specific and one might not understand what they need until they get there. Everybody is different.
If you have experienced any miscarriages or gone through IVF birthing may feel different in your body.
If you have experienced sexual or physical trauma birth will feel different in your body.
If you have PCOS or endometriosis your options for birth may change.
Every BODY is different, every BIRTH is different.
AND, believe it or not, you do not have control over how your birth unfolds; only your baby does.
4.The Bradley Method is exclusive and agenda-based; unmedicated birth is the best birth!
This leaves no consideration for the mental, emotional, and physical health of the mother. The Bradley Method went so far as to call its affiliates "Fetal Advocates." I for one believe in YOU and YOUR autonomy. I believe that you know what is best for your body and your baby. I am a birth worker because this moment can be full of uncertainly, overwhelm, anxiety, and fear, it is my only notion to help you manage those things. I am not a fetal advocate.
They even asked us to log our stats on birthing outcomes for the couples that attended our courses. It was a condition to being an affiliate. This was a policy that NEVER sat well with me when I was with the organization and I never logged one birth! My students aren't statistics. Their experience is meaningful to me despite the outcome.
The incredible couples that take my classes become intimate friends that I care for and nurture through one of their biggest and most challenging days. My hopes are not that they have an unmedicated birth. My hopes are that they birth with joy and confidence. That they feel equipped to navigate their experience based on their needs. That their partner is well prepared to support and love them, and that as a team they welcomed their baby into the world with love and joy!
5.The Bradley Method has helped create our current competitive and hierarchical birth culture.
A culture where birthing people feel like they failed at birth and have tremendous guilt when making decisions for themselves in labor.
A culture that pits birthing people against epidurals.
A culture that makes birthing people feel like they ‘gave up’ if they choose pain meds.
Oh, how my head hangs low when I hear such things …
We need to prioritize presence over performance. We need to prioritize patience, grace, and understanding for ourselves over outcomes. We need to prioritize self-awareness and cultivate safety within our bodies over expectations!
As a woman that supports birthing families in such an intimate, challenging, and transformative space, I believe we need tremendous self-care and self-love in this space.
As a birth worker, my ultimate goal is to change the birth narrative. I never want a woman to feel like she failed if her birth plan changes.
Just like anything else in life, it is impossible to make decisions for yourself in a situation you have never been in before.
It is paramount to have positive self-care in labor!
My goal is that birthing people feel loved in labor, that they are respected and supported. That the decisions they make are their own and they feel confident in them.
Birth is NOT one size fits all!
6. You will need to fight for your birth desires with "Nurse Ratched"
The Bradley Method loves this one. Painting the picture that you will have to fight the moment you walk into a hospital for your desires and how you want to be treated in birth.
Again, this is just not true anymore. Most nurses are amazing and they are to ensure your comfort and safety. I recently had a birth healing client that talked about how she has to psych herself out and prepared for a brawl-like atmosphere when she walked into the place she was going to welcome her baby in ...
What a horrible picture to paint.
What a horrible story to tell people.
What a fear-mongering stance and negative approach to an amazing moment.
While this could have been true 20 years ago, I can tell you first hand, at least in Orange County, California, the labor nurses I work with are angels! They want to create the experience you desire, they want to be a part of your magical moment, they are there to take care of you. I do recognize that "Nurse Ratched" did and probably still does exist. As with any profession, you will find someone dissatisfied with their current space and time and works pretty hard at making all those around them miserable too. However, this is really rare and certainly the starting place you should be in when heading into your most cherished moment.
If this resonates with you and you desire a more positive, self-focused, and intuitive approach to your birth I invite you to explore my Connected Childbirth course.
My promise to you is that there is no fear-mongering or judgment. I completely believe in your autonomy, you are a full grown adult that can make your own decisions. You know yourself best and I trust you!
My promise to you and your partner is that I will set them up for success. I will offer them the confidence to come near and be present in the moment. I will break down your needs and their responsibility which really is simply to love you and help you feel safe which they already know how to do. They don’t need to be your doula or “fix” this. They love you best so who better for that job!
My promise to you is that I will help you connect to your own compass. I will help you prepare for any birth you desire as best we can together; AND, I will offer you tools to decide what you want in your birthing “Tool Box”. YOU are unique and there is no magic one-size-fits-all approach to birth YOUR birth. I will offer you many options to explore so that you can connect to your intuition and feel what is best for you.
My promise to you is that Connected Childbirth is inclusive and non-agenda-based. That means that you are in control as you know yourself best! I trust YOU, I trust YOUR body and I trust YOUR baby.
My promise to you is that we (together) will work towards ending our completive birth culture. It starts with us, mothers, birthing people. How we see ourselves and this moment. How we relate, build, design, and narrate our stories. It's about making birth all that it is - good, bad, ugly, raw, joyous, intense, magical. It's all those things AND uniquely your very own.
My promise to you is that you will feel ready to walk into your birthing place with confidence in yourself and your birthing staff. That you feel you are heard, seen, and loved.
I LOVE TEACHING CHILDBIRTH EDUCATION!
It is my passion. I would be so honored to see you in Connected Childbirth and offer you the tools to take care of yourself in one of your most incredible life experiences. Congratulations!!