Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Roller Derby Taught Me How to Give Birth

Well, it is 5:30am and I'm awake.  Exhausted, but awake.  There is no reason for it, other than my inability to fall back asleep, so I'm trying to keep my mind busy until it is ready to try again. Maybe I'll eat something, too.

After our first few birth classes I told A I when I wrote a review of the book it would be about how everything I learned about giving birth, I learned from roller derby. So here is is.

The two prevailing methods of natural childbirth that were recommended to us were the Bradley Method and Hypnobirthing (I've since learned that there is Hypnobirthing and Hypnobabies and they are more different than their names suggest). From the little research I did, I decided that Bradley seemed like it would be a better fit for me. It approaches birth as an athletic event that you need to train your body for.  It incorporates exercise, relaxation, and nutrition and advocates knowledge and decision making for the parents (rather than just doing whatever interventions the hospital says are necessary, or worse, routine).  So we dropped $275 on 12 weeks of classes.

I finished the book for our Bradley Method Class last week.  Well, most of it.  There were some chapters that got skimmed and others I'm sure I missed.  The assigned reading jumped around a lot, so there was a level of disjointedness to it all.  There were chapters that I could swear I had read before, but it turned out "Husband-Coached Childbirth" is just *that* repetitive.  It really seemed to be writing for the idiot husband of a helpless wife.  I found this really contradictory to its message of the natural power of a woman to give birth. Maybe the only way Dr. Bradley knew how to empower husbands was to make them play the hero.  

A and I met when we were 18 while playing roller derby.  We played for about 5 years.  During that time we were on different teams, the same team, local teams, traveling teams, we coached and captained, everything. A was even a referee for a while. It was our lives.

The early years!

The only thing I can come up with is that those 5 years put us more in tune with each other than your average couple taking these classes. We have already learned how to communicate subtly and know what the other person is about to do.  We have seen each other in pain and we know whether space or contact is what is needed.  We understand the difference between pain because something is wrong and pain because your body is doing work. We know never to say "just one more time"  if there is no guarantee. I know that I don't want to hear that I'm "half way there" during each contraction the same way I hated to hear when a drill was half way done (the second half always seemed so much longer!). We know when the other one needs encouragement and that it isn't by telling everyone in the room "Isn't my wife doing great!?"

Its hard to explain, but all of the activities we had to do to learn how to relax just seemed childish.  Honestly, if during labor she puts pressure on a tense muscle and actually says, "this is what a tense muscle feels like, relax this muscle on your next exhale", I'm pretty sure I would kick her out of the room. She knows this, but it doesn't matter, because she would never do it anyways.  I'm pretty sure it drove our instructor crazy that she wouldn't use the prompts we were supposed to be practicing, but we didn't need to. I knew if she was massaging a muscle that I needed to relax it and she knew that if I was having a hard time doing it I would take a deep breath and then be able to.

Maybe I would have come out of this all less cynical if we hadn't been the only couple in the class.  If there had been other people to answer questions and direct the flow of conversation.  If I could see that people really were learning something.  The most important thing I got from the class was that I was already as prepared as possible to give birth and I didn't need 12 weeks of classes to get there.  So I guess that is something.

All in all, I still agree with the idea of an athletic event that you should prepare your body for. I agree that your partner is the best person to help you and be there if you need guidance. Maybe books written by other people on the Bradley Method aren't quite so awful. But I honestly don't care enough to find out.

The most important lesson I learned from roller derby: Be fearless.  Just do what needs to be done, it will take longer and be much more painful if you are afraid.

Me jamming at 2007 Nationals, maybe I'll have a flat belly again one day!
A jamming at 2006 Nationals (she wasn't normally a jammer, poor A)


  1. I woke up this morning to find you back in bed with me, happily. I dozed a bit, but discovered I was likely awake for the day. So I lay with you a bit longer, glad you were able to rest more. Finally, tired of my own company, I scrolled through Facebook on my phone only to discover that you'd posted this blog while you were up! I can't tell you what a pleasant surprise it was to see - it's like when you get home early from work when I was expecting you to be very, very late. A familiar sweet face in the doorway. Made me smile.
    Roller derby did teach us so much more than is on the surface, didn't it? Speaking of which, does Jez know about the baby yet?
    I love you, and I'm glad neither of us is an idiot or helpless.

  2. No she doesn't. That also reminds me, Hard Work Pays Off!! Another important lesion. Maybe I still have an extra sticker...

  3. I would have replied on FB... but can't find the link that got me here in the first place. lol. Awesome post Teri. Having watched you play roller derby together; it totally made sense about what you were saying and being able to read each other, etc. I never thought about it that way before. Also brings back the memory of Tina slugging me in the head when I leaned over and kissed the side of her face and said, "It will be ok" when she was in labor for Tif. lol. Anyway, very insightful. :)

  4. love reading your blog :)

    You've been tagged in my latest blog post!