Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Relax as if Your Life Depends on it," or "Mad, Sad, Bad," or "The First Week"

While I was pregnant with Harriet Thomas More and I prepared for the labor and delivery by perusing the literature of the now-famous Bradley Method. This birthing technique, which has almost totally supplanted the Lamaze model, focuses on relaxation rather than distraction. "Relax as if your life depends on it," writes Dr. Bradley.

"Relax as if your life depends on it." For increasingly pregnant me, this mantra was singularly anti-relaxing, tending to increase my trepidation and anxiety regarding the impending delivery. When labor did arrive, I "relaxed" as best I could, and relaxation did help. But in the end, there was no relaxation--there was only work, and the overwhelming force of my body (full Birth Story coming soon).

And, in a few short hours, the labor and delivery were over--finished. Suddenly, there was a tiny, red, crying person on my chest--a person who had also gone through labor and delivery, without the benefit of Dr. Bradley's sage advice.

After going through labor, delivery, and the first week (+) of parenthood, I have decided that the Bradley method's advice: "relax as if your life depended on it"--is, after all, VERY good advice...for parents of new infants.

I spent so many hours of my pregnancy reading and re-reading birthing-method books, preparing for the intense experience of birthing, that I almost forgot about preparing for the even more intense experience of caring for a newborn. The stress of labor was nothing compared to the stress of the first week of Harriet's life. Lack of sleep, physical exhaustion, and emotional upheaval combined with a tiny, always-hungry person whose every move or sound sets both mother and father into immediate action. Very tough.

The second week has been, thus far, much easier. The baby, I have discovered, will not die if she cries. She will not die if I go take a shower. She will not die if someone else holds her for half an hour. Breastfeeding has become easier. I am (slowly) catching up on sleep and my body feels more like its regular self every day.

And she is a precious thing. She makes my heart hurt. So I forgive her for the faces she makes when she is Mad, Sad, Bad. And when she makes those faces I remind myself:

Relax as if your life depends on it!


  1. Oh the wisdom of youth. I wish I had been as wise. I drowned during the first months, as much from baby-love as anything, but the baby's constant need was overwhelming. And it was over so quickly. Too quickly, actually. From my perspective even ten years later, I would have wished to grow through it all again, more slowly with more attention to each detail.

  2. Babette. It is good to hear your experience and your wisdom. I know the babe will grow so quickly...I am trying to watch and absorb. Everything passes. Everything. Wonderful and difficult, this life.