Since the founding of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center over 30 years ago, mindfulness courses and programs intended to teach people practical skills for working with all kinds of physical and mental health challenges have increased exponentially. Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) is one of these programs.
“As would be expected, many expectant parents enter the MBCP program with a myriad of hopes and fears about childbirth and parenting. They may worry about the pain of childbirth, the health of their baby or themselves, where to deliver, what provider to choose, whether that particular provider will be on-call when they are in labor, and what life will be like as a new parent. Sometimes very tangible, real life concerns, such as their financial situation or relationship tensions can overshadow the joy and excitement of this momentous change. Key to the MBCP program is to offer expectant parents the opportunity to train in mindfulness so that they may have some skills to navigate this new terrain of birthing and parenting—working with kindness and compassion for whatever arises in this profound journey into the unknown.”
- Nancy Bardacke, RN, CNM, MA
New mom and MBCP graduate, Jenna Leta, recently shared with us how she used her mindfulness practice during her pregnancy, childbirth and life after birth.
Being With What Is, by Jenna Leta
“I took two classes to prepare for childbirth: yoga and the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting course. In our yoga class, the teacher would encourage us to do just a few arm and shoulder workouts for “all those women having 9lb babies” and I would think, ‘Those poor women. I’m so glad I’m average-sized with an average baby.’ And then, in our MBCP class, Nancy mentioned a few times how birthing a baby who is in a posterior position could result in back labor and make the strategies that we were learning to cope with pain more challenging. Mentally, I responded, “Thank god MY baby is in the correct position so I will have those perfect little pain waves.” (The ones with the big contraction wave with the smaller wavy breath wave on top of it. The one with total euphoria and the 1960s drugged-out ecstasy in between the gut-wrenching pain.)
Well, my little man arrived in our lives promptly on his due date, November 21. He was posterior and 9lbs 4 oz. Even though I can’t imagine worse pain, I have a few good things to say about the experience. It was liberating. There is something primal about lying in the dark completely naked and screaming louder than you knew you could. I felt fierce.
My biggest fears were giving birth in a hospital and being forced to lie on my back. In the end, after 3 hours of pushing, and with a frenzied plea of encouragement from my husband, I found my last ounce of resolution and energy and pushed our big baby into the world while in trendelenberg (on my back with the bed tilted so my head was lower than my pelvis). It just goes to show, just like we learned in class, you never know what will happen and anything is possible. I am convinced that without my brilliant midwife, I would have had a C-section.
Maceo is now 6 months old and AWESOME!!! Everything is the exact opposite of how I planned and imagined it.
He sleeps in our bed.
I am still on maternity leave.
He had a mango, right off the pit, as his first food and now slurps away black beans.
But, I am happy to report that even though I wasn’t the Zen person I imagined I would be during labor, I have managed to develop a regular mediation routine postpartum. The biggest challenge was finding time. What I have found works for me is to immediately stop whatever I am doing when he falls asleep for his first nap (usually leaving dishes or laundry undone) and do a sitting mediation. I use Nancy’s APP on my iPhone; it is only 20 minutes, but it is working miracles on my life.
I am learning how to accept things as they are and spend less time worrying about the past or the future. I am less reactive and in general, happier. I feel I am more in control of my mood/emotions and at the same time, I am very at peace with how much I cannot control. My relationships, both at home and with my close friends and family, are stronger. My hair has been falling out, I haven’t slept for 3 consecutive hours in half of a year, my jeans will probably never fit me again, and I’m ok with it. Meditation is becoming my religion, of sorts. I can see now how accurate and important Nancy’s instruction about practice was (which we were told over and over again): “Just do it.”
The research on the underlying physiological and psychological mechanisms of mindfulness practice continues to demonstrate the effectiveness of mindfulness-based programs. Because of this a growing number of health professionals from a variety of fields are interested in using mindfulness-based interventions to decrease stress and enhance the wellbeing of the populations they serve. This includes professionals who provide care for expectant parents and young families, some of whom are finding their way to the MBCP program.