Babies don’t come with instruction books, but a new kind of childbirth class may be the next best thing. This class uses mindfulness to help in the delivery room and years beyond.
Sarah Scallon and her husband Dr. Peter Kleinschmidt were already practicing mindfulness before their baby, August, was born, so they loved the idea of the Mindfulness Based Childbirth And Parenting class to help cope with things like anxiety and fear.
“That was such a huge barrier in my mind,” Sarah said. “So that was what I wanted out of the class.”
“We start with some rather basic practices to help them learn to focus attention,” explained UW Lisa Thomas Prince, from the University of Wisconsin Mindfulness Program.
“We would have bowls of ice water and we actually practiced putting our hands in ice water-- leaving them there and practicing different exercises for working through the pain,” remembers Sarah. “It was so empowering to do it. I felt proud of myself afterwards that I had prepared and practiced and I used it and it worked for me.”
That tool box is still helping now with an active 8-month-old.
“I think it comes back to times when he's crying and won't stop crying,” said Peter.
“When I don’t want to get up, and I’m feeling tired, observing those emotions and feelings and just kind of acknowledging them before I jump up and run to do whatever you’re trying to do is really calming and it has helped me get through it,” Sarah said.
“They have a lot of wisdom when they are able to to pay attention to it,” Thomas Prince explained. “And so the the skills or the things that they have in their toolbox in moments of stress or anxiety can help them to pause and notice, ‘okay i can figure this out.’”
“Even if it's 30 seconds,” Peter said. “Just to get back focus on the breath, think about just accepting everything to where it is instead of going forward to problem solve.”
“I have a tendency to look for solutions to things right away, ‘oh, he's not napping long enough what can we do? How can we fix it?” Sarah said. “I think the class has helped me take a step back and pause and say does it need to be fixed? Can it just be what it is for now and is that OK?”
“Not being attached to any expectation, but really accepting what's happening,” Peter explained. “And if he’s upset, working with him and trying to figure it out, but not getting myself worked up.”
All skills that make for wiser parents and healthier living
“We all forget that were not human doings we are human beings and sometimes we forget that we have this capacity to just be,” Thomas Prince said. “That simple act of pausing and just resting with the breath can actually be really calming to our nervous system which then makes us more effective at whatever the next step is.”
“At least it makes me a calmer parent,” Peter said. “And hopefully keeping the stress levels down translates to him being happier.”
The class is based on the work of Nancy Bardacke and her book Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond. You can find a class near you at her website mindfulbirthing.org.