Mindful Birthing - Programs for Mindful Family Living - Resources

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Frequently Asked Questions

Childbirth Education | Infant Massage | Mind in Labor | Parenting | Stress Reduction

Mindfulness-Based Childbirth Education

In addition to teaching mindfulness practice, what topics are covered for childbirth education?
The topics are the same as those usually covered in childbirth preparation classes, such as the physiology of labor, positions for birthing, and breastfeeding. We also spend considerable time learning to engage the mind to work with pain, so that participants are prepared to use all their inner resources in labor, regardless of how their particular birth experience unfolds.

How much meditation do we do?
We learn a number of meditation practices, including yoga, and practice them at each class meeting. This childbirth preparation course is unique in that people who choose to enroll make a commitment to practice at home with meditation CDs. The true learning comes through one’s own experiences with the meditation practices. Taking this course is challenging--but not as challenging as birthing and raising a child! Learning to rise to challenges is good preparation for birthing and parenting.

Does my partner learn the meditation practices too?
Yes. Partners are invited to learn the practice of mindfulness too. Partners are going through their own stresses in the process of becoming a parent and the practice of mindfulness can be of great benefit for them. Partners learn ways to be supportive of the mothers during labor and also discover how living in the present moment can help them in many aspects of work and family life. Many partners say that though their original purpose in taking the course was to learn how to support their partner, they also learned something extremely valuable for themselves. Often they are surprised and delighted to find themselves quite calm during labor and feel deeply satisfied that they were able to be truly helpful and present at their baby's' birth.

Where is the course held?
The course is taught in the living room of my home, located just a few blocks from Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, CA.

How many couples are in each course?
There are usually 7 or 8 couples per course. The maximum number of people in a course is 18.

What if my partner or I have to miss a class?
Occasionally someone has to miss a class because of travel, illness or unexpected circumstances. As long as participants continue to practice at home, learning whatever the rest of the class is learning that week, there is no problem. I often talk by phone with people who miss a class so we can discuss how their practice is going and review what was covered in the class they missed. I usually teach two childbirth courses concurrently, so it may be possible to make up a missed class by attending on another night.

I have to miss the all-day session. Should I not take the course?
Even if you are unable to come to the all-day session, or can only come for half of the day, I would still encourage you to take the course. The all-day session is a wonderful opportunity to deepen your mindfulness practice but even if you can't come you can still get much benefit from coming to the weekly classes.

Can I come to the course by myself?
Absolutely. Pregnant women are very welcome to take the course on their own; those who do have done so have found it very helpful. If you have a partner and they are unable to attend the full course, I encourage them to attend the Introductory Session if possible. This session provides an some understanding of what we will be learning and what you will be practicing at home.

Can I come with someone other than my partner, such as a friend or family member?
Yes . Mindfulness can be of benefit to everyone. As long as the friend or family member wants to participate fully in the course and will practice at home with the CDs, they are most welcome. Pregnant women have attended the course with a doula, a sister or a close friend.

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Is this class mainly for people who want a "natural" childbirth?
No. This is a course for people interested in learning mindfulness for childbirth and parenting. Mindfulness offers benefits to everyone, regardless of one’s intentions regarding pain medication during childbirth. The truth is, no one can know ahead of time how their childbirth experience will unfold. It may very well be that using pain medication is a totally appropriate choice for a particular individual in a particular situation at a particular time. There is no one “right” way to birth a baby. Each of us must find our own way to birth, in the moment, according to the situation as it is. However, course participants often say that they experience a tremendous increase in confidence in their capacity to give birth. This confidence deeply impacts their choices around the use of pain medication.

I plan on birthing in a hospital. Is this the class for me?
People who take this course choose a variety of birth settings—hospitals, homes and birth centers. Although where you choose to have your baby is very important, knowing how to access deep inner resources to work with the experience of childbirth moment-by-moment is a skill that can truly bring great benefit, regardless of where you are choosing to birth.

Because of my situation I know I am going to have a Cesarean birth. Would this class still be appropriate for me?
Yes.  A Cesarean birth is your experience of giving birth to your baby. It is an experience that you can be very much present for, fully welcoming your baby into this world. It is not unusual for women to have some post surgical pain after a Cesarean birth. The mindfulness practices can be very helpful for working with the pain, for enhancing your healing process postpartum, for breastfeeding and for the challenges of parenting.

When in my pregnancy should I take the class?
Most people take the course toward the end of their pregnancy. However, some people may want to start their meditation practice much earlier. These include people who simply seek the benefits of a meditation practice throughout their pregnancy, or who have a meditation practice and find it easier to maintain it in a group context, or who have lot of fear around childbirth, or who are experiencing a pregnancy complicated by other health factors, or are challenged by other stresses in their lives at home or at work. As many studies show, stress can be a contributing factor in a number of difficult pregnancy conditions, such as preterm labor or low birth weight. Those who want to begin mindfulness practice earlier are welcome to start the course at any point in their pregnancy.

How is this course different from Hypnobirthing and other mind-body approaches?
There are many ways to use the mind in childbirth, and hypnosis is certainly one of them. Throughout the 1980’s I taught couples self-hypnosis for working with the pain of childbirth. Though the practices we learn in the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth Education Course definitely teach us how to work with pain during birth, we can learn much more than that. Mindfulness is about learning how to live fully in each moment. Through mindfulness we wake up to our lives as we live them, becoming more aware of our automatic reactions to life around us. We learn how we might make different choices, responding to the moments of our lives with greater clarity, kindness, patience and wisdom. This is a life skill, one we can call on not only for birth but as we parent. So much of parenting requires us to work with our children in the present moment, just as they are. The course prepares us for parenting and for living our lives now in all its fullness.

I took a childbirth class for my first birth experience and the birth was fine. Won't this course just be a repeat of things I already know?
Unless you already have a mindfulness practice, this course will not be a repeat of what you already learned. Rather, you probably will learn something quite new and helpful in the challanges of parenting two children. For those who already have a mindfulness practice, it is an opportunity to deepen an understanding of living with awareness and discover how to bring mindfulness practice to pregnancy and childbirth.

Another benefit for those who have previously given birth is that the course provides a way for a couple to spend time together as a couple learning something new, and focusing on the birth of their next child. Often we are so busy with our lives, taking care of our other child or children that we barely have time to focus on the miracle of the new child that is about to enter our family. Having a once a week “date” is often just what a couple needs to prepare for their expanding family. Another unexpected benefit commonly reported by couples who have other children is that the mindfulness practice greatly improves their relationship with each other and with their other child or children.

I had a very difficult birth experience with my first baby. I am looking for something that will help me have a different kind of experience with my next baby. Do you think the course will help me?
Those who have taken the class for a second (or third) birth experience have reported very positive results. By learning how to be in the present moment as it is happening, it becomes increasingly clear that the previous birth experience is simply a memory. Through practice, we are able to recognize memories as they arise, and come back to this moment, to this birth experience, right now. In fact, every moment is new; every experience is different. It is impossible to have a repeat of a previous birth experience. While we may understand this intellectually, it is only through practice that we can understand it experientially. The course can help us to be fully present for a totally new birth experience—and a totally new baby!

Why do you have a class after the birth?
The class after the birth is a time to meet each other again, to meet the new babies, and to share birth experiences. The after-birth or reunion class also gives participants an opportunity to reflect on what their birth experience taught them and how they are continuing to use their mindfulness practice to meet the joys and challenges of parenting their newborn.

In addition, people often feel quite connected and caring about one another as a result of sharing time and learning and practicing mindfulness together.  They have formed friendships that last well beyond the childbirth course. Some mothers have formed new mother's groups from the women they met in the course. Others have continued to meet as a parent group, providing support, friendship and community as they move through their parenting journey together.

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Mindfulness-Based Infant Massage

Why is learning the practice of infant massage important?
Infant massage encourages a kind of tender interconnectedness and care that comes from the heart. When we touch our babies with compassion, we are also touched. While there are many ways for parents and babies to connect, research has shown that babies who experience focused attention and caring touch with some regularity are more contented, cry less, gain more weight, sleep more soundly and generally seem to be more resilient to the stresses of living life as a baby. Parents also experience the stress reducing benefits of infant massage as they take time to slow down and be present. They can also learn particular massage strokes that may ease some of the common but difficult experiences some babies have, such as gas pain or tummy discomfort.

Is this class open to parents who have not taken the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth Education Course?
This class is taught as a “graduate” class and is usually filled by those who have taken the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth Education course. The MBIM course is a way of taking our meditation practice into the relational realm with our baby. When we have the foundation of a mindfulness practice established during pregnancy, we can shift our awareness to the practice of infant massage, being aware of our touch, our breath and all our senses, learning to attune ourselves to our baby’s needs and cues, moment by moment. Though the learning of particular massage strokes is very important, ultimately, infant massage is a meditation practice, a practice of coming to the present moment within oneself and with one’s baby. A prior meditation practice is very helpful but not absolutely necessary for you and your baby to derive benefits from this class.

Is this class for both parents?
Yes, both parents are welcome. Parents report that their babies are much calmer and happier when infant massage practice is incorporated into daily life. For the parent or parents who work outside the home, the practice of infant massage becomes a very enjoyable and important way to reconnect with their baby after being away all day.

My partner can't come to the class. Can I take it by myself?
Yes, you are welcome to come without your partner..

Do you cover anything else in the class?
Yes. We explore the meaning of crying and comforting and the ways of being with our babies when they cry. For many parents crying is one of the most challenging, stressful and perplexing infant behavior. When we begin to reflect on ways we react to our babies’ cries and ways in which we were parented, we can bring more awareness to how we are in fact parenting in the present moment. We can explore our assumptions about infants and parenting and become more aware of the family patterns or habits we are bringing to the daily care of our babies. In this way we may find things we cherish and want to pass on from our own childhood as well as ways we might want to parent differently.

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Mind in Labor

Why do you offer this one-day workshop?
Sometimes people would like to take the 8 week Mindfulness-Based Childbirth Education Class but are unable to do so for a variety of reasons, such as time, distance, finding out about the class too late or schedule problems. Yet they have heard about this approach, know about the power of the mind and are looking for a way to learn these skills. I have developed this workshop for these circumstances.

How is this workshop different from the 8 week Mindfulness-Based Childbirth Education Class?
This workshop specifically focuses on how we can use our moment-to-moment awareness to work with physical pain during childbirth. It also provides a very good introduction to mindfulness practice. (Please see “What Participants Say”). However, it is not possible to gain the depth of understanding of mindfulness, both its power and its potential for helping us in our parenting and our daily lives in just one day. That understanding may begin to come over time with consistent home practice and through learning with others as we do in the 8 week class. The other difference is that it is not possible in a one-day workshop to create the kind of friendships, connectedness and community that happens as people share experiences together over time.

Is this class for partners too?
Absolutely. Partners are strongly encouraged to attend. However, women are more than welcome to come on their own or with a friend or a doula. We each have our own journey into parenthood. A woman needs to find her own inner resources to work with her body/mind during the labor and birthing process. A partner needs to find how to be with the birth process. The skills learned in the workshop can help all involved.

How is this workshop different from what I am learning in other childbirth education classes?
The focus of this workshop is mindful awareness, something not usually taught in other childbirth education classes. Since the application of mindfulness is universal, this workshop can be an excellent complement to any childbirth education class, including refresher classes. It can also be helpful for those who anticipate a birth experience requiring special medical attention or for those who have had a difficult previous birth experience.

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Mindfulness in Parenting

What do we do in a Mindfulness in Parenting course?
During this course we learn a variety of meditation practices and practice them at home with audio tapes. We also learn about bringing mindfulness into our daily lives, emphasizing practices that help us to be more present with our children. We share our experiences with the practices in class each week, talking with others about what we have discovered about being in the present moment with ourselves and our children.

My partner isn't interested in the course but I am. Is it ok to take the class by myself?
Absolutely. While it can be quite lovely for partners to learn mindfulness together, it is definitely not essential to do so. Even one person bringing more mindfulness into the family can shift patterns and habits, finding more peaceful moments in what can sometimes seem like overwhelming chaos of everyday life with children.

My life is already so stressful and busy with my child (or children) that I can't imagine adding one more thing to do. What about this kind of situation?
We sometimes think that we have to wait until we have more time or less stress before we can learn mindfulness. But the truth is that the present moment is always here and it is exactly when our lives are most stressful that we need mindfulness the most! As we become more mindful with our children, parents often discover that they can begin to see their children and their children’s needs and their own needs differently. They find that they can make different choices about how they relate to their children, finding new and perhaps wiser and less stressful ways to parent, bringing more ease and joy into family life.

I have to miss the all-day session. Should I still take the course?
Even if you are unable to come to the all-day session, or can only come for part of the day, I would still encourage you to take the course. The all-day session is a wonderful opportunity to deepen your mindfulness practice but you can still get much benefit from coming to the weekly classes.

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Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Care Providers

Who do you mean when you say "professional care provider"?
Because of my long practice as a midwife, many people who take this course are those involved in the birthing community, such as childbirth educators, doulas, lactation consultants, midwives, nurses and obstetricians. Other care providers who have taken the course are teachers, psychotherapists, counselors, parents or parents-to-be early in their pregnancy. Basically, we are all care providers, or at least we all need to be—providing care to ourselves and those dear to us. Though this course is specifically offered to professional care providers, it is also open to anyone who would like to learn more skillful ways to manage the stresses of working and living in today’s fast-paced world.

My job is so stressful. Do you really think this class could help me?
Many care providers began their work with a deep and true desire to do meaningful work by caring for others. But often, with the stresses in the workplace or at home our caring becomes clouded by many other emotions that can overwhelm us or shut us down. We get depleted, or “burned out”. When we learn to slow down and take time to nourish ourselves in silence and stillness, we may find that it is possible to once again reconnect with the place of deep caring that originally called us to our work.(Please see “What Participants Say”)

I have some very difficult health problems. Can this class help with that?
Yes. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was originally developed to help people with a wide variety of health challenges, such as chronic pain, migraines, insomnia, high blood pressure, cancer, anxieties, and depression. People who have taken the class consistently report significant improvements in their health conditions and in the quality of their life. (Please see The Science Behind MBCP)

Because of my health condition I have not done any exercise in a long time. I am worried about whether I can do the yoga.
The yoga poses that we practice are very gentle. One of the qualities of mindfulness that we cultivate is non-striving. This is the way we practice yoga. You are encouraged to do as much or as little of the yoga as is appropriate for you and your body at any particular time, adjusting or modifying the poses, even, not doing some of them at all if that is what is right for you. However, if you practice the postures that you can do very gently and carefully, you may be surprised to find how your body changes over time all on its own.

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Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting Education Program

Mindful Birthing - Programs for Mindful Family Living