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 very useful preparation for birthing and parenting.
Does my partner learn the meditation practices too?
Yes. Partners are invited to learn and practice 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 as well. Partners learn ways to be supportive of a woman in labor and also discover how living in the present moment can help them in their work and in family life. Many partners say that though their original intention in taking MBCP was to learn how to support their partner, they also learned something extremely valuable for themselves. Often they are surprised and delighted to find that they are able to be quite calm during labor and feel deeply satisfied that they could be truly helpful and present at their baby’s birth.
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. MBCP teachers often talk by phone with people who miss a class so participants can share how their practice is going and review what was covered in the class they missed.
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 come for only half of the day, you are still encouraged to take the course. The all-day session is a wonderful opportunity to deepen your mindfulness practice, however, if you can’t come, you can still get much benefit from coming to the weekly classes.
Can I attend the course by myself?
Absolutely. Pregnant women are very welcome to take the MBCP program on their own, and those who have done so have found it to be very helpful. If you have a partner and they are unable to attend the full course, they are encouraged to attend the Introductory Session if at all possible. The Introductory session provides some understanding of what will be learned and what their partners will be practicing at home.
Can I come with someone other than my partner, such as a friend or family member?
Yes. Mindfulness can benefit everyone. As long as the friend or family member wants to participate fully in the MBCP program and will practice at home with the CDs, they are most welcome. Pregnant women have attended the MBCP course with a doula, a sister or a close friend.
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 the use of pain medication during childbirth. The truth is, no one can know ahead of time how the childbirth experience will unfold for a particular expectant woman. It may very well be that using pain medication is a completely appropriate choice for a particular woman 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 the MBCP 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.
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 that pain, for enhancing the healing process postpartum, for breastfeeding and for the challenges of parenting.
When in my pregnancy should I take the class?
Most people take the MBCP course in the second half of their pregnancy. However, some people want to start their meditation practice 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 a lot of fear about 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 a low birth weight baby. Those who want to begin their mindfulness practice earlier are welcome to start the MBCP program at any point in their pregnancy.
How is the MBCP program 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, Nancy taught couples self-hypnosis for working with the pain of childbirth and knows it has a certain effectiveness. Although the practices we learn in the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) course definitely teach us how to work with pain during birth, we can learn so much more. Mindfulness is about learning how to live fully in each moment. Through mindfulness practice, 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 rather than automatically reacting to how things are. This is a life skill, one that we can call on not only for childbirth but for parenting as well. 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 the birthing experience and life right now in all its fullness. As Nancy often says, “When your two year old is having a melt-down in the supermarket because you won’t buy him/her the candy bar at the check-out stand, you don’t need hypnosis, you need mindfulness!”
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 will probably learn something quite new and helpful for the challenges of parenting two children. For those who already have a mindfulness practice, it is an opportunity to deepen your understanding of living with awareness and to 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 to spend time together as a couple learning something new, and focusing on the birth of their next child. It is not so unusual for a couple to be so busy working and taking care of their other child or children that they barely have time to focus on the miracle of the new child that is about to join their family. A once a week “date” is often just what a couple needs. Another unexpected benefit commonly reported by couples who have other children is that the mindfulness practice not only greatly improves their relationship, but it also improves their parenting skills as well.
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 MBCP course will help?
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 a memory. Through practice, we are able to recognize memories as they arise, even very powerful ones, 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 for participants 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 they learned from their birth experience 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. Friendships that last well beyond the MBCP course are often formed. Some mothers have formed new mother’s groups from the women they met in the MBCP course. Others have continued to meet as a parent group, providing support, and community as they move through their parenting journey together.
What if I can’t find an MBCP class nearby?
If there isn't an MBCP course in your area, you could sign up for a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course and use Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond and the accompanying audio meditations as your course materials. If an MBSR course is not available in your area, consider hosting your own MBCP group with other expectant parents in your community, working your way through the MBCP course as outlined in Mindful Birthing.
Mind in Labor Workshop >>>
Why do you offer this weekend workshop?
Sometimes people would like to take the 9-week Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) course but are unable to do so for a variety of reasons, such as time, distance, finding out about the class too late for their due date, or scheduling difficulties. Yet, they have heard about this approach, know about the power of the mind, and are looking for a way to learn these skills. This workshop was developed for these circumstances.
How is this workshop different from the 9-week MBCP course?
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. 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 a weekend. The transformative potential of mindfulness usually comes over time with consistent home practice and through learning with others as we do in the 9-week course. The other difference is that it is not possible in a weekend workshop to create the kind of friendships, connections, and community that happens when participants 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 be useful for whoever attends.
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.