For many women, giving birth is arguably one of the most momentous events in their lives. In an attempt to prepare, many read a variety of books on the subject of labor and childbirth. After perusing a number of different titles to read before the arrival of our daughter, "Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond" caught my eye.
Written by Nancy Bardacke, a nurse-midwife and mindfulness teacher, each chapter focuses on different aspects of childbirth and caring for (and adjusting to) a newborn baby. The thing that struck me most was the chapter about pain. Often the top-most concern of moms-to-be, Nancy thoroughly describes the physiological feedback loop created by oxytocin to generate contractions during labor. When the mother is free from fear and agitation, the feedback loop works its best, and oxytocin can do its job. However, when the mother is afraid and/or extremely stressed, the excess adrenaline produced actually interferes with the process.
Combined with these biologically-based explanations, Nancy's focus on mindfulness was truly insightful. She emphasizes to not be affected by previous contractions or anticipate the next, but only focus on the present moment. This also includes the time between contractions, which Nancy describes as being restful~ even blissful! Moreover, this approach lowers the possibility that stress and fear will disrupt an otherwise uncomplicated labor.
I am sure that there are many other great books out there to prepare for labor, but Mindful Birthing was the only one I read because I felt it had all I needed (after all, working -or muddling- towards mindfulness is the way I have chosen to live my life!). Writing about this incredibly personal subject, I emphasize that every woman must choose how she will handle the intensity of labor. But looking back on my own birth story (pitocin induction at 41 weeks), I marvel at the 'miracle of mindfulness' and its role in guiding me through one of the most intense but also proud and transformational personal experiences.
Is there a mindfulness/spiritually based mindset that helped you or someone you know work through childbirth? Please contribute in the comments below!
May all beings be happy!