Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Preparing a Birth Bundle...

Tonight is the final night of the 6-week Birthing From Within course that I've been helping Lanell with. I meant to blog about class each week and obviously that didn't happen. But I'll take this chance to give a brief rundown of the concepts we covered in each class.

Week One: All of us introduced ourselves. There were five couples that first week, four of whom are first-time parents. We learned about a pain coping technique called breath awareness and practiced it with handfuls of ice. For most of us, it was a significantly different experience to hold the ice and not cope and then to hold the ice and attempt to cope with breathing awareness. Lanell drew a picture explaining the hormones involved in pregnancy and childbirth, including oxytocin, pitocin, and adrenaline. We drew our own birth legacy pictures with pastels and then Lanell concluded class with the first installment of the ancient Inanna story.

Week Two: We learned a new pain coping technique called non-focused awareness and practiced again with handfuls of ice. This technique asks the practitioner to use her senses to distract her from the pain - what is she hearing? what is she smelling? how does her back feel against the chair and how do her feet feel on the floor? Lanell played Barracuda (by Heart) on the CD player and the general consensus was that this was a really effective distraction. :) We talked about the beginning of labor and Lanell used a LifeSaver candy as an illustration of how the cervix increases in diameter as it thins. I thought this was a really creative object lesson, especially for the dads, who might have a hard time imagining what all this talk of dilation and effacement means... We did another pastel art project, this time drawing labyrinths as an expression of labor and childbirth. I had never thought about the distinction between a maze (in which you can get lost) and a labyrinth (in which you simply have to follow the winding path), but it is a real and meaningful difference, especially to a pregnant mother wondering if this discomfort and pain will ever end... Lanell ended with the second installment of the Inanna story and encouraged us to think about what task we might give to the Ninshuburs in our lives.

Week Three: This might have been the most memorable week of the class. It was the Coyote Circle and all of the pregnant mommas (and Lanell and I) sat in a circle and tried a new pain coping technique - making lots of noise. :) It was slightly uncomfortable and particularly awkward to a few of the mommas. But Lanell did a really important thing for the women through this exercise, by showing them that its okay to make whatever sounds help you to cope with your pain. And I'm sure it was useful for the dads to see this, too, so that any unusual noises in the delivery room don't catch them so much by surprise. We had a big group that week, if I remember correctly. There was an extra couple participating, so we had 14 people in the room. I don't think we created any art that week, but Lanell concluded with a portion of the Inanna story, as usual.

Week Four: This class was about dealing with special situations that arise during labor. Those situations, and our fears regarding those situations, are our tigers. And we talked about taming our tigers so that we can cope, regardless of the circumstances. We drew pictures with pastels of ourselves coping with our tigers. Lanell talked about having a Spiritual Cesarean. In the case that your baby is born by cesarean, how do you maintain the sanctity of the experience and see it as the miracle that it is? We watched a cartoon called The Elk and the Epidural, explaining how epidural pain medication works. :) Lanell skipped the installment of the Inanna story that week because we were short on time. One of the couples had decided not to attend the rest of the course, so from the fourth week on there were only four couples.

Week Five: Last week was the fifth class. We had one week off between classes four and five because Lanell had to be with a client at a scheduled induction. We learned another pain coping technique which involved staring deeply into the partner's eyes. I think most of the couples enjoyed it. However, it was a slightly awkward experience for me because I had to stand in for a dad who was absent that week and I'm not sure that his wife found much comfort staring into my eyes. :) We laughed a few times and, regardless of the awkwardness, we did find the technique of looking intently at someone and breathing with her to be an effective pain coping method. Time really seems to fly when we do these pain coping techniques each week. I am still always aware of the discomfort of the ice in my hands or of having my arms extended out, but it never seems that a full minute has passed when Lanell rings the bell. So, clearly something is working there. We also talked about labor etiquette for dads and doulas (and any support people in attendance at a birth). We didn't create any birth art, but Lanell shared two installments from the Inanna story before giving us our homework.

In this sixth class the mothers will be presenting their "birth bundles." You can read about creating a birth bundle on the Birthing from Within website: http://www.birthingfromwithin.com/birth_bundle

I still haven't created my birth bundle, so I need to get to that. I'll write up some of my thoughts about Class 6 and Birthing from Within as a whole in the next day or so...

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