Title: Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond
Author: Nancy Bardacke, C.N.M
2017 Book Challenge Entry: A book with a subtitle
Thoughts: Here is the thing. Being pregnant and having a baby? Terrifying. Amazing, but terrifying. It’s transformative in a way that you can’t understand until you have been through it. It is the most intense pain and the most emotional pain I have ever experienced. It’s emotional because you know someone else, this little person, is depending on you to deal with the pain somehow in order for them to start their life and take their first breath in this world. It’s ridiculously intense because no matter how bad it gets or how exhausted you are, you can’t quit. That isn’t an option. The only way out is through.
With modern medicine, women have many many ways to deal with this pain and get through the process of labor and delivery. Most of my friends are opting for epidurals. They just want to avoid the pain and get their baby. Totally cool. I am not one to judge women in this arena. You wear cheetah print sweatpants with a zebra striped crop top and high heels out to dinner? Yeah, I’ll probably question your fashion choices, but women, and I cannot express this enough, should be able to make their own choices with their own bodies. Oh I’m sorry. Did I bold that? Yeah. Aaaaaaanyway, I knew as soon as we found out we were pregnant, that I was going to go as natural as possible. Not only was I wicked scared of a needle in the back to place the epidural, I also have this crazy notion that having a baby without pain medication would connect me to the other women in my family and my past. Like, somehow I would be imbued with the strength and fortitude of my prairie women ancestors. Like when Buffy passed the power of the Slayer to all the potential slayers and they all became Slayers to fight The First?? #blahblahbuffy
Well, the point is, everything I read about going natural said to educate yourself. Half of the battle is mental and reading and prepping were the best way to approach the crazy experience of childbirth. This book came recommended by Amazon, I’m not going to lie. I think I purchased it because I liked the cover and the author is a Certified Nurse Midwife. There are other, classic books on childbirth but for some reason, this one struck me and I took a gamble on it. I’m really glad I did.
Bardacke explains not only multiple meditation techniques to help with the pain of childbirth, she also discusses how approaching that pain with the right mindset can help you overcome it. The pain and discomfort you feel in childbirth isn’t superfluous pain like stubbing your toe, or accidently shutting your finger in a car door. Ouch by the way. Those things totally suck. It is transformational pain. It is pain with a goal in mind. Does that make it hurt less? No. But it does put things into perspective. I found myself, and I know this is crazy, welcoming my contractions in a way. Not after 17 hours of labor mind you, but in the beginning and through a lot of it, I was borderline happy when I felt them because it meant I was that much closer to getting my little peanut. This mindset really helped me in my personal journey.
In the end, I went through 20 hours of labor and 90 minutes of pushing to get our lovely little one. I was so exhausted and dehydrated that I had to have I.V. fluids and some short term painkillers to get some rest and feel a little rejuvenated so I could continue without an epidural. As against any kind of painkiller as I was, my midwife explained that if I didn’t take the I.V. option, more drastic interventions may have to be taken. I took the less invasive option and ended up having our daughter as naturally as I could. This is something else Bardacke discusses: have a birth plan, but write it in pencil. Everything could change. Being flexible and open to options and accepting of whatever comes helps to have a more positive experience overall.
One of the other things I loved about this book is that she is very honest about what is good to read and what can be skipped. Everyone’s birth experience is different and not all bits of wisdom apply to all moms. There are sections about C-Sections and miscarriages. I skipped them. I’m sure they would have been helpful if I was planning a C-Section or if my midwife had told me I was a risk, but I wasn’t and I just had a feeling I wouldn’t have to have one. The section on loss, I chose to skip. I was incredibly hormonal and very emotional and I felt that it would have led me into a dark place I did not want to be in. However, if you have dealt with the loss of a pregnancy, I would absolutely recommend reading that section. I have a feeling she will have wise words on the topic.
The advice in this book and the stories of the other mothers was incredibly helpful for me as I approached my due date. I had her words running through my head as I breathed through contractions and as I rested in between contractions as well. My husband and I talked about it in the weeks leading up to delivery and it helped him to be prepared in the room as he coached me. It also had an incredible chapter on how to deal with hospital staff. As a midwife patient, our approach to everything was different from how a traditional doctor would care for a mother-to-be. This chapter helped me and especially my husband to be empowered regarding our choices without being rude or dismissive. It was invaluable.
Am I saying reading this book resulted in my labor and delivery being pain free and joyful? No. I definitely uttered some four letter words and got guttural in my vocalizations during the pushing part of everything. It was the hardest most intense physical thing I have ever had to do in my life. However, with the techniques she provides and, more importantly, the way her coaching shaped my mental approach, I was able to have the birth experience I wanted. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a low intervention birth or to anyone on the fence about what kind of interventions they want. It is fantastic.