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Mindful : August 2013
“At one point I had a catheter, an IV, and an oxygen mask—a most unnatural birth. But my spirits were up.” Ariana Mohit ticed ways the men could support their wives and now he didn’t know what Ariana wanted him to do. She was irritated by his cluelessness but didn’t want to break her concentration to give him directions. “That was a huge wake-up call,” she later said. They began doing the ice practice at home, trying all the techniques Bardacke had taught them. Both felt they fina lly were forming what Zed called “a partnership to manage pain.” By the last class in late November, the baby bumps had grown into basketball-sized bellies. One couple had delivered early, and others were just weeks away. Bardacke is “not a ritual person,” but she likes to end each class with a closing rite. As part of it, she asked participants to come up with one word to summa rize what they would take away for the future. People mentioned gratitude, bravery, excitement. Amy and Ariana had started in different places, but they arrived at the same word: choice. Both said they now felt they could choose what kind of experience they would have. Amy had spent a lot of time preparing for a birth at home but when her labor pains sta rted, it took her a while to see what she really needed. She later described it as having two labors. In the first she thought she wa nted family and friends present, but then couldn’t help but tend to them. “I’m asking questions like, ‘Can I get you something to drink?’ and saying, ‘I’m sorry it’s taking so long.’” After 12 hours, her midwife checked her and found she had ba rely dilated. Amy burst into tears. “I lost it. I felt embarrassed, stupid, upset.” She realized all the guests were an unhelpful distraction and asked everyone to leave. Once she and Arnold were alone, she was able to start focusing on having the baby. The lessons of mindfulness helped her get through this second labor. She fastened herself to each moment. In contrast to her son’s birth, she didn’t experience nonstop pain. But she also never experienced the moments of rest Bardacke talked about. So she labored without a nything that felt like a break but was able to stay with her breath and avoid looking to the past or the future. Until the very end. For the last 10 or 15 minutes, Amy says, all the mindfulness tools went out the window. “I just did what I had to do to get through it.” Which is actually as mindful as you can get, says Bardacke. The whole point of the program a nd these Over the next few weeks, Bardacke upped the pain-practice ante, culminating in a class where she had the women hold their hands in a bowl of ice water. Arnold pressed his hand into Amy ’s back and then against her forehead as she leaned over the bowl. She breathed deeply and told herself that the ache wasn’t pain for pain’s sake, but in service of having a baby. That helped. Arnold knew he could be remote, pulling back into the hard shell he needs for his work, and the class was helping him “to be softer ” and more connected in his touch. “That’s good,” Amy murmured. Others were shaken by the intensity of the ice water. One mom-to-be lea ned into her husband and started weeping as she felt herself losing focus. She knew it wasn’t helpful but she couldn’t stop herself from thinking, “If I can’t handle ice, how a m I going to handle a baby?” Ariana and Zed, usually a touchy couple, were standing apa rt. Bardacke walked by and urged Zed to touch his wife. He shook his head and whispered that Ariana didn’t wa nt him to. He had missed the previous class in which they prac- Body awareness is a cornerstone of the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting program. Here, Kristin DeMarco and Derek Mansfield share an intimate moment during one of the program’s classes. 50 mindful August 2013 family PHOTOGRAPHBYMICHAELO’NEAL