Interview with Nancy Bardacke, CNM, MA, author of Mindful Birthing

(see July eNews for a review of this book!)

Q: You are a CNM. How long have you been practicing and how did you become interested in mindfulness?

A: I began practicing as a CNM in 1982, so that's 30 years now. But I like to say that I've been paying attention to the birth process for about 45 years, since that's how long ago I was pregnant with my first son and was sitting in a childbirth preparation course in a woman's home in the Berkeley Hills. In those days it was a pretty radical thing to do, to become educated about childbirth-there weren't any classes being taught in hospitals or community settings. I was just so incredibly amazed and moved by what this woman was teaching us about our bodies and the birth process; I thought what a beautiful service this woman is doing. The classes were called psychoprophylaxis for pregnancy-which is what we now know as Lamaze.

About mindfulness, I'd been interested in the relationship between the mind and body, particularly around childbirth, for a very long time. I started out assisting laboring women at home and those women taught me so much. I would observe things during a woman's labor, something I or someone else said or did, that would affect the labor process itself, but I couldn't really understand how it happened. Meditation practice, which is a way to cultivate mindfulness, was a natural outgrowth of trying to understand - myself and others. I remember at one of the first meditation retreats I attended the teacher said "If you want to understand the mind, sit down and take a look at it." That seemed like good advice, and I've been doing that-sitting down and taking a look-ever since. It's been thirty years now since my first silent 10 day meditation retreat.

Q: First came the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting program. Then came this incredible book "Mindful Birthing." Can you tell us a bit about how they both came about? What inspired you to create a program rather then just teach a class? How did it evolve?

A: Well, actually, first came my midwifery practice and my interest in the mind/body connection during pregnancy and childbirth. Then came my meditation practice. 12 years after that I encountered the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD who developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR) which brought meditation practice out of the meditation hall and into mainstream medicine. When I went to a retreat for health professionals interested in meditation with Jon 18 years ago, what I saw, learned, and experienced totally brought together everything I was most passionate about. So I trained and taught the MBSR course for a number of years, always with the intention to bring these life skills to the population I served. I began formally adapting the MBSR program into the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) program 14 years ago. Really, the creation of the MBCP program is the result of a life-long journey.

Q: How would you describe (in a few words) mindfulness? What is mindful birth?

A: Mindfulness can be described as "the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judmentally". This is the definition that is often used in the scientific literature. It was originally articulated by Jon Kabat-Zinn and it's the one I use in the MBCP program and Mindful Birthing.

"Mindful birth" is about bringing moment-to-moment awareness to the moment-to-moment experience of childbirth, working with things as they are. But the program is about so much more than childbirth. We all know that giving birth is just the beginning of the lifelong process of parenting and in the MBCP course expectant couples learn life skills that extend well beyond childbirth. I frequently run into parents in my community that tell me they are still using the skills they learned in the MBCP course in parenting. After all, babies and children are very much in the present moment.