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Mentoring works both ways

Last night was class #6. That’s the grand finale, filled with lots of great experiences to send the parents off ready for the adventure of childbirth and new parenthood. I’ve been doing this a long time, almost 13 years now, and you could say that for the most part I can push the play button on many processes and they spew forth, more or less, pretty well.

Of course it is my desire to be the “empty cup” ready to respond to whatever presents itself, to be open to the unexpected, and curious about what each individual brings on that particular evening. I’m certainly not perfect and I can unconsciously slip into rote mode. Rote in a Birthing From Within class is far from boring or dull. The only one who really knows I’m on rote is me. The hardest class to do in a rote manner is the last class as it demands a lot.

Which brings me back to last night. I had a pretty good idea what I’d do for our final class as I have a more or less favorite way to end a series. We had a few things to finish up…we had to get Inanna off the “hook” for one and initiating a group of Birth Warriors is almost a must do for me in class 6. But what turned the whole plan on its head was the entrance of one of the couples WITH their newborn!

They hadn’t told any of us that they had given birth since class 5 and walked into class with their beautiful new baby. We were all stunned, floored, excited, and wowed! It was fun, but also posed a difficult challenge in terms of holding the space. If I stayed on rote mode, the excitement of the expectant parents and the joy of the new parents would be like a large wave ready to sweep the beach of all it’s magical castles. The potential to spiral down into a recounting of the birth story play by play, was very high. We all wanted to hear it, but I am also not a fan of play by play birth stories.

I want to hear about deeper things, like how they were transformed, what awed them about themselves and each other, what surprised them, how he coped and what he did when he couldn’t take away her pain, and what she did when she didn’t think she could go on. To me, these questions teach, these explorations mentor, these sharings inspire the wide-eyed parents facing the unknown better than any play by play. I had none of them planned. I had no idea that the first hour of class would be spent simultaneously mentoring brand new parents as they navigate the first days postpartum and making sure that doing so (in the public forum of the final class of a childbirth preparation series) deepened the true preparation of the yet-to-birth parents. You could say, I was on the edge of my backjack the whole time. Rote…that flew out the window.

I LOVE when that happens and it is one of the reasons why I’m still mentoring classes now that my own children are nearly grown and long after my interest in birth has lost its initial glow. Not only does this work stretch and deepen the parents and their readiness for the rite of passage of birth…but this work helps me grow…it takes me to my edges, forces me to be fresh and to continually open. This is work as spiritual practice. It is deeply humbling and challenging. For both I am profoundly grateful. It was a very fun class!

About Dr. Britta Bushnell

is a writer, teacher, storyteller, and mentor who blends her eclectic training, years of experience, and areas of study into a unique offering for individuals, couples, professionals, and groups. Britta is currently deep at work writing her forthcoming book, Transformed by Birth: Illuminating cultural ideals to enhance the experience of childbirth.

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