Although this practical information was valuable, it became obvious to me that there was something missing. Women were leaving my classes very well prepared physically, but not emotionally. They were leaving my classes still feeling unsure of themselves and unable to trust their innate ability to give birth and mother their newborn baby. My heart went out to my students. I wondered, "how can I emphasize emotional and relationship awareness in my classes?" I began searching for better teaching methods. In my searching I discovered the importance of the right hemisphere of the brain for accessing feelings. I already knew that the right hemisphere specialized in visual and spatial perception, but back then I didn't realize that emotional expression and intuition are also associated with the right hemisphere of the brain. I also learned that memory of physical and emotional trauma (such as child abuse or sexual abuse) has been stored in the body and is more accessible through right-brain techniques.
I hadn't found any way to utilize this information in my classes until I discovered Dr. Lucia Capacchione's book: "The Creative Journal: The Art of Finding Yourself". I first used her techniques of writing and drawing with the non-dominant hand for self-discovery. Her art techniques produced extraordinary results for me personally. As I gained deeper insight into my own feelings I knew that the Creative Journal method was what I was searching for. With Lucia's permission, I began integrating this method into my childbirth classes and counseling. I concluded that right-brain activities would help my students deal with fear of pain and other emotions typical of pregnancy. I was very surprised to quickly learn that these activities were also putting pregnant women in communication with their unborn child and also with their own "inner child".
I saw, through the exercises, that the unborn child can communicate with the parent---in words. I discovered this by observing the journal dialogues of expectant mothers in my classes and counseling sessions. Their work convinced me that Creative Journaling was a powerful tool for communicating with the unborn child. However, this brought up a lot of other questions about what I was seeing and feeling in my childbirth classes and counseling. I couldn't find anyone else to talk to that was experiencing similar things. I searched and found the group PPANA in 1983. This organization was studying and doing qualitative scientific exploration into the mind-body connection of pre-birth, birth and early parenting. I decided to pursue them and what they were doing. I went to my first conference in 1985 and have been learning and benefitting from this organizations research ever since.
The organizations name was later changed and is now known as the Association for Pre and PerinatalPsychology and Heath (APPPAH). 2 As I attended trainings and learned more and more about pre and perinatal psychology I came to realize that by also incorporating this knowledge into childbirth education I could help pregnant women and their partners create a Joyful Birth experience for the whole family. I saw that by developing a partnership with their unborn child, couples were able to create a healthy pregnancy, labor and early parenting experience. Through their art work and journaling, women were able to share their desires, true wants and needs. It brought couples closer together as they experienced and shared deep feelings and prepared the baby for a gentle birth. After 7 years of doing qualitative research with my students, I wrote the book "Creating A Joyful Birth Experience: Developing a partnership with your unborn child for healthy pregnancy, labor and early parenting", with my mentor Lucia Cappachione Simon & Schuster, 1994
Sandra Bardsley, RN, LCCE, FACCE, CD