Saturday, January 9, 2010

Re-Using Coping Skills: Here is Your Life

Back when I attended Bradley Method classes to prepare for my daughter's birth, I learned about the effect deep, calm breathing can have on my physical and emotional state. I practiced these new coping skills in hopes of using them to help me relax during birth. I'm happy to report that they were incredibly useful during Madelyn's birth back in 2002 and for Owen's in 2005.

But their usefulness did not end there! Remember Guy Smiley on Sesame Street hosting the "Here is Your Life" segments - the one with the shoe? the one with the loaf of bread?

Well let's play "Here is Your Life" today so I can show you how the coping skills I learned continue to be a very helpful resource, 3 times even, in just the past week!

January 6th, 2010... I'm checking on my son after I put him to bed half an hour earlier, only to find that instead of being in bed, he is squatted down on the floor covering himself with his pillow. This is how he hides when he knows he's done something terribly naughty. I remove the pillow and ask him what the problem is... and he shows me that he bit the top off of a Christmas light, part of a strand that was decorating his room. Undoubtedly deep breathing on my part helped me to be calm, ask him if he had spit out the plastic and where was it etc... He was fine, I took down the lights, and I didn't yell (because really? who does that???) or laugh (because also: it was funny).

January 4th, 2010... First cross-country skiing of the year, on our local high school trails. Usually great conditions, but this time if was very, very icy. We'd gotten about 3/4 of the way around when we stopped to rest, and somehow my ski slipped and I totally rolled my ankle and crashed into the snow. It hurt, and I had heard an ominous crunching noise as I fell. My body wanted to panic - my heart started racing, and I got that light-headed, blurry vision feeling that precedes passing out. But deep breathing got me through. I calmed my body, realized the crunch was probably the ski against the icy snow, and that my ankle was not actually broken and that I was, in fact, going to live! Even to ski out and finish the day's errands, though my ankle did end up swelling from a slight sprain that's already better...

January 3rd, 2010... I'm returning from a visit to PA for the holidays, driving the normally nine-hour trip, just the kids and me. I get off to a good start, through NJ and up into NY. Close to Albany though, the wind is joined by snow (not "showers" as had been predicted by the and the driving conditions deteriorate. It's terrible the last part of 87 and the beginning of 90 in NY, and really bad in the Berkshire Mts in Massachusetts. The other cars are also going slow, mostly, and I get behind someone going about 40mph, perfect for the conditions. Thankfully the children were very quiet & well-behaved, though they did wonder why I was going so slowly... just as they asked, a red car tried to pass me and we all watched as the car lost control, spun around, and ended up (I think) in the median. It was scary and added just that touch more of stress and panic to the already challenging driving conditions. You better believe that I was doing my deep breathing then. And listening to music (just like in labor) to help myself stay calm. The weather got better after the Berkshires, but by the time I got to NH and up into Maine, many hours later, I was exhausted, it was dark, and it was raining/sleeting/snowing again. As I drove, concentrating on keeping us safe and moving homeward, I kept reminding myself - that's another mile down: I don't have to do this mile again. Just like contractions - each one brings the baby closer, and each one down is one less to go. We ended up safe at home, where I fell into my husband's waiting arms and cried a few tears of relief & exhaustion, 11 hours from when we started in PA.

So those are my examples in the past week, how deep breathing helped me keep my brain and body calm. I've used it many other times in the past too...

Flying on Airplanes... I flew many times with my infant daughter, and later with my toddler daughter and infant son, by myself, on the way to PA. They were (thankfully!) short flights, but I am terrified of flying and I knew I had to do my best to remain calm so I could effectively parent, as well as to reduce the chance that I would freak out my kids. Because that would be so helpful - all of us crying in panic at the same time! The breathing helped incredibly, and those times I traveled with the children were some of the calmest trips I've had on airplanes, even though I had the additional stress of solo parenting while flying.

Watching my Kids do Scary Things... Like the time my kids were climbing some very scary stairs to a local lookout tower. Safe enough in theory, but absolutely terrifying for me to watch. Someone else helped them, of course, while I walked away and did my calming breathing.

Kids & Medical Problems... The time my son's finger got slammed in the door and looked terrible... the time I put him down for his nap fine and got him up to find his entire body covered in huge, puffy hives, including his neck. Deep breathing helped me stay calm and make effective decisions, while comforting him.

Anger Management... Two kids, a husband, life. Anger happens. Deep breathing helps me avoid losing it (at least some of the time!) and saying or doing things I would regret later.

In addition to using these techniques myself, I am teaching them to my children... when they are feeling angry or overwhelmed, or have been hurt, it's amazing to watch how well simple breathing in through the nose and out through the mouths, big belly breaths, helps them settle back down. It's a simple and extremely effective parenting technique.

Anyone care to join me in sharing a "Here is Your Life" with coping skills story? Which were your favorite for birth? Which do you use now? How?

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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Blogger Morgan said...

I'm going to have to learn some of those coping skills as I prepare to have another baby. I did a pretty lousy job last time (I was scared enough that my pulse ox dropped). To get ready, I'm trying to practice breathing deep, staying calm whenever I start to have anxiety over anything. It's hard, though.

It sounds like you've done a good job in times of stress! I can't imagine finding my child covered in hives or with a slammed finger. I can't stand to look when they're hurt. Sounds like I should have taken a Bradley class instead of only reading the book!

January 13, 2010 at 10:24 AM  

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