Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet . . .
As Birthy Dozen (a one-time course offered to BFW mentors trained before 2018) came to a close recently, I mused about how when we work, we are indeed spreading dreams under our feet, and under the feet of our clients on their yearlong pilgrimage. I pondered how, during mentor training workshops and courses, certain processes and techniques must be plucked from BFW’s tapestry from necessity in order to focus on certain mentoring skills and processes. From this introduction, a novice might mistakenly assume that as a mentor s/he will follow suit and continue to pluck-and-present learning activities to parents without realizing that in the true spirit of mentoring s/he should continually assess her clients’ evolving belief systems and learning goals, and choose a philosophical Thread from the BFW Tapestry to tie together the various dialogues and learning activities she presents. When all is said and done, the new parents may forget the studies or the teaching points, but that Soul Thread remains a part of them.
Custom-made, motivational sessions require attention to detail during the interview in order for the mentor to work out personalized learning objectives (lest we fall into the lazy habit of following a course agenda). Once this is done, the mentor chooses or creates learning activities that will set in motion and reinforce the needed messages, knowing, and feelings that will best prepare parents emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Think of the Soul Thread as the spirit of your teaching that runs through, and ties together all the bits you offered: studies, stories, birth art, etc.
As a childbirth mentor, observer or inquirer, what is the cohesive message parents are experiencing and embodying?
On the sixth call I asked our maturing Birthy Dozen students to take a moment to pause, step back, and “Contemplate and describe the Thread – the Soul Thread – that is woven throughout their consultation, class, or series, from ‘Appetizer’ to ‘Dessert.'”* Mentor Sia said her Soul Thread is the color of “holistic”; the message she wants to leave parents with is “whole mother, whole father/partner, whole baby.” From her teaching and presence, parents will know something by experiencing and embodying wholeness, being whole or intact. Knowing exceeds believing. Knowing is experienced and embodied; beliefs are a thought, a hope for something in the future that one becomes attached to.
I don’t have one Thread that fits all consultations, like the “heroic map.” None of my Soul Threads are clichés, such as “trust birth” or “knowledge is power.” Rather, I select a Thread from a dense tapestry of acquired impressions I’ve woven together over four decades, and with this Thread I begin tying together a unique assortment of ideas, metaphors, humor, scenes from novels or movies, visualizations, Tiger Safari, obstetric history, birth art, and of course – evidence-based research; through dialogue, the client and I weave new knowing together. A Soul Thread might be, “The Birth and Evolution of a Child Mother,” or “101 ways to Find Your Voice.”
Imagine what the parents you recently taught would answer if you asked them to describe the Thread that connected all of the learnings you presented – from the beginning to the end of your session (or series)? It’s not a message or belief you wanted them to infer or believe. No! What you are looking for is the Soul Thread you intentionally pulled through the ambiance of your teaching space, and that is/was expressed by your essence and presence as you presented each module, process, dialogue. What is THAT?! When studies and details and all else is forgotten, it is the essence, the embodied learning of that Soul Thread that will stay with them; it will stay with them through the thick and thin of their Ordeal and Return.
What if there is a discrepancy between your intention and their take-away, e.g., they recounted isolated learning activities rather than a message they now embody? Consider why and what you can do to close that gap as you continue to master the Art of Mentoring.
*“Appetizer to Dessert” refers to the Gourmet Childbirth Class model I developed forever ago. Newer students might not be familiar with it, so I’ll offer a quick explanation. Ambiance and Appetizers whet the appetite and give a hint of flavors to come. The Bread Basket represents the variety of mindful pain-coping practices. This is followed by a pairing of Meat ‘n’ Potatoes (or Tofu and Veggies). The Main Entrée is synonymous with the main learning module, such as Prenatal Nutrition or Feeding Your Baby, and the Side Dish represents a multi-sensory learning activity. For example, after a lively presentation on prenatal nutrition, the activity could be a 24-hour dietary recall. Dessert is something a little sweet served up at the end of a class, or a series of classes, such as singing a lullaby to their babies or enjoying a Birthin’ Momma Cake.