Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Technicalities of Teaching Childbirth Education Part 9: Compassion and Listening

I have assembled 10 key principles of teaching effective childbirth education classes, and am briefly addressing them in this blog.  In no particular order, they are:

  1. Know how to teach
  2. Preparation of a dynamic course lesson plan
  3. Being Organized
  4. Evidence-based knowledge base
  5. Learner Assessment
  6. Critical Thinking
  7. Robust teaching techniques
  8. Motivational skills for engaging students
  9. Compassionate listening 
  10. Problem solving

One of the most important tools we use as childbirth educators is not something that can be touched, smelled, or watched.  This tool is compassion and listening.  For many women, pregnancy is an uncomplicated, normal, natural event.  However for some, it can be a time of memories being dredged up from long ago.

From continued pain from a previous epidural to other traumatic birth experiences, women appreciate the compassion and listening (or what we’ll call CAL) that an experienced childbirth educator can provide.  It does not take a course in active listening – just sitting quietly and hearing the woman share her experience is often enough.  CAL is something they may not be able to obtain from their family or friends without some feelings of judgment.  CAL is something that cannot be obtained from internet classes, videos, podcasts or websites.  CAL is something only a person can give to another person.  And in my humble opinion, something that is lacking in our culture as a whole.

To understand how listening is an important attribute to perfect, consider this TED talk!

As the active listener in a conversation, you may feel the need to slow the conversation in an attempt to more carefully listen and also reflect so that you can be compassionate.  You can slow the conversation by your body language (sit relaxed, have no or few reactions on your face, refrain from tapping or swinging your foot/leg), ask your questions slowly and with intention, and ask the speaker what her/his thoughts are about each topic she/he brings up.  This will help you to connect with the speaker on a more dynamic level.
Finally, do not think that you have to have an answer for the speaker's experience or problems.  The speaker may just need an ear to listen or a soft shoulder on which to shed some tears.  You should, on the other hand, be aware of those in your community to whom you can make referrals if the situation is very far away from your area of expertise.

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