Valerie M. Bentz, Ph.D., MSSW
A chapter collaboration between Fielding faculty member Dr. Valerie Bentz and doctoral student William Hart, a Ph.D. candidate in the Human Development program, was recently published by Routledge in the book, “Mindful Inquiry in the Birth Sphere” (Davies & Crowther, 2023). The chapter “Mindful Inquiry into Lifeworlds and Deathworlds: An unmarried mother and a gay father” features phenomenological protocols by Dr. Bentz and Mr. Hart.
The chapter explores Dr. Valerie Bentz’s own unmindful experience of childbirth in contrast to the mindful experience of William Hart, a gay father who formed his family through adoption. Mindful Inquiry, a way of research in which the researcher’s being is front and center, offers a powerful method for understanding these experiences (Bentz 2018). A rich autobiographical approach grounded in Mindful Inquiry and expanded on by somatics, neurobiology and the Indigenous world view reveals the differences and similarities in our experiences of becoming parents while centering Indigenous world view as a call for mindful pregnancy and childbirth in the context of a caring community.
The four cornerstones of Mindful Inquiry—critical theory, phenomenology, hermeneutics and buddhism—are linked together (Bentz and Shapiro 1998). Fielding faculty member Dr. Valerie Bentz and Dr. Jeremy Shapiro discovered the inherent congruence between Mindfulness and three powerful traditions in social sciences: phenomenology, critical theory and hermeneutics. This work focuses on two frameworks within phenomenology: Husserlian and Schützian. The first requires that we look at the existentials of direct experience: lived time, space, embodiment and emotions (van Manen 1997). The second, Schützian lifeworld phenomenology, asks us to unpack the way the experience exists in particular situations. All situations exist within a hermeneutic context which may vary, and which allows for alternative and multiple meanings. Likewise, all experiences exist within systems of power explicated within the framework of critical theory—economic, political and social (Bentz and Shapiro, 1998). Buddhist philosophies of mindfulness require attention to all of these levels for the principles of compassion and the unfolding connection to the wonder of being.
The book also contains helpful insights for research and practice around human birth and early years of development. Mindfulness in the Birth Sphere draws together and critically appraises a raft of emerging research around mindfulness in healthcare, looking especially at its relevance to pregnancy and childbirth.
Divided into three parts, this reflective book:
· Investigates the phenomena of mindfulness through discussions of neuroscience, an indigenous worldview and research methods.
· Develops the concept of mindfulness for use in practice with women/and babies across the continuum of childbirth. It includes chapters on birth environments, intrapartum care, mental health, fertility, breastfeeding and parenting among others.
· Explores mindfulness as a tool for birth practitioners and educators, promoting self-care, resilience and compassion.
Each chapter discusses specific research, evidence and experiences of mindfulness, including practical advice and an example of a mindfulness practice.
This is an essential read for all those interested in mindfulness in connection to pregnancy and childbirth, including midwives, doulas, doctors and birth activists, whether involved in practice, research or education.