This is an excercise that you can practise together as a couple. Dad/Birth partner should sit on the floor with their back supported (against a wall/sofa). Mum should then sit between his legs, with her back to him and lean back into him until you are both comfortable. Dad/Birth partner should wrap your arms around Mum and rest your hands on the bump. When you are feeling relaxed and comfortable:
1. Close your eyes. Notice each others breathing. Don't intenetionally change your breathing to match your partners (although this may occur naturally). What do you notice? Do you breathe at the same pace? Mums this should feel quite comforting and safe - being close to and supportd by your partner. Open your eyes when you're ready.
2. Close your eyes. This time, Mum I would like you to continue to breathe normally, at your usual pace. Dad/Birth partner, I would like you to concentrate on Mums breathing and try and match your breathing to hers. How easy is this? Mums, how does it feel when your partner matches their breathing to yours? It should feel nice and comforting. Open your eyes when you're ready.
3. Close your eyes. I would like you to repeat step 2 until your breathing is synched. Once you are breathing at the same pace, Mum I would like you to imagine that you are experiencing some stress or anxiety (imagine for example a stranger has entered the room and made you feel a little anxious as you don't know who they are). Change the pace of your beathing to reflect this stress (increase the pace to a more 'panicked' breathing). Dad/Birth partner, as soon as you notice this change in Mums breathing I want you to exaggerate your own breathing so it is very deep, long breaths. What do you both notice? Mums it should be very difficult to maintain a state of 'panicked' breathing when your partner exaggerates his breathing. You should find that your breathing naturally calms and matches the slower, more exaggerated breathing of your partner. Open your eyes when you're ready.
This is a great exercise to use in any situation where panic begins to take hold or Mum is finding it difficult to maintain calm and relaxed breathing. The exercise is also really effective when done face-to-face (it's not always possible to sit in this embrace together). Dad/Birth partner just position yourself so that you can look directly into each others eyes and use the same principle of breathing very deeply and slowly. Mums you should, again, find it very difficult to stay with your 'panicked' breathing and your breathing should calm and match your partners. Facing each other also feels very intimate and can help refocus away from anything else that is happening in the room.