ICEA Conference 2016

icea

I just got back from the annual ICEA (International Childbirth Educator’s Association) Conference in Denver, Colorado. I don’t get to go every year, but I’d like to! These educational conferences are invaluable in keeping me current. Plus I love networking with other passionate-about-all-things-pregnancy-birth-and-parenting professionals! And snagging a boatload of my required continuing education credits for recertification is a nice perk.

This year, I was not just an attendee, but also a presenter. My breakout session, “Birth Plans: Helpful or Harmful?” went really well and the preliminary evaluations look good. I exchanged lots of business cards for what I hope will yield future collaborations. The other sessions that I attended were excellent and at the end of this post there’s a shout-out to some of the amazing women behind the presentations I was lucky enough to attend. They are doing great work in the field of maternal-fetal health and wellness.

But for this post, I want to highlight something that I saw as a really wonderful, positive, and hopefully continuing trend: a small but enthusiastic group of young, energetic Millennials attended this conference. These are young women, choosing to become Childbirth Educators in the digital age, who understand the importance of face-to-face, community building, peer-to-peer education that can really only happen in person. It’s just not the same via the Almighty Internet.

Sometimes I wonder how much longer I’ll remain relevant in this field, or even, how much longer the field of childbirth education will exist. It’s sad and scary to think about a time when I’ll be “too old” to teach classes, or worse – a time when expectant parents will just stop coming altogether:

“We can read about it on the Internet!”

“There’s so many YouTube births out there, we don’t need to take a class…”

“I’ve written my Birth Plan – what else do I need?”

Today’s expectant parents need connection – it’s a hunger that they might not even be fully conscious of, a product of this time when a sense of community is linked to how many friends “like” their posts, or how many “followers” they have. In the months and weeks prior to becoming a family, expectant parents need real connection:

Real connection with their childbirth educator who can provide evidence-based, unbiased information and encourage them to become truly informed consumers and advocates for themselves, their babies and their births.

Real connection with a group of people who are experiencing the same emotions and feelings of vulnerability. These are people who will not trivialize or sensationalize those feelings. They get it.

Real connection with one another as a couple, devoting time and energy to focus on each other and their baby and to learn as much as they can about the powerful transformation that the birth experience can offer.

It fills me with hope to realize that there are women who represent the age demographic of the Mommas in my classes, just entering into this field. That there are women who still get the importance of continuing to teach these classes to their peers.

I’m considered the Lead Educator at the places where I work – which means I do the mentoring of new educators. And I love it! I’m always trying to recruit potential newbies from my classes. If I see a Momma that has a certain twinkle in her eye, I try to connect with her so I can plant the seed of becoming a Childbirth Educator someday.

But as Lead Educator, I know that the classes we offer have to be nothing short of amazing. They can’t be fine. They can’t be good. They have to be classes that are an incredible value to today’s parents – not just in terms of money, but in terms of our most precious commodity – time.

When half of the class is wishing they were in their PJs, eating ice cream and binging on Netflix, and the other half of the class comes kicking and screaming because they think it’s going to be “All about HER!” – that’s a tough crowd. We have been charged with making our classes engaging, fun and entertaining. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget –  they need to learn a ton, as well!

It’s not an easy job. But none of the really important jobs ever are. Those of us working in this field know the potential that birth has to either positively or negatively affect the laboring woman’s self-identity, self-confidence, relationship with her baby, her partner and herself – for the rest of her life. We get it. But does this generation get it?

Well, this past week I got to see a sample of women from this generation taking notes, asking questions, learning from those who’ve gone before them, soaking it all up – showing me in words and actions, that yes indeed, they do get it.

And that’s good news for us all.

*I’m always, always trying to recruit younger women to do this work. If you’ve ever thought, “I wonder what’s involved in becoming a Childbirth Educator…” please, contact me – I’d love to talk with you about next steps.

And as promised, here are some amazing women doing some incredible things in the world of birth. Please check them out!

Jennie Joseph – is working to change what happens in materno-toxic zones to help reduce pre-term birth, low birth weight babies, and other complications that women of color experience at higher rates than their white counterparts.

Barbara Harper – travels the globe with the mission of making waterbirth an available option for all women.

Amy Rebekah Chavez – I’ll let you read all about who she is and what she does, but this woman is rad and she’s got the science and education to back up her work around trauma and healing.

Elizabeth Petrucelli – recognizes the importance of discussing unexpected outcomes with the families that attend her classes and this is a message that resonates with me for sure.

Aynsley Babinski & Pam Barnes-Palty – understand the need for birth workers to take part in self-care so that they can better address the needs and concerns of the families that they work with.

Colleen Weeks – shares from her personal experience in the field for 35+ years, how to continue to grow as an educator over the arc of your career and how to support our families when they’re hurting.

Amy Haderer-Swagman – I have to highlight this Momma-artist who was one of many great vendors from the conference, who made such gorgeous mandala birth art necklaces that I bought two of them!

This is not meant to be an exclusionary list – I was unable to attend all of the sessions that were available and I didn’t get to attend the last day at all, so my apologies to all of the other fantastic presenters who I know put as much care and attention into their presentations as I did. If you check out this ICEA Conference page, you can read more about these other wonderful women and find out more about the goodness they’re bringing into the world of birth.

So THIS happened today…

Member Spotlight: Barb Buckner Suárez
Meet Lamaze member and 19-year childbirth educator veteran, Barb Buckner Suárez, BA, LCCE, FACCE, who teaches Lamaze series classes for two hospitals in Portland, Oregon. One of Barb’s goals as an educator is to help families “embrace vulnerability, as opposed to trying to run away from it, so that the powerful transformation that can happen during birth can be fully realized.” Her most valued Lamaze resource is the Six Healthy Birth Practices and the Giving Birth with Confidence blog, which is where she feels most confident in sending families for information. Learn more about Barb, including the advice she gives to other educators, on the Lamaze website.

A few months back, I answered the call from my professional certifying body to “submit my story.” It’s their way of highlighting who their members are, where they’re from, what they teach, and why. It was fun to do and I’m honored to be chosen as their “Member Spotlight” for the month of May. If you click on the link above, you’ll get the full interview.

This post is short and sweet this week as I’ve just come from a two-day professional conference. And I’m heading into another full-day tomorrow as I work with a wonderful group of fellow Board Members to put on the NACEF annual conference, “Stress & Resilience.” (We still have space – if you register RIGHT NOW!) I’m not going to lie to you – this conference topic couldn’t come at a better time, and I’m looking forward to sharing some of the great stuff I’ll be learning with all of you!

I do like a good conference, but it might be nice to have a little bit of a break after this weekend.

PS – I’m not sure if I announced that I’ve added a couple of new pages to my blog above – “Parent Coaching” and “Teacher Training.” If you get a chance, check them out. And let me know what you think – I’d love to get your feedback on these new offerings!

Hopelessly Devoted to You…

Devoted

de·vot·ed
/dəˈvōdəd/

adjective
adjective: devoted
1. very loving or loyal.
“he was a devoted husband”
synonyms: loyal, faithful, true, staunch, steadfast, constant, committed, dedicated, devout; fond, loving, affectionate, caring, admiring
“a devoted follower of the writer”
2. given over to the display, study, or discussion of.
“there is a museum devoted to her work”

I love this dictionary entry for “devoted.” I would consider myself a very devoted Momma, partner, friend, daughter, sister, employee and Childbirth Educator. When I’ve found someone or something that I believe in, then it’s deserving of my full devotion. I resonate with both of these definitions, because I don’t think it’s enough to say that you’re “very loving and loyal” to a person or an idea. I think you need to show that devotion through action, which is where, “given over to the display, study or discussion of” comes in.

But being devoted to someone or something might mean saying or taking action that’s not very popular. Sometimes, being devoted means standing up for your own truth – even when others, maybe especially when others, try to tell you your truth is wrong or has no merit. Being devoted doesn’t mean that you always agree. Being devoted to a person or an idea, means you have to be the mirror at times. In wanting this person or idea to reach full potential, you have to be willing to shine a light in the darkness. Being devoted is both thrilling and frightening at the same time. But it’s not usually easy to be on the giving or receiving end of real devotion.

I can remember a few times in my marriage, where my incredibly devoted husband told me what I needed to hear. Let’s be very clear: it wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. And I’m sure he can tell you some stories about my job as his personal mirror: “This is what I see. This is not who I know your best self to be.” Not easy discussions to have, but they can be game-changers, in my opinion.

When it comes to my work with expectant families I am devoted to the overall well-being of new Mommas, partners and their babies on their transformative journey of becoming a family.

But sometimes, that devotion can look a little bit more like “tough-love.”

I’m very devoted to the idea that women have positive and empowering birth experiences because I feel like this moment in a woman’s life can truly be transformative. It can set the stage for how well she moves into her role of Momma. It can either positively or negatively affect the couple’s relationship right from the very start. She can end up parenting from a place of inner strength, wisdom and confidence – or spend her entire parenting journey second-guessing every move. Her birth experience might only be a day in her life, but it can affect the rest of her life.

Wow – that’s big stuff.

And now for the tough-love talk. (Please remember that this is coming from a very loving and loyal place.)

Women need to start taking more personal responsibility for their births.

There are some providers, nurses and hospital policies that can get in the way of a woman’s positive and empowering birth experience. And there are plenty of other birth advocates decrying this very issue. But that’s not the whole issue. Women need to recognize their role in all of this. They need to take more personal responsibility for their birth experiences because if they don’t, birthing women, their partners and the families they’re trying to create together end up paying the price.

Women giving birth today, are doing so in a climate where information is everywhere and available all the time. Even though “Dr. Google” is not a great resource, it’s who they most often turn to for information – much of it biased, out-dated, and not evidence based.

Our maternity care system has become “us against them” when it comes to birth. I’m not sure it’s even possible to have a positive and empowering birth experience if you believe that having a hospital birth is going to suck. But if you really do feel this way, than take some personal responsibility for yourself and make different choices about where and with whom you’ll be giving birth. Your reaction might be, “It’s not that easy.” I know it’s not easy. I’m not saying that it is. What I’m saying is that it’s vital to own your role in the birth experience – even when it’s not easy.

When I was pregnant with my second baby, I had to make some big decisions. My beloved provider had moved out of town and our insurance had changed. So, I was going to have a choose a new provider and place to give birth.

Instead of doing my own research, I listened to a colleague and chose a midwife at a hospital that didn’t have the best reputation in town: too big and impersonal. Red flag #1 The clinic was pretty far away from where we lived, which meant my toddler and I had to deal with 40 minutes of driving for an appointment that lasted only 10 minutes. I hated it. Red flag #2 The hospital tour guide focused more on the big-screen TV than answering my questions about birth balls and squatting bars. Red flag #3 My midwife was part of a group practice, so it was not guaranteed that I would have her for my birth. Red flag #4 Now, none of these might pop up on your list as red flags – but they were on mine and I chose to ignore all of them. I knew, at several points along my pregnancy journey, that this was not the right choice for me, but I refused to take personal responsibility for this. And although my birth was quick and easy, my overall birth experience was very negative.

I hadn’t done my due diligence to make the best decisions for myself when and where I could. And it was this piece that I struggled with most in my early postpartum days with my newborn. I look back and realize my negative feelings around that birth experience had nothing to do with the birth outcome. It had everything to do with how I had dishonored myself and failed to make the best (although not easy) decisions I could to set myself up for the best experience possible.

Writing a Birth Plan is not enough. Having good intentions is not enough. Hiring a doula is not enough. You need to understand just how much work is involved in making this birth experience positive and empowering for yourself. No one will be making that happen for you. You need to make it happen. And that means getting real with yourself before you ever put pen to paper to capture your birth preferences.

Are you making choices that resonate with you? Don’t concern yourself with what your sister, BFF or members of your book club would choose. What do you want? Make some decisions for yourself. But don’t stop there! Get some quality, unbiased, evidence-based information that supports these decisions as being right for you. And then own those decisions – at least until you go into labor.

Once labor begins, you have to be prepared to make some decisions in real-time, as birth unfolds. Birth is too big to be planned out on an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper! And that scale you used to weigh benefits and risks in the classroom doesn’t get to come into labor and delivery with you. You get a brand new scale that you’ll have to use to weigh the benefits and risks all over again to make the most informed decision you can – while you’re in labor.

You must be a full participant in this birth from the very beginning all the way through to the end in order to feel that transformative strength and empowerment. My own personal experience, coupled with 20 years of working with thousands of couples, allows me to make this statement from a place of confidence: Feeling empowered and positive about your birth experience is less connected to how your baby is born, and more directly linked to how you feel as your baby is being born.

When you give birth from a place of confidence that you did everything you could in the moment to honor yourself and your process, it’s hard to feel anything but empowered. There are moments throughout your pregnancy and birth where you’re called to stand up and make a decision that might not be easy, that might not be popular, that might not even be what you wanted. But in honoring yourself in this way, you can claim full participation and own your birth experience.

When you do this, you show devotion to yourself, your partner, your baby, your family – and this is where it all begins.

What are you devoted to? Does this resonate with you? Are you still able to feel my deep devotion to you (despite my tough love)? I really do only want the best possible experience for you. And I can’t use this title for the post without giving you this link to the ever wonderful ONJ singing her heart out – enjoy, you’ll be singing it all weekend.

This was part of an exercise from The Writing Den, where we were asked to define what we are devoted to. Bringing more personal responsibility into the birthing experience is one of those things I’m devoted to. If you’d like to find out what your true devotion is, come join this group of committed individuals answering the call. It’s an inspiring place to be!

The Eyes Have It

Eyes

There’s an article that I just read from the BBC about a project called “One Day Young” from London photographer, Jenny Lewis, who for the past seven years has been capturing a stolen moment in time in the lives of new mother/baby pairs within 24 hours of birth. I encourage you to look at all of the photos she’s taken for this project. Then come back and read the article and see if you agree with what I’m about to say.

All of her photos are mesmerizing to me and I recognize my own self as new Momma in the disheveled hair, the still pregnant looking bellies, the exhaustion visible in every pore. I love that the photos are not retouched and appreciate that the photographer has really attempted to show a more realistic image of new motherhood.

But to be sure, I see myself more in the faces of the women who have a slight smile on their lips, maybe a bit of a gleam in their eyes – those women who seem to be thinking, “I can’t believe I just did that! I’ve got a secret… I totally kick ass, and this baby is my proof!” At least that’s how I felt after the birth of my first baby and I’m pretty sure a picture taken at that time would have reflected my inner rock star.

Eyes2

(Photo by Jenny Lewis)

But the images that linger in my memory, are ones like this:

EyesHaveIt

(Photo by Jenny Lewis)

“I am not entirely sure who is to blame for the rose-tinted vision of motherhood. It doesn’t matter how many times someone tells you how tough it is to have a baby. Before you have one, you never quite get it. I often think about vulnerable mothers in tough circumstances and how they manage.”

Gitta Gschwendtner, mother of Til

There are photos in this collection where there are no Mona Lisa smiles. These are the ones that show a different set of emotions: “I have no idea what I’m supposed to think of you, let alone how to take care of you.” Or, “My birth was traumatic and I feel ripped off!”

You can sense the fear, anxiety or anger behind those eyes that are averted or avoiding direct eye contact with their baby. And while there are only a few pictures from the entire collection that have connected narratives in the original article from the BBC, they seem to complete one another perfectly. The image and words just fit for that baby’s first day of life, that woman’s first day of mothering.

But this leads me to ask a question… Oftentimes, new Mommas suffer from PMADs (Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders) in complete silence, their outside demeanor belying what hell they’re going through on the inside. How does this happen? If during those first 24 hours a photographer can capture these images, what are we missing? Because I’m sure you’ve seen the photos of women who’ve been struggling with a PMAD months after their baby’s birth and in all the pictures from that time, you’d have a hard time knowing it: they look joyful, happy, as though everything is wonderful – while inside they’re falling apart.

But in these One Day Young photos, the difference between the women who are suffering and unsure, versus those who look eager and excited to take on their new roles is obvious.

It’s purely speculation on my part, because I haven’t interviewed any of these women and have no idea about their medical history or how their births turned out, but I would be willing to guess that unmet expectations definitely played a part and contributed to their looks of disillusionment and overwhelm.

This is not their fault. Like Gitta says above, there’s a rose-tinted vision of motherhood that is pervasive in our culture and this doesn’t do anybody any favors.

Parenting is hard. It’s the hardest thing that I’ve ever done in my life on every possible level. And we need to be sharing this message with more people and more often.

There might be naysayers who cry out, “You don’t want to scare them!” But realistic expectations are not scare tactics. Different aspects of parenting will be more or less challenging for each individual (as an example, for me,  it was the entire year each of my children turned three…) Knowing that it’s not all rainbows and unicorns allows women to understand what they’re getting themselves and their partners into.

Even though I’m just supposed to be talking about getting a baby born in my classes, I throw in some info now and again about the realities of life with a newborn, so that they’ve at least heard it from one person before the baby arrives.

This is going to be hard. There will be days that you hate it. There will also be days that you can’t believe how much you love it. You’ll be stretched to your absolute limit – multiple times. You’ll have a mirror held up before your face every.single.damn.day and even though you try your hardest to be the best version of yourself, oftentimes you’ll fail and be a version of yourself that you really don’t like that much. You’ll compare yourself to others, but why? You, your partner and your baby are unique and the only “right” way to parent your baby is the way that’s working for your family – today. Because, it’s not going to work a month from now. You will never “arrive” as a parent. Because it never ends. There will always be a new challenge to learn from.

The photos of these women in their first 24 hours with their babies are raw, they’re real, and these women have just gone through the most intense transformative experience of their lives and they’re not able to mask their true emotions and vulnerabilities.

And I think we need more of that. All of us. We need to put down our armor and share openly, first with ourselves, and then with those people we love, about what’s really going on inside. But then, that circle needs to expand.

We need to be willing to share with other new parents our highs and our lows of parenting. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Find your tribe now. Find that tribe of people who will celebrate your parenting successes, and listen to your parenting fails – followed up by sharing a few of their own.

Knowing just how challenging this parenting job can be and having realistic expectations about what’s to come, is empowering to new families. When they feel prepared and armed with realistic expectations about their roles, unfettered by rose-tinted visions, they’ll end up feeling less isolated, alone and incapable and more able to partner and parent with confidence: all the things we should want for our new families.

How can you bring more realistic expectations into the work you do with new families? If you are a parent already, how could you help expectant parents have more realistic expectations about this time in their life? If you are a new parent, how could you reach out to other parents to find your tribe?

ZUMBA!

Zumba

I arrived at my class this evening ready to teach. It had been awhile since I was last at this location, and with the recent “ice storm” I left early not knowing what traffic would be like at rush hour. It wasn’t that bad and I was happy to clock in right on time to start prepping my classroom.

This particular class meets in a conference room in a clinic. It isn’t the best set-up for a Childbirth Education class, to be honest. The space is a little on the small side, it can get really warm, and the lighting is either ALL ON or ALL OFF.

So to get around these drawbacks the class size is limited to eight couples only and more recently, a table lamp has been purchased. In my opinion, it’s all worth it if it makes life easier for these families to have this option as a closer location, or one that works better for getting their classes in before their due dates. And in any case, the people who work at the clinic are really nice and I love my job, so it doesn’t matter that much.

But I still appreciate having a little extra time to set up when I’m at this location. I usually have to haul tables around to maximize the room space and the computer is a little slow in accessing my PowerPoint slides. It’s nice to be there with plenty of time to feel settled before my families start showing up at 6:15 for their 6:30 class.

As I came around the corner around 5:35 this evening, I heard some really loud music blaring from my classroom and the door was closed. I turned to someone who works at the clinic and asked, “Do you know what’s going on in there?”

“Oh, it’s a Zumba class!”

Wait, what?

“Ummmm… I’m supposed to be teaching a Childbirth Preparation class in there for 16 people in an hour.”

“I think they’ll be done by 6 pm.”

Okay… Not what I wanted to hear. But I wasn’t going to interrupt the class, they were in full swing and I could here them getting down to some serious Zumba-esque tunes.

(If you’ve never done a Zumba exercise class before, you really should try it at least once in your life. It’s a complete blast! The music is always ridiculously loud, like rock-concert-level-loud and has a lot of Latin or Indian (think Bollywood) influence, plus it’s one of the best cardio work-outs of all time! You will sweat like you’ve never sweat before. I’ve taken it as an exercise class before and really enjoyed it. And a couple of years ago, a girlfriend of mine had a big birthday party where we were encouraged to show up up in 80s work-out gear (think Olivia Newton John in her “Let’s Get Physical” days). We drank lots of Margaritas and ate mountains of chips with guacamole and then we did a 90-minute Zumba class. Seriously, it was one of the best birthday parties I’ve ever been to! But, I digress…)

Despite my fondness for Zumba, what I’d just heard put me in a bind as I needed/wanted more than 30 minutes to set-up for my class. I texted my supervisor to let her know what was happening and asked that she try to get to the bottom of this so it didn’t end up being a regular gig, and started setting up as best I could in the hallway outside the classroom.

At 6 pm, I poked my head in the room and found that I had to holler above the outrageously loud thumping club music, “I HAVE TO TEACH A CHILDBIRTH CLASS TO 16 PEOPLE IN THIS ROOM IN 30 MINUTES!” A young woman turned toward me and said/shouted, “OH! I’M SO SORRY! I DIDNT KNOW THERE WAS ANYTHING SCHEDULED FOR THIS ROOM! WE’LL BE OUT OF HERE BY 6:15!” And then the door closed.

Well, shoot. (For the record, that’s not the word I was repeating over and over in my head at the moment.) That just cut my set-up time in half – again. I went from having an hour to get the room all set-up to having only 15 minutes.

At this point, my students started showing up and I was forced to have them wait in the call center for a little bit, encouraging them to “get to know one another a little bit better.” To their credit, the Zumba class attendees sprung into action at 6:15, trying as best they could to help me set up the classroom. There wasn’t a whole lot they could do for me, but as I walked into the room I could feel the heat and – definitely smell the sweat – of about a dozen Zumba enthusiasts hit me full-force. I looked at the group of them assembled and begged, “Can you please find me a fan?” Which, thankfully, they did.

The students started filing in, and even though I was still taping things up and my classroom was not set up to my personal standards, class went off without a hitch. In fact, I actually covered more information tonight than I was supposed to, and so next week I have the luxury of being able to do some review and maybe even cover a little extra information at a more leisurely pace.

The reason I’m sharing this with you, is that I find it so interesting when I’m forced to “practice what I preach.”

I talk so much in my classes about how birth is too big to be planned and how you can’t really control it no matter how much you might want to – and that’s actually true of life.

You can set all the plans you want about how your day is going to play out, but in reality none of us has absolute control over any of it. We might leave early, in order to get somewhere with extra time to set-up and there’s an accident on the highway and you’re delayed by 30 minutes, or there’s ice on the roads and class needs to be cancelled, or there’s a group of sweaty people working out their Zumba-booties in your classroom when you arrive – and guess what?

You figure it out. You take a breath, realize that no one was trying to make the situation difficult for you, attempt to be as pleasant as possible (it makes it so much easier for everyone involved), suck it up and do what needs to be done.

There it is.

Birth, work, parenting, life – not as much control as any of us would like. And it’s nice sometimes to be reminded of this and realize that we have a choice to view any situation we’re in as either an opportunity or a challenge.

It’s not what’s actually happening that matters, but how you respond to what’s happening that matters.

Wow – very philosophical post today and written in one go right after my class ended, but a nice perspective to share: so happy that I’m still learning after all these years of teaching.

(And, of course, how could I reference ONJ without sharing a little bit of this goodness with all of you? I think it would make a really great song for a Zumba class, don’t you?)

It’s a Question of Quality

Quality

Of these 3 options, which one is most important in your work right now:

Quality of Life

Quality of Work

Quality of Compensation

This was the latest prompt on my Quest journey and it comes from visionary, Sally Hogshead. (There’s still time to jump on board for all the goodness that Quest 2016 has to offer for anyone who’s wanting to do business as unusual for the coming year. Join in. It’s fun, thought-provoking, and free!)

I’ve answered all of the Quest prompts so far, but most of them have landed on the private Facebook page set up for our group. All have asked me how or what I want to do differently in 2016, but I wasn’t sure my answers aligned with this blog. But this one does. I’m always trying to talk people into becoming a Childbirth Educator, because I feel my job hits all three options.

Quality of Life:

I work only evenings and weekends. To some, this might sound like a terrible schedule! But when you have four kids you need to get really creative about how you’re going to work so you don’t end up with a full-time job you hate – just to pay the childcare bills. My job allows me to have the best of both worlds: I am there for school drop-off and pick-up, I attend field trips (at least those that involve theater or dance performances), I’m able to have a presence at my kids’ school, but I still have outside work – which matters way more to me than I would have guessed. My own Momma was a stay-at-homer and I grew up thinking that parenting was the most important job a person could ever do (for the record, I still feel that way!) so I expected to be content with doing the work of mothering “only” – but I was mistaken. I very much appreciate having out-of-the-home work, too. That was a surprise. I have a job that allows for true work-life balance.

Quality of Work:

I love my job. It’s constantly changing. Each and every classroom of students informs me and makes me a better educator. I’ve been able to grow and evolve over the years, expand my repertoire in and outside of the classroom, and have gotten to the point of feeling ready to write about this subject that matters so much to me. I’m encouraged by my colleagues and students to pursue writing my book to have even greater impact in my field of perinatal and parenting education. Close to twenty years in this career, and I still haven’t experienced any boredom with the subject matter. Likewise, I’ve never stopped feeling like I couldn’t continue to improve my presentation and teaching skills. I think this is extraordinary!

Quality of Compensation:

Well, the “joke” is that you’ll never get rich being a Childbirth Educator. This is true. It’s hard for any CBE to be able to work this job only and be able to support her family. Thankfully, I have a husband who works full-time, carries our health insurance, and is a fantastic co-parent in the off-hours when I’m gone. I don’t have the same worries others do when their work is sporadic and part-time. I’m lucky for that. And all things being equal, I get paid a decent hourly wage. It’s my job that pays for all the “extras.” I pay for Summer Camps, dance and saxophone lessons, acting classes and soccer. Having four kids means having lots of extras and I’m happy to contribute in this way. I know how much these extras enhance the overall quality of our family life.

If I were to focus on any of these options for 2016, receiving more compensation for my offerings would be great!  But I need to focus on what those offerings might be, first.

I’ve done some one-on-one phone consultations for people who are not in the Portland Metro area. Is this something I could charge for? It’s certainly something I enjoy doing, and it would only positively impact my quality of life and work.

The book I’m busy writing – it would be nice to be compensated for this offering, but this is unlikely to bring in much income in 2016. There’s still much work to do, as my focus has shifted and I’m more realistic about the timeline. But what offers ancillary to the book could I be working on that might bring in some form of compensation?

What about presentations and trainings? I love to give presentations and I’m good at it. Is this an area that I can expand, maybe even outside of my own field, and be compensated for it? I love to train new educators. How could this be rolled into my toolbox of offerings that would continue to feed all three options: quality of life, work and compensation?

All good things to consider as I move into 2016. I feel like this year I’m finally ready to take the necessary steps forward to increase the quality of my life, work and compensation.

How about you? What are you doing now that supports these options? What might you do differently in 2016 to better support one or more of these options?

Just Dance

Dance

Childbirth Educators usually encourage their families to consider dancing their babies out. Why?

Well, it’s an upright position which helps gravity do it’s job of bringing the baby down before it comes out (essential to the process, really). Dancing allows her pelvis to be nice and loose, and every move of her hips provides a tiny bit more room for her baby to make all the twists and turns that are necessary to be born. It also allows the woman and her partner to be in a position that really promotes intimacy and connection. This, in and of itself, can increase contractions and progress the labor due to increased oxytocin production. And lastly, dancing is a really easy position which can be cranked up or down depending on the circumstance. Is she trying to get her labor to pick up speed, or does she just want a slow swaying rhythm to help keep her in a coping mindset as labor intensifies?

I usually introduce this position in class as the “Middle School Slow Dance.” You know what I’m talking about, Momma places her arms around partner’s neck and their hands rest on her hips. Because I went to a Catholic school as a child, we were told by the nuns to not get too close – we had to “leave room for Jesus!” I’m pretty sure that when you were making this baby your bodies were not three feet apart, so leave Jesus out if it for now and move in really close.

There’s always a moment of awkwardness in class when we start practicing positions – especially this one. I get it – there’s usually a bunch of other people in the room and it seems silly. But if you practice positions before labor ever begins you’re much more likely to actually use those positions while having your baby.

Once families are in position, it cracks me up that I always have to remind them that the position is called “Slow Dancing” for a reason – dance, people! That movement of hips swaying from side to side, even if only a little bit, can have a real impact by providing a calming rhythm and some movement to help the baby maneuver through the pelvic structure and down the birth canal.

We can make this position even more comfortable for Mommas if we encourage them to lean directly onto their partner’s chest and drop their arms to their sides. Making this position more comfy for the partners might mean having them lean up against a wall, or sitting them on the edge of the labor and delivery bed – positioned just at the right height – so they can feel supported as they support her.

In my classes, this is about the level of dancing I can get my couples to practice ahead of time and in front of a small crowd of people. But, I’d love for them to think about dancing for real when they’re actually in labor.

I did some dancing this weekend – it was kind of spontaneous, and it might have involved a few beers and maybe some Karaoke – but it made me feel so good. My calf and neck muscles ached a little bit the next morning, and at first I couldn’t understand why. But then, I thought back to the jumping up and down and a little bit of head-banging that went on the night before and a big smile came to me. My whole body was remembering how happy I’d felt in those moments the night before, and then – bonus! – I got to experience the residual happiness I had in the memory of it all.

I think dancing in whatever way feels good to you – to try and induce labor, to distract yourself during early labor, or to encourage rhythm and ritual in coping with contractions as they intensify in active labor – should be taught and encouraged in all of our classes. I’m even considering another certification to teach families how to dance their babies out. I found this organization called, Dancing for Birth, while I was looking for YouTube video examples of how women have used dancing to either start their labors or get their babies out.

What do you think about adding dancing into your prenatal fitness routine, your labor and delivery toolbox, and even as part of your postpartum recovery? It feels like forever since I had my last baby – only 6 1/2 years, really! But I think if I were to have another (it’s never going to happen – I’m all done!) I’d consider using much more dancing throughout the process to help bring my baby into the world. Dancing your baby out might make the whole process much more fun and enjoyable – something to look forward to with excitement. And you know I’m all about that!

Did you dance your baby out? Does this sound impossible? Or does the thought of using dance to move through your labor sound wonderful? Let me know your thoughts about attending classes that specifically teach you how to dance for birth.