Tiffany: Why did you want to become a childbirth educator?
Me: I wanted to become a childbirth educator after my first son was born and I realized how much information was not shared by providers to clients when planning for birth. The more I learned about the normal birth process the more I saw how divergent it was from mainstream conventional thought and that made me incredibly passionate about changing that inaccuracy and reframing the public opinion about birth to be more woman-centered rather than technology-driven (which does not mean promoting a certain model of birth, more so a model of care).
T: What - to you - is the most challenging aspect of this profession?
Me: I've been teaching for ten years and the challenges have varied along the way. Initially, the most challenging aspect was learning when to listen and not share because sometimes it's not the right space or time to give research-based info; sometimes women (and partners too) just need to be heard. More recently - not so much a challenge but more a consideration - I've been working on changing things up a bit in terms of the order in which I discuss topics and the dynamics of presenting information to keep the class fresh and engaging (for both myself and the participants!).
T: Do you follow an organizations predetermined class or do you make your own class?
Me: I am certified by Birth Works and the classes I teach are based on their philosophies. Birth Works is not a methods class and does not tell women "how" to give birth but instead provides women with the safe space to explore their birthing options and their own priorities while being supported in finding research-based information and developing tools for communication and empowerment. Working within and building upon these constructs, ideals, and guidelines, the classes I teach have become my own. I am a firm believer in the facilitator making a big difference in how effective the class is and feel passionately that there should be some leeway for facilitators to make the classes they teach their own while still respecting the philosophies of the organization with which they are a part.
T: How many women do you work with a year?
Me: Throughout my work in childbirth education, doula support, and breastfeeding support, I work with close to 200 couples per year. In childbirth education specifically, the number is probably around 175.
T: Are there any resources, books, etc. that you have found particularly helpful to developing your practice?
Me: I focus a lot of my work on pelvic bodywork and dynamics so one of my favorite books initially was "Let Birth Be Born Again" by Jean Sutton. A couple others that have had a huge impact on my philosophies include "Birth as an American Rite of Passage" by Robbie Davis Floyd and "Rediscovering Birth" by Sheila Kitzinger. I particularly love anthropological books on birth and the body; Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is one of my favorite authors.
T: Why do you feel it is important for families to take CBE classes?
Me: It is really important for families to take out-of-hospital childbirth education classes specifically so that they can receive an unbiased perspective on the birth process as well as learn communication skills, build confidence in understanding consent and refusal and in their rights, and develop their own ideas of what a positive birth experience looks like. In addition, gaining knowledge of options, learning tools for working through labor discomfort, and building a partner's confidence in him or herself as birth support are very important for creating an empowering experience.
T: Based on what you have learned from your own experience, what advice would you give a new CBE?
Me: My best advice for a beginning childbirth educator would be to create a non-judgmental space for women and their partners to open up about their feelings, thoughts, anxieties, expectations, and hopes for labor. This may have the most impact in empowering couples to come out of their births feeling really great as they haven't been forced to believe in something but have been supported in developing their own ideals. Also, remember that it is okay and incredibly important to always be learning as the professional. Honesty when not knowing the answer to a question in class is key and will help to build trust between the client and the facilitator and will allow the facilitator to grow as a professional.
A big thank you to Tiffany Lynn Kennedy, Birth Arts International Trained Doula and Birth Arts International Trained Childbirth Educator for asking me about my journey. Find her online at www.birthwellnessdoula.yolasite.com and send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.