Emily attended a Family Trees Lamaze Accredited Childbirth Educator Seminar this summer in Denver, CO and is currently enrolled in Family Trees Doula School. We're catching up with Emily to hear her story and follow her path to certification and beyond.
What led you to train/certify as a Lamaze Childbirth Educator?
Emily: "I have been interested in childbirth education and learning about options for childbirth since before my son was born almost 7 years ago. Even though I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and watched The Business of Being Born during my pregnancy, I still didn’t act on my feeling that a hospital birth might not be in my best interest. Sure enough, I had a less than optimal experience with my son’s hospital birth, which led me to seek out a freestanding birth center when I became pregnant with my daughter 3 years ago. My daughter’s birth center birth was amazing, physiologic, and an experience I wish every woman could have. As soon as I found out that you didn’t have to have any medical background to be a childbirth educator, I started looking into becoming one.
I heavily researched ALL of the childbirth educator programs before I chose Lamaze. Lamaze really stood out to me because of its emphasis on natural birth and evidence-based information, as well as helping women empower themselves when it comes to choices in their childbirth. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth literally changed my life and opened my eyes. I knew I was in the right place with Lamaze when I opened “Giving Birth with Confidence” to read for my required readings and Ina May was mentioned in the first few pages."
What kind of work were you doing prior to your Lamaze training/certification?
Emily: "I have been a stay at home mom since my son was born in 2011. Before that, I worked in non-profits, environmental education with the National Park Service, the state forest service and the state wildlife agency and I was a 7th grade English/Language Arts teacher for 2 years. I’ve had a lot of jobs and career trajectories… but my varied background has made me realize how passionate I am about childbirth education. I never felt as passionate or interested in anything else I’ve done as I do about the work I will do as an LCCE."
Tell us about the wonderful things you are doing since your training/certification.
Emily: 'I’ve been working on expanding my knowledge via the required readings and other resources. I also just started Wendy’s Doula School, which I’m so excited about because of the complementary knowledge and experience that childbirth educators and doulas share. I am planning to take the Lamaze exam in April 2019. I know that I can start teaching non-Lamaze branded childbirth classes now, but I really want the recognition and backing of Lamaze and being able to call myself an LCCE."
How can we support your work?
Emily: "Being able to keep in touch with others who have certified and are working on certification, as well as the amazing women who were attended the Denver Lamaze seminar!"
What advice would you give to someone considering Lamaze certification?
Emily: "Lamaze is a great organization to be a part of!"
What advice would you give new trainees who are trying to figure out the best way to prepare for the exam?
Emily: "Oh gosh, I can’t wait to read responses to this!"
Professionally, 2017 has been a wonderful year. I am so thankful for the opportunities I had and I am looking forward to continued growth in 2018.
Lamaze Childbirth Educator Seminars
I’ve met 41 women from seven different countries in our Lamaze Childbirth Educator Seminar - an 86% increase in enrollment from 2016. SEVEN COUNTRIES!!! Just think about how many childbearing families are now being taught by these educators across the globe! It’s incredibly humbling to think about how far a single person can reach. Little ol’ me can teach a single Lamaze seminar to about 10 students who will go on to teach Lamaze to hundreds of families. The reach spreads quickly and I don’t think I will ever take that for granted.
I’ve trained 10 doulas (both new and experienced) from three different countries in our Family Trees Doula School. The 2018 spring semester of Doula School already has two countries represented. Doulas are a valuable resource in healthcare. Caring for people in such an intimate moment as childbirth is not a skill anyone can do well. It takes a very special person. If you are warm, nurturing, and enjoy providing care to others, consider doula work. Although typically reserved for childbirth, doula skills carry over to almost all areas of healthcare. Comfort techniques and relaxation skills help nearly all patients, whether they are taking their first or last breath, and anything in between.
Throughout the year, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach Labor Support Skills to over 100 student nurses. In addition, I taught about 20 resident physicians about hormonal physiology of natural childbirth. It may be surprising to know that most nurses, doctors, midwives, etc., receive absolutely NO TRAINING in labor support skills during their time in nursing/medical school. In the last few years I’ve written more labor support curriculum for healthcare professionals and I feel myself being pulled towards this important work. Childbearing families need healthcare providers capable of providing hands-on support during one of their most vulnerable moments in life.
Advocating on Capitol Hill
In October, I sat in a room with some of the most brilliant minds in maternal healthcare. We examined current practices, outcomes, and advocacy work in the United States. The following day, my fellow Lamaze colleagues and I held appointments with Pennsylvania’s Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. I walked the halls of the Senate building and mingled in the cafeteria in House of Representatives. I began that day nervously hanging in the background allowing the leader of our group to take the reigns and ended the afternoon being promoted to the speaker for our group. I’ve never considered myself a politically involved person, but I can say this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Next year, I’ll make it a twice-in-a-lifetime.
Research & AWHONN Presentation
I recently received word that a research project I was asked to be part of, was submitted to and accepted by AWHONN. My colleagues and I were invited to present our research topic at the national conference in Tampa next June. Presenting at a national conference is an honor for which I am thrilled to have been given.
In early 2017, I accepted a per diem position teaching childbirth classes at a major hospital system over 1000 miles from home. Teaching in a brand new, state of the art hospital, where commitment to evidence-based practice, midwifery-led care, and a team of colleagues who support and raise one another make it worth every travel mile. I feel a sense of belonging here, and I always trust my gut.
I heard a speech earlier this year about those of us who work in health care often came to this profession because we heard our calling. This speech was impactful, and I’ll write more about it in another post, but reflecting on this past year makes me so glad I answered that call. I hope you will answer your call, too.
Sitting by the Gulf of Mexico with my youngest daughter after completing my last Lamaze seminar of 2017, I realized just how many places my job has taken me in one year. In the moment, I was so wrapped up in my work that I never stopped to realize how fortunate I was to have a job that allowed me to travel to some of the most beautiful places on Earth, meet people from all over the world, participate in important research projects, and in advocacy work on Capitol Hill. I’ve been able to do things with this little career in childbirth that I never would have imagined.
As I reflect on this past year, it occurs to me that having a job with rewarding benefits that cannot be measured in monetary value is quite special. Yes, I get paid to do my job. But I’ve also had so many experiences and opportunities that were simply priceless.
I know far too many people who work extremely hard for an employer who would replace them next week if they left. The reward is the very-much-needed-consistent-paycheck at the end of the week. I did the same for the first 20 years of my adult life until I had what people refer to as “a calling”. Ever since I answered that call, I have been rewarded in many ways. I’d like to share some of my adventures, so I’ve decided to write a series of blog posts entitled, “Where Does Your Job Take You?”. Stay tuned!
Life is an adventure. Let’s enjoy it.
Several months ago I polled a breastfeeding moms group on Facebook and asked them what would have been most helpful for them to know about breastfeeding prior to having their babies. The women responded with their own answers (not a pre-made answer poll).
It’s important to emphasize that this is NOT professional advice, but rather pieces of advice breastfeeding mothers wish they had known before having a baby.
Additionally, I recommend taking a breastfeeding class, read (and re-read) a good breastfeeding book such as Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, join a breastfeeding support group, and surround yourself with positive women who have successfully breastfed. Consider hiring a postpartum doula - a valuable asset during this time.
Here are the top responses:
What advice would you share?
Wendy Trees Shiffer, MS, FACCE, LCCE is a mother and maternal-fetal health educator. She is the founder and program director for Family Trees Birth Programs serving childbirth professionals and new parents.