continuing education

Fun At Lamaze! | Part 3

AndreaPresentingThe third and final day. After all the learning and all the fun, I am utterly exhausted. And yet I have to present again. First thing in the morning. This time my topic was “Out of the Bayou: Helping Families Navigate the Online Swamp” My roommate and friend was kind enough to attend my session and take a photo of me presenting.

This time around didn’t go quite as well – there were issues with the microphone that made loud popping noises and once startled me. I kept having to reboot the microphone. I lost my train of thought a few times, and I didn’t realize the correct end time and went over by about 10 minutes. Oops! Overall not so bad, but not as good as the day before, and nowhere near as good as I wanted it to be!

This was a shorter presentation, a split session with Debby Amis. She presented on making PowerPoint work for you, and spotlighted a new product from Lamaze – a PP that can help you teach the 6 Care Practices. It was an OK session, but I am not a fan of PP at all, didn’t use it for either of my presentations, and so I found it funny that I was paired with her for a split session.

(Once again I was bummed to be missing another of Sharon Muza’s sessions – this one on teaching about cesareans. We both presented twice, and neither of us could go see the other’s sessions!)

AmberMcCannClinicalThen it was time for the last session of the conference, a general session featuring Amber McCann: “Today’s Mothers are All Thumbs: Cultural Competency for Digital Motherhood”. She talked about how involved women of childbearing are are in social media and how we can reach them there. She discussed how moms are not searching the internet looking for your childbirth class, they are searching and looking for INFORMATION. Reaching them with that information can be a good way to get the other thing digital moms want: INTERACTION. I’ve highlighted two of my favorite quotes from her session in graphics for this article.


She discussed several of the more commonly used social media sites, giving a rundown of the basics and how it might be used professionally by childbirth educators. It was a great session and a nice end to the conference.

Overall, I loved the conference. I love being able to spend days focusing on a subject that still fascinates me. I love meeting new people. I enjoyed seeing old friends from previous conferences. I enjoyed presenting (mostly) the sessions I did. The food in New Orleans was fantastic!

After the conference was over, I had an afternoon and evening to myself before I flew home the next day. I was chatting in the lobby with another educator, and we came up with an idea and challenge for a future conference:

A PowerPoint Free conference!! No more sessions where the presenter just reads the slides to everyone. We are educators, and we can do better!! Let’s make EVERY session interactive. EVERY session be more proactive in getting participation. It can be done, and it would be an amazing conference!

I spent the afternoon and evening walking around the French Quarter and the waterfront. I visited Cafe Du Monde for some beignets. I strolled the waterfront. I watched the ships sail up the Mississippi. I watched the sun set over the river. Would have liked to visit the aquarium, but it was closed. As was the RiverWalk shopping area. When it got dark, I ate Gumbo and Shrimp with Grits. And then I packed up and went to bed so I could get up early and fly home. It was a great trip, even if it exhausted me!


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Melinda Delisle teaching massage

Fun at Lamaze! | Part 2

Day 2 of the Lamaze International Conference started with the LONGEST 90 minute session, ever!


Yes, I presented a session first thing Saturday morning! My topic was “Studies, Stats and All That Jazz: Finding Your Research Rhythm for Safe and Healthy Birth” – I think it went well, we discussed different kinds of bias, ways to stay current on research, and I highlighted my “Dirty Dozen” favorite sites to find good evidence based info. People showed up, actually participated and asked great questions, the internet worked, and I am happy with how it went.

With that out of the way, I could relax and enjoy the remaining sessions. There were no general sessions on Saturday, it was a day of all breakouts. I really wanted to attend the presenation “Teaching to the Plugged In Mom: Using Today’s Digital Tools in the Classroom and Beyond” by my friend Sharon Muza and Jeanette McCulloch – a new friend I met at the conference. Unfortunately, they were presenting at the same time I was! However, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek before the conference and give them feedback – and it was great!

iPad NotesI attended a split session that I had mixed feelings about. The first part was “Birthing Like the Stars” – all about how to use celebrity births in your classes. I’m not one to follow celebrities at all and don’t think I’ll use her ideas much. But the second half “Prenatal Education and the Flipped Classroom” really got ideas flowing for my private childbirth classes, and I am so excited to implement some of the ideas! (And no, I won’t tell you what they are until I get everything in place! But there is a shot of some of my iPad notes on the right…) Christine Maria Just did a fabulous job presenting what she is doing and how it could be implemented. I wish she could have had the full 90 minutes!

Melinda Delisle teaching massageAfter lunch and the Lamaze membership meeting was a session from Melinda Delisle, owner of Pocket Pregnancy. She spoke on “Attracting parents to Childbirth Classes in the Digital Age: What live classes can offer that online classes can’t” – she opened by asking those present why they came to the conference when they could just learn about these topics online. The answers – networking, community, hands on learning, connection to others facing similar challenges – were also many of the benefits of live childbirth classes! The barriers to attending a conference and attending CBE were also similar: time, cost, not valuing the benefits, etc.

Melinda discussed the results of a small survey she’s done on the topic and the results of the Listening to Mothers surveys over the years and the reported decline in attendance at live classes.

Then she spent some time teaching techniques that can only be done live and how to market them as the most valuable experience in the class.

Kim James’ presentation Evaluation Power! was a great one. You might think that evaluations are a boring topic, but Kim gave great information on how to write an evaluation that will bring you more useful feedback to improve your classes AND information you can use to market yourself as well. Kim was a rock star, as she’d planned a 45 minute presentation and arrived to find herself with a 90 minute slot. You couldn’t even tell she hadn’t planned it that way. I now want to completely rewrite the evaluations for my classes and for my doula clients!

The last session of the day was another split session, sort of. Meghan Henley and Jennifer Torres each presented a different area of the results from the Maternity Support Survey – a large scale survey that compares doulas, childbirth educators and labor & delivery nurses. Meghan discussed the results as they applied to labor and birth and Jennifer discussed the results as they applied to breastfeeding. Not surprisingly, CBEs and doulas attitudes are more closely related than L&D nurses, though overall, most were closer than I would have thought. Meghan and Jennifer led an interesting discussion asking class participants why they felt that might be. I did enjoy this session, but wished it had come earlier in the day when I didn’t have so much brain overload.

That evening, the conference organizers had arranged for us to parade down Bourbon St with a brass band all the way to Cafe Soule where we had Cajun food. I took a short video as we walked.

After the dinner, I met with a bunch of women for a “TweetUp” – these were all women who had been tweeting about the conference using the hashtag #Lamaze13 – it was a good group and we enjoyed talking until it was time for bed.

Lamaze TweetUp

Read the third and final installment here.

Fun at Lamaze! | Part 2 Read More »

NOLA Skyline

Fun at Lamaze Part 1!

The Lamaze conference in New Orleans was a great experience for me, as always, I loved being a part of a large group of women who are all determined to help women have great births!

I flew out the day before and checked into the Astor Crowne Plaza, right on the corner of Bourbon St and Canal St. It was a fairly smooth direct flight, thankfully, and I arrived late evening. My poor friend and conference roommate, though, had a rough time getting there! My plane went around a huge line of thunderstorms, and her plane flew right THROUGH it! To give you an idea, here’s what I saw as we were flying around the storms:

Lamaze Conference New OrleansThe next morning, we had a few hours before the conference started. After a proper southern breakfast, we headed out to explore the city. We walked the length of Bourbon Street, cut over to St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, and the Mississippi River. Grabbed some beignets to go and headed back to the opening session of the conference.

First up was a general session presented by Richard Waldman, former president of ACOG. He discussed a wide range of topics, everything from the Affordable Care Act and its impact on obstetrics to how midwives and OBs can work well together. He is married to a midwife and was instrumental in bringing midwifery care – independent midwives – to central NY. What I found most interesting was his discussion on the things that have impacted him both as a care provider and personally. He talked about training, he talked about peer pressure, he talked about keeping patients informed participants in their care. He spoke on a personal and emotional level about how lawsuits and the death of a patient impacted him. It was an interesting perspective.

Lamaze Conference MaterialsNext was a breakout session on “Memorable Class Moments” led by Victora Deer – I chose this session because I always try to go to sessions that will not involve PowerPoint, and I was not disappointed! When I first walked in and sat down, I knew this would be a different kind of session, as there were lots of craft materials waiting at each spot. The first thing she had us do was put on a pair of head bopper headbands that had light bulbs representing all the ideas we could get if we allow ourselves creative freedom. Victoria showed us some of the fun things she does in class, but she also talked about how YOU can create your own fun ideas. She presented 5 steps:
1. Imagination and brainstorming
2. Creativity – changing, molding, adapting to what you want to teach
3. Innovation – applying and integrating into your classes
4. Test and evaluate – actually do the activity in your class
5. Accept/refine or reject

Victoria had a lot of great ideas and was not the least bit shy about doing goofy things like dressing up as “Operawoman” and singing birthy parody songs, jumping like a cheerleader, or mimicking Katie Perry!

That night was the Dine Arounds, basically an activity where the conference organizers make a bunch of reservations at area restaurants and you can join a group to go out together. My roommate Elizabeth and I met up with Melinda Delisle, who we had met at another conference, and two new women I hadn’t met before, Alicia (didn’t catch her last name or snag a business card…) and Tamara Hawkins. We went to Galvez, a Spanish restaurant right on the Mississippi. I had my first paella – YUM! and once again, Liz and I got a real character waiting on us. (We’ll never forget Mary in Milwaukee!) – didn’t catch this waiter’s name but he was an interesting fellow with an interesting accent that shifted from Spanish to French and back again. After we finished with our meal, the owner took us outside on a balcony overlooking the river and the skyline of downtown NOLA.

NOLA Lamaze
NOLA Skyline

And then we headed home and to try and get to bed early. That’s kind of a joke – we ended up talking until pretty late!

Read about the next day here.

(All the photos in this post are from my phone, I promise I’ll post some nicer ones from my “real” camera later!)

Fun at Lamaze Part 1! Read More »

What does it mean to be a professional?

Like it or not, if you take money for your doula services, you are a professional. What does it mean to be a professional?

1. You deliver what you promise. This is pretty basic stuff. You show up and do the job you are paid for. You make sure that your clients are prepared for birth. You are reachable when they have questions. You go to the birth when called. (Oh how I wish it wasn’t necessary to say that, but the stories I’ve heard…) You stay with mom throughout the birth. Through changes in the birth plan, even if the birth becomes something you don’t want to witness. You cannot just do the “fun” births and leave when it is no longer fun. You follow up at least once after the birth and help mom process the experience, good or bad.

2. You take your work and your clients seriously. Committing to a birth is a big deal. Parents are counting on you to be there for them when they need you. This includes 24/7 availability, no matter what. When you are on call, you need to make sure you are able to get there quickly, sober, and willing to miss personal events for your job. You need to have child care lined up at all times, make arrangements with your boss if you have another job, etc. You should also have backup for the rare times when you cannot make it. Also when you find yourself asked a question that you do not know, admit it. Do not try to “wing it” and make stuff up. Admitting you don’t know, and being willing to go find out, actually builds far more credibility than making stuff up.

3. You behave professionally. You return phone calls even if you cannot book that inquiry. You come to appointments on time, dressed appropriately, and prepared to work with the client. You respect client privacy at all times. Angie Rosier, a fellow doula and friend suggests that as a professional, you “be organized and consistent: create a form, educate your clients in a similar manner, (leaving room for individual needs), and maintain the same level of service for each client.”

4. You understand that what you do reflects on the profession in general. When you are at a birth, you keep the big picture in mind, and find a way to serve this mother without burning bridges and making things worse for other birthing moms or doulas. Since I also teach childbirth classes in a hospital setting, I do hear doula stories from the L&D nurses, and I have to say some of them have been quite rude. There is *never* a reason to physically restrain a nurse, doctor or midwife. Yelling and cursing at staff isn’t helping anyone. No one needs that kind of energy at the birth. Drop the confrontational attitude and find common ground.

5. You stay within scope. I *personally* adhere to the DONA scope of practice, even though I am no longer DONA certified. It makes sense to me. It keeps me from stepping into the clinical realm. It allows for advocacy AND maintaining collaborative relationships with care providers. You don’t need to follow DONA’s scope, but you should have a well considered, well reasoned scope of your own to guide you through your work. Make sure your clients are aware of your scope and how you will handle it if they ask you to step outside that scope.

Attendees at the 2011 DONA International Conference in Boston
Attendees at the 2011 DONA International Conference in Boston
6. You stay current. While birth as a physiologic process doesn’t change much, pretty much everything around it does. A professional does not fall into the trap of thinking that they already know everything there is to know. A professional will take the time and effort to earn continuing education hours, read the current research, etc. in order to best serve their clients. A professional will also watch to be sure they are not just doing things because that is the way they’ve always done it. A professional will seek out the best and constantly evaluate themselves and their services to find ways to improve.

7. You allow the doula/client relationship to end. Angie Rosier puts it very well: “A unique aspect of doula work is that it is emotional work, work of the heart. As doulas our hearts are often touched deeply by our client’s situations. I believe it is important to allow those ties to conclude appropriately when the period of service ends. Continue to love that client but let it remain professional by not bringing her into your life or you into hers. Keep in occasional but professional contact if you feel so inclined.”

8. You operate legally. This means things like paying taxes, having a business license, and not using a business name you don’t have reserved for yourself. You can read more about that in an article I wrote for the Utah Doula Association blog.

Professionalism doesn’t mean you have to wear a suit and carry a briefcase. It doesn’t mean you need to practice exactly the same way that others do. It’s more about acting with ethics and integrity and doing the best job you can for the women you serve.

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Rebozo Midwives

2013 Perinatal Professionals Conference

Maternal Focus Birth
Maternal Focus Birth Photography booth.
I’ve already said I love to attend conferences. This month I get to attend TWO! This week I attended the 2013 Perinatal Professional Consortium conference.

The conference is a two day affair and does a great job of bringing together labor and delivery nurses, postpartum nurses, IBCLCs, childbirth educators, doulas, etc. This year was no exception. I enjoyed seeing many of my colleagues from St. Mark’s Hospital there, as well as many of my friends from the Utah Doula Association.

This year the conference was held at the Gathering Place at Gardner Village, which was a great location, though the staff was a little distracting with loud talking and setting up for an evening event before we were even finished!

As usual, the conference opened with the planning committee performing a fun skit. This year, the theme was Gathering Ideas and Growing, so they dressed in springy gardening clothes and sang “Tiptoe Through the Research” and then had everyone join in.

My favorite sessions were:

BonniJean Monson, PT talking about physical therapy during pregnancy and postpartum. Since I have been doing PT for a bad ankle sprain the last few weeks, it was particularly interesting to hear about. She taught some basic stretches and posture techniques we can share with the women we work with, and discussed when a referral to a physical therapist might be helpful.

Kristy Ridd-Young teaching about maternal positioning
Kristy Ridd-Young teaching about maternal positioning, with Laura Bikman portraying the mom and my fellow teacher Kim Smith assisting.
Kristi Ridd-Young taught about labor coping skills. It wasn’t anything I had not learned before, but it was interesting and worthwhile to attend for several reasons. I enjoyed seeing how someone else taught the techniques differently than I do, it was eye opening to be in the session as participant rather than facilitator, and I enjoyed seeing the interaction and questions from the nursing staff. It always helps me to better see a nurses’ point of view when I attend this conference alongside them.

Dr. Jerald King from the University of Utah discussed the use of donor milk, it’s benefits to newborns, and the current process of collection, processing and distribution. I was disappointed to learn that despite the many benefits to babies, many hospitals, including St. Mark’s, don’t use donor milk at all! Dr. King is working towards the establishment of a human milk bank here in Utah in the next several years, and I will be looking forward to future developments there.

Celeste Thomas and Susanna Cohen of BirthCare HealthCare at the University of Utah wrapped up Thursday with a session on using the rebozo in pregnancy, labor and postpartum. I always love learning new rebozo tricks, and any session that gets me up and out of my seat after a long day of staring at powerpoints is always a winner in my book.

One of my very favorite nurses in all the world, Kelly Martin, and a very experienced doula, Kristy Huber, presented jointly about the relationship between doulas and nurses. It was very well done, and I really appreciated the cross-discipline presentation. I particularly liked the ending note: If you have a problem, don’t gossip about it, FIX IT! They gave information on how to file a grievance with certifying organizations and/or the local doula group, as well as how doulas might discuss their concerns with someone at the hospital where the nurse is employed. I think this kind of accountability and professionalism can only help.

Other sessions included:

Rebozo Midwives
Susanna Cohen and Celeste Thomas demonstrating the rebozo.
Heather Scott, an RN from the University of Utah presented on getting babies skin to skin with mom in the operating room after a cesarean birth. I love, love, love the idea, and she had great practical info on that. Unfortunately, her talk can’t be placed in my “favorites” because she spent a good half hour of her time going on a rant about natural, normal birth and blaming women who are disappointed about a cesarean for having “unrealistic expectations.” Her attempt to portray cesarean birth as “just another normal way of birth” had me biting my tongue, HARD. I may have to do a whole ranty blog post on why the mother blaming and attempt to normalize cesarean birth bother me so much. (I think she hit a nerve there with me, can you tell?)

Mary Erickson, another RN from University Hospital, presented the session “What to Expect in a Baby Friendly Hospital” It was mostly information on the benefits of skin to skin and the stages of alternating rest and activity that babies go through immediately after birth. These topics are great, and for many participants it was new information, but last year’s conference covered these topics extensively and in much more depth, so for me it was a review.

Cathy Coates, yet another RN from the U of U (the conference was heavy on U of U speakers this year…) spoke about delaying the first bath for at least 24 hours. She had some great info on the benefits of vernix and reasons to delay the bath, and for many of the nurses it was pretty eye opening. But I honestly kept thinking “Why should we even have to talk about this? It shouldn’t be that big of a deal to just bathe the baby….or not… whenever works for the family.” I did like her opening remarks about traditions and how doing something just because it is a tradition isn’t a good reason to do it. It’s not the speaker’s fault that the song “Traditions” from Fiddler on the Roof got stuck in my head. I blame my daughter Callie for appearing in that play last year…. She also ended with a great rewrite of the Brady Bunch theme – making it be about delaying the bath. I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on the words and get permission to post it.

The closing session of the conference was Christy Porucznik, a professor in the Public Health program at the U and a local LLL Leader talking about “The 10th Step” meaning building community support for breastfeeding. She discussed current resources, how we talk about breastfeeding, multi-generational change and education, etc. Very helpful and useful.

There were a few breakout sessions I was not able to attend, because I don’t yet have my own time turner:

Combining Breast AND Bottle? Presented by Amy Peterson and Mindy Harmer
Breastfeeding Scenarios Presented by my favorite lactation consultant Julie Johnson
Placental Encapsulation– JoAnna Woods

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Andrea Lythgoe and Penny Simkin at the Atlanta DONA International conference

On the road! Conferences & Workshops

I have been a childbirth educator since 1997, and a doula since 1999. I have attended hundreds of births. And yet, I find there is still so much to be learned. I really enjoy attending workshops and conferences, and have done so as often as finances allow.

I started attending local conferences very soon into my journey. I have attended Utah Doula Association conferences just about every year since I knew about them. (I missed 2002, having given birth just a few days before the conference, but I don’t think I’ve missed any others!) The Perinatal Professionals conference has gone through several name changes over the years, but I have (almost) always been there! I have had the opportunity to speak at the UDA conference several times, and the Perinatal Professionals conference once.

Attendees at the 2011 DONA International Conference in Boston
Attendees at the 2011 DONA International Conference in Boston
My first national conference was for DONA International, and was held in San Francisco in 2003. I had planned to attend with a friend, but ended up going alone. It was amazing to sit in a room full of hundreds of doulas. Amazing to hear about the work of very well known leaders in the field, from their own mouths! I was hooked.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to attend national conferences for DONA International and Lamaze International in Denver, Vancouver BC, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Boston. I have learned about advances in research, advocacy, and our understanding of how birth works. I have met birthy “celebrities” like Penny Simkin, Teri Schilling, Marshall Klaus, Robbie-Davis Floyd, and Marsden Wagner. I once joined a group of women for dinner at the hotel restaurant, and was surprised when the woman sitting next to me introduced herself as Henci Goer.

Andrea Lythgoe and Penny Simkin
Penny Simkin and I at the DONA International conference in Atlanta, GA
But I’ve also met many women you’ve probably never heard of, women who are working very hard to advocate for and serve women in their own communities. Women who run successful volunteer programs. Women who run successful doula businesses. Women working to change laws in their areas for the better. Women who would say they are doing nothing worth talking about, just running their own little doula business. They all inspire me. I’ve made some good friends at conferences over the years!

I have had the chance to listen to Harvey Karp speak about The Happiest Baby on the Block, to hear about Andrew Kotaska’s work on helping people understand the culture of risk. I listened to Penny Simkin look back on the many changes she has seen and experienced in the 40 years she has been working with childbearing families. I’ve heard James McKenna passionately speak about cosleeping. I’ve heard Michael Klein talk about the pitfalls of inappropriately applying research. I had the chance to see movies like Pregnant in America, The Business of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth long before they were available locally. I’ve belly danced, sung, I’ve used a rebozo and I’ve played learning games.

Attending the conferences has taught me new information, challenged the way I think about things, and stretched my horizons more than I ever could have imagined.

These large national conferences also generally feature a wonderful exhibit hall, full of vendors providing all kinds of amazing products for doulas and childbirth educators. I always come home with something new: a book, video, a teaching tool, a birth ball cover, etc. I’ve won posters as a door prize, and I have picked up some interesting freebies like a USB drive shaped like a tube of Lansinoh!

Merchandise on Display at Birth Conferences

In 2012, I decided to take a smaller approach and instead of a national conference, I chose to attend a Passion for Birth workshop. I’d met Teri Schilling at several conferences before, and I’d always made a point of attending her sessions because she really stands out above the crowd with her interactive way of facilitating learning. My friend Sharon Muza was the other workshop facilitator, so I knew I’d be laughing plenty. The workshop was intended for those just starting out in childbirth education, but I knew I would still come home with plenty of new ideas. I was not disappointed! I came home with pages and pages on my list of “things to implement when I get back” and I was completely invigorated and ready to shake things up for the better.

I hope that I never, ever get to a point where I no longer feel a drive to learn and improve in my field! Hmmmm….. what should I do this year? If you have a suggestion for a conference or workshop I might enjoy, please let me know!

(Little bonus: DONA International’s slideshow of images from the 2009 Atlanta conference. I was there, but if you can spot me in any of the photos, you have better eyes than I do!)

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