Why I became a childbirth educator

Mummy and baby's first photo togetherIn two weeks, my son – my firstborn – turns seven. There is a photo that my husband took only a few hours after he was born, where my baby boy and I are staring into each other’s eyes. When I look at that photo I remember exactly how I felt when it was taken. I had become a mother. It’s the most incredible, overwhelming and emotional time in a woman’s life and the birth of your children are memories that stay with you for the rest of your life.

I’ll be honest with you; it was a bitch of a labour. As much as I yearned for an ecstatic, intervention-free birth, it was not meant to be. I was at the end of 42 weeks and not a sign of Bamba’s (our nickname for bub) arrival. I agreed to an induction, although I had a feeling it would be an uphill journey all the way – which it was.

I was induced on a Thursday morning and Bamba finally made his grand entrance earth side in the wee hours of Saturday morning. I pretty much ended up with every intervention under the sun, bar a Caesarean section. However, in hindsight, the induction was the right call I believe. I remember the midwife showing me my placenta. It was pale and grey and clearly showing signs of calcification. It had well and truly done its job and despite my little boy’s clear preference for life inside the womb, he had to come out.

Exactly a year and a week later, I was labouring in the birthing suite literally next door to the one I gave birth to my son in. I was experiencing a serious case of déjà vu. My daughter made a significantly swifter entry to the world and six years on, she is still my rambunctious Duracell Bunny, barely ever stopping to take a breath.

If someone had told me just a few years ago that I would become a childbirth educator, I would have laughed hysterically. Until that point, I’d spent most of my professional life working in the performing arts as a marketing specialist. But becoming a mother changed everything. It changed me.

When I was pregnant with my son, my husband and I attended a Lamaze childbirth class. We were living in Israel at the time and I was incredibly nervous about giving birth, especially so far from Australia and my family. The course we attended was a fantastic preparation for us and I approached my birth with confidence and knowledge, which was a damn good thing considering how utterly pear-shaped my labour ended up becoming.

My Lamaze study groupWhen my daughter was around nine months old I began my training to become a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator – with the same wonderful woman whose childbirth class I had attended just a couple of years earlier. I was part of the first group of Israeli Lamaze childbirth educator trainees, and a more diverse group of women you have never come across. Young, old, religious, secular, Jewish, Palestinian… We were truly a microcosm of modern-day Israel.

In 2012, my husband and I made the difficult decision to move back to Australia. Well, it was “moving back” for me, but emigrating for my husband, who had never even visited Australia. After more than seven years away, I missed my family enormously. My father had also been diagnosed with Stage Four bowel cancer and although nobody verbalised it; we all knew that coming back sooner rather than later was the right thing to do. In the end, we got to have a year with my dad. He got to meet my husband and his beautiful grandchildren, and it’s a year I will treasure for the rest of my life.

One of the first things I did when I moved back to Melbourne was to check the Lamaze International directory to find other educators in my area. I soon discovered that there were none. I was literally the only Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator in all of Australia.

While Lamaze may not be all that well known in Australia, you might be surprised to learn that certification by Lamaze International is the most respected and recognized credential in childbirth education certification worldwide. If you don’t know too much about Lamaze (or if you think it’s all about breathing), please have a listen to my lively conversation with the delightful Kaz Jaffe on her podcast, Mum’s the Word).

In 2014, I was invited to attend an inaugural training of trainers at the headquarters of Lamaze International in Washington, D.C. Following the course, I returned home to Melbourne and spent the best part of the next year developing a uniquely Australian Lamaze childbirth educator training program. I felt really strongly that a Lamaze educator training program in Australia had to be adapted for Australian educators and ultimately, for Australian pregnant women and their partners.

TanyaGallery20160314_7012In 2016, the birthwell birthright Lamaze Childbirth Educator training program was officially launched and the first group of students graduated in Melbourne in March. They will sit for their certification exam in November! It is incredibly exciting to see Lamaze develop here in Australia, with home-grown passionate educators.

I truly believe that we are on the cusp of a major birthing revolution – and I am not just saying that because this is what I do professionally. Women are definitely taking a greater interest in their pregnancy care and making considered, informed decisions about their births and about their parenting. One of my favourite quotes is from authors Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer who co-wrote, A Good Birth, A Safe Birth: “If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.”

As a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, I feel that I have a crucial role to play in helping women understand what birth really can be and helping to empower them to have the births they want. The media and our constant exposure to technology have eroded women’s confidence in their ability to give birth. In addition, our constant reliance on technology has also eroded our confidence in our bodies. We live in an era of information overload. Around the world, pregnant women are bombarded on a daily basis with messages that birth is an emergency waiting to happen. It’s rare that we see beautiful images of birth and rarer still that we are exposed to empowering and positive stories of birth. As a result, many women don’t have faith in their body’s ability to give birth naturally and without a lot of medical intervention.

I am passionate about helping mothers regain their connection to a vital force deep inside that knows how to give birth. It’s that same force that intuitively guides us to parent our children.

More than ever, pregnant women and their partners need access to quality, evidence-based childbirth education. For that to happen, we need more birth professionals offering mothers a new way of looking at birth that will lead them from fear to freedom and from less ‘doing’ to more ‘being’.

It is so exciting to be pioneering Lamaze childbirth education here in Australia and I look forward to growing the community of Australian trained Lamaze educators committed to improving outcomes for all women and their families.

Upcoming birthwell birthright Lamaze childbirth educator training programs;
There are just a handful of places still available for our Sydney training in June.
We have also just opened up a second training in Melbourne in July-August. Again, places are strictly limited.

For more information, please click here.

Tanya Strusberg is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) and founder of birthwell birthright, an independent childbirth education practice based in Melbourne. In 2015, Tanya was inducted as an FACCE (Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators) in recognition of her significant contribution to childbirth education. Through her internationally-accredited Lamaze Educator Training program, she is very excited to be training a new generation of Australian Lamaze educators.

Last, but absolutely not least, she is also the mum of two beautiful children, her son Liev and daughter Amalia.