Tanya Cawthorne-Strusberg – Director, birthwell birthright & Co-founder Lamaze Australia
Becoming a mother changed everything. It changed me.
This was the first photo taken of me and my son, Liev. 11 years on, I still look at that photo and 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. Almost a year later to the day my daughter Amalia was born – a completely different birth experience, but just as incredible and awe-inspiring.
If someone had told me just a few years ago that I would become a childbirth educator, I would have laughed hysterically. But becoming a mother changed everything. It changed me.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong to Australian parents. I moved to Australia in 1995 and worked for a number of years in the performing arts as an arts marketing specialist before moving to Israel in 2006. My two children were also born in Israel and in 2012, I returned to Melbourne.
When I arrived, I expected to find a whole network of Australian Lamaze educators, and I was stunned to discover that I was the only one! There are almost 2,000 Lamaze educators working around the world – and only one in all of Australia!
I’ve learned a great deal about pregnancy and childbirth both from personal experience and from my training to become a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) through the Douglas College Perinatal Program in Vancouver, Canada. I trained with renowned childbirth educator Rachelle Oseran BA, FACCE, LCCE, CD(DONA).
Lamaze International is widely acknowledged to be the gold standard in antenatal education and is the ONLY childbirth education program approved by the National Council of Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The vision of Lamaze International is “knowledgeable parents making informed decisions.”
In addition to my teaching, I regularly contribute to a number of online and printed publications including; The Journal of Perinatal Education, Lamaze International’s renowned blog; Connecting the Dots, Australian Midwifery News (official magazine of The Australian College of Midwives), Interaction – the journal of the Childbirth and Parenting Educators Association of Australia (CAPEA), Empowering Birth Magazine, Mum’s Lounge, Go Ask Mum and Whole Woman.
In 2012 and 2014, I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of a travel grant to attend the annual Lamaze International Conference, which is held in a different U.S. state each year (Nashville, Tennessee in 2012, and Kansas City, Missouri in 2014). Also in 2014, I was one of 11 educators from around the world invited to Washington, D.C. to become part of Lamaze International’s first cohort of independent trainers.
In 2015, I was inducted by Lamaze International as a Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators (FACCE). This honour recognizes my significant contribution to childbirth education and effort to promote safe and healthy birth through evidence-based practice and the Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices.
In 2016, the birthwell birthright Lamaze Childbirth Educator training program was launched. To date, over 80 people from across Australia, and internationally have participated in one of our training programs. It is incredibly exciting to see Lamaze develop here in Australia, with home-grown passionate educators.
In October 2017, I was honoured to be elected to the Lamaze International Board of Directors – the first non-North American to serve the board in the organisation’s 60-plus year history. I am currently serving as the President Elect of Lamaze International.
In 2019, together with my colleague Leslie Arnott, I co-founded Lamaze Australia, the first international affiliate of Lamaze International. Lamaze Australia is a registered not-for-profit organisation and our mission is to advance safe and healthy pregnancy, birth and early parenting in Australia through evidence-based education and advocacy.
In my spare time, I volunteer with Childbirth and Parenting Educators of Australia (CAPEA) as their co-social media administrator and also with Birth for HumanKIND as a doula, providing free birth support for women in need including young mums, refugees and asylum seekers.
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 passionately 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.
Taking a Lamaze childbirth education course will inform women about what their options are for birth, show them what normal physiological birth looks like, and will help them focus on their pregnancy and the miracle of becoming a mother.
It is so exciting to be pioneering Lamaze childbirth education here in Australia and I look forward to teaching childbirth education courses to expectant women and their partners and helping them to build their confidence for what is undoubtedly the most awe-inspiring moment in a couple’s life – becoming a parent!
Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator LCCE, FACCE
Lamaze International Board of Directors
Co-founder Lamaze Australia