Lamaze International has a new board president and we would like to introduce you to Robin Elise Weiss. I am so delighted that Robin has assumed this role and I am confident that she accomplish great things during her term.
“Childbirth education is one of the most foundational elements of a safe and healthy birth.” – Robin Elise Weiss
Robin Elise Weiss has been elected President of Lamaze International, a nonprofit organization that promotes safe and healthy birth. Weiss is the mother of eight children and brings more than 25 years of expertise in maternal child health and building online communities to her role. She is a PhD candidate, author of more than ten books, and a leading online expert in pregnancy and childbirth. Robin will serve a one-year term beginning in the Fall of 2014.
“Childbirth education is one of the most foundational elements of a safe and healthy birth,” said Weiss. “As president, my goal is to build on the more than 50 years of incredible work and accomplishments of Lamaze by further expanding our capacity to meet parents where they – increasingly – can be found: online. I also want to ensure that Lamaze is addressing the needs of all families, by even further developing our educators both in numbers and diversity.”
In her role as president, Robin will oversee governance of Lamaze International, working with the board and committees to ensure that Lamaze programs and activities continue to fulfill the organization’s mission to advance safe and healthy pregnancy, birth and early parenting through evidence-based education and advocacy. Robin will be also supporting the Lamaze vision of “knowledgeable parents making informed decisions.”
“Robin is a respected pregnancy and childbirth expert with years of experience as a Lamaze educator teaching both expecting parents and aspiring new educators. She brings natural leadership skills and social media expertise to her new role as Lamaze president,” said Linda Harmon, MPH, and Executive Director of Lamaze International.
Robin received her undergraduate degree in Reproductive Health, and Masters in Public Health from the University of Louisville. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in Public Health Management & Systems Science, also from the University of Louisville. Robin has been an innovator for the past 20 years on the Internet, consistently recognized for her significant role in providing unbiased childbirth education information online, including being the owner and creator of one of the first childbirth websites available.
Weiss is the author of more than ten books including: The Complete Illustrated Pregnancy Companion, The Better Way to Care for Your Baby, The Everything New Mother’s First Year, The Everything Pregnancy Fitness Book, The Better Way to Breastfeed, and The Everything Getting Pregnant Book. She is also the winner of Lamaze International’s prestigious Elisabeth Bing Award for outstanding contribution to childbirth on a national level and the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) Forum Award and the Lamaze International’s Presidents Award for her work with The Birth Survey. Robin lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband and eight children.
I asked Robin a few questions about her thoughts on Lamaze International, her hopes and goals for the organization and some key messages for families and educators. Join me in learning more about Robin she begins her term as Board President.
Sharon Muza: What are some of the opportunities and challenges that face our organization currently and what plan do you and the board have to meet these challenges?
Robin Elise Weiss: Last spring we had an amazing strategic planning session. I am so excited about all of the opportunities that lay ahead for us, and the fact that we all had similar mindsets about what the biggest challenges were, and a great variety of things to help us combat them. One of the things that we have a plan to address is to help increase the number of educators, in order to increase the number of women we reach with the Lamaze message. As a part of this plan, it’s important that we make that obtainable both as potential educators and as potential class attendants. This means thinking outside of the regular classroom and typical childbirth class attendee.
SM: When you think of the many recent accomplishments of Lamaze International, what are a few that you are most proud of? Why?
REW: One of the many things that Lamaze has worked really hard on is to build a great online presence. We all know what the data says about women’s online habits when it comes to parenting and health. Lamaze has built a great reputation with blogs like Giving Birth With Confidence for the consumer, Science & Sensibility for the educators and birth professional; as well as a variety of other means of simply being there, including Twitter accounts, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. Having ourselves out and about online gives women a chance to see that Lamaze International is an active and vital force, something that they want to have as a part of their birth, thus reaching out to their local Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. Being online is something that is huge part of my life, and obviously, I’ve been talking to women in this space for over 20 years. Lamaze is a leader in this area.
I am also really excited about the Push for Your Baby Campaign. It launched last year with the video and has included a series of infographics. These are designed to be quick, evidence based ways for women and families to get information and to help build that faith in Lamaze.
SM: Why is it more important than ever to pursue and maintain certification as a childbirth educator with Lamaze International?
REW: The push for evidence-based care is one that means that all levels of care, from education to execution of the medical side need to be in sync. As we often see with doctors and midwives, it can be really difficult to stay abreast of the vast amount of information that is published in this field on a daily basis. A certification with Lamaze is the bedrock of an education that is based on evidence, but also strives to continue to increase the knowledge levels and stay up-to-date with science and the changing landscape. Maintaining your Lamaze Certification means that you know that Lamaze is helping you filter out the noise and focus on great content that you need to know to be an amazing educator. We do that in a variety of ways, not the least of which is our Journal of Perinatal Education, Inside Childbirth newsletter, our blogs, and other social media platforms.
SM: What do you believe distinguishes Lamaze International from other childbirth education organizations? For educators? For families?
REW: Lamaze International has set a high bar for the childbirth educator. In 2015, Lamaze turns 55. The changes that have happened in birthing children in the last 55 years are astounding and I am not sure that anyone could have predicted where we would be today. That said, Lamaze has always maintained that a knowledgeable childbirth educator was the cornerstone of helping families prepare for their birth, which certainly hasn’t changed in the past 55 years. But something as basic having a loved one with you when you give birth is taken for granted, that wasn’t always so.
Lamaze International reaches families through the Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. This is the gold standard by which all other programs are judged. We are a highly accredited certification and maintenance of that certification. You won’t find a once and done philosophy here. This keeps us on our proverbial toes.
SM: How important do you think it is for Lamaze to sit at the table with and be recognized as a serious player amongst maternal infant health organizations? Do you feel like we are there or do we have some growth in that area?
REW: The good news is that Lamaze does sit at that table and is taken seriously. Certainly there are some organizations that are more likely partners than others, but we are certainly reaching out. Just this past year, I’ve personally seen Lamaze interacting with organizations like DONA International, the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and many others. There is always room for growth, and we will continue to reach out where it makes sense. (Don’t forget to mark your calendar for our joint conference in 2015 with the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)!)
There has been a large growth in the number of researchers and research that we take part in as an organization. This will continue to grow as we move forward.
SM: How can our members share with the public that this is not your mama’s Lamaze? That our organization and education offerings have moved beyond the stereotypical breathing exercises that seemed our trademark in decades past?
REW: This is one of those places that you need to simply be out there and be visible. Have your elevator speech, or speeches planned. You will get a good feel for what questions are pervasive in your community. You’ll get questions about the breathing. (I like to explain that as an LCCE, my job is to teach a variety of ways to deal with labor, not simply something like breathing, but also being active physically, and involved with your care.) You might get told that they don’t need a childbirth educator for whatever reason. (This is the perfect place to insert what makes you and your class unique! Hello – Talk up the Six Healthy Birth Practices.) Figure out what’s going on in your community and be ready.
You can also be proactive. Get out and talk about Lamaze International and what you are doing locally. Never hesitate to give a quick presentation someplace. (Yes, I’m known for traveling with a baby and pelvis for an impromptu class!) Offer to teach a quick 10 minute class on a topic at the local library (Give them a list of books to have available ahead of time!), or bookstore. Talk to others in your area and support one another, this is even better if you already have a birth network.
And social media and your online presence is also important. Share the links from our blogs and social media, particularly the infographics. These are great to put on your website, send in an email to a potential client, use as books marks, use the social media sharing buttons around the site. Share, share, share!
SM: Tell us something unusual about you that we might never know!
REW: Thanks to social media, I am not sure that I have anything unusual that’s not known. So let me tell you about something of which I am very proud – I was a Military Police Officer in the 101st Airborne Division. Being an MP has been a really unique facet of who I am as a professional and as a mother. I love to explain that I came to birth from a science perspective – the biology, chemistry, and physics – it just all works! What I didn’t understand was the touchy, feely stuff; that was difficult for me to learn. Now I feel like I have just the right amount of everything going for me – the science, the presence, and the sensitive side.
Please join me in congratulating Robin Elise Weiss on her election as board president and offer her good wishes as she begins her year of service in maintaining Lamaze International as the premier childbirth education organization.