“A Lamaze educator is able to anticipate a need that you may have before you experience it. She can tailor your class to help you navigate obstacles that are unique to your health and choice of birth location.” – Maria Brooks, President, Lamaze International
This fall, Maria Brooks, BSN, RNC-OB, LCCE, FACCE moved into the position of President of the Board of Directors and began serving her one year term leading our organization. Maria (pronounced “Mah-rye-ah”) has been serving on the BoD since 2012 and also serves on the Lamaze ITS Steering Committee and Lamaze Membership Committee. Maria is an L&D nurse at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. While I have known Maria for several years, I recently connected to ask some questions on behalf of Science & Sensibility readers. I know that all of our Board works very hard on behalf of educators and parents. Please join me in congratulating Maria and welcoming her into her new position. .
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?
Maria Brooks: Exaggerated fears around pregnancy and childbirth have already taken hold in many women by the time they reach our educators. One of the ways Lamaze is trying to help make a difference is developing a para-professional community trainer/model for Lamaze education. A Lamaze peer educator program is an opportunity for Lamaze International to promote evidence-based healthy behaviors before, during, and after pregnancy among 18-25 year old young adult women. The peer educator program will be designed to train college-aged women using a scripted toolkit to disseminate information on the Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices. The purpose of the peer educator program will be to share information to help young adult women to formulate accurate and confidence-building ideals about pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. We plan to pilot the program in the coming year.
“Maria brings a depth of advocacy skills and passion for reaching women and their families in diverse communities with Lamaze education and resources. I look forward to working with Maria, the Board of Directors, and volunteer leadership as we continue the meaningful work of advancing Lamaze’s strategic imperatives in the coming year.” – Linda Harmon, Executive Director, Lamaze International
SM: When you think of the many recent accomplishments of Lamaze International, what are a few that you are most proud of? Why?
MB: In the last few years, Lamaze has made it a priority to “create demand for our brand.” We want to meet women where they are – online! We have seen a tremendous growth in our reach through our expanded presence on social media by hosting monthly Twitter chats and creating content-rich infographics and videos to share via Facebook, Pinterest, our blogs, Twitter, and so much more. These efforts have raised our social media presence and profile. Both Science & Sensibility and Giving Birth with Confidence have been recognized for their high-value content and have seen significant growth in reach over the past few years reaching more expectant parents and professionals with evidence-based information. That alone is a big success. We are lucky to have these blogs represent the mission and vision of Lamaze. Lamaze also invested in development of a mobile app for expecting families, Pregnancy to Parenting, to make Lamaze education resources easily accessible on the go, and as a resource for our educators to use in class.
SM: Do you feel that Lamaze is recognized as a serious player amongst maternal infant health organizations? If yes, what accomplishments have helped us to earn this position and a seat at the table working with other well known organizations to improve maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity?
MB: Yes, Lamaze has had a seat at the table with other maternity care players. A recent example was being tapped this past year to work with National Institute of Child and Health Development (NICHD) and other key maternity care groups on the development of a new pregnancy registry. We also have plans to host a Roundtable discussion on childbirth education with key stakeholders.
Lamaze International offers the only childbirth educator certification program that has been accredited by an outside body, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which has reviewed and vetted the standards Lamaze employs in administering our certification exam. Maintaining certification is equally important for ensuring LCCE educators stay up to date with the latest on evidence-based practices, adult education, teaching and advocacy strategies.
SM: What plans are in the works for the Lamaze International organization that will benefit families as they prepare to welcome a child?
MB: Quality childbirth education is still not available to many women. These are the very women who often have the poorest outcomes with the highest rates of unnecessary interventions. This has to change. If high-quality childbirth education was offered to all women no matter the social economic or educational background, this disparity will change. It is a priority to advocate for insurance coverage and reimbursement to pay for childbirth education. In March 2015 members of the board of directors met with legislators about the importance of all women receiving childbirth education. Currently the Affordable Healthcare Act allows enrollment at the time of birth. We asked legislators to change the life event designation to pregnancy, to allow childbirth education to be a part of prenatal care and covered by health care insurance. We still have a lot of work to do but this initial step into policy advocacy is a positive move in the right direction.
Hear Maria talk about her birth experience in Lamaze International’s “Push for Your Baby” video.
SM: What about plans and programs for educators? What can members expect to see from Lamaze during your term that will benefit LCCEs and offer opportunities for those that teach?
MB: Lamaze offers LCCE members a rich array of evidence-based resources to support their professional development, such as regular webinars on current hot topics, The Journal of Perinatal Education with home study modules, the new Business Toolkit and Social Media Guide. The organization has also invested in developing teaching tools to support Lamaze educators, including the Lamaze Toolkit for Childbirth Educators, infographics, the new mobile app, online parenting classes to supplement in person classes.
SM: As both a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and a L&D Nurse, do you find it necessary to keep both roles separate and wear two hats? Is there any overlap? What challenges do you face because of your dual roles?
MB: I love the opportunity to wear both hats, and I am very lucky to work in an environment that looks positively on the Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices. So no, the two roles do not conflict but each does sharpen the other. As a nurse, a large part of my job is to educate my patients and to help them make informed decisions about their health care. As a LCCE educator, I’m fortunate to have more time to build a relationship and rapport with my students before the actual birth day, but as a nurse, my “classroom” looks a bit different. It may be in triage when I have a mom begging to stay when she is in early labor or not in labor at all. I take that time to let her know the importance of waiting on labor and how every day counts for that little person growing inside her. Or it might be in the labor room with a family who for whatever reason did not take a childbirth preparation class and needs help knowing how to comfort their partner or friend. I spend time helping new mothers to see how powerful they are and how smart their babies are. I also find myself in a special place to help teach my fellow nurses non-pharmacological pain management, allowing them to also feel empowered to work with these families. And of course, I encourage my colleagues to become LCCE certified themselves. I’ve never felt more at home than when wearing both ”hats”.
SM: Why should families continue to attend in person classes when so many online options exist and the internet offers a multitude of learning opportunities and virtually unlimited information for the pregnant person and their family?
MB: The internet has a lot to offer and can be a great complement to a classroom, but nothing replaces a quality in-person class. A Lamaze educator is able to anticipate a need that you may have before you experience it. She can tailor your class to help you navigate obstacles that are unique to your health and choice of birth location. Being face to face with other families also gives an opportunity to build relationships that grow deeper as your family evolves. Some of my best friends today I met in my Lamaze class. We shared a chuckle not long ago that the person in the class that asked the most questions is now the President of Lamaze!
SM: Tell us something unusual about you that we might never know!
MB: I am a classically trained actor and dancer and worked as a stage actor in New York City for over ten years.