Posts Tagged ‘Sharon Muza’

Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators – An Anatomy Ice Breaker

September 30th, 2015 by avatar
© Sharon Muza

© Sharon Muza

This month’s “Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators” is one of my old standbys. I use it frequently at the beginning of a series class.  Last week I started a new seven week series and did it again on the first night, and I really enjoy how this activity effectively meets many of my learning goals for the families in attendance.  It is also simple and easy, requiring little in the way of materials and supplies!   After this activity, families are able to discuss the location and purpose of anatomical structures important to the childbearing year, connect and engage with other families in the class and briefly discuss some common pregnancy changes (and discomforts) that result from a progressing pregnancy.

“I Can Draw Birth Anatomy and So Can You!”


I often start the class out with this activity up first – even before introductions.  It works great as an icebreaker and gets people connecting in small groups.  Families are up and out of their seats moving around the classroom.  Lots of laughter assures me that people are settling in and relaxing, ready to build confidence in their ability to birth by having fun and connecting with their community. Before the students arrive, I have placed the very largest newsprint I have up on the walls in several locations around the room.  I like to have two or three families working on one piece of paper, so I plan accordingly

anatomy 1

© Sharon Muza

How it unfolds – the instructions

At the start of class – I ask the families to self select into groups of two or three families and head to a piece of paper.  I pass out the colored markers to everyone.  Each family gets their own laminated anatomy parts card.  “As we move through our childbirth classes, we are going to be talking a lot about the amazing body and its many parts.  I always think it is a good idea to understand what these parts are called, where they are located and what they do.  In order to do this, I am asking you all to draw and label your own anatomy charts. Use the list as a guide, take turns and have fun. You have 8 minutes.”

The drawing begins

People quickly jump to the task, taking turns drawing and labeling the different body parts on their newsprint.  I circulate throughout the room, connecting, admiring and keeping things focused and moving along.  There are usually peals of laughter, lots of discussion and very engaged families.  The time flies by and I give the one minute warning that encourages them all to wrap up.  Before we all sit down again, we do a “gallery walk” and move through the room visiting all the posters, admiring and laughing some more.

drawing anatomy

© Sharon Muza

My turn

Once we are all seated again, I compliment the class on the excellent job and take out my own standard anatomy chart of the non-pregnant and full-term pregnant woman.  I point out the parts they were asked to draw on my chart and discuss the unique details of each. For example, when discussing the umbilical cord, we talk about how many veins and arteries, the reason the cord is often coiled, the average length of an umbilical cord and the function of Wharton’s jelly.  The position of the bladder under the baby’s head allows us to talk about frequent urination as the baby grows.  We move through all the parts and I continue to point out the function and unique and interesting facts.  I also weave in common discomforts and use the charts to demonstrate why they might have heartburn, shortness of breath, or a back ache.

The takeaway

While I certainly can cover anatomy for birth without the small group drawings, the families are spending the first minutes of the first class building community, connecting with each other in small groups, sharing a common goal and laughing while identifying the important body parts that we will be discussing.  I can then move confidently move on to group introductions and some of the more mundane housekeeping information that always needs to be shared.  But we are quickly through that and on to another fun activity.

anatomy 2

© Sharon Muza

Parent feedback

Families like to take pictures of their drawings and almost immediately the nervous tension of being at the “first childbirth class” has been broken with the fun and laughter.  If families are late to arrive, it is easy to join a group and quickly participate without much lead in from me.  The pregnant people enjoy seeing non-pregnant partners “struggle” to identify various parts and everyone reports that the “gallery walk” is almost as much fun as the drawing activity.  The families report that they leave this activity with some great images of the amazing pregnant body and the understanding of how everything works together to support and grow their beautiful babies.


This fun activity is a great icebreaker for a new class.  Interactive and self-paced, families laugh and connect over a common goal.  Do you think you might try something like this in your class?  Do you do something similar already?  How might you modify this activity to meet the learning objectives you have for your birth anatomy section?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below. I would love to hear them!

anatomy list

Childbirth Education, Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators , , , ,

Sharon Muza – Community Manager for Science & Sensibility Receives Lamaze International Media Award

September 24th, 2015 by avatar

By Cara Terreri, CD(DONA), LCCE

cara and sharon lamaze media award

Sharon Muza & Cara Terreri receive Lamaze International 2015 Media Award

One of the highlights of the recent Lamaze International/ICEA 2015 Joint Conference in Las Vegas, was being awarded the Lamaze International Media Award for 2015.  The purpose of the Lamaze International Media Award is for Lamaze International to honor individuals or organizations that present normal, physiologic birth and/or Lamaze International in a positive light in the mass media. It is given to a blogger or journalist who has worked hard to provide both consumers and professionals with accurate information on current best practice.  Both Cara Terreri, the Community Manager of Giving Birth With Confidence, Lamaze International’s consumer blog, and I were 2015 recipients.  Cara and I interviewed each other for both blogs this week so we could share the news.  Today, you find Cara’s interview of me, and tomorrow on GBWC- I interview Cara. Check out both blogs and learn a bit more about the Community Managers behind the two Lamaze International blogs – including some fun facts. – Sharon Muza Community Manager, Science & Sensibility

Cara Terreri: How long have you been the Community Manager for Science & Sensibility?

Sharon Muza: I have been the Community Manager with Science & Sensibility since May, 2012, and have written or edited more than 200 posts for the blog. Yowza!

CT: What else do you do professionally in addition to this position?

SM: A lot! I hold many birth related jobs in Seattle, WA and sometimes it is hard to keep track! I am an independent childbirth educator and I teach some specialized classes that I developed like “VBAC YOUR Way,” “Labor YOUR Way” and “Cesarean YOUR Way” along with a lot of private classes. I am a certified birth doula, and also a birth doula trainer for the Simkin Center, Bastyr University, which offers a DONA Approved workshop. I teach a seven week out of hospital birth series for the fabulous Penny Simkin, as part of her teaching team. I am a consulting instructor for Parent Trust for Washington Children’s childbirth education group – Great Starts, where we have over 30 childbirth educators working. I am a trainer for Passion for Birth, a Lamaze approved program that trains childbirth educators. I rent birth tubs, sell rebozos and TENS units and conduct advanced doula trainings on a variety of topics both locally and on the road. I offer editing and copywriting services, typically for other birth related businesses. I also present at both local and international conferences and sometimes do a bit of writing for other online publications. In between all that, I work on a variety of smaller projects that come and go. I am really a serious multi-tasker when it comes to my employment. A true freelancer. You can learn more about me at SharonMuza.com

CT: How did you feel when you learned that you had received the Lamaze International 2015 Media Award?

SM: Robin Elise Weiss, President of Lamaze International, called to tell me initially, and I was stunned speechless, which doesn’t often happen. I was honored and amazed and feel very, very grateful for the recognition. It makes all the hard work feel very worthwhile. I am still smiling and beaming with pride.

CT: What do you enjoy about writing and managing the blog?

SM: Writing and managing the blog means that I have to work hard at staying current with new research as it comes out, which truly helps me to know what best practices are, and I believe makes me a better educator and doula. I also get to work with fabulous writers and researchers who are guest bloggers and regular contributors, and that collaboration is very enjoyable. I very much enjoy other contributions I get to make to the Lamaze International organization, including developing and contributing to some of the online classes, participating in the Lamaze Institute for Safe & Healthy Birth projects and providing feedback on other ongoing projects.

CT: What are some of the challenges of this position?

SM: I think one of the biggest challenges as Community Manager for Science & Sensibility is that no sooner do I finish one blog post then I am focused on the next one and the next one and so on.  It is challenging to keep up with the editorial calendar. Also, I find it challenging to really dig deep into the research and understand the studies, which can be thick with facts, assumptions and statistics.  And deadlines.  Always deadlines.

CT: Where do you get inspiration for post topics?

SM: I do a lot of reading, I subscribe to over 400 blogs and news feeds (I cried when Google Reader went away a few years ago) and I have a ton of Google alerts set up for a variety of different topics. I also receive ideas and suggestions from researchers and contributors. Readers of the blog often email me with suggestions as well. Sometimes there is a topic that I want to learn more about, so I either research and write a post or contact an expert in that subject matter to ask them to share their expertise.

CT: Do you have a top post or two that you are really proud of or is a particular favorite? Why?

SM: Personally, I really love the “Welcoming All Families” series that I started in 2012 that explores how educators and other birth professionals can make their classrooms, practices, and services a welcome place for a variety of diverse clientele. I look forward to that occasional series continuing in the future. My new favorite is the 2015 series I started, “Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators” where each month I, along with other educators, share interesting and engaging activities that educators can use in their classrooms when working with families. My heart is in teaching and that series really excites me. I have tried several of the ideas written by others and they have been a big hit with the families I work with.

CT: What’s the most visited/read post on the blog?

SM: Last time I checked, it was a blog post written by Mindy Cockeram, LCCE – “The Red/Purple Line: An Alternative Method for Assessing Cervical Dilation Using Visual Cues” first posted in 2012.  I wouldn’t have expected this, but this post has had the most visitors of all the posts ever published on the blog.

CT: What do you hope the readers of the blog take away from your posts?

SM: My hope is that readers of the blog will be able to learn about and understand just a small portion of the research that is constantly being published and has the potential to affect maternal-infant health. I hope that readers will find information that they can synthesize and share with the families they work with in a helpful way. I also hope that readers enjoy the blog, find it useful and continue to read it.

cara sharon robin lamaze media award 2015CT: What are some of your favorite blogs that you enjoy reading yourself?

SM: This is a hard question to answer, as I really read a lot of blogs.  I have several food/cooking blogs that I enjoy, and I also am very interested in zero waste living (reducing garbage, recycling, upcycling and repurposing) so I read several blogs related to that.  Then a whole host of maternal infant health blogs.  Some blogs on being a better educator and teacher. But mostly hundreds of blogs on the childbearing year written by consumers and professionals.

CT: What is the last book you read of a professional nature?

SM: The most recent book I read of a professional nature was “The Science of Mom” in order to edit a recent book review on Science & Sensibility by contributor Ann Estes.  For fun, I am reading one of Mindy Kaling’s books and have a graphic novel about Julia Child on hold at the library for me.  I am a big library user – both “real” books and electronic books I can check out for the Kindle.

CT: What are some exciting plans for the blog in the future?

SM: I would love to add some more contributors to the line up on the blog – are you interested in writing for Science & Sensibility? Let me know! I have a few other ideas up my sleeve; readers will have to stay tuned to see what turns up!

CT: What is something unusual or fun about you that readers don’t know?

SM: I love good coffee – as soon as my feet hit the ground in the morning! People who know me understand it is best to wait to talk to me until I have started my one (and only one) very strong, large cup that I drink each day. I love to laugh, I am a wee bit sarcastic (which is not always appreciated), and am normally change adverse. I love routine! I have a degree in Biology with a concentration in Fisheries, and have been about 1600 feet down to the bottom of the ocean in a two man submersible. It is very dark down there!  When I was growing up I wanted to be a pilot/lawyer/marine mammalogist – all together.

2015 Conference, 2015 Lamaze & ICEA Joint Conference, Awards, Childbirth Education, Giving Birth with Confidence, Guest Posts, Lamaze International, Lamaze News , , , , , ,

Conference Wrap-Up and Save the Date for Lamaze International 2016 Conference!

September 22nd, 2015 by avatar

Save the date 2016 lamaze conferenceLate Sunday night, I arrived home after attending the Lamaze International/ICEA Joint 2015 Conference in Las Vegas, NV.  I am both exhausted and deeply satisfied.  I enjoyed networking with other attendees, listening to fascinating concurrent sessions, and learning new information as well as presenting a few sessions myself.  I am freshly motivated to continue to work hard to be an engaging and evidence based childbirth educator who helps families to feel prepared and confident as they ready themselves for birth.

The plenary speakers, Elan McAllister, William Camann, MD, Joan Combellick, CNM and Jennie Joseph, DLM while speaking on wildly different topics, all left me with the same final message:  childbirth educators play a key role in improving perinatal outcomes.  We work closely with families to help them to advocate for themselves, understand the birth process and navigate the challenges that often come up during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.  And it starts with us!  Providing unbiased, current information, creating community amongst those who attend our classes, and supporting connection between pregnant people and their partners all help families to navigate the childbearing year with confidence and information.  Childbirth education matters and it especially matters for families who face health inequities and disparities because of the color of their skin, the language they speak or their socio-economic status.  Childbirth educators can extend their reach and offer support in communities that are most affected by these inequities and even a little effort makes a big difference.  I also very much appreciated the virtual conference component, where questions were asked from those attending some of the sessions on line from around the world.

Every family we work with benefits from the information and knowledge that they obtain while participating in our classes.  Every new educator that we mentor increases the impact that we all have.  Every time we learn new and current information we can pass on to our families, we are helping to improve outcomes.  I feel replenished, renewed and excited for my next childbirth class series to start, excited for the opportunity.

I would like to thank the conference committee, the Lamaze staff from the home office and the Lamaze Board of Directors for all their hard work and effort to make this year’s conference a welcoming learning environment, a successful networking opportunity and an outrageously fun time.  I would also like to remind conference attendees to submit their evaluations via the conference app so that they can receive contact hours for the sessions they attended.

Lamaze International announced the dates and location of next year’s annual conference.  The 2016 Lamaze International Annual Conference will be October 20-23rd, 2016 at what will be a brand new Hilton West Palm Beach hotel at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Look for more information about how to submit abstracts or become an exhibitor, later this year and for registration in the spring of 2016.  Regardless, be sure to mark your calendars and save the date so that you can attend and experience the connection, learning and excitement that only happens at the annual conference.  Until next year!

2016 Conference, Childbirth Education, Lamaze International , , , ,

The Start of the Lamaze/ICEA 2015 Conference – 10 Reasons This Will Be an Outstanding Event

September 17th, 2015 by avatar

Screenshot 2015-09-16 18.41.45

I just arrived in Las Vegas at the conference hotel earlier today, after a relatively short travel day from my home in Seattle, WA.  I am very excited for the conference to begin.  I remember attending the last joint conference with ICEA and Lamaze International five years ago in Milwaukee, WI.  It was called the “Mega-Conference” and it was very satisfying and enriching.  I expect this conference, also in collaboration with ICEA. to be equally enjoyable and a great learning opportunity.  Last year, Lamaze International and DONA International shared a conference in Kansas City, MO, and it was a huge hit.

Planet-Hollywood-Hotel-Las-VegasThe Lamaze leadership team has been hard at work since yesterday, gathering for their annual meeting with board members and Lamaze staff.  The exhibitors are hard at work loading in their vendor displays, tables and resources.  The conference staff are putting the finishing touches on all the details in preparation for the conference opening tomorrow afternoon. I imagine that some conference attendees are already here and the majority of people are arriving tomorrow.  I am excited for the conference opening tomorrow afternoon with plenary speaker Elan McCallister.

if you would like to follow along on Twitter with those attendees who will be posting – you can use this list as a starting point:

@JeanetteIBCLC, Jeanette McCulloch ‏

@RobinPregnancy, Robin Elise Weiss

@Shutterdoula, Andrea Lythgoe

@ChristineMorton, Christine Morton

@YourDoulaBag, Alice Turner

@KKonradLCCE, Kathryn Konrad

@ShiningLghtPE, Deena Blumenfeld ‏



@DoulaMatch, Kim James

@HeartSoulBiz, Jessica English

Are you tweeting from the Lamaze International/ICEA conference in Vegas?  Include your username in the comments below and I will update this list! Rumor has it that the most retweets may win a prize at the end of the conference!

On Facebook, look for #LamazeICEA to get all the Facebook conference updates.

viva las vegasI thought this might be a good time to reflect on the reasons that I am happy to be participating in the conference this year and all the valuable reasons that it is worth the time and money.  This top ten list is adapted from a previous post.

1. Have fun in Las Vegas, an intense and incredibly active city with great entertainment, food, shopping and natural beauty just a short drive away. Just like birth, Vegas seems to be happening and “on” 24/7.

2. See old friends from conferences past. This one of the best things about going to a conference.  When you attend, you have the chance to see the birth professionals that you connect with throughout the year online and on the phone, and rarely get a chance to visit with in person.  Imagine three whole days to chat, visit and learn with your best birth buddies.  Some of my dearest friends I only see at the Lamaze conference, and I cherish the time I get to spend with them.

3. Meet new friends and establish new relationships that can grow and flourish!  There will be so many interesting people from all over the world attending the annual conference.  This year will include attendees from many other countries as well as men and women from all over the United States and Canada. It is easy to mix and mingle with people new to you, find out interesting things and establish new friendships!

4. Contact hours abound when you attend all the conference sessions, and participation in pre-conference workshops will award you even more.

19 Lamaze Contact Hours and 22 Contact Hours approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing (CABRN) may be earned by attending all plenary, concurrent, exercise, and poster sessions and completing a participant evaluation after the conference. Lamaze Contact Hours will be accepted by ICEA for recertification.

17 Contact Hours of Continuing Nursing Education credit may be earned by attending all concurrent and plenary sessions and completing a participant evaluation after the conference.

Lamaze International is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

9.1 CERPs may be earned by attending select sessions and completing a participant evaluation after the conference. IBLCE CERPs Recognition Number: LTP Number CLT108-12.

5. Learn fun, childbirth class activities, creative teaching ideas and new topics and information to use in your childbirth classes.  See childbirth educators and other experts in action, providing you the opportunity to take away loads of useful material for to use when you go back home.

6. Learn about new research, evidence based information and best practices that you can take back to your communities to help improve maternal infant outcomes for women and families.  Leaders in the field will share the newest information with you.  Use this new information in your classes, offering the latest facts to your families so they can make informed choices.

7. Hear four fabulous keynote speakers present in our four plenary sessions.  Elan McAllister, William Camann, Joan Combellick and Jennie Joseph are all ready to knock your socks off with their presentations designed just for our conference.  Click on their names to read more about their presentations in the interviews they did with Science & Sensibility.

8. Learn about new and exciting opportunities and alliances that Lamaze International has planned for the future to continue to grow our organization and remain a leader in the field of childbirth education. Our Annual Meeting luncheon will be held on Saturday, where you can meet the Lamaze board and staff, vote for new board of directors and provide input on how the organization is meeting your needs.

9. Network with colleagues and experts and establish professional relationships with opportunity for collaboration and joint-ventures. Discuss business opportunities and create new alliances that can help you further your career and grow your business.

10. Connect and collaborate with ICEA educators as we share the learning and the mission to improve maternal infant health in this exciting joint conference.

Bonus Reason #11!  Come say hello to me!  I would love to meet you while in Las Vegas, to hear about how the Science & Sensibility blog can grow and expand to meet your needs!, I am excitedly participating in several ways at the conference and would love the chance to meet you all, hear your thoughts on our blog and learn what you would like to see on the blog in the future!

Viva Las Vegas!






2015 Conference, 2015 Lamaze & ICEA Joint Conference, Childbirth Education, Lamaze International , , , ,

Meet Jennie Joseph, LM, CPM – Lamaze/ICEA 2015 Conference Plenary Speaker

September 10th, 2015 by avatar
© Jennie Joseph

© Jennie Joseph

Today on Science & Sensibility, we have the opportunity to meet our final Lamaze/ICEA 2015 plenary speaker- Jennie Joseph, LM, CPM.  This British born midwife is the founder and executive director of Florida’s Commonsense Childbirth Inc. whose vision states “We believe that all women deserve a healthy pregnancy, birth and baby!” Jennie is also the creator of the The JJ Way® which has been remarkably effective at reducing disparities and improving outcomes for both women and babies. Jennie owns a birth center in West Orlando, FL. She also operates a midwifery school as well as certifications for a variety of birth professionals  Jennie will be closing the conference with her plenary session: The Perinatal Revolution: Reducing Disparities & Saving Lives Through Perinatal Education. What role do childbirth educators like you play in improving outcomes for families of color?  Today, Jennie speaks a bit about this topic in advance of her presentation at the conference.  I have had the pleasure of hearing Jennie speak several times in recent years, and I know that conference attendees are in for a treat.  For more information about this year’s conference, head to the 2015 Lamaze/ICEA Conference website.

Sharon Muza: What role do childbirth educators play in helping to reduce the disparities that exist in pregnancy, birth and newborn/infant outcomes for women of color?

Jennie Joseph: Today’s educators can play an essential role in reducing disparities simply by educating themselves about what those statistics are, what they represent, who they represent and why. Once an educator understands the extent and the cause of the problem he/she is able to really embrace the need to reach women and families in meaningful and practical ways – ways that will ultimately make an impact on the outcome.

SM: What changes have you observed over time in the perception of the value of childbirth education in the communities you work with?

JJ: I think that in every community in this country there is and has been a movement away from the traditional childbirth classes of the past. Women and their partners are busy and overwhelmed, with a false sense of security engendered by internet searches and with the hope that someone else, or some other entity will take care of everything when the time comes.

SM: Why do you think that many families are not attending childbirth classes in their communities? Is it lack of offerings? Cost? Accessibility? Do new families feel it is irrelevant to their experience?

JJ: When families are disenfranchised in so many other ways there is little value seen, or interest in an additional expense, or reaching for non-existent support, given that time is at a premium and resources are low. The institutionalization of birth inherently leaves one believing that the system is already set in stone, that the options and opportunities for autonomy and independence are not going to be available, and the benefit of doing the required hours of class are not likely to avail much as far as having any say at all. Cost and accessibility may be a factor for low socio-economic communities but more importantly the fact that few independent educators are open to the outreach and innovative thinking that is needed to engage new families, leaves a void which does not appear likely to be filled anytime soon.

SM: What can Lamaze International do to support and encourage people of color to become childbirth educators and be prepared to offer evidence based programs in their communities?

JJ: Childbirth education organizations that recognize and acknowledge the inequities in perinatal health and outcomes, and that are committed to that change, will lead the way in recruiting, training and retaining a diversity of educators. Cultural humility and practical support, not only for the communities themselves, but the providers and the educators that service them typically is what is needed. Supporting from a grass-roots perspective and embracing the dedicated entry-level or non-credentialed perinatal workers and volunteers who are on the ground already will provide a pipeline to further grow the ranks of educators and practitioners able to make a difference.

SM: You have been actively involved in birth work and supporting families for many years. What keeps you from getting discouraged about the slow progress we are making in reducing preterm births, low birth weight babies, maternal complications amongst families of color.

Jennie Joseph with clientJJ: I often feel overwhelmed with the glacial changes that occur and wondered how you continue to make progress and change lives in the face of often discouraging news. I get very discouraged working with families that are disenfranchised in one way or another. I find myself sometimes at my wits end because the agreement that we have in the United States is that we just don’t know the reason why we have such a high prematurity rate and in working in my field and doing the things that I do, the way that I do them, I have been able, as have many others, to not only reduce but all but eradicate prematurity in a population of women who are considered to be at highest risk for prematurity. Low birth weight babies, complications for the mothers, maternal morbidity and mortality is rampant inside African-American communities in particular. So, how I keep from getting totally discouraged is the fact that in seeing the change brought about by applying some very simple and essentially easily applied tenents to how I provide the maternity care that we offer, we have been able to turn the tide. I know that other people are willing and are doing the work the same way. I know that they are seeing the results the same way, so I continue to hope that there will be a turning of the tide that more and more practices and practitioners will embrace these few simple steps and show that they too believe we can stop the scrounge of prematurity and low birth weight in the United States.

SM: What are you looking forward to most about being a plenary speaker and presenting to the Lamaze/ICEA 2015 conference attendees?

JJ: I am very excited about being able to present at Lamaze/ICEA 2015. I am more than thrilled. This is something that has been on my heart for a long time and I am really clear that until we embrace and involve all the perinatal team in the work at hand we will not be successful. I think that childbirth educators have a pivotal role to play in bringing about change and I know there is an openness and a willingness to hear about new and innovative ideas as far as providing that education across the board. This is an awesome opportunity for me and I am very much looking forward to it.


2015 Conference, 2015 Lamaze & ICEA Joint Conference, Babies, Childbirth Education, Home Birth, Maternal Mortality, Maternal Mortality Rate, Maternal Quality Improvement, Midwifery , , , , , , , ,

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