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Birth Testimonial

by Erika Sanchez   Written January 4, 2019

My husband and I attended the Birth Works (birthing class) at Beach Cities this past October. It was taught by Janell Bartzatt.

This was our 3rd baby. The first two were healthy, hospital births. We had taken a birthing class at the hospital 7 years ago with our first child and almost didn’t sign up for this one. But because it was our first out-of-hospital birth, we decided it would probably be a good idea. I think we both felt pretty knowledgeable already on birth! But we both learned more from this class than we had through reading dozens of books and living through two deliveries!

Janell’s class not only covers a kind of what to expect, physically. But it also went through what to expect, emotionally. I left the class with such a clear understanding of what baby is going through during that labor, how I can help assist, and how to manage my pain. My husband felt more involved too. He had a better understanding of what he could do to help me through it.

We talked about fears and concerns we may have and how to move them to a place of control. Knowledge is power. So many of my fears were just from not knowing.

I left the class feeling empowered and that I could do this! It is so natural and not scary. Janell’s understanding on the topic made the class fun- it was a safe place to ask questions and to find real answers.

My daughter was born at Beach Cities 11 days ago on Christmas Eve morning. To say it was the perfect birth is an understatement. It was really everything I had wanted it to be. I really owe so much of that to Janell and this class. I was able to talk to myself to relax and breathe. My husband knew counter pressure points to help with the pain when it got really intense. Labor wasn’t happening to me- I was 100% in control. I was 100% present and it was amazing!

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Reflections From A Mom With Multiples

Taking care of one baby is a lot of work.  New moms often say they were busy all day but don’t exactly remember what they did!  Just imagine taking care of newborn twins or triplets!  I am a BirthWorks Mentor and one of my students, Sienna Morrow, who is in the BirthWorks Postpartum Doula Program sent a response to the question below that brought me to tears as it made me remember my own experience with my twins.

Question:  When is a baby considered to be premature?  List five main concerns a new mother with multiples might have in the first few months at home and how you would address them.

She wrote:

  • A baby is considered premature if born before 37 weeks.
  • A mother with multiples might be concerned with getting adequate sleep, breastfeeding two babies (tandem), creating a routine that works for both babies, bonding with each baby, and having enough support.
  • I would encourage the mother to tune into the babies and create a routine that works for all of them together by helping her process how things go throughout the days and areas where she is struggling.
  • I would help her connect to groups of moms of multiples in her area and give her time to have conversations with her partner about how they can support one another.
  • I would address any breastfeeding concerns that she has and build up her confidence with praise and words of wisdom.
  • I would also help her explore her own resources and discover things she can do to build a support network in her current situation.”

I, myself, gave birth to my twin boys at 38 weeks and 6 days so they were not premies. I breastfed my boys 21 of 24 hours the first day, and then it was like 16 hours a day until we all learned to tandem feed. I felt stuck in my primal brain for weeks, almost like having no awareness of being human most of the time.  As I reflect back on the experience, I am laughing, remembering some of my chimpanzee robotic-like thoughts that were running through my head during that time:

  • Feed next baby, get other one, feed other….fall down and sleep…are they both safe? …zzz…wake up! Baby must eat…
  • I starving, ravenous, soooo thirsty, give me water
  • Bladder bursting, need to pee
  • Need shower, crusty, smelly, sweaty, sticky
  • Where is Annalissa? (That’s my daughter who just turned four.  This thought would come with adrenaline as I was falling asleep feeding some baby boy – not sure who it was half the time, didn’t care, trusted my husband who rotated them.

These thoughts just repeated over and over, like the film “Groundhog Day”, until around four months.  Then, I woke up, like from a dream, checked we were all alive and when we were, I sighed deeply.

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Testimonials from the 2017 Conference

Ina May Gaskin, Midwife
I think the BWI Conference was really special this year. I found it very encouraging, educational and inspiring, so what more could you ask for than that? I’ll be happy to come back again. Being a presenter this year was easy, relaxed, with a congenial environment, and I met some good people who I think I’m going to keep on knowing. It was thoroughly a good experience. It was good to see so many people who are really dedicated and thinking about how we can take down the fear of birth and get at the big obstacles. It was good to see how can we multiply the effects so we can get better
informed, let people know what their rights are, and know that we have the power to do something about the things that are really upsetting that could be better.

BWI is an important organization because it’s about educating and networking educators. A lot of what we are misinformed about in birth comes from cultural assumptions that are rather strange. We don’t know our own history very well. So from this conference, I’ve gotten some good ideas about how we can address these issues from multiple directions. The conference is an essential meeting on getting together and figuring out how we can get the kind of results we want to see.

Karen Burzichelli, Labor and Delivery Nurse and Childbirth Educator
This was my very first BWI Conference and it was awesome! You’re never too old and you’ve never been doing this too long to learn and I learned a lot while I was here. As a presenter, it was just really special to be part of the whole speaker panel that was here. When you come to the conference, there are several breakout sessions you can go to, and I talked about Food As Medicine—how we can use nutrition to be more healthy. I think it was important because being a labor and delivery nurse and nurse educator in the maternity community for over 32 years, I see our population getting sicker and heavier, and it really has much to do with the food and environment that we live in. I wanted to present some facts and some ways to teach
others to bring it back to their patients, so they can be healthier, too. I was able to do a hands-on presentation of a cooking demo in front of my audience so I could interact and connect with them by showing a recipe, and allowing them to taste the food and experience the nutritional value of the food that I was presenting. BWI is a way for me to continue my education, and to learn more about how we can empower women, to look at
birth as something natural, something that they have within them, and to not be afraid.

Amber Price, CNM and Hospital Administrator
As a change leader in birth, the BWI Conference was a great opportunity to connect with other change leaders in the community. What I found was that there are many women who want to be a part of the changes we are going to make moving forward. At the same time, we looked at what was in our past so that we can have a greater understanding of what we are moving forward to and what the things are that can sustain us, who came before us to give us all that profound energy, and the history behind us that can help us to move forward. My take-away from this conference wasthat I was able to connect with people who inspired me, and those who can help me be a better change leader. I had the opportunity to meet with people who
give me such energy to move forward and help women and children in our country.

As a presenter at BWI, I felt welcomed. I felt valued by everyone from the first contact that was made by me, all the way through to the end. I’ve met so many great new friends and people. We cried together because we care about what happens to women in our country. Birth is important, and everyone who was here shared that with me. I’m leaving this conference with great friends. I learned that we are valued as speakers and with the materials we present. BWI has a great understanding that helps us to “capture” people and put a face to what birth is in our country. The BWI Conference is an opportunity for you to collect all the tools you need to be a change leader for birth.

Sally Dear-Healey, PhD, CCE/CD(BWI)
This BWI Conference was one of the most amazing conferences I’ve ever attended. I came with a lot of information and I’m leaving with more, and I have never been more inspired. More women need to be aware of BirthWorks and the wonderful work they are doing. BirthWorks is one of the most incredible childbirth and preparation programs. We have a doula program and an ACED (Accelerated Childbirth Educator Doula) program,
and BirthWorks is the only program I know of that combines body, mind, and spirit. I’ve been with the program for over 30 years, totally dedicated, and think it is the best program available. BWI is different than any other childbirth preparation program or doula training program that combines
body, mind, and spirit through experiential exercises. We meet with women where they are and cover things that nobody else covers, and when women leave our workshops, even if they don’t go on to become childbirth educators or doulas, it transforms their lives. One of the best things about this BirthWorks conference was getting together with other birth workers and people who are in the field, and sharing their energy, inspiration,
and the ideas about the work they are doing. The BWI conference was one of the most phenomenal experiences of my life.

Christine Waters, CD (Dona), CCE (BWI) PPNE (APPPAH)
This year’s conference was amazing. We heard speakers like Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent MD, Steven Pratt MD, and so many other experts, but the take-home message is that everybody is an expert. They imparted their wisdom and the participants really enjoyed it. It was all about finding action and then asking how we’re going to make that happen: how can we help to normalize birth? We had lots of fun. It was a time for reflection
and thought for prenatal life. We discussed how the birth experience for both baby and mother can be better understood in our society, and how we can all take that message out into the world. How you are born affects our world. We need to be together, and that is exactly what we did at this conference. We came together, and we hope to see you at our next conference.

Blair Conger, CNM
The BWI conference allowed me to make connections with people, which filled my heart and motivated me to go out and practice more fully. It filled up the places where I was tired, and the places where I had questions. I learned so much and I’ve been doing this for so long.  As a presenter, I felt fully supported to come into this conference and speak about something that I feel very passionate about to an audience just as passionate
as I am. The BWI conference was a community of brilliance.

I had a fantastic time at the BWI conference. It’s such a unique conference because you don’t just get to hear the best speakers in the world, but I was in the presence of world-class maternity care providers. I talked with them and ate with them. I bumped into them in the lobby and chatted with them. This is not something where the speakers were “up here” and the listeners were “down there.” This was a place where attendees connected
with speakers, and where we could all have compelling and captivating conversations together. There is an interaction that is taking place at a BWI conference that’s not going to take place at many other conferences. If you have an opportunity to attend one, I highly recommend it. I left with more contacts and more friends than I thought possible, and the friends I made were the speakers I came to see. That is what made this conference
so unique!

It’s been a wonderful four days. I feel emotionally and spiritually recharged. BirthWorks brings that all together, giving me lots of information to take home, reflect on, and incorporate into my midwifery practice, as well. When you come to the BWI conference, I think you can expect to have very experienced speakers on several different topics, and I think you’ll find something in each one of the talks that is going to fill your heart, fill your
mind, and give you lots of information to take away. Here at the conference it’s really hard to choose my favorite speaker. I really enjoyed Dr. Amber Price’s information. She is local to our community, so getting all that information and finding out how we can improve birth outcomes and serve women better is an important topic. Finding out about the microbiome and how that can impact generations to come is important, as well. And of course Ina May. Who cannot love Ina May Gaskin!? Every one of the speakers had something really important and valuable to say. At this conference, we had an unique opportunity to get up close to speakers, and I know I have made friends. I got to meet many like-minded people, and
made many new friends. A lot of information that was presented reawakens things we already knew, and will help revitalize our practices. There’s a lot of new information with statistics that is important to apply to evidence- based practice. I’m excited to do this—to take it back.

The BWI conference for me is really about taking in all of the information that was presented, feeling it, and being able to share it in my practice and in my daily life. I feel revitalized, and that is important when you leave a conference like this.


Emily Vernes
I’m a labor and delivery nurse from New York City, and I’m learning about things more prevalent in home birth settings or maybe in a non-traditional setting that I can take back to our big academic center in New York City. It was refreshing to hear Ina May Gaskin, who has been an inspiration for me, speak here live and hear some of the stories I’ve read about in her books. I realized even more what a truly inspirational person she is. The conference is a refresher in why we work in birth. It’s a way to bring instinctual birth back into academic hospital settings.

The BWI conference is an amazing opportunity where all birth work providers, regardless of being nurses, doulas, physicians, administrators, doctors, or midwives, come together and really empower each other. They shared their knowledge in how to help women birth babies the way that they want to. I recommend the conferences to anybody and everybody who is able to attend and encourage them to come and be part of it. It is a place to recharge your batteries as a health care provider and to just have fun. My favorite part of coming to the conference was learning something new, and one of the things I learned about was respectful maternity care. I was always respectful in maternity care with my patients, but here, I learned about different ways and values in which to make it more optimal in my practice. The BWI conference for me was empowering.

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“ACED” Program Testimonials

The ACED Workshop met all my needs and even those I didn’t know I had! The pace of the workshop was very good – not too fast or slow. It was very comprehensive in all ways: modelling class activities, returning to philosophy, using energy, techniques and human values, and more.  Thank you so much. This has all been fantastic!   NZ

The ACED Workshop was so much more than I had expected, even more holistic and positive. I loved the pelvic body work, feelings, the Breast is Best DVD, work about mothers, grief –all of it! Thank you for an amazing workshop.  NZ

The ACED Workshop went further than I thought with the practical exercises, sharing with the group, art work, discussions over videos, role games. I feel more prepared to give a class and be a doula than I thought I would.  NZ

I’m so happy that the ACED Workshop focused on love and energy and I am very excited that many of the techniques are based on intuition as well as the learning we gained as students.   I also loved the hands on experiential approach to learning that is novel! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  I am so excited and feel so driven and inspired to grow as a doula and childbirth educator. NZ

Thanks for coming all the way to New Zealand to share with us your passion!  It’s inspiring to meet people like you Cathy!  It gave me trust and faith in my ability to give birth to my baby. NZ

Thank you for this wonderful experience!  I feel I have the opportunity to put a lifetime of experiences to wonderful use with this ACED Workshop as a foundation to help bring about wonderful birthing experiences for months to come. NZ

I benefited from the mix of modalities: AV, lecture, small group discussions from women’s related personal experience, and multisensory experiences of content. Thank you so much for a fabulous workshop and your personal hospitality.     NM

The ACED Workshop was very informative and intense.  I liked our smaller class because we had a lot of great time to connect.   PA

Wow! What a truly educational, personal growth, beautiful experience I experienced doing the ACED. A doctor college of mine mentioned this program at a another pediatric/ obstetric seminar, and with out hesitation or research in the program I registered! It blew my socks off! I hand no idea I was aligning myself with such a powerful, loving, integrity driven, educational, beautiful organization that BirthWorks is!  I learned and grew so much as an individual , as a women, as mom, as a lover! I am so inspired to do the same to all!!! I feel I have all the tools and support through BirthWorks to make a positive change in my society!! Thank you BirthWorks!    CA

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Pushing Past My Comfort Zone: Childbirth Educator Workshop in Huntsville, AL

By Shandus Parish


I attended the BirthWorks Childbirth Educator workshop on February 1-3, 2013, in Huntsville, AL, with facilitator Sally Healey. Although the weekend was packed with challenging exercises and conversation, I had a wonderful experience engaging in self-reflection, learning a great deal about myself, and forging deeper relationships with a group of women I previously knew mostly as acquaintances. I expected to learn the nuts and bolts of facilitating discussion, become educated on a variety of birthing topics, and generally learn about leading a class. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this workshop involved something much more complex – nitty-gritty, emotional, soul-searching.
I was inspired many times that weekend, particularly in response to the visualization exercises. I’ve always struggled with this kind of exercise because I find it difficult to stay focused on something that felt forced and, frankly, a bit hokey. However, the exercises we used in the workshop did not feel forced, I think because they were structured in a way that required full participation from our inner consciousness. I was astonished by my responses to some of them, coming up with answers that I didn’t even know were in my head. For example, during one visualization we were instructed to imagine a maypole with many colorful ribbons attached to it. In our mind, we were to visualize grabbing hold of one ribbon and to reflect on how that ribbon symbolized ourselves. I expected to see a strong, thick, sturdy ribbon, but instead I immediately imagined a crinkly, fragile-looking ribbon. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get that ribbon to morph into anything else. It revealed to me a deep sense of fragility that I didn’t realize I still had.
Another inspiring activity involved writing about our own birth story from our mother’s perspective and then to analyze any negative assumptions that were revealed in that story. I expected this to be an easy, fairly objective exercise, but as I wrote and then shared with the group, I sobbed uncontrollably as I sympathized with the deep embarrassment, hurt, and abandonment my mother felt at the time of my birth, due to actions of my father. I grieved for my mother and the experience she had, and developed a strong sense of gratitude and understanding of the strength she must have had to mother me so well, despite her circumstances.
In general, I was inspired by how powerfully the births of our own children (even our ownbirths) influence our personalities, emotional responses, and ways of interacting with the world. Conversely, the culmination of how we were raised, the experiences we had as children and young adults, and the relationships we’ve had with significant others and friends can have a tremendous influence on our birth experiences. To ensure the highest likelihood of a positive, empowering birth, expectant mothers should intentionally explore and process through those experiences so that they can begin to own them and transform negative circumstances into empowering memories.
For my own life, the workshop reminded me to trust my instincts more often, not just when giving birth, but in every moment of my daily life. Our inner consciousness knows far more than we can ever realize! I was reminded how important authenticity is in my life and relationships, and to embrace my true self, regardless of how others may receive it. Additionally, it taught me to be more aware of how others’ experiences have shaped their behaviors and how they respond to the world. That is, I should be gentle with everyone, because I may never know what struggles they have to work through.
The workshop will influence my teaching in several ways. For one, I will research and practice ways of responding to my students’ answers so that I can be prepared for any response. I have facilitated many group discussions in the past, and I know how easy it is for a discussion to end too quickly when a facilitator isn’t skilled at helping individuals process difficult emotions and at drawing out responses from those who tend to be quiet and non-participatory. I will also make myself engage in activities that may seem silly or uncomfortable to me, because at the workshop I found that when I was faced with an exercise that made me feeluncomfortable, I had a great deal to learn about myself and about why that discomfort was there. Pushing past my comfort zone was always rewarding. Because of that, I will embrace those uncomfortable, challenging moments in my classes, knowing that if we can all push through that wall, we may discover something momentous.