As many of you have watched over the past month, I’ve been building the Essential Birth & Family Center bit by bit. I grew up exposed to the life of entrepreneurship via my father and grandfather, and I’ve always had a love for business. I do not, however have any formal training so much like Jane cut a mop to pieces to get the string she needed in Uganda, I’ve been pulling parts out of seemingly disconnected pieces to create a new and unique whole. I’ve read a handful of business books, browsed the web late at night for innovative advice, and in the end I’ve just relied on my sense of what might work best. I’m still learning, I’m not afraid to ask for help, and I recently became part of 5 student’s Capstone Project from Seattle University’s School of Business. We had our first meeting this week and they asked me loads of great questions. It provided me with the opportunity for reflection and goal-setting. And I got to share my enthusiasm about the strength and capability of mothers and babies with college students—always a bonus.
This Center has long been a dream of mine—to have one place where families can connect with each other and the professionals who provide the services they want, to develop a sense of community around expecting and new families, and to change outcomes and access to quality, not just routine, care, in my neighborhood. In my mind’s eye, I thought I would make some phone calls, people would agree to teach a class or sublease a treatment room for a few hours or a day each week, and mothers would flock in to receive the benefits. The reality proved to be one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Over the past 5 weeks I have met with dozens of professionals and parents. We sit in the lovely Meeting Nook aka The Nursing Nook, and settle into the comfy chairs with some tea in one hand and a pen in the other. I wanted to understand what services we might offer, what’s missing in our neighborhood, and how we can translate all of that into something meaningful for families. We spent hours dreaming and refining, writing curricula, and sharing stories. That Nook has some kind of special magic to it—it is so cathartic to sit there and connect with people. I’ve had meetings with leaders of local birth organizations, a home organizer, a professional photographer, doulas, educators, business specialists, and a surprising number of grandparents and fathers of twenty-somethings. It turns out, this idea of creating community around families makes sense to people. Together, we’ve managed to create a dynamic offering for mothers, babies, and the people that love them. We have classes covering everything from how to organize your house for baby, infant massage and photography, to babysitter’s training and grandparents classes. We offer Friends and Family CPR—a simple two hour class designed to create comfort for anyone who spends time with babies or kids, and a beautiful class called Girl Sense—a seven week program for 8-9 year old girls. We have the classics you would expect in a Birth and Family Center—childbirth education, postpartum drop-in and support groups, lactation classes and support, doula care, nutrition counseling, acupuncture, massage, and more.
As I struggled with how to create a group of doulas who can work out of the center, I met with doula trainers and new doulas and local doulas and finally, with Jane. I was telling her about my struggle, “I deeply want to promote the work of local doulas–how can I recommend them if I don’t really know a lot about them?” We began to hash it out, the things we learned over the years through trial and error, acquisition of information, and sheer luck. Before long we realized how great it would be to create an extended learning opportunity for newer doulas, or those that never had formal training. And thusly was born The Essential Doula Training Academy—a year long course designed to delve into all of the issues that doulas face using the model we have adopted in our work lives. As we filled in the curriculum for the program, the conversation became more animated and passionate; we hit on something that we care deeply about. We are thrilled to bring this resource to the community here.
In the end, what’s in a community is the people, their ideas and hopes for building a place to gather together and grow in our knowledge and support of each other. I am so grateful for all of the people who have given me so much time and energy, and to those who have pledged theirs’ for the coming months to help launch this business.
I hope you’ll check out the website for Essential Birth & Family Center, and share it with your friends, family, colleagues, and clients. Come by and visit me there—we are located in the heart of Seward Park just a few blocks south of PCC. If you have ideas for classes, workshops, groups, or services come sit in The Meeting Nook and brainstorm with me—I have a great selection of tea and can’t wait to meet you there.