Not so long ago, I saw one my dreams come true. Not everybody gets to say that – I’m so lucky! This was a dream that took hold about four years ago. And a lot has happened in that time to make this dream a reality…
I met Elly Taylor online in a Facebook forum for Relationship Focused Birth Professionals. Now, I’d only been on Facebook for a couple of years. And I hadn’t really realized the power of using social media for anything other than personal fun and connection at that point.
It wasn’t until 2013 that I started to understand the implications of using platforms like Facebook for my professional work. The name of this forum intrigued me, because even though I’m not a therapist or counselor, I’ve felt for years that my work has way more to do with the relationships I’m helping to foster and strengthen than it does with teaching folks how to give birth.
Don’t get me wrong – I love what I do! But the truth is, a baby will come out of you, with or without assistance, one way or another. Certainly, I help couples figure out how they’d like that process to unfold, and I help them become decision-makers in this experience — to their level of comfort. But really, for almost two decades, my “Childbirth Preparation Classes” have just been a cover for doing lots of additionally important things:
- elevating the role of the partner and making sure they feel included and honored in the process
- creating a sense of community among students in class so they don’t feel so isolated and alone
- encouraging couples to stop planning birth and start participating instead
- suggesting that embracing feelings of vulnerability allows for maximum transformation through this birth experience
- preparing them with realistic expectations for life after baby — and what this means for the couple relationship
Cue Elly Taylor and her book, Becoming Us.
I’ve written about Elly and Becoming Us before, here and here. But what I might not have revealed so clearly is that from the moment I met Elly online, I had a professional crush! I mean, here was this woman on the other side of the world that had spent fifteen years researching and writing a book about how to potentially prevent relationship dissatisfaction (that a whopping 92% of couples report having in the first year following the birth of their baby) — AND she had an amazing Aussie accent!
Now I call it a crush, because it kind of was. I’ve never had an online relationship with anyone before, so I didn’t exactly know how to go about it… But, I was determined.
First, I started commenting on anything she wrote about in the forum, thrilled with every response she wrote back. Eventually, I bought her book and dove into the information about how and why relationship discord happens in the first place after a baby is born. And as I was reading, there were all of these lightbulbs going off! All of these “Ah-Ha!” moments that I’d been trying to share with my families for years! The dots were falling into place and I was starting to make some important connections like: support of one another in your new parenting roles is an important way to lessen the risk of developing a Perinatal Mood Disorder during pregnancy or the postpartum period.
Elly and I developed a friendship that became very dear to me on lots of levels. I feel like I’m about 4-5 years behind her in terms of my own work within the birth field, and I consider her to be an important professional mentor as well.
I’m gaining traction and collaborating on the issue of birth “planning” and starting to speak out more about how planning instead of participating in birth can give couples a false sense of security to lessen their feelings of vulnerability — and that while this is okay, exploring and embracing these same feelings can lead to incredible transformation through pregnancy, birth and new parenting.
I’m in the midst of writing a book about the gifts of vulnerability when it comes to pregnancy, birth and parenting. And my blog recently graduated into an actual website.
All this time, I’ve been watching Elly from a distance as these things have fallen into place for her – and it’s been an inspiration for me to keep going!
I can’t remember the exact day when our Facebook message marathon happened, only that I was in the middle of cooking dinner for my family and Elly was commenting that her work, while being so well-received by birth professionals, wasn’t making its way into the minds and hearts of expecting families. I know I wasn’t the only one to say this to her, but I do remember asking: “Why don’t you train us to teach them?”
Elly created an online training program for birth professionals to become Certified Becoming Us Facilitators. It’s an excellent program that allows birth professionals to really grasp the how and why relationship dissatisfaction occurs — and more importantly, how we can prevent, or lessen it from happening to the families we serve in the first place.
I completed the training last year and added “Certified Becoming Us Facilitator” to my list of credentials. I’ve partnered with Legacy Health System here in Portland, Oregon and, to date, have taught about 40 couples. And I LOVE it!
Becoming Us class participants are engaged from beginning to end! Couples share parts of themselves with each other and with the group in a way that’s both insightful and revealing. I can clearly see all of them connecting their own dots and taking all of this information in as a way to safeguard their relationship against the normal, expected challenges that occur when you move from couple to family. 300+ new skills need to be learned in a very high-stress environment with little sleep and lots of uncertainty — it’s no wonder so many couples report having issues!
I’m one of the first Certified Becoming Us Facilitators in the world to be teaching these classes and I couldn’t be more thrilled!
It’s so fulfilling to me — to be part of a movement of of birth professionals dedicated to really preparing couples so they won’t feel completely blind-sided when they give birth to their babies and become a family.
But the real “dream turned reality” happened in May of 2017, when Elly Taylor flew in from Sydney, Australia to be the presenter for the NACEF Conference (NACEF – Northwest Area Childbirth Educators Forum is a local, non-profit organization located in Portland, Oregon that is dedicated to offering quality education to perinatal professionals. And I’m the current President.)
I could hardly believe that she was here, in person, presenting to a group of close to 60 birth professionals (both live and virtual!) about her work and the importance of letting families know what to expect, how to work with these normal challenges, and create a family that thrives. It was SUCH a great conference!
What I can tell you is: This work matters.
Yesterday, out of the blue, a Momma from my first Becoming Us class series wrote this about her experience:
“So far our time at home has been going smoothly. Some of the discussions that spawned from your class really helped us to prepare for our time together as a family. We have been very gentle with one another which has been beautiful and positive for our relationship.”
and more recently from a partner’s perspective:
“I think these classes will help us stop and reset how we are interacting with one another under stress. It has helped me be more thoughtful in our relationship.”
Isn’t that amazing? It’s why I’m so excited to be a Becoming Us Facilitator — the impact these classes can have on the couple relationship is so positive and far-reaching.
And this is a dream come true.
I’ve got several Becoming Us class series slated for the 2017/2018 year. If you as a couple or a couple you know would benefit from taking these classes in preparation for becoming a family, get in touch with me, or check out the calendar on my website for more details. I’ll be piloting a version of this class for couples who have already had the baby starting in early 2018.
Please share this post widely… the more professionals who are doing this work, and the more couples who are receiving this message — the better off we’ll all be!
(And because I might have gone dancing with Elly after the conference and it might have been an 80s Dance Attack theme here’s a video that fits today’s blogpost… )