Local childbirth educators find joy teaching prospective parents

Neighbors

May 10, 1999|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

MORE THAN 2,000 people came to the Howard County Fairgrounds to buy children's furniture, clothes, books, toys and equipment from 135 parents whose children have outgrown the items.

Two Ellicott City residents -- Kathy Tomaszewski and Barbara Wallace -- have organized the yard sale of children's paraphernalia for the past 15 years.

Proceeds fund educational programs offered by Lamaze International of Metropolitan Baltimore.

The women, certified childbirth educators, are members of the local Lamaze chapter and are two of six members who teach independently in their homes.

Six Howard County childbirth educators teach Lamaze classes, "early parenting" and "family-centered maternity care."

Wallace says she wants women to "rejoice in the birth of their baby."

As a nurse at a hospital in York, Pa., in the 1960s, Wallace said, she saw doctors often write orders to "KO" the patient. The women were anesthetized.

They woke up after the baby had been born.

Wallace thought that approach was awful. The women had missed the birth experience.

Then she learned of a 1958 book, "Thank You, Dr. Lamaze" by Marjorie Karmel. The book advocated making the birth experience a shared event for mother and father. The approach empowers women to make informed choices about their health care -- and to trust themselves.

Fernand Lamaze also recognized that, traditionally, pregnant women were surrounded by family who provided comfort and encouragement throughout labor and in the days and weeks after birth.

Wallace took the training and decided to have her babies by the Lamaze method. She chose to stay at home with her children and teach childbirth classes part time.

In addition, she works as a nurse part time in a pediatric practice.

Tomaszewski had worked as a pediatric nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital until she had her first son, Nicholas, now 11. After Nicholas was born, she wanted to stay home and work part time.

She took the Lamaze training and finished as she was preparing to give birth to her second son, Scott, now 9.

Tomaszewski says experiencing birth has a profound effect on women and their families. She is pleased to be remembered -- as she is by many families -- for her assistance.

She likes meeting couples at such a joyous time in their lives.

A typical Lamaze program consists of a two-hour early pregnancy class, a six-week basic childbirth class and a two-hour breast-feeding class, held before the due date.

The early pregnancy class is usually given on a Saturday morning and is offered for mothers who are three or four months into their pregnancy.

Information on nutrition, exercise, sexuality and body mechanics is discussed. The educators describe the changes that mothers can expect during pregnancy and how to deal with discomfort.

Six to 10 couples are usually scheduled for the childbirth class and finish the class two to three weeks before the mother's due date. The small group size is conducive to sharing.

The classes educate the couples about their choices and options in childbirth. Leaders also explain how the mothers' bodies are changing, Wallace said.

Tomaszewski says some classes "really connect. They come together at the same point in their lives and sometimes form lasting friendships."

She remembers one class in which the mother was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was pregnant. The group rallied around the woman and years later still gathered together at Christmas.

Tomaszewski says the educators "always encourage the dads to come to everything -- including breast-feeding, because mom does not know what to expect and dad has even less knowledge."

Several in the group will make house calls for pregnant women whose doctors have ordered bed rest. They also answer questions by phone.

Some educators rent or sell breast pumps. Two completed training as certified lactation consultants. All have gone through a year of post-baccalaureate training.

Tomaszewski has been trained to serve as a Lamaze labor support specialist -- a designation that qualifies her to support mothers emotionally during labor.

She has provided the service -- called being a "doula" -- twice and hopes to offer the support again.

Tomaszewski says studies have found that with a "doula" present, mothers are less likely to have a Caesarean section and require less medication. Prospective mothers and fathers remain calmer with a supportive person present, she said.

The educators charge between $120 and $130 for the classes.

For information, call 410-465-9550.

Honoring the military

Chancellor Gardens in Ellicott City will celebrate Armed Forces Day on Saturday to honor soldiers and veterans in every branch of the military.

The festivities will include music and a barbecue.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Thomas Hobbs of Post 4225 in Ellicott City will present an American flag and a plaque.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

Information: 410-715-0930.

Loving event

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