Today I sat down with Fusion Birth member Erin Simmer of Made to Birth. Erin is a childbirth educator, offering Bradley Method childbirth classes. She, along with her husband Paul, have taught Bradley classes for 9 years, and over 200 couples have come through their classes. Erin and Paul have been married for 14 years. They have four children, three girls and a boy ranging in age from 10 to 3. She stays at home with the littles and teaches Bradley on the side, and Paul teaches high school social studies. Most of her days are spent running around after the littles, building forts, reading books, and legos - lots of legos. But she also enjoys moments of quiet: a good book, knitting, and the perfect iced coffee.
Sarah: Why did you decide to become a childbirth educator?
Erin: When we were pregnant with our first child, we had to drive to Wisconsin in order to take the Bradley classes that our midwife recommended. We were lucky that we were able to make the drive work, since there wasn’t a closer option for us. Our birth was amazing. It was everything we had hoped for, and we really felt like a lot of the credit went to the education that we received from our Bradley classes. Our instructors urged us to think about becoming certified to teach, but I completely dismissed the idea. Around her first birthday, I had a change of heart. I just felt really convicted, that we needed to help provide this service for our area. We jumped in wholeheartedly and were ready to teach less than 2 months later!
Sarah: What is one of the most rewarding things about your work?
Erin: Birth stories. It has to be the birth stories. We invite all of our couples to come back and tell their stories. Regardless of whether everything played out just the way they hoped, or if nothing went as planned - they are all invited to come back and share their experience. I think this is one of the neatest parts of class. I love to watch the journey that the couple goes through: the eager and excited woman transforms into a caring, beaming mother. And the dads. Love the dads. My husband and I teach our classes together. I think this is one of the really unique things about Bradley - this idea of the birthing process being a team effort between the mother and her coach. A lot of the coaches come in... not overly excited. They’re dutifully attending with their partner, but maybe not all-in like the women are. But somewhere in the middle of the class, a lot of them really engage. They learn how important their role is in the birth. They become empowered when they see and know all of the different ways that they can support their partner. And when they come back and tell their stories... and they light up, excitedly telling all of the details... It’s just so neat to watch them go from the quiet guy in the corner, to the engaged, proud daddy sharing their story. Yep. I love the birth stories.
Sarah: What do you offer your clients that is unique to you?
Erin: I think that there are several things unique to our classes. I’ve already talked about how we really try to engage the partners and empower them to step up and be a vital part of the birth process. So I think that’s a big one. And, of course, that I teach with my husband. I think that his involvement in our classes really helps to draw out the guys. He’s always adding in sports analogies, and sometimes he can just answer things better than I can, from a perspective that I just don’t know first hand. So I really appreciate his presence in the class. But one more thing I’ll add is that we try really hard to set families up well for this transition that they’re going to make from being a couple to being a family. We don’t just take you through the birth, but into parenthood. We discuss postpartum care and newborn care. We have an entire class devoted to breastfeeding. We bring in local experts to talk about postpartum depression and anxiety, chiropractic care for your newborn, and cover things like cloth diapers and babywearing. Classes are 12 weeks long, and in that time we really try to capitalize on all aspects of birth and parenting a newborn, so that when the baby arrives, families have a good foundation already in place.
Sarah: Tell me about the services you provide.
Erin: Our childbirth classes are 12 weeks long, 2 hours each. We teach women and partners about the natural processes of labor. We want moms to listen to their bodies and partners to feel confident in supporting them. We really strive to teach all-encompassing classes. We don’t just want our classes to teach you how to push a baby out; we want you to feel prepared through the whole laboring process, and also into parenthood as well. We cover many different topics from exercise and nutrition, comfort measures and coaching to postpartum care and newborn care. And we cover breastfeeding, too. Class sizes are kept small - no more than 8 couples - so that we can get to know you well, to help you feel comfortable asking those intimate questions you may have, and also to encourage you to get to know the others in the class. We show lots of birth videos, have several labor rehearsals and relaxation exercises, and birth stories too!
You can find Erin's website and contact information by following this link. Erin and Paul are such a valuable resource in the Cedar Valley and Northeast Iowa as a whole!