Showing Up for Black Lives

Dear CEA/MNY community,

As a community-based non-profit organization dedicated to childbirth education and advocacy, we recognize that we cannot talk about or teach about childbirth without addressing the racist system that causes black families to experience disproportionate perinatal death, emotional and physical trauma, and medical abuse. CEA/MNY’s role in dismantling systemic racism is an ongoing process. In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor (and so many others spanning the entire history of our nation), we stand firmly in solidarity with the nationwide protests and Black Lives Matter. We know these issues are inseparable from childbirth and the long-standing deep disparities faced by Black and Indigenous People of Color when it comes to birth outcomes.

Part of the process of dismantling systemic racism involves self-reflection to determine where we can do better as an organization. So in addition to amplifying the current ongoing work of and making donations to Black-led childbirth organizations, we are also identifying 3 key areas where CEA/MNY can improve when it comes to equity and racial justice.

Internal Organizational Structure: Increase representation of BIPOC in organization leadership (board of directors) to better reflect the diversity of NYC and develop a formal system for addressing grievances related to racism, inequity and discrimination within the organization.

Teacher Training Program: Continue to expand and support the scholarship program; Continue to re-work the curriculum, reading lists and other program requirements to be more equitable; Continue to be conscious about those who teach workshops in our program and how they reflect the diversity of our city.

External Coalition Building: Increase coalition-building work with BIPOC-led birth organizations and advocacy efforts at the local and state level on issues that affect black perinatal mortality. CEA/MNY was originally founded as an advocacy organization before we had a training program and advocacy is a part of our organization’s mission.

Here is a list of community resources and organizations that we are currently donating to. We encourage CEA/MNY members to consider supporting these Black-led birth organizations by amplifying the work they are doing, making referrals where appropriate, and making financial contributions when possible.

Ancient Song Doula Services
Caribbean Women’s Health Association
Bx Re (Birth)

We invite those in our community to share other organizations that you support.

No organization is beyond reproach and we welcome your feedback on how we can continue do better. Childbirth does not exist in a vacuum and we cannot have equitable, safe, and family-centered childbirth as long as the disease of systemic racism continues to exist.

In solidarity,
CEA/MNY Board of Directors

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A message to the CEA/MNY community on COVID-19 Coronavirus

Childbirth Educators have a critical role to play helping parents navigate the birth environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. For parents who may find themselves giving birth without the physical presence of a partner or support person, being informed and having a communication plan is essential for a safe and empowering birth.

COVID-19 Guidance for Hospital Operators Regarding Visitation Updated Guidance regarding Obstetrical and Pediatric Settings

The CEA community is here for you. We are working on providing more resources for remote childbirth education classes and are planning virtual support groups for our members and community. CEA/MNY instructors are working tirelessly to support birthing families remotely, contributing to the broader conversation among perinatal professionals on pivoting to virtual support as we all learn to navigate through uncertain times.

With the goal of providing consistent, high quality offerings, we are suspending the rest of our workshop season in order to resume in person sessions once restrictions have been lifted. In the meantime, we look forward to connecting with you virtually.

For those of you currently enrolled in the CEA/MNY Teacher Training Program, please stay tuned for an announcement about program extensions.

Stay strong and healthy everyone!

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Congratulations to our 2018 Scholarship Recipients!

Every two years CEA/MNY offers two scholarships for its nationally recognized Teacher Certification Program to aspiring childbirth educators committed to social justice around childbirth and working to make change in marginalized communities in New York City.

The Doris Haire Leadership Scholarship (open to all qualified applicants) is named after Doris Haire, co-founder of CEA/MNY in 1972 and a fiercely passionate and effective consumer and maternal health advocate.

The Still I Rise Leadership Scholarship, named after Maya Angelou’s poem, which famously and eloquently describes overcoming racism, classism, and sexism, is open to all qualified African American/Black candidates and is aimed at reducing the high disparities in infant and maternal mortality that exist in African American communities, especially in New York City. We received so many inspiring applications and as a result, CEA/MNY’s board decided use the current groundswell of awareness and effort to eliminate generations old disparities in childbirth to fundraise additional scholarships. After a successful campaign, raising over $8k, we are excited to announce funding for 5 additional Still I Rise scholarship recipients.

Many thanks to all who supported our fundraising efforts—without you, this would have not been possible.

Please join us in congratulating and celebrating our 2018 scholarship recipients:


The Doris Haire Leadership Scholarship is awarded to Elizabeth Guerra.

Elizabeth Guerra is a Latina social justice activist and Queens native, with over a decade of experience building community power through the vehicles of community organizing, volunteer recruitment and engagement, and popular education at non-profits and labor unions throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. She has technical expertise in collective bargaining, multi-layered campaign development, women’s rights, power building, reproductive, economic and worker justice.

Elizabeth has dedicated her life to teaching girls and women to stand in their power. As a full spectrum birthworker, Elizabeth has worked in service of pregnant people in New York and Connecticut. She has been trained by Ancient Song Doula Services in Brooklyn, NY.

Elizabeth graduated with her Bachelors from SUNY Stony Brook University with departmental honors in History and a concentration in Latin American & Caribbean History and Women’s Studies. She obtained her Masters in Labor Studies from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.  Recently, Elizabeth has become a Registered Yoga Teacher and a Breathe for Change Wellness Champion.


A Still I Rise Scholarship is awarded to Stacey Toro.

Stacey Toro is a former school teacher and single mother residing in NYC’s historic El Barrio community. She is a birth and postpartum doula, certified lactation counselor, and an experienced Reiki healer and yoga practitioner. Raised in the Nuyorican Bronx, inspired by the empowering birth of her own son, and informed by decades of experience in political organizing, spoken word, community improvisational theater, and Afro-indigenous ritual and healing traditions, her intuitive, culturally-based perspective supports women and families in creating liberating birth experiences.  She holds certifications as a doula from DONA International, as a lactation counselor from Mama Mia, Inc, and as a Holistic Health Counselor from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She is also a certified 200 hour and prenatal Yoga Instructor. Stacey is apprenticed in Emotional Release Therapy (ERT) through Casa Atabex Ache, and holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Hunter College / CUNY. She currently teaches higher education Humanities and Race Studies and services families as a residing in the South Bronx and Northern Manhattan.


A Still I Rise Scholarship is awarded to Berenice Kernizan.

Berenice Kernizan is a full spectrum doula, and certified lactation counselor, serving clients through her private practice Adventures of a Wombman. She also works as a community doula with Ancient Song Doula Services, and By My Side Birth Support. Berenice is an advocate of  Birth Justice and Reproductive Justice. With her scholarship her mission is to provide education, and resources to underserved communities. She believes that in order to strengthen communities they must first have access to choices. Born in Haiti, Berenice was raised in Brooklyn, and graduated from Brooklyn College with a B.A. in psychology, and a Minor in Women’s Studies. She speaks fluent Haitian Creole. In the future she plans to pursue a career in Midwifery.


A Still I Rise Scholarship is awarded to HunterDae.

HunterDae is a birth doula, public health advocate, parent of twins, and native New Yorker. HunterDae’s experiences navigating conception, pregnancy, and birth as a self identified Black, Fat, Queer, Non-binary person, has lead them to passionately tackle health disparities, and challenge the discourse surrounding birth to be less racially biased, more body positive, and more gender expansive. They’ve been learning, working, organizing and educating in their communities since adolescence as both a youth instructor and peer educator at The Center for Anti-Violence Education in Brooklyn. HunterDae is a trained full spectrum doula through Ancient Song Doula Services, a volunteer community doula, and currently supporting families privately as well as through the New York Doula Collective. HunterDae’s practice is in tribute to their children, is informed with a reproductive justice lens and is charged by their ancestral family of healers/care providers and educators.

HunterDae believes strongly in supporting families to understand that they “know more than they think”, honoring each individual’s experience and encouraging families to value their truths while supporting their choice. HunterDae aspires to be a Midwife and hopes to support wellness of families through the life cycle. They also hope to make childbirth education more accessible and affirming for Queer and Trans Black and Indigenous People of Color (QTBIPOC), birthing individuals that are often shamed for body size/type, and for families expecting multiples. They are grateful for their award from CEAMNY and honored to be supported on their path to expanding and diversifying the access and information for their communities.


A Still I Rise Scholarship is awarded to Aliyah Ansari.

Aliyah Ansari resides in Brooklyn, New York. A mother of one, Aliyah cites her pregnancy journey as significantly influential in her desire to become a childbirth educator. During her pregnancy, she wanted to gain as much knowledge as she could and immersed herself in everything pregnancy related.  From watching documentaries to reading books and attending panels about birth, Aliyah did everything she could to arm herself with information. From this research came empowerment. She realized that she could make the choice of who would help her birth her child. With this empowerment she switched from a provider who didn’t listen to her needs to an amazing midwife who gave her the space to voice her concerns. With her help, she was able to have a successful home birth.

This opened her eyes to the importance of knowledge. Knowledge, she knew, not everyone had access to. She wants to create spaces that centers on childbirth education but also allow women of color the ability to talk freely about their pregnancy experiences as well as how being a woman of color affects their pregnancy. She is truly excited about this program and the impact she will be able to have within her community.


A Still I Rise Scholarship is awarded to Thamar Innocent.

Thamar Innocent is a trained birth and postpartum doula and her goal is to create a space filled with support, resources, advocacy, love and sometimes just a listening ear.  Her passion is rooted in a Caribbean culture that prides themselves on caring for the woman from preconception through her transition into motherhood. As a daughter of a Haitian immigrant, she has a heart for the Haitian diaspora community in NYC and works diligently to help those that need her services the most.

Thamar feels that her purpose is to support and empower moms to lead a holistic lifestyle that works for them.  She is laser focused on educating women throughout the childbearing year so that they could make informed decisions and have access to resources they might otherwise have not know of.

Thamar is also a certified health coach and received her B.S in Health Services Administration in NYC.  She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and 7-year-old son.


A Still I Rise Scholarship is awarded to Shawntel Cyril.

Shawntel Cyril is a humanitarian at heart and a creative soul. She received a scholarship to become a birth doula through Brooklyn Perinatal Healthy Women Healthy Futures program. She’s also a Certified Lactation Counselor. Her passion for women and children started at a very early age after experiencing domestic violence within her family. She found herself becoming a voice to those who felt voiceless.

Shawntel decided to become a birth worker after having a very traumatic birth experience with her son. She currently works for the Nurse-Family Partnership Program as a Community Outreach Coordinator. She has also worked as a health educator, home visitor and facilitator for the Parenting Journey Program. Shawntel is an active member in her community and an advocate for birth justice. She believes that women should never feel inaudible when giving birth, but instead empowered. Her motto is “plant a seed and watch it grow.”  She hopes to follow in Maya Angelou’s footsteps with her scholarship by encouraging and inspiring as many women as possible.

Shawntel graduated from Touro College with an A.A.S degree in Human Services and plans to return to school to obtain a degree in UX design. She hopes to combine technology and art with birth work to help people in the field become stronger.

 

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CEA/MNY and Bread and Yoga host screening of “Miriam: Home Delivery” on May 21

CEA/MNY and Bread and Yoga are excited to announce a screening of the documentary, Miriam: Home Delivery, on Saturday, May 21 at 7:00 p.m. in Manhattan. CEA/MNY Board Member and CCCE, Molly Weingrod, shares her story of birthing with home birth midwife, Miriam Schwarzschild. To purchase tickets, visit www.breadandyoga.com.

miriam schwarzchild, cea/mny, childbirth education association of metropolitan new york, home birth, bread and yoga

“The first time I met Miriam, I was naked, facing her with my backside, moaning, and pushing so hard on the walls of our apartment that I was surprised they hadn’t fallen in. She came in quietly, knowingly, and I introduced myself with my eyes closed. Our midwife had gone on a planned vacation to Europe. I knew this was a possibility but had never really taken it in. This baby that I was sure would be similarly early to our first, was much later than anyone expected he would be. Two weeks post due date. A month past the gestational arrival of our first. And 6 weeks past when I decided I had had enough of being pregnant during one of the hottest summers on record in New York. As she left town, our midwife said, “Well, I guess this baby just wants to meet Miriam!” I laughed, in affable agreement. But inside I was actually wondering if anyone had ever had a baby that decided not to come out, but instead, grew back into her body. Turns out, our midwife was right. Almost. I’m not sure if the baby wanted to meet Miriam — but somehow he knew that I did. We went on to have a third baby with Miriam as well, and tried to figure out how to have our fourth with her too even though by then we were living in a different city altogether. 

 
There is so much to say, and so little. Miriam is simply the best there is. 
She is warm without being fuzzy; she is tough without being hard. She is absolutely present, but gives people space; she has strong opinions, but is open and flexible. Miriam is just the right balance of everything – patience, determination, commitment, care. She is wise but humble, experienced but fresh. 
 
On the fifth phone call about trying perhaps successfully, perhaps not, to get myself into labor, she responded: I want you to try to think about getting yourself out of labor, rather than into it. Can you try to get yourself out of labor? For the first time in a week I relaxed. And hours later, we had a new baby in the house. 
 

It’s ironic that there is a film about Miriam because she is just about the least dramatic person I know. She is straightforward. She does what she does. Not for accolades, not for show, not for anything other than her love for, and commitment to, this work. I will be forever grateful that Miriam found her calling, and forever grateful that our son, in his inimitable disdain for deadlines, led us to her. “

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A Conversation with Meredith Fein Lichtenberg, CCCE, IBCLC, JD

photo for websiteMeredith Fein Lichtenberg has been an influential mentor and workshop leader for our childbirth education trainees for over a decade. She has served on the Board of Directors for CEA/MNY for a number of years.

Her work as an cooperative childbirth educator, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), postpartum doula and writer, has not just helped a generation of New York City parents come of age but made her one of the most valuable local resources for teachers-in-training.

Meredith’s breadth of knowledge is paired with a strong personal interest in women’s changing identity through the childbirth years. The combination makes for a nuanced and enlightened understanding of how we grow into parents and find our way in these new roles.

On Saturday, May 16th, she will lead our workshop, Maternal Postpartum Issues in Brooklyn. Here is some advice she has for new teachers on how to help ground new parents during the transitional first few days after birth.

5 Things Educators Can Teach Before Birth to Help New Parents Adjust After Birth

1. Distinguish between “normal” and “easy.” In the rest of life we do things as a challenge just for the challenge, there’s a lot in new parenting that’s like that. The point is not to make everything easy and knowing that in advance helps them.

2. And yet, it’s so worth having creature comforts lined up to make everything that can be easy, easy.

3. A little preparation goes a long way. Packing the diaper bag in advance, having some food in the kitchen made already, knowing what books or websites are go-tos and which should be avoided, having notes from your prenatal class on hand.

4. The company of other new parents is vital even if you’re not a someone that usually joins in.

5.  A little reassurance goes  very long way. A check-in with your childbirth educator or a doula or IBCLC is so helpful. It is also important to note that submitting for insurance reimbursement can be a nightmare. I think it helps people to know this in advance and sadly, at the moment, I think it’s best to tell students to expect to pay for their support out of pocket. You will probably not get reimbursed if you want the leisurely, thorough care of a good IBCLC doing a nice long home visit. Childbirth educators can be in the role of telling students that it is worth it to spend money on these things.

Maternal Postpartum Issues

May 16, 2015
10am – 4pm
Location: Birth Day Presence, 182 8th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Click here to register

 

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Sheila Kitzinger

Last Saturday we lost one of our essential birth mothers, Sheila Kitzinger.

Sheila Kitzinger was the founder of The National Childbirth Trust in the UK and a mentor to us all. She came to a CEA gathering about 15 years ago and gave an amazing talk on the history of childbirth with slides and artwork and then modeled her Birth Cape of many colors.

Her books are legendary and still relevant today.

Please check out her work and the beautiful obituary in The New York Times.

Ellen Chuse

And here is a link to a wonderful interview with Kitzinger about her own experience giving birth. “This was a sport I could do!”

“For far too many, pregnancy and birth is still something that happens to them rather than something they set out consciously and joyfully to do themselves. ” Sheila Kitzinger 

 

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Why Labor Hurts and Other Insights from CEA/MNY’s Ellen Chuse

Screen shot 2015-02-27 at 6.28.50 PM

by Ceridwen Morris, CCCE

In her 30 years as a childbirth educator, Ellen Chuse, CCE, has built a huge following in New York. Week after week, young couples file into her cozy Brooklyn brownstone to prepare for birth and bringing home a baby.

I’m always thrilled when I hear Ellen speak–she’s funny, she’s frank and she knows everything about birth (seriously). In her class, a topic that may seem overwhelming becomes an opportunity for connection, humor and insight.  Ellen, who is also a birth counselor and former president of CEAMNY, has been an inspiration to me and many, many others.

Here is an excerpt from an interview I did with her some years ago:

In your classes I always love it when you say, “you don’t have to like it.” Can you expand on what you’re getting at with this statement?

Birth is an extraordinary event in the life of a woman—one she carries with her throughout her entire life.  But a woman’s experience of birth is completely diminished in our culture and as women we tend to internalize that.  In recent years, especially in the natural birth movement, there’s been an implication that to truly birth naturally the experience must also be ecstatic, orgasmic and spiritual.  I would argue that all birth is spiritual but it’s also hard, sweaty work.  Could you have an orgasm?  Yes.  Is it likely?  No.  Are you less of a wonderful, powerful birthing woman because you moaned, yelled or cursed your way through labor?  No.  As women we have a tendency to focus only on that which didn’t go as we had planned while ignoring all that we did successfully.  I want to give women permission to find labor difficult or their responses unorthodox but still have positive feelings about their accomplishment.  That’s what I mean when I say

” you don’t have to love it, you just have to do it”.

Why does labor hurt? Does it always hurt?

Although there may be a few women who claim to have experienced labor without pain, most women find labor contractions painful.  The degree of pain and the effect that it has on labor can vary from one woman to another but most of us would say that labor hurts!  I believe that the pain of labor is different from other kinds of pain we experience.  Rather than telling us that something is going wrong, it tells us that something is going right.  Mother Nature wants to get our attention and hold our attention to make sure that we don’t confuse this with anything else.  Longer, stronger and more painful contractions are Mother Nature’s way of telling us that we are getting closer to the birth of our baby – that we need to be in a safe place with all our support available.  After all, Mother Nature’s primary concern is the continuation of the species.  Since the beginning of human existence babies needed to be born in a safe environment in order to survive.  Mothers needed to know that something extraordinary was happening and make preparations to receive their babies safely.  Even today we evolved humans tend to avoid, deny and rationalize that which we don’t want to deal with. The intensity of labor overrides that inclination and forces us to pay attention.  And understanding why the pain is there – the normalcy of labor pain – can help to remove some of the fear of pain that is so prevalent in our culture.  Without the fear we just have to deal with the pain, which is often manageable with active coping strategies.

A woman in labor is vulnerable. A woman in labor is powerful. How can she be both of these things at once??

READ the rest of the interview here.

 

Register for Ellen’s PAIN COPING STRATEGIES workshop MARCH 8, 2015 10-4pm

PRICING & PRE-REGISTRATION FOR HERE (Early Registration pricing available until 12:00pm Saturday, Feb. 28)

Pre-registration strongly recommended as space is limited.

Remember to check out the required readings

Workshops are each approved for 5 DONA International Approved Continuing Education Hours

 

 

 

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