A New Model for Birth Services, RVA Welcomes MyBirth

Richmond is one of the coolest cities to call home right now for all kinds of reasons, but especially for young and expectant families. From prenatal yoga, massage, and acupuncture, to birthing options from hospital to home, and postpartum support circles, baby-wearing and breastfeeding groups, there is much to love about our progressive birth scene and mothering community.

Now for the first time outside a hospital setting expectant parents can learn about breastfeeding, childbirth, VBAC support, and nutrition all under one roof through a new birth services model called MyBirth.

With a cozy office in The Fan and a comprehensive offering of birth, breastfeeding, and nutrition classes, MyBirth prepares parents for the highs and lows of having a baby, offering mothers what’s tried and true to make it through the toughest parts so they can realize the long term benefits of a healthy and well supported pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

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From Left to Right: MyBirth partner Lynn English, and cofounders Amy Lavelle , Jenny Fisher, and Emily Bruno.

A powerhouse of amazing women, Emily, Amy, Jenny, and Lynn—all professional birth doulas—are transforming the way that Richmond families get their start by placing the power of information and choice back in the hands of local mothers while making it easier and more convenient for expectant parents to connect with the resources they need most.

I sat down with Emily Bruno, cofounder of MyBirth, VBAC support group leader, and sage doula to get to the heart of MyBirth and learn more about how these mama-entrepreneurs are elevating the craft of supporting women in Richmond.

 

Tell me about MyBirth and the niche it fills for women and families here in RVA.

MyBirth is a one-stop shop for birth services. We are the only full-service practice with guaranteed 24-7 doula back-up offering multiple opportunities to meet and get to know your doula and her back-up prior to labor. Any time you read advice on hiring a doula it is recommended that you interview multiple doulas to find one you “click” with. With us, one interview connects you with four experienced doulas that have an established working relationship with each other and with area hospitals.

Our classes are independent, evidence-based, and non-biased, developed in collaboration with local experts, and taught by us in-house. We offer a variety of class times and formats to fit into anyone’s schedule.

Our doula services include two prenatal appointments, full labor support, and two postpartum appointments. We offer an initial group prenatal that encourages families to build community, make connections, and become confident in their birth.

 

Your slogan reads: “At the end you will confidently say, ‘This was My Birth.’” Tell me more about what this means to you and what your hopes and goals are for your clients.

Our first goal is to have clients who are fully educated and therefore making the most informed decisions. Our second goal is to be sure that we honor our clients’ decisions.

As doulas we have no specific outcome in mind other than your feeling honored and well supported through your birth. Our job is to offer multiple educational opportunities so that you can make the best decision for your birth and your family.

There is no “right way” to have your baby – just what is right for you, and we support this.

 

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Emily Bruno, Jenny Fisher, Amy Lavelle and just a few of their happy clients.

Emily, you are passionate about cesarean prevention and vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), and you recently started an International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) chapter here in Richmond. Why would you recommend that every pregnant woman attend at least one ICAN meeting?

To become educated and make the best decision for their birth. In short: to learn about the unnecessary cesarean, the long term risks and complications of C-section births and to know that if they have a C-section—whether by choice or necessity—to also learn about and understand they can request a family-centered or “gentle” cesarean, and later pursue a VBAC if they so choose.

Cesarean birth is a risk to every pregnancy, as 1 in 3 women are birthing via c-section. It behooves families to know and fully understand the risks of surgical birth, and how to avoid one if possible.

 

I love how comprehensive MyBirth’s list of services are, please share some about your class offerings and what makes choosing a MyBirth doula stand out as a unique choice for families in Richmond. 

Our curriculum is written based on our experiences in Richmond hospitals with Richmond providers so that we can best serve Richmond families. We don’t teach a particular “method” but have instead designed a class that uses techniques and practices that we know to reliably help mothers best prepare for their births. We wrote and now teach an original evidence-based curriculum focused on preparing for a healthy pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. The information is accessible, interactive, easy to remember and fun, with multiple approaches to learning that are directed at both mama and partner. Our classes include a four week, 12-hour, full childbirth education series, a refresher course for those on their second, third, even sixth baby, and a breastfeeding class. We also have a VBAC success class and a nutrition class for the childbearing year, which is not offered anywhere else.

 

What are three essential elements that expectant parents should seek out for their birth?

  1. Education. This is key. You can’t make an informed decision if you don’t know your options.
  2. Preparation. Educate, research, discuss. Just because you envision your birth a certain way doesn’t mean it will automatically happen that way. You have to prepare for the birth you want. What if you desire an unmedicated birth but require the use of medical interventions? What if you prepare for an epidural, but labor too fast to receive one, or have one that doesn’t fully manage your labor sensations?
  3. Support and a strong team. This includes your partner, your care provider, your doula and your community. After educating yourself on your options and learning how best to pursue the birth you want, you deserve to have your choices honored.

 

What is the back story of MyBirth, how did it all begin and how did the stars align to make your business concept a reality? 

Everything really got started in the fall of 2013. After working together for a couple of years on the board of Richmond Doulas, we knew that we shared a similar philosophy regarding birth work, and a clear idea of what kind of preparation and classes that we wished were available to our clients.

We had a vision of an office to meet clients, a classroom to share our knowledge and experiences about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, and a welcoming environment to host support groups and other birth related events. We wanted our clients to develop relationships with other families and build community because parenthood can sometimes be an isolating experience. We also wanted to provide a continuum of support throughout the childbearing year, where everything you need is in one familiar location—it got old sending our clients all over town to search out different resources!

It’s been a slow process but we’ve been very thorough. We’re laying the foundation of a longterm presence in the Richmond birth community. To say that this has been a challenge is a serious understatement but we know that it’s an incredible opportunity to positively impact so many women and their families by offering more choices and easier access to education and support.

We are women and moms that have a passion for birth and supporting families—and for supporting our own families with our work. This is our job, our profession, our calling. We care deeply about the work we do and our commitment shows in our decision to move birth work and education in a whole new direction for Richmond.

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To learn more about MyBirth doulas, services, and course offerings.

For information about ICAN Richmond.