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Membership Spotlight

Mary Duke, LCCE

Read more about Mary and her work as a Lamaze 2017 Advocacy Summit State Champion, as well as her creative crowdfunding initiative.

Where do you live?

Scottsville, Kentucky, USA

How long have you been teaching?

2 years

What was your journey to a career in childbirth education?

In 2011 I was pregnant for the first time and had never given much thought to pregnancy or birth. I ended up sadly losing that pregnancy to miscarriage, but in my short experience with local maternity care I realized I had a lot to learn before my next pregnancy. The biggest concern for me was the lack of education options. If I wanted education outside the hospital, I had to wait 6-12 weeks and travel an hour and a half to two hours away. My husband is very supportive, but for a farmer to leave his farm that often is pretty much impossible. I also realized that the only birth options within an hour radius of my home were not what I wanted for my family. I started going to mom-to-mom support groups, breastfeeding support groups, ICAN meetings and anywhere else I could learn more about our current birth atmosphere.

I decided instead of waiting for someone else to do it, I would bring comprehensive childbirth education to Southern Kentucky.

After becoming a birth doula, and months before my LCCE exam, I gave birth to my daughter Marley Ann. While she was a planned home birth with CPMs and a doula I had to transfer to a hospital 45 minutes away and birthed my daughter there. The transfer experience was traumatic and I was a victim of obstetric violence. After that experience I wondered if I was cut out to be a birth professional while healing from my attack. I questioned everything I had spent the last couple years doing, but my midwives, friends and husband all helped me find the silver lining. My experience made me a better doula and educator. I can take my own missteps and use them to better prepare students to have positive brith outcomes (even when it doesn't go as planned). I learned a lot about the importance of birth plans and proper communication between dads, support people and the doctors. My unexpected outcome made me the educator I am today.

How, where, and what do you teach?

I teach at a local yoga and pilates studio, "The Spot". I teach families who are choosing to birth at home, hospital or birth centers. Surprisingly to some, the majority of my students in the beginning were planning home births and only in my second year have I seen the class majority swap to planned hospital births. I also serve rural Kentucky families by traveling to them and providing in-home private education. As a farm family my husband and I realize how difficult it is to travel to the city for 6-8 weeks, so I've always made it a priority to meet rural families where they are.

Why did you choose to become a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator?

Once I decided I was going to be a childbirth educator I started researching the various organizations I could train through. As an aspiring educator who had not attended education classes or birthed a baby I was automatically ineligible for some programs. I felt drawn to Lamaze because of their resources for parents and educators, the ability to be an educator without being a mom and the multistep process to become an LCCE. I wouldn't want to have a teacher who trained quickly online and wasn't required to have continuing education, so I didn't want to be that teacher myself. I felt having Lamaze International behind me would garner a level of respect I desired for my business and I would personally feel pride being an LCCE educator.

What or who influences your teaching?

Connie Livingston was my Lamaze mentor and I wouldn't be where I am today without her and her notable encouragement. She was always there to answer my questions meeting with me by phone, web or in person. Mary Carol Akers allowed me to shadow her and do my student teaching under her. I will forever be appreciative of her support. I love being able to follow other LCCE educators through social media gathering ideas for class activities. When I can make it to #LamazeChat I always seem to walk away with ways to improve my class.

The main influence on my class though is my community and network of birth professionals. I manage the My Sunshine Birth Services network of doulas, photographers, lactation counselors and more. They refer their clients to my class, so they are constantly giving me feedback about what they want for their clients. They also visit my class regularly. We also do a "Lamaze Circuit Class" where we have all the professionals come in and teach on their specialty. We cover everything from carseat safety to cloth diapers. Because of the community and network members that support me, I feel I offer a childbirth education experience like no other.

Another influence is my husband and the other dads in our community. I am always looking for ways to not just include dads, but have "dad-centered" events. Our biggest success has been "Papas & Pints: Lamaze Intro for Dads".

What is your goal as an educator?

I want my students to be prepared for any outcome and be able to advocate for themselves even when unexpected decisions arise. I also want to show Southern Kentucky families they are in charge of their birth choices and show them what true informed consent is.

How do you use Lamaze Resources to support you as an educator?

The #LamazeChat series is a helpful tool for me as I attempt to connect with other educators and find ways to improve my class.

The Inside Lamaze newsletter is my favorite resource. I always use the suggested social media posts and find helpful articles.

How could you suggest other members receive maximum value from Lamaze?

Don't be afraid to reach out to other Lamaze educators. We are all family and willing to share what works and doesn't work for us. When I was trying to find the best day and time for my classes I asked experienced educators around the country (and Canada!) what worked for them. It was through those conversations I found my most popular class "Late Night Lamaze" teaching from 7p-9p on weekday nights.

Try a #LamazeChat as a way to meet other educators. Find me and other educators on Facebook and Instagram and don't be afraid to ask questions Also, check out the Lamaze website and app. They are full of useful information and tools for you and your students. Connie always told me the greatest resource Lamaze offered was their annual conference (or this year the Advocacy Summit). I couldn't attend in my first year because as a start up business I didn't have the funds, but from here on out if the funds are available I will be there!

When you're not teaching, what do you enjoy doing?

I enjoy spending time with my husband Les Brown and my daughter Marley Ann. We love to spend time hiking, kayaking or staying home and spending time together in the kitchen.

I also enjoy my advocacy work within our own birth community and with the Kentucky Home Birth Coalition.