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Choosing a Training, pt. 4

Sep 17th, 2010 Training

When my husband and I made the decision that I would train as a childbirth educator in 1999, it was a gut decision.  I loved birth and I knew I wanted to work with expectant families. We figured it would be a great way for me to make a little extra money while staying home with our baby. Somehow we scrapped together the money (over $2000) and I flew to a training at a nice hotel excited about my new career path.

My excitement for birth didn’t leave, but my excitement for the program I chose quickly died.    When I attended the training I thought the program was brilliant and understood the latest research, but when I started reading on my own I realized the research they had was simply what I could read in the latest birth books, they did not participate in research themselves. When I signed up for the program I only knew about two such programs in the country, but soon learned there were many childbirth education programs available. The program gave me lots of information about birth, but didn’t actually teach me anything about adult education. I spent hours reading as much as I could to learn to be a good teacher.

By the end of my first year teaching I still had not made back the money I had spent being trained. I found the materials provided for me by the organization of poor quality and spent extra time redoing marketing materials and creating handouts. There was no support for me as a teacher from the program, no ongoing education and no way for me to network with other teachers.  They did provide a referral listing for families interested in the classes, but I found most of my clients found me by word of mouth from other clients or the midwives I worked with.

I started teaching 4 or 5 classes a year with 3 or 4 families in each class. Each family paid me $200. From that sum I had to pay to stay associated with the organization, purchase my materials and market my classes. If I wanted to attend another training or conference, subscribe to a journal or purchase a book it came out of the profits. I did start making money in the second year, but I never made more than a few thousand dollars a year.

Financially, it was a pretty bad decision to use this training. We had not accurately estimated how much we could earn or the costs of the program. To wait nearly two years before I started earning money put my family in a difficult situation.  I was working a part time job and teaching one or two nights a week. It was not what I expected.

But it was worth it.

Teaching childbirth education was the first step on a long journey for me.  It is now ten years later. I have personally helped hundreds of families understand their options and learn to speak to their care team. I have had the privilege of providing support for single women and teens who had no other sources of support. I have encouraged others to pursue birth work as their calling. I have trained others as doulas and childbirth educators. I have written books about birth that address the culturally sensitive issues Christian women face.  I have traveled to central Africa to train skilled birth attendants. And now I am enrolled in a family nurse midwife/MPH program preparing myself to open midwifery schools and clinics in developing nations. I assure you I never imagined how far that initial investment would take me.

I tell you all this because I do want you to make good decisions.  I want you to be smart about your choices in programs and the money you spend for them.  I want you to be satisfied with the training you receive. But I also want you to understand that sometimes decisions affect more than money.  Sometimes what you think is going to be a part time job becomes a life’s mission.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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