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Community Highlights: Meet Vanessa Flood of Birthing Beyond

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vanessa Flood.

Hi Vanessa, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I started out my career as a microbiologist in the food industry. But after having my first, I knew I wanted to stay home with her. As I was trying to figure out my next step, I realized that I loved teaching and could combine that with childbirth. I quickly became a certified childbirth instructor (first with ALACE then LAMAZE) and started teaching for a local OB office and LOVED it!

Then I took a local birth doula training to help me become a better instructor but I had zero interest in attending births. A good friend inquired if I would want to attend her birth to practice what I learned. I politely declined. She asked again. I politely declined again. This went on for many rounds until I finally accepted her offer begrudgingly. And her birth catapulted me into birth doula world! I think I may have even been more excited than she was having the baby–Ha! And full thanks to Mistie for seeing something in me that I did not see myself, I have had the pleasure of welcoming 446 babies into the world!

As my time in the birth world continued, I became a certified birth doula and birth doula trainer through DONA International. I have taught 43 birth doula workshops, training over 400 birth doulas. I also became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant 6 years ago to better serve my clients with their breastfeeding goals. I have been trained as an Evidence Based Birth Instructor, a Happiest Baby on the Block Instructor, Baby Behavior Trainer and a Postpartum Doula to better serve my clients. Currently, I also work as a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor to provide support for low-income persons. I also am a staff educator for the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition teaching provider breastfeeding classes throughout the state and an online course for childcare providers on How to Support Breastfeeding Families in their care. I also am one of the founding members of our local county breastfeeding coalition. I have taught childbirth and breastfeeding classes to over 11,000 families in my career! I was voted best doula 2019 through iFamilyKC!

And won 2021 Best of Olathe Awards for Educational Consultant!

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Working in the birth world is challenging. I am on call ALL THE TIME! This means staying in a 2 hour radius, taking two cars to events in case I get called in, always being tethered to my phone and never being able to fully commit to anything because I might have a baby. I spend hours supporting both prenatal and postnatally as well as being at a birth anywhere from 3 to 36 + hours! The work can be very physical in helping the person get into positions, leaning on you, supporting them. The wear and tear on doulas is the same we see with nurses–worn out discs, knees, arthritis, etc. We witness obstetric violence, loss, complications and emergency situations. We must stay strong to support our client and their partner during these events by providing advocacy, information, support and helping them process after the fact. This secondary trauma weighs heavily on a doula’s heart.

As doulas, we are aware of the varied practices/interventions we see in various facilities. What may be standard practice at one hospital may rarely be done at a facility down the road. A large part of your birth experience is dictated by provider and location. So when we think about all the persons who have state/basic insurance they essentially have no say in their provider or facility. They may see a different provider every appointment so there is no continuity of care. There is limited access to affordable childbirth education so they are more likely to just do as told. Then factor in the systematic racism that perpetuates racial disparities in maternal and infant outcomes for our black and brown families who are dying at 3X the rate as our white counterparts. The US maternity system is failing our families. There is no transparency in maternity care. You can not quickly google and find out the cesarean rates, induction rates, hemorrhage rates, readmission rates of hospitals or providers. And the information that can be found is given on a voluntary basis. This has got to change in order for us to improve maternity outcomes!

We know birth doulas help level the playing field, reducing disparities and unwanted interventions. We know if a black/brown person is treated by a black/brown provider they have better outcomes (both infant and maternal). Hiring a doula is one of the best things a birthing person can do to lower their risks. The challenge is how do we provide support to the persons who want support while still trying to earn a living wage? There are amazing community doula programs, nonprofits, advocacy groups to push insurance reimbursement but there is no universal answer currently. Grant money is always hard to find. Doula burnout is high. We need more diversity in the doula field (and medical field) to best serve. We need more midwives to care for low-risk persons and let OBs care for high-risk persons.

There is a lot of work to be done but I am hopeful dismantled change is coming. There are many people/organizations that are driving this change and I am proud to be a small part of that! And you can too– support your local doula groups, voice your opinions and concerns, learn more at birthbythenumbers.com or https://evidencebasedbirth.com/birth-justice/.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Offering private certified Lamaze childbirth classes, certified birth doula support, certified birth doula training through DONA International and board-certified breastfeeding support.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Fun Facts:
My fastest birth was in 52 minutes from start to finish and my longest, well, we don’t talk about that!

I have been doula for five babies within the same family.

My career goal is to not have a baby where we weren’t planning on having a baby (i.e. car/parking lot/elevator) and so far, we haven’t!

I was asked to consult for a Marvel Comic Strip so they had the correct verbiage for a labor scene. I received an autographed copies of the comics.

Once I doula’d ten babies in 21 days! (some came early and others were late and I was exhausted!)

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Allison Flemming  https://photographyaf.com/ https://www.instagram.com/photography_af_kc/?hl=en

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