July’s featured childbirth educator: Carlie Copal, offering birth classes in Farmville, Virginia

This month DTI is pleased to introduce Carlie Copal, a birth & postpartum doula offering birth classes in Farmville, Virginia and surrounding areas. Carlie has been hard at work bringing options closer to her home so that other families don’t have to work as hard as she did. You can find Carlie on Facebook @ Well-Rounded Woman Care and visit her website at www.wellroundedwomancare.com.

Tell us about your work (family life included) so far this year. How has your childbirth educator training influenced your path?
My birth work began late in 2017 during the second half of my second pregnancy. After having to search outside of our community (often over an hour) for the kinds of birth resources we needed (educators, doulas, midwives, herbalists, etc.) I said to my husband in frustration, “Someone should really be doing this here!” And that’s when I realized that I could be that someone. With a background in public education, the idea of gathering all of these resources and then doing nothing with them after my own birth didn’t sit quite right. So, I started searching for trainings that I would need to begin the transition into birth work. I started an online training for postpartum doula work along with registering for DTI’s CBE program. I’m passionate about choices and I think women in my area are severely under-informed of their birth options. Offering independent childbirth education is essential in encouraging parents to be active in their own birth experience.

What would you say are the trends in birth education in your area?
As mentioned, our area is seriously lacking in educational resources. There is a hospital with a birthing center but there aren’t options for midwifery care or specialty care for birthing parents or babies. There are other options in neighboring communities but they aren’t easy to find or readily known about. The only other easily accessible childbirth classes are those that are offered at the hospital. While I feel like there are definitely some families who are happy in this model of care, there are also loads of families like mine who know they want something different and are having to work very hard to hunt outside of our community for the resources they should be able to find closer to home.

What have you been working on in terms of getting the word out about your offerings?
I offer a free monthly support group to help provide access to new families in our community. Through this, I was asked to teach a private childbirth class for a couple who weren’t excited to not have to travel to other larger cities to find comprehensive education. They eventually contracted with me for birth & postpartum doula support as well which allowed me to see them through the entire process. My classes and support groups are offered through a local holistic health cooperative who helps spread the word. One of my most recent clients is a chiropractor that works on expecting parents and babies so we plan to partner on workshops about how to build a well-rounded birth team. It’s a process but we’re getting there!

What are your top 3 ways to prepare for teaching a class?
1. Consider the audience for the class – is it private? Group? Is there a specific need or learning style?
2. Review my teaching materials (props, powerpoints, handouts, etc.)
3. Listen to podcasts regularly to stay up-to-date and inspire new ideas

Top 3 teaching tools?
1. White board & colored dry-erase markers
2. Plush baby and manipulatives (diapers, swaddlers, blankets, bottles, etc.)
3. Diagrams

Top 3 reasons to take a childbirth class?
1. Knowledge is power.
2. You don’t know what you don’t know.
3. If you don’t know your choices, you don’t have any.

What’s special about the classes you want to teach? How do you set them apart?
I bill my class as “naturally-minded, inclusive, comprehensive, and evidence-based” all of which I think are equally important. Whether taught in the comfort of a family’s living room or the homey living-room style set up of a group session, my classes are cozy, encouraging parents to relax into an open conversation with me, each other, and other participants.

What do you love most about teaching?
I love empowering parents (and individuals in general) with the knowledge and resources to make the best, most informed decision for them and their unique situation.

Describe your classroom. What’s your favorite way to set up your space?
My classes are comfy. Hosted in a local, holistic health outreach, it feels like a communal living space. There’s table and chairs ready for snacks or hands-on activities as well as a tea kettle for some nourishing brews! There are couches, yoga mats, and birth balls to make sitting and relaxing as comfortable and accessible as possible. I prefer to set up my space in an open, more circular format so we all feel involved and engaged – one thing we learned a lot about in our DTI training is that it’s a conversation after all!

Tell us something about you that has nothing to do with birth!
I’m a self-proclaimed literati (my first degrees were in English Education & Literature) and well-rounded nerd. When I’m not doing birthy things, I can usually be found on a trail walk with my kiddos or my head buried in a book (I prefer high-fantasy). I’ve also been known to frequent coffee shops and comic/fandom conventions as well.

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