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January 13, 2015 / Christian M.

My Evolving Career Goals: The Intersection of Librarian and Birth Worker


So many options for information professionals…

This past December marked five years since I started blogging about my experiences pursuing a career in librarianship. It’s funny to think that when I decided to pursue librarianship, I was looking for a career I could be happy with for “the rest of my life”. I had a pretty one dimensional view of the type of work that an information professional could do. My experiences in library school, networking with other information professionals on social media, and especially participating in the NLM Associate Fellowship Program have really opened my eyes to the variety of ways a librarian can put their skills to work.The more I learn, the more my career goals evolve. I have yet to settle into the exact role/position in libraries that I want for “the rest of my life”. Maybe I never will. Life is an adventure, and so is my career path apparently.

In the past couple of years I have become more and more interested in public health and women’s health issues, specifically as it pertains to maternal and child health. I find myself wanting to go beyond the scope of practice of a librarian and becoming more involved in supporting/educating women in their healthcare options as it pertains to pregnancy and childbirth. I want to be proactive in empowering women to ask the right questions and find the right information to help them 1) understand the normal physiology of pregnancy and birth, 2) know how to evaluate and choose a healthcare provider and birth setting for respectful, evidence-based and patient-centered care, and 3) know their rights as a patient throughout the process of giving birth.

Becoming involved in birth work…

This is where I believe I can combine my skills as an information professional with those of a birth worker.  Birth workers include doulas, childbirth educators, midwives, labor & delivery nurses, lactation consultants, etc. I am interested in becoming certified as a childbirth educator, and possibly a doula as well. I just need some additional training and education as it relates to pregnancy and childbirth. Just as an FYI:

  • A childbirth educator teaches classes (can be group or private) for expectant parents. The classes can cover information on the various aspects of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and newborn care.
  • A doula provides physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during, and after birth. The doula helps the mother with a birth plan, provides information to make informed decisions for care. stays with the mother during active labor and birth to provide emotional support and physical comfort measures, and can assist during postpartum period as well.

Neither of these roles practice medicine or take the place of medical advice from a obstetrician or midwife. They are a part of a mother’s healthcare team, and can help with providing additional information and questions to help expectant parents evaluate the care they are receiving and make informed decisions.

For childbirth education, I am leaning towards the Lamaze certification. I like the way they emphasize evidence-based maternity care, and the way they simply and easily explain healthy birth practices to parents. They have some good professional resources like a monthly newsletter, their own peer-reviewed journal, and mentoring to assist with developing a curriculum.

For doula training, I am considering the Mamatoto Village Certified Community Birthworker program, or the International Center for Traditional Childbearing Full Circle Doula Training program. Both programs seem very well-rounded, and I like that they include information on cultural competency/consciousness and have a priority of increasing the number of women of color doulas and decreasing the maternal and newborn health disparities in the African American community.

My current reading list.

What’s on my reading list…

What is required for certification?

The specific certification requirements vary depending on the certifying organization (there are a quite a few to choose from too), and at least 2-3 years is provided to finish the requirements. The requirements usually include some mix of attending classes, a required reading list (books on pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding), observing and/or teaching a childbirth education class, and observing and/or attending a certain number of births. An exam may be required as well. If interested in being a postpartum doula, then breastfeeding support and attending postpartum moms will also be included.

What’s next?

For now, I’m still exploring options for certification, and trying to find some childbirth educators and doulas to talk to for informational interviews. I also went to my local public library and checked out a few of the books from some of the reading lists.  At the moment, I am NOT leaving the profession of librarianship. I love being a medical librarian and specifically working in an academic environment. But I see this additional training as a new way to use my informational skills, and become more involved in improving the quality of maternity and newborn care. Keeping my full-time job as a librarian will allow me the flexibility to offer my birth worker services for free or low-cost to those who need them but can’t afford to pay full price. I’m also looking into local nonprofit organizations I could work with as well. Some day, I would also like to return to grad school and pursue a second master’s in public health (with a focus on maternal & child health).

In the past year, I have been increasingly flooding my Facebook page with so many articles and resources related to maternity care (sorry FB friends lol). I promise I won’t turn this blog into a childbirth resource. It will still mostly be about librarianship, but I will occasionally include posts about specific health topics or my progress as a birth worker as well. I don’t feel up to starting a new totally, separate blog at the moment.

How has your journey in librarianship introduced you to new passions or additional professional interests?


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