Make the Connections

For the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to serve on the planning committee for a community event: The Birth and Family Wellness Fair.  This fair promotes holistic family health and birthing options. I have seen the positive effects this event has in our community and urge others to sponsor or support events like these in their areas.

I worked with a wonderful group of doulas, childbirth educators and one midwife who started it all.  This midwife was in the process of becoming a solo midwife in our community; the one and only local midwife supporting home births within a 45-mile radius.

My first interaction with these people was at their first event, four years ago.   At that time, it was small and located in a venue that did not allow sales.  I went as a vendor and shared a table with another experienced doula whom I was familiar with, and a new doula.   This first event was small with approximately ten vendors and less than 30 people in attendance.  At the close of the event we came together to discuss how we could raise awareness in our small, blue-collar town to the holistic options available for childbearing families.

From this post-event meeting, I volunteered to be part of the planning committee.  Several months later there were four of us who realized we wanted something bigger and better than the first year, so we decided to skip one year and spend more time planning the next event.  From then on, we communicated weekly via email and texts, we met every other month to plan.  We divided up the chiropractors, three naturopaths, two acupuncturists, local organic gardens, and the one health food store in town.  We sought out someone to teach infant massage and/or offer pay-by-the minute massages.  We wanted local birth or newborn photographers, Discovery Toys and Usborn book representatives.  We made contact with both the essential oil groups and other organic skin care products.  We split up and attended ALL—I mean ALL—the holiday bazaars seeking out the cottage industries of baby quilts, hats, teething toys, wooden toys, homemade dolls, tutus, and anything else we thought fit the mission of our event.

The next Birth and Family fair (2016) was held in a vendor-friendly venue.  It was a delightful success!  We had speaker forums set up at strategic intervals in the adjoining classrooms, a children’s activity throughout the gym for the kids.  Our goodie bags not only had donations from each vendor, but also mainstream products relating to pregnancy and families.  As the four of us basked in the afterglow of a successful event with positive feedback from both vendors and attendees, we looked ahead to another year and ways we could keep this event fresh and inviting for our community.

Birth and Family Wellness Fair 2017 was an even larger success. The best part of this year’s event were the moments I took to walk around and personally chat with each vendor.  I had spoken over the phone or through email with some of them and was finally able to meet face-to-face for the first time at the fair.  New friends were made, many cards were exchanged, and groups and organizations discussed.  Ideas were shared on ways we can work together in our lower socioeconomic community to encourage a more natural outlook on birth, breastfeeding and general health.

There are now six of us on the planning committee with more than 30 vendors who attended both years.  I call on these ladies often for business feedback, doula referrals, and to check in on their families.

Through reaching out in our community, we have formed a beneficial relationship with like-minded businesses and professionals who now know us by name.  Furthermore, local businesses benefit by having a specific venue for what they offer; the community benefits when these organizations come together to discuss community needs; and the public benefits by having access to many health-conscious vendors all in one location.

By taking part in the first of these events, I found a way to bring better birth and family wellness options to our community while forming an ever-growing web of connections to share with those I meet.  This may sound like a no-brainer to those of you living in more highly populated areas where many birth options are available, but for those of us who live in smaller areas, with limited holistic options, this is a huge development.  I am grateful to have been on the ground floor of this movement in my community.  Through my childbirth education classes, I see the positive effects it is having.

If you are a birth worker in a rural area or somewhere where a Birth & Family Wellness fair has never been, I encourage you to consider jumping in, reaching out, and make those connections.  It can only lead to better things in your community.

Melanie Kitchens

CCCE, CLD, Childbirth Educator Faculty

Melanie began her work with the birthing community after raising (home-schooling) her five wonderful children. She loved studying pregnancy and mother-child bonding during these early years and was eager to share her findings with her community. Melanie is dedicated to continuing education through personal study and attending conferences on the birth process, breastfeeding, postpartum mental health, and infant care. She is thrilled to share her veteran knowledge with the future generation of childbirth educators and, through them, empower all women to fulfill well their role as mother.

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