December 16, 2021
Meet Tanya Cawthorne, New President of Lamaze International
By: Sharon Muza | 0 Comments
In late October, Tanya Cawthorne was named President of Lamaze International. Once again, Lamaze is being led by a person from outside the United States. Tanya Cawthorne is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Doula and Lamaze Program Director based in Melbourne, Australia. In 2018, she co-founded Lamaze Australia, the first international affiliate of Lamaze International.
Tanya is a passionate advocate for evidence-based, woman-centred maternity care and is a prolific writer on all things related to birth and early parenting. Her articles have appeared in The Journal of Perinatal Education, Australian Midwifery News, Connecting the Dots, Interaction – the journal of the Childbirth and Parenting Educators Association of Australia (CAPEA), International Doula, Empowering Birth Magazine and Rockstar Birth Magazine. Last, but definitely not least, Tanya is also a proud single mum of two beautiful children; her son Liev and daughter Amalia.
I was recently able to ask Tanya some questions as she moves in to her new role and begins serving on the board of directors as President of Lamaze International.
Sharon Muza: How did you find your way to Lamaze and why are you proud to be both an LCCE and a leader in the organization?
Tanya Cawthorne: I think like many people, I found my way to Lamaze through my own pregnancy and attending a Lamaze childbirth class. I had both of my children in Israel and I remember my number one priority was to find a childbirth class in English! Everyone I knew recommended Rachelle Oseran’s classes in Jerusalem and so off I went, blissfully unaware of the life-changing journey that lay ahead for me! Rachelle’s classes were not only fabulous in terms of preparing me for labor, birth and early parenting, but they opened my eyes to an entirely new world. A couple of years later, I found myself back at Rachelle’s (in the very room I attended her Lamaze class in fact!) but this time as a student educator. Rachelle had launched a Lamaze educator seminar in Israel and I was so proud to be a part of her pilot program in 2011.
Lamaze has played such an integral part of my life for the last 10 years. Becoming a Lamaze childbirth educator marked a huge shift for me professionally, having spent many years previously working in the performing arts. Since becoming LCCE certified in 2011, I have expanded from teaching childbirth classes, to becoming a Lamaze Program Director, having established the first Australian Lamaze educator seminar in 2016. Since then, I have trained over 100 people from across Australia and New Zealand and in 2018, I co-founded Lamaze Australia with Leslie Arnott, the first international affiliate of Lamaze. .
To be completely honest, it never occurred initially to me that I could have been involved with Lamaze as a volunteer because I lived in Australia, but soon learned that my geographic distance was irrelevant! I was absolutely overjoyed when I was elected to the board of directors in 2017 and am still so honoured to serve the organisation alongside such an amazing group of passionate volunteers.
Lamaze has provided me with so many incredible opportunities. It continues to challenge me professionally, intellectually and personally every day. I seriously have the best job in the world!
SM: What does and should the “international” mean in Lamaze International? What are some of the barriers to truly being a global organization?
TC: When Lamaze shifted many years ago from being a method or technique for giving birth, and became more of a holistic approach to healthy pregnancy, birth and early parenting, together with its unwavering commitment to providing evidence-based information for families, I think that was the start of truly opening up Lamaze to the rest of the world. While there will always be country (even regional) specific differences in models of maternity care, the bottom line is that there are many aspects of pregnancy, birth and postpartum that are universal to all birthing people. People all over the world experience health inequity and sadly even human rights abuses within the maternity care system. Whether it’s an issue of “too little, too late” or “too much, too soon” (Miller, 2016). Lamaze International, through its global network of educators and strategic partnerships such as The International Childbirth Initiative provides us with a unique opportunity to champion improvements in maternity care for birthing families worldwide.
Of course, creating impact on this kind of scale requires an enormous investment of time and resources, which for a non-profit, volunteer-led organization will always be a challenge. I really do believe though that we have yet to really tap into our amazing membership base! I don’t think that is because people don’t want to get involved, I believe it’s because people aren’t always sure how they can help or what they can do to get involved. One of my goals during my year as president is to really engage with our international members and find out more about the amazing work they are doing in their own communities and how they might like to contribute their expertise!
SM: What are some challenges facing our organization in 2022 and beyond?
TC: In many ways, I think COVID has proven to be the ultimate societal disrupter. For many organisations, it’s been a case of “pivot or fold”. I am incredibly proud of the way Lamaze responded so proactively to support educators during this time, and how many of our members stepped up to create engaging, interactive online learning. I have a feeling that this way of working will continue well-beyond COVID, as people have really come to accept working online as the “new normal”. I really believe that the way healthcare has been delivered over the last couple of years (particularly via TeleHealth) is an indication of how it will be approached in the future, especially with our post-millennial families. As an organization, we have to be agile and forward thinking.
More specific to our mission, I think Lamaze has a huge role to play internationally when it comes to being the dominant voice in addressing issues of advocacy and inequity in maternity care. Millions of people across the world experience disrespectful care because of the color of their skin, or their gender identity or sexual orientation. Intervention rates are sky-rocketing in many countries, with little to no improvement in health outcomes for birthing people or their babies. There also seems to be little accountability for these increased rates, while pregnant people continue to be blamed for poor health outcomes - the older, fatter, less healthy excuse we have all heard ad nauseam. Clearly, diversity, equity and inclusion must play a central role in everything we do at Lamaze.
SM: Why is it important that our organization have people serving in leadership roles and members as well, who live and work outside the USA?
TC: I think the answer lies in our name! We are Lamaze International. We have members in over 40 countries! How amazing is that? I cannot overestimate the importance our international members play. It’s simply not possible to understand the myriad, complex issues in maternity care worldwide from a single perspective in the USA. In the future, I would love to see other Lamaze affiliates established around the world. Lamaze educators working on the ground in their own communities are the people best placed to understand the most pressing issues and to develop culturally appropriate advocacy strategies to combat them.
SM: What do you want people, both perinatal professionals and people growing their families, to know about Lamaze International? What do you think is a misconception about Lamaze that you would like to correct?
TC: Here in Australia, the two most common misconceptions I hear from people are, “Lamaze. Isn’t that an American thing?” and “Isn’t Lamaze a breathing method?” (Yup - we get the whole breathing thing here too!). Our mission is to advance safe and healthy pregnancy, birth and early parenting through evidence-based education and advocacy.That’s a universal mission, not limited by country, or language. In time, I would love to see more of our materials translated into multiple languages and for our international members to really step up to advocate for safe and healthy birth in their own communities. I want them to know that we are here to support them and their efforts. By reaching more perinatal health professionals and more families, we have an incredible opportunity to improve maternal and infant health on a global scale.
SM: What gets you excited when you consider what the future holds for Lamaze International?
TC: Our community gets me excited. I have met so many incredible people through my work with Lamaze, some of whom have become my dearest friends. Fellow board members past and present, committee and council members and educators from all over the world. I remember earlier this year, I was on the task force that assessed the Lamaze podcast host auditions and I was absolutely blown away by the calibre of applications we received. We found it so incredibly difficult to choose our final six hosts. All I could think at the time was, “we need to get in touch with this person… and this person… and this person!” Lamaze members from all over the world auditioned to be a podcast host and it felt like we’d opened up a magic portal that revealed all this amazing hidden talent within our community. We just celebrated our 60th anniversary last year and I am very confident that we’ll still be here in another 60 years!
Miller, S., Abalos, E., Chamillard, M., Ciapponi, A., Colaci, D., Comandé, D., ... & Althabe, F. (2016). Beyond too little, too late and too much, too soon: a pathway towards evidence-based, respectful maternity care worldwide. The Lancet, 388(10056), 2176-2192.
TagsLamaze International Lamaze News Sharon Muza Tanya Cawthorne