September 07, 2021
Series: Why I Advocate - Catherine McWherter
By: Catherine McWherter | 0 Comments
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Catherine McWherter, Lamaze Advocacy + Collaboration Committee member, shares why they advocate for parents and babies. This is a weekly series leading up to the Lamaze International 2021 Virtual Advocacy Summit on September 27-29. The virtual summit is an opportunity to connect with your fellow Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators from around the world, who will be meeting to address the most critical and timely policy issues that affect prenatal care and childbirth outcomes. In this series, blog readers will have an opportunity to meet perinatal professionals and read their personal essays on why they advocate for evidence based care, improved policies and funding that impact birth outcomes. You can find the entire "Why I Advocate" Series here. - Sharon Muza, Connecting the Dots Community Manager.
My journey to Lamaze began a couple of years into my time as a labor and delivery nurse. My friend, a doula and childbirth educator herself, asked if I had ever thought about teaching. At the time, I was hardly familiar with Lamaze. All I knew were some breathing techniques my mom showed me from a class she had taken when she was pregnant with me. I fell in love with the Healthy Birth Practices during my Lamaze training - they were such a revelation and transformed my practice at the bedside in labor and delivery (especially HBP #5!).
As I continued my practice as an L&D nurse, there was one thing that deeply troubled me. I saw disparities in the treatment of women of European descent versus Black, Indigenous, or other Women of Color. BIPOC patients' concerns were dismissed in triage; their pain was minimized in labor; their requests and preferences were not consistently asked or honored. My childbirth classrooms were overwhelmingly homogeneous: white, middle and upper socioeconomic status, insured, cisgender, heterosexual, private physicians, native English speakers.
Those who came to the classes I taught were already advantaged and were not the ones I saw suffering.
One morning my husband asked about my hopes and dreams. I told him that at the end of my career, I wanted to know that I had done something, anything, to change the inequities I saw.
I left labor and delivery burned out from tragedy and broken birth stories. I became a maternal/child home visitation nurse because I wanted to support families before they arrived at the hospital. Now I connect with families who are most at risk for experiencing poor outcomes in their living rooms. I teach my clients about the Six Healthy Birth Practices, shared decision-making, and informed consent. I witness their confidence grow and their fears lessen. They take the information I share and advocate for the type of birth experience they desire. They ask their providers what best practices are and what research says about interventions. There is a shift away from birth happening to them as they become the central voice in the room.
I am a member of several professional organizations whose mission is to serve perinatal families. Usually, they are advocating for the same things. I value collaboration and I desire to be an agent for change. So, last year I asked Linda Harmon (Lamaze's previous Executive Director/CEO) if she had any advice for me. She invited me to join the Advocacy and Collaboration Committee.
Participating in the Lamaze Advocacy and Collaboration committee has been an incredible opportunity. I have enjoyed gaining insight from other brilliant and passionate Lamaze educators. I have learned about federal and state legislative policy and advocacy. These are the places where our impact can extend beyond our individual reach.
I advocate because the USA has the highest maternal morbidity and mortality rates compared to similar countries.
I advocate because race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other factor should not affect birth outcomes.
I advocate because evidence-based childbirth education should be accessible to everyone.
I advocate because I want to be part of the change.
About Catherine McWherter
Catherine McWherter, BSN, RN, LCCE, CLC is a Nurse-Family Partnership Nurse Supervisor and Nurse Home Visitor at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Her nursing experience includes critical care, postpartum, and labor and delivery. When she saw first-hand the tragedy of racism in healthcare, she vowed to be an agent of change for health equity.
Catherine was selected for the 2020 AWHONN Emerging Leaders cohort. She volunteers on the Lamaze International Advocacy and Collaboration committee and the NFP Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Innovations and Advisory Committee. She presented on a maternal morbidity and mortality panel at the Nurse-Family Partnership 2019 National Symposium.
Catherine enjoys reading, baking, gardening, and Ohio State football. Catherine is married to her high school sweetheart and they have four amazing daughters.
TagsLamaze International Advocacy Series: Why I Advocate Why I Advocate Lamaze Advocacy Summit Catherine McWherter Virtual Summit 2021 Virtual Advocacy Summit 2021