Dominique Weiss is the owner and educator at Baby Zone NYC. In this episode, she covers her background and training as a nurse, doula, and lactation consultant and what patients can expect from a modern birthing class.
“Back to School: Birth Classes” – with Dominique Weiss
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Dr. Fox: Welcome to today’s episode of “Healthful Woman,” a podcast designed to explore topics and women’s health at all stages of life. I’m your host, Dr. Nathan Fox, an OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine specialist practicing in New York City. At “Healthful Woman,” I speak with leaders in the field to help you learn more about women’s health, pregnancy, and wellness. All right. I’m here with Dominique Weiss who is the owner and educator at Baby Zone NYC. Also a friend, someone I’ve known a long time. Thank you so much for coming on our podcast. I really appreciate it.
Dominique: Thanks for having me on, Dr. Fox. I’m really looking forward to this chat.
Dr. Fox: Tell our listeners, who are you and how did you get to where you are today? And then we’ll go into all of the birth education and opportunities available for people.
Dominique: I’ve been a registered nurse since 2008, mostly working at Mount Sinai, which is where we met. In 2010, I started researching prenatal classes and what that meant and started getting pretty interested in that. In 2012, I became a doula. In 2014, I became a nationally board-certified lactation consultant. And then in 2015, I welcomed boy-girl twins. So I feel like my whole career has kind of just focused around pregnancy, labor delivery, newborns, and breastfeeding.
Dr. Fox: When you started nursing, did you know that that’s the area you wanted to go into or did you sort of fall into that?
Dominique: No. I knew I wanted to go into labor and delivery. I’ve always been fascinated by pregnancy and fertility. Like I remember as a young kid watching… Do you remember the trial of life videos?
Dr. Fox: I don’t. Was it on MTV?
Dominique: No. I’ve always been super like science nerdy. It was on like probably BBC or PBS.
Dr. Fox: Oh, there’s no chance I watched that as a kid. Unless it came on right after the baseball game, forget it.
Dominique: Do you know my mom bought me the VHS tapes if that… You know, ages me a little bit there, but… And I would watch like the meeting, and the babies, and the births of like foxes and then black bears and then guppies. And it was just fascinating to me. I was always really fascinated by pregnancy and delivery.
Dr. Fox: Wow. She showed those videos. That’s weird. “Hey, Dominique, let me show you how bears mate in the woods.”
Dominique: Yeah. Totally. “Wanna watch a baby bear be born?” I’d be like, “Yeah. Totally.”
Dr. Fox: That’s awesome. Oh, my God. That’s so cool.
Dominique: It was.
Dr. Fox: When you went into college, did you know that you’re going into nursing even at that time? Like did you do another graduate degree in nursing?
Dominique: So I ended up doing undergrad. I got a BFN in nursing, but I started off just as a biology major thinking I would be an obstetrician. And then, we had a resident come in and talk to my biology class one day and he gave us the breakdown of how much schooling and training you had to get. And I did some quick math in my head and I was like, “Dang, I’m gonna be in school for like K through 12 again.”
Dr. Fox: Right. The resident came in and said, “I’m 54 years old and I’m in my first year in practice.”
Dominique: Yeah. And I was like, “So mom…” And I remember coming home and telling my mom I just wanted to go into nursing instead of becoming a doctor. And I’m my mom’s last child. She has a dentist and she has another nurse. And it was like I was telling her I was quitting college and like moving to Vegas to become a showgirl. She was so disappointed. I was like, “Really? You’re nervous, like what?”
Dr. Fox: Well, with healthcare nowadays, there’s more money in that. So, all right.
Dominique: I was shocked. I was shocked at how shocked she was. So I was going to school in Nova Southeastern in Florida and it would always been a dream to move to New York City. And my original plan was to come in, do nursing school, get a couple years under my belt, and then go join like Doctors Without orders or, you know, some aid society that I could go in and help the lesser world, but…
Dr. Fox: Right, or deliver, you know, bears and foxes in the woods. Why did you have a dream to come to New York City? Where did that come from?
Dominique: Like most young girls, it was probably “Sex and the City” to start it all. And then when I actually came to the city for the first time, I must have been maybe 21 or 22. I made sense in New York City. I was living in Florida at the tim. And I felt like I was dancing circles around those kids where like, I don’t know. I just had so much energy, but as I mentioned, I was also like a really big science nerd, like I just didn’t make sense to a lot of my friends.
Dr. Fox: Why all these kids so friendly and laid back? I got to get out of here.
Dominique: I know. I’m like, “Weird. What do you mean? What do you mean? You don’t know how black bears are born?” I thought everyone learns that. So when I came to New York, it was like there was this mix of, you know, the culture and just how culture, how much opportunity there was in New York. But there was still also that really fun vibe or, you know, I’m definitely a tiny dancer. I love dancing. There were so many different places where I could do that in New York. But there were also a bunch of museums that I could go to during the day and I could just delve into the natural history museum. And, you know, there are many dioramas about birth and pregnancy there with the animals I’ll have you know. If you need some specifics, reach out to me. I will tell you what floors and halls they are in. You know, it was like I could satisfy both parts of myself there and that’s what I loved so much about New York. So once I made that decision, you know, I had some options for nursing schools in Florida. But I didn’t even research them. I knew what I wanted to do. So I applied to a Delphi university. I got into their accelerated nursing program, bonus points that they had a campus in the city. I didn’t have to go to their Long Island campus very much. You know, I found a roommate, I got myself an apartment, and like felt like I was living the dream.
Dr. Fox: Wow. And then you started on labor right away, labor and delivery after you graduated?
Dominique: Yep. As soon as I pass my INCLAX. I didn’t even have like my official nursing license. I had just passed my boards. I had an interview. I was able to get an interview with the manager at the time, Lucille, because I had done my internship at Mount Sinai. And my preceptor was so loving and supporting that the last like week or two of my internship, she walked me down to HR and she said, “Hey. This is my nursing student. She’s amazing. I need her to have an interview.” The week after she scheduled for her INCLAX because we knew we’d get my results by then and that’s how it happened. Like it’s people, you know, who take time to help you further your career
Dr. Fox: Wow. Who was your preceptor?
Dominique: Her name was Evelyn Sodomere. [SP] She just retired last year. She did 35 years in the pediatric intensive care at Mount Sinai.
Dr. Fox: Wow.
Dominique: Yeah. And she’s an angel. She’s one of my dearest friends to this day.
Dr. Fox: Wow. And then you got to interview with Lucille.
Dominique: Yeah. I interviewed with Lucille Nasri and I had this total outer body moment where I swear I was like staring at the back of my head and at Lucille like asking me questions about why I wanted to be in labor and delivery and telling myself, “Sound professional. Don’t sound too excited,” because I was so thrilled to have that opportunity.
Dr. Fox: It’s because of the black bears. It’s the black bears.
Dominique: Totally. If a black bear baby is so cool, imagine a human one.
Dr. Fox: Wow. That’s awesome. Oh, and so you started in 2008, you said, right?
Dr. Fox: I’d done my training there, but when I finished fellowship, I came back in 2008. So there we go. We started together.
Dominique: Oh, wow. Oh, look at that. That’s so special.
Dr. Fox: Wow. So you’re doing the labor nursing and you’re loving it. How did you decide to do, you know, doula, lactation consultant? Is that because you wanted to sort of transition from being a labor nurse or you wanted to do that in addition to being a labor nurse. What was your original idea behind getting the extra training and certifications?
Dominique: Honestly, it was that I was interested in it. Like I really… Once I got a taste of labor, I wanted to know more about it, right? So one of the things that I joked about on the labor floor was that most of what we do is psychology, right? We take women at this very vulnerable part of their life and we help guide them through their delivery. You know, my patients were so nervous. And sometimes when you’re nervous, you kind of get a little, you know, grouchy. So I remember coming in and trying to meet my patient where they were at, whether they were super excited and I was just there to like cheerlead them on or whether they were super anxious and I needed to go to where they were, kind of help calm them and without like patronizing, like bringing them to the light side, meet them where they were at and, you know, definitely validate their fears and concerns. And it felt like a natural thing to do, but I wanted it to feel more professional. So I wanted them to really trust what I was saying.
So I knew that I needed to have certain verbiage and I knew that there had to be training in this. So that’s what the doula certificate gave me. It really taught me about the psychology of birthing and all the different hormones that are involved and how that affects a woman’s, you know, emotions. And so that, like once I got the doula bit in, I was like, “Oh, there’s something to this.” Like the energy that you bring in, the information that you bring in, the support that you receive can really impact the experience you have. And, you know, you and I both know Jayco and accreditation committee, they love a good experience. And so I agree with that. I think that, you know, as a healthcare provider, we are uniquely positioned to help our patients, even in terrible times, feel supported and feel validated and in terms of also like being cared for. But I think emotionally there’s a need there that, you know, I wanted to be trained and ready to support my patients then.
Dr. Fox: And when did you decide to do that professionally, you know, to do things other than labor nursing? Did you first overlap and do it at the same time, like, you know, sort of teach classes or, you know, coach people on the side, and then you open up your business?
Dominique: Yeah. Totally. So I remember one of the doctors, Dr. Tepper, said he had a patient who had a lot of questions and he was wondering if I could call her. And I was like, “Oh, sure. Absolutely,” or I think he gave her my info. I think that’s how it happened. And she called me and she…you know, we had a little chat. And she’s like, you know, “Could you come and speak with my husband and I?” And I was like, “Oh, sure.” I called it labor tutoring, I think I called it. And then she told a friend. Then, I think Dr. Tepper sent me another patient and one morning I woke up and I had two or three patients lined up for the month. And I was like, “Oh. Wow. That’s pretty cool.” And then I started telling the other doctors. I told you guys about it. And before I knew it, I had as many patients as I did shifts in the hospital. And that’s when I realized like, “Oh, my gosh. I think I have a company.” It just kind of happened by chance, thankfully.
Dr. Fox: And that’s how Baby Zone got started.
Dominique: That’s how Baby Zone was born. That’s exactly how it happened. Just kind of on accident just because I was willing and I had that passion for it and I think it showed when I was, you know, at the bedside.
Dr. Fox: I wanna shift a little bit and just talk about birth classes in general. And, obviously, we’ll get into what, you know, you offer specifically at Baby Zone. But, you know, when I think of birth classes, you know, growing up as my kids like to say, in the 1900s…
Dominique: Wow. It’s so true though. Dang.
Dr. Fox: Indeed. So growing up in the 1900s, we had a specific idea of what birth classes were like. In fact, I was just watching an old episode of “LA Law,” streaming on Amazon, by the way, where Anne Kelsey and Steward Markowitz were going to Lamaze classes. You see, Stewart wanted to miss the class so he could play in the firm’s softball game. Apparently, he was a gifted third baseman. Spoiler alert, divorce attorney, Ernie Becker, hit the game-winning two-run homer, which is probably why Corbin Bernsen, the actor, was cast to play Roger Dorn in major league in 1989. Anyway, back to my point. Ann and Steward are going to Lamaze classes and when you see what’s going on in the class, you know, she’s lying on the floor and her knees are up. And she’s doing all the breathing and there’s like charts on the wall and there’s like 12 couples in the room and they’re doing all this. And I’m thinking, “Well, nobody does that anymore, really,” you know, Lamaze and Bradley, because those are really, you know, designed to help women get through the pains of labor, which is very valuable, obviously. But now that 90%-plus of women are getting epidurals, it’s not as relevant for the majority of women. And so when people ask about birth classes, it’s a totally different thing now from what maybe they are thinking of. So, first of all, do people still do Lamaze and Bradley, and all of those, you know, classes? And number two, if that’s not what’s happening, what is being covered in these classes?
Dominique: So there are some couples where Lamaze and Bradley would be appropriate. So Lamaze is really heavily focused on linking your breath to also an emotional space, but also for when you’re pushing. Bradley really involves dad into that process as well, which I appreciate. So I think the couples that are having either birthing center births or even a home birth, those classes still offer them a wealth of information. But the hospital class or the childbirth class that you might be finding at your local provider isn’t likely going to be focused only on pain coping because you’d be missing out a vast majority of the education that we give. I think the best birth classes definitely incorporate some of the non-pharmacological pain coping techniques, the breathing techniques, the relaxation techniques, the meditation techniques because they’ll come in handy. An epidural I’d say takes away 90% of the pain. The 10% of pain you might be feeling is psychological pain. So let’s figure out how to get you through that.
But in addition to that, we’re also gonna be teaching you about, you know, the physiology of labor. Let’s talk about the stages of labor. Let’s talk about preterm labor. Let’s talk about early labor, latent phase labor, and active phase labor, how they’re different, when they occur. What happens in these? What are these? We talk about, in my classes, the process of being admitted to the hospital and common procedures, common medications. And then we talk about the tracings that the doctors and the nurses are looking at, those fetal heart rate monitors, and what that all means so that the couple feels informed and empowered because sometimes I don’t…I mean, I feel like all humans have this, where so much of the fear is based on not knowing. Who likes to go into a really important moment and not know what’s happening? So I feel like I demystify, you know, the tracing and the procedures, positionings for epidurals. And then in my class, specifically, I actually give them abdominal exercises so that they can become more connected with their body and so that when it’s time to push, my patients know how to really engage those abdominal muscles to work in their favor versus just, you know, kind of grunting their way through it.
Dr. Fox: Right. Now, if someone signs up for a birthing class, right, and it’s not specifically, you know, Lamaze or Bradley, meaning it’s similar that it’s for a hospital-based birth, they may or may not get an epidural, are they all, in your experience, very similar? Are they very different? In what ways might they be different based on either who’s giving it or where it’s being done? Because obviously, there isn’t like one textbook that anyone uses. It’s really whoever the teacher is. So what has been your experience in terms of the range of possibilities for these birth classes?
Dominique: Yep. So I think that the thing that we all have in common is we’re gonna teach about the labor process, right? What does your body go through when it’s in labor? What are the parts, what are the pieces that are involved in that? So I kind of call that the skeleton. And then the flesh around it is gonna be what the teacher brings into it and how she brings into it. I’ve heard of some classes that, you know, you do a lot of movies and you’re watching, you know, snippets of birth or snippets of an epidural procedure. I don’t necessarily love that technique because I think a little bit of imagination is important here where some couples get really nervous by seeing the epidural procedure. Some couples don’t wanna watch their babies come out of the vagina. And I wanna be respectful of that. So I don’t show videos in my class and I don’t show pictures of those, especially of the vaginal delivery or the C-section. But what I do is I put them in the situations where, in my class, we actually position for the epidural so that the mom actually knows what it feels like to round over her belly and try to come into that C-curve shape. And then when I was doing live classes, because we’re currently on Zoom, I would have one couple in the studio at the time and the other couples would wait out in…
I was using a gym space, so they would wait in the gym and I’d be in the classroom with each couple. So it was a private space and I would take them through what pushing felt like. And I would have them push three times for one contraction. And, you know, I would either play the nurse or the doctor or sometimes we would role-play. And in the beginning, before I’d break out, I would show them, “Okay. Look, this is how I’m gonna position my body. Look at how I’m taking breaths. Look at how I’m holding myself up while I’m pushing.” And then I would break apart and the moms would each get a turn. The partners would get a turn to support. So I felt like that interaction was really helpful to my patients because they could envision themselves doing it for themselves.
Dr. Fox: I mean, full disclosure, I’ve never taken a birth class. But obviously, I know you and we’ve spoken and obviously many, many of my patients have gone to birth classes. And one of the variations I’ve seen, which is inevitable, but I think in some degree, unfortunate, is there’s such a wide range of attitudes that the teachers have in regard to the obstetricians, the midwives, the intervention. Some of them are very, you know…
Dominique: Hospital policy.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, some of them are very like in favor of. Some are very opposed to. You know, some seem to be very actually like oppositional, in a sense, whereas others, they’re very supportive. And, again, it’s understandable. These are humans and everyone’s got their own opinions. But I just wanted you did talk about that a little bit, you know, like what you’ve seen because obviously, I’m sure you’ve had people come to your class who have been to a different class or who have heard of other classes. Why does that exist so much in terms of the possible negative attitudes that might come about from a class?
Dominique: You know, I think that this is such a vulnerable situation for a woman and she has so many dreams wrapped around it that, of course, we wanna exert some control. And the more control you wanna exert, the less likely you are to trust the advice or opinions of people. And the most important person whose opinion you should be trusting is your obstetrician’s, right, because they’re the ones who are, A, educated and, B, gonna be there with you while you’re going through it. So I think that the more connected the instructor of your course is to your hospital and to the doctors delivering there, that’s gonna give the client a more valuable experience because we know what the policies are at the hospitals. We know the style of your delivering physician. We know what the kind of run of your delivery is going to be like, how they’re gonna manage that labor. And then, we can explain why the doctors are managing the labor that way, why the hospital’s choosing those policies. And so if you have someone who maybe isn’t aligned with the facility that you’re delivering at, they might not, A, be aware or, B, be comfortable with those, you know, policies and procedures. And that’s gonna lead to that, kind of what you’re describing right there, that negative experience or maybe a fear base that develops in the pregnant mom or the couple. So I think part of it is just being a human. I think part of it is that labor is such a fascinating topic that if you’re passionate about it, you have super strong opinions. So I think that that’s where those differences might creep up.
And the other part is how evidence-based is the class that you’re taking? I think that’s one of the most important things that we bring into our classes is that this has to be science-based. This has to be based on fact. It can’t just be, you know, I’ve delivered 600 moms, so here’s what I think. Like I want my couples to know that I’m getting the latest recommendations from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Academy of Pediatrics. If the instructor isn’t up to date on those things, then she might be giving you misinformation, which in my heart is like the worst thing that I could provide for my families. I wanna make sure that I’m coming in here with accurate, factual, evidence-based information for my families. I just think it’s really important that when a client is picking out a birth class that they’re asking these sorts of questions.
Dr. Fox: I totally understand the reasoning behind taking a class maybe that’s not aligned with or affiliated with the hospital, sort of the idea like, “Well, I don’t just want the hospital crony telling me what they do. I wanna get like the truth.” And I get that like that. Like there’s some truth to that. There’s something about that that you don’t just wanna get the party line. You wanna maybe learn something that’s independent and totally makes sense. And that would be ideal maybe, but the downside, like you said, is it’s so complicated because ultimately if you’re having a hospital birth with a particular obstetrician, or midwife, or group of obstetricians or midwives, whoever it is, that’s where you’re gonna be, right? It’s not like when you’re there, you have an option to be at a different hospital or with different doctors or midwives.
And so having a sense of, you know, what is it gonna be like for me, not what is it like on Earth, right? So, you know, say, “Well, you know, in Ireland they do this or this.” Well, great. We’re not in Ireland. I mean, like it’s just not gonna help. These things are not meant to be an academic course on labor and childbirth. They’re meant to be practical. Like what do I need to know? What’s gonna help me during my labor? What’s gonna make me feel more comfortable? And ultimately, if someone is delivering in a place or with a doctor that’s not what they want, that’s the problem, right? It’s not the birthing class. It’s like they’re in the wrong situation to begin with. So I think if someone is comfortable with their doctor, with their midwife, where they’re gonna deliver, it makes sense to sort of check with that person, “Hey, I’m thinking of taking this class. Is it a good class? Do you know about it? Does it make sense or do you have a recommendation for a place that does birthing classes,” whether it’s, you know, specifically through the hospital. You’re not affiliated, you know, particularly with Mount Sinai. You work there, you know the people, but you’re not like working for the hospital. And to ask because it’s meant to be practical. It’s not meant to be, you know, sort of informative in general like a graduate course might be. When you’re doing classes, people call and they say, “You know, I’m giving birth. I need a class,” do you say, “Okay, here are your options,” or do you say like, “All right. This is the standard package that everybody gets before you’re born and here’s sort of what we offer.” How does that work?
Dominique: So, no. I actually ask them what they’re interested in. I wanna come in and I wanna hear, “Okay, well, you know, I’m scheduled for a C-section. And I’m gonna be having twins and I’m probably gonna be bottle feeding them.” I’m like, “Okay, great. I can work with this,” because I wanna know where… For me, it’s really important that I meet my clients’ needs, not just, you know, have them run the obstacle course.
Dr. Fox: Right. What’s the most popular course? I mean, what’s the one you do most often, would say?
Dominique: Childbirth preparation.
Dr. Fox: Childbirth prep. Okay. But you do gear it based on what they’re… Like you said, a childbirth prep for a twin is gonna be very different from a singleton.
Dominique: Yeah, totally. So that’s a separate class. I bring my twins…they’re called on bringing home babies. And it is. It’s so different because the twin pregnancy so different and the twin delivery is so different, especially if you’re gonna have a vaginal delivery of twins. So I really try to kind of group my clients together based on, you know, their delivery. If you’re having a scheduled C-section, I’m not gonna make you sit through the four-hour childbirth prep class. I’m gonna, you know, say, “Hey, you know, let’s do a private two-hour class where we can talk about, you know, how to prep for your C-section, what that big day’s gonna look like. And then let’s focus on the recovery. How can we get you back up on your feet and feeling comfortable enough to take care of your baby?”
Dr. Fox: Right. Right. And how do you get intel about all the various hospitals people deliver at?
Dominique: Nursing community is big. So I have lots of friends who work at Cornell, that work at New York Downtown. I myself have worked at several of the area hospitals throughout my career. So I’m familiar with the policies and the practices there, but I also have my friends where every now and again I’ll be like, “Hey, anything new on the labor floor? Anything changing?” COVID was a big time where we had so many changes, so I was lucky enough to be able to reach out to my friends and to see what was going on in their labor floors.
Dr. Fox: Right. And when do parents take these classes in pregnancy? Like at what point in gestation do they do these classes?
Dominique: I generally recommend around 32 to 34 weeks that you’re attending the classes then, but you have to think about scheduling or availability. So I say that once you get around 28 weeks, you need to start researching it, that you ask your obstetrician for recommendations on classes. And you go to the website, see what everyone’s offering, see the schedule, see the price associated, and then you start making your phone calls and see who feels like they will be the most supportive for you in your journey to delivery.
Dr. Fox: In a typical childbirth prep class, how many hours of time with you?
Dominique: So at my studio, it’s only four hours, but there are others that will do six to eight hours. And some of that is because of those movies, aalf-hour video on watching a vaginal delivery.
Dr. Fox: And is it different if it’s sort of private versus semi-private versus group? I assume you do that sort of like tennis lessons the same way.
Dominique: Yeah. Exactly. I don’t do semi-private. I just do private or group. But with the private classes, we have the ability to combine classes. So I have the Childbirth Prep 101 and then I have the childbirth prep crash course, which is just two hours. So it’s more of like the skeleton of the four-hour class. And a lot of my couples will sign up for that in conjunction with Baby Basics 101, which is how to take care of the newborn. And so those two classes combine really nicely into a five-hour private class. So some of my couples who either are too late in the game and they’re like, “So we’re due next week,” they’ll get…can’t squeeze into the group class or who just know that they want kind of that very individual experience. They have lots of questions. Some of my patients, you know, who work in Manhattan have had a lot of losses and so they don’t feel comfortable coming into the group setting. And so, again, I just offer that for the clients with either their really tricky schedules or the ones who just need the extra dose of privacy.
Dr. Fox: And so in addition to the childbirth class, what else would there be specifically in terms of education up until delivery, right? There’s a lot of stuff for afterwards, right? There’s, you know, there’s breastfeeding, there’s childcare, there’s CPR, but up until delivery, what else would there be if there is anything besides the childbirth prep class, the crash course, and then, of course, the class for twins?
Dominique: Yep. So I also have a C-section class for the patient specifically delivering a scheduled C-section. I also have a VBAC class for the mom who had a C-section and now wants to try for a VBAC and then the multiple. So that’s kind of childbirth prep. And then I do a Baby Basics 101, which teaches that easy newborn routine. So I think it’s really important to have an owner’s manual for your baby. And that’s what I’ve tried to create in that class. Let’s teach you all of the things that your baby’s gonna need. Let’s teach you what’s is normal for newborn behavior. I love teaching the biology of a newborn because I think as soon as you understand the newborn’s biology, you can start to very gently manipulate it in your favor. Otherwise, you come away with some seriously unrealistic expectations of what bringing a brand new baby home is gonna look like. And so we cover feeding in that. We cover bathing, dressing, umbilical cord care, diapering, and then everyone’s favorite, sleeping. So I give them a good, healthy dose of how to calm your baby and get them to sleep. And then I actually put CPR in the preterm category because I think that if you learn it before you have your baby, you’re gonna have a little bit more of a clear mind than if we come in and you’re eight weeks postpartum and you’re sleep-deprived and now trying to learn the steps to CPR.
Dr. Fox: Right. Do you find that many or most of the parents who are already taking classes choose to do this infant CPR as well?
Dominique: Yes. I don’t push classes on people, but I push CPR. You don’t have to take it with Baby Zone, but you need to take it. And if you’re hiring a private nanny, she needs to take it. If grandma and grandpa are watching the baby multiple times a week, they need to take it because your baby’s not gonna wait until the CPR, you know, trained individual’s watching them to have an accident.
Dr. Fox: For Baby Zone, are you the sole educator and teacher, or do you have like a team of people?
Dominique: So it’s me and Evelyn Sodomere. [SP] She was the one who walked me down to HR when I was a senior in nursing school. She’s been teaching CPR for almost as long as she’s been nursing. And she’s the one who kind of taught me that nurses have these like side gigs and education because I remember, you know, she was making her schedule and said, “Oh, but I’m teaching CPR that night.” And I was like, “Wait, what does that mean?” So when Baby Zone first started, I remember calling it pregnancy tutoring. And my clients would be asking me like, “Oh, do you know anywhere I can take baby CPR?” And so I would send them to Evelyn. And then I realized, “Wait a minute. I could be keeping this in-house.” So I brought Evelyn into us, and so Evelyn has been a part of my team almost from the very beginning. She is one of the smartest people I know. She has this phenomenal way of teaching and I always joke that she’s like mildly inappropriate enough to make the class funny. Like how many times can you say your CPR class was fun? Our class, our CPR class is fun.
Dr. Fox: And what about lactation support? How much of that are you doing as well?
Dominique: Yeah. So that’s where I could see myself really moving in the future. I said…when I was living in Manhattan… I’m on sabbatical right now through the pandemic. But when I was in Manhattan, I was seeing maybe three or four clients a week. And it was the most fulfilling work I think I did aside from labor nursing because I see how a few pearls of wisdom and knowledge can transform a mother’s nursing journey where you can like literally see like the light bulb go off in her head. And she suddenly understands how to latch her baby or at least identifies like, “Oh, this is an improper latch. Let me try it again,” and has the confidence to unlatch her baby and relatch and not put herself through that painful experience. I think every woman who delivers a baby should see a lactation consultant on like day six because your milk will definitely be in then and you will have a million questions. Even for the moms that it’s going well for, a lactation consultant can come in and make it go better. We can make it shorter. We can give you more confidence. We can give you practical tips on scheduling, or pumping, or how to get more rest at night. And so I find that if you’re breastfeeding, this just becomes invaluable because we have like a closeted breastfeeding society. No one breastfeeds in front of anyone anymore where, you know, we go into our bedrooms or, you know, into private spaces whereas, you know, in generations past, little girls were sitting at the feet of their mothers, their sisters, their aunts, and watching and listening, getting all of this information. We don’t have that type of society anymore. Our culture is not that way anymore. So we’ve lost a lot of education that we would have picked up from our family, so it’s time to bring in a professional to educate you.
Dr. Fox: It’s fascinating. And then how do you encourage your clients to share what they’re learning with their obstetrician and midwife? I mean, do you? Is that something you say, “Listen, you know, ask your midwife, ask her doctor, or talk about this,” or does that just happen naturally?
Dominique: No, absolutely, I actually tell my clients at the start of every class, “I want you to keep a list of notes that you need to discuss with your doctor.” Because especially when I’m doing a prenatal class, I might not be speaking about everyone’s personal, you know, complication or their medical history. So I’ll say if you have a medical history including, this is something where you’d really wanna talk to your doctor about your specific case so that way they know that this is general and I wanna know what would happen. Like you were saying, what’s gonna happen for me? What’s my experience gonna be like?
Dr. Fox: Right. Right. No, I think that’s important. And I do try to encourage my patients to tell me what they’re learning and what they’re going over and what questions they might have. And, you know, that’s part of the way I also learn, what is this birth class like. Is it one that I think is really good or one I think may not be as relevant for her? And I’ll explain why. You know, frequently someone will say, “Oh, my coach or my teacher said I should ask you this.” And I’ll be like, “Oh, like we’re not on the same page.” Right? Like we have to regroup here and figure out just based on like sort of, they may not understand the nuances of what’s going on with your pregnancy or what happens at the hospital, you know, whatever, for whatever reason. It’s not always a bad thing. It could just mean they were in different dimensions of what we think is gonna happen. What was it like for you shifting during the pandemic to, you know, online platform? Was that something that was overall a positive in terms of it opened up that world to you and your clients or a negative that, you know, couldn’t be with them in person? How do you view that?
Dominique: That’s such a mixed view. With my prenatal classes, the prenatal classes transitioned really nicely, you know, in terms of content to Zoom and I think everyone felt more comfortable being in their homes and not being, you know… We were in Manhattan, so it was a small studio space. While we kept our classes small, I would only have four or five couples in there at a time. You could see that people were relieved to be able to get the information from their homes. So I was so thankful for Zoom for that. Where it did not transition nicely was for my latching and for my breastfeeding clients. It is nearly impossible for me to assess a latch on Zoom. First of all, I need a super-competent cameraman, right? I need to get into all these tight angles so I can see the baby’s jaw and lips.
And so much of what I do at my lactation visits, it’s put my hand on the mom’s hand and guide her and show her that movement that gets the baby latched or that opens up that little lip or how to compress her breast so the baby gets more milk. So I did virtual lactation visits, I think for like two months. And in the end, I just had to stop because I felt like in an area where I was so used to coming in and providing relief and comfort, I was not bringing that in. I remember like screaming through the Zoom because, of course, the babies are crying, right, because they’re starving. Going, “No. It’s the nipple. The baby…” And I’m like wondering what my neighbors are thinking I’m like talking about. That’s where like I feel so fulfilled. So it was a really hard time professionally, for me, when I was not able to help them in person because I just didn’t feel like I was helpful on Zoom.
Dr. Fox: I see.
Dominique: So I cautioned that the lactating mothers, you know, find a lactation consultant that’s doing in-person live visits. You know, ask them all the information. You can ask us like, “Hey, are you vaccinated? Hey, what’s your mask policy? Like what…?” You know, and we wanna make sure that our styles match. So don’t be afraid of asking your healthcare providers that.
Dr. Fox: What about CPR?
Dominique: CPR has been challenging. What we’ve done for our CPR classes is that once social distancing is relaxed, and we’re hoping that means the beginning of the fall, we’ve kept a list of all of the couples and families who have come through our CPR class. And we’re gonna invite them back privately so that their group will be working on the mannequin so that that way, they can practice the hands-on components. Thankfully, Evelyn’s been teaching CPR for so long that she can get through all of the information and then do the demonstrations. But we both agree that it’s so important that our clients be able to get their hands on that mannequin and see exactly how hard you have to push in order to get, you know, one-third of the chest circumferance down. Yeah. So we’ll have everyone. And, again, just in a private setting, one family at a time will come through so that they can practice the skills that they learned.
Dr. Fox: For women or couples who are, you know, pregnant and expecting and considering birth classes, the first question I wanna ask is how would they know if they need one or not? Like it’s not everybody needs one, right? People deliver without them. Is it something that you think, “Well, everyone could learn something and it’s great or there’s certain people who really should consider doing it?”
Dominique: I think if you have a lot of questions during your pregnancy that’s a cue that you should get a class, right? If you’re someone who’s just like more relaxed and happy to have, you know, your emails from, you know, birth center or whatever, send you the information about your weekly pregnancy and you don’t even read those emails, I think you’re probably gonna be fine without a birth class. But if you find yourself reading and wanting to know more like the information you seek gives you more questions, then you’re like prime candidate for someone who would benefit from a childbirth prep class and probably like find it super enjoyable. I have patients who thoroughly enjoy learning about labor and the physiology involved in it.
Dr. Fox: The dads too?
Dominique: The dads too. There are some where I feel like, you know, if that whole finance thing doesn’t work out, maybe you should go and become an obstetrician.
Dr. Fox: Or be a doula.
Dominique: Even a lactation consultant. Some of the dads are like, they really understand the latching and I’m like, “Wow. Impressive.”
Dr. Fox: As a side note, what percentage of dads or partners do you find are, A, clearly just being dragged there versus, B, dragging the pregnant woman there?
Dominique: Very rarely are pregnant women dragged anywhere. And I say for the dads, I’m gonna give it a low number.
Dr. Fox: Low number.
Dominque: There’s only a handful of times where I see like dad, you know, on his phone and mom like nudging him in the ribs or they go off-screen for a few minutes and then dad comes back and [crosstalk 00:37:45].
Dr. Fox: With a black eye. Sorry I was not paying attention in class.
Dominique: Yeah. Sorry, guys. No. But I think that my dads… You know, I think that this is a different generation, Dr. Fox. I think that, you know, this isn’t the generation of Don Draper. Like our dads are so involved these days that it’s not just like a woman-led experience. Like the dad is so intricately involved where like most of the times what will happen is dad’s emailing me to get the information and then relaying it to mom.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, of course.
Dominque: And I love that. I love when the dad calls me and he says, “We’re looking for a lactation consultant.” It’s like I see how interconnected that family is. And not to say that if the mom’s called it doesn’t mean they’re interconnected, but I just love that, you know, men take that step for their families to help them get that support.
Dr. Fox: And then if someone decides they are gonna be taking a class and they’re either shopping around they’re in a class and it’s their first or second class, how would they know if it’s the right one for them?
Dominique: That’s an interesting question. I think it’s really how you feel about the information you’re getting. Is it quenching your thirst of knowledge? Is it giving you a funny feeling in your stomach? Are you feeling more educated or more confused? And if you’re feeling, you know, kind of any of those negative situations where you’re not jiving, I think you should talk to the educator and say, “Hey, you know, maybe that’s not what I’ve read,” or, “You know, I had more questions about this.” And if you’re not feeling better after that conversation, I would certainly consider getting, you know, switching teams and checking out a different provider. But I think if you’re coming away and feeling more empowered by the information, even if that comes with a little bit of nerves, right, because I do believe ignorance is bliss, but as long as you’re feeling more educated and informed, I think that’s a great feeling to come away with even if it does come with a little bit of nerves.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. I mean, I agree. I have a very similar attitude about it from the OB side, both in terms of who would benefit from classes and also what is the right class for each person. I mean, patients ask me all the time, “Do you need me to take a birth class?” And I tell them, “We don’t give you any homework, right? Your pregnancy is homework-free.”
Dominique: It’s homework in itself.
Dr. Fox: Right. If there’s nothing you need to know, like we’ll tell you everything we think you need to know and, you know, where to go, what to do. Like we got that. But if you’re looking for more, right, if you wanna sort of learn as much as you can about birth in an interesting way and not just get it from YouTube videos or online, or you don’t like the book that you’re reading, I said, “Yeah. Take a class.” Like great. And I think that they are very helpful for a lot of people who have questions, particularly if they get into a good class. And one of the ways that I help them gauge whether it’s a good class, like you said, are you getting what you want out of it, right, because if you’re not, then it’s not a good class, right? Again, these are optional. So if you’re not getting what you want, why are you doing it? But also, I think it’s similar to what you said before, what we were talking about before, and how I also talk to women about if they’re planning in having a doula. I said, “Make sure you’re on the same page with the instructor. Like is what she’s teaching sort of the environment that you’re looking for and what you’re planning to deliver in,” meaning if she’s talking about, you know, home births and, you know, the doctor’s gonna do these horrible things to you and you’re like, “Dude, I’m delivering in a hospital, the doctor, like what are you telling me this for,” like you’re in the wrong place. It’s just not the right class for you. And it might be the right class where someone was having a home birth. So you have to make sure that you’re a match for each other just like you would for your doctor, or your doula, or your midwife, whoever it is. Usually, you could figure that out pretty quickly. It doesn’t take too long to realize if everyone’s on the same page or not.
Dominique: Yep. I totally agree. And, you know, I think that there’s a little bit of a miss. There should almost be like preconception classes because I think women don’t know. Especially if it’s your first baby, you don’t know what all options you might have. And if you select a provider that is at, you know, high-risk hospital, you might not have access to a bathtub to birth in early labor. You might not ever learn that that’s an option.
Dr. Fox: Right. You may not even have access to a shower after you birth in New York City, like a lot.
Dominique: Seriously, a room shower. I think that it’s an important thing that when you get pregnant, you should do a little soul searching there and think, you know, what kind of situation do I see myself birthing in? Am I in a high-risk hospital where I know if anything happens my baby’s gonna be covered or, you know, I’m really a healthy woman? I know that I’m gonna have a low-risk pregnancy and delivery. Do I wanna a little bit more, you know, range in what I can do? But you don’t even know that you don’t know that. So it’s hard sometimes you get into these practices and you’re like, “Oh, that’s not what I was expecting.” And for better or for worse, your hands might be tied at that point.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. I mean, listen, one of the reasons I really like you, other than you’re a wonderful person, is that with your classes, obviously, they jive a lot with what we do and like what you’re saying before, the idea of being evidence-based because I remember when you were planning your twin class, you said, “Hey, I’m thinking of doing a twin class.” You like sat down with us and say like, “I wanna make sure I’m telling people the right thing about twins, right, because, you know, it’s a complicated pregnancy. I don’t wanna say anything that’s wrong or, you know, maybe leads people in a different direction.” And we don’t get a lot of birth educators who ask us, you know, about what they’re teaching. And I think that’s a really good thing that you’re getting opinions and information from all different sources to figure out how you’re gonna teach people. And I think that’s one of the reasons, you know, we do recommend you, obviously. And I think that your classes have been very successful for that reason, that people are getting really reliable information, but also flexible because you have enough knowledge and experience to tell people what the range of options are and what the possibilities are and it’s not dogmatic in that sense.
Dominique: Oh, thank you. I really do pride myself in, you know, teaching what my client needs in a loving way, that it’s gonna instill confidence, because I really think that when you have fear base, when you come in and you’re already anxious, it makes for a more difficult time and, you know, they call it labor for a reason. This isn’t a day at the spa. So I wanna make sure that you’re informed, but also feeling confident about what, you know, what your body’s gonna undergo through that time. So finding a way to speak on that, you know, in a positive light can sometimes be challenging. And I think that, that, you know, back to one of your earlier questions, like that might be the difference in your childbirth educator. Is she speaking in a positive manner or is she kind of giving you a more pessimistic view of what’s gonna go on for, you know, your body, and your baby, and yourself, and you know, your emotions through your pregnancy and labor?
Dr. Fox: How can people find you if they want…? If they’re like, “Oh, I want a class with her,” how do they find you?
Dominique: Totally check us out at babieszonenyc.com or email@example.com.
Dr. Fox: Amazing, Dominique Weiss, Baby Zone NYC, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate it, and I look forward to seeing you in person once again when you migrate back north to the place of your dreams, New York City.
Dominique: Likewise. Thank you for having me on, Dr. Fox. This was so much fun.
Dr. Fox: Thank you for listening to the “Healthful Woman” podcast. To learn more about our podcast, please visit our website at www.healthfulwoman.com. That’s http://www.healthfulwoman.com/. That’s H-E-A-L-T-H-F-U-L-W-O-M-A-N.com. if you have any questions about this podcast or any other topic you would like us to address, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great day.
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