We had the good fortune of connecting with Brittany Sharpe McCollum and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brittany, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
Childbirth educators and doulas are often thought to be promoters of “natural” or “unmedicated” births and although that may be the case for some, it does not hold true for the majority of birth workers. As educators and supporters of birth, we aim to encourage clients to be actively involved in decision making through knowing their options, developing skills for communicating with providers, and building confidence in advocating for the choices that feel right to them. There is not a one size fits all approach to birth but when people have the skills to navigate decision making and be part of the process, they can come out of their experiences feeling more empowered, which translates into a healthier postpartum and more positive bonding within the new family dynamic.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am constantly trying to come up with a way to share what I do in a way that is succinct and understandable yet encompasses the many facets of my work. I’m a birth professional with a small business focused on providing support, education, and empowerment to expectant and new parents as well as clinical and non-clinical birth workers. My work focuses on childbirth education, birth doula support, lactation education and support, and perinatal pelvic biomechanics trainings. When I first began doing this work, I taught group childbirth classes out of our tiny hole-in-the-wall apartment and struggled to make ends meet through attending births. I’m incredibly honored to now be at a point where I am invited to teach workshops to birth workers around the country as well as able to teach childbirth classes to parents both in person and virtually around the world.
There were absolutely times where I thought there was really no way I could continue to make this work. Whether it was having zero sign-ups for a class or getting turned down for doula support in favor of more experienced doulas, I questioned whether continuing to invest time and energy into establishing a business was worth it. However, every time I doubted myself, something would happen to make me feel like I was on the right track like an email from a past client thanking me for support or a call from someone looking for a doula who saw my website and was sure I was the right one. Eventually, I reached a point where there was no question about being on the right path.
One of the most important lessons that continues to be reaffirmed to me is that when one door closes, another opens. I had been doing birth work for about five years before having our second child. With his birth, I knew that I would be stepping back from on-call doula support for at least several months to a year and this became a real point of anxiety for me. After working so hard to become consistently busy, I now had to trust that clients would still be there after a brief hiatus. What I wound up doing was putting together a short class for birth workers covering some of the labor positioning and pelvic dynamics info that I had accumulated over the years. Who would have known that this one-time two hour workshop would have been the catalyst for developing a whole other branch of my work as a birth professional? This two hour workshop has grown into an entire program of offerings that I facilitate for clinical and non-clinical birth professionals with trainings on pelvic biomechanics and labor positions, supporting posterior babies as a variation of normal, the role of pelvic shape classification on bias in childbirth, and more, all offering continuing education hours.
Looking back on the 15 years in which I’ve been doing this work, I’m most excited about how my focus has gone from “teaching childbirth education and attending births” to really embracing what I think was at the heart of the work all along. I don’t teach someone how to give birth or teach providers different laboring positions; I strive to facilitate learning, skill development, and the practical application of usable information for restoring autonomy to the laboring person – which feels just so much bigger. It’s not just a birth class or a positioning workshop, it is about supporting both parents and professionals in developing the skills to navigate both the process of childbirth and the reproductive healthcare system in a way that supports autonomy, physiology, and well-being regardless of the preferences someone has for their birth. Everyone deserves to come out of their births feeling like they did something amazing.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Philly offers such a diverse array of entertainment, food, and even outdoor options. And with South Jersey right over the bridge, there are even more options for a week of travel.
Every neighb0rhood in Philly has such a unique offering but I’m partial to South Philly, having lived there for 13 years. A tiny spot on 4th St. called Creme Brulee has the best croissants in the city (and a unique and delicious food menu too). I’d stop there for an afternoon coffee and pastry for sure.
Sticking to South Philly, Passyunk Ave is a spot you don’t want to miss. Lots of restaurants, some cute shops, and the best Italian around at Le Virtu.
For a night out, Amada serves up Spanish tapas in Olde City and it is awesome.
When it comes to entertainment, I’m out of the loop for clubs and nightlife (with four kids from 3 months to 15 years old lol) but some awesome family-friendly spots to check out are The Academy of Natural Sciences (known to any parent of kids in the Philly area as “the dinosaur museum”) and the Franklin Institute. Local gardens and nature centers are abundant if you know where to look. Bartram’s Garden is a hidden gem in Southwest Philly and Forbidden Drive (a 15 minute drive outside the city center) offers hiking for all different levels. The Japanese tea garden and the Horticultural Center in Fairmount Park are great spots for parents and kids alike, surrounded by lots of space to run and get out energy.
Love Park offers lots of cool events including a Christmas Village in the old German style from Thanksgiving through December 31st. Just across the street, additional vendors selling crafts and an impromptu ice skating rink will help you make a whole day of it.
Moving closer to the river, the farmer’s market at Headhouse Square on Saturday mornings is one not to miss. Just across Delaware Avenue, Penn’s Landing recently was renovated with a winter ice skating rink, concerts, beer gardens, games and more all along Spruce Street Harbor Park.
One place that we found super cool when we first discovered it is Fort Mifflin. It’s a quick drive down 95 and is situated on Mud Island. It is an historical landmark and has lots of events and reenactments. It’s also situated near the airport and many of the planes flying in come really low over the fort (which adds an extra element of fun, especially when you see it for the first time with an airplane obsessed toddler!).
One of my favorite things to get away from a lot of the hub-bub is a walk over the Ben Franklin Bridge. A mile and a half or so looking out over the Delaware River with an incredible view of the city can’t be beat.
If you’re crossing the bridge by car or train, Camden offers a newly renovated aquarium that is just a quick drive into Jersey. It’s a favorite of my kids (we’ve literally had over a decade of membership!). While in Camden, you can grab a tour of Walt Whitman’s house and swing by Sagame for an awesome sushi experience.
There’s also a ton to do in the surrounding burbs from wineries to historic parks, nature centers, and working farms. The entire area is full of events, activities, and great food whether someone is checking it out solo, with a friend, or as a family.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Starting a business from the ground up, working an on-call job while raising a family (and having more babies), and tapping into the drive to continue exploring new outlets is not easy and without the support (and continued urging to embrace my next project) of my partner, I wouldn’t be where I am today. From our early days with our first child – navigating my husband being in school, figuring out how to attend births without becoming jaded, and our first time parenting – to our current life – both of us working full time while managing four kids (and a puppy!), the support, space, and encouragement we provide each other is crucial to making this work. If I go into a podcast interview or a conference presentation with half the amount of confidence that he has in me, I know it will go just fine. And if I’m contemplating putting together a new class or workshop, he’s the first one to say “absolutely you should do that” and give me the time needed to accomplish it. I’m very grateful for that support.
Youtube: Blossoming Bellies Wholistic Birth Services
Professional photos by Tammy Bradshaw Photography