Birth Story: The OmMama Resource Center

by Leslie Lytle on May 22, 2012

What we’ve been up to while we were out.

Welcome to the inaugural post of the new OmMama website and blog. It’s been a while since we’ve talked. Come on in and let me fill you in on what I and a few others have been up to  while I was out:

Last year was a particularly difficult year for me, one that included included significant health, family, and financial challenges. By mid year I’d come to realize that the sole proprietorship model I was working in was not working for me.  I was tired, lonely, and feeling overwhelmed by the work that my dual roles as instructor and administrator entailed. In much need of rest and after careful consideration, I took a sabbatical that began last December. It was a scary but necessary step. I didn’t know what was coming next.

Even though I needed a break, I just couldn’t let go of the idea of a center devoted to providing evidence based education, fitness, resources, and support for women in their families in their childbearing years here in Richmond. Everywhere I turned, at all economic levels, it seemed that it was challenging for pregnant women and their families to access accurate information, services, and most importantly, support as they moved through a critical life transition. So prior to going on sabbatical I put out a call on July 7 to former and current OmMama students, birth advocates, and maternal/child health professionals, inviting them to explore the idea of continuing what OmMama, LLC had started, only as a non-profit, a structure that had always seemed a better fit to me. My rallying cry was that Richmond had a nationally recognized non-profit for animals – our very own SPCA. Why couldn’t we have its equivalent for women and babies?

I was floored by the number of folks who responded.

Informal meetings to discuss this concept began in September, many of them fueled by the outstanding food, coffee, and hospitality of the Lamplighter Roasting Company, whose side porch became our home office. By October, one of our group members, Cristin Traylor, had received permission from her law firm, McGuireWoods, to provide pro-bono services for setting up our start-up non-profit. Through their generosity we were able to hold many of our meetings in the McGuire Woods downtown offices, which allowed us to conference-call in group members who were homebound with babies or out of town. The core group grew smaller, though a committed circle of folks continued to support us and hold the space from afar.

Throughout the winter and spring, we continued to meet to hone down a mission statement, a strategic plan, a brand overview, logo re-design, and a development plan.  Many of these are still being tweaked, but well on their way to providing us with a solid identity and vision for the future of our organization. We have had tremendous support from a number of folks at The Martin Agency in this process, including Elizabeth Cleveland, Amy Elkin, and Dwight Lowe. Their contributions of talent and time have been invaluable to our development.

In late March, on the same day we signed our incorporation papers, Brydon DeWitt of DeWitt and Associates graciously provided us with an afternoon of training in the responsibilities of non-profit board membership and development at McGuireWoods. We were awed by the information he provided, and humbled by his challenge to be the best that we could be in our endeavor.  It seemed an auspicious sign that this workshop was what immediately preceded placing our signatures on the dotted line.

And on April 5, 2012, almost exactly nine months after I put out my call for help in July, the OmMama Resource Center was formally incorporated as a Virginia non-profit corporation. Again, the timing seemed auspicious, like the stars were moving in our favor.

We are continuing our work on the non-profit, currently in the process of applying for our tax-exempt status, and developing plans to introduce our organization to the public at large this fall. There is much work to do. And just like early parenting, that work often feels relentless. But we also take much joy in the possibility that we are creating something that will have lasting value for Richmond’s expecting and new families, who are really our future and our greatest treasure. And we are loving all the talented and dedicated people who are stepping forward to help make our vision of Richmond as a mother/baby/family friendly city come true. It truly takes a village, and we’ve got one here in Richmond.

The OmMama, LLC website and blog will continue to provide information on pregnancy, birth, yoga, and early parenting. I hope to feature on these pages local writers who blog on a range of topics of interest to expecting and new parents. If you are interested in being a contributor, please email me at leslie.lytle@OmMama.com with your ideas. I am working up an editorial calendar now.

I also plan to feature weekly birth stories from our students and other new parents in Richmond, as we have found over the years that these stories have been profoundly healing both in the telling and in the reading. If you have a story you’d like to submit for our Friday birth story column – please send it to inspiration@OmMama.com.

On these pages we’ll also keep you updated regarding the progress we are making with our newborn non-profit. As she grows, we will need more hands and other skill sets to make sure she gets the education and foundation she needs to thrive. We will soon be gathering a database of folks who are interested in volunteering, so stay tuned for future developments!

I, Leslie, have started teaching prenatal and postpartum yoga again at various studios in Richmond, but will be keeping a lower profile this year as I focus my energies on the OmMama Resource Center and and prenatal yoga teacher trainings while we make this transition.

So that’s the news from OmMama. Please let me hear from you! This website is a work in progress – so if you have suggestions, please let me know. With the blog format we can now make this more of a conversation!

And now drum roll please! I am so thrilled to be working with such an amazing contingent of awesome women as we work to get our fledgeling non-profit off the ground here in Richmond. Without further adieu, let me introduce you to our founding Board of Directors and proud parents of The OmMama Resource Center, whose mission is:

 to improve the health and well-being of childbearing families through fitness, education, social support and community engagement.

Melanie Barr-Ebsary 
relocated to Richmond in 2006 from Buffalo, NY with her enchanting husband.  She now has a super cool son, which has enabled her to dive into the world of pregnancy, birth, and early parenting here locally.

With a focus on Non-Profit Marketing and Fundraising, Melanie received her Bachelors of Science in Marketing from Virginia Commonwealth University.  She has worked on a variety of child and family related projects within the local Non-Profit sector.

Melanie is currently out of the work force, though still working hard.  She is involved with Babywearing International of Central VA, and sits as a Moderator for Natural and Attachment Parents of Richmond.  Melanie is also on the Board of The Friends of Fonticello Park, and involved with the Friends of Forest Hill. She is extremely excited to be apart of this wonderful project!

Thérèse  Hak-Kuhn

is the mother of six children and lives with her wonderful partner, Paul. Since 1992, she has worked professionally with pregnant women as a midwife’s assistant, professional birth assistant, prenatal counselor, childbirth educator and breastfeeding consultant. Thérèse has attended over five hundred births both at homes and in hospitals. She is the facilitator of a Home Birth Circle, a Postpartum Circle, Doula Support Circle, and a birth activist group in Richmond, Virginia. A former Executive Director of Birth Matters VA, a non-profit consumer organization in Virginia, she currently is the Executive Director of toLabor, an organization that provides labor assistant training internationally. Thérèse finds all of her work an honor and a privilege, and is committed to enhancing the well-being of childbearing families. She is delighted to be a part of the founding board of the OmMama Resource Center.

Leslie Lytle

is so excited to be working on The OmMama Resource Center she can hardly sit still. She is a late-blooming mother, wife, yoga teacher, and childbirth advocate who thrives on connecting people with resources and facilitating growth. A 20 year career as a massage therapist informs her work as a doula and childbirth educator and advocate.  She has worked with pregnant women since 1992 and  taught prenatal and postpartum yoga since 2000.

Leslie has an undergraduate degree in Movement Studies and a masters in Sociology where her area of focus was the sociology of the body and health. She is fascinated by the intersection of biology and culture that is ever present in the childbirth arena. Working with pregnant women and couples is a dream come true, offering endless possibilities for learning about life, love and the full catastrophe.

Leslie is currently completing a Certificate in Non-Profit Management through the Non-Profit Learning Point at VCU, and looks forward to the day when Richmond will be known far and wide as a mother and baby friendly city.

Julie Sanders

is a wife, a mother and a member of a large extended family. She is originally from Boston and has lived in Richmond Virginia for over 13 years. Her husband and son are her greatest joy and her ambition is to create a loving nurturing and supportive home for her family as she proudly enjoys the roll of CMO, Chief Mothering Officer.

Julie’s professional pursuits are in Marketing and Advertising. As a Commercial Art Producer, she produced ad campaigns and marketing communications with The Martin Agency for over 11 years and prior, for 3 years in Boston. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Bentley University and has continued her studies in leadership and management.

Beyond her family, Julie is fulfilled by practicing yoga, gardening, acts of kindness and helping to enrich the lives of other families in her community through her support of The OmMama Resource Center.

Cristin Traylor

is an attorney at McGuireWoods who serves as legal counsel to the nonprofit. She has a 2½-year-old son and a brand new baby boy. She grew up surrounded by pregnancy and birthing experiences, as her mom coordinated the childbirth education program at Yale New Haven Hospital for many years.

Cristin attended OmMama LLC’s prenatal and postnatal yoga classes throughout her first pregnancy, which is where she first met Leslie. Cristin was very excited to be asked to participate in this new endeavor because she has experienced firsthand the lack of a centralized program for pregnancy education, exercise, support, and parenting in the Richmond area.

Alexis Willard

is a stay-at-home mom to her toddler daughter. She enjoyed a wonderful pregnancy and childbirth, but noticed a lack of comprehensive, centralized resources for Richmond families. She came to OmMama through the Baby & Me yoga class with Leslie Lytle. Inspired by the fellowship of the yoga class, Alexis jumped at the opportunity to work with Leslie and other dedicated women to bring to life a maternity center in Richmond. Prior to motherhood, she worked in the green building industry. She worked closely with committees at a non-profit organization, and understands the cooperation it takes to achieve the desired goals. Alexis looks forward to helping other women and families in the Richmond area enjoy a healthy and satisfying experience, throughout pregnancy and beyond.

 

Tracey Spahr Wingold

is a mom to three spunky kids and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  She currently works at Virginia Commonwealth University Hospitals with the CenteringPregnancy group prenatal care program, and has a small private practice specializing in pregnancy and postpartum counseling.  Tracey was inspired by her own births and believes that the transition to motherhood (and parenthood) is not just a physical, but an emotional and spiritual journey that is both wonderful and challenging.  She is excited to be involved in this project because of the great opportunities it holds to better support Richmond’s women and families.

 

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat @ gluten-free-around-the-world.com May 23, 2012 at 8:27 am

Congratulations, Leslie! Your new site is beautiful, and I enjoyed reading the birth story of your nonprofit. I’m sure many families will benefit…and your efforts will be more than worthwhile. Best wishes for your new baby!

Pat

Reply

Leslie Lytle May 23, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Pat – thank you so much! It’s wonderful to hear from you from across the country. Here’s hoping that our paths cross again someday. ~ Leslie

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Shelley May 25, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I am so excited for you at the rebirth of OmMama as a resource center, and overjoyed for the families in Richmond, including my own, that will be able to grow and strengthen through it. Even in its last incarnation, OmMama was a wellspring of support and information through our pregnancy and the birth of our first child, and I am finding words inadequate to express the relief I feel in knowing it will be there for round 2. CONGRATULATIONS and THANKS from the bottom of my heart.

Reply

Leslie Lytle May 30, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Shelley – Thank you SO MUCH for your kind words. We truly hope that we can create a safe, supportive, and dynamic space for Richmond’s new and growing families. We so appreciate your support.

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Stacy Hull May 26, 2012 at 2:07 am

Congrats on your progress and achievements! Can’t wait to see you grow! A well needed organization for Richmond moms and families.

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Leslie Lytle May 30, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Thank you Stacy! Stay tuned for more!

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Ann Creighton-Zollar June 15, 2012 at 2:18 am

I love the mission statement – I love the entire plan – count me in.

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