SARAH VERBIEST

Looking Forward , Sarah Verbiest, founder of Every Woman Southeast, reflects on the new year and what it holds.
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We’ve all had it, the message from our email server fussing to let us know our account is 99.9% full. First response? Sort emails by size, save and delete a few of the largest offenders, then continue on with the day. Sound familiar? A few days ago, I took a look at the actual number of messages I had. Like a BMI reality check. It was a wake up call: Inbox = 12,543 messages, Outbox = 13,203 messages. And people wonder why I don’t take vacation!More Link

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Vacations are good for us. They enhance our productivity, happiness and health.

I have an awkward relationship with vacations. I think about them – wish for them – have plenty of days to take them – and yet it’s July 27th and I’ve taken not taken more than one day off here and there this year. I’ve heard the recent stories on NPR about how
Vacations are good for us. They enhance our productivity, happiness and health.

More Link

goalsIn the last couple of months, I have been to at least five different conferences and meetings in Kentucky on various Maternal and Child Health issues. At these conferences, I’ve heard some really excellent speakers, been exposed to new ideas, participated in brainstorming sessions, and even celebrated how far we’ve come in our efforts to reduce premature birth. After each conference, I leave feeling motivated to make improvements, full of ideas, and excited about the things I can do to help. But…I have to admit that as I sit at my desk reflecting on these meetings, I’m still a little discouraged by how far we need to go to improve services for all moms and babies.

At most of these meetings, the same issues continue to surface: How can we ensure that pregnant women deliver full-term healthy babies? How can we make sure that every mom has access to care and transportation to every prenatal visit? What can we do to reduce the number of pregnant women smoking or abusing drugs? How can we reduce early elective deliveries? What can we do to reduce infant mortality? It seems almost overwhelming all the things that need to be done right now and all at once to provide the best possible care for moms and babies.

So, as I’m making goals for 2015, I’m wondering where to start? While looking back over my notes from the most recent conference hosted by the Kentucky Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, I’m struck by a statement made by Jennie Joseph, Executive Director of Commonsense Childbirth, Inc. Jennie has created an Easy Access Clinic, a prenatal and postpartum care clinic where no one is ever turned away, in central Florida. At the conference, Jennie said, “It doesn’t cost any money to be nice and treat people well.”

I think that is some really excellent advice and a great starting point for my 2015 goals!! What are your goals for 2015?

 

KaraBrownWritten by Kara Brown: Kara is the Associate Director of Program Services for the March of Dimes Greater Kentucky Chapter and Leadership Team member and Co-chair of the Education and Communications Committee with the Every Woman Southeast Coalition.

duck with santa hatOver the years, I’ve had lots of people ask me how I manage to “do it all”. And I certainly have asked other women the same question. While the smile and shrug response is the quickest rejoinder, I think that we need to be more transparent with each other and either admit that we don’t actually always “do it all” particularly well and/or share a fuller response as to how we do pull it off sometimes.

So in all disclosure, I was very fortunate to have found an amazing partner who believes our home/family responsibilities are to be shared. We have complimentary skill sets, which help us juggle. He is self-employed which gives him the opportunity to flex work into the weekend so he can help with things like picking up a sick kid early from school or dropping off a forgotten backpack. He makes the kids’ lunches, cooks dinner, and does all the grocery shopping and the majority of school pick-ups. Having a partner who truly has my back and supports my career is how I am able to do so much. Gloria Steinem teaches that feminism must include support for men as they take on roles in families that may have traditionally fallen in the “nurturing” category. She is completely right on that point in my opinion.

For my part, I may work 60 hours a week but the academic environment also allows flexibility so I don’t have to be at my desk in order to be working. This means that I too can be flexible to help out at my son’s school sometimes or leave work early for a PTA meeting, then pick up my laptop later in the evening. It may provide an opportunity to work all the time but it also gives me a chance to juggle more efficiently. I also will admit that my car is a mess. I often freak out on Sunday nights when I look at the week ahead. At times, I don’t keep up with my kids on social media as I should, or overlook dust for a very long period of time. I can get overly list oriented and I have been known to drink a glass of wine when I have to help my son (who has ADD) with his homework in the evening.

I find the most solace from women friends who can also admit that they are holding it together with strings sometimes. It is the rare day that I’m good at pulling off all my different roles well. Julie Zaharatos, EWSE Leadership Team member, reflected that she and her friends often feel like they are ducks. They may look calm on the surface, but underneath the water they are furiously peddling their feet to stay afloat. At the end of the day, knowing that I did my best is what matters to me. As we begin this busy time of festivities and expectations, I hope we all can embrace the mess, mania and magic of the season. And also maybe turn off email and sleep in!

sarah
Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH is the Director and Co-Founder of the Every Woman Southeast Coalition. She is also the Executive Director for UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health and the CDC Senior Consultant to the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative.

SarahRunningWith age comes responsibility. With leadership comes responsibility. With parenthood comes responsibility. Responsibility is important and is something most women take very seriously. But too much of it sometimes can create a life full of “to do” lists, guilt, fatigue and crankiness. Personally, I have an internal barometer that starts to clang when I’ve had too much. Usually I try to ignore it, like the occasional beeping of a smoke detector battery or the change oil car light. But in the end, too much responsibility has the effect of vacuuming out spontaneity and fun from life, leaving in its wake the person my teenagers affectionately call, “naggy mom”.

One of my best antidotes to responsibility is my annual run with the “Cape Girls”. While the typical “girls’ weekend” includes sleep, manicures and wine, I have managed to find a group of overly responsible type A women who agree that a girls’ weekend should also include costumes, a van, sweat, Gatorade and cowbells. I’m convinced that inside all of us is a 9 year old girl who wants to have a sleep over, be part of a team, wear sparkles and feel totally silly and completely accepted. Jan, Kate, Samantha, Liz, Stacey, and Susan (aka the Cape Girls) are the women in my life who help me find that inner girl.

How? Well, we run a 200-mile relay. What? To explain, an ultra team relay means that you have a big van that becomes your home for 32+ hours. You spend your time dropping off a runner, cheering on a runner and switching out…and also not getting lost, talking and snacking. All the other crazy people around you also wear costumes, play games like “tag the van” and cheer each other on. After a while, when the adrenaline kicks in, you dream up all kinds of innovative ways to encourage your runner and rediscover that indeed you are still a funny, creative and carefree spirit after all! And, even better, that it is possible to escape the work world where one has to think a lot about relationships and doing things the right way, and be in a circle of women who totally like you exactly how you are and somehow make you feel better about yourself. I love the contrast of the van full of laughter and conversation with the solitude of running and the chance it gives me to dream and imagine. Put the two together along with a cape and it is my perfect vacation.

While spending a weekend running is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, I strongly encourage everyone to find a way to rediscover her inner girl. Organize a sleep over with your friends. Go out dancing. Go on a church retreat with people you love (where you are NOT in charge). Camp and get really dirty. Get our your hot glue gun and art kit and make your own tiara. Sing karaoke. Let go of responsibility just a little bit and have fun. Perhaps you’ll find, as I do, that letting go sometimes makes it easier to carry on.

Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH is the Director and Co-Founder of the Every Woman Southeast Coalition. She is also the Executive Director for UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health and the CDC Senior Consultant to the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative.
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