By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

It’s quite common for first-time parents to participate in birth and newborn care classes to prepare for the life-changing event of welcoming a baby into the world. While most soon-to-be mommies and daddies sit for one or two sessions on how to feed, change, and swaddle an infant, second-year Nursing: A.A.S. student Karina Martinez latched on to the curriculum in a unique way. What simply started as a way to adjust to motherhood inspired Martinez to build a comprehensive career in pre and postpartum care. Come May, the certified doula, childbirth educator, and lactation counselor will add a new title and skillset to her perinatal resume – registered labor and delivery nurse at Guthrie Lourdes. 

Karina Martinez (née Veintimilla) was born in New York City. After spending her toddler years in Queens, her family relocated to Long Island. The graduate of Newfield High School followed the time-honored Long Island tradition of moving to the Southern Tier to study at Binghamton University. At BU, Karina not only completed two bachelor’s degrees in business management, marketing, and design, but also met her future husband, Tito Martinez.

After graduating, Tito opted to remain at Binghamton to pursue a graduate degree, while Karina traveled downstate to accept a position as a marketing manager for a surgical practice. While Karina enjoyed blending her passions of healthcare and marketing, she missed her soon-to-be husband and Broome County and decided to return to the region. The couple settled, married, and began their family.

Life changed both personally and professionally when Karina discovered that she was expecting their first child. In an effort to be as prepared as possible for life pre- and postpartum, Martinez searched for a childbirth class that covered more than the traditional 3-hour evening seminar. 

Unable to find a comprehensive new parent course locally, Martinez traveled to Ithaca for 12 weeks to learn everything from the physical signs of each stage of labor, to relaxation techniques, to postpartum recovery care. Karina connected to the material immediately, but not just from the perspective of an expectant mother. 

“The series of classes were so helpful to us as first-time parents,” Martinez explained. “I did, however, feel disappointed that a similar program wasn’t offered locally in Broome County.”

Inspired to give fellow parents from her community an equally supportive foundation, Martinez began her professional perinatal journey. She immersed herself in the world of all things baby and pursued certifications to become a childbirth educator, lactation counselor, and birth and postpartum doula. In 2015, driven by her innate entrepreneurial spirit and desire to bolster families, Karina founded Binghamton Metro Doulas, LLC. 

While most are familiar with parenting classes and lactation support for nursing mothers, the role of a doula may be new to many. 

“Doulas provide non-medical services to expectant mothers and their families. We never replace a partner, but instead, serve as a calming presence that can help facilitate positive and open communication about birth plans, therapeutic relaxation techniques, postpartum care, and the emotional support needed when welcoming a baby into the world,” explained Martinez. “After the baby is born, a doula often provides postpartum support at home. I’ve done everything from feeding and rocking a baby so that the new parents can catch up on sleep, to washing bottles and linens, to teaching a couple how to bathe their baby for the first time. During postpartum care, a doula’s primary goal is to be a quiet, supportive presence in the home.”

In addition to teaching virtual and in-person childbirth classes, supporting mothers to improve the breastfeeding experience, and consulting as a private doula, Martinez became very active in several maternal community organizations, including a position on the board of Mothers & Babies Perinatal Network of SCNY, Inc. and a leader with La Leche League International. Feeling called to do her part to combat reproductive health disparities, Martinez created an annual menstrual product drive in support of RISE Comprehensive Domestic Violence Services in Broome County. Now in its eighth year, the drive has collected thousands of menstrual products, pairs of underwear, and wipes to distribute to women in need. 

With Binghamton Metro Doulas, LLC thriving, Karina once again felt the familiar “how can I do more to help?” pang. The logical next step was to become a labor and delivery nurse, but going back to school as a working mother of three children required research and reflection. After weighing the pros and cons of Binghamton University and SUNY Broome’s respective nursing programs, Karina settled on SUNY Broome’s two-year day program and quickly started completing her prerequisites to apply. 

As a nursing student, Martinez found that grasping the course material was much simpler than strategizing the time management behind it. She quickly learned that her best studying would take place after her three children were sound asleep. Success quickly followed.

“While it technically may have been easier time-wise for me to study nursing directly out of high school, I benefited so much from my degrees in marketing and design when I was first starting Binghamton Metro Doulas, LLC. and creating my brand. Motherhood fueled this path in my life, so it had to happen in this order. I am so thankful that it did,’ Martinez shared.” My husband and  children have been very understanding and encouraging over these past two years. We feel like the whole family will be graduating in May.”

Martinez will be very busy in the next few weeks. In addition to finishing up her classes, labs, and clinical rotations and completing her final exams, her role as “pinning chair” for her nursing class will require an immense amount of preparation to properly celebrate her fellow students at their annual pinning ceremony. But if anyone can handle it, Karina can!

After the “Martinez Family Graduation” in May and the successful completion of her NCLEX, Karina will join the team at Guthrie Lourdes as a registered labor and delivery nurse, continuing her passion for supporting the families of her community, one birth at a time. 

Learn more about SUNY Broome’s Nursing: A.A.S. degree!

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