EMPWR was founded in 2020 by Arlene Oram (she/her), a queer Midwife providing LMC (Lead Maternity Carer) services during pregnancy dedicated to those identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ Takatāpui community in Tāmaki Makaurau.
In 2021, a childbirth education course created by Arlene and friend Lou Kelly (they/them) begun. Lou was a trans non-binary midwife and childbirth educator with a passion for creating accessible antenatal education for pregnant people. These antenatal classes are grounded in a celebration of queer whānau, not just a tickbox for the diversity policy and not merely being inclusive, but in creating classes by queer people for queer people means they are a product of love, care and deep passion to improve equity for pregnant queer whānau.
We believe that every pregnant person has the right to access education from a qualified practitioner providing them with unbiased information so that they can make the right choices for their whānau.
Most antenatal classes are taught by childbirth educators, who do not have years of hands on experience or knowledge that a health professional has gained from being alongside hundreds (if not thousands) of parents birthing their babies. With real life experience of unmedicated water births at home, induction of labour for high risk pregnancy complications and elective caesareans for parental choice; we do not believe that there is any one "right" way to grow, birth or parent your pēpi.
EMPWR's antenatal classes will provide you with the knowledge and power to make informed decisions. We teach you the tools you need to navigate the healthcare system; regardless of your family dynamic. Solo parent by choice; sex worker; same sex couple; polyamorous families and anyone that identifies as LGBTQIA+ Takatāpui is welcome at EMPWR.
Originally from the UK, Arlene's passion is to improve equity for anyone in the rainbow community, and increase awareness of rainbow-safe and centred care for those navigating the heteronormative system of pregnancy care.
Arlene is a queer, cis-gendered woman and acknowledges the privileges she has; hoping to hold a safe space for those more marginalised than her. She has extensive experience in high risk pregnancy care, but is also passionate about physiological birth including home births, having worked in a busy NHS hospital in the UK, as a full time labour & birthing midwife at Auckland City Hospital and now as an LMC in central Tāmaki Makaurau.
These antenatal classes were created to ensure that people could access unbiased, evidence based information from a registered and practising midwife to help inform their decisions.
Co-Founder of EMPWR, Midwife, Childbirth Educator trained in Traditional Chinese Acupuncture and Massage
Lou Kelly (they/them)
Lou Kelly was a queer, non-binary Midwife and antenatal educator trained in traditional Chinese medicine, who passed away in February 2023.
Navigating the midwifery workforce and the healthcare system, Lou saw how the structures of gendering and heteronormativity within reproductive health created inequitable outcomes for those who lived outside the boxes of heterosexual or cisgender.
This insight, both firsthand as a patient, and in a professional capacity led them to embark on work centred in dismantling those structures, and welcoming in all birthing and parenting bodies to their practice.
Lou's hope was that by doing the work they did to change the system at its very root, was that birthing whānau wouldn't have to bear the burden of that work. They supported birthing people to have a joyful and empowered experience of pregnancy, birth, and early parenthood.
Lou's work will continue to be championed by Arlene and EMPWR and their death has only fuelled the fire in many to improve equity and access to gender affirming healthcare for trans and non-binary people in Aotearoa.
This was a highly informative class. Lou and Arlene covered all the basics of a traditional antenatal class as well as many other topics that wouldn't normally be covered. They were extremely responsive and spent a long time answering questions and tailoring the classes to our specific needs and requests. One does not have to be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community to benefit from this class, as it was designed to be open to all parenting styles. We also enjoyed Lou's extreme commitment to science based advice and the many studies they seemed to be able to quote on the spot.