Thursday, November 08, 2007

Conference Recap

I have been remiss in that I have not written about the three conferences I recently attended, so here is my recap of each:

MANA 2007, Clearwater Beach Florida

I have to say that I did and I didn't attend this conference. Though I was a registered attendant, I did not attend any other sessions. I wanted to, I was just too focused on my own presentation, and technical difficulties kept me from getting beyond my own concerns. I even missed a plenary session that was the buzz of the conference. The topic was racism among midwives and apparently there was some pretty cathartic conversation that went on- but I missed it. My roomates (3 midwife students from the same Florida school) and I had very long and heated discussions into the night on this topic which was in its own way interesting if not productive. My roomates included a Haitian-American (she spoke bitterly of the racism she experienced from African-Americans), an international student from Switzerland (she came to the US for homebirth experience!!!!), and a Caucasian American, and of course me, a Midwestern. middle-aged, black woman. On the topic of racism in midwifery, I can only say that in my corner of the world, I was enthusiastically welcomed and encouraged on my midwifery journey. There were some who expressed disappointment when I changed courses. To this day, there are no midwives of color in my community (or even in my state to my knowledge). Midwives of color remain as rare as hen's teeth.

My session turned out better than I could have hoped. We had a rousing discussion on the ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) statement on homebirth. Oddly, it can no longer be found on their website. I talked about when this statement was published last October, it so enraged me, that I wrote this session and proposed it to MANA. Since the statement is a year old now, we talked about its long term impact to the politics of birth. We also looked at organizational responses to the statement when it came out- that I pre-printed for my audience. We then brainstormed on our own responses to the statement, both as individuals and within our own organizations and communities. This was where things got good. We sited as problems, a lack of scientific evidence that out of hospital birth was unsafe, a lack of scientific evidence that hospital birth was safe, how out of hospital birth collaboration among caregivers was discouraged, how the statement denied an inclusion of all stakeholders, and the socio-economic impact of the statement. We sited as solutions models for clinician collaboration, grass roots action, policy and political change, advocacy models, and pushing for change within the insurance industry. There was also talk of starting an organization or organizations just to address the problems this statement has created or perpetuated. I was so proud of the nurses and midwives in my session. For sure I was preaching to the choir, there were no dissenting voices- but that's why I gave this talk at MANA to fire up the troops. I remain in dialog with a couple of the midwives about starting an organization or two. I see a need for an advocacy organization devoted to out of hospital birth in order to provide resources to women seeking options and create solidarity for out of hospital providers.

KC Doula Conference, Kansas City KS

This conference was a real treat- again I didn't really attend any of it, but my part, but what I did attend was excellent. I participated in a panel the ran the entire morning. The information was so good and of such high quality. The panel included experts speaking on the birth experiences of: deaf women, Latino women, African-American women (that was me), Somali women, and Korean/Chinese women. Each panel speaker gave an intriguing look into the birth customs of her culture (or the culture she served). My favorite was the speaker on deaf culture. I had never thought about birth from the perspective of someone who cannot hear before. The doulas here always put on a good conference and this year's was no exception. The CNMs put on an annual conference as well, but it tends to get more and more medicalized. Perhaps I'll throw my hat into the ring for next year and propose a session on homebirth and scandalize the community!

La Leche League, Missouri Conference- Columbia MO

This was by far the best of the three conferences for me. For one, I didn't present, that helps. I did have a booth pedaling my speaking wares, but I was rarely at it. I mostly perused the workshops and for the most part liked what I heard. I definitely need to submit a proposal for this conference. There was lots of talk around the edges about the impact of birth on breastfeeding, but for me this needs to be a direct hit- successful breastfeeding begins in labor. My biggest treat was hearing Dia Micheals and Diane Wiessinger. These ladies are real pros when it comes to lactation presentations and they did not disappoint. Diane was particularly inspiring on her talk about the importance of mother to mother support groups. Dia was intriguing when she talked about lactation models of other mammals (lactation = childhood, when animals stop nursing its because their young a ready to go out on their own- very interesting). My favorite session was by a local hospital chaplain on the grieving process and supporting families during an infant loss. This session was sooo good and practical. Childbearing loss has long been a clinical interest of mine and I learned lots of new things during this session.

So that's my recap. In the next day or two, I'll have pictures to post. Its been a busy Fall and now I need to get started planning speaking engagements for next year.


Morag said...

Heya! So you should know that your session at MANA generated big buzz from the faculty from my school who attended it. She spoke at length about you to our Professional Issues class. She has been wondering out loud what a documentary about the stories of hospital staff, doulas and midwves on the front lines of our current, deeply messed up system would look like...

Also, LLL Washington State is looking for speakers for their conference next year. A friend of mine is coordinating it. I ave forwarded her your website cause I can't think of anyone who I'd love to hear speak more! Maybe on breastfeeding among African American women... along the lines of your 'sneeze' post from a while back?

Oh, And I'll be in town (KC) over Christmas and NYE. Would LOVE to hang out.
Xx L

Anonymous said...

Me and off topic, I know. Check out and go into the MOM2MOM thingy. I posed a question in the "Labor and Delivery" board (scroll down and find the topics area, click on the little words on the page...they become larger when more comments are in that section). Go to "Best Place to Labor and Birth" or whatever I titled it. You can read the stories, but I encourage people from the KC area to write in their experiences. It appears there are many views on that topic and it's a way to get alternatives out there. Another thing I did as a sneak is go into one of the map searches the other day. I searched out the hospital I where I birthed my last three, and gave it a rating with comments based on my birth experience. Now, when people click more info on that hospital when looking on the map, they can see my critique. It's only the third one for that hospital. Maybe a few who've had a hospital birth and then a midwife home/center birth can do this also and comment that their later birth was better in the non-hospital setting. I mean, if women read it, they change. Trust me, in reading Navelgazing Midwife's blog, I thought to sit up when my baby had a heart decel that scared the pee outta my nursie (well, not really, but it made her tell me I couldn't leave the bed to go pee).

Dawn (the obnoxious one)

Molly said...

It was nice to meet you at the LLL of MO conference, Sherry! I think you would have been a great addition to the speaker lineup.

I also agree that having the undeniable link between normal birth and normal breastfeeding being made several times and in several ways at the LLL conference was great. I often feel a bit like I have to "hide" my passionate interest in birth in some LLL settings, so it was refreshing to have the link made more explicit and validated as important!

Laborpayne said...

Mama Midwife,
I say hell yeah! While you're in town let's grab a bottle of wine, kick back and talk birth... I'd love a contact for Wash State. I'll email them a one sheet if you can send me a contact email. Thanks for the heads up.

I'll check it out. Good thoughts on ways to infest the 'normal' mindset.

Molly (of the famed, Molly Reads blog),
At the risk of sounding boastful, I too thought I should have presented at that conference. I have trouble getting local folks to take me seriously, you know the old saying, a profit is not without honor...
Great to meet you as well, and so fun talking to you. We have lots in common.

Laborpayne said...

oops, I meant prophet
although I suppose I'm just a prophet trying to make a profit...