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.