Sunday, March 16, 2008

The conference...

There's so much to say, so I am going to do some copying & pasting from my journal so I don't have to type it out twice...

I was really busy getting ready for the conference, and then at the conference I had the misfortune of being sick the whole time. So back to last Tuesday: I flew to LA and then took a bus to Bakersfield to visit my aunt & uncle before the conference. I had a great time visiting. The weather was beautiful, it was sunny, we went in the hot tub every day and played at a nearby park on Wednesday. Anyway by Wednesday night I was feeling feverish and sick. And it got worse and worse. Bleh. It also didn't help that I had no appetite so I was so weak by the end that I felt like i was going to faint on Sunday. I had a lot of healthy food but had no desire to eat it.

We drove down to Redondo Beach on Thursday afternoon and made pretty good time except Zari puked 3 times and we had to stop to clean her up. It must have been motion sickness, I think, because she didn't feel feverish at all. I went in the hot tub with Zari that evening and had a great time before we settled into bed. I woke up several times during the night, partly from feeling so achy and hot, and partly from thinking about my presentations.

Friday Morning
At the opening general session on Friday morning, Carla Hartley gave a short intro and then it was my turn. I gave a presentation about "Intuition as Authoritative Knowledge" and got lots of good feedback from it afterwards. Sarah Buckley spoke next about the hormones of birth--nothing entirely new if you've read her book, but it was informative to hear her speak.

The last morning speaker in the general session was Rachel Correa from New Zealand. It was phenomenal. She shared the story of the stillbirth of her first baby, Stella--from finding out that her baby was dead when her midwife first came over during labor, to living with her baby's body for a few days before the cremation. She shared a video of her and the baby immediately after the birth, where she's stroking her baby and caressing her body. It was so touching and of course heart-breaking. She talked about how she didn't want Stella's memory to always be about "the baby who died." She has three more children now, all born at home. Anyway I would highly recommend buying a download of her presentation; it'll be available soon at the AAMI store.

Friday Afternoon
1) Shoulder dystocia panel with Gail Hart, Dana Combest, Sheehan Ednie-Rosen,
Patricia Ann Edmonds, & Jan Tritten. It was very interesting but, for someone who is not a practicing birth attendant, very technical.
2) "Ask Dr. John" session. Dr. John Stevenson is a physician who has attended over 1,300 home births in Australia and was deregistered by the Australian OB association for doing so. He had a 3% transport rate and a 1.5% c/s rate. He was quite soft-spoken and very unassuming. It was great to hear his wisdom.

Friday Evening
We had a much-needed break before dinner. I organized an informal hot tub get-together with Pamela Hines-Powell, Linda Hessel, Lennon Clark, Gail Hart, and more. Then it was off to the Trust Birth Awards Dinner. At the dinner, Ricki Lake spoke briefly before she left for a friend's birthday party. Poor Zari had to stay up till it was over at 10 pm because I just couldn't get her back to sleep with all the talking. There were lots of awards, and then Michel Odent spoke about dispelling the disempowering birth vocabulary. He brought up a lot of new information in the first half of his presentation about the origins of the words we use around birth and how the language of the natural childbirth movement has substituted one set of disempowering vocabulary with another--especially the idea that women need to be taught or coached how to breathe, how to act, and how to give birth. Another download I need to buy!

Saturday morning sessions:
Prenatal Testing and Ultrasound by Sarah Buckley. I was glad I had recently read Testing Women, Testing the Fetus by Rayna Rapp. It looks at the social impact of amniocentesis and is a very fascinating read.

Postdates Babies presentation by Gloria Lemay, who is a very funny speaker. I do wish we'd had more info on the studies used to support or disprove some of how mainstream medicine treats post-dates babies. The presentation was more about her first-hand experiences with post-dates babies. She did reference one study, "Nonsensus Consensus"* which I read a few years ago, so I'll need to go back and re-read it.

Lunch in my room with Linda & Pamela!

Saturday afternoon sessions:
Physiologic Pushing Panel with Karen Strange, Gloria Lemay, and Heather Brock: it was interesting and enjoyable, but basically all stuff I already knew.

Then I gave my "Safety, Risk & Responsibility" presentation. It was well-attended and I was happy with how it turned out. There was a medical student present who's starting her OB residency next fall. Let's just say that she was very brave to sit through all of the critiques of the obstetrical model during the conference! We chatted a bit after the session, and I got her contact information.

Saturday Evening
Dinner break, then I participated on the panel about "Why women stay home--alone." It was a fantastic discussion. There were about 8 panelists; we briefly told our stories and then had an amazing discussion with the attendees. There were a lot of midwives present who really wanted to help, who wanted to know what UCers wanted out of midwives. It was probably the most energizing of all the sessions for me personally.

We formed a new Yahoo group that is specifically for bridging the gap between unassisted birth and midwifery. Please join if you are interested in participating in this discussion! It's called Sisters For Birth Freedom.

Sunday morning:
I was a few minutes late to my "Childbirth in Cinema" presentation because I forgot to set my clock ahead for DST. Feeling a little sheepish about that one...But it was fun nevertheless.

Then I went to Sarah Buckley's 3 B's of Mother-Baby Bliss, but I missed a lot of it because Zari was noisy. I'll have to buy a download of her presentation once it becomes available.

Sunday Afternoon:
I was the first speaker at the closing general session, and my presentation was about moving beyond the medical/midwifery models. Then there was an amazing presentation about getting our message out using multimedia by ICAN Publications Director Laureen Hudson. Another download I need to buy! Carla wrapped things up and then they did the drawings for prizes.

Sunday Evening
I went to the straggler's dinner that night and chatted a lot with Sarah Buckley and Laura Shanley. Lots of fun!

Overall I noticed two recurring themes at the conferences: the importance of intuition and the power of language to shape reality.

I thought I'd have a lot more time to chat between sessions and in the evenings (you know, girl talk / birth talk kind of stuff) but it was incredibly busy the whole time. There were so many people who I wanted to talk with more but didn't have enough time. We need a conference just for getting together and meeting each other!

*Menticoglou SM and Hall PF. "Routine induction of labour at 41 weeks gestation: nonsensus consensus." BJOG 2002;109:485-91.


  1. It was great to meet you, Rixa, and I enjoyed your presentations very much!

  2. Thanks. I hope you'll keep blogging more because I'd love to read more about your perspectives on birth.

  3. I'm sorry you were ill but it sounds like you had an amazing time nonetheless. I'm glad to hear that your presentation went well!

    Where can one get the downloads again? I'm very interested in hearing what Michel Odent has to say about cbe language.

  4. Once the audio files are ready, they'll be available at There are some other downloads there right now from existing conferences. I don't know when, but I know they had a target date of a few weeks after the conference.

  5. What a great look into the conference. Thank you for doing this, Rixa. I know I've been very curious how it went. I'm sorry you were sick, but I'm glad you had such a great time.

  6. Wow. Thanks for the report! :)
    Okay, the part I'm most jealous about: the Friday evening hot tub. I feel like Pam is so familiar just from reading her blog; and I totally admire Gail Hart.
    The part I'm most amazed by: that Zari was there for the whole experience. Could you do another write-up from Zari's point of view?
    The part I'd have most loved to be a fly on the wall: the UC session. I think I'll be a virtual fly by lurking on the yahoogroup. I really ought not waste any more time than I do already, posting about things I don't have any special insight into, but I'm so curious! So I'll sign up to read.
    The part I'm not jealous at all about, of course, is your bout of sickness. I'm so sorry! Like my last day at the BBBB, only the conference was longer and more glamorous LOL

  7. Rixa, I felt so bad for you. I could see it in your face. You were such a trouper, though.

    The conference was amazing -- I'll be buying at least a few of those audio tapes. There was so much information my head was reeling. (Still is.)


  8. I am so sorry you were sick! That is such a bummer. It was fun to meet you. Maybe at the next one we can do lunch! I just had 2 births back to back and the second started with some powerful "intuition" I posted about it at my blog. you don't have to read the whole thing, but if you scroll down to the beginning of birth 2 you can see. I thought about your talk when I reflected on the births!


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