I’m sitting on a train heading back from Scotland to London and I’m really glad I have a long journey ahead of me. Time to reflect on a very busy three days, time to read through the copious notes I wrote during the sessions at the MAMA conference (www.mamaconference.co.uk) time to plan how I am going to get back there next year! My first thoughts are more general. How wonderful it was to have the luxury of so much time to spend with other doulas and people working in the world of birth; the chance to meet so many people who I have only ever met via forums, Facebook pages and emails; and hear some of my idols, for want of a better word, speaking.
Things that struck me too were the fact that I, and hopefully the other doulas who attended, felt completely welcome and included at the conference, which, after all, was attended by 85%+ midwives. There was little or no sense of us and them – we were all united by common themes and desires – to be with women, promoting oxytocin release and supporting undisturbed birth. I was struck by a huge amount of humility (as Nicola Wilson rightly observed in the questions after the Challenging Choices session) and passion in the rooms. However, it left me with a sinking feeling. Was this conference, and it’s brilliant and varied speakers, preaching to the converted? Did this cohort of 200 women (because the delegates were all women) need any further proof of the things we as doulas already know – that we trust a woman’s body to do what it needs to do, that continuity of care is essential for labour to progress, that the birthing hormones are easily disrupted or disturbed etc. It seemed that we were all on side already. Were the tired, despondent, cynics I meet on the London labour wards there to receive a message and be enlightened? I’m not so sure. No matter – we few (and I include doulas and others who weren’t able to attend the conference, but whom share the same beliefs and passions) continue to tread a path and lead the way to a more woman-centred, trusting and less paternalistic approach to birth. I will write separately on each of the speakers who shared their wisdom at the conference, but again some general observations. There is so much research-based evidence out there to support what we do. I have come home with so many statistics, reports and articles to read. So much to challenge myself further. I need to let go of my intimidation of medical journals and embrace the knowledge therein. I need to continue to consider the power of language – a theme that emerged in session after session. I need to feel entirely comfortable in myself of what a “being” rather than a “doing” doula/midwife looks like/behaves. These are my initial thoughts – there will, no doubt, be many more to follow!