Last month I attended the Lamaze International and ICEA combined conference in Las Vegas. While I’m not a fan of The Strip *at all* I was able to have a fantastic time with hundreds of other birth professionals. So much to learn, so many great people to talk with!
The fun began Thursday morning when I met up with two other local birth professionals for the road trip there. It’s about a 6 hour drive and I enjoyed getting to know those two women better. We arrived just in time to check in to the hotel and make it to the opening session. Elan McAllister, a former Broadway producer, discussed her experiences working on the show “Rent” and how it’s song “No Day But Today” can remind us of the fantastic opportunities the current health care reformation is creating to make space for what birth professionals can do to ensure a better and safer experience for moms and babies. Her energy and enthusiasm was a great way to kick off the conference!
Mingling with other attendees and vendors at the opening reception and a quick dinner on the strip and we went back to our room to relax. Later that evening, we were invited up to the suite where Robin Elise Weiss, president of Lamaze International, was hosting an informal gathering. The view of the strip from there was amazing!
After breakfast the next morning, I chose to attend Pat Predmore’s session on building birth confidence. She discussed the idea of teaching about fears using the term “courageous birth” instead of “confident birth” – since courage is what is needed to conquer fears. She demonstrated several teaching ideas to address and work through fears. Having seen Pat at previous conferences, I knew her session would be fun and interactive.
The fabulous Jen McLellan of Plus Size Birth taught the next session I attended. She discussed many of the challenges unique to plus size women, how to be a more plus size friendly professional, and gave idea for practical tips we can pass on to moms who need them.
It was a good thing I wanted to learn the material they were teaching, because no way was I going to pass up the opportunity to hear my friends Jeanette McCulloch and Sharon Muza present together! Their joint session on Getting on Google’s Good Side was both entertaining and informative. I really wished that there had been an advanced version and a basic version, as I was eating up the more advanced stuff and there were lots of questions that were very basic. Might need to bring those two here for an advanced training!
Thursday’s closing session was Dr. William Camann, director of obstetric anesthesia at Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston. He discussed several of the advances in epidural anesthesia, nitrous oxide in birth, and what might be changing in the future. But the bulk of his talk was discussing ways to make cesarean births more family friendly. The trend towards skin to skin in the OR, having a second support person present, etc. is one I welcome!
That night I went to the Dine Arounds, where you can sign up to go out to eat with random people from the conference. I ended up at a Thai Seafood place that was YUMMY and getting to know a bunch of great educators who were from all over North America.
First thing Saturday I attended the Lamaze International membership meeting. Awards were given, election results tabulated, and a new crop of FCCEs were announced.
Now I need to back up here a bit. In 2013, I presented at the Lamaze conference in New Orleans. I wanted to attend Sharon Muza‘s “Cesarean Your Way” session then, but it was at the same time I was presenting. And to add insult to injury, it was right next door, where I could hear lots of laughter and fun! So when I saw it on the program again this year, I knew I had to go. And it was a lot of fun. I actually gave birth by cesarean during the session!
People, Planet and Profit were up next. Birth businesswomen Ana Paula Markel and Jessica English led this lively discussion on making a business that succeeds on the triple bottom lines: People, Planet and Profit. People and profit were covered quite well, I would have liked to be able to discuss the “planet” bottom line more.
The final session of the day was Joan Combellick discussing the neonatal biome. I’ll be honest, I struggled to get engaged with this session. Much of what she discussed was then dismissed as “not strong enough evidence” and there were lots of teasers that she was doing work that was showing great evidence and results, but she would not give any details.
As soon as this session ended, a friend and I ran out to our car and got away from the strip for the evening. It was a lovely break from the hustle, bustle and grind of the strip. We drove out to Red Rock Canyon to enjoy the sunset. Felt great to be back in nature and to enjoy some quiet!
Sunday morning’s first session was Denise Hancock discussing the educational needs of Millennials. She did a great job of outlining the WHY behind the different ways Millennials interact with information, and how as educators we can adapt our teaching to ways that make sense for them. All without making a single comment or joke about smartphones!
The conference wrapped up with a rousing session from Jennie Joseph on how her clinic and program works to combat some of the racial and socioeconomic disparities that are out there. She was blunt, straightforward, and inspiring!
At the end of the conference, Lamaze International President Robin Elise Weiss encouraged each of us to share with a neighbor our High/Low/A-ha! from the conference:
My high point: Talking with and rubbing shoulders with women I look up to and admire. Also a certain compliment from a certain person whose opinion means a lot to me.
My low point: Feeling drained by the atmosphere of the strip. Thankfully I was able to run away for a bit.
My A-HA! moment: So, so many! Probably the sessions on SEO and teaching Millennials had the most. I have a long list of things to implement from this conference, and I am energized to get them done now!
(And because we needed fuel for the drive home, our final stop in Vegas was Pink Box Donuts. YUM!)