Fun At Lamaze! | Part 3

AndreaPresentingThe third and final day. After all the learning and all the fun, I am utterly exhausted. And yet I have to present again. First thing in the morning. This time my topic was “Out of the Bayou: Helping Families Navigate the Online Swamp” My roommate and friend was kind enough to attend my session and take a photo of me presenting.

This time around didn’t go quite as well – there were issues with the microphone that made loud popping noises and once startled me. I kept having to reboot the microphone. I lost my train of thought a few times, and I didn’t realize the correct end time and went over by about 10 minutes. Oops! Overall not so bad, but not as good as the day before, and nowhere near as good as I wanted it to be!

This was a shorter presentation, a split session with Debby Amis. She presented on making PowerPoint work for you, and spotlighted a new product from Lamaze – a PP that can help you teach the 6 Care Practices. It was an OK session, but I am not a fan of PP at all, didn’t use it for either of my presentations, and so I found it funny that I was paired with her for a split session.

(Once again I was bummed to be missing another of Sharon Muza’s sessions – this one on teaching about cesareans. We both presented twice, and neither of us could go see the other’s sessions!)

AmberMcCannClinicalThen it was time for the last session of the conference, a general session featuring Amber McCann: “Today’s Mothers are All Thumbs: Cultural Competency for Digital Motherhood”. She talked about how involved women of childbearing are are in social media and how we can reach them there. She discussed how moms are not searching the internet looking for your childbirth class, they are searching and looking for INFORMATION. Reaching them with that information can be a good way to get the other thing digital moms want: INTERACTION. I’ve highlighted two of my favorite quotes from her session in graphics for this article.


She discussed several of the more commonly used social media sites, giving a rundown of the basics and how it might be used professionally by childbirth educators. It was a great session and a nice end to the conference.

Overall, I loved the conference. I love being able to spend days focusing on a subject that still fascinates me. I love meeting new people. I enjoyed seeing old friends from previous conferences. I enjoyed presenting (mostly) the sessions I did. The food in New Orleans was fantastic!

After the conference was over, I had an afternoon and evening to myself before I flew home the next day. I was chatting in the lobby with another educator, and we came up with an idea and challenge for a future conference:

A PowerPoint Free conference!! No more sessions where the presenter just reads the slides to everyone. We are educators, and we can do better!! Let’s make EVERY session interactive. EVERY session be more proactive in getting participation. It can be done, and it would be an amazing conference!

I spent the afternoon and evening walking around the French Quarter and the waterfront. I visited Cafe Du Monde for some beignets. I strolled the waterfront. I watched the ships sail up the Mississippi. I watched the sun set over the river. Would have liked to visit the aquarium, but it was closed. As was the RiverWalk shopping area. When it got dark, I ate Gumbo and Shrimp with Grits. And then I packed up and went to bed so I could get up early and fly home. It was a great trip, even if it exhausted me!


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Rebozo Midwives

2013 Perinatal Professionals Conference

Maternal Focus Birth
Maternal Focus Birth Photography booth.
I’ve already said I love to attend conferences. This month I get to attend TWO! This week I attended the 2013 Perinatal Professional Consortium conference.

The conference is a two day affair and does a great job of bringing together labor and delivery nurses, postpartum nurses, IBCLCs, childbirth educators, doulas, etc. This year was no exception. I enjoyed seeing many of my colleagues from St. Mark’s Hospital there, as well as many of my friends from the Utah Doula Association.

This year the conference was held at the Gathering Place at Gardner Village, which was a great location, though the staff was a little distracting with loud talking and setting up for an evening event before we were even finished!

As usual, the conference opened with the planning committee performing a fun skit. This year, the theme was Gathering Ideas and Growing, so they dressed in springy gardening clothes and sang “Tiptoe Through the Research” and then had everyone join in.

My favorite sessions were:

BonniJean Monson, PT talking about physical therapy during pregnancy and postpartum. Since I have been doing PT for a bad ankle sprain the last few weeks, it was particularly interesting to hear about. She taught some basic stretches and posture techniques we can share with the women we work with, and discussed when a referral to a physical therapist might be helpful.

Kristy Ridd-Young teaching about maternal positioning
Kristy Ridd-Young teaching about maternal positioning, with Laura Bikman portraying the mom and my fellow teacher Kim Smith assisting.
Kristi Ridd-Young taught about labor coping skills. It wasn’t anything I had not learned before, but it was interesting and worthwhile to attend for several reasons. I enjoyed seeing how someone else taught the techniques differently than I do, it was eye opening to be in the session as participant rather than facilitator, and I enjoyed seeing the interaction and questions from the nursing staff. It always helps me to better see a nurses’ point of view when I attend this conference alongside them.

Dr. Jerald King from the University of Utah discussed the use of donor milk, it’s benefits to newborns, and the current process of collection, processing and distribution. I was disappointed to learn that despite the many benefits to babies, many hospitals, including St. Mark’s, don’t use donor milk at all! Dr. King is working towards the establishment of a human milk bank here in Utah in the next several years, and I will be looking forward to future developments there.

Celeste Thomas and Susanna Cohen of BirthCare HealthCare at the University of Utah wrapped up Thursday with a session on using the rebozo in pregnancy, labor and postpartum. I always love learning new rebozo tricks, and any session that gets me up and out of my seat after a long day of staring at powerpoints is always a winner in my book.

One of my very favorite nurses in all the world, Kelly Martin, and a very experienced doula, Kristy Huber, presented jointly about the relationship between doulas and nurses. It was very well done, and I really appreciated the cross-discipline presentation. I particularly liked the ending note: If you have a problem, don’t gossip about it, FIX IT! They gave information on how to file a grievance with certifying organizations and/or the local doula group, as well as how doulas might discuss their concerns with someone at the hospital where the nurse is employed. I think this kind of accountability and professionalism can only help.

Other sessions included:

Rebozo Midwives
Susanna Cohen and Celeste Thomas demonstrating the rebozo.
Heather Scott, an RN from the University of Utah presented on getting babies skin to skin with mom in the operating room after a cesarean birth. I love, love, love the idea, and she had great practical info on that. Unfortunately, her talk can’t be placed in my “favorites” because she spent a good half hour of her time going on a rant about natural, normal birth and blaming women who are disappointed about a cesarean for having “unrealistic expectations.” Her attempt to portray cesarean birth as “just another normal way of birth” had me biting my tongue, HARD. I may have to do a whole ranty blog post on why the mother blaming and attempt to normalize cesarean birth bother me so much. (I think she hit a nerve there with me, can you tell?)

Mary Erickson, another RN from University Hospital, presented the session “What to Expect in a Baby Friendly Hospital” It was mostly information on the benefits of skin to skin and the stages of alternating rest and activity that babies go through immediately after birth. These topics are great, and for many participants it was new information, but last year’s conference covered these topics extensively and in much more depth, so for me it was a review.

Cathy Coates, yet another RN from the U of U (the conference was heavy on U of U speakers this year…) spoke about delaying the first bath for at least 24 hours. She had some great info on the benefits of vernix and reasons to delay the bath, and for many of the nurses it was pretty eye opening. But I honestly kept thinking “Why should we even have to talk about this? It shouldn’t be that big of a deal to just bathe the baby….or not… whenever works for the family.” I did like her opening remarks about traditions and how doing something just because it is a tradition isn’t a good reason to do it. It’s not the speaker’s fault that the song “Traditions” from Fiddler on the Roof got stuck in my head. I blame my daughter Callie for appearing in that play last year…. She also ended with a great rewrite of the Brady Bunch theme – making it be about delaying the bath. I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on the words and get permission to post it.

The closing session of the conference was Christy Porucznik, a professor in the Public Health program at the U and a local LLL Leader talking about “The 10th Step” meaning building community support for breastfeeding. She discussed current resources, how we talk about breastfeeding, multi-generational change and education, etc. Very helpful and useful.

There were a few breakout sessions I was not able to attend, because I don’t yet have my own time turner:

Combining Breast AND Bottle? Presented by Amy Peterson and Mindy Harmer
Breastfeeding Scenarios Presented by my favorite lactation consultant Julie Johnson
Placental Encapsulation– JoAnna Woods

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Andrea Lythgoe and Penny Simkin at the Atlanta DONA International conference

On the road! Conferences & Workshops

I have been a childbirth educator since 1997, and a doula since 1999. I have attended hundreds of births. And yet, I find there is still so much to be learned. I really enjoy attending workshops and conferences, and have done so as often as finances allow.

I started attending local conferences very soon into my journey. I have attended Utah Doula Association conferences just about every year since I knew about them. (I missed 2002, having given birth just a few days before the conference, but I don’t think I’ve missed any others!) The Perinatal Professionals conference has gone through several name changes over the years, but I have (almost) always been there! I have had the opportunity to speak at the UDA conference several times, and the Perinatal Professionals conference once.

Attendees at the 2011 DONA International Conference in Boston
Attendees at the 2011 DONA International Conference in Boston
My first national conference was for DONA International, and was held in San Francisco in 2003. I had planned to attend with a friend, but ended up going alone. It was amazing to sit in a room full of hundreds of doulas. Amazing to hear about the work of very well known leaders in the field, from their own mouths! I was hooked.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to attend national conferences for DONA International and Lamaze International in Denver, Vancouver BC, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Boston. I have learned about advances in research, advocacy, and our understanding of how birth works. I have met birthy “celebrities” like Penny Simkin, Teri Schilling, Marshall Klaus, Robbie-Davis Floyd, and Marsden Wagner. I once joined a group of women for dinner at the hotel restaurant, and was surprised when the woman sitting next to me introduced herself as Henci Goer.

Andrea Lythgoe and Penny Simkin
Penny Simkin and I at the DONA International conference in Atlanta, GA
But I’ve also met many women you’ve probably never heard of, women who are working very hard to advocate for and serve women in their own communities. Women who run successful volunteer programs. Women who run successful doula businesses. Women working to change laws in their areas for the better. Women who would say they are doing nothing worth talking about, just running their own little doula business. They all inspire me. I’ve made some good friends at conferences over the years!

I have had the chance to listen to Harvey Karp speak about The Happiest Baby on the Block, to hear about Andrew Kotaska’s work on helping people understand the culture of risk. I listened to Penny Simkin look back on the many changes she has seen and experienced in the 40 years she has been working with childbearing families. I’ve heard James McKenna passionately speak about cosleeping. I’ve heard Michael Klein talk about the pitfalls of inappropriately applying research. I had the chance to see movies like Pregnant in America, The Business of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth long before they were available locally. I’ve belly danced, sung, I’ve used a rebozo and I’ve played learning games.

Attending the conferences has taught me new information, challenged the way I think about things, and stretched my horizons more than I ever could have imagined.

These large national conferences also generally feature a wonderful exhibit hall, full of vendors providing all kinds of amazing products for doulas and childbirth educators. I always come home with something new: a book, video, a teaching tool, a birth ball cover, etc. I’ve won posters as a door prize, and I have picked up some interesting freebies like a USB drive shaped like a tube of Lansinoh!

Merchandise on Display at Birth Conferences

In 2012, I decided to take a smaller approach and instead of a national conference, I chose to attend a Passion for Birth workshop. I’d met Teri Schilling at several conferences before, and I’d always made a point of attending her sessions because she really stands out above the crowd with her interactive way of facilitating learning. My friend Sharon Muza was the other workshop facilitator, so I knew I’d be laughing plenty. The workshop was intended for those just starting out in childbirth education, but I knew I would still come home with plenty of new ideas. I was not disappointed! I came home with pages and pages on my list of “things to implement when I get back” and I was completely invigorated and ready to shake things up for the better.

I hope that I never, ever get to a point where I no longer feel a drive to learn and improve in my field! Hmmmm….. what should I do this year? If you have a suggestion for a conference or workshop I might enjoy, please let me know!

(Little bonus: DONA International’s slideshow of images from the 2009 Atlanta conference. I was there, but if you can spot me in any of the photos, you have better eyes than I do!)

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