The first annual Doula UK Conference was held last week on May 22nd and I had the great fortune (and support of my husband) to attend. The theme for the conference was ‘Finding the Path to Peaceful Birth’ through collaborative working across all disciplines in order to create a positive experience and memory for the women and families that we work with.
I was amazed at the line-up of speakers that had come together for this event. The day started with Penny Simkin, co-founder of Doulas of North America (DONA), who shared examples of collaborative working across North America, bringing together everyone from doulas and midwives, to obstetricians and housekeepers to support women in one central fashion. I was excited as of the four projects that she spoke on, one was in Vancouver, the South Community Birth Program, which I became familiar with while working as a public health nurse in Vancouver. At the end of the day, I was able to talk to Penny about this — she was so lovely. She even signed my book for me as I have been reading one of her books and it’s been living in my bag to read whenever I have a chance.
The day was ended with a talk by Sheila Kitzinger MBE who is such a natural speak and storyteller. She sure knows how to command a room and had us all in fits of laughter. She spoke on ‘Understanding the Doula’ and also spoke about her new book ‘Birth and Sex’. It has to be said, the most memorable part of this was the ease at which Sheila spoke about birth, sex, and everything in between and the unfortunate, yet amusing, bewildered and embarrassed looks of the two young men who were filming the day. Sheila was kind enough to allow quite a group of people to queue up and sit for a moment with her while she signed copies of her new book. It was a lovely moment for me to share that space with her (and to discover that she lives only about half an hour away from me!).
These incredible women that started and ended our day so nicely complimented the other amazing speakers, such as Amali Lokugamage, Sheena Byrom OBE, Denis Walsh, and Mavis Kirkham. Through these amazing midwives and obstetricians I learned so much and got a lot of insight into why systems are working the way they are, why collaborative working is stronger in some venues than others (yes, one person makes a lot of difference), and practical things that I can be doing to better support the families that I work with and my own relationship with other members of the birth support team.
All of this, plus an well represented panel for discussion including people from the NCT, La Leche League, Birth Rights, Independent Midwifery, Student Midwives, Netmums, and AIMS. They brought their own insight to the day. Most striking was the words of the representative of the student midwives who really did have such a passion for getting to know doulas and working with them and implored doulas to reach out and build a connection with their local student midwives.
I had such an amazing day. I got to sit and learn, and I got to do it in the company of some women that I have never met and yet interacted with, some that I have spoken with and got to meet for the first time, and others that have been a part of my journey in being a doula. It was great company to be in. I can’t wait for a reason to do it all again!