Being a Benefit by Bringing Birth Workers Together
Better & Stronger Together
I recently heard a psychologist speak on the brain’s need for human connection and he described it so perfectly, “We are born looking for someone looking for us.” I could cry buckets thinking about this truth. Our need for belonging is profound. Our brains are literally hardwired from the beginning of life to depend on another person in order to experience the full potential of health and joy we were created for.
We get to see this phenomenon as birth workers all the time, witnessing the transformative instance of a woman becoming a mother, looking for her baby who is mutually looking for her. Separation of the two is both of their greatest hindrance to happiness. It’s the most breathtaking relationship to watch unfold. Every single time.
Since the moment I immersed myself in the maternal health world, “avoiding burnout" has been a commonly discussed struggle amongst midwives and doulas of all backgrounds. During my training as a birth doula in 2006, I was warned that most birth workers burn out and quit altogether after just three years in the field.
Comparable to an extreme sport, birth work is an extremely tolling profession and the toll is felt in nearly every facet of life. We go without real sleep, meals, a shower and seeing our husbands and kids for many consecutive days. And nights. And STILL are required to provide competent professional care for expecting families. With a smile. And a hug. It’s a profession that requires you to possess a special kind of capacity and grace to power through and not give up.
God bless ‘em it even becomes an extreme sport for our dear husbands who support us so well to do this work, and do it without burning out. They are their own special kind of phenom. The juggling act team effort on all sides is REAL and the cost is great, but the lives midwives and doulas get to impact for the better ultimately make the cost so very worth it.
The toll becomes even more bearable because of NOVA’s “no midwife/doula left behind” special paradigm. We are diligent to function as one cohesive team, working towards the same goal: humanizing birth for mothers and babies. There is no such thing as autonomy in our practice because we have learned that it is our interdependence that is the key to accessing the strength required to give our whole hearts to this holy work. We are one another’s resource. WE are how we avoid burnout. It’s the gift that God has given us in his command to “love our neighbor as ourselves”, and I’ve witnessed it change the lives of hundreds of new families we’ve served. Living by such a command allows any challenging task, mission and calling to become possible. Living by such a command is what changes the world.
In the name of loving our neighbor, we desired to further utilize our team dynamic to benefit the broader birth community by facilitating a National Midwifery Conference for the last two years.
Conference Mission & Name
The mission for the conference is to bring together birth workers from around the country providing a special moment and space for refreshment, connection and continued education: three vital components to recharging as a birth worker or hello, a human being! We wanted to share a taste of what we get to Iive out together every day. So after a year of brainstorming, planning and praying, in April of 2018, NOVA gave birth to a 9 pound 12 ounce, “Beautiful Midwifery Conference.”
We chose the name ‘B E A U T I F U L’ in celebration of the beauty that is captured in the profession of midwifery. From the facilitation of new life to the difficult outcomes and even loss, we are the ones entrusted to protect such sacred moments for the families we serve. We thought there would be no better way to embrace the beauty in our shared profession than through a day of sessions from inspiring speakers, storytelling, skills enhancement, uplifting conversation and breaking bread together. We put together a very intentional program that have attendees leave feeling enriched with a much needed second wind at their back in their service to families.
A Growing Success & Reputation
Our first two conferences were so successful and reputably marked in the local community that by popular demand we decided to make the ‘Beautiful Conference’ an annual event.
Our first year was a one full day program, and this year’s expanded to two days! This year’s registrants doubled from last year’s and this spring we hosted 90 attendees from 16 different states, and from a variety of professional backgrounds including Certified Professional Midwives, Certified Nurse Midwives, Lay Midwives, Family Nurse Practitioners, Chiropractors, Labor Doulas, Loss Doulas, Postpartum Doulas, Labor and Delivery Nurses, Pediatric Nurses, Lactation Consultants, Midwifery Assistants, Midwifery Apprentices, Physical Therapists and Childbirth Educators.
The range of topics addressed at our conference sessions have been widespread including: Barriers to Care for Women of Color, Neonatal Resuscitation, Reducing Cesarean for Labor Dystocia, Pelvic Alignment for Birth, Suturing, Breech Birth, Perinatal Loss, When Pain Becomes Suffering, Homebirth Transfers, Breastfeeding Support, Supporting Homebirth and Vaginal Birth After Cesarean, and so much more. Our very own FNP, Jaimee Arroyo spoke this year on toxins and how they have a huge impact on gene and disease expression in pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.
We have been pretty blown away by the extraordinary partnerships we’ve developed with conference contributors, from the local to national level.
This year we were slap-happy honored to host Seattle native and Author Penny Simkin who has specialized in childbirth education and labor support since 1968. She’s prepared over an estimated 15,000 women, couples, and siblings for childbirth. She has assisted hundreds of women and couples through childbirth as a doula. She is author of several books for both parents and professionals and has developed teaching materials and videos for educators, doulas, and families, of which I used as a core part of the Institute for G.O.D.’s CBE Program’s curriculum in 2010 and 2013. She is co-founder of DONA International and PATTCh (Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth).
Needless to say, we were in the presence of a lot of greatness and at Penny’s core she is incredibly humble, despite the wealth of knowledge, experience and renown she carries with her. Her (80+ years) life’s work has impacted every single one of NOVA’s birth workers which is consequently rippling into the lives of those we serve.
We also hosted Seattle midwife Carol Gautschi, Washington, D.C. midwife Claudia Booker, and Ohio Midwife Mary Cooper, who are seasoned experts in the field with a vast gift of storytelling! They have spent several decades attending thousands of births and teaching others at midwifery summits and conferences around the globe. They, along with Penny, personally told us that the ‘Beautiful Conference’ was the best, most organized and hospitable conference they had ever participated in. They couldn’t believe we hadn’t been doing it for many years. To God, be the glory!!
Locally, we invited Melan Smith-Francis, DNP, MSN, CNM, FNP-C to speak. Melan delivers babies at Nashville General Hospital as well as in the home setting. Part of her mission is to decrease the cesarean rate as well as the preterm birth rate by empowering women and families to take hold of their health and nutrition. Jennifer Hicks is an instructor at Vanderbilt’s School of Nursing, who specializes in Loss Doula, addressing how to effectively provide clients with the support needed through the heartbreaking experience of perinatal loss. Many other local care providers and businesses participated and partnered with us to make the conference the growing success that it is.
We concluded the entire conference with a beautifully catered dinner by Califarmia cuisine and professional entertainment! It also served as a time for women to share pearls of the profession to share and glean ancient wisdom passed down. By the end of the conference, nearly everyone walked away communicating they received much more than they expected and that’s what we love to hear!
The reviews we’ve received by conference attendees ranging from - the content, to the vibe, to the food- have been overwhelmingly encouraging:
“The details, so comfortable and thoughtful! Absolutely loved it! Can’t wait for next year!”
“Very well orchestrated! I felt very well taken care of and enjoyed all the sessions - fantastic!”
Being a Benefit by Belonging: ‘What we do here is What we do There’
In bringing the vision of the ‘Beautiful Conference’ to fruition, God has opened up doors for us that we never imagined we’d be granted to walk through and heroes of the field we never expected to meet let alone share vision with! It is our hope that such an intentionally facilitated time of gathering lessens the chance for burnout and inspires the kind of solidarity that only God himself can author.
We couldn’t, and wouldn’t, be able to uphold the growing reputation we have in the birth community without the help of the Lord’s Word and presence, actively informing our very precious work—a work that is already translating over into the four international regions where G.O.D. Int’l serves. The same team model we’ve developed here is what we also teach and employ when we serve abroad, so no hard-earned lessons or investment into each other goes to waste. Ever. We believe Beautiful Midwifery Conferences will soon strengthen the weary hearts and hands of midwives in the Philippines, India, East Africa and El Salvador, where maternal health needs are greatest.
Not only have we felt unbelievably blessed to benefit the profession of midwifery in this small (big) way, but we too benefit any time we seek out such opportunities to serve in love for our neighbor. We grow and learn more about our individual and corporate strengths, ultimately unifying us to a greater degree in our mission: to BE a benefit.
Being a benefit happened first, to the families we serve in birth and now reaching to other wonderful professionals who serve alongside us as maternal health care providers.
Our need for belonging is profound. We belong to God. We belong also to one another. Living and serving with that knowledge is exactly how team work makes the dream work. As iron sharpens iron, we want to promote being the kind of birth workers who don’t compete in this profession but sharpen and build up one another in love, for the sake of those who entrust us with their precious lives.