Midwifery Today is 18 years old this year. I like to reflect deeply at special milestones. To me, the beginning of the year is always a time of intense planning for the future and pondering where we have been. I like looking back at Midwifery Today’s past magazines and other projects and revisiting what worked. Knowing where you have been helps you plan your future. Just surviving 18 years is a miracle to me! But I sense we will go another 18, God willing.
I think our achievements last year will keep bearing fruit. We put on conferences in Eugene, London, Oaxaca (Mexico) and Paris. We can bask in the warmth and excitement of a great conference for months after the event. They can be starting points for many new journeys to change birth practices, as all of 2003’s conferences were. Really, all of our (approximately) 35 conferences have been successful in this way.
I haven’t told you about last November’s Paris conference yet. Once again, many countries were represented. For the first time, we had midwives from Russia, Latvia and Haiti, all working hard on improving midwifery and birth in their countries. Midwives from different countries bring fresh perspectives on our favorite subjects: motherbaby and birth. We are constantly reminded that we are not alone in the struggle and neither are our new friends.
In Paris, we met Veronika Maslova and Alyona Lebedeva, two midwives who do homebirths in Moscow, Russia. My understanding (and joy) is that 34 midwifery groups in Moscow do homebirths. Veronika is a midwife-physician with a vision of translating the Midwifery Today Web site into Russian to help midwives there make change. She is quiet and soft-spoken, but with a keen vision for birth and midwifery in her country. She has become a country contact for Midwifery Today. Alyona is just learning English, but has an overwhelming urge to communicate about midwifery and birth. She told us the story of her personal experience in a Russian hospital. She said with deep feeling, “I died as a woman and as a mother in that place.” Then she glowed with the story of her homebirth and said, “I was reborn as a woman and as a mother.”
We also met three lovely midwives from Latvia who are working toward birth change in their country. Since the conference, one, Dace Dimitrijeva, has started a newsletter for Latvian midwives. (Read her letter in this issue’s “Cards and Letters.”) You will hear more from these friends in some of our publications. My greatest joy at conferences is meeting midwives and other childbirth practitioners from all over this fascinating world.
As you have read in past articles, we have had wonderful experiences at our other conferences last year. When I look back on all the amazing places we have visited, I am awed that we have had the blessing to be able to plant seeds of hope and birth change in so many extraordinary countries. We have had our hearts touched at conferences in Japan, China, Jamaica, the Netherlands and many places in the U.S. We are making plans for the future: Eugene, Denmark and possibly South Africa for 2005; Philadelphia and possibly Italy in 2006; Australia for 2007.
This year we are having our domestic conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (March 18–22). Our international conference will be in the spa town of Bad Wildbad, Germany (October 20–24). Visit our Web site for a copy of the program.
If you want to get involved with the fascinating world of international midwifery or birth you can begin with an international conference. It is a good place to make contacts and generate ideas. You can meet midwives who want help with various projects. You might help organize a midwifery school in another country. The Romanian midwives just started their own school with some international help. Expand your midwifery spirit as you partake of great midwifery knowledge around the world.
Although we are only having two of our own conferences this year, we are providing support to our sister organizations’ conferences. I will be at the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) Americas Regional Conference in Trinidad and Tobago (April 23–24). Some of us have been working on asking the ICM to be more inclusive. (See my international midwife editorial in Issue 62 on pages 44–45.) The Trinidad and Tobago conference is an excellent place to work on this. This regional ICM is in a country that is one of the best examples of midwifery organization; there, midwives respect other midwives. At the conference, several sessions are dedicated to traditional midwifery. The midis (what traditional midwives there are called) were the highlight of the last international conference I attended and helped with in the country. You might also consider going to the International Waterbirth Congress in Chicago, Illinois (April 22–25). Visit waterbirth.org/spa/ for more information. In May, there is the second International Congress of the Ecology of Childbirth, A Celebration of Life (May 27–30), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (See Heloisa Lessa’s article, “Making Birth Humane in Brazil,” in this issue for more details.) I plan to attend and hope to see you there.
We also plan to continue publishing the best Midwifery Today magazine and Birthkit newsletter we can. This is easy because the best childbirth practitioners in the world write for us: you. We continue to develop our information-packed Web site and our books of practical information from the “midwifery model” point of view. Our plans are carried out with the hope of helping you be the best practitioner you can be. We believe every family deserves the best, most miraculous birth possible. You are the key, and we want to help.
Toward Better Birth,