Reflections on Conference 2015..

By Sian Hannagan
Sep 2015

Every second year Home Birth Aotearoa hold our Home Birth Conference, it’s a chance to collectively enrich our homebirth knowledge and build on herstories founded in the early days of our organisation. This year conference was hosted by our Nelson and Motueka regions at the beautiful Riverside Community Centre in Moutere. With the phenomenal event put on in Tauranga in 2012, the bar was set high. Looking back on what was achieved, we’re pretty certain it was a great success.

Photo credit: Claire Humphries

The day started off magically with a coffee cart parked to make free drinks for all of the attendees and Courtney taking time to run a muka making circle before kicking off.

Eva Neely, one of our trustees queuing for coffee

Courtney deftly shows us how to make muka ties

Muka making was a popular start to the day – whaea Jo keeps an eye on things
Working with hands, women do some great talking.
This years’ ‘Connections and Community’ conference was about building strength in our Home Birth communities through nurturing the connections we have with each other. Speakers were chosen for their strong roots in the Home Birth movement and their commitment to honouring home birthing families. A highlight of the day was Bronwen Pelvin’s talk on her journey to homebirth, in particular her reflections on core midwifery practice in Nelson in the seventies and eighties. Interesting how so many of the challenges she faced then (from difficult medical professionals to hostile working environments) are mirrored in the challenges we face today. But heartening also to see that the strength of our home birth movement is held at a grassroots level and this legacy carries through to today as well. It really reminds me of all the wisdom held in the hearts of our homebirth wahine that have been with us from the beginning, what a treasure to cherish. In her work today at the Ministry of Health, Bronwen holds that Home Birth space, and this is really invaluable when we consider what we strive for. Choice based maternity.
Bronwen chatting to one of our organisers, Sarah.
Sharon Robinson blessed us with a sneak preview of her ‘Born at Home’ video, which is her response to seeing women who choose home birth, being challenged by friends and family who did not understand home birth. Her beautifully crafted video takes us into the homes of several home birthing families where we see mothers and fathers respond to birth at home. It was touching to see those real experiences in a kiwi context. She also treated us to an old news clip of her home birth experience in American news, what a classic! A very inspiring video and talk by Sharon Robinson, cementing the important roles on partners in birth.

Joanne Rama wahine toa and midwife extraordinaire, brought her experiences as a ‘flax root’ midwife and birth advocate to us with such passion and humour. She really captivated the crowd with her honesty and heartfelt energy. Tammi, one of our trustees said “As a Maori midwife, many of Joanne’s words brought to the room highlighted the importance of where we need to continue to hold place and ensure respect for our traditional Maori birth practices and cultural needs. It was a great start to the day to have her liven the crowd up with such mana, and so valuable hearing her voice at key moments throughout the day as well.”Xavia, another of the trustees said that “her passion with honesty, openness and the type of bawdy humour particular to homebirthers started the day with a bang,” and it really did.

Joanne Rama and Donna Fowles have a chat between sessions..
We were so lucky to have Anna Wilde as our MC, she held that space for Home Birth all day and with a great strength of voice and clarity. Anna has such a broad skill set and range of birth experiences, she really added richness to the day with her knowledge and wisdom. Her home birth heart filled the room.

It was great hearing Kass Ozturk’s thoughts on what would bring about true change in birth culture. From her case study on birth place, she brought forth some clear statements on what changes we should be pushing for as home birth advocates. She spoke with such clarity and heart on woman centered birth, it was hard not to nod along with everything she said. A really inspiring presentation with some challenges and suggestions to us all around how we can help change the story of home birth in New Zealand.

Carla Sargent’s talk came at the end of the day, when interest and energy should have been flagging, but her korero captured the room. Her passion for birth is evident in the work she does and hearing her speak really clarified what brought us together that day. It’s a real treat hearing Carla talk about what she is passionate about. The footage she gifted us from her own births saw happy tears in many eyes and really brought birth into the room – a fitting way to end our day.

The organisational team really outdid themselves, a huge thanks to them and their tireless work bringing all the threads of this event together to create such a warm and complete space for Home Birth. Our Nelson team comprised of Jenni, Sarah, Claudi and Brooke who worked really hard to create a beautiful event with a selection of really inspiring speakers. With a full turn out of attendees, the program quality spoke for itself. We had some really magic moments listening to these powerful voices in the Home Birth Community. Riverside turned out to be an amazing venue, with sleeping onsite, a warm play room for the children and wonderful hall with a comfortable lived in feeling it was a perfect place to centre ourselves in the home birth space and soak in the wisdom.

As with all Home Birth events, some of best moments are captured in the in-between spaces, korero during kai time and those conversations that happen between speakers. It was lovely to witness all of the connections that occurred through the day, bringing all of these strong wise women and families together makes a special home birth magic.

One of the highlights of the day was the food, ordinarily conference food tends towards the stodgy and generic catered style. But not at this conference, Irma and her group of amazing foodies sourced all of their food from local farms and businesses, even raiding (with permission) friends gardens and trees for the bounty we were served on the day. We were treated to a range of nourishing and delicious whole foods including lacto-ferments, hearty soups, and homemade breads.

The amazing spread that Irma and her team prepared for us.
Busy at work in the kitchen. Photo credit: Claire Humphries.
The work done in the heart of the centre – the kitchen, kept us all going throughout the day.
With the venue being what it was, and having it filled with all these wonderful, wise, birthy women the day had a special kind of magic.

I left the day feeling replete, in heart and soul (and my tummy too).

See you in 2017!

Enjoying lunch outside at midday. Photo credit: Claire Humphries
We were blessed to have Claire Humphries, a talented birth photographer, there to document our event. The photos she took are a beautiful record of our special day.