Spring Hui at Umupuia Marae.

By Sharon Knightbridge
Nov 2014

Home Birth Aotearoa’s National Hui is held in spring each year and is a gathering of all home birth associations and support groups. It is open to trustees, representatives from the regional groups, their families, midwives, student midwives, and representatives from partnership groups — in short, anyone who is interested in home birth in Aotearoa New Zealand. Attending hui is an opportunity to share regional issues and to reflect on what we are trying to achieve as a national organization. Issues are discussed; decisions for the months ahead are made, and knowledge is shared. Participants leave hui feeling inspired and energized by each other.

Hui was awesome, so much passion and connection, and what an amazing space just across from the sea. Great to meet so many lovely new people, a huge thank you to everyone involved

….. Together we are POWER – Carla Jenkinson

The AGM is held at the national hui; this is the forum to approve the Finance and Board Reports, review the Strategic Plan, discuss any proposals for the national organisation, and hear regional reports.

The board stand together with Nadia as she reads the words of Rachel Pearson during the Kei a Wai ceremony,

This year hui was held in the Auckland region from the 10th to – 12th of October. We acknowledge the women and whānau of the Auckland Home Birth Support Group for hosting this hui, their organization, and their commitment to meeting the needs of the forty adults and thirty children who spent the weekend together. Our thanks also go to the Tangata Whenua of the fantastic Umupuia Marae for sharing such an inspiring venue with us.

The wharenui with the ancestor carvings at Umupuia Marae.

Ko Kohukohunui te Maunga
Ko Wairoa te Awa
Ko Maraetai te Moana
Ko Tainui te Waka
Ko Ngai Tai te Iwi
Ko Umupuia te Marae
Ko Ngeungeu te Whare Tupuna
Ko Tara Te Irirangi te Ariki ki runga
Ko Raukohekohe te Whare kai
Ko St Marys te Whare karakia
Maraetai – Umupuia circa.1882

A pōwhiri was held to warmly welcome us onto the marae. We learned that the marae buildings are all named for female tīpuna (ancestors), which seemed very fitting for the purpose of our hui. We also heard that the land had never been sold or bought, belonging always to the people and the place. Following the kōrero, we were invited to have a cup of tea to complete the welcome. As we relaxed into our home for the next few days, we felt very welcome and very comfortable.

All the healthy, nutritious, and delicious meals were lovingly prepared, happily consumed, and greatly enjoyed. Thank you to Fi, Puawai & Janet, along with our French helpers for the weekend, for caring for us so beautifully.

The Kei a wai ceremony gave us the opportunity to introduce ourselves and commit to the purpose of the hui. People stood together with others from their regions to share a little about themselves and their home birth stories before pouring water into the Vessel to symbolize the mingling of our common goals.

Nadia shares here intent.

Our vessel draws in the intentions of this space.

Anne Sharplin caresses the vessel.

Rose Fisher at the Kei a Wai ceremony.

Part of HBAs commitment to the fifth goal in the organisation’s Trust Deed, is to hold an annual Te Tiriti o Waitangi workshop as part of our national hui. Christine Herzog from The Treaty Resource Centregathered us together and ran through a few essential Treaty of Waitangi basics as well as busting a few myths. Christine asked what we are trying to achieve as an organisation – is Home Birth Aotearoa looking to develop Treaty Partnerships or is our focus on cultural appropriateness, relevance, and accessibility? There was a feeling that we had much to consider and that all aims fit the ongoing purpose and intentions of our organisation. The key significance for HBA was to ensure that Māori women had the same opportunities to access home birth as any other women – if they choose to do so.

In the afternoon there was discussion on “The Partnership Model of care, the midwife and the birthing woman.”

In a recent article for Home Birth Matters magazine, Carla Sargent (HB mama, blogger, author & midwife) recently wrote about how within our current maternity model, which appears ideal and is lauded internationally, the rate of medical interventions and associated trauma is rising. She asserted that this does not satisfy women (higher morbidities & trauma) NOR does it satisfy midwives who are under pressure to conform to mainstream practices (within hospital facilities & increasingly at home). Midwives who practice within a broader definition of “normal” often feel unsupported by their midwifery colleagues, women, their College, and the Midwifery Council. Carla also suggested the 3 Ms that influence birth:

  1.  Mainstream – does the birthing woman fall outside today’s definition of normal? E.g., VBAC, high BMI, Home Birth, water birth, multiples, breech, etc.
  2.  Media – our current birth paradigm is shaped by television, films, war stories of birth, nuclear families, and our current risk adverse culture.
  3.  Midwife – what is her philosophy, experience, work environment, support, comfort zone etc?

Robust discussion around this issue was joined by women and midwives with experiences reaching across a wide range of birth facilities and eras. The emerging themes were around the loss of the home birth political voice, issues around money for midwives, resources for home birth groups, home birth components of the student curriculum, relationships, professional support, communication, advocacy, language of birth, responsibility, liability, and the definition of normal birth. The session was wrapped up with a commitment to ongoing conversations and strategic planning to address the issues noted.

Words shared over a cuppa.

Important discussions at the partnership korero.

“….just wanted to share my gratitude for your planning the lovely hui at the delightful Umupuia Marae. It was a joy to meet you and get a sense for the kaupapa in action and I look forward to seeing what comes of the discussions, particularly the Saturday afternoon partnership conversation, it felt timely and well considered by all involved. Arohanui.” – Angela Trillo

The AGM was presented by the Trustees of HBA who noted that it has been a massive year for HBA with the launching of new branding, new website, and new online magazine. This focus on development of the public profile was a deliberate strategy to create visibility for the organisation and to build a platform for the collective homebirth voice. There has been significant resource channelled to these projects with a large part of that consisting of generous contributions from the wider home birth community. Images from the 2013 photo competition were used to make the website look and feel connected to the homebirth community in Aotearoa. The website looks luscious and has lots of functionality. The visitor rate is high with over 30,000 views. The Midwives Database is able to be updated by the individual midwife although it was noted that some of the listings unfortunately are out of date. Regions were asked to encourage homebirth midwives to update information regularly and to please let the Administrator know if changes are needed. The Forum function has yet to be utilised and it was discussed that this will need further promotion. It has the benefit of archiving conversations (as opposed to Facebook where threads are often lost, and ownership of information is at question). Further social media applications are the HBA Pinterest account and the HBA Twitter account which, are both gradually building.

What a beautiful weekend, thank you so much. It is so special when women can come together and share on so many levels, their passion, their love and nourish and connect with one another. – Carla Jenkinson

Also noted were some changes in Trustees with the resignation of Cecile McNeille, Vicki Rogers, and Rachel Pearson. We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of these inspiring women. We wish them well and we will miss them. New trustees were being sought and these positions have now been filled in the form of Eva Neely, Tammi Heap, Xavia Healy-Diaz, and Donna Fowles.

Employee changes are also afoot with the resignation of Tess Trotter. As Administrator, Tess has been pivotal in the work achieved by the Trust over the two years she has been with HBA. We wish Tess all the best and miss her already.

Tess Trotter sits with Rachel Yeats and her son Gryphon.

“My overarching takeaway from Hui? The children. The love, grace, and joy of this amazing community of children. Feeling blessed for my time in their presence.” – Tess Trotter

HBAs intention going into 2015 is to focus energy on the grassroots membership, with strategies being developed to support regional homebirth groups and associations. A further intention will be around strengthening mutually supportive connections with midwives – our partners in birth. Regional groups are encouraged to make contact with NZCOM regional committees as well as a broad range of midwifery and maternity focussed organisations. HBA offered help with connecting with groups in the regions, please get in touch if needed.

On Saturday evening the Red Tent Sharing Circle facilitated by Lianne Divine brought to the fore some great conversations and was a chance for a few mums who have been doing it tough to release their emotions in a safe space.

On Sunday, Regional Reports were presented verbally by those present. On the whole regional groups are continuing to tick along with various coffee mornings, pool hire, book sharing, and other supportive events. Some great initiatives are taking place with fundraising although finances are problematic in most areas. One region shared that they had moved to paying a part-time administrator and also reimbursing costs for those coordinating the pool hire – everyone agreed this would make a difference to their own regions. Screenings of the documentary “Microbirth” have been occurring through many regions and HBA has actively promoted and supported these. Regional Pod Hui have taken place in Southland and Auckland, and these were reported to have been nurturing and connecting.

Hui was a blast guys. I love soaking up the wisdom and aroha of our homebirth collective. Thanks to all for their strong voices and hearts. – Sian Hannagan

The end of hui was signalled with the usual flurry of packing up, cleaning up and farewelling, and was accompanied by the paradoxical sense of the days having flown by and yet having contained much. The arrangements to come to hui can be complex, taking time from your homes, families, and work to invest in our homebirth community and organisation is appreciated. We trust that everyone left hui feeling inspired and connected.


Alesha offers her reflections:

This was my first attendance at Hui, and I hope for it not to be my last. It was a peaceful, welcoming environment of the most beautiful surroundings and community. I returned home feeling inspired and supported, having had the privilege of learning from the wisdom and experiences of others. As a home birthing mother, I appreciated the opportunity to hear from students and midwives as to their experience of home birth in Aotearoa and I hope that the understandings shared between us may be of continuing support in these times to following. Having birthed and lived in a part of Aotearoa where home birth support slips in and out of a woman’sgrasp, I am well aware of the importance of our community and the space hui gives us to strengthen our ties. Heartfelt thanks to those that organised the event and kept us so well fed and informed over the weekend. Looking forward to seeing you all again!

Enjoying the space

The powhiri welcomed us into marae with warmth and strength.

The wisdom brought by Home Birth advocates spanned decades. Korero around Carla’s article was important.

The Marae at Umupuia is the Mana Whenua Marae of the Ngai Tai Iwi of Umupuia and Tamaki Makaurau. It is situated on ancestral land at Umupuia adjacent to the Wairoa River with Umupuia Beach immediately in front and hundreds of acres of Ngahere (native bush) behind, and as such is unique in the Auckland area.

Singing brought us all together.

The setting was peaceful and calming.

The weather was lovely throughout.

The meeting where we discussed Home Birth and Midwifery brought some impassioned band powerful viewpoints together.

Gorgeous tamariki enjoyed the welcoming space.

Our Tiriti workshop was really informative. it was good to get back in touch with some key areas of knowledge.

These two wonderful women shared their kaupapa with us.

Lots of time to enjoy the sea front.

Cassius getting some cuddles and a banana.

The ocean was such a beautiful part of this venue.

Umupuia marae.

“I have always enjoyed attending the 2 yearly homebirth conferences, and always come away inspired and full of passion, but this year was my first time to attend the hui. I must say I loved the whole experience of my first homebirth hui, not only was the scenery beautiful, but the whole flow of the weekend. Great to meet new faces and meet up with old familiar faces too. Saturday was a great brainstorming few sessions on the strengths of homebirth in New Zealand, and how to keep moving forward. This included good discussions with representatives from the NZCOM… It was unbelievably valuable. Sharing ideas between the regions over the three days was great. Good topics at the AGM were covered very well and in a very positive light. While AGMs usually aren’t something I enjoy attending, a good number of topics were covered as hoped.” -Tammi Heap