Spring Hui Debrief.

By Harriet Moir
Nov 2016

As I watched the horror of the US election unfold the other night and I downed the last of a musty old bottle of Baileys, the only alcohol I could find in the house (it has been one of those weeks, ok?), I found myself wishing to be back in the safe and wonderful womb of female awesomeness that was Home Birth Aotearoa Hui. This was held on Saturday 15th October 2016 and women from all over NZ came together to share their voices, experiences, and opinions.

Beautiful Raglan. What a setting!
Now the logistics involved with organising Hui are no mean feat. From securing a suitable venue, to coordinating travel arrangements, the agenda, and that old catch cry we are all so familiar with, “what’s for tea”? As a newly elected trustee, I followed the Facebook journey in awe as Sharon Knightbridge and the team from Homebirth Waikato (Michelle Howie, Bronwyn Frost, Jacqui Dawson, and Sally Rich) set about facilitating a wonderful weekend at the Raglan Bible Camp, Wainui Road, Manu Bay, Raglan. These women get stuff done.

Hailing from Dunedin these days, I was possibly being a little bit optimistic by packing some summery options for the spring weather in our South Pacific coastal island paradise. Due to overcast skies, cool temperatures, and lots of drizzle, sadly none of them saw the light of day. This didn’t put a damper on the excitement of the trustees gathering at a delightful cafe in raglan for lunch and catch ups on Friday October 14, however. As a newbie to the group, along with Helen Lyttleton, the sisterhood vibe was instant. Existing trustees Sharon Knightbridge (and her lovely daughter Ruby), Eva Neely (and her beautiful baby Laurel) and Xavia Healy-Diaz were warm and welcoming. They even swore a little bit too, so it was exactly like meeting with old friends.

After a brief (ahem) orientation from the camp staff, the executive settled into the office for a pre Hui meeting. Sian Hannagan and Tammi Heap were unable to be there and were greatly missed. The third new trustee Alison Barrett joined us later in the afternoon. Topics for discussion included Home Birth Aotearoa’s current financial position and future reporting, health and safety measures for weekend, the review, update and future maintenance of the Home Birth Aotearoa website and the fact that Sharon Knightbridge is never ever ever allowed to leave the executive. Like never.

By Friday evening the camp was filled with the sounds of children as many local homebirth families joined us for a delicious pot luck dinner. We were treated to some impressive harmonies led by local midwife Karin Bettely, and we all enjoyed an informal evening with the thriving homebirth community of Raglan.

A funny moment during the Kei a wai ceremony. Pictured from left to right. Bronwyn Frost, Jacqui Dawson (with babe), Tamma Smith, Virginia McCabe, Junee Ly, and Jessica White.
The Exec regrouped again afterwards for more storytelling and discussion, and I may or may not have sampled some of the baking set aside for the next day.

Saturday morning started with a quick breakfast and a set up for the day’s proceedings. We needed to arrange the seating to facilitate togetherness and discussion and a few trade tables were organised.

Home Birth Aotearoa’s trade table.
By 9am the camp was buzzing with the sound of women bonding, reuniting, and connecting. The day before, Sharon gently reminded the trustees about our contribution of water from a body of water that is significant to us for the Kei a Wai, which of course I knew nothing about. Gosh, so unlike me not to read the manual! The Kei a Wai was a powerful and enriching way to start Hui. Eloquent women from Hamilton, Raglan and the greater Waikato, Auckland, Tauranga, Papamoa, Taupo, Wellington, Christchurch, Hokitika, Dunedin and Leigh all generously offered the story behind their contribution of water to the vessel to a safe and affirming audience. I’ve never been part of a Kei a Wei before and found the experience incredibly moving. I take great satisfaction in claiming victory as the first person to blub at Hui, 2016.
Sharon and Harriet (just before the tears)
Morning tea followed, more connecting and the best ginger crunch I have ever tasted. Perfect base to topping ratio.

The AGM was next on the agenda for the weekend. This was kicked off with the election of new officers, Chair (Eva), Treasurer (Helen) and Secretary (Harriet). The Home Birth Aotearoa Trust annual report was presented, and Xavia delivered the statement of financial performance and there were a number of questions from members.

Home Birth Aotearoa’s Goals.
Healthy and gracious dialogue followed the AGM around the value of having student midwives attend homebirth and how we achieve this and how we can reach out to home birthers whose children have grown up as promoters of home birth. We then discussed the importance of gathering true data and statistics specific for home birth (gestation, labour stage length, intervention choices in ante-natal phase, post-natal visits, number and length, breastfeeding support outcomes). Moves were made towards creating a subcommittee for this.

After lunch (and more ginger crunch) we heard from most of the regions about what they are up to. This was an awesome opportunity to gain inspiration and clarity about what is working and what isn’t for the different groups, and I am sure we were all able to come away with some great ideas to take back to our regions.

The afternoon finished with a phenomenal presentation from Heather Muriwai. It was such a privilege to hear her share her philosophy about cultural competency. She talked about being able to achieve this in her midwifery came from a strong sense of self and an understanding of who she is. Ko wai au? Who am I?

While many of us had to peel off late afternoon, A few hard cores stayed on for dinner.

The kei a wai vessel
Heartfelt thanks to the staff at the Raglan Bible Camp, Sharon Knightbridge and the team from Homebirth Waikato and everyone who took time out if their busy working and family lives to come to HBAT Hui 2016. My personal thanks also to Sally for the baking. That ginger crunch though.

What a wonderful weekend. No judgement, no need for structured turn taking, no aggression, just a loving pool of thoughtful discussion, action, and a group of wahine passionately collaborating towards a cause.

Which begs the question, why aren’t more women in positions of power all over the world?

Donna, a beloved midwife, and past trustee sharing her water in the kei a wai ceremony.