DONA International 2012 Conference, Cancun, Mexico
[the following article was published in International Doula Journal, Vol. 20, Issue 3, 2012]
In July 2012 I had the honour to represent the Greek Doulas at the 20th birthday celebration of DONA International, at DONA’s annual conference in Cancun, Mexico. My trip was made possible due to practical, moral and financial help and support by the Greek Doula Association, the French Association La Culture Pour Vivre, and DONA International. I thank you each, (most especially the people behind each organization, and you know who you are!) for making this happen!
To view the full conference program, titles of presentations and details about the speakers, please visit the DONA site:
DONA board meeting before this year’s conference
In this paper I will report some main points presented at the conference, which I found especially meaningful and important for Greece, in hope that we can be inspired and motivated towards some changes. This report will be short - there has been a more detailed longer report in Greek.
As DONA celebrated 20 years from its first official meeting, three of the founders were present to honor this event: Phyllis Klaus, Penny Simkin and Annie Kennedy. It was impressive how these women, veterans in the perinatal doula care, traveled so far, and how their presence and talks were full of inspiration, vitality and passion, just like 20 years ago, when the doula movement started in the U.S.!
Annie Kennedy, the couple Ph. & M. Klaus, the couple J. & P. Kennell, and Penny Simkin, founders of DONA International, in a previous conference
The conference was attended by doulas, doctors, mothers, activists, a few men(!), babies, nurses, childbirth educators, psychologists-therapists, and professionals/exhibitors with products relating to the perinatal period.
One of the introductory presentations was made by Kathie Lindstrom, a woman full of vividness and humor, mother of 4 children and grandmother, doula and doula trainer, co-ordinator for doula training programs in Canada. Apart from these (6 trainings per year, with about 30-40 participants in each training), she is responsible for training programs for health professionals (doctors, nurses, midwives, etc) on the basic needs of birthing women and babies. It is interesting to note that in many areas, doula training is the first educational step offered to people interested in the perinatal field (i.e. attended by people potentially attending midwifery, obstetrics, obstetric nursing, etc).
Four main points were made during the conference, which I found relevant and important for Greek residents to explore, discuss, and hopefully implement in Greece. These covered:
- The issue of traumatic birth and its symptoms – prevention and therapy. Penny Simkin and Phylis Klaus both talked in detail about PTSE – post traumatic stress effects, and PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder. How common it is, how to identify it in a woman, how to prevent it, how to facilitate in healing it. Penny Simkin has worked extensively (her work on the perinatal field started in 1968) with the degree and parameters that influence satisfaction from the birth experience for the birthing woman. More on these issues can be found on her webpage.
- Traditional postpartum care of the Mayas. Mexican childbirth educator Elena Carillo presented the traditional Mayan practice of “La Cuarentena” (the forty days after birth), offered to all Latino women regardless of social, economic, family status, sharing with us many customs and practices of the Mayan traditional health care givers (the woman’s mother and grandmother, the parteras, the herberas, the curanteras). This is a good opportunity for us to remember our local traditional postpartum care practices, so that all women can enjoy the benefits of a good postpartum period, beneficial for the mother, her baby, and all other members of her immediate and extensive family!
- The International MotherBaby Childbirth Initiative – IMBCI. An inspiring presentation given by Debra Pascali-Bonaro (with the presence of Rae Davies, both founding and Board members of the IMBCI), on the history and actions of the International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization (IMBCO) and the Initiative as it is practiced globally. Debra urged is to explore and study the work of important people who have and are still contributing in the promotion of optimal care and health of the MotherBaby unit: the work of the late midwife Mary Kroger; the book and movement “Half the Sky”, by N. Kristof & S. WuDunn, on the oppression of women worldwide; the White Ribbon Alliance – respectful Care of Safe Motherhood; and the action of the U.N. Human Rights Counsil: prevention of women’s mortality at birth is a human rights issue.
- 4.The action of doulas internationally. A very uplifting and hopeful presentation by Debra Pascali-Bonaro and Ana Paula Markel, on the existence and actionsof doulas worldwide. The speakers shared with us groups and initiatives from doulas all over the world (Europe, Asia, Middle East, Latin America, North America, Africa, Australia/New Zealand). Many of these initiatives are offering amazing support to birthing women and families, including community programs, and in some areas doula services are covered by the national health insurance. Certain areas have fully integrated doula services in the health care maternity systems, through hospital- based doula programs and trainings, and 24-hour/7 day-per-week doula services offered to birthing women in their facilities. Finally, the speakers reminded us of how the implementation of the 10 steps of IMBCI include the care and services of the doula for the optimal care of MotherBaby, something we can strive for in countries where maternity care is not so optimal (including Greece).
Left: Guadalupe Trueba, Penny Simkin and Elena Carillo at the reception of the 2012 ‘Penny Simkin Award’
Right: Phyllis Klaus and Penny Simkin
We watched the excellent visual “Break the Silence: Respectful Maternity Care” (which you may have already watched; I have posted it in many Facebook groups in the Greek community)
She also presented the eight demo sites worldwide where the 10 steps for optimal MotherBaby care are being implemented, and talked about the MotherBaby networks (MBnets), an easier step towards the understanding and implementation of the 10 steps in all countries interested. For more information on this, and for studying, understanding and participating in the initiative please visit the IMBCI site.
Right: A mother participant with her baby, with Debra Pascali-Bonaro and Rae Davies
Left: International doulas: Carolyn Tranter (Νew Zealand), Maria Andreoulaki (Greece), Ana Paula Markel (Brazil)
Last but not least, I cannot forget to mention the ‘gift’ of the conference, the gigantic Mexican sea turtles coming to the beach every night to lay their eggs… A magical experience!