Looking Back at Last Month's Annual Conference - An Emotional and Valuable Learning Experience

conf 2016 2.jpgI am writing this summary and wrap up of the 2016 Lamaze International Annual Conference just two short weeks after returning from West Palm Beach, Florida. While I certainly can say that I enjoyed the brand new, beautiful hotel and conference facility, the great restaurants within walking distance of the conference, the networking and connecting with friends, colleagues and Lamaze staff from all around the world, the opportunity to present two exciting concurrent sessions and learn in several others and of course the fantastic Florida weather, my overwhelming emotion and memory of this year's conference is pride.

Many, many times during the conference, and especially during the plenary sessions, I felt overwhelming pride that our general session speakers seemed to be taking a page right out of the Lamaze International "playbook."  The Six Healthy Birth Practices were everywhere.  While not specifically called out as such by the presenters, the core principles and the research behind them was shared as good practice, evidence based and proven to improve maternal and infant mortality and morbidity.  When presenters weren't talking about best practice in care, we were learning about best practice in teaching.

board.jpgThis same theme, which I doubt  was officially planned to be this way, was everywhere at the conference. I was immensely proud that Lamaze supports these principles of best practice.  I am proud that the scientific community and contemporary research recognize these principles as best practice. I am proud that Lamaze educators teach these best practices. As I listened and watched the presentations unfold, I felt as if everything could be distilled down to the simple core tenets of the Six Healthy Birth Practices along with evidence based teaching practices.

Beverly Woolery opened the first of our plenary sessions with an interactive presentation on best adult learning principles. I was validated to recognize that my classes are already an example of this type of active learning.  After this session, I was more excited than before for the rest of the conference to unfold.

amis conf.jpgOn Friday, longtime LCCE and Program Director Debby Amis shared the top ten studies that have impacted childbirth education in the past year.  A great opportunity to check in with my own curriculum to be sure I am sharing the most current information with the families I work with. Debby does such a great job in presenting this update that I would welcome a general session every year on this important information from her.

Saturday's plenary session was Holly Powell Kennedy, helping both those in attendance and watching virtually, to understand the importance of minimizing unnecessary interventions so that birthing people can achieve a physiological birth without unwanted roadblocks and detours.  An excellent speaker who reinforced that my goal as an educator is to help families be informed about their options and confident about their skills remains a critical responsibility for me.

Sunday, Kajsa Brimdyr effectively demonstrated what birthing families are up against when they are faced with the mainstream messages our culture and media send out about the labor and birth experience today.  I recognized more than ever that sharing the normality of birth in my classes is so critical and that my students count on me to be honest about what physiological birth looks like, be accurate about what they can expect and be respectful of their choices and their experiences. 

conference tweet.jpgLamaze International's annual meeting highlighted the past year's accomplishments and again my pride welled up as I reaffirmed based on our organization's past year's activities, that Lamaze has a solid place at the table with leading maternal and infant health organizations.  We are respected, our opinion matters and our members, staff and board of directors are invited to participate in many projects that are improving outcomes for families around the world.

I was proud to learn of the exciting opportunity to go to Washington DC for conference next year, where attendees will have the chance to lobby and connect with their government representatives.  What a powerful statement we can make about the importance of a quality childbirth education program that creates strong, confident families who are ready to parent. While an exact date is as yet to be determined, look for an upcoming announcement on plans for Fall 2017.

For whatever reason, both as I moved through the four day conference activities and afterward, my truly overwhelming emotion was pride.  Pride in this organization, pride in my contribution, pride in our promotion of best practice and evidence and extreme pride that our message and are efforts are making a real difference in the lives and experiences of families everyday.

I could not be more grateful that I have chosen to certify with and align myself with Lamaze International for more than a decade. (And a hat tip and thank you to my mentor, friend and colleague Teri Shilling, who introduced me to Lamaze originally.)  At the conference, I truly felt surrounded by a diverse group of people with a common goal.  It felt so good, and I could not be more proud of the presenters, the conference committee, our board of directors and office staff as well as all the attendees who made this one of the most memorable conferences yet.  Why this year's conference left me feeling so emotional and proud, more than any other previous conference, I really do not know.  But gosh, thank you Lamaze International for getting it so right!

Look for some more conference updates, including profiles of the winners of this year's Lamaze International awards and other details in posts in the near future.

Photo credits: Bill Braun



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