Birth and Beyond Conference 2013:

Still savoring the experience

by Adriana Lozada

It looks like this: 3 days each made up of 4 concurrent talks jam-packed with amazing information, given by even more amazing birth/baby/parenting junkies experts. Like who?, you ask. Take a look:

And then there’s Ina May Gaskin and Gloria Lemay. Midwives with very different personalities, between the two of them they’ve got the experience of over 2500 births under their belts.
At all times, 4 of these people are talking at the same moment, and you have to choose which one to listen to. Days in advance. And submit them by email.
When I first made my choices, my days were filled listening to most everything Ina May and Gloria* had to say, peppered by other topics that were of interest to me as a doula and immediate postpartum fanatic. But after the first day, I had an aha! moment. ALL of these people are incredibly passionate about what they are presenting, and listening to their different perspectives and points of views would be more valuable than hearing Ina May or Gloria–as fabulous as they are–over and over again.
And so, speakers I previously knew little or nothing about, enthralled me with their knowledge.
Strangely enough, my favorite talk was given by Christopher Guest on “Medical and Ethical Opposition to Male Circumcision”. Not quite the topic you expect at a birthing conference, but that’s what’s special about Birth and Beyond:
It looks at how the Whole Mess of Everything comes together in that transformative life experience that is called birth. How all the threads–breastfeeding, laboring, birthing, doula-ing, midwife-ring, sleeping, eating, living, dying, and even not chopping off a piece of your son’s penis–are interconnected. They all influence each other. They all matter.

By the way, even though Christopher gave compelling and very well researched arguments against all the usual reasons that are given in favor of circumcision (health, cultural, I-want-my-boy-to-look-like-me), all he really had to do was show us a video of a baby being circumcised. Thanks for that. That should be required viewing before requesting one be done.


Below is a compendium of a few of the “nuggets” that I gathered while at the conference:

Gloria Lemay:

  • “Every woman in this room: you have the best pelvis that evolution has gotten to.”
  • “Stop and start, up and down, back and forth; this is what is normal in births. It’s not pathological.”
  • “Childbirth is a normal, natural, elimination process in the body.”
  • “80% of all medical malpractice suits involve obstetrics.”
  • “Why do you go to a hospital instead of doctor’s office to be induced? Because it’s dangerous.”
  • “Ask struggling, laboring mom: what would happen if you surrendered to this instead of fighting it?”

Christopher Guest:

  •  “Circumcision, it’s the most brutal fucking thing we’ve ever seen.”‘

James McKenna:

  • “Babies do not have wants, they have needs”.
  • “Babies are contact seekers, that’s their job in order to be healthy.”
  • “It’s been very destructive trying to convince moms that they know nothing.”

Ina May Gaskin:

  •  “TV has (wrongly) shown us that panic and fear are appropriate in the birth setting”.
  • “The fight or flight response is opposite to the baby-having response”.
  • “You ought to be multiplying doulas like rabbits. Every nurse who wants to work in labor & delivery should also go through a doula training.”
  • Posterior position? “Send mom home to crawl.”
  • “The furniture in the labouring room doesn’t need to dictate the positions a mom should go into.”
  • “Animals don’t forget about gravity for birth. It’s “civilised” people who do.”
  • “Slow crowning saves stitches.”
  • “Difficult births can sometimes push you past what you know.”
  •  Let’s just try to forget there´s such a thing as progress. Let’s be mammals.”

Jack Newman:

  • “I think nipple shields should be banned!”

Robbie Davis-Floyd:

  • “The myth: through technology we will transcend every challenge that nature places upon us.”
  • “In the hospital, to be naked is to claim the space as your own.”
  • “If you intervene at the energy level, you don’t have to intervene physically.”
  • From an OB in Brazil: “Midwives should be doing births. Doctors should be saved for pathology.”

Teresa Pitman:

  • “Promotion of breastfeeding is not the same as preparing to breastfeeding. Knowing why is not the same as knowing how.”
  • “If the first thing we try doesn’t work, it’s ok. We’ll try something else.”
  • “Nipple shields don’t solve anything. They are not an answer, they are a tool”.
  • “Prevention is better than reaction.”

Rivka Cymbalist

  • “Treat each person outside of assumptions.”


At the end of each day, Q&A panelists were asked to come up with a closing “billboard” phrase. Here’s what they said:
  • James McKenna: “Parents, trust yourselves and your own knowledge of your own infant.”
  • Jack Newman: “Breastfeeding is more than milk.”
  • Diane Wiessinger: “Normal is the control group.”
  • Kathleen Kendall-Tackett: “Early disease deprivation begins with reducing early toxic stress.”
  • Teresa Pitman: ” Trust your baby. Trust yourself.”
  • Rivka Cymbalist: “Love each other.”
  • Christopher Guest: “Make sure you are convinced of the choice you are making. Don’t follow blindly.”
  • Robbie Davids-Floyd: “Trust your intuition” (and quoting Lonnie Morris “Women of Earth, take back birth.”)
  • Gloria Lemay: “Don’t ever let anyone induce you.”
  • Ina May Gaskin: “Take a deep breath.”
Can’t wait for the next one!


Taking deep, cleansing breaths,
*All the people that attended the conference and I are allowed to call everyone that was there by their first name. They said so in the conference opening remarks. 🙂
Ina May Gasking & Adriana Lozada

Requisite image with Ina May

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