I have just returned from the in-person DONA Summit 2018 and have been thinking and thinking (and thinking) about this Summit follow up post and what I exactly wanted to say. I have so many emotions and thoughts and I am not sure that I yet have total clarity about my experience. If I had to summarize the days I spent at the Summit, in one word, it would have to be “big.” It was big. It felt big. It still feels big. What does that mean? I am not really sure. I feel like I participated in and witnessed something big. A turning point. A pivotal moment. A fork in the road. An awakening. A course correction. I am struggling to process what I saw and felt, but I am sure of one thing. It was big and the time is now!

The keynote speakers were outstanding. The concurrent speakers really shone as they shared their expertise. The food and venue were perfect, with the hotel directly on the beach. But that was not what was “big.” What was big was the following:

Birth and the childbearing year matter

Speaker after speaker spoke about how the experience of pregnancy, birth and postpartum has a lifelong impact on the person who is giving birth and for the baby. How people give birth matters. It matters when it happens and it matters for a lifetime. This is big.

There is room for improvement

Maternal and infant outcomes, especially in the United States, are dismal. Mortality and morbidity for both the birther and the baby are the highest in the USA, in comparison to all developed countries, and continue to climb. For people of color, the outcomes are significantly worse. We can do better and we must do better. This is big.

Doulas matter

Doulas play a key role in the childbearing experience when they are present and able to support pregnant, birthing and postpartum people. DONA International’s vision is a doula for every person who wants one. Maternal-infant health organizations such as ACOG and others are recognizing the positive impact doulas have on the birth and early parenting experience. More and more, DONA International and doulas are being invited to have a seat at the table as people work to improve outcomes. Doulas matter. This is big.

Doulas of color are critical to the success and future of our organization

I have been attending DONA conferences for many years. This year in Fort Lauderdale, there were more doulas of color in attendance than ever before. Three of the five keynote speakers were people of color. Five of our current board members are people of color. Birthing people deserve doulas who look like them. It is imperative that more and more doulas of color have an opportunity to receive training, become doulas, become trainers and serve their communities. The face of our organization needs to reflect this in our leadership, our membership and our values. This conference, organically, celebrated our doulas of color and the important role they play in supporting birth. This shift is welcome, necessary and desired. The time is now. This is big.

Virtual conference opportunity still exists

The virtual conference is still open for registration through August 4th! You will receive:

  • Access to the live one-day virtual conference on Saturday, August 4, 2018, with on-demand viewing for 90 days
  • Ability to earn 8 contact hours
  • Interactive chat during the sessions with participants, DONA International leaders, and speakers (as available)
  • Admission to the virtual Exhibit Hall
  • Access to the virtual sessions for 90 days after the conference
This is big

As I shared with some of the board and conference volunteers, I could not be more pleased and happy about my 2018 conference experience. DONA International has never felt so relevant and well-positioned to lead the doula profession onward toward full recognition as a valuable member of the birth team. I am excited about the changes and shift that I observed. I am #DONAProud. I invite you all to lean in and continue to make DONA International the premier birth and postpartum doula organization in the world. Give of your time and your energy. Your voice matters. This is big.