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2007 Birth Without Borders conference in Costa Rica

First International Humanization of Childbirth conference in Costa Rica

In May 2007, Asociación Mamasol hosted the “Birth Without Borders” international conference, sponsored by Midwifery Today and Global Fund for Women, and officially recommended by the Costa Rican government.  At this amazing and historic 5-day event in the capital
city of San Jose, approximately 300 participants from 24 countries gathered to share the common goal of re-humanizing childbirth—a  movement that has spread across the world in response to the global trend of over-medicalizing the  natural process of birth and intervening with technology at dangerously high rates.  Traditional and professional midwives, hospital nurses, doctors, mothers, psychologists, anthropologists, students, health administrators, lactation specialists and childbirth educators were united under the same roof to trade knowledge and skills, support one another, critically reflect on the topics, and gain inspiration to keep working for worldwide change. 



We were honored to learn from nearly 80 traditional and indigenous midwives as well as internationally-known experts such as Ina May Gaskin, Elizabeth Davis, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Marsden Wagner, Jan Tritten, Naoli Vinaver, Angelina Martinez, Marcos Leite, and Debra Pascali-Bonaro, who graciously offered to train the first group of 30 doulas in Costa Rica! 



Conference topics included: Traditional Midwifery Techniques, Improving Hospital Practice, Dealing with Difficult Labor and Birth, Massage in the Childbearing Year, Women’s Intuition, Natural Remedies, Evidence-Based Practice, Ethics of Care and Informed Choice, Waterbirth, Homebirth, Rebozo, HypnoBirthing, Healing from Traumatic Birth, How Birth practices Affect Breastfeeding, What Babies Want, Anthropology of Midwifery and Ecology of Birth, Fostering Cross-Cultural Understanding, and Changing Childbirth in Latin America.  In addition to the full class schedule, participants and speakers were busy networking, socializing, trading artesania from their different countries, and doing television, newspaper and radio interviews. One night, we all gathered together for dinner and a special belly dance performance by a Costa Rican ho
mebirth mom. 





The diversity of participants—not just geographical, but the rare uniting of individuals who usually are divided across other types of “borders”—made this conference especially rich and rewarding.  On a single row in the main conference hall, you would find a traditional indigenous midwife from deep in the rainforest of Southern Costa Rica, a Canadian Midwifery professor, an Argentinian Ob-Gyn physician, a Honduran hospital obstetrical nurse, a CNM midwifery student from the U.S., a Mexican partera who runs a rural birth center, a childbirth educator from Israel, a doula from Paraguay, a Costa Rican government health administrator, and a young mother expecting her first baby. 




Participants found common ground at “Birth Without Borders.”  Dr. Marsden Wagner, former director of the WHO Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, humbly apologized for being a man, explaining that women are the only true experts on childbirth. The Brazilian Ob-Gyn Dr. Marcos Leite confessed he had to relearn everything, after having listened to the wise midwives.  Some of the Costa Rican professional Enfermera Obstetras even started introducing themselves to their international classmates as Nurse-Midwives (Enfermera-Partera), claiming a new identity that spoke more to their true vocation!   Nearly eighty Traditional Midwives from very isolated communities throughout Central America came into contact with this international spectrum of birth advocates for the first time, and were valued and honored for their wisdom and experiences.  We were all united by our dedication to optimal care, and our deepest respect and love for motherbaby.  The conference was a huge success, and gave great momentum to our efforts to humanize childbirth in Costa Rica.