I have a lot of respect for you. I feel that you’re a very informed and informative organization, providing countless resources for both families seeking a birth center experience, and for midwives, doctors, nurses and other care providers and community advocates who are interested in opening up birth centers around our country. Your response to ACOG’s misguided new policy on out-of-hospital birth was particularly brilliant: well researched, well stated, and just spot-on. And trust me, I wholly agree with your mission statement: we need more birth centers in this country! The work you do is crucial and very much needed and appreciated.
However, I just recently discovered that you’re planning on having your annual meeting in Anchorage Alaska this year. Midwives, nurses, doulas, doctors and other birth workers tend to be very busy people. We tend to be stretched in many different directions at once, and we tend to have our fingers in several pots at the same time. We’re dedicated, but we’re not rich. We get time off, every now and then, but not heaps of it, especially for those who’re living the on-call lifestyle. We’re presented with many conference opportunities throughout the year, and because our finances, budgets and work schedules are often prohibitive in the number of days off we can obtain, and our ability to attend a conference is often a luxury and not a mandate, our conference choices must be made very carefully.
There are already several large and popular conferences hosted on an annual basis on midwifery and birth related topics, such as the ACNM National Convention, Contraceptive Technology, MANA conferences and Midwifery Today conferences. There are probably many of us who are very interested in promoting and enhancing access to birth centers in this country, and who are interested in attending your conference, but why Alaska?? While I am sure that Anchorage is a beautiful and vibrant city with much to offer to attendees, and Alaska is just as much a part of the birth center debate as the lower fifty states, the simple truth of the matter is this: hopping to Chicago for a long weekend is probably much more do-able and affordable for many people, while Alaska is much less so. Very few of the busy and active workers, the ones who would benefit the most from your conference, and the ones who you probably most want to attend, are going to be able to make it—at least, not in the numbers that you are probably hoping for, and not in the numbers that we need in order to really begin to make positive change in this country regarding the promotion of birth centers.
By hosting your conference and annual meeting in a remote location, you are ensuring that birth centers remain remote from the national debate on birth in this country. In fact, as birth centers continue to close and become marginalized in this current unfavorable climate, hosting a conference in Alaska seems to sadly epitiomize where birth centers stand in this debate. I strongly urge you to consider a more central and easily accessible location for your conference next year, so that your urgent work and mission can receive the attendance and attention it deserves.