It was indeed humbling to be in Milwaukee this past weekend, attending the Lamaze/ICEA Mega Conference. To be in the very city that birthed organizational birth some 50 years ago was thrilling. Sharing that feeling with nearly 700 other childbirth professionals of varying ages and experience levels, too, was inspiring.
As I sat amidst the glitz and glam of the 50th Anniversary luncheon ~ complete with recognition of past organizational presidents (minimal at best), and a multi-media celebration with an interview with Lamaze founder Elizabeth Bing, I couldn't help but reflect on those wo/men in birth who had made the Top 10 on my list.
Now absent from the festivities was Harriet Palmer, the ASPO (American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics) trainer who lead my educator seminar some 30 years ago in Fresno. Not in attendance was Alice Berman, the voice of ASPO/Lamaze during the transitional period from ASPO to Lamaze and editor of Genesis. Missing from the crowd was Polly Perez, a tireless volunteer in those transformational days of Education, Advocacy and Reform! However, I did catch a glimpse of two icons at the table in front of me: Joyce Difranco and Sandra Apgar Steffes, nor the dedicated Sigrid Nelson Ryan. These two women made a huge impact on the history of birth as they were two of the most prolific writers of birth in the 80's and 90's when childbirth was but cutting its new teeth! Another childbirth educator and writer from the 1980's and beyond too was missing ~ Sherry Lynn Jimenez. Absent was Eugene Declerqc, the champion of the independent educator in the 1980s when childbirth education was being co-opted into the hospital setting and in many aspects watered down. And there was no mention of Sharron S. Humenick and Francine Nichols, who penned the quintessential Biblical-equivelant text for childbirth educators--> Childbirth Education: Practice, Research and Theory. The Journal of Perinatal Education was the brainchild of Nichols and Humenick, one of its editors.
While there are countless more who have inspired us throughout our careers, it would have been great to acknowledge their years, and decades of hard work, sweat and tears for a cause we all embrace. From "Nan" the educator featured in one of the only childbirth films of the 70s, Nan's Class, to Dr. Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia [an internationally renowned research perinatologist, Director of the Latin American Center for Perinatology and Human Development, a unit of the World Health Organization, and President-Elect of the International Federation of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (FIGO)] to Ricki Lake, who catapulted birth back into common day conversation, recognition would have been welcomed. And last but not least, where was the accolades for Doris Haire, whose book The Cultural Warping of Childbirth was stunning for the birth community as was her testimony on April 17, 1978 before the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources of the U.S. Senate, her testimony on July 30, 1981 before the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science and Technology of the House of Representatives, and her 1982 report "How the FDA Determines the 'Safety' of Drugs — Just How Safe is 'Safe'?" As Estelle Cohen of the Alliance for the Improvement of Maternity Services points out, "Mrs. Haire has called the administration of drugs to women in labor and delivery "obstetric roulette." The section on obstetric drugs in her 1982 report ought to be read by every expectant mother because most of our births are still not drug-free."
We do need to honor the work that these amazing men and women have done to bring us where we are today and inspire us to continue our work tomorrow. I challenge you to Google the names I have listed here - it will make for some really good reading, I guarantee it!