Reflections on the 35th Annual Homebirth Australia Conference

I recently had the privilege of attending the Homebirth Australia conference in Sydney.
35th homebirth conference

Home birthing, radical? responsible? or both?

The 35th Annual Homebirth Australia conference was an opportunity for homebirth professionals, birth enthusiasts and home-birthing families to meet, network, learn and connect. 

Even after decades of working in the birth world, I learnt so much, connected with some amazing birth workers, and left feeling so inspired and renewed.

The theme for this year’s conference was “Radical and Responsible”, and it was certainly that. Especially the dinner and dance night. Ooh la la! What a special occasion, especially considering there hasn’t been an in-person conference since 2019, everyone let their hair down and danced into the night.

Homebirth can be viewed as a “radical” choice by some, because it goes against the status quo. When you choose to give birth at home, you choose to take “radical responsibility” for yourself, your baby and your birth experience.

At the same time, homebirth can also be viewed as a “responsible” choice, because there is so much evidence available supporting homebirth as a safe choice for mother and baby, often with better physical, emotional and psychological outcomes.

Divine women – midwives, doulas, authors, birth keepers, story tellers and mamas.

With this underlying theme of “Radical and Responsible”, the conference explored so many fascinating aspects of homebirth. The whole experience was guided by the divine MC, Jerusha Sutton, who is a homebirth mama, doula, birth photographer and also one of the makers of the film ‘Birth Time’. Jerusha has photographed previous conferences, so it was exciting seeing her host a conference for the first time. And what a fabulous job she did of it too. Thanks Jerusha.

All of the presenters were informative and inspiring, and the keynote speakers in particular really stood out!

Keynote speakers – home birth experts from across the globe.

There was Gloria Lemay live streamed from Canada, who is an author, teacher and grandmother. She has worked in the childbirth field for the past 40 years (17 of those as a midwife), and she has had experience with over 1500 births. Gloria has written many articles and has been published in Midwifery Today magazine and she is a popular online blogger at Wise Woman Way of Birth.

I also loved and was moved hearing from Robin Lim (named Ibu Robin, meaning ‘Mother Robin’ by the women she cares for in Indonesia), who is a Filipina/American/Micronesian grandmother, midwife, doula and founder of NGO Bumi Sehat which maintains clinics in Indonesia and the Philippines. In 1990, Robin lost her younger sister, Christine, to a complication of pregnancy which could have been prevented with better care. Her sister’s passing cemented Robin’s destiny to become a birthkeeper. Robin’s passion is cultural safety and respect in childbirth, and healthcare as a human right. It was really enlightening to hear from someone has supported so many women in so many different cultural contexts.

Home birth doctors do exist

Another keynote speaker was Stuart J. Fischbein MD (usually known as Dr Stu), a widely known community-based practicing obstetrician. He spent the first 24 years of his career assisting women with hospital birthing – and I’m really inspired that for the last 13 years, he has been a homebirth obstetrician who works directly with midwives. I love seeing a doctor who so deeply understands and respects homebirth. He shares helpful insight on his Instagram and his podcast (co-hosted with midwife Blyss Young) as he offers hope, reassurance and safe, honest evidence supported choices for those women who understand pregnancy is a normal bodily function not to be feared.

He also spoke at length about breach birth and normalising them. A great insight for many.

Birth Afloat and Simply Birth – representing water births

At the conference, I played my own role representing Birth Afloat, collaborating with the gorgeous Lisa from Simply Birth to host a stall showcasing our beloved birth pools, The Birth Pool In A Box and the brand new Oasis. I loved chatting with everyone, meeting existing customers and gathering lots of midwives contacts for our directory.

I can’t wait for the next opportunity to attend the next one, so you’ll definitely find me at the 2024 Homebirth Australia conference in the Sunshine Coast, Queensland! The theme will be “Community and Connection”, which is something that I love about the homebirth world. Let me know if you’re planning to go, too!