By Soo Downe
What happens when, over three days, you get over fifty people together who are experts in a wide range of fields, but who are all focused on a single goal? Magic happens. And when those people are midwives and obstetricians, architects and engineers, sociologists and philosophers, artists and social activists, psychologists, anthropologists, nurses, epidemiologists and statisticians, the magic that happens is about childbirth. In the case of the EU COST BIRTH Action meeting in Crete in March 2017, it was a certain kind of childbirth, related to healthy women and babies in normal labour and birth.
For those used to dramatic media stories about complications and disasters in childbirth, it might seem that normal, straightforward aspect of maternity care would not be complex enough to occupy such a large group of experts for three days. In fact, the EU have funded us to do this for four years. Indeed, as we talk and work in our various separate and inter-linked areas of interest, we realise that the programme of work we would like to engage in could take us forty years, but we are grateful for what we can get. And for this meeting, we had the pleasure of Cretan culture, in music and dance, as well as the intellectual stimulus and excitement of finding common ground between people with such different disciplinary perspectives, from 33 different countries and cultures around Europe, and extending to Israel and South Africa.
The surprise and excitement of finding new insights between us, and the pleasure of completing projects that we have been working on for a while was also balanced by the daunting sense that there is still much to be done. But the energy and enthusiasm in the group was clear. Our plan is ambitious – to improve maternal and infant wellbeing and the economic sustainability of European maternity services, by advancing scientific knowledge of the normal physiology of labour and birth by the end of December 2018. We think we will do even more than this. Time will tell!. For now, though, as we leave the Cretian Spring behind us, we all have our tasks to do, before we meet again in Florence in October 2017