I’m feeling hopeful. Much more so than I have for the many years previously, where birth trauma was hardly mentioned and women would often have their experiences dismissed due to them being told that they should be grateful for having a healthy baby.
Over the last year there has been much more positive work around supporting women, bringing together people from different roles and experiences to help support improving the care we give during pregnancy and birth. I’ve seen too many more discussions acknowledging the impact of a traumatic birth and also that support is important both after, and in a subsequent pregnancy/birth. It’s encouraging too that women and partners are finding the courage share their stories and how they have been affected helping us all to understand birth trauma better. We also had birth trauma awareness week hosted by The Birth Trauma Association.
There has also been more #mindnbody events the next project for #Matexp using the ‘whoseshoes approach’ meaning many meaningful conversations around supporting perinatal mental health and it has been good to see a packed room with individuals from all different services, as well as service users. I facilitated 4 World Cafe table workshop discussions on birth trauma. It was moving to hear both those with lived experience talk about what mattered to them, as well as those who are trying hard to offer support and services to those affected.
So what about myself? Well for many years I felt like a lone voice campaigning for those who like me have had their life changed by birth trauma. Locally I have worked hard to champion the need for support and this has resulted in my NHS role now supporting women who are struggling with there mental health. They are referred to me at their 12 week scan and then I stay with them throughout their whole pregnancy, birth and after. I also see women who are struggling after a traumatic birth or the loss of a baby and provide the safe space they need to pour out their hearts and find the support they need. Im privileged that the passion I have to offer this support has been supported by my managers, service and team. It was also lovely to receive a West Midlands Combined Authority Mental Health Thrive award to recognise the work I have done locally and nationally.
With all the wonderful work being done I have wondered what the future holds. Unfold Your Wings continues to go from strength to strength, locally I will be helping the clinical network with a Birth Trauma Study Day and being part of the birth trauma strategy group. Nationally I will be continuing to speak at conferences, study days and training healthcare professionals. There is always so much more to do.
There are days when I wonder if it’s time for me to step back, to let others take up the battle but its hard when something is so important to you. Birth trauma is where my journey began, but the journey continues to change and I know that new opportunities await and I just need to see where it takes me. My story that led to everything I do doesn’t define me but instead gives me purpose and drive, because I want my daughters and others to have wonderful, positive maternity experiences.
So Im hopeful, hopeful because I no longer feel like a lone voice, hopeful because Im able to give the support that I never had. Im hopeful because birth trauma and its impact on parents mental health is finally being talked about and acknowledged. Im hopeful too because maybe this means that the talking will start to turn into actions. Actions that learn from stories like mine and others so that we can prevent birth trauma from happening in the first place or at the very least provide the right support for when it does.
Yes Im hopeful that in time stories like mine will never be heard because they no longer happen, that families everywhere will get the care, support and services they need.