It’s Birth Trauma Awareness Week and Im feeling hopeful. Much more so than I have for the many years previously, where birth trauma was little mentioned and women would often have their experiences dismissed due to the feeling that they should be grateful for having a healthy baby.
Over the last year there has been much more positive work around supporting women, partners and their families after a traumatic birth. The Make Birth Better Network has been launched by Dr Becca Moore and Emma Svanberg bringing together people from different roles and experiences to help support improving the care we give during pregnancy and birth. Ive 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 that women and partners are finding the courage too to share their stories and how they have been affected helping us all to understand birth trauma better.
Last week I attended one of the first #mindnbody events that is the next project for #Matexp with Gill and Catherine. Using the ‘whoseshoes approach’ we again had many meaningful conversations around supporting perinatal mental health and it was good to see a packed room with individuals from all different services, as well as service users. We had a number of subjects to cover and 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 have suffered birth trauma. 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 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 earlier this year 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 and Beyond Birth Trauma continues to go from strength to strength, locally I will be helping the clinical network with a Birth Trauma Study Day and in my own trust a birth trauma pathway of care and nationally I will be continuing to speak at conferences and study days. 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.