This week I have been given the honour of becoming a MAMA Academy ambassador and today I am going to attempt to tell you just what that means to me.
The MAMA Academy is a small charity who says
“We educate mums about health in pregnancy and when to call their midwife for advice. We also keep healthcare professionals up to date with current guidelines and research to aid the consistency of maternity care right across the UK.”
For mums: be educated. Know your notes, education yourself about your body and your pregnancy. Get the knowledge you need.
For midwives: keep up to date with latest studies and reports. Get involved with the Royal College of Midwives. Join a community of midwives for support.
The MAMA Academy works alongside the Royal College of Midwives with the aim to arm mums and medical professional with up to date information, advice and support. Their aims are simple:
- Raising awareness of baby loss.
- Educating expectant mums and on health in pregnancy, complications and how to reduce the risks of stillbirth.
- Assisting healthcare professionals by keeping them up to date with the latest practices, guidelines and research to provide consistent maternity care.
So what does this mean to me?
In 2009 I felt let down. I felt lost. I felt that my son and I had been left behind thanks to a system that did not understand and did not care. The midwives that cared for my son and I were wonderful, but the conditions they worked in meant that they could not do their jobs properly, and the fact that there were not enough of them- I believe- directly contributed towards my feelings of despair, panic and anger. I felt alone. I was terrified. I was sure that my baby had died.
When I came around from the general anaesthetic and was introduced to my son, I was not sure that he was mine. I didn’t want him to be mine. I felt violated, ashamed and broken. I was not debriefed about his birth; instead I was sent home without pain relief, finding each step outside of that hospital excruciating and humiliating. I did not cope well and I was not offered any support from the hospital at all.
When my son was six weeks old I requested his birth notes so that I could make sense of what had happened. During this session I discovered that he had been resuscitated at birth. I will never forget reading that sentence and feeling such a mixture of emotions. Yes, I was so SO thankful that my son had been saved and yet I was furious that nobody had told me how close I had come to losing him. Up on the post natal ward I was treated as though being upset was ridiculous- my baby was here and alive so I was duty bound to feel happy and thankful.
Birth trauma is not just about one thing, one event. It is not good enough to be told to move on and to forget about what happened. That is impossible. For me, my son’s birth trauma started long before I felt the first contraction, and continues to this day. During my pregnancy I faced lots of battles to get my voice heard, and I lost almost every one. I was not informed enough to know that I could choose my own hospital. I was not supported by official guidelines that told me a c-section was perfectly within my rights. I was not listened to. I was told what was best for me, and that was that. To my eternal shame, I did not fight for my son. I accepted what I was told and I will never forgive myself for that.
During my son’s labour, I was left alone. I was not reassured and I was not listened to, again. In some ways, I had already given up. I did not have confidence in myself or my medical team and when that monitor fell silent and I was rushed to theatre, my entire being shut itself down. It was over.
After my son’s birth I was let down again. Staff did not seem to know how to speak to me. My GP’s only answer was anti-depressants and my health visitor was concerned, but seemingly unable to help too. The flashbacks to his birth still haunt me four years on and I am still governed most days by what happened.
So, back to why being a MAMA Academy ambassador is so important to me…
These are the things that were lacking throughout my pregnancy and after care four years ago. These are the things that myself and my medical team were missing. Every single woman is entitled to a positive pregnancy and it is up to us all to ensure that this happens. As a mum to be you need to know what you are entitled to. You need to know your body. You need to know your rights. You need to know what you can do, what you will you face and what your care should look like. As a mum to be you need to know that your medical team are there to support you and to guide you through your pregnancy and you need to know that you matter. Your feelings, emotions and well-being matters.
The MAMA Academy strives to support this. To support you, me, and midwives so that this can be achieved. I pledge to do my utmost to make sure that every mum to be and every baby is treated with respect, dignity and care. We all matter.