Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The Acorn has sprouted

Well my charismatic customers would have described this evening as 'awesome'. I am not sure if I can say why - too close to the evening to have integrated all that was said.

Tonight was Choices night. Let me introduce Choices. Six years ago as NCT Homebirth co-ordinator I set up a homebirth group and after some scouting around found not an NHS midwife to facilitate the meeting - but a breed of midwfe I had never met before - the 'independent midwife'. It was not long before people not wanting a homebirth asked if they could come along, and anyway, we did not just talk about place of birth but birth support, the third stage of labour, Vitamin K, to suture or not to suture and much more. And so we decided to call our group something else - a Choices in Childbirth Group' - or Choices as it is known.

And so for six years month by month we have been meeting - sometimes there is one woman, or one couple, sometimes there are 15 of us - and in a simple informal way we talk around the issues that concern those present.

And tonight was such a night. There was a single Mum, who brought along her young partner, slightly embarrassed, but good for him he was there. Last month she told us that she had been told that she could not have a homebirth. She had been surprised to find someone else there who had been given a similar statement for similar reasons but had decided to have a homebirth as it was the place she would feel most safe and relaxed and therefore most likely to be safe and without complications. This month she told us she had negotiated a homebirth with her midwives. But she now had lots of other questions about pregnancy and birth she needed answering.

Another second time Mum needed to talk about her previous birth and the care which she had received which to say the least had not been always good. These things need to be said and acknowledged. Looking forward to this new baby, she wanted things to be different.

Another woman was moving on from a difficult early pregnancy and looking at possibilities, and looking for better care than she had received in those first 4 months.

And we had the Head of Midwifery at our group. And she was so good, she listened, and it must have been hard to listen and not butt in, but she listened and said some things. And I wanted her to tell the group about the changes planned and the things they wanted to do to improve things. But the people here tonight needed and wanted to talk and every attempt I made was quoshed as they continued to discuss the things that mattered to them. And the Head of Midwifery demonstrated her midwfery skills of reassuring presence, so women talked and were reassured by her presence.

I am on the learner slopes when it comes to these things so I sat with my crochet and watched and listened with awe to the discussions around me, interjecting sometimes with a question or comment or occasionally my passion got the better of me and I said more!

And afterwards I was stunned by the hugs and the thanks. What had I done? I had made this happen, set up the group, publicised, kept battering at the gates of the NHS Trust until they openned a little and then jammed my foot in the gap to make sure it did not shut again! Oh! I had not realised i had done that - I was too busy to notice, and too exhausted to be really honest.

And of course I could not do it without the people who had said thanks - Catriona who had hosted it and invited her firends, her house mate who made the tea and openned the door for everyone, for Kajsa who supports the La Leche League in Bradford and breastfeeding stuff now I do so little of that, and so many others passing on the messages of empowerment and hope to other women. And of course IM Michelle Whittle faithfully turning up to share in 2 hours her knowledge and passion for good birthing month after month, year after year. And tonight, to Julie Walker for coming to our group and respecting us and listening to us, and not trying to defend the service but accepting the criticism and seeking ways to take things forward.

From such little acorns do mighty oaks grow. Maybe this little group is yeast in the dough helping to transform dough to bread. Maybe it is not. But tonight, some of us caught the amazing potential of our births to change not just our own lives but those of our community and city. I hope so.

Choices matter because, to make a choice people need to know they have one in the first place, and they need the resource to access that choice. As far as we are able we try to do that by providing information and offering support. And then using these women's stories to ask/demand better maternity services.

Already we have grown - from 1 group to three or four, with an emailing list of 250. Yes Choices is now an online monthly newsletter as well. So you can sign up and get information on events, latest research, websites, petitions and campaigns, and anything else that maybe relevant. You can sign up at http://www.aquabirthsathome.co.uk/ . We also have links with groups in Manchester, Sheffield, York and Liverpool.

Tonight was awesome not because it was an earth shattering event - but because tonight I could look back and see how far we had come from where we were six years ago - and be reminded by women there of the importance of this groups in their journey to birth. That was awesome. The acorn has sprouted.


lotusbirther said...

you are a star, burning bright in the depths of the ink black sky

lotusbirther said...

Here is a link to a woman who fought for an empowering birth and eventually gave birth with ease, grace and unbridled joy. Her story is a message to all to support each other with love and courage, to remind those who support women in the journey to give birth naturally that it really does matter.
She is really happy to share her story, all 8 mins 25 seconds of it here. Please share onwards!

Selina and Christine said...

Hi Hun, this brought tears to my eyes because you know I am trying to do similar things here, and I am pushing very hard at the momment and feeling tired and overwhelmed. Its good to know you are out there too, doing similar things. We must get together soon! Selina x