June was a month of action for the #MatExp campaign. It was well-named, being so busy I think I could see smoke!
The month got off to a flying start with the launch of the website, the Facebook page, people sharing their action selfies – and so much more!
Women have fed back that:
- They want to be treated as an individual
- They find terms like ‘low risk’ and ‘high risk’ unhelpful for a range of reasons, including that life is rarely black-and-white, and managing expectations.
- They understand the evidence behind advice and practice, and do not want to be preached to. They want to be engaged in conversation as an equal, listened to with compassion and empathy, and helped to understand in a way that is useful to them where necessary.
- Language is so very important – the words that are used are crucial, as is the intonation and the order you put words in a sentence (eg open questions – “Would you like…” “May I…” rather than “You must…” “I am going to do this to you…”).
- Better efforts are required to meet the needs mums whose babies are being cared for in neonatal units – while the mum is in the postnatal ward, and after discharge to make sure she does not miss out on the usual postnatal checks, as this can often fall between the cracks.
- Parents who have experienced the death of a baby need better access to support – too many parents are currently left to find their own support, or have to do without. This is unacceptable.
- There is a lack of support after birth trauma. Mums have said they’ve been told to ‘get over it’, their experiences invalidated. This is also unacceptable.
- More consideration needs to be given to birthing environments. For example, midwife-led centres seem so lovely, with attractive furnishings – and they seem especially lovely in comparison to many hospital labour wards. It can seem like giving birth in hospital (often the only option for ‘high risk’ women) is a punishment for things outside our control! Would it be possible to make hospital labour wards a bit homelier to reduce the disparity? It could help reduce some of the polarisation of opinion about where is the best or safest place to give birth (the best or safest place to give birth is the place that is appropriate for the woman and/or baby’s individual needs, whether than is in hospital, an MLU or at home).
#MatExp is growing from strength to strength. I haven’t had a proper ‘day off’ in ages (there is always something to tweet, something that makes me think “ooh that would be good for #HugosLegacy or #MatExp) – but I am so very proud of being involved in this change platform.
Gill (@WhoseShoes) has written in more detail about change platforms on her blog. I’ve borrowed this image from Gill’s post because I love the analogy. #MatExp really is like a bazaar – full of all sorts of people doing all sorts of things at once; slightly chaotic, full of ideas, activity, buzz, noise – ENERGY!
#MatExp definitely isn’t a cathedral – we don’t follow one particular leader, we don’t follow particular processes, we don’t follow a particular structure – and we don’t talk in a respectful hush.
Please do get involved! It is everyone’s business. Getting involved in #MatExp is like a no obligation quotation. We understand that life ebbs and flows, the time you have or are able to commit will fluctuate. There might not be anything that piques your interest now, but who knows what might happen next month, or in six months’ time (we certainly don’t – we’re making it up as we go along!).
We encourage people to find a way to engage that is relevant to you, where you are in life, the time you have on your hands.
For example, my lovely friend Jennie started a Charity Chat series on her blog, and information on recommended books for children dealing with grief. So much support is out there but it can be difficult to find. This will provide an invaluable resource for other parents and families.
Do also have a read of Flo’s post with ideas about how you can get involved.
How was FlamingJune for me? Thank you for asking. It was…busy! Very busy. My other half became unwell, which coincided with my return to work after a 15 month absence.
As well as that, I managed to squeeze in:
- Co-hosting a #PNDHour chat about baby loss,
- Talking about my #MatExp journey at an SCN event,
- My action post – #saytheirname appeared in the Huffington Post,
- My post about what I wanted the National Maternity Review to know was Mumsnet’s Blog of the Day.
- Talking (with lovely Susanne) about MatExp at the BritMums Live conference and being deluged with interest!
- Maintaining my own blog,
- A wonderful week’s holiday in France (and it’s little wonder I needed to sleep so much during the holiday!).
So that’s Flaming June, in a nutshell. Has our fire burned out? Goodness, no!
What women (and men!) have told us spurs us on, our fire burns forever brighter.
For my part, I am going to continue encouraging people to #saytheirname; to talk about Hugo’s story, and the learning from that; to help reduce the taboo surrounding baby loss; to talk about #MatExp to anyone who will listen.
There are also some exciting ideas in the pipeline. My personal favourite is the possibility of colouring books – to help relieve stress and anxiety, as well as a way of conveying vital messages about pregnancy and related issues to women.
With passion and determination we can together make a difference to the experience of women and babies in maternity services across the country – and to the experience of staff who care for them.