A few weeks ago, I saw a email notification come up and instantly recognised the name – Prof Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, the Chief Midwifery Officer for NHS England. I’d seen her speak at Better Births in March and knew very much who she was. Needless to stay, I was stopped in my tracks.
I’d been invited to take part in a podcast about maternity transformation in regards to bereavement maternity services and care. Despite it initially being a little vague and TBC, I of course said yes. I am working on saying no more, and evaluating opportunities and making sure they align with my core aims of sharing Leo’s name so wildly. This was one that I was never going to say no to.
The aspect of ‘activism’ (I need to find a word that best fits with what I do here) is what I feel most passionate about. I want to create dialogue and conversations around loss, and I want that to reach the levels of where change can happen. That, to me, is the beauty of twitter and #BabyLossHour – anyone, no matter how powerful (or not) or how connected (or not) is equal and everyone has the ability to speak and be heard, by all.
I’m always so grateful when people wish to include bereavement as a topic. On reflection, I should probably have higher expectations – it is essential to improving services, both for prevention and for bereavement care. Yet, it isn’t a voice or topic that is always elevated and I strongly feel that it’s essential to any agenda. Loss is the exact opposite aim of maternity services, so it happening at all should always sit centre stage.
So, today was the day of recording. I’d reviewed the questions and felt happy that I had something to say. Let’s face it, if there’s a conversation about loss, I’m there.
It was a wonderfully organic, passionate and vibrantly candid take on the experiences of the three parents in the room; myself, David and Hayley, parents to Leo, Grace and Edward together with Jacqueline and Lisa Ramsey who I have come to know through various means, and works tirelessly to elevate the service user voice within maternity transformation.
We discussed the progress made in the overall government aims, the unacceptable disparity in those within different ethnic and geographical areas, and the essential need for training across all levels to be mandatory and funded in both time and money for health care professionals. We talked about the good things, the not so good things, and the ways in which we all navigated maternity services pre, during and post-loss. We could have gone on, and on. 45 minutes is never enough for a bereaved parents, especially when with others; you see, no one else really wants to hear it over and over, yet we’d gladly go on all day.
It is however, yet another reminder to me, that we constantly need more voices, more engagement from across the loss community and health care professionals – not just midwifery, either. This is a conversation that needs to be had, and sometimes it going to be frank, brutally honest, or hard to hear. From all angles, people need to sit alongside the bereaved and listen. Because the truths that will be shared are powerful, and my word, the feeling of being heard is even more powerful.
I always wonder about those who do not or cannot share. Who don’t heal through shouting their name, and getting railed up about the state of the nation, and shout and rave and get bulshy. I am under no illusion that I am the type of person who gets passionate, and stamps her feet, and demands that someone, anyone, will listen. This is just who I am. It’s not always been well accepted, but I’m not going to go about changing it. But not everyone is like this, not everyone is able, or willing or even wants too. And that’s okay. But that doesn’t mean that their voice isn’t powerful or worthy or deserves to be included.
Who is listening to them?
When do they feel heard?
How do you get the care that you need without demanding it?
Society needs to lead – people need to be saying I want to hear your truth and then people will share, in whichever way suits them. Change is happening. But we can’t get complacent – we need to keep elevating the voices of the bereaved – all of them – they need to be invited to be sat at the table and they need to be given adequate airtime that their experiences – and their children – deserve.
Credit : Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent
Watch this space – and I’ll share the podcast link once live.
– J x