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Kate Mackay

Award Received: 
Midwives Award
Year awarded: 

The Iolanthe fund has supported my work providing antenatal education and co-running a pregnancy support group in Glasgow for women who face birth and parenthood alone, attendees include (but are not limited to) women seeking sanctuary, refugees and survivors of human trafficking.

When I applied for the project, the aim was to take the sessions out into the communities in which women were housed, but one of the spaces where many pregnant asylum seekers were placed was shut down (thankfully, as it was not fit for purpose!), and this meant that pregnant women were dispersed across the city.

Luckily, I was able to continue this work with Amma Birth Companions who have an office in a central location and work with this client group already.

The money from the Iolanthe fund went towards buying culturally sensitive resources and materials to use in the groups, such as a model pelvis with dolls with black and brown skin, breastfeeding models with brown skin, and inclusive and diverse images of birthing positions, along with a portable projector to enable us to show PowerPoints I had created, and positive images and videos of birth.

Visual aids are particularly important when working with our client group as many women do not have English as a first language and may have come from countries where birth environments and experiences are very different.

I also bought some basic crafting and colouring materials which have been a helpful tool to have available for grounding and distraction when needed, especially when discussing more challenging topics, as well as a way of creating more positive and inclusive imagery of birth.

Another key way the fund was used was to support travel costs for women to attend the sessions, as many people are living off limited government financial support and would be otherwise unable to attend an in-person session.

This project has been a constant journey of revaluation and growth, responding to the needs and learning from the client group.

We started off with more structured ‘education’ style in blocks of 6 sessions, but have morphed into a more informal structure of stand-alone sessions that incorporate education, food and socialising, as well as space to share and ask questions.

This works much better for those who have less stability in their lives, as well as who may have other appointments or other children or health needs to contend with. The group attendance has grown and grown and feedback is overwhelming positive.

In the Group we talk a lot about rights and self-advocacy, as well as the more topic-based education such as what to expect from labour and birth, both physiologically and in relation to induction, caesarean and pain relief. It is amazing to hear the impact that this has had on clients as they come out the other side of their birthing experience and how much more empowered they felt.

Some feedback clients have said include:

“I had loads of fear before the class, but when I came to the class it was amazing and my stress has gone down so much…”

“It is so important for us to get this information -  nowhere else tells us so much or demonstrates it so clearly. How else would we know all of this if not for these classes?’’

“The most important thing was to learn my rights and  that I am able to say ‘no’ to things. Nothing is compulsory. This is very  different to my country where you cannot say no to the medical staff. You do have a choice, and I would not have known this.” 

However the impacts do not end with the women and birthing people that attend the group, my work with AMMA and the Pregnancy Group fuels who I am as a midwife. It fires my passion and I am eternally grateful to the women and birthing people who attend and show up with such openness and offer their experiences and knowledge with such generosity.

As much as I share what I know with those that attend, I am always learning too. Sometimes as a midwife working in a system that is stretched to bursting I can feel disheartened. When I come to the  Pregnancy Group I feel inspired and lifted by the strength, resilience and kindness of the women who attend.

Kate & Rohese in their group venue
Kate & Rohese in group venue

I have learnt so much about the diversity of experiences and cultural needs as well as how to build a community in a country that isn’t your own, and the power and strength that can come with that, and I think I am a better midwife for it.

This project isn’t going to end now the term of the Iolanthe fund has finished - the resources will be continued to be used until they fall apart in many decades' time and I feel so lucky to be able to keep working with Amma to run this group.