We’re one week in to the #MatExp #FlamingJune Month of Action and it has been a BUSY week! So much activity on Twitter and on Facebook – and of course, the brand new website. In amongst all of the excitement, I have identified four ACTIONS that I will focus on this month for the campaign. The first of these is to SPREAD THE WORD.
There are few things that excite me more than bringing people together, facilitating conversations, building up networks and getting people to communicate. I spent a good chunk of my wedding dinner gleefully watching how well my table plan was working (hey, I never said I was normal!). #MatExp has been fantastic for this. The whole premise of the campaign is bringing all kinds of people together to have the important conversations, to find solutions and improve maternity experience. As wonderful as it is to have discussions with people who agree with you, it is far more productive to have conversations with people who do not see the world from your perspective. If you can make progress in those conversations you really can make a difference.
One person I have enjoyed bringing into the #MatExp conversations is Professor of Obstetrics Jim Thornton. Jim frequently has a different position or opinion from the regular gang of people with whom I discuss maternity, and to me that makes him an ideal person to ask. Jim’s blog about HBAC3 makes interesting reading. He was also enough of a good sport to take on Florence Wilcock’s Lithotomy Challenge.
Back when #MatExp was primarily a part of NHS Change Day, I set up a simple Change Day Action to link up different parents and professionals every Friday as part of the regular “Follow Friday” theme on Twitter. Every Friday morning I tweet #MatExp #FF and suggest one midwife, one health visitor, one doctor (obs or paeds), one nurse (paeds) and one parent that people might like to follow. My reason for including the paediatric team is that for many families (including mine) paediatric staff are a part of the postnatal experience because children have been born needing medical attention. I really love seeing the people I value on Twitter following each other and starting new conversations – it gives me the warm and fuzzies.
Did you say health visitors I hear you ask? Yes I did, because health visitors are an absolutely vital part of the maternity team. Particularly now that many teams are offering antenatal visits to families so that relationships can be built up before the baby arrives, it is so important that midwives and HVs work together. “Jen the HV” student health visitor explains here what it is that health visitors actually do. If you are not familiar with their remit please take a look.
The #MatExp Facebook group has been amazing for bringing together so many different voices in maternity care. We have midwives, health visitors, neonatal nurses, GPs, doulas, hypnobirthing teachers, NCT professionals, breastfeeding peer supporters, IBCLCs and mental health supporters all chatting together on a variety of topics. Most importantly, all of these people are chatting away with ordinary parents (and of course most of them are parents themselves). It is wonderful to see the conversations and ideas being generated just by these people being in the same group together. Milli Hill recently joined and has asked me to contribute a written piece for the Positive Birth Movement. A “spreading the word” opportunity right there.
Because this campaign is grassroots and not a “top down” initiative it has sometimes been confusing for people to understand how to get involved, or how to describe the campaign to others. FabObs Flo wrote this explanation to remind everyone that we’re all just people trying to generate change – we’re not funded, there is no “team” at the top, no one is in charge. The phrase “who’s driving this thing?” springs to mind, but the truth is we’re all racing along together!
This issue was exemplified earlier in the week when I contacted Mark Williams of Fathers Reaching Out to ask him if he would like to help me to round up the discussions we’d had on Facebook about maternity experience from the perspective of Dads and Partners. Mark replied that he’d “love to be part of the team if you need a person to do the dads work…..” There is no team Mark. It’s JFDI!
Of course, there is one team of people who are actively engaged in looking into maternity services, and that is the panel of the National Maternity Review. I tweeted as many of the panel as I could find to encourage them to take a look at the #MatExp campaign, and I know that some of them are already not only aware of the campaign but are actively engaging with it. I had an email conversation with Rowan Davies, Head of Policy & Campaigns at Mumsnet, where she agreed to take a look at the various #MatExp platforms as part of her work on the panel. And of course Sheena Byrom is putting up a series of blog posts about What The National Maternity Review Team Should Know. The first of these covers engagement with the #MatExp campaign. Another of my ACTIONS for #FlamingJune is to write a piece for this series myself. More of that another day!