I heard my name but I couldn’t believe it.
My legs just won’t move and everything is a bit of a blur of lights and applause. Urged out of my chair I head towards the stage, it feels like a dream and then Im handed a beautiful glass star by the smiling face of a Mayor, and cameras flash all around me.
It had been a few months since my inbox had pinged with three nominations for the West Midlands Combined Authority Thrive Mental Health Champion Awards. The emails didn’t say who had nominated me, but to have the support that others felt my work was worthy to be mentioned was really moving.
There are days when I wonder if I am making any difference. Days where I wonder if I am heard, or face opposition and so begins the self doubt.
The last few months have been challenging, in the world of trying to improve maternity services and perinatal mental health. Then there it was, an email to lift my spirits, to say not only had I been nominated, but now I had been shortlisted and would be attending the awards ceremony on 31st January.
My excitement was bitter sweet because this was also the day I was suppose to be going to London for the Launch of #MindNBody, #MatExp’s new project tackling perinatal mental health. So after much thought I completed my slides and finalised my poem which lovely Flo Wilcock agreed to read out for me. While I couldn’t physically be there in person with Flo and Catherine, I was there very much in spirit because this is my journey, to use my experiences to help others and improve services.
So while the #MatExp gang shared their stories, and launched #MindNBody, I ironed my dress and curled my hair, and headed to the awards.
I have never been to an awards ceremony before, and my nerves were running high. It was amazing to meet the other nominees. For each region there were three or four nominees each with amazing stories of developing services and ways to support those with mental health conditions. As I read the nominees for my area I truly believed that there was no way I would win the award, I was in awe of all they had achieved.
It was a complete shock to hear my name. The award, a beautiful glass star, means so much. It’s not the award, the acclaim or limelight, to be honest I very much prefer to be in the background, not the centre the things, but because this star means something else.
‘When you wish upon a star’
We often tell fairytales about ‘wishing upon a star’ and all our dreams coming true. My wish has always been that I can help others who like me have suffered birth trauma. That I can give them what I never had, support. That they can have a safe place to turn, someone who understands and most of all that they feel less alone.
My wish has been to raise awareness of how a difficult birth can impact on mental health and how there is much we can do to prevent birth trauma. It is also my wish to show that perinatal mental matters, because as I know by my own experience it can be devastating to families when support and understanding is lacking.
My little star means that maybe I have in some small ways achieved something for families. I hope that it also means the opening up of many more conversations about birth trauma and perinatal mental health.
My star is also a testament to all the women who contact me each day who are fighting the battle, often alone, with such bravery. They are the ones that give me strength and encouragement, they are what keep me going and drive me on. Everything I do is to hopefully make a difference for women everywhere, including my own beautiful daughters.
So my Star sits proudly on my shelf, and I will continue to wish upon it, wishes that together we can make a difference and make many dreams come true.
My Poem for MindNBody Launch
Instead of you against my chest,
they took you away, I tried my best.
The lights above hurt my eyes,
no one could hear my inner cries.
Their last words fill my ears,
quick, or else we lose her here.
Was I alive, I couldn’t tell?
Was this an angel to bid my farewell.
In HDU strange smells, and sounds,
doctors coming, going doing their rounds.
Many days without you near,
filling me with doubt and fear.
Then your tiny face, a touch of your hand,
in a plastic box, this is not what I planned.
On the ward instead of love and care,
cruel words, compassion was no where.
Physical scars slowly healed,
but emotionally I had no shield.
PTSD became my chalice,
filling my days and nights with Malice.
Perinatal mental health truly matters,
a difficult birth can leave mothers dreams in tatters.