Hear my voice | Guest blog, Sarah’s story

Sarah, a Healthwatch Essex Maternity Patient Partner, is our guest blogger this month and is sharing her maternity story and experiences below in the hope that others will learn something from her story.

As a Mum of three boys, I have experienced very different pregnancies; my first was born at Southend hospital in a birthing pool in the midwife led unit, my second as an unplanned, unassisted homebirth and my third also at home – although that time planned with the support of a local community midwife (who was amazing!). All three of my sons had a stay in hospital post birth due to high PCV levels, meaning their blood was too thick to circulate efficiently.

We were very excited when we found out we were pregnant with our first and second, but following my waters breaking and going into hospital during my second pregnancy, we were told that with no other labour symptoms, we needed to go home… however, as you’ve already read, this didn’t end up being the case! Unfortunately, this birthing experience massively affected me, and I developed quite a bit of anxiety around this – I had lost my faith in the hospital after they had sent me home. This meant that with our third pregnancy, I was very apprehensive, and it took me a long time to get my head around it.

‘Continuity of carer’ is a big focus for improving maternity care and this is something which varied a lot during my pregnancies. I had my assigned community midwife but didn’t always see her at my appointments and the other midwives wouldn’t always answer my questions, instead suggesting I wait until I see her – which wasn’t very helpful! However, during my second pregnancy, my community midwife happened to be the midwife I’d had for my first, which was lovely, as she was able to understand my concerns about the chance that my new baby might have the same blood issues as the first. Midwives are such an important part of your pregnancy – my birth midwife for my third was absolutely incredible and I couldn’t have asked for better support!

Something important to note – as a second or third time Mum, you are often told “you know what you are doing”, but every pregnancy is different, and this cannot always be the case. An example of this is my eldest; he breastfed beautifully straightaway, but my third just wouldn’t latch at all! Every baby and every pregnancy should be offered the same amount of support.

The need for midwives and their services to listen to the mothers and be flexible is crucial. Just because one mother labours a certain way doesn’t mean others will too, so they need to consider this for every birth. Everything I have experienced during my pregnancies, labour and post labour has had a massive effect on me – even years later – and I have sought support to help me process some of this.

Every tiny part of a mother’s experience matters – which is why becoming a Maternity Patient Partner is so important to me.

If you would like to share your story and experiences, click here to see how you can get involved or become a Healthwatch Essex Ambassador.