It is perhaps too late to wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR given that we are now almost at the end of January, but as the beginning of 2015 is marking a new involvement for me as the administrator for the Revaluing Care Network, I feel it is appropriate to wish everyone a healthy and peaceful 2015 full of lively debate and interesting conversations. I look forward to being in touch with many of you as the year progresses. Particular thanks go to Sue Westwood from whom I am taking over the role, and who I already know will be of assistance in helping me build on her excellent work to date.
I was lucky enough to meet some of you at the ‘Cycles of Care‘ seminar at the end of November, but for those of you who I didn’t, I will tell you a little about me. I am Ceri Durham, a mother of three young children, living in Bow in London’s East End. I am currently undertaking my LLM (Masters in Law) in Medical Law at Queen Mary, University of London. Until October, I was working as a solicitor predominantly doing commercial and private client work for so-called “ultra-high-net worth individuals”. However, in October I took the plunge and left my (paid) work to follow the passion of my voluntary work role as a campaigner for improvements in maternity services (and to do my LLM, of course).
As a maternity rights campaigner, my role splits into two – the complaining activist and the compassionate supporter. I spend much of my time telling anyone who will listen about the perilous issue of women’s choice and birth autonomy in the UK today. I also have the joy of running various birth-groups supporting women as they make their choices and plans for their birth, in particular assisting women who are contemplating giving birth at home and who are finding it difficult to access the information and advice they need to make the decision that is right for them. In my view, even where autonomy and human rights are protected in theory, the women I support tell a different story. Thankfully, even where there have been difficulties, surgery or undesired outcomes, the wonderful birth stories I hear full of joy and laughter from women who have had empowering and life-affirming births, make me know that this is a campaign worth fighting for.
Whilst I believe – and am very grateful – that maternity services in this country are ‘safe’ and will usually result in a mother and baby who are both alive at the end of birth, I feel the emphasis that this is ‘all that matters’ manifests by denying women real choice about their body and the care of their children. Too often there seems to be a tension between consultant (clinical) care and genuine woman-centred midwifery care, and whilst some advances have been made in this area, the fact that an event as natural and as every-day as birth should result in thousands of women each year suffering from avoidable post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and social exclusion is something which I feel the need to keep speaking about. That this is all taking place in the midst of NHS cuts and increasing privatisation of the NHS adds further issues to the mix, especially because we know that the models of maternity care which most benefit women, especially those who may be described as ‘vulnerable’, bear little relation to what is offered in practice. Needless to say, if you know anyone who is pregnant or if you would like further information on the campaigns I am involved in, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you.