AIMSI have received quite a few messages on our SHOUT BACK - YOUR SAY submissions; passionate pleas to include positive stories in the interest of balance.
AIMS Ireland spent 42 weeks highlighting positive, healthy birth in Ireland. (www.42weeks.ie)
42 weeks was well received, particularly by health care providers. However, during this campaign, many women contacted us who felt isolated; that their voice and experience was not represented.
SHOUT BACK - YOUR SAY represents a safe place for women to share their experiences which were not positive. These submissions are vitally important as they represent a voice which rarely has the opportunity to be heard; those who survive. AIMS Ireland passionately believe that experiences of abuse, disrespect, assault, unsafe care practice should not matter less simply because the woman and baby survive. Yet these experiences are too often dismissed consistently by our politicians, policy makers, care providers, and media.
Baby alive. Mother alive. Non story. Regardless of the profound impact on the physical and psychological wellbeing of women, babies, families - the health and lives of all involved.
Assistance with complaints and birth trauma is the #1 reason why women make contact with AIMS Ireland. The SHOUT BACKs representing a small percentage of what comes into our inbox.
We need to be very careful that in a desire to create balance, we do not dismiss the experiences of women who have not had positive experiences. The SHOUT BACKs are difficult to read. They represent everything we hope to change in the Irish maternity system. These experiences are real and need to be heard in their own light, not buried. Its so important we do not dismiss these women's experiences by asking for the focus to change - to make us all feel more comfortable, by including positive stories.
It is in everyone's interests that these experiences are acknowledged and the courage that these women and families have shown in coming forward is respected. They are heartbreaking and very difficult reading but their place in the maternity care system is of huge importance; it is as a result of this opportunity to share, just at this particular time, that REAL change may come about.
Balance is about hearing and facing up to the difficult things. People are living with the repercussions of such treatment - often alone, isolated, while taking care of their young families - and up to now they have remained unheard and unacknowledged.
It is vital that we do not look back at this opportunity in 20 years time and say "if only we'd listened".