A village to raise a mother
They say it takes a village to raise a child. In Moree, they’re using that same adage to raise a mother.
Through a partnership between midwife Deb Key and Aboriginal Health education officers Kelly Lawton, Aneata Hickey and Sharlene Williams, the Aboriginal Maternal Infant Health Service Team has introduced a full-day antenatal class. It focuses on educating first time mothers and building a community of supportive women around them.
The full-day class is an alternative to the traditional multi-week course offered to expectant mums, and covers everything from pre-birth health and care, labour and birth, and postnatal care. But the real highlight of the course is the handing on of birth stories from generation to generation.
Kelly, Aneata and Sharlene are all Kamilaroi women and part of the close-knit community in Moree. Prior to developing this ground-breaking new antenatal model of care, the team noticed there wasn’t a high level of engagement from Aboriginal women in the antenatal classes.
The new classes involve not only pregnant women, but the trusted women in their lives. Mums, aunties and grandmothers are also invited along to the class to give personal guidance and support during the education sessions.
“We invite the aunties, grandmothers, mothers and sisters in to guide the young women through the birthing process with their own stories,” Kelly explains.
“We know that the aunties and the grandmothers have a lot of influence over the younger generations. By involving them, we can show that though their ways are relevant and respected, a lot has changed in health as well. It’s about building rapport, and building a bridge between the Aboriginal community, the women and the maternity unit.”
Midwife Deb Key says the classes are about making sure the transition to motherhood is easier for women.
“Making time to tell stories and pass on those experiences, gives the mother confidence she can go to hospital and know she’s going to be cared for, in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way,” Deb says.
“It can be harder for us to get women to come in and engage with the services. This one-day class is about building supports, building a community of supportive women around an expectant mother so she feels comfortable coming in and engaging. It’s about the woman, her baby and family’s journey.
“The first group of expectant mothers said they felt it was what they wanted, especially the hands-on stuff. One of the women said it was comforting; she didn’t feel the need to be shy. When we get feedback like that, we know we’re on the right track.”
As for Kelly, Aneata, Sharlene, and Deb, the best part about the program is being welcomed into the family.
“We’re proud that these women want us to be a part of their lives,” Kelly says. “We’re with women at their happiest and most vulnerable times, we get to share in the moment they become mothers.”
The Moree AMIHS Team are planning more classes for later this year. For more information, contact the team via phone 6757 0200.