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What I’m Waiting For

At a time in my life when I really needed help, there was a woman that came forward. I was struggling, pregnant, and I’d moved to the north without knowing anyone there. She took me in and helped me. I got to know what she does in the community. And I thought, okay, this is something I can do. Since then, I've never stopped. Community means a lot to me. I'm African, and in Africa they say that it takes a whole village to look after a child. As a Healthwatch Oxfordshire Community Researcher, I can look into anything and everything that affects the Oxford community, our community. I chose to look into maternity. My interest led me to create a film which shares women’s views, from Oxford’s diverse and multi-ethnic communities, on local maternity care.

I was one of those women that was told I will never get pregnant. But by concentrating on living my life and just having fun, I think that that's how I got pregnant. When I gave birth, I had a really good experience, even though it was painful as hell. One of the midwives, she was just wholesome. She didn't need to be there, but she knew what I was going through. They called her to say I was giving birth because, for some reason, she’d left a note in my file that said if I'm giving birth, they needed to let her know. So she came to the hospital. She was there with me. She was holding my hand and she was saying to the other midwife: you need to look after her.

Sometimes I feel bad to share my positive experience when I hear from women speaking about their negative experiences. I would sit with women and listen to them all. And they would say awful things about their experiences here in Oxford. I kept thinking of my experience. I didn't go through this. Can this be about race? I think above all else it's got to do with communication and cultural differences. Everyone needs to understand that this is going on in Oxford. And if women are going through this, you might be doing something that you don't even know you're doing, as a professional.

Women don't speak up because they know that it probably wouldn't go anywhere. And that’s because they can't see diversity in where they're going to complain. They can't see diversity in the staff that are standing next to you. Do you think that if I'm a midwife, and I walk in while a Nigerian is giving birth, do you think they're going speak to any other person? They will speak to me in a way that I will understand what their pain is and what they need. But it's not there. They haven’t been able to express how they feel and what they felt.

That’s what helped me to do this project really. I know that for midwives and anyone in health professions the one thing they would love is to be able to hear back about how they do their work – what could be better and what has gone well, and to be able to learn from it.

So if I'm going to be anything in this world, I want to be the bridge closing the gap between these organisations, these nurses, these professionals, and these women. When the chance came to do some community research I knew this was what I wanted to look at. With the help of Healthwatch Oxfordshire and Oxford Community Action I held an event where women could share their experiences of using maternity services, and we made their stories into a film. Their voices needed to come out. This film has since been presented to representatives from Oxfordshire maternity services and health decision-makers to help identify ways in which Black and minority ethnic women can be better supported during pregnancy, childbirth and after care.

Now the women have shared their stories, it has brought everyone together. I didn't want them to feel like it's a sad day. I wanted them to be celebrated for being brave enough to share what they felt. When they were in the film screening, I just said, hello everyone, and pressed play. And it's amazing that it went well, because everyone just started sharing. It was really, really powerful. And I was thinking, oh my god, this is amazing. I'm glad, it's exactly the way I wanted it to be. I thought, yes, there is no way you can’t learn something from it. And even the negative side didn't seem negative. It teaches you how you're wrong and where you can change and make things right. And that's exactly how I wanted it to be.

I actually saw one of the ladies today when I went shopping, and I saw the baby. I was remembering everything this lady’s story, when she said she was really thirsty. They left her there on her own. She didn't have the buzzer with her. And she was in pain. She was screaming, help, help, help. And then eventually somebody came and asked her what she wanted. And she said, I'm thirsty. I need water, water, please water. And the guy said, oh, go toilet, go to the toilet and get some water. And she said, what? Water from the toilet? He said, yes, everybody. You know, this is the same water from the kitchen. She said, I'm in pain. I'm having a baby. You want me to get down from the bed and go to the bathroom and get water for myself? And he said, yes. And apparently, he was a doctor. What happened to ‘we’ as human beings? What happened to: this is a pain I don't know how it feels like. Let me get her a cup of water. This is water, water we’re talking about. I just can't process it. It’s water.

I'm hoping in the future they will invite someone like me to actually walk around the ward and talk to the women and introduce myself. And ask them what their experiences are before they leave. Or, when the visitors or the midwives go home, let the women know there is this group that runs every Wednesday or every Thursday. If you really feel like you can't share your experience with me, you can go there and speak to a lady who can listen to you and hear you. It’s not just about you going in there and talking about your experience. You can see other mums as well and you can access services there. Yes, that is my dream.

I'm just getting started really. I cannot let that film be the end of it. I cannot. Every day since the filming, since listening to those women, and being in those meetings, actually makes me want to do more. Everyone's different. You have to create an environment where everyone can be the way they want to be. There's a lot of work to be done. I've heard what proposed changes the regulatory body plan, especially in terms of communication, which is mainly interpreters, translators, and trainings on diversity and inclusion. But the thing is, I haven't actually seen it implemented yet. We still have other women that have given birth recently, saying it was bad. You can tell me, we're going to do this change, we're going to do that change. Well. I want to see it happen. That's what I'm waiting for.


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