Let Mothers Be Well

Maternal Wellbeing Afternoon at Open Eye Gallery, October 8th 2022

On October 8th we held a Wellbeing Afternoon at Open Eye Gallery, aimed at bringing together the local services with mothers and families. At the event we had a marketplace, with representatives from the local infant feeding team, the peer support team, John Lewis, the local libraries. We had a lovely programme.

In the morning we ran breastfeeding Storytelling Writing workshops, followed by a Library service Storytime at 12pm. The Market Place of maternity wellbeing serviceswas from 1pm – 3pm. These information stalls were in the lovely Atrium space outside the Gallery, with contributions from Kaola NW, Liverpool Libraries, John Lewis’ Nursery Team, Liverpool MVP, PSS Liverpool, Improving Me Maternity programme and Silver Birch hubs. 

Inside the Gallery was the Holding Time photographic exhibition, where parents could sit and reflect and chat. At 2pm, Sara Atherton, lead at Koalas peer support network and I, did a short conversation about the breastfeeding support in Cheshire and Merseyside in Gallery 2. Sara is an inspirational figure in the breastfeeding world of Merseyside and I love her story. You can see an interview with Sara below.

Wellness is more than a lifestyle choice, or an expression of consumer buying power. Creating resilience takes time and work and is a right, not a privilege.

Developing resilience and ultimately fitness, or the ability to bounce back from hardship even stronger and wiser than before, involves cultivating these six major pillars of resilience:

  • Physical hardiness
  • Emotional equilibrium
  • Mental clarity and toughness
  • Spiritual connection
  • Loving relationships and strong social connections
  • Influential leadership within your community

– Eva Selhub MD, Resilience for Dummies

So much of the resilience that was lost during Covid, was as a result of the erosion of these key pillars due to physical unwellness, social isolation, relentless confusion and poor leadership. The impact of this was felt by everyone but most keenly by the most vulnerable.

Although recovery from the Covid infection may now be quicker for most, the resilience we lost in the last few years will take longer to rebuild. Despite the talk of ‘Building back better’ the reality for many, is not the utopia some hoped for.

In particular, groups such as new mothers, who were socially isolated before Covid, became even more so, with disastrous outcomes for some families. Given the risks to mothers, it is disturbing to learn that many areas are so slow to reinstate the baby groups and feeding circles that we took for granted before Covid.

In the UK, suicide remains the leading cause of direct maternal death in first postnatal year. The Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care 2021 report investigated the deaths of women during or up to one year after pregnancy between 2017 and 2019. MBRRACE examines the reasons why each of the women died and what can be done to improve care in future.

The report highlighted gaps in mortality rates between women from deprived and affluent areas, women of different ages and women from different ethnic groups:

  1. Maternal mortality was more than four times higher for Black women, two times higher for mixed ethnicity women and almost twice as high for Asian women.
  2. Women living in the most deprived areas are twice as likely to die than those living in the most affluent areas.
  3. Women aged 40 or over had an almost fourfold higher maternal mortality rate compared to women aged 20-24 years.

Given these stark figures, shouldn’t social activities for mothers, centred on wellness, be a priority for us?

Our afternoon was an attempt to shape what an ideal wellness afternoon might look, feel and sound like.

The whole afternoon was interspersed with the dreamy sounds of harp, played by Live Music Now harpist, Eflair Dyer, and finally a glorious singing workshop with Singing Mamas to lift our hearts and send us back into the world, renewed and restored to wellbeing!!!

Singing for wellness is becoming more popular in Social Prescribing (where GPS refer you) and self-prescribing. South Asian mothers who attended the singing workshop in Bradford recently, noted that mothers in their village in Pakistan, would singing and breastfeed together. Surely a tradition worth reviving here in the UK.

Kate Valentine, mother of four, began Singing Mamas from her livingroom twelve years ago. She is now partnering with Goldsmiths College, London to develop programmes of singing for groups of mothers across the UK and is training singing coaches within the health service so that midwives, health visitors and infant feeding leads can run their own groups.

The evidence is impressive.

That group singing reduces symptoms of postnatal depression faster than the usual forms of treatment. These findings are taken from a 3-arm randomised control trial published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in February 2018 (authors D. Fancourt and R. Perkins).

The study highlighted that 73% mums who took part in a 10 week programme of group singing recovered from postnatal depression, and that participating mums also reported an increase in self-esteem, confidence and bonding.

Singing Mamas

We hope to run more activities focused specifically on wellbeing. In addition to the fantastic Storytelling Workshops, developed for the project by Rachel New, we are working on a partnership with Singing Mamas to bring more music and joy to mothers across the country as the Holding Time project moves to each location. Watch this space!

Nicola, from Cheshire and Merseyside, Open Eye Gallery 2022

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