Birth journeys – autumn 2016 diary

Getting ready to attend Implementing the National Maternity Review in Rural Areas conference (#SaTHFMU) next week, I’ve been supporting my friend Sandra Guise, chair of West Cumbria MSLC, who has founded a network for those interested in maternity care for Rural, Remote & Geographically Isolated Populations (#RRGIP @sandra_sjp) under the new National Maternity Voices banner (more on this later), helping her to connect with maternity voices volunteers (she sends me contacts to follow up, and I’m delighted to help out!)

At the same time, I’ve been reflecting on a busy few months in my life as a maternity advocate – full of connecting and networking and sharing ideas. Here’s a bit of my photo-diary:

First stop in the autumn was the Positive Birth Movement conference, organised and chaired by Milli Hill , who was in touch with me in the weeks that followed keeping me up to date with progress on her new book, due out soon. Looking forward to reading it! My bit at the conference was a mini-workshop on ‘Working with NICE guidance – how it can help you to support and empower women’. I was also delighted to be part of a panel Q&A session with Mark Harris, Mary Newburn, Sheena Byrom and others.


Encouraging audience participation at PBM conference workshop

Back to London again, only a few days later. I was thrilled to be invited by Michelle Quashie – another MSLC woman! – to chair  Women’s Voices 2016 . The mixture of women’s stories in their own words, poetry from Kati Edwards, and presentations on the theme of raising, hearing, listening to women’s voices and acting on what they say, was truly inspiring. I didn’t lose an opportunity to talk about why evidence matters, and the shared values that underpin NICE process! #evidencematters


Also good to meet up with friends and talk – here with Sheena Byrom just before we started the day.


Reading Michelle’s latest blogpost  this morning, I reflect that it is necessary to keep speaking up, to share views, to join the national conversation. That making safe space in which to speak, and supporting all voices so that they can be heard, is a responsibility that we all share. To me, it is a feature of a healthy democracy that we reason together, listening to individual stories as part of the evidence that we consider.

Understanding Claire Kay’s extraordinary journey to making her presentation at Women’s Voices 16 was a highlight of 2016 for me. The reaction of the audience was inspiring too. I also loved a moment that passed quietly. Beverley Beech of AIMS overcome by a fit of coughing as she gave her presentation, and Rebecca Schiller of Birthrights, a doula, quietly stepping down the steps of the hall to hand her a glass of water. Care. Respect. Continuity. Women’s advocates supporting each other.


For me, next stop in October was Powys. Invited by Head of Midwifery Cate Langley and her team, in my NICE Fellow role, because understanding how women make their decisions about place of birth and how, if at all, they use information from NICE, is richly informed by visiting services.  I was made very welcome, with my MSLC network colleagues Sandra Guise (West Cumbria MSLC) and Ruth Weston (AIMS). We visited the freestanding midwifery units at Welshpool and at Llandrindod Wells. It was a privilege to listen to women at both locations, and to speak with midwives. I owe Cate and the team a proper blogpost, having reflected on everything that I heard!

I met Cate through Midwifery Units Network – she is a member of their Advisory group – and if the autumn had a personal theme for me, it was networking and learning. Cate was one of several important contacts I made at the launch of #MuNet back in spring 2016. I managed not to take a photo of Cate, but here I am with Ruth Weston, ready to meet and listen to service users in Welshpool.


Straight from Powys to NCT Babble – NCT conference – in Birmingham, proud to be wearing my NCT Antenatal Practitioner hat for the day. Then more auditing for NHS England – my part in the last ‘audit season’ before Supervision ends. I feel proud to have been part of the NHS England South LSA team during audit visits, and privileged to have been able to talk to dedicated and knowledgeable Supervisors of Midwives in different maternity services, as well as interviewing women. I have seen and heard how listening to women and being committed to evidence-based practice – truly professional practice – can make a real difference to service quality.

And then the RCM conference with ‘Team CG190’ – invited to give a workshop on the planning place of birth recommendations in NICE CG190 Intrapartum Care 2014. Delighted, as always, to be working with midwife Tracey Cooper, and fellow NICE Fellow, and CG190 lay member, Sarah Fishburn. It was a lively session, and we were pleased to hear about local implementation, challenges and successes. We were able to share a draft of the Team CG190 decision aid (based entirely on the NICE decision aid for midwives and the Information for the Public – our decision aid is currently undergoing further development – more news soon) and projects that feature on the CG190 Shared Learning page were highlighted to delegates by audience members, as we had hoped. Networking and sharing, again!

After an interesting day in Bristol in early November catching up with fellow MSLC service user members and chairs from around the country (hosted by NCT, supporting our networking as ever – such a key part of the history of our movement), on to the UKmidSS study day in Birmingham, where I facilitated a workshop in which we heard from the UKmidSS reporters about their experiences of being part of UKmidSS and using the study system. The invited presentations included one from Bill Kirkup on safety in maternity – I had not heard him speak before, and this was another highlight of 2016 for me.


UKmidSS study day

In December, a very busy time online, involved in discussions that led to a small team from MSLC Leaders & Members, now (in England) National Maternity Voices (@NatMatVoicesorg #matvoices #mvp #mslc) drafting a National position statement on Maternity Voices Partnerships which, after signature by  MSLC reps and chairs from all parts of England over Christmas and New Year, was submitted to NHS England in January. I stand astonished by all the dedicated women who – at the worst possible time of year for ‘doing public engagement and involvement’, when families are so busy – put in huge effort to demonstrate their expertise, and what the MSLC movement has achieved, and continues to offer in a new era of service user involvement in maternity.


The logo needs a bit of work! Our regional networks are coming along nicely though, and we’re pleased to be in constructive dialogue with NHS England, sharing our experience and expertise about involvement, and (to quote Ruth Weston) ‘how ordinary people can help to make change happen’.

Which brings me to January. I’m thrilled to have joined the advisory group for a new  NIHR knowledge mobilisation project   on implementing NICE CG190 section 1.1 recommendations on planning place of birth, in my capacity as a NICE Fellow. All because, with no idea in that moment who she was (though I had heard her give a fantastic presentation at the City University Positive Birth Conference back in the summer – sorry Lucia!) – I turned to Lucia Rocca-Ihenacho in the coffee queue at the UKMidSS study day in November, and started talking about decision-making by women, and the NICE recommendation. As you do. And she said, ‘Ah, Catherine, I’m doing some research…!’

Networking. The power of connecting. Exchanging ideas, experience, challenge.

So, February 2017. Looking forward to a NICE #FellowAbroad visit to Shropshire (one side of my father’s family is from Shropshire, so personal resonances) and looking forward to #SaTHFMU in Shrewsbury in my National Maternity Voices capacity on Monday – always happy to talk NICE too!


3 thoughts on “Birth journeys – autumn 2016 diary

  1. Michelle Quashie

    Fantastic blog Catherine. It was an absolute pleasure to have you chair the Women’s Voices Conference, I think I choose the perfect women to stand with women and lead the day, even if I do say so myself 😉
    I hope you will be part of Women’s Voices Conference 2017!



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