This blog post was contributed by Anna Dion, one of the fifteen Young Champions of Maternal Health chosen by Ashoka and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth. She will be blogging about her experience every month, and you can learn more about her, the other Young Champions, and the program here.
My heart and mind are divided. I am now 8 months pregnant and on one hand, my body and soul are preparing for motherhood- with all of the ups and downs, worries and wonders of a (thankfully) low-risk pregnancy.
On the other hand, I am trying to move forward with the original idea that I submitted to Ashoka’s Young Champions of Maternal Health Program. For now, this involves breaking new ground in establishing a program to support low-income and marginalized women in my hometown who have their newborns placed for adoption. While the majority of newborn adoptions are voluntary, there remain a significant number of ‘apprehensions’, where a newborn is removed from the care of its mother by the Children’s Aid Society, Canada’s child protection agency. Based on my interactions with the Children’s Aid Society, apprehensions are often a last resort and are often not without reasonable cause (most often related to substance abuse or a real threat to the newborn’s well-bring), however this does not lessen the pain facing the woman who has become a mother, despite her child not being with her.
Despite dramatic changes in adoption in Canada over the last 20 years, there is remarkably little literature on the specific needs and challenges faced by birthmothers, particularly throughout the perinatal period. There are, however, many anecdotes and collections of personal stories that have given me a window into the pain and challenges that many women and families have faced, both in the moment and as years go by, always feeling as though a piece of them is missing. This is also leading me down the path of exploring post-partum depression and different levels of prevention and support interventions that show promise, particularly among already disadvantaged and at-risk women.
While I can easily bury myself in research studies, systematic reviews and clinical guidelines of how to provide the best care to birthmothers and disadvantaged women, my Fellowship experience has also taught me the importance of moving towards action and building a network of supporters early-on, especially across both health and social sectors, as this program falls somewhere in-between the two. This is turning out to be one of my biggest challenges, as I am breaking into a new community, and I don’t always come by ‘blind’ networking naturally. This is where I hope to rely on some of my experiences in Argentina working with the Secretariat of Health in Pilar, where I learned how to give life to an idea, building supporters along the way.
I know that the coming months will widen the divide that I am feeling already between preparing to be the best parent I can be and building a foundation for this support program so that I can continue to build upon it once I have emerged from the chaos of the first couple months of motherhood. I also believe that the priviledge I have of working on maternal health while preparing to also be a mum myself will help me design and deliver better programs, and hopefully, get through my own delivery with a greater sense of calm.