Absolutely Mama gets to know Illiyin Morrison, mama of one, midwife, hypnobirthing teacher and founder of Mixing Up Motherhood…
Illiyin Morrison is a midwife, hypnobirthing teacher and mama of one. She qualified as a midwife just over three years ago. Illy also runs an Instagram page called Mixing Up Motherhood where she discusses all things motherhood, pregnancy and childbirth, maternal mental health and racial disparity in maternal healthcare. Here she talks about finding your voice in childbirth and birth rights for all birthing people…
Q For anyone who might not know, what is birth advocacy and birth rights and why is it so important to find your voice in birth?
A Advocacy means to essentially ensure that someone is heard. For me, advocacy and birthrights go hand in hand. Birth rights are the rights of birthing people and if you are an advocate you do everything in your power to ensure said peoples birthrights are adhered to at all times.
The importance of finding your voice in pregnancy and childbirth is that it could be the difference between a positive and negative experience. Your body is not simply a vessel, you are a human being with a mind, with needs and wishes and with rights that need to be heard. Your voice is the most important of all and that’s why you need to be heard.
Q Was your own personal birth experience something that made you want to advocate for birth rights?
A As a midwife, I have always been passionate about advocacy and birth rights however, my own birth experience was not a positive one and this reinforced the passion. I don’t think anyone would consider it particularly traumatic but I would and that’s all that matters. Following the birth of my daughter I wanted to make sure that no one had experiences like mine and that they felt listened to and heard at all times.
Q What advice would you give to anyone giving birth and particularly black mothers-to-be who feel they are not being heard by their medical professional?
A The latest MBRACE report showed that Black birthing people are five times more likely to die in pregnancy, childbirth and up to six weeks later when compared to their white counterparts.
The suggestions for this startling statistic are:
– Poor management of high risk pregnancy
– Racial bias leading to stereotyping Black people and neglecting individual concerns
– Limited access to resources
-Substandard communication between healthcare professionals meaning issues get missed
The number one piece of advice I give to all birthing people, and particularly Black birthing people is, if it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. Seek care whenever you are concerned and don’t stop. If you aren’t being heard, speak to someone else and another person if it’s necessary until you are heard and reassured. This may mean speaking to another member of staff or even changing hospital trust. Trust your gut and listen to your body.
Q Why is it so important to make a birth preference list?
A Birth preference lists are so important. They are often the first thing your midwife will look at in your notes. Sometimes it’s also hard for birthing people to verbalise what they want so it’s easier to write it down, the birth preference list is a great place to do this. Writing your birth preference list is also a great opportunity for you and your birth partner to get on the same page and this will help them to advocate for your wishes should it be necessary.
Things to include first and foremost would be your name and what you would like to be called and the same for your birth partner. Next if you have certain preferences during labour such a music, mobilising, type of monitoring, if you are happy to have a student midwife, the type of lighting you would like, if you prefer minimal talk or are happy to be spoken to, if you are using hypnobirthing and your preference in regards to the type of birth – land or water. Then you can add if you are happy for the injection to expel the placenta, if you would like direct skin-to-skin with the baby, who you would like to cut the cord and how you would like to feed. I think it’s also key to point out here if you have had any previous traumatic experiences. You don’t have to go into great detail but it’s very helpful for those caring for you to know what may trigger you and how to deal with certain situations.
Q How can you seek help if you have already experienced a birth trauma?
A Firstly I think it’s a good idea to book a birth debrief. You can do this with the trust you had your baby at. These can be really helpful in terms of understanding processes and why things happened.
Secondly there are specific birth trauma counsellors that can be great. If you feel that you need more urgent help please see you GP and they will refer you accordingly.
Q And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to anyone feeling worried about birth?
A Seek antenatal education, this includes hypnobirthing. This will help you to understand the different processes that take place during birth, it will also help you to know what is right and what isn’t. Good antenatal education will help empower you to go into child birth with confidence and belief in your body and ability. I couldn’t advocate for it more!