This week is UK Black Maternal Mental Health Week (BMMHW), taking place from 25th September to 1st October. BMMHW is an annual event that aims to promote education, advocacy, and support for Black women during their pregnancy and postpartum journey, which is deeply relevant for the Amma community.
[CONTENT WARNING: BABY LOSS]
When Vongayi found out she was expecting twins, she never could have anticipated the difficult journey that would unfold. She explains, “My pregnancy was very difficult. I separated from my partner when I was 17 weeks pregnant. At 20 weeks, I found out that one of my twins had a heart condition.”
Amanda, Vongayi’s birth companion, says, “I met Vongayi when she was in the third trimester. We knew it was very likely that her son would have to stay in the neonatal unit, so we did a lot of preparation for that. We talked a lot about the practicalities of what to expect following the birth.”
Following the birth, Kim joined Amanda in supporting Vongayi as a postnatal companion. The pair provided intensive practical and emotional support for several weeks while Vongayi and the twins were still in hospital.
As Rylan was in a different ward, Vongayi needed assistance to get there. She says, “I needed help taking Adrian with me [to the neonatal unit]. Amanda would come in to take me and help me push Adrian [in his cot] to the ward. Amanda would hold Adrian and I would get the chance to hold my baby. It was quite a relief and it really made things easy for me.”
Sadly, Rylan passed away at just 19 days old. Vongayi says, “I remember the first phone call that I made was to Amanda when Rylan passed, because she had always been there throughout the whole journey. I called her and she came right away to hold me and support me.”
Amanda says, “There was always that hope that Rylan would have the surgery needed to repair his heart condition and that he would eventually go home and be healthy. It came as a real shock to all of us when he didn’t make it.”#
Postnatal companion, Kim, explains, “It began as a role supporting the two boys in the hospital by being an extra pair of hands and a listening ear. Then, I ended up supporting her a lot with the funeral arrangements and helping her make some decisions.”
Vongayi says, “I remember when I came home from the hospital, I was still not okay because of Rylan passing on. I was very weak. I was vulnerable. Kim came in early in the morning, I was still in bed. She came in, she made breakfast for me.”
She adds, “It’s those small things that made such a difference—making sure that I was eating well and that I was okay.”
Vongayi also talks about the importance of the emotional support she received during this time. She says, “I was able to talk to Amanda and Kim about Rylan and how I was feeling. Even up to today I can still talk to them about Rylan because they walked with me”
“As a single mother, it was really difficult,” says Vongayi. “Amma’s support was such a relief because they were there when I needed them—they were my family.”
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International Women’s Day is an opportunity to honour the experiences and identities of all those who experience oppression under patriarchy — and to talk about the specific injustices faced by women and birthing people. Here at Amma, we believe these conversations shouldn’t take place on just one day a year. So, this International Women’s Day we’re kicking off a three-part series of frank and open discussions focused on the many intersections of reproductive justice.