By Mandy Marsden
When I think back to my return home to Wigton from Ward 35 at the RVI, the emotions that jump out at me are fear and anxiety. This isn’t unusual, I would later learn. When neonatal parents were surveyed for Neonatal Mental Health Awareness Week in 2019, they were equally likely to quote “worried” or “scared” as “relieved” or “happy” at the prospect of bringing their baby home. Coming home with twins with complex medical needs and very little support was incredibly daunting after a traumatic five months in hospital. I was isolated, removed from the other neonatal families I’d met as they lived in the northeast. I felt no one in my support network understood what I was going through. I felt overwhelmed and alone.
That’s my aim - to try and make sure that other parents who are in or returning from a neonatal unit don’t feel alone. I want them to have voices and influence. I want them to have the care and support they need. I want services to understand the unique position of families in Cumbria, often trapped by rurality, or forgotten by organisations due to our remoteness. We deserve attention and equality of provision and ongoing care. I hope that by joining the Maternity Voices Partnership I can help to advocate for all of this.
A little bit about me - I’m mum to Joshua and Darcy, twins born at 23 weeks. We spent 5 months in neonatal care at North Tees and the RVI. I am a trustee and peer support mentor for a neonatal charity on Teesside, and the lead for expanding their services into Cumbria. In my day job I’m an employment adviser, helping people into work and to access benefits and health support. Taking part in an MVP therefore feels a very natural next step and extension of my current activities.
I would love to hear from others about their experiences of being a neonatal family in West, North and East Cumbria-feel free to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org