Reflecting on a bit of magic

When women's voices were truly heard #MatExp

On Saturday, I went to an extraordinary event. #WomensVoices16

It was a very special event for me as #WomensVoices16 was a direct result of a pledge Michelle Quashie made at a #WhoseShoes event 9 months ago. The perfect timescale to conceive such a plan! πŸ’œπŸ‘ΆπŸΌπŸ’œ

There is always a lot of excitement in #matexp #whoseshoes but on Friday it was running at fever pitch!

I set off from home at 5.45am. Trains at that time on a Saturday are pretty cheap so @stowawayteddy (who suddenly appeared from nowhere) and I upgraded. πŸ˜‰

I caught the bus across London, as there was no traffic at that time, which made a nice change from the tube.

It was exciting seeing all the name badges. So many familiar names and friends – movers and shakers in the #MatExp community, passionate about hearing women's voices and working together for positive change in maternity care.

And far more excitingly, the real people!

Flo and Leigh and I know each other well but none of us had ever met lovely Susanne in person. She had put together the crowd-sourced #MatExp RAP included at the end of our presentation with the National maternity transformation leads at #Expo16NHS 😎

Flo and I were proudly wearing our necklaces Such a fab conversation starter!

And indeed presentation stopper! πŸ˜‚

Who better to start the Women's Voices conference with a Roar than Sheena Byrom, @SagefemmeSB ? A wonderful blend of Sheena's experiences as a midwife, world thought leader (she was off to Sydney #NormalBirth16 the next day!) mother, grandmother and so much more…

Sheena quoted our #MatExp #WhoseShoes mantra which #FabObs Flo has embedded from the very first workshop at Kingston Hospital in October 2014. She gave examples of how midwifery practice has changed over the years. Far too often women still don't feel that they have a voice, but they (we!) are now 'roaring' for change!

Next up was #FabObs Flo @FWmaternitykhft , my #MatExp co-founding partner in crime. Again, a caring passionate woman with a full life and her own powerful birth stories… who happens to be an obstetrician.

As always, Florence challenged assumptions. And there seem to be a lot of assumptions about obstetricians... Florence is brilliant at smashing them to smithereens!

And indeed leading the charge where things need to change!

Flo's passion has taken the #matexp #WhoseShoes story to the front page and a double page spread in the RCOG magazine. They are listening!

And Flo presented our collaborative #MatExp #WhoseShoes poster, telling the story so far (it is of course evolving all the time) at the RCOG World Congress in June.

#FabObs Louise Page sends a message of support .. from Australia!

Another #FabObs. Louise Page very successfully ran one of the original #whoseshoes pilot workshops in London. She invited Flo and me to present at the Labour Wards Leads conference, ahead of the World RCOG event. I met a lot of #FabObs that day, all giving up their Sunday (in fact Fathers' Day) to attend.

And I was particularly delighted that Kate Brian could attend #WomensVoices16, and to meet her for the first time as I know she really wanted to come to the recent Nobody's Patient workshop at St George's Hospital. @leighakendall wrote a wonderful blog about it. Kate is the Women's Voices Lead at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). Watch this space: I think she and Flo are going to do some exciting work together! #MatExp #whoseshoes is helping to unite and provide an inclusive platform for everyone passionate about maternity care… and there are many many #FabObs!

Women are a very self-deprecating bunch. Susanne's T shirt said she was 'winging it' but in reality she was rocking it. The atmosphere was electric as one by one, women shared their birth stories. Some good, some dreadful; so much learning from all of them. Susanne tweets and blogs as @Ghostwritermumm.

Great expectations in every sense of the word and so very damaging when the decisions of others leave a woman feeling powerless or worthless.

Women speaking at #WomensVoices16 were brave, sharing personal photos, bringing their stories alive and telling of the effects that different birth experiences have had on them in the short and long term.

@leighakendall reminded everybody to listen to "stories that dismay as well inspire" and wrote a powerful blog about this. #HugosLegacy is a big part of the #MatExp story.

And it was very moving to meet Mel Scott for the first time, building the legacy of of her stillborn son Finley; Mel is now offering bereavement training. Claire Kay was another excellent speaker, overcoming nerves to share, with humour, her experience of birth trauma and the impact when your voice is not heard.

I never have and never will master the art of how to take a full part in a conference, manage a stall, network with everybody, tweet like mad, take photos to include in a Steller story πŸ˜‰... and yet still have time to go to the loo and grab a cup of coffee! β˜•οΈπŸ‘€ However, it was brilliant to have a #MatExp table and be able to tell people more about the work we have been doing, both with 'Whose Shoes?' workshops and the wider, now πŸ’₯explosiveπŸ’₯ social media change platform. πŸ˜ƒ

#WomensVoices16 is a great example of how the two are inseparable, as I explained recently, presenting as part of a webinar for The Edge, in collaboration with the Horizons Transformation team of the NHS. ,The inspiration for #WomensVoices16 originally came from the workshop at King's Collegel Hospital ... and has been brought to fruition and fired by social media. How or why should you try to separate them for the purpose of ticking boxes?

And of course, with each event or tweet chat or other 'loud' occurrence, the #MatExp ripples / waves (!) go on…

It was wonderful to hear the latest progress with the London workshops, chatting to Pip and Karen running the table where the South East London MSLC network were displaying their work, including the very recent and innovative 'Whose Shoes?' workshop for Dads.

And there were many more snippets of #MatExp stories - mums and families and what makes a difference.

The women's stories in the conference hall were interspersed by Katie Edward's 'Spoken word' reflections. Poetry is a big part of #MatExp. I have used poetry since Whose Shoes was frst conceived 8 years ago. It is such a powerful way of getting people to understand other perspectives. Katie's cleverly chosen words provided a poignant commentary.

And similarly this powerful infographic by Michelle Quashie,

Jenny Clarke @jennythem is always fab and even got people doing a #SkinToSkin rap!

I am very honoured to have Jenny's permission to include it in the #MatExp WhoseShoes resources πŸ’œ

Jenny made everyone think about who should be No.1 person at a birth... The mother! But how often is this the reality?

T shirts were selling fast... ! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Laura James, chair of the Bromley MSLC, spoke passionately and said that 'Whose Shoes?' had been a catalyst for the changes they are making. A brilliant example of an MSLC in action, ensuring that everyone takes ownership of their pledges… and follows them through!

Catherine Williams chaired the event brilliantly, keeping to time and involving everybody . No mean feat with so much passion in the room!

So it was very rewarding to witness such a fantastic outcome of yet another of our #MatExp #WhoseShoes pledges. We are trying to gather evidence, but #MatExp is unconventional and doesn't lend itself to being counted in conventional ways!

How do you measure the ripples caused by crowdsourcing a RAP by Mums at NHS Expo? Or indeed the impact of #MatExp 'takeover' of the NHS England mini theatre as an 😎 alternative to listening to Jeremy Hunt!

It was also very rewarding to see #MatExp WhoseShoes featured so strongly in the Picker report: State of Maternity Services 2016

Great idea from Laura!

But the most important thing is that women's voices are heard loud and clear. I love this photo of Susanne's daughter who is clearly ROARing! 🦁

Charlotte Kuponiyi came along to the original Whose Shoes workshop, so it was lovely to see her supporting Michelle in fulfilling her pledge!

And everyone wore #MatExp stickers. And hopefully they sparked a few more conversations on the way home!

And how lovely to finally meet Lina ... after talking to her for so long in India!

Mary Newburn has been extremely supportive of #MatExp. She had managed to attend the 'Nobody's Patient' workshop at St. George's Hospital on the day she travelled to Sydney for #NormalBirth16 – but nipping back for #WomensVoices16 was clearly a step too far!

It was amazing as always to see our many friends tuning in and supporting from a distance - whether in the UK or across the world!

As well as, of course, all the fabulous 'tweeps' in the room who have played such a big part in the #MatExp #WhoseShoes journey.

And now people are making films, helping spread the reach of the event still further. Here is one that Michelle Quashie produced on Facebook and another that I put together. They are quick and fun to do. You don't need a big budget to do these things - just a bit of creativity and a lot of passion! We are constantly looking for new ways to collect evidence, but we are better at doing stuff like this rather than just counting things and ticking boxes. The important thing is that the #MatExp work goes on, women's voices are being heard and we are making a difference.

Like last October, #MatExp is indeed #MatExpOnTour again with some really innovative work happening. One of the things I am most thrilled about is the launch of #GrowFamilies (so important!) in Manchester on Thursday This is the brainchild of @heartmummy @EsasaruNHS and other wonderful people who have come together through #MatExp.

I love this photo but I will love it even more with Michelle, the conference organiser, in it. So I will swap the photos over as soon as I have it! πŸ˜‰

Join the magic: (especially once I update my website – coming soon!) @WhoseShoes