These two things may seem like an unlikely blog title. But allow me to share a story with you.
I have been a mover and shaker in the fitness industry for more than a decade. My passion has been to create a greater awareness of women’s health issues. And to build on this awareness to challenge the traditional ways women are trained. This motivated me to start my own women’s only fitness franchise (mishfit®), write education for the fitness industry and start the Women’s Health and Fitness Summit.
My advocacy often attracts other passionate women into my orbit. One of these was Amy Dawes. I fielded a few phone calls from Amy, who seemed quite determined to get to know me. She had recently had her second baby, however, it was the details around the traumatic birth of her first daughter that had led her to contact me. Amy had a vision to bring support and awareness to women (and their partners) of what birth trauma was. And just how prevelant it was.
However, Amy lived in Brisbane and I lived in Melbourne. So our communications were limited to phone, text and email. But she was persistent. At the end of each call, she would book the next, determined that our conversation would continue. By chance, a few months later I had the opportunity to fly to Brisbane for a long weekend. (Pre-COVID I would often travel with my husband for his work and then stay on for weekend retreats). So I called Amy and offered her the opportunity to meet me at our inner city Brisbane hotel. The hotel had a pool and I thought it was a perfect opportunity for her to get out of the house, and we could all use the pool to hang out and entertain her toddler at the same time. This was the plan.
On the morning of our meeting, I received a text message from Amy. It was short and filled with angst. “I just can’t manage to leave the house. I feel so overwhelmed at the moment with going out by myself with the girls. I’m sorry.”
I put myself in her shoes. Although it had been a while, I vividly recalled the drama of getting a toddler and baby dressed, sorted and into the car. It was an event of massive proportions. I replied “What about I jump in an Uber and come to you. I’ll hold the baby while we chat. On condition: you MUST NOT clean for me.” She replied immediately with a yes and a barrage of emojis.
While I was in the Uber and on my way to Amy’s house, I received another text message. It said:
“Is it too early in our friendship to ask that you pick up a coffee for me?”
Were we friends? The Uber driver knew a coffee shop enroute, so we made a short detour and he waited while I jumped out to order two lattes to go. While waiting in line, I received a second text request:
“And an almond croissant too?”
I laughed out loud and immediately knew that Amy and I were to be firm friends.
In 2019, Melbourne – at the Brene Brown event
In this blog I wrote about Jenni who had a condition called levator avulsion, where the pelvic floor is partially torn away from the bone. Pelvic floor dysfunction is wide and varied and this condition has only just been acknowledged by the medical profession. As crazy as that might sound, there may still be women who do not know that this is why things don’t feel quite right for them.
Bi-lateral levator avulsion is when the pelvic floor muscle in completely torn off the bone.
Amy’s post birth recovery started with knowing something was not quite right. Although being told that there was nothing wrong after her traumatic first birth, Amy just knew differently.
Again, her perserverance reigned supreme.
Amy was sixteen months post-partum when she was given the correct diagnois of a full bi-lateral levator avulsion.
Amy learned her bi-lateral levator avulsion, was the direct result of her forceps delivery.
Amy did what most of us do when we need to know more about a subject. She consulted Google with the search term physical birth trauma and could not find even one website that could offer support during this difficult and confusing time.
Armed with my almond croissants and coffee, I was about to discover just how determined Amy was to be the voice of women who suffer in silence.
Let these statistics sink in for a moment:
Amy has created a Not For Profit called the Australian Birth Trauma Association (ABTA).
Amy is truly passionate about raising awareness of the physical and psychological consequences of birth injuries.
ABT’s purpose is:
- Raising awareness of physical and psychological birth trauma and the significant consequences for the woman and her family
- Working with obstetricians, physiotherapists, mental health experts, midwives and urogynaecologists to prevent or address these injuries more effectively
- Supporting affected women and families
Amy created the ABTA website and the logistical set up for this Not For Profit, all while having her second child.
The time when your babies are babies and toddlers are mini teenagers, being a full-time mum… is a full-time, all consuming job! Starting a Not for Profit is no simple accomplishment.
There is a physical recovery from birth trauma. But there is also psychological healing. Also an adjustment to your perception of parenthood. Amy had imagined she would be an active mum, working out with her daughter in the park. Amy wanted to model to her daughter a mother that was strong and full of vitality.
This was the role model that Amy both wanted to be and imagined as her right.
“It’s difficult when you realise you’re not going to be the mum that you thought you’d be. I wanted to show my daughter strong women. Strength used to mean me being physically fit.
But they don’t know the mum that I thought was going to be.
They only know me as I am.
And that’s ok.”
I reckon Amy is one of the strongest women I have ever known.
It is important to acknowledge that birth trauma does not always mean physical damage or injury. It can also encompass psychological trauma.
If your birth felt traumatic to you, then it was. Experiences of trauma are unique and what may be traumatic for one person, may not be traumatic for another. Also, try not to compare your experience to other people’s. Your personal experience is valid and worthy of acknowledgment, treatment and recovery.
– Australasian Birth Trauma Association
Since our first coffee and croissant meeting, ABTA has gone from strength to strength. In 2018, ABTA expanded to include a Peer-2-Peer mentorship program.
The Peer-2-Peer program provides support for women and their families impacted by trauma from childbirth. Amy and her team have developed the training package for volunteers. They are in the process of training support staff all across Australia, with plans to expand into New Zealand.
All of this work equates to untolled woman hours and as ABTA is a Not For Profit, Amy donates her time on a voluntary basis.
Birth Trauma Awareness Week starts on the 6th September. This year the theme is journeys. ABTA is aiming to raise awareness and much needed funds by encouraging women and their families who may have experienced birth related trauma to register for the walk and #starttheconversation.
ABTA is aiming to raise $50,000 to provide Australian and New Zealand women with free access to the Peer-2-Peer Meets, a six week, trauma-informed program. The Peer-2-Peer program is ready to go nationwide to ensure no woman is left feeling alone and unheard.
Here is how you can help:
- Join me in setting up your own fund raising page for the Walk n Talk
- Sponsor me on my Walk n Talk
- Join me in purchasing a Tshirt with the message #starttheconversation
If you want to hear more about Amy and her story then enjoy this wonderful interview that Amy did with the delightful Kylianne for the 2019 Women’s Health and Fitness Summit.
Last words of advice from Amy:
And our friendship, forged over almond croissants, is still as deliciously warm and funny today.
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