posted by RoseMary Joyce, CCE (BWI)
I f you popped into any Bump Antenatal Class run by The Youth Alive Trust during 2015-2017 you would be hard pressed to find any shame or hidden away mothers. Instead you would have been likely to find the most immaculately dressed, beautifully made-up mothers-to-be, and a bunch of really excited Dads. Some were married, most were in committed relationships. There might have been one or two single parents. It sounds like any old NZ antenatal class… except this class was exceptionally different. Every parent in attendance was aged between 13 and 23.
I had the privilege of facilitating the Bump classes for two years and writing their antenatal course programme. Based on the BirthWorks programme and the health model Te Whare Tapa Whā, Bump was designed to be attended by parents-to-be along with their whānau (family), and to empower young parents to make informed choices and have positive birth experiences. The course very quickly became a huge success, was highly recommended by midwives, and had a really high percentage of Māori and Pasifika attendees (something very rare in the South Island of NZ). Here are 5 reasons why I believe Bump was a raging success:
1. What works for indigenous people works for everyone.
The cultural template within which a pregnant teen lives will influence how they are perceived by others and how they view themselves. In NZ, Māori have a much higher teen pregnancy rate than non Māori. Within Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) whakapapa (the passing on of lineage) and nurturing future generations to ensure sustenance and survival are key concepts. Therefore it is no surprise that being hapū (pregnant) is seen as something to be treasured. A pregnant teen who is Māori is more likely to continue her pregnancy and keep her baby than a non-Māori pregnant teen (Pihama, n.d.). In Bump antenatal classes we choose to view pregnancy through a Māori world view. Smoking cessation, healthy eating, relationships, the microbiome etc. were all discussed through the context of valuing baby and passing on a healthy whakapapa (lineage). Because of this underlying value, both Māori and non-Māori whānau (family) felt welcomed, important and a sense of belonging and purpose.
2. All pregnant families should be treated with respect.
Over the 2 years Bump ran many participants commented it was the first time they had felt valued and respected by a health professional. It was not uncommon for the pregnant mothers to have had a communication break down with their midwife, and for partners and wider family to have not met their midwife. Within our class, what participants shared was valued and listened to. Families had the opportunity to consider information and to make informed decisions about their births. This gave many parents-to-be the courage to share their opinions and choices with their midwife. We also found partners and families were more likely to attend midwifery appointments with the Mum-to-be.
3. Food, food, glorious food!
Central to any BirthWorks antenatal class is the amazing food! The Bump antenatal course food was always awesome and was an opportunity for families to chat and friendships to be made. Not only was it a great way to demonstrate healthy eating, it also created oxytocin, meaning participants felt more relaxed and enjoyed the course more!
4. Hands on learning.
Sitting and listening to someone talk is a difficult way to learn at the best of times. For Bump we tried to incorporate as much ‘hands on learning’ as possible. New parents would come and bath their baby with the group, birth position stations would be set up around the room and practiced by participants, baby slings would be tried on by fathers-to-be etc. Although this meant a lot more setting up and packing down, it was worth all the fun, laughter and learning benefits!
If you have the opportunity to facilitate antenatal education for young parents in your area, you are incredibly privileged! Pregnant teens do not need an educator to ‘help’ or to ‘rescue’ them. As with all pregnant families, they simply need a special someone who’ll empower them to fly.
Anne Else, 'Adoption - Adoption and single mothers – 1960s and 1970s', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/adoption/page-3 (accessed 10 January 2018)
Pihama, L. (n.d.). Overview of Māori Teen Pregnancy. Retrieved from http://www.superu.govt.nz/sites/default/files/maori-teen-pregnancy.pdf