Alvina was 29 weeks pregnant, homeless in a foreign city, and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when her midwife referred her. Amma’s birth companions, a Glasgow-based charity that supports vulnerable women during pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.
“I was in a nightmare situation,” Alvina told Positive News. “Amma was the support system that helped me.”
Alvina, who is from Zimbabwe, finds it too difficult to talk about how she ended up seeking asylum in Scotland, but remembers deeply mistrusting people and institutions, including social services. “I thought if I was wrong, they could take my baby,” she said.
But when she was visited by Amma volunteers, who came with friendly smiles instead of official files, she felt comfortable. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, where did they come from?’ I was overwhelmed. “
Founded by Helen MacDonald, a former midwife, and Sarah Zadik, who previously helped people through the asylum process, Amma has 30 volunteer labor partners and has so far supported 45 vulnerable women, many of them refugees.
The charity also helps mothers find support for housing and asylum applications, and organizes social activities to help them form friendships.
As Amma celebrates her first birthday, which has coincided with a resurgence of coronavirus-related challenges, the team has been reflecting on its own difficult deliveries.
Having a constant source of support and having someone who is nonjudgmental and with whom you can speak openly makes a huge difference.
“It has been a challenge,” said Amanda Purdie, manager of the charity. “We were allowed to be in deliveries [during the lockdown], but only when [mums] they were in established work. “
During the pandemic, Amma has given vulnerable mothers internet data phones and set up Zoom calls to ensure support continues online. “Until you start working with them, it’s hard to imagine how isolated they are,” Purdie said. “Having a constant source of support and having someone who is nonjudgmental and with whom you can speak openly makes a huge difference.”
Alvina’s baby, Imani, arrived prematurely and therefore Alvina did not have a birth partner. However, she says that the postnatal support she and Imani, which is fine, received was “a lifesaver.” Since then, she has become a volunteer herself. “It has been very enriching,” he said.
Image: Solen Feyissa