I had 2 video calls with the midwife from Tommy’s which felt like a lifeline

Gianina, 34, suffered 2 miscarriages before having her daughter. She says the Tommy’s Specialist Support Helpline, a service for Black and Black Mixed-Heritage women, was a ‘lifeline’ through her last pregnancy. Gianina lives with husband Sam, 34, and daughter Dido, 10 months, in Surrey.

Going through 2 losses

My husband and I met at school, got together at university and married in 2018.

I fell pregnant in 2021 and was very excited but a couple of weeks later I had a miscarriage at around 6 or 7 weeks. That’s when I found Tommy’s. I was doing a lot of reading, trying to console myself, reassure myself it wouldn’t happen again, and the stats I found were helpful.

I got pregnant again and was a bit scared, not wanting to go through the disappointment again. I miscarried at 10 weeks and this was much harder. We were just gearing up for the first scan and telling our families our news, it was also physically more painful.

I tried to get support from doctors but was told that they won’t investigate until you’ve suffered 3 miscarriages and that made me feel angry at a system that felt so cruel.

I also had a horrible experience at work, no discretionary leave after my loss and an unsympathetic line manager. I ended up leaving the job because of it.

A difficult experience with my midwife

I got pregnant with my daughter in 2022. I had a booking appointment with the NHS midwife at around 8 weeks and found it to be really confrontational. I remember she asked how I was thinking of delivering and, when I said I was considering a c-section, she shut the conversation down. She clearly had an opinion about how birth should go and wasn’t interested in exploring options which felt very wrong. They talk about giving the patient choice but she wasn’t interested in that.

Pregnancy is a vulnerable point in your life and what I’d gone through before only made it worse. I consider myself quite an extrovert but 20 minutes with my midwife reduced me down to nothing. 

I left feeling really worried, really small.

Finding Tommy's helpline for Black women

When I saw a Facebook ad for Tommy’s specialist support for Black and Mixed-Heritage women I jumped at the chance because I had so many questions that I didn’t feel comfortable asking my regular midwife. I filled in a form and they came back to me within a couple of days. 

I had 2 video calls with the midwife from Tommy’s which felt like a lifeline. It was completely different to my regular midwife appointment. 

I felt I could trust the information I was being given because it was Tommy’s and she just seemed much more interested in trying to understand how I was feeling, and understood how the things I’ve gone through would make me nervous.

She never made me feel like my questions were silly or that I was worrying for no reason, just calmly answered. I felt like I was being heard and left that appointment feeling so much better, more confident.

I know my appointment with the NHS midwife isn’t the whole system, just one individual who had maybe had a bad morning. The Tommy’s midwife explained I could change midwives, went through the process, the pros and cons. She didn’t encourage me but let me know it was an option. In the end I didn’t change but it was useful to know that I could.

What did change was the way I negotiated my NHS midwife appointments. I was high risk so seeing a consultant anyway so I just asked my questions there and my midwife appointment was just the basics.

Why a service like this is so important

When you are in the system it’s difficult to know what your options are, what’s available. The Tommy’s helpline offered impartial, non-judgemental information. 

The midwife was mixed race too so I was able to talk about things I felt I couldn’t share with my NHS midwife who wasn’t a person of colour, like asking why the risks were higher because I’m a Black person.

It being a video call so I could see I was talking to another person of colour helped as well. I specifically called the helpline because it was dedicated to people of colour. I had big worries about the disparities, about the fact I’m 5 times more likely to die in childbirth which left me terrified.

It’s critical to feel you’re being heard, you know yourself best. I’m quite a bubbly person and there was this fear that I wouldn’t be looked after in the way I needed because I’m not that expressive emotionally.

After my Zoom conversations with the Tommy’s midwife, she emailed to say that I could reach out again if I had questions, she left the door open for me which I really appreciated.

The Tommy’s helpline left me feeling empowered to make choices for myself in a way I didn’t feel confident to do before and, as a result, I had a better experience. I benefited enormously and hope the service continues to provide that avenue of support for people of colour because I think it will help more people have positive pregnancies.