About Voice For Parents
Voice For Parents is a charitable non-profit organisation that was established in 2015, after many months of planning, researching and discussion. Carla's background in midwifery and other birth support work, and her sister Jenni's career in facilitating new mother's support groups, led them to an appreciation of the need for an organisation whose sole purpose was to look after the emotional needs of parents who were struggling to come to terms with a traumatic birth experience. A survey conducted by Carla and Jenni, set out to establish the needs of parents, traumatised by birth, and to reveal what sort of support they believed would have been most helpful to them. Impassioned responses poured in, cementing the sisters' belief that setting up Voice For Parents was a very necessary and worthwhile undertaking.
Voice For Parents also endeavours to raise awareness of the existence of birth trauma within society, and to educate the maternity services community about the implications of birth trauma, and ways to decrease its incidence.
The Voice For Parents Charities Registration Number is CC53501.
About Carla Sargent
Carla's passion around birth began in her teen years. At the age of 21, she gained her Midwifery Registration and began work as an independent midwife in Tauranga. Two years later, her daughter Laura was born. Raising Laura on her own, Carla decided that a career change was in order - being on-call 24-7 didn't mesh too well with single parenthood - leading her to gain a post-graduate Diploma in secondary school teaching (Science/Biology). Although she found a lot of satisfaction in her teaching work, Carla was still drawn to supporting women in their birthing and parenting roles. After marrying Mark, and when pregnant with her second child, she became very involved with the Waikato Home Birth Association, holding support-style coffee mornings in her home for over three years.
At this same time in Carla's life, she embarked on a project which took her five years (and another baby) to complete - she published a book on birth in New Zealand, titled Where the Heart Is. One of the stories in that book, Rockford's Birth by Annaleise, tells of the healing birth experience that Annaleise had following a previous traumatic birth. Before her second pregnancy, Annaleise had attended a new mother's support group that Jenni (introduced below) was facilitating. During one of the sessions, Annaleise revealed to the group how traumatic her first birth had been. Following this, Jenni suggested to Annaleise that she talk to her sister, Carla, about her experience, to find out more about how to heal and move forward, and how to plan for a more positive birth with her next. Both Annaleise and Carla found such satisfaction in the interaction that followed that, in essence, it was the seed for what has now become Voice For Parents.
Although Carla hasn't experienced birth trauma first-hand, she has witnessed, and heard about, enough traumatic birth experiences to have a full understanding of its causes and its implications, both on a personal level and on a societal level. Her interactions with struggling new mothers, over the years, has afforded her a good understanding of the needs of families affected by birth trauma. Carla is confident that her skills, knowledge, and compassionate nature will enable her to provide invaluable support for those in need.
Carla's passion for home birth and the benefits it can offer many families, is hard to deny. However, it is important to understand that she has no intention of pushing any sort of an agenda onto the people who seek her support through Voice For Parents. The following quote sums up Carla's sentiment perfectly:
"I do not care what kind of birth you have...a homebirth, scheduled cesarean, epidural hospital birth, or if you birth alone in the woods next to baby deer. I care that you had options, that you were supported in your choices, and that you were respected." January Harshe
About Jenni Sargent
After gaining a Degree in Psychology, Jenni travelled the world for five years, growing, learning, and living life to the full. She returned to NZ in 2000 and completed a Diploma in primary school teaching. It was during Jenni's first year of teaching that she became pregnant with her daughter, Eva. Having spent the previous year living with her sister Carla, and Carla's newborn Laura, Jenni was thrilled to be welcoming a baby of her own, and excited to be giving her niece a cousin.
Eva's birth was far from the gentle experience that Jenni had planned for her. After three days of labour and excruciating back pain, Jenni threw in her home birth plans and headed for hospital. The worst part of Jenni's hospital experience was when newborn Eva was 'stolen' from her and taken for tests, with Jenni unable to get to her daughter, as she was still paralysed from an epidural.
During Jenni's second pregnancy, she discovered, at 37 weeks, that she was expecting twins. Two days later she went into labour. Although she managed to birth her first baby peacefully at home, trouble followed quickly thereafter. An emergency caesarean section ensued, and initially there were fears of brain damage for Jenni's baby. To say that Jenni was in shock in the days and weeks that followed, as she regained strength after a massive bleed, and struggled with the trauma that is part and parcel of having a baby in the NICU, is somewhat of an understatement. Jenni's marriage fell apart soon after. She has been a single parent to her three daughters (now aged 13, 10 and 10) for nine years.
When they reached school-age, Jenni's twins were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. They needed a huge amount of Jenni's time and patience, as they gradually transitioned to full school days without their mum. For Jenni, going back to full-time work didn't feel like an option. She had been at Playcentre with her girls for seven years, and it was through that connection that she got part-time work as a SPACE (Supporting Parents Alongside Children's Education) facilitator, working with groups of new parents during their first year of parenthood.
During one of the SPACE sessions, there is an opportunity for women to discuss their birth experiences. Time and time again, Jenni found herself shocked at the abundance of women sharing awful experiences, and at the amount of tears and pain in the room on those days. Continually, she heard mums saying things like, "Oh well, it could have been worse... at least I have a healthy baby, I should be grateful..." Words that were accompanied by looks of devastation on their faces. Too often, Jenni heard women say they didn't want to ever have another baby because of their birth experience. She watched those mums struggle, not only with PND and bonding, but also with their inner pain, sense of loss, and trauma.
Not knowing where else to advise those women to go to seek further support, for those that wanted it, Jenni would set up meetings with her sister Carla. Jenni accompanied those hurting women on those visits, where they would talk through their experiences and have Carla work her magic, demystifying their experience, removing the guilt and self blame, and reassuring them that things could be different with a next birth. Jenni had complete trust in Carla, and the two of them gained great satisfaction from the support they were able to give. It became apparent to them both that they were a pretty cool team during those sessions, and they came to the realisation that they wanted more women to be able to experience that type of healing.
Last year when Carla suggested that the two of them start up this organisation, Carla gave Jenni some books on birth trauma to read. Jenni fell apart reading other people's stories and realised she had not yet faced her own birth trauma. So, ten years on, she finally feels able to begin to deal with what had happened to her. Jenni hit rock bottom, but was well supported, and says she is still on the journey of healing.
Through working with hundreds of parents over the past four years, Jenni has discovered that there is no 'best' way of parenting or birthing. She appreciates that we are all individuals with different levels of support and knowledge, different beliefs and values... that we are all just trying to do our best. Jenni understands how hard so many mothers find it to reach out for help, so she wants to reach out to them.
Update: Jenni gained full time employment in 2019 and is no longer able to commit to working alongside Carla as a Voice For Parents facilitator. She will, however, continue to share ideas and provide encouragement as Carla continues to do this important mahi.