One has to look at the situation the mother is placed in. The mother, during pregnancy, was informed that there may be something wrong with the child she was carrying. Downs Syndrome was voiced as a possibility amongst several other problems. This is a fear that I am sure all expectant mothers dread to hear. There is no way anyone, and in particular the male fraternity can know what effect this has on the mother. One could read all the books ever produced on the subject of pregnancy and never come close to how the mother actually feels.
There would be in most people’s minds an expectation that the hospital staff in a maternity ward would understand to some degree at least what this mother was going through. Especially as most of the nurses in the department were women. Her new baby daughter was ill. The fears that she had harboured during pregnancy flooded back.
Did she receive the understanding and compassion as one would expect from hospital staff. No she did not! What she was met with was outright conflict, hostility and a total lack of concern for her feelings. She was literally pushed aside and expected to react as if nothing untoward had happened or was happening to her new baby. As if the situation she and her baby were in was all perfectly normal. The application of any compassion and human understanding was absent and the mother was plunged, understandably, into Post Natal Depression (PND).
She was criticized by hospital staff shortly after the birth for looking ‘disheveled’. She had given birth, her new precious little daughter was ill and what did they expect, a Vogue model! Where was the humanity? This was not a Hollywood movie it was real life, there were no make-up artists or hairdressers waiting to spring into action. She asked for a consultation with a midwife as she did not feel as she expected she would have. The euphoria she had expected to feel after the birth was not there. The rush of instant maternal feeling she had anticipated was not there. In its place was confusion. A confusion caused by all the different information she was getting from the staff and their insensitive and unfriendly attitude.
Instead of sitting her down to calmly explain what was happening and why, she was met with raw hostility from certain members of the nursing staff. This lack of sympathy was compounded by staff untrained in mental health accusing the mother of having a mental health problem. The request she had made regarding PND was totally ignored and she was threatened with the police arrest if she continued showing signs of these spurious remarks of mental health problems. Part of the problem was that despite suffering from PND she managed to be assertive in her attitude. This was then considered by hospital staff to be aggression. A mistake many make when presented with assertiveness. She was warned that the police would be called.
Can anyone imagine the effect of this? This new mother was being assertive and showing concern for her new daughter who was ill. The attitude was ‘how dare she be assertive’! For nine months a woman carries her baby, she is told there may be problems with her unborn daughter. Would it have been outside the realms of possibility for her to expect some modicum of understanding and compassion? Instead she was met with conflict and threatened with arrest.
It was at this point that the hospital staff decided to call in the local authority social services. There is now suspicion that social services were informed even before the baby was born. This suspicion is based on documentation produced by a hospital midwife during the pregnancy. Documentation that the mother was never informed about. It was only much later that it came to light. It contained information that was totally wrong and should have been checked by a simple phone call to the mother’s GP. This decision to call social services was backed by members of the hospital staff who had never met, talked to, or otherwise had any contact with the mother. It was purely an administrative decision taken on what can only be described as the opinion of staff untrained to deal with this situation. It became obvious that a certain degree of personal animosity from some of the staff also existed.
Meetings were held between the hospital and the social services where decisions were made that the parents were presented with as a fait accompli. There was no consultation process with the parents where they could give their views. The essence of this is the meetings held by the social services and hospital staff could in fact be unlawful. Similar circumstances had been challenged previously in the Appeals Court and had been found to be unlawful and any decision taken at the meeting deemed to be invalid.
The outcome of the meeting was an agreement which at first the mother refused to sign. Not because she did not agree with it, it was simply that it was handwritten and totally illegible. I have seen a copy of this handwritten document and frankly it looks as if an illiterate chicken had walked across the paper. If what I saw was an indication of the written communication methods accepted within the local authority then I am of the opinion that those producing the document need to go back to school. Somewhere around the second or third grade would be appropriate. The mother simply asked for it to be typed. Part of this agreement was that the social services demanded that the mother have a Mental Health Assessment under the Mental Health Act. It has subsequently found that this is a favourite tactic of the social services. It is designed to confuse and upset the mother even further. No consideration that she had an ill baby. It should also be noted that this agreement was presented to the parents without the chance to consult with a legal representative. It was also accompanied with a verbal threat, “sign or you don’t get your baby home” A threat that is nothing less than blatant blackmail, which I may add is a criminal offense and something that must to be looked at in more detail by some other authority.
The result was the mother had two mental health assessments in twelve hours. The first carried out when one of the ‘professionals’, a social worker, was not qualified to be there but subsequently allowed to produce a report. Twelve hours later another assessment was done by properly qualified people. This second assessment concluded that the mother presented as no danger to her baby. All this carried out while this new mother’s baby daughter lay ill in the next room. The author was present at the second assessment and during it a nurse was openly hostile to the mother for nothing other than what can only be described as purely personal reasons. I was later informed that this was one of the hospital staff to whom the mother had been assertive. It was also the nurse who had said to the mother, who when observed to handle her daughter very gently, “babies are a lot more robust than you think” This remark should be held in the mind considering events that were to follow a year later.
Eventually the mother and daughter were allowed home with social services making the father the “primary carer”. At a meeting with social worker in the family home the mother tried to negotiate a small change to the agreement she had been forced to sign. The social worker present only said one sentence “I can see we are in conflict I will have to talk to my manager”. At this he got up and left. There was no discussion, no attempt to listen or negotiate. Again I attended this meeting; my own feelings were that the changes the mother proposed were sensible and not in any way confrontational. It was a simply an attempt by the mother to allow her family some breathing space and attend to their daughters needs. To be in a position where if required they could ask for help. Which later she did and was told there was none available. What she was actually told was, ‘if you need help you have to find it for yourself’.
However this was followed by another ten day admission to hospital for the baby. This time to another hospital at the mother’s insistence, as she considered it superior for the treatment of children. This second hospital stay was due to feeding difficulties continuing and the baby had lost two ounces in weight. Feeding was taking on average an hour and half. This was following the regime suggested by the original hospital to feed on demand.. During ten days her daughter was in hospital the mother visited every day. It required her to make a journey of eighty four miles a day. The father made one visit lasting twenty five minutes. You will note that so far there has been no mention of the father. That is to this point he had been ineffective in protecting his new family. It should also be noted that he had already moved out of the family home leaving the mother to cope on her own despite he had been designated by the social services to be the primary carer.