Our ground-breaking collaboration with Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust sees us providing antenatal workshops free of charge to all women and their birth partner who register with their midwife in the Ipswich Hospital area. Many of you reading this have already attended a workshop with us, and I hope you enjoyed it! Behind the scenes there has been, and continues to be, a huge amount of partnership working with the hospital to achieve this.
Many Midwives are wary of Suffolk Babies for coming in and “taking over” their antenatal education, but in fact what has happened is that it is a collaborative process. We were on trial for 18 months and we now have a contract to deliver the classes. (No money changes hands as part of this, we still fund it all ourselves.) Jo regularly meets with the community and hospital Midwifery teams to discuss the provision and we are kept up to date on any changes we need to make. In fact, that is usually where Jo is when she is not teaching – the hospital car park fund does well out of us!
What drove us to set up Suffolk Babies was seeing how variable antenatal and postnatal education was, and how little funding it received. The NHS budgets continue to be cut and funding for all maternity services comes out of the same pot – so funding for antenatal education is further down the list of priorities than, say, emergency caesarean sections, which is entirely understandable. However, as people who work with new parents, we were seeing all the time how a lack of decent, accessible, free antenatal education was contributing to parents feeling less than happy about their birth experience, and inadequately prepared for parenthood.
We knew there was a better way. We can use enterprise as a force for good. Many parents are happy to pay for antenatal classes and baby classes, and people like you who come to us for classes also know that you are contributing to providing free antenatal education. It’s like donating to a charity, except you also get fantastic classes in return for your donation.
Our mission is to create a fully self-sustaining model that will last forever, where those people who are able to pay for classes help fund free classes for those who cannot. We don’t want to rely on funding from government or other agencies, as this tends to only be guaranteed for a short period of time. Our model has no end date, so we can continue providing support for families in Suffolk for years to come. The bigger we grow, the more free services we can provide. We have started with the Essential Preparation for Birth Workshop, but we have plans to provide even more in the way of free support in the future.
We have come across a range of attitudes from people to our ambitions, ranging from patronising to downright hostility. It’s still unusual, I think, to see a company run by a bunch of women, who are getting out there and doing what needs to be done. Older men (who are usually the ones holding the purse strings for different agencies) tend to refer to us as “you girls” and seem somewhat surprised that this is more than a little job for a bit of pin money. Then on the other hand we find that some people are threatened by how driven we are. There is still a double standard about how women and men are expected to act in business. We don’t do this to line our pockets – if you only knew how much we have invested in this! We do it because it needs to be done and we want to make the world a better, kinder, happier place for new parents.
We were shocked to discover last week that the contribution Suffolk Babies makes to Ipswich Hospital by providing the Essential Preparation for Birth Workshop is actually more (considerably more) than Bounty gives them. How cool is that for such a small community-based company to make that much difference? We save the NHS enough money every year to fund a Midwife’s salary and we have made antenatal classes more accessible by now running them at evenings and weekend so many more people are attending.
So if you are reading this and thinking about booking classes with us, please do. Not only are our classes awesome, and very reasonably priced, but you will also be joining our amazing community and creating something new, to make Suffolk the best place in the country to have a baby.