Thursday, 1 September 2016

A Bolt from the Blue

I have been very quiet blogwise this year. Since becoming poorly in November a lot has happened and I didn't want to put things out on my blog that would be here forever. I have had a lot of help from unlikely sources, such as the DWP who have been nothing short of amazing, and have had high quality therapy and am feeling much stronger and ready to start moving on again.

Today I have had some information which has given me a bolt from the blue.

My mother has been painstakingly tracing our family history for many years. She is now at the stage where she knows quite a lot about her family and we are travelling to Ireland together later this month to see what more we can find.

The line we are looking at is my mother's maternal line and she has found her Great Great Grandmother Catherine Dinnen. As I was speaking to my mum this morning I wanted to find out more. And to my great surprise I found we had something in common.

Catherine was from County Cavan in Ireland, it sounds like she worked very hard from a young age. She came to New South Wales and then Tasmania as a free settler sponsored by her ex convict brother. She married and had three sons.

Very sadly she died at the age of 27 having her third son William, who died when he was 18 from meningitis.

Catherine died of convulsions. Eclamptic shock. A bolt from the blue.

This was 1871 in Tasmania, in a very rural and remote area. We don't know much about maternal care she would have received, but I doubt that there would have been a doctor present. William was baptised on the day of his birth. He must have been in very poor condition and the fact that he survived until 18 is quite something, many babies even now, do not survive a pregnancy where pre eclampsia is present.

There are three competing emotions for me right now. A feeling of solidarity, that I am not the only one in my family to have been visited by severe pre eclampsia.

The second a huge feeling of gratitude to the researchers, the doctors, the midwives, the nurses, everyone who plays a part in ensuring the safety of women in pregnancy and childbirth now. How very fortunate and blessed I was to have come through this experience physically unscathed with an extremely healthy child.

And thirdly, that feeling of obligation. In many countries in the world they haven't come as far from 1870's Tasmania as we have here. That women are still very vulnerable to pre eclampsia without access to medication, safe caesarean sections and high quality aftercare. Too many women do not have access to safe medical facilities and medical personnel.

Maternal healthcare is a huge issue and still massively important to me.

To my great great grandmother Catherine, thank you for your bravery, your tenacity and for giving me my great grandfather, and this proud Irish family that made their home in Tasmania.

Campaigning on maternal health is something that took a back seat when I was in my previous job role, but now it can be back on my agenda.

This trip to Ireland will, perhaps, be a turning point in my own recovery and an opportunity to refresh, regroup and get ready for what is ahead.