Feature: The Thanet women plugging the maternity care gap

Jayne Furniss at Mama to Mama

By Sonny Arifien

Meet some inspired locals who are taking the initiative and plugging the maternity gap between the public services, using their experience as mothers and as entrepreneurs to provide a wealth of birthing and parental support in Thanet.

Offering everything from antenatal courses, postpartum support groups, baby clothing banks and doula services, they are working vigorously to assist new families in all stages, from early pregnancy through to parenthood:

Former interior designer and full time mother Jayne Furniss set up Mama to Mama in Margate two years ago during the pandemic and has since seen the non-profit organisation grow from strength to strength.

Jayne individually curates bespoke gift boxes for new parents, providing an invaluable bridge between support workers and some of the region’s most vulnerable mothers. With a number of baby banks in operation up and down the country, Jayne’s tireless work has been galvanised by the fact that there are no similar initiatives in the region, which has some of the highest rates of child poverty in the UK.

Working closely with key organisations such as Oasis and Medaille Trust, Jayne’s motivation is to bring light into other families lives, utilising her design background to create something that looks and feels more like a gift than a charity box.

Commenting on the lack of public accessibility for support in the area, Jayne says she has seen her work spiral in recent months: “I’d like to see more support – there’s not a whole lot of free services. Vulnerable women aren’t likely to undertake expensive courses, which means they’ll be further isolated – so I’d like to see more inclusive stuff for vulnerable women.”

Sam Rae

When talking about this question of public accessibility for maternity support, Sam Rae echoes this sentiment: “The support needs to be accessible to everyone, now more than ever…I offer a lot of free support in the community as a direct response to the cost-of-living crisis – free antenatal support calls, pregnancy workshops as well as my parent meet ups”. Sam established Hey Baby Perinatal with the intent of providing a safe space where parents can get unbiased information around birth and parenting, and has since set up workshops in Margate, Dover and Canterbury.

Sam is passionate about helping new parents make the right decisions for them, based upon what their body needs. This, according to Sam, begins with changing the societal view that birth is a medical procedure: “Advocacy and consent feature heavily in my antenatal course as we are conditioned to surrender to doctors, dentists and midwives – which is fine when we need a filling or a bone mended, but pregnancy is not an illness! It’s the opposite.”

Mama to Mama Photo Christopher James

Drawing upon her own experience as a mother, and after seeing a lack of postpartum support, in what she describes as an unrealistic ‘bounce-back culture’, Natalie Georgas was inspired to take up the required training and education involved to guide other parents toward a rested, nourished and fully supported postpartum. Natalie runs Life After Birth Placenta

Remedies; providing her clients with physical and mental support, as well as natural healing remedies like placenta encapsulation, which include health benefits such as increased emotional stability, faster physical recovery, energy boosting and baby blues prevention. “Being part of someone else’s mindset shift – permissioning and encouraging them to lean into postpartum as the monumental life event that it is,” adds Natalie, “I find it has a huge positive effect on how they feel about their experience of becoming a parent.”

Amanda Paterson

Working intimately and exclusively with expectant parents on a relationship basis – which consists of support with decision making and protecting their birthing space – is Margate-based doula and mother Amanda Paterson. Amanda is passionate about supporting others along their transition into parenthood; with a role that consists of getting to know parents and their birth preferences, working through questions or concerns they may have, as well as researching and preparing for any unique circumstances that may arise along the journey.

When speaking of the local community, Amanda says: “There’s a wonderful community of young parents in Margate, working with a hospital that has had some very high profile challenges. This can cause anxiety, and stress which is the last thing that you need in pregnancy, especially as you prepare for labour”. If attending a birth, she is on call from 10 days before the due date, offering ancillary skills too, including yoga, massage, aromatherapy and reiki to expectant mothers and birthing bodies.

You can find more information about the work of these women via Instagram:

Jayne Furniss of Mama to Mama: @mamatomamamargate

Samantha Rae of Hey Baby Perinatal: @heybabyperinatal

Natalie Georgas of Life After Birth Placenta Remedies: @natgeorgas

Amanda Paterson of Your Bold Birth: @bold_birth