"My hope still is to leave this world a little bit better than when I got here"
I am a born and raised New Yorker and 13 year Rome resident who after 13 years working in the film industry in New York, switched gears and started my own business in Italy, a country where that is no small accomplishment. I am a single mom raising the coolest bi-cultural, self proclaimed 10 year old feminist. Bellies Abroad is my brain child and view empowering women as a life long mission.
HI Lauren Ito , We believe we address pretty much all of the user personas. But if we had to choose ONE of the four categories we would have to say the Support Systems. Bellies Abroad is all about offering support to women and families, both outside of their home countries as well as the local communities in which they reside. Science has shown that women with strong support networks around them have more positive birth outcomes. A woman outside of her home culture and community has a harder time accessing that supportive community. We provide that community through our courses, support groups and social media groups where families can ask each other everything from hospital/clinic recommendations to where to find ballet shoes for the dance recital. As for our dads, we include them in our birth courses and meetings and refer to them as Dadvocates. We know that dads who are well informed can have a great positive impact on a woman’s labour, delivery and motherhood experience. The Bellies Abroad support network also extends to our providers, by giving them the opportunity to consult with like minded professionals around the globe regarding their patients or for peer review on their research. We currently have 3000 newsletter subscribers as well as over 7000 organic social media followers. A few examples of some of our mothers are, Claire who worked in publishing until her husband got offered a lucrative contract in another country. She arrived 5 months pregnant and is wondering if she should return home for the birth. She is worried about not having her familiar surroundings and is feeling rather lonely. She is frustrated because she doesn't have her network around her nor does she understand the culture she has been brought into. She is trying to understand why things don't work as they do "at home". Bellies Abroad is there to help her understand what is going on in her body, what happens during birth and offering professionals and friends to reassure her and confide in. Mercedes was with her boyfriend for 5 years, she got pregnant and he left her for another woman. To cheer her up her mother and sister took her on a trip. During the trip she began bleeding and the local doctors told her she could not leave until she delivered. She now has to deliver in a place where she does not speak the language and to which she has absolutely no connection. Bellies Abroad provides her with access to professionals she can trust and understand as well as a community with which she can share her fears and doubts.
Thanks for reading and we are happy to answer any further questions anyone might have!
Unfortunately this attitude is not limited to Italy. There are many health care professionals who do things in certain ways "because this is how they have always been done." We must remember that hospital protocols for women delivering babies have not changed much since their inception. The first women to deliver in hospitals were the poor and indigent since they could not afford to pay a midwife to come to their homes, if they even had one. Why do women often deliver on their backs in hospitals? We know that it is not the most efficient position, and certainly not the most comfortable for the mother. Who gets to sit comfortably in a chair waiting to catch the baby? The health care provider, often the same person who in many cases can make twice as much money performing a C-section (it is a surgical procedure) while spending one sixteenth the amount of time as they would for a vaginal delivery. As for the UK government, the foreign office reached out to us after getting feedback from their female staff who were posted in Italy, as many had taken our birth course, saying that they were not adequately being covered within the Italian system during their deliveries. We worked with the head of their health services office to come up with a better way to meet the needs of these women in a way that worked for the mothers and the office's budget restrictions. Birth and motherhood are incredibly culturally influenced. A Masai woman will go off on her own to deliver while a Maori woman will be in the family home with all family members around her with their hands on her to transfer their energy for the delivery. Which is "right"? This is why we use the World Health Organization guidelines as our "guide". They are researched based and as culturally "unbiased" as one can get. We find a fair amount of "conflict" within our multicultural families and we suggest that women share articles or research based studies with family members who challenge their choices. It does not always work but often softens the discord a bit.