A refugee who came to Scotland while pregnant has recalled the “scary” experience of preparing to have her first child alone.
Mariam Awomosu, from Nigeria, said navigating the maternity services was not as straightforward as it is in her home country and said she had no one to turn to for help.
Four months on, the 33-year-old has Folajomi in her arms and a “community of sisters” who have become her bedrock of support at local birthing charity AMMA Birth Companions.
She told STV News: “I was scared. You don’t have a lot of information and you’re by yourself. Having a baby alone in a new environment is difficult.
“Where I come from, you can drive to any hospital and be seen.
“So I would just walk to the hospital. And on getting there they’d tell you they cannot attend to you cause you’re not registered with a GP. It was challenging.”
Mariam was pointed to birthing charity AMMA, where she was partnered with a birth companion who helped her through the parenting process.
She added her companion travelled with her in an ambulance to the hospital after she called to say she couldn’t feel her baby moving.
Mariam added: “Imagine me not having a birth companion and my baby not moving. I don’t know my emergency numbers, I’ve not been registered even with my pharmacy. I had no one else.
“I was scared to talk to the doctors there but she built my confidence. She told me ‘Mariam, you can speak! The way you talk to me you can talk to them too’. She made me feel like this is a free place you can talk.
“She was my first friend and my first family, like my sister. When I’m feeling very down she was the first person I would call.”
AMMA supports birthing mums and parents in need of additional and trauma-informed care, information, or advocacy throughout the perinatal period.
The charity was recently awarded Maternity Service of Sanctuary status, recognising its support and welcome for people seeking refuge.
The majority of women the group helps are seeking asylum in Scotland and come from countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East – with nearly a third of them first-time parents.
Figures from AMMA report three-quarters of women they help have experienced delays in accessing health services, with 61% facing barriers in understanding information.
The group offers pregnancy, birth, and postnatal companionship, along with antenatal education and peer support activities.
Mariam and her baby go to AMMA every Wednesday to catch up with other mums and let their children play together at a weekly drop-in session.
“It gives me an opportunity to leave my house and make my mind calm,” she said. “Every single woman should have this kind of service. We need to reach out to more people.
“Without this group I think I would be moping, crying, feeling very down.
“Most of the time your strength lies with the support you get, because the support you get brings out the best in you. Because you can be like, ‘This person didn’t give up on me – so why am I giving up on myself?
“With the right support you can become strong. You get to do things you never thought you could do.”
Folajomi even has her own ‘grandma’ at AMMA, a “wonderful” post-natal support volunteer who cuddles and bathes her to give mum a well-deserved rest.
Mariam urges new mums in need of support and friendship to ask for help when they need it.
“Where I come from, they say it takes a whole community to raise a child,” Mariam said.
“Don’t be shy to ask for help. Whether you’re new here or not, you still need support. You are not begging for anything.
“We are humans and we are supposed to be there for each other. It is natural.
“I feel grateful to be a part of this community. It’s the oneness you feel. Everybody, we are like sisters.”