(To read more about the CARES of today, please see ‘About Us’.)
CARES is the product of the combined powers of founders Jo Bainbridge, Carolyn Donaghey and Emba Murphy. In 1997, Jo had given birth via a ‘failure to progress’ C-section around the same time as Carolyn and Emba. During Jo’s second pregnancy she found it important to seek out those who had had a VBAC as a ‘healing’ strategy, and so she sought out a network of women. Carolyn, in the meantime, was “the typical woman who had a good Caesarean; I believed that it was necessary at that time and made the choice to have it.” When preparing for her next birth, Carolyn began to get a sense that it was not going to be as simple as she thought: “I was determined that I was going to have a vaginal birth this time and did lots of reading and sought out support in Adelaide. I could not get over how isolated I felt. I remembered a group from my first pregnancy called BACUP they had come to my yoga class and spoken about Caesareans and VBAC. But, when I needed them, they no longer existed.”
Jo’s midwife arranged a get together with some women she knew through the Homebirth Network. Jo “found [the group] very beneficial. The strength and knowledge of these women combined was wonderful.” Carolyn, who had now connected with some wonderful independent midwives, was also directed to this group who were trying to support other women who had experienced Caesarean birth. A meeting was held to try to formalise the group, and – almost at her due date – Carolyn attended. This was the first time that Jo, Carolyn and Emba met, along with long-standing CARES core member, Trudi Kluge.
It was agreed that an official group should be started – the ‘birth’ of CARES occurred during 1999. Carolyn believed “this was something that had to be achieved for other women like me. I couldn’t be the only crazy person wanting a safe vaginal birth!” After the birth of her son, Carolyn became more involved in the process of setting up CARES and getting organised to give other women support. By May 2000, CARES SA Incorporated was official, and support meetings started happening on a monthly basis.
The group was inspired by Birthrites WA, and Jo and Carolyn worked closely with Birthrites convener, Jackie Mawson. When brainstorming ways to officially launch CARES in 2001, Jo and Carolyn had the idea to begin a national day of Caesarean awareness. Jackie was asked to nominate a date as she had been a dedicated inspiration to many. She chose 11 September – her first child’s birthday. Since then, 11 September has been known as National Caesarean Awareness Day (which we now fondly shorten to NCAD).
For over ten years CARES has continued to grow and evolve, with the hard work and dedication of several committees. In response to community need and our ever-growing online presence, CARES now reaches a broader audience than ever before, supporting women not only from around the state, but also from interstate and sometimes abroad. However, despite these changes, we continue to hold monthly coffee mornings, information sessions and CARES events for the local South Australian birth community.
Following in the footsteps of Jo, Carolyn and Emba, each committee does whatever they can to raise awareness and support women, whilst also birthing and raising their own young families, working, studying… and everything else! The nature of our group means we forge solid friendships as we share significant life events - like the births of new children – and look to one another for comfort and reassurance when it is needed along the way. This kind of support continues to be as vital and relevant now as it was back in 1999, especially for those seeking to make sense of previous birth experiences and/or planning to VBAC.
Thank you, Jo, Carolyn and Emba, on behalf of birthing women and their families, for your foresight, wisdom and dedication in establishing our unique and valuable organisation. As you did, we also hope to also “empower women and their families to achieve the desired positive birth for both mother and child.”