An ovarian cancer survivor, Joanne Teina was studying nursing at age 20 when she found out she was pregnant with twins. However, she was heartbroken to be told at her 20-week scan that she had lost one of the babies. As the pregnancy progressed, Joanne says she felt “no empathy” from medical practitioners.
“I was told I was lucky just to have one baby. I struggled with depression after the birth, but I thought that was normal. Luckily, I had a village to keep my baby safe and give me space to finish my nursing qualifications.”
Joanne Teina (Ngāti Apakura, Ngāti Hinetu, Ngāti Pakuranga) went on to train as a midwife, saying, “I became a midwife because of that difficult first pregnancy, because I didn’t want anyone else to be treated like that."
She's now known as 'Māmā Jo' which is appropriate since she's a mother of 11 children and two godchildren, grandmother of 15 and great-grandmother of one. Her life and career have been dedicated to supporting Māori mothers – a path defined by her own tough first experience of motherhood.
Making a difference
Joanne says that her midwifery training didn’t cover any aspects of Māori birthing traditions – such as home birthing and tying umbilical cords with muka ties made from harakeke – but that became a natural focus for her working with Māori whānau over 18 years as a practising midwife.
This inspired her to help establish a national Māori midwives’ organisation in 1993, and today she works with health organisations to provide pregnancy and parenting programmes and is kaumātua and cultural adviser for Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Aotearoa (PADA).
Joanne points to a report released in April 2022 by the Helen Clark Foundation that said suicide is the leading cause of maternal death in Aotearoa, with wāhine Māori three times more likely than Pākehā to die by suicide during pregnancy or within six weeks of birth.
“The frustrating thing about this report is it says the same things as all the other reports. And just like all the other reports, it’s written about Māori without our collaboration. I believe the solutions to this crisis are restoring mātauranga Māori and creating spaces where not just wāhine Māori but all women can come and be nurtured.”
Joanne planned a two-day PADA hui in Rotorua in October 2022 with a focus on restoring traditional Māori practices in the maternal mental health space. “This has been made both possible and affordable thanks to the support of MAS Foundation,” she says.
Joanne is also developing a 12-month training programme for 12 mums to become “kaitiaki māmā” – women with lived experience of perinatal mood disorders and are well or in recovery who can facilitate ao Māori programme and restore tūpuna parenting practices.
This MAS Foundation Grant supported the 2021 PADA Networking Day.