When Mariam Awomosu arrived in the UK seeking asylum she was alone, pregnant and scared of what the future might hold for her and her baby.

Placed by the Home Office in hotel accommodation, the mother-to-be could see how difficult life was for other isolated mothers raising their children in single rooms without adequate facilities.

"Living in the hotel was not good," she said. "For the kids it is hard because they have nowhere to play, the food is not good, and when they go to school they have to tell the other children they live in a hotel.

"Of course, I thought, 'Thank God I am safe first, even if I am not comfortable I am safe'.

"But when you are pregnant you don't want to have your child in that environment. Where do I put her?"

It was following an emergency visit to hospital in the middle of the night that another woman at the hotel recommended she contact Amma Birth Companions.

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Mariam's baby had not moved in 24 hours and she was terrified of what might be wrong. Fortunately, all was well - "they just found that my baby was having a lazy day" - but it was clear that support was needed.

Amma, a Glasgow-based charity, provides volunteer birth and postnatal companions, antenatal education and hosts peer support groups for vulnerable parents who would otherwise face pregnancy, birth and new parenthood alone. This includes volunteers who are present during the birth of the child.

It is unique in the help it provides to women in the asylum system, giving trauma-informed support, advice and advocacy. For Mariam, it was a godsend.

She said: "I had a wonderful birth companion who came to all of my appointments and she knew the right things to ask.

"I didn't know what I was allowed to say that might make [the doctors] angry. Where I come from when a doctor speaks you say yes, because everyone thinks the doctor knows best."

Mariam was booked in for a Caesarian section and so, in advance of her due date, her companion came and helped her set up the nursery and batch cook, filling the fridge and freezer with two week's worth of food.

Following the birth, Mariam continued to have support from Amma.

"They brought me my pram, diapers, clothes and a teddy bear for Folajomi," Mariam said, "And one of the people who visited me, I found out she was a manager; someone that high coming to me, an asylum seeker. It made me feel like I had worth."

Mariam, from Nigeria, is now part of Amma's peer-to-peer support group, which she describes as "a sisterhood" that helps ease the isolation of women who would be alone were it not for the charity.

Thanks to the advice and support provided, Mariam is now in college because, she says, "I want to grow" and she is now truly flourishing.

Her little girl is a bright and lively one-year-old, Mariam is thriving on her health and social care college course and she has her own flat in Glasgow where she is well settled.

But for the first six months she struggled emotionally until eventually a harsh realisation dawned.

"I said to myself, 'You are here for your child, for your health, for your safety: everything you had before is gone, everything you had in the past it is burnt, it is ashes. Let me just face the future.'

"Imagine everything you have: you have your house and your car and your comfort," Mariam added, "Leaving everything to start with nothing is difficult."

"I caught myself one day, and said, 'Remember your money, your certificates - because I have a Masters degree - and your house and your car - you will have it again.'

"I have just made up my mind. The day I decided this was the day I stopped eating African food because the taste, it takes me back.

"This is Scotland, I am living in Scotland so let me forget everything."

Amma was set up just four years ago and, for the charity itself, it has been a difficult birth. In that time it has had to navigate the pandemic - birth support is not something that can be done over Zoom - and the financial pressures of the cost of living crisis.

The majority of referrals come from the NHS and Amma has now supported more than 300 women with its caseload doubling every year since it began.

Currently it works only in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, where the majority of asylum seeking people and refugees are accommodated, but its CEO Maree Aldam said that, as people are increasingly dispersed across Scotland, there are hopes of growth - and the funding challenges that come with it.

Maree said: "I imagine if we were able to magically open up in other areas then we would see a demand for our support.

"We work with women in the asylum system who have very little support around pregnancy and the whole perinatal period. And the organisation was born, so to speak, from that very obvious need."

Women are helped to navigate language barriers and an unfamiliar healthcare system while volunteers - there are currently more than 40 - are given intense bespoke training that is trauma-informed and specific to working with women in the asylum system.

A lot is asked of volunteers - and of the woman who are supported, two strangers forging bonds during one of the most vulnerable and intimate moments in a woman's life.

After four years in the sector, the charity now also advocates for families.

Amanda Purdie, head of development, added: "We feel the responsibility to advocate for our clients and ask questions about the care they receive in the NHS, about why women in the asylum system are living in accommodation that is not suitable for mothers and babies - it spans quite a wide range of issues but spans the experience of parents and babies."

As such a lot is asked of volunteers, the charity in turn provides mental health and wellbeing support to them, if needed. Its volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds and often have experience of birth trauma themselves, experience of the asylum system or have used Amma's services.

While we're talking, Amanda has one eye on her phone as she is currently supporting a woman who is due to give birth and she's on call.

She said: "It is an extremely profound moment in time - after the birth and giving support then.

"It can be difficult to close that relationship but that's why the training is so important, to help establish boundaries and maintain those boundaries."

To maintain and grow the level of service, Amma is facing the pressures common to the third sector but its staff have also never known a period of calm.

Maree said: "There is huge uncertainty since Brexit and then you think it can't get any more chaotic or worse but then it keeps getting more challenging.

"For Amma, given we're relatively young as an organisation, we have only existed in this time of crisis.

"The pandemic created real shifts in the way that funding works, whether public funding or donor funding. For an organisation like us, we're waiting for the dust to settle but I don't think that's going to happen any time soon and that does create uncertainty."

To keep growing at its current pace is going to be a challenge, Maree says, but the charity believes the need will keep increasing.

Maree said: "We do hear from midwives that having the support of Amma there at birth and postnatally means midwives and health visitors are able to do the clinical part of their job.

"But I don't think that's something that sits well with a lot of midwives because a lot of people go into midwifery because they want to provide person-centred care and I think that increasingly they are not able to do that."

The current hostile immigration environment is causing huge pressures too.

Amanda said: "The hostile environment is a big part of why we're here. A lot of the people we support are within that system and it is, by its very design, inhumane.

"The system creates further trauma and the impact of that trauma on a person's ability to give birth and care for their child or raise their child in the way they would like is huge.

"The asylum system is not fit for purpose for anyone but especially not for those who are pregnant - it's a very, very difficult system to navigate.

"You can't believe that people in the UK are being forced to live in the conditions they are."

But Amma volunteers do everything they can to alleviate those conditions. For Anna Beesley, from the south side of Glasgow, it was her own experience of becoming a mother that prompted her to volunteer.

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She joined Amma in 2021 when her children were four and two. "I was so aware of how fortunate I was of having a support network in the city," she said, "and my parents came up from Newcastle both times and my partner is very active in looking after the kids.

"Yet I still found it very difficult in those early times.

"I remember very vividly lying in the bath after having my first child and my partner had taken her out and the house was so quiet that I felt like I was in heaven.

"It was so blissful. But I thought, what a nice thing to be able to give this to somebody else who can't have that."

Anna, who works in the refugee sector, is a post-birth companion and says the relationships she builds with the women she supports can be intense emotionally but practically very straightforward. She will take food and clothing to hospital, bring women and their babies home for the first time, and will cook or do housework.

"Or sometimes," she adds with a laugh, "I'm sitting and chatting to them after they've made me food.

"Sometimes I've not got anywhere near a trusting relationship where there's not a lot said but others I've had a deeper relationship with them and in a way that's easier to support because they'll tell you what they need.

"It really varies."

She provides advocacy for women and says that often she can tell that a woman hasn't understood information from midwives, in which case she can access interpretation services through Amma.

Other situations leave her frustrated. "There was one incident when one of the women I was supporting told a midwife she was frustrated because the baby wasn't feeding," she said.

"The senior midwife came and searched the baby.

"Loads of these women are already concerned that social services are going to take their baby off them. You can never know if it's racism or not but I'm quite sure that if I was in hospital they wouldn't come and do a full body check on the baby."

One of the hardest things, she says, is ending the relationship, particularly knowing that they are waiting for a Home Office decision that might completely derail their family's life.

Anna added: "Something, very quickly, could go really wrong. And it's horrible leaving. I find that really, really hard leaving people I know are waiting for huge decisions.

"I feel this is a way of working against the hostile environment.

"I don't have much faith in the Tory government and so doing small acts of kindness in your communities and locally is all I feel like I can do right now."

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Mehr Abbas's two-year-old Momin and his little brother Noraiz, nine months, have delayed their nap time to stay up for our photographer but are being happily distracted by cartoons.

The flat, in the north of Glasgow, is bright and beautifully kept, full of the noise of two little boys, but the burble hides the fact that, were it not for Amma, Mehr would be extremely isolated.

She was aware of Amma's services during her first pregnancy but it was only after the experience of a traumatic birth that Mehr turned to them for support when she became pregnant a second time.

While she has her husband with her, she said he works long hours and would need to be at home with their older son when she gave birth so she would otherwise have been alone.

The 34-year-old's mother and father both died and the loss of her mum hit her particularly hard, especially as she was not able to return to Pakistan for the funeral.

"In my first labour and delivery my experience was not good," she said, "so for my second baby I was really, really worried and had no idea what to do.

"On the first visit from Amma I would say that they were really, really kind and nice towards me.

"They told me there were options and that birth can be a nice experience. My birth companion Amanda told me, 'You have the right to say no, if you are not comfortable' and that was something I did not know.

"I had a baby and I was so tired and my condition was not good in my second pregnancy. I was so scared about labour and delivery."

At one hospital visit the doctor delivered the troubling news that Noraiz had stopped growing in the womb but Mehr's companion was able to calm her down and help with asking the right questions.

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When Mehr went into labour she was frightened but know that her birth companion would be there.

"The way she was helping me, and supporting me all of that night and she made that experience - I won't say it was easy, it was painful, it was tiring and I was shattered emotionally and physically - but I remember with every contraction she was pampering me and caring for me.

"In my first birth my husband was standing like a statue because he didn't know what to do and his expressions were making me feel more uncomfortable.

"I thought I couldn't do it [the labour] but Amanda kept saying to me, 'No Mehr, you can do it.'"

Mehr had post-birth support from Amma and it was vital to her to feel like "I have someone" as she has no family in the UK and being at home with two children means little chance to build a social network.

She said: "I wasn't able to go back to Pakistan when my mum passed away so I still feel it really, really painfully and I miss my mum so, so much.

"Amma did not let me feel alone. There are special moments, important times, in your life where you really need someone.

"And Amma gave me good memories of my time."

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Dr Helen Charman lights up when she talks of her experience of supporting women through the birthing process. Helen is an academic who specialises in motherhood as represented in literary history and she felt volunteering for Amma was "putting my money where my mouth was".

"I had some knowledge of inequalities in birth outcomes and how they are racialised and how they are classed and then when I moved to Glasgow and I heard about Amma that seemed like a really useful thing for me to be doing. "It felt like a way to be useful and put more abstract skills into practice."

The training, she said, was amazing and intense and, at times, upsetting, but well equips volunteers for their role. She has worked with four women as a birth companion and has attended at one delivery.

Birth companions work in groups so are not always present during the labour of the woman they've been been working with.

The birth Helen witnessed was the first at which she had been present - "although I guess I was present at my own birth... but I don't remember," she jokes - and she describes the experience with some awe.

She said: "As an academic I think about birth all the time but I was not prepared for what it actually is like to be there in the birthing space with a birthing person.

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"It was amazing. It's such a privilege to be allowed to play a tiny, tiny bit in that moment.

"You're really there thinking about your person who you're supporting and then suddenly the baby arrives.

"Watching such an amazing feat, to give birth is mentally and physically an act of stamina and bravery and it feels like a real privilege.

"I'll never forget it."

Advocacy is a big part of the role, making sure the woman or birthing person is being given autonomy and a choice at the time they are extremely vulnerable - and busy.

In the run up to the birth Helen will visit the person she is working with and talk over a birth plan and "what this experience is going to be like and that's an intimate thing to talk about."

They visit the new mother in hospital and help take the baby home and, Helen said, watch fascinated with the rapid changes occurring in the little person who's newly arrived.

But a goodbye is also a key part of the process.

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Helen said: "A really central part of Amma is that you're there only because you're part of Amma, you have boundaries and they are there for a reason but you do get so involved and attached and excited about this new chapter that's happening for people.

"You know from the beginning that there's an end time.

"But the goodbye is a good thing, not a sad thing, because it means they have had the baby, they are home with the baby and everything is now ok."