Today I received my ‘clearance’ to volunteer at my local hospital. I’m now officially a NCT Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and hospital volunteer.
It’s been a long, involved, emotional process and so it should be actually as I’ll be working on a ‘specialised’ (consultant led) ward with newborn babies and women who may be feeling more vulnerable than they have ever felt before.
In case the process is something you, my reading friends, have ever wondered about: I’ve completed two application forms, a six week course in breastfeeding and peer supporting, a three hour safeguarding exam, a ward induction, a four hour general hospital induction (which had me arriving back at home sobbing) and an interview. Four references have been taken up, vaccination records have been dusted down, and ID papers sent and shown to all and sundry.
I am good to go! Complete with two badges and a t-shirt.
I embarked upon it because when I was breastfeeding I found it hard in so many complicated ways, probably far harder than I should have done but then I do like to overthink things. Also for me, going back into the hospital is a bit of a personal challenge.
Most importantly though I want to do this because although I do believe that breastfeeding is the biological norm, that doesn’t mean that it works for everyone or that everyone wants to do it. I want to help empower women to have the feeding experience they want with less difficulty, less guilt, more confidence and more support.
I’m extremely proud today that I can start properly but, naturally (I think) I’m also a tad terrified…
What if my shouty, uniformed t-shirt just results in mothers feeling as though they are being approached by a great big hulk of breastfeeding pressure?
I accidentally wake someone up?
I forget everything I’ve learnt from 18 months breastfeeding and all the training and have a distressed mother, a hungry baby and just a blank brain?
I languish in the hellish hospital car park for days trying to get my normal-sized car either in or out of the abnormally small spaces?
I let the fact that I think I have a nursing aversion (yes, well I did say I overthink things) get in the way of being able to watch a feed and make proper analysis?
I get stuck at the midwives’ station staring at the radio.
Ok the first five, I’ll just have to deal with but the last one? You see I’ve been carrying around a fair bit of guilt about my first few days with young LJ. Mostly about me not feeling what I thought I was supposed to feel. Four long, hormonal, tired, guilt ridden days on the aforementioned ‘specialised’ ward and I was all sorts of things but joyful wasn’t one of them.
And I know this sounds crazy, but for almost two years I have felt dreadful about the fact that after 40 hours of being awake (and most of it in labour) I accepted the offer of the midwives to take LJ for a few hours while I slept. Apparently he was very happy and enjoyed listening to the radio very much, but the thought of this had me in turmoil since day one. I think it’s been psychologically symbolic, or something.
Anyway, anyway, 22 months later, early June and cue ward induction…I was a little ball of nerves. Excited, yes but I did wonder about whether I’d be able to hold it together, and can you imagine how embarrassing it would have been if one of the inductees ended up rocking in the corner of a corridor!?
You’ll be relieved to know that didn’t happen. Surprisingly I loved being back on the ward. I emerged feeling both peaceful and exhilarated. It was incredibly good therapy!
You see I’m not the person I was in August 2013. I’m an amazing mother to LJ (well someone’s got to say it!), I’m confident and so happy. Choosing to go back where it all began in a ‘professional’ capacity to use my skills and experience to help other women is a world away from going there in an immobile capacity scared of everything and wanting to the world to stop for a minute.
So overall today is a proud day, I really hope as a volunteer, I can make other women feel ok about things if they need it, maybe make them smile a bit, and most of all help them feel in control and supported.
And in a selfish way volunteering has already given me something amazing. The best part of the ward induction? Admittance to the midwife station, trying to take in where notes are kept and what the board means, and then suddenly realising where I was and what I really needed to see right then…the innocuous, slightly retro, black radio in the corner of the room. I was transfixed and I was healed.
Is volunteering something you’ve ever considered? More information on volunteering with the NCT can be found here.