I had already volunteered with Aberlour in the past and when I saw the advert for Perinatal Befriending I knew this was something I wanted to do because I recognised this was a service that I myself would have benefited from 20 years ago.
my volunteering story
When I became pregnant for the third time I was in a very vulnerable position. I had experienced a miscarriage a few months previously. My husband was in the forces and we were told we were moving to another part of the country. I found myself very isolated with a toddler. Unable to work as I had no family support network. My self-esteem was very low and I had a very anxious pregnancy.
My son was born prematurely at 29 weeks gestation. My saving grace was my Health Visitor who took the time to listen to my experiences and how they had impacted on my mental health. She visited me regularly and put me in touch with another local older mum who understood my anxieties about my baby and my worries of my husband now being in a war zone. I recognised the support I had all those years ago was almost an informal befriending service and I was at a stage in my life where I could give something back.
I found the Perinatal Befriender training empowering. I gained a huge amount of knowledge about perinatal mental illness, brain development and attachment, and the importance of “just listening”. At the same time I also found it quite a raw experience as it brought to the fore many of my past emotions and experiences. But, I have to say it also helped me to make sense of the feelings I had, had as a new mum 20 years before. The support from the co-ordinators throughout the training was invaluable as I felt I could trust them and discuss any concerns openly. I felt I wanted to be a part of this team and was made to feel I was playing a very important role in becoming a befriender to the women and families. The learning, support and trust gained gave me the confidence to feel I was able to make a difference.
I have had three long term befriending matches each of them very different and I find it almost spooky how Angie and Catherine have been able to get each one so right. I have enjoyed seeing the families I have been matched with grow in confidence with their parenting skills, overcome their anxieties and believe in themselves. One of my proudest moments was seeing a mum I was matched with initiating a conversation with another mum in a café. This was a major step for her and I felt a sense of pride in seeing her achieve this.
Since becoming a perinatal befriender I feel I have become more confident in myself. My husband and I have become fosters carers. We wanted to care for children from 0 – 7 years old because I felt the knowledge I gained from befriending made me realise the importance of these early years in children’s development. My perinatal experiences have taught me how to be more attuned to recognising the behaviours and needs of the children placed in our care and how best to support them. This has also had an impact on my family as a whole as I can see my two boys develop into very confident caring young men. I have come a long way in my journey and I believe I can manage anything………..and my premature baby is now a 6ft rugby player, studying law, who works part time in Mothercare!
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