‘She is the best thing ever … she exceeded any expectations or hopes we had …’ This is how I would summarise my experience with our Pregnancy Pal.
My partner has a disability but helps looking after our daughter. I had suffered from severe post-natal depression after a difficult birth when I had my first daughter four years ago. Since then, I have been feeling so low that I was actually considering suicide at times. I am not good with things being taken out of my control. So when I became pregnant again, other people set up appointments for me with midwives, doctors, consultants, nurses and other health professionals without telling me what they were for. I found this very confusing and I felt extremely helpless and alone. Eventually someone recommended to get in touch with Parents 1st.
I was matched with a Pregnancy Pal who was also a birth buddy. She was there for me at every step throughout my pregnancy and beyond. I could tell her anything and sometimes we would just chat. She would go with me to all medical appointments and help me understand what was happening. Then, when my second daughter was born, things didn’t go according to plan as there were several complications. I needed extensive pain relief and eventually a C-Section. However, my Pregnancy Pal was with me all the way, helping me understand what was happening to me and my baby. Eventually, when they put my daughter into my arms, I just laughed and cried at the same time with relief.
I believe that having my Pregnancy Pal has helped me enormously so that I didn’t develop post-natal depression again. I remember there was a woman I got talking to in the waiting room at the health centre who appeared to be struggling with being pregnant for the first time. I advised her to go to Parents 1st and really hope she went there as well.
‘Any new mum is quite scared, having a peer supporter helps take a bit of that away,’ says mum. ‘It’s lovely that we have built up a trusting relationship and it has been a great journey working with this family,’ is how the volunteer describes her experience.
The expectant mother in this case study had previously lost a baby during pregnancy, suffered from anxiety and depression and worried how to care for her new baby. In addition, she had a medical condition restricting her physical mobility. However, she was in a supportive relationship and relevant agencies and health professionals were already involved and provided support to the family. She was referred to Parents 1st by her Specialist Health visitor when being about three months pregnant.
‘I was very nervous when I first met my peer supporter but learned to trust her very soon as I knew she wouldn’t judge me,’ says mum. ‘When I tried to learn new things, like how to care for a baby, she was there for me to guide. After I had my baby, I didn’t want to hold him so she came to the hospital and helped me holding him for the first time when no one else had tried that before. She helped me to find ways to overcome physical constraints like getting the baby in and out of the car. By doing all those things and by listening to me she helped me to gain confidence. I used to doubt my ability how to handle a baby and it was great to see that I am actually doing things well. My partner also said that the videoing was absolutely brilliant.’
‘During our first meeting, the expecting mum was very nervous,’ explains the peer supporter. ‘Over the coming weeks and months, we talked a lot and she started sharing her feelings and experiences with me although there were ups and downs. We also spent several visits where I showed both parents how to do practical baby care, like bathing, dressing and undressing a doll to help them prepare for the new arrival. Then, when the baby arrived, the mum did not want to hold the baby for the whole first day. Eventually, I just gave her the baby to hold, and it was amazing to see the instant love and emotions going through her. Over the next days, the mum was worried how she would manage to feed and change the baby because of her restricted mobility so we decided to do small steps at a time. On the first day, she wanted to practice changing a nappy and did really well. Next, both parents tried to bath the baby while I was watching them, and again, they did really well. So really, all I did was encourage them to do all those little things themselves and to guide them where needed. I also went with the mum for the baby’s first immunisations and helped her to go to groups, and offered Video Interactive Guidance which helped them realise how much they have achieved.’
In total, the peer supporter in this case did 10 antenatal and 21 postnatal visits, and was available for phone calls and text messages between visits. In addition, the parents were offered Video Interactive Guidance as this promotes successful interactions between parents and infants in the earliest months by filming interactions and thus capturing specific moments for self-analysis and reflection when replaying the video. On an average basis, the rating of satisfaction of the mum with her situation improved from 3.5 to 8.3 (out of a possible 10).