By Dawn Probert – Parents in Mind volunteer, Coventry & Warwickshire
Little did I know when I signed up to be a volunteer peer supporter that it would be such a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
I don’t think I truly appreciated or understood the cleansing, yet often soul-searching, process that I was going to participate in on a weekly basis with a bunch of strangers that had three things in common: women, mothers and we have all experienced an episode of postpartum or antenatal mental health difficulty. However, I quickly learnt that there was more to us all than that. Tea and cake bonded us, and tissues and tears led us to be solid friends. Our mental health in pregnancy or early parenthood is the invisible thread that links us, but our joy and mutual love of being able to guide each other through our journeys are the glue.
From the offset I think fear of the unknown and fear of who would come along to our groups had been the ‘elephant’ in the training room. It was real gut-wrenching, petrifying fear and it was overwhelming. I didn’t want to get it wrong, I didn’t want to mess it up and upset any of our ladies. When I began training, I didn’t know how to start, how to listen, didn’t know how not to butt in and make it all about me. I shouldn’t have worried: I have been exceptionally lucky to have been guided by the trainer Isabelle with her gentle yet firm humour, and manager Sarah with her kind trusting belief, and of course my Parents in Mind mates.
We have been through the mill as a group of mums and all of us have reached this point in our lives after difficult yet different journeys. But we have made it to the end of our intensive, thought-provoking training together and I know we are all the stronger for it.
For me, the overwhelming factor in this whole process was that I just wanted to help. I just wanted to be able to help one mum go through a really sh*&!y time and not be alone. I wanted to be able to reach out and just let one mum know she had someone by her side. Yes, she was still going to be going through a horrid time. But she wasn’t alone. Like I had been.
Fast forward 10ish weeks and we are “live” and it works! Our ladies are making slow and steady progress – we laugh and they cry, together. The ladies have bonded and grown and our smaller volunteer groups have also bonded further as well. We’ve learnt that anything goes in a session: we are facilitators of recovery. We start each week at the precipice of a mountain and gently nudge the snowball of conversation. Sometimes an avalanche of issues arises and we work through them at a frenetic pace, however, sometimes we work through at a slow and steady gentle pace chatting about baby’s growth spurts, sex, what to cook for tea and all sorts more. We refer to other services, offer practical solutions, hold babies, pass tissues, but most importantly allow space and an ear for our ladies to spill and process their week.
I’ve learnt the power of silence: it’s effective, it’s cathartic and it’s empowering. I’ve found my place in the world and I finally feel that my PND was for a reason. It’s empowered me to be me. It has no hold over me now: it helps define me but I’m not defined by it any more.