Muriel, 53, joined Bump Buddies three years ago. Born in Jamaica, Muriel came to the UK many years ago and lives in Hoxton with her two children.
“I found out about Bump Buddies when I got talking to someone from the project in Shoreditch Park at an outreach event. I thought it sounded interesting working with mums and it appealed to me the idea of getting to know more people locally.
When I had my first child, I didn’t have family or friends here and it was hard. It was a struggle and it makes me sad if I think about that time. But when you’ve young children, you have to go on and look after them no matter what. You don’t have time to be pitiful.
I understand what it’s like for women who are in a similar situation, who are maybe newly arrived here and don’t have people who can help.
I’ve worked with three pregnant women so far. I helped them with housing problems, directed one to the Food Bank, and helped with getting clothing and practical issues. Two of the women have had problems over their immigration status and were having to stay with friends through their pregnancies. The other one was living in a hostel room.
People can be very private. They don’t want to be judged or for people to know their business. It can be hard to get the women to be open. So the most enjoyable thing is seeing the women become closer to me and starting to trust me so that I can help – that’s been the most important thing.
One of the clients asked me to be her birth partner. There was no-one else supporting her, just me. It was exciting. I cut the cord and was the first one to hold the baby, a little girl. I felt really proud – both of her and me – and so happy that it was all OK in the end.
I’ve changed through doing this. Before I started I wasn’t confident and found it hard to talk to people – I felt shy. But this has helped build my confidence, I feel like I can do anything now. I realise I’m a people person – that’s why I especially enjoy doing the outreach work, meeting and interacting with new people, talking to them about Bump Buddies – I believe in it and that makes it very easy to talk about!”
Vanessa, 35, is from New Zealand and moved to London a few months after having her first child. She started volunteering as a Bump Buddy in 2012.
“Having kids changed my outlook in life. When I was pregnant with my daughter Lily I was living in New Zealand. I really thought I’d have the baby and then put her in daycare after six months or so and just go back to work. I hadn’t realized how protective I’d feel and that I wouldn’t be able to part.
After moving to London I had to learn how to integrate into the community, find baby groups I could go to and make friends. But I had no idea of how to integrate with a child. I just didn’t appreciate how hard that would be, and that’s part of the reason Bump Buddies appealed to me because I thought my experience of going through that integration might help others doing something similar. It takes a lot of confidence to walk into a room of new mums when you know nobody and may be new to the area - or country. Everything feels completely different.
I’ve befriended two women so far through Bump Buddies. Both have been women in my kind of situation with no extended family network around to help. In one case, the lady’s mother had recently passed away and she was emotionally vulnerable.
After she had her baby I helped her with breastfeeding. We talked about how it’s normal to have arguments with your partner– it’s a stressful time – and also that it’s OK to feel exhausted, that’s totally normal too! She didn’t have anyone telling her she was a good mum so that’s what I tried to do – give her some acknowledgement and feedback so that she could start to build confidence in herself.
I’m helping a Polish lady currently. We talk about how she’s doing, go to the midwife appointments and also plan to visit some children’s centres. I usually take my son Jack along and sometimes we go to the park.
I really feel for the women I’m working with, but I am able to emotionally detach myself. At times it can be frustrating when I’ve taken time to work through an issue with them and they then don’t take the steps we talked about. But I guess sometimes they just need to vent and air concerns without necessarily solving anything.
The most enjoyable part is seeing the positive change at the end of it all – seeing them become confident, happy mums rather than anxious, isolated and depressed.
I trained in social work and am now looking to go back into social services, working with families. It’s been five years since I’ve worked – becoming a Bump Buddy has helped my confidence around applying for jobs. I’ve found the training and knowledge I’ve gained beneficial, and it’s nice to be in a working environment with other like-minded individuals.”