PSS Volunteers - Lindsay Salmon
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” — Elizabeth Andrew
Following on from my series of HG Heroes recognising partners, healthcare professionals, friends and employers making a massive difference to hyperemesis sufferers i will be spending the next few weeks highlighting the vital work of the Pregnancy Sickness Sickness Support Volunteers.
All of the Pregnancy Sickness Support volunteers have been through NVP or HG themselves or have closely supported someone who has (Husband/Partner/Mum) so they understand what its like and how hard it is to go through. They give up their time to support others through this debilitating condition in the hope of relieving their isolation and loneliness and provide them with support and information that can help them through each day.
"I’m not alone. She has been through it and takes the horrendous guilt that I have away, especially In relation to having time off work, and having to take medication. This is a lonely illness that very few understand but knowing someone is there that does is support like no other." – Sufferer 2016
‘Guiding women through the horrific journey of HG can be so tough. The despair and torture they go through brings it back to me every time. It can be raw and emotional, but to be able to share their journey and have a mutual understanding of their experience is quite special. I’ve found volunteering for the charity quite healing.’ – Volunteer 2016
Lindsay Salmon - PSS Volunteer
I had never even heard of Hyperemesis Gravidarum until it was written on my sick note for work during the first trimester of my first pregnancy. I had an image of what pregnancy would be like which involved lots of fabulous maternity outfits, pregnancy yoga and generally blooming! Sadly, it wasn't like that for me. It involved 24/7 nausea, vomiting continuously, repeated hospital stays, endless canulas, greasy hair, the same clothes for days on end and general misery.
I felt isolated and cheated of a normal pregnancy and I felt that nobody really 'got it'. My friends and colleagues were sympathetic and supportive but still didn't really understand what I was going through. Family were amazing but far away. The impact of HG was long lasting for me and was a contributing factor in the PND I suffered but after lots of counselling, I felt ready to consider another pregnancy.
That's when I found Pregnancy Sickness Support. The relief I felt was immense. A whole community of people who knew what I went through and really understood! The first time I went on the forum I'm certain I shed a few tears reading about the experiences of others that were so familiar to me. I found the forum a valuable resource when preparing for a second pregnancy and after a short time became a moderator, ensuring the forum ran smoothly which I found really rewarding and cathartic. By helping others, I was also healing my own wounds; answering their questions, answered my own; and by supporting them through the horror that HG is, I ensured they didn't feel as alone as I did during my pregnancy.
I agreed to become a 1:1 volunteer shortly after and it was the best decision I have made in a long time. I was unsure whether I could offer the support that was needed as I was still having my own emotional struggles, but once I was assigned my first ladies, it became clear that all I needed to do was listen and empathise. Sometimes they just needed to know there was someone out there who knew what they were going through, someone who knew the medication was necessary and wasn't judging them for taking it; someone who knew that an HG pregnancy is awful but it doesn't mean you won't love your baby; someone who knew that even on the worst of days, you won't always feel like this. The rewards for me were inherent. Supporting my ladies, as I call them, just became a part of my every day life and I feel a bit lost when I don't have anyone to support.
One of the best moment of volunteering was having the chance to speak to one of the ladies I had supported on the phone. She was over the worst of it and told me I could 'have my life back now'. It was lovely to hear feedback directly from her about what had helped her and how my support had made a difference to her experience.
After having my younger daughter, I was asked to present to a class of student midwives at a university in London about the effects of HG and the support that is available from PSS. It was a really proud moment for me to stand up in front of those future midwives and speak frankly about what it is like to survive not one but two HG pregnancies and how they can support the women they care for. As a teacher, I wasn't phased by presenting to all those people (although they were slightly older than my usual audience!) but as I was telling such a personal story I was worried my emotions would get the better of me. They didn't! And in the question session at the end, it was clear this class of student midwives had really taken it all on board and were keen to know what THEY could do for women suffering with HG. It was a wonderful feeling to know that I had made an impact on so many in such a short time.
I would love to do more of this work with PSS and to have some kind of standard training Nationally so that all midwives entering the profession have heard of HG and PSS and can better support the women they care for both in the community and in hospital.
So for any of you amazing HG survivors out there who aren't sure whether you could volunteer for PSS, give it a go! The experience has boosted my confidence hugely in addition to healing some of my own HG wounds. I've even started training to become a counsellor since becoming a volunteer as I feel like it's my calling.
Vounteering can take as much or as little time as you can offer and you can make such a difference to the lives of the women you support. There is lots of support for volunteers, both from Karen at PSS and from other volunteers.
If you would like more information on volunteering please click here