I felt a huge amount of support, I was able to share my experiences with the other girls and the birth companions without fear of judgement.

Caroline's story

I finally finished training this year and became an active birth companion. As I was finishing my degree it took me two years to complete my training, however there was lots of flexibility so I could fit it around my other commitments. Even though I had been part of the group for a while it was quite scary to begin with. I began by doing postnatal visits and phone-holding, so I was one of the volunteers responsible for taking the phone calls from the hospital when a woman arrives there in labour, and finding a birth companion who was available to go and support her. There was a lot to take in. The hospital can be quite like a maze initially, particularly the wing with the maternity department on it. There was a lot of terminology and abbreviations to get the hang of. Despite hearing them discussed at meetings it wasn’t until I was in the thick of it that they started to really make any sense.

Both the hospital and the prison are such large institutions that the situation is always changing. The wide range of emotions I’ve felt has been overwhelming. I’ve swung from finding it incredibly satisfying to feeling profoundly inadequate, but there’s no denying that it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve done. It’s been amazing to spend time in various maternity wards and in the prison. I’m more impressed with our NHS than ever. After having attending group meetings as a trainee for so long and listening in awe to the active birth companions talking about their work it’s been novel to finally be on the other side of the fence. It surprises me when I’m chatting away about the last birth I was involved in and I look round to see a similar look of awe on a new trainee’s face.

The organisation and the other active birth companions have been such a rock, which has made this steep learning curve much easier. I’ve felt incredibly supported at all times and it’s been amazing to always have someone on the end of the phone who really understands when I’ve needed to talk about my feelings. I feel like part of a big family.