This month’s Inspiring Parent is Volunteer, Gemma Champion, who is sharing her back to work story with The Balance Collective. Gemma decided to take a career break after the premature birth of her son; his unexpected early delivery led her to reevaluate what she wanted from her career. She would have never guessed how full-circle her return to work would be!
I had worked in social housing for 14 years until my second son was born eight weeks early in 2016. After a six-week stay in hospital, I started to re-evaluate my work/life balance and realised how precious time was with my children. In October 2017 I made the decision not to return to my work at the end of my maternity leave to be able to spend more time with my boys.
Having my son born so early made me realise massively just how short and precious life is. We had no reason to think he would be born early until a routine midwife appointment led to him been born via emergency section within 20 minutes. Before, even though I had a son already, I hadn’t realised just how much work affected the time I spent with him and the things I was missing out being a full time working mum.
Volunteering for Noah’s Star
I heard about Noah’s Star, a wonderful organisation that supports the siblings of premature and poorly babies, and currently runs out of the QE Hospital in Birmingham. I started volunteering as I didn’t feel that I wanted to be a complete stay at home mum and also that I wanted to give something back to the neonatal unit.
At first, I wasn’t sure how I would feel going back onto the neonatal unit and if it would bring back any memories. Although we are very lucky in the fact that my son is now completely healthy, he was extremely poorly when he was born and was in critical care for two weeks. Been told that you may lose your baby is something that I don’t think will ever leave you, even if they are still with you. Luckily a lot of the volunteers at Noahs’ Star had the same anxieties and the staff on the unit have been amazing. To be honest the thought of doing it was far worse than actually doing it
Returning to work & transferable skills
Having worked in the social housing sector, I was used to dealing with a wide range of different people. I have had a large amount of training in my previous job role; such as working with vulnerable people, data protection, equality and diversity. That combined with my personal experience, my strong administrative background and my volunteering, means that I was successful securing a role at Noah’s Star as Project Co-ordinator for 8 hours per week.
For Noahs’ Star, there has been a huge amount of training around safeguarding, hospital policies, neonatal care, holding and comforting babies for the volunteering role, which is now really relevant in my day job.
What has surprised you?
The number of amazing people I’ve met through this experience. People that are genuinely willing to give up hours of their time each week to help others. Also, how tirelessly the NHS staff work to ensure the babies are cared for, I was almost unaware of this when we were in the situation.
What advice would you give parents in the same situation?
Never give up hope, in a situation like this sometimes hope is all you have, the neonatal unit is an incredibly isolated place, almost a community on its own, parents smile at you but no words need to be said. Babies are all miracles and often doctors don’t know what the outcome will be, you just have to take each day at a time and sometimes even just hour by hour.
What an Inspiring Parent! I am sure she never envisaged her experience with her little boy would lead to where she is now. To be able to support parents in a similar situation to her, whilst continuing to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Sometimes, you need to trust your gut. If something feels right for you and your family, just give it a go. The journey may surprise you!
Join The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox to meet other inspiring parents working on their work-life balance.
Want to share your Career Journey? Fill in the Inspiring Parents interview here and YOU could be the next parent to inspire others.