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Mum Lauren Poundall is urging other parents to learn first aid after she saved her son Theo’s life when he choked on a button.

Lauren, 23, says she believes she might have lost Theo had she not just attended our Whoops! baby and child lifesaving course.

Theo was playing in the living room of Lauren’s flat in Throckley, Newcastle when he started to go blue and was struggling to catch his breath.

Missing button

The assistant bar manager was getting ready to go to work in Newcastle early in the morning when her gran shouted through for her.

Lauren recalls: “I said to my grandma, ‘What’s he had?’ and she said he’d been playing with my coat on the floor. When I checked it, there was a button missing – he’d obviously pulled a button off my coat and swallowed it.

“You could see he was trying to breathe but he couldn’t and he’d started to go blue. So I lay him over my knee and started doing back slaps.

A cry of relief

“I was surprised at how calm I was – but I think that was because I’d done the course and knew what to do so I was able to stop myself getting emotional.

“The button was really lodged but I managed to get it out and Theo gave a cry of relief and started breathing again. I dread to think what might have happened if I hadn’t done the course. It definitely gave me the confidence to deal with it in the moment though when I got into work, it hit me what could have happened and it took me quite a while before I felt OK again.”

Lauren decided to enrol for the two hour session run by Debbie Ellerby, Training & Project Coordinator with Children North East’s Whoops! Project at her local community centre because Theo had suffered from erratic breathing in his first few weeks of life. Thankfully, he’s now a happy and healthy 15-month-old.

What happens when you don’t feel a bond with the baby you’ve always longed for? After all, aren’t you supposed to feel an overwhelming love for your infant from the moment you look into their eyes?

Well, not always. Watching Gemma Hastings play toy cars with her toddler on the floor of their living room, you would never guess that she struggled with depression when he was born two years ago. Today they giggle and laugh together and clearly have a really loving relationship. She’s enjoying being a mam to Jenson who is as bright as a button – and he obviously loves her right back – telling her the colours of all his cars and asking her to read to him from his favourite animals book.

“When I fell pregnant with Jenson, I felt really, really good because I’d been trying for a baby for over a year,” Gemma recalls.

“I didn’t feel anything at all”

“But the birth made me feel like I couldn’t do anything – I had an emergency Caesarean section and that really upset me. Then the relationship between me and Jenson’s dad broke down and that set me in a really bad space. Jenson was about four months old at that time.

“It’s really hard to describe how I felt but I just didn’t feel like I was worth it. I didn’t feel like I wanted to be here. I just felt like I had this baby that I had to get up, look after and, looking at him, I just didn’t feel anything at all.

“It’s really upsetting knowing that you have been waiting for so long, you’ve given birth to this baby and you feel you don’t have the bond you hoped that you would have.

Before the birth, you feel as if you’re going to have this amazing bond and you’re going to be the best mam ever. But for me, it just wasn’t like that.

Gemma, who’s now 26, didn’t feel she could ‘burden’ family and friends with her sadness. “It was hard speaking to them about how I felt because I didn’t want to upset them and friends have their own problems so you don’t feel you can talk about it to them.”

Fear of being judged

Luckily though, she had a health visitor who recommended the Children North East service, NEWPIP (Newcastle Parent Infant Parternship) which offers free help to mums and dads in Newcastle who are having trouble bonding with their babies.

At first Gemma admits she was scared to approach them. “I thought they might take my baby off me – that I’d be judged. What if they felt I wasn’t good enough?”

Confidence building

On the contrary, Peter Toolan, clinical lead at NEWPIP, worked sensitively with Gemma to build up her confidence with Jenson.

“Peter showed me that it wasn’t that I was doing anything wrong – I was just trying too hard to love Jenson and not letting it come naturally.”

Gemma wanted to tell her story so that other people feeling like she did in the beginning, might feel more able to come forward. “I’d say, if you’re suffering from post natal depression or anxiety and feeling a bit low about yourself,  go and seek help. You’re doing everything right if you speak to someone.”

Thursdays just got better!

Our online baby and parent groups run every Thursday:

Birth to walking – 10.30 – 11.30
Walking to two years – 1.30 – 2.30
Join in our weekly Zoom groups hosted by Kimberley and Marie.

Babies come along and have fun, explore new ideas for play and help your parents to notice what you are communicating.

Parents come along and get tips on managing your own stress, helping your baby manage their feelings, keeping connected with others and being kind to yourself.

In this advice video, Debbie Ellerby, the Trainer and Project Co-ordinator for our Whoops Child Safety Project, shows you how to spot the signs when a child is choking.

A four week programme for you and your newborn baby.  It covers topics for the first important stage of your baby’s life including thinking about parenting styles, dealing with baby’s development and protecting the baby.

We do offer these services free of charge in some areas, so please contact us to find out if you are eligible.

This is our antenatal course which prepares you to become a parent, throughout pregnancy to the birth of your child.  The four week course covers the baby’s development in the womb and what to expect during labour.  It also covers the important basics of the first few weeks such as bathing, breastfeeding and local health and support networks available.

The four week course for you and your partner, friend or relative is £60.00, with single sessions available at £12.00 each.

For the most up-to-date course timetables and to find out how to book your place please contact our Families and Parenting Service on 0191 272 7824 or use our contact us form.