'I felt re-energised and less daunted about returning to work'
29 October, 2023
When I began my maternity leave in December 2022, I was looking forward to taking a full 12 months out of my clinical work as an ST5 CAMHS trainee to focus on being a first time mum to my beautiful little boy.
Despite this, there was one thing I knew I wanted to continue; my activity within the Royal College of Psychiatrists. I had loved being a Psychiatric Trainee Committee representative for the past four years and was conscious that my term would soon be ending.
Fortunately I saw an advert for the role of CAMHS trainee representative in the faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry when I was just thee months postpartum and to my surprise and delight, I was elected to the role.
Shortly after this, I received an email inviting me to the faculty strategy day and committee meeting in June. I quickly did the calculations; my little boy would be nearly six months old.
I really wanted to attend the meeting but I also started to feel anxious and stressed about how I would be able to when all our efforts to introduce bottle feeding to our exclusively breastfed baby had failed.
I told myself I still had three months and a lot could change in that time but I also knew it would take a lot of work and I didn’t like the idea of the stress and tears (both mine and baby’s) of trying night after night to get him to accept the bottle while the meeting loomed ever nearer.
I felt guilty that I would be doing this just so I could leave him. I was meant to be on maternity leave, maybe I shouldn’t have even accepted the role at all.
But what if there were another option?
My husband has always said “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”, a mantra that grates against my usual non-assertive approach to these types of things.
However, this time, I decided to try it. I emailed the faculty manager and asked politely if it would be possible for my baby to attend the college so that I could feed him during the meeting.
After a short delay during which she checked this with the relevant person within the college, she replied that of course it would be possible and that I could bring someone to care for him whilst I was in the meeting.
They would be given a room and I could leave when needed to feed him. I was instantly relieved and so pleased that I even told other breastfeeding doctors about the positive response I had had.
From that moment on, I no longer worried about the day. On the contrary I was looking forward to it and my husband was looking forward to a day off in London with our son. The day itself ran perfectly smoothly. In fact, all my son’s feed were fortunately timed with the breaks from the meeting so I didn’t miss anything and we didn’t even use the private room.
The college staff were friendly and welcoming, the baby change facilities were clean and spacious and I was even encouraged to bring him into the meeting room during the break to meet some of the faculty.
'I felt re-energised and less daunted about returning'
There were no losers; the meeting reignited my passion for psychiatry and I left feeling re-energised and less daunted about returning to work in December. My husband and son enjoyed a lovely day of bonding and we even had time for an early dinner of pizza in a nearby terrace restaurant after the meeting.
I know that attending a college faculty meeting whilst on maternity leave wouldn’t be for everyone and that is fine. Nor would everyone have someone available to look after their child during the meeting.
But having the option to bring your baby and the facilities available to make that choice is important and I feel extremely proud to have represented a group of trainees who are often missing at these types of events and whose priorities and opinions may not, therefore, always be fairly represented.
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