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  • Dial-A-Mum is a free, annonymous phone counselling helpline run by trained volunteers who are all mothers. Our service is available to the wider community from school-age children to grandparents. Please call us on: 02 9477 6777 from 8.00 am to 11.00 pm.

Deborah DeWilde speaking on the “Holding Time”

On Mon 20th June, we had the privilege of having Deborah DeWilde speak to us on the “Holding Time”. Deb is a Midwife/Social Worker with an interest and expertise in caring for families who experience the death of their baby as a consequence of stillbirth, or in the new born period.

Deb was awarded an Order of Australia in 2005 for her work and after an hour and a half of listening to what her job entails, I’m sure we would all agree she definitely deserved it and more.
She showed beautiful photos of families with their baby in their arms as she spoke about what the different families had gone through. Each baby was dressed and named.
Deb works at three of the big maternity hospitals in Sydney, the Mater, North Shore Private and Prince Alfred.

Deb told us how she never knows when she is going to be called out. A lot of the time it is at night or the early hours of the morning. The Parents, of course are in so much shock that the process of helping them grieve takes time, patience and above all great respect and empathy.

Allowing the family to see, cuddle and spend time with their baby seems to help the process,  but it is not rushed or pushed upon them.
She reminded us of how it was “back then” when the dead baby was taken swiftly from the mother never to be seen or spoken of again leaving such a painful gap in the mother’s life as she wondered what the baby looked like and where it had gone.

This way the family has a chance to grieve, let go and plan a funeral – all important steps in the acceptance of the death of a loved one.
She spoke from the heart and it was quite obvious that this was a ‘calling” or vocation for Deb rather than a job.

She has been doing this work for over 30 years and doesn’t look as though she will be stepping away from it.  She is married to one of our prominent Paediatricians Dr. Peter Barr and has two teenage daughters and somehow manages to juggle her family life and her work.

At Christmas time, Deb organises a special church service for all those who have lost a baby/child. It sounded absolutely beautiful with photos of the children on view and special mementos that the parents could put on the tree or keep in their pocket.
As she said ” It’s the one day of the year where it’s about the child that they lost and they can speak and grieve openly in a safe loving environment amongst other parents who have been through the same experience.”

Those at the meeting that day were indeed touched and affected by meeting Deb and hearing her talk. She is a truly inspirational woman, who is highly regarded in the medical world, and is loved by all the families that she has helped over the many years.

We were truly blessed having her with us that day.


Hello From a Dial-A-Mum Volunteer

When I first found the advertisement for new volunteers for Dial A Mum, I thought it was a phone counselling service for children; the many kids at home waiting for their parents to return from work or teenagers who, unable to communicate with their parents would ring the hotline. As a mother of five grown children, I felt this was exactly what I’d been doing for over 30 years and with my experience would hopefully be of service to other children out there.

I soon discovered at the Orientation Morning that my first perception was not entirely right.  Dial-A-Mum, I learnt, is a service for everyone of all ages who needed support not just children. A listening/counselling telephone support service for anyone who needs a “motherly ear”.   As mothers, we are there to give you undivided attention; to give you a mother’s gentle but constructive way of guidance and above all we are there to listen and empathise without judgement.

Along with our natural instincts, experience of being someone’s mum and an interesting and professional training course in communication, listening, and problem solving skills, we volunteer our time to take the calls from those in need of some help.

A lot of our callers ring regularly.  They often live on their own and have no family support, so will call to tell us their news.  Others pick up the phone when they’re stressed or concerned about something in their lives and want someone to “hear them”.  All calls are confidential as we do not ask for names or any personal information.  Likewise the Dial-A-Mums stay anonymous.

I found the training course so beneficial not only when on the phones, but in my personal life.  I now feel more confident in communicating with my own family and friends, safe  in the knowledge that I don’t have to “rescue” them or “find a solution to their problem”, but I can support them as they find their own way  to a successful outcome.

I also thought that I’d be taking on every caller’s pain and not being able to cope with the calls, but that hasn’t been the case.  Because I’m not rescuing them or being responsible for their happiness or solving their problem, I can step back and be impartial without losing my empathy.

Our callers find our service invaluable and after five years, I still feel privileged to be a “Dial-A-Mum”.

Dial A Mum supporting Wayside Chapel Christmas 2010

Dial A Mum preparing for Christmas 2010

Wayside is gearing up to once again host its famous Christmas Day Street Party. It’s a great day, when people of all traditions, and at all ends of the social strata, sit together for good fellowship, food and fun.

In the lead up to the event there is a flurry of volunteer activity, with food being sourced, presents being gifted, decorations being made, and in the case of Solicitor and Marriage Celebrant, Carol Flanagan, thousands of Christmas cakes being baked.

Carol is a volunteer with Dial-a-Mum, a telephone support service, operated and funded by a group of trained volunteer Mums. The calls received by the Mums are from people who just need someone to talk to. Like many of the people who visit Wayside, the callers are mostly dealing with issues of loneliness and mental health. “There is a synergy in the philosophy of Dial-a-Mum and Wayside”, said Carol. “Pastor Graham Long came to one of our volunteer events and spoke of meeting people, not fixing them. This is what we try to do. We don’t offer solutions; we offer support and understanding from 8am to 11pm, 7 days per week.”

It’s a very warming experience sitting in Carol’s kitchen. Some of this warmth is straight from the oven where little Christmas cakes are being whisked in and out, but most of it has to do with the people who have gathered in the kitchen to help.

Today Carol’s fellow bakers are Dial-a-Mum’s Chris and Jill as well as German travellers Sophie, Judith & Anna. Three months of work goes into creating the thousands of individually wrapped Christmas cakes that will be delivered to Wayside and another Sydney charity on Christmas Eve, and everyone is kept busy. Chris says, “We share a great sense of camaraderie and have loads of fun but we still get the job done.”

At Jill’s coaxing, Carol keeps jumping off her chair to check the oven.  Jill explains “This is the first time I’ve ever baked Christmas cakes and it’s my batch in the oven now.”

By contrast, Carol is a very experienced baker. This is her 30th year of baking Christmas cakes for charity and the 4th year that she has baked for Wayside. It’s a costly exercise as there is no scrimping on ingredients; the cakes are chocked full of glace fruits and almonds. “If I’m going to do this, I want to do it well and I’ve been very lucky to source ingredients at cost price”, she said.

Every weekend in the lead up to Christmas, Carol’s kitchen will be a hive of activity. She’ll be joined by different Dial-a-Mum’s, and more German travellers are on their way. So, after 3 months of constant baking for charity, how will Carol be spending Christmas Day? “I’ll be cooking a sit down meal for about 20 friends and family!” No doubt each will be given an individually wrapped Christmas cake to take home.

If you’d like to volunteer for Dial-a-Mum, please call us on 02 9477 6777 or visit our website for more information @ www.dial-a-mum.org.au.