Saturday, 15 October 2016

Baby Loss Awareness Week

People may think , oh all she ever goes on about is baby loss this baby loss that. Others may accept my passion for it , but not quite understand. I will try to explain . When I lost my boy, it was probably the most lonely time in my life. I felt that no one could possibly understand, partly because I was struggling to understand myself. Quickly, I saw people moving on with their lives , and I was just stuck. For me sharing what I was feeling on support pages helped me. It was a space where I could feel safe to share what I was feeling without being judged. The people on the page hadn't necessarily had the same circumstances as me, but still they could recognise the feelings and thoughts I was having, and that lifted the loneliness for me. 

I am so passionate about awareness because although I found my safe space through support pages, some people may never feel safe to share their feelings, and carry them round with them , staying with them for a life time. To be perfectly honest baby loss is a bit of touchy subject with some people, and I completely understand that for some they don't know how to act , what to say or what to do. The truth is there is no right way. Whatever you feel is ok, there is no right or wrong way to feel.

 Massive pressure is put on us from social influence, and that is what I feel needs to change. I am not afraid to talk about my loss, nor should anyone ever be, if they want to that is, if they don't want to then that is their right too. What I went through is my own experience , and I don't believe anyone has the right to tell me how I should or should not think or feel or even do. Counselling can offer that safe space when feelings can be felt without any judgement, like the support pages for me, this could help with the lonliness and feeling like no one understands, as well as any other feelings you are experiencing. The aim of this really is to say that I have learnt that you do not have to feel like you are alone.

Emma Saunters


Friday, 7 October 2016

Being a volunteer Counsellor at Footsteps

Humbled. Powerful. Courageous

These are just three of many feelings that I experience while counselling at Footsteps. Counselling is all about the feelings we experience and many of them can be terribly difficult to experience especially if we've lost a child or are having difficulty in conceiving. As soon as you start trying to conceive a baby you imagine your life with a child in it, holding your newborn baby and that gorgeous baby smell, having your own family, what you can buy for them and even the sleepless nights! When the possibility of that is taken away it is heart-breaking and, like anything, now that it has been taken away we want it all the more. We also want to be able to protect our children and even if they have died being able to cherish them in honouring their memory and bringing them into our daily family life is very important. This can be extremely difficult when others struggle to support us in this however a child is still part of a family even if they are not alive.I, like all of my counselling colleagues, have experienced difficulties when having a baby and it has been the hardest thing I have had to experience. The feelings of despair, helplessness and failure have been overwhelming and it has made me aware of how little control I do actually have. However, this experience is my own and although it was a baby related issue it still belongs to me as does my client’s experiences belong to them. I have felt pain which all of my clients have felt and no matter what the experience I feel I am able to offer true empathy because of the feelings we share and not necessarily the experiences.Most of the counsellors at Footsteps volunteer a day from their week to provide counselling. We are a team of six counsellors, some of us qualified and some of us still in training. We volunteer on different days so we only tend to see each other monthly at our group supervision. Here we are able to talk about how we are working with our clients and offer each other support for the work we are providing. We do occasionally treat ourselves to an afternoon tea or meal out as it is important for us to support each other in looking after ourselves so we are able to offer a good service to our clients.When I’m not at Footsteps I’m busy working and enjoying my family and friends. And so my day at Footsteps can often be a calm, insightful day giving me time for reflection that allows me to sit with my clients in their grief and offer a space for them to be with their baby or the baby they long for. This brings me back to the three words I began with as I am humbled by the courage and strength of my clients and the feelings they share are very powerful as they are real, raw emotions that deserve to be heard.

Footsteps Counselling Room
Just to finish my colleagues would like to share with you their experiences of counselling at Footsteps.

"I started counselling at Footsteps whilst training, nearly three years ago, and for me it has been a real privilege to support people at such a difficult, vulnerable time in their lives.  I'm always aware that my clients may be sharing stories, feelings and thoughts with me that they may never have shared with anyone else and that information is very precious.  I have experienced the feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fear and many others felt by my clients but also been humbled by their courage and bravery.  Like my colleagues I have a busy life outside Footsteps but my day a week volunteer counselling there is very important to me; not only because of my clients but also because of my pride at being part of such a great organisation and team." Rachel

 ‘Having been a bereavement volunteer for some years and worked with loss in many guises, there is a tangible difference to the losses that Footsteps clients exhibit. It's the terrible sadness of a lost future with someone whom one can nurture and guide and hold forever. The bravery and humility of the clients with whom I have been incredibly fortunate to work, can take my breath away.  Behind the sadness and fear and the coming to terms with poignant loses, is this fine silken thread of hope. It may be hidden or not quite discovered but it is there and it is awe-inspiring. How can I not feel humbled and inspired by the work we do at Footsteps? Long may it continue.’  Anne

 "My experiences as a counsellor at Footsteps have been an honour and a privilege.  As much as I hope to assist my clients in gaining a greater awareness and understanding of their true self, I too have increased my knowledge and self-awareness. In helping clients to reconnect with their inner strength and resources, I am consistently humbled by the human capacity for growth following trauma. Many of the presenting issues dealt with at Footsteps involve feelings of shame. I believe the antidote to shame is compassion, and I hope to express this within the therapeutic relationship I have with my clients."   Keira

 Thank you for reading…


Thursday, 8 September 2016

To The Broken Mum

Whilst dropping my husband off at work one morning I sat in the car with tears rolling down my cheeks. The baby had been awake all night, I hadn't slept for weeks and I had a whole day alone with my 3 month old baby. I sobbed all the way to his work and when it was time for him to get out the car I begged him to stay. I felt frightened, I felt alone but most of all I felt broken. I felt like I had failed, the one job I was supposed to know what to do and I couldn’t do it.

So I wanted to write to all those mums feeling broken and let you know that you are not alone, you are not a failure and you are definitely not broken. Self doubt is such a big part of motherhood but you are doing your best and that is good enough!

You can do this and it will get better.
Natalie x

Natalie runs Cheltenham PANDAS and holds monthly meet ups for mums affected by perinatal mental health issues. The free support group provides mums with the opportunity to talk to others who have been through similar experiences, make friends and share stories with those who really understand without feeling judged. See their facebook page for more info

Footsteps Counselling & Care offers support and counselling for mums affected by perinatal mental health including depression and anxiety etc…..If you are worried about how you or a loved one is feeling please reach out and seek support.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Safe Space – a wellbeing support group for new and expectant parents in Gloucester

Footsteps Counselling and Care are pleased to introduce you to our guest blogger Emily Le Page, with details of Safe Space. 

The NCT is the UK’s largest charity for parents, supporting over 100,000 annually through courses and its 300 branches nationwide. [1]  This year it is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Gloucester branch has a very active and keen group of volunteers that I joined in July 2015, just prior to returning to my day job.
I started volunteering towards the end of my maternity leave, which was wonderful, but I became all too aware that this is not always the case for many women and their families.  

Pregnancy, labour and the year afterwards is a time of real emotional highs and lows, but for some women it can be the cause of some serious mental health struggles. As many as 1 in 5 women suffer from depression, anxiety or psychosis during pregnancy or a year after giving birth[2]. Understanding how risky this time can be we were keen to think about how we as a branch could support women and our wider community.

In Gloucestershire in any one year, there may be between 600 and 900 women suffering with cases of mild to moderate Depressive Illness and Anxiety.  This number doesn’t include those women who may be suffering in silence or have not been able to access help they really need.

Access to the right help is normally done via the GP, midwife or self-referral. This can include things such as talking therapy (known locally as ‘Lets Talk’), medication, community nursing support or hospital treatment depending severity. Charities such as ‘Footsteps’ also help to plug the gaps in care to a huge extent. They are such a valuable asset to the local community.

Considering the large numbers of women and families affected every year by mental health difficulties there is little in the way of specialized community support groups. These are really important in promoting and maintaining mental health. Research has pointed to benefits peer support in particular can provide; ‘The mutuality and reciprocity that occurs, builds social capital, which in turn is associated with well-being and resilience’[3]
Our branch really wanted to know what would be helpful to local mums and families in Gloucester so we ran a survey from our NCT Facebook page to get some ideas. We focused specifically on how we could develop an emotional wellbeing support system and what that might look like.

We had lots of really insightful ideas and we are really grateful to everyone who took part. Offering a really informal, friendly ‘safe space’ as an interface into other local services was the most popular concept. A space to talk about shared experiences and develop a ‘friendship network’ in knowledge you are not alone was the key theme.

Knowing what we needed to do, our next challenge was how and where to start running a potential group. It took a while, but we have kindly been allowed a wonderfully resourced play-room to use free of charge on a monthly basis at ‘The Compass’ Children’s Centre in Coney Hill, Gloucester City. Refreshments have been provided through the Community Champion scheme at the Tesco superstore, St Oswald’s Retail Park. This allows us to ensure the group is free, a real bonus!

We have been networking with the health visiting teams, community midwives and charitable services in the hopes that the word is spread where we are and how we can help. This also provides a great link in to women who may be in need of more support outside of what the group offers.

We designed the logo ourselves. A rainbow umbrella; the idea of shelter and safety with the beauty that can come after a stormy time.

Our first group ran in early April and was really well received. We are operating monthly until Christmas as a pilot, inclusive of the summer holidays. We hope it will slowly gain ground and become a group run by members for members.

Peer support is the mainstay of what we help facilitate, but reflecting on other suggestions we had from our survey we have a  ‘wellbeing toolkit’ of resources. This includes information about voluntary sector services, a library of books, mindfulness colouring and inspirational stories of ‘lived experience’.
This is a really friendly and free group open to all – NCT member or not. Pregnant ladies whether it’s your first or fifth, those with pre-school age children, partners and other family members are all most welcome.

Your GP, Midwife or Health Visitor should always be the first port of call for any Mental Health concerns. We aim to provide additional support alongside treatment or input you may be getting elsewhere.
Looking nationally the NCT has been awarded a grant by the Department of Health to develop longer-term peer support network. [4] This will begin in 3 pilot areas yet to be confirmed. If successful this could build upon what we have started with Safe Space.
Small projects like ours and the latest NCT initiative on a national scale can hopefully make sure every woman gets access to the care she needs and deserves.

Our next group runs on Friday 5th August 2016. We hope to see you there!

We hope to be able to help anyone that needs it. You can message our page if you have any queries, concerns or would like a bit more information. It can be really scary to make the first step, but know that you do not have to suffer alone. Help is out there.

Thank you so much to Daisy and her team for giving us some space on the blog.
If you would like to find out more about NCT Gloucester and our ‘Safe Space’ group we are on Facebook or the NCT website. Follow the links below.

Emily Le Page

[1] NCT. 2015. What we do for parents. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 19 April 2016].[2] Local Gov; Councils urged to reduce mental health problems amongst pregnant women. 2016. [ONLINE] Available at:
[3] McKenzie, K. (2006). Social risk, mental health and social capital. In: McKenzie, K. & Harpham, T. (Eds) Social Capital and Mental Health. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.[4] NCT. 2015. NCT announces new mental health peer support project. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 19 April 2016].

Friday, 22 July 2016

Volunteering ….not just working for free

Hi All, my name is Emma Saunters and I have been the Volunteer Community ambassador for Footsteps Counselling and care since September.

The aim of this blog post is to give you a bit of an insight of what being a volunteer is like. I can't really sum it up in one word, as for me it is a mixture of astonishing, inspiring and rewarding, with each week being so different from the next !

I will start by letting you know a bit about myself. I was a single mum at 20, and had my second child at 25 with my now husband. From the time I got pregnant with my eldest, I hadn't worked. I was bringing up 2 children , but how do I write that on a C.V. I didn't know , but I knew I had skills , I just didn't use them in 'actual' work.

So, in September 2015 I was sitting there one day , my youngest was due to start nursery soon, and I thought 'arghhh, what am I going to do with this free time!'. I contemplated with sorting the house out , going for coffee with others that were in the same situation as me, but no I was looking into the future more. I guessed that one day soon I would actually have to get a job ….and this worried me because I had not worked for over 5 years !

I had taken it upon myself to find somewhere where I could give my time and in return I could develop my skills , so I would have something other than 'bringing up kids' on my CV , which by the way includes many skills, but probably not so favourable if you were going for a job and were up against someone who had demonstrated those skills in work … I don't know it may just be me thinking that, but I'd rather be safe than sorry !

Anyway, the stuff that Footsteps do is very close to my heart and I wanted to help. Win, win situation really because by helping them I would be helping myself too, because whatever I did would go straight on my CV!

At first it was a bit daunting ! I didn't know if I was capable of it , as I had so much time out of work , but guessed I had to start somewhere. I soon got into it though and even now I drive home smiling after , because I know I have done something good, for Footsteps and for me.

Footsteps have enabled me to develop my skills , and even taught me new ones! I've made new friends , and instead of being sat looking at the washing pile at home , I'm working and making a difference!

That brings me onto my next point , how do I fit it all in, how many hours do I do and what is expected of me. It is important for me to have balance. To be honest it is quite flexible. I do what I can , when I can, and anything I do is much appreciated by Footsteps. I am also training to be a Counsellor so that takes a lot of my time, aswell as homelife and family. I do about 6 hours a week presently, but due to the holidays I can't do anymore , but thats is ok with volunteering, it's not like a full time job , anything you do is better than nothing at all.

Footsteps rely on their volunteers to operate , each and every one is cherished from the shop worker to what I am , the Community Ambassador, we are all needed and without us they wouldn't be able to do what they do.
Like I mentioned previously , there is not one word to describe volunteering, and for me it is not 'just working for free', the rewards I get from it completely outweigh anything else ! I've been in the local paper and today I even got to have an interview on the radio, pretty cool eh?!

If you have extra time on your hands , need skills to put on your CV, want to help in the community or just want to make a difference, please don't hesitate in contacting us.

Volunteering has changed my life and it could for you too !

Footsteps currently need volunteers for the following:

  • Shop workers and sorters
  • eBay support
  • Community Ambassadors to give talks and raise awareness in the community
  • Qualified counsellors
  • Trustees
  • Social Media support
  • Fundraising and events

So give us a call or send us a message!
01452 308618

Footsteps Counselling and Care provides free counselling support for anyone affected by pregnancy related issues, the loss of a baby for any reason and at any time and those struggling with infertility. Please see out 'about us' page at the top of this blog, visit our website, link to the right or visit our charity shop.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Footprints For Florence

Growing up, you always want to be part of a gang. At primary school, it was the girls who had the sparkly shoes with the toy in the heel and by secondary school, you just wanted to be ‘normal’ enough to fit in. I wasn’t sporty, but I loved Guides, youth group and drama and at one time in my mid-teens, I was doing something six nights a week – much to the dismay of my poor dad who was my taxi service.But there’s one club as an adult that nobody would choose to join because it means you share the same tragic, life-changing experience that no one should have to face. I’m a member of the babyloss club.

It had been 7 years since my son had been born and I was delighted to be expecting his little sister in August last year. I’d had a normal, healthy pregnancy – passing all my tests and scans with flying colours, right up until 36 weeks when we’d checked in on her progress and booked in for an elective caesarean in a fortnight’s time. There she was on our scan; moving around and practicing for the outside world.However, sometime in the following 48 hours, something happened. Nobody knows what it was or why – but our healthy, virtually full-term baby girl’s heart stopped beating and our world came crashing down.

We named her Florence and were lucky to spend as much time with her as we wanted in the hospital’s dedicated bereavement suite where we were able to have photos, take hand and footprints and somehow begin to come to terms with the senseless loss of our baby.

When we’d been home a number of weeks and the fuss had died down, it was Footsteps Counselling & Care that was there to provide counselling. I’d been given their card by the bereavement midwife while we were in hospital because, incredibly, there is no first-line NHS-funded counselling support for people who were in our position. Our sessions became my ‘safe’ space where I could say everything I was feeling – however graphic, or unpleasant, or un-mumlike. My counsellor, an unpaid volunteer, was unshockable and, because she had met bereaved parents before, she understood.

In the run up to what would have been Florence’s 1st birthday on 3 August this year, we’ve decided to commemorate her day by setting up the ‘Footprints for Florence’ campaign with the aim of raising money for Footsteps Counselling & Care, SANDS and Cruse Bereavement – the three charities that have looked after us both so wonderfully in those dark days and beyond.

The idea is simple – we want to celebrate her life with ‘good deeds’ by asking people to create their ‘footprint’ on the world in her memory. It could be anything: carrying out a random act of kindness, planting some wild flowers, watching for shooting stars, eating cake or making a difference somehow. Then, if you can, make a donation which will automatically be split exactly three ways between the  charities to help them continue their vital work.

We cannot change what happened to our little girl, but we can help make a difference in the world in her memory. 

Thank you for reading.

Thank you to our guest blogger Rachael.

Please do support the Footprints For Florence campaign

If you have been affected by the loss of a baby for any  reason or at any time, we can offer counselling support. Please get in touch on   
01452 308618, or via our Facebook page or website.

Footsteps Counselling and Care provide free counselling support for anyone affected by pregnancy related issues, the loss of  baby, infertility issues, childlessness, and post or prenatal depression.

Friday, 10 June 2016

What Kind of Charity Shop Shopper are You?

What kind of a charity shop shopper are you?

Are you a charity shop shopper? Either you are or you aren’t!  Would you say that’s true?

I definitely am!  I’ve always been a charity shop shopper.  I remember as a teenager regularly spending a day driving off to a nearby town in my 2CV for a charity shopping excursion!  I would buy baggy men's jumpers and boxy suit jackets and even men's dress shirts and cufflinks, all to wear with my ankle length flowing skirts and floor length white lace cotton petty coat teamed with my ‘oxblood’ DMs and often a floppy velvet hat. Well it was the late 80 / early 90s, but perhaps even for then a little ‘individual’. I loved it though, scouring the unfamiliar places for a little vintage brooch or an unusual book of poems…

I still love it and although I leave the men’s jackets & dress shirts well alone now I can still be found  trawling the Aladdin's cave of the charity shops.

So what kind of charity shop shoppers are out there? I think there are a a few definite 'types'!

The Treasure Hunter
The treasure hunter is like a magpie, always looking for that shiny item!  This shopper isn’t looking for anything in particular, just something fabulous.

The Bargain Hunter
This shopper is looking for a bargain, that favorite brand dress for £5, a pair of vintage heels or handbag going for a song, a designer item  just waiting to be found for under a tenner. It happens but you have to be patient !

The Eco Warrior
I’m sure we all hate what consumerism and excessive waste is doing to our planet. Why buy more new stuff when you can reuse and recycle and reduce waste? Our Eco Warrior shopper is happy to be saving a few pounds and helping the planet too.

The Thrifter
We all know a Thrifter right?  Won’t buy it unless it is the right price, saving a pound here there and everywhere. Who cares if it is old or ugly it works fine!  Lost of us have to be thrifty these days but some of us make a career of it!

The Upcyler
This shopper is a creative genius and is on the lookout for their next upcycling project. These are the people with a sewing machine on standby or a sander and tins of French Grey furniture paint at the ready.  Whatever they walk out with will never look the same again….

The Supporter
Of course we can’t forget the ‘charity’ bit. Many shoppers are all about the cause and will frequent the same shops regularly to help their favorite causes wherever they can.  

None of the above?
Charity shopping just not you? I have a friend who just never sets foot in a charity shop. She loves new stuff, that’s just the way she likes it. How about you?  Where do you fit?  

I’m afraid to say I think I am all of them!  Anyone else?

I’d love to hear about your type, have I missed anyone?!  I’d really like to hear about your best bargain too.  Comments below!

Before I go, I’d love to introduce you to our charity shop on Westgate Street in Gloucester. Come on let’s go in and see what we can find in there today…..

Please do pay us a visit, you never know what you might find!

If you just don’t get it like my friend, please do consider donating unwanted items for us to sell, we are always very grateful. You can drive right up to the door before 10am, or we can sometimes arrange to collect from you.  Just give the shop a call 01452 412380.  Opening hours are here.

At Footsteps we rely on our charity shop to fund our work providing free counselling support for anyone that has suffered a loss or trauma in pregnancy or birth. We support anyone in Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds that has lost a baby for any reason including stillbirth, neonatal death, miscarriage, termination and ectopic pregnancy. We also support those who are suffering with infertility or involuntary childlessness, and those with post / prenatal depression and anyone going through a crisis or difficult pregnancy.  If you need support get in touch, we’re here to listen. 01452 308618.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

LK Bennett Fashion and Fundraising Event

Footsteps Counselling and Care recently teamed up with LK Bennett Cheltenham for a fabulous evening of fizz, fashion and fundraising!

On a fabulous early summer evening our Trustees, staff and supporters gathered in the beautiful LK Bennett Cheltenham store to enjoy a few hours of browsing the summer season collection of clothes, shoes and accessories.We had a lovely time trying and buying, and some of us especially enjoyed the glorious shoe collection!  We sipped a glass of fizz, had a lovely chin wag and enjoyed ourselves!  We even enjoyed a special discount!  Thanks Dexter and his Team!

We love our own charity shop of course but this certainly made a change!

We raised some money too!  As a small, local, independent charity we rely on our charity shop and other fundraising to keep our much needed work going. We support anyone who has sadly lost a baby for whatever reason, or anyone suffering from any other pregnancy related issues including termination, post or prenatal depression, crisis or difficult pregnancy and infertility struggles. 

This event was a great success as it helped us raise valuable funds to support our work and also helped us to spread our message that little bit further.

We are planning more events with our friends at LK Bennett, watch this space!  You too could be sipping fizz and enjoying beautiful fashion at a special discount as well as supporting Footsteps Counselling & Care. Win Win!

To find out more about what we do or how to support us please see the about us page here on our blog. You can also find a link to our Facebook page  and our website.

If you need counselling support please do get in touch. We are here to listen.
01452 308618.