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Tuesday, 21 August 2018

"Sorry, I don't have a baby in here" - Bounty Reps on our Postnatal wards?

My eyes were red from all the crying. My breasts engorged, and nipples sore. I was beyond exhausted. I couldn't tell you what time of day it was because after nearly 2 weeks inside the hospital walls I had lost all idea of time, days rolled into one. My hands fumbling as I tried to get a grip of the hospital breast pump.

I was surrounded by mums and their babies. The excited shrills of visitors seeing the new baby filled the corridors. I could hear newborn cries and saw dads passing my window to fetch breast pumps and formula.

And then there was me. On my own, not sure what I should be doing with my time apart from getting acquainted with my new friend, the breast pump. My husband offering to bring me food, help me shower, anything to fill the silence that there was no baby in our room.  Our baby was in special care, fighting to breathe. poorly. After an emergency c section I was encouraged by neonatal staff to spend a few hours back on post natal every day to recoup, rest and get some head space, because as anyone who has experienced it will know, Neonatal is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting.

So there I am, boobs out, trying to make sure the breast pump is sucking my nipple right in, trying to be positive and there's a tap on the door, it opens but I don't see a face, just a back bustling through the door with a trolley.  I know who she is, rewind 3 years to my first baby and the same lady entered. My husband had been made redundant just a few days before our son was born and she left us about 20 minutes later with £200 we didn't have (she had a card machine and happily took our credit card). I remember my husband and I awkwardly looking each other, both knowing we couldn't afford it but neither of us brave enough to stop her as she sold us this 'great deal'

It was the 'Bounty Lady'. I don't know their official title but that is generally what she is referred too. She comes in, starting her sales pitch before she's fully turned around to face the room. She makes eye contact with me and carries on. I was shell-shocked.  I opened my mouth and said "sorry I don't have a baby in here my baby girl is in special care". "Oh sorry" she said, and that was it, gone.

I burst into tears. Hot heavy tears. She was so busy trying to sell to me, she didn't notice my tear stained face, or the fact their was no bloody cot. No baby.  She didn't even have the curtesy to ask me how my baby was.

Here we are, women, at our most vulnerable, being taken advantage of. Even for those who want the bounty photos, they are expensive. Imagine for one minute being a new mother, so absorbed by your new baby you've forgotten momentarily your worries about how you will financially manage on just your maternity pay. And in strolls a big fat reminder. Yet you pull your credit card out because you can't say no. You don't want to be the worst mother on the ward who doesn't even buy the photos of their new baby.

I was having a pretty awful time and I wanted so desperately to have my loved ones around me. But of course no visitors before 4pm. So my own mother can't visit me, but the bounty lady can come in, breaching infection control like nobody's business.  There wasn't a single person who could give me help with breastfeeding and pumping, instead I had to call a private lactation consultant from my hospital bed, but again we've got the means to have the 'Bounty Lady'.

There is no place for sales reps on the postnatal ward. A Hospital should be a safe place.  We hang up on cold callers trying to harvest our information over the phone but allow our women on our post natal wards to have data harvesting reps gate crash their newborn party? Or worse, come crashing into a room as a reminder your baby is sick and apart from you.

This has been a problem for years. in fact, my own mother tells me about how upset and embarrassed she felt when I was born, other women on the ward were having the photos done and they just could not afford it. So When will we stop seeing new mothers as an easy target and when will we shut our postnatal doors to the 'bounty lady'?

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