11/07/2012 08:13 EST | Updated 01/07/2013 05:12 EST

I a Baby Hugger


When our eldest daughter was gravely ill and we spent two months in the hospital, we were so blessed by the dedication of the staff of the Children's Hospital of Winnipeg's Health Science Centre. While we were confined to the hospital, Kate attended school, went to a wonderfully equipped playroom, was visited by celebrities and a clown named Hubert, borrowed books and music and movies and our family was embraced and supported in every way possible. I knew then that sometime and somehow, I wanted to return the kindness that was offered to us.

I often said to myself, when I retire, this is something that I really want to do. And then one day, I thought "what the heck am I waiting for? I could do this right now." So, almost 20 years after our own hospital stay, I was accepted to be a volunteer "baby hugger."

Once a week for the past four years, I head to the ward that has been assigned to me where there are sometimes little ones, that for a variety of reasons are completely on their own in the hospital. This is no one's fault -- just the circumstances of life. In other cases, there are parents who have stayed by their babies' crib-side and desperately need a break.

Perhaps it is to rush home for their other children or to make a phone call or buy their supper. This is where I come in. I don a hospital gown (and mask and gloves if the child is in isolation) and spend a couple of hours in my special bliss.

Sometimes I gather up some toys or read or sing nursery rhymes or play patty cake. Other times, I get out a stroller or a wagon and walk the halls to provide a change of scene. When diapers need changing, or bottles need giving, I am there for that too. But my favourite moments are when I can soothe a baby who is being examined by a doctor, or provide a finger to grasp or coax out a smile. And the very best times are when a little one relaxes and falls asleep in my arms and against my heart.

I am quite sure that I get far more than I give. All my cares and stresses melt away. I am in my happy place. I can't say enough about the joys of volunteering in a manner like this. Pick you passion and volunteer.

"Service to others is the payment you make for your space here on earth." -Mohammed Ali

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