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The Lifeline

Bringing you the best local stories in and around our community.

Cuddling For Life

Featured Photo from Cuddling For Life

Have you ever heard of baby cuddling at Florida Hospital For Children? Today on the Lifeline, our publisher Sheila Kramer writes about her experience starting as a volunteer in the program, her training, and how it turned out to be far more rewarding than she ever imagined.

I’m not proud of this, but other than serving on a committee or two, I’m not much of a volunteer. I’m not beating myself up about this because I do work full time and, while my children are grown and out of the house, I am a very hands-on grandma.

Several months ago a friend posted on Facebook that she had just come from “cuddling” at Florida Hospital for Children and she described it as being the best part of her week. I was intrigued.

After a little fact finding, I decided to take a step forward. I was disappointed when several of my attempts to connect with the volunteer department went unanswered. I was discouraged but not willing to let this go. Just one more email proved successful. I scheduled my first “job” interview in about 30 years.

I was anxious - I lost sleep - but I persevered.  

Once you pass the online, written, and medical tests, you’re matched with an experienced “cuddler” to teach, guide, and generally support you throughout the 8 required training sessions.

Five weeks in and my trainer and I were asked to help with a baby who had been born addicted to cocaine. Baby June had been crying for 24 hours. The cry was not like anything I had ever heard from a baby before. The nurse explained that she had been removed from her morphine the day before and she was unable to be comforted - she asked us to just hold the baby for a while. I quickly learned that newborns who are going through withdrawal have the same symptoms that adults facing withdrawal have - pain, nausea, headaches, sleeplessness, and more. Rocking, talking, singing, bouncing - all the tricks I have used over my lifetime to soothe a crying baby would only make this baby feel worse. I sat holding onto baby June tightly, letting her know I was there. After loving this little girl for just under an hour she finally calmed down and stopped crying. I was moved to tears. Even though it was time for me to leave, I sat holding on to her for another hour. Although she didn’t sleep for more than two or three minutes at a time she remained quiet. It was time for me to go. I carefully stood up and placed her into her crib - praying that this movement wouldn’t upset the calm - and it didn’t. The nurses were amazed, my trainer was amazed, and I felt like I had created world peace.

I expect that this will be something I will do for the rest of my life. It takes so little and it has taught me so much - mostly to appreciate all of the healthy babies in my life and to know that a paycheck doesn’t necessarily reflect the importance of work.

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Posted By: Anji Patel

Sheila, I loved this article and so inspiring. I volunteer at the SCPS Foundation and have been looking something worthwhile and I believe this maybe just what I'm looking for. Thank you for sharing you story and inspiring me! Anji

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