Redundancy, miscarriage, a biz, a home birth… oh, and a global pandemic!
I was one of the ones who never thought this pandemic would come to the UK, and in some ways I am still in total denial about the past year. I went to a friend’s hen do late February last year to Lisbon and I remember my Mum ringing me a few days before to ask if I thought I should be going. I made this suggestion to my friends who all laughed and said “don’t be silly Sheila”. If only we knew then what we know now.
How could I be stood in the kitchen and not realise I was crying uncontrollably?
This time last year I had just experienced miscarriage for the first time. We had Hugo who had just turned two, and we’d only known I was pregnant for a couple of weeks, but I never understood how empty it would make me feel. How I would feel guilt and emotion like I never had before. How could I be stood in the kitchen cooking dinner and not even realise I was crying uncontrollably? I can’t really remember how I turned a corner to pull myself out of my hole now but I did. I guess I did my usual put my brave face on and pretend I was ok. I also think Hugo helped me a lot, even though he didn’t know it. Toddlers have that way don’t they. I was also right in the middle of launching my own business so I was busy.
Being faced with redundancy was a blessing in disguise
I had made the decision to start my own business as I struggled going back to work after my maternity leave with Hugo. I struggled with the balance of not being able to give 100% to anything but just a little bit to everything – a Mum, a wife, an employee, and me, and all the other things in between. Working for yourself you have to probably split yourself into more pieces but somehow I manage to make it work better for me. I had been my own boss before in a life before children and enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of it so I had always known I wanted to come back to this. The company I worked for had a large restructure and I found myself facing redundancy – a rubbish feeling but a blessing in disguise. I didn’t think being made redundant from a job I didn’t really love would bother me, but this was another emotion I had never experienced and it threw me.
I struggled with boys’ clothes, always finding there was a huge selection of girls but not much for boys so I decided clothing was the way to go for my new business. Having never worked in fashion, design or retail I had a lot to learn, but I do like a challenge.
I had fabric, I had a factory, I even had a website, I just needed to put faith in myself that people would buy from me. After many tears, stress and anxiety, ‘Hubalu’ was launched. I wanted our product to be cheeky and fun, affordable, durable and it was important to me to have my product made here in the UK.
I launched my biz, discovered I was pregnant and a global pandemic hit!
A couple of weeks after we had launched Hubalu I found out I was pregnant again. It was unexpected as it had happened so quickly after the miscarriage. I entered pregnancy with great caution this time and then bam a global pandemic hit and we were in lockdown 1.0. Life stopped. I struggled with lockdown 1.0. I was newly pregnant and anxious, and found myself with a toddler at home 24/7. I soon began to learn, as many people did, parenting 24/7 wasn’t my strongest point. Hugo was pushing every boundary possible at two and a bit years old, I missed people and Hugo missed people. They say all your child ever wants is you, but I won’t deny it, Hugo needed more than me. He started sleeping terribly, which then combined with pregnancy meant I was exhausted and couldn’t be fuelled by caffeine, or wine. Most days I counted down the hours until my husband finished work. I made myself feel guilty that I felt like this, but admitting it, made me a better Mum.
My 12 week scan came around mid April and I had to go alone. I remember being nervous at our 12 week scan with Hugo but I think because of the miscarriage I was even more nervous. And I was on my own. Jonny (my husband) had to stay at home with Hugo as at this stage we didn’t have support bubbles, so he couldn’t even see me to the hospital door. Many women have faced much worse than me on their own, but none of it is right. Usually a 12 week scan is such a joyous occasion but to experience it on your own just felt like a routine appointment and all very clinical. The sonographer couldn’t see the smile behind my mask and I couldn’t see the smile behind hers. It was lovely to share the photo with Jonny and Hugo when I got home, but there was always the ‘you should have been there’ feeling. I know at this point of the pandemic daily death numbers were high, but it didn’t make it any easier. Because we weren’t seeing anyone, and my stress and exhaustion levels were high, I went for days without even thinking or talking about my pregnancy. There wasn’t anyone to share it with, and I think even for Jonny, as he hadn’t been to the scan, my pregnancy didn’t quite feel real.
Pandemic daily death numbers were high and there was no one to share my pregnancy with
Hubalu was going well. People were supporting small businesses, and shopping online. I had started with 5 different fabrics and launched two more in May – colour changing rainbows and bees – both went on to be sell outs. Little did I know when ordering these fabrics in the February how Rainbows would be a symbol of hope during a global pandemic. Every time I sold a pair of leggings my phone pinged and Hugo and I did a little happy dance. I met with a local children’s boutique and they had agreed to stock our leggings so this was a pretty big deal and I was really rather proud.
My 20 week scan came around and I went alone again. I didn’t find out the sex. We didn’t find out with Hugo and I didn’t want to find out this time around but Jonny did. I was in the scan room, with a sonographer I had never met and it just didn’t feel right to share such a special moment with a stranger behind a mask who I would never see again.
We were mid June now and allowed to meet friends for walks so it all got a bit exciting – I could see my best friend and sometimes that’s all you need. Plus Hugo was back at nursery!! Now I’d had my 20 week scan, and could see people everything was feeling very real. I started looking at prams and talking about decorating the nursery. The more real it felt though the more anxious I became as the rules were still so tricky and unclear around scans, appointments and labour. There were stories about partners not even being there for labour! I tried to not think about it too much and carried on attending midwife appointments alone, and hoping as the weeks went on it would become clearer. It’s funny how just accepting of everything I became – it’s like I just lost a little bit of fight in me as everything was so out of my control.
The hospital was eerie, even Costa was closed and so I had talked myself into a home birth!
At my 32 week appointment the midwife asked me if I had considered a home birth and I immediately dismissed it without even thinking about it. Then as I left the hospital, walking down the eerie corridors, in my mask, Costa not even being open, I thought, is a home birth such a bad idea?! By the time I had driven home I had talked myself into a home birth – I would stay more relaxed, Jonny would definitely be there, my Mum could also be there (she was there for Hugo’s birth too), I could get in to my own bed straight after, have a cup of tea when I wanted and Hugo wouldn’t have to miss me being at hospital and could meet his new sibling at home (he went to my sisters for the actual birth don’t worry) – what wasn’t to love about the idea. I thought I would have to sell the idea to Jonny but he was immediately for it. We only live three miles from the hospital so if there were complications we could be there pretty quickly, and I had a fairly straight forward labour with Hugo so I felt confident in our decision.
I bought towels, sheets and puppy pads. I started meditation, bought crystals and aromatherapy oils. I was ready.
At my 36 week midwife appointment my measurements didn’t follow my curve and I was referred for a growth scan. I attended the scan alone. This was scary as I was expecting something to be wrong. The baby’s growth was actually fine, but then they thought I had excess fluid. Then they thought I had gestational diabetes so I had 5 days of testing to do. With these ‘complications’ the consultant wouldn’t agree to my home birth plan and wanted me to have a planned induction. They say your gut is always right and I fought it. Baby wasn’t ready to come out. I had read so much research about how inaccurate scans at such a late date were, and Costa still hadn’t opened at the hospital, so they had no chance of me agreeing to a hospital birth!
I had to meet with a consultant to discuss the risks, which weren’t anymore than any normal birth risks, and he agreed to sign me off for a home birth.
I was a week early with Hugo, so I had convinced myself I would be this time too. I was big and my bump was super low – any lower and it would have been round my ankles! I bounced on my swiss ball, ate curry, went for long walks, had sex (horrific, but it’s meant to work), and the due date came but nothing. I had to meet with the consultant who advised me to book in for an induction and at this stage I agreed. I had a sweep whilst I was at the hospital only to be told I was already 4cm dilated, and the midwife said if I didn’t have a baby by the end of the weekend she would be shocked. Monday came and still no baby. Monday was my induction date but I rang in the morning and delayed it until Thursday. My gut was right and Wednesday lunchtime natural labour started. A long afternoon of irregular contractions started. At 5.30pm we ordered Dominoes pizza in the comfort of our home. At 7.30pm we were calling the hospital to ask for a midwife to come.
We had chocolate hobnobs, cups of tea and a new baby
At 10.40pm Autumn was delivered in our front room weighing 7 pounds 7 ounces. I had a plate of chocolate hobnobs, and the midwives, Jonny, and my Mum had a cup of tea. Why we didn’t choose champagne I’ll never understand but hobnobs were the next best thing. A home birth, for me, was everything it was meant to be. I felt comfortable, I spent the hardest part of labour in the bath, and after a couple of hours I was in my own bed. The strangest part was seeing my placenta in a bowl on my fireplace for what felt like a very long time. The midwives did an amazing job. For one of them it was her 300th delivery, and for another it was her first ever home delivery.
I salute every new Mum during this pandemic. Scans, appointments, and even labour without partners is scary and emotional. Some mums are now returning to work after having babies at the beginning of lockdown 1.0, and I can’t even imagine how they feel. My maternity leave with Hugo was full of baby sensory, baby massage, coffee and lunch dates, and sharing the first nine months of my baby’s life with family and friends. To look on the positives, that new Mum has had nine months of bonding time with her baby with no pressure to compare herself to other new Mums, and no pressure of putting her face on to leave the house. Some new Mums have had partners on furlough so they have got to have a paternity leave they would never normally have had. But some have had to homeschool other children and not had maternity leave at all, or had Grandparents that have only met that baby a couple of times and watched milestones through a lens.
I feel gutted that so many people haven’t been able to meet our baby
Autumn is only 12 weeks old and I feel very gutted there are so many people that haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her, and aren’t likely to meet her until she is six months old. I felt sad that at her eight week jabs (that were 3 and a half weeks late thanks to Covid) that Jonny still couldn’t come with us and I attended the appointment alone. I feel sad I don’t know when I can take her to baby sensory, and I feel sad we don’t go out for more than an hour or so at a time through fear and anxiety I’ll have to breastfeed on a park bench in the cold, or sat in my car (I have done both of these), or that Autumn will have a poo explosion and I’ll have nowhere to change her. Breastfeeding is bloody hard as it is, and it’s just been made that little bit harder.
Why is it so much harder to celebrate our successes than it is to criticise yourself?
So where am I now? The year 2020 taught me a lot about myself – emotions I didn’t know existed within me, but I also found a strength I didn’t know I had. I feel like I want a refund for 2021 already but hopefully the end to this shit show is near. I am thankful we live in a digital age where I can keep in touch with family and friends through Facetime, zoom and Whatsapp. I have a beautiful 12 week old baby who amazes me every day. Hugo has just turned three and he makes me laugh every single day (he also drives me to wine nearly daily too). And I am so excited about what Hubalu will bring this year. We are just about to launch a Mama and Baby twinning range. I am working on a pattern to launch shorts for the summer, and I have different fabrics lined up to expand our range, hopefully with some more wholesale opportunities along the way.
I asked a friend to read over what I had written before sharing my story with you and she said I needed to make more of my last paragraph. She said that the goal of the blog is about overcoming this adversity, but truly living every second of it. What you have been through is profound and you aren’t doing it justice by not showing how much you are achieving despite it all.
Why is it so much harder to celebrate our successes than it is to criticise yourself? She’s totally right though – I’ve taken control of every situation that has thrown itself at me in the past 12 months and nailed it. Maybe not straight away, but the journey to success isn’t easy. Things are sent to test us and make us stronger.
I think it’s hard to currently be that positive when it doesn’t look like there is a way out of this pandemic and we’re emotionally exhausted. Covid has taken so much from us all, but better days are coming. Mama’s we’ve got this!
If you’ve made it to the end of this blog well done – it’s more of a novel than a blog so thank you for sticking with me!
Vicki Baggott is the founder of Hubalu, check it out in our brand directory.