Trigger warnings of Post Natal Anxiety and Baby loss and Birth Story
So I am writing this on very little sleep so please ignore any terrible spelling and bad grammar!
I am one month in from having baby number two.
For those of you who don’t know me I run My VIP Card which is a multi-award winning discount card and employee benefit scheme for people who live and work on the south coast, I set the business up after battling with post-natal anxiety after the birth of Ben my first in December 2017.
When My VIP Card was launched it was a discount card for parents to help them save money and to help them to venture out and find new things to do with their kids, its still does that but with a whole host more and is now available to anyone, individuals for them to buy for themselves and for companies to purchase to reward, retain and recognise their staff.
I had a very difficult pregnancy with Ben ( and what I thought was a traumatic labour) which made me terribly over protective and made me feel like after he was born I was going to kill him, not in a violent murdering type of way but in an accidental I am going to drop him on the floor and smash him kind of way. I had counselling for months to help me be able to drive without pulling over 20 times a car journey to check he was breathing, and so that I could leave the house without feeling like I was in final destination and that something was coming for us like a bit of scaffolding or a tree.
I set up the Southampton Baby and Toddler Forum as a lifeline to new parents, for them to find out about things to do and to ask questions of other parents and the idea for the card came from that really.
Business Story and Pregnancy #2
After launching in December 2017 to parents and was becoming quite popular quite quickly I started to get people messaging me and asking if they could buy one if they were not a parent, so I decided to re re-brand to the current branding.
In May 2018 I won my first award, an Mpower award for Community for mums in business.
I was so happy to have been recognised for the work I was doing, and the PR really helped take me to the next level.
In March I partnered with a national scheme to offer national benefits to my members
In May I went on a very boozy hen do to Barcelona, I was really in need of a break, I had been working pretty much non-stop, on my own without any help. I put out a message on social media that I was out of office for a few days and I really let my hair down! I even drank tequila which I can assure you doesn’t make you happy! (not when you drink nearly an entire bottle)
I came back feeling refreshed but super tired and a tad hungover, I got in the car and almost fell asleep at the wheel so pulled over to sleep as you should never drive tired. I slept for 2 and half hours in the front seat of my car! I was so shattered! I had a coffee and got back on the road, but I had to stop at every service station to use the ladies!
After a week of feeling exhausted and not doing much work and looking after my 2.5-year-old I slept for a whole day before heading off to Collabor8 people in business networking in the evening. I got in the car and my seatbelt gave me the little hug it usually does, ouch! Sore boobs!
Oh! This got me thinking, when was my last period? Hmm no idea so I promptly call my friend Rosie who I am pretty much in sync with, and she tells me she had hers last week! Oh crap!
So I pull up in Sainsburys car park and buy a pregnancy test………. After a year of trying and only just coming to terms with one child being plenty hard work especially with a growing business, BAM PREGNANT Sh1t!
I rock up to the networking meeting full of My VIP Card business partners (luckily who I also call friends) And burst into tears! I am not sure of joy or panic!
Luckily the guys at Collabor8 are more like family so they were understanding and really supportive! Just so happened that super mum Erin Thomas Wong was talking that evening! So we had a great time, I went back and told my husband James that I thought I was pregnant, and it went from there!
I did about a million tests just to make sure and low and behold I was! I felt great apart from being tired, I suddenly became really nervous about everything, how would I cope with two kids? How would I run the business? What if I got PND?
A few weeks later I started to feel horrific, really nasty morning sickness! Luckily it was at certain times of the day and I could almost use it as a watch, 11am and 3pm! So, I planned all of my work around these times, and at weekends when I didn’t have childcare Ben would watch films so I could die in peace!
But I found that working took my mind off feeling like crap, so I carried on, A few weeks after that I started testing for gestational diabetes, and yes you guessed it that came at 7 weeks! Argh!
So I started on over night fasting insulin and metformin shortly after that and cut out sugar and carbs from my diet, bye bye all the lovely treats I was used to getting on My VIP Card! And then I started to get itchy, Oh Hi again obstetric cholestasis! Seriously I was having the identical pregnancy to the one I had with ben just everything had started earlier this time!
I had a business to run and Ben to look after so I just focussed on growing the business, and in less than 6 months I had grown the local businesses on the card to 450!
In September 2018 I decided to expand and use my corporate background in HR to offer My VIP Card as an employee benefit. Working in recruitment, training and change management gave me a strong understanding of why it is important to value your staff. This side of the business is now my most popular!
#Wingingit , How I coped with running a business and being pregnant
I carried on networking 4 times a week, and although I felt totally rubbish I grew the business and just carried on doing what I was doing, after all when you own your own business you have to, no one is there to do it for you.
By this point I had outsourced some of the things I hated, like admin! I hate admin and to be honest I am really rubbish at it too! I also outsourced some of the sales, my IT and website. So I just focussed on the bits I love, meetings! And networking! I honestly couldn’t recommend outsourcing the stuff you don’t like more! It makes me love what I do so much more not having to do admin and finances!
In October I was nominated for 6 awards at the Hampshire women’s business awards, and I went on to win Business of the year and phenomenal product. Which was also amazing for my business! I almost didn’t go to the award ceremony though due to a horrendous allergic reaction to shellfish the night before! Pregnancy does some weird stuff to our bodies!
By Christmas I had over 700 local Hampshire based businesses on the My VIP Card and we had made the decision to develop an app and launch in other counties!
Christmas was really tough with the diabetes and avoiding all of the treats, especially with a 3-year-old in the house! I had a week off to spend with my family over Christmas and then got straight back on it on January 2nd, I went to interview for another award in Portsmouth the Portsmouth news business excellence awards, I was a finalist for the new business category, sadly I didn’t win that one, but it was such an honour to be nominated!
That was my last official business thing before starting my maternity leave, although I did still work right up until giving birth!
I was admitted to hospital after a routine midwife appointment with suspected pre-eclampsia, and then kept in due to one of my ribs dislocating, I was quite bored in hospital, so I carried on making marketing videos and advertising the card, people in the hospital were likening me to phoebe in that episode of friends where she has the heart attack! I am just so passionate about what I do that I want that I want to keep going at all costs, also I have so many people I need to keep happy that I had to keep going. It is so important to give excellent customer service when running a business, and I wanted to make sure I keep the good reputation of My VIP Card alive.
After 2.5 weeks in hospital I was given an induction date of valentine’s day!
My Birth Story (Not for the faint hearted)
On the morning of the 14th I was told I was first in, and I patiently waited for them to come and get me at 8am as promised, by 10.30am my anxiety was so bad! I just wanted to get it all over and done with and meet my baby! They were short staffed so they didn’t come and get me until 1pm, I was examined and was already at 2cm, winner! Induction avoided! I couldn’t have been happier! I was told they would break my waters at 7.30pm and they left me to walk around a bit after a very painful sweep the walking part wasn’t much fun!
At 9pm they took me to the birthing room at Princess Anne room 10, which was the same room I had Ben in, thoughts of my first labour came flooding back and I burst into tears, The midwife I had was amazing and she asked me why I was scared. I told her of how I was induced with Ben and had no let up between contractions and had to wait 7 hours for the epidural I asked for. She assured me that if I wanted an epidural this time she would do her best to get it to me quickly.
At 9.30 they attempted to break my waters, (sorry a bit TMI here) my cervix was high and they couldn’t reach, so after two people tried they had to go and find someone who had “long fingers” they finally found someone, and after me screaming at the midwives calling them sadistic bitches my waters had gone (not my finest moment!) that was pretty horrific! As soon as my waters had gone my contractions were the same as with Ben, no let up between them so I asked the midwife for my epidural, she said “oh good timing the anaesthetist is outside I will get him in now!” I was so relieved! The pain was unbearable at this point! They had to put a clip on the baby’s head so they went and got crochet Kadi with the long fingers (this was now her nickname), I just remembered she has gorgeous green eyes! But I hated her! James forced me to have gas and air at this point!
Once the clip was on, they sited my epidural, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered with Ben, and at this point I was feeling ok, and was loving the gas and air, at one point James said I reminded him of a drunken Maddy from about 5 years ago! So, I started shouting where’s my wine at everyone!
Sarah the midwife told me the epidural would take around 20 mins to start working, half an hour later she was spraying me with cold spray, and I could feel everything, she said maybe you just need to press the top up button! So, I did and nothing! By this point I was in so much pain, I was examined and was told I was 6 cm, I asked for something else for the pain and they said they would sort it out, about 10 mins later I was examined again and was 7cm, and I needed to push!!!!! They said don’t do that!! You don’t need to push! “I KNOW MY BODY I NEED TO PUSH” I shouted at them. The epidural hadn’t worked!!
I started pushing, they told me to stop, I couldn’t, I just had this overwhelming urge! And the ring of fire came! But to be honest that wasn’t nearly as bad as the contractions and actually the more I pushed the less the contractions hurt, after 1 minutes 38 second of pushing Harriet came firing into the world!
But there was no cry…… “James could you just push that button that says emergency on it please” said Sarah to my husband, he pushed it and I looked down, she was grey and floppy and not crying,
The first thing that came into my head was my baby is dead, having had two pregnancy conditions with high risk of still birth and having severe anxiety this was my first thought. I was beside myself asking why she wasn’t crying, they said “we are just going to give you the injection for your placenta” And I shouted “I DON’T GIVE A F**K ABOUT THE PLACENTA WHERE IS MY BABY” I birthed the placenta which was mahoosive! Bigger than Harriet! And actually hurt more to push out! (this was because I had seriously broken myself pushing Harriet out) 8 minutes later, the longest 8 minutes of my life we heard her crying. Thank god for the NHS and the staff at Princess Anne!!!
The bought her in and I had a cuddle and fed her, she took to breast feeding like a total champ despite having a huge tongue tie.
She immediately peed all over me!
Turns out she was back to back which was why I needed to push her out at 7cm, I did myself a lot of damage pushing her out but she went into shock which was why she was not responsive. Seriously scary!
Harriet was born at 2.40am weighing 7lb4oz, she had some time in special care due to low blood sugars and jaundice but is doing really well now. I am so grateful to all of the staff on labour ward and in special care for looking after her!
We went to the New Forest Birthing Centre to get some help with the tongue tie and feeding, honestly I cant recommend the staff there highly enough either! They were super and its such a lovely place! If you get the chance to go to give birth or afterwards do it! You wont regret it!
Business and the Baby!
So fast forward a month, we got home from hospital and I felt so odd! Almost institutionalised after being in hospital for 3 weeks! It was so strange sleeping in my own bed, I got my laptop back!!! Not that I have had much chance to use it!
I had my family back, I missed Ben and James so much! And we were now a complete family of 4!
I have taken on some more freelancers to help me with the business while I am on maternity leave! Who are doing an amazing job! I am still working a little bit just responding to queries on social media and I am using my KIT days to do meetings, But it is very different running a business with a baby.
I have been so lucky that so far I have been able to take Harriet with me to a few meetings, and people have been very welcoming of her at networking.
Some of the more corporate networking meetings I have been used to going to I have not been able to take her to, I have sent substitutes, but it hasn’t been the same.
Business has slowed down a little, but I think that is because I am not around as much and people are not seeing me face to face. But I am determined to be a great mum and still run the business.
I am doing everything I can to maintain a good work life balance, I have cut my social media time down by less than half, and I tend to respond to messages when I am feeding in the night, I have also come up with some awesome ideas to grow the business at 4am! The time I had the idea in the first place for My VIP Card! Most people have given me some space and have been understanding that I can’t be the Duracell bunny I was before.
Harriet is amazing but she does have silent reflux which is not conducive to a good night sleep! But we are getting there!
This time round I have put steps in place to manage my anxiety, it is still there and I am struggling to come to terms with how difficult my labour and pregnancy were nut I am just so relieved she is here and is healthy! I have help a few times a week from a lovely lady called Charlotte from Birth Warriors who is a Dula helping me with Harriet and giving me the opportunity to sleep. I have also been very honest with my health visitor about my mental health and how I am feeling, so we are watching out for warning signs. I am confident that this time I am in a better place than I was before.
My Advice to mums who are self-employed is do what you have to do, Work when you can, sleep when you can, and be a mum all the time. Just remember you can’t pour from an empty cup. Emails can wait, I have added an out of office to make people aware I have just had a baby, so that I am realistically managing my time and people’s expectations. I have also made it very public that I have had a baby and I have made it clear that we now come as a package. This could be to the detriment of the business, but only short term. And I think that anyone who wouldn’t work with me because I am a working mum is not my type of client and they wouldn’t understand my business or my core values.
I am very lucky that My VIP Card is an online business and to a certain degree while I am out it does still carry on running, so this advice wont work for everyone. But I hope it does help people.
I have also got my tribe!! My family, My girls, My business partners! Yes My VIP Card business partners who not only are the reason I have a business but also have been so kind in sending me gifts, giving me free classes at baby groups and offering help! This is why I run my business, I call it the happiness triangle because the card helps people to save money, businesses to get more customers and above all it gives me a sense of worth, it helps me to provide for my family and it makes me really happy seeing everyone else being happy. You can run a successful business and be a good mum at the same time, its bloody hard work but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Moving forward I will be making the most of being a mummy and I will be growing the parent related businesses, I will be walking around town centres with Harriet and getting new businesses to sign up. I will be taking Harriet to baby groups and doing some promotions for the baby groups on the card, and obviously testing out a lot of cake!
I used one of my keep in touch days to go for a client meeting yesterday, I am breaking them down so that I can do a couple of hour-long meetings a week, I am pretty sure that the tiredness gave me adrenaline to do a really good pitch! But I did treat myself and Charlotte who had Harriet while I was in the meeting to lunch at Zizzi in Winchester with 25% My VIP Card discount, and a wine to celebrate!
The last few days have been really tough with Harriet, She has reflux and doesn’t stop crying for long, and is only happy on me! But I always remember the phrase “this too shall pass” which gives me some comfort.
I am going to be looking after myself and napping as much as I can over the coming weeks, focussing on some me time, having some treatments as well like reflexology and massage. Lucky for me I have an amazing discount card which helps me to save money on all these things!!!
The Sales bit! (you knew it was coming!)
Harriet and I would love to have coffees to discuss your employee benefits or your business joining the card! You can have all the cuddles! So, don’t think I am not here and the business isn’t running it is 😊 I have an amazing team behind the scenes to help me!
If you have got this far thank you for reading my story! If you want to get involved as a business with My VIP Card we offer free advertising to help your business grow! Just fill in the form on our website to Sign Up
If you want to find out about the 4000 discounts, we offer across Hampshire and nationally as an individual please have a look at the Discounts section of the website
Or if you would like to find out about how we can help your business with rewarding , retaining and recognising your staff visit the Employee Benefits Section on the website
Keep your eyes peeled for our app launching next month!
If you are inspired by this story, please share with your social media networks 😊