Thursday 5 January 2012

Guest Post - 'Diamonds, Pearls and Babies'

Harriet Kelsall runs a highly acclaimed bespoke design jewellery company specialising in engagement rings.  Her business has won many awards including the 2011 UK Jewellery awards and Harriet has been named as the Everywoman Retail ‘Woman of the Year’.  She juggles this with 2 young children (Thomas is 6 and Eleanor is 2) and talks about her journey into mother hood.


When I set up my business at 27 I didn't really consider that I might want kids in the future; I was just busy trying to scratch a living.  But the business flourished and I was soon taking on premises, employing people and carving out a niche making affordable bespoke jewellery.

At around 32 I realised that if we wanted kids I needed to plan how to manage it. I was I was working super-long hours starting at 8am and finishing at 11pm 7 days a week. Running a business also meant maternity cover wasn't a viable option. The only solution was to try to come back to work about 2 weeks after childbirth.

I started trying when I was 34. I got pregnant the first time we tried but sadly lost the baby at 11 weeks. It was a bit traumatic because I didn't realise you had to go through a teeny-tiny mini labour if you miscarried so early.  I suddenly realised that I wasn't that young and blamed myself terribly thinking perhaps I was working too hard.

My dad reminded me that many women in the world work a lot physically harder than me whilst pregnant and also that my great-grandmother didn't started her family of 4 until she was 42.

When I was finally pregnant with Thomas, the tiredness that I experienced being older pregnant mum-to-be certainly redefined tiredness all over again!  I had a really long pre-labour and labour with Thomas who took about 3 days to arrive.  (Actually he still seems to take about that long to get dressed in the morning). I was 35 when he was born.

I was determined not to have an epidural as somebody I know was very badly affected by one. So despite two nights without sleep Thomas was finally born on gas and air and a lot of will power!

I remember feeling completely amazed when they placed Thomas on my tummy.  Had that perfect tiny baby really grown inside me?  I couldn't sleep. When I got up onto the ward at 2am as I just couldn't stop looking at him in awe at his very existence.

The first 2 weeks were a bit of a blur.  I remember lots of tears and a strange lack of understanding between what was day and what was night.  I remember home visits from work colleagues calling with gemstones for me to price.  I struggled with breast feeding and ended up expressing for every feed at all hours.  It was just such a crazy time.

Then somehow I was back at work for three hours a day just two weeks after Thomas’ birth.  I remember worrying because the work was already really piling up and I couldn't bear to let anybody down.  But there was also no way I was going to compromise on the time I could spend with Thomas. I do think though that being an older mum helped me cope with this kind of extreme multi-tasking..

Thomas was really quite a challenge because he had what we thought was reflux (actually when he was 3 we discovered he was allergic to milk).  There wasn't much sleep to be had in our house for the first year of his life.

When I went along to my first toddler group, all of the other mums seemed so much younger than me.  I suddenly felt quite lonely as an ‘older mum’.  Many of my friends were at a different stage of their lives or I had left them behind in London when I moved away.  I wasn't sure I could relate to these younger mums as our lives were so different. However, I soon met a couple of mums of a more similar age to me at a different toddler group and we have since become good friends.

Sadly there followed quite a lot more miscarriages.  The specialist at the time said that it may well be happening because we are both a bit older (my husband is 6 years older than me).  But we had various tests and there was nothing specifically ‘wrong’.

That last miscarriage was quite upsetting for my husband. I had to be admitted to hospital and receive 4 units of blood and emergency surgery.  So we decided to give it one last try and if unsuccessful possibly consider adoption or Thomas would remain an only child.

Fortunately I found myself pregnant again and for longer than 12 weeks which was brilliant!

We had the usual scans but were told there was quite a high chance that the baby could have Downs Syndrome.  This was worrying and confusing because we didn't really know much about Downs.  I didn't want to have the invasive test because of the small chance it could lead to yet another miscarriage.  But we quickly learned a lot about Downs and decided that actually, if our baby this condition, then this would be OK and something that we felt we would be ready for.

When Eleanor was born she didn't have Downs.  But having come up so ‘close’ to facing a baby with Downs I feel I have a lot more understanding about it now. I view this syndrome very differently and more positively now.

By the time I had Eleanor at 38 I had worked hard to get the business functioning more independently from me. Consequently I managed to take 3 months off work with only e-mail/phone calls to attend to. This worked well especially as the business now 25 staff and a very good General Manager.

Now that Thomas is at school and Eleanor is 2, I am starting to feel a bit more human again and lots of my energy has returned.

It is impossible for me to look at my children and not remember that I am very lucky.

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