pregnancy

  • My first month as a (freelance) mum

    OscarHow are we already nine days into August? The last few weeks have absolutely flown by, and I can honestly say they’ve been some of the most challenging but best weeks of my life (sleep deprivation and dirty nappies aside). I’m afraid I’m going to indulge in a bit lot of baby talk in this post, so if you’d rather stick to general freelance chat, may I suggest having a browse of some of the Day In The Life Of A Freelancer posts?

    If you’ve read my previous post on pregnancy and pre-natal depression, and the struggles and concerns I had, you’ll maybe understand why it’s such a huge relief that parenthood has been so, well…lovely. I have to confess, I’ve become a bit of a mumbot and I’m completely in love with Oscar, which has taken me by surprise a little as someone who wasn’t really that maternal before. In all honesty, after struggling during pregnancy I think my family, Pete and I all thought the first few months would be really hard for me, but it’s all come surprisingly naturally.

    Obviously, it hasn’t been entirely rosy all the time. Labour was traumatic, complicated and took three days, and both Oscar and I ended up staying in hospital for almost a week after his birth. For about two weeks afterwards, I was pretty traumatised by the experience, however in retrospect staying in was a blessing as we really benefited from lots of time with the brilliant midwives at Frimley hospital. I honestly don’t know how first time mums can cope in those first few days if they’re ejected just a few hours after giving birth. Having that hospital stay as a buffer has undoubtedly helped me settle into motherhood much easier.

    Once we left hospital, those wonderful baby blues hit for a few days, although these were nowhere near as bad as how I’d felt during pregnancy. But since then, it’s been kind of brilliant – and that’s largely down to getting lucky in the baby lottery with this little dude. We’ve been really fortunate that he’s a really chilled little guy, and he’s been taking naps during the day and sleeping pretty well at night. We’ve started to get him into the routine of going down at 7pm and waking for feeds at 11pm and around 3am, which means I get a precious few hours in the evening to relax with Pete and do a little bit of my own stuff (which suits my introvert nature perfectly). Although I’m planning to take a few months off before properly returning to work, I’m finding that keeping my finger in the odd pie and doing some planning for the future of my business has helped me feel ‘normal’ much faster. Which is why this blog has undergone a little update/spruce. I reached a point at four weeks when I realised that all I could talk about was Oscar and baby stuff, so being able to do a bit of brainstorming for work has helped me feel like I could potentially hold a half-normal conversation again some point soon.

    It’s hard to explain how different life is, but also how not a huge amount has changed. Thanks to the anxiety and depression I went through at the end of pregnancy, my expectations for the first few months were pretty low. I thought I’d be a bag of nerves and stress, struggling with sleep deprivation and unsure of whether I’d be able to bond. In reality, it’s all come surprising naturally. Dare I say it, it’s been fun! I’ve laughed more in the last few weeks than I probably have in years. I’ve probably cried more too, but the happy times outweigh that. I’ve definitely bonded with him, and fallen in love with my husband even more than before. Another concern for me was whether it would put a strain on our relationship which I really cherish, but seeing him with Oscar has only further strengthened it. I think having the support of him, and both my family and his family, has made the transition much easier.

    On the topic of sleep deprivation, it’s a bitch – but I’ve actually found it easier to cope with than the shattering exhaustion of pregnancy, which never let up (something my mum guru and friend Leanne told me about but I didn’t fully understand until now). At least now a quick 45-60 minute nap usually leaves me feeling much better. Obviously this is partly because of being lucky that he doesn’t suffer from colic at the moment, which makes sleep so much harder.

    I don’t want to paint an entirely rosy picture, but I also wanted to share a positive story after a pretty negative pregnancy and labour. There have been challenges along the way. He had jaundice early on and I had to have a blood transfusion (we looked like Bart Simpson and Caspar the ghost together) and due to lots of issues with breastfeeding we spent the first few weeks feeding him with a mix of expressed milk, formula and straight from the breast when I could. By the time we reached four weeks, we switched to formula only, and it’s a decision I’m really comfortable with now – and Oscar is thriving on it. It’s also meant that Pete and both of our families have been able to feed him and have lots of bonding time with him, plus it’s given Pete and me the freedom to have a couple of dates while Oscar’s doting aunts or grandparents look after him. It’s a personal choice and I have a lot of admiration for those that do breastfeed for longer, but for us the decision to switch to formula only was the best one. It wasn’t the easiest decision to make though – especially as there’s still a lot of guilt placed on those that don’t breastfeed. Being a mother has definitely helped me be more assertive and strong about my decisions though, something I’m hoping will apply to work too (I’ll also be using some of these tips from Hayley’s post).

    On the freelance front, having a baby is a pretty great way to have an enforced break from things – and gain some clarity. When I can, I’ve been filling a notebook with lots of ideas I’ve got buzzing round my brain. While it’s tempting to start a few new projects, I’m trying to hold off and do a little more development and planning. I’m also using feeding times to listen to some audiobooks, including The Big Leap which is really opening my eyes to ‘upper limits’. I’d really recommend reading it if you feel like you sometimes self-sabotage when things get ‘too good’. In fact, I’m trying to apply the principles now as I feel very lucky with Oscar and keep expecting a big dose of bad luck to come along. Arguably I had that bad luck with the pregnancy and labour, so perhaps he’s the pay off? I know as his naps in the day start to decrease, it will get more challenging – but I’m also excited about the smiles, milestones and bundle of new experiences that come with it.

    Do you have any recommendations for other great business reads/listens? Let me know in the comments!

    So, that’s my first baby proper babble. I’ve got some more posts coming up soon which aren’t baby related, so don’t panic – I’m hopefully not going to become a total baby bore.

    Are you a parent? What did it teach you about yourself? Did it help you develop any new skills?

  • Freelancing and Pregnancy – The Challenges

    Freelancing and pregnancy

    Well, I’m 18 weeks into this pregnancy adventure. If you read the classic baby books or rely on TV/films for your pregnancy knowledge (like I did), you’ll be under the impression that this is the joyous time when the first trimester is out of the way, the nausea wears off and you’re packed full of the kind of energy that has you spring cleaning the house from top to bottom.

    Reader, I’m writing this under a blanket on the sofa, while sipping ginger ale and ignoring the dangerously large pile of washing that has to be done if I want to wear something other than pyjamas next week. I’m also googling sweaty feet, because that appears to be a delightful new pregnancy symptom. SEXY.

    It’s not AWFUL. It’s a bit like trying to get a full day’s work in when you feel like you’re suffering the effects of five tequila shots from the night before (when the reality is you were in bed by 9pm with a big bottle of water, and the idea of booze in general makes you gag). It’s just a bit…rubbish.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are exciting bits too. Like buying baby clothes, debating baby names, enjoying pregnancy massages and generally getting excited to find out the baby’s gender and meeting the little one in five months.  But I want to be honest with you about the challenges of pregnancy when you’re freelance. I also want to make it clear that every pregnancy is different – some people have horrific morning sickness, while others manage to get through most of pregnancy without a single day of nausea. But I suspect for many freelancers, an element of adaptation is needed. Which is pretty good practice for when you become a mum or dad, right?

    The Challenges

    The biggest challenges I faced were and are:

    • Exhaustion – Most people I’ve spoken to suffered from a lot of tiredness at some point. If you’re freelancing around a day job, this can be tricky as you simply don’t have enough energy to get stuff done. This also meant I had to postpone a couple of meetings as I simply didn’t have the energy to do them.
    • Nausea – While I was only physically sick a couple of times, I had pretty much constant nausea for months, and it occasionally turns up again when I’m tired or hungry. This meant that I had to take quite a few breaks and take some fresh air at times. A good walk outside did wonders.
    • Hormones – No tears here. Well, only once. I’ve never been a particularly emotional person in terms of crying or flying off the handle. But oh my GOSH has my patience been short. Again, this probably ties in with feeling tired and sick, but I’ve had to make sure I haven’t lost my temper or sent off a sniffy email a couple of times.
    • Guilt – Ah, the go-to emotions for pregnant women and mums everywhere. I’ve felt a lot of guilt, not just from the usual pregnancy things (Am I eating enough healthy stuff? Is this symptom normal? Should I really look like the size of a house already), but from not being able to be as productive as usual. I complained to friends and family that I felt a bit useless when I couldn’t do what I could do before, but everyone said the same thing – you’re being productive by growing a baby. Which is lovely and all but…well it doesn’t put money in the bank to pay for all those baby basics.

    Survival tips for pregnant freelancers

    Those are the challenges. But you didn’t come here just for me having a good ol’ moan, right? No, you want practical tips to actually deal with this stuff. Fear not, I have some freelancer pregnancy survival tips.

    1. Outsource. For the love of God, outsource if you can. This ranges from passing your household chores over to the other half for a few months if you can, to hiring a VA. I’ve actually hired two – the hugely talented Kerri Walker and Jo Shock, and they’ve really helped keep my business ticking over.
    2. Downsize. I’d advise anyone to do this anyway, but look at your clients and work out which ones are the best value and worth focusing on.  I let go of a couple of clients who were a lot of work for less than my standard rate.
    3. Passive income. This is the kind of work where you put a bit of effort in at the start, then the money rolls in – so ebooks, ecourses and the like. This stuff is going to keep the money coming in and keep you sane If you’re planning to fall pregnant, I highly recommend you look at your passive income and create some projects before you go forward
    4. Stick to your deadlines. This one is tricky, but make sure you stick to your deadlines, even if it means getting help from your VAs and allowing yourself more time. Even if you’re sat at home in yesterday’s pyjamas, eating ice cream for lunch, you still need to give your client’s the impression that you’re professional.
    5. Embrace the Boffice. The bed office has been my sanctuary, and I feel so much more comfortable working there. I’m not saying spend your whole pregnancy there, but work somewhere you’re comfortable.
    6. Work out your rights and have a vague plan in place before you proceed. For example, I’ve just discovered that I had to be a Limited Company for around 11 weeks before I conceived. I’m pretty much sure I’ve managed it, but literally by the skin of my teeth – 11 weeks to the exact day.
    7. Give yourself a break! Seriously. It’s hard during the first three months when no one knows, but after that don’t be afraid to be open with your clients – the good ones will understand.

    And a few practical tips:

    • Baby on Board Badge. They’re free to get, and if you spend any time at all on public transport they’re a lifesaver. Not On The High Street sponsor them now, so you get some bonus benefits.
    • Similarly if you take public transport, make sure you always keep a plastic bag with you, for gross obvious reasons. Aldi are great because…well, they don’t have holes in the bottom. Amazon also have a bunch of subtle sick bags. Have a look at seasickness bands too, which I’ve heard good things about
    • Buy lots of bottles of water. I get this on the food delivery (I adore Aldi but I’ve been getting deliveries from ASDA and Tesco because I can’t deal with the supermarket smells right now), and being able to quickly grab a bottle of water whenever is a real help. Yes, I’m aware it’s a recycling nightmare. Shhh.
    • Avoid pregnancy forums like the plague, pick the brains of your favourite parent types and don’t get a doppler.

    I’ve got a post planned about the financials very soon, including how I plan to take maternity leave and what I’m doing about maternity pay.

    Have you combined pregnancy and freelancing? What were your biggest challenges?

  • A little Freelance Lifestyle announcement

    I’m not usually one for ‘sorry I’ve not been blogging’ posts. But I’ve been quiet on the blog for a really nice reason this time (rather than my usual ‘life got busy and I let it slide’ one.)

    Peter and I are excitedly expecting a baby, in July. As Lego is an ongoing theme in our relationship (my mother-in-law made us a Lego cake for our wedding, and I made Pete a Lego board game for our 1st anniversary), we told our families by giving them these customised Lego figures from Minifigs.me.

    legofigures

    While I haven’t been hit too badly on the morning sickness side of things (thankfully ‘only’ constant nausea for me), I have been completely exhausted. Someone told me that the first trimester of pregnancy is like a heavy hangover and PMT all at once, and that’s very accurate. Still, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the best reason to be feeling crappy.

    So blogging has taken a backseat. Actually, most things have taken a backseat. I’ve been feeling horrible guilt about not being productive, and feeling very lazy (even though I have been pretty busy, growing a baby and that). Thankfully Pete has been brilliant at looking after me and picking up the slack around the house. Plus all that time not working has lit a rocket under me when it comes to this blog and some ideas I have for 2015.

    Freelancing and parenting

    In truth, the idea of having a baby when I’m freelance is a little intimidating. I don’t have the luxury of maternity pay (although as a Limited Company, there is a way to get paid maternity pay) and it’s unlikely I’ll be able to take more than a few months off work. On top of that is the ‘what if I lose all my clients while I’m off’ fear. But as I learn more about how to navigate all of this, I’m hoping to share any helpful information on this blog to help others too. Plus, freelancing (in theory) should make it easier for me to get back into work, as I can take on enough to balance income and looking after my little one.

    I’m thinking about doing a small monthly post about freelance pregnancy/maternity leave and beyond. What do you think – is that something you’d like to read about?

    Have you gone through pregnancy and having a newborn as a freelancer? How did you cope? Share your tips with us in the comments below!