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From red carpets to rattles this is the journey of one working mother attempting to see if you really can have it all....

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

It takes two to tango

"Make sure your phone is fully charged and on you at all times."  Those were the stern words delivered to DD as he started his working week. You see my prediction that baby number two would arrive convienently over the weekend as number one had done had been predictably wrong so we were starting the week with an overwhelming sense of anticipation. 

All business trips had been completed or scheduled around D-day and the hospital bag had finally been packed. We were as ready as is possible when juggling work and a toddler. But in London nowhere is close. On a good day it takes DD well over an hour to get home, and there is always the looming threat of tube delays or bad traffic. So even the most meticulous planning and discussions surrounding every possible scenario could not guarantee DD would make it to the hospital in time to witness the birth of his second child. And this was something we were both worried about, in fact we would have been devastated if he wasn't there for as much of the labour as possible. So with a recent study concluding it isn't always a good thing for a partner to be present during childbirth I started thinking about why it was so important for me personally that mine was by my side.

Firstly it takes two to tango. So while us women are tasked with the responsibility of carrying the precious package around for nine months and the unenviable job of pushing him or her out into the world the least they can do is wait on us hand and foot while we do so. Whether it is rubbing our pork chops of feet at the end of a long, bloated day. Dealing with our cravings or putting up with our hormonal, irrational moments. Maybe it's assuring us we are "all bump" when really we are anything but. There are things that can help ease the pressures physically and emotionally and I believe making sure those needs are met are a partners responsibility. 

The same goes during the childbirth itself. Giving birth is exhausting, unpredictable, emotional, painful and at times really scary. So they might not be able to take the pain away, but they can give us their hand to be crushed, rub our backs for hours on end or assure us we can do it when we honestly feel like we can't. How can support in any shape or form be a bad thing?

When asked what it was like watching his wife give birth the musician Robbie Williams said it was like watching his favourite pub burn down. While the comment was obviously meant as an amusing observation I have heard stories of men that have found childbirth a harrowing, distressing and life changing experience. I have a bit of sympathy for them, I'm sure watching your partner go through such a painful thing can be scary. But then again if the birth isn't a straightforward, pleasant experience then you can bet that as traumatic as it was for the man, it was 100 times more so for the women. So when it comes to this side of things I'm sorry but I have to say the phrase 'Man up' could not be more appropriate. 

They probably do feel helpless with everything taken out of their control, but childbirth is out of anyone's control, and like DD said to me when I exclaimed that I didn't think I could finish the job, you have to, there's no choice. The baby has to come out and I can promise that like women report that the pain is forgotten when the baby arrives I'm sure the same can be said for the fathers.

But one of the main reasons I wanted him there was that I wanted him to see what I had to go through.  You don't get a medal for having a baby, but at the very least you should be able to get some heavy duty respect and praise from your other half. I wanted him to see how brave his wife is, how tough and how despite what he might have thought how high my pain threshold really is. I wanted him to appreciate what I had to go through to bring this baby into our family. To fully appreciate the consequences of his actions! I think it helps in the days following for the man to have seen first hand how exhausting the process is so that they make sure they step up and do as much as possible after the birth. Same as you want people cheering at the finish line of a marathon, it's nice to have your biggest supporter in life witness your finest moment.

Lastly I wanted my husband to be there for his sake. I wanted him to be one of the first people to meet his son or daughter. To witness their first breath, first cry and marvel in all their, squishy, gooey gorgeousness. I wanted us to have that first moment as a family. A moment that we could look back and remember whenever times were tough, during the sleepless nights and the long tiring days...

Saturday, 19 April 2014


“When you're following your inner voice, doors tend to eventually open for you, even if they mostly slam at first.” Kellly Cutrone

I was asked today to complete a questionnaire for a magazine featuring women in business. I am a women yes but I'm not in business, yet. You see I was asked because of my role creating a charity event Newsroom's Got Talent. In a way I suppose NGT was a bit like a business, it certainly involved blood, sweat and at time tears. And like with a business it revolved around money, making as much money as possible for the charities it supported to be precise. And luckily NGT was a success, we created an event from scratch that became an established event on the calendar of the media industry. It had very high profile supporters and most importantly it raised a lot of money for amazing causes. But filling out this questionnaire made me realise why exactly I loved NGT so much. I loved being my own boss. Every idea I had I could attempt, even if that idea wasn't the greatest. I had no-one to say no, no-one to put a limit on my ability and most importantly no-one to say, without really saying it, "you are not good enough"

I realised today that this is where I've been going wrong in my career to date. So far I've relied on others to spot my ability, determine where my strengths lie, and believe that I can achieve the things I desire. This is a huge gamble. What if you work for someone that is blinkered to your ability or misconceive, or ignore, your strengths of worse decide for whatever reason that you won't/can't achieve what your heart desires. If that is the case no matter what you do are you really going to be able to change their minds? Or will you just loose your self-believe, passion and confidence in the process of trying...

That is all about to change. I'm starting my own business. One which I hope and pray will be a success. But you know what if it's not I will have no-one to blame but myself, and I don't mean that in a harsh self-critical way. I just mean that I will be able to take my destiny in to my own hands. By becoming my own boss I'm making sure I'm the one who will be judging my abilities, my strengths and determining whether or not I have what it takes. It's all down to me. Now I just have to remind myself that I can achieve all my hearts desires and I will be set.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

A step in the right direction

I have just seen the news that a well known former model and television personality has taken her own life, or committed suicide.  I vaguely recall someone once telling me that you shouldn't use the term "committed suicide" as it implies the person is making an informed choice, or was that taken their own life? I'm not sure it matters really, when it comes down to it, she is gone.

It is sad, incredibly sad actually, when anyone takes their own life, and when that person is high profile suddenly the issues surrounding their death becomes high profile too. People are often shocked at why someone who seemingly had it all would end their life. Surely being successful, beautiful, talented is more than enough to conquer any kind of mental health problem. It's not.

The thing about mental illness is that it can affect anyone, like cancer it's a bit like a postcode lottery. Sure you can try and do things to keep your mind healthy and happy, same as someone can try and do the right things to prevent themselves from getting sick, but at the end of the day you can only hope that the big black dog doesn't choose you to invade because if he/she does you're in for a battle...

It doesn't matter if you are young, middle aged or elderly. If you are successful or have a loving family. If you have a mental health problem all of that can pale into insignificance compared to the pain you are going through.

I'm talking as if I understand what it's like to suffer from a mental health problem, but I don't. If I did I might have understood a little more of what my father was going through before he took his own life in 2002. For years he had battled depression,aggravated by an incident at work that unfortunately wasn't handled as well as it could have been. I knew that my dad, the most loving, witty and generous man you could hope to meet, could have days where he couldn't get out of bed, would sleep on and on in an attempt I guess to block out the world. But I didn't really get it. With the naïveté of a teen I used to tell him to go for a walk or join a squash club as excercise was known to help lift moods. I'd tell him off for being down, didn't he know how lucky he was compared to so many people out there? He seemingly had it all so what was his problem?! If only we all knew then what we are starting to know now.

I know it's only a little over a decade since my dad's death but when it comes to society's attitude towards mental health it could be a lifetime ago. Back then no one talked about depression, or suicide. I remember after Dad died people, friends, being so shocked that he had been unwell, not many people knew just how strong and brave he had been for so many years. More alarming was the number of people we knew that then spoke out about their own battles. People who had contemplated suicide, or attempted it. People who had loved ones who had taken their own lives but had always maintained they had died of something else. These were all successful, wonderful people. It made me realise that my family was what I had always believed it was, terrific, unfortunately being a terrific family doesn't make you immune to depression.

At his wake my god brother, yes in my family we have these, said that I should think of suicide in the same way as cancer. Some people survive cancer and some no matter how hard they fight just can't defeat the disease. I really like the analogy. Maybe if we started treating mental illness with the same gravity, openness and reverence as cancer we wouldn't loose so many?

With suicide comes a terrible fear of stigma. I remember my main concern after dad died was what would I tell people? I knew I wasn't ashamed of him, in fact I was proud that he had fought his battle for so long. But I also didn't want people to think badly of him, those that might not know him might make assumptions about him that were wrong or might make assumptions about us as a family. I remember bumping into an old school teacher a couple of weeks after he had died, one that I always got the impression wasn't my biggest fan. Suddenly, and in front of a group of people I didn't know she asked me what Dad had died of. Panicking and also sensing this was not coming from a place of concern but rather a place of curiosity I blurted out that he had suffered a heart attack, it had come out of nowhere and it was massive, he didn't stand a chance. The town I come from is a small place, to this day I'm sure she already knew what had happened, she just wanted to get it from the horses mouth. I went home and cried about how I had betrayed my dad. My mum told me not to be silly, I was protecting him. She said I would know who to tell and who to lie to, I still follow this advice.

Very few people that didn't know me before dad's death actually know what happened. I always worry that people will judge, or even worse will pity me. I know I'm not alone, work is a breeding ground for stress, anxiety, depression so there's no way some people there haven't experienced some kind of mental health problems themselves or have loved ones that have. But unlike other illnesses there's no way any of us are going to say anything. I have sat and listened as people around me have used the most offensive terms when discussing a news story that involves mental illness. Yet these are the same people that preach about what term to use when describing suicide. Ironic much? 

At the time I said that one day I would use my position, whatever that might be, to speak out about mental illness. Show people that it can happen to anyone. I still haven't had the guts. But there is still time.

I'm starting to realise that I am part of the problem. How can I preach about how we should all be talking about mental illness and how people should stand up and shout if they are struggling if I myself am not brave enough to so.

At the moment it's easy to tell ourselves that suicide isn't really there, it's just something that happens in the darkness, only exposed when it happens to a celebrity that people 'care' about. And yet the statistics are frightening...

1 million people across the globe die by suicide each year. That’s one suicide every 40 seconds.

* More people die by suicide each year than by murder and war combined.

* Suicide is the second biggest cause of death worldwide among 15-19 year olds.

* 100,000 adolescents die by suicide every year.

* Suicide is estimated to be under-reported for reasons of stigma, religion and social attitudes. Many suicides are hidden among other causes of death, such as road traffic accidents and drowning.
(Source: International Association for Suicide Prevention)

I'm going to post this now because I'm worried that if I pause I might chicken out. I apologise for any spelling or grammatical errors I don't really want to read it back to check. I hope that by writing this I'm taking a step in the right direction, a direction that I vowed at my dad's cremation 11 years ago that I would go.

- In memory of Thomas O'Toole and all those affected by mental illness.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Juggling act

I remember when I told one of my colleagues I was pregnant, after the obvious congratulations and how are you feeling conversation she turned to me and said "get used to disappointing everyone."

She went on to tell me how when you are a working mum you spend your life letting someone down. When you are at work you are disappointing your children by not being with them and putting them first. When you are not able to work because of family commitments you disappoint your work place. It was, she described, a vicious circle where you are the main loser.

I've been back at work for 12 months so I feel that I now have some thoughts to add to the topic.

I can see where she was coming from. When you are a working mum it is a massive juggling act and invariably there are times when you drop the balls. There are not enough hours in the day and despite postings on social media sites implying the opposite, it is impossible to do, or have it all. 

But from my limited experience I wonder if some of this disappointment or pressure is heaped upon us,  not by our partners, children or bosses, but by us ourselves?

Take last week for example. It was particularly busy at work with a project I'm responsible for reaching a climax. DD obviously aware of the situation and being the new age man that he is told me to take it easy in the afternoons, I work from from very early morning til mid afternoons most days. He said he would sort dinner when he got home. But of course I didn't listen.

Instead I rushed home from work, collected the pickle from Nanna, raced around the supermarket, raced home, plonked her down in front of her favourite tv show. Made a cup of peppermint tea. Started chopping onions. Decided I was a terrible mother for offering my child Upsy Daisy's attention rather than my own. Turned off the tv and took her to the park. Put her in the swings and attempted to answer work emails whilst pushing. Realised this was as bad as the TV situation so put phone away and played properly in the park for another half hour. Raced home, via Morrisons as I had realised we didn't have any yoghurt for desert, got home, continued making dinner while singing to a pickle who was attempting to climb out the doors to the balcony. Put away the dvds that had been scattered around the loungeroom. Feed her dinner while cooking our own. Give up on dinner when she showed how much she didn't like the vegetable korma I had slaved over the night before by smearing it through her hair and throwing the bowl across the room with distain. Cleaned up korma. Cleaned up child. Put a load of washing out. Put it back out again after she had pulled all of it off the clothes horse. Read her a book. Put the now prepared dinner in the fridge ready for baking later. Packed away the DVDs that were now being used as ice skates. Smelt a disastrous nappy. Contemplated whether it would be considered cruel to leave her in said nappy until DD was home. Decided it would be so changed offending nappy. Had a drink of very cold and horrible peppermint tea. Raced around throwing toys in playpen in attempt to create a 'calm and welcoming environment' and breathed a sigh of relief at the sound of a key in the lock. DD was home. And it was time to be a martyr.

"My god I'm knackered" I exclaim before he has a chance to get in the front door.

"I haven't stopped since I got home."

"Oh Petal I told you to take things easy, you shouldn't have gone to any trouble." He replied innocently.

"The house is looking nice."

" Yeah well I've spent the afternoon cleaning, cooking as well as taking pickle to the park"  I say, sounding far more bitter than I mean to.

"You shouldn't have, I said I'd do it" He answers sounding slightly perplexed at the sour mood.

"Yeah well I got home first so I guess it's expected of me. But you know I've worked just as long a day as you, it's just that I started long before you." Now I'm really getting worked up. 

And that my friend is how a lot of evenings go. It's the feelings of guilt that you should be doing more, that you should be able to do a full days work, have the energy to be fun mum as well as keep a clean house and cook a nutritious meal that spur you on to try and achieve the often unacheivable. And we have to ask why? Who does it benefit? Certainly not the child that would have been much happier with a mum that took her to the park for a leisurely play and then sat with her as she watched In The Night Garden. And certainly not the husband that would have preferred coming home to a chaotic and messy but stress free house where steak and chips are served with a smile rather than some fancy quiche served with a grimace. And certainly not me, who was completely wiped out from a marathon of an afternoon.

You feel like you've got something to prove, but to who I'm not sure? Yourself?

Maybe we should stop trying to prove anything and just accept that all we can do is our best, and sometimes that's not good enough. We can't do it all, it's not possible to be the perfect wife, mother, employee, the whole time. All we can do is our best juggling performance and hope that with time and lots of practice we only drop those balls occasionally, and not in front of too big an audience.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

I am who I am

I am who I am because I knew you.

I am who I am because I loved you.

I will be who I will be because I lost you.

Monday, 12 August 2013


It's consuming, overwhelming and inescapable.

It is the missing of someone you might not have seen in a long time. 

It's the longing for conversations that are yet to take place.

It's the regret of time wasted and thankfulness for time spent.

It's hours of blissful forgetting followed by that single, breath taking moment of remembering. 

It's memories that provoke a smile while at the same time producing tears.

It's all consuming but isn't exclusive. 

It can make someone feel like the only person in the world. It's an emotion shared by all in this world.

It binds strangers together. It can rip loved ones apart.

It's an internal pain buried deep within your soul and an external pain shining from your eyes.

It makes your heart hurt and your soul cry.

It's filled with unanswerable questions; what if, if only and why?

It's a constant companion that never leaves us but falls a few steps behind over time.

It allows us to remember and it forces us to never forget.

It lets us know how greatly we loved and how great love can hurt.

It brings us to our knees. It gives us the strength to keep breathing.

It is death. It is life.

Monday, 6 May 2013

In that moment...

There are plenty of things we take for granted. I think when life is going well it is normal to expect that it is going to stay that way, it is natural to get a little complacent. And then life comes and gives you a giant kick up the backside...

Our kick came today and I think it is going to be a long time before we take the simple things for granted again, in fact I would like to think we never will again.

I think one of the scariest aspects of life is the unpredictability of it all. You very rarely, if ever, get a warning that something untoward is going to take place. You will be going about your day and then bam something happens that can change everything.

That moment happened to us today. Before I start I have to put that thankfully this story has a happy ending.

Today's bank holiday meant the chance for one of us to have an extra sleep in and today was my lucky day. So while I slept soundly DD got up with the piglet and gave her breakfast, which he later remarked wasn't very large, but at the time he put it down to her being a little gummed up with a cold. She was tired apparently so had a morning nap, again nothing unusual with this, the morning was textbook.

When she woke an hour or so later DD decided enough was enough and that daddy daycare was closed for the morning so bought her in to me for a cuddle. Terribly congested she kept snuggling into my neck which was welcomed but slightly unusual, as since she has learnt to crawl she wants to be on the move all the time and cuddles just slow her down. 

"Wowsers she is a hot little bunny,"  I casually remarked.

"I think it's time the winter sleeping bag was retired for the season"

"Haha look she is trying to stop herself from falling back" joked DD as the piglet did a jerky movement while sitting.

But then she jerked again. And then again, and in that split second our smiles were gone.

Our baby was fitting.

In all honesty the following sequence most likely took seconds, but it did feel like an age. 

First she was fitting, her eyes rolling back and I was picking her up from the bed. Then I was throwing her at DD who ran downstairs with her whilst I scrambled to put clothes on. It is funny the things that go through your head in moments of crisis but I remember having an internal arguement with myself over whether I had time to put on a bra...

Running for the lifts I tried not to look, I think I knew that if I gave myself a chance to process what was going on I wouldn't be of much use to anyone. DD later explained how it felt like he was holding a dead person, how her body was limp and her eyes not blinking. I'm glad I didn't look.

The lifts in our complex have been playing up so after a few seconds of nothing we made a run for it. Normally when we go down the stairs piggy makes a little sound with each step, a noise that's a bit like a mix of a burp sound and a humph. Today the only sound I could hear was DD pleading with his monkey to make any kind of sound at all.

The hospital is 8 minutes away, today it took 5 minutes. I'll probably get a speeding fine, but I don't give a damn. Half way there she started whimpering. It was a 'thank god' moment when we were given a clue that things might not be as bad as we first feared. I think that was when DD and I started to breathe again.

The medical term for what happened today is a febrile convulsion. It should be called giving your parents a heart attack. They take place when the body suffers a huge spike in temperature. Apparently they are quite common. DD had one when he was the exact same age. But although bloody terrifying, they are not overly serious. There are several causes, illness is the most common. A small percentage of babies have one after they have had their immunisation shots. Piggy had her shots on Saturday, but as we found out today she has a bad virus, so either or both could be to blame in this instance.

A few distressing tests, some pain relief and some monitoring over a few hours and we were discharged. We were told to keep an eye on her temperature,to keep her cool at all times and were assured that this would most likely be the end of it all.

It was after we had put the pickle in her cot for the night that the tears started. Neither of us bothered to justify them, we both knew exactly where they were coming from. A mix of relief and a horrible sense of what might have been.

I'm writing this from the floor of her room, I'm taking the first shift. Tonight I won't grumble if she wakes in the night for no other reason than she wants a cuddle. If she wants a night feed she has got it, to hell with 'the routine'.

We had one hell of a day, certainly not the nicest way to spend a bank holiday but tonight we are the luckiest people in the world. We came home with a poorly but otherwise healthy little girl. Many other parents are going through much worse right now and my heart is hurting for them.

The cliches are true, moments like this put it all in perspective. Nothing is more important than the health and well being of our loved ones. We could have the best, most fulfilling jobs in the world. We could be super rich and be able to buy whatever, whenever we wanted. But if we, and those we love don't have good health we have nothing at all.

I hope I remember this the next time I feel hard done by...