I initially worked as a care home assistant at 16y and then trained as a nurse, studying at King's College London - an amazing experience with lots of placements in a wide variety of settings over 4 years. I was based at St. George's Hospital, Tooting; then Croydon Community Healthcare Trust; and then the Central Middlesex Hospital. I graduated with a BSc Honours Degree in Nursing Studies.
My roles during my 15 year Nursing career ranged from:
Orthopeadics (despite a horror of broken bones!)
To Elderly Hospital-at-Home
To Palliative Care (the most beautiful experience)
And then to Pharmaceutical Research.
My last role was as a Senior Nurse Trainer for an independent pharmaceutical research facility
and it was there that I discovered a love for training. I had my
sights on the Training Manager's role......and then the babies
started to arrive.
I was shocked at my response. I had been determined to be a career woman after having children. My own Mum had lost tremendous confidence when me and my brother were born and, looking back, I wonder if she struggled with postnatal depression. She never really worked again and I was a little nervous that the same would happen to me. Hence my (at the time!) robust plan to return to work full time when my first baby was 6 months old and pursue the management role.
My babies had other plans though.....they rocked my world!
I found, to my shock, that I couldn't face returning to work full time and was lucky that work ageed to part time, or it would have been a hefty sum of maternity leave to pay back! Even then, whilst so many of my mum-friends loved returning to work and felt more like themselves again - loving that feeling of drinking an entire cup of tea in one go! - and enjoying their work/baby balance, I struggled to adapt.
It was hard because I really hadn't expected to find it so challenging to be away from my baby; and was keenly aware that most of my friends were managing much more happily. I really wanted to change my work/life balance to one of greater flexibility but it wasn't possible in the role I'd returned to, within the company or even within the industry. At the same time, how could I justify leaving a good job at a time when our little family needed the money?
An BIG suprise made change possible.
Feeling strangely nauseaus and even more tired than was warranted; despite having an 8 month old who wasn't keen on sleeping - it began to dawn on me that the delay in my period might not just be their irregular start following breastfeeding.
Yes! I was pregnant again! It had taken such a long time to get pregnant first time round, that we had decided not to worry about contraception while my body re-established it's cycle, as we didn't want a big gap for number 2. Typical! It quickly became clear that things had to change. Childcare costs for 2 babies would take too big a chunk of my wage to make it worthwhile to continue, so, finally, a big change of plan was not just in order, but was now necessary.
I retrained as an NCT Antenatal Teacher; which combined my
love for facilitaing group learning with a new found passion to
support other parents as they began their journey with their
children. It was and is a very flexible and family friendly job.
With the freedom to set my own hours in synch with family life
(and around my husband's shifts so there were no childcare
costs), I thrived again. Just as well, cos in 2007, baby number 3
Through out my 15 years (and counting!) with NCT, I have been incredibly blessed to support the most vulnerable parents, via NHS, Children's Centres and Her Majesty's Prison contracts, right through to those in the most privileged (and even famous!) positions.
Following an unexpected and generous opportunity from NCT,
I launched BellyTots in 2018.
Late in 2017 NCT decided not to run the Pregnancy Relax, Stretch & Breathe Classes anymore. They were happy for me to continue to run this service as my own business. And BellyTots was born! I really don't know where the idea for the name came from. I sat down to try and garner some inspiration and Jelly Tots floated into my head. Realising that using this name could bring hefty legal fees my way, it morphed in my head to 'BellyTots' which I love. I immediately saw it as one word with a capital T in the middle - and I'm really particular about that (lol).
Eventually, the lovely Mamas I worked with in pregnancy (through BellyTots) began to ask for postnatal services, I expanded my training and classes to include Postnatal Exercise, Baby Yoga & Massage and general adult Pilates classes. I then included Daddy & Me sessions to bring in the Dads, and a family play session so I could stay in touch longer term with all the families I'd met and didn't want to lose touch with.
Of course, in 2020 - along came Covid-19.
Most ironically, my 2020 New Year goal for BellyTots was to
develop an online aspect to the business. Little did I know that
just 3 months later, I'd be working entirely online! What a steep
learning curve it was for all of us in 2020. I'm so grateful to the
amazing Mamas who just adapted, stayed with me and supported
me through that time!
For 2021, we are definitely keeping our online PLUS inperson approach. Which is proving ideal to cope with sudden changes to restrictions. But we have great plans for inperson parties and pampering mum-only events just as soon as we can too. I am really thrilled to have my colleague and friend, Sarah Wells, coming on board to expand the classes we can offer this year, and the tremendous help of Sam Fuller, Systems Analyst, in a voluntary capacity to assist with all the tech stuff!
I'm hoping for good things for all of us in 2021