Holly: Thanks so much for talking to me today Calli. Can you introduce yourself to my readers? What is your name, age and where do you live?
Calli Ward, aged 31 and living in Clapham, London.
Holly: Where do you work? And what is your position within the company?
I’m the Commercial Marketing Manager at South West Trains. I have worked there for 2 years.
Holly: Give me a brief description on what you do there?
I am responsible for our external facing brand, and its implementation internally. I am also responsible for maximising revenue generation for the company via promotional campaigns to ensure our annual targets are met and exceeded.
Holly: So let’s get right into it, tell me about your current family situation and pregnancy journey?
My pregnancy journey has been eventful to say the least. Owing to some complications I was put on strict bed rest from 19 weeks of pregnancy – to last until my due date in October. Therefore my working situation changed pretty early on with me having to work from home from May this year. I am planning to go on official maternity leave at the beginning of October although our little arrival could appear at any time, so I’ve had my handover notes written since June!
Holly: I have to say Calli, you have coped remarkably well throughout this whole process. I honestly don’t know how you have stayed so positive. So before the best rest order from the doc, how did you first feel when you realised you were pregnant with regards to work?
To be very honest – it really worried me. My company is going through a huge transition this summer (changing ownership) and as such the potential for promotion and carving out a new role for myself was imminent. However, going on maternity leave effectively takes me out of consideration for any role development until I come back at the end of 2018 and that really bothered me. Also my work is something I just ‘know’. I’m very confident in and I’m very capable. I literally don’t have a clue how to be a mummy, so I feel like I’ll be starting a new role as a work experience kid all over again. Except this time I will be the parent looking after a kid!
Holly: So did you feel nervous about telling people at work the news then?
Having got married last year, and being in my early 30s, I don’t think it came as a surprise to anyone when I told them I was pregnant. My boss is lovely and very career/family orientated so I wasn’t too worried about telling her. My nervousness came as a result of the business ownership change, and whether or not I would a) have a job to come back to and b) if I would still be eligible for maternity leave pay. I also suffered pretty badly with morning sickness and feeling dreadful in the first few months of my pregnancy, so I think a few people on the team had guessed before I told them. Guzzling ginger tea at your desk and eating sour sweets at 9am is a total giveaway apparently!
Holly: Haha absolutely is. Ginger beer, sweeties and bread sticks were my saviour. How people didn’t guess at my work is beyond me. And how did your boss take the news?
My boss took the news brilliantly. She was super supportive and very understanding of my worries about not wanting to relinquish my working career too. When I got put on bed rest she was amazing and helped to fight my cause for working from home rather than being signed off sick, which was a massive deal for me. She also comes to my flat regularly now for our 1:1s and is a very comforting person to talk to about becoming a mummy and my pregnancy worries, as well as all things train related! I think it’s brought us closer together to be honest with you.
Holly: That’s amazing. You are lucky to have such a supportive boss and the fact that you could agree the working from home arrangement, rather than go off on full sick leave probably really helped you too as any kind of transition like this is hard. They could have reacted so differently, thank God they didn’t. With being away from the office early, did you ever feel apologetic about being pregnant?
Yes absolutely, I never stopped. Being on bed rest means I have limitations to what I can actually do. I.e. No standing for longer than 10 minutes at a time. No lifting. No exercise of any form. No sex etc etc. It means my husband Will has to do literally everything for me around the house – from buying me my maternity pants from Primark when I outgrew mine, to doing all the cooking and cleaning, picking up my prescriptions and practicing hypnobirthing with me every night. I feel dreadful that I’ve suddenly become such a burden to him and others, when I was previously so utterly capable and independent. The constant hormone wobbles are dreadful too (normal in pregnancy but exacerbated in my case owing to the extra progesterone I have to take). As such I find myself crying a lot which I hate and makes me feel weak.
Holly: One of my biggest worries is being off for a year and then having to catch up. Do you ever worry your mat leave will hold you back?
Absolutely. I feel like I’m effectively calling a ‘halt’ on my career from now on. I know it could be a while until I’m properly back on the working train and can be considered for more responsibility. This is a tough pill to swallow when you enjoy your career so much and have excelled in it.
Holly: Do you have any anxieties with regards to actually being on maternity leave?
Yes I do feel anxious – not least because being home alone for 12 hours a day is already very lonely. I know I’ll have friends around, but it’s not the same as being around the people at work at all times. I’m a control freak too, and I’m worried that being on maternity leave will effectively change the routine I was so used to & kept me sane.
Holly: Don’t worry, I feel your pain. I am a massive control freak too and I completely get the routine point. How do we go from 9-5 working days, to no structure and on demand feeding? My ‘Fears & Anxiety’ page covers this in detail. Tell me do you worry you would ever lose your identity through being away from work?
Yes – the whole ‘do you work, or are you just a mum?’ question I know will really grate on me. I’ve also found that some of my non-pregnant friends already don’t see me in the same way they used to. Before I was put on bed rest I found a couple of my previously close friends immediately stopped inviting me to things – it was like I was broken when I was just pregnant. I very quickly became the ‘cinema’ friend or the ‘see you for an hour in a coffee shop’ person, rather than someone that was still able to go out to bars and restaurants etc and enjoy being a normal person. They were still doing that, but my invites to join too stopped. I found that pretty tough and very hurtful. Not everyone was like that admittedly – but it did make me worry that I was already not being seen as the Calli I used to be and was already lumped into the frumpy stay at home mum category. Now I’m stuck on bed rest I’ve had to learn to accept that as part and parcel of my pregnancy, but it’s hard. Really hard.
Holly: It shouldn’t have to be part and parcel of your pregnancy, or anyone’s for that matter. You need to surround yourself with people who get it and love you for who you are. They shouldn’t lose sight of the old Calli as she is still there, but just needs to pause and focus on other things for a while. Ultimately it will be their loss if they don’t keep you close. Hopefully your partner dealt with your maternity leave a little better?
Every single day Will amazes me with how totally and utterly wonderful he is. This pregnancy has brought us closer than I thought it ever could have done, and I couldn’t think of anyone else in the world I’d rather be sharing this life changing experience with. He’s very compassionate and an extremely good listener – I know he’ll be there for me 100% throughout mat leave & thankfully doesn’t have the archaic ‘you’re just at home with a baby – how hard can it be?’ attitude.
Holly: How do you think you will cope going back to work after maternity leave? If you do decide to go back of course.
I think I’ll find it very hard. I think I’ll find the entire thing quite alien after what will have been almost a year and a half not being in the office, and I genuinely worry that I won’t care about my career as much as I do now. I’m also a bit worried that I’ll be really looking forward to getting back and getting stuck in again, and then this makes me worried that maybe this makes me a bad mother?
Holly: Yup I hear you. Ultimately you can’t win on this one and I think the guilt will always be there in some sense. That’s what lots of mums tell me. And finally Calli, what is the best thing about maternity leave? I.e. what are you most looking forward to?
Owing to all the complications, I think the one thing my husband and I are looking forward to the most is actually possibly having a baby of our very own to hold, cuddle and transform our family. We went through a good few months of genuinely thinking that wasn’t going to happen for us, but the excitement is slowly building again now. I’m also really looking forward to being off bed rest and not being completely paranoid that my shower is taking too long and that I have to keep stabbing myself in the leg with injections every day! Ohh, and probably a bit soppily, but I cannot wait to see Will hold our little bundle of joy or to see his face when he meets ‘Roo’ (aka the bump) for the very first time. I know it will melt me. I’m looking forward to bonding with our little baby, and weirdly, because I’m already such a terrible sleeper – I’m actually really looking forward to having someone else to keep me company in the wee hours when I’m wide awake!! Oh – and again, probably weirdly, but I’m looking forward to beasting myself with buggy fit or something similar. I’ve never needed to lose weight before so think I’ll quite enjoy that challenge!
Holly: Gulp, careful.. you are talking to a heavily pregnant woman here also battling the hormones. Trying not to burst into tears right now, especially because I know you so well and know how important this baby is to you. Your struggle is unprecedented Calli and how you have got this far (emotionally) is incredibly impressive. Massive kudos to you and Will.
Thank you for sharing your story with us and being so honest about your fears. You are not alone and hopefully people reading this will resonate with many of your feelings. I know I certainly do. Thank you and good luck!