So, The Short Years Project. What’s my motivation, you may ask?
Back in 2014 I wrote a post on my personal blog Great North Mum about my husband running the Great North 10k to raise funds for our local special care baby unit. It came off the back of something my mum said to me that day. As we sat watching the variety of different charity vests and t-shirts being proudly paraded by other runners, Mum said, “Do you think you would have done all of this if it wasn’t for what happened with Joe?”
I realised then that I had never really thought about it. I considered everything that might constitute ‘all of this’ at that point in time.
My eldest son Joe was born in September 2010 at 37 weeks, when I was induced for the wellbeing of both of us due to me having developed pre-eclampsia. Following my difficult birth experience, I set about improving my fitness in anticipation of future pregnancies. I took up running and lost weight. In May 2012 I ran my first ever 10k race, the Great Manchester Run, raising money for Tommy’s, a charity I had come across as a result of looking for information about what had happened to me. Few things have ever felt like more of an achievement than crossing the finish line on that day.
At the start of 2013, I threw myself into more fundraising, this time organising an online auction for Tommy’s on Facebook. I got myself onto Twitter to help publicise the auction and, it’s probably safe to say, I never looked back. I did the Great Manchester Run again, and would go on to complete the Great North Run twice, in 2013 and 2014.
I started writing again, something I used to love as a child and teenager with dreams of becoming a famous author or journalist, but had somehow lost along the way.
In the summer of 2013 I changed jobs and started working for the Northern England Clinical Networks, part of NHS England which focuses on regional collaboration for service improvement. In 2014, not long before I wrote my original blog post, I joined pregnancy charity MAMA Academy as a volunteer helping out with their social media.
Incredibly, as I look back on what constituted ‘all of this’ at that point, I have managed to make myself even busier.
I somehow ended up becoming a member of MAMA Academy’s board of trustees, a role which I couldn’t be more proud to have. Having the opportunity to make a positive difference to the pregnancies of other women in this way is an absolute honour. I had my second child, Jake, in the summer of 2015, having endured a ‘high risk’ pregnancy which was ultimately uncomplicated but ended with a birth of a 10lb+ baby that brought problems of its own. I was thrilled to be nominated for the Tommy’s Mum’s Voice Award in 2016 for blogging about my experiences.
Most recently I have trained with The Daisy Foundation as a Perinatal Educator to teach antenatal and postnatal classes to mums in my local area, fulfilling my growing desire to have more of a direct impact on the experiences of these women at one of the most exciting and challenging times of their lives.
So, do I think I would have done ‘all of this’ if it wasn’t for the way my first pregnancy ended? Would I be launching into this new venture now?
Honestly, my gut tells me probably not.
I might have put some effort into losing the initial baby weight, but without the thought of my future health thanks to the unknown long-term effects of the pre-eclampsia, my fitness to be an active mum to the little man I was so lucky to have, and the likelihood of complications in a subsequent pregnancy, I don’t think I would have had the motivation to do as much as I did. I doubt I’d have ever pulled my finger out to do a half marathon.
I might have supported someone else’s fundraising, but without the gratitude I felt towards those who had helped me have a happy ending to my complicated pregnancy and the affiliation I then felt to the charities trying to do something about the cause, I don’t think I would have put the effort into raising money and awareness myself. I am almost certain I wouldn’t devote the time I do to volunteering and to feel so strongly about what they are hoping to achieve.
I might have come across the job opportunity I did, but without the true desire to see things improve for everyone using NHS services, for all the deserving mums and babies, for all those who are not as fortunate as we were to bring our baby home, I doubt I would have found my niche in the way that I have. My passion drives my work everyday.
And I might never have met Susanne, or brainstormed an idea one day to help all parents like us, with our own unique past experiences and current challenges, as we raise our babies into growing children the best way we know how.
Our life experiences cannot fail to shape our futures, but I count myself lucky every single day for the position I find myself in. I interact with some amazing people online on a daily basis who are driven by their own experiences, all wanting to change the future for others when their own lives have sometimes been changed forever. We are travelling down paths we wouldn’t necessarily have chosen in order to help others along it.
That’s not to say people have to go through an adverse experience to want to make a difference but in my case, it has definitely affected my choices. And for ‘all of this’ to come out of a situation over which I had no choice is an achievement I am really proud of. I can’t wait to see where this takes us.