New Leaf
SE1 Ep8: Emma de Closset: No Rainbows without the Rain

SE1 Ep8: Emma de Closset: No Rainbows without the Rain

December 10, 2020

This episode was a both a challenge and a pleasure to record. Emma, as my old boss but now good friend, has always come across as an older soul, and her measuredness and care when choosing her words is clearly reflective of her education but also natural personality type of being so thoughtful, considered and almost academic in her answers at times. For something so emotional and heartbreaking as recurrent miscarriage, she is a role model of openness and frankness about something that affects 1 in 4 women, but in her case of recurrent miscarriage, less than 1 in 100.

When Emma first told me about what had been going on for her, I wasn’t married yet, wasn’t thinking about babies, and really struggled to contextualise what she’d been going through. I knew miscarriage was common. I knew it was sad. But I found it really difficult to picture or imagine what that would feel like or be like for the person going through it. I remember being shocked and feeling privileged that she was sharing something ‘so personal’, but now I realise that yes indeed, miscarriage is personal, but it doesn’t make it shameful or secretive, and the same goes for all fertility treatments that affect so many of our lives as women, and the partners holding our hands throughout. The female body, and reproduction in general, is complex. It can be sad, frustrating, baffling and also miraculous and magical, all at once. With a statistic like 1 in 4, the overwhelming odds are that whether you as a listener are male or female, you will know at least one woman close to you who’s had a miscarriage or baby loss, and the chances are you know at least several more who simply haven’t told you, or have suffered in silence.

However shocked I was that Emma had told me about her story at the time, it paved the way for when my own early loss happened a couple of years later, where she was the first person I messaged, and when I got pregnant again with my son, the person I texted most days just to get through the extreme anxiety of a pregnancy after a loss. As I shared, people I never knew had suffered started to share their own stories. It also made me question the silence and stigma that surrounds baby loss, and the blame that still occurs as people try to ‘explain’ what happened to these women.

Tommy’s, an incredible charity funding pioneering research to identify why pregnancy goes wrong is helping us to understand how we can prevent complications and loss, as well as enabling specialist care for people at their own speciailist clinics, research centres and all across the NHS. Their campaign tellmewhy is rightly questioning the unfairness, outdatedness, and inadequacy of dismissing miscarriage and stillbirth as being “just one of those things”. There is a proven and scientific gender data bias away from research that supports and empowers women and families, and it is only with fantastic charities such as Tommy’s who are trying hard to end this inequality that women will no longer have to hear that as their answer in a medical setting.

The instagram account @ihadamiscarriage has a great post on this subject that I’ll now read.

Whether you lost your baby at 5 weeks.
Whether you lost your baby at 20 weeks.
Whether it is your first loss
Whether it is your fourth loss
Whether or not you already have a child
Whether you have 4 or more
Whether you lost the baby in your teens
Whether yo0u lost the baby in your forties
Whether you lost you baby through ivy
Whet5her you lost your baby through unplanned pregnancy
Your pregnancy loss still matters
Your grief matters, your tears matter
Women matter

Babies born after a loss are often referred to as rainbow babies, and Emma’s story has a happy ending. Her less than 1 in a 100 story ended in a double rainbow. It is an emotional story she shares, but if it encourages just one person to be a little more open and end the silence, then hopefully this will have done a good thing. I can’t wait to hear what you think. Share your story with me on instagram @newleafpodcast.

SE1 Ep7: Lou Teasdale: Blazing a Trail

SE1 Ep7: Lou Teasdale: Blazing a Trail

November 26, 2020

This episode came about it in that wonderful world of the women’s network, where a previous guest very kindly connected me to the lovely, gorgeous and grounded celebrity hairstylist Lou Teasdale. Lou’s episode I have to say was one of my favourites to record. It was quite a different setup to what I normally do - I was conscious of her time, so usually where I’d try and have a quick call just to get to know my guest before recording, I took a risk and went straight into a full on interview, and wow she really didn’t disappoint.

Lou’s epic career as a celebrity hairstylist, notably for One Direction, created some interesting reactions - my inbox flooding with @harrystylesfuturewife and @forharryonly accounts the minute I announced Lou as a guest really showed me the power of celebrity - but Lou unpicks and reveals what it’s like to live in that world brilliantly.

We cover her fascinating birth story and journey back to work - albeit three weeks after having her baby girl, and the identity crises she observes in her friends who’ve taken longer chunks of time off and the effects on their mental health and personal lives. She was very open and direct about the need to work for our mental health as mums and we explore this in more detail.

Lou is hugely successful - the country is not short of hairstylists yet she has 4.2 million followers and growing - yet one of her comments really stuck out to me when I asked her about what success meant to her - which is “well, does anyone every really feel like they’ve completed the game?”. Lou clearly has more up her sleeve.

We also discuss the complexities of co-parenting, the challenge of how and when to let your kids grow up, the simplicity of raising a baby on a tourbus, and very briefly at the end, as Lou was great friends with Caroline Flack, the very much loved British tv host, we discuss the importance of selflessness and compassion when it comes to supporting those around you suffering from depression. I really, really enjoyed this conversation and slightly fell in love with Lou. I hope you do too, and as always, enjoy the episode.

SE1 Ep6: Rachel Waters: Changing Course

SE1 Ep6: Rachel Waters: Changing Course

November 12, 2020

So on this episode I speak to the wonderfully dry and witty Rachel Waters, an old colleague of mine from my management consulting days at EY, or Ernst&Young, which we refer to frequently, a demanding client facing job which back in my corporate life required a lot of travel and long hours... Rachel and I covered a swathe of topics, from the sublime to the ridiculous, and a particularly pertinent theme that stood out to me is the concept of life plans. We can have a propensity in this modern age to wed ourselves to life’s ‘path’, whatever that means, of the exams, the uni or college, the job, the boyfriend/girlfriend, moving in, engaged, marriage and babies, and then… not sure. We are mostly at that blissfully naive early adulthood point in our 20s and 30s where for many of us life hasn’t really ‘happened’, yet - big crises, big disasters, chronic illness - they’re for later. Aren’t they?

So what Rachel shone a light on was the the fickle nature of our universe and how plans are upended when life does indeed ‘happen’ and the path deviates. Her journey to where she is now professionally in part stemmed from this upending of her life, where Rachel was brave enough to discuss getting a divorce at a young age and embarking on a move to a new city in a quest to reclaim her ‘path’ and figure out where it was all going. What follows in the conversation is a fascinating foray into her experiences of life happening - from fertility challenges, love in the modern era and online, miscarriage, the impact of pregnancy on our hormones and mental health, the use of medication to rebalance oneself chemically, as well as the death of her own dad and the tragic loss of a friend’s baby. Life, indeed, does happen to us all. Baby losses do happen, people close to us do die, or get ill, pandemics scupper weddings, careers and relationships, and rarely does anyone follow the predicted straight line to… well who knows where. We are very accustomed to focusing on the forward rather than where we are standing right now, the standing still, so when the universe decides to challenge us and throw everything out the window from what we had planned it can be distressing, destroying and devastating to us - but also, in destruction we can find creation, and it can be renewing, replenishing and rejuvenating. The cyclone ends, and the sun returns.

What I really liked about Rachel and this episode in general is that it is like a true reflection of life in a strange sort of nutshell. There were really funny moments, us both using laughter as a mechanism to deal with things that are dark, meaningful and difficult, moments of beauty and the ridiculous in things that are sad, and ultimately it just felt like a very smooth conversation late at night with a bottle of red, when in reality it was extremely early in the morning after a lot of technical difficulties, a sleepless night and a LOT of coffee. It made me highly reflective and grateful for what I have, and philosophical about our need to stay a little more present. So, I hope in this moment you enjoy this episode and have some reflections of your own. Enjoy, as usual, I can’t wait to hear what you think. Follow me on twitter @newleafpodcast to continue the conversation.

SE1 Ep5: Laura Wright: The Show Must Go On

SE1 Ep5: Laura Wright: The Show Must Go On

October 29, 2020

The supremely talented and gorgeous Laura Wright joins me for Episode 5 of New Leaf.

She is a mezzo-soprano singer and composer, no stranger to performing at high profile events and broadcasting live to millions of people… She has written and performed for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on numerous occasions; most memorably for Her Majesty’s 90th birthday. Laura wrote the Invictus anthem Invincible for Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and she won BBC Chorister of the Year in 2005 and went on to become one of the decade’s biggest selling artists… She is currently writing her fourth solo album. Laura gave birth last year to little Ottilie with ex-Rugby player and husband Harry.

Laura and I laughed a lot (and cried a bit) about some of the supreme ups and downs of early motherhood and the pressure in the entertainment industry of being a young female singer. She bravely discussed the challenges of balancing a high profile career in the spotlight, with the amazing pluses and minuses of social media, with family life. She discusses how ‘visual’ the entertainment industry is, and how fitness brought her back from a very lonely and low point, as so many women go through. We also discuss the gaps in the British healthcare system for postnatal care.

We discuss the sometimes lethal cocktail of social media and motherhood, with her added tricky ingredient of life in the public eye, where already emotionally vulnerable, sleep deprived and going through a major adjustment to your life, it was for her “very difficult to navigate emotionally”. There is more awareness today with news stories and documentaries emerging, revealing how social media algorithms can fundamentally affect us. Governments are putting massive resources into stemming the flow of misinformation and fake news, because of the huge emotions generated in us, that influence our choices often in ways that we aren’t aware of.

Algorithms are designed to make our social media pages echo chambers, and when in our middle of the night, hair everywhere monotony of motherhood we guiltily look at ‘perfect’-looking images of other women in beautiful locations, or other mothers without a hair out of place with squeaky clean children, even our friends taking flattering photos, our newsfeeds and explore feeds on instagram and Facebook very quickly pick up on our choices, becoming halls of mirrors of perfection that can make us feel lonely, inadequate and like “everyone else” has got it sorted. Of course…. they don’t. But, it made me feel for Laura and other women in the media, where image is still valued very highly, and it almost requires a whole other podcast to talk about her point where storylines in the arts rarely write pregnant women or mothers into their storylines in a strong or unique way, and so those opportunities are few for the women in the arts in those positions in their own lives, due to this lack of representation. This is starting to change, and will change more, the more we are aware of this underepresentation, so I challenge you to challenge other people when we comment on women’s bodies during pregnancy or post-babies who are in the spotlight. Kate Middleton in ‘that dress’ with her so-called bump, just hours after giving birth to Prince George, is a case in point.

We can all do better in society to support women postnatally - and this episode illustrated this really well for me personally. I do hope you enjoy it.

SE1 Ep4: Charlene Charity: You Can’t be Your Own Village

SE1 Ep4: Charlene Charity: You Can’t be Your Own Village

October 15, 2020

Charlene Charity, my lovely guest, is a brand and marketing guru… she held extremely senior roles in both BT and Amazon, being head of brand marketing for Amazon in the EU before becoming Head of Live Sports Marketing at the Premier League, before striking out to set up The Diversity Partnership is a consultancy that helps build diverse and inclusive organisations where everyone has an equal chance of success, with global clients including Spotify, Lululemon and a range of non-profit, tech and advertising organisations . They lead on D&I Strategy development and implementation, internal comms, D&I training and more. Charlene is in her early forties with slightly older children, so I found the interview taking a multitude of different routes as we navigated an insanely broad spectrum of topics, as she is well and truly out of what I like to refer to as the ‘baby vortex’, and therefore simply has had a longer career to discuss, and more experience navigating the world of childcare, than those of us still firmly in that vortex!! She demonstrated beautifully that the day does come where they’re at school, or full time nursery, and work suddenly has more space to re-enter your life, and you can really hear this reflected in where our conversation goes. There is a real vivacity in Charlene and you can tell that she is at a real peak of success and choice in her career where children are more interwoven into her life, rather than the other way around where sometimes, it can feel like you’re struggling to interweave life full stop!

I learned a lot from our conversation. Her role in co-founding the Diversity Partnership is obviously a huge passion for her, and we inevitably raised the topic of maternal discrimination for the black community as being quite literally a frightening starting place of racism in British society. Facts are facts, and the statistics that Black women are 5 times more likely to die in childbirth in the UK is horrifying. These are unacceptable statistics, and every statistic in this instance is a human being and a tiny baby. We as a society cannot accept this as an ‘impossible’ problem to be resolved - we are all sharing this beautiful country together, and each journey begins with a single step, so we all need to keep having the ‘uncomfortable’ conversations.

Charlene's confidence in later motherhood was stark... She OWNS her choices, unapologetically, and to be frank I found it uplifting, reassuring and eye-opening to see that someone as fun, interesting and beautiful as her can also have an insanely successful career with two beautiful babies, and be clearly living her best life, despite a terrifying attack and a mental breakdown, which she so bravely shares. Her positive energy quite literally shines out of her, as you will hear….

So without further ado - enjoy, and I can’t wait to hear what you think.

SE1 Ep3: Jessica Barker: A Different Kind of Motherhood

SE1 Ep3: Jessica Barker: A Different Kind of Motherhood

September 30, 2020

Episode 3 of New Leaf features the touching and poignant story of Jessica Barker, founder and CEO of Friendili , the social network and resource hub for parents of special needs children , serious illness, or long spells in hospital and intensive care.

Jess’s story of her daughter Maisie, born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and her journey to founding the incredible app Friendili, was incredibly emotional to listen to. She was so open, and her candour and frankly at times brutal honesty about her reality was phenomenally touching. The interview has deep waves, and although it is a complete cliche to say: I felt honoured to hear her story from her directly. It is absolutely extraordinary that she channeled such an impossible situation into something that is already doing so, so much to help other parents. Having that lifeline is like a guardian angel to so many who feel so incredibly alone in their experiences, and I personally would have been phenomenally grateful for Friendili during my own experience with my son, born with hyperinsulinism.

Friendili exists as a private space to provide fantastic information from the charities and organisations who can help these parents. It’s engineered so that they can have a break from the clinical, talk about everyday things with people who ‘get it’, or, if they want to, access areas where you can delve into more condition-specific aspects of their child’s health journey.

“I firmly believe that no family should navigate life alone – even if their journey is different. We’re stronger together, and we want you to know that we’re with you.” -- Jess

(FOR NON- NICU PARENTS) GLOSSARY:

NICU: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
HDU: High Dependency Unit (one step down from the NICU)
SCBU pronounced Skiboo: Special Care Baby Unit
NG Tube: Nasal-Gastric tube, a tube through the nose of the baby to the stomach if they can't feed themselves, or are having their fluid intake monitored
TPN: Total Parenteral Nutrition: a method of feeding that bypasses the gastrointestinal tract. Fluids are given into a vein to provide most of the nutrients the body needs. The method is used when a baby cannot or should not receive feedings or fluids by mouth. This is harmful to the kidneys and liver over a long stretch of time.

SE1 Ep2: Jasmine Lee-Nicholls: The Ebbs and Flows

SE1 Ep2: Jasmine Lee-Nicholls: The Ebbs and Flows

September 17, 2020

I get raw and real with Jasmine Lee-Nicholls, Aussie co-founder of Tech Startup Flashfomo , where we discuss the reality of birth in all its imperfect perfection, and the importance of prenatal education in helping to manage postnatal feelings...

We discuss “the Village” and how being wholly focussed on yourself pre-birth does not become a straight swap for being wholly baby-focussed post-birth.... your life doesn’t stop, neither should it, it takes dual focus, and the importance of work and “your own life” as oxygen to being an amazing mama is unparalleled.

I didn’t cut out the ‘bad bits’, I didn’t caveat constantly that every birth is different, and although I was tempted to; I didn’t avoid this topic for fear of ‘scaring’ any mamas-to-be. Knowledge is power. Opening this conversation of prenatal education and preparation in an open-minded, nonjudgmental way is absolutely essential to improving postnatal care.

So, if you need to hear this today: a doula or hypnobirthing is not a guarantee you’ll have a perfect birth, even if it may help - neither is a homebirth. Breastfeeding isn’t always straightforward for every scenario, C-Sections do happen (quite a lot, actually, and for what it’s worth mine was quite nice😂). Lots, and lots, of people mixed feed, or just straightup formula from the get go, who aren’t ‘bad parents’ (I didn’t know this). Inductions aren’t always bad, and neither are epidurals, guys. ‘No pain relief’ or ‘no tearing’ is lovely, but as we discuss on the episode:

Every birth. Every anatomy. Every baby. Every mum. Every context. Every hospital, is different.

SE1 Ep1: Hannah Howard: Giving Ourselves the Space to be Imperfect

SE1 Ep1: Hannah Howard: Giving Ourselves the Space to be Imperfect

August 31, 2020

The funny, warm and super sharp author and food writer Hannah Howard is my guest on this episode. American mama to her 4.5 month old and married to a Brummie, working, living and mama-ing over in New York City, having given birth at the height of the pandemic and in the epicentre of covid in the United States. I had the most wonderful time speaking to Hannah. We navigated the most enormous range of topics, ranging from US Healthcare and birth politics of race and socioeconomics, to her experience of fleeing New York City at 37 weeks pregnant, to maternity leave as a freelancer, to breast-feeding after a breast reduction, with a long portion towards the end of this episode discussing eating disorder recovery in the context of pregnancy and then motherhood and the identity politics that comes with it. Explicit rating due to dropping the F-Bomb twice (sorry mum) but aside from that, I promise it's baby-ears-friendly.

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