You really wanted a baby but what do you do if you own a small business and get pregnant unexpectedly? I can tell you the despair is real because I was in this exact place a few months ago when I found out I was expecting. While I was delighted about getting pregnant I was also mourning a certain loss of my other baby - the business.
In May of 2021 I decided to quit my corporate high-pressure job to fully dedicate myself to my dream business, candle making, and that's how Juliana Made This was born. I put all my emotional, financial, and physical efforts into make that happen and it was working! The first few months were slow but then it was so hectic I had to get people to give me hand! I was glowing and growing and I was so very happy about it! But what I didn't know was that I was growing and glowing in more ways than one.
Shortly after the business celebrated a year I discovered I was expecting and to put it mildly, it was traumatic. I only discovered it because I was feeling so unwell that I was ready to check myself into a hospital! So to my surprise, I saw two lines in the pregnancy test and I was so confused at the time I had to go through the bin to find the instructions for the test to be sure I was seeing the right thing. And I was right - baby on the way! I was elated! Imagine me as a mom with a mini-me!
But it wasn't a bed of roses and because of the pregnancy, I developed a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum which is a form of severe nausea and vomiting. Unlike the standard morning sickness, Hyperemesis cannot be helped and controlled without the help of medical professionals. If you have it, it will most likely land you in the hospital a few times. Yeah, not fun at all. At times I thought I would simply pass out of so much vomiting because I couldn't keep any food or water down - for weeks. It was the most debilitating period I had ever faced and as you can imagine I could not continue to live normally including working on Juliana Made This.
So I vanished. I completely logged out of the real world, and locked myself inside my bedroom for weeks, begging the sickness to go away. But no matter what I did, what I ate, or what position I sat in, the vomiting would come and I spent many nights on the bathroom floor. Feeling more helpless than ever and sorry for the life I had left behind.
You might not have Hyperemesis or even be pregnant but you might be going through some difficult times as well so here are a few things I wish I had known at the beginning of this journey.
1. You are not alone
Yes, it might seem obvious and cliche but even if you have Hyperemesis which is rare - only 2% of pregnant women develop Hyperemesis - there are others out there like you, going through something similar to your experience. So use them as a resource! use Reddit or Facebook communities like this one and this one, reach out and make friends with them! As they say, misery loves company! And to be fair, in this case, it's justified. In the beginning, I felt so alone like nobody understood me so the only way I could cope with that was by isolating myself. Don't do that! This can be awful for your mental health so if I had to do it again, I'd connect with people with similar life circumstances as mine.
2. It's ok to be sad
This one is pretty self-explanatory but it's still super valid. One of the things that made me most upset about this whole experience was the fact that for a while I felt really sad about being pregnant and that was hard. Everybody romanticises pregnancy but everybody has different experiences so while I was expecting to feel like I was walking on clouds every day, the reality was that I felt horrible! And I felt guilty for feeling horrible. It's like a snowball that never stops growing. You feel bad because you are ill and you feel bad for feeling bad! So break the cycle. Have your time to mourn the life you had and don't rush through it. Your emotions are valid and appropriate.
3. If you are not well, seek medical help
It is ok to suffer but do not suffer alone at home! And this goes for physical suffering and mental suffering alike. There is no gain by staying home because you think it will pass, it will get better and you don't want to be a nuisance to anybody. If you are struggling mentally, talk about it! There are amazing organisations that can offer you extra support in your time of need including Hyperemesis-focused ones such as Pregnant Sickness Support and Her Foundation. If you can, invest in a therapist to help you during this process - it is money well spent. And if you are unwell physically, call your GP or your midwife, go to A&E and fight your corner! If you need that little extra medical attention don't give up looking for it.
4. Pregnancy can be very complex so educate yourself
During my cave period, where I spent most of my days in a dark room feeling sorry for myself I didn't just hide away from people but I equally isolated myself from information. This was because I was terrified! Everything I read made me feel so overwhelmed and anxious so I just chose not to know anything about it and let my body deal with it. While this worked for a while, I noticed that after a few months, the blissful ignorance transformed into scary ignorance. The things I didn't know created space for false fantasies fuelled by fear. So the gaps in information were filled by worst-case scenarios all the time which generated even more anxiety. Not a good combo! So educate yourself, read about it, youtube about it, and talk to doctors and midwives about your questions. It will help with your fears and assist you with the point above of fighting your corner. Knowledge is power!
5. Get your accounting in order
If you own a business this is probably the most important topic on this list for you. If like me your business was very new and you were still making sense of bookkeeping and accounting, now is your chance. Get yourself an accountant - if you are in Belfast, Andrew at TaxAssist is very helpful and decently priced - and take note of all the items you purchased for your business, your expenses as well as all your turnover/sales so you can register your business with HRMC - if you are in the UK. This tutorial on youtube is very easy to follow. This is by far one of the worst parts of owning a business but it is also one of the most important ones. Why is this so important? Because without it you can't claim your maternity allowance! If you work for yourself you are entitled to maternity allowance IF you have declared and paid all your due taxes. It can be a frightening moment and taxes tend to be complex but once you have the help of an accountant or even friends who have done this before, you'll soon see it's not that hard. To start this process as a sole trader follow this link. Just to point out, this is not financial advice, these are just the steps that worked for me!
"Now you have all the time in the world and time is all you have so use it to your benefit."
6. You have not lost your business, it's parked
You might not be able to physically work and like many of us small business owners, it might mean you can't work at all! Not only is it depressing but you worry about the future of the business and might feel like you lost it forever. At the height of my illness, I felt like Juliana Made This had died, like gone for good, RIP. I literally mourned it as if it was a person and it was immensely painful and in many ways, it worsened my symptoms and feelings of helplessness. I felt like the business had been assassinated and the pain that came with that was at times unbearable. You might read and think I'm the biggest drama queen in the world - which is not totally untrue - but this time it really felt that all my efforts and money were wasted and down the drain. Let me tell you it is NOT true. Everything you have done for your business will still be there when you come back to it. Nobody has taken that from you.
7. While you can't work, work in what you can
Building on the previous point, there might be a number of activities in your business you can't physically do due to your condition BUT there are a few that you might still be able to do and do well! Take this window as an opportunity to build the areas you couldn't before because you were so busy such as giving that oomph to social media platforms, start blogging about your industry, create a podcast, improve your website, work on product development, organise your finances, improve your systems, think how you can be more eco friendly, update your logo and/or labels and so much more! Now you have all the time in the world and time is all you have so use it to your benefit. It will help you in more ways than one. For example, it will give you back some sense of control, and even the more menial tasks once they are completed will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. Bonus, when you come back to it, not only you'll have the business back but it will be improved!
You might not be pregnant or own a business so take from this post what resonates with you and your circumstances. I hope this little guide helps anybody feeling a little overwhelmed by big changes happening in life so if it does I'd love to know! Tell me how you cope with life's curve balls.
*PS. Now that Archie is becoming a big brother he had to appear in the shoot of course.