If I had to think quickly about one moment in my life that had changed its course for ever, it would be tempting to focus straight away on the whole ‘pregnant at 16’ thing.
Yeah, I know, having a baby at 17 in the middle of your A-levels is a pretty big deal, (insert subtle link to teenage birth story here), but what about the smaller events, the ones you don’t thing of as being important at the time? I found a photo recently that made me think about one seemingly small decision that ended up having a huge impact on my life.
Belle was just a few weeks old, (I was 24 this time around, still fairly young), and things weren’t going altogether as well as I had hoped. Bee had been a ‘good’ baby in the ‘sleep through the night, be held by anybody’ sense and of course at the time I had smugly put it down to my ‘relaxed parenting style’. Oh how everyone must have laughed when Belle came along.
Belle was more of the ‘I’d actually prefer to be held just by my Mummy ALL OF THE TIME please, ideally with one of her boobs in my mouth’ school of thought. She also liked to wake up fairly regularly during the night, just to check I was still paying attention. Every half hour or so normally, just for the first few years.
One morning, wide-eyed with exhaustion and in desperate need of some adult company, I came upon the church in the centre of Taunton, where I lived at the time. On the noticeboard outside was a poster advertising a weekly breastfeeding group, happening that morning. I wasn’t an especially passionate mother either way when it came to feeding, and felt nervous about meeting new people, but the thought of a free biscuit and a cup of tea that I hadn’t had to make was a tempting one. I told myself to man up, left Belle’s buggy with the collection of others at the foot of the stairs and made my way into the upstairs room.
I was met by a group of equally shell-shocked looking women, each staring helplessly at their babies whilst comparing notes.
“Does yours do that thing where they pretend to be asleep and then scream the minute you try to put them down?”
“Yes,” (cue weary sigh), “all the time.”
I was scared at first, and I have to admit, slightly horrified. I remember that first session, chatting to a woman feeding her ten month old daughter, and her baby just looking so big – I couldn’t imagine breastfeeding what to me looked basically like a small teenager. That group of women though went on to become one of the closest groups of friends I have ever had and even now, 11 years (two and a half of which I was breastfeeding for) and several house moves later, we are in the midst of making plans for our Christmas night out.
This is the photo. I look young and thin and brown and Belle looks terrified that at any moment I might put her on the floor with the other babies and lose physical contact.
That group changed my life in other ways too. It was through the gentle persuasion of the group leader that I trained to be a breastfeeding counsellor with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers and served on the committee for many years as the charity’s treasurer, getting my first taste of charity management and fundraising. It was through the ABM too that I wrote my first article for The Green Parent magazine – a new magazine at the time, looking for volunteers. I went on to write for over 40 issues and still have every one of them, including a photocopy of the cheque from the very first time I was ever paid to write.
Paid to write! Can you believe it? At the time it was such a thrill, unbelievable almost that someone would actually pay me to do something so enjoyable. It was my experiences with The Green Parent that fuelled my passion for writing and eventually led to me becoming self-employed. I still find it incredible sometimes that I can make a living from something that feels so natural and fun.
That moment of hesitation outside the church could have gone either way, but if I hadn’t swallowed my fears that day and taken the plunge who knows where I might be now.
Great post, Jo :) There are so many small decisions in my life that, if I hadn’t made them, would have totally altered the course of my life. Like agreeing to write for the university magazine, which turned my career plans on their head, or doing the Alpha course, or even agreeing to follow my first husband to Bristol – which sounds like a big decision, but I didn’t actually think all that hard about it. Each of those things have shaped my life and still give me a great deal of satisfaction as I look back and see where they have led me.
And meeting me online of course ;-)
You just never know what opportunities those little things might bring, which is why more and more I just try to open my mind and say yes to things.
This post really touched me Jo, it really is incredible how small steps can make a huge impact on your life and direction it will take. Amazing, thanks so much for sharing this x
Thank YOU for reading :-) I find it fascinating that we are making all of these tiny decisions all the time and have no idea of their significance until years later.
What a fantastic post! Yes there are defining moments that I completely forget about until I look through photos – reminds me to have another look through them all :) x
So glad you liked it! It’s easy to forget the little things isn’t it? But they are so important.
What a lovely post Jo. It is the smallest decisions in life that can sometimes have the biggest impact. It’s been more than three years now since we were both at Arvon about to start dabbling with freelance writing. And we’re both still going strong! The fact that people pay me to write still gives me a lot of joy and I’ve loved watching your journey through your blog. Amazing.
That Arvon course was another defining moment! It was straight after that, once I had learnt how to pitch, that I got my very first ‘not The Green Parent’ paid for work – exciting times! It was amazing week personally too, being away from my children and a proper grown-up person for what felt like the first ever time.
I confess that I haven’t been keeping up with your blog, so it’s strange that I chose to read this one. What you may not realise is that the choices you made back then, sent ripples to those around you. Having friends who breastfeed makes it a whole lot easier to do it when it comes to having your own children. You were one of those friends who made breastfeeding seem normal and achievable. Thanks ( lump in throat) xx
Well then my work here is done :-) I’m very happy indeed to have been able to cause some positive ripples. xx
Thanks for your very interesting post. I sometimes sit (when the madness of being a busy mummy subsides for a bit!) and think about all the little things that have shaped my life. With regards to the writing thing, I think it’s fabulous that you’re doing it for a career. I’ve been writing bits and bobs for years and squirreling them away on my laptop, but I would love to be able to do it too. I just don’t know where to start! :-) (or if I’ll be good enough!).
I have a bit of an unofficial motto Nicola – Ready, Fire, Aim. It’s to remind me to just go for things, and then you can always adjust your strategy as you go. Much better than waiting and waiting, worrying if you’ll get it right first time. When I first went full time freelance I just went into Smiths, wrote down the Editor’s contact details from about 100 magazines and emailed them all basically saying ‘Hello! Do you have anything I can write?’ I was mainly ignored obviously, but not completely!
What a fantastic post!
Strikes a chord with me really, because these days I back away from so much… new years resolution …. start saying YES!
Hooray! Not to strange men in the street or anything obviously but generally I think it’s a good philosophy.
Thanks for following me on twitter! This is an amazing story. It is pretty spectacular what seemingly (at least at the time) inconsequential events turn out to be quite life changing. For me, my mom gave me a book about an Australian girl and then I wanted to live in Australia…so I moved half way around the world just because of this book…Crazy.
Now THAT is a great story! So many books claims to be life changing, yet really aren’t, so it’s wonderful to think that one (which probably never meant to be at all) did!
Ah amazing, I think having the support of other mums is so important when you have young children, especially when they are more demanding. J is so much more high need than Cherry was, he literally wants my boob in his mouth the entire time! I am just trying to remember that one day I will miss it. I would love to train as a breastfeeding support worker. You have done so well and earning money doing something you love is the ultimate goal! xx
What an gorgeous story, I love that one small decision made such a huge impact upon your life. You definitely have a gift for writing, I love your posts.
What an gorgeous story, I love that one small decision made such a huge impact upon your life. You definitely have a gift for writing.