Ursula founded Mumbelievable in 2015 to explore confidence and identity issues after her first son was born in 2013 and she found it almost impossible to combine the career she loved with parenting in a way that worked for her family. Her mission is to support and empower a million mums to rebuild their confidence and reconnect with themselves through her one-to-one and group support, live events, online programmes and confidence-boosting products. You can find out more at Mumbelievable.com.
It is an honour and a joy to share my amazing friend Ursula’s family-life, values and vital work with you all on the blog.
You’ve recently gone from 1 to 2 children (congrats on beautiful Neo)- what have been the biggest challenges and joys of having a toddler and a newborn?
The greatest joy by far this time is how healing the past few weeks have been. My first birth was tricky and my son was premature, and I hadn’t realised how much pent-up anxiety I was carrying as a result. Neo (our new baby boy) arrived at 39 weeks and the differences in having a term baby are unreal. It’s still tough, of course, and jeez….the exhaustion….but it is WONDERFUL. I think that’s because a few layers of anxiety have been removed. That new parent anxiety isn’t there; the anxiety that comes with having an early baby is gone too. Which makes it so much more fun. It’s incredible to see my gorgeous five year old adjust to being the kindest big brother. It’s a miracle he’s even here, as we didn’t think we’d be lucky enough to have a second child after my husband, Tim had some serious complications following a kidney transplant in 2015. So there’s an immense amount of joy in the fact that he’s here.
The biggest challenge by far is the guilt of being split between my two boys. I’ve worried incessantly about how this has all impacted on my older son, who has been used to my undivided attention and affection. It’s great for him to have a sibling, but it’s such a huge change for him and I’m in awe of how he’s adjusting.
Any advice for those soon to be parents of 2?
I’m still too new at being a parent of two to feel qualified to offer any kind of advice…..but I do feel very proud of how we’ve involved our older son, Xav throughout every stage of the pregnancy and since Neo’s arrival. We tried to make him feel as though we were all having this baby – not just Tim and I. I feel like including him at every point has made it easier for him to feel like this is a really great thing to happen to our family. So if I was going to share anything that I think has helped us make this transition, it would be that. Not really that easy to do with much younger children, I realise but it worked for us with a five year age gap.
What’s the greatest advice your own mother passed down to you?
To have three restful weeks following the birth. First time round, I just thought I needed to get back to normal as soon as possible when nothing was remotely normal. I was depleted, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed and trying to make sense of a traumatic and shocking birth of a baby who was unsettled, uncomfortable and unhappy. I didn’t give myself any chance to understand that my entire identity had shifted.
This time, I resolved to do it all differently. I bought gorgeous new pyjamas and didn’t wear them until after Neo was born. I stayed in bed most of the time for the first week, and a good part of the second week. I bought Green and Blacks chocolate and ate an average of one bar every two days for two weeks after he arrived. We only saw parents and siblings for the first couple of weeks, too. We took it seriously easy. Her advice was perfect- it was everything I needed but didn’t gift myself the first time. Mentally I feel incredibly different: I’m stronger, more relaxed and I feel happy even on those inevitable tough days.
As someone who openly discusses/writes about having had an eating disorder in the past, how has your relationship with your body/ body image changed/ improved if so, during pregnancy and birth? There’s immense pressure on women generally from the media and I myself have suffered with disordered eating in the past. What helps you and did you have a different experience with your second pregnancy than with your first?
My first son saved me. I was already in recovery before I fell pregnant with him but when he was born something in me changed forever. I had an incentive like nothing else to stay healthy and keep my recovery intact. I’d found the pregnancy hard going though, in terms of the changes to my body. I fought against those old demons and unfortunately they shouted louder than the voice that whispered about how incredible my body was for having made a fricking human – in spite of all the ways I had tortured it.
Five years on, my second pregnancy was, thankfully – a very different experience. I still struggled with the weight gain. It’s tough for lots of people, isn’t it? But this time I desperately wanted to recognise how amazing it is that my body was building and about to birth a baby. I practised hypnobirthing this time and used visualisations and affirmations to help me programme my mind and focus on my strength, which helped so much. The birth was amazing, and I felt invincible afterwards. It’s not easy looking in the mirror at the train wreck that has been left in its wake, but somehow that’s now become secondary to caring for myself and I believe that hypnobirthing helped with that hugely.
Confidence and the loss of it after kids is something many of us experience. Can you discuss how you work on building your own confidence back and if your 30s has seen you grow in confidence in a similar way it has me? My 30s have seen me know myself more deeply than before, which has strengthened me in the face of adversity and criticism. Can you relate?
Oh yes, I can! I am loving my thirties for that exact reason. I was broken after my first child was born. Understanding why that happened and dismantling the pressures I put on myself has been key to rebuilding the confidence I lost after becoming a parent. I’ve really had to work on changing my mindset in terms of how I take care of myself. Before, I felt that if I did anything for me it was wrong and selfish and somehow took something away from my ability to give to my family. But that was so twisted. The opposite is true.
I also underestimated the importance of my work and how that links to my confidence. When I’m doing something I love and that feels worthwhile (like everything I do through Mumbelievable) it feels amazing, and with that comes confidence. I understand myself more now for having gone through those low-confidence times. That’s helpful as now I’m far better equipped to understand why I might be feeling a certain way if my confidence dips.
As a fellow mumboss, can you share your tops tips on juggling parenting and business?
Being kind to myself has to be up there at the top. Next would be stop comparing myself – both to others and to the me of the past. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to the former version of us before kids, which is completely unrealistic and unfair – and so damaging to our confidence and sense of worth. Focusing on what I have been able to achieve rather than on what I could have done if I’d had more time, more childcare help or just worked one more hour doesn’t serve anyone.
Being super organised has to be in there, of course. Often mums doing their own thing can be isolated if we’re not part of a conventional ‘team’, so it’s also vital to hold yourself to high standards, believe in what you’re doing and that you’re the right person to do it.
We’re not always brilliant at being objective when it comes to recognising everything we’re juggling, so I find that verbalising how I’m feeling if I’m having a moment (there are many) where I think I’m just not doing a very good job of any of it can be incredibly helpful as others always have a perspective different – and much more supportive – than our own which helps me to see that actually, I’m doing better than I think.
What are you most proud of you? Please share adversity you have overcome to inspire.
I’m sorry if this is a little indulgent, but I’m fiercely proud of three things. I lost a huge part of my twenties to a debilitating eating disorder, which I’ve written about on my blog in the hope that it might help others feel less alone. I fought so hard to establish my recovery for many reasons- one of which was so we could start a family. My recovery remains intact six years later, and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of in my life so far. We’ve been through a lot in that time.
The second thing is how we’ve come through Tim’s illness, kidney transplant in 2015 and all the complications that followed and the way we truly LIVE now. Now I feel like that time has given us far more than it took away, which is nothing but a gift. I found that when the life of the person I love the most was threatened, I had a choice. I refused to crumble, so what was left was the choice to change my perspective and to use the horrors of what was happening to help me to see the beauty in the smallest of moments. Every single day matters, and I will never, ever take time for granted.
Thirdly, I’m proud of what Mumbelievable has become. It started out as a blog to explore how my identity and confidence had changed after I became a mum, and quickly developed into supporting women returning to work after maternity in 2016. I noticed that many problems parents face in the workplace that cause a severe loss of confidence were consistent, so I decided to move away from supporting parents directly towards helping companies to change. Last year, I launched a consultancy to support businesses to become more inclusive, supportive and flexible for working parents and I am so proud of how it has evolved to help companies to be more human so that opportunities increase for parents – particularly women – to remain, progress and re-enter our workforce. It’s not been an easy ride (as with any new business, I guess) and I’ve considered parking it and getting a job more times than I could count. That would be so much simpler. But I’ve kept going with it as it’s too important. I can’t let it go…not when I know I can make so much difference. I now also get involved with events at the House of Commons and in October I’m meeting with the government’s flexible working task force to share with them some of my work so it can be rolled out to many more UK businesses. I want things to be different for working parents, and I’m so proud to be a part of the movement to make that happen.
Lastly, what are your hopes for the year ahead?
All I hope for this year and any other is for my own health and the health of the people I love. If we have our health, we can do anything. It’s only when it is threatened that you realise just how much it matters.