It is a huge honour to interview the gifted author Stephanie Nimmo.
Here she writes about her life followed by my interview with her for Wonderful Women.
Over to Stephanie:
Prior to the birth of my daughter Daisy in December 2004 I was a high flying marketing exec. My world involved lots of international travel, big product launches, plans for loft conversations and a hefty childcare bill. When Daisy, our much wanted fourth child arrived prematurely and clearly every poorly my world as I knew it changed overnight.
Daisy was diagnosed with a very rare genetic disease called Costello Syndrome. She seemed to have an extreme form of it and the doctors were unsure if she would reach her first birthday. I swapped the world of business for the world of hospitals, care plans and emergency dashes to A&E while my husband struggled to combine his career with helping me care for our family, our other children were 2, 5 and 7 when Daisy was born.
Daisy defied the odds and saw her first birthday, she was a fighter and I became her full time nurse, carer and advocate, learning how to navigate the complex world of health and social care. Although the care she needed was very complex and she often required long hospital stays, often of many months, we would ensure that the times when she was well were spent creating happy family memories. Often just to be able to sit on a sofa all cuddled up together was as important as a big treat, I learned that the little things were the big things and to relax and enjoy our time together.
This philosophy for life was to proof very important when just before Daisy’s 10th birthday, my husband Andy, my soulmate who I had met when I was only 20, was diagnosed with incurable cancer. I was 47 and now facing not only losing my husband but being the sole parent of four young children. Andy died a year after diagnosis and we were devastated. Daisy was heartbroken and it really broke her fighting spirit, her health deteriorated rapidly and a year later she was taken into intensive care in Great Ormond Street where I had to make the decision no parent should every have to face and turn off her life support.
I now spend a lot of my time encouraging people to have open conversations about death and dying in order to really make the most of their finite lives. I campaign for improvements in Children’s Palliative Care and I share my story to show, as Andy always said, that it’s not the cards you are dealt in life, it’s how you play them.
Describe a typical day for you?
There is no such thing as a typical day anymore, in fact all predictability went out of the window when Daisy was born.
I am lucky to have a portfolio career; I work 2.5 days a week in the centre of London as a Communications Manager in Central Government, I also have some business to business clients I work with as a freelance marketing consultant.
The rest of my time is spent with my own writing work (I have had features published in the BMJ, Marie Claire, The Guardian and The Pool) and public speaking work. I love to meet the people who read my blog or my book and to hear their stories. My children take up a lot of my time. Theo my eldest now runs his own IT support business having decided that Uni wasn’t for him, Xanthe is finishing her A levels and hopes to go to film school, Jules is doing his GCSES.
I spend my time ferrying them around or complaining about the state of their rooms or the fact that they never load the dishwasher. Like many young carers they are very self-sufficient and independent however and I am so proud of them for that. I have to fit in some form of exercise whether it’s a run or a swim or even a long walk with our dog Pluto. Months spent isolated in a hospital cubicle makes you really appreciate being outside in the fresh air!
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
That despite everything, my marriage to Andy remained strong, our four children, keeping my sanity despite everything that has happened, my blog (www.wasthisintheplan.com) which I have written for nearly 10 years and my book which was my gift to Andy, published on what should have been our 25 wedding anniversary, the year after he died.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
I’ve just treated myself to a fabulous Sandqvuist backpack which is now my office as I am often found working in coffee shops between meetings. I carry my MacBook if it’s a work day, my iPhone, a big green makeup bag with Mac powder & lipstick, Benefit mascara, pens, eye drops and paracetamol plus my inhaler, I’ve been asthmatic since my 20s. My keys have a big purple pompom attached because I’m always losing them. Most importantly I have my notebook, like most writers I am always jotting down notes and ideas and while there’s plenty of tech and apps for that sort of thing nothing beats a pen and a lovely notebook, I keep them all.
What are your ambitions in life?
To get through each day. To be there for my children until they are ready to fly the nest. I really want to go to Australia and New Zealand and visit friends there.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
I’m glad no-one told me how it was all going to pan out, I would have worried and fretted. Living with Daisy and Andy taught me to really live in the moment, to appreciate that life is finite and that we need to stop worrying about what the future will bring. When Daisy was little Andy said that we were living our lives as though we were in a speeding car, knowing it would crash and bracing ourselves for the impact. All the while we were living in fear we were missing the world rushing by, our children growing up. So we decided to unbuckle our metaphorical seatbelts, to stop worrying and to try and live in the moment.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Who knows, if my story tells you anything it’s that none of us know what’s in the plan, it’s how we choose to respond that makes the difference. My only hope is that I am still hear in 5 year’s time. I hope that maybe I will find love again and won’t be on my own. I was 47 when Andy died and though nothing will replace him, much as you learn you can love another child as much as your first I hope that someday someone will come along for me to walk the next chapter of my life alongside.
What advice would you give a budding author?
Write, write and write. The more you write the better you get. Work with an editor, they will really shape your writing and be persistent, everyone has a book in them, those who get published are the persistent ones.
What do you wish you’d known about motherhood before having kids?
That you will experience the highest highs and the lowest lows, that you will be more tired than you ever imagined and be filled with more energy than you ever thought possible. I always wanted a big family, I was blessed with four wonderful children, they have changed me for the better (I wish they would keep their rooms tidier though).
Finally, happiness is…
Happiness is relative, when you have been through what I’ve been through it comes from the simplest things – clean sheets, a lie-in or running in the wind and rain in the Surrey Hills, alone with my thoughts (yes I am really one of those people who actually enjoys cross country running!
Stephanie Nimmo’s book Was this in the plan? is available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and Audiobook formats. You can read her blog at www.wasthisintheplan.com.