Growing a business and a baby

Arianna Radiji Lee

As a birthday treat to myself at the beginning of this year, I started some coaching sessions with the brilliant Sarah Elliott from Vault Coaching.

Before I found out I was pregnant, the sessions helped me gain perspective on the business and how to manage a more healthy work/life balance, which, since lockdown, had blurred into one.

My business Pachamama, which launched just before lockdown, empowers parents with confidence, knowledge and connection in the fourth trimester and beyond. Through online services and digital content, we provide educational content on topics that matter the most to parents, and our recently launched service, Pachamama On Hand, brings expert care to new parents by pairing them with experienced maternity nurses via WhatsApp for 24/7 text support.

I started this business before becoming a mother myself, during a time when my husband and I were struggling to conceive. But by immersing myself in everything motherhood whilst going through fertility treatment, it helped me understand, appreciate and prepare for where I was headed. My work at Pachamama over the last year has thrown me head first into the realities of motherhood, family life and fertility and with that, a greater sense of empowerment of my own body and respect for anyone who can birth and raise a child. It’s why I named my company after a goddess known as the Earth Mother – because I believe all mothers are goddesses.

Now 27 weeks pregnant, my coaching sessions really allow me to reflect on what I want to achieve both personally & professionally during the next few months, before baby arrives.  

Running a business is hard at the best of times. It’s a different kind of pressure to anything else I’ve ever done before. And doing it as a solo-founder has been tough and reminds me so much of what I often hear new mothers struggle with: I feel alone. I question everything. I’m trying to keep my baby alive. I’m tired. I cry, a lot. And I don’t know if it’s the impact of the pandemic or just what happens to everyone who starts their own business, but I definitely feel as though I’ve lost a lot of confidence in my abilities and my ideas.

My mental health, and to a certain degree my physical health, suffered in early pregnancy, in ways I wasn’t prepared for. Whenever someone asks how I’m finding pregnancy, I say it’s OK but it’s hard. Everyone assumes it was because of the physical ailments like nausea, which I had at the start (along with fatigue, sore boobs and the rest). But for me, the hardest bit was dealing with what I can only describe as antenatal depression.

Any reference to mood swings online or in books felt really twee in comparison to  what happened to me in reality, which was less mood swing, more constant low  mood. I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone. I didn’t want to do anything because I  lost interest in everything, including my business. Everything I had to do felt like a chore and there were days when I would say to my husband through tears: “I can’t do this anymore, I think I’m through with Pachamama.” I genuinely worried that I would never find a love for it again, and that my passion for work and love of productivity had disappeared forever. But what scared me the most was that I couldn’t tell if it was the pregnancy, or just me.

Thankfully, after some time, and a lot of determination I had to dig deep to find, the dark clouds started to scatter, I began to feel more like myself and my drive for working slowly came back. My love for the business and most importantly, the community I have built, is still going strong. That’s not to say that it’s easy. It’s still bloody hard work, and there are days where my mind can’t focus, and I need time off. Which, with a baby due date looming, is scary.

I often get asked what I’m going to do for maternity leave, and I say, ‘what mat leave?’ in a sort of jokey way that doesn’t make the other person feel uncomfortable, but panics me a little. I don’t think it’s possible to have any ‘leave’ when you run your own business. But I am so incredibly grateful that if there’s any business who can be sympathetic and understanding to a new mama needing a break, it’s the one I’ve built.

The passion (along with the blood, sweat and copious amount of tears!) I have put into building Pachamama, has come back to me tenfold in the amount of support and love I feel from this brilliant community. It feels as though I’ve got so many experienced, caring mums looking out for me along my journey, holding my hand on the way. It’s incredibly special.

In my last coaching session, Sarah said to me: picture yourself in five years from now. What do you think your future-self would say to you today? And my immediate response was: “your business can wait; your baby can’t.”

And honestly, that response surprised me. I didn’t realise I had these maternal instincts already. But after I said it, I realised it’s true. It’s hard to give myself fully to both, when both demand so much of me. But once I said it out loud, it allowed me to surrender to the feeling that if I only achieved one thing during this time, it would be enough. That I would be enough.

Where to find me

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About the Author

Arianna Radiji Lee

Arianna’s passion for community and value for expert knowledge comes from working in corporate events for over 10 years. A former spinning instructor, she gained valuable knowledge in the importance of women’s health and well-being. Arianna spotted the need for a more modern, mother-focused, democratised approach to postnatal care. Through Pachamama, she aims to provide a centralised platform for women to gain access to expert care, content and community throughout one of the most significant transitions of their lives.

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