I first met Clemmie at a Mothers Meeting event, focusing on how to use social media to grow your business (along with the brilliant @dresslikeamum and @steph_dontbuyherflowers who we've previously interviewed on the site). Clemmie's was more of an unusual story of entrepreneurship, as she's a trained midwife who has become an Insta-mum sensation (particularly since her twin girls were recently born, which now makes four young girls in the house!), and an author, with her book due to hit the shelves in spring 2017.
I caught up with her to find out more about her journey to date, and quite frankly, how she fits it all in!
Tell us about what you’re doing now and how you got here...
I always knew I wanted to be a midwife. I did a degree in midwifery which was really fun, and met my now husband. After University, we looked at what we wanted to do next, whether to travel, stay in Bristol, or move to London. The opportunities were endless, but then I found out I was pregnant (I was 22).
We didn't know what to do at first, but we decided to go for it. While I was pregnant, my (then) boyfriend got offered a dream job in London, so we decided to move. My maternity leave was really strange, as I'd worked for under a year as a midwife. We were in a flat in Herne Hill in South East London. My partner was travelling a lot and I was literally left holding the baby. I didn't know anyone, we hadn't done NCT or anything like that, and the people I was trying to make friends with were older. Eventually you get there though (and those people are still best friends today).
I went back to work and then we got married and had another baby. We were in our twenties, doing what people typically do in their thirties, so it was a weird time. We were both really passionate about our jobs, and knew that we wanted to buy our own house, so that kept us going and focused. Once you've made that decision to have a baby quite young, its easy for people to make assumptions that you're going to fail and your relationship will fall apart, but we were so solid, and we knew it was going to be fine.
I started the blog when I was on maternity leave 5 years ago (with my second daughter). A neighbour had started a food blog and was going to lots of mum blogging events. I really liked writing, but I had concerns about how to pitch it as a midwife, and what you can write about because of confidentiality. I had about one follower to start with. Instagram didn't exist then, it was more about facebook. I called the blog 'gas and air', and wrote about my experiences as a midwife and what I thought women should really know about. Women are bombarded with information from the word go and I thought we owed it to women to give them better information that isn't just NHS based, like natural therapies, promoting natural births and for women to be in more control and empowered about their bodies in relation to birth, but not in a hippy way!
I started writing, the demand was there, a couple of posts got more interest and then it snowballed, and I started to blog all of the time. It was a battle to balance work as well.
I wanted a regular feature for the site, partly because I couldn't keep up with the demand of the blog, and because there were so many births I'd attended that I wanted to write about, but couldn't because of confidentiality. The real birth stories stemmed from a woman who said to me that a woman had told her a horrific birth story two weeks before she gave birth. I couldn't understand why it seems appropriate for women to do this? I told women they should say that they only want to hear positive birth stories, and then walk away. Women then asked for positive birth stories on the blog, so I asked a friend to write about hers. The way that women write their own story is so emotive, and it was amazing.
That part of the blog became popular and people asked to send their stories in. I did a shout out for all kinds of birth stories: positive inductions, positive elective sections. It allowed women to share the most amazing day of their lives in a safe environment without being judged. I've had birth stories of a husband who gave birth to the baby in the bathroom. Someone else in Amsterdam had a full term stillbirth baby and yet wanted to show the birth story in photos. It was incredible that she wanted to do that. Another wanted a home birth, but couldn't because it was breach. She had an elective C-section and it was really positive.
Alongside the blog, I did an evening course on case loading in midwifery and went on to do this full-time. A team of six of us would look after 18 women a month on a rolling rota, supporting women whether they were having a home or hospital birth, and being on 24 hr call three times a week and every other weekend. It was the midwifery I've done in terms of practice. You really get to know these women. The work was amazing but it's full on as you're on call with a pager and it can completely disrupt your family life, but the passion and the type of midwifery I was involved in kept me going. Simon was really supportive of it and although there were a lot of disrupted weekends, in a weird way it also bonded him and the girls.
At the same time, an editor at Penguin/Random House contacted me. She had read my blog when she was pregnant and loved it, and wanted to see if she could write a book on the birth stories from the blog. I had a couple of meetings with them, but I wasn't really feeling the vibe, as those stories were other people's stories. Simon said to me that I was mental, and I had to do it, but I had a lot of self-doubt. I did some research, talked to friends and realised that there was nothing out there written by a British midwife. A few other midwife bloggers had started to emerge, and I thought that if I didn't write it, someone else would. I went back with a proposal for a guide to pregnancy and having a baby, written in the same tone as my blog, reflecting the questions that women would ask me in my clinic.
They would ask about maternity underwear, prams, NCT classes, and I thought it was interesting they would come to me as a younger, more modern mid-wife. I pitched it to the publisher, and they said yes - and then I was like 'oh my god' and signed the deal.
After that we went on holiday to Brazil, got drunk and decided to have another baby - we'd always said we wanted three. We got pregnant within a couple of months and the due date was February, so I was planning on submitting the book at the end of December. Then we found out we were expecting twins - my book agent thought it was perfect.
I've just had an extension on the book because my little monkeys are obviously taking a lot of time, so I'm submitting it this month. The last chapter is the fourth trimester chapter, so it made sense to write it after I'd had them. To be honest, I'm a bit shy about writing a book. I just feel like it's been in my life for so long, I almost can't imagine it being in print, but now it's starting to come together. It feels like a big gamble, but my editor keeps reassuring me that it's not, as otherwise they wouldn't have commissioned the book. They haven't seen any content as I've been writing it, but we have a flat plan and they know the titles of each chapter.
Originally I just had a literacy agent with the book, and that was great. However, within her agency (WME) they have different sections and through my blog and Instagram other PR opportunities have come up, like an M&S shoot for their maternity range, quotes for mother and baby magazine, work with smallish magazine, motherland, mamas and papas, mothers meeting etc.
What's your plan for going back to work?
I can't decide. The book comes out next February or March, potentially around Mothers day, and my maternity ends in January. It's still early days with the twins, and you feel very different towards to the end of your maternity leave. The publicity team at Random House have said there will be a lot of work involved in the book; and if you don't keep up your hours as a midwife, you lose your pin.
I'm quite excited about the options that lie ahead, whether it means I go back clinically to hospital, or leave that role altogether. I've got ideas I'm talking about with Hollie (@yesmumm) from London Hypnobirthing. I'm really interested in the concept of the fourth trimester and education on coping with life with a baby, which I think is overlooked vs. the birth part.
I think it's taken me to have twins to know how to be cared for. I had a good birth but I still stayed inside for two weeks and it was amazing. We didn't get the pram out of the box or anything. Because they weren't our first children, people were quite respectful of leaving us alone. I didn't want the invasion of visitors, or to feel like I had to be doing anything other than recovering or resting.
An amazing sisterhood has come about from having the twins. I get messages from friends asking if I want them to have some of the kids over for a sleepover, or if they can come and make dinner, or telling me that they've left home made food on the doorstep. Instagram also means that I have support from people I've never even met before, who I could contact in the middle of the night during feeds. It can be a lonely place with your baby, but I think you have to let all of the love in and accept help.
What do you find difficult about managing multiple jobs (and children!)?
The main thing is that you don't know what work is coming next, so there's the financial side of things. My husband in his job is in a place now where he's management consultant level so financially I don't need to go back to work, which is weird for me. It has always helped that I absolutely love my job, so I haven't felt guilt in the same way.
Time is the other factor, especially now I'm up against it with the book. I work best under pressure. I started writing it last June and felt I had loads of time, and now I really have to crack on.
Do you get the fear, and what do you do to spur yourself on when you do?
I've got the fear that the book will fail, always! I don't think you can try and succeed in anything without having fear and self-doubt.
Simon and I are a strong team, both passionate about what we do and we support each other. That's the kind of commitment you make, supporting each other in your dreams and goals because eventually things will be good.
What or who do you find intimidating?
There have been a few mum bloggers that have brought out books recently that have been featured in The Times top 5 and it makes me think about whether my writing is good enough, but I'm trying to stop comparing myself as a mum, and just get on with it.
What makes you feel good / powerful?
The sisterhood and the support when women really raise each other up and encourage and inspire each other. I put a photo on Instagram once, when the twins had been up all night, and I said that I'd cancelled plans with someone, and stayed in bed all day watching Netflix. Lots of women responded by saying they'd cancelled their plans, and felt so much better about it. Support from Simon is also really important. He sees the positive in everything and cracks me up.
What drives you, your legacy, or enjoying the moment?
My kids drive me, you have to get up in the morning and get things done. I don't have time to float around and think about my lack of sleep for example.
I personally don't like huge life goals as I think there is too much pressure on women. I have no intention of running a business; and I could so easily freak out about the book and what happens next year, but my husband always encourages me not to worry about the 'what ifs', and to just focus on the now.
How do you define success now?
If you've made it through the day! People say lovely things to me about being an amazing midwife, but I'm not the oracle of it all. For now I am where I am in my life; with 4 kids and a house to run, and if I've made it through the day, the family is fed, and they've had a nice day that's great.
What's the biggest thing that your new way of working has changed about your life?
I suppose putting all of this effort in without making money as such. I received an advance for the book on signing, and I'll get one when I submit, whereas before I blogged for pleasure and wrote for pleasure. Being paid to write a book feels like quite a strange concept in a way, as the money was never an incentive to do it
What idea do you wish you’d come up with?
I'm interested in the antenatal area, and I feel like there's so much interesting stuff going on. There's a magazine called The Fourth Trimester, The Mamahood, and Mothers Meeting. It’s an exciting time. There are so many excellent bloggers, like @Dresslikeamum @Dontbuyherflowers @Clemmie Telford - they're all amazing.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a midwife. Even when I was 5, my Mum said that I wanted to look after Mum's and their babies.
What will you tell your kids about working out what they want to do in life?
That it doesn't actually matter if you don't know what you want to do. You can get to any age and still be working it out. But, if you have to go to work as a woman and a mother, and you're leaving your kids with someone else, the only way to do it is if you're doing something you really love. Money is so irrelevant when it comes to happiness.
What's the single best piece of advice you’ve been given along your journey?
I've got a print in my room that says 'Do more of what makes you happy'. It's such a good phrase to say, and decide if something is making you miserable, and if it is, what you can do to change it.
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Photo credit: Philippa James