"I think nothing really prepared me for motherhood. I had read the books, consulted Google on a daily basis and attended a prenatal class and I thought I was ready and in control. I was prepared for birth and I thought then that I was ready to have a baby. In my mind, it was going to be perfect. Despite a rocky start, I went on to have a great pregnancy and I truly loved every minute of being pregnant.
"And when it was time to have my baby, I had a very calm and beautiful birth. It was better than anything I had imagined or wanted.
"Then overnight, everything spiralled downhill. I had post-delivery complications and had to be away from my baby a day after I was discharged from hospital. I was struggling with breastfeeding and hardly slept for days at a time. In a very short time, I became a withdrawn and sad person. I cried all the time and everyone said it was normal. They said I was just adjusting to being a new mum and that things will get better.
"Months passed, I was still not feeling any better. I cried daily and had the darkest thoughts. I loved my baby but I felt like a failure as a mother. I stopped eating, and I only went out for Lara’s medical check-ups and vaccines. I shut out everyone around me. I was consumed with helplessness, dark thoughts and sadness.
"Looking back at my first six months after birth, I can only describe motherhood as lonely and very hard. I felt no one could even begin to understand what I was going through. I felt completely and utterly shattered. I had, overnight, transformed from a strong, independent woman to a complete mess.
"After a few months, I went back to work and despite thinking that going back to my ‘old’ life might make me feel better, it actually made me feel worse. I felt very guilty for leaving Lara and I struggled to balance my demanding job at the time and being a mum and a wife.
"The turning point for me, was when I saw a post on one of the mum Facebook groups about Out of the Blues and I contacted Andrea the founder of the group. I wrote to her and when she replied, I broke down and cried. All the fears, the anger, the exhaustion, the sadness came gushing out and I couldn’t stop crying for hours.
"I knew then that I needed help and quickly. Out of the Blues is an amazing support group, they were my life line. They put me in touch with a doctor who was able to help me.
A dire need
"The concept behind Babies and Beyond was very much inspired by my personal experience as a mum. I felt there was a dire need in Dubai for support for mothers during pregnancy and after birth. In retrospect, I believe that if I had a professional and systematic support system in place after my daughter Lara (now three) was born, my experience may have been a more positive one.
"My vision was simple; I wanted to create a company that supported mothers in their journey. I didn’t want anyone to go through what I had been through. With that in mind, we developed all the possible services parents in general and mothers in particulate may need while they are pregnant and after they deliver.
"So when we launched, we offered prenatal workshops, maternity nurses, postnatal home care, breastfeeding support, sleep consultations, parentcraft workshops, parenting and baby massage workshops.
"I think that what really set us apart from the start, is that now mothers could receive the support they needed and choose from a variety of services, all in one place. And we realized the importance of quality in everything we did, so we ensure that we had a highly experienced and qualified team who could work with the mothers and support them.
One objective only
"When I first decided to set up Babies and Beyond, it took a few months to build the concept and the service offering. We wanted to create support services for mothers and families in Dubai that would add value to their lives, so we spent a lot of time developing our offering and more importantly building a qualified team with the right passion and expertise to make our vision a reality.
"I have to admit, that the actual phase and process of legalities and obtaining licenses was quite straight forward and smooth and we were up and running in less than two months.
"During the ideation phase I was still in my corporate job, but soon after I realized I wouldn’t be able to manage both tasks competently. I always believed in doing my work wholeheartedly, with unwavering commitment and dedication. So I decided to quit my job and be completely dedicated to Babies and Beyond.
"Since then I have never regretted my decision. I never felt like I was taking a risk, because I never considered Babies and Beyond a ‘business’ in the sense that it was never set up with the intention to make money. I think the values behind Babies and Beyond and the common ethos and passion the whole team shares, has made the journey very enjoyable and to a large extent smooth. We have always operated based on our key value to offer mothers and parents quality support along this amazing and sometimes not so easy journey of parenthood. We had one objective only; to help mothers and to do it to the best of our ability with sincerity and passion.
"Less than two years after Babies and Beyond was born, we are now a leading facility in maternity nurses, prenatal education and postnatal care. And it never seizes to amaze me how we have grown from four employees to 75 in such a short time.
In good hands
"I founded Babies and Beyond when Lara was about a year and a half old, and a few months after we started our operations, I was pregnant again.
"I think that was the hardest time for me physically and emotionally. Unlike my first pregnancy, this time I had severe nausea until I was about seven months pregnant, sciatica, pelvic griddle and the whole works.
"At the same time, the company was growing at such a fast pace, we were launching new services and I needed to get as much as possible done before I went on maternity leave.
"But more than any other time, the importance of the work we were doing and what we were trying to achieve became clearer to me. Here I was pregnant for the second time, but instead of my fears resurfacing on whether I was going to be able to breastfeed this time or if I would have PPD again, I was filled with relief and confidence that this time around I was going to be ok. I was in good hands. I trusted our midwives and maternity nurses and knew that they would be able to help me.
"Thankfully, I also work with a team who has been such an inspiration and great support system for me through out. The ladies I work alongside took care of me, made me go home when I was overdoing it and reminded me to breathe when I was overwhelmed.
"My husband also played a significant role. He was always my greatest supporter from the very start. He helped me both at work and home. I truly couldn’t have made it without him. He has always been my rock and best friend, he keeps me going.
No room for egos
"When I count my blessings, I include how blessed I am to work alongside such a phenomenal and inspirational team.
"I think one of the key reasons for our success as a company has been that the whole team, whether it’s the midwives or maternity nurses or operations staff or management, shares the same vision, values, passion, and commitment to quality. We all have a deep sense of respect and appreciation for each other, we support each other and we are united by a shared mission. I don’t think there is room for egos in any healthy relationship and we all work together extremely well.
"From the start, we have been very clear on our values and what we want to achieve and I have been very lucky to meet and work with like-minded ladies who have such a passion for working in the community to support mothers and families and who are also highly qualified to do so. I think that has set the tone for our culture and this is something I am very protective over as I feel companies begin to fail when they get carried away with their success or making more money and start to lose sight of their values and objectives.
Challenges and the future
"My biggest challenge has been balancing work and family life. I never realized, that I would never again be able to switch off, ever. I remember when I was in my corporate job, my job pretty much ended when I left the office and I rarely worked over the weekend. But as a business owner, I feel I am never able to switch off, especially since one of our values is to always be accessible and reachable to mothers and parents, so we have almost a 24-hour operations set-up.
"I feel like I am constantly working or talking about work. I catch myself sometimes checking emails and messages before the girls have gone to bed or taking work calls throughout the weekend.
"It is a little better now that the company is more established and we have a larger team in place to run the day to day operations.
"I am always very emotional and proud when I speak to our mums and they tell me how we have made a positive impact on their journey. Whether it is from a mom who was facing breastfeeding challenges, or a sleep deprived mom who was finally able to get a good night’s sleep, or a working mum who feels happy knowing her baby is in good hands with one of our nurses, I feel that our work is meaningful.
"I am also very proud of the reputation we have developed in a short time and proud of our team for their commitment to supporting mothers and providing quality care. They are our biggest asset.
"This year is proving to be very busy and exciting for us. We recently launched two new services, namely a new specialized nursing division for children with special needs and Nanny Workshops to offer nannies the knowledge and skill-set they need to provide quality care for the children in their care.
"We also expanded our team of midwives and the languages in which we offer the services to cater for the diverse community living in Dubai.
"We had set up operations last year in Kuwait and this year we will also be expanding into Bahrain and Qatar by June.
"And the sky is the limit really, we are always looking at areas we can add value in, so we hope to be able to launch a few new services by the end of the year."