INSPIRING STORIES VOL. 13 - CAITIE
Do you ever wonder how can a young mum run a business? And if there is anyone else out there struggling with health issues while having a baby? I met Caitie via Instagram recently and I immediately felt I would love to share her story with you. She is a young mum who started her jewellery business five years ago while coping with health issues and she documents her journey by writing her blog. Her words are open, honest and warm-hearted. So I would like you to meet her....
Can you tell me more about yourself?
My name is Caitlin - but to all my nearest and dearest, I’m Caitie, or Cait. My husband is actually the only person to call me Caitlin… I digress! I am 28 (gosh, how did that happen?!) and I am originally and proudly from South Africa. I share a birthday with Nelson Mandela, and was lucky enough to be sent a card by him! But Farnham in Surrey is home, now! I am a self-taught jeweller and am lucky enough to work from home - my garden, in fact. I have a studio just outside my backdoor. I also work as a video editor for the Jewellers Academy (a new venture started by Jessica Rose from the London Jewellery School) and have recently embarked on a joint business adventure with one of my best friends. Watch this space! I guess you could say I love anything creative and like to keep busy ;-)
When did you start your business and why?
I started my business in 2014, but didn’t know at the time that I was starting what would become a business. I became suddenly very unwell whilst on a postgraduate course to become a teacher. I remember vividly trip after trip to the GP, and test after test. It took five years to work out what was causing all of my problems (more on this later) but at that stage I found myself becoming more and more unwell and was eventually forced to leave my course. It was one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do, as I’m not a giver-upper, but was, in hindsight, the very best thing I could have done. I found myself largely bed-ridden, not leaving our flat in East Sussex, and somehow, ended up looking at pets needing homes… And, well, along came Soda. Soda was in need of a home, and, like me, a new start. And so we brought our boy home. I find it very difficult to put into words exactly what Soda did and does for me, because there really aren’t words for the connection that I share with him. But, in a nutshell, he gave me back my light. He forced me to get out of bed in the morning; to feed him and take him for walks. And, in between those things, he loved me with every fibre of his being and lay in bed beside me, for as long as I needed. And so, When Caitie met Soda was born. Originally started as a blog to nurture my love of writing, When Caitie met Soda quickly grew to a small community of likeminded people who loved being creative. And somewhere along this path, I started teaching myself to make silver jewellery. It was a slow process, and many mistakes were made along the way (many, many things were melted…) but eventually I marketed my first collection of handcrafted jewellery. I was able to do this alongside my battle for a diagnosis, and it was the thing that kept me fighting.
You recently become a mother. How did you cope with your pregnancy and the first few months of your baby being born?
I did! And it still blows my mind that I am a mother! I’m not sure if you ever feel ‘grown-up’ enough to be someone's mum, do you? I found pregnancy quite difficult, and now realise that I was probably struggling with pre-natal depression. I felt overwhelmed with anxiety and fear a lot of the time, and so really struggled to ‘relax’ into it. Funnily enough, I often miss being pregnant now though, and really only remember the magic of it… There’s something truly breathtaking about lying in bed and feeling your tiny human pummel you from the inside. The first few months of Maddie were magical and tough. I was induced at 37 weeks and so didn’t feel quite ‘ready’ - although, I’m not sure if anyone does?! Maddie was born with a severe tongue tie, and this made feeling really tough. Coupled with some really crappy support from my first health visitor, it was a really tough time. I realised at about four months that I was struggling with post-natal depression and am so very thankful that I asked for support when I did. Since then, I have realised that so many women struggle with these feelings and never speak about them because the sense of shame is huge. But, I have learnt so much about myself over the last eight months and wouldn’t change a single part of it. I have the most beautiful, bubbly little girl, and despite the challenges I face on a day-to-day basis with my health, she really does make everything worth it.
I really enjoyed reading your blog. You mentioned you suffer chronic illness and struggled with mental health issues. What helped or is helping you to overcome the struggles?
Thank you so much - that is so very kind of you to say. It really means more to me than I can ever say that you took the time to read it. I suffer from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Common Variable Immunodeficiency. I know right, what a mouthful! I have also struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager. I suffered from anorexia nervosa, bulimia and depression, and have struggled with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. Even as I type this, I’m anxious that people reading it will somehow see less of me, but, I believe that is so important to talk about these things. I am lucky enough to have recently been offered a treatment that is truly changing my life - Immunoglobulin Replacement Therapy. I have weekly infusions of immunoglobulin G, which I have been trained to administer myself safely at home through two small needles that I put into my upper thighs. It takes about an hour and a half to infuse, and the results are almost instantly palpable. For the first time in years, I have energy and am also experiencing a reduction in pain. That said, I live with chronic and widespread pain, so the fact that I’ve noticed a difference is HUGE! I also manage my symptoms largely through my diet - which can be restrictive but also makes the world of difference. In terms of who, well that’s Maddie. She gives me the motivation that I need to take care of myself and is the driving force behind everything that I do. Because when I look at her, I know that everything will be alright. I also have an amazing network of people who support me. My family are my entire world and I don’t think I’ll ever, ever be able to repay them for all they do and have done for me. I have always found it difficult to ask for help, but I realise now just how important it is to do.
In 3 words how would you describe yourself?
As you can probably tell, I’m not very good at being concise and to the point so three words is a tall order! ;-) but if I had to choose… I’d say creative, passionate and tenacious. That was really hard!!!
How do you work around a small baby?
You hit the nail on the head with your question, because as Maddie is my priority, I really do work around her. I fit in bits of work while she naps, or when she goes down for the evening. And sometimes I am able to have a couple of hours in my studio on the weekend, which is really valuable. It’s amazing how efficient you become when you have less time! It isn’t always easy - being naturally anxious means that I like certainty, and babies are anything but certain! But, I do what I can, when I can. And I make LISTS! These really do help me to stay on top of things. I also limit how much work I take on, as I’d much rather take on very small amounts of work than let people down.
Any plans for the future?
So, so many plans for the future! My mind races ahead at a speed I find hard to keep up with! I want to move towards engagement and wedding jewellery, and perhaps even towards offering workshops. I believe that creativity is truly healing and that it is something we all have inside us. I’d also really love to have my own bricks and mortar shop one day… Watch this space!
Once more thank you so much Caitie for letting us peek into your life, work and family.
VISIT Caitie's website: https://caitiemetsoda.com/
READ her journal: https://caitiemetsoda.com/caities-journal/
FOLLOW her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/whencaitiemetsodajewellery/