When Love Island 2016 winner and The Only Way is Essex star Cara De La Hoyde tweeted "Can anyone recommend where to get a pregnancy body cast done? Something like this but decorated 👶🏽 thanks ✌🏼" on 17 September 2017 I couldn't help but get a little excited! I tweeted a reply and emailed Cara's agent. Everything moved very quickly from there on in and, just under a week later (on my birthday I should add!), Cara's Rock the Bump pregnant belly casting session was all booked in ahead of her 30 November due date.
I have to admit I was a tad nervous as I arrived at Cara's home on the morning of Saturday 4 November as I wasn't quite sure what to expect but as soon as she opened her door to me it became clear I had nothing to worry about. Cara was really looking forward to her bump cast and was just like any other mum-to-be, chatting to me about her pregnancy and preparations for the arrival of her and fellow Love Island winner and TOWIE star Nathan Massey's precious baby boy.
As a huge TOWIE fan it was funny to hear Cara on the phone during her casting talking to Nathan and to chat to Cara about friends of hers who were also pregnant or had recently had babies who were also stars of the ITVBe reality TV show! Cara also took to Instagram and live streamed her Rock the Bump casting session which was picked up and featured in OK! Magazine online almost immediately.
Cara opted to have a full bump cast including her pregnant belly and breasts. It was so lovely to work with such a beautiful young woman with such a positive attitude about her body and the changes it had gone through during pregnancy. As is the case with each and every Rock the Bump belly casting it was a real privilege to play a small part in Cara's pregnancy journey and to create a unique memento of her first baby's first home.
After an overnight stay in Southend Cara's bump cast is now back home with me at Rock the Bump HQ in Bournemouth where it has been trimmed and reinforced and is now drying out before I get to work on smoothing, sanding and painting. I can't quite believe how tiny and perfect it is - the finished piece is going to look stunning! I'm aiming for a quick turnaround on this one as I would like to get the bump cast back to Cara soon after baby makes an appearance. I wonder if I'll have time or if her little man has other ideas... Watch this space!
Today is going to ROCK! As of today I am no longer 'IN' employment. After 22 years of continuously working for other people (starting with South Herefordshire District Council when I was 19, The Children's Society when I moved to Bournemouth in 1997 followed by 12 years with the housing charity Shelter and, most recently, a stint with the national parenting charity NCT) I now work for nobody but me!
Self employment is a funny old thing, especially when your business is an artistic one. Being a self employed artist and a work at home mum to three happy little hooligans is especially funny, firstly because everyone assumes that you don't have a job, secondly because you literally have to fit your work in to any little slither of time you might be able to find if you want to make a go of it. I was never a big fan of inspirational quotes and memes until I started my own small business. Two years on and there are days when a well timed motivational post on Instagram can mean the difference between me wanting to jack it all in and me making plans to take on the world!
It's almost two years since I started Rock the Bump pregnant belly casting and now the time has come for me to take the bull by the horns and really make it happen. There's so much work I need to do to build and grow my business. I've set myself some goals for 2017 to help keep my focus but am also exploring other avenues and opportunities that will help to raise my business profile (networking is not my thing...) and promote Rock the Bump to a wider audience. I'm organising 'Dorset Bump to Baby Show' with the lovely Claire from Light Touch Massage Therapy, an event that I hope to use as a platform to showcase my work and looking at ways to build my audience on Social Media. Most importantly I am desperate to get back in to my own studio in 2017. To say I need more space to work is an understatement but it's not just about the practicalities, it's about my confidence and identity as a self employed artist. Rock the Bump needs a home of it's own and I need a place to go when I need to work where I can be creative, away from the chaos of home. Don't get me wrong - one of the things I love most about Rock the Bump is that my little people enjoy it and seem to quite like "mummy's bumps" all over the house. To them it's not really a job, they just see mummy getting messy, painting, creating... but I need to remember that Rock the Bump IS my job, my business, my livelihood.
I need to stay focused and keep my business on track. At times I get nervous and start looking at ways to expand Rock the Bump so I can make more money quickly but it's not what I really want to do. I really believe in Rock the Bump and genuinely think it has legs. I just need to stay true to myself and continue to create beautiful pregnant belly bump casts and belly bowls that I am proud of. I also need to recognise the value of my own work and and find it in me to better sell myself in 2017.
Rock the Bump pregnant belly casting... I'm off to go make it happen! Who's with me? If you're in a similar situation or starting up a new, creative business I'd love to hear from you.
*if you’re more of a hater then this blog post might not be for you… just saying…
I’m not normally one to be embarrassed by my own actions but I must admit I did find myself cringing into my glass of vino when I overheard hubby on the phone to his mother, rather proudly I might add, asking her if she's seen the photos of my placenta on Facebook… Yes, that’s right, my PLACENTA!
At this point you’re undoubtedly thinking I followed in the steps of Kim Kardashian and ate it but no, I popped it in the freezer alongside the fish fingers and frozen peas and, 6 sleep deprived months later, I finally defrosted it and got to work creating some beautiful placenta prints before planting it in a large terracotta pot with a beautiful olive tree that was gifted to me by my lovely mum and dad.
Although I had toyed with the idea of placenta encapsulation early on in my pregnancy with Phoebe I decided against it after my 12 week scan showed there were two foetuses in my womb… but only one had a heartbeat. As our lost twin remained visible at the 20 week scan I was advised by my midwife that it would eventually be reabsorbed and flattened from the pressure of the surviving twin to ultimately form part of my placenta (fetus compressus). I struggled with feelings of loss throughout my pregnancy and often felt quite freaked out by the idea of the deceased foetus still being inside me alongside my healthy baby girl. I found it hard to announce my pregnancy as my joy was always tinged with sadness and, in hindsight, I think I worried more about my surviving baby knowing that one baby had not made it.
Phoebe was born at home on 12 June 2017 (Zodiac sign Gemini - symbolised the Twins...). A calm, powerful, intense, natural birth. I opted for a physiological third stage and delivered my placenta naturally. The midwives routinely checked the placenta and confirmed that they could see evidence of the lost twin. In the knowledge that my placenta had not only given life to my beautiful newborn daughter but also held the tiny remains of Phoebe's twin, it felt incredibly precious. I wasn't ready or able to part with it so, after doing a bit of research, made the decision to bury it (I chose to use a large terracotta pot so it can come with me if we ever move house) and plant an olive tree over it.
When the time came to get the sacred icecream tub out of the freezer and plant my precious placenta I couldn't help but create some prints, having taken inspiration from some beautiful images on Pinterest. The process of making the placenta prints was trickier than I had first anticipated and it took several attempts before I got a print that I was completely happy with. That said, I am still planning to work with the other placenta prints taken, tracing over the fine lines and texture with pen and ink to create more artistic images, drawing on the 'Tree of Life' concept.
So, there we have it. Placenta art... you either love it or hate it but nobody can deny the powerful, life-giving role of the placenta and how significant it can be for many mothers. My placenta was not only a temporary little part of me but encompassed all that was left of Phoebe's twin.
I treasure my placenta print that now takes pride of place in my home and would be honoured to create placenta prints and keepsakes for others. If you're thinking of making your own placenta prints and would like some advice on how to do it and get the best results please just get in touch. Alternatively, if you are local to Bournemouth, I would be happy to work with you to create your own unique piece of placenta art.
Zoe Keeping - Artist/Owner of Rock the Bump pregnant belly casting, mum to three happy little hooligans, lucky to live with hubby and best friend Ryan in sunny, sunny Bournemouth. Love music, food, festivals, tattoos, real ale, camping, wildlife, flowers, birds, baking and art.