The Three Hats of Joanne Hanson-Halliwell

Meet Joanne Hanson-Halliwell, incredibly talented and passionate woman, with the best sense of humour (she is English after all!), and founder of Small and Mighty Babies.

All photography by Jules Seddon of Jewel Seddon Lifestyle Photography.

 

In the short life of this blog (just over a year) I have always shared happy, fun stories. Until now I have never got emotional writing a blog post. But this is a different story, a different topic. One that life gave me a little taste of, and also I probably find more touching because I might have become more empathetic of other women's experiences and circumstances since becoming a mum (funny how this works, especially after having been a super competitive career girl in my previous life!).

I know too well the heartache of going to the hospital to have a baby, only to come back home a few days later with everything we had eagerly and carefully researched and selected for the baby coming home, BUT the baby.

What is for most parents one of the happiest days in their lives, driving back home excitedly to start life as a little family, for us was a trip filled with tears and our eyes fixed on the empty baby car seat. Despite the distress, we felt very fortunate as our firstborn made an entrance at 34.5 weeks of gestation and weighed a whole 2.5 kg, so was only a resident in the NICU for a few days.

Other babies, though, are born far more prematurely, weighing only a few grams, and start their journey into this world enduring weeks and sometimes months in the NICU, at times involving surgery (or multiple surgeries), with their parents only allowed to see them through the side of the incubator. They are small, absolutely tiny in fact, but they are mighty and they are born fighters, and most of them pull through and live full, healthy, and happy lives.

And then there is the heartbreaking story of those who sadly just never made it home (or did, but did not stay long enough). They were also born little fighters but despite everyone's efforts, sweat and tears, their tiny tiny bodies just were not strong enough to survive outside of their mum’s womb.

Before embarking on the exciting journey of mummyhood, Joanne Hanson-Halliwell was a banker whose life was turned upside down by the unexpected arrival of little George, 10 weeks early. So Joanne and George are no strangers to life in the NICU. That was a whole 3 years ago now but after her experience, she made it her quest to offer support and a shoulder to other parents facing the same unplanned start to parenthood, through sharing stories and the pain, and tears that every family that has or has had a baby in the NICU is too familiar with, and to connect families that have gone through it, as nobody else will understand their sorrow better. With this, her amazing group ‘Small and Mighty Babies’ was born.

Joanne is one strong woman that can bring humour to any situation, and I really could not think of anyone better to carry a role like this one. She is completely passionate about this project and her smiley eyes just sparkle when she talks about it. Her work is so amazing that has won her the Time Out Dubai Special Recognition for Pre and Post Natal Care Award at a ceremony held at the Conrad Dubai earlier this month. A huge congratulations to Joanne - so, so, so well deserved!

Do visit the Small and Mighty Babies website HERE. It is crammed with incredibly helpful information for parents of premie babies but also other parents, and links to other support groups.

 

 

JOANNE OF SMALL AND MIGHTY BABIES

'Talking with people who have been through the exact same as yourself is so helpful when it comes to beginning the healing process.'

What do you love the most about Small and Mighty Babies?

Being able to help other people and make what could be a horrific time in their life a little less painful. It has also helped me so much come to terms with what happened to me, became my own little therapy for myself and finally the support I receive gives me so much confidence to always continue and push forward with my support group.

 

What are your current projects?

I am in the process of finalising a signature scent for the Small and Mighty candles, along with a jewellery range, incubator covers and we are working on a memory box for bereaved parents.

 

Your biggest success?

Winning a Time Out Dubai Award for Special Recognition for Pre and Post Natal Care!

 

Your biggest challenge?

It can be very hard sometimes to meet and make progress with some of the hospitals. I appreciate their priority is their patients but what Small and Mighty Babies can offer totally complements there business and I often get so frustrated when they won’t accept my business card because it doesn’t have their logo on. I am trying to help and support and every mother within the group always comments that talking with people who have been through the exact same as yourself is so helpful when it comes to beginning the healing process.

 

And your biggest dream?

I would love to expand Small and Mighty Babies to different locations outside of the Middle East.

 

 

JOANNE THE MUM

 

'I think motherhood has taught me to live, to be open and to appreciate how lucky I am.'

 

How do you balance your role as the founder of SMB and your family time?

Like any working mother we all find this very hard. I use the morning when George is at nursery for meetings and admin I need to do and then often in the evenings after his bedtime to do more if I have the energy given afternoons are for chasing him around the house, park or beach!

 

How did your life change after having George?

In every way. I always say no woman is every ready for motherhood but when they are born early you definitely aren’t. I saw life before I was meant to. I saw very sick babies fight the biggest challenges you can imagine and come home and sadly, I saw those who lost their fights. I saw what they went through and I saw what their parents went through. Seeing these moments, the saddest and most painful moments anyone could go through changes you. I finally feel like I live and not just exist. I see the good in everything and not the bad and I make the best of everything. 

 

What has motherhood taught you?

Id’ love to say patience here but sadly not – that’s work in progress. I think it’s taught me to live, to be open and to appreciate how lucky I am. 

 

Your proudest moment to date

The Time Out Kids Awards honestly has to be up there but the I honestly think holding George for the first time. At this point he was ten days old, still attached to more wires that I want to remember but I honestly felt like he knew it was me. Even though we had been separated as soon he was born he lay on my chest and his heart rate picked up. It was magical…

 

What qualities do you want George to value?

Hard work, fight for your dreams and always keep your feet on the ground.

 

How are you planning to raise George so that he stays in touch with reality in the world of bling that Dubai can sometimes be?

His playroom has a “grass carpet” which we call the “farm”. Our fridge is covered with family photos from the farm and when we Skype home my mum takes the iPad around the farm buildings to see the real world…however dirty it can be. My husband and I are both northerners and i think those values instilled in us are instilled in George. 

 What qualities do you want George to value?

Hard work, fight for your dreams and always keep your feet on the ground.

 

How are you planning to raise George so that he stays in touch with reality in the world of bling that Dubai can sometimes be?

His playroom has a “grass carpet” which we call the “farm”. Our fridge is covered with family photos from the farm and when we Skype home my mum takes the iPad around the farm buildings to see the real world…however dirty it can be. My husband and I are both northerners and i think those values instilled in us are instilled in George. 

What are you doing to familiarise George with his British heritage in such a multicultural environment?

I love cooking and I always cook traditional English foods for him so through my love of the kitchen is a great way. I love the fact George has friends from all over the world and I celebrate this so this doesn’t worry me too much. With a mother like me he could never escape his northern roots (some may argue he should!)

 

Favourite Mummy & Me date

A trip to one of the lovely beach clubs with diggers in hand…and a chilled Rose for me!

 

Favourite child-friendly brunch

It is honestly a brunch without a child. We rarely go to brunches and George has never been to one, a room full of noise, crowds and sugar is something I don’t want to pay for.

 

Do you have any favourite toys brand for George?

Le Toy Van when he was younger. JCB Diggers, John Deere Tractors and Bruder are all wonderful.

 

Does George have any particular excuses he uses to delay bedtime?

I’m very fortunate to have an excellent bedtime routine which he “obeys”. We often get the but I’ve not eaten all day excuse but its rare, he loves his bed and he loves his sleep…just like me!

 

What has been the most valuable piece of parenting advice you have been given?

Don’t Google it! If you have a question, ask an expert in that field.

 

JOANNE THE WOMAN

 

Favourite holiday destination

The Maldives does takes my breath away, it’s a time to really switch off and reboot with my husband. Ibiza with the girls, and the UK with George.

 

Favourite short getaway in the UAE

So many to choose from, but I love Zighy Bay, pretending to be in what looks like the Flintstones set whilst ‘camping’ under the stars … ticks every box.

 

Your 3 essentials in your handbag

My phone, Eve Lom Kiss Mix and a bottle of water.

 

Your 3 little luxuries

Jing Tea which I ship to the UAE from London, a regular hammam treatment at the Zabeel Saray and those little parcels that arrive from Net-a-Porter!

'They say you don’t die thinking of all the good nights’ sleep you have had … I live by this.'

 

Do you exercise regularly?

I try to fit in classes at Physique 57 and go to the gym with a wonderful trainer Jes Body. She has the most eclectic energy that honestly lifts your body, mind and soul. It’s a full work-out with Jes, not just physical but also on your attitude.  I miss training with her at the moment as I am using all my spare time for Small and Mighty, but when you know this girl she stays with you forever so at times I will just close my computer and go and skip (or try to!) in the garage! 

 

Favourite date night restaurant

Marina Social at the InterContinental Dubai Marina.

 

Favourite spot for a girlies night out

Bagatelle at the Fairmont Dubai … I have been home at 4am and up again at 6:30am with George, it was totally worth it! They say you don’t die thinking of all the good nights’ sleep you have had … I live by this.

 

Favourite place for breakfast

I am not a morning person so have to say, my own dining table. I love cooking and my husband says I do the best breakfast in town. Plus you can’t go around Dubai in your PJs!! If I’m up and about - Baker and Spice!

 

Do you have a favourite fashion style

I wish I did! Heat and children don’t go together so I try to be ‘cool’ – literally - with loose tops and tailored shorts.

 

What do you love the most about living in Dubai?

The convenience of everything (except the roads!). I feel so safe here, I love the culture and the mix of people that live here. 

 

Are you reading a particular book at the moment that you would like to recommend?

Sadly not, I love Kinokuniya at the Dubai Mall and plan to visit again soon and buy some new books!

 

If you were allowed to invite anyone at all to a dinner party, who would be your 3 top of the list guests?

Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou and Princess Diana.

 

Photography by Jules Seddon of Jewel Seddon Lifestyle Photography.

Jules is a family, maternity, newborn and event photographer currently based in Dubai. She specialises in lifestyle photography which mainly aims to capture portraits and people in situations, real-life events or milestones in a photojournalistic style. Her style is natural and relaxed; she likes to capture those candid moments so that you can look back and treasure those memories forever. She makes use of natural light in order to achieve soft, gorgeous portraits that feel genuine.

For her contact details and to see more of her beautiful work, please visit her Facebook page JewelSeddon Photography, Instagram @jewelseddonphoto or Website www.jewelseddonphotography.com