My husband Mark and I met 14 years ago – I was only 19 and it was a holiday romance that never ended! We’ve been married for eight years now and have three daughters. Sienna who is turning five, Serafina who is three and Celine who is one. We’ve had three children in three years, which has been quite intense, but I always knew I wanted to be a mother. My own mother is extremely maternal, so that’s probably where it comes from.
I fell pregnant for the first time in my mid 20s. That probably doesn’t sound young to a lot of people, but for London, where we live, it is. Our conceiving journey was quite quick but as such, it was a bit overwhelming, too. We were so excited but sadly, I miscarried. It affected me quite badly and we didn’t try again for around eight months. Mentally I just wasn’t in the right place. Thankfully, running the business saved me during that time. We ended up having a really busy summer season at Pampelone and the minute that calmed down, I felt ready to try for another baby. Luckily, we conceived again in early January.
My first trimester was hard. I had horrific nausea that was quite debilitating – it was pretty unusual for me. I was used to running the business and being quite a hard nut when it came to illness. There’s a running joke in our family that I was probably sick in every restaurant down the King’s Road (which was where I was working at the time) and lots of the restaurant managers came to know me quite well! When you run your own company, you can’t take a sick day, so I had to make it work. I think I was also quite anxious about miscarrying again, so I tried to keep it under wraps. Ritz crackers were a saviour – I think I ate one every ten minutes.
Things improved during my second and third trimesters. During the last few weeks, I was tired, but I was able to start working from home and resting more, which was helpful. My second and third pregnancies have both followed the same pattern, but my lifestyle has changed throughout those years quite substantially, too. I was lucky that when I was pregnant with Serafina, Sienna was very well behaved and easy to look after. I then fell pregnant with Celine a few weeks before the first lockdown in 2020, but actually, it was lovely not having any pressure to go out. We could all be at home, and I was able to be quite present with my two other girls.
My third pregnancy became harder as the pandemic wore on. The kids had no way to burn off energy and I felt pressure to entertain them from the minute they woke up to when they finally went to bed. Towards the end of the pregnancy, I struggled with excess fluid too – which made me really heavy. At the end of the nine months, I was so ready to give birth.
For my first labour, I decided to go with the flow. Two of my sisters-in-law had children already, and they told me not to over-plan. It’s the best advice because if you stick to a rigid plan and then it doesn’t work out, it can be quite distressing. I’d far rather we used the term ‘birth preferences’ rather than ‘birth plan’. I didn’t have any strong beliefs around pain relief or having a natural birth – I just knew I wanted it all to happen in the safest way possible. One thing I would recommend doing is The Bump Class. It was really informative, and it's run by midwives who have so much experience.
Call me crazy, but I love labour. The first time I was a bit apprehensive, but I remember being told that we’re one of only a few societies who really build it up. There are plenty of other countries around the world that just see it as just a part of life, and that’s stuck with me. Ahead of giving birth to Sienna I was admitted to hospital a couple of times because the doctors were concerned about a lack of movement. Everything was fine but when I was about a week and half overdue, they decided to induce me.
For the first six hours I didn’t have any pain relief other than paracetamol. That’s when things started getting quite intense pain-wise, but the midwives were reluctant to give me anything else until I was properly dilated. It was only when I passed out from the pain that they realised the baby was almost here – for some reason my cervix just hadn’t popped. They moved me down the hallway to start pushing and within minutes, Sienna was born. She came out with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck – which was fairly traumatic – but it’s actually quite common. Thankfully, she was completely fine.
Because I had no pain relief with Sienna, I asked for an epidural next time. It was something I listed on my birth preferences at the hospital and the only advice I’d give first-time mums is to be as assertive as possible. Serafina came early at 37 weeks and the minute it kicked off I was very clear about having an epidural. When the medical team resisted, I insisted. I ended up having the most amazing birth because my focus was purely on the experience. With Sienna, I’d only been able to focus on the pain.
With Celine, I wanted the exact same experience as Serafina. There was no need to be a martyr and I knew an epidural was right for me. They ended up giving it to me before I was even properly examined! It was wonderful – I was so calm and excited to meet her. Now that we have our three girls, though, I know I don’t want any more children.
Those early days with a newborn are wonderful. I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful and supportive husband. We really did it all as a team – he got up with me in the middle of the night for feeding and would take Sienna down early in the morning so I could catch up on sleep. Time felt like it slowed right down, and we were in our own bubble of love.
Breastfeeding was a challenge for me. There’s so much emphasis on it these days, but back when I had Sienna, it wasn’t such a hot topic. Feeding Sienna was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done – I had cracked, bleeding nipples and it didn’t feel like this magical thing everyone talks about. I dreaded every feed, and it was traumatic for Sienna too because I kept having to pull her off. We switched to bottle feeding and I felt so much better. Thankfully, I didn’t have all the judgement from social media that new mums get now.
Interestingly, Serafina latched on from the minute she was born. I was prepared to give up if necessary, but I ended up breastfeeding her for about six months. It was so easy, and I loved it. It was just as easy with Celine – it all felt very natural, and being in lockdown, there was no pressure. I’d definitely say to women who are struggling with breastfeeding not to give up with your other babies. Try if it’s something you feel strongly about, because it can be so different child to child.
I juggled motherhood and work quite well at the beginning. Pampelone was thriving, and because I was used to running the business, I think I was used to multi-tasking. But as Sienna got older, the balance became harder. I’d never been that keen on the idea of nannies, and it soon dawned on me that I couldn’t be a hands-on mother and run the business long-term. It was clear I had to make a decision about taking on more childcare or stepping away from Pampelone.
In reality, it wasn’t a hard choice to make. The business had incredible success very quickly, but my life now looked very different to when I set up the company. The timing wasn’t great, especially as we knew we wanted more children. There was no specific conversation about stepping back; it was a gradual process. The first thing we did was quit wholesale to go direct to consumer. Then I got pregnant with Serafina and the collections went from three a year to just one. It was a pretty lean operation by the time the pandemic happened, and that was when we were approached by someone who wanted to buy the business. If I’m honest, the day I handed everything over it felt like a massive burden had been lifted.
My husband and I are definitely good cap and bad cop. He’s a wonderful husband and father but the girls know I’m the disciplinarian and he wants to have fun with them. I’m with them all day every day and wrangling three toddlers in public requires certain rules and standards! He’s terrible at telling any of them off…! It’s lovely to see how excited they are when he gets home from work, though, and I know he’s completely capable if I ever have to go away for the day or overnight. I never have to leave him a list of instructions – they’re his children, and it’s wonderful that he’s so interested and involved in their lives.
In the future, I want my girls to be able to make decisions that make them happy. I can already sense that Sienna makes certain decisions because she thinks they’re the ‘right’ thing rather than what she really wants to do. I don’t want her to do things just to please other people – within reason, of course. I also hope all three of them know how much my husband and I love them, and that we’ll always be there for them. My mum is like that – no matter what kind of trouble we got into over the years, she’s always been there.
Motherhood has taught me how strong I am. But it’s also taught me when to ask for help if I need it. There are definitely tough moments – it’s a relentless job being this selfless day in, day out and there’s barely been a day in the last five years when I haven’t put myself last. That said, you are rewarded with unconditional love but it’s so important to find a support system you can rely on during the difficult times.
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