Hannah

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I only really wear makeup if I am going out - or spending the day with people other than my close family.  I wear makeup because it automatically changes the way I feel about myself, I am not just a mummy with food (and other…) stains all over me, I am a grown up again.

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

As soon as I read the brief, it just resonated with me so much. Five years ago I was a city lawyer in a big corporate law firm in London working long hours and enjoying that lifestyle and then in an instant my whole life changed. I realised the way that people would look at me from that moment on would be different. Often it's with pity when they see I have a disabled child and obviously it has affected the way I look at myself too.

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

Not really. It is just quite low on my list of priorities now but saying that I certainly wouldn't want to be makeup free to an evening event or a fancy meal somewhere!  It's a form of armour isn't it.  I like the way it can take me back to feeling confident and invincible.

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

Undoubtedly becoming a mother is seismic in your life isn't it - but in my case I had to learn to become a mum without a mum and I had to deal with a postnatal diagnosis for my first child of Down Syndrome. Within thirty minutes of being elated over the birth I had to process the fact that my life was now completely different and was not going to go the way I thought it was.  I went from working in the City and enjoying that image, to being "that mum". My son's diagnosis is one of the first things people realise about me before they even notice ME and I am very aware of that.  People do a double take or they just openly stare at Finlay.

A more immediate factor at the moment is that my son had an operation last week at Sick Kids and I had to stay in with him. Anyone who has had the pleasure of 'sleeping' on a children's ward will know that any attempt to sleep is pointless. He is still recovering so is in need of his mummy at all times, day and night. When I look in the mirror I am conscious of just how tired I am. This is the life of a special needs mum, permanent worry as to whether you are doing the right thing or enough for your child.

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

God, go out more, study less, drink more, party harder! Both my parents were head teachers and I never wanted to let them down, consequently I was always a bit of a goody two shoes!  I have lived and worked abroad, two years in France and six months in Singapore and I would say take every opportunity to live and work abroad they were fantastic times!!

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

The act of giving birth (first time round) was empowering, you suddenly realise your body is amazing. Second time round was just plain terrifying. Now I run and do a regular outdoor bootcamp and I love that. I love the rain on my face when I am working hard, it really does make you feel alive.

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

I admire anyone who has children and still manages to have a tidy house - HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE???

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

Resilience! Pick yourself up, dust yourself down (have a little cry) and keep going forward.

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

I obtained a First Class Law Degree in English and French Law when my mum was going through her third and final round of Chemotherapy.  I studied on trains, in hospitals, anywhere I could really. She never met my husband or saw me get married or managed to meet her grandchildren but she did see me graduate and for that I will always be thankful.

Alternatively, it has to be Finlay, my son. He is an absolute wonder. Honestly, this isn't the life I thought I would have but he works so hard just to come anywhere near achieving what other children his age can do with ease, it is impossible not to be incredibly proud of him. He wakes up laughing his head off and stays like that most of the day. He finds such small things funny, like his own unexpected reflection in a shop window, or the word Hallelujah, or people saying hello back to him when he shouts it at every passing person (You would be amazed how many people ignore him).

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?  

I constantly feel under pressure, I feel that as I am a stay at home mum so I should have an immaculate house (mine usually looks like burglars have ransacked the place by 4pm) children that only eat healthy snacks, my husband's shirts ironed and a home cooked meal on the table every night. Unfortunately it's me that holds myself up to this unnecessarily high standard. At the end of most days I look around and realise that I have failed again. I am pretty sure that my husband doesn't look around and think - "Epic fail at life today - look at all the piles of washing still to sort".