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Headmistress back at work seven hours after birth
Dr Wright with baby Jessica
Headmistress Dr Wright was back at work seven hours after giving birth

The headmistress of a Wiltshire school who went back to work just seven hours after giving birth believes her baby is benefitting from being in 'the office' with her.

Dr Helen Wright, 39, is head of St Mary's, a girls independent private boarding school in Calne.

She went into labour on a school night, and after giving birth at the Royal United Hospital in Bath was back at school in the morning.

She said: "I just felt so brilliant.

"It was so fantastic, so I thought I really want to share this with the girls."

Two months on and Jessica is a regular feature around school: "Most of the time Jessica is with me, it depends on the meeting but most of the time she's with me.

"My husband is at home quite a lot, my other children are now at school and we have a part-time nanny who's here when my husband is working.

"You need a support structure. But really I want Jessica with me as much as possible because babies need their mummies."

Dr Wright is able to combine work and family because she lives on the school site.

She said having Jessica in school with her seemed to be having a positive effect on her development: "People comment that Jessica is so alert at two months.

"I'm convinced that's because of all the stimulation that she's had with people talking to her."

Dr Wright with baby Jessica
Dr Wright was back to work seven hours after giving birth

Dr Wright already has two other children.

Harry who was born just before the summer holidays in 2003 and Caitlin was born in the October half term of 2006, so maternity leave is not really a term that features in her vocabulary.

"I think for me it's about living a life and making the right choices. If I hadn't felt it was right to come in I wouldn't have done it, it's a personal choice but it's actually something I really really enjoyed doing.

"I think maternity leave as a concept is incredibly important, however most people do not have the opportunities that I have, nor do they have the forward-thinking governors and school.

"I think it's very difficult to talk about doing my job because I live on site, it's all part of what I do and I wouldn't want to miss that for the world."

She said the reaction to baby Jessica was really positive: "I think it was real enjoyment. Many girls hadn't seen such a small baby before and I think that that was really special."

And in hindsight, did she make the right decision?

"Absolutely actually. I think in a boarding school, it's a very strong community and to not come in would actually have been to deny me something, and I think deny the community something as well.

"I think it is a pretty unique situation, certainly, and I wouldn't describe myself as working behind my desk - it's being in and around the school.

"Where I live is where I work, the two combine."

Lavinia Barclay and Celia McLuskie
Pupils at the school see it's possible to combine work and a career

She hopes what she's doing is delivering a positive message to her pupils.

"I hope it showed them that it is joyful to have a baby.

"I think that they can see that I enjoy what I do and that in living a life you're combining work and family.

"That doesn't mean that you're doing it all at the same speed all of the time.

Celia McLuskie, 18, is a pupil at the school said: "It's great to have a baby in school because it's quite nice to see teachers and your headmistress as a mother as well because you don't always see that aspect of them.

"I think it's important because you can see in everyday life someone who is juggling career and family which is crucial for later in life."

Fellow pupil Lavinia Barclay, 17, said she thought her headmistress was an inspiration: "It shows that you can have a career and have children at the same time.

"She's in such a powerful position it's amazing to see that you can have both."

But Dr Wright realises her circumstances are very unique and that combing a career and family as she has may not be possible for everyone.

She said: "I think it's very difficult actually.

"Essentially as a woman, largely in this society you have the choice either to be at home with your child or to be at work without your child.

"There are lots of people who do make it work in between but where is there, in every single company in the country the totally flexible really high quality on site childcare that would enable people to work really flexibly, it's not there is it?"




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