Category Archives: a pregnant journalist

Shout out to my eggs…

Autumn 2016

The bigger house has been bought. The wedding has happened. The DVLA has been updated. We’ve been ready for, well, years. Let’s get on with it…

A few weeks later the boobs feel a bit off, the gin tastes a bit wrong, and sure enough, the second line on the fragrant stick makes a faint but unmistakable appearance. The Ragu is pregnant. The womble occupied. A bump is once more hitting the road of our lives – and my midriff – and it is time, sadly, to put. the. wine. down.

We were extremely lucky. But there’s always more to the story, and for us, this one began long before the day a week before the wedding when I put my half-finished packet of pills away for good.

Spring 2015

Lara is all cute squishy cuddles* between 12 and 18 months, tottering around but still light enough to pick up without needing to conjure memories of PE teacher instruction first (“lift with your legs, not your back, Sarah**!”), sleeping through the night, no longer breastfeeding, still napping for a good two to three hours during the day. I was writing novels, blogging semi-regularly like a boss, watching daytime TV, taking the delightful offspring for buggy walks in the woods, having play dates… Life was great. Why wouldn’t we want more of it?

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Then Gary proposed. We spent the next 24 hours discussing wedding plans, honeymoon destinations, plotting really-funny-actually-and-not-at-all-geeky-and-lame ways to tell our friends and family, and somewhere between the first and second bottles of prosecco, we realised that none of these plans fitted the next couple of years with a new baby. I didn’t want to be a pregnant bride. I wanted to get drunk, dammit, and I wanted to go on a honeymoon that wasn’t governed by leaking boobs, strict bedtimes, wailing infants and toddler-approved activities. I remembered what it was like when Lara was first born. I didn’t want to have to juggle caring for a newborn and a toddler with, well, anything, let alone planning a wedding. So we decided to wait. It was a sensible decision and, this side of what turned out not only to be a summer of wedding planning but also house moving, I can safely say it was 100% the right one. But I can’t say it didn’t sting, just a little bit. I still had this wanting feeling. It didn’t just go away because I told it no. People around me got pregnant and I swallowed the jealousy. The months began to pass. The babies came and grew. The wedding was finally booked for the following year. Life continued to tick on by. The wanting yawned and poked. I ignored it.

Winter 2016/17

So you see, it wasn’t really as simple as it first sounds. This child might not have been tried for for very long, but it’s been dreamed about for years. And it’s never as simple as wanting to have a baby = positive test = all good, lovely and fine for the next nine months. Pregnancy is bloody terrifying. There are so, so many things that can go wrong. The first 12 weeks are mostly spent terrified of spotting blood everytime*** you go to the toilet, analysing every twitch and twinge south of the equator, not to mention battling sporadic moments of nausea and dry heaving your way around the single, plain cracker that you know to be your salvation (even if your stomach does not). On top of all that, your list of people to complain to is annoyingly short because of the high risks, which brings us round full circle to the ever-present anxiety and knicker-checking. Every day is a hard-won battle. But every day also brings a little more light as you inch ever closer to the time when the risks drop and the nausea goes and it is suddenly, miraculously, OK to feel excited because suddenly everything is actually all a little bit more lovely. You know you will probably get there. You know that everything will probably be fine. But you also know that sometimes, it is not.

We were lucky. We made it out of the first trimester, saw our awkwardly-positioned infant cavorting on the ultrasound screen and smiled through the pain of a full bladder and the really-quite-hard pressure placed upon it by the sonographer’s wand thingy as Bubby Number Two refused to reveal its neck measurements… And now, here we are. The grandparents have been informed. My sister has started knitting. The bump is firmly lodged in my midriff. The anxiety is… well, it’s under control. And, yes, things are looking admittedly lovely.

I just wish I hadn’t lost those bloody scan photos.

*spot the rose-tinted mother-to-be conveniently forgetting all the tantrums and poo explosions.

**naturally my crapness at PE lost me the right to be called by my given name for the five years I took the subject

***and, when pregnant, everytime becomes a hell of a lot of times. Something I had forgotten in the interval of four years.

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This Ragu is Not Pregnant

**POSSIBLE TMI ALERT. You’ve been warned, Mum**

 

Filled with passion. Well, it was the first wee of the day...

Filled with passion. Well, it was the first wee of the day…

Shocking as it may seem coming from a couple who have one unconditionally cherished but nonetheless unplanned daughter under their belts, my fiance and I have not always been the best at contraception. Most of the time we are pretty responsible – whether it’s remembering to take a pill, buy condoms, or doing a quick calculation of cycle days. (Don’t knock it – the standard days method is actually 95% effective when used properly. That’s at least as good as the smelly rubber things you always forget to buy, isn’t it?) In any case, our one unplanned pregnancy isn’t even an example of our inability to use contraception, more one of ignorance about the expiry date on condoms. Well, that and entirely too many glasses of Faustino V.

When we got engaged earlier this year we decided to shelf our original plans to crack on with baby number 2 in favour of planning the wedding for next year and – more importantly – a kick-ass, adults-only, one-last-chance-of-freedom honeymoon. You know, before the soggy camping trips, portable wee pots and sand-in-every-crevice joys of family holidays truly kick in. So I went on the mini pill. Shortly afterwards, I went on a different mini pill. My body does not like the mini pill. Let’s just say the pennies we saved in the family planning aisle only went about as far as feminine hygiene. So, rather than risking anaemia, off the mini pill I came.

A few weeks ago we booked our wedding. Unfortunately, during the ensuing celebration period, we both completely forgot about the pill. Or, I should say, the lack thereof. But, according to a hasty standard day calculation, we were technically in the clear, so we didn’t worry too much. Then I started feeling a bit tummy-ish. A bit nauseous around the edges. A bit sensitive in the old mammary region… My bra sprang open spontaneously once or twice. But it was when I went off wine that the alarm bells really started a-clanging. Nervous jokes aside, we put in an order for some bulk-buy pregnancy tests, just to be on the safe side.

This, of course, all occurred within the two weeks between booking the wedding venue and having to put down a couple of thousand pounds as a holding deposit for a date which, if we were having a baby, would likely be spent jiggly-shuffling my birth-ravaged tummy pouch around the living room, barely able to hear the planes on the overhead flightpath bound for what would have been my honeymoon over the screams of my discontent second-born.

The tests arrived. Thanks to an irregular cycle and a fairly well-developed sense of paranoia I’m no stranger to Clearblue or First Response or even trusty old Boots two-for-£4.99. But these ones were different. These were the dippy kind. This resulted in an interesting morning hunting out an appropriate receptacle whilst desperately clutching in my most-accurately-testable first wee of the day. The successful candidate – comfortingly wide-rimmed, but not practical enough to tempt us into any sort of culinary reuse – turned out to be an empty Ragu jar. Gary’s idea. I’d suggested one of Lara’s plastic cups but apparently that was a poor parenting choice. In any case, the Ragu vessel quickly declared its secondary contents unburdened by tomatoes and child.

Honeymoon back on. Deposit paid. Doctors appointment for new pill prescription booked. Life lesson learned.

We may never dabble with fire intentionally, but the stress of thinking, “Oh god, I’m probably not but I COULD be… Should I part with £2,000 for an uncertain wedding date? Should I buy those skinny jeans? SHOULD I EVEN BE DRINKING THIS GIN?” for two, three weeks just isn’t worth it. The internet doesn’t help. According to Google everything – apart, perhaps, from testicle cramp – can be considered a potential pregnancy symptom. Parenting forums are even worse – there are plenty of women who claim to have symptoms days or even hours after conception. There are some who go into surprisingly graphic detail when describing how they came to possibly be accidentally pregnant (no pun intended). And their early pregnancy ‘symptoms’. I don’t think I will ever un-see what I read when I looked up ‘ewcm’. Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t use Google images.

Still, I may keep the washed-out Ragu jar. After all, it’s only a short few years before we’ll be firmly in the throes of those aforementioned family holiday times. And a good, be-lidded, portable wee-pot can be so hard to come by…

 

I hope I’m not the only one with a ridiculous pregnancy scare story… If you have one please do share – there is a teeny, tiny ‘Leave a comment’ button under all the social media buttons below.

 


The end of a [cramped, often sweaty but cool, though, right?] era

“Fun to be seen driving” are the words used by TopGear to describe the VW Beetle. Having driven one for the best part of two and a half years, I would add that indeed, it is possibly more fun to be seen driving a Beetle than it is in fact driving a Beetle. Not that I didn’t love every minute of being said driver of my particularly iridescent sapphire specimen.

I bought my Beetle in the summer of 2012 as my ultimate, single girl-about-town classy set of wheels, despite being a) not actually single and b) far too terrified to actually drive it anywhere about my town – being London at the time – except out, via the south circular, to work. But man, did I love being the girl driving the Beetle. Pedestrians would stare enviously (or so I choose to interpret) as they hastily retracted their toes from the zebra crossing, other Beetle owners waved, and car washers would chuckle and mock the little fake flower in the test tube vase next to the steering wheel.

Around six months after I bought my Beetle, I got pregnant. Approximately seven and a half months later, upon receiving ownership of a fairly standard-sized travel system pushchair, I discovered just how incompatible this car is with family life. Even without a seat, the frame simply did not fit in the bloody boot. I had to take the two back wheels off. Every. Single. Time. If that wasn’t enough, I of course had gone for the three door, four seat version in a pique of I’m-only-25-I’m-not-even-thinking-of-having-kids-yet logic. This made getting baby + car seat in and out PARTICULARLY FUN. I’m not even going to talk about the beige interior. Suffice to say it doesn’t meld well with babies, or any of the items said creatures ingest and… yeah.

It was also around this time – being the summer of 2013 – that I realised my most heinous oversight at the time of purchase. The car did not have air conditioning. Yes, it had heated seats and a standard heating system which made it a particularly cosy drive in the winter, and I hadn’t really noticed the lack of AC too much the summer before, when I’d been a svelte size 8-10 with thighs that didn’t rub together and was still in Beetle honeymoon period. But, two stones bigger and with a new, 120mile round commute to and from work, the novelty of my Beetle ownership wore off around the time I heaved myself into the driver’s seat ahead of a two hour jaunt on the m25 and saw the car’s thermometer merrily reading 40 degrees.

The sweat just went everywhere.

Still, I muddled through and continued to enjoy the odd moments of pretending I was still that young, single girl-about-town as I motored down the A322, singing along to Rihanna on the iPod dock as the baby snoozed out of eye-line. Then, this Christmas, I picked my sister and her two kids up from the airport. They had one suitcase and a pushchair. Something most cars, even neat little hatchbacks, can handle without so much as a tailgate dip of protest. Not my bloody car. The suitcase would only go flat in the boot if I sat on it. The pushchair would not go anywhere except wedged in front of my sister in the front, with her passenger seat as far back as it would go (fortunately my second niece is tiny for her age. And I’m fairly sure her hip dysplasia was diagnosed before the subsequent 200 mile journey from airport to Devon.)

It was then I had my Roy Scheider moment. I was going to need a bigger car. Sure, I wasn’t going to get eaten by a shark if I didn’t, but having any more babies invoked images of driving along with the boot duck-taped half open over one buggy while I towed the other along behind me. Besides, I was sick of having to climb into the back seat – even with the time-perfected twist, stoop and pivot – every time I needed to get my increasingly large Lara in and out. The mileage was still decent, paintwork fairly spotless, age not bad and I had six months on the MOT.

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You will be pleased to know that though I am silly enough to sacrifice any serious offers of purchase for cheap Facebook LOLs by posting a light-hearted advert including the word sh!t in the description, I’m not quite so stupid that I would make this blog post live before keys changed hands. Therefore, I am happy to announce that the Beetle has gone *pang* and I am now the proud owner of its much more sensible, much more bigger brother, the VW Tiguan. The drive is noisier, the diesel more expensive and I am now one of those SUV mums, but the other day I managed to get BOTH buggies and a suitcase into the boot without obstructing any vision out the back window. I guess that girl about town grew up. And got really boring.

 


Nothing silences a bar quite like a good episiotomy story

It’s amazing how uninhibitedly candid having a baby will make the most inhibited and… can-didn’t… of people. Before the days of labour (yes, days. Sorry ladies), breasts liberated and leaking in the middle of Nero’s and very loud conversations about episiotomies in very quiet bars, I was such a person. I was about as keen for the world to see what was under my dress as the world was to see what was under Maggie Smith’s habit in Sister Act. I didn’t wear crop tops (which I and my mummy tummy now wholeheartedly regret) ‘topless’, to me, meant a wine bottle with the cork pulled out, and when faced with the daunting prospect of a communal changing room, I was the one hopping around under a towel tent, Miranda Hart style.

Pregnancy didn’t change matters much. If anything, I was more self-conscious than ever, what with the bowling-ball-cum-beachball belly and the bin bag clothes. During the last few months the temperature reached insane heights. I would get home from work, peel myself out of whatever bin bag creation I had poured myself into 12 hours earlier and shuck on a pair of my other half’s boxers along with mansize t-shirt from gigs I had gone to in my lighter years (knew they’d come in handy), before raiding the freezer for ice cream. But I never once slept without PJs.

It’s not that I have a problem with other people being nude. If you’ve got it and love it, wear what you want – or don’t, as the case may be. It’s just that when it comes to the question of me baring all I get extremely British. I don’t know where it comes from – my dad was American, my mum, although British, shares genes with a naturist resort frequentee.

It was around 8am on Tuesday, September 24th when I lost my sense of modesty. When the only thing standing between you (plus 26 hours of labour already clocked up) and a shot of pethidine is an examination down below, I defy anyone to open their legs slower than a reverse bear trap. From then on, it only got worse. Not to go into too much detail (I am, however desensitized, still British after all) but let’s just say the baby wasn’t the only one in her birthday suit once she finally deigned to make her appearance.

Seven months later and I’ve found myself baring my top half to all and sundry – from grandparents-in-law to hapless waiting staff, work colleagues and one extremely terrified postal worker (forgot. Thought it was just a breezy day.) Not only that, I’ve had discussions with friends, family and, yes, total strangers about nipples, poo, sick, pelvic floors, and – mother of all silence generators – episiotomies. Once I was discussing how breastfeeding gets so much simpler with another mum I’d just met in the John Lewis parents’ room when my baby abruptly detached herself – to check that the wall opposite was in fact still a wall and hadn’t transformed itself into an even bigger boobie whilst her attention had been elsewhere, one can only presume – leaving me hanging and literally, er, dripping in irony. Far from being mortified, we had a laugh about it.

I suppose it’s all part of that thing where you have a child and realise that there are much bigger things to prioritise over people desperately trying to look anywhere other than at your naked breast. Like your child’s most basic need for food, for example. But don’t get me wrong – just because a few dozen more people have seen my breasts now than this time last year, it hasn’t turned me into any kind of exhibitionist. Though it might sometimes seem like it to my poor family and friends, I don’t whip them out at every available opportunity. It’s just that having them out doesn’t bother me, because my particular form of toplessness is to serve the purpose of making my baby shut up (ahem, I mean, feeding and nourishing my daughter). In fact, there probably isn’t a better purpose for toplessness. Except, perhaps, that of a good bottle of Sauvignon.


A tiny person who thinks and farts

When last I blogged it was about being nine weeks pregnant and, funnily enough, here I am at another nine week juncture. Nine weeks and three days, to be precise, since I stopped caring about my unplucked eyebrows. Nine weeks and three days since blearily singing misremembered pop songs while smeared with vomit at 3am took on a whole new meaning. Nine weeks and three days since my world fell to the mercy of a tiny, yowling, brand new person who thinks and farts and devastates a room with her smiles.

Some things you come to expect from motherhood during those long, rotund weeks of pregnancy spent reading books, Yahoo Answers and Mumsnet. Other things you are told to expect, from NCT leaders, your family, every woman over the age of 40 and Babycentre.co.uk. But for the most part, a lot of first time mums have no f*cking clue until they are thrown right in there, covered in poo and vomit in the wee hours, desperately trying to remember all 12 days of Christmas their true love gave to them while their offspring gazes up at them from the changing mat with a faintly appalled expression.

The business of 3am.

Yes, they told me I’d be sleep-deprived. Yes, they told me to get as much shut-eye during those first baby-free weeks of maternity leave as possible. And I listened and took it all on board with an ambivalent laissez faire, que sera sera and yeah-it’ll-be-hard-but-it’s-easy-if-you-love-them kind of ideology shared by many a knocked up 13-year-old. On this side of the 40-hour push-fest I can reply that yes, you love your baby but boy, that does not make the transition from the eight-hour-plus unbroken paddocks of slumber to sporadic 1-3 hour sleep grasps any easier. Especially when your body is a wreak after two days of pushing out a 6lb 9oz human (3lbs of which I’m sure was her head) and you can’t sit down or shuffle up a bed without pulling stitches in an area that should NEVER have contact with a needle and thread.

“But I’m a night owl/ insomniac/ one of those slightly mad-eyed people who function on less than four hours of sleep a night,” you cry. Ok, well I’m guessing that you don’t spend those wakeful hours up, out of bed and traipsing to the kitchen with a squalling infant to make up a bottle, or attaching said squalling infant to one of two very sore nipples who don’t know what they ever did to offend anybody. All the while moving twice as slow and three times as bandy-legged as usual. So if you’re pregnant, sleep. If you’re not pregnant, sleep. It’s the best friend you never appreciated until they confessed they weren’t a baby person and turned their back on you forever.

The poo/sick debacle.

I never thought of myself as particularly squeamish but wow. How does such a little digestive system create so much weird-looking, evil-smelling gunk? And the sick – it may be white and milky but it still has that vomit stench which, even though it has come from a pure, innocent little baby and I haven’t been on a raging night out in a pathetically long time, still elicits feelings of nauseated shame and the nagging sensation I’ve spoken out of turn.

Raging against the parent.

They tell you that sometimes a baby just cries for no discernable reason. Week three and we discovered just what that meant, and no amount of back-patting, swaddling, nursing, increasingly shrill singing, rocking, shushing, bouncing or jostling made the slightest bit of difference. Babies are humans, humans are weird and each one is different, even when they are 50-something centimetres long and weigh less than 7lbs. Our particular little character likes to lie on her back on a changing mat, preferably bare-bottomed, while the mat is jiggled back and forth by a parent talking in a high-pitched voice. It’s a bit weird, yes, but it shuts her up after four hours of relentless wailing, so who gives a sh*t?

The magic 6 week barrier of it-all-getting-easier.

That’s what we’re told, isn’t it? Six weeks post-partum the tiredness, the pooping, vomming and colicky rages all magically improve? Well, this is an interesting one. For me, life at nine weeks is still exhausting, full of surprises and doubt, but everyday brings more joyful, shining moments I want to record so I can play them back over and over in 20, 30, 50 years time. And yes, it is easier than it was in the early weeks. But that’s not just because the baby sleeps more and eats well and seems to be past the worst of the colic, it’s because we’re all a little more used to each other. Motherhood didn’t get easier, I just got used to it. That, and the moments when, out of the blue, she will stop wailing, lock eyes with me and give me the biggest stunner of a smile that shines right up into her eyes… And suddenly all the poo, vomit, tiredness and screaming matters as little as these increasingly bushy eyebrows of mine.


What do you mean ‘no wine for me thank you’ ???

I wonder if there comes a time in every journalist’s career when they are hit by the crashing realisation that they’re about to vomit on an interviewee’s head.

Perhaps it comes to them the morning after a particularly heavy night of alcohol-fuelled lamentation that they didn’t become a doctor or a plumber or professional dog walker. Perhaps it’s after a spot of dodgy egg mayo at another barely relevant event minuted in hastily scrawled notes that they will only realise, some weeks later, are in a shorthand with logic unique to the ‘of course I’ll know what I mean’ moment. Or perhaps, like me, they will have recently discovered themselves inexplicably with child in the wrong place and at the wrong time.*

It was February 10th. I had woken up at the crack of a sparrow’s fart to drive from Guildford to Coventry via my broken-legged-editor’s house (she happily oblivious, at that point, to the hormones scrambling my brain into a squashy mess of questionable driving ability). The night previously I had returned home from a week-long skiing holiday, which had mainly consisted of me channelling my lower limbs into the most controlled parallels turns in the history of conscientious skiing, my mind torn between inanely repeating the chorus of Homer Simpson’s Baby on Board and sending subconscious fuck-off vibes to all beginner skiers and boarders within a 10 feet radius. Bean-sized baby intact, my sister and I had returned to the UK, freshly grey with what was to be the first of many sneezes of snow, and here I was, for the second time, covering the industry’s biggest trade show of the year. I had been pregnant for just under nine weeks.

For the most part, I hadn’t been feeling too bad. Sure, there had been a wobbly moment on a train a few weeks earlier when I very nearly did faint on some hapless commuter’s shoes, but otherwise it was mainly an ever-present lurk of nausea. A bit like the sound of cheerful relatives on a hungover Christmas morning, or the pink stuff you keep spitting out whenever you brush your teeth. More irritating than inconvenient, really, particularly as munching on plain cream crackers seemed to knock it on the head quite nicely. But I was beginning to realise, that day in Coventry, that sitting at one’s desk nibbling a cracker whilst surreptitiously congratulating oneself at being the master of deception among one’s unaware colleagues was not quite the same as wincing about on decent-work-shoe heels, trying to keep up a coherent conversation about the state of the garden market while the swimming white noise surged ever closer round the corners of one’s ears.

Luckily, I didn’t actually vomit on anyone’s head. I wrapped up the interview pretty quickly, hoping my face wasn’t going quite so milky on the outside as it was on the inside, and made my way back to our exhibition stand. A few crisps and a chug of orange juice later and I was ready for round two.

I hadn’t really thought at any point in the lead up to the show that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was nine weeks pregnant, for goodness’ sake, not 39! But I did have my concerns that my colleagues might realise that something was going on when I didn’t accept my usual bucket of wine as soon as the earliest decent drinking opportunity rolled around. That evening, as we regrouped in the Premier Inn bar, and I opted for orange juice for the second round of drinks in a row, my editor raised her eyebrows at me and asked if I was on some sort of detox health kick. “Just trying to cut back,” I mumbled in reply.

“Yeah, either that or you’re pregnant!”

Well, it was nice being a master of deception for those nine short weeks.**

 

 

*I don’t mean to imply this pregnancy was unwanted – spectacularly unplanned and ill-timed in terms of life/career plans, yes, but never for one second unwanted.

**Technically only three if you don’t count the first six when I too, was counted among the happily oblivious and therefore perfectly eligible to drink half a bottle of wine while blearily deciding that Tyrion the Imp from Game of Thrones was quite hot actually.


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