Category Archives: pregnancy

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.

car fb

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.

 

Advertisements

Daylight Saving Time f*cked up my life

Since my last moan about the difficulty of reasoning the necessity of naptime with an infant, I’m happy to say that things have been looking up. We are down to just one breastfeed a day – which I know may not seem like much of an achievement, but remember this is the child who would happily refuse all fried, crispy and chocolate-dipped solids in favour of a little boob action – which we do just before she goes to bed. I’ve figured out a new way of getting her to nap without breastfeeding or resorting to her screaming in her cot for hours – I just have to hold her and jiggly-shuffle from one foot to the other while I count to 300 in my head. She’ll usually complain when I put her down, but then she will settle and snooze for, sometimes, up to 2.5 hours at a time. She’s been going down at around 7pm at night and usually wakes around 7.15-7.30am for the day. The last few weeks she’s even made it to the territory of 8-8.30am a couple of times, blessing me with the sweet, almost-forgotten decadence of a lie-in – the likes of which I haven’t experienced since the happy weekday mornings of early maternity leave, kissing Gary off to work before snuggling back down under a floral-smelling sheet with a pillow wedged between my obese pregnant knees.

I should have known it was all too good to last.

On Sunday the clocks went back and the precious hammock cradling our lives in this delicate nirvana of sleep-fruitfulness was abruptly floored by the morbidly obese arse of that cruel concoction called Daylight Saving Time. The same morbidly obese derriere, ironically, which once granted me an extra hour in bed on many a chilly October Monday morning. Who could have known that an hour would change so much? I was expecting the 6am wake up call on Sunday. It wasn’t pleasant but I got on with it, and the flipside was that Lara went down happily for a long morning nap around 9am. That afternoon she refused a second nap. As she had slept for two hours that morning, I wasn’t too surprised – she’s never been a huge fan of the afternoon nap. That night we were all exhausted and, though I did try and keep her up till her normal bedtime, I ended up giving in at around 5.30pm and preparing her dinner half an hour early. I thought I would then draw out her dinner, bath and bedtime routine to try and get as near to 7pm as possible. The minutes ticked on, and before I knew it it was 6.07pm and I was creeping out of her bedroom, nerves shot, mind smooshed by tiredness and hand firmly extended towards the glass of rosé left over from the weekend, fully committed to trying again tomorrow.

On Monday morning (yesterday) we made it to about 6.30am before the screams to get up now, please, Mummy became un-ignorable. After only sleeping an hour in the morning, I was sure she would keel over in grateful oblivion the second I jiggly-shuffled her into her afternoon nap. Nope. I spent no less than three hours in and out of her room trying to weedle her into sleep as she resolutely screamed in my face/ clawed at my chin/ beat up every toy in her cot and then performed bear-acide over the side of the bars. Around 3pm I put her in her pushchair and walked her round the garden. She responded by trying to grab the leaves off the trees, squawking like a banshee every time I tried to rock the buggy in the soothing, repetitive motion that, six months ago, would have rendered her unconscious in seconds, and periodically twisted herself around to peer at me incredulously. In the end I gave up. To her credit, Lara managed to stay up until her 7pm bedtime without too many breakdowns, and I felt sure, by the time I went to bed myself, that Tuesday, at least, would bring a portion of normalcy back to our waking up time. These hopes were duly dashed at approximately 5.35am this morning.

I suppose, when you think in terms of babies’ sleep cycles only being 90 minutes long, you can appreciate how much an extra hour – suddenly given, unasked for and with no warning – might mess with their sleeping pattern. And, I suppose, though there are always bound to be those babies whose parents will smugly admit that the extra hour didn’t bother young Rufus in the slightest, he’s actually sleeping more since the clocks went back, I should have always known that Lara would not be one of those babies. Who wants to nap, after all, when there are stuffed animals to be murdered, kitchen cupboards to disassemble and unattended appliances to mount?

IMG_4461


Probably Entirely Too Much Information…

The Mummy Tag –  a little Q&A perfectly tailored to the non-working and usually rather bored/full-of-endless-information-about-their-child’s-loves-hates-and-bowel-functions mother. I first discovered it on this rather brilliant blog, to which I’m somewhat loathe to post a link as it is far funnier than mine.

  1. Are you a stay at home mother or a working mother?

Stay at home, with the hopeful aspiration of becoming self-employed in the near future. This will probably mean that I spend my hard-won free moments desperately cold calling people who’re at work and barking down the phone “Hi-I’m-a-journalist-please-talk-to-me-about-the-collapse-of-your-business-no-that’s-not-a-baby-you-can-hear-it’s-my-cat-she’s-very-ill”… Meanwhile my garden succumbs to wilderness (for the dirty-minded, this also works as a euphemism) nobody gets birthday cards and I have so little time to write this blog I start posting self-indulgent Q&As whereupon, upon answering question one, I instantly ramble off on a totally innocuous tangent as my reader’s will to live slowly begins to leak out of their ears.

  1. Would you have it any other way?

I feel like this question is worded to coerce a gush of ‘No, I adore every second with my precious little munchkin, she shits diamonds.’ Honestly, though, I wouldn’t really. I have time to write and I’m bringing up my daughter myself, which is all I’ve ever really wanted. I kind of wish she did shit diamonds, though.

  1. Do you co-sleep?

No. I bring Lara into bed with us for her breastfeed first thing in the morning, but she gets put back in her cot as soon as she starts trying to claw at my face. I’ve only spent one entire night with her in our bed, when we all had colds. I don’t recommend it – snuffling baby on one side and feverish other half, burning with the heat of a thousand menopausal women, on the other did not make for a restful night.

  1. What is your one must-have item for your baby?

Probably the video monitor. It’s excellent for letting you know whether your child is just having a moan, or whether she has propped all her toys into a pyramid in the corner of the cot, pulled herself up onto them and is teetering over the railings in imminent danger of knocking herself out.

IMG_3498

  1. How many kids do you plan on having?

I’ve always wanted four, Gary wants two, so we’ve decided to compromise on four.

  1. Date night – how many nights a month?

We’ve only gone out once together without the baby since she was born, but since this did not incur any apocalyptic happenings, we have resolved to go out together at least twice a month or so in the future.

  1. Your child’s favourite show?

Dance Moms. Seriously, she can’t get enough of it. It’s not for me at all.

  1. Name one thing you bought before your baby and never ended up using?

A BabaSling. I could never get her in the damn thing, she’d always end up looking like an unhappy caterpillar, so we ended up selling our souls to the devil and buying a BabyBjorn.

  1. What is your child’s favourite food?

Toast, and anything remotely sweet. Give her jam on toast and she practically vibrates.

10. How many cars does your family have?

Two

11. Weight gain during pregnancy, before, after and now?

I put on about 2 stone during pregnancy (I stopped weighing when I had to start bending backwards to see the scales). I lost all but about 10lbs in the first 3 months or so, then the rest came off after Christmas. Now I’m about half a stone lighter than I was pre-pregnancy thanks to my unfortunate proclivity for e-coli.

12. Dream holiday with your kids?

A fun activity holiday – Center Parcs, Club Med, Disney Land, etc. Of course we may have to win the lottery first.

13. Dream holiday without your kids?

New York (probably would have to be without Gary too as cities make his brain cry) Melbourne, New Zealand, The Maldives, Las Vegas, Cape Town…

14. How has your life changed since your baby was born?

Let’s see – instead of driving to work everyday and writing about the home improvement industry, I chase an incontinent 10-month-old around the house, feed her, wash her , change her and generally maintain responsibility for her survival. Bit of a silly question really.

15. Finish the sentence: “It makes my heart melt to see…”

Lara, on the video monitor, turn and cuddle her giraffe in her sleep. Partly because it is cute but mainly because she is asleep.

16. Where do you shop for your kids?

Sainsburys, Next, Tesco, H&M, M&S, Mothercare, Amazon and of course the Bank of Doting Grandmothers

17. Favourite make-up and skincare products?

Not quite sure what this has to do with parenting, but I like MAC and Benefit eye shadow and mascara, BB foundation and under-eye concealer. Ah, there it is.

18. Huggies or Pampers?

Ooh, yes please. We usually just get supermarket own-brands. I do like the wetness indicators on Pampers.

19. Have you always wanted kids?

Yes, more than anything. My mum’s even got a photograph of me, aged two, ‘breastfeeding’ one of my dollies.

20. Best part about being a mum?

The days when I’m just so freaking awesome I steal breath.

IMG_1781


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.


%d bloggers like this: