Tag Archives: unplanned pregnancy

The Thief of Joy

Comparison is the thief of joy. A friend of mine used that quote (from Theodore Roosevelt) as part of her response when I asked for her views on ‘Sharenting’ for the article I re-posted last month. I think about that quote a lot. About how so many of the things that filter through into the little reflective moments when you try to work out what’s bothering you, what’s brought this little cloud of darkness to the corner of your brain, what’s made you snappy, shouty, sad… so much of it can be traced back to comparison. The Someone Else who is doing the Something You Care About so much better than you.

My friend’s example was about social media. And that does play a huge part in the mental-fuckery, particularly for a new author. It’s hard not to feel a bit battered by this joy-thief when your profession relies on using these busy, self-congratulatory platforms to market your work because, of course, they are the very same platforms that everyone else is using to make ALL THE NOISE about how much better they are at writing books, selling books, marketing books, harnessing the very beast of social media itself… It’s hard not to feel a little defeated when confronted with a 17-year-old BookTok pro who churns out bestsellers for a hobby, has lovely skin and, you know, might not even end up DOING this for an actual career because perhaps they’ll go to medical school or become a marine biologist… they are but a child after all. Meanwhile here I am deleting yet another draft video post whilst muttering darkly about the point of having a bloody broadcasting degree but being unable to fathom how to use two audio tracks, stitch drafts together and why, why must all the edits get deleted when I go back to the recording page?! I swear, grappling with TikTok makes turning my kid’s eyes digitally green for my book trailer video a damn doddle.

Here I am, looking suitably unhinged (and oddly angry, which I really wasn’t) in the name of BookTok. This particular video about different reader impressions features me quite obviously not knowing how to cut the beginning and end where I press record/stop. I do rather like the automatic airbrushing though.

Comparison can do strange things to you and it can be a sneaky, insidious foe. Coming via a screen is bad enough, but at least it’s obvious – you can click onto social media knowing you’re fairly likely to come across something that’ll make you pang. Photos of someone’s glorious holiday on Instagram, someone else’s adorable baby/puppy spamming up Facebook, notification of a job promotion on LinkedIn, a smug tweet about a brand new dream car, etc… The noise of it all is deafening but you can at least SEE why you’re jealous. But then there are the other times. Times where you’re not guarded or expecting it… and the comparison, that slippery little joy-thief, will shiver under your skin and encroach into the very core of all your deepest-most insecurities. The things you care the most about. For me, I sometimes find myself thinking that other people are automatically better parents than I am because they planned their kids and we (mostly) didn’t. It’s an utterly ridiculous – not to mention illogical – line of thinking because of course ticking certain boxes (married, thirties, own house, stable career) does not make anyone better-qualified at knowing what the fuck what to do with a baby. I know this because I ticked those boxes myself with my second-born and the only thing that made me better at parenting was the fact that I’d done it before.

Unfortunately comparison does not account for irony or, you know, actually making any damn sense because as much as I know all of the above, I will still rock up at school stressed, disheveled and on the brink (and often past it) of being late, and I see so-and-so’s mum on her way out looking so nice and put-together and in it creeps, that strange, irrational insistence that because she did things the right way however many years ago, that’s why she’s got her shit together in the morning. Comparison isn’t just the thief of joy, it’s an illogical cow and really, it’s got absolutely nothing to do with so-and-so’s mum or some adolescent prettily flogging their books on TikTok. So what can you do about it? Whatever you bloody can. I set my alarm 15 minutes earlier and get the kids dressed before breakfast instead of after (we are still late but not quite so regularly). I try not to listen to the noise of social media and view it more as a business tool. I take the deepest, darkest feelings of parental insecurity and I write fiction about a mother who secretly believes she should never have become a parent in the first place.

And I try to remember that there will always be someone else out there doing The Thing I Really Care About better than I am. But that there is still enough joy for us both.


The Story of a Third Pregnancy (aka Throwback to the days of Gravity and Professional Hairdressing)

IMG_1165

Me, hovering around the 9th month of my first pregnancy. When things still pointed up (mostly) and my bed may have been cheap and untidy, but I was, at least, very unlikely to find Shopkins and singing Moana dolls in it.

It’s not just about that soft gleam of naivety in my eyes. Or the fact that I’ve clearly visited a professional hairdresser sometime in the last few weeks rather than squinted over a sink with a comb and a pair of rusty bathroom scissors, feverishly swearing whilst trying to remember that teenager’s YouTube tutorial. It’s not even the sad reality that gravity has yet to slump my pregnant belly into this strange, over-hanging pouch of a baby-hammock I’m currently sporting… It’s all of it. The fact I have no fucking clue what’s about to hit me. The destruction that tiny little foetus daughter of mine is about to wreak on my body as she makes her slow way out of it. The annihilation of grown-up evenings, solid blocks of sleep, freedom… I knew it would be hard. I didn’t know about the life sentence of worry, obsession, googling every little quirk and symptom, their tiny fingerprints on the corners of my heart even when I’m miles away and they are safe in their beds…

preg no 3 b

And today. Same top… could have worn the same jeans, but that would require fitting into them.

But I didn’t come here to get all deep. I came because I’m on the brink of a full-term third pregnancy and I thought I would re-visit a couple of moments from my first and second pregnancies and think about what’s changed. Not just gravity. Though, gravity. Yeah. That’s a thing. Also age. I’m not exactly ancient now, but I don’t half feel old when I look at these photos. My life isn’t even as stressful, in some ways, as it was then. I don’t have to get up at 6am to commute 60 miles to work, I don’t have press days or exhibitions to attend. The dreaded vox-pop is a distant memory. I’m a SAHM attempting to get a novel published. My life at the moment is pretty good. And I can say that without feeling too hateful because I know in a few weeks it’s all going to be turned to shit upside down once again.

B 1

August 2013. My first (and only) baby shower, featuring innocence, gravity and Ewan the Dream Sheep, a popular sleep aid for babies.

Maybe that’s the thing about third pregnancies… There’s no innocence anymore. When I had my second daughter it had been almost four years since my first, which makes a huge difference. I had, for the most part, forgotten the tearing agony of full-on labour. I’d forgotten the darkness of the early nights when the baby is feeding for the millionth hour and has just pooed AGAIN which means in a moment you will have to haul your broken, torn-up body out of bed and change her, waking her up in the process and ensuring at least another half an hour of feeding to re-settle her back to sleep for a paltry 45 minutes before the next cycle begins. When you look at the small mountain of used nappies stacked beside the lovely, grown-up designer handbag you won’t be using again for at least a year and wonder why the hell you have done this to yourself again…

B2

March 2019. I’m not angry, Ewan. I’m just disappointed.

And it’s not just the third-time-round parent-to-be who has well and truly lost that sparkling gleam of new-baby excitement. First time around we were surrounded by such intensely excited relatives that I was a little scared one of them might make off with the newborn from the post-natal ward. Nowadays I’ve come to quite enjoy the look of abject surprise when I answer the door/ remove my coat/ walk into a room. Even my own mum has told me, more than once, “Ooh, I just looked at you and thought you’d gotten really fat for a moment then!”

C 1

A lazy, idyllic Sunday with bun number 2 in the oven…

 

C 2

…and now. Personal space ain’t what it used to be…

But the biggest difference of all has to be the fact that I know this is probably the last time I will do this. So I am trying to make the most of it… Such as I can. Yes, the novelty of feeling the baby kicking has pretty much worn off at this point. Or at least been counter-balanced by the shitty indigestion, shooting round ligament pains, fanny daggers, occasional incontinence and all the other delightful symptoms one can expect to experience at least once or, in my case, repeatedly over the nine long months. Yes, as I heave my swollen, unrecognisable body out of bed to go and pee for the eighth time that hour, I do look forward to not being pregnant anymore. But I haven’t forgotten the darkness up ahead. I haven’t forgotten that life is about to get really hard for a while. That labour is really fucking painful. That newborns are bloody hard work. That around caring for one I’ve also still got to be up and ready in the mornings to pack a lunchbox, dress the toddler, take all of us to school/activities on time… as well as think about starting potty training one day soonish, losing the masses of winter/fuck-it-all-this-is-the-last-one baby weight I’ve piled on and temporarily pause all plans and processes for novel publication for at least the next six months.

D 1

Back when the baby thing was still a novelty and I had yet to perfect the ‘touch my bump and die’ glare…

So I will go to the toilet again. I will cuddle my daughters around my enormous, protruding belly for as long as I can. I will shift into a comfier position on the sofa in the evenings and enjoy not having to negotiate a cluster-feeding infant whilst also obsessing over the opportune moment to go to bed in order to wrack up the biggest possible number of sleeping minutes… I will smile beatifically at the eleventh person to ask me how I am feeling today, and agree that haven’t I gotten big, and yes, I’m sure I certainly will have my hands full with three of them… But perhaps the strangest thing of all is that despite all the cynicism and impending doom, I am still excited. Definitely not the same way I was five-and-a-half years ago. Or even 20 months ago. But I am still looking ahead, past the labouring and the nights-of-nappies-darkness and the early weeks of trying to adapt to a probably quite horrible ‘new normal’… I’m looking forward to the other bits. The tiny, greyish-purple, brand new body passing into my hands. The relief that I never have to endure another second of childbirth. Sleepy, snuffly snuggles into my neck. Sisters becoming sisters again. And him; our boy. And all the complete wonderfulness he will bring us.

 

 

 


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. Partner’s idea. I’d suggested one of Baby 1’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.

 


%d bloggers like this: