The Bounce Back Myth

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Credit Little Kin Photography

Two things happened this week that made me re-evaluate my new normal. The first was an article I read on goop (DO NOT JUDGE ME) about post-natal depletion. Which if you think sounds like some kind of horrible hormonal hangover you’d be almost right.

The second was a swimsuit I bought. But more on that later.

Back to post natal depletion-  a perfect shit storm of exhaustion; lack of societal, emotional, and physical support; poor nutrition, and limited self care.  Dr. Oscar Serrallach describes it as follows:

There is often a feeling of isolation, vulnerability, and of not feeling “good enough.” It is experienced by many mothers, and is an understandable and at times predictable outcome associated with the extremely demanding task of being a mother from the perspective of both childbearing and child raising.

 And here’s the kicker – it can be evident for up to TEN YEARS after the birth (or births) of your children.

If you’ve had a child within the last decade, you might still be suffering some consequences—lethargy, memory disturbances, and poor energy levels, among other symptoms’

TEN YEARS.

Yet we’re sold this idea that with the right control underwear and touche eclat we can be ‘back to normal’ after just a few short months.

This message is everywhere. Its sold to us in the paltry paid maternity allowance many companies offer (disclaimer: I am one of the lucky few who was able to take a year, and I love my job, but I am often the exception and not the rule), the pressure to ‘get our bodies back’ evident in every glossy mag and instagram feed, and we are then expected to bolt on the additional, and epic responsibility of motherhood, without disrupting the work/life balance.

Its fed to us through parenting guides that convince us that we’re doing a terrible job – our babies somehow ‘misbehaving’ if they’re not falling in line and sleeping through by 8 weeks. If we’re breastfeeding we’re expected to wean our babies quickly and with little fuss. We bounce back to our pre-baby selves, no visible evidence of motherhood. By all means please have your baby, disappear for as short a time as possible and come back looking rested and restored. See? Procreation is easy ! You don’t need additional support from your government, employer, partner, community. Do you? No? Good.

To really hammer it home we’re sucked into another lie – the Super Mum (or The Woman Who Has it All plus a Sprog).  A construct that I think is more damaging than empowering. And yes women are marvellous. Being fantastic multitaskers, and doing it all on 3 hours sleep with one hand, makes us pretty Super sure,  but this does not mean we don’t want or need help. We need that village. Branding us as ‘Super’ implies we don’t need assistance, that it’s innate in our abilities as women (another problematic notion) and that we should be taking on more than the average person. We can take it. Well turns out, a good percentage of us are feeling the strain. DEPLETED even

Society’s view goes as far to suggest that the negative physical and emotional impact of bearing and birthing babies should not be seen, and definitely not heard. A factor hugely evident in the prevalence of post natal depression, there is a veil of silence around how hard parenting can be, whether its the hazy early days or negotiating with a tiny dictator overthrowing your household.

While the rise of the insta-mums is definitely counteracting this (Hurrah for Gin, Too Much Mothering Information, Don’t Buy Her Flowers, Not So Smug Now amongst my favourites) – social media is a double edged sword, and while it can be vital in connecting us, the temptation to compare and despair is all too easy to succumb to. Venture with caution, the feed is not reality and normal for you is chaos for someone else

So with all this rage swirling in my postnatally depleted brain, I went swimsuit shopping. Obviously.

I am now the proud owner of a full piece with a tummy control panel. FML

I had a small and pretty pathetic cry and then pulled myself together. Why had I been sucked into the crazy competitive bounce back faster, thinner, smarter bullshit? I don’t need to bounce back. Back to what? I am not the person I was this time last year, frankly I am not the person I was last month. Having a small person means I am on one of the steepest learning curves imaginable and I’ve assimilated more information in the past 28 days (albeit specifically about one small human) than I have over years.

There is no bouncing back. There is no going back at all. This is the new normal. It features tummy control panels, and extra sets of clothes in every bag, sticky orange puree stains (always orange), over caffeinated anxiety wobbles, ruthless efficiency and a new rock solid confidence to bolt onto the old. If I was feisty before now I am fierce.

As for back to normal? I am making peace with with a new brand of normal. Finding my own shade of it and guarding it ferociously. Many many people will tell me I’m getting it wrong along the way I’m sure, but if the past year has taught me anything its that none of us have a clue what we are doing at the best of times, and the best we can do is guess, have a go and cross our fingers. In our own time, and our own pace.

And with all the structured underwear we can get our hands on.

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Credit Little Kin Photography

 

Longer Out Than In

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I am still putting cutlery in the fridge. Or rather it was cheese in the sink today. I have realised that just as I think the fog has lifted, a different kind of fog descends. Thicker, trickier, more foggy fog or something equally dense. Maybe treacle. Or mud. Stuff that makes your brain slow and your bones feel tired. That stuff.

Samson is now nearly 9 months old, 40 weeks to be precise, the magical number that marks him ‘longer out than in’. His personality is beginning to shine through. He laughs at the dog snoring and the word ‘no’. He deliberately, and with great tenacity, pursues the very thing he knows is out of bounds, he loves cuddles and bath time, he thinks coughs are terrifying and he hates the hair dryer. His favourite book is Buster’s Farm and he claps whenever he sees an animal whether at the park or on telly. He is obsessed with my teeth (odd ball kid) and his Dad’s glasses. And a million other moments day to day that point to this unique little person figuring out how to be a human. Brilliant, spectacular, exhausting moments

And while he is thriving, I am still forgetting the words for particular items of clothing (I forgot ‘jacket’ the other day) and not managing a few basic self care particulars. Like dinner. I had chocolate biscuits last night, which was forgivable in the early days where I couldn’t tell the difference between night and day. Now it just feels slack. Or lazy. Or just crap at time management which I am usually very good at.

Turns out that skill hasn’t left me, I’ve just been channelling all of it into The Boy’s timetable, needs and day to day care. So while his routine is rock solid, mine has slipped irrevocably. And perhaps while he’s learning the words for things, I forget them. While he eats a nutrional meal (ish… or the dog does) 3 times a day, its a gamble as to whether I’ll just eat the leftovers of his lunch or then just have toast for dinner. Maybe that’s just the trade off for now? Not too problematic seeing as the only really big decisions I need to make day to day are whether I need to puree more pears or stock up on Ella’s Kitchen pouches. But these hazy maternity days are numbered, and the count down to work begins

I’ll state for the record that I am really looking forward to getting back to work. I am lucky that I genuinely love what I do, the industry I work in and the people I work with. I have worked in publishing for nearly 10 years and if anything I feel more passionate it about it now that I have a child. So no, I am not mourning the end of maternity leave looming ahead of me. I’m getting excited about getting stuck back into my career.

I am also excited about having hot cups of tea, adult conversation that last for more than 2 minutes at a time, and to hopefully, defogging (a word?) my brain. I am looking forward to lunch breaks that don’t involve two spoons (one for distraction purposes) and wearing clothes that are most definitely not breast-feeding friendly (I have tonnes. I have not worn them for over a year).

In a nutshell, I am looking forward to having to make myself a priority again, because the hard truth is that I really have not managed that this year at all. Time and energy is limited, and when averaging 3 hours’ sleep a night there’s only so much to go around.

I haven’t been great at carving time out for myself. Our situation means we don’t have heaps of support directly available to help on the day to day – and that’s not a whinge or a moan, it just is what it is and we are well aware that many many families cope on a hell of a lot less. But it does mean that afternoons ‘off’ involve catching up on life admin and general daily trivia that needs sorting. Or lying still in a dark room looking at twitter and catching up on ‘news’ because its makes me feel connected.  And that is rather than going for that run, or that massage etc. Not the healthiest choice I know. But when you’re so tired you can feel it in the back of your eyeballs, sometimes only twitter will do.

I have another 10 weeks or so left of my leave. A good chunk of that will be in South Africa where we will be visiting family, and I am looking forward to having a plethora of grandparents and family who will be more than happy to lend a helping hand and I am already researching spa retreats, brunch spots by the sea and mountain view dinners.  I’m cashing in all those self care chips that I have not spent all year in a bid to greet 2017 feeling refreshed rather than frazzled

And hopefully not putting bin bags in the oven

 

 

 

The September Issue

 

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August is done, after a riot of road trips, picnics and suncream (on everything) so are we. We cannot complain about the weather. I have developed an enviable pram tan that is better than any colour that I caught in Spain. Albeit, just on my arms, face and feet, if I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt I look like I’ve been lazing around in Menorca for weeks. My pale legs and midriff would give me awat. While I will miss the bright mornings, and weaning alfresco, I am looking forward to the evenings drawing in (we can get rid of the blackout blinds!), cosy jumpers and enjoying the autumnal sunshine without fretting about sunburn, over heating and dehydration.

I have spent this summer treading the tarmac between Willesden, Queen’s Park and West Hampstead daily, in search of shade as quickly as possible. We’ve visited Kew, the Heath, chased a few deer in Richmond, braved the wilds of Shoreditch and even ventured out of London down to the actual beach in Cornwall.

But while we were outdoors, the term ‘lazy summer’ does not apply to those with small children. Things get sticky

A day outdoors involves sticky weaning spoons, and wet wipes, suncream and wet wipes, sticky bra straps from sticky fingers (and not in a fun way), half finished Ella’s pouches leaking in sticky lunch boxes and sticky pram straps. Plus, I insist of eating all the cake and glugging all the coffee, as I’m fighting sleep deprivation, so the general mood is highly strung and skittish at best.

Thankfully, I am not alone. I’ve met some truly amazing women while going through entire packs of wet wipes, bonding over nap strategies, and coping on 3 hours sleep a night. There are whatsapp groups that have saved my sanity at 2am and kept me calm when teething/ family politics/ unknown rashes appear out of nowhere.

There are gangs of us bouncing from coffee shop to park to train, wrangling an over tired baby in an unwieldy buggy, while sporting a ‘Lip Smackin’ Spag Bol!’ stain on their Mother t-shirt and smelling of Ambre Solaire factor 50. Or dangling toys in front of car seats while singing ‘Say Hello to the Sun’ in the style of Eddie Vedder, Anthony Kiedis and/or Kurt Cobain to stave off the next epic meltdown (baby) and spectacular boredom while the long suffering husband drives to the coast being very kind about the terrible singing voice (ok that may just be me).

This next season sees a few of my friends going back to work, babies starting nursery and we start planning our epic 6 week trip to South Africa. That back to school feeling hit with a vengence when I was packing Sam’s clothes that are now way to small (sob). New chapters, new beginnings, and please please please new sleeping patterns

And for me? BROGUES. And my favourite coat that I haven’t worn since pre-pregnancy. Roll on September. Thank god you don’t require suncream

 

Future Proof

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Summer solstice came and went in a blur of thunderstorms both electric and political, the heavens roared as the votes were counted and the UK declared itself OUT of the EU. General chaos ensues. BUT THIS IS NOT A POST ABOUT BREXIT (too soon, I’m still incandescent with rage and I cannot face another blog piece on it, and I’m sure neither can you)

In a week where we are all looking to the future with trepidation, on a much smaller scale it struck me that I’m now half way through my maternity leave, which has gone by in a blur of coffee, baby wipes, instagram posts and baby yoga classes. Lack of sleep definitely makes this all seem catastrophic, and with Samson having just hit the 5 month milestone  I’m desperately trying to catch up with myself. Where has the time gone?  What have I been doing all day? Why haven’t I rallied a revolution together for more tube access for push chairs, or launched a maternity clothing line?

I had unreal expectations of what I could achieve on mat leave. ‘I need a project’ I remember saying to a colleague and friend. ‘I can’t be sitting at home all day with the baby and singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Effing Star, I need something to keep my brain working’. I had done my homework,  I had grand plans to relaunch the blog, write more, learn to cook properly (I am AWFUL) and to revolutionise fitness wear for pregnant women (borne out of my frustration that nothing fit, and if it did it was extortionately expensive and DULL). Oh and yes, parent my baby. That too.

None of this has came to fruition (inbetween googling rashes and washing muslins I learned this, yes this, was in fact parenting). Instead, over the past 22 weeks I have learned to do a million things I had no idea I needed to know. From mastering every conceivable task for which you require two hands, with just THE ONE, (while the other cleans, holds, googles, feeds, catches) to negotiating public transport with my child in full meltdown mode (with THE ONE HAND) on an average of 3 hours sleep. And I still have another few million things to figure out. Like introducing solids. And figuring out how to turn my brain on again ahead of my return to work in January next year.

I’ve been spending most of my time careening from day to day in a blur of bibs and sudocream, without so much as a thought for what the grown ups were doing (erm,  sending the country up shit creek… clearly we’re all winging it).

With all the uncertainty around the UK’s future in the global arena, its hard not to start dusting off the old Plan B’s that we had filed away for a rainy day. I’m a keen planner and organiser, probably annoyingly so, it will come as no surprise to many that I have a fair few tucked away (with excel scenarios and pie-charts). I like to have my ducks in a row. This also translates into being  worrier, the rationale being if I’ve thought about the worst case scenario, then I can plan for it. This way madness lies if you are a new parent. I was almost  paralysed with anxiety as a result, and would not welcome my worst enemy into my head on days when I was running the catastrophe films on a loop in my head.

In order to actually set foot outside my house I had to let go of some of that control (or illusion of control), and so paradoxically having a baby has chilled me out just a tad. I cannot predict explosive nappies, major meltdowns or when teething will strike.Excel cannot pivot the nap schedule, I tried a few tracking apps and ended up throwing them from the proverbial window. Nothing screams madness like trying to find patterns in the beautiful unpredictability of a baby. There is no algorithm that would make it easier. Instead it’s inherited wisdom from other parents, coffee and a collection of perfect moments in the chaos that make it all tick forward.

Having a child has forced me to go with the flow, but prepare for any eventuality.

And that’s not a bad lesson to take into all areas of my new life stage. I heard a saying years ago, which resonated even with hardened atheist in me ‘Trust in God, but tether your horse’. No one is guaranteed safety, health or happiness, but equally chaos doesn’t consume us every day (other than post teething episodes, then all bets are off). Don’t think a plan will save you, but to not have one is equally foolish. Know where the exits are. Have that ‘Fuck Off Fund‘ already set up.

Or in my current life, Pack An Extra Nappy (and then check the Boy can get Irish citizenship, just in case)

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Have baby, will run (for brunch)

One invaluable lesson I have learned over the past decade or so masquerading as an adult, is that you cannot do this life shit on your own. Finding your tribe is, at different stages of your life, is imperative to staying sane. This goes for moving countries, learning a new skill, or entering motherhood. There are many many ways to skin a cat, and many many people who probably do it just the way you’d like to and can show you how.

There have been a few pivotal periods in my life where this has come to bear, the first when I quit drinking (finding mates that are awake on a Sunday morning is a good place to start), the second when I took up running and found the inimitable Run Dem Crew and the third when I became a Mother. Thankfully there were a few awesome people in both sets of previous tribes that by the time mamadom hit, I had a pretty great collection of babes and their bubs to add to my village.

But as with all good things, you have to keep at it, your priorities and abilities change, you may find yourself in a different place, your kids get bigger, your circumstances change (for better, for worse) and as such the tribe needs to evolve to include more people, maybe a few drop by the wayside, some grow with you some grow out of you (and you them).

I find myself at one of these crossroads, with a three month old son, creaking hips and a desperate need to let off steam. As mentioned, any hitting of any bottles (even tiny ones) is a no-go, there’s only so much Netflix any one mushy brain can take, and the lethal combination of caffeine and sugar, while it got me through the first foggy months, is a sure fire cocktail to whip up my anxiety levels, screw with my sleep and my waistline. So I need something else, and Baby Yoga ain’t going to cut it.

My go-to quick fix for the past 5 years or so has been a run. A quick one, a long one, a run with mates, the solo run, the ‘I’m just taking the dog around the park’ run, the training in the rain run, the run that has random obstacles in it, the ‘why-the-fuck-am-I-doing-this’ run and the ‘thank god I went for a run’ run.

I am no speedster, my race times are not enviable, but that was never the point. I run to keep sane. I have met some of the best people through running, it’s opened doors in other areas of my life creatively – I started writing again,  took up photography – it’s taken me travelling to run in mad cities with mad people, got me fit, made me brave, and ultimately saved my ass on more occasions that I can count. It’s the thing I do on a Sunday morning when I would have been nursing a hangover in bed. It’s built my confidence and shown me the heroic in others. Putting on a pair of running shoes for me was as transformative as alchemy.

But my pregnancy and running didn’t really get on, with the aforementioned creaking hips, and a core that is still recovering from accommodating a baby, I have not run more than 3 miles in the best part of a year.

I’m basically back to being a newbie. No fitness to speak of, and a deep seated fear that I won’t bounce back, given walking a mile has me wishing I was being pushed in the pram.

Now I know that’s unfounded. I will bounce back. In what form is still yet to be seen. But in the spirit of reaching out, if I have any hope of reclaiming my nikes, and my beating my 10K PB, I’ll need help. I’ll need a new tribe. Or a patchwork venn diagram of the tribes that have gone before. Mates that run and happen to have kids. Or freelance mates who don’t run but would like to give it a bash and don’t mind a few babies tagging along

So I have downloaded my trusty Couch to 5K app from days of yore, dug out the lycra and I’ll be hitting the parks of London, building up the all important base line, with pram and changing bag to boot.

Here’s the ask, I’d love company, its motivating and makes schlepping a sleep deprived body and niggly baby around all that much easier to manage.  If you’re new to running, haven’t run for ages and you’re free on a week day morning, or just fancy a (slow) jaunt around some of the best parks in the world, drop me a line here. I don’t bite, I won’t (can’t!) run fast so please don’t be intimidated and it should be a great way of getting out and about, blowing off the cobwebs and seeing more of the brilliant city. Hopefully getting the babies to sleep too.

And nothing beats a banging brunch post run. I need brunch back in my life

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Weeks In

I have begun to string full sentences together again as we approach the end of the fourth trimester. But, last week I forgot the word for ‘sausage’ an interesting item to articulate, so we’re not out of the woods yet. And as I’ve taken to documenting his every waking moment with my camera, I thought it was about time I got some of it down in writing too.  I want to get as much down before it recedes back into the fog which descends frequently and makes me put cutlery in the fridge, forget words for processed meat and, on more than one occasion, my name.

The last 10 weeks have been, without a doubt, the steepest learning curve of my life and we’re still only in the foot hills. Nothing prepares you for caring for a tiny human. Nine months is about enough time to get used to the fact you need someone to help you put on your tights and that you really (really really) should be doing your pelvic floor exercises. And to get your head around what you need to pack in your hospital bag.

Our son entered the world in late January at 9:53am in the birthing pool as per my birth plan, so immediately I thought I had this mothering thing licked. You just write a plan and follow it. Simples.

We were discharged 12 hours later, our son feeding like a champ, with gold stars from the midwives. Clever Us. Just like that we were sent home to be a family. We spent the first few days awe struck by the impossibly beautiful baby we’ve made. Everything is amazing and shiny and new. Thank you Oxytocin.

Three days later the pain killers were running low, and the fact none of us had slept since Saturday was beginning to show.  Blisters from a particularly poor latch meant hourly excruciating pain even when the latch was corrected by week two. Hormones were not my friend and I wept pretty much every day over everything and nothing and what had started in a golden haze of gas and air and adrenalin slowly gave way to relentless reality.

I realised with shattering clarity that this tiny person, while 100% totally reliant on me, was also kicking my ass. But as my team of amazingly supportive friends remind me daily – that was fine, I’m supposed to have my ass kicked. I am reminded constantly that I am not the boss anymore, there is a teeny dictator hollering the shots and resistance is futile. But through the fog of early parenthood there have been a few realisations which are helping even out the odds.

Make Peace with your Crazy

Sleep deprivation makes everything awful. Unbelievably and irrevocably shitty.  Combine that with postnatal hormone comedown and you have a heady cocktail of emotional instability ready to be unleashed on your nearest and dearest. On any given Tuesday I am an irrational crazy person, sobbing into my third bowl of Cheerios while watching endless ads for Sun Life Insurance and reruns of Cold Case.

It’s all good. Cheeios have 15% of my iron RDA and I’m now pretty much qualified to be a detective in LA.

I remind my other half of the Crazy after I have sent him hideous passive aggressive text messages about how much sleep he is getting vs me (I have a tally in my head) and when I lose my shit over the vacuuming. I am just crazy. It’s not forever.

The crazy has really come into its own now our boy is responding to us. Stupid faces, horrendous noises, made up songs, ridiculous nonsense conversations. He LOVES all of it. Crazier the better. Currently he loves hearing me say Mushroom Ragu. Over and over. Who knew?

Embrace the Joy

There have been moments of unadulterated, sheer bolt from the blue, joy.  The really good stuff that makes your heart expand into unchartered territory. Seeing him smile for the first time, I knew there and then that I would do anything to see that smile, and it never gets old. Listening to my husband make up lullabies for him, watching our friends hold him, and seeing each other in his changing features – it’s wonderful, and terrifying and brilliant.

Our son experiences happiness with every fibre of his being. When his Dad walks into the room his whole body starts jiggling about with glee, when he laughs he curls his toes, and waves his arms about as if to literally wind himself up to take off with the sheer brilliance of being here. The same is true when he’s furious. So there’s that.

I am constantly shocked by his very existence. It astounds me that he’s even here, and grabbing my hair and cooing at the dog. This tiny human that was only a few months ago, tucked away inside me, kicking my ribs and giving me reflux. It makes my head spin. And when I’m sobbing into my Cheerios its these moments that make it easier

Become the Early Bird

Pre baby I was not a morning person. Earliest I’d emerge from under the duvet on the weekends was about 11am, only ever seeing 6am if racing or catching a flight. This has obviously changed dramatically. Babies don’t do lie-ins.

Our little guy is beside himself happy when he wakes up. Even if I have had 45 minutes of sleep in a 36 hour period, seeing him light up when he sees me in the morning is magic. Perhaps the novelty will wear off (and I bet you anything now that I have said it out loud I’m probably tempting the sleep gods) but for now, its brought me a new found pleasure in getting up while the world still feels new.

It also means he’s happy to chat to his toys a little longer than usual while I shower/ order shite off Etsy/ stalk mum-crushes on Instagram

Take Nothing for Granted

What once was easy is now hard and, thankfully, the reverse is now true too

Feeding came easily the first 4 weeks and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Having seen many friends really battle with breast feeding I was very anxious about how we’d get on, so when it seemed to be going ok I started to relax with it. But then out of nowhere, the champion feeder started screaming every time he fed, coughing, spluttering and generally having a terrible time.

A hungry, cross baby is hugely stressful and very, very loud. After many tears and tantrums (both of us) it turns out I have a fast let down reflex (imagine trying to drink from a hosepipe turned on at full strength – thank you Kelly Mom) and there’s not a huge amount you can do to change it, other than both learn to manage it.

We’re figuring it out. And the plus side is he’s finally sleeping for more than 2 hours. So the cutlery has found its way back to the drawer, and I’m remembering my name more often than not.

For now.

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10 Lunar Months

So here I am. Week 39 of pregnancy. Probably my last post pre-motherhood, and possibly the only one I’ll write on my pregnancy, so it’s a long one!

I’ve avoided writing about my pregnancy for a number of reasons. The main was privacy and I wanted to get my head around how I was feeling about it before sharing that with the world. And now, coming to the end of my journey, I know there are so many blogs on pregnancy, and everyone who is or has a mother has an opinion, and adding to the cacophony of noise seemed redundant.

But there’s the paradox, for all the noise there does still seem to be an unwritten, or at least unofficial veil of silence, before you enter into the hallowed halls of motherhood.

Since embarking on this mad 40 week joy ride, I have encountered a plethora of fantastic blogs, written by women who tell it like it is. But these people were just not on my radar at all pre-project procreation. Its like a treasure trove you discover after the fact. Why?

I have quizzed a few friends on this, why the silence pre-pregnancy? Most said that women experience pregnancy and birth very differently from each other, and you don’t want to skew expectations. You risk giving the ‘wrong’ advice.

I get it. Some love being pregnant, others hated it. My small sample of 10+ includes, surprise pregnancies, IVF conceptions, duplicate pregnancies, home births (some unplanned!), severe pregnancy complications, miscarriages and more. So yes, its very hard to give advice or have a clear narrative about this life stage/ choice prior to the person getting that cross-hairs positive plus.

And then, my God, the chatter doesn’t stop.

Of course, it starts with Google. This is always a mistake. But when you’re newly pregnant its often the only resource you have seeing as you’re actively encouraged to keep schtum about your news. Yes actively. Email subjects from every baby site you have signed up to in a bid to cross check your symptoms against all the other paranoid, hormonal women online, have subject lines like ‘Shhhh, not yet! Only a few more weeks until you can share your precious little secret!‘ (and no, I’m not hamming up the patronising tone).

I felt like a bloated, irritable, hungover grotbag, and could take NO DRUGS. Lucky me! All the books, emails, and websites are draped in soft pastel shades, littered with twee ancedotes and cutesy pseudo-psych mantras. If you are none of these things you feel like you’ve wandered into a nightmare, curated by Cath Kidston on a really really bad trip.

And you are lucky. You know you are. You just don’t want to be bombarded with the wisdom of pastel blue owls.

So, how to navigate the chatter without falling foul of the Baby App Squad and their nauseating push notifications?

And herewith a massive disclaimer. This was my experience, and my first at that. I’ll probably revise this all if we go for round two.

Buckets of salt required for further reading

First Trimester

I found a few friends or family that I was comfortable confiding in, so if the worst happened, we’d have the support. I had the best advice from a GP friend who, while coaching me through a very bad bout of  proper flu where I was convinced I had  contracted TB, said this to me:

‘Look, your baby will not be affected by flu.  If the human foetus could not withstand viral infection we would not have survived as a species. But, if the pregnancy miscarries, repeat after me.. this is not my fault. Its not the flu. Its not the sushi you may have eaten, or the marathon you had started training for, or the box you lifted (or in my case the long haul trip to India I took). It happens, 1 out of 3 times,  it happens, and its usually as the embryo just isn’t viable. 99% of the time it’s NEVER the mother’s fault. So drink your lemon tea and go back to bed, that baby is going to zap your immune system for another week at least’.

Silence is isolating and, ultimately as exhilarating as it is to find out you’re pregnant (especially if it hasn’t happened overnight) its also fucking terrifying. Those first few weeks you probably feel like shit. It helps to speak to someone that isn’t your other half. Who, by the way, is also freaking out and in my case was having to deal with me slobbing around the house, falling asleep in my dinner and smelling vaguely of vomit and mints most of the time.

As tempting as it is, avoid avoid avoid the forums. People tend to post the very worst stories, and if you search hard enough you will confirm you worst fears. Not good for your sanity.

Honestly, I hated this bit. I felt bloated and exhausted – falling asleep on the tube most evenings and breathing carefully so as not to vom on fellow passengers. We took a trip to Hastings for our wedding anniversary and even now, 6 months later,  looking at the pics makes me feel nauseous. I spent most of the weekend shoving salt and vinegar crisps in my face and trying not to belch in R’s face. So romantic.

Second Trimester

The best bit by far. Our 12 wk scan was nerve racking and surreal. For me, it was the first outside confirmation besides my own biological cues that I really was pregnant. Sure, we had done the tests. and they take loads of blood, and I had all the symptoms. But there was a part of me that thought it could all be one huge mistake or coincidence. Maybe I just had really bad stomach flu. And the bloods got mixed up. But no, it’s real – because there he was. Looking like a tiny alien having a snooze. Madness.

Also, I got a bit of my life back. I could still just about fit back into my lycra (I had sworn off running as any movement faster than a crawl made me heave pre 12 wks) and glory be,  I could find some endorphins. I walked everywhere, went back to spin and took up a few ante-natal exercise classes. I could sleep, I had loads of energy and finally had a bump to show off rather than just looking as though I had eaten ALL OF THE PIES (which, to be fair, I had)

But the appearance of the bump also meant I became fair game. People will say stupid things. People who don’t even know you will feel they can comment on your size (too big, too small, too high, too low), how you look, and what you should and should not be doing with your body (are you sure spinning is a good idea? should you be lifting that pencil? oh I wouldn’t take the stairs if were you…). I ran for a bus and had an older woman shout at me, angrily pointing her umbrella at my stomach, which would have done more damage frankly!

Once I had posted something pregnancy related social media, I unwittingly opened the floodgates of unsolicited advice hell. People who I had not spoken to for 20+ years  began crawling out the woodwork, with their advice, thoughts and comments. Ranging from the stating-the-bleeding-obvious, i.e. ‘Your life is going to change! Say goodbye to sleep! Hope you’re ready to say adiós to your bikini forever!’

(I mean, WTF?)

To downright scaremongering,  i.e. ‘Birth the most hideous experience of your life, you’ve never seen so much blood, and then you never see your other half in the same light again’ or ‘Forget about travelling, that part of your life is pretty much done and done’

(I’m not kidding)

And yes. It’s well meaning at best. People want to help. Or be perceived as the bringers of wisdom and experience. But it’s patronising, infuriating and intrusive. I started clearing out my FB friends and put a few really bad offenders on limited profile.

Thankfully, I have a gang of women who have all been there done that who give me honest advice, when I ask for it. And very politely point out when I am being naive and may need to manage my expectations.

At worst, I felt as if my right to privacy had been stripped away. Like I was now a public piece of property that people felt they could touch (I nipped that in the bud), judge and objectify. It seemed everyone was suddenly allowed to have an opinion on me, my reproductive system and my plans on managing procreation. Many were surprised to learn that funnily enough, my uterus is my business. So back the fuck off.

Seek out like minded women. Learn to nod and smile. And pick your battles, but fight them hard

Third Trimester

One word  – eugh.

That first trimester tiredness boomeranged back and hit me smack in the face. Even the big tights start proving problematic, getting into them would leave me sweaty and out of breath. Sleep became a distant memory and I became incredibly grumpy as a result. We did all the classes (NCT and Hypnobirthing- would highly recommend both), read more books, wrote up birth plans, handed over work projects, saw all the movies. Final countdown stuff.

Here, I have to give major kudos to my husband, work colleagues and close friends who laughed at my rudeness and didn’t divorce me, report me to HR, or stop taking my calls. You are all bloody wonderful and I owe you.

Right now, my toes look like fat baby sausages, I can only wear XXL leggings and stretchy tops, and I have developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my hands thanks to the late pregnancy swelling (its a ‘thing’ in pregnancy, like having a constantly blocked nose) and I can manage about 20 mins on my feet before I have to take a 2 hour nap. Such a special time!

But, we are on the final stretch, and right back to feeling exhilarated and terrified. Hospital bag is packed, baby clothes are washed and ready, the house is organised (thank you maternity leave boredom!) and now we wait.

If anything I’m hugely excited. To experience birth, to get to know myself as a mother and my other half as a father.

But mostly to meet our son, to get to know him, and have the incredibly daunting privilege of teaching him how to be a human. Thankfully it takes a village and I have a pretty awesome one at that.

Woooosaaaa kids. It’s been fun. See you on the ‘mother’side