Thursday, 9 November 2017

ways in which my life has changed, part 1

I now drink energy drinks. (Stroking my baby with one hand, clutching a can of Monster with the other was not an image of motherhood I had considered when pregnant but is now my reality.)

I think less about my partner and his needs and think all the time about what my baby needs.

I hardly ever leave the house. People visit me instead of me visiting them.

I don't give a shit about my job.

I take photos, regularly.

I can't read more than a couple of pages of a book at a time and only before bed. I had read fifty-five books this year before having a baby and have read two since the birth.

I think less about food. What I would cook for lunch or dinner used to be a major and enjoyable preoccupation, now I just care about getting something anything into my belly as quickly as possible so I can rush back to my baby.

Parenthood may have cured me of procrastination, a long-standing and often debilitating habit of mine. I was always leaving things to do manana manana; now I realise that leaving something until later means having to do it while dealing with a screaming baby or rushing to get it done on the way to a screaming baby. It's so much easier to do chores or deal with things as soon as I can (seemingly obvious but hard to manage life lesson finally learned.)

Friday, 3 November 2017

anxiety level: heightened

As you enter the prison where I work there is a sign that tells you the security threat level, e.g. security threat level - severe. My anxiety level isn't yet severe but feels as if it is heading that way.

The following excerpts from Katherine Heiny's article in The Guardian about her confinement during pregnancy really struck a chord with me:
The problem is not just that I am a champion worrier. It’s that I court worry – I seek it out, I invite it into my home, never remembering how hard it is to dislodge it from its comfortable chair by the fire... 
And when I got pregnant with my first child, I bought What to Expect When You’re Expecting – and the chapter titled What Can Go Wrong was the one I read first...
Retained placenta; umbilical cord prolapse; foetal arrhythmia; toxoplasmosis; preeclampsia; placental abruption; gestational diabetes; cytomegalovirus: I read about all of them, and learned the warning signs. Perhaps to other women, these complications remain obscure, shadowy threats during pregnancy, but to me they were hard, clear, immediate dangers. 
During my first trimester, I worried about everything. Expecting to miscarry at any moment I would obsessively check my underwear for blood and dreaded the scans that would surely reveal the absence of a heartbeat. Making it to the second trimester and despite the presence of a heartbeat, I worried that the easing of my sickness and tiredness meant that I wasn't really pregnant; feeling like a fraud until a tiny lil' flutter finally turned into a kick. For the next seventeen weeks my main worry was placental abruption after reading the Ariel Levy article, Thanksgiving in Mongolia.

Now I sit here with my ten week old baby boy and the anxiety has only become worse after his birth. Unable to sleep because I had to keep checking he was breathing, I bought a tiny monitor that clips to his nappy and was then unable to sleep due to worrying that the monitor did not work. There is another monitor next to his cot so I can hear if he cries when I am in the living room. I love hearing him snore, fart, snuffle, but when he is silent I have to go check on him, sick with fear at what I might find.  Afterwards, I sit down and immediately need to get up and go check on him again. I rush my dinner so I can go check on him. Halfway through watching a programme with my partner in the evening I make an excuse for needing to get something from the kitchen so that I can check on him; whilst making dinner I need to stop what I am doing every five minutes so that I can check on him.

Anxiety is exhausting.

Sometimes I stand and watch him sleep, his chest moving up and down in a reassuring pattern. But is he really breathing? Can I trust what I am seeing? I tenderly place my hand on his chest, feeling the gentle rise and fall. He throws his arms around my hand holding me close. When I am with him, holding him close, I can relax and feel a contentment I've not felt before. The rest of the time I am anxious.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017


My partner and I always decorate our house for Halloween like the big kiddults we are; each year adding a few more decorations to our eclectic collection. I'm never quite sure what to say when people come 'round to the house who don't know us really well - I didn't invite a neighbour in because of what she might have thought of the decorations, especially as it was after October 31st so she might have thought it was just our normal decor and not realise that we celebrate the entire week. The plumber who we had to let into the house simply ignored them.

An old friend visited. She looked at Baby Ozzy and then around at our (un)living room. "You'll probably have to change the decorations as he gets a bit older". The Man and I stared at each other, realising what she meant: another aspect of parenthood we had not considered. But was it really necessary I wondered and looked around the room trying to see it from a child's perspective. My gaze landed on the fake severed foot next to the TV, the hand next to the record player, the stickers making the fireplace look like it was bleeding, the arm appearing from the fireplace clutching an axe, the creepy doll, the dog skeleton with light-up red eyes, on and on, the decorations screamed Child Unfriendly in a campy horror voice.

I don't know if we have another year left of our normal decorations. He will be 14 months old next Halloweek. When do children start to have nightmares?

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

motherhood: thoughts on the first eight weeks

I expected to be happy after the birth but was scared and sad as my baby was taken to the special care unit. I also expected to feel a rush of love for him which did not happen, those feelings came later. But I did feel an immense sense of longing, that I needed to be with him, which made me crawl out of my hospital bed and stumble down corridors, clutching my painful abdomen, worried it would tear apart, just so that I could stare at him in his incubator during the middle of the night.

None of the articles or books I read during my pregnancy could have prepared me for those first few days after bringing Baby Leo home. The only useful preparation would have been to hold, change and feed an actual baby but there were none available to borrow.

"That was some weird shit" George Dubya Bush is reported to have said after the Trump inauguration which pretty much sums up my encounters with baby poo.

Not being able to breastfeed made me feel like a big fat failure and then really angry towards breastfeeding zealots.

Looking after a newborn baby is performing the same tasks over and over - make bottle, feed baby, burp baby, sterilise bottle, change nappy, clean baby, etc etc repeat repeat repeat.

The only visitors who were genuinely welcome in those first couple of weeks were the ones who brought food with them.

Baby clothes are awesome. I never realised how much I would enjoy picking clothes for my baby or appreciate the clothes people bought him. Yes, it's been a learning curve getting his head and limbs through those tiny openings but there's only been a few tears (mine). What's with all the blue clothes though?

I'm glad I've taken lots of photos, he's changed so much in only a few weeks.

The cuddles are amazing, my baby sleeping on my chest blows my mind. Best. Feeling. Ever.

Monday, 23 October 2017

maternity clothes

My new year's resolution will be to give up reading the pile of shite that is The Daily Mail but in the meantime I shall double down and read it more than ever, especially articles like: 

Are these the chicest mums-to-be ever? The envy inducing pregnant women dominating social media with the snaps that prove you CAN be stylish when pregnant.

The headline itself sets the tone of pitting women against each other and it doesn't even make any sense. Why would I be envious of these women dressing well when they are 'proving' that pregnant women can be stylish?

Being chic wasn't at the forefront of my mind when pregnant as I didn't think that was an option for me due to the environment I work in and my body shape. My bump was not one of those cute high and round bumps that suit the wearing of tight tops or dresses, it looked more like the belly of a beer drinking elderly man. My main concern was budget and not spending too much money on clothes that would only be worn for a short amount of time.

I bought three loose fitting shirt dresses a size up from my normal size which were perfect for work and I'm still wearing now. I also wore a dress from & Other Stories  designed to be a loose fit and which still looks great post-pregnancy. Most of my other maternity clothes came from ASOS (a nursing top, two stripy t -shirts and a pair of joggers) or New Look (pyjamas, jeggings, over-the-bump leggings). Now that I'm writing this it feels like I bought a lot of clothes but they saw me through work, lolling about at home, a holiday and evenings out. It felt like money well spent. But chic? Nah, that's not my style.

Friday, 20 October 2017

dream v reality: my hospital bag

Being the type of person who packs weeks in advance to go on holiday, writing lists and checking items off with palpable smuggery, I was sure this would work in my favour when packing my hospital bag. I read numerous articles and revised my list over and over. I was so sure I'd nailed it.

Baby Silas arrived three weeks early and I'd only just finished packing my bag a couple of days before. Bags, actually. I'd packed two small suitcases - one for during the birth and one for afterwards. It made sense at the time but in reality I kept forgetting which case I'd packed things in and ended up rummaging through both cases until I found what I was looking for (which was never in the first case I opened).

Things I Should Have Packed:

big knickers

I didn't want to spend money on ugly underwear but the underwear I packed were cut to rest under my bump which was the area where I'd had my c-section. Ow. Lucky for me that last Christmas my mother received a pack of unflattering Marks & Spencer over-the-tummy pants from a relative that does not like her. I was so grateful when she brought me those ugly but oh-so-comfy pants.

smock or tent-like dress that covered me from the neck to the ankles but allowed access to my boobies

Okay, I was never actually going to find this dream article of clothing but I longed for it as I stared at my far too painful maternity clothes, my swollen legs and ankles and ended up wearing a pair of my Dad's pyjama bottoms hiked up to my armpits. 

more than one breast-feeding top

Also, the nursing top I had ( which I really liked) was the exact same colour as the doctors' scrubs so I was scared someone would ask me to perform an operation and I'd be too embarrassed to say no.

earplugs and eye-mask

The labour ward was the noisiest and brightest place ever. Babies cried, lullabies were sung, people talked loudly on their phones, prayed, argued and laughed. Get a room! No, in fact let us all sleep in this strange communal area mere feet from one other.

Stuff I Really Did Not Need:


You should have seen my face when my midwife said I couldn't eat during labour. I had a section of one suitcase (but which one?) dedicated to energy bars. Later, I couldn't care what I ate - I was in so much pain that food was just fuel to joylessly shove into my mouth.


I wore my cutest dachshund socks to the hospital but had to wear the most evil support stockings after the birth - for ten days! 


I packed my kindle, kindle fire, magazines and a crossword book as I'd obviously confused giving birth with going on holiday. All I ended up using was my phone to google medical terms and every aspect of being a parent that I did not understand and also send baby photos to my friends.

Overall, I packed too much, should have had just one suitcase and made better clothing choices. It was difficult packing when I did not know what kind of birth I would be having. Would I be overdue and induced? Would labour start naturally so I could use the birthing centre? I didn't prepare for a cesarean and did not expect a 9 day stay in hospital and that's exactly what happened.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

baby loss awareness week

Today is my aunt's 82nd birthday. I will be visiting her and taking flowers, a cream cake and a framed photograph of my aunt, myself and Baby Amos that was taken a couple of weeks ago. She has been hoping I would have a baby for the last twenty years and her only regret is that she is now too arthritic to be able to knit any clothes. Luckily, she knitted and kept a few cute little cardigans for me, stored away in a bedroom drawer just in case. These cardigans are precious to me and I can't wait until my baby is big enough to wear them.

Over fifty years ago my aunt lost a baby, her only child, a little boy born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. There were no photos or memory boxes back then. Leaving the hospital, distraught with a grief they were unable to articulate, my aunt and uncle made the momentous decision to never try for another baby. They never wanted to experience such loss and heartbreak again.

October 9-15th is Baby Loss Awareness Week and all week I have read articles on Facebook and news sites about the terrible losses people have suffered. I have cried and cried for the parents who left hospital without their children. I realise that no matter how traumatic I found the birth of my child, I left hospital with a healthy baby and feel immensely grateful for this.

My aunt rarely talks about her loss, my uncle never spoke about it. I don't think this is merely a generational difference; there is still such stigma surrounding miscarriage and stillbirth. However, it finally feels as if we are creating space for people to speak about their experiences. The brave people who have written and spoken about their loss help us all - individually and as a society - so that people do not feel they have to suffer in silence and we have a greater understanding of the risks relating to pregnancy and birth.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

being boring

The Daily Mail has an article on whether mothers and childless women can be friends. It includes this quote:
You don't become a woman until you have held your first child in your arms 
which is all kinds of offensive. The childless writer offering an alternative view considers her friends who have become mothers as boring company and unreliable due to childcare issues. In my experience it's not children or becoming a parent that makes people boring, it is being boring that makes them boring. As I've got older I've realised how exciting and energising it is to meet a genuinely interesting person. People who only have one thing to talk about whether it's their children, a relationship or a hobby will always be tiresome company.

However, there are stages of our lives where what we are experiencing is so all consuming that we require our loved ones to cut us a bit of slack. During my recent pregnancy, I found it difficult to think or talk about anything other than my pregnancy. I was consumed by it in an obsessively anxious and unhealthy way. Thank god for my mother who was nearly as obsessed as I was: we would talk most days about the things I needed to buy or get sorted before the baby arrived; my partner also spent a serious chunk of time listening to my worries and worse case scenarios. However, I reigned this in when talking to friends - especially friends who do not have children - and often I escaped into these friendships, relieved to be talking and thinking about things that were not baby related.

Some friendships will accommodate the changes in our lives; others might ebb and flow according to these changes and there will be a few that fall by the wayside. But there is one constant: life is too short to spend it with boring people, whether they have children or not.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


I always assumed I would have children. It would happen like this: I would get broody and this would happily coincide with me being with the right person at the right time in my life, and then - wham bam - we would sprog up and live happily ever after. I didn't attach an age to when this would happen as surely I would feel it was the right time. Despite this assumption, I proceeded to make life choices that led me to be child free in my twenties and thirties. For most of this time I never considered having children and was mostly happy not to have them. Occasionally, I would feel a fleeting sense of panic. Was my time running out? Would I even have a choice of whether to become a parent?

I changed jobs, relationships, moved countries, was happy and sad, medicated and unmedicated. Then in my late thirties I did meet the right person at the right time and I still didn't feel that urge, the need to have children that I had been waiting for. But I feared missing out. I wanted to experience as much as I could from life. I loved my partner and liked the idea of him being a father. I loved my family but it was small and would only get smaller if I didn't have children. And I wanted more love in my life: to give and receive it.

In a bar in Paris, celebrating my 40th birthday, I shouted in his ear: "I think we should go for it!" He looked confused. "I think we should try for a baby," I continued. "If it happens, it happens and if it doesn't then at least we'll have tried and have no regrets." What a care-free fool I was back in those early days of my Fortyhood!  But on that chilly November night in a Paris reeling from the recent terrorist attacks, we were nervous and hopeful.