Being brave isn’t always as easy as it looks

Tomorrow, I am doing something that this time last year I never would have imagined doing.

I am submitting to two hours’ worth of dental surgery on ONE TOOTH. It’s also bloody expensive

.Dentistry

 

Seriously, I’ve had to save up to have the work done (a root canal re-done and then a crown on top of it. Joy.) It’ll be worth it though, if it means I stave off the threat of false teeth a while longer, which would cost more in the long-term anyway.

But, do you know what? When I told my doctor that I was submitting to this state sanctioned torture, she was really pleased. Because it means that after eighteen months of battling my own brain chemistry I am in a GOOD PLACE. My postnatal depression is under control and I can finally look at things rationally.

Plus, I’ve put up with this tooth and ensuing problems since having a dodgy dentist when I was pregnant. Another two hours after almost two years is nothing, right? So I’m not sure if I’m being brave as much as merely pragmatic. Either way, I’m bloody proud of myself to getting to this point and grateful for the help of the NHS, my family and friends for getting me here.

 

The inhabitant of a ‘post-baby body’ speaks

This last couple of weeks, I have been RAGING at the popular tabloid media. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the media. I studied it, I teach it, I even contribute to it from time to time. But seriously, Media, you have got to stop this obsession with a post-baby body.

When the Duchess of Cambridge came out of the hospital last Tuesday, the fragrant Kay Burley asked: “Why does she still have a bump?”

Kate Middleton Post-Baby Body

Image: The Hollywood Gossip

Um, because she spent nine months growing a baby? (I didn’t have a bump after D was born, incidentally because he was MASSIVE and my waters had broken earlier than my contractions had started, meaning I lost a load of fluid.)

On Wednesday, I saw that Marie Claire were tweeting triumphantly that Fearne Cotton was showing off her post-baby body that had ‘pinged’ back. Oh, how I loathe this phrase. Also, seriously considering a boycott of Marie Claire for promoting such vapid nonsense.

The thing is, it’s highly unlikely that 99% of mothers ‘ping’ back into shape. I know I haven’t. I did lose some weight after having D, but that’s because I live on a massive hill, walk everywhere and am in possession of a gigantic baby who weighs a ton. Of course I was going to lose weight. But once I went back to work and there was little chance of walking and more access to biscuits, I put some of that weight back on (I do, however, possess the most muscular upper arms this side of Jess Ennis.) It’s not rocket science. Those celebrities who ‘ping’ back into shape have money and access to a plastic surgeon, a personal trainer and/or oodles of time to bore themselves to death on a treadmill for the sake of a string bikini in the Maldives when their interestingly named child is two months old. I have neither the wherewithal, money or interest to go down this route. My flab is probably here for a while. Meh.

I thought Kate looked lovely as she left hospital; I couldn’t have managed to look so composed and be so charming 24 hours after giving birth, even with a personal hair stylist. I was torn between sobbing and pretending that I was compos mentis enough so that the nurse would give me codeine to take away the pain. Also, bravo to Kate to walking out of hospital with grace- I could barely hobble to the loo that was ten feet away from my bed.

Since having D, I am aware that my body has changed. I have loose skin, stretchmarks and during the pregnancy he caused havoc with my teeth. I suffered from postnatal depression. Do I regret any of it? Nope. I grew a human, which is pretty cool and that requires my body to change. I’m less hung up on how I look now, because I know there’s a reason for those changes (i.e. baby and chocolate.)

Thoughts?

Anxious Annie…

Image: abravelife.com

Image: abravelife.com

I have always had an anxious nature. I was a serious little girl and I always worried about things that were often beyond my control. As an adult, I’ve often suffered from anxiety in varying degrees and usually, I can bring myself out of it. Sometimes, though it’s hard.

At the moment, I am anxious about a few things and it’s utterly rubbish. I’m not quite sure what’s caused it, but I think that a mixture of hormones, ill health, lack of sleep and gloomy weather is probably to blame, as well as ongoing teeth issues (which is brilliant when I’m utterly terrified of the dentist!) The one thing I’m not worried about? The baby. He’s absolutely fine and doing incredibly well. Although I am worried about taking him for his jabs tomorrow.

So, why have I written this post? Is it a ‘woe is me’ type thing? Not at all. It’s my head and I get confused by how its brain chemistry works. I  have no real idea why I feel so worried about things that are pretty inevitable and/or beyond my control. I’ve rationalised everything and I know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m an intelligent human being, I know that this is just a few dodgy synapses. But it doesn’t lift the cloud entirely.

How am I dealing with it? Well, in the immediate future, a friend is coming with me to take the baby for his jabs. I have a dental appointment on Wednesday for a filling, where hopefully the dentist will tell me all will be well. The other stuff I’m stressing about is too far in advance for me to do anything about.

If you’re feeling the same, talk to someone. It’s not admitting weakness, it’s showing strength.

Normal blogging service will be resumed tomorrow!

 

How to: Make the perfect cup of green tea

Green tea is really good for you. It must be- it’s a trendy ingredient in makeup and skincare products and it’s always being lauded as a brilliant way of increasing general health. As someone who used to write a tea blog (and will start up blogging about tea once I can have caffeine regularly again!), I have drunk a lot of it. It got to the point, at one stage, that I could tell the difference on sight and taste between Japanese and Chinese green teas*.

The one thing I hear most, though, when discussing green tea is: “Oh, it tastes horrible!” or “It’s really bitter!” Green tea shouldn’t be bitter if it’s brewed properly. The main reasons your green tea is bitter are either:

  • You’re brewing at the wrong temperature
  • You’re leaving the bag in too long

So, to avoid this, I don’t brew with boiling water- either stop the kettle boiling by switching it off just as it sounds like it’s bubbling, mix boiling water with cold water or leave boiled water to cool before you add your tea. You should leave your teabag in for no more than two minutes (I tend to take mine out after about a minute-ish.) Bear in mind, this is the way I make green tea, after making many, many bitter, horrible green teas.

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a tea snob and prefer my green teas from tea houses such as Tea Palace and, my favourite, Le Palais des Thes, who make my favourite green tea, Fleur de Geisha, a Japanese green tea flavoured with cherry blossom.

Do you like green tea? How do you make yours?

*If you’re interested, Japanese green tea is more yellow than its Chinese counterpart and tastes ‘grassier’ when it’s unflavoured.

I hate to admit it, but I am slowing down

This week has been a series of reality checks for me and some of them I am not happy about. As of today, I am 28 weeks pregnant, which has made me realise that I will have a brand-new bundle of person-ness within the next three months (earlier, if the midwife is to be believed.) This is fairly mind blowing in itself, as for most of the pregnancy I’ve been going round with a “Lalalala, baby clothes, moving, children’s books!” kind of state of mind. Complete denial about how this baby is arriving in the world and what that arrival implies for my future.

The thing that’s really stumped me today, though, is that I am just so exhausted. This is not a state I am keen on, really. Usually, I go about my business at the speed of the White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, never pausing for breath as I rapidly move myself from one situation to the next (although I am rarely late!) For the last two weeks, I have been dashing about, seeing people, running errands and so on. And it has utterly knackered me.

Image: aliceinwonderland.net

Today, I have had to cancel plans and force myself to take it easy. It seems like two weeks of solid busyness has finally caught up with me. I am not good at relaxing at all and my brain is firing off a list of things I have to do before a viewing of the flat takes place later (I had hoped to not be in, but that’s not going to happen- I can barely walk to the shop at the end of my road without huffing and puffing.)

I need to admit to myself that I need to slow right down and to relax. How I am going to do this, I’m not sure. Maybe a bit of crochet and Mad Men? Incessant tweeting? Reading all the Hunger Games novels? I don’t know. All I do know is that I am going to have to force myself to switch off for a few days and I don’t think that it is going to be very easy.

 

The agony and the eczema…

Alright, I apologise for the terrible pun, but my word my body seems to be falling apart at the moment.

There are loads of things that pregnancy books don’t tell you about that seem to be happening to me right now.  I was fully prepared for the exhaustion and the mind-numbness that seems to have come about due to my ‘condition’ (although my brain is weird at the moment, I refuse to read ’50 Shades of Grey’ as suggested by one of my husband’s aunts. Ugh.), there are a few weird things that are afflicting me. Namely:

  • Eczema. I was convinced that this wouldn’t be an issue, due to not having anything break out for a couple of years, but alas, I was wrong. Apparently, something like half of eczema sufferers say that it gets worse when pregnant, due to all those crazy hormones (the ones that, apparently, may mean I like ’50 Shades’…) I’ve suffered with atopic  eczema since I was a baby, but always on the back of my knees or around my mouth, never on my eyes. It’s really annoying, as it is painful but more importantly I CAN’T WEAR EYELINER. This, as I’m sure you understand, is very important to me. However, someone said that the pink hue that it causes once it’s under some kind of control (with enough cream to cover a small child from head to toe) “looks like eyeshadow.” Thanks. I think.
  • Fuzzy fingers. The last two fingers on my left hand are all sort of… furry feeling. At first, I thought something was really wrong (oh, hi, WebMD!), until I learnt that it’s sort of like carpal tunnel but not. It’s supposedly caused by water retention on the wrist and will go away. But it sucks. At least I get to wear a really flattering wrist support.
  • Nightmares. Oh, god. This is horrible. I’m either veering between no sleep at all as my brain tries to compute the massiveness of the change that’s going to happen, or I’m having horrendous nightmares that I can’t wake up from. Last night, I dreamt that I was in prison. It wasn’t like prison in ‘Chicago’ either (and I didn’t, unfortunately, look like Catherine Zeta Jones), but a weird prison that was all bathed in red light. On a bus. And I couldn’t wake up from it until my alarm went off. It was strange and awful and there are plenty of other odd dreams. I’d be a psychiatrist’s dream at the moment.
I suppose that if this is the worst that pregnancy can cause, I’m pretty lucky.

All I can say is- bring it on, pregnancy. Bring. It. On.

How I’m staying sane while pregnant…

Ah, pregnancy. A time of blossoming, blooming-ness. Also a time when you think the following:

“OH MY GOD,  I’M GOING TO HAVE NO MONEY FOREVER…”

“Um, this baby has got to come out of me somehow.. I wish the stork would deliver it overnight, like the Tooth Fairy or something.”

It’s actually pretty hard sometimes to keep your sense of perspective, or to not get really bloody paranoid at the slightest thing. I’m over halfway through now (and in total denial that this baby has to arrive somehow in eighteen weeks) and I’ve found that there are ways I can make myself feel slightly saner than I would otherwise.

1) Hoarding books. I buy lots of books. Secondhand, mainly, as we have a great Oxfam bookshop nearby. I know I probably won’t have time for much reading once Fidget arrives, but having lots of books in the house makes me happy. It also drives Benn mad, but that’s an added bonus. Of course, if something super-new comes out, or I’m bored of my collection, I’m lucky in that Brighton has some excellent libraries. I borrow a lot of my crafty books from them.

2) Pampering. I’ve got very into nail polish recently. I’ve always been a make-up fan, but I’ve found that changing my nails on a regular basis has become a bit of a ritual. I also found, during the first trimester (when you feel most tired/rubbish and generally in a bad mood) that using henna on my hair really worked as a pick-me-up. I got lots of compliments and felt brighter. Baths, lie-ins and lovely slow days have all helped me feel better, especially during times of massive work-related stress recently.

3) Saving.  I am an oxymoron- I am a spendthrift who worries about money. I know that I spend a lot of money on little fripperies; a lipstick here, a takeaway sandwich there. I’ve put a little money aside each month for when we don’t have so much. I can use this to take Fidget swimming, or to have a haircut or just to meet friends for a cuppa and a bit of cake. By having this money, I don’t have to rely on Benn to give me money and I won’t have to feel guilty if I have a bit of a treat. It’s helping my sanity by thinking about the future.

4) Regular exercise. My friends and family will tell you that, when it comes to exercise, I walk everywhere but am essentially lazy. However, it’s getting to the point where I feel like my legs are walking at twice the pace to cover half the distance they usually would. However, I’m really enjoying aquanatal classes at the local swimming baths. They’re half the price of yoga classes, much more fun and I feel like I’m having a real workout. Bonus, the baby appears to love them! I’m also finding that they’re helping me sleep (which can be hard, when you have the next Michael Flatley practising ‘Riverdance’ in your abdomen.)

5) Don’t feed the trolls. Ignore the internet message boards, where people post stupid and grammatically incorrect queries. Try and avoid reading too many horror stories that make you panic (ask me how I know). Don’t search WebMD to find out whether trapped wind is actually a sign of impending death. Actually, this advice is quite good even if you’re not pregnant. What I would say though, is don’t get involved in the so-called ‘Mommy Wars’. Read about them, if you like, but then resolve to take an ‘each to their own’ view of parenting. So what if someone does/doesn’t breastfeed or is an ‘attachment parent’? As long as no one is hurt, it’s really no-one else’s business.

6) Read sensible parenting books. There are loads of mad ideas about impending parenthood- just google Gina Ford to see what I mean (my favourite bit of her Wikipedia page lists Drs Penelope Leach and Miriam Stoppard as critics of her methods and, er, Eamon Holmes and Michelle Gayle as supporters. Wow.) I can recommend this book and I bought this book because I read an interview with the author and he looked sensible.

7) Be prepared for ‘surprises’. There are LOADS of things that the pregnancy books don’t tell you about. You might need breast pads from four months. You might grow lots of extra hair- everywhere. You’ll probably get weird muscle spasms. Actual mums won’t tell you this until you ask about it and you will always be greeted by the phrase, “If we told people about this NO ONE WOULD EVER HAVE CHILDREN.” You may feel slightly miffed at first, but then you will realise that you too shall one day be a member of this hallowed club of women with wisdom.

Superpowers and reverting to my teenage self

So, I’m starting to notice the effects of pregnancy and, now I’m out of the riskier first part, I must say I’m bemused.  All sorts of things are happening, not least my amazing sense of smell. Which is pretty tricky when I work in an environment where there is a constant fug of Lynx and, a newer addition, Victoria’s Secret body spray (which is foul. Think cheap watermelon flavoured alcohol and you’re pretty much there. What happened to Impulse?)

I first noticed the smell thing soon after realising I was pregnant; we’d gone to a curry house for Benn’s birthday. It wasn’t the food that drove me mad, but a small vase of daffodils. Now, daffodils have very little in the way of smell compared to, say, lillies. But this vase of early daffs (this was the end of February), drove me up the wall. I couldn’t finish my food, because I felt sick. Weird.

I then had a respite with two nasty colds- I wasn’t allowed to take anything to ease the irritation. But now I’m back to full smelling form and everything smells. The cat smells of outside. Paper smells. My handbag has an odd smell of leather, mints and lipstick. If I meet you, the first thing I’ll notice is how you smell. Weirdly though, my nose bungs up overnight. So I go from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of about fifteen minutes after I go to bed.

I’ve decided to harness this by ordering some aromatherapy oils and mixing smells I like. I used to be quite into aromatherapy as a teenager and so I think I can pick it back up again quite easily. As I’ve been craving citrus fruits (particularly grapefruit. But not actual grapefruit, silly. That would be WEIRD. But grapefruit squash and yoghurt), I have ordered a load of zingy smells. I may as well smell stuff I can tolerate.

File:Citrus paradisi (Grapefruit, pink) white bg.jpg

There are other things  going on as well. The books don’t tell you that you pretty much revert to being a teenager all over again. Mood swings? Check. Smelly feet? Oh, god yes. Not helped by my extra sensitive nose. Seriously, I’m paranoid. Take out shares in Odor Eaters, people. Dandruff? Yup. I’m currently tackling this with a coconut oil hair mask and ginger shampoo- I’ll write about the results in a future blog post.

It’s seriously like the last fifteen years haven’t happened, although at least I’m not arguing with my mother, slamming doors or fancying Ronan Keating. Some things are just beyond the pale. I like to think my dress sense has evolved a bit too.

I often joke at work that I wouldn’t be a teenager again if you paid me. Huh. Joke’s on me.

So, yeah, a massive change

So, yesterday I went to the hospital.

Turns out I seem to be pregnant with a very fidgety baby; looks like jive lessons are paying off!  I’ve known about this for a while, of course, but have been reluctant to share the news widely, as we had a few scares early on- I’ve practically got to know the local hospital like the back of my  hand over the past three months. But, blood tests aside, the lady who was doing the scanning looked pretty happy at what Fidget (as s/he is henceforth known as- a big improvement on the previous name ‘The Blob’, as that’s what we saw on a scan at six weeks..) was showing. It’s pretty overwhelming to look at this small being and to know that it’s completely unaware of anything around it, but that one day it’ll be an actual person, with actual thoughts and feelings and stuff. Yeah, not at all mind blowing.

At the moment, I’m not thinking about the big scary stuff, like giving birth (quelle horreur!) or what I’m going to feed the baby or what have you. Nope. I’m looking at cute, gender-neutral-but-not-pastel stuff, like babygros with dinosaurs and ladybirds on them. You know, cool stuff. I’m mentally planning the library that this child will have as it grows up. The important things in life. Also brilliant? This is a baby with a HALLOWEEN DUE DATE. Costumes a plenty! Gnomes! Pumpkins!

And don’t get me started on maternity clothes. Ugh. This will be something I battle with for a while, I can tell you. However, maternity jeans are brilliant. No buttons! No zips! No chance of ‘flying low’! Win/win in my book.

So, yeah. there you go. My life’s going to change massively. Not quite ready yet, but I reckon in about six months, it’ll be fine… right?

 

In the pursuit of happiness

So, I was reading Marie Claire yesterday and there’s an article this month about what makes you happy. It’s all linked in with David Cameron’s stance that the government should know how happy we are (I must admit, I’m not sure why he wants to know. The country seems pretty miserable at the moment.) The three writers offered up the following things that made them happy: one, who had suffered pretty terribly with an eating disorder in the past chose food, another chose relationships with younger men and the last said she had stopped comparing herself to others. While these are all valid ways of creating happiness for each person, they’re also typical of the stuff women’s magazines like to publish. Mimi Spencer wrote a humorous piece in the same magazine where she tried baking, random acts of kindness and yoga as a way to make her happy and she (inevitably) found that some were more helpful than others.

The problem with writing about happiness is that it is so subjective and I think this is why it seems odd that the government wants to get involved. Of course magazines want to get involved; it’s good for revenue. Telling us that by buying items from the Paul and Joe ‘Cat’ makeup line will make us happy is the business they’re in. (By the way, I think that would make me happy because I’m slightly vain and I love cats. Not sure I would ever use them though, they’re so pretty and limited edition.)

We’re also expected to be happy at all times, unhappiness is to be avoided. I guess this is why there are so many people, including myself, who have suffered depression at some point in their lives. At what point does pursuing happiness become ridiculous? Life is not meant to be one long journey of unadulterated bliss- we need the bad bits in order to learn to appreciate the good bits. I have also had to learn to enjoy life when it is good and not to worry too much about when it might all go bad.

We also want to be seen, generally, as altruistic and benevolent human beings. This is why, when children and beauty queens are asked what would make them happy, they answer along the lines of ‘world peace’. And whilst this is a truly admirable thing to want, it is impossible for Miss Arizona create world peace on her own. So our pursuit of happiness needs to be smaller and more easily defined. For example, I sponsor a little girl  in Sierra Leone. I am happy knowing that she can go to school because of this.

But it’s important to have frivolous things to make us happy too- I love it when I’ve knitted something. Sometimes my crafting  is purely selfish and that’s OK. I enjoy it when I get my steps right in jive or manage to hold a new pose in yoga. I love getting new makeup or a new book. Cafes make me happy. But I also really enjoy buying birthday and Christmas presents or helping a friend out.

I’ve gone more philosophical than I originally intended in this post, which is not a bad thing I suppose. What makes you happy?