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?

Because preparation is key, right?

This week, I am starting to turn my thoughts to the fact that I will soon have to go into hospital and, er, produce a baby. Still a bit in denial about this, to be perfectly honest. (What do you mean, the stork doesn’t deliver these days?) Also, I forgot how pregnant I was and had to refer to the blog to check. That’s pretty bad.

Next week is my last week at work and I can’t say that I’m sad; it’s been weird not teaching. I also have feet that look like they belong to this man:

File:Fredflintstone.jpg

Image: Wikipedia

Unlike the trendy ‘mommy bloggers’, I am not going to subject you to the horror of looking at my feet. Just imagine them, if you want to. I bet Wilma never had to deal with horrid feet.

Anyway, so I’ve decided that this weekend I have to get everything into some kind of order, so my friend Jacqui and I will be going shopping for stuff for my ‘hospital bag’. Apparently, this is not a carrier bag filled with Twixes (my current chocolate of choice), but a bag filled with such ‘goodies’ as maternity pads and spare nighties. I have been studying the books very carefully and have drawn up a list of what I need. We’ll be hitting Primark, as apparently everything gets covered in… goo.. and needs to be something you’re not bothered about being nice. Which I’m sure will be TOP of my list when I’m shouting abuse at my husband whilst delivering a baby. I might treat myself to some nice smellies for when I come out, though.

We have pretty much everything we need for when Fidget arrives and this is… weird, because I’ve always been a bit rubbish at organising my life. His room is a bit messy with all the stuff, but we don’t have drawers or anything yet. We really just need to get new mattresses and then we’re all set.

Looks like I’m actually being rather grown up, doesn’t it? And, despite my whingeing about pregnancy, I think I’m actually starting to get properly excited about meeting the little chap! I still can’t quite believe it’s going to happen.

Oh, for goodness’ sake!

I’m at week 31 and now entering the final countdown now (cue “do-do-do, do-do-do-do-dooooo”) and quite frankly, my body has entered a weird auto-pilot where it’s doing its own thing. For example, in the last few days:

1) I have forgotten 75% of what Benn has told me about anything. This morning, I’d forgotten why he’d left the house/when he would be back/whether he’d gone to cricket. He’d nipped out for money and had told me this two minutes previously.

2) I also appear to have developed even worse hearing than I already have (which is not great. I have a mild hearing impairment as it is.) If people call me, or answer a question, I have absolutely no recollection. Annoying.

3) I can no longer put on my socks. This was made worse by the sight of my husband and my sister sitting watching me for twenty minutes, laughing, as I tried to be-deck my foot with the aforementioned knitted polyester garment. Their argument, as I grumbled, that “You’ve managed to put the sock on the other foot!” is invalid. It is scientifically proven (BY ME) to be harder to put anything on my right foot. I shall be wearing Birkenstocks from now until this baby appears, regardless of the weather. It’s just not worth the backache.

4) As what little common sense I had appears to have left me, putting up the pramette (yes, it’s not a pram, it’s not a buggy, it’s a Frankenstein-ish hybrid of the two) is akin to playing either The Generation Game with Bruce Forsyth breathing down your neck or The Krypton Factor with both hands tied behind your back. I even Skyped my mum to check it ‘looked right’.

5) My love of chocolate is making a solid comeback. But only posh chocolate, you understand. This baby, who has thus far been mostly the product of Yazoo milkshakes, Marmite and Mini-Babybel, has decided he’s developed a taste of the high-life. Finally.

6) I strongly advise you take out shares in whatever company makes Gaviscon. I am drinking gallons of the stuff.

7) I had a very, very strong craving for mulled wine the other day. Of course, I didn’t make any. I sniffed a Christmas candle instead. It’s a poor substitute. I have been looking up recipes for mulled apple juice, but it’s just not really the same…

8) I have made terrible, terrible makeup purchases. I mean, I know I vowed to ‘go brave’ with lipstick this year, but did I really think that this (the ‘Amped’ shade- I think I actually wanted ‘Cherry’ but, er, I can’t remember) would suit me? I have red hair, freckles and PALE SKIN. I wasn’t even planning on buying this shade. I have no idea which part of me thought, “Ooh, HOT PINK FUCHSIA will really complement my pasty skin tone!” Luckily, it’s found a new home here.

I’m sure there are more, but my brain just decided to turn to mush. I’m going back to work next week… this is not going to be easy at all.

Reality starts to sink in

So, we’ve been a week in our little house and I think we’ve settled well. The cat is still skittery and the two of us have cabin fever, due to the fact that a) she’s not allowed out for another week and I’ve not been out much and b) she’s really quite annoying at times. But still, it could be worse.

My family are down for a few days and we’ve been to buy a pram. This has been a massive step in mentally preparing for Fidget’s arrival, which is now in about nine weeks (or less. The midwife thinks he’s a big baby, so could could decide to make an entrance a bit early.) We hadn’t bought the pram because we didn’t have room in the old flat and also my parents wanted to save up and get us something we wanted. We also have a little crib, thanks to some friends who gave it to us as a gift. This is now in the second bedroom, which alternates between being the ‘spare room’ and the ‘baby’s room’. We’re a bit reluctant to label it definitely, I think, until he arrives. Similarly, Fidget does have a name (and has had for months), but is still most often referred to as ‘the baby’, ‘Fidget’ or, if he’s really causing me organ pain, ‘YOUR son.’ Anything else just feels like it’s a bit… jinx-y.

The thing now is to get my head around everything else. I think I started to come to terms with the fact that my life will change; in fact, bawling my eyes out at 11pm a few weeks ago, it did kind of hit home. Also, I can no longer see my feet when I stand, I have a bump the size of Jupiter that suddenly came on overnight and I have stretchmarks more complicated than the London Underground map. It’s pretty hard to be in denial when you have the evidence squarely in front of you. Can I also mention that I miss my toes?

In just over two months, a whole new person will be here. A whole new person who will need at least seven clothing changes a day just to showcase all the clothes he’s been bought so far. He is so going to rival the male models in London Fashion Week on that score.

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?