I’ve forgotten what not being pregnant feels like

Today marks six months of my body hosting the creature. Of course, that excludes the two weeks when she actually wasn’t there at all but that are just tacked on to the time scale to count from when my last period started. And then, it probably doesn’t fall into six calendar months either. I haven’t expended the energy working it out. Also, according to those who like to count months by four weeks, I hit the six-month mark two weeks ago. But in pregnancy calendar-ing, today at 26 weeks (half of the 52 that make up a year) I am well and truly at six months.

The moment the test turned positive (ok, tests – it took a while to sink in) doesn’t feel long ago at all. In another sense, I can barely remember what having a flat stomach or an unbroken night’s sleep feels like. It’s a bit like having the cold. I’m not calling pregnancy an illness. Relax. It’s natural, healthy…yes, all of that. But what I mean is, somewhere in the middle of a cold, you begin to think: “I can’t remember what it feels like to breathe through my nose normally.” And this is how it is.

Every week I forget something new. I’ve forgotten how I used to pull my Converse on while standing. Sitting comfortably on the floor is a distant memory. Actually, make that “sitting comfortably at all”. Seeing anywhere beneath my belly button without sitting or having a mirror, having an innie, being surprised by something moving independently of me under my skin – was there ever such a time?

These changes integrate themselves so easily that I don’t notice how rapidly they happen. Until I catch view of my bikini-clad body in the mirror at the swimming pool. Or until Laurence notices. Like last night. I was changing for bed when he wandered into the room. His eyes grew wide and he may have even gasped a little. For a moment I forgot the protrusion and assumed that he was thinking, “My wife is so sexy.” Then it clicked. He was thinking, “My wife is MASSIVE.” He insists that it was both. I’ll let him stick with that story.

In two weeks we’ll have officially hit the third trimester. The home stretch. Already, I’m looking forward to meeting the creature. But, as with a blocked up nose, I can’t imagine not being pregnant. Memory won’t help me.

Image: Ethan Lofton

Addicted to the last minute rush

Tell me I will outgrow this.

I glance at my phone and it’s one o’ clock. Television aerial guys – come and been. Laptop, lipstick, both bits of my driver’s license, my test appointment letter – all in my long-suffering Ollie and Nic wonder bag. Time to leave.

Except my phone is about to die and I can’t find a physical Bristol map anywhere. Crud. Victim once again to my total lack of direction. Not to worry, not worry. I’ll just charge it up for, say ten minutes.

I need the time to read the “Accidents & Emergencies” section of the DSA Theory Test book anyway. Section finished. It’s eighteen past. Oops. Good thing I’ve left loads of time to get to the exam centre.

How about a last look at the appointment letter. What?! The test is at 2.00pm not 2.30?! I’ve even written the correct time in my iPhone calendar. Bad word. Bad word for using bad word. Must unlearn bad words before end of May.

Grab keys, lock up, run up to bus stop, ignore SPD, pray pray pray that there’s no traffic. Get there AT 2.00pm. Take test, chest still heaving, convinced I’m messing it up (this bit could have something to do with my basically cramming the whole thing between last night and this morning).


Sheer, pure, utter relief.

Image: sangeight

Baby-shopping-mental vs my shopping shame

My cousin’s wife started it. On a visit to Aberdeen back in November she gave me a bag full of 0-3month baby clothes and a bouncy chair.

Before then, I was still coming around to the idea that the creature existed and was wrecking havoc on my figure, let alone starting to think that she would need things once she bursts out of here. It was a weekend of chatting about buggies and car seats and why babies and socks don’t go together.

But I practised restraint. Christmas and our tight bank balance helped with that. And maybe a touch of superstition held me back from gawking at online baby stores too.

Then the bulge leaped out and I became obviously pregnant. Every time I sat I’d feel a head or a hand or a foot, sometimes lodging itself in quite extraordinary places. And I’d actually be able to guess what body part it was rather than thinking “random kick”.

One night, while we were watching The Hussle on BBC iplayer (please, please, please sort out our TV antenna, lovely letting agency) I lifted my top to let Laurence see where she was kicking me hard. We looked at each other. Man, this is really happening. The visibility of it was startling. “I’m terrified she’s about to jump out and start demanding food and cuddles,” he said.

Anyway, I think that kind of helped him to visualise her more clearly. Which was good news for me because when it made me go baby-shopping-mental he was slightly less bored than he’d been. He still managed to zone out while I was sorting through the reusable nappies we got off a fellow Freecycler (I keep reminding he’s got to get his head around how to use them before the great poo producer emerges) but he held his own at the NCT nearly new sale last weekend.

Gosh, give the man a list and shopping turns into a sport. He held his own amongst the vulturific mummies and daddies. I spent most of my time slowly mulling around, taking things in, occasionally picking something up here and there.

He, on the other hand, bagged a baby bath within seconds of us walking into the place, stalked a moses basket until three other sets of parents turned away and even picked up sleeping bags – a novelty I hadn’t even considered. Check, check, check.

The effect all this has had on me is to make me feel like it’s ok to look at baby things and even buy something here and there. He keeps reminding me it means we’re spreading the cost. For him, it’s all a very pragmatic process. But for me, shopping taps into something emotional or even primal.

We couldn’t do much of it when I was growing up. Mainly hand-me-downs clothed us. Buying a new pair of jeans was something special, often a birthday treat. I don’t mind this now. I think it’s taught me to be a responsible consumer and to embrace material simplicity.

Later on, when money became easier, shopping became something my mother and I would do on holiday or in preparation for something. It was still a treat.

But the idea of going out on my own and buying something for myself “just because” strikes me as frivolous and riddles me with guilt. Food, experiences, gifts for others, I have no problem with, but an item of clothing or makeup or some such thing for myself….it feels wrong.

And that’s mainly what’s held me back from buying anything for this baby. Because she’s seemed like an extension of me, I felt like shopping for her was somehow spoiling myself. But only as others start noticing her growing out of me, especially Laurence, it’s become easier to externalize her, to imagine her as my daughter to whom I’d like to pass on the gifts of simplicity and responsibility but to whom I’d also like to give some things “just because”.

Image: KateMonkey

The cakeless birthday scare

It occurred to me on my way to an Alpha meeting last night that I should go all domestic goddess and make cakes for Laurence’s office today. It’s his birthday. So I bought all the ingredients and was ready to get it sorted at 10.45pm when we finally got home.

Nipped to the loo and nature had another plan – to completely freak me out. I’d been bleeding. Not a whole lot but enough to worry a woman late into her second trimester. So I calmly told Laurence I needed to call NHS direct. I ended up speaking to the midwife on call at my delivery suite out in the road because our house has rubbish reception. So she must have been wondering why I was speaking in hushed tones and shivering.

I was trying to be as reasonable as I could manage, not allowing myself to openly worry just yet. She asked if I’d felt the baby move. Uh. I’d been out and about and moving ever since so no. So she advised me to sit for an hour, eat and drink something and feel for movements. Pretty standard advice. So of course, I was then so concentrated on feeling the movements that I was stressed out that there didn’t seem to be as many as usual. How many where there usually? But because there were some and the bleeding had stopped and had been so little to begin with, she reckoned there was no problem.

Even this morning when I woke up I was paranoid about whether the baby was moving as much usual. But I’m sitting here and she’s happily kicking away, completely unaware of that the world around us went spinning last night and that her daddy will be off buying Krispy Kreme Donuts instead of presenting lovingly handcrafted chocolate cake to celebrate turning 30. Not that I think he minds.

Image: Will Clayton

C’mon, baby, let’s do the waddle

Trust family to bring you back to reality when you start gloating about even the most modest of things.

On Monday, I went to register at the health centre in our area. A midwife is resident at the practice so, having registered, I wanted to book an appointment with her. Without taking her eyes from the screen, the receptionist asked, “How many weeks pregnant are you?” “Twenty-four,” I said. She looked surprised and eyed me from top to toe.

In retrospect, she was probably just thinking it’s pretty lax to wait until you’re almost six months along to see someone. In fact, that is likely all she was thinking since she then asked if this was the first time I was seeing someone, which I thought a bit of a silly question but maybe there are people who wait until they’re popping out to seek medical advice. I don’t know these people. But I believe they must be made of stronger and scarier stuff than I.

Instead I went away thinking that she must have been surprised at how small I was for twenty-four weeks (a nice change from certain acquaintances who love to remind me that I look enormous before even saying hello). This happy thought was reaffirmed yesterday when my dentist was surprised that I was pregnant, inspected my tummy and said, “Oh but you’re so tiny!”

So I went on my merry way. I even announced at the dinner table last night that two people this week hadn’t thought I looked particularly pregnant.

Then my brother said, “But everyone can tell from how you walk.”
I do beg your pardon.
Seeing that he could be digging himself into a bad spot he said, “You know. You look like someone carrying something… delicate.”

Well, blow me down. Pregnant women must be terrifying. My brother who usually has no trouble frankly insulting me has decided to tread carefully in telling me that I have a pregnant waddle.

A waddle at 24 weeks. Thanks, SPD.

Image: David Wright

Love and cold feet

“Keep those blocks of ice away from me,” he says, “Why are your feet always so cold?”

I shrug. “But if you loved, me you’d let me warm my feet on you.”

“And if you loved me, you wouldn’t be so cruel.”

“I was so cold before I had you. You’ve changed my life.”

Begrudgingly, “Ok, but don’t keep moving them around.”

Image: Chris Bögle

The thing about worry

Not wanting to stink up the space with what’s mostly on my mind, I didn’t blog much last week. But because this is an exercise in honesty, I’ve decided to put it out there. I’m afraid – you could say worried – about admitting that I am worried.

I’ve been so deeply submerged in our self-help culture that voicing worries seems something worse than dirty. It is weak. That positive thinking mantra is louder than we think. We’re supposed to believe in the innate power of our minds to transform our situations, quell our fears, even heal our cancers. Above all, we must never see ourselves as victims or sufferers.

When the media showed renewed interest in realistic pessimism last year. I welcomed it with open arms.

It made me think about how I respond when people air their worries and I’ve been thinking about it again this past week because I’ve been, well, worried. Generic reactions include: “I’m sure it will get better”, “Things will work themselves out” and anything else that clings to the belief that ‘good’ will just make it’s way here.

I don’t at all think we’re being callous when we respond like this. Often, when I say things like this I am genuinely hoping to extend comfort to the other person. Being on the receiving end, however, I know I feel like the other person either hasn’t seen the reality of my experience or doesn’t have the time or feel we have the intimacy to actually engage with it. Fair enough. But let’s see it as it is instead of fooling ourselves that we’re being optimistic on behalf of others as if positive thinking in itself constitutes empathy.

The problem of worry is even more complicated for me when it comes to my faith. The Bible tells me not to worry, to trust God. I’ve even heard people explain these kinds of passages by condemning worry itself as sin and telling the worrier that they are failing to trust Him. But surely, to never fear, worry or be intensely concerned would be pathological. We’d have little impetus for self-preservation, taking steps to sort out the troubling thing, even to pray.

On that last note, I can’t believe that God would want me to come to Him with my enforced positive outlook. To say to Him: “Please help me with this thing but of course it’s fine, because I trust You” feels anemic at best and dishonest at worst. In fact, it feels like I’m telling God He’s too stupid to see how scared I am and to engage with me in my fear.

Instead it makes sense that the exhortation not to worry actually means not to allow worry to ‘have the last laugh’, so to speak, to control and consume me. And I can’t help but feel that admitting that it’s there is an important part of tackling, not necessarily worry itself, but the things that worry me.

Now when I routinely break down on a Sunday night, looking at the week ahead, terrified and overwhelmed by everything from money to the creature to my ability to organize, I’m learning not to beat myself up about it. It doesn’t make me a weakling or a bad person. The thing about worry is that it only reflects again that we’re in touch with our humanity. And, for me, it helps me to start my weekly climb again.

Image: Laurence Jarrett-Kerr