Circles

I started this blog 3 years ago because being a new mum was a lot like being a University fresher or the new kid in school. You are dropped in with a bunch of women who happened to procreate around the same time as you and it’s hoped you get along with the single common denominator of when you gave birth.

Just like starting University, being in new social circles takes a while to settle down but with less alcohol and more body issues. I started university with high expectations of what the social life would be like and the reality was hugely different.  I had never given my blue spiked hair, piercings, make up or choice in clothing a second thought before I started university. Where I came from and the people I met were completely accepting of how anyone looked and those who weren’t just were not in my sphere of awareness. At university, this was the first time that I was made to feel self-conscious about how I expressed myself and how I had felt comfortable for so many years.

Eventually, I had a wonderful group of friends and housemates at university and again in the work place. I didn’t compromise who I was to the situation but found people who I was comfortable around again. I didn’t expect to have to go through that again in such a significant way and yet I did when I had my son. Again, three years on, I have a wonderful network of friends who I have more in common than simply procreation.

So three years on and a second child in and I am back in the same situation once more. We relocated a month ago to a whole new part of the country where I did not know anyone. I had a newborn and a three-year old. I am carrying some serious post-baby weight. I am back where I was when I started this blog. Only, I am not because I have learned from last time.

I am aware that settling into a new major situation takes time and breathing space. I cannot expect an instant social scene but will take time to meet people who will become firm friends. It took years to build friendships that I made following my first child and they are friends I treasure. I cannot expect it to be any different this time around.

My post-baby weight is slowly shifting. I am taking small steps; 20 minutes of hard core exercise when I am able to do so; eating wholefoods; wearing clothes that fit rather than clothes that I want to fit. I am out of maternity clothes already and fit into my size 14 clothes. By ‘fit’ I mean breathing in and hiding lumps with baggy jumpers. I am aiming for between baby sizes rather than pre-baby sizes.

I feel more confident about achieving these goals and have the focus to do so. Plus the wide open space of the countryside is certainly helping.

I went into labour at Black Sabbath…

… is thankfully one story I will not be telling. Less than 24 hours after standing in Hyde Park watching Sabbath’s possibly last ever gig and Soundgarden play Superunknown, my baby daughter arrived at home in less than an hour and half.

Put in perspective, we spent longer the night before she arrived trying to get a taxi home than I spent in labour. The midwife turned up exactly 2 minutes before she arrived, the paramedics who were sent because the midwife looked like she wouldn’t make it in time,  turned up 2 minutes after birth. My husband and son were sat having a coffee down the road less than an hour before when they left to get the correct hose/tap attachment for the birth pool.

It was blooming lucky I wasn’t on my own.

Earlier that morning, I felt a little peculiar so had my husband empty the flat of excess people just in case  but decided it was either a false alarm or long niggling, low level contractions. I went for a nap for what I thought was 10 minutes but turned out to be much longer. Woke at 3pm and had some regular but still not as strong as last time, contractions.

My husband started setting up the pool then went to B&Q so he could get the part to fill it. This was at 4.30pm. My son was helping all the way with climbing on the birth ball to cuddle me and breath with me. It still seemed liked very early labour.

While they were out, I thought, ‘heck I could probably do with some gas and air soon, better text the husband to call the midwife’. Ended up doing so myself because I was told none were available for an hour or so. Called back again 10 minutes later to say ‘nope better just send anyone, this baby is coming’.

Thirty minutes after my husband started to fill the pool, with the hose still in, I hopped in. Again, not quite believing the contractions were either strong or regular but that they were rolling into one big continuous one I found myself pushing. With my husband behind me saying ‘er you sound like you are pushing, I had better call them again’.

Ambulance en route to help until the midwife arrived, the midwifes just beat them there and by minutes just beat our little girl. In fact, as the midwives arrived, I am there asking how dilated I am, expecting them to say 6 cm and stop wasting my energy pushing, when they said I’d done the job for them as she was crowning.

An hour and half after it all started, born in a pool that had only just been filled, at home, where I pretty much sang her out.

One of the amazing pieces of birth advice from my yoga class was low level noises to move you into the contraction. So I spent the past week selecting some drone music to practice my breathing and yoga to and am so glad I did. Earth were playing as I pushed with my best drone voice and out she came.

It was a wonderful home birth, a world of difference to birthing in the hospital. The midwives were amazing, my family were around me, it was calm and a beautiful experience.

 

Miscarriage

I never talked about my miscarriage with my friends. The only reason I realised that so many women have miscarriages and just get on with normal life is when it was discussed with a group of Mums while we were all heavily pregnant. I was surprised to learn that most of the pregnant women from my ante-natal group, from my local area, had had a miscarriage at some point in their life. Some had suffered from multi-miscarriages. We all sat over cake and coffee and shared our miscarriage experiences while awaiting the births of our first children. It turns out that this was only scratching the surface of women I know who have miscarried; a number of close friends also miscarried and never talked about it. It’s not really cheery, Friday night pub conversation is it?

However, the more we talk about things like miscarriage, the more we realise the support we get at the time is not enough. It was Jason Manford, in response to some particularly hideous internet trolls, who put it quite succinctly that you become a parent the moment you see that positive pregnancy test and you don’t grieve and suffer any less for an early miscarriage than you do for a late one; you love and want to protect that child from the moment you know they exist.

Around two years before I became pregnant with my first son, I was pregnant with another child. My husband and I were excited, we told family members and trusted friends who would notice my lack of drinking. Then seven weeks in I suddenly felt very ill at work, my vision blurred, I felt dizzy and a bit wrong. I decided to go home. By the time I got home the bleeding had started. My GP told me to go to the hospital and by the time my husband met me there, the bleeding was clotting. In the hours I waited to be seen by triage, I was too scared to return to the toilet in case of more blood. When they tested my urine they started asking questions about how I knew I was pregnant, did I do a home or GP test? Did I see it was positive? How many did I take? My test strip in the hospital had come back negative, my early pregnancy hormones were dropping.

When I finally saw a doctor she told me it was positive my cervix was still closed but less so that I had clotting and a drop in hormones. We were told to expect to pass the foetus overnight in my sleep and were duly sent home with some maternity pads and an appointment for scan the next day. The foetus had passed in the night and the scan showed no baby. I was heartbroken. Words like chemical pregnancy and false positives were mentioned even though I had incredibly strong symptoms of early pregnancy; I have with all my pregnancies.

No counselling was offered and no other support. I was young and didn’t know I could access any. I dealt with it in the only way I knew how and so started a slow spiral of depression that would become, within the year, as a total emotional breakdown. Given that I had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder only a couple of years before, the signs were there that I was not coping with this new trigger. I made bad decisions, drank a lot, threw myself into work and partied equally as hard. Marriage, friendships and my health all suffered.

By the time I realised I needed some sort of help, I was turned away from my GPs with a sick note for two weeks’ off work with stress and faced with exasperation from the doctor that I was just ‘pulling a sickie for extra holiday’. There was still no offer of counselling and no time given to my tears and story of how I had ended up in such a mess. I would flip between days of not sleeping, not eating, drinking and making crazy plans to days on end when I couldn’t wake up, couldn’t move from my bed and felt like the worst person in the world. This was over a year from the miscarriage itself.

I finally got the help I needed through various people and the unending support of my husband, who didn’t give up on me. I was told I was suffering manic depression and I worked through the triggers of each time my life felt it had spiralled out of control. Two years after my miscarriage, I was pregnant again. This time when the pregnancy symptoms stopped suddenly at seven weeks I demanded a scan. We saw the heartbeat of our first born for the first time. I tried not to worry throughout pregnancy that somehow my body would fail this child too, it was hard not to. But as time went on, the worry faded and we enjoyed waiting for our son to be born.

It was a hell of a journey to get to where we are now, a happy family with the second child on the way. While in the same breath that our struggles have made us the family we are, we need not have struggled as we did had the support and care been offered in the first instance.

#miscarriagecare

For more information on the Mumsnet Campaign:

http://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/miscarriage-care-campaign

Nesting for Renters

I am at the point in pregnancy where nesting has kicked in. Except I don’t particularly like cleaning and decorating is out of the question as we live in a rented flat. I do sit and day dream about what I would like to do to the place if we owned it; where I would put up shelves and hidden doors, how the shoes would be in a cleverly disguised show rack which fit our hallway, rather than slung in an overflowing box.

Instead, my nesting is coming out in cooking and crafting. Which is great except I suspect the living room being filled with half-finished craft projects is driving my husband a bit nuts. He keeps making noises about the sewing machine needing to make the move to the loft so we have space for baby things.

It seems so strange that our little one-bed flat where we had our first son was so spacious and accommodated him just right. Whereas, in our larger two-bed I am wondering where on earth we are going to actually put this new, small human when she arrives. So in a reaction to this, I am filling all available spaces with knitted blankets, patchwork nursing cushions and booties which I know will not be worn. Common sense does not live here anymore.

Preparing for the birth has also gone a little awry. I am having a home birth so there are some essentials that we need to get, like mattress protectors for the floor, old towels and to find where I stuffed the half-finished tube of Lansinoh. Instead, I have some appropriate birth music for the record player, a birth ball pumped up to put my feet on and a vague plan to collect a birth pool from a friend at some point before my waters break.

Then Mumsnet asked its bloggers to take the Victoria Plumb Quiz and find out what their celebrity bathroom style was. I am Mrs Boho Chic whose essentials are a coffee maker, tea sets, beautiful bake ware, a dining table to fit the family and a Winchester roll top bath. So they have got me pretty spot on.

When I dream about my big lottery win and a town house in Highgate, the central bathroom feature is always a big, roll top bath. I did once live in a house with a beautiful roll top bath in it. It would have been perfect except for the very hairy housemate who tastefully covered it with said hair during his morning showers and failed to rinse it out afterwards. Also not helping the dream bathroom look was the fact that we needed to lean a chopping board against the side of the bath to direct the water from the shower into the plug hole lest it start raining from the ceiling lights in the kitchen. But that’s London renting for you.

Thankfully, this has not soured my dream of one day owning my very own roll-top bath placed in the middle of a grand bathroom. One where I don’t get interrupted mid-hair wash to do things like wipe a poo-bum, or get out of the shower immediately because the train tracks have been put on top of the trains and only Mum can uncover them. Yes, my dream bathroom will be a child-free zone. They can have their own bathroom elsewhere in the house filled up with delightful plastic toys in all the colours of the rainbow.

My bathroom will be white with bare wood floors, fluffy towels that are big enough to hide inside and feel like cotton wool. A self-cleaning toilet is probably taking it too far but in absence of that, an easy-clean loo. Windows that overlook grounds and let in natural light would also be essential. Again, it is not until you rent a converted flat that you realise just how important and often rare it is to have a window in the bathroom to let out the steam.

I would fill the bathroom with REN products and have a little table to side of the bath to hold my wine, book and a few candles. There should probably be some music pumped into the room. In the interests of sharing with my husband, I would also have a small bookshelf to house the bathroom books. I already feel relaxed just thinking about this bathroom.

The London Coffee Festival

 

Coffee

Coffee and motherhood go together like wine and Friday night; one could not comfortably exist without the other. So, when coffee is needed to get through the day, without waking from an accidental nap to find every surface of the living room covered in red pen, you quickly come to appreciate good coffee and what makes a great coffee shop.

So, an outing to the London Coffee Festival to celebrate all things coffee-related was a welcomed experience this weekend at the Truman Brewery. The trade show opened on Thursday evening and to the public yesterday. Today was the first full public day and it continues on into the weekend.

It is not just about the coffee, although finding new great coffee products was a clear high light, there was also a lot of tea, chocolate, talks and music with samples to keep you going. The queue stretched half way down Brick Lane before opening time; coffee appreciation is taken very seriously in London with both parents and the care-free alike. It was good to see so many little people in there, expressing their love of the babyccino or ‘hot milk’ for the rest of us.

LCF_PressImage_CoffeeFestival2013_Day4__LowRes-88Some of the highlights were the Volcano Coffee Works, who put a lot of care and thought into every stage of their coffee-making process, which clearly comes through with the taste. The Roasting Party were as good as their name, affable people passionate about their products. An intriguing concept was Grower’s Cup; great tea or coffee in a pouch that you add water to and pour. Pretty smart for being out and about while not wanting to compromise on your beverage quality.

Alpro were offering out vegan coffee and porridge, which was damn tasting and a good respite from the flurry of free espresso shots from the rest of the show. Vegan soft-drinks brand Fritz-Kola were also offering out samples of their drinks. High caffeine content and Mischmasch being pegged as a great hangover cure. Coming from Hamburg, it is probably a trustworthy claim. Mischmasch was damn tasty mix of cola, lemon and orange.

LCF_PressImage_DCS2409Tea was well represented there as well. Tea Pigs are always reliable on flavours but London Tea Company does some wonderful blends. Personally, I am addicted to their Vanilla Chai. Tea discovery of the day goes to Brew Tea Co who really nailed good old builders tea and had these great little Brew Cards to ensure no one gets your tea preference wrong again.

However, the nicest stall of the day and my favourite find was Jaz and Juls Drinking Chocolate. It can be a tricky thing finding great vegan drinking chocolate but this brand doesn’t put powdered milk into the blend and it was superb. It is organic, ethical and run by two lovely women who were really passionate and engaged about what they were doing; a total inspiration and making great hot chocolate too.

It would be amiss to not point out the sofas and chairs dotted by the stage made from reclaimed wood. The pallet sofa was surprisingly comfortable and looked damn good too.

There was plenty of beer, whiskey and coffee-related cocktail tasting going on too but being pregnant, I cannot really comment on these. Downstairs was the coffee-lifestyle room: designers, accessories, pop up cafe and furniture sellers who are synonymous with East London and knowing where to get your good coffee from. It’s not just about the drink anymore. London Coffee Festival was an intriguing day out with wonderful discoveries made. Expect some more to come on the wonderful Jaz and Juls Chocolate.

The London Coffee Festival continues throughout the weekend at the Truman Brewery, Brick Lane.

Labor Day Review

labor day

 

If you were going to get kidnapped and held hostage in your own home over a sleepy bank holiday weekend it would be nice if the escaped convict did all those niggling odd jobs around the house, made your dinner at the end of the day and promise to run away to a better life rather than terrified you into submission. It would be nice but would probably need a high degree of suspension of disbelief for such sentimentality, as happens in Labor Day. Seen through the eyes of 13 year old Hank, perhaps in a soft-edged memory, he and his single-mother, Adele are kidnapped and then come to love their captor, Frank: one to escape the fear of loneliness and hurt, the other to escape the disappointment of an absent father-figure. With severe depression bordering on agoraphobia and a teenage outsider, Frank picks his vulnerable victims well.

The tension of violence is an undercurrent that builds with the montages and flashbacks of Frank’s story, which runs alongside that of the Labor Day weekend. The film opens with scenes of Hank being the ‘husband’ to his own mother, taking her a cup of tea in bed, running her a bath, doing the errands. This is a woman who wants to be loved, who has had love taken away and as much as the story wants to be about love but there is an uncomfortable feeling bubbling under the surface. This build up is done with great speed and subtly to move the action to emotional binds built through baking and basesball.

Then there is the food, which runs as a glaring, signposted metaphor throughout. Ghost has its potters wheel scene, Labor Day its peach pie scene; which is the nearest you are going to get to sex throughout the film. The peach pie was the pinnacle of food metaphors in Labor Day and the ensuing connotations about wholesome, American family life; the pie being Frank, salted on the outside, sweet and soft inside that no one can see; the family as a whole needing a roof, being assembled together. Before Frank, Adele and Hank lived off canned goods and frozen foods which were brought back to life with the fresh, tactile cooking when Frank entered their world.

Kate Winslet plays the very submissive female lead of Adele incredibly well, showing her quick escalation from an almost catatonic state into pure fear while trying to hide this from her son. Yet it was 13 year-old Hank, played by Gattlin Griffith, who took on the bulk of the film and moved the drama.

Labor Day is laced with sticky, sweet sentimentality as it was; it was beautifully shot and acted but a stride away from the usual Jason Reitman films and ensuing expectations. Adele and Hank were outsiders looking for their place in the world and found it with an ultimate outsider, Frank.  This film needs to be watched with suspending belief at how realistic reactions to the situation are and be led by voice of Hank and his memory of the pivotal moment in his life, making him the adult he became.

This was viewed at a special complimentary screening with thanks to Mumsnet and Paramount Pictures. 

 

Careful, the fun police are about.

There are many rules about what you can and cannot do in pregnancy. By rules, I of course mean advice given on the basis of VERY IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC STUDIES. It feels a lot like the fun police are about ensuring that anything risky or exciting is banned from a pregnant woman’s life. Hell just glue us to the sofa with a laptop in hand for 9 months to make sure we are nice and safe, googling the dangers of child-bearing and not making any actual decisions for ourselves.

Hang on, I had a glass of wine in the pub last night. Not allowed by the fun police and there were a fair few in the bar staring at the woman hiding a hot air balloon up her top, reading a book and enjoying a small house white while waiting for friends. I was on my own too. Several levels of  social boundaries broken and with a debate going on about whether drinking in pregnancy should be criminalised too. While I do not condone getting smashed out of my face while pregnant, I have found that the odd glass of wine has improved some of the more suffering points in pregnancy and made me a more bearable person to be around.

But this is notabout the ethics of alcohol use in pregnancy; this is about  common sense. We are given advice when pregnant about the risks posed by certain things and as adults able to raise whole other human beings, we are also given a degree of common sense – it would be hoped – to make a decision based on those risks, which apply to us as an individual during pregnancy. We’re talking about bigger pictures here. Making decisions based on our own personal willingness to take a calculated risk and what we need at that time.

This is brought up because while farting about on facebook earlier today I saw that a friend of mine had been refused sushi in Wasabi for the sole reason that she was pregnant. You can read about it here.

I am still pondering the logic of their decision and this quote below:

“We told her we strongly do not recommend her to buy raw fish – but she could buy something vegetarian,” he said. “It is not good for pregnant women.”

Raw fish may not be good for pregnant women although he doesn’t qualify as to how. Assuming it is because of the potential food poisoning it could cause then he might as well say that it is not good for any person not willing to risk food poisoning. Are they saying the food sold carries a reasonable risk of making us ill? Then maybe any Wasabi customers should be questioning their purchases.

Also, will this branch of Wasabi be handing out pregnancy tests at the door to ensure no unwitting woman accidentally eats their unsafe food? Since the only way to make a judgement about someone being ‘with-child’ is to see a visible bump. This really only happens in the third-trimester so for the first two-thirds of pregnancy a woman could be upsetting this man’s sensibilities about raw-fish eating. And what if that woman were not actually pregnant but just over weight? Or pregnant masquerading as over weight?

Are they going to now ban pregnant women also eating wasabi, as we are advised to avoid spicy food. Better slap me on the wrist for following up my glass of wine with a hot curry last night. Infractions that happened in both pregnancies to no detrimental effect. Oh and nasties can also be found in pre-cooked rice, better avoid that too. Again, maybe strap us to a sofa with a conveyor belt of pre-approved food and drink going past seems to be the only answer to stop us from the dangerous act of making up our own minds, like we have some ability to apply common sense and reason to any given situation. Maybe this was  a side-effect of baby brain that no one bothered to tell me about?