Sunday 27 April 2014

Week 136- primal screams, tea and toast and giving birth to our son...

The best meal in the world, without a doubt, is the tea and toast you're given after birth.

My waters had broken the previous afternoon, I'd come up to the Royal Sussex hospital only to be sent home again. When I started bleeding later in the evening, they admitted me for the night and, once the doctors had satisfied themselves that the baby was fine, I secretly thought things couldn't have worked out better.

I was showing no signs of actually going into labour so I viewed it like staying in a hotel for the night.  

A bit of a cheap hotel, granted, with neon striplights glaring 24/7. 

And a next-door neighbour who was clearly in distress, breathing loudly through her contractions and being sick every two minutes.

But a night on my own, nonetheless. 

And I wasn't going to be disturbed at 4am by a two and a half year old wanting to get into bed with me and touch my face with her sticky hands, so that was a definite bonus.

The doctor had threatened to induce me, so every time I heard official-sounding footsteps on the ward, I shut my eyes tightly and hoped they'd leave me in peace. 

Turns out, I needn't have bothered. 

I'd only just nodded off when I was woken by a familiar tightening in my womb. 

I rang Ben to let him know we were on. 

Our baby was on his way. 

Luckily, he had remembered the breathing techniques from Nancy's birth and talked me through them on my mobile. 

It was a joy for all those trying to sleep in the beds on my ward, I'm sure, as I mimicked in a panicky voice, 'breathe in two, three, four. Hold, two, three, four. Breathe out, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.'

By 3.30am it was all systems go, and I was in the labour ward. 

I could hear terrifying, primal screams coming from all the rooms around me. 

The brain has a phenomenal way of blocking out trauma. 

It's an awful trick to play on women, because if you really remembered what going into labour was like, the world would be full of single-child families. 

It's less than 24 hours since giving birth and already I'm thinking, it wasn't THAT bad. 


Even during labour, your body releases endorphins between contractions, luring you into a minute-by-minute false sense of security. 

Swinging from, 'Oh my God, my entire innards are crunching and tightening in the world's strongest vice', to 'That was ok, I'll just have a little sit down' in a matter of seconds.

But throughout, I would get an occasional whiff of burnt toast. 

The smell of the future. 

The trophy of a successful delivery. 

By 6am things had stepped up a gear. 

The midwife was wearing a plastic apron and rubber gloves. Most surfaces were covered in protective sheeting. I had Ben in a kind of head lock as he coached me through the breathing, purple-faced and struggling for breath himself as I held on tighter and tighter, panting, 'I CAN'T DO THIS!'

Now, I'm not one of life's natural athletes. 

I had a bash at volleyball when first moving to Brighton but got hit in the face a couple of times, started ugly crying and then no-one was that keen on me joining their team. 

I've given jogging a go, but in reality it's more like walking pace with my legs moving a bit more quickly. 

And I mum-swim from time to time, only doing breast stroke and ensuring my hair is dry at all times. 

But basically, stamina sports have never really factored very heavily in my life.

So pushing out an entire person into the world has to be THE most physically challenging thing I've ever done. 


With no training and only a Tracker bar to keep me going. 

And it was all happening much more quickly than I'd anticipated.

I hadn't even had a chance to change into my minging nightie. It will have to be a secret Santa for some lucky unsuspecting, as I never want to see it again. 

I could hear a low, almost Maori-like wailing, which I'd assumed was coming from one of the other rooms. 

As I drew breath for a final push, I was surprised to find it was me making the noise. I had no idea I could a) sound so scary or b) so deep. 

And moments later, our son arrived into the world. All slippy, with a full head of black hair and long, pianist fingers.

Even though I'd carried him for nine months, it was a shock to meet him.

To have an entirely new human being placed in your arms. To know you created that person. And that they are now going to be in your life for the rest of your life.

It's mind-blowing stuff. 

I wanted to say something profound. To put this life-changing event into some kind of context, that we were now a family of four. 

But instead the midwife asked if I would like some tea and toast. 

So I forgot about marking the occasion with some words of wisdom, gave my brand new baby a big sniff and a kiss on the top of his wrinkly head, and gratefully said yes. 

Sunday 20 April 2014

Week 135- trapped wind, straddling Shetland ponies and groaning like a grandad...

Right. That's it. I'm done being pregnant. 

It's T minus three days until the due date and I feel like if I grow a millimetre more, I'm literally going to explode.

I remember reading somewhere, and I'd like to say it was in The Guardian but was more likely to have been on Facebook, that if a normal person's internal organs were as crushed as a pregnant woman's, then they would probably be dead. 

I can totally believe it. 

I Googled this completely unsubstantiated fact but was redirected to a forum discussing what would happen if a man's testicles got crushed.

Lovely stuff.

I've worked out that I could have bought a large bottle of Chanel No. 5 with the amount I've spent on Gaviscon over the last nine months, which, in itself, is depressing beyond belief.

I definitely look like I'm about to give birth any second. 

The waddle is a clear giveaway. I'm walking like I'm straddling a Shetland pony. 

And the difficulty in getting up from the sofa is something else, now.

The noise I eject has cranked up from a relatively inoffensive grumble, that wouldn't be out of place in a nursing home, to a full on belting groan, a bit like the world's strongest man pulling a ten tonne truck.

I ventured onto London Road the other day and every shopkeeper, bar none, went on about how pregnant I looked. 

This was starting to wear a bit thin, especially when I only wanted to buy some maternity pads and was questioned at great length by the woman behind the counter about how scared I was about going into labour. 

All I could think was, you're the one who should be scared, love, this is the furthest I've walked in about a month, I'm sweating to death and my hormones are going bananas.

There were some advantages to this unwanted attention, though. When I popped into a coffee shop and asked if I could use their loo without buying anything, the barista took one look at me and responded, 'Oh my God, of course,' virtually throwing the key at me. 

The thing is, although I have a fully grown baby inside me, I'm not sure how ready I am to meet him yet. 

Now, I realise that this is going to happen imminently. 

In fact I started panicking my face off when I thought we were all systems go in an NCP car park the other day. It turned out to be trapped wind, but that's not the point.

It suddenly dawned on me that, possibly before we've finished the four pints of milk that are in the fridge, we are going to have a second child. 

And that sounds very grown up. 

On top of that, I feel like I've forgotten absolutely everything about looking after a baby. 

A two and a half year old, no problem. 

But if I try and cast my mind back to what it was like when Nancy was a newborn, it's like attempting to remember a conversation with someone after five pints. You know it happened, but it's all a bit of a fug.

I think I haven't really got my head around the fact that I've spent the best part of the last three years adapting to being a mum of one. 

Striking a balance between parenting/work/having-a-stab-at-a-social-life. 

Now we're rewinding to the beginning again. 

It's like your sense of identity is completely thrown into question. Your world, once again, becomes the size of the activities you can do with a newborn baby, but this time, there will be a toddler who needs to be entertained as well.

When we brought Nancy back from the hospital we spent the best part of two weeks staring at her in wonder and terror, trying to absorb the information that we'd created a brand new human being. 

This time, we will bring our son home, and 'normal' life will have to resume immediately, because there will be another small child who still needs looking after. 

So maybe I shouldn't wish away these last few days but should put them to some good use. 

Like scanning through some of the stacks of unread baby books we bought three years ago. 

Or practising my breathing. 

Or checking I've packed the world's most unattractive nightdress in my hospital bag (the ultimate wear once and bin on the way out item of clothing).

Or maybe I'll just finish watching House of Cards and eat all the emergency supply of Twirls. 

I have got at least a whole three days to kill, after all. 

Sunday 13 April 2014

Week 135- Babs Windsor, cracked nipples and facing up to the inevitable...

There comes a point in pregnancy when you don't think you can a) get any bigger or b) get any more tired.

I think I am at that point.

It's like being an absolutely massive wind up toy.

I headed into town yesterday full of plans to buy oral arnica for quick healing bits after labour, got as far as the high street and then ground to a halt.


I could see Holland and Barrett.

I knew that 50 metres more and I'd be at the shop.

 But I couldn't convince my legs to move.

If someone had offered me a sit down on a rusty-nailed chair for five hundred quid at that very moment, I would have said, 'yep go on then, put it on my tab.'

So I just stood there.

Panicking a bit that I might have to wait until Ben finished work two hours later and ask him to pick me up from the side of the road.

I then spotted that the electronic sign on my bus stop said 2 minutes until the 5B.

So I crossed over, waddled onto the bus and headed home, disappointingly empty handed.

I don't know what's worse.

The fact that I am wheezing like a 40-a-day smoker from just standing up.

That my stomach is now so huge that the elastic cummerbund designed to give my bump support has been under so much pressure that it now pings off unexpectedly when I'm out, like an obese Babs Windsor.

That the acid indigestion from my internal organs being so squashed is now at a stage where I'm double dropping Gaviscon and Rennies on a half-hourly basis.

Or that all of this will end soon to be replaced by cracked nipples, sleepless nights, a fanny that could probably hide the Titanic and hair loss in all the wrong places.

I was having a bit of a lie down as my brain was going a tad mental with it all, contemplating the now and anticipating the very near future.

When something ace happened.

Nancy came into the bedroom, climbed over my Everest sized tummy, asked if she could 'rest with me' (I'm still unsure where she's picked up these period-drama style phrases) and wrapped her very sticky arms around my neck.

At the same time, Tiddler woke up and started beating seven bells out of me from the inside.

Nancy accused him of 'kicking her in the face,' but said she didn't mind as she loved her brother, and wanted to know exactly when he was coming out so she could show him her plastic Grandad Dog.

And I thought, two children is going to be the hardest thing we've ever done.

It's going to put a strain on everything we currently know.

But maybe it's also going to be a little bit fucking brilliant.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Week 134- puking, playgroups and pelvic floor exercises...

One of the benefits of having a cold that makes you feel like everyone is talking to you underwater, is that you have no idea how rank you smell when you're half covered in vomit. 

We'd been having a good week, all things considered.

I've started walking like I'm carrying a watermelon between my thighs, but that's to be expected now I'm full term. 

This baby also feels like the only thing that's holding it in is good will, and that a powerful sneeze might see him being born in record time in the middle of Card Factory. 

But again, I accept that as a product of a second pregnancy and also being able to count on one hand how many times I've done pelvic floor exercises. 

Nancy and I had gone off to a popular playgroup where you have to be queuing outside from 9.20am at the latest, the doors open at 9.30 prompt and by 9.31 there's a piece of paper stuck to the door to say that the group's full.

Nancy had been kicking around with Ebba, pushing a range of ethnically diverse plastic babies round the room in buggies, and I'd been making the most of the free tea and biscuits. 

I think it's only meant to be one custard cream per parent, but whose going to argue with a women who's walking like a sumo wrestler?

Nancy had been playing happily for the best part of an hour before she complained of a sore throat. 

And 30 seconds later she'd done the mother of all voms all over us both.

Now, the only thing worse than seeing a tiny person wide-eyed with distress as they throw up their breakfast, is watching it all happen in front of a church-hall full of other parents. 

And then realising that not only do you not have a change of clothes for either of you, but you also can't bend down to clear anything up as a humongous stomach makes it virtually impossible to get up again. 

Thank God for brilliant friends. 

With two women quickly wiping us off with wet-wipes, we were virtually presentable.

The thing is, with a bump the size of a beach-ball, I can only see what's going I as far as my belly button. 

Anything below is a mystery. 

And it was only when I stood up that my friends realised that the bottom half of my stomach and crotch were saturated with sick. 

There are times in your life when both dignity and self respect go out the window. 

Having your groin wet-wiped down for the 'biggest chunks' is one of those times. 

And I owe those two friends more than I own for doing that.

So. We both stink. I know that. 

Not because I can smell anything. 

But because everyone on the bus can. 

Bonus number two. 

We have cleared a relatively large space around us on a very crowded bus.

The only other bonus to a little person being poorly, is that all they want to do is cuddle you, which is a rarity at age two.

I had our afternoon planned out. 

I would lie on the sofa. Nancy would sleep on me. And I would catch up on a bit of House of Cards on the telly.

But first I'd give her a bit of Calpol using one of the squirty, syringe things they come with. 

Having not used them before in favour of a spoon, neither Nancy nor I knew how they worked. 

Unfortunately Nancy sealed her mouth shut just as I got it working and managed to squirt the whole lot into her eye. 

I don't know what was worse. 

The adrenaline-filled panic as I washed it out. 

Or the fact that Nancy kept repeating through sobs, 'Daddy's going to be so sad that you've broken my eye.'

Bring on baby number two. 

This parenting lark is a piece of piss.