Pregnancy

Pros and Cons about being pregnant

pregs

People tell you that being pregnant is the most wonderful and fulfilling experience of your life, and that really you are not a whole being unless you have gone through the joys of child birth. Now while I try not to vomit in my mouth when I hear these sorts of statements, at the same time I did spend a considerable length of time hoping and praying and trying to become pregnant. While thoroughly enjoying the getting pregnant process, as I look back on it now, heavily pregnant, I never actually stopped to do a thorough analysis on the Pro’s and Con’s of achieving my goals.So I thought I would do one today.

Pros

This list is shorter than I thought it would be, and trust me, I researched this article thoroughly and this is still all I could find:
1. At the end of it you get a baby, and that’s always nice.
2. You get to play the pregnancy card and nobody can claim that you are faking it (because that would be insensitive and likely to make a very hormonal you wail).
This will get you out of lifting, walking, carrying, traveling, in fact anything that does not involve just sitting and breathing.
3. Your boobs get bigger, and almost look like you had some work done on them.
They become full bouncing cushions of loveliness. [Although at the back of your mind you know that one day they will start leaking – probably at the least opportune moment – so maybe this is a con in disguise?]
4. Without debate you get the last slice of cake.

Cons

1. The scary things people expect you to read.
Forget The Shining, forget IT the scariest book I ever tried to read was “What to Expect When You Are Expecting”. Apparently what you should expect is disaster and ruination at every turn; a fish tail, wings and scales are apparently the least weird things your baby could be growing.
2. Random advice you are given.
The advice always appears to come from a reputable source, and yet still, when you hear it, you know you won’t be following it. Real Life Example from EUMums: “Week 17: Borrow a baby to see how you feel with one in your arms.” It is possible that following this advice is illegal, and probably the reason that babies have to be fitted with alarms in the hospital. Also, at Week 17, if you decide “Actually, I’m not really sure I fancy this anymore.” There is sod-all you can do about it now; you are giving birth one way or the other.
Which brings me to Point 3.
3. At some point in your future something is going to not only try, but succeed, in crawling out of you.
I don’t think I will ever watch Alien with the same enthusiasm again.
4. Everything that your parents had for you as a baby is now banned.
It’s a whole new horrifying world of danger out there, where cot bumpers, cribs with drop sides and seat belts can …. KILL. So you better go out and buy the latest stuff brand new. Oh and did we forget to mention, everything pre-1980 might be made of lead paint and arsenic so whatever you do, don’t upcycle.
5. The unexpected appearance of baby brain
Where similar sounding words get interchanged in your mind, and you don’t notice for several minutes you have said the wrong one.
Some real life examples:
*Saying if something had more swastikas on it, it would be more girly. I meant swarovskies, obviously, as in the crystals. Nazi symbolism not known for it’s girly appeal.
*Ordering Durex when I wanted Duracell batteries. How did I get pregnant again?
*Forgetting the word for Shamrock, and saying Leprechaun repeatedly instead. And then getting annoyed when nobody understood what the hell I was on about.
6. Your expectations lower dramatically.
Fuck getting it to Harvard, or having it play piano, if it is still the same shape at the end of the day as it was at the start (plus or minus 10%) you consider yourself an AWESOME parent.
7. You realise before getting pregnant, it is possible you were a boarderline/functioning alcoholic
I miss wine. I really do. That one glass of wine on the couch after a long day in the office. That delicious glass of wine that accentuates an expensive meal. That first glass of wine when you are on a night out with your girls. That well-earned glass after a difficult project is completed. That afternoon cool sip of happiness as you watch the world go by.
8. Modern Medicine Abandons you
Get a dose of flu: No Lemsip, No Uni-flu, No Neuofen. You may take hot water, lemon juice and honey, a mixture which was so effective against the Black Death. (and, yes, it is the same concoction they prescribe to balding men to encourage hair-regrowth, for all the good that does).
Twist an ankle or need painkillers desperately – you may have Paracetamol, which is as much use as throwing buns at an elephant. You might as well throw back a packet of skittles for all the good they will do you.
9. Your tastes change
The lifesaving cup of tea at three o’clock tastes sour, alcohol has a strange metallic flavour and when it comes to chocolate, you would rather not (after frantic research this is not a sign you are about to die, but actually a normal reaction to pregnancy). But Brussels sprouts – you can’t get enough of those little suckers.
10. Your hands get very dry
While pregnant you embrace your inner germaphobe and wash your hands ten thousand times a day. You also have to pee ten thousand times a day, so that adds another ten thousand hand washes. By the time you are finished your hands are cracked and sore, and if anyone casually comments on this fact, you cry, because you are still also very hormonal.

Facts about First Time Motherhood

first time mother

A thesis on some of the finer points of first time motherhood.

1. The first 6 weeks are hell

There is no pretty way to dress it up, or tell it another way. And like Nam, you don’t know unless you were there.

Nobody talks about it. Nobody warns you. But for 6 weeks you might as well be living in Guantanamo Bay – there is sleep deprivation, the food is awful and you live in constant fear. Fear you will drop the baby. Fear they will stop breathing. Fear they will never stop crying. Fear your in-laws will never leave. Fear you will never want your in-laws to leave.

Some days it feels like your love for your baby is closer to Stockholm Syndrome – you love him, you know he doesn’t mean to hurt you, and yet, if you could hide him under the bushes without Social Services getting involved you might. Like Bosco’s magic door, people have no idea what is going on behind your front door, but just assume it’s likely to resemble a zoo.

But then it passes. Like dawn arriving, it’s silent and you don’t realise it’s happening until the darkness lifts and brightness returns. And then you forget it ever happened, like a horrific event your mind blocks it out and supressed it to your subconscious, which is the reason the world has middle and youngest children.

2. It’s no longer creepy to watch somebody sleep

And to add to that – now watching someone sleep is a completely acceptable group activity.

Forget the TV, you and your partner will pass many a happy moment just lying on the couch or bed watching your little one sleep. Some of this is joy they are no longer crying, some of it is to watch that they keep breathing, but mostly it’s because you are too tired to do anything else. Anyone who drops by during this moment will probably just sit down beside you and join in the staring.

3. You realise Queen Bey, Christina Aguilera, Britters, Lily Allen, Pink – all your pop icon Mums lied to you

Ladies who have sung about all the heartbreak and hardship in life. Ladies who have taken on everyone and everything, declared what was womanhood, and said it how it was. They have sang about cheating, lying, orgasms, drinking, going to work, watching other people going to work, being back-stabbed, going on a night out, sleeping around, traveling, everything and anything and sometimes about nothing at all. You name it – they have a tune about it, and how you will overcome it. But another human gets ripped from your Ya-Ya ….. nothing – just an empty space on the record.

You would think somewhere along the way they might have dropped a hint. Somewhere between waxing lyrical about how much they love their kids and declaring war on any challengers in their absence, you think they might have mentioned, oh by the way, getting pregnant is great and all, but childbirth is hell, and after that, your body looks like a deflated balloon and your spirit, well best not talk about it really, but we made it through somehow and you will too. Nowhere in their songs of motherhood is there the mention of cracked nipples, tracking the ratio of wet:dirty nappies, or the elation felt when the baby finally burps.

4. You become strangely competitive

Milestone check-ups and Mother/Baby groups seem to bring out the crazy in the most stable of people. Mothers morph from the Relaxed Mom “ah-he-has-ten-fingers-and-ten-toes-sure-he-is-a-grand-little-baby” to Stepford Mom “my-baby-can-lunge-at-10-weeks-clearly-he-is-Mensa-material-and-Harvard-would-be-lucky-to-have-him”.

Parents know in their right minds that very few grown adults are incapable of lifting their head, or moving it to both sides, and yet, coming up to that milestone check, they are training those babies like they are trying out for the Olympics. There is a daily schedule of practice time and rest time to be strictly followed. And once the baby passes the test? well, books back in the bag until it’s time to cram for the next one.

5. Dirty nappies are no longer totally gross

You become very comfortable with a little baby sitting on your knee filling that nappy practically to the brim, because you know if it is coming out, there is enough going in the other end. Plus there will be less chance of colic and the sleepless nights of crying it brings with it, if everything is passing through the clearing house. Shit never smelt so good.

6. Previous faults can now be disguised as enthusiastic mothering

All previous irritating habits and faux pas can now be twisted so that it does not appear that you are an annoying twat, rather you are An Awesome Mum:

Previously: OCD Clean Freak disinfecting everyone and thing in a 10 mile radius

Now: An Awesome Mum working fearlessly against the invasion of germs in any disguise

Previously: Social bore telling tedious stories that may be a reflection of her son’s genius or may be him passing wind.

Now: An awesome Mum of a possible over achiever

Previously: Over demanding pushy bitch

Now: An Awesome Mum just trying to get the best start from life for her kids

Previously: Self-obsessed narcissist only waiting for you to finish your dull story about skydiving from a speeding train while being tracked by international spies, so that she can tell the story of her kid’s dirty diaper again.

Now: An awesome Mum concerned about her son’s health

7. No matter what you are doing, someone will make you feel like you are doing the whole thing wrong.

Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, gave birth vaginally or by C-section, have decided to conduct social experiments on your children by raising them with wolves or have opted for the more traditional route, everywhere you go someone will have an opinion.

My particular favourite is that something you are doing makes you ‘less of a Mom’. Now last time I checked the only criteria to being a Mom was having kids. There is no grey area. Either you have kids and are a Mom, or you do not have kids and are not. I can imagine that there is many a mother out there who has had to drive down to the police station to discuss her kids anti-social behaviour who would love to say to the arresting officer “Actually, I didn’t breastfeed him until he was three, so there is that possibility I am not 100% his Mom, and so therefore may not actually be liable for this fine.” I could imagine the officer’s response would not be open to that theoretical debate.

8. “Well…. did you miss him?”

Leave your child for more than two seconds and this question will be asked. However, a little like the question “When did you stop beating your wife” there is really no correct answer. Say yes and you are an over-bearing possessive mother raising a clingy child. Say no and you are a callous bey-atch that does not deserve a child.

The real question should be what self-indulgent naughty thing do you get up to without them? Did you go into shops in old-fashioned cramped buildings with steps at the entrance and a windy staircase to the other level? Did you wander around expensive designer stores without worrying if you would have to buy something because it was now covered in puke? Did you sit in the cinema to watch the loudest action film you could find and stuff your face with noisy foods around nap time? Or did you just crawl back to bed and lie there, with a book and maybe a cup of tea, with no reason to get back out of it for hours. Paradise.

Review: Pilates for Preggos

Pilates for Preggos

I announced to my parents that I was pregnant and after the big hugs and excitement calmed down, my mother turned to me and in a stern voice said “Don’t eat too many sweets and start exercising now or the birth will split you in two”.
I wish I could say that I stuck to the first part, but to be honest I got an inverted version of morning sickness, rather than losing my appetite I had an insatiable hunger, right before the Christmas season, sweeties were inevitable. But I did listen to the second part and began to look around for the possibilities.
Having no affiliation to any sport, and having never exercised regularly, I was warned that now was not the time to discover my inner Katie Taylor. I could walk, swim or do pregnancy yoga pilates (for a long time I did not realise that these were two separate things).
I love swimming, but between the driving to a pool, getting undressed before and dressed again afterwards, and sorting out long wet hair in freezing Irish winter, it was really more effort than I was willing to put in. Walking is fine, but I already walk about two hours with the dog every second day, and after a while it just gets boring, I couldn’t do anymore of it. So that left Yoga-lates (again didn’t realise that this was different again than either yoga or pilates).
I signed up for the yoga first, and I have to admit I was very sceptical. I am not one for searching for my inner serenity or spending too long sitting still, so the idea of being trapped in a room smelling vaguely of farts and tofu, listening to an earth mother with a fake American accent waffle on while searching in vain for my inner goddess was not appealing, but I had my Mum’s wise words “split you in two” ringing in my ears, so I borrowed a yoga mat and got down to the class.
Well, I could not have been more wrong. What greeted me was the fragrance of clean clothes from the laundrette downstairs, a class of very normal ladies and an instructor with a broad Dublin accent who was more concerned with breathing through labour than finding inner peace. I was already beginning to relax.
I have to admit there was still some nonsense about picturing your child’s love and your love for your child, which at 30+ weeks might be very desirable thing to do when you can feel the baby kick and move, but, at my mere 18 weeks, when I was not really feeling any different to my pre-pregnancy self, it felt very cloud-dancer-ish. Plus while we are never still, always moving from one position to another, I still thought I could do with something a little more energetic. That is when I stumbled onto aqua-pilates.
I have to admit, I did picture snorkels, 80’s music and preggos in spandex, and what greeted me was not much different. There was no music or breathing apparatus, but there were preggos in swimsuits with floats – which were used to give your body the sort of stretch that is only otherwise achieved on a medieval rack. It felt awesome. So much so that I was twitching like a junkie to get back in the pool and do it again.
But while various knots and kinks were being worked out of muscles, there was a different sort of talk here, less about birthing and more about the times around that – the before and after; who was going to mind the other kids (or in our case animals) while you were in the hospital? Who was allowed visit in the first weeks? Would your partner get parental leave and if so for how long? I must have looked at the poor instructor like a rabbit caught in the headlights – we hadn’t discussed any of this stuff out loud! I got home and did the infamous “we need to talk” to my husband. As it turns out we didn’t really need to talk, although we had not discussed it out loud, we were both on the same page on all topics.
So Pilates and Yoga, would I recommend them to a pregnant friend? Are they worth the investment at a time when you are trying to save for cribs and prams and bottles and clothes? As a first time mother I am going to say yes. I was expecting to choose one over the other after giving both a try, but actually they do two different, although complimentary, things. I haven’t gotten to the birth part, so I cannot say if they will help the passing any, but in terms of good advice and building up a network of women in a similar situation, I think they are worth the couple of quid a week. Plus as every week goes on and the pregnancy feels more real, I hope I will begin to feel my love for the child and the child’s love for me and my love for the world and the worlds ….
If you are interested you should check out
http://www.yogaessence.ie/pregnancy-yoga/and
http://www.celbridgepilates.com/pilates/?page_id=42

Long Read – Women against Pregnant Women

women against pregnant women

This post was conceived as an impassioned plea on behalf of new fathers to receive more assistance from society (via the government) to allow them the time to bond with their children. But after an incident in a local hair salon* it has become a rant against women.

(*As a side note – any politician who wants to know what the pressing issues are for their female constituents needs to get their arse into a hair dressers or beautician’s chair. I don’t care if your hair is only an inch long and in perfect condition, this is where women talk to women, and where women chatter, issues are aired.)

Let me take a step back and set the scene. I was sitting in a hairdressers chair flicking thought the latest OK Magazine, gossiping about Kate Middleton’s maternity style (ok, sometimes when women chatter nothing meaningful is discussed, but stick with me) when the girl dying my hair told me she was pregnant. I was so excited for her I think I may have squealed aloud. I don’t know what it is about pregnancies and engagements – they just excite and delight everyone even if they are random strangers – or so I thought. However the girl (perhaps a little overwhelmed by my excitement wondering if I thought I was going to be made godmother or something) informed me that no, in fact not everyone was excited about pregnancies, and proceeded to tell me that she had told several of her regular clients that she was pregnant, and far from congratulating her, they were actually very put out. The manners their Mamma taught them made them grind out an ‘Oh how wonderful for you’ through gritted teeth and then straight away ask ‘when will you be gone and more importantly when will you be back’ – words which if said in an office would evoke the same sort of shocked silence a racist slur would arouse, so absolutely known is it that that is not the correct response to happy news.

But not here. Everyone surrounding waits for this young girls reply. She hesitantly admits (admits!) that she is due December 23rd, so she is finishing up December 8th, two weeks before her due date as set out in the legislation, (bearing in mind that her profession requires her to stand all day long, when I know that at 8 months it was a problem for me to sit all day long, so as far as I’m concerned she is cutting it fine, but there you have it.) ‘So you will be gone for Christmas? So I’ll need to find someone else to do my hair?’ is spat back at her with a scowl that could sour milk ‘Can you not work until Christmas, surely that would be better, a little cash for you going into Christmas.’

At this point I would like to interject with a little context. This is a conversation between two women, two women who know each other, albeit casually, for more than five years. One is an older lady with children, the client, and the other is a younger first time mother who relies on repeat regular clients for her livelihood. In essence this is a conversation between an employer and employee.

And I would like to take this one step further. Let’s take the words of the client and put them into a balding, sweating, middle-aged male business owner and replay the situation; girl tells boss that she is pregnant – boss aggressively questions her plans for leave during the busy season and implies there will be no job for her when she returns to work …. And let it percolate… And now let’s speculate how long (and I mean in terms of minutes) do you think it would take that girl to find a solicitor ready to sue that boss for unfair dismissal on grounds of pregnancy. Not only would the case not take long, and her success guaranteed, but so protected are pregnant women in employment law that I assume she would win big. Even if only a supervisor or colleague had said it I assume that there would be more than pregnancy weight filling out her back pocket.

Now let’s step back into the salon. Is the hairdresser able to sue? No, she is self-employed talking to a customer whose business she needs. Is she able to say she is unhappy with the client’s reaction and that it is upsetting to her? Again, no, because she is self-employed talking to a customer whose business she needs, who knows that she is about to lose a lot of regular customers because she dared have a personal life and a family life. So instead she has to try and laugh it off, pray that she doesn’t go into labour early and try to imply without committing that actually she will probably be only gone for a short period of time, and will probably be back to work on Saturdays really quickly, probably within the month.

The double standard at play here is mind boggling to me. How some women safe in regulated office jobs are treated so completely different to those who dared branch out on their own to be self-employed, not by the law, but by the women that surround them.

When I sat down to write this post I was thinking about the Dads. I was thinking how unfair it is that women get several months paid maternity leave and Dads are not even entitled to one day. I was looking to the Danish and Swedish models and thinking why can’t we be more like them? But actually, after the above incident, I have realised that we are actually much further apart than I could have realised. Far from supporting fathers (who are important and I’ll cover that again) we need to start supporting mothers.

Pregnancy, particularly unexpected pregnancies, can cause huge dramatic changes in a person’s life. We as a society need to be assuring young women that of all the things that will change, one thing that will remain secure is their employment. This is not something that a government can change or a law can change, we need to change. We need to stop being so selfish and self-centred and look beyond a minor inconvenience to see the bigger picture, a miracle growing before your eyes. There is going to be a new life, a new person in the world, who will fundamentally change all those around them. And although you might be only witnessing this as a stranger on the outside, the very least you can do is cause no harm. Don’t stress a young mother unnecessarily. Don’t be nasty and let her hear the branch creak below her. Support her. Say honestly and openly ‘Oh how wonderful for you’ – no strings attached. When she is gone, make other arrangements and when she is ready, and her child is ready, and her family are ready, for her to return to work, let her do so, in the same way as is afforded every other woman in the state.

What bothered me most about this incident is that it was woman to woman; mother to mother. As a society we have already decided that it is in our combined interest to protect women and allow them to have children and then return to the workplace. That is why we have such strong laws in the area. But as individuals we have somehow forgotten why our predecessors fought so hard for those laws. It’s not the male dominated culture of the board room, or the non-family-friendly policies of faceless big business, or any of the other excuses that are trotted out by HR journals, at work here. It’s just plain stupidity, ignorance and selfishness. Sometimes that’s more toxic.

Please note the details of this post have been altered to protect the identities of those involved.

The Post-Baby Diet

baby weight

The post-baby diet has begun.

My maternity wardrobe was too big (finally!) and my old wardrobe was too small. All I was left with was underwear even your granny would think was a bit prudish. I was in need of new clothes if I were to break out of this house and re-join civilisation.

I have to admit, post-baby clothes shopping was not the fun trip I was expecting.

Maternity clothes shopping had lulled me into a false sense of security. There is no such thing as fat when you are pregnant. You are supposed to ‘look big in this’, you’re pregnant and it’s a sign that you are growing a great big healthy baby, claps on the back all round. For almost a year it was like shopping for a school uniform again, you wanted to leave plenty of growing room, something that just fit would never do. And trying to squeeze into the smaller size was unheard of.

On the other side of the birth, things were looking a bit different again. I was expecting that once the baby was ejected a lot of the weight would leave with him. I had heard that once you gave birth you should be able to fit into the maternity clothes that you wore at four or five months. I could get these clothes over my mummy tummy, but not over my mummy thighs. Naively I put this down to water retention, so I waited patiently for the fluid to dissipate. And waited. A little did, but even two months later I still could not squeeze into the smaller maternity clothes. I had to face facts. If I wanted to leave the house wearing clothes, I needed to go shopping. I found solace in the fact that I was smaller than I was at nine months pregnant, put on a brave face and hoped for the best.

The outcome was not pretty. I wandered into changing rooms with clothes in one size, and several minutes of squeezing later, the fitting room’s assistant had to swap them for clothes four sizes up. My confidence was not at an all-time high. I decided to buy a cheap and cheerful temporary wardrobe from Penneys while I got my body back to its normal size.

If I am honest, I may have been unrealistic about my ‘before’ figure. In my mind, before this all began, I was a slender, slim, size 8. In some ways that is true: back when I was 16 before I met my husband and before we even started thinking about babies, I was a size 8. But in more ways, it is a complete lie. As soon as we decided that we were going to try for babies I started eating cake. And bread. And pasta. And just about anything else calorific I could get my grubby little hands on. I figured if I was going to get pregnant I was going to get fat so what was the point of watching what I was eating. I would lose the excess when I was losing the baby weight.

I am now on the other side of that thought process and I now realise that it is going to be no easy feat shifting all this additional weight.

My first step is to admit where I am. If you don’t know where you are, you can’t know how long it will take to get to your destination. I can safely say, I am definitely not a size 8 now. Nor am I a 10. I am much closer to a squeeze-into-it, thank-god-this-is-stretch-material, I-don’t think-all-the-buttons-are-supposed-to-be-able-to-close, is-it-a-Moo-Moo-if-you-buy-it-in-Brown-Thomas, I-have-seen-people-camp-in-tents-smaller-than-this size. Not big in the grand scale of things, but big for me.

My next step is to devise a plan. I’m a sucker for celebrity endorsed fitness products, so I have the Anna Richardson’s Body Blitz Diet and Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. I also have some strong advice from Ruth Whelan: don’t wait until Monday, start today. So here we go. Out with the take away in with the nutrients. I’ll keep you posted on how I do.

When are you having the next?

next

If there was such thing as Maternity Ward bingo* this would be the big winning square in the middle – that is, how soon a mother is asked “When are you having the next?” after giving birth.

The baby is almost fresh from the womb, being cleaned and the family notified, when some idiot pipes up “oh you can’t leave them on their own – you’ll have to get them a little brother or sister, a little friend.” As if you can pop down to Argos and order one over the counter.

Right now, I would rather buy my son friends than have to grow him one. I would rather spoil him rotten, buy him every crazy gimmick, every overpriced toy that comes along, so all the other kids with several siblings want to play with his new toys and hopefully by extension him (in this plan I’m hoping he won’t be that bright, so it might take him several years to figure out that these are not real friends).

I have a friend who has three under the age of five, and before I had mine I had no idea what a feat of human resilience she was exhibiting on a daily basis by not hiding under her bed and hoping they would all go away. Watching her with those kids is like watching someone walk a tightrope – it’s amazing, it’s death-defying and I am definitely not having a go.

Every so often I think, maybe we could have another when my son is out of nappies, or maybe when he starts school, or maybe after he does his communion or confirmation. And then I realise that I will be too old at that stage to be even worrying about it. Worrying about how I would survive if I got a second non-sleeper, or how would I keep track of an energetic toddler while lugging around a big pregnant belly, or how would I survive another mind-numbing maternity leave?

And then I look at my son, curled up asleep, and think ‘ahhhhh aren’t babies so cute …..’

*Maternity Ward Bingo – if it’s not a thing, I’m going to invent it – a million dollar idea if ever I’ve heard one!

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