The maternity checklist. To me it was less of a ‘checklist’ and more of a ‘novel’.
I remember packing my bags for hospital, and when I say ‘bags’ I mean ‘plural of bag’ because I had… what? Two? Three of them? Plus a pillow, plus a car seat, plus a birthing ball. I don’t think I have ever been so prepared in my life for anything than I was for the births of my two children.
OK, I didn’t. I really didn’t. I felt sick, exhausted, flat out ill. I never had the pregnancy glow, at least not without the help of a lot of make-up. I looked grey, had bad hair and could not stay awake. One of my lasting memories is that of me at three months pregnant, lying on the sofa. Trying to entertain a 1 year old Elfie but just weeping because I felt so wretched. She was laughing so I think she found the weeping entertaining.
But still, I loved being pregnant and I love to look back on the time when my babies were in my tummy. It’s a pretty crazy and magical thing that we women do, growing people. Elfie has recently learned that babies grow in mummies tummies and I’m trying not to feel offended that she asked me if I had another baby in there when we were in the bath last week. Instead I feel touched that she has been asking to get back in my tummy :) And then she says “oh no! Elfie too big!”. Too right.
This time last year was my favourite time of pregnancy. I was about 30 weeks pregnant and had finally found some energy, I wasn’t too freaked out yet about being a mum of two under 2 and had stopped feeling so ill. I was completely unable to eat during the first 18 weeks and ended up losing a lot of weight so was all bump. It’s lots of fun dressing a bump!
One thing I never got on board with was Maternity clothes. I could never bring myself to buy clothes from such a small collection that would last me only 9 months, although even now only a year on there seem to be so many more brands out there to choose from. There’s Vertbaudet for one, Keungzai and good old ASOS Maternity. In fact, looking at all the photos on this page I’m not wearing any maternity wear: only maternity-waistband jeans and leggings (H&M are best for these in my opinion… I definitely don’t still wear them. Ahem).
There’s absolutely nothing like having your child grow inside you. It’s so freaky and alien-like but also the most natural thing you can do. I often feel a bit sad that this is something men won’t ever get to experience, but then I’m not sure they could handle it. Plus they get to do other fun stuff, like peeing standing up ;)
I’m getting way too wistful about pregnancy here, it’s making me feel quite nervous (and if Will is reading this I expect his balls are slowly retreating at the thought of Harold baby number 3). To balance it out I’m going to remind myself of this: piles. Constipation. Leaky boobs. Pregnancy UTIs. Post-natal depression. Morning sickness.
It’s not working! How is pregnancy so intoxicating?
Thank-you to Vertbaudet for collaborating with me on this post. Please take a look at their selection of fabulous maternity wear!
It’s a bit heathen-esque for me to admit that I’ve never been into art. I like a pretty picture as much as the next person but I really have no great appreciation for cows suspended in formaldehyde or great water colours by 18th century French men. This possibly goes against my middle class facade and I may well be turned away from John Lewis the next time I step through their doors but it’s the truth: I am the woman who went to the Louvre, took a look through the window then decided to drink a bottle of wine in the cafe next door. My motto? You’ve seen one painting, you’ve seen then all.
One exception to this rule is PHOTOS. Photos, I love. I really appreciate the work of artists like Ryan McGinley, Harley Weir, Terry Richardson and even Richard Kern, and I was introduced to these people in my job at Vice Magazine before Elfie came along. It was the most wonderful exciting, cutting-edge and creative atmosphere to work in and gave me so many opportunities, from going to fashion week to sending my dad to a rock festival in France and as much vodka I could possibly drink.
Unfortunately, family life was not so compatable with all that crazy fun so I went self-employed after maternity leave but I still like to keep up with my old friends at Vice; that’s how I came across this incredible series of photographs by a Russian artist. Entitled ‘Waiting’, it’s a collection of pictures that Jana Romanova took of her friends and their partners in different stages of pregnancy as they slept in bed. Setting up a ladder the night before she would creep in at 6am to snap her photographs quietly, before they woke up. I’m not sure how well I would sleep knowing someone was about to come in and capture the crusty bits around my mouth but I think it’s such a wonderful idea and a real intimate insight into an aspect of a couple’s life you don’t normally see. It makes me think back to that special special time when we were waiting to meet our babies, the kicks, flips and turns you feel so much more at night.
You can see the full story and an interview with Jana Romanova over at Vice.com or visit Jana’s website here.
When I reviewed my 9 months of being pregnant with Elfie I commented how amazing the body’s capacity to forget is. You look at photos of your pregnant bump and it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside despite nine months of hell and illness. Don’t be fooled by my smiles, they’re just for the camera.
Weirdly enough I didn’t feel that pregnant but looking back on it now I definitely looked pregnant. Very pregnant. I kind of miss it (SEE??! 9 months of hell and my brain is tricking me into missing it) but having Huxley on the outside is wonderful. It’s so strange to look at the 6 and 8 week photos and imagine him as a teeny tiny foetus inside me. So much has happened in that period of time; we’ve moved house twice, I’ve worked on lots of lovely projects, stopped working because I was too knackered, experienced a Christmas and only hair my hair cut once (oops).
Pregnancy: it’s 40 long weeks of a beautiful, vommy, exhausting, wonderous experience.
Let me tell you, a whole week in hospital on a hot, noisy maternity ward with your new baby really makes you think about and appreciate the small things. Especially when neither of you are ill so the stay seems kind of futile. I tried to view it as extra healing time for me and extra bonding time with Hux, but I missed Elfie and our home so so much. Our families were brilliant and rallied round so Will was able to be at the hospital the majority of the time but I think he was driven slightly mental by the whole noisy ward experience – as was I.
We were in awaiting the results of tests that Huxley needed to see if he was born with the same condition as Elfie. Because what she has is so rare and not very well understood they were being super cautious about releasing us, but yesterday we were given the preliminary all-clear and allowed to come home. There are still more tests to come back but everything looks good and we believe Huxley will not be affected. The relief was incredible and I was so happy to get him home yesterday.
The amazing thing about hospitals (alongside their ability to look after and cure people) is the sheer melting pot of people they attract. Like the post office. So many times I wished I had the energy and means to blog about what was around me, it was so surreal and weird at times.
There was the woman who I was placed opposite on the ante natal ward when i was admitted at 2cm who was on all fours with a canister of gas and air, howling like a banshee and screaming that she needed to push. After a very loud examination (midwife: “I haven’t touched you yet, please stop screaming”) she was carted off to the labour ward. At 3cm dilated. According to Will, my face at that point was a picture, but really her screams were totally One Born Every Minute-esque and not good for the mental state of a woman who planned on calmly and quietly breathing through labour, i.e. me.
Then there was the relief I felt when the consultant started talking about a c section which would take place at 39+6 (though my notes said 40+1?), because even though I felt like I was letting myself down by not attempting to move forward with the VBAC I knew I couldn’t take any more sleepless nights of ineffectual contractions along with the decreased movements and slowing heartrate; it had been four days already, I may have gone mental. At that point there is nothing I wanted more than a lovely kind surgeon to cut my abdomen open. They did a pretty thorough stretch and sweep but put me on the emergency list for the afternoon of the 16th May should that not bring on more contractions. It didn’t.
Let’s not talk about the surgeon who put in my cannula IN MY TWEETING HAND when I specifically requested it go in my left, and instead feel thankful that it didnt work so someone had to swap it around.
Next in my hospital chronicle is the anaesthetist who congratulated me on my excellent banter (he actually used those words) before telling me post-section my uterus was ‘flabby’ and warning me that the medicine he had to give me to contract it would make me violently sick, but that’s ok because that’s better than bleeding to death, right? I wasn’t sick (champion!) but did feel completely and utterly horrendous for the next eight hours.
Best of all was all the amazing midwives who were just superb and who made the experience so much more pleasant than it could’ve been.
My roommate throughout the whole experience was a heavily tattoed Biker/Butcher lady who had some very interesting opinions: 50 Shades Of Grey? Not that sexual according to her. Her baby was 6lb born at 35 weeks so was quite jaundiced and spent the whole week under lights. Happily she got to go home the day before I did, she was quite hilarious.
I think I did a pretty good job of staying positive when I was in there – I hated not knowing how long they would be keeping us in – and having poor mr Huxley poked for bloods every 6 hours was awful. The lovely people of Twitter went a long long way towards keeping me sane as well as helping me with breast feeding questions in the middle of the night when I felt like I was passing glass through my nipples (answer: plenty of Lansinoh and it WILL get better). I think my mental state was mostly down to the fact I daren’t hope to go home as I knew that if Hux’s tests had come back positive then we’d have be there for the foreseeable future. And that would have been awful.
Anyway, walking through my own front door yesterday felt beyond heavenly. I feel so lucky for my lovely little family, our beautiful home, my caring and thoughtful husband and all the people we have around us. And shit, I have 2 kids. How did that happen?!
Psst… don’t forget you can still vote for More Than Toast as Best Pregnancy Blog at the MAD Awards!
When you get pregnant it seems that you open yourself up to be marketed at by what feels like every company in the world, ever. And if you’re anything like me you are so over the moon to be pregnant that you will LOVE each and every last bit of literature or product you are given and will treasure it, reading from cover to cover. See: Bounty Packs, Boots/Tesco/Sainsbury’s Baby Club, The Baby Show, Emma’s Diary… it’s a relentless cycle of marketing and information.
Most of these sample sized products and leaflets will end up in a basket or drawer somewhere, because you don’t actually need that much crap when you’re pregnant. Check out this list: I have never needed nor purchased a full body pillow, tennis balls or peppermint hand lotion. There are some things that have been lifesavers, however.
Here’s my list of Alternative Pregnancy Essentials:
Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream – my skin has been all over the place since I got pregnant, in the last trimester specifically. I’ve had dry patches that my usual moisturiser hasn’t even been touching, so I’ve been putting 8 Hour Cream on these bits at night. It’s worked wonders. Plus once Elfie scraped her palm falling down and I used it to heal her booboo, she now requests mummy’s special cream on her hand every morning.
Sudocrem – ditto, my zits have been out of control in these last couple of weeks, particularly on my jawline. Sudocrem really helps clean up these spots and again I put it on before I go to sleep at night. Plus it makes your face smell like a baby’s bum.
Crappy literature – I read four parenting books in a row and it just about sent me cross eyed from boredom and information overload. So I moved on to The Hunger Games trilogy, 50 Shades Of Grey and most recently Me Before You. The light relief these books have brought me when I’ve been slightly freaked out about having two kids and giving birth has been wonderful.
Ready Meals and Ice Cream – cooking is one of the last things on my mind at the moment so low-maintenance meals are my friend. Ice cream? Well, it’s just nice to eat ice cream.
Something nice to rub on your bump - I swear by L’Occitane Almond Supple Skin Oil. I seem to have inherited my mum’s magic genes as we’ve both been through two pregnancies with no stretch marks to show for them so I don’t use the oil for this purpose, it just smells divine and always feels like a special treat.
Spray bleach – I have had a big ‘thing’ for the smell of bleach this time around, especially in the second trimester and now as I’m coming up to the end of the pregnancy. Spray bleach for me is the only thing that makes me feel that my desired level of clean has been achieved and my favourite brand is Flash. Also, Cillit Bang polishes nasty stainless steel sinks up a treat.
Great accessories – as I’ve written about, it can get a little depressing when your favourite clothes no longer fit. Accessories will always fit, maybe with the exception of rings or shoes when you swell up like a balloon. Stick with bracelets, or necklaces. They’ll always fit. Ditto handbags.
Nice comfy pyjamas – you will be wearing them a lot if you are anything like me.
A decent foundation and concealer – these days I NEED to wear makeup before I go out but I don’t want to put a full face on, so I stick with foundation and concealer only. I have found Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum paired with MAC’s Select Coverup works really well for me, perhaps with a bit of BeneFit Coralista blusher for colour .
Maternity vests, jeans and leggings – these ARE essential. I recommend H&M leggings and jeans for comfort and staying-up-ability.
Sidenote: can you believe that I have made the finals of the MAD Blog Awards??! Thank you so very much to everyone who nominated me and for all the support I’ve received, I was over the moon to have even been considered so to be a finalist is just amazing. I would love for you to consider voting More Than Toast in the Best Pregnancy Blog category, which you can do here. Thank-you!