Author, Blogger, Mother, Procrastinator.
Big fan of honesty.
Sickness, Sex and Placentas – 20 Week Pregnancy Update
Yes, there is a bun in my lady oven! I know most people who follow me on social media will already be aware of this fact but I haven’t blogged about this pregnancy yet (bar referencing my constant urge to wee in the recent tale of the pissy frying pan) and now that I have whizzed past the halfway mark it felt about the right time to offer something by way of an update. I suppose I should start at the very beginning. Well, not the very beginning, you probably don’t need know how and when the bun got there, though evidently there are some people who would like this information (slightly disconcerting that Bev from Warminster reckons she's 'pinpointed the weekend of conception' and messaged to tell me so - she wasn't far off actually, round of applause for Bev). I found out that I was pregnant at around four weeks but decided to wait until sixteen weeks to ‘go public’ with an announcement and I did so for a number of reasons. The first was that I had an almighty ‘do I really want to live this pregnancy online?’ wobble which culminated in a dramatic ‘I’m going to shut down all my social media accounts until after the baby is born!’ episode. I am mostly blaming my hormones for that one, I just felt in that instant that I wanted to protect our baby secret and not start splashing him or her on the internet before they were the size of a fig. I’ll be totally honest, I also had an underlying feeling of dread that people would think our decision to have another baby was somehow grounded in a desire to produce more blog/book material, which couldn’t be further from the truth. There are, in fact, a multitude of reasons why we felt three was our magic number and I think perhaps those warrant a blog post of their own (I know, I know, it may not have been the motive but being preggers really does provide a wealth of blog material). So, how have the first five months of pregnancy been, this time around? Well, I’m feeling pretty spritely now but I would be lying if I told you that the first four months were anything but shit. The pregnancy sickness was by far the worst I have ever had, kicking in at around six weeks and lasting until week seventeen. I wasn’t alarmingly ill during any of those weeks and having read several accounts of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, including this one from Susie Verrill (who was effectively bedridden for two months and spent Christmas Day trying to nibble a potato over a sick bag), I considered myself lucky to be functioning at all. I promised myself that I wouldn’t moan, constantly reminding myself of how fortunate I was to be carrying another baby and yet there were days when I struggled to see the light. Feeling sick all the time is simply exhausting. I don’t think there was a single moment in those eleven weeks when I didn’t feel nauseous and at around 4PM every day 'feeling off' turned into retching and vomiting. I counted forty-three consecutive days when my evening meal came back up and sometimes that ‘meal’ was half a slice of dry toast. At week eleven I gave myself a ‘mind over matter’ pep talk and headed out for dinner with friends where, after catching a whiff of moules marinière, I threw up in the toilet, blamed my lack of appetite on a large lunch and then cried all the way home. There were several bizarre occasions when I craved massive platefuls of carbs, almost to the point of compulsion (frozen Yorkshire puds with gravy were a go-to snack) yet after eating them I would feel so rotten that I would either have to be sick or go to bed to sleep off the dirty carb-coma. My freelance articles went completely by the wayside, I made feeble ‘stomach bug’ excuses for almost all my pre-booked work engagements, I snapped at the boys for making too much noise and I stopped replying to texts from friends who were in the know because I was just not in a positive enough mindset to start thinking about baby names and pushchairs. Even writing this is making me sound mardy but I wanted to share it because I have had so many messages from women who are beating themselves up for not ‘cherishing’ the first trimester (and beyond) and I believe so strongly that saying, ‘Jesus, this is a bit shit’ doesn’t make you ungrateful for the bigger baby-carrying picture. Sickness aside, there are a great many pregnancy quirks, for want of a better word, that I’d forgotten about and some of these have proved more comical than others (now that I have shaken off the feeling-rotten cloud I am laughing a lot). My boobs are massive, which, as the owner of ‘B cup on a good day’ breasts (the bra-fitter’s words) is no bad thing. However, they are also dry and itchy (I guess from where the skin has been stretching?!) and when I removed my over-shoulder-boulder-holder the other day a shower of body dandruff flaked out. I know. I’ve become so sexually disinterested that I think my vagina has gone inverted. Figuratively speaking, that is, because in a literal sense quite the opposite has happened and there are now parts down there that look like they are on steroids. This is at month five. I can only assume that by month nine people will be renting out the inflatable space for a quick game of Total Wipeout. The cellulite on my arse and upper thighs has quadrupled in surface area and the growing baby pip in my tummy has given me the world’s worst wind. I also have the chin of a pubescent teenager, with new spots appearing out of nowhere. You have all been so kind with your comments on the pregnant photo of me on holiday but you should know that I made my husband take at least twenty snaps before deleting nineteen of them and putting two filters on the sole survivor because I have never felt less attractive. If my first and second pregnancies weren't evidence enough then the first half of this pregnancy has well and truly confirmed that I am a grower and not a glower. On a more serious (and non-fanny-related note) I’ve found myself worrying a LOT. The more time I have spent on social media, the more I have come to realise that carrying a healthy baby to full term is not something that should ever be taken for granted and I can’t help but feel that, on reflection, I was a bit blasé (albeit unintentionally) during my previous pregnancies about the enormity of bringing another life into the world. I am way more on edge this time, like it's all too good to be true somehow. My brain went into overdrive on the way to our 20-week scan and hearing that everything was as it should be with the baby at this stage was just such a relief. We do have to go back at 32-weeks for another scan because at present the placenta is covering my cervix (and if it doesn't shift it’ll be delivery via the sun-roof) but my thoughts about that are: a) there’s ages for it to shift yet, and b) I honestly don’t care how he comes out as long as he’s ready. So there you have it, a slightly rambling write up of how things have been and how I am feeling at this halfway stage. I am not planning a regular ‘pregnancy update’ style feature as I’m sure there is only so much you’ll want to hear about my body dandruff and blow-up vulva but I will document any significant developments because despite my initial wobble about ‘oversharing,' it struck me while writing this post that oversharing is all I know. And I am truly very happy to be oversharing this third-baby adventure with you. 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Out of the Frying Pan ...
Do you ever look at families doing spontaneous, adventurous things and think I wish we could be like that? I do. One of the great many things I have admired other parents doing (from afar) is taking their kids to festivals. With an almost-three-year-old who is at times so ‘spirited’ it causes a stop-and-stare scene in Primark, I’ve often wondered how we would fare in a tent for three days, particularly noting that we are regularly forced to separate him from his five-year-old brother when their naked wrestling ends in crying and/or head injuries. That said, as a family who enjoys spending time out in the fresh air of Dartmoor or the seaside (the perks of living in Devon), the non-tenty part of going to a festival started to appeal more and more. After doing our annual Glasto-watching, from the sofa, we decided our time had come and booked weekend tickets, with camping, for our first family festival. We strongly believed it would be the start of something. We’d probably get the camping bug and for every year thereafter there would be pictures of us all on Instagram doing peace signs in a field full of flags. We couldn’t wait. A few days before our great festival adventure, a friend alerted me to the weekend’s weather forecast. ‘Sunshine with a chance of showers’ had slowly morphed into ‘you’re absolutely fucked’ and we started to fear that we may be ill-equipped for a weekend of soggy bottoms. Undeterred by this latest development, we headed to one of those massive camping shops to stock up on waterproofs and wellies (I am truly very sorry to anybody who ventured into the display ‘Force 10’ mountaineering tent after my kids last Wednesday, I'm afraid one of them decided to let rip with a force ten of their own). We knew, as we set off early on Friday to black clouds and surface spray on the roads, that we were probably not going to make use of the camping chairs we’d optimistically ordered when we’d pictured sitting outside with a glass of something cold listening to live bands. We also knew that the ‘ginger’ hair spray we’d ordered so Henry could dress up as Ed Sheeran (alarmingly more neon orange than ginger, turning him into Johnny Rotten), would almost certainly run down his face and neck, transforming him into a giant wet wotsit and yet still we were excited. Perhaps the rain would make it even more fun. We’d still get to create the peace sign festival photo, we’d just be caked in mud as well, which let’s be honest is even more festivaly. We just needed to embrace it. And we tried. We really, truly tried. With kids on our shoulders we bounced along to Mister Maker, whooping as The Shapes appeared (the actual ‘I am a shape’ shapes off the telly - it was practically the same as being front row for The Killers at V Festival in 2009). I reminisced about my youth as All Saints took to the stage and the four of us snacked on churros and chocolate sauce. We went on the ‘spinny ponies’ (the carousel), whizzed down the Helter Skelter, tried on silly costumes in the fancy dress tent and watched a variety of comedy and music performances. The whole thing, it has to be said, was bloody well organised. But it rained. It rained and it rained. We cracked out the emergency ponchos and repeatedly told ourselves that despite having wet pants, we were still enjoying it (easier to do when you’re drinking, I imagine, which of course I was not). We went back to the camp for tactical respite from the downpours only to find the tent itself was damp inside as was everything of ours that wasn’t inside bin liners. Having packed a coolbox full of food to cook up like proper happy campers, it was raining too hard to cook anything so we sat and ate cheese sandwiches with a side helping of Haribo. It was just not quite what we had pictured.. And finally, there was the incident. In any holiday or weekend away there is almost always an event or a moment that will forever stick in your mind and for me, that incident happened the early hours of Saturday morning. After returning to the tent on Friday night, sodden, we’d changed into pyjamas and snuggled down in our sleeping bags. Though the usual levels of bedtime hyperactivity ensued (‘No YOU’RE a poo-poo fart head HA HA HA’ and so on), it wasn’t long before we were all drifting off to sleep to the sound of rain on canvas. Then at around 3am, I woke up bursting for a wee. If you think you know what’s coming you probably do, though I surprised even myself with the detail of what happened next. When I say I was bursting, I mean I had a genuine fear that I might not make it to the toilet - this always feels like even more of a threat when I’m pregnant, I seem to lose all ‘holding on’ ability. This worry was only worsened by the fact that I didn’t pack my glasses and without my contact lenses I am not far off needing a guide dog, so there was simply no way I could successfully locate my waterproofs (it was still raining hard) and find my way down a slope to the portaloos and back to the tent again. So, after rummaging around in the dark for an emergency container, I did what I could with the tools I had to hand. I did a wee in our frying pan. As I tried to assume the squat position it occurred to me that the shallowness of the pan could possibly present an aiming accuracy issue and so, to combat this, I decided to switch positions and straddle it. It was at this very point that my husband stirred and I froze, terrified he would turn on the torch and discover his pregnant wife with her trousers down, riding a frying pan. It was also the exact point at which I decided that festivals, in the pouring rain, are just not my bag. After another day of trundling around in further downpours we had a soul-searching emergency family meeting back in the tent (yes, I washed out the pissy frying pan) and decided that, all things considered, we would rather be at home. Which is exactly where I am typing this blog this morning. I wouldn’t say that the weekend was a disaster. The boys behaved well pretty much the whole time and that alone has given us the confidence to know that we can do these things in future. It just turns out we are not a ‘make the best of it’ ‘#therainwontstopus’ type of family. The rain did stop us. It was too wet and driving out of the field with our windscreen wipers on full speed felt quite liberating, in the end. There’s always next year though, right?(Or hotels. There’s always hotels). Our Camp Bestival adventure wasn't sponsored - we paid for both our festival tickets and camping passes - but I would still like to say that bar the shitty British weather, we were very impressed.
10 Things I've Learned in My 1st Year as a School Mum
1. Schools still smell the same as they did in the 90s. Like PVA glue mixed with cabbage. 2. It doesn’t matter how nice they are, teachers make you feel like you are ten. You'll want to impress them and, despite being a fully-functioning adult who left primary school decades ago, you will find yourself at parents’ evening sitting on Borrower-sized chairs worrying that you’re about to get told off. Yes, Miss. 3. Your level of parental organisation will have a direct correlation with where you are in the school year. For the first few weeks, when you are as keen as mustard, a crisp uniform will be lovingly laid out the night before, books will be read dutifully in the evening and you’ll arrive at the classroom on time. By July, your child will be dragged out of the door wearing something resembling a uniform (including odd socks and a greying polo shirt you had to sniff) as you bust a bollock trying not to be late, again. 4. Phonics seems like the most cock-arsed way of doing things until you realise your child has developed the tools to start reading themselves. Which, after a year, is pretty marvellous. (Just don’t attempt reading when either of you are tired – I nearly had a breakdown in the first term over Tim’s Din). 5. Schools can’t get enough of Comic Sans, a font which most of us thought had died out at the turn of the century. I think they must use it because it makes the letters in the book bag seem friendly.* 6. Extracting info from your child about what they have been up to requires a snack bribe and/or Chinese water torture. It might as well be classified info. What the chuff do they do all day? The only information freely offered relates to school dinners - I can confirm that Henry has consumed upwards of 150 jacket potatoes since September. Oh and ‘school roast dinners are nicer than Mummy’s!’ Super. 7. There is no pride quite like the pride of watching your child in their first Nativity play or end of term dance performance. 8. There is also no guilt quite like missing Sports Day (sorry H-Bomb, Mummy had to work). 9. On the very last day of term your child will look like a giant compared to how they looked on day one. They will also have developed an attitude, a sassy eye-roll and quite possibly knowledge of 'naughty words'. ('Please don't call your brother a 'penis butt crack.') 10. Teachers have a bloody hard job and don't get enough credit. I will be forever grateful to the reception team in Henry’s class for taking care of him when he cried every morning and then, when he found his feet, for putting up with his daily renditions of Despacito. Respect of the highest order. If you are worried about your little one heading into school for the first time in September, please know that it will all be okay. You can see how emotionally charged I was the day before Henry started school and we have lived to tell the tale. *MY MIND HAS BEEN BLOWN by the response to this question! It seems Comic Sans is widely used by schools because it has the right form of letters e.g. the 'a' kids learn when reading and writing. So there you go. I promise not to wince at it in future ;-)
A Response to THAT Mail Online Article
Dear Anna May Mangan I would usually start a letter with some textbook niceties, perhaps 'I hope this finds you well' or something about the weather, but I am just about to stick some fish fingers in the oven and crack open another bottle of Sauv Blanc, so I'll cut to the chase. When I woke up this morning I discovered I had an unusually high number of social media notifications alongside several 'Have you seen the Mail Online, yet?' messages. A couple of years ago, this early morning flurry of online activity would almost certainly have thrown me into a sicky panic but this morning there was no such fear as I clicked through to your article. I already knew what it would say. In fact, if I had put money on it, I would have been on the lookout for a five-point attack: Something about being slummy. Check. Something about swearing. Check.Something about alcohol. Check.Something about fish fingers. Check.An overarching message about how mums should cherish every single moment. Check. I do think it's a bit of a shame that you felt the need to attack a group of mum bloggers and authors but I completely understand why you did. We are terrible parents, or at the very least we are all masquerading as terrible parents simply for likes and shares. That's not how us mums should behave, I can see that now. It would be so much healthier for the maternal nation if we all swept our bad days under the carpet and captioned every photo with #blessed. I promise I will try harder. The thing is, if you had actually taken the time to properly read any of my stuff you would have come across the many heartfelt chapters I've dedicated to my boys, and indeed my own mother, who died of cancer when I was young. You would have known that I regularly beat myself up for not cherishing every sodding second but that on balance, I have decided that sharing the good, the bad and the ugly is more important. Potty training is ugly. Fact. You say that you, 'appreciate how this 'honesty' could make new mums feel less isolated and more reassured' but I couldn't help but mutter 'bullshit' when I read that token paragraph, particularly noting that you also say, 'these arrogant women shouldn't forget that, as well as being hard, a new baby is a gift.' That was the point at which I knew I had to say something. For all the mums out there who, like me (and Katie, Clemmie, Steph, Helen and Ellie - all good pals of mine, actually, we like to have Slummy Mummy Squad meetings), might read your bile and feel bad for having the odd moan. Admitting to serving up beige frozen goods ('freezer tapas' we like to call it, we're very middle class), confessing to the odd hangover and occasionally ranting about the inability to go to the toilet without a small person trying to unwrap our sanitary items is not boasting, Anna. It's just real life. Whether or not you choose to believe that what we are documenting is in fact our real lives is not really any concern of mine. I shan't lose any sleep over a lack of endorsement from the Mail. The point of this post is simply to say shame on you for failing to recognise the wider importance of this so called 'slummy mummy movement.' If taking snaps of fish fingers, cursing the bastard stray Lego impaling my feet in the middle of the night and offering a virtual hug to mums who are having a shitty day is wrong then shoot me down, I don't want to be right. I would like to conclude by saying a massive thank you for sending an extra thousand or so followers my way just this morning, and pushing both my books back up the chart (I'm guessing that probably wasn't your intention but I am ever so grateful, thank you). I couldn't help but think your mention of our bestselling books smacked of jealousy, which I can't for the life of me understand when your own parenting manual, The Pushy Mother's Guide, sounds like an absolute classic. Have a lovely day, I know I will. Yours sincerely, Sarah TurnerA boastful slummy mummy from Devon.
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