Friday, 12 July 2013

Pregnancy - the good, the bad and the ugly


There are hundreds, and I do mean hundreds, of books, websites, forums and articles dedicated to providing insights about pregnancy. For a first-timer, where do you even start? I should warn you that I'm no earth mother, and I'm certainly no expert, but I thought, before I give birth for the final time, I would share some of my personal thoughts on how to handle pregnancy. Please do leave a comment and let me know if you agree, or think I'm totally off the mark!

1. Join the NCT - especially the first time
Not because I agree with many of their views - and please do take the breast-feeding Nazis with a pinch of salt (if you can do it, fantastic, but if you can't it doesn't make you a bad mother. Far from it) - but because there is no substitute for having a small network of people going through the same life changing event at the same time as you. Rest assured, your mother is not going to remember every development in great detail and, at the time, it seems unbelievable that she can't tell you exactly when your feeds went from 4oz to 5oz. 

Nowadays, I have difficulty keeping the different dates of birth straight - when I registered my eldest daughter for nursery, I gave the wrong year of birth and then actually argued with the school when they pointed out she couldn't possibly be that age. As I said, I'm no expert. 

2. Invest in some decent maternity clothes
You don't need many, especially if you buy decent quality, but the Primark-ethos doesn't really cut it. You need clothes that are going to work with your expanding waistline and that comes at a price. My personal favourites were Isabella Oliver (for work) and Seraphine (for casual). Buy clothes at the beginning of the pregnancy and wear them to death - the cost per wear means it's not as expensive as it initially appears. 

3. Don't get hung up on a birth plan
It's a lovely idea that you're going to draw up a plan on how you'll give birth. In 99% of cases, it won't happen - so don't get too attached to the idea of hypnobirthing. By all means have a plan to use it, but if it doesn't work out, it's not the end of the world. There will be other things to focus on after the birth. 

4. Happy Mum, happy baby
There is a tonne of information and advice out there, just waiting to make you feel inadequate. Common sense should prevail. Ultimately, so long as it's not obviously damaging your (or your baby's) health - in other words, heroin and cigarettes are off the table - then it will probably be okay. Removing all chemical-based products from the house is probably not necessary. The occasional glass of wine will be okay. Ultimately, relax. And don't watch One Born Every Minute. That's not helping anyone.

5. Actually do pelvic floor exercises
It's not glamourous, and it's certainly very easy to completely ignore, but this is KEY. Regaining your pelvic floor after the event is much harder - don't be lazy. They aren't even taxing to do. And yet, we all ignore it - and we all regret it afterwards. 

6. And, for that matter, do other exercise too
Admittedly, having four children in such close succession is particularly draining on your body, but I think now that even during my first pregnancy, I'd have benefited from pregnancy-focused exercise. Your body goes through a huge amount and supporting your body through those changes with proper exercise and strengthening goes a long way to helping you get your body back post-birth. Pilates worked for me this time, but I don't think it matters what you do - just that you do something. 

7. Take care of your skin
The stretching and strain on your skin - both face and body - is enormous over the course of pregnancy. Your skin and its needs will change during this period - but you don't have to spend a fortune on expensive 'mama to be' products (although, if you do want to splash out, I can highly recommend Mama Mio and the Clarins Pregnancy range). The main thing is to take care of your skin from the start - it's much harder to repair the damage afterwards, believe me!

8. Above all, you know your own body
So take everyone else's advice with a pinch of salt. People will want to tell you all sorts of things - but nobody knows your body better than you. What's worked for one person doesn't necessarily mean it's right for you. If it doesn't feel right to you, don't do it. 

I'm going to try a new product after I've given birth this time: a belly wrap. I don't think it really matters what make you go for - this one from Vespa and the Ladybird looks good to me - but I'll report back on it's success after the birth. Even after child number four, it's clear I haven't learnt all there is to know... yet. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Things you definitely shouldn't say to a pregnant lady


During the last five years, I've been pregnant for a total of 35 months (I've got about another six weeks to go before it's all over for good). That's almost three years. Which, in my book, puts me in a pretty strong position to provide some pointers on things you shouldn't say to pregnant ladies, unless you're trying to provoke them on purpose. And, for the record, I wouldn't recommend that either, unless you're very brave (or very stupid). 

'You look tired'
 I have been tired since 2008, and I'm fully expecting to be tired for at least the next ten years. What I can do without is people telling me I look awful as well. (But make a mental note to reassess my tinted moisturise, which is clearly not cutting it.)

'What have you done to yourself?'
[Context: I'm on crutches, due to pelvic pain]
Do you really want to know? Think before you ask this. Obviously, it's not because I felt I needed more attention and since neither of my feet or legs are in plaster, that should be enough of a hint. Although, I have to admit that when I'm feeling particularly confrontational, I tell the enquirer exactly what I've 'done to myself' and that tends to have the desired effect of them running 20 miles in the opposite direction.

'Can I touch your bump?'
Wrong on so many levels,  but same answer every time. No. You are weird. You would not ask to touch someone's body if they weren't pregnant so what on earth makes you think it's okay to ask me? I have actually been asked this by a stranger on a bus. I should have reported the incident to the police. Honestly.

'Wow. You look even bigger than you did yesterday.'
Really? You shock me. I thought I was getting smaller. Especially since it's so lovely and comfortable being this pregnant. 

'Was it planned?'
Go away. I am no longer engaging in any social contact. Ever.