Mother/Other/Me/ Her

The last time I will see two blue lines on a stick will be a week before my thirty fourth birthday. It will mark twenty years of avoiding getting pregnant with a celebration of finally achieving it.

It was not as easy as the school teachers had warned when we were sixteen, rolling condoms over bananas, while we hitched up our skirts and hid cigarettes and all sorts in blazer pockets. There were whispers of having to double up on condoms just in case or you risked it. Even better if you just made sure you were standing up the whole time or drank really hot tea or was it you had to take really hot baths? Google was in its infancy. We had the big sisters who warned us off, Just be careful as if any of us knew what meant.

Instead, it will take 18 months of peeing on sticks, and checking cervical mucous and taking my temperature, and perfunctory sex to no avail. So careful. And Nothing. My body freezes up. Too much pressure. Until it doesn’t, when I had stopped being so carefully organised. A pinch of chaos. Hey presto. New life, one brand spanking new and another completely transformed.

It will take me another six years to feel like my body is mine again, and that will only be in small pockets of time snatched back from the school run, and early cancelled meetings, and late nights post bedtime. But, when I does, it returns transformed.

I gained a ferocity I did not know I had when I became a mother. I would easily take a life for his. It’s a point of fact rather than a provocation. That surety of purpose has imbued the rest of my life with a sharp edge to it. The ache that comes with raising a child is there in every moment. For every celebration there is the grief of letting go. There is a darkness, that possibility of loss that knocks the wind out of me, every time my mind runs through every imaginable risk factor scenario.  To lose this is tantamount to living death. And yet we live with this possibility every day. It adds bite.

Mothers are predators. We are wary guardians. Fierce competitors. We feel the life force we have held and nursed from conception to birth and beyond, and it makes time tangible. I get dizzy thinking of the kick against my stomach, the wooshing feeling of my son turning over stretching into my ribs. Full as an egg. Rippling with life and possibility. The whiplash impact of then looking up, seemingly minutes later, to watch this miraculous boy read, and tell jokes and ride a bike.

His entry into the world, born ‘encaul’ – a sure sign he will never perish at sea –  the midwives tell me as they stitch me up where he ripped into the world,  and I laugh like a banshee high on gas and air and oxytocin and adrenalin. I have never seen so much blood, exacerbated by the birthing pool, like a scene straight out of Jaws my husband says. But I feel like the shark. Ancient, magnificent, teeth and blood and survival. The rush of hormones and endorphins is intoxicating, I feel high for days.

The sharp edge of it now lies beneath a veneer of every day chores and routine and ritual which is essential to keep our waterborn son afloat on land. His neurodiversity needs these anchors, and it’s our job to provide them. My ferocity is channelled into securing resources and funding and support, but with a quiet surety so as not to alarm the prey. I am incisive, well researched, clear and forensic. My teeth now metered out in emails to councils and teachers and childcare providers. To whom it may concern, Do Not Fuck With Me. All the Very Best.

The rage however once unleashed cannot settle. I can’t contain it, manage it. It has to find purchase somewhere. This residue wrath unleashed with motherhood, I have nowhere to put it.

But it was there before, in the years prior to parenthood, and then I could outrun my rage. I could lace up my trainers and hit the hills beat out the fury with every step, every mile, every race. Now in the quiet routine-filled days it paces and paces and paces, there is a growl in every syllable, snapping consonants. At my best I manage to channel it into my work and it finds its way transmuted into a full-blown work addiction that results in recognition and more responsibility and more hours at my desk. At my worst, I seethe through the washing cycle, grid my teeth so badly my dentist recommends a retainer. It wipes my memory clean of all the gratitude I have and sets me on edge for days. 

While I write up a schedule for my husband to follow while I am out of the house for a week I have such a visceral reaction that I have to go and splash cold water on my face and breathe, my head between my knees for a full minute. The expectation of sacrifice is both too much and everything. This transition to mother, at the expulsion of self. The grief of losing what you were, the fear of never regaining it back.

Who is your life for? A line in an email from a friend, a gut punch.

Confronting the riptide, seeing where I take myself. In all my reading the messages are clear. Anger is an invitation say the gurus, I just had no idea to what.

Not until I stopped grinding myself against the axel of the washing and the school run and the inbox and pulled some time back. Who is my life for? My rage, my fury, my anger was yelling at me to look after myself. Anger is a warning, a boundary alarm, an invitation, a pilot light. Stop messing around say the soothsayers, There are consequences to not using your gifts

I start to see the outlines of where it may be directing me through the conversations I have late at night, on text, with my maybe friend, maybe co-conspirator. Perhaps, they say, You should explore that idea

Which one, I wonder while typing back, the one where I am both? Good and Bad? Mother and other? His and hers? Right & Wrong? Here and There? I feel the tug of the riptide. Being taken up in that current. I am all of this and everything in between, and I realise then I have been trying to pick a side because I thought I had to. I thought I could pack up all of my darkness, demons, deviance in order to Be Good, and didn’t realise how much I had missed them. How much they offer me. What they bring, the creativity, the disruption, the opposition. The freedom. 

Creating space for them in the hum drum whirring of the daily routine is both essential and threatens to blow it all out of the water. Small acts of daily rebellion to appease my need for disruption, tipping up the routine to get my hit of chaos, allowing for a taste of the forbidden to keep me on the straight and narrow. When poison is the remedy. When the risk is the reward. Careful, I say to my son as he learns to climb a wall, clamber up a tree, over a fence, think about where you are putting your feet. I dig my hands deeper into my pockets and wonder if I am being careful enough, or too wary – never allowing myself the view from the top.

I can see everything from here! He shouts, triumphant, having lost a wellie, his jumper snagged on branches, the faint outline of a sharp scratch or two in his knees where his trousers are rolled up. I consider climbing up too, remembering the thrill of it, years before, the fear as the trees swayed, the rush of vertigo. But the branches are small, the day is long and I am tired and there are things to be done and calls to be made. I take a picture of him instead, wide eyed and wonderous. And we head home, pockets filled with sky.

Life on Jupiter

Spring 2020 has announced itself with a worldwide pandemic, a lack of loo roll in London and my son declaring there are daffodils growing in our ramshackle garden. A year ago, we were wringing our hands about Brexit (now we’re just washing them), I had planted a ton of bulbs that were all pulled up to make space for the new fence, and we received Sam’s Autism Spectrum Condition diagnosis.

A good friend had the grace and wisdom to tell me, while I recounted our meeting with the diagnostic team through hiccups of tears, that the first year would be hard.  That even though the diagnosis was expected, and requested, to go easy on each other and myself. That I was allowed to feel all the things all at once. Relief, fury, confusion, fear, hope, worry, sadness to name only the ones I could articulate. There were many I could not. A relief that I could now parent with impunity. That I had permission to no longer follow the rules, a gut instinct I knew to be right but which had been so at odds with the norm was now validated. A pass to be ourselves.

Our bossy and jovial speech therapist advised that I spend some time wallowing in the often forbidden emotion of self pity, in order to really feel it, and get it out of my system. But not to ignore it. We had to run the gamut of it all to move forward. She spoke from her own experience, and was kind.

Of course I ignored her and in a bid not to feel it, I spent most of the first few months reading all of the literature I could get my hands on. I reached out to people online, I read biographies, I swatted up on all of the council’s recommended guidelines. I went to conferences on the weekend. I started to feel heavy with the weight of it, the stats, the lack of resource, the negativity. I got completely consumed by it and had to stop or risk full burn out.

Somewhere between the academic journals, the blogs written by autistic adults on ethical therapies, and the forums on Facebook I realised I wouldn’t be able to study my way out of this. Our road map was in front of us, making words out of magnetic letters on the fridge and collecting every peg in the house to create a rainbow on the carpet, singing Iggy Pop’s The Passenger on repeat.

I started listening, and crucially, began accepting help.  With the support of an amazing team in our borough, we transitioned Sam from mainstream nursery to a setting that caters for his needs within a mainsteam pre-school. We started working with the utterly brilliant and committed head teacher there and started unlearning and re-learning. We have accessed parent support groups and training, and finally after many many months of WORK (alongside, you know, normal day to day work) we secured Sam his Education, Health and Care plan and a place at a wonderful school in September.

For the first time in a year I feel like I can lift my head up, take a breath and enjoy the view. It’s amazing, in its quirky, definitely not normal way. Today, we have fifteen multicoloured balloons in the bedroom, five rainbow coloured hourglasses dotted around the house to remind us when we’re due to redo the puzzles. An assortment of magnetic numbers part way through sums, part way having adventures with their letter counterparts.  A selection of musical instruments propped up next to their corresponding letters.  Calendars and wall charts and pencils for colouring and writing and drawing, literally everywhere. On any given day our flat looks like a pintrestcraft board exploded. Chaos and order humming together seamlessly to the tune of the Go-Jetters theme song.

Its become more and more important to celebrate these moments of joy. Grab them out of the ether and commit them to a memory, guard them with ritual. We make up happy dances, and bounce around way past our collective bedtimes. We eat chocolate buttons for breakfast.

Uncertainty has become a strange and constant companion this last year, nothing has been guaranteed, and very little remains set in stone. We now have a few hard won dates we can start to build around, carefully and with an eye on the horizon, but if I were to look for silver linings they would be this. I am more equipped to navigate difficulty in all its forms, I can pivot and realign quickly and calmly.  I have found a steely sense of purpose, a kind of laser focus that has meant I can see very clearly what needs doing when. I have been forced to get clear about my boundaries for my health (physical, emotional, spiritual). I am still learning to enforce them. I know who I can rely on to help. I have learned to ask.

My son asks to go outside and see the moon (and Venus mummy), and it will be full tomorrow. We’ll put on our wellies and our coats and step into the front garden and look around for the moon rise, perhaps just above the Wembley Rainbow as its known here.  It will be cold. But it will be bright and we’ll talk about the time we saw the moon in South Africa above the mountains, and when we saw Orion. And the Southern Cross. He’ll insist he can see Jupiter. I don’t correct him, just maybe he can.

Parenting: A Foreign Country

Opening the door to an empty house is a novelty I am not used to. Returning from a work trip, foggy with jet lag but jumped up on caffeine I braced myself for the usual onslaught of a bouncy three year old and the cacophony of kitchen chaos that soundtracks most of my mornings. A click of the lock and a swish of post of the floor – almost silence – and I remember my family are happily scoffing scones in Cornwall. I have 36 hours to myself before they return.

Its a rare thing, time to oneself. I’m lucky enough in that I travel with my job. I have hours up in the air with a kindle full of almost-books to read ahead of publication, and time to revise notes, presentations. None of this requires wet wipes, there are very rarely tantrums, and I get to tune out for as long as we’re cruising at 31,000 feet. But its not strictly relaxing. Low level anxiety that spikes when the turbulence kicks in, a last minute delay which has a knock on effect on the meeting schedule. All inane and completely able to ruin a tightly planned week, so the ticker tape of ‘things-that-must-be-done’ switches from tantrum wrangling, to currency conversion while we’re waiting on those magic words from the pilot – ‘Cabin Crew : 20 minutes to landing’

Away we go, passport control queues, ‘How Long Are You Planning In the United States Ma’am’ and sometimes ‘Welcome Home’ (when I’m in South Africa) but mostly ‘Please Look Directly At the Camera’ and ‘Four Fingers on Your Left Hand Here Please’ – the flurry of coats and bags and belts and restricted areas, visa requirements, taxi lines, hustling bag handlers, checking in, finding wifi and adjusting the body clock. There is an expectation, a calm order in the chaos tightly wound beneath all of the hustle and bustle. I find it very reassuring because compared to my day to day as a parent its predictable. If things go wrong there’s travel agents and insurance and teams to help. Not so at 3am back home in London when fevers top 40 degrees, the calpol is running low and no one can find the asthma pumps

Its been 3 years since we have been lucky enough to find ourselves here, parents. We have found our own ways to manage the night time crisis, tag team the pick ups and drop offs, the day to day hum drum minutiae that comes together to make a family tick, although never like clockwork – and unique in its quiet rhythm. It’s that off beat singularity that surprised me. I had assumed that we are more similar than different, and at the heart of it we probably are. In that we love our kids. We’ll do irrational, crazy stupid things for them, that sleep deprivation fucks us all up, that nothing is as we expected to be. Sometimes its better. And sometimes its not. But we share the first smiles, first steps, first milestones together. We can count on sharing birthday cakes at parties, and moan about nursery fees, and fret about schools, we do this together, at roughly the same time. Comparing notes.

Until we don’t.

We noticed Sam wasn’t picking up language at the same rate as his peers around the 20 month mark. I wrote it off as being a Super Tiger mother who was expecting far too much of her toddler son. When he refused to engage in playgroup activities, preferring to investigate the out of bounds church offices, or to just literally try to climb the walls – I told myself he was probably shy and introverted and just didn’t like new people. And when he bolted off into the sunset without even a backward glance at literally any given opportunity I scoffed and said he was incredibly confident and independent and my weren’t we doing a marvelous job at making him feel secure. He wasn’t making eye contact because he was shy, and therefore not interested in strangers. He was used to us anticipating his needs so didn’t need to speak. He was, just Sam. And all of this is just my very normal parent anxiety

And it is. Until it wasn’t.

We met the Pediatrician who diagnosed significant speech delay with attention/social & communication difficulties. And so began the building of The File (all parents of SEN kids will have one, or a drawer, or an entire wing dedicated to the paperwork). I still can’t read the first report without feeling queasy. Its blunt and medical and objective. Which as a parent you can never be about your kid.

We were referred for everything and introduced to ALL OF THE TEAMS. A few were exhausting – OT (rejected once, appealed, waited a year, jury’s out), and Audiology, (four appointments where he refused to wear headphones, ironically he loves them now). There are others who are nothing short of my personal heroes, our amazing Speech & Language Therapy team, which we would be lost without but who we can NEVER call (its like that episode in SATC… she can reach me, but I can never get her…).

Not forgetting the secret SWAT team that appeared out of nowhere -the brilliant Early Years Inclusivity Team who have coached, cajoled, answered stupid queries and fought battles for us with nurseries and waiting lists and impossible switchboards.

All of this has been happening over the past year, mainly behind the scenes, between the usual routines of work and childcare and college. I have been lucky enough to have had a very supportive & flexible work place and a self employed husband so we can just about keep up with the barrage of admin that comes with each department at each stage. But its taken me a year to get my head around the parenthood that we have found ourselves in. My head is still catching up with the reality of where we are now. A feeling not dissimilar to jet lag.

So where are we?

We’re not sure. Its not where we expected to be. But its not without its charms. Sam adores his speech therapist and is making huge progress every day. He is so damn smart. He loves his nursery and drives them crazy by refusing their lunches and demanding jam sandwiches. He gets all his pronouns wrong which is hilarious and his echolalia makes for interesting listening – it like having a spy at nursery. He’s obsessed with colours, letters, shapes, numbers and fascinated with words – like hes making up for lost time. He wants nothing more than to jump on trampolines and chase his pals while shouting. He loves cuddles and lemon yoghurt, diggers and the 182 bus to Brent Cross. His laugh is magical, and he laughs often.

The CAMHS team assessed him for ASD today and we’ll know more on May 22nd. But whatever the outcome, if this year has taught me anything its that help has come from unexpected places. That there are extraordinary people both health professional and friends who will listen to me cry about ‘labels’ and gently remind me that the more information we have, the more we can share with others to help them understand Sam. That the fear is of the unknown. That people will surprise me. Friends (online and IRL) who will educate me about policy and politics. They will text me their experiences warts and all to give me the heads up on what not to do, and what all the acronyms mean. My mini guide book on WhatsApp. You know who you are. Thank you.

Next up. Choosing a school. The fasten seatbelt signs are now on.

Over Time


It’s March. I’ve been back at work full time for 2 months, Samson turned one and we are house hunting. Our current flat is a tip. The dust has dust and the garden looks like a vacant lot. Never before have I felt the need for another hour in the day or day in the week. Shit just does not get done. And being the A type, ENTJ type, or control freak if you must, not getting shit done is not  an option.

Except it has to be.

I caught up with a friend at work who has also just returned from mat leave and she asked me what was ‘still standing’.

‘You know what I mean’ she said counting off on her fingers, ‘out of Baby, Work, Marriage, House, Friends… what’s still standing, because you sure as hell won’t have all five’

Most of us can’t have all five, well certainly not all running on optimum all of the time. Right now I can say we have Work and Baby firing on all cylinders. Samson is learning to climb, walk, talk and cause havoc so he is more than fine. I haven’t fallen asleep at my desk at work or absentmindedly replied all with an emoji so we’ll call that a victory.

As for the rest? I have seen a handful of my friends, but chances are if you don’t work in my office or live next door I probably haven’t seen you since October. I rely far too heavily on social media to keep in touch which really doesn’t cut it.

As for my long suffering husband who is getting his head round the daily grind of full time childcare – he’s a marvel, but a marvel I see for about 45 mins every week day and a few hours on the weekend. When I drag him around London looking at dreadful flats we can’t afford.

We tell each other its not forever. It will get easier. Its just a phase, and I really am sure that all of that is true. Thanks to my sleep shy son we all learned to function on 4 hours’ sleep so surely anything is possible right?

What I am a little more concerned about is the silent number 6 in all of this. The self care bit. Finding time to recharge when there are a million other demands that need to be met. I’ve always been good at prioritising, but in this area I am appalling. I can’t seem to justify the yoga class at lunch when there are meeting to be prepped for, or the run on the weekend when the dog needs vaccinating.

There is always something. And everything needs to be negotiated.  The run on the weekend in return for the other half’s lie in, the week night dinner for picking up the dry cleaning, the midnight trip to 24 hour tesco for.. hell anything you want if I don’t have to go. Every moment counted and weighed and bartered to keep the balance right and resentment to a minimum. Never has there been a more misused phrase than that of ‘free time’. What are you doing with your ‘free time’? No. Such. Thing.

I suspect too that it will all get a whole lot easier when I stop obsessing over the dust on the bookshelves or the weeds taking over the patio. Because ultimately everyone is fed, clothed and not too grubby so I am taking that as a win.

The Bounce Back Myth

Credit Little Kin Photography

Two things happened this week that made me re-evaluate my new normal. The first was an article I read on goop (DO NOT JUDGE ME) about post-natal depletion. Which if you think sounds like some kind of horrible hormonal hangover you’d be almost right.

The second was a swimsuit I bought. But more on that later.

Back to post natal depletion-  a perfect shit storm of exhaustion; lack of societal, emotional, and physical support; poor nutrition, and limited self care.  Dr. Oscar Serrallach describes it as follows:

There is often a feeling of isolation, vulnerability, and of not feeling “good enough.” It is experienced by many mothers, and is an understandable and at times predictable outcome associated with the extremely demanding task of being a mother from the perspective of both childbearing and child raising.

 And here’s the kicker – it can be evident for up to TEN YEARS after the birth (or births) of your children.

If you’ve had a child within the last decade, you might still be suffering some consequences—lethargy, memory disturbances, and poor energy levels, among other symptoms’


Yet we’re sold this idea that with the right control underwear and touche eclat we can be ‘back to normal’ after just a few short months.

This message is everywhere. Its sold to us in the paltry paid maternity allowance many companies offer (disclaimer: I am one of the lucky few who was able to take a year, and I love my job, but I am often the exception and not the rule), the pressure to ‘get our bodies back’ evident in every glossy mag and instagram feed, and we are then expected to bolt on the additional, and epic responsibility of motherhood, without disrupting the work/life balance.

Its fed to us through parenting guides that convince us that we’re doing a terrible job – our babies somehow ‘misbehaving’ if they’re not falling in line and sleeping through by 8 weeks. If we’re breastfeeding we’re expected to wean our babies quickly and with little fuss. We bounce back to our pre-baby selves, no visible evidence of motherhood. By all means please have your baby, disappear for as short a time as possible and come back looking rested and restored. See? Procreation is easy ! You don’t need additional support from your government, employer, partner, community. Do you? No? Good.

To really hammer it home we’re sucked into another lie – the Super Mum (or The Woman Who Has it All plus a Sprog).  A construct that I think is more damaging than empowering. And yes women are marvellous. Being fantastic multitaskers, and doing it all on 3 hours sleep with one hand, makes us pretty Super sure,  but this does not mean we don’t want or need help. We need that village. Branding us as ‘Super’ implies we don’t need assistance, that it’s innate in our abilities as women (another problematic notion) and that we should be taking on more than the average person. We can take it. Well turns out, a good percentage of us are feeling the strain. DEPLETED even

Society’s view goes as far to suggest that the negative physical and emotional impact of bearing and birthing babies should not be seen, and definitely not heard. A factor hugely evident in the prevalence of post natal depression, there is a veil of silence around how hard parenting can be, whether its the hazy early days or negotiating with a tiny dictator overthrowing your household.

While the rise of the insta-mums is definitely counteracting this (Hurrah for Gin, Too Much Mothering Information, Don’t Buy Her Flowers, Not So Smug Now amongst my favourites) – social media is a double edged sword, and while it can be vital in connecting us, the temptation to compare and despair is all too easy to succumb to. Venture with caution, the feed is not reality and normal for you is chaos for someone else

So with all this rage swirling in my postnatally depleted brain, I went swimsuit shopping. Obviously.

I am now the proud owner of a full piece with a tummy control panel. FML

I had a small and pretty pathetic cry and then pulled myself together. Why had I been sucked into the crazy competitive bounce back faster, thinner, smarter bullshit? I don’t need to bounce back. Back to what? I am not the person I was this time last year, frankly I am not the person I was last month. Having a small person means I am on one of the steepest learning curves imaginable and I’ve assimilated more information in the past 28 days (albeit specifically about one small human) than I have over years.

There is no bouncing back. There is no going back at all. This is the new normal. It features tummy control panels, and extra sets of clothes in every bag, sticky orange puree stains (always orange), over caffeinated anxiety wobbles, ruthless efficiency and a new rock solid confidence to bolt onto the old. If I was feisty before now I am fierce.

As for back to normal? I am making peace with with a new brand of normal. Finding my own shade of it and guarding it ferociously. Many many people will tell me I’m getting it wrong along the way I’m sure, but if the past year has taught me anything its that none of us have a clue what we are doing at the best of times, and the best we can do is guess, have a go and cross our fingers. In our own time, and our own pace.

And with all the structured underwear we can get our hands on.

Credit Little Kin Photography


Longer Out Than In


I am still putting cutlery in the fridge. Or rather it was cheese in the sink today. I have realised that just as I think the fog has lifted, a different kind of fog descends. Thicker, trickier, more foggy fog or something equally dense. Maybe treacle. Or mud. Stuff that makes your brain slow and your bones feel tired. That stuff.

Samson is now nearly 9 months old, 40 weeks to be precise, the magical number that marks him ‘longer out than in’. His personality is beginning to shine through. He laughs at the dog snoring and the word ‘no’. He deliberately, and with great tenacity, pursues the very thing he knows is out of bounds, he loves cuddles and bath time, he thinks coughs are terrifying and he hates the hair dryer. His favourite book is Buster’s Farm and he claps whenever he sees an animal whether at the park or on telly. He is obsessed with my teeth (odd ball kid) and his Dad’s glasses. And a million other moments day to day that point to this unique little person figuring out how to be a human. Brilliant, spectacular, exhausting moments

And while he is thriving, I am still forgetting the words for particular items of clothing (I forgot ‘jacket’ the other day) and not managing a few basic self care particulars. Like dinner. I had chocolate biscuits last night, which was forgivable in the early days where I couldn’t tell the difference between night and day. Now it just feels slack. Or lazy. Or just crap at time management which I am usually very good at.

Turns out that skill hasn’t left me, I’ve just been channelling all of it into The Boy’s timetable, needs and day to day care. So while his routine is rock solid, mine has slipped irrevocably. And perhaps while he’s learning the words for things, I forget them. While he eats a nutrional meal (ish… or the dog does) 3 times a day, its a gamble as to whether I’ll just eat the leftovers of his lunch or then just have toast for dinner. Maybe that’s just the trade off for now? Not too problematic seeing as the only really big decisions I need to make day to day are whether I need to puree more pears or stock up on Ella’s Kitchen pouches. But these hazy maternity days are numbered, and the count down to work begins

I’ll state for the record that I am really looking forward to getting back to work. I am lucky that I genuinely love what I do, the industry I work in and the people I work with. I have worked in publishing for nearly 10 years and if anything I feel more passionate it about it now that I have a child. So no, I am not mourning the end of maternity leave looming ahead of me. I’m getting excited about getting stuck back into my career.

I am also excited about having hot cups of tea, adult conversation that last for more than 2 minutes at a time, and to hopefully, defogging (a word?) my brain. I am looking forward to lunch breaks that don’t involve two spoons (one for distraction purposes) and wearing clothes that are most definitely not breast-feeding friendly (I have tonnes. I have not worn them for over a year).

In a nutshell, I am looking forward to having to make myself a priority again, because the hard truth is that I really have not managed that this year at all. Time and energy is limited, and when averaging 3 hours’ sleep a night there’s only so much to go around.

I haven’t been great at carving time out for myself. Our situation means we don’t have heaps of support directly available to help on the day to day – and that’s not a whinge or a moan, it just is what it is and we are well aware that many many families cope on a hell of a lot less. But it does mean that afternoons ‘off’ involve catching up on life admin and general daily trivia that needs sorting. Or lying still in a dark room looking at twitter and catching up on ‘news’ because its makes me feel connected.  And that is rather than going for that run, or that massage etc. Not the healthiest choice I know. But when you’re so tired you can feel it in the back of your eyeballs, sometimes only twitter will do.

I have another 10 weeks or so left of my leave. A good chunk of that will be in South Africa where we will be visiting family, and I am looking forward to having a plethora of grandparents and family who will be more than happy to lend a helping hand and I am already researching spa retreats, brunch spots by the sea and mountain view dinners.  I’m cashing in all those self care chips that I have not spent all year in a bid to greet 2017 feeling refreshed rather than frazzled

And hopefully not putting bin bags in the oven




Future Proof


Summer solstice came and went in a blur of thunderstorms both electric and political, the heavens roared as the votes were counted and the UK declared itself OUT of the EU. General chaos ensues. BUT THIS IS NOT A POST ABOUT BREXIT (too soon, I’m still incandescent with rage and I cannot face another blog piece on it, and I’m sure neither can you)

In a week where we are all looking to the future with trepidation, on a much smaller scale it struck me that I’m now half way through my maternity leave, which has gone by in a blur of coffee, baby wipes, instagram posts and baby yoga classes. Lack of sleep definitely makes this all seem catastrophic, and with Samson having just hit the 5 month milestone  I’m desperately trying to catch up with myself. Where has the time gone?  What have I been doing all day? Why haven’t I rallied a revolution together for more tube access for push chairs, or launched a maternity clothing line?

I had unreal expectations of what I could achieve on mat leave. ‘I need a project’ I remember saying to a colleague and friend. ‘I can’t be sitting at home all day with the baby and singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Effing Star, I need something to keep my brain working’. I had done my homework,  I had grand plans to relaunch the blog, write more, learn to cook properly (I am AWFUL) and to revolutionise fitness wear for pregnant women (borne out of my frustration that nothing fit, and if it did it was extortionately expensive and DULL). Oh and yes, parent my baby. That too.

None of this has came to fruition (inbetween googling rashes and washing muslins I learned this, yes this, was in fact parenting). Instead, over the past 22 weeks I have learned to do a million things I had no idea I needed to know. From mastering every conceivable task for which you require two hands, with just THE ONE, (while the other cleans, holds, googles, feeds, catches) to negotiating public transport with my child in full meltdown mode (with THE ONE HAND) on an average of 3 hours sleep. And I still have another few million things to figure out. Like introducing solids. And figuring out how to turn my brain on again ahead of my return to work in January next year.

I’ve been spending most of my time careening from day to day in a blur of bibs and sudocream, without so much as a thought for what the grown ups were doing (erm,  sending the country up shit creek… clearly we’re all winging it).

With all the uncertainty around the UK’s future in the global arena, its hard not to start dusting off the old Plan B’s that we had filed away for a rainy day. I’m a keen planner and organiser, probably annoyingly so, it will come as no surprise to many that I have a fair few tucked away (with excel scenarios and pie-charts). I like to have my ducks in a row. This also translates into being  worrier, the rationale being if I’ve thought about the worst case scenario, then I can plan for it. This way madness lies if you are a new parent. I was almost  paralysed with anxiety as a result, and would not welcome my worst enemy into my head on days when I was running the catastrophe films on a loop in my head.

In order to actually set foot outside my house I had to let go of some of that control (or illusion of control), and so paradoxically having a baby has chilled me out just a tad. I cannot predict explosive nappies, major meltdowns or when teething will strike.Excel cannot pivot the nap schedule, I tried a few tracking apps and ended up throwing them from the proverbial window. Nothing screams madness like trying to find patterns in the beautiful unpredictability of a baby. There is no algorithm that would make it easier. Instead it’s inherited wisdom from other parents, coffee and a collection of perfect moments in the chaos that make it all tick forward.

Having a child has forced me to go with the flow, but prepare for any eventuality.

And that’s not a bad lesson to take into all areas of my new life stage. I heard a saying years ago, which resonated even with hardened atheist in me ‘Trust in God, but tether your horse’. No one is guaranteed safety, health or happiness, but equally chaos doesn’t consume us every day (other than post teething episodes, then all bets are off). Don’t think a plan will save you, but to not have one is equally foolish. Know where the exits are. Have that ‘Fuck Off Fund‘ already set up.

Or in my current life, Pack An Extra Nappy (and then check the Boy can get Irish citizenship, just in case)






10 Lunar Months

So here I am. Week 39 of pregnancy. Probably my last post pre-motherhood, and possibly the only one I’ll write on my pregnancy, so it’s a long one!

I’ve avoided writing about my pregnancy for a number of reasons. The main was privacy and I wanted to get my head around how I was feeling about it before sharing that with the world. And now, coming to the end of my journey, I know there are so many blogs on pregnancy, and everyone who is or has a mother has an opinion, and adding to the cacophony of noise seemed redundant.

But there’s the paradox, for all the noise there does still seem to be an unwritten, or at least unofficial veil of silence, before you enter into the hallowed halls of motherhood.

Since embarking on this mad 40 week joy ride, I have encountered a plethora of fantastic blogs, written by women who tell it like it is. But these people were just not on my radar at all pre-project procreation. Its like a treasure trove you discover after the fact. Why?

I have quizzed a few friends on this, why the silence pre-pregnancy? Most said that women experience pregnancy and birth very differently from each other, and you don’t want to skew expectations. You risk giving the ‘wrong’ advice.

I get it. Some love being pregnant, others hated it. My small sample of 10+ includes, surprise pregnancies, IVF conceptions, duplicate pregnancies, home births (some unplanned!), severe pregnancy complications, miscarriages and more. So yes, its very hard to give advice or have a clear narrative about this life stage/ choice prior to the person getting that cross-hairs positive plus.

And then, my God, the chatter doesn’t stop.

Of course, it starts with Google. This is always a mistake. But when you’re newly pregnant its often the only resource you have seeing as you’re actively encouraged to keep schtum about your news. Yes actively. Email subjects from every baby site you have signed up to in a bid to cross check your symptoms against all the other paranoid, hormonal women online, have subject lines like ‘Shhhh, not yet! Only a few more weeks until you can share your precious little secret!‘ (and no, I’m not hamming up the patronising tone).

I felt like a bloated, irritable, hungover grotbag, and could take NO DRUGS. Lucky me! All the books, emails, and websites are draped in soft pastel shades, littered with twee ancedotes and cutesy pseudo-psych mantras. If you are none of these things you feel like you’ve wandered into a nightmare, curated by Cath Kidston on a really really bad trip.

And you are lucky. You know you are. You just don’t want to be bombarded with the wisdom of pastel blue owls.

So, how to navigate the chatter without falling foul of the Baby App Squad and their nauseating push notifications?

And herewith a massive disclaimer. This was my experience, and my first at that. I’ll probably revise this all if we go for round two.

Buckets of salt required for further reading

First Trimester

I found a few friends or family that I was comfortable confiding in, so if the worst happened, we’d have the support. I had the best advice from a GP friend who, while coaching me through a very bad bout of  proper flu where I was convinced I had  contracted TB, said this to me:

‘Look, your baby will not be affected by flu.  If the human foetus could not withstand viral infection we would not have survived as a species. But, if the pregnancy miscarries, repeat after me.. this is not my fault. Its not the flu. Its not the sushi you may have eaten, or the marathon you had started training for, or the box you lifted (or in my case the long haul trip to India I took). It happens, 1 out of 3 times,  it happens, and its usually as the embryo just isn’t viable. 99% of the time it’s NEVER the mother’s fault. So drink your lemon tea and go back to bed, that baby is going to zap your immune system for another week at least’.

Silence is isolating and, ultimately as exhilarating as it is to find out you’re pregnant (especially if it hasn’t happened overnight) its also fucking terrifying. Those first few weeks you probably feel like shit. It helps to speak to someone that isn’t your other half. Who, by the way, is also freaking out and in my case was having to deal with me slobbing around the house, falling asleep in my dinner and smelling vaguely of vomit and mints most of the time.

As tempting as it is, avoid avoid avoid the forums. People tend to post the very worst stories, and if you search hard enough you will confirm you worst fears. Not good for your sanity.

Honestly, I hated this bit. I felt bloated and exhausted – falling asleep on the tube most evenings and breathing carefully so as not to vom on fellow passengers. We took a trip to Hastings for our wedding anniversary and even now, 6 months later,  looking at the pics makes me feel nauseous. I spent most of the weekend shoving salt and vinegar crisps in my face and trying not to belch in R’s face. So romantic.

Second Trimester

The best bit by far. Our 12 wk scan was nerve racking and surreal. For me, it was the first outside confirmation besides my own biological cues that I really was pregnant. Sure, we had done the tests. and they take loads of blood, and I had all the symptoms. But there was a part of me that thought it could all be one huge mistake or coincidence. Maybe I just had really bad stomach flu. And the bloods got mixed up. But no, it’s real – because there he was. Looking like a tiny alien having a snooze. Madness.

Also, I got a bit of my life back. I could still just about fit back into my lycra (I had sworn off running as any movement faster than a crawl made me heave pre 12 wks) and glory be,  I could find some endorphins. I walked everywhere, went back to spin and took up a few ante-natal exercise classes. I could sleep, I had loads of energy and finally had a bump to show off rather than just looking as though I had eaten ALL OF THE PIES (which, to be fair, I had)

But the appearance of the bump also meant I became fair game. People will say stupid things. People who don’t even know you will feel they can comment on your size (too big, too small, too high, too low), how you look, and what you should and should not be doing with your body (are you sure spinning is a good idea? should you be lifting that pencil? oh I wouldn’t take the stairs if were you…). I ran for a bus and had an older woman shout at me, angrily pointing her umbrella at my stomach, which would have done more damage frankly!

Once I had posted something pregnancy related social media, I unwittingly opened the floodgates of unsolicited advice hell. People who I had not spoken to for 20+ years  began crawling out the woodwork, with their advice, thoughts and comments. Ranging from the stating-the-bleeding-obvious, i.e. ‘Your life is going to change! Say goodbye to sleep! Hope you’re ready to say adiós to your bikini forever!’

(I mean, WTF?)

To downright scaremongering,  i.e. ‘Birth the most hideous experience of your life, you’ve never seen so much blood, and then you never see your other half in the same light again’ or ‘Forget about travelling, that part of your life is pretty much done and done’

(I’m not kidding)

And yes. It’s well meaning at best. People want to help. Or be perceived as the bringers of wisdom and experience. But it’s patronising, infuriating and intrusive. I started clearing out my FB friends and put a few really bad offenders on limited profile.

Thankfully, I have a gang of women who have all been there done that who give me honest advice, when I ask for it. And very politely point out when I am being naive and may need to manage my expectations.

At worst, I felt as if my right to privacy had been stripped away. Like I was now a public piece of property that people felt they could touch (I nipped that in the bud), judge and objectify. It seemed everyone was suddenly allowed to have an opinion on me, my reproductive system and my plans on managing procreation. Many were surprised to learn that funnily enough, my uterus is my business. So back the fuck off.

Seek out like minded women. Learn to nod and smile. And pick your battles, but fight them hard

Third Trimester

One word  – eugh.

That first trimester tiredness boomeranged back and hit me smack in the face. Even the big tights start proving problematic, getting into them would leave me sweaty and out of breath. Sleep became a distant memory and I became incredibly grumpy as a result. We did all the classes (NCT and Hypnobirthing- would highly recommend both), read more books, wrote up birth plans, handed over work projects, saw all the movies. Final countdown stuff.

Here, I have to give major kudos to my husband, work colleagues and close friends who laughed at my rudeness and didn’t divorce me, report me to HR, or stop taking my calls. You are all bloody wonderful and I owe you.

Right now, my toes look like fat baby sausages, I can only wear XXL leggings and stretchy tops, and I have developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my hands thanks to the late pregnancy swelling (its a ‘thing’ in pregnancy, like having a constantly blocked nose) and I can manage about 20 mins on my feet before I have to take a 2 hour nap. Such a special time!

But, we are on the final stretch, and right back to feeling exhilarated and terrified. Hospital bag is packed, baby clothes are washed and ready, the house is organised (thank you maternity leave boredom!) and now we wait.

If anything I’m hugely excited. To experience birth, to get to know myself as a mother and my other half as a father.

But mostly to meet our son, to get to know him, and have the incredibly daunting privilege of teaching him how to be a human. Thankfully it takes a village and I have a pretty awesome one at that.

Woooosaaaa kids. It’s been fun. See you on the ‘mother’side