Thursday, 30 April 2009


Although my current plan is to have a home birth (we start hypno classes in a few weeks to help with this, more to follow!) I needed to go to hospital this week to 'book in' my pregnancy. In the event of a non compliant baby, or perhaps more likely maternal demands for increased pain relief (much to my chagrin I was begging for an epidural as I checked into delivery at only 3cm dilated last time round) this is where I'll go to give birth.

I was on edge as we arrived at Fairfield. The hour and a half wait for the scan a couple of weeks previously had not filled me with love for the cold plastic seating of the waiting room, although the whiff of hot buttered WRVS toast did lower my blood pressure by a few points.

The timing was appalling, slap bang in the middle of T's nap time, he'd just dropped off as we found a parking space and had to run, in the pounding rain, to the antenatal clinic. I was well stocked though, laden down with books, toys, snacks, and adamant that even a long wait would not get the better of us.

Ho hum. It is one of the laws of toddlerhood that, faced with a bag crammed with pieces of train ('Ninky nonk!') and favourite reading material ('Fufflo!') it is much preferable to play with the water cooler ('wet!'), no matter how many times you are dragged away by a mother fretful that a heavily pregnant woman is going to slip on the accompanying spill and cause herself some serious harm. Within minutes T was banging his fists on one of the seats as I held him around his fat little middle and offered each of the goodies from my suitcase-sized bag in turn.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Shake head, bang fists, wriggle, sob loudly, carefully appreciate other people in the waiting room watching, increase volume, wriggle more forcefully.

I had just managed to settle T with some of the aforementioned toast (I'm not sure if before this point he knew white bread existed, his mother, wracked with middle-class guilt, insisting on buying the boring brown with bits variety) when we were called through. The midwife managed not to laugh too hard as I gathered flung toys, raisins and general handbag detritus and moved into the consulting room.

Being weighed was a shock. Clothes don't lie, well, unless you start wearing maternity at about 6 weeks as I did this time round, meaning you can legitimately eat all of your child's easter eggs without the resulting tight-trouser guilt. When my husband asked afterwards I feigned ignorance, claiming not to remember the magic number, although I know there was a 12 in it somewhere.

I filled out forms, ticked boxes (smoker, no, folic acid, yes, previous children, one - currently lying on the floor with his arms in the air singing 'Twinkle Twinkle') and finally it was time for my reward. I hopped onto the couch. T, who had been banging a metal instrument tray, satisfied that his noise was almost drowning out our discussion on which of a plethora of blood tests I was going to take up, toddled over, suddenly intrigued. I pulled down my leggings (yes, a fat woman in leggings, laugh now, you know you want to) and had jelly smeared on my belly. T started to hop from foot to foot ('up, up, up, up!') and as the midwife turned on the probe, I picked him up and sat him on my chest.

The probe dug in to my abdomen. I heard swishy sounds, slow and steady. 'That's your heartbeat'. I was surprised, given the stroppy toddler, that it wasn't faster, more urgent. She moved the probe. And again, murmering something about the difficulty in hearing a heartbeat using a doppler at only 16 weeks, and the fact it felt like my placenta was at the front. T was still, transfixed by the mess of gloop being smooshed around on my burgeoning bump. I held my breath. Then, down a bit, and to the left, there it was, the baby's heartbeat. Faster than my own, sharper in sound. In my head I tried desperately to remember the addage - horse for a girl and train for a boy? Train for a girl and horse for a boy? I gave up, given I couldn't tell which the clump, clump, clop, clop sounded like most. A horse on a train perhaps?

I put T down and we toddled back to the car. Tired out by his sleep free morning we both napped for two hours, although whether the soundtrack of his dreams was a solid heartbeat as mine was, I don't know.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

What do women want?

This is not a post about the trite film starring Mel Gibson of course, despite having seen it more times than I care to remember! In fact without even being struck by lightening Nick Marshall style, I have the answer. At least for one woman. Or in other words, what does my mother want?

I clearly remember being summoned into the office of the Headmistress of my grammar school. I was shortly to enter year ten, and had chosen my 'options', the subjects that would go on to make up my GCSE exams. Miss Revill, her of shelf-busom and matronly skirt fame ('that is not a skirt, it's a PELMET!') rejected my carefully ticked boxes as my mother sat by my side. Girls like me with 'half a brain' didn't take graphics (if the office had not been carpeted, I think she'd have spat after saying the word). I needed to select triple science, and another language and would go on to be a doctor or a lawyer. I wriggled uncomfortably, not experiencing the glow of pride my mother was at hearing her first born's stroppy teenage years might not automatically exclude getting a 'proper' job in the future. It was already too late. I never did get to do graphics, and drawing is still just a hobby.

My mum often referred to this conversation over the years, probing me gently for my plans. When I expressed a desire to work in radio, she was surprised (the salary of a journalist generally being fifty per cent less than that of a doctor or lawyer) but pleased when I secured my first job. My pride glow came when I climbed the steps to the five storey 70s monstrosity that is BBC Manchester every single day. Then, never one not to show interest in her daughter's future, a new maternal refrain started. 'Any jobs going at Woman's Hour?'

Whilst of course she was pleased that her eldest was enjoying a varied start to her career (except when my grandmother called her every other day to say she'd heard me on air, and to ask mum to remind me not to drop my aitches) I was no Sue MacGregor or Jenni Murray, and that was something that needed working on.

Ten years into my career, in middle management, the job comes up. Producer of Woman's Hour in Manchester. The timing is pitiful. I'm four months pregnant with my second child, and will be going on maternity leave in only another four. And that's being positive, health problems last time caused me to be signed off at 25 weeks. But how could I not apply? Not just for my mother of course, although I think she'd fly right up the chimney if I got it, but because it's a fantastic opportunity. Who wouldn't want to be part of a programme with a 60 plus year history, which can attract world leaders and celebrities for a Jane Garvey grilling and seamlessly segue into a feature on scented tampons?

So now, application submitted, fingers crossed for an interview, we're right back at the beginning again. As I listen to the Woman's Hour podcast and brainstorm programme ideas, what do women want?

Monday, 20 April 2009


It is almost impossible to remember what life for my husband and I was like BC, before children. I know we drank, sometimes too much, but we definitely ate better. There were no oven chips in this house, our staple now as we scrape ourselves off the sofa in search of tea at 9 pm. I'm not sure what we did eat on those 'very tired' nights, but I imagine we probably replaced food calories with gin. Or wine. It's galling to realise we were both much thinner then, even discounting my current state.

We both worked long hours, and I believe I might even have enjoyed my job for a while. We went for European weekends away and, yes, drank more. I fondly remember the night of 1000 mojitos in Barcelona, after which I had trouble standing up for the walk home.

It was with some tredpidation then that I planned a day out in London WC (without children, well, except for the mini bump who came with) this weekend. Would we still have things to talk about? Would we be one of those couples, sitting opposite each other at the dinner table, staring into their plates and wishing away the minutes until dessert, the bill and finally getting back to their home comforts? Used to the demands of a toddler with the attention span of a gnat, bouncing from one colourful activity to the next, would we be satisfied with the days plans of 'wandering about' followed by the theatre, dinner and home?

I realise this probably makes me sound rather pathetic. I'm not sure how many other couples out there have not had a day out together (WC) in almost 20 months. Our parental peers always seem to be going off somewhere, concerts, festivals, even (shhhhhh) nights away, the joys of local childcare. But for me, this was a Really Big Deal.

We left T with Grandma and Grandpa and drove to the outskirts of Zone 2 to get the tube into London. A beautifully sunny day, we meandered at a snails pace through Borough Market (sausage sandwich, good, stinky cheese stall which stirred the vestiges of my morning sickness, bad) and along the South Bank. We might not have talked much, but like giddy teenagers we held hands.

We went to the Tate Modern, and shuffled around, smiling in sympathy at the mother who was holding her toddler tightly around the middle, his legs windmilling frantically as he tried to dive over the foot high wire to get into the shimmering, glittering world of Thirty Pieces of Silver. At least I hope she knew it was sympathy, and not judgement.

We went to the theatre and had ice cream at the interval, we didn't have to share.

We went for dinner, and in an attempt to recreate that Barcelona feeling, I had a small mojito. Well, Mexican style, which apparently means it comes with a shot of tequila instead of rum. Either way, although I remained resolutely sober of course, I slurped the cool minty sweetness with delight, causing the toddler on the next table to cackle. By this stage we'd descended back into our 'Mummy' and 'Daddy' identities, admiring the provision of high chairs, the lack of chicken nuggets on the menu and selecting a mythical choice for T, should we ever go back with the children.

T was in bed when we arrived home. Tired out by Grandma and Grandpa, and his new favourite hobby, 'painting' the patio and the outside of the house with a paintbrush dipped into a old tin full of water. I'd enjoyed our day so much that I barely baulked at the fact he'd been fed cheese and onion crisps and a chocolate lolly, and hadn't really wanted his tea afterwards.

With an obsessively working husband, weekends are precious. Much as I enjoyed our taste of life BC, I wouldn't swap Saturdays at the park, or Sundays at the farm with T for a full day of grown-up time. I do admit to getting a little excited when we saw a poster on the tube for another play we'd like to see though. Perhaps our next day out will be less than 20 months away.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Miffy and the New Baby

Miffy and the New Baby

This book came as part of our Miffy box set. Given I've not yet been organised enough to order a story for T about the impending arrival of his sibling, I decided to get it out last night and put it in the pile of bedtime stories. As an aside, is it only my toddler who refuses to go to sleep until he's had a decent amount read to him? Trying to palm him off with a quick race through Hooray for Fish? No way. The Gruffalo, followed by Tiddler, followed by Dogger followed by a half-hearted asking for 'more' as he yawns and it creeps towards 7.30 pm? Oh yes indeed.

I read the lovely rhyming prose, pointed out the pictures and snuggled in to T.

Me: 'Ah, Miffy's got a new brother or sister'
T: 'baby' (points at the picture)
Me: 'Look, she's giving him a cuddle'
T: 'Ahhhhhhhhhhhh' (blows kiss, something which has either come from nursery or Upsy Daisy, I can't decide)
Me: 'Are you going to have a new brother or sister?'
T: (look of disdain) 'No no no no no no no no' (shakes head)
Me: 'Oh'
T: 'dis, dis, dis' (bashes me on the head with The Gruffalo)

Perhaps I should order that book now then.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Things not to say to your pregnant wife

We went to a party last night. My Mum drove up to babysit T, arriving just in time to help with a bedtime story whilst I frantically, and badly, applied some slap and put on my new-to-me (ebay!) maternity dress. I don't get out much, well, ever, but with heels on and my face scales (I will follow your tips for face cream, honestly, when we get paid next week!) covered with Benefit's finest concrete powder I felt like I'd brushed up well.

We went out. Now in the second trimester, I treated myself to a half measure of gin and a whole bottle of tonic. Friends arrived, we caught up, ate pie, laughed at pictures of the birthday boy from his childhood and all studiously ignored the dancefloor.

By 10.30 pm, I was ready for bed. I went to tell my husband I was going home and would see him there later. He was pretty drunk by this point. I can always tell when he's drunk as he 'sneaks' outside for a fag and thinks I wont notice that a) he's disappeared and b) he bloody stinks. He gave the baby, my mini bump which always seems to pop out a little more at night, a rub and said 'ahhhhh, you stood up and I thought, corrrrr, she's getting really fat'.

It's my turn to do the weekend get-up this morning whilst he enjoys his (less-than-svelte) lie in. Something tells me T and I are going to have to find some noisy hangover-punishing activities to do. Making smoothies in the blender perhaps? Kareoke? Bedroom trampolining?

Getting fat. I ask you!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Losing it

We don't live in a very big house, but it seems to have an uncanny ability to swallow things. The house I mean, not T, although we did have an exciting human moneybox moment a few months ago when he wanted to see what a 20p piece felt like on the way down. Bumpy I'd imagine, unfortunately he was unable to tell me.

At the moment we're currently missing:

One pair of glasses. My husband's. This caused a slight problem when in an over-excited Hokey Cokey moment last week T managed to break the arm from his only remaining pair. A Reg Holdsworth-style sellotape fastening had to do for a whole week, in preference to not being able to see more than three feet in front of him.

One wedding ring. Again, my husband's. He took it off because it was 'annoying him' and put it safely 'in front of the TV in the bedroom'. Now don't get me wrong, I don't mind him taking off his ring, I had weeks of ring-free time last winter when eczema between my fingers caused them to chap and peel (also causing old ladies to look slyly at my left hand, at the buggy, and shake their heads sadly on the decline of modern society) but perhaps he could have found somewhere a little more, erm, secure to leave it. Anyway, it has clearly been squirreled away by a resident magpie as it's nowhere to be seen.

One RAS token. My husband's (noticing a theme here?) little radio controlled do-dah which allows him to access his work emails from home. Last seen on top of the laptop.

One baby monitor (parent unit). OK I take full responsibility for this one. Last seen being used as a mobile phone by T (walking and talking - 'hi, hi, hi, gan-ma') and now utterly disappeared. We have turned out the toybox, lifted the (very heavy) sofa and even paged it using the base unit. It appears to have run out of charge, either that or it's in some sort of parallel universe and doesn't feature the multi-world reception properties of Rose Tyler's mobile phone.

On the plus side the house is going on the market. In a slight pregnancy-induced 'need more space' panic we have decided to see what's out there in the 'bigger than small' category of housing. And everyone knows that when you're trying to tidy up, frantically moving clutter, trinkets and paraphenalia from room to room in a desperate attempt to make it feel bigger for the Estate Agent's photos, more rubbish (and things you thought lost) has an uncanny knack of appearing just at the wrong moment, making the job in hand much larger. That's what I'm hoping for anyway.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Show me the way to the rooftops

I've done it! I've finally made it to the magic twelve week 'tell the world' mark. Baby 2 was scanned this week. It appears I'm going to give birth to Bart Simpson, so keen was the little one to show the sonographer it's bottom. With a little poking s/he finally relented and allowed some measurements to be taken, and this photo. My husband, who proclaimed on the way in that he was not excited because 'when you've seen one photo you've seen them all', was so desperate for a good view that he spent the entire scan standing up and peering nervously over my burgeoning bump at the small screen. Once the trainee who scanned us had left the room to have her work checked by a senior member of staff (giving us a precious few minutes alone with the flickering image, waving, kicking and turning sumersaults) he proclaimed it to be a 'girl blob'. He 'just knows' apparently. And we're going to call her Jessica. My heart swelled a little bit. Maybe he's not so cool after all.