Like a Queen – with Constance Hall.

For those of you who haven’t previously heard of Constance Hall – go forth and Google, (or Facebook, or Instagram) – actually, here, just go to www.likeaqueen.com – thank me later.

To some, she is the first contestant to be kicked out of BB5 (Aus), she’s a mum of four, blogger, Author, massive fundraiser (check out her amazing work with Rafiki Mwema – www.Rafikimwema.com ) and that woman who wrote that post on Facebook about ‘three-minute parent sex between nappy changes’ last year that went viral. 

To some of us, though, she’s just a rad bitch who tells is like it is. 

I’ve been following her for well over a year now, laughing hysterically at her frank and genuine posts about motherhood, about being a woman, about accidentally buying adult diapers instead of sanitary towels, about how, if she’s caught scratching her girl-parts during a national interview – that it’s not, as we may all assume, crabs – rather intimate area eczema (who even knew that was a thing?), about parental guilt, sleep deprivation, body image, about self-love, about all love, about life and about relationships.

I’ve found myself nodding in agreement to the list of things she’s written about that ‘they’ don’t tell you about having a child, or the crappy day she’s had while her kids have had a public meltdown comparable to a nuclear explosion – all the while shoving chocolate in my face and slugging down a diet coke – wishing it was wine, wishing I had a closet to hide in, wishing I could JUST POOP ALONE, or wishing I could teleport to a Caribbean Island for a *real* margarita (not Northern Ireland’s idea of what they think a margarita should be) for just an hour of peace and quiet.

In some moments, I’ve found myself truly grateful to read that I’m not the only imperfect mother out there, and not only that, but she wears her imperfection on her sleeve like a badge of badassness.  Shouting from the rooftops about things that are deemed the taboos – she’s my kinda gal.

On days my three-year-old says ‘mama’ half a dozen times in one second, for no apparent reason other than to have me pull my hair out – from the root – or asks ‘why’ four hundred times in an hour. 

On days where he has crapped his pants three times in a row after JUST having gone for a wee in the toilet. 

On days he draws on the wall with Crayola ‘magic markers’ – I think the magic is that you can’t get the damn things off the freakin’ wall. 

On days where my laundry basket is overflowing, dishes are piled high, I haven’t showered, or cooked in two days – have no inclination to either – and I just want to have the TV parent my child for a couple hours so I can nap. 

On days where I just hand him a box of Honey Monster Puffs (because apparently we can’t call them Sugar Puffs any more – damn kale and quinoa warriors!) and say ‘Hey kid, knock yourself out’.

On days where I’m at the Goddamn end of my zen-rope and snap at my three-year old for no reason, then cry at him about how sorry I am for being only human.

Con is there, to remind me in ways only a kindred spirit can, that this too shall pass, that this too, is normal, that this is the side of motherhood that mothers are typically shamed in to keeping quiet about – one must have a spotless house, one must present oneself immaculately, one must have an amazingly behaved child – ALL.OF.THE.FUCKING.TIME. 

But here’s the thing, that’s a pipe dream.  A fantasy.  An unrealistic expectation.  Because no one – NO ONE can keep their shit together 100% of the time, no one is infallible, and I’m sure that even the Dali Lama himself gets to the end of his zen rope sometimes! 😉

So, Con announced a book tour and we all looked longingly at those saying they snagged tickets on her FB posts – I didn’t think she’d come to the UK and Ireland, but she announced UK dates and, from the front seat of my car (while I was out for lunch one day with Col and Lewis) snagged a couple tickets for my friend Liz’s birthday and off we went to check out her Q&A/book signing – thankfully, I didn’t hesitate, because the venue was sold out within, like, an hour.  Neither of us knew quite what to expect, I mean what was the format? Was she just going to talk at us for a while and then we got to ask questions? How did it work? Were we going to be the only people there? And, most importantly, would there be food?

We got there early, too early, 11.30am early for a 12.30pm start – which would have been fine if it had started at 12.30pm like it was supposed to – it did not.  They had a limited menu at the bar (Liz just wanted a freakin’ scone for breakfast! LOL!) I got the smallest and least margarita-like margarita I’ve ever had (don’t mess with this honorary Texas girl’s margaritas) so I quickly gave up on those and hit up the beanie-dude at the gin stand.  Now, I’m not a gin kinda girl, but the herd of fish-bowl-esque glasses filled with orange peel and a clear liquid that HAD to be alcoholic based on the volume of glasses round the room, peaked my attention, so off I went to try his wares.

Why am I talking about gin? Because this is locally distilled gin.  Because I’m not a gin person and I liked it so much I had multiple cocktails.  Because this gin is da bomb!  ShortCross gin, small batch, distilled in Downpatrick – find it, try it – and again, thank me later.

Anyways.  The room was cosy, there was maybe two hundred and fifty people, max, I’m not sure if that was more or less than I expected, but it was a nice sized crowd, many of whom were wearing flower crowns (Con’s signature headgear).  I can’t quite think of an accurate way to describe what we were a part of yesterday, it was less about the words, more about the emotions.  The emotion in that room was tangible, women from all over Northern Ireland had gathered together with like-minded women of Con’s ‘tribe’, to share stories, support each other, listen and just, exist.

The ladies shared some of their deepest and most secret life happenings, from abortions to divorce and separation.  The content was largely heavy – though at times we laughed a lot, too.  From abusive husbands to partners who had been caught cheating on them only days before the Q&A, or they were pregnant with child number four and struggling to find the strength they needed to leave their husband – it was shared.

It wasn’t quite the sharing of stories that surprised me.  I think if you were in that room, you know what Con is about, you know her ethos and you feel safe and as though you can share anything to her without fear of judgement.  That said? It totally saddens me that sharing stories about you, about your personal life, about your pain, or joy is still deemed taboo in today’s society.  You talk about infertility? Body image? The inner workings of the female body during pregnancy? And you’re considered brave – when really? You’re just human.

What I was *more* surprised at, was the overwhelming sense of ‘good human’ in the room.  You see so much crap in the news every day about such horrible humans out there – in that room? The GOOD in people was clear, my faith in humanity was restored a little. 

‘You can have my number and call any time’

‘Can I come and give you a hug?’

‘You are not alone’

Complete strangers walked up the room and down the rows, to hug women hurting, in pain, in tears telling their stories – some of which hadn’t ever even been said allowed to anyone but their nearest and dearest, most bestest friends, but was now shared to two hundred-odd women, and more than that? Received with love, support, acceptance.

It was quite beautiful.  And moving. 

I think I even saw Liz wiping a stray tear out of the corner of her eye at one point – though she’ll probably tell you it was an eye lash or something! LOL!

When we got home? One of the ladies who’d shared in the group, had made a Facebook group page for the ‘Queens’ of Belfast who met yesterday, and it’s nothing more than a page for the Irish Queens to unite and hang out virtually, give recommendations, provide strength when it’s needed, share our blogs, our lives, our loves – and not be judged. 

It’s quite a cool group already, and it’s only twenty-four hours old.

If Con is coming to your area, there happens to be tickets left and you’re on the fence about going? Do it.  Get off the fence before you get splinters in your arse.  It’ll be a worthwhile, interesting, fun and emotional (it seemed for some it was even a spiritual) experience.  Plus? There may be gin!!  Though I’d probably recommend that you skip the ten quid burgers at the BBQ out back 😉

Keep on being rad bitches ladies!

Smells like Krav spirit…or is that sweat?

How in the world do you blog about a group of people who have quite literally changed your life?
13606656_10156979276515411_756404044872232427_nI wasn’t going to write this just yet.  I’m not 100% sure why, exactly.  I have a few reasons I guess, I wanted there to be more of a change in me, I wanted to make sure I stuck at it for an extended period of time and I wasn’t convinced that eight weeks was enough time to gauge, well, anything really.
Plus? Let’s just throw it out there now, but when it comes to talking about my amazing little Krav family? I get hit square in the feels (as long as it’s not the jaw, right?)

But, my time here in Houston is drawing to a close over the next couple months, and this new lifestyle and these new people have already had such a profound impact on my life, I thought “screw it”.  I figure that there’s really no harm in sharing this new chapter of my life on this blog.  Especially considering that the mental changes within myself, far outweigh any current visible, physical changes.  I’ve even gone so far as to have already looked up somewhere to continue my training when I go home, and Col has looked for somewhere in India.

I officially have “the bug”.
13516350_10156973497185411_7002291917759849473_nOn Thursday, May 5th, (so just over a month ago as I start to write this), I, in what felt at the time, like a moment of utter insanity, drove North of the city to try a free Krav Maga class.  I didn’t know much about the self defense system, other than it was more instinctual and less “organized”, than say, Tae Kwon Do, and really a little more akin to street fighting even.  So, off I went.
I got there a little early so I could watch the end of the previous, intermediate/advanced class, train and had I listened to the not-so-quiet voice screaming loudly in my ear to think again about what in the name of all that is holy I thought I was doing, I’d have bolted.  Part of me wanted to.  Not a small part either.  There was absolutely no way in hell I could ever do what those people were doing, right? But they’d all seen me come up the stairs, there was no escape – believe me, I considered it.
Hold up.  Let’s rewind a little, we all know that I’ve posted any number of fitness, weight loss, or healthy eating posts since I started this blog.  I’ve yoyo-ed the same 10lbs for years and my self-image hasn’t ever been stellar.
I abhor exercise.  Despise it.  I’ll leave a collection of things on the stairs that needs taken up, because I’m just too out-rightly lazy to add an extra flight of steps into my day.

And then something clicks.

It’s the same process every time, right?
I’ll get so sick of seeing my reflection in the mirror and I’ll hit something full pelt.  I’ll eat 1600 (-1800) calories a day (GP approved before any of you give me grief), drink 2 liters of water, eat 5 a day and start some form of exercise, Les Mills Body Attack or C25K have been the most notable favourites to date.  I’ll go 3-5 times a week, give my all, and after the first week or two of quick body-shock progress, eating like a hangry ankle-biting rabbit and working out more than any sane person should, in my lazy land of couch potato, I’ll hit some dumb plateau, the scales won’t move and I’ll lose my patience with it.  Or? Better yet? I’ll get my period, use it as the worlds lamest excuse to curl up in the corner and avoid the gym like the plague.  It really doesn’t take much for me to quit and go back to being unhappy with myself.
Typically.
I know myself, I know my patterns.

Or so I thought.

Anyways, back we go to Las, sat on the floor of the Krav loft, trying to look calm – when all she really wanted to do was jump in the car and drive home – stretching, because from the look of the intermediate class, it seemed like that was a smart thing to do, and praying, praying hard, that no one laughed at my mere presence there.
Then it occurred to me, the (I’m reluctant to call them educated, but on the subject matter I guess they are) person (people) who encouraged me to go to Krav in the first place? Wouldn’t have done so from an unkind place, or to make fun of me somehow.  They encouraged me to go because they thought I was capable – in spite of enjoying my couch potato lifestyle.  They thought that it was, perhaps, something I would enjoy, and maybe even go to a second class.  They believed in me, even if I didn’t believe in myself.
13510781_10156955669315411_8653724555621343230_nMy first class was pretty “low-key” (I’m also reluctant to say low-key, because I still ended up a sweaty mess and my calf hurt for three days after training).  It was all footwork, (stance is the most important thing!) and I spent most of the 60 minutes face to face with an orange belt, called Jen, who I’d seen training at the end of the previous class.  Neither she, nor Mike (the instructor), laughed at me for being there, they didn’t scoff, or ask what I thought I was doing, and, despite us giggling for the guts of an hour, Jen taught me more than I realised.
In spite of not being able to walk very well the next day (my calf protested being off the floor for an hour), I was sufficiently intrigued.  I signed up for a monthly, unlimited class membership and attended a two-hour monthly women’s self defense seminars, just two days later, that Saturday morning.
13319719_10156865174375411_9113199934113673980_nIn the eight weeks since that first night? My goal in May was 9 classes (two per week) I finished the month on 13.  I’ve attended a 3 hour Kali/Escrima (knife skills) workshop, two (soon to be three) 2-hour women’s self defense seminars and a 3 hour Muay Thai workshop with the best Muay Thai coach in the US.  I’ve not only tried an intermediate class, but I’ve done a number of back to back inter/beginner classes in the last few weeks, and I’m hungry for more.  Why? Not just because I enjoy it – sure, that’s a huge chunk, but these people I’m training with? They help me find belief in myself that I’m CAPABLE of more.
Crazy as it sounds, (and I know it’s a long shot, but we all need goals, right?) I’m training with the aim of testing for my yellow belt before we leave the US.  My goal for June was 13 classes, 3 per week and I finished on 22 Krav classes and 1 cardio combat class, I’ve not skipped a single class simply because I have ovaries (as a friend’s better half pointed out “an attacker doesn’t care if you’re sick or have your period”) and I’ve even managed to simultaneously train through a chest infection, just fine.
13307453_10156865174365411_3685887745969475778_nIt’s incredibly hard to capture, on a computer screen especially, the kind of people, or atmosphere, that Fight Back Fit has managed to harness, and I find it just a little laugh-out-loud-funny that I’m getting ‘totes emosh’ about a group of seriously bad ass fighters, however, I really am.  Last week? I trained for two hours before we went out for post-training tacos.  We typically close out the places we go to eat, mostly, I think, because the other patrons are afraid that our special kind of crazy is contagious and don’t want to be within a city block of our hysterical giggling.  Anyways, I had a not-so-minor breakdown on my way home, worked up and upset that I’m leaving this great group of people in a short matter of weeks.  It bothers me, a lot.
In class, no matter who I pair with in training, I learn something.
Everyone has something to teach.
Everyone is vested in everyone else’s training.  Everyone wants to make you a better fighter and no one cares that you’ve only been there a short number of weeks and suck at hooks, your left elbow flares when you strike, or that you punch with the wrong part of your fist – they just want you to be better.

Every class.

13528802_10156942683145411_1999757221268620819_nFighting and fitness aside? The folks I train with have a pretty social element to their training, they typically eat out after class a couple times a week (this has become after every time I train because I have a long drive home and am so hungry I could eat an entire cow when I’m finished), we’ll sit, laugh (there’s always lots of laughing), talk, share stories and re-fuel after a tough work out that we push each other to kick ass in.
I know you’re skeptical, I would be too had I not experienced it first-hand, there’s no way anyone could accidentally happen upon such a ready-made group of great friends, right? Wrong.  Aside from the Krav-ing, and the post-Krav eating (which, in the interest of being up front if you’re thinking of joining us, can last for hours), we have also hung out socially, I’ve been shooting with them, we’ve had lunch together on non-Krav days, and we’re working on throwing together a bucket list for my last eight weeks here in Houston and have a few fun things like karaoke and go-karting on the list for us to try our hands at.
13615046_10156987121315411_4232918578577866323_nWe even landed around to my Krav friend Kathy’s house (toddler and all!) and invaded for a bbq for the 4th, with two of my other fave Krav friends (Kate and Jen) with Kathy’s sister and her family.  If someone starts a sentence with ‘Hey, why don’t we…?’, or ‘Does anyone want to…?’ chances are at least four of us will be there.
They pick me up when I fall (literally), build me up when I’m low, push me through when I feel like I can’t do something and tell me I’m getting skinnier while punching me in the chest – what’s not to love? 😉
13606503_10156989125330411_3121260125936346466_nWanna know how hard I love these folks? Sunday night on my way to my volunteer shift at Ronald McDonald, I hit a pot hole – and I was scared to my core that I’d busted out my tyre, was going to get stranded at the hospital (I had the car seat in my car, so Col couldn’t come rescue me, had I been in trouble), but I knew that without a doubt, I could have called any of a handful of Krav people and they’d have busted their behinds to help me get myself figured out.  Thankfully, I didn’t need it, but it’s a very, very reassuring feeling to know that someone’s got your back.
While a large part of me is devastated that I didn’t meet these people seven years ago when we first moved to H-Town, a larger part of me is so damn thankful that I got to meet them at all.  That I got over myself, my inner demons, my self-hatey and crappy self esteem to take a chance, try something new, and that I get to spend my last four months in Houston, doing something I love, with people I love even more.
13521842_10156955669410411_8167052263224450380_n

To the lady in the line…

Have you ever regretted *not* saying something?

Walking away from a situation and inwardly kicking yourself that you hesitated? Missed the moment? Wanted to have a time machine, rewind the last few minutes and get a do-over? Knowing *exactly* what you’d have said in that moment?

It happened to me, yesterday.

I think part of my hesitation was simply just shock and disbelief.  I just couldn’t quite wrap my brain around what was being said behind me in the Just Between Friends South Houston check out line.

Maybe some of you will relate? Maybe some of you will tell me that it’s a perfectly normal thought  process – and maybe some of you will tell me to wind my neck in and give over.  However, this set my blood boiling yesterday and I woke up this morning feeling no better.

I’m not typically a violent person.

OK, so I beat the ever living shit out of a fella when he hit my sister a decade and a half ago, but I’m not a naturally aggressive person.

But let me tell you about that time I fought every urge to punch a pregnant lady.

I missed an opportunity.

Not to punch her, so much as an opportunity to advocate, an opportunity to defend and an opportunity to educate – and for that, I feel a little guilty and a LOT disappointed in myself.

Let me explain.  I went to JBF yesterday, Col afforded me a couple hours toddler-free to do some shopping.  We’ve had three babies born in our circle in the last couple months, and there’s a couple still to come before the year is out.  While I was flicking through the rails of clothing, I bumped in to a lady a couple times.  We made small talk, she was telling me about just how much money she’d made in her JBF consigning, just how much she was spending on her soon-to-be-born little girl, who was being welcomed into the world by her two older brothers.

Me, being the enabler that I am, nodded and made the appropriate ‘think of all the money you’re saving in the long run’ noises of approval, as she held up some items for a second opinion.  Being more of an over-sharer than myself aside (and that’s really saying something) she seemed a pretty nice lady.

Fast forward to, what felt like, three days later.  JBF is great, don’t get me wrong.  It is.  But spending an eternity in a long, slow-moving line (because everyone is buying trolleys full of cheap kids clothes) is really what does me in.

I hear someone, who I later turn to glare at, and discover that it’s the one and the same lady that I’d chit-chatted to in the aisles of the clothing insanity.

She’s telling anyone who’ll listen (and a rather red-faced, heavily pregnant mother next to her – who clearly wants the ground to swallow her up for being a part of this conversation) that she’s pregnant with her first girl.  She fell pregnant ten years ago with her son and was disappointed that he wasn’t a girl.  When she fell pregnant with her second son, three years ago, she was even MORE disappointed that HE wasn’t a girl and how horribly difficult it is to live for SO LONG without having the baby girl she’s always dreamed of.  How overwhelming her disappointment has been and how at long last she’s finally thrilled to be pregnant.

Finally thrilled to be pregnant? After two healthy pregnancies and two, what I’m sure are gorgeous children.  She’s FINALLY thrilled to be pregnant, because she’s having a girl?

“Lady, are you fucking kidding me?”

I wanted to exclaim.

But, I, stupidly, bit my tongue.

“I’m surprised you didn’t say anything”, I was told three times yesterday.

Don’t rock the boat, I told myself.  Don’t get kicked out of a baby sale, I told myself.  You’ll burst in to tears and be unable to keep your shit together, I told myself.  Maybe you’re hearing her wrong, I told myself – and I listed any number of reasons NOT to confront this trumpet blasting in my ear.

On one hand? Society has conditioned us to stay quiet.

On the other? I’ve allowed myself to be conditioned.

And I stayed quiet.

I should have spoken up.

I should have advocated.

I wanted to grab this heavily pregnant, insensitive, rude and shallow woman and shake her….Ok, fine.  In the moment I wanted to punch her in her stupid face.  But I’d have settled for shaking and tell her what an amazing, precious gift she’s been given – TWICE so far and, God willing, a third time too.  Don’t be ungrateful.  Every child is a gift, a miracle.

I wanted to tell her that 1 in 8 people suffer from infertility and would sell their own mothers to be able to conceive even ONE healthy baby, and here her ungrateful self is bitching to a line full of mothers, many of whom, like me, have been in the position of wanting a child more than anything in the world and being unable to conceive.

I wanted to educate her, tell her, that some people have spent those ten years she was whining over not having a girl, those ten long, painful years, praying to have a child – regardless of gender.  Some people have spent those ten years having miscarriage after miscarriage, procedure after procedure and month after month of getting their period, when the only thing in the world they want is for there to be two lines on the Goddamned stick and she just wants a pink stick?

I wanted to pull up the fertility page, right here on my blog and let her read REAL stories, from REAL people about their struggles to get what she’s been gifted and has absolutely no concept of the value of.

But I didn’t.

I stayed quiet.

Instead? I sat in the car and fumed.

Cried tears of frustration, anger, disappointment in myself for a missed opportunity.

Tears for the me of only three short years ago, a month or so to the day, when I walked in to my fertility doctors office and underwent a procedure which, mercifully, resulted in the conception of my little ‘bubble’.  The bubble who grew into my loving, funny, stubborn, rambunctious, curious, little toddler, who is currently trying to help me type this blog post, while hitting keys and announcing what letter it is each time, repeated louder and louder each time, until I acknowledge that that is, in fact, ‘S’.

I wanted to tell her, that even when you do get pregnant after struggling with infertility, that it’s not the end – and I don’t just mean secondary infertility.  I mean, that for me, personally, and many others, if you do, eventually, GET pregnant, almost every day is a constant battle with fear and stress.  I spent my entire pregnancy worried, terrified that I was going to lose that which I’d tried and fought so hard to get in the first place.

Every morning I woke up, expecting it to be a dream, or some cruel joke.  I took pregnancy tests every day for weeks – even after my first scan – just to be sure they weren’t wrong.

Every time I went to the bathroom, I expected blood.

Later in my pregnancy, if bubble didn’t move for a little while, I was freaking out and hitting the ice cold drinks and something filled with sugar to make him move so I was reassured that he was ok.

I did everything I could to ensure that I had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby – including missing out on seeing Maroon 5 at the Houston Rodeo! (Heaven forbade!!)

I’ve cried, uncontrollable tears of relief, gratefulness and joy at each of the RESOLVE Walk’s of Hope I’ve been to since conceiving Lewis.  I’ve also cried tears of sorrow, pain and hope for those who haven’t yet been as lucky as I have, to reach their dreams.  I cried for my struggle and the struggles of any number of women

I think it’s safe to say that this was a steep learning curve for me, and I’d like to think that if there IS a next time, I won’t hold my tongue.  I won’t allow myself to convince myself that it’s OK to let things like that slide.  I won’t let the fact that I may burst out crying at someone, prevent me for bringing to attention how inappropriate and hurtful her comments were.

A friend told me last night that you can’t change the world and you can’t cure stupid.

I’m not sure I buy that.


The world will never change, if everyone and everything stays the same.

Maybe my speaking up would have had no effect whatsoever, maybe she’d have laughed me off and told me I was ridiculous, maybe she’s beyond help.  But maybe? Just maybe I could have been the change.  Or maybe? Even just one of ladies standing around her, (enduring her tales of woe about how she couldn’t have afforded a girl ten years ago, but how she’s in a MUCH better financial position now so she could afford every cute dress she’ll ever want or need) would have taken comfort in my words, and knew that they weren’t alone in thinking that this insensitive mare was OK in saying what she said.


She wasn’t.

Don’t bite your tongue.

Don’t stay quiet.

Be the change.

An emotional RESOLVE Walk of Hope 2016 with my darling son.

An emotional RESOLVE Walk of Hope 2016 with my darling son.

For more information on infertility, please check out this amazing charity, RESOLVE.

Learning to love my plus-sized self.

12642992_10156387774010411_2556516841211561801_nGrab a cuppa, this is a long’un.

Before I start? Let me get a couple of things out of the way, cause I’ve been saying some variation of these points, a lot, since I shared the photos:

1.  You see more at the beach, in a nightclub, or after 11am at your local Walmart.  If you’re offended by these pictures, or think I should be ashamed of myself? Bite me.
2. Before you comment and call me brave, or bold, or daring.  Please take a moment to consider where that comes from inside you, am I brave cause I’m a fat chick showing some skin? Am I brave cause I’m showing a vulnerable and exposed side of myself with the entire internet? Am I brave cause we aren’t used to seeing women empowering themselves? WHY is it that you think I’m brave?
3. No, I didn’t have these pictures taken as a gift to my husband, that was an added perk.  I had them taken as a gift to myself.  I’ve spent way too long feeling like crap about myself and wanted to do something to feel beautiful for a change.

Let me explain;
I typically spend most of my days chasing around an energetic, almost two year old boy.  A boy, who, for the record? Doesn’t like having his hands dirty, so will wipe his Nutella, cheese puff, or paint covered fingers on my clothes if I’m not careful.
And? While I am trying to get into running, I don’t run.  So anything other than flats on my fallen-arched flat feet? You can forget about it.  Chasing a toddler in anything other than my comfy gel-soled Asics, sounds like the seventh circle of hell to my chubby-legged and unfit self.

I live in denim capris, some kind of graphic T-shirt and flip flops.

A friend of mine recently described me as dressing like a college kid.

He wasn’t wrong.

He didn’t stop there, he went on to say that almost my entire wardrobe needs thrown out.  “Maybe keep some stuff for when you go hiking” (no, really, he does know me, I swear!) “but the rest needs to go”.

Again, he wasn’t wrong.

I’d love to say that being a stay at home mum (SAHM) is the reason to blame for my college “style” wardrobe.  Alas, I cannot.  My poor relationship with clothing and fashion began much, much, earlier than I’d care to admit.  I’ve always been overweight, fat, obese, having always had a waist much smaller than my hips and bum, I have what you’d politely refer to as a classic “hourglass” shape, but I never learned to dress for my shape, love my curves, or, without sounding too pathetic, like myself, in spite of my size.

Instead, I learned to dislike, often hate, the reflection I saw in the windows of shops and the mirror.  It wasn’t the same as the images I saw in magazines, on TV, in shop windows.  It was different.  The only time I saw people who looked in anyway like me, was for Weight Watchers adverts in January when people had over indulged over Christmas.

Hot damn girl!

Don’t draw attention to yourself!

I learned to abhor shopping.  No kidding – I mean panic attacks, palpitations and hysterical breakdowns at the mere idea of needing new clothes.    At my smallest I was a 12-14 on top (UK) but on the bottom I never got below a 20.  I was grossly out of proportion.  My narrow waist meant you could always see my knickers when I sat down in jeans or trousers cause I always needed bigger sizes to accommodate my rotund arse.  I lost patience at myself when I could find anything to wear, I’d cry angry tears in dressing rooms wondering why things didn’t look, on me, like they looked on the stick thin models standing in the windows as I walked in the door.

I learned to wear the same half-dozen outfits in rotation (I’m pretty much still wearing the same outfits, decades on), never be “brave” or “daring”, only have “nice” clothes, look “pretty” for special occasions.  If I found something that fit, and looked passable, I’d buy one in every colour and call it good.  Shoes (ok, flip flops) too.

I learned to be ashamed of my body.  To never dare look at bikinis, anything knee length or higher, anything low cut, bright or bold patterned either, for that matter.  Not only that? But you can’t shop at “normal” shops, you have to go to “plus” shops, for “bigger girls”, where the selection is crap, the prices are higher and you almost wonder aloud as to why companies can’t just make the same damn clothes they make for skinny people, just, y’know, bigger?

Dark colours flatter, don’t wear anything that shows your flab or calls attention to your “not normal” shape.

Right? That’s what “they” say.

As a result? I learned to hate and hide my body.  Black dress trousers, then jeans, paired with “cute” graphic tshirts conveying my love for the TMNTs, or the Care Bears, paired with oversized hoodies (at least in Ireland) that covered as much of my shameful plus sized figure as I could manage.

Then you think all your prayers will be answered if you could just lose a bit of weight.  You go on a diet.  You work out.  You drop thirty or fifty pounds, only to realize that your shape? Is still a Goddamned hourglass.  That the weight you so fervently tried to lose, is coming off your pinky finger, your ear lobes, your ankles…everywhere that ISN’T your fat arse, or thighs, or double chin, or bingo wings, or wherever else you’d spent nights praying to God to take it from.  That unless you take a hacksaw to your hips (believe me, I even contemplated that a time or two) those bastarding hips aren’t gonna budge.  “Childbearing hips” they call them, and while they served me incredibly well during a blessed, easy and quick labour, they make clothes shopping painfully frustrating.

Then you find routine.  You get lazy.  Or, you have a baby, your body shape changes, but not in the ways you’ve dreamed about your whole life and you suddenly have the added dismay of a “mummy tummy”, cause life wasn’t unfair enough with your big hips, big arse and big thighs, I guess at least now a big tummy completes the set, and so you hide behind your baby for a couple years.  You justify it to yourself, saying “I’m a mum”, like that excuses you from taking a moment to think about what you put on to wear outside, in front of other people in the mornings.  Like that means you can’t justify carving out some extra cash to treat yourself to an outfit here and there, like it means you don’t deserve to feel girlie or pretty any more.  Like you’re resigned to sweats and hoodies forever, because you don’t have the time, the money, the energy or the wherewithal to go shopping and treat yourself to something that makes you feel human.

And here we are.

wm1I turned thirty-one this year and I still dress like a college kid.  I still wear jeans and flip flops, I still self-hate, am ashamed of and hide my body, I still lust over pictures in magazines wondering if there will ever come a time when I can walk in to a “normal” clothes shop and not end up with hot tears of frustration down my cheeks in the fitting room cause I just want to find something decent to wear out the door in the mornings.

Enter plus sized fashion bloggers.

Ok, one fashion blogger really.  Georgina Horne over at Fuller Figure, Fuller Bust.  I’ve had her on the periphery of my radar for a few years, but lately, she’s been ALL up in my ‘bidness’.  She’s a sassy, loud, occasionally rowdy lady, with large cleavage, a rockin’ waist and an ginormous heart.

She takes a genuine interest in real, every day people (seriously though, the first time she tweeted me back I was all fan-girlie) and she gives great advice (on any manner of things!)

Without realizing it, her “f*ck it” attitude kinda rubs off on you, and you suddenly find yourself believing that maybe you could look half as hot as she does in front of the camera, and suddenly you’re off out down the town, squishing your boobs in to a corset named after an Addams Family character and booking yourself a boudoir photoshoot.

What possessed me?

I’ve toyed and flirted with the idea for years now.

Around my wedding, I even momentarily SERIOUSLY considered the idea, and at 35lbs lighter than where I am right now, and feeling a little more self confident, it probably would have been a more “sensible” time to act.  But I shelved the idea and buried it under ALL of my jeans and hoodies.

My “everyday” photographer, liked a picture on Maribella Portraits Facebook page that appeared on my Facebook feed and I liked it.

I liked it a lot.

So much so, that I went back the next day and stared at it.  And the day after that, too.
It was a picture Maria had taken at dusk in downtown Houston of some beautiful curvy women.  The more I dug into her page, the more I discovered she was keen to empower women, make them feel strong and show to them their beauty – both inside and out.  Her work, her page, her mantra spoke to me.

houston photographerI booked a consultation, had a chat with Maria about what we both expected from the shoot, pencilled it in and hit up Pinterest for inspiration before hitting the shops to frantically search for pieces of clothing to wear to my shoot.

After WEEKS, yes, weeks of searching, I finally had my outfits.  My corsets, sports shirts and underwear for boudoir, a couple of dresses and an outfit or two for Downtown glamour, jewellery, hot rollers, props and heels.  I was good to go.

On the morning of the shoot I was overcome with nervous excitement.  More nerves to be honest, but those quickly dissipated as Maria and my friend Sandra kept telling me I was doing great and looked hot.  They stole my glasses so I couldn’t see my reflection (that’s not why, but it worked) and although at certain points I felt somewhat unnatural and a little ridiculous, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of getting dolled up and, I guess, almost being someone else for the morning.

Maria was excited by the results, her original two-week turn around, became only days, as she was inspired by the shots she had on-film.  I, on the other hand, felt sick to my stomach.  What if the pictures didn’t come out good? What if they weren’t what I had expected? What if, what if, what if.

There was even a moment of “Dear Lord, what have I done?” Was I absolutely crazy to think that my chubby self could look as good as the other plus size women I’d seen in similar photo shoots?

And then Maria showed me my film.

1151_10156373441335411_5141502942695401336_nThe same friend I mentioned above (who told me to dump my wardrobe) asked me if I learned anything from this experience, and I guess my answer to him, is yes.  I learned a lot.  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned a lot about other people and I learned that you don’t need grand changes to make yourself feel pretty or confident.  Even the smallest of changes, mentally, more so than physically, can make a huge difference to your every day life.  My friend Amber has asked me three times this month if I’ve lost weight, I haven’t.  Maybe it’s because I feel even just a little more comfortable in my own skin.  Maybe it’s because, as she says, “you’re carrying yourself differently”, or maybe it’s because I’ve realized that being fat, isn’t the end of the world.  There are people out there with real, honest to goodness problems and maybe I just need to get over myself a little.
untitled-213Houston friends, I know some of you have said in passing that you would love to do something like this, quit thinking, here’s her website, call or Facebook Maria, now. 
Non-Houston friends? Research photographers in your area.  Interview with them, study their work.  Find someone who ‘gets’ you, whose vision you love.

Don’t delay – everyone should feel beautiful, even just for one day!

Since my photo-shoot with Maria, I’ve worn all the clothes I bought for it.  I’ve even worn two out of three pairs of heels I got too – wonders never cease.

I’ve tried to take a little more care in my appearance.  I’ve continued to shop for clothes – not like a woman possessed – but I’ll saunter in to a clothes shop and casually  browse, which is something I never did before.  I don’t seem to have the same core-melting fear about shopping that I had before.

Most of all? I’ve tried to give myself a bit of a break.

 houston curvy girl glamourI’ve already stated, that I’m fully aware I’m plus-sized, over weight, obese, chubby, fat, whatever label you’d like to stick on me.  I’m an unhealthy weight, I’m unhappy with my size, it’s something I’ve been working on, and will work on, for a long time.

There’s no quick fix.

That said?

Maybe who I am right now? Isn’t quite so bad after all.

IMG_1110Maybe? Instead of frantically trying to change who I am every day and being soul destroyed that I haven’t found a magic cure for being fat yet, maybe I should more frantically try to find a way to like myself a little more?

As is.

Maybe? Being fat isn’t the worst thing in the world.  I’m not a criminal, or a murderer, I don’t kick babies, or burn animals (nor do I share those God-awful burned animal photos on Facebook).  Being fat doesn’t make me a terrible person.  It doesn’t make me “less than” because I’m bigger, because I’m different.

A friend described me as being “not societies definition of beautiful”, who said society was right?
Can’t we all just be beautiful?
untitled-1bw84-2“I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine”

From fat…to less fat.

I haven’t always been fat.

I had a few rare years of dramatic theatre time when I was svelte.  But one tends to remember being fat, more than not.  Especially when fat is the current state.

Those are the hardest times.
I can already hear my sister and my coach Taylor, screaming at their screens.  “You are NOT fat! You HAVE fat”, it’s a mindset I’d love to have, and that I’ve vowed to try and adapt, however, for now, I am fat.
I am aware of it, every single minute, or every single day.
I see it every time I look I the mirror, or catch my fat ass reflection in a window, or see my rotund shadow when it’s sunny (which is a lot in Houston).
I see it, always.
I hate it, always.
I’ve written blogs like this, at least once a year.  New beginning, new me.  It trails off.  It flops.  I quit.  And I’m normally not a quitter.  I HATE to quit.
This time it’s different, this time it’s for real.
It never is.  I stay fat.
Since Lewis was born, I’ve lost 33lbs and counting.  It hasn’t been easy, or quick (he’s nearly a year old).  Breastfeeding seems to be hindering, rather than helping and, since January 5th, I’ve been working so hard that I almost expected the weight to fall off me.  But I’ve been here before, I know the drill, sometimes you just have to put your faith in the science.  Eat less, move more and it will happen.  It WILL.
But it’s hard.
I’m trying so hard to eat cleaner, high protein, low carbs, low sugar, and as of this week, no carbs after 3pm.  I’m doing my best, for once, I’m giving it my all.  I really am.  No kidding myself this time.  It’s a struggle every time I open my mouth to eat.  At every meal.  It’s a conscious choice to self improve, to make the better choice, and to inch just a little closer to my goal.
What’s my goal? Well, I started at 268lbs, my first major goal is 180, and I’ll reevaluate the next one, when I get there.  My first interim goal, however, is to lose 30lbs by our wedding anniversary cruise in October.  I want to be 213lbs, (which is the weight I was on my wedding day), for my anniversary.  It’s an achievable goal, theoretically, and bet your ass I’m going to give it my all.
I have an inspirational chart taped to my pantry (aka the infamous pantry penis) that I color in with my Crayola markers every time I lose 1lb.  I have photos from my wedding taped to it, to constantly remind me of my goal.  Where I want to be.  Who I want to be.  So every time I go in to that cupboard for food, I have a choice to make.
What do I want more? The chocolate, or to color in the chart.
What’s my food plan? Like I said above, high protein (lean meats), low carb (100g rice/potato or a tortilla wrap), low sugar (berries rather than citrus).  Three meals (I’m not a breakfast person so this is tough) two to three snacks (nuts, Greek yoghurt, rice cracker, small Apple with peanut butter) and prayers.  ‘Cause, I love my food, I hate any sniff of feeling deprived.  I’m doing my best to feel satisfied and occasionally allowing myself a ‘treat’, cause while although I’m not a dog, it needs to be sustainable for this to work for me.  The odd pizza, or the wings, I still indulge in my diet coke and I’m trying to keep it reasonable, sustainable.  A lifetime thing.
What are my activities? I went back to Body Attack 2-3 times a week for a few weeks, put my back out, got the flu, and got really weak.  So started walking with my boys, and C25K last week, to try and ease back in to working out.  I’ve signed up for not one, but TWO 5k walks/jogs this summer, both at night (oy vey! I couldn’t handle the day time heat!!) with my girl Taylor and I hope to do them in a ‘respectable’ time, but I’ve not yet set a goal, because snails are currently faster than I am.
I’ve stuck to it for fifty days.  5-0.
That’s a record.
What’s my secret weapon? My secret weapon is three-fold.
IMG_3769
Firstly, my crazy sister, she has this knack of ‘bigging me up’ *right* when I need ‘bigging’, sending food suggestions, meal ideas, encouragement and most importantly, she’s always there to kick my ass when I’ve found my way to the wrong side of the tracks, or, often more importantly, to keep me from straying before it happens.  I talk to her daily, not always about food, but she’s there, like a strong silent, rock, waiting to hit me in the face if I go near a pizza 😉
IMG_7584
Secondly I have a great ‘coach’, she helps me set realistic goals, she helps me learn about food, she encourages me when I am feeling weak, she cheers me when I do good and she bucks me up when the scales don’t move.  She gives me exercises to do at home when I can’t get out, or one of us is sick.  She guilts me into taking Lewis for a walk when the weather is glorious and she’s stuck in an office – oh, yeah, did I not mention she has a full time job?
She is nothing short of amazing.
Her name is Taylor, I met her by accident a few years ago when I needed a door prize donation for an SSA event and she is FAB.  I send her photos of all my food, she texts at least once every single day, if I’m wavering, I’ll text her and say ‘I want to eat crap’ and she’ll have a come to Jesus meeting.  She keeps me focused, asks about the progress of my pantry penis and pushes me.  Pushes my limits.  I need it, cause some days I’d be like ‘f*ck it!’ but she reminds me of my goal, and helps me get there.
My most important secret weapon, is my eleven month old little boy – I almost wrote baby – but he’s no longer a baby.  He’s transitioning into ‘toddler mode’ and he’s doing it quickly.  He’s crawling, sure, but he’s also pulling himself up, walking with a walker, moving between objects and as of today, he’s started to stand up solo for a few seconds – this kid will rule the world.
10929970_10155036334840411_1508632594994772018_n
He will soon be running, chasing, kicking a football, playing sports – and I don’t want to be the lard-ass trudging mother who can’t keep up with her toddler (and beyond).  I don’t want to have to watch him play in the park, wondering why mama can’t chase him, or why she needs to sit down every few minutes.
I want to be healthy, for my boy.  I want to be active for my boy.  I want to be FUN, for my boy.
8lbs down, 22lbs to go by October 30th.
This time I won’t quit.  I can’t quit.  I won’t let my son follow the same path as me, I want to teach him healthy choices, healthy activities and I want him to enjoy family time, walking, cycling, swimming…I want him to have a healthy relationship with food, understand its purpose and eat the right things.  I can’t expect him to do it, if I don’t do it.
The buck stops here.
It’s on, like Donkey Kong*…
…*and if I fall down, Taylor (and a few other people) will drag my ass up off the dirt and help me dust myself off, and start again.  Cause that’s what badasses do.

Pregnancy and depression: Sad and Blue.

Another old post, written during my last few days of being pregnant!

“What the hell are you doing here?” I asked incredulously as my best friend of ten years stood in front of me in the parking garage of George Bush Intercontinental Airport, having given me ZERO indication that she was coming.

“You sounded sad and lonely lately,” was her only reply.  As though it told me everything I needed to know as to why she up and left her 4-year-old and hubby-to-be in Iowa and hauled her ass to Texas, and, I suppose, in some ways, it did.  (Read more about her trip to see me, here, on her blog!)

These last few months have been a very trying time for me, being pregnant and away most notably, from my two bestest friends, going through this move-not-move crap with Col’s company, and, most recently over the last month or so, my health issues whilst pregnant.  Trips to the ER, hospital stays, tests, bloods, urine, scans etc – it’s been trying, scary and exhausting.

I wasn’t doing so bad at all, until the ‘rest’ thing was mentioned.  I don’t do good with resting, especially when I have a four page, room-by-room, ‘before the baby comes’ to-do list staring me down every day.  I get frustrated, I get cabin fever and I feel trapped and caged – it’s bad enough as it is that we can’t go flying, sailing or on a long road trip somewhere, never mind, ‘one store per day, max, no long walking, no rodeo, no this, no that, no the other…’

I was starting to get pretty down about the whole situation last week, the list wasn’t getting done, the house was getting worse, not better and I couldn’t do anything without getting scolded, or spiking my blood pressure readings, so I just had to sit there.

Staring at everything that needed done, and making a new list of things that weren’t on the original list to begin with!

Thankfully Col stepped up over the weekend, on Saturday he (with limited help from me) halved our list, so I started to feel better, but given the high BP, the swelling, the potential that baby could come any time, I just wanted to have things done.

Between that, drama, and being so far away from people who would bend over backwards to help us.  Friends here in Houston moving, away for Spring Break, sick, with have guests in town, or just too busy to play ‘distract Las from her misery’, I’ve just been slowly disintegrating into a pool of self pity and sadness.

It kind of came to a head the other night, we were sitting watching TV and I got up to get a bowl of ice cream (Col had brought home ice cream with the groceries earlier that night).  He said something like, ‘Wow! Moving fast on that ice cream!’ and I replied, ‘well, it’s a pretty good cure for depression’.

‘You’re not depressed!’ he gave a half-laugh, until he looked at me, stopped what we were watching on TV and asked, ‘What’s wrong?’

I just burst in to tears.

Maybe I wasn’t depressed, maybe I wasn’t *yet* depressed, maybe I was just sad and hormonal, but it was a scary place to be and I’d tried hard to be brave, I’d tried keeping my fears to myself, but it just wasn’t working.

I told him I was frustrated, upset, lonely, afraid and when your newly hired cleaner tells you, ‘I’m here to help you’ and you burst in to tears – something is most definitely wrong.

I physically felt like crap, my blood pressure was all over the place, my feet were so swollen they hurt, I was seeing stars, having headaches and feeling generally miserable.  It’s bad enough feeling miserable, but when you’re ‘confined to quarters’, it serves as a constant reminder that you’re feeling miserable, and then you start to feel emotionally miserable too.

At that point, there’s not much that hubby could say, or do.  He just held me (after saying he didn’t know what to say or do) and reminded me what we’ve accomplished recently.  He told me that for him, the measure of this pregnancy, has been the water bill – that by the time the next water bill arrives at the house, we’ll have our baby home, to keep my eye on the prize and how women draw the short straw in life – lol!  He’s an amazingly calming influence in my life, but not even his kind words could keep my tears from flowing.  It was tough, and, thankfully he totally had my back.

Maybe it was early onset depression, maybe it was just a severe case of the blues, but, it got me thinking.  Depression while pregnant is more common than you think.

You think it’s normal, everyone says that hormonal changes can also make you feel more anxious than usual. But depression and anxiety during pregnancy can often go undiagnosed for many women – because they often dismiss their feelings, chalking them up to the temporary moodiness that often accompanies pregnancy.

According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression in pregnancy.

For more information about depression during and after pregnancy, call womenshealth.gov at 800-994-9662 (TDD: 888-220-5446) or contact the following organizations:

The Politics of Pregnancy

9

“Getting through the first trimester, without completely losing it, wasn’t easy, but once I heard the heartbeat of my baby for the first time, everything made sense.”

(Please note: I found this blog post in the recesses of my drafts folder, and, even though Lewis is here and three and a half months old, I still feel that it has value, so I’m going to post it anyway!)

I’m exhausted.

And I’m not convinced that it’s all the fault of our little growing bubble.

I feel like I’m constantly battling and firefighting, since we got pregnant.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all bad (and I’ll get to that in another post) but it’s bloody tough.

I thought that once you became pregnant, it was ‘easier’.  Infertility is a minefield.  What they don’t tell you, is that pregnancy can be just as difficult emotionally.

Who to tell, when to tell, how to tell, how to tell those who may be sensitive, how to tell before the curse of social media spoils the surprise, WHO to tell before the curse of social media spoils the surprise.

Advice: Tell who you want, when you want and how you want.  Don’t be pressured or convinced to tell early or to tell someone you’d rather not tell, before you tell someone else.  Ultimately everyone should be happy about your wonderful news, even those you are ‘afraid’ to tell or sensitive to the news, even those who are also pregnant, people can be happy for more than one person at a time, don’t feel guilty, this is your time as much as it’s everyone else’s time.  You deserve your moment as much as everyone else does, whether it’s your first baby, your fourth baby, or whether you announce at seven weeks or twenty seven.  Enjoy it and bask in the love and happiness of your circle.

Don’t say this, shouldn’t say that, say this.

Don’t eat that, shouldn’t eat that, eat this.

Even my doctors – my Fertility specialist and my OBGYN – and they haven’t always both agreed on ‘pregnancy procedure’.

Many have advice, questions and many have had it worse and enjoy telling me how easy I have it – which, is fine, it may seem easy to you or compared to you, but this is my first time and, in truth, only some days it feels easy.

Advice: Pregnancy is vague, grey area and every single one is different.  Your pregnancy may be nothing like any one else that you know – this is perfectly fine.  Don’t freak.  I freaked in the beginning because I wasn’t sick, or nauseous, or, really, in any way displaying symptoms of pregnancy.  People say ‘sickness means a healthy baby’, so when you’re not sick, you freak the hell out.  Don’t.  It’s ok.  It’s actually pretty normal.  We tend only hear the war stories of pregnancy, rarely the ones that go smoothly and one of my friends said that people only say that to make you feel better when you’re hugging the toilet and barfing your guts up.

Many have advice on what they did when they were pregnant, what they heard or read that you should do during pregnancy.  Advice on names, feeding, advice on sleeping, advice on what books to read, what books not to read, advice on co-sleeping, attached parenting, home birth, water birth, home schooling, putting your kid in daycare and people are already placing bets on gender.

Advice: Don’t poke the bear.  Regardless of how open and flexible your friends may seem about their parenting styles, don’t engage, question, contradict or criticize.  No one takes it well and they will vehemently defend their choices to you – mothers are like elephants – they never forget.

By that same token, don’t let anyone tell you that your choices, or the choices you will try to make, are wrong, less-than, and even though their advice may be given with the best of intentions, it’s your pregnancy, your baby, your body, eat what you want, drink what you want (alcohol excluded obviously!), sleep when you want and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for these things.

People seem surprised to learn that I plan on trying to breastfeed – which, in itself starts to open a can of worms, but when I go on to further open the can by adding that I’ll also be, at least in part, trying ‘cloth diapering’, oftentimes, the judgmental looks aren’t enough and people simply *have* to have their say about *our* choices, (which, by the way, have already been made) and proceed to tell me that they never had me down as a crunchy person.

Like they can somehow convince me it’s a bad idea, or that I’m naive to think it’s possible, ‘that’ll change once the baby is here’.

Some people, on the other hand, just need to see a modern cloth-diaper to actually understand that how they perceive cloth-diapering to be, is a thing of the past and that ‘reusable nappies’ these days, aren’t much different to the ‘real thing’.

In short, I’m cheap, if I can feed my kid myself and save money with cloth diapers so I can spend more money spoiling my kid rotten or showing him/her the world, then why wouldn’t I try these things?  I’m not judging anyone for not doing them, one choice doesn’t make you a ‘better’ mother than the other, I’m just making choices that will hopefully work for us, though blog posts like this, keep me grounded and remind me that it’s not easy, it’s a huge challenge, and it doesn’t work for everyone.

Plus – let’s all agree – they’re cute as hell!

Charlie-Banana-cloth-diapers

All of the advice is furthermore complicated by being pregnant at the same time as at least 6 other people I know.  One friend, is even due a few days ahead of me.  It takes a lot of my energy, praying that each and every one of us will have a safe and healthy pregnancy and give birth to a healthy, happy baby – who preferably sleeps through the night and is already toilet trained – but, we can’t always get what we want, eh?

Advice (as given to me yesterday by two very dear friends): quit worrying about other babies and other mommas, your priority right now is you, your hubby/other half and your little one.  Do what you gotta do to get your baby delivered in to the world healthy and to have a happy family.  This post, ‘My anti blog‘ about differences in pregnancy resonated with me, it’s funny how ultimately we are all doing the same thing, growing a little person, but our journey there can all be so hugely different.

Listen to all of the advice with respect (sometimes you’ll need to get your game face on) and thank them for their opinion.  Take from it what you need/want and leave the rest.  It doesn’t, as I was starting to feel, make you a bad mother if you do things differently to what people say, or to what other people do.  Find what works for you and be yourself.

Even your OB and nurses will often treat you like you’re on a conveyor belt, they deal with hundreds of people like you on a regular basis.  To them, it’s not really a huge deal that you’re pregnant.  You’ll even find that your friends will say your doctors are wrong in some cases!

People WILL want to touch your stomach (otherwise known as ‘stranger danger‘ over at The truth behind the glow).  It’s started already with friends, obviously, cause they know.  I’m dreading the time coming when strangers *know* and will approach without warning to rub my belly like i’m some kind of good-luck charm.  I don’t do strangers in my personal space.

As the saying goes, this is my first rodeo, I’m just doing what I can, when I can and how I can, during this hugely different time in our lives, to ensure we all get through to the other side!

I found this article, explains things a lot funnier that I ever could, it struck a few chords with me and made me giggle.

This blog post, ‘This wasn’t in the brocheure‘, is also a riot, I find it better to prepare myself with the forthcoming trauma of pregnancy, through humour – it helps me cope with the imminent doom 😉 LOL! Check it out.  I’ve found I enjoy reading blog posts over at ‘The truth behind the glow‘ not only is she funny, but educational, in a non-terrifying kinda way.

In short, there’s no right or wrong way to be pregnant, and, once your baby gets here, there’s no right or wrong way to be a parent – something they don’t tell you in books, or at the OB’s office.  Try to stay calm, take on board all of the advice you get, but only hold on to that which you want to – and, most importantly, go with your gut!

Pregnancy: Hospital preparedness (What to pack in your hospital bag!)

What to pack in your hospital bag is a pretty big decision.
1920502_10153870252660411_1277121041_n
You’re about to go in to labor – you’re going to spend two to four days, at probably the worst (and, if you’re in the USA, most expensive) hotel of your life.  The bed will be uncomfortable, it’s going to be bright, loud, and you’ll probably sleep very little.  You’ll also likely be in a gown the whole time, there will probably be blood, pain, occasionally stitches, people will be taking blood, urine, blood pressure and pulse information, you and baby will both be monitored, you may have an IV, catheter, or any number of other possible medical treatments while you’re in there – and that’s all the ‘foreseen’ stuff.
My first piece of advice is to have your bag ready to go around week 35.  We packed our bags literally the night before we ended up being induced – dumb luck.  Pack it a little earlier, be prepared.  And – leave it RIGHT beside the front door – complete with a list of ‘additions’ that you have to grab on your way out – phone, charger, etc.  Ignore people who say you’re too early – you may well be, but better to be ready, just in case, than to be caught on the hop and have to panic-shove stuff in a bag!
Secondly – ask your hospital for a very specific list of the supplies they provide for you, this will help you ensure that you pack the things you’ll need, whilst not packing way too much crap to lug back and forth from the house to car, car to hospital and back again.
Thirdly – pack light.  Here’s a list of everything I packed – based on polling I conducted among my friends and family, below that, you’ll find a list of what I used from what I packed.
What I packed:
Clothes
‘Yoga pants’ (high belly) x2
Pair pjs (yoga pant style, loose top)
Cami ‘Shelf tanks’
10x old undies (that you don’t mind getting destroyed)
Regular bra
Wash bag for dirty clothes for parents
Wash bag for dirty baby clothes
Fleece (or jumper, hoody, zippy)
Large black towel x2 (don’t mind getting them destroyed)
Slipper socks w/grippies x1
Slippers x1
Flip flops
Electrics
Phone charger
Tablet and charger
Kindle and charger
Extension cord (we discovered on our stay in the hospital, the phone doesn’t reach the bed from the socket!)
Camera and charger (and memory card!)
Toiletries
Conditioner
Body wash
Razor
Deodorant
Toothbrush + toothpaste
Lip balm
Deep moisturizer
Hair brush
Hair ties
Always infinity pads (recommended by THREE different people)
Nursing pads
Lanolin +
Witch hazel wipes
Other
Snacks + hard candy
Pillow
Notebook (to log visitors/guests etc)
Waterproof pad (for use in the car!)
What we packed for hubby:
2-3 outfits (old/ok to get potentially destroyed, including shoes!)
PJ’s x2
Pillow
Toothbrush
Deodorant Phone charger
Tablet + charger
Button down shirt (for skin to skin, in case mum couldn’t!)
Pain killers (common for the men-folk to get a headache)
Snacks + drinks
What we packed for baby:
Car seat
Premie outfit (Just in case he came out a little small for NB)
Newborn outfit
Outfit to come home in
Blanket (for the trip home)
Sleeping gown x2
Boppy
Dummy/Pacifier
Burp cloths x2
What I actually used:
Toothbrush/paste
Body wash
Deodorant
Yoga pants
Lip balm
Electronics (chargers, extension cables)
Witch hazel pads, pads and Dermoplast spray (provided by hospital)
Col and baby used most of what they brought – Col could have done with a second sweater on-hand, as the first one got dirty quite quickly, my room was pretty cold and he refused to leave our sides to go the three miles home and get a clean one!
I spent most of my time in the ridiculous gown that the hospital gives you upon admission.  I figured with the amount of monitors, bands, tests, epidural and hopefully breast feeding, that I didn’t care that my arse was hanging out, or that I was mostly naked the entire time.  Easy access was the plan!
The hospital provided me with most things that I (and baby) needed, all my post-labor care products, nappies, swaddle sheets, t-shirts for baby etc.  They even gave me sample tubes of lanolin and a Medela pumping kit for their hospital grade pump, so we were set, and realistically didn’t want for anything.
One thing I didn’t bring with me, was a change of clothes for me to go home in.  I had my yoga pants, but no clean shirt, so I left in the shirt I arrived in – pack yourself something clean and fresh to wear.  Don’t forget this one!
There wasn’t anything else that I think I should have brought, could have brought, or feel like I was DYING, or stupid for not bringing.  In actual fact, were I to do it all over again? I’d pack a very, VERY small bag – instead of the rather large bag we lugged in and barely opened!
What was the one thing you couldn’t have lived without during your birthing hospital stay?  Did you over-pack? Did you under pack? Was your hospital a great provider of ‘things’? Or did you have to provide everything yourself?

Pregnancy: Delivery. Birth plan, schmirth plan!

Facebook-20140324-121030

For the squeamish among you, look away now – you’ve no real need to read this.  However, if you’re planning on having a baby – here’s my no holds barred account of my labor experience (as in, the medical fact account, the decisions we made and the very quick labor that brought our little bubs in to this world!)  It’s by no means a ‘typical’ experience, but it brought the most beautiful little boy in to our lives and I figure I should document it, to compare against his future brothers and sisters!

So, we were at 36 + 5 and had just dropped my best friend off at the airport, having had her turn up wholly unannounced for the weekend – talk about a shocker!  Let’s just say, I’m glad we had mani-Pedi’s done while she was here, at least I had pretty nails in labour!

We had finally gotten our to-do list down to a few things, sell Col’s car, get my old car serviced, hire a cleaner, sort and rehang the picture frames we’d taken down before Christmas for our transfer, get Col’s work shirts laundered, take some stuff to Goodwill, go to the post office to send my BFF’s baby gift before she went in to labor (she was at 38 +6) and give the house a general tidy (we started this room by room and were pretty much finished upstairs).

I had committed to an SSA coffee morning in Missouri City, Thursday morning (36+6), and, in spite of it being a high blood pressure day, I went off to coffee, determined that I wasn’t going to let this high blood pressure/threat of Preeclampsia take away my last few weeks of progress.

By lunch time, however, my numbers continued to climb, I called the nurse at my OB’s office, left a message and drove up to our mechanic’s garage to drop off the Saab and pick up Col and by the time I got to the garage, she’d called back to say, ‘come in for monitoring’.

In the car on the way home, I asked Col if we should stop by the house and grab an overnight bag – just in case, though changing car’s to the car that had the baby’s car seat and throwing our ‘hospital bags’ in the boot, just didn’t occur to either of us.  As far as we were concerned, we were going to be observed and sent home, like previous times we were called in to the hospital, having been told ‘just watch your blood pressures’.

I also didn’t stop somewhere to eat, again, cause we figured we’d get sent home and eat then.  So let’s note, I had 2 fish tacos and a cupcake at 11-ish and we were on our way to the hospital!

After a round of bloods, blood pressure and urine, the nurse announced we were being induced – that I was showing signs of preeclampsia and the only way to cure it, was to take the kiddo out.  Well.  Let’s just mention here, there was no discussion, no time to process, no option, it was ‘let’s get this kiddo out’ and that was that.  It was around 5pm.

The rest almost passed by in a hazy blur, I tried to keep some notes on my phone, so that I could blog (duh!) and remember exactly what happened.  The plan was ‘simple’, cervix softener (x2 around five hours apart if nothing was happening), Pitocin, break waters and labour.

At 8pm, I had my first cervix softener (which, apparently is a 1/4 of a baby aspirin, inserted in to your cervix), which was repeated at 1am – not the most pleasant of experience, but whatever.

At 3.17am I was only 2cm dilated and was given Pitocin (which I had no real time to think about, yet, was mildly concerned as I hadn’t done my research on the drug – thinking we had a few weeks to go – so was vaguely aware that this may be a bad idea).

At 3.35am there appears an OBGYN who was on the ward delivering another baby, it turns out my OBGYN had woken up to check on my progress, heard she was on the ward and sent her in to break my waters – essentially a chick with a crochet hook pops a water balloon in your va-j-j, you feel a gush and so starts the labor process!

The nurse suggested I take my epidural around 5.30am while the anesthesiologist was in our side of the building, considering that the contractions were strong and regular, it wasn’t a bad idea – I was around 4.5cm.

The epidural hurt going in, but I knew it would and I was prepared for it.  Between the needle and the contractions, I gripped the bed and thought of Hawaii.  Waves lapping the beach – calming, relaxing thoughts – the guy was sticking a needle in my spine after all.

At 5.30am, I was still around 4.5cm dilated and around 75% effaced, his head was down and ‘sunny side up’ (as in he was facing my front instead of my butt), but labor was going slowly – so they increased my dose of Pitocin.  It was shortly thereafter that my epidural broke down.  I started feeling isolated, and seriously strong contraction pains in my right hip, they were every few minutes and hurt like absolute crazy – because of the high dose of Pitocin to make the contractions stronger!

The nurse called another anesthesiologist, who said he’d have to take out the first epi (noooo!) and put in a second one (double no!!) but considering how agonizing my then 6cm contractions were, I didn’t hesitate.  However, that hour, was insufferable, trying to have an epidural put in between contractions – also, insufferable, at which point, my blood pressure, and baby’s heart rate dropped pretty low, so I was put on oxygen to try and chill us both out a little.

Epidural-ing, is probably a skill that very, VERY few people possess.  That’s why I’m perfectly fine with paying the drug-pushers the big bucks – he was playing around in my SPINE! Yes, I made up a word, I do that.  Also, once it was in, I still felt things, but it was much, much duller kind of way.  I wasn’t grunting through pain – the epidural took!

At this point, the nurse was starting to get concerned, she guessed he was going to top out around 8lbs and she was murmuring about the chances of a C-section, which concerned me slightly, because, section was not, at all, in my birth plan – I hadn’t read much about that either, and the unknown is pretty scary, so I was a little wigged.

The external monitors weren’t doing so well at keeping up with a wiggly baby, so, they put internal monitors on.  It turns out that a lot of my amniotic fluid was still pooled in there, so they had to clear it out – which hurt quite a bit, in spite of the epidural.

At 12.30pm, I was 6cms, baby still hadn’t turned around yet, so my nurse had me roll to one side and put the ‘top’ knee into a stirrup.  Shortly after flipping to my other side, I very classy-like, told my nurse that I felt an overwhelming need to poop, ‘Then bear down’ she said, not sure what that was, I guessed push – so I pushed.

A few minutes later, she was shrieking ‘stop! Stop pushing! Dr Diase isn’t here yet!”, I asked her what percentage of women, crowning in labor, can stop pushing when asked? She didn’t have an answer! LOL!

I think I pushed twice or three times, huge, long, deep pushes and baby arrived, no OBGYN in the room – delivered by Mendy our nurse, who had called for any back up she could get, and Col – who was holding my leg the whole time – due to a stirrup malfunction.

The cord was cut by daddy and our little bubble, was pronounced perfect – only 45 minutes later, at 1.15pm.

Facebook-20140324-121030

The nurses (and our OBGYN) were incredulous, practically zero first time mothers have such an easy labor and delivery.  Pushing for so little time, baby turning so easily etc.  Our little guy practically delivered himself – even at three weeks early, he was ready and eager to be born and see his parents 😉

Facebook-20140324-121155

Doting daddy rocked out with Lewis, while mummy was stitched up by Dr Diase, who arrived moments later, announcing she’d been waiting for this child all day and had missed his big entrance!

Things to note:

– In this country people think it’s abnormal if you don’t want your baby boy circumcised.  Everyone will ask you.  EVERYONE.  And they’ll make a weird face when you say ‘no’, EVERY time.

– If you have pre-Eclampsia, you very may well be put on a magnesium sulphate IV for 24 hours starting when the baby arrives, to prevent seizures.  For me, this meant a catheter and 24 hours in bed.  For Col, this meant that for the first 24 hours, baby was pretty much solely dependent on him, and any mummy interaction was after being ferried to and from his bed by daddy.

– No matter how well prepared you are, or you think you are – something unexpected could always happen.  We were prepared, we had all bags packed and ready to go – right next to the front door, car seat was installed – and we ended up with the ‘wrong’ car at the hospital!!

We planned for a ‘regular’ delivery at 40 weeks, but my health issues called for a 37 week induction.

We had so many plans and ideas on how we’d have liked things to go (I’m going to do a separate blog-post about breast feeding and other ‘issues’ I had), and you need to be somewhat flexible, don’t put pressure on yourself.  I opted for an epidural, because I have a low pain threshold, I’m a whiner, and I really had nothing to prove to anyone during my labor.  When it failed and I got a taste of ‘real, active labor’, it made me 100% sure I’d made the right decision.

– Be your own advocate.  Don’t be afraid to speak up, trust your gut/instinct – especially in the USA where you are, realistically, paying for a service.  My three-day stay in the hospital (not including once baby was born and started his own tab) was billed to the insurance company at $21.5k – that’s not a small bill.

Be very clear about your wishes, breast or bottle, pacifier or no, immediate skin-to-skin, circumcision etc – you are the only person who has your baby’s absolute best interests at heart, you are the only one who knows your plan – share it, stick to it and don’t feel like you have to defend it. Write it down, make copies and hand it out if you have to.  That way, the staff will know your intentions from the get-go and you’ll have as much control over the situation as you can possibly retain.

– No matter how hellish your journey may be, C-section or vaginal, drugs or no, breast or bottle – it will all be worth it in the instant you see your little one.

Our little Lewis was certainly worth the wait and work!

Facebook-20140324-121113

Pregnancy: Preeclampsia, ‘The silent killer’

Alrighty, so, if you wake up one morning and your feet suddenly look like THIS:

IMG_8504

(Left picture is from Sunday morning, right is from Tuesday morning).  Whether you are pregnant or not, it’s not normal.  If you are pregnant however, and you’ve experienced ZERO swelling throughout your entire pregnancy (and you haven’t been overdosing in salt over recent days), take heed.

Preeclampsia is not a joke, it’s not a myth, it’s actually quite a serious ailment that could, in extreme cases, cause death.  So be educated, know what to look for and pay attention to your body and what it tells you.

The disease is sometimes referred to as a silent killer because most people can’t “feel” their blood pressure going up, or, for that matter, a number of the ‘issues’ going on in your body.  How would you know you have increased protein in your urine?

So, Sunday.  Right, I woke up with huge dinosaur feet, I’d gained 3.5lbs in a matter of days – and, after a quick Google search (yes, I know, self diagnosis is a total disaster!!) I discovered that these were common symptoms of Preeclampsia, the 3rd pillar of ‘self diagnosis’, being high blood pressure.  So off we went to Walmart, to use the self-check blood pressure machine, ‘best of three’ later, and I called my OB’s emergency line to ask for someone to dip my pee and test for protein, so we could rule out pre-e and stop me freaking.

IMG_8452

Me monitor and baby monitor!

The lovely folks at Methodist Hospital, had other ideas, blood tests, urine tests, two collapsed veins, 24-hour constant monitoring for both baby and I, 24-hour urine collection and an ultrasound made for an interesting overnight stay in the hospital – especially since I was having minor and irregular contractions to boot!

IMG_8461

Thankfully, all tests came back clear and all that came of my hospital stint, was that they wanted us to buy an in-home blood pressure monitor and check my blood pressure a few times a day – just in case.  Because pre-e can hit at any time and sometimes the swelling can happen a few weeks before any other symptoms present themselves.

In-home 24-hour urine collection kit!

In-home 24-hour urine collection kit!

After being admitted to the hospital for a rather scary 24 hours of testing and observation, I decided I needed to blog about this disease.  Perhaps you’re not familiar with it, like I wasn’t.  Perhaps you’ve heard about it, but never really paid attention.

Well, pay attention.  This shit is serious!

What is Preeclampsia?

Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, it is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches, changes in vision and upper right quadrant pain are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.

Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late pregnancy) and up to six weeks postpartum, though in rare cases it can occur earlier than 20 weeks. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia.

Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year.

The ONLY cure for Preeclampsia is delivery of your baby.  They will try and ‘get you’ to 37 weeks where possible, but, depending on the severity of your symptoms, how the baby is responding to the disease and how you react to things like blood pressure medications, they may opt to extract the little one early.

Here’s the trifecta of symptoms I had (that I could obviously see/experience myself and be aware of):

  • Severe and sudden swelling (see above dinosaur feet picture)
  • Severe and sudden weight gain (I had 3.5lbs between Thursday and Sunday – WAY out of the ordinary for me!)
  • High blood pressure (I went to Walmart – yay for self diagnosing, not! And my BP was elevated, my docs have since said anything over 140/90 and you should call your OB).
Other symptoms include:
  • Blurry or ‘disturbed’ vision, one friend called it ‘worms in your sight’
  • Headache – not a tension, hunger or ‘regular’ headache, but a headache that won’t go away with Tylenol.
  • Pain under your right boob, where your liver is.
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
Tests they performed on me to confirm:
  • Blood pressure monitoring.  I was on a blood pressure monitor for almost 24 hours, the first 8-9hours I was ‘hypertensive’ (peaking at around 106/96).
  • Test your reflexes. Reflexes are more ‘violent’ when Preeclampsia is present.
  • Urine dip – to check the level of protein.  If this is negative, or inconclusive and you still have symptoms that suggest it’s possible, they may do a ‘24 hour urine collection’ which is what they did with me.  Essentially you pee in a tub for 24 hours and they run a total protein level over an extended period of time compared to the amount of pee you produce and compared also to your liver and kidney function (repeat blood test).
  • Blood test to check your liver function and platelet count.  They ran this twice with me, once when I was in the hospital being observed and once after I’d handed in my 24 hours of pee in a tub, this is to correlate the protein level in your urine, against your kidney and liver function numbers in your blood.

Potentially totally unrelated to the potential preeclampsia, I was having infrequent and minor contractions (I wasn’t really feeling them) and they found bacteria in the many liters of urine they took from me, so they ran a culture to check for a UTI – which, I didn’t know at first, but can often cause contractions.  This was also clear – turns out they didn’t process a culture at the hospital, so took more urine and the bacteria was gone – fluke? Hopefully!

Hubby is right, there’s not yet been a hospital test that I haven’t passed.  I’m hoping it stays that way!  I think we were both more freaked out by this hospital stay, then we were the last one.  They wouldn’t let me eat – just in case they had to take the baby out (cue panic!!) and instead of monitoring both baby and I every now and then throughout the night, the nurse essentially spent the entire night, *right there* next to me – which not only left me exhausted and not rested, but it also made me crap my pants thinking that this was a big bad that was going to kill me and our baby that we’d worked so hard to get.

A week later, and my OBGYN is back from vacation.  I chatted to her this morning and she was quite concerned, she said delivery is the only cure for my freakish knee-down swelling (and normally people discover that 2-3 weeks post-partum, their feet return to normal), that said, she said although it’s ‘common’, it’s not normal to be quite ‘this’ swollen from the moment you wake up in the morning (I always see her first thing) and get progressively worse as the day goes on – you should have SEEN her face when I showed her the Dino picture from Sunday morning!!

She reinforced the ‘rules’ from the hospital, lots of water, feet up, rest, rest and more rest (no multiple stores in one day, no long drives, no rodeo (!!!!!), no long walks), keep checking my BP and if it peaks at 140/90 again I’m to call her immediately.

Not a bad pic for a terrified Las!

Not a bad pic for a terrified Las!

We just need this kiddo to stay a-cooking’ til at least 37 weeks.  That’s all I need.

We can do that, right little one?

 

 

 

RIGHT?