Pregnancy update: 21 weeks

Baby got clothes. Lots of clothes.
Baby got clothes. Lots of clothes.

Mr Bug told me that my blog was starting to come across slightly Ranty McRanterson so I thought I’d better update with some normal stuff rather than just armchair feminist warrior posts (hah).

On Saturday, we went to see Mr Bug’s sister, S. She and her husband had baby M a year ago and very kindly gave us a whole pile of baby stuff that M has now outgrown or doesn’t use anymore. When I say whole pile I mean a MASSIVE PILE OF STUFF. It was mainly clothes but also a Tommee Tippee bottle steriliser, lots of books on breastfeeding (currently having a nose through Clare Byam-Cook’s) and new babies (I gave this to Mr Bug as he has no clue), a Sleepyhead Pod (I’ve heard great things about this), an Isofix base and car seat (not sure which one, it’s at Rob’s parents’ house) and other stuff that I’ve forgotten.

The entire chest of drawers above is rammed full – two drawers for 0-3 months, one drawer for 3-6 months, bottom drawer for blankets and sleeping bags and then, upstairs, another drawer full of 6-12 months. I’ll devote a bit more time in later posts to the various things we’ve picked up.

  • Weeks: 21 + 1 (NHS) / 20 + 3 (my dates)
  • New developments: Bug is now moving enough that kicks can be felt on the outside! Mr Bug felt one and his face was a picture, it was as if he had momentarily forgotten there was a baby in there and didn’t know know what was happening. I can now see that I’m going to be obsessing over kicks from now until birth. Bug tends to be active in the afternoon, late evening and very early morning.
  • Sickness: Still nauseous all the time but the level is low enough that I can get on with most things. Mornings are still a struggle as that’s when I feel nauseous enough to throw up. Some toast and steady breathing usually rectifies that.
  • Last vom: Monday 2 November – over a week ago! *Cue dancing banana*
  • Cravings: I’m still all about the carbs and unhealthy foods. I’m trying to eat other stuff but, because of the nausea, I’m just going with what my body wants. This may mean I’m the size of a house by EDD but, after HG, I really don’t care.
  • Bump: It’s definitely getting bigger! Will do a bump pic soon.
  • Maternity fashion: Rob’s sister gave me some dresses and jeans from when she was pregnant, which is amazing. Most of them are Top Shop or Next. I’m still absolutely loving my Mothercare work trousers and my Asos jeans. My biggest fashion issue at the moment is a coat – or a lack of coat. None of my current ones fit over bump and I’m not someone who enjoys the cold so having bump exposed is Not Ideal. I’m going to have a go with a thick scarf but, if not, I may have to invest in a maternity-type coat. I always said I wouldn’t because it feels like a waste of money, buuut winter is coming (insert GoT gif).
  • Anything else: I woke up today with a sore throat. Boo.

On Thursday, Mr Bug and I, along with Mr Bug’s parents, are off to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My parents live there at the moment so we thought it would be nice to visit them and do some sight-seeing. Of course, this was before I got pregnant and had HG! Just to be safe, I won’t be going on any of the tours (around Lalibela and Axum – super jealous) but will be living it up in Addis for 10 days. If you fancy seeing snaps, please follow me on Instagram – my username is @katinda.

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F*** the guilt, ladies

Scared baby against crazy mother

I often see comments and posts about how being a Mum means you feel guilty all the time. As a Mum-to-be, I found that intriguing yet, even without being a Mum, I understood the sentiment. I was also heartened to see that there’s a real ‘push’ against making Mums feel guilty in the parenting blogosphere – a movement away from judging and denouncing and more toward being supportive and inclusive.

That’s awesome. But why is it necessary in the first place? What is it about being a Mum that means we have to accept being under the spotlight and prepared (and ready) to justify our parenting decisions, whether they’re related to how we give birth, where our child sleeps, whether we breastfeed or not, or anything else (that has absolutely zero to do with anyone else in the entire world). The reality seems to be that you’re going to feel shit no matter what you do because, whatever decision you do make, there will be people who do it Differently and then you’ll either feel guilty or they’ll try and make you feel guilty, and it’s a whole mess of judgey pants and guilty pants, and you have to roll your eyes and ignore it if you can.

But there’s something quite important about this guilt – it’s actually not about being a Mum; it’s about being a woman. Women are brought up primed to feel guilty. We are taught to internalise everything, to look at our own behaviour, to see what WE can change or do differently/better. Men are not taught this. Men are taught that they can be confident, that they can be in control, that being assertive is awesome (assertive isn’t even a word men have to use, it’s just ‘being a man’), and they don’t have to worry about labels like “bossy” or “feisty”.

Let’s take one of the most extreme, horrendous examples of this: sexual assault and rape. Women are told to be careful; don’t drink too much; don’t wear short skirts; don’t flirt. Men are told…well, what exactly are men told? Nothing much. The focus has historically been on women to consider their actions rather than on men to just, y’know, not rape. Happily, things *are* changing and we’re taking steps away from the vomit-inducing “don’t get too drunk on a night out, ladies” to messages like the awesome Tea and Consent video from Thames Valley Police. Consent is everything but it has absolutely NOT been the overriding focus in cases of rape and sexual violence – women have been the focus.

I’m using this example to show that we live in a society that will blame a woman for something terrible happening to her because of someone else’s horrific actions – an extreme example but an important one. And women will take this blame; they will blame other women; they will accept that status quo because we are socially conditioned to do so. We grow up being expected to judge other women on everything because we are judged in turn. We grow up unsure, insecure, always examining our own actions, afraid. And then, when we become Mums, all of that insecurity, that fear, is magnified a million times because, if we make mistakes, we aren’t just harming ourselves, we’re harming the little person or little people that we want to protect more than anything in the whole world. That, to us, is unforgivable. We worry that we will fail those little people, no matter how much we love them because we are always responsible, it’s always our fault and we should always do better.

This was really brought home to me during a recent #matexp twitter chat. One sentiment, which blew my mind, was from women who felt as though they had ‘failed’ at giving birth. The reasons for this feeling of failure varied hugely but, oh my god, can we take a moment to consider how insane that is? These are women who have managed to successfully give birth to their babies and yet they feel as though what they did wasn’t quite good enough. I haven’t given birth yet and I’m really quite scared (er, petrified!) of it. To me, any woman who has managed to give birth to her baby – IN WHATEVER WAY THAT HAPPENED – is a freakin’ rockstar. It breaks my heart that they, themselves, don’t feel that way because of these ridiculous and impossible pressures and standards that society places on women – especially when it comes to pregnancy and parenting. This is where we need to push back, to be more assertive, and to tell the world to stop effing judging and start supporting each and every mother and the choices that she makes.

Birth is the most visceral example but there’s breastfeeding, sleeping, weaning, using dummies…the list goes on and on. Every decision that you make will be one that you make fearing that someone will think you’re a damn idiot for making it. But this all stems from our insecurities, our conditioning, our expectation that we will be judged and should judge others – it’s a really shit, anti-feminist self-fulfilling prophecy. If I decide not to give my kid a dummy and I shout really loudly about it then hopefully others will agree with me and no one will tell me that I’m a bad Mum because, as I haven’t been allowed to feel confident in the decisions that I make my entire life, I really don’t want anyone to tell me I’m a bad Mum and, if anyone else does something differently (like, er, give their kid a dummy) that will make me feel like one because they’ve made a different decision to me and what does that say about me and OH MY GOD THE SKY IS FALLING IN.

Seriously f*** that. It’s time for ALL of us to feel confident in what we’re doing with our own bloody children and supporting other Mums in their choices, even if they’re different from ours. If my mate wants to have an elective caesarian and I’m all about my natural birth then that’s freaking awesome and I can’t wait to meet her afterward and toast to how awesome we both are over a well-deserved glass of Prosecco. As is clear in this post, there is a wider, social sickness of condemning and undermining women that we can’t expect to fight all on our own – but we’re starting with the little things, the parental support networks, the confidence-building (our own and others), the empathy and understanding. Hopefully from that, other things with flow.

Vive la difference.

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The Twinkle Diaries

Our 20 week scan!

20 weeks old!

I’m 20 weeks pregnant today, wohoo. Yesterday, we had our 20 week scan, which all went very well. Baby Bug was being a bit uncooperative and kept putting his hands over his face/above his head and moving *just* when the sonographer was trying to grab an image. Attaboy, a rebel from the start. We had to go for a little walk but, thankfully, the sonographer got everything she needed so we don’t have to go back. It was great seeing him on screen because he is finally starting to look like a human rather than a cute little alien.

I was pretty nervous going into the 20 week scan because this can be the point where parents-to-be can hear bad news. We aren’t special because we had the all-clear at this stage; we are just lucky. I took a moment, after the scan and with Mr Bug, to actively NOT take our good news for granted. I breathed a sigh of relief and thought about how I would have felt it we had heard something terrible. I really hope that doesn’t sound weird and morbid – I just wanted to be part of the ‘team’ for everyone who has ever suffered pregnancy loss. They were with me today.

Today, we’re off to see Mr Bug’s sister. She has a one year old boy and has kindly offered to give us a bunch of stuff that they no longer need. Then, tonight, Mr Bug wants to see the new Bond film in the cinema. I’ll be going for the popcorn. Have a fab weekend, everyone!

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Stop expecting women to suffer


I was chatting to a co-worker yesterday about morning sickness and hyperemesis. She’s had two kids and suffered with both of hers. She mentioned how she felt dismissed a lot of the time because the baby was healthy. This really struck a chord with me because I had very similar experiences. When I was at my worst with HG, I would often have conversations – with health care people and just people generally – that went something like this:

Me: I can’t eat, am losing weight, throwing up 24/7. I’m really suffering.
Them: Oh, but I’ve heard that severe morning sickness doesn’t affect the baby.

GREAT?! I mean obviously I’m really happy that HG hasn’t affected my baby. But, since becoming pregnant, I haven’t been reduced to just a vessel to house my baby. I’m still a fully functioning, adult human being and, when I was suffering, it was simply not enough to be told I should be grateful that my baby wasn’t.

To be clear: I would not have minded the comments if I had felt that the same level of care/concern was being given to me also. But I didn’t feel that way at all. I felt as though I should suck it up and stop being such a wimp. Why? Because of this idea that suffering from morning sickness is NATURAL.

I’m actually beginning to really dislike the word ‘natural’ when it comes to pregnancy. There are lots of things in this world that are natural but are also really shit. Cancer, viruses, tsunamis. That doesn’t mean we go “OH HEY THIS IS NATURAL, JUST DEAL WITH IT”. Yet this is what we do with extreme morning sickness. There are drugs that are totally safe to take for HG yet the stigma around pregnant women taking medication is still really pervasive (at my first attempt at getting medication, the comment “Have you not heard of thalidomide?” was dropped). The general consensus appears to be that women should just suffer through it because pregnancy is natural ergo everything related to pregnancy is natural, so JUST DEAL WITH IT, WHINING WOMEN. People get so (hypocritically) worked up about pregnant women doing anything that could potentially harm their unborn baby. But women have the right to not be harmed either. I have the right to be able to continue living my life without having to stop everything for two months of it so I can vomit constantly, be unable to eat or walk around and lose 10kg. “It usually only lasts till 12 weeks” is not a reasonable response. It shouldn’t be happening at all.

No one knows why morning sickness occurs. We should know why. More research is needed but it doesn’t happen because people are too shit scared of sounding like they don’t mind putting babies’ lives at risk. And, obviously, I’m not advocating that – but what I am advocating is remembering that, for every baby, there is a mother there too who needs support and has the right to not suffer. If you think I’m exaggerating then have a read of this report by Pregnancy Sickness Support and BPAS suggesting that around 15-20% of women with HG terminate their pregnancies. This is completely catastrophic. No woman should have to terminate a wanted pregnancy because they feel so unsupported and alone in their suffering that they cannot continue.

This mindset toward pregnant women affects everything, I’m just using HG as an example because it’s relevant to me right now. But what about giving birth? Or breastfeeding? Women are pressured to continue breastfeeding not matter what – even if they’re bleeding and in terrible pain and their babies are losing weight. Of course, breastfeeding is the best course of action (duh) but only if it’s working. If it’s not working then it should be completely acceptable to explore other options that DO work for mum and baby without mum being made to feel like she’s not putting baby first. And it’s up to each woman to decide what works and what doesn’t, and damn all the haters.

There needs to be a sea change in our approach to pregnancy as the pendulum has swung too far away from supporting women. There is something inherently, nastily sexist about this – as if women’s lives are more expendable and we should be expected to suffer more. If there was a condition that affected men as commonly as it did women (HG affects around 1-3% of pregnancies – that’s at least 10,000 women every year in the UK), there would be far, far more support in place. And no man would be made to feel guilty for simply not wanting to suffer. I’m not sure how to effect this change but it needs to happen yesterday.

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Do you want your kids to grow up like you?

This is a subject that is really, really close to my heart and one that I don’t yet have any answers to – so expect more related posts in the future!

I didn’t grow up in the UK. I came here for university when I was 18. My dad is British, my Mum isn’t, so, while it’s part of my heritage and I’ve always called myself British (I have a British accent too), I don’t think I ever really expected to settle here for the rest of my life.

Cue Mr Bug, Surrey boy born and bred, walking into my life. My expectations about my future life have had to undergo quite a big change and I think one of the hardest parts of this change has been the realisation that I may very well br bringing up my children in the UK.

That’s really strange for me. Because it means that they won’t have the upbringing and the childhood that I had. I grew up abroad, in four countries – before moving to the UK. A big chunk of my identity has been growing up surrounded by different cultures and identities – the different-ness rather than the same-ness of those around me. I went to an international school which was a melting pot of nationalities – the common thing that bound all of us is that we were growing up in a country that wasn’t our own. Even now, people who grew up like I did ‘get’ me in a way that people who grew up in a small town in Scotland get each other. There is a commonality there, if that’s a word.

There’s lots of positives about my upbringing. There are also negatives: I’ve never had one place to call home; I’ve never put down roots; the answer to the question “Where are you from?” is always fraught with difficulty. But it’s such a key part of my identity that it’s odd to imagine that I won’t be passing this on to my children.

We live in Surrey at the moment, about an hour from where Mr Bug spent his entire childhood. There are lots of real positives about his upbringing. There are also negatives. But it’s the negatives that scare me because they aren’t MY negatives, they aren’t the drawbacks that I can identify with as the same drawbacks I went through, growing up. I worry about navigating my children through these because I have no experience of them; they are foreign to me.

I worry that I’m being too prescriptive. I guess the main issue is that I know my childhood was a good one and I know it worked because I lived it. I imagine it’s harder to guide your own children through someone else’s childhood, through someone else’s life. You want what is best for them and, often, what is ‘best’ (in your small world view) is what you have tried and tested yourself.

This is how I feel now, who knows what I’ll think and feel when Baby Bug actually turns up next March? I will just have to wait and see.

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The importance of mental health (and not taking it for granted)

Moi! Happy!
Moi! Happy!

A couple of people on my online HG support group have recently been asking about mental health and how this can suffer when HG is at its worst. HG brought me as low as I think I’ve ever been in my life. It’s strange because, at the time, I don’t think I realised it. I just felt hopeless, miserable, listless and, worst of all, really useless. I felt like I was a burden on my entire family and that my poor husband of two months must have been regretting marrying me. Waking up in the morning was rubbish because it meant feeling listless, purposeless and unhappy all day only to fall asleep and do it all again the next day. Worst of all, despite the fact I was pregnant, I felt like there was absolutely nothing to look forward to because everything seemed too difficult and awful.

It’s quite scary to look back now and reflect on my mental health at this time, because I’ve never felt that low or devoid of purpose before. I felt as though nothing in the world could bring me pleasure, and that’s a really dark, sad place to be. But, there was another part of my brain that, somehow, seemed to believe that this was because of the HG – and that no matter how awful I felt, it wouldn’t be forever. Once I started to feel better, slowly the cloud started to lift.

On Friday, I went out for a couple of (non alcoholic) drinks with my husband and it was wonderful. We went to Skylon on the Southbank and I enjoyed the views and soaked in the atmosphere of all these busy, working people getting on with their lives in a way that I hadn’t been able to for the past couple of months. I enjoyed it; I remembered what it was to take pleasure in experiences, in seeing people, in contented moments.

On Saturday, Mr Bug made breakfast and we sat enjoying the sunshine from the window. We watched the Rugby World Cup Final and I cheered on the All Blacks. On Sunday, we drove to see my brother and his wife and had an amazing roast dinner at The Three Compasses. There was lots of laughter, silliness and I even managed a sublimely gorgeous gluten free brownie for dessert. Last night, I put some candles on and we sat on the sofa to watch a couple of episodes of Homeland (Season 4 is awesome!) and Downton Abbey.

I enjoyed every moment of this weekend. I wanted to get out of bed, I wanted to see my family and hang out, and I even enjoyed watching the rugby(!).

I don’t want to come across as trite or cliched but this experience has given me a new found respect for the importance of mental health and, also, for those who suffer with mental health issues and keep going. I’m not sure I would describe myself as depressed during HG but, looking back, how I felt was frightening. I don’t know how you feel like that and keep putting one foot in front of the other; keep DOING things when you don’t want to do anything at all. I’ve read a few blog posts recently about people’s struggles with PND and similar. Struggling through that is actually kick-ass because it must feel impossible when your own mind is against you.

For me, I’m glad that I’ve re-discovered pleasure in life. The memory of feeling so awful is slowly fading and I’m getting back out there, especially as the HG continues to lift. I will never take my enjoyment of things for granted again.

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