29 June 2008

So-called life

As much as I can, I have a schedule. I work hard, hard, hard throughout the week – staving off nausea in the day (and sometimes anxiety over a potential social engagement that will stretch this out unbearably) before enduring the aimless throng of tourists, the stifling, stinking tube journey home, where fatigue quickly and decisively encroaches on a necessarily short evening.

Weekends, I am utterly selfish, my needs few but specific: to lie prone for as many hours as one can deem reasonable, escaping into some work of fiction or other, most often set in contemporary London, which is more easily learned about through literature than actually being in it, I find (though the same could be said of all experience, if I'm honest).

There is no point at which I’m completely immersed in anything anymore - work or repose - as in any case I am unable to escape the heightened maintenance my metabolism now requires of me: scoffing some meal that isn’t completely off-putting, followed by constant bottles of water, followed by a snack, followed by water, followed by another snack, followed by more water, followed by another meal . . . &ct.

We are over the three month mark now, and I am looking forward to that impending period of reprieve, when this obsessive vigil over my complex physiology can cease and I will apparently begin to feel more like my ‘normal self’ again.

We’re having our first scan on Tuesday afternoon, all three of us: me, Bruce and this symptom I keep trying to humanise whenever I get a spare minute. We are like everyone else but this is like nothing I have ever experienced. It's a paradox for sure.

25 June 2008

Not so hot

That little stunt I pulled the other day (you know, where I walked briskly) cost me forty-eight hours of nausea.

On one of those days, Yuan - friendly neighbourhood sage of unsolicited advice/opinions - decided to tell me that she’s noticed my body has changed.

Let me preface this by saying that Yuan’s personal motto seems to translate thusly: “If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em down with smug observations that will make them wish they hadn’t joined either.”

Oddly covetous of my conventional life, she’s taken to pushing my buttons: few but obvious to her.

Your tits are huge!

Was her first exclamation of the lunch hour, which I handled with as much decorum as someone who is trying not to barf up a sandwich can muster. I hate big tits! Doesn’t everyone? And then the final nail in that coffin:

Yes, I notice your body is changing. Your female parts are more…protruding.

So less pin-up girl (which seemed a fitting analogy last week) than Hottentot Venus, now indelibly burned into that part of the imagination that informs self-image, thanks very much Yuan. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t gained a single pound since I discovered I was pregnant – the poison has already been unleashed and is busily coursing through my veins, even now.

Having humoured some questionable ‘friends’ in my time, I believe that I’m well-tuned to the subtle differences between insensitive and malicious, and I’ve come to the conclusion that with Yuan, it’s an unhealthy mixture of the two.

The days of allowing petty individuals to feed me barbs wrapped in the soft-flour tortilla of ‘innocent observation’ are well behind me, though, and I think I’m putting ‘stop payment’ on our weekly lunch dates. At least until I’ve got this body-image/pregnancy thing under control.

Except now I’m wondering if a developing baby can subsist on breath mints and sparkling water. . .

23 June 2008

A different tack

Tonight we are going to see My Bloody Valentine perform live in Camden. My ex-inner-Goth of 1995 is currently doing cartwheels (in her grave - depressing cartwheels of death).

I actually cannot wait, even though I feel as though I’ve swallowed month-old baloney and gasoline.

This morning, though, I woke to several strong assertions made by that formerly dormant drill sergeant that is my Ego, namely:

  1. You are not dying, so stop acting like it!
  2. Nothing worth having comes easy, so:
  • Stop eating junk
  • Walk like you mean it
  • Instead of going easy on yourself, go hard

Because ultimately

  • Even if you crash and burn, eventually your body will catch up with your new attitude, and that can only make things better.

You can’t argue with good sense, so today I packed orange slices, cherries, bananas and low-fat cheese sandwiches, and virtually ran the 20 minutes it takes to reach the Metro by foot.

I got off at Waterloo as usual, charging up the South Bank with such purpose that I managed to forget for 40 whole seconds that I’m nearly 3 months pregnant.

And you know - I don’t feel any worse than I typically do these days, so that’s something! And we’ve decided to scrap getting to the show on time for the opening act, which means that I can still come home after work and nap before heading out for a late(er than usual) evening.

Take that, morning sickness!

21 June 2008

Best cures for 'morning' sickness

1. Don't get pregnant

2. . . .

3.

4.

5. Please put me out of my misery

6.

Fleet Foxes

Last week we saw Elbow perform at the Royal Festival Hall, as part of Massive Attack's Meltdown music festival. The opening act was Fleet Foxes, whom we'd researched a bit first on MySpace, the way you do. They were brilliant too.

The 'N' key on my laptop just fell out. Nanoo nanoo.


Discover Fleet Foxes

19 June 2008

It's my birthday I can skyve if I want to

Actually, I can't - I've gotta go to work. I'm praying my former line manager didn't leak the day, as pawning off cake to sheepish colleagues who didn't know my name up until now isn't exactly how I'd like to spend four o'clock. Know what I mean?

Over the weekend, Bruce bought me a lovely handbag and dress from my favourite little boutique, Orla Kiely, but he still presented me with a voucher for maternity wear this morning so I'd have something to open. Best husband ever?

My dear friend kimchi Head (who always seems to find the perfect card) has also promised to try and visit in January, right around the time I'll be needing an extra set of hands. Even if I shut my eyes now and woke up tomorrow, this would still count as one of my favourite birthdays.

17 June 2008

20 reasons this blog will not make me famous

Or 20 ways to sell your soul to the blogosphere, if you're into that kind of thing.

Personally, I think getting onto a season of Big Brother UK would yield quicker results.

13 June 2008

Fits in your handbag

I realise that comparing foetuses to inanimate objects is meant to drive home just how big/small they are, but I’d rather not visualise a tube of lipstick with fingernails that swallows and moves about on its own in my uterus (consequently as big AS A GRAPEFRUIT, goodbye weekend breakfast). No thank you, helpful pregnancy newsletter - you can take that analogy right back to your editorial team and tell them where they can shove their tube of peach-fuzz-covered lipstick (in their uterus, apparently).

So at ten weeks, I think I’ve possibly processed the significance of what’s taking place. Gone are the hazy, intermittent conjectures of the first few weeks, and even the queasy foreboding of the last few. Someone at work finally jolted me from my protective shell of misery, simply by asking: Is this your first?

I had to roll that statement around in my fist a little, to appreciate its weight (the approximate heft of an apple). My first pregnancy, my first antenatal experience, my first foray into that brave new world where things stop being about Me or about Him or about Us for as long as it will take to integrate this new...

And that’s where I get stuck. New what? Attachment? Accoutrement? Thing That Will Be More Significant Than A Pet But Is Not Yet Anything? Cosmetic by Estee Ovaries?

I just don’t know.

But last night, I dreamt that a supermarket clerk was scanning my belly with that thing that scans bar codes? And I could see the little gaffer, and felt both elation (a baby!) and fear (a checkout?!).

So my subconscious seems to be topping me up where I fall short of complete awareness on this particular subject. I wish my analogies would hurry up and get here though.

Getting pregnant and giving birth are the two things that have always wigged me out. It’s why I had to turn off my mind in the same way I do when I book a plane ticket on an overseas flight. Once you commit, there’s no going back. It’s something we’ve both wanted since we met and fell in love, and no amount of fear is going to get in our way.

12 June 2008

Life after birth

It is going to be very difficult to enjoy the next phase of my life with all of this out-of-body, I Am an Observer of My Own Existence, floating-on-the-ceiling rubbish I go through on a daily basis.

Nearly two years ago (jesus), I was certain that my soul would be forcibly torn from my body the moment I landed in London. Until that point, my experiences were so much a part of my environment that I wasn’t sure the ensuing ‘me’ would be able to survive a transplant of that magnitude.

And in a way, I wasn’t wrong – the juxtaposition of self and other, inside and outside, is never more apparent than when you’re orbiting the unknown. It's like being turned rightside-out again, for the very first time. My new challenge is to finally resist the urge to objectify that all-too-visible self and simply try and be.

Having not enough time to reflect on anything plays a big part in this disconnect, I’m sure. Today is the first time in a long while that I’ve managed to push the crowding dishware off the tabletop and just press my face against its surface.

There’s little more than a hum and a cold, calm sensation. I don’t know what you’d divine with an empty table, but it seems like a good place to start.

10 June 2008

The time of my life

Yesterday, morning sickness reached new and sickening heights. Spontaneous vomiting of the ‘just barely made it’ variety and the near impossibility of keeping anything down was the order of the day. I even managed to vomit in one of London’s finest canteens – Canteen – shortly before my dinner of poached eggs on toast came (I know, right?).

It only happened about three or four times, but I still got that wobbly-kneed, shaky, gotta-sit-down feeling after every incident. By the time I got home, I was so exhausted that I fell into a deep sleep. It lasted about five minutes, and then I was up for half the night.

Hence I am once again stressing about work from home. I am working too, but mainly stressing about the things I could better do if I was actually sat at my desk with my notebook and my laptop and many system folders.

Monday morning seemed like a good time to break the news, so whenever someone asked me ‘How are you feeling?’ or ‘How was your weekend?’ or ‘Can I borrow your stapler?’ I’d just blurt out ‘Yeah, I’m pregnant!’ and then spend the next several minutes describing my symptoms until they backed away slowly. Everyone seemed genuinely pleased at first.

The Heads are no longer treating me like a star in the making, which is just fine with me. In that operation, if someone notices you above the radar, they take aim and shoot until you either climb higher than you’d ever planned to climb or tail spin into the ground. Trust me: I’ve been to enough corporate pep talks to know that this is true.

I’m also banking on the fact that they probably can’t fire me now I’m up the duff. Not because I plan to work less than I typically do, but because I need this excuse to go easy on myself for once. It’s important – for the baby, obviously, but also in general. I don’t want to look like a shriveled walnut before I hit 40.

Speaking of hitting a number to do with age, it’s my biiirthday on the 19th of June. I don’t understand people who don’t like birthdays. Attention, presents, dinner and special events in my honour? Yes please! I’d have a birthday every day if it were legal. I don’t think it’s illegal, mind you. Could we afford that actually?

And it will be my last birthday sans child, if everything goes according to plan, so I’m going to rip it up the way a childless woman does and go and see a live West End production of Dirty Dancing!

It might not be your cup of tea, but I saw this film when I turned eleven, and rented it on my father’s video card no less than 33 times. It was the first (and by no means last) time a film had caught my imagination with regards to love and sex, and I was hooked for life - oddly grinding greasers aside.

It was Bruce’s idea, which goes to show how much the man must care about me (I mean, I’m pretty sure he’s coming with). If I can keep the morning sickness at bay, it might just qualify as the second best birthday I’ve ever had.

And that might qualify as the second lamest thing I’ve ever said. Even the first.

07 June 2008

On being alone

They warned me that sleep would be one of the first things to go, but I wish I could have overcome the illness first – apparently being overtired only exacerbates the nausea. Okay, no ‘apparently’ about it.

I’ve been bedridden since Tuesday - among books, comics, unwashed clothes and empty cereal boxes - and whereas most others would at least be contemplating the full bottle of Ibuprofen in the next room, I've found something almost cathartic about the whole experience.

Honestly, it takes me right back to childhood. Not that I spent all that time alone by choice – I was very social, though circumstance often dictated five hours of television or two stacks of young adult novels, take your pick. Sometimes I would play my favourite songs on repeat and sing along, imagining that if someone could only see me, I’d be made famous on the spot. And with fame would come beauty, and with beauty, popularity.

It’s not complete bullshit, that theory. As soon as I dropped my ‘baby fat’ (some very tenacious young fat, that ‘baby fat’), I had loads of friends, including the boys that once made galumphing dinosaur noises behind me while I walked. Maybe not those specific boys, but I was always grateful that their attention was finally positive.

Anyway, things moved very quickly after that. I graduated high school, went to university and put all my effort into honing the parts of me I knew others would find attractive - body and mind. I didn’t have a minute to myself, and I didn’t think much about that.

Then my not-so-brief stint with mental illness came and went, and I spent a great deal of time alone. I didn’t know how to be alone anymore, but I was at a loss with others too, and somehow it felt harder to be reminded of that. So I bided my time (three years, four) until the awkwardness mostly passed, and then I was right back into things.

Having spent the last year and a half in a loving relationship, living and working in a challenging environment, I find it hard to believe that my priority was once drinking beer in a pub with people I didn’t even like, and who didn’t like me. I guess the path of least resistance runs mainly downhill, into that murky last call for hopes and dreams. And I had nothing to climb back out for, not for a long time.

It’ll be my thirty-second birthday on the nineteenth of this month – not a bad time to take ownership of how my life has developed so far. I can’t connect the dots between my childhood and the present tense; couldn’t say for sure there’d even be a constellation. There are some glaring similarities, though, between the uncomfortable adolescent I was then and the woman I’ve become, and what amazes me most is that I don’t feel the need to resolve this.

Being alone is not my forte, it never was. But the time I’ve spent alone here, anxious about my body and the future, is probably the most honest thing I’ve ever embarked on. Whatever that is.

05 June 2008

Deadbeat mum-to-be

Rather than work from home today, I took the day off sick. It may not look this way because I am lying prone and often engrossed in reading or laughing at episodes of *Pot Psychology or choking down a piece of fruit, but the effort of tending to one’s constant nausea really takes its toll after a few weeks.

I don’t know how I’ll ever find my way out of this (very normal, millions upon billions do it!) prenatal nightmare, but I am taking it one day, one nap, one bag of Doritos, one episode of Dawson’s Creek at a time.

SHOOSH, there is something vaguely soothing about cheesy, overworked dialogue set to wailing C-list vocalists and don’t tell me there isn’t (or I might start crying, that’s just the kind of week I’m having).

Bruce - who has been dragging me out into the sunshine in case I forget what it looks like - insisted I accompany him to the shop this morning, so I bought a punnet of cherries, four large navel oranges and two dozen chocolate chip cookies, among other sundry items I thought I could probably manage. Cherries and oranges win the award for most palatable – the cookies tasted like pain.

And then I checked out for a few hours, buried inside a sleep so deep I didn’t even care that my mouth was hung open in the way of sleeping mouths belonging to those who accidentally eat spiders in their sleep – I would have eaten three or four spiders to prolong that sleep for another six hours, and you have not seen how I behave when I am suddenly made aware of a spider in the vicinity of my person. It was just that good.

Throughout, I've been missing my friends back home something awful but have received some very nice emails and notes and things, which is almost the same as having them here with me. Uh.


*I’ve seen reference to this on more than a few occasions and I finally had to **take a look; let’s just say that it balances out my penchant for soggy teen dramas

**WAIT, NOT AT WORK! OR WITH YOUR CHILDREN!

04 June 2008

Also

Trying to swipe a bag of Doritos off a very high shelf using a packet of Strawberry Laces = Not my finest hour

Eggs of terror


This moment of relative sanity is brought to you by Suede, low lighting and fluffy pillows.

Aw yeah, Internizzles, I’m working from home today.

I’m not sure if it’s the malnutrition or the cabin fever or the hormones (yes! yes! yes!) but I am irritable as all get out and the NHS is not doing a thing to help.

I’ve been trying to book my eleven-week scan for the past three hours, on and off, and each time I ring them, a recorded voice goes:

I’m sorry, but this line is busy (weighted pause)

If you would like to request a call-back, please dial 5

So I do, and then:

I’m sorry: that service is unavailable for this type of call

What - the type of call a pregnant woman must make between the hours of 9 and 5 when she’d normally be at work, where presumably nobody knows about her condition because she’s not yet three months in the clear? GET. OUT.

And then, THEN, the Marks & Spencer website gave me a full, 55-page report on food allergies, when all I need to know is: CAN I EAT YOUR EFFING BELGIAN CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE IF I AM PREGNANT OR NOT?

Because it says something about two pasteurised egg yolks on the packaging and nothing about raw or baked. And by the time I was halfway through their List of Gazillion Products That Include Soy, I was nearly finished eating the damn thing. Let it never be said that I am unfamiliar with risk assessment!

Last night, I somehow managed to eat my way through (and keep down) an entire pan of cannelloni, in spite of the fact that it didn’t taste or feel very nice. But it was my first hot food in over a week, my first bit of animal protein, and god be damned if I wasn’t going to enjoy every bland, middling, fat-laden mouthful.

This - coupled with the fact that Bruce had cleaned the entire flat on his own with no prodding from me - was enough to persuade me to live my life a bit. So I watched an hour of the excellent BBC series Age of Terror before hitting the hay.

At this rate, my kid is going to emerge one nervous ball of eating-disordered anxiety, and it will be my fault. Though with half its father’s genes, it will know how to wash a dish.

03 June 2008

It takes courage to enjoy it

At the moment, I am subsisting on a diet of Bjork, sugary cereals and popsicles, which they call ‘ice lollies’ in this country (aw...puke).

It occurred to me as well that waiting for something different to take place before posting again would result in not many posts between now and July. If fighting to see anything beyond the veil of sick is my only option, so be it.

In the spirit of all that, I’ve come up with a *3-Step Plan for those of you who are either i. in the early stages of pregnancy or ii. wanting to lose weight in a fashion that would scare your mother

Step 1 – Diet

If it is bland and/or nutritionally unsound, you should eat it. Examples:

Honey Nut Cheerios
Wheat bites
Toast
Toasted bagels
Cream cheese
Mild cheddar
Doritos

Actually, that’s about it. For flavour, why not try something full of sugar? Such as:

Popsicles (ice lollies)
Strawberry laces (or a single lace, if you can’t manage it in the plural)
Toffee popcorn
Honey Nut Cheerios

Don’t you feel sick now? Good – off to the toilet with you.

Step 2 – Exercise

Don’t do it! Get back into bed, young lady.

Step 3 – Sleep

Get an early night – and why not? There’s nothing to enjoy in the waking world anyway, least of all food. Don’t worry, you’ll wake up feeling sick in approximately four hours anyway, when you can do all your best thinking!

Happy living, hip and healthy friends of the internet!


*For those of you under age 18 and/or lacking in irony, I’m not actually suggesting you do this.

02 June 2008

Great(ish) expectations

I’d do almost anything to be invisible right now. Having a banana by one’s keyboard is not a safeguard against conversation during the lunch hour – I would have to keep my face permanently stuffed if I wanted some time to myself (this isn’t a guarantee either, as invariably someone will say, ‘Sorry to interrupt you while you’re having your lunch,’ and then proceed to do so anyway).

The face-stuffing isn’t going terribly well these days, namely because I can’t conceive of eating anything that isn’t toast or cereal or (curiously) Doritos. Can you guess why?

Oh come on, you can. I’m up the duff, good friends of the internet!

We enthusiastically embarked upon this new adventure a few months back and were delighted with the news, interpreted with our little chemistry set over four weeks ago.

Then the fatigue kicked in. And then the morning sickness. The morning sickness is enjoying itself so much, in fact, that it’s decided to make a whole day of it. I spend most of my time feeling as though I’m fighting a vicious hangover, if you want to know the truth.

And food! My beloved chicken and steak dinners, pizza and pasta, fruits and vegetables, coffee and more coffee – all poison, if you asked my nose, stomach or imagination.

So I fight nausea all day long at my desk - eating what I can, whenever I can manage it - crawl into bed at six and fight nausea for the rest of the evening. It is a challenging way to conduct a marriage, let me tell you!

And I don’t really know where I'm at, beyond this. I like to try and stay one step ahead in life, but I fear I’m at the mercy of my physiology for the time being. I will probably be very excited, though, once the nausea wears off and the happy-making hormones kick in.

Until then, please stick around to witness me blunder through this new phase of our lives with none of the charm, wit and humour you’d expect to find on most websites about motherhood.

Some people are born to be mums, but I’ve a feeling I’ll be faking it all the way.