Saturday, 4 April 2020

Books I Read in March

This month, I bought new books. Many new books, because I did well at not buying new books last month (I realise this makes no sense). I also read a little less, I think because I have been feeling sleepier some evenings and so haven't had the brainpower to concentrate. This post contains affiliate links, you won't be charged extra if you click the links to purchase your books, but I will get a tiny sum each time you do.

Here are the books I read in March:

Where The Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens
I kept seeing people talking about this book online, so I bought a copy. I'd just been to the hospital and since I can't reward myself with cake right now, I rewarded myself with a book. I really enjoyed this book, I found myself completely immersed in Kya's world. Based in the marshlands of Carolina, the story follows Kya who has to grow up and survive with little help. Delia Owens is a wildlife scientist, so there is plenty of nature facts hidden in the story. It's a coming-of-age survival story about our disconnection with the natural world. I loved it and found myself thinking about it often in the days after I'd read it. I also stayed up way too late to finish it which I think is a good sign. 

Girl, Women, Other
by Bernadine Evaristo
I've been waiting to read this book for months. Laurie ordered it months ago but the paperback version so we had to wait for that to be released (why, Laurie??). It arrived when he was away so I decided to read it first (never live with me, I am a terrible human). This book won the Booker Prize and I've seen so many people talking about how good it was. I wasn't disappointed. It tells the stories of 12 women and their lives in Britain. The characters link together, but the book doesn't follow a typical narrative. Each woman has her own chapter and this tells her entire story, though some of the women link together as you progress through the book. It's unlike anything I've read before and I really loved it, I think every reader will have their own favourites in the book (I liked the grandma character best of all). 

Mothering Sunday
by Graham Swift
I saw this book as part of a Mother's Day display in Waterstones and decided to read it. It's set in 1924 and follow's the story of a maid, Jane Fairchild. As was the custom in those days, Jane was given Mothering Sunday off work to spend with her mother, although she didn't have a mother to spend the day with. The story follows her on that fateful day and how it would come to change her life. The book is well-written and the writing style reminded me of a Richard Yates story. The writing is beautiful yet to the point, there is no waffle. It's a short book, but I enjoyed reading it and was keen to keep turning the pages to discover what was to happen next. It wasn't one of my favourites from the month, however.

The View from Castle Rock
by Alice Munro

I've never read anything by Alice Munro before but have seen countless people talking about how wonderful her writing is, so I have had this on my wishlist for ages. In hindsight, it's probably not a great book to start with. It's a fictional book based on snippets of information she found out about her ancestors. I think I probably would have got more out of it if I'd been familiar with her writing and known more about her as a person. It was an interesting book and I liked the writing, but I wasn't particularly blown away by the stories. I've ordered another of her books so I can explore her fiction properly. 

The Hypnobirthing Book
by Katharine Graves

I listened to this book on Audible, no physical pages were turned. I just think it's better to admit that outright. Before the schools closed, I spent my daily walks listening to pregnancy audiobooks and focusing on the impending birth. Now I spend them playing Harry Potter A-Z with Ebony which is lovely but very different. I had booked a session with a KGH Hypnobirthing teacher and I wanted to listen to this book first so I'd be able to make best use of the session. 

Katharine Graves doesn't read the audiobook, she only appears to narrate the visualisations. For some reason, they chose a man to read the book. I don't really like taking pregnancy advice from a man so I found this quite jarring. Also, there's a lot of 'KGH Hypnobirthing' branding throughout the book which I found a little much. And some of the advice is bordering on dangerous, it's quite anti-healthcare professional and I'm not sure that's helpful. By all means, asks questions and play an active role in your care, but I didn't like the approach taken in this book which felt very them v us. 

Your Baby, Your Birth
by Hollie de Cruz

This was another hypnobirthing audiobook I listened to and I loved it. Hollie de Cruz has a nicer voice and is not a middle-aged man so I much preferred getting my pregnancy advice from her. She has a softer approach and focuses on the fact that birth doesn't need to be perfect. I really liked her book and found the visualisations helpful. I listen to the daily affirmations in the bath and I'm finding them really useful. They're definitely helping me to feel more positive about things, even in the middle of a pandemic. 

If you're expecting a baby, I would definitely recommend Hollie's book. It's really positive and features lots of lovely birth stories that will help to build your confidence before birth. 

Give Birth Like A Feminist
by Milli Hill
This was another audiobook I worked through on my morning walks. I've wanted to read this ever since it came out but, if I'm honest, the title put me off. I wrongly thought it would push an agenda or end up making women feel worse about their births. So many women already carry guilt about birth and motherhood, and I was worried that this book would add to that. I can safely say, I misjudged it. That's not what this book is about at all. It's about birth and feminism, and that's it. 

Hill makes a point of saying that all births can be feminist, and there's no such thing as a right way to give birth. She talks about how birth has been left out of feminist discussions for too long and the impact this is having on birth practices. I found this book fascinating. I really enjoyed reading it, if you're a birth geek like me, I strongly recommend it. I will say, however, it's perhaps not a great book to read during pregnancy, especially if you're already feeling anxious about birth. Perhaps save this one for when you're done having babies. 


Those were the only books I read last month. I also started two books I couldn't quite get into so hopefully, I will finish those at some point in the future, or not. It is hard to get lost in a book during lockdown, I find. Is anybody else struggling with escapism at the moment? I find myself staring at my phone instead of reading books, which I feel crappy about. I don't seem to have much concentration at the moment, but I'm sure that's true of lots of us. 

Friday, 27 March 2020

Pregnant in a Pandemic: Too Many Worries

Well, life got a little weird, didn't it? It feels crazy that a few short weeks ago, my biggest concern was whether or not to have the Glucose Tolerance Test. That feels like a whole other pregnancy now. 

So, in case you were wondering, it is weird to be pregnant during a pandemic. I'm grateful this isn't my first pregnancy because I would definitely have felt much more anxious then. This must be a stressful time to be expecting your first baby, the news is full of fear and official advice keeps changing so it feels like hard work keeping up with what is safe to do during pregnancy. First pregnancies are daunting enough without a global health crisis. 

Pre-pandemic, I was doing really well at staying calm and focusing on the pregnancy. I was walking every day, I had reduced the amount I was working, and I was just trying to stay on top of general life to avoid stress. It felt like I had found a good rhythm. That rhythm is no more. And there's little chance of avoiding stress when it slaps me straight in the face every time I glance at my phone. 

Schools have closed now (you knew that right) which means I've got Ebony and Ember at home with me all day. I'm enjoying it, having them home is lovely, but it's disrupted my routine. I can't work in the week anymore (but you're blogging now, couldn't you just work instead? Ssssh), which means I'm going to have to cram all of my work into the weekend. 

And my morning walks with hypnobirthing audiobooks look a little different now. I have to get up early and Ebony comes with me and she makes me play A-Z of Harry Potter character names pretty much the whole way. It's lovely, but it's not a chance to focus on the birth. And Ebony gets a stitch every morning even though we walk at a snail pace.  

The baby is due in June, and I think it's likely the schools will stay closed until September. So, there will be no time to properly prepare for the birth or listen to my hypnobirthing, and I will probably spend my due date asking the kids not to argue. It's fine, it's just not what I imagined. 

I'm unsure how this is all going to impact on the birth. Lots of trusts are pausing home birth services because of staffing issues or pressure on the ambulance service. As of yet, Stockport is still offering home births and are expecting an increase in demand thanks to coronavirus, but who knows what will be happening in another 11 weeks time. Will we be at the peak of the virus then? If so, a home birth could be out of the question. That fills me with dread so I'm trying to push it out of my head for the time being. 

Then there's the question of how this will affect things after the baby is born. Will vulnerable people still be self-isolating at home? The thought of my parents not meeting their new grandchild is truly awful to me. But again, there is no point worrying about that for now, because it's impossible to predict how things will be in three months. 

For the time being, I'm just trying to take it easy. I'm trying not to get stressed out (easier said than done). I'm going for my morning walk with Ebony, and other than that I am keeping my feet firmly planted at home. I haven't been to a shop in weeks, and I'm fake coughing every time somebody breaks the 2-metre rule on my walks (they move pretty sharpish if you do this). I'm trying to find time to relax every day (much-needed after all the bickering). I'm continuing to eat well and avoid sugary foods. 

I'm trying to focus on the fact that a lot of this is out of my control. All I can do is my best. I want this to be a period of time the kids look back on fondly, I want them to remember the long summer we spent at home together, hiding from the world. I don't want them to remember it as the summer they spent with a heavily pregnant woman who had daily breakdowns. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

5 Things I'm Going To Do During The Coronavirus Pandemic

The UK coronavirus panic has been playing out in the media for a couple of weeks now. Last night, they included pregnant women in the list of vulnerable people for the first time, and I think that's made me feel more nervous about it all. I don't like to be a vulnerable person. 

Nobody knows what will happen over the next few months. I'm not too fond of uncertainty. I like to have a plan. I don't know when the schools will close or how being classed as vulnerable will impact me. I am worried about a million different things, and worrying about them all doesn't help to make any of them less worrying. So, instead, I decided to make a plan. It's not detailed, and it's not an hourly breakdown of how to spend your day at home with children, it's just a list of points I want to focus on during the next few months. Here are the handful of ways I'm planning to take control of the chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic:

1. Not freak out my kids
This is not a good time to be an adult. Massive global catastrophes are much more manageable when you're a child and are not in charge of:
a. making decisions to keep your family safe
b. buying the snacks
c. two siblings who love to argue loudly at 6 am (used to be 6:30, but then the stupid birds started singing)

I don't want to be the adult who has to do all of those things. And if I am the adult who has to do all of those things, I want to do them with the help of a trusted and competent government (back slaps for everyone who thought a vote for Boris was a good idea), but, alas, that is not what I have. The media is full of panic; my social media stream is full of panic, hell, even my dreams are filled with anxiety. Last night, I dreamt we had to go on lockdown with another family, and we all had to share a room (can you imagine). 

I think it's important to think about how kids are experiencing what is happening. They aren't subjected to the constant Facebook stream of people giving out terrible and misinformed medical advice, and they aren't obsessively checking the BBC News site, so to them, it is less invasive. However, they're still very much aware of it. There are playground rumours, and they know schools might close soon. I've tried to be honest with my eight-year-old when talking about why Coronavirus is serious, but also to focus on the fact that we're taking precautions and doing what we can. 

If your kids see you panicking, they will panic. If they can sense your stress levels rising, theirs will rise. Yes, this is a very stressful time, and there is a lot of uncertainty, but it's important to show our kids how to handle stress and anxiety. We need to show them that we can cope with whatever life throws our way. 

2. Worry about my parents
My parents got old, I don't know when it happened, but they did. They're not over 70, but my dad is heading that way, and he has heart problems that leave him in the vulnerable person category. So, I will be spending the next few months worrying about him, I suspect. We won't be seeing them anytime soon, because it's too risky. However, he did do a big shop at Asda yesterday, so I'm not convinced he has the hang of self-isolating just yet. Hopefully, he will continue to improve his self-isolating skills until he is actually self-isolating, and then I can stop worrying. I will also be worrying about my grandma, who thinks self-isolating is something you can do while getting a bus into town to meet your mate Pauline at a cafe. I hope that with enough exasperation from the whole family, she will eventually stop doing these things. 

3. Slow down
If (when) the schools close, I am going to look on the bright side and embrace the slower mornings. I love the school holidays when I'm not required to ask anybody to put their shoes on fifty times before 9 am. I know that I am in a privileged position that the school closure won't be horrifically stressful for me. I will do my work at the weekends and look after the kids in the week. We don't need to depend on elderly grandparents or worry about alternative childcare, and it probably won't affect my earnings (because they are so tiny to begin with, you understand). 

I plan to go for a walk every day (ideally before Laurie starts work so I can go alone and listen to my hypnobirthing books and pretend the world isn't crumbling around me) so I can get some exercise. I'm going to keep eating the low glycemic diet, which will be way more depressing when the kids are next to me eating popcorn or crisps. I'm going to plant some vegetables with the kids and hopefully remember to water them. I'm going to sort out the garden. I'm going to keep reading every day and try to distract myself from the news. I'm going to follow Ebony's and Ember's lead. If they want to do their workbooks or dig out a book of science experiments to try, then we'll do that. But if they want to build with Lego and play board games, then we'll do that. I'm not a teacher, and this is not a school. If the schools close, I'll see that time as extra (very limited and samey) summer holidays, not as me trying to replace the school.

4. Limit my phone
I am feeling anxious at the moment. I keep checking my phone to see if the guidelines for pregnant women have been updated. Am I really expected to stay home in isolation for the next 12 weeks? I keep checking Twitter because it's reassuring (in the short-term) to see other people feeling anxious as me. But none of it is helping. I'm not feeling calmer or finding out more information because of my endless scrolling. Instead, I'm overwhelming myself and emphasising the fact that nobody knows what's going to happen. I'm going to wean myself off my phone. If the kids are off school, I'll leave it out of sight, so I'm not tempted to check it obsessively for news. 

5. Sign up to Disney Plus
Yep, that's my grand plan. I can't spend months stuck watching the shit on Netflix and Amazon, so when they close the schools, I'm pushing the boat out and signing up to Disney Plus. Judge me all you want, but I will happily watch Moana every week rather than spend hours scrolling through the utter crap we usually watch. It's £50 for the year, and I'll be saving that just by being stuck at home forevermore, so you can't talk me out of it. Disney, take my money, I just need an hour of peace. 

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