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. 

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Pregnancy Update: 26 Weeks

At 26 weeks, the baby is the size of a bowling pin. That doesn't sound too bad, does it? Bowling pins are streamlined and quite narrow. Why must we end up with bowling balls to birth by the end of pregnancy?! 

This week has flown by in a haze of poorly kids and bad weather. Ember was off school on Friday with a temperature. She spent the whole day asleep on me, which was no good for my pelvis or back, and then woke up at 3pm completely fine. 

On Saturday, we met some friends for a woodland walk. I like woodland walks, but my hips do not. The ground was muddy and there was a lot of uneven paths involved in the (very short) walk (which took ages because of all the children). I spent about half an hour perched on a stone slab which the kids played in a river, and my hips did not thank me for. I was fine on the walk, but decided to go home another way to avoid the uneven ground. Then I had a long bath, because that is pretty much all I do now. 

I spent most of Sunday working. I have a birth ball in my office, so I'm supposed to sit on that, but it's actually too tall and it's hard to write when sitting on it. So I spent the day on my office chair, instead. By the time Laurie and the kids got home, I was walking weird and it felt as though my pelvis had completely given up. But it was fine after... (all together now) a bath. 

Ebony was off school yesterday so we went for a short walk together after dropping Ember at nursery. We spent the day watching movies and it was lovely. Today, both kids are back in school, so I've been doing a little work. I was supposed to go for a walk this morning but the sound of the rain this morning put me off. Also, Tuesday's I am back and forth to school, nursery and drama so I will easily do my 10,000 steps without having to go for a special walk. 

I've been listening to my hypnobirthing book on Audible. For some reason, they chose a man to narrate it which is really annoying. I do not want to take my hypnobirthing advice from a man, thank you very much. And he does not have a very soothing voice. 

I have successfully completed another week of my low glycemic diet, so I've been eating it for three weeks now. I feel good and have plenty of energy to get me through the day. Our local Sainsbury's has run out of sourdough though today, so I feel I am in for a terrible day. I couldn't give bread up completely, so I switched to sourdough which is low on the glycemic index (or so Google tells me). We even made pizza with a gram flour base. It was more like a pancake, Ebony was horrified, I probably won't make it again, but it was a nice change from curries and roasted veg. It was not a pizza though. 

If you want to read more about my pelvis (why wouldn't you?), read last week's update here.

Photo by Brad Preece on Unsplash

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Pregnancy Update: 25 Weeks

People keep telling me I've popped now. I'm pretty sure that's code for holy shit that must be a massive baby in there. Luckily, nobody has said 'you can't have long to go now' to me because I think that is the worst. People were saying that to me from early on with Ember (who was the size of an adult elephant at birth). 

I didn't attend my Oral Glucose Tolerance Test on Friday (the midwife cancelled it for me, I didn't waste £150 of NHS money by being a no-show, calm down). I still feel this was the right choice to make (you can read about it in last week's posts, Pregnancy Update: 24 Weeks). I've been eating a low glycemic diet, which means plenty of home-cooked whole foods. I've been eating really well so I'm feeling good about that. And I haven't felt bothered by it, it's only for the next four months or so, then I will be mainlining Jokerz like there's no tomorrow (Jokerz are the vegan equivalent to Snickers and they are excellent but pricey). 

I went to watch Ebony perform in a show on Friday night and this proved too much for my pelvis. Those tiny uncomfortable chairs were no good for me and, by the end of the night, I was in pain. The pain persisted for the rest of the weekend which was no fun whatsoever. I spent Sunday sorting out the house which probably worsened things, and the effort didn't pay off because it's now Tuesday and my house looks like a rubbish tip. 

I'm going to try and go for more walks this month. I think I only managed nine last months thanks to half-term and All The Storms. I find I am much too good at talking myself out of going. I didn't go on Sunday because I convinced myself to tidy up, instead. And I really didn't want to go yesterday but I did eventually manage to force myself out of the door (although Laurie saw me leaving the house and said I looked angry the whole way down the street). I had the nicest walk yesterday. The sun was shining and the paths were dry (ish) so I walked down the canal which I haven't done it ages. All the ducks are back, too, so spring must be on the way. This morning, however, it rained my whole walk so I got home drenched and miserable after stomping next to traffic the whole time. Canals need all-weather walkways, this would be so much nicer. 

More sunshine, please.

Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

Monday 2 March 2020

Books I Read in February

I liked keeping track of the books I read last month so this is now officially an ongoing thing. I still have plenty of books to get through, so my hope is that I will make it through February without buying any new books. This is tough though because I do love to buy books. This post contains affiliate links, you won't be charged any extra if you choose to use any of these links to purchase your books, but I will get a teeny tiny sum each time you do.

Here are my February reads listed in the order I read them:

If you're a fan of feminist dystopian literature, then this book is a must-read. It's set in the US, under a strict Christian government who want women to stay home and run their homes without complaint. There's a word quota and women and girls are only allowed a limited number of words per day. The book launches straight into this dystopian world and, at first, I found it difficult to enjoy. It made me feel stressed and anxious whenever I was reading it until I got into the story. Then I loved it. I stayed up very late last night because I wanted to know what happened and I didn't want to have to stop reading. 

The Milkman
by Anna Burns
This book took me quite a while to read. It's set in Ireland during the troubles and is the story of a young woman and how she fits within the community. The writing style is unusual and it took me a really long time to get into. I was probably way past the halfway mark before I found myself committing to the stories and the characters. This book won The Booker Prize in 2018, so it's obviously well-loved, but I found it a slog at first. By the end, I was hooked, but getting into it felt a little too much like hard work for me. 

The Salt Path
by Raynor Winn
I loved this book. I think everybody should read it. Laurie read it last year and loved it, so it's been sat on my reading pile for quite a while. When I eventually picked it up, he said he wasn't sure I would like it. He was wrong. It's such a good read. It's about a middle-aged couple who lose everything and then decide to walk the South West Coast Path which stretches for 630 miles. 

They have no home to go back to and very little money to survive on. It's not fiction, this is a memoir, and it's utterly inspiring. I can't even imagine having the strength of character to do something so physically challenging while trying to deal with all of those emotions and grief. I loved following Ray and Moth's adventures as they walked all those miles. I cried when the book ended because I was sad it was over (I am pregnant though, so not of rational mind). You should definitely read this book (and then let me know what you think). 

Madd Addam
by Margaret Atwood
Madd Addam is the final book in Atwood's Oryx & Crake Trilogy. I read the first two books last year. I had perhaps left it a little too long before starting the third because I found I'd forgotten who everyone was when I first started reading. I really loved this trilogy, it was everything you would hope for from Atwood. The future she created was horrifying and terrifying and worryingly possible. The trilogy is dark and twisted, as Atwood's best books always are. If you're a fan of Margaret Atwood, this trilogy is definitely worth getting lost in. 

Catching Babies
by Sheena Byrom 
Pregnancy is finally starting to dictate my reading choices. I've had this book for a while after finding it in a charity shop. I like Sheena Byrom a lot. She's a midwife who has focused her career on facilitating women-centred care. And she's from Clitheroe so she sounds like all my mum's family. This book is written as though Sheena Byrom is sat with you telling you the story of her life. 

Sheena started her midwifery training in the 1970s and it was fascinating to hear about how much birth has changed since then. Luckily, the days of shaves, enemas and routine episiotomies are behind us, though there is still work to be done. Sheena is now retired, but I follow her adventures on Instagram and she is always speaking at conferences and midwifery events around the world. I loved reading about her work with teenage mums in Blackburn, and about the first water birth she ever attended and hearing her tales about challenging the systems and procedures in her workplaces. 

This book was never going to win any awards for best writing (it's ghostwritten and really does feel like a chat over a cup of tea), but it's a fascinating read. I really loved learning about Sheena's work and how she managed to influence local midwifery practices. It's inspiring to hear that one small cog can influence the direction of the machine.

Gotta Get Theroux This
by Louis Theroux

Firstly, I did not read this book, I listened to it on Audible which feels like cheating (I don't know why). But listening to books like this on Audible is excellent because the author narrates them. Louis Theroux is much funnier than me and he can pronounce all of the words in his book (I probably couldn't). Also, he does a lot of accents and voices, so I feel like he is probably gifted at reading bedtime stories. In particular, I loved his impressions of Christine Hamilton and of his wife during arguments. 

The memoir follows Louis's life and career. I liked learning about Louis' life and listening to the chapters about his work reminded me of the programmes I had seen. It was interesting hearing how he fell into his line of work and how he struggled with imposter syndrome and often lacked confidence in himself. I used to watch the Weird Weekends documentaries back when I lived in Bristol in my early 20s, so listening to him discuss those shows made me feel nostalgic for those times. 

The End We Start From
by Megan Hunger
This book has been sitting on my 'to read' shelf for quite some time. My friend bought it me based solely on the cover (it was very pretty). I let Ebony choose which book I should read next and she selected this one (again, based solely on the cover). It's a short book, I read it in an evening, but I really enjoyed it.

The writing style is quite unusual, instead of chapters filled with details, the book consists of snippets of information. The story follows a new family as they flee from a large-scale flood and the resulting chaos in London. The narrator tells us more about her newborn baby than she does about the events happening around her, as though focusing on her new role is helping her to ignore the danger surrounding her. 

I really liked the unusual writing style and the way this story is told. It could have been a longer and more detailed book, but I loved that it wasn't. 

Barrel Fever
by David Sedaris
I like David Sedaris a lot, I haven't ever come across a book of his that I haven't enjoyed. His books are usually about his life, they are collections of funny stories dating all the way back to his childhood. His writing is concise and witty and never fails to make me laugh. Barrel Fever is slightly different from his other books, this is a collection of short stories and a section of essays about his life. The short stories are funny and brilliant, I think my favourite was the homophobia newsletter. I also loved the essays about his life, particularly the Santaland Diaries about his time working as a holiday elf. 

The Deepest Breath
by Meg Grehan
I had a hospital appointment one day and because I couldn't follow it with cakes, I followed it with books. Laurie and I went to Waterstones and bought a book each and chose one for Ebony and one for Ember. This was the book we chose for Ebony. It's about an 11-year-old girl figuring out that she likes girls, and it's beautiful. It's written in such a lovely style, it's really easy to read. I read it straight away and cried my eyes out. Same-sex relationships are underrepresented in children's books, tv and films. I am yet to see same-sex characters falling in love in a children's film or tv show (if you've found one, send me a recommendation). 

It's insanely depressing that it has taken until 2020 for a book like this to exist. But, it's perfect and beautifully written and I hope that every school library in the country has a copy. You should all buy this for your children (and your school libraries). 

Tin Man
by Sarah Winman
I found this book in a charity shop a while ago and gave it to Laurie as a gift (last of the big spenders). He finally read it and insisted that I read it, too, because he loved it so much. I read it in two sitting and can see why he liked it so much. It's emotional and heartbreaking and it made me cry more than once. I loved the characters and trying to figure out what they all meant to one another. I'm now keen to read some of Winman's other books. 

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