Post-Partum Impressions

2013-11-29 11.34.01A friend suggested that I give some retrospective thoughts about my life since having our daughter as a way to tie up the last two pieces for this blog. I, for one, am looking forward to getting back to writing about food, but there is something to be said about giving birth and experiencing these first five months of my daughter’s life, so kindly indulge me for one last time. 

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I ended up avoiding induction. I went into labour the day I was scheduled to be induced, as if the little one made the decision to help me out and spare me an unnatural birth experience. Labour and Child Birth are completely indescribable. The associated fear that accompanies the excitement of the last weeks of pregnancy is not unfounded, but retrospectively, I feel it isn’t as awful as everyone says, and that isn’t just hormones talking. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never screamed so much in my life. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. So much so that I swore to the doctors, midwives, and anyone else who’d listen that I am never doing “that” again (a knowing smile was normally all I got in response). And whilst each woman’s experience is unique, my overarching impression is that it is all entirely doable, and there is no need to fear it.

Some key points to remember about childbirth: mainly, your body knows what it’s doing, as does the baby, so it really is just best to go with it and avoid being precious or scared about anything. You won’t give a shit about being naked in public, legs akimbo, arse in the air. You won’t care what you say, the sounds you make, the way you move your body. All dignity goes out the window and you couldn’t care less. Your mind is intact for the most part, but your body calls the shots. Often problems arise when the mind tries to take over so best leave them to separate, as they ultimately do. For me, the way childbirth is portrayed in the media is that the woman becomes totally irrational was false. I never swore at anyone. I never shouted at my Other Half blaming him for my condition, but I did scream. A lot. Screams that were almost otherworldly and in retrospect, quite bovine.

How do I feel about it all now? Of course, the pain has lessened in my mind (only a bit…) and said with knowing bias, our little girl is the most amazing creature I have ever set eyes on. But truthfully, motherhood is intense, emotionally and physically. Bouts with anaemia and extreme physical fatigue, unparalleled lack of sleep and an exhausting, insatiable hunger due to breastfeeding meant it has been a long haul to get to the point where I even have the energy to write, let alone think properly. I struggled a bit for the first few weeks to really bond with this little stranger, and to be honest, that feeling is more common than we’re lead to believe. The warm fuzzies you’re expected to feel straight away are not always there in the beginning. But it does come, and now she is the greatest thing I have ever done.

I won’t bore you with discussions of epic poos or whether breastfeeding really is best, but know this, the old adage is true: nothing will ever prepare you for having a child. Once the hormonally-charged fog clears and you’re left with the reality that this little person relies on you wholly, the terror of the unknown magnifies itself tenfold every day. But, choosing to step back, and see that in the scheme of life these moments are fleeting, does make it easier. She will only be this small for a handful of months, and the lack of sleep, being covered in sick and drool (my god, the drool…) will be a flicker in her story. It is intense, it is scary, it is emotionally draining, it is exhausting, but it is worth it.

With that, I desperately need a nap, so goodbye until January. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.

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An Update…

Roughly a month ago I was certain that by this point I would not be pregnant anymore. But, as many things in life tend to be, the final days of this pregnancy have been entirely unpredictable and I am now ten days overdue, with an induction date set for two days’ time. It will be almost five weeks since I last wrote anything and went on maternity leave, assuming that I’d have a nice chubby, pink baby by now.

I thought I had done everything right. I was sure I’d been clever enough in my actions and would smugly be able to avoid induction. I truly believed I could outsmart Nature; a laughable presumption I now know. I’ve drank raspberry leaf tea since 34 weeks, I’ve done tonnes of yoga, I’ve eaten (fairly) well, despite my insane love of pork pies and chocolate milk. I’ve swam, I’ve gone for epic walks, I’ve eaten spicy food, I’ve done acupuncture, I’ve had three rather invasive manipulation procedures (I’ll leave the details out. This is still technically a food blog after all…) and yet, this baby has it’s own agenda for it’s arrival. Up until yesterday, I have been frustrated with these final days; I felt like the prescience I had to prepare myself physically meant that I didn’t deserve to be this late. I’ve been genuinely irritated with this little person-to-be for their seeming lack of compliance. I’ve have resented it because I’m enormous and uncomfortable, and my body hurts; I can’t even see my ankle bones anymore due to the swelling of my feet. The subsequent guilt I then felt for unfairly blaming someone with no knowledge of their own existence for actions outside of their control is obvious. I cringe at my response. I miss my body and it being mine alone, but that isn’t this baby’s fault. After all, it didn’t ask to be born.

I almost wonder if because I’ve put pressure on myself to have this baby sooner, it is Nature’s rather backhanded way of reminding me that things like this cannot be rushed. These events have their own timescales which stay unknown. Hundreds of years of scientific advancement and knowledge of the human body, and they still cannot work out what causes a woman to go into labour. It is completely unpredictable. At first, this irked me, but now…

Unknowns, whilst scary, are also exciting.

I am hopeful and resigned.

And now we have an end date anyway: two days to go. Now we know, the pressure is off. Of course, I’m concerned that the birth will now be this long and drawn out process from which we’ll both end up traumatised, but in the end, all of it is a total unknown and it does nothing beneficial to worry. The next two days are an opportunity to get into the correct headspace for Wednesday. I’m going to visit the LS Lowry exhibition at Tate Britain. I’m going to make a huge batch of chocolate chip cookies. I’m going to meditate and do some yoga, and take advantage of the calm before this inevitable yet still unpredictable storm.

Some Final Thoughts on Pregnancy

Scan_20 weeks_croppedI am writing this from bed. Propped up on pillows is the most comfortable of positions for me these days as I’m larger and more awkward than I’ve felt in my entire life. I wrote many months ago about the first stages of pregnancy and how from a food perspective my life was thrown into disarray. I spent subsequent months with a voracious appetite and few cravings, which was a pity as I thought my love of food would incite some hilarious combinations. I did develop a heartfelt adoration of mini-Melton Mowbray pork pies and chocolate milk, but sadly craved little else of anything more bizarre. Now I am almost 3 weeks til my due date and as space has become as issue internally, I’m still eating normally, although now it is smaller portions with greater regularity.

As pregnancies go, I know it has been a good one. Despite a bit of morning sickness in weeks 10-14, I have had little by way of the dreaded “minor pregnancy ailments”, which in fact are not all that minor. I have been lucky that my side effects have been short-lived and comparatively mild, but labelling the burning felt in your ribcage as it expands, the continuous dull ache in your back and hips, and random painful bouts of acid reflux and heartburn as “minor ailments” seems to trivialise the serious discomfort I was mostly spared but from which many others suffer acutely. Conflate this with putting on more weight than you would expect to do in your lifetime, insomnia, bizarre cravings, losing not only your waistline but your view of your feet and it is any wonder women continue to do this pregnancy malarkey. I’m equally suspicious of the women who come across all kumbaya and Earth Mother-y about pregnancy. They are deluding themselves; pregnancy sucks a bit…and I’m one of the ones who has had it pretty good.

I have been looking forward to not being pregnant since I was about 6 months gone. Not that it hasn’t been fun having a bump and showing it off, but the reality is that it is been one-sided affair so far; all investment on my part and little return so far (although am sure that will change). Of course, I will admit I want to eat Stilton and get squiffy again, but in truth I really just want my body back. I have essentially been living with another person stuck to me for almost a year and it isn’t unreasonable to say that I think we are both looking forward to having our individual space (I can only assume the baby feels the same way. It’s quite easy to interpret sharp kicks to my ribs as a way of expressing his or her desire for a bit more room as well).

And yet, despite everything, it would be an understatement to say we’re just excited to meet this person now. In fact we are bordering on twitchy with impatience. We have spent almost 9 months speculating as to who this little person, boy or girl, is going to be, how we are going to be as parents, and what it all means to our life together. The nursery is ready, the flat is ready, we are ready, and I waddle slowly towards D-Day. This will be my last post for a few months whilst we get to grips with the upheaval of parenting. Wish us luck and goodbye for now…

Gastronomic Purgatory

tumblr_inline_mg20doobeu1qjcl1q2013 has begun and I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to this year. Finally, I have a respite from living in a weird foodie limbo called early pregnancy. For now, at 14 weeks, the tricky times are almost past and I’m at liberty to talk about it. But fear not, I won’t bombard you with saccharine tales of how thrilling it is to have motherhood on the horizon. The truth is, the first three months suck and the daunting task of becoming a parent is met with extreme emotions that range from trepidation to tentative excitement, but mostly total and utter terror. If you’re one of the rare lucky ones not to really experience the weirdness that occurs when hormones take over your body during this time, you may have no idea what I’m talking about, and you probably deserve a slap for being so smug.

The reality for me was that I spent almost 3 months in a state of complete gastronomic disarray. My appetite ranged from non-existent to insatiable, and spent a fair portion of time afraid of food, a quality in others that normally irritates the hell out of me. As someone who spends perhaps far too much time thinking about the next meal, I now went to panic mode when it came to eating and lived completely at the whim of nausea and odd unseasonal cravings.

First, I became obsessed with tomatoes in mid-November. So much so that I had to shove aside my guilt at purchasing imported out-of-season tomatoes and avocados so I could sate an irrational desire for bruschetta and caprese salads. I drank hot chocolate obsessively. For a week all I could eat were buttered rolls with ham. Then, I became preoccupied with textures of food. During a particular week I must have eaten Mexican food about 3 or 4 times: crunchy tacos or soft burritos, with warm ground beef, cool crème fraîche and guacamole. I discovered that if you opt for vegetarian options at Chipotle or Tortilla, you got the guacamole for free – an added bonus, especially because carnitas gave me the fear.

I developed an irrational hatred of the soy sauce, MSG and cabbage odour of Asian noodle bars; the smell of which still makes me feel nauseous. I spent a lunchtime wandering aimlessly around Soho desperate to find a sausage roll, but only after eating two slices of pizza from Maletti. Most other lunchtimes I would worry about what I could eat that wouldn’t make me feel sick. I couldn’t bear the taste or smell of chicken, even the organic, free-range plump beauty I bought from the farmers’ market.

This was not okay. I had lost control of one of the things central to my being. A melodramatic response perhaps, but when I have chosen to spend my life dedicated to the pleasures of the table, I was utterly lost. Not only was I was eating things I would normally avoid like the plague, I was unable to enjoy the food I could actually eat. An undercurrent of dread and nausea infiltrated every meal, and I began to wonder if, at the crucial time I had made a career change into food, my hormones had now thwarted me permanently.

But then, in a matter of days, it vanished. Like…that. I am myself again, but with an ever-expanding belly and a hunger that is impatient and punishing. How strange it is to be tossed between these two gastronomic realities indiscriminately! The good news is, of course, that I can eat again. As I type, my collection of cooking and cookery reference books are sending me come hither looks. So bring on 2013, and let me eat my way through the next six months. And of course, pretend that Tesco sausage rolls no longer call to me.