The Ugly Cry

I cried the other day. And it was a strange thing. I didn’t cry because I was sad, I didn’t cry because anyone has betrayed me, or left me when I so wanted them to stay. I cried because I read something that made the tears well up in my eyes and a lump grow in my throat like so many things do these days.

Every day those same feelings I push away and ignore because I haven’t got time. I haven’t got time to explain, I haven’t got time to linger over the suspicions that accompany that explanation – that the receptacle of my self-aware petty hurts might be internally rolling his eyes and wondering where his sassy girl went. I haven’t got time to feel. But that day, like happens every so often, I couldn’t hold back the tide and I cried and cried and cried.

The things I haven’t done, the things I want to do, the people I want to see, the people I am letting down, the time I don’t have, and the fact that the fucking battery of my fucking laptop had gone dead so then I had to find the fucking charger. These things all made me cry.

Pathetic, right? I mean, in this time when the world is being torn apart both politically and physically, no one in my life has died, no one I care deeply about is seriously ill, no one has abandoned me or blown our house to smithereens. Come on, this is ridiculous, the voice in my ear said caustically, with an eye-roll accompanied by the self-conscious hashtag #firstworldproblems .

But I’m tired. Not just from lack of sleep – although the sleep deprivation is reaching levels the EU Convention of Human Rights might have something to say about, it’s amazing what the human body gets used to – but from the grinding-grinding-hustling-committing-committing-over-committing.

Even the time I get to myself is accompanied by a long list of things that I could and should do:

have a shower

get my hair cut

get my nails done

“groom”

write a blog post

plan the novel I have sat in my head

write the novel I have sat in my head

find an outfit for a family wedding

drink some hot tea

go for a walk

do some yoga

do some gardening

read a newspaper

read a book

make some proper lunch

prepare dinner

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

shitter

be grateful because all of these option are open to me.

What I really want to do is sit in a quiet place and just be. But then that’s another thing to add to my list.

Feel free to roll your eyes, shake your head and think bad thoughts about the navel-gazing numpty who actually bothered to put fingerprint to keypad to write these words. I’m sure you can’t say anything that I haven’t heard already from the shouty, frowning, contemptuous voices in my head.

But now at least I feel better. Because sometimes all those things we feel we should be doing with our “free” time are part of the problem – their weight of expectation burdens us further.

On some days, all we actually need to do is own our emotions, KNOW that there is nothing really wrong, but that time spent doing The Ugly Cry has the power to cut through the bullshit, sweep aside the clutter and give us that wonderful clarity of what we really need to do NOW.

Try it, I dare you.

And please don’t shout at me for being a self-indulgent fool – I know already…

 

When will I learn?

Like every parent I know, there are things that I never seem to learn but, in the interests of sanity, really really need to.

More haste, less speed? True every time I’m running late and try to strap the BSCB in the buggy with one hand, while putting on my Nikes with the other. Always optimistic/ ambitious/ unrealistic/ stupid I compound my fumbling misery by ordering The Eldest to fasten her own zip. She’s three. She can’t do this. But telling her to do it makes me feel better, like I’m at least doing something to regain control of the tardy train we are perpetually riding on.

Keep calm and carry on? Well, I’d love to, and sure I’ll carry on, otherwise the small people would be left rummaging through the bins for their next fix of fish fingers, but you try keeping the panic out of your voice when The Eldest decides to bear hug your legs. She pins them together so tight that you might as well be a pogo-stick, at the exact same moment the BSCB launches himself eye-first towards the fork The Eldest has wedged danger-side up between the cushions of the settee. Screw calm, I’m all about the shrieking in that scenario.

Aside from these cliches however, there are also lessons less obvious that I am struggling to learn.

Despite all the evidence suggesting it is a terrible idea, over and again I have allowed my children to take “things” to bed with them. A condition I call EEEE (End-of-the-day-Exhaustion-Evoked-Exaggeration) warps my ability to form Actual Thoughts and I become certain that to take “it” away is a surefire route to the small people NEVER SLEEPING AGAIN. I convince myself that letting them hold onto their “treasure” is the lesser of two evils and as a result we once allowed our daughter to take a new pair of shoes to bed with her.

To be fair to The Eldest, these ones were pretty spectacular. You will know the ones, you will have seen them all over the high street. They are the ones that Before Parenting you always dismissed as hideous, while labelling the parents involved as sartorially challenged, because who else would buy their child shoes with flashing lights in the soles? Now I know better because most parents just want to get out of the shoe shop with shoes the smalls will actually wear, and with everyone, you know, still alive.

So, to recap, The Eldest had flashing shoes, I was tired and suffering from EEEE, she took them to bed. After an hour and a half of lighting up her bedroom like a crime scene/ really shit disco, the silence punctuated by the smacks of the soles being banged together like really-shit symbols, she finally fell asleep like this:

IMG_1265

It wasn’t worth it. I need to learn this.

I also wonder when will I learn to accept the reality about what The Eldest will eat at a picnic? Despite all of the types of food she does NOT like, it is remarkable just how perfectly picnic food suits her – she likes carrot, cucumber and bread sticks; she likes a cheese sandwich and a humous-filled pitta bread; she likes strawberries and grapes; and she really likes crisps.

Whenever we go to a picnic, shit-hot-adequate parent that I am, I prepare Proper Food. I wrap it carefully in tin foil and fill up the cool bag*. Generally speaking I don’t pack the crisps however, mainly because even a hint of a rustle of a crisp packet has her mewing like a starved kitten. No one needs that in their life so crisps are generally banned from the house.

So how is it possible that within minutes of arriving at any picnic, my carefully prepared offerings are rejected in favour of her plunging her entire arm into a family-sized bag of Walkers Sensations? She wanders around like a miniture James Herriot, elbow-deep in servicing the savoury goodness, and resists all of my efforts to tempt her to eat some Actual Food. I really need to learn not to bother.

The list of parenting lessons that I really need to learn goes on and on.

Don’t tell her about the Mermaid themed birthday party 5 weeks before it actually happens, unless responding to the question “Can I be a mermaid now” 5 times a day for the next 35 days is your idea of conversation.

Don’t tell The Eldest a bedtime story that features her in it unless you want to be wracking your brains every night for the next five years. That is 1825 plot lines – are you really sure you’re up for that commitment..?

Don’t laugh the first time the BSCB dives backwards out of your arms. You catch him with a giggle, a kiss and an exclamation of prideful-idiotic-wonder about what a risk-taker he is. He repays your misplaced smugness by proving you right every time you pick him up. So what if you’re also carrying a scalding hot cup of tea, I mean that just adds to the excitement, right..?

On and on and on, I could go. As I’m sure you could too – go on, make a girl feel better, what are the lessons you really need to learn?

*carrier bag – I don’t own a cool bag. I probably should, and was keen to look competent.

P.M.A

When I had my daughter in 2012 there was funk all out there that spoke to how I felt about motherhood. The loss of identity, the guilt about wanting something that was just about me, the mind-numbing boredom of spending time with a small person whose conversation skills were akin to a snail’s – all slime and slow movements – were not spoken of anywhere, and it was easy to think I was the only one finding it all a bit shit.

These days, however, the internet is positively saturated with “mummy-bloggers” keen to share minor, but mildly embarrassing, mishaps such as the time they dropped a (plastic) bike on the baby’s head, or took the three year old to the shop for a treat where she asked the man behind the counter for “brown balls” (Malteasers). And, as far as I am concerned, this “Honest Parenting” movement is no bad thing.

BUT, if you were at the start of your journey into parenthood – planning pregnancy, mid-pregnancy, or just about to drop the baby-bomb in the middle of your life, what would you be thinking about all of this “honesty”. Is it in danger of being a bit, well, negative?

It’s fair to say that while I try to write about owning and caring for small people with what I see as a healthy dash of humour, my posts do tend to err on the “when shit goes wrong” side of the parenting scale. So, with one eye on not terrifying new mums or mums-to-be who might be reading, this is a post about the positives of parenting. I admit this doesn’t really come naturally but, here goes:

  1. It does get easier. It is true that older children offer particular challenges that tiny babies do not, but when they are screaming for the blue cup not the orange one, at least you know exactly what the problem is. I can’t promise that producing the goods will stop the ear-splitting wails but if, like me, you find the completely unfathomable crying of a newborn push you towards The Edge, then you might also find the crazy-toddler-train easier to stay aboard. Grit your teeth, squeeze those pelvic floor muscles and just crack on – this early days phase is pretty short-lived.
  2. You will get more sleep. Eventually. (This positivity stuff is hard, you know? I can’t help myself it seems). Anecdotally speaking, by the start of the first year most babies are sleeping through the night for at least 10 hours. It might have taken some sleep-training to get there, and right now you may well feel like your brain has fallen out of your pelvic floor, but the sleep deprivation of the early days bears no compare to anything other than setting up residency in the torture chambers of Guantanamo Bay. If your baby isn’t sleeping through after a year of being Earth-side (raises hand) then you have my heartfelt sympathy. If you are happy with the situation then crack on, but if you’re not, then there are things you can try, most of which you will have tried already so I’m not going to irritate the muck out of you right now by suggesting any of them. This is all about the positivity, remember? (I’m struggling.)
  3. You will save money. Used to spending your hard-earned cash on fancy threads and luxury holidays? Or perhaps you once spent your weekends going out for dinner and maybe some drinks and dancing afterwards (wild, I know)? Well, none of this will be happening, so don’t worry about surviving on Statutory Maternity Pay – you’ll be positively rolling in cash. (Sort of… coffee, cake, nappies, clothes that last 6 seconds and then shoes, school uniforms, extra groceries, hair clips, shit magazines with shit toys on the front, toys, and lots and lots of socks, don’t grow on trees, you know? Gah – positivity! Must. Be. Positive.)
  4. You will never have to carry your own coat. There – I did it! A truly spectacular example of why having children is awesome. No matter the weather, you will always be prepared. You may well leave the house in a t-shirt and flip-flops but we all know that a rain storm is almost always around the corner, so underneath the buggy you can stash a raincoat and even some wellies if you are feeling particularly anxious. See! A perfect positive point. Sorry, what was that you said? They don’t use a buggy forever, you say? And when they stop, they expect you to carry their scooter, bag, coat and sundry “collections” that they have curated on the walk to nursery? Oh.
  5. Ok, ok. What about they will improve your diet? The time your children start to take an interest in food is around about the same time that you will stop being able to enjoy a cheeky chocolate bar in peace. Now I realise that this sounds like a bad thing, but think about it – the pain of listening to the whiny “What you got?” as you hide behind the fridge door, or the utter humiliation of having your breath sniffed by a three year old who then demands their fair share, is so extreme that you may well give up the good/ bad stuff forever. Or at least until they are asleep.
  6. Small people are the perfect social prop. Adulthood is a tricky time to be making new friends but while hanging in a damp Village Hall that smells suspiciously of sock might not sound like the most promising social engagement, at least the ice breaker is now covered. Just ask “How old is he/ she?” and you’re off! Follow it up with “How does he/ she sleep?” and you are practically BFFs.
  7. Confidence. Once close to 30 different people have had “access” to your once-most-private-areas, you toss off those old inhibitions and just ride on through. Ok so body confidence might not be the one once you’ve squeezed out a person or two but repeat “I grew a person, I am fucking rad” enough times (thanks @fourthtrimag) and even your wobbly tummy and saggy knees take on a whole new slant. Be proud of that body – it has done an amazing thing.
  8. They give you ALL of the feels. Happiness, sadness, empathy, resentment,anger, laughter, appreciation, pride and LOVE – the small people punch way above their weight in the impact they have on our ability to FEEL. I am sometimes surprised at just how small my smalls actually are, because in my life, mind and heart they take up so much space that I am certain they must dwarf me. Viewed through a prism of parenthood, nothing feels the same once you have created another person.
  9. They inspire you to be better. Better at your job, better at being a daughter or a friend, better at being a person. You want your child to grow up in a world full of hope and light and you realise that you have to be that change. You will fail at times, we all do. But the intention is there, and that intention makes you better.

So there you are – a whole nine ways that being a parent is pukka. Granted there was the odd lapse into old habits of “Ah, but…” but perhaps one person’s negativity is just another person’s honesty.

Being a parent is effing hard – it is relentless, sometimes mind-blowingly monotonous and I don’t think anyone is done any favours by pretending otherwise. But it is also spectacularly brilliant.

No ifs, no buts, your uterus don’t mean f**k

And another one bites the dust. The stand-down of Andrea Leadsom from the Tory party leadership race yesterday means that even the vaguely substantial, slimly qualified prospects for the leadership of the party, and that small matter of steering the country from The Edge of Oblivion, have been filtered down to precisely one. If it wasn’t already bad enough that the next leader of our country was going to be selected by 150,000 members of the Conservative Party, now they also have no choice. Bizarre.

Ok, for a moment, put aside the embarrassingly shambolic Brexit fall-out on both sides of the aisle. And let’s skim over the fact that the well-jowled faces that led us into this mess are precisely nowhere. Because the question that is concerning me right now is how exactly have we ended up in a situation where one of the oldest democracies in the world will appoint a leader who no one has chosen.

Well, to put it bluntly, a chuffin’ ridiculous question was asked.

Over the weekend Leadsom was the subject of banner headlines that shouted from the rooftops how she considered her status as a mother a credible qualification for running an entire country: “Being a mother gives me the edge over May”  . I mean, I’m all for celebrating the considerable negotiation skills that it takes to convince the average three-year-old that pants and a pair of fairy wings are not appropriate attire for leaving the house, but really? She followed this fucking insane interesting claim with the assertion that having children gave her a “very real stake” in the future of the country, arguably suggesting that, unbeknownst to us all, the childless May has dedicated herself to politics since 1997 in order to rise through the ranks and qualify for front row seats while the country burns down around her.

Leadsom allegedly continued to say that she thinks May must be “really sad” not to have children and well, this has truly hakunaa’d-my-tatas.  I’m willing to put aside my concern that shouting about motherhood in this context simply makes me think “Shit, she’s got nothing”, because the bigger issue now is that a question that should have been about a person’s ability to lead a country, has been reduced to a woman’s choice (or otherwise) whether or not to have children.

Well, I call bollocks on that.

It is true that some reasoned, intelligent comments have been made about how having a child changes you, and your relationship with the world around you.  This in itself is fair enough as pre-children I certainly had more patience, bladder control and hair, and I was without doubt guilty of underplaying the importance of CBeebies as a preventative measure against alcohol abuse in the 25-35 age group.  But surely the leap from here to the idea that a woman’s (because let’s call a uterus a uterus, this is about both candidates being women) familiarity with the mantras of modern parenting actually affects their ability to scrabble away at salvaging some vestige of dignity for “Great” Britain is ridiculous? Somehow, I just can’t imagine Merkel or Juncker will give two fingers of fudge about an offer of chocolate buttons in return for doing what they are told, nor will the assertion that “It’s just a phase” win us any playtime friends. Although to be fair, they may have a little more tolerance for the too-tired-to-stop-my-child-scratching-in-the-gutter-parent’s favourite slogan, “Let them be little”.

And then there is the offensive matter of Leadsom’s alleged assertion that May must be “sad” thanks to her shrivelled, under-utilised lady-bits. I mean, perhaps she is heartbroken that she never got to experience the strangeness that is wanting to eat your offspring, so overwhelmed you are by your love for them. But surely just as possible is the fact that May is dancing in the aisles with joy at the lifetime of decent sleep and guilt-free focus on her career that being childFREE has afforded her. Who the chuff knows? And honestly, who the FUCK cares?

For the record, Leadsom herself has since said in an interview with The Telegraph that she “absolutely said…that motherhood should not play a part in the campaign…I was pressed to say how my children had formed my views… Having children has no bearing on the ability to be Prime Minister.” Well, in that case, exactly why did you say that being a mother would make you a better Prime Minster, when in fact what you meant was that being a mother would not make you a better Prime Minister?

But actually, this is still not the game.

Regardless of what your opinion is on Leadsom’s comments – whether you think she is naive, inexperienced or rather charmingly, “thick as pig shit”as one commentator put it – is irrelevant. The question that really needs to be posed is, “Why was that question even asked?”

In essence, would a man have been asked the same?

Well, in short, I doubt it. But even this question niggles, implying as it does a grumpy divisive rhetoric of “Well, I bet men don’t have to put up with this shit.” This, while true, pits men against women with its implicit suggestion that men are NOT asked this question because their role as fathers is less highly valued in a child’s life than the role of the mother. But that’s a whole other 666 (and counting) words of opinion, so I’m not going to get into that debate right now. Instead, the question that has been burning a hole in my keyboard, the one that I really want to ask is, “When is the media going to grow up?”

In this time when our country has been divided by In vs Out while some over-privileged men took their time to shake it all about; while another slightly important country across the pond is being rent by racial division, what we, The People, need is for the media to stop going in for the easy win, the most shocking headline.

Instead, wouldn’t it be refreshing if they just did their chuffin’ job and educated and INFORMED people?

Stop asking stupid, pointless questions in an attempt to trip an inexperienced, naive, or just plain wrong MP into making stupid, pointless comments so you can write a stupid and pointless story. Just stop it. The question is irrelevant. The answer, although exposing a worrying level of naivety from someone positioning herself as the next leader of our country, is irrelevant.

As an electorate we have been complaining for years that our politics has been dragged into the gutter but let’s be honest, so has the media. It is frustrating that the people in charge of the flow of information from one place to another seem to have forgotten, or simply do not care, that there are intelligent people out there who are relying on them.

I get that you have “a job to do”, and I get that this shit sells, but PLEASE we need intelligence and thought right now. After all if all we wanted was substandard research, sensationalist writing and spurious opinion, we’d all just read blogs.

 

 

 

Fear, farce and faeces – a birth of a second baby

“Second labours are different” they said. “It will be faster this time”. And ultimately they were right, but the birth of our first child had left me so broken that at the time I just nodded, smiled and thought, “We’ll see.”

My first labour was not the most extreme birth you will ever hear about: after 23 hours of contractions 3 minutes apart or less, and nearly 3 hours of pushing, our beautiful back-to-back baby was born with the help of a spinal block, an episiotomy, a pair of forceps, and some hefty effort fromthe obstetrician. The physical pain was bearable, I never felt afraid of that, but the loss of control and consequent psychological marks that remained took far longer to heal.

For many months afterwards I suffered angrily in silence plagued by pain, flashbacks and intense feelings of guilt and inadequacy.  I had been unable to push our baby out of my fanny for myself and although the physical scars healed with time, falling pregnant with our second child proved my assumptions that I was “over” it, to be completely unfounded.

A few weeks before D-Day I attended a gathering of heavily pregnant women organised by the team of midwives with whom I had been lucky enough to be assigned. The literal and metaphorical weight in the room was tangible, emotions were running high and as one new mum told her story I struggled to contain the surges that were stirred in me by her story. It was so perfect and “amazing”, so opposite to the story that haunted me, that once again I found myself grieving the birth that I hadn’t had. In anger and sadness I burst into tears, pressed my face into Ray’s shoulder, and stayed exactly there as she finished her story.

Fortunately I think she assumed that my emotions were provoked by the beauty of her story, but in fact my tears came from a horrible place of resentment and anger. Even though I had told myself for nearly two years that I did nothing wrong the first time round, in fact I did a lot right and luck played a huge part, I was still tortured by thoughts that I could have tried harder, or perhaps I was just weak. Ashamedly, all I could think was how lucky this new mum had been, and how it was stories like her’s that served to reinforce the feelings of inadequacy that I harboured. I just wanted her to stop talking.

Despite my embarrassment at my outburst, attending the birth talk finally gave me permission to talk about the feelings I had  which had only gone quiet, not away.  Sobbing my way through someone else’s birth story had forced me to face up to the fact that I was not over it after all.

Importantly, once Ray heard first-hand a positive experience of home birth at the birthing talk, he altered his previous stance that hospital was the only way to go. This validation of my secret desire not to go to hospital, along with the guidance of my wonderful midwife Vanessa, gave me the confidence to say that a home birth was what I wanted.

I have never really given much thought as to why I found this such a difficult decision to make – being a mum to two young children doesn’t leave much time for reflection – but writing this has made me wonder whether I just didn’t trust my body after the horror of my first experience. Maybe deep down I was worried that I would “fail” again and so a hospital birth was the best way to keep me and my baby safe.

To be honest, even once we were in possession of a birthing pool, I continued to say that I was hoping for a “stay-at-home-until-it -is-too-late birth”. To desire anything too much was to let myself in for the same level of devastating disappointment I’d experienced the first time, but regardless of my finer feelings around the issue, the countdown began.

Christmas Day came and everyone was primed to have Christmas dinner at our house without our attendance. We needn’t have worried. Boxing Day (my due date), New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and on and on came and went. At 41w+5 I was taking 15 minutes to get out of bed, I’d had 5 cervical sweeps, and I’d had enough.

At 6pm one  evening I went into hospital for my last chance at an out-patient induction. In hospital I sat on a hard bed, completed the obligatory monitoring and finally had the pessary inserted. Yet another pair of people had seen my undercarriage which at this point in pregnancy had turned a peculiar purple colour, but to be honest I couldn’t have given a rat’s ass, I just wanted this baby OUT.  What I hadn’t banked on however, was that after two and a half hours of sitting my massive purple backside on a hospital-grade bed, my right arse-cheek would go into a horrific cramp.

Like a back-to-front Quasimodo I hobbled to the car unable to stand up straight. My greatest concern was that I would go into labour and not be able to walk, so upon arriving home, I demanded that Ray ran a hot bath in the hope it would ease the pain.

I got stuck.

In a manner reminiscent of a drugged Orca at Sea World being lifted from one woefully inadequate tank to another, Ray had to hoist me out.  I then crawled crying, with a towel draped over my expansive naked purple poonani-ed self, to my bedroom.

Despite the farcical turn events had taken, on some deep, barely acknowledged level I knew that I was experiencing a cramping sensation in areas other than my backside. Somehow however, the fact that I was about to have a baby managed to fade into insignificance in comparison to the colossal pain in my arse and so, feeling very sorry for myself, I allowed Ray to spoon feed me some pasta and went to sleep just before midnight.

Forty-five minutes later a pop and rush of water woke me. I hadn’t experienced this the first time around so I had just enough time to be surprised before the first proper contraction hit.

HHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHUUUUUUHHHHHH

I couldn’t have given any less of a shit about my arse hurting. That pain was dead to me.

Ray immediately called Vanessa who upon hearing my primal screams in the background instructed him to take me straight to the hospital. In organisation overdrive in between contractions I ordered Ray around  – which clothes I needed to wear, which shoes, get me a maternity pad so my waters wouldn’t leak onto the car seats. All hail the mother-plucking-mum-boss-mum-bossing-that-labour-shizz. I kid you not, I was a labour don. I was owning that shit.Hoo-YAH!

A few hours later, after our son was born, I found out that Ray had suffered some sort of mental cramp of his own and had padded my pants with 2 breast pads. My midwife never mentioned this.

With our daughter safely looked after with the arrival of my parents, it really was time to MOVE. I screamed on the pavement on the way to the car; I screamed in the car; I screamed at Ray when with another moment of mental spasm he pulled into the ambulance entrance of A&E; and on all fours I screamed at the locked door of the correct hospital wing that housed the labour ward. My son WAS being born on the pavement. And then it happened.

I pooed.

Not that I was embarrassed by this. No, I was elated.

“It’s ok,” I gasped, “It was a poo.” Some paramedics who had been standing next to their ambulance had now wandered over to see what all the screaming was about and were delighted to receive this nugget (of information).

“It was a poo,” I told the nice man who unlocked the doors and bought me a wheelchair to kneel on; and the first thing I told Vanessa when she arrived at the labour ward seconds after us was “I’ve done a poo in my pants”. Minutes later I was in a labour room.

To be honest my memory of this room is hazy to say the least. I spent most of the time on my knees, on the floor, with my forehead pressed firmly on the bed, only turning it to the side to suck like a demented vampire on the gas and air with the onset of each contraction.

In spite of this, in spite of the speed and the poo and the abandonment of any resemblance of my (purposely vague) birth plan, I felt calm and in control. Each contraction was doing something, I could feel it and it was so different to the birth of my daughter that I was excited – really f**king painfully excited.

I have no idea how much time had passed when Vanessa, in the calmest voice imaginable, said to me, “Nicola, what are you scared of? What are you waiting for? If you want to push, push.” And it was all I needed to hear. I didn’t trust my body. I had felt let down by my body for so long but now it was doing what it was meant to. It was, and still is, the single most empowering moment of my entire life and it moves me to tears when I remember so clearly the wonder I experienced as my body took over.

Just as circumstance had conspired against me with the birth of my daughter, this time circumstance played all in my favour, and in this magnificent act of birthing my baby, I was a bystander.

At one point Vanessa asked me if I’d like to touch my baby’s head. I did. It was wonderful.

Who knows how many contractions, how many minutes later, Vanessa held the doppler to hear my baby’s heart-rate and the all-important duff-duff was slow. Way too slow. In the same voice she had used before she simply said, “With this next contraction we want to get this baby out.” I had heard the too-slow heart-beat, I knew he had to be born now and when that wave came I pushed with more might than I knew I possessed.

I think even Vanessa may have been surprised at the speed with which our little boy was unceremoniously ejected as she called to me to, “Slow down now” in an effort to preserve my perineum, but honestly I simultaneously thought “How?!” and “F**k that!”.

And so, one and a half hours after my labour had woken me, we welcomed our little man into this world.

Second labours really can be faster, it seems.

The irony does not escape me that the only way I came to trust, and feel proud of, my body again is to have achieved exactly that which I had tried to tell myself was not important.

For so long I had told myself that it doesn’t matter how you birth your baby – what matters is that you love and care and nurture and comfort your child (and curse and moan and swear under your breath too, of course). Of course I have never judged harshly mums who have experienced a difficult labour – if anything my heart hurts that they might judge themselves as harshly as I have judged myself, but the truth remains that to forgive myself for “failing” the first time, I needed this birth.

The pride I feel has not diminished over the last 18 months – I needed this birth to heal.

#nofilter

By the time the physical effects of The Eldest’s birth had healed, 19 different professionals had “examined” me. This ranged from the midwife witnessing the birthing-in-the-wild “flowering” of my arsehole during labour, to the relative tameness of a quick flash of the fanjita to the Community Midwife who checked my stitches.

I had my cervix swept, stretched and measured, my vaginal wall sliced then stitched back together, and the operating strength of my sphincter muscles assessed. Despite this apparent invasion of my most private parts however, the end result of all of this fiddling is that my undercarriage is surprisingly intact. Unfortunately, while my sphincter may function at around 96% (I feel 100% would be too bold a claim now that child number two has shot out of my sexy bits) my filter is now non-existent.

If you cringed when reading the above paragraphs then I genuinely am sorry. It is just that since having children, my previously squeamish, almost prudish refusal to even acknowledge the most base of our bodily functions, has been trumped by an almost compulsive need to share ev-er-y-thing.

And I’m not sure that my defence of “I’m just being honest” quite cuts it. Perhaps there are times when people don’t need to hear “the truth”, times when it is over-rated?

Just last week I chose a friend’s baby shower to share some of my most “insightful” observations on the first poo you have after giving birth. It was a first baby and the mother-to-be expressed that she was sure it would be ok, and that nothing would “fall out”. Naturally I was the blabbermouth whose contribution to that conversation started with “But it can!”, swiftly backtracked into “But I’m sure it won’t”, and then headed down a dark dark path into a thicket from which there was no return.

My efforts to recover from saying that which should never be said to any woman about to squeeze a person out of her poonani, led me to tell a story that starts innocently enough with concern.

Worried that I seemed somewhat wan in the days following the BSCB’s birth, the “husband” suggested that I take a shot of Floridax. For the uninitiated this is liquid iron and tasted exactly as you imagine. I was hesitant at first as, unlike the first time around, I had not been sent home with any Fybrogel (a laxative drink – oh the delights of the post-assisted-birth medicinal haul). I was aware that iron without laxative equals poos with a tendency towards ballbearings but the “husband” was insistent and I thought that one shot couldn’t do any harm.

At some point the next day I headed to the toilet and, well, ball bearings have nothing.

Snooker ball.

After around 20 minutes of sweating and not shitting myself, the “husband” entered the bathroom to find out what I was doing. Well,  to be as blunt as a pair of safety-scissors, I explained to him that I was stuck on the toilet with a poo wedged in my bum. Yes. Really. And don’t for a moment forget that I am telling this story at a baby shower. At Afternoon Tea. To a woman about to give birth.

The “husband” unironically responded “Oh shit” and then offered to have a look. He OFFERED, okay? Reluctantly, I agreed. Not even when the whole of a hospital has heard you screaming that it’s ok, it wasn’t the baby’s head you felt, and that you have in fact pooed in your pants, not even then, do you really want your previously-known-as-partner-in-crime-now-more-partner-in-slime inspecting your arsehole to see how close you are to squeezing out a large one. But needs must.

“Oh fuck! THAT is NEVER coming out!”

Great.

At this point I completely lost my shit (not that one unfortunately) and screamed at him that this was not helpful. What could he do to help? I just need help! Do SOMETHING to help!

So he “chipped” the poo out of my bum.

With what, I don’t actually know, and we have never spoken of this incident since. There were baby wipes involved and with some “chipping” (his fingernail?) and some pressing, the eight ball finally slid out.

I warned you I have #nofilter .

Back to the baby shower, people duly laughed, although no one volunteered a story of their own.

I wish I could say that this was an isolated event, but it’s not. The total obliteration of my inhibitions around bodily functions has fed what was already a healthy toilet/ disgusting sense of humour.

Pre-children, I once bonded with a friend-of-a-friend over a story that she told of a boy she knew who had a peculiar habit. When at house parties, he would go and find the worn knickers of the girl(s) who lived there. He would rub the gusset of the knickers in the manner of a Victorian washer-woman and then snap the fabric taut to “puff” the poonani powder into his face… well, while the faces of the rest of the audience recoiled in horror, the story-teller and I were laughing so hard we could barely breathe (the vodka might have helped and yes, we are still in touch). It’s safe to say therefore, that I’ve always had a somewhat uncouth sense of humour and childbearing has not planed out any of it’s rough edges.

I’m the person who explains her reluctance to trampoline as a fear that things might “fall out”. I openly attribute my failure to return to a Boxercise class to dripping, rather than skipping, my way through the warm-up. In my efforts to demonstrate solidarity with new mums who are still sore and uncomfortable, I willingly share my own experience that “it was like sitting on a golf ball” in front of their husbands. I have no idea how many people have discussed my disclosures in awkward whispers or raucous laughter once I have left, or if any of them “no longer look at me in the same way”. And to be honest I’m not sure I care.

There are many things in my life that I am excrutiatingly embarrassed about but the physical state of my body after the mother-plucking miracle that is growing and pushing out a person is not one of them.

I think there is importance in honesty, and while I do not want to scare anyone, at least if they are aware that the birth might not be “the worst bit”, then perhaps they will be better prepared for it than I was.

And that, I think, can be no bad thing.

What do you think? Am I right? Am I wrong (in a variety of possible ways)? Or am I just irresponsible? What is your biggest #nofilter moment?