Tag Archives: Pregnancy

How to get a toddler to sleep better

two words:

or maybe, two words, one of which is hyphenated:

or is it, three words, two of which are hyphenated? ANYWAY:

CAR-PRINTED DUVET.

This photo makes my face ache. Love that boy. (Hate that blind; anyone want to make me a cool one?)

This photo makes my face ache. Love that boy. (Hate that blind; anyone want to make me a cool one?)

Honestly, I can’t tell you how worried I was about putting him in a child’s bed from a cot. It was much earlier than I would ever have considered it if we hadn’t needed the room. So I also felt guilty about moving him on to a stage he possibly wasn’t ready for. He’s a climber, this boy. He doesn’t sit still unless he absolutely has to, and he only stayed in bed because the bars kept him there.

However, it turns out that when you sleep under a duvet, you sleep in a warm, embracing cocoon that keeps you unconscious loooong after your grateful mother thought was possible (7.30am, he wakes up these days. WHAT?).

It also turns out that when said duvet is car-printed, you always get excited about going to bed, and will spend the time before sleep pointing out motorbikes and trucks to your wooden mouse.

Without getting all child-psychology about it, I think the fact that he now chooses to stay in bed, rather than having sleep forced upon him, makes him sleep sounder. Now all I need to know is whether you can buy car-printed sandwiches, because that would solve another pressing problem.

How to get a pregnant woman to sleep better

No idea, guys. Seriously.

(Has anyone tried a proper pregnancy bump pillow? They’re expensive, but I’m just tossing between normal pillows right now, and am far too familiar with 3am. This only leads to more daytime naps than I can really afford, and a Bon Jovi fringe once I wake up.)

Things to do at thirty weeks: an alternative list for the anti-nester

I’ve been a bit list-tastic lately, no? Forgive me: I’m tired enough that long sentences hurt my frontal lobe.

This morning I got my Congratulations, Thirty-Weeker email from Babycentre.co.uk. It included a list of feel-good things to do in the last sprint towards Labour Day. Very nice, I thought. But it was all a bit too much about nesting, and – I know this will come as a shock – I’m not really the nesting type. So I wrote my own, and will be taking this advice extremely seriously.

Congratulations, Thirty-Weeker! Why not try some of the following?

1. Realise you have only ten weeks of food excuses left. Retrieve the Ben & Jerry’s from the freezer, and finish it.

2. Spend twenty minutes trying to paint your toenails. It’s difficult, and may require some greasing, but it’s probably your last chance. In the same spirit, book a haircut and buy some heavy-duty concealer and waterproof mascara.

3. Take innumerable self-portraits in the mirror. Soon you won’t fit in the frame. Remember to edit out the chocolate around your mouth (done).

4. Think of the next two months as the final marathon slog for your skin. Take baths. Exfoliate. Use much, much cream. Wangle as many massages as you can.

5. Take some time to remember what life was like with a newborn. Reread old blog posts if you have them. Resolve to schedule two naps a day from now on. Start stockpiling chocolate gateau.

6. Tell everyone who asks (PLEASE STOP ASKING) that actually, they’re right: you are having twins after all. Thought you’d make it a surprise.

7. Abandon heels, finally. The elephankles are coming. Treat ’em right.

8. Organise some sort of pulley system for lifting and carrying your toddler. I have this sort of thing in mind (I’m the elephant, Hen the war-painted arrow-shooter).

9. Revisit the baby name shortlist. Tell Daddy, again, that you’re not naming the baby after him. Reluctantly strike off Sweyn Forkbeard. Don’t talk about specific names with anyone but the two of you: at this stage, people aren’t shy about telling you they hate it.

10. Sort baby supplies list into Must Have Now, Can Probably Buy Later and I’ll Never Use That Anyway. Buy, at the very least, a ten-pack of tiny vests. Keep them where you can see them. They’ll remind you why you’re doing this, and that it’s all going to be fine.

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No, it really is.

Five maternity styles I’ve learned to love…and five I love to hate

A confession for you, dear reader: I hate dressing when pregnant. I wish I were one of those wonderful ’embrace the bump’ women, who style themselves well and look fabulous all the way through. You know. The women who glow, with the hair and the heels. When I’m pregnant, I’m hot and chafey and keep banging into stuff with the goldfish bowl I’ve got smuggled under my shirt. What I want to wear is pyjamas. Yes, the ones with the little dogs on. Only those, please.

Here’s the thing, though: it’s precisely because I find it difficult to style myself when pregnant that I absolutely have to. When I make the effort, I feel better. And so I present five maternity style truths I have (reluctantly) recognised as gospel this time around…and five I wish I’d never tried.

the loves

1. maxi skirts

Maxi skirts
Unpregnant, the skirt I like best is a swishy A-line. It makes me feel a bit spesh. But A-lines work when you have a waist: without one, a tall column silhouette is more flattering. Enter the maxi skirt. The bonus is that you don’t have to make the effort to shave your legs (THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE WAY). This one from Dorothy Perkins is my new best friend.

2. tailored jackets

tailored jackets
For me, until the last few weeks my pregnancy weight sinks like lumpy custard to my bottom half. But regardless of how your body changes, looking as streamlined as possible improves any outfit. The tailored jacket is a recent discovery: you can’t button it (obviously) but it does wonders for your arms and skims nicely down your back. If it’s too hot for jackets, a fitted cardigan will do the same job. I have an old corduroy jacket in teal I’ve been wearing the heck out of, and have been ogling lovelies like this from ASOS.

3. belts and ties, ties and belts

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For my first pregnancy I wore a lot of t-shirt tops in larger sizes. It was summer, and flowing styles were in. That’s all very well at the beginning, but once you’ve got a proper bump you end up looking like a capital D, side-on. I have embraced the empire line with fervour this time (the one that nips in under the bust). If a top or dress doesn’t have one, I make one with a little belt or ribbon tie. It just gives a bit of definition where you need some. The elasticated bodice on this tunic top from H&M is making me happy. And I’ve worn this dress from Next to death.

4. belly bands

belly bands (2)
More on why you need these in the fiery-burning-hatred section. Belly bands are elasticated tubes you wear over the top of your waistband, to bridge the gap between top and trousers. I’ve never found one that was tight enough to keep the trousers up on their own, but ah, the security of knowing you can wear a pre-pregnancy top without flashing an outie at a startled bus driver. Worth its weight in gold. You can get them at any maternity shop, or very easily online.

5. leggings

leggings
I’ve been putting this one off. I HATE leggings. Hate it when people wear them with short tops and they’re sheer enough to see underwear. Hate how I feel like I’ve forgotten to put on trousers. I finally made the leap this weekend, on two conditions: they had to be thicker than winter stockings, otherwise you might’s well just wear stockings; and the top had to reach at least halfway down my leg. Oh, my dears, I’m afraid I will never go back. I’m so carried away with all the ease of movement that I keep executing lunges in inappropriate places (ahem, doctor’s office). I’m wearing these, but you know leggings. They’re everywhere.

the hates

1. ‘maternity trousers are much more comfortable’.
You know what? They’re not. I would happily consign maternity trousers to the inner circle of hell where they belong. Here’s the thing: trousers fall down, when you’re pregnant. It’s inevitable. Replacing the waistband with a scary-looking giant elastic gusset that stretches over your bump means that your only option for keeping them up is a pair of suspenders (I have seriously considered this). When I wear maternity trousers I spend every second minute clawing up the crotch from around my knees. This is especially undignified in the supermarket. BURN THEM.

I much prefer wearing my old jeans for as long as humanly possible (unbuttoned and covered with a belly band), and then looking for slim-legged trousers in the next size up (which may also need to be worn unbuttoned). Anything to escape the gusset. Anything.

2. ‘everyone needs a crisp white button-up’.
I believed this so wholeheartedly, I bought one. But shirts don’t usually cling, and they aren’t soft. They don’t fall naturally around any of your new curves. So you end up looking like a box-shaped waiter with straining buttons. Lots of websites also recommend just wearing one of your husband’s, but see the Capital D problem, above.

3. ‘show off the bits that are still skinny! Mini skirt/sleeveless dress/short shorts, anyone?’
Ladies in the Next catalogue: I am SO pleased that your pregnancy involved growing a bump and nothing else. Myself, well, we’ve covered the lumpy custard thing. I also have dimply elbows making an earlier-than-scheduled appearance. Can we just stick to knee-length stuff, for now? And maybe ditch the cap sleeves?

4. ‘cottons and linens: so cool in the summer!’
No. Anything that requires steam-ironing in the morning will look like a crinkled bin bag five minutes later. You spend a lot of time readjusting clothes, when pregnant. Stiff cotton or linen clothes (whether shirts, trousers or dresses; I’ve tried them all) will make your bump look like a canvas for interesting creases.

5. ‘you can wear your old tops the whole way through, if you layer a camisole underneath’.
Be careful. I’m not a huge fan of the skintight t-shirt look, especially when it starts riding up over the bump (with or without a camisole underneath). And I ruined a lot of my favourite clothes the last time, because I wore them longer than they could take. Bursting out of my favourite grey silk skirt was a really special way to celebrate Timothy’s graduation.

Do you hate any of my loves or love any of my hates? Found a style you can’t live without? Most importantly, do you own any maternity trousers that don’t make you want to tear off your legs and get around on a skateboard instead? Tell me! And go forth and conquer, baby-carriers. Me and my goldfish bowl are going for lunch.

To the Chinese cabbage in my uterus, with love

Dear baby, welcome to the Big Third.

(trimester, that is.)

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Big in all senses, of course. I am now so huge I struggle to fit my beachball face into a photograph (see above), and you are shooting out like a firework. This week you are apparently the size of a Chinese cabbage. I don’t know what a Chinese cabbage is, but the only alternative I found was an aubergine, and I’ve never had one of those in my fridge either. Do you think that if I ate a whole aubergine in one sitting, I’d feel like I were having twins? Don’t answer that.

But isn’t it about time I addressed something to you directly? Because you are the quietest member of our household by far, and the jabs under the ribs you give me are quite often eclipsed by your brother trying to swallow his nail clippers. Now we’re in the home stretch of this pregnancy I feel like you deserve a little more than chocolate milk on tap (though I hope you like chocolate milk, given the circumstances).

You can respond to light and sound. You have fingernails and fat layers and unknowable dreams in the half-darkness. And suddenly I feel like I ought to be making more preparations. This morning it all got a bit much.

Sometimes I wonder what on earth we’re doing, making another person. Motherhood has laid me bare, made me more aware of my limitations than I ever was before. There is endless revolving worry while Henry sleeps at night, and happiness so acute it hurts too. I’m like that kid from Mean Girls who wants to bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles, because she just has a lot of feelings. I have a lot of feelings, these days. And deep down – alright, not very deep down – I’m utterly terrified that I won’t have room for any more.

But I would like you to know something. Yesterday Henry and I were at the park. It was blazing hot, so we [he] ran wild on the grass before heading to the playground. It was the sort of day where I haven’t bothered to iron his shirt and he finds my every move hilarious.

I thought that a scene like that, with you there as well, would be something really fine. That’s true even on the days where I cry and cry because I haven’t bought you a crib yet and Timothy is in Amsterdam and how can I possibly continue getting bigger for another twelve weeks, I mean seriously.  I think you will be someone I’ll be grateful to know.

Please come, when you’re ready (not yet). We’ll save you a seat.

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Today Hen had his first haircut. It was long past time to cut off that ludicrous wispy mullet at the back. His bed hair looked like a back-combed tumbleweed, but I still dragged my feet when it came to cutting it off. I wasn’t ready at all to see a boy’s face on those skinny shoulders. He looks smart, serious and old, so old, and it hurts in a funny way I can’t put my finger on.

Today Tim cycled 37 miles for the heck of it. He does that, sometimes. I enquired afterwards how much he weighed (surely he must leave behind ten gallons of sweat) and he shrugged and said ‘I don’t exercise to lose weight, now’. I thought, hmm, there’s something worth thinking about. Also, there are other reasons?

I ache.  Oh, I ache all over like I never did before. After a couple of miles all the muscles and ligaments in my back and legs start to screech like a rusty car. I think it’s pretty wimpy, considering I’m not even in my third trimester, it didn’t happen the first time, and I’m not yet half as heavy as I’m going to be. I know this because I check a pregnancy weight gain calendar more often than I should. I am impatient with the changes in my body – glaring at elongated thighs and stretched skin in the mirror – and spend too much time wishing them over and done with.

It is Easter weekend. Time to consider what else – apart from a baby’s mullet – I might be hanging on to when it’s best to let go. Time to think about renewal, and trying again, and failing again, but failing better. Time to remember that there is grace everywhere, including in myself; and that there is always room to treat people better, and that also includes myself.  

Have a wonderful long weekend! Be kind to yourself. Wishing you chocolate and much happiness.

About twenty weeks

I blinked, and then we were halfway through.

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This pregnancy is slipping by like it’s a dream. Since coming out of that hideous first trimester (during which time didn’t move at all) I’ve resumed normal life, done everything I used to, swapped smaller clothes for larger ones automatically. This little person doesn’t kick nearly as much or as hard as Henry did – as soon as that boy started moving, he didn’t stop, though I suppose that’s Henry for you – and so I feel this other pair of feet once a day with a kind of tender surprise. I find them oddly endearing, these unobtrusive efforts to be noticed. I wonder whether they’ll translate to baby personality, and how a firecracker and a quiet observer might rub along together, if so.

We saw the baby on-screen today, lounging stubbornly head-down, feet crossed under my ribs and one arm slung casually over its head. In completely the wrong position for a good photo, incidentally, though we saw a heck of a good kidney. I was taken aback by how big it is already. Hello, no wonder I can’t eat properly. My stomach must be the size of a peach. And also: this is actually happening, isn’t it? Car seats and white baby socks and that little kitten cry in the early hours. And oh, the newborn smell on the top of the head. I cried when Henry started to smell of shampoo and sweet potato.

I’m excited. Yes, I’m definitely excited.

I mean, look at that kidney.

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Do I get a cape, at least?

I don’t really believe in baby brain.

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But I do believe in mid-morning snack breaks.

What I think is, pregnant women have a lot going on. With the growing and the sleeplessness and really momentous trapped wind (um, according to a Friend of Mine). It’s nothing chemical: it’s just easy to forget about things when you can’t eat without swelling up like the backside of a bull elephant.

That was until I blanked the date of Tim’s birthday.

And then the number of days in a year (the number. Of DAYS. In a YEAR. I googled it: oh, the shame).

I started to get seriously worried when I wrote ‘their’ instead of ‘there’ in an email, and it didn’t even look wrong for two-and-a-half minutes.

And then I said ‘reigns’ when I meant ‘reins’.

Dudes, it sucks when your superpower fails. You can ask Peter Parker. It didn’t work out so well for him.

BY THE POWER OF HOMOPHONES!

The good, the bad and the bread market

Here is the absolute truth of it. Mothering little people is the most profoundly wearying, profoundly wonderful thing I’ve ever done. It is feeling like I could burst when my boy yells ‘HEY MAMA’ from another room, and feeling like I’ve been vomited on from a large height with the power of scream. Both, always both. Piles of good things and less-good things that succeed each other quicker than I can blink. And blogs tend to accentuate the positive – oh look, another sunshine day of restaurant meals and beaming children – which is lovely and important. But it’s just as important to say that sometimes, there’s scream.

In solidarity with your up-and-down days, here’s one of mine.

***

It’s Friday, and we’ve planned to meet one of our favourite ever people in London on her day off. It’s complicated slightly by the fact that I’ve woken up with a magnificent pregnancy cold – it’s just like any other cold, except you can’t take anything that will make you feel better – and there are sub-zero temperatures and freezing winds outside. But I’ve planned our journey carefully. I know what I’m doing. It’ll be fine.

Then, a solitary minute after I leap out of the bath to iron my shirt, I look over and Henry has evacuated what looks like half a sewer into the water. I am astonished by the magnitude of it. Where was it hiding?! No time to be astonished, though: I haul him out with one hand, hose him off with the shower, wrap him up in a towel, bleach his bath toys, let the water drain out and then wipe up the rest with toilet paper. There’s a lot. I am feeling delicate. To conclude the proceedings, I throw up my breakfast into the sink.

Finally we’re outside, wrapped in coats and blankets and, with any luck, not too smelly. We’ve got to walk at least as far as a cash machine and then buy something, because the buses only take exact change. By the time we reach it, my face is numb, but I make a snap decision to walk all the way to the train station anyway. This decision is borne entirely of guilt about the number of chips I’ve eaten recently. It’s ok, though. I know what I’m doing. It’ll be fine.

By the time we reach the train station – two miles away, and much further than I thought – Henry is so cold, even underneath all his blankets, that he can’t stop crying. I feel like the stupidest person on earth for keeping him out all this time. We buy a ticket, work our way down to the right platform (the lift is broken) and squeeze on to a busy train. The pushchair gets stuck and won’t collapse, and I can’t fiddle with it while struggling with a screeching boy. In the end I leave it and go sit down. But poor Henry is now tantruming – full-on, top-of-lungs, arching-back tantruming, and it takes at least fifteen minutes and an episode of Alphablocks to talk him down. By this point just about everyone is staring over their newspapers and grinding their teeth. When I take out my phone, I realise I’ve forgotten to charge it, and it’s about to turn off. Which will be a great deal of help in London all day, won’t it?

I haven’t even started on the Tube yet. This is not ok. And so then I am sat with my frozen toddler and achy sinuses and stupid huge belly on a crammed London train, crying my little eyes out. And people deliberately don’t stare, but don’t-stare worse, if you know what I mean. In between hiccups I think: if they compiled an Oscar reel of my life this would definitely make the cut for my finest hour. Well-played, Jeffcoat. Well-played.

***

Well. It really was ok. I used the last of my battery to text Timothy, sat at his desk a few miles away, and bless that wonderful boy, he dropped everything and came to meet us off the train. He bought me chocolate, then carried the pushchair across two Tube lines to where we were supposed to be. And then we found Emily, and had the loveliest day. Henry was so good. We ate chip sandwiches as big as our heads, and wandered around Borough Market to gape at cheese wheels and artisan bread. I bought a Hockney print at the Tate Modern for our bathroom. It was all just marvellous.

And here are some photographs. Our piles of good things that made for a joyous day. In the end. Despite the first bit that wasn’t. A lot of our days seem to work out like that.

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tate modern

PS: I never think I’m much interested in modern art, and then I always hugely enjoy the Tate Modern. Even if it’s not your thing, the gift shop has the largest and most beautiful collection of children’s picture books I know of, so it’s worth going for that and the view across the Millennium Bridge alone.

On blooming

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I’ve been watching these flowers for a week, and I think I prefer them like this. Big and heavy-headed, tender hearts open to the sky. They look so much redder and more alive than the prim little closed-up things they were. Lived-in. Like they’ve bloomed as far as they can go, and revelled in it.

I will try to remember this the next time I find a new stretch-mark.

Well, that escalated quickly.

What the holy hugeness is this?

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I’ve had a lot of pie this evening, but steady on.

Also, why does it look like it’s got two heads?!

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