It may get hairy…

There are some aspects of my life that I would rather talk about, but, for personal reasons, have decided it’s better not to. It’s because of this that I rally against the stifling of ‘taboo’ talk and why I try to spread awareness of issues that people feel they have to keep quiet about.

Since giving birth to my son, I have become increasingly aware of the sheer volume of women who have suffered miscarriages and how difficult they find it to talk about. Perhaps I notice it more, or perhaps I’ve started to surround myself with mums or women trying to conceive – whatever the reason, I’ve been determined to spread awareness and make these mums feel more able to talk about their experiences and acknowledge their losses.

Never did I imagine that I would join these women in their grief and confusion. I have recently had two miscarriages and have been faced with medical professionals that not only won’t investigate what happened, but who don’t believe me. Below is my story – I apologise about the length, any details that may seem graphic and about the terrible writing.

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I’ve recently had a ‘Facebook purge.’ This is not something I’m particularly good at, for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t like upsetting people, despite having a temper and occasionally going on an offensive rampage; I really don’t like the idea that what I say or do, could hurt someone. Secondly, I like to keep in touch with people from my past and I love Facebook for that specific reason.

Most would think my purge was due to the Parisian crisis and the ‘anti-refugee’ nonsense that is spreading through most of our newsfeeds. In truth, I was hurt a few days prior by someone, whom I had considered a friend. She posted a rather nasty and hurtful article about parents ‘arrogantly’ posting photos of their children.*

Now, I’m no fool. I don’t expect everyone to enjoy the constant stream of baby photos, to like every one of them or even to give to give them a second glance. What I do expect, however, is for my ‘friends’ to show a modicum of respect and intelligence.

Who the fuck are you to insist that I stop posting photos of my son, on my Facebook profile, because you don’t want children? Well, whoop for you. My posts in no way suggest that you should jump on the breeding bandwagon. In fact, by the sounds of it, you probably shouldn’t. I post stuff about my child, on my newsfeed, for my enjoyment, not yours.

Facebook has these fancy features, called ‘hiding,’ ‘unfollowing,’ ‘blocking’ and ‘unfriending.’ It may be hard for you to understand, but:

I am not responsible for your newsfeed and I do not expect you to be responsible for mine.

I have often been annoyed by people’s incessant posts of their children (21 photos showing a child holding a dead bird) or photos of their pets’ poop and so I have simply unfollowed them. Facebook has made it really simple for me to decide what appears on my newsfeed and so I choose to use these features – why is it so hard for you to do the same?

If you don’t like something that I post then hide it, unfollow me, block me or unfriend me. Frankly, I don’t care either way. It’s been a long time since those actions offended me. I understand that you’re not keen on your newsfeed being filled with photos of children, but understand that, whilst I have other aspects of life that interest me and I don’t define my personality by motherhood, nothing is more important to me than my son. My partner and my child are my everything and I love posting about them.

I post for other reasons – I have family and friends in South Africa that love to see photos of my son’s development and I love to have these memories pop up on my feed a year later – but mostly, I post because I want to.

*For my hypocrite and irony seekers out there (and there are many), I am aware that this too is a nasty and hurtful article.

Motherhood is a never-ending lesson and, yet, I think most of what I’ve learnt since giving birth is not child-related at all, but a crude insight into what people can really be like.

Prior to falling pregnant, people seemed to mind their manners a lot more, but the post-birth woman lives in a league of her own. Since having John, I have received messages from people I barely have a passing acquaintance with, telling me the jumperoo he sits in is bad for him, what I’m feeding him is poisoning him, how he shouldn’t sleep with this type of blanket, he needs a bumper around his cot, his cot should NEVER have a bumper (are you trying to kill your child?!), I need to co-sleep, I shouldn’t co-sleep, breastfeed, bottle feed… I could go on.

The UK has gone completely overboard with their rules and regulations (understandably trying to save themselves from the inevitable law suits), but I can’t understand why mothers insist on terrifying other mothers with these over-the-top rules and clearly inferring that we have inferior parenting skills.

What on earth did we do before Google? I’m sure my parents fed me whatever they were having for dinner, and yet, Google today, and you’ll find a reason to ban all solids from your child’s diet until they’re 21. We have recently started introducing them to my 5 month old and, this week, we introduced him to strawberries and kiwi. The former resulted in a tantrum that lasted over an hour and the second resulted in him licking is own bib clean. Trying out new foods with your child is fun and exciting.

Not two minutes after posting his likes and dislikes, I receive a message telling me that strawberries can be deadly to an infant. In a panic, I Google and find out all the various ways my child will now suffer because of my ignorance. It was only when I went onto a mum’s group and asked the level-headed women there, did I find that most of them fed their children strawberries with no reaction whatsoever. Like anything, there is a chance of an allergic reaction, but the morbid, over-the-top warning that I received was pathetic and cruel.

I find it hard to understand why women automatically assume that child-birth gives them the right to inundate unwilling mothers with lectures, threats and warnings. It is rude and unnecessary.

Please do not assume that propelling a child from my uterus makes me an eager participant in your attempt at a power-trip.

Following on from my previous post, I have decided to do a list of advice for mums on how to deal with pregnant women.

I’ve only been a mum for 9.5 weeks, so I claim no expertise, but I do understand where a lot of you come from. I’m not berating you, but just hoping that this post will help you to help others through their first pregnancies.  I’ll try make this as succinct as possible.

1. Listen.

Pregnancy to a first-time mum, is an incredible experience. Some may find it terrible, some may find it amazing, but most of us find it a roller-coaster of new experiences. A friend’s response to my pregnancy announcement was ‘congratulations on becoming a living science experiment,’ which is absolutely true. Every pregnancy is different and most women want to share that experience. It’s the biggest thing that’s happening in our lives at that time (if we’re lucky) and we may find it difficult to talk about anything else.

Expectant mums know that you know better, but what’s happening inside of us is huge. Let us experience that and tell you. I found it increasingly difficult to finish a sentence after announcing I was pregnant. I was constantly interrupted with unwanted advice or someone else’s pregnancy story. I remember one morning announcing that I felt like death. I wasn’t able to continue because I was interrupted with a lecture that started off with “Hah!  You think you feel bad now, wait until you’re 9 months pregnant.” I’m not exaggerating when I say that only a half hour later was I able to interrupt the tirade with ‘I feel like death…because I have a cold.’ 

It had nothing to do with pregnancy. Try to realise that you may know more about pregnancy and childbirth, but that sometimes, we just need to talk and you may not know what we’re about to say.

2. Wait until…

These words were incessant throughout my pregnancy. As I mentioned in the first post, you have experienced your first pregnancy, let us have ours. The tiny flutters you first feel when you start to feel your baby moving are possibly the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you. The last thing we want to hear is “wait until the kicks start, then you won’t be smiling.”

Some women experience intense round ligament pain. The appropriate response to this is not “wait until you give birth, then you’ll know what pain is like.”

Likewise for new mothers: what we feel when our little human grabs our fingers for the first time is indescribable. We don’t want to hear “Awww, wait until s/he gives you their first smile, then your heart will melt!” It’s melting now. Let us experience every second of this amazing journey, in the moment – not waiting for the next milestone to amaze us.

3. Horror stories (expectant mums please skip ahead)

Come on, guys. You know the drill – don’t bombard pregnant women with horrific child birth stories. You all know this, and yet, that’s all I seemed to hear when pregnant. We know it’ll be bad, we know we are completely unprepared, but your stories certainly won’t help us sleep at night.

I heard some doozies during pregnancy: blood on the ceiling, near-death experiences, stillbirths (Seriously? Mentioning miscarriages or stillborn babies around a pregnant women is completely unacceptable. I shouldn’t have to tell you this) and botched c-sections. I heard one positive birth story in the whole ten months.

I now understand where you’re coming from, having my own horror story. Part of healing after a trauma is talking it out of your system and birth can be extremely traumatic. Mine was and I talk about it all the time…to people who have been there before, or people who were there. I found myself retelling the story to a friend who hasn’t any children yet and I really regret this. She did ask and she was well aware it was a bad birth, but it’s still not something she should know. There are plenty of easy births that happen. On the day I gave birth, there were two women that I know well who gave birth to two healthy little boys, in under three hours. It’s not uncommon.

So, quit using pregnant women as your psychologists. Seek counselling and heal yourself properly – don’t spread the fear.

4. It’s still early

Three of the harshest words you could say to a pregnant woman. Does the fact that I’m only 7 weeks pregnant make my pregnancy null and void?

You are basically telling me that there is a high probability of me losing my child.

Don’t.

5. Sympathy goes a long way

As aforementioned, every pregnancy is different. Your round ligament pain could have been a light ache, whereas another women’s could land them in hospital. Don’t assume that the woman complaining about pain at 7 weeks pregnant is experiencing the same pain you experienced. Try to sympathise with her and realise that she isn’t being a hypochondriac; she, quite possibly, is in agony. I felt like I was being split in two when John started to move, as the adhesions caused by my endometriosis were literally tearing.

Morning sickness is not amusing. I remember rushing to the bathroom every hour and when  I returned with mascara running down my face and blood-red eyes, people would laugh. And yet, when someone came down with a bug and vomited once, there was endless parade of people ‘checking up’ on them. I felt isolated and as if my pain and discomfort were somehow less important than that of a non-pregnant woman.

Pregnancy doesn’t make it easier to deal with sickness, pain or discomfort.

Perhaps this wasn’t as succinct as I’d hoped. There are many other snippets of advice given to pregnant women (sleep while you can? What a joke.), but, in short, just try for a little compassion and put yourself in her shoes.

It is simultaneously the worst and most wonderful time in a woman’s life and it’s okay for her to feel that way.

It’s been some time since I’ve posted a blog, whether interesting or not and I’ve just had a good giggle going through the search terms that have made you land upon Up a Mammoth’s Nostril.

Things have changed significantly since the last time we touched base. Firstly, I moved to the UK for (god forbid) a man and it proved to be a wonderful decision. Secondly, I found the balls to enter a profession I actually love: working with children. I’m now an EYE, looking after children under three years old. My life was about as happy as it could be and then, wham, I fell pregnant.

Having waited my entire life for this moment (and having almost planned it – read: having planned it to happen in 6 months and well overestimating my fertility issues), I was and still am, ecstatic.

There shouldn’t be an ‘however’ after that statement, but sadly there is. I’ve since had quite a large culture shock. In South Africa, pregnant women are treated like royalty. Everyone is happy for them, everyone is excited about it on your behalf and almost everyone asks questions constantly. Here, however, you’re lucky if you get the obligatory ‘congratulations’ from most. If you are lucky enough to be congratulated, it’s almost always followed by a long lecture on how you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.

Whilst I appreciate the gesture behind the lectures – I realise it’s not malicious and merely an attempt to help and educate – I’m finding it increasingly difficult to deal with. So, I thought I’d post this blog to help future mums (and remind myself in the future) to deliver advice in a slightly easier way.

Fifty years ago, delivering advice that leant upon the idea that pregnant women think they know what they’re about to experience was acceptable. We didn’t have the resources we have now and women, perhaps, had actual expectations from motherhood. However, we now find ourselves in the 21st century and this is no longer relevant.

We have the internet, forums, reality TV and lots and lots of books and the only common denominator they all have is publicising the fact that, no matter what we think, we’ll never have an idea of what pregnancy, child birth and motherhood are really like.

Show me an expectant first-time mum who claims she knows what motherhood is like and I’ll show you someone whose synapses are failing to fire. We are doused in quotes, such as ‘wait until you see what’s it’s really like,’ ‘you have no idea what to expect’ and my personal favourite, ‘you don’t know, you’re not a mum’ well before we even start trying to conceive.

I’m pretty sure that none of us assume we have the foggiest idea how our lives are about to change. I know that pregnancy holds unknown challenges, experiences and horrors. I’m refusing to even think about childbirth because of the endless barrage of women who tell the expectant population that we’ll never be ready, so why prepare so early on. I’ll leave the horror until later, thank you.

And, I most definitely do not assume I have that magical connection with my child yet. I am over the moon with my pregnancy and love my unborn child as much as possible at present, but I have no doubt that this will seem insignificant after it’s born.

While advice almost always comes from a happy and good place, please remember that as an expectant mum, we have already been inundated with lectures and information. We appreciate the advice and the sentiment, but what would be absolutely wonderful would be if you could stop for a minute and listen. I have yet to finish a sentence about my pregnancy without someone interrupting to tell me that ‘well, it’s just going to get worse’ (even when I’m not complaining), ‘ohhh…you just wait and see’ or ‘that’s nothing, wait until….’

If I’m not feeling well, it’s not necessarily to do my pregnancy. It could be that I’m actually not well.  It’s not a polite time to tell me how bad pregnancy gets or act like I’m being a hypochondriac. Alternatively, it could be due to my morning sickness, which so many people manage to avoid, but sadly I did not. I hate to tell you, but no amount of knowledge or advice is going to make my hugging the toilet bowl (whilst my 2 year old charge asks me if  ‘Sawah need a wee wee’) any better. If you haven’t spent weeks of vomiting 5 times a day, then twice a week and now blissfully down to once a week, then please don’t tell me it will get worse. That’s not something I need to hear.

You had your first pregnancy. You learnt through your own experiences. Please let me have mine. It’s hard to enjoy your pregnancy when you’re unable to talk of it without having opinions (often literally) shouted at you. If your advice is relevant and helpful (ginger biscuit suggesters….thank you!) then I will happily listen, but if your intention is just to remind me that I have no idea what I’m doing or what I’m getting into – please don’t bother. I’m already well aware of it.

 

To sum it up: it’s a ball-ache.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that I can publish my own work and submit the many innocent readers out there to my waffling, but God, it takes a long time.

Firstly, it’s easier to write for Kindle than to edit your existing work for Kindle Publishing. Take everything that is pretty and stands out in your book…and delete it. In the perfect world, you should have almost no formatting, except Heading 1s, a ToC (Table of Contents) and indents in all your paragraphs… oh, and page breaks before each chapter.

Then, if you’ve mistakenly pasted all your pictures into your document, instead of inserting them (we all do it at some point), go back and redo everything.

Then, once you’ve jumped through those hoops (they seem small, but they’re not when you have 50+ pages of graphics), you have to navigate through Kindle’s incomprehensible ‘Help’ section or Forums (they’re slightly easier).

Forewarning: Pre-empt yourself for the most boring 2o minutes of your life before watching the ‘how to publish’ video. They take you through everything at the pace of a snail. It’s painful, especially when they’re talking about the formatting in Word. It takes a good 5 seconds to click on the ‘Format’ tab.

Once you manage to figure out how to save it in the right format, bung all your pics and web-page into a zipped folder and finally, actually get it published, you have to figure out how the bloody hell this thing works.

It’s not made for Saffas, nor anyone outside of the US. I made my second book $2.70 and on Amazon.com, it came up at $3.70 after tax and delivery, so I decided to lower the price to $2.00…now it’s bloody $4.00 on Amazon.com! I gave up at that point, which is why it’s slightly overpriced (although, it’s currently on a free promotion). The promotions section, surprisingly isn’t on the pricing page, but rather in the section where you can delete your book accidentally. It all, in general, is mind-boggling.

However, that said, many other blogs helped me find my way and once all the hoops have successfully been jumped through, there’ll be a silly, self-satisfying triumph grin on your face.

So, without further adieu, because you’ve already been smothered with posts and tweets about it and definitely need one more reminder, here are my two books.

then it was gone
facebook and twitter for over 60

I know I’m posting a lot lately, but I came across a pretty cool (and probably entirely incorrect) site/tool, that you should try out, just for fun.

Simply put in your text and find out who you write like.

I’m concerned that my political blog says that I write like H.P. Lovecraft, but my blog on weight implies I write like Cory Doctorow. Overall, I write like a science fiction author. Even though I read no science-fiction, perhaps I should try my hand at writing some.

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software.Analyze your writing!


I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

 

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