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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Too tidy to be a good mum...

The baby has started to roll over, to laugh, to coo. She wants me to watch her do all these things. And I want to, honestly. It's lovely and magical and incredible... but I really need to quickly unload the dishwasher and get the washing out of the tumble-drier, and change the sheets. Then I will sit and watch and coo back. Promise.

Four wants me to make paper aeroplanes with her. She wants pens and glitter and glue and "Mumma, help me cut, stick, colour, fold, fly, fly, - let's go fly a kite, up to the highest heights...." but I am more like the dad from Mary Poppins. I don't want to fly the kite. I've been flying round all day.

19 months wants to watch Gruffalo with me. She brings me the remote control, her Charlie Cloth, love and adoration in her eyes. She wants cuddles and foot rubs and mummytime. I want cuddles too, but I need to make the packed lunches and take the recycling down and phone the doctor and prepare dinner.

Later, over coffee with a friend-whose-kids-are-older. I vent a bit. She tells me, smug in her been-there-done-that voice "Cherish these days, they soon pass". Really? How come seconds at home with the brood feel like hours?
"I'd give anything to have mine as babies again." She trills. I feel like giving her mine for a few days (after slapping her) to see if she still spouts this stuff after. She won't. She can't.

Baby days, terrible twos... Surely they only get good when you look back on them years later? When you have forgotten that you did not get more than three hours sleep at a time, or that your hair got washed once a month, or that you never got a chance to go to the loo alone, that all your clothes were covered in snotty weetabix.

With two non-talking babies, my life is like one long game of Catchphrase and they are Mr. Chips. I am watching, with my finger on the buzzer - but lord knows what they are trying to tell me.

Life with three under-fives is hard to cherish right now. I do more sinking than swimming. I am the snappy mum at playgroup, the late-library-book-keeper. I am late for everything. If you look at me too closely, you will see I sport odd shoes. Don't look too closely, or ask how I am doing too nicely. Have tears, will cry.

It's so hard, when you confide in someone that you are finding it all a bit hard/boring/arduous, only for them to respond with comments like the above. It's not what you need to hear. It only makes you feel worse.

I want to think "To hell with the housework" and finger-paint, bake, sing, and stargaze my way through these baby days. I do, but I can't stop caring about the state of my house. I love my house too. I can't stop wanting to see the bottom of my washing basket. It's just who I am. It's who I will always be. One hand holding a baby and the other holding a hoover. I am always armed.

My mother-in-law tells me the housework is not going anywhere. My husband does not care about the balls of dust fluff, that gather and roll like tumbleweed across our floors. Neither do my children, in fact one of them eats it as part of her five-a-day. It's just me who cares really.

But to me, my tidy house means and shows that I am coping. It says look at me everyone! I have three tiny children AND a spotless house. Aren't I doing well? Aren't I a perfect mother? No help needed here thank you very much.

Maybe to others, my tidy house actually shows the opposite. Maybe it shows I am not coping at all. Am I a bad mum because I waste time cleaning and tidying rather than spending every second playing with my kids?

And even more worrying, am I the only one?!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

No I will not say sorry... (for my child's behaviour)

Whilst visiting an elderly aunt last weekend, the 19-month-old tore pages out of a Damart catalogue sitting on the coffee table and delivered them to me, triumphant and looking for praise. "Mumma, mumma"

"You mustn't let her do it" said the elderly aunt
"She is 19 months old. It's not about "letting"" I shot back, feathers ruffled, claws out.
"Next time it might be someone's valuable possessions" said aunt
"So they should put them away before a baby comes to visit" I growled.

The aunt realised she had offended me. I had a sorry stuck in the back of my throat but I swallowed it. I did not feel 19month's behaviour warranted an apology.

It got me thinking. Apologising for your kids. Do you do it? When, how often? And when you do, why does it feel so hideously wrong? I'd have preferred to kiss the old lady than say sorry to her.

Is it because I am one of those mums who thinks my children are perfect and can do no wrong? The sore throat I nurse each night from shouting at them so much makes me think not. I know they can do wrong. I am there to bear witness to it and then tidy up after.

Is it because admitting my child is not perfect means I might have to face the fact my parenting is not perfect either? Am I actually apologising for myself? Ooooh, bit deep

Or am I just blinded by love? 19months bought those torn out pages advertising enormous knickers to me in an simple act of devotion. "These are for you mumma, love me" And I do.

How then, can I say "Naughty baby! You must not rip (free) magazines and offer them to me as tokens of love." Sure - the old lady would be happy, but what a hammer blow to 19months. I feel her pain even stronger then I feel my own. I bruise too with every knock she takes.

Should you apologise/make your child apologise when they do not understand why/what they have done wrong? Can a baby really be "naughty"?

Of course, teaching our children the difference between right and wrong is part of the job, but trying to retrospectively explain bad behaviour to 19months is never going to work is it?

I suppose this is one branch of the " Can you take any negative feedback about your child at all" tree. It's looking like I can't. When 19months was a newborn a well-meaning friend mentioned how with her ears "like that" (she meant big) and her hair "like that" (she meant bald) she looked a tiny bit like a boy."Ha ha, I'd not noticed" (I lied) and then promptly spat in the tea I was making her.

It's all a bit "I can say what I like about my brother/sister/mum/dad/dog** -- but just you try it sunshine". I often turn to my husband in the middle of the night sobbing that 19months is so uncontrollable I often fear being left in sole charge of her - but if anyone else dares mention her "spirit" I develop a very quiet form of tourettes and mutter random insults about the insulter/insulter's children in return.

Sometimes, of course - we are forced to apologise for our children. Last week at church playgroup four was caught pulling her friend's hair quite hard. I turned to the friend's mum and delivered a very sincere sorry - but finished it off with " She is very tired, and fighting a cold, and her shoes are too small and are hurting her feet, and I think MAYBE your daughter pulled her hair first."

So what about you? Do you apologise for your children and can you manage to do it without making excuses for them?

**And what's the dog thing about? Canine owners are even more blinded by their pet's faults than parents to their kids shortcomings. I myself have announced "It's me or the dog" to an ex-boyfriend. (Note the use of the word ex)

Friday, 13 January 2012

Favourite lies I tell my children

Let's be honest. We all lie to our kids. White lies, tiny nothing little white lies. For their own good, and just a tiny bit for our sanity.

My kids think charity shops are "repair" shops. A place for run-down, or broken toys to get remodelled/developed/bettered. Yes, I do feel slightly bad when four constantly asks me when one of her poessesions is coming back from the "menders", but it soon passes. (Especially when I remember how annoying the toy I recently donated was.)

We have a small troll who lives down our loo. A poo troll. If little hands don't wipe little bottoms he will climb out the cistern and chase you round the house. (I got my inspiration from the film - The Ring )

The rain is god's tears. He gets sad when four is naughty and picks on her sister. (Slightly hard to explain why it rains even when the sister is at her childminder's.) They will be going to a church school so they need to be prepared for tales such as these anyway. I am lessening the shock.

When we go out, there will always be someone with a red coat on. This is the "redcoat" policeman who has come out especially to keep an eye on our children. If they are naughty he/she will come over to and tell them off. One of four's friend's dads is a policeman. If I can't see a "redcoat" I pretend to ring him up instead.

(Am hoping funds never get so low we have to holiday at Butlins, or this one is going to come back and bite me.)

The baby's skin is made of magic-grown-up paper. If children touch it, it will tear. God will cry so much the park will be flooded forever.

My husband says it's cruel to take advantage of the children's naivety. Speaking of which, he seems to think teeny tiny fairyfolk come in the night and clean up the crumbs he makes preparing his pre-sleep snack. Then they load up the dishwasher. (If you're reading this, it's actually me).

So come on - what lies do you tell?

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Are you a "fun" mum?

"Mummy, I want to live at my friend Dulcie's house please." Says the four-year-old.
"Why?" I ask
"Her mum is more fun than you.(Stops to kiss me)
"That's all. But I do still love you mummy. Even though you are not fun and don't let me play with moonsand."

After coaxing, the four-year-old gives more reasons why this other mum is so much fun. There is talk of mud pies, finger painting, stripping the beds to make a "pillow mountain."

Fun? Sounds lawless to me.

I AM fun anyway. I dance to Beyonce in traffic jams with her. I put on silly voices when reading books to her at night. I often pretend to forget her name and call her Dave, just for fun.

That's not being fun though she says. She says that's being SILLY MUMMY.

I have tried her "fun" though, honestly.

I've set up paint pots and brushes and water at a little table for her, and then I've watched her take off all her clothes, paint herself blue and roll round on the floor... Then I've taken the paints, pots, brushes, water and put them away, then I've run the bath,cleaned her,the floor, and the walls, and then I've thought "Sod this for a game of soldiers."

Ditto with playdo. I've set her up with pots of various colours, plus implements to cut it/mould it with/push it though, and then I've watched her mix it all together to make a ball of brown poo which she eats instead of any dinner.

Suddenly, a memory... My mum saying we would make fairy butterfly cakes together. Sparkling fandango sounds to my four-year-old ears. I remember watching her weighing out sugar, flour, butter ("You will be too messy"), waiting patiently while she sifted, stirred, whipped, folded, filled, and ultimatly went on to ice "our" fairy cakes. I sat on the side next to her. As a"treat" she passed me the wooden spoon to lick ("Quick I want to wash it.")

I wonder now, what good it did - saving me from making all those messes?
It seems to have made me a bit of a freak. A "Ooh, is that a biscuit you are eating? I'll just stand close to you while you enjoy it with my hands cupped under your chin" control-freak

A "Oh dear, you've been playing in the sandpit. Right, I'll take all your clothes off before we get in the car and shake you and your shoes out in the road and you can go home naked and get straight in the bath" punisher-of-fun.

A "Oh look, you've taken all the pillows off the sofa. Rather than make a den with you, I'll give the base a hoover - no you can't help. Hoovers are not toys - even if they do have smiley faces on them and a nose like an elephant" mess-obssessed-meanie.

Oh bugger. I'm going to have to get the paint pots back out the loft aren't I? And all those bloody beads too.

She can still forget the moonsand though

Monday, 9 January 2012

I "gave up work" to be a mum

"Do you work?" People ask me. "Yes" I tell them, " I have three children and a husband."

This is not the answer they were expecting.

For many people "work" is a place, a job description, a salary, a suit, a boss. Staying at home all day, playing with kids and drinking tea? That's not work... is it?

Well let's look at the "working-family-member's" (WFM) morning and a "non-working-family-member's"(NWFM) morning. Just to compare. Just for fun...

WFM's morning

- Get up, shower, put on posh, nicely ironed clothes.
- Drink coffee (normally made by NWFM).
- Kiss family members goodbye and jump car. Drive to work listening to Radio 5 Live debating some worthy cause. Ponder worthy cause and then other worthy causes. Listen to news bulletin and ponder latest news events.
(OR Train journey spent reading a Metro/kindle/facebook or someone else' Metro/kindle/facebook over their shoulder).
- Arrive at "work". Time for tea.
- Do "work" for a few hours. Perhaps at a nice desk, with a comfy swivel chair, or maybe in a big meeting room, with more tea, and biscuits.
- Lunch break. Pop out and get a nice sandwich, and maybe ten minutes of fresh air to clear the mind after all that "work".
(OR sit round and chat about worthy events heard on Five Live/news bulletin that morning with co-"workers").

NWFM's morning

- Day starts whenever the first child gets up. Normally between 4am and 6am.
- Pull on first clothes that come to hand. Likely to be a pair of leggings (possibly with a hole in), a baggy jumper (probably stained) and warm socks (definitly not matching)
- Stagger downstairs with children. Long for tea but have to put on Mr Tumble first, then change a nappy or two, then stop a fight over which child gets to sit on lap to watch Mr Tumble.
- Do lots of signing with the children and Mr Tumble. Quickly put kettle on for WFM and self. Prepare kid's breakfast.
- Serve WFM tea whilst simultaneously feeding weetabix to children, gulping down own tea, and attempting to stop children kicking one anther's chairs.
- Shout at children. Chase them when they then run off and force them back onto chairs.
- Eat their leftover weetabix for breakfast.
- Kiss WFM goodbye. Attempt to dress the children. Cue lots of chasing, shouting, hollering, tears, tantrums, threats, rugby tackles and wet wipes.
- Gather up packed lunches, coats, hats, library books, ballet kits and children.
- Drop some items and start again.
- Carry children and some surplus items to car. Wrestle with children to get them into car seats.
- Attempt to collect some of the rubbish from the floor of the car and place in the bin whilst making second trip back indoors to collect more items needed for the day.
- Get in car. Strap self in. Turn car on.
- Turn car off. Unstrap self. Take the four year old back indoors for a wee.
- Get back in car. Strap self in. Turn on car. Drive. Refuse to go back for special teddy/toy/book for nursery.
- Sit in traffic with other non-"workers" (NWs) eyeing up parking spaces, attempt to shush the three-month-old crying for a feed.
- Attempt to find parking space close to nursery/school/childminder. Fail. Park very far away and drag children and surplus items over shoulders, in headlocks and round necks to various drop off locations.
- Drive back home. Put kettle on. Maybe sob slightly.
- Breasfeed the three-month-old.
- Make beds. Load and unload dishwasher eight times.
- Breastfeed the three-month-old.
- Do 400 loads of washing. Make three dentist appointments, two doctors appointments, one window cleaning apppointment, three phone calls to British Gas, one to BT (while breastfeeding the three-month-old and chipping dried weetabix off the highchairs).
- Retrieve the three loo rolls shoved down the toilet by the 19-month old.
- Phone the pumber.
- Breastfeed the three-month-old.
- Forget to drink tea.
- Prepare children's dinner. Start hoovering. Run out of time.
- Get back in car to pick up children.

What do we think then? Sounds a bit like " hard work" to me.

It's not just the 1000 mile-an-hour-exhausting rollercoaster (or "hoster-coaster as the four-year-old calls it) of being a "non-working mum" it's also seclusion of it all.

Take for example, a conversation between a WFM and NWFM (non-working-family-member).

WFM: How was your day darling? Mine was productive. Figures looking good. Had an interesting conversation with some potential clients. Got some big meetings coming up in London next week. Might need to stay over in a hotel"

NWFM: "Well, let me think...I learnt the sign language for lighthouse"(does sign for lighthouse)

WFM: "What about that earthquake in Japan?"

NWFM: (who had to watch Mr Tumble all morning, sing Disney classics all the way to and from nursery and can't hear the radio over the orchestra that is a hoover/dishwasher/washing machine/tumble-drier all going at once) "What earthquake?"

WFM: "What do you mean "what earthquake"? It's all over the news. Everyone is talking about it."

NWFM: "The four year old isn't. More tea darling?"

And what about the amount of tea breaks a WFM gets compared to a NWFM?

A WFM gets teabreak opportunities galore! A cheeky visit to Starbucks on the way to the office, (with no kids to get out the car chase across the carpark and round the cafe or refuse cake to at 8am).

More offers of tea at work (maybe in a special mug the NWFM made for them, covered in their offspring's tiny hand prints). Tea at 11, tea at lunch, tea at 3pm. Tea coming out their ears.

(To be fair a NWFM may get refreshments made for them when the children play tea parties. In my experience it normally involves un-flushed toddler wee out the toilet however, so largely remains un-drunk.)

And also, note in the above comparisions, how when the WFM is "working" they get solid chunks of golden, undisturbed time in which to do their "work".

The NWFM has to not "work" inbetween feeding a baby, or chasing a toddler, or stopping the children pulling each other's hair out. Plus all the "non-working" makes them so exhausted they normally fall asleep about five minutes after the children do (once packed lunches are made, school uniforms and WFM's shirts are ironed etc) and then get woken up again about ten minutes later by one of the children.

Also, the WFM gets extras such as bonuses, holidays, days off, pay-cheques, sick pay, time in lieu, appraisals.

Not that the NWFM needs any of these things of course. Who needs a day off from "work" when they don't actually "work"?

Maybe my home is my "work" building. My sink is my desk. My children are most DEFINITLY the boss and as well as being thier employee, I am also the firm's cleaner, caretaker, dinner lady, receptionist and HR manager*.... Not a bad day's "work" afterall then...

Man, if I only I could salary that?!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Too busy for my postnatal depression

Finally slipping into bed at night, I register, briefly, the fact I am not coping. Then one of the children wake wanting me, or sleep’s leaded fingers pull wool over my eyes, and I forget about it again for a bit.

I must pop it on one of my many to-do lists “Have postnatal breakdown” then under it, as always “buy milk and fabric softener”.

How decadent to have a breakdown. How does one do it exactly? Can you really just not get up one day? What do the kids do? Are you eventually dragged out of bed by the sound of small feet climbing on worktops foraging for Shreddies? Or do you still not get up even then? So who feeds the kids? It’s all very well this postnatal depression, but not very bloody practical.

Maybe my depression can take the form of a black dog at my shoulder, like Winston Churchill. Then I can get up, pour milk over cereal, chivvy children into boots and coats and cars, but take the depression along with me.

Excellent. Another bloody thing to carry. As if my arms are not full enough with the three kids, packed lunches, ballet kits and change bags. It would have to go on my shoulders. I’d have no other place to lug it about it, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to find it a spare car seat either. I’m giving the four-year old’s friend a lift home.

This tiredness, this anxiety, it’s nothing but a pain in the backside. Speaking of which, it would be so embarrassing to have a breakdown. I am already ashamed to go into the chemist since I had all that trouble with piles when I was pregnant. I can’t bear the thought of them knowing about this too. I’d have to collect prescriptions from Saltdean, but there is never anywhere to park. There is a high chance I’ll have a panic attack in the queue and have to rush out abruptly and empty-handed anyway.

Make time for you! Magazines and well-meaning friends and family say. Time for me. Me time. Time to do what exactly? Being a full-time-mum means just that. “Me” turned into “mum” and being “mum” slowly ate into everything else that I once was.

I don’t know what is more postnatally depressing, that I never get time alone, or that even if I did I have no idea what I’d do in it.

And I love the expression “full-time-mum”. Full time as opposed to what? Part time? Surely the problem with being a mum is the whole “all the time” part? Being a mum is not a hat you can slip on and off at will.

I can’t anyway. If I ever do dare go out without my mum-hat on, I soon start feeling guilty and have to race back to don it once more. If it is a hat, it’s a dunce one.

The simple truth is this. I don’t know how to be anything other than a mum, even when I am too tired to do it properly. But I don’t know how to hand over the reins either.

I don’t know how to sign over duties and stop caring about it all, although deep down I know I am running on empty. Maybe I fear the breakdown stage comes if I don’t care anymore.

Sometimes, still, I wish I could stop caring.

I am at the “Ok, I will go upstairs and have a lie down, but will be listening to every shriek, demand for a drink and row over what to watch on TV while I am up there and when I do reappear I will be cross about the mess made, trying to give me break” stage.

Also, it’s more than likely I will reappear within ten minutes to inform the very kind person who is trying to help me that the kids don’t like beans anymore, so don’t make any for dinner, and don’t let them have juice before dinner, or they won’t eat anything anyway, and oh? Is that the way you make mash? It’s a bit messy, oh just get out the way and let me do it (big theatrical sigh)

It’s ungrateful and almost arrogant of me to think I can do this mum business better than anyone else, especially when I am doing it crossly and clumsily because I am so tired.

For all the self-loathing that comes with postnatal depression, the “I am fat, useless, a fraud, a fake, a bad mother/wife/friend/person”, I don’t seem to think anyone else truly capable of
taking over from me for a while.

Maybe then I don’t think so little of myself after all? Or maybe I am desperate to let go but don’t know how. Like when dartplayers develop dartitis and physically stop being able to let go of the dart. Even after all that lining up and preparing.

I think my mum-hat has slipped over my eyes. I can’t see properly anymore.

I am not trying to be a hero when I reject offers of help. I am desperate to take a break from the groundhog-ness that comes with motherhood.

I want to find “me” time and things for me to do in it, honest.

I’m just too tired and busy right now.

Postnatal Depression is a depressive illness which affects one
in ten mothers. PND has many symptoms, although, often women are not even aware
they are suffering from it.

Unyummy mummy

I gave birth ten weeks ago and I adore my new daughter. When she smiles at me it actually hurts me because I love her so very much. I love the smell of her head, and the way she tries to hold onto things with her feet. She amazes me. I am amazed I created her. She is a miracle...

Why then, cannot I not give myself the break I deserve and enjoy her instead of worrying about my baby weight?

I don't have a job to go back to, or a social life to dress for. I don't even need to leave the house if I don't want to. Why then, am I in such despair about the way I look? Who do the extra rolls of
flesh around my middle matter to? Not my daughter, and not my husband. He has long since learnt the "nonsense you look great, give yourself a break, I still fancy you" mantra.

I don't know who is judging me, but I feel it. I feel the need to be a size 8 perfectly groomed yummy mummy and I hate myself for it. Why can't I just immerse myself in milky maternal motherland and not worry about the extra stone I am carrying or the grey hairs that sprout like
wires from my head. Why do I care that my skinny jeans don't fit me anymore - where on earth would I wear them to anyway? (and the bloody things were never comfortable anyway)

And who is to blame for me wanting to be this way - Celebrity mums? Not really. I don't have time to buy the magazines that flaunt their flat-as-their-career-tummies-four-weeks-after-their-c-section-mummy-tucks.

TV then? I spend most of my life watching Peppa Pig snorting whilst rolling around in mud, and feel just about on par with the way she looks, so no pressure from her, just a smidgen of jealousy that I am not as happy as a pig in poo.

Perhaps it's not other people then, just my perception of them.

Take today for example. Daughter number one started at her new nursery. A big step for both of us. She met the people she will be spending the next ten or so years in education with - pretty scary for her.

Even more scary for me...I was meeting their mothers.

So I set my alarm, tweezed my eyebrows (took longer than planned), dressed the girls in their best and set off early.. and then it all went wrong.

I got caught in the 4x4 cars on the road driven by mums who cannot see over the steering wheel brigade, could not find anywhere to park, almost reversed into one of Grace's new school friends and finally arrived, flustered and flummoxed, dragging one sullen toddler who had snuck jammy
toast into the car and rubbed it all over her face, and a newborn who had done a massive honky poo which had gone all through her best trousers and right up her back.

No one wanted to stand near us, everyone was wrinkling their perfectly powdered noises (kids included) and I ended up slinking off (or should that be stinking off) back to the badly parked car to sob all the way home.

But upon reflection, maybe no one noticed my shiny forehead and puffy eyebrows after all?

Maybe all the mums there, whilst seeming completely A OK to me, were all fighting with their own "I am not a good enough mother/wife/woman/sister" complex too? Perhaps they were all wrapped in spandex under those skinny jeans, or were hiding legs as hairy as a gorilla's armpit because they had not quite worked out how to divide the day into pieces of being perfect either?

I like to think that if I dared be brave enough to confess "It's bloody hard, this mother lark isn't it" at one of the many boring coffee mornings I try my best to fit into, that floodgates of agreement would open and we would all break down in tears, hug one another and end the session chanting (a bit like that scene from About A Boy where they all sing "Single Parents Alone Together" and hold hands)

I don't think that would happen in this stiff-upper-lip nation though. I think people would eye me with suspicion and the health care visitor would start popping around alot claiming "I was
just in the area".

Instead we must keep it in, try harder, get up earlier, burn the candle at both ends, laugh in the face of exhaustion and LOL at everything going on facebook to prove we are not just boring mummies, and do still have a sense of humour hidden under all the rolls of flab.

17 reasons why I hate being pregnant

There is such pressure from society to enjoy gestation, some unspoken inference that if you don't relish each second of your pregnancy then there is no way you will be a good parent.

I could not disagree more. I know I am a good parent. I have a sunny delight of a daughter to prove it. People who had kids many many years ago and can't remember how horrible being pregnant is wax lyrical about how much they loved it, as if there is something wrong with you if you don't.

Well, I am overdue, of foul temper, pulsating with hormones and proud to say I hate being pregnant. What's more, here are some of the reasons why...

1. Strangers touch my tummy. Apparently it's good luck. It makes me want to be sick on them, maybe I should and then they won't think it's quite so lucky.

2. When I go to the midwife, I have to pee on a stick and then take it in to show her. Even though I never have and never would actually hand her the wee sodden stick to hold, she recoils from me each time I approach, as if I have some contagious disease. Surely in her profession she should understand that you don't get pregnant from just holding hands?

3. While I am on this subject, the fact my midwife has never actually given birth niggles me a bit. I keep forgetting and asking things like "You know when the head is engaged and it feels like you are trying to grip a bowling ball between your thighs" and she says "yes" and then I think "No you don't."

4. The fact that although he claims I look beautiful I know my husband is slightly horrified at the sight of me naked. We were off to a BBQ last weekend and I attempted to squeeze myself into a denim maternity mini skirt. It got stuck over my bum (the bum everyone claims is just the same as it was before by the way). James had to pull it off. While he was doing so he uttered the words "bloody hell, I am going to give myself a hernia here". A pregnant pause followed and then we drove to the BBQ in silence.

5. Being pregnant means I have nine months to work myself into a panic about a pain that cannot be likened to snapping a cruciate ligament whilst playing football no matter what my husband thinks. A pain I will have to endure naked in a room full of women who will make me feel like I am making a bit of a fuss over nothing.

6. And while I am on the pain thing, I hate the way people who choose the home birth route make me feel like a failure because I want my hospital epidural. If they want to light candles and chant "Ommmm" all way through their labour then good for them. Personally, scented candles and thoughts of white lights will be about as much use as a chocolate teapot to me when I am trying to squeeze something the size of a watermelon out a hole the size of a (very small) lemon. And it will be even less useful when I am being stitched up for an hour afterwards...

7. The 14 weeks of morning sickness that I went through, during which, the only thing that made me feel slightly better was to eat bowl after bowl of shreddies. Being as I was never sick all the bowls of shreddies went straight to my tum bum and hips and people thought I was much further gone than I was.

8. The fact maternity clothes are more expensive than any other type of clothes and only fit for a very short time. (See point above about denim maternity mini skirt. I paid £35 for that embarrassing episode.) While I am on this one, the fact that maternity designers seem to think because I am with child I either want to wear floral smocks or tight t-shirts proclaiming 'I love my bump' or 'It started with a kiss'. In an act of rebellion I have spent the last month in out-sized primark pyjama bottoms and James' old sports shirts (not allowed to wear his nice ones as I spill everything I eat down myself)

9. The way people check out my tummy and then look at my hands to see if I am married. I was not married when I had my daughter and I remember someone at work saying "Christ I bet that was a nasty shock" when I announced my pregnancy, assuming that because we were not married that somehow our pregnany was not planned and very much welcomed.

10. The way well meaning friends and family tell me how much bigger my chest is. I never know how to respond. Do I say thank you? Apologise? Offer to let them have a feel?

11. The way people tell me I am all bump and have not put weight on anywhere else. If this is the case then how come none of my trousers fit me? Why then do I have hamster cheeks and dinner lady arms?

12. The way everyone thinks they know me better than I know myself. Comments like "You won't go full term, I bet you go into labour today/tomorrow/in a minute, it's a boy, it's a girl, oh soon you won't know what has hit you" etc only makes me want to hit them instead.

13. The fact people ask you if you have any names picked and then when you tell them they say "Oh I don't like that name", or "I knew a dog called that" or "You can't call them that, it's horrible."

14. The way people I do not know intimately (or at all) tell me their horrific birth stories in great detail, including comments about how many stitches they had or how things are still "not quite right down there" Why do I need to know this? WHY?

15. The fact that my tummy looks like a roadmap of britain, and after I have given birth it will look like a deflated balloon version of a road map of britain.

16. Comments from well meaning family and friends such as "Oh hurry up and give birth" or "God this has been a long pregnancy hasn't it" or "We are all just on pause till you give birth" really, are you?

17. The fact that in a couple of months when my scars have healed and I am holding my long awaited bundle of joy, I will spot some poor unfortunate pregnant person, we will get talking, I will provoke them to moan about how horrible it is, then I will look down at my baby and say "Oh I loved being pregnant."