May Reads

This month included Mental Health Awareness week which I found quite apt as I feel I have been struggling a bit. I am now 33 weeks pregnant and feel massive. We had a late loss last August and mentally this pregnancy has been tough. The fear and paranoia came back with a vengeance and I have been back on antidepressants for a few months now. I now have about 6 weeks left and I am struggling with all the normal things women struggle with in the last trimester. I know how lucky I am to have a baby on the way and I can’t wait to have her here but I am also at that funny stage of being scared of change……I am a cancerian through and through. I am someone who has to find something to worry about. I am scared how the new baby will affect my marriage and my children. I am also trying to do too much….this is pretty typical of me. I know repainting my house at 33 weeks pregnant is not one of my best ideas but I guess I want to feel I am in control of something when I feel currently like I am out of control.

  • Regeneration by Pat Barker. 4⭐️.
  • Pat Barker born 8th May 1943.

Craiglockhart War Hospital, Scotland, 1917, and army psychiatrist William Rivers is treating shell-shocked soldiers. Under his care are the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, as well as mute Billy Prior, who is only able to communicate by means of pencil and paper. Rivers’s job is to make the men in his charge healthy enough to fight. Yet the closer he gets to mending his patients’ minds the harder becomes every decision to send them back to the horrors of the front. Pat Barker’s Regeneration is the classic exploration of how the traumas of war brutalised a generation of young men.

Oh my goodness what an amazing novel. Pat Barker did an incredible job researching instances and treatments of PTSD in WW1 soldiers. I have spoken to a lot of people who just choose to read non-fiction but who made an exception to read this brilliant trilogy.

The novel begins with Sassoon’s Soldier’s Declaration:

I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.

Sassoon wrote this letter which was printed in the press and read out in the House of Commons in 1917. Although an incredibly decorated and respected soldier, Sassoon was deeply disillusioned with the war- a feeling which probably began with the death of his friend David Cuthbert Thomas. Rather than face court martial, Sassoon was admitted to Craiglockhart hospital where he was treated for shell shock. It is here that he meets a young Wilfred Owen and they are treated by the psychiatrist WHR Rivers. All three of these characters were obviously real people but Barker has introduced many fictional characters to the novel and has weaved them in seamlessly.

The perception of Shell Shock in the novel is particularly moving. The young men who went off to fight for our country had no idea of the horrors they would face. It was to be an adventure. No one would have been mentally prepared for the the conditions, loss of comrades and the fear they dealt with on a daily basis. Even if soldiers had been mentally prepared, treatment and perception of mental illness was still pretty primitive. Indeed the most brutal part of this novel is the electric shock treatment used to regain a soldier’s speech. I was particularly interested and saddened to read how parents reacted to diagnoses of Shell shock in their own sons:

He’d get a damn sight more sympathy from me if he had a bullet up his arse.

The idea of being trapped in your own thoughts and in-turn trapped in the hamster wheel of having to go back out to fight because it was expected of you is terrifying and brutal.

‘You agreed to serve, Siegfried. Nobody’s asking you to change your opinions, or even to keep quiet about them, but you agreed to serve, and if you want the respect of the kind of people you are trying to influencethe Bobbies and the Tommies – you’ve got to be seen to keep your word. They won’t understand if you turn around in the middle of the war and say “I’m sorry, I’ve changed my mind.” To them, that’s just bad form. They’ll say you’re not behaving like a gentleman- and that’s the worst think they can say about anybody.’

I will definitely read the other two books in the trilogy and I urge anyone who loves well-researched novels to pick it up.

  • The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. 3⭐️.
  • Jon Ronson born 10th May 1967.

What if society wasn’t fundamentally rational, but was motivated by insanity? This thought sets Jon Ronson on an utterly compelling adventure into the world of madness.

Along the way, Jon meets psychopaths, those whose lives have been touched by madness and those whose job it is to diagnose it, including the influential psychologist who developed the Psychopath Test, from whom Jon learns the art of psychopath-spotting. A skill which seemingly reveals that madness could indeed be at the heart of everything . . .

Combining Jon Ronson’s trademark humour, charm and investigative incision, The Psychopath Test is both entertaining and honest, unearthing dangerous truths and asking serious questions about how we define normality in a world where we are increasingly judged by our maddest edges.

I wondered if sometimes the difference between a psychopath in Broadmoor and a psychopath on Wall Street was the luck of being born into a stable, rich family.

This was a pretty quick read and I did enjoy it but it left me questioning…..

1. On the back page Will Self said he ‘laughted like a loon.’ I am mortified to say that I don’t even think I cracked a wry smile!!!!! 😱😱😱😱 God I hate it when books say things like that and you spend the time wondering what is wrong with you!!! I feel like this when I pick up a classic…..so scared that I’m just not going to ‘get it’ and then feel stupid. Anyway I feel a little like the joke is on me and I am probably the only person in the world who wasn’t rolling in the aisles.

2. So many of Ronson’s point were on the money. The fact that there is now a diagnosis for every slightly odd mental health tick is a little worrying. I don’t believe it’s helpful to put everything under a ‘syndrome.’ I mean kids being medicated for bi-polar????? This terrifies me. Extremes of emotion surely come hand in hand with young children. I believe ADD is very real and must be very hard to deal with as a parent but diagnosing a child with bi-polar is just terrifying.

3. The Psychopath Test by Bob Hare is really interesting.

These are the points Hare has used….

Ronson makes the point that the difference between a psychopath in Broadmoor and a psychopath in Wall Street is luck, wealth and a stable family. This really got me thinking and is a really interesting point. The chapter when Ronson meets business man Al Dunlap who believes he has a lot of the ‘traits’ on the PCL-R checklist but views them all as positives in the business world is really thought provoking.

Really interesting read and don’t be put off if you don’t laugh like a loon!

  • The Storyteller by Jodie Picoult. 4⭐️.
  • Jodie Picoult born 19th May 1966.

After a tragic accident which left her deeply scarred, Sage Singer retreated into herself, allowing her guilt to govern her life. When she befriends kindly retired teacher Josef, it seems that life has finally offered her a chance of healing.

But the gentle man Sage thinks she knows is in fact hiding a terrible secret. Josef was an SS officer during the Holocaust and now he wishes to die – and he wants Sage to help him.

As Joseph begins to reveal his past to her, Sage is horrified. 

Does this past give her the right to kill him?A compelling tale about the line between justice and mercy from the internationally bestselling author Jodi Picoult.

Gillian Flynn and Jodie Picoult are my go to authors when I just want a rollicking good read. Nothing too complicated but a story that will keep me turning pages late into the night and I guess that’s what it’s all about no????? Reading a book that you can’t put down. Life is good when you have an enjoyable book on the go.

Since we studied WW2 in school it has been a period in history I read a lot about. I guess I am utterly incredulous how the holocaust, something so horrific happened not that long ago. Since having a family of my own, I read the books and watch the documentaries and films with tears rolling down my cheeks. It’s not often a book makes me cry but this one did. The terror, the brutality that people lived through completely terrifies me and since having my daughters, when I read about children being killed, I see my own girls.

I have to say that my heart sank a little when the love story started to develop. I am not a fan of a love story. I would never choose to read a romance and I often find romantic storylines entwined around the Holocaust in slightly bad taste. I am pleased to say that the love element didn’t ruin the book for me and it didn’t take over the novel.

  • Spring Fever by PG Wodehouse. 4🌟.

When a man needs only two hundred pounds to marry his cook and buy a public house, one would expect his life to be trouble free, but the fifth Earl of Shortlands has to reckon with his haughty daughter, Lady Adela, and Mervyn Spink, his butler, who also happens to be his rival in love. Mike Cardinal offers to sort out the problem by pretending to be Stanwood Cobbold but his way is blocked by Spink and reformed burglar, Augustus Robb. Confused? Let P.G.Wodehouse untangle the complications in this light-hearted comedy which ends happily – for almost everyone.

This was our book club read of the month. I have to say that I find picking books for this group pretty tricky. I try to pick 6 books each month and the group vote on which one they would like to read. There tends to be a mix of classic authors and more modern books. The group is mainly made up of young mums who want to get back into reading. A lot of these women have jobs and young kid so for the majority, a book that is easily accessible is the key. This is fine but it does make the conversation a little dry. I remember the best book club I ever did was 50 Shades of Grey. People (including myself) absolutely loathed it and as a result the chat was entertaining and hilarious. I find with my current group that time is precious so if they dislike a book, they give up and don’t come to the meeting…I completely respect this decision. However, it means the meeting is comprised of people who enjoyed what they read which often means that the conversation isn’t that exciting. Maybe I should just be happy that people are reading but sometimes I just want a strong opinion. Hey ho. Never happy I guess.

So this was the June pick and 4/5 people who turned up ‘likedit. I have to agree. There isn’t much to dislike. I can’t say that it is a novel which will change my life but I found it enjoyable. The one lady who disliked it didn’t like the element of farce and thought the character were a little ridiculous. Again, I couldn’t really disagree. An easy, enjoyable, amusing read.

This month started with a revelation. One night while wading through all the dross on Facebook, I came across a post about downloading audiobooks on a library app. Just Wow!!!! I downloaded Libby, put in my library card number and I have a world of ebooks and audiobooks at my fingertips. I am supporting my library and no longer paying for audible. Proper happy!!!

My first listen was Lust by Roald Dahl. If you haven’t read and short stories by the genius that is Dahl, PLEASE DO! Dahl’s imagination blows my brain. He starts a story and you have no idea where it will go. The stories in this compilation all revolve around sex. I loved each one and found them app hilarious.

The 4:50 From Paddington was a quick listen while I painted the bathroom. There is something so comforting about Agatha Christie isn’t there?!? You always know the baddie will be caught. Love it. Also lovely to hear the late June Whitfield playing Miss Marple.

I haven’t yet finished Smut by Alan Bennett. Bennett also deserves a Birthday wave as he was born on 9th May 1934. Like Dahl, Bennett can do no wrong. I completely adore his writing and he makes me laugh so much. His characters are utterly brilliant and very believable. I went to boarding school in Settle, North Yorkshire which is where Bennett lives. He is one of my hero’s and I adored reading Talking Heads for my A Level set text. If you have never picked up Bennett please do. I promise you will be moved and amused in equal measure.

Until next month. Thanks for reading.

May kids reads

So, mid-May and we are in the final countdown before little girl #3 comes along. Having lost a baby last August I am definitely ready for my baby to be here. I know how lucky I am but this pregnancy has been proper stressful. I am at that strange third trimester phase of being excited and also terrified of change. Typical cancerian, change is a little scary for me!!! 🀣😱. Next week we are off to Mousehole in Cornwall for our last holiday as a 4. Definitely the last time we can all fit comfortably in the car. I am completely ready to have some proper family time. Sandcastles, crab salads, ice cream and hopefully some good books.

  • The Railway Children by E Nesbit.
  • E Nesbit died 4th May 1924.

β€˜β€œOh! My Daddy, my Daddy!” That scream went like a knife into the heart of everyone in the train, and people put their heads out of the window to see a tall pale man with thin lips set in a close line, and a little girl clinging to him with arms and legs, while his arms went tightly round her.’ β€οΈπŸš‚β€οΈπŸš‚β€οΈπŸš‚β€οΈπŸš‚β€οΈπŸš‚

Not a review but who doesn’t have fond memories of The Railway Children??? We used to have it on cassette and it was definitely one of my favourite. I also loved the film. Mr Perks has to be one of the best characters and I remember loving the part when the Old Gentleman sent the hamper when mother had influenza. Just beautiful.

  • Peter Pan by J M Barrie.
  • J M Barrie born 9th May 1860.

‘”Wendy,” Peter Pan continued in a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist, “Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”‘🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I wonder what Mr Barrie thinks of the legacy he left behind? I remember my dad taking me to see it at the cinema….it must have been re-released as this outing definitely didn’t happen in 1953. Following the Leader is a song that we probably sing everyday in my family!!!

  • Toto. The Dog Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo.
  • L Frank Baum born 15th May 1856.

From master storyteller MICHAEL MORPURGO, and illustrated in stunning colour by the award-winning EMMA CHICHESTER CLARK, comes a surprising, charming and uplifting twist on The Wizard of Oz, told by a very special and unforgettable character: Dorothy’s pet dog, Toto. A perfect, collectible gift for all children (and children at heart).

β€œI was there,” Papa Toto said, and those magic words sent shivers down my spine. It was going to be the Wizard story. β€œDorothy and me were both there.”
We were all silent, snuggled up together, waiting, waiting.
Then Papa Toto began…

When a twister descends on their Kansas farm, Toto and his owner Dorothy hide in the house – only to be plucked into the air and whisked away!

Coming down with a crash in the mysterious land of Oz, the pair meet a series of extraordinary characters: a scarecrow who believes he has no brains, a tin man without a heart, and a cowardly lion who may not be as cowardly as he thinks he is.

But Toto and Dorothy are desperate to return home – after all, home is home, and home is best! So they set off with their new friends on a journey down the yellow brick road to find the only person who might be able to help them: the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

But what they find might surprise them. And on the way, all of them will learn that what they think they are missing might have been there, all along…

Beautifully illustrated throughout, this is an unforgettable telling of a classic story, and a must for every bookshelf.

I was really happy to discover this book and it would be a perfect gift for a Wizard of Oz fan. Telling the tale from Toto’s point of view is a fab twist and Chichester Clark’s illustrations are beautiful and colourful. Unfortunately, Edie (6) was a little young to appreciate it….you know when you have to skip bits or use ridiculously exaggerated voices to hold their attention??? Yes, I felt that I had to do that a lot. Anyway, I think it would be brilliant to read aloud to a 7/8 year old. Lovely book.

  • The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem.
  • Jill Barklem born 23rd May 1951.

If I had to name a book or series that summed up my childhood it would be the Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem. When my sister and I were little we lived in a village outside of Market Harborough. My paternal grandparents lived in Carlisle so seeing them was a big treat. I remember when we woke up in the mornings we could get into their bed and Grandma would read to us. Grandpa who was a typical dour Scot would try to grab our legs under the covers….I remember always being a little scared of him. Coming from a family of boys he found the idea of granddaughters pretty terrifying. Not so my Grandma. I used to love her reading to me and Brambly Hedge was my favourite. I loved the idea of the mice having their whole world under our noses. The illustrations were absolutely wonderful – really detailed so there were always new things to spot. I think my favourite was Winter Story. This one really captured my imagination….the mice find a forgotten part of the house which is full of old toys and dressing up clothes….what child wouldn’t love this?!?!? My idea of heaven.

The Well-Loved Tales from Ladybird are a massive hit in our house. I remember loving them as a child so every time I pass a second hand book shop I scour the shelves. Ceci completely adores The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, The Three Little Pigs and also Rapunzel. Edie is more of an Elves and the Shoemaker kind of girl. I also remember having a lot of these stories on cassette….the accompanying music was always something by Beethoven….did anyone else have the same tapes???

  • The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside.

Wherever Jenny goes, her worries follow her – in a big blue bag. They are with her all the time – at school, at home, when she is watching TV and even in the bathroom! Jenny decides they have to go, but who will help her get rid of them?

A funny and reassuring look at dealing with worries and anxiety, to be used as a spring board into important conversations with your child.

13th-19th May is Mental Health Awareness Week so I thought I should post a book that helps deal with anxiety in children. With the imminent arrival of our third daughter, I wanted to read a book which would prompt the girls to tell me their worries about the baby. Brownie points go to the emotional and hormonal mum but my girls weren’t interested. No worries apparently. πŸ€°πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€°πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ. So instead of pressing the issue, I read the book in bed with a nice cuppa. πŸ˜‚πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ˜‚The illustrations are lovely and it’s perfect for KS1 and 2 children who like me are worriers. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈI have had depression on and off since I was 16 years old. It is not something I am ashamed of. It’s something that makes me me along with a wobbly mummy tummy and small boobs. I used to feel guilty that I had no β€˜reason’ to be depressed but now I accept that it’s just down to chemistry. (I always hated chemistry at school so it’s probably karma🀣). I have taken Citalopram but am currently taking Sertraline for my depression. Both have worked well and I have always been able to come off them easily when I have wanted to – MYTH 1 BUSTED. πŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™Œ

I am getting on well with Sertraline and still able to get emotional when my daughter sings songs from The Greatest Showman. Your drug of choice DOESN’T have to make you feel like an emotional desert – MYTH 2 BUSTED – If your medication isn’t working for you, try something else. πŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™ŒπŸ™Œ

I think the important word in MHA Week is to be AWARE. Be pro-active about your mental health. No one should feel hopeless and like you are at the bottom of a dark well. No one should feel ashamed when they are struggling. Please ask for help. Go to a doctor or a counsellor. You have one life. Live it! Learn what keeps you sane. For me it’s books. I need the escape a book provides me, I need the feeling of achievement finishing a book gives me and most of all I need the solitude that reading provides. πŸ“šπŸ˜€πŸ“šπŸ˜€πŸ“šπŸ˜€πŸ“šπŸ˜€πŸ“šπŸ˜€πŸ“šπŸ˜€πŸ“šPlease don’t suffer in silence.

Right that is all from me this month. I am currently writing this from our tiny cottage in Mousehole Cornwall. Ozzie has taken then girls rockpooling so I have about half an hour before they return overtired and probably with bleeding knees!!!!

December Beauty

Well tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and to be honest I am well over the Crimbo Limbo. It’s a funny old time of year isn’t it??? I am well happy to kiss goodbye to 2018 which in many ways has been a bit of a shitter but I am a little scared of what 2019 will bring. I mean January?!?! What is that month about?!?!? Does anyone like January?!?!?

My hopes for 2019???? A cure for my crater like open pores and maybe just maybe I will embark on some Botox. Maybe. I’m not sure. Maybe .

  • Sand and Sky Australian Pink Clay Mask. Β£39.99

There has been a ton of hype surrounding this product. By hype I mainly mean that each and every time I log onto FB the adverts come up practically begging me to buy it. My husband calls me an advertisers dream. To be honest, if a product promises to reduce my pores then it’s bought.

As ever, I embark on products like these completely believing that it will change my life. I’ve now been using it 2-3 times a week since October. The little pot has lasted really well, mainly I think due to the brush you use to paint it all over your face. I bloody love the ritual of using the brush over my face…..the lack of mess is brilliant. The mask tingles a bit and dries very quickly. The flannel/sponge thing takes it off beautifully and my skin looks glowing and clear after removing. Are my pores reduced???? So, having become a bit of a product queen in the last couple of years, I wonder if the open pore holy grail exists. Maybe I am actually needing a miracle. After using this, my pores aren’t massively reduced but this is a bloody good mask that leaves my skin feeling thoroughly cleansed and looking lovely. I will continue my quest for the grail but I have a feeling I will definitely repurchase this product.

If there was any product that has changed my 2018 it is hyaluronic acid. I wish I had discovered it years ago, maybe I would still look like a 16 year old. So, over the past few months I have used 3 bottles of hyaluronic acid serum. Hands down the best was Pestle and Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum Β£36/30ml. The consistency of this was the thickest out of the three and therefore the product just felt more substantial. I used it twice a day and my skin immediately looked plumper, more refined, glowing and felt like velvet. The Poppy Austin Hyaluronic Acid Serum Β£15.49 for 60ml, although being really good value was my least favourite. It seemed to work well but for me, the consistency was just too thin and watery. That being said, for those among you who like a product to be pretty much immediately absorbed, this could be the one for you. For me however, I like to feel that I am getting a little more bang for my buck.

The Viola Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid is the cheapest of the bunch at Β£6.85. Although cheap, I have been really pleased with this product. Skin feels hydrated and looks plumped. The addition of Vitamin C has helped to fade the pigmentation I developed in my last pregnancy. Nice consistency too. I mean for Β£6.85 I can’t really complain!!!

Right off I trot to walk the dog. I am trying to do more daily exercise to avoid getting back on the anti depressant wagon. Not 100% sure it’s working but I’m going to persevere.

I hope you all have a great night tomorrow and a fabulous, wrinkle free, clear skinned 2019.

Somewhere over the rainbow. My miscarriage story.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I landed in this strange bubble world of sadness and disconnect. On the 11th August we lost our baby of 20 weeks. Two weeks on and I feel just as sad and empty but with an added fear that the world is still turning and at some point I have to start turning again with it. I just don’t feel ready to do that yet.

This is a very personal but necessary post to write and for me it has been really therapeutic. Late miscarriage is thankfully rare. At the doctor’s surgery last week, I was told that I was the only late miscarriage they had had this year. Last year there was only two. I have joined a couple of late miscarriage Facebook groups and the support the ladies give each other is invaluable. Still however, the group is full of questions and not many answers. Last night a lady posted who had lost her baby at 17 weeks. She was due to go into hospital the next day and she had no idea what would happen. She was terrified. If this post lifts the shroud of secrecy, mystery and darkness around miscarriage then it’s done it’s job. If it helps one person then great.

This baby would have been our third daughter. I have always wanted a big family. I remember my husband being more reticent: we have 2 beautiful and healthy daughters, why ask for more????I have crap pregnancies, why go through it again???? I saw his logic but I couldn’t shake the image of myself as Ma Walton or Sally Field in Brothers and Sisters. I want a brood of children. I don’t want it to be neat and tidy. I want a mess of emotions and megabloks united in a big family. I got my wish. We got pissed one night and I got pregnant. Easy.

This pregnancy fell under the radar a bit. I didn’t worry. In fact I was blasΓ©. I knew the drill, I had done it twice before. I was so busy with the girls and work I didn’t really think about it. I had a bit of a wobble before the 12 week scan when I was a little worried my age (37) would increase the risk of downs etc but generally I took it all in my stride. When I lay on the bed and saw our little bean on the screen, I cried. It was moving about like something possessed. My blood results came back and there was minimal risk of any genetic problems. Suddenly seeing the baby on the screen made it so real. I realised we were so lucky to be in this position again.

On the 9th August it was raining….maybe that was prophetic after weeks and weeks of blazing sun. My 2.5 year old and I went to me routine midwife appointment. She used the Doppler to listen to the heartbeat and couldn’t find one. I knew then. She sent me to hospital for a scan. I left the midwife and tried to call my husband who eventually answered, left work and rushed to meet me. I remember walking through the hospital thinking ‘in 5 minutes I will know and I will either be devastated or beyond relieved.’ In 5 minutes I did know. The baby had died. “It’s not good news” said the man doing the scan. My husband arrived just after I was told and we just sobbed.

We were ushered out of the room, past the couples who were waiting for their scans of their living babies and into the counselling room. Midwives and consultants came in and apologised for our loss. It was a blur of words and despair. I was advised to come back on Saturday and be induced. I was given a pill to stop the pregnancy hormones. I was given tea with sugar and then we left, clutching my maternity notes that 6 weeks previously showed the scan of our baby and now listed the sad words intrauterine death.

On Saturday we arrived at the Delivery Suite and were shown into a room called The Forget Me Not Suite (I mean really?!?!?!?). I remember walking in and being overwhelmed by the sight of the bed where soon I would be pushing out my baby. My midwife Anne came in. What a shit job that must be. I wonder if they had drawn straws to see who had the miserable task of manning The Forget Me Not Suite that day. As she was trying to find a vein to insert my cannula I asked “Do you get many of these?”

“Tricky veins?” She answered.

“No,” I replied. “Dead babies.”

“No, not that many.” I couldn’t work out whether to be comforted or gutted by her response.

There was a TV in the room. Thank God there was a TV in the room. Rather naively, my husband and I had no idea how long the whole process would take. It’s long. Arduous. I was given a tablet every 6 hours. We arrived in hospital at 8am and my Labour didn’t really start until 8pm. We spent the time drinking bad cups of tea and watching totally random shit on tv….power walking, endless gardening. Daytime TV on Saturday is bad. My husband was angry and frustrated that we weren’t prepared for how long it was going to take. I was grateful that I didn’t know.

The day passed in a bit of a blur. I remember feeling so sorry for the lady who came in to take our food orders. You could tell she was terrified what she would find behind the door of the Forget Me Not Suite. At 19:30 a new midwife came on, Araminta. This midwife found it harder than Anne. I called her at 20:00 when I went to the toilet and had started bleeding. Araminta found me sobbing on my husband. This was the bleakest time for me. Usually labour pains signify the start of a new phase in your life. I remember in NCT being told that every contraction brought you closer to seeing your baby. This time every contraction was bringing me closer to the end of something I so longed for. Araminta helped me into bed, cuddled me and had a cry herself.

Labour pains weren’t as bad as the previous times. I guess due to the fact that I didn’t have to get to 10cm. Earlier in the day I had been completely torn about pain medication. I was in such emotional pain should I use meds to dull the physical pain? Alternatively would the physical pain give me a good excuse to scream out some of the emotional pain? In the end I plumped for co-codamol and gas and air. In previous labours, gas and air made me feel a bit sick. This time however, it made me feel just out of it enough that I could almost disconnect with what was going on.

Labour proper started during the film Pitch Perfect 2. Ironically I had been discussing the merits of the Pitch Perfect trilogy only a few days earlier with a colleague. A few days earlier, when I was happy and confident I was carrying a healthy baby. When the baby came out, Araminta kept saying “sorry, sorry, sorry.”

I saw my daughter. Initially I was too scared. I was worried that every time I closed my eyes, she was all I would see. The midwife told me she was beautiful. I didn’t like the idea that she would only be seen by the midwife. I had to see this little life. My daughter, my little girl. She was beautiful. Tiny. The size of my hand. She won’t ever know her big sisters, she won’t argue with them about whether to watch Dugee or Ben and Holly but for a little while she was alive and because of that, as her mum, I had to see her.

After she was born we had to wait for the placenta. Because the umbilical chord was so thin there was a worry that it would break. After numerous attempts to extract it manually I was taken to Theatre and the whole thing was over at 6:30 am.

So what have I learned? I am now a member of a quiet, sad group of women who are praying for their rainbow. This word has a new meaning now (rainbow is a baby conceived after a loss). I now know what all these initialisms mean: BD (baby dance….sex), TTC (trying to conceive) and MC (miscarriage).

I have learned about grief. At 37 I realise I am pretty lucky. My parents are alive and well as are my husband’s. Life has been good to us so grief is an emotion I haven’t had much experience with. I knew I would go through feelings of anger. I was expecting these feeling to be aimed at people who were pregnant or those with newborns. This hasn’t been the case at all. I don’t want their babies. I want my own. Surprisingly, in the beginning I was angry at the baby I miscarried. I feel there is a bit of a non written contract when you get pregnant. I, as the mother promise to eat the right food, drink the right drinks, exercise when I am knackered, inject myself with blood thinners (to stop clotting), take daily vitamins, puke my guts up etc. You, as my baby just have to stay alive. Keep that heart pumping. If the worst should happen, please miscarry in the first few weeks (the pessimist in me expects that). Please don’t die at 20 weeks and give me no indication of your passing. I feel almost wrong footed by the baby. I turned up at my midwife appointment, with my 2 year old, confident that all was well. I think partly this grief is tainted by shock. I was confident in this pregnancy to the point of almost being cocky. I had two successful pregnancies this baby would be fine. The fact that this has happened and I was so unprepared has shocked me to the core.

What has been hard??? The day my husband went back to work was horrid. Seeing people carry on with life is awful when I feel like I am permanently on pause. People saying “it just wasn’t meant to be” is horrid. Being exhausted. Grieving is utterly knackering. I spend the day in a constant haze and then when I crawl into bed I am wide awake.

There has however been humour. Pretty dark humour granted but there have been some laughs. I had my first counselling session the other day. The lady gave me a diagram about how men and women grieve differently. Apparently at the moment I am floundering in ‘The Whirlpool of Grief” while my husband is trying to stay afloat in “The River of Life.” There have been a few jokes about this….mainly sung either to the tune of The Rhythm of Life or The Circle of Life.

People have said I’m brave and lovely as that is it’s one thing I’m not. I think you are brave if you choose to do something that scares you. I’m not brave. I had no choice but to go through this and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I know with time it will get easier but at the moment I don’t feel like the girl I was 3 weeks ago and at the moment I am trying to work out where I fit in a world in which I feel so disconnected.

It’s the little things…..

Today I woke up with a funny feeling….positivity. Sadly and worryingly this is something I rarely feel. Granted it’s a Saturday and the day didn’t begin with the mad rush of school uniform, arguments about hairstyles and temperature of porridge but today I honestly feel good.

Due to this mad feeling of euphoria, I think it’s important that I write down why it is that I feel good.

So……..

  • I went out for a drink last night after the show. Usually I can’t be arsed and I just want to go to my bed but the key here is that it was a spontaneous drink. I happened to see a friend on my way out of the theatre who suggested a drink and I thought ‘yup.’ I didn’t have time to talk myself out of it by mentally listing the reasons why it wasn’t a good idea. I just went and I laughed and I had fun with my friends.
  • My children let my sleep this morning. Due to my inconsistent working hours my children definitely lack routine. Each week is different and my kids definitely suffer as a result of it. Sometimes I can pick them up from school, sometimes not. Sometimes I have a day at home, sometimes not. As a result, the girls are MEGA clingy. When I am home they want me. It’s lovely and I know there will be a time when they are indifferent but at the moment when they are both under 5 and struggling with the concept of sharing, I literally feel pulled in all directions. Today, however they went downstairs with daddy with no tears and I slept!!!!
  • I went for a run. Yet again this word spontaneous is going to pop up. I didn’t have time to talk myself out of it. I went into the sunshine and just ran. Maybe that is the thing….as a parent who works full time, spontaneity is word that is never used. Mums have no time for spontaneity. I know parenting is something we signed up for and I love it, but having the freedom to be spontaneous is really important. I could have spent the morning cleaning my fridge and hoovering (which was on my to do list) but I did something for me and it felt freeing and invigorating.
  • I went to the charity shop and bought tons of lovely books.
  • Today I have a matinee and no evening show. This is a major thing. Tonight I will have a ‘normal’ Saturday night with my husband. We will get a takeaway and watch a movie. This is not something to be sniffed at. There is something slightly depressing coming into work on a Friday night. Going up the escalator at Charing Cross and watching all the other people with that ‘Friday Feeling’ heading down the escalator to go home for their weekend is strange. I love my job and I am very lucky but weekends aren’t weekends when you are going into work. You miss your family and friends.
  • I found an unused Β£20 off voucher in my ASOS account. WIN.

So as a result, occasionally being spontaneous is wonderful for my mental health. I will have to remember this but ironically I will have to remember that I can’t plan to be spontaneous.

Have a lovely weekend.

Me, myself and the little voice in my head

I have just done a major thing. Major for me anyway. I have just done an audition. As I am an opera singer this shouldn’t be the big deal it is but unfortunately I am an opera singer who has MAJOR nerves.

Singing used to be something that was ridiculously easy. I always played the piano and the flute but when my nerves started to get the better of me I decided to start singing. It went well for a while. Really well. I got roles in shows, a good performance degree and I was accepted into the RNCM in Manchester. I think this was where it started to go wrong. I would dread having to stand up in class and sing. I was terrified everyone would think I was crap. This ultimately is my problem….I am terrified of what others think of me. Unfortunately, I also lack the competitive gene, which is a must in my industry. It isn’t important to me to be the best. At college we were pushed into competitions and auditions which I just hated. I am also someone who has zilch poise. I am happy to run around singing arias and being funny, but give me a role that is just about beautiful, serene singing, then I just fall apart.

It is important for me to acknowledge that I am a good singer. On my own in a practice room I am really good. In front of people who are judging me, it all goes a bit wrong. That is the crux. To be a good singer, you don’t necessarily have to have the best set of pipes, you just have to have the self-belief that you do.

Anyway, as I said, today I am proud. I just did an audition. This wasn’t an anonymous audition. This was in front of my colleagues. People I will see again. Tomorrow in fact. I didn’t sing my best, but it definitely could have been a TONNE worse. For about 10 minutes, I managed to silence the voice in my head and I just did it. Will I get a part??? I don’t know, but for me, having the courage to audition was massive.

I am now heading home for a big glass of wine .

4 Very varied book reviews.

It has been yonks since I put up some book reviews and the irony/impropriety of reviewing a children’s book, a parenting guide, a wine guide and a book of poetry based on depression is not lost on me. If this grouping of books offends you, please stop reading now. Interestingly, I did not plan to read these books around the same time but for me, they are beautifully linked. I am a parent to two girls under five, I have depression and I really like a glass of wine. There, all linked and packaged up with a nice bow.

A LION IS A LION by POLLY DUNBAR

Is a lion still a lion if…he wears a hat? And carries an umbrella, too?

And is a lion still a lion if he says, “Oh yes, lunch would be lovely, thank you.”

And he asks you for…a BITE?

Firstly, I would like to say how much my daughters and I loved Polly Dunbar’s illustrations. My 4 year old told me ‘they were easy to understand.’ I think by this she means that the pages weren’t so busy that her 4 year old brain suffered with sensory overload. I often find books for children are so full of bright colours, big words, all singing and all dancing that children are so distracted that they lose the thread of the story. Not so with the book. The pictures are simple and beautifully drawn. My children and I particularly likes the ‘danger moments.’ This is when the lion decides he would quite like to eat the children in the story. Cleverly, Dunbar uses the colour red as a page background which prompted a lot of discussion with my 4 year old about red meaning danger. She is apparently steering clear of red food for a while. The message behind this book is also really empowering to children, particularly before bedtime. If something scares you/tries to eat you….chuck it out of your house and tell it ‘No! No! No! NO!’ This is a lovely book, really enjoyed by my 2 and 4 year old.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this book.

I initially requested this ARC because I want to read more poetry. I am sorry to admit that I am a bit of a novice when it comes to reading poetry and my vision of it is fuelled by memories of plodding through A Level poetry which I often found tedious. So far, in my tasting menu of poetry, I am really enjoying modern poetry and I thought the subject matter of Benhaim’s new book of poems would definitely be something I could relate to.

Benhaim, is not a poet I am familiar with so before embarking on her collection I sat down with a cuppa and got onto Google. I was hoping to find a Wikipedia post giving me some background. This was unfortunately not to be. Instead, I became immersed into the world of Slam Poetry. To Slam Poetry virgins like myself, Slam is a competition which originated in 1984 in Chicago. It was intended as a way to move poetry away from stuffy libraries and bring it out to audiences. Poets take to the microphone and compete against other poets. Slam poetry is Benhaim’s background. It is worth watching her perform her poem ‘Explaining my depression to my mother, a conversation.’ This video has been viewed 6 million times on Youtube.

Having watched everything of Benhaim’s I could find, I embarked on her book. I loved these poems. So many of them spoke to me and even though the main subject matter is depression, a had a wry smile on my face as so much of what she said made sense to me:

In some stories,

the protagonist has to kill the bad thing to

release its light.

in my story,

I am the protagonist & the bad thing,

I have to learn how to bend the light out of myself.

I can do that magic.

So many beautiful thoughts and ways of expressing them. I think my favourite poems were ‘How to fold a memory’ – her words created such wonderful and fragile imagery. ‘Another plain truth,”poem for the moment after you left,”so my friend tells me she identifies as a mermaid,”feed a fever, starve a cold,’ ‘what I told the doctor, the second time,’

These poems, short stories really came alive to me after having watched how she performs. I completely have her voice in my head and it really helped my to get used to her conversational style.

A really wonderful book of poetry and I will definitely recommend it to others.

Oh Helen McGinn where have you been all my life??? Thank god I have found you now. I feel as I am now in my late 30s (argh) it is time for me to get into the club. The club I talk is the Club of Wise Ones What Know About Wine. I had friends who joined this club in their early 20s and I thought it was all a bit pretentious. I just wanted to get pissed on whatever was cheapest in sainos. If something was on offer, I would buy it….as long as it was in the Β£6 and under price bracket. In the year before we jumped on the baby train my husband and I went on our last big holiday. We went to America and spent a lot of time in Napa. We hired bikes and I have slightly soft focused memories of us cycling around various vineyards, trying to pretend we weren’t pissed and that we knew vaguely what we were on about. We didn’t, and it made me realise I wanted to be part of this club whoΒ didΒ know.

I live in South West London which is an area often referred to as Nappy Valley. Everywhere you look, there are pregnant people, Range-Rover priced buggies, sleep consultants, breast-feeding consultants, mothers who are wearing jumpers with slogans describing how they are just blagging motherhood (they aren’t. Their idea of blagging motherhood is to feed their kids chicken nuggets one night a week instead of organic bolognese). Controversially, i have found since living here, I am slightly allergic to this group of women ( by all means, it is not the women round here) who quaff prosecco whilst holding baby Zara (who is dressed in Bonpoint) wanking on about how knackered they are. As a result, i tend to veer away from blogs and books with the title ‘The knackered/yummy/ confused/baffled/hysterical mummy.’ Helen McGinn has without a doubt proved me wrong and made me realise that my prejudice is ridiculous.

This book is so readable without being too easy. It is definitely a book which I shall keep and often refer back to. This does not read like an idiots guide to wine, but its simplicity in content makes you feel that you are getting to grips with how wine works without being bamboozled by the complicated stuff. Β For a wine beginner, this is definitely the book for you. Its humour, lack or pretension and brilliantly structured chapters make it a really fun read. The chapter about book clubs and wine has inspired me to start my own wine tasting/book reading club. Thanks Helen. Top work.

 

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.

In my review above I have already given my opinions on the trend that is self-deprecting parents writing books and blogs on how they bare winging parenthood. This phenomenon has really taken off in the last few years and I feel we are inundated with similar parenting manuals. Having said that, I requested this ARC because I hadn’t read anything from the father’s point of view.

Sam Avery is a funny guy. He should be…he is a stand up comedian. He also has twin sons which will provide him with enough funny material for the next 15 years. His first chapter, entitled Diary of a Two-Year-Old made my openly guffaw on the train. I made my husband read it whilst we were trying to stay awake over a glass of wine last saturday. We did that knowing laugh, that parents do when we discover that we all go through the same thing. Also, his chapter on soft-play was brilliant.

My only issue with this book, is that for me, I think I would have enjoyed it more had I read it a little more sporadically. Avery is hilarious but if you read it in one sitting you get slightly bored of the humour. Pretty much every paragraph has a simile or analogy which eventually become totally frustrating. I felt I was drowning in Avery’s need to make me laugh every 5 seconds and as a result, as the book continued, to became less funny.

Having said that, it was really refreshing to read a man’s take on parenthood and it would be a great book to give to any soon to be dad’s.

 

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas people.