My phantom pregnancy…

A pregnant woman

A pregnant woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am back in the “office” and rather gratifyingly my clients seemed to have missed me.  The week started well largely because Monday signalled the end of half term and a return to sanity.  I muddled through the week until Thursday when my sense of humour was tested to its full.

Let me explain.  Thursday started innocuously enough.  I did some exercise – yes, I know what you’re thinking…that doesn’t sound that innocuous considering that I am the girl who dresses for exercise when I have absolutely no intention of exercising in order to appear as though I have been exercising.  Confused?  So am I a lot of the time.  Anyway, that morning I had actually been exercising and in order to maximise my post-exercise smugness, I wore my exercise kit for the rest of the day.

That afternoon I went to a meeting with a friend as part of my class rep duties.  At the start of this meeting, I was introduced to someone who is helping us with a class party.  I was still attired in my exercise clothes (arguably not that suited to a meeting).  The man to whom I was introduced seemed rather fascinated with my stomach – or at least that was where his eyes were focused (makes a change, I guess, from another part of one’s anatomy!) and he said hello and then said something on the lines of “Who’s been eating lots of chocolate then?” – yes, I kid you not, this was his opener.  Those who know me well will attest to the fact that I am very rarely lost for words…on this occasion I was literally struck dumb.

First reaction:  what the…? Second reaction:  I must be wrong, he must mean something completely different. Third reaction: surely not…he can’t mean that…perhaps he does mean that.  No worries, he soon clarified what he actually meant by digging himself into the most extraordinarily large hole with the immortal words “Oh sorry, I thought you were pregnant!”. Yes, you read that right, he did say that and not for the first time in that few minutes, I was once more left entirely speechless.

Let’s face it, you wouldn’t really take the pregnancy option with a complete stranger unless you were fairly confident that they were well into the gestation period, would you? It’s not the kind of thing you want to get wrong, is it?  By my reckoning, that would make me at least 5-6 months pregnant…I don’t know who was more mortified  – me or him when the error of his judgement was pointed out to him.

Suffice to say, the best thing to do in such circumstances is laugh and hold your stomach in ad infinitum – both of which I have been doing since Thursday last week.  It must be said that this little  incident could not have had worse timing as Friday signalled the start of a weekend in France for me, my husband and some friends and that weekend clearly meant swimwear horror.  I didn’t let it put me off and in fact I just milked it all weekend…”eating for two”, “need to put my feet up in my condition” etc.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and mine came on Friday evening at 3.30am outside a french nightclub.  As I sat outside the club waiting for our taxi,  I was approached by a man (in front of husband) –  a good-looking man in his mid-twenties I should add.  He asked me if I was tired as I was sitting down and I replied that at my age, 40, (and in my condition!), tiredness was an occupational hazard if you dared to go anywhere after midnight.  He looked genuinely surprised and said he couldn’t believe I was 40 and had thought I was 29 tops. OMG, distended “pregnant” stomach immediately forgotten as I basked in the ultimate (although clearly ludicrous) compliment.

I of course related this to my friends in the taxi with great glee – divine retribution, I thought, for the earlier horror visited upon me on Thursday. My husband and my friends were less convinced.  They pointed out the obvious (which I was trying to ignore) that it was 3.30 am, dark outside and the man in question was almost certainly wearing a very strong pair of “beer goggles”  Thanks guys!

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I think, therefore I am…

Mr Blobby (song)

Mr Blobby (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daughter (age 3, 6am): “Mummy, I need some Calpol ‘cos I’ve got a tummy ache.”

Me (age 40, one eye open, hangover pending): “Calpol is not for tummy aches, it’s for temperatures and headaches.”

Daughter: “Well, my tummy has got a headache.”

Me: silent, unable to counter “child logic”.

There is something about a child’s impeccable logic which makes it very difficult to argue against.  Of course, it is actually not logical at all but it is the conviction with which it is delivered and its ability to catch you totally unawares that makes it impossible to dispute.

It is exchanges such as this which make you realise that how children see the world is so different to how we see it.  There is no sense of responsibility, no mistrust, no cynicism, no world-weariness to mould a child’s reactions. They say it how it is, how they see it. Many times when my children say something surprising, it makes me yearn to be a child again.  It has always seemed very unfair to me that as adults we have largely forgotten those early days of childhood.  It is ironic that our best days are confined to the deepest inaccessible recesses of our memory. We get sudden jolts of that wonderful childhood excitement and wonder.  For me, it is the magic of Christmas which catapults me straight back into my childhood. It is almost a physical feeling as you see the world through your children’s eyes.

The simplicity of a child’s thought process is so clear and free from all the forces that affect our adult thought processes. Sometimes, their comments seem to be so left field but in their simplicity they reveal so much about the workings of a child’s mind.

My middle son asked me the other day “How did God make himself?”. I have to admit to being totally unprepared for this philosophical question, coming as it did in that 10 minute window of hell which is the mad scramble to get on the school run.  It struck me as very interesting that my 6 year old son was pondering such deep questions at a time when I was picking up Shreddies from under my daughter’s chair and wondering whether I could get away with that good old favourite “pasta pesto” for the kids’ dinner that evening. I’m afraid I batted his question away with a “great question, I’ll have to give that some thought” – hoping to buy myself some time in which at best he would totally forget ever having asked the question and at worst I would have had time to dig out my bluffer’s guide to philosophy of religion.

Children do have a knack of asking or saying the most unexpected things at the most inopportune moments.  I remember when I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with my daughter and I was heaving myself up the hill home from the shops with my sons (no doubt again pondering whether “pasta pesto” for the third time this week was tantamount to neglect) my elder son suddenly stopped and said, “When the baby is born, will it come out of your mouth?”.  What do you say?  Here I am, just minding my own business, wobbling up the hill like “Mr Blobby” (without the yellow spots) blissfully unaware that my son is contemplating the finer intricacies of the birthing process.  I admired his logic but this was not the time for a full on discussion about giving birth which would inevitably lead on to the “how did the baby get there in the first place” conversation.  I think I responded with a “It’s not quite like that, but not far off” sort of reply.  In normal circumstances this would have been woefully inadequate but fortunately he had been distracted by the fact that his brother had stepped in dog poo which of course he found hysterically amusing and I found painfully unamusing as bending down to remove said dog poo, required a feat of almost impossible balance and acrobatic nature totally unsuited to someone in the late stages of pregnancy.  Although I have to admit to being marginally grateful for whoever’s dog it was that chose to open its bowels on the pavement just there as it saved me from a complicated conversation with my son.

Despite the difficulties which these questions sometimes present, I absolutely love the randomness of their asking. Amongst the relentless routines and order of bringing up small children, there is something hugely refreshing and constantly surprising about the things they say and ask. The way they view the world is so unpredictable and we should celebrate this short period of their lives when they are not constrained by responsibility, awareness or cynicism.  It is through our child’s thinking that we get glimpses of a long-forgotten childhood, of that very special time before awareness creeps in and permeates our thought processes and our responses to the world around us.

Morning Sickness can be a serious business…

The British royal family on Buckingham Palace ...

The British royal family on Buckingham Palace balcony after Prince William and Kate Middleton were married. Kate wears a wedding gown by Sarah Burton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So William and Kate have announced her pregnancy – or rather they were forced to because poor Kate has been admitted to hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum (bloody awful morning sickness to the rest of us).  It may surprise you, as I am usually rather cynical about what might be construed as media hyperbole, that I am actually fully sympathetic to Kate’s current situation and I am not dismissing it as a tad of morning sickness which because she is now a member of the royal family must entail a hospital stay.  I too suffered from HG (Hyperemesis gravidarum) or BAMS (bloody awful morning sickness) in all three of my pregnancies and was also admitted to hospital. I can safely say that as a frequenter of hospitals on a regular basis for a multitude of bizarre medical conditions, HG/BAMS is not something I would wish on my worst enemy (with the odd exception). I spent so much of each pregnancy with my head down the loo that I seriously considered whether it would be possible to install a DVD player in the loo seat lid so that I could be entertained whilst I vomited!

I could have cheerfully throttled – if I could have summoned the energy to do so – all those people who would nod sympathetically and say “I know how you feel, I always felt a bit queasy in the mornings but found a ginger biscuit sorted it out.”.  A ginger biscuit – are you serious?  Not even 100 ginger biscuits ground down and fed through a drip would have made me feel even one iota better. No, until you’ve suffered from HG/BAMS, you have not understood the meaning of the word “sickness”.  Imagine having food poisoning for 4 straight months – morning, noon and night coupled with trying to continue in a job or with your family routine without anyone knowing you’re pregnant, and you begin to get the feel for it.  Hyperemesis gravidarum is often known as excessive morning sickness because of its tongue-twister latin name but unfortunately this doesn’t really cover it and most misleading of all is the word “morning” – if only it had been.

Morning sickness is often dismissed as just one of those small annoyances of pregnancy and for the vast majority it is just that.  However, for those suffering from HG, the reality is very different.  As it is not a common condition, you can feel very isolated and what is supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life can be turned into a living, seemingly never-ending nightmare.  As for considering another baby after one pregnancy blighted by HG, well, it takes a brave person and I can remember only too well those first weeks of my second and third pregnancies, waiting for the wall of non-stop sickness to start, not to mention the constant worry that this perpetual vomiting was harming my baby in some way and facing the very difficult decision whether to take medication to help with the sickness and all the implications of that.

My first pregnancy coincided with some particularly irritating press coverage about how morning sickness is all in the mind.  As you can imagine, this makes me snort with derision – does anyone honestly think that if I had such a fertile imagination, I would create a fantasy condition in which I threw up at approximately 1-2 hour intervals for the first four months of a pregnancy and then only slightly less often thereafter? I would hope that if I was blessed with such creativity, I might put it to some slightly better use or at least create a fantasy condition for myself that was marginally more pleasurable.

If nothing else, Kate being admitted to hospital with HG will raise awareness of what can be a truly horrendous condition to suffer from and one which has had very little media attention traditionally (considered all part of being a woman I suppose).  So next time you see a pregnant woman looking a little green around the gills, spare a thought for her – it just might be that she has something that neither a ginger biscuit nor those ridiculous sea-sickness wristbands could possibly help.