“But is she though?”

paris

I think once you have been guilty of hiding a pregnancy until week 12, the stigma of that crime does not leave you until menopause. I find no matter where I am, anything I do has to prefaced with “I’m not pregnant”.

Now it’s all “I’m not pregnant, I sometimes I just get sick in the morning, because, you know, I’m sick”. Or “I’m not pregnant, I have just decided for no apparent reason to avail of the health benefits of a sober life.” Or “I’m not pregnant, it’s just that I realised smoking twenty a day was ageing my skin”. Or “I’m not pregnant, I always hated shellfish and soft cheese, especially as a combo.” Or “I’m not pregnant, I have always been a hormonal mess, and have always cried at the Andrex puppy ads.” Or “I’m not pregnant, I just like cake and hate jogging.”

And I can tell that half of you here at the bottom are thinking “-but is she actually pregnant”.

It’s a crime that never leaves you.

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Long Read – Women against Pregnant Women

women against pregnant women

 

This post was conceived as an impassioned plea on behalf of new fathers to receive more assistance from society (via the government) to allow them the time to bond with their children. But after an incident in a local hair salon* it has become a rant against women.

(*As a side note – any politician who wants to know what the pressing issues are for their female constituents needs to get their arse into a hair dressers or beautician’s chair. I don’t care if your hair is only an inch long and in perfect condition, this is where women talk to women, and where women chatter, issues are aired.)

Let me take a step back and set the scene. I was sitting in a hairdressers chair flicking thought the latest OK Magazine, gossiping about Kate Middleton’s maternity style (ok, sometimes when women chatter nothing meaningful is discussed, but stick with me) when the girl dying my hair told me she was pregnant. I was so excited for her I think I may have squealed aloud. I don’t know what it is about pregnancies and engagements – they just excite and delight everyone even if they are random strangers – or so I thought. However the girl (perhaps a little overwhelmed by my excitement wondering if I thought I was going to be made godmother or something) informed me that no, in fact not everyone was excited about pregnancies, and proceeded to tell me that she had told several of her regular clients that she was pregnant, and far from congratulating her, they were actually very put out. The manners their Mamma taught them made them grind out an ‘Oh how wonderful for you’ through gritted teeth and then straight away ask ‘when will you be gone and more importantly when will you be back’ – words which if said in an office would evoke the same sort of shocked silence a racist slur would arouse, so absolutely known is it that that is not the correct response to happy news.

But not here. Everyone surrounding waits for this young girls reply. She hesitantly admits (admits!) that she is due December 23rd, so she is finishing up December 8th, two weeks before her due date as set out in the legislation, (bearing in mind that her profession requires her to stand all day long, when I know that at 8 months it was a problem for me to sit all day long, so as far as I’m concerned she is cutting it fine, but there you have it.) ‘So you will be gone for Christmas? So I’ll need to find someone else to do my hair?’ is spat back at her with a scowl that could sour milk ‘Can you not work until Christmas, surely that would be better, a little cash for you going into Christmas.’

At this point I would like to interject with a little context. This is a conversation between two women, two women who know each other, albeit casually, for more than five years. One is an older lady with children, the client, and the other is a younger first time mother who relies on repeat regular clients for her livelihood. In essence this is a conversation between an employer and employee.

And I would like to take this one step further. Let’s take the words of the client and put them into a balding, sweating, middle-aged male business owner and replay the situation; girl tells boss that she is pregnant – boss aggressively questions her plans for leave during the busy season and implies there will be no job for her when she returns to work …. And let it percolate… And now let’s speculate how long (and I mean in terms of minutes) do you think it would take that girl to find a solicitor ready to sue that boss for unfair dismissal on grounds of pregnancy. Not only would the case not take long, and her success guaranteed, but so protected are pregnant women in employment law that I assume she would win big. Even if only a supervisor or colleague had said it I assume that there would be more than pregnancy weight filling out her back pocket.

Now let’s step back into the salon. Is the hairdresser able to sue? No, she is self-employed talking to a customer whose business she needs. Is she able to say she is unhappy with the client’s reaction and that it is upsetting to her? Again, no, because she is self-employed talking to a customer whose business she needs, who knows that she is about to lose a lot of regular customers because she dared have a personal life and a family life. So instead she has to try and laugh it off, pray that she doesn’t go into labour early and try to imply without committing that actually she will probably be only gone for a short period of time, and will probably be back to work on Saturdays really quickly, probably within the month.

The double standard at play here is mind boggling to me. How some women safe in regulated office jobs are treated so completely different to those who dared branch out on their own to be self-employed, not by the law, but by the women that surround them.

When I sat down to write this post I was thinking about the Dads. I was thinking how unfair it is that women get several months paid maternity leave and Dads are not even entitled to one day. I was looking to the Danish and Swedish models and thinking why can’t we be more like them? But actually, after the above incident, I have realised that we are actually much further apart than I could have realised. Far from supporting fathers (who are important and I’ll cover that again) we need to start supporting mothers.

Pregnancy, particularly unexpected pregnancies, can cause huge dramatic changes in a person’s life. We as a society need to be assuring young women that of all the things that will change, one thing that will remain secure is their employment. This is not something that a government can change or a law can change, we need to change. We need to stop being so selfish and self-centred and look beyond a minor inconvenience to see the bigger picture, a miracle growing before your eyes. There is going to be a new life, a new person in the world, who will fundamentally change all those around them. And although you might be only witnessing this as a stranger on the outside, the very least you can do is cause no harm. Don’t stress a young mother unnecessarily. Don’t be nasty and let her hear the branch creak below her. Support her. Say honestly and openly ‘Oh how wonderful for you’ – no strings attached. When she is gone, make other arrangements and when she is ready, and her child is ready, and her family are ready, for her to return to work, let her do so, in the same way as is afforded every other woman in the state.

What bothered me most about this incident is that it was woman to woman; mother to mother. As a society we have already decided that it is in our combined interest to protect women and allow them to have children and then return to the workplace. That is why we have such strong laws in the area. But as individuals we have somehow forgotten why our predecessors fought so hard for those laws. It’s not the male dominated culture of the board room, or the non-family-friendly policies of faceless big business, or any of the other excuses that are trotted out by HR journals, at work here. It’s just plain stupidity, ignorance and selfishness. Sometimes that’s more toxic.

 

Please note the details of this post have been altered to protect the identities of those involved.

Review: Pilates for Preggos

Pilates for Preggos

 

I announced to my parents that I was pregnant and after the big hugs and excitement calmed down, my mother turned to me and in a stern voice said “Don’t eat too many sweets and start exercising now or the birth will split you in two”.

I wish I could say that I stuck to the first part, but to be honest I got an inverted version of morning sickness, rather than losing my appetite I had an insatiable hunger, right before the Christmas season, sweeties were inevitable. But I did listen to the second part and began to look around for the possibilities.

Having no affiliation to any sport, and having never exercised regularly, I was warned that now was not the time to discover my inner Katie Taylor. I could walk, swim or do pregnancy yoga pilates (for a long time I did not realise that these were two separate things). I love swimming, but between the driving to a pool, getting undressed before and dressed again afterwards, and sorting out long wet hair in freezing Irish winter, it was really more effort than I was willing to put in. Walking is fine, but I already walk about two hours with the dog every second day, and after a while it just gets boring, I couldn’t do anymore of it. So that left Yoga-lates (again didn’t realise that this was different again than either yoga or pilates).

I signed up for the yoga first, and I have to admit I was very sceptical. I am not one for searching for my inner serenity or spending too long sitting still, so the idea of being trapped in a room smelling vaguely of farts and tofu, listening to an earth mother with a fake American accent waffle on while searching in vain for my inner goddess was not appealing, but I had my Mum’s wise words “split you in two” ringing in my ears, so I borrowed a yoga mat and got down to the class.

Well, I could not have been more wrong. What greeted me was the fragrance of clean clothes from the laundrette downstairs, a class of very normal ladies and an instructor with a broad Dublin accent who was more concerned with breathing through labour than finding inner peace. I was already beginning to relax. I have to admit there was still some nonsense about picturing your child’s love and your love for your child, which at 30+ weeks might be very desirable thing to do when you can feel the baby kick and move, but, at my mere 18 weeks, when I was not really feeling any different to my pre-pregnancy self, it felt very cloud-dancer-ish. Plus while we are never still, always moving from one position to another, I still thought I could do with something a little more energetic. That is when I stumbled onto aqua-pilates.

I have to admit, I did picture snorkels, 80’s music and preggos in spandex, and what greeted me was not much different. There was no music or breathing apparatus, but there were preggos in swimsuits with floats – which were used to give your body the sort of stretch that is only otherwise achieved on a medieval rack. It felt awesome. So much so that I was twitching like a junkie to get back in the pool and do it again. But while various knots and kinks were being worked out of muscles, there was a different sort of talk here, less about birthing and more about the times around that – the before and after; who was going to mind the other kids (or in our case animals) while you were in the hospital? Who was allowed visit in the first weeks? Would your partner get parental leave and if so for how long? I must have looked at the poor instructor like a rabbit caught in the headlights – we hadn’t discussed any of this stuff out loud! I got home and did the infamous “we need to talk” to my husband. As it turns out we didn’t really need to talk, although we had not discussed it out loud, we were both on the same page on all topics.

So Pilates and Yoga, would I recommend them to a pregnant friend? Are they worth the investment at a time when you are trying to save for cribs and prams and bottles and clothes? As a first time mother I am going to say yes. I was expecting to choose one over the other after giving both a try, but actually they do two different, although complimentary, things. I haven’t gotten to the birth part, so I cannot say if they will help the passing any, but in terms of good advice and building up a network of women in a similar situation, I think they are worth the couple of quid a week. Plus as every week goes on and the pregnancy feels more real, I hope I will begin to feel my love for the child and the child’s love for me and my love for the world and the worlds ….

 

If you are interested you should check out

http://www.yogaessence.ie/pregnancy-yoga/

and

http://www.celbridgepilates.com/pilates/?page_id=42

 

Pros and Cons about being pregnant

pregs

People tell you that being pregnant is the most wonderful and fulfilling experience of your life, and that really you are not a whole being unless you have gone through the joys of child birth. Now while I try not to vomit in my mouth when I hear these sorts of statements, at the same time I did spend a considerable length of time hoping and praying and trying to become pregnant. While thoroughly enjoying the getting pregnant process, as I look back on it now, heavily pregnant, I never actually stopped to do a thorough analysis on the Pro’s and Con’s of achieving my goals.

So I thought I would do one today.

Pros

This list is shorter than I thought it would be, and trust me, I researched this article thoroughly and this is still all I could find:

1. At the end of it you get a baby, and that’s always nice.

2. You get to play the pregnancy card and nobody can claim that you are faking it (because that would be insensitive and likely to make a very hormonal you wail).
This will get you out of lifting, walking, carrying, traveling, in fact anything that does not involve just sitting and breathing.

3. Your boobs get bigger, and almost look like you had some work done on them.
They become full bouncing cushions of loveliness. [Although at the back of your mind you know that one day they will start leaking – probably at the least opportune moment – so maybe this is a con in disguise?]

4. Without debate you get the last slice of cake.

 

Cons

1. The scary things people expect you to read.
Forget The Shining, forget IT the scariest book I ever tried to read was “What to Expect When You Are Expecting”. Apparently what you should expect is disaster and ruination at every turn; a fish tail, wings and scales are apparently the least weird things your baby could be growing.

2. Random advice you are given.
The advice always appears to come from a reputable source, and yet still, when you hear it, you know you won’t be following it.
Real Life Example;EUMums: “Week 17: Borrow a baby to see how you feel with one in your arms.”
It is possible that following this advice is illegal, and probably the reason that babies have to be fitted with alarms in the hospital. Also, at Week 17, if you decide “Actually, I’m not really sure I fancy this anymore.” There is sod-all you can do about it now; you are giving birth one way or the other.
Which brings me to Point 3.

3. At some point in your future something is going to not only try, but succeed, in crawling out of you.
I don’t think I will ever watch Alien with the same enthusiasm again.

4. Everything that your parents had for you as a baby is now banned.
It’s a whole new horrifying world of danger out there, where cot bumpers, cribs with drop sides and seat belts can …. KILL. So you better go out and buy the latest stuff brand new. Oh and did we forget to mention, everything pre-1980 might be made of lead paint and arsenic so whatever you do, don’t upcycle.

5. The unexpected appearance of baby brain
Where similar sounding words get interchanged in your mind, and you don’t notice for several minutes you have said the wrong one.
Some real life examples:
Saying if something had more swastikas on it, it would be more girly. I meant swarovskies, obviously, as in the crystals. Nazi symbolism not known for it’s girly appeal.
Ordering Durex when I wanted Duracell batteries. How did I get pregnant again?
Forgetting the word for Shamrock, and saying Leprechaun repeatedly instead. And then getting annoyed when nobody understood what the hell I was on about.

6. Your expectations lower dramatically.
Fuck getting it to Harvard, or having it play piano, if it is still the same shape at the end of the day as it was at the start (plus or minus 10%) you consider yourself an AWESOME parent.

7. You realise before getting pregnant, it is possible you were a boarderline/functioning alcoholic
I miss wine. I really do. That one glass of wine on the couch after a long day in the office. That delicious glass of wine that accentuates an expensive meal. That first glass of wine when you are on a night out with your girls. That well-earned glass after a difficult project is completed. That afternoon cool sip of happiness as you watch the world go by.

8. Modern Medicine Abandons you
Get a dose of flu: No Lemsip, No Uni-flu, No Neuofen. You may take hot water, lemon juice and honey, a mixture which was so effective against the Black Death. (and, yes, it is the same concoction they prescribe to balding men to encourage hair-regrowth, for all the good that does).
Twist an ankle or need painkillers desperately – you may have Paracetamol, which is as much use as throwing buns at an elephant. You might as well throw back a packet of skittles for all the good they will do you.

9. Your tastes change
The lifesaving cup of tea at three o’clock tastes sour, alcohol has a strange metallic flavour and when it comes to chocolate, you would rather not (after frantic research this is not a sign you are about to die, but actually a normal reaction to pregnancy). But Brussels sprouts – you can’t get enough of those little suckers.

10. Your hands get very dry
While pregnant you embrace your inner germaphobe and wash your hands ten thousand times a day. You also have to pee ten thousand times a day, so that adds another ten thousand hand washes. By the time you are finished your hands are cracked and sore, and if anyone casually comments on this fact, you cry, because you are still also very hormonal.

 

Life Myths – Fact or Fiction

Where we weed out the truth from the random clap-trap people wheel out.

5. Life Myths

Here are just a few observations I have gleamed from life so far which I have categorised into two groups; I buy that or total balderdash.

1. Dogs don’t eat crisps.

Dogs eat the sides of tables, shoes, their own bed, and if you don’t stop them the cats’ litter tray, of course they eat crisps.

2. Cats don’t eat crisps.

Now this one I felt held more water, but unfortunately, when tested fell through. The cat will eat whatever you eat, if only because you looked like you were enjoying it. I think it’s a trust thing – if it hasn’t killed the royal taster then it probably won’t kill the cat.

3. Dogs and cats SHOULDN’T eat crisps.

Now this one I believe. I’m not a vet or anything, and haven’t asked one in case they take my animals away for their own safety, and I am sure there has never been a cat or dog fed solely crisps to test it, but I feel like this one is more than a factoid – I think it could be a fact.

4. You need to live in the countryside to keep hens – you cannot do it in a housing estate.

Not true. If you have a patch without concrete or stones about 2m x 1m that you can pop a hen house on, call the council to get yourself a flock number and a local farmer to get you a couple of hens and away you go. Just bear in mind that hens poop EVERYWHERE so enclose the area, and it is not safe for little hands who are likely to touch the poop and then put those hands in their mouth to play around hens (plus hens can be fairly trigger happy with the ole pecks and those beaks are hard). Little hands that are more germaphopic should be fine.

5. Your neighbours would prefer if you lived in the countryside if you are going to keep hens.

Judging from the cooling of relations with our neighbours over the hens that woke up at 5.30am and announced the new day to the world – I’m going to say this is a fact.

6. You need to live in the countryside to keep a sheep or a pig

This one is also a fact. It seems like a great idea initially; the sheep can live in the front garden, trim the grass and give milk; the pig can live in the back garden and eventually we will eat it. Then you meet a full grown sheep and realise those huge teeth in the front are actually bone and sheep are terrifying, or, you meet a full grown pig and realise it would have no qualms eating you, cooked or not. Plus the Residents Committee are likely to picket with placards if you go this far.

7. Your school days are the best days of your life

Please tell me in what world does a day when you have no money, live at home with your nagging uncool parents and annoying siblings, are very hormonal, have bad skin and are studying hard for exams better than a day when you blow off work early, head down to the pub for a few pints, meet a nice looking someone and go home to have causal sex?

Every day that gets me further away from my awkward teenage years is the best day for me.

8. Your wedding day is the best day of your life.

Lady, all in the same day, I once found e20 in an old jacket, ordered takeaway and got it for free, spent the whole day on the couch watching great telly and then later found a mars bar down the back of that couch. No day has topped that yet.

9. Being pregnant is the most special time of your life.

This one might be true, but only because to go from pregnant to no longer pregnant a) something has to crawl out of you and b) people will judge if you opt for too many painkillers to numb the experience. I can only imagine how the time preceding that event, when you didn’t have the memories of that trauma, would seem to be very special.

10. Every day has the potential to be special

This one I buy.

Soon to follow: Things That Aren’t True but Should Be.