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When I was pregnant, there they sat in great dusty piles by the side of the bed, willing me to read them while I studiously ignored them. And as I got bigger and bigger, so did the pile.

I had all the usual suspects – What To Expect When You’re Expecting, The Rough Guide To Pregnancy, plus a fair few wackier purchases made on Amazon and Ebay in those desperate, early hours of the morning: paperbacks on natal hypnotherapy and hippy homebirths and spiritual midwifery. Quite frankly they all equally scared the hell out of me: the chapters slowly counting down the weeks towards D-Day, and bringing up horrible topics like pain relief choice and how to dodge episiotomies, when I’d rather have been thinking about floral maternity dresses and sweet-smelling pregnancy massages and eating cream cakes. The hippy ones scared me in a different way to the anatomical – however, hard I tried I couldn’t imagine ever being as sanguine as the women pictured in these books, with their bottles of lavender essential oil, and loose white yoga trousers.

Then there were the graphic pictures showing me the stage of development of my unborn foetus (in short, yuck), and the myriad birth positions my husband could hoist me into if he was so inclined. Did I really need all this information, and all this fodder to feed my neurosis? Wouldn’t my body just get on with it like they did in the old days, before the advent of mummy internet forums and parenting manuals? If I knew that this week it was all about growing eyeballs and livers, did it really make me feel any better? No, it just made even more worried about all the things I didn’t do properly in the early days when I was pregnant but didn’t know it.  (Folic acid supplements from week one? You must be kidding.)

Indeed, my hunch that all that methodical preparation first-timers do – birthplans with complicated footnotes, hiring birthing pools – would be hilariously irrelevant faced with the reality of  overcrowded hospitals, bad-tempered consultants, overworked midwives and the fact that most of  us just don’t possess the right physiology to just slip one out in 45 minutes in our back living room, was confirmed after a 24-hour labour that culminated not in a peaceful water birth while listening to Mozart sonatas, but a traumatic forceps delivery, the finer details of which I still don’t really care to share with the greater universe.

Then, of course, when baby arrived, I graduated onto the new mothers’ manuals and the dusty pile grew higher. The first few weeks of my son’s life was (rather predictably) spent reading Gina Ford’s Contented Little Baby, The Baby Whisperer and What To Expect: The First Year at 3am in the morning as I attempted to breastfeed. I dumbly read a book on co-sleeping from cover to cover even when my son was already in his own room, and I had no intention of taking him back into mine (I enjoy sleep too much). But I also had an admittedly slightly outdated Miriam Stoppard charity shop book that literally taught me how to change a nappy, and how to wash a newborn – with no mother or mother-in-law to help me, it was a lifesaver.

And now. Well, even now the pile continues to grow. Can a manual really help you be a better mother? I guess it can have a jolly good try.

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Coffee cup by Bitzcelt

Coffee cup by Bitzcelt

 

When I was pregnant, I more or less gave up caffeine. Ok, not totally – I still had the odd cup of tea – but I drank plenty of other stuff too. Water. Orange juice. Herbal teas in flavours ranging from dandelion (yuk) to liquorice (surprisingly nice) and gallons of raspberry leaf (because it was good for something related to childbirth that I’ve already forgotten). When I had coffee, it was usually decaff. I even drank roobois tea, with milk, in lieu of normal tea – it looks fairly similar, and I grew to like the slightly bizarre smoky flavour and deep red-brown hue.

And then I became a mother. And slowly, slowly my caffeine intake went up and up until it looked one of those graphs depicting the rise of swine flu cases. What was to blame exactly? Well, obviously, to begin with the crushing tiredness, the stumbling about not being sure if it was day or night, and the desire to mimic something resembling wakefulness and alertness in the company of others. And then there were the endless coffee mornings that being a new mother entails, either at others’ houses or in the coffee houses of my local high street. Having a coffee with someone was no longer just a nice thing to do. It was my raison d’etre. I craved my next tumbler of hot frothy capuccino with chocolate sprinkle on top in the way that, I imagine, a drug addict craves his next hit. Soon I was spending more per week on capuccinos than I did on baby wipes (and believe me, that is saying something).  

Now it has got the point where if I don’t have a decent caffeine shot at the start of each day I look and feel like something that has crawled out of the grave. These days on waking I generally feel like I have the worst hangover of all time, only miraculously without any alcohol having passed my lips the previous night.

First thing, I will now even contemplate instant coffee in the absence of anything more refined on the palate (and I never drink instant. Though if I have it very milky it kind of makes me feel like I’m drinking coffee-flavoured Nesquik). It’s not just about the caffeine though. There’s something so lovely about clutching one of these reassuringly expensive cardboard cups of frothy coffee as you embark on the day. It makes you feel stronger. Happier. Better able to cope. Like you’re a sassy kind of individual partaking in cool and interesting lifestyle choices as you queue to a soundtrack of jazz lite, and gaze wistfully at the flapjacks, the muffins, the exotic Italian biscotti. That is rather than a victim of mass marketing over content – those frothy  coffees are 50 per cent air – wasting vast amounts of money, and cardboard, on something you could make yourself.

 Still, look around at those other office drones, clutching their little cups of hope as they too stumble into work, their paper receptable of coffee the highlight of their disappointing days. They feel that way too. And some of them aren’t even mothers.

 

 

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This blog is currently dedicated to stuff new mummies like. As opposed to stuff mummies of teenagers like. That's because we don't have teenagers yet. Give us a few years though. We're told it goes pretty quickly...

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