Friday, February 27, 2009

As the big day approaches

*My column for this week - apologies if some of it seems repeated from early blog posts.

There are few things guaranteed to make you feel less ridiculous than sitting, bouncing on a birthing ball, watching Sex and the City trying to pretend – for just one second – that there is a touch of glamour and excitement left in your life.
Yes, I’m just over a week away from my due date and things have started to hot up in the Allan household. (Although not, in any kind of Carrie/ Mr Big romantically charged way, you understand).
My standard evening now involves a very early change into my jammies and an hour or so either bouncing on or lying over an oversize gym ball in a bid to ease those deliciously deceptive Braxton Hicks contractions which have me wondering if labour is imminent at any moment.
I’m almost afraid to leave the house. And when I do I rush around as fast as my hugely pregnant belly will let me for fear of my waters breaking somewhere entirely inappropriate (like the school playground). My sister has suggested I start hanging around shops I like, you know just in case those rumours of shops being very kind to women who have almost delivered in the soft furnishings aisle are correct. I, however, can’t bear the thought of having to explain to anyone that no, I’ve not wet myself, and yes, I am having a baby and then having to worry about some first aiding stranger offering to give me a check over or deliver my baby amid the scatter cushions.
I’ve become mildly obsessed with Google and lists of symptoms of early labour – as if I haven’t been through it before. Although in fairness it was five years ago and my memory is very much clouded by a haze of gas and air.
I have also learned the very important lesson that should you even suspect, for a second, you are actually going into early labour the one way to stop any pains dead in their tracks is to tell someone else. A simple text to my mother “Not sure, but having a little pain” is more effective than an epidural for stopping pain in its tracks.
I have taken also to listening to a hypnobirthing CD – which is not as kooky as it sounds. Although I have yet to manage to listen to it the whole way through without falling asleep or failing to get my breathing right.
The gentle inhalation and exhalation it recommends tends to send me into it a fit of hyperventilation or I find I’m breathing in through my mouth and out through my nose which is the wrong way to do it. There is something terribly depressing about thinking that you can’t even get breathing right.
I should be very zen about it all, I know. Giving birth is, they say, the most natural thing in the world. Millions of women have done it – and many of them have done it more than once. My granny even managed it 10 times which is something I’m on total awe over because I’m a bundle of pre-natal nerves and hormones – which is so not a good mix.
Even my own (increasingly unsympathetic) husband has found his patience for my pre-birth nerves being tested. He tells me frequently I have done it before and survived so I’ll be just fine doing it again.
There are many things in this world people survive – it does not mean they are experiences any of us wish to repeat. I survived almost chopping the back of my foot off once when it got trapped in the spokes of a fast moving bicycle wheel – but I wouldn’t be doing a happy dance at the thought of a repeat performance.
Of course giving birth is different. You get something nice at the end of it. All I got at the end of the evil bike incident was a rake of stitches and some very attractive crutches. This time I’ll be getting a wee baby. (Or if current estimates are anything to go by, a relatively big baby). And of course a baby is much more preferable to a painful injury, even if the giving birth process sometimes feels somewhat the same except to a much more intimate area.
I’ll be completing our family (because believe me, I’m so done with this pregnancy carry on) and I’ll be entering a brand new phase of my life – one where I’m a mother of two. One where I will have to think of my son as a big brother and think of us as a family of four. I’m trying to focus on that – rather than the pain and the fear that I have over the actual birth experience. I’m also trying to focus on the fact that it will just be one day of my life of discomfort before I face a whole new world of excitement, joy and blessings.
Still, if you get the chance, offer up a wee intention for a quick and relatively painless birth experience for me. And say another one that I’m not writing a similar column again in three weeks bemoaning the joys of going overdue – for the sake of my sanity and everyone around me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lucky to have so much to lose...

I've been deeply (hormonally) moved by the death of six year old Ivan Cameron - son of Conservative party leader David Cameron.
It could be because he was a child not much older than my own gorgeous, vibrant son. It could be because the look of devastation on the faces of his parents in today's papers is almost too painful to see. It could just be that it sometimes feels as if there is no rhyme or reason in this world - how a gorgeously little boy can be so afflicted through his short life and then be snatched away from a loving family.

I've cried this morning - especially watching a phone in on 'This Morning' when agony aunt Denise Robertson broke down recalling the death of her own son.

It has made me realise how lucky I am - how blessed that today I kissed a healthy little boy on the cheek and told him I loved him and sent him out to school.

It has brought to mind a quote from 'Waiting for Birdy' (which I did promise to share some of...) In the preceding column Catherine Newman has written of how her son, three year old Ben, was rushed to hospital after taking sick. In the end it turned out to be a viral infection which wasn't serious.
She takes her son home, curls up watching old movies of him as a baby and writes : "We are so lucky to have evaded loss yet again. We are so lucky to have so much to lose."

I know what she means.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

As promised, the nursery..

Sorry if all the posts of late have been somewhat baby focused. I'm trying to think of other things honest but my average thought process is something along the lines of "la la la, baby, la la la, labour, la la la, feck, la la la, cuddles, la la la baby, la la la labour etc etc etc"
My brain has already melted without the post natal hormones kicking in - oh it should be fun.
But anyway - here is the nursery. One of the nicer things to deal with while waiting for Bam Bam.

Did you know..

That prams are no longer called prams?
My new pram is actually an "infant travel solution".

So glad I know that.
Sounds very fancy. My car is now a "Grumpy Hormonal Woman Travel Solution" just so you know.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Waiting for Bam Bam...

Early in this pregnancy Joseph decided the baby in mummy's tummy would be referred to as Bam Bam. Even when we found out she was a she (and now that I have a pink festooned nursery I'm hoping they were right) he still insisted on Bam Bam - there was no change to Pebbles.
Now, however, he refers to her by her chosen name (which I will reveal here when she is born as even though my close friends and family know it I wanted to save at least one surprise for blog readers!). And yet part of me will always think of her as Bam Bam and at the moment, we are waiting for her - patiently.
A few weeks ago Keris lent me a copy of 'Waiting for Birdy' a collection of columns and musings by American writer Catherine Newman who wrote during her second pregnancy and early months of her second child's life.
This book has been my best friend these last few days and weeks. Because Catherine Newman knows exactly how I feel. She knows that while I'm very excited about our new arrival - I'm very nervous about the impact it will have on our existing child.
She knows what it is like to try and balance pregnancy with real life mega worries and try to stay sane. She knows what it is like to feel like death warmed up. And she knows how to make me smile and stay relatively positive.
She has given me hope it will be okay. (As indeed, I have to say, has Keris who is managing beautifully with her second baby at the moment...)

I fully intend to share some of her pearls of wisdom in the coming weeks - but if you are a mother, or a father, or a sister or a human then I recommend you read this book. You won't regret it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Baby Watch - 2 weeks and 2 days left

Yes, yes, I know last week I forgot to do the three weeks and three days left. I'm sorry. By the time I remembered it was well into this week and I was thinking I'd just leave it.
Possibly because several times this week I have wondered "Is this it?" as waves of pain have crashed through me and I've started to swear a little.
And no, obviously, it never was it. The baby just likes to burrow. And wriggle and squirm.
Of course each time I've felt "is this it?" I've also taken a mild fit of panic and wailing. I am, I admit, scared of the whole process. Natural, my foot.
And yet every night I'm giving birth in my dreams in a variety of weird and wonderful situations.
Last night I gave birth in an lecture room while three seperate operations were carried out around me and my hubby was at home because it was late and he was tired.
Anxiety? Just a little!

But birth issues aside, we are trying to get the nursery organised.This involves moving our spare double bed up to the boy's room for him to enjoy. He is very excited - and I'm very jealous. A whole double bed to himself... the thing of dreams! I can't imagine I'll get a bed to myself for a very long time. And while I like the comfort of someone else in bed with me, I also like the utter decadence of being able to stretch out and relax.

I am also feeling brave and may hang the pink curtains. I had been resisting in case, you know, she comes out with a wanger - but the nesting need is just too, too strong.

So that's it for 2 weeks and 2 days. When I think of those figures I freak out just ever so slightly. I imagine next week, when it is one week and one day I'll be even more skittish.
And when it gets to the stage that I'm 10 days overdue and looking down the barrel at a syntocin drip expect complete mayhem.
Fortunately for you, dear reader, they do not allow live blogging from the labour ward.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I wrote!

And you know what, it really is sometimes just a case of what my fellow Derry writer Brian McGilloway says - sometimes you just have to sit down and fecking do it.
Sure my head has been mince (as my lovely VBF would say) the last few months but I have a book plotted and there in my head entirely and now I just have to fecking write the thing.
So this morning - no excuses. Even though I was in very bad form after a visit to the midwife (how can a midwife make me feel like an errant 2 year old just by looking at me over her specs?) I sat down and 1000 words of 'Ever After' poured out.
And you know what - there is nothing in it about poking pins into the arms of midwives or asking them to pee into ridiculously small plastic tubes while their stomach extends to the end of the bathroom or indeed weighing them and commenting on it. (For the record I am almost 38 weeks pregnant and have put on 2lbs the whole fecking pregnancy, so LEAVE ME ALONE).

Anyway - some of it, I think, was funny and I feel all proud of myself. I'm now going to cuddle my baby nephew for an hour and then get my gorgeous boy from school and then later I will just sit fecking down and writing some fecking more. So there.

The Jade Goody thing

So Jade Goody has just weeks to live – and it seems that we will be watching her every step of the way as she succumbs to cancer.
It’s ironic really that the woman who made a life for herself in a top rated reality TV show now faces ending her life in the biggest reality TV show of all time. The press, gossip columnists and TV producers of this country are falling over themselves to get the exclusives on the end stage of her battle, her big wedding, her looks of anguish and pain as she says goodbye to her children and, probably – ultimately – her funeral.
I can’t ever say I’ve been a fan of Jade Goody. Her battle with cancer has not really changed my opinion of her. I’m not one of those people who now finds myself falling over myself to call her a heroine or an inspiration. She is, basically, just yet another human being being battered into submission by cancer. I don’t feel any more sorrow for her than I do for anyone else who has found themselves in that same, horrendous position she is in.
But I have found myself wrapped up in the human tragedy of what is playing out in front of our eyes. And I’m almost ashamed of myself because it feels wrong to feel so caught up in the battle of a celeb to beat an illness that they now know they can no longer beat.
I’ve never met Jade, nor am I ever likely to, but I can’t help but feel that – perhaps simply because we are both women and both mothers – there is some kind of affinity between us. There is something in me that can only glimpse at the pain she must be feeling (emotionally and physically) and think that there but for the grace of God go I.
And while I find it deeply uncomfortable and gruesomely voyeuristic to watch her battle play out in the national press, I still can’t stop myself from reading, and watching and following this “story” intensely.
First of all I have to commend Jade for being so open about her cancer. It’s reported that since she was diagnosed with cervical cancer last year uptake for regular smear tests has increased more than 20%. Lord knows how many women’s lives will be saved because this woman has been open about her own circumstances.
It’s shocking that a 27 year old can have this illness at such an advanced stage. We’re led to believe it’s an illness which affects older women – so much so that regular screening for cervical cancer is now not offered until a woman is over 25. It used to be offered, as a matter of course, to any woman over 20. We have to wonder if this change is policy is going to cost yet more lives of young women who could be treated successfully should any problems be detected early enough? And we have to ask if it is acceptable that lives should be put at risk as part of what I can only see as a cost cutting exercise by the NHS.
Ultimately, however, the most shocking thing about the whole thing is that there are hundreds of thousands of women out there who aren’t attending regular screening through embarrassment or fear. Sure smears are not pleasant – I can’t think of a single woman who skips smiling to the nurse’s office for her three yearly date with a speculum – but a smear is much less embarrassing and uncomfortable than, I dare say, chemo or radiotherapy or telling your children you won’t be there to see them grow up.
Jade is one of those women whohas admitted she ignored the reminder letters from her doctors in the hope that she would be okay. This was despite an earlier test revealing abnormal cells. Many women out there, myself included, know how scary it is to have an inconclusive result come back from the lab and to be asked to have another test. Many of know how hard it is to wait for a second set of results and many women go through treatment to make sure those abnormal cells are treated as quickly as possible.
It’s beyond me how anyone could, even with the fear factor, ignore the need for further treatment or investigation but I’m also sure there is no one beating Jade up more about her past foolishness than herself.
I suppose we can only hope that her experiences will continue to inspire woman to take responsibility for their own health and realise that even though the chances of developing cervical cancer at such a young age are slim, they are still very real. We all need to get over our fear and embarrassment and get on that doctor’s table and undergo a short procedure in the hope it will save them a huge amount of pain and heartache in the future. (And perhaps I am just speaking with the false bravado of a woman facing labour and delivery head on and mentally preparing myself for leaving all shred of dignity at the door of the hospital).
It’s sad that it will take the death of a public figure – even if she is one who people either love or hate – to wake women up to the importance of regular screening but I suppose all anyone can do is cling on to any positive in a very negative and painful situation.
And we must remember that while Jade’s pain is played out in the press there are thousands of women experiencing just what she is just as courageously. They might not make the headlines but they, and their families, should all be in our thoughts too at this time and we, as women, have to hope and pray that a day comes soon when no more brave and courageous women are destroyed by this illness.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Some things just *feel* ridiculous...

So yesterday I was having pains pretty much all day.
My back ached, I felt sick - I started to wonder if the little lady was coming.
I phoned my husband tearfully at about 4.30 to ask him to come home from his meeting. I was a bag of cats.
I was not a nice person.
I did however insist on continuing to clean my house - which kind of made the back ache worse.

By evening I was being told to rest and see what happened so I took to my trusty birthing ball (great for back ache) and started watching my sister's Sex and the City box set.

There is something just so completely wrong about an eight and half month pregnant woman bouncing on a birthing ball watching sexually graphic content in the form of light entertainment.

I was also acutely aware that the baby can now hear just about everything that goes on outside the womb - have I corrupted her already?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If only it were that easy...

This morning I dreamt (is that right? or should it be dreamed? Well you know what I mean.) that I could feel my daughter's arm wriggling on the outside of my hip (still inside the skin, if you get what I mean but I could feel and hold her hand). I was mildly freaked out in the dream and called my hubby to see, by which stage I could see her entire outline inside my t-shirt. So lifted it, and there she was, painlessly born and gorgeous.
I'm a big fan of the "beam me out, Scotty" approach to childbirth and had hoped someone would discover how to do it before she made her arrival. I have to say my dream experience was really quite pleasant.
My baby girl was gorgeous, a mop of dark hair (her brother had blonde fluff when he was born) and had the cutest toes. It was nice to hold her in my arms - if only in a dream - for a little while.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Go on - be a fan

If you are Facebook-y at all, you can now be a fan of me and my writing.
Ya know, if you want to.

Claire Allan- Facebook Fan Page

Random conversations with the boy - a couple of one liners...

While watching Dancing on Ice
"Mummy, can we go to DFS one day? I really want a more comfortable landing..."

While talking about his birthday party (just over a week ago)
"No. We didn't really talk about it too much. It was a long story ago now mummy, don't you know?"

Monday, February 16, 2009

A pox on my house...

Well not exactly the pox, but this is more a be careful what you wish for kind of a post.
Today was, to me, my first official day of maternity leave. Although I finished work over a week ago, the boy was on mid term break so last week was the relaxing daytime telly fest I dreamed of.
Having been hugely pukesome ill yesterday I was looking forward to a day lounging on the sofa - in pjs -with occasional bouts of writing thrown in if I felt up to it.
This morning I woke however feeling strangely bereft. My boy was going to school. The distraction of his constant chatter and craic was going to be missing and in the absence of his sister making an appearance yet, I was going to be lonely.
Worse still I was going to have time to think about "the birth".
I do not like thinking about "the birth". It makes me very nervous and weepy because I am a yella-bellied-lily-livered chicken.
So this morning as I sent him on his way I felt so terribly sad that I had (yet another) hormonal cry.
Soon after I crawled back into bed to make up for the sleep deprivation of 24 hours of vomiting and was woken after an hour by the phone.
It was the boy's school. He had fallen and banged his head. I needed to come see him. He was okay, they reassured me. It was school policy that after any sort of knock to the head mummies and daddies need to be called.
Now in my half dozed state I replied very calmly that I was on my way and quickly changed and got into the car.
It was only on the 5 mile drive there that I started to panic. What if he wasn't okay? What if he was seriously injured? Or dead? I mean you read about these things in Take a Break magazine all the time. Sad mother one says "They told me he was fine and just to get there as soon as I could. Of course they were going to tell me he was fine so I wouldn't cause an accident by driving like a mad eejit across town weeping and wailing. When I got there he was dead."

Of course the rational part of my brain kicked in that if he had been seriously injured I would have been directed to the hospital and not the school.
And then Mrs Irrational chipped in with "unless, ya know, he is dead and there was little point in the hospital after all".

When I arrived at the school I was met with an ashen faced classroom assistant - by which stage I was almost passing out with fear. She told me he was in the classroom and as we approached I could see no sign of any boys or girls at their desks. Oh. My. God. This did not bode well.
Of course she then opened the door and he was sitting - ice pack to head - at the front of a group of kids gathered on the carpet reading about the letter i.
He did have a horrendously painful looking bruise and grazing and is now sporting a rather nifty egg. But he was very much alive and 20 minutes later was eating a bun, sat on the sofa watching cartoons with his favourite teddy.
So my bereftness at him leaving me for the day was gone - but he was there. Happy, healthy and a little bit bruised. But thankfully I've not sob story to sell to 'Take a Break'.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I may have exceeded my rationality quota

Okay - I'm sick. And spectacularly sick at that. I woke at 3 this morning with strong pains and wondered if babby was planning on making an early arrival.
An hour later I realised what I was mistaking for the miracle of childbirth was actually a particularly nasty stomach bug. I have been puking - and moaning - ever since.

Now you would think that after 8 months of hyperemesis I would be well used to the puking by now and in so many ways I am. I have mastered the art of the casual vomit - which is the ability to run to the loo mid sentence, puke, then come back and finish the sentence as if nothing untoward had happened.
I have mastered puking in work, getting cleaned up and making sure my hair remains vom free, before going back to my desk and working on a witty line or two for my column.
I have become - and this is something of an achievement for me - a master puker.

But today is different. Today I feel absolutely pants. And being sick makes me feel more sick and I've taken to weeping and wailing while my stomach turns itself inside out. I am not a good patient.

But I knew the hormones were getting to me when the boy was sick also (although he seems to have recovered now) and then the husband declared he was feeling a bit peaky.
Did I lavish on maternal and wifely love and concern? Did I mop their brows and offer to share my sick bucket with them? Did I soothe in the way a wife and mother should?

Well, with the boy I did a little. I shooed him downstairs with his duvet and have allowed him free run of the DVD players and enough ice lollies to shake a stick at (fluids, you see. Very important). I have cuddled him after he's been sick.

But hubby... and here is the shameful part... I guldered (and that is a Derry word for barged) "You can just feel sick!"
Not my finest hour by a long shot. But I just felt a little like "Can't I even puke on my own?" in a highly pregnant irrational stylee.
In fairness he now feels better and has been a perfect nursemaid.
Perhaps not the best valentine's weekend in history but I guess at times like these you realise what really is important in a relationship - and the ability to deal with a wife doing her very best beached whale impression, moaning and sweating, crying and puking and being a bit of bitch is right up there.
So while I wasn't intending to share my love this valentine's weekend on the tail end of a post about vomit - here's to you Mr. Allan - my knight in shining armour. And if you want to feel sick, please go ahead...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ouiser's back...

I'm tired.
I'm uncomfortable.
Something keeps clicking in my pelvis in what I am convinced is a totally unnatural way. (Transfomers, baby in disguise)
I feel as if I might burst into tears at a drop of a hat.
I'm catastrophising like a good 'un (what if? what if? what if?)
I feel like I'm letting my son down by being a grumpy fecker.
I didn't write yesterday.
I have been having mild but fairly regular pains since last night - not getting any worse so I think it's just one-of-those-things
I dreamt that my husband dug up our garden last night and that filled me with rage even though it was only a dream as I love our garden. He couldn't quite understand my off-handedness this morning.
I am exceptionally, very, over the top-ly grump.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

There are some benefits to the insomnia..

Last night it was 5am before I dosed off. And it wasn't down to pains, or nausea (well, only mild nausea) or heartburn. I just couldn't sleep. My brain just wanted to stay awake.
I tried getting up for a while. I tried climbing into bed beside the boy and snuggling him - but ya know a single bed and a starfish impersonating five year old and eight month pregnant lady is not a good combination.
I tried at times both hugging the hubby and barging at him to stay away from me because he was breathing too loud.
I tried drifting off into my make believe world in the hope that I would bore
myself to sleep - thing is though, I just woke myself up more. The next chapter of 'Ever After' played out in my head - trhe plot filling in the lines as I tried to get to sleep and while that can be exceptionally, very annoying it is also a great buzz. When you see a book play out in front of your eyes when you are writing dialogue in your head at the speed of light when it all seems to be good.
'Ever After' is taking me the longest of all my books to write, but what I am writing of it I love. It's quality and non quantity that really matters - non?
Hopefully the lovely people at Poolbeg will feel the same.

Oh and once I got to sleep, at 5am, I slept on through til 10 with only occasional heavily pregnant comfort breaks. How can it be I'm surviving on 5 hours sleep a night? Or maybe that is why I'm so damn cross today. It might be about time to bring Ouiser out again..

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So I eventually got to sleep..

... at just gone 4am.
At that stage Joseph had climbed into bed between me and hubby and had snuggled his pudgy little arms around me.
All the aches and pains, and over active thoughts left my head and I drifted off into a blissful sleep.
Hubby disappeared to the spare room about an hour later - I was vaguely aware of his leaving - which left just me and the boy for a mega snuggle.
Joseph woke just before 9 and went downstairs with his daddy and I slept on til 10.30.
I had to call into work today for a meeting and was told I already looked more rested - perhaps insomnia agrees with me.

Tonight I'm opting for the 'stay up late til I'm almost boking with exhaustion' method of sleep induction... so far, I'm distracting myself with writing and CSI and the lovely pressure pains have kicked in now - so hopefully by the time I stumble upstairs they will be done for the night.

Eating Coco Pops...

At 2 in the mornings.
I can't sleep.
It's not that I'm not tired. I'm bone tired. I am SO very, very tired.
I went to bed just after 10 because I was so tired. Admittedly, I read for a bit first ('Waiting for Birdy' - loaned to me by Keris and it's brilliant and very appropriate).
But since about 11, I've been trying to sleep.
First of all, the baby decided to wake up. She's been very quiet all day - to the point I was starting to get quite worried - but nope, once I lay down she went into overdrive. There was kicking, punching, wriggling, hiccuping and rolling.
So that calmed down, eventually and the restless legs started. Full on mega jumps.
That's still there.
And then Madam decided she wanted to move directly onto my bladder so that every 3.5 seconds I need to go to loo - and quickly.
And then I started to feel a kind of strange sick/ hungry feeling (hence the Coco Pops... which, you know I buy for Joseph... allegedly).
And now that I've got up, the achey pains have started. At the moment I'm getting them for about 2 hours a night - but usually earlier in the evening. You know that kind of dragging, periody (sorry male readers...) achey back, pressure in your butt feeling that only comes at 8 months of pregnancy? Yup... that's the one.
So I'm online, and I might take to bouncing on my birthing ball and watch an episode of Sex and the City - I have never felt so further apart from Carrie and the gals... but hey, I have to get my glamour kicks somewhere.

Oh I have a feeling the next four weeks are going to be fun, fun, fun!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Libraries and pretending to be professional

On Thursday night past I was invited along to our local library to take part in a Writers in the Community event. I would be sharing the platform with local journalist and political satirist Garbhan Downey and really rather successful Macmillan crime writer Brian McGilloway. I have spoken to both of these men over the years as my writing career has taken off so I wasn't intimidated by them as much as intimidated by their clever use of literary writing and big words.
So I arrived, and being just out of work, let the two guys go first and do their talks and their reading.
All the while thinking "They are reading serious political/ crimey type stuff" and I'm about to stand up and read an extract which involves references to shagging, knickers and undercarriages. (All in relation to infertility, it has to be said - it wasn't just shagging for the sake of it.).

Looking around me at the room I tried to gauge what the average age of the audience was - and indeed would they be offended by references to shagging, knickers and undercarriages. With a fair few in their more mature years. I started to get worried.

But I had, you see, little choice. My books are very honest, and very real. The lovely Garbhan Downey said they were "near the knuckle" but to be honest. I don't think they are that bad.
RD&T has one very minor love scene and it's very tame - no groans, or tweaking nipples or the like.
FLM is a little more risque but the more "colourful" of the love scenes are between a married couple - so allowed, by God and everything. And yes there is a reference to a blow job - but it's not detailed.

The thing is I'm not Jackie Collins and nor do I desire to be so. But I do think 'chick lit' has to be real and has to be honest and sex is an honest part of life.

That's not to say I wasn't worried what my granny would think when she read it - but she thought it was okay so I'll carry on as I am.

And in the end, the library crowd laughed at the right bits, clapped at the right bits and asked nice questions. So I think. I retained some sense of dignity.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Claire has left the building...

I walked out of the Derry Journal yesterday and, with the exception of a few meetings etc, don't expect to be back there for quite a long time.
Yes, maternity leave has arrived. My colleagues will no longer be subjected to me crying at the drop of a hat. My long suffering husband will now have that joy.
Well the plans for the next few weeks? Apart from lying over a birthing ball moaning I'll be editing 'Jumping in Puddles' to within an inch of its life and working hard on 'Ever After'.
I also have full intentions of watching the entire Sex and the City Collection.

And then, I might just give birth.
I'm looking forward to Sex and the City more - although I am looking forward to meeting my baby girl very much indeed.

Bizarre as it sounds though I will very much miss life in Derry Journal country. It ain't always easy (easier than pushing a baby out yer foof, admittedly) but I work with amazing colleagues and the banter is second to none. And of course hearing all the scandal first is brilliant for a nose bag like me.

I will still be submitting my weekly column so in the words of another famous N. Irish person "I've not gone away, you know" - but there are definitely interesting times ahead.

Friday, February 06, 2009

A heart of gold

Children these days get a bad press. Of course we parents are generally to blame for spoiling them rotten and sparing the rod and all sorts of other nonsense - but it is a truth that even the youngest children get a rough ride in the press these days.
I’ve listened to (and actively participated in, it must be said) numerous discussions around the attitudes of a younger generation who, it seems, are increasingly self centred, undisciplined and prone to temper tantrums which leave my hormonal rages looking like a civilised tea party. One view of ‘Supernanny’ is enough to leave most of us parents quaking in our boots and while such extremes of behaviour are thankfully not the norm, there is not one mum or dad out there who can watch such programmes without offering up a quick “there but for the grace of God, go I” intention.
It’s not often enough then that we tell the stories of children who make us so proud that our hearts want to burst with pride. It’s certainly not often enough that we hold these children up as examples of what it truly is to be a decent human being who appreciates that acting selflessly is something to be admired and not a sign of weakness.
I’ll admit the story I’m about to tell is a little on the biased side but this week I have been so touched by the actions of my seven year old niece that I couldn’t not mention her in this column this week. In many ways Abby is a typical seven year old.
She has bags of attitude, an obsession with Hannah Montana and High School Musical and the ability to wilt you with a single glance. She’s just about passed that stage where she thinks everything her Auntie Claire does is cool and funny. Now my silly dances or corny jokes are likely to be met with a warm-hearted roll of the eyes as she tries her best to humour me. I can no longer make her laugh ‘til she pukes - which frequently was the case in her baby years.
While she adores her little cousin (my five year old) there are times now when it is clear she is merely tolerating his primary one excesses as she is now a big primary three girl and, obviously, much, much cooler.
She likes to dress in Uggs and slather her face with her Auntie Lisa’s sparkly eye shadow. She makes up dance routines along with ‘Dancing on Ice’ and makes us score her as if we were the judges. But for all her precociousness she is at heart just a seven year old and one who adores cuddles and kisses and curling up on the sofa with her loved ones.
And she has a heart of absolute gold.
Sadly, for her young age, she has been dealing with a very difficult situation for last wee while - knowing that her lovely granny (her daddy’s mammy) had cancer. It is the hardest thing in the world to try and explain cancer to a young child. Harder still to explain to them that their beloved granny - who they have adored from the day and hour they were born - was not going to get better. Sadly Abby isn’t and won’t be the only child ever to face such a loss.
Last week she was taken to visit her granny in the Foyle Hospice - and we all knew at that stage that unfortunately things had taken a further turn for the worse and it was just a matter of time. hearts and flowers Abby came home - understandably quiet - and ran upstairs to talk to her granddad (my daddy).
A few minutes later she ran back downstairs, opened the drawer in the kitchen reserved for all sorts of bits and bobs and lifted a Foyle Hospice copper hunt box and ran back upstairs. It was the following day, when I visited her again, that I saw what she had done. She taken the box, turned it inside out and decorated it.
Her childish handwriting spelled out ‘Help the Foyle Hospise’ (sic) and ‘Show You Care’ and ‘Show you love’. She had drawn on hearts and flowers in bright pink marker and reassembled the box.
In the true spirit of her seven year old attitude she had then taken to not letting anyone in or out of the house without first securing a donation for the people who were looking after her granny Lynne. She had then insisted on getting all her family members to bring the box into their workplaces and see what support they could rustle up. Sir Alan Sugar would have been proud of her ingenuity - but not half as proud as I was and am.
Yes, it breaks my heart that any child has to know what a Hospice is in the first place. It breaks my heart that sadly her granny lost her very brave battle on Tuesday night and that my gorgeous little niece is now dealing with grief for the first time at such a young age. But I cannot express the pride and the love that I feel for a child who thinks that such an action can make a difference - perhaps not to her granny (who I’m sure would have been so hugely proud of her too) - but all those people who need the help of the Hospice.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Baby Watch - 4 weeks and 4 days left...

Have you guessed what I'm doing yet?
First it was six weeks and six days, then five weeks and five days and now it's four weeks and four days to go.
How do I feel? Very emotional for a number of reasons. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really, really scared of labour and delivery. I know I've done it before and lived to tell the tale but it didn't rank among my most favouritist experiences ever.
At the same time I am reaching the "Please God, can we just get it over with?" stage. I know it has to be done, so can we please just do it and get it over with and leave me and my stitches to heal in peace?
I'm also nesting - but not productively. Our spare room remains a spare room - just stacked with baby things. It is not the nursery of my dreams yet. And while I had thought that wouldn't bother me at all (given that madam will be with us in our room for the first 6 months anyway) i'm now getting irrationally irritated by it.
Her new cot remains in my parent's attic. My very gorgeous godson is still sleeping in her crib (and I feel like an evil landlord requesting it back just in case madam comes early).
If she were to arrive right now she would have nowhere to sleep.
Joseph has (mostly down to me, I have to say) taken to sleeping in our bed every night. I have that awful "my baby is going to have my divided attention soon and I want to drink him now" emotional wobbles. But "cross for own back" springs to mind, and DH has slumped to the spare room/ nursery in waiting for decent sleep - while I'm surprising welcoming the cuddles from an over eager five year old most nights.
I so want to be a mammy again - but so scared of getting it wrong again, of getting that nasty old PND and going super loopy.
So with four weeks and four days to go - it's fair to say the hormones have landed.
It's only going to get worse between now and the big day!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I'd like to say... is very difficult to concentrate on anything when you feel as if your waters may pop at any second.
I swear madam is now actually in the foof area and her stretching and poking is making for some very intriguing sensations. I can also hear pops and clicks from time to time and I spent today in work worrying (probably very much unnecessarily) that I was going to have to explain a big puddle under my desk.

I'm not due for another month but I'm really starting to worry that very soon I'm going to have to say, out loud, in a public place "Erm, honestly. It's not pee. My waters have gone."

Birthday Blessings

Yesterday the boy turned five.
I was determined that even though he is having his proper party on Saturday he would have a fun day. I woke him to a chorus of 'Happy Birthday' - which to be honest, given my singing, wouldn't be the best start to anyone's day.
Then his daddy made him bacon sandwiches as a treat before he got dressed in his school uniform and I pinned a 'Birthday boy' badge on his jumper before showering him with a stupid amount of kisses.
I took an early release from work to pick him up from school and once he was lifted - along with his cousin - we went to the toy shop where he could choose his present. (A vay cool boat from the Fisherprice Imaginext range, just so you know) and then we went to local ice cream parlour for a treat. (which in fairness, given my high levels of heartburn was more for me than them).
It was an inexpensive, fairly basic little treat but both Joseph and his cousin's face lit up like Christmas trees when their 'Little Bears Picnics' were sat in front of them. Fiorentinis - an old fashioned cafe which does the finest homemade italiam cream - is a legend in the fair city of Derry and it did not disappoint us yesterday. I think I may have a new craving to replace the cornettoes.
My face also lit up when my honeycomb sundae was sat in front of me and I staved off attempts by the two kids to steal any of my icecream as if it were the most precious thing in the world. (Think Gollum in LOTR and you are about half way there).

The kids then came back to my house for a couple of hours and used their finest fake American accents to play Imaginext and then it was over to granny's for the traditional Davidson birthday tea.

Sure I threw up afterwards and sure I spent most of it wondering if the 3rd of February would be this latest baby's birthday too, but the boy had a blast and it was a very happy mummy and son who had a cuddle at bedtime.

Late last night we had some bad news that my gorgeous little niece's granny had passed away. It made me appreciate the lovely day we had and the amazing blessings I have all the more.
So happy birthday baby boy - you make it okay.

Monday, February 02, 2009

I feel pretty, oh so pretty...

A survey this week, commissioned by a bottled water company, has revealed that women feel at their most attractive at the grand old age of 32.
Apparantly at this age the follies of youth (frizzy perms, dodgy skin, questionable fashion sense) are most likely to have gone and instead women have reached a certain maturity where they have discovered their sense of self, grown into their features and take care of themselves better than ever before.
Dear reader, let me paint you a very different picture. I’m 32 (and indeed shall be for another five months) I sit here before you a picture of non-attractiveness. I am 35 weeks pregnant. I have a stomach so distended I can feel my unborn baby punch my considerable thighs. On my stomach there is a fine coating of downy hair - one of the lovely symptoms of pregnancy no one really warns you about. At least, however, the downy hair goes someway to cover the mass of stretchmarks which still exist from the first time I thought it sensible to decide to pro-create. (No new ones have emerged, but as my mother so lovingly reassured me it is “only a matter of time”).
My hair is wiry. It would not look amiss on the end of a toilet brush. It does not glow or shine with the bloom of pregnancy. It sits, generally quite lank, around my face which - it has to be said - has seen much better days. I thought when I left my teenage years I would lose my ability to sprout ‘blemishes’ (the nice word for zits) at a daily - and indeed sometimes hourly - basis.
And generally speaking I did. I did okay through my 20s and even through my previous pregnancy but this one - oh Lord. Clearasil should have me on a retainer. My face has not bloomed - it has positively erupted, and there is only so much repair work a super strength foundation and concealer will do.
What has bloomed - in stark contradiction to the wiry, increasingly grey hair on my head - is the hair on my legs. It seems to reappear almost as soon as the razor is placed back on the shelf and believe me shaving one’s legs in an advanced stage of pregnancy is at best tricky and at worst down right dangerous. I dread the day my obituary reads that I severed a vital artery while shearing the inch long hair from my calves. Worse still is that I’ll be laid out with a half shaved leg... and the unkemptness of my calves will be there for the undertaker to see.
Mercifully my weight has not increased and while that is something I’m happy about, it has been merely because I have spent at least five minutes of almost every day of the last eight months throwing up. Regardless of the effect that has had, or not had, on my overall weight it has not done anything to improve my feelings of general attractiveness or confidence in my ability to be an attractive lady.
I’m paranoid that a faint whiff of sick follows me at every turn - and I don’t even have the baby in arms yet to blame. (Oh yes, I have the smell of baby spew to look forward to.)
I discovered I was with child four days after my 32nd birthday so it has been far from my most glorious year. Sadly I think my most glorious year has passed - at a time when I didn’t appreciate just how glorious it was. I look back at pictures of me in my mid 20s. I was relatively slim - with actual cheekbones and a jaw line as opposed to my sagging jowls of my 30s and I could weep. My skin and hair glowed with vitality - no doubt down to the strict eating regime which preceded my wedding at the very tender age of 24. I refused to wear make up in the run up to the wedding to give my skin a chance to breathe and recover. I would be beyond brave to make the same decision now - I would scare small children (especially my own, and they have to love me... it’s the law).
Of course at the time I hit myself with every negative thought in the book. I convinced myself I was a fat bride (oh to be so “fat” again!) and wept at my wedding photos considering myself still very much an ugly duckling waiting for the day she turned into a beautiful swan.
It’s only now - at 32 - when my feathers are getting distinctly stubbier and browner day by day that I realise that I was, at one stage, actually quite pretty. Okay, so Angelina Jolie never had anything to worry about but I was passable. Perhaps once the ravages of hormones leave my body sometime in mid-March I’ll start to feel a little more upbeat and feminine again.
Perhaps the last three months of my 33rd year will indeed prove the water bottlers and their researchers right. Then again perhaps I need, like so many of us, to start appreciate what attributes I do still have because it could come to the stage than in ten years I’m weeping over photos of me with my newborn baby and wondering why I felt so utterly unattractive back then.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Just a Sunday morning pondering..

I am a self confessed 'tangent girl' - my brain goes on weird and wonderful trips some time.
Anyway this morning Joseph asked if we could make a St. Brigid's Cross as, indeed, it is St. Brigid's Day (and thus according to Irish tradition tomorrow is the first day of Spring.. and it['s due to snow... butI digress - see tangent in operation there...)
Now I was never very good at making St. Brigid's crosses - as we would say round these parts they are footery wee buggers. But my daddy - a primary school teacher - is somewhat of an expert.
So I decided to enlist him but first tried to think where I could get my hand on some rushes to make the aforementioned cross.
I remembered back to when we were wee and there was an overgrown, derelict piece of land between our primary school and home and we would walk through it every day. It was excellent rush gathering fodder - but now it's all bungalows and sheltered accommodation and not ripe for the picking.
But my mind wandered on to that particular piece of wasteland where we would spend hours building huts, letting our imagination run wild etc.
Part of the area (to my memory... which was hazy) was an old run down grotto. Or at least we always thought it was an old grotto. Chances are it was the side end of an outside toilet or something equally glam.
I remember once, sitting at this 'grotto' and contemplating what my teacher had told me that day. Someone had said they adored their parents.
This was wrong - our teacher said - you could not adore or worship anyone but God. And while I get the worship bit, I wonder how it was possible not to be 'allowed' to adore another human being (adore in my book being an extreme feeling of love - not, ya know, building a shrine in a kind of a freaky way...)
The same teacher would have imprinted on us very strongly that pride was a sin. It was a sin to be proud of your achievements, your family, and I suppose taking it to it's logical conclusion your children. He was very adamant about that too.
I've never quite got that one - but I've always felt a little sinful or wrong feeling proud of things I've achieved.

There is a Phillip Larkin poem about parenthood which goes a little something like this...

They f*ck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were f*cked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

I'd like in turn to thank that particular teacher for his role in my unending Catholic guilt - my parents (including my daddy who tells me frequently he is proud of me) never did half as much damage.

25 random things (for people who don't 'do' Facebook.

Here it is, 25 random facts about me...

1: I don't always react to to things immediately. Quite often I exude a certain calmness but that is more than likely catatonic shock. It always comes after though - generally when I least expect it.
2:Other times I react to things before they have happened. My work colleagues who have seen me cry on an almost daily basis recently will vouch for that.
3: When I was young I used to pray that God would make Princess Leia my best friend. I still kind of wish that God would answer that one.
4: I fully realise that most of the time I am a mardy, needy person and I apologise unreservedly for that.
5: I really do believe in the healing power of angels. But the song "Angels" by Sarah McLachlan makes me cry in a not nice way.
6: I love my car deeply and passionately (but not in that way which some people do were they actually physically 'love' their cars... ).
7: Quite often, when I'm driving, I get a woohoo feeling that I'm driving and feel grown up and important.
8: I sometimes get that woohoo feeling walking through bookshops and seeing my books. Although I have never moved them to the front of the shelves.
9: Sometimes I don't know who is the bigger child - my husband or my actual child. I know which one is easier to manage.
10: I do love my husband - despite that fact. But if I'm ever done for murder you can refer to the above point.
11: I am really rather behind on my fourth book. I'm blaming baby brain and work worries.
12: At 32 I still need my mammy to hold my hand when I go to the dentists.
13: I am mildly obsessive about not being able to leave unmade beds before I go to work in the morning. I will feel anxious about it all day and will have to make the bed first before getting into it again.
14: I think my brother is more talented than I'll ever be and I want him to get the recognition he deserves.
15: Sometimes I think I reveal too much to the good people of Derry in my weekly column.
16: I am currently obsessed with cornettos.
17: I have shoes in my wardrobe which I have never worn but will never throw away as they are just flipping pretty.
18: One day I WILL fit back into my wedding dress. I might be dead by then but I give you full permission to dig me up and dress me in it...
19: I have a mild obsession with David Walliams - even though I know he really is quite revolting.
20: I continue to have an obsession with Dermot Murnahan - it's the eyebrow I tell you.
21: Obsession also exists for Hugh Laurie but only in House - it's the sarky American drawl that does it.
22: There are very few people in life who would pick me out of a line up to be on their team.
23: I have no problem at all with taking anti-depressants.
24: I cannot sing. Not at all. Not even a little. I mime a lot though.
25: I crave a tidy house.
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