Saturday, 23 June 2012

Things Change

I recently turned 30. This didn't bother me, numbers are just numbers, but it did make me think about how things can change in a short space of time. 18 months ago I was an actor working in London. 3 years ago I had a well paid desk job on the Southbank and wore suits. 6 years ago I ran an education department in a theatre. 7 years ago I was an army wife living in Cyprus. 8 years ago I was off my tits on WKD in Birkenhead's Destiny and Elite playing at podium dancing. So stuff changes, but it's just stuff. Situations and geography change and I love moving and planning the next stage of the adventure, but the one thing that struck me since having Emily and turning 30 is just how quickly friendships change. They die, as quickly as they come alive. You meet a person and say hello and become friends, you might work with them on a show, or in an office, or meet them at a comic book convention or a west end night club, and then they are gone. That's it. Their ghosts waft around facebook and twitter. You keep them in your head and think of them when something reminds you of them, but you don't call or text or visit. Friendships seem to boil down to a 'like' on facebook when you post a funny status or a photo of a baby.
My friendships are, with one exception, based loosely on my situation. Pregnant? Have pregnant friends. Mum? Have other mum friends. Actor? Meet other bar staff. I'm going to London tomorrow to see a few people and places, each of which sits nicely into my timeline of how to behave and how much I can swear. I've changed more in this last year then I have in the past 10, will they notice? Will they give a shit? Probably not, I'm probably mildly less interesting without an acting job, although performing at V Festival might notch me up a few points. They might say Emily is cute but if she cries they will find excuses to leave.
Other things change too. Your own opinion of people. Their opinion matters less, they stand on a different side of the baby wall and you think 'you're going to be so fucked when you have kids' when they moan about an early morning. Their excuses for not meeting up for a coffee after you've driven 200 miles with a screaming child ring hollow. I don't mind, my life used to be similar. My opinion of them matters very little. I forget birthdays all the time. I look after a baby all day every day and if she gets a bath and I don't kill either of us it's a Good Day. I'm a really shit friend.
There are people who bring you food when you're exhausted and terrified after giving birth, and there are those who send you a message on facebook on the day you have a baby asking for money for their latest fringe show. I'm meeting up with the former tomorrow, and I can't wait.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Knocked up; how to get pregnant really fucking quickly

The summer of 2010 was spent in China doing street theatre and sweating my arse off while being photographed incessantly and drinking Tsing-tao, the very best of middle-eastern lagers. Being away for so long meant Ian and I had time to evaluate our relationship, and when I got back we decided to let nature take its course. I said we'd give it a year of not really trying before I started doing all the right timing stuff. We got pregnant instantly. As in first try. We are the most fertile people in Britain. Need a baby in the next 5 minutes? Call me.

We are lucky. I have friends who have struggled for years to conceive. And some who still haven't. And some who are doing it alone, by choice or circumstance. We are so very lucky. However, we were living in a tiny one bedroom flat in Finsbury Park, central London. Our careers were doing ok, Ian had steady work teaching at a university and I had a day job working in a show on the Southbank (not as glam as it sounds) and was getting regular theatre gigs around the country and abroad. Being pregnant doesn't have any impact on freelance work until you TELL people you're pregnant, and then the phone stops ringing. No one offered me work when we told everyone we were expecting. Ian's hours were cut and I couldn't meet my share of the £1000 London rent. So we found a huge house in Derby for half the price of our London house and moved up here in February. While we were moving I genuinely thought I'd get work up here, but no one wants to employ a pregnant woman, no matter how hard they work. Understandably I suppose. Ian was commuting to London and spending more on petrol than he was earning. With help from family and friends we managed, just, and Emily came along in July.

A few people asked if she was a mistake. They were lucky not to get knocked out if I'm honest. Why shouldn't we have a baby? We'd been together for years. We are a professional hard working couple. And although we're not married (we're both divorced, and the thought of marriage gets less attractive when you've buggered up one attempt), what makes us any less likely to have a baby? Perhaps the people who asked us can clarify the reason for their questions. Perhaps not.
Being pregnant was wonderful, the very best of times. I've loved being a mum, but the feeling of having Emily wriggling about and being safe and happy and close was the most perfect and happy I've ever felt. I miss it. I miss my bump. I don't miss the reflux and the lack of leg shaving, or the 25 trips to the loo per night or the glances from my belly to my wedding finger. I took to wearing a ring on my wedding finger to appease old ladies. I'm almost 30 and worried about old ladies.

The labour was traumatic, 5 days of contractions and no sleep. I can't remember the first 48 hours with Emily very well which really upsets me. I hadn't slept and was in and out of a weird stupor and in a lot of pain. We got sent home from the hospital twice even though I was in labour as my contractions weren't regular. They never got regular, even when I was pushing. So they wouldn't admit me, believe I was ready to push or give me pain relief. Emily was upside down so I had what's called 'back labour', a more painful and prolonged way of pushing a human out of your valerie. Awesome. After a few days at home I began to cope and life clicked back on again. Then after a few weeks I started having flashbacks of the birth, horrific, awful, debilitating panic attacks where I couldn't see what was in front of me, only wires and equipment and blood loss and the nurse who took Emily away while she was crying for me. I wanted to find that nurse and explain that she had ruined childbirth for me, but she was only trying to help.

The flashbacks have almost stopped now and I'm back to normal with sleep and feeling in control. It's taken 8 months to get over those 5 days. So when people ask if Emily was a mistake or if I'm married I really really want to tell them to fuck right off. Ian has helped me piece together my first few days with Emily, as have friends who I spoke to or saw (I can't remember speaking to anyone), and although it seems like I take thousands of photos of Emily it's really because I'm scared I'll forget a single minute. I've promised her I'll never forget anything again, and I keep my promises.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

First blog. Pressure. Like starting a new exercise book at school in your best handwriting. It'll be messy after the first couple of pages, but for now it's shiny and new. For those of you who haven't left for twitter I'm wrting about the reality of being a new mum whose partner works far away and whose child isn't perfect, and who has absolutely no confidence in her own parenting.
I've called this 'Diary of a Terrible Mother' as I made a list of ways I'm a good mum and ways I'm a terrible one, and the second list was longer. Here are the list highlights:

I'd do anything on earth for Emily
I love her unconditionally
She is my BFF
I like pushing her pushchair as it makes me look well-to-do
I have a reason for being chubby

I love her a little more when she's asleep
When she cries, I get annoyed instead of sympathetic
I sometimes count down the hours until I can put her to bed
I sometimes put a hat on her to pin her ears down a bit
I put the telly on to get 5 minutes peace
I'm hyper aware of people judging me in public when I'm with her
I will always say I'm fine when people ask, but I mostly just hope they'll hug me then offer to babysit
I sometimes cancel social activities because I'm convinced everyone else is a better mum than I am
I get mad with Ian for being away when he's working all hours to keep me and Emily alive
I have an excuse for being chubby

See? The second list is longer! And I had to stop myself from writing more. So the blog is really just a way to share one person's experiences of parenthood, it is not representative of parenting as a whole and I'm not the first or last person to go through any of these worries. I just want to be honest. In the last 18 months since Ian and I started trying for a baby (she wasn't an accident as some people have assumed - would they have assumed that if we'd been married?) I've come across the biggest pile of drivel in parenting books and coming from the mouths of well-meaning strangers. Being a mum is fucking hard. Really fucking hard. And it's fucking amazing too. I will swear in this blog, so the easily offended may gracefully leave should they wish.

Time to sign off now, pizza's ready and Ian has a 3am start so we need an early night.