This has been a post that I have been keen to write for about five years. The most ultimate of all-time ultimate list of picture books that I simply cannot wait to read with Bubba.
I have saved picture books from my own childhood, I have foraged around in second-hand bookstores for titles that bring back waves of nostalgia, and have scoured the deepest corners of the internet to find the most old-school, wonderful picture books to make up Bubba’s library.
Did you really think that there was a chance that any child of mine was not going to have the most legit library ever? Seriously. Come on, now.
This has also been a post that I have been itching to write purely for all the feelings it stirs up. I am sure that once you scan your eyes over the covers of these titles, vivid memories will come rushing back to you. You may even exclaim, “OH MY GOD, YES!” inappropriately as you reminisce fondly of years past.
My mum’s favourite memory of me as a child, especially when someone asks her about my love of books and writing, is how I used to sit on the floor, back up against the wall with a pile of books from the library next to me. I would read one and then place it on the opposite side of me. I would do this with each book. Once I had finished the last book and placed it on top of the new pile, I would start all over again.
I have photographic evidence of this that I am sure will come up during the move in the next week or so.
Each and every single one of these titles holds such a special place in my soul, and most of them I read in that very spot on the floor, back against the wall. But I want to take a moment to really pay respect to the books and the moments that really were, and continue to be, the absolute foundation – the backbone – of the person I am. Not just as a writer and avid reader, but as Leah Cwikel mum-to-be.
Are You My Mother?
Classic. This one is a bloody classic. My copy of this book ended up completely splitting at the spine. The hardcover was so worn that it felt more like a paperback towards the end. I remember the voice my mum used to use for the little chick, and I remember finding it especially ridiculous that the little bird could ever think that an excavator was his mother. Mum read this to me when I was small enough to be perched on her lap, I couldn’t have been more than two years old. I specifically remember taking this one wherever I went and one particular night to my uncle’s place where everyone was feasting around the table except for mum and I who were in the lounge room, reading this book. Are You My Mother was also my first title in the Dr. Seuss world – even though it wasn’t written by Seuss himself – and for that I will be forever thankful.
Every single Babette Cole Book, ever
Bad Habits, Dr. Dog, Hair in Funny Places, Prince Cinders, Princess Smartypants, The Trouble With… Series, Two of Everything.. the list goes on and on and on. I remember being a little bit older – maybe four or five? – when I discovered Babette Cole’s books. I first saw them at old Top Ryde Shopping Centre (those from the area will know exactly what I mean when I say that) and there was a small Dymocks store with a Wendy’s ice cream shop right out the front. It was her illustrations that first got me hooked, and how some of the books had little labels on the drawings to explain them further with arrows and speech bubbles. I loved that her female characters were always rebellious and so different from any other heroine or princess – they had bad manners, and road motorbikes and used the word, “No.” There was a clothing store next door that mum used to shop at, so she would leave me in Dymocks, happily sitting in the back corner of the store where the kids’ books were and I would read until she came to pick me up. Every time we left there, she would get my little brother and I an ice-cream from Wendy’s – my go-to was the vanilla soft serve that they coated in pink sherbet.
Go, Dog, Go!
This book, much like Are You My Mother? cuddled and held me, its pages felt like home. This was the first book that I was able to read myself, and I daresay that it will be the same with Bubba. The simple phrases and repetition of words alongside the illustrations made this a fun and educational read. I remember mum always expanding on the words on the pages. Like the page, “Stop, dog, stop!” She taught me about traffic lights and always made funny observations about the illustrations. The characters came to life with her voice behind them. Yes, dog, yes – I love this book.
The thing I remember most about this book is the way the pages felt between my tiny thumbs when I turned them. I remember a copy of this at my day care, when I was about three. The bookshelf was a hanging rack made of white wire and the corners of this book were dog-eared. The sepia tones of the illustrations always comforted me – still do – and for the life of me, I have no idea why. The expressions on ‘Grandpa’s’ face always amused me as well, especially his furrowed brow. I also loved how attached he was to the slippers, and the whole cat-and-mouse storyline of his wife trying to get rid of them. And I must have been a bit of an OCD kid, because I loved how every single page was the same layout: text and a small illustration on one page, and then a full page illustration with a border on the opposite page. Love.
This one hit our household when my little brother was about two. I remember sitting on his bed with him while Mum read this book to us. To this day, the illustrations in the book are some of my absolute favourites. The greens, oranges and blues that Jez Alborough used throughout this book COMPLETELY make it. I love the little friendship between the frog and ‘Beaky’ and, quite plainly, I loved the journey of the bird finding out who and what it was. And when the mum bird flies down in that glorious ray of sunshine? BEST. SO EPIC. I definitely loved Hello Beaky! because of the tie I feel with my brother having both experienced it together. We made mum read it over and over again. And again.
There’s A Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake
Again, another freaking classic. I don’t know what I loved so much about this book. Maybe the absurdity of it? I did love the illustrations and for whatever the reason, this book is so special. All the activities that the hippo does on the roof, how insanely ginormous he is, I mean – what’s not to love, really? I remember getting so excited when they started releasing more titles in the series, and again, weird child as I was, loved that they each looked the same but varied ever-so-slightly in colour theme.
The large, hardback format, the illustrations that altered between colour and black and white, the little rebel herself – Madeline was my childhood. A love that was fuelled by the book was then taken over by the adorable TV series that I currently have playing through my headphones as I write this. It was the first foray that I had into the world of Paris, a world that I have since fallen in love with both in reality and in literature (seriously, if there is a novel that is based in Paris then I will more than likely purchase it just to transport myself however I can). It was also the first time I had heard of an orphanage. Without realising it until now, Madeline introduced me to a lot of things. I remember the television show so vividly. I loved how their bows stuck up from their heads, I loved how they all looked identical in their uniforms but were then each so different in their features and their personalities. I loved that she was a little bit of a rascal, and that she was curious and adventurous. Ugh. Swooning over here. “We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all, we love each other.” As if those words don’t just ring out in your head?!
There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly
I don’t think it was the story (which is a bit weird and bleak, to be honest.. “Perhaps she’ll die”? Really?) so much as this edition of the book. I still have my original copy of this, and as weird as I find this story, I will most definitely be entertaining my child with this book. The pages with the giant cut-outs and layers and you can see all of the animals that she consumed are so very amusing. And it is super colourful and playful – I may just have to make up my own story without so much death and obesity in it.
Rose Meets Mr. Wintergarten
One of the (many) perks of my job is that sometimes, authors and illustrators visit us in the office. For Walker Books 25th Anniversary, which lands on the first of August, Bob Graham came into the office to show us his neverbeforeseen new picture book that is due to come out at the end of this year and to also eat cake. I cried when I introduced myself to him. He is one of those people that you just want to know, and sit with, and drink tea with and whose mind you want to explore. I was completely overwhelmed. My fondest and most vivid memory of Bob Graham is his book Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten. It was the first book of his that I read and I fell in love with his vibrant, scratchy illustrating style. I loved the contrast between the family home and the home of Mr Wintergarten. I love the full page spreads and that his text is not dumbed down simply because it is a children’s book. I love the detail and the imagination that goes into his drawings and that there is always something that you haven’t seen – either in the corner, through the window of a house. There is always something.
Come on – do I even need to say it?! The short movie that was aired on Play School was ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. I remember watching this when I was, what, TWO?! Younger?! The narrator’s twangy American accent, the head movement of Rosie, the sneaky fox. Seriously, this was everything. I remember it being on so often but never tiring of it. The book was easy to follow at a very young age and it was a sweet story! Nothing more, nothing less. And yes, I do have a copy of it.
The Jolly Postman
This was the book that everyone wanted from the library, but even when you managed to get it, half the letters were missing! So, the solution was to obviously get your own copy and treat the letters as if they were written to you personally. The first book of its kind (that I remember), this book was interactive and interesting. It spoke to the curious part of me, and the creative part and the reading part. It was just such a different book to any other one I had seen before. There was handwritten letters and the pages were packed FULL of illustrations and detail, and all the envelopes were different and I always remember thinking, “Hmmmm, what kind of person would use THIS envelope?” and then I would open it and pretend it was for me and it was just all very nice. Then they released the Christmas edition of it and it was even MORE exciting and I love it so much.
The Rainbow Fish
Every time someone mentions The Rainbow Fish, one of the first things that they will say is, “and yeah! Remember how if you ran your finger over the page you could feel the shiny fins?!” Unless that was just me. And if it was just me, then I suggest you go to a bookstore immediately and buy it as it is the single greatest part of that book. The pages always had such a distinct smell as well. So again, go get the book and smell it. I remember it being a very calm sort of book. The use of lilac and blues and greens made for really gentle reading, and the story is just a really goddamn sweet one. This was another title that I had so many versions of and was really excited when more stories with the Rainbow Fish started to get released. I had that gigantic version of the book that was almost as tall as me – it was a giant board book and I used to open it at a right angle and put a tea towel over the top and pretend it was my apartment. I quite literally lived inside the pages of The Rainbow Fish.
Who’s That Knocking?
Alison Lester is bloody brilliant. There is something about her illustrations that fling me right back into the back seat of our old Jackaroo, on our way to some cabin somewhere for a quick family weekend holiday. I love the intricate borders of her books and the creativity of her text. Who’s That Knocking? is brilliant because it plays with children’s imaginations so beautifully. Alison Lester perfectly anticipated what a young child would assume is behind the door, and then, behind a fun and simple ‘lift-the-flap’ kind of scenario, the playful reality reveals itself. I remember mum reading his one to me as well and asking me, “What do you think it could be?” and I would sit there and guess with her. We did this even after we had read it several times. It was fun, for that brief little moment, to lean into my imagination.
Where’s My Teddy?
Another absolute favourite of mine, and an undoubted classic, Where’s My Teddy? owns a chunk of my heart. Written and illustrated by the same guy as Hello Beaky! the use of the bright, brilliant green and full page illustrations of the forest just completely get to me. I used to hold this book as open and as flat as I could make the spine so as to get the entire scene in one, long, ogling stare. The story itself is simple and oh-so-sweet, but it really is the illustrations in this that have solidified it as a total favourite. I read and reread this book so many times that, one Christmas when Santa bought me a bear who wore a knitted yellow jumper with the word ‘TEDDY’ in black, I named him after the teddy in the book. Freddy. He was my Freddy Teddy.
Now as you can imagine, I could go on and on about books and memories and what I love about them. There are so many that I didn’t even mention! Mr. McGee, Titch, Hairy Maclary… the list really does just go on and on and on. But I will leave it here for now, because there is only so much reminiscing that one can do on a Friday afternoon (especially when I need to decide whether I am having pizza or Oporto for dinner because #pregnantlife). Aside from buying things for the nursery and decking out out brand new home and getting excited for our actual human child, the other thing that I am really looking forward to is going to bookstores and browsing the shelves for NEW picture books. As in, picture books that were published in the last fifteen years. I am much more familiar with the picture books I grew up with EVEN when I am surrounded by new ones each and every day at work (literally, there is a bookshelf behind me with all these new release picture books and I haven’t the foggiest what they are about). But I really cannot wait for a long afternoon where I have nowhere to be and I can just sit in a bookstore and get a pile of books together for Bubba that I can discover right alongside him.
Fuck. I haven’t even gotten to my favourite YA books! Like Paul Jennings and Morris Gleitzman and Jacqueline Wilson! AHHHH. Another day, another day.
Well, it happened. The breakdown that has been threatening to crash and overwhelm and consume me finally happened last night. And you know what? I am still here. And contrary to the first sentence of this piece, it does have a happy ending.
Eyes are swollen and sore, my hair desperately needs a wash and I am not wearing a bra today because it hurts my back, it doesn’t fit me anymore and kookai makes those tops with those crop tops inside them and my boobs are currently big enough to prop themselves up. So – that’s where we are at today.
Before I get into what happened last night, I want to talk about a conversation I had with my boss yesterday. I was talking to her about how tired I have felt even aside from the fact I am pregnant. We got to talking about what my days look like. Up before 6am, head to the café for a coffee, drive to work far too early, write for half an hour, go on a half an hour walk, work for eight hours, go home, cook and bathe myself, attempt to pack up my apartment and in bed at whatever time my body gives out.
Needless to say, she was not impressed by this.
Why does it take for someone else to tell you something as simple as, “Rest” for us to actually listen? She said to me that it is no wonder I keep wanting to faint every day, it has been my body telling me to slow the fuck down and I simply haven’t been listening. Her simply telling me to stay in bed for half an hour to an hour more each day (which I can do and would still get to work early) was like her telling me the greatest secret ever told.
“Instead of getting up as soon as you wake up before six,” she instructed me, “just lie there. Rest.”
“Instead of busting your ass of a night to make sure you have lunch,” she continued, “you can buy it sometimes.”
“Instead of getting into Newtown at 7am,” she mocked playfully, “get into Newtown at 8am.”
My mind exploded and the undue stress that I have been placing on myself every day came into seriously clear focus. Things seriously needed to change.
Now, as I have mentioned before, Man and I have a huge month coming up. Moving is an ordeal in and of itself. Never mind the fact that I will be sixteen weeks pregnant on moving day, both of our car regos are due, I have to inevitably deal with Telstra and Energy Australia, and I also need to make sure my apartment is spick and span for the next tenant. Man and his family are also about to start building up at the property, and he has a bucks weekend coming up and then we have to go away for a wedding. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are good things (besides the car rego and Telstra and Energy Australia), but it is just a lot for a couple that is already exhausted physically and completely drained emotionally.
So, it all came out last night.
All those really hard thoughts that we keep to ourselves, “I don’t think I can do this anymore,” “No, I really can’t do this anymore,” “I just want this all to end”, well, all of those thoughts were verbalised. And they were scary. I felt ashamed to have felt so overwhelmed. I felt really sad that I have not been able to be stronger for myself, my partner and my bubba. It got really ugly and there were a lot of tears and heaving sobs.
This morning though, doing my writing as I do, I found myself writing the words, “I feel like I am missing my own pregnancy because of my own sadness.” And no truer words have I ever written; no words from my own pen have ever hurt me so much. How did it all get to this? Because I really have been happy, even on those low days, but I shouldn’t have to search for those joyful moments. Not ever.
It was a really powerful and clarifying moment.
Breakdowns are never nice but the torrent of words that spilled from my mouth also means that there is none of that negativity left circulating my body or my brain. It is all out there, and now I can move forward in my pregnancy happily. All of the worrying and stress that I have been placing on myself and, in turn, on my relationship has done absolutely nothing positive for us.
All I can do though, is continue to learn throughout this process. I have always been a very fast-paced person. You can quite literally ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I am constantly on the move. I can’t even lie in bed of a Sunday for fear that I should be doing something else. One of my most favourite things is drinking coffee or tea in bed and until this morning, I cannot remember the last time I allowed myself to do that. I’m not reading anything at the moment. I haven’t done the bay walk or visited any of my favourite markets.
What I have done, is completely isolate myself from myself.
I don’t want to be sad any more. And I don’t want to have any reason to apologise. I don’t want to continue down this path and miss all the fucking glory and happiness and joy and love of our bubba. I want to focus on those lunch times that I walk to the park and talk to Bubba about everything I see as opposed to waddling through the door complaining about my back pain. WE ALL KNOW YOUR BACK HURTS LEAH, PUTTING WORDS TO IT DOESN’T HELP. Seriously.
I apologise to you all for rambling on about my woes instead of my wins.
Here is a win recap of all the things that have happened recently that I haven’t shared with you because I was too busy being a victim:
I joke and make fun and post funny gifs, but please don’t ever mistake that for me making light of something that is serious, and something that is very close to me. One’s mental health is the single most important thing for any of us to look after, nurture and take care of.
Stay strong lovely ones, and know that I’ve got your back.
The only thing that relieves the stress is word vomiting the ridiculousness of it all to Man, normally in a series of highly emotional text messages. These messages are then followed by an apologetic one, apologising for all the other ones before because, having read them back to myself, I realise how completely stupid they all sound. This has been the pattern for the last few months and quite frankly, I am so bored of it.
As creepy as I find this gif, it is everything I want to be while pregnant:
I was doing a bit of writing this morning to clear my head when I realised I only feel this way at night. During the day I am a (relatively) normal (mostly) functioning pregnant woman. I am doing well at work, I am eating well, and I am writing a lot. As soon as the sun dips beyond the horizon though? Nup. She-devil. This morning, my thoughts were cohesive and firm and I felt the conviction in my words. There really is nothing that I need to be worrying about. Sure, Man and I have a huge couple of months coming up that include moving house, Man going away, appointments and ultrasounds, but he and I have gotten through much harder times than that. Why, in my night time moments of stress and anxiety can I not find that very same conviction and assuredness that everything is going to be okay? Is it purely because I am so fatigued from the day that I don’t have the energy to convince myself of anything other than what is going on in my head?
I cannot stress how grateful I am for Man and how patient and understanding he has been. I can see my crazy, I can see it permeating my words and my person, but there is nothing I have felt able to do about it. At our last appointment, my medical history was picked at with a fine tooth comb and as a part of that, I had to answer a lot of questions about both my physical and mental health. One of the questions was, “Do you find yourself blaming yourself for things that you have no control over or have nothing to do with you?”
All the time! That’s all I do! Literally, 90% of my day is spent eating and the remaining 10% I fill with finding things to blame myself for that have zero to do with me. It’s frustrating and exhausting and it needs to not be a thing in my life any more.
As I was writing this morning, I decided that I need to find ways to perk myself back up and drag myself away from that dark place I go of a night. Easy in theory, almost impossible in reality. I need to find a way to get through to myself that everything is fine, there is nothing I need to stress about and all of this emotional turbulence is not great for Bubba (and probably has a lot to do with my shitty sleeping).
Bubba is happy and craving chicken burgers as opposed to smoked salmon last week (which I cannot even bear to think about now).
That’s about all I have roaming in my head today.
(Also, the wait until the 19-week scan where we find out the gender is officially the longest wait, ever.)
Being pregnant in Thailand was nowhere near as challenging as I had anticipated it was going to be. Sure, I ended up in fainting at the breakfast buffet and on a drip in hospital, but still, nowhere near as bad as I had feared.
For the first fortnight we were there, I actually felt better than I had done in weeks. I am uncertain whether it was due to where I was at with the pregnancy - nearing the end of the first trimester - or due to the food or relaxing or, quite possibly, a combination of all of those factors. Oddly enough, I think that a lot of it had to do with the fact that most of my food choices were limited and often, made for me. When I was in Sydney, trying to prepare meals and decide what I felt like eating led to deep feelings of nausea. I didn't know what I felt like eating until just before I ate it, so, not having to prepare my meals took that feeling away completely.
A lot of rice and noodles and banana pancakes were also involved, so that was a huge plus for me too. Carbs and sugar. Brilliant.
I had also feared that being around a whole group of people who were constantly drinking was going to be really difficult, and just before we flew out, I did have a bit of a moment where I was afraid that I was going to be left out of a lot of the celebrations due to that fact.
The reality, of course, was not that at all.
I drank my body weight in virgin Pina Coladas and coconut slushy shake things, I woke up every day fresh and without a hangover and not surprisingly, I was not left out of anything. I really did think that it was going to be a challenge as all Man and I had spoken about leading up to the trip was drinking cocktails by the pool, on the beach, in bed, etc. but I didn’t miss alcohol at all. Not only have I not missed it, I haven't felt like it. Well, okay, there was ONE instance in Thailand.. we were all up at the bar at Kata Rocks, watching the sun set over the ocean and Pete decided to buy himself an Elijah Craig whiskey.. I wanted.
So, to make up for it, I have demanded that that be my birth present. In the delivery room I would like a bottle of Elijah Craig and a straw.
I also realised a pattern that my body has been going through, something which I am sure will be subject to change (just like every pregnant woman before me has said, as soon as you think you have figured it out, it will all change). There are about three days each week where Bubba is doing his growing because those three days see me being almost completely incapable of doing any kid of cardiovascular activity including being able to breath steadily while I walk. So, on those days I kick back when I can, sleep when I can (never) and remind myself that I am growing one of the world’s most complex creatures right inside my belly.
Another happy discovery whilst in Thailand was the complete joy of listening to my body and what it needed. Just before Thailand, still in the deep throws of the first trimester (and sitting in front of a computer with internet all day, every day) I was conducting a lot of research. I researched everything I could think of about pregnancy and what to expect, not to adhere to the advice or recommendations, but simply due to my curiosity. Don't eat sushi, always make sure your dental hygiene is a-grade (shouldn’t that be for even when one isn't pregnant as well?), don’t eat cheese, make sure you take this supplement and that supplement and do all the exercise, etc. etc. Pregnancy, if a woman wants it to be, can be completely controlled and determined by the advice and stories and experiences of all those that preceded her. And, working in hospitality for as long as I did, more often than not, women do let outside resources dictate what is possibly the most intimate and personal experience one human can have.
In Thailand, we didn't have 3G, we were far too busy relaxing and eating all the food on the island of Phuket and I did not research anything about the stage of pregnancy that I was at (except checking what size fruit bubba was that week - a strawberry, then a lime). Instead, I tried to stay as ‘in my body’ as I could even though I hate that phrase more than life itself. When I was tired, I rested. When I overheated, I swam. When I was emotional, I listened to Mumford and Sons and cried. When I was hungry, I ate pad thai and banana pancakes. And in every other moment, I looked and watched my body change shape and grow with each day and often woke up with Man’s hand resting on my belly.
No amount of research will ever replace personal experience. Ladies, if you take anything away from this post, besides my usual wit and clever turn of phrase, please, I implore you to stop typing symptoms into google and step outside for a walk with your belly and your bubba. Feel yourself get tired and fatigued - feel it and celebrate it because I know now that when I am at my most exhausted it is when our healthy, beautiful baby is using up all of my glorious energy to do a big ol’ chunk of growing. Those shitty feelings of headaches and nausea and complete overwhelm are in fact the most important ones, because they can serve as a reminder than you have a tiny human developing within you.
We were nearing the end of our time in Thailand when, all of a sudden one night sitting across from Man and his brother at dinner, I felt incredibly sick. I knew that it had nothing to do with the pregnancy, it was far too severe. I took myself for a walk along the beach with my hands behind my head and tried to breathe deeply. I didn’t get very far before I had to sit on the beach, completely incapable of lifting my head let alone signalling back to the restaurant for Man’s help. I felt like absolute ratshit. Luckily it didn’t take long for Man to come and find me, but by that stage I was almost completely beside myself in pain. He doubled back to the table to get our things, propped me up and helped me walk back towards our room. The searing pain in my stomach was excruciating and we had to stop constantly because every step was agonising, and I was using the rest of my energy to not vomit. Once we finally got back to the room, all I wanted to do was throw up, but it wouldn’t come. Instead, the pain churned in my belly and made me increasingly scared and panicked for both myself and Bubba. It isn’t often that I cry or scream in pain, but on our bed, I writhed and grabbed at the sheets and cried and screamed from the pain. It felt like my stomach was splitting into fragments.
After a couple of hours, I was granted relief (or so I thought) – I managed to vomit and I felt a lot better. I thought that that was it, I thought I would be able to lie down and fall asleep and let my body feel. In fact, that was only the beginning of what was the most violent illness that Man or I have ever had (yep – Man got it too, the day before we flew home). I couldn’t stop vomiting. And even when there was nothing left, my body kept trying to throw up. I was up all night, the pain in my stomach still very much there, punctuated only by hideously excruciating bouts of dry-reaching. All night.
The following day I stayed in bed. I felt okay – but I couldn’t do anything except drink my disgusting Sprite with sea-salt combination and do my best to rest.
The next morning, I felt bloody brilliant. Yep. I was hungry. My appetite was back and I had my energy back. Man took me to the buffet. I noticed something was wrong when, on the one minute walk to the buffet, every single ounce of my energy was usurped and I felt drained. I ate two pieces of plain toast and managed to say to Man, “I’m going to faint,” before I did, in fact, faint. I came to, and then fainted again. And again. Man called his brother as he needed to get me to hospital. In my moments of consciousness, all I could think about was how worried I was for Bubba. We weren’t at the twelve week mark yet and something felt very, very wrong. I was panicked. I was wheeled (rather comically) in a wheelchair to Shari’s step-mother’s car and she took me to hospital.
Long story short – I was in hospital for about eight hours with a bacterial infection that had reached my blood. My blood pressure was lower than it had ever been before at 88 over 40, and I was severely dehydrated. I was on a drip, given a lot of medications – all suitable for Bubba – and I also had an ultrasound where we saw Bubba and heard his still very strong heartbeat. Relief flooded through me.
When we arrived back to the hotel, Man got it. The very same series of events were repeated that night.
In hindsight, it was as awful as it sounds. I also realised how lucky I have been so far during this pregnancy. So many women have terrible morning sickness – granted, I had terrible morning nausea that stretched well into the afternoon, but after having vomited whilst being pregnant, I really am grateful. Even though you know deep down that everything is going to be okay, you can’t help but worry frantically whether all the clenching of muscles and energy of being sick is going to hurt your baby. Or maybe that is just me. Either way, I am thankful for my health thus far.
All in all, travelling while pregnant was pretty easy. However, I will leave you with these suggestions:
Sorry if that last bit sounded preachy. It totally did, didn’t it? Sorry.
So today is my last day at work before we leave for Thailand on Monday – huzzah!
There are a few occasions that I am celebrating around this..
What I am a teeny bit worried about are the photos that I/we will inevitably be taking and posting online throughout our trip. My stomach has popped out even further since I posted that photo at the beginning of the week, and I don’t know if I am going to be able to hide it in every single photo. Luckily there are only two people at work who are currently following me on Instagram, and I am not posting anything to Facebook (does anyone, anymore?) so, I am kind of safe in that regard, and am totally planning on telling my boss as soon as I get back. I do have a feeling though, that it is just going to come out naturally during this trip. Am I prepared for it to be common knowledge among the masses? I don’t really know about that.
I was hoping that my maternity clothes were going to arrive before I left so that I could reach ultimate comfort on the plane, however it looks like that isn’t going to be the case. I will simply have to settle for old Bonds tights and some kind of comfortable footwear – attractive.
Other than that really, it seems as though I have reached a point in the pregnancy where not much is happening. I mean, there is a lot happening behind the scenes – I am currently forming more distinct facial features and working limbs thank you very much – but my body seems to have regulated somewhat. My sleeping isn’t too bad, I am managing to get through the day without facing complete and utter exhaustion and my eating habits have normalised once more.
For instance, today’s food haul compared to what it was a few weeks ago is hugely different:
I went out to dinner with Mum last night where she mentioned that I have been having a lot of fruit and not a whole lot of vegetables or iron-rich foods. So tonight I am thinking of having a huge bowl of greens – think broccoli, kale, beans, peas, etc. – to increase my iron intake. I will also lather this in butter, because, butter. This is also an easy dinner that requires next to no effort (as once I get home from work that is when the exhaustion hits).
Anyway – that is about it from me today.
P.s. now when I sit down, my belly touches my thighs. WHAT A MILESTONE.
It feels like it has been a long time since I have posted, when in fact, it has been two days. TWO. Barely any time at all! It may not have been a big few days for most of you – it is only Wednesday, after all – but Bubba had a massive couple of days!
CHECK OUT HOW BIG THE BUBBA BUMP IS NOW.
When I looked down at myself yesterday morning, I went into a bit of shock. I looked up how big bubba is on my daily facts from The Bump and found out that he/she is the size of a peanut. A PEANUT. That is huge! Just a few days ago it was only as big as a raspberry. I put my hands on my stomach – which up until yesterday had kind of still felt just like a stomach – and the sides are hard, and above my pelvic bone is hard, and it’s all round and pregnant-y. IT’S CRAZY. So of course I took that photo and sent it to Man.
It felt like the first, real physical milestone of the pregnancy and I was completely consumed by it all day – my hands barely left my stomach.
Having said that, it is also becoming increasingly harder to hide my stomach at work. I am having to find the biggest, loosest tops that I can find whilst also trying not to look homeless. Also, my jeans only first me first thing in the morning now. As soon as I eat something, forget about it – the button gets undone and the zip comes down and that is how it will remain until I can hurriedly peel them off at home.
Yesterday really made me realise that I am getting bigger. I did some math. If I am this big now and my jeans already don’t fit, then by the time I get back from Thailand they most certainly will not fit and as I am going back to work the next day, I will need clothes to wear. So, I (excitedly) did my first bit of maternity shopping! HOORAY!
I am a very basic, plain dresser. I live in white, navy blue, grey and black. My jeans are always simple blue denim or black and I do not like experimenting with colour. This will not change simply because I am pregnant. I searched a few online stores and found that ASOS Maternity definitely offered clothes that best suit my personal style (including some sweet maternity overalls that I am yet to purchase). I didn’t go overboard, nor did I purchase too many of one thing as I have no real idea what size I am going to be.
To get me started, I bought:
Something a little bit more serious though (not in a bad way, don’t worry – this is a happy post!), at lunch today I was flicking through the weekend papers that we have lying around the office when I stumbled across an article by Sarah Ayoub. What I thought was going to be an article about how women have babies just so they don’t need to go back to the stress of the workplace as a working mum (it’s a thing), was actually a piece about how empowering a time being pregnant and on maternity leave can be for a woman. It was an article about how some women find themselves in this time – and you know what? I got it. It resonated so deeply with me.
For the last week or so now – as my pregnancy progresses – I have become more and more worried about the conversation I am going to have to have with my boss when I get home from Thailand. Not my immediate boss (who already knows and has been fabulous about it), but my big, CEO boss boss. Not only am I VERY new to this role, but I also haven’t known my boss boss for long NOR can I read her. I have no idea what she is like, what makes her tick, how she is going to react, etc. I am going in completely blind to this situation.
I have looked up tips on how to approach this online, but nothing really helps. My immediate boss has told me to just do the best job that I can until I announce it to ensure that boss boss knows my worth. I have been doing that, and working hard and trying to prove my worth. What I have been scared of though, is that legally (as in, it is a part of my contract) my probationary period is six months. I have it on good faith that they exercise it as the normal three month stint, however if she wants to get rid of me because of bubba, there is nothing really stopping her from doing so – although I am pretty sure firing someone because they are pregnant is illegal. But you get what I mean.
When I read this article, I realised that I do think that during this time I will really discover who it is I am and what it is I want to do. I love my job – I want to make that abundantly clear. Being a publicist for a publishing house has been my dream for my entire adult life. So yeah – ideally, I would love to keep my job. Even if it means I go part-time or work from home, however it looks, I would love to continue in this position in this field as it is absolutely everything to me.
What the article made me realise though is that, even if the worst scenario happens and I lose my job for whatever reason, I HAVE OPTIONS. I WILL BE OKAY. I was reading about women who, with their time at home (and obviously this article spoke to women who had partners who were able to support them, I can’t imagine what it would be like for those who don’t. Get in touch if you know someone who was in that situation – or if you yourself were) really honed in on what they wanted to do with their life career-wise. One woman started her own homewares company which she runs from home to this day, allowing her to be a stay-at-home AND working mum. Another woman got her masters degree across three pregnancies and returned to the workforce and was offered a promotion. There are stories like these all over the place, and it filled me with hope.
Take this blog, for example. Sure, right now it is focused on pregnancy. I started documenting my pregnancy here for women who were in the same boat as me when I found out – a bit lost, very excited, a lot oblivious, seriously curious. I aim to continue to write a very honest account of what I am experiencing, as well as helpful sites and tips and products (etc.) to provide as much help and support as I can to other women and men who are expecting a child (or whoever just wants a good read, really..). There is the vision there of continuing to write as Man’s and my child grows. I would then be a Mummy Blogger (SHOCK GASP HORROR), something I always swore I would never be. How wrong, I was.
This blog, whatever it ends up being – I would love for it to be a source of income for me. That, of course, is another dream of mine: to be able to support myself and my child and my family with my words and my writing. What the piece I read today showed me, was that it is a possible reality. That if, in fact, my career ends before it really gets going, it doesn’t mean that that is the end. For now, what Sarah Ayoub has done with her article has provided me a bit of breathing space, a bit of calm. So thank you, Sarah Ayoub (as I assume you are reading this, obviously) for giving me an insight into something that is really important to me at the moment, and especially for writing something that I didn’t know I needed to read.
So to sum up:
So – today marks the first day of feeling very, very okay! Better than okay, actually! I am officially eight weeks pregnant today. Bub is the size of a raspberry and weighs about the same as your average jellybean (fun fact, the family have all decided that Bub’s nickname is Jellybean, so that’s fitting). I don’t know if bub is aware that it is eight weeks old, however surely it can’t be just coincidence that I am feeling dandy today?!
If I was to go off how I was feeling last night, I would not have expected such bloody glee today throughout my mind and my body. I had really bad indigestion, had to lie on the electric blanket and have a heat pack on my front, my sleep was interrupted by hideous nightmares that I kept falling back into and my cat woke me up this morning by scratching the palm of my hand so deeply that it bled.
Right? Not great.
BUT NOPE! Bub and I are a team and Friday is where it’s at people.
Food consumption today, as of 1.45pm:
By all accounts I should be face down on the floor, beneath my desk, BUT NO. I AM SPRITELY AND ALIVE. I also had such an urge to not only announce, but DECLARE that I am pregnant to my colleagues today I feel so good. Luckily, baby brain let me have this one and I was able to stop and pause, and really think about that before ruining my career. Speaking of baby brain.. last night, I was about to go to sleep when I decided to heat my heat pack up again. I walked to the kitchen and proceeded to place said heat pack in the fridge, stood there, and waited.
I was so confused. There I was, standing in the kitchen with absolutely no idea what I was doing there, all the while waiting patiently for my heat pack to heat up in the fridge.
Bub and I eventually located the microwave.
What I am really trying to get across is that I FEEL GOOD! I feel like I am standing in the light at the end of the first eight week tunnel. I know that there is still four weeks left of my first trimester, however with our Thailand trip fast approaching, I am hoping that this trend of good-feels will continue. I may not be able to party or drink or stay up as late as I would have done if I weren’t pregnant, but at least I will be able to eat, and dance and have energy to spend days swimming and exploring. And you know what? I wouldn’t change the timing of this for the absolute world.
The last month has been difficult and at times I have thought, “I don’t think I can do this.” My head has been in the toilet, my neck has felt broken in thirty-seven different places and I have been so tired that I wouldn’t have been surprised if I was pronounced legally dead – but I feel so lucky to be carrying our child. I feel so lucky that my body is strong enough to grow and change and adapt to the tiny raspberry-sized human inside of me. I feel really fucking happy.
What this pregnancy has also done – and I only realised this today – is put a lot of things in perspective for me. There is so much in my past that I feel guilt around, so many mistakes that I wish I could erase from my thoughts and memories, but none of it seems to matter anymore because I am moving forward. With each new days that this baby grows, I (we) are moving further into the future – our future. I heard, last night, that there has been a lot of very cruel things said about me. These things have been said to my family and those closest to me. Even a few short months ago, knowledge of these awful words and threatening remarks would have sent me really funny; I would not be able to sleep, I would want to try and fix or change their opinion of me, I would seek affirmations from other people around me as if to counteract the nasty comments made.
Instead, this morning I took myself (and bub) for a walk and thought through it bit by bit. I thought of everything that has transpired in the last six months. I thought of the people I have around me now. I thought of how different I am from back then, thought of how much I have grown, and learned, and realised. I put my hand on my stomach, messaged one of my girlfriends, took some deep breaths and just walked. And everything seemed to settle. Those comments and thoughts that others have of me didn’t seem to matter in the slightest bit.
Man always tells me, “We’re moving forward.”
And we are, individually, as a couple, as a family, in every way. We are moving forward.
I am also growing outward. But that’s okay because it has to do with us moving forward.
You see what I am getting at.
WOMEN EVERYWHERE, I HAVE A GAME CHANGER THAT YOU MUST ALL BE AWARE OF. MATERNITY STOCKINGS ARE WHERE, IT’S, AT. Even if you aren’t pregnant, do yourselves ALL a favour and invest in some maternity stockings.
As I have said in the last few posts, none of my clothes are fitting me properly. None of ‘em. I have been forced to wear ill-fitting jeans because stockings have just been simply out of the question. Not only are stockings uncomfortable and very cuttey-inney (it’s a term I am trying out) at the best of times, but when you are pregnant and at the stage that I am currently living through, your body changes/bloats/expands/hurts every single day.
Over the weekend, I purchased some maternity stockings from Big W. On the packaging of the stockings was a woman you looked to be about 4-5 months pregnant, whereas at the moment, I just look kind of dumpy. I almost didn’t buy them, thinking, “Oh come on Leah, don’t you think it is a bit premature to be buying these?” But thank god I didn’t listen to myself on this one.
These. Are. Heaven.
They are hands down the best pair of stockings I have ever worn. They are tight and holdey-inney from toe to thigh, and then from hips to stomach they are gloriously stretchy and pleasantly loose. SO GOOD. There are no unsightly cut-in rolls, my stomach doesn’t hurt from them being too tight and I don’t even need to think about how my food consumption is going to affect my comfort as these are made for bellies FAR bigger than mine. Maternity stockings should be the standard stockings. FOR REAL.
As bubba has been determined to eat like crap the last couple of days, I am force-feeding bubba fruit and vegetables because #parenting. I got home last night, tired as all fuck, but spent the next hour preparing my dinner as well as food for work today.
ELECTRIC BLANKETS ARE GAME CHANGERS AS WELL, PREGNANT WOMEN EVERYWHERE.
My back and neck have been unbearably sore for the last three weeks. My body is moving differently as it is carrying more weight than normal, and my boobs are pulling my shoulders forward due to how fucking huge they are. I am all off-kilter. The first night that I slid in between the sheets and felt that glorious warmth, I knew that I had found the place I want to exist. Not only was it lovely simply due to the warmth, but every single muscle in my back seemed to relax. I let out a very loud, happy moan as I proceeded to melt into the mattress. I had spent a lot of the afternoon heating up my wheat-bag/heat-pack and resting it awkwardly between my neck and the lounge – but nothing compares to how fucking good the electric blanket felt.
What I have also learned is to accept the fact that I am just REALLY tired. For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to push through the exhaustion as I have felt like a bit of a failure. Surely, I thought to myself, surely I am not this tired this early on in the pregnancy. Baby is only the size of an ear-bud/blueberry/jelly bean. But you know what? I am that tired. I can barely function past 3.30 in the afternoon. I had ten hours sleep last night. Mum saw me and said, “You look better after that sleep, but you still look tired.” And I am. I need another forty-five uninterrupted hours and I may feel okay.
So instead of feeling like a sleepy failure, I am doing little things to help me feel a lot more myself and treating myself to some serious relaxing. What relaxes you will change for each woman, but for me, what has helped is: