Broadcasting The Birth Of Angus

Lots of people said I was brave to be so public about my pregnancy and the problems I had with it. Lots of people said I was brave to broadcast a series on pregnancy using my own as a spring board.  Lots of people said I was brave (and or mad) to have a reporter in with my husband and me for the birth of our baby. However, I didn’t feel brave (or mad). I felt privileged and responsible and proud.

In my position as a BBC presenter I felt it was wholly necessary to open up about the issues women face in pregnancy and beyond. Issues that people (men and women) are afraid to talk about for fear of being judged or because people are scared of words like ‘vagina’!

In fact, one of the battles I faced during the series was how to refer to ‘lady bits’… Because ‘we’ didn’t want to put people ‘off their tea’. This editorial conversation arose because of the words ‘vaginal delivery’. I mean, come on…. what else should I refer to it as? A foof delivery? A fairy delivery? A nunny delivery? The natural way? Front bottom delivery?  The fact that we had to be careful about how I referred to my body parts in a piece about giving birth because people might be offended baffled me! It also made me want to say ‘vagina vagina vagina’ over and over again on air! Needless to say I didn’t! Anyway, my point is that this sort of ‘barrier’ is part of the reason I decided to do it. I suppose I felt as though I had some sort of duty, a responsibility to make public a scientific, physical and most importantly, emotional journey that so many of us go through… or endure or maybe even enjoy!?

Using the word privileged always freaks me out a bit. I think it sometimes sounds a bit pretentious but in this scenario it’s the only word that fits! I had a huge platform to broadcast from, and access to so many individuals and professionals, how could I not use this fantastic opportunity to bring, often hushed up issues, into the main stream media.  For example, my consultant says I have PTSD from the birth of my first child, and even after broadcasting the series I find this hard to repeat to people. Although I’ve accepted it, I don’t like to tell people in case I’m seen as weak. But it’s not a weakness, it’s a reaction to a horrendous and scary situation in which I felt as though I had very little control over what was happening to my body and my unborn child. If my series helps just one person realise they really are not alone, and it’s ok to freak out and cry and feel frustrated and scared, then I have done a good job.

During the pregnancy and therefore the series I also had to make the decision of whether or not to have a planned c-section. Because of various problems with my first 2 deliveries it was advised that an operation was the best way to deliver Angus. However, I wanted a vaginal delivery and found this decision extremely difficult to make. I shared my thoughts with my listeners because I know there are other women facing the same fears and dilemmas. I cried on air, lots of times, but you know what? It felt normal and right to show my true feelings… and not to rationalise my emotions or put distance between Emma the pregnant mum and Emma the broadcaster. It was raw, unedited emotion. It was real and it is how many women feel.

In the end, and on reflection, mixed up in all the happiness, the stress, the saggy skin, tears and love I also feel pride.

I’m proud of myself for taking on such a huge issue publicly and allowing my audience to share such a special moment. I’m proud of my husband for being so open to the idea, for supporting me and for being part of the report. I’m also proud of my managers at the BBC for allowing me to see the project through to the end despite resistance from some colleagues. I’m also incredibly proud and thankful for the amazing job my colleague and friend Sian Hall did on reporting on THE MOMENT! She was so discreet, and so professional, yet warm and human! She captured the perfect mix of emotions! Thank you Sian for giving me such a wonderful keepsake! A moment in my life I will never forget and of course for taking it all in your stride.

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Personal Thoughts on Death

Death frightens me.  At least I think it does. But why?  What is it about the only thing in life that is certain, that scares us?

I’m 32 and a mother of 2.  My parents are alive, as are my husband’s.  However, my great grandparents and my grandparents are all dead.  Each time someone else dies in my family I have a moment, it doesn’t last very long but a brief moment, when everything feels futile. A moment when I wonder why? What are we doing here? In that second everything seems so fragile.  Everyone I’ve loved, everything I’ve worked for, will disappear in death.  Are we really all just existing… breathing in and out?

It’s a stark thought and one that if I allowed myself to dwell on it too long would make me very sad.  Thankfully though, I have a lot of love in my life and this is how I begin to answer some of my questions.  This feeling of futility eases when I think of my parents, my husband, my children and my friends.  This sounds particularly cheesy, but all this love is what will allow me and others to live on, long after we have died.

For example, I have nothing but GREAT memories of my childhood and what I’ve come to learn is that yes the memories are just that: memories, they don’t change anything and are irrelevant to others, they die with the mind they lived in.  But that mind… my mind and those memories… made me the woman I am; and are helping to form the woman my daughter will become and the man my son will be.  It’s hard to imagine my children as adults, they are currently 3 and 1 but it’s obvious that what I do, what I tell them, how I react to a situation and my beliefs are moulding them.  All of these things that feel like the present to me, will be memories, to them.  This is their childhood.  Does this mean that death is not the end because we live on in the minds of others? If not in their minds – in their behaviour?

If that is true, (and it is a comforting thought that a person is able to leave some sort of legacy – be it good or bad – through the memories of others and their influence) does this mean that we only die once everyone who knew us is dead?  Physically, we are gone once we’re burned or in the ground – but my Nana and my Grandad are still in my mind.  Not in a spiritual way, they don’t have what you might call a ‘presence’, but they definitely exist somewhere within me.  So, although they’re gone – the memory of them lives in me.

I feel I should point out that I have deliberately left religion out of this discussion.  In my opinion, it muddies the water.  It doesn’t help me come to any better conclusion as to why death frightens me.  I respect people who have a faith – but for me death and what it means is about my family and friends and not any form of higher spiritual force.

So to come back to my original question – is it frightening?  Should we fear death?  Is it the moment of death that actually frightens people?

I have discovered, that personally, it is something else.  A lack of control perhaps mixed with a fear of what my children and family won’t have.  My children without a mother, my husband without a wife, my parents without a daughter and my friends living without the girl that ‘brings the party’!!  I fear who will or won’t be there to comfort them, and I hate the thought that in death, I create sadness.  I fear what I will miss if I go first.  I fear the heartache of having someone taken from me.  Those are my fears.  Nothing to do with the moment that is death.  In fact, at that moment there’s really nothing else… is there?

Everything Tastes Better than Skinny Feels!

      

    I’d just like to put something out there and that is…

    EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER THAN SKINNY FEELS!
    Skinny feels lifeless, boney, flaccid. It has no bounce, no strength and leaves many women wanting! However, that big bar of chocolate feels soft and creamy, its full of life and will give you strength… It will never leave you wanting!
    Ok, I’m going to extremes I know… but as a woman who since having children is struggling with accepting my figure – that awful quote from Kate Moss keeps popping into my head. But it’s NOT TRUE! Even a good salad tastes better than the one moment you get a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and feel thin!
    I ask myself time and time again, is it worth it? Do I really need to worry about my figure? My husband loves me and fancies the pants off me! My kids love me and I have great friends – so why can’t I just accept the way I am? Why can’t I be happy with my lumpy bumpy bits, my jiggly bits and rounder face?
    It’s vanity, I know.  But and this is a big BUT… for me, the way I look just isn’t a big enough driving force to sacrifice the pleasures I get from good food! My appearance is’t enough motivation to count calories or not eat cake with my kids. To be ‘thin’ I have to sacrifice! A lot… Not least long lunches with family, friends and wine! 
    However, my health is another matter, and so before all you superior fitness types judge me on my love of food and lack of care for my appearance, I am healthy. I eat my five a day and snack on fruit and get some exercise. But I’m not thin and I’m not sure I ever will be. Or even ever was?
    It’s difficult to come to any conclusion or answer to my internal battle against vanity. Why, when I feel so strongly about all of the above do I let it bother me? Is accepting the changes to my body, my lumpy bits, accepting defeat?
    This brings me onto my competitive nature. We’re all competitive in some way aren’t we? Some more than others. But in accepting ‘defeat’ who has won? ME! I’m the winner surely? I get to kick vanity up the bum, eat my cake and love myself? But it doesn’t really feel like winning. In fact, it feels like settling.
    I’m not even sure what ‘thin Emma’ looks like. I’m sure you’ve all done it… Got to your target weight and wanted to lose more. Got to your target measurement and thought one more inch… But it’s all about appearance and let’s face it vanity is a bastard. It’s like an abusive partner. It makes you paranoid, unhappy, strips away your self confidence and makes you feel like you are never good enough!
    So, here’s my advice… It is profound and I hope it serves you well: surround yourself with people who are fatter and uglier than you are!

    The Cause of the 2 Day Hangover

     

    I don’t know about you but since becoming a mother I CAN NOT handle my alcohol! A couple of glasses of wine turns me into a giggling school girl. Anymore than that, and I’m a mad woman, actually like a wild animal let lose. I genuinely believe that I am a pop star and I can shake it like Beyoncé! 
    I don’t remember alcohol having this much of an effect on me before I had my children. I am quite partial to a drink and rather like the feeling of being tipsy but it took longer when I was younger and child free and definitely didn’t make me quite so wild!
    You will know the feeling I’m sure: When you arrive at a gathering, decide to be sensible… just one glass of wine, water in between… but then some polite person fills up your wine glass and that’s it. An unexpected extra sip! I’m done for! Seriously, that one refill has sent me over the edge and I hear myself telling people that eating is cheating!
    At this point you’d think a mother of two, aged 32, having been to university and led a good exciting life, would recognise the signs. Signs that should say in neon lights in my brain ‘STOP DRINKING’. The signs are: talking VERY loudly. VERY rosy cheeks. Saying things I know I shouldn’t. Stopping mid sentence to sing/screech the words to a song… All this and a glance at my watch reveals to me that it is only 9.30pm.
    Is it that I’m trying to keep up with other (younger) people who don’t have children? Or has having babies fundamentally changed my body’s make up?
    There is one thing I do know. Something that is a definite. I will ALWAYS suffer from the morning after guilt! It doesn’t matter that I have no need to apologise; I just have that sinking feeling that I may have offended someone or just outright made a fool of myself! I have to say it doesn’t happen that often, having 2 children and a house that is a bit of a project, nights out are few and far between. But when I do have one the words total destruction spring to mind! 
    What’s more… Where did the 2 day hangover come from? It takes an extra 24 hours to shift that fuzzy feeling now I am a mother. It doesn’t stop me though does it! The shapes I’m ready to throw on that dance floor are just too good to keep to myself!
    So, here’s to the next time!
    Cheers!

    Talking to Strangers 

    Sitting on a train, catching the eye of a stranger sitting opposite you and not talking, is weird! But how many of you have been in this situation and not communicated?

    Some people will be working or deep into a book but if not why not have a conversation? Why do people, sociable creatures, choose to ignore each other on public transport? Or anywhere else for that matter, like sitting on a bench or in a doctors’ waiting room?
    Is it because men and or woman are afraid that any conversation would somehow be seen as a flirtation? If so, who cares? 
    Could it be because although sociable we are not a confident species? If so… Try it! You might blush but the colour in your cheeks will fade.
    This may seem laughable but is it because we are British? If so… Loosen up!
    Or is it that most of us are just down right miserable and would rather spend the time stuck inside our own heads than learning something new about a stranger!? We just can’t be bothered! Who knows?
    At this point I’ve been sitting opposite and next to the same man and two women for two hours on a train and haven’t uttered a word! BUT in an effort not to be stuck in my own head… I’m making my next move! One of them has bought some wine – aha a kindred spirit. I shall ask them how it tastes and if it is worth a trip to the food carriage!

    Bringing Baby Number 2 Home

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    I want to talk about what happens when you bring home baby number 2.

    Before I brought my son home I already felt guilt and fear. Fear that he would ruin the happy little family we already had and guilt that my beautiful baby girl was going to have her life turned upside down. These feelings do eventually go away when you realise that number 2 makes your unit complete! But before that here is a list of things to prepare yourself for:

    The guilt:
    If you already suffer from mothers guilt times it by 2! Now not only are you worried about all the things you already felt guilty about with baby 1, you’re also concerned about splitting your time and not making one child jealous of another etc.

    Bums
    You will for a while always be wiping a bum! Be that your own, one of your children’s or picking up poo from your cat, dog or hamster!

    Behaviour
    A friend of mine used a phrase I’d like to steal. She said ‘all kids have their own brand of problems’. This becomes particularly apparent when baby number 2 comes home. Your toddler may decide to throw a tantrum, wet themselves, become completely defiant, aggressive towards you or the baby, stop going to bed… All of the above in a bid to gain back your attention. In my experience it tends to only be one ‘brand’ and it does stop!

    Sleep
    Never again. Never. You will get used to it.

    Growth grief
    Growth grief sounds more serious than it is… What I mean is a sudden knowledge that one of your babies has gone! He or she starts to look so big, so old. And what’s more you start to expect so much more from them. They will cope – afterall it’s fun being Mummy’s little helper!

    A feeling of bursting
    Watching my son and daughter grow together and become friends makes my heart want to burst. When they giggle together or hold hands I just melt. What’s more, their friendship makes my life easier! They occupy each other!

    My house is happily chaotic. I love the noise, the toys, and the fact that between them my 2 children make my home look like the Tasmanian devil has paid me a visit. So to all of those pregnant mummies soon to be bringing home number 2… DON’T FEAR! Just learn to love the chaos and revel in the busy-ness!

    A personal message to the men in this world

    IMG_0371It may take a year, it may take 2, it may be a matter of months… but men, if you decide to have a baby be prepared to wait for your wife or girlfriend to return – metaphorically speaking!

    From my own experience I can wholeheartedly say that I and most, if not all women, change when they have a baby. For some those changes may be more subtle than for others. For me, they were dramatic and I’m so grateful for an understanding and patient husband. So many men are not prepared for how a woman changes when she goes from being ‘me’ to being ‘mummy’.

    Aside from the obvious physical changes of bigger OR smaller boobs, stretched skin from the bump, stretch marks (tiger stripes, love lines whatever you want to call them) heightened or lowered sex drive, all of which are difficult enough to bare, there are also deep emotional changes. The one I want to focus on for this post is the feeling of no longer knowing who you are. A woman losing herself as such.

    What men often don’t realise is once a mother always a mother. Women don’t switch off during the 9-5 working day to be Directors, Receptionists, Doctors, Cleaners, Solicitors or any other job… They just fit more into their minds. I never stop thinking about my children but over time I am learning to push those thoughts aside; to focus on work, or the job at hand, or maybe even my sex life! This however, in my opinion, is a learned skill which takes time.

    I’m certain it’s not just me that feels I’m often pulled in a million directions! Although, this feeling is often self-inflicted nonetheless, it’s there. My children, my husband, my career, date night, wine with the girls, time for waxing etc. I’m sure I used to do all of these things but without the emotional baggage of always wondering if I had chosen to do the right thing that day.

    With my first child I’m not sure when I became ‘me’ again or really if I ever did! There was the odd glimmer, on the odd occasion of the old me, but I often used to push my buggy along the street wondering when would I return. Where has Emma gone? Would I ever feel like ‘me’ again? The answers to those questions are: THAT Emma has gone and no I will never be the old me again. Why would I want her back? Why would anybody want her back? I have developed, moved into another chapter of my life and I’m now so much more than what I was. I’ve built onto my old foundations and I’m settling into my many new roles.

    But that ‘bedding in’ period, so to speak, takes time and more than that really… It’s taken baby number 2, a second return to work and drawer full of new underwear to finally feel more like ‘me’ again and in some ways I’m still getting to know the new me. That’s more than 3 years of muddled searching for Emma!

    I’m comfortable now as Mummy, wife, radio presenter, wine lover and constant weight loss struggler. I’ve done it and all women do eventually. I’ve muddled through the changes and now my family is stronger, closer and ready for anything. We know what we stand for, who we are and what we want. Many of those things have been decided as a couple, some as individuals, but always with patience and a mutual understanding that our lives are evolving and changing all the time.

    So men, don’t EVER expect things to ‘be the way they were’… no matter how much you want it to be. You created another person and now they will, and if they don’t they should, factor into all your decision making. Don’t abandon your loved one because she has changed. You helped make those changes when you decided to have a baby. More fool you if you go elsewhere. After having a baby and when the time is right (feeling more like herself) a woman is stronger, sexier and more determined than ever. And believe me it’ll be your loss if you choose to break up your family.