Thinking About Pregnancy, Plastic and Peace

I haven’t blogged in a long while. Things have been moving at a fast speed here, in a good way, and I have a few things to report back on from the real world.

My pregnancy is going well – I wasn’t sure whether to blog about every step of this crazy journey, so for now I’ll just share some of the highlights.

First of all, I’m loving it, generally feeling bloody amazing, excited and overwhelmingly positive. In those first few months I was lucky enough to not experience any severe sickness – I turned my nose up at a few foods, but otherwise completely understand how some people go months and months without realising they are pregnant.

Right now, it’s not all so plain sailing. In my second trimester (today I am 18 weeks), the pressure on my insides means I’m battling with various digestion issues. To put it less politely, I constantly burp, feel like I’m going to piss and/or shit myself, enjoy a regularly consistent acid reflux and can’t get comfortable at night. Seeing a bump emerge is totally worth it all, though.

Overall, the biggest symptom of my pregnancy, other than the giddiness, has been feeling very tired… having anything less than 9-10 hours sleep leaves me feeling utterly exhausted. Hungover, exhausted. I think I might be dying, exhausted. I can’t do anything productive, exhausted. So yeah, sleep is really important and I can’t get enough of it.

Other than sharing details of my physical condition for no real reason other than because, as they say, sharing is caring, I can also say that being up the duff does take you into a new realm in terms of how you see the world each day, mentally. You begin to feel pretty untouchable, very strong, proud, and have the feeling of a barrier around you, one that can ward off things that aren’t good for your baby. There’s no getting stressed about little things. All is good with the world. Everything calms down. Everything has been put into perspective.

That’s the first P I had to tell you about. Secondly, I’ve also been wanting to report back on the other P, and talk about my recent plastic-free ambitions and how I’ve been getting on with them.

Some stuff has been really easy (not buying plastic bottles of water, declining straws, steering clear of chewing gum), but some endeavours have proved challenging. Being told to be super careful with handling raw food, the spreading of germs and general domestic hygiene in my current condition, I’ve started to see how liquid soap can be better than a bar that gets wiped by dirty hands and then re-used. Also, the shower and shampoo soaps we bought for our bathroom didn’t last anywhere near as long as expected – with no budget alternative to the lovely likes of Lush, I’m not sure how much of a realistic option this will be for us in the future.

There are other plastic-free products that haven’t quite got it right either. Whilst we love our laundry EgoEgg, it’s not great at getting rid of stains like liquid detergent. With bars of soap and fancy non-plastic detergents, I’ve been finding myself trying and trying different natural alternatives but ultimately wavering back to wanting to buy plastic bottles of these products. Not for ease, but for quality. I’m sure in the future, if more regularly bought by others, this might change, but for now, I think I will fail from being the perfect plastic-free consumer in all areas of my life. I’ve also already begun my research into how to best live minimally and un-wastefully when it comes to raising a little human. More to share on this at a later date.

Last but by no means least, the most exciting movements of all (yes, even more exciting than laundry eggs) is that we got married (insert whoop whoop) – we enjoyed the most perfect day and the most peaceful honeymoon camping on the Isle of Skye.

There aren’t adequate words to describe how much I love the feeling of now being married to the person I love most in the world. A close friend described new marriage to me as “cosy, like a blanket, protecting you” and she wasn’t wrong. I hope I continue to feel – and be – untouchable, for years to come.

Much like my anti-plastic endeavours, this blog post has been (I think) inadequate, but you’ll have to excuse my sporadic content for now – it’s late and bladder-emptying calls… more importantly, so does my bed.

Spilt Coffee

Just any old Wednesday.
Misty with a moist heat that stifles my breath.
And here I am,
again
sliding around on sticky saffron tiles.
Soft round freckles smile:
“your usual muffin today, miss?”
But
before I can reply –
a bitter breeze
from the doorway turns my head.
Her.
As she always is.
With
that charcoal curtain across her face,
bony bare hands,
and no feet to stand on.
As she hovers, slightly
above stains,
I realise that
the muffins are decomposing,
the coffee bleeds
out,
and my past has returned.

A Gift From The Gods

A Gift From The Gods.jpg

On 17th February 2019, a new little friend is going to be joining me and my partner.

Earlier this year, my husband-to-be and I travelled to Bali and Singapore (you might have read my previous blogs already) and it really was the most enlightening experience of my life. Not just because of the memories that we made, but because we brought back the best holiday memento ever, in the form of the little peanut that has been growing in my belly for the last 12 weeks.

I didn’t know how honest to be in this blog about our conception and pregnancy journey so far, but I do get a kick out of telling the most real and personal stories, from the heart, so here it goes, completely unedited (as always).

When we visited Indonesia, we’d been trying to conceive for just under a year. We had been relatively laid-back about it for that year – I hadn’t insisted my partner jumped on me at a particular time in the month and I had tried to not get too obsessed with fertility apps (this is easier said than done). I knew lots of people who had conceived during holiday and travel, including my own mother who after relentlessly trying to get pregnant, went to Barbados with my dad 30 years ago and *ding*, I decided to come along, and my mum conceived in the heat of the relaxing Caribbean sun.

As a real mini-me of my own mother, I knew that I would follow suit. Over the last few months, I’d been deep in spiritual teachings, including those of Gabby Bernstein (author of The Universe Has Got Your Back) who I have blogged about before. I had developed a new way of thinking, a new way of living. I knew that the universe had my back, I knew that I was ready to have a baby, and I knew that if I believed in it, God would make it so. Before I went away, a similar-minded spiritual friend bought me a moonstone (which aided fertility) and told me she believed this was going to happen for me whilst we were away in Bali. (Obviously, when I returned she was also the first person to instantly guess I was pregnant before I had even said anything.)

But my positive train-of-thought was soon challenged when I was told by my doctor not to have any unprotected sex whilst away, or for six months after returning, because the zika virus (a disease spread by some mosquitoes) can be present in a handful of countries and can – in rare cases – effect how the head grows in a growing foetus if you get bitten and are pregnant or about to get pregnant.

As someone that has previously suffered from quite extreme health anxiety, years ago (pre-CBT) this would have sent me into a downward spiral of anxiety and worry. When I reached out to the internet for advice, I couldn’t find any solid, reliable figures on just how many people the zika virus actually effected in the UK and abroad. All I found was endless forums, of distressed women trying to conceive, saying that they had cancelled their holidays and/or had found themselves in deep anxiety and confusion about this concern.

I am a huge believer in fate and faith. I think challenges are sent to us for a reason. I think we are one world and I think that I am very lucky to be able to travel across it. I decided to put my faith and focus in the mothers of these countries. If, us British folk, are being told to not have unprotected sex in these countries, well, what about all the millions of females in these places who do continue to pro-create and have healthy families? Is every single Mexican, Indonesian and Caribbean woman also being told not to have unprotected sex? No, of course not.

I didn’t want to undermine or belittle our amazing health system in the UK, for which I am eternally grateful, and I wasn’t denying the fact that this could happen to someone, but personally I had to take this information lightly, and put my foot down about letting it effect my mental health. I’ve been in dark places before where I’ve worried about the risks of everything and I didn’t want to return there. Of course we have to be healthy and safe, to know the risks, but we can also drive ourselves insane worrying about the bad things that could happen. We have to continue living our lives, worry-free.

I read up on zika as much as I could, on every single reliable website I could find on the internet. I bought mosquito spray. Then I took a deep breath, and relaxed. I said to myself: as someone who is healthy, who doesn’t have any underlying health issues, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, exercises, is not overweight, is relatively young (and the same can be said for my partner)… I am not going to let the fact that I am going on holiday ruin this journey for me. I am going to conceive and I know everything is going to be OK.

I wanted to share this particular element of my conception for anyone out there who is worrying about a similar thing. The actual presence and likely threat of the zika virus in recent years is very difficult to measure, information about how much of a risk this actually is, is not easy to define or find, and a lot of women from the UK, from what I can see online, are getting very worried about the risk. For me personally, I believed that the potential negative effects on my body and mind as a result of a health anxiety, was the biggest concern, and I was not going to let that concern arouse. You’ll know what the best thing to do is for you, too. Now, I am so glad that I had all of these pre-conception-zika-conversations… they just reminded me of how much I valued a positive and realistic mental attitude, something I have now been able to take forward into my pregnancy – I am sure it will do me and my baby so much good.

Bali 27.jpg

So. There we were. Having the best time of our lives, travelling across Bali (incidentally surrounded by hundreds of healthy and happy pregnant women).

During the full moon, we visited one of Bali’s most sacred temples, Tirta Empul – a water temple at which you are cleansed and blessed by holy water (pictured). We got there early in the morning when no-one was around, and me and my partner prayed together in the water. We wished for new life. We did the same thing together that night in the sea, under the glow of a completely circular moon. Looking back with a relatively good understanding of mathematics and a very good understanding of my own menstrual cycle timing, I know this would have been the time I conceived, give or take a day or two. A full moon, temple-made baby!

The Balinese celebrate the full moon with gorgeous festivities and ceremonies which are weeks in the planning – it’s a beautiful place to be at this time of the month, to witness these sacred celebrations. I observed their practices, saw where they placed their energies and focuses. They weren’t fretting over risks and diseases, they were dancing together under the light of the full moon, praying to the spirits for strength through any potential challenges. Like the people of Bali, during this holiday I was able to learn how to choose peace over anxiety, belief over worry, celebration over information. This was another gift that I would take home – a new mindset, a zero tolerance towards anxiety.

Bali 3.jpg

The rest of our trip was incredible. We trekked through rice fields, played in waterfalls, drank from coconuts, meditated on empty beaches. We enjoyed our time in what I found to be the most magical place on earth, the most memorable experience of my life.

Four days after we returned, I knew that something exciting had arrived. I went to the supermarket, bought a few tests and (despite being a few days before my next period was actually due)… all of the tests came back positive. I fell to my knees in the bathroom and thanked the Balinese Gods. I knew this would happen, I knew it was my destiny.

Fast forward to today. The last 12 weeks have been amazing – I’ve been very tired and at times quite emotional but otherwise, I have been one of those lucky people who hasn’t experienced spotting, morning sickness or any other unwelcome symptoms. This new considerate life inside me is treating me pretty well and is really bedding down for the long haul. I’ve got a big bump already, so much so that four weeks before our big day, I’ve had to source a new wedding dress! Many people have responded to this by telling me that “you can’t possibly have a bump already” – well, let me tell you something (and this applies not just to pregnant ladies)… all women are different and all of our bodies respond differently to external and internal factors. 3.7 billion of us across the globe and not one body identical. Crazy and beautiful, right?!

Last week, at our first routine scan, we met our peanut – a healthy, happy, perfectly-sized little bean. Confirmation that I conceived during the full moon, our new gift is due to arrive one day before a full moon too, 17th February 2019. In the meantime, I plan to spend the next six months continuing a positive and mindful attitude.

We are so very lucky here in Britain – I’ve received brilliant, free health-care, support and advice, without which I’d been well and truly fucked. But, as I mentioned before, information can sometimes be a burden, as well as a gift. Mums-to-be are inundated with leaflets about all the bad things that can happen (in theory that’s what scans are for, to detect any possible problems) so it’s important now for me to stay realistic, sane, calm, focused and hopeful, to ensure my body is a happy and relaxed environment for my new life. I had faith before and I still have it now.

Every single new mum is different, and will know what is right for them. My commitment to remaining free from worry (despite risk warnings) is important because of previous times in my life when I have witnessed worry take over completely. And worry can effect your body in ways that you cannot even imagine.

Despite being constantly told about all the things that could go wrong, all the things I cannot do (don’t go near cat poo, don’t eat too much fish, make sure you thoroughly wash your vegetables, don’t dye your hair) – it is vital that I keep optimistic and anxiety-free, for the sake of the Bali baby growing inside my belly. I know that avoiding alcohol and un-cooked meat is important, yes, but so is maintaining positive mental health, which undoubtedly has an effect on the physical, too. It’s a shame that sometimes we don’t focus on the mental health as much as the physical health. It’s a shame that we don’t acknowledge the sheer power of continued anxiety and worry, which in my eyes could be just as (if not more) damaging than a potentially risky mosquito bite.

Every morning, I now spend a few minutes at a self-made alter in the room that will be our nursery – I thank the Gods for this gift, I thank my partner for his support and energy, and I visualise the healthy new life that will be joining us in 2019. I re-energise, I re-find my faith. I remember my destiny.

Like the people of Bali, all I am doing right now is smiling, praying, loving and living… and of course, getting ready for my own full moon celebration.

Bali 2

Thinking About Waiting For The Harvest

Quiet Moments 2

I have never said this sentence in my entire life but I am already pumped for summer to be over.

As a sun-junkie, I spend most of the cold months devoid of energy, praying for the light to return, but these last few scorching months have taken their toll on both my poor garden and my ability to work comfortably in my home office without needing three showers a day. I’m not going to wish the time away though – the rain will come, it always does.

This weekend, the wheat behind our house is being harvested (early because of the dry weather) and I’m already excited to see what’s going to be growing in the field next year. Rumour has it that we’re expecting sheep, which would be awesome! But inevitably sad, as someone who doesn’t eat lamb, to see the lambs eventually disappear from their mummies.

The good thing about these summery nights is that I have been able to take part in cool stuff outside, i.e. the things pictured in this article. Last month the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust ran a wild outdoor yoga session – a group of us went into the depths of the local nature reserve, we felt our feet on the woodland floor, took a deep breath of clean forest air and spent an hour and a half working our bodies as the sun set behind us and little wild rabbits bounced near our mats. It was the coolest exercise I’ve ever taken part in – who needs gyms when you can do things like this?!

Speaking of cool things, final piece of gossip for the day – my mum is about to have some ‘work’ exhibited in an upcoming showcase at the Ashmolean museum, Spellbound. I use the word ‘work’ in inverted commas because what she has in fact donated to the museum is an old engraved spirit stick which she found in the walls of our house years ago when we were decorating. We grew up in our family hotel which my stepdad owned, a Grade II listed 16th century historic house… meaning she used to unearth weird witchy shit all the time, including an old priest hole behind a bookcase in her office. Yes, hide and seek was FUN as a kid. So, check that out if it’s up your street.

Right. I’m off to sit in the shade and type, and get a good old inhale of the smell of wheat for the last time this year. I’m sure I will miss it when it’s gone.

Quiet Moments 1

Tips For Anyone Looking To Reduce Their Social Media Usage

I recently embarked on a month-long social media detox and subsequently decided to delete my personal accounts in order to further enjoy the positive changes that I noticed surface during my 30 digital-free days.

I’d been firstly inspired to question how and why I use social networking after hearing about how The Minimalists were vowing to use their social media accounts more mindfully in 2018. It’s amazing what we can address when we stop, step back and analyse.

As a regular listener of The Minimalists’ Podcast, and having been motivated by their philosophies for a while now, I submitted a voice memo into their show, and have been featured in their most recent episode.

Are you thinking about your social media usage and how you can minimise it? Head on over to their Buying Podcast – you can hear me talking at 1.57.48, but do give the whole thing (and any more of their episodes) a listen if you can, it’s truly life-changing stuff.

Thinking About Smartphones

Following my own recent reflections on the negative effects of social media, I was excited to see that Panorama were going to cover this topic in their own show this week.

If you didn’t catch it, please promise me you’ll give it a re-watch on iPlayer, it was so interesting! From facts about the sheer size of our use (a third of the entire planet is now on Facebook, and one in three adults checks their phone in the middle of the night), to interviews with people on the inside (like the lady who invented the Facebook ‘Like’ button but then realised how it was impacting on her own self-esteem in a dangerous way).

 

The documentary opened my eyes to some social media platform functionalities that I hadn’t even thought about before, like the endless scroll which is specifically designed to get you hooked, never allowing your brain to catch up with its impulses.

Some of the most eye-opening elements of the show are the behavioural experiments, including one that shows the stress hormones we produce when our notifications come through – we release a fight or flight response as we know we’re missing out on something.

Mind control and addiction specifically is explored, and how apps are designed to ensure we release a dopamine hit which then further fuels this addiction, how chemically some of our reactions (like the way we act when we are forced to withdraw) mirror the behaviour of drug addicts.

It’s great to see some time on the BBC dedicated to exploring this, and I bet they could have filled more than 30 minutes as it is all very rushed.

I say it’s definitely time for a longer series on this subject, what one interviewee aptly describes as “[us], the largest behavioural experiment the world has ever seen.”

Watch the programme now on BBC iPlayer.