Dear precious first born, there is something pressing we need to discuss with you.
I write this on the eve of a fairly important event. You see, someone is arriving tomorrow – someone who you’re going to be spending a lot of time with – like it or not.
I know you’re young and we don’t talk much – unless it’s about frogs or cars. But I suppose now is as good a time as any to try and have this conversation. I know you think mummy has been eating A LOT lately and my stomach has outgrown the both of us. I see your horrified face when I’m in the shower – but I haven’t swallowed your monster truck set – I’ve been growing a little life long friend for you.
The good news is it’s a brother! And you know boys are cool right? Really cool. And he will love your cars! And your train set. But, of course, only if you want him to love them. No one will force you to share your cars with him. I know you don’t know the word “share” yet – I never learned it myself! But we will have plenty of time to discuss sharing in the years to come.
Now I don’t want you to worry about favouritism. It’s not an issue. You, my darling, are our precious first born! We only have eyes for you (but let’s just keep that between ourselves shall we? Your brother doesn’t need to know!)
Anyway! If the pregnancy is anything to go by – I think your brother is going to be an arse! So much more difficult than you were. But again – ssshh.
I’ve been wondering why on earth we decided to have another baby to be honest. You’re so wonderful! If it ain’t broke – why try and fix it?! What possessed us? Were we just showing off?! Was it a case of when you buy a fancy juicer you only use once and you feel like you haven’t got your money’s worth! We should use it one more time – just to see if it still works?!
But here we are and tomorrow our tiny little family will be transformed to a bigger one. Though we do promise – this will be the only addition. You can relax.
So although it might be unsettling / shocking tomorrow and over the next few months while you get used to him – we just want you to know that you’ll always be our precious first born and we could never ever love you any less! Er… That came out wrong. What I mean is – we will never change our love for you. Just don’t tell your bro.
I’m going to miss you so much over the next few days and I hope you don’t miss me too much. I also hope your dad doesn’t only feed you crisps and biscuits – I’ve given him a detailed list of instructions, don’t worry.
January brings with it hundreds if not thousands of folk exclaiming “Happy New Year” like it’s a command; like it’s a militant instruction. “It’s a new year – Be happy or else!” And they sure look happy don’t they? All the well dressed, well drunk, groups of comrades linking arms, counting down the clock and screeching “Happy New Year!” whilst I’m staring at my M&S meal deal in my dressing gown wondering what exactly I’m doing wrong to not feel happiness at this landmark at all.
These, of course are the perils of so called “Happy” occasions.
Weddings – I’ve had a couple. We hire a photographer to capture this happiest day of our lives – so you better sure as Hell smile till you can’t feel your face anymore. Everyone – and I mean everyone is watching. This is literally the end of every single Jane Austen novel. You’ve reached peak happiness. Then why do I feel so utterly anxious, paranoid and on edge? Why do I imagine everyone whispering “I give this one a year” under their breath. Why have I never been so aware of my weight? What if he is late? What if everyone is late? And worse still – what if I don’t feel the euphoria I am supposed to? I am happy to be married but as for my wedding day – I felt more happiness at a Carvery.
The birth of a baby. Well – not just any baby: your baby! Sure there can’t be any happier moment could there? After the birth of my first born I distinctly remember putting a status on Facebook “I have literally never been this happy in my entire life!” Wrong – what I was, was higher than I had ever been in my entire life on diamorphine, two epidurals and four days of starvation. The come down was brutal. I have never been so terrified in my life. I was convinced if I took my eyes off my baby for one second he would stop breathing. I pissed in a vase in the bedroom because I didn’t want to walk across the hall to the actual toilet. I was convinced the Health Visitor was going to take him away because I couldn’t get him to latch. And don’t get me started on pregnancy.
Christmas day. There was a moment on Christmas morning when my son was ripping through his gifts and I felt nowt. I shook myself – why don’t you feel happy? This is what Christmas is all about – and this is what you’ve been waiting for for months. So I got a black bin bag for the wrapping paper because that’s what mums do. I felt real joy on Christmas eve – don’t get me wrong – I’m not Scrooge. Maybe the build up is better than the main event.
Birthdays – never quite as happy as they should be. What’s happy about being Thirty Five on a specific date – you’re half way to seventy! Smile!
So we don’t feel happy, even though society tells us we have to be. So we feel like we’re in the wrong or not normal. And of course we feel like we’ve failed.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel happy on the occasions you’re supposed to. Maybe you’re just not like everyone else; and maybe that’s just fine.
I don’t want you to leave me thinking I’m downright miserable so I shall leave you with three moments of pure happiness* and wish you a so-so New Year. Be averagely satisfied one and all.
* my youngest son dipping his feet in the sea in Scarborough and squealing with delight and happiness. I wept happy tears.
* Sitting alone in a restaurant in Rome eating Gnocchi with a carafe of wine.
* Walking around Whitby with my first born in a sling getting coos from elderly ladies and feeling utter pride.
Last night my husband very casually informed me that Leon from Gogglebox had passed away. He certainly wasn’t expecting my reaction; which was to sob my heart out. I feel sadness whenever I hear of anyone’s passing – obviously – but Leon really did upset me. The image I couldn’t get out of my head was of June sitting next to an empty chair; that famous chair we have all watched for so many years.
My husband told me this news as I was sat next to him watching TV. This doesn’t happen very often but it’s Christmas so we have been making an effort to watch things together. So here I was, the wife sat next to the husband watching the box – just like June and Leon. I sobbed further at the prospect that one day one half of our sofa will be empty too. Pretty morbid for the festive season – I apologise.
I read a quote on Twitter the other day about Christmas being about hope for the future for children, but for adults it’s always about the empty chair at the table. It was such a sad quote.
I have been so lucky in my life. I have a small, close family. I am an only child and because of this Christmas day is always spent with my Mum and Dad and that’s about it. Sometimes a boyfriend would join us and perhaps a gran if she didn’t get a better offer.
In later years I made my folks grandparents and married so now Christmas is the five of us. Our small, perfect family. I am so incredibly lucky to say I have never experienced the empty chair at Christmas.
Leon’s passing has just imprinted a picture onto my heart of an empty chair in that living room and I feel so very sad for lovely June.
If you are trying to cope with your empty chair this Christmas I am so very sorry too.
We never know when our Christmases are going to change forever. I know I am going to savour every person sitting around the table tomorrow and hug them all a little tighter.
My first and last ever panic attack was at the top of a set of escalators, and I have had a fear of them ever since – never going up you must understand, just the descent.
I was in Singapore at the time on a small break between traveling back from Australia. Quite a glamorous location for me. I was traveling back to the UK after another failed romance about to face the friends and family I had told about moving there – gearing myself up to tell them I had failed. Back to my mummy again. We knew it wouldn’t work out – silly dreamer.
In case you haven’t had a panic attack – it isn’t the feeling of panic you get when you wake up after a drunken night and can’t find your phone, or the panic I had experienced for years as a teacher during an inspection. It’s nothing like the panic you know. It’s a feeling of “I know you’ve pretended to be a functioning human for twenty something years but now the game is up – you’ve been found out. You no longer have any control over your limbs, brain or heart rate. Oh – and you’re going to die.”
I watched the steps in their constant momentum going down and down over and over and went to take my step. Something I had done probably a million times before. Then I realised my feet wouldn’t move even though my brain was telling them to. Do you know how confusing that is? Suddenly your body turning around to your brain and saying “umm, no – not today. I’m done doing as I’m told.”
So I stood there – a queue forming behind me, looking down, watching the steps of doom going over and over and over and then I burst out crying.
A kind lady grabbed me and asked if I was ok before I ran off to a toilet and breathed heavily for God knows how long. The escalator carried on, the normal people got on and off and I was left wondering what on earth was going on.
I still have a moment of panic on escalators. If there is ever a woman in front of you who looks like they’re going to step but then doesn’t and gets on the next step instead, delaying your journey by about two seconds – it’s probably me.
I always think escalators are such a great metaphor for anxiety. Everything is continuing in a constant motion and you know your time is next – and it’s up to you to keep moving, take that leap and carry on. If you mess this up – you mess it up for everybody. Do you know how many people are looking at you? Just be normal – it’s easy. Everyone else is doing it. It’s fight or flight time brain – don’t over think it. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a new maternity store opening in the Victoria Quarter, Leeds. But to be entirely honest with you I had never heard of the name ‘Seraphine‘.
None the less, I accepted the invite, stroked my huge 33 week pregnant stomach and decided we should go – if only to get out of the house for the first time in weeks. I had a look at their website and it became glaringly obvious that there was a reason I had not heard of this brand – it was a brand worn by goddesses such as Kate Winslet, Gwen Stefani, Benedict Cumberbatch’s lucky wife and The Duchess of Cambridge herself. They had clearly made a mistake inviting me.
My main concern was that this was not a brand for the ‘normal woman‘ (yes, I’m talking about me there). If these amazingly perfect pregnant celebrities and royalty wore these clothes –
1. Would they be able to dress me? A curvy woman.
2. Will they have even seen a bump this big before? I am quite unlike these celebrities who look like they’ve had a bit of bread when they’re pregnant; my bump is in a different league.
3. Will it be affordable? I’m not rich or famous – I’m just a normal mum.
4. Will this place be pretentious? The store is located in the Victoria Quarter, near Harvey Nichols – a shop I need to spend a week dressing up to visit. We all know that horrible feeling of wondering into a small boutique and being stared at with one look and one look only “You can’t afford anything in here, and you’re the wrong size, you don’t belong here…” The Pretty Woman effect, if you will (though I rarely wear my thigh high boots anymore).
A few days later I waddled off to the Victoria Quarter in my high street maternity dress, slightly nervous to see Seraphine for myself.
The shop is not at all as I expected. It is larger than most in that arcade and spacious – you are not nose to nose with any retail assistants. Upon walking in I felt immediately at ease – there was not the pretentious air or snootiness I was concerned about. The retails assistants were polite and friendly – more personable than most and chatty – without being invasive.
I was lucky enough to meet and chat to the founder of Seraphine: Cecile Reinaud – which you would think would be quite daunting, considering her success – but she was exceedingly warm and engaging and a joy to talk to.
I quickly asked about their sizes and prices (on behalf of the ‘normal woman‘). Their sizes range from a 6 to an 18 which I was impressed with and their prices are from as low as in their twenties to a higher end – ‘The Luxe range’that boasts wedding dresses and occasion dresses in their collection.
Something I was really impressed with was that the vast majority of their clothes are designed for ease during nursing they had discreet poppers at the side, or straps with stretch. They had beautiful summer tops, a vast collection of jeans, support tights and an essential maternity set – The Bump Kit – that would keep you satisfied throughout your nine months if you adapted it with different accessories.
All of their staff are trained in bra fittings and they stock a range of underwear. They also have beautiful changing bags by StorkSak , specially designed shoes for pregnancy by shoe therapy and skincare by mama mio and Bloom and Blossom. The changing rooms are very spacious too and not as daunting as changing rooms can be.
Something I have found with many maternity clothes is that they seem to just over inflate their normal clothes (just today I am sending back several size 14 items from a shop that are absolutely enormous – marquee like pieces).
When I chose a top at Seraphine I had been eyeing up on their website they had my size (14) and I was thrilled that it fitted me just right. It wasn’t too big and I can honestly say I would wear it (and a lot of their clothes) after my pregnancy. It makes me feel very feminine and very pretty – and this is coming from a pregnant woman who has wallowed in her house for a few months weeping over how whale like she appears.
I was incredibly impressed with the store – and with the clothes – and it was a relief to see that Seraphine is not just for the likes of Kate Middleton – it is for the everyday pregnant woman too.
My only complaint is that I didn’t know about this brand sooner and my pregnancy is nearing its end (I will be going this weekend again as it just so happens to be my birthday!).
Seraphine is now open in Leeds Victoria Quarter* – go and have a look for yourself.
And afterwards I recommend going just around the corner to the Harvey Nichols cafe and having one of their non-alcoholic fruit cocktails. Or indulging in their afternoon tea – make a day of it. You deserve it; It’s what The Duchess would do!