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.
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!
Apparently I have always had an issue with people looking at me. My mum said when I was tiny I would say “Mummy, why are they looking at me?” when out in town. She would say “because you’re so pretty sweetheart” (Mums always know what to say) but of course I didn’t believe her. As I got older and she got less patient she would say “Stephanie, people don’t care about you! They’re too worried about themselves.” But this worry of what other people think of me has remained.
When I brought my new born home I honestly felt I was on some sort of Big Brother new mum cam with a panel of Health visitors and midwives in some sort of forced torturous Gogglebox episode. I found any visits by professionals as stressful as previous OFSTED inspections – only I was in my pyjamas this time with one tit out.
Years later with my two year old and four year old boys I still have daily moments where I wonder who is looking and what they are thinking. My youngest has developed a new habit where he likes to buckle at the knees anytime he’s remotely unhappy. He reminds me of those wooden stocking fillers you used to get of a donkey – where you pressed the underside and the legs would collapse. He does this anywhere and everywhere, adding a skull throw down to really get the full effect. On mud or concrete – the choice is his.
When he does this I look around to see who my audience is. If I am really lucky it’s a fellow parent who I can roll my eyes at and they giggle at the ways of toddlers. If I am unlucky it’s an elderly Gentleman who almost holds his nose as he walks past worrying he’s going to catch something from my feral lot.
On the school run I walk down a gridlocked main road and see all of the people in cars watching us – my two boys just seem to draw attention. If I am lucky they hold hands and I see them cooing and ah-ing and I feel a burst of pride – look at me mummying really well!
However, the weight of worrying about other people’s opinions can’t be sustained. I retrace those wise mum words “people don’t care about you. They’re too busy worrying about themselves.” Maybe, as always, my mum is right.
I certainly hope so as I had to drag my youngest home by his reigns like a demented Dachshund after he removed his shoes, in the pissing down rain, as I tried to conduct an important telephone call and my eldest screamed because I wouldn’t let him hold his God damn chocolate egg. I hope the onlookers enjoyed that one.
Mum like no one’s watching – they don’t care as much as you think. Hopefully.
My four year old has reached a mile stone. He has entered the age of ‘Why’. I had heard of this stage but had underestimated the damaging effect of this era on the parents. My sympathy is with you if you are currently in this age.
It started about two weeks ago on our way to swimming:
“Why do we need roads?”
Say what now?
“Why do we need roads?”
Erm… for the cars to go on? (Phew, dodged that one, glad that’s over!)
“Why do we need cars?”
Say what now?
“Why do we need cars?”
To get from A to B?
It’s at this point you realise that you’re really and truly not qualified to answer life’s toughest questions, to be a parent or, indeed, to be a human.
And the Hell just keeps on acomin.
“Why do cars have wheels?”
I frantically looked around for a Primary school teacher or a scientist.
So that they can move? (I literally don’t know enough about wheels).
“Why do we have bollards?”
Who the actual fuck has taught you about bollards? Who has been using that word around you? Who are you right now?
Then just one after the other, again and again and again. It never, ever stops.
“Why do we have grass? Why do we need animals? Why do we need trousers? Why do we swim in water? Why do we eat food? Why do we have a night time? Why do we sleep? Why do we wake up? Why do we poo?”
Where is sodding Nina and her Neurons? Go and ask her FFS!
“Why do we need children?” was my question that morning.
He meant my breasts. I wondered what to call them at first – again, no one has qualified me to answer medical questions. Boobs? Boobies? Tits? What will be the worst thing he can repeat loudly on the bus when he sees another pair?
Those are breasts darling.
“Why do you need them?”
I thought long and hard….
Well, darling, they feed babies and they sometimes get me free drinks.