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Monthly Archives: February 2013

So I’m 14 weeks in to this baby business and these are my observations at this point, given that (boobs aside) I’m feeling Pretty Normal (subject to change). Thanks to some Twitter lovelies getting in touch, I am now writing these thoughts down with some specific people in mind, but I would like at this point to issue some sort of ‘don’t sue me’ disclaimer. I love you all dearly so let’s not end this with legal wrangling (unless it ends in some sort of monster payout for me, I’d really like that sexy Tom Ford perfume, a cute little kilt and a blowout in Paperchase if that’s okay).

Sex

I’m not about to go into detail here as I’d quite like to stay married, especially now I’ve got a baby and more laundry and that; but I would like to reassure you that it all feels quite normal and no-one will cry. Obviously, you’re feeling quite cautious, and you have to be careful not to be too put off by the whole ‘oh dear god, what if we accidentally made another one, that would be dreadful’ thing. It’s easy to build up the fear but it’s best to just crack on, get back in the saddle and any other horrific euphemisms you can think of. The one weird thing is that your boobs are kind of out of your repertoire. Instead of being part of the natural progression of things, you both studiously ignore them and try to pretend that they don’t exist. I’m not sure when they come back into play, as it were, but I’m guessing when you’ve finished feeding your baby and all fear of accidental-milk-in-adult-mouth has passed. Aside from which, sensitivity is minimal. Once you’ve fed a baby for eight hours in a single day (YEAH I KNOW, THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED), someone else coming along and getting in on that action isn’t going to register very highly on the titillation scale. TITillation. Ahahahahahaha.

Exercise

If you’ve been doing your pelvic floor exercises like I shouted at you about before, this should all be okay. Now I’m not telling you to do it, there’s no right time, do what you want etc etc etc, but for me, I needed to get back out there and move again. Not only is it some welcome time on my own, but it makes me feel good about myself in a way that isn’t entirely about fitting into my jeans. Sanity not vanity, and all that (although honestly compels me to tell you it is at least 40% about vanity). If you’re breastfeeding you will still have plenty of relaxin in your system making your joints vulnerable so take it easy. As a committed all-or-nothing exerciser, this was the hardest thing for me to do, but starting slowly and building up my resistance gradually might just have been the most sensible, mum-type thing I’ve yet achieved. Hoorah for moderation, eh?

Sleep

Get used to answering a lot of questions and being stopped by people in the street. These people will want to know how old your baby is, how much it weighed, does it sleep, is it good. It’s quite nice in a way, but I imagine could be quite irritating as well, so have some stock responses to hand. People equate ‘sleeping’ in babies with ‘behaving’, and will judge you on this accordingly. Now (don’t hate me, please don’t hate me), but I am blessed with a sleep-through-the-night type baby. YES, YES, I’M VERY ANNOYING. It is however important to note that this is absolutely nothing to do with me, it’s the luck of the draw, so try not to let it get to you and tell everyone to piss off with their advice and well-meaning chiding when they think you’re doing it wrong. If you’re having a horrible time and not sleeping, eat WELL and LOTS and take any offer of help that comes your way. Should these offers not be forthcoming, invite a friend or family member over and simply pull their hair and kick their shins until they agree to clean your bathroom and cook you a roast.

Bums

It has been brought to my attention that last time I forgot to mention bums. Not of the baby variety, but yours. After birth you will develop acute Fear Of Pooing, which won’t be made any easier if you were one of the brave, wounded souls who endured tears, stitching or an episiotomy. If you are slightly anaemic after birth (and this is fairly common) many places will dish out iron tablets, which are lovely and free but in my experience cause crazy new levels of constipation. Instead, many chemists stock a liquid iron supplement which you add to juice – it’s about eight quid but worth it in order to make sure The Poo Of Destiny is as free-flowing as possible. With this in mind, you’ll also want to be chaining the veg and other fibre sources at this time. You’ll be completely exhausted and your body is a war zone, so eat well to get better and keep your digestive system in good order. I’m not saying you’ll be on a health kick – you will need everything you can cram in your tired, bloated little face. I have tried to forget but distinctly remember those first weeks only sleeping for forty minutes at a time – I managed to stay vertical when I needed to by eating lots of good hearty stuff plus at least three boxes of chocolates a day (thank you for my presents!) in addition to iron and vitamin supplements OH AND LOTS OF CRYING.

Stuff

You won’t need as much stuff for this baby as you think you will. You won’t need as much stuff as everyone else thinks you should have. To save money / stop your house looking like something we’d all gawp at on a ‘sensitive’ look-at-these-hoarding-weirdos type documentary, get the basics and leave everything else until you actually need it. If you have a car seat to bring them home in, something for them to sleep in, some clothes and some nappies YOU’LL BE FINE and YOUR BABY WILL BE FINE, because all they really want is you, to be fed, to be warm and to feel safe. And your boobs in front of their face at every given opportunity. They’re only human.

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A couple of weeks ago I went and met a whole load of people off the internet in a pub in Birmingham. I was initially wary because (and this is a story for another time) I’ve had some odd experiences with meeting internet folk and also because it was going to be a gang of medics and I’m very, um, un-medic-y. AND BAD WITH WORDS.

Do you know what though? I had a lovely time, confirmed that the people I thought were brilliant WERE indeed wonderful – people say you shouldn’t make snap judgments but I happen to be very good at them – and made some new friends along the way. All in all, a very good day and night during which I managed not to tell too many rude stories or let on that I can be a bit of a cow.

What was extra special for me was that I didn’t really have to explain myself. Because I had a little mental a year ago and decided to put my back-story on the internet, most of the people there understood my path into medicine and not having to come up with an unwieldy sentence for my mature student status every time I introduced myself to someone was a huge relief. What do you say? It’s something I get asked about on a daily basis on my course; in every new study group, in every clinic, on every ward (“What do you mean ‘I’m obviously a bit older’?!”, I say and then run to the mirror, crying). I am yet to come up with a handy set-piece which manages to convey that I didn’t just have some epiphany about wanting to be a doctor in my late twenties, that I didn’t go to uni at eighteen and find the studying a bit difficult, which is what most people assume when I say that I had a hard time first time around. Personally I’d find it easier to just tell the truth, but then this tends to make the person asking feel terrible and also seems ‘a bit much’ either when you’ve only just shaken hands in a bar or are looking at an x-ray together for the first time. So, answers on a postcard if you think you can crack it. (Seriously, I love postcards, DM for address etc)

This got me thinking about how glad I was to have got that little story off my chest a whole year ago now, how kind everyone had been about it, and how accepting most people are. I’ve had a really great year. When I wrote that story I was still reeling from a miscarriage and had honestly reached the point where I just didn’t think I was ever going to get pregnant again or that I’d have a successful pregnancy if I did. Looking at the date I’d posted it though, I must actually have been tinily, tentatively, itsy-bitsily pregnant, which perhaps explains the tidal wave of hormones that led me to sit down and type-cry my life to a bunch of strangers. At this very moment, my fat little rosebud of a baby sits next to me, laughing at a cushion and bashing my thighs with her spitty fist. In addition to this wondrousness, I’d had a good year at medical school where I’d actually made friends and, thanks to doing two days a week in hospital, got a bit of validation that I’d made the right choice in returning.

This validation is important to me because, in truth, I am a terrible medical student. My friends are almost entirely non-medics, I don’t spend any of the time when I’m not studying thinking about the subject, and my life outside of medicine is, and I suspect always will be, bigger than either the course or my job when I get there. It’s easy to feel quite guilty about this, like I’m not really ‘proper doctor material’. While I think the human body and the things that happen inside us are beautiful and miraculous, I’ll admit that I only learn about neuroanatomy or the bloody renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system because I have to; rather than just for the sheer love of the science behind it. I like people, I think I’m good at listening to people, being observant, playing ‘symptoms detective’ and communicating in a way that is useful and, where possible, makes them feel good. That is my pitiful skill set and I really hope it’s enough, especially as I already have moderate fear about returning to my course in September. My friends will all be a year ahead of me by then, and I’ll be with people another year younger. I’m not intrinsically ageist, and I hope I’ll meet some more great people but there’s something a little bit odd for me in being surrounded entirely by people born in the year I started getting off with boys and surreptitiously swigging Malibu at sleepovers. So, if I start to visibly wobble a bit when I return, I hope you’ll all shout at me IN CAPITALS to crack on with it and not get weighed down by what people might think of the haggard old crone in the corner. I think I’ll be quite good at it if I can just get there.

(This is a very odd PS. I’ve seen in various forums people referring a girl to my blog who has had a similarly shit time and is asking people for advice on re-applying to medical school. IF YOU WANT TO, WILL YOU CONTACT ME SO WE CAN TALK? I promise not to compare your story to mine or to offer advice, but I will listen, I will provide the facts that I know to be true in terms of re-applying as a failed student, and if you want I’ll try and help you with the process of doing so xxx)