Protecting my Path…

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I’m raising a white flag. I give up.

 

Let me explain!

 

My husband and I were married and expecting a child within the first five months of our relationship. We had known each other aged 5, but the reaquaintence and subsequent whirlwind romance certainly wasn’t long winded. On our first official date, my husband told me he was going to marry me, we were the kind of couple that had previously made me sick. We’d found our kindred spirits within each other, my heart had discovered its counterpart, the lifetime scars in our souls fit like a jigsaw puzzle. Trust me when I say there is no way I can describe the way we got together without making you sick..! Ahh the gloriously idyllic Summer of 2013!

 

Outside of our hideously romantic bubble, people were no doubt assuming that our surprise pregnancy was the catalyst to getting hitched, and the crueller of them were maybe even taking bets on how long we might last before our film-esque view of life bubble was burst. Even though I’m pretty much sure that no-one really cared, I felt like I needed to prove that even though it wasn’t a planned pregnancy, I would be a good Mother, a good Wife, a grown up enough grown up to be doing these roles.

 

It made me quite defensive, literally for three years. My pregnancy hormones made me feel like a violently protective Mama bear, of my babies and my marriage. I was constantly on guard on survival mode, on the look out for some slur or some passive aggressive slight on my ability to be a Mum. After all, I my mid twenties, I was told I would be unlikely to be able to conceive and safely carry children on my own so I already felt like a fraud.

 

We’ve been planning a wedding for the last few years and have recently booked it. I was asked why we were doing it again and my answer was simple; I spent most of our ‘legal’ wedding day throwing up (morning sickness was not kind to me in my first pregnancy!), I don’t remember much of it at all (epilepsy was also not kind to me during either pregnancy!) and at that point, although we were certain of spending forever together, we hadn’t yet built a life together. Three years later? I can spend a day without throwing up (what an achievement!), I can remember my day to day (mostly!) and we have a wonderful life together. Our family is complete with our two little girls, and we have built a business together, a home together, a life together. Most of which wasn’t around when we became man and wife.

 

Soon after Holly turned 1, I could almost feel the pregnancy hormones physically leaving. My babies are safe and well, we got through the pregnancies, we’ve stumbled our way through learning how to be parents (I mean…we’re winging it, but it turns out that’s the big secret!) and things are now established enough that I feel like I can relax my shoulders. I don’t need to be 100% on my guard.

 

And it’s a lovely feeling. Over the last few weeks, I’ve really chilled out, like I’ve been playing roles that I didn’t think anyone thought I belonged in, and I’ve only just realised that not only are they definitely my roles, but the only approval I need is my own.

 

I think we all feel that there are roles in life that we’re not good enough for, or qualified enough for, or that we deserve them. And for some reason, in this celebrity obsessed, reality TV led society, everyone’s personal choices are suddenly up for public discussion. Cheryl Cole recently had a baby and almost every weekly celebrity magazine had her on the cover with different angles as their ‘story’, talking about whether her relationship was strong enough, whether the age difference was appropriate, bring up clips of their first meeting to be commented on. And that kind of societal thinking spills no ‘real life’. In reality, their first child is nobodies business but Cheryl and Liam’s, their first meeting, their ages (as long as legal and consensual), and whether she has help, doesn’t have help, breastfeeds, or frankly, even if she bathes in unicorn tears and Horlicks for the health of her baby. IT’S NONE OF OUR BUSINESS! Likewise, when I was worrying that people would think we were rushing things, whether we should have/shouldn’t have get married when we did, whether we’re raising our kids right. I care about the opinion of my husbands and my own. I will happily listen to well meaning friends and family because I’m certainly not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers. But if they disagree with what I’m doing, but it’s what I believe in, I’m going to follow my own path with my head held high. And if I fall flat on my face, so be it, at least I stayed true to what I thought was best. And if anyone laughs at my fall, they are presumably a) perfect themselves and b) a bit of a dick. And that’s more their problem than mine!

 

So as I’ve let go of the pregnancy hormones, I’ve also let go of the tension I was carrying around like a hunchback. I’m REALLY excited to continue organising our wedding day, a day we’re hosting to celebrate our life together with a humanist blessing to more accurately represent our life views. (In the same way that we’re not religious, we also don’t really value the old legality of a non religious wedding so the government necessities weren’t really very us).

 

And some people will think it’s overly theatrical, some people will wonder why we’re bothering as we’re already technically married. And that’s fine, my advice would be for them to have a less dramatic day if they choose to get married, and to only do it once if that’s what works for them. I can’t stop them thinking we’re doing things wrong, so I’m finally letting go of the defensiveness I felt!

 

I AM a Mother, I AM a Wife, I’m not necessarily any good at either role..! But I’m doing them to the best of my ability, and that’s all I can ask of myself and of anyone else. The political scene has also brought about a slightly more hostile community feel. All of a sudden, with such big changes happening and the country so divided, neighbours are suddenly turning on each other based on the colour of the poster in their windows. Family meals are exploding into dispute because of passionate thoughts from all sides. Politically, it’s been much longer than just a Winter of discontent, and never before has it been more openly discussed, which is a double edged sword, especially when the recent local elections were so poorly attended. ANYWAY, my point is, I surrender. So with my white flags, I also hold aloft my personal flags, this is who I am, what I believe, but that doesn’t put me at odds with anyone who feels differently. I personally feel like a lot of us could do with an unclenching, to respect each others life choices and views. Gone are the days where there were two streets to choose between when setting up home, the days where you went into a profession based on what you were born into, and the days gone by when your parents and circumstances dictated your life. We now have literally millions of options for all things. And so it’s understandable that we all also now have millions of variables when it comes to the opinions we hold and the beliefs we live by and nurture. But it’s ok to be different, it’s how all those different roles get filled! And what other people think about your choices are none of your business and therefore nothing to spend time worrying about.

 

I have always been the kind of person to walk my own path, since being young. Even at primary school I insisted on being allowed to play football and was then the first girl to do so, but somewhere in my twenties I lost the confidence in doing so, I started trying to fit in. and so when I started back on my own path, I forgot to do so with my head held high, I somehow did so but felt like I needed to justify my every move.

It’s not lent, but I’m giving up on it. I’m tuning in instead to the feisty little girl who was told that football was for boys and decided that she was bloody well going to be allowed to play! SHE didn’t care if anyone thought it wasn’t becoming of a girl to run round on a football field, SHE didn’t get if anyone was talking about her being different or wrong, SHE just looked at what she wanted to do, what her heart told her to do and she went from it. My apologies to that little girl, she would’ve have been very disappointed in me over the last few years, and I now have two little mini me’s watching how I behave and how I judge myself and others, and that’s motivation enough for me!

 

   

 

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PS. You’re Beautiful…

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I have always been quite active, although not so much in the last three years, pregnancy does slow you down! (Cut to my Dad sending me an email attachment of someone who carried on kick boxing till the day she gave birth…) I’ll amend…pregnancy slowed ME down! 
Now we have completed our family with the two girls, I’ve been enjoying slowly but surely increasing my activity. However, as a result of a slow three years/quite a few health issues and a penchant for Thai food, I am not a small woman. I’m a generous size 16 with plenty of junk in my trunk! (Ironically I’m not at my biggest, that award goes to Danielle circa 2012 when several factors saw me at my largest, that’s not relevant but I’ve mentioned it all the same…you’re welcome!) 

Anyway, it is HUGELY important to me that my two daughters grow up happy and healthy. That they learn a healthy, active lifestyle; not as a punishment though – that part is important. I don’t want them to choose salad because they’re on a diet or go to an exercise class because they want to ‘be skinnier’. I want them to grow up with lots of activity as part of their every day so they stay active with hobbies they enjoy. I want to teach them about nutrition and help them explore lots of different/varied foods to be part of their diets. I believe that NO-ONE has the right to make any comment on anyone else’s body. No-one has the right to make anyone feel bad about the way they look. I’m not an idiot, or deaf. I’ve heard people make comments about me in the street, a group of young kids joking with each other that ‘who would sleep with me with an ass that big’ (referring to the fact that obviously someone had because I had a newborn attached to me in a holder). I’ve heard two women make a whale joke about me in a swimming pool changing room. I didn’t have the children with me at that point; but the fact that maybe they would have been more understanding if they knew I’d recently had a baby isn’t really the point. And in a way makes it worse, there shouldn’t be any validating reasons for anyone to make somebody else feel bad about the way they look. I’m not so thick skinned (pun not intended but a happy coincidence!) that the comments I overhear don’t hurt. I’ve spent many hours in front of a mirror wondering how and why my extremely handsome husband can ever bear to come anywhere near me. And it’s because I grew up it being ok for people (in the materialistic 80’s) to make comments about others appearance, 21st century ‘fashion magazines’ printing pictures with big red circles around imperfections (that kind of thing REALLY makes my skin crawl with despair at what the media does to society…ANYWAY!). My daughters are going to grow up (as much as I can help it) being confident about who they are, how they look and what they can achieve. 

I’ve spoken about this at length before, but to help them get to that point, I must lead by example and walk the walk as well as talking the talk. This means I must treat myself as kindly as I wish my girls to treat themselves and others. Not easy, but I’m faking it until I make it. 

Which means, this weekend, when at the beach, the knowledge that my thighs wobble a bit, and that I currently have an extra chin and a bit more tummy than I’d like HAD to be irrelevant. The important parts are the warmth in my smile and the sparkle in my eyes, that’s all my kids care about. 

Health isn’t to be ignored, and I am slowly but surely getting my health back which will most likely lead to a lesser weight. But it has absolutely no correlation to my happiness. Not really. My joy is in a fantastic swim in the sea, my first of the year; my glee is in seeing my daughters laughing and enjoying the beach, not a slight wobble in my sizeable ass! 

So I put on my swimming costume, and I proudly larked about on the shore with my two daughters in tow. Today I didn’t hear any comments, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any, or that I didn’t have any in my head. But it’s an important step. It gives me a boost, I did it and I had a bloody good day. So next time some kids in town make a comment they think is so witty or for no reason at all other than to impress their mates without thinking about how it might affect other people, I will attempt to concentrate on the lovely day I’m having instead of letting that unnecessary negativity have an impact.

My greatest triumph will be to see my daughters grow up confident, happy, healthy and unapologetically them. That’s the goal and THATS one hell of a motivation.  

Baby in blue…

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Our little girls home town is a lovely place to live but has the odd funny onion lurking. A lady in a cafe today had this to say;

Lady “What a beautiful baby boy.”

Me “Thank you, she’s a girl.”

Lady “So why have you dressed her in blue?”

Me “(Staying jovial despite the warning signs) because it matches her superman coat.”

Lady “(by this stage she’d turned) I suppose you’re of this new generation that are trying to bring up children gay from the start because it’s fashionable.(looking round the otherwise empty cafe as if expecting some kind of ‘amen sister’ back up from crowds)”

Me “umm, sorry, you don’t bring up children as gay. She either is or isn’t. We’re only bringing her up as a superhero.(staying loyal to ‘jovial’)”

(At this stage my slice of Madeira cake arrived which only seemed to anger her more – perhaps Madeira is the cake of choice for other horrendous groups of society…like happy people perhaps)

Lady “(massively unimpressed and wrapping her little rain hat round her head, either ready to leave or to protect her brain from my dangerous parenting style) I’ll pray for her.”

Me “well happily other people will pray better for her and not with lots of extra clauses but for exactly who she is and actually I’m not religious anyway but even if she grows up wanting to be religious I will support her whatever she wants.”

She actually left three words in to ‘Danielle’s final thought of the day’ and it wasn’t the most eloquent I’ve ever been but the waitress gave me a half hearted supportive smile so I’m chalking it up as a win and I ate my Madeira cake triumphantly with my gorgeous smiley daughter next to me.

But I couldn’t believe the viewpoint – my daughter is in blue (plus superman coat today) ergo we are trying to make her gay (this is also making the assumption that clothes are the way to push this..). She said it out loud and still didn’t see how ridiculous the viewpoint was. I’m almost sad that she was religious because she instantly became this awful stereotype, when I know many religious people who don’t have a negative view on gay people (or the colour blue as far as I’m aware). I truly nearly left it out of the anecdote because it’s irrelevant. She’s got an awfully narrow minded opinion but it remains her opinion and that’s fine. I was offended she implied that I was trying to push my daughter to be gay, I was offended that she implied there was anything negative to say about the possibility of my daughter being gay! But I will also defend her right to have that opinion, however much I disagree with it.

My main problem with people with such strong views is how they try to shame others with their opinions. I was embarrassed to be approached so negatively as if I was doing something wrong and if I wasn’t headstrong or confident (also read ‘pig headedly stubborn’) in how I want to raise my daughter, I might have gone home and changed her so as to blend in more. But that’s not who I am. And while she doesn’t have her own say, my husband and I have decided to dress her as we see fit, which includes ‘girly’ pink clothes, more neutral clothes, superhero themed clothes, all colours of the spectrum, really anything goes! And I really hope Scarlett grows up knowing she can be whoever she truly is; whether that be gay, straight or anything in between and that she has the confidence to be whoever she wants to be; ballet dancer, fireman, builder, administrator or full time Mum. So that if anyone tries to question her, she’ll have the confidence to smile, politely explain how she feels on the matter and most importantly never change for anyone. Suffice to say, I don’t think Scarlett and I made a friend today, but that’s ok – Scarlett can definitely do without friends who base their opinions on one (adorable) outfit!

And that, dear friends, concludes my soapbox rant of the day!

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Face Companions…

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I’ve spoken before about how there are many interesting little side affects of pregnancy that you don’t hear about until you’re in the club! Probably for the best as you don’t get all of them and frankly if someone did write a comprehensive list of every single little thing you could possibly find while hosting your own little bundle, it’d take longer than the pregnancy to read through and there’s enough to worry about when finding it all out as you go without knowing every eventuality possible!

However, one of those charming little side affects that I’ve noticed this week is this one…you all know about my charming snaggletooth that’s been with me since a bike accident in my childhood. But recently, Snaggletooth is being joined by Wonky Eye. This charming new addition to my face does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s a wonk to my right eye. In photos over the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed it’s always slightly more closed and the eyelid is slightly more puffy than the left one. Some might say there’s at least a charming balance as the tooth that snaggles out slightly is on the left so to some extent, the eye now just balances out my face quite nicely.

And as I mentioned in a recent post, “Beauty and the Snaggletooth…” I won’t be taking any of the internet makeup tips to hide this slight wonk. For a start, I tried in the name of research and I just looked like I’d lost a fight; but also because I’m pregnant and my body is by all accounts doing whatever the hell it wants to do to successfully grow my child.

It did occur to me the other day that your whole body suddenly becomes like the overworked PA of a busy office, “yes yes I’m sorting out the healthy development of an unborn child right now, I don’t have time to deal with the facial alignment department, email me and I’ll add it to the pile. Oh and by the way, please let accounts know we cannot afford the added growth in the thigh area, it’s starting to get out of hand…” So I’m certainly not going to add to that stress by worrying about the eye situation. Medically, I’ve ensured it’s a safe and common side affect and that’s the end of it. Most commonly, it will disappear of it’s own accord either later on in pregnancy or once the baby is born.

And if not, well then, so be it, I spent a good 20 minutes in the mirror earlier trying to incorporate it into some kind of new sexy wink so I’m sure I can work with it! Pregnancy is a charming companion but aesthetically it’s not quite as glamorous as the brochures make out…

(Side note; I’m apparently probably sightly dehydrated so more water intake for me. There are other things it could mean so do be sure to get anything unrecognised or that you’re worrying about checked out)

Photo on 31-03-2014 at 14.59

Beauty and the Snaggletooth…

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This week, my husband and I had a post wedding treat and visited a local spa and photoshoot place in Cheltenham for an afternoon of relaxation with some photos at the end of it. It was a really lovely day and really nice to spend some quality time together as a couple.

As part of the treats, I had my hair and make-up done, and don’t get me wrong, it was lovely to be pampered. However, one thing I did notice is how long it took to really cake on the make-up, and the reason for this was to make sure any ‘imperfections’ were hidden. But I couldn’t help but notice that in the process, some of my individuality was also hidden, the chicken pox scar on my forehead, the faint mole on my right cheek, the scar just above my lip from falling off my bike (I have always been relatively accident prone!), the little bits on my face that made me me. I have, since the age of 11 been blighted with horrible skin. My Dad and I have spent thousands of pounds and many many hours trying out various remedies, and the acne I was assured was only teenage, is still going more than strong 18 years later. It has got me down over the years but I’ve learnt to live with it. So when the make-up was being applied I was pleased to see the spots disappear but sad to see the other parts disappearing too.

Now obviously, I can’t have it both ways, show off the little imperfections I don’t mind that only belong to me, whilst hiding the imperfections that I feel blight me; but what did strike me is just how different my face looked once caked with all the make-up. Much better than normal, I initially thought but even my husband said he barely recognised me and can that really be considered real beauty?

I’m not a big fan of modern show home type homes, I love some character in the house I live in and that character on my face was being polyfilled. I have spent many years trying to go out in public without worrying about whether people will only see the acne on my face and many years trying to prove that my character makes me more than a few spots on my skin. And I’d hate to think that my daughter would turn down event invitations if she felt her hair wasn’t in place, or she didn’t like the dress she was wearing. I want for her to be confident enough to be able to stand up, shoulders tall, and make her mark uninhibited by the way she looks, and that goes for both sides of the spectrum. A very good friend of mine gets intimidated easily on nights out because people are always staring at her as she is strikingly beautiful.

Everyone judges from the outside, and sadly that’s second nature, women’s magazines are filled with it – on one page, ‘OMG check out Beyonce’s stomach, pregnancy rumours afoot’ with a big red circle round the ‘offending’ stomach. The next page, a big special on how ‘you too can lose 4 stone on the misery diet, just look how beautiful this celebrity with unlimited funds and resources looks on it,’ with a picture of a completely unblemished airbrushed celebrity, usually with an ‘inspirational’ quote on how much better their life is now. Then on the next page, they’ll be a heartwarming story on how we should all love ourselves for who we are and not let men get us down with their horrendously shallow ways. It’s strange though, I don’t see one man on the previous two pages pointing out the flaws or coming up with plans on how we can all look much better than we do. Not only that but somewhere in the magazine you can be absolutely sure that they’ll be some kind of half naked picture of a male celebrity who has no doubt spent 6 months on a horrendously difficult training plan for a film part that we’re encouraged to drool over because of course, women aren’t as shallow as men..!

Luckily the trend IS changing, Dove did a fantastic campaign to show women of all different shapes and sizes, and a lot of ‘diets’ coming across now emphasise being healthy instead of being skinny. And I hope that my daughter will be a part of that side of things, for women AND men. The individualities of our personalities is what really makes us all unique and special and that’s absolutely the case with our looks as well. Which is why when we were offered some airbrushing of our pictures, we said no; for only a tiny bit extra they could straighten out one of my teeth that’s slightly wonky (affectionately named snaggletooth in our house, it’s always there in pictures, snaggling away, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to shut my mouth for pictures or avoid smiling just so people can see I don’t have perfect teeth.) A lot of my favourite pictures have snaggletooth out in full view but if it’s a natural picture of us all laughing together (me and my family, not me and my teeth..!) I’m certainly not going to let the slight wonk of a tooth make me hide that picture away! So no, I do not wish to spend £6 on getting rid of snaggletooth. If he was decayed, then yes, I’d spend money on sorting it, but the wonk is there to stay.

I’m lucky enough that so far the stretch marks have been minimal in pregnancy, but it’s early days still for them and if they come, they come, and they will forever be marks on my body to show what beautiful amazing thing it managed to do by growing a child and for that reason, I will cherish them. My baby made those and every woman should be proud of them.

Attached is a picture of my face, on one side, there is no redness and no imperfections and my eye looks more impressive. On the other…well on the other side you can actually see what my face looks like! The light when I took it isn’t even really good enough to show how different, but it’s my face and both sides of my face thoroughly enjoyed the day. We’ve got a couple of the pictures from the day as a keepsake as the photographer caught some really lovely natural moments; they may not have been the pictures the photographer recommended, as in one I have slight double chin and in another my hair is half covering my face. BUT, ‘double chin’ is because Tom and I are genuinely laughing together and ‘hair face’ is a moment caught between myself and my baby as I was getting ready to pose and she started kicking.

Moments is what life is made up of and moments are what we all remember, I hope my daughter has the confidence to embrace those moments without reserve. It took me a long time, I’m 29 and I’m only just starting to do so, ten years ago I would never have posted the picture attached because I wouldn’t have wanted people to see that my face is a bit puffy from pregnancy and I have bad skin. Does it mean that when teenage boys in a supermarket on a Tuesday night shout ‘pizza face’ at me I don’t care..? God no, I find a spare ten minutes and absolutely ball my eyes out! But do I stop going to the shops and/or plaster on the make-up? Absolutely not, how dare they even try to make me feel bad about the way I look. But maybe, just maybe if we all start standing up for who we really are and what we really look like, we’ll all realise that it is the smiles and not the teeth, it is the laughs and not the double chins, that are really important to cherish.

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