Chilly chops and heart-warming thoughts


The thermometer said -8C as I cycled to work this morning, and – believe me – I felt every one of those minus degrees. I thought I was supposed to spend my pregnancy feeling all hot and bothered, but in fact I spend half my life feeling … well, quite chilly, actually.

It doesn’t help that most of my really warm clothes don’t fit me anymore: since Christmas, the bump has been growing day by day and cardigans that once offered a warm haven now stretch pathetically over my beach ball belly and make me look as if I’ve stolen them from my little baby sister.

For his part, Bub has spent two or three days being an absolute hooligan, kicking and punching at all hours of the day and night. He’s getting so strong that sometimes, if I’m not expecting it when he kicks, he manages to boot my arm from its resting place on my belly. I was sitting in a meeting at work the other day and I could actually see the bump twitching and flexing. It was all I could do not to laugh out loud.

But I think all that wriggling must have finally worn him out: today he’s been quiet as a mouse, with only the occasional movement to let me know he’s still there.

Anyway, with or without his acrobatics, life seems to be clattering along at a rare old pace: I’m so busy I barely have time to sort out the mundane things like car insurance and doctor’s appointments and paying the gas bill. I’ll be glad when the little fella comes so that I can sit down and have a rest.

(Relax. I’m joking. I’m under no illusions about what’s to come…)

Still, I’ve noticed that since I’ve been pregnant, a funny thing has happened: despite being in literally the worse shape of my life – never before have I had the silhouette of Barbamama – I’ve never been less worried about my body.

Maybe it’s the happy hormones, maybe I’m just enjoying being pregnant, but despite my bumpy bod I think I look pretty good. Or, perhaps more accurately, I’ve stopped worrying about whether I look good or not.

Pre-pregnancy, I’d fret over every little bulge, changing my outfit five times and still leaving the house unhappy. Now I have three pairs of trousers to choose from, a limited selection of tops, and the same coat come rain or shine. And you know what? It’s great.

Clothing has stopped being something that defines me, or dictates my mood; it’s shrunk back to being a purely functional covering. And my body has stopped being something to worry about and criticise; it’s become a cosy baby-home for my little pud. And if its shape isn’t going to be winning any awards any time soon, well … so what?

The upside of this is that I feel happier than I have in years. The downside is that I notice my girlfriends’ criticisms of their bodies even more.

Now, on the whole, my girlfriends are a foxy bunch. Sure, none of them is Pamela Anderson, but each of them has a healthy and attractive body … so it seems such a shame that they can’t see it. I listen to these sassy ladies bemoan thunder thighs, chunky calves and buxom bums – all defects that, to my eyes, are non-existent.

Not that I’m judging them for a moment. I know that the very words they’re using to castigate themselves have flown from my own mouth so many times in the past.

And as I ponder this, I wonder if my beatific state of contentment will pass once my little sproglet wails into the world, leaving me prey to baby blues and self-loathing, or whether I’ll no longer be the centre of my own universe and worrying about things as trivial as the girth of my thighs will be a thing of the past.

Right now I don’t have the answer. But I do have a sneaking feeling that once the gorgeous little bundle in my belly makes his way into the world, nothing else will ever seem as important again.


Full-on festivities … and mild miscommunication

Crumbs it’s been a busy Christmas. Get-togethers, fond farewells and joyous reunions littered the start of December, leaving barely a free evening for me and Bub to sit and contemplate life, the universe and everything.

Even if you ignore the countless parties, my Christmas started the weekend before the official festivities, when one of my oldest and dearest girlfriends and I zipped off to Estonia to sample the delights of Tallinn’s Christmas markets.

Small but perfectly formed, Tallinn couldn’t fail to bring out the Christmas in all but the most hardened of Scrooges: from the picture-perfect snow glazing the rooftops to the smell of mulled wine wafting across the frozen marketplace, Tallinn says Christmas with a capital C.

And you can’t help but think of Santa and the North Pole as the glacial wind blows powdery snow into your eyes and hair, sending you scurrying for the nearest candlelit café – a dark and cosy haven offering top quality coffee and cake … or, perhaps, a fortifying bowl of elk soup. Deeeeelicious.

Anyway, maybe it was the cold, maybe it was the excitement, or maybe it was the first-class company, but Tallinn seemed to bring out the lively side of Bub: he barely stopped kicking, punching and rolling all weekend.

It was only mildly inconvenient when he (rather frequently) chose to recline on my ribcage, blocking the airflow to my poor old lungs. Luckily, my mate has the patience of a saint and was, apparently, happy to wait in the freezing cold while I blew like a rhino and attempted to get my breath back.

(Not that I’m complaining. Whether it’s medically accurate or not, in my book a lively baby means a healthy baby and I’m more than grateful for that. He can boot my innards as much as he likes – it’s a sign he’s getting fatter, stronger and ready to face the world.)

Still, laden with Estonian pottery, a selection of cured reindeer meat and a pair of reindeer-patterned legwarmers (an essential purchase), we returned feeling highly content and infinitely more festive than when we’d arrived.

And so I passed a very mellow Christmas with the folks, in which I tried – and, I think, failed miserably – not to reveal the gender of my offspring to my dear old gran. I don’t know why she doesn’t want to know, she just doesn’t. But I think my treating Bub to his very first sleepsuits, adorned with blue and green monsters, may have been a hint that even she couldn’t ignore.

Anyway, despite it not even really qualifying as his first Christmas, the little fella was spoiled to death and now has a whole selection of sleepsuits, nappies and tiny trousers, not to mention several jackets and hats from keen and generous relatives who have shown themselves to be more than handy with a pair of knitting needles.

But all too soon, the holidays are over and it’s back to real life. I’ve just got a new mobile and I’m trying to keep my old number. But it seems that I’ve made a grave error: I should have spotted some sort of tickbox at the time of ordering. But I didn’t. And now the guy on the phone is telling me there’s nothing I can do.

“Unless,” he says, soothingly, “you go instore. They should be able to cancel your contract and start a new one, which will let you keep your old number.”

Well, why on earth didn’t you say so? I’m more than happy to pop instore if it’ll solve the problem. So, off I trot into town where, after a 20 minute wait to be served, I explain my predicament to Mr Mobile Phone.

“Ah,” he says. “Yes, we can sort you out. We just need to cancel the old contract and return your phone to stock. After that, we’ll start the new contract and resell you the old phone. It’s quite straightforward.”

So he cancels my existing contract. Simple. But then he tries to return the phone to stock and there’s a problem. The system is convinced it’s already been returned to stock and won’t let him do it. He tries all sorts of cunning tricks, then cancels everything and starts again. Then he repeats the whole process.

“Ha!” he says. “This is the point where, if I knew you better, I’d tell you that you owed me dinner.”

And he flashes me a cheeky smile.

I smile non-committally as he goes through the whole rigmarole once more before throwing in the towel and calling the IT department. As he waits on hold, he smiles at me.

“It’s not going well!”

“Sorry,” I say, thinking that if I’d only seen the flipping checkbox, we’d both have been spared this troublesome process.

“No problem,” he twinkles. “It could be far worse. I could be sitting here with someone miserable and grumpy instead of someone lovely and smiley like you.”

After a prolonged wait and a technical discussion, the system finally allows itself to be cajoled into accepting the return and it seems like we’re on a roll. Until he tries to re-sell me the phone. Whereupon the computer says no. Again.

He raises his eyebrows and looks at me.

“Hmmm,” he says. “I think this must definitely be worth lunch.”

I raise an eyebrow, and offer a questioning look. I’m six months pregnant and you’re flirting with me? Really?

Finally the IT department works its magic, the phone can be resold and it looks as if the torturous process can finally be completed. I’ve been in the shop for almost an hour and a half.

As he parcels up the assorted documents produced by these shenanigans, Mr Mobile Phone hands me a piece of paper on which I’d written the number I wanted to keep.

“Better take that. You wouldn’t want anyone getting hold of your number now, would you?” he says hopefully.

“No,” I say, smiling. “No, I wouldn’t want that.”

And as he looks very slightly crestfallen, I thank him politely, gather my papers and head out of the door.