The Happy Baby Project

A happy baby needs a happy mum


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21 weeks and the truth about that “glow”

21 weeks and I’m beginning to walk with that arched back – hand on lower back – sideways waddle. Sitting can be uncomfortable depending on the chair (Skyfall was a lesson in comfort and patience). Lower back issues remain, brought on by the simple fact that while my core used to be equally pulled between back and belly, the belly is now winning hands down. A bit of physio is sorting that out and I’m planning to start preggie yoga again next week which will help massively.

Theoretically speaking, I have the famous “glow” what preggie people are supposed to have. But in actual fact it could be, in practical terms, described as “over production of grease from your sebaceous glands” and has resulted in a lovely double whammy of greasy hair and spotty chin, the like I haven’t seen since the age of 16 when I was in Doc Martens and lumberjack shirts.

Good news is maternity wardobe has improved immeasurably thanks to 2 boxes of Seraphine clothes donated to me by a fabulously stylish friend. Add to this my new Asos breton stripe dress (as seen in Pregnancy & Baby magazine, my new guilty pleasure), Isabella Oliver ruched tops and JoJo Maman Bebe essential maternity dress (LOTS of compliments – first time ever for maternity clothes), I’m beginning to feel a lot better in my skin.

However, following the surprise post by The Chef, I’ve realised I have some work to do in the romance department. So I’m trying to be less critical, not let my hormones rule our relationship, share thoughts and worries, and I even cooked last night. Yes, me. More than that, is the realisation that this actually could be a lot of fun. It’s our greatest thing in common, and there’s lots to talk and laugh about (names, nurseries, how we’ll bring baby up, ideas about travels and adventures). For now, its all about getting in that positive mindset, thinking like a team, realising how lucky we are and getting excited about a happy baby-filled future…

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Daddy?

Hello. I’m The Chef that she occasionally talks about. I keep making a balls of things and this is why. She doesn’t know that I am posting this and I genuinely hope that she doesn’t KILL me for hacking into her blog.

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It’s funny how a stream of warm, alcohol-infused piss can change your life for ever.

‘It’s positive’.

‘What’s positive?’ I hadn’t put my contacts in yet and was brutally hung-over.

‘This!’ shaking something white in my general direction.

Shitting hell.

Two minutes earlier we had been screaming at each other about something that seemed at the time to be important. One of the arguments that we still have, about everything and nothing. About communication, competitive instincts and damp bath mats. I hope that our child never finds out that Mummy did a pregnancy test just to stop Mummy and Daddy being mean to each other. But that’s what happened. ‘It’s positive’ she said and I loved her so much.

I had to go out to buy a second test ‘The digital one! It HAS to be CLEAR. BLUE. DIGITAL! ‘.

I crashed my car in Sainsbury’s car park- ripped the passenger door handle clean off.

The second one was positive too but it seems that Clapham High Street is in some strange time continuum because we were 2 weeks more pregnant than we had been half an hour earlier. I still don’t understand how they work out how pregnant you are. Not understanding has rather become my default setting of late.

I am not an insensitive man. I am enlightened- My university dissertation was about the ethics of male feminism, and I genuinely think that women should rule the world. But I don’t get it.

I find it hard.

I find it hard that my beautiful wife (and she genuinely is) was so disfigured, so brutalised by her first trimester that she couldn’t leave the house.

I find it hard that I don’t care as much as she does. I can sense her disappointment when my eyes don’t light up during discussions about prams.  She thinks I don’t care.

And I don’t.

Not like she does. I can’t. Can I?

For me, now, it is abstract.  For her it is a son or a daughter that she is keeping warm. For me it’s a promise of something more, a present that I can’t unwrap, a halcyon summer after crappy A-Levels. Something distant and exciting but when I try to grab it, I can’t.  I feel stupid talking to a bump. I feel guilty when I can’t summon enthusiasm about hypno-birthing (or even find out what it is) and I feel helpless when my wife cries. And worse when it is because of me. When she is mean I crave her love like a wounded child. It’s pathetic. I KNOW about hormones, I KNOW that she resents me because I’m not carrying a baby or suffering from hives and insomnia, but I hate it when she is mean to me. I am, in those instances thin-skinned, over sensitive and have little or no consideration about what is happening inside her head or who is wriggling inside her body.

But what kills me the most is when she worries about money, about stability and security. She has something to protect now- something to keep from evil, to nurture. I just have a wife with a bump. Her nesting instinct has gone into override and again I look into her eyes and I know that she NEEDS me, in a very Darwinian, animalistic way to look after her and HER child. And of course I will, but it’s not because of a primeval urge yet- like it is for her. It’s because it is the done thing, polite convention. There is nothing in my psyche gnawing at me, insisting with utter absolutism that I do the right thing.

I need to hold my baby. Feel its breath on my cheek. Know that my wife is safe and well. I need the little bugger to grip my finger, have my eyes and smile before I love it like my wife does now. But when I do, I know that I will love it ferociously and without condition until the day I die.

So, darling S, I love you more than anything, more than I love my unborn child. For now. But come March and I suspect you will have some serious competition.

So until then darling girl, how about you look after our baby and keep him or her safe, warm and well and in return, I’ll do my very best to make sure that I spend every waking minute thinking about how to look after you.


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An introduction to The Happy Baby Project

I write the blog The Happiness Project London and here’s the last post I wrote which may explain why we’re now here:

I’ve been quiet over the last few weeks because life has changed somewhat, and it has something to do with the little wriggly person that’s been growing inside me. Yes, the HPL is having a baby!

And while I’m wildly happy about it now, there were times in first 12 weeks when I really struggled to remind myself of all I’ve learnt about being positive. Of course I appreciate how lucky I am, and what an exciting thing is about to happen to us, but my body’s reaction to the news wasn’t exactly pleasant. And it took this wonderful blog post by Caroline No to give me the strength to say IT’S BEEN BLOODY SHIT! I’ve been a bit rubbish at this pregnancy stuff! And finally – who cares!

My skin decided it didn’t like the preggie hormone or the preggie hormone didn’t like certain foods anymore and broke out in giant red itchy spots all over my chest, neck and face, which might or might not have been hives. I got teenage acne. I developed an agonising pain in my right buttock which turned out to be my pelvic girdle pinging out of place, making walking nigh on impossible. I found myself sobbing like a heartbroken teenager for hours on end, once hysterically laughing and sobbing at once, not knowing why. I felt nauseous and fat and bloated and frumpy, unable to squeeze into my old clothes but not big enough for maternity gear. I ate three burgers in a week. I missed wine and hangovers, still do. And don’t get me started on itchy boobs and cracked nipples and giant wire-less maternity bras which make cycling to work an interesting exercise in pot-hole avoidance and agonising bouncing droopy pendulous bosoms….

A cumulative force of utter exhaustion, the need to cry repeatedly and teenage acne-like skin meant I lived as a hermit for weeks – not even wanting to go for a walk and covering my face when I saw anyone including a man reading our meter: “Don’t Look at Meeeee!”.

There were sudden periods of anger, an unbearable urge to snap. The Poor Chef got the brunt of it, being the only person in my vicinity for much of the time. You put a wine glass in the dishwasher the wrong way – YOU IDIOT!!! You didn’t put the plant pot in the right place – YOU RUINED MY BIRTHDAY!!! And how could he understand the raging hormones that were filling my body with negativity and fury and sadness, when he was just really really happy?

But on the cusp of 12 weeks things got better. I got my energy back, which built up to something like hysteria when I realised I could finally socialise and actually see my friends again (lunches and walks along the Thames best – drunken dinners not to the most fun when you’re sipping on Schloer all night and wondering why everyone’s laughing at an unfunny joke). My skin cleared up and my hair went from greasy to full. I contacted friends, I felt positive, I started thinking about the future. And The Poor Chef came out of hiding.

And then this week we had the scan. I was a bag of nerves, wondering if it was there at all, or alive or deformed, or multiple. But then we saw him (for we call him “he” after the scan but we don’t know if he is a she yet of course). What a gorgeous wee wriggler. He was tiny, of course. But with a round little belly and a lovely face with big lips. And beautiful frogs legs and two feet, which he kicked in the air before turning his little bottom towards us. I can’t feel him yet but my tummy is getting more solid and I love the little reminder that he’s there, wriggling and waiting.

So now it’s different. I’ve told people which really helps. I’ve bought a few bigger clothes and am enjoying better skin and shaking off the indignity of the last few weeks. I’m loving my new body – the round curves, the bigger breasts, the hardening belly. I’m so proud of my body, so impressed at its strength and the way it seems to know exactly what to do. I can see why women who’ve given birth often want to do marathons  afterwards – and I feel the same – because I love my body in a way I never have before and I’m amazed at what it is capable of and I want to get fit, not just work out at the gym to lose weight, but get stronger and faster and show myself what my body can actually do. I feel womanly and dare I say a bit beautiful.

I am already aware of competitive mum syndrome and what lies ahead. There are the I’m-still-a-party-girl mums (I stayed up til 2am and wasn’t tired at all! Yes the baby is two weeks old lets book that girls’ holiday to Ibiza!). There are the body-beautiful mums (I’ve not put on ANY weight! In fact I’ve LOST weight! Who’s the first for botox?!). There are the capitalist mums (I’ve just bought the most fabulous baby papoose to match my bugaboo pram travel system in a neutral colour to match my tastefully decorated nursery!). And there are the this-is-totally-natural-to-me mums (vitamins? I didn’t bother with those. Epidurals? I’m just going to power breathe with my doula).

So what sort of mum will I be? Well who knows. But I’m not pining my party days any more. In fact I’m loving getting to bed at 10pm and being cosy under a woollen blanket on the sofa. My favourite recent purchase is a great pair of sheepskin slippers.  I’m looking forward to my body getting big and round because I have a feeling it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be doing and I really want to take care of it from now on. And I believe what my child really needs is our unconditional love, and a favourite cuddly toy which is soft and old and worn, and being read to all the time, and its grannies and granddads and aunty and uncle teaching it about life and the world and where it came from.

I know one thing for sure. This is the biggest adventure of our lives and its one that I’m finally ready for. And sometimes it will take all I’ve learned about happiness and positivity to keep me going when times are tough, but the joy this little thing will bring will teach me more about life and love than I ever imagined possible.

So wriggle away wee man, we love you very much, and we can’t wait to meet you in March!