The HMS Speight - a moment of honesty
It happened last week.
In front of the full length mirror in our bedroom, I was straining like an Instagram weight-lifter channelling the unique fury one can only experience from denying oneself pizza into hoisting a barbell, my face turned an unusual shade of burgundy and the noises I made were probably akin to those I'll churn out in labour. I practised some of the breathing tips I'd read online and wondered if it would be irrational to call Sam in for a little bit of moral support.
Yes, my comfiest, stretchiest jeans no longer fit me. I pushed again, and the metal button still wouldn't budge another inch. I stood defeated and let the two sides of the divided waistband sag around my hips, the teeth of the zipper gaping into a crocodilian grin around my swollen, pale abdomen.
It was a sad morning.
With a heavy heart, I added them to the pile of 'After Pregnancy' clothes. Albeit, not all the way to the 'WAY After Pregnancy' clothes, where my favourite short dresses and tight-fitting jeans now lay squashed like fabric sardines in a vacuum bag under my bed, mourning nights gone by in cocktail bars and Marbella restaurants.
Alas, I now officially look as though I am with child; a fact I've been kindly reminded of by decidedly un-pregnant people. (On a side note, there is a special place in hell for the people who gleefully revel in how rotund your belly is.)
I commemorated/commiserated (depending on how motherly I'm feeling) this pregnancy milestone by posting my debut 'bump' photo online last night.
It's sort of 'the done thing' to post a picture like that when you're expecting.
Afterwards though, those pesky little goblins of self-doubt crept into my head and all I could think about was how disappointing my pregnancy rack is, how I wish I'd made the bed and how skinnier other people on Instagram look at 26 weeks pregnant. Social media can be a cruel mistress - looking at that photograph, you'd think I was just like lots of other happy mummies-to-be and that I was going to go stretch a little, sip herbal tea and go adjust a perfectly-hung mobile in the nursery. In actual fact, I ended up only half-watching Broadchurch, a show I've been anticipating for weeks, because I was too busy searching #26weeks on social media and comparing how big my thighs looked to everyone else's. I felt like The HMS Speight and half-expected someone to smash a bottle of champagne against my hip the next time I'm anywhere near water. God bless her and all who sail in her. Another reason to avoid Brighton.
So I think it will be a while before I post another bump photograph. I'm much more comfortable making a fond mockery of the pregnancy journey on this blog than posting glow-faced pictures of me cradling a bump.
This isn't a post about body positivity or indeed, a post expecting a chorus of responses about how beautiful the pregnant body is. It's simply yet another contemplation of expectation vs. reality and the not-so-unknown truth that lives on social media aren't always as they appear.
The picture shows a woman resting a hand on her bump in a freshly-laundered top with a carefully chosen Instagram filter. She must feel so full of vitality and love, so in tune with her own body. The reality was a woman, bewildered by how quickly the aforementioned bump sprang up from nowhere, with a messy kitchen, three spots on her face and who carefully angled her hips and thighs to hide her partner's pile of laundry behind her. #blessed.
I also think it's a good time to have a bit of a friend de-tox on social media. It's funny how your perspective shifts; thus far I haven't been too bothered who sees endless photos of my Labrador, work space or dinner, but the idea of some people I haven't seen in ten years, and didn't particularly like back then, suddenly having eyes on my newborn wakens a protective streak I didn't know I had. Recently, I went through what fellow, more on-trend millennials tell me is a 'friendship break-up'. Without going into details and a full on character assassination, it was definitely time to quietly go our separate ways and stop flogging a dead horse. I no longer wanted to go watch her chat up strangers in exchange for shots of Apple Sourz on sticky dance floors and she didn't want to come watch live music with a few G&T's down at the local - people grow apart. When she caught wind on Pinterest, of all places, that Sam and I were expecting, despite a radio silence during a very difficult 2016, suddenly she was keen for coffee and details about my baby. As beneficial as it can be sometimes to forget the past, sometimes it's equally as appropriate to lay old ghosts to rest and focus on the future instead. It felt good to politely decline - the idea of someone who proved themselves to be rather a horrible person being a part of his life, no matter how much water goes under the bridge, was one that I didn't even want to give the time of day. You become a lot more selective about the company you keep when there's a baby in the picture.
I love social media. I love how it connects people, I love how easy it is to share what I'm up to with distant family and friends in far-off places. But I'm also intrinsically aware of how filtered we all are nowadays. I'm very guilty of it, I bloody love Instagram. For me, it's like a virtual scrapbook of all the good bits that I can look back on when things are going tits up. I've been told by a couple of people lately, whom I haven't seen in a while, that I really have my shit together. That gets an audible laugh from me. It's really the utmost compliment amongst people my age, to have one's shit together. Or rather, to be perceived as having one's shit together. I guess looking at my Instagram, you'd see the house, the dopey-faced dog, the long-term partner, the close family, the freelancing and the working from home, the recipes that turned out great and the gorgeous Surrey scenery. You might think yeah, she's got it together. But there are a few things you didn't see on my Instagram: 1. You didn't state of my sink when I messed up Julia Child's recipe for French onion soup. You didn't see the sticky globules of flour that had coagulated around the plug hole. You didn't hear Sam make me promise to never, ever try to make that soup again. 2. You didn't see the explosive bowel movements my photogenic dog sprayed all over the floor and up the wall when he was a puppy. Nope, just the soft focus pictures and close ups of his nose. 3. You didn't see how miserable I was towards the end of last year, with everything feeling like it was utterly spiralling out of control and the meltdown I had in a Guildford shopping centre one evening after a particularly horrid day at work.
4. You didn't see the time Sam and I drank so much at a friend's house, that we fought for space in our bathroom when we got home and ended up throwing up, side by side, into the bath. That acrid, spattering moment produced a life-long tie between us that is even stronger than co-owning a child.
It can make you feel really great, to be seen as someone who has it all together. It's true, I sorted out my own tax codes the other day, meal plan every week and recently upgraded from a plastic sieve to a metal one - but it's also taken me four months to book a flu jab, I haven't done laundry in a week and I haven't taken a pregnancy vitamin since December - really I'm still just treading water.
Treading water, counting down the days until I can have a G&T and accepting that I just need to buy some bigger jeans.