Review: Happy Mum Happy Baby
It's no secret that I'm less than a fan of baby books. On the whole, I find them condescending, unrealistic and I generally don't care for the tone when talking about the father. I'm a grown woman, frankly I don't need 'hubby' to totally bend over backwards for nine months straight. If my hormones are making me act like a dick, I'd rather be called out on it than tiptoed around like I'm a sleeping bear.
So I've generally tried to avoid the soft pink and grey baby manuals that contain soft-focus pictures of new mothers serenely breast-feeding and looking pretty damn clean to say they're holding live vomit grenades. I follow Giovanna Fletcher on Instagram, because frankly, I like her. Whilst I'm neither a Hello! reader or Loose Women watcher, I like the fact that she didn't immediately focus all her energy into snapping back into shape after having children, I like the bleary-eyed early morning photos of her children climbing into her bed and I like the odd photo of her and her husband enjoying a moment of calm with a glass of wine in their pyjamas once the kids have gone to bed.
When I saw that she was releasing a book of her experiences as a new mother, I knew I wanted to read it more than any of the other 'celebrity' baby books out there.
Shallowly, I was taken by the cover. No soft grey jumpers, no pure white sheets and babies that look like they should be on Johnson & Johnson adverts, just a face with a big smile and a skirt with dinosaurs on it. That's a woman I can trust. Recently, I watched an awful vlog online where a woman told her viewers NOT to give birth on their backs because her tailbone cracked. She said your stomach will split. She said the first trip to the loo will hurt like a motherf*cker. One of her viewers commented that she was 9 weeks pregnant and now 'even more terrified'. To which the vlogger replied 'At least you know now.' At least you know now. With respect, lady, kindly eff off. Every woman is different. My friend told me after giving birth, she sat terrified on the loo for the first time and waited for the pain she'd been warned about. The pain never came. Another friend had to bite down on a towel to stop from crying out. Because, *newsflash*, every woman is different. For a woman with thousands of viewers to explicitly tell her audience not to give birth on their backs is just stupid and ignorant.
Fletcher sums it up rather perfectly in her introduction:
'Our words affect others. We can use them to strengthen or to belittle and to crush.'
There is nothing strengthening about alarmist statements offering a one-size fits all forecast for what will happen to you in pregnancy, labour or beyond.
When my copy of Happy Mum Happy Baby arrived in the post the day after its release, I was pretty excited to put down my electronics for an hour and get stuck in. I finished it in two sittings.
Fletcher makes no secret of the fact that she's an over-sharer, but as someone who's never done any of this before, for that I was grateful; it's over-sharing without scare-mongering. And it's very boldly written - I heartily applaud any woman who names a chapter of her book 'Getting my baps out'.
Not all of the book fills me with confidence, but that's parenthood for you; there's a whole chapter about building a rod for your own back and the horrific nights she had with her screaming son trying to coax him into sleeping alone but the candid recollections of her post-baby body and the fourth trimester are a brilliant read, though I'd advise you against reading whilst eating if you haven't got a very strong stomach. Pop that trifle back in the fridge, love. You're not going to want it. Happy Mum Happy Baby deftly spans from a poignant and honest account of a miscarriage, to trying to conceive, to life with two children, and ends rather beautifully with a letter to her husband and to her sons. The accompanying photos aren't in a studio with gentle lighting and white sheets everywhere; they're of her boys covered in food, sleeping and even backstage at a gig. They're a little more raw than some of the carefully orchestrated photos in other books.
It's touchingly truthful. One of my favourite excerpts: 'I wondered about my capability. I doubted my natural instincts to mother. I thought I'd made a huge mistake and that the whole parenting malarkey just wasn't for me, which is hardly the best thought to be having when you're shushing your baby at 3am while trying to get him to latch on to your incredibly sore boobs. In those moments I felt numb to life.'
You just won't find that level of candour in What to Expect When You're Expecting and as a woman who's never been particularly maternal or child-friendly, it's refreshing to know that whatever you might feel at 3am, someone else has felt it too at some point.
It's the first book I've read throughout this period of gestation that hasn't made me scoff or want to throw it out of the window. (With the exception of The Unmumsy Mum, which is bloody comedy gold.) Whether you're pregnant, two kids in or planning a family soon, Happy Mum Happy Baby is definitely well worth a read and will elicit a fair few smiles from you. I'm already reading it again, a mere two weeks since the first time. Happy Mum Happy Baby is by Giovanna Fletcher and available from Waterstones for £13.99.