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PREGNANCY

The particular sadnesses of a pregnant woman at Glastonbury

Oh hi there, I’m the fucking worst. This time last year, you see, I was at Glastonbury for free on my husband’s press pass.

I was washing in the hospitality area’s only slightly traumatic facilities (as opposed to the fully PTSD-flavoured ones the public had to use). I was sleeping in a weather-proof Wendy house instead of a tent. I had unlimited access to the backstage VIP area.

And I was fucking miserable.

I mean miserable. I scowled through a DJ set at Bloc 9. I threw a legitimate tantrum because my husband had the temerity to do his actual job for a couple of hours and, while he was away, I fell over briefly. I cried when the Pixies played, because they were so old and sour-looking.

I know. I know. I am the worst.


In my defence, I was two months pregnant.

And I wasn’t a good, glowy, blooming content sort of pregnant – I was in the stage where you just want to go to bed forever and shut the world out. I was hormonally unpleasant to be around.

Let me be clear, I went to Glastonbury voluntarily. I’d been to a million Glastonburys in my teens and loved then, so I assumed I’d enter into the spirit of things once I got there. But I entirely failed to do this.

I hated the mud. I hated the noise. I hated tramping for miles through soggy filth only to end up at the arse-end of a crowd, downwind of the loos, watching tiny people on a faraway stage perform songs that I ALREADY OWNED STUDIO VERSIONS OF.

I hated being buffeted by loud, happy fools who kept walking into me without psychically intuiting that I was pregnant. I hated not being able to drink. I hated how it wasn’t the 1990s and I wasn’t 16 and The Orb wasn’t playing and I wasn’t on some dodgy mushrooms having the time of my life.

Most of all, though, I hated being such an ingrate. I was here on The Guardian’s buck, and was probably spoiling Stuart’s first Glastonbury, but I didn’t seem to be able to stop being such a buzzkill.

My feet hurt. My back hurt. I kept having to throw up every couple of hours (a month after this I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum), and I’m afraid to say I got quite whiny about the loos. I very specifically wanted to be on my sofa watching TV and getting a foot rub, and I was biologically opposed to anything that wasn’t that. I think I tried to persuade my husband that we should go to bed early on Friday night, and not in a sexy way.

Things improved markedly on Saturday, though, and I put that down to one horrendously obnoxious revelation.

I saw her dancing aimlessly in the Green Fields while I was glumming around in the rain, halfheartedly contemplating getting some sort of hemp aura massage: a happy pregnant woman.

There she was, contentedly swaying in the drizzle, her bump protruding prettily under her tie-dye skirt, all beads and ear-cuffs and smiles. She seemed perfectly happy to be here in the middle of this stupid field with all these trustafarians. She didn’t seem like she was going to lose her mind over a spilled chai tea latte like I had that morning.

Maybe, I thought, I should learn from her example, let go of some of this preggo angst, and make the most of things.

But then I thought, maybe fuck her.

Maybe fuck her stupid dreadlocks and her stupid band of adorable mop-haired children probably all called Fern, and her stupid crocheted bra top, and her stupid tan and scruffy partner and circle skirt and open smile and perfect bump.

They say love is the greatest power, but I’d have to disagree. At that moment it felt amazing to turn off my guilt-sodden misery and activate 1,000 volts of pure, undeserving hatred.

And it allowed me to enjoy the rest of the festival. Obviously I constantly wanted to go home with every fibre of my being, but occasionally thinking fuck that happy pregnant woman, fuck this, fuck everything somehow freed me up to crack a smile at Jurassic 5, dance at Fujiya & Miyagi, and even briefly contemplate returning with my child to enjoy the kids’ field.

And now, one year later, as I sit here with my son and glass of frizzante enjoying the Glastonbury coverage from the comfort of my sofa (foot rub pending) I’d just like to thank that woman for being the unwitting recipient of my silent, horribly obnoxious attentions.

Happy pregnant woman, thank you, and I’m sorry. But I couldn’t have done it without you.

The mixed messages around alcohol and pregnancy

Originally published on The Pool

During my pregnancy last year, my doctor and I would meet weekly to laugh about my latest hilarious health misadventure.

We chortled through my gestational diabetes diagnosis, and hooted when a combination of a cracked rib and hyperemesis gravidarum caused me to redecorate her waiting room in projectile vomit. Finally, when I bruised my coccyx going over in a chocolate shop and started to unravel with stress, my doctor unequivocally prescribed a night on the sofa with a glass of wine.

“What?” I responded. “Aren’t pregnant women supposed to avoid alcohol?” “Well, yes and no,” my doctor told me. “You shouldn’t drink in the first three months of pregnancy, and then stick to a couple of units of alcohol a week if you drink at all. But in this case, I’d say, ‘happy mummy, happy baby’.”

So, that night, I took her at at her word and enjoyed a very stress-relieving glass of chilled chablis. I also sipped prosecco at my hen party, champagne at my wedding and a particularly throaty cabernet sauvignon during my honeymoon – happy in the knowledge that, because I was drinking very moderately, I was operating within medical approval.

But now the British Medical Association (BMA) is warning that any alcohol consumption during pregnancy could damage an unborn child.

“Exposure to alcohol before birth affects up to one in every 100 infants,” says Professor Sir Aynsley-Green from the BMA. “It is one of the most significant causes of childhood brain damage, learning disability, poor behaviour and even criminality. There is no ‘safe’ limit for alcohol consumption during pregnancy.”

Even more terrifyingly (at a point when, let’s face it, you’re probably terrified enough already), the effects of alcohol damage may not be initially detectable, according to the BMA’s Professor Sheila Hollins, ranging from “subtle damage that affects intelligence, behaviour and relationships to severe physical and learning disabilities”.

This news has sent me racing upstairs to check my sleeping five-month-old son over for (possibly invisible) signs of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. He seems fine now, if scandalised at being poked awake, but if he goes on to develop some problem linked to my alcohol consumption, will I brush it off with a blithe, “Well, my doctor said ‘happy mummy, happy baby’?” Of course not.

But it seems cruel to penalise pregnant women, especially those of us who indulged before we realised we were pregnant (in fact, that’s probably how a lot of us became pregnant). What with feeling blue, suddenly hating your favourite foods and the very real threat of tipping over in a chocolate shop, most expectant mothers have enough to worry about.

Clare Murphy from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) agrees: “Women are being scared witless by current alcohol messaging.

“If the guidance needs amending in any way, it is to reassure women who have had an episode of binge-drinking before they found out that they were pregnant that they are extremely unlikely to have caused their baby harm.”

BPAS also claim that risks to babies are often exaggerated. So which is it? Are we harming our unborn children by drinking, or not? With my doctor telling me one thing and the Department of Health saying another – not to mention that, during the same hospital visit, one midwife said I should avoid alcohol, and another advised that wine could bring on labour – I was awash with muddled guidance during my pregnancy.

Professor Aynsley-Green has called alcohol messaging “inconsistent, contradictory and confusing”, and I’d have to agree. Conflicting advice is often the way of pregnancy. One minute you’re told to avoid peanuts, and the next peanut butter is back on the menu, and even the birth plan you’re advised to lovingly craft is often flung in the bin the second you hit the delivery suite.

Whatever the outcome of the BMA’s recommendations, however they translate to NHS guidelines for pregnant women, I think doctors and midwives should find a line, and stick to it.

I don’t judge anyone for drinking during pregnancy, and I’d prefer not to be judged myself and, I mean, I really enjoyed drinking during my pregnancy – it made the ride that little bit easier.

But the bottom line is this: had my doctor not told me to go ahead and have that glass of chablis, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind to drink it or any alcohol during my pregnancy, and I wouldn’t be hovering by my son’s cot right now, wondering what’s to become of him.

8 ways to whinge about your pregnancy when you work at BuzzFeed

I’m a staff writer at BuzzFeed, and I shamelessly mined my pregnancy for source material – so here are all my pregnancy posts. I stand by them all: