How I'm Coping with Lockdown

Some days I can say I’m totally coping. Other days, I’m most definitely not. I think that most of us find ourselves on a rollercoaster of emotions right now. Going through the motions of feeling like we're on a steady part of the track to suddenly free-falling down a steep drop or on a stomach-churning loop-the-loop. From panic to boredom, I can be fired up and motivated one day and then not want to get out of bed the next. Pregnancy hormones* aside (*which I’m sure do play a part), I had a good couple of weeks at first when the novelty was distorting and shielding my brain from processing the gravitas of the situation. From there, it has slowly ebbed into an exhausting marathon in which I have been known to burst into tears* (*see pregnancy hormones reference). However, at the end of an iffy fortnight, I can say it has been a 50:50 mix of good days and bad days.

‘Stay home and carry on’ is the M.O. and strive on we must. It really is as simple as staying home. An opportunity I’d mostly definitely opt for on most "normal" work days given the choice. But 'choice' isn't a luxury we have and I think that is the hardest part of this restrictionI’d never ‘choose’ to avoid my family. I’d never ‘choose’ to take all my friendships online and abandon IRL connections. But there isn’t a choice and that’s where we are having to adapt. So, after that rather doom and gloom introduction (sorry!) I wanted to share some new habits I've formed that are really helping as coping mechanisms. You never know, they might work for you too...

Gratitude Journaling

And you don't even have to get out of bed to try this one! I like to start the day, before I’ve even risen from bed, opening an app on my phone called Morning and writing down 3 things I'm grateful for and 3 things I would like to happen that day. At first, you might struggle to even list three, but soon it won't feel like 3 is enough. I vary from jotting down the ‘big stuff’ - my health, my family's health, the twitching lockdown comrade lying next to me, the roof over our head and my job - to the ‘small things’ like having coffee in the cupboard, a breeze blowing through the window and warm feet under the duvet! I find it very centering and it helps me have perspective of all the positives in my life in the midst of a negative world.

The Secret

I've spoken on my blog before about Rhonda Byrne's law of attraction theory that culminated in the film, book and app called The Secret. Tuning into a positive frequency each morning helps frame my thoughts for the day - positive thoughts attract positive actions. Naturally, living through a pandemic, nothing feels particularly positive right now so I purchased the app for a daily teaching to help provide some focus. It's not for everyone, I get that, but it works for me.

Meditation

Taking 3, 10 or 15 minutes to focus on my breathing and clear my mind feels essential right now. It’s a habit I’d been trying to form for some time but always found my commuting lifestyle meant there wasn’t always time. Now I make sure I spend a few minutes with the Headspace app sat in peace and quiet. I can really notice the difference when I’ve skipped this practice so find it a balancing, calming start to the day that stays with me for the hours that follow.

Reading

Escaping into the pages of a book is the biggest luxury. I’m averaging one book a week which means my bookshelf is getting some attention. Plus, the Kindle app is providing a steady-stream of more recent reads, especially as I've become slightly addicted to the thrill of buying a .99p Kindle book most days! There are a number of great book clubs you can join on Instagram if you’d like a recommendation - my favourite is @bethsbookclub_. Or you can rely on the much-loved High Low podcast hosts to provide an endless supply of great reads.

End of the day signpost

Now my home is also my office, it has been increasingly difficult to switch from ‘work mode’ to ‘relax mode’. A few tips I’ve picked up along the way include packing away my laptop and all work-related paperwork out of sight once I’ve clocked off. I also like to use the time I would have been commuting to either take a walk or an exercise class. It helps bookend the day.

To Do Lists

Whenever I feel stressed, I turn to my to-do list to help with gaining clarity and setting priorities. Sometimes, I’ll write the list out fresh and pop an ‘!’ next to the urgent tasks so I can clearly see what needs to be done and help form a plan of attack. I love the idea of having no more than three tasks per day on my to-do list so it feels more accomplishable but I haven't quite managed that one (yet!)

Get Creative

You may feel like this is a big ask right now. I consider myself 'creative' if I manage to wear something other than pyjamas or gym kit of a day. But, on my good days, I also enjoy exercising my creative flair through baking, gardening, colouring, or making vision boards (check out my Holiday Vision Board on Pinterest!). It is so much fun to escape down a rabbit hole - I spent my morning in Santorini putting this together!

Bucket List

I don't know about you, but I couldn't be more excited about the small things of normal life that I totally took for granted. Of course, top of my list will be seeing friends and family, having big hugs, reunions and generally wanting to lick their faces when it's safe to do so. But, assuming that is some time away, I've taken to writing a bucket list for life after lockdown. From trying a new local restaurant or bar we've discovered on our daily walk to missing my sweet coffee hit from the coffee shop that has been closed for weeks. I can't wait to book a massage, get my nails done and go out to a restaurant for brunch or dinner. What are you looking forward to the most?

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Best Body Oils to Prep Your Skin for Summer

Whilst most of us find ourselves at-home a lot more at the moment, there's never been a better time for some skin-TLC and body prep for the summer. It's no wild guess that as soon as we're allowed to safely leave our homes, we'll be tearing out of the door to every social invite we receive and, of course, all in a big group of our much-missed nearest and dearest! After emerging from our chrysalis, we'll sure want to look and feel our best. And, for all the ever-important hand-washing we're doing at the moment, you may have noticed your skin is appearing drier than usual and perhaps even scaly (please don't tell me it's just me!)

Enter: Oils.

I can't remember how many times I've added 'moisturise more' to my resolutions each year, yet making it a new habit has certainly been a challenge in the past. It's funny that such a relaxing, nurturing act often gets neglected in favour of "just one more episode" on Netflix in the evenings. Summer holidays are a bit of an exception to the rule in that when I'm away, I seriously up my beauty regime. With days spent out in the sun and my pale complexion to contend with, I always make time to apply a rich body oil or body butter in the evenings. I think it's the escape to a new, much more relaxed pace of life that allows for it in my 'getting ready' routine (something that's more apparent in my current day-to-day life in lockdown). My go-to holiday oil has for many years been Elemis Frangipani Monoi Body Oil. If you know, you know, that this precious petal-powered oil smells INCREDIBLE. Prepare to be transported to a Tahitian sun-drenched setting and meander through frangipani-filled gardens at sunset...(even when you're in Spain and not the Polynesia!) It is DIVINE. 

Snapping out of that summer haze and back to reality, finding out I was pregnant was like a wake-up call that now is the time to take care of my body and that goes for my skin too. I reached straight for all the lotions and potions in my bathroom cupboard to up my moisturising game. I'm lucky to have worked in the beauty industry so there's been a hefty backlog of these products to work my way through. Let me share with you the three top body oils I've been using (and will be repurchasing)...

FOR THE BUMP & BUST

Elemis Japanese Camellia Body Oil Blend, £40
I can definitely attest to my skin feeling more dehydrated than ever as all my nutrients are directed to my womb so applying this treasured oil daily feels like such a nourishing act of kindness. Having worked at Elemis, I learned of this particular product's benefits for expanding bellies some years ago. Stretch marks seem to be most expectant mothers' main worry when it comes to their changing physique. I was recently told stretch marks are, more often than not, hereditary; if your mother had them, it's quite likely you will too or vice versa. 

I've taken to slathering this fragrance-free decadent oil onto my stomach daily. It's a lovely moment to take stock of your changing shape, growing bump and have a moment of connection at the start and end of each day with your baby. Being fragrance-free, it is perfect for that "super-smell" stage of the first trimester - this won't cause any offence! It's even good enough for Victoria Beckham to have used throughout each of her pregnancies so I've been sure to gift this to expectant friends and keep a little stash for when my time came. I'm two bottles down and onto my third... 

TOP TIP: Whilst your focus will be on your stomach and bump itself, don't neglect your back. A beauty therapist recently told me that the 'stretch' of your skin actually starts from your back and wraps around so you want to make sure that is as nourished as possible so it's up to the task! Plus, don't forget your bust which undergoes its own expansion journey! It's the least they deserve before becoming chew toys...

FOR THE LEGS

The Sanctuary 4 Day Long-Lasting Moisture Body Oil Spray, £7.50
This is at the affordable, mass-market end of the spectrum and can be picked up in your local Boots. I am a bit fan of The Sanctuary and even remember going to their Covent Garden Spa back in the day. Ever since I've been a little bit obsessed with the fragrance of their products and treated myself to the odd body product on occasion. I was a sucker for the '4 day long-lasting moisture' claim for my ever so scaly legs and this definitely does a great job. I can't advocate the four-day claim as I usually reapply more often (and generally feel the need to). However, if the thought of oils makes you think of gloopy, sticky and thick textures, this couldn't be further from that thought. It's a lightweight oil that can be sprayed for a mess-free application and feels more like a 'dry oil' so sinks in super quickly with minimal drying time.

FOR THE HANDS & ARMS

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Floral Multi-Purpose Body Oil, £29.50
I fell in love with Nuxe last year and bought their entire suncare range pre-holiday. The fragrance is to die for, plus I certainly rate their SPF products for protecting my fair skin. I had heard many good reports of Huile Prodigieuse - their hero product - and when I spotted the Floral edition I couldn't resist seeing what all the fuss was about. For the best part of £30, it works beautifully during the warmer months serving as a body moisturiser and perfume combined. That's why I've taken to applying it to my hands and arms during these warmer days as I waft around my house and garden. And the 100ml bottle certainly lasts a long time!
Shop here

Given the timing of this post also coming at an unprecedented era of hygiene, I think the earth's hand lotion consumption has just hit an exponential high and is out of stock in many places. I have a little hack up my sleeve that will leave hands feeling nourished and quenched and that's applying a spritz or a drop of oil to your hands each time you wash them. The difference to your skin texture is clear to see immediately and you can literally feel the tension in your dehydrated skin ease. It really is one of life's small luxuries right now. I keep a bottle in my bathroom and another on my desk next to a hand cream - strength in numbers!

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Pregnancy Tips: Surviving the First Trimester

 That first trimester of pregnancy is a tricky time. There’s the sickness, the paranoia, the wondering whether to tell people or not? Typically, it’s when the side effects are most prevalent. Morning sickness is the arch nemesis. Now, I have to confess, I think I had it relatively easy. I haven’t actually *touches wood* been sick but I did spend around 7 or 8 weeks *feeling* sick 24 hours a day. What can make this more challenging, and it was in my case, is if you decide to keep the pregnancy under wraps.

We're Pregnant: To Tell or Not To Tell?

When I first heard about keeping a pregnancy under wraps for the first twelve weeks as a teenager, I was convinced I would adhere to it “to be on the safe side”. I recall my mother telling me she and my Dad had kept their pregnancy with my older sister a secret for almost sixteen weeks and they cherished the time when it was just the two of them who were in on it together! Listening to Giovanna Fletcher’s Happy Mum Happy Baby podcast where she discussed her miscarriage, made me think differently. If the worse did happen, that’s when you need your friends and family around you! But when faced with a positive pregnancy test, I had to keep it to myself for five days before my husband was back from an international trip and I felt it was only right that he be the first person to know.

Read more: FINDING OUT I'M PREGNANT - and how I told my husband!

Once we were both in on this amazing secret, don't get me wrong, there were many occasions I wanted to tell my Mum or girlfriends but each time I stopped myself. I felt a pressure on my body to keep this pregnancy going - I couldn’t bear the thought of more people knowing and, in turn, more pressure from outside sources. For me, in the end, we kept it out little secret. The timing meant that Week Twelve would be around Christmas Day and as we were hosting for everyone, it seemed like it would make a Christmas never to forget if we could hold out until then!

Getting Prepared

Whilst there's nothing really you can do to prepare for pregnancy, I have always followed the school of thought that 'knowledge is power'. That is why I have always been fascinated by One Born Every Minute, Emma Willis: Delivering Babies and reading books on pregnancy and motherhood before it was even on our five year plan! It may go back to my 16-year-old dream of being a midwife that I've always had a fascination but I found that when it is *actually* happening, sometimes you just want your peers to tell you like it is. Thank goodness, then, for YouTube. And in particular, Lily Pebbles, Fleur DeForce and Carly Rowena for recording pregnancy diaries when I know, for sure, sitting in front of a camera and speaking would be the last thing you wanted to do! They gave me three different versions of the upcoming weeks and so I had a taste for what *could* happen so I was somewhat prepared. 

Coping with the Sickness

Due to my longer-than-average cycle, when Ryan found out the news, we were already five weeks pregnant (don't get me started on pregnancy maths!) and by Week Six there were still no symptoms. The biggest thought I had on a daily basis was: am I still pregnant? Turns out that thought stays with you for quite a while. By Week Seven, it was a different story - I felt sick from the moment I woke up, like a horrible hangover just without the alcohol! Other symptoms I experiences were exhaustion, constant hunger, the most excruciating breasts and bloated AF. With just the two of us in-the-know, it meant double the effort from me to conceal just how I was feeling 90% of the day, especially at work!
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Here are my survival tips for getting through the early weeks.

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Tip 1 | Mints & pressure bands.

I was super grateful for a little care package that arrived thanks to my husband who, in his helpless state, had researched what could help me going through this time. Included in this little box were anti-sickness mints, wrist acu-pressure bands, anti-sickness teabags and a fragrance-free body butter. My “super smell” superpower was really tricky to navigate and often enhanced my feeling sick so fragrance-free was the only way to go. During those first few weeks most of our Hello Fresh meals were cooked in vein as I could not stomach complex flavours. I wanted plain, plain, plain. I can remember walking through a train station and thinking I can smell a fry-up (usually the reaction would be: I want one) but my nose managed to pick up the smell of the oil. Yuck. I had to hold my breath just to get passed it quickly without gagging! Needless to say, I wore the anti-sickness wrist bands daily, sucked on a mint whenever a wave of nausea hit and had a cup of tea before bed whilst applying the Mama Bee body lotion EVERY DAMN DAY.

Tip 2 | Bananas

These were the perfect potassium-rich hangover cure of my University days and they really came back into their own again here! I had heard that keeping food with you at all times was important because, funnily enough, eating helps curb the sickness. And it's true, it does! I'm not one for rice cakes but I had to have a fruit bowl stocked with bunches of bananas. Every morning, the first thing I would do (post-wee, obvs.) is eat one. It gave me an instant fix to help me get ready for work and into the office before breakfast number two (of three!)

Tip 3 | Water... by the gallon!

If there is one positive side effect its being constantly thirsty, it's hitting my 8 glasses of water a day! The colder the better, there was very little that truly quenched my thirst during these early days. In fact, my penchant for melon, mango sorbet and cucumber (yes, I would eat half a cucumber every day...my colleagues have since told me they *did* think that was a bit odd!). I invested in a new reusable bottle with a sippy straw (Lily Pebbles mentioned this particular bottle was handy in labour) and it was a lifeline whilst commuting on the hot London Underground. Oh yeah, have I mentioned yet that your body temperature will soar and you'll perpetually feel hot?! More reason to keep hydrated!

Tip 4 | Sleep Bras

The boob situation was off the chart. My god, I have never know pain like it. Getting up out of bed every morning felt like a rush of a thousand pins & needles to my boobs. Over time, it became a reassuring sign that Yes, my boobs were still pregnant! It was like my nipples had been burnt and anything that touched them was agony. Don't even THINK about coming near them! Very quickly I couldn't face the discomfort of wearing my usual bras so I wore sports bras for the first few days and nights. Oh yes, sleeping without some sort of containment was excruciating. I found these sleep bras at M&S and have lived in them ever since! (Side note, by about Week 14-16 I was back in my normal bras but with a wayyyyy more impressive cleavage. Soon you might need clasp extenders or new bras altogether to contain the new cup size you'll be hosting!)

Tip 5 | Sick Bag

I know that many people have a phobia of being sick. After several nasty hangovers, I kind of know the signs to read when I'm about to be sick. Excess saliva being one of them and pregnancy does come with its extra bodily fluids! To be on the safe side, I carried a paper sick bag (one of those that airlines give out on flights... you can stock up on some from Amazon) and that was for peace of mind. Luckily, it hasn't been used but I did have to randomly get it out the other morning around Week 20 so keep them on you just to be on the safe side!

Tip 6 | Secret Stash of Sweets

I observed this tip from a colleague who ate Fruit Pastilles the entire way through her pregnancy. Food cravings - or more realistically aversions - leaves little to the imagination when you know you should be eating but can't face much. Sweets seemed to be the exception to the rule. Whilst not nutritionally the best for you, I was doing what I needed to do to get through those train journeys and something sweet with a hit of energy did just the job. Keep some in your coat pocket, handbag(s), dressing gown and bedside table.

Tip 7 | A Private Scan

If all these obvious pregnancy symptoms aren't enough to reassure you that your body is doing its thing and growing a baby plus an entire new organ - the placenta - there is nothing quite like seeing the proof on an ultrasound screen. I felt like Week Five to Week Twelve was this never-ending no-mans land between pregnancy test and 12 Week Scan and I just needed reassurance that everything was OK. Ryan and I discussed it and decided to pay for a private scan around Week Nine. I was completely unprepared for the nerves and anxiety whilst sitting in the waiting room at The Birth Company Ltd. on Harley Street. Ryan did an amazing job of talking to me about the fish in the giant fish tank to get me through the wait before our turn! Luckily, a little bean-shaped sack was on the screen and a super fast heartbeat sound filled the room. It was INCREDIBLE and worth the £150. We left reassured baby was in there - just the one! - and doing fine. It was the perfect motivation I needed to keep calm and carry on!

Tip 8 | Ovia App

In the early days, I didn't have any recommendations from friends of apps to use so the Ovia app came to me quite late into my pregnancy but is definitely far superior to the What to Expect app I was relying on for the first trimester. Not only does Ovia have a handy food checker where you can type in and see what you can eat and what's recommended you avoid. You also get daily updates which is a great dose of motivation to get through each day and combat all the symptoms that are thrown at you! Plus, you can keep a record of your symptoms and side effects for each day. Having been so used to doing this with Clue during my monthly cycle, I had felt a little lost not having this in my daily routine during those early weeks so highly recommend downloading. Plus, it's FREE!

Tip 9 | Seedlip & Nosecco

Navigating weddings, birthdays or, in my case, Christmas parties, without drinking alcohol is tricky. Particularly when I'm known for loving a glass of bubbles or wine. To be honest, in those early weeks, alcohol - or the lack thereof - was the last thing on my mind. However, it seems when you move house and the G&Ts come out at 5pm in celebration or the Champagne gets popped on a Friday afternoon in the office, it's hard not to draw attention to your abstinence. Enter: Seedlip. A non-alcoholic gin-flavoured drink. My husband made sure he was on drinks duty throughout every social occasion, particularly at Christmas, to pour me my very special Seedlip G&T whilst the rest of the family were on the Bombay Sapphire. The perfect decoy! Nosecco, as you've probably guessed, is a alcohol-free alternative to Prosecco which comes in a fancy bottle with cork and all the bubbles. It looks the part so if you're seen holding one of these drinks in your hand, your secret is safe!

Tip 10 | Get Your Partner / Husband This Book!

I was lucky that Ryan found this book - We're Pregnant! The First Time Dad's Pregnancy Handbook - for himself as I did not have the mental capacity to think about how he was finding the first trimester (lucky bastard was my general day-to-day opinion). But, it has so many great tips for how your partner can support you: leaving you to get an early night (I was often asleep by 8pm), taking on the household duties of cooking and cleaning and to prepare him for the epic hormonal meltdowns that will invariably happen. I recall two occasions when I literally was hyperventilating with tears over the most irrational, minor things* (*I can see that now!) and he seemed perfectly prepared for these little outbreaks. It's the perfect advice from a father-of-four to a father-to-be.
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I hope these tips help you through your first precious weeks of pregnancy. It may be rough now, but it is totally worth it! Don't feel like you need to suffer in silence, my husband sure got the brunt of my moaning and there are people you can speak to via Peanut or similar apps to know you're not alone if you have decided to wait out the twelve weeks. By Week 16 you will feel like your old self again, be able to stay awake past 11pm and get your appetite and flavours back!

All for now,
Rose (her bump, and her rose-tinted spectacles)


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Keep Calm and Drink Tea | National Tea Day

As Brits we know that putting the kettle on and making a brew can be the ultimate remedy. Even at a time of crisis, heartbreak, meltdown or lockdown, the offer of a cup of tea is a comforting salve whatever the situation. It has the power to bring people together (safely if they all live under one roof) or force you to take time to stop, breathe and sip (or slurp...depending on your patience to let it cool first). Frankly I'm surprised a shortage of teabags hasn't been reported across the news, instead everyone seems to be going mad for loo roll, eggs and self-raising flour! With all the banana bread we know is being baked around the land, there's little coverage of the tea that, surely, has to be served on the side of each and every slice. In our household-slash-makeshift office, the kettle has never been more in demand. Whilst the husband and I tag-team on tea-rounds, I wanted to celebrate National Tea Day on April 21st with a round-up of my favourite teas that have got me through a few bumpy moments.

If this tea were an outfit... 
It would be the world's comfiest loungewear. It is my absolute go-to and without fail, the best goddam cuppa around. This is the cashmere jumper of tea; comforting and cosy yet laced with decadence and opulence. All hail, Twinings Earl Grey. I'm aware this next statement may alienate some of you but, Dear Reader, I am not a fan of English Breakfast. There is just something bitter about it that doesn't quite agree with my palette. Some complain Earl Grey is quite smokey but I just love its citrus notes which make the flavours so much more interesting. They work perfectly on the side of a chocolate chip cookie too - tried and tested multiple times! I must also inform you, apologies in advance, I drink all my hot drinks black* which is how Earl Grey is generally recommended to be served. Ask me what tea I want and 9 times out of 10, it's this! It's so good that back in the day when we all worked in offices, I had to keep a secret stash of these teabags in my desk drawer to ensure I never ran out! In more current times, I just have to forgive my local supermarket for going out of stock!

*The only exception being a Starbucks Grande Sugar-Free Decaf Vanilla Latte with Skinny Milk... yes my husband disassociates me when I place that order too. Not that I'll be enjoying one of those for the foreseeable! 

If this tea were a song...
It would be a lullaby. A hypnotic, relaxing and soporific night-time soother to help anticipate your head touching the pillow and drifting off. Sign off the day with Twinings Super Blend Sleep. At some point last year, I found my brain just wouldn't switch off at the end of the day. 10pm. 11pm. Midnight would just roll on by and I'd still be wired from my day at the office. I remember seeing the Twinings Super Blend stand at Stylist Live and discovered I had a little taster teabag to give a try. The action of a hot drink before bed helped signal to my circadian rhythm and prompt that it was bedtime (that, and it helped banning the TV from our bedroom). At this time of unease, I'm glad I bought a box to keep in the cupboard as sleeping soundly is unlikely to be coming easily to us and a little night-time ritual can be such a comfort, as can any form of routine these days! As for the blend itself, I'm not the world's biggest fan of camomile but don't let that put you off. I found this tea, with notes of apple, vanilla and passionflower, to help balance the flavours so it doesn't taste like mouldy old socks. It's actually rather pleasant.

If this tea were a beauty treatment...
It would be a soothing massage. Capturing the warmth of a cocoon and the soothing motion of a tummy rub, enjoy your hug-in-a-mug with Pukka's Three Ginger tea. An absolute must-have for anyone suffering from anxiety, IBS or morning sickness looking for something to help settle your stomach. Don't be scared of the ginger sharpness that you may know from fruit shots or juices - I swear when ginger is not handled responsibly it can give you hairs on your chest and a throat burn to rival vodka. But, alas, here is a soothing dose of ginger, galangal (a tropical spice) and golden turmeric. It is subtle enough that should you forget your tea-bag is brewing for five minutes or more (they recommend three minutes at least), you won't be overpowered by the flavour. Tried and tested. In fact, I now leave the teabag in altogether. As an invigorating caffeine-free option, it's the perfect cuppa to start your day.

Let me know in the comments below your favourite tea!

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Finding Out We're Pregnant

 You might have thought after we’d thrown caution to the wind and actually started “trying” to make a baby that this blog title wouldn’t still make me want to scream “F*****ck!”

But first, let’s go back to the summer of 2019...

I am very lucky that I have an incredible group of girlfriends - some school friends, some uni friends - and we’re all going through similar life stages together, whether that’s planning a wedding, buying a house or, more recently, the B word. Babies. Yes, it was (and still is) a topic on our lips pretty much every time we get together.

I started out 2019 with a new job after leaving my previous company of seven years and it was (I thought) a pretty defiant statement that we weren’t ready for the “settling down” part. I had something to prove to myself and that was that I could be a success outside of the company I spent most of my twenties growing up within. 

Alongside the career developments, we were sussing out where we wanted to live having sold our apartment in Essex and moved to Wembley in rented accommodation. Signpost 2: no babies anytime soon! Our inability to settle on a location meant we basically shelved the whole notion of “settling down” for months at a time. We’d spent the first three years of our married life on the go - literally. 19 countries in total and over half of that time spent living outside the U.K. I will forever be so grateful for those incredible adventures, from hiking Macchu Pichu to making a life in New York. Though there were tough times, I couldn’t feel luckier to have embraced those amazing opportunities in our life. Fast forward two failed house purchase attempts in Richmond, we started to question (again) where we wanted to live. Richmond was close to our hearts as we loved our West London years, falling in love with each other and the river, before getting married in nearby Chiswick and Kew. Moving to Richmond felt like going home, although in theory we had no support network there and knowing the costs of moving, we wanted this move to have a five year shelf life which would (we hoped) include a new addition. With Ryan’s northern routes pulling his heartstrings back to Lincoln and mine closer to my parents in East Sussex, a night out with my Mother-in-Law and a lot of Prosecco later settled that we would keep our search to the south. Searches of train links ensued - and considering Ryan and I both work in opposite and not particularly central parts of London (Peckham and Wembley anyone?!) we fell in love with the charm of Tunbridge Wells. When our offer was accepted on a perfectly located family home, the “will you be starting a family?” question was thrust into the spotlight and well-meaning friends hinting around the topic. “You’ll have to get busy filling those rooms up” and now with a roof over our heads, fewer excuses directing us away from that thought too!

Back to those girly dinners, one by one, attitudes to the idea of trying (or more accurately not not trying) changed. I was on the fence; we were certainly thinking about it, but maybe something for next year or the year after. In fact, three of us agreed it would be great if we could all take our maternity leave together in 2021. And then, the first pregnancy was announced! It was so exciting and I was so unbelievably happy for my friend. I can’t lie that this was a defining moment and a catalyst for the title of this blog. When one of my closest friends had taken the leap, it did start to make me think more and more “that could be me”... and also, more "I think I want that to be me".

I’m sure many women can relate to The Fear embedded in us from a young age about getting pregnant. There was very little, from what I remember, discussed in terms of challenges we may experience with conceiving. From panicked trips to get the morning after pill, drawers full of condoms and spending more than a decade on The Pill (and even then “double bubbling” as we called it) there was very little information shared as I grew up about looking after my fertility. After reading Period Power by Maisie Hill, I admit it was eye-opening and I was so glad I had already ditched the Pill the year before. Some of my girlfriends gulped and their eyes visibly bulged when I said I’d come off the Pill in October 2018. I was absolutely not trying to get pregnant but the little voice in the back of my head niggling away about how long I’d been on it without a break was getting louder. With encouragement from the husband that he would take over birth control responsibilities, I was free to go on a hormone detox. It was liberating but terrifying. I don’t think I let him come near me for over a month!

READ ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE COMING OFF THE PILL HERE

Another tip to come out Maisie Hill’s book was to start tracking my cycle and a girlfriend recommended the app Clue (it’s free!) which I promptly downloaded. After a 60 day absence of my period, I started to get to grips with my body’s version of normal. Previously, aged 14 or 15, I remember having 14, 28, 35 day cycles and the anxiety of being a teenage school girl worrying I’d get my period in the middle of history class! My cycle settled somewhere around the 32/33 day, so five days longer than the average 28-day cycle. I’ll forever be grateful for the TMI girly chat over dinner in which the subject of discharge came up. Yep, over a glass of wine and dinner, we were there, in public talking DISCHARGE. And in detail too; the importance of knowing the different kinds and timing of when you might experience it which are signals of what’s going on. Amen to girl chat. Turns out, it has superpowers in that not only does it indicate when you are ovulating but acts as sperm’s best friend getting it to where it needs to be on a high speed express train to Destination: Egg.

Now I was all tuned in on the discharge front (just seeing how many times I can fit in the word discharge to this blog post), I felt pretty clued up on when to be having sex if we wanted to conceive. But in late summer 2019, I was still vehemently shaking my head at any suggestions we might be thinking about actually doing it. Body language could not conceal the BACK OFF message I had written across my forehead. I was not ready, but what was I waiting for?

To clarify, there was no question of ‘if’ but always ‘when’ - in hindsight I guess that opinion in itself is privileged. I was always keen on the idea of being laid back about it, you know, all “if it happens, it happens” but in reality I am a planner. An efficient planner at that. Either we were trying (read: hoping) to get pregnant or we weren’t. There was no in between that - or least it wasn’t a state that my brain could compute - and I was so used to a pre-programmed response of hyperventilation! It took Mr A talking me down one evening, whilst I shared the list of reservations in my head to which he very calmly, rationally blew each one apart.
The other little thought in my head which had reared its head during this discussion was the fear that if I do shelve the idea for a couple of years, it could take a while to fall pregnant, if at all. The struggle to conceive can happen to anyone and we have no way of knowing how it will play out until we start to roll the dice. I was determined that *once* I was ready to play the game, I would try to avoid obsessing over dates and ovulation sticks etc. until after six months of being carefree and having fun. I read a book by Emily Phillips called Trying which paints the agonising reality of struggling to conceive and my heart goes out to anyone experiencing that. No one should ever be deprived of having a baby and I cannot comprehend the heartbreak and strain on your mind, body and relationship. We could be one of those couples and if so, we’d cross that bridge, but I didn’t want to prematurely adopt that state of control and pressure on my body. In reality, I think it’s quite hard to not obsess a little or maybe that’s a personality trait of mine. With my daily use of Clue, I knew when my fertile window was coming up so it was always in the back of my mind.

I can’t even really pinpoint when the switch flicked but there was definitely a pretty quick shift in my outlook. I think the turning point may have been as simple as me garbling, “But what if we get pregnant next month??”, Mr A answered, “That would incredible! We would be so lucky! I’d be over the moon!” That stayed with me for a couple of weeks, the thought marinating over and over. Until I concluded, Yes, that would be amazing, why wait?

Despite saying my approach would be laisez-faire, there I was on the NHS website looking up ‘how to prepare your body for pregnancy’ and I made some drastic changes to my lifestyle. I even asked my doctor for advice and to check from a medical point-of-view I was good to go. Caffeine, gone. Midweek drinking, so long! Pregnacare pre-conception vitamins, purchased.

I have to say, that ‘first time’ you decide you’re having unprotected sex resembles very much losing your virginity. In fact I think it’s more special and intimate! Scary but incredible at the same time. Sorry, TMI! There was a little part of my brain that as I approached Day 30, 31 in my cycle when I started overanalysing my body. Do my boobs normally hurt this much? Why do my nipples feel like they’re on fire? I was packing for our holiday to Morocco and making space for a box of tampons and wondering if they’d be there on the return journey. Day 32, day 33 passed...Can I enjoy a drink on this holiday? Am I more bloated than usual? Day 34 arrives and so does my period. Pass me the tampons and a bottle of wine.

I’m not going to lie, a little voice in my head said, is there something wrong? I quickly swept that thought into the back recess as much as humanly possible and thought about the perks; wine, wine and more great sex.

One change that came about around this time was my participation in the girly chat. I could no longer do the ‘freak out’ at the suggestion of getting pregnant. Putting that ‘out there’ was scary and I, at times, wished I hadn’t. I knew from that point onwards they would wonder if I was pregnant this time or next time, is she drinking or abstaining, looking for clues. There would be no maliciousness with that and, as my closest friends, they would have only my best interests at heart but I couldn’t help feel exposed at that point when I knew it might be some time before I see those little blue lines.

Month Two was approached with slightly less hesitance than Month One and with the help of Clue providing the insight, it seems we timed it right! At the time, as I was approaching Day 32, I felt sure I was experiencing all those same pre-menstrual symptoms. Spots appearing, breast tenderness and so the husband flew off on a work trip abroad thinking I was about to come on my period. As did I. By the end of Day 34, my eyebrow was starting to rise somewhat though at its absence. I agreed with myself that if there was no sign by end of Day 35, I’d take a test! And so I did, and there, almost instantly, were two blue lines. Another test the morning after and a third test two days after that, I had the ClearBlue ‘pregnant 2-3 weeks’ in the box. There it was in black and white. As Mr A was away in a far-flung part of the world where time zones and awful internet connections allowed for little more than a few WhatsApp messages, I was keeping all of this to myself for five days! It was the most excruciating secret to keep but so exciting knowing that just me and this little one, no bigger than a pip, were in it together. There was no way I was telling anyone before Mr A so I just had to figure out how to break the news. I settled for telling him I had a present for him in my pyjama pocket and out he pulled the positive pregnancy test!
As I am now, at the time of writing, over halfway through my pregnancy I know how lucky we are to have fallen pregnant so quickly. If you listen to Giovanna Fletcher’s podcast Happy Mum Happy Baby there are a whole host of different stories that could play out and I am incredibly grateful *touches wood* that we managed to fall pregnant so quickly. I know that’s not the case for everyone and my heart goes out to anyone who has experienced/is experiencing challenges. I just wanted to share our story and, in particular, the mental journey I went along to becoming ‘ready’ for motherhood.

All for now,
Rose (and her rose-tinted spectacles)


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Why I Decided to Come Off The Pill

I had been on the Pill for half my lifetime. At the age of 16, I was fed up with years of erratic periods and had heard of the "benefits" of the combined pill so I found myself at the Doctors' surgery with my irregular cycle circled over a diary and left with a prescription in hand. Enter Microgynon: the cheapest combined pill on the market (or so I was told). A daily sugar-coated safety net from pregnancy and control over my menstrual cycle. I never thought at that time I would be spending the next 15 years popping those little tablets on a daily basis. 

What a luxury it was to have some regularity in my life! Oh, the extravagance of curating when I had a period and choosing to ‘back to back’ pill packs if my seven-day break corresponded with a holiday or a dance show! Despite the obvious positives, every year when I would pop into my local doctor’s surgery for my annual checkup, I would ask the same question; would it be a good idea to give my body a break from the Pill? Whether it was a Doctor or Nurse I asked, the same answer came back every time: No. There were no studies to show that being on the pill long-term has any negative side effects or impact on your fertility. So, why stop?

I have always known I wanted to have children. Throughout my life I’ve taken it for granted that when I want to get pregnant, it will happen. Naive to say the least. But mostly, I’ve spent the majority of my life actively trying to prevent pregnancy. So, after months of discussions and a few false starts, I decided to stop taking the pill in the Autumn of 2018. The main reason was to give my body a chance to be hormone-free, recalibrate itself and let my "natural cycle" fall into place. Who knows what that looked like?! We weren't ready to start a family at that point but we knew it's not always so easy or quick as you may hope once you finally start trying. Largely encouraged by my husband - and I'm so grateful for his support - we agreed it would be good to give my body a break. I almost stopped the Pill in the September but the night before I was due to start another pill pack I freaked out and dove straight into the next cycle. It wasn't until a few days later when I felt a creeping sense of 'I don't want to take these tablets anymore' which prepared me for 28 days later actually braving it cold turkey!

With what little research there is out there to go on, I didn’t really know what to expect when I stopped taking my daily hormone hit. I read a post by Beth Sandland which gave me a taster of the rollercoaster I was in for. Other sources had different experiences so it really is a case of suck it and see! Reported boob shrinkage, mood swings and spots sounded like there sure was fun ahead. Oh joy. I issued a verbal warning to the husband and proceeded with caution!

Writing this retrospectively and from the "other side", I can say it was the best decision for me at that time. I was in a committed, stable relationship and my focus was on my health and wellbeing long-term. It wasn't until a year later when I read Period Power by Maisie Hill that it made me wish I had stopped taking it sooner. It is an absolute must-read for ANYONE with a womb! 

Here are some extracts  from my experience coming off the Pill; the side effects and hormonal comedown I experienced that my poor husband witnessed first-hand. God, it's so much easier being a man!

14th October 2018 | Day 0. 

Technically the last pill-free day of my 28 day cycle. For the past 15 years I would be getting a pill pack ready from my medicine cupboard so I don’t forget to take it the next morning. Not tonight. It feels strange. I had a ‘serious word’ with Ryan that he may be on the receiving end of some PMS/mood swings/rage and is to grant me a pardon (and provide hugs) if evidence of this arises over the coming weeks and months.


15th October 2018 | Day 1. 

Spent the whole day thinking, It’s ok - you can always take one tonight if you change your mind. It’s not too late. I'm coming to the end of my withdrawal bleed. I’ve heard I could bleed again as soon as later this week. Who knows?! *Makes mental note to stock up on tampons* Ryan says I should tell someone else (other than him) about this - I query why he thinks I should. He’s suggested just so I have someone else to talk to about it. I think he’s secretly worried I may kill him in a hormonal rage. I take his advice and choose to tell my sister when I see her next.


16th October 2018 | Day 2. 

Admit to self I’ve probably gone too long now without a pill that there's no going back. Not even a last-minute panic double pill... I know it would wreak havoc on my body and that's exactly what I'm trying to counteract. Stick to your guns, Rose, this should make you feel better and healthier in the long-term. It may be hypochondria but I swear I could actually feel my uterus today. A really tender feeling really low down in my tummy.


17th October 2018 | Day 3. 

At a funeral today. Could not keep my emotions in check. Is this pure grief or hormonal fuel on the fire? Told my sister, my pill-taking partner in crime, I have stopped taking the pill to be met by a raised eyebrow followed by a smile. After gabbling through my rather clumsy explanation that this is not about starting a family, I felt relieved someone else - a fellow female - knew and I had propped open that door if I need to talk about it further.


18th October 2018 | Day 4. 

Hints of headache and tender boobs. Bloated AF. I swear being almost 30, married and bloated means everyone in the office looks at you with a ‘knowing' smile. What they don’t know is I’m just wishing I could fart freely.


19th October 2018 | Day 5. 

Driving to a friend's wedding and cried the whole way in the car. Literally silently sobbed, unable to stop the tears or get a hold of my emotions. I have no idea why this started but I definitely blame the hormones. If Ryan dare suggest the same thing, I will not be held responsible for my actions!


5th November 2018 | Day 22. 

PMS is seriously bad. The 3 weeks immediately after stopping the pill were definitely pretty low and tough. It's quite staggering how much those hormones must have been interfering with my body that coming off them has thrown everything out of kilter. Emotions, skin, hair - everything is just a bit raging! Have a moment of regret because I used to be quite smug about my lack of PMS... perhaps it's all about to change now I've gone au natural


18th November 2018 | Day 35. 

I feel like my journey post-pill has become a weird silent movie in which I'm not having dramatic highs or lows now but I'm just going through life wondering, will I ever have a period again?


4th December 2018 | Day 59. 

November came and went. Just little old me waiting for that first period like a kid waiting for Christmas to come.

12th December 2018 | Day 63. 

Hallelujah! It's here!


13th December 2018 | Day 64 - Second Cycle Day 2. 

Being reminded of my 14 year old self huddled over a hot water bottle breathing through contraction-like pains. (Luckily this period only lasted 3 days.)


18th December 2018 | Day 69 - Second Cycle Day 7. 

Noticed my sex drive seems to peak in the first week after my period. That was definitely masked by the artificial hormones before... bonus! If only it weren’t for the nagging worry about pregnancy prevention!


15th January 2019 | Day 97 - Second Cycle Day 35. 

Natural period no.2 arrives after 34 days. Sensitive boobs definitely seem to be the telltale sign of what’s going on in my uterus - must note for future! 


18th January 2019 | Day 100 - Third Cycle Day 4. 

Relieved to find period no.2 was less painful than the last. I always suspected I had one ovary worse than the other back in the early days! Only a 3 day bleed, very light compared to a pill-bleed.


18th February 2019 | Day 131 - Fourth Cycle Day 1. 

I'm still operating a 34 day cycle. The boobs are still doing the trick of signalling to me what's happening. It’s a new kind of boob warning than when I was on the pill which was more heaviness and deep tissue aches. This is now more surface sensitivity - watch out nipples!


19th February 2019 | Day 132 - Fourth Cycle Day 2. 

Period pains first thing this morning - oh yay! Spots on the right side of my face - double yay! 


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What followed after this point was all captured in the Clue app - a free tracker for all things cycle-related including mood, hair, energy levels etc. It was a great way to be able to check in with myself on a daily basis and record what was going on. What emerged over the following months was a slightly shorter cycle, averaging at 32 days. The pre-menstrual mood swings are definitely a new feature of my monthly cycle and really can knock me sideways. It reminds me how tough it was to be a teenage girl and have hormones coursing around my body not knowing what the f**k they're doing whilst dealing with school exams, boy drama and general teenage angst. There also definitely seems to be pattern with hormonal outbreaks taking over my chin and jawline as my period looms. But on the whole my periods are significantly lighter and shorter than the 'fake' period (aka. withdrawal bleed) I was having whilst taking the Pill. 

Whilst the natural cycle isn't always rosy - particularly when my period hit smack bang in the middle of a beach holiday - I feel so much lighter both mentally and physically knowing I'm not pumping my body full of hormones. I feel like I'm not worrying so much about the impact it has had on my body as I've emerged on the 'other side' and can see my body is operating on its own agenda. 

Side note - obviously I'm no medical professional and all that is documented here is one woman's experience of coming off the Pill. I feel there's so much judgement around contraception and especially deciding to come off it, without triggering those unwanted questions and attention about 'starting a family', that it's not a topic spoken about that freely. I know just from my circle of friends that this may be helpful for them to read and if that's the case, it was worth writing!

All for now,
Rose (and her hormone-free spectacles)

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30 Things to Do This April

The vision April conjures up in my mind is white linen curtains blowing in the warm breeze as I don my Marigolds and give the house a Spring clean. In reality, it's the month of April showers and, in 2020, self-isolation! Mainly to keep me from going insane, I've created a list of 30 things I want to do this month that can make me feel motivated and like I'm achieving something whilst staying safe in the confines of my home and garden. So here goes, sharing is caring...
  1. Fake tan from head to toe (because it will make me feel good!)
  2. Organise my iPhone photo reel (10,000 pictures waiting to be reminisced, sorted into albums and/or deleted)
  3. Order photo books from recent holidays (I'll be doing this for Iceland, Italy & Morocco)
  4. Read a fiction book (I'll be choosing between The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo or The Other Bennett Sister by Janice Hadlow)
  5. Read a non-fiction book (on my list is... The Sisterhood: A Love Letter to the Women Who Have Shaped Me by Daisy Buchanan)
  6. Start a new TV series (I'm thinking either - or all - Tiger King, The Good Place or Breaking Bad)
  7. Give yourself an at-home manicure
  8. Create a vision board. Be it for the summer / career / dreams / holiday plans or just general post-isolation! Head over to Pinterest if you're running short of old magazines to cut up!
  9. Make blueberry pancakes for breakfast just because...
  10. Bake a cake (the question is: Banana Bread or Lemon Drizzle?)
  11. Make your own hand sanitiser. It is surprisingly easy if you're prepared to sacrifice some vodka for the cause. I'll be making my second batch using this tried & tested recipe.
  12. Make a Spring wreath for the front door
  13. Organise your bookshelves (by colour or alphabetised?)
  14. Make a throwback playlist to your teen years (Avril Lavigne anyone? Get that teenage angst out!)
  15. Write a post-isolation bucket list!
  16. Make a batch of flavoured fruit gin (I did this last year and made Sloe Gin which I served on Christmas Day!)
  17. Marie Kwando your underwear & sock drawer
  18. Prepare those feet for freedom with an at-home pedicure
  19. Create positive affirmations and stick them around the house. All you need is paper and a pen!
  20. Make your own scented candles
  21. Take a day off from social media 
  22. Moisturise your body from head to toe
  23. Plant some seeds in the garden or window boxes and watch them grow
  24. Hinch the kitchen (I'm talking deep-cleaning the oven or re-organising all the cupboards. Get trigger happy with Zoflora!)
  25. Clean your make-up brushes
  26. Sort out your make-up stash into categories; eyes, lips, cheek, base etc. And discard anything that'll be past its 12 month use-by date!
  27. Check for diary for upcoming birthday and start thinking of gift ideas (tip: no better time to support small businesses!)
  28. Get the washing line out of storage. Spruce it up ready for giving the tumble dryer a season off!
  29. Wash the car inside and out. Freshen up for when it can be used again!
  30. Pour yourself a glass of bubbles pre-5pm. No judgement here! Celebrate how well you're embracing this period of self-isolation. I'll certainly be enjoying one on the 11th as it's my birthday! Cheers!
I hope this is a bit of inspo to keep you occupied in this coming month. Try to keep your spirits up and stay positive. I find "treating myself" is a great currency to help shift my mood so early nights, lay-ins, chocolate biscuits and pamper evenings are my go-to at the moment! And if all else fails, be sure to turn up some dancing tunes and get dancing around your kitchen!

READ MORE: Looking for recommendations? My Top 9 Must-Read recommendations here.

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