[personal profile] eye_of_a_cat
Emma's Diary is a fictional account of 'Emma's' pregnancy. It was written 'in assocation with the Royal College of General Practitioners', and it is/was sometimes handed out by GPs and midwives to pregnant women. I'm unclear whether it's still given out (I didn't get offered one).

It is also a company that really, really would like to have all your details to sell on to third parties. It isn't the only company that does this, or even the only company that claims a nominal association with the NHS that does this (but the Why Bounty Can Fuck Right Off rant is one for another day). So a big part of their business is getting you to sign up for their free packs of stuff!, in response for which you will get spammed and junk mailed to kingdom come by all sorts of companies, including at one point formula milk companies (oops, NHS), who have in many cases continued to contact women whose babies have died during pregnancy with things like offers for newborn photography services because you're on the list now and they have your due date right there in a database. Their stuff is free to pregnant women, because pregnant women aren't the customers - we are the product being sold.

Anyway! So all of this hangs off Emma's actual diary itself, which claims to describe 'the highs and lows of pregnancy and being a mum', and - again - to have been written in collaboration with the RSGP. So it should be useful, right?

Ha.

Here is Emma's Diary, so you can see what you think.

It starts at Week 6. (Pregnancy weeks are counted from the start of the woman's last period, so approximately 2 weeks before actual conception. This still seems insane to me, but I cannot blame Emma for this one.)

Week 6 - I'm going to have a baby!

I’m pregnant! I’m really pregnant! I can’t believe it - I’m going to be a mum! I’m so excited and just slightly terrified! I knew something was up as my period was two weeks late, which has happened before, but this time it just felt totally different. I had the whole classic run-up to my period - being grouchy, spotty chinned with an achy stomach - but then nothing happened, which I thought was dead weird.


I had already known for two weeks by this point, after what I thought was a really bad hangover didn't go away for three days, so I am already annoyed with Emma for not having spent the preceding two weeks green, puking and feeling like total death.

I was going to play it cool when Nick came home, but as soon as he came in the door I had to tell him - I was too excited to pretend. He looked stunned for a minute, then he gave me a huge hug and a big kiss! We spent the rest of the evening going ‘We’re going to have a baby’ and ‘You’re going to be a mum/dad’ to each other. We decided to keep it a secret and promised not to tell anyone until I’ve got to eight weeks.

And a whole sad cohort of women who've had miscarriages cringe in unison. Again, this isn't really Emma's fault - most detectable pregnancies won't miscarry, there is no point in freaking pregnant women out unnecessarily, and anyway Emma and Nick are fictional and we know nothing bad's going to happen to them - but man, pregnancy = baby is a connection you don't make quite so lightly the next time.

The next day I got a bit freaked out thinking back to how much I’d drunk before I knew I was pregnant - in the last few weeks I’ve been to a mate’s 30th birthday party (a bit drunken) and a family barbecue (Dad got carried away with the white wine) - but when I saw my GP, Dr Laird, she reassured me.

Emma gets a couple of points here for not being picture perfect (although NHS England and Wales advice is that you can drink lightly during pregnancy without harm; NHS Scotland says no alcohol at all), although Emma's Diary fails to detail exactly how Dr Laird reassured her, which would have been useful. Emma should read Emily Oster's Expecting Better, which gives actual data on all the vague scaremongering aimed at pregnant women. Okay, maybe Dr Laird couldn't give all that detailed advice to Emma at a short GP appointment - but c'mon, Emma. Make an effort here. Give us some actual information.

Week 7 - Hmm, I feel really weird

I’ve been getting loads more strange pregnancy niggles - not only am I dead tired, I’ve started to get a strange metallic taste in my mouth and my nose has gone into overdrive making everything smell really, really, strong. I even went to put on my usual perfume the other morning and it made me feel sick - very bizarre.


At seven weeks, I was in Paris for a conference, for which I'd foolishly booked an extra few days in the hotel for a holiday before getting pregnant. On the one hand: Yay! Paris! But on the other, oh God it sucked. I was hellishly sick, away from home, and bleeding - which can happen in pregnancy and not be a problem (and was fine, it later turned out) but which I was pretty sure equalled INSTANT DOOM because, well, blood.

But there was not much I could do, away from home anyway. There wouldn't have been much I could do even at home - if you're miscarrying at seven weeks, there's nothing anyone can do to stop it. And so it didn't seem worth navigating the Parisian medical system with my patchy French, and I was determined to see Paris, dammit, no matter how ill or panicky I felt. Which is how I ended up leaning against a lot of walls in the Louvre, trying not to puke or sob over great works of art.

So anyway, I can testify to Emma's super-smell thing and the hellish metallic taste, but I would have given my firstborn child (kidding!) for her 'strange pregnancy niggles' instead of my own. (For the record, catacombs smell fine; bottled water smells putrid.)

My pregnancy zonked-out feeling is doing its best to make things difficult at work. I’m trying to carry on as normal but everyone keeps asking me why I look so washed out - so much for this pregnancy ‘bloom’ I’ve been reading about! I kept mumbling something about a dodgy stomach bug to anyone who asked but I don’t think that’ll work for long, so I might have to tell my boss, Susan, soon. I just hope she’s OK with my news.

By seven-and-a-half weeks, I was off work altogether, unable to eat or drink pretty much anything, and spending most of my time lying curled up on the lawn because sitting up took too much energy and moving my head made me want to die. On the plus side, though, nobody at work guessed! (Also, Emma - your boss had bloody better be 'OK with my news', if she wants to avoid an industrial tribunal.)

By Friday night it all got a bit too much - I think it was a mix of feeling knackered and totally stressed, plus all those pregnancy hormones racing around my body - and when I got home from work I had an attack of the weepies. I was worrying about whether I’d be a good mum, if I’d feel as bad as this all through my pregnancy and how I’d cope with actually giving birth all at once!

And at this point I really did feel sorry for Emma, because I know that bone-deep misery and 'oh God I can't even cope with this how am I going to cope with anything else' feeling all too well, and it is really good to see some acknowledgement that women can really, really struggle with pregnancy, maybe Dr Laird will even give her some advice on prenatal depression if this keeps up, that would be really useful for -

Thankfully, I was perked up by Nick coming home with a huge bunch of flowers and some yummy chocolates.

Oh well that's okay then.

Week 8 - Uh-oh! Rubbish start to the week

I spent the first half of the week really stressed out. It’s my own stupid fault for flicking through every single pregnancy book and magazine, and searching the internet to read all these scary statistics about the number of pregnancies that end in miscarriage. I knew that if anything happened it wouldn’t be down to anything I’d done, but it was still hard to think happy thoughts about the baby with facts like that lurking at the back of my mind.


Points awarded for pointing out that miscarriages aren't due to anything the woman does (although Emma does spend the rest of this week's entry freaking out that chocolate mousse and sex will cause one, even so). Points taken away again for the overarching lesson of 'don't read anything about miscarriage because it will only scare you, you don't need any actual facts here, put it all out of your mind so you can think happy thoughts about the baby!'

Week 9 - I've had to come clean

I had to come clean to Susan about the pregnancy. It was that or pretend I had glandular fever! She was dead nice about it, congratulated me and told me to check with personnel about my maternity benefits. They told me that I could take 52 weeks maternity leave (wahey!) and that I’d be paid for 39 of these weeks. Then they went on about the forms I needed to give them and told me the earliest I could start my maternity leave was 29 weeks.


Actual information! Well done, Emma. And I am not even the teeniest bit jealous because my employers are [not discussing this without friendslock]. This is UK law on maternity leave/pay, although 'paid for 39 of those weeks' means statutory maternity pay, not (usually) your usual salary. Employers can top this up as they choose. (Emma, if you're actually on full pay for those 39 weeks, your employers are angels and you should never ever quit.)

After the official stuff was done and dusted, I snuck off for lunch with Ranaa - it was such a relief to tell her at last! We had a long chat about all things pregnancy, and I told her she’s going to be my official guru as she has got two kids - Rajesh, who’s three and Jahanaara who’s only 10 months. She has even promised to let me come round and practise changing nappies.

Nice one, Ranaa. "And next week, we can practise night feeds!"

Seeing as I’d spilled the beans at work, Nick and I felt it was only fair to spend the evening ringing his parents and all our mates to tell them about the baby. It was great to go public at last, as although it had been nice keeping it a secret, it somehow makes it seem more real now that other people know, too.

I don't think women should have to keep pregnancies secret until the second trimester. Tell whenever you like. And maybe miscarriages would be talked about more if women didn't feel like announcing pregnancies before 12 weeks would somehow anger the Miscarriage Fairy. But man, Emma, you're addressing the nation here; maybe take into account that miscarriages aren't just Scary Internet Tales before you gleefully tell us all how much fun it was to phone round all your mates, at nine weeks?

Week 10 - Had to take time off work

Woke up on Monday morning feeling fluey with a really killer headache. I’d heard that I shouldn’t take any medication in the first trimester unless it has been prescribed by my GP, so I just drank loads of water and went back to bed feeling very sorry for myself. The next day I was still hot and shivery, so I went to see Dr Laird who found out I’d got a urine infection and gave me some antibiotics to clear it up.

So I don't usually make a habit of wishing urine infections on fictional characters, but I am kind of glad Emma had to go through something miserable, not counting the nausea (and honestly, if you're describing chocolates as 'yummy' at your miserable tearful worst you're not doing that goddamn badly).

Felt almost human by Thursday, so I went back to work determined to stay fit and healthy. My plan is to be good and drink two litres of water or fruit juice each day and stop being such a caffeine junky - which means no tea and coffee or the odd sneaky can of cola in the afternoon.

I was determined to stay fit and healthy to start with, too. Then the sickness took hold and I recalibrated my expectations somewhat, and now I am living off Coke. Hey, it has calories and fluids! Come preach to me about your daily two litres of water when you can't even keep down a mouthful of the stuff, Emma.

Also, while I know that as a nation we could generally eat and drink more healthily, general moralising over food and drink ('be good', 'sneaky can of cola') really annoys me, and it doesn't help that it gets turned way up in volume during pregnancy. You can have a cup of tea, Emma; the baby won't rat on you to the pregnancy police.

On Sunday, Nick and I were going to sit down and talk about grown-up, sensible things like what we’re going to do for money after the birth and how we were going to look after the baby, but we ending up arguing about baby names instead.

Can we afford the rent on this place on statutory maternity pay? How much does childcare cost around here? If one of us has to give up work, can we afford that? Oh, who cares, that kind of talk is just no fun at all! Let's debate the merits of 'Chloe' instead!

Week 11 - Guess what i found out today?

Chocolate is good to eat in pregnancy! Well, kind of, anyway. At work Ranaa was reading out an article in the paper saying that if pregnant women were having trouble getting enough iron, dark chocolate is one way to up your level. OK, so it said chomping more green vegetables and cereals each day was a more sensible option, of course. Mind you, chocolate is about the last thing I feel like eating at the moment. My sicky feeling has got worse and some days I’ve been throwing up in the mornings - which can make breakfast meetings at work a bit tricky! Everyone is full of advice, but if I hear one more person say that I should try ginger biscuits for morning sickness I will scream - when I feel that bad nothing will stay down, not even a whole blinkin’ packet of ginger nuts.


PREACH IT, EMMA, because here I cannot disagree. The current research on ginger is that there is some evidence it works, in strong doses (so not ginger biscuits), for mild nausea. Anything beyond that - nope. And yet, everyone goddamn tells you to try it. (My own theory on the ginger evangelism is that 'ginger' is actually a street name for cocaine, and everyone knows that but me.)

However, I’ve devised my own tactics to make me feel better - eating a banana when I wake up starving at night, or first thing in the morning, seems to help calm my dodgy stomach. Also, not eating and drinking at the same time seems to help too, along with drinking bubbly drinks like lemonade or mineral water.

My own tactic is the anti-sickness drugs they give to chemotherapy patients. They kind of work, most of the time.

As for the baby, after much thought I’ve decided to call it ‘Flump’ because I’m fed up of saying ‘it’ or ‘he’ or ‘she’ all the time and I reckon Flump could quite happily suit a girl or a boy. Nick thinks that I’ve officially gone bonkers, but I know I’m not the only one - Dominique has started calling her baby ‘Monkey’ which is even more weird.

Mine is known alternately as 'the baby', 'cute alien parasite thing' and 'evil little bastard'. What's wrong with 'it', anyway?

More in Part 2, coming up whenever I can stop rolling my eyes at the cutesy illustrations.

2013-10-17 16:55 (UTC)
- Posted by [identity profile] vettecat.livejournal.com
Yeah, the counting-from-the-period thing seemed weird to me too. The whole "due date" is much vaguer than most people realize. Makes it near impossible to actually plan, which is very frustrating if you're someone who likes to plan things (ahem).

I'm sorry you're still getting hit with the nausea but I hope the drugs are helping at least somewhat.

Don't have time to go through and comment on the rest in detail, but I also occasionally referred to the proto-baby as "the parasite." Less as it became more human-looking on the ultrasounds, though.

2013-10-18 11:26 (UTC)
- Posted by [identity profile] eye-of-a-cat.livejournal.com
Thank you. The drugs are helping a bit - still not great but at least functioning now. 20-week scan was earlier thus week, and it's amazing how human it looms in there already.

2013-10-18 11:06 (UTC)
- Posted by [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
Excellent snarking that was very much deserved! That article tells you so much about how the medical profession views women, doesn't it, and the weird way our culture infantilises mothers in particular. Have people started referring to you as "mum" yet?

I too laughed at the "killer headache" requiring no more than going back to bed and feeling sorry for yourself.

I can explain the business with counting back from your last period. Women's menstrual cycles can vary quite a bit, and the part of the cycle which is variable is the part that comes before ovulation. Pregnancy should really be counted from ovulation, but unless you are tracking your fertility (and if you are doing so, using the sympto-thermal method or ovulation predictor kits or what have you, they will flatly refuse to believe you) then you don't know when you ovulated. So your last period is the nearest thing they can use, and they seem to forget that women don't all have textbook 28 day cycles (NB it should really be 29, but never mind). If you don't know when you ovulate, then the best method is to take the average length of your menstrual cycle and subtract 14 from that. If your cycles vary wildly, this may still be inaccurate. I've heard stories of women being made to worry throughout their pregnancy because they were told the ultrasound showed the baby as being too small for its age, or being induced because the baby was supposedly late, just because they ovulated a week or so later than the doctors had been assuming. The latest I've ever ovulated is day 27 of my cycle, instead of day 14 as they all assume, and I only have mildly irregular cycles!

By the way, I can't remember whether I've told you already, but these maternity bras are excellent. I live in them as they're the only ones I can wear comfortably with all the fibro pain, particularly as they are nice and stretchy around the ribs. No idea whether you're into maternity bra territory yet, but I know how much I hate having anything constrictive in that area when I'm nauseous.
Edited 2013-10-18 11:11 (UTC)

2013-10-18 11:45 (UTC)
- Posted by [identity profile] eye-of-a-cat.livejournal.com
I know, dude :) Believe me, I know alllll about ovulation and cycle lengths. (Although I have the world's most predictable - 28-day cycles with ovulation on day 14.) What puzzles me is why the count is from the start of your period, not from the start of your period+14, which would mean counting from the same average point but make a hell of a lot more sense.

I've heard stories of women being made to worry throughout their pregnancy because they were told the ultrasound showed the baby as being too small for its age, or being induced because the baby was supposedly late, just because they ovulated a week or so later than the doctors had been assuming.

My experience of this is the more other way round - they will take the dating from the ultrasound, and before that point your dates are considered vague and wooly no matter how sure you are. Frustrating at best; downright agonising with the first loss, when I was measuring 2 weeks behind at an early scan (pretty definitely bad news at early stages) and being told "oh it's probably fine, cycles vary, you probably just ovulated late" even though I was 100% sure of my dates and told them so. Sigh. And then with this one my dates were even more untrustworthy because your cycles take a while to settle after a loss, so the 12-week dating scan went something like this:
"So how far along do you think you are?"
"12+3."
"Okay, so about 12, 13 weeks?"
"12+3."
"All right, let's take a look at this measurement and - ah, well done. 12+3 exactly!"
*smug*

2013-10-18 12:15 (UTC)
- Posted by [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
What puzzles me is why the count is from the start of your period, not from the start of your period+14, which would mean counting from the same average point but make a hell of a lot more sense.

I'm guessing it's because a) the period is a reference point everyone understands, and b) It's Always Been Done That Way.

They really don't like to believe women who know when they got pregnant, do they? Women who do Fertility Awareness Method charting all talk about how, if you go in with your chart showing a nice clear temperature rise, cervical signs, ovulation predictor kit, the works, they will get all disapproving and insist on dating it from your last period. God forbid that women should know how their own bodies work. So said women pass the word amongst themselves to lie. Take when you ovulated, subtract 14 days, and tell them that's when you started your last period.

Going back to Emma and her well-deserved UTI, the number of exclamation marks in that little diary is making me shudder. And my god, the fussing about her appearance and girlish giggling about chocolate! The body image stuff is just awful, and it's nonsense to say that you can't get pretty bras in larger sizes - you can get gorgeous bras going up to a K cup these days, for heaven's sakes, and there are some really pretty maternity bra ranges too. Also what is this thing she has about refusing to let her husband so much as see her body, let alone have physical contact with it?

R and I were having a good snark at it last night, and we both really enjoyed your take on it.

2013-10-18 12:19 (UTC)
- Posted by [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
Happy pills? Happy pills? This is run by the NHS and they are putting in derogatory comments about people using medication to treat mental illness?

(From Week 19, when she is moaning about what she considers to be massive interference from her mother-in-law.)

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