Weight loss, it’s a thing.

Aside from rigorously following Slimming World for eight months, people ask me how I lost 3.5 stone (three of which I tell myself were each of the BUBs’ fault, half a stone was the biscuits’ fault, but it’s probably the other way round).

What was the secret? It was this:

Individually-wrapped Moser Roth chocolate bars from Aldi. To be precise, and you do need to be, five 25 gram bars per packet, in a myriad of flavours. And Sauvignon Blanc. Measured into 125ml or 175ml glasses. Preferably this bottle from Aldi, or Brancott Estate or whatever I could lay my hands on.

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For me, it was most nights for the chocolate. If I wasn’t having wine then I could sometimes have two chocolate bars, depending on what else I’d had that day.

It was my ‘thing’. You need to have your ‘thing’.

Fortunately my ‘thing’ was also all the stuff you can have and indeed much of which there are no limits on: beans, potatoes, noodles, cous cous, fat-free dairy products, pasta, lean meat and fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit, rice, a sprinkle of cheese. MARMITE. Think every meal you’ve ever cooked, but loaded with more vegetables and cooked in less fat or oil. That’s dinner sorted.

There’s no tedious calorie counting and minimal weighing, just cheese, nuts, cereal and bread for me, which you’re allowed a little of each day. Fair enough. I ate huge plates of food when I was hungry and went back for more if I wanted.

The secret to not wanting all the 25g bars of chocolate in the packet is to make sure that you’re not hungry. Ever. It’s that easy. Keep eating the right stuff all day. Pile it high.

And that’s why diets that leave you hungry will never work. The chocolate (or whatever your ‘thing’ is) will always win.

And, sometimes the chocolate DOES win, even when you’re stuffed to the gills. The wine definitely has a knack of winning. That’s life, and the trick then is to just carry on the next day as if nothing has happened. It can be your dirty little secret.

It’s good to have those once in a while.

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Acrobat

We moved to a different room and a mobile scanner was wheeled in, and all the while I was mouthing to Willy Wonka, in a Les Dawson-style whisper “She isn’t, she won’t be, she’s not.” She was.

1525295_10152137411275428_1544226014_nDid I have any warning? None. Or did I? My third pregnancy had gone along much like BUB.1 and .2’s, uncomfortable but uneventful, plenty of galloping heartbeats, searing heartburn and reassuring scans.

And when she arrived she was a dream come true. A pink, bawling cherry on our cake. She just came in a different way than I expected. My two very swift previous births had been initiated by my waters breaking just like in the films. So on this day last year, when my waters broke at midday, I knew the course of events.

Until she pooed. I was obliged to show the midwife my baby’s very first poo (meconium), upon which she leapt up and said she needed to check something as it looked like the baby might be bottom down. How clever, I thought, to be able to “read foetus poo”, like a palm reader, but she’d got it wrong of course. All of my external examinations had shown bum up, head down, including the one two days previously, at my 40th week check.

We moved to a different room and a mobile scanner was wheeled in, and all the while I was mouthing to Willy Wonka, in a Les Dawson-style whisper “She isn’t, she won’t be, she’s not.”

She was.

I knew immediately that would mean a C-section, so I asked out loud and yes, it would be a C-section. They prefer it that way, it’s safer and frankly I’d not read enough about breech births (i.e. nothing) to be able to put forward a case against it or even query it. By now, my contractions were fierce and furious, and knowing my track record on deliveries, I urged them to move quickly.

I was a little gutted, because out of the whole experience I had found the pushing stage to be utterly exhilarating. I was sad to miss that moment when the animal instinct takes over, but I was also in pain, felt the urge to push and wanted BUB.3 to be safe.

So to theatre, and with Emeli Sandé’s ‘Clown’ playing on the hospital radio, our acrobatic daughter was born. The spinal block was administered with a heavy hand and reached my nose, so I could barely hold her, shaking like a leaf and heavily monitored for hours afterwards. It didn’t matter.

It was only days later that I remembered what had happened to me a week or so before the birth. We’d been sitting watching Breaking Bad, a pastime that dominated the latter part of this pregnancy, when baby started to move fiercely. For about an hour it was as if she was trying to break out of my stomach, the whole thing was surging, rising and falling.

I had been horrified by Google’s assertion that she probably had the cord caught around her neck and was trying to wriggle free. I told myself she was just active, getting impatient, stretching her legs. But I knew it had been something more than just regular movements.

It is only with hindsight that I am now 99 per cent certain she swivelled up into a breech position that night and the last person to check her, a junior doctor at my local GP surgery, had missed it. I guess a bum and a head feel quite similar?

I didn’t even know for sure if it was possible for a baby to move that late in pregnancy, but apparently they can. I’ll never know for sure if mine did.

And I’m sure it’s not the last time my daughter will assert her free will, shock the living daylights out of me, cause me inconvenience and pain and leave me a physical wreck.

But I’ll try to always remember the little pink face, the shock of black hair and that first shaking, awe-struck cuddle whenever she does.

Baby I don’t care

Everybody seems quite concerned about poor Kate being in labour while the world waits. But whether it’s day or night, hot or cold, once you’re in the zone, I think the sky could turn pink and small bananas could start raining down and you wouldn’t notice. I remember looking at the bag of neatly packed iPod speakers, cold compresses, hot water bottles, massage oils and other paraphernalia as merely a trip hazard during my first labour,

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Everbody seems quite concerned about poor Kate being in labour while the world waits.  Can she block it out? Will it add to the stress? And while I imagine the last few days have been a bit tense, with the media parked outside the hospital on stepladders, I also think that giving birth offers a miraculous buffer to the world around you.

Everyone’s experience is unique, of course, and I can only speak for myself, but whether it’s day or night, hot or cold, once you’re in the zone, I think the sky could turn pink and small bananas could start raining down and you wouldn’t notice. I remember looking at the bag of neatly packed iPod speakers, cold compresses, hot water bottles, massage oils and other paraphernalia as merely a trip hazard during my first labour, as I strode around the room fighting excruciating contractions. As you do.

The outside world, the last few months, the worries and concerns, all tend to take a back seat as you become immersed in the process of giving birth. Of course it’s all consuming, as your body takes you to realms of pain you could never before imagine and behaves in an incredibly autonomous and powerful way. You can buy a 100% cotton black birthing wrap dress, get your nails done, dye your eyelashes, carefully pick out the cutest first baby outfit, but on the day, you won’t care about any of those things. If you’re famous, the media might, the magazine readers might, but you won’t.

We all know how birth plans fly out of the window, and they do, and they might as well, literally. Your entire being is giving birth in whatever way your body sees fit. There is nothing else.  And as Kate doesn’t know the gender yet, she might find the moment she first sees the baby or someone tells her the gender, her reaction is one of shock.  Mine was this: “Oh! I forgot about that too!”

The female body is an amazing thing during birth, however hard or straightforward it is, and whatever way the baby is delivered. The experience inside the mother’s head  is hard to describe but I don’t think it involves much concern for those camped outside the door.

Sand between your what?

Every time we take a bath together Bub.1 points to my décolletage and asks “Is that sand?” No son, it is the cruel effect of six years of Australian sunshine.

Every time we take a bath together Bub.1 points to my décolletage and asks “Is that sand?” No son, it is the cruel effect of six years of Australian sunshine.

I wasn’t too rigorous with my sun protection during my Aussie years, something that I bitterly regret. In fact, it was when on new year’s eve 2006 that I leaned in towards the mirror to apply lipstick and caught sight of something resembling Judith Chalmer’s upper lip that I decided to move back to the UK (sure there were other factors like acute homesickness and escalating debt but the ruched skin swung it).

There is a certain crepiness about my temples now that there is nothing I can do about. And my son asks me if he can dig sandcastles out of my chest. During both my pregnancies I suffered hyperpigmentation (or the “mask of pregnancy” as it is sometimes known), an affliction I am yet to shift and I am sure has something to do with previous sun damage.  So if there was one piece of beauty advice I’d give to my 16-year-old self, it would be to wear sunscreen every day.

That and put the hotbrush DOWN.