Author Archives: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne Rose

About Suzanne Rose

Dubliner Suzanne Rose went to London in 2001 for a Primal Scream gig and never came home. Today she lives in Brighton with husband Gary and is full-time mum to daughters Mia and Sylvie.

Morning Sickness

I need to get a rant out of my system, and it’s about the greatest pregnancy misnomer there is: morning sickness.

I was in work one day, about 6 weeks pregnant with my first baby and feeling fine, when I was suddenly hit by violent waves of nausea. I lay down in a meeting room for a while, but eventually picked myself up and walked out of the office. I didn’t return for 10 weeks. Instead, I lay in bed quaking with sickness, consuming nothing but Lucozade and crackers. Vomiting actually brought blessed relief from the nausea, for a few minutes at least.

Think back to the worst hangovers of your life – you know the sweaty, fat-tongued ones where you’re afraid to move your head in case you puke down the wall, where you can’t even contemplate bacon and Coke, and the merest chink of light makes your eyeballs explode? Now imagine that for 24 hours a day, for weeks and weeks on end. This is what they daintily call ‘morning sickness’.

This offensive term is constantly used in the press, on parenting blogs, in books – EVERYWHERE – and is a complete load of bollocks. For a start, most expectant mothers I’ve known actually experience their nausea in the evenings, when energy levels are low and exhaustion takes its toll. Some women – Kate Middleton being a famous example – are even admitted to hospital suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum – or to use the technical term: dehydration from relentless spewing.

Yet some women don’t experience pregnancy sickness at all. There is no medical explanation for it, it’s just ‘one of those things’. I was simply one of the unlucky ones. What makes it even more difficult is that it generally peaks during those first 12 weeks when you’re not supposed to divulge your pregnancy to anyone, or when you don’t have a big belly to wave in people’s faces on the bus to get a seat. Most women have to just suffer in silence, getting by with an office desk drawer full of Ritz crackers and frequent trips to the toilet. One friend of mine nearly crashed her car en route to work as she screeched onto the hard shoulder, opened the door and barfed into the road. Amazingly, she wasn’t pulled up for drink driving.

But my main gripe is with the genius who coined this phrase and the massive disservice they have done pregnant women. It implies that those of us who couldn’t get out of bed, who couldn’t even walk into our own kitchens for fear of smelling food, are weak, maybe milking it a bit to get some attention and time off work. Believe me, I’d have loved nothing more than to feel good and enjoy my first pregnancy. Instead, I was forced to waste nearly one-third of it feeling like shite when I should have been out enjoying my last months of freedom.

So please, newspaper and magazine editors, people of the world in general, can we start calling it pregnancy sickness?

Did you suffer from pregnancy sickness, and what helped you cope? Do share with us!

de84afd2b6cc725ba979cd36109aaae0

Why I Opted For A Caesarean

The birth of my first daughter, Mia, in 2010 was traumatic – a long, long labour, being rushed into theatre for an emergency forceps delivery, then an interminable, painful recovery period. The whole thing left me emotionally and physically scarred. Imagine, if you will, running a marathon for two days, while being beaten up, then chucking your fanny into a blender. And so, when I got pregnant again two years later, the first thing I announced at my midwife appointment was: ‘This time, I am having a Caesarean’.

Requesting major surgery may seem masochistic, but for me it was the only way that baby was going to come out. With Mia, I had done all the ‘right things’ to prepare for a natural birth – yoga, ante-natal classes, I’d read every book going. I was going to breathe the baby out with just gas and air to take the edge off – oooh, maybe even under water! – then go home the next day. Instead, I found myself in a very scary situation completely beyond my control.

I live in England, where we are incredibly lucky to have the National Health Service. However, the NHS doesn’t just hand out Caesareans to anyone without good reason, and neither should it. If every first-time mother was given the option, I imagine many would opt to have their baby whisked out via the sun-roof and avoid the ridiculous agony of contractions. I had some convincing to do. My community midwife remembered me from the last time (she examined me weeks after giving birth and actually winced – this is a woman who has been up close and personal with ladygardens for the best part of three decades, so mine must have been in ribbons). She felt I had made the right choice. Despite her support, I had to then discuss my labour story with another midwife/counsellor (more trauma) in order to get referral to a consultant, who I then had to also convince I would settle for nothing less than a C-section. Gallons of tears later, I was finally given a date for the operation.

The day of Sylvie’s birth was incredible and every detail is seared on my memory. My husband and I jumped on the bus, headed to the labour ward and casually announced I was there to, you know, have a baby. In the distance, I could hear the howling of women in labour, and I felt like such a cheat. For the couple of hours while we waited, I wondered why should I get special treatment, when metres away women were doing it the ‘right way’. But when I walked into the very same operating theatre where Mia had been pulled out under such stressful circumstances, I mentally patted myself on the back for sticking to my guns.

The spinal went in and I lay down, and straightaway started to feel weightless, like I was floating in warm melted chocolate. (I don’t know what’s in that stuff but there are days now where I’d be happy to take it recreationally – that and pethidine.) The anaesthetist sat by my head on one side (my husband on the other) and she talked me through what was happening. And everything happened so fast. ‘The incision is being made. Ok, here comes one shoulder. And … another shoulder … the head is out. HERE’S BABY!’ And when the surgeon lifted Sylvie up, she cried and so did my husband and I.

My decision to have a C-section is the best I’ve ever made. When Mia was born, I was scared and exhausted to the point of hallucination. I didn’t feel much when they handed her to me, apart from ‘oh she’s cute … can I please have a can of Coke and a sleep now?’ But with Sylvie’s birth, I remember every detail with such clarity. I felt that longed-for rush of euphoria – I fell in love, movie-style – which I hadn’t experienced with Mia. And another huge positive was that my husband felt so included in the whole experience. He sat there beside me, the staff included him in every conversation we had that morning, and he was the first to hold Sylvie. With Mia’s birth, he was so terrified at the speed with which I had gone from trying to push her out to being whisked into theatre, he nearly passed out.

The reason I wanted to share my birth story is because I want to reassure women that opting for a C-section, or being told you need an elective section, is not the cheat’s or loser’s option. I really don’t like the term ‘natural birth’ when referring solely to vaginal deliveries, as for me my C-section felt entirely natural. I am so glad I gave birth this way – it helped me to draw a line underneath Mia’s birth, and I hope anyone nervous – indeed, unhappy – about a pending elective section can console themselves that can they can be really beautiful experiences.

Suzanne

Preparing Toddlers For A New Baby

When I volunteered to write this piece, it didn’t dawn on me for a while that, actually, you can’t really prepare them at all. Sure, you can explain that Mummy has a baby in her tummy. They can help you choose new baby clothes and tiny little nappies. They can help to dust off the Moses basket, baby bath and pram, and help to pack the hospital bag. They can even, as mine did, come to midwife appointments to hear the baby’s heartbeat. But the reality of you actually coming home with a new baby in your arms, well as my mother put it ‘imagine how you would have felt, Suzanne, if Gary just moved a new woman into the house and you had no choice but to put up with it.’

So here is my advice – not so much on preparing them, but on damage limitation before and after the baby arrives. It’s from my own experience (I had a second baby when my daughter was two and a half), plus some helpful tips I gleaned from friends.

First of all – and I only realise what good a tip this is in hindsight – don’t make too big a deal of the pregnancy. Well-meaning people will constantly ask your toddler ‘are you excited about being a big brother/sister?’ and ‘won’t it be BRILLIANT having a baby to play with?’ Well, no, it won’t. Because newborns do absolutely nothing for a good few months except glue themselves to Mummy’s boobs, cry and poo. From a toddler’s perspective, they are completely boring and pointless. So play it all down a bit and be honest with your toddler – tell them that babies cry all the time and that Mummy will be really tired and have to hold the baby a lot. If they’re expecting Christmas morning with fireworks and a massive chocolate cake on top, they’ll be sorely disappointed.

When the baby has arrived and you’re back home, one key thing for us was keeping our daughter’s routine exactly the same. If they go to crèche, keep sending them (if money permits). Do all the playgroups and usual stuff you normally do. Stick with the same mealtimes and bedtime. The baby will just have to come along for the ride. Toddlers love routine and despise change, so try your utmost to keep things as consistent as possible. I fondly remember reading my toddler her bedtime story and even tucking her into bed with one hand while breastfeeding the baby.

Another key thing is allowing the toddler to get involved. Let them help you change nappies, feed the baby their milk, bring them toys, give them cuddles. Try not to be too precious about the new baby – we all handle our firstborns as if they’re bone china, but a few rough cuddles won’t kill them. It’s important for the toddler to feel included and that they’re a brilliant help. I very quickly trained my toddler to bring me babywipes, nappies, Sudocrem and a nice cup of tea whenever I needed them (ok not the last one) and she loved, and still does love, helping out.

It’s also good to try to set aside time for just you and the toddler. Let someone else take the baby off your hands and do something fun with your little pal. It reassures them that they’re still hugely important in your life, even though for the time being you can’t give them as much attention as you’d like.

I tried to prepare my daughter for the new baby’s arrival and she seemed cool with it, telling everyone that my bump was ‘little sister’. Cute. All good. But when I came home from hospital, what I wasn’t expecting was how horribly insecure it made her. She had nightmares every night for months and would consequently refuse to go to bed. She invented a ‘sore foot’ that made her cry for hours (there was nothing wrong with her foot). She wanted me, and only me, to do absolutely everything for her, from talking her down after a nightmare to changing her nappies. It was exhausting and I was riddled with guilt.

But that was months ago and now, things are brilliant. The two girls adore each other and my toddler is back to her lovely, happy self. And if you, like me, are an older sibling, just remember this – none of us are permanently damaged as a result of new siblings coming along. I would wager that nobody can even remember what life was like beforehand. It was the hardest time of my life but now, when I see my two daughters rolling around on the carpet breaking their sides laughing at something only they know about, it was all worth it.

 

Suzanne and girls

Recipe: Easiest Ever Flapjacks

Here’s a really simple and delicious flapjack recipe that I turn to regularly. I often add different flavours to the mix for a bit of variety – lemon or orange zest, a teaspoon of cinnamon or dried fruit all work brilliantly.

flapjacks265g porridge oats

150g soft brown sugar

165g unsalted butter

1 tbsp golden syrup

Line an 8 x 10” baking tray with greaseproof paper and pre-heat the oven to fan 180C. Tip the porridge oats into a bowl. Melt the sugar, butter and golden syrup over a low heat until combined, then tip into the oats and mix well. Press the mixture into the tin and bake for 15 minutes until golden on top. The flapjacks will be very soft at first but don’t worry – they firm up as they cool down.

REVIEW: A Rosette for Maeve and Colm’s Lambs by Anna McQuinn

ARosetteforMaeveWritten in association with the Irish Farmers Journal, these two books – set in the fictional Glenmore Valley – offer a glimpse into what life is really like for a child growing up in a small Irish rural community. A Rosette for Maeve tells the story of nine-year-old Lisa O’Sullivan, who lives on a beef farm with her family. When Lisa is given the exciting task of showing a new calf at the Glenmore Valley Show, she has just a few days to learn how to train, groom and handle a Belgian Blue called Maeve, a boisterous bovine who fancies herself as a bit of a supermodel. It’s a sweet, simple tale about how a young girl deals with responsibility and is dotted with educational facts about calves which knowledge-hungry kids will enjoy.

While A Rosette for Maeve is light-hearted, Colm’s Lambs has a darker edge. It is lambing season on the O’Connor sheep farm, and eight-year-old Colm is helping his farmer Dad deliver the ColmsLambsbabies. When one of the lambs dies, Colm remains pragmatic yet pensive, whereas two visiting children from Dublin are utterly distraught at the notion of an animal dying. The reality of farming life is laid more bare in this book – Colm’s Dad is exhausted after pulling lambing all-nighters, and one poor newborn is abandoned by its mother – so it would be a good choice for a child who is bored of sugar-coated stories and fancies something a bit more emotionally challenging.

Both books are illustrated with charming watercolours by Paul Young and my three-year-old daughter, while too young to understand the content, really enjoyed looking at the pictures and making up her own story! Boys and girls from the age of six upwards will enjoy the Glenmore Valley series – be they from the country or a city – and will look forward to finding out more about the valley’s other residents, from Geraldine Brosnan the vet to the art-loving Caffrey family who run the local cafe.

To order either of these books, please visit the O’Brien Press Website

 

We are family – I got all my sistas with me!

I am sitting in the living room, ploughing chocolate bourbons into my face while my 2.5-year-old has an apocalyptic, unbridled shit fit on the other side of the door, all because she wants me to re-enact, word for word, an episode of Charlie and Lola that I haven’t even bloody SEEN. Meanwhile, my napping four-month-old wakes prematurely, starts to scream and I’m thinking – God, wouldn’t it be great to drop the kids off at Mum’s place tomorrow while I sit in a dark, quiet room for a few hours.
Except I can’t, because in 2001 I left Dublin and moved to the UK. I only came over for a New Year’s Eve piss-up, for God’s sake, but twelve years later find myself still here, married to a Londoner – who I have twice allowed to get me knocked up – and I’m now a stay-at-home mother living in Brighton. And it’s at times like this, when the racket from the hallway hits such a crescendo I’m waiting for social services to turn up, that I look mournfully at my snot/puke/milk-covered trackie bottoms and really miss my family.
Yet I’m definitely not alone – certainly not in the ‘when-did-my-cute-toddler-turn-into-Satan’ thing – but in that my husband and I are effectively raising our children alone, without the blessed presence of family around the corner. As with many, many young families these days, there’s no parent, sibling or cousin to swoop in unconditionally and help out when the situation gets desperate, and the irony of it all isn’t lost on me – I couldn’t wait to get out of Dublin and put space between us, and now I’d probably sell a kidney to have Mum live here too.
Out of the ante-natal group we attended before the birth of our first daughter, only one of the six women had family also living in Brighton. The rest of us had gravitated here from all over the UK – in my case a different island entirely. We were all about to embark on the single hardest thing we had ever done and, I believe, because we all knew that none of us could crawl, weeping and milky, to our Mums’ houses in those hideous post-partum weeks, we all turned to one another and became the firmest of friends.
After the initial shyness of those classes, which no matter how cosy they try to make them ALWAYS feel like an AA meeting, all the mums-to-be met up for brunch. We waddled into a café like a line of geese and, before the coffee even arrived, had covered such mouth-watering topics as perineal massage, varicose veins in unspeakable places (guys, you don’t want to know) and tits with more lines than a Tube map. ‘So apparently you poo yourself when you start pushing, the midwife just wipes it away! Here, try the black pudding – it’s delish.’ That kind of thing. How could you not love them?
And after we all gave birth – the six babies arrived within nine days of each other – we would email and text each other all night during our interminable nocturnal feeding sessions. No correspondence, before or since, has ever made me feel more supported or made me cry laughing so much. ‘My fanny is in RIBBONS, my nipples are BLEEDING, and the PRICK is just lying there snoring again.’ Or ‘I finally felt brave enough to leave the house today. I got stuck in traffic, ran out of petrol, the dog shat all over the back seat and then I couldn’t work out how to get the FUCKING car seat into the buggy frame.’
Over the next 2.5 years, we have seen each other through teething, weaning, behavioural problems, marital strife, toilet training, financial woes, miscarriages, illness and broken bones. We have watched each other’s babies turn into toddlers, sharing in all the brilliant, magical stuff that comes with it. We’ve supported each other when some of us had to endure putting our kids into crèche to return to work. We have provided cake, tea (wine) and a sympathetic ear for each other more times than I care to imagine. Yes, we all have our other halves to talk to, but only a fellow mother can really understand what we’ve been through. The physical gorgeousness aside of pushing something the size of a grapefruit through your most intimate area, there are the hormones, the body image, the career sacrifices (for some of us anyway), the broodiness when you want a second one, despite the fact your fanny looks like a chewed orange from last time. Only your mum friends will get all that. And so, even though I miss my family like mad, I’m kind of glad I didn’t have them around. I know I would have gotten too comfortable sitting in Mum’s kitchen. I wouldn’t have been forced to get out there and meet these brilliant new people, who I’m sharing the adventure of my life with.
Suzanne with her away-from-home family. (L-R) Laura, Emily, Peigh, Suzanne, Clair and Harriet

Suzanne with her away-from-home family. (L-R) Laura, Emily, Peigh, Suzanne, Clair and Harriet