Wednesday, 30 January 2013

5 things they forgot to tell you about pregnancy

As you look at that thin blue line and prepare yourself for the next eight months you expect a little morning sickness, maybe a bit of exhaustion, but really you're looking forward to that pregnancy 'glow' everyone keeps talking about and the opportunity to put your feet up. But what of everything else? All the things everyone conveniently 'forgets' to tell you? I take a look at five things that might catch you by surprise as you prepare for your bundle of joy.

1. Suddenly EVERYONE is an expert
Even the ones that have never had children! They'll look at you, they size you up, they automatically know exactly how far along you are and whether you're too big or too small for your gestation. They'll ask how you are, but don't bother answering, they already know. If you say you're fine, they'll nod sympathetically as if to say 'It's ok dear, you don't need to put on a brave face.' They know whether you're having a boy or a girl, they know how big he'll be, they know exactly what method of pain relief you should use and they're also very keen to tell you how crap your local GP / Midwife / Labour Ward is. Avoid these people at ALL costs. They are mostly wrong and mostly annoying. Every pregnancy is different, learn to sift out the wise advice and discard the rest. And Google NOTHING, you'll only panic.

2. You will receive no professional help or advice whatsoever until you reach 20 weeks
As far as your GP or midwife is concerned, until you've had that all important 20 week scan you're pretty low down the priority list (unless you're medically high-risk). They don't understand that to you, this is the biggest deal in the history of the world. They also don't seem to understand that you have no idea what you're doing, what to expect or what is normal. I saw a midwife three times in the first 27 weeks of my pregnancy and at no point was I asked 'How are you feeling?' or 'Would you like to ask me anything?' So be pushy. If you have questions, make sure you push for answers. Those first few weeks when you have the most questions, when you're still getting used to things, write them down and whip out that list as soon as you sit down at your next appointment. Forget being polite and waiting for the opportunity. It won't come. Push for answers until you're reassured about everything that's worrying you.

3. Simple tasks will become increasingly difficult
Those things that you used to find so easy, that you never used to think about, will become incredibly hard. Think putting your socks on, talking on the phone whilst getting ready to go out, walking up stairs or trying to fit in a public toilet cubicle (we need those things the most and yet they are really not designed for bumps!). Suddenly you realise that daily tasks are not as easy any more. Think creatively, plan ahead. Our bedroom is on the second floor of our house, if I make it to the top, I have to sit down for half an hour before descending back down again. Consequently, in the morning I gather together everything I might need for the day and take it downstairs so that I don't have to make the trip more than necessary. If that's not possible, have a very accommodating husband on hand to run up and down for you.

4. You will need the toilet. Even you, bladder of steel!
I'm not normally one for needing the toilet. I'll go if the opportunity arises, but once every eight hours or so will suffice. I've even been known to fly trans-atlantic without using the facilities (ok, so I'm scared of aeroplane toilets). Pregnancy, however, will require more trips to the toilet. My husband has joked that pregnancy has turned me into a 'normal' person, who now has the urge to go every four hours (is that normal?). The point is, you will need the toilet. Plan your movements with public toilets in mind. Because once you need it, you'll really need it, and unless those pelvic floor muscles have been working overtime (you are doing your exercises right?) you will regret it. Plan. Plan. Plan.

5. Poo talk. Get used to it.
There was a time when you were capable of perfectly intelligent conversation. You're an intellectual, witty and interesting person and so are your friends, right? Of course, except those friends aren't the ones you'll be spending most of your time with. You'll be spending time with other parents, they're the ones who have all the free time like you. So, be prepared to discuss the contents of nappies, sleeping patterns, bottle brands and other baby related things of importance. A LOT. In between times you might get a chance to ask an adult question, but then someone's baby will cry and attention will revert back to them. It's all about them (and rightly so!). Get used to it. Once yours comes along you will appreciate all of that information and advice, and you'll find yourself doing exactly the same thing. In the mean time, nod and smile, and remember, 'You've got all of this to look forward to' (as everyone will keep telling you).
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Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Feckless Student Hacks: A Word of Advice

On the 17th January 2013, Stefano Hatfield, editor of i - The Independent's bite-size sister paper - launched his iWriters competition: An open call for university students far and wide to write an opinion piece. The winning entry will be selected for print. Who knows where this could lead? Could the result be a new pool of fresh columnist talent?

It came as no surprise, however, to read Mr. Hatfield's comments at the close of the competition: 
"As ever, half the entries arrived in the last 24 hours. A few of you trailed in late with lame excuses, the worst of which being 'I didn't hear about it in time'. A deadline is a deadline, he says, staring daggers across the i newsroom trying to burn urgency into an un-named hack. Safe to say 'my wi-fi wasn't working' has become the 21st century 'the dog ate my homework'."
Now don't get me wrong, all 'creatives' - whether they be writers, artists or graphic designers - thrive under the pressure of a last minute deadline. We sit, waiting for that flash of inspiration, poring over sentence structure and semantics, we stare out of windows hoping to come up with the pun of the century. Our writing needs to communicate, engage and spark debate - we want it to be as perfect as it can be and we spend hours turning 450 words into a work of art.

But submitting a column to the editor of a national newspaper late? If I were him, those entries would be heading straight to the digital trash can unopened. Feckless students, don't you get it?

A national newspaper editor has conducted an open call-out. It's like an open audition in the acting world. He has asked you, yes you, though you have no experience or clippings to your name, to send him 450 words of your talent. Not only that, but he has committed himself to personally reading every. single. entry, however boring, inane or just plain rubbish. And from that he will select one entry, possibly yours, for print. If you're really good, and you catch his attention with real talent, you never know, he could offer you a job.

With all the mobile technology that we have access to, never has it been easier to file a column. If there are hacks in war zones filing columns on time, then you, in your student digs with your fibre optic broadband, iPads, mobile phones and laptops, can do it. Your WiFi isn't working? Go to Starbucks. There's one round the corner from you. They have FREE broadband. 

A word of advice to student journalists: The printer waits for no one. If you don't file on time, someone else will. If you see an open call out like this and you don't have time to do it justice and meet the deadline, don't enter. 

There will be other competitions. You could even take a step of courage and send a column in on spec saying you're a freelancer breaking into the world of opinion writing - but if the editor happens to remember your name as the idiot child who entered late with a lame 'dog ate my homework' type excuse, then you'll be incredibly lucky if he decides to take a chance on you. 

Grow up students, this is the real world.
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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Size Matters

New research has shown that we are 'heightest' when it comes to choosing our mate in life. Men like women who are shorter than them, and women like a man who is taller. It's true. I read it in the newspaper.

What I find more puzzling, however, is that a) this is news and b) somebody spent money researching this! I could have told them this! I could just look at my own experience and that of my friends, write a report and a top university research facility would have PAID me to do that?! I must secretly be a genius!

So, smart ass, I hear you cry, how exactly could you have drawn this conclusion without conducting years of academic research?

Well, my husband is a dizzy 6ft 2in. Myself? I am, what I like to call, a diminutive 4ft 11in. Yep, I never did quite stretch to that nice round number of 5. Shame.

I remember when I was 16 and an older, wiser lady asked me what I would look for in a husband. My immediate response? 'Well, of course he has to be over 6ft.' 'Really?', she asked. 'Of course, it's simple genetics. Then our kids stand a chance of being average.'

And I stand by that. My choice of husband has given baby girl here a fighting chance in life. She will never be left out of theme park rides. Never will she be asked at the age of 16 for ID to enter a rated 12 movie. She will never suffer the embarrassment of being confined to dish-washing because 'you're too short to waitress', or look at her wedding photos knowing that she's the one in 3 inch heels standing on a step... and I could tell many more stories but I might save those for a hilarious novel of sorts - Surviving Shortism in an Increasingly Tall World.

So yes, genetics.  Evidently my 5ft 2in mother did not foresee the consequences of marrying my 5ft 5in dad, but hey ho, a 4ft 11in daughter was the result. (My 5ft 3in MIL, on the other hand, chose wisely and married my 6ft 2in FIL, resulting in 3 strapping 6ft+ offspring... plus Steve, the eldest, who stopped growing at 5ft 10in - shameless underachiever that he is).

On my wedding day a 6ft tall female friend, who had not yet met my husband, scolded me for taking 'yet another' tall man off the market. Apparently ridiculously short women have a habit of doing this.

Of course when it comes to tall women, they don't opt for short men to balance out the genetics (unless, the report states, a big, fat wallet is involved). They want even taller men! They say it's so they can wear heels when out on a date but really I think genetics must play a part. After all, how else would human-kind keep churning out tall people to satisfy the demand created by short people?
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Friday, 18 January 2013

Rape: A Crime of Injustice

Last week we were confronted with the stats on the worryingly low rape convictions in the UK. It is believed that there are up to 95,000 rape victims each year, 15,000 were recorded by the police, just 2910 go to court and only 1070 are convicted*.

The Savile report told of more abuse whereby the wrong person was given too much power, too much trust, over the course of decades and he took advantage of his position,  sexually abusing boys, girls and vulnerable people.

We then read of atrocities in India where a young woman cannot ride a bus home, accompanied by a male friend, without fear of brutal rape and murder. We've read how in the weeks following this particular attack, more copycat attacks have taken place. It would be naive to believe that this treatment of women in India is a new phenomenon,  but this particular incident has captured the attention of a nation and the rest of the world.

Let's be clear, this isn't about feminism. This isn't about women's rights or women's issues. This is a human issue. What kind of a world do we live in where one human can treat another in such a way that reduces them to a mere commodity, a play thing or something that is simply there to satisfy another's desires.

Every human being has a right to feel safe, has the right to say no. You don't give up that right by wearing a short skirt or drinking too much, by being out after dark or making the mistake of following a charming man to a private room. You don't give up that right by being mentally vulnerable or physically unable to run - if anything you deserve more protection!

Yes, legislation needs to change. Legislation needs to dictate that the victim has more rights than the perpetrator. If convicted, prison sentences need to reflect the severity of the crime, early release should not be an option. Parole should not be an option.

Victim support needs to be improved so that victims feel like they will be believed, that they will not be confronted with a jumped-up defence lawyer implying that in some way she asked for it. They need to at least feel that the drawn out, humiliating process of a court case is likely to end in a conviction.

But if we're really to make a difference, then this crime against humanity needs to be prevented. And to prevent it we should be going back to basics. Back to grass roots education.

Sex education in the UK should not be all about free condoms and the morning after pill. We should be teaching our kids that no means no. 'I'm not sure' does not equal consent if you spend a bit of time persuading her a bit more.

If she's too intoxicated to walk in a straight line, she's too intoxicated to consent to sex without regretting it the morning after. They should be taught how to stay safe, how to avoid potentially dangerous situations and who they can tell if something does happen.

They should be taught that just because he's your boyfriend, or even husband, it doesn't make your no any less of a no.

Bottom line, all our kids, both boys and girls, should be taught respect. And if they're taught respect for themselves,  for each other, for society, for human-kind, then maybe they'll grow into young adults who want to make a difference in the world, who want to be successful. Not adults who think they can abuse others just to satisfy their own desires. Maybe.

*Stats gathered by the Ministry of Justice,  the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics
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Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Who Am I? The Dreaded Twitter Bio

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you'll know that a grasp of social media is essential for getting ahead in life - whether you're using it to build a business, network or gain influence amongst your peers, you need it. It's how you interact with your audience. And in this reality TV show, fly-on-the-wall, celebrity obsessed culture, like it or loathe it, apparently we all need an audience!

So, after a few days of tweaking my website and preparing the ground for a bit of freelancing, I decided to turn my attention to my sporadically used Twitter account. I unintentionally took a Twitter hiatus in the latter half of last year, probably because I was in the early stages of pregnancy. Which was top secret. But if you can't tweet about The Biggest Development in your life, then your profound thoughts about public transport and the Starbucks v Costa debate suddenly seem rather mundane (probably because they are).

I updated my website information, had a little look through my feed and tinkered about for a few minutes before turning my attention to the one thing that we all dread. The one aspect of any social media profile that causes us the most angst and indecision. Your Bio. You are now faced with the task of describing yourself in 160 characters. Of squeezing a synopsis of you, the whole of you, your core being and identity, into the shortest sentence possible.

It's the internet equivalent of being in a job interview and being asked 'So, tell us a bit about yourself'. You want to appear witty, intelligent and interesting whilst giving factual information on who you are and what you do. You want to say 'Follow Me', but appear cool and nonchalant, as if to add '...or not, whatever.'

Some people opt for the simple, straight-forward approach of listing their many 'hats'. For example 'Wife, mother, PR specialist and keen chef'. It does the job, it tells us what you do, it might even give us a glimpse of your interests, which is great if I'm looking to follow someone with similar hobbies. Does it show us your personality? Does it tell us who you really are? Maybe.

If it's a business account, you'll use it as an opportunity to promote your business, such as 'Selling retro typewriters to the masses since 1999! Check out our website...' But this does get more complicated if, as in the case of many freelancers, you are your business. You want to operate a professional business account and build a following, whilst being a real person.

The cool kids, who I will always admire, are the ones who give nothing away. The confident ones. They don't care if you follow them. They don't care if you know anything about them. They're just there to tweet for tweeting's sake and if you come along for the ride so be it. They're popular enough without you but often they are the funniest and wittiest of them all. My friend's bio, @KateHemmings, simply reads 'I like odd socks'. And she does. 

So when I came to update my Bio with trepidation, to sum up my whole identity in 160 characters and scream 'Pick me, pick me! I'm interesting! Witty! ...Honest!', I choked. Here's my very safe, work in progress bio: 
Freelance journalist, wife, soon-to-be mum and eternal optimist who likes coffee, crafts and handwritten post.
How did you decide what to write in your Twitter Bio?

You can of course follow my interesting and witty tweets relating to writing, coffee, crafts and post @emilydavies85 ... or not, whatever.
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Monday, 14 January 2013

Joining the 'Boomerang Generation'

When contemplating my life plan, I didn't quite envisage joining the 'Boomerang Generation'. I am an independent woman. I left home when I was 17. I'm degree educated, a high achiever, I've got a career under my belt. My debt isn't at unmanageable levels, and in comparison to my peers is actually pretty low. So why, at the age of 27, do I find myself pregnant, and living in the attic room at my in-law's house? 

Put quite simply, it all comes down to money.

Unfortunately we're now living in a society where the cost of living far outweighs the average income. By the time my mother was my age she and my dad had bought a house, had two kids (with one more coming later) and she was able to stay at home and look after them, albeit living on the bread line for much of my early years - but it was possible. Cross reference to my in-laws and they too owned a house, and had three young boys (again, one more coming later), also living on a very average income.

Fast forward 27 years and what do we have? Prior to getting pregnant, my husband and I earnt a respectable £50,000 per year between us - more than my parents have ever earnt. We rented a beautiful one bedroom flat in East London which cost £900 per month - the going rate without living in a squat or a shed. After bills, transport, food and small debt repayments we had very little left to save - leaving us no better off now than when we left university five years ago. (And no, we didn't eat out every night, get takeaways, have Sky TV, a landline or broadband).

Did we have to live in London? No. Would I have been able to get a job in my field elsewhere? Possibly but less likely. Would it have paid as much? Probably not. These are the choices we make in life. 

So, what do you do when you want to start a family and you realise that a small two bedroom flat in a rough area is going to cost you £1200 per month plus the extra cost of childcare if you're to keep working, and a loss of over half your income if you're to give it up?

You move in with your very hospitable in-laws and join the ranks of twenty-somethings who have been forced to, or felt the need to, do the same.

Why? Because you want to get into a financially secure position before your essential living costs spiral way beyond your means. Because London isn't sustainable for a young family (unless of course you're married to a lawyer or a banker). Because you don't fancy raising your kids on an East London council estate where only 22% of primary school students cite English as their first language. And there is of course your own ideologies which might include not wanting to be an 'old' mum, hoping that one day you might be able to afford, god-forbid, a second child, and the worry that biology waits for no one and if you put it off until you do have the family home and the £100,000 per year income, will it be too late?

So, here we are. We've left the bright lights of the city and squeezed our lives into an attic room somewhere in mid-Kent. Me waiting for baby, while husband looks for a job. When he gets one maybe we'll be able to move out; rent prices here are currently about half that of London. Saving up that all-important deposit for our own home is still a hazy dream, and if we did manage it, would anyone give us a mortgage anyway? Either way, living comfortably on a single income is no longer a reality for most and the cost of living continues to rise. 

Could this be the best or worst decision of our lives? Only time will tell. But in the mean time, I'm hoping something happens which might mean that the average salary catches up with the cost of living - otherwise how many generations can you squeeze into one house?!
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Friday, 11 January 2013


After years of thinking about it, and years of procrastinating, I've finally taken the plunge into freelance journalism. Granted, this sudden step (leap?) of courage has coincided with my first foray into parenthood, but never again will I have this time to myself (yes I took maternity leave at the earliest opportunity!) or the short lived financial cushion of maternity pay. So if I was ever going to do it, now is the time!

Here on my blog you can not only keep up to date with my work, but I'll also be posting exclusive opinion pieces that you won't find anywhere else.

Feel free to have a look around the rest of the site and be sure to get in touch if my services can be of assistance to you or your business. Of course, I also love feedback and networking, so if you just want a chat, leave a comment or drop me an email!
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