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A Little Bundle of Joy

Advice to young mums

By Joy Aston

Passing a Watermelon

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Drawing of a stork carrying a baby

Motherhood is the most natural thing in the world. If men think about the 'S' word once every eight minutes during the day (and it's not 'Satsuma'!) then women think about not what goes in, but what comes out of their bodies once the 'S' act has been performed (again, not 'Satsuma', though we did have a Burmese ladyboy in casualty once with a kumqat lodged in his/her anus, but that's another story).

Drawing of a doctor with a saw and a hammer

Yes, the desire to create a new life is entirely natural - and yet the act of pushing said new life from your stomach into the nicotine-stained hands of an elderly Irish midwife does not seem natural at all. It hurts. A lot. And if you don't have the right professional help and advice, then you could end up being torn so badly, you won't know where your vagina ends and your anus begins (a bit like the Burmese ladyboy).

But fear not. Auntie Joy is here to hold your hand through the entire process and describe what will happen at every stage of your pregnancy. So even if you end up losing your voice through screaming during the lonely long hours of searing contractions, at least you'll think to yourself "I knew it would be like this. Joy told me."

The Ins and Outs of Conception

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The first stage of the process, becoming pregnant, is not always easy. Not even the top scientists in America can explain why some teenager on a housing estate can have three babies by three different fathers in 29 months, while a healthy lady in a suburban semi who food-shops at M&S can struggle to conceive for most of her adult life. It's not fair, but if God rolls the dice for you that way then that's that - there's nothing you can do about it. Go and buy a toddler from the latest tsunami.

There are all kinds of Old Wives Tales about the best way to concieve - I should know, I'm old and a wife! My husband George and I always stuck to the missionary position, whereby the gentleman is on top supporting himself on his elbows and the lady raises her knees to a comfortable height and gets on with her Catherine Cookson until the act is over.

Once the gentleman has 'dressed the salad' it is advisable for the lady to hold her feet above head height for at least an hour (the omnibus edition of The Archers is usually a good timer). This can be rather onerous and put a strain on your lower back (not to mention your candlewick bedspread) and so the gentleman can assist the lady by holding her ankles up high - that is if he hasn't already gone downstairs to watch Dispatch Box in his underpants.

Seedling, Boiled Egg, Coconut, Pumpkin

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No, these are not the latest trendy baby names used by celebrities like Jonathan Ross and Paula Yates! These are the industry-standard terminologies for the four stages of your pregnancy. Each of the four stages is called a trimester (Latin for 'three stages').

Your 'Seeding' stage is early days. You might not even know you are pregnant yet and may be tempted to buy one of these rip-off 'Home Pregnancy Testing Kits' made fashionable by television and adverts. Save your money! You'll know soon enouch if you are pregnant by following Joy's Test as follows:

  • Are you spending your tampon money on take away capuccinos?
  • Do you shout at your partner at least 27 times a day for offences such as flossing his teeth too loudly and not reminding you to phone your sister?
  • Have you cried unexpectedly whilst crossing the road / paying for groceries / watching Hotel Babylon?
  • Can you smell burning liquorice in every room in the house?
  • Do you belch-up foul-smelling bile first thing in the morning while pulling on your tights?

If the anwser to at least one of these questions is 'yes', then you may well be pregnant. Consult your GP or purchase a 'Home Testing Pregnancy Kit' just to be sure.

Six to seven weeks later you're at the 'Boild Egg' stage, and by this time you're probably dying to tell the world about your exciting news. Don't. There's still all manner of things that can go wrong and you'll be left with egg on your face (especially if it's a soft boiled egg).

Wait until you feel the 'Coconut' stage, which is when you have to ditch the trendy Capri pants and get stonewashed jeans with an elasticated waistband. The 'Coconut' trimester begins officially when you are first offered a seat on public transport. Make a note of this date as it will be used to guestimate your due day.

As your due day approaches you will start to see purple varicose veins spread up your legs and into your pubic triangle. Your nipples will be pulled taut, like a cat's face on an overinflated balloon, and your cute belly-button will pop out like a button mushroom. You will have strange cravings such as raw flour, off milk and Jeremy Kyle. If it isn't over already, your marriage will be at breaking point. You're hungry and full, tired and awake, happy and sad. You are 'Pumpkin' and it's time to pack your bag.

And don't forget the Kitchen Sink!

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There is an art to packing the bag you will take to hospital with you, which is why I've drawn up a list of essential items to help you.

  • 28 pairs knickers - you will NOT be continent
  • Don't bother with slippers - you're not going anywhere
  • Old dressing gown/nightdress (don't get a new one for the occasion as you will still be picking bits of placenta out of it six months later)
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • 10 x 3000 piece jigsaws - one for every centimetre of dilation. Your husband will need something to occupy him.
  • Bumper book of Sudoku
  • Cassette recorder - some people make 'birthing tapes' of favourite songs, others like whale and dolphin noises. Won't help much, but if you turn it up loud enough you can drown out the screams from the other women on the ward.
  • Tupperware - we can't always lay our hands on something to put the afterbirth in, and some people like to take it home with them (yuck!)
  • Cash and cigarettes - you'll be amazed how much more quickly that gas and car arrives if you've got some bargaining tools
  • Chew toy (rinse before use)
  • Toilet paper - we are NOT a hotel!
  • Make-up - babies can be a funny colour when they first pop out and you don't want to scare your guests.
  • Baby Record Book - to note down exact time of birth, weight, length, midwife's name etc. Unless it's your second or third child, in which case you can fill it in from memory when they turn 13
  • Wastepaper bin - for your diary and all your friend's addressess and phone numbers. Won't be needing them any more!
Drawng of a packed bag

It's best to have your bag in the hall or in the boot a good 6-8 weeks before the due day so you're ready for all eventualities. When I went in with my Paul I was packed and ready after 6 months and still it wasn't straightforward. You never know. Never know.

It's quite faddish now for some women to choose a 'Home Birth.' This is akin to having a 'Home Kidney Transplant' or 'Home Haircut'. I'm, sorry - it doesn't work like that - get off your backside and let us do our job properly.