Well, here it is: the newest, bang-up-to-date edition of Up the Duff.
‘Wait a minute,’ I hear you say, rather suspiciously, with narrowed eyes, pausing in your reach for another Tim Tam. ‘What’s wrong with the first edition? Did it tell women a baby was going to come out of their ear?’
Nope, although I think I may have thought it would before I started my original research and writing for the first edition. Since it first appeared in 1999 Up the Duff has reprinted every year, and I’ve always updated it with new medical info. And I’ll keep doing that. After twenty years it was time for a big overhaul.
Check the front cover of the book you’re holding. It should have a circle on it with this year in it – if it’s older, it may have outdated or contain wrong medical info in it. Please get yourself the latest edition for peace of mind.
Medical tests and advice on what to eat have changed a lot, as has advice on sleeping positions for both pregnant women and babies. There are more variations in families now, and all families are being swamped by an ocean of wrong and commercial pregnancy information online. I’ve updated a great deal of information in the book and consulted many more experts, including midwives, doctors and pregnant women.
But back to basics: why did I write this book in the first place? The last thing you need when you’re pregnant is a bossy boots insisting you ‘should’ feel this and ‘must’ do that. Who wants to have, or be, a guru? Not me.
Okay, so first, I got up the duff. Then realised I had no idea what I was in for.
Pregnancy books tend to describe the size of the developing fetus in comparison with food. One week it’s a brazil nut, then a plum, then an eggplant. At one point I became convinced I was going to give birth to a giant muesli.
For some reason I had always imagined that being pregnant would just be like being me with a big bump out the front. It hadn’t occurred to me that the reality of being pregnant would eventually be felt constantly in every physical part of my body, and in every recess of what I fondly used to call my mind. Even though I had heard about nausea and fluid retention and vagueness and a ferzillion other things, for some dumb reason I thought they were part of an old-fashioned pregnancy, relegated to history along with the concept of ‘confinement’ and Mrs Spinoza’s mechanical home-perm-and-gherkin-bottling machine.
I’m a career woman, I thought. I’m over 30. I’ve always pretended to be in control of my life, and that doesn’t have to stop just because I’m pregnant. I’ll just live my life the way it has always been (without getting shickered at the weekend). Work will go on as normal, life at home will be just the same, only I’ll need bigger shirts at some point. My life will only completely change once the baby comes out.
I had not bargained on the body taking control of itself. The power of the mind? Pah, and furthermore, snorty snonking sound. As far as my body was concerned, its major priority was growing a healthy baby. Several times I felt my legs going off along the corridor for a lie-down when I thought my torso should have been elsewhere. I woke up in the middle of the night compelled to eat banana sandwiches and drink glasses of soy milk. I had become a host organ.
My first thoughts every morning and my last thoughts at night were about being pregnant, and there was a fair whack of it in between. (This is as well as the other stuff you usually have to be on top of in your normal life.) Would I be a good mother? What if something went wrong? Was it too late to have second thoughts? Should I feel guilty about having second thoughts? Where do we stand on third and subsequent thoughts? Where the hell are my keys? Why is the Vegemite in the freezer? Did I do that? What the hell has happened to my HAIR? What’s that weird bump on my gums? Do stretchmarks stay that fetching shade of royal purple forever? Will I ever want to have sex again? What do people mean when they say ‘pregnancy hormones’? Is it true some aromatherapy can make you have a miscarriage? Does it really matter what we eat? Surely a glass of wine a night isn’t bad? Or is it?
Is it any wonder they keep making horror movies about motherhood and creatures inside us? Isn’t this miraculous? Isn’t this uncomfortable? Isn’t this terrifying, and wonderful, and fascinating, and boring as bat poo, all at the same time? Am I supposed to feel serene, or just seasick? If you don’t do your pelvic-floor exercises will your fanny fall out? Why can’t I feel the baby move yet? Could the baby stop moving for a while and give me a rest? Will I ever be able to be alone again? How can I tell people I don’t want my career back? How can I get my career back?
When does a fetus become a baby? Does that mean if it’s born then it will survive? Could I get any fatter? What’s pre-eclampsia and how do you get it? What can you see on an ultrasound screen? What if labour goes on forever and nothing comes out? Could somebody get me a cup of tea?
So I wrote Up the Duff to have all the reassurance and practical info you need, all informed by medical and other experts. And its sequel, Babies & Toddlers, because once you’ve had a baby, what on earth are you going to do with it? But that’s another story. For now, it’s all about pregnancy. Have at it.
PS One last thing: the Diary of Hermoine the Modern Girl’s pregnancy includes many aspects of my own experience, with a few stories from other people thrown in and the odd embellishment, but it is not quite my story. A girl has to try to cling to some sense of mystery (especially when she’s got baby vomit up her nose). (Oh, don’t ask.)