When she is not helping people have empowered births Siobhan Miller AKA @thepositivebirthmama likes to go adventuring with the her husband and 3 boys. They are particularly fond of hitting the open road in a camper van, with not much of a plan!
Sounds mainly wonderful to me. And something I’d love to do one day. It’d certainly be a summer holiday to remember. Here she tells us everything she’s learned whilst road-tripping:
What I’ve learnt from travelling in a van without a plan (for 2.5 weeks with 2 kids under 2.5yrs)
Whatever the definition of ‘holiday’ is, camping or travelling with young kids is not it.
That’s not to say I’m ungrateful for the experience; it’s been amazing!! But experiences can be amazing without being relaxing, like climbing Everest for example.
Having no plan when you set out can be brilliant – for example we ‘discovered’ Lago Lugano – one of the less well known lakes and not on our hit list but an absolute gem and the most picturesque of the Italian lakes.
When the heatwave hit (so hot it was given a name – Lucifer – and killed 4 people in Italy) we were able to change direction and head somewhere where the heat was more bearable. Had we had places booked we would have had to solider on.
We considered heading to the swiss alps but the forecast was rain so we were able to avoid that. Not having a plan meant we were able to be completely flexible and could follow the sun.
Not having a plan can also be really stressful though. One night at 11pm after driving all day we arrived at lake como and were calling campsite after campsite to be told there was no room at any of the inns. Parking on the side of the road when you have 3 kids in the back and a shed load of stuff isn’t a viable option.
Investing in decent kit really helps make the journey easier and the nights happier. Here are the items that I’ve found especially helpful:
Bundle beds- whereas before we used to have to inflate mattresses and make up beds for the kids with sheets and duvets and pillows, we now simply unroll a fully readymade bed! Bundle beds are a genius idea and are so comfy! The duvet enclosed is really good quality and much warmer than I expected. The jersey cotton of the bedding is lovely and can easily be removed and washed.
Sleepyhead Grand – this has been Foxy’s bed for the past 2.5 weeks and it’s been so lovely for him to have his own little cocoon, albeit on the floor (haha). It’s really cosy and I’m convinced he feels comforted having a small safe space of his own. I feel reassured knowing that nobody will accidentally roll on him. Arlo calls it his “head cot” which makes us all laugh.
Happy Beds memory foam mattress topper – we needed a little luxury given we were spending so long on the road. I don’t know what we would have done without this. We 100% had happier nights sleep because of it.
Berghaus Air 6 tent – a decent family sized tent. Incredible quick to erect and take down as it has no poles and is fully inflatable. It all goes up as one and come down as one so no fiddly attaching inner layers to outer layers. It has a big living space between the 2 bedroom compartments and is full height so you don’t spend the whole time on your knees. Essential if you’re spending more than a night or two in a tent and also if you’re moving from campsite to campsite and therefore need something that’s easy to put up and take down. I can’t recommend this tent any more highly. It’s been my Best Buy!
Mountain Buggy Duet – this has been a godsend. It takes up quite a bit of space but so worth it. Not only have we used it as a pram to get from A to B but we have also used it for the babies to sleep in at nap times and to keep them contained (safe) when we’ve needed them to be! Another item I don’t know what we would have done without!
Other little useful things include…
giving the kids separate toy bags so they were each able to bring a few chosen items with them. I got sent some from occasionally six with the kids’ names printed on them and they did prevent a lot of arguments.
Also very recently discovered miracle 360 drinking cups which have pretty much changed my life. The amount of drinks that used to get spilt in the car seats! These cups are awesome because even if you tip them up nothing comes out!
Finally bobo buddies reins. It’s a cute cuddly toy that doubles as a pair of reins. Used these when out exploring and kids wanted to get out of the pram. Especially useful when on a boat trip!
A lot of people ask how we fit a family of 5 in the van… In the van we have Osh sleep up top in the pop top roof, James and I sleep on a rock and roll bed, Arlo on a hammock that rests across the front between the two front windows and Fox on the floor in his sleepyhead. In time Arlo will join Osh upstairs and Fox will get promoted to the hammock. In the tent the kids sleep in one bedroom compartment and James and I in the other.
Things I wish we had packed:
Extension lead so we could charge multiple devices when we did have the luxury of an electric hook up.
Plug in fans for the van – no air con sucks in 38 degree heat.
Portable plug in fridge to keep food cool.
On that note eating on the road is disappointing. There’s no way of keeping stuff cool so fresh food becomes a rarity. It ends up being pasta a LOT. Eating out is no better. Trying to sit down in a restaurant and enjoy a meal with 3 kids, 2 of whom are under 2.5 years can be a nightmare. The little ones are on the move and don’t care to do what they’re told most of the time – the worst combination. You end up shovelling food in everyone’s mouths and then wondering if you even ate at all?!
After a while you begin to crave a nice fresh healthy dinner at home and feel like you’ve eaten so much stodge and crap.
Waking up and having to go to a shop to get milk every single morning before you can even have a cup or tea or give the kids cereal is a pain in the ass. All because there’s no way of keeping milk cold overnight when camping in a hot country. Yes we have a cool box but no way of freezing ice blocks when on the road. So even the cool box is hot.
Having to drink warm water for the same reason. Buying it cold from the shop is great but about 5 mins later it’s warm already.
When driving long distances on the road with kids (like 9 hours of driving) you will come to love the welcoming and familiar arches of MC Donald’s. (which btw are so much better in France). Air con, food, cold drinks, enclosed spaces, kid-friendly, wifi, charging points. They are mini meccas.
When driving long distances in Europe but especially France you will begin to hemorrahge money via toll booths. There are loads of them. It begins to feel like a joke. TAKE IT ALL! TAKE ALL MY MONEY!!!
There will be wonderful days like the day we went to Portofino and it was picture perfect. Everyone was happy, the sun was shining, we took a boat ride, we ate nice Italian food, we drank wine, we took in the sights, explored the area, dipped our feet in the sea and bought stuff from the gift shops. And on those days you will think THIS is why we do it.
Then there will be days like when it was 40 degrees and I felt ill (probably because of the extreme heat) and I was in a van with no air con and felt too weak to walk and there was nowhere cool to walk to anyway. And it was hotter in the van than outside but at least in the van I could lie down and nobody could see me. And you might end up throwing water over your head and crying dramatically causing your partner to wonder if you’re having a breakdown. On those days when you’re googling how many hours it would take and how many hundreds of miles you’d have to drive to get somewhere cooler, on those days you might question why you’ve tried to road trip round Europe with a 1 year old and 2 year old and a 10 year old in the middle of August in a van with no air con? You might ask yourself why the hell you didn’t just book a nice apartment somewhere and go for the easy option?
But then you’ll look at your photos and recall all the places you’ve been and all the sights you’ve seen and although you’re arriving home filthy and exhausted you’ve traveled and you’ve seen a little more of the world and your life is richer and better for it.
And you’ll look at your kids and think they’re pretty fricken amazing! They’ve gone to sleep in one place and woken up in new place, they’ve spent entire days in the van. On one day we drove through three countries with the three kids in the back and not one device charged. And somehow, they managed to entertain themselves. And you’ll have made so many memories! Even the 2yo is talking about swimming in lakes and finding giant beetles and going on boat rides!
And on the long drive home you’ll begin plotting where you’ll get to next year!
Jennie sent me the originally version of this list to me last year. At the time its was too difficult for me to read as we were struggle to conceive too.
Now, months later, I am all too aware that I am a very fortunate to be typing this with a big pregnant belly and that that there many out there still on a journey towards a much longed bubba.
Here’s Jennie’s story:
So far trying to make a baby has not worked out as I had planned. I had always (naively) assumed the difficult bit about making babies would be finding someone awesome to make babies with. Thankfully that bit was actually alright. My husband and I got together in 2011, about six months later we moved in, we then went on to get a mortgage, got a dog, got engaged and got married, all wonderful and pretty much straight forward. But the next step of my grand life plan has not gone so smoothly.
We started down road procreation in January 2016, not really that long ago I hear you shout, but trust me it feels like a lifetime.
I want to start by saying I love my life. I have almost everything I’ve ever wanted. After decades of living with an anxiety disorder that I could never quite get under control, and subsequent bouts of depression, my thirties have brought the stability I’ve always longed for. I have finally figured out, for the most part, how to manage my anxiety; I have a supportive partner I’m crazy in love with; the best dog (who is actually a small hairy person); a beautiful home; a job I enjoy; a loving family and the best army of friends anyone could ask for.
All that stuff is great and I’m ridiculously thankful for it. But I’m an only child, I’m greedy, and much like Veruca Salt, I want more and I want it now! I want my own family, I want children (multiple).
I started on the TTC journey imaging all my husband would have to do is look at me and I’d be pregnant. We’re young, sort of, pretty healthy. What could go wrong?
Coming off the pill sent my anxiety disorder into melt down and caused all sorts of physical symptoms that left me a sweaty, greasy, crampy mess (and the acne, oh god the acne!). Never mind the emotional mayhem. I cried all the time for no reason and I had real trouble focusing. My work suffered and my friends started to have quite words with me because I was acting so oddly. This took over a year to pass fully but the first six months were the worst.
The irony of this situation is not lost on me. I spent most of my teens and all of my twenties doing my best not to get pregnant. When you’re young they practically tell you you can pregnant from sitting on a spunked on toilet seat, this might be the case when you’re sixteen, it isn’t when your thirty three.
Nothing happened, then nothing happened and so it continues…
Trying to have sex on a schedule is shit. It sucks all the romance and loveliness out of it. My husband feels like a piece of meat and I feel like a horrible person for nagging, cajoling and having full on temper tantrums to make him have sex with me because I know if we don’t, we might never manage to do it at the right time in my cycle. (I know sexy!)
I started to hate my body, I felt like it had failed me. I felt like less of a woman. I stopped feeling sexy. This obviously didn’t help the aforementioned sex situation.
It feels like a day doesn’t go by without at least one person asking me if I’m pregnant. I don’t know why, it might be my age or may be Im just fat but it makes me want to cry in the loo.
I’ve cut back on drinking alcohol and caffeine, at times completely. This doesn’t help the pregnancy rumours. But mostly it just makes me grumpy as coffee, wine and gin and basically my favourite things in life.
The two weeks after I’ve ovulated are crap. I keep imagining pregnancy symptoms: I feel a bit shit, I’m pregnant, my boobs hurt, I’m pregnant, I want to cry at a sad film, I’m pregnant, I feel cramps at an odd time, I’m pregnant! But I’m not.
I take my monthly test knowing what the answer will be and it feels like a waste but if I don’t I will be continuously nagged by what ifs.
It feels like everyone around me is getting pregnant and having babies. It’s hard to keep my jealously in check and it makes me feel very ashamed that I can’t be more happy for my friends. I realise these sorts of feelings don’t serve anyone though so I’m working on it.
I realised recently that I’m angry too. I was very excited to start trying. I always knew I wanted to have kids and when we first started trying I couldn’t wait to be pregnant. I feel betrayed somehow like the joy of what was supposed to be an exciting and wonderful time has been taken away from me.
At around six months in my husband told me he didn’t recognise me anymore. I thought he’d seen me at my worst, when I couldn’t leave the house, when I couldn’t go to work but this was different. I’d carried on as normal but it became robotic.
I recognised he was right and went to my GP. She explained it was too early to start testing for infertility as it could take years for my hormones to rebalance after being on the pill for over 16 years, but told me if nothing had happened after a year of trying they would start tests.
However she did suggest that I went back on to medication to help with my anxiety and took a break from trying. I said no thank you but did start to make changes on my own.
I got more seriously into yoga, I started practicing mindfulness and I went to an acupuncturist. I even went to a naturopath who prescribes herbs and diet changes. I did an online CBT refresher. I didn’t get pregnant but I slowly started to feel better. I went on holiday with a friend and finally started to come back to myself.
After a year of trying we were given a referral to the Assisted Conception Unit at our local hospital. We had tests and so far they haven’t found anything wrong, I should be happy, and I am relieved but this news doesn’t make me any more pregnant. If the doctors found something wrong at lest they could fix it and just because they haven’t found a problem doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
People trying to be kind and helpful tell me: it will happen when it happens, when the time is right, everything happens for a reason, just relax stressing is worst thing you can do (so thanks it’s all my own fault then is it?), two years isn’t that long, it takes some people much longer. It’s normal. And I reply I know but it doesn’t happen for some people. What if we’re those people?
I worry that my mental health history will stop us from being accepted for fertility treatments or adoption should it come to it. I worry we will run out of time and options.
Just before Christmas we found out we now meet the criteria to go on to the waitlist for IVF in our area. At the moment the wait to begin treatment is about six months. I’m pleased and sort of relieved that there’s something we can finally DO (apart from the obvious) but I still feel in a weird limbo of trying desperately to stay positive and hopeful. While also quietly readying myself for the worst, so that I will be prepared if it doesn’t work.
Cat Gazzoli is the founder of organic kiddie food brand Piccolo, growing up she lived all over Europe. She has made the decision to raise her kids with a similarly multi-cultural influences, here she talks about the difference between bringing up a kids in Italy vs England.
I grew up between Italy, France and Geneva as my dad worked with the UN.
I always knew I wanted my daughter to have that mix of cultures and learn languages early on so split our time between family in northern Italy and Covent Garden where I run my business.
When we are with my husband’s family in Italy our first question each day revolves around what we are going to eat that day. Nonni Onelia’s specialities are gnocchi de Zucca con burro e salvia (gnocchi of pumpkin) and polenta con funghi (grandpa picks the mushrooms for this in the mountains, behind their house).
When we are all in the UK, our first question is what is the weather doing, and therefore what can we do with our toddler. When Juliet was younger I used to dress her for arctic conditions, I couldn’t believe how cold it got in London, I am a bit more relaxed now, she is not a happy hat girl.
I love living between our two lifestyles. Working and living in Covent Garden during the week, and weekends and summers in the historic city of Udine, a mountainous region that makes incredible wine. Both my daughter and I get the best of both worlds. But I do bring a lot of food back from Italy.
In the UK we have so much access to amazing things for young babies, but also great ways to meet other mums with similar interests. From baby dance to singing, swimming and art classes – so many ways to meet new parents with different lives, I love the Peanut app for this, it has been such a good tool for me to connect with my life here without any family close.
In Italy, it’s through your existing network and friends of friends in your community. People don’t move around as much so the activities are around your friends and family.
In Italy there’s much less opportunity for flexible working – mums tend not to go back to work until much later than British mums after having their babies, and paternity leave is barely heard of in Italy – certainly no #flexappeal movement
In Italy, bambinos rule the family! In England I’ve noticed it’s a bit more balanced and the parents are definitely in charge.
There’s a real problem in Italy with a declining birth rate so babies are even more special (and fussed over!) nowadays
No one can believe how late my daughter stays up – she is an Italian bambino. In the evenings, it’s totally normal to take out your children to bars and restaurants. Even if our daughter is even very badly behaved, fellow diners don’t get too bothered. I love this aspect of Italian life. UK diners in Soho tend not to subtlety let us know, it’s not quite so normal here!
London has so much to do with the museums, I can’t tell you how many times I have been to the Transport and Science museums, you don’t have this access to stuff like this in most of Italy.
It’s typical for a child to spend the summer on the beach in Italy. It’s three months of solid beach time, where the biggest decision is what gelato flavour to go after. She gets thoroughly spoilt by her nonni, and weaning her off torta and gelato is a nightmare, but it is idyllic.
Growing up in London and going to nursery here, I can see Juliet has a different confidence to her friends on the coast – I am not sure if that is just being a city baby, but we will keep splitting our time while we can and before she heads to school.
Having grown up in Italy I’m all about community, which is why we’ve launched our One for One campaign to donate 100,000 baby food pouches to struggling families throughout the UK
I’ve been thinking about writing about this for a very long time but it just hasn’t happened.
Finally I’ve been ready, albeit extremely nervously… In light of everything in the press at the moment I thought I would share my story.
In my early twenties I was happily living life to the full. I’d returned to London leaving university behind to pursue my dreams of wanting to get into Fashion. After a number of interviews I landed my first Buying Job at Austin Reed as a Buyers Admin Assistant. I’d done it! I’d dropped out of uni, left my friends back in Bristol, followed my heart and got my size 4’s firmly into the Fashion industry.
The dream however was always to work for Topshop- My favourite high street store. Everything about it was appealing and I knew that’s where I was going. After a couple of years here and two successful interviews for both Topshop and Urban Outfitters, I jumped straight onto the Shoe team in Topshop’s Buying office to pursue my dreams. Life was GREAT. I had a great job, lived off Portobello market, was excitable and thrilled with where I had come and what I had so far accomplished.
One weekend I had been invited along to a wedding with my then boyfriend and his family. Neither of us knew them too well, but it was going to be different as it was a very traditional Indian ceremony.
The day started off well, I love everything about a wedding; the people, the sights, sounds, happiness in the air. We had lots of yummy food ad met some very nice people. The day soon turned into night and the drinks started to flow.
I got talking with a man who I’d never met before, about my job and my journey into the Industry so far. I’d talked about my passion for fashion and how much I was enjoying it. He also had a fashion background, so we had a lot to chat about, despite him being older than me. I was interested to hear his views, what he had to say and of any advice he could give me…you could call it intrigue.
I remember drinking a lot (as everyone was) and the conversation moving outside to where I was smoking. My then boyfriend was also around, but was similarly mingling with guests. It was from this point that things become a bit of a blur.
Having ‘walked and talked’ engrossed in conversation, I found myself a street away from the wedding party, down an alleyway by some car garages. It was dark, no street lights and I had no idea where I was.
The word NO had very little affect.
My hands pushing his strength away didn’t seem to help either. I remember wondering where my boyfriend was. I kept thinking about the wedding party and asking myself how I got here. No one was around. This strangers hands were on me and the sound of NO was falling on deaf ears.
Eventually and god knows how, I managed to get away from this situation and began walking the streets to try and find the place I had come from.
The man had disappeared.
Dishevelled and confused, I somehow found my way back and was greeted by a ton of guests who proceeded to shout and scream ‘where is he?’. It was at this point that I broke down in tears and realised what had just happened.
The following hours and days consisted of police interviews and examinations. Then I got the phonecall from the detective on my case ‘we’re taking it to Crown Court’. While this was exactly what needed to happen, it was also so big a deal that it scared the hell out of me.
For weeks I was questioning everything. Replaying the events from what I could remember. Repeating things over and over to officials, to family, to myself.
How did this happen? What did I do? How could I have changed things? My emotions were scarred. I felt vulnerable and lonely even though I had such a huge support network around. Speaking to police every time was highlighting the reality that I had been violated. Taken advantage of because I was young and vulnerable.
I was given the option to have a ‘screen’ in court, so that I didn’t have to face the man. The last thing I wanted was to see this person, so having a screen in place was my protection.
The whole process was daunting… walking into the courtroom, seeing the members of the jury- regular people ready and waiting to hear what you have to say. Thankfully I had a couple of great detectives who had prepped me and put me at ease before he hearing.
Despite this however, no one can ever prepare you for being cross-examined. I did my very best and managed to maintain as composed as I could albeit very teary and emotional. I had the biggest support of my family and best friends throughout it all and without that I fear it would have all got too much.
It was around this time that I fell into a depression and seeked help from my GP who offered me counselling and medication. This ordeal had triggered a depression that I honestly think had been lingering for a while. Sometimes it just takes that one thing doesn’t it? The therapy gave me an opportunity to talk openly and a safe place to express my emotions.
Years later and now I’m a wife and mother. As a parent, it’s important that the message NO is very clearly understood. No means No. I tell Harry who is my oldest that if someone at school says ‘no’ whether it be in a game or messing around, equally if his baby brother says ‘no’, then he must listen and pay attention. When children are excitable or hyper, it’s not uncommon for this word to be lost among the noise HOWEVER It’s these very words that mean so much but sadly in some circumstances, so little.
Raising boys, it’s paramount that we teach them respect. Respect for others and ultimately respect for themselves. My husband and I have a very loving relationship with our boys and do our utmost to instil healthy values and as they get older, encourage them to be honest and open. I hope that by always being here to listen to them, that they grow up feeling comfortable to talk to us about anything and ask questions freely, with no judgement or anguish. I want my boys to grow into lovely men who have he utmost respect for women and consequently build on friendships and relationships in a healthy way.
Sadly I know of a few people who have fallen victim to sexual assault. It’s a very private matter, so isn’t something you talk about openly. I’m hoping that by sharing my story I can enforce the message that being touched or violated in some way is not acceptable/ not ok/ not allowed. Speak up, have yourself heard. If I can do it, you can too.
Unfortunately for me and due to lack of hard evidence, the man who Sexually Assaulted me was acquitted. I don’t regret going through the court process one bit despite him not being prosecuted and do wholeheartedly encourage to report things to police as soon as they happen. This man remains on the sex offenders list for the rest of his life, which for me, is good enough.
When this Guest List from Flic of @loveagoodstripe came through it felt very timely. I had found myself sucked into January Sale madness; scouring the internet for clothes to buy for the sake of it!
Begrudgingly I couldn’t find anything that I loved – apart from some particularly excellent jogging bottoms. But, had I not been the size of a house, I would definitely have made a multitude of mindless purchases.
ANYWAY saying no to fast fashion is definitely something I’d like to do more of and here is how I (or we) might do it:
If I had a quid for every time I drooled over a magazine outfit image then I’d be bloody rich. If I had a quid for every time I ‘liked’ an Instagram fashion square after I had pressed ’Snooze’ on my alarm for the 4th time at 5am, then those pound coins would be rolling in quite nicely.
I often find myself swiping and drooling over various clothing photos on my phone when I’ve either been sweating and swearing after standing on a piece of lego or maybe because I was in need of a serious ‘lifter’ since it had rained all bloody week – or maybe its just the fact that being a working Mum and rushing from one place to another was simply getting ‘right on my tits’ that day and I felt I deserved a reward for my gallant efforts. Well, I reckon it’s fair to say that this soothing retail therapy moment possibly happens to a few others out there!
You see, they don’t call it ‘Retail Therapy’ for nothing. I’m confident that I’m not alone in the world on the ‘cheer up’ shopping front. Fashion and style, after all, is a way to define ourselves, to express ourselves and to stay true to ourselves and our personalities. It helps us put our stamp on the world and helps us to shout out from the rooftops and proudly declare who we are.
I may be lying in bed right now with a face-mask on, a G&T sitting on my bedside table and my boobs tucked into my PJ bottoms but as I flick through those Instagram squares of fashion and outfit perfection, I’m blissfully living in my imaginary wardrobe accompanied by a wish-list of what I want to add – ensuring the dream becomes a reality.
But where the heck do we draw the line? At what point do I put on my sensible knickers and shopping blinders? When do I sternly say to myself that “yes, I do love a good stripe but maybe I should call it a day since I now own 20 of them”!! FFS
It’s a devastating fact that Fast Fashion is now the world’s second biggest pollutant . A whopping 12.7 million tonnes of clothing is reported to be thrown away annually in the U.S. Did you know that it takes 2720 litres of water to make a single T-Shirt? It shocked me to learn that is about how much we drink over a 3 year period!
Our thirst for the latest trend and ‘hit’ from the High Street is affecting the planet that we are leaving behind for our children. It’s great to tap into so much of the epic style inspiration and choice that is available but I believe it can take a nose dive when we are harming the world and the lives of those making our cheap clothes. Another negative aspect, in my opinion, is this clothing still doesn’t celebrate our own individual style. We risk the danger of just buying the carbon copy of our style hero’s ‘Thursday outfit’. It’s some serious food for thought.
We have control over our choices and what we want for our life.
So here are my list of questions that I tend to ask myself once I have washed off my face mask and stare into a style abyss with my big crazy shopping eyes as I evaluate the bloody gorgeous jacket that I’m currently lusting over. Quite frankly, it helps me reign in my retail therapy purchases so maybe it can help you too? As always, there is never any judgment from my end, just a big applause for anyone who goes against the grain and sticks to their guns in an effort to buy YOU, wear YOU and be YOU.
So here we go, roll up your sleeves and prepare to make a sensible shopping decision as you ask yourself:
Do I love it? I mean do I truly bloody love it? or is the enticing glossy media just influencing me to love it? Remember to always buy YOU. There’s nothing wrong in applauding a piece of beauty or someone else and their fab sense of style. This absolutely does not however, detract from either you or your personal style. This does not mean that you need to buy it in order to feel good about yourself and your style.
Does it suit me? Does it actually work for my body, my proportions and accentuate my shape to its full potential. Repeat after me “ I am so bloody fabulous, just as I am and I will only choose and wear things that celebrate this”! Never buy anything to slim into. Repeat after me “I am enough, the end” and then go eat that carb-orific sandwhich for lunch!
Is it a case of the ‘best of a bad job’? Did I just spend 30 minutes finding the best items from the sale section as that was the only place I could afford to look? Do I need them?……I think I know the bloody answer to this question as I hold up some fluorescent green fluffy knickers and matching bra. Yep, this is a true story. This was one of my moments of madness in Fenwicks on Bond Street! Thankfully I had my best mate with me to slap some common sense into me as she was simultaneously bent over double crying with laughter. My response was “you’re right, green is probably not my colour”. WTF!!
Are you buying it for yourself to wear today? The sign of a good purchase is the one that you wear immediately. In the past I have acted like a true 5 year old child sometimes and literally asked the sales staff to cut the tags off for me so I can wear my new purchase out of the shop. This is a good thing. But buying for your future self is not a good thing particularly if its to slim into or set aside for when you have a achieved an unobtainable quest. Buy for you…..for now. The present moment is all we have. Live it and enjoy it.
On that note, don’t buy for a season ahead of time. I reckon its important to be who you are. We are allowed to change. We are allowed to change in both our style and grow into how we want to be in the world . I have bought out of season items in the past and found that by the time that particular season is in, I’m bloody bored of what I have. I’m over it. But my Visa card is clearly not!
Gold medals are always awarded to those who can declare I “loved it and left it”. Just because I stroke every faux fur leopard that crosses my path does not mean I need to buy them all and convert my coat closet into the faux plains of the faux fur animal jungle! Theres nothing wrong in finding a beautiful piece and simply leaving it for someone else.
Is it the lure of the heavily discounted stack of red stickers bargain? Would I pay the original price for it? Its a tough question that demands a tough answer. There is no deviating or wriggling out of this one. Not even for me!
Play the ‘cost-per-wear’ game. How many times can/will I wear it? The top golden points go to £1 per wear
Does it work for my climate? Be realistic in how and where you can wear it. Where do I live? Barbados or Antarctica? Yep….thought so! No wetsuits will ever be required at Sainsburys on a Sunday morning in High Wycombe!
Is it my reality? Do I plan on attending a dozen Black Tie functions during next month? Or am I more likely to be going to a dozen youth footie games in a muddy grass field? I need to put down the Stella McCartney Tux!
Can I wear it with 3 other things in my wardrobe? A nice healthy dose of wardrobe reality and in turn a sterling bit of wardrobe gratitude. Sometimes it helps to just peek at what I already own. It helps to remind myself that I already have so many pieces that I absolutely adore so why add more? Time to love what you already wear.
Can I part with one? Use the ‘one in, one out’ philosophy. Can I donate or sell anything to make room in my wardrobe and help my bank manager or spouse stop hyperventilating?
Will it dress up & dress down? How versatile is it in my wardrobe? I love the pieces that I can wear on a Saturday morning at the farmers market but that can also dress up with a dash of ‘sparkle & spangle’ and make it for a round two on a saturday night at the pub.
How many do I already have? Are the repeat buy alarm bells ringing? I admit to having an undying love for Levi’s denim but there are only 7 days in a f*&^ing week and the last time I checked, I do actually own a washing machine. How many jeans do I actually need to sit in my wardrobe? A pair for each day of the month is just not possible to rationalize.
Is it washable? FFS….My life is not ‘dry clean only’ territory! Quite frankly, it never has been a dry clean only land either. If I didn’t have a life filled with grubby fingered happy kids then I did once live a life with a constant pint in my hand. I rest my case. Machine washable please.
Can I take this style trend as inspiration and search the preloved or vintage options out there? Not only does this approach support sustainability and the environment. But what a privilege it is to own a vintage va-voom velvet blazer from the 70’s to kick ass in as opposed to a fast fashion High Street imitation of a 70’s velvet blazer.
To conclude and in honour of the mighty Dame Vivienne Westwood’s wise words “buy less, choose well and make it last”, maybe think twice next time you’re on a swipe’n’shop frenzy.
Take a moment and peek at the question list above. Do you really need to buy it? Let’s aim to buy fewer pieces and create a wardrobe that completely represents our individual style! The planet and the garment workers livelihoods depend on it. Take a moment and reflect on why you’re reaching for a bit of fast-fashion retail therapy. Maybe now is not the best time to shop but a chance to fix the issue that’s niggling you in the first place? She says as she sweeps the Lego filled floor with a seeping brush! May the slow-shopping force be with you.
Fancy more excellent advice of being a Fashion Economist? Find her in these places:
2017 is nearly over and Mother of All Lists is nearly 3. Both of which bl my mind a bit.
A few of you may of noticed that I haven’t written as many lists myself recently. The reason being that working full-time, being pregnant and being a Mum left me knackered. If there’s one thing I have learned this year it’s to be kind to yourself. And for me that meant letting my lists go for a while and instead focus on sharing other people’s stories.
So here are ALL the lists from year in one handy compilation.
I struggled to know whether to share this list today. The Friday before Christmas, should I go for something more upbeat? Festive even? But the fact is shit happens no matter the season.
That’s particularly true of miscarriage which unfortunately effect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 pregnancies. My heartfelt thanks to Jennie of The Uterus Monologue for this list, not only is it honest, it’s reassuring too and full of great useful advice on how to make to make yourself feel better after miscarriage.
‘What am I supposed to do with myself now?’ Those were my exact words to my husband Dan, nearly two weeks ago, on a drizzly Sunday evening. I didn’t say them so much as wail them.
We’d kept ourselves occupied over the weekend after our third miscarriage and my ERPC (surgery following a missed miscarriage) as it was a friend’s birthday, but now everything had come crashing to a halt. Dan was going back to work, but I’d been signed off. The prospect of sitting at home with just my (dark) thoughts for company felt like too much to bear.
What was I going to do with myself? Once again, I felt back at square one – the last few months had all been geared around being pregnant. Getting pregnant and staying pregnant. No booze, no coffee, gentle exercise only, early nights, lots of broccoli and salmon. Now what?
This time, unlike before, I couldn’t even focus on dusting myself down and just trying again, because we’re waiting for a referral to the recurrent miscarriage clinic, who like to see you for tests before you’re pregnant again.
Yet dust yourself off you must. It’s bloody hard. No one can or will do it for you. There is no routine after-care after a miscarriage, beyond a leaflet or two and being told not to have sex until the bleeding stops and a pregnancy test comes back negative. Generally, no one will call to check you’re OK or ask how you’re feeling. The best you can hope for is that the hospital or the GP remembers to cancel your midwife and scan appointments. Because those letters feel like a punch in the gut when you open them, weeks later, often just as you’re starting to feel vaguely normal again.
Anyway, how to feel better. My mum put it best – you need to do things that make you feel like you again.
Not pregnant you and not the sad, small and scared post-miscarriage you. It can feel a bit like a consolation prize, because it’s not who you wanted to be, but there is power in re-discovering who you were before all this. Though, of course, you won’t feel quite the same – possibly ever. But it’s a step in the right direction.
Here’s my how-to-feel-better list…
Take your time. It’s tempting to rush back to work for the distraction, if nothing else. But, honestly, I think you need time to do nothing, cry, to sit around in your pyjamas, watch bad TV, cry, wander aimlessly round the supermarket, cry, manically tidy the house. Whatever.
I’m writing this list while on leave. Unlike the previous two miscarriages, I’ve been signed off for a whole two weeks. Last time, I think I took one day off, and it was not enough. It’s hard to know what to do work-wise. No one talks about this, so you’re fumbling in the dark even on basic, practical matters. After my first miscarriage, I had no idea what an acceptable amount of time off was. Did more than a couple of days make me an unbearable drama queen?
Give yourself permission. This third time round, the hospital where I had my ERPC explicitly recommended two weeks. That wasn’t specific to me, it was what they generally advise. And I got a note to say as much. That kind of permission helps, I think. But not all doctors or early pregnancy units are so specific. So remind yourself it’s OK. As a salutary lesson, had I ignored the doctors and gone straight back this time around, my first day back – in a newspaper office – would have coincided with the announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were expecting their third baby. Which, frankly, would have had me howling treasonous tears in the loos all afternoon.
Just go with it. Having said you need to take the time to grieve, there’s no single right way to do this. It doesn’t look like you might expect it to. Yes, I have sat on the sofa, tear-stained and numb. But I have also masked myself in make-up and marched round John Lewis like a woman possessed. I’ve insisted on trips to the garden centre and gone to watch violent films. I’ve batch-cooked as if my life depended on it and baked elaborate birthday cakes. It’s grief. It doesn’t have to make sense.
Delete your pregnancy apps. Do this as soon as you can. And shove the folic acid tablets to the back of the cupboard. Yes, you may feel you want to try to conceive again as soon as you can, but at least while you’re waiting for that negative pregnancy test to signal it really is all over give yourself a break from all that. That daily reminder that you’re no longer and not yet pregnant.
After our second miscarriage I stopped being quite so rigid with the pre-conception vitamins, at least until we were pregnant again. If we went away for the weekend, the bottle of pills stayed at home. It helps not feeling like trying to conceive is running your life.
Hide everything and anything you bought. We were really cautious, even the first time around, but by ten weeks we felt confident enough to borrow a friend’s book of baby names. And we had folders and leaflets from our first midwife appointment. Stick it all under the bed. Or at the back of the cupboard. Don’t try and return anything or throw anything away. You don’t need that kind of pain. For now, out of sight, out of mind will do.
Treat yourself. My post-miscarriage buys include: two deeply child-unfriendly cream fluffy rugs, a ridiculous orange dress, an over-priced bikini, succulents for the bathroom, and patio furniture. Yes, you’d rather have a baby. No, material things don’t change what’s happened. But do it anyway.
Don’t diet. Not yet. One of the shitty things no one thinks about with pregnancy loss until it happens to you is that the baby might be gone, but the extra flesh, stretchmarks and alien bra size can remain.
I was so angry at my body after our first loss – just shy of 12 weeks – at that extra half stone of wobble it had gained for no good reason. But a crash diet is not the answer. Especially not if you want to try again soon. Give it time. It’s a big thing for your body to go through, you need to eat properly. Though I also advocate ice cream after dinner every night if it helps.
Be careful with the ‘at leasts’. Well-meaning friends often say things like ‘at least now you can have a drink on your birthday/over Christmas/at that wedding’. But it’s not always helpful. The thought that I was now able to drink just made me miserable – however much I’d missed the Lady Petrol, the first sip post-miscarriage made me cry. Don’t force it.
The best ‘at leasts’ for me were letting go of all the slightly neurotic pregnant things I’d been doing (so easy to fall into after a loss). Things like not painting my nails and avoiding eating out of plastic containers (hello Chinese take-away!) on the scientifically spurious basis of what the chemicals might do to my eggs/the baby. Let it go, it feels good.
Look for the little milestones. You may feel like you won’t ever feel better. But you will. No, the pain doesn’t vanish over night, but incrementally it gets easier. The first day you no longer need to wear a sanitary pad. When you finally get a negative pregnancy test (bittersweet, but still a milestone). The first time you can have sex again. The first time you ovulate. There will still be bad, crushing days that hit you like a truck, but mostly every day gets a little easier. Remind yourself this.
Focus on what your body can do. Miscarriage is a bitch. You feel like your body has failed you. Not only has it failed, but it’s failed to do something so elemental, so tied up with womanhood. Women everywhere manage to have babies, so why the hell couldn’t you? Don’t listen to that voice. It’s amplified because we don’t really talk about miscarriages, but sadly it is normal.
Apologies if you’re not an exercise person, but after all our losses, the thing that has helped me the most is throwing myself into running and the gym. Not in any especially impressive way. I didn’t set myself massive challenges, just being able to run or spin again – which I hadn’t done while pregnant, because of The Fear – was enough. It’s not just that whole boring exercise-is-good-for-you thing (who knew?) but something about seeing tiny improvements, even if it’s just being ten seconds faster than last week, that crowds out the ‘my body’s useless’ talk.
Say no. You will feel better soon, I promise, but there will still be days that you just don’t want to play. Stay home. Don’t go to the party. Be polite but firm. You don’t need to explain yourself if you don’t want to. Stay home and watch trash. May I recommend Designated Survivor on Netflix, possibly the worst political thriller ever written.
Say yes. Go out. Book the holiday. Buy the dress. Apply for the job. Chug the prosecco. The thing I have hated about trying to conceive is feeling like your life is on hold. Policing your behaviour in case you’re pregnant; hedging your bets because you might be further down the line. It is crushing to go back to all that after you thought you’d hit the jackpot and knew where your life was going once again. It’s rubbish. So instead say yes if you want to – you’ll figure out the rest later.