Mother Fluker

A Migrant Mother's Musings

Monday, April 10, 2006

Hormonal Gardening

It's been about ten years since I last had a garden, my first, in the depths of Surrey, England. I used to spend hours and hours faffing about in it, learning all the correct latin names for bedding plants and conducting chemical warfare on various of God's creatures who showed signs of interfering with my plans for the ultimate evening gin-and-tonic environment. I joined the RHS, immersed myself annually in the joys of the Hampton Court Flower Show up the road, and generally spent a lot of spare time thinking horticultural thoughts.

Then I moved to Glasgow to a gardenless flat, the sorrow of which was somewhat mitigated by the fact that it was always bloody raining anyway, and dark for half the year so why bother gardening? Spare time was consumed by travel, study and writing, so I eventually stopped missing it so much.

But now we have Our Own Place in sunny Perth, I am rediscovering the joys of gardening, propelled not only by years of deprivation but by a tidal wave of pregnancy hormones. I am finding gardening while pregnant immensely satisfying. I lumber about the flower beds planting and nurturing in a kind of bizarre haze of fertility. It's just about the most enjoyable thing I can think of at the moment. And generally good exercise, if you don't count the time I lost my balance and almost fell into the fishpond.

It's taking some getting-used to, however, due not only to the long time since I last practised the art, but also because the rules have completely changed. Firstly, all the earth in Perth appears to be sand. Secondly, keeping things watered was before an occasional challenge to be met with a hose and a watering can, whereas here one has to be initiated in the arcane rituals of reticulation, a term I had never heard of pre-Oz. It's basically a system of pipes and sprinklers that can be set on a timer to water your plants automatically, sometimes running off a natural bore. There are whole aisles dedicated to the various kinds of plastic attachments required in Bunnings (think B&Q). Quite an eye opener. The system we have inherited with the house is quite ancient and I am only vaguely aware of hoses fizzing away in the very early hours of the morning, so I am still trying to suss it all out. Thirdly, a large proportion of plants here are quite unfamiliar to me, some seem incredibly exotic, and the ones I do recognise obey totally different flowering patterns (most annuals in the UK are perennials, etc). So I feel like a complete gardening virgin again.

I have a lemon tree, frangipani, elephant ferns, palm trees and gum trees in my new garden, along with bougainvillea, previously a long-held gardening dream. But I miss daffodils, tulips, snowdrops and bluebells, some of which technically exist here, but are not really observable in practice. And I am still getting my head around having Easter in Autumn, which is almost as wrong as a hot Christmas.

Oh, and there's the highly alarming insect life. But that's another post.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Whale Rider

Read an article on MSN recently in which the male health editor had been persuaded to wear a pregnancy-simulating bump weighing 28 pounds (about 13 kilos) for 24 hours, with predictable results (back-ache, intense self-pity, sudden respect for pregnant women). The whole thing struck me as a little bit pointless, as to go from nothing to that amount of additional weight immediately would be hard for anyone to cope with, whereas the creeping up of the scales over time gives you a chance to make some gradual adjustment. However, it did make me think, as 28 pounds is pretty much the weight I have put on so far, and I still have two months to go. Last time I put on a horrific 56 pounds in total, and could feel my skeleton creaking in alarm every time I got up in the morning. By the time I was at term I was lugging about the equivalent of not only my backpack that I travelled around the world with for a whole year, but D's as well. My feet ached permanently and I felt indescribably ugly and ungainly. Already I am feeling unnaturally swollen and uncomfortable. It's not the same as simply being overweight, as beer-bellied males seem to think. That huge bump isn't squashable flab that can be compressed when the urge to cut your toenails strikes - it's rock hard and unnegotiable.

So as mentioned before, I am trying not quite to get into such a state this time around. And if I only put on a pound or so a week for the next couple of months then things should in theory be much easier afterwards. I still think it's rather unfair that some pregnant women swan bloomingly around in pregnancy with a tidy little soccer-ball bump and shiny hair, while others like me look as if we've eaten all the pies in Australia. There's no mystery to the weight gain and unfortunately it's not just 'all fluid' as people kindly suggest. The truth is that I just find the constant hunger extremely difficult to deal with (other than by binge-eating, of course, which works perfectly), and so am coping only by using every last reserve of my willpower in not putting chocolate or biscuits into the supermarket trolley. It's so hard. I am trying to focus on my trip back to the UK in September, when Baby2 will be twelve weeks old and I would love to be wearing normal - ha!- clothes for the Christening. I reckon that baby plus placenta plus fluid must equal about 6 kilos or 13 pounds, so that'll leave me with about 9 kilos to go before I begin to look reasonable again. It might be do-able. Hmmm.