As several people have requested it, here’s an extract from the upcoming book “The Speed Bump: What To Expect When You’re (Unexpectedly) Expecting”.
The blog began thanks to a little publication called “Emma’s Diary”. If you’re currently pregnant, or have been in the past, you’re probably familiar with Emma’s Diary – it’s a free magazine given out to every pregnant woman in her Bounty pack (this is essentially a folder full of useless “1p off a very expensive washing powder” coupons, a teensy pot of Sudocrem, maybe something nice like a baby towel, and this Emma’s Diary magazine). It follows the forty weeks of pregnancy for a woman called Emma, who is having her first baby with her husband Nick. It all sounds very lovely, but for one tiny problem…
Emma is far too fucking perfect.
Don’t get me wrong – this magazine is great for a middle class married couple with stable jobs, who have tried for a few months to get pregnant and are now so excited about maternity leave and comparing bumps with all her pregnant friends and so on.
For an unwed student couple facing an uncertain financial future, an unplanned pregnancy, certainly no pregnant friends and no maternity leave to speak of? It’s not exactly relevant.
I flicked through Emma’s Diary when I got it, and it actually made me angry. How was I supposed to associate with Emma? How could I empathise with her excitement on seeing the little blue plus sign on the pregnancy test, or the shared joy as she and her partner told both sets of parents over a lovely meal out? Reading about someone whose biggest dilemma is what shade of yellow to paint the gender-neutral nursery is a bit of a kick in the teeth to a pregnant woman living in a tiny room with a toilet-cupboard and no room to even put a Moses basket, let alone for the baby to have a nursery of its own – not to mention the fact we wouldn’t be allowed to stay there with a baby anyway.
Where was the version of Emma’s Diary for unplanned pregnancy? Or for single mums, who don’t have their partners around to run their baths or whisk them off to Paris on a romantic babymoon (little tip – don’t bother. Emma hated it as all she could do was “munch on baguettes and olives”, seeing as posh cheese and fine wine were off the menu)? Where’s the edition for older parents, worrying because everyone they tell asks them “Aren’t you a little old to be having a baby?”, and people are all-too-eager to point out the increased risk of chromosomal disorders in older mums?
I get it. They have to appeal to the ‘average’, because the cost and logistics of writing and printing all of these different versions of the diary, and then distributing the right one to each different mum, would be a nightmare. In an ideal world, though, wouldn’t it be so much better if we had a pregnancy guide we could identify with?
I mean, I had about as much chance of a babymoon in Paree as I did of having a virgin birth (zero chance whatsoever, just in case you missed the chapter on contraception). It’s all well and good reading about relaxing baths when all you have is a shared bathroom that your housemate uses to have almost-constant noisy shower sex with his girlfriend. Besides, I don’t want to read about Emma’s mum sobbing tears of delight on hearing that her daughter is going to become a mummy herself. I want to read about Emma’s mum calling her an idiot and her dad threatening her boyfriend with a shotgun (I would like to take this opportunity to point out that this is NOT an accurate representation of how my parents reacted, otherwise I am going to get some pretty angry phone calls from my mum and dad when they read this).
That was where the blog was born. I wanted to create a more realistic vision of unplanned pregnancy, rather than the ‘one-size-fits-all’ magazine Bounty sends out. I called it “The Speed Bump”, and gave it the tagline “What to expect when you’re (unexpectedly) expecting” (and yes, I was very proud of that one). The first post made my feelings on Emma’s Diary perfectly clear…
Why doesn’t Emma talk about the gritty side of pregnancy? Forget buggering off to France but, oh no, she can’t eat soft cheese! La grande merde, she will just have to scoff olives and garlic bread instead, poor moi! I can’t even leave the house without feeling sick. The thought of eating anything that isn’t neutral coloured, salty and a little bit cardboard-y in consistency is enough to make me throw up on a bad day.
I’m craving McDonalds chicken nuggets as they include all of these qualities, with the added bonus of being so damn unhealthy. So you’ve got Emma with her lovely little cravings – what is it again, bouillabaise with veal escalopes and croutons? – And then there’s me, at the other end of the scale, nearly crying with joy when I saw that McDonalds do boxes of 20 chicken nuggets.
From “Emma’s Diary is a pile of proverbial…”, October 21st 2013
In a way, I suppose I have a lot to thank Emma’s Diary for. Without it, I would never have started my blog, and I would never have had so many of the amazing experiences the blog has given me. That doesn’t mean I have to like it though. If I get handed a copy of Emma’s Diary in my next pregnancy, it’s going straight in the bin.
Right after I’ve written a scathing parody of it, of course.