Preggie Exercise & The Chat Burning Zone

A while ago, The Sister asked me what blog name I was planning on giving my son. Since I called my daughter The Princess, it follows that I would call my son The Prince. But two days ago, an actual prince decided to make his appearance on exactly the date that I was due to give birth – Monday, 22 July 2013. And my son decided not to make an appearance on the day he was predicted to arrive.

“Stuff being born on the same day as the future king of England!”, he thought.

Like The Princess, who frolicked inside my belly for an extra week before I demanded to be induced, my son appears to be very comfortable in utero. Anyway, since he will not share a birthday with the most famous prince in the world, I think it’s okay to call him The Prince, alongside his sister, The Princess.

One of the reasons why an overdue baby can be bad for the self-esteem, is that the dreaded number depicting what one weighs on the scale has more time to climb. With The Princess, despite her above average birth weight of 3.66kg, I managed to contain my weight gain to a fairly respectable 12kg, which I understand is considered normal for someone who is not underweight – something I have never been accused of. On Tuesday I hopped on that hateful machine, just for a laugh, and my weight gain had gone from 12.8kg one week earlier, to a whopping 14.2kg. The Prince better justify this being one BIG baby!

One of the ways I have tried to (unsuccessfully) to contain my pregnancy weight gain, has been through exercise. Unfortunately, however, when I was five months pregnant, I started to feel a stabbing pain in my right side every time I did any cardio exercise. I couldn’t even walk around Sandton City at “speed”, so going for runs (which were becoming uncomfortable anyway with my growing belly) and even walks around the neighbourhood, became impossible.

I have never been very motivated to do my own workouts in a gym. I either need to be in a group training session or a I need a personal trainer to keep me in line. But being pregnant, super hormonal and having to entertain a busy toddler all day during school holidays, weekends and the many public holidays that surface in South Africa around April and May, changed my view of solo gym sessions. Suddenly, Virgin Active and its Club V for kids could offer me multiple solutions:

1) a way to burn off just a few bites of the truckloads of chocolate my hormonal self was insisting on consuming

2) a brief break from childcare and a change of scenery

3) a chance for The Husband and I to work out simultaneously over the weekend or on a public holiday if he wasn’t cycling

4) fun for The Princess in the form of a million toys and games that were new and novel

There was only one problem: despite having successfully started playschool in late January at 21 months, The Princess wasn’t interested in being left with childminders, despite the fact that she was in Toy Heaven. I knew this because she screamed the house down on more than one occasion when I tried to leave her at Club V.

I almost gave up, but on Easter Monday, I was determined to make Club V work for us. And somehow, it was suddenly like sleep training – a relatively small amount of pain for many years of gain. She screamed for a few minutes when I left the room and then fell silent as the childminder managed to distract her. I crept to the elliptical trainer, put one earphone in and waited for my name to be called over the intercom to come and placate my hysterical child – as had happened many times before.

But the announcement never came.

From then onwards, I struggled to get The Princess to leave Club V. I had to pretend that I was leaving her behind. Sometimes even that didn’t work.

So, since Easter, I’ve had no excuse not to frequent the gym. There was no way I could bounce around with my big belly in a group exercise class and so the elliptical trainer became my friend. Some days, the pain would surface during a workout and I would have to severely decrease my intensity. After my 20 minute time limit was up, I’d climb onto the treadmill. If I kept my speed down to embarrassingly low levels, I could walk without pain in my side.

Although I have never been the sportiest or fittest chick in town, my Type A personality means that if I motivate myself sufficiently to go to the gym, every second must count. I must achieve maximum efficiency – within my own (fairly great) physical limits. I must be – as a very wise late friend of The Husband’s used to say – “a legend in my own lunch box”.

Before I was heavily pregnant and before this stabbing pain from exercise began, I would look at women talking on the phone on the treadmill with internal disdain. If you were able to have a fat chat, you weren’t pushing yourself sufficiently, right? Or, if you were holding on to the bar you were wasting your time. If you were walking at a speed of 5 or less and no gradient – and God forbid you were talking on the phone, messaging, looking at Facebook or holding on – you may as well be lying on the couch since you certainly weren’t going to break a sweat.

When my neighbour was 38 weeks pregnant a few months ago, I asked her how she was feeling. She sighed, looked at me and said: “You know what, Natalie? I just don’t think our bodies were meant to be shared.”

There have been days during this pregnancy when my neighbour’s words have rung so true. Not least when I’ve been on the treadmill. On those days, I have smiled to myself, smiled at the women scrolling through Facebook on their phones next to me and I’ve been reminded of that classic scene from the movie “The Switch” with Jennifer Anniston and Jason Bateman. (The movie in which Jennifer Anniston’s character is the platonic BFF of Jason Bateman’s character and she decides to get pregnant via a sperm donor.) Jason Bateman’s character’s personality is definitely Type A and contrasts sharply with that of his colleague. The two men are at the gym, each side by side on a treadmill when Jason Bateman’s character looks over at his colleague and says with raised eyebrows:

“You’re eating a chocolate bar? On 4?”

To which his colleague replies indignantly: “I’m in the fat burning zone!”

I draw the line at consuming chocolate whilst actually on the treadmill, but for the last few months I have been exercising in what I term “the chat burning zone”. I catch up with my phone calls, I post status up-dates on Facebook, I tweet, I respond to sms’s.

But I don’t hold on to the bar. That would really be letting myself go 🙂

Mommy’s Big Night Out/ In

Ever since The Husband went on a five night cycling trip in mid-December, followed by a four night cycling trip in late January, I have been fantasising about going away… all by myself… just me and my beloved Macbook… relishing the quiet… not worrying about anyone but yours truly… sleeping… reading… maybe even going to gym… shopping… napping… writing… reading… sleeping… Sigh.

There were just a few snags with the fantasy. I am over aeroplanes (I’ve taken over 40 one-way flights since The Princess’ birth two years and three months ago) and I don’t like driving long distance. Oh, and I regard Sandton to Monte Casino as long distance. Naturally, this limited my options. Also, I genuinely like Joburg. I like the shops, I like the choice of gyms on my doorstep, I like the vibe, I love the winter sunshine… I actually really like my home too. But despite my love for The Husband and our beautiful, super intelligent and amusing daughter who adores me, sometimes I just feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor and I simply “vant to be alone.” It doesn’t help that our house is very, very open plan, so sitting down to do something simple like write a blog while The Princess is awake is completely impossible. And so I fantasised about checking into a local Sandton hotel for a few nights and squeezing in all the abovementioned things…Sigh.

Well, after six months of vivid fantasies, yesterday, I finally took the plunge and booked myself into a hotel for Thursday night, 20 June. Okay, the hotel is 300m from my house and although check-in time was from 3pm, I felt too guilty to leave The Princess for the afternoon when she only woke up at 2pm after school… I vowed I would leave my house for the 30 second commute (quite literally) at 5pm when the supper/ bath/ witching hour began. But, having no deadline, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to leave this little angel who adores me and wants to be with me whenever she stops to think about it. And so I stayed to read her a story and put her to bed at 7pm. Then I left home with my suitcase full of one night supplies: my laptop, my book, my i-pad – all my little “me-time” indulgences – and promptly sms’ed my nanny with the hotel’s phone number and my room number – in case of emergencies. (The Husband was at a work function).

A word or two on present-day decor trends in hotels: since when did it go out of style to have actual lights fitted to the ceiling in hotel rooms? Somehow, it’s become de rigeur to simply bathe a hotel room in the gentle, romantic light of bedside lamps and perhaps a desk lamp or passage light. WTF? I happen to like light. So, in an effort to create some additional light in the room, I decided to turn on the desk lamp. I have to say that it was no small feat trying to locate the hidden switch on this baby:


I eventually gave up and asked the Room Service waiter to turn it on for me. He fiddled around for the elusive on button and eventually confirmed that lamp wasn’t working. He’d call maintenance.

So much for “vanting” to be alone! I was now waiting for maintenance, as well as housekeeping because when I checked in, the very thoughtful lady at the front desk took one look at my enormous belly and said, “When I was in your condition, I found the type of hard pillows the hotel provides highly uncomfortable. May I offer you some feather pillows?” I had to smile at her pregnancy euphemism: being in a “condition”. In some ways it sounded so Victorian and, in some ways, with all the glorious ailments that have been plaguing me (heartburn, indigestion, bloating, weight gain, shortness of breath) I honestly did feel as though I were in a “condition”. And yes, I would need those feather pillows in my “condition”, please.

While I was waiting for maintenance and housekeeping, I decided to fire up my Mac and start this blog. I had been assured that getting connected was fast and free and did not require an impossible combination of illogical letters and numbers as a password – all I needed was my surname and my room number. Something I thought even my technologically-challenged self would be able to cope with. But apparently not. After several attempts to go on-line, I kept getting a “back-end error” message. I suspected that this was not good. I called the lovely lady, Jacky, at the front desk.

“Oh yes,” she confirmed, “we’re off-line at the moment because the IT department in London is in the process of up-grading our line from 4 megabits per second to 10 megabits per second.”

Was I meant to be excited for them? Here I was, paying a small fortune for solitude, 300m from my home with its very own 10 Mb per second, uncapped ADSL line… It felt as though, after six months of fantasies, the universe was truly conspiring against me…

Jacky called back shortly afterwards asking me to try to connect to the internet again. I tried and failed. She then wanted to know what computer I was using. The “Aaaah…. I SEE…” response I got did not sound good either. Basically, it was my fault I was having trouble connecting with a Mac? Jacky then explained that whilst she would ordinarily love to send the technical guy up to my room to assist, it was a really busy time of night and could I perhaps come down? I pictured the scene in the lobby that I’d witnessed when I entered the hotel to check in. Having only ever been to this particular hotel during the day, it had escaped me that the bar was more or less positioned smack in the middle of the entrance. It was pumping with British-accented flight attendants and crew whom I knew were a primary target market for the hotel. (I had seen and overheard this crowd around the corner at Tashas enough times while The Princess was a babe in the pram and we practically spent our lives escaping to Tashas). I looked down at my newly purchased, breastfeeding-friendly, spotty pink and black pyjamas from Woolies and declined coming down to the front desk for technical assistance.

Then Maintenance arrived. The representative was charmingly honest. After a quick once-over, he confirmed that he couldn’t change the bulb in my desk lamp because the particular globes that these funky desk lamps required, were not available in South Africa. A minor oversight during the furniture and decor installation! Oops!

In the hotel’s defence, the Maintenance man very quickly replaced my lamp with a similar looking device. Perhaps this globe was one of the original imports from when the hotel opened for the World Cup in 2010? Nonetheless, the funky lamp now worked. And then through some fiddling around on my Mac, in my spotty pink and black PJ’s, this technologically challenged Mommy managed to connect to the Internet. Yeeha!

All sorted! Except for the feather pillows which hadn’t yet arrived. The problem was that by this stage it was 9:30pm and I couldn’t have cared if the pillows were made out of sand and the Internet had never been invented. I was ready to pass out.

My bladder woke me up at 02:30am with the imported desk lamp still burning, clutching a rock hard pillow to try and support my oversized belly.

And that is the story of my big night of “me-time”. Of course my internal mommy alarm and my squished bladder woke me up at 5:55 am this morning but the good news is that check-out time is 12pm and I don’t plan on getting out of my spotty pyjamas until then. Mmmm.

The Scary Sandton Hairdresser

I love myself a great blowdry. I really do. If there was a mobile service in Jozi that you could call last minute to come to your house to blowdry your hair, I’d be their best customer. But since Janine from Jeauval in Hyde Park left the hairdressing profession nearly eight years ago, I just haven’t found that perfect combination of hairdressing skills and personality coupled with a fabulous salon experience, to be a regular salon goer. I’m also fortunate in that I actually like my natural hair colour and so, because I don’t have root issues and because I don’t have a hairdresser and a salon I love, I hardly ever get my hair done.

But on Tuesday night I had a function and the thought of squeezing my bulging belly into a nice outfit for it was more than I could bear. So I figured that at least if my hair was fabulous, I’d feel better about having nothing to wear.

I managed to get a last minute appointment at the salon closest to me. I’d tried them before. The hairdresser I’d been to was a genuinely lovely person but we couldn’t have been more different. I realised this when I caught him eyeing my Woolworths water bottle. He said something which I interpreted to be critical of people who drink exclusively bottled water. I quickly assured him that this was not the case and that I refilled my bottles with tap water and only replaced them a couple of times a week. Apparently, it was the issue of replacing the bottles that concerned him. He wanted to know why I didn’t use a permanent sports bottle which didn’t need replacing…

He was also an avid cyclist. At first I thought that he did this for sport, rather than with the sole purpose of saving the planet. He told me that he did all his grocery shopping by bike, but this did have some limitations, especially when it came to items in “unnecessarily large packaging” such a as boxes of cereal. Still not really understanding I said:

“But why don’t you just take the car when you need to stock up on cereal?”

“Oh no,” he said, “I sold my car years ago. I really don’t want to leave any footprint at all.”

Ooooooooh! I suddenly got it. He was what the Mother Figure calls a “greenie beanie”.

That was just over four months ago. This time, with my last minute booking, I was given a new guy in the salon: Benji. Benji introduced himself, took one look at the tufts of pregnancy hair growing vertically from the edge of my forehead, raised an eyebrow and said in a camp Joburg, drawl:

“Oh my GAWD! What ARE we going to do with THOSE?”

Me: “Um… Hide them?”

I explained that they were from pregnancy and that they’d disappeared a few months after my last pregnancy so he shouldn’t be too shocked etc, etc. Still, he looked mildly horrified.

Once my hair had been washed, I asked the lady not to brush or comb it while it was wet as I had a problem with split ends. I then explained this to Benji.

Benji: “This is a special salon brush. The bristles are springy and they bounce off the strands of hair so they can’t split them. But these ends look like they need a really good cut.”

Me: “Yes, yes, I know, this was just last minute and I have a scan in an hour from now so I’ll make a plan to come back when I have more time.”

A pregnant (excuse the pun) pause ensued…

Benji: “By the way… exactly when last did a pair of scissors go near these ends?”

I begin counting the months in my head as I prepare to answer but Benji is quicker:

“1642?” he suggests and promptly cracks up at his own joke.


Me: (squirming in my chair) “Um, about four months ago, actually.”

The truth is closer to five months but I decided to round down…

But Benji has more in store for my ailing self esteem:

Benji: “Maybe your ends are in such bad condition because of this bad dye job?”

Me: (spluttering decaff salon cappuccino in shock). “Actually, this is my natural colour. The last time I dyed my hair was in 2006.”

Benji: (with a raised eyebrow which seems to be his specialty) “Really?”

He then takes my split, obviously lighter, probably somewhat sun-damaged ends and places them against my roots to demonstrate the difference in shade.

“You see how much lighter your ends are compared to your roots?” Benji looks at me smugly like a detective presenting a criminal with damning, hard evidence.

Dude, why don’t you just cut to the chase, call your new client a liar and tell her she has crap hair?

But it gets better.

“Or, is it possible, that these ends still have dye on them from 2006?” Benji looks as though he truly believes he may be onto something.

Despite dear, sweet Benji I do walk out of there with a beautiful blow dry, although my pregnancy tufts are threatening to start standing up any minute with the spontaneous downpour that begins just as I step out of the salon’s door…

Who needs a shrink to sort out your self-esteem sh** when you can just get some tough love from a scary hairdresser?

A New Level of Ditsyness

One of the things I miss most about home when I’m overseas or in a very, small, very godforsaken South African town, is skinny cappuccinos. So when we got back to Jozi in early Jan, I set about grabbing one whenever I was out. Slowly but surely, however, I realised that they were making me feel sick.

After a coffee meeting with The Princess and a friend at Tashas, one morning, I was having my hair trimmed with a new hairdresser in my local centre. At one point when he was mid-sentence, I felt so nauseous that, without even thinking to apologize, I dug in my handbag for some remaining bits of crackerbread I’d been carrying around for The Princess. I then caught a glimpse of the hairdresser in the mirror. He was looking at me somewhat strangely.

I suppose it’s not every day he sees women foraging in their handbags for Snackbread crumbs. Plus I had told him that I was on a mission to lose 10kg. He probably thought I’d been starving myself for days and finally gave in to the urge to devour dry crackers.

I did put him out of his misery and explained that I suspected the strong coffee in cappuccinos was making me nauseous. He said many of his colleagues had been experiencing similar symptons and they also suspected it was the coffee.

The next day, I had an attack of morning hunger unlike any I’d ever experienced – at least that’s what it felt like. Despite really, really wanting to stick to my Weight Watchers points, at about 10:30am, after a proper, wholesome, balanced breakfast, I had to race downstairs to shovel food into my mouth. Weight Watchers went out of the window as I devoured a carb-rich sandwich replete with cheese, ham, mayo and mustard. Mmmmm.

The next morning The Princess and I were up at some ungodly hour. The kind of hour when you REALLY need coffee. And within half an hour I was lying on the couch, trying to keep an eye on The Princess but overwhelmed with nausea.

I wanted camaraderie and sympathy so I sms’ed my friend Mandy, whose little boy is 2 months older than The Princess. She’d empathise with not being able to drink coffee at 5 in the morning. And it wouldn’t be rude to sms her at 6 in the morning as she’d almost certainly be awake.

As soon as I hit “send”, I realised she’d immediately suspect that I was pregnant. I smiled to myself. There was no way. I was on the Pill and I’d used it for years and years as a very successful method of birth control. I honestly believed that the 5% failure rate was for ditsy chicks who popped The Pill sporadically and expected it to work. That was not me.

By 8am, The Princess was down for her morning nap and I was in the bathroom washing my face when I suddenly felt so ravenous I thought I might actually kill for food. That’s when I thought that maybe, just maybe, I should take a pregnancy test. I’d seen one in the cupboard a few weeks ago that I’d bought when I suspected I was pregnant with The Princess. And so, I duly removed it from the cupboard and re-read the instructions before putting it to use.

Oh my God! Two red lines appeared before I had even replaced the cap, whereas the instructions said to replace the cap and wait FIVE MINUTES. This hadn’t even been five seconds. I then replaced the cap and stared at this stick for what felt like hours.


No change.

Still two red lines.

I remembered this to be the positive result we’d had when we’d found out I was pregnant with The Princess but I checked the instructions anyway. Yip – two red lines equals “preggers”.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Someone had once told me that these home tests can give false negatives but they can’t give false positives. I realised this person wasn’t a medical professional and that it could be B.S but still… I was convinced I must be pregnant. Nausea from the same coffee ritual I’d been on for SO long, being ravenous in the morning… it all made sense.

But I was on the frigging pill! What the hell? Okay, yes, perhaps I was a bit more scatty about taking it than I had been before I became a mother – one just has SO much more time when you only have to really look after yourself. And there had been those overnight flights to the Seychelles where I’d forgotten to take it until 2 days later… Jeez. This was all way too scary.

Plus there was no reaching The Husband who was out on an epic cycle training session. (To give you an indication, I think I reached him after 11 missed calls and three hours.) So I had to go through my full blown panic alone.

I started calculating the age gap. If I was two weeks pregnant, then I had another 38 weeks to go which meant the baby would be here around early October. And Margie, our night nurse was starting with Nicky’s second baby at the beginning of June… last time they had her for four months… June, July, August, September… okay, Margie MIGHT just be free for the new baby.


Should I call her now? No, wait, let me confirm. Phone our GP. Phone goes to voicemail – it’s obviously not his Saturday on duty. Phone the practice. Only opening at 9:30. That’s nearly 90 minutes. I can’t wait that long to confirm. Phone Lancet’s 24 hour lab at the Morningside Clinic. How long for the results of a pregnancy test? 30 minutes. Perfect. Natalie, get to Lancet asap.



The Princess is still sleeping.

Waiting for her to wake up is torture.

Mind racing.

So how old will she be when her sibling arrives in October 2012? 18 months. Gulp. Better than Glamour Girl’s 16 month gap but still…

Jeez, how could this happen to me? I am SUCH a planner. I’d taken heed of all those cautionary tales of women going off the Pill in preparation for a pregnancy in 6-12 months time and then falling pregnant that night or whatever.

Not me. No ways. I never did that. I waited and waited and procrastinated and did tests and checks and did so many “last” overseas trips before I eventually went off The Pill, knowing that it could happen immediately, you could just never know for sure. When the breastfeeding consultant tried to tell me that I needn’t use contraception if breastfeeding exclusively, I had no idea I’d never get anywhere close to exclusive breastfeeding but I totally ignored her advice. I was back on The Pill asap. I wanted to at least be able to plan a minimum gap.

Finally, finally, The Princess wakes up and we get to Lancet. There is the longest queue in the world – obviously. I’ve now passed from hyperventilation to decorating the new nursery… I can’t believe this has happened but perhaps it’s meant to be and I at least have 38 weeks to prepare myself. I’m sort of coping with the idea.

The Husband calls. He’s talking in code because he doesn’t want his cycling partner to get wind of the possibility that I might be expecting. I don’t tell him that in my state of absolute hysteria Mandy called and I blurted out everything to her. Plus I had to tell The Best Friend who was up from Cape Town that we wouldn’t make our coffee date at 10 because I was checking if I was pregnant. She completely understood and encouraged me to “get clarity” immediately but added that if the home test was positive, I was definitely pregnant. Thanks, Doc.

After what seemed like hours, but possibly only half an hour later, I was called to get blood taken. I then had to wait another 40 minutes or so for the results. The “what if it isn’t positive?” question did cross my mind but I decided it was totally impossible.

Imagine my surprise then when the dude handed me the result and it was… negative. I was completely thrown. I thought it was a mistake. There was, of course, a disclaimer stating that in very early pregnancy an erroneous negative result was possible. I thought the test must be wrong, but if I didn’t trust a blood test, what could I trust?

I’d spent the morning devouring endless slices of toast caked in butter and cheese, safe in the knowledge that there was a perfectly normal physiological explanation for my ostensible hunger and resultant feeding frenzy.

I’d gone from not being pregnant at 6am to be shockingly and surprisingly pregnant at 8am to being shockingly and surprisingly not actually pregnant at 10am.

It was all too much for my stress levels and I spent the rest of the day wanting to knock back pizza, sushi and wine, but, at the same time, trying not to.

I was still somewhat convinced I was pregnant, but my rational side knew that it was very unlikely to be the case. Obviously I was just looking for an excuse to eat more. Cr*p!

Just to be sure, I got The Husband to buy some more home pregnancy tests. I did one on Sunday morning and it came up negative.


Something wasn’t adding up…

Perhaps the “positive” test was expired. The instructions said to check the “use by” date on the foil packaging. I couldn’t remember any foil packaging but then again, I was in a bit of a state when it suddenly dawned on me that I should take a pregnancy test. I’d probably thrown it away in a rush.

A search of the bathroom bin revealed no foil packaging. I hadn’t emptied the bin that weekend, nor had The Husband.

Double hmmm.

By Monday morning I realised I most certainly wasn’t pregnant and that was when the truth slowly started to dawn on me…

When I was wondering whether I could be pregnant with The Princess in 2010, I was pretty sure I had bought only two pregnancy tests: the first hadn’t give any result at all and I’d had to bin it and then there’d been the second one – the positive one announcing The Princess’ arrival. And the “current” positive test did look rather faded. Those lines weren’t quite the same rich reddish-pink hue they had been a year and a half ago…

Moral of the story: don’t keep positive pregnancy tests in your bathroom cupboard as souvenirs.

The good news: I can still try to plan the ideal gap between The Princess and her sibling. The bad news: I have reached a new level of ditsy-ness I really didn’t think I was capable of. They say you get preggy brain when you’re expecting but then you give birth to your brain 9 months later. Maybe I should’ve had a caesar. Maybe they would’ve found it because sometimes I think my brain is still stuck in the birth canal.

But phew – back to normal. Now to eat as much seared tuna and sushi as I can stomach just before I really am pregnant with Number Two.