I have a bump. Get over it.

As you’d expect, I’ve learnt a lot of things while being pregnant. The most minor thing will set you off in floods of tears; the middle of the bed is now where your human size pillow resides, and people’s need to comment on the size of your bump – including strangers.

I’m carrying twins, two babies, so naturally, my bump will be ‘bigger’ than most, and I get it; it’s right there in front of you. You can’t help noticing it. But guess what? That doesn’t mean you need to voice your thoughts.

I get that you probably don’t mean anything by it, but in short, it’s rude. If I had put a little weight on during lockdown or over the Christmas period, would my size be the first thing you’d comment on? I’d hope not!

I remember attending a dentist appointment at 22 weeks. When I told my dentist how far along I was, her response was, “Oh wow, you’re so big already.” This woman, who I see for 15 minutes every two years, left me feeling like I had to validate the size of my bump, and so I replied, “Well, there are two babies in there.” Flippant comments like this can easily get stuck in a woman’s head – and it’s not like we don’t already have enough to worry about!

A few weeks later, I was shopping for a pregnancy pillow in my local Dunelm. As the store assistant pointed me in the direction of the correct department, she asked me how long I had left. When I replied “12 weeks”, the look of horror, as she stared at my growing bump and replied, “Oh, wow”, was palpable.

It’s common knowledge that women carry their pregnancy in different ways, and there are a number of reasons why; many can be self-conscious about it. So, whether I’m bigger than what you would perceive to be average, or I’m not showing as much as you would expect, keep your thoughts to yourself.

When you see a pregnant friend or family member who you haven’t seen in a while, rather than commenting on the size of their bump, why not compliment them? “Congratulations”, “Being pregnant suits you”, “You look great”, “You’re glowing” are just some examples. But if you’re unsure of what to say, perhaps don’t say anything at all.

Oh, and do NOT touch my belly without asking. But, that’s a whole different conversation.

31 weeks pregnant

The elusive diva of the north

In March 2018, National Geographic Traveller asked their readers to submit a great piece of travel writing in a bid to discover the very best untapped talent. The prize, a two-week Thailand Hike, Bike and Kayak Adventure courtesy of G Adventures. They, of course, received hundreds of entries, however, had to whittle these down to just three compelling tales that would be published in the October issue of the magazine. The winning piece; Uganda: Songs for Elephants by Dom Tulett was a compelling read and left a lasting impression with its reader. Of course, I was a little enervated at not being published; nonetheless I have decided to post my entry here:

We have spent the past five days traversing northern Norway; wolf encounters in Narvik, reindeer spotting on the North Cape and husky sledging through Alta. Each night we’ve waited patiently to catch a glimpse of what the locals call the ‘diva of the north’; however she has yet to make an appearance and so tonight, our last night, is our last chance.

Wolf Encounter at Polar Park, Narvik

We were due to be flying further north to Spitsbergen, the crown of Arctic Norway. However, the vast blanket of white that is engulfing the city, swallowing distant objects, means our plane has been grounded, and we’re going nowhere. Although disheartened at the missed opportunity of scouring the horizons of Svalbard for polar bears, we are determined to make the most of our extra night in Tromsø, the gateway to the Arctic.

As dusk falls over the city, we wander the historic centre, delighting in the traditional architecture, imagining what stories live within the chestnut red and burnt yellow walls. I look out across the steel grey Tromsøysundet strait, and admire the iconic Arctic Cathedral, built in the 1960’s the triangular structure stretches skyward, imitating the hulking snow-capped mountains behind.

We cross over the Tromsø Bridge, toward the mainland and take a cable car to the top of Mount Storsteinen where we are rewarded with a sweeping view of the city. Beneath the canopy of the night sky, Tromsø appears almost as though it’s been dusted with glitter; for the city is alive with lights. Our guide, a professor at the city’s university, draws our attention to the emerging constellations from the palette of stars above; the Little Dipper, the Northern Cross and a lone orbiting satellite.

Tromsø from Mount Storsteinen, 421 metres above sea level.

Inside, I take a bite of my reindeer burger and listen intently as the professor tells me of his encounters with the ‘diva of the north’. He recounts the variety of forms, colours and intensities that she can take on. Suddenly, as though she knows she’s being spoken about, she teases the sky with the first hint of her approach and the excitable buzz of chatter in the restaurant increases in volume. I find the nearest exit, hoping this is it; the moment I’ve been waiting for.

I look up at the night sky. At first, it appears indistinct, a light smudge behind a bank of clouds. The smudge starts to glow and gather into tormented twists of ethereal green. It is indisputable now, the elusive diva of the north as arrived. The Northern Lights dance across the sky in a sequence that only Mother Nature could choreograph. I gasp as a halo of vibrating violet light explodes almost directly above my head. I am speechless, awestruck. Bursts of white, green and purple continue to splash themselves against the canvas of the sky, as though being formed by the brushstrokes of a haphazard hand. There is nothing inexpert about this artist, though; every touch is calculated, every motion nuances the breathtaking final masterpiece.

Aurora Borealis from Storsteinen

And then, as swiftly as it began, the spectacle above me dissolves into nothing, and I’m sure the natural phenomena has departed. But then, instantaneously she forms on another horizon, dancing onwards, swirling streams of colour amid the craggy peaks. She continues late into the night, the diva of the north, the sensation of the sky, has given us the performance of a lifetime.