It also helps in dating it seems, with dating service Zoosk via Mashable, discovering that quoting the HBO show right now could hep you get more matches.
Yes, really. After looking into 375,454 messages, they have found some interesting insights, and after seeing the results, you will want to pepper your profiles with GoT quotes whether you watch the show or not.
Charlotte Philby reports on a long-overdue movement seeking to open up the conversation about miscarriage at last
It may have happened to you, but chances are you haven’t shared your experience. So why are we still secretive about miscarriage?
I remember my first pregnancy as a series of fragmented snapshots: me, aged 25, on the floor of my bedroom, shaking with shock as I watched the second line emerge on the pregnancy test. A few weeks, later trying on maternity clothes in Topshop, smiling as I imagined my belly expanding over the following months. Later that afternoon, the feeling of liquid pouring down my leg as I walked home from the Tube station. That evening, the doctor’s mouth moving as she explained the procedure known as a ‘sweep’ – necessary to clear my womb of any debris from the foetus I had just lost – as swiftly and as unexpectedly as I had learned I was pregnant.
The experience of having a miscarriage at almost three months filled me with a deep well of sadness, a feeling that sat fundamentally at odds with the doctor’s reassurance that this was a common occurrence, and that, at this stage, the life inside me had been nothing more than a collection of cells. My sadness was unalleviated by the well-meaning close friends, who reassured me that one in four pregnancies fail to thrive and end in spontaneous miscarriage, or to hear that I was still just as likely to have a healthy baby one day. I had already redrawn my future with this particular baby at the centre of it. This was my baby. I had loved it, and now it was gone, and only a handful of people knew it had ever existed. I was heartbroken.
Perhaps one of the reasons why many of us simply don’t know what to say is because so little is known about why miscarriages happen, why they sometimes recur and, ultimately, how to prevent them. Beyond the stock advice (not to smoke, drink or eat certain foods), miscarriage and stillbirth have long been subjects that are rarely discussed or carry the stigma of failure, and yet, once you start to talk, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t been affected. Julia Bueno, 46, is the author of The Brink Of Being: Talking About Miscarriage, one of a number of new books this year seeking to open up the conversation around baby loss, alongside online movements, including psychologist and maternal-health campaigner Dr Jessica Zucker’s social-media drive #IHadAMiscarriage, launched to raise awareness and create a community.
Bueno had her first miscarriage nearly 20 years ago, at 30, when she lost twins. She subsequently discovered she had an abnormal-shaped uterus, and now has two sons, aged nine and 16. Struck by the impact of her experience of recurrent miscarriage, Bueno retrained as a psychotherapist and support worker for The Miscarriage Association. ‘I had learned the value of talking to someone who was prepared to listen and be genuinely curious and understanding about my experiences, and I wanted to offer the same,’ she says.
In her book, she recalls the stories of the hundreds of women she has met over 15 years in consulting rooms. Her aim is to give a voice to those who remain unheard and bring to light the questions that their stories raise about how we as a society have traditionally discussed – or, rather, not discussed – the grief of baby loss. ‘Most miscarriages happen even before they have been revealed to the world, or even suggested by the hint of a pregnancy bump. This event can be devastating, physically painful, or both. And yet, despite its prevalence, we have long been unable to talk about miscarriage in any adequate breadth or depth,’ she says. ‘If we do, we tend to do so awkwardly, quickly, and in the most general terms. We squirm, we whisper, and we avoid asking questions. We just don’t understand the experience well enough, or the complex grief that can hit hard in its wake,’ she says. But sometimes, when baby loss occurs after birth, following months of anticipation, the conversation can be even harder.
Jennie Agg, 32, uses her blog, uterusmonologues.com, to document her personal life after the recurrent miscarriages she had between January 2017 and June 2018. On her Instagram, @jenniemonologues, she explains why she continues to write about the subject: ‘I write because miscarriage is sadly normal, but it is not yet normalised. If two years ago I’d had a baby instead of a miscarriage, and continued to post about it now, sharing my experience of motherhood, no one would think it remotely strange. Yet somehow writing and talking about the other side of that sliding-doors moment still feels like a statement.’
‘Miscarriage is sadly normal, but it is not yet normalised’
While miscarriage is most likely to happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, it can occur up until the 24-week point, when it is then deemed a stillbirth in the UK. There is, however, ongoing debate over the terminology. Last year, mother-of-three Kayleigh Parnham, who was carrying a baby she knew would die at birth, led a campaign for parents to be given the option of having a birth certificate for their dead babies, even if they were born before 24 weeks.
Freya Hodges*, 38, has had six miscarriages, one of which was at 20 weeks. She also has a seven-year-old son, who was born following a perfectly healthy pregnancy and home birth. ‘Miscarriage is a personal thing. Some people want to talk about it, but at first I didn’t. Losing a baby at 20 weeks is still called a miscarriage, albeit a “late-term miscarriage”, which in a way doesn’t matter, after all, it’s just a name, a label, but it felt like much more than a miscarriage to me,’ she says. ‘He was tiny, the size of my hand. We sat with him for a few hours before going home. We then had to arrange a funeral for him. I was all over the place, but eventually we had him cremated and now keep his ashes in a special basket at home. We also had a special brass leaf made, engraved with his name, Juno, which is at the crematorium.’
It has been two years since she said goodbye and, for Hodges, the healing process has been ongoing. ‘There are no answers for what happened. Our son had a post-mortem and they found nothing wrong. There was nothing wrong with me or my blood tests, there was nothing wrong with the placenta – it was just bad luck,’ she says. ‘I spent the first two months after his loss drinking every night; I constantly felt incredibly anxious. Time has helped, as well as forms of therapy, such as Reiki healing, reading, yoga, meditation and spending more time in nature. I have also started writing about it, as a way to work through my feelings and open up more.’
Elle Wright, 33, is the author of new memoir Ask Me His Name: Learning To Live And Laugh After The Loss Of My Baby. Wright’s son, Teddy, died three days after his birth, in 2016, of a very rare metabolic condition that meant everything was poisonous to him – even the air he was breathing. Having amassed a 106,000-strong following on her Instagram handle @feathering_the_empty_nest, Wright provides a safe space for women to converse about the life and death of babies at all stages. For her, the motivation to share her story was partly about being acknowledged as a mother. ‘As I watched mothers holding their babies and rocking them in their prams, I wanted to scream, “I’m a mother, too, you know,”’ she says.
I am hugely lucky to now have three children, aged eight, five and three. While there is the temptation to cite my own happy ending when consoling friends who continue to miscarry, I have learned to resist the temptation because their story isn’t mine, just as mine wasn’t anyone else’s. Opening up a dialogue doesn’t necessarily mean talking. The point surely is to listen, to give space to one another, to share, and to allow people to sit with their own stories whether they choose to talk or not; to know that their experience has not only been felt but heard and understood.
For support, go to miscarriageassociation.org.uk, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Seven Dads, including the comedian Russell Brand, get real about the panic, pain and euphoria of watching their partner give birth, and explain why counting down from ten while she’s pushing isn’t necessarily a good idea
‘I was blown away by the naivety of the whole thing and wept uncontrollably’
Nick Francis’s wife Antonia gave birth to their daughter Willow on 24th October 2016 in Homerton Hospital, Hackney
‘The lead-up to Willow’s birth reminded me of the beach scene in Saving Private Ryan. We had done the NCT course beforehand and, like the soldiers in the landing craft, we felt we were prepared for what lay ahead of us. But nothing could have prepared me for the moment when the ramp came down and the bullets, blood and arms started flying.
We had done a hypnobirthing course, so had the yoga playlist on the iphone, essential oils and various massages ready to go. The plan was to have a fairly natural waterbirth.
We had been told the partner should make sure they get plenty of sleep in early labour as you don’t know how long it would last. When Antonia woke me at 2:30am to say that things were happening, she said she was going to get into the bath and I should rest. I lay in bed wide awake for about ten minutes, then thought “what the hell I am I doing?” and went to see how she was getting on. I had downloaded an app to time the contractions. The first timing put her at three contractions in ten minutes. That’s apparently when you should head into hospital, but when I rang them they told me not to worry and not to come in.
An hour or so later the contractions had got to five in ten minutes. I rang the hospital and, again, they were extremely laissez-faire. I felt like they weren’t really listening to me. I called a cab (we had been told to use Carrot Cars in East London as they are happy to take women in labour), but when the car arrived Antonia’s contractions were so strong she wasn’t sure she could get out of the bath. In the end we had a fairly protracted journey to the cab, punctuated by several pauses for noisy contractions.
The cab ride was eventful. At one stage Antonia screamed that she could feel the head between her legs.
When we arrived they took Antonia’s blood pressure in the natal ward any chance of the planned water birth went out of the window. At NCT the partners had been told that we were responsible for looking after the mums during the birthing process, acting as their guardians. It meant that I pushed quite hard to stick with our water birth plan.
The midwife told me we had to go straight into the delivery suite. I pressed her, asking if she was suggesting or telling. She turned to me and said: “Listen. This really isn’t good.” That was quite a scary thing to hear.
I don’t like hospitals. My dad died suddenly of a heart attack when I was ten. I was by the bed with the rest of my family. Seeing my older brothers cry had a massive effect on me. So did the unreality of saying goodbye to my rock of a father.
Overall I thought the hospital staff were a mix of excellent and “is this really the right job for you?” not bothered. Most were so lovely. One said it was the end of her shift and left the room moments before Willow was born.
‘I could see a stream of blood pouring from her into a rapidly expanding pool on the floor’
The toughest moment was just before the delivery. Antonia’s waters hadn’t broken and in the stress of the labour the baby had pooed. The baby can swallow or inhale this poo – called meconium – and suffer lifelong ill effects and potentially instant death. Because of this, the midwives were very keen that Willow was delivered very quickly. The hippy music and low lighting were brushed aside and out came the stirrups.
The delivery was forced and Antonia bled quite badly. A (holy shit something’s gone wrong) alarm went off and eight or nine doctors stressed-looking doctors came running into the room. They were ordering each other around with an urgency that sat on just the professional side of panic. Antonia had gone pale, with blue lips, and was convulsing in a fit. I could see a stream of blood pouring from her into a rapidly expanding pool on the floor.
I’ve had my fair share of hospital visits and I’ve seen lots of people hurt themselves badly. It was all put into perspective by watching a large lump of flesh being pulled from my wonderful young wife. It gave me a huge amount of respect for her, and women more generally.
They don’t tell you this but when Willow came out I had very little in the way of strong emotion towards the small screaming bundle of bloody blankets having her throat cleared. It was more of a bewildered fascination and awareness of her vulnerability. This was tinged with the numb horror that both my wife and baby seemed to be about to die.
They isolated the bleed and stitched Antonia up, but she was exhausted. She held the baby briefly, fed her and then slept. Willow slept too and I was left in the room texting a few people to tell them the key (censored) details.
‘I was blown away by the naivety of the whole thing and wept uncontrollably’
My brother had his baby, Grace, three weeks earlier and came to the hospital so we could pop out for a beer. Talking to him about it made me feel a lot better.
When I returned to the hospital they moved us into another room. I went to pick up a couple of bits from the delivery room. It was empty so I thought I would have a little go on the gas and air. I really went for it, before turning to carry a pile of things out the door. At a desk nearby I saw the matron, just as the gas hit me really hard. My face went hot, my hearing went weird and I nearly lost my balance.
A couple of days later I went home to pick up some things from home. I went into the nursery we had set up for our baby. I was blown away by the naivety of the whole thing and wept uncontrollably. There we had been skipping along through the excited expectation of the pregnancy, unaware of what was around the corner.’
‘Don’t ask the cabbie if this is their first fare of the day at the very moment your partner thinks they’re having the baby. Apparently that is not the time for small talk.’
Mikey with his daughter Willow
‘The experience taught me to be grateful to my Mum’
Felix Riadigos’s wife Cam gave birth to their daughter Olive at home in Southwark on 22nd June
‘Olive was born on the hottest day in London since the 1970s. We were told beforehand that you shouldn’t just make one birth plan, but our first choice was for Camilla to give birth at home in a birth pool we rented.
The labour lasted 28 hours. We had done a hypnobirthing course, which teaches you to look upon each contraction not as pain but more as a wave, reminding yourself that it is totally normal and will bring you nearer to meeting your baby. I was trying to be supportive and remind her to breathe it out, to think of it as something good.
I never really felt like a spare part – at the beginning I was bringing her food, water and helping with breathing. Then I needed to inflate and fill the pool, which has to be between 36 and 38 degrees, so I had to heat the water twice to get the correct temperature.
‘When the baby was coming out the midwife asked for my phone and took some pictures’
Every time Cam got inside the pool she would relax and contractions would stop. We tried twice and the same thing happened, so in the end she had Olive on the living room floor.
We had a great team of home-birth midwives who helped Camilla. One came in the first hours of the contractions but we were still in early labour so she left. Another midwife came about 16 hours later, who was also amazing, and stayed with us at home for 12 hours until 4 hours after the birth. She got us to walk up and down the outside stairs (we live on the fourth floor) to help bring on more contractions. She also massaged Cam’s back which was really hurting.
The most surreal moment was when the baby was coming out. The midwife asked for my phone and took some pictures to show me how she was, as I was in front holding Cam’s gas & air. Suddenly she was in Cam’s arms, this little person that looked so fragile.
Afterwards I remember thinking, “wow, I should really thank my Mum for going through this.” Childbirth is a beautiful thing, but it’s exhausting for the Mum.’
‘Try and sleep lots before it begins. I know it’s impossible to know when the baby will arrive, but after two nights of not sleeping and suddenly taking care of your newborn… I remember saying to all my friends that are Dads, “why didn’t you tell me to sleep?”‘
Felix with his daughter Olive
‘Hypnobirthing may as well be called “hippie-birthing”, because that’s what it is’
‘Laura had been so pregnant for so long that any other state seemed inconceivable. I watched the house fill with subtle signs of a new arrival, a pram, tiny clothes and I myself participated in the painting of the baby’s room but it all seemed like an abstract and ceremonial exercise.
Something we were doing as a blind ritual of appeasement. I looked at the robust and ridiculous pram in the hallway and said to Laura, “But where will we go? When would we ever need such an object?” She did not enjoy the line and in fact became annoyed. I just couldn’t think what use a pram would be.
I don’t know why the world persists with the idea that a pregnancy lasts nine months either when it plainly lasts for ten and by the end of the ninth the waddling goddess does little but beseech the tardy heavens for delivery of this inconceivable cargo. Quietly I said my own prayer, I asked for preparedness knowing all was about to change but not knowing how. The change from not having a baby to having a baby is too radical to be taken in one almighty leap. It should be handled in instalments, like those magazines where each edition is accompanied by a further piece of the Cutty Sark or a Spitfire (issue one 99p – ‘I hope the second issue isn’t a fiver!’). The baby should arrive one foot at a time. An ankle independently issued, then a finger or an ear, the mouth last. If I can take care of this leg successfully, like a girl at an inner-city comp lugging around a bag of leaking and battered sugar, then I can take the rest of the infant in a few months. Instead the whole incredible bounty arrives in one opera of glorious revelation.
3 a.m. Friday the 4th of November 2016. “Russell,” says a voice through the silence and the stillness. “I think it’s started.” I know of course that this is a signal of commencement, a call to arms, the starting pistol has been fired but as a prospective father I do not know what manner of race is to follow or where the finishing line might be. When we awaited the result of the seven-week scan I relayed my concern to a friend: “What if there’s something wrong?” “Even if there isn’t,” she said, “then you have the twelve-week scan, the thirty-six-week scan, the birth, the childhood, the adolescence. You’re a hostage to fortune now.”
I’ve been awake since midnight, the contractions, or surges, are eight minutes apart. We call them “surges”, when we remember, as the medical language around childbirth is negative and unhelpful, we learned on a course called “hypnobirthing”, which may as well have been called “hippie-birthing” because that’s what it is. I get up and I think put the kettle on and move some towels around, having some semi-conscious recollection that this is what the situation demands. What I sense though, on the periphery of my awareness, is that a greater force is about to be asserted, reducing all of our human activity to ornamental incidentals.’
‘I did some counting while Laura was pushing and was told in no uncertain terms to stop’
Hywel Mills’s wife Laura gave birth to their daughter Teddy in New York on 6th December 2015.
‘Laura, my heroic wife, was in labour for about 56 hours. Her contractions started at 5am on Friday and then eventually our girl arrived on Sunday afternoon. During that time we went to the hospital three times; twice we were sent home because she wasn’t dilated enough to stay. We walked around the deserted Upper East Side at 1am. We went up and down the stairs in our building and walked around our neighbourhood in Brooklyn repeatedly. Laura bounced diligently on a yoga ball for hours. We watched an entire series of The West Wing. Neither of us slept very much, Laura less than me. Eventually, late on Saturday night, Laura was dilated enough to have an epidural and have some much needed rest. On Sunday, things got going (with a little help from some more drugs) and when it came time to push, Laura crushed it. Teddy was born in less than an hour.
We had had some ante-natal classes which helped us understand what was going to happen, but it doesn’t prepare you fully to get through it for when it actually happens to you.
Men don’t really talk to each other about childbirth, certainly not before your partner is pregnant. On TV and in films, it’s depicted as a moment of high drama, of dashing to the hospital and screaming pushes quickly followed by babies wrapped up neatly in a mother’s arms. It certainly wasn’t anything like that for us.
‘At some point in the morning before Teddy was born, we heard blood-curdling screams down the hall. The nurse nonchalantly told us it was a woman having her second child. Without any painkillers.’
Walking around to help get things moving in Brooklyn, where there are many young families and I got lots of knowing looks, encouraging thumbs ups and smiles as Laura nestled her head in my chest to breathe through contractions. It was very sweet. I also imagine that people were thinking, “oh, you have no idea about what you’re going to go through next”.
There were definitely strong preferences about a few things but no strict birth plan. Laura was happy to take drugs as needed, and she really needed the epidural by the time she got it. At some point in the morning before Teddy was born, we heard blood-curdling screams down the hall. The nurse nonchalantly told us it was a woman having her second child. Without any painkillers.
The hospital staff were wonderful. We had several great New Yorker nurses who looked after us most of the time before the doctors arrived to deliver Teddy, who were brilliant… other than the junior doctor who was almost certainly on his first day of the job. He looked more shocked than I was at what was happening. He offered to go get ice chips. That was the last time we saw him.
I didn’t have a clue what to do when she started pushing. I did some counting and was told in no uncertain terms to stop. I went back to being encouraging and holding her hand.
Theodora – or Teddy as we call her – weighted 7lbs 7oz. She came out hungry and full of personality. Nothing has changed since.’
‘Wear comfortable shoes.’
‘Be prepared to be the one who takes as much stress away from your partner as you can by making sure she doesn’t have to deal with anything practical so she can focus on having the baby.’
This story was extracted from a blog post on Medium
Hywel with his daughter Teddy
‘When you know the exact date of the birth you can plan ahead’
Jon Cryer’s wife Olivia gave birth to their son Finn at the Royal Surrey Hospital, Guildford on 19th June
‘It was two years after the birth of our daughter Ruby that my wife and I were told just how close we had come to losing her. The labour had been very traumatic, ending with an emergency c-section. It transpired that Olivia’s placenta had not been functioning properly for ten days before the birth so Ruby hadn’t been getting the sustenance she needed. After three days of labour, when the birth failed to progress, Ruby’s heart rate slowed right down and doctors rushed Olivia into theatre.
The birth of our son Finn was very different. As caesareans are so expensive (they cost the NHS thousands to carry out), NHS doctors will always try to convince you to go for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). But when we talked to a consultant about the details of Ruby’s birth he quickly understood that a caesarean was the best option.
When you know the exact date of the birth you can plan ahead. Olivia had her hospital bag ready to go and we had made plans to file Ruby off to her grandparents.
We arrived at the hospital at 8am but were warned there would be some waiting around; the theatre is prioritised for emergency c-sections so you have to wait for a free window. Our wait was relatively short (around five hours), after which things went very quickly. The birth was only around 45 minutes between being told the theatre was ready and Olivia having Finn put into her arms.
‘I was surprised by how physical the operation was – they try to make as small an incision as possible so there’s a lot of tugging and the table was shaking.’
Olivia was taken off to get into a gown and I was given scrubs to wear with some particularly sexy orange crocs. Once you’re in the theatre it’s quite a rush, your heart is pounding and all you can think about is the safety of your child, even while you’re exchanging small talk with the doctors in the room (all the staff at the hospital were absolutely brilliant). A screen was put up over Olivia’s chest, which I stayed behind so I didn’t see what was going on. I was surprised by how physical the operation was – they try to make as small an incision as possible so there’s a lot of tugging and the table was shaking. Finn started crying almost as soon as he came out, we were able to do skin-to-skin and I cut the cord (one snip, like a pro).
When Ruby was born I had been an absolute mess – exhausted and emotional – and I’d had this nagging doubt that I wouldn’t be able to feel as strongly about Finn as I do about her. But as soon as he came out I was overwhelmed with the same love. There’s a great phrase in Winnie The Pooh that really sums it up: ‘Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.’
‘Don’t watch One Born Every Minute – it’s TV so they’ll always show the dramatic births with the most screaming and the daftest partners.’
‘Opt for an “enhanced recovery” caesarean if you can. This enabled Olivia to be out of hospital in just 30 hours.’
‘Be very clear before the birth on what your partner doesn’t want. For Olivia, it was going under general anaesthetic as she wanted to be able to hold her baby immediately, so when they said that she would have to go under for Ruby, I was able to fight her corner (politely – you should never be rude to hospital staff, they’re only trying to help).’
‘Once you’re out of hospital, wake up with your partner for those night feeds. You only get the opportunity to have a newborn a few times in your life and you’ll learn to read their signals better and support your partner if you’re there for those key moments.’
Jon with his son Finn
‘I thought holding him skin-to-skin would be faddy and pointless, but in the moment it felt like the only thing to do’
Michael Mullin’s wife Marie gave birth to their son Arthur on 7th March 2016 at St George’s Hospital, Tooting
‘No aspect of childbirth is tough for the Dad – tough starts when you get home and have two people to keep fed and watered. In hospital it’s the most amazing, life-affirming, visceral experience you will ever have.
My wife thankfully had a complication-free delivery, though even that is fairly dramatic at points. You inevitably feel a bit superfluous more than helpless, as if it would all be going on with or without you – which as a cold fact is right I suppose – but I did feel connected to the process in a small way.
‘Women giving birth go into an almost-trance like state so getting through to them is hard’
The doctors and midwives in St. George’s were completely amazing, so I didn’t feel protective of Marie against them, but I could see how that would be different if the proverbial hit the fan.
I just wanted to try and maintain communication with my partner and to let her know I was there, that she was doing well and that I loved her – incidentally that is really hard at the end, as [women giving birth] go into an almost-trance like state so getting through to them is hard. Afterwards, she told me she was aware that I was there, but the details are hazy.
Right after Arthur was born I held him ‘skin to skin’ for quite a while as my partner was so exhausted. We had debated beforehand whether I would do that – whip the shirt off, that is. My initial reaction was that it was a bit of a silly, faddy and ultimately pointless thing to do (also I’ve been nurturing a dad bod despite not being a dad since my teens, so add embarrassing), but in the moment it felt like the only thing to do.
I was ready to have a child, I was excited about it, but nothing could prepare me for actually seeing and holding him for the first time. Well, except watching Jacob imprint on Bella in Twilight – that’s actually pretty close to how it feels so watching that would be a good preparation.’
‘Practice the drive to the hospital and figure out where you will park.’
‘Make sure you can install and uninstall the car seat in the dark, in the rain with one hand (this is not as easy as you might imagine).’
‘Get all the baby pictures from the pro photographer lurking in the hospital – yes they’re expensive but they’re also great.’
‘It is so hard seeing the person you love in pain and not being able to do anything to help them’
Mikey Howe’s wife Heidi gave birth to their son Louis at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on 17th July
‘Two weeks before our due date, my wife Heidi thought her waters might have broken. We called Chelsea & Westminster hospital and they suggested we go in for a check-up. As Heidi was being checked, the midwife said ‘you’re not going anywhere.’
Having Louis two weeks early was definitely a surprise. I think we had naively assumed everything would go to plan. In the weeks leading up to the birth we had been completely distracted by renovating our new flat, and timed everything to give us a couple weeks of much needed “nesting” time. Still surrounded by boxes, we had only been there for a day before we were off to the hospital.
When we arrived they thought Heidi’s waters might have been breaking for a few days, which isn’t something I even knew could happen. The midwife said that Heidi was going to be induced – another thing I didn’t know much about.
Our original plan had been to have a water birth in the birthing unit at Chelsea and Westminster hospital – it’s all brand new and feels like you’re in a hotel – but because Heidi was induced, we were told we had to have our birth on the ward in order to be closer to the doctors.
‘We hadn’t planned on an epidural, but there just came a point where it made sense to relieve the pain’
It is so hard seeing the person you love in pain and not really being able to do anything to help them. There were two occasions when our midwife hit the alarm, which meant the doctors and other hospital staff came rushing into our room. Those were the hardest moments; trying to reassure Heidi when I really didn’t know what was happening.
When I had a chance I stocked up on food and drinks to keep us going. Heidi struggled to eat and I didn’t have much appetite either. The most she could manage was sips of juice. I had planned on downloading some films on my ipad, but never had the opportunity.
Another thing we hadn’t planned on was having an epidural, but there just came a point during the labour where it made sense to relieve the pain Heidi was experiencing so she had the energy to push at the end and get Louis out safely.
Towards the end Heidi had been in labour for nearly 27 hours and she was absolutely exhausted. They had been listening to Louis’ heartbeat and it was starting to slow down. The midwife hit the alarm which started sounding throughout the ward and our room quickly filled hospital staff.
No-one had a chance to explain what was going on so I had to just hold Heidi’s hand while the doctor was trying to see how much further Louis had to go. They decided that he had to come out immediately, so they used the ‘ventouse’. They attached the suction cup to his head and while Heidi pushed, they pulled him out at the same time. I couldn’t help but look as he came out – I just wanted to know he was OK.
The best part was seeing our little man in Heidi’s arms for the first time, witnessing that mother-child connection and knowing he was perfect.’
‘One thing that really helped Heidi was having her own pillow. It sounds trivial but that little bit of comfort and familiarity made a big difference.’
‘On the ward the bathrooms and communal showers get pretty messy as you can imagine, so I would recommend bringing flip flops!’
‘Bring extra sets of clothes – including nighties with boob access – in case you have to stay longer than expected. And an extra set for the partner as well.’
So not all dating trends are created equal. Most of them tend to fall on the crappy behaviour spectrum, but there are a few that can actually be seen as positive. For example, Grande-ing, which is ‘practicing gratefulness at the end of a relationship and rejecting negativity and bitterness as you move forward with your life.’
However, the latest dating trend has left many people torn because it’s hard to work out whether it’s harsh or fair.
Enter Kondo-ing. As you have probably guessed, it is a term inspired by tidying sensation, Marie Kondo. If you’ve seen her Netflix series, you’ll know that she encourages people to get rid of anything that doesn’t ‘spark joy’. But far from just using this logic to decide whether you really need seven Breton tops in your wardrobe, it can be applied to your love life, too.
Time wasters, cheats, gaslighters, the ones who tell you after six months of dating that they’re not ready for a relationship – Plenty of Fish coined the term Kondo-ing to explain getting rid of anyone who doesn’t ‘spark joy’.
Completely cutting out someone who is treating you badly is a good idea, but what if the person you’re seeing is just not right for you? What if they’re lovely but you just don’t have that spark? What if they’re a good egg that you’d totally want to stay friends with? Do they deserve being Kondo-ed? Probably not.
With that in mind, maybe just be mindful of who really deserves to be Kondo-ed.
According to a study, making a marriage work is actually twice as stressful as raising a family.
The University of Padova found that 75% of female participants admitted that they take on the majority of the parenting and household duties, and one in five revealed that they were the most stressed when they didn’t feel supported by their other half.
The research also suggests that a man’s health deteriorates when their significant other passes away, whereas women actually become healthier when they lose the one they love because they handle stress better.
Lead researcher Dr Caterina Trevisan of the University of Padova said: ‘Widows cope better than widowers with the stress deriving from the loss of a partner.’
Talking to The Telegraph, Dr Caterina explained: ‘Since women generally have a longer lifespan than men, married women may also suffer from the effects of caregiver burden, since they often devote themselves to caring for their husband in later life.’
She continued: ‘Widows cope better than widowers with the stress deriving from the loss of a partner and widowhood, with a significant increase in the risk of depression only in the latter.
‘Many studies have shown that women are less vulnerable to depression than men in widowhood, probably because they have greater coping resources and are better able to express their emotions.
‘These aspects may help to explain the lower risk of exhaustion seen in single women, who are likewise more socially integrated than single men, and consequently less exposed to frailty.’
If you’ve ever been cheated on, you’ll know all about the heartbreak that comes with it. Celebrities have spoken about their experiences, too, with everyone from Sienna Miller to Taylor Swift opening up about how they reacted when their other halves were caught being unfaithful.
So why do people cheat? Why don’t people just end their relationship if they’re unhappy? What drives people to choose that option? These are questions that no one has ever had one answer to, namely because there are various reasons that people tread down Infidelity Avenue.
The study surveyed 495 adults to find out why we cheat, and it has everything to do with the person doing the dirty. A staggering 70% of participants admitted that their eyes wandered as a result of feeling neglected in their relationship, sexually, emotionally or both.
An article by Women’s Health also found that women who have been unfaithful have acted on their impulses when they feel ignored or unloved.
Eva Longoria has some great advice for anyone who has been hurt in this way by their other half.
She said: ‘It wasn’t about who he chose. I had moments of like: “Okay, I’m not sexy enough? I’m not pretty enough? Am I not smart enough?”
‘Then I immediately stopped. “No, no, no — don’t start doing that.” Because you can get stuck in that cycle and you can carry that onto other things.’
Bottom line – if you’re feeling unhappy in your relationship, talk to your partner about it and deal with the situation like adults.
Break-ups are often messy, painful and often involve a lot of Deliveroo.
But while memories fade, there’s a constant reminder of what once was whenever you look back at photos. Looking for a picture from your amazing trip to Italy? Your former SO is in them all. That picture from your sister’s wedding on your mum’s mantlepiece? Yep, there’s the ex again. And don’t even get us started on the social media delete debate.
If you’re struggling to get rid of your former lover Eternal Sunshine-style, guess what? It’s possible. Kind of. A new service, Edit My Ex, can alter the photos you love to remove the person you don’t.
It has launched just in time for Valentine’s Day (romantic), and employs image editing experts to professionally remove ex-partners out of joint photos so that the image can be used in future.
From family gathering shots and holiday photos, to images of special occasions where an ex-partner was present, there’s no photo that can’t be retouched. All you have to do is upload the photo of your choice to the website and attach a note explaining who you’d like removed from the image. The professional designer will then edit the image and send you back your ex-free pic.
So what’s the cost? If you want your ex removed it’ll set you back £6.99 per photo.
Creator Mark Rofe said: ‘After presenting my friend with an ex-less image as a gift, I saw just how powerful the effect of removing an ex-partner from a favourite digital photograph could be.
‘As someone with a background in design, I thought that I could put my skills to good use to make someone going through a break-up smile, and with my team of designers, we can’t wait to start helping others regain their favourite photos without any unwelcome additions.’
When Fri Martin was convicted of murder, Heather Savage was one of the few people who knew about the years of abuse she had suffered. Here, Heather explains why she’s hoping for justice for her friend, and the children she’s raising on her behalf
Your best friend is being beaten by her boyfriend but she’s made you promise not to tell anyone – ‘Please, Heather, I’m begging you to keep quiet,’ Fri had pleaded. So what do you do? You could call the police, but it’s your word against hers. You could tell her family, but she’d stop talking to them and be even more alone. All you can do is be there, tell her she needs to get away from him and hope that one day she’ll be ready to listen. There were times when Fri didn’t answer my calls, so I’d go round to her flat and knock on the door to check she was OK. Maybe part of me was scared her boyfriend would kill her. I never imagined it would be the other way round.
I can’t remember a time when Fri (short for Farieissia) and I weren’t joined at the hip. We went to the same nursery and same primary school, and she lived near my nan’s house. We felt like sisters more than friends. Fri was the outgoing one; she liked the limelight and I was happier in the background. At the school nativity play, she was the Angel Gabriel while I sat in the corner, jingling bells. But when it was just the two of us, we were always laughing. We grew up in a part of Liverpool where everyone knows everyone. Fri was well loved – she lived with her mum and three older brothers. They were a close family and I’d spend loads of time at her house. Her mum would cook us amazing Caribbean food. Fri was independent, outspoken and hated asking for help. She was also petite and immaculately turned out, with a mass of long, brown hair. Dancing was her thing and she dreamed of becoming a dancer, taking classes and, as we got older, teaching too. We used to talk about the flat we’d share one day, looking through catalogues to pick out our furniture.
Kyle Farrell, Fri’s partner, was local too. He went to our primary school, but he was quiet and kept himself to himself. He played football for a local team, so he was quite athletic, but he wasn’t someone who stood out. Fri thought he was gorgeous, though. They got together when she was 16 and you could tell she really liked him. She used to write me little notes saying ‘Heather Loves…? I Love… Kyle (obvs!)’.
We were young and I didn’t know much about their relationship, but I did notice certain things. In that first year, they were always splitting up and getting back together. Fri and I bumped into him in town after one break-up and Kyle started shouting at her, calling her a ‘slag’, then he pushed her – she had heels on and fell. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I began shouting and Kyle tried to go for me too. Afterwards, I told Fri she couldn’t go back to someone who put his hands on her like that. Her response was always the same: ‘But when you love someone…’ Fri dreamed of the happy ending. She’d even picked out her perfect wedding dress – shorter at the front and long at the back. When they got back together, she made Kyle apologise to me. It was the most unapologetic apology I’ve ever had. He and I never liked each other after that. I couldn’t just ‘un-see’ what he’d done.
‘Fri would show up with bruises on her face, black eyes or finger marks on her arms’
Kyle was jealous and controlling. When Fri started studying at a performing arts school, he would wait outside for her so that she didn’t walk past any lads on the way home. When we were out shopping together, his texts would flood in. ‘Where are you?’, ‘When are you coming back?’ Eventually, Fri stopped going into town and the furthest we were able to go was the local pub. Even then‚ Kyle would come and join us. Her mum was worried too, but Fri made me promise I wouldn’t tell her about the violence. Her mum told me she didn’t like Kyle and I admitted that I didn’t either. We were both trying to be there for her.
When Fri was 19, she stopped going to college and fell pregnant. I witnessed another horrible incident while we were walking down the street together. I can’t remember what Kyle was angry about, but he started accusing Fri of being with someone else, which she never was because she loved Kyle. Right in front of me, he kicked her in the stomach. She fell into the road in front of oncoming cars, and a big scene kicked off with me shouting at Kyle. I took Fri to hospital, but she didn’t tell doctors the truth – only that she’d fallen. In no time, Kyle was calling, saying how sorry he was and wanting to know if the baby was OK. From the outside, it made no sense. I kept telling Fri she needed to leave him, but we ended up arguing every time. She’d say that he’d promised to change. Fri had stood up for herself our whole lives, but it wasn’t my relationship. You’ll never know how somebody feels unless you’ve been through it.
Having two daughters with Kyle, born less than a year apart, and moving into a flat with him made things worse very quickly. They were living there for a year when Fri’s appearance started changing dramatically. She no longer made an effort, wore joggers, her hair back and no make-up. For the first time, she’d show up with bruises on her face, black eyes or finger marks on her arms, with always the same excuses. ‘I hit myself on the oven door,’ she said once. And I replied, ‘Do you think I don’t know you better than that?’ During that time, Fri also stopped using her phone so much. I’d call or text her asking, ‘Are you OK?’ And when she didn’t reply, I’d go round there afraid of what I might find. When Fri opened the door, Kyle was always in the background and she’d say something dismissive like, ‘Sorry, my phone was on silent.’ I felt like I was losing my best friend. And that strong, dance-loving, outgoing girl was losing herself. By now, her mum was as concerned as I was. She’d seen the bruises and the changes in Fri. She even took her and the girls away for a few days to the Lake District after Fri and Kyle briefly spit up, and Fri did begin to imagine a life without him. But when they returned, he wanted to see the girls, and soon they were back together.
At this stage, I was still living with my mum, training to be a dental nurse, but I worried about my best friend 24/7, lying in bed, thinking is she OK? Then, at 5am on 21 November 2014, Fri’s mum phoned me hysterical, saying, ‘She’s killed him, she’s killed him.’ I couldn’t make sense of it, but headed to the family friend’s house where they’d gathered. Fri’s two daughters, aged just one and two, were there with her mum, three brothers and other family members. I was told Fri had killed Kyle and been arrested. I’d never seen her brothers, grown men, crying like that before. Nobody could make sense of it and I remember saying, ‘What did he do to her?’ Fri would never kill Kyle for no reason. I didn’t cry, or ask any questions; I was in shock. I offered to look after the girls at Mum’s house, where they stayed for a week before being taken into care. Thankfully, they were oblivious.
That was four years ago and I still haven’t asked Fri what happened that night. I’ve imagined it and I know enough; I don’t want the details. The short story is that Fri had been out with a friend, and when she got home she hadn’t bought Kyle the cigarettes he’d asked for. That’s how the row started, apparently. They were in the kitchen shouting – the girls were asleep – and Kyle had his hands tightly around Fri’s throat. She grabbed a kitchen knife from the counter and shouted at him to get off. He was taller, stronger, and leaning into her. It was a single stab to his heart. Fri called 999 and Kyle was taken away by ambulance but died in hospital.
‘She looked so helpless sitting in the dock, like a child, her feet not even reaching the floor’
The trial was in June 2015. Until then, I wasn’t allowed to visit Fri in custody because I’d been asked to give evidence for the defence. I’ll never forget being called into the courtroom and seeing her for the first time. She looked so helpless sitting in the dock, like a child, her feet not even reaching the floor. We both started crying as soon as we saw each other. I needed a minute to compose myself, and then I answered questions about what I’d seen. Both Fri’s and Kyle’s families were watching and you could feel the tension. Each time Kyle’s name was mentioned, Fri sobbed. The trial lasted two weeks and the jury took less than two hours to find Fri guilty of murder. Kyle’s family were there, wearing T-shirts with pictures of him on, and when they heard the word ‘guilty’, they cheered. I was with Fri’s family – we just hugged and cried. Fri sobbed in the dock as she was sentenced to 13 years.
Now her case has been taken up by the campaign group Justice for Women, an organisation that supports women who have killed violent partners. It has submitted grounds to appeal because Kyle’s long history of violence wasn’t explored in the trial by her all-male defence team. For the first time in three years, we’re feeling hopeful. I’ve since fostered Fri’s daughters. For the first year, they were with a foster family. The next step was for them to be given up for adoption. When I told Fri I’d do that, she said, ‘Are you sure?’ It’s a massive commitment – they’re with me until they’re 18 – but I’ve known them since they were born, so they’re like my nieces. Those girls are my life now – I’m not in a relationship and I don’t have children of my own.
They’re five and six, amazing girls, doing really well at school – the same one Fri and I went to. Watching them together reminds me of how we used to be, so carefree. They know their daddy is in heaven and that he’s not coming back. His body stopped working because mummy hurt it by accident and that’s why she’s in prison, or ‘the castle’ as they like to call it. They keep me focused and give me hope when it all feels hopeless. We visit Fri once a month. We’re all in the same room, but she has to stay seated. The girls sit on her lap, and we draw and read books. It’s the funny things that break your heart. The other day, Fri asked to see their feet because she hadn’t seen them since they were tiny. Every time we say goodbye, the children cry and that makes Fri cry, too.
Neither of us talks about what happened. You could go over it forever – ‘Why didn’t you listen?’ ‘Why didn’t you help?’ – but it wouldn’t change anything. Fri still loves Kyle, and she has said, ‘His life’s been taken and I need to be punished. But I’m not a murderer.’ And I know she isn’t. That’s why I’m speaking out now, even though this is way out of my comfort zone. But while she’s gone, a part of me has gone, too. I want my friend back, and it feels like, with a bit of support, it might just happen.
How to stay safe
1. Make an escape plan
What’s the quickest, safest way to leave the house? Rehearse your escape plan (if you have children, make sure they know it too and teach them how to dial 999). Have a bag packed with overnight essentials hidden in the house or car. Arrange with a friend or neighbour to take you in if need be.
2. Have your own money
If possible, have a separate, secret account and avoid joint ones if you can. Keep change on you for emergency bus or train fares, or a phone box. If your partner has access to your online banking, change the passwords regularly.
3. Monitor your digital footprint
Store the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (0808 2000 247) on your phone, but save it under a name your partner won’t be suspicious of. Always delete your browser history. Women’s Aid (womensaid.org.uk) has advice on how to do this, as well as a Survivor’s Handbook. The safest way to access information online is at a friend’s house, a library or work.
4. Download this app… …if it feels safe to.
Disguised as a weather app, Bright Sky (hestia.org/brightsky) provides contact details for local services and advice, plus a ‘My Journal’ feature where you can keep a record of incidents in the form of photos, text, audio or video without any of it being saved to your device.
5. Identify lower risk areas of the house
These include doors to the outside, large windows and a telephone. Go to them if you think your partner is about to attack you. Avoid kitchens or garages where there are potential ‘weapons’, or small rooms or cupboards you could be locked in.
6. Know your legal rights
You can get help with temporary accommodation, an injunction, or protection for your children. Rights of Women is a free service by women for women. Call 020 7251 6577.
The forgotten women
Justice for Women was founded in 1990 to support women who had been convicted of murder after killing violent men in self-defence. Women killing their partners is rare. And studies of women who do so suggest it usually occurs after a long history of being abused by them – something that is often missed in court. Justice for Women has successfully overturned a number of convictions for women, including Sara Thornton, Emma Humphreys and Stacey Hyde. They’re now campaigning to free three more: Fri Martin, 25, Emma-Jayne Magson, 25, and Sally Challen, 64.
For more information, visit justiceforwomen.org.uk. For advice on supporting a friend who is experiencing domestic violence, visit refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/help-someone-you-care-about-2/
Whether you find hook-ups through the best sex apps, or you’ve been in a committed relationship for as long as you can remember, new research suggests that we’re all actually pretty predictable when it comes to sex. Single, committed, ‘it’s complicated’ – we’re all searching for the same three sex positions, apparently. So before you convince yourself that everyone else is having wilder sex than you are, take a look at this.
Flowercard analysed Google search data from across the UK to reveal the country’s most popular sex positions. The research found that missionary actually came out on top with 42,200 monthly searches in the UK, followed closely by doggy style (37,700) and reverse cowgirl (30,000).
Even more interesting, the study looked at what individual cities are looking for the most when it comes to sex positions, honing in on towns or cities with a population of over 100,000 people (according to latest government estimates). The likes of London, Brighton and Sheffield are all about keeping things simple with a bit of missionary tickling their fancy, whereas reverse cowgirl was the most popular choice in Bath, Solihull and Wigan.
Want to see how your city ranked? Take a look at the full list here:
Favourite Sex Position
Kingston upon Hull
Newcastle upon Tyne
Spooning, 69 and cowgirl didn’t get as much love, indicating that we’re all pretty laid back (lol) when it comes to what we get up to in between the sheets.
Think you know how to spice things up in the bedroom? Think again. From introducing toys to talking more, Kate Davies shares her handy hints on how to make sex fun again
From introducing toys to talking more, Kate Davies shares her handy hints on how to make sex fun again
Talk about it
In my experience, one of the biggest differences between having sex with a woman and a man is that women tend to be more communicative during sex. Talk about what you like, give feedback during sex and make sure your pleasure is as much of a priority as his.
Show them the way
If you don’t usually come, try stimulating your own clit during penetrative sex, or getting your partner to watch you masturbate so they can see which bit you like stimulated and the amount of pressure that works for you.
Use your hands
First things first: make sure whoever is doing the fingering has short fingernails. Get them to start with one finger and work their way up. Some people are happy with just a little finger, others want a whole fist inside them. Once they’re inside you, get them to make a ‘come here’ motion, curling their fingers and pulling them forwards and straightening them out again, so that they stimulate your G-spot (the rough-feeling area of skin between the cervix and the opening of the vagina, on the front of the vaginal wall).
Take it in turns to come
It’s not realistic to expect two people to come simultaneously from the same kind of sex. Take a leaf out of the lesbian sex book and take it in turns to have an orgasm. Maybe you like to be fingered. Maybe he comes best from a blow job. It all counts.
Use a latex glove and lube when you’re having sex with your hands. You can buy some fetching ones from online sex shops and you might as well check out the strap-ons, harnesses and vibrators, too. Sex should be fun, so try playing with toys.