It’s not easy being Up the Duff without a Paddle

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Writer and mum of two girls (aged 1 and 3), Amy Ransom, is our guest at Mini Fashionista blog this Friday, talking about the conception of her debut novel Up the Duff without a Paddle and its place in helping her better understand her own choice to start a family as she typed it out in black and white.

A woman’s desire for a baby is often primal, deep-seated and totally overwhelming at times as we pursue that one role we were put on this earth to fulfil. Of course, in this day and age it’s not all that cut and dry, what with career-women storming forcefully into their thirties and forties without a thought for any future familial incentive, not to mention the possibility of infertility issues and of course, finding someone with whom you actually want to procreate. In fact, in this modern age, women – even when they do get knocked up – are questioning their motive for doing so in the first place.

It’s a question which debut author, Amy Ransom, investigates via protagonist of Up the Duff without a Paddle, first-time expectant mother, Kate, who is wandering blindly through the jungle of exploding poo, leaking nipples and the other unwelcome side effects that come with creating a new life. Surrounded by ‘professional mothers’ and mothers-to-be who are only too happy to sacrifice brie and wine for piles and nappies, Kate wonders if this is all she has to look forward to when she joins the Dark Side. Then Kate meets fellow cynical mothers-to-be, Evie and Chloe, at pregnancy yoga or ‘Proga,’ as the in crowd call it, and things start to look up. Suddenly spa days and wine, albeit non-alcoholic, are back on the agenda and it’s not long before the girls are affirming that old adage, ‘trouble always comes in threes…’

Now available to buy at Amazon, Up the Duff without a Paddle offers a humorous and touching portrayal of the challenges of pregnancy and the transition from woman to mother, Amy says of her book’s subject: “We are told that pregnancy is the most magical time of our lives, that we will bloom and look radiant but it’s more likely you’ll feel bloated, knackered and full of anxiety about impending labour not to mention what actually happens beyond that. It’s an uncertain time in a woman’s life and I think all pregnant women deserve to know that it’s not just ok to feel like this, it’s normal.”

Taking some time away from parenting and pregnancy prose, Amy answered some questions I had for her on where it all started, what those nine months meant to her good and bad, and how she would prepare her own daughters for this remarkable female prerogative later on…

When did you begin working on your novel, Amy?

I started writing Up the Duff without a Paddle when I fell pregnant with my first daughter, four years ago.  But instead of writing an autobiographical journal about pregnancy, I found myself creating the heroine, Kate, as well as other characters and sub-plots.  I finished the first half before giving birth and then I had nappies to figure out so I didn’t return to writing the book until 18 months later, when I fell pregnant again.  This time I finished the book and having been through motherhood twice, I finally felt like I could answer Kate’s question at the beginning of the book about why people have kids and what it feels like to be a mother.

Has writing always been a passion of yours?

I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember.  It’s how I make sense of the world around me.  Some people see things visually.  I see them in words.  I considered journalism several times but I’ve always gravitated towards creative writing so it didn’t quite suit me.  Writing a book was my ultimate dream.  On the back of publishing it, I’ve recently begun blogging and found an outlet that suits me perfectly.  Now, I see the world in blogs.

What was your biggest fear during pregnancy?

That I would lose my identity and wake up one day in 20 years and not recognise myself.  So far I haven’t but it’s still something that I struggle with and I never make any decisions without having it in the back of my mind.  I adore my girls and they come first but I always keep a little bit of me back… for me.  They’re going to have their own lives one day so I need to ensure I still have mine.

What did you miss the most while being pregnant?

Running.  And my sanity.  The first time I ran up until six months and then I had a ‘what am I doing?’ moment and hung up the running shoes.  The second time I fell pregnant on the back of the marathon and my body was in shock, I think.  It was a difficult pregnancy mentally, the hormones made me quite crazy at times.  Ask my husband.  And my neighbours.

There can be a real sense of community amongst fellow expectant mothers that then extends into the ‘First Time Mother’ Club – did you benefit from that? Where did you meet most of your “community”?

Oh yes, absolutely.  I met my first mum friend at pregnancy yoga and we were fortunate enough to then be in the same NCT group.  My NCT group has been my lifeline.  Exceptional girls; bright, funny and loyal.  Each of us are so different but we are completely supportive of one another.  There has never been any sense of competition or lack of honesty.  We’ve been through it all together.  Many tears but more from laughter than anything else.  Four years later, we have 16 children between us, two of us live abroad (not me, unfortunately) and we are still the closest of friends.  The best £240 I’ve ever spent.

How did pregnancy in real life compare to your ideas about what it would be like?

I didn’t have any preconceived ideas.  Pardon the pun.  I was never one of those girls who’d dreamed of having a baby.  I do remember my skin being better and my hair glossy; I could go days without washing it.  Other than that I didn’t feel particularly radiant.  They mis-market that aspect of pregnancy, I think.  My reality was swollen ankles and my shoe size going up from a 6 to an 8!

In the film What to Expect When you’re Expecting, Elizabeth Banks’ character represents exactly the “real” pregnant woman experience (leaky bladder, unwelcome gas, stretch marks and sweating galore) as opposed to the glossy, glowing myth. What was the most embarrassing or unpleasant experience you endured while pregnant?

The feet.  Most definitely the feet.  A week before I was due the first time, I went to a kid’s party and I remember one of my friend’s husbands looking down at my feet and trying to hide his grimace.  They were like clown’s feet.  I’m not joking.  My friends are still talking about them.

What’s the most valuable lesson you learnt as a first-time Mum?

Don’t try to make sense of it.  Any of it.  Those first few weeks are bonkers.  You think your baby is like a detonated hand grenade, you can’t possibly put it down.  Guess what, you can.

Did you feel more or less confident going into motherhood the second time around?

Initially, less.  My second pregnancy was miserable.  It was unplanned and physically I was below par so I barely enjoyed a second of it.  Then, Godivy was born and everything fell into place.  I loved her instantly and felt so relaxed.  I didn’t worry about any of the things I’d worried about first time around because I knew each stage would be replaced with another.  And far too soon.

If you could offer your daughters one piece of advice about pregnancy and motherhood, what would it be?

Always trust your instincts.  As a mother they’re the biggest tool you’re given.  I have very strong instincts about what the girls need and when I’ve ever been persuaded to go against them, it’s all gone horribly wrong.  Now I stick to my guns even if that means having to be a killjoy.  Because I accept that no one knows my children like I do.

About Amy Ransom

Amy Ransom lives in London with her husband and two girls (aged 1 and 3). Her experience of motherhood is a bizarre cocktail of joy, frustration, love and despair but somehow she is the most content she has ever been. She also likes real cocktails. UP THE DUFF WITHOUT A PADDLE is her first novel.

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