This week I had the absolute pleasure to sit down and meet with Steph Douglas who, as well as being a mum of two, runs gift business Don’t Buy Her Flowers. When Steph started the business it was geared up for new mums, because as she says “it’s a time when you really need looking after”. She was passionate about doing something which acknowledged the fact that new motherhood is really hard, and you need to take care of yourself, and be nurtured. Very quickly it evolved in to being more than that with gift packages sent for many different reasons, mainly because of the demand from customers to gear things up to other events, but new mums are always at the core, as that was where it all started.
I was interested to hear the thoughts of someone who’s done so much with mums-to-be and new mums in mind on pregnancy and new motherhood.
Here is Steph’s pregnancy story…
As this isn’t your first pregnancy, tell me a bit more about your family…
I’ve got a 6 year old son, Buster and a 5 year old daughter Mabel who have a great relationship. Though they fight as siblings do. I’m looking forward to seeing them with the baby, I’ve heard from people with kids of similar ages that the older ones tend to get closer so… We’re going in to having this baby very keen to still make time to spend with the older two one on one too. I took Mabel to the theatre a few weeks ago and she loved it, just being with me, and our usual is the M&S cafe which she sees now as “our place”, and Doug my husband takes Buster to rugby. We know it’ll be a challenge but I think it’s key for us to keep that up when we have a third, even if it’s once a month. I really remember any one on one time I had with my mum from when I was little, and I’m one of six.
How far along in this pregnancy are you?
39 weeks, so almost there
Do you know if you’re having a boy or a girl?
We haven’t found out no, which is actually really nice, especially with the kids, they’re excited for the surprise too.
Do any of you have a real preference?
We don’t, no, but the kids do, Buster wants a brother and Mabel a sister so one of them is going to be pissed off!
How has this pregnancy been treating you so far?
The first three months were tough, especially as there’s this bizarre thing where you don’t tell anyone when the reality is if something happened you would not want to go through that alone. I felt really tired, and chunky because all I wanted was carbs and had an aversion to salad and veg, and I was worried at that stage that I’d feel like that through the whole pregnancy but of course you do come out the other side. Again now in this last bit it’s really knackering. Whilst I’ve been quite active all the way through, now I’m really having to really slow it down. I have to remind Doug sometimes, I’m 39 weeks pregnant and just can’t do all the running around I did before.
Do you feel different in this pregnancy from your previous ones?
Not really different, just more tired, there’s definitely more to think about. Plus it’s gone really quickly, but that’s partly down to having so much going on with the business too. It’s only really now that I’m starting to think ‘fuck there’s going to be another person here very soon’.
Have you been experiencing any anxiety in this pregnancy?
Well we’ve been a family of four for five years now, and that’s our thing, and we know our routine, so I’m both intrigued and anxious to see how a third impacts that. Though it’s exciting too because we also get to see Buster and Mabel as the older brother and sister to another child, and that adds a different dimension. Plus I come from a big family so know the benefits of that. I’m sure there will be teething troubles, but we’ll manage it.
How would you describe your pregnancy style?
A lot of dungarees and jumpsuits. With the other two I was more about staying in skinny jeans and stuff, but it was never that comfortable so this time it’s been more about comfort, while I’ve tried to hang on to my style. I know a lot of people say just wear what you normally wear and size up, but I really don’t find that works for me. You know you try and wear the same tops, but it ends up a bit Rab C Nesbitt with a bit of tummy hanging out. So I’m more about dungarees like this Clary and Peg one, and I have a Beyond Nine jumpsuit too which is sooo comfortable. I spent the summer in a jumpsuit from Lowie.
I tend to pair something roomy and comfortable with something more fitted too. In my first pregnancies I wore more floaty stuff, and ended up feeling balloon like. I’ve got a couple of bits from Mothercare which are more fitted and work really well to stop outfits feeling tent-like.
Hide the bump or show off the bump?
It’s nice to show off the bump, and relish not having to worry about a flat stomach. Though now I am at that stage where I’m starting to feel the spread in my arms and stuff which is a bit urgh. I spoke to Clemmie (Hooper – Mother of Daughters) and she reminded me your body is doing that for a reason, to prepare you for the next stage, and so you just need to accept it, but it’s easy to forget that. Especially when it feels like you always see pictures of people who don’t seem to have gained weight anywhere other than bump.
In terms of clothes, what are your maternity essentials?
I think it’s important to get stuff you feel comfortable in, and which make you feel good, but not just buy stuff because it fits. I remember with my first two wanting to burn a lot of the stuff I wore in pregnancy/ the days after because it was so hideous, so if you don’t actually like things, don’t buy them!
Also having a couple of things which really make you feel really good, like I have an ASOS maxi dress which is beautiful and I wear it whenever I can, even just for dinner at home with friends, because I know I can only wear it for a limited time. It’s nice to have bits like that.
What’s your favourite maternity clothes brand?
ASOS is good because it’s cheap and you can buy a load of stuff, and try it, and then send it back if it’s not right. Clary and Peg I love, they do these dungarees, and now do a fuchsia corduroy pair too for winter which look really good. And Beyond Nine too for their jumpsuits, so I think finding a couple of independent brands is key. Even if it’s a bit more expensive, if you know you’re going to wear it lots then it works out. Plus all those dungaree bits I can wear after baby is born.
Also I’ve got some nice maternity bras from Carriwell which have a gel wire, so they’re not underwired but do have a bit more support, and they’re really good.
Are there any high street or independent brands which aren’t maternity but you’ve felt work really well for pregnancy?
For basics, H&M definitely.
What beauty products do you swear by for pregnancy?
Charlotte Tilbury make-up I really rate at any time. It’s especially good to have good make up when you feel really haggard. Sister and Co coconut oil which I’ve used on random dryness on my face and body. I’m not convinced stretch mark creams actually work, as it’s largely genetic I think, but it’s nice to moisturise up. Skin and Tonic Lip balm is probably the only other thing I use a lot. I had eyelash extensions done in the summer which saved me from feeling gross when I was a bit puffy, and in the mornings I’d be good to go.
What can you not live without in pregnancy?
My BB Hugme pillow, hands down, it’s come everywhere with me since I discovered it.
Are there any style/ fashion lessons you’ve learnt along the way in your pregnancies?
Not wearing anything too loose because it just looks tent like and you end up feeling massive. And bras, invest in good bras, though the problem is you do keep needing to change them as your body changes. Make sure you clear them out and only wear the ones which definitely fit.
Is there anything you feel is still really missing from the maternity fashion market in the UK?
Choice. I misguidedly thought five years on from my last baby that there would be much more choice but there really isn’t. Plus even fewer stores seem to physically stock it now, as it’s all online which is a real shame, you want to try stuff on because it depends on your shape so much. I think there are definitely more expensive independent brands, but the high street is still really limited which is poor.
Have you done a lot of reading / research about pregnancy and childbirth?
No… I had two really good labours, and because of that I’m trying not to overthink it. I think because my Mum’s a midwife I’ve always had a very pragmatic approach to birth, along the lines it’ll hurt, but it’ll be fine. I had a prolapsed disc and didn’t take drugs and the consultant said I must have a pretty high pain threshold, so maybe that helps! Doug helps too as he’s very pragmatic and we’ve said that we don’t want to have the expectation to have the birth be any sort of way, so try not to plan it.
People often say to me “you’ve had two good labours, why not have a home-birth?” But I like going to hospital, I like the security of it, I don’t want to be in my house looking at all the shit and the mess, and I like going to hospital, and all that that signifies. I’m lucky too that I really trust Doug so if it got to the stage I needed drugs he’d make sure I got them.
What else (if anything) have you done to prepare for birth?
I’ve stayed quite active, I signed up to the Mum-hood programme from the ladies at Frame gyms, and they have a fitness, yoga and pilates video for each trimester. It’s £120 but you can do it at home, lasts the whole pregnancy and after, and they’re half hour sessions so relatively easy to fit in.
Not much apart from that to prepare for birth, but what we have done is try and do everything we can to prepare ourselves for what comes after the birth, and that adjustment. Firstly Doug and I have really tried to think about how we can communicate better, and find each other less irritating in what is a challenging time for your relationship. It’s been good to think about that this side of having the baby rather than trying to do it when we’re sleep deprived and even more hormonal. Especially as you need your partner, and if you’ve been a career woman, and are used to being very independent and you’re suddenly very needy it can be very hard. I found it tough with both my others because you’re not used to that. It’s been great for us to have the opportunity to talk about that, and for him to understand that neediness a bit more so I don’t end up feeling like a total nag, and Doug knows its for a reason, and that’s what is necessary at that time.
We’ve also arranged to have a kind of post-birth Doula come in about 6 weeks after the baby is born, and she helps round the house and with the baby to give some extra support a couple of afternoons a week. And whilst that’s not necessarily for everyone, for me it’s helped to make me feel less anxious about the whole thing. Because it’s at that point when visitors are less frequent, and you still haven’t slept for 2 months that you really need some extra support. We don’t have family that can pop in and hold the baby so I feel it’s a really positive, proactive thing to do.
Sum up pregnancy in 3 words…
Amazing, vulnerable, exhausting.
Is there anything you miss being pregnant?
Gin! and being able to wear my normal clothes. And energy.
What’s your favourite thing about being pregnant?
Feeling the movements, you forget each time how special that is. Especially when the family start to see / feel that now, it’s really nice. The kids see my tummy move and they’re so cute about it.
What would you say is the worst thing about being pregnant?
The tiredness, it gets so boring, but it’s very real!
What advice would you give to other pregnant women?
Look after yourself; you’re allowed to eat shit, or cry all day or whatever you need. Don’t try and be a hero and do all the things you’d normally do, it’s a relatively short time so you need to look after yourself. Relish the opportunity to say I’m not doing that, or going out if that’s what you want, because you have the best excuse!
What would your one bit of advice for new mums be?
Be kind to yourself. Pull up the drawbridge and have some time for you. It’s a really short phase. That’s what we’ll be doing, because we’ve got 2 kids to look after, and a baby, and we need to focus on us as a family. You don’t need people to be in your house for hours and you need to be fed and looked after. I think part of the problem is when you’re in it you feel alright, the adrenaline is going, you’re chatting, and you’re offering the cups of tea, then people leave and you fall apart. I remember sitting on the stairs sobbing because I was just so so tired after waving off visitors. You don’t need that in the early days, being so vulnerable.
And don’t succumb to the pressure to get out and ‘back to normal’ – I liked being at home, and being able to focus on breastfeeding, and if that’s what you need to do, go with it. It happens because you’re trying to reclaim yourself, but you’ll look back and think it’s a kind of madness (trying to be exactly as you were before) so take the time to be at home and rest.
Plus don’t compare yourself to others, and don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks about your parenting. I’m confident enough having a third child to say that, and that I couldn’t care less what other people are doing or have to say about what I’m doing.