Heavy metal festivals and pregnancy: recipe for disaster?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: all types of no, why would you even ask that question?

The tales of my adventures in heavy metal could probably fill a book. At least one. I had a good few years of touring drunkenly around Europe: getting into trouble and generally having a fine old time. Gradually, after meeting my husband, I grew out of it – the causing-trouble parts at any rate – but I’ve never stopped loving the music, the sheer atmosphere of a live show. When it comes to my favourite six or seven bands, I’ll still try to get to at least one show on every tour. So when the opportunity arose to go and see Sonata Arctica at RockHarz festival in Germany this summer, I jumped at the chance.

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Literally a month after I booked my flights, I found out I was pregnant.

Cancelling the trip never even crossed my mind. I did some calculations – I’d be just on six months pregnant by the time July rolled around. Still early enough to fly without a doctor’s note (just); late enough that the morning sickness should have passed. The glorious, glowing second trimester, that’s what everyone says, right? People still seemed surprised, however. I had so many people telling me I should just cancel, that it would be ‘safer’. That I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself.

I’m very glad to say that I proved them wrong. I did have the occasional challenging moment that I wouldn’t have encountered pre-pregnancy, but the bands I went to see were as excellent as always and I had a marvellous time.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my ultimate festival tips for the pregnant people among us – pointing out more than anything that you don’t have to stop doing the things you love just because you’re having a baby!

1) Don’t camp.

Honestly. I know for many people, camping is part of the joy of a music festival. I am not one of those people. I’ve done it: back in 2009 my best friend and I determinedly did the ‘full festival experience’ at Greenfield, Switzerland, neon green pop-up tent and all. It was uncomfortable, but doable.

For somewhat convoluted reasons, this tent was known as 'The Sandal'.

Dearly remembered. Ish.

This time around, my friend and I stayed in a charming little spa hotel about 10km from the festival grounds. My already achy back rejoiced in a comfy bed rather than a dodgy inflatable on solid ground; my battered bladder was very happy with a clean, private toilet with reams of loo roll; my screwed-up sleep pattern would have been toast with hordes of drunken revellers staggering around at four in the morning. This might be a sign of age, but I’d recommend the hotel route for anyone heading to a festival nowadays. Give me a bed and hot water over ‘campground atmosphere’ any day of the week.

2) Do get hold of VIP passes if you possibly can.

At most festivals, you can pay a bit extra for access to special VIP areas. You can also get these if you’re an officially registered photographer, or if you have an in with a band. If you’re pregnant, do this any way you possibly can. At RockHarz, our passes came courtesy of Sonata Arctica (cheers guys!) and honestly, for this alone, keyboardist Henkka Klingenberg is worth his weight in gold.

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Wristbands of usefulness.

At RockHarz, there was only a small VIP area, cordoned off with a fence and containing a couple of shacks for food and drink, but it had the most important amenity I needed at six months pregnant: proper seating! Not just a patch of questionable grass to call my own when my back started to hurt; actual deckchairs, some in the shade, and some on a sunny platform where we could watch the stages. Honestly, it sounds like such a simple thing, but just having a decent place to sit on and off saved my back and pelvis so much pain. Also, the VIP area actually had working WiFi – luxury indeed in the valley of poor phone signal!

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Two very happy (aka smug) not-campers in our deckchairs.

3) Don’t put yourself in harm’s way.

This should go without saying really, but when you’re pregnant it’s extra important. Being at a heavy metal festival, obviously you’re always going to encounter mosh pits and headbangers. It’s very true that metal fans are generally a considerate bunch, and will only mosh with clearly willing participants; they’re well-known for practically beating one another up in a pit then helping one another up when they get knocked down. But when you’re pregnant, don’t take any chances: stay away from the pit! For that matter, definitely duck out of the way of crowd surfers too. They’re irritating at the best of the times but when you’re six months pregnant, trust me, you could do without a New Rock boot to the head.

I was lucky during Avantasia when a pit broke out to be standing right behind an absolute tank of  a man, who was utterly immovable and determined to keep his girlfriend out of harm’s way. He was like a walking city wall: useful to have around if you can loiter around a similar specimen.

If things do get a bit much, don’t be a martyr for your friends: you’re going to spoil their fun a lot more by passing out or getting yourself hurt. If you start to feel bad, leave your friends and get out of the stage area to find somewhere to sit (preferably in the nice shiny VIP area). And for the love of god, don’t try sitting down in the middle of the concert area: I encountered someone who did this at a Nightwish gig last December, and honestly, it’s not a good plan if you don’t want to be accidentally booted in the face.

4) Do pick your festival carefully.

This is of course a matter of personal choice, depending on your favourite bands, the weather, the location – many things. I feel that RockHarz really was the perfect festival for me at this stage of pregnancy. It wasn’t huge; we could walk from the car to the stage in ten minutes, and could pootle merrily to the front row without even turning a hair. If I had been at somewhere like Wacken or Download, I would have had to spend most of the day traipsing across potentially muddy fields, and I would have been far more exhausted and achy than I actually ended up.

Equally, being six months pregnant means being hot. Not sexy-hot (though I totally am, obviously), but overheating. It’s just a fact that carrying this extra weight in the middle of summer leads to one big sweaty mess; plus, of course, it’s not healthy to totally overheat while pregnant. A festival in Germany was the ideal choice rather than say, Italy or France: it was sunny enough for me to get a tan (OK, to get my pasty British legs thoroughly burnt, but that was my own fault) but not so hot that I reached dangerous levels of dehydration.

5) Don’t use public transport.

As a non-driver, most of my gig trips have, by necessity, involved getting intimately acquainted with local public transport. I’ve become quite good at it, but it does still sometimes end up with stress: a certain incident in a flooded Czech Republic middle-of-nowhere at 2am springs to mind, trying to call a taxi with a dodgy phone connection and a terrible grasp of the Czech language. When you’re pregnant, you really don’t need that extra strain on your blood pressure, especially in festival locations where timetables can be unreliable at best.

I was lucky on this occasion that my lovely travel companion does own a car and was happy to drive to RockHarz: indeed, it would have been near-impossible to get there without one (thanks to a lot of roadworks, it was near-impossible to get there with one!). It really made the whole festival experience easier for me, especially because of the whole being-pregnant thing. No panic about timetables or taxis, no confusion in a foreign language, somewhere to leave all our junk throughout the day… and most importantly, somewhere I could have a cheeky nap when I inevitably got knackered mid-afternoon.

6) Do remember that non-alcoholic beer exists.

Totally trivial, but it made a difference for me! Personally, it felt a little odd, being at a heavy metal festival without having some form of alcoholic beverage permanently attached to my hand. But you know what? Non-alcoholic beer tastes practically the same as normal beer, especially after months of total abstinence. And it’s also way cheaper. No, you’re not going to get any kind of buzz off it, but being surrounded by great music and atmosphere will give the right effect anyway. For me, it helped to make me feel like I was still the same person I’ve always been – rocking out to some pounding heavy metal, a beer in my hand and a grin on my face – just with a rather more rounded tummy and a miniature future metalhead kicking away inside my uterus.

All in all, I had an absolutely awesome time at RockHarz this year, despite being over six months pregnant and the size of a small boat. It was of course made all the more potent by the fact that it’s probably the last festival I’ll be doing for at least a couple of years. I did see quite a few families ambling round with babies and toddlers (with the requisite ear guards of course) but personally, my husband and I have some other plans for our first couple of family holidays. Rest assured, we’ll be back in proper festival action in the future, the new generation of metalheads proudly keeping live music alive alongside us.

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Funny Story

It’s been a while since I blogged.

February. I wrote a ranty confessional post, upon yet another period arriving, about the ‘joys’ of trying to conceive.

Er. So. About that.

Within twenty four hours of writing that blog post, the period that sparked the ranting just seemed to… dry up. Vamoose.

That night I had a massive howling breakdown on my husband’s lap about a smelly stuffed monkey that had gone mouldy and had to be thrown away. When we moved house. In November.

Then a little later, sitting on the sofa minding my own business, I had the weirdest, spiky, prodding pains in my tummy. Something I’d never had before. It only lasted a few minutes, but it was enough to spook me.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Yes. The next morning, when my husband had gone to work, I got out one of my several thousand cheapy pee sticks and had a little go; even though I’d tested (repeatedly) before the period showed up and it had all been a resounding no. But the period had gone. Better to be safe than sorry, I guessed.

Was that… a line?

I held it up to the light. I squinted. I started to shake a tiny bit. It looked like a line. Only a faint one, but a line. Having spent a lot (a lot) of time looking at angry white spaces on pregnancy tests over the previous few months, I was pretty sure I could tell the difference.

I didn’t let myself get too excited. Could have been an evap line. Could have been me finally cracking and hallucinating.

But I had a more expensive First Response test in the drawer. Ahh, what’s the harm?

Definitely a line.

Still faint, but there was no mistaking it. Brazenly pink, there it was.

I started really shaking. I think I may have also been somewhere between sobbing and hysterically laughing. While also blasting Halestorm through the bathroom at ear-splitting volume. My neighbour must have thought the world was ending.

I had one shot left in my arsenal: the one I’d been saving especially for this occasion. Back when I’d first mentioned the whole trying-for-a-baby business, my best friend had bought me one of the most expensive pregnancy tests on the market, an all-singing Clearblue Digital. I wanted to save it for a time when I could actually be pregnant, when  I wouldn’t have the crushing disappointment of starkly being told ‘NOT PREGNANT’ in big black letters.

It came up in seconds.

‘PREGNANT: 1-2 WEEKS’.

Cue absolute howling and approximately forty five missed calls to my husband (I ended up barrelling into his work to tell him because he couldn’t pick up the phone in the middle of a lunchtime rush).

I was pregnant.

And approximately twenty weeks later, I still am.

image The current state of my fridge door

So this poor blog got rather neglected. Firstly, of course, I didn’t want to break the whole pregnancy news until after 12 weeks. Superstitious like that, and I had a horrible case of anxiety that it was all going to go wrong. It didn’t help that I was in and out of hospital with bleeding on and off for those first twelve weeks. It’s still kind of going on now, to be honest; I was back there again yesterday, though everything is fine. Stress, etc, bla bla bla.

I did mean to carry on with my 52 book challenge, but I couldn’t. Firstly, almost everything I was reading was based on either babies or pregnancy, and I thought it might give the game away a little bit. Also, my brain was so full of all things baby, I couldn’t concentrate on any of the nobly literary books I’d planned to read. It just kind of… fell by the wayside.

I just felt that I couldn’t carry on writing on here when my mind was so very, very elsewhere – I thought if I tried writing about, say, what I’d be watching on the TV, I’d just blurt out with “I’M HAVING A BABY EVERYONE A BABY HONEST A REAL ONE WITH FEET AND EVERYTHING” in the middle of a gentle paragraph about my hopes for the next two years in Game of Thrones.

But I’m back now, bump in hand. Boy bump, to be quite precise – we found out a couple of weeks ago, and he’s perfect. Quite the little wriggler, actually; every time a midwife attempts to hear his heartbeat, she has to chase him round my uterus with the doppler because he won’t keep still. He’s somersaulting around right now, actually, giving me a good booting in what remains of my belly button. I’m already bloody enormous, and I’m only just turning twenty four weeks in the morning. I’m going to be the size of the number 22 bus by the time this baby is evicted – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ve been told by a few people that I’m so (brazenly) honest about pregnancy that I should blog about it. No haze of pregnancy glow around here! Thinking about it, they might have just wanted me to stop rambling on about it to them. Ah well. I’m here now, and although I don’t plan on being one of those ‘mummy bloggers’ with weekly belly-updates and the like, I do intend to prattle a bit more often from now on.

Let the irritating pregnancy blog posts commence!

TTC Confessions

Time for a nice little downer post. Yes, I’ve officially become “one of those trying-to-conceive nutjobs”. I’d say I have no regrets but you know what? I’d much rather not be like this. Just for the moment, it’s all got a bit too much and I need to blow off some steam with some confessions.

Confession Number 1 – Every period is like a bereavement
I only have to see a spot of blood now on more or less the right day and that’s it. I only let myself full-on wallow for a day, but it still feels like every single cramp is a punishment. You didn’t ‘do’ it right, you’re too fat, you lifted too many boxes, you got too stressed. That’s the rhythm that beats in my head, constantly for at least six days in every 24.
When I see that blood, it doesn’t matter how good everything else might be. For that first few minutes, I sit there every single time and wish the world would end and take me with it.

Confession Number 2I’m pretty sure I know more about the biology of conception than most medical professionals
I’m an obsessive researcher anyway; anyone who’s ever had the pleasure/misfortune of going on holiday with me knows that. Throw in my own body and my future and I hit whole new levels of obsession. At a push, if someone went into labour in front of me right now, I’d be able to deliver the baby. At any point in the month, I can tell you which hormones I’m supposed to be releasing and which cell is supposed to be where, and for how long.
It’s not just googling, by the way. The other day I made a special visit to the Hunterian Museum in London, mostly so I could stare at the samples of ‘generation’ (as the labels on the jars proclaim them to be). I spent far too long staring at preserved fallopian tubes and four-week fetuses. Utterly fascinating. If anything ever ends up taking residence in my uterus, I’ll know exactly what it looks like and I think that’s pretty cool.

Confession Number 3there’s a lot of crying
Hormones, depression, whatever. I seem to spend most of my life right now with a huge painful lump in my throat from trying not to cry. At work, at home in front of the telly, writing blog posts on the bus at 6 in the morning. Even listening to the Lion King soundtrack can set me off.
By the way, I’m good – really good – at putting on a face. You might think I’m in a perfectly good mood, bantering away at my coffee machine like always. But there’s a good chance that when I disappear for a few minutes to ‘sort something in the office’ I’m going in there to put my head on the desk and howl because someone just came in with a newborn. I got set off the other day because a couple at the bus stop were heartily ignoring their cherubic cooing baby so they could smoke their fags right over its buggy; I absolutely howled at the injustice that they’ve got a baby and I haven’t.

Confession Number 4I’m ragingly jealous and the hatred that spews out of me is terrifying
So many of my peers are getting pregnant right now. So, so many. It seems like a new one every week. I’m happy for them. I’m not far gone enough yet not to realise that. I am. I don’t know their stories. For all I know, they could have been in my situation, or worse.
But that doesn’t stop the jealousy and the vitriol burning me up to the point where it’s not unknown for me to throw my phone at the wall when a new ‘belly shot’ pops up on social media. It scares me a bit, I don’t like feeling like this. And I would never act like that to anyone’s face. Like I said, I am happy for them. I’m just also really really sad for me and my husband, and sometimes that comes out in rage. Especially when they find things to moan about that amaze me – if you have a healthy child or are pregnant, in my mind you need to count your lucky stars right away and get a bit of perspective. Obviously, that’s TTC-selfishness and absolute bullshit. I know it full well, but I can’t bloody stop myself.

Confession Number 5I pee on a lot of sticks
For two weeks of the month or so, women who are trying to conceive are existing in a state of Schrödinger’s Uterus. And the only way of possibly attempting to communicate with that cat while the box is closed is by weeing on sticks. Even though it’s absolutely pointless most of the time, because you know it’s far too early to tell anything, you do it anyway. Then when the test is negative, you can tell yourself you tested too early and the test is bound to be positive tomorrow. Or the next day, or the next.
I’d be a good blogger and recommend my favourite pee-sticks to you, but there would be no point because the sodding feline has always kicked the bucket anyway.

Confession Number 6if you tell me to ‘just relax and it’ll happen’ I will impale you on the end of a chopstick
I think I speak for everyone trying to conceive when I say this. No matter how well-meant, ‘just relax’ and its many, many variants are possibly the least helpful, most irritating things you can hear when you’re trying to have a baby. Have you ever tried to ‘relax’ when you’re, I don’t know, running away from a massed zombie horde waving bloody Bodyform packets, at the same time attempting to catch a Golden Snitch that’s hovering approximately eight feet above your head?
That’s my life. Enjoy ‘relaxing’.

Confession Number 7 every symptom is pregnancy… then none of them are
I used to symptom-spot with the best of them. Every tiny twinge would set me off. This has to be it! That can’t be a usual thing!
But now, eighteen cycles on, I know otherwise. I have had every single ‘early pregnancy’ symptom you can think of and it’s not been right once. Sore boobs, nausea, dizziness, pulling sensations, heightened sense of smell, back pain, wind, heartburn, implantation spotting, headaches, hunger, insomnia, vivid dreams, runny nose, prominent veins, mood swings. Take your pick.
The fact of the matter is, anything that can possibly be a symptom of pregnancy is also a symptom of your period revving up. Every single cycle, your body prepares itself for a pregnancy whether you’ve conceived or not. So realistically, none of the ‘symptoms’ mean squat. I have now reached the point where I can sit in an ancient sports bra because my boobs are so painful, and I’ll still shrug it off. It means nothing.

I am now all out of confessions, for now. That felt very cathartic. And if anyone stumbles upon this who is in the same boat, know that you’re not alone. There’s loads of us out there and we all feel like shit sometimes. Have a good rant; it definitely helps.

Conception? Exception.

As some of you might have known, my husband and I decided a while ago that we’d quite like to get us one of those baby things. You know, cute, small, often smell a bit like poo but have very sweet gummy smiles to make up for it?

We want a small version of the two of us; a tiny nerd obsessed with Harry Potter and trains, who likes cycling but also to bury their nose in a book for hours on end. A little girl with my eyes and my husband’s stoic pragmatism; a hyperactive little boy with curly hair, a dimple in his chin and a terrible sense of balance on a bicycle.

It’s not happened yet.

And it’s been over a year.

Did you know, pregnancy symptoms and PMS symptoms are pretty much exactly the same? Did you know that you can buy pregnancy tests in packs of 50? Did you know that if we were in the US, I would be labelled infertile by this point?

I am a one-woman repository of ‘trying to conceive’ information. I’m not kidding: if you want to know about luteal cycles or cervcial mucous, I’m your girl. It just kind of happens, when you’re trying for this long. You become so well acquainted with good old Dr Google that you diagnose yourself with every reproductive illness going. You agonise over forum posts from years ago, deciding that you’re ‘just like her’ with every poster going.

Every month, you convince yourself that this is it, this is your month. That tiny bit of nausea must mean something, that tiny pain on the left side of your pelvis must be implantation cramps. Then when the blood appears and your heart sinks to the bathroom floor, it’s like a small bereavement.

I know it’s only been a year. Some people take far longer than a year – and we’re the lucky ones. I may have had a chemical pregnancy last December, but it was so early (and so badly mishandled by the NHS, but that’s another story) that it was never even fully confirmed. I believe it’s in my notes as ‘catastrophic bleed’ or something similarly vague. In a year, we could have had far worse than that; I know couples who have struggled with miscarriage after miscarriage.

We’re the lucky ones.

If I repeat that to myself enough times, it might eventually help. With the pain, the heartbreak, the absolute soul-destroying jealousy every time someone else announces a pregnancy the same week – the same bloody day – my period rolls around.

Soon, I’ll finally bite the bullet and go to the doctor. I know I’ll be told to go away again – after the aforementioned ‘catastrophic bleed’ I was more or less given a full MOT – but it might put my mind at rest.

The most painful thing of all? This isn’t just hurting me; it’s hurting my husband.

I’m not 100% sure why I wanted to share this. I suppose I want people to understand why sometimes I’m distracted; sometimes I might not want to be sociable or particularly friendly. Plus, I know there’s a lot of you out there my age, just married, just settling down and starting to think about having kids too – this kind of thing could happen to you one day. I feel totally alone in it most of the time. I don’t want anyone else to have to feel like that.

I solemnly promise that I will always be here to listen to anyone talk about BBT, CM, and DTD – believe me, there will come a day when those acronyms mean something to you and you’ll find yourself possessed with a strange desire to discuss them.