Morning sickness, exhaustion and going into labour at Selfridges...being pregnant during party season offers up a variety of very different challenges. Four women share their unique stories with us
Work deadlines, frantic gift shopping and hosting duties - party season can be exhausting. If you’re pregnant though, multiply its effects by a hundred. As well as morning sickness, you’re also having to contend with everything from back and foot pain and swollen ankles, while juggling all of the extra socialising and stress that December and the New Year bring. It’s something that Meghan Markle might well be experiencing at the moment (by our calculations, the Duchess of Sussex will be settling into her second trimester by now), as well as Kayla Itsines , who just announced that she's 20 weeks pregnant with her first child.
Pregnancy can be a trying experience at any time of the year, but especially so at the year-end. Here’s how four women navigated the festive season with their bump in tow.
Susannah Taylor, Editor-at-large of Get The Gloss
“Keeping moving throughout my pregnancy really helped me...and a good pair of flats”
"Last Christmas, I was eight months pregnant and working still (I didn’t intend to, but I ended up working until the day I gave birth). All through my pregnancy, I had felt pretty good, and I was actually quite a good party person…I went to quite a few and stayed up reasonably late. I went to a huge event once at the V&A in London when I was seven months and my husband and I were the last people to leave!
"I put this down to keeping moving throughout pregnancy. I was doing yoga and was actually still going to the gym all the way through (I had taken proper pregnancy advice from a trainer though). I have a theory that it keeps everything moving - I didn’t move as much in my first pregnancy and I got quite swollen in my hands and feet. During this pregnancy, I didn’t have any swelling at all. By Christmas though, I did start to find the bump a bit more uncomfortable - I found it hard to sit on the sofa as I felt the bump was pushing up under my boobs, so I’d have to lie sideways like a whale and I also had acid indigestion a lot - a real burning in my throat and chest.
"I remember on New Year’s Eve thinking that, because it was such a long night, that I would allow myself a couple of glasses of champagne. However I had such bad acid indigestion that I literally couldn’t even take a sip - every sip was like a fire burning down my throat. People always offer you fizzy elderflower when you're pregnant and I was desperate to find something else. I would often just drink fizzy water and fresh lime juice (I had a thing about fizzy water during my pregnancy) and I thought non-alcoholic beer was pretty good too.
"It’s really quite hilarious watching other people getting annihilated though when you are stone cold sober. I was very happy to get home and take my heels off - wearing heels was probably the hardest part. It was also a relief not to have to wait for a taxi as I could drive us home. It was fantastic not to be hungover the next day too - I woke up on New Year’s Day and looked at my husband and felt immensely relieved I wasn’t him right at that moment!
"We thankfully didn’t host Christmas which really helped. The key is not to have a house full of people that you need to wait on, you need to be waited on by others. Obviously, I helped out but didn’t feel guilty falling asleep after lunch for example. If you do have people staying, I would get everyone to bring something, show them where the booze is, tell them to help themselves and get everyone involved in the cooking. Food-wise, I steered clear of all the things the guidelines tell you to. I didn’t eat runny or blue cheese or shellfish or anything with raw egg in it for example. I do know some people in pregnancy who ate nearly everything though, which I always think is a bit risky.
"Another thing that I swear helped keep me sane was having baths nearly every night. I couldn’t put many aromatherapy oils in there though as you aren’t allowed to use a lot of them when pregnant, so I’d put a few drops of lavender oil in or have a bubble bath instead.
"If you’re a mum-to-be who’s pregnant during this time of year, try to not stress about everything - it’s far more important that you look after that little baby growing in your tummy. If you are going to someone else’s house, I would take your creature comforts with you - tea you like, a hot water bottle, your bubble bath...you definitely get into habits when pregnant and you need to feel safe and comfortable.
"I’d also recommend taking a flat pair of shoes with you if you are wearing heels (I always had a pair of trainers in the car) - it’s quite a strain on your feet be carrying the weight of your bump too and your feet can really start to hurt."
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Marielle Wyse, founder of Wyse London
“I started going into labour at Selfridges when I was returning a present!”
"I was almost nine months pregnant at Christmas the year that my son was born. I wasn't working at the time as I also had a 17-month-old daughter to look after. I felt extremely fat and was eating lots of delicious food of course. My son was late, so I felt like I just wanted to get through the holiday season and meet him.
"I didn't really go out much at all because I was so far along. The one or two parties I did manage to get myself to, I was in and out and home by 9 pm. It was just too exhausting for me. Hot baths kept me going - with essential oils. They helped me de-stress, but I am pretty stoical on the whole though, so I generally just tried to plough through.
"On the 5th of January, I went to Selfridges in the afternoon to return something. And it was then that I started to feel the first twinges and squeezes...I kept telling myself they were nothing though. I got home at around 6 pm and started watching a film. The twinges got more persistent. I thought maybe it was time to go to the hospital but I was still resistant. At around 8 pm, I felt that it might be the real deal. Turns out my feeling was right and I was in the labour ward by 9 pm. I’d planned to have a water birth (like I’d had with my first child, Maddy) and I remember sitting in the bath thinking that the labour would be smooth and magical but it was intense and rapid instead. I had to get out of the bath immediately. By then, I was in full labour and the contractions were very frequent. I remember the midwife saying to me ‘wait a minute, wait a minute’ while she put her gloves on. I said ‘I can’t!’ as the labour was so intense and fast. My son just shot out (literally) at 11 pm. I was in a state of shock for a couple of hours afterwards!
"We named him Joe after my great grandfather who was called Joseph. I couldn't wait to get out of the hospital - I remember it was snowing and all I was worried about was keeping him warm on the journey home. I wanted to be home with my new baby and my little daughter as soon as possible - I was looking forward to the first time they’d meet. Maddy was 18 months old at the time and very curious. I remember her being really fascinated by Joe, like he was a new play toy. I think at that age they experience a mixture of emotions - fascination, delight and a little bit of jealousy perhaps thrown in too.
"If I could give any advice to other mums who are reaching the end of their pregnancy during this time of year, it would be to delegate as much as possible, don't try to do everything yourself. Sadly, I didn't delegate anything. I did everything myself - wrapped all the presents, cooked all the food and just kept going. Looking back, this was a mistake, I remember being so tired!"
Margaret de Heinrich de Omorovicza, co-founder of Omorovicza
“I would order a juice or sparkling water and always ask for it to be poured into a martini glass - even at home!”
"Of the four of my children, I was pregnant just once over the Christmas period (with my daughter Octavia). I was about four months along and working at the time as well as having a one-year-old at home. I was a bit tired, but I don’t remember having lost too much of a spring in my step at this stage. I actually loved being pregnant, not least because everyone is so nice to you…over the holidays my family didn’t let me clean up the dishes, and I took naps in the afternoon without feeling guilty about it!
"Keeping up with the usual Christmas swirl had its challenges, and while I didn’t really change my schedule while pregnant, I would usually scoot off early which everyone seemed to understand. When it came to tackling the non-drinking side of things, I would always order a juice or sparkling water and ask for it to be poured into a martini glass - even at home, I would drink out of one. It made me smile and I recommend to anyone to do the same if they want to jazz up their juices.
"In terms of food cravings, I got off lucky and was obsessed with orange juice and drank gallons. I steered clear of certain cheeses, as well as raw meat and fish. I also found that I went off mushrooms during my pregnancy. I’ve heard that it is quite common while pregnant.
"We developed our Firming Body Oil when I was pregnant with our first child and I used it when I was pregnant with Octavia - she was JI NORE MUSS (over 10 pounds) and miraculously, I do not have any stretch marks – I suspect this might be because I massaged the oil onto my stomach every evening without fail. I’d recommend always checking the ingredients with a doctor before using anything while pregnant though.
"My top tip to other mums-to-be who are pregnant during this time of year would be to be kind to yourself. I appreciate that it is a luxury and might not be possible, but try to have a pregnancy massage or two if you can - you’ll feel so much better for it. I loved the ones at the Four Seasons, Park Lane and the Koia Spa in Notting Hill Gate ."
Lizzie King, cook and author of Lizzie Loves Healthy Family Food
“Fizzy water with lemon as well as power naps helped me keep my pregnancy under wraps until I was ready to share the news”
"I found it really tough when I was pregnant with my third child - I was just 12 weeks that December and hadn’t gone public with the news until midway through the party season. So I felt exhausted, mildly nauseous come evening time, and was unable to explain it all away! I got pretty good at faux cocktail drinking and power naps, but I really wasn’t good enough at locking down time for me to do nothing and this is the most important part I think.
"I am really bad at saying no to things, and that year as with most, I seemed to end up with endless work evenings, talks to go to, friends to cook for or carols to sing. I tried to dial it down, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much. What I didn’t do and would now, is block out a couple of days a week as non-negotiable ‘stay in slippers’ nights. Actually writing it in your diary means things don’t just crop up and sets your intention, so you don’t find yourself out several nights in a row.
"Drinks-wise, I would just have fizzy water with ice and a slice of lemon before I went public with the news - almost always people would assume it was a G&T, no questions asked. Once I got over that first order, no one was really that interested, so if you don’t make a drama of it, it’s pretty easy to fake your way through it. Once I’d told people about my pregnancy, it was much easier - I got good at the mocktail scene, pomegranate molasses and fizzy water was a staple.
"Food has always been such a huge part of my life and it really became a focus when I first got pregnant. This was the reason for starting my career in food and my interest in nutrition. I took it all pretty seriously. I was really disappointed with the mammoth ‘forbidden in pregnancy list’ the first time around, so I made sure to scrutinise it and read up on the whys and wherefores of each, and I worked out that it wasn’t quite as bleak as it first seemed. There are foods that make you sick and some that harm your baby and I was keen to keep my diet as broad as possible, so I kept eating foods from the first category (such as oysters and seafood when thoroughly cooked), and even found a way around one of my great loves at Christmas - cheese! By baking soft cheese until it’s piping hot , the listeria can no longer be harmful - the fastest, tastiest supper ever.
"And then there are the things that I did that were sanity-saving like listening to my hypnobirthing tracks in bed when I couldn’t sleep. Dr Gowri Motha’s gentle words and wisdom (in her Gentle Birth Method ) got me through all three of my pregnancies and I adore her. I had reflexology sessions with her team and they even come to your house if you’re in a real bind.
"It’s Christmas and with being pregnant, you may not feel up to full pelt festive, but by being mindful of your time and energy, you can make it as fabulous as possible, and avoid the burn out that I very much felt by trying to cram everything in. Most of all, you’re growing a beautiful baby, so you need to keep yourself chilled and smiling whatever the season throws at you. Happy Christmas and congratulations."
Disclaimer: These are four women’s personal stories and shouldn’t be taken as suits-all advice. Always consult a doctor when it comes to your individual health and nutritional needs during pregnancy.
Read more: 10 sleep rules for new mums - from someone who’s been there