Saturday, 22 June 2013

The First Three Months...

I've got a theory that the first trimester of pregnancy is one of the most terrifying times of any woman's life. For those that have been actively trying for a baby, it's also one of the longest. Thanks to advanced pregnancy testing technology, it is now possible to find out that you're pregnant up to four days before your menstrual period is even due; meaning that you're launched head first into very dodgy territory. 

Back in ye olde dayes, women often had to wait for around two weeks after their missed period before getting a positive result on a home pregnancy test. Often, their period would arrive in this time and they wouldn't realise that they had, in fact, managed to conceive. This is known as a chemical pregnancy (or a very early miscarriage), and it's a very common occurrence. I read somewhere that as many as 70% of conceptions are thought to end this way. That's fine if you haven't been watching your cycle like you've got OCD and peeing on sticks every half an hour.

Added to the abject terror felt every time you go to the toilet ("am I bleeding?!") is the fact that it's no longer acceptable to announce your pregnancy until the end of the first trimester, and you've had your twelve week scan. I completely understand that, it makes a lot of sense. However, it does mean that you're expected to face a genuinely scary time almost on your own. Your husband or partner is just elated that their sperm works (quite rightly) and have little understanding of how fragile this little life inside you feels.

Most people choose to tell their close family and friends, and therefore have a bit of a support network. However there is a standard response, and that is "Well, it's early days yet". This sentence is supposed to keep the pregnant lady grounded until it has been confirmed that everything is ok, but in the hormonally charged brain of the expecting, this phrase roughly translates as: "you could miscarry at any time". Mental? Probably. But true. 

Another one that you hear a lot is that "you're only just pregnant". This one often comes from people who already have children, as though a pregnancy somehow doesn't count until you can see the shape of a foot pushing against your abdomen. Along with Googling symptoms, all of this naturally leads to a sense of very real fear in the hearts of the expectant. 

I'm writing this because the first trimester is something so rarely discussed, and it's important for women to feel that they're not alone in their complete neuroses. By the time the announcement is made, the foetus has been seen bobbing around merrily on an ultrasound and all of the fears of the past few months are forgotten. But, for those going through it, it can be incredibly rough - and I'm not just referring to the type of rough that ends with a head in a toilet; although there's plenty of that too.

It's important to try and stay positive, but it's also worth noting that you're not alone. Especially for women going through their first pregnancy, it's perfectly normal to feel just a tiny bit terrified. 

Remember: it'll all be worth it in the end...

P.S. I'm writing this at seven weeks but, for obvious reasons, it won't be posted for some time. By the time I publish this,  I expect that I'll be wondering what the bloody hell I was worrying about...

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Man of Steel and Me

I put it out there on facebook that I hadn't really enjoyed Man of Steel as much as I had expected to, and that short review appeared to be pretty controversial. Many are championing it as the best superhero movie ever made, and I wanted to elaborate more on my issues with the movie so as not to upset any Superman fans.

First things first, I didn't see it in 3D as there were issues with the screen. However, not being an enormous fan of 3D, I can't see that the movie lost anything by being in 2D. 

There is a rule in storytelling that states you should always "show, not tell". It basically means that you shouldn't leave it up to dialogue between characters to explain what it is happening. The first half of Man of Steel is made up almost exclusively of scenes showing two people stood face to face, having serious discussions. With little flow between scenes, these felt stunted and somewhat dull. It was also true that you often wondered how the characters had ended up where they were as scenes were cut together in such a way that showed little progression between them.

When the action finally kicked in, I admit that the effects were sensational. I'm not a fan of CGI, yet it was done beautifully in Man of Steel. However, the fight scenes largely seemed to consist of Superman flying through a series of walls, clinging onto his opponent. This was fine, but after half an hour it became a little predictable and you had to wonder about such wanton destruction by our hero. 

Superman is a difficult character to make interesting. Thanks to his moral integrity and farm boy upbringing, he has always been written as the perfect American hero. The writers of Man of Steel have tried to combat this by including a complex relationship with his Earth father. Unfortunately, this is handled clumsily and, rather than add depth, it makes you want to give Clarke a clip round the ear on occasions. Then, towards the end, Superman faces the ultimate moral dilemma, which felt a bit shoe horned in. Also, his actions are necessary, and so you lose the element of "ooh, did he do the right thing?".

All in all, Man of Steel takes itself very seriously. And that's ok, but it would appear that someone read through the script and decided that there should be a few funny moments. As such, there are three or four attempts at dead pan one liners that don't happen regularly enough to sit anything but awkwardly with the tone of the film. This isn't helped by the repetitive and heavy score, which serves to remind us that, for 143 minutes, there is nothing to laugh about here. Superman should leave the one liners to Tony Stark.

Also, Russell Crowe is in it. Enough said.

There are, of course, good points. As mentioned, the effects are stunning and there is a bearded Henry Cavill without his shirt on. Sadly, although the plot had the potential to be simple to follow yet engaging, my concentration waned after the first 60 minutes of watching people stood around having a chat. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The 'S' word

I understand a little bit about being suicidal.

That sounds terribly dramatic but it isn't; not really. All it means is that I think about killing myself more than I think the average person would. I don't know why; it's just something that I do. It's like a strange little mental blip that I have where, if my brain sits still for too long, it'll flash up unexpectedly. Sometimes - usually once a month - these thoughts spike in regularity and, unfortunately, ferocity. I get overwhelmed by things very easily and it presents itself as an easy, if rather lazy, escape route. You'd probably laugh if I told you some of the circumstances that had set off recent such trains of thought.

I think it's very important, at this point, to emphasize that I am not a suicide risk. Despite stating that my suicidal thoughts peak once a month, I'm not just a crazy pre-menstrual either; increased hormone levels just aggravate a tendency that already exists. Finding myself staring out of high windows and wondering how it would feel to jump is just a part of my life that I've come to accept. 

I believe that I've always thought this way. Or, at least, I have done for as long as I am able to remember. I'm also not entirely sure if I'm sorry about the fact: this little idiosyncrasy has  helped to make me who I am, and I quite like her. I can be very emotional and I'm good at putting myself into other people's shoes; a talent that often leads to spontaneous tears over a situation that few others would notice. I think about the effect that my actions will have on another person, or about how I can prevent someone in my family from feeling upset for even a moment. I don't always succeed and, sadly, sometimes my big mouth does run away from me, but generally speaking I'm a compassionate human being. This is because I know how it feels to hurt.

Again, I want to stress that I'm not hurting as I write this. I'm fine. I'm not planning to throw myself in front of a train any time soon. Or any time at all, for that matter. In fact, despite the sometimes horrifying tangents that my brain goes off on, it can also be surprisingly rational.

The suicide rate in my town seems to be quite high. I don't know if that is the case, or if it just seems that way due the fact that it's a small place and everyone knows everyone else, but we seem to have more than our fair share of suicides. Each time I hear about one of these tragic cases, I feel jealous for a millisecond; resentful of the fact that another individual has had the guts to go through it when I never have. Thankfully, this emotion is quickly replaced by the question: "If they'd waited just a week, a month, would things have gotten more bearable for them?". As far as I can see, the answer is always yes. Things do get better, no matter how desperate they seem at the time.

I employ this question when I need to steady myself: Will it be better by tomorrow? Of course it will; it always is. And I always manage to talk myself down from the metaphorical ledge. I have so much to live for, so many people who love me and who would be devastated if I left them. But, not only that, I'd missing out on so much life that I haven't yet lived. There are things that I'm destined to do that would go undone should I step off of this mortal coil and I simply refuse to let that happen. 

Every time something wonderful happens, I look back and think: "If I'd had the guts before, I'd have missed that" which is as good a reason to go on living as any I can think of. 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

"It's So Unfair"

It's a new sideline I have; made easier by the fact that I began writing it at thirteen.

Check it out: