*trigger warning* babies and labour and mental health and all that shit
When I got pregnant I didn’t have to worry about the cost of antenatal care.
When my baby was 12 days late I didn’t have to think about how much being induced would cost.
*trigger warning* babies and labour and mental health and all that shit
When I got pregnant I didn’t have to worry about the cost of antenatal care.
When my baby was 12 days late I didn’t have to think about how much being induced would cost.
‘Baby weight’: should it be an actual thing? Should it be something we talk about and focus on? Is ‘baby weight’ a helpful idea/turn of phrase in any way?
When you become a mother it is very likely that you’ll feel your body is not your own for while. I mean the whole being-in-labour thing is enough to make most of us feel a bit odd, what with the world and his wife regarding your nether-regions with clinical disinterest for 24 hours. Then there’s the fact that you have a tiny human attached to you boob/general person all the time. (Like, all the f*cking time). Anyhoo, the whole newborn scenario is not exactly going to make you feel like you’re bringing sexy back or anything, and that’s totes normal, so, like, don’t worry about it.
Added to all this body-consciousness is the concept that you have some ‘baby weight’ that you must lose sometime soon. Because that is what people do, right? By people, I mean Victoria Beckham and Jessica Alba and Kate ‘The Duchess of Cambridge’ Middleton. You know, the kind of people who can afford a nanny for each child, personal trainer and chef. And the kind of people who get followed around by cameras ever darn day of their lives… I mean, I can’t think how/why they do it…
At first this whole issue may not bother you, but give it time. I have written previously about the few months of grace after giving birth where I could look in the mirror and think “yeah, my body looks different and that’s okay”, but then the inevitable happened and I looked in s three way mirror and tried to buy jeans. Foolish woman. Suddenly it dawned on me that I really did need to shape up! And by ‘shape up’ I mean lose weight and look thinner, obvs. I need to shed my baby weight.
But did I? Do you?
Now, I’m not saying that women don’t put on weight when they’re pregnant. I’m obviously not saying that, because that would be straight-up wrong and silly. I’m not saying that women don’t put on more weight than the 6-10lbs their baby weighs either (again, wrong and silly). What I’m saying is that the whole idea of ‘baby weight’ has a certain, well, weight to it. It has an expectancy that at some point you really need to get your act together and return to your ‘normal’ body type. Like your body has just gone wrong for a while and it needs a gym membership and 10-day juice cleanse to get it back on track.
But what if – and bear with me because this is a pretty out-there suggestion – what if growing a person in your womb, going through major hormonal changes and having the skin around your torso stretch, like, a lot, means that your ‘normal’ body type has changed? If that’s the case then isn’t the idea it’s all just ‘baby weight’ that needs to get gone a bit, well, unrealistic. What with having to look after an actual tiny helpless human and everything, I just don’t think this expectation is one we should be putting on ourselves.
And while we’re on the subject, what body shape are we trying to get ‘back’ to anyway? The way we looked before we had kids? You know, that pre-baby physique that you’d always been so happy with and never wanted to changed in any way? Hmm… Ain’t hindsight a bitch.
Actually, I think most of us want to have the body we wanted to have before we were pregnant, not the one we had. There’s still part of me that wants to get ‘back’ to my ‘ideal’ weight. This weight was not the weight I was just before Bubs was conceived, on no, it’s the weight I was when I was 24 and vegan and went running regularly and was yet to become quite so fond of Sauvignon Blanc. Incidentally this was also the weight I was when lots of people volunteered their unbidden opinion that I was too skinny. Sigh.
The fact that half of the women we see modelling clothes we’re supposed to wear are teenagers doesn’t help here. I mean, what if we’re not all supposed to have the figure of an adolescent girl whose boobs have just ‘come in’ for the rest of our lives?’
I’m just asking.
Having a baby, whether you give birth to it or not, is going to change your lifestyle. You will be exhausted a lot of the time and less able to just ‘pop to the gym’ (apparently that is a thing that people do) whenever. You will most likely eat more quick and easy food, which usually means more frozen pizza.
And so what? I mean, maybe that’s just okay. It’s obviously not okay to eat chocolate for breakfast every day and live a sedentary lifestyle, but any parent of a toddler will know that the option of a sedentary lifestyle is but an illusive dream.
(Just as an aside, I think all parents of toddlers should, by rights, have really toned arms. Who’s with me?)
Bodies change. That is an actual scientific fact. So what if we just let them? I don’t mean what if we all become morbidly obese, obvs, (wrong and silly), but what if we don’t try to ‘get our figures back’? What if we try to love the skin we’re in, generally eat some vegetables, make sure we move about a bit, and also drink some gin and eat some chocolate?
Sure Victoria Beckham is the skinniest four-child-bearing mini you’ll ever see, but as the paparazzi aren’t particularly bothered with my everyday movements, maybe it just doesn’t matter that much if my arms wobble a bit. Maybe that’s even.. Nice.
Dear Reader, I am so sick of this crap. I am so tired of being surrounded by women on expensive, extreme diets, or talking about how ‘bad’ we were on holiday (i.e. we ate lots and enjoyed it). I am SO sick of all this body image stuff getting into my head and making me crazy and unhappy and stopping me just enjoying my ridiculously blessed existence!
So, I am turning over a new leaf, I am going to try to live a healthy lifestyle because I don’t want to die of a con colony heart failure when I’m 55, and if doing that means I lose a stone then I will be ecstatic (not gonna lie) but if I don’t, I am really going to try to feel good about myself anyway. Because why shouldn’t I? And why shouldn’t you?
If you need further inspiration, check Amy Schumer’s acceptance speech at the Glamour women of the Year Awards. Nothing to do with baby weight, but the line 47 seconds in is priceless!
*trigger warning: despite the title there is a bit of birth talk in this post*
When I was a new mum doing the drinking-coffee-with-one-hand-rocking-pram-with-the-other-attempting-to-maintain-a-half-decent-conversation-thing was part of the deal. Admittedly a much nicer part than the crying at sleep-deprivation and poo-handling bits. It helped me bond with my fellow mums, mostly because we frequently did the too-much-information-thing. You know, talking about the colour of poo; the state of your boobs; your distinct lack of lobedo. Oh yes, small talk becomes a whole new ball game once babies are involved.
Of course, on the top of all our over-sharing lists was the birth itself. With slightly pained expressions, we’d ask each other if the birth was ‘okay’ and wait to see what was divulged. Some would give a short account; 40 hours, exhausting, natural delivery. Others would go into much more detail. This was not because they wanted the attention, nor were they playing bad-birth top trumps, they just needed their stories to be heard, especially by those who could have some genuine empathy.
In those early months I talked birth a lot. The funny thing was I never really wanted to talk about it at all. For me, labour was traumatic. About a thousand people tell you ‘nothing can prepare you for it’ when you’re pregnant, to this you might nod sagely in agreement. But then it happens and you realise: nothing can prepare you for it. Nothing. This isn’t to scare any one or say that antenatal classes are useless; I am very glad that I went to NCT and in some ways it did prepare me. But this is the queen of visceral experiences and, as such, no one can quite put it into words. And I’m not just talking long labours or assisted births (I’ve given my two pence about ‘good births‘ before). I know women who have had 7-hour labours and delivered in the pool and felt, well, frankly, fucked. Feeling like that myself, but not really being able to articulate it, meant it was not easy for me to talk about births, or hear about them. A swell of dread would rise in me at the mere mentioned; sort of like a flashback. It was not pleasant.
Despite my internal panics, I continued with the chat. In fact, often I would initiate the chat. Why, Dear Reader? WHY? Someone would make an offhand comment and I’d follow it up with a question. Then, before you know it, BOOM! This is a proper conversation with details and what not. As if nursing a baby whilst simultaneously trying to drink a luke-warm cappuccino weren’t enough to cope with on 3 hours sleep. Deary me.
The thing is, I wanted to have these conversations with my new friends and I’m sure they brought us closer together. It is an honour to be admitted into that most viscerally private of experiences, even if all that you learn is that they were scared, or shocked, or awed by the whole thing. I’m glad I know what happened to my friends and that many of their experiences resembled mine. I never thought I would shout I shout the words “I had an episiotomy too!” quite so loudly, or enthusiastically over a table in a public place. Once all of the babies were born our groups’ catchphrase became “where are all these ‘natural births’ then???” as 7 out of 8 of us had some complication or other. Sharing it meant we could laugh about it, just a little bit.
But sometimes, when these type of chats were in a group rather than one-to-one, I’d would feel myself slowly disappearing into an internal world. I remember meeting up with a group once, and a mum who I didn’t really know talking about her birth. I had thought we had passed the ‘how was your birth’ stage by then – I desperately wanted to be – even though it was probably only about 3 months after the fact. I found myself not bloody caring that she’d been sent home because she wasn’t dilated enough, and I certainly didn’t want to know home much hypno-birthing helped her. “Yah, so I started doing my meditations…” Meditations?? WTF??? after 2cm I couldn’t bloody see-straight! (FYI I do not think hypnobirthing isn’t good/genuine/etc, but because at that point I was still in the ‘if I’d done that it would have been better’ place. That place is crap.) The more she shared, and others shared with her, the more urgent the sense of dread became in my body became. If we’re talking ‘fight or flight’ reflexes, mine body was definitely telling me to catch the next flight to Kazakhstan. So I just sat back in my chair and nodded at the appropriate points, trying to do my best interested/sympathetic expression. But I wasn’t really there, I was hiding somewhere in my head. Which was sad.
To be fair, I had worse. Friends without babies who I told I was ‘upset’ by the birth (and the award for understatement of the year 2013 goes to…) and didn’t really want to talk about it, would often respond by asking questions about the birth or, worse, telling me about ‘really bad‘ births they knew of already. I shit you not, Dear Reader, I shit you not.
And you know, I’m beginning to feel all weird as I write this. I’ve got the anxiety tingles. A year on I still find it hard to think about this stuff. And I’m not even thinking about the actual stuff, I’m thinking about talking about the actual stuff. What strange creatures we are.
Now, I shall get to the point. A lot of bloggers writing eloquently and movingly about their births. Some have managed to turn their traumatic experiences into dark comedies for our enjoyment, whilst others have shared their most profound tragedies in order to raise awareness and comfort others. All of these things are wonderful. But I won’t be reading any of them, I’m afraid. Not for a while yet, any way. And (obvs) I won’t be writing one either. Because it is not a day I want to relive.
I used to feel deeply sad and intensely guilty about not being able to remember my son’s birth fondly. But why should I? It was defo, totes, 100% the most physically traumatic experience of my life (and it wasn’t even a ‘really bad‘ one, bleurgh). Yes, afterwards I had my Bubs, but as I mentioned in the post I have just reblogged, my bond with him took time to form. I didn’t feel the Hollywood-sudden-rush-of-love sensation that makes it ‘all worth it’.
Now,, of course, I couldn’t be happier to have my Bubs (okay, I could be a bit happier when he is screaming in my face). As I may have mentioned before; he is the best. person. ever. (Sozzers other mums, but that is an objective fact!) And thought I am happy about the fact he was born (understatement of the year 2014) ; I will never be happy about the act of that birth. ‘The fact, not the act’, is actually a little phrase I coined to help me come to terms with my feelings about the it all. Pretty nifty, dontcha think?
When I realised that I never had to be happy about the labour and delivery, that I didn’t need to amalgamate the memory of a horrid stitches infection (TMI?) into some grand “isn’t motherhood wonderful at all times” narrative, it was a major relief. It is probably not a radical statement to say that women don’t always have to smile fondly and say “it was all worth it!” when recalling the birth of their children, but it feels radical to me! Because, yes, or course it’s bloody worth it, but sometimes I just want to say it was fucking traumatic without a caveat, without any “but now he’s here and…” stuff. Sometimes, things are just shit. And I think going through labour earns us the right to say so!
So, just in case you were hoping to hear all about my birthing experience (weirdo), you won’t be. But I have created this visual aid, just so you’re in the loop:
If you feel confused or upset by your birth then it might be an idea to talk to a Supervisor of Midwives at your hospital, see more info on my help for you page.
How to feel about retelling your birth? Maybe you adopted and feel left out in these conversations? Have your say by commenting below, go to my facebook page or tweet me @aafew
In the early days of pregnancy, when nobody at work knows, you’re experiencing new levels of grumpy, and the faintest whiff of food makes you dry-retch (or worse); there is one, great shining light at the end of the hormonal tunnel. It is a beacon of hope, a promised land of glowing skin, glossy hair and boundless energy; it is the second trimester. *angelic choral overture*
Everybody tells you that the first 12 weeks are the worst and you’ll start to feel better soon. Your boobs will stop feeling so odd; the not-just-in-the-morning sickness will subside and you won’t be so face-meltingly tired all-of-the-bloody-time. Huzzah, that sounded pretty good to me.
So, around week 13, I began to anticipate this change. I looked forward to not feeling the need to make my husband to list of the ingredients of every meal he cooked for my personal approval (‘no, don’t put any of that in, and can you bake those rather than boil them‘ Bleurgh to me). I thought that I would start making it to 3, maybe even 4pm without feeling physically sick with tiredness. The best was yet to come, the time would soon be here when I could, you know, really start enjoying my pregnancy.
But, Dear Reader, I have some shocking news (that you will in no way have guessed from the tone of the last three paragraphs and the image above):
IT DIDN’T BLOODY HAPPEN!
Week 13 came and went, but I thought I had been a bit optimistic and change was just around the corner. But as weeks 14, 15 and 16 went by and I still felt like utter crap, I began to doubt the ‘second trimester’ line.
It’s no wonder I was sucked in. The promise of respite in that much-celebrated middle stage of your pregnancy is EVERYWHERE. Women tell you about it, magazines tell you about it, the books tell you about it. My NHS emails told me about it. The NHS I tells ya!!
Dear Reader, even the pregnancy Bible itself, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, puts ‘more energy’ at the top of its ‘what you may be feeling’ list. Honestly, what’s a girl to do??
And I’m not the only one with whom these words did not chime. Loads of my friends had the same experience; watching for the magical week 14 and then seeing it pass by without out feeling one bit better. There are legions of us all over the world, crying out in an impassioned chorus:
“Where are our thick, luxurious manes? Where are our gorgeous strong nails? Where is our clear, radiant complexion? Where, oh where, oh where is our bloody energy boost???”
There is not much I can do about it now, of course, except get the word out to others. Unsuspecting newly-pregnant women, clutching their bump-books and eagerly awaiting the illusive glow. Don’t be fooled! Our bodies, like our babies, don’t read the bloody books! You will not be on a predictable timetable. It just don’t work like that.
Thinking about it, pregnancy is a really good time to ease into the idea that human biology is unpredictable and you just have to go with the flow sometimes. Even if the flow is vom-tinged or very, very cry-y.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, Dear Reader! I didn’t have a completely miserable pregnancy, not at all. For me, the fog just took a little longer to lift.
When I was about 18 weeks pregnant I remember talking to another pregnant woman in church one morning. She was about 2 months ahead of me and she asked how I was feeling. I looked at her with wide, bag-laden eyes and said “Rubbish”. Or something like that, it was church so I probably didn’t swear. Probably. She instantly replied “20 weeks, 20 weeks and you’ll start to feel better, honestly.” At the time I didn’t much believe her. I had heard all this crap before. I knew she was being sincere but I just couldn’t get my hopes up again. The whole ‘2nd trimester debacle’ had broken my little pregnant heart.
But Lo! What light from yonder window breaks? ‘Tis the 20 weeks!! ‘Tis the half-way line.
From the Shakespeare quote above you may be able to deduce that I did indeed feel A LOT better in the second half of my pregnancy. And I know I lot of women who experienced carrying a baby as a game of two halves, rather than three thirds. I didn’t get the heavy, achey crap at the end either even though Bubs was 2 weeks late (I know a lot of you do, sozzers). I felt crap for the first half and pretty good for the second. Simples.
So there you have it. My body, like my baby, did not behave in a textbook manner. With hindsight that is no great surprise. But then, that’s sort of the nature of hindsight isn’t it? Hmm, moving on…
If you have a pregnant friend, or a friend who may get pregnant in the future, or you have friend who has a friend who may get pregnant in the future, will you do me a favour and pass on this pearl of wisdom:
Pregnancy is often talked about in trimesters. You may experience it in this way, but you may not. Your experience may be more akin to halves, or quarters, or sevenths for all we know. Because you’re you and your baby is whoever they are, and there is only one you-and-your-baby. So, you know, don’t believe the hype.
How was it for you? Were you a textbook pregnancy? Share your experiences by posting a comment below, visiting my facebook page, or tweeting me @aafew.
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This post is linked up to…
The Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with her second baby. That’s really lovely, I’ve got nothing against her. I do fear for her sanity with the whole newborn-toddler combo but, you know, each to their own. Obvs, this has caused a twitter explosion and seeing as I’m becoming increasingly embedded in the mummy-blogger scene my feed has been chock-a-block with comments such as “always lovely news” and “hope it’s a princess!” Of course there were also hilarious responses including, if I may say so, my own above (but no, you can read some really good ones here, you just have to scroll past the politicians).
What isn’t really lovely is that Kate (if I may call Her Highness that) has ‘acute morning sickness’ again, bless her. In fact that’s the only reason we know about the pregnancy; because she’s too ill to attend to her Royal duties. Now, I didn’t suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum (to use the proper medical term) but from what I gather calling it ‘acute morning sickness’ is a bit like calling a hurricane a ‘severe breeze’. It just doesn’t cut it. So, amidst all of the excitement (which, as you can see from above, I’m not that into) I’m wondering whether Kate is feeling much like celebrating at all.
I remember feeling like crap in the early days of my pregnancy. And when I say ‘the early days’, what I actually mean is the first 20 weeks (bloody ‘second trimester’ rubbish). I also remember all of the awkward questions people suddenly feel it’s okay to ask you. My favourite being, “was it planned?” Erm, sorry, WTF?? Since when did work colleagues feel it was appropriate to ask me if my baby was an accident?? And what if I said ‘no, actually, and I’m terrified’, what would they have done then, hey? Hey??
Another frequently asked question was ‘Are you happy’? Again, this is not something anyone would normally ask you whilst standing in the foyer of a church over a cuppa, or in the sandwich queue at work. There is only one socially acceptable answer to that particular question. So I would stand there, feeling like I wanted to vom due to the close proximity of a hitherto inoffensive smell, or so tired that I wanted to cry despite the fact it was not yet noon, and I’d muster up my sweetest smile and say ‘Yes, I’m thrilled’. Now, in the grand scheme of things, that was definitely true. I’ve wanted to be a mum every since I was a bit older than a baby. But at that precise moment, no, I wasn’t happy. I felt like crap. But we can’t say that can we? We all have to be ‘immensely thrilled’. Bleurgh.
Have you seen Prince William’s press statement? Have a look:
Now if that isn’t Royal-speak for ‘F off’, I don’t know what is. He’s basically saying ‘My wife is feeling awful, she’s not even 12 weeks pregnant yet, and yeah it’s nice in the long run, but can I go and look after her?? Oh, and I forgot to mention I’ve got a son who’s just old enough to realise mummy is ill, so, you know, I’m not really into standing in front of you all smiling right now’.
My favourite line of all is definitely “It’s important that we all focus on the big news, the big international and domestic things that are going on at the moment. That’s what my thoughts are at the moment.” So, if I decode that one for you I think it translates as “Scotland is seceding! There’s another Gulf War looming. Leave us alone and report some real news!” Okay guys, even Prince William is telling you to get a life/take an interest in politics, and I think it’s time you obeyed your future king.
So Kate and Wills, and anyone else who is currently in the early stages of pregnancy (like, loads of people, some of whom will have tried for years) I offer you many congratulations and a few commiserations. Because your entire body readjusting to another being living in it is, well, a bit much sometimes.
That’s all old chaps. Toodle Pip!
*SPOILER ALERT: This post contains references to the plot of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It’s not like there are any major twists but, you know, just in case you care.*
Recently I watched the movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It’s one of those films that follows multiple story lines of vaguely connected characters, all of whom in this case are ‘expecting’ in one way or another. It has a cast made up loads of actors you recognise but can’t name (except J-Lo and Cammy D, obvs). It’s not exactly ground-breaking but I quite enjoyed it and the writers were thoughtful enough to include a couple who are adopting and someone who has a miscarriage. However, I found the end a bit hard to take.
The film takes a comedic look at the stresses of pregnancy and getting ready for your first child. It mentions incontinence, wind, bloating and the sudden panic of realising you are actually going to be a parent. The climax of the film is obviously the arrival of the babies and we are left with a little montage of happy parents cooing contentedly over their offspring. Because, you know, the worst is over now, right? One woman, who had a rough pregnancy with none of the ‘glow’ she was promised, has an emergency c-section and is then pictured sitting up in bed after it, cradling her child. She the says something along the lines of “I’ve found my glow, he’s my glow!” Feel free to vom.
Hollywood has a lot of answer for. Take rom coms, for example, which end when the couple finally gets together or, maybe, gets married. Happily ever after will now ensue, we are led to believe. But of course that’s not what relationships are like. They can expose your flaws and vulnerabilities, there can be many ups and down and sometimes they just feel like hard work. You know, a bit like having a baby.
After I had my son I’d hear people saying stuff like “as soon as you hold that baby in your arms it’s all worth it” and feel a pang of (you guessed it) guilt. I didn’t feel like it was ‘all worth it’, not by half! Don’t get me wrong, I was glad my baby was finally here and I wouldn’t have changed that, but this didn’t erase the trauma I felt from the birth and difficult recovery. A smarting perineum and a crying baby are not a fantastic combo for the ‘wow, isn’t this just the best?’ perspective. No siree Bob!
I had expected an over-flowing, all-consuming love to come bursting forth. But it didn’t. I knew I loved my son but it took me a while to really feel it. Those bloody women on the films who are all happy and glowing the moment they hold their baby seem to feel it, so why didn’t I???
I don’t really remember the moment my son was first put into my arms, which is a bit sad. I hadn’t slept for 32 hours and was jacked-up on diamorphine (that be some good stuff). Also, because I had an assisted delivery in theatre he was taken through some scary double doors as soon as he was born to be checked by a paediatrician. I didn’t get the instant skin-to-skin contact that birthing coaches et al bang on about in antenatal classes (and no I don’t think that’s the bloody reason for the delayed-love reaction, sod off). I remember hearing him cry from the next room and breathing huge sigh of relief. He was ok. I also remember being wheeled from recovery to the ward with him cuddled on my chest. I definitely had a feeling of pride and contentment, but I don’t really feel like I met him until much later. Like, 3 months later.
I know so many mums who felt the same. They didn’t get that instant love that they had expected. I’m sure many more felt like it but we’re afraid to say. That is how a mother should feel, isn’t it?
I should say here that I am not talking about feeling no bond at all with your child. I certainly felt affection and a duty of care from the beginning. Some women are unfortunate enough to not even have that. That may have negative feelings towards their baby, referring to them as ‘it’ etc. If this sounds familiar to you then please don’t be ashamed; there is so much love and support out there for all of us. Tell someone, or at least go to my ‘help for you’ page.
So, while I was content to be a mother and had some lovely moments, I wouldn’t have described myself as happy in those first weeks and months. In fact, the predominant feeling I had was one of overwhelming anxiety. Should I feed him now or wait? Is it bad to co-sleep? Why won’t he lie on his back? There were a thousand tiny decisions to make every day and I found myself buried under them. Reflecting now I can see that the worry was blocking the love.
But I have good news for you, Dear Reader, the love came. Around the 3 month mark your baby’s personality emerges suddenly from beneath the squishy floods of newborn flesh. They might begin to laugh and, if you’re lucky, sleep a little better. Suddenly I was loved up. I went from intellectually knowing I cared for my boy to being totally besotted with him. He is, in my humble opinion, the best person on the planet. #justsaying
A lot of what got me out of the anxiety cycles was simply recognising my lack of confidence and then noticing that I could actually look after my baby. It had been a few months and he was still very much alive and kicking. The tiny decisions were just that; tiny! I didn’t get there on my own, not even slightly. I had to be admitted to a mother and baby hospital ward, where the loud-crying assessment I mentioned above was made. They exercised a bit of tough love in encouraging me to take on all of the baby care I could manage. I found I could manage quite a lot really; once I stopped telling myself I couldn’t manage at all. Funny that.
So if you felt or are feeling a lack of love with a capital L please know you are not alone. It doesn’t make you a second-rate mum. In fact getting up every two hours to feed and wipe the bum of someone you’re not even yet truly, madly, deeply in love with yet is actually pretty darn impressive if you ask me.
In conclusion, give yourself a break. That is all.
What about you? Did you have an instant bond with your baby? Did you get that rush of love? Or did it take time? Share your experiences in the comment section below, go to my facebook page or tweet me @aafew.