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A blog by Kate Horne, documentary film producer/director, journalist, and mum-to-be

11th February – Week 1

Amid intake of copious mojitos and energetic salsa dancing bambino/a is conceived in Colombia. I would like to say that we were holidaying in Cartagena, the Caribbean colonial gem and, come to think of it, that would have made an exotic middle name… Alas, Bogotá it was. Dirty? Oh the highs of those kerosene fumes; Noisy? I can’t hear you; But sexy? You bet. Well, it beats Bognor any day.

It was my husband, the blonde, blue-eyed Swede’s first trip to Colombia to visit me on my recce for a BBC documentary I was producing about the kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt, the Franco-Colombian politician who was held hostage by Marxist guerillas for 7 years. All this paled into comparison for what was to come a few months later.

24th March – Week 6

I discover I am pregnant. I say discover, I had been feeling extremely nauseous and all I could manage to eat were Prêt à Manger’s ham and Emmental sandwiches. While it had hardly been the immaculate conception, pregnancy took me somewhat by surprise. I bought four pregnancy tests from Boots; all positive. The realisation sank in, there was a film to be made but I was not compus mentis, in fact I was wretching at the smell of caffeine and my brain was mush. I kept thinking that everyone would guess, but I must keep this under wraps. I’d worked for years to be involved in the film and I wasn’t going to be pulled off it because of a… no, that made me sound like a terrible person. I was full of selfloathing. No one employs a pregnant lady, let alone one they are to send off to the Colombian jungle to film a documentary about kidnapping.

1st April – Week 7

Impatient for the 12 week scan. Is there something alive in there? I couldn’t believe it and needed proof. My great friend and obstetrician, Steph, told me to quit the obsessing and go for a scan to confirm that there was life. On the spur of the moment, I go on my lunch break – 7 weeks and there is a heartbeat; I shed a tear. The Swede is fuming he wasn’t told. I tell him that I just needed reassurance before leaving for Colombia. He is not impressed.

16th April – Week 9

I am filming the Colombian army in the jungle. It is the middle of the night and a heavy rain has started to fall. I am drenched and shivering. The generator is losing power. I am having a sense of humour failure. Surely, I will lose this baby I thought. The secret that I’d done so well in keeping under wraps slipped out as I said hysterically to the cameraman: “I’m heading back to the base. I don’t need to be here. I’m pregnant.” Taken aback, he offered one piece of advice: best not to tell the director. Not because he wouldn’t be sympathetic – he is the nicest man in the world – but he would have been racked with worry.

Two days later, back in Bogotá and speaking to my mother, husband and brother on Skype, I was a blubbering mess; I’d mislaid the all important folic acid tablets all expectant mothers are supposed to take, I was living on a hotel mini bar diet of crisps and peanuts, I was failing to nurture this baby properly, I was a bad mother – ALREADY!

6th May – Week 12

My ‘check in appointment’ and first scan. This time, the long-suffering Swede is in attendance when I meet the midwife at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital. She is patient and reassuring. Blood and urine tests. All is well. We were persuaded by friends that it was best not to know the sex of the baby (some psychobabble about avoiding projecting a personality onto the innocent unborn child) though as soon as we left the scan we wished we did know. How were we going to decorate that nursery after all?

I tried to call my mother to tell her that all was good but there was no mobile reception. Why? Because, (so the story goes), Wormwood Scrubs is right next door and they have blocked the signal for the prisoners. “They also had to board up all the windows on the side facing the maternity wing because the prisoners shout abuse at the mothers,” the midwife explained. Charming.

We chose Queen Charlotte’s because I want to try and have a natural birth and the fresh ‘new’ Birthing Centre there has a great reputation. I want to have my baby in one of the birthing pools, though the Swede is initially surprised to hear this. “Reaally?! You’re not very good with pain are you darling?” Oh the faith he has in me. Many of his Swedish friends in London have already had babies privately. On the NHS/Private decision front, the Swede soon becomes very supportive when he realises how much going privately costs. As for Queen Charlotte’s, he tells all: “If the hospital is good enough for Jamie Oliver, it’s good enough for me.”

We have a tour of the Birthing Centre. The Swede asks if he can get into the birthing pool with me. The midwife says – only half jokingly – that the rule is no Speedos. “It distracts the midwives,” she explains. “But won’t my wife be naked, isn’t it more natural for the father to get in naked,” the Swede is being serious. “Well then we’d call security,” the midwife retorts. Her parting piece of useful information is: “And we support HypnoBirthing here.” What the hell is that? I felt too ignorant to ask as women around me nodded knowingly – note to myself to look that one up.

14th May – Week 13

The news is out and I have turned a corner with the nausea. There was a break in filming and we left for the South of France for a workholiday. I headed for the beach and some sun action. The sun may kill but I have read that plenty of Vitamin D helps babies grow into tall, strapping adults which is a great justification for sunning myself. I didn’t look very pregnant, just a bit tubby, but more importantly, I didn’t feel pregnant which was more dangerous. I wanted to drink rosé and eat mussels, both of which pregnant women are told to avoid; I did both and again, was racked with guilt.

22nd July – Week 22

A friend suggests that the Swede and I look into having a doula. “What’s a doula?” my 22-year old brother inquired. He Googled it and was very amused to learn that doula is the Greek word for ‘woman servant’. “Ha, you’re employing a slave!” My attempts to explain the real role of a doula leave him nonplussed and he disappeared out of the house in his low-slung jeans at the mention of babies and the sight of my bump which he says, “gives me the creeps.”

The Swede needs more convincing on the doula so we go to the internet. We learn that “doula” now refers to an experienced woman who offers emotional and practical support to a woman (or couple) before, during and after childbirth. A doula believes in “mothering the mother” – enabling a woman to have the most satisfying and empowered time that she can during pregnancy, birth and the early days as a new mum. This support also helps the whole family to relax and enjoy the experience. The Swede thinks that this is a luxury we don’t need but after meeting Indira he is charmed and changes his mind. He realises that at under a thousand pounds for the whole package it’s well worth the expense.

After meeting Indira, we are now reassured that we have someone with us advocating for us from the very start of labour. While midwives might change shifts at the hospital, Indira will be the one constant, a calming influence who can support us both. She will be standing up for me and helping me have the natural water birth that I want but, should the pain all be too much, she’ll talk us through the epidural and if the baby just won’t come, she’ll see me through the C-section.

31st July – Week 24

The Swede had long suggested that we sold my Mini Cooper S convertible. I was distraught. It was my one indulgence. I felt so attached to it, as babyimpractical as it might have been. Eventually, I caved in but felt my youth slip away. I had always told my friends the day that I got a 4x4 to shoot me… So, I am now driving a tractor around London in a bullet-proof vest.

7th September – Week 30

In the John Lewis baby section. I am cringing with embarrassment. “How much?!” the Swede barks at the salesmen who has, along with the rest of the world, recommended the Bugaboo pushchair range. The particular model is as expensive as a second hand car and that’s without any of the extras. Thankfully, a good friend, a well stocked-up lawyer, has a spare Bugaboo that she has offered to lend us. We are grabbing as many hand-me-downs as we can. I scour friends’ houses for all the things their toddlers no longer need and leave with Moses baskets and car seats piled high with paraphernalia; have I no shame?

18th September – Week 31

2 becomes 3. The Swede agreed to attend a one day course about becoming a parent run by a Christian couple who were still together and happy since kiddos flew the nest. For the Swede and me, my pregnancy was still not a reality and I wanted us to focus on baby. Any course that helped us move away from an unhealthy fixation on the expense of baby purchases and helped us concentrate on empowering ourselves to be the best parents possible couldn’t be a bad thing. My mother always said that she regretted my father coming second and not giving them enough time: “And once you’re on the rollercoaster, you just keep rolling and never give it more thought, before it’s too late.”

We talked about sex during pregnancy, the baby blues for mum and dad, how to spot post-natal depression, and the importance of supporting each other. The day helped us re-focus. “The greatest thing you can do for your children is love your partner. Let nothing and nobody come between you both – including your child. Your relationship is the foundation of parenting.” Right, we decided, we are going to book that weekend away before baby. I am off to my first pregnancy yoga class with a friend of Indira’s, Lulu. I hadn’t had the best relationship with yoga in the past, contorting my body into the most unnatural of positions while singing a string of “sorries”. “Sorry isn’t allowed in this room,” Lulu announces; she is patient and with gentle encouragement the most inflexible of us slowly begin to unravel our stubborn limbs.

22nd September – Week 32

Meeting with Indira à deux. I tell her about a friend’s hellish account of her Caesarian birth; a 20 hour labour before the operation because she simply didn’t “open up”. Will that happen to me? Indira explains that a lot of people are gripped by fear and are tense, no wonder their cervix doesn’t play ball. “You are doing pregnancy yoga and swimming, so just keep that up,” she says encouragingly. Indira lends me some of her books. So now no more excuses, that frightening word, HypnoBirthing, that I heard back at the Birthing Centre… all will be revealed. I delve into Marie Mongan’s book: “The breakthrough approach to safer, easier, comfortable birthing.” Essentially, HypnoBirthing works with the belief that pain is not necessary and that a woman’s body is perfectly designed to give birth to a baby. Pain is usually caused by fear and tension and this can be eliminated when the body is relaxed.

HypnoBirthing is about positive thinking, visualisation, breathing and physical preparation. The book advocates massaging the perineum to avoid tearing when the baby is born. I didn’t even know I had a perineum! God, am I so out of tune with my body? I met up with my best friend who is an advocate of HypnoBirthing and she enlightens me about the bleeding I will experience for up to a month after the birth. What? No one told me about that. I am feeling hormonal and impatient with the Swede, who I feel should be giving me and the bump more attention. “And on top of everything, you haven’t read a bloody thing,” I chastise him and throw books about “accessing your feminine power” at him.

The local GP tells me that massaging my perineum will not help one bit in helping the baby get through without tearing so no need to bother, “unless you are enjoying it of course,” she hastens to add. Oh, please!

29th September – Week 33

No one told me my brain would be totally foggy. I thought this happened once the baby was born but no, I am apparently going into nesting mode, my body telling me to chill out and slow down. It’s not a laughing matter when it affects my money making skills; for the past three mornings I have sat down to write a piece for the Telegraph Magazine and nothing comes easily. I can’t focus and don’t know whether what I’ve written is coherent.

I meet up with my mother who is concerned about my career choices. “Once you’ve had the baby there’ll be no more running around in Latin America doing dangerous stuff will there?” Even if I wanted to, who would be looking after the baby? Not my mother, that’s for sure. A year before I fell pregnant and had even entertained the idea of having a child, I received a message on my mobile from my ma: “I’ve just listened to a programme on Radio 4 and it says that 60% of carers of the under 5 are grandparents.” Pause. “I just wanted you to know I’m not going to be one of them.” God, it was clearly something that had been niggling her. To be honest, I was totally with her on that. Why should she be? She needs a long deserved break but her way of letting me know amused me. “I’ll be great with toddlers, darling,” she reassured me and I know she will be. “It’s just the baby stage”. But she volunteers to help with the expense of a maternity nurse.

Every time I meet friends with newborns the inevitable words ‘maternity nurse’ and ‘night nanny’ are bandied about. “I couldn’t have done it without one,” one told me. “Mum,” I say, “you’re talking about £1,000 a week.” That shut her up. “Besides, I really want to have a go at coping myself.” She nods effusively. Only the future knows if I can manage.

16th/17th October – Week 35

Heading to NCT with a spring in our step. A great friend tells me a story of her husband who turned up late to the NCT class when everyone had already responded to the teacher’s question, “tell us something nice you have done for your baby.” Husband looks at his wife and smiles, “well I just bring home loads-a-money.” The joke unfortunately backfires and there is a sense of humour failure in the group. His wife banned him from further classes.

Thankfully, our class is very laid back, lovely couples – same fears but all have a sense of fun. The Swede is on fire with his knowledge – he had read the book after all! I am proud when he tells the group about the importance of letting the pulsating umbilical cord do its thing and peter out. “Have you got a bloody PHD in this, mate,” one other expectant dad cajoles him. Though, when we are asked if we know the ways to induce pregnancy naturally, he shoves up his hand and says “nipple stimulation to extract milk which produces oxytocin”. There are stifled laughs. “Yes, that is one way,” says the teacher though not sure it was exactly the one she was expecting. Oh no, we will forever be known as the lactating breast couple. Another one of the husbands offers up another technique to induce labour: “Having sex, but only if the midwife consents.”

At a hen party of a good friend I have a slight scare. My bump had gone rigid, and uncomfortable and my urine is dark. I head to Queen Charlotte’s and am told I have a urinary infection, “extremely common in pregnancy.” The urine infection has caused the uterus to contract so I am prescribed antibiotics. “Otherwise the baby can come early.” No! That can’t happen, too much to do. I haven’t done my tax bill for January and I need to sort the blind for the nursery. “Of course the antibiotics tend to cause thrush so it’s an infuriating vicious circle,” the doctor tells us, “so best to avoid sugar which feeds on all this.” Damn! The Swede looks at me with a knowing smile: “So, no more of those Dime bars or Hummingbird cupcakes,” he says with relish, as if enjoying some sadistic pleasure.

A couple of days later at the breast-feeding course cradling a plastic doll, I try to deafen my ears to stories of thrush spreading to nipples and the agony of mastitis. Surely that can’t happen… get off that sugar.

20th October – Week 36

My first pregnancy massage. Bliss. I am lucky, masseuse says. I have no water retention and very little sign of stress in my back. But what she doesn’t know is that my arse is now twice the size it was 9 months ago. Indira comes to the house to talk through our “birth plan”. Well, our ideal birth plan, as we all know this can go to pot and you have to just go with the flow. Indira asks us to hold a clump of ice in the palm of our hand for as long as possible. In my case not very long but the Swede thinks he is iron man. “Well, that’s a contraction.” As she leaves, she asks us to think about the difference between suffering and pain: “Pain and suffering are not the same thing. Pain is a physical sensation; suffering is how we choose to experience it.” Now there’s a Buddhist thought for the day . . . . . .

And, you’ll just have to wait for our next issue to find out how Kate’s last few weeks panned out, whether the HypnoBirthing techniques alleviated the pain of a natural birth, and if the new little arrival to this world is a boy or girl . . . as Kate will update us on the birth and the first three months . . .

Kate Horne is a London based documentary film producer/director and journalist with a particular passion for South America. Her work has taken her to Ecuador to produce In Search of the Head-hunters of the Amazon (a co-production for Channel 5 UK and National Geographic) and Colombia to write articles on the kidnapping situation for the Telegraph Magazine. Recently, she produced a BBC film about the hostage, Ingrid Betancourt. My Kidnapper, her directorial debut, will be shown in selected cinemas across Britain next year, followed by a broadcast on More4 ( Indira Lopez-Bassols is a ‘Doula UK’ recognised doula and can be contacted on 07956 586 923