About Hilary Gardener
An Interview with Hilary Gardener
More About Hilary Gardener
Hilary is a farmer's wife, who has been known to lamb a couple of ewes before heading off to her day job as a learnign disabilities nurse. She is renowned for being a motor-mouth with a wicked wit, which frequently gets her into trouble.
Discovering that you’re pregnant completely changes your world. Suddenly your best friend doesn’t know exactly how you’re feeling, your relationship with your partner is altered forever, everybody wants to touch your stomach and your body is no longer your own!
The Fat Ladies’ Club is the real-life story of five friends facing the fearful prospect of first-time pregnancy. Hilary, Andrea, Sarah, Annette and Lyndsey met at antenatal classes and quickly became firm friends. Absolutely nothing is left out as the ladies reveal exactly what happens to your emotions, body, sex life, social life and marriage during and beyond those crucial 9 months. We got together with the ‘fat ladies’ for an intimate interview - read on for top tips and total truths on their experiences of pregnancy and birth.
Tragically, in April 2000, Annette died of cancer, leaving behind her husband and two daughters. One sixth of all authors’ profits will go to Colon Cancer Concern (registered charity 1071038). If you would like to find out more about bowel cancer and its treatment visit http://www.coloncancer.org.uk.
The Fat Ladies’ Club is a book about the real-life experiences of pregnancy by five first-time mums. How did the book come about?
All: We met through the NHS antenatal classes for first time mums and the five of us became friends, we then went out for a meal shortly after our babies were born. After a couple of bottles of wine the stories started flowing and Sarah jokingly said that we should write a book, because ‘this was the sort of stuff women REALLY wanted to read in pregnancy’. Nothing more was said that night, but by the time we met the next day, Hilary had mapped out the chapter headings and written up a couple of the stories to give the rest of us a taste of how it could work. We all readily agreed and so our weekly pizza take-away and bottle of wine evenings were born.
The Fat Ladies Club was initially self-published and became a huge word of mouth. Why do you think it struck such a chord?
Sarah Groves: Most importantly it is the story of five real people with real experiences; it doesn’t tell you any facts or figures or give any medical advice. You receive and read so much advice in pregnancy that this was something we were determined to avoid.
Hilary Gardener: Each of us are so different and had such a range of experiences, that hopefully in every chapter, every reader will be able to relate to at least one of us.
Andrea Bettridge: It is totally original in that it’s a light-hearted; humorous and easy read approach to pregnancy. Truly a pick up and laugh out loud, as and when you can, book.
Lyndsey Lawrence: It even has cartoon style pictures! There is nothing more appealing with pregnancy spongy brain than a book’s text being broken up with a few pictures!
As busy young mums how did you find the time to write a book about your experiences?
ALL: We were all on maternity leave from full-time busy careers, so although at times it was tricky to get our homework done before our next weekly meeting, the fear of letting the others down, combined with the lure of a good girlie night out once a week, somehow helped override these minor hindrances. Fortunately, our husbands all soon mastered the fact that this was their weekly non-negotiable babysitting night!
What did you know about pregnancy before it happened to you?
SG: Next to nothing, except your stomach gets fat.
LL: Zero, except living through friends’ experiences, but this was usually via the phone, not hands on.
AB: I had never read any books, but I had spent a lot of time helping out a good friend with her newborn twins six months earlier.
HG: Pretty much everything because I had recently worked with a learning disabled client through her first pregnancy and the delivery of her baby! Mind you, knowing compared to experiencing are two completely different things.
What was the most shocking thing about being pregnant?
HG: Water retention – I was enormous - even my feet expanded by two sizes. The existence of ankles became a distant memory, as my thighs seemed to extend all the way down to my toes - delightful!
SG: Being groped by anyone and everyone. Suddenly the world seemed to think it had a right to touch my stomach with no prior warning.
LL: Just how far the skin can stretch and the invasion of having a ‘parasite’ doing it’s own thing within my body.
AB: Stretch marks … everywhere!
From Madonna to Posh Spice, celebrity pregnancy seems to be all about combat pants worn under your bump, Burberry-wearing babies and returning to a size 8 three weeks after giving birth. Is it even remotely possible to have a ‘glam’ pregnancy?
LL: I definitely stayed slim enough to be glam, but as I wasn’t prepared to throw loads of cash at designer maternity wear the image was greatly let down by my maternity wardrobe, comprising mainly of my mother’s oversized jumpers and elasticated trousers.
HG: Well, I certainly would never have looked glam in bump-exposing combat pants. If I had exposed my stomach, with all its glorious stretch marks, I would probably have been mistaken for a mobile map of the London underground!
AB: Being a lifelong footballing tomboy, glam - either in or outside of pregnancy - has never been a word in my vocabulary. So you had better ask Sarah this one.
SG: For the first six months perhaps I did manage to pull off the ‘glam’ look, but after that, despite what the other’s say, pregnancy took its toll on my backside. I did purchase a couple of classy maternity outfits that certainly helped though.
How does it feel to reveal the intimate truths about your pregnancy and birth experiences to so many people?
ALL: When we wrote the book we all used pseudonyms which made it much easier to be totally frank. We had never actually read the book with our real names in before we self-published, so when close friends, work colleagues and more embarrassingly our parents-in-law, started quoting our intimate details this really was a ‘beet rooting’ experience. We all survived this though – so we have no problem with total strangers reading it, at least we don’t have to face them on a daily basis.
What is your top pregnancy tip?
SG: Raspberry leaf tea. Both Annette and I swore by this as we drank gallons of it during the last few weeks of pregnancy and both had relatively straightforward labours.
LL: Chocolate goes a long way to helping you through the forty weeks. Enjoy the second trimester because the other two are bloody awful.
AB: Ginger biscuits throughout the night are a great cure for morning sickness; but avoid the nightly consumption of an entire packet, unless you want your backside to closely resemble that of a hippopotamus. In short – don’t eat as much as I did!
HG: If you find you are getting depressed about your excessive weight gain, get your partner to weigh your boobs (by lifting them up when you are on the scales). I found it extremely satisfying to discover that half a stone of my new expanse was in fact located in my newfound cleavage.
What is your top post-pregnancy tip?
LL: Try and find some time each day, or at least once a week, just for you.
AB: When your baby is 5 months old and has never shown any interest in rolling don’t lie them on your bed, because this is just the time they are guaranteed to get the hang of it - which is just what my son did!
HG: Learn to use a scanning system in the supermarket, so when your baby starts screaming half way round your weekly shop you can escape quickly with your goods. The alternatives of either abandoning your trolley or doing an impression of a manic finalist on supermarket sweep are so much more stressful and a guaranteed hormonal tear jerker!
SG: Exercise – both during and post pregnancy; it not only helps you get back into shape, but also gives you more energy and generally makes you feel so much better about yourself.
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth:
What is it like to see your stomach growing at such an alarming rate?
HG: I loved my expanding stomach and as my party piece I would expose my stomach and shake it to make the baby kick. The ‘outey’ belly button though … yuck, that’s a different story!
SG: Very bizarre, especially when the skin becomes so taut that it almost becomes translucent. Seeing all of your veins and arteries through the skin was really quite revolting.
AB: My whole body seemed to expand at such an alarming rate, that my stomach never really had the opportunity to be individually distinguishable.
LL: It happens so gradually that I didn’t really notice it growing, but when I bumped into friends who hadn’t seen me for a few weeks and I saw the expression on their faces it began to hit me just how huge it was.
Is labour all panting and pain?
AB: There wasn’t much panting but a fair quantity of groaning! Details of labour was something I kept quiet about as I was the first to deliver and the other four really didn’t need to know what was in store for them.
HG: Labour, I think I will skip this question. My third baby is due in seven weeks time and the brain has a marvellous ability of blocking out the memory of labours past, which is just how I like it!
LL: Yes, and OUCH doesn’t cover it!
SG: Labour is a mind over matter experience and one that no one will ever be able to take away from you.
Is life after pregnancy all varicose veins and stretch marks?
HG: Yes and yes. I never thought that support stockings and granny pants would feature in my life before, at the very least, the age of 70. But here I am at 33, the proud owner of both delightful accessories!
SG: Unlike Hilary I am lucky to be able to say the answer for me is no and no! But then again my boobs disappeared instead!
LL: No, but I certainly had to work hard to lose my gut.
AB: Stretch marks, yes … hundreds, not to mention sleepless nights, leaking boobs and vomit-covered clothing!
And what about sex?
HG: Sex, what about it? That’s something they do in programmes on channel 5 isn’t it? But as I said, I am 33 weeks pregnant with two young children to look after so bulk and exhaustion don’t help!
AB: I revealed far too much in the book, so you will have to read it to find out more!
SG: The only way to maintain a healthy sex life after children is to seize the moments as and when you can. If I waited until I got to bed each night, the only thing I’d have on my mind is sleep.
LL: Pregnancy and having a child has to be the best form of contraception available! Finding the time and energy whilst having one ear and eye on the door for little visitors certainly isn’t conducive to a romantic love life.
Finally, what does it feel like to hold your baby in your arms and realise that you’re a mum?
HG: The ultimate best experience of my life. The feeling of being part of that miracle of new life is so good that I can’t help but keep repeating it!
SG: It’s mind blowing, yet so natural.
AB: For fear of sounding corny, it’s absolutely brilliant. There is no feeling quite like it - but then the petrifying realisation that this little person is totally dependant on you takes over.
LL: Ditto to Andrea – fantastic yet frightening all at once.
Find Books by Hilary Gardener
To keep up-to-date, input your email address, and we will contact you on publication