Friday 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Today is my last day in front of a computer screen for a while - the Boy and I are off to the come counties to spend some time with our families over the Christmas period. As it's my birthday on Christmas Day as well, it's bound to be an enjoyable time packed with lots of love and celebrations.

I feel relieved Christmas is almost upon us, as I am more than ready to draw the curtains on this year. What a year it has been. It seems to have been particularly long and cruel, and I am hopefuly that 2012 will bring some happier times. But this Christmas I will be counting my blessings as well as reflecting on what has been, and I am thankful the Boy and I can spend this special time together and surrounded by loved ones. We have so much light and love in our lives.

I wish everyone who reads this blog all the best for the festive season and the coming year - may 2012 be kind to us all. Elly Beans xx

Monday 19 December 2011

Good times with good people

I have just had one of the best weekends of the year - one of those beautiful weekends filled with love, friends and happiness, that you look back on fondly and can remember for many months to come.

It began quietly enough on Thursday catching up with some old work friends, and then I was off on Friday and spent the whole day in my tracksuit just writing, relaxing and reading. A whole day of Elly Beans time, and it was so good for the soul. I must factor in more of this in the new year - with a little time and space I feel so re-energised and positive, it makes a huge difference. I'm really pleased with the progress that I'm making with the book and I don't think it's unreasonable to anticipate that I will have finished it by the beginning of February. I look forward to preparing more applications and submissions to editors. Hopefully someone will like what they read!

On Friday night I couldn't wipe the smile from my face when I headed out for the evening, feeling very smart in a new red dress and with my hair (almost) fresh from the hairdressers. I was so excited to be going out to spend the evening with the Boy, his friends from home and their partners, and some other good pals we had also invited. I was reminded how many wonderful friends the Boy and I have been blessed with, and I was brimming with anticipation as I took the tube up to Euston to a lovely little pub to see them all, clutching a Santa outfit (for the Boy!) and our efforts in the Secret Santa. And the evening didn't disappoint. From the roaring log fire, to the chilled prosecco, to the funny and thoughtful gifts and to everyone's good humour - the evening was just perfect. There were a few occasions when I took a moment to sit back in my chair and just look around. Sometimes this year I have forgotten how much I have, and Friday was definitely a reminder of how rich my friendships are and how numerous my blessings are. And when the journey has been bumpy, these friends have eased it for me. I was struck how, for me, it's more important who I walk with in my life, rather than where I go. With this group around me, whichever track I take will be a good one.

Saturday brought another special evening - the Boy and I went out for some wine and tapas in a lovely little French restaurant under Southwark Cathedral. It was very nice to be just us two, away from the hustle and bustle for once, and to enjoy a romantic evening together, with candlelight, soft cushions and relaxing music. Perhaps a little cliche, but it was just right. And the weekend was rounded off with an enjoyable lunch with some of the Boy's family who were over from Switzerland for a flying visit, then watching my football team win, and then a lovely home-cooked spaghetti bolognaise courtesy of the Boy. Full marks.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

A chance encounter

Another day, another horoscope. This week's one tells me that 'a chance encounter with a stranger will lead to excitement.' And - a chance encounter with a stranger has done just that! Meeting some good friends in a lovely gastro pub near Great Portland Street last week, the Boy and I got chatting to some other people in the pub. It materialised they were from the sales team at the publisher Hodder and Stoughton, and I laughed that was quite a coincidence, as last week I found the strength to take a chance and submitted my manuscript to a well-known literary agents.

One of the group then took a real interest and asked me about my book - what genre it was, how it was written and who it would appeal to. I mentioned it had some similarities with One Day, in that it is told from alternating perspectives and is set over a period of time. It then materialised the man I was speaking to worked very closely with the person who had edited this book at their publishing company. What a twist of fate! He gave me his email address and told me to send in a few sample chapters, which he could pass to his colleague - of course, with no guarantee that his colleague would think anything of my writing, but he could at least ensure my text was read.

And so I took a deep breath, fine-chiselled my opening chapters, and I have submitted them. I'm almost sure that nothing will come of it, and I'll be in good company of authors who were rejected early in their careers and then went on to become incredibly successful as they honed their art - but it was an opportunity, and in this limited life those fleeting and precious chances cannot be ignored. For there is a chance, or hope if you like - tiny as it may be - that my book may touch the right person, in the right way, at the right time. And how can that not be exciting?

Tuesday 13 December 2011

A year on

A year ago today, we heard the terribly sad news that my work colleague had died suddenly at home. He was a larger than life character who had been with my company for many years - one of those people who becomes 'part of the furniture' and a stalwart you can't imagine your organisation without. He was a rough diamond who got on as well with the cleaners and the porters as he did with the heads of department and senior staff.

I remember when the Boy and I were saving hard for the wedding and I couldn't afford an office lunch - we tend to go out as a department when someone has a birthday - and as it was his birthday I emailed my apologies. Later in the day an envelope appeared on my desk with enough cash to cover the lunch and a scribbled note that this was our secret and I was not to mention it again. I was so touched I almost forgave him for being a Manchester United fan! But that small incident shows the kind of person that he was - he had a huge job here and organised our biggest events and conferences, he was often overworked, harried and stressed and we would all know about that! - but he never lost sight of the detail and of the human side. It's a great loss for everyone who knew him.

I feel very sad when I think back to what happened and how we heard the news. He didn't come into work one morning, which rang alarm bells. In his long - and colourful! - history here he'd never missed a day in the office without an explanation. He was an old school professional, and we all found it unusual. Our department secretary spent time during the day trying to raise him - his personal numbers went unanswered and his records with personnel were woefully out of date (this was very typical of him!) so we had no other numbers for him. Eventually, through contacts, we found the number for one of his two young sons. He then had the horror of going to his father's house to look for him, to find that he had sadly died very unexpectedly of a heart attack.

We were all deeply shocked, and through the year I have often thought of the boys and how they are coping without their Dad. He was one of the hugest personalities I have ever encountered in my life, and the office is certainly a quieter, different and less entertaining place without his powerful presence.

Friday 9 December 2011

The power of music

I really love how much music can touch you, and reach you in a way that no other medium can. I got some odd looks on the tube this morning shedding a little tear to this song, but I feel is absolutely sums up how 2011 has been. So - tonight I'm going to bury my horse in the ground. If I had a horse. Or some ground. But you get the picture!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Nervous twitch

For the last few weeks I have been seeing a counsellor through the well-being scheme that we have at work. I get six sessions so it's short-term solution focused work, as opposed to the long-term open ended counselling format that I am used to. In these sessions we are working on my anxiety, and I'm starting to feel like it's doing me some good.

I think I've always been an anxious person. As a child, even though I was intelligent and independent, I was a worrier, and I have wrestled with my anxiety on and off ever since. Some times I'm able to keep a lid on it - but at other times when it leads to panic attacks and loss of confidence it can be quite debilitating and difficult to cope with. The traumas that the Boy and I have faced this year have hit me hard in this way and I have found my anxiety levels rising. I thought that this was just par for the course and something that I had to endure, accept and try and and take in my stride - but in recent weeks I've realised there are techniques I can use to help me take back some control and not be overcome.

The counsellor has helped me understand the way that my mind works, and how my thoughts, feelings and emotions are all inextricable linked. But he's also helped teach me ways to interrupt unhelpful thoughts before they subsume me, to take time out before feelings and emotions escalate and lead my anxiety to become quite paralysing, and how to programme myself a little differently.

It feels like a real lightbulb moment, and that I'm not struggling in the darkness any more. It sounds so simple - but for a while there I had lost control of myself and I didn't know how to get out of the hole of anxiety I had fallen into. It's like someone has given me a torch so I can see the way out and a ladder so I can begin the climb upwards, and I already feel a lot less weighed down and much more optimistic. This is a real work in progress, but hopefully with time and effort I can tame my nervous twitch.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

'Tis the season

It's taken a while - maybe due to the unseasonably mild weather we've had lately, even as I write this the sun is streaming in through the blinds on the window - but I'm finally starting to feel festive.

The Boy and I decorated the flat some weeks ago now, our cards have long been written and posted, and I finished my Christmas shopping back in November. I've never been this organised before and if truth be told I think we're both trying to rush this year away and move into 2012 as soon as we can. I feel like the little boy in the much-celebrated John Lewis Christmas advert who is willing the days away as quickly as he can!

Christmas is a particularly important time of year for us, as my birthday falls on Christmas Day. I arrived at 12.40pm lunchtime just in time for my turkey dinner, and this year I will turn 34. It hardly seems possible that the years have run past so quickly. I certainly don't feel any older than I did when I was 21 - and sometimes I act quite a lot younger than that! I don't know where the time has gone.

Talking to the Boy on Tuesday night I was reminded how much I have achieved, and how many blessings I have. I wish I'd known when I was struggling so much in my 20s that everything would turn out alright in the end. I remember such low times - trying to keep miserable relationships going just so I wouldn't be on my own, difficult and strained relationships with my family and my sister, working a combination of full-time and part-time jobs just to pay the mortgage on my first flat - once not having a day off in a month, and still always worried about how I would manage to pay the bills.

There were some really tough times and I remember feeling like giving up on many occasions. It would have been such a comfort to know that my Prince Charming was working his way to me, through battles and struggles of his own, and that all my hard work and efforts would pay off. I look around and sometimes it takes my breath away that I have nearly all the things I have longed for - a loving husband, strong bonds with my family, close friends who I can really count on (the trials of this year have shown that), a flat that is warm and secure and full of love, and a job that challenges and stimulates me yet rewards me well financially. It's safe to say the only thing that is missing from our lives is a child - and I'm optimistic that will come in time.

I bought a new diary last week and I feel such excitement at the thought of blank pages ahead - a new start, with new chances and opportunities. Even though I am tired and fatigued from this difficult year, I feel positive and energetic. I feel now, as the year draws to a close and the bright lights of 2011 dim and fade into the distance, that I am stronger than I have ever been. I've been tested this year, and I've proved myself.

I never believed I was tough - but now I know I am brave, determined, committed and resilient. I feel like life can throw what it wants at me, and however much it turns me inside out and upside down, it won't break me.

And my resolution as we move into the New Year is just to remember that and keep believing in myself. I can be my harshest critic and my worst enemy - it's time for me to learn how to be my own best friend.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Mr Motivator

Enjoying my horoscope today in Look magazine: "Shake it up this week. You are fabulous but you need to make the world take notice." It made me smile - and in life the little things that make you smile are just as important as the big ones, I think.

Monday 28 November 2011

Happy endings?

It's quite possible that this most horrendous of years will end really rather well. More happy news came at the end of last week, as my sister and her boy announced their engagement. We are all thrilled to bits for them - he's a great guy and he puts a big smile on her face. They've had a difficult year struggling to find work and are both in jobs well below their qualification levels, so it feels extra lovely that this year will end on a high note for them.

As the curtains begin to draw on 2011, I can look back on the year with a bit more of a sense of perspective. It's definitely been the hardest one of my life. The challenge of so much loss has been very difficult, and in particular the loss of our baby and the loss of my friend to suicide have pushed me to places I've never been before - and where I am in no hurry to go again. I feel like I've been turned inside out and put back together differently, and this year has changed me in a way that no other has done so.

But I try to remain positive and to follow the mantra that everything happens for a reason. From the dust and ashes of the year, a phoenix has risen from the flames in a deeper connection with the Boy than I could ever have imagined. And I've become a bit stronger, a bit bolder, a bit wiser - I'm reminded we all only have a finite time on this earth and that we can't control everything that happens to us at that time.

I suppose by that I mean I've learned to take risks and push myself a bit out of my comfort zone, something I haven't really done since the abandon of my youth. Taking the scuba course was a big step forward for me. I didn't particularly enjoy it - but at least I tried. And starting my first novel is a real landmark for me. As I've said, I've no idea what - if anything - will come of it, but at least I am writing and trying and giving it a shot.

Wednesday 23 November 2011


We had some really good news yesterday that my cousin's wife Cathy is 14 weeks pregnant. Hand on heart, I am absolutely thrilled for them both. I'm starting to find news of people's pregnancies much, much easier and I am able to be happy and excited for my friends and family. I really hope that this means I am working through my loss and grief well, and that life is beginning to regain some level of normality.

Cathy is a fantastic person and her level of commitment to her family inspires me. She had a difficult upbringing and I don't think her life was filled with enough happy times until she met my cousin. They fell in love quickly and married young, but they are a strong team and I fully anticipate they will last the distance.

They had their first little girl five years ago, and she is an absolute beauty and a real credit to them - she shares my name so perhaps I am more than a little bit biased! Since then they have desperately longed to add to their family but Cathy has experienced, on several painful occasions, the horrors of ectopic pregnancies. I can't imagine how difficult each of these losses has been for Cathy, but she has continued to pick herself up, dust herself down, and manage to be a brilliant mum to her little girl while laying herself open to the whim of Mother Nature again and again.

I don't know her well - I wish I knew her better - but Cathy was a fantastic support to me when we lost baby Beans. We only have contact through Facebook and I don't see her more than once a year, but she somehow knew just what to say and when a message of support would have been helpful. And in a long note to me on Facebook today she's helped me understand that while sometimes it can take a lot longer than you expect to become a Mum, every step on the journey towards it is worth it. She's given me hope that the Boy and I might get there one day, and I thank her so much for that.

My uncle died  rather unexpectedly at the beginning of this year which has been very hard for my cousin, Cathy, and his two brothers - all some years younger than me - and his family. It seems fitting to me that what has been a terrifically tough year for all of them is now framed with a happier ending. I really hope the next six months pass well for them all, and we can welcome a long-awaited and much hoped for new addition to the clan in May.

And also yesterday our friends Tamara and Jon had their baby. They fell pregnant just a few weeks after us and at times I have found it difficult to think about their pregnancy objectively, my thoughts clouded by my loss and grief. But we heard the news that they had a little boy yesterday morning - and my first honest gut reaction was joy for them. This makes me feel good - and feel hopeful not only that our circumstances may change in time, but also that I can experience more happiness in my life again.

Monday 21 November 2011

Happiness is...

I had a real feeling of happiness yesterday which caught me by surprise. It's been a long time since I've been embraced by that beautiful, peaceful warmth that comes with feeling truly content inside. It was a welcome relief from the last few greyer weeks, and hopefully a sign that the worm is beginning to turn.

We'd had a good day with my parents - a family day and a nice roast lunch out in a special restaurant in Kent - and I had a busy day taking press calls as I was on duty this weekend. My Mum heard me taking calls and setting up interviews and she came in to the room and told me how proud of me she was - that kind of comment is always good to hear. I was reminded that I am very competent and professional, and there is a lot more to me than 'the woman who lost her baby this year'. I was reminded of my ability, I am a successful communicator and work in a high profile field, and I'm sure many people would aspire to my role. I forget that very easily.

I also spent some time talking to my Dad about my book and its characters, plot and style. He was incredibly supportive, and his nurturing encouragement was just what I needed to help me keep going. The writing has stalled temporarily as work is so manic my head is full to bursting, but from December I can give it all my energy again. I have identified two editors to approach so far and I'm hoping to make these submissions before Christmas. We'll see how it goes.

When we got back home the Boy and I lay in bed, a little tipsy from the champagne we'd enjoyed with my parents, and we spent a long time just holding each other and kissing. It was so lovely and I am so lost in him. I started feeling last night like everything will be ok, and everything will work itself out how it is supposed to. This year has been one to pull the curtains on - there's been so much tension and turmoil - but I feel like this darker time is passing and that the Boy and I will look out of a sunnier window soon.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

It only takes a minute

My feet hardly seem to have touched the ground since my last blog, and I'm thankful that the Boy and I have some quiet time together at the end of this week and this weekend as I'm starting to feel a little overstretched. The upshot of this is that I haven't had time to dwell much on the sadness of this year as there simply hasn't been time. But the downside is that I feel like I'm chasing my tail and there's not been quite as much Elly Beans time as I would like. I also haven't been able to process my thoughts on this blog in the way I have become accustomed too. I am mindful of that, and how stressed I can get where there's not time for a long soak in the bath, to read my book in bed, or to spend a quiet hour giving myself a pedicure and manicure. So this weekend I will be doing at least two of those things - if not three!

But I feel everything I'm working on is giving me positive stress now, rather than holding me back or pulling me down. Work has been fantastically exciting. We've recorded the musical track, and are now in the PR process and spinning as best we can! We're also working on some interesting and challenging economic stories, and I'm using parts of my brain that have lain dormant for some time. It feels good to hear them awaken.

The Boy and I are onto our second class of scuba tonight. I won't lie - I am a little nervous about it. Last week was a real mixed bag for me. I did very well in the theory and I felt a real buzz assembling the kit together - I couldn't remember the last time I had tried anything as new and as different as this. The swimming tests all went well and I got into the pool feeling more keen anticipation than reluctant nerves about giving it all a go. However - it didn't go smoothly. It took me quite some time to get my bearings and to be able to settle down into the deep, slow breaths that are a necessity in diving. Mine were too gulpy, panicky and jerky. Fortunately for my own piece of mind I improved a lot as the evening went on, and I was by no means the worst. But I also wasn't the best - and I could feel my old competitive head that believes only first is best rearing its ugly head! Not a great look for me I have to say, and hopefully I can keep that particular familiar at bay tonight.

The most time-consuming and enjoyable part of the week has been working on the novel. It's overtaken me and I feel so passionate about it. In a funny kind of way it's like I've given birth to a book, rather than the baby, because it is so all-encompassing and I am thinking about it pretty much every waking hour. I'm into chapter three and have nearly 15,000 words. The Boy has been hugely supportive and even though 'chick lit' is really not his thing, he has read big chunks - and listened to me read sections out to him. I feel really blessed that he is so open to and supportive of everything I do. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about the quiet little life he used to have before he met me - I seem to come with so much baggage and drama, and that weighs on my mind sometimes.

I've been brave and sent the manuscript thus far to a friend's wife who used to work at Penguin books to get her honest opinion of whether there's anything in it. I felt some anxiety about doing that, I am quite sensitive about my work and I'm not sure how I will cope if she thinks it is weak. But I am also keen to keep pushing myself and whatever feedback I get from her will hopefully be professional and constructive. I've sent off for a book which lists writing agents in London and around the UK, and how to submit your work to them. I've also book the beginning of January off to try and get a lot more of the book written, and to begin submitting my novel to them. It's a funny feeling - I'm not sure where this will go, but there's something about me just doing this that makes me feel good. Even if it is fruitless in terms of where it goes generally, it is really important to me personally and I feel proud of myself for just putting pen to paper.

Monday 7 November 2011

Write up my street

Monday morning and I'm feeling completely exhausted. Not the best of beginnings to what promises to be the busiest week I've had in a long time, but I feel like the tiredness is positive tiredness... if that makes any kind of sense. The weariness comes partly from quite a packed weekend socially - dinner with the Boy's family, celebrations for the Boy's brother's birthday, and a football match with my Dad - but partly because my mind is absolutely teaming with thoughts and ideas. I haven't felt this mentally active and alert in a long time.

First off, I've started the novel! This is really exciting for me. It's something I've meant to do for a long time, but have been too afraid of failure to really get my teeth into it. In the past I've started writing and then talked myself out of it - telling myself the plot's too weak, the characters too predictable, and that I can't possibly achieve my goal. But like I've said before, everything that has happened to me this year has helped me shed a skin of doubt and become more fearless. And I'm finding myself becoming totally obsessed with the novel. I've mapped out the plot and characters in quite a detailed manner, and I find myself thinking about my creations and how I will record what happens to them over the course of the book most of the time. I want to spend every waking minute I can on it - I've already written nearly 7,000 words and I feel completely enthralled with it.

But me starting this project has coincided with us beginning our scuba diving training - which is something that I need to be pretty engrossed in and obsessed with to get through. The Boy and I watched nearly two and a half hours of the DVD over the weekend - and we still have another 90 minutes to go! I'm ploughing my way through the text book but there don't seem to be enough hours in the day to get the work done. I've still got another 100 or so pages I need to have read and understood by the time we do our first confined water dive tomorrow night... hopefully I can make some use of my lunch hours and get through what I need to before our session tomorrow. I'm feeling a little nervous about starting this new hobby, but I am proud of myself for pushing my boundaries and giving something new and challenging a chance. I'm not sure I would have been capable of this 12 months ago.

On top of this, work is really going up a notch with the complex issue of public sector pensions coming to the fore in the media and behind closed doors, and in advance of the big union day of action at the end of the month. Tonight after work I'll be heading to a record studio in West London where we're going to record a track by a group of public sector workers, which will be released to coincide with the day of action.

So a long day lies ahead for me. But it feels great to have so much going on and to be so mentally active and engaged. As long as I ensure I get enough down time to balance all this activity, then the next few weeks will be pretty exciting. I'm going to try to keep blogging as much as I can during this time, as writing like this really helps me make sense of my thoughts and keep myself steady, but it may be the book takes priority - so please bear with me if my entries dwindle a little over the coming weeks, I will be back!

Friday 4 November 2011


My beautiful sister sent me a card this week to let the Boy and I know that she and her boy are thinking of us. I was touched by the gesture, but really moved by the words inside that have reminded me that amongst all the hardships and difficulties that life can throw at us, hope also escaped from Pandora's Box. There was a dark time in my grief when I lost hope, and I can well understand from just that short period that a life without hope is a life without light. Fortunately we only parted company for a brief episode.

Inside she has written: "The snowdrop became the symbol of hope when Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of Eden. When Eve was about to give up hope that the cold winters would never end, an angel appeared, transforming snowflakes into snowdrops, proving that - eventually - winters do give way to spring."

I am so blessed to have such a thoughtful, caring and sensitive sister in my life, reaching out to the Boy and I in our time of need. I think it has been a particularly cold winter in the Beans household. We're both ready for spring now.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Laid to rest

And so the Boy and I survived Tuesday. We both felt real sadness on the day, and we know it won't go away overnight and will come back to haunt us from time to time - often when we least expect it - but we managed to look after each other and get through the day hearts and minds in tact.

The hardest part was going to the memorial garden where our tiny baby is buried. I was aware that the Boy was tensing up as we walked towards the graveyard, and we had to stop along the way for a cuddle. For the Boy the memories and emotions of the funeral were flooding back and he found it particularly difficult. As has often happened during this grieving process, when I saw him in distress I found myself washed clean of emotion and incredibly calm, there just for him. To hold him, comfort him, absorb him and engulf him in my love. For me, one of the hardest things about this whole experience has been seeing my beautiful soul mate in pain and being unable to relieve it. 

When we got to the garden there was a procession leaving the funeral parlour, and I was reminded how we are all touched by grief and loss during our time on this earth. If there's one inevitable, inescapable destiny, it's that at some point everyone's heart will ache for the person that is no longer with them. Clutching the flowers we had bought on the way there - which in itself was an experience entirely outside of my frame of reference, how do you choose which flowers to take to your baby's grave? - we stepped through the gate and into the garden.

I was struck, as I was at the funeral, by the colour, quiet, warmth and overwhelming sense of love in the garden. Every headstone decorated with flowers, ornaments or sentimental gifts. The sun once again was shining down on the garden, the temperature belying the November date. We found a new plaque on the grave, our baby buried with other little ones gone too soon for the parents that longed to hold them. Arms empty, instead hearts heavy. I saw other bouquets left next to the grave and my heart was pierced with my own loss, but also that other would-be parents had traced the same steps as we had and doubtless felt that unimaginable ache along with us. It all seems so cruel.

There is no doubt in my mind that going to the grave was the right thing to do. Once more we said our goodbyes, leaning on each other, arms and hearts entwined. But we left heads held high, and as I've said while we'll never forget, in some way another page has turned and a chapter closes, leaving fresh pages to come that will surely bring new emotions, experiences and adventures for us both.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Due date

So, the date I have been dreading for the last six months has finally arrived - the due date we were given for baby Beans by the hospital, although of course I know it's hugely unlikely that he or she would have arrived on time. Probably would have been early if the baby was going to take after it's mother - and definitely late if it was following in its father's footsteps.

So far I feel ok. I've been so anxious about today coming around, wondering how sad and hurt we will both feel, and I've been worrying if we'll be able to cope with what the day brings up. It's still early on, but the signs are good. We had a very good weekend which was the perfect balance of seeing good friends and having that valuable Mr and Mrs time we thrive upon. Friday night was spent in a couple of bars in Soho with really good friends and my cousin made an appearance to en route elsewhere which I really appreciated. On the way to the second bar we literally bumped in my old friend Jon - who had been Alex's (the friend who committed suicide earlier this year) flatmate for several years. It was fantastic to see him and he changed his plans and came on to the next place with us. He and I spent the rest of the night catching up and sharing our memories of being around Alex, which was very cathartic - if sad. Having not been in a fit state to make the funeral as it was so soon after baby Beans died, it felt right to be sharing these memories and thinking about a good friend with someone who'd been even closer to him than I had. Alex, we both miss you and we hope that wherever you are you have found the peace that you lacked in this life. I remember well what your sister shared after your death - that you were someone who's light burned so brightly but that meant the shadows were even darker for you. I hope you're far away from those shadows now.

Saturday I met my gorgeous friend Alix for lunch in London Bridge, one of my lovely bridesmaids but I hadn't seen her for ages as life seems to have conspired to keep us apart for a few months. A friend from my school days, again it felt helpful and important for me to talk about baby Beans and how I've been feeling with her. The lunch turned into afternoon, and turned into evening - when the Boy joined us - but spending so much time with a special friend re-energised me, and with her I was able to explore my hopes for the future and that we'll have another chance to be parents to our own baby, but also our strong interest in adoption and how that might pan out. I haven't shared these dreams much before, and something about saying them out loud with Alix made me believe they are possible and attainable.

Sunday was a very quiet Mr and Mrs day - a pyjamas until the afternoon and reading papers in bed kind of day. One of my favourite kinds. The Boy and I talked a lot about where we're at, and spent time looking after each other - cuddles, back rubs, foot massages... that kind of quiet physical reassurance of being there for the other and valuing each other so much.

And so Tuesday sure enough follows Monday, and has arrived. I wish more than anything our little baby Beans had made it, but for whatever reason my body decided it wasn't to be this time and I - finally - accept that. I've known what it is to be a mother for 14 weeks and hopefully in the future I will get a little longer to play the role, it was one I found unlike any other. But losing baby Beans taught me that the future, while you can fantasise and plan, can never be controlled. Life it beautiful, but it is fragile and vulnerable, and lifetimes can change in a second. The loss has changed me, but I recognise now it has changed me in some ways for the better. Days aren't wasted, friends aren't taken for granted, I can't remember the last time I rowed with the Boy... somehow a wet towel on the floor doesn't seem remotely important any more. What matters is what we are and what we have in the here and now.

When the baby first died I was really scared - fear crept in and ran rings around me, tying me in knots and leaving me exhausted from chasing my tail. I was aware for the first time of my own mortality, and the Boy's, and it hit home that my friends and family were only here for a set time as well. I panicked. But now I accept that that's ok. That's how it's meant to be, how it's always been - and how it will be for long after I am no longer here. With that acceptance comes a courage because I can let go of the anxiety that comes from trying to be in control. With that acceptance comes a freedom because I don't need to worry about what might happen down the line. And with that acceptance comes a sense of love for those around me that is so strong because I know we won't all be here together and I don't want a day to go past when I don't love the Boy as tenaciously and as passionately as I can.

Today is another farewell and I would say to our baby, later we will visit your grave and as your parents we will talk about you and what you meant to us in the little time we had to enjoy you. I will wonder if you would have loved books like me, or art like your dad, and which of our football teams you might have ended up supporting as well. Or would you have hated 'the beautiful game' and wondered what we saw in it. I will wonder if you would have been as intelligent as your grandpa, or as empathetic and emotionally intelligent as your aunty. Would you have liked trains, dolls, or lego? Would you have been quiet and unsure, or loud and assured. I hope we would have made you happy and been good parents. We both wanted you very much and there is a real pain that we never got to know these things, that we never got to know you. But - you will be with us for always, you've already shaped our lives and you have changed mine. I know we carry you as we go on, and that there won't ever be a 1 November when I don't think of you. And if we are fortunate enough to have our own family, I will never forget there should have been someone else here first, another place set at the table, another stocking hanging in the fireplace, another hand to hold and head to stroke. I have my faith and I like to think we will meet again. Until then, goodbye, goodnight and God bless xx

I Carry Your Heart With Me - by E. E. Cummings

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)
I am never without it (anyway I go, you go my dear, and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)

I fear no fate (for you are my fate my sweet)
I want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
And it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
And whatever a sun will always sing is you

Here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
And the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
Higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
And this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart).

Thursday 27 October 2011

Read all about it

I've really got back into reading lately, which I am so pleased about. I'd always been an avid reader - learning to read when I was very young, gobbling up books on my way through school, and going on to study literature at university where I would read four or five set books a week, and then a mass of critical study on each of those texts.

I love reading - especially when you can devour a book from cover to cover in one sitting and be transported to another world for a few hours. I love the escapism that a good book can give - when you can be absorbed by characters, connections, emotions, places and histories. This total and complete absorption is my idea of bliss. Whether it be squashed on to the tube, curled up on the sofa, snuggled under the duvet, stretched out in a park in London, or lazily reclined on a sun lounger - when I'm with a book, I'm at peace and the world revolves around me silently and irrelevantly.

I lost this passion for a few months after we lost our baby. Everything felt like too much of an effort, and I couldn't find the interest or concentration to be transported to another world - much as I would have liked to have been at the time. Along with my hopes and aspirations of being a mother this year, my literary flame had gently burned out and there was no relief in those open pages. But when we went to Sardinia in September, I dusted off my e-reader, uploaded 11 new books on to it - and I had read them all by the time I came back to London a week later, as well as a couple of books I picked up from the hotel library! A real variety of titles - from the contemporary multiculturalism of the Slap (which I understand is currently being televised), to the inevitable sadness of Alone in Berlin, and the sumptuous history of the House at Riverton (please let this be televised!). My senses were sated, and my greed for words had returned. My stomach rumbled for more.

And with this new-found love of an old favourite, comes a moment of wonder. It has been for a long time my dream to write a book, and it feels like now - after everything this year has brought - I might finally have it in me. It's not about being published or writing a best-seller (although of course that would be nice!) but it's about doing something I've always wanted to do for myself, but have always had too much fear. This year has taught me that fears can be realised, but also endured and surpassed - and this blog has helped me understand that I can write. And that I enjoy it and it gives me a centre. Safe to say I'm inspired - re-inspired - and I now have plot ideas and character suggestions whirling around and trying to form an orderly queue in my mind. I finally feel like I can do this, so wish me luck - I'm sure I'll share how I'm getting on in this blog.


My mind has been playing tricks on me over the last few days. Everywhere I look I see shadows of people from my past in the faces of strangers. I'll be walking down the street and see an ex-boyfriend walking towards me, when really it's a random man just on his way into work. In a restaurant I'll see a former colleague at the next table, when it's a tourist taking a moment to relax and enjoy a snack. In a shop I'll see an old friend picking up a new dress to try on, when it's just a student on half-term enjoying the break from school to spend her pocket money.

I'm not sure what these tricks - or games - are about, or what my mind is trying to process or tell me. Perhaps it's just that I need new glasses! But it feels like more, it could be it's trying to make sense of everything that has happened this year, and some fractured or distorted images are just a part of that.

Monday 24 October 2011

Dream a little dream of me

The Boy and I had a lovely weekend with his family - good company, good food and good times, my favourite kind of weekend! Highlights included wine-tasting at Denbies, a surprise picnic in glorious October sunshine on Box Hill (where we were happily married 18 months ago) and a victory for my beloved Manchester City in the Manchester derby - drubbing United 6-1, with us now five points clear at the top of the league. A feat I don't recall ever happening before in my lifetime.

But the weekend was - once again - peppered by very difficult sleep for me. Before I fell pregnant I never had any trouble sleeping. The Boy used to joke I could sleep anywhere - sofa, bus, train, plane... and in my wilder days at university, even under a table and on top of a speaker (alcohol may have helped that one!). But that's all changed now. Falling pregnant seemed to unlock some very colourful, vivid and quite often disturbing dreams for me. The dreams were often anxiety-based and restless. I would find myself in pursuit of some unknown foe, or being chased by some unseen but penetrative villain. I had a few dreams that I had lost the baby - including a very vivid and sadly accurate one the night before our tragic second scan.

Since then my sleep patterns have never really recovered. I'll often wake several times a night, sometimes in such a panic that I am grasping for breath. The nightmares come so often that it's not unusual for the Boy to wake me, as the echoes and murmurs I make while asleep leave him to worry that I am in emotional need or distress.

This weekend the dreams took a turn for the more sinister and every night I found myself in a tangled intrigue of violence and murder. In one, I was the perpetrator, wielding a knife and tasked with killing an anonymous but evil villain who was threatening my family and I, and in the dream even though I was shaking with fear I slit his throat. And then last night I had to choose to sacrifice myself to save the Boy and my family, and took a bullet to the head from - once again - an unknown aggressor. I felt so distressed in the dream as I could feel my life ebbing away and I was whispering to the Boy that I wished so much I had had longer with him. Pretty intense I have to say.

The dreams seem to be especially bad at the moment which I suspect is because we are so near the due date. I'm reassured the Boy is next to me as soon as I wake and we have set aside a little extra time in the mornings for Mr and Mrs cuddles before we get up, so I can feel a little less wary getting up and going out into the world. I'm thankful that my appointments with the workplace counsellor begin tomorrow afternoon. It feels they have come and just the right time and hopefully I'll be able to make good use of the time with her. I've always believed that you explore in your subconscious dreamlife what is too difficult or too painful to explore in your normal conscious existence. Hopefully, with a bit of help and guidance from the counsellor, some of those issues can transcend into my waking life to be dealt with there, and I may one day sleep easy again.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Taking the plunge

The Boy and I have decided to take a short break from thinking about a family and have a couple of months for ourselves and enjoy the Christmas parties and festivities, with the idea to start trying again in the new year. I don't really want to be watching what I'm eating or drinking over the Christmas months, and after three months of hoping we might be there but getting negative tests I'm a bit bored with the whole 'peeing on a stick' concept! Also, now we finally have a few pennies to enjoy what London town has to offer there are a few experiences we want to have together and it feels right for us to take that time now. So we have a mini bucket list of things to do before 2011 is out.

The first one - which I find exciting and terrifying in equal measure - is that we are both going to get our PADI open water qualification. It's something we've talked about on and off over the last couple of years and we meant to do it before we went on honeymoon to the Maldives, as it would have been fantastic to dive there. But at the time it was just too much expense with everything else happening around the wedding. We meant to get round to it after the wedding, but a bit of time passed and then I fell pregnant - it's not something you can do when you are pregnant, so it slipped off the radar and has been on the back burner ever since.

The Boy had an introduction to scuba lesson recently (a present from me) and he absolutely loved it, and came home completely buzzing from the experience. We've been looking for a hobby we can enjoy together and while I'd been trying to steer us in the direction of Italian lessons (ever the academic!), he very much wanted to pursue this one. So, a bit of research and we've found ourselves a suitable course in Soho - nice and convenient for us both after work. A couple of evening classes and some pool time, and we'll be halfway there - and then we just need to find somewhere to do our open dives. A week in Egypt sounds enticing and would be perfect.

In honesty, I am a little bit nervous. I love snorkelling and am a good swimmer, but there is a nagging voice in the back of my head saying 'what about the sharks'! I'm sure the course will allay that fear and I am excited by the thought of trying a new experience and seeing the world in another way. Again, I feel that if this year has taught me one thing, it's that life is fragile. Of the five losses we've had this year only one had any inkling his time may be coming to an end - for the others and for our baby, their clocks just suddenly stopped. And I'm feeling that I'd like to be a bit braver and push myself a bit more, I don't want to say 'no' to things and then regret in the future I didn't take my chances more. So... our first lesson is on November 8th. I'll let you know how it goes - we'll see if water babies can yet be made of Mr and Mrs Beans!

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Another year older

Today we've been celebrating the Boy's birthday. He has reached the ripe old age of 32, even though he still looks (and acts!) as if he's in his late teens. We had a lovely meal out last night and then both had the morning off from work - the Boy gets this as a perk of his job and I felt it would be rude not to join him. So we had a lazy start - felt very indulgent for a school day - and he opened his presents in bed, accompanied by a cinnamon whirl (his favourite breakfast!) with a candle in it, courtesy of his lovely wife ;-)

Birthdays are a good chance to reflect on years gone and years to come - and hopefully the Boy and I have many more of them together. And it's been quite a year. It was around his birthday last year we decided we definitely felt ready to try to a family. Things happened fairly quickly and I fell pregnant in January. But of course as we know that wasn't to be. The whole process took us a bit by surprise really - I don't think either of us thought that a year on we wouldn't have a baby or be pregnant... but we had no idea when we started this journey how few days a month there were that you could conceive, and we also had no clue how many babies don't make it the whole nine months. That's probably a blessing though, as with all those scary statistics in hand I think we would have been much more fearful - I'm glad we weren't, and that we got to experience a little true, real joy along the way.

But birthdays are also a good time to stand still, take stock and enjoy the here and now - and I think the Boy and I need little reminders like this right now as the big picture can be a bit overwhelming for us. I can't imagine that we could be any happier, and the roller coaster that this year has been has shown us every side to the other, and in the face of adversity we've pulled closer and tighter. We've been engulfed by love and support from friends - and my girlfriends and sister have been particularly brilliant in the last week or so, conscious that I might be stumbling I've had a lot of kind emails, texts and phone calls that have helped keep me focused on the big picture - and comments readers of this blog have left have also touched me.

While this year has been tough emotionally and I feel mentally wrung out and exhausted, it's been very good for us financially. The Boy has worked out we have substantially increased our assets since March, and for the first time in my adult life I am not in debt and have savings in the bank - such a big release. We've decided to shelve plans for a move for another 12 months as at the moment we can comfortably pay the mortgage, have a good quality of life, and save a good amount of money each month for the future. We also love our flat and the neighbourhood where we live. Why rock that boat when we don't have to?

So, for the rest of the day, I'm going to try and thing about all the good things I have in my life, rather than the one thing - and I think it is the only thing - that is missing. With these strong foundations in place, if we can keep ourselves happy and healthy, then I'm sure in time our dreams will come true and everything will fall into place.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Take care

While we were away this weekend we stayed in the Bristol Hotel - a beautiful hotel near the harbourside. As part of our package we were treated to breakfast in bed which we enjoyed with a couple of Sunday newspapers, the Observer (for the news) and the Sunday Mirror (for my celebrity gossip quick fix!).

There was a feature in the Mirror about midwifery and how the government has failed in its pledge to deliver extra midwives to the UK's crisis-hit hospitals. The RCM is calling for an extra 5,000 midwives to be trained, claiming that women and families are suffering due to low standards on maternity wards because of short staffing.

Once again I'm shocked by what I perceive to be double standards when it comes to maternity/antenatal care and other conditions. There should be no hesitation that these new staff should be trained, and the fact that 60 per cent of NHS compensation claims are related to maternity shocks me. Women and babies deserve a proper care - and certainly as a minimum the same level of care that other hospital patients receive.

I guess that's why they call it the blues

I haven't been doing so great over the last few days. The Boy and I had a lovely weekend in Bristol for his birthday, we shared some special times and made some happy memories to add to our ever-increasing happy memory bank - which is pretty much bulging at the seams these days. But we both know something - someone - is missing, and there is a nagging anxiety that I hold constantly. It's like that trepidation that you've forgotten something really important, or when you know you're feeling nervous about something but you can't quite work out what.

I think however much we try and take care of ourselves and remind ourselves of our blessings, these weeks are going to be hard. If things had been different we would be in the last couple of weeks of our pregnancy now - with the baby due just a fortnight today. The friends I fell pregnant with are now having their babies and their lives are changing. Ours - while lives enriched with so very much love and laughter - are not. We both feel that loss. It's not as keen or as penetrating as it was before, more of a dull ache that washes around my heart and catches me off-guard. As I write this I have a lump in my throat and it takes some control to hold the tears in. I know so well that it wasn't meant to be this time and I can accept that, but it doesn't change the sadness of the loss or the desire that the cards had played out differently.

And so I suspect the next few weeks will be. It's going to be tough, but the Boy and I are as entwined as ever and are talking to each other, supporting each other all the time. We both know how the other one is feeling and the Boy is being very attentive - he reassures me all he wants to do is look after me and I know how lucky I am to have him. But ironically sometimes this makes it hurt even more. I know how much he wanted to be a dad and how great a parent he will be, and it makes me ache that his time has not come and the tears wash over my eyes that cannot see him holding our first baby with the tender flame with which he kindles me.

I feel pretty fragile and vulnerable, and in some ways I envisage getting beyond the 1 November will be a kind of relief - we'll have survived. We're still not sure what to do on the day. One idea is to visit our baby's grave and spend some time there, before having a quiet and reflective day perhaps seeing a film or taking in an exhibition. Or perhaps we might go to Brighton for the day and walk along the coast. Brighton is a special place for the Boy and I. We had early dates there, spent birthdays there, and he bought my engagement ring there. It's somewhere we'd like to eventually settle and raise a family, if we are blessed with one. So perhaps a day spent there might be a comfort. Or perhaps we wrap up at home and open the memento box of keepsakes from our darling baby Beans - the pictures from that first scan that filled us with such awe and delight, the hospital notes, the cards of goodwill sent by friends - and the cards of regret that followed all too quickly. We're not sure and it's something we can play by ear.

So, deep breath and onwards. It's tough. At times all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry - and it may yet come to that! - but I know this will pass in time. The sadness just hurts a little more acutely right now, and that is ok and normal - and I am 'allowed' to struggle with our loss at this difficult time. I have my first counselling session from the workplace counselling on Tuesday (why is it always Tuesdays? - conceived on a Tuesday, died on a Tuesday, funeral on a Tuesday, due date a Tuesday... even a ruddy counselling session months down the line is a Tuesday!) and I feel optimistic that will help me lay some ghosts to rest. Because I think that is part of the problem - along with baby Beans I am haunted by the ghosts of the family and friends we have lost this year, which makes the world a scarier place for me. And I was never very good at being brave.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Testing, testing, one two three...

You know those weeks where life feels effortless, everything falls into place, and generally the garden is all rosy and peachy? Well... this isn't one of them! I feel like I'm a character in some kind of comedy of errors or horror film. It's been a bit of a nightmare from start to finish - and in fact it's only Thursday so the week hasn't ended yet...

I won't bore you with all the grizzly details (those are being recorded in various letters of complaint to customer service departments!) but the week got off to a bad start. I had been guaranteed by HSBC that my PPI settlement would be in my account at the latest on Monday (10 October). The Boy and I have been counting down to this date - the date my 18-month battle with the bank would be over, the day all my debts would be cleared, and the day we could start to breathe a little more easily financially.

Suffice to say, the money never arrived, and numerous calls to HSBC over the last few days have been very stressful, and I have felt very undervalued and frustrated. For quite sometime HSBC were unaware of why there was a hold up and even where my money was, and there was no sense of apology - I was just told I had been very unlucky as most claims go through seamlessly. Thankfully (!) my precious (and fairly large!) funds have now been located, and I'm assured will be in my account in the next 3-5 working days. We'll see. A far tenser end to this particular consumer battle than I had envisaged.

Also on Monday I worked at home - despite the Boy's best efforts at resuscitation our oven has finally bitten the dust - waiting for a repair man from Zanussi to come and have a look at our oven. We'd been given a slot between 9am and 5pm (which is a bit of a liberty anyway in my book!) so at first as the hours passed I wasn't too concerned. However as the morning grew into lunchtime, and the afternoon began to drift towards evening I became very concerned. Sure enough, a phone call to Zanussi confirmed they'd made an error and booked an engineer in for the following day by mistake. Sigh. And when the repair man did come on Tuesday (the Boy was able to work at home at short notice luckily) the fault and the part which needs to be replaced is so unusual that it will take some time for the part to be ordered and the engineer will need to return in a few weeks' time.

I was definitely ready for a bit of pampering on Tuesday night, feeling a bit wrung out and fed up - at what is already a difficult time for us as we approach what would have been baby Beans's due date, 1 November. I had an appointment for a hair cut and colour at a new salon in North London. I arrived in good time for my appointment but was shocked to see three other customers all being served or waiting to be served by one stylist - after waiting for about 30 minutes I queried this with a receptionist, who shrugged his shoulders and was unable to tell me when - or even if - I could get my haircut. To make the experience all the more bizarre, while I was seated in the waiting area an adult (it was hard to tell whether she was a customer or someone known to the hairdressing staff) tried to sit on my lap - twice! I had never experienced such bizarre behaviour, and I certainly felt uncomfortable progressing with a haircut in such chaotic surroundings so I walked out of the salon.

Wednesday arrived - and when I got into work I found my desk, and also the desks of several of my colleagues, was filthy. It was covered in dust and light material, seemingly an effect of building work on the floor above that had resulted in chalky material from the ceiling coming lose and falling over our desks and chairs. I felt so angry - and then a wash of sadness that I knew was disproportionate to the situation. My other colleagues were irritated but could shrug it off with wry amusement. To me, it felt like a punch in the stomach and like I was being victimised or persecuted in some way. Certainly ot a rational response for the moment in hand.

I gave myself some time to calm down and reflect, and then I picked up the phone. My work runs an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that offers telephone and short-term face-to-face counselling for staff in times of need, regardless of whether it's a work or personal issue. For some time I've been wondering if I'd find it useful to talk to a counsellor about the losses we've had this year. Of course the baby is the most prominent bereavement, but adding my friend's suicide and the unexpected death of my uncle, my colleague and my ex-colleague to the mix, means I am a bit fragile and I don't quite feel like the Elly Beans of old. I had wondered - as a volunteer bereavement counsellor myself - if I was trying to cope on my own all the time when I didn't have to.

So in some ways the dust falling from the ceiling at work helped me see the light above. I have spoken to the counselling team now at EAP and I am waiting for a referral to a counsellor for 4-6 sessions to explore my feelings around the bereavements. They were confident I could begin to see someone before 1 November, and I feel quite relieved and almost excited that this can happen. I have tried to be brave, be honest and be genuine in making my way through my grief and I know I have done fairly well. The Boy and I have really pulled together and almost become one person through our experiences, but there is no harm - and no shame - in getting a little bit of external support now to carry me through the next few weeks. The time feels right and I look forward to sharing my thoughts and feelings with a professional who can help me make the connections to help me keep moving forwards.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Aftercare - an after thought?

Yesterday I was interested to read in the Guardian about a Mumsnet campaign to improve the level of NHS care after miscarriage. It's the kind of article that once upon a time I would have glanced over and then turned the page. But that was before I fell pregnant and before I had a second-trimester miscarriage. A lot of things have changed since then and sometimes it feels like my life falls into two periods - those years before the miscarriage (BM?), and those months that have followed (AM?). I'm the same person fundamentally, but a miscarriage changes you and I see the world a little differently now.

I read the article from start to finish and was going to write something on here about this yesterday, but I felt I needed time to process the words and the messages of the campaigns. I think it's such an important issue. Miscarriage is relatively common - stats I see vary from one in four pregnancies, to one in five pregnancies ending in this way - but from what I've read online and from conversations with friends and colleagues, a person's experience of miscarriage is uncommon. It's very individual and even talking about what has happened remains something of a taboo.

It's hard to think of being 'lucky' when you experience such a tragic loss - the Boy and I were absolutely devastated to lose our baby Beans and it hurt even more that the miscarriage came post 12-weeks, so we thought we had 'made it'. But when I look back at my experience of miscarriage - I think an innately lonely and complicated process - with the breathing space of five months, I believe I was 'lucky'. I had the Boy beside me every step of the way, always a strength and a comfort. We were overwhelmed by the love we received from family and friends, and our colleagues and workplace were accommodating and thoughtful. If any of the pieces of this vital jigsaw had been missing then I know the experience would have been even harder to bear.

But where I was really fortunate was in my dealings with the NHS. The woman who told us that our baby had died at a routine scan was extremely gentle and kind - her eyes pricked with tears as she told us the news and I felt genuine warmth and empathy from her. And the doctor who explained what might have happened and what our options were was incredible. I felt she understood, and while she was kind and compassionate she didn't pull any punches - she explained exactly what would happen and what the pros and cons were of each of the options I was offered (D&C operation, medical management, or 'natural'). I made an informed, if impossible, choice.

I opted - as regular readers of this blog will know - for medical management, and I was given a private room where the Boy was able to stay overnight with me. The process, while painful at times, was welcomingly quiet and respectful. While it is a very difficult thing to go through with and therefore this will sound strange, it couldn't have gone any better. The staff were gentle but honest, and I'd been prepared for it to be more painful and traumatic from what they had said. When I was well enough to be discharged we were able to go to the hospital chapel and say goodbye, and the hospital arranged a beautiful quiet funeral for us that was a real chance to mourn our loss. The hospital cancelled all my further antenatal appointments so I didn't receive any upsetting reminder letters, and my GP called me the following week to make sure I was bearing up ok and to check if I needed anything. It all felt the best it could be, in a situation no woman ever wants to find herself in.

I have been saddened and shocked since my miscarriage to hear or read of other women's experiences that were so dissimilar to mine, lacking the calm and dignity that was there in every part of my loss. Some of the language I've heard was used by doctors infuriates me, and I find it incredible that women losing their children were put on the same wards as those who had newborns - my heart breaks for them to think how painful that must have been, it was bad enough for me when I saw a pregnant person in the street! I feel angry at the lack of planning and thoughtlessness that has led to this.

Why must miscarriage just be 'one of those things'? Something every woman who wants a family might have to go through? I'm sure if 25 per cent of children were dying at five years old, or 20 per cent of adults were dying at 21 years old it wouldn't be just 'one of those things' and there would be more government funding into research about the whys and hows. It makes me angry that it's down to charities like Sands and Bliss to fund and run that work for them.

But I digress, I think this is a really important campaign and I fully support the five-point code of practice Mumsnet recommend. I was 'lucky' that I had all that - and more - and I can't praise the staff or facilities at St Thomas's Hospital any higher. But it shouldn't be down to luck, and someone who has already been so desperately unlucky as to lose their wanted and loved baby shouldn't have to rely on the throw of a dice or a postcode not to suffer any more.

Thursday 6 October 2011

The 'social' network

I've been thinking a lot about social networking recently, and over the last few days I made the decision to take a step back from the websites that have been featuring too prominently in my life.

Along with most of my generation in the Western world, I've been on Facebook for about four years. During that time I have really enjoyed using the site, particularly the feature that lets you share photographs with your friends. This tool was invaluable to me when my younger sister was away travelling for six months a few years ago. She could put up images of where she was so that even when I couldn't reach her by phone or email, I could picture her in interesting or beautiful surroundings and feel that she was safe.

I found it interesting to connect to people from my past and see what they were doing now, and more recently, I'd enjoyed meeting new friends online. I'd connected with some fellow supporters of Manchester City FC which was really enjoyable - it's the family club to support as my Dad is from Manchester, but having lived most of my life down south I didn't know too many like-minded fans, as it's the kind of club you only tend to support if you're from the local area - unlike our great foes Manchester United!

Somehow the number of people I was 'friends' with had crept up to over 700 and while this was fun at first, it started to become a bit of an issue. I was tying myself in knots trying to make various lists with different privacy settings about who could see my holiday snaps and so on, and I was losing information about my closer, current, real friends as their status updates and pictures were blinded by the myriad of posts I had on my home page.

I had begun to compare myself negatively with some of my acquaintances on there, and I was also becoming increasingly anxious about seeing pictures and updates about people's pregnancies on there. I'm slightly ashamed to admit it was getting to the point where I was looking at images from scans of people I've never even met in real life, and feeling jealous and sad.

Something had to give. I knew it was becoming unhealthy and I was unsure about the emotions I was feeling when I looked at the site - why was I interested that a girl I was at primary school with has children? Why did I care if the wife of a Man City fan I've never met is expecting twins? And why did it irritate me so much that people who are nothing to do with my life now are announcing their news or posting pictures well before the 12-week date?

I'm still not sure of the answers. I'd become enticed into - or perhaps obsessed with - a world that wasn't real or relevant to my life and it was making me unhappy and stressed. So, yesterday I bit the bullet and I deleted 442 friends (including one good friend by accident who luckily saw the funny side and has re-friended me!) and am now down to 259 - it still sounds a lot to me, but everyone who remains on the list is someone I care about or who is important to my life now. Everyone on that list I trust, and would welcome in our home or go for a drink with. Sounds simple doesn't it, but I'd gone wrong somewhere along the line and I'm unsure why I had let this situation fester. It's such a relief that it's been amended. It feels like I've shed a skin and it is a real weight off my mind. Now I am genuinely happy to look at the site, and - while I may still check it more often than I should do, but hey ho, Rome wasn't built in a day! - I don't feel scared or upset by what I might find on there. Now I am just surprised that I let this situation linger for so long.

It is a particularly contemporary issue I think. Social networking is such a great tool and it has so many benefits. But as with most things in life it's all about balance. Hopefully I've gone some way to fixing that now. I certainly feel a sense of relief. And it's not just me that's felt this. This morning the Boy confessed to me that after I'd fallen asleep last night he'd looked on Facebook and found a video of a friend of a friend's newborn baby and felt so angry and jealous he'd got upset and had to get up and try and calm himself down. I wished he had woken me to share the sadness with me, but the heart of the matter is that it's an issue for him too. Goodness knows these coming weeks are difficult enough for us, without triggers and reminders from people outside of our normal circle upsetting us.

Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder and former CEO, sadly died of pancreatic cancer overnight. I've been reading a lot about him in the papers today, and I was particularly struck by this quote of his: "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

I'm struck by the innate wisdom in these words. Such a powerful mantra for me, and where I feel with my life right now. Through Facebook I had been guilty of living other people's lives, when in reality I have an amazing one of my own right here to be cherished and enjoyed - and lived. I'd become cluttered with the thoughts, feelings, rants and negativity of others that have no bearing or relevance on me or the here and now. But today is a new leaf, a fresh page - a clear screen, if you like - and I start as I mean to go on.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Goodbye to summer

Last night I packed away all my summery clothes that I - Indian summers permitting! - won't have need of over the next few months. Some things I wear all year round, but I don't foresee wearing my maxi dresses, flip flops or bikinis for at least six months, so I've packed them away in a big suitcase in the cupboard. It means I have more space for more seasonal attire and store things properly - and stops my wardrobe from bursting at the seams which would happen otherwise.

I do this every year, but I felt a real mixture of emotions this time round. I can't help but wonder what our situation will be when I come to unpack everything again in April 2012. Will we still be us two, or will there be a second baby Beans on the horizon? Will I be able to fit into everything again, or will nature be taking a positive course and I'll no longer be able to fasten my skirts around my stomach? Kneeling down by the case meticulously folding everything I paused for a while and - for once - let myself indulge in fantasy for a while. I guess only time will tell but it's always nice to dream!