Tuesday 30 August 2011

Mother knows best?

I read - with great interest - a couple of interviews with celebrity Amanda Holden over the weekend. She has just announced that she is pregnant again, following the still-birth of her son in February this year and a prior miscarriage in 2010. I have written in these pages before that I have found her courage and dignity through her experiences something of an inspiration. Living out my loss and grief in private has been enough of an ordeal, so how you manage with your tragedy splashed across the front of the red-tops I can't imagine. But she seems to have borne the experience with great strength and integrity, and I take heart from her happy news.

In one interview I read a quote from her which leapt off the page at me: “What’s strange is that from the very moment I found out I was pregnant I knew that I was never going to meet my baby. I don’t know if it was an instinct or mother nature protecting me in some way."

This really strikes a chord with me, and makes me wonder... I had a feeling through my pregnancy that it wasn't going to work out. I talked to the Boy about it, and he listened to my concerns and we talked them through, but we put it down to the fact I can be negative and can feel that I don't deserve nice things or for good times to happen to me. But I had a nagging doubt than ran in the back of my mind all the way along that something wasn't right, and I had several dreams where I lost the baby, it was born premature, or I attended a scan only to be told the baby had died.

I had dismissed my feelings as I didn't think they were particularly helpful, and because I'm unclear whether they really were real natural instinct or if they were rooted in my usual self-doubt. A few weeks ago, we were having drinks with a friend of the Boy's and his wife, who sadly lost a baby in February, and his wife mentioned to me that she had a continuous feeling through her pregnancy that it wouldn't last and that something would go wrong.

So it makes me wonder now... and if I am fortunate enough to fall pregnant again it will be interesting to see if it feels any different or any more 'right'.

Thursday 25 August 2011

A whole new world

I've taken a couple of days off to have a proper break over the Bank Holiday weekend. We've had a pretty full-on summer, and our annual conference is in September so work will get very busy after the long weekend and there won't be much let up. I've got quite a lot of leave left, so I thought I'd treat myself to a bit of a rest and take some action to help me feel the best I can about myself. I've got some pampering ahead tomorrow (eyebrows, eyelashes and hair!) and hopefully - if the Boy is feeling a bit better - some quality Mr and Mrs time ahead.

It's such a different experience having a day off in the week - there's this whole different London out there that I didn't know existed. A daytime London unrestricted by office hours. I went to the post office at lunchtime, and the empty Spanish cafe that I pass each morning on the walk into work was thriving and bustling, no spare table to be found as the voices of couples, colleagues and groups of students filled the air. The pavements were heaving with colour and shapes - mothers and their babies out for walks in the summer rain with bright anoraks and brollies, not the stock grey suits and black umbrellas of the city that call my eyeline and book end the working day. Groups of students eat their lunches in the square by my flat, sitting on benches where I never normally see a soul, sharing the latest gossip.

I felt really drawn to this other London, this parallel life that exists only when my back is turned. I'm curious to know more and longing to try something different, and be a part of this other community. I guess if/when we're lucky enough to have a family I'll have a year's maternity leave from work and being off in the week will be the norm, not the exception to the rule. I look forward to discovering more about this freer London life and the lucky souls who enjoy a break from the 9am-5pm routine.

Stick with it

Well it wasn't to be this month. Hardly a case of better late than never, but my lady finally arrived today as I think I had known it wood. I did wonder at times this month if we might have been lucky, but I didn't experience anything like the extreme nausea, metallic taste in my mouth and the full-on tiredness that came with the experience last time.

We are both disappointed, but I'm pleased that the disappointment is not at too deep a level. For us having a baby is something we really want, but it's not everything - not even close - so we are both still feeling very relaxed about this process. The Boy really is enough for me, he's sleeping next door as I write as he's off work sick (I'm on leave today) and just looking at him lying there a few minutes ago I nearly started crying with how perfect for me he is and how lucky I feel.

Which is why what I'm about to say might seem something of a contradiction in terms, but this month the Boy and I have decided to use fertility sticks to see if that gives us a better chance of conception. I've been in two minds about this for a few weeks. We feel the best thing is to carry on as we are, and just enjoy being close and intimate regularly throughout the month. But at the same time we're both curious about when the best days for us to 'baby dance' are, and what we might find out if we use the sticks for a month or so. And, perhaps slightly embarrassingly, as someone obsessed with the human condition I also want to experience everything that goes with falling pregnant and I'm interested how it feels to try this process.

I suppose it's just a way of finding out when (and if) I'm ovulating and checking in that everything is in order after the miscarriage. It's not about being desperate to conceive this month, next month or whenever... it's just a way for us to reassure ourselves that everything is ticking along as it should be. I'll keep you posted how it all goes!

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Tease me, tease me, tease me

However much I try to put it out of my mind, my lady is a couple of days late now and all I can think about is whether or not I am pregnant. I'm pretty positive I'm not, as I did a test yesterday which came back negative, but my mind likes playing tricks on me at times like this - my brain starts to say things like 'well, it was a cheap test, maybe it was wrong' and I begin to wonder and tease myself that our luck might be in. I try so hard to distract myself but the little voice in my head is always there, chirruping away...

I feel we deserve a bit of good luck. It's been a bit of a crazy week or so, starting with me dropping a blender blade on my toes (don't ask!), now the Boy is poorly for the long Bank Holiday weekend when we had lots of Mr and Mrs plans in - I could have crossed quite a lot off my Pregnancy Bucket List! - this morning I burned my arm with the iron as I was rushing to get ready, and coming out of the tube station I nearly got flattened by a cyclist who decided to use the pavement instead of the road. Sigh! Hopefully our luck is about to change.

Friday 19 August 2011

Broken relationships

Another week is drawing to a close and I can feel the welcome, engulfing arms of the weekend almost around me. I'm glad to see the back of this week. I've not felt very connected with anything apart from the Boy, and work has been a struggle. We're not that busy at the moment, as there is always a bit of a lull in August, and I find the days drag by. I'm someone who much prefers to have too much to do than too little, so I find these days arduous and torturous.

But there are benefits of quieter times, one of which being that I can take a guilt-free lunch hour and enjoy some of the sights and sounds the London has to offer. With the Boy working just around the corner, we try to take a break together once a week and do something, from going to a gallery or having a nice lunch out, to going for a walk around somewhere new or sitting in the park in the sunshine. Today we went to the Museum of Broken Relationships on Earlham Street, which - across two venues - is a fascinating collection of trinkets given from one loved one to another when a relationship was going well. These relationships have since broken up or been ended by death, and the keepsakes are displayed in the exhibition along with an explanation of why the relationship has broken up.

I found the exhibition such an interesting commentary on one rich and shared aspect of the human condition, the broken heart. The tokens range from the sublime (a beautiful grand piano) to the ridiculous (a used breathalyser test!) but they were all equally touching. For a sentimental romantic like myself it was the perfect combination of intrigue and tragedy ,and I consumed it all greedily. I was reminded of times when my heart had been broken, and of relationships that I have lost or that have been taken from me. And of course my mind flickered back to baby Beans, and the box of memories we have for that lost child and that lost relationship. Not for the first time, I felt pleased that we have kept a collection of pictures and documents that belong to baby Beans, and I think perhaps it's time I take a deep breath, pour myself a glass of wine, and have another look through our special treasures.

Thursday 18 August 2011

But for the grace of God

Bear with me while a quick sulk and stamp of foot is needed, then all can resume to normality. I'm a bit of a hot, cross bun this morning and am feeling an irrational crossness this morning with the number of people who post pictures and news of their pregnancies on social networking sites when they are at very early stages, some even just a few weeks in. I know it's irrational because it's one of the most exciting pieces of news a person can have and no wonder they want to share it with all and sundry. And everyone has the right to decide to tell their news at the time they see fit.

I suppose it annoys me two-fold. Firstly because we waited until the 12 weeks to tell people, but we were so unlucky that just a week or so after that, things went wrong for us and it wasn't to be. And secondly, because we're not pregnant any more. I'd have loved to put up pictures of scans and an ever-increasing bump (we'd decided we would after the 20-week scan) to share with friends and family on these sites, but of course it wasn't to be for us. This time. So when I see other people's happy news it pricks at my heart.

Like most things that irk me at the moment, I know this is all about me and where I am with my process, and not to do with what other folks think or say. And while I think both the Boy and I are doing really well, in a week when I've had a negative pregnancy test and can't help but be reminded I would have been nearly seven months pregnant by now, it's bound to be a test seeing others enjoy their pregnancies and go through the experience so joyfully and peacefully. I hope so much we have that chance one day.

Money, money, money...

Money and I have never been the best of friends. I've treated money pretty badly and in the past, and on the rare occasions I've ever had any, I've always wasted it. In my 20s my pay cheque was always spent pretty much as soon as it arrived, and I never seemed to have any surplus. Money certainly burned a hole in my pocket and found its way into the tills of various bars and clubs in East London, and into the coffers of numerous chain stores and boutiques up West.

I'm not sure where my laissez faire attitude to cash came from. Both my parents are cautious with money, and have well-replenished savings and never spend what they don't have. I think it began at university, when I was suddenly presented with a credit card, a huge overdraft facility and student loans aplenty, with the notion that you could spend whatever you liked now and then pay it back at some date that was so far in the future it wasn't even a dot on the horizon. My bad habits continued after graduation although, while my spending was consistently reckless, I did always take up second - and sometimes third - jobs to make sure I at least had a steady income and could always pay my bills.

It amazes me still that with this haphazard attitude to spending and saving that I managed to buy my first flat when I was 25, a little two-bedroom place in Bermondsey, with a far more clued up and savvy friend from university. We lived there happily as a south London Will and Grace for three years, during which time I consistently lived on the edge and never had a spare penny left at the end of the month. Instead I crept further and further into the overdraft abyss. Somehow, more by luck and good fortune than any financial acumen, Bermondsey enjoyed something of a renaissance while we lived there and when we sold the flat we each had enough of a lump sum to buy our own places - and hence I arrived at Empire Towers in Borough in December 2006.

The Boy joined me there less than a year later and while we've had some difficult financial periods - notably when he was made redundant in the early days of the recession and we had a few awkward months with only one income - and some stormy waters, we've managed to steady the ship so it isn't leaking funds any more. Now it's starting to feel like we can carry some cargo.

We've both had debts to pay off. I finally faced up to the (rather embarrassingly large) credit mess I was in and have since been chipping away at that weight on my shoulders, and slowly and steadily it has reduced and is now almost gone. In less than a year I've gone from the bottom category credit rating-wise to the second one - only 90 points now off the top one now, where the Boy is. The Boy too had a student debt to sort out, an overdraft to clear and a credit card to pay off. But it finally feels like we are winning and my hope is that by the beginning of next year we can begin saving decent amounts of cash and be completely financially ready for a move of house or a baby - or maybe even both. Empire Towers has gone up enough in value to give us a deposit on a bigger place so it's more to give us peace of mind if we are blessed with a family.

A couple of bits of good news in the last week have cheered us and make me think we are so close to turning the corner and perhaps the finance gods are with us for once... First up, a while back I put in a claim to HSBC to reclaim the Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) that I paid on a graduate loan. It was a bit of a stab in the dark as I wasn't sure I had paid this insurance - I'd just read in the papers and seen online that a lot of people were doing this successfully and so I thought it was worth a shot. I've just received a letter from HSBC telling me my claim has been successful and they will pay back my PPI with interest, in accordance with guidance set out by the financial ombudsman. Early indications suggest I could be owed as much as four figures which would be a welcome bonus. And then yesterday the Boy rang the student loans company to check when his loans would be repaid - and it turns out he has already repaid it and they've been continuing to take deductions from him so he is also due a rebate.

I've always dreamed of the day when money wouldn't be a constant worry, a problem constantly there nagging away at the back of my head like a discontented fishwife. While there's still a long way to go for me and the Boy before that comes a reality, it at least now feels like that day is possible, and that's good enough for me.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Baby bucket list

I did a pregnancy test on a whim when I got up this morning. For the last week or so I'd been feeling like I was pregnant. It's a bit early to do one, as my lady isn't due until next week, but I had one of those early detection tests in the bathroom cabinet so I thought 'what the heck'. It came back negative, so I am pretty sure that there are no Beans babies to report this month - and although it's always possible it was too early to test, I'm not getting my hopes up.

I was of course a little disappointed, but noticeably less so than I have been in the past, and my first reaction was 'hey ho, we'll try again and that means I can have a drink over the weekend'. Shallow, moi?! It made me think about the things I enjoy doing now, that I probably won't be able to do if I'm pregnant. So, to console myself, here is my top 10 baby (pregnancy?) bucket list...

1. Sleep in. Well, maybe this should be just get sleep in general, but at the moment I can (mostly) get up when I want - especially at weekends. I know this is a big luxury! When I was pregnant with baby Beans and I was super tired, I was going to bed quite early but I could never sleep beyond about 5am. I'm led to believe from family and friends that kind of sets the pattern for the next 18 years... So, the next few weekends I plan to make the most of this and make sure I don't even get out of bed until midday! We'll see how that goes...

2. Eat seafood. One of my favourite foods in the world is prawns. I love seafood in general, but could probably eat prawns for every meal, every day. I naughtily had them a few times when I was pregnant, but then felt a little guilty afterwards. Now I can indulge with a clear conscience. So, pass me the marie rose sauce.

3. Enjoy a glass of wine with the girls. I love having a good old gossip with my girls and setting the world to rights with a few nice cold glasses of white, or warming glasses of red. I still went out with my friends when I was pregnant, but I found by about 9.30pm the level of conversation had really deteriorated, ladies were slurring their words, and points were being repeated. Funny how I never noticed that when I wasn't abstaining ;-)

4. Buy a new dress. I am a shopoholic. There, I said it! Well, more accurately - I am a dressoholic. Clearing out my wardrobe to sell some bits on ebay over the weekend I lost count of how many beautiful dresses I had bursting out of my wardrobe. Some girls are joggers and trainers girls, some are jeans fiends, some love their slacks - but me, give me a dress any day of the week! For now, I can enjoy buying, choosing and wearing any dress I like - I don't need to worry about increasing bump size, or easy access to the boobage... although of course the Boy may disagree on that point ;-)

5. Take risks. I was so careful when I was pregnant not to do anything that might upset me or the baby, or lead to any accidents or harm. Not that now I suddenly plan to start jumping out of aeroplanes or leaping in front of trains... but I can do more energetic or slightly dangerous activities without worrying about the consequences. When we were in Santorini, one of my favourite times was when we went round the island on quad bikes, I would absolutely not have done that if I'd been pregnant - so perhaps I can seize the day in Sardinia as well.

6. Buy a new swimsuit. Thinking about Sardinia, I think it's time to buy some new swimwear. I'm a curvy lady at the best of times, so if/when I am lucky enough to fall pregnant I dread to think how much I will expand. I still haven't lost the few pounds I put on in those 13 weeks when I was pregnant with baby Beans! So - for this holiday I am going to buy a lovely swimsuit that will show off my assets and hide my sins, and enjoy choosing from a full range, not just the maternity section!

7. Go for cocktails with the Boy. I love the Boy. I love cocktails. You do the maths. This combination makes me very happy and we don't do it often enough. Over the bank holiday weekend we have a few little dates together planned, and one of them will be me (in one of my lovely dresses - see point 4!) and the Boy and a decadence of cocktails. There's a funky bar near us that does great cocktails, and I want to have at least three!

8. Enjoy the cinema every week. The Boy and I are members of a cinema loyalty club, where we pay a set fee every month and can go to any cinema in said cinema group and see as many films as we like. When we first signed up we were going at least once, if not twice a week. Over the summer it's slipped to a couple of times a month. Now I want to make the most of not having a huge bump and pressed bladder, and enjoy sitting through a variety of films, holding hands with my Mr, and enjoying the best offerings from Bollywood to Hollywood.

9. Always have painted toe-nails. I don't have the best feet in the world. My mum was right all those years ago, and stuffing my poor trotters into unforgiving stilettos hasn't left them in the best shape. But - like most things - they look better with a lick of paint. I love giving myself a pedicure on a Sunday night, shaping my nails and painting them pinks, corals and reds. I'm going to take even more enjoyment in that while I don't have to fight with a bump to see my feet - although my gut is starting to give me a run for my money on that front...

10. Fantastise about what it would be like to be a mum. Right now I can dream about what it would be like for me and the Boy to have a baby Beans. And you can't bet your bottom dollar that when I drift off into these fantasies it's not the soiled nappies and sick that I think about. Yes, I know they exist - and that they're a huge part of it all - but this is my fantasy so leave me alone. I picture me and the Boy with our little child, doing things together - a picnic by the river, a walk through the park, bringing our baby to work to meet our friends and colleagues, and taking them home to the countryside at the weekends to spend time with their grandparents. I picture the first smile, the first time they can sit up, the first step, the first words... and it's all like a beautiful soft-focus film. I know that's about as far from the reality as the experience will be for us, so for now I'll indulge in my naive dreams - and hopefully they'll come crashing down into real life soon.

So there it is, my pregnancy / baby bucket list. It doesn't take away the desire for me and he to become us three, but it makes me smile and reminds me again that there is a lot of contentment in the present and a lot of fun and love to be had while we wait in hope that the stork flies over Empire Towers sometime soon.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Brake time

Despite my best intentions to put the brakes on our crazily busy summer, this week has been another very hectic one - full of social engagements and commitments. We managed to squeeze in a quiet Mr and Mrs dinner at Cafe Rouge and a trip to see Super 8 at the cinema (lovely film which made me feel very nostalgic for bygone eras of watching Stand by Me and the Goonies with my sister, eating Haribo sweets and wine gums!) but we've been out all weekend. Friday we went for dinner at some friends who have just bought a house and got engaged - such a special time for them - and then we had a wedding in Kingston on Saturday, before a trip to my parents on Sunday to cook them a special three-course meal to celebrate their ruby wedding anniversary - phew!

But now we're breathing a sigh of relief as this was the last hectic weekend in the diary. No weddings now until the end of March next year (when we have three in five weekends... but we'll let future Elly Beans and future Boy worry about that!) and we're both done with hens, stags, big birthdays and family gatherings. It feels very liberating and I'm really looking forward to slowing the pace down and spending some quality time with the Boy. I've missed having the opportunity to be spontaneous lately and it will be so good to have free weekends stretching ahead where we can wake up and do what we like - if we want to jump on a train to the country we can, or if we want to lie under the covers in our pyjamas all day and watching movie marathons, then we can.

After all we've been through this year, I'm amazed what a rich and important time this feels for me and the Boy. We've never been more united or so connected, and I am a bit surprised how content I feel in the here and now. We had big plans for this year - a baby and a new house. As life has worked out for us, we have neither, but perhaps - I'm almost loathe to write this as it's such a cliche - whatever I was looking for by making a change, was right under my nose the whole time.

This year has added another depth and dimension to us. It's easy to be happy in love when the sunshine is out and the roses are in bloom. When the flowers have withered, the storm clouds gather, and the hallways of the home ring only with their emptiness, all that is left is us. And I'm struck that while it would be nice to have a bigger place and a garden, and while it would be amazing for us to be parents, I'm really, really blessed with the relationship that I have, and the joy and contentment it brings me.

This year has changed me, how could it not, but perhaps it's taught me about being comfortable in my own skin and about really thinking about what I have. I've always looked ahead to the next step - when I was at school I dreamed of university, I'd idle away days at Leeds thinking about what job I could do, when I began work as a trainee on my local newspaper I dreamed of the next step, and the next, and the next. And when I met the Boy it was always a case of when - not if - we'd live together, when we'd be married... and then of course when we'd move out of our happy London flat to a family home, and fill the spare rooms with babies. I wonder now why I wished the time away. Now I'm reminded how precious this life is and I want to spend every day appreciating that. Every day lately I think about where we are and what I have, and I make sure I tell the Boy how loved he is.

So, this break time - or brake time, as it's about putting the brakes on to the ticking clock and the filled up diary - is coming and just the right time. I can be myself, and I can love, laugh - and most importantly I can live.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

London's burning

I'm still shell-shocked from the terrible scenes I saw unfold across London last night. Much has been written about the hows and whys of this by far more experienced and intellectual social and political commentators than myself, but having lived in London for the last 10 years these scenes really upset me and I want to understand - why and how, and what more is to come?

A long time ago Samuel Johnson said: ""Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." I couldn't agree more. I love London. Sure there have been times in the last decade when I've felt a red mist when tourists have walked too slowly on the pavement, when people pile onto the tube train before you've had a chance to get off, and when no one gives way or offers to help you carry a heavy bag. But London is, underneath its grey bravado, a vibrant and beautiful place. A unique complement of history and innovation, of unity and diversity, of creativity and science, of classical and avant garde, and of simple beauty and complex mechanics. It's the richest melting pot I've ever experienced and I absolutely love that about the place I consider to be my home.

That's why it is so devastating for me to see London turn in on itself. I find it so upsetting that there are so many young people here who just don't care, who don't give a 'tiny rat's ass' and who have no stake in society. Who have no respect for themselves or their communities, and who see rioting as something funny to do to pass the time - with no pause for those whose livelihoods and lives they destroy in the pursuit of their mindless high. It all breaks my heart and I found myself moved to tears by the news last night. The images of the innocent folk who've lost everything in the last few dark nights will haunt me, as they should all Londoners, and all Brits. And when London has ceased burning - and please God let that be tonight - from the ashes of this horrible mess, we must try to find some answers.

I'm no fan on the current government and I don't hide that. I think it's appalling that all the senior figures didn't come back to the UK sooner from their holidays to show some leadership. As I write David Cameron has finally come back from Tuscany, but George Osborne and Boris Johnson (Mayor of my beautiful city!) remain AWOL. invisible to communities who need guidance and leadership now more than ever. We need a steadying presence to calm and reassure, but instead there is nothing, and Londoners - with that infamous Blitz spirit - are sorting this out for themselves, organising riot clean-ups and peaceful vigilante patrols.

I have my own theories on what's gone wrong, not just in London but across my nation. I feel strongly that if you take away the life chances of a generation, consign them to the scrap heap just because of the postcode they are born in, take away their services, give them no education, no jobs and no respect - well... it surely doesn't take a genius to work out that sooner or later enough will be enough. If you've got nothing, and nothing to lose, why would you engage with society and follow its rules? I don't know when this all began - and while for me it's tempting to blame it on the current government, I'm guessing the seeds were sown long ago - but I think the signs that this has been coming have been there for a while. We had a few flickers of warning signs at the student protests, and then the march we organised back in March. But nobody listened. I pray they are listening now.

Monday 8 August 2011

Shuffling forward

This afternoon I walked past Mothercare without wanting to cry. Sounds pretty mundane, but this is a real achievement and a noteable step forward for me. Previously accidentally walking past a baby shop - I surreptitiously planned my journeys to avoid walking past them - would have been enough to dissolve me into archetypal crazy lady cliche, so upset I could easily have lain prostrate on the ground and cried my own little river.

Today I noted the babies in the window display, but my first thought was - 'aaah cute' and then I moved on, not 'I want one' which would invariably lead into 'why did I lose my baby, what if I can't ever have a baby, why does everyone else have babies, why is everyone else happy, why is the world so cruel...'. So, a welcome little shuffle forwards back towards the land of normality, methinks. Let's hope I keep shuffling...

The most terrible time

I saw in the weekend's papers that Kelly Brook has spoken out about her miscarriage. She has described it as "the hardest, most terrible time in my life". I really empathise with her. For the Boy and I losing our baby was the most painful experience we have been through, and for Kelly to have lived out her loss in the public eye and in the media must have been even more devastating. I can't imagine what it must have been like for her - I felt like such a failure in front of my friends, family and colleagues, and for Kelly to have had her tragedy splashed on the front pages of the red tops must have been incredibly difficult.

I really applaud her for speaking out so bravely about what she has been through and I find her words a huge comfort. In my opinion, going through a miscarriage can be a very lonely experience. I've found that while the Boy and I were very lucky to have so much love and support at the beginning, of course people's lives move on and they forget what you have been through or choose not to talk about it for fear of upsetting us. But the Boy and I will never forget. I've found lately that I can feel lonely at times with my loss, but Kelly's words reach out from the pages to me and remind me it is an experience shared - sadly - by many others and paradoxically there is a reassurance in that. I am reminded we are not alone, and therein lies the irony of both more sadness that so many others suffer, yet more comfort that we are not the only ones.

Kelly's full words were: "It was the hardest, most terrible time of my life. You feel emptiness, sadness, guilt, loss. I take it one day at a time. One moment you don't even think about it, the next you're crying hysterically. But it's complicated isn't it? There are moments of total sadness and devastation, and moments of relief too. But you also have to remember that it's life. Stuff like that happens."

I don't think I could have explained the last few months better, or summed it up any more cohesively myself. I really thank Kelly for being able to share her loss in such a human and dignified way, and I hope other ladies - and their Boys - going through a dark time are able to take some comfort from her words in the way that I have.

Friday 5 August 2011

Hard work

It's been a while since I did this on here, but I'm in need of a quick rant this morning so bear with me. I think I'm going to (a) scream (b) punch someone (c) both of the above (!) if another well-meaning relative, colleague or friend tells me what hard work being a parent is. I accept that by not yet being a mum I don't know what it's like to have a child and be with that child, responsible for it and caring for it 24/7 - I understand that. But it really galls me when they look at me with a knowing, sympathetic smile and shake their heads saying I'll find being a mum so demanding and such hard work.

Various reactions run through my mind, which I'll try to surmise here. Probably for the best for me to process them and pin them down, as I suspect that if I don't do this, one of these days some poor soul is going to say the wrong thing and get a torrent of Elly Beans abuse that isn't at all justified! So, here we go:

REALLY? I'd like to think by the ripe old age of 33 I've picked up a little life experience and haven't spent more than three decades with my head buried in the sand. While I haven't been a parent I'm not a complete naive imbecile, and I can well imagine how demanding it might be. While I know I won't and can't fully appreciate the complexity and diversity of  parenting unless I experience it myself, I like to think I have enough empathy and understanding to be aware of what might lie ahead if we are lucky enough to have a child.

YOU MANAGE. Maybe this is a little mean, but I'm constantly surprised by my peers who have just become parents telling me how hard it is to be a mum without appreciating the irony. Before they were parents they were just like me, and while their lives have changed now they are parents, they manage. I don't see many differences in our characters or make-up, and in fact I perceive my relationship with the Boy to be stronger than some other relationships around me as he is very giving and wants to be fully involved as a dad, so while I'm sure it is incredibly difficult - if they cope, with as much if not more support around me, why wouldn't I?

IT'S BETTER THAN THE ALTERNATIVE. I suspect this is the real reason that these fairly empty and innocuous words press my buttons in the way that they do, because it's a pretty harmless phrase that irritates me so much. Many of the friends and colleagues who say this to me have been lucky in their experiences of conception and pregnancy and have never lost a baby. And that's how it should be - the majority of pregnancies go well, and I certainly don't begrudge my lovely friends their good fortune. In fact I hope it rubs off on me so I can join them in the parenting ranks! But, the flipside to me not knowing their experiences as the mother of a loud, demanding, lively baby, is them not knowing mine as the mother of a quiet, silent, lost baby. And believe me, getting over that is hard work too. Given the choice I know which outcome I would have preferred.

So - it's all out there now. This is just one of those examples when people say harmless things with the right motivations, and because of my experiences, their words irritate me through no fault of their own. We all have our blind spots, and I guess this is mine. It's nothing to do with my family and friends, and everything to do with me and what life has been like for me and the Boy over the past few months.

Deep breath, and time to let go. Maybe if all goes well, in a year or so you might even hear me turn round to a friend who hasn't got a family, telling her what hard work it all is... ;-)


Another working week is drawing to a close as I write this. Fridays generally make me happy, the thought of one last day in the office and then a glorious weekend and free time stretching ahead. And this weekend promises to be a belter as we are staying overnight with some of our best friends tonight at their new home in Chipperfield, and then Sunday brings the Apple Cart festival and the Charity Shield, when I shall of course be rooting for the mighty blues. It feels like it will be one of 'those' weekends - packed with happy times and special moments.

We started the day by arriving late to work; not the best plan when we hope to escape early to leave London town for the night, but it was for the best reasons - if you get my drift! A fun way to start the day, leaving us both a little ruffled but with big smiles on our faces. We're in the period of the month when we know it's a good time for the fun and games to possibly lead on to conception, and we tend to try and make the most of it. But in a light-hearted and fun way. It's dawned on me recently, just this week really, how important it is that we keep it that way, and that our dreams for a baby don't become desperation.

I've re-engaged with internet parenting and baby sites in the last few weeks and I've really noticed how sad and desperate some of the posters seem and how it appears that life will never be ok for them without having a child. While I can really empathise with the desires and the need to have a family - the Boy and I certainly want that, so of course I can relate - I am wary of becoming so enticed and obsessed with it that it overtakes my life and I forget how rich my existence is and how blessed I already am.

Some of the women on these sites seem to read every article about fertility and conception, and think of nothing else from dusk until dawn. What they do, what they eat, what they drink, what they weigh, what they wear, what they say... it all seems to be tied in to having a family.  I really don't want that to happen, although I can already imagine how easy it might be to start slipping down that road. I hope by talking to the Boy and putting fun plans in the diary with him I can keep an eye on this and just enjoy the trying, and remember how much joy I have in my life already and how lucky I am to be married to my soulmate and best friend.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

At sixes and sevens

It's a hot and humid day today in London town as I write this, and office workers are wilting under heavy blue skies. Ties and shoes are off, and we work to the gentle murmuring of electric fans dotted around the open plan office. Days like this are too nice - and too few and far between this summer - to be stuck indoors, but they always seem to fall in the week. All I can do for now is stare out of my window envious of friends who are able to enjoy this weather, and content myself I that I will feel the sun on my back when I leave the office later, as I head north to my weekly volunteering commitment.

Life plods along for the Boy and I. We had a better than expected weekend. I'd been nervous of going on a hen do and to a big 40th birthday party while I've been feeling out of sorts. I would have been six months pregnant on Monday, so our loss has been in the forefront of our minds again and we have both wobbled - it is difficult when the anniversaries arrive. I don't want to remember them but I always do. And it's hard to reflect on what might have been - but we have muddled through together. However, I enjoyed seeing old faces from the past immensely and the weekend was really good fun. I was reminded how lovely so many of my colleagues from my early days in PR, when we worked at the ChildLine charity, were, and how special a time that was.

A few of the old faces I chatted to on a one-to-one basis confided in me about their stories of miscarriage and loss in their searches to have a family. One old friend who I was very fond of when we worked together told me his wife had lost three children before they finally realised their dream and had a beautiful daughter. The stories are so sad - and I feel a spontaneous ache in my heart now as an instinct when I hear of anyone who has lost a child - but in the darkness there is light as they bring me some comfort and hope. I feel for my friends who have experienced loss, but that they held tight to what they wanted and have gone one to have a family gives me courage to go forwards also. I'm really starting to believe for the first time since the miscarriage that while the road ahead for the Boy and I is unknown, it could well lead to happiness - in fact, it probably will. I think I needed that gentle reminder.

So we're back in the part of the month where we're 'baby-dancing' as I believe the phrase goes! It feels different this time. I can feel a change in my emotional state and mood - while I hope this might be the month we get good news, it doesn't matter - as much - if it isn't. If we don't fall this month, then nothing is lost, there's tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and sooner or later good things will happen. I think in the last few months I've felt like the hole and the ache inside could only be filled by a new baby, but now I feel like the Boy has filled that hole. I'm very tightly bonded to him just now and being intimate together feels more about us and an extension of our love than anything else. I am reminded on a daily basis how fantastic and loving he is, and the closeness we have is incredibly special and important to me.

When we first began dating and even in the early days of our marriage I held quite tightly to my independence and we made quite a lot of social plans separately. Now something has shifted and I can hardly bear to be separated from him. Now he has seen all of me. Now he has been there for the best times and the worst. Now he means even more to me than he did before, more than I ever could have imagined. Now I walk along the street and find myself smiling because now I feel my heart almost fit to burst with joy that this person is by my side in all that I do. Holding me up, keeping me strong, being my understudy. So perhaps, in a funny way, after everything that has happened this year, maybe now is the best time of all.