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!

Tuesday 4 October 2011

My Boy, the poet?

Yesterday, to make the most of the last hot, sunny day in London town this year (well, it was 3 October!) the Boy and I took the scenic route home and strolled down to Tower Bridge.

We enjoyed the walk down from Covent Garden, taking in the sights we know so well once again, this time bathed in unexpected October sunshine. It was really enjoyable, and I picked up a Peter Ho Davies book - the Welsh Girl - from the second hand booksellers under Waterloo Bridge that I've been wanting to read for quite a time.

I squeezed the Boy's hand extra tight as we walked along the river banks in the fading sunlight, our fingers interlocking easily with our familiarity and security. It felt good. One of our first dates was a walk along the river and I always enjoy the time we spend there. We stopped several times just to take in the moment, hold each other and kiss - perhaps reminded by that first flush of love that had blossomed here, or perhaps still a little infatuated with each other following our holiday.

We were going to head down to Browns where we normally go for an impromptu dinner, but this time we stopped for a bite to eat at dimt in More London - which turned out to be an inspired choice. We'd never been before but the food was excellent, and we bagged a table outside and were able to look out onto Tower Bridge, the Tower of London (finally free of scaffolding, hurrah!), City Hall, and the host of other attractions the Thames has to offer. This part of the South Bank certainly is my favourite part of London. It was really beautiful watching these landmarks encased in the orange tones of dusk, and then to see the blue skies fade to be engulfed with the dark swathes of night. 

We walked home hand-in-hand, silently but contentedly, taking in the surroundings and the night sky. I commented to the Boy that I found it a shame you could never see the stars in London - and I wondered why that was. His reply was that it's too bright in London, and "the darker it is, the easier it is to see the stars". A simple statement of the obvious I suppose, but something in his words really touched me and I stopped in my tracks. I found his phrasing beautiful, and strangely enticing and thought-provoking. I found myself looking at him once again with that feeling of wonder, aware that there is still so much of my man for me to discover. I pray I am given the time on this earth to do so. And I do believe it took us going to the heart of darkness and losing our baby, for me to really see and understand what a stunning bright star my dear Boy is.

Stunning Sardinia

Well, hello! It feels an age since I've been on here. The Boy and I are just back from a magical break in Sardinia. It was a fantastic trip, timed to perfection following a busy few weeks with my annual conference and the Boy's amazing efforts in the Great North Run.

We stayed in Baja Sardinia and it was beautiful. A perfect cocktail of relaxation, great weather, lovely scenery, amazing food - and some very nice local beers and red wines. Bliss. The Boy and I enjoyed quiet days on the beach, whiling away the hours talking, reading or snorkelling together. Late afternoon brought a few cold drinks in the bar and a couple of hands of cards, and then we either enjoyed dinner in the restaurant in the hotel - superb food and waiting staff - or ventured out to a local pizzeria.

It was exactly what the doctor ordered as I had been quite stressed and stretched before we left, and as it was the end of season the resort was very quiet and the hotel empty - at times the Boy and I had the whole private beach to ourselves, making it very romantic. I return refreshed, revigoured, and somehow even more in love with that Boy of mine. Spending 24/7 together for a week with barely a word said to anyone else was a beautiful bubble of luxury I wish I could enjoy more often. One day...

And so here we are back in London town. I feel a little uneasy about our approaching due date, we both do, but we are as rested and relaxed and united as we could be, so we stand together to face these difficult next few weeks. I will try not to taunt myself with the 'if onlys' of what might have been - but that is always easier said than done for me.

I take comfort in the Boy and our lives together. We are both really happy with each other, and we know we have blessings in abundance. We return from holidays to good families, loving friends, secure jobs, a happy home, and a stronger financial security than we've ever had. While what happens on the family front is in the lap of him - or her - upstairs, we know our dream of leaving our flat for a proper home can be realised as we have watched our finances fall into place in the last few months. There is much to look forward to ahead, and while the waters will no doubt be tumultuous over the next few weeks, I hope for calmer seas as the year draws to its close.

Here are some highlights of our trip...