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).