Friday 30 March 2012

Good things come in... fives?!

We had some great news this morning, that the offer the Boy and I had put in on the house we love in Kent has been accepted. It's been a very tense week with the negotiations going backwards and forwards - but we seem to finally be there, and now it's time for the solicitors to be instructed and the (reams of!) paperwork to begin. Woo hoo!

It seems like we are having a pretty blessed period in our lives right now - first of all with the pregnancy, something the Boy and I want so badly; then with selling our flat so quickly; thirdly the Boy worked his socks off and smashed his objectives so achieved 125 per cent off his bonus; then some friends I am very fond of asked me to do a reading at their wedding next month - and now this, the house we have fallen in love with could be ours in as little as three months.

It's a nice position to be in - after the lows of last year these highs feel even more precious, and I can't wipe the smile off my face! I'm really hoping this could be a vintage year for me and the Boy. It sounds pretty sappy, but I can't think of anything I want more than a quiet life with him and a family to raise together. The me of 10 years ago would laugh at the me now - then I was so committed to my career and was driven with ambition to achieve and succeed. Now, my priorities have changed. I've had much joy and pride from my job - although also much hard work and tears - but I'm ready for something else now. The next chapter if you like.

And talking of chapters I have finally finished the novel! It took me four months to write in the end - which I don't think is too bad an effort. Although I suspect the job is only half done, and the editing process will be where the real skill and commitment comes in... We will see!

Friday 23 March 2012

Sold out

We have just heard that our flat is now sold, subject to contract! The housing association has accepted the application from the lovely Italian girl, and we are now off the market. It's time for the solicitors to be instructed and the reems of paperwork to begin. I'm so excited that we have got here. The flat was only on the market for four weeks so I feel in a fairly stagnant property market we've been pretty lucky. Maybe this year will be our year... It's certainly beginning to feel like it.

It also feels like the end of an era. A decade spent as a mortgage slave in zone one is coming to an end. This chapter draws to a close. London has been very kind to me in recent years, but I've also had my battles to fight here. It is the right time to say goodbye. I feel nostalgic to leave our beautiful flat behind - the Boy and I have been so happy there - but I know it is in good hands in the buyer. She reminds me a lot of myself when I bought the place - a young, single girl trying to make her way in the big smoke. I hope it brings her as much joy as it has brought me.

And as well as the excitement and sadness, I also feel pride. I've worked so hard for everything I've achieved in the last 10 years. I'd love to be able to go back to the me that started out here so many years ago, working two jobs and seven days a week to pay the mortgage, and despairing that I would ever break even financially, let alone be sufficient. I remember well the nights I couldn't sleep and just cried because it was all too much worry and stress - but the struggle was so worth it in the end. It so often is - you just never know it at the time.

I look forward with anticipation to what a new start in Kent will mean for us. Further from the city, but much closer to family and friends of old. Party shoes - for the most part! - hung up, to be replaced by wellies for the local country walks, and the ultimate luxury, a garden of our own. I feel like good times await, and that this next part of our lives is going to be just as exciting and loving as the last few years have been.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Dreams can come true

I've been doing a bit of thinking lately about dreams. I've always had a very vivid dreams, and when things are going badly for me this is often played out in colourful and garish scenes in my dream life. Dreams are significant to me. As a younger child I used to have the same recurring nightmares and the same recurring positive dreams, and that has continued into my adult life. I like to try and remember dreams - and on several occasions now, my dreams have been particularly intuitive.

The first time this happened was the night before the Boy and I got engaged while on a lovely romantic holiday in Greece in 2008. I woke up early and found the Boy sat upright in bed looking at me. He asked me if I had slept well - and I replied honestly, 'Yes, although I had the funniest dream that you proposed to me!' I got up and had a shower, while the Boy was sat shell-shocked in the bed wondering how on earth I had dreamed of the surprise he had planned for me. Fortunately, my dream didn't put him off, and that afternoon he proposed to me on a cliff top overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever had the pleasure of going to.

Another occasion that sticks strongly in my mind is when the Boy and I fell pregnant with our first baby, last year. We'd had our first scan at 11 weeks, but the sonographer had been unable to get all the nuchal measurements, so we were sent away and told to come back in a fortnight - but we were assured by the health staff that all was well. I had some terrible nightmares in the run up to the appointment, and the night before the scan I dreamt that the female sonographer took my hand and said 'I'm sorry, I can't find a heartbeat.' This is almost exactly what happened when we returned to the hospital, and it haunted me that I had had such a powerful premonition - however, the Boy suggested it was probably a very common dream people had before their scans if they were nervous about the outcome.

This time around, I had no such dream. Very early on I had a dream that I had twins - and as it materialises I was indeed pregnant with two babies for six short weeks - but every other dream has been very relaxed and happy. In each dream I've held a perfectly healthy baby girl - in the previous pregnancy it had been a Boy in every dream, but we were never able to ascertain the gender of the child we lost - and I can't help but wonder if my dreams are communicating with me again. I suppose only time will tell. But I do have a strong feeling that my subconscious is more in tune with my conscious than it used to be.

Perhaps tonight I'll go to sleep thinking about lottery numbers and see where that gets me...

Early days

I was looking through some files of my creative writing over the weekend, when I came across some notes I made when I first found out I had fallen pregnant again. At the time I wasn't ready to share the news on here, but I still needed to process it and take some time. I've posted my thoughts below - I'd like to remember what those early days were like. They already seem such a long time ago...

Wednesday 25 January
And so it is. Here we are again. The day I dreamed about during the dark months when I was struggling to cope with everything last year threw at us – but that I almost believed would never happen – has arrived. I’m pregnant.
The news crept up on me by surprise. We’d had a bit of a break at the end of last year to indulge ourselves in new hobbies – including scuba diving and my writing – and to have some quality time together out and about in London, and we planned to start ‘trying’ again in January. But it was such early days and I’d been so convinced nothing would happen this month that I’d only just stockpiled my ‘feminine hygiene’ products – they were on 2 for 1 in Boots so I have even more supplies in the bathroom cupboard than I normally would!
The day my period was due came and went, and another day passed, and then another. I still didn’t register and thought perhaps I was off-kilter following the festive excesses and the subsequent January health kick. I was wrapped up in being healthy, spending time with the Boy and writing the novel. Five days after I was due on – on Tuesday 17 January – the penny finally dropped that something else may be going on, and I took a test. I had to go out and buy one as I didn’t have any in at home, I was that laid back about it. And then the test came back positive. I couldn’t believe it.
I’ve often wondered how I might feel if this day came around again. I imagined I’d be happy but fearful. And I was nervous taking the test – my hands were shaking as I checked the result. But it was clear as day and the result came through very fast. I looked at it and I felt a real surge of joy – but I also felt calm, which surprised me. What will be will be, and perhaps I finally understand and accept that. The Boy and I know that a positive test doesn’t always result in a baby after nine months, but I feel relaxed. I can’t control what will pan out in time, that is in the hands of fate and in the lap of the gods. I can just be thankful that for today, I am pregnant, and enjoy that happiness in the here and now. That is enough.
I showed the Boy the test and he was thrilled – like me he wasn’t expecting happy news so early on in the year. We’d thought if we stuck to the healthy lifestyle perhaps we’d see results later into the Spring – we’re both caught by surprise. Last time round while I definitely wanted the baby, in honesty my first reaction was panic. Were we ready to be parents? What did this mean? How would our lives change? This time it’s different. Our experiences in the last 11 months have shaped us permanently, and I know we can cope. My first reaction is pure joy. I don’t feel the anxiety or tension I expected to – perhaps that will come in time. If we make it to a first scan I’m sure that will be a difficult moment. But generally I feel relaxed and well.
Part of this comes from a relief on my part that we evidently can conceive. I’d wondered in some of the bleaker moments last year if falling pregnant was a one off for us – and if somehow we or I had blown our chance. I realised even then that was very paranoid thinking, but I understand that is quite normal for someone who has experienced loss. Now I know we can certainly make a baby – I’ve fallen pregnant twice in less than a year even though for a good quarter of last year physically my body wasn’t playing the game. So if something goes wrong this time, while it will break our hearts again – I will take strength from the fact we can, as they blithely say, try again.
I have been quite stable and not too emotional so far, although I woke up early on Sunday (22 January) and slipped into the lounge so I didn’t disturb the Boy. I’d planned to relax on the sofa and watch a film, but I was drawn to our memory box of baby Beans. I opened it slowly, and spent some time looking at the photos and mementos we have from our last pregnancy. I shed a few tears – a mixture of sadness for what was lost, with happiness of what is to come. I hope our tiny baby knows it will never be replaced or loved any the less if we are blessed enough to have this baby – or a future one. I so hope that we will be.
So, for now, it is about one little pigeon step at a time – a day at a time. I can’t lie and say the thought of losing this baby hasn’t crossed my mind, but I am thinking positive and I know the chances are all will go well. I’ve decided to make a note of how I feel here, because I don’t want to share this news on my blog yet. It’s a different medium now than it was a year ago, and due to the expansion of my writing many friends, family and colleagues have come across my blog. So it’s not right to talk about this there – yet. I hope in time I will be able to write about the happy news.
I’ve got a doctor’s appointment on Friday (27 January) to confirm the news. And then we have booked an early scan – a viability scan at a private medical practice (not expensive, but on Harley Street of all places!) on Saturday 25 February, when I imagine I will be about 8-9 weeks pregnant. If we get that far, it will either let us know something has gone wrong sooner rather than later, or may help reassure us that everything is as it should be. Only time will tell. And today I smile. Because today I am pregnant.
Friday 27 January
This morning I had an appointment at the doctors surgery to confirm my pregnancy. I felt nervous as I sat in the waiting room. I’ve been in good health since the miscarriage and the last time I was at my GPs was back in March almost a year ago at my first – and only – appointment with the midwife last time around. There were three other people waiting with me, all women with young children. I dared to hope one day that might be me.
My GP saw me promptly and was fantastic – the Boy and I are so lucky that in our Dr, we have the kindest, more understanding and most supportive doctor I have ever encountered. I began seeing him when he was still a student, and I find his youth and energy a blessing. He still has the conviction that patients matter and that he can make a difference, and he is keen to refer his patients to other services that he feels may help them. He has knowledge as well as enthusiasm, and what he lacks in experience he makes up for in empathy. He acknowledged this must be an exciting but a difficult time for me, given what happened last time, and he patiently answered my questions and told me to come straight back if I had any more, and to try not to worry and to take care of myself. I feel very cared for and safe in his hands. And if things are not to go out way again, I can take heart that as well as the support of the Boy, I have a gentle and professional GP behind me.
He confirmed I am pregnant – about six weeks by his calculations, about four by mine. And he has requested a booking in appointment for me with the midwife, as before at about 8-10 weeks which will be in 2-4 weeks, and a scan at St Thomas’s hospital in 6-8 weeks, when I should be over 12 weeks. I don’t like to think just yet about going back to that hospital. The staff were beyond amazing with us through our loss there, but the hospital doesn’t hold happy memories for me. I am aware I will find it hard returning.
Lately the pregnancy has begun to slip into my dream life. Last time around almost every dream I had about the pregnancy was that the baby was a boy. The dreams were often garish, colourful and anxiety driven. So far, I am pleased to say, my dreams have been gentle and secure. And last night I dreamt that I had a girl. I’m sure it’s all nonsense, but for now I’m relieved everything feels relaxed and calm in reality, and in my sleep. Long may it continue. Fingers and toes crossed, lucky rabbit’s foot stroked, and no new shoes anywhere near the table...

Sunday 18 March 2012

Mother's Day

Today is Mothering Sunday in the UK - another well-meaning occasion long since taken over by the retail industry and now pretty much hidden in consumerism. But it's still a day that's important to me, and while I think of my Mum almost every day of the year, I think it's right and fitting that there is a special day to reflect on all the love, dedication and commitment that mummies give. Today I am thinking about my friends who are pregnant, those who have recently had babies and who will be celebrating their first Mother's Day, my lovely Mum and Mum-in-law, and my gorgeous Grandma - still beautiful and intelligent well into her 90s.

And this year the day is particularly close to my heart as I found out in January that - hopefully - I will finally become a mother myself this year. Regular readers of this blog will know that the Boy and I had a particularly cruel and disappointing false start last year losing our first longed-for baby rather unexpectedly at 13 weeks, but fingers crossed this year will be kinder to us and this pregnancy will go well...

It's been a bumpy road again for us, and brought up quite a lot of emotions for us - so I hope you will forgive me for not sharing our news thus far. The Boy and I have needed some quiet time to take in what has happened and to really appreciate the blessing that has come upon us.

It seems I fell pregnant on New Year's Eve, so at least our 'dry January' was well timed to help things progress as best they could. It also appears that I originally fell pregnant with twins - totally not expected as we have no family history and haven't had fertility treatment - but an early scan showed that sadly one of them only made it to about 6/7 weeks. I can't help but feel that I am not very good at pregnancy... to lose two of three babies seems rather harsh - although I know many others suffer far worse. Fortunately, though, the other baby seems to be thriving - and  my almost constant nausea and fatigue has been testament to that!

A couple of weeks ago we had our 12 week scan and nuchal tests at St Thomas's Hospital. It was a difficult experience for us - last time we were there had been to manage my miscarriage and it was definitely something of an ordeal to be back in the same hospital, in the same waiting room, and we even had the same sonographer. However, I was really thankful for that as she remembered us from last time, and she was very patient and gentle with me. The first thing she did was find the baby's heartbeat, and as I did it I must confess the tears rolled down my face and she reached out and held my hand, and looked quite moved herself. I couldn't thank her enough for her quiet kindness.

So many years spent trying not to get pregnant, it seems ironic what an ordeal it has been for us to get to this point... but she confirmed all the measurements were exactly as they should have been - I've never been so glad to be bog standard in my life! - and the blood tests (which is apparently where the warning signs lay last time) couldn't have been much better. They suggest all will go well for us from here, and I pray ever day that they will. The elation of finding out everything was normal was almost indescribable - it was pretty much as euphoric as I was on my wedding day. I feel like I have won the lottery and City have won the European Cup all rolled into one. And even that doesn't half capture it. I feel high as a kite and I'm so far up that I'm looking down on Cloud 9 from an even greater height.

And so now we are on our way into the second trimester... I know we still have a way to go from here, and him upstairs has proved he has a sense of humour as our due date is apparently the day before my little sister's wedding... but I'm hopeful this time we will have a happier outcome. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little scared still - I think part of the cruelty of losing a baby, especially a first baby, is it makes you painfully unaware that things can go wrong, even when the odds are in your favour. And for an eternal worrier like me I really don't need any help in that department! But I do feel optimistic - in this life all you can do is hope for the best, and that's what I do now.

With the sale of our flat proceeding, negotiations entered into over the house we want to buy, and a beautiful much wanted baby on the way, this could be quite a year for us... almost more than I dare to dream of.

Saturday 17 March 2012

Silence is easy

The Boy is away on a stag do this weekend and I've set myself a little task today - to go a whole day without speaking to anyone. I can't remember the last time I had a day completely to myself, to use at whim just to indulge myself - and so far I'm loving it.

The majority of my life is surrounded by noise - and for the most part I love it. I work in a busy press office in a small communications team full of loud and passionate characters; the Boy and I have a wide social circle and we enjoy nights out at gigs and the theatre; and both my family and the Boy's are colourful people full of joie de vivre which they enjoy expressing. And I love this. In fact, so used am I to 'surround sound', that I used to be very nervous of time spent alone with no distractions from those close to me.

But now I am (finally!) happy in my own skin and comfortable with my lot, time to myself is to be cherished - and turning off the phone and Blackberry, and shutting the door on the world once in a while, feels like a real treat.

This morning I woke early, but took time to read a new book in bed while the daylight slowly and silently crept in through the blinds to join me in the bedroom. I enjoyed leaning my cheek on the cold side of the pillow, lost in the words of my latest author with no interruption. After that I thumbed through a couple of reference books I'd dug out and been meaning to look at for a while, and then I took nearly an hour to give myself a manicure and pedicure - the red of the polish the only loud part of the morning.

I've indulged myself in a couple of films that have been quietly lurking on our Sky Plus for a while - films that have tempted me but not been the Boy's cup of tea, and also watched old episodes of two of my favourite shows, Lewis and Midsomer Murders. I must confess to something of a detective story fetish. As a teenager while most of my contemporaries were clamouring for the latest copies of Just 17 and 19 magazine, I was intoxicated by the adventures of the terrific trio of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

But... I digress. The point is I have thoroughly enjoyed a break from the routine from the quiet sanctuary of my sofa. Being left alone with my thoughts and on my own timescale has been a real joy. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want to do this every day, and I adore my 'noisy' life with the Boy - but today, silence really has been golden.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

On the move...

This week has begun well - in fact, Mondays are swift becoming my favourite day of the week. We have a buyer for the flat!

The Boy and I are both trying not to get too carried away - but an Italian girl who'd first seen the flat last Monday popped back over again on Saturday morning with her sister (and gorgeous two-year-old niece!) and seemed absolutely smitten with the place. She was speaking very engagedly about the flat with her sister - my Italian is non-existent but we took it as a good sign we heard the word 'perfecto' several times!

Yesterday she spoke to the housing association about proceeding with the purchase. We now have a few days to wait while paperwork and finances are checked, but I'm feeling optimistic. And I know it sounds funny, but I am also quite relieved that we are probably leaving the flat in the hands of someone who I feel will love it as much as we have.

So - it feels like we are on the move, and things are coming together nicely. The house we love in Kemsing is still on the market and there has been no further interest since our initial offer was rejected last week. We're hopeful that if we go back with a higher offer, and a buyer lined up for our own flat, that we will be more fortunate.

It almost seems too much - we are on the verge of the next really exciting chapter in our lives and I can almost reach it, but it's just beyond my fingertips. Tantalisingly close, but still far enough away to be unreal. We have to hold our breath and hope for the best... but I've a strong feeling in my bones that everything will work out well for us. Let's hope so, eh?

Wednesday 7 March 2012

What a week!

Crikey - what a week it's been... I think I'm still catching my breath! First up we spent the weekend house-hunting in Kemsing and Otford down in Kent. We didn't expect much from the new properties we were looking at - but one was a real surprise. A compact but well-maintained three bed, with an amazing garden - huge, south-facing, private and backing onto a stream and woodland. The kind of view you leave London for. We loved it. And we also had a second viewing of a house we'd seen last time and been a bit so-so about. This time around it really took our breath away - spacious, light, modern and with minimal work needing doing. It was also on at a very reasonable price, so we've put an offer in (subject to our sale) and we wait to hear what the vendor makes of it.

It's also been a busy week with our flat - a few more viewings and two buyers keen to proceed. One unfortunately doesn't quite match the criteria the housing association insists upon, but has asked to be kept in the loop should we go to open market. The other passes all the checks and has a mortgage in principle agreement, and is coming back on Saturday with her sister to view the property. Signs are encouraging.

We are reaching the end of our time marketing the flat through the housing association and then we try our hand on the open market, so we have Foxtons coming round on Friday to assess the flat. Yes - I know, they are the spawn of the devil and probably the worst of a bad bunch. However, they've just opened an office in Borough and desperately need properties to sell, so they are offering 0% commission to the first 200 people to sign up with them. This would save the boy and I nearly £5k on the next best offer we've had from an estate agent, and that is a serious amount of money for us so we have to wrestle with our principles and make the compromise.

So - in reality we are no further on than we were a few weeks ago - but it feels very much like we are taking pigeon steps in the right direction. We're not to know what the next few days and weeks hold - will our offer be accepted? Will we sell our flat? Will we need to go to open market? - but what we do know is there is interest out there for our beautiful pad, and we can afford what we want in the location we want - and this is really good news for us, whatever twists and turns lie ahead as we begin our escape to the country.

Thursday 1 March 2012

An examined life

I saw a poster on the tube this morning - I forget now what it was for - that included a quote from a classical philosopher which said 'A life unexamined is a life unlived'. The words have stayed in my head for some time today - as a volunteer counsellor and someone who has reaped the benefits of therapy myself, I found them particularly interesting.

I think perhaps it is a little extreme so suggest that a life where people don't reflect or ponder on what they've done or what has happened to them is not a valid existence. I believe some people don't need to spend a lot of time thinking about what has gone before, and can live perfectly fulfilled lives being happy in the moment with no cause for concern. But for me - a little bit of examination has gone a long way.

When I look back over my life it's mostly with those lovely rose-tinted spectacles these days because I write now from a very happy place, but there have been some turbulent and unhappy times. There were indeed a number of years in my 20s when I felt trapped in a pattern of disappointing repetition and I was unable to find or sustain rewarding relationships with my family, my friends, and the opposite sex. While I was never diagnosed with depression, I believe I know very well what it is to be unhappy, to be alone, to be frightened, to fail, and to wonder if it is worth continuing or if there is another way.

What changed for me was having the courage to look at myself and my life, and to begin to determine what was going wrong, why mistakes were being made, and where my unhappiness was stemming from. As soon as I took that step, I was no longer the passive victim who things 'happened to'. I realised my part in the equation and how aspects of my behaviour and my personality were inherently contributing to my downfall - it quickly became obvious that I was well skilled in the art of self-sabotage.

I think it can be very difficult to really look at yourself, to study your faults and failings and to admit into your conscious the parts of you that aren't perfect and you don't like. There is certainly some truth in the phrase 'ignorance is bliss'. But having the resolve to take yourself to task was a real turning point for me - learning from experience is incredibly powerful and by examining the past and making changes, my present became very rewarding.

For the first time I felt what it is to be happy, to be confident, to feel safe - and I think it is of no insignificance that within a short space of time after I found that strength to do this that I bought a flat on my own, met the Boy, started volunteering as a counsellor myself, and began the full-time job that I still hold. I knew myself and I liked myself - so other people did too. And while there have of course been dark times - you only have to be a reader of this blog to understand that - that is a part of life, and having a fairly competent understanding how I work has helped make those bad times a little more bearable.

For me at least, an examined life is certainly a life lived.