Monday 28 May 2012

Let me be your fantasy

The last couple of weeks have been really happy ones in the entwined history of me and the Boy - and perhaps this is why I haven't blogged much in the past fortnight. For some reason it always seems easier for me to document my angst that to keep a log of my happiness.

Since our last scan, the pregnancy has been very different for me. It's like something has clicked inside my head and I (finally!) believe that I am pregnant and that we can be lucky this time. I believe that at last - I came off the pill in September 2010 - we will be the family that we so much want to be. And I feel the biggest sense of happiness and a huge rush of love for that gorgeous baby of mine as the movements inside I can feel become stronger, and the kicks and nudges I get during the day and night grow in force and frequency and take me by surprise. When the Boy can feel these movements too, it is just the best experience ever. I can really understand what a special time this is for expectant parents. Every day seems to bring new affirmation of the life beginning that we have made together - and that really takes my breath away.

I've even begun to buy things for the baby now - something I hadn't let myself do until after the scan, too terrified that if I did somehow I would jinx everything and bring bad fortune upon us. We have a nice selection of new and preloved clothes for our little one, and we've eeked out bargains with a sling, a baby seat and a gorgeous vibrating rocking chair. The baby may not even like that last one, but I love it - it brought me tears of joy when the Boy came back from collecting it and carefully assembled it for our child.

You know, I don't even care if we end up using the things we have picked up so far much. For me, it's so important to believe that things can have a happy ending for us, and just looking at and touching these items melts my heart. I'm so pleased and relieved that I have been able to find happiness in this pregnancy and that it has come early enough for me to enjoy this time. I want to be able to look back at this time and remember it as being important and exciting - and our baby deserves that because it is every bit as valued and as treasured as the two that we have lost.

Monday 14 May 2012

It's a wonderful world

It's not often I talk about my football allegiance on this blog but I hope you'll forgive me if I make an exception today.

For the last 25 years I have been an increasingly passionate supporter of Manchester City football club - our family club on my Dad's side and one he has followed for more than half a century.

In my lifetime, City have been something of a comedy club. Most football fans have been fond of City - in the way one is of a slightly doddery old aunt, or a rather unhinged neighbour who has a tendency for self-embarrassment. City have been a funny, unthreatening club who always produced the unexpected and could go from a glorious league win to being kicked out of a cup competition by Brighton or Doncaster in the first round. When I was at university City were relegated two seasons in a row - we only got promoted back into the old first division by scoring two goals in injury time to equalise against a rather poor Gillingham side back in 1999 and push the game to penalties. And I will never forget a crucial cup game against Sheffield United where the wonderful Joe Hart mistook a balloon on the pitch for the ball - the opposition capitalised and scored, sending City crashing out. That is kind of 'the City way'.

It's well-celebrated that City have had a tendency to blow their chances and shoot themselves in the foot. The easy way is not for City - or their fans - and we have had tremendous highs and lows through the last few decades... consistent only in our inconsistency.

However, one thing has remained constant - that we have lived in the shadow of the far more successful and glorious Manchester United. Affectionately known as 'Manure' by City fans, with Old Trafford - the so-called theatre of dreams - nicknamed 'the swamp'.

In the last couple of seasons, this has begun to change. Now the plaything of a bunch of wealthy Arabs who seem to have a bottomless purse with open strings, City have bought in a huge amount of quality footballers - many on very inflated salaries - and the tide has begun to turn. It culminated last season with a victory over Stoke City in the final of the FA Cup - and this season we've watched one of the most exciting title races in years.

Yesterday was crunch day - City and United shoulder to shoulder at the top of the Premier League equal on points, separated only by City's superior goal difference thanks to a cracking start to the season when we were winning matches 4-0 or more on a regular basis. City chasing their first title in 44 years (they last won when What A Wonderful World was number one in the charts and my Dad was a student at York University!). The nerves started to creep in as I made my way to a local pub with the Boy, my Dad and my Mum to take in what lay ahead.

I won't go into detail now about how all the matches progressed - but suffice to say in the last few minutes it seemed the prize has slipped through City's fingers. Trailing to and unable to break down a 10-man QPR side it seemed once again it would be the red half of Manchester celebrating and revelling in glory. And then the unthinkable happened. A few minutes into injury time City pulled back an equaliser - and then just a couple of minutes later time stopped, and City's player of the season Sergio Aguero found the back of the net with a stunning strike.

And City hearts in Manchester and around the world melted - finally our time had come and the joy and relief of the players and fans was palpable. I have never seen my Dad look quite like that, and I must confess to shedding a tear or two.

When you've supported a team that have broken your heart so many times, and led you more merry dances than you care to remember, a taste of success is even more sweet - the novelty somehow greater and more meaningful. I spent my teens and twenties unable to imagine this day ever coming - winning the league in my lifetime seemed, well, a lifetime away. And to win it this year, so that Baby Beans will arrive with City as Premier League champions, really is the best feeling in the world.

It's a pretty nice view from up here on Cloud 9 - I don't plan on coming down any time soon! (although I do not recommend watching too many games like this when you are pregnant...!).

Wednesday 9 May 2012

As good as it gets!

So - today I am a very happy Elly Beans! We had our anomaly scan at St Thomas's Hospital this morning to check that the baby is developing as it should be. I have been trying to be brave over the last few days (who am I kidding, weeks!) but I have not been able to shake an anxiety that something might be wrong with our baby. However today I was happy to be disproved - all is well and good and we have every reason to anticipate that we will be a little family in September!

I got off to sleep fairly well last night after a good first session at an antenatal yoga class in Wilds Rents, near where I live. I found the class really relaxing and the Boy commented that I was the most laid back he had seen me in a long time when I arrived home. But that didn't last through the night and I was awake at 3.30am this morning mulling over the day that lay ahead.

I felt physically sick when we entered the hospital - as lovely as all the staff have been, the hospital holds such sad memories for me that I don't feel entirely comfortable with being there. I hope this will pass in time - but we will see, and this was my last scheduled appointment there so I may be spared having to walk through its doors again. My heart was pounding as my name was called and I was so frightened about what lay ahead I had to cover my eyes with my hands when the (very understanding) sonographer began the scan. She was very sweet though, and pointed out the heartbeat straight away, and gave me lots of reassurance as she went through the checks and measurements.

Baby was much more relaxed than Mum, thankfully - it was lying across my stomach with one arm tucked under its head having a small snooze! Thank goodness one of us was chilled out. We weren't able to get all the measurements straight away so I had to go for a walk and drink some cold water, and then luckily baby decided to stop playing hide and seek and turned around for us to finish all the checks - and the great news was that everything was completely NORMAL!

Normal... something I rather snobbishly hate to be. But for today, well - I have never been so happy to be average, normal, boring and bog standard. When you've been on the other side, there is something very welcoming about the mundane.

We were also able to discover the sex of the baby which was very emotional for the Boy and I. For now we've decided to keep it to ourselves - this pregnancy is amazing but has been a roller coaster for me, and it feels right to hold something back just for us. We'll see if we manage it for the remaining four months though - we both have rather large mouths, shall we say! But here's a little pic of baby for you to enjoy - check the button nose! I love this baby so much already I can't imagine what it will be like when it actually arrives - as now I finally believe it will!

Thursday 3 May 2012

Halfway house

So here we are - halfway through. Today I am 20 weeks pregnant - and I'm trying to enjoy it. My mind is very much preoccupied by the scan we have on Wednesday, but I am doing my best to take a deep breath and believe that all will be well. The dread can stay in the cupboard today - although I need to keep working on that positive mental attitude. It's rather intermittent shall we say!

I haven't really let myself think yet that we might actually get a child at the end of this pregnancy - that still seems too far away and too much to hope for. But last night, when I was volunteering at the bereavement counselling charity I've been involved with for the last year, I started to think a little about parenting and the relationship we have with our parents.

I had a client who lost her father a couple of years ago - she had tried to work through the loss on her own, but his death was very complicated as the family found out a lot of secrets about him when he was on his deathbed. There were a lot of unresolved issues between them when he died, and I wondered during the session about the sadness of the client sitting there and telling me about the very upsetting relationship she had with her father throughout her childhood, and how much she wishes things could have been better between them. I also had another client who spoke to me about how difficult her relationship is with her mother - and how she sometimes wishes it had been her mother that had passed away instead of her father.

To me, those are very sad statements to hear - but in my experience as a counsellor they are all too common ones. While I've been at the charity most of my clients have reported very strained relationships with one or both parents. While the first client was speaking my mind drifted slightly and I wondered if a child of mine would feel that level of sorrow and regret that our relationship had not been stronger; if a child of mine would cry itself to sleep because of tensions within the family; or if a child of mine would be unsure whether it was loved or valued. I'm sure every parents likes to think not - but difficulties do happen and rifts can all too easily arise.

I really hope that the Boy and I get a chance to be parents to this baby, and I really hope that we can be honest enough and open enough with each other to do a good job as parents. I believe that with the experience of our losses, the Boy's trusting nature and sincerity and my experience as a counsellor we can do a half decent job. Or maybe even better!

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Mr(s) Bump

In the last week or so I seem to have acquired a baby bump. Either that - or I have been eating too many pies! But I think it's the former, after a (brave!) teeter onto the scales yesterday told me I've put in 7lbs so far - which doesn't sound like a tremendous amount for the halfway stage. But then, I wasn't *exactly* the most slim Jim to start with as my midwife kindly pointed out early on!

It's been exciting to see the beginnings of a bump develop and it helps give me a little more confidence that the pregnancy is progressing as it should be. I still really struggle with anxiety, which I accept now will be the case the whole way through. I am quite a worrier at the best of times - and well, a little extra nerves are understandable and as I can't seem to stop them, I have to learn to live with them!

We have our next big scan next week and the nerves have already begun to creep in, in advance of that appointment. I am absolutely dreading returning to the hospital - for me, the scan means the staff are going to tell me our baby as died... and that is why I feel so reticient. I know in my head that this is completely paranoid and irrational thinking and in all likelihood everything is fine - but my subconscious plays a bit of a game of cat and mouse with me, and I can't always win.

People have started to comment on the bump - and I've had my first taster of folk thinking it's fine to put their hands on your body without asking! Three colleagues laid their hands on my stomach yesterday... I'm guessing this is the start of many more to come - friends with children have warned me about this. It took me a little by surprise and I didn't really like it. Perhaps I will start putting my hands on my non-pregnant colleagues' rotund bellies and see what they make of it ;-) I'll let you know how that goes!

I put up some pictures of our holiday in Wiltshire up on my Facebook profile a few days back, and in a couple of the piccies the bump was evident. I'm something of a prolific snapper and I didn't think about it until I'd uploaded the shots, but people have begun to make comments. At first I panicked and went to take the photo down - I feel like maybe I've cursed myself by being open about the pregnancy for the first time, if that makes any kind of sense? But the Boy stopped me and said he wanted us to share our pregnancy in the same way that other expectant parents do and while he understands me not wanting to put up scan pictures or write status updates detailing the pregnancy, he doesn't see the harm in the odd picture appearing of me looking as I do.

And I know he's right. I have to get past those dark thoughts in my head that everything I do to confirm that I am pregnant somehow 'jinxes' it. I had an initial meeting with HR yesterday - at their behest - to discuss my maternity leave, and I was squirming throughout it. I wanted to tell the woman to shut up, or put my fingers in my ears. Hmm. Probably not what she would have been expecting!

But, deep breath, for today everything seems ok, so for today that can be enough.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

A year on

It's been a couple of tough days for the Boy and I. It was a year ago yesterday that we had to go into St Thomas's Hospital so I could deliver our tiny little 13 week old baby who had sadly died. It was quite an ordeal for us both - as I've mentioned here before - and while we try to move on and not look back, the subconscious has a funny way of reminding you when dates and anniversaries are on the horizon.

The Boy and I have looked after each other well and a year on we are so much stronger than we have ever been. The passage of time does ease the pain, as much as it doesn't feel like it will in the early days, and while I don't think you ever forget a loss, you do learn to forgive it. By that I mean, at the time it happened I was very angry with the world - why us, why should we suffer so? It felt unfair and unreasonable. But as the months pass the anger and resistence fades into an acceptance and a sadness at what has passed. The raw pain of the grief becomes a dull ache, and you learn to live with what has been and gone.

I think there will always be a sadness that the first life I saw begin inside me and the first heartbeat I heard that wasn't my own was lost, never to be known. But I am hopeful that we've learnt from the experience and grown into more rounded people with a strengthened relationship - it's easy to be in love when the sun is shining and life is sweet. It's far harder when you're worst fears are realised and I am incredibly thankful that the Boy and I moved towards each other in our dark times, rather than away from each other.

As time passes I hope the memories become more and more manageable. It is easier than it was, but we are not quite there yet - and we will never forget.

It was only a Wiltshire tale...

The last couple of weeks have flown by and it's been too long since I've been on here. I seem to be like a stuck record talking about how manic life is at the moment - but it really is a constant theme! Juggling pregnancy with selling a flat, buying a house, a busy full-time job and trying to get a novel published is certainly keeping me out of trouble...

However, amongst all the madness the Boy and I have just had a very relaxing week in a cottage in the tiny village of Hindon in Wiltshire. The week was bookended by a wedding each weekend either side - one at the Larmer Tree Gardens near Shaftsebury and another at the Star and Garter in Putney, London. Both weddings involved very close and important friends so they were lovely, special occasions, and the Boy and I enjoyed them very much. And our own wedding anniversary was on St George's Day - the last two years of married life have gone very quickly, and while they have brought some sad times and losses amongst the abundance of joy and happiness for the Boy and I, we couldn't be any happier or closer together than we are. I feel very lucky, happy and blessed. Long may this continue!

The week in the countryside did us both a lot of good. I'm not a huge fan of the 'staycation' or British holiday. For me it brings back memories of windy beaches, sandy sandwiches and constant rain. But while we did have a few April showers, that was thankfully where the similarity to the holidays of my childhood ended. Quite simply, we had the best time together and I will remember this trip as one of our most special holidays.

Days were spent waking up to bird song and church bells (the bells at the church in Hindon rang all day long on St George's Day!) and after a leisurely breakfast we would mosey around in our hire car and explore local sights and pretty villages - and there are certainly a lot of those in Wiltshire! Too many highlights - but Lacock, Caste Combe, Mere and Marlborough were all treats and we enjoyed a spa day at Woolley Grange hotel on our anniversary.

The days were peppered with cream teas and pub lunches, with a few excellent evening meals to boot - I can't rave about the Lamb in Hindon enough, a couple of the best meals I have had in a long time were enjoyed there. And there was a lot of time for laughing, for cuddles on the sofa, for completing jigsaws (a small obsession for the Boy and I!) and playing scrabble in front of the fire...

I suppose in essence there was time to just 'be' - which with everything that has been going on lately has been in pretty short supply. It was bliss!

A few pics below - including the Boy enjoying his steak at the Lamb, Gold Hill (where the Hovis ad was shot) in Shaftesbury, the church in Hindon, our little cottage - and the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral!