Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ella. Her Story

To go back to the beginning, to unravel the knots of the past and to lay them out like a deck of cards brings us gently into the present.  Ella's story will forever be engraved on my being and in my memory.  Her love is held tightly in my heart and it is through her that Chris and I are who we are today. 

I've spent many a moment wondering how to tell Ella's story (and the stories following her journey) in this quiet place, deep within cyberspace.  Where do you start and of course how do you do it justice?  On the evening of the 25th September 2008 I managed to type it out.  I sat with a glass of white wine that tasted like vinegar, played music that eased my hands and unleashed the words that screamed from my skull. 

It's the same story now, just told rather differently.  And it's long, but there's little I can do to change that.  I've realised there is no mother in the world who can ever forget the experience of how she brought her most precious gift into this world, be that naturally or with the passing of gentle hands.  Absolutely every mother's story is exceptional and absolutely every child's story deserves to be told.

Sunday 24th August 2008 - Jinja, Uganda - 24 weeks
Second day of slight stomach cramping.  Ignorance is bliss.  Chris back from an 8 week safari.  We spent the day at the Hairy Lemon Island.  I swam to cushion the pain.  Returned home with the safety belt wrapped around my raised knees.  I remember speaking on the phone to my mum and mentioning that I had waves of cramping, was this something she could recall my younger sister experiencing when she was recently pregnant with Grace?  Chris cooked roast chicken which I ate despite myself.  I read some pages in my maternity book and glanced away from the premature labour paragraph.  Pain progressing through the night.

Monday 25th August 2008 - Jinja, Uganda
Lay in the foetal position on a pink sheepskin rug at the end of our bed.  Text our Australian doctor to make an appointment.  10am.  Sat in her office and she asked how often I was feeling the pain?  I clutched the side of her desk in agony and manged to whisper, 'about every 30 minutes'.  She said the words, 'it seems that you've gone into premature labour' and the barrel of a fearsome but loaded gun was pressed firmly against my head.  She pulled the trigger.  The weapon landed at my feet and my ears were stuffed with cotton wool and nails.  White noise followed.  Frantic phone calls were made to the Surgery in the city.  My English midwife (S) appeared, an internal examination followed.  Threat of infection, mucus plug dislodged, blood.  The pain was comparable to a tractor dragging a plough behind it, but instead of a plough it was a wheeless cannon with a hook attached that was ripping through my stomach and dragging out my baby.  Chris in town on the vespa searching for drugs at the chemists.  Drugs and more drugs.  Chris was the voice of reason and we stayed at home on bed rest to give the drugs a chance to work.

Tuesday 26th August 2008 - Jinja, Uganda
Drugs throughout the night, drugs throughout the day.  Our daughter's heart beat was strong, so was mine.  The pain was lessening.  Midwife S asked if she could pray for me.

Wednesday 27th August 2008 - Jinja, Uganda
Slight wave of cramping.  Sun shone outside.  Took drugs.  Midwife S visited and we spoke of our baby.  She asked if we'd given her a name?  Yes, we'd considered two, Ella or Lola.  I spoke her name aloud, it was Ella.  Chris fed me fairy buns from the deli in town.  Bed rest, hips raised on pillows.  Ella's heartbeat identified as strong.  My blood pressure fine.  Friends visited, both of whom pregnant.  Another slight wave of cramping.

Thursday 28th August 2008 - Jinja, Uganda
Midwife S returning to Kampala.  Left us with baby heart monitor.  Couldn't get it to work.  Watched a movie.  Did some work emails from bed.  Phone call from Midwife S, 'you need to come through to Kampala for a scan tomorrow, Dr B isn't happy that you're still suffering with occasional cramps'.  Vaguely remember her saying I may have to fly home, or was it over to Kenya.  No matter, I'd need a medical person to travel with us.  She put herself forward for the role and we were humbled to our knees.  I called to make a scan appointment for the following morning and was overcome with emotion.  Put the phone down and cried into my hands.  Sheer fear crept through my body.  Hope streamed through my veins.  Ella was kicking.  Ironically we watched the Madness of King George and ate jacket potatoes in bed.

Friday 29th August 2008 - Jinja, Uganda
Slight wetness between my legs.  Climbed into the car, Chris drove, it was 6am.  Received text from friend to say she'd had a cesarean that morning, they had a baby girl.  Happiness coupled with sadness.  The sonographer gave me an internal scan.  We watched the grainy monitor screen and were reminded that our baby was still in the breech position. 
'are you leaking fluid right now as I carry out this procedure'?
'I need to make a phone call'. 
......minutes later....
'Dr B wants you to prepare for leaving the country.  He's making an evacuation plan.  Your waters have broken, you are leaking liquor, you may have your baby shortly.'
YOU MAY HAVE YOUR BABY SHORTLY.  Nothing can prepare you for those words, that sentence, that moment.  We may have died a little that day.  Collected scan printout, headed to car.  We were in shock and ignored the traffic police as Chris drove to the backpackers in town.  Chris had spoken with the managers who are friends and they gave us a room.  Dr B visited shortly after, well suited and well spoken.  He sat at the end of the bed and outlined his reasons for us leaving the country - they didn’t have the facilities in Uganda to care for a premature baby.  Nairobi, in his eyes wasn’t an option – they didn’t have the care either.  South Africa was a possibility, but once on the plane why not go those extra 4hrs and fly to the UK?  Our thoughts exactly, if such a thought was ever possible.  He explained that he couldn’t stitch my cervix as the possibility of aggravating the current situation was too high a risk and at this stage my cervix would be like jelly.  He spoke some more and was a phone call away if we needed him. 

Chris discussed us being medivaced to South Africa and made the necessary call.  We'd need a US$65,000 deposit.  Completely out of the question so we rang a flight agent.  They could get us on a plane first thing Monday morning with British.Airways, the only direct airline.  Three seats were available and they were in business class.  He reserved them regardless of the staggering cost.  Continued loss of fluid.  Before now we hadn't alerted anyone to what was happening, not in Uganda or England - we didn't want anyone to panic.  That evening my parents rang, as did two of my closest girlfriends.  Chris went for a drink with a friend at the bar, I slept with the mosquito net tucked in and my arm cradling Ella. 

Saturday 30th August - Kampala, Uganda
Chris drove blindly to Jinja to pack bags, collect passports and to try and organise the looking after of our house, our business.  Midwife S visited to give me a steroid injection to encourage the baby's lungs to develop.  She spoke about accompanying us on the flight and urged us to look at flying today.  She rang Chris to rearrange it all, but he wouldn't have us flying via Nairobi or Dubai with the prospect of long stop-offs.  If we were to fly on Monday, she wanted God to give her a sign.  I gave her a bloody sign, ' Monday's flight only has 3 seats left on the entire aircraft'.  That was the sign she was looking for.  Chris booked 3 tickets with a combination of US$, GBP£ and credit cards.  Midwife S suggested we take an ambulance to the airport.  I argued my point that if we did that, then not only would we draw attention to our situation, but no commercial airline would take us - I was a potential liability, a walking time bomb.  She finally agreed that we would drive ourselves.  The bed was raised on bricks to elevate my hips and Chris returned with our great friend Nat.  More steroids.  Later we ate pizza and I had a Jim Beam.  Sleep beckoned.

Sunday 31st August 2008 - Kampala, Uganda
Another steroid jab.  We spoke about how I would be able to arrive and check in without anyone suspecting there was a problem.  My pregnancy wasn't obvious at 24 weeks so I suggested wrapping a bandage around my ankle and we'd pretend it was sprained.  In Uganda where customer service is wonderfully polite this would get me wheelchair access.  Agreed.  We watched movies.  Spoke with my mum and they would collect us from the airport.  I asked if she could notify my doctor in the UK and in turn ask him to inform the hospital of our impending arrival.  In the afternoon Chris and Nat shopped for bits and returned with pumpkin for soup and sponges for bathing.  They gave me a bed bath - Nat washed my hair and Chris rubbed me with a rough sponge most likely used for cleaning cars!  Ella kicked.  I felt tired but prepared.  That night I leaked more fluid.

Monday 1st September 2008 - Kampala, Uganda
Woke in darkness.  Chris and Nat prepared the back of the cruiser for me and pushed the seats down and placed a mattress inside.  Bags were stowed and I was lifted in.  Chris smoked a cigarette as we drove through the busy streets of the city towards the airport.  Collected Midwife S but had to challenge her.  She wanted to bring her medical bag, including scissors and needles, onto the aircraft and was truly oblivious that anyone would stop her.  Finally convinced her otherwise and the bag was left with her husband who waved back at us from his car.  Midwife S placed a bandage around my right ankle.  Arrived at the departure hall and Nat collected a wheel chair and we said goodbye.  It felt like the beginning of a film.  Passed seamlessly through check in and immigration.  Drank tea in the lounge.  Taken by Catherine from Soroti in an elevator to the ground floor.  Noticed a man in a wheelchair who was a double amputee.  Felt immense guilt.  Assisted up the steps and I hobbled to my seat.  Chris arrived 10 minutes later.  Flight trouble free and I managed just two toilet stops.  Felt a wave of relief as we were now en-route to England.  Landed at 4pm.  Midwife S held our hands.  She told us that Dr B had said the night before there was a 70% chance of me giving birth on the flight.  Had I ever known those odds I would never have dared board, never.  I was given wheelchair access to the arrival hall and we were met by my parents.  We circled the M25 and arrived at hospital, it was 7:45pm.  They were expecting us and everyone seemed so kind.  Taken to a room, name band placed on my wrist and hospital tights were fitted.  Gave a urine sample and had an internal examination.  Ella still kicking. 

Tuesday 2nd September 2008 - Suffolk, England
'darlin', would you like a cup of tea from the canteen trolly'?  asked the West Indian lady
'yes please.  Could I also trouble you for a glass of orange'? 
What do you think this is, the Ritz'!
Mr L visited my room and I was to fall under his care.  I disliked him immediately and his awful bedside manner.
'It's possible an infection started the premature labour, or it's a weak cervix that gave way to an infection.  We wont know the full extent due to the drugs you've been on for the past week.  Good job you're expecting a girl, her chances of surviving are higher than those of a boy.  I remember telling my ex-wife when she was pregnant with our 1st child that if she were to go into premature labour between 25-30 weeks she'd have to drive herself to hospital as there was very little likelihood of the baby surviving.
'No wonder she's your ex-wife' I directed back furiously. 
I was told I may have to have a cesarean section but there were dangers involved because she was in the breech position.  I'd need a vertical, not a horizontal, cut.  It would be incredibly difficult to remove a baby as tiny as Ella, plus there were potential complications for future pregnancies.  I listened but chose not to identify it as being a possibility - I was safe, I was home, I felt hopeful.  Taken downstairs for a scan.  Chris and Midwife S arrived.  We were told that from my Uganda notes Ella was no longer in a swimming pool of liqua, it had reduced to a paddling pool.  Midwife S who had been a beacon of support was leaving us to visit her sister.  Later I was moved to a ward downstairs.  Chris took me to shower.  The moaning of women in labour passed through the walls into the tiny cubicle.  Back in the ward I chose a bed by the window and pulled the curtain around us.  I ate a sandwich, Chris drove back to my parents.

Wednesday 3rd September - Suffolk, England
Doctors checked on me.  Lovely nurses took bloods and heart beats were monitored.  Pulse and blood pressure ok.  Advised I should be able to go home in next few days, and was reminded that I needed to get to 26 weeks before the hospital was able to take a premature baby.  Hospital policy.  Ella would be 26 weeks on Saturday.  Baby you hang in there tightly, safely.  Chris visited with a dvd player and headphones.  From under the sheets I watched movies. 

Thursday 4th September - Suffolk, England
Visited the toilet twice during the night.  Passed fluid.  Something in my heart told me things weren't right.  Ella and I were monitored, everything was ok.  For lunch Chris came in with sandwiches and newspaper.  I went to the toilet.  Green fluid in my knickers.  I fell forward against a wall.  I told the midwife who was on duty and she asked to see the evidence.  I lurched back to the ward and into bed.  Chris spoke softly.  Midwife appeared, 'your baby is distressed and has opened her bowls.  Please wait for the doctor'.  We were completely still, suspended in time.  My younger sister Abby arrived full of smiles and love and with stories of my niece, Grace, who was 2 months old.  Stomach pain suddenly hit me like a freight train and I curled up into a ball on the bed.  Back ache, like that from a branding iron, burned into my spine.  Labour pain.  I asked for painkillers and was given 2 paracetamol.  The Dr eventually came and I was given an internal.  Words were spoken between medics, 'we must move her to Norwich or Cambridge hospital, find out who has a free bed'.  Moments before I was taken to the lift I was checked internally again, 'she's dilated, she can't be moved, she's going to have to have the baby here.'

I was moved to one room and then on to another, it was around 9pm.  My vitals were checked, Ella's heart was checked.  I clutched my stomach and stared at the ceiling.  Chris held my hand.  Finally I was wheeled through the doors into a delivery room.  From outside the windows dark clouds loomed on the horizon.  I gave up pretending it wasn't happening to me and instead froze with terror.  Staff shift change.  We were told that midwife Ali G was going to be with us for Ella's birth.  Chris and I were gobsmacked, why would be given a woman who sounded as bad as the celebrity television star?!?  Minutes later a small red haired woman burst through the doors wearing a pink shirt and jeans and announced herself as Ali G. She smiled and immediately we felt relieved.  'Your baby is in the breech position and is moving fast so you're going to have a natural delivery rather than a cesarean.  I'm going to use the, 'hands off ' approach.  I wont touch you and I wont touch your baby, but I will be here throughout to support and to help.  What's your daughter's name'?  'Ella'. 

Suddenly the pain was intense.  Ella was wearing spiky stilettos that were scraping down my spine.  Pain relief was given and I sucked on foul tasting gas.  I asked Chris to remove my glasses to stop the razor sharp image of that night being burnt into my line of vision.  I pushed, I screamed, I blacked out suddenly.  Ella was stuck in the birthing canal.  I was frantic, bright lights, muffled voices, Chris brushed my forehead.  I remember a room of people, women holding back my legs and pushing my chin into my chest.  Someone shouted for the paediatrics to be called in and they lined the far wall.  Scissors, needle, Ella's foot, pushing, anesthetic injection, cutting, episotomy, cutting  'She's here, push harder, push's your baby.'  It was 10:45pm when Ella entered our world. 

Ali immediately passed her to the pediatrics.  I was frightened, there was no crying coming from her tiny mouth.  I asked Chris if she looked like a baby?  He said of course she did, just tiny and he passed me my glasses.  Ali said she was a good size.  I breathed slowly and listened for a noise, a sound, a whimper.  The head pediatrician came over to say they couldn't find a heartbeat, but would continue to try.  'Please can you try for at least another 5 minutes.  Please.'  PLEASE.  PLEASE GIVE OUR DAUGHTER HER LIFE.  Time ticked, nothing.  We were told there was still no heart beat and I asked that they stop.  Her body was so tiny, so fragile and so damaged.  She was stillborn.  It was then that I screamed, a keening that roared from my lungs and filled the room.  Chris and I clutched at each other as our baby lay in a small cot on the other side of the room.  Ali wrapped her in a white blanket and brought her to us before leaving the room along with everyone else. 

No one prepares you for holding your dead baby, your dead child.  She was perfect.  Her rosebud mouth slightly opened and her features delicate and true.  Purple bruising was beginning to form around her small skull.  I held her gently and kissed her deeply before handing her to Chris.  His face was filled with love before turning to anguish as he held his daughter closely to his chest.  We said our goodbyes before Ali came and carefully took her from us.

Friday 5th September 2008 - Suffolk, England
That night crashed from one nightmare to the next.  Chris rang my family and Abby was coming in.  Ali asked if she would like to meet Ella, but I didn't know, she'd only just had a baby herself.  Ali gently suggested she would, after all she was Ella's aunt and to this day I'm honoured she did that for us.  Abby arrived to find me sucking on gas, the placenta hadn't detached itself, and I was hooked up to a drip full of steroids which they hoped would get it moving.  Abby stroked my brow, she'd met Ella.  We cried into each others arms.  I felt bereft and exhausted.  Minutes later I was being moved to theatre to have an operation to remove the placenta.  It was well past 2am when the anesthetic was pushed into my spine.  I woke sluggishly to feel a movement within my womb - hands were pulling, my body was dead meat, my placenta was being picked out.  Afterwards I was wheeled into a room where the shadows moved.  A soft light was on.  Chris had returned home to collect some things for Ella, a blanket and a small toy rabbit.  My mum had joined him and Abby and they moved to the bed and embraced me.  We cried and through the tears mum said she'd spent time with Ella, her granddaughter.  And here it was, as stark as the breaking dawn.  I should have been holding my baby, but instead my mum was holding her daughter and from either side I was flanked by my husband and my sister.  Into the abyss of darkness I slid.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A 90% Gamble

My shell broke today.  The veneer split down the middle, splintering like ice across a frozen lake.  We had our 20 week scan at the hospital.  My heart paced, my bladder hurt and my brain was tripping. 

Chris held my arm as we were called in to the ultrasound room.  The sonographer asked me to stand so she could scan my uterus to check that everything was in place post stitch.  My eyes wavered from the monitor screen to the ceiling, moments caught in slow motion.  My uterus was perfectly ok.  I lay down as she squeezed cold jelly onto my raised and hard stomach.  She checked our babies head, limbs, vital organs and spinal cord.  Everything was where it should be and how it should be. 

Background noise, it was Chris asking if it was possible to know the sex of our baby.  My mouth turned into a perfect O and I raised my hand over it.  I was asked to roll onto my side because it was difficult to identify anything between the tiny legs as the magic wand circled over my stomach.  We said it didn't matter, we were just thrilled to hear that everything appeared to be healthy and fine, but she persisted.  After several more minutes we were told that the legs were still tightly closed and the umbilical cord was in the way, but she was 90% certain that we're having a baby boy. 

I shed tears of utter joy and Chris grasped my leg and brushed his hand across his eye.  10 hours later and we're still full of emotion having shared the news with close family and friends.  Happy hearts, happy days - I think Ella would love to know she's having a baby brother and on a day like today that keeps me strong.

Monday, November 22, 2010


And here he is in all his hairy glory.

Yeah, right, you're funny!

As it stands right this MO-ment we're having a lovely hairy-free time, so much so I decided to shave mine off too ;)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Hairy Wonder

In anticipation of Chris's arrival I've been reminding myself of what he looks like by rummaging through old photos - having not seen him for six weeks a pregnant woman can be forgiven for forgetting she's even married. 

I'm due to meet him at the train station tomorrow morning, but I'm having a slight wobble.  He's been growing a moustache in aid of MO-vember (see earlier posting below) and instead of running towards him with open arms, what if I find myself rooted to the spot having clocked a massively hairy rat resting on his top lip??

For old times sake here he is taking in the view of the White Nile (virtually hairless):

Overlooking the Lake District (sporting a shadow of stubble) - I managed to snap this before getting blown off the summit:

This could be what he looks like tomorrow:

Though come to think of it, I hope he recognises me.  Due to my ever expanding girth he may mistake me for someone else entirely......

Must dash, I've got to shave.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Up North

Later this morning I'm hitting the road to spend a lovely long weekend with great friends who I haven't seen in a couple of years.  Nothing quite as fancy as going abroad to Madrid, but still, it's a journey up north to Birmingham and it should take a mean 3 hours by car. 

Sadly the weather is foul, the roads will inevitably be full of spray and the windscreen wipers will be on full charge.  But as bad as it sounds I'm looking forward to driving on good tarmac, following clear road signs and being thankful for people who use their indicators, mirrors and who sometimes go that extra mile and flash their headlights to let you pull  in off the slip road. 

This is a novelty compared to what I'm used to - a stretch of dirt road that's swamped with rain, main roads often badly potholed, the lack of concern for anyone else travelling on the same strip of ragged tarmac, vehicles coming towards you without any lights, mopeds coming towards you, swaying, as they carry their cargo of 5 children or 2 pigs.

By contrast this should be a breeze, but the more I think about it the more I hope Nic and Dave and their little boy Edze are waiting for me with a stiff drink.  I may need it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Protecting, loving, nurturing, dreaming.  Dreaming of the future and never forgetting the past.

I'm holding on to the precious life growing inside of me. 

Our future is there ahead of us, over that crippling moutain pass and across that wide expanse of savanah.  We've struggled before and we've been beaten before, broken to our knees. 

Precious babies, precious life, precious moments. 

What sign do I need that we'll succeed?  None. I don't want one, not this time.  It's fate I fear and I'm trying not to tempt her.

So put down your crystal ball, put down your pack of Tarot cards and put down your all seeing eye.

I know you're right there Chris.  Yours is the hand I hold and pure hope will pull us through.

Just hang on tightly and breathe in the below.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Snapshots caught off the cuff

So I nipped out yesterday afternoon to catch the last of the low lying sunshine, camera in hand.  Passed kids in the skate park pulling all kinds of exotic tricks on boards, bikes and scooters.  I moved quickly to the line of beautiful trees changing colour and shedding their leaves.  Chose the angle, chose the shot.  Shutter didn't click, the battery died and camera switched itself off.  Bugger.  Bugger.  Bugger.

Later this morning I wrapped up as, 'snug as a bug in a rug' and took to the river wall and surrounding paths in an attempt to capture a blustery British Sunday.  Battery well and truly charged and muesli bar stuffed in my pocket I strode out.  I passed kids on swings, a boy kicked a ball that bounced and missed a woman carrying a bright pink bag.  She laughed, he giggled an apology.  A skinny whippet puppy jumped up at my leg.  It was so tiny and as narrow as my finger.  I thought it was a rat!  I bumped into a friend, we hadn't seen one another since a mutual friends wedding over five years ago, but instead it was like yesterday.  We chatted as the clouds darkened and the prospect of rain blew all around us. 

I drew in the cold air as the rain fell and skidded down a muddy path towards a stream full of bulrushes and algae.  I stopped by the river at the place where Ella's ashes were scattered.  I noticed a small white fluffy feather caught in a branch.  A freight train passed close by.  Within the wood the sun broke through the grey sky and lit up the surrounding flora and fauna.  A man drove past, hunched over his steering wheel drinking what I can only guess was a mug of tea.  The house boats shone and the river twinkled.  People were out sailing on the high tide and children stood throwing pieces of old bread at the gathering swans and seagulls.

A woman told her son, as he sat in his buggy kicking off his wellington boots, 'enough!  Just you keep those boots on or else you'll go barefoot!!'  The caravan serving delicious greasy breakfasts was packed with hungry walkers and a dog was tied to a post outside.  A man was painting the hull of his boat navy blue, cigarette hanging from his mouth and a cup of something hot in his other hand.  And lastly as I approached the Tide Mill a woman was resting, stretched along a bench, catching the warmth of the sunshine.  She looked serene and seemed to capture the feeling of the day. 

Happiness - a pocket of sun on a bloody cold day :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I've just raced home from town for the warmth of four walls - I'm living at my parent's which is a shock at my age (!) but it's a guarantee the house will always be warm at this time of year!  It's freezing outside and I was trying to look a little casual with a big cardi wrapped around a 3/4 length top, big scarf wrapped around my big neck, skinny jeans (that I wriggle and squeeze into, whilst trying to avoid becoming distracted by the muffin top) cosy warm gloves that are pink edged and big suede boots without the risk of socks - as the friction inside makes my feet hot and I feel faint. 

Note to self, forget casual, remember COAT.

And as I sit here capturing the past week, I look up at the skylight and clock a pure blue sky above without a single cloud to be seen.  Is that not what we'd refer to as, SODS BLOODY LAW!?  Even so it's still bitterly cold, no matter the yellow orb, and the bare truth is I wouldn't be able to sit in the wintry November sunshine with a hope in hell of catching a tan, which would be heaven.  Hmmm....I may have to shoot off shortly just to make the most of that sharp icy air and harsh bright light and slip on my sunglasses and pretend to be famous. 

I'd forgotten that it gets dark in this corner of the world at 4.30pm and this I find difficult to embrace with an ounce of enthusiasm - pregnant and miffed, it doesn't get any better.  So how was your week?  Did you manage to fend off scary dwarf like trick or treaters, carve a pumpkin of beauty and eat your body weight in Haribo sweets?  I watched my mum create a toothy faced pumpkin for the benefit of Grace who stroked it and marvelled at the yellow flame flickering in his mouth with huge curiosity.  Sadly she didn't have the nerve for fireworks last night as the sparklers we had early evening made her leap behind a chair.  Instead I went out with friends and we ate burgers, hot dogs and drank a glass of warm red wine around a massive bonfire.  After all this time Guy Fawkes has never looked so good. 

I'm currently working 3 days a week for a company I was employed by 13 years ago....oh the pain of ground hog day!!  They contacted me having heard I was back in the country and asked if I was interested in helping them for a stint.  I was delighted to, and am secretly relieved that I've managed to purr my way down the phone to drum up sales within the travel industry - it helped that I was full of cold and had a scratchy voice for 10 days.  It's also keeping my brain active and my hands busy as clients ring up interested in booking adventure overland holidays to far flung destinations like Turkmenistan, Iran, Mongolia and those that are easier to find in the travel guide, Brazil, Namibia, Cambodia and China. 

Tuesday night I had a slight scare when I discovered some spotting after I'd been to the loo.  I thought this was probably normal due to the stitch I'd had in my cervix on Friday, but the same amount was there the next morning.  My brain hammered and my heart lept, so I rang the hospital for advice.  It was suggested that due to my history I should pop in for a quick examination and the sooner the better.  My mum dropped what she was doing and said she'd take the wheel.  She drove like Penelope Pitstop to get me through those double doors within 20 minutes of me having putting the phone down.  I was eventually seen and given an internal where I apologised for my hairy legs and hairy everything else ;) 

Due to not feeling any cramping, pulling, pain or discomfort, it was agreed that the spotting was possibly due to the cervix stretching against the stitch and everything would hopefully calm down within a day or two.  I was advised that if the bleeding continued, or got heavier I was to contact them immediately.  Before leaving I was able to listen to baby's heartbeat and was incredibly relieved as I heard the now familiar sound of a heard of mini New Forest ponies racing across wasteland.  Above all it made me realise how lucky I am to have a hospital down the road and medical assistance, if needed, available in a flash.  A feeling that's indescribable as it makes me acutely aware of how different it would be if I were in Africa....

My family and friends have been brilliantly supportive as we gradually spread the news of my pregnancy.  I'm surrounded near and far by great girlfriends with amazing words of encouragement, love and kindness.  My younger sister Abby is forever on the blower, telling me to take it easy and to rest my expanding body.  I did deep breathing and lounged about with a friend mid week - she happens to be a yoga teacher of note and just being around her makes my pulse slacken.  She made me sit in a nest of cushions and lay a blanket around my shoulders.  I half expected to be referred to as 'Warrior Mother Spirit' and to find myself beating a skin drum.  I tried not to nod off because of the relaxation I felt, coupled with the underfloor heating.  I lasted 20 minutes.

I have 3 girlfriends who are also pregnant with their second babies and I cannot believe I'm able to share our experiences together - it's a blessing and one that I'm loving.  My cousin Tory is 6 weeks behind me, Nic is 8 weeks ahead of me and Sarah is due to have her baby on the 1st January.  To have friends at the end of the phone, as well as a stone's throw away means we're able to chat each other's ears off about our worries, concerns and excitement - as well as those stories about dodgy hair growth, sweaty gussets, discharge and, 'why the f*** aren't I glowing when all the books say I should be'??!  Oh, and I've got the most itchiest of rashes all over my arms and it's driving me berserk.  Any suggestions at all would be greatly received as I'm going mad and behaving like a dog with fleas.

Speaking of dodgy hair growth, Chris rang me on Friday.  He'd just returned from a fishing trip with a bunch of mates.  They'd spent a few nights on an island in Lake Victoria sleeping in tents and drinking til dawn.  Interestingly he hates boats and is always sick and pretends it was because of something he'd eaten - not his weak sea legs.  He's all man is Chris.  Anyway he wanted to remind me that it was the month of MO-vember and not to be surprised when I next see him as....ta daaa...he'll be sporting a huge moustache.  I expressed ultimate confusion and extreme horror.  He said it's in aid of charity and as such he and his fellow friends are not shaving for 4 weeks.  In aid of my sanity I've told him a) if he doesn't shave it off he wont be allowed back into the country as he'll look like a terrorist, b) I wont want to see him looking like a big fur ball, c) facial hair, even when it is for charity, is very 70's and terrifying for small children and animals so I will not accompany him in public.

My unconventional marriage may just end up staying this way if the hair growth goes on - sadly I can't just point the finger at Chris this time, as tragically he may find me equally as hairy.

This could be my last chance, am off to capture some sunshine before it's too late.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Tough Question

As I quietly approach the 17 week marker of pregnancy it's a tough one being asked the question, 'how are you feeling'?  I'm anxious and excited, worried and delighted, happy and stressed.  One emotion seems to cancel out the other in quick succession before they clatter by again.  I'm missing Chris, he tends to be my anchor when every emotion inside my head is battling for pole position, but I'm well aware that what we're doing is absolutely 100% the right thing, so to not see him for another 3 weeks is just how it has to be. 

Based on my pregnancy history it's the forthcoming weeks I'm fearful of.  I lost Ella when she was 1 hour and 15 minutes shy of 26 weeks and I know it's the thought of reaching that window of time again that unnerves me - will I wish the time away, or face it head on?  Will my body continue to keep this ever growing, precious baby safe and warm and free of infection and horror?  It let me down a second time last April when I miscarried at 10.5 weeks, but having had a procedure carried out on my cervix on Friday to stitch everything snugly up, I'm gradually starting to feel more hopeful.

We knew if we ever found ourselves in the privileged position of expecting a baby again I'd crawl up storm clad mountains to make sure everything possible was done to prevent loosing him or her. As it stands right now I'm trying my damnedest to keep that promise come hell or high water and that courage has come from loosing someone so precious that her story deserves to be told.  To go back to the beginning, to unravel the knots of the past and to lie it out straight brings us gently into the present. It's Ella's story and I'll try and put it down on paper soon.

But in the meantime, when it rains like only it can on English soil, when it's dark outside and when my heart heaves close to my chest I'd give anything for a huge hug with my grizzly bear, diesel smelling husband - why on nights like tonight is Africa so far away......

I'm balancing on my toes and reaching for the moon, I'll meet you there.