Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mr Jon Bon to you

I hope everyone had a magical Christmas and the man in the red outfit and dodgy white beard managed to wriggle down each and every chimney with gifts galore!

This morning I shocked myself speechless when I looked in the mirror.  Staring back at me was a Jon Bon Jovi looki-likey.  And not your average Mr Jon Bon.  This was Jon from the early 90's.  GOOD GOD, WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING TO MY HAIR?!#?*!?%?

When it comes to the hair I am absolutely and tragically him (there are no other comparisons because I've never sung one of his song's sober, let alone sold over 130 million albums worldwide). 

I cannot type a thing more until the shock has passed - will it ever pass I hear myself whisper??

Having checked out the above website I reckon I'm onto something.  They have information about, 'how to darken men's facial hair'. 

At 25 weeks and 1 day pregnant not only am I full of wind, but I feel the fear of the uncontrollable hair.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A time for festive cheer

Bloody Hell!  Having not been in the UK for Christmas since I don't know when, today I was reminded why.  My sister and I have just crashed through the front door, we've been present shopping for the family, or to rephrase that, she accompanied me on a gift finding mission.  Always one to leave it to the last minute I haven't let the side down, but after today, Never.  Ever.  Again.  The world is mad for the festive stuff.  People are rude.  The streets are full.  Everyone was jostling for gifts and I nearly lost the will to live.

But, low and behold Waterstones (the book specialist) came up trumps and I managed to swipe my credit card with umpteen purchases thrown into a bag, including a Tin Tin book for my brother-in-law who I'm assured loves the classics......!  Abby later bought me some beauty looking tights for an outfit I'm hoping to wear this evening as I shimmy off for dinner with the girls - I panicked at the thought of dragging my sorry, saggy, arse halfway across town to buy such a simple item, so she threw caution to the wind and got me some I'd never have dared buy. 

We warmed our freezing hands on take-away hot chocolates from Costa and made our way to the car full of shopping smugness.  On the journey back we laughed like a couple of old drains and spoke of the morning appointment I'd had at the hospital which Abby attended with me.  She was brilliant, really calming and recognised several of the nurses who she'd seen whilst pregnant with Rory.  She came into the room with me as my cervix and tummy were scanned and the baby was measured.

I had it 100% confirmed that I'm expecting a baby boy which thrilled me to the core and we watched in wonderment as he flexed his hands and bucked his tiny legs.  Abby had a tear in her eye and tweaked my ankle - she also told a few rubbish jokes and said my boots looked enormous as I lay perched on the bed like Gulliver! I gave a urine sample that covered most of my hand and spoke with the consultant who advised me to return in 2 weeks for another cervix scan and to have a steroid jab.  This jab will assist with the development of the baby's lungs - all the signs are currently looking good at 24 weeks, but she wants to make sure we're prepared in case I go into premature labour before 30 weeks. 

Over the last few days I've ummmed and ahhhhed about the flu jab which is being recommended for the elderly and pregnant woman so I asked my consultant's opinion. She wholeheartedly advised me to have it, so before we got home I stopped at my local clinic and they've given me a vaccine appointment for Friday.  The side affects could wipe me out for Christmas, or I could sail on through.  Of course it's a risk, but by not having it I've more to loose.  And this is certainly something I was made aware of when shopping today - everyone seems to have the flu of swine, or they have manners of one.  Either way it's not a good look!

With that in mind I'm off to get ready for my night on the town, snazzy tights n' all (including a set of really lovely undies).  Do please note I will be wearing more than just those garments tonight! 

Festive cheer everyone :) X

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Zero 7

I'm typing this whilst hunkered down in my warm and cosy bed - what a lazy, lazy Sunday morning.  I've dared to take a peek outside and the snow that fell during the night has covered everything in a crunchy white blanket.  It's the type of day where should you dare to venture outside your breath will cut you in two.  I ain't moving! 

I can feel my baby circling and the movements of tiny whirling fists and toes that push against the wall of my womb are more obvious now.  A deep comfort I haven't allowed myself to feel for a long time washes over me, everything feels good - though I know I'm not 'out of the woods yet' as my consultant and midwife recently reminded me due to my past history.  To relax even more I'm listening to Zero 7 on the mp3 player and am on the verge of heavy dozing :)

Chris and I got the album, Simple Things, when were were travelling through Thailand years ago.  It's one of our favourites.  The songs are beautiful and always manage to tip us back to those wayward years of barefoot travel.  For me it's swinging in hammocks strung between palms, lying on a beach as the sun dries you off, recovering from new years eve in a wicker chair on a veranda overlooking the ocean and deciding you're going to conquer the world together at a bar that's actually a VW camper van on Koh San road. 

Baby and me are just fine and with a head full of dreams we're about to rock gently back to sleep.....zzzzzz 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ella. Our Goodbye

It's now 27 months since I gave birth to our precious daughter Ella.  She was stillborn at 26 weeks old weighing 840 grams.  As I sit in the warmth of a centrally heated home in the UK (the country is on lock down as the big Christmas freeze hits) I'm able to bring to the front of my mind the days, the weeks and the months that played out after Ella's tiny spirit departed this life and flew towards the next. 

I've also come to realise that with the passing of time the edges of our memories soften.  Light now plays on the memories held in the corners of my dreams and they appear out of focus, as if slightly blurred.  The confused conversations, often raised to screams, and the choking sobs as we struggled to cope in the aftermath of Ella's death are now a whisper.  But just like a scar they're a reminder of the love Chris and I lost that night, as well as the love we gained.

Ella was born in hospital on the night of Thursday 4th September 2008.  The following day as we sat in our small room on the ward trying to come to terms with what had happened hospital staff came to offer their condolences - nurses who were with us the night before and had watched the events unfold and Jill, the midwife who hadn't been able to stay with us after 9pm because of a shift change, held me the hardest. 

I was in shock, but able to manage a polite conversation with the cleaning lady.  Chris got me to drink gallons of hot sweet tea and spent hours stroking my hand.  The catheter that had been inserted after the operation was finally removed and I was encouraged to use the toilet  - two nurses held me up as I passed bloody urine into what can only be described as a large grey cardboard box.  To have been able to go to the toilet was the green light to go home - it didn't seem to matter that I couldn't walk unaided. 

Before we left the ward the hospital minister arrived and spoke with Chris.  She wanted to know if we'd thought about the type of service we wished to have for Ella.  To this day that moment still haunts me.  We had no idea about what to do, let alone when or where a service should be held.  We had barely been able to speak of Ella's death let alone the huge task of thinking about what to do with our daughter's fragile body.  Chris thanked her and took the paperwork saying he would be in touch.  She advised us not to leave it too long.

We had said goodbye to Ella the previous night (Ella.  Her Story) and Ali G, our midwife, had taken her tiny body to the hospital morgue.  She said she would lay her close to the elderly folk whose souls would keep her safe.  But as we got ready to leave the hospital it suddenly hit us we were leaving our daughter behind.  It was heart wrenching, as parents, to realise we wouldn't be taking her home with us.  We'd arrived with our daughter, but were leaving without her.  In despair Chris pushed me in a wheelchair down to reception where I was given a letter that listed a hospital summary of the last 24 hours.  I noticed at the end of the page = Discharged from Orwell Ward (and in capital letters) WITHOUT BABY.  My hands shook.

The days following our loss were experienced through a blur of empty tears, deep anguish, searing pain, huge hugs, careful words and mugs of tea.  I didn't wash my hair for days and my showers were brief.  Due to the stitches I wasn't comfortable climbing the narrow spiral staircase at my parents house so we camped on mattresses in their newly finished sun room and watched through the windows as days turned into night and darkness fell.  The world continued to turn, we barely noticed. 

We received beautiful cards full of beautiful words.  Emails arrived, texts flashed on our phones and bouquets of gorgeous flowers were sent from friends at home and overseas.  We were overwhelmed with grief, support, love and friendship.  The tenderness from our family and friends (near and far) will always be recognised during that time as life giving.  It was the start of the healing process, although we weren't to know it.

Chris gave the semblance that he was manging - he was incredible at holding it together.  He took phone calls and made the necessary arrangements we'd decided for Ella's cremation. After the weekend he quietly organised her death certificate and re-visited the hospital making sure her papers were in order and doing everything he could to shield me from any further sadness. He was advised that the earliest we could have a service for Ella was Thursday 18th September 2008 at 9am.  We were relieved a date was available so we took it. 

Quite suddenly a week later on Thursday 11th September I was rushed into hospital with horrendous stomach pain.  I lay in the fetal position as a doctor examined me - everywhere was painful, it felt like returning contractions and I had a temperature.  It was recognised that I had an infection, possibly from the surgery I received the night of Ella's birth, and it was burning through me like an inferno.  I remained in hospital for 5 days until Monday 15th.  Chris visited me daily bringing sandwiches and small snippets of stories from home.

I was heartbroken, frightened and painfully miserable.  To top it off I was badly constipated and when able to sleep it was fitful.  They hooked me to an IV drip that pumped strong anti-biotics through a cannula into the back of my right hand.  My stomach was scanned so they could check for any cause of infection, but none was confirmed.  I was allowed home for lunch on Sunday 14th where my family gathered and I met my niece Grace for the first time.  She was gorgeous.  Chris later drove me back to hospital where I lay in discomfort before asking for as many suppositories as possible.  I spent all night on the toilet and the relief was immense!

I was eventually discharged at 4pm the next day.  My right hand was black and blue from a collapsed vein but the thought of being able to attend Ella's service gave me the courage to pack and dress, I couldn't bear to be in that room a moment longer.  My sister collected me as Chris was in London seeing his family and I remember her saying something that made me laugh.  At that moment one of the nurses passing the door told me how much better I was looking compared to when I had arrived.  Thank god, five days before I had simply wanted to curl up and die.

Thursday 18th September 2008 a small group of us gathered at the Crematorium in Ipswich - a large and dark looking place.  Thankfully the sun shone and we felt ok as we walked the manicured gardens.  Chris and I held hands, we had asked for a poem to be read and my mum had put together a small posy of flowers made up from the ones that friends had sent.  At 9am we sat at the front of the room taking up just two pews.  Ella's delicate white coffin was carried down the aisle high on shoulders and placed in front of a heavy curtain with the posy on top.  As I sat tall a single tear dropped onto my cheek.  A prayer was said and a reading read.  It was a simple service that allowed us to say our goodbyes, but as the curtain closed around her tiny coffin our hearts broke. 

Much later that afternoon Chris and I drove to a wide open field that backs onto a great forest and farm land.  Amongst the stubble of corn there is an area made up of acres of turf which is used on golf courses and in gardens.  It was here that we removed our shoes and lay on the soft grass, arms outstretched above our heads as we watched the clouds gently float across the sky. 

Ella was there, we knew it.  Our baby was finally free.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Raisin' The Roof

Not often one to be lost for words, last night happened to be an exception. 

I logged onto my email account and saw that Chris had sent some photos from the weekend he'd spent in Murchison.  He caught up with everyone on site and went over the projects that had been done in his absence whilst he was visiting me here in the UK.

The thatch roof for the bar is going on and the shower and toilet block are nearly dry enough for painting.  I cannot believe the ideas we had and the drawings we made on paper are finally beginning to take shape through bricks, mortar and sheer hard work. 

As I take my woolly hat off to my husband and the men working with him (who are nothing short of champions) let me share some of the shots with you.

The entrance to the campsite shower/toilet block

 A side view of above block - well ventilated and with loads of light

Raisin' the roof, this shot took my breath away

Bricks, thatch and green trees (the rains have fallen considerably)

It is literally man's work - and a very brave one at that

The fire pit looking out onto the River Nile

And although I'd made it known that on no account could the Baobab Tree that was in our garden in Jinja be moved (we bought it from a tree nursery in Mombasa 4 years ago).  Being out of sight means I'm clearly out of mind...  Chris has dug it up and transported it to the edge of Murchison National Park.

For once I'm not going to mention it.  If he can pull off (let alone put on) a roof that big, he can pretty much do anything he likes right now - though don't quote me on that as tomorrow's another day ;)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lucky 13

Ella was born on the 4th September 2008, although December 13th 2008 was her actual due date. 

Lucky thirteen, Chris and I married on the 13th March 2004. 

On the 13th December 2008 we scattered the rest of her ashes and planted trees on our land in Uganda by the river Nile - perhaps she made it past Cairo and into the Mediterranean?  I'd like to think so. 

This time last year I was in England and in the early morning I walked to the place on the river Deben, where in November 2008 before we flew to Uganda, we marked her memory by scattering half her ashes across the wintry tide.

Again this year, and on the 13th date, I find myself in England once more.  I look carefully and see her in the places that I walk, in the air that I breathe and in the person I am. 

Today I shall remember her deeply and be thankful for her tiny being and  how it gave Chris and I the courage to face the world head on and eventually change the course of our life to where we are now. 

It's with that knowledge I hold her miracle of a brother ever closer to me.

Chris and I scattering Ella's ashes at the water's edge in Uganda on the 13th December 2008

Kya and I throwing cosmos flower seeds onto the ground 

Planting of the potato tree

The fan palm gets planted

Kya helping to dig a hole for the flamboyant tree

The innocence and beauty of our god daughter standing where the last of Ella's ashes were scattered, at the base of the flamboyant tree

I see you baby, and on a day like today Kya you make me fly

The flamboyant tree as she stands now, growing strong and proud

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Puffa Off

At 22 weeks and 3 days pregnant I seem to be imploding as well as exploding. I'm full of air and my ankles are swollen like an elephants. 

I actually look like a puffa fish - if you placed a couple of puffy legs on the image below that would be me, absolutely spot on.

A close friend is arriving this morning for the weekend.  I cannot wait and again I look like a puffa fish due to the excitement.  We met in Uganda on Christmas day 8 years ago and it's been a year since I saw her for lunch in London.  She's beautiful, inspirational, gifted and wise - she has a spirit that touches you from within.

She and her husband have been tackling their own mountain of grief these past 5 months and it will be through tears and hope that I hug her so tightly today.  The kettle is on, the sofa is plumped and I'm about to get cakes.  Let the weekend roll.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Great White Explorer

Life is made up of a myriad of ambitions, hopes, dreams and fears.  Some people gamble it all.   Others take the slower, easier route and play it safe. 

I spoke to Chris this morning who rang to tell me that a friend of ours, Hendri Coetzee, had been involved in a kayaking accident in the heart of Central Africa.  Hendri was leading a team of experienced American kayakers who wanted a serious African expedition - he was without question the man for the job.  Disturbingly the news so far is that his kayak was taken out by a crocodile and his body is yet to have been found.

Hendri was everything you would expect in a great white explorer: charming, athletic, handsome.  He was an adrenalin junkie with an open heart.  He was as happy on his own as he was in the company of others drinking tea.  He practised yoga and he meditated.  He was also someone who lived life dangerously on the edge - pushing inaccessible boundaries that would have most people questioning his sanity.  But that is how he lived his life, to the absolute fullest and with very few regrets. 

Hendri is the third young man we know to have died in Africa doing something they loved.  Ben and Grant lost their lives - one in a motorbike accident and the other on the Zambezi river.  Their loss reminds me that life is for living and that we cannot give up on our hopes and dreams just to keep things safely in perspective. 

As Chris so rightly put it, 'Hendri was a man who would always burn brightly.  He was never one just to fade away'.

I'll raise a glass to you tonight my friend, you f*cking legend.

Hendri, second from the right.

Hendri going solo...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fog, planes and names

This evening I crept home from work like a little old lady hunched over the steering wheel. 

The fog was nuts - I couldn't find the fog light switch (not my car, but one I'm fortunate enough to be able to borrow whilst back in the UK) and the radio was loud.  I forgot to dim my headlights, work had annoyed me, my gloves stank of de-icer fluid (which is basically neat horse piss) and I had a million things whirring around my head until baby flicked my tummy.  Instantly I was reminded that there were two of us in the baked bean tin of a vehicle and I immediately slowed to a speed verging on ridiculous.  For the next 25 minutes I forgot to exhale.  It's crazy how we suddenly change our habits once there's a life growing from within -any other time I'd have flung the car into the icy corners and pulled a few handbrake turns ;)

And just now Chris rang from Heathrow's terminal four.  He'll be taking off in 30 minutes and my heart hurts a little at the space he's left behind.  We chatted about the weather, my frustrating day at ruddy work, the last couple of days he's spent in London, his luggage allowance on Kenyan Airways, duty free and the fact that we aren't going to see one another until next year.  Next year.... it sounds so far away, but it's only around the corner.  He's due to fly back into the UK on the 26th January 2011 and by then I shall look like I've eaten a sofa.  I could hear the lady on the annoying tannoy calling passengers into the departure lounge and he had to go, but before signing off I whispered a name for our baby that has played on my mind.....he really likes it and will hold it close, though we both know it could change, just like this crazy weather!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Snug as a bug

The snowy weather continues and I'm now starting to freeze my arse off.  Tropical Africa seems a million miles away.

But I'm snug and warm and at 21 weeks so is my ever expanding tummy :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Embrace the chill

Christmas trees on the front of my parents house.  My mum caved in to family pressure this year (grandchildren) and agreed to have the council sling the trees and lights up.  All at a cost she'd want you to know.  They look magical, even though the photos don't show off the metres of snow that have fallen over the last two days!

Right now the front page of the BBC News website says, 'More Chaos As Big Freeze Goes On - The UK is in the grip of one of the coldest starts to December in more than 20 years with snow and ice causing road, rail and airport chaos.'

Blimey, happy December 1st!  For anyone who happens to be reading this in North America I can see your faces smirking at the thought of us Brits struggling across snowy roads, down snowy lanes and up snowy steps, but take note: in the Highlands tonight it's expected to drop to -25.  That makes my heart shudder.  No question about it, I would absolutely die if I lived that far north.  All across the country we're wrapped in layers of clothing and attempting to stop children from eating yellow snow.  My mother is looking at stocking the kitchen cupboards with a big shop tomorrow in case the big freeze goes on past Friday.  Who'd 'ave thought.

Chris and I made it back to Suffolk yesterday afternoon via a snowy and icy M25 (always prepared we had an apple and a muesli bar) having spent the weekend in London and Brighton.  We caught up with friends in Kingston and had Sunday lunch with most of his family and shook the hands of nephews we hadn't seen in two years - they were boys no more and I felt positively ancient!   We topped it off by spending Monday night in a lovely Brighton hotel, revisiting the old haunts of where we lived eight years ago.  It was terrific - we ate delicious food, wandered the Lanes, shopped for gifts and watched a wintry sun set on the horizon of a slate grey sea as we sat cuddled up on the infamous pebbled beach.

Lying in bed that night we listened to the fierce wind beat against the windows and snuggled down as our baby flicked my stomach and made its presence known.  Chris leaves for Africa next week, but takes with him the gentle hopes and dreams we have as a family in the making.  His work beckons and at some point tomorrow we've got to sit down to finalise the drawings of lodge accommodation, the selling of our overland truck, the lodge budget, staff wages and the chosen colour to paint the store - it all seems so surreal, especially as tonight he's gone to watch a football match, Ipswich V's West Bromwich Albion. 

Bless him and his chilly hands, he's not touching me this evening......!*%#@*!