Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Completing the puzzle

The curtains move gently with the breeze in Leo’s bedroom. It’s a small but beautiful space and I can’t stop myself from walking in and moving things around a little.  It makes me smile that he has a room of his own, but equally I’m aware of how grown up it all suddenly seems.  The walls and floor are newly painted and a large white mosquito net hangs gently from its wooden frame like a whisper.  The transition from our bed to his cot happened last month when we were in the UK.  One evening I spoke nervously on the phone to Chris about him going into his own room when we returned to Africa - was it something we were ready for, was it too soon and could it be the other room, not the one that we now use as a snug that we painted orange for Ella?  Our baby boy barely resisted as we lay him gently in his cot in his pale green room on the night we landed.
The rising sun spreads her silky fingers of warmth across the garden and over the exotic flowers, streaking everything in a rich glow.  The sky is already blue with the odd dot of white cloud bobbing like a balloon against the backdrop.  Leo is sleeping, rolled onto his side with his toes resting on soft cuddly toys, the little tips poking through the bars of his cot.  My eyes prick with tears as I watch him, and holding my breath I move carefully backwards as the big world continues to spin her morning magic outside the window.  My baby, my big baby is approaching 9 months old and I continue to feel a growing love like no other as I cradle the moments of his being.  I pinch myself that he’s here, our precious pot of gold.
The rest of the house is starting to fizz with the energy involved in packing for our safari north.  We’re heading to a part of the country where it can get so hot you can fry an egg on the bonnet of your car and a large hat is not enough – ouch!  Chris was due back this afternoon but has rung to say he’s up to his knees in plumbing so wont make it home until tomorrow.  We’ll load during the night and head off first thing Friday morning with mosquito nets, bedding, food supplies, lanterns and decorated gourds – the final additions for the lodge.  He’s carefully prepared a room for us in Murchison where we will spend our 1st Christmas together as a family, overlooking the Nile.  From the high bank we’ll seek out hippos floating in the water and capture elephants on camera as they wander to the edge to drink. 
It’s been nearly 20 months since I was there and I can’t wait.  It feels like the beginning of a new phase and in a way I suppose it is, we’ve been waiting for this moment a long time and finally our two big dreams, Leo and Murchison River Lodge, are due to meet.  We anticipate a big roar of approval from the lion and for Chris and I?  it will be like putting the final piece of the giant puzzle tightly into place. 
We’ll be without internet access for a while so Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays one and all X
(Mary, I’ll be sure to pack the sensible footwear for elephant running)!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Naughty or nice? Give me bad as hell

Having become a mother I now appreciate the fact that most people have an opinion about what you’re doing when it comes to raising your child.  Whether they’re a parent themselves or a casual spectator the comments come forth - some are truly lovely, some full of experience, others err on the wrong side of not.

A friend casually took a bottle of my expressed liquid gold from the fridge and was about to give it to Leo because I was on the phone and she thought he was hungry.  Another suggested I ‘wasn’t going to be one of those mothers’ when I stopped her from relentlessly feeding Leo a piece of steak at 4 months old.  There’s also the odd comment about his clothing and him being too warm, and is he doing A, B or C yet.

Speaking with a friend on the phone the other day she asked whether I was feeling broody due to several couples recently announcing their pregnancy news.  Broody?  No, because I’m wrapped up in nurturing Leo, but a part of me sometimes wonders whether we will ever find ourselves conceiving naturally again or if he will have a sibling to grow up with.  I don’t know what the future holds, but having waited so long for our baby boy to arrive we’re strong enough and focused enough to give him a great life regardless of the outcome.

She randomly ploughed on and asked if I’d read or heard about a recent article by the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) which I hadn’t (and I have no need to).  Apparently it suggests couples who have one child and fail to get pregnant through IVF (or similar) with a second are far more distraught than those who fail to conceive at all.   I stared hard into the phone, ‘WTF.  WHY ON EARTH ARE WE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION?  I know women who are distraught regardless!  And the thing is you’re a mother who falls pregnant easily, you also know my history and you know if I were to become pregnant ever again (probably through medical intervention) the odds are my womb will rupture and both my baby and I could die.’

But I didn’t say that because I didn’t want to offend her with my pissed off tone, so instead I mumbled something about catching up soon and then spent the rest of the day growling.  Sometimes I wish I could let rip with both barrels when someone says something that’s insensitive, wrong and rude and if Father Christmas wants to know if I’ve been naughty or nice well I’ve been nice, but there are those days when I wish to high heaven I could be bad as h.e.l.l.

Friday, December 16, 2011

M25 pit stop

Leo and I made it back to Uganda on a flight that had the little guy charming the hearts of everyone.  I was quietly nervous thinking it could be the day flight to end all day flights, especially as we tick tocked towards 8.5 hrs of Leo and all 10.9kg of him squashed onto my lap.  But it was plain sailing and he didn't put a cheeky foot wrong, not even when we found ourselves thrust into the middle row on an aisle seat miles back from the bulk head (which I'd specifically confirmed over the phone - damn you BA and your lying ways).  

It's now six days since we landed and Chris and I remain in awe of our first class passenger - he was literally born to travel which can't be said for his mother.  Early last Saturday morning as we hurtled towards Heathrow around the M25 I needed to go the loo so badly I nearly fainted.  I finally managed to persuade Pod (my stepfather) to pull off at the next junction which he was initially against (with much huffing and puffing) as with only 20 miles left couldn't I just wait?  NO I COULD NOT. 

I think what finally changed his mind was my face turning red from lack of oxygen so he yanked the steering wheel and we found a road leading into a dark and dingy lane.  I clambered from the car, wet wipes in hand, and darted to the nearest bush.  This particular spot was a fly tip and the area littered to the beaming full moon and back with rubbish.  It was so awful I mentally held everything in and instead weed like a racehorse.....right next to a plastic kettle.….

When it comes to needing a pit stop, quite literally, I'm your girl.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The lodge in progress

Chris has just been back in Jinja and emailed a few photos of how the lodge in Murchison is progressing - it's looking incredible.  He's up against the 'in time for Christmas' clock, but it's all looking good and I reckon he'll do it unless there's a horrendous storm that washes the mud roads away or the place gets trashed by hippos...it's extreme, but extreme is always a possibility up there.

The bar/restaurant viewed from the river Nile

Bar viewed from the firepit

Bar terrace

Family cottage - still to be painted and furnished

Monday, December 5, 2011

Daddy Is My Hero

The 3 weeks Leo and I have been in England the phone calls between Chris and I have been hit and miss.  He's often unable to get a mobile signal in the bush unless he's standing like a flamingo on a termite hill and when eventually one tiny bar appears on that little screen and the call connects we shout like crazy people at one another and then the line drops out.  BAH!  It's frustrating, but it's ok as we'll see each other in 5 days time when he collects Leo and I from Entebbe airport.

In the meantime I've been emailing him photos of Leo who is changing by the minute.  On Saturday morning he revealed 2 spiky bottom teeth, he's becoming more determined to shuffle his 10.9kg body across the floor and his hair...well, it's more wispy than ever :)  The two photos below tell daddy like it is and the last one shows him wearing Chris's old Afghan Pakol hat.  It's a hat from way back when he used to drive and guide tours through the Middle East and into Pakistan and India.  It holds fond memories for us both and it seems Leo enjoys the scratchy woolly feel of it against his little pip. 

Like father, like son.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

HOWLING with laughter!

If you have a dog, know someone with a dog, grew up with a dog, have no interest in dogs.....

Dog or no dog this short clip of a dog chasing a herd of deer in Richmond Park (London) who in turn is being chased by his owner is absolutely worth watching!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GRSbr0EYYU&feature=youtu.be&noredirect=1

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our Boys

Today was a special day, one that has been a long time coming and one that enveloped my heart with sunshine and warmth. 

My great friend Fi drove down from London to visit Leo and I with her baby son, Ru.  I hugged her hard and touched the cheek of her beautiful angel, he smiled a gummy smile in return.  Our boys reached out for one another as they twisted and turned on the sitting room floor.  Leo grabbed Ru's arm, Ru grabbed a toy.  Ru squealed, Leo grunted.  We are excited about the lives they will lead, the adventures they will have and the absolute mischief they will cause together.

Through the laughter we spoke gently of the loss of our first beloved babies, Ella and Innes.  When the lights went out, when darkness fell and when the sky closed in we understood each other's pain - words were no longer necessary.  We supported one another when the whisper of a new life began to flutter inside our broken bodies and when celebrating such a miracle seemed impossible.   

Chris and I were honoured to introduce Leo to Fi and her husband Rich when he was 6 weeks old....to meet Ru today completed the circle.

Ru, 4.5 months old & Leo who turned 8 months old today

Fi and I with 'our boys'

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Malaria or Ebola....nothing as fancy

Good god, I've had the lurgy for a week.

Last Tuesday night I crashed into bed with a headache that was shoving my right eye out of my skull.  I had a temperature, threw up and gnashed my jaws for 2 hours.  Was it malaria?  Ever so likely.  Eventually I could stand it no more and crawled across the carpeted floor to where my suitcase lay and scratched around for a malaria testing kit.  It was 1am.  It was also Leo's second night of being in a cot - EVER.  Being sick was not on my agenda, especially when attempting the 'cry down' method of getting him to sleep through the night after co-sharing for the past 4 months.  I had hoped that being away from Africa would enable me to get our baby not only to sleep in a cot, but to sleep in cot in a separate room.  In my mind's painful eye this was about to backfire with bells on.

I pricked my thumb, carried out the test and lay on the floor in the semi-darkness using my phone as a torch.  After 10 minutes the negative result showed.  I'm not sure if I was relieved or pissed off.  So the last week has seen us sniff, cough, bark and whinge at being poorly (to be honest most of those adjectives apply to me, Leo's still too young to be able to string one word together).  It's a given that living in the tropics can be horribly tough on your health, especially for babies and the elderly.....OH and for anyone else who happens to be breathing in the air, but ironically returning to British shores during the winter months can be equally as dangerous - there are bugs, viruses, short dark days and everyone's wacky central heating to contend with.

Thankfully we've managed to compensate having Ebola (or it's equivalent) by seeing family (Chris's included), beautiful friends and eating my fill of custard danish pastries. 

And my biggest coup of all?  Leo loves his cot!

*** I've realised that there is nothing worse than parents who talk smugly of their kid/s not only liking a cot but sleeping in one to make sleep deprived parents go slightly c-r-a-z-y.  Over a week ago I'd have wanted to punch me ***

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Forget the sunnies, this is England in November

The last month or so has flown by and I've been lame at typing.  No excuses apart from my mum's visited, the country's power supply is rubbish so during the evening I wear a head torch and read by candle light.  Chris continues to live like Stig of the Dump in Murchison - he remains all hairy and wild having recovered from a bout of malaria - but the lodge development is close to being finished and he's breaking balls to get it done before Christmas.  One of our dogs was about to cark it with sleeping sickness but she made a miraculous recovery, the chatty cat crazes my arse with his squeaking and I'm tempted to drop him from the car 10 miles away....frustratingly we know he'd find his way back.  Leo and I continue to co-share the double bed (which is becoming a problem seeing that he wakes every 3 seconds to use me as a dummy) and he's growing like a heavy weight - now tipping the scales at 10.8kg.  Excitedly on Tuesday night the baby and I boarded a BA flight bound for the UK - my great friend Lesley showered us with air miles and made us an offer we couldn't refuse (we love her to the moon and back).  We're home for a 3 week visit and are ensconced at my parents house in Suffolk.  Stupidly I'd forgotten how cold the UK can be in November and it feels like I'm about to fall over with flu, but with a glass of wine in one hand and a bowl of crisps in the other I seem to be coping brilliantly.


Hmmmmmm, sunglasses are not essential eyeware in England during November.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October - a month to remember

As I hung wet clothes along the roped washing line I felt someone watching me.  I turned and saw her standing quietly by the corner of the house.  She was wearing a dark skirt and a faded blue cardigan that hung loosely from her delicate round shoulders.  Her small feet were clad in plastic pink flip flops and her hair, often so carefully braided, was short and fuzzy.  One hand steadied herself against the wall, the other held a man's handkerchief to her face.  

My voice caught in the back of my throat as I softly said her name.  She walked tentatively to the back door of our house and stood by the large steps leading into the kitchen.  I held her gaze and moved slowly across the garden, my arms held open to her.  Her tiny frame was rigid, but she allowed herself to be soothed, if just for a moment and I whispered into her hair that I was so, so sorry. 

We sat quietly on the top step and looked out into the back yard staring at the jack fruit trees and the wasteland of a vegetable patch.  Fuwe, our dog, sniffed at our bare legs and the cockerel from next door crowed restlessly.  Leo sat in his bouncy chair, time slowed and the hot air crackled.  She spoke carefully and slowly in English, her voice barely wavering .  I remained with my hands clasped around my knees and could only imagine the horror of what she had endured.

"I went to bed with some small pain here in my stomach, so I took 2 painkillers and tried to sleep.  I don't know what time it was, but I woke with a big pain.  The pain, it was too much.  I tried to get to the door but fell.  There was blood, lots of blood and my body was pushing and my stomach was hurting.  I remained on the floor and when I looked down I could see there was something, something big and red and that's when I collapsed.  My younger sister was staying with me, she's seven years old and she ran to the neighbour.  They managed to put me in a vehicle and a man drove me to a clinic, do you know the one?  It's up on the hill.  They said I slept for 3 hours.  I stayed for 1 night and then went back home.  But the blood, eeeeeeh, it was too much, as much as this large basin."

"How far was I?  The baby, it was already 12 weeks before it came...........and like it was for you Georgie, it is just so sad."


**********************


From following Still Life 365, October is baby loss awareness month.  I've been remembering Ella and friends and families from near and far who have lost precious babies like her, babies that have been taken from us far too soon.  The loss of a baby doesn't discriminate and as Madrin our young Ugandan cleaner said to me, 'it is just so sad.'

Sending love and light around the globe to one and all X

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A BIG Sign

I passed a sign in the local village yesterday that says it all about living in Africa.....

ESPECIALLY when it comes to ruddy great big hairy caterpillars (as per previous post).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bigger and Scarier in Africa

Africa has a tendency for doing things just that bit bigger and scarier than anywhere else I've travelled.

Case in point - below is a photo of a hairy caterpillar that was found cruising around our garden this afternoon. 

FAAAAARK 'N HELL!!!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Come Walk With Us

In the morning, before the sun gets too crazy hot, I strap Leo into his buggy and we head off for a walk around the neighbourhood.  We've lived in this this part of town for nearly 8 years, before then we spent 12 mad and slightly drunken months living in a banda at a campsite overlooking the swirling eddies of the river Nile below.

Why did we move from such a sensational location?  To be honest our one room accommodation (and adjacent long drop toilet) literally hung off a muddy bank.  And it was after one colossal storm that saw us swinging through the front door above a huge drop off that we called it a day (our livers were to thank us too) and searched for an alternative abode in town.

The following photos give a brief insight into the area where we live.  Many of the houses are lived in by large Ugandan families whose children run, laugh and play around the unkempt gardens, as do their animals.  Chris, Leo and I live in our rented house with Ugandan neighbours either side and behind us.  Several expats tend to reside on another side of town close to the famous Jinja Golf Course that curves down to the Source of the Nile, where cattle and goats graze on the verges with wild abandon. 

Interestingly Uganda has a large Indian population.  During Idi Amin's reign he ordered their expulsion and they were given 90 days to leave.  When Museveni, the current president, came to power in 1986 he invited the Indians back.  Many of them still retained their land and house titles which meant they could return to where they were living before.  Several families live in large and ornate houses and depending on the time of day the smell of curry and incense can be caught on the wind.

We're probably 15 minutes by foot from town and there's often a constant flow of traffic going past our front gate.  Chickens pick at the insects by the driveway and people wander past the high green hedge bordering the garden where the Karamojong ladies bend to collect fallen sticks and tie them in bundles before placing them on their heads.  Piki Piki's (local motorbike taxi's) putt up and down the road.  Stray dogs encourage late night barking and Leo and I are usually awake to hear the Islamic call to prayer at 5am.....that's when I crash my head back into the pillows and dream of more sleep!  Local hotels often have weekend discos but on the whole mid week entertainment is thankfully kept to a minimum.

In the late afternoon we may go for a second walk, taking a slightly longer route.  Some of the roads are pot holed and there aren't any pavements.  The askari's (night watchmen) pass us on their way to work, nodding a greeting and waving at Leo.  Children fall out of school around this time and shriek and squeal at the 'big white baby' and we may stop at the dukas (local shops) to buy popcorn or bananas. 

And if it's raining?  Hmmm, we're fair weather walkers in this house and the rain in the tropics falls so heavily we take the soft option.............and stay in.

Getting ready to roll....

Swinging a left out of our drive

A Pakistani family live in this wonderful house which is currently being painted

One of local high schools in the area

The lady sitting beneath the tree is making chapatis, she also serves sweet tea

The bright blue container sells fruit, vegetables and household items, ie little bags of washing powder

Many of the houses in the area are of this style

The roadside 'dukas' where we get popcorn - you can also get a haircut should you wish

 A pretty good stretch of road without a single pothole

The sign says it all

During the Second World War Jinja was the Uganda Centre for the King's African Rifles.  The Jinja War Cemetary contains 1 burial for the First World War and 178 buriels and commemorations of the Second World War.  The cemetary is situated on the road behind our house.

One of the headstones in memory of the fallen

Through the gate in our driveway looking out across the road

Home

Thanks for joining us ;)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A wobble

Chris came back for two days and has gone again. 

Leo adored seeing him, I loved having him around and we fell into being a family with such ease that I bite my lip when I remember what our life was like before.  The days away from each other are difficult now we have a baby (we always knew they would be and we were prepared) but this week in particular I've struggled with having to wave goodbye. 

I only have to look at Leo and am overwhelmed by this surge of love for him, but sometimes I feel completely out of my depth at the enormous responsibility involved in taking care of him on my own.  He is so precious, so little and so dependant on me that I still find myself gazing at him in disbelief.  And just sometimes the absolute fear of loosing him, having lost before, strikes firmly at my heart.

To make it harder I'm missing my family and friends more than usual.  I crave their advice, help and knowledge in helping me to charter these unknown baby waters.  I hold dear their humour, their wit and their stories via email and skype at how difficult, yet magical, parenthood really is and their safe and loving reassurances that we're doing ok over here. 

In light of the above I messaged a dear friend last night and explained that I was having a wobble.  I told her Chris was away and that I've been experiencing huge happiness and waves of sadness coupled with the fear of loosing Leo like we lost Ella.  She understands better than anyone having suffered a tragic loss of her own before having a baby boy only recently.  As such her reply about our babies filled my soul and made me cry as I held onto Leo tightly.

'I truly know how you feel and although I know how lucky we are, there are times I don't trust that he (her son) wont be taken away.  And when your husband isn't around to make you feel secure and tell you it'll be ok, it's hard to shake the bad thoughts.  But we will be ok and the boys came into our lives at the right times and to help us heal so they must be here to stay.'

Tomorrow is another day, and with it comes renewed strength and for that I am always grateful.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Elephant Advice

I read this on another blogger's site, (Stalled at 12) it's brilliant:

A zoologist friend mailed me some literature from a preserve I'm interested in.

A healthy 4000 pound elephant can run 33 miles per hour for 12 minutes.

One of the suggestions in the preserve's visitor packet:

IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT OF AN ELEPHANT CHARGE, DO NOT FALL DOWN WHILE TRYING TO GET AWAY. 


Indeed.

You'll be pleased to hear I've sent this detailed information on to Chris as the Ugandan Wildlife Authority have never published anything so specific. 

It could mean the difference between life and death for our guests in that wild and unpredictable bush - especially if they go 'Eli Spotting' in impractical footware. 

Though the other thing to remember is to make sure you're able to outrun the friends you're with ;)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Daring to Bite The Bullet

Leo's sleeping right now.  He's tucked up in our bed underneath his blue blanket (it's one that Chris bought for him when we were in the UK) with the large mosquito net securely tied at the corners.  He may sleep for 30 minutes or crash out, like a man down, for a few hours. Our god-daughter, Kya, is also staying so it's been an evening of stories, a movie, sausage and chips, ice-cream and washing body moisturiser our of her white blond hair!  With both little people out for the count I'm taking what I can and typing like Elton John on the piano.  Damn fast.

Chris left for Murchison at 7am this morning in our old green land cruiser which was laden down with materials for the lodge construction - cement, water tank, hose, steel and rope all tied on.  It resembled a big ship on the high seas as he backed out of the drive and onto the bumpy road for the long drive north.  He hopes to be back next Tuesday, but it could be Thursday.....we've learnt to be flexible, but it's hard and he misses Leo tremendously when he's away.

I've not been up to Murchison since last year, but from the photos I've seen and based on the intense grilling I give Chris after every visit it's looking beautiful.  The campsite and safari tents are finished, as is the bar/restaurant and kitchen.  They're cracking on with the rooms, I imagine they'll be ready in a few more weeks.  Over 6 years ago, when he exchanged money for the 20 acre piece of land, it was wild African bush - you couldn't walk without slicing your limbs on the sky high elephant grass and twisted thorny trees.  Hippo tracks were visible (and still are) and a wild buffalo was a regular visitor.  The view from the high bank out across the river Nile was jaw dropping - elephants, water buck, pods of hippos, crocodiles and birds of all descriptions could be seen at the water's edge and of course there was a sunset to die for. 

We began developing 18 months ago and the idea was to keep as much of the wild bush as possible and to build amongst it, keeping it real.  The campsite is at the back of the property, off the dirt road, and the rooms are along the ridge of a naturally shallow 'amphitheatre'.  Overlooking the water and facing upstream sits the bar/restaurant with it's heavily terraced and much admired thatched roof.  Whilst pregnant and back in the UK the roof fell over during a horrendous storm.  It was kept from me (Chris is no fool) and when I eventually saw the photos I thought it was some awful joke.  But.No.It.Wasn't.  I shant tell you about the 2 workmen who dived for cover under the sleeper furniture as it came crashing down around their ears....  Fortunately we hadn't paid the contractor his final installment, so in no time it was put back up and the footings replaced.

Our original dream was to live in Murchison and run the lodge, but that was before Leo arrived on the scene.  Malaria is a big risk in Uganda, even more so up north.  As it is very few of us take any anti-malarials, but as day turns to night we spray legs and arms, we cover up by wearing jeans or trousers, we sleep under a treated mosquito net and we make sure doors are closed and windows are shut.  Prevention is better than cure.  But for ease of worry we have malaria test kits and we know the drugs to take should the blood test give us a positive result.  But at the moment with Leo only 5 half months old we don't feel we can live as a family there, not when the medical facilities are so far away and especially not when we have a choice.

So with this thought ringing in our ears and with Leo and I living in Jinja, we've decided to bite the bullet (decision made over a dinner of roasted vegetables, a pork joint and beer) and open this dream of ours, 'M.urchison River Lodge'. We could keep putting it off, but we're running out of money again and the threadbare purse strings are carrying thin air so it's time to be bold and take the bull by the horns.  It's a big leap of faith and we're nervous of having bitten off something so big that we may choke, but with the help of creative friends and great local staff we may just be on the cusp of starting something quite magical.  And it's Leo, our little lion, who we have to thank for this sense of self belief.

Him and several cold beers......!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ruby Shoes

The majority of my shoes are flip flops.  They have tired soles and imprints where my big toe presses down at the front and where my heavy heel rests at the back - not a good look by any stretch of the imagination.  They are the footwear of choice for living in a country where what you put on your feet, let alone on your back, often isn't given a second glance.

But like most women I have one pair of shoes that make me want to throw caution to the wind, hitch up my skirt, mess up my hair and slick on the lipstick.  They're my red LK Bennet wedges, a shoe that's completely impractical and as such they go everywhere I travel.  I got them in a sale in Covent Garden over 10 years ago at a time when Chris simultaneously managed to buy two pairs of Birkinstocks and shockingly only paid for one.

These shoes have carried me through mud, along a beach, across an uneven croquet lawn and over many a pot holed road.  They've seen me twist, twirl and sway on the back of too much wine.  They've lifted me high into the night as bands have rocked bars and parties have been attended.  They encourage me to walk tall and to stretch out my stubborn calves (and if the following morning is ever anything to go by then walking itself is a complete impossibility).

They are the sort of shoes that bring a smile to the face, like that of a trusted and much loved friend - someone who has seen you through the worst times and the good times - and on a rainy day they have the magic to make you feel a million bucks.

****

About 7 years ago my mum posted me a parcel and inside was a Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris cd.  The note read, 'Darling, not your 'cup of tea' I know, but listen to track 6.  I always think of you and so does Poddo.  All my love xxxx'

Love and Happiness

here's a wishing well
here's a penny for
any thought it is
that makes you smile
every diamond dream
everything that brings
love and happiness
to your life

here's a rabbit's foot
take it when you go
so you'll always know
you're safe from harm
wear your ruby shoes
when you're far away
so you'll always stay
home in your heart

you will always have a lucky star
that shines because of what you are
even in the deepest dark
because your aim is true
and if I could only have one wish
darling, then it would be this
love and happiness for you

here's a spinning wheel
use it once you've learned
there's a way to turn
the straw to gold
here's a rosary
count on every bead
with a prayer to keep
the hope that you hold

you will always have a lucky star
that shines because of what you are
even in the deepest dark
because your aim is true
and if I could only have one wish
darling, then it would be this
love and happiness for you

****

Tomorrow it will be three years since we lost our darling baby daughter Ella.  Three years on I remember that day as clearly as cut glass and not a day goes by when I don't think of her and wish upon a star.  But this year's anniversary is so very different, this year we have our 22 week old heart shaped baby to fit into the heart shaped hole left by Ella.  And in the words of Mr Knopfler and Ms Harris the hope that we have held onto over the last 12 months has given us Leo and more love and happiness than we could ever have asked for.

And as we light a candle in memory of Ella tomorrow night I may just slip on my favourite ruby shoes......X

Monday, August 22, 2011

Doff your cap

I'm lying on the sofa listening to the insects outside the window scratching their wings and humming a tune.

If I wasn't yawning like a hippo I'd be updating this post with news on life in Uganda, about how horrified we were watching the coverage of an army of looters and rioters rampaging their way through London, that the attacks in Norway gnawed at our hearts and how this very second the rebels are moving into central Tripoli and what this means to the people of Libya. 

But you know what, sometimes it's the little things that make the biggest difference.  I was pushing Leo in his buggy today and passed an old man hoeing his garden of weeds when he doffed his cap and smiled, 'good morning to you and your baby'. 

I've been smiling since....has someone made you smile today by doing something so innocent, yet so powerful?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Leo rocks 18 weeks


Leo turns 18 weeks today and every day spent with him is a gift.  He amazes, delights and inspires.  He's nosy, noisy and chatty.  His eyes are huge, drinking in the world around him.  We see small changes in him almost daily and we continue to pinch ourselves that he's here.  Chris says it's due to my magic tummy, I think it was a case of two special sparks meeting in the right place at the right time ;) 

I watch Leo and wonder quietly what Ella would have been like.  Would she have had his nose, his lack of eyebrows, his rotund tummy, his perfect fingers and toes, his wide and beautiful smile, his angry shrieking, his fist into mouth stuffing, his wispy hair, his creased brow, his larger than life heart, his magnetic behaviour, his to-die-for giggle? 

Yes she would have had bits of him, but Leo is his own incredible person, just as his sister would have been, and my heart explodes with love for them both. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mittens....

Embarrassingly I seem to have a habit of leaving my breast pads lying around, all casual like and it's not good for my health, or that of my friends.

They keep being found tucked under cushions, in the footwell of vehicles, pressed into the arm of sofas and by computer keyboards, just like coasters.  Awful.

So I've come up with a brilliant idea and if anyone wants to shove it under the noses of those guys on Dragon's Den, then please do - run with it and make millions.

Breast pads attached together by one long piece of string.  Taaaa daaaaaaaaaaaa! 

They'd be just like mittens and I for one would buy them by the bucket load. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Goodbye you beast

We've sold our big Mercedes overland truck.  It's sale brings with it the funds that will enable us to thatch 3 lodge rooms and supply more plumbing materials than you can shake a stick at.  If only we had 10 more trucks like it to flog...

When it wasn't on safari our small driveway was swallowed up by it's large frame and we could just squeeze our cruiser in behind it - don't ask how many times I bounced into it late at night, but the bumper stands testament to the fact it was a lot ;)  You could just about putt, putt past it on the vespa, as long as you used your feet as stabilizers and twisted your shoulders accordingly.

We shipped it over from England 4 years ago and yep, I'm going to miss it.  The loud purring of the engine, the 'gin and tonic' balcony, the boat-like swaying motion as it rocked over the long African roads and the opportunities it gave us to travel with friends and international tourists throughout East Africa on safari.  I wont, however, miss the repairing and the dread of a breakdown in the middle of b*m *u*k nowhere. 

The sale of the truck is a stark reminder that we're finished with running safaris (not easy to do when you don't have any vehicles left) and we can crack on with the development of the 20 acres of wilderness we have overlooking the river Nile on the edge of Murchison Falls National Park. 

As I stand back and look at the big picture it's not a bad trade off.





Wednesday, July 20, 2011

16 weeks and an avocado of note

Today Leo turned 16 weeks old and I ate an avocado the size of my head - two achievements I never thought possible in one lifetime.

I write this post whilst Chris is away in Murchison overseeing the construction of the lodge.  I've seen photos from his last trip - it's looking amazing and he's absolutely thrilled at the progress, but it remains hard work with him being up north and Leo and I being down south.  We knew it would be tough, but I'm not sure we anticipated it being so emotionally tough.  Little things that he'd help me with now seem tricky on my own and the ever present malaria remains a niggling thorn in my side. 

For example this evening I struggled getting Leo to sleep and found myself rocking, swaying and whispering to him as he shouted in my arms.  He received legs full of injections earlier today and squealed momentarily before nursing himself into a deep slumber as I held him on the sofa with my legs criss-crossed.  We remained like this for much of the afternoon as I gently stroked his face and drank pint after pint of ribena. 

In anticipation of any post-vaccine fever creeping up on him tonight I gave him a syringe of calpol just before bedtime.  In hindsight I realise I should have given him the medicine and then waited a while before feeding.  As it was I squirted the syringe of strawberry flavoured syrup into his mouth, watched as half of it slid down his chin and then attempted to feed him. 

Moments later he squirmed and writhed and I recognised the possible signs as trapped wind - I patted his tiny back, I walked with him over my shoulder, I tried soothing him, I jiggled him on my knee, I shhhhhhhhed him and as he stiffened his back and straightened his legs I cried.  I cried because I couldn't take his pain away, I couldn't stop his sobs, I physically couldn't reply to my sister's text asking how he was, Chris had tried calling but we couldn't hear one another and I was angry that I'd been the cause of my little boy's hurt. 

Fifteen minutes later as I sat in a sweaty heap with him propped on my knee and rubbing his back I felt something wet fall onto my foot.  Lumpy sick.  The crying stopped, he fed hungrily and then crashed out into the 'stick em up' pose across my arms.  I carefully carried him to our bedroom, lifted the mosquito net and gently placed him, asleep, on our bed.  Leo sharing our bed makes me whole and lessens the fact that Chris is away, because it is hard being here and tacking out a new path, but with every new dawn brings another round of strength and after a piping hot shower the day to day stuff now seems possible again.

Even when it comes to eating a mammoth-sized avocado I'll have you know.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Lion Has Landed

We arrived back to the tropics over 2 weeks ago.  Where on earth has the time gone?  Who the hell knows, I've not had a chance to catch up on breathing, but be rest assured we're skittling along and adjusting to a life that's familiar, but somehow different. 

A lot of tea has been drunk, wonderful friends have visited, the dogs were thrilled (for all of 30 seconds) to see us, the 'hunk of junk' (25 year old land cruiser) still heaves and creeps along, our rented house remains standing - the bathroom more horrendous than I remember, the garden is flourishing, skype works and eases hugely the parting of family and friends, the weather is sweaty, inflation is hurting, the lodge build in Murchison is kicking arse and looks amazing, Chris is suddenly away a lot and we're coping in a wide eyed fashion, but above all else our lion is growing like a watermelon and smiling like the desert sun. 

Time?  That's where it's gone, looking after Leo.  Unlike before, the other stuff can wait :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

It's Looking Like A Beautiful Day

I watched Glastonbury on the tv last night (whilst avoiding the elephant in the room - unpacked bags) and tingled as Elbow played one of my favourite songs. 

Follow this link and go to 'Elbow Glastonbury Highlights' and move the time cursor to 30:30 minutes.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/festivals/glastonbury/2011/artists/elbow/#p00hsycc

'IT'S LOOKING LIKE A BEAUTIFUL DAY', oh yes it is.

That's the song we'll be singing as we battle through security at Heathrow later tonight!

Right....shower, pack, flip flops, baby, passport.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Three months on and we've a flight to catch

Since Leo's arrival we've been enveloped with enormous love.  We received over 100 cards, cherished emails have filled the inbox, long phone calls continue to be taken and texts have been read and saved.  Gifts...how many beautiful outfits can one baby wear?  His wardrobe exploded within minutes of his arrival and his tiny frame now stretches the seams of anything with a 0-3 month old label.  Cuddly toys hang from the end of my bed guarding over the moses basket.  Books are in a pile by our cases.  I received a gift from a cherished friend, a necklace with a sapphire taken from her bracelet.   Friends have driven from near and far to grab a cuddle with the baby that's brought such joy and to drink cups of steaming tea as we laugh and cry at the adventure that's still so new, parenthood. 

With just 3 days left we're squeezing in those final goodbyes and I wish on a big, fat star that we had longer.  For starters the packing of those bloody bags continues to dominate the horizon and if we didn't have a departure date, well it goes without saying my mum would make sure there was one.  Chris has commandeered the role of 'Lead Packer' and is carrying out the process with military precision - he wont let me shove in a top here or a tooth brush there for fear that I'll upset the digital scales.  Leo's clothes and Amazon purchases litter the floor and my tolerance is being tested.  Normally I would pack regardless, but I'm of the understanding that if we're a single hair in weight over our luggage allowance British Airways will charge us the cost of a kidney!  I currently need both of mine.

The past three months are like a hazy dream.  I can barely remember the first fragile weeks of being a mother as long nights dramatically merged with long days.  There was lots of fiddling with nappies, dodgy breast pads, midwife advice (consisting of a knitted boob and a plastic doll called Ken) sick, a simple walk in the country lane with a baby in a sling, big pants over a smiling c-section scar, hormones with horns, hot showers, my sister turning up to tell me it's all ok, laughter and a tsunami of emotion that made me question my ability as a mother let alone wife.  Easter Sunday will be remembered as the hottest one on record and for Leo meeting his aunts and uncles.  Chris knocked on the door of the big 4-0 and charged straight through it celebrating with a barrel of cider and a group of our happy drunken friends. Presents were irrelevant he said, he now had everything he could ever have wished for (bar the pokey monster skull splitting hangover).  Love for his son conquers all.

The second month saw us balance on the deck of our new life and look out to a future that was bright and charged with hope.  I visited my consultant for a post baby check up and she told us things we knew and things we didn't.  My niece asking if Leo was busy 'feeding on my nippers'.  We discussed living abroad with a baby and Leo received vaccines that saw Chris and I reel in horror at the length of needles sticking into tiny thighs.  My cousin's little girl, Evie, tip toed into this world so small and so perfect - Leo looked like he'd eat her.  Friends stayed and we soaked up their brilliant and funny parenting skills - expressing milk for a baby and nothing quite like an 'excitment drink' at the pub to keep a 3 year old happy!  A general 8 week check-up confirmed Leo strong and healthy but his eyes were to be given the once over at the hospital's eye department.  The opthamologist in charge promised his vision is spot on and we exhaled with relief.  My birthday was spent eating fish and chips on the beach in the sunshine.  Presents?  I too now have everything I could have wished for and a necklace from Chris containing a tag with Leo's name on it and a butterfly in memory of Ella.

Right this minute we're kicking the third month into touch with such speed it's frightening.  A baby born, a pregnancy announced and a magical day spent with friends who are expecting their hoped for baby in early July.  At 10 weeks I took Leo to be weighed and watched the numbers click up to 12lbs 4oz - my lusty baby's doing good.  We had a wicked night out with friends and crossed a county and visited my sister and her family as they holidayed in Norfolk.  It was Leo's first beach experience and we built a sandcity, went crab fishing and ate ice cream.  I drank a pint of lager shandy and had to lie down on the back seat of the car!  We've chosen a logo for the lodge, have applied for family travel insurance, opened a bank account for Leo, set up skype, paid a speeding fine and moved from our rented accommodation with a hundred bags to my parents house for one last week.  And today as I look up through the skylight the bright day holds the hands of my cousin who died earlier this month at the tender age of 34.  We're going to miss his funeral by 2 short days, but from Uganda we'll toast his life with a cold beer and the sound of Queen will rock from the speakers.  Phil we love you.

Month four is here and come Sunday those heavy bags will be packed and we'll board the plane back to Africa-ca-ca as one united family.  We can't thank everyone whose been on this journey with us enough, you rock, especially my parents for their unrelenting support and humour ;)  To those I'm leaving behind and to those I'm about to meet up with again, 'see you very soon'.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Lion Grows

Eleven weeks and three days.

Leo is growing by the minute and the joy he brings is indescribable (though I think we maybe biased)!

Monday, June 13, 2011

eBay, a form of torture

Apart from using Amazon to exploit our luggage allowance Chris bought Leo a travel cot from eBay last night - the most stressful form of bidding known to man (and wife). 

I couldn't bear it, but it's safe to say it's in the post and I've been assured Leo WILL love it.

Arrrgh. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Preparing for our return

Because I'm lazy I'm using Wikipedia. 

Africa is the world's second-largest and second most-populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² (11.7 million sq mi) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area.[2] With 1.0 billion people (as of 2009, see table) in 61 territories, it accounts for about 14.72% of the world's human population.

As you can imagine the blurb goes on and if you want to read more just click to the internet's encyclopedia of choice, but it makes for boring reading.  What it should say is....'Africa, the world's most incredible and diverse continent remains tribal and beautiful.  Strange and elegant wildlife roam the last remaining plains.  The weather is hot, cold, humid, wet, dry, scorching.  The vivid landscapes snatch your breath away.  There is death and disease, crime and corruption.  There are people and tiny little children everywhere.  Poverty runs hand in hand with extreme and opulent wealth, but what touches your heart and draws you in is the extended hand of friendship and the wide smiles of love.'  

Chris, Leo and I return to Uganda in 14 days time.

We're gradually getting all of our shit stuff together.  I never realised that 1 small baby could account for 3,000 bags worth of luggage, it's astonishing.  During the week we bought every single item on Amazon that was listed under tents, baby and hand blenders.  This was a feat in itself considering we only ever thought Amazon dealt in music and books.  Sadly my credit card is feeling the squeeze.  For example we now have EIGHT tents to lug back to Uganda with us, including a tiny bag of solar fairy lights (fair's fair is what I told Chris as my card hit meltdown).

I've tried not to think about our departure too much, but as the hours roll by I can't ignore the feeling that's like a knot in my stomach - we're taking our longed for baby to Africa and am I ready for that?  Maybe....it's easy to distract yourself with other things when you need to.  My dad has compared it to 'bringing home the FA Cup', in as much as it's going to be exciting and thrilling, but without the double-decker touring bus.  Having been in the UK for 9 emotional months I've been surrounded by beautiful and loving friends and family, but I realise we can't live with Leo in a bubble forever.  For starters the tiny bubble will one day pop and the other imminent, looming prospect is we need to start earning money.  And soon.

In the past we've thrown a bag together, not given our destination a second thought and hopped onto a plane, bish, bash, bosh and au revoir.  It's daunting to think of returning with Leo (who will then be 12 weeks) to a country that sits on the Equator and is as lush as the Garden of Eden.   I've several friends who have successfully birthed and bought up healthy babies of their own out there, but this baby, my baby is just too damn special to not consider going mad over.  Are we being reckless and selfish to put him in what one could consider harm's way?  I don't think so.  I also know I can't envelope him in cotton wool, or a suit of armour and I can't prevent him from leaving my arms, but I will go all out to make sure he's as protected as we can make him from malaria, disease and sickness. 

However I know he will have the most incredible upbringing out there under the great African sky.  He'll be surrounded by love and warmth, friends, freedom, adventure and challenges.  The life I had hoped for us to have with Ella will hopefully be mirrored in the life we have with Leo.  The excitement we feel at showing him a part of the world that has become a second home to us is important - it's where he was conceived and it's where his sister's ashes flow through the Nile.  I will be holding back the tears as we board the plane on Sunday 26th June, but I know that my heart is bound by what I leave behind in England and what I return to in Uganda. 

My son will know both and with it his own heart will glow golden.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Happy Blog Birthday

It's startling how quickly one year can flash by, but 12 short months ago I reached out into the blogging world and began typing. 

I'd been reading other people's words on the internet for a while, trying to find someone or some group that I could relate to about my circumstances, but I couldn't, so eventually I wrote for myself and it was to be cathartic.  I didn't have a clue in what manner the words would be unleashed from my finger tips, but like most things you find a way, your way and crack on with it.

My initial slant was to write about loosing Ella and the path I was staggering down 21 months on, mirrored with a determination to find out if the odds remained stacked against me at becoming pregnant again.  One still birth and one miscarrige later I had been told it was unlikely.  I haven't got a clue where I was standing when Lady Luck dished out the cards, but I became pregnant in July 2010 with Leo.  This is one helluva bet I'd have been willing to loose millions on had I known then what I know now.

So here's the thing, Living On A Knife Edge was a title that was apt at the time, but is it so relevant now?  Infact is my blog relevant? 

I wrote an email to my great (and ridiculously inspirational) friend Stacey just before Leo's arrival, 'I think in hindsight I set the blog up to rant and to document the strange life we were in the throws of leading as we attempted to build a lodge in Africa and try for a baby. Who would have ever thought that things could change so drastically? I certainly didn't.'

She replied, 'You'll have to see what you need, what you want.  Life is so exciting and busy ... the computer may be unnecessary.  Then again, 3:00 a.m. nursing sessions lend themselves to blogging quite well.'

I take more than my hat off to this woman as I can barely function to fish Leo out of his moses basket (let alone find the laptop's universal on button at 3am), but I've thought about what she said.  To be honest it would be quite easy to draw a line beneath the past and hit delete, but the past has got me to where I am today.  So I'm going to try to keep the blog going, though I'm considering changing the title to - 'Living On A REALLY, SHARP, POINTY Knife Edge' as Chris and I bundle our precious son onto a plane destined for Africa. 

Bear with me then as I try and post about the madness that will be our life in Uganda with a baby in tow.  This combined with the fact that there are some really cool people out there who have anonymously been following my posts (to you in Iran, Thailand, Croatia, Ireland, Canada, Malaysia, Russia, US, Australia, Chile - thank you) has encouraged me to continue, especially as I've also started to tell family and friends about it (I can count on 2 hands the people I told at the beginning).

Sadly I have no idea how easy it will be to document the next chapter of my life as I've completely lost the ability to do anything which requires my concentration for more than 8 minutes seconds.....7,6,5,4,3,2,1....who are you?  I am absolutely sure this will be my undoing when it comes to the security checks at Heathrow and the immigration office at Entebbe.  I imagine I'll be deported and that will be the end of that, 'no questions asked madam'.

*Case in point, typing with one hand whilst feeding Leo and attempting to eat a warm chocolate croissant.  Runny chocolate's missed my mouth, missed the baby and landed all over my jeans.  That would never have happened in a past life.*

Friday, May 20, 2011

You can keep the cake!

I've just had a glance over my most recent posts, the posts I've written since Leo arrived.  They're all a jumble of words and a mish mash of emotions....this is what happens when a little one crashes into your life. 

We're now seven weeks in and it's incredible how the brain is capable of erasing the hours of pain, anguish and disbelief of immediate motherhood by replacing it with joy, happiness and most of all deep, unconditional love.  Why else would we do it all again?!

However the following has managed to stay with me (which is a miracle really) so should any expectant mother ask I will tell her:-

In the early days breast feeding is a frikkin' painful and exhausting experience.  Your tiny baby yanks, sucks, drags and pulls on your nipples like a wild animal.  No one said you could get blisters dotted on them which hurt like sea salt on a fresh, open wound.  THEY DO HEAL & IT DOES GET EASIER & you can drink red wine.

Nipple shields.  Had the lovely nurse at the hospital not given me one to use on the first night I would have had nipples in tatters by the time dawn broke.

How shockingly massive and engorged your boobs become on day 4.  They looked like rock cakes - Chris's eyes were out on stalks.  Cabbage leaves are not to be sniffed at, neither is a scalding shower.

Breast pads.  Superb invention, but do check what way round you stick them in your bra.  I stuck them to my nipples...it was dark.

Baby hands - not my baby's soft and lovely hands, but parent hands that aren't used to carrying around such a precious bundle.  Your hands suddenly become locked into those of an old crone - I couldn't do anything for 3 days for fear of snapping my wrists.

Shop around for big knickers.  M&S do not cater for ladies who have had a c-section - unless you want to look like your elderly grandma in non-flame retardant pants.

NEVER, EVER underestimate the power of sleep.  Grab it whenever you can, even if it means pretending you have to go shopping.  This way you can pull over and nod off in a lay by, or grab a truckers breakfast.

A changing table was something we didn't think was necessary, there was a spare room with a spare bed in it.  NOTE TO SELF, a spare bed is a dreadful substitute, you will end up with a knackered back.  I now have a stoop and a twisted spine, but thankfully we've got ourselves a table - our friend located one in a skip being used by our neighbours! 

Visitors will bring you cake, cake and more cake.  Chris's mum thought I was joking when I said, 'god, not another one'.  Don't be afraid to ask for crisps and dip, much nicer and goes better with wine.

That your heart will never be empty of love again.

**

There's bound to be more, but it's safe to say I can't remember.....because as Leo twists and grabs at my boob those early days are now tinged with a golden glow (hindsight springs to mind) except the cake, I never, ever want a slice of the stuff again.

Ungrateful woman I am.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Out for the count

T-i-r-e-d  e-y-e-s.

S-o-r-e  b-o-o-b-s.

S-l-e-e-p-i-n-g  l-i-o-n  c-u-b.  T-i-n-y  s-n-u-f-f-l-i-n-g  n-o-i-s-e-s. 

M-y  e-a-r-s  f-i-n-e-l-y  t-u-n-e-d  t-o  h-i-s  e-v-e-r-y  n-e-e-d.

The zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz's are coming

Visit to dentist this morning resulted in 3 fillings - the first in my life.  I've got a numb jaw and cannot stop my tongue from running the rim of my newly filled teeth.

Leo's passport photo this afternoon was a huge success, he worked the spot light brilliantly.  Unfortunately he looks like a little ol' man with big eyes, big ears and a monk's hair line - an image that will remain in his passport for 5 years.  Madness.

And with the photo came the completion of Leo's passport application. I stuffed it up two times. My ability to read the small print is astonishingly bad.  I held back the tears of frustration. 

I'm being bullied into going to bed by Chris (I believe it's because my eyes are dropping out of my head and about to rest on my knees).....but on this occasion I'm already there, out for the count right next to Leo and dreaming s-o-u-n-d-l-y.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Sunshine

Easter Sunday was spent at my parents.....a lot of chocolate rabbits were eaten and the sun shone in spectacular fashion. 

It was the first time in a very long time that we'd all been together. 

Laugh we did, and if fed our souls.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cut, tug, pull, whaaaaaaaaaaaa - Leo's Birth Story

Leo's arrival into our world was via an elective c-section.  My womb had been perforated when operated on in South Africa and we were advised that if I was to find myself pregnant again then a c-section was an absolute must.

Typically for us this wasn't quite the text book operation we had hoped for. 

Thirty minutes before being flipped onto the operating table the surgeon and anesthetist spoke about my risk of placenta previa.  Due to the potential scar tissue if the placenta didn't come away intact they would leave it behind in the hope that it would eventually dissolve back into the womb (thus presenting a high risk of infection).  Alternatively they'd perform a hysterectomy.  Whoooopeeeeeee.  I was like a deer caught in ginormous headlights at the news.  Completely dumbed into shock.

Cannula's spearing my hands, epidural, a mob of people, theatre scrubs, removal of my glasses, hand holding, gentle voices, kind nurses, husband sitting by my shoulder wearing a funny hat. 

Strangely what I hadn't banked on was the c-section being so damn brutal.  It was an unknown.  The assumed cut of the knife followed by the pulling, the tearing, the rush of fluid, the suction, the tugging, the shoving and eventually our son.  He came out screaming loudly at the top of his lungs, fighting his way into the surgeons hands via a set of forceps, all 8lbs and 4ozs of utter perfection.

The sensation of having Leo dragged from my womb was like an African woman doing her washing on the banks of the Nile.  A) Plunge the garment into water B) Rub soap through the offending item with vigour C) Twist and squeeze it tightly  D) Slap it time and again against an old rock. 

After the pediatrician had tweaked him Leo was given to us wrapped in a huge towel.  He looked like ET - the bit in the movie when he's in the tent with Elliot, his skin all powdery white.  Chris and I spilled tears of love and relief and held him as tightly as you would the most precious and fragile gift known to man. 

Thwack.  My placenta was removed fully intact.  Thump.  My womb was removed and placed on my stomach.  It had torn slightly during the birth (next to where it had been punchered) and was hurriedly being sewn back up.  Chris briefly watched and said it looked like an old fashioned leather football, the kind with heavy stitches threaded over it.

Surgeons quietly talking, repairing and taking care. 

Whilst we soaked up our baby they proceeded to anchor my womb back into place and then pain - unrecognisable pain as my organs were shifted, shoved and moved.  My face contorted, the anesthetist asked how much did it hurt?  Too much.  I struggled to find a voice, but finally asked to be put under.  Minutes later Chris was taking Leo from my arms and they were both quickly taken next door. 

In total I was in theatre for 2 hours - carefully zipped up, tidied up, cleaned up.

The surgeon visited me in the recovery room and said that it hadn't been a straight forward c-section but it had gone as well as they could have hoped.  Although the placenta had come away intact I'd lost blood, which was being cleaned and would be reintroduced via a drip.  A catheter was now in place and a drain snaked its way from inside my stomach to a bag beneath the bed. 

She looked me in the eye.  'Sadly due to the surgery we had to perform on your womb I would advise you to seriously consider becoming pregnant again.  Not only could there be problems resulting in a possible miscarriage, but your own health would certainly be put at serious risk.'

We were visited on the same day by the Senior Midwife who we knew from when we lost Ella.  She greeted us warmly before giving me a hug and admiring Leo.  She had heard about the surgery and the consequences of us having another baby.  'You are so unique Georgie, but would you stop now!'  She had a point.   

It's been 3 weeks and 3 days since those blurry conversations and coupled with a crash course in parenting it's taken a while for the information to be diluted and accepted.  But accept it we have, because we understand just how lucky we are.  My body has honoured us with the most sought after gift we could ever have hoped for and we now have only respect for the advice given. 

And should we one day choose to extend our family then we'll look at other options available, but in the meantime, Leo, Leo, Leo.

Our lion, our phoenix, our beautiful miracle. Roar on.