Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Journey - 2010

The Journey covers 2008, 2009 and 2010 in three stages.  This is the last bit, how Chris and I got from A - B Z, from then to now, intact.

Sound bites from the letter we received from the consultant following the conference call we’d had on the 19th January 2010.

‘We reviewed the results of the tests you had...irregularity of the uterine cavity due to a calcified area in the left side of the fundus…both tubes normal…ovaries of normal size but only contained a total of 5 antral follicales…ovarian assessment report showed egg retrieval score of 6 out of 20…only a fair chance of obtaining 5 eggs or more through ovarian stimulation…this score is below average for your age group…normal female karyotype…recommended hysteroscopy…in view of reduced ovarian reserve I’ve recommended IVF treatment.’

The letter confirmed the telephone conversation, only it was like an echo:  IVF, ONLY A FAIR CHANCE, REDUCED OVARIAN RESERVE, BELOW AVERGE. Splintered words that brought with them a strange reality and a painful truth.  At 35 years old my body was deemed a wreck and my age was suddenly against me.

We re-read the letter a hundred times. Chris smoked a large joint. I tried not to cry and our wonderful friend Trish helped us to make sense of it all. To me it made zero sense, the biggest shocks being the confirmation of scar tissue (that Dr B had noted and Mr L had ignored) low fertility count and recommended IVF procedure. We whispered in tight breathes that we’d wait for the dust to settle before making any decisions about what to do.  But I was now aware of my fu*king reduced ovarian reserve and I couldn’t leave that angry thought alone.

When you receive fertility news of that calibre (having thought you were fertility wise A.OK) you begin to question the god forsaken medical profession who previously told you that you’re fine. You begin to pick through your memory with a certain paranoid urgency and everything you thought was right begins to twist on its axis. And then comes the ultimatum, you can allow the shit to hit the fan, or you can try and fight it. I wanted to know what the odds were for having a family and I became like a dog with a bone searching out the truth.

At best I knew I didn’t want to return to the UK.  I didn’t believe the clinic there had my best interests at heart, so within a week I contacted the fertility clinic (recommended to me at Christmas) in Johannesburg, South Africa. I corresponded with one of the directors whose address appeared on their website and he replied immediately:-

1. Very definitely, the scar tissue in your uterus would need to be removed prior to the tempting any method of conceiving. One of the methods of evaluating the scarring is by doing an x-ray called an HSG. This will also allow us to evaluate the condition of your tubes. This information may influence the decision about how best to help you conceive.
2. The OAR is a calculated number based on other very important information - the FSH, the AMH and the antral follicle count. All of these could influence the decision-making regarding the method of conception. It would be of value to have these individual results in order to pass an opinion about the OAR.
3. The fact that you have spotting may be due either to your hormone profile or the fact that the lining of the womb has been compromised by the scar.
4. I think the information you have been given is very important and needs to be put into perspective for you to make the appropriate decisions.

I was impressed, but I emailed my UK GP and a nurse friend for further advice before committing. I flippantly googled ‘fertility clinic Kampala’ and was astonished to find there was one in the city run by a well respected Ugandan, Dr Sali. With all the facts finally available Chris and I decided to seek help in South Africa. I booked the appointment, the flights and the accommodation – a backpacker’s in Johannesburg. We would be gone for 2 weeks but before leaving I visited the Women’s Fertility Clinic in Kampala, I was plain curious and too nosey not to.

Dr Sali spoke softly and was sensitive to my history and understood the quest I had found myself on. He’d worked for several years in the UAE followed by a year in the UK at Ipswich hospital (where I was born and where I had given birth to Ella). His modern clinic could provide much of what London had advised me to have, but I explained we’d arranged a visit to SA. He asked where, I said Johannesburg. He asked if the clinic was Vitalab, it was. Ironically he’d been there the week before and spoke highly of the surgeons, the facilities and the treatments. If the statistical evidence was anything to go by he was convinced I was in the right hands.

We flew to Johannesburg on the 30th March (a date that is now iconic 12 months on). I had a simple ultrasound that immediately picked up the scar tissue - the consultant astounded I hadn’t been scanned after the infection I’d had after loosing Ella, let alone post miscarriage. During the second day of my period blood was taken to check my FSH & LMH levels and blood was sucked from Chris. We had a few days free so hired a tiny car and bolted to the coast in an attempt to clear our heads. Having returned to the city Chris gave a sperm sample and I had the suggested operation, a hysteroscopy and laparoscopy. I spent the following day in bed staring at the ceiling suddenly wondering what the hell we were doing.

48hrs after the surgery we had a consultation. Chris was golden balls, his semen and blood top notch whereas my blood results were rubbish and my ovaries were of ‘diminished volume and slightly crenated’ (the photos displayed what looked like pickled eggs). The hysteroscopy confirmed grade II Ashermans syndrome and retained products of conception had been removed during the operation. The laparoscopy showed adhesions of the right fallopian tube followed by the consultant’s comment, ‘the pregnancy rate in women in these circumstances is less than those with normal hormones and ovaries’.

The conclusion was similar to that we had received from London two months earlier. We were advised to return for a follow up in one month’s time which was something we hadn’t expected or factored into the costing of things. I felt sick, surely enough had been done, but no, a post operative check was absolutely necessary. The next day the stitches were removed from my tummy button, pubic line and from below my abdomen. Knackered we flew to Uganda that night - both of us beaten, bruised and feeling utterly helpless.

I had been given a course of Estrofem and Provra and once finished there was a tiny bit of spotting followed by a normal period. That month we attempted to tick on with life, Chris spent time in Murchison and I worked from home. On May 16th we returned to Johannesburg for a 36hr visit and prepared ourselves for the consultation the next day. I was scanned, whereupon the consultant confirmed I would require further surgery to remove the final bit of scar tissue in order to obtain a healthy uterus. I held my head in my hands and cried, it felt like I was on a one way mission of self destruct. We were due to return to Uganda that night until Chris made the decision that if they could operate the following morning we would stay, they could and he changed our flight by 24hrs.

I underwent a second hysteroscopy. Afterwards the surgeon, Dr Gobetz, told us that everything had gone well and the remaining scar tissue had been removed however during the procedure he’d ‘perforated the fundus of the uterus’. WHAT THE F.UCK!? This meant if I were to become pregnant again I would require a c-section as the pressure on the uterus at 38+ weeks would be too much. Based on everything we’d gone through Chris said a c-section was a small price to pay...r.e.a.l.l.y?!  We tentatively asked if I had to return, but he suggested we got on with living and if I wasn’t pregnant within 3-4 months he advised IVF.  I asked if he’d made my uterus golden lined and he squeezed my hand and told me yes. We prepared to fly that night, unsure of when we’d be back.

Another course of drugs, but this time I experienced a big bleed similar to having your torso sawn in two and immediately after finishing the course I had a heavy period. Physically my body seemed to be purging itself of the recent surgery coupled with the last eighteen months of pain. A normal life was difficult to obtain with Chris often being away and the thought of sex at a certain time each month began to take its toll. When you feel the finger of infertility pointing at you the pressure starts to rise and we both felt it. Finally I decided that the time frame we’d given ourselves, October, was too long a wait. The hurt, the damage, the memories and the childless days were crippling and we began to explore all possible options…IVF, adoption and surrogacy were spoken about with intent.

Eventually we decided to return to SA and Chris arranged an appointment in August for us to discuss the clinic’s IVF programme. I was to book flights but said I’d do them once I got my period (which was tirelessly relevant to the appointment). In the meantime I drove to Nairobi with a girlfriend advising her I had to be home the following Friday. Having been told at my age and with my ovaries there wasn’t a snowball in hell’s chance of being able to conceive naturally I wanted to make sure, and with my period back to some semblance of normality I put everything on the line that one last time. I was chasing the wisp of a dream and I knew it. We arrived home that Friday but I could only guess - was my body ovulating? Was it able to catch a shooting star? Would Chris be aware? Could love conquer all?

Looking back on that weekend neither Chris or I had any idea about anything and to be honest I didn’t hold out much hope for the hunch, I just took a chance. So we got drunk on cheap wine and later celebrated the news that my nephew, Rory, had been born into this often unforgiving, but loving world. We slowly looked forwards and began to get ready for the trip to SA in anticipation of getting more answers. We were also realistic and knew there may be problems, that this next journey could be fraught with impossible expense, heartache and failure. I just needed to book the flight, I just needed to get my period…..

It was at 11:45pm on the night of August 9th that I weed into a shot glass and did a pregnancy test. I was watching The Blind Side, but in my subconscious I was curious about my period being late, something that hadn’t bothered me one dot during the last 13 months and so I hit pause, wandered into the kitchen, grabbed the glass, the little stick and waited. I put the glass on the bedside table and left the room. Five minutes later I crept back, picked up the glass and stared at the stick holding it up high to the light - it had a prominent blue line straight across the front and I slid to the floor in complete disbelief. Chris was in Murchison and his phone was off, but it was ok, I just held onto the moment and absorbed the feeling of hope. I rang him early the next day and told him to sit where the view was beautiful.  He was sat overlooking the Nile and that was the moment I told him he was going to be a father, that we were going to be living the dream.


Life can be ruthless.  She throws painful curve balls regardless of who you are and there is often no way of escaping.  The journey Chris and I found ourselves on the night we lost our precious Ella has been unforgiving, heart breaking and soul searching. There have been days when I’ve raged against a machine that’s spat me out further than I could fly.  Words have helped, words have hindered. Physically there have been times when all but giving up has been the only silver lining in a world of darkness and anguish.  Mentally friends and family have provided love and support and it’s that, combined with a fierce marriage that’s skidded along the corridors of hope and courage, which has seen Chris and I walk down the other side of the mountain to face a future (whist never forgetting the past) that we never thought possible.


Thank you for reading, it’s been a long time coming but it’s a journey I needed to tell…..and if there's  something to be grasped from all the words, please never give up.  Not on anything.  Xx

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bucket of Tears

Last night the tears fell.  The combination of hope, anxiety, fear and happiness culminated in a huge onslaught of emotion and pent up grief.  It was like a bucket being poured over my head.

Earlier in the morning we'd been to the hospital for a final scan and to see Miss Winky for our last consultation.  She spoke of me being at the top of the list for women due to have a c-section next Wednesday.  Chris asked was this because of anything specific?  Apparently yes.  With women who have a 'high risk' pregnancy they like them to be at the front of the queue in case of any problems. 

I signed the hospital wavier, my signature confirmed I'd heard all she had said:-

Possible bladder infection
Chance of a hysterectomy
Potential stuck placenta needing further surgery
Severe bleeding
General anesthetic may have to be administered

The love and hope that's been invested in our hearts is so huge that I'm literally terrified of loosing it.  Chris being home has thrown a chink in my armour.  All of a sudden the strength I've had during these last months is starting to waiver - I'm hoping that's normal, is that normal? 

You see the thing is this time next week we'll have been a family for 20 incredible hours and that's a thought so enormous I can't even begin to fathom it.  But here's the reality, if I could put on the brakes and slow this train down I wouldn't, because I desperately want to meet our baby and that (as many of you parents know) is when the true tears will flow.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Husband's near miss

When your husband says he's on his way to the airport you naturally believe that everything's fine.  There's always the worry that an airline may cancel a flight, but nine times out of ten flights depart Entebbe on time.  We've made flights by the skin of our teeth before, but we've (I'VE) never actually missed one. 

Therefore knowing that Kampala traffic can be beyond horrendous encourages you to leave 84 hours before check-in.  Chris knows that, everyone knows that.  Or at least I thought Chris had a brain that knew that.

Until my phone rang last night at 4pm (7pm Uganda time). 

Me - hey how are you?
Him - hmmmmmmmm, so-so.
Me - what's happened, I'm guessing you're about to board?  Oh don't tell me the plane's delayed?
Him - I arrived too late for check-in, I've missed the flight.  I'm trying to get a 'city hopper' flight to Nairobi in the hope I can make the connection from there to London.
Me - (head rush - I may choke on my inflated tongue).
Him - are you there?
Me - of course I'm bloody well here.  I just cannot fathom how you managed to arrive AFTER check-in.  Are you joking?
Him - the meeting went on longer than I'd hoped.
Him - It's going to be fine, I'll make it.  A lady called Grace is all over it, if it backfires she's already booked me on the same flight in 24hrs time.
Me - 24hrs!  I promise you I'm not having this conversation.  I suggest you start running as fast as your gammy left leg will allow.

Chris has the luck of the Irish on his side.  I never know how he does it - he hasn't got a trace of the emerald isle in his blood (unlike me, I've got about 2 pints of the stuff from my dad's side of the family and am never lucky).  Next thing I knew he'd made the city hopper flight to Nairobi and was being rushed through the departure hall to board the Air Kenya flight (that he'd missed the first leg of) to Londres.

'Whose coming for you baby' was the text I received as he got on the aircraft.  You jammy ba*tard was all I could think, you nearly gave me a heart attack.  And so he's here.  He arrived by train a couple of hours ago looking scruffy, suntanned and dirty footed and is taking a shower as I type.  I am absolutely, blissfully happy and feel that with him by my side a weight has been lifted and we can embrace this last week together, as a united front, before we finally meet our baby.  I actually cannot believe it's happening.

**  And he's mentioned that if it ever happens again he just wont tell me seeing how well everything's worked out.  He's clearly been living in the bush too long, because a) there wont be a next time and b) of course I'll know...we're women...we always know  **

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One Rambling Week

I’ve felt humbled this week by the generosity of the British public. As a nation we raised over £74 million pounds for the charity Comic Relief as hundreds of people did crazy things to get the money rolling in. Two DJ’s broke a world record after broadcasting live for 52 hours – I sleepily text my donation at 5am on Friday morning as they managed to get under my skin with their tired humour and constant badgering. Had Chris been here he’d have text me a donation to bugger off with my tiredness and crankiness at not being able to sleep. Bearing in mind he lands on Tuesday I reckon he’ll have paid me £100 by Thursday.

It seems that every TV channel has been airing programmes centred on CHILD BIRTH. One Born Every Minute is a ridiculously long television series focusing on scary couples due to give birth imminently. It was simply awful and I watched snippets from behind a cushion. BBC2 showed a moving documentary about premature babies born at 23 weeks which opened a causeway of emotion. Another series, ‘Worst Job In The World’ followed a British midwife working at a maternity clinic in Liberia...staggering. A documentary made by Christy Turlington (!?!) challenged the medical care between the 1st and the Developing World. She seemed to miss the point and it wasn’t long before I switched her off.

Like the rest of the world I stared in horror as the events of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan unfolded before our very eyes. I became increasingly obsessed about watching the footage on YouTube and have marvelled at the patience shown by a nation as they’ve swayed on the precipice of a nuclear disaster. I’ve felt hatred for the Gaddafi regime. The UN recently called for an air strike and have thrown planes into the sky to protect the people from their despot leader. Are we seeing a situation similar to Iraq? Will what we do be enough?

I’ve wanted to stamp out the cold, wet, dark and windy weather - it reminded me of a tired November afternoon as the sky seemed half closed against the horizon. Then blink! With the arrival of this weekend came the sunshine. Warm, healing and relaxing it spread its fingers across the tree tops. Yesterday I sat on a bench along the river wall and looked across at the point where Ella’s ashes were scattered. Birds flew, boats unleashed from their moorings sailed along the water’s edge and my bones drew in the heat from the sun. What a difference a single day makes.

My mum, sister, 2.5 year old niece and I screamed in synchronised horror as three crazy looking goats charged at a fence where we stood. They manically head butted the gate with their tiny skulls as we ran like old ladies for the car! From running came the stopping…my energy levels have taken a pounding this week and I’ve begun to feel absolutely knackered. Eventually I did what my cousin told me to do, ‘take time out and sod everyone else.’ So we sat and drank strong hot chocolate, had a moan, a laugh and shared our worries about the arrival of our babies. That night I cancelled two dinner invitations. I felt empowered and celebrated by going to bed by 8pm.

Miserably I no longer have any sense of fashion and as far as footwear goes, forget it, forget it, forget it. Having found some very large knickers in the department store at M&S I failed to find them in my size so I asked the sales assistant if they had them in stock? She stared at me, ‘if they’re not there then we haven’t got them,’ before returning to her half eaten biscuit. I very nearly punched her. On the flip side Abby and her friend Jo took me and my credit card to Mother Care this morning. They were both brilliant and we shopped for things I had no idea existed and purchased things that terrified me. A breast pump springs to mind. Earlier in the week I cruised with my mum for a buggy and a child’s car seat – her enthusiasm was huge, it couldn’t be beat and I trotted (somehow) behind her wishing I could be half the woman she was. We purchased both items in a matter of several long hours and topped it off with a sandwich.

I’ve been spoilt by a friends delicious cooking (including a sugar-rush induced brownie), received lovely emails, encouraging phone calls and snatched a precious hour with my great friend Poll. A girlfriend give me a spot of space on a container destined for Uganda – the child’s car seat, buggy and one battered old cot fitted in a treat. I’ve felt a sadness listening to a conversation with a friend who spoke about not caring what foods she ate whilst pregnant (as she knocked back the alcohol and cigarettes). Life within is so precious, so delicate, so why? But I understand when to keep my mouth shut, especially as all women embrace and perceive their 9 month pregnancy so differently. I hope the 15 biscuits I inhaled tonight avoided my thighs and carried on down to my inflated ankles.

Like magic I’ve enjoyed looking down towards my vanishing toes and seeing my expanding tummy jut out like a smooth boulder. I’m suddenly feeling huge, yet powerful. It’s like a beautiful badge of love. My stretching smile, as I link my hands beneath my moving son, hurts my face – Chris truly wont know what's hit him :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Journey - 2009

The Journey covers 2008, 2009 and 2010 in three stages.  This is the middle bit, how Chris and I got from A - B Z, from then to now, intact.

February 2009 and I was vaguely aware that I’d missed my period.  I tentatively did a pregnancy test and was staggered to see the positive blue line.  I remember feeling shocked, bewildered and slightly drunk on hope.  It had taken us over 2 years to conceive Ella and here we were 4 months after the loss of our daughter facing with trepidation a new pregnancy.  We were lost in a moment of crazy emotional freefall.

Blood was taken and my HCG level was fine, but throughout the month of March I experienced a couple of days of spotting and had my blood checked again, the level had dropped.  We were worried and went for a scan, but everything was ok.  A few days later there was more spotting.  HCG levels were checked, but at a different clinic and this time the level was climbing.  Confused by numbers and letters we didn't know what to believe so Chris drove me into Kampala and we had a further scan.  The pregnancy was visible and developing. 

Over the Easter weekend I suffered two big bleeds.  Blood filled the bottom of the toilet bowel and I shuddered, hunched over my knees.  Things did not feel right, but neither Chris or I wanted to vocalise what we feared.  I spoke to my mum, she was hoping to organise a week’s family holiday for my sisters and herself in Spain and could make it?  I dithered, was it right to return to Europe so soon?  I looked at the dates, looked at our work diary and decided I could tie it in with visiting my local doctor in the UK.  He could check the current pregnancy and advise if a cervical stitch was required.  Chris encouraged me and the thought of a precious week with my family gladdened my heart.  I booked a flight for May.

On the morning of the 23rd April we returned to Kampala for our 12 week growth scan.  The screen remained sketchy and Chris and I knew that things weren’t right.  The face of the sonographer was grave.  After 5 minutes she eventually confirmed the baby had stopped growing at 10.5 weeks but everything remained intact, nothing had come away.  After the bleed at Easter I couldn’t imagine anything surviving a loss heavy and the scan established our worst fears.  Another life and another dream gone.  Just.  Like.  That.

We shook with raw emotion and after a brief phone call left to meet with Dr B who we had seen the previous August.  He discussed what he referred to as a missed abortion and the three choices available for the removal of the foetus.  I couldn’t breath and left to sit outside leaving Chris to make the decision, which he did quickly.  We returned to Jinja, packed a bag and dropped like stones into bed.  Early the next morning we drove through the smudgy darkness and arrived at the International Hospital where I underwent a D&C.  Drugged and woozy I came round to see Midwife S at the side of the bed (she had come to make sure I was ok and to offer her support).  We cherished her belief in all things possible that afternoon.

We left with a letter from Dr B, ‘At evaluation there was a feeling of an irregularity on the interior an endometrial cavity.  Suspicious of an endometrial scar tissue.  Recommended hysteroscopy later’.  Six days later (Chris’s birthday) we returned for a scan to check that everything had been removed.  It had.  We were tired, felt wretched and shelved the birthday celebrations for another time.  I was asked to come back for a final scan the day before I flew to the UK and wearily I lay on that ruddy bed for one last look before being told I was good to go.  I held Chris tightly and boarded the plane for London.  Life felt positively hard and our hearts tore at the seams.

I’d made an appointment before I arrived in the UK to visit the obstetrician (Mr L) whose care I’d fallen under when we lost Ella.  I wasn’t keen on him, but everyone said he was one of the best in the area.  Possibly, maybe, but as it stands I am still of the opinion he’s an arse.  After a restful holiday in Spain I went for my appointment and had my mum accompany me.  He went through the stats of miscarriage, told me to keep trying and gave me a quick internal.  Cha cha cha.  Always cringe worthy, but my uterus was of normal size and my cervix appeared fine.

I spent time catching up with friends, visited London and drank in the smiles of my niece, my family and friends.  Their support was unwavering, but my head was often elsewhere, my spirit half broken.  I received a letter from Mr L who said, ‘the vaginal examination was completely unremarkable’ (UNREMARKABLE - I rang Chris immediately who said it was anything but) and was taken aback when he referred to Mr B’s prognosis as a red herring.  Little did I know those words would come back to haunt me.  In light of a future pregnancy he reiterated having a stitch at 12-13 weeks and to take 75mgs of aspirin once a day from a positive result to 36 weeks. 

At the end of June I had a wishy-washy bit of spotting that lasted for 3 days.  It wasn’t an actual period, but looked like it could be the start of my body healing itself.  Back in Uganda Chris and I ticked along.  Work was busy, but our hearts and minds were not in it.  I began to realise that my period was not a period, just irregular monthly spotting.  I checked websites and did research.  I wondered if my progesterone levels were low, if stress was the reason, perhaps there was scar tissue…the list began to grow, but I stayed stock still, frightened in case there was any truth in what I was reading. 

Ella’s first anniversary was approaching.  I made contact with a friend of a friend (HD) who had gone through something similar and she wrote an email of courage and strength.  Ella’s anniversary was a beautiful occasion on the banks of the river Nile.  Friends attended, lovely emails were received and we breathed in the love.  We camped under the stars and spoke carefully of what the future held.  Neither of us knew.  The next month was spent deliberating about the path our life was taking and could we change course?  Chris eventually announced, ‘it’s not about what we should be doing, it’s about what we want to do’.  With reckless abandon we decided to quit running safaris and to concentrate on developing the land we had in Murchison (in the north of the Uganda).  We sold one of our two overland trucks plus two vehicles.  We knew that a change was upon us and we had to grasp it.

By November I’d physically had enough.  I knew that my periods were irregular – there was spotting followed by a short bleed of between 3-4 days.  I realised, with a certain heaviness, that I was the only one who could do something about it so I sent a couple of emails to doctor friends.  They were encouraging in their suggestions and advised me to get checked immediately.  As one put it, ‘usually if abnormalities are found on a test they are likely to be there, so I think a repeat ultrasound on that little uterus of yours is in order’.  I spoke with Chris, we could afford for me to fly and someone had mentioned a fertility clinic in London.  I was running blind but did some reading, sent an email, booked a flight and arrived in the city on the 22nd November. 

I had to visit the clinic several times throughout the 3.5 weeks I was home because so much depended on the timing of my period.  I had a consultation, ovarian reserve blood test, antral follicle count and a hycosy and aqua scan (which left me reeling with pain).  The MOT continued with a high vaginal swab, smear test and chlamydia test.  My body was not a temple, it felt like a slab of meat.  The clinic was ok, but I was a number.  There was no care, no reassurance and no support but at that very moment all I wanted was to be able to leave with answers and I pushed hard for them.

The main results would take three weeks to come through and I was advised to expect a phone call from the clinic's consultant in January 2010, a few weeks after I returned to Uganda.  Christmas was lovely, my mum and stepfather visited and we spent it with close friends.  During that week HD was visiting with her family from South Africa and we spoke one afternoon under the shade of an acacia tree.  I talked about my recent trip to the UK and she gently suggested a clinic in Johannesburg that may be able to help.  I took the details and felt exhausted at the thought of having to go through everything again.  Chris and I had spent the last fifteen months like a boat on the ocean being repeatedly blown off course and I was unsure if there was any fuel left in the tank.

We wanted a family, but at what cost – physically, emotionally and financially we were near enough beaten.  We held our breath tightly with the anticipation of another new year rolling in and with it our future being told via phone call on Tuesday 19th January 2010.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

36 weeks today

T-h-i-r-t-y  S-i-x  W-e-e-k-s. 

36 weeks today.




Have eaten curry every day for the last 3 days. 


Head in a happy, crazy, frightend spin at the onset of motherhood. 

Chris arrives in one week.

Two weeks tomorrow we meet our son. 

Apparently 15 days is only a matter of 1,296,000 seconds away - and even less now.

Lie down.  Feel the moment.  Grasp the memories.  Sneak a smile, draw a breath. 

Behold the future.

Love, hope, dream.

I'm looking straight at you week're now in my line of fire.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Seven Year Itch

The 13th March rolls by (it seems March is all about dates right now) and Chris and I have been rocking, albeit on separate continents, into the groove of another wedding anniversary.  Seven years ago today we got married on the Hairy Lemon, an island in the middle of the Nile.  It was a truly beautiful day and one that will stay with us forever.

Sadly with Chris approximately 4,012 miles away in Uganda the celebrations were looking a little thin on the ground.  But then my cool city friend, Lesley, drove down from London yesterday afternoon and we sat on the sofa until the small hours gossiping and catching up.  She recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and regaled me with her story.  Pathetically I can't think of anything worse than climbing in the rain and wind, but as she spoke about reaching the summit and the raw emotion she felt, I was on the verge of tears let alone sheer exhaustion.  She didn't say it, but I think it was my charitable donation that inspired her to get her arse to the top.

Then earlier this morning as we sat at the breakfast table full of sleepy Sunday eyes and covered in newsprint a bunch of friends dropped by to catch up over steaming mugs of tea.  We discussed the tsunami in Japan, London living, my due date and marvelled at how grown up 2 year old Oscar looked.  I caught a whiff of booze and looked to my friend Dan - he remained on the other side of the table and reeked of hungover-ness.  His pain a stark reminder that alcohol is the drink of the devil and that I will never, ever consume it to excess again.  How pure I am right now, pure, but full of cheese and transparent contradictions.

So I gave Chris the benefit of the doubt (ahhh haaa) and thought being 3 hours ahead of GMT the anniversary text messages he had no doubt sent this morning had clogged up the network.  Surprisingly the magical one and only did arrive and we spoke a short while ago amid wild jubilation's and celebrations.  Aside from today's carry on he's been sorting out accounts and getting the truck filled with materials and supplies before he returns to Murchison tomorrow.  Three months is a long time to leave a project, especially one as big as what we've bitten off, but then the reality is a much bigger and important project, our own family. 

I found out that a traditional anniversary gift for seven years doesn't involve any precious jewels, just a bit of wool or copper. 

Wool eh, thankfully after seven amazing years there's still no sign of any itch.

Monday, March 7, 2011

March 7th Birthday Girls

Today is a day that’s being celebrated by hundreds and thousands of individuals worldwide.  March 7th.  A birth date like any other you may ask?  Not quite.  Two incredible women happen to share this date and I’m lucky enough to have them both in my life.

The first woman deserves a medal like no other. In a nutshell she’s my mum and we love her inside out. She has selflessly loved, nurtured, given strength, hope and support from the moment we were born up until this very day. If I look into the future I feel her love curling around our shoulders and pulling us gently forwards. Her love for her children, family and friends is unconditional and limitless. It knows no bounds. She has always been a beautiful inspiration, a beacon of dreams and a ray of sarcasm in a world that would otherwise have felt grey.

That’s not to say she didn’t rule the house with an iron fist. She gave smacks when necessary and slapped my bare legs often. She also taught valuable life lessons that enabled us to swim against the current when the tide turned against us. Our father left us for another woman, now our step-mother, when my sister and I were 8 and 5 respectively. My mother threw his things into a rubbish bag and hurled them into the driveway. Soon after we packed up and piled into her yellow VW beetle and hurtled from the North of England to start life anew in the South. It was 1982 and ‘women didn’t do that sort of thing’ back then, so she hid her fears and created a wonderful upbringing for us that went on to include a step-father and two step-sisters.

Ever since that time we’ve been a family that owes everything, I believe, to my mother and the magical net she continually casts to keep us all together. She deserves a sainthood, but that probably isn’t going to happen any time soon, so instead we celebrated her birthday yesterday with a lunch out that included grandchildren, daughters and husbands. We were the noisy family laughing in the corner….she truly wouldn’t want it any other way, birthday or not (and neither would we).

Happy Birthday and all our love Xxx


The second woman captured my heart over twenty four years ago. We were young teenagers and our love of horses at the local riding stables snared us together in a bond that has lasted ever since. She came to the UK from America with her parents and two younger sisters - her father, a lawyer, was posted at the neighouring US Army Base.
I had never really met an American before. I’d only seen them in programs such as Starsky and Hutch, or The A Team. And here was tall Stacey Black with her warm humour, funny accent, Hollywood smile and incredible generosity. We rode ponies bareback, competed at shows, spent nights at each other’s houses eating exotic American sweets (M&M’s and fruit roll ups) and wished we could live our summers in the sunshine together.

Inevitably her family returned to America. We stayed in touch with letters and the following year I visited. We went on an amazing family road trip, rode mules down into the Grand Canyon, spent a night at Yellow Stone and rode horses in between - she had her own at this point, a big grey called Bubba. And then suddenly the pond of water between continents became an ocean and staying in touch became harder. Boys entered the fray and lives shifted. Our parents remained in touch, but we weren't as consistent.  Our lives were similar but we were moving in different circles.

It was about 12 years ago and I remember sitting at an internet cafĂ© in Streatham, London sending emails to friends when I thought of Stacey. I immediately wrote and soon after she replied.  The rest as they say is history, only this friendship was caught in my heart, like a kiss blown on the wind towards an open hand and it's been true ever since. To this day she continues to inspire - she’s an incredible mother, wife, sister and friend. She has a wicked humour, a brain that moves like lightning, a chai latte obsession and a precious sensitivity. She is brave, courageous and beautiful.

She also has a unique ability with words to make you cry, smile, laugh and to have you question the most simple to the almost impossible. She has her own blog 'Is There Any Mommy Out There' and it's because of Stacey that I finally put my own words on paper in the form of Living On A Knife Edge. She wrote movingly about the loss of my daughter Ella (Sister of My Heart) and has graciously honoured her two anniversaries (September Rain) with words that struck so many chords I felt my soul stripped bare. She’s a mother to four wonderful children and understands what to say and when to say it without ever being prompted.

When I returned to the UK six months ago she was the friend I rang within a few days of landing to share my fragile and hopeful pregnancy news with. We hadn’t spoken in years, but it was like it was yesterday and within 5 minutes she said she had an inkling as to why I was heart burst with happiness.

A collection of photos birthday girl
I adore your hair in this one....Tammy's isn't so bad either 

Here we are at the Suffolk County Show, Musical Ride

Just beautiful

Her children (plus the ferocious Hampton Noodle)

I love you Stacey and a huge happy birthday from this side of the globeXxx

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Miss Tin Tin

A dreamy image of our baby taken at the hospital on Wednesday. 

35 weeks and 1 day old. 

He looks like a sleeping angel awash with water and enveloped with cushions.  I showed the picture to my mum, she was convinced she could make out his bottom.........I soon pointed out it was a head shot (not in profile, just face on - eyes, nose, lips and hand).

Baby, baby, baby measured in fine.  My fighting weight and blood pressure was fine.  Baby has hair (it looked like there was at least a single strand).  Baby wriggled, baby yawned and I fidgeted with delight as my sister rubbed my toes.  This was the first time I'd seen an image that hadn't resembled a jellyfish.  I was instantly in awe.

We met with my consultant soon after and questions were answered.  I was advised of the pros and cons of having a c-section and that for me there's a high risk the placenta wont come away intact due to the surgery I had last year to remove the Asherman's scarring.  Brilliant, it's good to have something else to look forward to.

It was suggested the stitch in my cervix would be taken out in a few months time, but as my face resembled Edvard Munch's 'The Scream', it was quickly agreed it could be removed at the same time as having the c-section.  A big sigh of relief could be heard in France as my lungs exhaled across the room.

Lastly (and with much excitement) I was given a date for our baby to be born on.  It's such a strange feeling to be given an actual date - like being given the winning lottery ticket (not that I've ever won more than a fiver).  An office diary was lugged across the table and pages were flicked through.

Consultant - How about the 1st April?
Me - (nervous laughter that sounded like gun shot) Seriously?
Consultant - Yes
Me - I shouldn't be superstitious, but today I am.
My sister - hahhahahahhaaaahahahhahahahahahaha.
Consultant - hahahahahahahaaaaa.
Me - (dear god, please...please let there be another date available and stop the mad people from laughing).

The 4th April was suggested and then the pages were turned again, only this time backwards.

Consultant - How about Wednesday 30th March?
Me - Sounds perfect.  An Aries baby.
My sister - (in a slight whisper) It's the day before my birthday!
Me - hahahahhahahahaaaa, yep it is!

My consultant (Miss Winky) probably wont be performing the operation herself, but she will be close at hand and in hospital on the day.  It will be either one of her colleagues, Mr Sellars, or Miss Tin Tin.

I'm wondering if there's going to be a Mr Kermit or Miss Daffy Duck included in the hospital lineup? 

In 25 days time we'll know for sure.