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.


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. 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.


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?'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.*