Monday, October 28, 2013

Three Is The Magic Number

Life often gets in the way and that's what we've been living recently.  A mad and full one.

We've been interviewing via Skype for new lodge managers.  Team Zimbabwe scored nil points but team GB came storming in to take pole position followed closely by Team Argentina and France.  This couple were wildly passionate though we reckoned if they were to argue then the man on the moon would hear them easily.  In total there were 10 strong couples, but after much deliberation we eventually made a decision last week.  My final question was, 'If you could invite two people (dead or alive) to dinner who would they be'?  Chris preferred this to my other choice, 'Tell me your favourite joke'.  I saw his point as his jokes are rubbish.

Family have been visiting and time has been devoured with cheese, stories, a road trip, work, politics, magazines, quality grandson time and laughter.  We've also managed to attend a few local expat hang outs and Leo has eaten his body weight in cake at every occasion and demanded that all candles be re-lit.  There's a total solar eclipse ready to drench Murchison in darkness on the 3rd November 2013 and the lodge and camp are full for it.  Needless to say we're not ready, but we will be (said in a screechy voice).  We have 3 new river tents being hurriedly finished in anticipation and the local thatching crew have been creating wonders with shaded areas and roofs.  On a high note, last week the swimming pool pump was placed in the incorrect well so the water looked like a hippo had crapped in it.  Typically Leo swam in it like the proverbial pig.....

Talking of the dude, Leo spins and spins our world fast.  He believes the Gruffalo lives behind every tree and that cows will eat him for breakfast.  He can swim beautifully in his swim vest kicking his chunky feet frantically beneath him like Michael Flatley.  The lodge staff adore him, and he them. 'Welcome to my other home' he enthusiastically shouts when we arrive before tumbling from the car and vanishing barefoot into the bush or down to the kitchen.  Our lion cub is turning into a King.  At school he has stopped biting and pinching and instead tells everyone else to say sorry before giving them a generous hug tightly around the neck.  He is a wolf in sheep's clothing - angelic yet devilishly naughty.  A true boy. 

I took a fly by the night kind of visit to SA to have confirmed that my new abnormal is the new normal.  My periods aren't quite the same as before my last pregnancy, but based on my age and fertility history it's not a surprise.  As you can probably appreciate when you reach a certain point in your life you need to be told that to believe it and sometimes that's enough.  I was scanned and my follicle count is good and my TSH and prolactin levels are apparently 'beautiful'.  The most encouraging comment was that I'm healthier now than I was six months ago.  You can't put a price on that, though based on the amount of wine and vodka drunk recently I'm doubtful this is still the case.

A great and wise friend told me to stop writing my blog.  'Your blog is re-living this hurt and bringing it all back to the forefront again, this is sure to push you off track each time......'  I reeled a bit but wrote back explaining, 'it is not for everyone, and that I appreciate.  But for the women who have contacted me through it and who I have helped through my writing I am grateful.  For two girlfriends they found strength through it and continued to try for a baby.  I was able to give them hope.  That cannot be brought, it can only be felt and it is a feeling that has allowed them to believe that anything is possible.  The last 5 years have been an emotional rollercoaster and it is only now that I am able to embrace truly the world ahead of me and not just the one behind me.'

Another friend in Uganda asked us for advice as she was bleeding during her pregnancy.  Her and her husband were unsure of whether to return to the UK or to stay in Uganda and remain on bed rest.  I gave them the facts of what happened to us and in no uncertain terms told them to board the plane.  It was a difficult time, more so because it clashed with Ella's five year anniversary.  I left their home on my bike disorientated by fear and finally pulled over to choke on tears.  Another friend was close behind in her car and stopped to take me in her arms and hold me tight.  She knew exactly what, why and how and shared her great and knowing heart with me.  Because Chris was away I couldn't face the potential terror of discussing the 'what if's' with them alone, so she promised to be there when I did.  They boarded the plane two weeks later and arrived in London ready to fall into the laps of the medical profession.  Their baby remains safe and is due in November. 

And us?  Chris is remarkable.  He has quietly encouraged me to have the i's dotted and t's crossed so that later down the line there are no 'if only we'....  He juggles a mixture of 25 oranges, chunks of cake, cricket bats, hats, fire poi's, beer bottles and footballs high into the sky for Leo and I to grab at our leisure as he keeps the lodge running and our lives intact.  He wants us to stick to Plan A: lets just see what happens and if we're not able to create a sibling for Leo in the time we've given ourselves then it will be put to rest - never can we be accused of not trying, not hoping and not loving.  And for me?  The wound is still there and always will be.  Had Ella survived she would be 5 years and 2 months and not a day goes by when I don't catch myself thinking of her.  On the flip side of life her strong younger brother swings on the cusp of two years and eight months old and in him I see a spirit of greatness.  Our inspiring pot of gold. 

You sometimes need a change of focus or a moment of reflection to make you take stock of what's held in your hand.  And all of Leo makes me appreciate the simple fact that if he's going to be our one and only then I could not wish for a more confident, mesmerising, challenging, funny and enchanting child under our wing.

In the words of Schoolhouse Rock, 'Three Is A Magic Number'.   

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The pain of guilt

Guilt bites.  It can be worn like a noose, or like a long dark cloak.  It can follow gently like a shadow or remain attached to your heart like a finely pinned badge.

Fiver years later I continue to carry the guilt of Ella's loss.  It is not as heavy or as potent as in the early years, but it still stings, like that of a wasp having left its splinter of poison in your arm.

The latter part of August holds the memory of when my pregnancy with Ella went spectacularly wrong.  This year those dates also bring on the wind the soft reminder of the baby we had been expecting.  The baby I miscarried late in December 2012.

The guilt I carry as a mother will forever be ingrained on my skin, in my memory and in my reasoning.  Like beautiful lines on a virgin piece of wood I try to shake the guilt off my frame, but they remain.  It is a mother's guilt, unlike any other known.

I am a mother to one, but a mother to many more and time, however long, will never change that.


To Leo

I lay you down sweet boy of mine
Reciting your great grandmother's gentle lullaby
'Bye O' Baby' I sing
You snatch the words and hold them tight inside

Bathe in the light the angles send you
Your sister and others watch from the patchwork night
A star surrounded by fireworks
Their hearts are ours, yours and mine

I shame myself with the loss of our babies
My womb strong enough only for one living soul
One pure Viking, a Warrior, a Soldier, he's more
May you walk this path, fearless and strong

My love never waivers
My love never falters
My love is your love
Leo Phoenix you're mine

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

~ Mary - for you!

Mary (blogger of Stalled at 12) just got back from a 10 day Kenya road trip and I could not resist posting these for you. 

Say no more!!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Back to front and upside down

When you reach for the dark and slender bottle of balsamic vinegar and splash it into your perfectly creamy avocado half only to realise it's red wine you know things aren't quite right in the world. 

Or maybe they are?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Who knows how old I am!?

Today I got woken up by Leo holding a shiny 'BALLOOOOOOON' against my sleep creased face.  I had porridge for breakfast (I never have that) took Leo on his first ever train trip, drove two naughty kids around town and weirdly thought I was turning 38 only to be rudely told otherwise.  I met up with great friends and their crazy kids for sundowners by the yacht pond, shared a delicious cake made by my sister, saw my nephew eat a candle, knocked back several glasses of Prosecco, hugged lots of sticky faces and gave Chris a big fat kiss when he strode in through the front door. 

I love my family and adore my friends the world over.  But it's the friends who have been with you since the beginning of time that can tell you like it is and make you roar with crackling laughter at the stupid, the great and the downright ugly.  Honesty breeds love like nothing else.  I've needed this, I've needed to let loose the raw love inside and be nourished by the ridiculous and the beautiful moments these last two weeks have given me.  And through the eyes of Leo it doesn't get any better, 'TRACTOR OVER THE FIELD.  YESSSS MUMMA, THAT ONE!!!!  THE RED ONE!!!'  In a word.  STOP.

The weather today was skittish, but the clouds eventually cleared in time for us to watch 11 dirty kids roll down a bank of tufty grass and loose a boat on the pond.  The river sparkled a bit and I thought of Ella.  She was there in the wispy ends of a dusky evening as her little brother held on tightly to the hands of the older girls.  He is like his father in many ways.  Simply I've had a birthday to remember including wonderful messages via every bit of social media I can bear to check - the internet's too quick here - but it's been cool turning 39 and to bring the night to a close Chris and I are listening to a new muscial find, Seasick Steve. 

Check him oooooooot, he's bloody great. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Look me in the eye

Beneath our very feet world's collide and continents loose chunks of unclaimed land to angry oceans and relentless winds.  North, South, East, West the compass spins as our lives continue to gallop furiously forward.  Loved ones let go, magic explodes, babies are lost and babies are born.  Night becomes day, lovers embrace, hearts heal, scars reveal and tender souls drink in the beauty of a hopeful future silhouetted against a burning past.

Grab the pointy hands of time and slow them right down.  Stop.  Please.  Tomorrow I turn the last year of my thirties and I ask you out loud, 'When the hell did Mr Time whoosh past me so fast'?  In the blink of an eye you might say and I would have to agree.  So much so that if I blink again I'll be 90 and drinking a roast chicken dinner through a plastic straw whilst wearing a lavender dressing gown and lemon fluffy slippers.


Rewind five weeks ago when I flew from Uganda to Johannesburg to finish off what I had begun.  I arrived on Tuesday, had a hysteroscopy on Wednesday and returned to Uganda on Thursday.  Looking back now I can't quite believe I did that, but the care I received was incredible (of the kind that's difficult to find) and the surgery was successful, allowing for a quick recovery.  The morning before I flew back I had an appointment with the consultant to discuss the surgery he had performed, my pregnancy future and the options available at this stage of my dwindling fertility life. 

I leaned across the table to get a better view of the colourful images on the screen.  The Asherman's lay exposed, like a piece of pink fishnet stocking, over one small area of my womb.  With each click I saw how it was gently removed, bit by bit, allowing for a clean area of fleshy tissue to be freed up.  The procedure took 25 minutes and so precise were the experienced hands within that there was nothing left to show for the intrusion except a simply repaired uterus.  This man is a living legend for any woman with fertility complications plus I didn't have the horror of a cannula for which I am forever grateful.

Immediately afterwards I changed offices and discussed with my counsellor the options I had been given.  She knew I had wanted the facts and the details and I had received them straight up without the sugar coating or the hard nosed reply.  She unwound the worry and the fears, allowing me to remove the time frame I'd given myself of when to give up on hope, luck, or the whisper of promises. We spoke at length and I now have a clear idea of what I can and can't do and what is and isn't possible, all of which is more than I could have anticipated a year ago. 

I flew back that evening staring over Lake Victoria holding tight to my chest the answers to the questions I'd so painfully wanted to be told, and breathed in and out, over and over.  The bottom line (no matter the truth and no matter the facts) is that none of us truly knows what the future holds, but for us there is a grain of sand, a small pearl of wisdom that means over time we will be able to look Leo in the eye and say, 'we tried........and.......'  And right now that's worthy of raising a glass to.


Not to put a finer point on travel, but Leo and I are back in the UK (we have someone great working with us so the administration side of my life is covered) for a trip to see family and friends.  And Chris?  He has been in Murchison completing the steel fence around the swimming pool - to keep hippos out - and flys in tomorrow night for the last two weeks of our stay.  Happy Birthday!?!  As long as we don't discuss the car.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A road trip to forget

Sometimes you should never leave the house let alone get in the car, turn a key, put the vehicle in gear and drive.  Sometimes you should stay at home and vow never to get up and go anywhere further than the fridge.

Our recent road trip to Murchison proved this beautifully (bullet points have made this easier for me to swallow let alone stomach):-

  • Thursday 11th April - pack car to the hilt with bags, toys and gear for the Lodge, including large steel racks that go onto the roof
  • Drive 2.5hrs past villages, trembling goats and hundreds of kids, eventually ending up on a piece of straight, sweet, empty tarmac
  • Traffic Police leap out from a hedge and pull us over for speeding.  Get issued with a ticket and fine
  • Arrive at Lodge, place looks alive and wonderful after so much rain
  • Drink African Tea overlooking the Nile
  • Drive to our cottage and unload all the necessary gear
  • Chris reverses car but to avoid a path the back wheel hits soft earth and.....
  • Car rolls over and ends up on it's roof
  • Chris unhurt, car battered with popped out windscreen
  • Following morning a group of 15 men hand roll the car the right way up.  Leo watches transfixed and the buckled steel racks get taken away for scrap
  • Two days later Chris drives crumpled car 6hrs to Kampala dressed like a gangster - hoodie pulled up, sarong wrapped around his face and sunglasses (essential to stop insects piercing his head)
  • Quote for panel beating and repair work is received. Surely Leo could help to reduce the costs with his hammer?
  •  Chris returns to the Lodge the following day in a hire car
  • Spend 4 days doing work related stuff
  • Manage to do a game drive that Leo went bonkers over - BULAFO (Buffalo) GIIIIIIIRAFE, HIPPPPPPO, ELIFANT, PIGGY, PIGGY, PIGGYYYYYYYYYYY (warthog)
  • I loose my mobile phone
  • Following afternoon we whizz up the Nile to the mighty Falls in a Duro Boat.  Leo squeezed into a life jacket made him look like a mini, yet chubby, James Bond.  He loved every single wind swept second
  • Thursday 18th April - Pack up hire car with bags and toys.  Car doesn't start due to rubbish battery
  • Chris kicks car and fiddle with battery.  Car starts
  • Leave Lodge and after 2hrs reach the tarmac
  • Traffic Police leap out from a hedge and pull us over.  Hire car insurance is out of date.  Get issued with a ticket and fine
  • Continue on our way annoyed
  • Traffic Police leap out from a hedge and pull us over for speeding.  Get issued with a ticket and fine
  • Continue on our way completely pissed off.  Leave the tarmac and take the dirt road
  • Cow barrels down a hill and smacks into the hire car taking out the headlight
  • After 50mtrs we run over a chicken
  • Beyond fed up
  • Drive over the dam into Jinja and the car battery splutters. We slow to a maddening stop causing mass hysteria and the TRAFFIC POLICE, who assume we are terrorists about to blow up the bridge, come shouting and waving guns at us
  • Leo shouts 'lizard' and 'motorbike'.  They do not laugh
  • Car gets pushed out of the way by a knot of men in army fatigues 
  • We're too knackered to even comment let alone express emotion other than '2013 you have to be kidding us'!
  • Get home and look for mobile phone - totally MIA
  • Chris goes out to see a mate for beer/S
  • Leo refuses to go to sleep, I ignore him and switch on laptop
  • More SHOUTING and SHOUTING and then the word to make any parent shudder.....
  • Think that sums up our week
  • Oh and I promised Chris I wouldn't tell anyone anything, but some days just tell themselves.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Freewheeling in Johannesburg

I'm anxiously getting ready for a trip.  This is the second time in as many weeks that I've been away from Leo, but it's a trip that I've masterminded and one that has to be done.  It's another trip to try to fix what's broken.  A trip that will hopefully make right what's wrong.  I'm as hopeful as I can be considering its like a game of Russian roulette and we're playing with fire.  Five weeks back, encouraged by a bottle of sweet Dutch Courage, I emailed the consultant in Johannesburg who 3 years before had carefully freed my uterus from Asherman's Syndrome and which in turn gave us Leo.  I told him about my recent pregnancy history, my lack of period, my concern for the recurring scar tissue and my hope that he was still in the surgery driving seat.  His response was immediate, 'lovely to hear from you Georgie, get on a plane, we will sort this.  I am still doing hysteroscopy's and will be for many years to come.'

Shortly afterwards I booked a flight and then packed my bag for the 5 day trip - the longest I have ever been apart from Leo.  Chris logistically managed the day to day work/life routine as though his life depended on it, which it did, and typically they both had a ball living on sausages and ice-cream.  Fast forward a few hours and when the plane landed in J'burg I left the arrivals hall with purpose (which is pretty much what happens when you light the litmus paper) and climbed into my friend's waiting car before we tore off down the highway.  The following day I visited the clinic.  I had a series of routine bloods taken whilst the x-ray, dye test and subsequent scans confirmed the Asherman's was back.  In a way I was relieved, but it was over-shadowed with disappointment to learn that I was post ovulation so the surgery couldn't be done then, instead I'd have to return in two weeks time.

Two weeks later and I board a plane tomorrow morning.  Where is my head right now?  I guess all over the show.  I'm returning again solo because for all of us to fly is financially impossible and as a city, well J'burg CBD doesn't have a lot going for a 2 year old.  Plus I physically know the drill.  I know what to expect and I know the procedure and this time it should be a quick 3 day turn around.  But.... but emotionally it's a long haul, it's a narrow tunnel and I'm not sure whether a light remains at the end of it.  But in my attempt to find the light I need facts.  I need to know what is, or isn't possible regarding any future pregnancy.  I want to know if it's safe to try again.  I want details of my fertility and I want to be told whether it's worth another gamble.  Give me the facts and I can make a plan, because without them I'm navigating this leaky ship blind.

But I also now acknowledge that to mentally get through this I need to feel the security of being able to move forward without the terror of letting go of the past.  All three previous efforts to release my tragic pregnancy history into the ears of a professional have never got further than a sticky phone call, so it was with pure relief that I researched a counsellor in J'burg who allowed me to empty my heart in her office, only stemming the flow of tears with the offer of more tissues.  I have found someone qualified in the line of pregnancy trauma to help me carefully unlock the key to the inner chamber of my heart and to guide me through the painful debris of the last 4.5 years.  I have finally given myself the chance of healing a part of my soul that has forever been changed by what was and by what is my life, and with technology this can be done via Skype and phone calls day or night.  I just need to remind myself that it's OK to do it.

I don't know what will be uncovered in South Africa this week, I only hope that when I land back in Uganda on Thursday night it's with more purpose for the journey ahead than I've had in a long time. But I'm not brave, so a big hug from the little guy will help make the ending right no matter what.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Nearly two baby

Our office floor is full of inflated red and yellow balloons bobbing along like a line of fat ducks.  Out of breath and feeling light headed Chris and I are sat in chairs sipping on rum and cokes recalling how one so little has changed our life.

Tomorrow Leo turns two and my heart is fit to burst with love for the young Viking.  He fills each day with explosive noise, animated dancing, a bad arm slapping habit, chubby neck hugs, incredible words, daft sentences, exhausting 5th gear action and constant wide-eyed world wonder.

His hair remains dirty blond and twists in soft curls at the nape of his neck and those eyes, defiant in their 'ask a million questions' and 'demand a million answers' haunt me.  We squeeze him into t-shirts that now fall over his less-than-before Buddha tummy and hold our breath as he screams around the veranda on his wonky scooter bare foot and bare chested.

Leo Phoenix Higginson you are a force to be reckoned with - the fire in our soul, the roar of rain that comes before the storm, the forever changing landscape of the African plains and the burning sun that seals its mark on tender hearts.  You are life in the truest sense of the word and the most beautiful boy to ever rock our world.

Happy Birthday you warrior.

We love you, simply, purely and completely.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The horrors of DRC and a shining light

A good friend of ours used to work for MSF, an international and independent organisation providing urgent medical care in countries for victims of war and disaster.  One of her most difficult and traumatic placements was in the Democratic Republic of Congo - a country so rammed full of natural wealth and consequently so rammed full of war and disease that if the statistics are to be stomached there lie approximately 30,000 deaths every month.  Lindsay would come and stay with us during her time off and as we drank wine she would gradually relax her shoulders and gently, in her soft Scottish lilt, tell stories of such horror that the night sky would fill with images so disturbing I would cry.

I came across this article earlier in the week and it's been looping through my mind ever since - Dennis Mukwege:  The rape surgeon of DR Congo

Lindsay saw scenes such as this and another incredible friend, Gemma (who works for Amnesty International) tells of similar horror stories, but from the jaws of Sudan.  The DRC and South Sudan both border Uganda, a country we have lived in for about 9 years.  We chose to be here because of the lifestyle, the friends, the volunteer opportunity followed by the work opportunity, but we're not naive to what could be.  In Africa you can't take your eye off the ball for a second because the ripples of conflict are only ever a beating drum away.  That's why Dr Mukwege and the women he treats are remarkable, not only for their strength and courage but for their bravery and will to survive in a country that's described as a living hell.

The DRC is a neighbour, but a forgotten one.  Dr Mukwege and the women survivors from the DRC, in fact women survivors worldwide, have made me graciously thankful for what I have and to never give up on anyone and anything.  Not even yourself.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kenyan sunshine

It's the simple things that help mend the heart.  A massive blinkin' cuddle by the pool being one of them.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Riding through the wobbles

Simply put on Thursday 17th January I was a complete washout.   I'd  lost the beginnings of a baby and with it the delicate hopes and silent prayers that were gently strung around my heart.  What followed next was a new dawn and a new day and as the saying goes, 'you've got to get back on the horse that threw you'.  I know this to be exhausting and painful and most of the time you just want to sling the filthy nag back in its bloody stable and slam the door.  But in order to move forward you generally have to face your demons and ride at them like hell.  So last week I reluctantly dragged the horse from its stall - because a toddler marching at your side waits for no man, woman or beast - and rode like the devil with a lump in my throat. 

Irritatingly I hadn't factored Leo being so in tune with my emotions (of course he wont let me wallow in my own cupboard of sadness outside of his bedtime) so when we play with his wooden trains or race around outside I occasionally lie down and pretend he's run me over with the plastic motor bike or mini locomotive.  This tiny breather of self pity is all I need until much later in the night when I can cry alone.  I realise holding it all together instead of letting everything go is twisting my conscience about grieving, but I'm there with misty exhausted eyes for the good, the bad and the ugly.  Is it helping?  Nope, but the weeks holiday I've booked for us on the Kenyan coast most definitely will.

Ahhhhhhh sea air and ocean wash me clean and vodka dawas cleanse me internally!


Chris got back on Monday evening.  He had driven a horsebox up from Nairobi with a metal giraffe inside for the Lodge - yep my life is like some weird movie.  So I've added a few photos to prove (hi mum) that I haven't crashed and burned (yet) and we're slowly and carefully making it through the wobbles.




Sunday, January 27, 2013

Real, Cruel, Beautiful & True

Thursday 17th is captured in my mind like a series of badly taken photos that are blurry at the edges but sharply in focus.  I hung on a wire that day between the space of here and now, there and then. 

On our way to the hospital we were pulled over by the traffic police.  It was 6am and dark.  They showed us a speed gun indicating Chris had been travelling a wicked 79kmph.  They asked to see his driver's license.  As he fumbled around in the car's plastic consul he whispered something about having left it on the back of the sofa.  Bang.  A second offence.  I rested my head against the slightly open window and breathed in the tropical morning air.  Chris explained we were in a hurry and he would pay the fine that afternoon, only could someone write it quickly because we had to reach the hospital and we were late.  How to slow up a group of bored Ugandan traffic cops from reverse to stationary?  Advise in no uncertain terms to hurry the hell up.  They told us to wait....and wait....and wait.  Moments later Chris slammed his foot on the accelerator and we disappeared like wild dogs into the early morning dawn.  Fine-less no less.

At the hospital I was asked to repeat my medical history and they took a sample of blood to check my blood type.  I had explained I knew my blood type, it was on my notes, but the charge nurse wanted to make sure.  To add insult to injury I asked if they had a clean blood bank on site - of course they didn't.  Shortly after the blood was taken a tall and nervous looking male nurse requested that I sit in a small room close to the waiting area and as he pulled equipment and gloves from a drawer I cautiously asked what he was doing?  About to place a cannula into the back of my hand.  I asked him not to, suggesting that it wasn't necessary until I was due to go into theatre, but he was adamant.  It was his job.  The fiasco that ensued had him stabbing the cannula repeatedly into the back of my left hand - I have veins you can drive trucks down - and not only did he miss, he spectacularly messed up.  I cringed as my hand was jerkily held aloft and asked him to stop.  He told me to sit quietly so I shouted NO, put my head between my knees and seconds later crashed to the floor unconscious.

My eyes blinked open.  Chris and two nurses lifted me onto a bed and a second cannula was stuck into my undamaged right hand.  My left hand curled tightly shut with pain and I winced as sticking tape was placed over my opposite hand to hold the cannula in place. I slowly rotated my wrist and noticed the needle point of the cannula poking up from under the surface of my skin.  I groaned and asked Chris to drive me home.  I was taken by wheel chair into a lift and we travelled to the floor above and into a room that overlooked the hospital car park. We waited in silence and Chris read the paper.  A nurse appeared with a gown and as I removed my clothes to don the dark green sack the cannula got caught in my shirt sleeve.  Chris picked my hand free and I angrily spoke about the awfulness of the moment; the mockery, the irony, the ridiculousness and the overriding sadness that was washing across me.  A hard knot of fear began to release itself - I was looking down from above and it all felt wrong.  I thought of Leo and his birth and I thought of Ella and of what we had lost and as I lay back on the metal bed and my glasses were removed I cried very softly into my raised, yet bent and bruised arm.

I remember they made me wait in theatre for Dr Busingye to arrive from a C-section delivery.  I remember a young nurse wiping away my tears that wouldn't stop with a scratchy tissue.  I remember someone hunched over at my side attempting to attach the imposing stirrups to the side of the bed.  I remember thinking this is all a dreadful joke and why the fuck am I in theatre completely aware, alert and scared instead of waiting outside for my turn.  I remember seeing Dr Busingye before they placed the syringe of knock-out sleep into the back of my hand.  I remember he was masked, but spoke softly about the procedure he was ready to perform on my uterus.  I remember thinking you did the same thing for me nearly 4 years ago so don't mess it up. I don't remember falling into nothing.  I remember waking up and a nurse pulling a wooden stick from my mouth.  I remember Chris being there moments later.  I remember feeling numb to pain and full of emptiness.  I remember walking to the toilet and being amazed at how there was nothing to show for my loss apart from small drops of blood.  I remember eating a packet of haribo.

Soon Busingye was talking to us and saying it went well.  Yes there's still minimal scarring on the far lower wall of my uterus, but otherwise it's clean.  I raised myself onto my elbows and asked what he thought our future chances were.  Was it a risk to try falling surprisingly pregnant again?  He said every day he gets into his car is a risk.  Another woman had a D&C that morning but she suffered with high blood pressure and there were complications and in his opinion he wouldn't advise her to risk falling pregnant again.  But me?  You're fine.  But I am an old hand at this kind of talk.  I know I'm a risk.  My age is a risk.  My fertility is a risk.  My emotions are a risk.  My history makes me a risk and my future could be put at risk.  Risk schmisk.  We travelled home at speed that afternoon - a finger to every traffic cop on the roadside - and as I stumbled across the garden to reach Leo he smiled his chipped tooth grin and shouted, 'ello mummy'. 

Trying to put it all into context later that night was too much and I flipped out, as did Chris.  My heart hurt, my uterus was empty, blood and tears dripped silently.  An unexpected dream broken, hope lost and life captured as we live it - real, cruel, beautiful and true.


When the nurse discharged me that afternoon she took my right hand in hers and carefully peeled back the sticky tape holding the cannula in place.  The area was already purple with bruising and the vein raised.  'Oooh' she said, 'this is going to hurt, your hand is very hairy'.

The bearded lady lives on. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Bearded Lady

Well I know, what do you make of it??!

Leo came home from nursery with this bushy masterpiece the other day.  I haven't yet been able to touch her so I can't commit on what she's made of.

Not sure if you frame something like this or hide it away in a drawer?

Tomorrow morning I re-join the D&C members only club.  The ultrasound on Monday provided me with enough evidence to suggest that my body is still gripping, like an octopus, to every scrap of early pregnancy hovering inside my uterus.  It's just refusing point blank to let go. 

So to take my mind off the now or never before Leo's bath time tonight we smashed plastic golf clubs at plastic balls around the garden.  I felt heavy footed and cumbersome jogging about.  My mental state is tripping in circles whilst my physical self is full of screaming hormones and sluggish to a fault.

I probably resemble that bearded lady more than I care to think. 

Now there's a reason to fight another day.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Kissing pure love

"Mummy, popcorn.......mummy buggy, walk.......popcorn".  Sitting reflectively on my own, like a statue in a great open hall, is a thing of the past.  My wild 21 month old toddler hurtles around the house shouting and pushing his buggy aggressively (in every possible direction, mainly at me) at a wicked 4mph and I jump.

I knit my eyebrows together and gulp back the sketchy plans we had begun to hold gently, yet deeply, in our layered hearts. I look wistfully at the sky, storks flying overhead.  I breathe, Leo runs, arms held aloft, catching the smoke from next door's bonfire in his hands. I close my eyes.  I breathe.

Chris had to leave for Murchison this morning, a hire car packed to the brim with supplies and a ladder of ridiculous length tied to the roof.  If I need him he'll come, if something like a whoooosh happens then he'll be here faster than a shooting star, but the whoooosh I'm waiting for is unlikely.  My history knows it.

Last night alcohol passed my lips for the first time in several weeks.  I wasn't trying to forget but none of it feels real.  Like waves reclaiming the shore, memories get erased over time and I feel this happening now, but it's too soon, too quick and too sudden.  But life is like that.  My history speaks it.

I'm one of those statistics, or at least that's what everyone who calls themselves a Doctor has told me over the last 4.5 years.  I'm not supposed to be able to fall pregnant without the gloved arm of modern science, but I continue to buck the rules.  I don't walk the line and I don't follow the trends although I wish I had a haircut that turned heads.

Raising a finger to modern science a matchstick of a pregnancy test delivered the ultimate shock in December.  It was positive.  Chris and I wowed, stalled, cried, laughed, planned and hoped.  Trying hadn't been on the proverbial cards, we thought it near enough impossible, so I left the contraceptive blister pack unopened as my golden uterus proved otherwise.

We pressed lips against the winds of festive change, we only told my GP, a Dr and my mum.  Leo pressed his lips to 'mummy's tummy'.  What did his magic and wise soul know?  We spent Christmas in Murchison.  It was hot, it was busy, we fed over 40 people and the Lodge was manic.  I slept on Boxing day, a deep sleep I have not known since before Leo was born.

The New Year we celebrated with a handful of close friends.  We lay on blankets around a fire in our garden and lit candles, a lantern and ordered a take away curry.  We raised glasses to the year of 2013 and all that she would bring - she kicked her bright heels and nodded discretely at us.  I drank soda water with a twist of lemon and booked a date scan for the 8th January.

On Tuesday Chris, Leo and I visited Alice (who has long been part of my pregnancy history here in Uganda) for an ultrasound and as she moved her wand over my stomach Leo shouted 'mummy noooo' and wriggled in Chris's arms.  My pregnancy symptoms had been nothing but filthy and there was no spotting.  We were nervously hopeful.

But I know not to look Lady Luck directly in the face for she cares little.  Alice took too long to locate a heartbeat.  I knew it.  I felt it.  I saw it from the strain of her face staring into the screen.  She used more pressure on my lower abdomen.  Leo fidgeted and climbed onto the padded bed and lay across my chest.  Chris smiled.  A smile worth a thousand wishes.

My uterus revealed not 1 but 2 egg sacs, but only 1 contained the very beginnings of a pearl.  I measured 8 weeks and 1 day, but the tiny seahorse fetus had stopped growing at 6 weeks.  What do you say, what do you do?  You conceded and admit defeat because there's absolutely nothing else but to cry.

I visited Dr Busingye that afternoon (he performed a d&c when I miscarried in 2009) and he gave me my options.  I requested the drugs, the thought of having my uterus touched so soon after surgery in September made me wince.  I started the course on Wednesday and again Thursday.  Nothing of significance has happened, no whooosh.  I have another scan booked for Monday and if everything is intact I will need a d&c. 

I'm willing my body to turn itself inside out.

I shared my news with a girlfriend who has known me longer than I dare remember and has a pained history of her own.  I poured out my anger, my fears for Leo being an only child, the sadness of right now and the whole fucking unfairness of it all.  She replied immediately with words of tenderness and love, finishing off:-  I raise my gin and tonic with you.  To the wretchedly cruel turns life can take and the unbelievably beauty that still happens every single day.

It's often so hard to see the beauty in anything when you just want to envelope yourself in pure sadness, but beauty remains in the eye of the beholder and it surrounds us constantly.  We just need to prise the flip flop from the mouth to kiss pure love squarely in the face.  And to never, ever let the beauty go.