Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Toilet humour

This is one of those days that will come back to haunt me.

First thing this morning I was feeding India when Leo woke up and came into the bedroom.  He was wearing his pj's and asked me to help take off his wet nappy, so whilst juggling the baby at my chest I leant down to peel back the sides of his pamper.  Suddenly we both twitched our noses and he said, 'Oh, I think there's a poo in there too'.  WHICH THERE WAS and I keeled over.

Later this afternoon I clunk/clicked both children into their car seats, rummaged around for keys, slung the baby bag into the car footwell and drove off to see friends at their place on the Nile.  Loads of kids were in the swimming pool, adults were drinking cups of coffee or chilled bottles of soda and the hot humid air was sticky with laugher.  I was sat on a bench feeding India when Leo climbed out of the water and stood on the stone pool steps and shouted, 'mummy I need to have a poo'.  JEEEEEEEZUS CHRIST!!

I thought I might have a couple of minutes up my sleeve but when I looked again he was pulling a straining face of terrifying proportion.  I roughly pulled the baby off my boob, handed her to a friend and ran poolside.  I lifted Leo from the steps and took him to the grass (he was wearing a lifejacket and his friend's borrowed swimsuit. I'd not packed a stitch of pool clothing as it had been raining furiously when we left town).  I unclipped the jacket and told him to follow me to the toilet, but he couldn't as THE POO WAS THERE, p-o-k-i-n-g through the swimsuit.  GAHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I picked him up and ran towards the kitchen at the back of the house.  Only I ran into a kitchen FULL OF BLOODY PEOPLE who proceeded to comment on the horrendous smell following us as we hurriedly made our way to the bathroom.  I peeled off the swimsuit, chucked the poo down the loo and placed Leo firmly on the seat telling him to push any more that might be hiding up his bum OUT.  He told me to leave so I went in search of a bucket and a bottle of bleach to kill the swimsuit with.  Ten minutes later he called out that he'd finished.  Indeed he had!  I put him in his shorts and t-shirt and told him to in no uncertain terms to keep away from the pool.  I spent the next twenty minutes scrubbing my hands

THEN just before we left for home Leo and our host's daughter were whacking giant sized flip flops against the floor.  I didn't think anything of it until an older girl called out to me that they were smacking a huge frog.  OH YOU'RE SHI**ING ME. I placed India on a sofa and marched over to the pair of them who were laughing like mad people.  I took the flip flop from Leo's hand and asked him what he thought he was doing?  He said, 'we don't like frogs so we wanted to beat it.'  I hauled him off to a corner and told him that it was wrong to do anything like that to an animal.  That it was terrible to hurt something/anything and then made him go over to the motionless frog to say sorry.  He did, kind of.

The frog was as flat as a pancake but as the host's visiting mother from England tried to scoop it up with a shoe the thing croaked and hopped the hell off.  I NEARLY FAINTED.  I couldn't stand it a moment longer, so with two sweaty and grubby (and one very smelly) children I grabbed our bags along with other bits of paraphernalia and made for the exit. And then as we were passing the host's visiting mother Leo looked up and told her that her granddaughter was 'really naughty.'  ARGGGGH.  I cuffed his ear and looking frazzled and grubby myself crawled into the car and swore that when Chris returns from Murchison (apparently tomorrow night) I'm locking myself away for a few days with a bottle of gin and a hundred bars of chocolate.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Big day for my big boy

I'm sitting here with a warming beer feeling grateful and thankful.

Chris is back tomorrow from a 4 day trip to Murchison so I've been flying solo at the house with India and Leo.  It's been a huge learning curve with two, but we've slipped into a rhythm and it's been magic to spend some family time with them on my own (though bath time/story time/feed time continues to be stress overload as I try to shove them under their mosquito nets and into bed by 7pm).

Also the reason today has been so memorable is that Leo finally did a 'poo on the loo'.  This massive achievement has been a long time coming.  Upon reflection his life has been flipped upside down in so many ways during the last 10 months (coupled with his fear of the plopping noise a poo would make) I'm surprised it's happened at all.

But earlier this afternoon after 55 long exhausting minutes of him wriggling about on the loo we locked eyes and he finally believed me when I told him it would be ok.  With much encouragement he released his bottom (to the sound of a plop) and the look of euphoria on his face, followed by him shouting, 'YES, YES, this is my most favourite day!!!' was a sight to behold.


Telling his sister all about it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hotel babies

A whole sweaty week ago we arrived in Uganda.

This is us in a hotel room next to the airport.  It's the night before we flew out of Heathrow - my children and I doing our thing waiting for Chris to return from getting rid of the vehicle and our NINE 23kg bags.

Forget about the bags, never in a million years did I expect to be able to say, 'my children'.


On a social media note I've got an ipad - painfully I'm still learning how to drive it but have managed to sign myself up to the devil in pictures that is Instagram........

dancetothedrum is the name, come and find me.

See you here and there X

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Brrrrrrr

Today we start packing up our things and begin to move out of the flat we've been renting for the past 7.5 months.

Cold in the flat looks like this.

We head to Uganda in six days, hopefully we wont have frozen to death by then.


India was not hurt in the taking of this photo.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Blustery days

A morning at Newmarket, an afternoon at the beach and a few shots in-between;















Sunday, October 12, 2014

What to do with the Monday Blues?

If your week ever takes a turn for the worse, just look at Miss 'Potato Head' to lighten your mood.




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Migration South

Autumn is here.  I can smell the sudden change, the air is musky and it feels damp in my bones.  Columns of falling leaves, ripped at the edges, are being whipped across the wet market square like reckless whirling dervishes.  Winter is only a harsh breath away.  Darkness begins to fall quickly now and the imposing street lamps blink awake at a time when only a few weeks ago we were still feeling the touch of the summer sun on our skin.

For me it's the drop in temperature that signals a natural migration to somewhere else.  Migrating birds flock south, drawn by the heat of the balmy sun, they catch gentle thermals and glide in unison towards a dreamy horizon.  And there are those migrating birds on the reverse wing, tripping into the brittle cold climate of northern Europe and Russia - where I imagine them wearing faux fur hats and pecking at the vodka bottle inside a brawling bar.

Like anxious birds we're feeling the climatic pull south.  We're becoming restless; restless and keen for change.  The date of our departure is fast approaching, we fly on the 10th November 2014.  My heart will crunch yet repair, crunch yet repair at having to leave those we love behind again; family and friends who have unselfishly given us so much during the unpredictable months before and after India's arrival.

It's easy to romanticize, but there's a small part of me that feels an inner peace at being able to watch my children unfurl and grow within the warm arms of mama Africa - especially when the temperatures plunge in the northern hemisphere.

So look up!  That's us flying nosily above you on the thermals....

Monday, September 22, 2014

Time flying by

It's over ten weeks since India rocketed into our lives.  Ten weeks of having her wriggle, squirm, screech, belch, wail, murmur, nuzzle, fart, roar, snuffle, burp, snuggle, yell, cough, scream, hiccup.

Unlike Leo she has been the complete opposite of a chilled out feeding and sleeping machine. She has fed quickly, fed slowly, swallowed bubbles of air, cried in agonising pain, slept fitfully, slept heavily, embraced life, ignored life, slept with one eye open, slept with mouth ajar, slept not at all.  She's had me worried, had me crying, had me make quick decisions about her health and had me clutch her hard to let her know how much we love her.

But with each dark night passed we've crept closer to the sunshine.  She's getting stronger and gaining weight and with this growth comes happiness.  She's settling into her skin and gradually starting to gaze at the bright world around her.  Last Tuesday I scrambled our gear together and had her weighed at the local clinic.  She tipped the scales at 9lbs 14oz.  Her face is more moon-like than mouse-like and her bottom gently rounded - unlike at the beginning when it was flat, like a small pancake.

Ten weeks and 2 days old today.  It's going so quickly, slow down baby.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

A day so special

Six years ago today we lost our precious daughter Ella, she was stillborn at 26 weeks.  Here is a photo of us this morning on the edge of the river Deben where her ashes were scattered.

Hope kept me from sinking and it kept us believing....yet never in our wildest dreams did we expect to have what we have now; Leo and India.

To Ella and those small wisps of life that followed but never made it, we will always remember and never forget.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Our summer baby arrives....

......5 weeks early.

India Higginson couldn't wait any longer and burst into this world on Saturday 12th July 2014 at 13:15.

She weighed in at 2.8kgs and spent the first 11 days in the hospital's neonatal ward.  We came home yesterday to love, freedom and happiness (and pints of sweet tea).








There's a story to tell of her arrival, but it'll have to wait for the right time.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

"Run like a girl"

Maybe it's because I'm jammed full of pregnancy hormones, maybe it's because we've found out that we're expecting a girl, or maybe it's simply a powerful message directed in a great way...?

Whatever the reason the new 'Always' advert is making me cry every single time.  No wonder it has gone viral.

"Run like a girl"

Friday, June 27, 2014

Glastonbury Live

Here I am, 32 weeks pregnant and watching Kaiser Chiefs play live at Glastonbury. 

It's mental.



(watching from the comfort of the sofa and without a queue for the loo is ideal).

Monday, June 23, 2014

Proud as punch

Hey Leo, you're about to pass the marker of 3 years and 3 months and I cannot believe all the truly beautiful things you can do.  You, little guy, are amazing and as parents we're as proud as punch.


In no particular order:-
  • Travel on a plane
  • Journey in a car for up to 8 hours without too much of an issue
  • Ride a train in style
  • Sit on the top deck and at the front of a double decker bus
  • Paddle a kayak around a friend's outdoor swimming pool
  • Travel on the foot board of the vespa
  • Smash plastic balls with your plastic golf club in quick succession
  • Dribble and kick a football
  • Bounce on a trampoline without a net with a wicked bounce
  • Will say, 'excuse me' (or on a bad day - move out of the way)
  • Bob about in a pool with your floaty jacket on
  • Ride your bike all on your own
  • Use your imagination with clarity and beauty
  • Climb the wall at the park with just those little moulded rocks to hold on to
  • Bat a ball
  • Laugh like a drain
  • Rocket down the scary tube slide (you refused to do this until a month ago)
  • Traverse the zig zag frame that's high off the ground at the park
  • Mimic riding a motorbike
  • Sleep through the night (apart from when you rise at 5am - that really doesn't count)
  • After finishing your meal you'll ask, 'please can I get down'
  • Scoot barefoot on your scooter with wild abandon
  • Are becoming a little more generous with sharing (upon reflection we're still working on this)
  • Can drink half a litre of banana milk in seconds flat
  • Identify all those wild animals that cruise the landscape of your home in Africa
  • Talk with your eyes

You still have a blonde streak, but hey, that's absolutely OK.  It means in our eyes you're not 100% bullet proof and that suits us just fine, because if you were you wouldn't need us and that is not up for question.  Ever.

We love you.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Letting it out

I guess the easiest explanation for the post below (11.6.14) is that life sometimes appears to be one big cluster fuck.  Being able to let it out through writing helps, it's like pulling the weeds from the flowers so that the picture becomes more attractive, or maybe just less grubby. 

More for my own mindset than anything else, I'll let the words roll;

****

When I had the cervical stitch in March there was one obvious blinding omission from theatre.  I didn't see a single female nurse or female clerk within the room and this issue has started to bother me fiercely.  I do not believe that any woman who is about to undergo surgery should have to do so without the presence of a professional woman in the room.  The male register who took me to theatre made me feel uncomfortable and more so when he loosened my gown and stuck the stickers to my upper chest to attach the monitors to.  When the anaesthetist struck a nerve in my lower back the same nurse asked me to rest my head against his chest and inhale deeply.  When he placed his hands on my shoulders that was when I started to cry. 

I have since been given the relevant hospital details of who to address the letter to.  It's a letter I should have written weeks ago.

****

A channel 4 documentary hosted by Amanda Holden (a British celebratory who has suffered a miscarriage and stillbirth) revealed NHS hospitals have burned '15,500 babies under 24wks old as clinical waste since 2012'.  I watched the episode from between my fingers and an article on the program can be found here Dispatches  Disturbingly one of the hospitals featured was Ipswich, the hospital where I gave birth to Ella and Leo and it's the hospital where I plan to have this pregnancy.  To quote; 'Ipswich Hospital Trust said it was concerned to discover that fetal remains from another hospital had been incinerated on its site. It said the facility is run on its behalf by a private contractor.  A spokeswoman said: “The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust does not incinerate fetal remains.”

These details quietly haunt me.  The stronger part of my self wants to ask questions about babies stillborn or miscarried in 2008, but the fragile part wants nothing to do with the further heartache this could unearth and is the option I prefer.

*****

My sister and I recently met up with our dad to ask him some questions that have been swirling around in our conversations since we were young, mainly, 'why did you leave us for another woman?'  We were 8 and 5 years old respectively when he walked out on us and our mother to move in with the woman he had been having an affair with and who he subsequently married.  Now that Abby and I have families of our own certain questions have been pressing on our subconscious, and after so long they have needed to be asked.  We love the man, but he can be a bugger.  As we spoke he sat with his hands in a prayer-like position, close to his mouth, tapping his index fingers together and in true form denied any wrong doing and didn't see there was anything to be sorry for.  As a father how can that be?  Without having to discuss it with a psychologist we pretty much know why...but we've hit a nerve and it's only a matter of time before we meet for round 2.

His hard attitude has always encouraged me to try to be a better person, and in recent years it's encouraged me to be a much greater parent.

****

Chris flew into the UK to see Leo and I on the 23rd May.  We had 2 weeks of good times planned but before the first week was up we discovered our lodge manager was leaving.  Imminently.  To put it simply he couldn't stand the heat and not just metaphorically.  His relationship had failed with his girlfriend (who had left the month before) and whilst we were in the process of interviewing for a replacement couple he spectacularly pulled the plug.  With this news Chris was on a plane back to Uganda within 24hrs.  At first I was OK with him having to rearrange his plans and then last week I was angry.  Angry at how we had been cheated by a couple who'd bent the rules of our business  and angry that Chris had to leave us, Leo especially, after just one short week because of their actions.  Fortunately with Chris's professionalism and the support of great friends and strong staff the wheels have remained firmly on and the lodge is excelling. 

We have a new couple (this time they're married and experienced) due to start next month.  The relief is like nectar.

****

I've hit week 30 of this pregnancy and what of our growing baby?  I had a 28 week consultation booked for the end of May which coincided magically with Chris's visit.  The sonographer still wasn't able to confirm if we are expecting a girl or a boy due to the upside down and legs together position our floating Buddha, but everything looked good.  Maybe a little too good - the measurements show a large head and a large stomach tipping up and over the curved line on the graph paper.  There are now regular ripples of movement beneath my taught skin and like an African mama the extra weight I'm carrying is starting to thrust my stomach forward and butt back.  My spine is feeling the strain, but it's part of a cherished territory so I'm thankful - even when all I want to do is to lie on a sofa, stretch out my enlarged limbs and have the cushions take the full force of my increasing orb. 

When I stop to reflect it's the simple fact Leo and I are not able to share this precious time with Chris that makes me sad.  But we do what we do right now because it's what we have to do, even though that equation doesn't make Chris's return for the 31st July come any faster.

****

And as for Leo - he's the brilliant dude who holds us all together on this journey.

 
 
 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It's like the World Cup in my head

There are those pregnant days when it's enough to be getting out of bed, arming a toddler with a mouthful of toast, grabbing a cup of tea and scooting to the park all before the rubbish trucks roar into town.  Usually I can do the above whilst balancing a bowl of fruit and cereal in one hand and checking emails with the other; alongside tidying the flat, penning 'jobs still to do' across sheets of paper, coupled with having the most mystifying conversations with a very funny 3 year old about poo, wee and tractors.

But just recently I've felt blindsided by what life still has shoved up her sleeve to throw at me, which means the normal stuff is often eclipsed by crappy stuff.  Do you have those days?  Days when you just want to slam a hand on the pause button, run your hands through your knotty hair and say, 'fuck it'.  Because no matter how hopeful I am on the end game, my pregnancy past still hovers along the pitch like a hungry dog when at the same time the present shoves stumbling blocks ahead of me like logs rolling off the back of a flat bed truck.

I ain't no Pele, but as we tiptoe into week 30 I'm trying not take my eye off the ball for a second.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cheers to blowing out those candles

Tomorrow I turn 40.  Gulp.

I'm sure I've used Nina's Simone's words before, but tonight they seem to be itching to be said again;

"it's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me, and I'm feelin' good".

I head to London in the morning to spend the weekend with friends.  A bit of city living coupled with hard laughing and wild eating is good nourishment for the soul. 

At this moment in time there's no need to reflect on the decade past or the decade ahead, for it is what it is.  A head spin.  And here's the proof - taken yesterday after a day of hard playing.




Wherever you are in the world please have yourself a birthday wish on one of my m-a-n-y candles, there are plenty of those flaming torches to go around!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Treading the tightrope

This week we roll into week 26 of a pregnancy that's seen me forget half the time that I am pregnant.

The times when I remember are when I drag out some ensemble of clothes only to be rudely reminded that nothing really fits comfortably (if at all) anymore.  Case in point; my jeans are regularly sinking their denim waistband into the flesh beneath my rounding tummy.  It has started to hurt, as in swinging pendulum hurt, running after Leo on his scooter as he heads towards the road at 65mph whilst giving me the nod, 'just you try and catch me lady'.  And now in the early hours when I wake to feel the twists and turns of a growing baby flicking the wall of my warm stomach it takes me hours to fall back to sleep.

Alternatively the times when I'm distracted have been fast and furious and for that I'm grateful - in a head-full-of-buzzing-bees grateful.  There's nothing better than a hectic work diversion, or a 3 year old falling down for weeks at a time with a foul cold coupled with croup to keep your bleary mind focused.  Chris is back in Uganda and we've been upping the tempo for putting into place the process of interviewing for another lodge management couple.  The couple we took on in November split up 3 months into the job, but tried to persuade us they could make it work.  We weren't convinced and were proved right last month when the she of the couple took to sleeping in a tent in the campsite.  Always a great look for your international client base.

So now we're back to juggling a hundred balls in the humid (him) cold (me) air in the hope that the future management couple of brilliance are out there, SOMEWHERE.  We advertised recently across several websites and during the last 2 weeks received applications that have been wild and wonderful and wacky and weird.  Frankly it absolutely amazes me that most people don't seem bothered enough anymore to read the job spec and happily snap off an email for a job in an industry where;

a) they've never had any management experience
b) list Happy Chinese Shopper in Croydon as their hosting experience
c) have never travelled outside of Europe
d) list their habits as:- "eco-friendly, tidy (my husband is really very cleanly), not demanding, non-conflicting, fair and very polite. ..Too many pluses for just 2 people! :)) ...."
e) or alternatively; "we are naturalists who like to forage for berries at the weekends in the woods"
f) seem adverse to spell check
g) appear confused as to where Africa is
h) attach a photo of him in lycra cycling attire and her looking through a magnifying glass at a series of letters

But it's stopped me thinking too much of the other stuff. 

It's stopped me thinking of how at this point in my pregnancy with Ella I was about to loose her.  At 25 weeks and 6 days she was born into this world no longer breathing.  With Leo I smashed physically through that window of dates and hopefully right now this warship is moving through the choppy waters with week 30 held high in her sights.  High enough for it to be within my grasp but low enough for me to keep us from tipping.  That's the tightrope I walk.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Well I never!

I saw this on the internet, it couldn't be more perfect (especially in light of my recent post 'me old china' )!!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Explaining and explaining


This week has seen me explaining and explaining.  It's been a tough one and one night had me crying into a pillow before sleep snuck out her hand to haul me under.

Leo and I moved into a rented flat at the weekend - on the morning Chris left for Uganda.  Leo went on to spend a couple of mornings settling in at a local nursery which gave me time to sort out our lives at our new location.  However the last few days he's spoken about wanting to 'go home' (to Jinja) and on Tuesday evening he asked me about Ella.

Explaining why daddy was going away wasn't difficult for him to comprehend.  Chris has been in and out of his life since he was a few months old and in the early days working in Murchison for 2 or 3 weeks at a time.  It doesn't matter, he always knows daddy will be back. 

Nursery wasn't too unusual as he attends one in Jinja, but it was unusual due to the amount of white only faces and explaining that he had to wear a coat.  He's used to seeing black, white, toffee, yellow and pink friends dancing in front of his eyes and as for clothing, the tropics don't require you to wear a warm fleecy coat when playing outside.

The baby gently flitting around inside my tummy has been poked and prodded and sung to by Leo.  He understands (sort of) that there's a baby in there, he's just glad it's not a baboon - we're all bloody grateful for that.  It's the explaining to him that we can only 'go home' once the baby is here that's difficult.  Tomorrow isn't yet on his radar and yesterday is either one day or 5 months ago. 

The request to 'go home' seems to come at the most tender times; when he's cross or feeling upset.  The yearning for the family dogs, his friends, hippo noises and playing in the garden on his plastic boda-boda is what seems to fry his head the most.  He's adjusted to the UK like a kid in a sweet shop, but I am appreciating that mother Africa has put her stamp on his heart and he's under her spell.

It was the Christmas after we lost Ella that Chris gave me a soapstone figurine of a family.  A few years back it somehow found its way to the UK and upon moving in at the weekend I unearthed it and placed it on a shelf in the sitting room.  On Tuesday evening, after his bath, Leo was sat on the sofa and as I cleared toys from the table the figurine sat in his hands.  He pointed out 'mummy, daddy, Leo, baby in tummy...and what's this one mummy'?

I sat on the low table in front of him and rubbed my finger across the top of all the heads before resting on the final one.  This one, I told him, was Ella.  His big sister.  I knew that the conversation would one day happen, I just hadn't known when.  How do you explain death to a 3 year old?  But most of all how do you explain the death of a sister he has never known? 

I tried to explain about how tiny she was, how cherished she was, how she stopped breathing ~ by blowing on his hand ~ that she's in the sky above, like a star, watching over us, keeping us safe; him, mummy, daddy, baby....  He clutched the figurine and started to cry.  I sat on the floor and carefully held his hands as he told me to, 'get her down mummy'.  I tried to explain that she couldn't, but he wouldn't accept it.  'Get her to come down, I want her.'

His tears finally slowed and I picked up his book about trains.  Death to this 3 year old can be stopped abruptly with the mention of a steam engine.  But yesterday morning at breakfast he asked about Ella again and I chose my words carefully.  We didn't linger for long, just long enough to remind each other that she's there in the places that we walk and in the sunshine that touches our face. 

There's no dress rehearsal about what to say, because there's no way of knowing how or when or if or why death happens.  Which meant, to me at least, there is no right or wrong way of explaining our memory and the loss of Ella to her younger brother.  Children can see through a smokescreen so by being truthful and honest is to be fair, and in their tiny beating hearts that is just about alright. 

A friend recently sent me a link to this book, 'When Africa Was Home'.  It reminds her of Leo.  For me her timing could not have been more significant.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

'Me old china'

Urban Dictionary - 'Me old china'.
Cockney rhyming slang when referring to a mate, as in plate; china plate, mate...
Used more back in the day by people from the East of London  "How ya doin' me old china?"

****

Chris is in country for a visit.  YAY and a bloody exhausting DOUBLE YAY!  He arrived a week ago after a flight delay of 50 or so hours.  My sympathies were limited.....try flying solo for 9 hours with a kid who has a chipped tooth and a bleeding mouth daddy-o.

Prior to his arrival Leo and I were chatting and he was shouting about his 'willy, bum, bum' and pointing to bits of his body - tummy, elbow, bum, toes, willy, hands..... he then went through the names of the men and the boys in his life who have a willy.

Eventually tired of willies he asked me what I have.  When presented with this question in the past I've never been quite sure what to call a vagina (fu/fu, mary, fanny - to name but a few) but this time I thought it right to be sensible and call it what it is.  'It's called a vagina Leo'.  He looked mystified and changed the subject to trains and trucks.

However the other morning as Chris and Leo were getting dressed I passed the bedroom door to hear Leo again, he was listing everyone he knew with a willy. He then announced at high volume, 'daddy, mummy doesn't have a willy'.  'That's right,' said Chris, 'she doesn't'.  'No daddy, my mummy has a china'.

The kid called it ;)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Volunteering in my neighbourhood

I've been thinking about volunteering for an organisation/charity/support group that deals with miscarriage and still birth. 

Based on my personal experience I found it incredibly difficult to find an organisation or someone I could relate to when I lost Ella.  Four weeks after her death I scrabbled about with the miscarriage booklet the hospital had given me and phoned the UK charity, Sands. 

An old lady took my call and every now and again, sounding lost in thought, she said 'hmmmm' or 'sorry'.  I told her my name, Ella's name but she didn't offer hers.  After 20 minutes the impossibly difficult conversation came to a dismal end and I said goodbye.  I remember crawling back into bed and wanting to die. 

Earlier this morning I walked to the local children's centre in my home town of Woodbridge to enquire after volunteering.  The young woman there spoke of a national miscarriage organisation I could try and gave me the details.  I asked if the centre perhaps had any openings for volunteers on a broader scale, perhaps mentoring, but they're not taking volunteers at this stage.

So for the past hour I've been using google and have found 2 possible leads for organisations in Ipswich.  I've rung both numbers - one kicked into an answer phone and the other call was answered by a woman who said they currently weren't in the process of offering volunteer placements. 

FOR GOD'S SAKE!  I know there is a massive need for this.  After we lost Ella I initially thought I could cope on a wing and a prayer - I come from a deeply loving family but they have often been of the mindset that you just have to 'get up and get on'.  A mindset I always thought relevant until I faced loss on every level.

Grief isn't kind, it doesn't push you onwards and upwards.  It strangles you, it suffocates you and it bleeds.your.heart.dry.  Some days the light is clear and bright and your footsteps soft and gentle.  Other days darkness falls and every emotion is twisted and contorted within the grasp of the devil's claw. 

Support should be easy to locate, especially via the internet.  But having looked then and now I know it's not easy. Hope, Courage, Tears & Tea.  That's the name of a group I'm considering starting either in person or via the web.  A place where women can talk, take tea, talk or just be.  A place where someone can stretch out a hand and say, 'tell me about your baby - how are you coping - would you like tea?'

A mountain is never easy to climb, but it just takes a step.  I'll let you know how I go.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A stitch in time

I first met with my consultant 4 weeks ago and she's lovely.  A woman who, as I walked into the room, looked up from my hospital notes and said, 'Hello Georgie, I was saying that we're about to meet someone who isn't just a fighter, but a survivor.'  I nervously looked to my toes and thanked her before pulling out a wad of tissues to stem my cold.  I felt nothing like the fighter or survivor she spoke of, but she instilled in me a confidence for this pregnancy that I had carefully put on hold.

Laura (a senior nurse) who was also in the consulting room recognised me instantly.  I couldn't place her though and she was kind enough to say nothing more.  As is often the way it wasn't until we were discussing my pregnancy history and recounting the details of the various procedures I've had that I realised where I knew her from.  She was in the delivery room with Chris and I on the night we lost Ella, over five and a half years ago. 

That was the ice breaker, we shed tears for the memory of what had been and from that moment I knew I had been lined up with the right women - women who are exceptionally professional but with a grace and humility that touched a delicate chord.  They spoke about how they would help me put together a 'gorgeous pregnancy plan' and that I was to consider them as part of my team.  It sounds a bit floaty when I type it, but it wasn't.

I realised the words were carefully chosen so as not to frighten or worry me.  In the medical world no one usually says 'help' or 'team' unless there are some serious decisions to be made.  I had thought (providing I got off the pregnancy starting blocks in one piece) that this pregnancy would follow in the exact same mould as Leo's.  Cervical suture at 20 weeks and elective C-section at 38 weeks.  I absolutely didn't anticipate the bit about 'helping me put together a plan'.  I didn't have a plan, I thought it would be all mapped out like before.

But having looked at my notes and medical details my consultant gave me two options to make a plan for; Cervical Suture V's No Cervical Suture and Natural birth V's Elective C-section. 

This was when my brain imploded.  There were a hundred questions I asked and with every answer there were more questions found.  I needed time; I needed to speak with Chris and I needed to think everything through.  Secretly I held on to the firm belief that the mould which carried Leo was the exact same one I wanted again, BUT when you're suddenly given unexpected choices it shakes the cracks in the pavement upon which you're standing.  I stopped and got myself a Double Whopper and fries on the way home in the hope that it might help......

I returned for another visit last Thursday.  I was 15 weeks and 3 days.  My cervix was scanned and everything was normal, no shortening, just right.  I needed to make a decision about the suture so we discussed again the advantages and disadvantages and also what the other consultant's opinions had been, but I had one recurring question, 'I had a stitch during my pregnancy with Leo and carried him to 38 weeks.  We'll never know if that made the difference but if I don't have one will I be able to relax??  Unlikely and if something terrible happens there will always be the what if to deal with.'

When I asked them what they both thought Laura gave me her honest answer, 'You're in turmoil, it's a big decision, but I think it would be for the best if you had the suture.'  She was right, it was the only answer I believed in. 

***

I went into hospital yesterday morning and had the cervical suture put in.  I was presented with yet another choice; a spinal and general anaesthetic, or just a spinal.  I took the spinal option and asked for a relaxant that would enable me to dissolve into the table during the 7 minute procedure.  The anaesthetist must have given me a shot of something as I remember nothing and for that I'm relieved - there was no way I wanted to remain awake as my lower half, nicely numb, was fiddled with and stitched up. 

It was a day of heaviness too. 

It is what it is, but the maternity block is a stark reminder of both Ella and Leo.  In theatre I became emotional as the spinal scratched into my back and then kept my hands firmly on the small rise in my stomach as I came out of recovery.   Hoping for good news I was told the procedure was successful, everything was alright.  Having not eaten for hours I dozily rifled in my bag next to the bed and sucked on a lollipop meant for Leo and thought of how much I missed him. 

The other bit of heaviness was that no one explained to me that the majority of my lower half would take over 6 hours to regain feeling.  Movement in my lower legs happened quickly enough but my bum was like one enormous saggy bean bag with zero feeling.  There's something heart stopping about having a billowing arse full of pins and needles and not being able to clench your butt cheeks, tighten your pelvic floor or scratch an imaginary itch without knowing when to stop.

By dusk I could walk again and the catheter and cannula were removed.  Having drunk over 2 litres of water and presented the evidence in a cardboard toilet-seat thingy I was able to go home.  It was my sister Abby who came to collect me.  She dropped me off at home - Leo was having a sleep over at her house - and made sure I was OK.  Moments later I crawled into bed, baby and me safe, the only outcome anyone after surgery (minor or major) is interested in feeling, safe and well.  Thank heavens for great surgeons and sharp needles.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Spring is Springing

Sunshine in the UK.

The country is slowly peeling back the covers and discovering fresh air, blue sky and bacon butties at the beach.

Not bad for a Sunday, but I'm knackered!

Scooter boy at the skate park
 
At another park checking for trains
 
Bacon butties with mates

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

DHEA - I beg your pardon?

'DHEA - dehydroepiandrosterone – is a hormonal supplement and can be taken as part of your infertility treatment. In many clinical studies DHEA has been proven to benefit women who have poor ovarian reserve or premature ovarian ageing and as such DHEA supplementation has been recommended to women who are suitable.'

During my visit to Johannesburg for surgery last April my consultant discussed the options left available for Chris and I based on my fast falling fertility rate and history;

a) donor eggs
b) surrogacy

I explained that neither blew me away - that I was becoming too tired and too old to go down the route of donor eggs and surrogacy - and it was at that moment he saw in my hangdog eyes that I was sitting at a table in the Last Chance Saloon. 

But, there was one other thing I could try which came in tablet form. DHEA. 

My miscarriage earlier that year was based, in his opinion, on the poor quality of my crumbly eggs.  DHEA is known to improve the quality of a women's eggs, as well as increase her pregnancy chances.  I took the 6 month prescription and picked up the large pots of tablets on my way out.

We had discussed the side affects; headaches, spots and facial hair, but I was also told that many women chose to take the drug as a simple hormone to enhance their appearance, making them look younger (like some kind of wonder drug).  In this instance apparently it could be taken for years without risk.

I took it for 5 months but due to the early headaches I reduced the amount of tablet intake from three a day to two.  Thankfully my skin remained spot free, as did my hairless chin, but frustratingly I did not do a female version of Benjamin Button and bounce around all young and chirpy. Ageless I was not.

I visited Johannesburg for the last time in September to get confirmation that my new abnormal periods and cycle were my new normal.  It was during this appointment that a final ultrasound confirmed my follicle count had improved since April, indicating that things were looking good and most likely because of the DHEA.

Strangely that last visit to South Africa only encouraged me to get back home, stop taking the tablets and get on with my life.  And that's exactly what I did.  It just goes to show that my body was healthier than I thought.  My new abnormal didn't disrupt my cycle, my last remaining eggs were of better quality and with a head free of tough decisions my mind calmed down.  I conceived in November.

Do I think the DHEA helped?  I've been thinking about this a lot.  Once I discovered that I was pregnant then yes, I do, but it goes without saying that had I not fallen pregnant, then no.  I just took the tablets when I remembered, exactly like a student living on a diet of beer and crisps would take her vitamin pills, and that was it.

Ultimately it was recommended to me because of my history, my low fertility rate, my age and poor egg quality.  My consultant had achieved success with other patients on DHEA who had a similar history to mine so he knew there could be a chance, but by no means was it a guarantee.  More like a crazy spontaneous conception that is still seeing me reeling.

And reeling and reeling.....

Friday, February 28, 2014

Flying with a cage fighter

I emailed the following to friends after we landed in the UK at the end of January 2014.....quite honestly the whole episode nearly killed me.

Do not ever take a flight with a kid who has chipped a chunk off his tooth hours before take off. i.e. for anyone contemplating travelling in a confined space or with other members of the public place your child/ren in protective clothing (AKA body armour) a gum shield, obligatory kayaking helmet and safety goggles no later than 48 hours prior to departure.

On Monday evening Chris, Leo and I met up with some great friends for an early dinner in Kampala prior to driving through snarly evening traffic to Entebbe airport.  After the meal Leo and his friend Kya ran about in the gravelly car park.  Shortly afterwards Leo took a hit to the mouth as he face planted into the ground.  I have it mentally registered (forever) that this happened on Chris's watch, he was there watching them.

Leo had the obligatory boo hoo and 10 minutes later started complaining about having a 'stone in his mouth'.  We poked about a bit with the Nokia mobile phone torch with a tiny beam and noticed, to our horror, he was sporting some nasty splintered front tooth and a bloody lip.  At this point we hastily got the bill, dosed the kid up with Calpol, said our goodbyes and took to the city streets for Entebbe.
 
Upon arrival at Entebbe I was lulled into a false sense of security.  The tooth now wasn't an issue, in fact it had been forgotten about.  We had bags to check in, daddy to wave goodbye to (and curse at) and planes to ogle from a dusty cafeteria.  Boarding wasn't a problem, nor was the shifting of seats because I can't read boarding passes.  Taking off at midnight was exciting as Leo clutched the arm rests and roared, 'we're whizzing really fast' and twenty sweet minutes later he was asleep across my lap.  I carefully plugged myself in to watch Blue Jasmine on the stamp sized screen and grazed quietly on a bag of jelly tots.
 
An hour and a half later we hit the Apocalypse.  Leo woke up and THAT, as they say, was history.  His mouth was throbbing and his tooth was poking out of the red gum at such an angle it was poised at my neck.  Such was his rage he tried to strangle me with my headphones.  After much handbag wrestling on both our parts he refused to take the Calpol sachets I'd smuggled in my bag and screamed for everyone to 'GO AWAY'.  The air stewards all converged on the opposite aisle and ignored us while the rest of the passengers put the skinny plane blankets over their heads, praying for sleep or worse.
 
I don't remember much of the following 6 hours apart from when I dragged Leo into the grim airplane toilet cubicle - it was as though I'd unleashed the tiger from Life of Pi into a cardboard box.  He ranted, raged and tried to kick the door down as I balanced precariously on the toilet seat.  To add to his grief and utter displeasure when I flushed the toilet it felt as though we were both going to be sucked into oblivion.  We wailed like savages and from that moment on I didn't care what happened.  Fortunately between the toilet saga and flying over Europe I'd managed to chug 10ltrs of Calpol down his neck so he was tripping nicely by the time we bounced through the fog and landed at Heathrow.
 
I managed to get an appointment on the afternoon of our arrival at the dentists where I'm registered.  I didn't take him, my mum did.  As I've noted over the last couple of years there is a amazing amount of respect that small people have towards their elders so I wept with relief when mum trotted across the road with him.  Fifteen minutes later he reappeared with a sticker having had his mouth investigated and photographed.  A piece of the tooth had chipped off and the lower half was hanging on by a piece of gum.  For fear of exposed nerve and potential infection a specialist appointment had been arranged for us at Ipswich Hospital the next morning.  Oh FFS!?!
 
As things crashed from bad to worse later that afternoon Leo tucked into a triangle of soft sponge cake and chatted happily away.  Moments later mum sat up in surprise and mouthed, 'that hanging piece of tooth's gone' - he'd gone and swallowed the snaggy bit along with the cake to leave a stump, like a mini headstone.  So the next morning we travelled with my sister and her son to hospital (why make it simple, take the rest of the family too) and after much deliberation by the consultant he finally agreed at my request to take the stumpy tooth out.  *This was made easier for everyone after Leo finally stopped shouting 'GO AWAY' and snapped open his mouth once I had bribed him with a lollipop.  Always travel with lollipops*
 
The tooth extraction involves surgery and a general anaesthetic, but it outweighs the possibility of something nasty boiling away and causing an infection over the next few weeks.  So here we are, 24 hours in and Leo is on the emergency list and due surgery within the next 5 days.  He is being his usual stubborn self but embracing all the delights the northern hemisphere has to offer, plus his Jack Sparrow impression is doing wonders for his popularity with the ladies - of the short variety that is.

Exhausted and wishing to lie in a dark room for the remainder of my days
Georgie

Friday, February 21, 2014

Stalactites in the sky

Sometimes you spend the whole day just looking for a small break in the clouds.  The drip, drip, drip of falling rain on the already swollen landscape; the soaked roads, the shimmering trees, the saturated grass, the damp people, the dirty puddles, the massing of flood plains and the freezing air.  This deluge all seems too much to bear on mother earth's tough crust. 

Yep, Leo and I are smack, bang back in England.  It's a stark contrast to the tropical and humid heat of Uganda - one that has been stripped from our memories - so we're embracing it as stoically as we can by stuffing our faces with pastries.  This has not prevented colds, flu, possible malaria, snapped in half baby tooth, rogue coughing, hunched shoulders and a wet scarf rubbing on a sore chin.

Catching our chilled breath, clutching a gloved hand, scooting on footpaths, potty training on hold, steaming cups of tea and often trying to entertain a wild toddler in a contained space have been order of the day.  February is a crazy time to be home, parts of the country are experiencing severe flooding after months of continual rain, but in other corners of the world Kiev is burning, Venezuela is protesting and Syria remains at conflict. 

I press my face into the winds of change and breathe hope into the chilled air as I gently and very quietly share my news.  There is a small heart beating close to mine, a tiny life that has surprised the hell out of mine.  I have found it difficult to articulate this pregnancy before now, mainly because I've been in denial, but at 14+ weeks it's becoming harder to hide the expanding tummy and the anxious look of a grizzly bear from my face.

There are still plenty of blanks to fill in about how we got from there to here, but for now I'm trying to remember to breathe and avoid the dripping stalactites...whilst carefully holding on to the sunshine.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Thankful for kind words

Back in October 2013 when I mentioned that a friend suggested I should stop coming here to write about the loss of Ella, I received two days later the below message via facebook. 

It was sent to me by someone I know not well, but well enough to appreciate that she is a gifted, beautiful and intelligent woman who is a devoted mother and wife.  Her words continue to resonate with me and I am often caught thinking about her, her family and what she went through to bring her own little boy into this world. 

I wrote the post, According to African Legend because a dear friend had suffered a further miscarriage and I hoped, if she read it, it would provide her with a small window of courage and hope.  Little did I know it would also strike a chord with another friend too.  I remain humbled that she wrote to me and thrilled that she did.

Sometimes it feels like I'm writing into the void, the internet can be a strange place, but when the void catches and hooks certain words and stories and places them into the hearts of others....well it's a magic (you coined it Stacey Conner in the comments section of Three Is The Magic Number) that shouldn't be stopped. 

****

30th October 2013

Hi Georgie,

This is probably completely random and out of the blue, but I have thought of writing you many times and haven't... for fear of expressing myself incorrectly, saying the wrong thing, or simply the fact that I barely know you…

We shared a weekend of crazy and wonderful horse galloping and swimming a hundred years ago and I loved it. I really enjoyed spending time with you, and am so glad we’ve stayed in touch (through the crazy world of facebook) these past few years…

Your latest blog post made me shelf all my hesitation and decide to write you and tell you that I hope you keep writing… You are a beautiful writer, and the strength, courage and vulnerability that is in your blog is stunning. Simply stunning. It is also giving support and encouragement more than you know.

During my pregnancy, I wanted to write to you… I was in Ivory Coast and got very sick – I was hospitalized for five days, and was uncertain as to whether or not my baby would be ok. Throughout that time, I was terrified, but I also thought of you and found strength and encouragement in your blog. Many times throughout my pregnancy, especially during those five days, and the time a couple months later that I started bleeding and didn’t know why, I went back and read your blog post that really stuck with me (April 28, 2012 - According to African Legend). It provided strength, and comfort during a time when I was very afraid. 

If you decide to stop writing, that is of course entirely up to you and it will be supported and respected. But, I just wanted to write after all this time to say to you that I am very grateful, that your words meant a lot to me, and that I respect you enormously.

Xo

 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Toilet Humour

The following are an example of where we're at with Leo and his public speaking;

'Willy bum, bum'

'I'm going to do a big poo on you'

'Mummy's got a hairy bottom'

'You have a big wobbly bottom'

......Running naked in the warm African sunshine Leo stops to do a wee in the flower bed and shouts, 'I've got a big willy like my daddy'.

My inner parent is slowly being eroded away and he's not even THREE.