Pregnancy and Loss

A rainbow pregnancy…..

In the pub last week, a girl I vaguely know glanced suspiciously at my tummy and gave me a knowing look. « So…are you ? » she giggled excitedly. The other girls around her cottoned on and before I could say much else I was being enveloped in hugs and congratulated amid much squealing. « it’s early ..ish » I protested, « we’d hope to wait until the anomaly scan next week before announcing ». Cue confused looks. « 20 weeks isn’t early ! » « you’re practically home and dry ! » « your body has done it once hon, it will do it again and it’ll all be fine ! »

Of course, what these well meaning ladies don’t know is that last year, I was in this exact same position. Proudly parading my bump, telling anyone who would listen that I was expecting, offering up the information that it was a boy bump, even accepting offers of baby clothes…. Only to be given the devasting news at the 20 week anomaly scan that our little boy had a fatal condition and would not survive the pregnancy.

So, unfortunately, I know that reaching the 12 week milestone is no guarantee that you will go on to have a healthy baby in your arms. I know that each time I tell someone I’m pregnant, I might have to ‘untell’ them. I know that every scan photo might become a precious memory of a much loved and wanted little life. I know that surrounding myself with other ‘expat bumps’ (of which there are many in these parts!) is a dangerous game because once a bump is gone and there is no baby in its place, you suddenly have very little to say to those well meaning mums to be. ‘Bump dinners’ are suddenly no longer really your idea of a good night out, ‘Bloom and brunch’ is not a great way to spend your Sunday, and ‘Bump yoga’ is definitely no longer your exercise of choice.

So yeah…I’m a little cautious this time.

The internet tells me that a baby after a loss is called a ‘rainbow baby’. I like it. My (actually not so little !) rainbow bump. This baby feels so special to me – extra so because I know what it’s like to carry a baby for 6 months, give birth and experience new life and death in the same breath.

So anyways, here we are, a rainbow bump abroad. I’m almost 5 months in and at the time of writing I have not yet had the big anomoly scan. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far following the loss of Baby M and the beginning of this rainbow bump: (note – the ‘you’ in the below is a generic person who may have found themselves in a similar situation to me. I wasn’t sure if it was the right pronoun to use but hey…. Just wanted to make that clear.)

  • What happened to me is, thankfully, very rare. If you move in very small expat circles as I do, it is even rarer. This is a good thing, of course, but if it does happen to you it means that you probably won’t know anyone else going through the same things. That’s tough. No two ways about it. It feels lonely. After I lost baby M, I had to face pregnant people and new borns A LOT. There are lots of expat wives in my town who, once they arrive here, seem to dedicate themselves to reproducing (not judging, just sayin.) So they are kind of…. EVERYWHERE. (And they all have bugaboos…. I don’t know why that bothers me …) A rainbow pregnancy can also be a lonely experience – you are guarded, you don’t want to share it with everyone, and you sure as heck don’t want to go to all those bloomin’ bump events….
  • It’s hard enough explaining where your bump has gone in your own language. Explaning in a foreign language is…erm….challenging. Nuff said. With a rainbow, I find myself not wanting to tell many people that I’m expecting. Noone in my (very provincial little village) knows. Hopefully once day I’ll just kind of have a ‘bébé and the villagers will figure it out.
  • You will find out who your friends are. Cliché, maybe, but oh so true. (There might be some surprises here too….since losing baby M I have, at the last count, 4 fewer friends than I did before. It’s great – trust me. It’s like an enforced friendship detox you didn’t even realise you needed).
  • You give a loss less f**ks than you previously did. Talk about putting thing into perspective. That new expat mum who you’re not getting the good vibes from – don’t know why and don’t give a f**k. What the checkout lady thought when Chouchou squatted and did a big poo in the middle of the supermarket. Really don’t give a f**k. What our French neighbours thought when Chouchou refused to sit at the table for ‘gouter’ (that’s snack time to you and me – the locals are religious about it.) Really couldn’t Give. A. Flying. F**k. (For further reading I highly recommend Sarah Knight’s « The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck » Luckily you don’t have to go through a big tragedy to give less f**s as she will explain !)
  • When you finally feel ready to tell people you have a rainbow on board, you will feel the need to pre-fix every statement with ‘if all goes well’ or ‘touch wood.’ It will feel like you’re tempting fate if you don’t do this. It’s kind of exhausting for you and everyone else but it needs to be done !
  • On a similar theme, you will become ridicuously supersticious. I have ‘lucky scan’ leggings that I didn’t wear on the day we got the news that Baby M was so sick – I won’t be making that mistake again. The day before my 20 week scan last year, I taught a private English class. This same student has asked for a lesson next week – which just happens to be the day before our Rainbow’s anomoly scan. Erm…. I don’t think so. Even maternity clothes that I wore last time are out of the question. The Bespectacled one had to practically drag me to a birthday night out last week because we’d eaten in the same restaurant this time last year. I know, I know. The logical part of my brain knows that this is all insane but the part that will do ANYTHING to protect this baby and ensure that this pregnancy continues overrides it. Don’t tell my therapist (yes, I have one…more about that later.) She would not approve.
  • At the risk of sounding a bit sickly smug, you will appreciate your rainbow pregnancy in a completely new way. I feel so awful saying it now but with both Chouchou and Baby M, the sickness was so bad that at times, I felt so resentful. I just wanted my body back. With Baby M it was even worse as I was chasing a toddler around interdispersed with the ‘puke – eat carbs – puke –eat carbs’ cycle. Now I’m not saying that this pregnancy has been a walk in the park. I did feel sick. I did feel tiredness on a scale that now seems impossible. I did struggle. But underneath it all I was just so insanely grateful to be pregnant. And I knew the sickness would end (I just had to hang on until 14 weeks….) And now that the ‘honeymoon trimester’ is upon me and I feel physically pretty great, I’m appreciating this time with my unborn baby so very much. I’m not doing it in a smug ‘look at me’ way (I hope !) It’s a private thing. Me and my rainbow bump.
  • Even though your rainbow is so very wanted and loved, you will still s**t yourself about what it will mean to add a new baby into the mix. My current ‘mix’ involves a husband who works long hours and travels often, a house in the middle of effing nowhere,  a ‘foreign’ culture I am still trying to get to grips with, an extremely needy toddler and an arguably even more needy huge fat cat. Oh – and my ‘mix’ does not involve grandmas, granddads, aunties uncles etc who will just ‘pop’ round (oh how I long for someone to ‘pop round’….. ) F**k, when I put it in writing like that it does sound quite scary….. Deep breaths all round. People do this all the time, far from home with little or no support network. I have some great girlfriends, the Bespectacled one who is basically a legend, and enough episodes of Peppa Pig to sink a ship….. oh…and I’ll be able to drink wine again in 4 months… and or gin 🙂

I feel that I should finish this post with a few links. I kind of hope ‘you’ are just an interested reader passing by and that you haven’t been through the loss of a baby yourself. However, if ‘you’ can relate more personally to my story then you might be interested to know where I turned to for support. Despite the fact that my local hospital and the midwives were amazing, there came a point when i just needed to speak to someone in English. There is a Facebook ‘Pregnancy Loss Support Group’ for Expats over here and whilst I understand the need to share stories (obviously!) I sometimes find these forums and groups can actually scare more than reassure. The stories are just so sad and from reading them I have learned of a whole host of awful things than can happen during pregnancy that I didn’t even know existed before.  Also, the advice of other grieving mothers is not always the advice you need. What I needed, personally, was professional support in my first language. Cue these wonderful services:

  • ARC (Anti Natal Results and Choices.) http://www.arc-uk.org. I used their helpline several times and was given some amazing advice and even put in contact with a lady who had been through an almost identical situation to me. I will never forget her kindness and how much time she took to speak to me and guide me through such a hard time.
  • SANDS. (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity.) http://www.sands.org.uk. This organisation also has a helpline and support forums as well as lovely ways to remember your baby.
  • Tommy’s. http://www.tommys.org This organisation conducts vital research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. They have a ‘pregnancy information service’ and they have online support and telephone advice provided by in-house midwives.
Uncategorized

My rainbow has arrived…..!

and here is a summary of my thoughts so far…..

“That effing well hurt.”

“Oh my god he’s alive and well and he’s actually here” (surge of happiness.)

“Oh my god they’re taking him away what if he’s not ok” (surge of real primal fear unlike any previously known”)

“Thank god he’s ok and he’s feeding! I love breastfeeding already” (slightly smug.)

“I hate breastfeeding so much. Why will he not latch?”.

“I love nipple shields – he’s feeding!”

“I hate nipple shields – they have ruined my chances of ever getting him to latch”

“I am so overwhelmingly in love with this baby.” (euphoric.)

“This is not Baby M”.

“This is not Baby M and that’s ok.”

“This is my third baby. My second baby will always be in my heart.”

“What the eff have we done? We were a perfect unit of 3 and things were going so well and now we have a thrashing screaming gremlin living with us.”

“It’s so great being a family of 4. Look at him sleeping peacefully in his cot.”

“I can’t do this.” (cries – despairs.)

“I only had 4 hours sleep last night.”

“Yay, I had a whole 4 hours sleep last night!!”

“I’m neglecting Chouchou” (guilts.)

“I am wonderful earth mother with sleeping newborn in ethnic style wrap whilst doing crafts with 3 year old and I have this nailed.”

“I am on my iphone or laptop far too much. Why don’t I want to dedicate every second to Chouchou when baby is asleep?”

“I am entitled to want to access the ‘real world’ by means of my iphone when I am stuck on the sofa attempting to breastfeed all day.”

“Breastfeeding is not going to work.”(sobs)

“With a little more dedication we’ll get there”. (determined face.)

“Bottles are evil”

“Bottles are a lifesaver.”

That’s all for now folks……

 

Expat Life

Reverse Culture Shock

“Debit account in home currency – CHF

Debit account in visitor currency – GBP”

I paused and squinted at the ATM machine. My finger hovered over the options. The ATM was asking me an innocent question but I was confused. I was home, wasn’t I? I was in the middle of London, the capital city of my home country, the country where I was born and had mostly lived for the first 29 years of my life. How dare this ATM machine suggest that this is not my home, that I am merely a visitor.

But then again, I am a visitor, I suppose. I’m only here for a week. How can this be home? My house isn’t here. My husband isn’t here. My daughter isn’t here. My big stripy fat cat isn’t here. Most of my friends aren’t even here anymore.

This is a total head f**k, I mused. (Don’t worry there wasn’t anyone behind me in the queue.) Where is home?

This was a question that rang in my ears for the rest of that week in London, and various other parts of the U.K, as I sped around trying to fit in the friend and family visits required of an expat when he/she returns ‘home’ for a ‘visit.’

Other strange things happened that week.

I walked into Urban Outfitters (too exciting for words when you live in Switzerland where the choice is H&M or H&M) and nearly jumped out of my skin when the sales assistant trilled  ‘hiiiii yaaaaa! how you doin’ babe?’ at me. Was she talking to me? Was I supposed to engage in conversation with her? Did I go to school with her or something? Nope. Turns out she was just being friendly. It’s that whole customer service thing that doesn’t really exist in Switzerland that used to really annoy me when I first moved there. Turns out I seem to have gotten used to it. I was genuinely taken aback at the over familiarity of this sales assistant and felt a little like she was invading my space. I probably came across as really rude to her. 10 years ago, pre Switzerland, I would have probably trilled something right back at her.

Crossing roads. I would approach the curb and dutifully wait for the green man. 2 minutes later I would be the only person still standing there. In my ‘home’ country, it seems that people just..shock horror…. find a space with no cars and … here it comes…cross the road without waiting for the green man. This is dangerous practice people! I wanted to scream. But everyone seemed to be doing it. Everyone except me. 10 years in Switzerland have clearly conditioned me into always ..no exceptions… always waiting for the green man. I guess I used to jay walk too… when I lived here… in this country. My ‘home’ country.

My taxi driver. Bless the bones of him. What a sweetheart. Boy did he want to chat. “What was I doing here? Ooooh Switzerland, do they speak Swiss there? Sounds amazing, was it amazing? Did I miss home? Had I seen the match last night? Could I believe that he was nearly 65? (There was no way he was retiring.) There’s that new restaurant everyone keeps asking him to take them to. Had I eaten there? Did I know that a big storm was forecast for that evening? Kids? Pets? How long was I staying? His daughter had just graduated. Couldn’t believe a child of his had gone to uni” and so it went on. I tried to keep up, smiling and making the right noises in the right places, but all I could think about was my taxi trip to the airport in Geneva the day before. “Bonjour madame. L’aéroport?” 20 minutes of silence. “55 francs s’il vous plaît” (yes really). Bonne journée.”

Quel difference!

And so it went on. A week of ‘culture shock’ in my ‘home’ country. Other examples included:

The trains – how do people cope with the fact that they are never ever on time? I supposed I used to cope with this.

The choice. Coffee shops coming out of my ears, too many eateries to comprehend, shops galore (buy one dress get one free!), pop up this, pop up that, markets, supermarkets open 24/7.

The diversity. In one week I saw / heard; A man in a business suit with a ghetto blaster (you remember them) dancing his heart out (alone) next to Holborn tube entrance. Girls kissing girls. Boys kissing boys. Crazy, beautiful clothes on crazy beautiful people. So many languages being spoken. So many adverts for so many things. Live music! Street theatre. Pubs spilling people out, many of them drunkenly swaying around the streets. An -at least – 80 year old woman roller blading in Hyde Park.

That whole week was a beautiful, energising assault on my senses. I was like a rabbit in headlights. Had I taken these things for granted when I lived here? Would I even have batted an eyelid? Did my days used to involve small talk with shop assistants, jay-walking, late trains and living amongst so many amazingly colourful people?!

Then I landed back in Switzerland..with a literal and metaphorical bump (it was a thundery day.) I breathed in the pure air. Walked serenely to the tram stop via a newsagent where I bought a bottle of water involving no small talk whatsoever. I made the peaceful journey back to my little village on the edge of town. Put my key in the front door of my ‘home’. Hugged my chubby little bundle of a daughter, kissed my husband and patted my big stripy cat. I sat in my garden and looked out over the fields beyond it, catching my breath. “Phew, I’m home,” I thought……

…..for about 20 minutes. Before, as it is loath to do, my over-thinking brain kicked in.

But was this home? This is where my family is. My house. My friends. But this is where I often feel isolated. Confused. Unable to communicate either because I genuinely don’t know the French word for something or because I’ve failed to grasp some invisible cultural rule. So was that home? That wonderful diverse chaotic country I had just come back from? But seems like I’ve lost touch with a lot of the cultural rules there too.

I was still confused.

The next day I googled ‘reverse culture shock’ and discovered that it is most definitely a thing. Robin Pascoe, author of Homeward Bound puts it very eloquently:

“(when an expat returns home) norms and values from their home country are viewed from a fresh perspective, and expats and their families see things in a new light; something like Dorothy going from black and white to Technicolor.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself. It certainly had felt like a week in technicolor. Not that I’m suggesting Switzerland is ‘black and white’ in a negative sense. Just… different. Very different. More different than I’d realised up until that trip.

Further ‘research’ (i.e. googling) provided yet more explanations of what I’d experienced. Dean Foster, founder and president of DFA Intercultural Global Solutions explains that expats who spend extended periods of time in their host countries “learn new patterns of behavior and thought necessary to fit in” and that when they go home, either to visit or repatriate, can be “shocked into the realisation that they have in fact changed substantially.”

Yes. That’s it. I’ve changed. I’ve become a little bit Swiss, a little bit French (we’re right on the border with France and spend a lot of time there) and of course, I will always be (quite a lot) British. And as for ‘home’, well who the heck knows where it is. I don’t actually own any bricks and mortar anywhere on planet earth. Our rented house in Geneva is home for now. My parents home town, slap bang in the middle of England, will always be a bit my home. So will Glasgow, where I spent a number of happy years. So will London, ditto.

It’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. My home is where my heart is. So wherever Bespectacled, Chouchou, stripy fat cat and rainbow baby are, will be my home.

And just so you know, ATM machine, GBP is as much my home currency as Swiss francs. Thank you very much. Hmph.

 

Parenting

What parenting has made me realise about myself…….

My main reservation about becoming a parent was the infamous lack of sleep that everyone talks about. I felt like that’s all I ever heard from friends with children – “I didn’t realise it was possible to be this tired”, “I managed 4 hours in a row last night – yay!”, “I fell asleep on the toilet at work” etc etc. It sounded bloody awful. As someone who already had issues around sleep, I was dreading it.

Turns out, I needn’t have got myself in such a tizz. I mean, yes, there have been bad nights  – some real stinkers. There was a point when 4 hours in a row was an achievement. I don’t think I’ve fallen asleep on the toilet but I’ve been pretty bloomin’ knackered quite regularly over the last 3 years. But it’s not been that bad. Lack of sleep has been one aspect of parenthood that I’ve dealt with pretty well I reckon.

So that’s not what we’re talking about today. (Long and unnecessary introduction I hear you say?!) Well, bear with me. The point of this introduction is to emphasise the point that often, the things we worry about are not the things that are actually going to cause us problems. You see, what I should have been worried about was how becoming a parent was going to… well I don’t want to over dramatise it…. but let’s just say –  expose the very bones of my soul, reveal to me my inner most insecurities, shine a huge great light on my personality flaws… you get the idea.

I was categorically NOT expecting that. So far, parenting Chouchou has been like one huge therapy session whereby layer upon layer of my SELF has been exposed … and I must say that some of what has been revealed has been quite a shock.

Here’s a run down of some of the things I’ve learned….

  • Turns out I worry SO much about what people think. It’s insane. I mean, I knew that I was somewhat that way inclined but I had no idea just how serious it was…

Example: Chouchou playing with the neighbour’s daughter in their garden last week. I was pottering in the kitchen thinking how nice it was that she can now play unsupervised when I heard a familiar shriek (think pig being gutted alive). Chouchou was seriously losing the plot over a princess dress and I could see she was headed in a downward spiral, the only solution to which was to ABORT PLAYDATE I repeat ABORT PLAYDATE: As usual, my attempts to calmly diffuse the situation failed spectacularly and within about 2 minutes I was forced to physically remove her – kicking, screaming, flailing, wailing. I attempted to apologise to the neighbour as I hoisted all 15 kgs of her over my shoulder (safest position to shield my bump and boobs from kicks – downside of this position, readers should note, is that it makes hair pulling very easy which of course is what she proceeded to do with some gusto.) As I staggered away tearfully, I caught eyes with my neighbour’s husband who had just got in from work. His look conveyed to me an impressive combination of pity, scorn, disdain, superiority and disgust to name a few. IN MY HEAD.

And that’s the key – in my head, that’s what he was thinking. And maybe it was what he was thinking. But maybe it wasn’t. And anyway, as bespectacled constantly tells me, who cares what he was thinking? Well… me… I care a lot as it turns out because I was still thinking about ‘that look’ at 3 in the morning, tossing and turning. By 5am, I had decided we all needed to move away from the neighbourhood because we have a reputation for having the worst behaved child in the whole world. By morning I had the situation in slightly more perspective but nonetheless I was still waaaaay too preoccupied by ‘the look.’

That’s one example of many, of course, and there are situations like this that occur every day. The caring what people think is exhausting and I know I shouldn’t, I’m just not too sure how not to…  When I lost Baby M, I went through a period where my grief obscured everything else and I thought I’d been cured of this worry but one year on, it seems like I’m back to where I started….

  • What my mother would call ‘not knowing my own mind’. One day I can be an attachment parenter, the next I talk to someone who tells me I’m a pushover and ‘bham’, I become a hardline ‘timeout’ type. On a Monday, I can decide I never reward with sweet treats, by Tuesday I’m desperately promising Chouchou she can have a chocolate bar if only she’ll do a wee on the god damned toilet. On Wednesday, she’s back in nappies and I’m waiting until “she’s ready”. It was the same with ‘sleep training’. I was totally against ‘cry it out’ until .. well… someone told me I was letting Chouchou control me, then I tried cry it out. And it worked. Then I was totally for it. The same with the stairgate on her bedroom door. I decided it was for her wellbeing and mine (i.e. I could sleep better knowing she couldn’t ‘escape’ and drink toilet cleaner in the night.) Then my mum said it was like “a cage” and I read a forum whereby someone described it as cruel, so I removed it. Then put it back.

My current “not knowing my own mind” is dealing with tantrums. On day 1 I decide I will be one of those calm parents who mirrors what they see i.e. “I see that you’re frustrated and angry” when she is kicking the shit out of her doll / me / the cat. Then mother in law tells me I’m letting her run rings around me and so I swing to the other extreme…..

I know that there will be parents who relate to this, but I also know those who just do know their own mind more. They don’t let forums, grandparents, parenting manuals or websites dissuade them from their way of parenting, whatever that may be. I’m envious of them… and also curious. Did they go to some secret school for parents that I didn’t know about? Is it some innate quality they just have? Or perhaps they are just more sure of themselves…..

 

  • I’m an impatient person. I mean I kind of knew this before. I used to detest standing in queues, become quite worked up waiting for Bespectacled to find his keys, lose my shit in traffic jams. But I never really realized just how impatient I was and how much of a problem it was until Chouchou came along. Waiting for Bespectacled to find his keys is a walk in the park compared to waiting for Chouchou to do every god damned thing “BY. MYSEEEEEEEEELF”. I get that it’s an important developmental milestone, I really do, but give me strength … Unlocking the door yesterday took about half an hour because she insisted on doing it and wouldn’t even let me so much as help her get the key the right way up (imagine the self doubt – “am I letting her have all the control? Or am I simply letting her learn to do things for herself?”) Getting in to her car seat commands a serious amount of deep breathing on my part and often, despite this, I find myself forcing her in whilst muttering FFS (and sometimes not managing to keep it to a mutter.) Getting the shoes on. Ahhhh… the shoes. Knowing that despite taking at least 10 minutes, they are going on the wrong feet yet feeling powerless to change it for fear of the ensuing tantrum. The deep breaths often just don’t cut it.

 

This particular personality revelation does in fact have a happy ending as I must admit, I have found myself becoming progressively more patient and accepting. I hardly recognized myself the other day at ‘car seat time’ when I found myself simply shrugging and accepting that we would be late, and the world wouldn’t end. That’s progress.

 

  • I am pretty emotionally … i’m looking for a word that isn’t ‘unstable’ but it will have to do for now 🙂 I have realised that I cry, get grumpy and get angry, feel guilty, pretty easily, then will swing to be full of joy at the amazingness of it all, then straight back to grumpy when Chouchou whines for a ‘fruit pouch’ for the 50th time. (She actually thinks pureed fruit shoved into a squeezy bag is ‘real fruit’ and embarrassingly screamed at me that she wanted ‘real fruit’ in the park last week when I offered her a nectarine.) I confided in a friend about my lack of emotional stability recently and she immediately gave me a ‘get out’ by reminding me that I’ve had a pretty horrible year. … yeeees but although Baby M has provoked a humongous emotional clear out, I would be lying if I said I was sailing on smooth waters before he came along. I just never realised how emotional I was until I found myself in charge of a small person, who pushes me to the limits of all my emotions regularly throughout the day. I tried to tell my mother in law about this the other day – she looked confused, genuinely confused. “I had 3 boys and an absent husband and no help and I never found it hard”, she declared…. “you girls nowadays think about things too much…” Cue an emotional breakdown and a tearful phonecall to Bespectacled – “there’s something wrong with me. Why am I finding this so hard? Your mother had 3 kids and no help” I sobbed.  A pause for a classic Bespectacled measured and well thought out response (he categorically does not suffer from emotional instability) “If there is anyone who’s opinion you shouldn’t care about it’s my mother” he said gently “now I need to get back to my management meeting. Do we have enough milk?”.

 

There’s plenty more where those 4 examples came from but as I type, Chouchou is watching CBeebies for the 3rd time today and I’m starting to feel that I really should be doing something involving the inside of toilet rolls and glue instead of pouring out my heart on the internet.. (while we’re on the subject, what the heck am I actually supposed to do with the inside of toilet rolls?) Well, you get the idea… one of my regular daily emotions is rearing it’s ugly head… guilt….coupled with that all familiar self doubt (do I have strict enough TV limits? why do I prefer to write this post rather than interacting with my child?), all washed down with a little pinch of ‘what does the invisible parenting expert who constantly watches me from the corner think of my right now?”… So all to say that it’s over and out for today, and more coming soon.

 

 

 

Pregnancy and Loss

Happy Birthday Baby M

Someone recently commented to me about an ‘inappropriate’ (her words) Facebook post a friend of a friend of a friend had written. From what I gathered, it was essentially an outpouring of grief type post. Someone out there in cyberspace who neither of us knew personally, had lost a parent and had posted a picture of the funeral accompanied by a very emotionally charged post. “Facebook is just not the place for that”, declared my friend. “Hmmmmmm,” I replied, in what I hoped was a a non-commital way.

Not so long ago, I would have probably agreed. I admit that I also used to think that using Facebook in this kind of way was slightly…erm… what’s the word i’m looking for? I hesitate to say it, but I kind of  thought it was all a bit attention seeking. And yes, inappropriate.

I know…. maybe not a very nice, or true for that matter, thing to think. I didn’t really understand grief then.

Now, I do.

You see, today is Baby M’s birthday …… and I want to shout it from the rooftops. I want to write a big Facebook post, perhaps complete with a picture of his grave, because I want Facebook to know – 1 year ago today, I had a baby boy! Please comment! Please like (or whatever of the range of available ‘reactions’ you feel is appropriate… they are all ok by me!). Please share! Please acknowledge!

Yeah, so now, I get it.

When we share ‘grief’ posts on Facebook, maybe we are looking for a bit of attention, and maybe that’s okay. We want the world (and nowadays, that means Facebook whether we like it or not) to acknowledge the person we have lost. You see, what I’ve realised is that we can’t (or don’t want to, or don’t feel we should) go around all day every day telling anyone who will listen about our lost loved one, we can’t produce photos and tell stories to anyone who seems to be a willing listener, not really…it’s not really… well…. ‘appropriate’, is it? And let’s face it, it would get tiresome. For us, and everyone else.

Because of course, life does go on. We go to the pub and have a laugh, we meet for playdates and talk about how tired we are, we go to work and discuss targets, profits, strategies (I’m guessing here..it’s been so long since i’ve been to work), we attend meetings and appointments, we make small talk with neighbours, shop assistants, people in the street, we take our kids to school, we cook, we clean, we sleep… we get on with life.

And there’s not very often an appropriate moment to hold up our hand and say “STOP – I want to talk about my baby. My baby who died.”

Well …… maybe Facebook gives us that opportunity.

It’s not for everyone, and in fact maybe it’s not for me. But if it is for you, I’m not judging. Go ahead. Post away. Why the heck not?

So why, as much as I’d love to, am I hesitating about posting about Baby M today? I’m not sure to be honest … Perhaps I’m worried that others will think it’s not appropriate. Perhaps it’s because much as I’m up for breaking down the silence that surrounds pregnancy loss and still birth, it feels like a step too far at the moment. Perhaps it’s because I’m worried people will think I’m attention seeking. Perhaps it’s just not for me.

But I do know that I need to write something for my boy, to throw something out there into cyberspace in black and white for my little baby, who was born and died 1 year ago today, and who changed my life forever.

So thanks for reading, It’s nice to share.

Happy Birthday Baby M. 23/05/2016 Love you always.

(Baby Loss awareness week. 9-15 October 2017.)

Expat Friendships · Expat Life

Expat friendships part 2

I now realise I was being slightly melodramatic when I recently declared myself to have ‘failed at friendships’ … To be fair to me, at the time I was in the midst of a long hard winter coupled with morning sickness and a demented toddler for company … And also in my defence, my birthday was a major friendship fail (see previous post for the full story). But we’ve been there and talked about that and that’s not what this post is about…

This post is about something else, something that I realised this morning when I glanced at my phone and saw 18 unread whatsapp messages and several more unread emails. I didn’t even dare check my Facebook inbox or my standard text messages. … who knows what messages sat there waiting to be acknowledged. You see, I realised that someone who had ‘failed at friendship’ would not have so many ‘friends’ trying to contact them via a variety of different mediums.

I poured myself a coffee, took a deep breath and sat down to have a read. This is what I discovered:

  • A friend who lives in Germany had had a baby.
  • A friend in Oxford wanted to know if I was trying to ‘end our friendship.’ (I wasn’t.)
  • A friend in Wales wanted to Skype.
  • A friend in Australia wanted to talk over a family crisis.
  • A friend in London missed me and wanted to know where I had got to.
  • A friend in Sweden wondered if I was still alive….

And so it went on…..

So here’s the thing:

  • I wanted to see the friend who had had a baby. Not text her. I wanted to cuddle her baby. Not see a digital photo of him. I wanted to hand deliver some gifts, not post them. I wanted to help her with shopping, make her a coffee, make her a cake… in short, I wanted to be there.
  • I wanted to go out with my friend in Oxford and put the world to rights over a bottle of wine, not text her. That’s why I hadn’t texted her. I felt awful that she would think I was trying to ditch her.
  • I didn’t want to Skype my friend in Wales. I wanted to go for tea and cake with her  – that’s our thing – T&C (tea and cake as oppose to G&T as either one or the other of us has been pregnant or breastfeeding for so long now we have temporarily conceded defeat on the G&T option….not that i’m against the odd tipple whilst pregnant or breastfeeding .. but it doesn’t have quite the same effect when you know you shouldn’t really be having it… at least with T&C I can indulge with a clear conscience.)
  • I really wanted to sit down with my friend in Australia and hash out the family crisis in person, not via snippets of messages and failed attempts to get our timezones to coincide for long enough for us to FaceTime.
  • I so very much missed my friend in London. I wanted to meet her at my favourite north London brunch spot and catch up.
  • As for the friend in Sweden… well I realised something needed to change if she doubted my continued existence on planet earth….

You see, what I realised is that I actually do have friends – plenty of them, in fact. But they’re not here, right here, where I need them. And long distance friendships are quite frankly, a shit load of work. All that texting, time zone managing, fiddling around with bad connections, interference, Skype with no sound (yes the microphone is on, not it’s not muted, yes I’ve restarted the god damn thing a gazillion times) then the sound miraculously comes back and the effing video cuts out (“can’t see you anymore – what was it little Archie was trying to show me?” yes the video is on, it worked earlier on.., yes i’ve restarted it… )

You get the picture. Or not as the case may be…..

I sometimes look back to my decision to leave my hometown aged 18. I could never have imagined staying at the time – that wasn’t what people did. They got out there. They saw the world. So that’s what I did. And I’ve had some amazing experiences over the past 20 years. I’ve travelled and lived in a number of different countries, and everywhere I’ve gone I’ve met wonderful people and made wonderful friends…. and now here I am with the feeling that these friends are now scattered  all across the world… a trail of friends from France to Scotland via Thailand .. none of them where it actually matters now. I now look at my friends that never really left their hometowns, who didn’t seem to have that wanderlust, with what I can only describe as a mild envy. I look at their solid group of old, loyal friends, their established social lives and the family on their doorstep…. and I can’t help but wonder what could have been….

Of course, I don’t regret the places I’ve been and the experiences I’ve had, but I do have to wonder how I’ve ended up feeling so alone in a place that I’m desperately trying to call home…

Of course, I don’t want to ditch my ‘worldwide’ friends, they are very precious to me indeed.  But if I could click my fingers I’d move them all to my little Swiss village in a heartbeat. We’d have a right old laugh and give the locals a run for their money at those monthly meetups…

But that’s not going to happen so I guess I just need to get over it and get on with replying to all those messages and scheduling those facetimes…. Big. Deep. Breaths. And lots of T&C… 🙂

Pregnancy and Loss

The birth story you’re not allowed to tell……

At a mum’s dinner out not long ago, the conversation turned to birth stories. Us mums love a good birth story, don’t we?

“I didn’t even have a paracetamol” declared one. We dutifully praised her.

“I was in labour for 3 days, the baby got stuck, I ended up having an emergency section” another whispered dramatically. We dutifully sympathised.

“”I went to a mountain hut surrounded by cows and mooed my baby out” said another.

Okay, maybe that last one isn’t quite right… but i’m sure it involved cows in some way.

The point is, when you enter the ‘mum club’, you will find yourself having the ‘birth story conversation’ sooner or later, which is all fine and dandy…..  until your birth story doesn’t result in a  living baby. Then, suddenly, you are absolutely not allowed to tell it.

I do get it – it’s uncomfortable. People don’t like to think about it. It’s sad … heartbreaking, in fact. For those who haven’t been through it, the thought of labouring and giving birth to a baby who dies is unbearable. And I can only speak for myself here, but for me, it wasn’t unbearable. My beautiful Baby M was born. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. He was beautiful. My birth story involved an induction, an epidural, a painless 8 hour labour, a short pushing phase and then my little boy.

No-one else in the world has ever heard that story.

Look, I’m not saying we should go around shouting it from the rooftops, but I do object to the feeling I have that I’m not allowed to talk about it …… because when I analyse the reasons for this, what it really boils down to is that it makes other people feel uncomfortable. I don’t feel at all uncomfortable about it. I’m happy to tell it. But I never do… I sometimes open my mouth to .. but I always think better of it, and then I end up feeling guilty. Like I’ve denied Baby M his story.

We have a pretty unhealthy relationship with death in the western world and I reckon this has a lot to do with it. Death is something we don’t like to talk about. We worry about what to say to a bereaved person. Crying is to be done in private. We are then to ‘move on’. Maybe things are starting to change though –  apparently the Japanese tradition of Jizo statues is starting to spread in the West. Angela Elson recently wrote in the New York times about how a Jizo statue brought her comfort after she miscarried her baby. 

I think this idea is just lovely,  an outward acknowlegdment of a little life and a beautiful way to stay connected to the baby who has died.

I didn’t know about Jizu when we lost Baby M, but I knew I needed ways to remember him. The hospital gave us a lovely memory box. We have photos, footprints and a hospital bracelet. We have his birth certificate. We have his grave which we visit regularly. And best of all, amidst all the confusion and grief in the days after his delivery, I had his initials tattooed on my wrist. I remember thinking at the time that I might regret this but I don’t at all. I love when I glimpse it – it takes me back to him, it centres me, it reminds me what is important. And yes, people ask what it means. And yes, I tell them. And sometimes they look shocked. Sometimes they look horrified. Sometimes they look knowing. Sometimes they don’t know what to say. Sometimes they say the right thing. Sometimes they say the wrong thing. When they say the wrong thing, I don’t mind. I know that they are struggling with a bloomin’ difficult task and that they are well meaning.

I know it’s hard. It’s really bloody delicate because I also know that just because I like to talk about Baby M, other mothers in my situation perhaps don’t. But I am going to go out on a  limb and say that most appreciate acknowledgement of their baby. So take a risk. Ask them about it. Listen. If they cry, let them cry. Cry with them even. One of my favourite reactions to the Baby M situation was that of a wonderful old friend who sat me down with a bottle of wine and sobbed with me as we looked at my Baby M photos. I was truly honoured that she wanted to see his photos and that she recognised him as her friend’s baby who deserved to be celebrated just as if he had lived.

I know that others reading this post will have differing views on how to deal with this very sensitive issue, but almost exactly a year to the day since I met Baby M, I am crystal clear that for me, the way forward is recognition and acknowledgement of his little life.

Oh, and next time you open your mouth to tell your birth story… just consider who you are telling: they might have a story of their own……

Uncategorized

Damn – someone already wrote my book! It looks spot on. Can’t wait to get stuck into this….

Author: Clara Wiggins Language: English Summary: From how to organise an overseas move to what to do in the event of an earthquake, the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide is a light-hearted yet in-depth guide for anyone accompanying their partner on an overseas assignment. In our increasingly globalised society, more and more people are moving to another […]

via The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide: A light-hearted but authoritative manual for anyone accompanying their partner on an overseas assignment —

Expat Life

The expat CR (Controlled Rant)

In a previous post you may recall that I counselled caution when dealing with the ‘moany expat.’ I stand by this advice. I am wary around moaners and take care not to moan too much myself. And yet I am about to get stuck into some serious moaning in this post. « How come I’m allowed to do this ? », I hear you ask. Fair question. Well, whilst I do indeed advise against regular moaning, there is definitely a time and a place for a CONTROLLED RANT (CR). This is when one sets aside time specifically for a moan, gets it all of one’s chest and then resumes one’s usual jolly ‘look on the brightside’ outlook.

The controlled rant functions as a theraputic airing of thoughts. When employed only very occasionally, it can prove a very effective way of feeling a lot better. Every expat needs to have a CR from time to time …… So here’s mine :

Before I begin with my moan, let’s get the customary disclaimer about how many good things there are where I live over with. Right, so… there are lots of good things about where I live. Glad that’s sorted. Let’s move on to the things that REALLY get on my t**ts about where I live

I’ll just come out and say it. This city is just so god damned old fashioned in so many ways. I’ve tried to find this old-fashionedness cute, endearing, charming etc but the truth is, it just annoys me. It’s 2017 for god’s sake and…..

  • Juice bars have JUST arrived here. Juice bars are so 2005 in most other cities in the world, but here, they just got the memo. (Same with skinny jeans…)
  • Good coffee in cool coffee shops with decent music and decor has NOT YET arrived here. (I know that saying ‘cool coffee shops’ makes me sound like a dick. So shoot me. I admit it. I like a bit of exposed brick, some interesting facial hair – on men, just to clarify.  It makes me feel as if I live amongst charismatic and edgy types.) If luke warm milky coffee in establishments with faded lace curtains and brown carpet on the walls served by staff wearing while frilly aprons is your thing then you’re in the right town.
  • Individual quirky clothes shops have not yet arrived here. If you want something affordable and vaguely fashionable, there is H&M, H&M or H&M. For shoes, there is a chain of shops that sell plasticky cheap shoes. Every town centre, train station and shopping centre has at least 4 of these shops. Other options in most normal people’s price range (ie not designer) include nasty cheap hooker clothes shops (of which there are many – I just don’t get it. Who buys these clothes ? How do these shops makes money ?), or…clothes shops that haven’t been updated since 1980. I don’t know who their stockists are or how they even manage to find such horrendous clothes but manage it they do.
  • Circuses are still popular. True story.
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I really needed a new look – this place is just the ticket……
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One of Europe’s best shopping cities….erm…okay then….
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After a good stroll around the shops I think I’ll go and get an on trend new haircut…

While we’re on the subject of ‘quirky’ and ‘individual’, in a nutshell these concepts have simply not yet made it to this city. This applies in particular to eating establishments, clothes shops, hairdressers and beauticians (of which there are a mind boggling amount – anyone know why ?). Yesterday I walked through a cute little square which in any other European city I rekon would be filled with interesting bars, eateries and the like. Not here. Here, there were 2 restaurants both sporting dated decor, dirty canapes, rusty old Heineken signs (not in a retro cool way) with letters missing, dirty plastic chairs and tables and sandwich boards and ashtrays all brand Heineken. Someone had hastily scribbled in chalk a highly unimaginative ‘plat du jour’ on the sandwich board and ..voila…..

I wouldn’t eat there if you paid me, personally. (Truth be told, I did eat there once. The food was soggy and luke warm and the waitress smelled of wee…oh and I had to pay 50 francs for the privelage..)

 

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But after all that shopping and pampering, where should I stop to refuel…here?…looks enticing…
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or maybe here…..

Same for hairdressers. They still have pictures of mullets in the windows. Need I say more ?

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Attractive….

For clothes shops, see previous point.

There is something wierd going on here though. It’s like the ‘individuality police’ shut down anywhere that dares to be different. I’ve seen it happen on a number of occasions. Not far from the same square I just described, a pretty interesting looking coffee shop opened up a few months ago. It also sold reclaimed furniture and funky (sorry I hate that word but can’t think of another one) jewellery. I got excited. Maybe things times they were a’ changin. Who was I kidding. I walked past it yesterday- and it’s only bloomin well disappeared. The indiviuality police must have spotted it.

A  point only interesting to fellow expat parents, but the concept of a coffee shop and a soft play has not yet made it to this city. ‘They’, whoever ‘they’ are, have not yet realised that on a rainy day, parents need somewhere for their offspring to burn off energy while they drink coffee. It’s true, there are ‘soft play centres’. Huge soul-less buildings in uninspiring industrial areas (sometimes if you’re lucky with crap coffee) where there is nothing to do except let your kids play. These places are hell on earth and because they are so few and far between they are always insanely busy. I almost always leave them in tears. However, if you just want a last minute ‘let’s pop for a coffee and a play’ without getting in the car and driving you’re out of luck.

Healthy eating hasn’t quite made it here either.  Unless you want to live on juice. On your way to work in the morning (if you are lucky enough to be clip clopping somewhere important in kitten heels and a pencil skirt), your choice of breakfast on the run is either a plain croissant, a chocolate croissant, a raisin croissant, an almond croissant or a vanilla croissant. Or failing that, some sickly rich cream filled bun kind of affair. All to be washed down with a luke warm weak coffee. Yummmmm.

If you want to eat out (which you might not want to do unless you’re ready to remortgage your house), you can basically choose from Italian, Italian or Italian (a bit like H&M eh?!). I’m only exaggerating a little bit, honest. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pizza (I’d rather not pay 25 francs for it but that’s a different story…) but I also love Greek, Lebanese, Tapas, Asian etc etc.

Whenever someone does attempt to open something other than Italian here, they invariably get it wrong, usually by making it too fussy and expensive and having bizarre opening hours. Take the Moroccan that opened and then closed 6 months later not far from where I’m sitting writing this. Of course it wasn’t going to work you numpties. First off, you put thick red velvet curtains in the windows making it impossible to get a feel for the place from the street. Bang goes your passing trade. Next, you scribble on the obligatory chalk board outside that your tagines are 45 francs. Yes, you read that correctly. I know. Then, you render the inside completely devoid of atmosphere – all thick tables clothes, waiters speaking in hushed tones and no music. That’s not what we want on a Friday night people! And then the final nail in the coffin – you close … at the effing weekend. The exact time when people might want to let their hair down and eat out, you can’t be arsed to come to work.  Need I go on?

Another parent specific point, but they still put all these gross additive filled sugar laden snacks at toddler level here. In newsagents, supermarkets, petrol stations – everywhere. The other day, as I was paying for a bottle of water, Chouchou picked up a ‘lollipop dummy’. What the actual f**k. I mean, I remember them – from 1985- when I’m pretty sure they were banned in the UK. Here, they’re still a thing. Gross. I know that there are also lots of things I could find to moan about in my home country, but one thing I always notice is how much of an effort has been made over the past few years to promote healthy eating. Sainsbury’s has apples and nuts at toddler height these days. That’s the way it should be.

The grafitti. I don’t understand it. This city is in one of the most beautiful locations probably in the world. It’s on a beautiful lake, surrounded by stunning, breath-taking mountains. And yet it is crammed full of yukky eastern block style high rises covered in graffiti. Don’t get it. Can’t think about it too much. It makes me depressed.

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Geneva town planners – there are no words….

My rant is coming to and end I’m feeling a bit guilty, which is why the CR is such a good idea. The guilt is because now all the above grievances have been aired, I have given myself space to think about the many wonderful things about living here. Heck, it’s not like other places I’ve lived have been perfect. I think it’s probably human nature to see fault in where we live, especially as an expat, because we see the place with a totally ‘fresh’ perspective and because we have another culture and way of living to compare it with. So just to pre-empt all the ‘stop moaning and get over it’ comments, I feel the need to end with a quick run down of everything that is great about living here.

  • Mountains and fresh air !
  • It’s so safe and great for bringing up kids J
  • It’s so well positioned. Italy in an hour, south of France in 4, Paris in 3
  • People speak a beautiful language here.
  • The weather ! There are 4 proper seasons. Snowy Winters, firey coloured Autumns, beautiful Springs and usually properly hot Summers.
  • It’s a little bubble. I feel safe here – slightly removed from all the craziness of the rest of the world.

And so this post draws to a close. I’ll go back to focusing on the positives safe in the knowledge that if I ever need it, the controlled rant is at my disposition. In the meantime, I’ll avoid shopping and hairdressers and if anyone finds a decent coffee in this city, please let me know….

Expat Parenting

A Reluctant Stay at Home Mum……

I dropped Bespectacled off at work one day last week after Chouchou had gone to her playgroup. After he had disappeared into the revolving doors that seperate our two worlds, I sat in the car for a good half hour and ….watched….and yearned….

I saw a girl in a pencil skirt – a pencil skirt ! Not leggings covered in mashed banana. And kitten heels ! Cute, little, clippety cloppety kitten heels. Not smelly bashed up pumps. Kitten heels. How I yearned to wear a pencil skirt and kitten heels and clip clop somewhere important.

I saw a man hurrying past me, a takeaway coffee in one hand and a briefcase in the other. Not a scooter, 3 teddies, a sippy cup and a toddler’s discarded shoes. No, a takeaway coffee and a briefcase. How I yearned to be going somewhere important with a takeaway coffee and a briefcase.

I saw a lady talking on her mobile phone and looking at a document. I heard her say ‘l’ll see you for lunch in Paris.’ True story. Do I even need to tell you how much I yearned to have lunch in Paris ?!

The truth is that although I love the bones of Chouchou (and I don’t need to labour that point – it is a love that no words can describe), I am not cut out to be a full time stay at home mum. I yearn to work, to have a purpose other than looking after her, to feel that feeling of being ‘important’, ‘making a difference’ and all the other clichés we’ve all heard a million times. When Bespectacled moans about his 11 :00 management meeting, I have to stop myself screaming…  « let me go ! I’ll wear a pencil skirt, kitten heels and carry a briefcase. You can stay at home and do potato printing and endless games of hide and seek and I’ll go to the management meeting !!!! » (Well in all honesty I don’t always stop myself screaming it….I think he knows how I feel about the situation.)

But here we are. Leggings, mashed banana and a 3 year old for company most days. A beautiful, funny, cheeky darling of a little girl who – I’ll say it again – I love unimaginably– but all the same, a 3 year old with whom, when faced with the prospect of spending the whole day, I start to feel panicked ……. despairing almost. Bespectacled goes out and makes the money, and I stay at home and do the parenting. Very traditional. Quite old fashioned by most people’s standards these days perhaps. And not by choice. It’s just the way it’s worked out.

I feel it necessary here to stop and make sure that readers know that I do not think there is ANYTHING wrong with being a stay at home mum. Quite the opposite in fact. SAHMs are total legends. Those who choose to do it and enjoy it and are fulfilled by it – I salute you and I respect you. BUT I AM NOT YOU. There are quite a few of you in my little expat community. It’s not unusual to meet ‘trailing spouses’ (don’t you just love the term) in these parts. A trailing spouse is a woman (or a man but usually a woman) who has followed her (or his – trying to keep it PC folks) partner here for their partner’s job (just like moi.) Some of these ‘trailing spouses’ try and fail to get jobs, and some decide they don’t want or need to work and often set about the business of starting a family. So it is not at all unusual to meet fellow SAHMs. I would say it’s much more the norm than back home where the majority of my friends took their 6 months maternity leave and then went back to work (either out of necessity or desire.) Some of my fellow expat SAHMs get where I’m coming from, but others just…don’t. A (now ex) friend frequently makes clear her complete inability to understand my need for ‘more’ and my inability just to ‘be a mum’. One looked genuinely puzzled when I confided in her about how hard I find it. So I’m cautious about who I tell nowadays, but I’ve got pretty good at picking out my fellow RSAHMs (reluctant stay at home mums).

In my particular case, prior to having Chouchou I had struggled to find permanent work here. If I found it hard as a qualified and experienced flexible and childless candidate, once I added a young baby and no childcare that we could feasibly afford into the mix, those chances of finding work dimished even further and after job application number 20 when Chouchou was 2 years old, I officially GAVE UP.

So here we are. There’s not much more to say on the subject. I don’t really have any pearls of wisdom on this one. I would say, however, that I no longer give myself a hard time for how I feel. Being at home all day with a toddler IS hard. When my mum did it in the 80s, she had her mum on close call and a closeknit community of fellow mums living on our street. I don’t have that. I don’t even have that many friends here (see previous post on expat friendships.) A day just me and Chouchou is essentially a day of me feeling alone. No wonder I turn to Facebook far too much for a fix of adult ‘company’. I’ve realised that I generally function much better when part of a group and I guess this is something that work provided for me in the past that is now gone. I felt even less guilty when I read recently that in anthropological studies, it is generally accepted that back in the day, humans always moved around in groups, both for ‘work’ i.e. hunting, and relaxation. We are simply not designed to be on our own. (I must acknowledge my source here which is the May issue of Red Magazine…I wish I could say that I just happened to be reading a book on anthropology in order to further my own thinking…but nope… )

So just to end this post, you may be wondering why the eff I’m cooking another baby right now as I write. Yeah…. About that….. Thing is…. I just love them so much. These little amazing bundles that we produce (I know..pass the bucket) But it’s true. I find it really really hard being with my child for too long, but I desperately want another one. I know that this baby will even further thwart my efforts to find a job and confine me to even more days at home with only small people for company. I know that his arrival will put even more distance between me, kitten heels and pencil skirts. And as for lunch in Paris – I may as well kiss that idea goodbye for at least the next decade. But despite all this – I also love it. And hate it. And I can’t wait. And I’m scared…

God this s**t is complicated………..

The next day: This morning I woke up to find a huge poo in the bed next to me. Chouchou was standing next to me looking very pleased with herself. “I did a big girl poo” she announced. I got up and went to the cleaning cupboard to arm myself with disinfectant, vanish etc and was met with a huge pile of cat sick on the kitchen floor. It wasn’t even 7:30 am. I began to become aware of a range of feelings – disgust, hysteria, despair, mania to name a few.  Is was at this point that Bespectacled decided to emerge from the bathroom, freshly showered and dressed for work. “Right, I’m off to my management meeting” he declared. There are. no. words.