The Brave Face Battle

I’ve had a bit of a reality shock over the past week. A phone call with an older relative (OR) that went as follows…

OR: “Have you got any other good news for me?”

Me: “No…”

OR: “Are you sure?”

Me: “….Sorry, I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

OR: “Any other news? Any good news for me?”

Me (cottoning on and hardening up in anticipation): “No, no other news.”

OR: “Oh… Nothing? No other news?”

Me: “Nope.”

OR: “Oh… I was sure you would have. I could feel it, I was sure you would. That’s a terrible shame.”

Me: “….. *awkardly trying to laugh it off* No, that’s all I’ve got for you! That’ll have to be enough news for now!”

OR: “Oh, I’m terribly disappointed. Terribly disappointed. I really did think you would have news by now.” As an aside, she DOES NOT KNOW that we have started trying again. This is all just completely out of the blue. “You need to get him putting in a better performance. It’s time to get on with it, you know! He needs to get exercising and eating right to get his masculinity up!”

By now, my defenses are working in such overtime that I just changed the subject pronto, muttered my way vaguely through the rest of the conversation and said goodbye. I knew when I saw her next, it would be even worse – but I didn’t expect her to bring it up in front of the Mr, as soon as she laid eyes on him, telling him how disappointed in him she was. She was doing it all in a tongue-in-cheek, jokey kind of way – which somehow made it even worse; this is so far from a joke.

But yes, we can joke about TTC. I can laugh about the trials and tribulations, some of them, but not like that. Casting blame and trying to pile on the pressure is a million miles away from how we are trying to approach this whole situation.

And his face. His face will stay with me forever; that moment in the little living room with the old-fashioned furniture and hum of rugby in the background. The lull as he stared ahead at the TV screen, jaw fixed and tense, and I awkwardly scouted about trying to think of something else to say to distract her. And she kept going and going, calling to him, and his eyes didn’t flicker from the screen. That moment is one of the moments of this journey, one of the moments that part of me will always be stuck in, reliving it.

And her saying ‘He can’t hear me, because of the rugby. He’s not listening.’ and I just shook my head and changed the subject once again.

The next time she mentioned it, we were alone, and I could tell her straight that we just didn’t want to put any pressure on and that it was going to be a tough journey, it is already a tough journey and we are not pregnant yet.

She didn’t mean to upset us, she didn’t mean to create that moment and trap a part of me in it. So I couldn’t react in any other way than to patiently explain, gloss over it to save her embarrassment. But that kind of thing still angers me, and I know it is irrational because it was all said in innocence, ignorance, whichever; either way unintentional.

But I am wildly protective of him and I do not want other voices in his head; I don’t want any more moments that will stick with him; I don’t want him to have any more pressure, stress, upset to face. I’m also wildly protective of Isabella, our memory of her which is all I have, and I can’t bear to laugh about trying to get pregnant as though we never had her, never lost her.

It got worse. OR later wouldn’t let the conversation move on, kept apologising and circling back, even saying that she could laugh about it as she had convinced herself it would be fine this time and tried to forget what happened before, but should have known we wouldn’t be able to forget so easily. Tried to forget. That’s sticking around in my head, too, because I let it go instead of shutting it down and correcting it and there are words left unsaid there, words I should have said for Bella.

Words I didn’t say for fear of embarrassing her.

I’ve realised I hold back on a lot in order to prevent any embarassment, awkwardness or hurt feelings. I pretend I’m OK with things when I’m not, I pretend I can cope when underneath I’m struggling, I pretend my feelings aren’t hurt when they are.

Tried to forget. Tried to forget.

This OR would be able to forget very easily. They didn’t see me all that often after we lost her. They never came to visit me. They didn’t come to the funeral. For a genuine reason – the OR was recovering from an op. I actually started doubting whether they even remember her name, while I was there on that same visit – the one time she referred to Bella, she said ‘the baby’ and the rest of the time it was just ‘what happened’.

And I don’t talk about her to them, because she will say the wrong thing, and it will be worse. So it’s better to just carry on regardless, only that’s actually really hard now too. I feel like I’m in a lose-lose situation and now I dread seeing her, which I know she’ll hate.

It’s the brave face battle. Do I tell the truth? Do I pull her up, make her realise her mistake and feel it too? Or at least understand that I feel it, we feel it? Do I gloss over it, move past these indiscretions, try to understand that it is reasonable and not malicious, that of course she won’t understand what it’s like?

I mull over it, backwards and forwards, not sure who to look out for first. But from now on, Bella will always come first, over anybody’s feelings, and I will make sure that nobody thinks I am trying to forget her, pregnant or not.

 

 

Ten Things All TTC Couples Know

I’ve just done another test and I’m not pregnant. God, this shit is rough. What happened to all those pregnancies that the sex ed teachers told us about, the ones that would happen as soon as you held hands? Those must be the same kind that fill the lists on abortion clinics, the honeymoon babies and the pages of real life stories charting people’s I-didn’t-even-realise-I-was-pregnant-until-it-popped-out journeys.

Yeah. Those ones. We all know those ones.

But we don’t hear so much about those other kinda journeys. Considering it takes the average healthy couple six months to get a baby brewing, and it can be far longer too, there are many of us in a whole other camp, keeping our mouths closed about the reality of TTC. Here’s a few things which hopefully paints a slightly more relatable picture!

1. You will speak a whole other language – forget the half-assed grade you scooped in GCSE French, this is when you’ll show your real language learning ability. In the blink of an eye, you’ll become an expert in all things TTC, BBT, DPO, BD, AF, BFN and the long-awaited BFP

gm3ubjhvgfnde

2. Trying for a baby sex is not always fun – That first lovely month of TTC sex when you’re all connected and full of wonderment at the commitment you are making shoots straight out the window as soon as the first period arrives. From then on in, you’ll be perfectly au fait with ‘ovulation sex’. In spite of your plans to ‘keep things exciting’, it actually involves you muttering ‘be quick about it… don’t stop if I start snoring’

aqjimmaxnlmju

3. People won’t understand – the amount of times you’ll hear ‘but you’ll have fun trying, eh? eh?’ will frustrate you and you’ll become a pro at the fake laugh you’ll offer in response, as you inwardly seethe

iv2dvtarf5b9u

4. Easy, breezy attitudes will last all of a day and a half, if you’re lucky – you’re going to get told a hundred times over to ‘just relax’ and ‘let nature take it’s course’. It sounds pretty sensible and straight forward, but it couldn’t be less so. Don’t punch them, but don’t feel guilty if you just can’t achieve that chilled out vibe. Spoiler – nobody can.

pshrpsuizlaee

5. There’s an app for that – well, of course there is. In fact, there’s loads! And your chosen one that makes it to the download stage will soon get more taps than Facebook on your phone screen.

12tfwxfcgnz8ou

6. Examining your pants will become a daily activity – you’ll be no stranger to your everyday fluids (or lack of them). Are they like school glue? like water? like egg whites? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

xtk9znseagv7ftky6s

7. There’s a lot to think about – from science to old wives tales, there is so much to this. Fertility diets, sex positions, checking your basal rate temperature (whatever the hell that is) – there is just so many boxes that you will strive to tick

ud6dxdpdcn2g4

8. This shit will take over your life – obsessive, moi? Maybe just a tad. Actually, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t feel a twinge and immediately log in to tick the box on another symptom, no matter how often you vow that you’ll relax about it and ‘just see what happens’

1hiwz5qmuipjk

9. Other people will get pregnant before you – and it will take every shred of effort not to howl ‘you lucky bitch’ in a fit of rage

a9imqoghmq5iq

10. Buying pregnancy tests is as casual as buying coffee – it’s at least a monthly affair, and eventually even the cashier will stop with the funny looks and get used to it

lumtmfcolavxo

 

And here’s an extra one – your other half will find you snot-crying and hiccupping over another negative pregnancy test at some point. It could be two months or two years in. When he gives you a cuddle and goes and fetches a Chinese, you’ll know you’ll make it through anything.

 

 

 

 

An Ode to At Least

 

 

At least. Those two tiny words are not so bad, I promise. Please don’t shut yourself off from the at leasts. Don’t take umbridge against them, don’t see them as a slight and don’t – whatever you do – don’t ever feel guilty for taking comfort from them.

I feel like I need to clear some things up from an insider perspective, for people comforting those who have lost something or someone terribly important and for those in the process, forever in the process, of loss. I’ve read an awful lot about the things not to say or do, the things that are impossible to even contemplate, and at least crops up a lot. My stance, however, doesn’t – and that’s why I wanted to share it, in case anyone else out there feels the same as I do and believes, secretly or otherwise, in the at leasts.

Because the truth is, at least does not diminish what has happened to you, your family, your baby. It won’t fix all the pain and heartache. It doesn’t suggest that you can or even want to close that door.

But at least is a white flag; a peace sign; a little jewel of hope, perspective and gratitude. It’s ok to feel that, it’s ok to find relief in it. In fact, I beg you to try, because in spite of what so many rules say, they are so worth trying for. And there is always an at least, no matter how bad it seems. It’s just that, like fairies in the bottom of the garden, we have to believe very hard and search even harder to find it.

Here are a few of mine, to help you get started:

  • At least we got to meet our beautiful girl and see her darling little face
  • At least she came to us for the time she had and we experienced pregnancy
  • At least I have my husband, so we can help and support each other through the good and bad
  • At least I have brilliant family and friends who are sensitive, understanding and supportive
  • At least she did not leave us earlier, when we would not have had such a chance to know her
  • At least she did not leave us later, when it would have been clearer yet what we are now missing
  • At least we have had excellent support from 4Louis and our local hospital and midwives, who provided us with wonderful keepsakes that we cherish
  • At least our test results showed that we still have a good chance of having further healthy pregnancies and babies

I’m not ashamed to believe in these at leasts. Sometimes it’s really bloody hard work to believe in them, sometimes I don’t want to believe in them; I just want to wallow in self pity, frustration, sadness, hopelessness and the sheer exhaustion that all comes with grief. But allowing myself to fall back on these helps me to keep afloat, to feel the loss but not be swallowed by it, and continue to live my life in the way I want to.

It’s ok to have moments when you can’t stomach the at leasts, but it’s also ok to have moments when you thank god for them.

 

 

Getting Rid Of Facebook

That headline is maybe just a tad bit misleading – technically, I’m still a bonafide Facebooker, but I’ve deleted the app from my phone, so I can only access it when I’m on a computer and am therefore taking back my… freedom? Is that the right term? It certainly feels like it!

Let me set a scene for you, and I guarantee it will be one you can recognise: It’s 8.30pm, Friday night. It’s been a long goddamn week and we’ve hardly seen each other, so tonight, aside from being exhausted, we’re going to chill out, cuddle, reconnect. Sitting in our cosy little nook of a living room, on our ginormous far-too-grown-up-for-us sofa, piled with blankets and cushions. The lights are low, favourite show on TV that we’ve been waiting for all week, dinner eaten and cleaned up already. I have been so looking forward to this.

And then suddenly I look up and it’s gone 11pm, the show’s ended along with who knows what else, and all I’ve seen is a glowing screen about 6 inches from my face. Looking at my other half, it’s like a mirror image, the electronic glow on his face and little white squares of light reflected in his eyes.

I feel irritable and wearier than ever, cold and distanced and distracted. The evening has passed me by and the only thing that’s turned on right about now is my Facebook account. Yes, I could tell you everything about my old school friend’s new husband and the holiday that the people next-door-but-one went on, but was I really prepared to exchange a cosy Friday night in for that knowledge?

My eyes bloodshot, dry and itchy, we eventually climb into bed. I say we – actually, I climb into bed while the Mr sits on the loo on his kindle now, alternating yet more social media with a few games, and I scroll through yet again to pass the time, lost once more in the ‘lucky girl’ posts of a particularly flawless friend. Eventually, and I’m talking a good 25 minutes later, my husband clambers in beside me and we put down our devices. And sleep.

And this is just one night, one moment. Countless films have been lost on me this way, numerous episodes of cutting edge dramas that I have been gripped by have floated over my head, thrilling plots melting away into background noise. But that’s nothing; what about the drinks with friends, family dinners, cinema trips and nights out? What about playdates with the little ones, when instead of sitting on the floor playing cars or running around playing tag and hide and seek, the pull of social media drags us away and swallows us whole into that empty digital world, and when they look in our eyes all they see are those cold white squares? What about the sunsets and winter walks and fireworks and sand between the toes moments? Are we ever switched off to social media? Are we ever switched on to our real lives?

It might all sound a bit dramatic, but somehow it’s true. I found myself thinking, on that Friday night, is this what it was like for our parents? Our grandparents? We’re the first ones up against this. It’s an intrusion, a destructive addiction; depression levels are so high, insecurities and anxieties have rocketed – according to the news, and who knows whether to believe that, but our own eyes can tell us that something is wrong with our society here. When mums turn their backs on their kids, when young girls post increasingly suggestive pictures for likes to boost their self-esteem, when we – I – spend hours trawling through strangers’ social media accounts and, I’m not going to lie, most of it driven by pure jealousy and envy, feeling increasingly shit about myself. I’m not alone in this; it’s a pandemic.

The point is, aside from all this high-horse waffle, I don’t want to spend my life behind a screen. I already work behind one, I spend enough hours surrounded by computers. I want to achieve things, feel things, breathe. It’s not you, Facebook, it’s me. I need space.

So I’ve decided that enough is enough, and I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. It had become a habit, not an active choice or decision. My thumb hesitated, daringly, over the wobbling tile on my phone’s screen; it felt rebellious and strange, enough to warrant a second’s pause, a moment’s hesitation enough for my internal monologue to whisper ‘are you sure?’ But, I reasoned, I can always install it again if I can’t live without it. I expected it to be a lot harder than it actually is.

I can’t pretend it’s completely cold turkey, nor would I want it to be. Facebook is not the problem, but the way I was using it is. There’s definitely a place for Facebook in my life as things stand; it’s a great platform to connect with friends and family, set up social event groups and share photos. I don’t want to disconnect from it altogether, I just don’t want to disconnect from my real life either.

Our Trip To New York, New York

I’m taking a little time out from my very self-pitying bout of holiday blues to tell you lovely lot how flippin’ awesome NYC was – and probably refresh my misery in the process.

Initially, I put my glum mood down to tiredness and jetlag and, admittedly, these could indeed be contributors. The main problem, however, is that Manhattan is just such an awe-inspiring city, full of things to do and places to explore, and there is such a steady stream of adventures that you get quite accustomed to them and never want them to end. And when they do, and you get home and have a good sleep, then … what? You’re left wondering what to do, what to see, what to eat next.

I thought I’d put this inspiration to good use and planned a pick-me-up weekend with the Mr, deciding we’d drive out to the forest not too far from us, take a picnic and have a romantic stroll through the rambling woods to remind ourselves of all the adventures on our own doorstep. Planned is the crux of that, however, because now it’s only 3pm and I’m already back on our sofa. As per the Great British tradition, it poured down as soon as we arrived, in spite of the clear and sunny weather forecasts, and I have to confess I didn’t want to risk muddying my brand new Ugg boots by traipsing around the sodden trails. We joined ranks with probably every day-tripping British family over the ages ever and ate our sandwiches in the car. Still, we had a pretty view, it was a nice drive and… maybe next weekend will be better…

Here we are joining the car-picnic club…

car

So back to NYC, I’ll give those of you who are looking for tips a few suggestions. First & foremost, get a Metrocard and use the subways; they are easy peasy and the quickest and cheapest way to get around the city. Go to the Empire State at night when the views are incredible and the queues are not as long, Central Park is one of the most romantic places in the world and you can spend hours wandering around exploring it, the Lion King really is all it’s cracked up to be and pizza, from any and everywhere, oh my god. Circo is gorgeous for a fancier meal out, and right next to most of the theatres, and going to a NY Knicks basketball game is great fun, whether you like basketball or not. If you want to go to Serendipity 3, it’s adorable and the hot and frozen hot chocolates are amazing, but go early, be prepared to put your name on a list and return a good couple of hours later (with potentially another 30 minute wait). In the meantime, you can wander around Central Park, pop to Tiffany’s and explore the shops round there. It’s worth getting a bus out of Manhattan to go to Jersey Gardens, a huuuuge mall with all the good shops and incredible discounts. Make sure you have lots of spare room for your buys – trust me, you will need it!

It’s also worth planning in advance. It’s an overwhelming place, so you need to have a hitlist of the things you want to do before you get there. It’s beautiful and full of things to discover, so just soak it all up.

And, lastly, make sure you book me a seat on the plane next to you. Want to go back. So. Bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye 2015

Dear 2015,

So many people are happy to see the back of you. I see them all the time – all. the. time – and there’s even as much talk about being glad to get rid of you in real life as there is in the virtual realm, so you’re not just being trolled.

But don’t worry, you’re not alone; this seems to happen to all the years. All those that I can remember anyway. It usually starts around August, and slowly builds momentum, with grumbles growing steadily through to December when the wave of malcontent really picks up speed. I can’t wait to get this year over with, people say, I just want a fresh start, it’s like we’ve had a cloud hanging over us.

Now, you’ve been the worst year I have ever had. If ever there was going to be a contender to make me partake in this movement, you would be the one. Family members have been ill, friends have passed away, the Mr has sustained an ongoing and life-changing injury and we lost Isabella. Our baby girl, our first baby girl. You shouldn’t look like this, 2015. You should have been full of happiness and potential and love. We had so many plans for you. You were going to be the best year yet.

But you didn’t let us down. You’re just a year. You’re just digits. You had no say in any of it, no choice. You were just an opportunity – maybe we were the cloud that blighted you, maybe we let you down. If anything’s to blame, it can’t be you.

A philosophy that I believe in is noticing all the silver linings and wrapping them round my heart, threading them in deep. And because of this, 2015, I will always treasure you.

I’ll never forget your digits – they are part of my baby’s birth date. We created a little human being this year. We saw our baby’s face; her lips and button nose and scrunched up eyes. I felt her move and her heart beat inside me and I held her, in real life, right there in my arms; it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever known; how can I ever want to dismiss or forget a year that has brought me those moments?

When tragedy strikes it’s easy to rest on superstitions and say, oh it’s just the year, but clearly it isn’t. Things happen all the time, good and bad, and they will continue to in 2016. A year is just an opportunity; for happiness or sadness, success or failure. How we deal with those opportunities and what we make of them is up to us. It’s not you that has let people down, 2015, they have let you down – by saying they want to forget you, by blaming all the bad things on you and mostly of all, by shirking their responsibilities to capture all those lovely, shiny silver linings that make life so beautiful.

It’s up to us, not you, to build up the good things; make them happen and remember them. Sometimes, it’s hard, but it’s also important. If we can’t think of any good things, not a single moment, out of a year full of all the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months you’ve given us – then there is a problem with us and the way we live our lives. I don’t want to spend my life wishing it away, I want to fill it with those vibrant moments, those silver linings. They are always there.

So thank you, 2015; for the kicks in my belly, the little person we made, that astonishment when we saw her for the first time, the staggering and enormous love that we share with each other and feel for our girl, the closeness I’ve felt to my family and the protection they have offered me, the successes we’ve secured at work, the laughs I’ve had with friends, the money in our bank accounts and that we’ve raised for great causes, the new lease of creativity and motivation I’ve found. You’ve brought some amazing joys to my life and I cherish them all.

Thanks again – and goodbye,

Leanne

Our First Family Christmas

Apologies for being a little samey here; the last post I wrote was about Christmas and this one is too – but hey, I love the holiday and it’s not going anywhere just yet. So we are embracing it, even managing to pack up some furniture ahead of our January move and find room for our tree this weekend!

Plus, we have a little extra motivation. My mum gave us a pre-Christmas gift that meant we really had no choice – there was definitely going to be a tree up this year, in spite of our NYE in NYC plans and the fact the entire house will probably be drowned in boxes by the time the 25th December rolls around.

She bought us this personalised china Christmas tree bauble, displaying our family photo. I love that picture so much, it’s the one I have on the table in the living room, in pride of place.

Family bauble

The thing is, this is our first Christmas as a family and, while there won’t be three of us waking up together on Christmas morning, there’s not really just two of us anymore either. While before our little jigsaw consisted of two pieces, now it consists of three, even though that third piece is always going to be missing.

So, rather than ignore that empty space, we live our lives giving it as much presence as possible; with pictures and memories and mentions of her name. It’s important to us to mark this Christmas as a family one, not just one spent together as a couple.

The only problem, however, is that we can’t quite risk putting it on the tree just yet. A certain little miss is doing her best to pull it down and, while she’s not quite accomplished that yet, I wouldn’t put it past her! Instead, the bauble lives on our little side table, and I have a feeling it could well stay out on show all year round!