Miscarriage January 17, 2017

So that’s it. Gone. Just like that. Nine weeks, I thought. You didn’t make it past five. My gestational sac is still growing; every week it will grow more. Soon it will be broken down and then it will pass. And I won’t even be a bit pregnant any more. I’ll be post-pregnant but I shan’t have a baby.

This isn’t my first time. This is my second, possibly my third. Each one has been different.

It just seems such a waste. All that happiness, that love, the planning.

And for those people who say that “you shouldn’t plan until you get to 12 weeks”, I say fuck you. Fuck you, because I am a human being with love and hope and happiness and you just can’t hep it. You’re in love with this cluster of cells, you’re in love with what they will become. Love.

Ok, so this week has been really fucking hard. But actually it would have been a lot fucking harder if I didn’t have the support of my friends. And you know who those friends were? They weren’t even necessarily the select few people I used to just tell everything to. This time I didn’t just stick my head up my arse and pretend it was all going to be ok. I didn’t try and shoulder it alone. I told people. And every time I told someone I felt lighter, I knew that that person was thinking of me and sending me positive energy and that made me feel stronger.

No, I haven’t spoken to anyone, not really. I’m not good on the phone. My mum tried to FaceTime about it and I was like, what the fuck mum. I don’t want to be talking about this while you’re watching my face and ew. I just. Facetime? No.

But I have had some serious text conversations with people who have really opened up to me and been supportive and for that, thank you. 

Everyone says “what can I do to help?” Just fucking be there. Let me know you are thinking of me. 

I can’t sit and wallow in this because I am a mum and I am self employed so I have to crack that smile on and continue to play house and painting and watching We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and making dinners… and, you know. But it helps.

I tell myself, keep buggering on. One step at a time. One day at a time. You’ve got a magazine to get out you know. Keep going. Keep eating, keep walking, keep emptying the sodding dishwasher. Keep moving. Keep reading. Keep sending emails. Ignore that ache. It’s not time, not now. You’re a Mum you know. 

I say: There will be a time - and it will be soon -when you can deal with this. You can lock yourself in the bathroom, lay on the floor and weep. But now is not that time. 

Let people know. Thank them for their concern. But just keep buggering on. Watch CBeebies. Make beans on toast. Play with dinosaur and Oo-oo the monkey. Tell stories. Comb hair. Wrestle toothbrushes into mouths. Don’t break. You can’t.

So my baby didn’t even, it wasn’t even there. And soon I won’t even be pregnant. Someone is going to either make me not-pregnant or I will let it pass naturally.

Let it pass naturally. It makes it sound like I am going to sit in a fucking field until fairies come and take the gestational sac and yolk bag, or whatever it is, out of my womb and then I can float down with daisies in my hair and be all with nature and go and do some yoga or something.

Well, it’s not like that. I’ve had a miscarriage before and it hurt and it hurts and it hurts. And it’s messy and you bleed a lot for a really long time and all the stuff comes out and it’s sad and awful because that’s stuff that you were in love with. That was your baby. But now it’s just matter and in the loo and in your pants. And oh God, I can’t.

So I’ll keep on. Keep buggering on.

Connectivity

When I was 20 I went to live in Peru as part of my undergraduate degree. I chose to do this; my friends on my course - few as they were at that point - mainly opted to visit Spain in groups through the Erasmus programme. Sometimes I think that my life would have been a lot easier if I had done the same.

I wanted to revisit Peru. I had lived in Lima until I was four years old and my mother had been raised there, having emigrated there when she was one. She lived there until she was 19. I thought living in Peru would be fun. I thought I would get the chance to travel as well as work and envisioned myself living in a beach side apartment, learning to surf and losing all the weight I had put on at uni. I thought that it might help me to understand my mother more.
Parts were fun. But parts were also really, really hard. I learned things about myself, about other people, that weren’t very nice at all. Initially, I felt alone and depressed a lot of the time.

I was in a great place before I went. My second year of university had been incredible. I lived with or around the corner from my closest friends, I was in love with a sweet boy who loved me back, I had become really interested in my course and started to actually study and so was averaging a First in a lot of my classes (not, crucially, in Spanish however!)
In Peru however I was working as a receptionist in a travel agency. I had got the job because the alcoholic decrepit old man that ran the place used to work with my aunt when she was in her twenties and I’m pretty sure he had had a massive crush on her then. He used to call me into his office, which stank of sweat and whiskey, heave his enormous frame into his chair and ask me questions about her. I never knew what he was talking about and used to just make up the answers.
I spent my days writing a book on my laptop about a group of friends at university which so closely resembled my own it made me ache with homesickness.

A few things happened to help ease this ache however.

I made friends with this incredible, funny, spirited and beautiful girl Mily, who worked at the travel agency. She lived in this beautiful apartment with her mother, Carmen. It was set in rooms around a courtyard and we would sit in the sun and gossip and smoke cigarettes. I’ll never forget the kindness that Carmen showed me and the bond that grew between Mily and I. We became a team of two, occasionally joined by her hip and hilarious neighbour Gonzalo. This friendship saved me in so many ways.

A lot happened to me that year.

I think about my time in Peru often and I wonder how it actually shaped me and whether I would have made the choices I have since if I hadn’t gone. I think about how I would explain this time, one of my darkest times, to my daughter.
I don’t want to hide who I am. I certainly don’t want to hide this from her as I’ve nothing to be ashamed of. I am strong now because I’ve known what it is to be weak and I am kind now because I know what it is to receive kindness. And I think that by acknowledging weakness as being part of normal life she would be more likely to ask for help- something I still struggle with.

So why bring all this up now? Well, I’ve  been thinking a lot about connectivity recently. About how you can connect with somebody for a short space of time and they can leave an imprint on your life, one that maybe you’re not even aware of but that is there all the same. But these encounters can shape and maybe change decisions you make thereon in.  The kindness shown to me by Mily and her mother - may she rest in peace - by my aunt’s friend Ingrid, by my aunt Isa and my cousins in Canada, by countless others during what was a difficult time has not ever left me and I think has affected how I treat people who may look a little lost.

I’ve been thinking about these connections because I spent some time with my brother and his wife and my husband and we all got to talking about how each respective couple met and it was all chance encounters. And now our lives are irrevocably changed. My brother lives in America now and fixes drones! And I, I found myself crying at the rugby. Of course these are not swift fleeting encounters but instead are people living a shared life and growing together.
So it’s not quite the butterfly effect, but more a musing on how I will work to be open and honest and ready with Nives and accepting that she will have hard times and I will (try to) focus on how these experiences  will shape her for the better instead of trying to control them, I suppose.

At the end of the day we are all evolving, all learning, all working together to try and be better for our kin. This sounds SO cheesy but I’m only really realising now that life is a journey and that each little bit of it is as important as the big stuff.

You're one

Oh god, oh god, you’re one. You’re one. A year ago I held you in what was frankly the most beautiful and baffling moment of my life and now, now, you’re one. You’re one.

This has been the best year of my life. You have been the best year of my life. I have never loved anyone or anything as fiercely as I love you and if I don’t say it enough anymore, if you’re reading this and you’re older and we’ve fought or you’re cross, or even if not: I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you. I love your twisty hand dancing, the way you bob up and down when you hear a beat. Your smile, your tears, your irrepressible temper! I love you, I love you, I love you.
You love cats, rice cakes, peas and dancing. You love books, singing, ball pits and water. I rescue you from the top of bookshelves at the library, from halfway up the stairs at home, from the bathtub and your high chair when you decide to stand. You’re so loved, you were and always will be so loved. One day I will tell you all about how much we wanted you. I’ll tell you about the days I had to go away and work and how hard that was for me. Oh, my darling, happy birthday. Mummy loves you.

#mumboss?

When I was pregnant (how many of my sentences start this way…?) I found out that I could do up to ten days work as part of my maternity leave and couldn’t stop telling everyone that I would do every single one of those days in order to get some cash.
“I’ll just do one day a month,” I trilled. “I can come up to London, get my hair done and make some money and still be involved with my team”.
Ah, hindsight.
Even though people told me I would feel different after Nives was born, I don’t think I really believed them. I think that I really thought I would be bored with the house, with the monotony of motherhood, with not having anyone to gossip with. And while I waited for five weeks for Nives to appear, finally evicting her two weeks after her due date, I was a bit bored. Now, sometimes, I think I would give anything to have a day like that again. A day of waking up at 10, ambling (ok, thundering) down the stairs and into a bath for an hour while listening to Woman’s Hour. Then, box sets and a bit of faffing around in the nursery before napping with the cats.
My days are now full. Full of washing and wiping and changing and phrases like “be gentle” “carefully” “is it hot?” “Don’t touch her [the cat’s] bottom”. But also full of laughter and of love. Sometimes I watch Nives playing on her own, invariably with something that isn’t a toy, and my breath just catches in my throat. She’s so beautiful and sparky and I just feel so proud and overwhelmed when I think that we created this amazing little being. Other times, when she is smacking her yoghurt into her head for example, I can believe it.
So, work. I’m feeling it and I’m not. On one hand I want to be this role model for her and show her that women can have careers and babies and travel and do all these things.
On the other, I want to sit in a room and watch her play some more. Take her to the park. Show her that being strong doesn’t have to mean being away from her working for The Man, but it can mean being there for her and taking the plunge and maybe carving something small out for myself. Maybe.
I do have to say that I have been into work a few times and met with my team and had lovely drinks, caught up with the gossip and got to wear shift dresses with no thought to how I would breastfeed in them. And it has been nice, but it’s also felt a little like I’m playing a part in a play entitled “Siobhan Lismore-Scott The Editor In A Very Short Dress Who Likes Prosecco And Swearing”. As much as I am not sure anyone would go to see this particular play, the point is that I feel like I have changed since having Nives and at this particular point in time I don’t know what that means for my career.

Chill. Just breathe.

Has anyone else noticed that there are certain topics amongst mothers that are like conversation dynamite? Conversations that illicit high emotions, opinions and heart rate?!
If, for example, you’d told me ten months ago that I’d get my knickers in a twist over someone telling me how I should be (or, more to the point, should not be) sleeping with my baby, I’d think you were mad. That’s more because I thought the baby would just sleep in its cot and eventually move to a bed and in between there might be a bit of crying and rocking and lullabying, but it’s not like it would be a thing or anything. It’s not like it would be me rocking and crying and the teddy lullabying and nobody would ever sleep, ever. It’s not like that at all.

Anyway, I digress. Turns out baby sleeps amazing (more than three hours) when she’s in bed with me. Sometimes. Sometimes she just wants her own bed and sleeps amazing there that’s happened about three times.) And it turns out that co-sleeping is not that unusual and weird and actually loads of people do it and babies hardly ever get squashed. You see, that’s what I was worried about: squashing the baby. I wasn’t worried about making a rod for my own back, setting unclear boundaries (seriously, what the fuck), being manipulated by my baby, or any of the other things, which is just as well as it turns out there are lots of people around who are worried enough about this to tell me I’m wrong. Or worse, tell my husband who then tells me and I tell him to fuck off and then it’s a thing and I have to tell myself off in my head because I am trying to be GENTLE and telling my husband to fuck off is probably a bit not-gentle.

As I live in Brighton I am lucky that most mums I meet are pretty like-minded and accepting and so I haven’t had too many ‘dynamite’ conversations but sometimes I’ll come across someone who doesn’t think it’s ok to just sort of make it up as you go along and then it’s just a bit… Awkward. Where do you go after someone essentially says you’re doing it all wrong?

Feeding is another one. I literally have no opinions when it comes to how you feed your baby. As long as you’re feeding him or her, that is. Bottle or boob I will support you because you have your reasons for doing what you’re doing and your kid looks great and oh my god is anyone else’s baby doing that weird tongue lolling thing? Seriously, it’s nobody’s business how I am feeding my baby, it’s nobody’s business how long I will continue to feed my baby in this way and frankly, why do you even care? I don’t ask you what you ate for every meal and where you sat when you did it so leave me the fuck alone. Also, I’m breastfeeding and my baby likes to yank whatever cover I try to wear right up, so I don’t use one of those either. I expect you’ll want to know more about *that* too.

What else? Routines. No, my baby is not in a routine. I have a vague idea how the day goes and she goes to bed at the same time each night, but she pretty much does what she likes. I feed her when she is hungry and she naps when she is tired. That’s it. That’s not to say being in a routine is wrong, or worse or better or good. It’s just… This is what we do and our child hasn’t burst into flames or started doing coke along with her milk at lunchtime.

There’s so many of these minefields: paid work vs SAHM; immunisations; TV/screen time; whether I use my phone while feeding (?!); baptisms; whether you put your child in pink/blue (seriously. This is a thing too); naughty step. I can’t, I just can’t. Live and let live, yeah?

Thing is, parenting is hard. I mean, it’s massively rewarding and fulfilling and lovely too, of course. It’s amazing and wonderful and funny and mad. But it’s tough to know if you’re doing the right thing sometimes. And if you can’t sound out close friends and relatives without being judged and branded as a TERRIBLE parent, then it sort of adds to it, doesn’t it? So let’s all chill the fuck out and try to make 2016 the year we just support each other and judge less, ok? Good.

Loss

This week’s been difficult. I say that because a lot has happened and it’s also been quite stressful. But emotionally, I think it’s been difficult for me because I’ve had to face things that I had shut off. I mean things I had shut myself off from. I’m taking about my miscarriage. I’m talking about the loss of my baby.

If it’s not easy to read that, trust me, it’s been harder to write it.

I’ve had this post in me for a long time. I’ve thought about moving on and not talking about this and not making it public for two reasons. Firstly, my experience of loss compared to others seemed inadequate. I suffered a miscarriage, or what the doctors called a ‘natural abortion’ when by my count I was ten weeks pregnant. But my baby didn’t grow from five weeks. I didn’t need an operation, I didn’t have to give birth to a baby. I know people who have gone through this and next to that experience what I went through feels minimal. Inadequate. Silly.

Secondly, I write about love on this blog, I do. I write about my love for my husband, for my friends, my family. Sometimes I am accused of over-sharing, of writing 'drivel’ even. I don’t care, I write because I always have. You just need to look under my bed at the stacks and stacks of old diaries to see that. But when it’s something this close to my heart, I almost don’t want to share it. It’s part stiff upperlip-ness, part fear. It’s hard to let people see the real you.

And that is what I wanted to address today I suppose. I wanted to say that yes, I had a miscarriage. And no, I haven’t grieved for that baby.

I love my baby, my Nives, more than I can ever come close to expressing with mere words, but not a day goes by when I don’t think about my other baby.

My loss came up this week during a massage, of all places, and it stopped me in my tracks. My masseuse, a talented, amazing, woman asked me if I had suffered a loss. And once I started to tell her, I felt I couldn’t stop. I saw her a few days later and she told me: your face has changed. And she said: you never showed anything before. And she’s right.

Since having Nives I’ve been like those bloody ducks: still on the surface, paddling madly below. I think it’s common to give an air of coping to the world but inside be screaming. I know that’s what I have done.

The day I started to lose my baby I went to hospital on my lunch break, waited to be scanned to see what was wrong and then, when they couldn’t fit me in, I walked back to work and went into a meeting with HR and sacked someone.

I knew I had that meeting and I put that above my own experience. The next day, when I was cramping and bleeding, I welcomed a friend who came to visit and went to a BBQ. I didn’t stay long because I was in so much pain. But I insisted Danny stay and I walked home. Then I got home, went to the bathroom and lay on the floor sobbing.

Why did I go to the BBQ? Why did I go back to work? Why did I walk home? Why didn’t I just shut myself and Danny in my house and go through the miscarriage in a human way? I don’t know, but I think it’s the duck theory. I feel like maybe it was more important to be coping than to be grieving.

My baby wasn’t a baby yet, not really. But in my mind I had held him, I had pictured us together, I had our future as a trio mapped out. So when I lost him, although the physical side was brutal, the emotional side was a million times worse.

And again, of course I am grateful and in love with my beautiful, clever and charming baby girl. My grief for my lost baby doesn’t change that at all. But I am allowed it.

And I suppose this week has taught me that I don’t need to look like I’m coping all the time. That it’s ok to let your guard down and it makes you softer and more likeable even. Maybe.

Flights bullshit

One thing about being a mother is that now my bullshit indicator is permanently set to high. I just don’t have time to listen to it and I’m not scared to walk away from the perpetrators.
It’s honed well. If I pick up the phone and hear a call centre in the background; I hang up. I don’t need PPI, accident claims, life insurance, or any new products American Express happen to be offering.
If I see someone waving a clipboard with an earnest smile while I’m pushing my buggy; I cross the road. I give money to charity and commend you for your passion, but I just don’t have the time mate.
And, finally, (and the inspiration for this post) if I’m getting on a plane with my baby I can weed out exactly who I don’t want to be anywhere near. This will come as a shock to those without babies, I can imagine the shock: “what, you mean YOU don’t want to sit with us?! But we don’t want to sit with YOU!” Yup, turns out we mums (and dads) also have several people we REALLY don’t want near our baby during a flight.

1: The disgruntled businessman. This guy ignores us as soon as we approach and makes no effort to help with bags. Baby is smiling and waving and clapping and still this shithead refuses to even raise a fucking smile. He motions to the air hostess that he would like to move AWAY FROM THE BABY and is forever pissed off that he hasn’t been accommodated in first class. This guy will ignore you to the point of awkwardness, but will finally look over when the baby decides to pull off your breast and look around.

2. The snarky middle England, middle aged couple.
She’s decked out in M&S’s finest and he’s wearing those trousers that turn into shorts. This pair, like the businessman, will ignore you but will talk among themselves about you and your baby. You won’t hear all of it but you catch the disapproving glances when she throws her rattle on the floor for the twentieth time and when you feed without covering. As soon as your baby makes any noise whatsoever you’ll be treated to more eye rolls and grumbles. They’ll also be arseholes to the cabin crew.

3.The backpacker.
The inspiration for this post and a bit unfair to include as generally these are friendly people who are completely unaware of the bullshit they are spouting. Worse of it is, we’ve all been this person, maybe.
But, still. Nothing will sink my heart harder than this over-friendly, annoying lot. They have anecdotes about everything and anything. They say things like “I’ve been awake for ten hours!!” And they are saying it because they think it’s a lot. They will tell you story after boring story about the last three festivals they’ve been to and will even continue once you’ve shut your eyes. They say things like “the coach back to mine is £5, but I’m going to hitchhike for the experience”. Fuck off. They will, just as your baby is trying to sleep, launch into an anecdote about how babies go to sleep in Nepal. But mostly, this person will remind you how old you are, and how different you are now. And that is too much for any flight.

4.The “expert”.
Normally an old woman. In fact, always a woman. I’ve had seventeen babies and I can tell you: You’re settling the baby wrong, she isn’t hungry, she’s definitely hungry, aww is mummy starving you? She’s teething, oh what a horrible cough! She wants to sit up, she wants to lie down, she needs a brush through that hair, you need to cut her nails, you need to bite her nails, you should give her tea, ooh some cooled boiled water for that eye!
FUCK OFF. JUST FUCK OFF.

6. The lads.
The drinking, the swearing, the loudness. No, just no. But then one of them will spot you and be super polite and helpful and you’ll feel bad for inwardly complaining.

7. The hungover teens.
You hear it as you come up the aisle. “Oh GOD a BABY”. For the whole flight they ignore you, much like the businessman, only they pepper their obvious disproval with loud “URGHs” and you can see them posting about you on Facebook and sending snapchats of their sad face with you in the background before the plane takes off.

That’s my list, although it’s not exhaustive… Who are your worst nightmares when travelling?

Don't pity me

Writing this note makes me sad. It makes me sad because there’s no reason why I should feel like I need to write this. This, what I am about to write, should be implicitly understood and respected. But it is not. And so here I write - here I scream from the bloody rafters, if you will: being a mother is the best bloody thing I have ever done.
Do not pity me, do not think your life is better than mine because you can still fit into your size ten jeans and you go to sleep each night without mashed banana in your hair. It is not.
Do not assume I want to go on girlie holidays and now am sad I cannot. I can, by the way, but I do not want to. I want to go on holidays with my girl. I want to hold her hands while she feels the sea run over her chubby feet. I want to blow soft raspberries on her pudgy belly under a sun umbrella, hold her close to me in a swimming pool as she flaps with delight. I want to fall asleep in the middle of the day next to her and wake to her beautiful face next to mine, babbling. I’ll take the nappies, the shrieks, the lack of sleep. I’ll take it all fifty times over to have these moments with my girl.
I do not want to go to clubbing. I am 35 and clubbing makes me feel old. Although it’s not an age thing. I haven’t wanted to go clubbing for years. I want to lie in the still night and listen to my girl breathe and snort. I want to feed her in the half light of the moon. You like clubbing, I do not. But it is not as a consequence of being a mother.
Do not assume that my life is easy, do not assume it is hard. It is both. Loving her is easy and, luckily for me, natural. Parenting is hard, harder than anything I have ever done and infinitely more rewarding.
Do ask after her. She exists. Do ask how she is, what is she doing. You’ll see a light come on behind my eyes as I tell you. If you love me, you must love her.
Do continue to ask me out for drinks, meals, plays. Our friendship has not altered and I want to know what is going on in your life. I love you, but don’t pity me.

Aylan Kurdi

Over a week ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and I saw an image which stopped me in my tracks. I know now that thousands, maybe even millions, of people had the same reaction. There he was, a little boy face down in the sand, waves lapping around his lifeless body. Aylan Kurdi drowned alongside his brother Galip and their mother while attempting to cross perilous waters to safety.
I can’t shut my eyes at night without seeing his little body. I can’t hold my daughter without feeling absolute relief that for the grace of God we were born in a country where an illegal and dangerous passage in a boat is not likely to feature in our lifetime.
I don’t know if it’s being a mother that has burned the image into my closed eyelids so prominently. I believe that I would have been as strongly affected by poor Aylan’s death and the image of his still body before I had Nives, but I wouldn’t have seen her sleeping face in his. I wouldn’t have ached in the same way. I wouldn’t have felt the absolute need to say; my darling girl you are my world.
I have been in a country when bombs have fallen. I have escaped an air attack in a car and a boat, driven to an island not ten miles from our home - not even open sea - and I remember, at the age of 14, how terrifying that was. I see the children, I see them as they are forced to kneel in the mud, terrified at the Macedonian border, as they beg for bread at the Hungarian border. I see them on my television and I feel so sad. And I feel so angry. I’m burning with anger. Anger that in this day and age humans are treated like cattle, that countries are closing their borders, that toddlers are drowning because families have no other choice but to risk their lives in perilous seas. I’m so fucking sad and so fucking angry and so fucking ashamed of this government that I can’t even speak about it.

Read: http://ind.pn/1K36mFF
Sign: http://bit.ly/1ET7qNv