The Unavoidable Unknown..

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Hypothyroidism confirmed. Which is a relief and a bit strange and suddenly makes so many things make sense from the past few years. I was a bit occupied with thoughts of it in the day or two that followed getting the results. But now? Now my brain is keeping me awake thinking of crazy things.

So firstly a couple of quick things. I thought it was much more serious, I was all but convinced from the weekend where I’d spent time in hospital, that my luck had run out and the news they were calling with was going to much worse than a manageable chronic thing. So much so that I’d been thinking a lot about what would happen with my girls, and my husband if something were to happen to me. I know I know, very dramatic, but when it’s the middle of the night and you know something’s wrong but you’re not sure what, your mind tortures you. So much so that (and I’m about to sound properly sleep deprived crazy) tonight I’ve been distracted by the fact that my husband and I are starting to search for primary schools for our eldest to start in September 2018 (that’s a whole other blog post…HOW can our baby girl be old enough for school?!!!). That means it is 2017, which means the bereaved parents of Sandy Hook primary school children would have this year been looking for secondary schools. And that breaks my heart. It seems like a relatively recent news story but it was five years ago this December. I remember it being one of the most horrific tragedies because of the high percentage of innocent children being the victims. And five years has gone. Now for me, I became a parent in that time and now we’re looking at primary schools. Something so big yet somehow so trivial. As a parent you worry about living in a good catchment area, you read results statistics (and then talk about how they don’t really matter), you discuss whether the religious aspect of a school is important. You look at what secondary schools it might lead to. As a parent you NEVER imagine that something so awful could happen in real life. And those parents this year could never have imagined that applying to secondary schools for those beloved students wouldn’t happen. You just don’t, because thinking about it is heart wrenchingly devastating and you just wouldn’t leave the house if you considered things like that as a possibility. It would paralyse you with fear every day if you allowed it to. I know this logically so the fact that my brain is keeping me up thinking about it is only damaging, and gains nothing but misery.I don’t know why my brain went from ‘relatively positive diagnosis’ to every parents worst nightmare. Something about the lack of control I suppose. My fear over the weekend was that I cannot bear the thought of not being able to look after and protect my family, but ultimately there’s nothing I can do about certain situations, and then the leap is there to be had (if your subconscious enjoys punishing you as much as mine clearly does). 

And what can you do when these kind of mind demons take hold? Not a lot, I can logically explain to someone that it’s not healthy, not realistic to even try and think about these things, but I know that won’t stop the wiring in my brain from psychologically electrocuting me. The best thing we can do is live the best life we all possibly can. Take the trip, eat icecream in October, get the train even though you know it might be busy at the theme park and will probably rain anyway, book the hotel, dance in your pants; I know that all of those seem random, but if you make decisions that will make you and your family happy, you at least will build the best possible life around you. And as and when bad things happen, and they do to all of us in big and small ways, you at least saturate most of it with good. Don’t put blocks in front of the life you want to live, why are you waiting? 

None of this can take away the grief and horror that the parents of Newtown went through, or the reverberation felt from it across the world. Same for the horrendous events that have come since, it’s not a foreign issue, the London bombings, the Manchester attacks, the London Bridge incident; all of these were gut wrenching and unpredictable. We are lucky to live in a country where gun crime isn’t an every day issue, luckier still to live in a modern western culture where our families safety isn’t constantly under threat. 

(I digress, there are several massive issues that this could all lead to for discussion.)

My main point is that we cannot help the events and situations we are faced with that are out of our control. So it’s makes it even more important to live the absolute best life we can do. To look out for each other, to laugh with each other, to hold each other together when needed. 

I guess maybe what I’m saying is that it’s a terrifying world but we can all be a strong beating heart within it.

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Digesting the Downtimes…

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It has been a crappy few weeks. An opener to a blog post, and a pun, value for money within the first seven words..! I’m about to reveal something that I really don’t usually talk about openly. My digestive system.

Eurgh, I’m shuddering even just writing this, I’ll keep this as polite as possible. None of us are immune to ups and downs, and a less than happy gut from time to time. I have been slightly prone to stomach problems for most of my life. After a recent bug, I have been struggling, feeling increasingly poorly, vomiting quite a lot, and after 5 days realised that not only was something obviously not healthy, it hadn’t been ‘correctly’ functioning for longer than was ideal. The next day my tummy was so swollen I needed to get out my old maternity wear to be able to move about comfortably and that day we called the 111 NHS helpline. I’ve recently had some issues with my wisdom teeth and then our youngest had a case of Impetigo which she shared with me, so the lines of where the tummy bug started and the wisdom tooth pain/impetigo issues were blurred. Things got to quite a severe point sneakily.

A trip down to the out of hours saw me back at home with a diagnosis of a blockage, with medication to take. Eight sachets over six hours should do it I was told but I had three days worth of eight sachets just in case it was a bad case. Cut to three days later and there was no joy, so we were advised to go down to A&E, which we did. I was seen very quickly and soon had some morphine easing the pain, and liquids rehydrating me. Sadly, two rather intrusive medical procedures later, and we were no closer to joy. They agreed to let me go home at 3am the following morning as the much stronger medication I had been told was ‘guaranteed to work’, and I REALLY wanted to get back to my own bed instead of the ward. That was yesterday morning. The guaranteed medication has definitely had some slight effect but definitely not as quickly or as thoroughly as advertised. It’s currently 1am, I’m exhausted, in pain, and it’s now exactly a week since we realised there was quite a significant issue. I have had several bloods taken for testing and we’re hoping to get some form of answer on Thursday. The top suggestion from the hospital Dr’s is perhaps an issue with my thyroid, which may have been particularly bad on this occasion because of having a simple bug when my immune system was low leading to a downward spiral. I have also recently when awake at night been making a LOT of homemade bread, and in discussion with the Dr, that big intake of bread may well have been enough to really aggravate an already sensitive system.
I have been very grouchy in recent weeks, as things have ebbed and flowed, I’ve had to cancel quite a few commitments, both professional and personal, and a lifelong issue that has never been quite this bad is draining. I live with a chronic health issue in having epilepsy but I’m well acquainted with it and I know exactly how to deal with it. However, I think back to the beginning steps of that process and it makes me feel weary! If hypothyroidism is the issue, it would make a lot of things makes sense, and will hopefully lead to being able to have significantly less issues. Having read up on it, I will also be able to make a few easy lifestyle changes to ease flare ups. So all good news, but being at the beginning of that process is not fun. Because for now at least, there are a lot of headaches, not a lot of sleep, a hell of a lot of pain, and two little girls who deserve much better from their Mother than being cooped up in the house quite so much with a grouchy Mummy who isn’t playing with them as much.

When I was first diagnosed with epilepsy, the first couple of years was a long process of brain scans, tests, mishaps, 24 hour waking study, blood tests, tears, frustration and exhaustion. Do you know what made it easier? Being 15. Going through that process wasn’t fun but it was certainly helped by the energy of youth! Doing a similar process now? With two toddlers who deserve two active parents? Being twice the age I was? The thought alone of having more blood tests when both my arms are already bruised from multiple blood tests and two cannulas (I famously have terrible veins that are tricky to find so consequently I tend to come out looking like a pin cushion!) is not a happy prospect.

I’ll admit I’ve been quite down about it. I’m tired, the pregnancies exhausted me, the recurring epilepsy exhausted me. The slow recovery from two emergency c-sections exhausted me. Trying to feel human again exhausted me. The sterilisation op and removal of ovarian cysts earlier this year exhausted me.

HOWEVER. I’m not 15. This isn’t about me anymore. Life throws stuff at you every day. And it doesn’t really matter what it throws at you, it matters how you deal with it. I have two daughters, two beacons of sunshine who see what the world is like, primarily from my husband and I. We’ve not had the easiest of rides over the last few years but that’s true of every single person on this planet, and likely those on other planets as well! We post the highlights on social media because frankly it’s the highlights that matter. It’s very important to us that the kids don’t see too much of the negatives. If we’re worried about a redundancy, that’s not something a child should be aware of. If we’re scared about a diagnosis, that’s not something a child should have on their shoulders. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not bringing them up in a fairy land, they will be brought up knowing that life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. But we are certainly going to give them the strength to get through any difficulties they face, and by the time they are older, none of the things that are difficult for us now, will matter. It is tiring, I know I sound like a child when I say I don’t want any more needles in my arm this week, I want to sleep and I’ve had enough.

But after a break tomorrow (we are very lucky to have Grandparents support with the kids), I’m bloody well going to sort myself out, put a big pot of coffee on, and ensure that my beautiful girls and I have some quality time together. And if the results on Thursday are something that needs some serious effort to rectify, I’ll make those efforts. And as soon as I can, I’m taking my little family on a break away to have some fun!
It’s been a crappy few weeks, and it could probably quite easily turn into a crappy few months depending on how the next few days go. But my daughters are worth more than that. They deserve more than that. My husband deserves more than that, he deserves with all the support he’s been giving me (including being up for a solid 24 hours yesterday thanks to an early wake up with the kids and a VERY late homecoming from the hospital) to have his fun loving wife at least some of the time! And I deserve better too. We all want to have a duvet day now and again, it all gets a bit much for all of us from time to time. And a stiff upper lip and an optimistic outlook are both all well and good (and much better than committing to being permanently miserable!) but sometimes you need to decide, ok this is rubbish, but it’s a rubbish day, not a rubbish life.

So I suppose instead of dwelling on an unhappy gut and the problems it’s causing, while I down another pint of water to try and help improve that particular situation. I’m instead reminiscing and looking over our families highlights, to remind myself that although tonight is no fun; my marriage, my children, and the life we’ve built together, is my dream come true. If my child self, and teenage self could see where I am, they would be thrilled. They wouldn’t care about this temporary blip or any other blip, they would excitedly ask about the adventures we’ve been on. I have several pictures of hospital wards, medications, bruised arms and other related things! I have plenty that could be the accompanying picture for this particular post. But instead I’m going to use a couple of the real highlights from recently, that in years to come will totally overshadow tonight’s pain. And when perhaps my daughters and I read this back when they’re older, I look forward to reminiscing about happy times the four of us have had in Autumn of 2017 (especially as it’s the first ‘Halloween month’ thanks to Scarlett’s devotion to the holiday!) and the other parts that don’t matter will be a distant memory.

Travelling Towards Change…

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I have done MANY hours of travelling about in the last month. It’s meant a lot of time away from my girls, and a friend on Facebook messaged to ask if everything is ok, as I seemed to be ‘away from my family much more than is appropriate’. They were well meaning. I haven’t been posting details of what my trips are for (mainly because it’s primarily just a series of meetings or interviews which is boring!), I have however posted pictures of the highlights. They genuinely wanted to know if maybe everything wasn’t ok at home, assuming perhaps that I’ve just been off and about on a lot of jollies, ditching my family and heading off for fun.
And admittedly within the last few weeks, I’ve posted a picture of me climbing Ben Nevis, having a bloody good night out in Glasgow for a friends birthday that happily coincided with a meeting I had up there. I’ve posted pictures of Dover Castle, and the Harry Potter bridge. Without a doubt, the recent travels have not been without their highlights.

What I didn’t post was the 36 hour travelling with no sleep tears breakdown in a train toilet, the guilt I felt from being away from my children and husband. My grief from not being with them. The loneliness of ANOTHER train journey away from home. Opportunities I went for only to receive a rejection before arriving home because the journey home was so long. Sitting in a coffee shop and having to call a friend to come and get me because I was so tired and emotional I didn’t trust myself to move. For every lovely meal of tapas with my hosts, there are at least three sad looking service station sandwiches. For every fancy cocktail, there’s been two cans of red bull to try and keep awake.

As a family we have decided that I am going to pursue a slightly different career path. The quality of life my former role was providing came at a price that wasn’t ok for our children. We knew this would mean a period of me going to chase down other possibilities, other options. Which meant we knew this would mean quite a bit of time apart. As the summertime is a slightly quieter time for my husband, it was the perfect time for me to go for it, find something that can provide for my family and keep the spark in my eyes, the passion in my belly for what I’m working on. Contrary to some belief, achieving your ‘dream life’ is constant hard work, compromise and sacrifice. Three things that we are keen to prove to our children are more than worth it to love what you do and how you live. 

So yes, I am I suppose, away from my children for a short while, longer than is deemed appropriate. Luckily, as we co-parent, they have not been at all bereft of primary parental care and love. They have also been bombarded with photos, videos and momento’s from a mummy who is missing them. From a Mummy who is doing all of this FOR them. And for the life they deserve, rich in adventure, happiness, passion and love.

And the low points have been eased by videos from home, messages of support, love and courage from my husband. And importantly, significantly eased by people who are family to us. Friends, old, new and renewed who when I’ve wanted to cry or feel alone have hugged me, made me smile, and reminded me how important the people in our life are. Especially lucky we are to have Glaswegian comrades in a particular tough/emotionally charged 48 hours. 

In answer to the FB message, I replied to say ‘everything is very good thank you, thank you for the concern, our lives are exploring different paths for a short time, but we’re doing so very much together. If you’d like to go for a coffee, I’ll happily explain in more detail.’ In hindsight I wish I hadn’t used the word ‘explain’, I certainly don’t have to explain my life decisions to someone who isn’t my husband or children! At the same time, it is her way of looking out for me, with a rather old fashioned view of how the world should work. After all, I absolutely adore the people who have been looking out for me and supporting us as a family. We are excited for where life may lead us, and what we may all achieve over the next few years. The hard work, the sacrifice and the compromises are ALWAYS worth it. The reunion cuddles and precious quality time together ALWAYS sweet enough to make up for the sourness of absence. 

I hope the travelling hours will decrease quite soon, or at the very least the solo nature of the travelling. But if it was for the best for my family, I would happily orbit the moon.

Protecting my Path…

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I’m raising a white flag. I give up.

 

Let me explain!

 

My husband and I were married and expecting a child within the first five months of our relationship. We had known each other aged 5, but the reaquaintence and subsequent whirlwind romance certainly wasn’t long winded. On our first official date, my husband told me he was going to marry me, we were the kind of couple that had previously made me sick. We’d found our kindred spirits within each other, my heart had discovered its counterpart, the lifetime scars in our souls fit like a jigsaw puzzle. Trust me when I say there is no way I can describe the way we got together without making you sick..! Ahh the gloriously idyllic Summer of 2013!

 

Outside of our hideously romantic bubble, people were no doubt assuming that our surprise pregnancy was the catalyst to getting hitched, and the crueller of them were maybe even taking bets on how long we might last before our film-esque view of life bubble was burst. Even though I’m pretty much sure that no-one really cared, I felt like I needed to prove that even though it wasn’t a planned pregnancy, I would be a good Mother, a good Wife, a grown up enough grown up to be doing these roles.

 

It made me quite defensive, literally for three years. My pregnancy hormones made me feel like a violently protective Mama bear, of my babies and my marriage. I was constantly on guard on survival mode, on the look out for some slur or some passive aggressive slight on my ability to be a Mum. After all, I my mid twenties, I was told I would be unlikely to be able to conceive and safely carry children on my own so I already felt like a fraud.

 

We’ve been planning a wedding for the last few years and have recently booked it. I was asked why we were doing it again and my answer was simple; I spent most of our ‘legal’ wedding day throwing up (morning sickness was not kind to me in my first pregnancy!), I don’t remember much of it at all (epilepsy was also not kind to me during either pregnancy!) and at that point, although we were certain of spending forever together, we hadn’t yet built a life together. Three years later? I can spend a day without throwing up (what an achievement!), I can remember my day to day (mostly!) and we have a wonderful life together. Our family is complete with our two little girls, and we have built a business together, a home together, a life together. Most of which wasn’t around when we became man and wife.

 

Soon after Holly turned 1, I could almost feel the pregnancy hormones physically leaving. My babies are safe and well, we got through the pregnancies, we’ve stumbled our way through learning how to be parents (I mean…we’re winging it, but it turns out that’s the big secret!) and things are now established enough that I feel like I can relax my shoulders. I don’t need to be 100% on my guard.

 

And it’s a lovely feeling. Over the last few weeks, I’ve really chilled out, like I’ve been playing roles that I didn’t think anyone thought I belonged in, and I’ve only just realised that not only are they definitely my roles, but the only approval I need is my own.

 

I think we all feel that there are roles in life that we’re not good enough for, or qualified enough for, or that we deserve them. And for some reason, in this celebrity obsessed, reality TV led society, everyone’s personal choices are suddenly up for public discussion. Cheryl Cole recently had a baby and almost every weekly celebrity magazine had her on the cover with different angles as their ‘story’, talking about whether her relationship was strong enough, whether the age difference was appropriate, bring up clips of their first meeting to be commented on. And that kind of societal thinking spills no ‘real life’. In reality, their first child is nobodies business but Cheryl and Liam’s, their first meeting, their ages (as long as legal and consensual), and whether she has help, doesn’t have help, breastfeeds, or frankly, even if she bathes in unicorn tears and Horlicks for the health of her baby. IT’S NONE OF OUR BUSINESS! Likewise, when I was worrying that people would think we were rushing things, whether we should have/shouldn’t have get married when we did, whether we’re raising our kids right. I care about the opinion of my husbands and my own. I will happily listen to well meaning friends and family because I’m certainly not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers. But if they disagree with what I’m doing, but it’s what I believe in, I’m going to follow my own path with my head held high. And if I fall flat on my face, so be it, at least I stayed true to what I thought was best. And if anyone laughs at my fall, they are presumably a) perfect themselves and b) a bit of a dick. And that’s more their problem than mine!

 

So as I’ve let go of the pregnancy hormones, I’ve also let go of the tension I was carrying around like a hunchback. I’m REALLY excited to continue organising our wedding day, a day we’re hosting to celebrate our life together with a humanist blessing to more accurately represent our life views. (In the same way that we’re not religious, we also don’t really value the old legality of a non religious wedding so the government necessities weren’t really very us).

 

And some people will think it’s overly theatrical, some people will wonder why we’re bothering as we’re already technically married. And that’s fine, my advice would be for them to have a less dramatic day if they choose to get married, and to only do it once if that’s what works for them. I can’t stop them thinking we’re doing things wrong, so I’m finally letting go of the defensiveness I felt!

 

I AM a Mother, I AM a Wife, I’m not necessarily any good at either role..! But I’m doing them to the best of my ability, and that’s all I can ask of myself and of anyone else. The political scene has also brought about a slightly more hostile community feel. All of a sudden, with such big changes happening and the country so divided, neighbours are suddenly turning on each other based on the colour of the poster in their windows. Family meals are exploding into dispute because of passionate thoughts from all sides. Politically, it’s been much longer than just a Winter of discontent, and never before has it been more openly discussed, which is a double edged sword, especially when the recent local elections were so poorly attended. ANYWAY, my point is, I surrender. So with my white flags, I also hold aloft my personal flags, this is who I am, what I believe, but that doesn’t put me at odds with anyone who feels differently. I personally feel like a lot of us could do with an unclenching, to respect each others life choices and views. Gone are the days where there were two streets to choose between when setting up home, the days where you went into a profession based on what you were born into, and the days gone by when your parents and circumstances dictated your life. We now have literally millions of options for all things. And so it’s understandable that we all also now have millions of variables when it comes to the opinions we hold and the beliefs we live by and nurture. But it’s ok to be different, it’s how all those different roles get filled! And what other people think about your choices are none of your business and therefore nothing to spend time worrying about.

 

I have always been the kind of person to walk my own path, since being young. Even at primary school I insisted on being allowed to play football and was then the first girl to do so, but somewhere in my twenties I lost the confidence in doing so, I started trying to fit in. and so when I started back on my own path, I forgot to do so with my head held high, I somehow did so but felt like I needed to justify my every move.

It’s not lent, but I’m giving up on it. I’m tuning in instead to the feisty little girl who was told that football was for boys and decided that she was bloody well going to be allowed to play! SHE didn’t care if anyone thought it wasn’t becoming of a girl to run round on a football field, SHE didn’t get if anyone was talking about her being different or wrong, SHE just looked at what she wanted to do, what her heart told her to do and she went from it. My apologies to that little girl, she would’ve have been very disappointed in me over the last few years, and I now have two little mini me’s watching how I behave and how I judge myself and others, and that’s motivation enough for me!

 

   

 

Reluctantly Resting…

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I am now infertile. This is a very strange thing to say. It’s necessary, that is to say medically necessary. It would be too dangerous on my kidneys, and to be honest if the epilepsy was as bad as in my second pregnancy, that alone is enough to decide without the GP insisting on it. I had a total of three recommendations from various departments that I get permanent baby making privileges removed, I tried not to take it too personally..! My husband could have had the male equivalent, and offered to. But do you know what. For me it was important to take charge of this myself. I can’t have anymore children without endangering them or myself so it was important to me to take ownership of the necessary steps. I also had two rather painful cysts that needed to be removed so it was a case of ‘whilst you’re down there’..! 

So yesterday I got into the familiar gown, with the familiar sexy compression socks, and repeated my details to seven different people (if any identity mistakes have been made, they will have done it on purpose, it’s necessary to cover them but by the time I went into surgery, I’m pretty sure everyone in the hospital knew I was Danielle, date of birthday 5th of the 2nd 1985!). Anyway, after a relaxed hour in the ward, having blood pressure taken, with the anaesthetist coming to take me through the various drugs I’d be under, and the surgeon comprehensively taking me through the process, it felt more like a day spa compared to the two births. Both of which, as emergency csections had much less explaining, and a lot more running down the corridor shouting out bits of information for my husband to sign consent for before sticking me in the back with a needle! I had no idea routine surgery was so calm! I had a student nurse with me which has come to be a good luck charm for my husband and I as we had student midwives with us for both children’s births. It was her first time in theatre and she was more nervous than I was. As the sterilisation was laparoscopic, when she came out, she was a bit disappointed it hadn’t been more gory, and we discussed cool Greys Anatomy cases that she hopes to see some of in her career! I’m going to send a card to wish her good luck for the rest of her career because she (like all the staff there) were brilliant and I think she’ll make a brilliant nurse. One of the theatre assistants was also on a placement, studying medicine at Cardiff, an original Cheltenham boy who hopes to become a surgeon. Was also great and we chatted about TV programmes making exciting sounding professions much less paperwork heavy than they actually are!! Again another excellent addition to our NHS. My surgeon was hilarious, originally a refugee and a privilege to have such a friendly expert on my case. He explained it all clearly, with humour and I couldn’t have felt in safer hands. 

Anyway, gushing about the NHS aside (I know that we’re very lucky in Cheltenham, the strain in other towns and cities makes it much harder for the staff to give as much time and attention as they’d like). I went into surgery at 2pm, and came out at 4pm, with (as the paperwork listed rather hilariously) my reproductive career over.

I’m on stronger epilepsy drugs since the day before yesterday until tomorrow, as sometimes going under general anaesthetic, and going through surgery can make it worse. The outcome of that is I become (as my husband affectionately calls it!) the duchess of Floopstown! So I’ve been a little bit all over the place (I apparently burst into tears last night because my husband’s apprentice said that the afternoon tea he’d had in Oxford with us was one of the best he’d tried, and I was really upset that his fiancée hadn’t been there with us…! The afternoon tea was weeks ago now so who knows why that came up in conversation, but Floopstown is an unpredictable place!). I’ve been teary, giggly, generally not with it most of the time. I called my brother to tell him I was home, and he informed me that, as he was the one who drove me home, he was in fact aware. He also reiterated that he’d had a good day, as I had apparently asked him three or four times on the 5 minute journey home! I insisted on having a ‘tea party’, which basically just consisted of forcing my husband, and his two apprentices to have a cup of tea at 10.30 at night after they’d got back from work, I didn’t finish my tea, but allegedly I was thrilled with having a tea party! 

My point is, I don’t think I have yet dealt properly with my change in status. My family will likely think it is me being dramatic. But I am aware that I feel a little bit bereft, unnecessarily feel less womanly now I have had a procedure that has taken away quite a major function. I didn’t think I could have kids, regular readers will know the plethora of ridiculousness that means it was likely to be difficult to conceive. So I only really started to deal with the fact that I could aged 28. I admit before then I’d been shamefully blasé about protection with regular partners because I didn’t think it could happen, and it never had. But it seems my body just needed the right partner who has, as it turns out magic powers! (I probably shouldn’t make a comment like that publicly really but he’ll I’m still on the stronger drugs!) so my ‘reproductive career’ as it was termed(!) has only really been five years long, and it can at least be said that I made the most of that time!! We have two beautiful children that have completed our family, so I really cannot complain about being made redundant from that particular role. Especially as I count myself extremely lucky to have been able to create two amazing, healthy, happy little girls. That said, I now definitely cannot, and that does make me feel a little sad and I think that’s allowed. I will get over myself very quickly but I will allow myself to mourn the end of that era. 

I also admit to being a bit frustrated at being the sick kid again. Last week, I hosted 16 family members for an Easter roast dinner with no problem at all. In fact, the whole weekend our house was joyously full of family, and I thoroughly enjoyed hosting it all. I am a very happy and proud matriarch of my family and that’s a role I really cherish, looking after people and taking care of things. The pregnancy hormones, almost on cue started to finally be gone just after Holly’s first birthday, which is, I believe the time they do go, and I had just started feeling human again, or woman in control of her own body again I should say! And although it’s still being controlled by medication, the epilepsy hadn’t been an issue. I was really on track to be ‘normal’ as it were (HA! Normals not a word I would usually use, I’m not a fan of being normal or average, I’ve always danced to my own tune, even if it’s a bit of an odd one!). So to be back in bed, with my children not allowed to climb over me, and not being able to scoop them both up and run around with them. Having to rest and rely on other people to cook for me, or help me wash because I can’t stretch up or bend down without my husband’s help, feels like a huge step back. I suddenly feel useless again. My matriarchy is wilting(!) My husband has had to hold my hand and tell me that everything’s going to be ok, I woke him at 2am because the faces in the walls (seriously the stronger epilepsy stuff stops the seizures but it REALLY flips me out!!) were frightening and I needed reassurance that they weren’t real. That’s not quite the strong, ‘head of the family’ role I was enjoying getting on with post a tricky three years! 

But, as I keep being reminded. It’s temporary. I have only spoken to my husband about it so far because other (well meaning) people tend to say things like yes but it’s not for long/don’t worry about that/it’s alright, and, don’t get me wrong. LOGICALLY, I have a PhD, I KNOW that’s all true. But it’s like after a bereavement or a break up when people tell you you’ll feel better in time, “yes that’s great I’m aware of that but that DOESNT HELP ME RIGHT NOW DOES IT!” I say all this (mostly in jest) because it’s impossible really to know what to say in these situations. I always compare it to someone saying to someone whose hungry “you won’t be hungry later”, either help the person source food or talk about something else! So I KNOW that this will be the shortest stint of being the sick kid. And in two weeks time I’ll be back to feeling stronger and healthier and can get back to swimming and looking after everyone and generally being ‘normal’. But now, today, when I can’t sit up without being in pain, and awaiting biopsy results, and not being able to carry my children, none of that helps how I feel now, today. 

So I’m just going to allow it. Even in the happiest of musicals there’s a moment we can all really embrace the sad sentimental song. It’s ok for there to be downs even when you’re an optimist. And sometimes, excuse my language but sometimes things are a bit shit. And even though you know at your worst that other people are going through worse, it’s ok sometimes not to care about that and just let yourself feel. And that’s what I’m going for a day or so. I’m going to be clingy towards my husband, I’m going to cry, I’m going to play video games and then cry some more or check the notes in my phone because I’ve forgotten what’s going on, and I’m going to nap, and I’m going to ask for a huge dinner and not eat two bites because I feel nauseous and anything else that comes with today!

Everything’s ok and I am ok and most importantly my family is ok. And that’s all that REALLY matters. 

I’m also aware that this particular blog post is a bit jumbled and a bit all over the place but I’m a big believer in keeping this record as real as possible. Only then can it help my kids if and when they decide to become mothers and maybe go through similar things. I’ve got loads of Facebook photo albums that show all the highlight reels. But the backstage pass is just as important.

I’m now infertile, and I’m sad about that today. And I’m in pain, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that the cysts won’t be anymore of a problem than having them removed, one had apparently ruptured anyway so was just an empty sack of rubbishness! I’m hugely grateful for all the staff that treated me yesterday and I’m hugely in love with my husband for how amazingly he’s taking care of me. My girls are everything and I look forward to getting back to running around with them. In the meantime I’m back to being jealous of people who get to spend time with them instead of me but hopefully that won’t be as severe as the last pregnancy (I was pretty bitter the last few months, I missed my little Ladey comrade!).

But I’ll be up and about soon, this matriarch has people to take care of and big family events to plan! To everyone in my life, family and friends, I love you and miss you, see you all soon. Ladey will be back! 

Four Explore Magic…

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My husband and I work together, live together and have a lot of mutual hobbies. But because we both work freelance hours, the working part of our lives is often really dominant. And sometimes the lines are blurred, we often get to go out to the theatre, or to stay away for the night due to work; but sometimes we’ll find ourselves, in a really romantic setting…discussing whether we’ve invoiced for last weeks workshop or advertised tomorrow’s session, and we’re constantly planning the courses we run, coming up with ideas etc.

Recently we’ve tried to ensure that we don’t check emails if we’re away for the night, or we try and ignore text messages/FB messages/Twitter notifications. But with many fingers in many different pies between the two of us, it’s almost impossible to avoid it all. We’ve discussed it quite a bit, how do we separate personal and professional life? And how do we ensure we get quality time together as a couple, as a husband and wife?
This week, we answered our own question accidentally. For Holly’s first birthday, we had gone in with my Dad on organising a two day trip to Alton Towers, staying in the hotel for one night in a theme room, with dinner at a fun restaurant where your meals arrive by rollercoaster! 

We to and fro’d on whether to do it, because, our last experience of staying in a hotel with both kids was…tough to say the least!! Neither would go to bed, both kept waking the other up, and my husband and I had to sit in the dark from 7pm…fun fun fun! With one aged 1, and one nearly 3, it had been a while since we’d taken them both away because…it’s a really tiring nightmare! BUT, it’s our last 1st birthday for our children, and we wanted to treat them both to something special so we packed up the car and we held our breath and went for it! 

And it was, the, most, perfect, magical two days we’ve both ever had. A couple of realisations very early on. 

1. The girls are that little bit older now, and both can move about without having to be carried which means we’re out of that really dependant baby stage.

2. The girls are at an age where they’ve started ‘playing’ with each other.

3. Scarlett’s now tall enough to go on all of the toddler rides and with it being Holly’s first time at anywhere like this, she was just filled with delight watching it all, especially loving watching her big sister on things. So there was SO much we could do with them in the park.

4. Their sleep routines are steady enough now that a one off night as a special treat doesn’t disrupt the next few days, and we were therefore able to just play all together in the room, especially as there was a giant polar bear in it..! And then come about 9pm, they easily settled down and we were able to chat quietly before dropping off quite early ourselves thanks to a super active day!

But the main two things we realised, were that, we prioritise supporting our family. So there’s a guilt to ignoring messages or emails or any work related things, even when we’re having quality time together. HOWEVER, our girls are the bigger priority. So when we were with them these couple of days, we ignored work things because they deserve that, and we didn’t feel guilty because THEY are more important. We don’t see ourselves as important enough to ignore work for, but they definitely are! The other main thing is that quality time as a team of four is going into a really magical stage. Both girls are getting to the age where excitement levels are off the chart and seeing their eyes light up, or watching them laugh at a giant puppet, or when they turned around to smile at us to share how excited they are…? OUR.HEARTS.KEPT.BURSTING!!  

We’ve been so busy trying to work out some intellectual reason on how to perfectly balance the various aspects of our lives, we didn’t just see what was right under our noses! Our beautiful children and our family of four.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they’re not a nightmare sometimes…! Or that it went perfectly smoothly! We had a 1am wake up thanks to Holly who was obviously a bit unsettled with the new surrounding perhaps, and it was 3am before we got back to sleep as it’s much more difficult to settle a baby when you’re trying not to wake her toddler sibling, as well as being ultra aware of other hotel guests! We were extremely lucky with their behaviour, this week we had fantastically behaved children (that is just luck of the drawer, it can so easily go the other way!). But when we left the park today, we still had a mini tears breakdown from Scarlett who wasn’t keen on the idea of going home! We felt the same, but it’s not quite as socially acceptable for us to cry..! And it really didn’t last too long so I almost feel guilty mentioning it, because Scarlett can REALLY tantrum when she puts her mind to it..! 

We’re now back home, and we’re EXHAUSTED, but we somehow feel refreshed..! 

Being the dramatic pair that we are, on the way home, we started getting emotional about what an exciting time of our family life we were going into. We’ve officially passed newborn baby stage, and now we have two little, magical, ridiculous and hilarious children, who for now are also excited to spend time with us! This stage will pass on the blink of an eye, so it’s DEFINITELY worth prioritising.

Not all our ‘Four Explore’ holidays will go as well as this one did, we know that. We’ve had enough experience to know how lucky we were with this one, but the moments that made us well up with happiness, pride and joy, are well worth the days that don’t go our way (mostly..I mean who am I kidding, it can be a bloody battlefield some days!). But as we flop down into bed tonight, tiredly giddy from the glow of a fab two days, we’ll toast (a cup of herbal tea…seriously we’re really tired!) to some more magical memories that will follow! 

Dear daughters…

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A few nights ago, I was feeling particularly sentimental. My husband and I came to the end of an extremely busy month, which had various different high pressure or stressful situations, and we opened a bottle and took some time together to relax. We are very excited about this Christmas, Holly’s first ever and our first as a family of four. Scarlett is at the age where she has started asking quite consistently for ‘more treats’ and ‘I want that’, and we’re trying to teach her that that’s a) not very polite but b) not really what this season is about. 

At two years old, we’re (hoping!) that it’s just a riskier tantrum stage, and certainly several other parents seem to recognise it as a phase all kids go through. I went to bed that night and wrote them a letter. Below is that letter. 

If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that truly, the unthinkable can ALWAYS happen! Whether it be a presidential election, a referendum or any one of the sad events that have blighted the year. But without sounding like a cheesey cartoon character, good will always prevail. A lot of bad can and will happen, but kindness and magic outnumbers it. It always has and always will, and in uncertain times, it’s even more important to believe, even more important to hold onto.

Here’s to a very happy December to you all dear comrades. I wish you every happiness and an extremely hearty dose of magic! 
“Dear daughters,

Today is the first of December, and your Father and I are both very passionate about December being magical!November has been an extremely busy, hard working, high pressure and stressful one. In a (ridiculously shortened..!) summary, Daddy didn’t have a single day off in November, an already busy month became even busier as it went along and he has been amazing. Girls, I have always been in awe of my husband, admired his work ethic and how well he treats people and this month in particular, those qualities have really shone. You are both extremely lucky to have such a strong role model in your Daddy. It’s kept me going. November for me has also been extremely important. I start Criminology lecturing in January, and I am also working with some amazing people towards increasing healthy communication about mental health for young people, as well as personal safety teaching. A wide remit including how to spot signs of danger, reducing risks, safer choices to make, a whole host of ways for younger people to take preventative measures against crime that will hopefully be incorporated into, at least a few schools. It’s going to be a long, hard slog, but you two girls are the best kind of motivation! You’ve both been at my side for a lot of meetings and countless Skype calls, a local MP told you that you, Scarlett, had a beautiful smile, and you sang Baa Baa Black sheep to him! Moments like that are alongside my research notes to remind me where we started. It may go nowhere of course, I might fail. And if I do, I’ll try again, or I’ll change tact, or I’ll have done all I can and I’ll move onto something else. But failing will be ok.

Anyway, unknown outcomes aside! November 2016 was a busy month for your Father and I. It was very tiring and at times, we were on schedules that didn’t allow for much family time. And you both know how pathetically soppy your parents are when they don’t get to see much of each other and you girls! And we think the Winter season is extra magical, it’s our favourite time of year. 

Last year was a tough one because Mummy and Holly were both so poorly before we even had our little Moop with us. And we weren’t able to deal with it as privately as we wanted to because of circumstances. So THIS year, we are determined to make it extra special! With LOTS of family time, and friends time to boot! 

Scarlett you now understand what Christmas entails and you are SO excited! We were in Bath the other day and you loved seeing Father Christmas in the streets and we picked up some Christmas gloves and a homemade wooden owl that makes an owl sound when you blow into it. You loved it! Our main goal this year is to try and make sure that you learn that kindness and good will and sharing are the most important messages in December. I know that you’re a kind hearted little Ladey though so although a toddlers will is very strong, I’m positive your generous heart will win this stage! And our little Holly! It is your very first Christmas! The bright lights are obviously attracting your attention, and you are finding your big sisters excitement very infectious. 

We’ve started our annual activity calendar so you’ve both gone to bed tonight in new Christmas Star Wars pyjamas, and tomorrow we’re going to a very special Christmas show. Both of which have cost money (although we have plenty of shows we can attend free thanks to Daddy’s work!) but that isn’t the point. Annual activity calendar is about spending time with friends and family. The first year I did it, my family in Australia took part and we sent each other pictures and videos. And since then, December has been one of the ways we catch up with people who mean the world to us but that we don’t get to see as often as we’d like.

I’m currently watching ‘Once Upon A Time’, an American series for adults but about fairy tales. It’s funny, but it’s reminded me that adults should believe in magic. It’s important to. There have been days I haven’t wanted to believe in magic, or people (which is where magic comes from really girls, it’s from people) and I’ve felt frustrated, and angry, and have wondered why I’m putting the work in. But every time, I’ve taken some time out to breathe, or (more often than not!), your Dad has reminded me what’s important in a whole different manner of ways. And without fail, things are always ok. And I’m constantly reminded that giving in and taking the easy route is never worth it. What can seem like the hardest path at the time, always seems to get us where we need to be! And yes, of course a cheesey series has the same message. For someone who can be so practical at times, both your parents can be laughably sentimental! So there have been times I’ve gone to meetings with certain character pants on to remind me to think of magic when I’m faced with middle aged men who, in a meeting, have patronised me and put hurdles in my way or have suggested that ‘as a young woman’ I would find my goals more difficult. And on particularly tough days, I’ve made a dinner of turkey dinosaurs, smiley faces and spaghetti hoops for us to indulge in childhood comforts as a morale boost. A mug of hot chocolate with squishy cream and mini marshmallows also works a treat. There’s magic in the little things, magic works! 

We are planning to make December 2016 our best Christmas yet. Our family of four is complete, safe and well. And I hope our families friends and family also have an amazing holiday season. God knows with the way 2016 went, the entire planet could do with a short break! And then, ok still a Trump presidency, but hopefully a slightly less challenging 2017 for all! We were very lucky in 2016 to have our Moop join us healthy and safe, you are a shining star in an otherwise pretty terrible year worldwide (history lessons when you’re both older will certainly be interesting when they get to 2016!). 

But, my sweethearts, as I said, magic is in people, and in December, it shines that little bit brighter, and we all have a bit extra to be able to help people for whom Christmas is particularly hard. You two make our December the shiniest it’s ever been. We love you very much and I hope you always remember to be kind, to help others and to give back, not just at Christmas time but all year round. I have no doubt you both will.

We love you very much xx”