Confession time. Sometimes I can be a real bitch. That’s over a decade of infertility for you! Sometimes I feel the old jealous, mean feelings coming back.
I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while and it’s probably just going to sound like a massive whine. But I keep meaning to blog more, for good and for bad, so here goes.
We are having a small naming ceremony at home for B. In our new flat! It’s going to be mainly home made stuff and a small group of friends and family and hopefully will be really lovely, but I don’t want to write about it too much on here because it’s a nice thing and this venting is not, so I’ll write it up separately.
The reason I want to vent is because I just feel hurt that it’s very likely none of my siblings will be attending. Now they all have reasons, some of which are better than others in my opinion, and I know this is all mumzilla and B won’t give a flying poop about any of it, but to me it’s about something deeper, which is the fact that I never thought I’d get to have a baby and it’s a special occasion I want to mark and none of my siblings can be arsed to attend.
This is unfair of me of course and that’s why I’m venting on here. But I’m finding it hard not to feel salty about it. Well mainly about my sister.
One of my siblings can’t attend because of living in a different country that’s very far away… Efforts were made but it isn’t going to happen, sadly. But they (sibling plus partner) are going to record a reading and try and FaceTime in to the ceremony, so at least they’re making an effort.
My brother who lives not that far away is probably not going to be able to make it with his family because of my niece’s (medical/developmental) problems. I get that it’s hard. I can’t imagine how hard it is. (Although she’s been fine when we have seen her sporadically including a few weeks ago when we went out for a family gathering – it was closer to their home though.) They seem to not want to take her out anywhere. Again. I get it. But they can go out for things they want to go out for. Just not for me/us.
I know it’s not quid pro quo but I went to her christening around what would have been my due date for PB (my first pregnancy, after IVF, that ended in miscarriage). I didn’t want to go but I sucked it up and even though I felt crappy about it, I turned up.
I probably would feel madder with my brother but ever since they identified my niece’s health problems I’ve felt all my jealousy for his perfect life dissipate. But my sister in law didn’t come to my baby shower and nor did my sister. In fact none of my family came.
My sister has point blank refused to come. My new niece was born a month ago and she says it’s too far to travel. I’m sure she has a point. It’s about a 3hr drive between us. She says that the car seat manufacturers say the baby can’t be in a car seat for more than two hours at a time and I’m like… Haven’t you heard of rest stops?! It’s not like she would be driving anyway – I always sit in the back with B and T drives us, and we have driven way longer than that and B is perfectly fine. But she’s very highly strung and she won’t hear any of it and anyway she’s really stressed about feeding and whatever and sticks to some convoluted schedule that apparently she can’t deviate from by a minute.
I also felt during my pregnancy that I couldn’t really be happy because my sister then was going through IVF (a frozen transfer not a fresh cycle) and she was completely nuts about it so I wasn’t able to celebrate it. I always have to mute my feelings for hers because she’s so prone to anxiety and depression and I’m always the one talking her down from the ledge.
She’s super demanding as well, even when it’s not convenient for us. She insisted she wanted the Sleepyhead (cot cushion) and I could have sold it locally for £70 as they hold their value (cost new £110), but instead I walked to the post office in the rain and queued up for ages so that she could have it on next day delivery because she needed it right that minute and kept asking me to send it straight away. Bearing in mind I was doing her a favour and saved them £110 and lost myself the resale value of £70! And it cost me a decent amount to send!
The thing that really upset me on top of the naming ceremony non attendance was that she’d said when she was pregnant that she wanted the electric rocker… It cost around £150 new and so rather than selling it when B was done with it, we had it in the tiny living room of our tiny flat for the past four months. Like you don’t really get how small our flat is… The frame took up half the sofa and the rocker was balanced on piles of boxes because we had to move it around when we wanted to move around! So I was pretty p*ssed off when she sent a picture of the niece in a new rocker they’d just bought. (Same make but cheaper model than the one that has taken up our living room for four months.)
When I said about the rocker she had asked us to save for them she said she “forgot, sorry.” Yeah that is fine… I mean we’ve been tripping over the damn thing for four months but whatever.
Man, I was so annoyed. I’m sure that this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back and this is just showing what a horrible person I am. I’m also really annoyed with her because all she does is complain and find things hard when she didn’t have to go through a fresh cycle of IVF (though made sure we all felt her pain), has had an uneventful pregnancy, a healthy baby and she gets to take over a year off work when I had to go back after four months. Not to mention their huge house they just bought. (Our dream house is a two bedroom apartment. Theirs is a five bedroom house!) She’s just a Class A whiner.
So I get that I’m being unreasonable, I really do, but I can’t help feeling upset about this. She had previously asked us to reschedule the naming from July or August to September so she would be able to come but then decided she didn’t want to.
I guess… I know I would have gone if it had been the other way round. I know that babies can travel. And B has always been a pretty easy baby. So I don’t have a full understanding of what it’s like to be hating motherhood or whatever because I don’t get why you’d go through everything we’ve been through if you didn’t want it. They didn’t even have half the problems we had! I know it’s not the pain Olympics but jeez.
I also know I’m feeling annoyed because we have a history (as with all relationships) and she’s always the looked after one, and I’m always the one who has to be looking out for her and making sure she’s okay, and just for one day I wanted to celebrate something good that means a lot to me. (Which of course we will still do.)
She’s having a lot harder time with motherhood and probably prone to post natal depression and of course I’m expecting too much. I’ve just spent my whole life with her being the vulnerable one, and the one who needs looking after and building up, and it feels kind of crappy that the one day where we have to celebrate B and the happiest thing in my life, none of my siblings will be there.
I also know that when it comes round to her daughter being christened or whatever that we will all have to go. I haven’t even been to see them yet as she’s weird about people visiting – didn’t want anyone to come when she was born, and said she only wanted a visit for like an hour, which is kind of a crazy expectation on a six hour round trip. Now apparently she’s ready for a visit, we are busy every weekend in September and anyway I feel annoyed about the naming and I don’t feel like seeing them until that has passed and I have it out of my system.
I keep telling myself to suck it up and stop feeling annoyed but I can’t help it. I feel super resentful. I also know rationally that I’ll have a better time without her there, because she’s super high maintenance and usually has a miserable face on her and would want to leave early and whatever.
I also know she’s trying to make up for it but its just ridiculous. Like she sent me £40 vouchers for cheese because I love cheese and I was annoyed about the rocker but firstly what am I going to do with £40 of cheese and secondly the cost of the rocker and the sleepyhead was a lot more than £40. I know she’s trying but I just want her to leave me alone until the naming is over and I’ve had a few weeks to get over it.
I think I’m just sick of being the okay one, the strong one, and I want someone to acknowledge how f*cking hard this has been and what an amazing thing it is that I’m a mother.
Most of the time I’m fine at concentrating on that and not concentrating on the sibling stuff.
So there you have it. I’m not all sweetness and light. I feel pretty bad for having these feelings. I know most people sympathise with her rather than me because people have been feeling sorry for her all our lives because she’s the one who doesn’t cope with things and I always do. I’ve always been the okay one and she’s always been the fragile one. And I know this is a total foot stamping moment on my part and I’m not proud of it.
You can’t pick your family unless you adopt them (ha!) so I am just venting… In a few weeks I’ll be fine, and anyway I want to concentrate on making a really nice day to celebrate B and if my siblings aren’t there then whatever; my friends will be. My aunt and uncle even changed their plans to come from up north (further away than my sister) so that’s nice. And our best friends will be there who know how much this means to us.
Today a friend of mine posted an ultrasound picture on Facebook and gaily announced to the world that their baby would be born next February.
I already knew she was pregnant because I was one of the first people she told. We’d discussed pregnancy and whether she should start trying, and how she was going to persuade her boyfriend to try, and figuring out ovulation and so on. I told her about our experience and encouraged her to come off the pill and try sooner rather than later, if she could get her boyfriend to agree.
I guess he agreed because a few short months later, they’re pregnant. I was kind of surprised by how little time it took, because in infertility-land you get used to talking in years rather than months. She told me how many months it took: three.
Three months! Straight off the pill and up the duff!
Now, I am okay, but a couple of years ago this would have floored me. Why is it always someone else who just has to come off the pill a couple of months and get pregnant?!
I really do feel happy and thankful for my life now. I feel (secularly!) blessed. But I have to confess I had a slight twinge of… something… when she told me she was pregnant. I don’t know what it is… It’s a sort of wistful, “Oh, to be that innocent!” The way they posted it all over Facebook without any worries they might lose the baby. The way they got pregnant so easily having barely tried. I guess I just feel wistful that I never got to have that innocence and that straightforward expectation that nothing would go wrong, that we’d just try and it would happen.
My infertility was measured more in decades. One and a half, more or less.
What do you call yourself when you were previously infertile but by some (secular) miracles and scientific interventions you managed to have a baby?
I’m a mother. But I’m not a normal mother. I’m a pinch-myself-daily-because-I-can’t-believe-I-actually-had-a-baby mother. I’m a Thank You Science mother. I’m a “If you think you might have issues getting pregnant you really should try straight away and let me know if you want to know anything about endometriosis, IVF or immune therapy” mother.
I’ll never have that whole will we, won’t we have another one dilemma. We are over the moon with our lovely One and Only.
I’ll never innocently post early scans on Facebook for people to guess whether it’s a boy or a girl or who the baby looks like. Nobody knew about our pregnancy who didn’t see me in real life. There are still people who don’t know!
I had a twinge of something, a remembrance of loss of innocence, and I’m happy for my friends and I’m happy for us because we are so lucky to have B, but I had a twinge because I remember what it was like to be there, and I’m thinking of all of the people still in the trenches, or those who have had to walk away from the dream of being parents… and I’m sad for them.
So – mothers after infertility. Mothers after loss. I don’t think infertility ever leaves you. I don’t think loss ever leaves you. But we know desperately how lucky we are.
I was looking at old photos of myself on Timehop (God bless Timehop, the regurgitator of past lives!) and realised that I was really skinny. This was something of a surprise to me as I spent a good proportion of my life and most of my adult life feeling fat.
It's like a lot of my old life is something of a shock to me now. I remembered with a jolt the other day that I didn't wear trousers for five years because my ex told me my legs looked a bit like sausages in them. Five years! When did I allow someone else to have such agency over my body?
Even before I met my ex, I think I had some pretty disordered eating. Not quite anorexia – I never really was one for seeing things through – but I did maintain a pretty low body weight that is significantly lower than I am now. (For context: I am around 5'2", and I used to be a UK size 8-10, and now I'm about a UK size 12. Generally not considered "overweight".)
I'm not sure when my disordered eating and strange body image first started. A lot of people (especially girls) start this around puberty, and perhaps that's what happened for me. I think it's a bit deeper than that, though. I was adopted as a baby, transracially, and I grew up around white people so all my life I've looked different from most of the people I was around growing up.
When I went to a predominantly white school, all of this got amplified. I remember that it was a shock because I slowly realised that I was "less than" because of my race. I realised that I was supposed to be blonde haired and blue eyed and I was about as far from that as possible. I started to find myself ugly (and people started to tell me I was ugly to my face). I never had the skinny white girl legs. Mine were muscular and I was just a different build. Really average for my race, as it turns out. But you don't know that as a child if you grow up with people who don't look like you.
Adoption is complex, and I don't know how much of this was tied up in adoption, but I do know I can't separate out being a different race from my overall experience of growing up. My feeling of not fitting in, even though that was all I knew. Anyway, I got kind of chubby. Although looking back, I wasn't chubby. I don't think I was ever actually chubby – I was just short, and not lanky.
Then one time when I was around 16, I went away on a holiday (to learn a language) and when I was there I got pretty sick and I couldn't really eat anything. And I dropped a load of weight. When I got back, suddenly everyone said how amazing I looked because I was skinny. I was suddenly approved of, and I liked it. So I maintained it.
I maintained it for a really long time. The thing is, I'm not naturally meant to be that weight. (It's about 20-30kg lighter than I am now. I don't know exactly how much as I don't know how much I weigh now.) So I got by on some disordered eating that kept me at my magic weight. My magic weight crept up over time… I kept in a 5kg weight range through school, and then it kind of crept up during my time at university, until it was +10kg, and then it was about +15kg in my last few years with IVF and everything. And even +20kg post miscarriage.
For me, I always thought I was "happy" when I was a lower weight. But when I look back, I was always kind of unhappy. I was happy that I'd managed to keep my weight down but I always felt a kind of anxiety about it. I used to weigh myself every day. The number on the scales made me feel like I was achieving something or I was failing something.
When I met T, after I'd split up with my ex – I had to adjust to a new way of being. I was always very controlled with my ex. He wouldn't think he was, but he controlled a lot about me. He had a huge effect on my feelings of self worth (or not). This was someone who had always dated very skinny women and even told me I was the fattest person he'd ever been with. It made me feel pretty bad about myself that I was that. The whole thing with my ex was that I never felt good enough. With T, I felt good enough. He really didn't care about weight. I actually met him when I was still pretty skinny and I piled on the relationship pounds… I let myself go.
I'm still conflicted about how I feel about it, because I recognise that my magic weight wasn't magic at all, but a strange idea of how I was supposed to look. And T tells me he loves me the way I am. But it was hard in the beginning putting on pregnancy weight – not just because of the weight itself, but the fear that it might be for nothing, like our first IVF and pregnancy was.
This pregnancy that gave me B also gave me a lot of weight. Firstly I had to take IVF drugs which make you put on weight. And also I had to take steroids which make you put on weight also. I got to halfway through pregnancy in a state of fear that it wouldn't work out, but then when I got halfway I decided I was going to try my best not to fear it any more.
I also decided to stop weighing myself. I have weighed myself every day, sometimes multiple times a day, since I was a teenager. I even recorded my weight every day in an app so I could see how much weight I put on. It's a bit crazy obsessive.
When I was properly pregnant, I gave myself permission to stop weighing myself. And I let myself relax into the pregnancy.
And you know what?
The strange thing is, I have no doubt I'm at least magic weight +20kg. Possibly +30kg. And I definitely have my moments of feeling a bit concerned about it (especially if I catch a glimpse of myself coming out of the shower – stretch marks and overhang and pendulous mammaries hanging out) but I generally feel absolutely awesome.
I don't know how it works for other people but for me – my body was always this thing that failed me. I wasn't the same as my white friends. I looked different. I was ultimately not enough – I wasn't enough for my birth mother to keep me; I wasn't enough for my ex to love me how I needed to be loved; I wasn't thin enough or attractive enough or whatever.
But having B was like all vanity went out of the window. I love myself now, because I know I'm just the same as anyone else – I'm fallible and imperfect, but my messed up body gave me B and I love myself for that.
I love my ridiculous humungaboobs that feed B like a dream… when his dad "flies" him over to me for a feed, he giggles and opens his mouth to latch on. They may be saggy and baggy but they do exactly what they need to do to feed my baby, and I'm proud I've been able to do that and even to pump for him so he's been exclusively breastfed for his entire life, for half a year.
I love my saggy stomach. (This one requires a bit more imagination!) I love that it carried B safely (even though he needed cutting out at the last minute!). I love that I got to experience being gloriously, amazingly pregnant. I once had a big bump that I never thought I'd get to have, and I grew a human in there, and if it looks like a fleshy deflated balloon well – so be it. My bikini days are over anyway and I have an awesome very flattering swimsuit with tummy panels!
I love my fuller face. (Again this is a hard one!) I love that it's the face that my son loves. His eyes light up when he sees me. He giggles and reaches his arms out. We even had to hide the cushion with my face on because he kept staring at it! Yes, I don't have the cheekbones I used to have but they'll come back one day. Or maybe they won't. But I refuse to hate my face because it looks a little bit like my boy's and I love his.
Anyone who sees me now probably thinks I've "let myself go". And I really have.
I've given myself permission to breathe out. (You kind of have to if you had a caesarean, just saying.)
I've given myself permission to not care. I don't have to listen to the whispering voices of bullies from the past, who said I was fat and ugly. I'm not fat and ugly. I am the size I needed to be to carry my baby into existence. I'm the face of my ancestors, who I'm finally beginning to connect with through adoption forums and same race groups, and I refuse to be ashamed of my non-whiteness because I don't ever want to see that shame in my son's face.
Of course I don't advocate being unhealthy. (Well, chocolate notwithstanding.) The thing is, I'm a size bigger than I was pre-pregnancy. But there's a freedom in letting myself have this. I have told myself I won't diet until I finish breastfeeding. Right now, I don't know when that will be. I want to do at least a year. In fact I'm enjoying it so much (never thought I'd say that!) that I joke I'll do it till he's 15… although I think he might decide to wean himself before then! (We have started baby led weaning but B is not interested in the least… It's a messy business!)
I will start exercising again when I have the time, for sure. But it will be just for myself. I miss the enjoyment I used to get from exercise, a bit, but then we are pretty active as we walk almost everywhere and we have Dog, and he gets us out and about. Plus I do swimming with B once a week, if bobbing around in the shallow end counts. (Yes it does!)
The important thing is that I want B to have a healthy self esteem and be happy. And a huge part of that is having happy healthy parents. I don't want him to see his mother dieting or hating the body that he changed by coming into existence. I don't want him to hate half of his race that came from me. We've taken steps… He's in a diverse nursery in the diverse area we live in. So he will never have the experience of feeling the odd one out, like I did.
And his parents are currently happy together and don't argue that much! (And when they do, it's his mama's fault… Hopefully the hormones will have died down a bit by the time he's more aware!) We are hopefully moving to our new place soon, so he'll even have a bit of outside space. And he has an awesome Dog for a buddy, and a load of new buddies at nursery… Life is good… and we are going to focus on the good things we are grateful for, rather than the bad things we wish we didn't have.
Those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know we are massive Disney fans. We have booked to bring B to Disneyland Paris this year, because even though he won't remember it, it's our happy place (and we will save Orlando and the transatlantic flight for when he's older!). We have been every year apart from last year (heavily pregnant) as a couple and now we're going back as a family.
And of course, one of the best Disney songs ever is from Frozen: Let it Go. I don't tell that many people this, but I can barely ever listen to that song without wanting to cry. It's the perfect song that sums up so much of how I feel. (Which is strangely embarrassing given I'm an almost-40 year old definitely not Scandinavian most likely not a princess archetypally buttoned up British-by-adoption person.)
Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!
So here's the thing… I never was perfect. But I was trying to be, and it was exhausting.
And I never realised that all this time I needed to find acceptance. Not from other people, but from myself.
There are good and bad things about Timehop. I always find it interesting to see what I did on this day a year ago, and the years before that. Although there are always things we'd rather forget and it doesn't seem to filter those out.
This morning's Timehop showed me this scan picture. So strange to think of what time was like a year ago, when little B was in existence but we had no concept of who he was, and now he's here, bright and alive and spreading butternut squash all over his tray table. (I actually hate butternut squash and it turns out he isn't too keen either.)
I am so grateful to medical science that we have this chance to be his parents, that I have a chance I never thought I'd have, to be a mother. As an adoptee, to know someone biologically related to me. To see someone who looks a bit the same. To know I'll be able to offer that comfort of looking a bit like him and he'll never have to wonder where he came from.
And I think back to this time last year and it seems almost inconceivable(!) how much my life has changed. I'm still the same person and yet I'm not.
I may be out of the trenches of infertility but I can remember what it was like. And the fear that haunted me throughout my pregnancy with B. Right now I'm looking at that scan picture and remembering how I felt relief and I cried that there was a baby there. But I also didn't feel happy that I was pregnant because I was so scared that we would lose this one as well.
And a rainbow baby, as B is, is a special sort of baby. All babies are special of course. But a rainbow baby has parents who know the fear of loss and who went through the special kind of hell before their baby was born. Maybe a rainbow baby has parents who don't take parenthood for granted. I know we don't. I feel a ridiculous sense of gratefulness every single day when I look at his chubby little face.
I don't know what I can say to my friends who are still in the trenches apart from, I feel for you and I want you to know you are not alone. I know that I'm just one more of those annoying people who now have a baby. I know what it's like to feel infertility anger and I bear you no malice if you wish to unfollow. But you must know, you are not alone.
When I joined WordPress three or so years back, I felt like I was talking into a void. I needed somewhere to shout and rage about my infertility and to try and make sense of what we were going through. And then I realised it brought up some feelings about adoption I had buried. And I quickly realised that I wasn't alone at all.
I had such support throughout my whole journey of making sense of all of this. Infertility but also adoption, and feelings about all sorts of things from work to friendships.
And I made real life friends. Some I've never even met in real life but whom I consider actual real life friends!
So although this path is hard, and paved with the small angry pebbles of anger and loss (and running with the tears we have shed! Let's make that metaphor work for us!), know that you are not alone. I promise you. There are good people out there! And the great thing is, your blog is for you and it attracts the people who are interested in what you have to say! Who knew?! There are some pretty awesome folk out there and I hope one day to convert some of my real life not-yet-met friends into actual "I know what your voice sounds like" friends!
So, that's all for today really. Looking back is bittersweet. I know we had a long bloody wait to meet our miracle. And I'd be lying if I said I was happy to go through that. But the outcome was bloody spectacular. I'm biased of course, but B is such a happy baby it's hard to complain about the slightly truncated sleep cycles (co sleeping helps) and the over familiarity with poo (how does it get everywhere?!). When my baby chucks back his head and giggles I think there is not a sight nor sound in human history that will ever top it.
This year is a bumper year. We are planning our "big" birthdays and we are going to take B on his first trip to Disney (Paris – not going to brave a transatlantic flight with a baby!). We decided we are going all out and staying in the Disneyland Hotel. OMG Disney fans! Too exciting. Of course B won't really notice it but we will enjoy it! Hopefully our new flat will settle soon (ah the vagaries of the UK housebuying process!) so B will get his forever home and Dog hopefully will too. (I am still hoping I am right in thinking he is a special species of immortal dog who's going to live forever.) A bit of outside space (it has a terrace) is super exciting for us Londoners. I see my friends overseas and their gigantic yards and I think you'd have to laugh at our modest delusions of grandeur!
So yeah, life is pretty good right now. So much has changed in a year. I am so grateful to my lucky stars and whoever else may have had a hand in it. (Doctors and IVF technicians mainly I guess.) I keep telling myself not to worry about something going wrong. It seems hard to imagine because 2015 was such a bad year, but maybe these things all even out in the end.
And you… I've not had as much time as I expected to catch up on people's blogs. My day seems to lend itself more to the intermittency of Facebook. But I do care about what's going on in your lives! Tell me your news!
Sitting here listening to music on Alexa (“Alexa – play songs by Ed Sheeran”) and this came on and now I’m in floods of tears. And feeling very thankful.
Trigger warning: some serious emotion relating to pregnancy.
In London, where I live, we’ve had so much bad news over the last few weeks.
Already the Manchester suicide bombing of the Ariana Grande concert shocked us all. How anyone, least of all someone who was the child of a refugee, could do something like this to innocent children is beyond our understanding.
And then suddenly it was close to home. Borough market and London Bridge – places we know and love and went out to in the evenings. It’s the last thing you’d expect in those hazy summer evenings spent at after work drinks, that people would go on a rampage. Just too close to home. And not long after the Westminster bridge attack.
And then Grenfell tower. A large tower block of residential apartments, many or all of them social housing, up in flames. Hundreds presumed dead. A “stay put policy” the reasoning behind why many stayed in their homes whilst the building burned around them. But also the impossibility of escape when so far up.
I live in a block of flats. Not so high up but we don’t have a lift (elevator) and we are right at the top. It makes me think. I think our building has better fire proofing than Grenfell. We have fire doors and dry risers. And it’s an old building, lots of brick and stone. But still.
It’s the human stories that get me. With any of these, it’s the little things. I’m not saying I didn’t have the capacity to feel before. But since becoming a mother there is something primal I feel whenever I hear about children.
At Grenfell, someone threw a baby out of the window from the 9th or 10th floor. The building was burning. Imagine what it must take, the terror in your heart, to throw your child out of a window in the chance they might be saved. Knowing that you probably won’t be. If either of our lives end, I want B to be with me and yet… a parent has chosen to be separated from their child at the point of likely death in the hopes that their child will live. I just can’t imagine the pain. (The papers are reporting the child survived. But nobody knows what happened to the parent.)
Another story: a 12 year old girl calls her mother in a state of fear and terror. She’s trapped on the 20th floor. Her mother is a cleaner working night shift. She rushes back to the tower and people hold her back. It’s too dangerous to enter. But her little girl, her baby is trapped up there. The smoke is too thick. She doesn’t get out.
Grenfell is so terrible because it was not an act of terror – which is terrible in itself – but an act of negligence. Someone, somewhere approved the cladding that apparently created a chimney of inflammable material. Instead of the hour or so expected that residents would be safe in their flats, the entire building went up in a matter of minutes. The fire started on the fourth floor which meant those in the upper floors had little chance of survival.
And the residents of Grenfell were from the poorer ends of society. Immigrants, Muslims, social housing, a diverse set of people living in a tower block just a stone’s throw from some of the richest. Kensington is one of the richest parts of London but side by side with some of the poorest. The great paradox of London – wealth and poverty side by side.
The inflammable cladding was probably an aesthetic decision to try and protect the rich neighbours from the “eyesore” of poorer people on their doorstep. Part of an apparent £6m refurb project that didn’t fit the building with sprinklers or fire protection or alarms. Those people were often living with multiple occupants in flats, with larger families, which is why the death toll is predicted to be so high. Many of the residents were Muslim, and this happened during the holy month of Ramadan, which is why many were still awake at 1am when the fire broke out, otherwise the death toll might have been higher.
In London everyone pulls together. People galvanised within hours to offer shelter, and bring food and drink and clothing and toiletries to the Grenfell residents who survived. Their immediate material needs can be met. But their emotional needs cannot. The horror of anyone who escaped dwarfs the horror of those who had to watch, helpless, as a tower block full of innocent people burned. And yet all any one of us can feel is horror. The stories of people trapped in their own homes, where they should feel safe.
Today is the fifth anniversary of my friend’s husband’s death from cancer. He fought bravely through limb amputation – he was amazing, doing sports without a care in the world. But five years ago he passed away in his sleep. My friend now has a new husband and baby and she talks about the pain of knowing that her husband wanted her to be happy with someone new – and she is – versus wishing he was still here. It’s a painful paradox.
My other friend who has cancer has finished chemo and first surgery and she’s recovering before her reconstruction surgery in a couple of months. I’m glad they caught the cancer but I hate what she is going through. It’s so taxing on her body. And it’s the second time she’s had cancer. I don’t know how she gets through it. Somehow she does. I try and let her know I’m thinking about her every day. But really I wish I could just take it all away and there was no such thing as cancer.
It feels as though there has been such horror lately. It hurts to think about it. On a personal level I know I live in immense privilege, the fact that I have a roof over my head and a longed for baby and a great partner and dog, and I’m healthy. I am lucky to be here. And in any of those disasters we think: It could have been us.
We have to be thankful for what we have. And I truly am, but in the past weeks I have been even more. With these horrible things happening all we can do is hold our loved ones a little tighter and enjoy every single moment. I thank my lucky stars every single day for what I have. Life is short and you never know what’s going to happen. Be happy.
I don’t know where the time has gone. It seems like just a week ago I was pregnant and waiting anxiously for B to arrive. And now he’s here and it’s almost like he’s always been here and suddenly I’m due back at work today!
I have given myself a small reprieve in that I have accrued all my annual leave for the year and I am going back almost mid year. So I have taken just over a week of annual leave so I can postpone my return to work until 1 June. It’s a bank holiday here in England which means we have the Monday off, so I do get a “free” day to add to all that.
And yet… it seems so not enough.
I know in the US and elsewhere that maternity leave tends to be short. I believe it’s sometimes even as short as six weeks. I’ll have had 19 weeks, but it seems so little time. I can’t believe I initially said I’d go back after two months!
It’s a bit of a drag workwise as my boss (who I managed to chase down after several weeks) said that he doesn’t want me to go back to my previous client. But he doesn’t want me to tell them either. So it’s a bit awkward. He also said when I spoke with him a couple of weeks ago to call him back when I have two weeks to go. I do, and I have, but of course he’s on holiday.
So instead of going to my client which is about half an hour away, he wants me to go to our base office which is about an hour away and three trains. I’m really not thrilled about this prospect as I know I’ll just be sitting in the office with nothing to do until he appears, and apparently he’ll be traveling that week anyway, but I suppose at least that means I’ll just leave early if I have nothing to do.
That’s my boss! He’s a great guy and I totally (platonically) love him, but he’s one of those people who has very little time and then if he ever gets round to giving you his time, you just have to drop everything and give it.
Anyway. Aside from the obvious pain I have of being separated from B, I am concerned about the whole breastfeeding thing. If you’d have said this during pregnancy I would have had a very different view. But for us, breastfeeding just works and it’s the one thing I seem able to do without much effort. After the infertility and difficulties getting pregnant, and the emergency caesarean birth, I feel it’s something I can do for him that can bring him benefit, and I want to carry on doing it as long as possible.
I’m not anti formula per se, but I don’t want to give him formula if I don’t have to. I have a good supply of milk and I’ve been pumping around once a day for the last month and a bit, and it seems to be fine. (We switched from a rather unpleasant Tommee Tippee to the Medela Swing Maxi I bought at the Baby Show – it’s way more expensive but a much better pumping experience.)
Unfortunately, B is rather resistant to the bottle. I have friends who have the opposite problem. But of course my child would have to be different! We’ve tried a bunch of different bottles… Tommee Tippee, MAM, Nuk, even the expensive Medela Calma which is meant to mimic the nipple (whose nipple, I have no idea… a bionic person’s!). Eventually we think we have found that he will take… the Lansinoh mOmma. Although apparently only from me. T has used the MAM bottles a while and he will take about 1oz extremely begrudgingly. Either way it’s about 1oz at a time. (Update: Yesterday he took 2.5oz and looked at me expectantly as if to say, “Where’s the rest?!” So I had to breastfeed him! Maybe we’ve turned a corner?)
So last week I left B for the first ever time! Well I’ve left him before for a short time like to walk to the local shop or walk Dog, but not for an extended period. I am due back to work at the beginning of June so I am in dire need of a back to work wardrobe. My pre pregnancy stuff doesn’t exactly lend itself to breastfeeding or expressing, as I tend to wear higher cut dresses (and I sure as s*** am not going to sit around pumping in my underwear!
My mother very kindly gave me some money when we were on holiday, which was to put towards some new clothes and a haircut. It was so nice of her! Think she realised I was feeling a bit unconfident when I had a mini meltdown about what to wear to the family do we went to.
I think when I first gave birth I sort of lost most of the pregnancy weight.
And then… the brunger!!
Omg. The breastfeeding hunger is something else. Turns out I’m not one of those people who wastes away to nothing and I just want to eat all the time! Luckily breastfeeding also burns calories! But it’s not really my usual amount of eating. I’m a bit of a pig lately. Also I confess that during pregnancy I really didn’t worry about diet, although I also felt fuller quicker because B took up so much room.
So the upshot of it is that I’m about a size larger than my pre pregnancy dress size. And that is two sizes larger than my fighting weight before IVF round 1 took its toll on me! And not to mention the boobs! Seriously they’re out of control. My usual size is 32C. I’ve been wearing 36DD and it’s not really the right size but I couldn’t really bear for my breasts to be touched during pregnancy and I’ve been wearing stretchy nursing bras anyway because they’re more comfortable for the Amazing Humungaboobs™ and their waxing and waning.
Anyway I measured myself according to Boob or Bust (a nursing / bra measuring website) and it turns out I’m currently a 32H! OMG, WTF, etc! So obviously that necessitates different clothes as well, because a lot of nursing clothes are a bit low cut and quite frankly nobody wants my Humungaboobs™ in their face (least of all at work!).
So I spent a day clothes shopping at the big shopping centre. T was texting me updates with pictures of B looking remarkably happy without his mother! I kind of didn’t know what to do with myself, but it was worth doing as it’s pretty difficult to try on clothes whilst babywearing (which we seem to do most of the time) and I’m the kind of person who likes to try on clothes on my own without an opinion! (Probably accounts for my dreadful dress sense!)
I’d already got some stuff from Mamalicious which I wore a lot during pregnancy, so that covered off nursing dresses. Also a couple of bits in the sale from Dorothy Perkins and New Look. (These are all fairly low end high street shops.) I’m really not a person who buys very expensive clothes often. I wish I could be one of those classic dressers but I’m not! Although I do seem to have a uniform of mainly black… On maternity leave I’ve mainly lived in jeans and JoJo Maman Bébé Breton feeding tops. Clearly not suitable for work!
Anyway, here are some headless pics to demonstrate some of my purchases. I was quite proud of myself!
Feeding vest top from B Shirt. Light jacket from New Look. Skinny jeans from Marks & Spencer. Flat shoes from New Look.
Feeding vest top from B Shirt. Jacket from New Look. Skinny jeans from Marks & Spencer. Court shoes from New Look.
I was pretty pleased with my haul. (Most of the pics were taken in New Look changing room so didn’t show all my stuff from H&M!) I also got some shirts which are good for a casual look. I’ve been living in stripy Breton feeding tops from JoJo Maman Bébé which are great for casual but not for work, so it’s good to have something a bit smarter.
I mentioned I got a ridiculously expensive breast pump bag from Sarah Wells which is an American brand. I looked everywhere for some kind of multipurpose bag but it doesn’t so much exist round here because people tend to take maternity leave until the baby has been weaned. Also the UK has a really low rate of breastfeeding so mums who go back to work tend to move to formula if they haven’t weaned. Unfortunately I was hit with a gigantic customs charge which added insult to injury! However I’m fairly happy with the bag. Just as well! I have used it for my shopping trip and it’s massive, but I haven’t tricked it out for pumping yet.
Anyway, I took some pics for interest…
Rucksack straps or handbag straps can be tucked away / pulled out as desired. The handbag straps are long enough to put it over your shoulder and carry it that way. Which is a good deal as it’s a big bag!
Pump compartment which is insulated and water resistant so you can store your pump and your pumped milk with ice blocks. There is a photo pocket where you can add a pic of your baby to aid expressing (oxytocin!). My Medela Swing Maxi double pump fits in there easily.
Top view. You can easily fit a laptop in the laptop pocket. Also room for shoes, lunch, and loads of other paraphernalia.
So I’m pleased with it all! I feel like I’m sort of physically prepared for work. Just not mentally.
The other day I went to a breastfeeding and working coffee morning run by La Leche League. It was themed around going back to work so obviously I was interested. Anyway I’m completely mortified because when I introduced myself and started talking about going back to work, I cried! Wow. I’m so not a crier. It turns out that B has turned me into waterworks central! Everyone was really nice about it and I wasn’t the only one to get emotional but still! Shocking!
It was great to meet other members of “the breastapo”. I had had no intention of joining LLL but actually have found the fb group really helpful with tips on breastfeeding, and the book (tongue in cheek named The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) is really helpful and full of tips including on going back to work.
I can’t believe my time with B is coming to an end. It’s not to say I won’t see him, but it will be different. He’s going to stay at home with T (his dad) for a while and then go to nursery a few weeks later. So we will be working parents. It just feels so soon to go back. I’m sure I will cry my eyes out when it happens.
I have built up quite a stash of frozen milk. Hopefully we will not have a defrosting disaster like we did a while ago! It’s more for backup as my intention is to pump for him the day before. So if I pump at work I’ll just give the nursery that milk the following day. The freezer stash is more just in case.
Other than that we have been concentrating on making these last few weeks really awesome for baby B. He is growing up so fast! He can now roll, which first happened two weeks ago when we were on holiday, but was more of a sort of accidental roll than a purposeful one. Today (18 weeks+1) he did both types of roll (front to back and back to front) in a really purposeful way.
He’s also gotten kind of sick of being in his rocker. I guess we didn’t really get the full money’s worth out of that but I’m planning to give it to my sister as they can use it as soon as my niece is born, so they’ll get longer to use it. My brother gave us a Baby Bjorn bouncer they were getting rid of, which is okay to put him in if you need a minute to go to the loo or something. Now he can roll, it’s not safe to leave him on the sofa!
So this weekend we took him swimming and picked up a present for him… a jumperoo! I think it pretty much was the best day of B’s life so far! He loved it!
If you’d have told me this was the kind of thing I’d be getting excited about, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s the most tacky piece of tat! And yet he absolutely loves it. If you can imagine a tiny little dude sitting in the middle of it, playing with the bits and making tinny music come out of it whilst giggling with glee – that’s B!
I don’t think I could love him more.
One of my favourite parts of the day is after B has woken up for his morning feed and then gone back to sleep. Sometimes I go back to sleep too, but more often than not I’m just lying here surrounded by my three boys sleeping (B, T and Dog). B’s in bed next to me and I just marvel at the fact that he’s here, and softly breathing, and perfect.
I get it. I get it more than you can imagine. Whenever I used to read another infertility blog, I’d mentally compare it to our journey and my own infertility (because the “fault” is mine – I’m the infertile one) and figure if ours had gone on longer or been easier or harder. And usually ours compared unfavourably, and I’d wonder if it was just too late for anything to try and fix it, and I’d get angry at anyone and everyone because we had to deal with this and others did not.
I used to get so angry at people who had babies without trying. At people who’d run the gamut of insensitive comments. (“At least you know you can get pregnant” after a miscarriage that was the culmination of 10+ years of infertility and IVF… “Why don’t you just adopt?” to two adoptees who just wanted to have someone biologically related to them in their lives…) Even at my own sibling who easily had two children – one born during the holiday we went on to get over our loss.
I was angry and jealous and honestly not the nicest person to be around for a while, so after our loss the previous year I took a step back from socialising and focused more on work, and self care. And I blogged a lot. And got amazing support from this community of bloggers. And made some real life friends.
When we finally got pregnant last year that was the culmination of a great deal of treatment including multiple operations, IVF cycles, immune therapy and at least four different hospitals and countless doctors.
It was not an easy ride.
But we are lucky because out of all that came baby B. And the pain of infertility recedes, but it doesn’t mean I’m not conscious of it. As I posted the other day, I’m grateful every single day that I have the chance to be a mother. I don’t take it for granted.
After all that I am full of joy for this chance. And I’m grateful. And I feel empathy for anyone else still going down this path because I know what it feels like. It’s been over 10 years and up to 15/16 years depending on how you count it. (Not-not trying or actually trying.)
What I didn’t do during those days of anger was wander up to people who had kids and express my anger to them. I might have felt it privately but I knew deep down that my anger at them was irrational and misplaced. Someone else being fertile is not the cause of my own infertility.
Likewise I didn’t do the equivalent of that in the blogging world. Your own blog is for venting, and you can do what you want on it. But I didn’t seek out blogs where people had kids and make snarky comments. Because it is literally not their fault. When infertility bloggers got pregnant and had kids, it gave me hope. If it became too triggering, I unfollowed. But most of the time I carried on following them because I was happy for them that it worked out, and I wanted to share in that happiness.
Ultimately isn’t that what we want to happen in the infertility blogging world? We want those people who want children to be able to have children, either through medical intervention (as we had) or adoption. Or we want them to be able to come to terms with not having children.
It doesn’t really make sense to hope that all infertility bloggers continue to live in misery and longing and never manage to have a child or come to terms with a child free life… It would be perverse to hope for that, because we’d be hoping for that for ourselves, too.
So when someone from the infertility community comes on my blog specifically to bitch about parents, in the context of everything we went through to become parents, and how recently it happened for us, and knowing our background of being adopted and the loss that entails, I can have empathy for that person but I can also be kind of p*ssed off.
I have never felt “smug” about being a mother. I literally never thought this day would come, and I went through a lot to get here, and I’m thankful every day. Being grateful is not the same as being smug. And I don’t post stuff about parenting to upset infertile people, or for any other agenda. I talk about my life because my blog is about my life and my experiences.
I understand that to some in the trenches of infertility that talking about parenting following infertility may be triggering. I know that some infertility bloggers have stopped blogging after having children through birth or adoption. I know others who have started new blogs.
For me, my blog was named Zero to Zygote for a reason. I hoped one day where there was no child there would be a child. In my first post I talked about my dream of being able to tell my child the story of how he came to be. It was always meant to be a story of hope, and that journey included venting of infertility anger, processing of adoption loss, working through the grief of pregnancy loss, as well as everyday experiences and thoughts.
So I’m asking you, infertility bloggers, if all this triggers you, please do not take out your infertility anger on me on my blog. The space for that is your own blog, or a support group. You’ll never be able to chase down every person that has a child to comment on their blog or tell you how angry you are that they have one and you don’t. And it will just make you feel worse. Just unfollow me and save yourself the trouble of thinking negative thoughts.
And your anger is misplaced. I wouldn’t wish our experiences on anyone. It was not easy and it was not enjoyable and it almost broke me. I hope you resolve yours more quickly than we did (whether by having a child or being happy not to have one; I understand that having a baby is not the be all and end all, even if it sometimes feels like that). I hope that everything works out.
Of all the anger I had about infertility, the ones I hoped for the most and where my anger dissipated were for the others in similar positions to ours. But maybe you are still deep in the trenches right now and you can only feel your own grief and loss, and I get that. You’re entitled to feel that way. Life is unfair sometimes. Take it from someone who’s been there for many years: unfollow your triggers. And if that includes me, unfollow me.
I wish you all the best.
Mother’s Day in the UK was a while ago, but I saw this video on Facebook from the Today show and it made me cry.
Mother’s Day message – Today
Everything has changed for us with the arrival of baby B, after many years of infertility, medical intervention and loss. This time last year I had just got my positive pregnancy test for B and I was so scared it was going to go the same way as our previous year’s pregnancy, little PB who was lost to miscarriage.
For Mother’s Day here in the UK I posted this message on Facebook, with a picture of my mum with me and one of her with baby B.
“It’s my 39th Mother’s Day as a daughter and my first as a mother. Heading to see my mum, who first met me when I was a few days old and has loved me ever since. She’s now [Grandma] to B but she’ll always be [Mum] to me.
Both of us had a long and difficult journey to be a mother. Thinking of all the mothers out there today, especially the mothers without children and children without mothers. I promise not to take it for granted. ❤”
I hope for anyone who finds this day difficult that you know that we see you. And I hope that next year you’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day with happiness.