Tuesday, 29 December 2009

A look back at 2009

What a year.

If we'd known at the beginning of the year how this one would pan out, what would we have said?

January: Our first attempt at Clomid failed. My husband flew off to the Gulf to begin his new job, unsure of what life would be like out there. An initial planned 6 weeks apart became more than two months as we struggled to sort out my visa. In the meantime, I packed up all our belongings and resigned from my job.

February: I have an emotional leaving do from work, and the UK gets its worst snowfall in years, just as my husband is studying for his new type-rating in the unrelenting sunshine of the Gulf. Having succeeded in packing/throwing away/shipping all our things, I move out of our house and in with mum and dad until I can fly out to be with him.

March: I bid goodbye to the UK for I know not how long. I'm moving to a country I've never even visited. I'm very sad but also overjoyed to see my husband again. When I get there I'm pleasantly surprised by our new apartment, but also dreadfully homesick for the first couple of weeks.

April: I begin to settle in and see the benefits of our new lifestyle. TTC wise, however, we're still in the dark, albeit with a bit more hope as my periods seem to have restarted, despite being 45 days apart each time! I decide to wait a while before attempting Clomid again. I continue to struggle to deal with the infertility, finding each happy announcement from people I know very difficult to cope with.

May: In May I take the big step of registering with the state healthcare system out here and am advised to try Clomid again. I take it at the end of the month and begin the two week wait to see if it's worked.

June: The Clomid doesn't work, but I get a positive progesterone test result, suggesting I definitely ovulated that cycle - a real step forward. At short notice we head back to the UK for a well-deserved holiday, and catch the best two weeks of the British summer while we're there!

July: We celebrate our third wedding anniversary in style. At the end of the month, I begin my third round of Clomid.

August: I struggle with the Clomid side-effects. At the end of the month, I fly with my husband on one of his trips to the US and have an amazing time. And a few days after we get back I do a pregnancy test and.... I'm pregnant! A complete miracle. I'm thrilled and petrified in equal measure. We fly back to the UK the next day for a planned holiday and tell our parents, who are delighted.

Then, a truly horrible bolt out of the blue. My wonderful mother-in-law died from a major stroke with absolutely no warning just days after she found out she was going to be a grandma. We are all devastated.

September: We spend another fortnight in the UK supporting my father-in-law and organising the funeral. It's a horrible time. Then, when we fly back to the Gulf, we resolve to get a scan done to establish whether the pregnancy is viable (I feel sure the emotional upset of the previous few weeks can't have been very good for the baby). We go for the scan with little hope but are overjoyed when the doctor plays us the heartbeat, a moment neither of us will ever forget. I'm 8 weeks pregnant and it looks good so far.

October: I begin to realise I really am pregnant, and it's amazing! We go for the 12 week scan and are told everything looks ok, so we start to tell people, which is very exciting.

November: We head back to the UK for a trip to see our families and go on a brilliant impromptu holiday in Scotland, organised by my husband. We are immensely lucky with the weather (the north-east floods badly just after we leave!) and have a wonderful time, just the two of us.

December: I'm now five months pregnant. We travel to the UK for 10 days before Christmas and have a fabulous if hectic time visiting all our family. We're again lucky with the weather, as it snows! My husband's Christmas roster isn't brilliant, so I fly with him to the US and we spend a really romantic Christmas Eve together stateside, flying back home on Christmas Day. It was an unusual but very special thing to do, and we're both so glad we made the effort to do it.

And that brings us up to now. My husband is on a trip over New Year (our first one apart), so that will be difficult for us both.

Still, I know that we're both looking towards 2010 with hope that it's a much better year, one where we can build on our new life out here, and welcome the new life we've made together into the world healthily and happily.

I wish every one of you a healthy, fun and most importantly, happy New Year.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The Christmas message of hope, revisited

Last year, just before Christmas, I wrote this post.

In it, I wrote:

For me this year, the baby, the symbol of God's love, has a new significance. Regular readers of this blog will know that my husband and I would love a child of our own, and that it's not going to be very easy for us. Hearing those familiar readings inevitably brought my own concerns to the fore. We would dearly love a child of our own by next Christmas. So, as I sat on that cold and rather uncomfortable pew last night, I said a silent prayer of hope that it might happen for us.

As I write this I can barely believe how much has changed in the past year. In the comments on that post, Someday wrote that she hoped the move would bring "many wonderful changes" to our lives, and that has really proved to be the case. I couldn't possibly have imagined it then (I could barely imagine the following week, let alone the following year), but in fact the move away from the UK has brought us many, many good things.

At the pinnacle of those things, of course, is the miracle of my pregnancy. I now pray that all goes well (because I take nothing for granted), and that next year we will be experiencing our first ever family Christmas.

I'm also saying a prayer for all those couples who are still waiting for the child they so dearly want. I will never forget how it felt, and I feel for every single one of you as you prepare to bid farewell to this year and usher in the next with as much hope as you can muster. Hope is such an easy word, but such a difficult thing to cling onto in the face of such adversity. Good luck, and God bless you.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Christmas in the Middle East

We're currently in the UK on another madcap dash around the country visiting family, before returning to the Gulf a few days before Christmas. It's a beautiful morning here, just above freezing with the sun out and low in the sky, one of my favourite kinds of day. I'm glad we managed to find time do this, as there's nothing quite like sharing this time of year with those you love - particularly given the terrible time my husband and his father have been through in the last four months. I feel like it's a perfect compromise, as my husband didn't manage to get Christmas off this year. To be honest, I've always preferred the run-up to Christmas more than the actual day itself anyhow. This way we get to have fun with our families, see a bit of the UK, stock up on some Christmas essentials we can't buy at home, and generally indulge all our British foibles for a little while. After all, this will be our last visit here until the baby is born, as long-haul flying will soon become too dangerous and uncomfortable for me to make it worthwhile.

What has really surprised me recently is how nice preparing for a Christmas in the Gulf has actually been. Obviously we live in a Muslim country, but I have been pleasantly surprised to see Christmas decorations (including nativity scenes!) widely available in the shops, and Christmas decorations up in the shopping centres and restaurants. We had a wonderful luxurious meal at a 5* hotel the other day for my husband's birthday, and there was an absolutely enormous tree there - it must have been more than 12 feet tall! (Oh, and a human sized gingerbread house.. they don't do things by halves in the Gulf states!)

I've also enjoyed gathering the ingredients for our traditional British Christmas cake (lots of dried fruit, brandy, marzipan and icing) and putting up our tree, which is the hugest we have ever had, even in the UK! And I also *think* I have our Christmas meal sorted, having even found a Turkey imported from the USA!

All in all, somehow it feels fine that we'll be spending the Christmas week so far from "home". As you know, we'll hopefully be spending Christmas Eve in the USA together, and part of Christmas Day on a plane (in Business Class, thank God...!) So this year isn't traditional for us in any sense, and I'm really getting to like that. This year has made me take myself out of my comfort zone, and I've been amazed by how much I've enjoyed the results, despite the obvious challenges involved. Sometimes you can really surprise yourself.

And despite getting used to a cold, frosty (and let's face it, often wet and dreary!) UK Christmas, I'm quite looking forward to a warm and sunny Christmas for a change. It's all rather more authentic, anyhow. This is where Christmas began, after all...

Friday, 4 December 2009

A move towards the East

It's exactly a year since my husband got the job offer he'd been waiting for, and we knew we'd be moving out to the Gulf. A great deal has changed in that year...

For a start, I've noticed a real shift in attitudes towards the Middle Eastern airlines amongst the flying community. When we first announced we were moving out here, a lot of our pilot friends felt slightly sorry for us, having to move our lives halfway across the world. There was definitely a feeling that being in a Muslim country would be a tremendous trial for us, too (I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked if I can drive, work or drink alcohol here, etc, etc). Of course, we were forced into a corner to come here by the collapse of my husband's old airline, so we felt sorry for ourselves, too.

Now, though, things seem to be changing. We've been contacted by a great number of British pilots asking about the recruitment process here, driven of course by the dire state of the industry in Europe at the moment. Many UK airlines are offering career breaks to pilots who take a job elsewhere, which is a very attractive offer that many of them are choosing to take up. And on closer inspection, living out here isn't as bad as many fear. One pilot recently asked us if we would choose to do this again if we were actually given the choice. So I thought about my answer...

Well, for a start, my husband is flying for an airline with very, very deep pockets. Just knowing it's not going to go bust any second is quite wonderful. My husband is flying an aircraft he has always wanted to, and didn't expect to be able to do at this relatively early stage of his career. Financially we are doing pretty well, despite the fact I'm only working very part-time. This is of course helped by the complete absence of tax here (yes, there really is NO tax!). We have comprehensive international health cover, and the hospitals out here are extremely good, which is a relief, as I'm planning on giving birth in one! And of course our accommodation is provided, we can rent our house out at home, we get great staff travel across the industry, we get a transport and communications allowance, will get school fees paid... etc, etc. Suffice to say we're better off here than we were at home.

Then, of course, there's the biggie; we really don't believe I'd be pregnant if we were still living in the UK and I was still working full time in my stressful job. For us, that's the deal breaker.

So, despite the negatives of living here - being far from friends and family, the difficulties of living in a different culture - we are actually very happy, as are almost all of the expat pilots and their families who have moved out here in the last year, too. We all agree that basically, life out here is what you make it. If you want to be miserable, it's perfectly easy to do that (just stay in and refuse to meet people, don't personalise your house, spend all your time staring at the TV, etc). But if you get out there and do things, meet people, and make the most of things, it's a pretty great place to live.

My husband and I were walking along the seafront the other day in the lovely warm (but not hot) evening breeze, reflecting on how life has changed for us over the past year. We both agree that this period of our lives is going to be one we will look back on extremely fondly.

There've certainly been lots of downs along with the ups, but on balance - would I do this again, given the choice? Yes, absolutely. Although of course I'd like to do the move knowing what I know now, not arriving clueless as we actually did... Wouldn't it be great if we could always do that?

Oh, for time travel...



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