Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas

We're in the UK for Christmas. It's been tremendously snowy here, which has been gorgeous, but has caused complete chaos. My husband got delayed in the Middle East for 12 very frustrating hours. Luckily he was flying Business so got treated very well, but I pity the poor economy passengers who I think were left on an aircraft for more than four hours with no food or drink, waiting to see if Heathrow would re-open. It didn't....

In the end my husband changed to a Manchester flight and flew in minus his bag, which has just arrived, four days later (to be honest, we didn't expect to see it again this side of Christmas!) Dad and I set off at 5am to collect him on icy roads in -12c. It was a scary journey, but we were determined to get him!

We're now down south with my father-in-law getting ready for our first family Christmas. Our son is changing every day, and he's so much fun. He's sitting up and trying to talk. Brilliant.

Merry Christmas! We are so lucky to be together, as so many families aren't this year. And we are truly, truly blessed to have our beautiful little boy. We will never, ever, take that for granted.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Things I hope my Grandmother hasn't taught me

My son and I are currently in the UK, staying with my parents. My husband's flying in tomorrow for Christmas. We can't wait.

Yesterday, we all went up to the north of England to visit family there, including a visit to see my Grandmother, who hadn't yet had a chance to meet my son, her third great-grandchild.

Those who've read my blog for a while will remember this post about a trip I made to see her just before I moved out to the Middle East. It was a lovely visit, one I will always remember.

Sadly, yesterday was a day I'd rather forget. Mum had been telling me for some time that my Grandma's attitude had deteriorated. She has always had a rather selfish, stubborn personality, but this seems to have got worse and worse over the last ten years or so. Added to this, she also seems to have become very paranoid. And, as I mentioned in my previous post, she's a wily old bird, but she's putting this to bad use now, unfortunately.

At 95, she's still living in her own home. The problem is, she's finding it harder to look after herself, but continually refuses to pay for the care she needs, insisting her two daughters (one of whom is my Mother, who lives 2 and a half hours away) should be doing it instead. She continually claims to be lonely, but refuses to be picked up to visit family members, has refused an invite for Christmas Day, and won't even countenance visiting a local day centre (not HER sort of people or HER sort of food, apparently!)

When we saw her yesterday, I started trying to have a nice chat with her, but instead of responding in kind, she laid into me for not phoning her when I'm visiting the UK. I tried explaining how busy and overwhelmed I am when I visit, but instead, she then said "Yes, well at the moment, your life is full. But you wait until you're old and nobody cares about you, your husband has died and your son has left home, and you're all alone, and then you'll know how I feel". Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, indeed...

She complains nobody visits her enough. Well, it's clearly not surprising when she's so horrendously unpleasant. The sad thing is that if she wanted company, fun, laughter and family, she could have it in abundance! Comparisons with Scrooge come to mind...

So, I really hope that if I have the honour of getting to her age (she also told me I might get lucky and die before her age! Briliant!) I hope I manage to keep my ability to wish joy for other people, and find joy all around me. Because, if she even tried to look for it, it's definitely there.

Monday, 6 December 2010

A baby just like you

Earlier today I was listening to a Christmas album I've listened to every year since I was tiny - John Denver and the Muppets, A Christmas Together. I'm not exactly John Denver's biggest fan, but I have to say that an album which could have been horribly cheesy actually succeeds in being funny, charming and touching, and I'm looking forward to playing it to my son every Christmas as he grows.

Whilst listening to it, I realised there was a song lurking on there that held a lot of relevance for me this year. John Denver wrote it for his little son. I thought I'd share the lyrics with you. I particularly love the third verse.

A Baby Just Like You

The season is upon us now
A time for gifts and giving.
And as the year draws to its close,
I think about my living.

The Christmastime when I was young,
The magic and the wonder.
But colours dull and candles dim
And dark my standing under.

Oh little Zachary, shining light
You've set my soul to dreaming,
You've given back my joy in life
And filled me with new meaning.

A saviour king was born that day
A baby just like you.
And as the Magi came with gifts
I've come with my gift too

That peace on earth fills up your time,
That brotherhood surrounds you.
That you may know the warmth of love
And wrap it all around you.

It's just a wish, a dream I'm told,
From days when I was young.
Merry Christmas little Zachary.
Merry Christmas everyone.

Words and music by John Denver and Joe Henry

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Room to grow

We've now been in our new place for a few weeks, and it already feels like home. Despite it being slightly empty of furniture (we will get there in the end!) it's light, bright, and comfy. We love it. It's made such a difference to how I feel about living here. I thought I might feel cut off, moving from a compound full of other aviation wives, but in fact, I feel free and far less claustrophobic. It was definitely the right decision.

The house currently looks even more gorgeous, as we've just put our Christmas decorations up. Yep, it's a tad early, but that's because we're going home to the UK for Christmas! I'll be flying home with our little boy in less then two weeks, and my husband will follow four days later after a trip to the far east. We can't wait - my husband is particularly looking forward to the break, as he has permanent jet-lag at the moment from too much flying! An occupational hazard...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Moving on up

Exciting times here in the Flying High household. We're in the process of moving from our company apartment to a huge villa with five - yes, count 'em, five - bedrooms! It also has a roof terrace, two balconies and crucially, a back garden, something I've been craving ever since we moved here. I can't wait to have some private outside space back, especially as our little boy grows and starts to need more space to play.

The villa is unfurnished, so we've had a huge challenge furnishing it for a reasonable price, but it's been quite fun, actually. There's a big second hand market here as lots of expats turn up, buy new furniture and leave within a couple of years, so there are bargains to be had. We've managed to find a gorgeous king size bed and matching bedside tables and dresser for £500, two lovely single beds for £100 for both, and much more besides. I can't wait to live somewhere where we've actually chosen the furniture for a change!

The move came about really as a result of my PND. We realised we were both feeling quite claustrophobic in company accommodation. We realise too that we are out here for the long haul - at least another four years in reality - and so we both feel it's time to have a HOME here, not just somewhere to live. When we walked into the villa we both knew instinctively that it was perfect, somewhere where our family could grow and be very happy.

So, we have removal day set for Sunday... Wish us luck!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Are you ready to have children?

This was sent to me the other day by a friend. It's an oldie, but a goody....


Follow these 15 simple tests before you decide to have children :

Test 1

Women: To prepare for maternity, put on a dressing gown and stick a beanbag down the front. Leave it there for 9 months. After 9 months remove 10% of the beans.

Men: To prepare for paternity, go to local chemist, tip the contents of your wallet onto the counter and tell the pharmacist to help himself. Then go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office. Go home. Pick up the newspaper and read it for the last time.

Test 2

Find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels and how they have allowed their children to run wild. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behaviour. Enjoy it. It will be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.

Test 3

To discover how the nights will feel :

1. Walk around the living room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 4-6kg, with a radio tuned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly.

2. At 10pm, put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight and go to sleep.

3. Get up at 12am and walk the bag around the living room until 1am

4. Set the alarm for 3am.

5. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2am and make a cup of tea.

6. Go to bed at 2.45am.

7. Get up again at 3am when the alarm goes off

8. Sing songs in the dark until 4 am.

9. Put the alarm on for 5am. Get up when it goes off

10. Make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.

Test 4

Dressing small children is not as easy at it seems.

1. Buy a live octopus and a string bag.

2. Attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that none of the arms hang out.

3. Time allowed for this - all morning.

Test 5

Forget the BMW and buy a practical 5-door saloon. And don't think that you can leave it out on the driveway spotless and shining. Family Cars don't look like that.

1. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment.

2. Leave it there.

3. Get a coin. Insert it in the cassette player.

4. Take a family size package of chocolate biscuits; mash them into the back seat.

5. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

6. There! Perfect.

Test 6

Get ready to go out.

1. Wait

2. Go out the front door.

3. Come in again.

4. Go out.

5. Come back in.

6. Go out again.

7. Walk down the front path/driveway.

8. Walk back up it.

9. Walk down it again.

10. Walk very slowly down the road for five minutes.

11. Stop, inspect minutely, and ask at least 6 questions about every piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue, and dead insect along the way.

12. Retrace your steps.

13. Scream that you have had as much as you can stand until the neighbours come out and stare at you.

14. Give up and go back into the house.

15. You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

Test 7

Repeat everything you say at least 5 times.

Test 8

Go the local supermarket. Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child. A full-grown goat is excellent. If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat.

Buy your week’s groceries without letting the goat(s) out of your sight. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.

Test 9

1. Hollow out a melon.

2. Make a small hole in the side.

3. Suspend the melon from the ceiling and swing it from side to side

4. Now get a bowl of soggy cornflakes and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon while pretending to be an aeroplane.

5. Continue until half the cornflakes are gone.

6. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure that a lot of it falls on the floor.

7. You are now ready to feed a 12-month-old child.

Test 10

Learn the names of every character from the Fimbles, Barney, Teletubbies and Disney.

Watch nothing else on TV for at least five years.

Test 11

Can you stand the mess children make? To find out:

1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains.

2. Hide a fish behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.

3. Stick your fingers in the flower beds then rub them on the clean walls.

4. Cover the stains with crayon.

5. How does that look?

Test 12

Make a recording of Janet Street-Porter shouting "Mummy" repeatedly.

Important: No more than a four second delay between each "Mummy” - occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet is required.

Play this tape in your car, everywhere you go for the next four years.

You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.

Test 13

Start talking to an adult of your choice. Have someone else continuously tug on your skirt hem/shirt sleeve/elbow while playing the "Mummy" Tape made from Test 12 above. You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.

Test 14

Put on your finest work attire. Pick a day on which you have an important meeting. Now:

1. Take a cup of cream, and put 1 cup lemon juice in it.

2. Stir.

3. Dump half of it on your nice silk shirt.

4. Saturate a towel with the other half of the mixture.

5. Attempt to clean your shirt with the saturated towel.

6. Do NOT change. You have no time.

7. Go directly to work.

Test 15

Go for a drive, but first...

1. Find one large tomcat and six pit bulls.

2. Borrow a child safety seat and put it in the back seat of your car.

3. Put the pit bulls in the front seat of your car.

4. While holding something fragile or delicate, strap the cat into the child seat.

5. For the really adventurous...... Run some errands, remove and replace the cat at each stop.

You are now ready to have kids.


Thursday, 21 October 2010

The perils of Facebook

Yesterday, I cast my eye over the news page of Facebook, something I do most days. It was full of the usual stuff - someone's wedding pictures, someone's baby pictures, someone's pics from a recent holiday, and lots of varied status updates.

Recently, a number of my former colleagues have been involved in a very interesting project which they're very proud of, and there have been lots of updates and pictures from them on FB about it. Reading them, I began to feel rather sad that I'm not working for my old company anymore, and that my career is, for the moment, completely on hold. I felt, I must admit, rather jealous.

Then, I considered my own Facebook activity. Recently, I've added gorgeous pictures from our recent holiday in France, as well as some amazing pics of our son, and recent updates include ramblings about Christmas and lovely barbecues on the beach. All true, of course - but not the whole picture, either. Have I, for example, ever announced to the Facebook world that I feel particularly depressed today? Or that I'm homesick today, and miss my husband like hell? Nope. Because instinctively, we all edit the face we put forward to the world. It's only natural. We don't want people to know that our lives are less than perfect.

So, that's something I then applied to the activity of various "friends" on FB (not close friends, of course, who I speak to regularly. They actually *are* privy to my deepest fears and thoughts, as am I of theirs). Once you remember to think about the spin we all put on our lives, you realise that nobody's life is ever perfect, no matter how it looks.

I think Facebook is a pretty interesting study in how we all interact socially actually. And it's also a very useful tool for keeping in touch with lots of people who, to be honest, if it wasn't for Facebook, I'd have completely lost touch with long ago. That's worth remembering, too - if it wasn't for FB, these people wouldn't be in my life at all.

Onto other news:

Our son is now nearly 6 months old. 6 months! It's incredible. How did it go that fast? He's now eating solids, and almost sitting up unaided. I take him to a baby music class now once a week, which he loves.

I'm feeling much better, although missing my hubby, who's just left for a four day trip.

We're also about to hopefully make a move to a new home, very near to where we live already. We're very excited. It's gorgeous, and huge! But that's for another post....

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

New Virgin Atlantic advert

Just had to post this one. Virgin seems determined to "sex-up" the airline industry, and they seem to be doing a good job of it!

Shame the reality doesn't *quite* match up to the image though, eh? Gone are aviation's glamour days... But nevermind, the fantasy's rather fun.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Congratulations, Emily!

I just wanted to post to congratulate my good Bloggy (is that a word?!) friend Emily and her husband Frank on their two forthcoming bundles of joy!

I have followed their battle to become parents closely and I know how much pain it's caused them, and how much they have desperately prayed for the blessing they've now been given - double trouble! :)

Enjoy every moment of the pregnancy you two, you deserve it.

Wishing you a healthy and happy nine months,

Flying High x

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The challenge of being an expat new mum

Following on from my last post about my diagnosis of PND, I thought I'd put a little more flesh on the bones about what I've been facing.

I truly thought we'd met most challenges face on and were pretty settled out here by now - it's been over a year and half, after all. However, I really didn't count on the hard reality of becoming a mother half-way across the world from my family and close friends.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I've struggled with breastfeeding. To be honest, struggled is an understatement. For the first few weeks my son refused to feed from me, so I had to pump and supplement with formula around the clock. I had an in-built guilt about using formula (think it's a middle-class British thing!) so was absolutely determined to soldier on regardless. This meant buckets of tears, and I had no support at all from the nurses in the hospital where he was born (because culturally, more Arab mums bottle feed than opt for the breast.) Luckily I found a British midwife who helped me, my husband was a trooper and stood by my decision absolutely, and my Mum came out after a couple of weeks to cheer me on, but quite frankly I feel like I've been to hell and back with it. To this day I worry constantly about whether he's getting enough milk from me, and struggle to find a comfortable position to feed him in. So, breast feeding with no proper support from health visitors, doctors, etc - challenge number one.

Summer in the Gulf is universally felt to be the hardest time of year out here. It's 50c some days and you're basically confined to being indoors until dusk, particularly with a new baby. Add to that the month of Ramadan, which was most of August this year. Ramadan means shops are shut for a large part of the day, and restaurants and cafes closed all day, only opening in the evening (when the baby is in bed, of course..) and you can get cabin fever very easily indeed. Imagine then being a new mum, stuck inside with a baby, with a husband who's away for about 4 days a week on average. Hmmm..... So, that's another challenge to add to the list.

I've also been feeling the distance from my old friends very keenly. Although there are, as I predicted when I pregnant, masses of mums around to be friends with, they're all NEW friends, and as such I don't feel I can open up to them and ask for help when I really need it. I'm still in that "getting to know you" stage with all of them. It's tricky. Hopefully I'll begin to feel more confident over the coming months, and as my son's need for daytime naps reduces (at the moment he's sleeping for at least 3 naps a day, and won't sleep in his pram) I'll be able to get out and about to baby classes and coffee mornings to meet more people and get a regular rhythm to life, because that's something I really feel I've been missing.

The last challenge is, quite simply, being a new mum when your husband is a pilot. I could be living back in the UK and still have this to deal with. I miss him dreadfully when he's away now, much more so than before I became a mum. I miss his help with our son, as he's a brilliant Dad and regularly looks after him while I catch up on sleep. He's the third vital member of our family, and when he's away, things just don't feel right.

Still, I'm beginning to feel a lot more confident when I'm by myself now, so that's a good sign I think. My son and I have a good routine and I'm managing to get chores done and even get some time to myself, something I've really been missing.

It seems ridiculous, doesn't it, that I wanted and ached for my baby so much, and then feel foul of depression once he'd arrived. Trust me, I feel the irony of that more than anyone. I wish wholeheartedly that his first few months of life had been so much easier than they were, but hey, you can't change what's in the past, you can only look forward and make changes in the future, and that's what I intend to do. I love my son and my husband more than anything, and together, we'll get through this.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The one where I admit I have post-natal depression

So, there we are. Five months after the birth, I have finally admitted that my low feelings just haven't gone away. After a conversation with a friend of mine out here who's a GP, I finally decided I needed to get some help.

I came home the other night and looked up the symptoms of post-natal depression.

They are:

•Low mood. Tends to be worse first thing in the morning, but not always.
•Not really enjoying anything. Lack of interest in yourself and your baby.
•Lack of motivation to do anything.
•Often feeling tearful.
•Feeling irritable a lot of the time.
•Feelings of guilt, rejection, or inadequacy.
•Poor concentration (like forgetting or losing things) or being unable to make a decision about things.
•Feeling unable to cope with anything.

I have almost all of them, at least some of the time.

Despite adoring my son, and loving looking after him, it's been a real struggle becoming a Mum, particularly so far from home, away from friends and family. And, of course, being a new mum with a husband who flies long-haul for a living, and is therefore away for three or more days at a time.

I've also missed my career much more than I'd anticipated. The shock of going from career woman to stay-at-home Mum of a new baby has been vastly more than I'd expected.

So, here I am, with a diagnosis. It does feel a relief to have a label for it. I've been started on a course of anti-depressants, and fingers crossed they will start to work soon.

For now, I have some very supportive friends out here, and my husband's being brilliant. As ever, he's my best friend and soulmate, and I couldn't be doing any of this without him.

I thank God for him, and for our beautiful boy. I know that this is only a passing phase, and soon it will be a distant memory. I just need all the strength I can muster to get through this. I'm going to give it my very best shot.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

A tale of two airlines

We've just returned from a wonderful holiday in France. We flew there via the UK as the flight loads to Paris were looking pretty heavy. Doing this meant we got to stay with some friends either side of our trip, which was fantastic, although of course it meant a couple of extra flights, no mean feat with a baby in tow.

We decided to fly with EasyJet from London to France, as they were the cheapest on the day we wanted to fly (not CHEAP, by the way, just the cheapest... It was a popular day to fly!) Our experience with them was so bad, I must say we've made a resolution never to fly with them again if we don't actually *have* to. It was bad from the start - we did online check in but when we got the airport the line for "Fast" bag drop was longer than the normal check-in line - about 40 minutes of waiting! Then when we got to the desk we were told we were 2 kilos over the limit (we only had 20kilos each, and zero allowance for our baby, which is rare amongst airlines). So, we had to pay excess baggage. Fair enough if we were miles over, but come on guys, 2 kilos? (And incidentally, on the way back from France our bags weighed less than 20 kilos, with the same amount of stuff in them. I suspect some miscalibration on those scales. Is it deliberate? Hmmmmmm).

On board, we had the usual mad scrum for seats (I will never understand why not allocating seats saves money.) The seats were uncomfortable, and don't recline at all... Urgh. Then, when we got to France, we discovered that the airport had built a new "low-cost" terminal, which was basically a shed. There were no seats at baggage reclaim, and no toilets either, and we waited 45 minutes for our bags. Brilliant.

Contrast this to our return, which was BA - Club! We had managed to get an industry deal that cost as much as the Easyjet flights, yet this time we had 20 kilos allowance for all three of us (BA gives a full allowance, even to infants), lounge access at the airport, and a lovely comfy seat and champagne and dinner on the flight home. Granted, of course, this was club, but even people travelling BA economy get the same baggage allowance, a snack and drink for free (unlike EasyJet) and get to fly from a proper airport terminal that has things like oh, seats, toilets, that sort of thing...

So, EasyJet, the verdict is - NEVER AGAIN. The sad thing is we've flown EasyJet many times, and had a much better experience, but I just feel that the penny pinching - paying to check in bags, being very tight on baggage allowance, etc , has gone too far. Our days of flying low cost are over.

In my opinion at least, the discomfort and stress is simply not worth it. Particularly with a baby in tow!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

A marriage, at what price?

My eyes were drawn to this story on the BBC News site recently. The long and short of it is that a Church of England priest used his slot on Radio 4's Thought For The Day to pronounce that many of today's weddings have "lost their way", and that "they are specifically designed to be all about 'me', about being a 'princess for a day' ". I couldn't agree more.

When we lived in the UK, I sang in my local church choir, and was often called upon to sing at weddings. What we saw was sometimes pretty shocking. On one memorable occasion, the vicar came into the vestry ashen faced, saying that he wasn't looking forward to taking the ceremony at all. When we asked him why, he said he'd just seen most of the congregation piling out of the pub down the road, and that they all looked pretty drunk. And drunk they certainly turned out to be. The vicar had to make a special announcement at the beginning of the service asking people to respect the solemn nature of the ceremony, and we all watched in horror as the congregation giggled, chatted, and laughed throughout the couple's vows. Now, some will disagree with me, I know, but I really do think that the moment a couple take their vows should be treated with the respect it deserves.

And it's not just the attitude of the congregation that gets my goat. It does seem to me that there's often far more focus on the wedding than the marriage it's celebrating. My husband actually balked at a lot of the bells and whistles my mum wanted for our wedding, because he felt that, in his experience, more often meant less in terms of weddings versus marriage. He had been to several lavish weddings of friends, only to see them divorce a few years later.

I'm not saying of course that taking pride in organising a beautiful day means you're not taking your marriage seriously, because that would certainly make me a hypocrite. We planned our big day with love and attention, and wanted everyone to enjoy themselves and celebrate with us, too. But I must say that at its core, and vitally important to us, was a very meaningful, quiet, special ceremony where we made promises to each other in front of the people in our lives who matter to us the most.

Because when you take away all the frills and vast quantities of money spent, what's left is a relationship. And I agree with the Rev Dr Giles Fraser that, in some cases, lavish ceremonies are being used as sticking plaster for marriages that may not last the test of time.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

A long haul pilot's dream roster

My husband's currently away on a trip. To get to his destination, he had to fly throughout the night, and before he went he was bemoaning his forthcoming jetlag and the fatigue which he knew he was going to feel in the days to come.

Then, he looked again at his roster. This month, he is flying to the USA, Africa, Australia and Japan.

When he first started his training, and hell, even in his last airline job, this sort of roster would have been completely unobtainable, his idea of pilot heaven.

Reminded of this fact, he left for his flight last night with a spring in his step. A small one, mind, but it was definitely there...

Meanwhile, our son and I are missing him and looking forward to his return on Saturday. As always, a small celebration is planned.

As they say in life, it's the little things...

Monday, 26 July 2010

Happy Anniversary

My husband and I recently celebrated four years of marriage. It seems to have flown by (if you'll excuse the pun!)

My brother-in-law sent us an email on the day to congratulate us. In it he said that he and his wife had been reflecting on all the hugely stressful events that we've had to deal with since then, and said how impressed they had been with how well we'd coped with them. He also said that he hoped the next four years would be better for all of us - something I sincerely hope will be the case.

Since we married, you see, we've dealt with:

Having a baby (yes, wonderful, but stressful too!)
Two car crashes
Major financial worries
Moving country and employer
Leaving an established career behind
And, of course, the worst one of all - losing a parent.

The only major life stress that we haven't experienced is divorce, and trust me, that's not on the table!

So, here's to another four years, my darling. Life is always brilliant with you, no matter what we face, because I married my best friend and soul mate. Together, we can get through anything.

How lucky are we?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Take That - the reunion

Obviously this news is rather old by now (personally I blame the baby!) but I just had to post about Robbie Williams' decision to rejoin Take That.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I was an ardent teenage Take That fan, and that for some reason my obsession has refused to abate in adulthood. And I must say that for a Take That fan, the idea that the original line-up may well tour together next year is very, very exciting news indeed.

Now, I appreciate that for those of you not given to liking boy bands, this will all seem very frivolous. Which, I suppose, it is - except that for some unknown reason, this band have the ability to make me feel better, always. They represent escapism (rather vital during my hormonal teenage years) and nowadays, pure, innocent and unadulterated fun.

So, I greet this news with joy. One of the best parts of being a grown-up is the awareness that you can like what you like, without worrying what anyone else thinks. So, hoorah for Take That, all five of you!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


We've just got back from a lovely long break to the UK. It was the first time my Dad and my husband's Dad had met our son, and it was so wonderful to see them fall in love with him, just as we have. He's really growing up now, starting to make new noises every day, is reaching our for toys, and has learned to stick his tongue out when we do, and his smile is the most beautiful and captivating thing I've ever seen.

It was brilliant to be back in the UK, and we made the most of the wonderful summer weather (we always seem to get the best British summer weather when we visit - it's raining there now!), ample supplies of bacon and sausages, and lots and lots, (and lots) of booze. Naughty Mummy and Daddy, eh! We're now several pounds heavier, but we had a wonderful time.

We loved seeing our families again, although my husband found my parents rather grating after a week staying in their house (which I think is par for the course with in-laws. My parents are also particularly demanding and full of beans, which can be quite exhausting when you're trying to have a holiday!) Going home when you're an expat, you see, is a difficult thing to do; whilst YOU want to have a holiday, your family wants to make the most of it being such a rare chance to see you, hence an inevitable conflict over visits, activities, and my father's favourite, "the schedule". Hmmm, it tires me out just thinking of it.... The plus side of their enthusiasm was that mum and dad took care of our son for us so that we could have dinner out together sans baby for the first time, which was lovely, and we also went for a long hill walk together too, knowing that he was in safe hands. It's something we can't do back here in the Gulf, so we really appreciated it.

At the end of our couple of weeks, despite a few annoyances along the way, and a lot of fairly stressful miles on the hire car (our families live miles apart in the UK) we felt we'd had a lovely time, and were not looking forward to leaving.

Saying goodbye at the airport was harder than usual. My parents came to see us off, and I felt so guilty taking their new Grandson away from them, just when they'd got to know him. For me, I realised I was going to miss the gorgeous green fields and hills, the relaxed atmosphere where you can drink beer in a pub garden and buy a bottle of fizz from a supermarket, eating bacon sandwiches for breakfast and sitting out in the garden until 10pm because it's still light. In short, all the things you take for granted when you live in the UK, and only realise are fantastic when you don't live there anymore. And, most of all of course, we miss our families, who we love hugely and miss very much indeed. We very nearly turned around at the aircraft door - it was that heartwrenching to leave.

I can't say I'm back here with joy in my heart. We've lived here a year and half now, and are very settled, have lots of friends, a good future and great financial security. This is the best place in the world to be right now, aviation wise, and I've carved out a great career niche here which I will be able to continue to exploit when our son is older.

But, as the saying goes - there's no place like home....

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

A conspiracy of silence?

I've been thinking a lot about the nasty dose of baby blues I got after the birth of our son, which is now thankfully fading to just a memory. Certainly it was partially hormonal, but also I think the result of lots of different things altogether - the shock and awe of becoming a mother, being unable to breastfeed initially and worrying about it, lack of sleep, and being far from home and friends and family. Not really a surprise, then, that I felt so rubbish.

What really gets me though is that no-one tells you this is how you're likely to feel! There's so much focus on the pregnancy and birth, and not on the first months afterwards, which arguably are much more of a challenge. I think perhaps it's collective amnesia; once you've got past that stage yourself you wilfully forget it, happy to put it behind you. Plus, why would you tell a first time mum this - it will only make her worry! Still, I've been very struck by how many mums have shared their experiences of their first few weeks with me, and how similar they are to mine. It's true of course that no amount of explaining can describe how it feels, so perhaps that's it. You've just got to find your own way.

Thankfully now things are falling into place for us. I love our son with an incredible passion, and know we are immensely lucky to have him. I'm out and about most days with him, meeting other mums and having precious family time when my husband is home. My body's healing, and I'm breastfeeding without a problem now.

Oh, and we're heading back to the UK for a break soon. I can't wait. It will be so wonderful to introduce our son to everyone! We're very proud parents...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Bump - the first month

Our beautiful son is now just over a month old. I realise weeks have gone by since my last blog post, but I have to say this parenting lark is taking up a great deal of my time! Just finding time to shower and clean-up the house if tricky enough, let alone writing an email or two or, God forbid, blogging!

Having said that though, we've come a long way since he was born. As I mentioned in my last post, I really struggled with breastfeeding, and it really upset me. It was something I was determined to do, and there was very little support here from the hospital staff, who basically just said that if I couldn't breast feed him, I'd have to give him formula, and that was that. Not what I wanted to hear! Luckily a combination of a British midwife out here, my husband's support and some bloody minded determination (plus our son getting significantly stronger) won the day, and I'm now managing to feed him myself almost exclusively. I am incredibly relieved, but it was a battle that took a lot of energy out of me, particularly at a time when I needed all my energy to adjust to new motherhood.

I was suffering from a nasty case of the baby blues until recently. I can only describe it as PMT on steroids. I really felt like I was losing my mind at times. In was incredibly hard, not just for me but for my husband too, who ended up dealing with a tearful me on a daily basis. Thankfully the dark cloud seems to have lifted now - and about time.

I'm determined to enjoy our son, who is simply incredible. I stare at him sometimes, just amazed he's ours.

News-wise, we've managed to beat the bureaucracy over here and now have a British passport and residence visa for our son, which means we can head home to the UK in July to introduce him to our families. We are quite nervous about travelling with him for the first time on a plane, but I've been getting tips from lots of other families out here. Fingers crossed he's a good flyer!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Introducing.... Bump!

Our beautiful son is now a week old. Nothing can describe how we've been feeling for the last seven days - our lives have changed completely, but in a fantastic way.

The C-section itself was straightforward and my husband was able to be in with me in the operating theatre throughout, something which is extremely unusual in Middle Eastern society. We are tremendously grateful to our doctor who pushed to allow my husband to be included; I really couldn't have done it without his support. And for both of us, the moment when they lifted him out and dangled him (by his legs!) over the curtain to meet us will stay with us forever.

I was discharged from hospital after three days - we couldn't get out fast enough - and have spent the last few days in a daze trying to figure out this parenting lark. We're sleep deprived and tremendously nervous parents, but we're getting there I think. I've found breastfeeding a challenge, but am persisting with it. Just my first of many challenges on the road of motherhood, I suspect!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Four days and counting

We have just four days left to go before the C-section. I can't believe it's so soon. We are excited, petrified, full of awe... It feels completely unreal.

My husband is currently on his way across the Atlantic, due back on Friday night. That gives us a day here together on Saturday before the big day! I've been praying he makes it back on time. I must admit the volcanic ash cloud that has been hovering over Europe has made me nervous about him going away, despite the fact his airline has simply swapped to more southerly routes to avoid it completely. You just *never* know with these things, and it would be just our luck that he'd be stuck in the USA just when he really, really needs to be here! So, God willing he'll be back with me on Friday night. Please, please, please..

Oh, and while I'm at it, I've also been praying that Bump doesn't fancy popping out before then, too. I'm actually staying with a friend tonight and tomorrow just in case I need to make a mad dash to the hospital. So far, though, I've had no obvious Braxton Hicks and no early labour symptoms that I'm aware of, so fingers crossed it will be fine.

On the subject of the volcanic ash cloud - am I the only one to find it slightly unnerving that all of a sudden, the closure of UK airspace was lifted completely, with no significant change in the density of the ash? It's like the government and the CAA just suddenly decided it wasn't a risk anymore. I know that they've been saying they needed time to collate data from test flights, etc, etc, but part of me feels it can't really be THAT safe to be flying in volcanic ash, even if it's relatively thin... I just hope they're right, I really do.

On the plus side, the announcement might have come in the nick of time for already cash-strapped European airlines who are close to folding. I don't want to name airlines on here, but there are several that are struggling pretty badly, and I feel for all of the crew and their families, and pray we don't get another high-profile airline collapse very soon. This week's delays will have caused them tremendous financial pain, that's for certain. Money many airlines simply don't have. So, hurrah for being able to fly again!

I have a feeling this will probably be my last post before the C-section, so I'll sign off for now, and will be back when we are Mummy and Daddy!

Can't believe I just got to type that...

Friday, 16 April 2010

C-section vs natural birth

So, the date has been set for Bump's birthday, barring any unforeseen circumstances - nine days to go!

My final scan this week showed that Bump is still breech (no real surprise there) so the hospital has booked me in for a c-section. I'm quite relieved really to have a plan in place, and also relieved because my husband has managed to get 10 days off starting on the day of the op, so he'll be able to spend quality time with me and the baby, and get some impressive Daddy baby-care skills in while I'm recovering from the surgery.

What's surprised me though about this whole experience is how judgemental some people can be about what seems to me is an intensely personal experience, i.e the birth of our baby. Now, I'm sure my pregnancy hormones are making me ultra-sensitive, but a few reactions to the c-section decision have been fascinating, and slightly insulting if truth be told.

It seems to me that some people think I'm "copping out" from attempting a normal delivery. This couldn't be further from the truth! Cripes, if we could be sure that Bump could be delivered safely that way, we'd attempt it, but given the particular position (full, footling breech) and new, well respected research showing that a caesarean birth in this situation is the safest method for mother and baby, make attempting a vaginal delivery a very foolhardy thing indeed.

Part of me wonders whether some women who've struggled through difficult natural births feel resentful that they weren't able to choose this route. I think also that some women seem to wear an imaginary "badge of honour" after a natural birth, and feel perhaps that I'm letting the side down.

What a load of rubbish. Part of me would still love that delicious uncertainty and excitement of guessing when Bump might choose to arrive: would love to be able to put into practice all the reading I've done about natural birth, would love for my husband to be at my side coaching me as I gave birth to our child the way nature intended.

But given that if we did it this way there's a high chance our baby might be oxygen deprived at birth and that I might need significant medical intervention, well, that way is closed to us completely.

So, dear people, both in real life and online - please think before you pass judgement. This is our baby, our birth, and our choice. All that matters to us is that we get to take our healthy baby home with us afterwards. Which is what everyone wants, after all.

Monday, 5 April 2010

An unscheduled hospital visit

For a while now I've been getting nervous every time my husband has gone away on a trip, because something bad always seems to happen while he's away. Past examples include a car accident, a nasty fever and falling over and ending up in A&E. I've even taken to joking that I'm going to ground him until the birth!

Now I'm almost serious. Just one hour after he left for a four day trip over the weekend, I started vomiting, and before I knew it, I had full blown gasto-enteritis. It lasted all night and well into the next day, and eventually I realised I just wasn't getting any better - in fact I was feeling worse. I also realised I just wasn't able to keep even water down, and aware that this couldn't be good for the baby at all, I finally decided to call the hospital.

The ambulance came immediately, and they put me on a drip and took me to hospital. At A&E they diagnosed severe dehydration (there were signs my muscle was starting to be used for energy, as my body wasn't getting anywhere near enough nutrients) and admitted me overnight.

This was my first ever overnight stay in hospital, and with my husband away, it was a very scary experience. Luckily a couple of wonderful friends took shifts staying with me unti bedtime, one of them even bringing me a "care package" of something to sleep in, some warm socks and even her ipod, pre-loaded with lots of British radio podcasts. I was so touched by their amazing generosity.

I shared a room with just one other woman (a real improvement on the NHS in the UK, where I'd probably have been in a ward with a minimum of four beds!) and bump and I were well looked after, but there's no getting away from the fact that hospital is NOT home. The bed was slightly uncomfortable, the room too light, I missed my duvet, my pyjamas, my own shower (in fact ANY shower - I couldn't use one as I was continuously strapped to my IV - I even had to take it with me to the toilet!) Most of all, though, I missed my husband. He called me as often as he could (luckily, there's no problem with the use of a mobile in hospital here) and I was so glad just to hear his voice.

The medical staff actually wanted me to stay a second night, but I took the decision that I would feel much better at home, and after some persuasion they discharged me yesterday afternoon. The relief of getting back to our apartment was incredible.

My friends here have rallied round, too - I got back to notes under my door offering help, and friends have brought me books, DVDs, things to drink and just wonderful company. Another made me an Easter meal last night (as much as I could eat of it!) and I was immensely touched. When you're this far away from home and your husband is thousands of miles away, things like that are so important.

Thank God my husband is back tomorrow morning. I've missed him so much. It's at times like these when you just wish your husband did a 9-5 job in an office just 30 minutes away, rather than an international, 24-hours a day job with an office mile high in the sky...

Friday, 2 April 2010

Almost parents...

I'm now 35 weeks, and the big news here is that Bump is still breech, and refusing to move. We had a scan last week and the doctor told us that Bump's legs are "deeply engaged", and that in her experience, babies don't generally turn from this position at this stage in pregnancy. So, we're probably going to be scheduling a c-section for the last week of April! We can't believe we're going to be parents so soon. We are extremely excited, and nervous too, of course. Note to self: definitely, definitely pack your hospital bag this week!

I'm suddenly starting to panic about all the things we haven't sorted out yet. For example, I realised the other day that we haven't bought any baby socks yet. Hardly something to keep you up at night, is it? Hormonal pregnant women are irrational at the best of times.

The upside of needing to have a c-section is that my husband can arrange to definitely be at the birth, which is a very precious thing. He's managed to move his leave request from May to the last week of April so, if Bump still won't turn, he'll have around 10 days at home with us after the birth, which will be wonderful. Of course if Bump DOES turn, he'll have to try to move his leave again, and who knows if the rostering department will oblige!

Nevermind, we'll put our trust in God on this one, and just go with the flow. It's all we *can* do, after all.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

One born every minute

I'm feeling rather emotional after watching the first couple of episodes of a British documentary, One Born Every Minute, which follows the everyday goings on of a labour ward in a British hospital. These episodes showed a natural birth and two c-sections, and it was completely fascinating, and made me cry, of course. The very idea of the beginning of a new life, and therefore the start of a new family, makes me feel like welling up nowadays. I blame the hormones.

What I did think was interesting, however, was the behaviour of the Dads during birth. One kept playing practical jokes (including trying to lock his wife in the toilet during labour!) Another one just sat in the corner silently, and refused to go in for the c-section and let his partner's mother go in instead, and yet another just looked at his girlfriend with a rather blank expression as she faced her fears over the birth of their baby, which had a known physical disability. I can only hope that these men were acting this way to mask their true feelings - anyhow, it was uncomfortable to watch them. I know I'd be distraught if my husband didn't seem as focussed and involved in the birth as me - but then, everyone's different, I suppose.

We made an annoying discovery last week. It seems the way British passports are being processed in the Gulf is going to change at exactly the moment we need to get Bump's first passport. Instead of being printed here, ALL our documents (including both our passports) will have to be sent to Europe for a process which could take up to four weeks. Which of course is brilliant when a) You're a pilot and need your passport at all times and b) You are under time pressure from the government of the country you live in to get your child's residency sorted asap. Brilliant, eh?

My husband is therefore going to have to apply for a second passport (which we're told is at the discretion of the Embassy!) and we're also going to have to engage in a mad scrum when Bump is just days old to get the birth certificate (which takes a week here), a passport pic (that will be a cracker!) and then to the courier to send our docs off for the passport. Oh, and we're having to order new copies of our full birth certificates from the UK, because we need those, too. To say I'm annoyed about this would be an understatement. Just what you need when you've just had a baby, eh!

Anyhow, rant over. What watching the documentary certainly did make me think about is that I need to pack my hospital bag! I've got six weeks to go until Bump's due date, which incidentally is likely to be the day of the general election in the UK.
As one friend said to me last week, that gives new meaning to getting through the pains of Labour...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A year in the Gulf

I've just passed my one year anniversary of expat life. So much has happened since I arrived here. It's been one hell of a ride on a crazy rollercoaster, lots of ups, lots of downs. I'm not sure I'd like to do it again! But I AM proud to have done it, and I'm very proud at how well my husband and I have made it work, despite all the things life has thrown at us in the last few years - redundancy, infertility, moving continents, and a terrible bereavement. I'm glad we couldn't see any of it coming, I must say. Sometimes it's just better to live day by day.

It's also sometimes the small things that make life better. Today, for example, I managed to buy Marmite at the supermarket (clumsy pregnant me managed to break my last jar!!) and then a friend came round and brought me British cakes and chocolates her pilot husband had just bought specially for us on his latest trip to Heathrow. I was so touched.

Anyhow, one year on, and we're still here, about to become a family of three. It's an amazing miracle which we will never fail to be grateful for. I had a check-up this morning, and the baby's still breech (so what's new?!) but apart from that, things are fine. I am SO grateful for that. My husband took a picture of me at eight months pregnant which I put up on Facebook, and I was amazed by how many lovely comments people have been kind enough to leave! Clearly I don't look as much like a beached whale as I think I do...

One inevitability of being pregnant is that people will come up to you with all kinds of unsolicited advice. My mum has been feeding a lot of it to me via her friends back home. Yesterday, she came up with a real cracker. Apparently, someone she knows also had a breech baby, and had such a brilliant suggestion for how she managed to get her baby to turn, that I thought I'd leave you with it.

Apparently, she played loud pop music in her pants...

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Eight months

32 weeks. Wow. It's now less than 60 days until bump's due date. I'm feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness. And I'm slightly overwhelmed by how much there is to do, both bump related and non-bump related, before then. I made a list yesterday and stuck it on the fridge. It made me feel a little bit better, a little bit more in control.

We still need to buy a buggy and a car seat, but have been waiting until we got a special cashback credit card before we make what will be fairly expensive purchases. The credit card has turned into a running joke in our house. First, the bank needed more proof of ID than they'd initially asked for (and we already have two accounts with this bank!) Then, they took over two weeks to actually print the cards, having said it would take 2 days. Then I went to try to pick them up, and the bank was closed because of an unannounced bank holiday (which happens over here quite a lot!) Then finally, I went yesterday and they were open. Hallelujah, I thought. But twas not to be. It seems I can't pick them up, despite the fact my name's on one of the cards, because I'm not my husband. His signature is required for them both, apparently. By this point I was losing my temper - I'd sat in traffic for almost an hour to get there in 30c heat, and I'm pregnant and tired. This was my second attempt at picking them up. I told the woman behind the counter that this is how I felt, but was just met by a blank, surprised stare. Hey ho, what can you do? I went outside and sat in the car with the a/c on for 10 minutes to calm myself down before doing battle with the traffic. Clearly the credit cards will have to wait until my husband can come to pick them up himself. One of the delights and general frustrations of living in the Gulf.

Bump is still breech. The doctors are telling me in one breath that there's still time, then in another they're also talking about scheduling a c-section, which I have mixed feelings about. Obviously it's surgery, and has a longer recovery time than a normal birth and I'd have to stay in hospital longer, but on the plus side, I would be able to schedule it for when my husband is definitely home. So, we shall see. I'm being realistic about it and have read up on C-sections as much as I can so I'm prepared.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Accident prone idiot

I seem to have been accident prone all my life, and now I'm 30 weeks pregnant it's starting to really annoy me.

Yesterday I managed to trip over in the office car park and fell onto the gravel on my hands and knees, instinctively protecting the baby. Although I knew I hadn't hit my bump, I was pretty nastily knocked around by it and decided that I should go to my now favourite locale, A&E, to get checked out.

After taking ages to find the heartbeat (WHY does that always happen to me? Apparently the baby's breech at the moment, and the heart wasn't where they'd expected it to be...) they told me that all was fine, but sent me to see a doctor anyway to get patched up. Consequently I arrived back at work with huge bandages around my hands. Such a great look. Honestly, I haven't had grit covered bloody knees since I was at school! I know they say pregnancy makes you clumsy, but this is ridiculous.

I honestly can't trust myself at the moment. I've been dropping plates and glasses, finding parking the car much harder than usual (I scraped it on another car a couple of weeks ago... I was infuriated with myself).

Not that of course this is entirely new. Somehow in the past I've managed to break my toe twice simply by stubbing it badly, break my foot by falling over in a boat on holiday (a whole month in plaster after that one) and I've lost count of the number of times I've burned myself whilst ironing, baking, and cooking.

Perhaps this is just something I'm going to have to live with! My mum has always called me Calamity Jane. Hopefully this won't extend to dropping the baby....!

On the pregnancy news front, as I said I'm now 30 weeks, and the baby's breech, but I'm told this isn't anything to worry about at this stage. We had a private childbirth preparation class the other day, which was good to do. My husband is about to approach the airline about trying to get a favourable roster around the baby's due date. Fingers crossed for that! If all else fails, I'm currently looking around for a doula who could be on standby to come and hold my hand if my husband is away for the birth. I feel better at least having a back-up plan...

Monday, 22 February 2010

Things that happen here that never happen in the UK

1) You're pregnant, you've just been to the supermarket, and you're wheeling your trolley to your car. Out of nowhere a supermarket worker takes it from you and unloads everything into your car, free of charge. Oh, and takes the trolley back for you...

2) On the subject of trolleys - you leave them anywhere you like in the car park, because a) There's nowhere actually to put them and b) That's what everyone else does.

3) When you're at the doctor and they ask how long you've been married, they take that to be the length of time you've been trying for a baby.

(On a related note, I had to have an anti-D injection the other day for our rhesus incompatibility - I'm neg, my husband's positive. A British friend was telling me that a UK hospital tried to persuade her to have the same injection, despite both her and her husband being negative, on the grounds that 10% of babies born in the UK actually have a different father from the one on the birth certificate! Quite shocking. And that DEFINITELY wouldn't happen here. You'd find yourself in jail first!)

4) You have a minor traffic accident, and the police are so concerned that you're a) a woman and b) pregnant that they process everything at the speed of light so that you can go home and rest. And they spend half the time asking about your baby, whether it's a boy or a girl, etc, etc.

5) You sit at traffic lights and there's a goat on the back seat of the 4x4 parked next to you.

6) You sit at traffic lights and see that there are at least four toddlers unrestrained in the car beside you. Shocking. They do sell car seats for children here, it's just that people aren't keen to use them!

7) You never have to get out of your car at a petrol station to fill your own tank. Ever.

8) People look at you in amazement when you tell them you don't have a cleaner/maid/driver/nanny.

9) You drive to a beach, and it's completely empty... That is, until the next person arrives, and despite having the choice of the whole beach to park on, parks right next to you.

10) Your local park often has more security guards in it than people, and must consequently be the safest park in the WHOLE WORLD. I swear that there's a whole team of them who just keep an eye on the safety of the ducks and fish. (And no, that's not a joke... they keep watch at close quarters as children feed the ducks...!)

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Three months to go

Incredibly, I'm now 27 weeks pregnant, and just three months away from my due date. 12 weeks! Wow, this has all gone so quickly. Bump is kicking me very consistently now, which is so wonderful, and other people can feel (and see!) the kicks from the outside, which is very fun indeed. The downside is that my bladder seems to be a key kicking target. I'm considering counting my loo visits every day, to see if I can reach a world record. Right now I'm keeping an exciting novel in the bathroom to entertain me. I'm also becoming best friends with every toilet attendant in every shop and restaurant in the city...

There was good news on the gestational diabetes front. I don't have it! Hooray. One less thing to worry about.

Last week I was involved in a car accident, not a rare occurrence for anyone here, sadly. Luckily it was very minor, but I was still worried about bump, so went along to the A&E to get checked out. Everything turned out to be fine, but it was still a nasty time (as hospital visits usually are). At one point they put me in the trauma department in a cubicle next to several people who were seriously injured and in a lot of pain. Very stressful all round, particularly as my husband landed back from a USA trip a few hours after I was admitted and so had to come straight to the hospital from the airport, and it was all complicated by the fact that I got transferred to the Women's Hospital A&E, where he wasn't allowed inside to check on me. That sort of cultural difference is quite hard to accept under those sort of circumstances, but we managed. At least the care was excellent, which is the most important thing.

I was amazed to see last night on a forum I read regularly that a woman with the same due date as me has just delivered her baby girl, severely premature, but alive and well so far. Her waters broke early, and she went into labour a week later. It's so amazing to think that bump might be able to survive outside of the womb even now.

We've been thinking a lot recently about the birth. We've found a British midwife who's going to come to do some private birth preparation classes with us (unfortunately with my husband's roster, group classes have proved impossible). We're also thinking of asking her to be on standby for me in case I go into labour when my husband's away flying - I think it would be very reassuring having her with me if he couldn't be there (God forbid, but you never know with this business!)

I had some very sad news from a friend last week. She's a neighbour of mine on the compound, and recently told me that she was 12 weeks pregnant. I was overjoyed for her. Sadly, however, the 12 week ultrasound NT test found suggestions of genetic abnormality, so she went ahead with an amnio, which confirmed Down's Syndrome. Her age was a factor - she is over 40, and knew it was a possibility, but it was still a horrible shock. I know it was a very difficult decision for her, but she and her husband decided to terminate the pregnancy. I'm so sad for her.

I have no idea what I'd have done if I'd been in her shoes. Pregnancy is such a gamble in every way. Even now, all we know is that things are fine with bump *so far*. As I've said before, I take nothing for granted. I'm just praying things will work out ok in the end.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Letter to my 16 year old self

This post is inspired by a book that's just been published in the UK . In it, lots of celebrities write letters to themselves when they were 16, giving advice they wish they'd had back then. I heard a few excerpts on Radio 4 Woman's Hour the other day, and it got me thinking: what would I say to my teenage self, if I could?

Dear 16 year old me,

I'm not entirely clear why I'm bothering to write this, as I'm fairly sure you're going to ignore this advice anyway, knowing you as I do. Still, I reckon it's worth a try, as so far the only person you really listen to when it comes to advice is the voice inside your head. Who needs to listen to parents, anyhow? What do they know? Anyway, I digress.

I know that at the moment, the future - and the life outside your parents' very lovely but isolated country home - is an intoxicating mixture of exciting unknown opportunities and frightening potential failure. Will you be able to succeed in your chosen career, something you've wanted to do for years already? When will you be able to live somewhere more exciting, ie. when will life, as far as you're concerned, eventually start? Will a boy ever feel the same way for you as you feel about them? Will your thighs/bum/boobs ever resemble those of the ladies on Baywatch? Questions, questions, questions. Here, I'm hoping to provide just a few answers. Ignore them at your peril.

1) Firstly, career. I've learned over the years that persistence really pays off, and trust me, yours will, in the end. But be prepared for a great deal of rejection. Try to learn to rationalise it and focus on the good things you have going for you. Work hard, try not to get too emotional (always a struggle for you!) and keep your eye on the prize. But the other really important thing to bear in mind, and something that will become more and more obvious as you grow older, is this; a career isn't even half of what's really important in life.

2)As for moving somewhere more exciting, let me tell you that very shortly, life will never be dull again. In fact, you will find yourself looking back on the halcyon days of wandering open fields with a Sony Walkman with fondness(but only occasionally!) All too soon you'll be at University in the big smoke. Oh, and then later on you marry this amazing man whose job will ensure life is NEVER dull! But more of that later...

3) As for the body image issues, well, the good news on this is that your body, despite what you might think right now, is lovely, and probably the best it will ever be! (That's sort of the bad news, as it's downhill from now on!) The other good news is that you will come to love it and appreciate it. You'll never quite rid yourself of your insecurity (very few ever do) but you soon realise that we all have bits of our bodies we don't like, so we're all in it together.

4) Now for the biggie. BOYS. This topic has been consuming you ever since you developed female hormones, and it will be with you a while yet. I think years of single-sex education haven't done you too many favours on this front, leading you to find all boys exciting, whether they are arrogant idiots or not. I'm quite torn on this point, actually, as I really believe every single mistake you will make in relationships makes you into the woman you will become, so I don't really want to give too much advice. I can't stop myself however from specifically telling you that, when your first serious boyfriend breaks up with you at 18, I'd like you to walk away completely, and not hang around in case he changes his mind... But come on, who am I kidding, you're going to ignore me anyway! Oh, and the other thing is... It WILL all be ok in the end. Despite the emotional rollercoaster you will be on for another 10 years, there's a rainbow at the end that's really worth waiting for. So, enjoy the ride, as best you can.

Now, for some extraneous bits and bobs:

If you're being bullied, know that the people who are bullying you probably have bigger problems than you do.

Many of the most successful students academically struggle to translate that into success in later life. So don't worry if you come (God forbid!) 3rd place in an exam!

Love and appreciate your parents, because you have no idea how long they're going to be around, and, infuriating as they might be, they are very very precious.

Persuade your mum to let you go clothes shopping with friends and a budget, to avoid mum-influenced teenage fashion disasters (I still bear the scars...!)

Lots of friends come and go. Don't be too upset about the ones that go by the wayside, this happens a great deal in life. The ones that really matter are the ones who stick with you.

Oh, and Frizz Ease is a product of brilliance. Use it on your hair!

And finally...

When something amazing is happening to you, like leaving school, going to Uni, meeting your husband, and getting married, savour every single moment. Take lots of pictures, and keep them. Keep your letters and cards. Because one day, these will be more precious to you than you could ever imagine.

Enjoy it! The best is yet to come.

Lots of love,

You xx

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Back into the lion's den

Some of you will remember this post, in which I unwittingly found myself attending a mother and baby group coffee morning.

As I was undergoing fertility treatment and was hormonally challenged (to put it mildly) at the time, it was a complete disaster. I ended up weeping uncontrollably in front of a group of complete strangers.

Well, the other day I faced my nemesis again, although crucially, this time willingly. There's a very active group of new and expectant mums here which meets once a week, and I decided it might be a good thing to make some new friends in a similar situation to me. I had hoped to do this via ante-natal classes, but finding group classes is proving tricky out here, so I figured a coffee group might be another good option.

The morning didn't start well. My husband was away, and as I drove to the venue I began to get horrible pains in my chest. I was extremely frightened, and when I parked up I found the pain was worse when I stood up, so I sat back in the car and tried to calm down. I rationalised that, as the pain was high up in my chest around my breastbone, it was most likely heartburn, something I've only had mildly in the past, but had read could be a problem at this stage of pregnancy. Eventually it eased off a little and I walked very slowly into the cafe and found the group.

Unfortunately there weren't any other expectant mums there this time - they were all new mums. Still, I sat down and the lady next to me suddenly said "I know you from somewhere..." As I was puzzling about it, she suddenly piped up, "Oh yes, I remember now. I was at that coffee morning at your compound....."

Horror flashbacks! Acute embarrassment. This woman has witnessed my worst ever public breakdown!

Luckily, she couldn't have been nicer. She congratulated me warmly, introduced me to her son who was in her tummy last time we met, and made me feel welcome. Once I sat down I owned up to my killer heartburn, and all the women present reassured me that that was what it was, and that I had nothing to worry about. One even gave me some Rennies to try to combat it. I was extremely grateful.

One of my friends at home told me a while ago, however, that you grow to both love and hate these sort of groups. Love the fact that you can get reassurance and advice, but hate the fact that they can also be exclusive and competitive. (Well MY baby sleeps through the night! Well MY baby can sit up now! Etc.) We'll just have to see how I find it.

It's certainly a miracle being on the inside of one of these groups now, rather than on the outside looking in. The outside is a cold, frightening and desperate place to be.

Other related news - I did my Glucose Tolerance Test yesterday, because my doctor thinks I'm at high risk of gestational diabetes due to my PCOS. It was pretty horrible. They give you a nasty sugary orange drink to drink after 12 hours fasting, then take four separate blood tests over three hours. Brilliant. I was so knackered by the experience I slept for three hours when I got home in the afternoon! Fingers crossed I pass it...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

New life in 3D

We've just had our 22 week "anomaly scan". This is where they check for any obvious problems with the baby's organs and limbs, and I'm happy to report that bump passed with flying colours! We are so relieved. The scan was a particularly amazing experience because it was in 3D. This meant that we were able to see our baby's face for the first time, a magical experience we will never forget. Bump was sucking its thumb and smiling!

I've been feeling the baby kick a lot recently too, which is also a pretty amazing experience. My husband has even been able to feel the movement from the outside - I think we're breeding an athlete! This is less of a bonus at night when I'm trying to sleep. Night-time seems to be bump's favourite time! This doesn't augur well for our sleep!

In other news, I've just spoken to my mum in the UK on skype. It's snowing heavily there, and she moved the webcam so that I could see their garden blanketed in the white stuff. A small part of me feels a teensy bit jealous (there's something very romantic about snow, isn't there) but I also feel rather smug sitting here in 25c in a t-shirt, looking at the sun shining down outside our apartment, when she's in -2, in a thick jumper, hugging her portable radiator. There are definitely benefits to living out here!

Friday, 1 January 2010

Aviation security under the spotlight, AGAIN...

Gordon Brown's announcement today that the UK will "move quickly" to enhance airport security strikes me as shutting the door after the horse has bolted. Aviation security is always reactionary - locking flight deck doors after 9/11, banning large bottles of liquids after the transatlantic liquid bomb plot. Now, we have various kneejerk measures including a ban on leaving your seat in the last hour of flight (?!) How on earth that's supposed to stop a determined terrorist, I have NO idea. But it would be hell for pregnant ladies like me, I can tell you!

No, what needs to happen now should have happened years ago. We need to get rid of our feelings of prudishness and a slightly skewed interpretation of human rights, and bring in body scanners and passenger profiling at every airport.

I know that some people feel that body scanners invade our privacy, but really, I feel the security benefit and lack of hassle involved far outweighs the unease some feel about others seeing what they look like under their clothes. And as my Dad says, it will be worse for the person checking the scans than for him! In all seriousness, the scanning technology currently being trialed in the UK at Manchester Airport involves technicians in totally separate rooms with no view of the security area merely flagging up issues to their colleages on the ground if necessary. Therefore they have no idea who they're looking at on these scans, and even if they did, how quickly would they get bored? At some point during the first day, I bet. After all, we're all pretty similar underneath! And when you consider how useless a metal detector is against today's terrorists (they don't tend to favour grenades and knives these days) I think body scanners represent the only realistic way forward, whether you're offended by them or not. And just think for a second.. No need to take off your belt and shoes, no need for a pat down... I know which option I'd prefer!

And as for passenger profiling - this has been largely shunned due to fears that certain sectors of society will feel victimised by it. But without getting into statistics here, lone male travellers and people of particular faiths and lifestyle (which of course depends on the motive for terrorism at a particular time) have been shown to be the greatest risk. What's so wrong with asking a few extra questions? True, determined bombers could try to get round this by, God forbid, bringing their families with them, etc, but it's worth a try. I think most people would be prepared to put up with a little extra hassle if it makes them safer.

So, that's what I think. Clearly my view is influenced by the fact that my husband flies planes for a living, and that I'm a frequent flyer myself.

What do you think?



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