Sunday, 18 August 2013

Life's Expectations

Summer's-end bouquet
This is a post that's being brewing for a while - I guess you could say almost nine months but in truth it goes back a little bit further than that. I think that for any woman, the moment that the switch goes in her brain and she accepts that she just might be ready to start thinking about being pregnant, having a baby, starting a family - all those commonly used expressions to describe an event so utterly life changing and gob-smacking - that everything changes. Life certainly doesn't appear the same anyway - of course that's despite nothing having changed around us, but the change in our minds. 

When I was a zoology and botany student back in the 1990s, most of my reading was Lovelock, Darwin, Dawkins, Huxley and the array of evolutionary thinkers that really crystallised our place in this world for me. The science is fascinating and still unfolding and revealing awesome detail as to the workings of our universe, the origins of life on our planet and the possibilities of life in other galaxies within our vast universe. And I accepted the thinking behind the selfish gene, the urge to leave our genes after us, the finding of the right partner etc etc. and that it wasn't necessary really to do that to have a fulfilled life. There is so much to learn and discover as it is. 

Of course all that science and rationale goes completely out the window when you fall truly madly deeply for a sexy man that basically sets you in a spin, and you give in to the human condition and suddenly you start wanting to have a house, home, ten babies (only exaggerating) and a small farm in an idyllic Waltons-esque manner on a hillside somewhere where everyone is blissfully happy together - no stress and no driving crazy hours to deal with awkward people (you know they're out there!). 

And so, given that the puppy that became Holly has survived three years with us and - despite her own issues in relation to never ever having enough food and always wanting to be in clear sight of us - she seems to be relatively happy and balanced, it was time to start thinking about getting real about having our own babies. Ten is a big number after all and even one would certainly take some time :)

And we did - start thinking about it that is and getting our heads around it - and then we just decided there is never a right time and we should just shut up and went for it. 

Holly and 'bump' - chilling
That's when you realise that it's all a little bit more complicated than just deciding yourself, and everything just happening as you would have it in your own mind. And why shouldn't it? Well, I guess sometimes we are too used to everything happening as it should - like water in the tap everyday, food on shelves in a supermarket and power at the switch of a button - it's all so easy and so controllable really, if even we don't particularly appreciate it for what it is. 

And so as we arrive at the near eve of labour and delivery of the tiny baby girl still growing and wriggling inside me, the past year seems like a dream. 

In June 2012, after a hectic month of traveling and conferences, we found out we were pregnant. I say we, because obviously it it a team effort ;) That was a very exciting time for us. We got as far as the stage when I could feel myself stretching and growing to accommodate this tiny person inside me, and nearly to the point of sharing our news with the rest of the world. But it wasn't to be. At 16 weeks, we lost our little baby 'in the making'. In medical speak they call it a miscarriage. 

I pause here because, no matter how strong you are, how able you are to accept and reason with the loss, the sadness and the memory of what followed is the most difficult I have ever had to bear in my life so far. Fortune and the timing found us surrounded by family in a beautiful place for a couple of weeks immediately after, and in truth it was the kindness of others - parents, brothers, sisters, faraway friends at the end of the phone and amazing nursing staff - that softened the sharp reality of the loss. That little baby turned out to be a girl, and she was delivered on September 13th - her tiny body is buried with my grandparents in a nearby village. We called her Anna, after my godmother and aunt whose memory is an inspiration to me, though she died when I was only aged four years old. And Baby Anna  won't be forgotten, for all the best reasons in the world - like realising how precious life is, how vulnerable we are and what a gift to be able to talk about it and experience every precious breath of it. 

Three months later we came to the shortest day of the year and while it was the shortest, it certainly brought it's own adventure. We were lucky, we had left it to fate and weren't expecting things to happen so fast, but they did. I put it down to all those yogic contortions in Austria, but himself might have other ideas ;) Anyway, to cut a long story short - the test was positive and it was a merry - though just a bit anxious - christmas!

I didn't feel any different for the first week or so, but once I passed week 6 - well, that was when the same nausea returned, as before. From week 6 to around week 15, there was no great pleasure in food. Or anything really - I was just tired and probably a lot anxious despite being positive and ready to accept whatever might happen. The visit to the GP at week 16 was the most worrying, but the heartbeat was there - not like before, and there were signs of  a new person growing inside of me and no reason to expect anything other than good things to come. 

After that, it was fairly uneventful - I didn't start to 'show' until at least 26-28 weeks and we could continue blissfully incognito with a pregnancy that seemed so smooth and carefree, that it seemed unfair to reveal it to the wider world. 

Flash forward to the middle of August and we're on the final countdown. The last few weeks have been challenging - no headstands or shoulder-stands since about week 36, but you really are glad for gentle twists and stretches, and breathing and meditation to calm the mind and body. And so, restricted movement - though a problem to the ego - is really not a problem at all. Heartburn and an assortment of gastric symphonies are my daily companions - ladies, need I say more? And a pressure that bears down on heretofore unappreciated pelvic muscles that can be totally debilitating at its worst. 

Pregnancy means that pretty much your body is teeming in a hormone called relaxin, which basically relaxes every muscle in your body in time for the main event - hence the food coming back up and unfortunate 'accidents' when one sneezes, coughs or laughs. It is certainly not a glamorous time for a woman. And I think it's something that is experienced differently for every woman. Again I've been incredibly lucky - no swelling, can still walk, can still sleep, no gestational diabetes or major emotional breakdowns. 

Despite all of these challenging side effects - the journey is truly is amazing nonetheless - despite the restricted movement, the intestinal challenges, the headaches, the tiredness and the waking up four times in the night to pee - it's absolutely amazing. Your body does it all on its own - you just have to feed it the right stuff and of course avoid the bad stuff. No training required, no diploma or certification necessary - simply an absolute wonder and brilliance of nature. And each one of us started out that way - an embryo dividing rapidly into placenta and person, then body parts, towards a self-sustaining system that once successfully delivered can live for over a hundred years. Wow. Something that is so everyday we might take it for granted. But after the experience of the last year, we certainly don't. 

And it will be a wonder of nature, especially once we break the pain barriers of labour and delivery for the first time in the next few weeks. To be honest - I can't really think beyond that phase - even though I know, and I've been told, and we've been warned on every turn that life will never be the same again. But, after over a year of ups and downs, happy and sad moments, and sudden endings and unexpected beginnings, I think we're ready for that. 

Just a few things to do in the garden before all that of course - peas podded and frozen, beetroot mashed into another amazing beetroot chocolate cake, early spuds almost gone and peppers, tomatoes and sweetcorn yet to be feasted on. Still plenty to look forward to....

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