A holiday, a wedding and some pretty unpleasant opinions!

Well we’ve recently come back from a lovely week away on one of the Greek Islands.  I’m feeling happy, refreshed and relaxed!  I would love to say that we had a cultured week, but the truth is all we did was sunbathe (sort of – I kept bump out of the sun), read LOADS, swam and ate too much.  In all honesty I struggle to move around that much as things stand (worrying as I’m only at 6 months…) so in temperatures of 30-35 degrees celsius there was no chance of having an adventurous holiday.

The break couldn’t have come at a better time.  Work is still horrendous and I was at breaking point by the time I left (on my last day I worked 7am – 11:30pm with hardly any break, not ideal when I’ve got a medical note saying I should only work 9-5!).  Thankfully, although I’m very anxious about returning to work tomorrow, I feel rested and know I only need to get through another 41 working days before maternity leave.

Before we left we had our first NCT class.  The NCT (National Childbirth Trust) is a charity which, amongst many other things, run courses for expectant parents.  We were both a little apprehensive about going because there are a number of horror stories about the hippy nature of these classes (e.g. being asked to each draw flowers opening up, supposedly representing the woman giving birth; being asked to bring in a load of objects from home and set up your own “nest” for the session).  Thankfully it wasn’t too cray-cray.  There were a few odd moments (the communal pelvic floor exercise session; the men being asked to pretend to be various hormones involved in labour), but on the whole it was helpful and the other people in the class seemed relatively normal.  They were all around the same age as us and many of them were professionals (not meaning to sound snobby, but they may understand the whole baby/career pressures thing a bit more), so I really hope that we get to become friends with some of them.  As I’ve said before though, it’s quite hard to start friendships when you’re in your 30s!

On our return from holiday, we immediately headed down south to a friend’s wedding in Cambridge.  It was a stunning location for a wedding! I didn’t take any photos myself, but here are a few taken from the world wide web.

St John's 2St John's 3St Johns

Rather bizarrely, there was a total ban on putting any photos from the wedding up on any form of social media.  I’m not a huge one for posting every single aspect of my life on social media, so I can understand why some people may not want their wedding photos going up, but the militancy with which we were banned from uploading anything to do with the wedding day was a little strange (e.g. even putting up pictures of friends/other halves without the bride and groom in).   That said, I don’t know if there is a story behind it so it shouldn’t be for me to comment on their rules.

Overall we had a lovely day and I even managed to stay on my swollen feet until late evening!  Go me!

Unfortunately, we did have a bit of an altercation with the husband of one of BT’s friends, which left us both feeling quite upset.  Even now I am fuming!

This guy was your classic British self-entitled “toff”.  He’s been in boarding school since he was 7 years old, then went to University and is now an officer in the Army.  At first we thought he seemed really pleasant, albeit extremely posh! Sadly, as more drinks were consumed he came out with some pretty unpleasant comments.

Firstly, although I wasn’t around to hear this at the time, he was being extremely vulgar about the bride and about the fact she had clearly had a boob job (which yes, it looked like she probably had, but then that’s her choice to make and she shouldn’t be letched over by some gross guy on her wedding day).

Next, later that evening, the fact that I haven’t taken BT’s surname came up and we mentioned that, while we thought we would probably give our baby BT’s surname, we hadn’t completely decided whether to give the baby BT’s name or mine.  The guy then hit the roof at this and started making comments to BT about how he needed to “get control” and “you’re a f*cking [name of BT’s job] for goodness sake, she and the child should be taking your name” (for the record he never even asked if I had a job…he probably assumed I either stayed at home or have some job that is far too lowly for him.  Perhaps he thinks my sole job should be to carry BT’s heir?).  His wife then said how she had actually wanted to give their child her surname, to which he got really angry.  Later, when BT was privately asking her about it and saying that it’s something they should be able to agree on as a couple and if she felt strongly about it she should try and speak to her husband, but she just told him she had to be really careful what she says around her husband!  It just seems so sad.

Finally, and we still don’t understand how he ever thought we would possibly share his opinion, the guy started ranting about how “the problem with Britain is we let anyone in.  We need to start sending them back.  We are just too accepting of all these different races and religions and we’ve lost who we have become.  Fundamentally we are a Christian country but we’re not allowed to be that any more”.  [Cue: faces of total horror from both BT and I].  He then carried on by saying how his parents lived in Saudi Arabia and they had a much better handle on things over there! He was saying about how, over there, Saudi is seen as the holy land and they just don’t allow anything to happen there: if they want to drink, gamble, use hookers they go to a different country to keep Saudi pure.  Ignoring the massive argument about how people should maintain their values wherever they are, because it should be a part of them permanently, not going on a “f*ck it all” holiday somewhere else and to treat that place how you would never allow your home to be treated and where your sins are apparently ignored, everything he said was so deeply disturbing.  Saudi has a horrendous human rights record.  Granted the UK really doesn’t shower itself in glory when you dig beneath the surface, at least we don’t carry out executions (recently Saudi reportedly carried out 47 executions in one day alone), or cut people’s hands off if they’re accused of stealing, or forbid women from doing, well, ANYTHING.  In the UK I can freely criticise politicians or religious leaders.  In Saudi I would almost certainly be arrested and tortured for doing that.  To suggest that the UK should become LESS tolerant than we currently are (which in my opinion is still too intolerant) and try to be more like Saudi absolutely turns my stomach.

I was honestly lost for words when he was saying all this.  I have seen plenty of vile comments online, but when you’re actually confronted with these opinions it takes a while to process whether the person is ACTUALLY saying what you think they just said.  I stuttered something about how “I think we should change the subject as we don’t agree with you at all” (being conscious that, while most people around us with certainly be on our side, we were in the middle of someone else’s wedding and they did not deserve a fight breaking out on their wedding day!).  BT on the other hand was much more vocal about how disgusting this guy’s opinions were! The guy actually seemed quite taken aback that we really didn’t share his opinions and that he was being questioned.  Perhaps nobody has ever pulled him up on it before? After making our excuses we managed to avoid him for the rest of the evening.

It just makes me so sad for many reasons.  What hope do we have if supposedly educated people of our generation hold these views? What does it say that someone thinks they can express those views and that everyone around them will agree? He must come from an environment where his views are seen as acceptable, and probably encouraged.  We also got the impression that his wife didn’t agree with many things he said, but was too afraid of upsetting him.  It made me realise just how lucky I am that I can say anything to BT and, while we may disagree on many things, fundamentally we hold the same views on the world.

I am trying to focus on the positive, in that every person we spoke to (only about 6/7 people) was equally as horrified as us.  With everything that has happened in Britain in the last month, I need some hope that we’re not setting off down a very dark path.

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24 weeks!

Well I’m just over 24 weeks, which is great news!

Last Saturday I felt Baby kick properly for the first time.  Over the previous few days I had felt a few ‘flutterings’, but I wasn’t sure whether these were actual kicks or just muscle spasms.  Last Saturday evening, however, it felt slightly more pronounced so I felt more confident that they were really kicks.  BT even put his hand on my tummy and verified that they were GENUINE REAL LIFE kicks and not just my own delusions!

Fast forward a week, and last night (Saturday evening) we actually saw my tummy twitch when baby was kicking.  It wasn’t particularly obvious, but if we paid attention we could see it.

Both of these events were so overwhelming.  I had started to get a little worried that, at 23 weeks, I hadn’t felt anything, so I am so grateful that the kicks have started coming.  I don’t think I’ll ever be annoyed about him kicking me or moving around lots!

Unfortunately my anxiety about things going wrong is getting higher and higher.  It’s possibly exacerbated by everything that has been going on at work, meaning that my general anxiety levels are at an all time high anyway, then about two weeks ago it was reported that Tana Ramsay had miscarried* their child at five months, the same stage I am at.  I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the Ramsays, but it must be absolutely heartbreaking for them.  The media was then full of stories of people who had miscarried late in their pregnancies.  It was heartbreaking and terrifying.  Then last week one of BT’s friends announced that she had had a stillbirth at term.  I have never met her, but I just feel so devastated for her, her husband and their families.  Nobody should have that happen.  I just wish that there was something that someone could do or say to help them, but there just isn’t anything.

For all that I am terrified though, I am trying my best to just live in the moment and be grateful that right now things are ok.  We are getting to the stage where premature babies start getting much better survival odds, which provides a little reassurance.  At 24 weeks, between approximately 40-70% premature babies can survive (quite a big variance!) but by 27 weeks it will go up to more than 90%.  27 weeks is therefore a massive target!

So this weekend we are just trying to take it easy.  We don’t have any exciting plans, except looking after Dog and all the cats while my parents are away (a dog and four cats take up a lot of time and space! They also create a lot of mess 🙂 ).  I am trying to give Dog as much love as possible, as he really doesn’t have much time left.  His back legs have gone and his tumour is growing, so we know what we need to do, but every time we have the “is it time?” conversation he perks up and suddenly seems a little better (usually involving him stealing some cake from us or slobbering us with affection!) and we wonder if we’re being too hasty.

I also feel a little subdued because of the whole Brexit vote.  I appreciate this is just my opinion, but I find it unbelievable and I am so sad for the opportunities that will be taken away from future generations.  I genuinely think we will be worse off financially and that many people will lose their jobs, but what upsets me most is that a large part of my identity (and the identity of so many of my friends) has been taken away from us by people we just can’t respect or begin to understand.  Overnight, we have lost the freedom to easily work in 27 other countries and for those people to come to work in Britain.  While I personally do not have plans to work in any of those specific countries, a number of my friends do and a number of them have met their long term partners as a result of those opportunities.

There has been a lot of goading on Facebook from ‘leave’ campaigners** about how we are “sore losers” and how we cry for democracy but then don’t approve of it when we lose (thankfully I only seem to have about 5 or 6 of these people on my Facebook.  I am not just saying this as I am a “sore loser”, but most of those people just so happen to be genuine cretins).  The thing is, I do believe in democracy and I do understand that we lost and that I am ultimately going to have to accept that, but that shouldn’t have to stop me from feeling complete despair at the values and short-sightedness of so many of my neighbours and being devastated about what they have thrown away for the future.  Besides, this is something we can’t get back.  It is not like a national election, where you have the opportunity to change your mind four years later .  This is, unfortunately, forever.

Anyway, I told myself that I wouldn’t get too political in this post so I better stop now!

Right now the sun is shining, I’m surrounded by five animals (and a husband) and I’m away from my horrible job.  Things are good!

Have a good weekend everyone x x x

 

*I thought it was technically a stillbirth at this stage? i.e. after 24 weeks.  That said, the title doesn’t affect the the situation and feelings of those involved.

**In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I have not been particularly passive or polite on Facebook!

Pregnancy update!

Now onto the much more important update: my pregnancy!

I am still so grateful to have got to this stage.  I think back to just over a year ago and what a low spot I was in.  I was about to have a laparoscopy as they suspected endometriosis and I was in quite a state as I feared what this would mean for my ability to ever have children. I was exhausted from the months of TTC and was starting to feel the frustrations of the NHS fertility process.

I wish I had a way of letting FlatWhite of 2015 know that 2016 would be very different!

So I am now roughly 22 weeks.  The dates seem to change all the time, and the NHS scans seem to place me slightly behind the private scans we had a while ago.  I don’t think it particularly matters though.  I am just amazed to be able to say that I am around 22 weeks and am in the second trimester! Wahoo!

Thankfully the 20 week scan last week suggested that everything is ok so far.  We have also borrowed a Doppler so that we can listen to Baby FlatWhite’s heartbeat now and again (don’t worry – I’ve not gone too crazy with this!).

We are starting to get things for the baby and BT even painted the nursery (in his words, he enjoyed doing “man jobs”.  Don’t worry – I’ve already told him that he’s not to teach Baby FlatWhite that there are “man jobs” and “woman jobs”!).

It’s just nice to be able to relax a little and start to enjoy things.  I’m still incredibly nervous (well truth be told, we both are, but BT is stronger than me!), but each passing week gives me a little more hope.  We have even started buying a few things.

Our purchases so far have definitely focussed on the fun things, rather than the practical things.  A few friends have sent me lists of “essentials” that we need for a newborn, and in all honesty I found it totally overwhelming.

To date, here are a few things we have bought:

Perhaps not the most sensible things (except for the furniture and car seat) but they have made us both smile!!!  The Superman Swimsuit was actually bought by BT.  My parents suddenly came over so I sent him to the local supermarket to buy emergency tea, coffee and cakes (yes – a very British thing to do!).  Naturally, as you do, he came back with the Superman Swimsuit… (although you’ll be pleased to hear, he DID remember the cakes!).  Apparently the children’s swim stuff was in the entrance of the supermarket and BT’s heart just melted when he saw the Superman outfit! With the mix of Spiderman, Superman and Thomas the Tank Engine possessions, Baby FlatWhite may have a bit of an identity crisis (or perhaps just a loyalty crisis?)!

We have bought two or three baby grows and bibs and will probably pick up a few more things, but we are trying not to get too many ‘newborn’ things.  It may sound a bit silly, but my mum warned me that she never got to use the things she had bought as both me and my brother were big babies and never fitted into the newborn stuff. I think she’s exaggerating, but she told me I was in the 3-6 months after about two weeks! I was obviously destined to be a fatty.

So I’m just plodding along taking each day as it comes.  My weight gain has been appalling (in 22 weeks I have gained 24lbs!) so I don’t feel particularly great about myself.  I have also had terrible swollen feet, ankles and calves over the past week or so, which have been incredibly painful.  I think it’s due to the weight gain and the fact that we had a few “hot” (by British standards!) days over the past week.  None of it is fun, but for every week I am carrying a healthy baby I will suck up whatever is sent my way.

I am, however, a little worried about the healthy eating and fitness regime I need to start come November. I just hope I find the internal strength to do something about the weight.

Anyway, enough of me whining about my weight.  22 weeks down with a little boy on the way.  I am feeling incredibly lucky right now!

 

Employment update

Well it’s been another unpleasant week! I’ll give a quick update on the employment front, then will focus on the much more important pregnancy update (although there’s really nothing groundbreaking to report!).

I wrote last week about the latest employment battle I’m having.  It’s pretty unbearable right now, I won’t lie.

This week started off with my weekly meeting with the Evil Female Partner.  Back in March I tried to take two days off sick and was told I had to work one of them (as well as being told I may not be allowed to go to L’d funeral).  I spoke to HR about this, who consequentially told Evil Female Partner that she couldn’t stop me taking sick leave, especially while I am pregnant.  As a result of this, I was dragged into a meeting with Evil Male Partner and told that the partners in the team had questions about my “transparency”.  Not a very nice accusation at the best of times, but especially when I have been nothing but transparent along the way and have bent over backwards to do everything (e.g. always letting them know about appointments, always letting them know where I am, telling them about my pregnancy early etc).  As a result of this, I was told I needed to have weekly meetings with Evil Female Partner to “make sure that [I] am coping with workload” (but basically, to monitor me throughout the week).  It is mortifying and I cannot begin to explain how much I loathe these meetings.  She regularly comes out with comments such as “my problem is that I just care too much about people” (odd, because everyone in the team thinks she’s a manipulative, bullying, sociopath) and then proceeds to give me a list of all the things I have done wrong that week.

This week, the main thing I had done wrong was not tell another partner that I DEFINITELY couldn’t do her work.  Which was odd, seeing as the other partner specifically told me to wait until after my meeting with Evil Female Partner.

Evil Female Partner then went on to discuss my email to Evil Male Partner the previous week in which I had reminded him that I had been advised by my GP to work no more than 9-5 given my pregnancy and commute (and the work-related anxiety I am suffering from, although obviously I did not mention this).  She then had the audacity to casually mention that “if [I] genuinely need to work those sorts of hours [they] may need to put me on maternity leave early”.  WTAF?

It turns out that in the UK your employer may put you on maternity leave early if you’re within 4 weeks of your EDD and you are off sick (as in, signed off sick for a period of time, not just the moment you take a sick day).

It is just outrageous to suggest that I should be put onto maternity leave NOW.

Throughout the week she has been a total nightmare and has criticised every single thing I do.  In particular, she sent me an email criticising my attention to detail over a piece of work and how it was of a really poor standard.  It turned out that she had read a previous version of the document I was working on, not the “final” version (in which I had amended and updated all the points she accused me of having missed).  When I pointed this out to her, instead of apologising she just pointed out something else I had apparently got wrong.

Thankfully I had an appointment with my GP yesterday and spoke to her about everything that had been going on.  She was brilliant and told me she was so angry on my behalf.  She has given me a ‘fit to work’ note stating that I must not work more than 9-5 and have to work at least one day a week from home.  The partners are going to be livid and they will almost certainly make my life hell as a result of it.

Part of me feels embarrassed for my own professional pride that this is what things have come to.  More so, however, I just feel angry that they have pushed me to this point and yet all they will do from here is criticise me amongst themselves and within the wider team.

At the end of the day though, I feel I have nothing to gain by killing myself to do everything.  I did that for years and it got me nowhere with them.  I tried so hard for years and hoped to build some goodwill, and I have tried so hard whilst pregnant, but they are making it impossible for me to do my job and their constant aggression is making me ill.

Now I am finally pregnant, which is all I have wanted for years, I am not going to do anything to risk harming my baby.

I am trying to stay positive about the future and also about my career prospects.  I feel like I am stuck in this job because I simply cannot afford to leave at this point (to explain – if I hand in my notice before I have been back for six months I lose my maternity pay, which we simply can’t afford).  It is a horrible feeling to think that you are trapped somewhere so miserable, but that you do not really have the option to leave.  I have however been looking regularly at other jobs and a few have come up closer to where I live and for a better salary.  It’s something to explore while on maternity leave, but perhaps if I were able to get a better job with a better salary which is closer to home, we could then afford for me to stick two fingers up at my current employer sooner rather than later.  Just the hope of being able to get out soon makes me start to feel much better!

The 20 (and a bit) week scan…and some employment hell thrown in to celebrate!

It has been a challenging few weeks in the FlatWhite household.

To start with the (very) good news, we finally had our 20 week scan yesterday and all was well.  *Phew*.

It has felt like forever waiting for this moment.  While I know that the chances of things going wrong are so much lower once you’ve had a healthy 12 week scan, there are so many stories on the forums and blogs about things going wrong after this point and even in late pregnancy/at the birth, it’s hard not to worry.  I still haven’t felt the baby kick, which I’m told I shouldn’t be too worried about as I have an anterior placenta and so may not feel much until week 24.  I do wish I could have that reassurance though!

Most importantly, the scan showed that everything (as far as they can tell) is as it should be and Baby Flat is measuring at just over 21 weeks! He gave us a little scare (probably because I’m super anxious) as the sonographer couldn’t take a lot of the measurements as he was facing towards my back.  She had me doing all sorts of gymnastic movements, trying to get him to move, but he was choosing to have a lazy afternoon and wasn’t playing ball! Even after going for a brisk 20 minute walk, consuming a bar of chocolate (not nearly as much fun as it sounds when you’re super anxious and have been ordered to eat it) and drinking a coffee, he STILL refused to move around.  Eventually she managed to get what she needed, and thankfully everything seems to be ok.  We are both so grateful to have got to this point and to have jumped the next major hurdle.

Sadly in employment news, things have gone from bad to worse.  I don’t have the energy to list everything that has happened, and I am trying to switch off from work for a small part of the weekend, but I have been working fairly long hours for a few weeks now given that I was advised by a doctor to just work 9-5.  The hours have been nothing like I had to pre-pregnancy (i.e. regularly having weeks where I would have to work through the night and not leave the office), but still 8am – 6:30/7:30pm in the office without much break (if any).  I also have a daily 3 hour commute which means waking up at 5:45am every day, so it’s not like I get the chance to catch up on sleep if it’s been a late night.

Anyway, I’ve been plodding on just fine but have been very tired and have known that I can’t really push things any more than I have been.  More than the hours, it’s a fairly exhausting environment because of the culture of the team (very unsupportive with people constantly criticising female juniors and blaming them for their own mistakes, plus I would go as far as to say there’s a culture of workplace bullying).  As a female junior, we’re constantly doing our best but waiting for the next criticism to imminently come.  Not fun at all.  Especially as the other two female juniors have both recently resigned so I am alone.  As a result of this, I have had months of feeling extremely anxious and on edge. From Sunday morning onwards I feel a sickness at the thought of Monday, and when I get off the train and walk to the office I actually have to watch my breathing as my heart is pounding so much.  THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

I knew that I had been blacklisted for getting pregnant and over the past few months many things have happened which have shown me that my career is no longer being taken seriously by them as I can’t be “one of the boys” (i.e. out all night drinking).  For months I have only been given rubbish work which doesn’t count for anything and I have been excluded from several important networking events, which would have been helpful to further my career (and when male colleagues more junior than me were invited to attend).

Then came my annual appraisal.  These are generally not a lot of fun, because my boss doesn’t want women to get too confident and complain when he gives them a pitiful bonus (while probably giving “the boys” good bonuses because they “have families to provide for”*).  This year, however, it was something else.  I was completely torn to shreds and was told how I “said the right things” but “clearly wasn’t prepared to work”.  Knowing that I had been advised to work 9-5, they then had the audacity to say they expected me to be “fighting to get experience and asking to work through the night and weekends”.

So I should be risking the health of my baby to prove myself to you when you have written me off anyway? WTAF.  I don’t think so.

Saywhat

In response to these comments I tried to defend myself but they just got more unpleasant. They basically gave me the “you need to pull your socks up” talk, which is humiliating and makes me angry beyond words given everything I have put myself through over the years for them and to prove myself to them.

Since then they have given me an impossible level of work.  Not a challenging amount of work, but a level of work I would not be able to cope with even if I were fighting fit and not pregnant.  When I was then given a further project, I politely refused to do it.  I explained everything I had on and how I would not be able to do those things while doing the new project and also reminded my boss of my pregnancy and the fact I had been advised by the doctor to work 9-5.  He then went ballistic and essentially said he would not allow me to work 9-5.  Apparently when I was off yesterday having my scan, he was on the phone to someone (probably HR) complaining about my situation in full earshot of my colleagues.

As a result of all of this, and my general concerns about something bad happening in my pregnancy, I have started to have anxiety attacks.  I don’t know if they’re anxiety attacks in the true medical sense, but I have been waking at 2am many nights with my heart pounding, unable to breathe and then bursting into tears and unable to get back to sleep.  I’ve also had times when it has caught me just walking down the high street to go and order a (decaf) coffee (although thankfully I haven’t cried those times! I would be mortified!).  It is awful, and it is not something I had ever experienced until things started to go so horribly wrong at work.

The thing is, it is all just so unnecessary.  I know what a hard worker I am.  For years and years my appraisals have complimented me on how hard working, diligent and conscientious I am.  If they had dealt with my pregnancy differently, and had my (and my baby’s) health in their minds, I would have come back from maternity leave fighting to prove myself and working every hour under the sun to be both a brilliant mum and an excellent [professional].  Instead, what can I do? How can I possibly go back somewhere like this and fight to make my career work? They will never let it work, unless it is only on their terms (i.e. never go home and see my husband and baby).  How can they possibly think that THIS is the way to get people to stay with the firm?

So I have some difficult decisions to make.  While I know I am leaving (which I decided the day they suggested I couldn’t go to L’s funeral) I do not know when to hand in my notice.  While I want to just quit now and focus on getting myself healthy so that Baby Flat has the best start in life, I need to be sensible and stick it out to ensure I get my maternity pay.  Unfortunately this means returning for 9 months post maternity leave, which is the unbearable part.

For now I am just struggling to make it to maternity leave and to have some calm before the baby hopefully arrives.  In just over a month we have a week’s holiday, which is something GREAT to look forward to, and when I return I will only have two months to get through before I leave.

So I am trying to focus on the good things and remember that every day I go into the office it’s a day closer to me leaving.  This job will not be forever; I can do other things and be a different person.

Also, while I do not earn a lot and it is unbearable being around most of my colleagues, it does allow me to:

  • slowly pay off my student loan;
  • slowly pay off another loan we took out to help buy the house;
  • save a bit into my pension (gosh, don’t I lead a wild lifestyle?!); and
  • pay my share of the mortgage.

I think that once the debts are paid off, I will be grateful that I stuck things out and hopefully it will make things easier for us financially.

I also think I will truly appreciate any job where there is a pleasant working environment, as you really can’t put a price on having good people around you.

All in all, I need to remember that I will be fine.  I will get through this.  I need to just keep trying to tick off one day at a time.

* This was genuinely something an old boss said, and didn’t understand why I was completely outraged.

 

Mental Health Awareness Week

Lifestyle-factors.jpg

I have never really said much about my mental health, but over the past 20 years I have had my fair share of struggles.  These ranged from anorexia in my early teens which turned into bulimia in my late teens and majority of my twenties. Even now my attitude to food is unhealthy.  I may no longer be doing things which could suddenly kill me, but I turn to food and overeating when things go wrong or when I am stressed or under pressure or upset.

As a teen, I also hated myself and had so much anger towards myself for not being pretty or naturally skinny or popular that I used to cut myself.  Thankfully this only lasted for a short amount of time, but sadly I have been left with some prominent (and very telling!) scars which will never ever go away.

Thankfully now the eating disorders and self-harming are long behind me, but I do still struggle in other ways.  I have bad spells of depression, and anxiety which stops me going out and doing many of the things I want to do.  It is a shame and I know I need to work on all of these things, but it’s incredibly difficult when I’m so tired all the time and I work in an environment that encourages me to believe I am just not good enough.

Anyway, today is not the day to talk about all my problems or old issues.  I’ll probably say more at some point because I believe these things, like infertility, should be talked about so that there is less loneliness, despair and shame associated with them.

What I do want to flag is that today is the last day of ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ in the UK.  There doesn’t seem to have been much coverage of it in social media.  Perhaps because, like infertility, many people don’t want to be “outed” or risk people judging them.  Whatever the reason, it’s a shame.

So every year during Mental Health Awareness Week there is a different mental health topic and this year’s topic is ‘Relationships’.  I think this is brilliant! Relationships play such a vital part in maintaining our mental health.  The absence of them, or when things go wrong with them, can also have a profound negative effect on our mental health.

I thought the Mental Health Foundation’s leaflet on relationships was particularly interesting:

Leaflet on relationships

They have also introduced a challenge for the general public to go the extra mile in prioritising their relationships and to make a relationship resolution:

Relationship resolution

Again, I think this is brilliant, as it (should be) so simple to carry out.  Just making some small changes or resolving to do a few additional things, or to do things slightly differently, could make such a difference to both the individual in question and the people in their lives.  If anyone has any good ideas, or has done anything they feel has improved a relationship, please feel free to share 🙂

I would also encourage everyone to check out the following websites if you have a spare 10 minutes, as you never know what you may learn:

Mind

Mental Health Foundation

Happy weekend everyone x x x

A chilled weekend

It’s been another lovely, sunny weekend here in the UK.  We probably sound like complete loons to non-Brits, but we spend so much of the year stuck indoors as it’s so cold, dark and wet most of the time.  It then feels fantastic to be able to go outside without having to put a million and one layers on (and without constantly having wet feet, grrrr!).

In addition to the general feel-good vibe, it’s also amazing how much more you can get done when there’s daylight from pre 5am to post 9pm.  I just love it!

So I’ve made the most of not having too many plans and have just been tidying the house and making arrangements (in my head) for when the baby hopefully arrives.  I’m not sure if nesting is even a thing, and if it is I’m sure it doesn’t come until later, but I do feel a massive urge to clean everything and de-clutter the place.  I’ve been binning things like there’s no tomorrow and have put all my normal clothes (which I now can’t fit into as I have gained 17lbs already!) into storage and have been sending what I can to the charity shop.  In less than thrilling news, I’ve also purchased and put up some new curtains as our previous ones were so thin I’ve been having to get up at 5am when the sun comes up (as opposed to 5:45am when my alarm goes off, which is still pretty darn depressing!).

IMG_2821.JPG

Kitty 1 supervised (or more accurately, fell asleep on the curtains and looked disgusted when I tried to move her).

I also spent some time doting on Dog and giving him a proper wash and LOADS of attention.  He’s really not in a good way now.  Not only is his tumour massive but his back legs have gone and so he struggles to walk or stand up.  After months of deliberation, we have decided we won’t operate as there’s a high chance he wouldn’t survive the operation and I hate the thought of him dying on the operating table having been cut open and had his insides pulled apart.  Instead, when the time comes, I want to be with him, cuddling him and telling him how much I love him.

Anyway, it was a sunny day and so BT and I let him run around (well, hobble around) outside in the garden and gave him a proper wash.  He was in his element and smelt and felt lovely! Sadly by the next morning he was covered in dandruff  again (apparently at this stage it’s almost impossible to cure the dandruff because all their reserves are going into fighting off bigger things).

IMG_2850.JPG

WOOF.  Happy Dog.

We also started thinking about things we need to get for Baby Flat (very scary, and still feels as though we shouldn’t really think or speak about it).  We did however make our very first baby purchases from the local supermarket.  Just some little socks, two short baby grow things and a bigger baby grow.  I felt quite emotional buying them, and nearly didn’t, but BT said we need to start being positive and making plans.  I know to most people this is nothing but exciting, but it just feels like such a massive step for us.  That’s not to say we’re not excited, just…you know…it’s scary.

Today, one of BT’s best friends and his wife (who has become a good friend of mine) came over.  She’s a paediatrician and has also had a child, so was giving me lots of advice (e.g. she wouldn’t recommend giving birth in a midwife-only unit, which is what the local hospital is currently pushing us to do).  I did have to bite my tongue a little bit as she was saying she was upset as they’ve just started trying for their second child and her period has just come after their first month of trying.  As she fell pregnant on month one with their first child, she had assumed it would happen again.  She wasn’t bad about it and fully admitted she was being br*tty, but it did make me laugh! The thing is, sub-fertility has just warped my mind about the whole thing.  I have heard a few friends say “It took us a while, I think about six months”, and it’s just funny because six months is nothing at all.  But when we first started out I remember thinking six months seemed quite a long time and a year was almost unimaginable.  I remember seeing the stats saying 70% of healthy couples fall pregnant within six months and 85% within the first 12 months*. I never thought it would happen straight away, in fact I had always felt deep down that I would have ‘problems’ (perhaps because I wanted it so much), but when we started out I thought it was fairly probable that we’d fit into at least the 85%.

I guess with our friends, I shouldn’t really comment though and should just try to be sympathetic (which I hope I was).  I’m sure there are things that I take for granted and which have come relatively easily to me and other people may roll their eyes if I talk about them!

Have a good week everyone.  Good luck with the upcoming scans and tests!

*Most common stats.  These figures seem to vary quite  lot.  Some studies say as high as 85% within six months and 95% within 12 months! Doubtful!

18 weeks!

***As the title suggests, my post below talks a lot about my pregnancy.  I’ve deliberately waited to post this until a few of you had some good news, but I appreciate that some of you are not having the best of times fertility-wise so may not want to read this right now.  Next time I’ll just put up a load of cat photos!!!***

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Wahoo! We’ve made it to 18 weeks.  I can’t believe we’re actually half way there.

In some ways the past 15 weeks or so (since we found out that I was pregnant) have been the slowest weeks of my life.  The wait to get the initial scan, then the times in between scans, have gone by agonisingly slowly and in all honesty I haven’t been able to relax and just “enjoy” pregnancy so far (cheers sub-fertility!).

On the other hand, it feels mad that we’re basically half way through a pregnancy.   After the years of trying and monthly disappointment and fighting for tests and operations and IVF referrals and having months pass between each stage of the fertility process, to be able to say after just 18 weeks that I am half way through a pregnancy just seems crazy.

So in good news, there is still a baby there.  Wahoo! We had a private gender scan a few weeks ago which was very exciting and made it feel even more real.

BG

From day one I have just ‘known’ we were having a boy (which is weird, because I usually don’t buy into that sort of stuff).  Everyone else, bar one friend, thought it would be a girl.  Anyway, our scan was pretty *ahem* obvious and I can report that we’re having a little boy! My intuition was clearly spot on 🙂Baby boyWe’re both over the moon, especially BT who admitted “every man wants a little mini-me”. (Although yesterday he said “every man wants a little girl because girls always dote on their dads”.  I think he’s a confused individual.)

The next step is to have the anomaly scan which is scheduled to take place in early June. That will be a huge step and I am so scared about something going wrong.  We have yet to make any concrete plans or buy a single baby item, as it all just feels too early and as if there are just too many hurdles to jump through.  When we try to explain this to people they almost always say “Well of course you’ll be fine”.  I guess people just don’t get it unless they’ve also struggled to get pregnant and/or have miscarried.

We’re starting to let everyone know about the pregnancy, which feels like a massive gamble.  We’re not making a big song and dance about it, but when people get in touch we’re casually mentioning it to them.  We’ve agreed we’re going to be quite upfront about how it hasn’t been easy and how it didn’t happen overnight.  While some people have been a little bit funny about it (“I don’t see why you feel the need to tell [people] that”“Well, because some people are f*cking ignorant and the more they learn about real life the better.  Also there’s a very high chance several of our friends are going through the same thing and if us being honest makes them feel a little less alone and desperate, then that’s good enough for me”).

On the whole people have been very supportive, ranging from “We essentially fell pregnant following a one night stand so can’t imagine what you have been through, but if you ever want to talk…” to one of BT’s best friends who messaged me about their own problems saying “We’ve been trying less than a year, but I always thought it would happen quickly.  As the months go by I feel like more and more of a failure, but you’ve given me hope that it will happen”.  It’s a funny old world.  You could never guess the people that fell pregnant easily and those that have struggled/are struggling/will struggle.  For all the guidance I have seen about not drinking/not smoking/not being overweight/not being underweight/not being brunette*, all my ‘unhealthy’ friends who wanted to get pregnant fell pregnant straight away and many of my ‘healthiest’ friends have struggled.  I hate that so many people blame themselves (as I did) when I really think in the majority of cases it is purely bad luck.

I still feel so strongly that infertility, sub fertility, IVF, miscarriage and adoption** need to be talked about more openly.   There shouldn’t be any shame or secrecy surrounding any of it, and people need much better access to professional help.  I have shared a few posts on Facebook about IVF recently (not one person commented, which says a lot) and I have already started preparing a few letters to local members of parliament (both where I live and where I work) requesting that they start allowing the full 3 NHS cycles of IVF.  It is not much at all, but it’s a start. Just because things are (hopefully) working out for me, I will never ever forget what it felt like or what so many women (and men) are going through (many of which have been battling for so much longer than we did and have been through so many cycles of IVF).

Anyway, enough chat from me today.  Have a lovely weekend everyone! I can’t wait to read about what you all get up to.

*This is a lie.  I have never seen this anywhere.  I wouldn’t be surprised of some “expert” says this though…

**I have added adoption because I got so sick of people saying “Why don’t you JUST adopt” or “Have you thought about adoption?”.  It just angers me so much, as there is so much ignorance and assumption around this subject.  We thought a lot about adoption, and I feel that at some point we will probably still explore this route, BUT there is so much you need to think about and you have to make many more sacrifices than you usually do when you have a biological child and it is something you both need to go into with your eyes wide open.

The weight gain dilemma

Scale

Tomorrow, I will be exactly 15 weeks.  I can’t believe that I have actually made it to the second trimester!

I have had a bit of a shock though.  Despite recommendations saying that a woman should aim to gain between 0 – 5 lbs in her first trimester, after 14 weeks I had gained a stone (14 lbs).

Obviously all I really care about is that I am pregnant and that my baby is healthy, and I would gain 100 lbs if it guaranteed that, but I am a little concerned and confused.

I am concerned because the second and third trimesters are when the weight gain apparently really ramps up.  If I have already gained this much weight, how much more will I gain in the next 5 – 6months? Will this affect/harm my baby? Will this make the birth harder? Also, and I appreciate this is incredibly superficial, will I be able to lose all this weight post-birth? I was already 30 lbs over my ideal weight before I got pregnant, although still in the ‘healthy’ BMI range…although BMI is obviously b*ll*cks, and was feeling incredibly self-conscious about my weight.

I am not surprised that I gained weight, and I would have even expected to be at the higher end of the “normal” first trimester weight gain.  After all, I:

  • haven’t had any vomiting;
  • had several weeks of nausea, which could only be satisfied by eating crisps/chips/pizza/cheese on toast;
  • have been starving all the time (possibly now because I have got used to eating more);
  • have been anxious all the time, so have comfort eaten a fair amount; and
  • have done hardly any exercise as I have been exhausted and have struggled physically when I have attempted to exercise.

It is no surprise that I have gained weight, but 14 lbs!? That’s madness and I am confused as to why I have gained so much.  Surely I have not been around THREE TIMES worse than other pregnant women with my eating and exercising?!

I just don’t really know what to do for the best now.  Obviously I can’t diet, as I can’t risk my baby missing essential nutrients or getting distressed (I imagine s/he is a little fatty like me and will be upset if they miss out on food).  I have spent the last 3-4 weeks being more careful about what I eat (lots of fruit, salad and veggies etc), but I have still gained weight during this time.

I know this sounds like an excuse, but I want to start regularly exercising again but I don’t know how.  I can definitely do more at the weekend (Im going for a run today!) but during the week I am out of the house between 6:30am – 8/9/10pm.  I would like to do something on my lunch break at work, but when I even get a lunch break it is for an absolute maximum of 30-45 minutes, so if you factor in changing time (x2) and washing, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for exercise! There’s also the cringe factor of running near the office…

I appreciate this really is a fortunate position to be in and I would much rather be worrying about this than the hell of worrying about getting pregnant! But I do find it difficult and I think it’s made worse because there’s such an expectation in society about how women (and pregnant women!) should look.

Since I became pregnant I have been bombarded with stories like this:

Ridiculous model

Ridiculous abs

Naughty plus size model

It’s the comments sections which are particularly vile.

These are just a few of the latest ones.  There have been all sorts, including one that went viral comparing two women who were both 5 or 6 months pregnant.  One was pretty big and one had washboard abs.  But why should we care? This story was allegedly released to show that “pregnant women come in all shapes and sizes”, but ultimately it was about the general public commenting on who was a “good pregnant woman” (i.e. the type that is still f*ckable, to use the language found in these comments) and who was a “bad pregnant woman”.  Many were quick to defend both types (they shouldn’t need defending) but on the whole there seemed to be more of the “Wow, her abs are amazing” and the “Sh*t, she’s let herself go” type comments.  If both mothers are eating and exercising as best as they can for their baby, then it just should not matter.

Although I’ve not had too many comments, I have had a few from people at work (females) about my weight gain or about how much I’m eating.  Others (males) have said that I “haven’t been looking well for a while”.  Apparently they were referring to my look from a health point of view, but what they were actually saying is “you have gained weight and look bloated and have stopped wearing the tighter fitting clothes.  I can’t say you’re less f*ckable, so I will just punish you for your weight-gain-sin by saying you don’t look as well.

It’s just incredibly sad that people feel they’ve got a right to say something.  Generally, unless something is going to make someone feel good or help them (and don’t assume your opinion is actually helpful), you probably shouldn’t say it at all.  Funnily enough, prior to these comments I was actually aware of my weight gain and the fact that I was eating more.  I didn’t need them to tell me.  In fact, on any given day over the past 17 years, I could tell you my exact weight to the pound and I have hated myself almost every single day.

So I am trying to be level-headed about the whole weight gain thing, as deep down I know that as long as my baby is healthy and that I am healthy that is all that matters.

But it is hard when society places so much value on your weight.  When your popularity and sense of self-worth depend on the number of the scale, and when your chances of promotion or being put in front of a client depend on your appearance.

I wish I didn’t care, but deep down I really really really do.

 

 

It’s a funny old world…*Sigh*

As of today I am 13 weeks and 6 days pregnant.  I still cannot believe that I can actually write that! Since about 6 weeks I have had no symptoms at all, except extreme tiredness and a weight gain of 12lbs (f*cking hell).

We have started telling a few more people, not just immediate family and those friends we would need to rely on if things went wrong.  Obviously everything is heavily caveated and we always give the obligatory warnings about nothing being certain and requesting that people don’t post stuff on Facebook. But we are starting to tell people and act like this could maybe actually happen.

As of this weekend, both my aunts now know.  I was nervous about telling my aunt on my dad’s side (his sister) as she is quite an emotional person and I know she would be heartbroken if something went wrong.  While I don’t know for certain, I am fairly sure that they wanted children and couldn’t have them, so I’m sure they would understand the enormity of it all and the pain we would feel if we lose our baby.  (Incidentally, I now cringe when I think of all the times my brother and I went to theirs as kids and repeatedly asked them why they didn’t have children.  Urghhhhh.)

My aunt on my mum’s side is much more clued up.  I had told her about our problems after I had a full on breakdown at her grandchild’s christening and thought I should probably explain why I was a hysterical mess, rather than partaking in the mandatory baby worship like everyone else.  She was lovely and extremely understanding about the whole thing.

Things have always been a bit difficult with her daughter.  It is not really my place to go into detail about what she is like, but in short, to say that she has “challenging behaviour” is an understatement.  Her parents worked their arses off to send her to a decent school and allow her to try a load of activities and experiences (which neither of them had) and were incredibly supportive of her.  She essentially repaid them by going off the rails and flunking all of her exams and doing nothing but going out and drinking and doing bad things with bad people.

Anyway, about 18 months ago we all found out she was pregnant.  She had just turned 21, had only been with her partner for a few months and apparently didn’t even realise she was pregnant until she was nearly 3 months gone.  Obviously that was quite a hard pill to swallow when BT and I had been saving for years to be in the best position to raise a child and had taken an active decision to try for a child and found that it wasn’t working.  Over the course of her pregnancy and the first year+ of the child’s life, she has been incredibly obnoxious about the whole thing (OTT Facebook posts; a “mummy blog” about her parenting choices which essentially just slams those that don’t have children as “not knowing what’s important” and slagging off mums who go back to work; angry messages to people who haven’t bought her child a birthday/Christmas card/presents, yet she has never once bought any of us a card/present etc).  She’s just been generally insufferable since falling pregnant (thank you so much, for Facebook unfollow!).

So this weekend my mum called my aunt to tell her our happy news.  My aunt was absolutely delighted for us and sent me a lovely message of congratulations.  Then dropped the bombshell to my mum that my cousin’s pregnant again…and she’s due less than two weeks after me.

Oh FFS!!!  I know it doesn’t matter as long as our baby is healthy, but FFS.  I thought we were in the clear from another baby bomb from them, as they’re getting married this summer.  Now I’m going to be bombarded with updates from her when I just want to keep my head down and avoid the world and get through the next 6 months.

I know I sound harsh, but the thing is, we have nothing in common and our pregnancies will be nothing alike.  She had no interest in me prior to me getting pregnant (in the last 2 years, all she’s ever said to me is “Why haven’t you two had children yet?”) but now that I am, I know she will just use this as an opportunity to steer the conversation to pregnancy, and then to her pregnancies and her opinions on pregnancies and motherhood, and then ultimately just on to her child.

She will never be able to comprehend that BT and I have battled to get this far and wake up every day terrified that this dream will all end.  We are now planning and budgeting and are trying to work out how the hell we are going to pay for this baby once I go back to work. She fell pregnant accidentally the first time and then for this second kid she must have fallen pregnant as soon as she started trying.  She gave up work as soon as she fell pregnant and the pair of them just get their parents to pay for pretty much everything (and trust me, they don’t accept the cheap stuff!).  There is just no common ground, and she has a total lack of empathy, so will not begin to understand for a minute why we want to handle things in a slightly more subtle way than she will.

I also know that this sounds a bit ridiculous, but I worry that by getting pregnant at the same time, she is going to take away our luck.  I feel it with my other friends who are pregnant, but nowhere near to the same extent.  Everything always just works out for her and she lands on her feet without ever having to use any energy or put anyone else first.  I just worry that, if things are to go wrong for one of the pregnant people, we’ll be the ones it happens to.

Deep down I know that’s silly, but infertility and pregnancy after infertility mean you can just never ever relax in the way that the Ooops Brigade can.