Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda: The Guilt Trap

I am so guilty of feeling guilty. It's my MO. For example:

I wake up. It's 8am and it's Saturday. I have no plans until, say, 1pm. Woo-hoo, free morning, I think. Perfect chance to watch bad TV and relax. Actually, I should really write a blog post. Or maybe I should write a letter. Before I do that though I should really reply to all those WhatsApps. I am such a bad friend. Or I could go swimming - I would have done that yesterday but I was too knackered. No, really I should clean the house. I can't believe I haven't changed my phone contract yet, I should have done that months ago... Tied up in knots and completely unfocused, I then proceed to watch the bad TV anyway, only now I'm not enjoying it, because I feel guilty about all the other stuff.

Sound familiar? (Please say yes, don't make me feel weird here.) 

Recently (as in, very recently, like the last week) I've decided to make a conscious effort not to do this. I know from speaking to friends who are raising kids that guilt can be a big issue; it's stress about the difference between how things are going and how you feel they should be going (or how the books/forums/well-meaning-but-interfering relatives tell you they should be going). One friend told me she wished she'd been more relaxed as, on reflection, she'd been doing a better job than she thought she had at the time. I want to be so aware of this (now and when I have a child) as I can only imagine how easy it would be for me to to get caught in an anxiety/guilt spiral, especially when the stakes feel so high. 

So I'm starting now. I'm trying to be mindful, not just during meditation, but while I'm doing things. If I'm reading, I'll read. If I'm swimming, I'll swim. If I'm worrying, I'll worry. One thing at a time, and trying to bring myself back to that activity, not thinking I should be doing something else. 

This week I'll mostly be practicing enjoying doing not much at all - easy - and not feeling guilty about it - much trickier. 

The First Trimester: The Book, the Windmill, and the Booties

Day 1: I am four weeks and two days pregnant. Every time I remember I grin. I flit between excitement and dread and obsessively google miscarriage statistics. I go to the toilet at work and see the thing that I've been most scared of: bright red blood. Obviously I freak out. I somehow get to the EPU and cry at the first person I see. I pee on a stick; feint positive. This is not good news. I know I'm having a miscarriage, I'm terrified it's ectopic. They do a scan, and Pete's confusion - 'I didn't realise it was going to go up' - makes the whole thing a bit funny. The scan finds nothing; this is awful and a relief. We leave Kings and head home to wait for the blood results. A friend texts saying she loves me and hopes I'm ok; I realise later that someone has driven a van into the crowd on Westminster bridge but at that moment I just appreciate the sentiment.

Day 2: A lovely nurse from the EPU calls with the blood results. I am definitely no longer pregnant. I think I'm ok. I burst into tears at random moments and the loss feels deeper than I would have expected, but it's ok because at least I know why I'm sad.

Day 5: As we queue for check-in at Berlin airport (we've been away for my birthday), I google 'fertility after chemical pregnancy'. I tell Pete, fuck it, let's try again this month. We've waited seven months to get this far, we're now painfully aware of just how badly we want it.

Day 28: I promised myself I'd wait until New York before testing. Arriving in the hotel room, I open my suitcase and pull out the pregnancy test I've brought with me. Pregnant: 2-3 weeks. It feels surreal.

Day 30: Over a Shake Shack lunch (where I cry because my burger is wrong) I tell Pete that we're now further than last time. More cautious optimism. He goes back to work and I do an audio tour of Grand Central Station. At one point I sit on the floor and put my hand on my belly. It's definitely all fries and grape Fanta but I know there's (probably, hopefully) something in there. In the gift shop I see a Grand Central children's book and I know I'll be buying it and hiding it from Pete until it seems less insane. It's a show of faith; I'm telling the universe I think this one might stick, and grow.

Day 39 (5 weeks, 4 days): The nausea, hanger and breast pain are kicking in now. We tell our parents. It's early but everyone's in the same room because it's my Dad's birthday weekend, and that never really happens. They're all excited, but in the same cautious way that Pete and I were 11 days ago.

Day 64 (9 weeks, 1 day): Early scan day. We've caved and spent 100 of our hard earned pounds on an early private scan. There's no medical reasoning for this, but my anxiety cannot wait another month. I cry when I hear it's heart beating; I was convinced there would be a problem. I'm stunned. We send our parents pictures and videos, the excitement is catching now. I tell Pete about the book I bought in New York; predictably, he thinks I'm insane.

Day 80 (11 weeks, 3 days): The nausea is easing. It now feels like the end of a hangover rather than the middle of one. Everything is starting to feel a bit more real now: we've told some close friends and I am properly addicted to Mumsnet. We go to Bournemouth and Pete's Mum gives us a windmill that she saw and bought for the baby. I'm so touched; it's confirmation that someone else believes this is really happening.

Day 90 (12 weeks, 6 days): 20th June. This date's been etched in my brain for over a month now. After some blood tests, we have our scan. There's still a baby in there! It has a beating heart! And a stomach! And two kidneys! And a brain! And legs! And arms! The sonographer complains that it's hard to get the measurements because of all the wriggling. I am unsure what she would like me to do about this. I watch my unborn child do backflips and hit itself in the face: s/he has made me laugh for the first time. The measurements put me a few days ahead; we're actually 13 weeks, 4 days. We get our risk results back: less than 1 in 20,000 for Edward's and Patau's Syndrome. Even I cannot catastrophise that.

Day 94 (14 weeks, 1 day): We meet friends in the pub for a pre-comedy night drink. They give us a wrapped box, inside which are a pair of Peter Rabbit booties. We're (probably, hopefully) going to have a baby. With little feet. And we are going to be responsible for covering those little feet. Shit just got serious.

Honeymooning: George Town, Penang

I really, really liked George Town. Kuala Lumpur was a little overwhelming at times and in places crazily commercialised - I saw more coffee chains than I see in London - whereas George Town had all the awesomeness in a way that felt more accessible, friendlier and easier to navigate. Also it was sunnier. 

There were a couple of downsides to George Town. Namely, the colonial awkwardness (Britain abandoned Malaysia during Japan's WWII invasion, so really not much to be proud of, despite the nice buildings) and the fact that Pete and I were both ill, to varying degrees. The hideous chest cold I'd been fighting for a week came out to attack me (I won) and Pete, well he had a cold. Basically, he popped into a pharmacist at the airport for some decongestants and the assistant asked if he had a fever. Cue an obsession with the idea of 'having a fever'. This is my life now folks. Never-ending hypochondria until one of us dies. #marriage

Despite all of that, we had an incredible four days there. Here's what we did:

Wandering Around

George Town was such a lovely city to wander around. It seems like every time you turn a corner there's a stunning temple...

...or a historic graveyard...

...or yet another example of colonial architecture...

...or a view across the sea.

Pinang Peranakan Mansion

This was somewhere we'd seen in the guidebook and were umm-ing and ahh-ing about visiting, until a downpour came along when we were nearby and made the decision for us. We ended up being glad we went in. The inside of the building was stunning (and had many an instagrammable floor).

My favourite part was the stunning temple area. It was so peaceful, cool and calming (which was much-needed).

Street Art

George Town has loads of street art, particularly around Armemian Street, and Pete led us on a hunt of the best bits (luckily - my navigational skills/temperament would have meant seeing one piece of art then getting annoyed/hangry/overheated and giving up).

Penang Hill

Get the funicular up Penang Hill, they said. No mention of the fact that it's terrifying. But I was glad I did it, in a sort of 'yay I didn't die' kind of way.

Alas, it was pretty cloudy by the time we got to the top (although I would say the views were better than the pictures below would suggest!)

Food. Like, ALL THE FOOD.

As in Kuala Lumpur, the food was incredible. The mixture of Indian, Chinese and Malay food made us completely spoilt for choice, and our experiences in KL had left us more confident about deciding what to order and figuring out how to actually order it!

I was handed this with the three-word instruction, 'Turn and slurp.' The bemusement on my face must have been obvious because the instructions were most definitely needed.

This was the New Lane Hawker Centre. I would give my right arm (well, maybe one of my smaller toes) to be eating here again right now.

So that was George Town. I'd go back in a heartbeat. Although in a way it feels a bit stupid to be posting these when it's so long since we went away, it's awesome to remember how great it was. The next honeymoon post will be the far more relaxing Langkawi. I say relaxing, obviously there were some terrifying moments - it wouldn't be me if it was - but it was probably the most relaxed I've been in a very long time...

A Remarkably Normal Sun-day

Today: lie-in, quick gym visit, quick WhatsApp video call, walk to the Toby Carvery, roast dinner, walk back through the park, bit of blogging/zine making. The rest of the day will probably include a Lush bath, Curb Your Enthusiasm and, regrettably, the washing up.

Normal. Unremarkable. Static.

Except. It was the first day in weeks when I didn't feel overwhelmed by anxiety, or exhaustion, or the obsession that I'd be better off not being here. I'm soaking in the relief of just feeling normal.

The best thing, maybe the only good thing, about not having normality for a while is that it helps you appreciate it when it's here. Even if it's just today, it's a reminder.

Maybe there's something to be said for the first few spring-like days of the year:

Spring has sprung from comics

February's #PhotoAnHour: Brighton in Close Up

Another month, another Photo an Hour day.  I've done a photo an hour day in Brighton before, so I figured close ups might make this one a bit different. I think it worked. I'll let you judge (because I'm nice like that).

9.30: You can never have too many prints.

10.30: Packing. You really can't have too many prints.

11.30: The Beauty Myth

12.30: Even chipped paint looks better in Brighton.

 1.30: The inevitable chips.

2.30: The first sunny days are always the best sunny days.
[try to ignore terrifying global warming context]

3.30: Plants near the Pavillion

4.30: Shopping. You really, really can't have too many prints.

6.30: Zine reading after my Pen Fight order arrived super quick.

7.30: Pre-dinner beer. Love me a wheat beer.

8.30: Vegan pizza goodness.

9.30: Mmmmm

11.30: Much-needed

And some bonus Sunday not-so-humble-brags:

Hole in one.

Another (hole in) one.

I was red. Obviously (or I wouldn't have taken the photo).

Finally, my kind of positive affirmation:

(Thanks Jane and Louisa for your Photo An Hour organising skillz.)

Honeymooning: Kuala Lumpur

Two months ago we were in Malaysia on honeymoon. The time has flown by so I figured it was probably time I actually shared some of the pictures. The process of sorting through hundreds of photos has really made me wish we were back there, but, y'know, home's nice too *desperately tries to convince herself of this fact*

We spent the first four nights of our trip in Kuala Lumpur, so without further ado here's the pics:

Whenever anyone's asked me how the honeymoon was, my first response has been, 'The food was AMAZING'. Not sure what that says about me (or Pete for that matter) but it really, really was. Malaysia has big Chinese and South Indian populations, so there's a real mix of food. So obviously these posts will be littered with food pictures. Obviously. We kicked off with Chinese food from the Lot 10 food court.

Monday arrived and we kicked off the trip with a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. I'm not normally a massive fan of them but Pete is and apparently marriage is about this thing called compromise. Who knew? Anyway, it turned out to be a good way to see the city and figure out where stuff actually was. It also turned out to be a good way to get a hefty dose of KL traffic pollution straight to the throat, but you can't win 'em all.

First stop: Botanic Gardens and the Butterfly Park.

Second stop: Dataran Merdeka and the Sultan Samad Abdul Building. All the colonial stuff makes me feel pretty uncomfortable to be honest, but I did enjoy the contrast between the super-modern and Victorian-style buildings.

Third stop (I think): KL Tower. I really liked the tower - although it was a bit unnerving having to sign a legal disclaimer before visiting the level that was open to the air.

This was the scariest glass floor I've ever stood on. I think because it was part of a box that jutted out from the actual tower, rather than part of the floor itself. Seriously, it was awful. If it wasn't for my holiday tradition of feeling the fear and doing it anyway I would not have stood there.

Once I recovered from Tuesday morning's #TrumpPanic, we dragged ourselves into a taxi (don't judge, KL is not pedestrian friendly) and to the Islamic Arts Museum. 

The building was absolutely stunning, and I took approximately 675 photos of domes, jewellery, wall tiles, clothes, swords, fountains... Seriously, it was stunning, and so peaceful. I think I needed it to heal my shattered brain.

Next up was a walk (along non-existent pavements and in extreme heat) to Little India. 

Vegetable thali FTW.

After cowering from a pretty epic downpour. we headed to...

...the Petronas Towers! 

Our final day in Kuala Lumpur was probably my favourite. First up: Batu Caves (top tip: don't pay for a tour, the train is mega-easy).

(This holiday did not ease my fear of animals.)

Temple Cave

We did a tour of the Dark Cave which I would definitely recommend - this is the cave that is protected and the tour taught me loads about the snakes, bats and assorted creepy crawlies that live in there. Also our tour guide was hilarious and made the best use of similes ever.

Once evening came it was time for the thing I'd been looking forward to the most...

We booked this before we went and IMO it was so worth the money. There were three of us on the tour, and our guide took us to a hawker centre, a food market and an Indian cafe, all of which we would never have discovered or ventured to alone. Yes, that is deep-fried Oreo ice cream you can see...

Told you I am all about the food. 

Next up (once I've finished drooling over the photos): Penang,