27.08.17: Probably not a Millennial

I've just realised that I'm old. I suppose I knew this already; I know theoretically I'm not a teenager anymore, and I'm aware that I only get ID'd maybe once a year, but still, I get nervous making phone calls and I know the name of Zalfie's pug*, so I figured I must be a millennial at least.

Mates, I was in denial.

This weekend we went to Victorious Festival in Portsmouth (which was great, and a bargain) and the demographic was basically split into two: families, and groups of 12-25 year olds. And, looking around, I realised that I DONT UNDERSTAND THE YOUTH. Also my 23 week pregnancy belly made it pretty clear which demographic I slotted into (and I imagine the resulting child will make it even clearer).

The line up consisted mainly of bands I used to love. And by 'love' I mean 'obsess over in the way that only a 19 year old who doesn't have an actual job to occupy her time can'. As I watched Franz Ferdinand, Maximo Park, Elbow, Field Music, Pete Doherty and Stereophonics from the safe middle of the crowd, I reflected on the 'crushing my ribs against the barrier' days of yore and how things have changed. Or not. I still know all the words, I'm still pretty obsessed with the bands, and they were still excellent.** They haven't changed that much, I haven't changed that much, and that's the whole point really.

The things I like are not that cool. I am not a Millennial. Except for the phone calls thing; that's totally valid. Totally legit. I meant legit. 

*I respect but pretty much hate Zalfie so maybe I'm better off not being a real millennial.

**Except maybe Pete Doherty, who is still good but also...just say no, kids.

25.08.17: One Day at a Time

I have a new mantra: one day at a time. I've been repeating it to myself somewhat dogmatically for days, probably more out of necessity than some kind of spiritual rebirth.

Pete's been a moving hero this week; doing the bulk of the packing and moving our stuff into the new house in Bristol. I am pretty much squatting in my own flat now while I work my last few weeks at work; it's just me, an airbed and an armchair we bought from Gumtree. I'm pretty confident no-one died in it, but you can never be 100% sure about these things. The baby is doing well, the anomaly scan was anomaly-free and we know the sex. So that's all getting somewhat real.

The upshot of all that is that change is afoot. And if I think too hard about that my mind kind of races into the future and I'm basically staring into the abyss. Which leaves me a choice: fall into the abyss (been there, it's messy and dark) or take things one day at a time.

One day at a time it is. Turns out things are much easier if you're not constantly imagining a horrifying future. Huh.

Everything Changes But You

The last, say, 15 years of my life have been fairly eventful. To be fair, most people could say the same about themselves between the ages of 16 and 31; it's rarely a boring time. In my own particular case, I've had 14 homes, 10 jobs, two husbands, six hospital admissions, three family bereavements, I've visited 20 new countries, and studied at four universities.

And there's a lot more change in the offing; if everything goes to plan the next six months will see us relocate to Bristol and *gulp* have a baby. So yeah, my life is currently one big festival of trying not to freak out about change.

Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, I find it comforting to remember the things that haven't changed. So, some things I still have in common with 15 year old Liz:

I love:
Salt and vinegar crisps.

Fruit. All the fruit.
Brushed cotton duvet covers/soft blankets/duvets in general (nothing can hurt you under the duvet, right?)

Laughing until I can't breathe (usually at animals/people falling over).

Dancing like an idiot.
Making lists (case in point).

I hate:
Branston Pickle.
Arrogant men (I guess it was boys back then).

I need:
Validation (although I can sometimes do this for myself now).
At least eight hours sleep a night.

I can:
Sleep through pretty much anything (thunderstorms, earthquakes).
Do some excellent, if slightly niche, impressions (a frozen chicken, Deirdre Barlow, a monkey).

Drop things, spill things, lose things and trip over things with almost unbelievable regularity.

If you need me I'll be in my duvet eating crisps and pretending everything's staying exactly the same and it's not scary at all. Yep. It's all gonna be fine. Completely fine. 

Marmaris: A Holiday Scrapbook

A few weeks ago Pete and I looked at our calendars, took into account expiring passports, annual leave allowances, the unpredictability of third trimester pregnancy, and impeding relocation, and realised the window during which we could go on a child-free holiday together was closing. So after some extensive online searching (seriously, it's like the Thomson website doesn't actually want you to buy a holiday) we booked an all-inclusive week in Turkey. Lounging around a resort for a week isn't usually my bag, but I feel like I'd reached a stage in life/pregnancy/my stress levels where the thought of lying down, eating, reading and swimming for a week was ridiculously appealing.

Said week of lounging means that there isn't really enough physical evidence for one of my usual scrapbooking projects, so you get a blog post instead (you lucky things). Some photos, thoughts and memories:

This was probably the most relaxing holiday I've ever had. Even after the first day I felt completely calm and chilled out. I'm writing this on the last day (view from balcony above) and it's seriously an effort to keep my head up.

One morning I woke up to the sound of Pete's phone vibrating. I obviously jumped to the immediate conclusion that something awful had happened and promptly started freaking out. Turned out I'd actually missed all the drama: in the night I'd apparently open my eyes, looked at Pete, told him not to be silly and gone back to sleep. I am not the person you want by your side during an earthquake (but if you know me, you probably knew that already).

Sunsets and the sea and just beautiful, really, aren't they?

All inclusive slush puppies are almost the one. Obviously air con is the actual one though.

Watching the fish through our epic full-face snorkel.

Pete eating three starters (two were a 'heroic' attempt to save me from banned cheese and raw fish, the other one was...arguably unjustified).

I can't be too smug on the overeating front though; my baklava obsession reached new, syrup-soaked heights.

Spending actual quality time with Pete. It's weird how you can live with someone and still feel like you don't really spend enough time together.

Kicking Pete's ass at cards. Well, at the time of this scorecard I was kicking his ass. I don't think you need to know how it ended.

Sometimes it's important just to be. To listen to yourself and just do what you want to do at that moment. 

Help Please! Some Non-Googleable Pregnancy/Childbirth Questions

If you have looked after babies and/or given birth to them, I need your advice and opinions (please). I've obviously been googling pretty much everything pregnancy and baby related, but there's some stuff that just comes down to experience. So, I'd appreciate some opinions on the following:

1. What's the one piece of advice you'd give someone who's having their first child?

2. What's the one (perhaps non-super-obvious e.g. not 'a car seat') baby item that you'd recommend buying?

3. Similarly, anything you bought that was completely pointless?

4. What actually helped you during childbirth? Either in terms of preparation, aftercare or on the day(s)? I don't know yet what kind of birth I'll be having so any advice on this is very welcome!

5. How bad is the post-giving-birth pain/discomfort? No-one seems to talk about it much but the one book I've read made it sound beyond hideous. Is it beyond hideous?

6. This might make me sound completely stupid, but what did your newborn enjoy in terms of stimulation? Is it all person-to-person stuff, or were there 'toys', lights, etc that they liked? I feel like once we get to the 'sensory play' stage I am sorted (used to teach children with PMLD) but not 100% sure what the very early days are like for this...

7. If you experienced depression/suicidality/anxiety/mood disorders pre-pregnancy, did you experience a return of these symptoms pre- or post-natally? When did it happen for you? Were the warning signs/presentation/treatments similar to what you experienced/what worked for you in the past? NB: I get that this one is very personal, but I would absolutely love to hear about people's experiences in this area - feel free to email me if you don't want to comment! So far I've been relatively stable through pregnancy but given my history this is a big concern for me.

8. Finally, most importantly, WILL IT ALL BE OK?

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.)