First comes love, then comes marriage and then comes a baby in a baby carriage. Part 2

Matt and I on our wedding day, 5th December 2009
Matt and I on our wedding day, 5th December 2009

It was a glorious summer as we embraced our new-found status as expectant parents. We fell into an easy routine of me taking to my bed in the evenings in our rented terraced house in Bournville, Birmingham, and Matt studying. The previous September he had enrolled at Birmingham City University to complete a PGCE, with the view to becoming a secondary school music teacher. It would be a realisation of his dream to work in music, albeit not as a hot producer or singer/songwriter in a London studio, but it would be in the right direction and would be using his music degree more directly than his previous recruitment job.

I think we both felt quite settled in our new and emerging roles. Matt was changing career, enjoying his studies and doing extremely well despite the challenges that teenage school children create. He also made some friends that are still dear to him now, one of whom has just got married. We attended the nuptials with our second child in tow. I too was changing career – from PR to PA and from wife to mother, I was as thrilled at the text book pregnancy I was having as I was at settling into my new job – both fitted like a glove.

Arriving for the wedding
Arriving for the wedding

Having put our life plan into action we set about planning to move back to sleepy Chipping Norton, where I grew up. My family moved there when I was 7 and it has been a permanent fixture in my life ever since. I met Matt at the secondary school there, I had many friends still living in the area and Matt’s family lived 7 miles away in an even sleepier town called Charlbury. It was the perfect place to bring up children, a reasonably rural, small Cotswold town with both sets of grandparents on our doorstep and a comforting familiarity that would allow me to focus on learning how to raise my child. It fit the ideals we both had for our child or children to be brought up with a sense of family and place in the local community. It was in many ways an idyllic place to grow up compared to the suburbs of a big town or city we thought; as country bumpkins ourselves we had nothing to compare to apart from our time spent studying and living in Birmingham and the experience had left us cold to anonymous city living.

My parents owned a large town house in the centre of the town; it was an unusual set-up with a furniture shop at the front and the family home occupying the rest of the building above and behind it. The easiest access to our front door was through the shop which was piled high with beautifully crafted and accordingly priced oak and pine furniture, decorated with trendy shabby chic knick-knacks strategically placed to catch the eye of passing custom. The shopkeeper had run the business for many years and was a well-known, well-loved face in the local community; through the week he would host a stream of regular chats with townspeople who did not come for his wooden delights but for his delightful company. His distinctive laugh ringing out perhaps more often than his till but his popularity and solid client base kept him securely ensconced on the High Street, between two large branches of national banking chains.

When my parents found out I was pregnant and the initial excitement had been replaced by even more excited planning and organising, they agreed we could rent the apartment which was the top part of their house. It sat above the shop and looked out over the centre of the town. For a nosy-parker like myself it was heaven to sit in the large open-plan living/dining/kitchen, peer through the old windows into the bustling streets below and people watch.

The apartment was in the oldest and original part of the building which was Georgian. It had been added to over the years resulting in a rabbit warren of rooms and passages spread over 4 floors. It was quirky to say the least with charming time-worn wooden windows and archways. As a teenager it was fantastic fun to bring friends round after school and see them flounder with the layout, throwing their hands in the air declaring they were lost. I was the eldest of four children so we relished the room we had in this house compared to our previous 3 bedroom semi-detached estate house. In the town house we had the luxury of a room each and no less than three bathrooms to use between six of us. It is a house that had been moulded by us over the years through adolescence and now as I turn thirty this year it has seen the joys and heartaches of my twenties too. Our fingerprints are evident in the structural changes to the property, which allowed us to make the most of the higgledy-piggledy arrangement of the floors. In short, it was a delight to return to my family home to start my own family and thinking of the months ahead I was nothing but thankful to have my mum downstairs from me, on hand for any baby emergency.

The apartment was already being let so the soonest we could make the move was in July, I was due on November 7th, my mum’s birthday, so we had plenty of time to settle in before the arrival of bubba. The only stressful part of the move was that I couldn’t very easily commute from Chipping Norton to central Birmingham every day for the rest of my pregnancy so we had to come up with an interim solution. Matt had finished his PGCE by the summer and gained an outstanding first, I was so proud of his achievement as was he. However, the reality of finding a music teaching position in Oxfordshire or surrounding counties in what is traditionally a small department proved futile and he scampered to find a job in recruitment to ensure he could provide for wife and child. With dragging feet he found one helping people claiming job-seekers allowance find work; it was hard and largely unrewarding but it paid the bills and was stable.

With Matt settling into his new job I still needed to work until my maternity leave which started when I was 27 weeks pregnant; including unspent annual leave, it was the earliest it could start so I had to stay in Birmingham for a month while Matt lived and worked in Oxfordshire. A dear friend from my university days and her lovely husband hosted me and I was truly spoiled by their generosity throughout my stay. I had home-cooked meals and was allowed free reign on the TV channels while they went about their business in the evenings after work. My evenings were spent leisurely resting up and ended with a nightly phone call from Matt to say goodnight to me and bump.

Happily pregnant at my friend's house in Birmingham
Happily pregnant at my friend’s house in Birmingham

We’d swap stories from our day and wove our ideas for the baby room decorations and favourite baby names into such a rich tapestry it was hard to see where we ended and it began. Each time we had a thought or hope for our baby, our new life, we would delicately stitch a little more into the fabric each day. The cloth grew larger and more intricate as the months went by just as our baby developed and grew. I had a day by day pregnancy book that I poured over, in awe of the female body and what it could achieve. I hungrily read ahead wishing the time away until I could meet Bubba Berry and at the same time trying to savour every part of this fabulous process. I was, quite frankly, nauseatingly happy and content with my situation and would gladly tell anyone that would listen; indeed, if I had been asked I could have seen myself on some pregnancy advert quite blissfully demonstrating the benefits of some cream or other for mums-to-be. Yes, I was that into it.

16 weeks pregnant with my mum on my sister's wedding day
16 weeks pregnant with my mum on my sister’s wedding day

The final few months of my pregnancy were spent answering the phones for my brother-in-law’s company and stockpiling cooked meals in preparation for a time when cooking would be the last thing on our minds and require more focus than our tired minds would allow. I absolutely embraced impending motherhood and tried to morph into a domestic, maternal goddess who knew her way round the kitchen and the cleaning equipment – and more importantly revelled in her status of home queen. I think I was trying to fit that image I’d seen promoted in TV, fiction, facebook, instagram and pinterest of the yummy mummy – informed yet fun, inventive and proud. Sadly now I do tend to feel much more of a fraud if I’m honest, perhaps I’m not so much a natural nest builder. But there we were drifting, lounging on the raft of pregnancy, floating along being carried by our optimism and anticipation, little did we know we were careering towards a waterfall of epic proportions…

Until next time… do what you can to find your smile

Lydia

x

So where did it all start? First comes love, then comes marriage and then comes a baby in a baby carriage. Part 1

So where did it all start?

Having been focused on getting my career started after leaving university and being newly married, I didn’t have much time or inclination to think about having children.

My sister had a son and being an aunty was quite enough for me.  So for someone like me that was not really inclined towards babies, this had definite contraceptive properties. I was content with my life as it was 1+1 = 2 and I was in no hurry to make it = 3.

I was still thrilled to say ‘husband’ not ‘boyfriend’ and tried to get it into conversations as often as I could. My husband (see what I did there?) Matt, and I had met at school, he was 16 and I was 17 – yes I wooed a younger man. We had been together for 7 years when we got married near our Cotswold home in a hotel. A beautiful grapevine, from which the hotel took its name, ran the length of the ceremony room where we lovingly said our vows in front of all our friends and family.

We were excited about all life had to offer and the wind felt full of potential and opportunity. Sorry that sounded a bit Jane Austen or something, but it was true. We both had new jobs – our first ‘proper’ jobs – and we were using all our energy to navigate the choppy waters of the ‘world of work’. I found it hard not to take everything personally and would often get my knickers in a twist about small and sometimes insignificant episodes at work. The idea that I had done something wrong or didn’t understand something was clearly shameful and obviously any criticism was tantamount to a dismissal and would surely indicate my last day in the job. (oh my stupid brain!)

My perfectionism frequently got the better of me in those first few year of work, but now I must say that with my new perspective on what really matters I am somewhat more relaxed about work. While still seeing it as important (clearly) I can just separate myself from it better and be more matter of fact about the task in hand. Any way back to neurotic Lydia… I loved being a working gal with my cute office clothes and heels, going to after-work events and mingling, I mean networking, with other young professionals. It suited my love of conversation and mildly flirtatious nature, I thought I’d made a grand choice in PR as a career and enjoyed the writing challenges it gave me. So we were two Oxfordshire newly-weds living in Birmingham making our first forays into work, owning a car and generally doing grown up stuff.

So far so good.


 

Baby in a baby carriage
Baby in a baby carriage

In the summer before we had our first foray into parenthood, we decided that it was a journey we wanted to undertake.

I was unhappy in my PR job (shock I know) and wanted a change. Living in Birmingham meant we missed our families in Oxfordshire so with a little one on the way moving back home felt right. It was the next chapter and we were excited and giddy at the thought.

We were blissfully naïve to the consequences of our innocent choice to start a family. I had spent my youth taking every precaution not to get pregnant and surely now we had made the decision to have a baby it would happen very quickly, wasn’t that how it worked? I’m sure this notion of getting pregnant being easy came from secondary school where us girls were taught that if you did not actively prevent pregnancy it would definitely happen. So now as a responsible adult it surely couldn’t be simpler, you chose to start a family and it happened.

For us, thank goodness, it was rather simple; it took 6 months to conceive each of our girls. However, I must at this point just say that since losing Evie we have meet many people who have lost their babies, some of whom getting pregnant in itself was a cause of grief. It has taught me that having children is not a right; it is not deserved by some and not by others, the biological mysteries of who can and cannot is beyond all of us, in spite of scientific advances.

So we put our plan into action and life become fuller; indeed, I became increasingly large with expectation literally and figuratively. I had a new job as a PA and found out I was pregnant the week after joining the company – not ideal but I embraced the change in pace and growing belly. I was nauseous for 3 months straight and only emerged from tiredness and the toilet bowl at around 14 weeks, I was round but not obviously pregnant and I felt that cliché glow of a mum-to-be. I really did feel I was carrying a VIP, well a VILP – very important little person – and I proudly stroked my tummy, discussing the latest pregnancy factoid I’d learnt as if I alone had discovered the miracle of childbearing and as a leading expert was duty bound to share the secrets.

I realise now that I approached this pregnancy – my first – as if it were a module at university. I studied hard and felt calm and confident, reassured by my knowledge of what was happening to my body. I had mastered the process and therefore was in control of it. I was convinced knowing the theory was enough to pass the practical with flying colours. I felt entitled to this little baby, it was mine and it was an absolute certainty that I would meet them and look after them in 9 months time. Pre- and post natal issues and labour difficulties were for other people; faceless people I didn’t know who lived far away. They were not for the likes of me – (special people who get what they want, perfectly as they planned it). Oh how that thought makes me chuckle now, chuckle in a 1950s cartoon villain kind of way that is.

To be continued…

Until next time, do what you can to find your smile.

Lydia

x

You were mine

Evie

We spent so many happy hours choosing our daughter’s name and it feels so unfair to not be able to say her name every day, all day as we would if she were here. In these pages I have used her name liberally – Evelyn, Evie, to try to even the score, bump up the number of times her precious name is mentioned. I like to think that every time someone reads her name here it is another brick in her memorial, another link to this world, something to root her here.

To help me make her real in the months after she died, to tell myself she was here and she was mine, I wrote down everything I could think of that made her exist. I’d like to share my list with you:

Evie 2

Evie – the facts that make you real

  1. You lived for 38 week and 3 days inside me and 55 minutes in the world.
  2. You liked to kick every evening when daddy was home from work. But every time daddy tried to have a feel you’d stop! But daddy did feel you lots of times too.
  3. You liked music, daddy would play Coldplay’s ‘fix you’ and you would try to kick the phone away.
  4. In your 20 week scan picture you wouldn’t show us your face, you peered over your shoulder like a Hollywood movie star denying your fans a picture.
  5. You didn’t cause much discomfort to mummy, other than your feet in my ribs on the right-hand side!
  6. You always stayed in a good place for labour in the final few weeks.
  7. You grew really well and were a good weight – 7lbs 8oz.
  8. You had beautiful long limbs and big feet!
  9. You have the colour of daddy’s hair and my waviness.
  10. You have the shape of daddy’s eyes and ears.
  11. You have mummy’s nose, cheekbones and chin.
  12. You were cold and limp.
  13. You were injured on your head and bruised on your nose.
  14. You were stuck too long and didn’t get oxygen.
  15. You never opened your eyes.
  16. You never cried.
  17. You didn’t see your mummy or daddy.
  18. You died in a hospital 20 miles from home.
  19. You never saw your home, your bedroom, your clothes and toys.
  20. You aren’t here now.
  21. You are buried under a beautiful garden.

Evie 1

I also wrote down everything that made me really her mum. This was particularly important before we had our second daughter as I was a childless parent until 14 months later we plunged once again into parenthood. Again I’d like to share it:

How am I a Parent?

  • I love Evie with my whole being, unconditionally, an all-consuming love of a mum
  • I gave birth to Evie, let them do what they needed to get her out no matter what the cost to myself.
  • I carried her for 38 weeks and 3 days. Nurturing her, talking, singing to her.
  • I passed our love of music to her because she would kick when she heard certain songs.
  • I felt her kicks and moved her around so I could be more comfy.
  • I bought Evie everything she needed to live comfortably with us.
  • We named you Evelyn Kay Rose –  you are named after your two grandmas – each of your middle names.
  • I had hopes and dreams for Evie, what she would become.
  • I had hopes and dreams of what we would do together as a family.
  • I thought about how I would raise Evie
  • I hoped this journey to bring a new life into this world would make us better people
  • I wanted to devote myself to Evie and what she wanted and needed.
  • I wanted a family and family life.
  • I planned to have a baby, I was so happy to be having a girl – I knew we were having a girl.
  • We keep her memory alive through donations, Evie’s garden and displaying her pictures.

And now…

  • We talk about Evie to our second daughter Poppy. She knows your picture and helps us take care of your garden – she eats the strawberries we grow there!
Evie and Poppy - my precious girls x
Evie and Poppy – my precious girls x

Until next time, do what you can to find your smile again.

Lydia

x