Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Motherhood and beyond: 2005-2013

I really thought I was ready for children. I had the pram, the cot, the nappies and the nursery all prepared; I had done the NCT classes, read What to Expect When You're Expecting, and kept fit and healthy throughout my pregnancy, even riding my bike up to six months pregnant (actually, I can't really believe I did that now. Was I mad?)  I was calm and felt ready to take on the world.

Littleboy 1 was nine days late into the world, but when he came, he came quickly, like the force of nature that he still is. Four hours after having my first labour pains in the hairdresser (where I had gone out of boredom and frustration at the baby not coming), I was having an emergency C-section at St Thomas's hospital after what turned out to be a placental abruption.

The trauma of his birth, and the three nightmarish days I spend in the hospital afterwards, with Littleboy 1 screaming his head off most of the time and refusing to breastfeed, left me a nervous wreck by the time I got home. The first few weeks of his life are a bit of a blur, and were followed by a period of terrible insomnia which I now see was a kind of postnatal depression/anxiety, although I refused to really believe that at the time.

Littleboy 1, just home from the hospital.
However, once he reached three months old, both Littleboy 1 and I reached a turning point. He calmed down and became a gurgling, happy, delightful baby; I calmed down too and started to enjoy motherhood. Suddenly I realised that we were living not far from the heart of Nappy Valley; an area tailor-made for families. Whether it was walks on the Common, trips to the Wandsworth One O Clock Club or Mother and Baby cinema showings, there was always something to do and friends to do it with.

After nine months or so, I started doing some part-time work again. After a few weeks of trying to work with the baby at home (big mistake), I found a local childminder, although this eventually turned out badly- she fussed constantly that Littleboy 1 wasn't wearing enough "layers", and tutted over his fussy eating. He was her first "client", but when she took on others, she advised me that he wasn't taking too well to the interlopers (he had thrown a toy at one them) and would have to go elsewhere.

Affronted, I found a local nursery, and just in time, too, for I was already pregnant with Littleboy 2. While this had happened earlier than we had planned, we were happy; until a problem presented itself with the pregnancy. I had placenta previa with intermittent bleeding, which meant an enforced stay in hospital until the baby was born - which was likely to be early. We quickly hired a nanny and then began a very stressful few weeks, with The Doctor and Littleboy 1 (aged 18 months) visiting me in hospital every day. Littleboy 2 was eventually born at 35 weeks, and spent a week in the NICU, a frightening time for all, after having breathing problems in his first few hours.

Littleboy 2's first Christmas - he was so tiny and sleepy.

The hospital were reluctant to let him go home until he gained weight, and by this time I was desperate. I did everything I could to persuade them that he would be OK, even waking him constantly to feed him (he spent the first week of his life mainly asleep, and is still very keen on his bed). By the time we got him home, just in time for Christmas 2006, I was exhausted, but relieved that all was well. Somehow, the strain of having two kids to look after was nothing compared to all I'd been through, and I adapted to it pretty well. The best advice a friend once gave me was "make sure you get out of the house and do something once a day". And we did.

By late 2007, I was working three days a week, two of them in a PR agency owned by my friend Nota Bene (who then started his own blog) and spending Monday and Friday with the kids. I was content, but somehow felt an urge to write something other than features and press releases. As a teenager, I had written hundreds of stories, poems and even started a few novels, but since then all my writing had been journalistic rather than creative. Then, I read the book Petite Anglaise, about an English blogger living in France, and about the same time read Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson, which satirises life in Notting Hill (where my husband grew up, so rather familiar). I wondered about starting a satirical blog about life in Nappy Valley - after all, there was plenty of material.

With my two boys just before our move to America

And in January 2008, I did. I wrote about music classes in Nappy Valley here. And then I wrote about losing my pram (a true story) and about a hellish visit to soft play. And eventually people started commenting on my blog, and I on their blogs.

And the rest, my friends, is history. You can read it all here. We moved to Long Island in 2009 and since then I've been charting our experience as Brits in America. The last eight years have been some of the most eventful and momentous of my life. The births of my lovely children, a move abroad that I will never regret, some ups and downs and some unforgettable experiences..

What with the illness that has been plaguing me since last October, the last few months have been probably the toughest of my life. Now we are facing a new challenge; a move back to London. But looking back has been therapeutic, and now I just need to hold onto the hope that life can be great once again.


Kit said...

I've been enjoying reading your early posts from Nappy Valley. I only found your blog when you were about to move, so missed all the for me nostalgic stories of life in the valley. We lived in a photographic studio in Battersea when our son was born in 1998, moved out to Balham when he got mobile and then out to Streatham when his sister joined us, so those are all our old stomping grounds, albeit a few years time difference.

Metropolitan Mum said...

It's almost funny how we buy all the gear and really think we'd be ready for babies - when in fact, we can never be truly ready. Littleboy 2's first few weeks must have been a scary time. Not what you need, especially not with a toddler at home who wants his mummy...

MsCaroline said...

I didn't start reading your blog until you'd already left Nappy Valley and were living in LI, so missed out on those early days. I've so been enjoying your walk down memory lane, and I think it's been helpful for you, too. I'm looking forward to hearing about your repatriation as well. Hoping being 'back home' among your loved ones will be a wonderful thing for all involved.

Melissa said...

I'm glad you've found writing this all down therapeutic - it's been really interesting to read. I hope you realise from writing it, what a fascinating and marvellous life you have had. Right now might be tough. Poor health sucks. It really does. And it's only when you're not well that you realise how good life is normally. But I am sure that all will come right and that your next big adventure is just around the corner - and it will make for even more fabulous memories.

Expat mum said...

It's been great catching up on your life.

Iota said...

I think you'll treasure these posts in years to come. In another 10, 20, 30 years, you'll be able to read them and think "Why did I talk about THAT? Why did I think THAT was important? I can't believe I said I felt THAT!"

planb said...

Been catching up and reading the last few posts in a chunk - you're making me feel very inferior as you've packed so much in!

So lovely to get a sneaky peek into your life before blogging. Thank you.

Was Living Down Under said...

I found your blog through Iota's blog (though I haven't commented on hers yet). I'm a Canadian originally from Africa who spent her formative years in the middle east and then, like you, with two little ones did the expat gig as an adult but to Australia. We are back home now - the children have lost their accents though some of the language has stuck with us and I have begun to not miss Australia as much as I did last year.

Anyway I thought I would say hello. I went back and started reading your blog from its beginning and I have to say I keep wanting to comment or say "hey I know that feeling" or "that happened to me!" Feeling like I am late to the party. I almost started a blog when I got to Aus and now I kinda wish I had. As Iota said, you will treasure these posts as time goes by.

Not really any point here just to say hello.

nappy valley girl said...

Kit - Interesting to hear that you lived there too! Good that you can relate to the tales of Nappy Valley...

MetMum - yes, they were a scary time, and that time we really weren't ready - The Doctor had to go off and buy all the nappies etc as I went into hospital at 32 weeks.

MsCaroline - I hope so. Although I will miss our current home very much.

Melissa - thanks. Yes it does make me realise life has been good until very recently. If and when I do feel better, I am really going to appreciate the small things so much more.

Expat Mum - glad it was interesting and not too boring!

Iota - you're right. I hope my children read them too (Google, don't you dare get rid of Blogger).

planb - I suppose I have packed a lot in - didn't seem like it at the time, though...

WLDU - thanks for stopping by and commenting. It's not too late to start a blog - you could write about your time in Oz perhaps?x

Anonymous said...

I can relate to the placenta praevia part. I was in hospital at 28 weeks with my 3rd and my 18 month old and just over 3 year old sons then had to move 200 miles south and stay with my in laws whilst hubby worked away and only visited me at week ends.Not much fun. Their sister arrive at 35 weeks and 2 weeks later we left hospital.

I have enjoyed finding out more about you.


I wrote a paper diary at the time and but it has been a few years since I read it, maybe I should seek it oit;.

Knackered Mother said...

Yes, I only found you once you were out of Nappy Valley but lovely to read about this part of your life too. Beautiful boys!

Wedding wear for men said...
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nappy valley girl said...

Anonymous - that sounds grim as well. At least my husband was nearby. But it is certainly not a fun condition.

KM - thank you! They are still beautiful, if not quite as blond.

mummys own said...

Your post really took me back to the first months with my littleboy1 and the chaos and the insomnia (I now have 3 little boys! Little boy 3 has just arrived!)
With our third little boy life is totally different and it really is like a lot of people say, that you get a chance to really enjoy the baby-days! It's truly amazing and so different from the first months with our 2 older boys.
thanks for a lovely blog!

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

I really enjoyed this series Alex. It was great to get to know you better through it - here's to a fab imminent next chapter back on this side of the pond. I hope you leave LI with some of the fondness I hold for it. There are definite downsides, but plenty of ups too. x