Tales & images from life as me…

Posts tagged “pregnant

Help! A tiny person’s coming

Who’d have thought that a miniature human weighing just a few kilograms and unable to walk or talk yet, could cause so much fuss!

I’m learning that it’s all very well getting pregnant and moving across continents and playing ‘new house’, but at some point you will be forced to face reality and actually prepare for the arrival of this tiny person in a way that you have never prepared for the arrival of anything else in your whole life.

In the past month I’ve done antenatal classes (where I learned to clean chicken korma from a doll’s bum!); discussed my birthing options (until I’m so confused I’m considering just requesting that I be knocked out until it’s all over); and bought all sorts of mad additions to the house (including the cutest cot you’ve ever seen, a daunting looking bath contraption and a car seat which hubby is currently proudly sporting in the back of his car!). But even all of this has felt a little bit like play-acting… until, one fated sleepless night I decided to read the dreaded baby book. Alien words like ‘transition’ (previously a nice innocuous word suggesting a positive change – a sort of caterpillar to butterfly thing perhaps? Not in this case!), ‘crowning’ (previously associated with gold and diamonds. Not in this case), ‘episiotomy’ (that word should not contain the phonetic of ‘ease’ in any form!)… and as the night wore on the reality that this baby has to come out, one way or the other, set in.

It’s an odd concept to actually face: having to prepare for pain. This is not something we do. Pain is something that’s generally a surprise and warns us something is wrong. There are very few circumstances where you plan for it. I mentioned this to hubby. “Torture?” he suggested, helpfully! …Fantastic!

And the one piece of advice everyone thinks it’s worth offering up…? ‘It’s really important to stay calm.’ HA HA HA.

With this in mind I decided I should really get back into yoga. I am really missing my DVD-assisted guru, Nina, in TZ, plus I thought it might be a good way to meet people. I’m told to bring 2 pillows and head for a local church hall by 10am. At 5 to ten I have two big orange sofa cushions in the back of my car and am desperately searching for a parking space in our new town. I get a bit lost, which results in a late entry just after everyone has said who they are and how pregnant they are. I stumble in, red faced, massive orange cushions in tow (everyone else has little, tasteful, discreet affairs I notice!) and everyone turns to me in unison. “Hi,” I say to the expectant (in more ways than one!) crowd, dropping a pillow onto someone else’s mat space and desperately trying to retrieve it without groping her in my flustered state. “I’m Mel… and I’m late, sorry.” I add pointlessly before plonking myself down, a little too hard for the size of me, in the only remaining space. Needless to say no one spoke to me for the duration and my hopes for some mummy networking were crushed. Oh well, maybe next week, with smaller pillows and better parking planning! Still, the yoga itself was ok.

And what does this weekend have in store? Well an exciting visit to Oxford to visit our hospital and meet our consultant, see the facilities and learn even more about the grueling ordeal ahead! Whoop whoop! Maybe they’ll take some more blood and urine if I’m really lucky!

The upside of all of this, though, is that it is all part of the preparation to actually meet that tiny person. I’m glad I’m being forced to take all these steps or I might never have got myself ready. I’d have happily done 10 months of pregnancy and then gone ‘oh, maybe I should consider the baby at some point!’

I guess my plan is simply to set expectations, of myself and of tiny person, as low as possible. That way I won’t be disappointed, I might just be pleasantly surprised. It’s not that I’m a pessimist, just that so many people share such awful tales of misery, isolation, pain and the occasional psychotic break that saying I plan to get showered and dressed every day is just a step too far, so I’m not saying that.

Managing hubby’s expectations, however, may be something of a different ball game. Even at this stage, he looks at me dragging my enormous self around and exclaims ‘Darling, tomorrow you must do nothing. NOTHING. Just relax.’ But in almost the same breath there are expectations of cleaning, collecting things in town and what we might have for dinner, and on returning from a day in the office there is always the expectation that you have achieved something. And NO, having tea with a friend or undertaking a creative pass time does not count – it falls, apparently, into neither category. It is not physically relaxing nor achieving something that contributes to the house… hmmm. A difficult one, particularly as I know that once baby actually arrives every mum I’ve ever met has told me that the only way to survive is tea with friends and lots of cake! Oh well, I guess it won’t be too difficult to avoid as long no one talks to me at yoga!

So, we’re almost there: 1 set of shipping, 2 dogs, 3 expected visitors, 4 more medical appointments and 5 weeks remain before we might just end up with a baby that hopefully doesn’t go too pear-shaped! I’ll keep you posted ☺

Note: For those of you who signed up to this blog because you were interested in my travels, my photography or my writing, and haven’t the slightest interest in kids don’t worry, I don’t want this to become a parenting blog and I’m not going to stop traveling, taking pictures or writing, but I guess since it’s all about ‘life as me’ some of these life things do have to come into it. And how I manage being a mum and trying to still be me, is bound to be a big part of the next chapter. Bear with me, I’ll try to keep it light and human.


The ex-pat re-patriates

I’m beginning to think that England is at least equally as crazy as Tanzania. So I’ve been in the UK for almost an entire month now and Africa’s vibrant colours and life-filled, dust-filled, sunshine-stormy days have faded to a backdrop that I have an irritating habit of referring to in spite of my audience’s apparent disinterest. No one cares that I miss it, they can’t even imagine it. From the moment I crossed the passport check at Heathrow with my one way ticket, I was just another British citizen and it is supposed to be as simple as that.

And that means accepting that the mobile network is worse here than in the middle of the Serengeti; or that the guy in the train station won’t help a pregnant, lost and slightly tearful woman with a flat phone (and her charger) in case something happens to the phone and he has to accept liability; or that a child that starves in its own home places the social services at fault whilst the parents get to moan on the news that the authorities did nothing – erm, what did they do? It means mummifying yourself in red tape as you try to reinsert yourself into a system you left, quite deliberately, and are now repeatedly punished for having done so. Was I welcomed back into the open arms of my native country? Not exactly.

Of course my family have been great and do understand, having been out to visit and even lived in various African countries at various stages. And I’ve managed to catch up with several of my friends who I met originally in TZ or Kenya, so that’s helped too, but let me tell you of the weeks’ adventures so you can get a little insight into the mayhem of relocating!

That’s a big part of it I think – the fact that I am supposedly ‘home’. I’ve discussed that word before. There’s no doubt this is home, but when you’ve been a long-term ex-pat you get into the habit of referring to two homes, neither of which quite fit comfortably. Well now the expectation is that I will fit straight in, that I know how things work, that I already have friends. But the fact is I am different; laws, systems, products and technology are different; and my friends have grown up and moved on in almost a decade (or worse, they haven’t!). As part of my efforts to blend back in I opted to take some driving lessons to build my confidence on these fast, smooth, frequently dark or wet roads. I couldn’t help but spot the metaphor as I practiced the blend road onto a motorway for the first time in all these years – the pressure on the accelerator, me holding my breath, everyone else already going along at their own speed on the motorway and me desperately trying to catch up and find a slot to move into.

Of course family and friends were delighted to have me home (my parents have lent me all I could need, helped me move furniture, fed me and done washing, my sister dropped everything for my arrival and my brother has driven me to collect my car and come to install our TV!), but everyone is in the middle of their ‘real’ lives, they’re already on the motorway. You can’t blame them, they have children and jobs and commitments, but nothing pauses to allow you to adjust. And in the mean time I had to keep pace regardless – I mean, we need a house, I had to register with doctors, buy some ‘essentials’ (many of them items I have lived without quite contentedly in TZ!) and get us ready for Christmas… but it wasn’t as simple as just ticking off the jobs on my list, the UK doesn’t just welcome back ‘foreigners’ after too many years away.

I began with the bank – can I get a bank account for myself and my husband? ‘Of course, but not until you have a proper address and your husband is in the country.’ Hmmm. OK. Let’s focus on getting an address… Our choice was limited to about 1% of the properties on the market because landlords are not up for having dogs in the house so we were off to a wobbly start, then I started to complete the tenant application forms and the financial vetting forms and things really started to fall apart. Turns out you can’t get an address until you have a UK bank account (refer to the start of this paragraph and you can see the issue!). It also turns out that after twenty years of working I must now tick boxes that describe me as ‘unemployed’, ‘housewife’ and ‘living with parents’ oh and ‘pregnant’ (with my husband still in TZ I felt like I might as well tick ‘knocked up’ and have done with it!) – seriously depressing and not making me look like an especially great potential tenant!

We lost the first two houses we made offers on around halfway through negotiations. The first because the landlord changed his mind about the dogs, the second because they told us (after we’d signed the papers) that the neighbours would be doing 3 months’ worth of loud extension work on their house and I had visions of myself plotting to murder the builders – especially once baby had actually arrived and they began drilling just as he’d fallen asleep!

Finding a house in an area 2 hours away from where my family lives has also meant I need to drive, a lot, get lost, figure out how to use a Tom Tom, find places to pee every hour!

So tomorrow I am driving up to – fingers crossed – collect the keys to our new place and feeling a little more positive, but we are not there yet. We’ve had to double our deposit payment to reassure our nervous landlady, and now we need to buy… everything. Our shipping hasn’t even left Dar es Salaam yet (thank you TZ customs) and we can’t survive with no furniture, bedding, kettle, clothes etc so it just has to be done. I’ve been spending like a crazy person and feeling sick at the prices, especially knowing the January sales will soon be here.

But surely the baby side of things has been good, I mean I have NHS care and an endless selection of all the world’s best products to choose from… yeah, about that… in my next installment I’ll share how my midwife reported me to the NHS for fraud, the antenatal classes, crying in a baby shop, my failed babysitting attempt and other people’s terrifying birth tales if you’re really lucky!

But the fact is I’m getting there. I’ve squeezed in some fun, some catch ups with great friends, bought some Christmas presents, found a house and got my NHS card – I am official! I miss my Mwanza friends, the lake, the sunshine, but I don’t miss ants covering the washing up or Tanesco or daladala drivers! I’ll miss Christmas in Kenya with my lovely in-laws, but I’ll get to see all my family’s new babies and my 104-year-old grandmother. 2014 looks promising, though there are bound to be some crazy stories along the way!