Showtime!

Maternity leave seems to have extended to blogging as well as employment. I feel that this is part of the nesting process, as priorities change and focus narrows as birth approaches.

I came up with the title for this post several months ago. As I was preparing for birth I was concentrating on the natural, instinctive cooperation between my body and baby. As the process of childbirth remains almost indescribable to those who have not yet experienced it first hand, first time mums will I suspect always feel that they don’t have all the facts as they approach this astounding phenomena.

As such, I tried to quell any anxieties I had by trying to focus on birth from the baby’s perspective; of arrival, of action and of his first breath.

For the past nine months he had been flexing in my womb, developing organs, practicing breathing (you can feel them do this by the way). He had been rehearsing.

Now, as labour commenced, this was showtime!

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A New Creative Project

I have a new creative project which I am so excited about, I am sharing it with you before it’s even started.

The Church I go to has a number of youth groups attached to it, and at present time, a good friend of mine is one of the leaders. They have activities every week and she thought it would be fun to have a Murder Mystery Night. I was the President of The Murder Mystery Society (MurderSoc) whilst I was at university, and so volunteered to help her write it.

However, although I have been loosely involved in the conceptualising and writing of mysteries before, this one is going to be significantly different.

This particular group is girls only, so there are not the typical relationship dynamics to play on, and (as it is a church activity for youth), the usual ‘motives’, such as adultery, cannot be used. Usually, murder mysteries and their players do not bat an eye at men playing female characters or women playing male characters, in fact it usually adds to the fun. The church, however, is not so amused. So we are having to rely a lot more on power dynamics, greed and self-interest to drive the characters.

Announcing Your Pregnancy

Today, my husband and I announced my pregnancy. As is usual for us we are being unconventional and have not waited until the end of the first trimester to make this announcement.

There are a few reasons for this.

1. The tradition of waiting until your first scan is because this is considered concrete confirmation of the pregnancy. It is well established that the first few weeks is the time of highest risk of loss. However, any loss before the 20 week mark is classified medically as miscarriage and waiting until 3 months is sadly not a guarantee.

2. Pregnancy announcements are personal. There should not be rules about when and what time is the most suitable to share your excitement with others. You may choose to announce it as we did, in person to family, close friends and work managers and then on a social media platform to more distant friends and acquaintances.

You may feel that it is easier and more equal to tell everyone you know at the same time via a public announcement. This way no one feels that they were the first or last to find out or that another friend was favoured.

There are also those who choose to keep their pregnancy completely private and this is a fine choice too.

3. The physical effects of pregnancy will already be apparent to the expectant mother and her close family. This is a planned pregnancy and as you may imagine of someone who is extremely anxious, I had been researching since we got married various stages of pregnancy and parenting. But even what accumulates to 2 years worth of reading and listening to other women’s stories in no way prepared me for the effects of early pregnancy.

Although there are no outward signs and I have been extremely fortunate to (so far) escape morning sickness; the exhaustion, nausea and digestive occurrences, are more than I ever anticipated. I also did not expect the cramping!

As a result of all of this, and the work that I currently do which involves performance storytelling and entertaining, I wanted my managers and colleagues to be aware that there were occasions that I was suffering intense discomfort and I wanted them to know why. It was also important for me to have my place of work informed of the pregnancy in case there were complications or loss.

As I do not sit at a desk were I could discreetly relieve myself if I developed intense morning sickness (or any of the other delightful digestive effects) I needed them to be aware that this wasn’t a 24 hour sickness bug but something that would go on for months. For this same reason, in the dreadful instance of pregnancy loss I would not be able to put on a smile and entertain and this would impact my work more extensively than in other lines of work.

This may come across as unattached or overly focused on negative outcomes, but rather than seem disengaged, the intention is to demonstrate how your circumstances will inform your personal choices throughout pregnancy, including the announcement.

4. Whilst I completely understand and respect that this is a very private matter, as a blogger intent on exploring her personal mental health and wellbeing more generally, I would always be inclined to be open about any loss during this pregnancy. Of course I hope to goodness that this will not be the case, and we would both be devastated if it did occur. But I advocate being open about all things and miscarriage is still widely treated as a taboo subject. Great headway is being made in conversing about other forms of emotion, grief and mental health, but for something as frequently occurring as pregnancy loss there is still alarming silence.

5. It is common to announce pregnancy on special occasions, public holidays or anniversaries. Whilst any day of the year is a fine time to announce such wonderful and well-received news, such occasions can add an additional sense of celebration and provide more ideas for a fun public announcement.

For instance, in our case, our first midwife appointment fell two weeks after we learnt that we were expecting and just before Easter.

As a religious family, Easter is an important time for us. It is the Christian celebration of Christ’s resurrection after His atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. Because of the atonement (remembered on Good Friday) we are able to repent and be forgiven. This is a celebration of second chances and new life. It’s one of the reasons for chicks and eggs being motifs of Easter.

Hares, which have become rabbits in modern Easter marketing, are associated with the ancient fertility goddess, Astarte or Ishtar. Again we are looking at representations of new life. New life coupled with fertility symbols made an irresistible possibility for a pregnancy announcement.

6. So don’t hesitate to announce your pregnancy at a time and in a way that suits you because of conventions and traditions. Each individual, pregnancy and family is different and that should be reflected in the way that you choose share your joy with others. There are so many contradictory opinions being continually expressed about the right way to be pregnant and to parent that the sooner you start establishing the best way for you, the better.

Bumps in the Marital Road

Last Saturday was my first Saturday off in six months. With my husband working 9 to 5 or sometimes longer on his PhD project at the university and the emphasis placed to spend Sundays at church and religious activities, when I work weekends it really limits the quality time we get to spend together.

It has been showing.

We got married when we were both students and our schedules were all over the place for the first year of our life together. We agreed that, as it was Samuel’s Masters year and because he worked seasonally at the supermarket which would have meant missing our first Christmas as a married couple, he would stop working. I continued to work as I had been at my storytelling job for 4 years already, it was relevant to my degree and it gave me continuity and routine which helped the with severe mental illness I was experiencing at the time. Before the harassment started, my place of work was were I went for grounding. The office is underground so there was no signal and it gave me an excuse not to be contactable. To not respond when I was feeling overwhelmed. When I couldn’t cope. My place of work means an unusual amount to me.

Summer 2017 was a very intense time for our marriage. We’d been married for a year and were in a good place but we were done living in a one bedroom flat in the middle of the city. It was advertised as one bed, but really should have been one person, as we couldn’t both be in the kitchen at the same time if we wanted to have a bin as well. So we started looking at houses. We didn’t imagine that we would actually be able to buy, it’s famed that no one our age can. But we wanted to daydream at the very least.

We got lucky.

But we were £3,000 short of the deposit. So I started working 3 jobs. It was crazy. One of them was my long term storytelling job, one was at a concert hall and the other was in a museum. It was meant to be a straightforward visitor service job, but morphed into tour guiding and helping arrange a summer activities program which provided really great unexpected work experience. So it was a really beneficial, as well as crazy, time. I decided/insisted that as I was working so much (most of it very relevant to what I was hoping to do following graduation) and Samuel was likely to be starting a PhD three months later, that he shouldn’t work. He needed a break, someone needed to keep on top of the housework, and if we throw a fourth schedule into the mix, we just wouldn’t have seen each other. As it was we saw each other first thing in the morning and for about half an hour before we went to sleep.

We made it.

We bought a house. Now the situation is reversed. I am on reduced hours, just ticking over at my storytelling job, which I still love but is no longer my safe place. As a physicist, Samuel’s PhD is funded, so whilst he is technically studying, it is fundamentally a job. He works very hard and is extremely good at what he does. Our subject areas compliment each other very well. I find it highly appropriate that both our birthdays are in January, the month named after the Roman god Janus. Janus was depicted with two heads, because he looked forward and backwards. As an archaeologist I look back to the very beginnings of humans as a species and Samuel, being an experimental physicist working on technology, is looking forward. It also gives me confidence about at least one aspect of us potentially becoming parents – we have homework covered. Our other running joke is that Samuel does the numbers and I deal with words. Sorted.

Our issue is that because of all the studying, the crazy summer jobs and the recent house move, we have never really got into an established routine. We are beginning to get there now but we still haven’t quite found our rhythm. As we are approaching our second anniversary, and with the addition of our dear dog, this is starting to apply a little bit of friction. As far as I am aware this is healthy and usual in all relationships let alone marriage. We are definitely benefiting from no longer being in that one bedroom flat, as we can now be more than 5 meters apart and means I can be less distracting whilst Samuel is working and I can read my book quietly whilst Samuel watches television (Samuel is severely dyslexic so you wont find us reading together).

As a result of not having a stable, consistent rhythm to our daily routines, we have become very snappy. We haven’t fought or had slanging matches but as I say there has been some friction. I think that’s the right term. No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and get irritated from time to time. One of my biggest flaws is my temper, so I definitely get irritated more than is reasonable. I am very grateful not only for my husband’s patience and ability to forgive when I fly off the handle but for our ability to communicate with each other. As we got married so quickly, I don’t think that we would have managed if we weren’t able to talk about anything and everything. As I always say, we don’t necessarily recommend getting married three months after meeting, but it is working for us. We are truly very happy together. The importance of communication is made evident in every sit-com, film production and in most real life scenarios. Whole plots of plays, books, tragedies and comedies begin with a miscommunication, failure to communicate or a double meaning.

Having last Saturday off was amazing for us. Even though I was unwell with the flu, headlining fever, dizziness and nausea (how have I managed to come down with this twice this year? There have only been two months thus far?!) so we didn’t go anywhere or do very much, yet still it gave us some space to just be us. I was actually supposed to be off volunteering in central Scotland so being ill was perhaps a blessing in disguise? I described our morning in yesterday’s post. It was bliss. What really made the difference was that we didn’t have to be anywhere. We had to take our dog for a walk but other than that we had the day to ourselves. Usually one or other of us is rushing around in the morning and heading out to work. On Saturday, we could just be together and enjoy each others company.

This weekend was a big lesson for me in the importance of making time for each other. Compromise and communication are as important as everyone says they are in marriage or any other relationship. Let’s face it they are important principles in friendship as well. But the concept of date night is something that I will certainly be paying more attention to from here on.

Morning has Broken

It is so rare for my husband and I to have a day off together. He works all week long in the lab at the university completing his PhD and for the past 6 months I have worked every weekend. The only time off we have had together has been when we are visiting family and whilst we are all very close, its not exactly quality couple time. But recently my timetable changed so I am now only working alternate Saturdays. We have a day off that coincides.

I mentioned how one of my reasons for starting a blog was to have a space for reflection that could document significant events and feelings but was not as personal or emotional as a diary or journal. But I did start writing in a jotter on our last day off and I haven’t felt so contented for so long. I have been happy during the last few years. I’ve not been depressed, suicidal and miserable the whole way through but the general upward trend in positive outlook has been quite recent. I really wanted to document this moment so I thought I would share it… online… which still doesn’t feel completely usual yet… despite how much I seem to be doing it now…

Typically, I have flu to mark the occasion of our shared day off, but even feeling disgusting can’t spoil this morning. 

I always wake up earlier than my husband. I have never encountered someone worse at mornings than Samuel. After giving him a snuggle, I got up to let the dog out into the garden and then we headed back upstairs. Samuel had his head under the covers so I was able to open the bedroom curtains without the sunlight disturbing him.

My intention was to read, but looking out of windows and daydreaming has always been one of my favourite past times and so I thought I would write down what I was feeling in that moment.

As it is early in the morning on a weekend there are very few cars or people about. The air is still, no breeze, no movement. Despite the spring sunshine it is still bitterly cold outside.

This is rather typical of Scotland. There is a week of extra daylight, sunshine, flowers and a slight temperature rise commonly followed by bad weather and snow…

The birds are chirruping to one another and as the new spring leaves are only just starting to bud, I can see them hopping about in the branches of the hedge below the window. It feels like the first time this year that it has been this light this early in the morning, but it might well be the first time that I have been still enough to notice. 

Our bedroom window is south-facing and I can watch the sunlight get brighter as I sit and write in my notebook this morning. 

A few doors down our neighbour has a holly tree shaped into a sphere and it means I can always glimpse life growing outside our window. 

Even though I am full of flu, I know that the air will smell of damp earth, sweetened by the sugar of fresh spring grass. It is the smell that, for the last few days, my dog has carried into the house on her paws. 

My husband is lying beside me,  not quite awake, nor fully asleep. Although strictly speaking she shouldn’t be up here, the dog has crept her way onto the bed and is nestled under his outstretched arm. She’s snoring softly and twitching in her sleep as she dreams. 

It’s the mornings we dreamt of when we lived in our pokey city flat. The double bed took up almost the entire bedroom (we couldn’t fully open the wardrobe doors) and only one person at a time could fit in the kitchen. Our bathroom was so small that my brother-in-law could only just get through the door.

But here we are. 

In our new home, with the sounds of the countryside all around us. With the sun warming a new season and shining on all the new life it brings with it. This lie in is renewal for us as well, as a family. It’s a time when as individuals we have the chance to refresh, recharge and reconnect with each other. On Sundays we have the chance from spiritual renewal at church. The week can be very fraught. We haven’t spent much quality time together recently, but today is new and fresh. 

Dreaming of the Temple: Part 3

Dreaming of the Temple. I have mentioned before the associations these words conjure for me. The temple is a literal place, it represents calm and tranquillity with oneself, surroundings and circumstances. However, I’m not just dreaming of one day going to the temple and being sealed to my husband, that is not were the dream ends. There is a huge emphasis on family in our church, and especially at the temple. We have the belief that families are forever.

When my husband and I are sealed any children we have will also be sealed to us. This is not just children born following the sealing ceremony, but children who were born before, and if a convert’s parents choose to join the church years later they also have the opportunity to be sealed to their children and future grandchildren.

For us, dreaming of the temple represents our hopes for our family. We have not been married very long and as a result currently have no children. We have been discussing starting to try and conceive and, I’ll be honest, it has thrown up more questions than we thought it would.

Call me naïve, but I really thought that once we had told each other that we both wanted to have children and we felt like we were in a good place to do so, that that would be it. We both knew that this is what we wanted, it’s one of the reasons we got married when we did and we even bought some baby books we saw in the window of a charity shop that we passed on the first day of our honeymoon (as a joke gift to ourselves).

But since that initial decision we have been going round in circles. I created this blog as a thinking space, and that is what it is going to be over the next few days.

All We Are and All We Have

Actors

All we are
Just actors
On the stage
And the show
Is just beginning…

We are pushed out
Before the glaring lights
Blind, dumb and deafened
By applause for nothing
But expectations.

Eventually
We will learn
To walk and talk
To run and play
To interact
With other actors along the way.
All of us heroes
In our own stories
Extras to everyone else.
Reflected again and again
In the endless chain
Of cracked dressing room mirrors.

Some of us will forget our lines
Others exit early (stage right)
Unexpected entrances are always the best
But there is relief on the final night.

And what how shall we leave them,
The few observers of our play?
Laughing or wiping tears from their eyes?
Shall we relish the drama
Or slip silently away?
Only one thing is certain –
We have a single chance to get it right,
There is no dress rehearsal.
There is no encore.