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Wherever You Go, There You Are

Wherever you go, there you are. Which in some ways is comforting. You can't escape yourself, but maybe that also means that you can never really lose yourself either.

In October, our son was born. About two weeks before his due date. He was breach and surrounded by very little amniotic fluid, so the NHS consultant wanted him out early, and by c-section. (I wasn't too disappointed about this, particularly after the fact, having heard the screams of the women in labor as I strolled to the operating room).

And just like that, we were no longer only me and the Hub, but now there was a Little Guy in the mix too.

Our lives are different now, but I suppose what has surprised me the most throughout my pregnancy, and as I've become a mother, is how much of me is still here. Perhaps it's the way that everyone talks about the life-changing experience of becoming a parent that I wondered if I would suddenly find myself another person.

I am certainly more sleep deprived and crazy. I picture one of us accidentally letting go of the pram on the steep hill that runs behind our house and the Little Guy ending up in a tree, like in one of the Babar stories. And one night, I made the Hub lock all the windows upstairs and hide the key, as if somehow our infant could hop out of his crib and catapult himself out a window -- when at the moment he can only just about hold his head up.

Throughout my pregnancy and these first four months, there are certainly parts of motherhood that are universal. The conversations with the lovely women who comprised my NCT prenatal class - in person and on our whatsapp group - have shown me that I am not alone in finding feeding my child one of the most difficult things I have ever undertaken. We all dread the inoculations our babies seem to need every 4 weeks, and we all seem to think our own child was crying the most in the mom and baby class at the GP surgery.

But in spite of these universities (and some others), I am certainly still shockingly me. As the weeks wear on aspects of my pre-baby personality are emerging more and more, and this feels comforting and grounding, in a way I haven't felt since my world suddenly got turned on its head. I've got the Little Guy into a routine -- because I like, and need, a routine. I've got him signed up for classes now that he is a little older and awake for slightly longer during the day, but more because I like classes. And although I eschewed parenting books beforehand -- which is surprising for me -- I now spend a lot of my very spare time reading child-rearing books.

One of the most amazing things about this whole experience is how everyone approaches things differently. You have to I suppose, because you bring so much to the game in terms of your personality, your strength and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes. And because taking care of a little being who really isn't very well-developed when he or she emerges from the womb is just really tough, you have to do things in a way where you can survive -- and eventually thrive, as I think this is the only your child will end up thriving.

People are so different, so people make completely different parents. And that's O.K. Because all children are different too. And as long as they are loved -- and don't end up in a tree -- I think things might be alright.

Super Physio Returns

I haven't written about Super Physio for a very long time. When I first started this blog she featured heavily as initially it was about my very long and difficult struggle with chronic neck and back pain. (If you are interested in the back story, you can read the The Whole Story.)

But all you really need to know for now is that I suffered with chronic pain for many years and Super Physio helped me fix it -- although towards the end, to get better 100%, I had to help myself fix it.

I always knew, however, that if I got pregnant, I would go back to see her, to make sure that I didn't end up with any back or hip pain in pregnancy -- as it's common in normal women, and I happen to be hypermobile (i.e. bendy), meaning that I am even more at risk.

The bump - 34 weeks

It's been great to see her again. She really is a super lady, very knowledgeable, very calming too. I can't even hate her for giving me at least one hour of exercises to do daily -- split into two sessions: morning and night. I'm certainly not enjoying them, in fact, they are really getting really old at this point, since I've been doing them religiously since well before halfway through the pregnancy and I reached 35 weeks this past Wednesday.

I find it interesting as I haven't thought that much recently about the time in my life when I was in chronic pain -- it seems so long ago (I stopped seeing Super Physio in 2014). I'm a different person now. More sure of myself, more able to stand up for what I need and take care of myself, instead of crumbling into a heap of pain and fear.

And although there are of course disadvantages to being an (ahem) somewhat older mom, one of the main advantages I've found is that although pregnancy is clearly difficult -- I've suffered from pretty bad nausea, heartburn and of course the slog of hours on the floor doing my physio exercises -- it is definitely not the most difficult thing I've ever dealt with physically or emotionally.

Of course, I still have to make it through the last few weeks to term and of course, childbirth. So watch this space. But for now, I can at least be reminded of how far I've come since my chronic pain, and feel pretty incredulous that I've made it almost the whole way through a pregnancy without it returning. Super Physio can really hold onto her title.

Sandwiches, Cakes and Scones, Oh My!

If there's one British tradition I truly love, it's afternoon tea. I feel like the British are the only people in the world who actually understand the need to sit down and have a rest and a very good snack in the late afternoon. Because three meals a day isn't really enough, is it?

I think Anna Maria Russell, duchess of Bedford, who began the afternoon tea tradition in the early 1800s, was very sensible. At the time, a light lunch was served around noon, but dinner was not until a fashionable 8 p.m. at night, so there was a long stretch of day in which to become very hungry. So Anna got in the habit of eating some bread and butter, cake and drinking tea around 4 or 5 p.m. to stave off the hunger pangs.

Although I am clearly not a duchess in that time period -- or a duchess at all, like some other Americans living in the U.K. -- the long stretch without food is a problem for me too. As not-a-huge-breakfast eater, I tend to eat lunch at noon. By the time I'm finished with work and home again, it is often 8 p.m. or even later. (For the record, I am eating breakfast now that I am pregnant.)

So I tend to eat a snack around 4-5 p.m. and drink a cup of tea. How I wish that my afternoon snack and drink could be amazing as a real afternoon tea. If you've never had it, you must try it sometime. It's one of my favorite things to recommend to tourists to London (or the U.K. in general). My friend Kelly and I regularly go out to fancy ones in London -- she's an expert at finding cool ones, like the Willy Wonka-themed one we dined on earlier this year. Note the candy floss (cotton candy) as a very cool special effects extra.

If you've never had afternoon tea, here is how it works. It usually consists of selecting a pot of tea (the selection is always very overwhelming and includes herbal as well as black, white and green tea). Then there's the food. First a selection of small sandwiches arrives -- and yes the crusts are always cut off. Traditionally these would be cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon, coronation chicken (which is like chicken salad, but a little spicier), ham, and last but not least egg mayonnaise (what they call egg salad in the U.K.). The egg mayonnaise usually has watercress in it. The best part? They will give you as many of these little sandwiches as you want (afternoon tea is usually not cheap, so eat up).

Then come all the little cakes. Miniature versions of whatever the pastry chef has dreamed up, so you can taste a huge variety. But my favorite part by far is the scones, spread with clotted cream and jam. It's hard to describe how good this tastes. From what I understand is that you can't even get clotted cream in the U.S. My Mom and Aunt Pat tried and failed this summer. They even attempted to make it from scratch but then couldn't find regular cream as you need the unpasturized kind and that isn't sold anywhere they could locate.

I've clearly converted my Mom. When she was as in town in April, I took her to my absolute favorite one in London -- Fortnum & Mason's Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. It is quite the experience there. A live pianist plays in the background as you eat your miniature sandwiches, cakes and scones. (Even the little guy likes afternoon tea. After we had our meal I had a very early ultrasound scan scheduled and we saw him dancing around on the screen.)

How adorable is my Mom?
Of course, when you're paying for it, you can have afternoon tea at any time of day really. Sometimes I like to schedule it for lunch, because then you can really dig in.

But someday, I plan to eat a proper afternoon tea every day. I just need to figure out how to make this a reality.

The Best Laid Plans...

Hello, I'm back.

It has been a long while since I posted a blog -- four months in fact.

This year has been a very good lesson in the fact that the best laid plans sometimes just don't matter.

At the start of the year I laid out some intentions, including my New Year's Resolution not to work on Saturdays anymore. There were a lot of things I wanted to do. Like go ice skating once a month and finish the re-write of my memoir. And in January, I diligently spent a small amount of time most days of the week  (apart from Saturdays) working on said re-write. The hub and I went ice skating on a Friday night after work in Streatham and I was pretty excited that we would keep up that new habit. I was going to even buy some ice skates the first weekend in February.

And then.

It seems really silly to talk about ice skating during one of the hottest spells in London I can remember. But that's kind of the way the year has gone. It was January and now it's July. On the last day of January, my mother-in-law had a terrible fall and a subsequent brain hemorrhage. She was in the hospital for 10 weeks and was transferred to a neuro-rehabilitation facility after that. We are now in the process of moving her home with full-time care.

When things like this happen you would be surprised just how fast you drop everything else that is going on. It has not been easy, but it has also shown me how supportive everyone we know -- our friends, family, work colleagues -- could be. Everyone has been simply amazing.

And then as this wasn't life-changing enough, there's also something else.

The hub and I will be having a baby boy! In November. Which is pretty exciting (in a thrilling, roller coaster ride way).

So that's where we are. Wanted to fill in all of you lovely readers on what's been going on, because I've really missed blogging and want to get back to it. I have lots of ideas for things to say, and luckily seem to have found that second-trimester energy boost "they" talk about. Now if the heat wave would just subside!

I look forward to returning to our ongoing conversation.
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