A Tiger? In Africa?

First things first: a sincere and very humble thank you, thank you, thank you for your wonderful, unexpected, staggeringly generous support. I am truly bowled over by it.

I had thought maybe a handful of you might chuck in a couple of quid for a good cause and I would have been so delighted and appreciative had you done just that. As it was, I kept blinking at the screen in awe as the total kept going up; the fact that so many of you dug deep into your credit-crunched pockets has left me stupefied, touched and grateful beyond words. I cried so many bloody pints, in fact, I couldn’t shift the resulting headache until yesterday. As of this evening, the grand total http://www.justgiving.com/DarthToddler stands at £751, and the gift aid (tax relief) Bliss can reclaim on our direct donation of the £261 raised via the coffee morning, will send the effective value well over £800.

Bless you, internets.

(BTW, UK readers might like to consider Bliss’s lovely Christmas cards. If you are a knitter, there is something else you can do, too: knit some breasts.)

I’m still not in my usual mental place about cake (deep and fervent desire, generally) and I was fair buggered after it all on Sunday. John, with a forbearance he does not usually exhibit, let me sleep in until 10am without muttering under his breath OR inflicting Harry – a bouncy, morning toddler – on me. He didn’t even moan much when I disappeared, grinning broadly, to the Hobbycraft show at the NEC, although it was absurdly, tiresomely crowded and the queues for coffee were daunting; after an hour or so of employing the wifey Elbow into unyielding backs I was beginning to feel a bit limp about things again. I even fell asleep in front of the TV, which is almost unheard of – and followed it up with a night of insomnia, which isn’t.

And since then my arse has not stopped scurrying dementedly about, because this is, work-wise, the busiest month of my year. I attempted to combine parenting with work this morning: my post natal group (which, for want of a suitable collective noun, I term the Piddle) meet at the local playbarn on Wednesday mornings, and I thought, as Harry generally scuttles about the playframe by himself – much like a hamster on speed – while I latte-up and wave from the ground, that I could arrange a regular stationery-selling gig there, and still take him with me. The playbarn agreed, so this morning I saw him bustle off to play alongside the rest of the Piddle toddlers, and had no sooner begun unpacking my boxes of Christmas cards when a friend appeared at my side.

‘I realise this isn’t what you want to hear right now, but Harry’s filled his nappy. It… errr… reeks!

Ohhhhh. Nice!

Gave friend cash tin to guard. Captured protesting child before he could spread it about any further. Inserted him in arms of another friend who had unwisely strayed too close. Galloped outside and extracted nappy bag from car. Reclaimed child. Carted yammering child to changing rooms. Recoiled in dismay from diarrhoea-y output. Noted glumly that vest was heavily… compromised. Trousers, thankfully, escaped with mere light staining, which I pretended not to notice, due to absence of any alternatives. Changed impatient child. Double-bagged shitty vest. Noted sore bottom. Rummaged through bag for barrier cream, unsuccessfully. Cursed. Unleashed clean child back into main area. Returned to unpacking cards.

A few minutes later I am still head-down, arranging, when a lady I have never seen before in my life approaches, holding Harry by the hand. He is wearing … Christ! … just his nappy and t-shirt, and she is holding his trousers.

‘Excuse me! Is this your son?’

‘Oh God.’

She took this for assent.

‘He was running about happily at the bottom of the big slide, but his trousers were sat half-way up it!’

I managed to splutter something about thanks, made reasonably incoherent by shame. The Piddle were all wetting themselves – ha ha – and Harry was firmly shepherded into the toddler section where they could keep an eye on him for me. Work/Motherhood FAIL. Thankfully he forgot about his trouser-removing mood, but later duly proceeded to have more diarrhoea, necessitating another lengthy trip to the changing room. I was worried about him rubbing his little bottom raw, but repeated enquiries about ‘Home?’ all met with a determined nolle prosequi and it was gone lunchtime before I brought him home for a late nap on the sofa, nappy off, legs sprawled and bum slathered in barrier cream.

His portage visitor is coming in the morning and I am guiltily aware that both cramming in more work than normal and the weekend’s frantic activity have meant that we have not done our piano practice, so to speak. His portage worker is puzzled by Harry, as are we all. He seems such a bright little boy in some respects, yet there are some fundamentals that he still isn’t grasping at all. He can answer a question regarding his own wants easily, but cannot grasp anything more abstract.

For instance: although he can give a firm and clear affirmative to ‘Would you like some grapes?’ he cannot grasp the meaning of ‘Have you finished your grapes? Are the grapes all gone?’ It’s not that he has no personal gain or motivational interest in answering an abstract question per se, or even that he doesn’t understand the meaning of the individual words, because he does – it’s just that there’s no comprehension there at all. He listens to my words, but remains impassive, clueless on how to respond, or even that a response is required. Yet if I ask him to give me one, two or three kisses, he wheel-spins towards me happily to plant the appropriate number of smackers on my lips.

His communication is slowly, imperceptibly improving. His proto-words and phrases are becoming more consistent and although he still does not have a single clear word he is sometimes easy to interpret; one of the playbarn ladies who rescued his trousers (pause to wince and mourn my maternal pride) assured me she had asked him where his Mummy was and understood his response. (I expect she got ‘Daretiss!’ (‘There it is’) with an enthusiastic gesture to back it up.)

His gains are so gradual that I’ve had some panicky days about it again lately. His default babble-noun currently is ‘Tayzass’. Everything is bloody Tayzass, all day long. He  has expanded on the ubiquitous Muuurrrrmmm! and his repertoire of animal sounds now includes piggy-snorts, horsey clip-clops (with jiggly rein hand-gestures), sheep baas (glotteral throat-coughs that sound like a machine gun with a terminal blockage) and tiger, complete with a lovely little RrroOAaaaWWRrr and pouncey-paws. I get regaled with the Snorty-oinks, the Muuurrmmm, the Ack-Ack-Ack-Ack-baaas and the clippety-clop sounds pretty regularly from the back seat as we drive around Warwickshire – and his hawk-eye spots a tiny specimen 4 fields away. Tiger-roars from the back seat are, reassuringly, reasonably infrequent.

I have only just now realised (go me! but Yay for the constructive thought-process that is blogging) that his effortless recognition of large numbers of Makaton signs coupled with his indistinct, confused and highly limited use of them, precisely mirrors his difficulties with spoken communication. His understanding of speech is entirely age-appropriate – everyone thinks, bar the reservations over his puzzling comprehension-gaps – but his speech output is currently still fairly banjaxed. He only uses the signs for ‘ice-cream’, ‘more’ and ‘please’ pro-actively, although he uses those plenty and often. Are you getting a cupboard-love theme coming through, here?

I had a fair few people who caught sight of him beetling happily around, a beaming centre of attention, at the coffee morning, later ask me breezily about his speech – in the obvious expectation that I would have news of his suddenly starting to speak in sentences, Just Like Their Neighbour’s Cousin’s Stepbrother’s Friend’s Kid They Cited To Confidently Reassure Me last time I encountered them. And I found myself taking no pains at all to let them down gently – or give them much of a leg-up out of the subsequent conversational hole they found themselves in – when I answered that No, no speech and next stop: Psychology & Brain Scan. Which was undoubtedly uncharacteristically unkind of me, particularly as they had dutifully tipped up to give me some money, but I’ve been feeling rather angst-ridden about Harry’s future lately and its been spilling out around the edges of my Politeness containment field. We saw the little girl who is Harry’s direct contemporary this evening, and she is suddenly three inches taller, spouting huge sentences, jumping with staggering co-ordination and rolling the skittle ball like a bowling pro.

And to think I was revoltingly smug because Harry could sit up and walk first! I know, I know, I know: he’ll probably catch up, and the fact that she’s obviously developmentally surged ahead of him shouldn’t get to me, but it really bloody has. Despite everyone’s best efforts he is still struggling against difficulties with both his body and his brain – and the more I feel like this, the more I feel that I really want that MRI, for the bringing of either reassurance or answers.

And And And And my period is now well into its third sodding week, and getting heavier and more aggravating by the day. My hair needs cutting. My gym membership has run out. I have lost no weight at all. My eyes will no longer accept my contact lenses, and I detest wearing glasses. The gastro thing I kept moaning about so often earlier in the year is still happening, I just got tired of whinging about it continually. I am woken up at erratic intervals, always and without exception between the hours of 2am and 4am, by a 3 or 4 hour bout of debilitating upper abdominal pain. Drs best guess is endometriosis, ulcer or – mostly likely, given the symptoms, but least likely given that prodding my gallbladder doesn’t make me yelp – gallstones. I am currently on anti-acid thingies, with the additional instruction to eat a thoroughly greasy curry and see if it brings on an attack.

I’m too… ummm… chicken to do it.

That is all, as it is nearly 2am and I can think of nothing else to whinge about just at present.

Thank you so very very much, again, for your marvellous support of sick, small and premature babies – and of me.

To borrow the phrase of a dear friend: I appreciate the fuck out of you.

Malice of Inanimate Objects

Our marriage is saved: we have ordered a new laptop. No longer am I condemned to spend the long, damp English winter alone, huddled in the office with frozen feet, arse and hands. I am freed – freed! – to the warmth and light of the woodburner-heated living room, where Hubby resides of an evening – usually snoring in front of badly-chosen TV channels. He will now have the pleasure, not only of his wife’s company, but also that of turning the TV down. He is unlikely to cede control of the zappers – I am, after all, a mere woman, and zapper possession is a clearly established male Hairy Farmer trait –

zapper king

zapper smiles

zapper 2   zapper4    zapper   zapper5

but I’m sure we’ll work something out.

I think the final straw came yesterday, when John found me walloping the mouse into the keyboard and weeping tears of insane fury, while the clock ticked inexorably (a shockingly unco-operative bit of wall furniture, that thing) past the numbers at which Ann Must Leave Or Be Shamefully Late, and the desperately-required page of labels was still a mere twinkle in the unblinking red LED eye of our yet-again frozen computer. 

And I’d tried to start it all earlier, really I had, but I’d had a coffee & cards event to run all morning while Harry was at nursery; John picked him up at lunchtime and drove around until Harry was juuuuuust sleepy enough to think that he had actually had his nap, whereas he had only closed his eyes for half a goddamned minute. When I arrived home for lunch, laden with urgent orders and with preparations to make for an identical evening event, Harry naturally would not even consider entertaining the shadow of a possibility of a snooze, but was overtired and clung to me like an abused koala, demanding looped Little Red Tractor DVDs until my eyes wanted to bleed.

I put some sterling work in on my attempt to hang on to my Mother of the Year 2010 title by sneaking off to the PC intermittently (this is my points-clincher: I kept telling him I was going to the kitchen to fetch him some choccy milk, the current yummy favourite) – but Harry was having none of it; an imperious and indignant little chap would appear at my knee within seconds and bodily drag me away.

Now, rightly or wrongly, I felt John to be heavily implicated in my plight, on the basis that he had half-cooked the drive-to-sleep business to begin with, and I repeatedly phoned him with the intention of telling him so. Possessed of as much husbandly ESP as the next man, he had cleverly mislaid his phone and by the time he did finally return home from whatever tea-drinking, foot-propping, gossiping, entirely bloody frivolous activity* keeps a farmer (who has, smugly, completed all his drilling) busy in late October… well, it was late, and so was I.

The PC, sensing my desperation and haste, displayed utter, blatant and outrageous fuckwittage. This was by no means its first offence, and I would have promptly sentenced it with a fucking heavy mallet had one been available; I eventually disappeared out of the house at speed, possessed of wet labels and a boiling  bad temper. The wretched thing continued to play me up late into last night when I realised today’s schedule of speech therapy and safari park – more anon – inescapably dictated a late night online, ordering in stock. I went to bed at 1.45am, brooding darkly.

Overnight, I remembered the inspirational piece of work that is the Torture Box. I worried that unplugging the wires for a judicious dose of punishment might shift the thick layer of dust about and cause even further loss of performance, so…

torture

there. Take that.

And… I swear it’s been running better since.

* there may be two different opinions about this.

Why The Doors Need Bolts Fitting

Hurricane alley: Finger of God

finger of god

Ann’s unguarded stock room: Fist of Toddler

fist of toddler

A Bargain Assortment of Bads and Goods

I’m sat here deciding whether to compare myself to a busy bee, an army ant or a blue-arsed fly. Whatever. You get the picture: me, insect, scary hybrid, yes?

My exoskeleton bum has not touched the ground much. I have actually got going properly with my cards since returning from that thing I loosely termed a holiday, and have finally turned over my first thousand quid. This is money I can keep all to myself!  must share with the Inland Revenue  must give to John, who pays my credit card  must use to pay Harry’s nursery fees will never actually see, but it’s highly satisfying to have my own funds in my wallet, nevertheless. John keeps asking hopefully when he can retire.

Tomorrow afternoon we are off to hear how desperate – or not – my FSH levels and all my other assorted bloodwork gubbins are. I am taking my ultrasound report: the bad one. I think it’ll either be cameras or knives next. Bring ’em on.

Harry has passed his exams, bought a car, left home and got married since I last posted. Or… something very much approximating to it, anyway.

I have explained here before that Harry, in addition to a walloping great speech delay, has a further communication block with the concept of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. He can’t say the words, does not understand what nodding means, and has only recently begun to shake his head occasionally, when he wants to emphatically and imperiously reject something actually being physically held out towards him.

Over the last couple of weeks John and I both felt that his understanding had moved up a gear; that, in subtle and indefinable ways, he was much more au courant with our conversations and activities. On a hunch, I crouched in front of him last Sunday evening, gained his eye contact and spoke up clearly:

‘Harry! Yes or No? Would you like an ice cream?’

‘DJESS!’

Cue much, much jollity. I wasn’t sure he’d do it again, but he has, he has, he totally bloody well has, every day since, although not quite yet every time. Sometimes the word isn’t recognisably a ‘yes’ – it can default to ‘dat!’ or ‘giss!’ but that’s not so important in the scheme of things. Even more encouragingly, a day or so afterwards he began to shake his head in response to spoken concept choices. Predictably, the first instance of his demonstrating this was our asking him if he would like to go to bed; there was an icy, considering stare, followed by a determined shake. He promptly slithered off the sofa and beetled off at high speed to hide in the kitchen. John and I laughed like a pair of blocked drains, and he did, in fact, buy himself another 20 minutes of play time with that shake.

This is, obviously, several different and fetching shades of Complete Awesomeness.

He is still dribbling buckets and has his fingers permanently jammed in his mouth. I was convinced the dribble must be low muscle tone until I peered inside his mouth during naptime earlier today and found that 2 of his secondary molars were erupted – and obviously have been for quite a while – and the two remaining baby teeth are bulging at bright red and white gums. That’d be a Maternal Observation for Dummies: Module One FAIL, then. 

I also spotted that this peculiarly yellow, calciferous-looking tooth

Harry tooth

harry tooth 2

has not improved any since the last time I had a squint at it. The rest are all pearly white and smooth, but this one popped out of the gum bright yellow and obviously has something strange going on. I know enamel irregularities are rather more common amongst premature children, but I don’t like the look of it  – or the sides of his rear tongue – much. I don’t expect it’s significant, but I’ll show it his Paed in any event.

What else? Ah, yes, physio. I wrote a stinking email to the head of Paediatric Physiotherapy, challenging their refusal to treat Harry if I supplemented his treatment with private care; I mentioned in passing his other professional care input. She rang me back to apologise for the ‘miscommunication’ and freely admitted she had not prioritised Harry: his Paediatrician’s referral had made no mention of the fact he also recieved Speech Therapy and Portage from the multi-disciplinary team, merely that his parents had concerns regarding his mobility. I knew this to be perfectly true – I have a copy of the referral – but I rather thought the fact that they do all work for the Integrated Disability Service was significant. She explained that the involvement of other professionals generally rang warning bells for them, and that Harry would now be seen within a fortnight. Result. Of course, if I had listened to John and asked Harry’s Portage key worker to hurry the physio referral along on our behalf, he’d have been seen a month or more ago. My bad.

In an entirely different Not Listening to Hubby (My Bad) episode: my friend had a old summerhouse she wanted rid of, which was the precise size and dimensions that I have been hankering after and scouring Ebay unsuccessfully for. We agreed on giving her £20 for it, and I booked Hubby + trailer + strong right arm to come and dismantle it from her garden last Wednesday.

John was dubious about the whole idea, and said so. He was excessively mentally scarred during a dilapidated greenhouse dismantle-and-reassemble project that his Mother talked him into, a decade or so back. John’s unprecedentedly savage response to the absolute piglet job she had landed him with (some of his muttering was, apparently and unusually, actually audible and decipherable) has remained the talk of the family ever since, and he has entered a firm nolle prosequi to assorted proposals of garden buildings removal ever since. I have, however, been banging on relentlessly about wanting a summerhouse for a couple of years, and we haven’t been able to afford so much as a dog kennel, so he cautiously agreed.

Readers, he was nasty to me when he saw it. Admittedly, it was rather more rotten than I realised and the roof was larger than the estimations I had given him by a factor of roughly 350%. He attacked it brutally with a crowbar, ignoring my yammering protests when aesthetic or vital bits splintered and ricocheted off in all directions. I kept a low profile for the rest of the day. I have no idea where it currently is: John drove down to the farm with an expression that indicated the only place he was considering parking the trailer was by the burning heap. I haven’t asked after its fate.

The day after that, John and I managed to miscommunicate badly, with the net result that he thought I was aware he had left Harry downstairs watching TV, and I was in the shower thinking Harry had gone with John to the farm. After 30 minutes of blissful leg-shaving-hair-drying-toenail-painting-me-time, during which I had been strangely puzzled by the odd thumps and bangs from (I presumed) our tortoise, given that we were supposedly alone together, I arrived downstairs to encounter – horrified – a totally naked small boy, a puddle of wee (these first two items are common encounters) a torn £50 note, a wallet emptied, plastic and coinage contents scattered to the winds, and a number of ‘don’t touch that, please, Harry!’ items where they shouldn’t have been. Our bad.

I have made jam.

The great jam massacre

Lots and lots and lots of jam, nearly all of it either under-or-over boiled. Damn you, £6 Lakeland jam-thermometer. Bloody thing. It tastes fine – I didn’t burn any of it this year, at least – but most of it needs bringing out of the jar with either a chisel or a spoon. I have 2kg of preserving sugar left, and probably ought to go and relieve the groaning trees of their plums – fnarr, fnarr – but I’m not sure I can face the inevitable jam carnage again.

I was going to do a post about dozens of things this week, and had time for none of them, but I want to write a little about about our local ploughing match, despite the fact that I was flustered (due to downstairs-alone-toddler) and took no camera – without which I can’t do the event justice. A shame, as it was held this year in fields perched high above the River Arrow valley with simply glorious views. There are proper, old-fashioned Bilbo-Baggins eleventy-first-party white marquees, built with huge centre poles and hemp-type guy ropes; men with ancient tractors roaring away industriously at their rich, dark, straw-scattered furrows 10 feet outside the marquees; the hedgelaying competitors turning a straggling, leggy length of centuries-old hedge into – well, I never quite understand how they judge hedgelaying sections, but it certainly looks neater when they’ve finished; the Shire horse pairs with their gleaming flanks, braided manes and tails, fluttering head plumes and polished show harness; the 100-year-old traction engine and threshing drum making an almighty racket as wiry old men feed armfuls of wheat into its maw, and honest-to-God agricultural types who turn up in tractors and battered 4x4s wearing a green-to-dun spectrum assortment of boiler suits, cotton checked shirts, boots, wellies, flat caps, waxed hats and Barbours, complete with a thick scattering of farmers’ wives, who bring splashes of pastels and bright pinks to the golden straw-stubbled field. There was a light breeze, scattered clouds, bright sun, a fresh smell of straw, liberally mixed with horse shit and tractor oil – and I was unusually and fabulously happy. I do love this event, even when it’s pissing down with rain. As I was, for the first time, working as opposed to visiting, I was inside a marquee selling cards with tractors on for most of the day, but I was by the door and could see over the main field and valley beyond. My Mum bought Harry along in the afternoon and he went potty with excitement over… just about everything. A good day. A really, really good day.

Speaking of which, Harry had a good time at nursery last week. I stayed with him for the Tuesday session, but he flew the nest alone on Thursday with barely a wobble when he saw I wasn’t staying. I bawled all the way home; he had a marvellous time. They are still getting used to his wobbles, and he came home with an – unmentioned – small red welt under his eye which later turned into a shiner, but that is unfortunately almost a bi-weekly event for Harry in any case. I’m not surprised they didn’t mention it, they won’t have noticed him do it. On Tuesday, I was asked by one of the junior staff if Harry’s tolerance to pain was ‘like, insanely high’?

Sigh. Oh, he feels it, all right, luv. He’s just used to it.

He’s off again tomorrow morning, and I have the unaccustomed luxury of deciding what particular household or business activity I want to apply myself to. Last Thursday I had an order for a birthday cake to keep me (very) busily employed (fun to do if you can spare the time, but hugely unprofitable unless you charge a small fortune – and absolute murder on your back) (the first person to tell me that the Union Jack is missing some bits gets a poke in the bloggy eye. It was late, I was tired, I was aching, and John is still blinking);

Suitcase cake 1

Suitcase cake 2

but tomorrow I am free to choose what I do in my toddler-free slot. 

Reading with your feet up is a household activity, surely?

Waiting for Time

I appear to have let more than a week go by without ringing someone and asking them to pleeeeeeease help me have another baby – for free! I saw my counsellor on Tuesday, a woman of profound understanding of the human condition and… and… sense. I am always lost in admiration for the way she combines exquisite sensitivity, genuine compassion – and excellent British Common Sense. We agreed a possible Plan, but when I got home and started to discuss the Plan with John, I discovered his ears were a bit bunged up from all the sand he’s buried them in.

John, it seems, does not really think we need more fertility treatment. Not, I hasten to add, because he does not want more children – he has always wanted lots – but because he has inexplicable faith in the battered and stuttering arrangement of weirdness I call my reproductive system. He is in favour of continuing the just-shag-and-see approach, on the basis that it worked one-and-a-half times in the past. 

I shall be riding roughshod over his considered opinion and trit-trotting off to the doctor anyway. Because A) I want to, and once I decide A Thing Has To Be Done, then yesterday is never quick enough and God help whoever gets underfoot, and B) John has no actual objection to pursuing more treatment, he is simply optimistic – there’s that word again – about our chances of another organic, made-at-home baby.

 Now, I think the man does have a reasonable point (particularly as I am bleating ‘no injectables!’ so regularly I sound like a drug awareness infomercial) but I am uneasily aware that time – and that bitch, probability – is not on my side. I don’t want to piss about with all that endless having sex business – that sound you hear is my husband sobbing, by the way.

Perhaps it might be useful – to myself, obviously – to recap. As this was BB – before blog – I’m already foggy about some of it, and I will have to polish my case history precis in any event soon.

We married in March 2004; I was just 29. I discontinued the pill the month beforehand. In May I went to my GP and explained that I was worried about conceiving as I had such irregular periods, and I had also googled cough, read that didelphys was often associated with an incompetent cervix or two. I was, for some reason, expecting a brisk dismissal of my fears, but although he told me to go away and try for two years he did screw his face up and concede I was at higher risk of miscarriage. Remembering events of 5 years ago is a challenge to my withering neurons, but I know the news upset me horribly because I embarrassed myself by publicly bursting into tears at restaurant that evening while celebrating a friend’s birthday. It was the first inkling of what was to come, and two days later I was back at the GPs telling him I wanted a private fertility referral; I wasn’t going to wait two years, thank you so very much. He shrugged and wrote me the letter.

So, over the course of 2004 we saw a gloriously eccentric Obstetrician who ran the usual tests.  John’s sperm test came back well within all the parameters, but I will treasure forever his expression when Gloriously Eccentric Obstetrician gave us a spirited and talented mime of a deformed sperm. I had a hysterosalpingogram at a private hospital which was woefully underequipped on light bulbs: the radiologist – the same chap I saw again recently – was obliged to site the canula-things through my cervi by the light of a desk lamp perched precariously on a wheelie stool – which his elbow kept knocking away. My uteri were both pronounced reasonable sized with – and I quote – ‘fabulous’ tubes. (I have the x-ray films here if anyone ever wants a butchers at my fabulous tubes. Of course, that was a while ago… perhaps they haven’t aged well.)

So, we commenced Clomid for 6 months, which was unsuccessful, although it did bring 4 of the 6 cycles down under 40 days duration. I had blood work ‘suggestive of ovulation’ and LH surges the day before my period a couple of times. All was Confusion, and by early 2005 I was on the waiting list to be seen at our regional Centre for Reproductive Medicine.

I am very bad indeed at brooking delays. My first IUI cycle there was private, because the NHS simply wasn’t quick enough for me.  The consultant, bless him, put the sperm sample into the juicy looking endometrium on my left, not having realised that the only follicle with anything promising about it at all was attached to the uterus on the right. I got home and had, for the first time in my life, proper hysterics. He did, to his credit, shoulder the responsibility in full the next day when I finally succeeded in speaking to him – although in fac I rather suspected the source of the trouble was a communication-fail from the nurses doing my scans, who had all been clearly confused by my didelphys to begin with. You would think the fact that they had detected I only had a follicle on one side of my highly unusual and noteworthy reproductive kit was worth… I dunno… perhaps flagging up to the boss? Still… bygones.

So, we got all our money back, and by then NHS list had caught us up anyway. For IUI number two, I again steadfastly refused to produce a follicle on my left side – and we had decided by now that my right hand uterus did not look a great bet for an embryo, despite the frustrating fact that its associated ovary was much spritelier: the cycle was abandoned. So, my reproductive system officially now looked like this:

didelphys uterus

– bearing in mind that my right and your right ARE NOT THE SAME. It’s alarming how many medical professionals I have seen mix up patient’s left and their left.

So – IVF! Ho! to IVF! IVF! IVF! We’re starting IVF! Bring it ON! So… where the buggery fuck is my period, and why am I cramping so much on my left side? I could… I could pee on a stick I suppose…?

A strong positive line, immediately. I was still sleepy and thoroughly confused by it: I decided to seek a second opinion and  nearly crippled myself thundering down the cluttered stairs and flinging the front door open just in time to intercept John backing off the drive. He wound the window down and looked at me enquiringly. ‘I’m pregnant!’ I blurted, waving the dripping stick in the air. He stopped the engine and scurried over to inspect the stick.

Much happiness, etc. A scan at 6.5 weeks showed a bright flashing heartbeat and a healthy-looking yolk-sac. We dashed away on a last-minute holiday to Ireland, on the basis that it would be the last one we took by ourselves. I began to feel horribly, wonderfully nauseous, and spent the days driving down pot-holed country roads in a tiny hire car, clinging greenly to the wheel, because John’s driving made me feel even iller.

I went for another scan at 8+ weeks, before they discharged me to my GP. We were so blithe going into that room. There was a junior and a senior nurse, the junior was operating the wand and the senior was standing next to her, directing her where to look.

They wouldn’t show me the screen. After a couple of minutes I asked if I could have a look too, and the senior nurse assured me kindly that as soon as they’d seen everything they needed to, she would turn the screen round – but they weren’t getting a very good picture with this machine – would I mind moving to the room next door where there was a more sensitive ultrasound?

God help me, I never suspected a thing. I upped-sticks into the next room quite cheerfully, and wondered why John came to stand next to me and stroked my leg, instead of perching himself on the chair behind the nurses again.

He knew, of course. He said afterwards that the heartbeat we had seen before had flashed so very brightly that its absence now was glaringly obvious. But even when the doctor – who had mysteriously replaced the junior nurse in the room transition – turned the screen towards me and told me sadly that she had looked very, very carefully and couldn’t find a heartbeat – I still didn’t fully grasp her meaning. As she scanned slowly right through the koala-shaped little fetus to show me that there was no sign of a flashing beat, I had a vague idea that heartbeats were so small and… well, embryonic… at that stage, that taking a little rest and re-starting again later was perfectly acceptable. It wasn’t until she had actually left the room that I began to understand our loss, and started to cry.

And I proceeded to cry a great deal. Life was suddenly unutterably shit. The medical management of miscarriage was distressing and painful, with a hefty shot of pethedine and the associated morphine floating the only redeeming feature of the experience.

I arrived at our first IVF with a good deal more mental baggage. It took a long time – and double doses of gonadotrophin – to wake my ovaries up, but they eventually produced a very average 10 eggs. Apparently, coming around from the sedation I burbled continuously, incoherently, and even more mundanely than usual about some tricky work problem. I have no memory of this, merely of trying to remove my oxygen mask – so I could make my drivel more clearly heard by everyone in the recovery suite, no doubt.

Some precis. I do go on. I’ve typed enough; I have to go to a nursing home fete now, and be nice to people. I am selling cards, as you may realise – my fame is not yet so widespread that they’ve asked me to open the thing.

The Arabs Say: They Have Plenty Of Sand Already, Thanks

I have been looking for a job. An actual proper, paying job. Fruitlessly.

My maternity pay – comparatively generous here in the UK – dried up well over a year ago, and since then, we have all been living on Hubby’s income – and eating into savings. Inevitably, there is beginning to be a certain anaemia of the Hairy Exchequer, and when my credit card bill plops heavily onto the doormat each month, John’s hands start to churn through his hair whilst I watch him anxiously from behind the cover of something solidly mad-axe-murderer-proof.

And joking aside, this sharing-of-one-income thing completely sucks a clown’s balls. John never actually criticises any of my purchases – merely frets over the zeros – but nevertheless, I acutely feel all the consequent mental indignity of this imagined host/parasite situation – and having absolutely no money of my own is a hairshirt total pisser.

Take our garden, for instance. Had I been earning, there would, by now, be a summer house, a patio/deck, some nice stone steps, a soft lawn, a fence and a gate across the drive. Because the only avenue open to me (sans income) is to plead with John – and we’ve been having this row a long time now – to get all the ground work done himself (strong muscles, carpentry & stone-building skills, JCB-owner, etc) all we have is half a lawn and some step-shapes in an earth bank. It’s a sore point, and all I can do is get angry and worked up about it and tell him I feel let down at his lack of motivation. But rather than spend 18 months working myself into a frustrated lather, it would have been awfully nice to have been able to cheerfully raise two fingers to the procrastinating old sod and pay builder-chaps to do it myself. But I can’t, and it makes me feel – well, probably about like Harry feels when I tell him he can’t have crisps for breakfast. Sort of…tantrummy. And small. Low down the pecking order. Not a mover and shaker! But… I didn’t want to go back to work, so I entirely accept this has been a situation of my own making.

The need to inject some more funding into the household budget peaked concomitantly with my personal poverty pissing me right off, so a while ago I began to scan the papers and websites. My background is field sales and account management, but juicy jobs with generous packages, local travel, no shitty aspects and a max of 3 days a week… well, like I say, I’ve been looking awhile. My old employers sound deep in the economic cacky stuff, and have nothing to offer me. The Sits Vac column has been merely a collection of ads requiring people to sell recruitment ad space. I seriously considered re-training for something different, but that in itself takes money, particularly when you have childcare to factor into the equation – plus I couldn’t think of much else to do apart from patisserie (bad back & early mornings) – so I’ve spent a fair while whizzing around in ever decreasing mental circles, with the occasional hopeful progress enquiry from John to depress me even further.

I had advance notice of the 2nd birthday party of one of Harry’s little friends one of the kids we know through babygroup. I sighed and mentally catalogued how many 2nd birthday parties we are likely to attend in the next 12 months: I calculated about 15. I like WH Smith as much as the next girl and more, but at around £2.25 for a card, I was wincing at the sums even before the whole wrapping-paper-and-gift moneypit forced itself upon my thoughts. I decided to be organised (a minor personal triumph) and went online and started searching for the greeting card company I know who bypass the shops completely and sell direct to the public: a girl I used to work with had a sister who was a trader and the cards I bought from her were absolutely lovely and a mere quid each when you buy 10. Bulk buying didn’t look like being a problem for me this year. 

I found them and was looking through the various designs and cooing happily – I like art AND stationery – when I encountered the section about becoming a trader… and slowed down to pay more attention. Your very own home-based business, operated as intensively or as occasionally as you please, in entirely your own time. And I asked myself if, really, there was any reason I couldn’t sell cards. And there wasn’t. I’ve certainly sold stranger things. I once sold a bloke a ladder I didn’t have (I worked for a filter company) simply because he dialled the wrong number and thought I was Screwfix. I sourced a very nice one, sent it to him, and made a clear 45%. I like days like that.

So, I sent off for some information, and scrutinised it closely. I had bought the products over a period of some years and knew they were very nice indeed, but some direct selling firms have – justifiably – had some dreadful press over the years and I was very wary. But I really couldn’t find much to pick holes in. The product designs are lovely, and beautiful quality. The company are industry leaders and have an unimpeachable reputation. 

So I showed it all to John – forced him away from the TV and made him read it all – and we talked. And I signed up. It cost me £150, which was £105 more than it had to, but I wanted to invest in some extra stock. That was 3 weeks ago; I have been selling for 10 days, and I’ve already turned over enough to replenish the depleted bank account – even if it has been about 25% due to my mother desperately trying to indirectly inject cash into her daughter’s coffers by stocking up on her entire year’s card purchases all in one go. Then, she tried to give me them all back again to hold as stock. Bless the woman.

Being an owner (temporary, MIL’s house, etc) of a nice view, which people are often telling me they would like to come have a look at, I thought I would make the most of the new situation and re-take the dining room back for my own purposes. It now looks like this:

Rack

and the boys are Not Allowed in my inner sanctum. I sit in there and drink coffee and lovingly pat my boxes of stock! The hall has been tidied. There are even pots of pretty flowers either side of the front door and all the trailer-park-trash has gone to the tip. I am now Open For Business on Saturday mornings; I am booked in for local fetes – a big earner, apparently, although I’m a little late in the year to jump on board with many. I am thinking whom I can persuade to do charity coffee mornings – I don’t mind giving up some profit to a good cause and building a customer base in the process. I have dropped brochures and samples off in my local villages and my doctor’s surgery. I have sent my best friend off to work this week with a nice wicker basket crammed full with cards, note cards and gift wrap – and a commission offer that she has kindly declined, because she loves me. I am tracking down WI meetings and ladies’ lunches and begging for a slot. I am planning card parties for the evenings, particularly as we move towards Christmas (Don’t groan! The season starts in September!). I have been to one of the bi-annual company roadshows which fortuitously fell last week, and met – and liked – the owners and directors. I have been working stupidly late in the evening, because I have a lot of initial set-up gubbins to busy myself with.

And I’ve really, really been enjoying it. I have a new interest in life apart from the family bowel problems, which are beginning to oppress me mightily. This is my very own business, it’s a job that I know, that I’m confident I can make work – not least because the things really do sell themselves most of the time; something to appreciate when your previous career has been slogging uphill selling either industrial products in an overcrowded market or expensive marketing services. Those jobs had chunkier salaries, it has to be said, and this project is not going to have a great deal of impact on our budget until I have established a decent client base, but I can do all this work without significantly deviating from the weekly routine Harry & I have. (I am donating 10% of all of my own profit to BLISS, the premature baby charity, which pleases me as I’ve been able to give them very little of late). My own sponsor – my upline trader and moral support – does the majority of her business stood waiting to collect her two sons from school, scouts, swimming, etc.

And now, of course, because I’m all bubbly and enthusiastic about it, I want to show you what I’m selling!

www.phoenix-trading.eu/web/ann

Now… I would hate for you to be recoiling in horror by this point, feeling all sticky and used, and thinking that I am about to start abusing my bloggy integrity boring you to death for the purposes of filthy lucre – so let me assure you that I will shortly stop banging on about this, and will return to my staple output of toddler-terror, and whatever other crap it is that I customarily waffle about.

I would, quite seriously, be mortified if you leave here with the impression that I expect anything other than your good wishes in my new endeavour – and I don’t actually even expect that, it’s just that I know a little about quite a few of you by now, and I appreciate your collective loveliness, moral support and kind comments.

However, I am not one to turn my back on opportunities, if opportunities there be – I drifted into sales in my 20s for a reason, after all, and there is just the tiniest element of CMOT Dibbler’s unrelenting greed about me, and I do need that garden fencing put up – so I will keep a tab up at the top there with some details on how to buy.  I do not exhort you, naturally! Some of you like spending more money than you absolutely must for quality products in this economic climate, I’m sure… Local customers are where this business is designed to centre, not the far-flung corners of the internet, but if any of you are extremely desirous of purchasing lovely (cheep! like the budgie) cards from Wifey – postage within the UK is not horrendous. Even with a couple of quid tacked on the total for Royal Mail’s cut, they are still significantly cheaper than the high street. I could include some genuine Stratford-upon-Avon air – the air that Shakespeare himself broke wind into! – in the envelope absolutely free, gratis and for nothing. If you live further afield, then the postage and payment element becomes significant, and I will likely be regretfully obliged to send you nothing more than my very best wishes and the news that if you live in the USA, France, Australia or New Zealand, you can buy from your own local traders. And I will make nothing! *lip quivers*

If any of you – UK, USA, or Antipodean – think that I might be onto a Particularly Good Thing here, and would like more information – then you must, of course, make up your own minds after careful scrutiny and consideration. I am very keen not to actually encourage you. All I can honestly assure you of is that the products are delightful and inexpensive, the organisation is well established, sensible and respectable, and that they do what they say on the tin. I can’t say that this would work for you: money generally has to be earned the hard way in this life, sales never achieve themselves and you always need a business head on you. It’s too soon for me to know how well I will succeed at this myself (although I am conceited enough about 1) my own willingness to slog hard at things I really want to happen and 2) the fact that I’ve succeeded in sales before, to feel confident) – but if you are the friendly type and have a wideish circle of female acquaintance/know lots of men who are prolific card-buyers – then you could consider having a go.

I mention all this purely because the way the company expands is fairly organic, with enthusiastic customers tending to be the ones who evolve into traders – and any new traders become the responsibility of the trader who originally introduced them the product. You would, therefore, inevitably belong body and soul to me, continually have me on your back, have to attend my monthly sales meetings where there will be cake, be a part of my team. I am not actively looking to establish my own team at all until I get my sea-legs underneath me – but anyone actually reading this who might genuinely be interested in selling the products, sends off for info –  and doesn’t quote my trader number – will oblige me to hunt them down with a large bowie knife and a exceedingly murderous look in my eye. I get my £25 registration fee halved next year if I sponsor anyone, and I’d really rather it didn’t have to be my mother!

And lastly: in case you’re sitting there feeling all awkward and uneasy and soiled, and thinking that buying cards from a random internet stranger is the last thing you want to do, ever, and you want to say something about something to break the tension but don’t quite know how to slide gracefully off-topic without, you know, actually saying no in any way, shape or form… here are cutesy photos of John and raspberry-stained Harry (the sweet, innocent, deserving family that I am attempting to ward poverty and incipient starvation away from) teaming up to build the new sandpit and discovering that raspberry canes are self-service yummies

sandpit

sandpit construction

raspberry canes

so perhaps you could say something nice about them instead, if you wanted to?!

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