Thursday, 8 October 2015

Still Reaching For The Light

It is done.

It was a very happy thing to create (see my last post for earlier stages), but already Christmas is making demands and the baby is also making itself known with much writhing and thrashing about. So preparations for both are underway. 

Keep Saturday 5th December clear if you can get to Chagford because our Artisan Fayre is back with another wonderful mix of talented artists of all ilks, not to mention the music and teas and cakes and those very nice mince pies and... but really it's all about the art and not at all an excuse to hang out with some really lovely people in a sort of all-day party/market way. Do come!

The first load of very tiny clothes have been washed. Pickle and I had an unashamedly squealy time hanging them up to dry and it was fun to see her amazememnt at how very teeny some of them are. I'm not sure she really believes me that she was once just a loveable lollable blob of blubber which fitted into these clothes.

And space is needed (as it always is in our house), so I have taken radical action and offerred one of our sofas to whoever could carry it down our twisty stone steps on their head. No Gappies were harmed in the making of this photo.

There is a sadness in this crisp autumn air. Two young women friends, both with particularly warm hearts and generous natures, have died within the last month and another is very ill indeed. Also, I have recently made it through another wedding anniversary - a day I hope to celebrate rather than suffer at some point. Death brings gratitude to the living, as well as sorrow, and I am making the most of this gift each time I step outside, following Pickle with her new dinosaur backpack, to meet a new day. We continue to find ways to reach for the light.

For Bea. For Ella.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Reaching For The Light Supersized and Iron in the Blood

The sun is shining, the hips and haws are out and there is iron in my blood.

I realise there should always be iron in one's blood, but it transpired the reason I was struggling to cope with even the basics of our lives was that I had too little. I don't yet feel like The Iron Woman, but the house is less of a midden, some paperwork has been achieved, my current commission is progressing (more of that later) and I am here, reporting my emergence to all you kind souls who were so lovely after my last post. There is still some way to go, as this morning there was a moment of Mama-fail when there were no clean 'Wednesday' socks. Pickle has such high standards!

The school wheel is turning again and this year Pickle is balancing beautifully in its centrifugal spin, skipping up a reading scheme (a relief for me too) and generally benefitting from the calmer, more focussed atmosphere. She was particular about having 'proper shirts' (no comfy airtek for this girl) 'with wrist buttons'. See what I mean about standards? I'm tempted to buy her cufflinks for Christmas - they will blow her mind!

You can't tell from that picture, but Pickle's beautiful ponytail...

has become a beautiful squirel tail.

She is very happy about this and brushing her hair is a much happier time for us both.

Having felt so grim all during the holiday and only taken Pickle on daytrips (which were brilliant) and a few days at my parents' (which were also good), I was sad we hadn't managed a real holiday while it's just the two of us. That's the only reason I can come up with for why I agreed to go camping whilst pregnant in September. I'm very glad I did. We went as part of a gang of families from Pickle's class and my lovely friends put up and took down our big bell tent (which I currently can't even lift) and we totally lucked out on the weather, so a delightful weekend was had by all.

My sand angel found innovative new ways to become filthy

while I admired the view of blue sky and other people in really cold water.

 The children were very proud of the crab they found

and at the end of each day Pickle and I snuggled up and did lots of this:

Chagford has been temporarily renamed Chaiford for the Bangra finale to Chagford's famous film festival. An Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant has serendipitously just opened and their stall scented the Square and made me miss India. Pickle and her best friend (and fiancee) had had a sleepover at ours the night before and been mostly awake since 4:00am, so we didn't drag them round stalls for too long. We took them to the park and then to the pub for chips where our young friend smashed his apple juice bottle so spectacularly that the waitress smashed a tray of hot chocolates. We haven't been back. Bellies finally full of chips and children placated with hot chocolates and relay wees (why can't they all go at once?), we staggered blindly into the sun for the Bhangra flashmob and amazing elephant, which lead the procession.

And during all of that, in half hour bursts while I was confident I wouldn't vomit and Pickle was alseep and I had enough concentration, I have been slowly Reaching Towards The Light again. Someone saw one of my greeting cards and wanted the original, but it has long sold. So she commissioned me to do the same (I gave her the speech about how it will never come out exactly the same), but bigger. It's still not finished, but the Light is in sight. I had planned to take a smooth series of photos, but you will see I have forgotten for patches of time.

More greenery needs to shoot up and those flowers are no good to the bees without nectared centres, but it will be done soon and brightening a new family home, which pleases me very much.

Meanwhile, my new family member is growing apace (as am I). Lots of reassuring kicks and an anomaly scan in only a couple of weeks. Pickle and I can't possibly wait to find out if she will have a brother or sister. The citizens of Chagford are making their guesses. Add yours here if you have a hunch. I do, but I'm not telling...

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Blooming and the Bud

There is so much I haven't said.

The seven-week scan with the two blinking heartbeats. Two! The horror in the eyes of friends as they congratulated me. The planning for two of everything. Pickle's pride and excitement at being a big sister to twins.

Then the weeks of rolling nausea and exhaustion which left me barely able to care for Pickle, myself and my two growing beings, and entirely unable to to do any housework or stay awake for an entire day. Pickle has been amazing. I am very grateful for how she accepted and adapted to my less fun state.

The 12-week scan, my first chance to see them properly. But... one heartbeat. Just one now. One healthy and very active baby; one sad forever-bud adrift within me. No heartbeat and no future. We will never know who it would have been if the folds had been crisper or the edges more neatly aligned and the whole wonderful origami of evolution had - Ta dah! - made a baby, a human instead of this tiny cloven-brained frog with no jump. We will never know.

Very, very much (I have pinned my sanity on this), I hope we will know who this other baby will be as it and I bloom together towards birth. Because I am still carrying my little frog, there is a risk of losing both, but I want to spend all the time we have together, 70 more minutes or 70 more years, believing in this life and preparing myself for the full-frontal heart collision that is motherhood again. 

It is time for something really spectacular and wonderful to happen to Pickle and I. Twins seemed the miracle which promised us happiness and joy. One baby is miracle enough.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Bee Paradise

Well, I have been a busy bee. I have finished another original greetings card. This one took aaages (but happy ages) and you can see why:

It's called Bee Paradise (again, no prizes) and is listed in my Etsy shop here.

Meanwhile, I have sold Reaching For The Light (still available as greetings cards here) and received a commission for a much bigger version which I'm already looking forward to starting. I'll show you its progress as I go.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The People Have Spoken

A while ago I had the bright idea of selling all my postcards in bundles of five, instead of posting then out one at a time for little profit. I thought it was a great idea and actually many people were already buying several at once, enjoying combining their favourite designs, so what could go wrong?.

Well I'm still not sure what went wrong, but wrong it did go. Sales dwindled immediately and, despite me trying to make it clearer and easier, they stayed at a pitiful trickle. The people have spoken and the people must get what they want, so yesterday I spent hours changing all my postcard listings back to how they were a few months ago. See how good I am to you?

Now, and forevermore, if you want to buy just one postcard, please do. Having seen that the alternative is selling almost none to almost nobody, I will be delighted to package up your one favourite postcard and send it to your home. All profit is good profit!

Here are just a few of my favourite designs (there are 57 to choose from!):

Those Who Sing, Pray Twice:

Tendril Tree:

Oak, Reflected:

I Wish:

Tulip Field:

Cosmic Bard (my favourite self-portrait by Thomas):

Don't Give Up (the one I've needed most recently):

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Original Greetings Cards

In time these will be available as printed cards, but for now I am selling the hand-inked original cards, all of which have metallic ink details or even golden words from Hafiz. No reason why you can't frame them, knowing there's a message from a special someone inside.

Tree #1:

Tree #2:

Do You Know How Beautiful You Are?:

See? I'm properly on a mission! We SHALL go to the ball pool!

Monday, 22 June 2015

The Mission

I have been focussed on little other than meeting Pickle's needs and trying to conceive for a very long time. Now that I have an eyelash being or two meshing with my body, I find myself uncomfortably aware of the silence when I shake the coffers. In a bid to remedy this, I am determined to organise my little business so that it actually produces an income, rather than taking up lots of happy hours and producing lots of art and writing no-one ever sees. So, already I have listed four new things in my Etsy shop which had previously been languishing in my livingroom. I have been known to sell from my kitchen wall before, but that really doesn't work as a business plan.

I have a new small ink-on-canvas work called Reaching For The Light. The metallic inks do weird things to the light when I photograph them, but hopefully this gives you an idea of the verdant, abundant feel of it:

And I have had three more designs made into greetings cards.


Tree in Sunny Field:

and Reaching For The Light:

My health is better than it has been for a while, so I will keep working and keep posting about my new creations, human or otherwise.

And thank you so much for all the love and good wishes. It takes a village to raise a child, or do any much, I find. Thank you for being my virtual village x

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Result

Three cycles of IVF, nine months, hundreds of injections and pills and bruises and side-effects, two bouts of OHSS, all my money, enormous stress and heartache and many wet pillows: all worth it. At least one little embryo has snuggled in and taken root in my belly, now busy growing and changing and becoming more robust every day. I'll have a scan next month to do a headcount and see if I have a singleton or twins. Gulp.

So I am very grateful to my sperm donor, whoever he is. Despite the fact that he will never be any kind of a father to these beings, I am thinking of him today, on Fathers' Day, and hoping he knows what a gift he has given.

Of course I am also thinking of Thomas. Pickle made the most wonderful Fathers' Day card at school. On the front is an intricate design of hearts and his violin (relevant to the only true memory she has of him), but it's the words which make it:

For those of you not fluent in five-year-old, the translation is this:

'Hi Dad. I hope you do survive. I do dear Dad. I want to dig you up. I love you. I love you. I do love you.'

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Wait

Much has happened and some of it has been this:

I have occasionally remembered to photograph a name sign before I send it off. This one has gone to Canada to celebrate a wonderful new baby:

I had a birthday. I don't like having  a party for me, but my good friend was having a birthday gathering in their woods, so I came along on the assurance that no-one would sing that song! Fine folk sat about a fire chatting and eating.

Children did children things

and a good time was had by all. Here I am, a year older:

Pickle and I have been spending happy hours in our jungle garden. We can get all the way through the woods now! Well, we could, but now the nettles have grown up so only I can again - but that's the deal with jungles.

Pickle has been angling for inclusion in an eighties public service advert for road safety:

doing yoga with her Gappy:

and always finding secret places to be. Here she is at Westonbirt Arboretum - a place of tree magic and very much beauty in any season:

We were with her cousins and my siblings and their families and our parents - a rare gathering of the tribe.

Yesterday was Pickle's first ever Sports Day. We both enjoyed it and I was unexpectedly moved by the sight of her valiantly hopping along in a sack. Here she is, slowing right down during the sprint to smile and wave at me:

Sometimes the magic of moments happens invisibly, in the heart, and sometimes there is actual magic just hiding down a badger holt if you have eyes to see. Luckily for us, our neighbour has those feyfox eyes and spotted real Goblin's Gold. It is luminescent moss and it's fancy name is Schistostega and it lives in dark places where the sunlight mosses cannot thrive and overwhelm it. It's not easy to capture the amazing vividness of its glow in a photograph, but this is my best attempt:

And that's not even the most magical thing! I am on my third and final round of IVF. This round has been even tougher than the others and for most of it I was in quite a gloom, just going through the motions of injections and pills and scans and waiting. My self-esteem has reached record lows and physically it has been tough too. I now have OHSS and, without breasts, that makes me this shape:

However, the epic two-week wait is nearly over and I can do a pregnancy test in a couple of days. Then, hopefully, I will have a happier reason to look like Mr Greedy.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Shuffle Fail

So, I was happily holding forth on the importance of education, using the example of a Sudanese refugee who had fled with her books (while Pickle was trying to eat her breakfast) when I felt my point somewhat undermined by Killing in the Name segueing into Another Brick in the Wall. Shuffle, sometimes you disappoint me.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Broken Shells

So, six weeks of injecting hormones and thousands of pounds later (keep breathing Lunar; just breathe and mention your shop), my good friend and neighbour drove me to the clinic to welcome one of my snow babies home. 

Sitting in the waiting room, my phone started to sing. Two missed messages, both from the embryologist asking me to phone her. I had a cold couple of minutes to wait before she led us into her office. No snow babies. No transfer today. Both protective shells had broken in the freeze and the thaw and those precious cells inside now had no hope of life.

As she spoke, my own shell cracked open and a chill draught touched my heart. You might not have known, though. I calmly listened to her explanation, asked sensible questions, insisted on the earliest possible date for the next step and left with smiles and thanks for the staff, because I didn't want them to feel bad. I'm very good at taking bad news. (I actually cut short the commiserations of the nurse who rang to say Thomas had died because I needed to be with Pickle while she had breakfast.) Life just goes on. Except for when it doesn't.

Halfway down the corridor some tears found the exit and I stopped for a hug. We talked in the car about what I could do next, but my brain wasn't really engaged. At home, I sat on my bed and just stared out the window for half an hour, no thoughts or emotions, just a subtle adjustment to the new world order. Then I had a nap and made Pickle's tea. It was the next day, glancing up at myself while brushing my teeth, that I really cried.

I will try again, but first my body needs a month to let this batch of hormones go and be ready for more. And I need this time to be ready for more too. No-one said it was easy and they were all right.

But it is a lot easier for having my girl with me. We are leaving love notes for each other to find,

spontaneously charging each other for hugs

and enjoying the sun when it shines.

Pickle has made progress in her career as a paleontologist, excavating fossils including a chick in its shell and in the process learning why paleontologists traditionally work outside:

There is always hope.

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