Fuck. This is it; the big 4-0. I am definitely not ready. Up until now I haven’t worried all that much about the number on my card. This year it all feels rather scary.
Forty is different. It’s just so huge. I have this sense of it being a before & after year. There’s the obvious sinking of youth. I’ve noticed a few changes on my face. In themselves they aren’t a problem, what they signify certainly gives me pause. I’m beginning to wonder how my body will stack up against the ageing process. Are my dodgy joints going to pack in altogether? Will my hair go white? Is menopause on the way?
40 feels like the nail in the coffin of fertility. I know that hope is already all but extinguished. Hitting my fifth decade seems symbolic; a final snuffing. There are so many unattained goals. I expected to be living a different life by now. Time is whizzing by faster than ever. Getting through the ultimate to do list is increasingly daunting.
It’s not all black. I have built a life I’m proud of. I’ve filled it with bloody lovely buggers. All my people have made beautiful babies for me to adore. I’m doing the work I’ve always wanted to do. I feel loved. So, this is 40. Terrifying, but I’ve conquered the fear before. Why stop now?
When I first heard about second hand September it seemed like an excellent idea. However after listening to some small businesses I have realised it’s not so simple. With the covid pandemic already putting a massive strain on independent makers a whole month of reduced sales could be the final straw for many.
Obviously reducing waste & our reliance on fast fashion is an excellent goal. Buying second hand is not the only way to go about reaching it. By shopping with small businesses we can minimise support for damaging practices whilst boosting ethical traders. If you’re looking for some excellent places to spend your money I have some suggestions for you.
Grlclb create clothing & accessories with a radical message. They’re size inclusive and offer a pay it forward scheme to help folks with less spending power. Stock is handmade to order meaning no waste. I’ve been after some of their gear for ages, but could never decide which design to opt for. I finally took the plunge and am eagerly awaiting my purchase.
Fuck the Tories are an old fav of my mine. Their name sums up the company’s mission. The jewellery they create is beautiful & makes one hell of a statement. These guys support lots of charities. They even offer freebies to customers short on funds who need a lift. Isn’t that the kind of business you want to give your money to?
Rosana Exposito designs gorgeous and extremely wearable clothing. All handmade in limited numbers from natural fibres and deadstock. These pieces are timeless. Rosana is another supporter of good causes including donating profits from her face masks to Glasgow Night Shelter. From stunning silks to quirky metal accessories every piece is a dream.
Lucky Sew and Sew are a mother & daughter team crafting stunning lingerie. They are completely body positive, with each piece bring custom made. These beautiful pieces are created from surplus stock & fast fashion left overs. I am desperate for a set of earth friendly undies. These are next on my buy list.
There are so many fabulous independent makers pursuing ethical production. You will be thrilled to discover what treasure you can find whilst also supporting amazing people.
This month’s insomnia has been sponsored by infertility. My inability to reproduce occupies far to much space in my head & life. A big problem with healing from pregnancy loss is how taboo the topic remains. Things have improved a little, but on the whole I still feel like most people do not want to hear about it. Some have very valid reasons to shy away from those conversations. Others merely feel uncomfortable. Rightly or wrongly that leads me (& others) to feel we must keep it to ourselves.
Obviously I have attempted to combat the silence both in my writing & my life. I know it helps those who have lost & those around us to be more open. My own attempts to get on with it quietly were incredibly harmful to me. Still, there is so much that I have not shared. There are important people in my life that I’ve never spoken about my miscarriages or infertility with. It’s not a secret, but many things have prevented me from feeling able to discuss how I have felt.
Beyond emotion there are so many details that aren’t revealed. Common place aspects of miscarriage that are only ever referred to in hushed tones by those who have been there. There are various behaviours that I kept to myself because I feared they veered towards crazy. I’ve subsequently discovered they’re common rituals. Humans find comfort where they can, it would have been less frightening to know I was normal.
Most of all, the secrets are weighty. I feel laden with the obligation to keep the unmentionables shrouded. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I definitely don’t want others strapping on this load. I need to let some of it go.
I say some, because, there are people & realities I cannot change. Crashing against solid stone will bring me no comfort. Thus, I want to reveal the parts that I can with this kind & ultimately faceless audience. Hopefully it can help others who feel burdened by conventional decorum. At the very least I may finally feel lighter.
I fear you’ll judge the box I’ve kept for 20 years. Adding items that others have hinted should not have been saved. Very few know it exists, the suggestion that it shouldn’t have has always hurt. I don’t think the positive tests from each pregnancy are gross. I’ve still felt the needed to hide them. Saving hospital bands & paperwork makes sense to me. I don’t understand why wanting to hold onto something (anything) connected to my children is morbid. I’ve been assured it is.
I’m embarrassed of the few new born pieces I dared to purchase. So often I’ve seen childless women with tiny socks stashed in a drawer portrayed as lunatics. Dangerous, even. The type who might steal your baby. I hide the pregnancy, early years & baby names book. They’re packed away with the baby grow I saved from my niece’s early days. I thought one day I could frame pictures of them both babies identically clothed. Yes, the frame that would have housed those photos remains box fresh alongside. I have no need for this paraphernalia, I just can’t bear to throw them away. I worry this will be viewed as pathetic. Another crazy lady whose biological clock went bang. They were logical purchases when I made them. I was pregnant. When those pregnancies failed I was certain the next one wouldn’t.
I’ve never shared the pictures I took when my stomach started to change shape during my last pregnancy. I wanted to show off that development, but I didn’t think I was allowed. At the time it would have been tempting fate. Afterwards, there is instant unease if the subject is approached.
Then there are the memories that will never leave and are never uttered. Unpleasant shards of the mess no one wants to witness. The exact tone a nurse used when she told me it was for the best because I was so young. Or the ice cold that runs through me everytime I see an examination table with stirrups. The fact that a miscarriage is more than blood and that more must be dealt with. I don’t talk about sitting alone in my bathroom trying to decide what to do with the bloody fragments of the child that will never be. Or the torture of bleeding a little & then having to wait. Clinging to hope through blood tests and scans. Only to be told you’re technically still pregnant, but it’s no longer viable.
Risk of infection, prolonged bleeding, the extent of the pain are all things I only become aware of through experience or via other women in private groups. We’re all so squeamish about the reality of pregnancy loss. I think it’s entwined with the patriarchal disgust of ‘female’ bodily functions. The same whiff of shame hangs over the process. I have felt I must not reveal anything too corporeal. Almost as though declaring the facts of my physical condition is gratuitous. Likewise, I have restrained aspects of emotional responses for the comfort others. It simply isn’t sensible to treat such a traumatic event with polite moderation. The inhibition has damaged me.
The older I get the more I seek clarity. Much of the pressure that society brings to bear obscures my view. I don’t want to submit to it anymore.
Routine is hard to establish routine during a pandemic, but the last few weeks Tuesday adventures have returned. I am delighted.
For this week’s adventure I even managed to put together a cute ootd. I’m doubly impressed with myself as I uncovered a forgotten wardrobe gem. I have no idea when I bought this dress. I’m not sure if I’ve ever worn it before, but I bloody love it. I couldn’t find my footless tights, so I just cut the feet off these lovelies. Worked a treat.
As usual I went for all the colour because why not? I added my very favourite brooch for added fat posi vibes and my look was complete. My sister’s take was ‘it’s very you’, which means I hit the mark.
My sis only had a little work to do. After, which, we all headed to the Bonnie banks. Luss is one of my very favourite places. My thoughtful wee sis had noticed I’d talked about being sad at not visiting this year and suggested we take a trip. The boy loved it as much as we do. With ducks, a chance to build sandcastles & a a sneaky ice cream before home he was a satisfied rascal.
Today would be your 20th birthday. I’ve had the time it would have taken for you to become a man & still the wound is raw. It seems that a certain amount of pain will always be part of being an invisible Mum. I miss you and all your siblings. Even though I never got to make real memories, I hold our phantom family in my imagination.
My life will always be less for your absence, but I’d never forgo the time that I carried you. You will forever be the very best part of me.
I turn 40 this month, which means I have to accept that I‘m definitely an adult. Thus I realise that I will not achieve some the things I wanted to when I was grew up. One such thing being, rescuing animals from slaughter.
I’m not fit enough to care for farm animals, so my dreams of saving livestock & showering them with love will not be realised. The next best thing is to visit & support sanctuaries who can do just that. Which brings me to September’s Charity of month. Tribe Sanctuary does exactly what I dreamed of; they rescue and care for animals that might otherwise end up on someone’s plate.
You can visit this gorgeous brood, gift items from their amazon wish list or make a simple cash donation. I have always been passionate about animal rights. I believe all creatures should be respected and cared for. Look at these wee faces & tell me they don’t deserve all the love.
Autumn has always been my favourite season. The drawing in of the nights & cooling of the air used to be welcome. These days this time of year is more complicated.
All of my babies were due in August or September. As the weather changes I am beset with anniversaries and reminders. People who were pregnant with me throw birthday parties. I quietly mark dates I had hoped to celebrate.
This year my orbit is congested with pregnancy announcements creating a perfect storm of emotion. All are depressingly familiar. I’m sad and lost. I don’t know how to find a purpose big enough to fill up my life. Each time I begin to believe I’m approaching acceptance I’m overtaken with this stale grief.
It’s so heavy and I’m so tired of dragging it around. I want to be able to move past this, but there are too many ghosts. A million tiny pricks. Triggers lurk everywhere; always something to yearn for. Even in my happiest moments I’m aware of what’s missing.
I can’t comprehend ever making this ok. Yet, I don’t wan’t to be this tragic old bitch. I’d like to stick all my consolation prizes together & collage myself a happy enough ending. I’m scared I’m not sufficiently good/strong/grateful to make do & mend.
I have been quiet because I slipped away for a wee break. I joined my Mum, sis, nephew & Sebby for the perfect seaside getaway. My sister found the most wonderful cottage by the sea and man alive did I need it.
We stayed on a tiny village with only a church, a corner shop & hotel. Oh & of course a stunning beach. The view from our patio was wow. It was the perfect place to take some deep breathes & refresh my head.
Add 24hrs with the boy to all that soothing scenery and you get a very happy ly. I did bath, bedtime and constant carry on. It was bliss. The little man is a total beach baby. He adores the seaside. Rain or shine he can’t wait to get his toes on sand. His doggy big brother can’t get enough of it either.
When the sun was out we built sandcastles, jumped waves & found big sticks. Followed by chilling on the patio whilst the sun went down.
We didn’t let the rain stop us, though. We donned our waterproofs and headed to Cullen. The beach took my breath away. A wild deserted beach is my absolute favourite; the Moray Coast did not disappoint. I felt calmer & more centred on that wind battered beach than I have in months. With soft golden sand, dramatic rock formations and clear blue waves crashing on the shore it was blissful. My nephew was enchanted with the ‘fairy pools’ and couldn’t wait to do some splashing. Meanwhile Seb was able to run free.
Our encounter with nature over we headed into town to check out a magical antique store. It was packed with stunning pieces. Plus more than a few whimsical items to please a toddler.
On our final night my sis & I decided to play some scrabble. We set up by the patio doors to enjoy the view while we got our words on. Mum enjoyed the real fire in the next room with a sleepy boys. I was very rusty, but still managed to just beat my sis. Don’t tell her I told you, she’s a tad competitive.
To soften the pain of leaving we broke journey home at St Cyrus. We again found ourselves on a dream beach. I am continuously amazed at how beautiful Scotland is. I feel so very lucky to live here. St Cyrus is also a nature reserve, so if you’re interested water birds and wildlife it is an amazing place to visit.
I started last week with a trip to Edinburgh to do my first out of the house project in months. I have to be honest being out in the world was incredibly stressful. Until that point I had only really been out in parks, quiet streets etc. Bustling stations & city centres were a whole other deal. My train anxiety was through the roof. Thankfully, my hotel had taken every possible precaution. I was able to close my room door & breathe easy. I take my hat off to all you amazing folk who have been out there throughout this entire crisis.
On my last day in Edinburgh I managed to catch up with my very favourite man. I found a bar with great socially distanced corner table & we had an al fresco tipple. The months of separation led us to lose track of time and gab for 8hrs. All that delightful conversation meant I got back to a deserted Glasgow. These days silent streets are my jam.
After a few days recovery I got back to my usual pursuits. Last Friday brought my first solo adventure with the boy. We fed some birds & discovered some new street art. Then it was time to find Mummy & hit the swing park.
This week I returned to beavering away at home. I’m finding the transition to the next phase of lockdown tricky. I just cannot feel confident about what is safe & that leads me to continue to limit my activities. Outdoors is much more comfortable for me, especially in places controlling numbers. Thus, I was excited to take the kiddies to a farm park with strict pre booked admission. My sis & I teamed up with my bestie to get these two rascals together. We ended up missing most of the animals because they were having so much fun in pirate ships, digger parks, schutes & sandpits. The weather was perfect. It was such a good day that we had some tears at home time.
I used a hand sanitiser in a train station the other day. It was one of those super strong types that you find in hospitals. As soon as it hit my skin I was whisked back in time. For a second or two I was somewhere else. Somewhere I didn’t want to be.
The cold sensation drifted through my body. A zoetrope of mixed up images spun in my head. Blurry flashes conjured by the clinical scent. I felt dizzy. I sat down, took some deep breaths. It passed. I was grateful.
It wasn’t entirely gone. That night the whirl of disjointed scenes dipped in & out of my dreams. Random words have jarred memories. My mind has wandered mid thought or conversation. I have felt the panic rising. Spells of forcing my head to connect with my physical reality have emerged. Struggling to focus on what I can actually see, hear, smell in this moment. Ignoring the feelings climbing my throat.
Tonight in the shower I couldn’t shake the feeling that the hot water streaming down my legs was blood. I couldn’t wipe the hospital aroma from my nostrils. Nor soothe the ache that spread from my back to my thighs. The hand sanitiser has triggered a reaction. My body is recalling the trauma stored deep within. It’s a phenomenon associated with PTSD known as body memories.
I haven’t experienced this symptom in quite some time. It lies dormant; rising unpredictably. Sometimes reacting to obvious & painful stimuli. Or, like this week, triggered by a tiny insignificant detail. My olfactory senses seem particularly attuned to old wounds.
This time it’s the initial loss. I feel my body failing. I know it isn’t happening. I have learned how to pull myself back to the here & now. Still, those moments when I’m dragged to the past feel completely real. I am not just thinking about unpleasant events. I am feeling them. My flesh & nerves & senses are reacting to something that happened 20 years ago.
Body memories are excruciating. It becomes a battle between what you know & what you feel. Fighting strong emotions is a challenge. When you add physical sensations grounding yourself is an onerous task. I have experienced these episodes replicating the sensations I felt during miscarriages & pregnancy. At times these physical memories are accompanied by flashbacks & other PTSD symptoms. Other times they occur in isolation. They mirror my actual experience so completely that I’ve found myself taking multiple pregnancy tests when I knew it was almost impossible for me to have conceived.
It’s another aspect of PTSD that I rarely see discussed in the mainstream. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not only (or even mainly) associated with combat trauma. Yet, it’s the link most people draw. The violent outbursts in media portrayals of the illness are not accurate. New studies are highlighting how prevalent PTSD is in women who have experienced baby loss & birth trauma. For most of us, managing PTSD is an internal process. Distress may leak out, but the grind is with yourself. Accessing the right help, surviving that help (trauma therapy can be brutal), learning to manage symptoms, accepting the parts you can never fix & the impact they will have on your life.
It’s painful & exhausting & many of us never completely recover. To stand any chance of healing specialised therapy is essential. There are so many barriers to reaching that help. It can take years to obtain any psychological intervention without the resources to pay privately. Even longer to receive the specialised therapy that can actually help. So many people can’t afford to wait.
This month I’m supporting The Birth Trauma Association and Sands. Both organisations support families who have experienced trauma surrounding baby loss & birth. Please join me if you can.