The terrorists won

**********I wrote this back in May, but wasn’t sure whether or not to publish it…several months later and I think I’m ok to share it now*************

I hate to say it but the terrorists beat me. Well not wholly, but they made me change what I would normally do. I admit that when I was in Brussels last week I had an afternoon off work and rather than head into the town center for the obligatory sightseeing, I stayed in my hotel room and binged on British TV.  Why? Because knowing that this week was well known for Trump and other heads of state visiting Brussels for a meeting with NATO I decided it was prime time for an attack. It’s ridiculous really that this was driving me to make a decision to NOT go out. It’s the first time that’s happened to me, and I hate it because I feel like they finally got to me.

Having said that, I did go back to Brussels airport departures where the attack happened. I couldn’t real avoid it and had to face it. On my own too. As I queued to check in, I recollected that day and the terrifying events. I was queuing not far from where the first bomb went off. My heart raced and I looked around at everyone near me. I wasn’t sure I could stand there waiting for much longer. I felt vulnerable and suddenly exhausted. The departures floor looked the same but different to before the attacks. The queue started moving and I stopped thinking about that day and moved on. I took a picture from where I stood in the aftermath of the bombs and rather stupidly had taken a photo. I wanted to compare.

Brussels airport has a new improved security check which meant I moved through quickly, but only two customs security officers which meant a huge queue to get to the gates. An American in front of me turned and said ‘I don’t want to sound like a privileged American, but this line is ridiculous’. I said to him, ‘do you remember the attacks last year? Wouldn’t you want it to be slower if it meant more secure?’ He looked apologetic. Then I realised…again they had won. The damage had already been done.

Thinking about the suicide attack in Manchester got me wondering about the terrorist’s chosen venue and victims. Those caught up in the events who lived to see the day like I did, they are young and impressionable. They probably never cared about politics, international affairs or the threat of ISIS. But this week they do. And if they feel like me they will be inspired to prevent the terror from spreading to more innocent lives. I have thought seriously about how I can do something in my line of work. And yet, there I was hiding away in my hotel room rather than enjoying the beautiful sights of Brussels. It’s messed up. What kind of world will Aviana live in in 20 years time? Will this be the norm? Or will this be a historic period she will study as a tumultuous past?

Career development as a new mother and infertility warrior

If infertility taught me one thing, it was that it is perfectly possible to be both happy for someone whilst being utterly jealous of them at the same time.  It happened often – a friend or even an acquaintance would share their joyous news of their pregnancy or arrival of their newborn baby.  Of course, I was happy for them, but part of me was sad and jealous.  Sad for myself and our infertility situation, and jealous at the same time that I couldn’t have what they have.  Of course I would never have said it to their faces that I was jealous or sad at their news.  But I sure felt it.  Happiness always won in the end, because I knew very well that every single conception is a wonder in itself and the great joy it would bring to them in the end.  And in the midst of infertility I learned to be OK with those confusing feelings, it turns out it is pretty normal.

It’s been a long time since I felt that way, happiness and jealousy at the same time.  But I recognized it immediately when it happened to me once again.  You see, I wrote a post about happiness is…..a while ago.  Everything on that list made me greatly and truly happy, but there was something on that list that also made me sad and jealous.  Chris getting promoted to director at work.  I was insanely jealous, and still am to be honest.  It’s not often I am jealous of Chris!  And he knew it as well.  He told me he was nervous about telling me and how I would react.  My instant and natural reaction was happiness, but it didn’t take long to make me think about me.  I know selfish.  Because Chris deserves the attention for his awesomeness and hard work he put in to get that promotion.

However, it made me think about the sacrifices I have made to my career progression to bring a child into this world.  Now, my sacrifices have been somewhat limited compared to some women I have met who have stopped working, or been trapped into changing careers because of infertility.  My sacrifices are not as great.  And indeed, my sacrifice is not uncommon when it comes to taking maternity leave.  But it’s the combination of both that do make it worthy of consideration in a different light.

What did I sacrifice?  I’m not sure what would be different if I either didn’t go through infertility, or have a baby, but here are my thoughts on where I have sacrificed my career development.

  • I couldn’t take on all the projects I could have otherwise done if it hadn’t been for infertility treatments and pregnancy.
  • I couldn’t always travel to the places I needed to, someone else did for me or the opportunity was lost.
  • I needed stability in my work to ensure that I could face the infertility treatments, so I didn’t always take on the work I would ordinarily have done before.
  • I had two interviews that I really did not do my best at, because I was distracted.
  • I have been out of work for almost 7 months, but it was probably actually longer than that because of course I had to wrap up and handover work before going on maternity leave, so I checked out earlier than that.
  • My brain wasn’t at its best in my third trimester, and probably not my in my first either because of my heightened awareness to the risk of potential loss of pregnancy.

Pregnancy on the face of it doesn’t stop career progression, it just delays it a little bit.  I’d do that any day to have my daughter, of course, that goes without saying.  But that doesn’t stop it being a fact, and I’m not the only woman, others face similar.  Some women take a whole year off work, some take several years off work to care for their children.  What about child number two or three?  It’s just the way it is.  If we were in the UK, perhaps Chris would have taken parental leave instead and I would have gone back to work earlier?  Who knows.  Would it have slowed down Chris’s opportunity for promotion if he went on parental leave?  By how much, if at all?  I have no doubt we would like to think it would have ZERO impact on that potential, but by not being physically at work progression stalls. I have often read that it is at this point in life where the bias for a man and woman with a family becomes more apparent, where a man having a family is seen as a positive, and woman with a family is seen as a negative.  I personally haven’t experienced this myself, but it makes you wonder.

But I also fought to maintain my career progression.  I decided to keep doing my executive development programme despite being pregnant and on maternity leave rather than postpone it.  I made sure I still went on transatlantic work trips even in my third trimester.  So, it’s not like I abandoned all effort in my career development.

I’m not saying that if I hadn’t gone through infertility treatment and got pregnant that I would be promoted by now, far from it! But rather, if I had have been at my best during this period, then it is unlikely I would be jealous of Chris’s promotion.  Isn’t that an odd thing?

On the go again

I am on work travels again, this time without Aviana or Chris, in Bavaria, Germany.  And so far my week has not been the greatest, although in terms of work it has been a successful trip.

Firstly, no one was at the airport to pick me up when I arrived in Germany and I didn’t have a number to call.  So I waited for 45 minutes and decided that no one was coming, and decided to drag my huge ass bag for 3 hours on the train.  Changing twice in the early morning after a red eye flight from the US was killer.  And it was on a Sunday.  I had to stay awake because I needed to make sure I changed at the right stops!  I was PISSED by the end of my journey.  Then, where there was supposed to be a bus at the train station, there was none, so I had to walk 15 minutes dragging my suitcase across cobble stones to my hotel.  I was desperate for some sleep, but I needed to pump and shower.  So I was pretty grumpy at this fact.

When I opened up my bag to unpack I discovered that the lovely TSA had searched my bag – and of course, what was of interest to them was my cooling unit box that I had packed to use on my return journey to carry my week’s pumped breast milk.  With great ineptitude, they repacked it the wrong way up which resulted in the ‘on button’ for the cooling unit to depress.  It is a one time use only packaging so it was now useless.  I had cut down on my packing just to fit this cooling box in my suitcase so I could carry my milk home.  But the STUPID TSA can’t replace something the way it was – there were even TWO sets of instructions in case they were really confused.

I cried.  I ugly cried.  I was exhausted.  I was fed up of pumping.  I just cried for 15 minutes hard..  I cried in the shower, I cried whilst I pumped.  By the time I was done crying over my ‘not possible to have a spilt milk problem’ it was time to meet my colleagues to do some work in the afternoon.

The day prior to flying I had to take a day off work because I had a horrible cold and wanted to rest and get better for my work trip.  However, no one ever told me that flying with a stuffed up nose was stupid.  So here is my advice to you…DON’T EVER FLY WITH A BAD COLD! My right ear and my sinuses were in a huge amount of pain after landing in Germany.  I later ended up with a sinus infection for the rest of the week and it was bloody gross.  I mean, I have never seen such vast amounts of thick green and yellow snot before. I guess I have been lucky enough in my life to never had sinus problems before, but geeeeeees that hurts!  I wasn’t taking any cold meds because most meds have menthol in which kill breast milk supply.  Considering I am barely pumping 6 oz a day right now I thought it would be stupid to kill off what I have left.  So I suffered with just paracetamol/Tylenol to help.

At least I wasn’t at home being sick on my family!  However, being ill in a hotel SUCKS!  And then the added pressure to work after travelling so far for a specific event.

On top of all that, jet lag was kicking me in the butt and I wasn’t able to fall asleep until 1 am every night, and then being up at 6 am for work.  There were several mornings when I thought I just couldn’t face getting out of bed.  One night I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like death was at my door and I thought I had a terrible fever and that I might need to go to hospital.  So I actually grabbed my clothes just in case I needed to urgently get to the emergency room!  I may have been a little delusional at that point, but it was a rough night.

I survived the week, I turned up to work every day and made it through some how.  If it hadn’t been for my awesome colleagues I probably wouldn’t have made it through!

And so the end of the week came…I thought it was all over.  But no.  About 1.5hrs into my return trip to the hotel airport on the mini bus I realised I had left my passport in the hotel safe.  Luckily I wasn’t flying until the next day, so I planned how I could get my passport back.  It involved a favour from a colleague to pick it up for me and meet me at the train station. I dumped my bag at the airport hotel and then spent more than 6 hours on the train to and from the hotel where I had left my passport at…. this was time when I should have been sight seeing, shopping and catching up with a friend in Munich.  But at least I got the passport back in time!  Stupid idiot.  I blame my sinus infection really.

On top of all that I was missing Aviana a lot.  Chris was also doing some work travels this week, so my mum has come out to help out for a couple of weeks.  Thankfully!!!  But with the travel to the UK and us being away I feel kind of bad for Aviana.  I know she is just fine and happy with granny and still going to daycare.  I just need to figure out how I reconcile the whole traveling for work thing.

It’s going to take some practice I think!

Our Frozen Embryo

It doesn’t seem fair that you existed in this world for 5 days, but we pressed the pause button.

We have frozen you in a moment in time, but we don’t get to meet you for a while yet.

You are known as the power of life, but we pay $60 a month to keep you just so.  It’s such a small cost in comparison.

You made it against all odds to grow strong, to be the strongest as you could in just 5 days, but we needed you to wait a while whilst my body repaired itself.

It’s been two years of knowing you, but we don’t know what the colour of your hair is meant to be, whose eyes you are meant to have, whether you have your father’s smarts or your mother’s craziness.

Will your sister ever get to play with you?  What do we tell her if you don’t get to play together? ….And if you do, how do we tell her that you have been in this world longer than her? It’s a mind blowing thought.

How can we ever make a decision not to meet you?  How do we make a decision instead that would result in us giving you to some researcher that will never think of you in the way that we do.  How do we make a decision that you are better off not with us?

I tell myself that you sing to yourself ‘The cold never bothered me anyway….It’s hard to imagine you with your own personality.  Your own you.  But we try to keep it clinical because that’s how we can cope, but it’s hard to not let our minds wonder to happiness and completeness.

Your existence in itself is both awesome but a challenge.  I wish it wasn’t a challenge, but it’s not so simple.  I wish we could look into that magic crystal ball and it tell us that you will be fine, it will tell us that you will fight to be here with us and you will win. We will win. The world will win to have you with us.  It would tell us you are small but mighty.

Aviana at 10 months

How is it that Aviana is yet another month closer to being a year old?  Aviana has had an amazing month.  Aviana and I went back to the UK for a work trip whilst Aviana hung out with Granny and Grandpoo.  Aviana has been going through that phase where she doesn’t want to be left alone as well as great frustration at not being able to get where she wants to go.  She isn’t crawling still, but she can get somewhere if she really wants to by scooting around on her bum.  She can pull herself up, but is very awkward about it all.  She can stand on her own for a few seconds and is pretty confident now when I just hold onto one hand whilst she stands.  She can push herself along whilst holding onto her A frame walker, as well pushing herself on her ride along car that my parents bought her.  Having seen her have lots of fun on it, Chris immediately went out and bought her a little giraffe trike – her feet just touch the floor, it’s pretty cute watching her poot along.  But she still can’t get herself up from lying to a seated position which is very frustrating for all of us!

Aviana was a trooper on the flight back to the UK.  We ended up having an entire row of the whole plane to ourselves! She slept the whole way, thankfully.  I got very little sleep because I was paranoid about her dying in her sleep whilst in her car seat, so I kept checking her all the time.  The return flight I was dreading.  Firstly because we didn’t have seats next to each other because the plane was pretty much full, but when I checked in they had two bulk head seats available.  This was amazing because it meant that Aviana could sit on the floor and play at my feet without toys rolling under the seats and down the plane!  We walked up and down the aisle and she was the star of the plane.  She literally stopped to say hello to EVERYONE and everyone was obliging in talking to her.  Too cute.  My heart was melting.  It was a very friendly flight, I had so many offers of help!

I met a US Navy man on the flight who had a daughter who was one week younger than Aviana, and he was returning home after a short deployment.  Prepare for tears!!!  His daughter literally just cried when his wife gave her to him.  She didn’t recognise him!  Well, funnily enough Aviana did the same the next day with Chris when she woke up from her nap once we got home!  It had only been two weeks, but it was enough to make her cautious.  However, the next day, it was all about the daddy hugs.  She was probably just punishing him for him being missing for past two weeks.  I hope the sailor’s daughter forgave him soon after too!!

Aviana has started to refuse solids, she prefers feeding herself with finger food and doesn’t like mushy food.  So sweet potatoes and mash potato that she used to like? Nope.  Salmon? Nope.  But she will oblige to oat meal/porridge, risotto and yoghurt being spoon fed to her, but very little else!  The past week day care have not been able to get any food in her unless it is bread or rice cakes.  Fortunately she is still drinking her milk so I am not worried.  I’ve looked into it and it’s very normal at this age.  We just need to be relaxed about it, keep offering her a variety of foods, make dinner fun still, but not stress or force feed her.   We’ll also keep trying to get her to learn how to spoon feed herself when we have the chance to be messy, so hopefully that will help.  Luckily peas, cheese and blueberries are still a hit, as well as falafel!  So I’ll take that as a winner.  She’s great at drinking water and milk from her munchkin 360 cup by herself, so I think transitioning away from bottles will be easy.

I love how interactive she is now, so much fun. She has learned how to high five and wave hello and goodbye and my favourite is that she has learned how to squirt water from her squeezy toys, squirting herself and making farting noises on her tummy with the air!

Aviana still fits in some of her 3-6 month clothes where they were dresses she can still wear as shirts, and her trousers still fit her, but are more like shorts!  But length wise she is in 9-12 months, but they swamp her arms and body!   I also finally found some shoes for her to walk in that actually fit her long skinny feet…of course, I found them in the UK, size 3-6 months.

My heart is so full, this girl amazes me 🙂




A Very Scary Moment

I kissed Chris goodbye as his eyes welled up with tears and I tried to hold back mine. Aviana completely unaware she wouldn’t see daddy for two weeks, she giggled. With a stroller loaded with bags and Aviana in the meh Dai wrap in my front…I rocked it through airport security like a pro. (It is much easier to hold a baby in a carrier when going through security, getting a baby in and out of a stroller, sorting out personal items through the X-ray scanner with baby in one hand).

Once through security we still had 1.5 hours to kill until boarding despite getting held up in traffic en route to the airport and taking a while to get all checked in (one of my bags was over weight 😳 ooops!). That doesn’t sounds so bad, but if you have ever flown from Norfolk International you would know that time would drag because there is absolutely nothing interesting in departures. So with baby on my front, I pushed the stroller around hoping Aviana would fall asleep before we got on the plane. I walked all around the quiet areas, rocking and swaying trying to get her to nap on me. Just as Aviana fell asleep, suddenly, the airport fire alarm went off making high pitched beeps every 2 seconds, there was all sorts of excitement and confusion as a fire engine headed towards the building – uhoh. So that killed some time and kept Aviana awake for a bit longer. Typical. False alarm. Finally, exhausted she passed out, so I headed to the gate and waited patiently to board.

And then it happened…I kissed Aviana’s head whilst she slept with her head tilted back up at me. It was cold. So cold I panicked. I almost screamed out loud there and then WAKE UP AVIANA, PLEASE NO, DONT DIE! I put my arms around her and I couldn’t feel the rise and fall of her chest. She didn’t squirm or move like. I freaked and shoved my hand down to her neck to feel for a pulse. She was alive, but I could barely feel her breath on me, had she stopped breathing by sleeping in that position? Her skin was so cold I quickly scrambled to untie the carrier and threw it off like it was made of fire. And then….she moved. Her eyes opened for a second, as if to say ‘What the hell are you doing waking me up!!’ And they closed again back to sleep. Thank god, I cried a bit in relief!

Aviana – you freaked the HELL out of me. For a slight moment I felt like I had lost you, my heart suddenly felt like it would fall out on to the floor and my gut wrenched. It was awful. Please don’t do that again!!!