In The End, We’re All Just Human Beans

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I had my second day-surgery last week; a procedure called an Endometrial Ablation, and the medical profession’s latest attempt to stop my uterus from going all Tarantino on me each month.  For any of you middle-aged women out there still suffering a Red Wedding-style of monthly – I’ll let you know if it works.

 

In the meantime, I thought I’d tell you about what I gained from the experience of being stuck in a hospital bed, on a mixed ward and opposite an Olympic farter, for a day. Because I’ve decided, (post-surgery), that being in a hospital has to be the best leveler, or the best reminder, as Roald Dahl would say, that we’re all just human beans.

 

Moreover, I do believe that these sorts of experiences, (once in a while), are vital for ramming home just how completely fucking privileged we are with the access we have to a medical care system that takes my uterus tantrums seriously – although trust me when I say, it never gets any easier to open your legs to strangers.

 

However, I couldn’t fault the care. In fact, if I had to rate the service with some Airbnb-style feedback, I would go as far as saying that the level of attention from my hot, thirty-something anesthetist was the stuff of dreams – although I’m certain he sees sad, middle-aged women with degrees in talking gibberish and the misguided belief that they can flirt in a barely-there hospital gown, most days.

 

Indeed, considering I was merely a number in a very busy hospital system, everyone endeavored to make me as comfortable as possible. And while I’m not naive enough to assume that my top-notch care was only about making my uterus like me a little more – I am aware that litigation is a threatening dark cloud that puts a huge amount of extra pressure and undue stress on our doctors – the name, temperature and blood pressure checks were reassuring for someone who had already made preparations for her imminent death.

 

Coincidentally – and this is possibly the best example of a segue you’ll see this week – just prior to the time that I was tidying up my lady garden in preparation for Dr. Hot’s close examination, I also signed up for a local community drive to assist in the assembly of a thousand birthing kits for women in Africa.

29468785_10156192410316788_3552530723703357440_nThis, you may be appalled to know, is the level of care those lucky women receive when they GIVE BIRTH. And while I’m not showing you this to highlight my pathetically privileged contribution to people less fortunate than myself – and I am also aware that in the grand scheme of things, my assembly of a few hundred kits (over some very pleasant chit-chat about the health benefits of Kombucha and keeping chickens with new friends) is unlikely to change the world – if my meagre contribution does improve the sanitation, experience, and outcome for a few women, it has got to be worth three hours of my time that I would normally waste on the beach or at the mall. Because, I don’t know about you, but the more I read about discrimination towards immigrants and those in poverty, the more shame I feel. And no, Dad, not just because I’ve turned into a raging feminist leftie, in spite of how you raised me. I mean, how come I get a shiny, clean white robe for a minor procedure and on the other side of the world women are still giving birth in fields?

 

Which meant that as I sat there in my unflattering white robe and socks in my hospital bed, feeling vulnerable and scared as shit, I realized that albeit just another number on the hospital minor procedures list that day, I was a number that counted. And surely everyone deserves that level of security? Seriously, all I had to worry about as I shuffled my bum nervously across to the operating table, was sucking in my muffin top and not flashing my wibbly bits to Dr. Hot. I didn’t have to consider infection, loss of power, OR BLEEDING OUT. I took my safety on that table for granted, when sadly, millions of other human beans don’t have that privilege.

A (Sort of) Birth Story For Easter

I’ve been caught up in between worlds these last few weeks – the worlds of back pain, Easter chocolate and that of my characters, as I put my final touches to my manuscript. I’m not the best multi-tasker, so I find it difficult to tackle other writing projects when I’m so invested in these four people that are evolving daily.

 

But as the Easter holiday period wraps up, I know I owe you something – however trivial. So as this event marks a rebirth, I decided to mark my respects with the story of the birth of our third child. b15d2295e5b6a03d15d9ccd5ca0d13ef

 

I’d never had a dog as a child, although an assortment of pets – mad cats, fish and a tortoise that ran away, weren’t fit enough to survive in our house – which is why I always suspected that a dog might be one step too far in terms of responsibility. Added to which, I was highly anxious about them. I was that person who gagged when a friend’s dog jumped up at me – and they always did because they smelled the fear.

 

Two things changed my view. One was that the old man has always been an animal freak – far more relaxed in the company of dogs than our children – and as I watched his interactions with friends’ dogs over the years, and saw how they calmed him and diminished his stress levels, the idea became more appealing. The second reason was that I thought a pet, another being to love Kurt unconditionally and perhaps become his best friend, would help him feel better about himself.

 

The conception of The Princess was a long and arduous one. I did my research, changed my diet, took iron pills and went through other invasive medical interventions I still can’t talk about. And I’ll admit that at one point I began to waver in my decision…until my brother paid us a surprise visit in Sydney.

 

“Impulsivity” has a tendency to run through our family – rather like a sharp razor through the winter hair on my legs – so perhaps I shouldn’t have been that surprised when I mentioned the idea of the dog and he dragged me straight to the closest pet shop to pick NC and Kurt’s new sister – a female of the ‘oodle variety; the cutest and sleepiest.

 

I don’t think the old man ever believed I’d actually commit to the dog idea and so he was fairly indifferent to The Princess for those first few weeks. Obviously, she wasn’t the stereotype of what he considered to be “man’s best friend”, and I know he worried about turning up at the dog park on Saturday afternoons, beer in one hand and this blonde ball of fluff in the other, tethered to a shocking-pink lead. Yet she wormed her way into the rest of the family’s affections within minutes – the cute stack down the steps living room probably helped – and within days we were fighting over who would pick up her perfect, pint-sized poos – the ones that usually landed with stealth bomber accuracy on my brand new rugs.

 

She is has since reigned at the top of the pecking order, and each of us fight for her love and approval. She is the best spooner, the best hot water bottle in winter, the best therapist, vacuum cleaner and incentive for exercise. She is also great to dress up. Our main criteria for holidays homes now is that they are pet-friendly, and she drives shotgun all the way.

 

Training…not so much, although she will sit or lie down if we make it worth her while.

 

At the grand age of eight – which is fifty-six in dog years – and still spritely, she is often mistaken for a puppy (much to her disgust) – even though she is developing into a willful, middle-aged woman who gets crabby when she’s tired, is easily distracted, forgetful and rather partial to long naps with her dad most afternoons. So we have a lot in common. She tells us now when she’s had enough – a good lesson for Kurt, whose switch off button has always been temperamental.

 

And did I mention the best part about having a dog? It’s that they can talk. Over time, this lovable little mutt has developed a voice in our house, which is used (and abused), to say those things that we want to say to each other, but know we shouldn’t.

Farewell Dear Ovaries, You’ve Served Me Well

I went through this stage at the tail end of my forties where I had this recurring nightly dream that I was pregnant and something would always go wrong – not necessarily with the pregnancy, but either the old man would leave me, or the baby would turn out to be some animal or my worst enemy at the birth. pregnant-914689_1280

 

You know how fucked up dreams can be.

 

Anyway, recently I’ve been dreaming about different friends of mine falling pregnant, which is strange because they are typically the least likely in my circle of friends to ever consider having a baby in their fifties. Therefore, what I think these dreams symbolise is that I’m ready to leave the reproductive phase of my life, and they have something to do with the final breath of my dying ovaries as they enter palliative care.

 

Mentally, I’ve been good with the retirement of my ovaries for some time now. You get tired of remembering to stock up on sanitary products, of paying tax on sanitary products, bloody sheets, not being able to wear white and well… blood. In fact, if anything, I wish they’d just gone  a bit more honourably, elected euthanasia rather than this final peri-menopausal stand they’re having with my uterus now, a silent demand that I acknowledge their role in my life and grieve for their parting.

 

For the main part, my ovaries have served me well, and relatively painlessly from all accounts, and I have two beautiful children to show for their monthly production line, who have now fully transitioned from foetus to adult, (physically at least).

 

I do wonder if men are forced to think about the reproductive system as much as women. Because menstruation and gestation are fairly time-consuming activities and make living that bit more challenging than only having to consider condom size, batteries for the remote and the odd embarrassing public boner. I wonder how they’d cope with the responsibility and symptoms of periods over thirty-five to forty years of their lives, worrying about their unwanted appearance, the panic when they don’t appear at all, having to take full responsibility for contraception and pap tests and at the tail end of their cycle, dealing with the eccentricity of their death throes and final assault.

 

At times it can feel like a real pain in the vagina, but if you think about it, the female side of reproduction is really quite a privilege. I mean, how fucking awesome is it that we can make babies?

 

It’s Kurt’s nineteenth birthday tomorrow and I can still remember those initial wondrous hours I spent with him between his birth at 3.30am and the first light of dawn, lying in my hospital bed, gazing with a terrifying, undying love at this chubby-faced second miracle that I’d created, now protectively swaddled and encased in his glass cage at my side. This, in spite of an inhumanely quick delivery that can only have been directed by Satan, enough stitches to create a patchwork quilt and each time I got up to the loo, what felt like the loss of half the contents of blood in my entire body.

 

And if I didn’t have the foresight that I have now… you know… about the next eighteen years of trials and tribulations that would undoubtedly lie ahead of me, I’d do it all over again; to experience that moment of primal, intense love that happens within seconds of your child’s entry into the world, along with the realisation that something is bigger than you now, because you’d give up your own life for that little scrap of flesh in a heartbeat.

Self-Doubt, Writing and Giving Birth To Book Babies

Self-Doubt, Writing And Giving Birth To Book BabiesI’m nearing the end of the ‘book’ I’ve been writing, for what seems like the whole of the last century. I don’t really like to call it ‘a book’, because that sounds arrogant, and couldn’t be further from the truth of how I feel about my latest creation. This ‘book ‘of mine is, in reality, just a very long Word document that I have painstakingly crafted over the past few years, primarily as a kind of therapy, and secondly to fulfil some innate, crazy desire to write one good story.

 

Of course, my close friends are aware that I’ve wasted a large chunk of my life on this particular piece of writing, and so have started plaguing me about when it’s due.

 

The thought of which terrifies me.

 

It was the same when I first started my blog. It took me four months before I invited my close friends to read it because I’m terrified of failure and rejection. And although most people wouldn’t consider completing a novel as a ‘failure’, publishable or not; I do. (Actually a lot of people probably would).

 

Some of us are much more sensitive to criticism than others. Self-doubt, which I believe stems from anxiety, can be a crippling trait, and it prevents many of us from ever reaching for the stars. While a positive word about my writing can have me soaring for aeronautical miles, a small piece of what is deemed to be constructive criticism, can have me locking all the doors, burying myself in a mental coffin and hammering down every last nail.

 

When you are an unpublished writer, self-doubt haunts every hour of your craft, because there is no tangible proof that you can actually write. There are good days, when your fingers tap-dance happily on the keyboard, flirting dangerously from the sheer joy of creativity, and powerful verbs jump out of your head straight onto the page; everything feels right, like there was a reason and it is all worthwhile and makes sense. And then there are the days when you read a page over and over again and still come back to the same conclusion – that what you have in front of you is a load of bollocks and your name is attached to it.

 

I’m not a glass half-full person who believes you can do anything if you put your mind to it. I was always crap at netball.

 

It’s not like I have any pressure on me to write the next literary masterpiece. On good days, I would describe my innocent piece of fiction as chick lit on ice; on bad days, it feels as though Mills and Boon would reject it after the first paragraph. Not that I’m a snob when it comes to writing – I swooned in the first book of Fifty Shades.

 

It does help these days that I don’t care AS much. Generally. And that I know that my true friends will stand behind me to pick up the pieces when I fall apart after the first ten rejection letters and I start drinking heavily…more heavily… and then they’ll subtly remind me about self-publishing.

 

I’m secretly aware that I’m postponing the end of this particular gestation because I’m scared of the outcome, not because it’s not cooked yet. I’ve used ‘editing’ as an excuse for far too long, while I try to make this baby perfect; but nothing in life is perfect and colour and imperfections make life more interesting in general.

 

Yet I know that personal and commercial success rarely stem from fear, but come from having the courage to carve your name on your convictions.

 

I’m proud of this literary baby, whether it is recognised commercially or just by my loved ones. This baby was planned, made with love, and it will always remain a legacy of mine; of my love of a good story and having the balls to put it out there.

 

 

The True Meaning of Charlotte: We Can Get Back To Our Lives Now

The Real Meaning of Charlotte
Princess 1 Taken by Chrissy and found on http://www.flickr.com

Forgive my withering cynicism, for believe it or not, I am as clucky as the next person at the sight and smell of a cute newborn, but do we really have to dissect the origins of the name Charlotte from every historical angle for the next two weeks?

I chose my kids names because they sounded nice and because they were the only names the old man would agree to – my choices of Noah and Florence being rejected as ‘ridiculous’ – not because of some upper-class, historical significance or to brownnose my ancestors.

Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe Will and Kate just like the name ‘Charlotte’?

Kurt got his name because I knew this really chilled-out, hot guy at uni who drove an MG; and look how he turned out!

This Royal birth has dominated the media for a year now. We’ve been forced to endure every detail of each new phase of Kate’s pregnancy from the morning sickness that led to her hospitalisation, her lack of weight gain, the confusion over her due date, her labour and now the Russian conspiracy theories about when the birth actually took place.

And as if that wasn’t enough suspense, the Palace decided to torture us further by stretching out the release of the Princess’s name for two painful days.

Quite obviously, NO-ONE could get on with their lives without knowing the name of the Princess.

I am not a Royalist but I am a Brit and understand the deep-seated power of Royalty as status in many parts of the world, and the money Britain makes from associated tourism and merchandise. Even I am not immune to feeling a sense of pride in our culture and history – I should be, having had every important historical date rammed down my throat, rote fashion, for the entirety of my schooling.

And yes, I have been known to feel all soppy inside when I go back and revisit the wonderful sights of our history, like the Tower of London, the palaces, Stamford Bridge, David Beckham’s waxwork and other relics of flamboyant decadence of the Royals – in spite of the advice of their advisors to re-market themselves to be ‘just like one of us.’

But…

While Kate was gestating, lot of other serious shit has been happening in the world – surprisingly, more important shit than the birth of one of a billion new babies, and one who is a mere third-in-line to a throne and so has carte blanche now to become the next fucked up Royal wild child and follow in the footsteps of previous famous fucked up Royals who will never sit on the throne. No doubt she too will lead a life of covered-up debauchery in a regime that bears little relevance to the future of the UK or the world in general.

Which is why I’m also not immune to how fucking amazing Kate looked after the birth of Charlotte – I am a woman after all – and I’m not going to join the critics who have nothing better to do than slam her for getting the stylists onboard pronto to work their magic. That photo of the three of them on the steps of the Lindo Wing is going to be on every mug, plate and teapot until the poor girl drops her third child, so who in their right mind would want to look knackered and puffy or publicly demonstrate their difficult mobility due to stitches that were probably killing her?

Credit where credit is due, that cream dress was a brave call…

But can we please get back to our lives now?

Family Dysfunctionality London-Style

It’s difficult to know where to begin on the subject of the dysfunctional extravaganza that was my father’s 70th birthday.

 

 

Do I start with my brother’s baby, who chose that particular moment to begin his long and arduous entrance into the world? Or the grumpy hernia that threatened to erupt and thwart the enjoyment of the birthday boy? Or the paramedics, who finally turned up during the soprano’s aria to whisk Granny off to the Chelsea and Westminster hospital?

 

Finding content for this blog under the category of ‘dysfunctionality’, is never difficult with my family.

 

Family Dysfunctionality London-Style

 

Entertaining is something that the London contingent of my family do incredibly well, and thanks to my father’s long-suffering term partner, the preparations for this huge family event to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday were exceptional in every way. An interior designer by profession, every last detail of the impending celebration was perfection, from the choice of room at the RAC Club in Pall Mall, to the four-course gourmet menu and trio of opera singers chosen to mesmerise us with their talent towards the latter part of the evening.

 

As the champagne flowed, the guests wined and dined in true London style, oblivious to the drama that was carefully being concealed behind the scenes.

 

That is, up until that point in the evening where it finally became unfeasible to conceal Granny’s obvious pain; for the matriarch of the family was in trouble, and no amount of British stoicism could prevent a 999 call.

 

Released from the local hospital only a few days before, following a hip replacement at the grand age of 93, and in spite of possessing the fortitude of the war veteran that she is, (and one who had insisted on attending through her pain), Granny began to writhe in agony in her chair as the opera singers launched into Carmen.

 

And as the wonderful soprano reached the climax of the first piece, unfortunately it was to be the paramedics who stole the show as they finally arrived in their neon green finery, entered the room with the stealth of ninjas, and relieved Granny from her immediate pain with gas and air.

 

But in Great Britain, the show must always go on.

 

And during the following breathtaking, vocal triumphs from the trio of talented musicians, close family huddled together in mutual support and knuckled back down to the serious business of celebration and drinking. Although still numbed by the shock of Granny’s early exit, we consoled ourselves with the best brandy on offer and awaited news of the impending arrival of the newest member of our ‘dysfunctional’ clan, who, unbeknownst to us was now jammed in the birth canal, and didn’t want to arrive.

 

But that wasn’t enough drama for my father.

 

An actor in a previous lifetime and revitalised by alcohol the knowledge that Granny was in safe hands (as well as several more glasses of Champagne), he appeared surprisingly calm as he stood up to make his speech.

 

And his audience relaxed with him.

 

And he decided to seize the day.

 

His timing was genius, when with no warning he grabbed what he saw as the perfect opportunity to take the wind completely out of his partner’s already ebbing sails and propose to her after twenty years. And poor step-mom, still in recovery from the earlier demise of her mother, nearly fell off her seat in shock.

 

 

Guests applauded, more champagne was consumed, heavy back-slapping was the order of the night, and somewhere across the city a new ‘dysfunctional’ called ‘River’, finally entered the world, and our history of family dysfunctionality at all times, and no matter what the occasion, was once again upheld.