Littleboy 1 was nine days late into the world, but when he came, he came quickly, like the force of nature that he still is. Four hours after having my first labour pains in the hairdresser (where I had gone out of boredom and frustration at the baby not coming), I was having an emergency C-section at St Thomas's hospital after what turned out to be a placental abruption.
The trauma of his birth, and the three nightmarish days I spend in the hospital afterwards, with Littleboy 1 screaming his head off most of the time and refusing to breastfeed, left me a nervous wreck by the time I got home. The first few weeks of his life are a bit of a blur, and were followed by a period of terrible insomnia which I now see was a kind of postnatal depression/anxiety, although I refused to really believe that at the time.
|Littleboy 1, just home from the hospital.|
After nine months or so, I started doing some part-time work again. After a few weeks of trying to work with the baby at home (big mistake), I found a local childminder, although this eventually turned out badly- she fussed constantly that Littleboy 1 wasn't wearing enough "layers", and tutted over his fussy eating. He was her first "client", but when she took on others, she advised me that he wasn't taking too well to the interlopers (he had thrown a toy at one them) and would have to go elsewhere.
Affronted, I found a local nursery, and just in time, too, for I was already pregnant with Littleboy 2. While this had happened earlier than we had planned, we were happy; until a problem presented itself with the pregnancy. I had placenta previa with intermittent bleeding, which meant an enforced stay in hospital until the baby was born - which was likely to be early. We quickly hired a nanny and then began a very stressful few weeks, with The Doctor and Littleboy 1 (aged 18 months) visiting me in hospital every day. Littleboy 2 was eventually born at 35 weeks, and spent a week in the NICU, a frightening time for all, after having breathing problems in his first few hours.
|Littleboy 2's first Christmas - he was so tiny and sleepy.|
The hospital were reluctant to let him go home until he gained weight, and by this time I was desperate. I did everything I could to persuade them that he would be OK, even waking him constantly to feed him (he spent the first week of his life mainly asleep, and is still very keen on his bed). By the time we got him home, just in time for Christmas 2006, I was exhausted, but relieved that all was well. Somehow, the strain of having two kids to look after was nothing compared to all I'd been through, and I adapted to it pretty well. The best advice a friend once gave me was "make sure you get out of the house and do something once a day". And we did.
By late 2007, I was working three days a week, two of them in a PR agency owned by my friend Nota Bene (who then started his own blog) and spending Monday and Friday with the kids. I was content, but somehow felt an urge to write something other than features and press releases. As a teenager, I had written hundreds of stories, poems and even started a few novels, but since then all my writing had been journalistic rather than creative. Then, I read the book Petite Anglaise, about an English blogger living in France, and about the same time read Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson, which satirises life in Notting Hill (where my husband grew up, so rather familiar). I wondered about starting a satirical blog about life in Nappy Valley - after all, there was plenty of material.
|With my two boys just before our move to America|
And in January 2008, I did. I wrote about music classes in Nappy Valley here. And then I wrote about losing my pram (a true story) and about a hellish visit to soft play. And eventually people started commenting on my blog, and I on their blogs.
And the rest, my friends, is history. You can read it all here. We moved to Long Island in 2009 and since then I've been charting our experience as Brits in America. The last eight years have been some of the most eventful and momentous of my life. The births of my lovely children, a move abroad that I will never regret, some ups and downs and some unforgettable experiences..
What with the illness that has been plaguing me since last October, the last few months have been probably the toughest of my life. Now we are facing a new challenge; a move back to London. But looking back has been therapeutic, and now I just need to hold onto the hope that life can be great once again.