Down at the plot: June

P1080731June seemed like another really busy month at the allotment, yet looking back I’m not sure what I did! There was still plenty of planting to do – we got in about 3 varieties of squash and some cauliflower. We also did quite a lot of weeding. There are a few strawberries, raspberries, and gooseberries coming in, but not much else in the way of harvesting. Our new allotment partner grows cut flowers, though, so we had loads of Sweet Williams!

P1080732P1080835P1080831At home my tomatoes started growing dramatically (and the first fruits appeared), but the rest of the garden is still looking terrible. I’ve got big hopes for next year, though…

P1080828I’m hoping July will be the month for harvest. Everything was looking close to being ready, but wasn’t quite there. I can’t wait for these plums to ripen! I’m also guessing it’ll be a slightly quieter month, apart from watering. P1080725

Pregnancy after miscarriage: how I got through the first trimester

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For me, one of the most upsetting things during/after the miscarriage was people telling me I would probably have another chance to have a baby; I was young, blah, blah, blah. I just didn’t want to hear it. The truth is that there was no way to know whether I could get pregnant again, or whether I could cope with the stress of being pregnant after a miscarriage. I just found it such an insensitive thing to say, even if people did have the best of intentions. And now that I am pregnant? While I am really happy to have another chance to have a child, I will say that the first trimester was absolutely awful. I don’t mean physically, though I may mention that in another post. I mean I basically spent the first few months trying really hard to forget I was pregnant. Last time I rushed out & bought a journal and started thinking about baby names and looking at cute baby things, but I just couldn’t do that again. I made my midwife appointments, etc, but only as a matter of rote, like things you do for a job that you don’t really want. I obligingly took my prenatal vitamins; I stopped eating salami (sob!); I stopped drinking completely, rather than having the occasional G&T. I also obsessively looked at toilet paper every time I went to the bathroom, convinced there was going to be blood on it.

And then, quite early on, at 5ish weeks, there was. And there is no terror like it. We had to wait a week for a scan, because nothing’s really visible that early on. There it was, a tiny little heart beating, floating away in the womb. It should have made me feel better, right? But it didn’t. There was about an hour of relief, then 6 weeks of conviction that it had stopped, and that I would find out at the 12 week scan that I’d had a missed miscarriage. Fortunately that didn’t happen, but honestly, those 6 weeks were absolute hell. I think I cried every day.

So how did I cope in the end? There were a few practical things that helped me. I can’t promise they’ll help you if you end up in the same position, but I thought I would share just in case.

  • Scheduling in treats for myself

For whatever reason, this timeframe ended up coinciding with lots of annual leave. This could really have gone either way, but not thinking about work actually helped in the end. I did make sure no days off were completely empty, though. I tried to go out for lunch, or go for a nice trip somewhere, or go to a gig, etc. I also tried to do a bit of gardening, but as I was at the allotment the day the miscarriage started, that didn’t work out so well. Visiting gardens was good, though.

  • Reading peer-reviewed articles about ultrasounds & miscarriage

What can I say? I like to be informed. Reading Internet forums was awfully anxiety-inducing, but for some reason reading about miscarriage in a factual way was actually calming for me. I think this is very much to do with how I was brought up, and I am aware that this is probably not the case for everyone! Because I work in a hospital library and in an academic library, I was lucky to be able to access this kind of information pretty easily, but I think most public libraries will have at least a couple of textbooks available. Abstracts for journal articles are often available from PubMed, even if the full text isn’t, and there is also the database Free Medical Journals.

  • Joining the Miscarriage Association forum

Having said how anxious Internet forums make me, I would like to point out the exception to the rule. The Miscarriage Association hosts private, moderated forums. We had decided not to share the news about the pregnancy, and I joined this forum in the interest of my mental health. I really needed to share my feelings somewhere, and this forum felt like a safe space. Everyone was very sensitive (perhaps not surprising, given we’d all experienced miscarriage). If you’re considering joining, I would recommend it. You don’t have to share if you don’t want to, but personally, I found even reading other people’s posts made me feel less lonely (which, aside from anxiety, is what I felt the most during the first trimester).

  • Talking to family (and one or two friends)

Eventually, I did tell my mom, sister, and a couple of close friends about the pregnancy as the 12 week scan approached. Telling others and having a chance to talk about what I was feeling definitely helped. I couldn’t bring myself to be excited about the pregnancy, but letting other people be excited for me was definitely a good thing.

  • Setting boundaries – making it clear to others when I didn’t want to talk about it

This was really important, too, both in regard to R and the people I chose to tell early. Because while talking can help sometimes, it can also go too far sometimes. There were a lot of times I really didn’t want to think about it, let alone talk about it. Making sure people understood that was crucial. Everyone was really good about this, and let me bring up the pregnancy rather than asking me about it directly, and I think that’s because I made it fairly clear that’s how I wanted it to be.

  • Telling the midwife about my concerns

I have a lovely midwife, and it was great to know that she was there to support me as and when I needed it. She gave me some practical ideas for local support, too. In the end, I didn’t follow up on that advice, but it was important to know the options, especially with all my family being so far away.

 

Making something new: a baby blanket

p1080848.jpgThis is a project I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Isn’t this the most stunning yarn? I bought it about 3 years ago at Unravel. It’s handspun and hand-dyed Devon wool, in a colorway called Dawn Chorus. There was only one skein of it at the stand, and though I’m usually not an impulse buyer, I spent all day thinking about this yarn and knew I couldn’t leave without it.

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The warm colors reminded me of sunrise, and I originally imagined myself wearing a shawl made from it, drinking a cuppa on my imaginary porch. But the more I admired/stroked/fondled it, the more I realized that actually this was the ideal yarn to use for a baby blanket. It is a little fuzzy, but very soft, and absolutely gorgeous. So not long after buying it, I tucked it away, to wait until I knew I was going to have my own little one to make a blanket for with it.

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And now I’ll finally get to use it. It was a little over a year ago (June 21) that I found out I was pregnant for the first time, and while that ended in a miscarriage just a month later, I am so pleased to share that R & I now have a second chance – we’re due early November and all seems to be going well. I never did get this yarn out last year, and retrospectively I’m glad as thinking about everything that happened last summer still makes me unbearably sad; it would have tainted this project a little. For now, I am happy and relieved and a tad overwhelmed by this pregnancy, which, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, really does feel like a tiny miracle. Sharing the news is a little scary, to be honest, because though I’m well into the pregnancy now, everything still feels precarious. I hope this blanket will give me something to focus my energy on.

I have a few days away in Cornwall coming up, and I’m planning to test a few lace patterns to find the right combination for our little one’s first handknit. There isn’t much of this yarn, as you can see, so I’m going to use some of the undyed yarn I bought at Wonderwool to supplement it. I’ll let you all know what I end up choosing.

Pippa: 15 things

I can’t believe it, but it’s been a year since we adopted Pippa! It feels both like it was just yesterday, and like she’s always been a part of our lives. We both love her so much and love coming home to her every day.

A few months ago, Janet posted some fun facts about her cat, so I thought this was a great excuse to do that about Pippa. Enjoy!

  • R is nervous about having an outdoor cat, so Pippa is basically a housecat (the first one I’ve ever had.) I do let her go out with me when I’m out in the garden, though, and let her wander out when the weather’s warm enough to leave the back door open.
  • That said, she’s pretty determined and will happily jump out our kitchen window. I plan to use this as a long-term bargaining chip for letting her become a full-time indoor/outdoor cat.
  • Pippa is incredibly shy and will go hide under our covers any time someone besides me and R even knocks on our door. She also goes there when we’re vacuuming.
  • She enjoys sitting on R’s lap while he watches action films.
  • Pippa is waiting for us every day when we come home from work. She comes to the front door to see R, then waits by the back door when I get home a little later. Our favorite thing is when she is sitting in the windowsill when we get home, though.
  • Her favorite thing to do, by a mile, is lay on our chest/stomachs. Preferably with her bum in our face, obviously. Every day when he gets home, R goes to lay down so they can have a bit of a cuddle. P1080221
  • She’s scared of fans (we just discovered that this week during that brief spell of summer).
  • She now comes to wake us up in the morning. She just walks in & starts purring really loudly until we wake up, then jumps on the bed and sniffs our faces.
  • After ignoring her cat bed for 6 months, she suddenly decided she loves it and spends most evenings in it.
  • Pippa wouldn’t come out from under her cat bed at all when we visited her in the animal shelter.
  • She doesn’t play with a lot of toys, but we discovered she loved mint when someone spilled some in our living room. She rolled on the spot for days!
  • She also has a yellow ribbon that we play with every day. She loves it. It’s part of our morning routine – I get up, go the bathroom, get her food, get dressed, and then we play for 10-15 minutes before I go to work. It’s the best part of my day! P1070644
  • She’s always adorable, but is easily at her cutest when she lies on her back with her paws tucked up onto her chest.
  • She hates the camera, so it’s really hard to get any good pictures of her. (Hence no picture of the above pose.)
  • Pippa is R’s first cat, and she has totally converted him to a cat lover. He may deny it if asked, but his phone is full of pictures of her (he took the one below) and we now sometimes look at the adoption page on the shelter’s website together. I mean, look at her! How could he not fall for her? 🙂
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5 happy things

Between the General Election, a whole lot of work stress, and a few things happening in my family life, it’s been a stressful couple of weeks, and I’ve definitely found myself feeling overwhelmed. I keep telling myself it will calm down soon, but in reality that’s not due to happen until late July! It’ll be here before I know it, right?

But in the meantime, as always I’ve found it helpful to think about the positive things happening in my life right now.

  • p1080775.jpgPermanent residency

I’m sure I mentioned how nervous I was about applying for permanent residency here in the UK. Though I’m American, I also have a German passport which has allowed me to live and work here for the past 8/9 years. A couple of weeks ago, I received my permanent residency card in the post! It was such a relief with all the uncertainty here at the moment. I do have plans to write a post about the process, so stay tuned if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

  • Organ donation

I also got my provisional licence last week. I’m not classing that as a happy thing just yet as my first lesson didn’t go particularly well. But what is a happy thing is that I also got my organ donation card along with it! It’s such an important thing to do, and I honestly struggle to understand why anyone wouldn’t sign up to do it. At least two people I know directly have benefitted from organ donation – my nearly-stepmother, who’s had a pancreas transplant and is hoping for a kidney transplant, and the little girl I used to look after as an au pair, who needed a liver transplant last year at 14. Now I just need to get over my weird relationship with blood so I can donate that regularly…I do tend to pass out when I have blood taken, so I don’t donate although I feel terribly guilty for not doing it!

  • Strawberries

It’s strawberry season, yay! Seasonal eating is a wonderful thing for many reasons. Of course there are environmental benefits, but I admit my interest in seasonal eating is pure gluttony – everything just tastes so much better when it’s in season. There are a few strawberries at the allotment, but British strawberries are also plentiful in shops at the moment.

  • R’s willingness to pick up my slack in the house

Confession: I am awful at housework. I hate it. I will put it off as long as possible. This is especially true for laundry and dishes. I am so glad R does this kind of stuff for us without ever complaining about it. I dread to think what our house would look like…

  • Springwatch

I don’t always watch Springwatch, but I have been this year, and absolutely loving it! All those cute animals! I particularly loved the pine martens this week. I keep squeeing and sighing. It’s also extra nice this year, because it’s being filmed about 30 miles from where I live.

What are the good things happening in your life at the moment?

Down at the plot – May

P1080734There’s big news on the allotment front for May – I moved plots! I won’t bore you with the details of why. Suffice it to say, it was a complicated and stressful (VERY stressful) decision that I’m still not quite thrilled about. At least, I’m less than happy with the timing; overall it’s a positive move. The upsides are that I’ll now be sharing with two people rather than one, which means there’s less worry if one of us can’t go for a few weeks in a row; the new plot still has raspberries but also has an apple tree; it’s a bit quieter and wilder where the new plot is, so it’ll feel more like a retreat; and it has a fully functioning shed. The downside is that we still have responsibility for our plot this year, we haven’t had time to go and cover it over so it doesn’t get even more overgrown, and I’ve got to go tend to the potatoes that are planted there as well as looking after the new plot. It’s going to be a complicated summer, especially because the tons of stuff I need to do at work mean I won’t be able to take any lazy annual leave days to spend down at the allotment.

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You can also imagine that this means I haven’t actually gotten much done in May, and you’d mostly be right. I hilled up the potatoes a few times, and at the plot itself that’s about it.

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More got done behind the scenes at home. I sowed a few trays – beans and cauliflower – which got blown over and ruined not once, but twice. About 5 beans and no cauliflower have survived. 😦 Devastating! I’m going to try sowing some more cauliflower now and hope I can still catch up. I also planted some patty pan squash, which is coming up beautifully. I’m hoping to get them in the allotment before my rubbish greenhouse ruins them, too.

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Finally, I’ve planted some tomatoes in grow bags. I am growing Tumbling Toms, Golden Currants, and Green Zebra (I think) this year. Hopefully they’ll all do well and I can make some beautiful tomato salad in the next couple of months.

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I’d love to hear what your garden’s up to this month!

Geeky Gift Swap – wrapping it up

I know I’ve mentioned the Geeky Gift Swap before, talking about deciding what to make. Today Jenny shared her reaction, and I’m so pleased that she liked everything. I haven’t shared what my gifts were, though, mainly because I only got them today! They got lost in the post, and I’m so grateful my swap partner Amanda contacted me to resend them.

The theme for the swap was superheroes, but I didn’t make it easy for my swap partner. My favorite superhero is actually Luna Moth, a character in The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier & Klay. She’s an archivist by day & kicks butt by night; what could be better? Let’s be honest, though, that’s a bit esoteric! I also mentioned Thor in my list. And unfortunately my lists of likes and dislikes weren’t in the email when I reread it. I’m not sure what happened, but it couldn’t have been fun for her.

Anyway, she did really well, and I’m thrilled with her choices! There was a Thor PEZ dispenser, a hammer of Thor keychain (awesome, because I love Thor’s hammer), some comic strip fabric, and this gorgeous purple and green yarn – chosen, I assume, because those are the colors of Luna Moth’s costume!

Thanks again to Jenny at the Geeky Knitter for organizing this!

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