Travelling while pregnant

Travelling while pregnant

I packed a beautiful bag for this trip. I should have taken a photo, really. I took my round-the-world backpack out of the cupboard, emptied it completely and filled it back up. I fit enough clothes for a month, an outfit for a wedding, two pairs of shoes, a laptop, Kindle and lots of wires in it. I packed my usual essentials and a few extras, because I’m pregnant, including snacks, an inflatable back support, hand sanitizer, my maternity notes and a letter from the doctor.

Red roofs of Cesme, Turkey, with the marina in the distance

The bag zipped shut and I could carry it comfortably. As long as no one weighed it, I should be fine to get on any flight in Europe.

I stood it by the door, and went to a routine antenatal appointment.

A sandy bay on Donkey Island near Cesme

The appointment showed some concerns. I put the bag in the boot of the car and drove to the hospital. The bag stayed in the boot, and I missed the flight.

I am fine.
Sprout is fine.

My trip is not fine.

Because they’re kind as well as professional, the doctors at the hospital took the time to think about whether it would be safe for me to fly at all.

They said yes.
They said yes, but.
They said yes, but you have to come back for further tests on Thursday.

I was planning on waking up in Athens on Thursday. I was going to see the Acropolis with my mum and a close friend. We were going to celebrate a number of good things.

We can still celebrate. Those things are still good. But I missed Athens, and that’s disappointing.

A small mosque in Izmir

This is one of the realities of travelling while pregnant though: everything might be fine, or it might not, and you might not be able to tell without access to a doctor or midwife.

I am really glad that the NHS schedules routine appointments and checks for worrying signs. I am really glad that my GP picked up on the worrying signs and made a referral. I am incredibly glad that the NHS is free at point of service, because if I had had to pay for this particular routine antenatal appointment, I might have skipped it. After all: I feel fine, Sprout is practicing for the first zero-G Olympics in there, and who wants to go to the doctor when the only slot available is 30 minutes before they have to leave for the airport?

I am really happy that the doctors at the hospital took the time to decide if I could fly. That they thought about keeping me and Sprout safe, while also trying to make sure I could go to my brother’s wedding.

Me in a posh pink floor length dress and professional hair

I am beyond thrilled to have made it to the wedding after all. It was a beautiful day where two very happy people were toasted and feted by people who love them. I wouldn’t have missed it for a million dollars and cake.

I really enjoyed that I got to swim in the Aegean, with Sprout doing her own back flips inside me and my mum splashing around too.

Two pasty white people swimming in the bright blue Aegean Sea

I am still pretty annoyed to have missed out on Athens, Thessaloniki and Belgrade though. But let’s face it – travel is never entirely predictable. I’ve never cancelled a trip after checking in before, but the trips we haven’t taken have been amazing and varied. There was the time we didn’t do a work/travel visa to Australia, and the time we didn’t go to Egypt. The time we didn’t go to Thailand, and the time we didn’t go to… somewhere… and went to Tunisia instead. Even if I’d gone to Athens, it still would have been the time we didn’t go to Canada, which was our original plan for this summer.

Each time we’ve changed our itinerary, it’s because something better or more important has come along. And it’s not like landmasses vanish overnight – Athens has been around for thousands of years. It can wait a little longer for me to arrive.

Travelling while pregnant, it turns out, it just like travelling while not pregnant: life still has the power to get in the way, and amazing things can happen. Even after bad ones.

Gathering and making

Gathering and making

For me, stuff comes in tides. There are times when the waves roll in, and the stuff line creeps higher and higher and times when stuff flows out. Moving into a just-the-two-of-us house after a several years of living in shared homes, the caravan and hotels brought a high tide. We have furniture. We’ve started reclaiming our stuff from long-term storage provided by my very generous family. I have more than 5 dresses. I have yarn and paper books.

It’s not finished though. There’s a spring tide around the corner. More things are settling in our home. They’re like snowflakes: tiny, delicate, beautiful and potentially overwhelming.

They’re things like this:

Newborn size handknit yellow cardigan with cow buttons

And this:

Two newborn size warm onsies with hoods and mittens

And this:

Baby vest with Darth Vadar face and words 'You are my father'

All these things are in limbo, waiting for September when my most exciting WIP will be — hmm, I won’t say ‘done’. Off the needles, perhaps.

It’s weird shopping for a baby you’re growing. It’s hard to know when to start and where to stop. Naturally, being opinionated people, K and I both have ideas about what a child needs, what’s good value, what’s too expensive or unnecessary. We’re wrong. I don’t yet know what we’re wrong about, but some of our brilliant theories definitely won’t stand up to the practical exam.

Luckily, we’re surrounded by generous and thoughtful people who’ve done it before. K’s sister and her husband have given us loads of lovely things, some of which I don’t even know how to use, with accompanied hints: This’ll be great when they’re about 6 months. Tuck this away, they come in handy. Try this, our two loved it. Friends have kept things they considered life changing or sanity saving, and have passed them on to us. Other people have offered advice and reassurance.

Considering that Sprout is a whole season away from being an independent life form, she (according to the ultrasound tech) has a lot of fans. And a lot of stuff.

But you know what? Even though I’m usually a minimalist I really don’t mind this rising tide. I love the carefully chosen baby items sent to me from Australia. I love the snuggle lion that my friends’ kid chose and put in her dad’s suitcase for us. I love that my mum has taught herself to knit (again) and made something tiny and wonderful. With cow buttons, because that’s how we roll in Switzerland.

Not everyone is happy that K and I are having a baby. We’ve been told that our (unmarried) way of doing things is wrong and wicked, and that hurt. But so many people are so happy for us, and it’s amazing. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more loved than right now.

What an English spring means

What an English spring means

The days are getting longer and lighter, which is lovely. The weather is still thoroughly English though.

Here’s Cambridge, on the bank holiday, at 18:51. Rowers turn in the sunshine and it’s all pretty idyllic.
Rowers on the Cam in bright sun

And then a few minutes later, at 19:20, the people we’re waiting for turn up and we can all go for a picnic a nice stroll a quick dash to a soggy dinner in the pub.
A narrowboat docks in pouring rain

Still a lovely weekend though, as I’m sure all present will agree.

Where have all the words gone?

Where have all the words gone?

If you know me in real life, you’ll know that getting me to shut up is usually harder than getting me to talk. And that I’m constantly writing something. So where have all the words gone? They’ve slipped off the blog and into emails, articles for work and lists of things to do.

This happens. One of the things I’m trying to learn to accept (and that collection of tentative words sums up my success) is that I prefer being a wandering tinkerer than a settled 10,000-hour master. The latter feels more worthy, and is certainly more in line with how school and society define success. But my way means more travel. It means more jobs and more interesting jobs, although not in a clearly defined career path with a nice big pension pot.

I will come back to the blog. I do have things to say. In the mean time, thank you for your patience. Here’s a somewhat random picture of cherry blossom, because I also haven’t been taking many photos lately!

Branches of cherry blossom against a blue sky, the moon show too

All the same and all new

All the same and all new

A flat brown English field out a train windowReverse cultureshock is one way to describe that feeling of coming to somewhere you consider home, only to realise that it has changed (or perhaps you have changed, and are seeing it differently). The familiar is suddenly unfamiliar. The returnee feels unsettled, alien in their own place, and frequently heads back out into the world with a sigh of relief.

I’m not going to say I’ve never felt it. Heck, I grew up feeling this – as a third culture kid, I was constantly told I was ‘British’ and Britain was ‘home’ (one home, at least) yet visiting Britain felt so strange. Even now I have a mismatch on some basic assumptions, and those trip me up.

(Immigration is perhaps a good example – until I was 20, Britain was somewhere you emigrated from not immigrated to, and I still assume the traffic flows both ways, and we (Brits) must keep welcoming EU nurses if want to be allowed to retire to sunny Spain.)

Coming back from travelling for six months, stuff had changed. There are new buildings, the one-way systems in Bath, Cambridge and Oxford seem to have been rearranged, friends have moved, grown beards, changed their hair colour… all the usual stuff.

K and I at Doncaster station
But what really made it hard to adjust (apart from the weather, let’s be honest) was people. I love so many brilliant people, and K is very social, so we had a bit of a whirl. And it was exhausting. People change plans! People are late (often us, I’m sorry to say)! People say yes, when they mean no, and no when they mean ‘let me text you on the night and we’ll sort it out then’. People fail to give you all the information. People have needs, desires, other friends, kids, all that stuff.

Planning a night out is like juggling cats, and I was really out of practice. I’m not going to pretend that aerial feline manipulation has ever been my forte, but in the 6 months we were away, we stayed with friends and family for about 4 weeks, total, and they were all pretty well organized so mostly we just let ourselves be taken around and about. Turns out when you get back to ‘real life’ you have to be a little more self-propelled. It was fun, but knackering and strange. And the strangeness was strange.

Now that we’ve been back for 3 months, Christmas is over and I’m starting to settle down. Things have gone quiet, and I’m getting used to all the Englishness around me. Our village is very pretty (very small and very pretty) and it’s good. But strange, in its goodness. We had a house party, and it went well. I’ve remembered how this social thing works, I think.

So what I’m saying is, I’m ready for people again. Shall we go out for coffee, you and I?