Since 2015 had been a year of grieving, healing and trying again following miscarriage, I saw in 2016 with cautious joy. I was 12 weeks’ pregnant and my husband and I had just paid for a VERY last-minute trip to Vienna.
Of course, while some of you may have seen the news of our extravagant New Year break as it appeared on my Facebook feed, very few of you knew I was pregnant. Even fewer knew the real reason behind our trip.
The run-up to the festive season had actually come and gone in a blur of emotion after an early pregnancy ultrasound scan abroad had shown nothing but an empty sac in November. It was a devastating blow.
My next dating scan had been booked for Christmas Eve and I didn’t want to tempt fate, so I had made no plans to celebrate the festive season. I knew there was only a 50/50 chance of success and the result was either going to make or break the season of goodwill. In my head I had already prepared myself for the worst. I was convinced that they were going to tell me there was a problem.
What I hadn’t prepared myself for was the feelings of amazement, joy and relief as I got to see baby Cyrus bobbing around on-screen for the first time. The day I got the all-clear was a surprising source of comfort. Having pinned all my thoughts on this moment, I felt a huge swell of emotion and the tears rolled down my cheeks.
So what did 2016 bring?
1) Celebrated New Year (and most importantly the all-clear after the 12-week scan) in Vienna
After finding out the results of my Christmas Eve pregnancy scan, my husband booked a break to Vienna to see in the new year. We needed some time away to relax after all the worry we’d gone through and there was nowhere more magical than Vienna at that time of year.
Our hotel, the Mercure Hotel Josefshof, was situated in the Josefstadt District and was only a short walk from City Hall Square and the Old City. It proved an excellent choice as there were times when I was overwhelmed with aches and pains, nausea and tiredness and needed a quick nap.
During our stay, we took in the sights, sounds and smells of the city, the Hofburg palace, seat of the Habsburgs, Cafe Central, Wiener Prater, the art galleries and festive street markets. There was a never-ending wealth of things to do and see.
We also looked on as every man…and his dog took to the streets for the annual New Year’s Eve run around the city. It was an amazing spectacle and reminded me of our very own Great North Run.
On New Year’s Eve, we took up the New Year’s Eve Trail in the Old City, first by horse and carriage to get our bearings and then by foot. As we walked through the Old City taking in the magnificent Baroque architecture, there were dozens of gastronomes serving culinary treats, mulled wine and (best of all) non-alcoholic gluhwein. Numerous stages dotted around the old city provided musical entertainment with something to suit all tastes from pop and classical to rock music.
We dined at Fromme Helene in Josefstaedter Strasse, which was close to our hotel and seemingly busy with locals (a good sign). Once inside, we were met by really friendly, warm and hospitable staff. The decor was cosy and it offered a great range of reasonably-priced, traditional Austrian dishes. It’s fair to say that this restaurant serves one of the finest schnitzels in Vienna. A really large portion was delivered to our table with a side of some potatoes and salad. The schnitzel was really good and the sides worked perfectly with the crusted meat. It’s well worth a visit!
We then headed back along to City Hall Square (Rathausplatz) to welcome in 2016. Despite the freezing temperature, the cold weather didn’t prove to be a damper. The area was crammed with stalls selling food and drink and festive gifts and it’s fair to say that it was crowded, but not overwhelmingly so for a pregnant lady. I certainly ate my fair share of cinnamon-coated waffles and glugged down plenty of alcohol-free gluhwein during the evening.
2) Promotion at work – made PR Account Manager
I was lucky to have had the support of amazing colleagues throughout the toughest time of my life in 2015 and then during my pregnancy. The promotion to PR Account Manager came as a real surprise in May 2016, although it gave me a real boost as I was thrilled to have been recognised for my work.
3) Sold our home after six years of renovation
Can you remember the Steven Spielberg comedy – The Money Pit? Well my husband and I could have easily starred in the sequel. The house had started falling apart as soon as we moved in. There were leaks, rotten floorboards and a broken boiler. We had ploughed more and more money (which we didn’t have) into the house, but hadn’t realised how bad our fixer-upper nightmare was going to be when we bought it or how many years it would take us to complete.
Built in 1910, the two-storey, red-brick home had four bedrooms and was located in an old colliery village. It had been my grandparents’ home in which I had spent most of my childhood, so emotions were running high when my gran died and I decided that we should live in it. You see, while dealing with the death of my gran was one of the hardest things, I had it in my head that by living in her house, the memories wouldn’t fade and I was honouring her in some way. My sentiments aside, hubby wasn’t as keen as he could see how much work was needed to bring the old building to life.
We spent six years gutting the house, taking down ceilings, ripping out radiators, redoing plumbing, heating and electrical systems and showering at the gym. By the time we had finished, we had spent a fortune on gym memberships but had transformed it beyond recognition. While we’d become best friends with decorators caulk, masking tape and plaster board, we’d forgotten what having a good time meant.
We spent endless days cleaning the house, preparing it for potential buyers. Sometimes they didn’t turn up, other times, they’d come and mock the property, and then there were the investors…the least said about them the better! FINALLY, all the hard graft eventually came to fruition.
4) Gave birth to baby Cyrus – 8lb 4oz
After a relatively complication-free pregnancy, I’d expected Cyrus’s birth to be no different. I’d had my meetings with consultants and midwives, I’d drawn up a birth plan and I had CHOSEN to use the midwifery-led birthing centre at the city hospital. I was ready to have an intervention-free birth with my husband there beside me to wipe the beads of sweat from my brow (just like on One Born Every Minute). Little did I know what was in store for me?
None of what I went through had been in my birthing plan which I’d designed in meticulous detail with the consultant. I had a Pitocin-induced labour after I couldn’t take the contractions any longer and opted for an epidural. There were an abundance of wires and tubes coursing across my body, and the various beeps and pings vibrated through the otherwise silent room where I lay hoping for a positive outcome. My husband stood at my bedside as the midwive hurried here and there attending to various tasks. Up until that point, she had performed her duties with a smile. Within minutes, her expression had gone from aww to THIS IS TERRIFYING.
C’s heart rate dropped in the final 10 minutes and they needed to get him out quick. The use of forceps was not something I’d even considered, but it led to the little fella below being born safely and that’s the main thing.
5) Became a midlife mum
I lay in bed on the hospital ward with a pallor complexion, gowned up and souped up on codeine, paracetamol and a host of little pink pills. I remember gazing at the blank walls all around me. The ward I was on was empty and that gave me time to evaluate and reflect on what I’d just experienced.
My body felt so heavy, it was as if I’d been welded down to that super high-tech bed. There was a bedside cabinet next to me, an impossible chair to sit down on, given my CONDITION, and an adjustable side table with a jug of water on it. If there were any plus points to my current state, it was that I was now wearing a pair of the most flattering fishnet NHS knickers and long white stockings.
A mobile phone clasped in a clammy palm, my fingers prepared a draft message and photo for Facebook. You see, until that point I had boycotted my social media account and put my life on hold for two years. I couldn’t tell anyone online what I was going through because they were ‘at best’ just acquaintances.
In an era of befriending, sharing, liking and tagging everything and everyone, this was going to be the first shred of social media evidence that I had even been pregnant. While I’d kept any mention of my pregnancy off FB because I worried I might jinx things, what really held me back was the pain of the past.
Taking a deep breath, I hit the send button and within seconds, a deluge of more comments and likes than ever before appeared on my screen. ‘Is this your baby?’… ‘Wow!!! Congratulations’ …‘I didn’t even know you were pregnant…wow!!!’ ‘Your story would make a great piece for the newspaper, wow!’
Amused, I announced to the nurse changing my saline drip “It seems like I finally have the WOW-factor at 40!” She smiled back at me.
I glanced down at the small, swaddled being lying next to me in his clear plastic cradle and smiled. Someone at work had told me to write everything down and I already had the first draft of the story in my journal. While I was hesitant about sharing it with strangers, I felt like I could now speak with authority on the matter of being a midlife mum.
6) Bought and moved into our dream home
I always said as a joke to colleagues that we’d probably sell our home just before I was due to give birth. It WAS a joke, but it turned out to be an unavoidable reality and the upheaval scared me. Recovery after the birth proved difficult and C had been waking five times a night at this point, so it’s fair to say that I was walking around like a zombie.
Trying to deal with the logistics of it all, documentation, solicitors, a property chain and move home with a two-week-old baby in tow was probably not something I’d do in a hurry again. Hubby had ended up packing the whole house up in a day because there was no time to do it room by room and I couldn’t lift anything heavy. Thankfully we employed the help of a local removals company which made the day of the move a little less nuts.
We had no friends or family to take C out of the equation for a little while, so as the removals guys worked, I was left holding the baby, a blanket and sitting on the only chair left in the house. Breastfeeding did not come easy that day!
On arrival at our new home my hormones got the better of me as I realised how much we had to do (again). You see, we had done everything to our previous home and we were going to have to start from scratch again with this one. The house we were buying was empty and desperately needed an injection of TLC. The stress of packing, moving and unpacking overwhelmed me and I sat and cried on our first night. Ridiculous in hindsight as now it feels like the best move we ever made. In five months, we’ve sanded down walls and painted the entire house – inside and out, installed a new boiler, replaced all plug sockets, planted an oak tree and have new carpets on order.
7) Took up a new fitness regime and met new friends with KeepFitMammy
Refer to my post here for more information!
8) Began my mummy blog (September)
9) Hubby gained Chartered status as a mechanical engineer
Having returned to education as a mature student after being made redundant and completing his Mechanical Engineering degree with flying colours, it wasn’t easy to then talk about even MORE studying. It took a few more years of hard graft, but it was a proud moment when my husband revealed that he had gained Chartered status. I’d been his proof-reader and a good listener over the years so I was over the moon. Great to see his name in the Telegraph too!
10) Wrote an e-book
While the initial draft of my book was finished in December, I’m currently working on the edits. Watch this space in 2017!