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The Waiting Game

Posted on: Tuesday, 11 November 2014

It's a strange beast, this maternity leave business. 

Going from life at 90 miles an hour - marking all of the essays there were to be marked within a 10 metre radius of my right arm before the end of half-term, endless handovers of work responsibilities ('It'll be FIIIIIIINE!' *rigor-mortis grin*), packing boxes ('crap', 'stuff', 'crap stuff'), unpacking boxes ('Can 'crap stuff' go in the cellar?'), filling out horrifically complicated Belgian baby-related paperwork and welcoming the last influx of pre-baby house guests - to, well, not a right lot, really - is slightly surreal. I feel a bit like Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap, thrust from one life to another and not really sure who I am anymore. Remember Quantum Leap? I used to bloody love it, especially for that moment when he looked in a mirror and discovered he was elderly/black/disabled/a woman with really badly-applied lipstick. Yup, that's exactly who I feel like: a really, really tired Sam Beckett.  

Because of my due date (end of November) and the school year (I'm going back to work in September regardless of when the baby chooses to turn up), I could take maternity leave from the 'early' starting point of October half-term i.e. with four and a bit weeks still to go to D-day. In Belgium, this is hiiiiighly unusual - because paid maternity leave is so short, women get uber-competitive about how close they're working to their due date. But I figured keep it neat (my replacement starts afresh in a new half-term and finishes at the end of the school year) aaaaaand take what I'm entitled to, even if not all of that time is with the baby (or very well-paid). And everyone I know, particularly if that person is a woman with children, keeps saying, 'Oo, four and a bit weeks. Lovely.' And then more often than not she lowers her voice conspiratorially and adds, 'Make sure you enjoy it. Sleep a LOT', which would be wonderful advice if I didn't need a wee every three hours. 

So. After all of the moving madness I still have - in theory - two and a bit weeks to fill. I found myself ironing towels the other day and had to have a word. 'LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO IRON TOWELS,' I rebuked myself mentally. 'I spent too much time ironing towels' will not be one of my deathbed regrets. Too much time worrying, yes, or too much time ogling other people's fringes: such wastes of energy are sad, but also sadly unavoidable. Not ironing towels, though. 

That said, thought, I've realised the importance of having a structure to my day to help me not go completely nuts. This 'structure' is largely a self-imposed litany of minor and largely unnecessary daily labours involving tasks such as 'find somewhere that sells nipple cream' and 'order titre service cheques' (shite, haven't done that), but it helps my poor routine-needy brain. It also helps that it now takes nigh-on an hour to get myself dressed in the morning - the bodily manoeuvring and one-legged swivelling and grunting involved in pulling on leggings and socks is something quite special and oh, sweet Jesus, the Bio oil application, now there's a real treat. Perhaps I'll park that mental image there. 

Onto happier thoughts. New apartment! Behold some photo-snippets:

It's ground floor and therefore gorgeously gloomy early in the evening - I tell you, it's just crying out for a Christmas tree and fairy lights - ROLL ON DECEMBER. It's also stuffed to its impressively high ceilings with beautiful features like a corridor of exposed brick and supremely handsome internal doors and built-in alcove bookcases with downward lighting ohmyword. And the kitchen has open dark wood shelving and white metro tiles and stainless steel work surfaces LIKE WE LIVE IN SOME KIND OF SEXY MOJITO BAR. I'm completely, unashamedly in love with it.

Isn't that changing table (avec les flamingoes) darling? We renovated it! Grey satinwood paint, some fancy oilcloth and handles and a bit of spray glue goes a looong way. And that last photo makes my tummy flip. We're just waiting for you, baby. Not long now. Gulp.  

Week 1 In the Maternity Leave House

Posted on: Thursday, 6 November 2014

**tap tap** 

Hello. I went away for a little while. Soz about that. Reasons? Allow me to bore you with the deets:

1) Finishing at work, including the English Department All-Singing-All-Dancing Biennial Showpiece Book Week in my penultimate week (enough to bring on an early delivery notevenajoke), took up every last nanosecond of the last few weeks. The marking, my God. Clearing out all of the stockpiled ricecakes and emergency tights from my desk drawer alone took forever.

2) We moved house. Remember Sexy Neighbours? Well, finding repeated 4am teary arguments somewhat wearisome after being woken for a third time by energetic rutting ("BUT *sniff* I HATE THEM *snort* SO MUCH!"), Bedders took on the challenge of finding somewhere new to live. We went to view a house in The 'Burbs - no longer were we interested in being the kind of parents who might take our monochrome-clad kids to hipster coffee bars in Ixelles at the weekend amongst the jumbo ginger beards and sailor tats - ummed and ahhed about the garden and the open fire and the DELICIOUS QUIET, decided we'd go for it, missed out narrowly, were bitterly, bitterly disappointed and then viewed another one on the outskirts of the city and FELL ABSOLUTELY HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE WITH IT. And we got it. Photos to follow. 

Oh, and by the way, moving house when 8 months pregnant is definitely a life-affirming experience which you simply must try. My favourite part was the bit where Adam went to Africa and my parents came out to help/be on standby in case of premature labour for a week. A week is a Long Time. 

3) As mentioned above, Adam went to Africa - Tanzania, to be exact - and there was a LOT of sorting out to be done, lucky lady that I am. How did you spend your half-term? Oh, you know, unpacking boxes labelled 'crap' and 'stuff' and 'crap stuff' and going to IKEA (twice, obviously, because once is just not enough to fully appreciate the retail experience from hell) and having a little private cry on discovering that the huge box we'd brought home 20 stops on the Metro was actually a changing table and not a fecking cot at all. Buuuuuh. 

(PS Want to see some beautiful photos of Tanzania accompanied by beautiful words? Miss Pickering does it better. Want to donate to a worthy cause that helps African farmers feed Africa's people, prevents deforestation and empowers women gimme-a-girl-power-raaaaahhh all at the same time? Go here.) 


Ergo no time for any frivolity at ALL, including blogging - no time, no headspace, ensuing crisis of blogfidence and it just had to get gone for a while. But hey. Now I'm back with lots of scintillating updates about, err, doing the ironing and filling out commune paperwork. Oo, and the books that I'm reading! I've polished off two mega Irish Catholic Tomes of Misery of late, both of which come highly recommended:

A History of Loneliness - John Boyne

Odran Yates is talked into the priesthood by his dear old Mammy. Not an unusual tale. And, hey, he's happy enough with his lot. He's a good man. But is it enough to stand by and be good when all around you is evil? Told against the backdrop of the unfolding clerical child abuse scandal in Ireland. Fine stuff.

The Gathering - Anne Enright

Liam Hegarty - alcoholic wastrel brother of narrator Vee and one of the North Dublin Hegarty clan - is found drowned in Brighton in a high-vis jacket and with stones in his pockets. Vee has to piece together what exactly happened to Liam in their grandmother's house in 1968 - what wheels were set in motion that would see him end up in a British morgue thirty years later?

It's about the unpredictability of love and memory, about grief and big families and secrets and all that jazz. 

Disclaimer - people on Goodreads seem to hate it for all the reasons I loved it - all of its blurred lines between reality and memory and imaginings and life and death. But if you liked A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (and by God, I did), I think it's safe to say you'll love this. 

I'll read something less Irish and maudlin soon. I promise. Mebbes. 

In the meantime, here is a picture of what happened moments after tweeting that I'd just enjoyed breakfast in bed on Monday morning (maternity leave ftw!):

FFS. Pride comes before a fall, as my Grandma used to say. 

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