Moving house, a lesson in saying Goodbye. 

Four and a half year ago when Ben and I bought our first home together, newly-ish married and full of young naivety about the world and our future, I couldn’t have dreamt of the happiness that was due to come our way and I couldn’t have imagined how at least ten years worth of our lives would appear to squash themselves into just four (and a bit). I couldn’t have dreamt about my two girls, Jasmine and Summer, and all the joy they have brought into my life. I couldn’t have dreamt about how it would feel to bring my first baby home from the hospital and through the door of our home, to start my life as a Mother and our life together as parents. I couldn’t have dreamt of the smiles and the laughter that would come from watching our child grow, through all the first times and proud moments and through all the tears and the sleepless nights. I like to think that the walls have watched us all grow up, soaking up all the love they’ve seen here, all the good energy and all the happy moments. I like to think they’ll hold onto that goodness forever, and sprinkle those happy sparkles onto anyone who needs it next.

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I couldn’t have dreamt of the deep heartache and pain that losing a baby here would bring upon us too. This home was my anchor, my safe place to grieve and cry but also get me back up and it supported me in more ways than one. I couldn’t have dreamt that I would ever, ever, then welcome another baby into our family, whose first breath was taken in this home, in the very room where we have grown together as a family and shared almost every single day. That little baby girl has once again brought me back closer to home as babies do when they’re so small. I couldn’t have imagined the ripples of joy that would wave through my body as I watch two sisters laugh together, giddy with glee, pure with childhood wonder. I couldn’t have dreamt how watching them could be enough to stop me in my tracks, to bow down in gratitude and know that if nothing else, my world and my heart are full to the brim. I couldn’t have dreamt up the half of it, probably not even a fraction and back then I was probably too scared to dare to dream this big.

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Summer, born at home

Now I’m here, surrounded by boxes, all of our things wrapped and ready to go. I’m staring at empty shelves and empty walls, where special photos used to hang and filled jars used to stand, the very items that became part of our everyday environment yet that become strangely unnoticeable over time. They’re noticeable now that they’re no longer here. I can see the marks on the wall where Jasmine has rubbed her sticky hands whilst carefully climbing the stairs and I can see those little holes where we hammered in nails, trying to get frames to lay straight before giving up and getting on with more important things in life, never ones to have been good at DIY. So now as we prepare to bid our home farewell, I sit with the comfort that we are taking our memories with us, that they are not lost but merely traveling too. But with that comfort, there’s an ache in my heart. It hurts my heart to think that Jasmine and Summer won’t remember this house and the way they chased each other along the corridor upstairs or fought over toys in the living room. They won’t remember their garden and the games that we played and they won’t remember their birthday parties and the family celebrations we held in their honour. They won’t remember the baths we took and the snuggles we had or the cakes we baked. I know though, that they’ll remember the feelings that go hand in hand with these memories that I suppose are mostly mine. They’ll remember the warmth and the connection, the happiness and the love and those are the feelings that will be familiar to them forever. Perhaps with time, my own memories will fade too, however much I hope they won’t, I know that’s just what happens over time.

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Jasmine and Summer

This home is part of a community too, a community of neighbours (the best kind) and a wider community of friends. Friends who have held me up through the early years of Motherhood and friends whose children mean not only the world to me but to Jasmine and Summer too. Children who have played here and snacked here and smiled at me at the door. Children who Jasmine calls her best friends and who I wish we could stay close to forever.

Tomorrow is the start of a new and exciting chapter in all of our lives and I feel so grateful for every moment we’ve had the privilege to spend in our first family home. I’ll miss doing yoga under the skylights and I’ll miss sitting on the stairs taking deep breaths having finally got both girls down to sleep. I’ll miss things I won’t even know I’ll miss until we’re gone but I’ll notice those moments and I’ll stop to realise that we only miss things that once meant so much to us.

Farewell, lovely home,

Take good care.

 


How going vegan has transformed my health

I was about 14 years old when I first went to the doctors complaining about being chronically bloated. I sat with my GP and explained how my stomach would balloon after each meal, how I looked like I was 6 months pregnant (having now had 2 children, I can confirm that is not an exaggeration!) and often felt horribly uncomfortable. Sadly, my GP at the time dismissed my “teenage concerns” and suggested I spend less time comparing myself to pictures of celebrities in magazines. Whilst I think she was trying to be kind and express concern that perhaps I just had low self-esteem, dismissing my symptoms in this way really angered me. I clearly remember feeling both angry and helpless at not having been listened to and to be so profoundly misunderstood.

Fast forward a few years, more doctors appointments and zero improvement in my symptoms, I now had a diagnosis of IBS, or “Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” just the sort of label every teenage girl wants to have and a diagnosis that is given to thousands of people each year who seem to have unexplained, but very real, difficulties with their digestion. I was given a prescription for tablets that promised to ease my digestive cramps and that was about it. It seemed as if this was an all too common complaint with no real treatment, that stress played a big factor and that handing over a prescription would at the very least put a plaster on the problem for now.

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Vegan, plant-based food has transformed my health

But the problem hadn’t even remotely been solved, nor would it be for many more years to come. Several years later, again fuelled by a desire to really get to the root of the problem, I went back to my GP and pushed for a referral to Gastroenterology. Now in my early 20s I underwent a whole host of less than pleasant tests in hospital to try and establish why I looked and felt so chronologically bloated, why I suffered from painful and frequent stomach acid flare-ups (I would be doubled over in pain for hours and was now taking more medication) and what was causing me to, um, let’s say, always have to know where the nearest toilet was!

As I looked at the long list of tests and procedures I was about to go through, I was so hopeful for answers that would finally change my life. Surely there must be an answer! I longed for the day that I no longer had to wear baggy clothes to hide my massively bloated tummy, take anti-acid medication each morning and never be able to make it through a trip anywhere without dashing off to the loo. TMI, I know, but I also know that this is a far more common problem than people often discuss! I was fed up of coming home early from nights out because the pain in my stomach from acid reflux was so severe and the only thing I could do to help was to lie down and go to sleep. Ironically the advice I was given by my doctors for this was to drink glasses of milk before meals. Cow’s milk, of course.

Sadly, the results of the tests were all fairly inconclusive and as is the case when expectations are high, my disappointment at not having the doctors declare that they’d solved the issue, was palpable. Following the specialists’ advice and willing to try anything, I started on a low FODMAP diet under the guidance of a Dietician. I cut out wheat, lactose (not dairy), onions, garlic, broccoli and all sorts of other things. To say I felt restricted was an understatement. I kept a food diary and slowly re-introduced foods that are considered to be “triggers.” It was then decided that due to some family history of coeliac disease, that it was most likely to be gluten causing my issues (something I’d been told countless times before) and that I should consider going gluten-free. So I did! For years I ate a gluten-free diet, assuming that I had a fairly severe intolerance when all other avenues had been explored. It wasn’t much fun!

 

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I’ve never felt better, eating vegan food

Then one day, I guess temptation and curiosity got the better of me and I ate some gluten, probably in the form of a decent piece of toast or a crumpet. Surprise surprise, nothing drastic happened (as it would do for people with Coeliac disease) and my symptoms were unchanged. By this point, I just felt a little bit done with it all. Nothing was working, I felt like I couldn’t go back to the GP again and I had run out of steam.

In 2015, unrelated to these health issues, or so I thought anyway, I stopped eating meat and fish having become more and more aware of the ethical and environmental impacts of eating animal products. In 2016 I ditched eggs and dairy and adopted a fully vegan lifestyle and I’ve never looked back! In the early days of being vegan, I was also a sleep-deprived first-time mum caught up in that transformation more than any other. I certainly wasn’t bursting with energy all day long as many new vegans claim to be but a year or so into being vegan, I realised one day that I hadn’t experienced my “IBS” symptoms for months. I hadn’t had a single flare-up of stomach acid (and haven’t once to this day), I hadn’t taken any IBS related medication for as long as I could remember and the concerns I now had about the appearance of my tummy were down to very weak muscles and a lot more stretch marks, more so than anything else.

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Feeling very vegan picking my own spinach

I feel very fortunate that adopting a vegan diet has had these dramatic effects on my health and in many ways I really do feel better than ever, although I’m still a sleep deprived Mum, that’s for sure! I never really considered myself “unhealthy” as a meat eater and being “vegan for health” was last on my list of reasons for going vegan. But over the years, I’ve furthered my learning and research and I’m now sure that cutting animal products from my diet has had profound effects on both my physical and mental health. As the slightly sarcastic but also very true saying goes, “you’re not lactose intolerant, you’re just not a baby cow!”

There are still days when I look and feel very bloated and days where my digestion feels “off” but now I can rule out what I’m eating as being a cause and think more about how I’m eating. Off days are usually a sign that I’ve eaten too quickly, I’ve eaten too much or too little or that other things such as lack of sleep, stress or hormones are the bigger factors at play. In these moments I’m reminded of the importance of slowing down, making time to eat meals without rushing and fuelling my body with all the good (vegan) stuff.

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Vegan for health!

 

 

 


Happy Birthday, Summer!

Dear Summer,

Happy 1st birthday to my sunshine girl!

As I was thinking about what I wanted to write to you for your first birthday, I was stood holding you in my arms before your nap, singing ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ as I have done so many times since the day you were born. I stood in front of the long mirror in our darkened bedroom, the bedroom which you still share with us, and it struck me. Read More