Monday, 23 October 2017
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ni4families

Christmas & New Year 2016

Look at all the'Likes'! I'm guilty. It's hard to resist the urge to boast-post; the mulled wine perched prettily on the mantelpiece while you all hug in Christmas jumpers... Even if the reality has been more up and down than a boxer on a trampoline...

So as I scrolled through my Facebook ‘This day x years ago’ snaps, it got me thinking about the reality behind the photo. So here it is. Christmas, with the icing picked off. I rather like it...

A big hug in the Christmas kitchen pic - 231 Likes

It had been four years. We still hadn’t seen those allusive two red lines. Months of other peoples’ baby-showers, christenings, well-meaning friends urging me to ‘relax and it will happen!’. Truth was, I was so ‘relaxed’ I was horizontal (and every other supposedly fertility-friendly position). It wasn’t happening.

One cancelled IVF cycle later, turns out the only thing harder than having a baby at Christmas, is not having a baby at Christmas.

So that particular Christmas, when a new baby came into our family and my own ‘bump’ was solely
down to turkey – I confess, I cried harder than all the re-runs of It’s A Wonderful Life put together. But as I held the chubby little parcel in the teeny tiniest of red rompers and watched the pure joy on everyone’s face – from a great-granny who felt young again – to the dog who had stopped sniffing himself and was upping his game; somewhere in that bitter sweet cocktail of happy/sad tears I knew I was lucky, and I was loved. And I knew there was hope.

After lunch and the sort of regret that only comes with three tins of Celebrations, I blamed the sherry and The Snowman as I sniffed away tears in the kitchen. In walked our ‘Santa’, complete with hat. A big tough man, worked on the shipyards all his life. He took the tea towel out of my hand. Wrapped me in his arms and whispered, “It will be you soon, love.”

Colleagues laughing heartily around the tree pic - 120 Likes

Something weird happens when you work over Christmas. They lace the air con with vodka, or at the very least tip a bit too much of that cinnamon fragrance on the scented pine cones in reception, because everyone really does seem very merry. Except on our floor. Christmas was cancelled. Well, Hogmanay. I was working in the press office in the best job in Scotland (according to me) and let’s just say Elsa would’ve been proud. The country had turned into Arendelle overnight but turns out the cold did bother them...And we were going to have to call off the festival. Thousands of tourists were waiting. The local media were wondering. And someone had to tell 62,754 party goers to go home. Me. It was a long afternoon and a lot of difficult phone calls. It’s at times like this that your colleagues keep you going. In this case it wasn’t a festive hug
or a furtive mulled wine at desks, but an All Staff email, sent in error from my well-meaning desk-mate, reminding everyone to please meet in the canteen at 6pm for “Festive Drinks and Nipples”.

The big bump pic - 312 Likes

Everyone loves a baby bump photo. Or a baby bump photo in front of a Christmas tree! A log
fire! Presents! It doesn’t get much better. And this time there is no ‘but...’ It was one of the happiest Christmases we’d had. The air was champagne. I was high as a kite and sober as a judge. Every cliché applied because I had won the magic ticket, skated across thin ice, struck gold. I remember walking round a shopping centre, amidst all the Christmas decorations and the festive tunes and seeing so many parents pushing prams and wondering if they had felt like I did. Like the impossible had happened. So, despite the fact my body weight doubled, my feet puffed in flip flops like Findus Crispy Pancakes and I was so sick I couldn’t even open the fridge – let alone eat from it – I was happy. Better than happy, I was content. And little did I know, by the same time a year later, I’d be doing it all again.

Christmas with a toddler... And a newborn pic - 188 Likes

I’m sure this one was lovely. I can’t remember. I’d had a total of 43 minutes sleep. I may have used it to microwave the M&S ready meals we may or may not have had for Christmas Dinner.

First Christmas in Northern Ireland pic - 223 Likes

There is a reason why they have baggage allowance on flights. For safety, for comfort, for cost reasons. So exactly why we thought it a sensible idea to pack ourselves and our most precious cargo (two dummies and emergency Haribo) onto an Easyjet flight and relocate en famille in the dead of winter is either proof that I am an eternal optimist, or that I was still in a postnatal fog (see above). As the real fog cleared and we landed in my homeland, I remembered that it isn’t really leaving home that’s hard - it’s coming back. I got on the boat as a ‘child’ (technically) and came back on a plane 17 years later with child (one and two) on my knee. There were a lot of memories on both sides of the sea – a family to return to, yes, but my grown-up ‘family’ of friends (with whom I’d shared make ups and break ups), left behind. Promises of cheaper house prices, fresh air and a Big Feed beckoned. I was terrified. I can say that now, because we are here and we are happy (and I’ve started ordering ‘a chip’ with most meals). But on that flight I had to remind myself
to breathe. I gripped my toddler’s chubby hand and soothed our newborn to sleep listening to the hum of the plane, reading those lines on the safety card over and over again, like a proverb: “Always fit your own oxygen mask before helping others.”

The kids bouncing on the trampoline pic - 328 Likes

It wasn’t meant to be like the advert. We don’t even have a dog. And the safety netting is half hanging off, which I am sure will land us on a spreadsheet somewhere. Truth be told, it is a bit of a babysitter that trampoline. Okay, so it wasn’t 3 hours 39 minutes because who’s counting when it is Quality Family Fun Time? But let’s say it was enough to cook a chicken, hoover and hardly spend any time at all on ASOS looking at dresses. A voice in my head asks me “What are you doing?” (I can hear ‘you crazy mother!’ at the end of this question). “I’m checking on them.” “Why?!” As any parent of under 5s knows, children are not backwards about coming forwards if they require,
with significant urgency, a drink/poo/piece of cellotape. I tell myself to relax and enjoy the peace.
I tell myself that only a crazy person who thinks she craves time to herself in the house at Christmas, but actually misses them, even though they are just in the garden, with their funny little voices and busy chatter...Only a crazy person would consider encouraging them to come back inside to take a photo under the tree with their presents to put on Facebook. And so I stand at the window and watch two little miracles bounce, their cold breath catching the December air.

By Kerry Thomson

ABOUT KERRY
Conscientiously tired, boomeranger to NI. Beyond joyful for two small things. Work/life blender, half Scottish, answers to ‘Mum-meeeeeee!’ and ‘Do you have a window when we can connect?’ Likes poetry, symmetry, organised fun, trashy mags, airport lounges, quiet, discos, listening well, most food, except raisins. Reads when can. Co sleeps but not sure how that happened. Works hard plays soft and always brings her own socks.

Read Kerry's blog at ithinkthatsagibbon.wordpress.com

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