A poem on gestation

For 19 weeks, I puked non-stop,

Lost 10kg, the cherry on top,

I’m mega tired, need frequent naps,

My veiny boobs look like google maps,

Both my nipples look like salami,

All of this to become a mommy,

I google ingredients before I eat,

I’m at the stage where I can’t see my feet,

Let alone my down below,

I’ll need to pay someone to give it a mow,

I snore, it sounds like a buzz saw,

But the little kicks leave me in awe,

And don’t forget all the advice!

Which is mostly rubbish but I smile to be nice.

My bum aches with burning piles,

I seem to have lost my feminine wiles,

I haven’t pooped for 5 days straight,

I waddle under my own weight,

And of course my new found girth,

Did I mention I’m petrified of the birth?

No alcohol, no Brie, not even a sushi roll,

All of this is starting to take its toll,

Most of my clothes look like a tent,

The stretch marks should start paying rent.

My emotions have run a mock,

With every ultrasound I stare in shock

At the little hands and little toes,

The heart shaped lips and button nose.

This darling foetus of mine,

When I look at that screen, I feel that it’s all fine.

And I know I worry and I fret,

Because I’m in love with a little person who I haven’t yet met.

And pregnancy is super tough

And February can’t come fast enough.

Because I can’t wait to hold u and kiss your little face,

Soon, so soon. Watch this space 🙂

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This body is yours and mine.

I wrote the following piece during my first trimester and now in my 8th month, I feel comfortable to share it:

So I am finally at the 12 week mark: my first trimester is over. Time to breathe a sigh of relief. Now I can worry a bit less. Not that I am not worrying. I worry all the time. I worry that at the next ultrasound they tell me that the foetus’s heart has stopped beating. I worry that the umbilical chord strangles the tiny one. I worry that I won’t be able to hold this extension of us that we created.

I try to think positively however, I am safe in the knowledge that I am doing my best for this child in utero. I already feel the huge responsibility and the sacrifice. Sometimes I think maybe that’s why Mother Nature made it that we can’t drink alcohol or enjoy certain indulgences while pregnant: to prepare us for what’s to come and the immense sacrifices. But along with those, there is immense joy, like when I think of the love I already feel for this little person who I have not even met yet.

I caught a glimpse of myself coming out of the shower today at 12 weeks and 3 days pregnant. My body is no longer my own. My tummy protrudes stoutly outwards and a film of downy hair has grown across it. I’m not allowed to dye my hair until 14 weeks have passed and roots are a pet hate of mine. The skin on my feet is dry and scaly. My knockers have become absolutely massive and covered in veins and my nipples and areolae look like someone grabbed purple wine gums and attacked them with a rolling pin. There is a constant wave of nausea in the pit of my stomach which has become something of a long-term lodger within my alimentary canal. My sinuses are inflamed and I whistle when I breathe through my nose. I have the most ghoulish nightmares. I am also incredibly emotional: I cry when my favourite contestant has to leave The Great British bake off. I cry when I see a fictitious funeral on tv. I cry at the song ‘A million dreams’ from The Greatest Showman. I feel sleepy at 8pm.

Where is Marie-Claire and who is this imposter???

At first I felt a bit indignant, denying that anything has changed and that I’m still the same old me.

Well, everything is changing. And I’m still me. Just not the same old one.

On our way home after an afternoon out, my hubby was thinking of a song and he asked me ‘what’s that song that starts out ‘something….something…can you handle this?’ Do you know it?’ And I did know it. It’s Destiny’s Child ‘Bootylicious’.

So I got inspired. I started to play it on YouTube. I was changing my clothes and stripped down to my massive support bra with extenders and my salmon pink, over-the-bump panties. I skidded out into the corridor and started to sing in my best Beyoncé voice ‘I don’t think your ready for this jelly!’ while shaking my ample behind at my husband. I then turned for the piece de resistance ‘is my body too bootylicious for you babbbbbbbbbbeeee!!’

Only my husband wasn’t in the corridor. He was outside, taking out the garbage, with the door wide open. Did I mention how our corridor faces directly out on to the street? In full view of the entire neighborhood?

I very much doubt that they were ready for my jelly.

And through the embarrassment I actually felt kind of happy. Because no matter what, some things really don’t change. And when it comes down to the bare minimum, I am still me.

I can handle it.

The end of an era…the end of 2018

Usually at this time of year, I blog about Christmas at the hospital, sharing anecdotes and making the best of yet another non-stop marathon of taking care of others during the holiday season.
Well this year in quite the turn of fate, I find myself not working because of the need to take care of myself.
Because against all odds, I’m not really just taking care of myself. Because I am not exactly by myself. I am seven months pregnant with a foetus who I think is destined to become a kickboxer. 
I have had to stop working because it was getting too stressful and apart from that, it is flu season so I have to watch it more than ever. My last day was about two weeks ago and it was so bitter sweet. Because apart from the fact that I absolutely love my job, I was ridden with guilt at abandoning my brigade. I have no doubt that they are just fine without me. But I haven’t stopped working since I was 16 years old so it feels very strange.

  

There’s a part of my heart which always felt I was destined to become a nurse, that my purpose in life was to serve others. When I found out that it was going to be very difficult to nearly impossible for me to ever conceive a child, that destiny simply became all the more clear. That was that, this was the most important part of my life since I started studying for my BSc back in 2002 and I vowed to do it to the best of my ability for many years to come. I figured I was not given children for a reason: in order to be unburdened to help others as much as I could. 
After two failed ivf cycles, I was done. Enough. I could not put my life and dreams on pause anymore for something that will probably never happen. And year 2018 was all about being the best I could be: no fertility treatments, no doctors, no waiting and hoping. The fertility clinic called me and asked if I wanted to try again.
NO. They asked if there was a problem. No. There wasn’t. I was just done. 

And I hung up.
And I began to rediscover the person I was before I ever opened the fertility files. Before egg counts and blood tests and procedures and injections took over my life. 
I experienced and achieved some amazing things. I began training for the half marathon and on the 25th February 2018 I crossed the finish line in just under 3 hours, which is pretty great for a non-athlete. In March I presented a paper at the Commonwealth Nursing Conference at the Royal College of Physicians in London. I became a charge nurse which is quite something at the age of thirty-three. My baby sister got married and we had a whale of a time at her wedding. I put on a show with my theatre group which was fun but poignant. I joined an intense boxing and exercise program and became stronger and lost a decent amount of weight, weight which I had gained during ivf treatments due to being pumped with steroids. My husband and I reconnected, as if we were honeymooners all over again.
It was great. I felt great. And for the first time in a long time, I was really happy.
Then I had my annual smear test where I told my doctor in no uncertain terms that I was not interested in any more fertility treatments. He basically told me that he respects that, but there is a clinic in Valencia, highly specialized and that I should at least book a consultation. A consultation is not something invasive. Think about it.
So I left his office with my head spinning. Because I was done. I was happy. After discussions with my better half we decided to go for a consultation. It was not expensive and we didn’t have to commit to anything. And Valencia was a lot of fun. 
At the clinic everyone was professional, relaxed and friendly. The consultant was really great too and very experienced. He looked through my extensive collection of test results and procedure reports, looked me squarely in the eye and said:
‘I don’t see why I can’t help you.’
So we got home and it was serious decision time. And my husband told me that it was my body that goes through hell and back during ivf, so he would support any decision, be it yay or nay. 
‘I don’t see why I can’t help you.’
Those words just stuck in my brain. And that doctor’s genuine, kind eyes.
Do you remember how in the Little Mermaid, the Disney movie, when Ariel signs over her voice, she closes her eyes, grabs the pen and hastily signs? That’s exactly how I felt when I sent the clinic the email saying, yes I’m interested in giving it my final go.

  
And to cut a long story short…
It worked.

It bloody worked.
In my utter disbelief, I peed on at least 5 different test sticks and took my Hcg blood levels four times. 
I am actually with child. And that fateful day 8 weeks later when we saw the heartbeat it all became clear. I stared speechless at the screen. Come what may, at that moment, I was a mother. 
And now 7 months down the line, I look like a small planet and my belly wriggles with a tiny but very alive thing inside there. I hope and pray that nothing goes wrong and that in two months time we will meet this precious gift that we have been given. 
My plea to anyone out there who is reading this post today: I talk freely about my experiences with infertility and ivf because the subject is way too taboo for reasons I absolutely don’t understand. Seeking help for a problem is not something bad or to be ashamed of. If I can help anyone going through this in anyway, I will do my best to do so. Just reach out and don’t be afraid. When it comes to fertility problems, it feels so isolating and you constantly think ‘why me?’. Well, I AM you. And there are THOUSANDS of US. So you are not alone. Ever. And believe me on this one: everyone going through this wishes only good things for others on this journey. That’s a promise.
So what can I say? 2018, you have been pretty darn marvelous. And as for me, well, I usually find self-praise a little unattractive, but screw it: I was incredibly brave. 
And fortune favors the brave.

A quitter never wins…a winner never quits.

Right now I am aghast at the shit storm that is my life.

About a week and a half ago we were short of staff at work every single day.

The patients that are being admitted to my ward are all in an incredibly bad state and most are bedridden.

A large cyst was found on my left ovary. (It has thankfully been resolved).

I was massively ill with a fever of 102 and I couldn’t call in sick at work right away because I was changing duty with someone else.

My steering column on my car broke down so I am also currently immobile.

Sometimes I go to bed dreading what tomorrow might bring.

So yeah. Stressful and inconvenient. I feel like screaming ‘FUCK THIS SHIT!’ , sitting on the couch with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and a bottle of wine and get plastered and pass out.

Such behavior is absolutely counterproductive. If I were to do this, I would just wake up hungover and sad and have to face the same problems hungover and sad, which doesn’t lead to good decisions. When I am stressed out and anxious, I’m pretty inconsolable and nothing anyone says helps or makes a difference.

You know what does make a difference? 

Exercise. Strenuous, intense exercise. I mentioned in a previous post that I go to these workouts that basically make you work on every muscle group and incorporates boxing in the workout.

It is so intense and physically taxing that for that hour, it is impossible to think of anything else but the will to push yourself and complete the workout to the best of your ability.

Let’s get something straight however: I am not good at it. 

1) There are sessions when I look around and go ‘hmmm…well how about that? I’m the fattest lady in the class…’ There will always be a guy who is bigger than me, but for some reason a fat man stands out less or is perhaps more socially acceptable than a fat woman. Or maybe they simply have less bouncy bits.  

2) There are mirrors everywhere which is a good thing because you can see what you are doing wrong. But I can also see just how terrible I look. When doing squat jumps I think I look like King Kong about to climb the Empire State Building. I will be red and blotchy and heaving. When we do kettlebell swings I feel like Cheetah from Tarzan. Sometimes the coach will bring out these ladders that lay on the floor and we have to do this thing called a monkey walk (I see a consistent theme here….) and you basically move forward on your hands and catch up with your feet, arse first in the air. I always feel sorry for the person behind me because I’m a little slow and if that person is faster than me and miscalculates , they will get my sizeable rear-end full in their face. I also concern myself with what if the person in front of me farts, which is an entirely plausible situation given that in that position your are pressing on the large intestine and I will be there, monkey walking in somebody’s bum vapour. 

3) As a small time actress and stand-up comedienne, I am constantly aware of other people’s sense of humour. I love the coaches’ attempts at being funny:

– when doing a squat and holding it: ‘YES, SIT DOWN, YOU DESERVE IT!’

– when putting each knee to your chest in push-up position: ‘KNEE TO THE CHEST! YOU ARE NOT A CAT DOING ITS BUSINESS!’

-if your head isn’t on your towel: ‘BRING A BIGGER TOWEL! LEAVE THE FACECLOTH FOR THE BATH!’

-when you get tired during sit-ups: ‘DO A SIT-UP, NOT A LIE DOWN! YOU ARE NOT AT THE BEACH!

4) A childhood friend goes to these sessions too and due to this we have really reconnected. But we do talk quite a lot. I get flashbacks of when my mother used to make my older brother accompany us to church on Sunday at 11am and we used to talk so much that he would bribe us with smarties to shut-up. Now the coaches just shout at us ‘MORE CORE EXERCISE! LESS TONGUE EXERCISE!’

I love it. I really do. And I promise you, it gets better. I know that this may sound dramatic, but going there has made me a better version of myself. I am more focused, I feel fitter and most importantly I am happier in general. Until last March, I could not do a full sit-up. How shameful. I couldn’t really do a push-up either. But now I can. And it’s not about how you start, but how you finish. 

But the best part is their philosophy: a quitter never wins and a winner never quits. It not just about fitness goals, it’s about life. When I’m having a difficult day at work and everything is going wrong and doctors are yelling at me and relatives are being demanding and patients are driving me insane, I remember that mantra and fight on. Life is a marathon and satisfaction comes when you do your best, in every aspect. 

Oh and…I’m not particularly in love with being a loser. I’d much rather be a winner.

And I think I am.

    
   

 

Because you love me.

We made acquaintances when I was only nineteen. Who knew that that chance encounter would end up paving the way for our lives together?
I don’t usually do this: the grand gesture. The massive PDA. The selfies saying #blessed or #lovehim. I know you don’t particularly like them. But yesterday I was talking to a writer friend of mine (you know who she is) and we discussed how summer time can be a sometimes dry time for inspiration.
But today I was in the supermarket and Celine Dion’s ‘Because You Loved Me’ came on… ‘for all those times you stood by me, for all the truth that you made me see…’ and I couldn’t help but think of you. Now that song is corny. Cornier than a vegan’s turd. But I’ve never shied away from corny. I feel I do it quite well. 
Because it never occurred to me before, but unknowingly, you are my greatest muse. 
We have had such rough times. Times when we thought of parting ways. Times when we thought we just can’t go on together. But somehow we always managed to pull it together. The two of us are probably the biggest mismatch to ever be together; me, artistic and dreamy but at the same time very hard on herself and very strong; you logical with a clear and unwavering vision and true to his word. Numbers come naturally to you whereas to me they are just a jumble of squiggly lines; getting up on a stage to say my piece without any kind of rehearsal is my thing whereas I think that would be the stuff of nightmares for you. 

So yeah. Chalk and cheese.
But you know what? If an artist grabbed a piece of chalk, a beautiful drawing could be made of a piece of cheese. And all of a sudden, the chalk and cheese are connected. 

And like that arrow-straight and dependable piece of chalk, you have stood by me, the hunk of cheese. Swiss cheese, because, like me, it’s kind of unpredictable when you slice it open. 
We have come to a point in our lives where we have let go of all our airs and graces and we stand vulnerable in front of each other. And all that’s left is truth and a trust that is the real deal. Lately you told me that I have made you a better person. And that really touched my heart, because even though we have been through more than what was fair for life to throw at us, we still reached this point. Because I believe that the person you choose to be with should bring out the best version of yourself. And if I managed to do that, then I know that all is ok. Oh, and #relationshipgoals.
And I love you deeply and sincerely.
You have taught me that I don’t have to operate alone. You have taught me that it is ok to be fragile sometimes. That it is ok to open up and love another person. 
We have come such a long way. And through it all, I can safely say, there was always love. Even when we felt we hated each other, deep down, even if it was dim and in embers, there was always that flicker of a flame of love that refused to die. Love is important. But what is really important is to have the humility and the bravery to make room for growth and to do it together.
You will probably tell me to take this post down, it being a little personal and maybe too honest, perhaps my biggest virtue and my biggest flaw all at once. But I’m hoping it will be a couple of hours before you notice it. 

My world’s a better place because of you.
    
 

And then she’s boxing clever…

I am quite the advocate of physical fitness. I think it’s so important on so many levels. It makes me feel alive and powerful.

Not that I’m any good at it. I’m pretty terrible really. But that doesn’t matter. Anyone can be good at being couch potato, so I already have one up on those people.

So five weeks ago I embarked on a new fitness regime and its INTENSE. It comprises of boxing, running, pushups, sit-ups and skipping rope. When the trainer feels particularly sadistic, he brings out the ladders.

It’s awful. The trainer refers to us as troops. ‘Come on, troops! MOVE IT! You came here to train! Sit on your ass at home! Move!’

Dreadful. The only soldier I can wrap my head around are made of toast to be dipped in a soft boiled egg.

But at the same time, it is oddly fantastic and invigorating. And I get better with each session. And I’ve lost 5kg. 

But I am really terrible.

1) a good portion of the session involves jumping: star jumps, squat jumps, burpees…and there are mirrors everywhere. I have noticed that it’s not only my legs that do the jumping….my tummy jumps in tiny rippling rolls…and my boobs jump in spite of my sports bra. And don’t think they bounce in unison….oh no. The right always seems to be that little bit more ambitious than the left, leaping up before its partner. 

2) boxing is exhausting. And a little terrifying. I hit the punching bag. It swung back. With vigor. In my face. 

3) during boxing we need to find a partner at times. I once got paired up with a man. A very sweaty man. He was dripping. At a point he cocked his head back to get his fringe out of his eyes and it was like I ran through a sprinkler system.

4) towards the end of the session we do floor work to emphasize our core and sometimes I just lie there, a heap of exhaustion. And I have a little existential crisis and ask myself why am I here? In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? In this infinite universe does it really matter if I can hold a plank position or not? Then the trainer screams ‘MARIE! YOU’RE NOT AT THE BEACH! MOVE!’ and I snap out of it.

It is probably the best workout class I’ve ever attended in my life. It is intense but doable and always different and definitely not boring. I honestly enjoy bits of it. And I’m reaping the benefits: I am already stronger and in better condition. 

Also, imagining the faces of people who bug me on the punching bag gives me a better workout.

    
 

By far one of the best experiences of my life.

I always dreamed of running a marathon. To me, running marathons was something only Uber-fit people did, people who eat kale for breakfast and quinoa for dinner and when they shower, they need to be careful not to slip down the drain.

Long story short: not me.

But due to certain events in my life, I have learned that we have very little control over most things. But how fit I am is most totally within my control. Depending on how thoroughly I prepare, I can do this. So I joined a running group a nd trained 3 times a week since October which culminated into today.

And today my dream came true and I completed a half marathon.

Some thoughts/insights/comments:

1. What a beautiful community atmosphere there was. Everyone was there for the same purpose, excited for the challenge. It was really wonderful. There were people in the streets cheering us on and bands playing at every kilometer. I remember on the 19th km, I was running alongside an older gentleman from Germany who had run the full marathon and some drunk guy who was getting day-pickled came up to us and shouted ‘come on!!! Run for your lives! One kilometer left! HAHAHA!’ I, personally was totally shocked at this arse-face but the German turned to me and said ‘easy for him to say, he’s not the one running!’and I nodded in agreement and we crossed the finish line together. It was wonderful.

2. God bless the scouts who gave me water/Powerade/oranges/sponges. Kudos to the kid towards the end who gave me a sponge and said ‘here! It’s softer than a cloud!’

3. People expectorate ALOT while running. I found myself playing ‘dodge the “bila”’ in marsa.

4. I chose to allow my marathon pics to be uploaded on Facebook. Eugh. They are not good.

5. I thought I’d be super hungry after the race. I absolutely wasn’t. I’m still not. They handed me a banana when I was done. I was afraid to eat it in case I vomited. That being said, I am very grateful that one of my most cherished friends invited me over for pizza.

6. At the 15th km I was knackered. My legs didn’t want to cooperate anymore, I was exhausted. By km 18, I was ready to give up. I was so close to the finish line but I had had enough. But then, near Manoel Island, there was a little girl with a sign that said ‘you rock’. And I thought to myself ‘well, yes I do!’ and I kept at it until the finish.

7. The best moment had to be when I was running the last 100m up to the finish and saw my husband on the sidelines cheering for me. That was what I needed for the final push.

This was undoubtedly the experience of a lifetime. I learned about myself, it was a major challenge and I came out on top. And most importantly, if I can do it, rest assured that anyone can.

Those who know me know how much I love super hero movies. When I watch them, I think about how I wish I was a superhero. At the end of the day, I believe that athletes are the closest we can ever get to real, live super heroes. I’m no athlete, but today I can honestly say I felt like Wonder Woman. And I am so thankful that my body works as it should and allows me to participate in such a thing as a half marathon.

Until next year.

Uh…well….we’ll see!

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