Our simple life story started with a tiny little idea.
Stress wasn’t an emotion I experienced regularly if at all pre-children. I took everything in my stride and applied patience and positivity to every situation, Silver lining and all that. When I think back I have had a very fortunate life, part luck and part because of choices I have made but even in times of uncertainty, change, loss and struggles I have never truly understood or experienced that horrible little word I now seem to feel and use daily, Stress.
I don’t believe stress just happens overnight. I view it more as a sponge that slowly soaks up water over time, in small doses the sponge can do its job and if it is allowed enough time and space between exposure the water within it will dry out allowing the sponge to continue absorbing any additional water it encounters. The problem occurs when the sponge is over used, it becomes saturated to a point where it can no longer absorb any excess liquid and even the smallest drop will spill out. It is in fact at full capacity and now unable to do its job.
I am currently feeling like a very old and full sponge and my goal is to try and create an environment which allows me to not just dry out a bit in between uses as if I have been left on the side of a damp and dirty draining board but to be so dry, crisp and clean that it is as if I have just been put through a washing machine and then tumbled dried on a delicate setting, all ready and thirsty to absorb any liquid life throws at me.
What led me to reach near saturation? I can’t pin point the exact moment that I started to absorb water in volumes that prevented me from drying out but I can pin point several incidents that felt like I was either suddenly plunged into a cold bucket of water or thrown into a big, muddy puddle to slowly soak up the gunky mess. The run up to my thirtieth birthday seems like the ideal place to start, I believe this was the making of the adult me and the moment that my fresh, fuzzy green scouring pad slowly started to wear off. A few years prior to the big three zero a fresh faced and enthusiastic twenty seven year old and her husband decided it was time to start a family.
“A bitch slap in the face by mother nature”
I am a forever optimist and am always convinced something good is about to happen, I actually struggle to manage my expectations at times meaning I am regularly faced with disappointment. Each month was ‘THE’ month until it wasn’t. A bitch slap in the face by mother nature with all the usual stomach cramps and mood swings to accompany the ever increasing disappointment. As we crept into the second year of mission make a baby I definitely started to feel slightly deflated and defeated. Exhaustion along with bloating, headaches and mood swings led me to visit my doctor who after numerous bloods tests and investigations diagnosed me with coeliac disease and not a secret pregnancy like I had convinced myself, optimism to a new level. Applying my usual positive attitude I happily adopted my new gluten free life convincing myself this was the single one reason why I couldn’t get those outrageously expensive sticks to show the one little word I longed for. More months, slowly absorbing those drops of water until suddenly I was thrown into a cold bucket of the wet stuff. Discussions of IVFT with doctors which rolled seamlessly into tests and before I knew it just days before I turned thirty Mr C was chasing me around the room trying to give me that first injection which effectively put me into a temporary menopause and kicked off the start of our IVFT journey. I don’t feel like I have the ability to truly represent the experience and emotions of this journey in written word and certainly not within another post so will sum up and fast forward to the end of the process and after developing a very serious and not so common side effect, OHSS I eventually got my big fat positive.
My pregnancy was delightful but like any and every pregnancy comes with bags of niggly little worries and concerns. Within this period we sold our house in Leeds and at thirty six weeks pregnant moved back to a small, rural village in Nottinghamshire which is where I grew up. Moving while heavily pregnant is an experience like no other and something I said I would never want to go through again. If we fast forward to this very moment, I am writing this just weeks after moving house again but this time with a two and half year old and a six month old baby. I just don’t know where to begin to describe how hideous this experience has been. I am getting ahead of myself so let’s take it back to the first house move. A beautiful three hundred year old house needing lots of work and modernisation. I was in love with the potential and thought of the project. I laugh at pregnant, pre child me now thinking I would have so much time on my hands that I could renovate the house in between feeds and during naps.
Eva was pulled into our world eight days overdue in quite a dramatic fashion. My birth story like so many others was far from straight forward and in true me fashion just two weeks later I developed sudden post partum haemorrhaging. I seem to like racking up all these rare medical health conditions, if only I could get a badge to sew onto a jacket for each one like an achievement badge in the brownies. In all seriousness though after I realised I hadn’t wet myself and the liquid was in fact blood I actually believed it might be the end and on the drive to the hospital, through blurry vision I started dictating to Mr C how he needed to raise Eva in a world without me. Clearly, I survived and was in all likeliness not as close to my death bed as I felt. The next fifteen months were a complete whirlwind, a crazy rollercoaster ride of parenthood and house renovating. Enough to make anyone’s head spin but each room ticked off felt like a victory.
Just as I felt like life was getting back on track and sleep had become a regular occurrence again a visit to Tesco changed all that. Whilst walking down one of the isles I suddenly spotted one of those ridiculously expensive sticks that I had used so often just a couple of years earlier and it dawned on me I felt a little sick, a little bloated and a little overdue for my period. No prizes for guessing what comes next. Two was always my magic number but after the journey we had gone through to get Eva we had decided to just leave it up to fate and I hadn’t really given it any more thought until that magical word that changes everything flashed straight up without any hesitation. Stress and happiness are not always opposites I find I am often overwhelmed by a deep-set feeling of happiness and fullness while my surface emotion is just stress and exhaustion. The thought of another baby while filling me with joy truly terrified me. Mr C worked long shifts and had a hell of a commute to work meaning I often loan parented until his days off. I couldn’t get my head around how it was possible to be outnumbered by two tiny humans and survive on a daily basis.
“We talked a lot, shouted often and cried at times”
During this pregnancy Mr C got accepted to sit his Inspectors boards within the police. A profession he had dedicated around eighteen years to. It involved a lot of preparation and time spent preparing away from his family. When he received the email to say he had not been successful the stress of the last few years suddenly and quite dramatically came spilling over, it was the last bit of liquid needed for him to reach full saturation. The professional disappointment, the injustice, the long hours, the commute, the time spent away from his young family, the pressure to keep our lovely new home over our heads, the sleep deprivation and pretty much every other disappointment he had faced throughout life came spilling over. He had reached his limit, taken on too much water and needed time to dry out. I truly wish I could have been a better wife and offered more support to him but in truth I was pretty saturated myself. Running around after a toddler whilst pregnant with a big baby was literally taking it all out of me so at the end of the day I just had nothing extra to give. We talked a lot, shouted often and cried at times but there is no option when children are involved other than just getting up and getting on with it. No time to take a break and dry out.
The plan was weeks in the making little snippets of conversations here and there which gradually evolved from a crazy pipe dream to seeming like something that could actually become a reality. Our choices where simple. Carry on the way we were and race to see who burnt out or drowned first or change life. We decided to be brave and chase our happy.
As I mentioned above I feel like I have led a fortunate life and in the making of the grand plan realise I had and do have opportunities and choices that many people do not. But I am still giving us a big pat on the back for not choosing to settle, to try something new and to live the life we choose not the one we are expected to live. In a nutshell the plan evolved into this. Sell our lovely big house which had started to feel like a burden around our necks, the lack of time, energy and funds to get it to reach its full potential weighed heavy on us both. It was our muddy puddle which we were left in to slowly absorb all the murky water. Just a constant source of unnecessary stress. Using the equity we would release buy a small semidetached house in a beautiful village just a few minutes away. Build a two-storey extension to give us a little more space and to live mortgage free which would give Mr C the financial freedom to quit his job and take over my dad’s business running a fleet of taxis and private hire vehicles. The hope being that although he would still need to work long and at times unsociable hours we could use the flexibility of self employment and the type of work for better quality family time. The ultimate goal being to simplify life in any areas we can control and reduce stress, to have financial freedom and quality family time. Surely nothing else matters in life?
So to sum up in the last four years we can pretty much tick off all the biggest causes of stress with a few extra ones thrown in for good measure. Infertility, coeliac disease diagnosis, IVFT, OHSS, pregnancy and birth (twice), Post-partum haemorrhaging, moving house (twice) and currently we are renovating and extending the Semi-detached house mentioned above in the grand plan. I am going to try and document and share our journey, our search for simple in the hope that it inspires others to take a leap and follow their dreams, to choose the life they want to live and to realise in life it is never to late or to hard to change. It won’t be easy but nothing easy is worth doing. I hope my children get to read our story when they are older and value the time we could all spend together and the memories we have made as a result of the decisions we are making now. Our search for simple starts here.