I spent what felt like most of last night awake, wondering if I was going into labour. And for some reason it made me feel really stressed out, not knowing whether this was actually going to be the day or not. In the end the other-half-of-us plugged me into my ipod to try to relax. I spent the time remembering so many little things we have done together over the years, all the amazing times we've had together, perhaps triggered by the music I was listening to. And as I relaxed, suddenly my backache vanished, leaving me feeling like a pile of jelly (and a little let down that this wasn't 'it').
It's a hard game this unknown timing. If only the waiting was more like this:
When I first fell pregnant, all of my and the other-half-of-us's grandparents were still alive. Our potential baby would have eight great-grandparents! Nine months later, one is sadly no longer with us, one completely lost to dementia, one in hospital with recently diagnosed dementia, one struggling generally after a successful operation to remove lung cancer, and one with a fractured pelvis in hospital. The fragility of life has never been highlighted so much to me. As we wait to welcome our new generation of family, the lights are dimming for people so important to us throughout our lives.
My grandparents have inspired me and taught me so much, and it makes me so sad that they aren't likely to be able to do the same for my children. Poetry, art, music, games and books from one side; DIY, gardening, walking and baking from the other. And above all, the amazing love and encouragement they have given us from the moment we were born. I just hope I can pass on at least some of these things to this person-to-be.
Yet among the sadness, there is still joy. The baby already has a series of cardigans and jackets and a wonderful bobble hat knitted specially by one great-grandmother, with more to come. It has hand-me-down great-grannie knits from when I was a baby. It has a nursery inspired by birds, a love of which has been passed down through almost all of the great-grandparents, including artwork and singing soft toys inherited from the other-half-of-us's 'Gampy' who died only a few months ago. And we can still introduce this great-grandbaby to seven great-grandparents! What an amazing thought.
We are suddenly at 37 weeks. This baby bear would count as full term if (s)he decided to make an appearance today. In some ways it seems like I have been pregnant for a long time, in others I still don't feel ready for this arrival.
We now have a pushchair in the hall, cot in the nursery, moses basket ready to go in our bedroom, and hospital bags packed. We still do not have a complete bathroom, with a half tiled shower enclosure, although the sink, toilet and bath are all in. I think I'll relax as soon as the shower is in working order and I no longer have to beg shower use off friends!
I am still working, although think I will stop at 38 weeks as I think this little one has engaged, making walking around all day a little less comfortable! I have been enjoying getting to know new people around here, and baking lots of interesting cakes, muffins, quiches, and meals. I think I'll miss working in the cafe, especially the company.
3rd March 2014. As I drove westwards, into the setting sun, it really hit that one chapter of my life had finished, and another was beginning. It seemed both a suitable ending and beginning, watching the golden sun sink below the horizon and fill the sky with a wonderful palette of changing colours as I drove away from one part of my life, towards the next adventure.
The last four and a half years have been some of the toughest moments of my life, the most testing, yet the time I have made some of the best friendships I will ever make, and had some life changing experiences. In October 2009, I started my PhD, living on my own for the first time in my life, in a new city, knowing no-one. Slowly settling in to the work, I made some friends who will always be part of my life, never to be replaced, no matter how far apart we are.
In early 2010 I spent six weeks living on Svalbard in the Arctic, attending the University Centre in Svalbard for a glaciology course. Driving skidoos across sea ice and snow covered fjord edges, visiting the frozen-in calving faces of glaciers, walking inside glaciers in incredible ice caves, learning to cross country ski up and down glaciers, watching the northern lights in all their splendour, seeing a polar bear in the wild, making brilliant friends, and really just experiencing life in an altogether extreme environment. At the time I documented this in another blog which can still be seen at http://frozen-toes.blogspot.co.uk/.
The fjords of southeast Greenland
At the end of summer 2010, I made a field trip to southeast Greenland, visiting the most remote places I have ever been. Some of the fjords have only ever seen only a handful of people, out of helicopter range, with no settlements along their shores. This experience will never leave me, living in a rusty old fishing boat, conducting studies of the depth and structure of the water column. The light was ever changing, never the same twice, a photographers' paradise. The most amazing landscapes, lit in the most stunning ways, incredible sunrises and sunsets, northern lights, rolling fog, crackling sea-ice, icebergs crashing on the hull, incredible silence and stillness, rolling waves, sudden storms, amazingly sculpted icebergs, howling huskies, whales, dolphins, dead seals, abandoned villages, a helicopter over the glacier...colours, sounds, smells and experiences never to be forgotten. Definitely an experience that cannot have been had as a tourist.
Fast forward through data collection, analysis, conferences (including La Jolla, California), trips to Cambridge to look at old photo archives, trips to Oban for oceanographic analysis assistance, teaching, reading of many many papers, an infinitely long amount of time writing, submission, waiting, the viva, corrections, submission, final approval, printing and binding, and the final handing in of the bound thesis, and we arrive in March 2014, nearly four and a half years after this journey began.
Today I have started clearing up the computer. Deleting all the old permutations of my thesis, all the work-in-progress figures and keeping only the main files for the future. I have recycled endless old notes and papers, and we are finally gaining some much needed space in the house. Now as Dr., I go on to the new chapter, becoming a mother, and may it be just as amazing an experience, but with hopefully a little less stress!