Saturday, December 13, 2014

Due Dates, Death, Dying and lots of other $#!t

I know, this is not going to be a Blissful post, but...

Well, I have been reading lots recently about how we all make our online world seem better that our real world, which makes other people feel shit about their own life when they compare it to everyone's social profile and that could be leading to depression - especially amongst young people. I don't know if there's any research to back that up, and I can't be arsed to investigate that right now, but anyway - here's a post that means I won't make your life feel crap compared to mine.

I also want to get it out - this blog is for me after all, it's cathartic. I'm going to put it all in one post and then move on. I decided I would write it yesterday, as yesterday is when I should have sat down to write my Christmas letter. Seeing as I couldn't think of anything positive to say, I decided not to do a Christmas letter this year. Hopefully I will be able to do a new address card with a happier letter in a few months time.

So here goes.

Due date 

Yesterday would have been my due date - had I not miscarried at the end of May. Not really much more to say here. I'm doing OK on that really, I think I have accepted it. I have given up on my old eggs now so I will always have only one biological child. Adoption and fostering are still very much on the cards so this doesn't mean I will only ever be the Mum of one. I have seriously considered donor eggs and embryos too. I don't think I have any attachment to the need to be biologically /genetically related to my second child. I don't really feel the need to go through another pregnancy or birth either, but I would like BB to have a sibling and I do feel that there is room in our family for at least one more. Despite getting over the loss, I think the due dates for both of the babies I miscarried will always be in my mind as the dates come around each year. A time for reflection on what might have been and to acknowledge those little ones that I never had the chance to meet.


There has been much in the conversation about my own death. BB became aware of death in the summer, when everyone was talking about PP's mum who died. "What means died?" became a big question for him (I intend to blog about this in its own right some time). I have done all that I can to answer the questions sensitively and honestly. We have been to graveyards, I have bought books, we have brought the concept of impermanence into our daily lives. For a while he was saying "I wish you won't die" to me several times a day. Now it's down to a few times a week. I wish I won't die too. In fact, one of the things that has made me decide not to try and carry another child myself is the fact that I wish I won't die too. I am a bit old for that kind of thing, and not exactly the fittest person on this planet. I really don't want to depart this world prematurely and leave BB without a Mummy.

I have mentioned before that I have had problems with severe pain in my arms. The worst ever experience I had of this was just after my first miscarriage when I ended up having the paramedics come out to me. It had happened before and it has happened since. At the time of the severe episode it was put down to a trapped nerve. It never made sense though - the physio was a waste of time, he really didn't listen to what I had to say, and although his dodgy questionnaire that I had to complete would have made him look great, I always believed that the healing that occurred was happening despite his intervention, and not because of it. I still get episodes of chronic pain. Finally a few months ago my doctor decided that I really should see a neurologist. This I did a few weeks ago. He thinks I have brachial neuritis. This makes far more sense. Nearly everything he said rang true, whereas the trapped nerve/physio thing never did seem right. This theory accounts for episodes I experienced years ago in Alice Springs when the secretary form my work had to come and collect me from home and take me to hospital because I couldn't drive. It accounts for why I still have reduced sensation in my left hand. It accounts for why it occasionally occurs on my right side too. The more I read about it, the more I think his diagnosis is spot on.

What we don't know yet is what has caused it. There are several possibilities. Motorcycle accidents are one of the most common causes, and I did have one of those in Thailand in 1999 where I was hit by a truck. But, I think the effects would have been more immediate if that were the cause.

The presence of an auto-immune disease is another possible cause. This is the one that the neurologist believes is the cause in my case - it is known as idiopathic brachial neuritis, and essentially my immune system is attaching the myelin sheath of my nerves. This fits with the fact that altering my diet to a Paleo diet helped massively. It also fits with what I have learned since, which is that on the occasions when I decide to make bread using almond flour I still suffer - maybe even more than with wheat. I have read up a lot about the Auto Immune Protocol and I would say that avoiding many of the foods that are on AIP diet list seems to help - though I have never done it this strictly. I also asked the neurologist of he thought that moderation the diet could help and he almost laughed when he said no. I don't always believe what medically trained people say though - sometimes people that know about health are more helpful than those that have learned about medicine! So for now I am going with this theory. And once Christmas is over I am going to try and be better at this Paleo thing - without a doubt it has helped me when I have managed to stick to it.

Another possible cause is a brain tumour. Obviously this is not good news. However, the fact that I have had the symptoms on and off to varying degrees for nearly ten years makes me think this can not be the case. If it was brain tumour I probably wouldn't still be writing about it, would I?

Multiple Sclerosis is another possibility. Again not really an option I want to dwell on right now.

So, the next step is to have some MRI scans on both my brain and spinal cord to rule out cancer and MS - the date for that is 14th January. And it seems that auto immune disease is quite a good option here, and despite the neurologists opinion, I do believe I can help myself with diet if this is found to be the cause, so I am hopeful. Roll on January though.

DD has also been continuously bringing up the topic of my death. He wants me to change my will to make him BB's guardian when I die. I was considering it until recently. In fact I had planned to do it. But the fact that this actually could be a reality sooner rather than later has made me made me think seriously about it. What do I want for BB when I die? If I were to die tomorrow I would want his life to change as little as it possibly can. That means that my parents continue to be a big part of his life and that he still sees them regularly, and my sisters too. Also that he carries on doing the same things, going to nursery, swimming, seeing his friends. DD is also important of course - he sees him regularly, visiting every couple of weeks, and PP sees him occasionally too, maybe 3 or 4 times a year. I would want it all to stay the same, so that the loss of me would have minimal impact.

My youngest sister is currently recorded as the guardian in the event of my death, and having seen her and BB together recently I realised that this is still the right choice for now - he would easily adapt to her as a mother figure. She is the only person, other than me, that he asks for to dress him and bathe him. She is the only person, other than me, that he has said "I love you" to. If I am to die and she is to take my place, that will be the least possible change for BB. She is also a play therapist, so this would be great in helping BB to deal with the loss of his mother. It is in my will that my sister would maintain the contact with DD so that part of his life would not change either. Therefore my sister as guardian is still the best choice and I have decided not to change my will at this point in time. DD is not impressed!


My Nana is dying. She is 99. She has had a great life, most of it in good health. She lived in her own home until a few weeks ago. We moved her into a nursing home on my birthday at the beginning of November. Her dying is a humbling experience. It also very much by the book. This info about the journey towards death is remarkably accurate, as are many more things I have read. Just two weeks ago today she ate a meal, and gained the energy for her last journey into the physical realm. She wanted to go outside, and to take BB to see Santa (all in the grounds of her residential home). It was the first and last meal she has had in a while. They had a great time.

Now she seems to know her time has come. She is sleeping more and more. We still visit every day. Today she said very little, other than making some very quiet "choo choo" noises to BB, who is a lover of trains. It is beautiful that she can still play with him even at this time. He is lovely with her too - giving her kisses and stoking her knees. He always seems to know what is appropriate. He took the "Shopping Game" on the day that she ate and had a few hours of energy. Then jigsaws to be quiet. He made her a star, as we have talked about people coming from the stars and going back to the stars, He won't sing Twinkle Twinkle little star to her though "not today!!!" - he sings Jingle Bells instead. Perhaps he is saving Twinkle Twinkle for a more appropriate time.

It's hard to know how long she has. The doctor says days or weeks, but definitely not months. A few days ago when she could talk she said that she hopes she doesn't lay here for long, that she doesn't want to spoil our Christmas, and that she hopes she's gone before Father Christmas comes. The next day though she said "We will never forget this Christmas will we?", and "Are we having chicken for lunch?"

She has cancer. Ovarian cancer which has spread to her liver, kidneys and lungs. The mass is so big now that we have had to cut her underwear. She could have a biopsy and treatment but she says no. She has wondered for a while why she has not died yet. All her friends and family have. She is now very thin, wasting away, saying little and sleeping for most of the day. I think days not weeks, but I could be wrong.

I think she has now dealt with all the things she needs to. She has thanked the people in her life that have helped her and been her friends. She is comfortable. That's all we can hope for. But it's hard to witness.

The other $#!t

Firstly lets do work. I have been working for PP for over 2 years. I am on call pretty much 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and earn about £140 a month (before expenses - less than half that after), solving whatever problems have occurred. I do invoicing, record keeping, VAT returns, research etc etc, whatever he wants, whenever he wants. I really felt passionately about his business, I feel I worked harder on it than him. I identified areas where there were losses being made and suggested ways to make improvements. All were ignored. I have done much of the work without charging, the rest of it at a just breaking even price. I get items through US customs at 2 am, solve problems, track expenses, and throughout October got up at 3 am almost every day to get all the necessary work done on time when he changed accounting systems. I completely exhausted myself, and in all honesty the fact that the last few months have been so hard to deal with is probably related to the fact that I existed on 4 - 5 hours sleep a night for the whole month to get this job done. I was impressed with my achievements, but sadly the boss was not. Instead he wanted me to go and talk to him about how i could be more efficient!!!! I couldn't believe it.  I was the only fucking efficient thing in his whole damn business - but he didn't listen to any thing I said as to him it seems I am just a brain dead book keeper, a woman, a mother, and stupid. So I quit! To be nice I said I would carry on to the end of the year so that this years finances are done. I will continue into Jan too, just to finish off this years accounts, because I like things to be done properly and I recognise that he can not afford to pay someone else to waste time working it all out, but then I am done. I am counting the days.

In a way I am in a bit of a muddle having quit. I need to do 16 hours a week as a self employed person to continue to get my tax credits. However, this is averaged over a year, so I am confident that I have done enough already this financial year to see me through to April 5th. I have other lines of business too (BabyCalm & ToddlerCalm and writing). Hopefully I can build on those between now and April so that my hours are up ready for 2015. Both of those businesses are more profitable too, so I should earn more for my time overall. I am also keeping my eye out for other opportunities, and a couple of things are already in the pipeline so I think it will all work out for the best.

A few days after I got the email about the meeting on improving my efficiency I was supposed to go and visit DD and PP. In fact, that meeting was supposed to take place during my recreational visit. I had already decided that I had better not drive - I was so very exhausted from the lack of sleep and from all the emotions involved with helping my mum, arguing with my dad (see later) and moving my nan to a home, so we were going to go by train. In the interests of not telling PP to go and Fuck himself, I decided it best to cancel the visit entirely. Maintaining a good relationship with DD and PP is a priority for me. I did explain in my resignation, which I thought I worded quite nicely, that I thought it best to stop working together before it ruined our relationship.

In hindsight, I think the relationship with DD and PP was already in dire straits though. This was one of the things I was unsure about blogging about  -  it is kind of airing my dirty laundry online... but one of the reasons I blogged about this whole process was to help other women who might be considering using a known donor. I would be doing those readers making this decision a disservice if I wasn't honest about the issues that I am facing as a consequence of having used a known donor. At the end of September DD informed me that they had seen a lawyer together and that he had advised them that the law had changed since our agreement. He said that DD now had lots more rights, for example he could report me as a child smuggler if I took BB overseas without his permission, and that it would be in both our best interests if DD went on the birth certificate and started paying maintenance. Of course I looked this up to see what the changes were exactly and how they could affect me, and wether following this advice was indeed the best thing to do for BB and I. Despite consulting google, several online forums with women that had used sperm donors and legal forums,  I found that there was no change in the law at all. Either they were making it up just to scare me or the lawyer was covering his arse for getting it wrong when he advised them in the first place. The thing that was made clear though was that DD was no longer in agreement with our agreement. Also, whereas in the past it has felt very much like we were all a family and in this together, it is now very much DD and PP as a united front against me. DD even admitted this - apparently having a ring on your finger changes things (read in patronising tone)! I feel very alone and scared. Whilst I will happily say out loud that he is good at being Dad and I am pleased that BB has him in his life, I honestly think my advice to anyone considering using a known donor would now be that it would be much easier to go it alone. 

We can even go back before this. If you remember I was going to have IVF at a clinic. DD and PP had said no to any further attempts at TTC and I decided that it wasn't over for me. In consideration of DD, I decided to go to the clinic where DD had previously donated (less accessible for me and far more expense than a local clinic, but I wanted to keep the options open for them) just in case they changed their mind. DD did change his mind. I spent a few thousand pounds on tests and was all ready to go for IVF using his previous donations when he changed his mind - on the grounds that he could not go to court for the second child if we went through a clinic. That's why we decided to try again at home. I don't really know why I agreed to that looking back - it just wasted another year, and resulted in another miscarriage - but I want so much to be Mum to another child, for BB to have a sibling, and it would have been nice if they were full siblings, and DD is a good Dad...

Anyway, now he is very cross at me.  Apparently he thinks that being around me is like walking on eggshells. I tried to comprehend that but I can't see anything I have done that could make him feel like that, other than saying that I am sticking to our original agreement and being scared shitless as to what he is up to - why would they be having conversations like that with a lawyer? 

Then there is Christmas. Back in September DD sent me an email of the dates he was planning to be at my house, and these included Christmas. I actually think it would be nice for BB to have Christmas with his Dad, and whilst I was surprised that he wanted to be here I was happy to accommodate it. I hadn't mentioned it to my folks though, who we usually spend Christmas with. I guess I thought we could juggle it somehow, and still visit them for part of the day at least. Anyway - DD apparently told  my dad he would be at their house for Xmas. I was unaware of this whole conversation, but basically no one tells my Dad anything - not even me. Meanwhile my Mum was having a bit of a panic, my Nana is dying of cancer, who knows what xmas will be like, it might even be spent in a residential home, at best it would be veiled by the impending death. PP and DD usually have a much better time than that. Would they really want to be at my parents house? How could my parents accommodate them and ensure they have a good day, and be with Nana? PP spent a 'last Christmas' with his mum (who died of cancer) just 2 years ago. Did he really want to witness that again? 

Then DD suggested himself that perhaps this wasn't the best year for it. My parents were relieved and said yes, go and have a nice Christmas elsewhere. However, despite it being his idea not to come, DD is now having a big sook that he is not welcome and is blaming me. Apparently he is never coming to a family event with my family ever again because he is not wanted!  I couldn't even engage in the conversation, I have no energy left for it right now and there's no point until he gets the idea that it's not all about him! 


My relationship with my Dad has also been in dire straits - whilst all this was going on... My Dad has a heart issue and his tablets weren't working. He was stressing out. Meanwhile my Nana was still attempting to live at home but calling my mum out every day as she couldn't cope but didn't want "help".  My dad was moaning at my mum every time she went to help my Nan (her Mum)... and my poor Mum... she was just being pulled from pillar to post. I tried to help where I could, and stepped in to help find a nursing home for my Nan when it seemed necessary (this was in the middle of the month where I was working all hours for PP). There was a time when my dad hung up on me on the phone and then started saying things about me to my mum which were not true, but he hadn't actually hung up properly so I heard it all. I was really angry and made that clear - I thought he would never speak to me again... but he did! And he has new pills now so feels much better. And now he is better he is being really supportive to my mum too so thats good. And both my sisters have been home too.

Oh, and my house is on the market - apparently that is one of the most stressful things in life. Only because you have to keep your house clean and tidy and ready for visitors at all times whilst all this shit is going on! In comparison to everything else selling your house is a breeze!

It is going to get better. I am pleased that I stopped dyeing my hair and redirected the money to join the gym - without 3 yoga classes a week I am not sure where I would be mentally, but I can bet to would be in a worse space than it is now. I am doing OK really, despite it all.

So sorry for this unblissful post - but now its all out of my head I can move on. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Making money management more manageable

How much time do you spend/waste/lose managing your personal finances? 

For me it seems to be becoming a ridiculous amount of time. I think I do quite a good job of it, balancing different accounts, paying all the bills on time, keeping track of the direct debits that are going out, coming up, saving for the big annual ones, like car and home insurance. My mum taught me to keep a record of what I spend and what I spend it on, and I still do that now, using a computer though rather than the little red cash book I started with. I have a fairly accurate picture of where all our money goes and I do use that info to try and make adjustments where I can.

One reason that money management got so much more complex and time consuming is due to all the different bank accounts you seem to need these days. The current account, the savings account, the ISA, the high(er) interest savings account, the credit card, the store cards, the regular savings account, the "mums allowance" account (in which I pay a little each week so that I can afford things like clothes and gym membership for myself without feeling guilty for taking from the family budget).  Then there's the business account, the paypal account, BB's savings account... On top of that, you just seem to get it sorted, and you find that the high interest account you just moved all your savings into is reverting to 0.1% at the end of the month! Grrr!

I am always juggling money, paying things into different accounts to cover the bills, to try and save, to maximise the little interest we can get. I pay everything the cheapest way that I can - a year upfront if its cheaper, by monthly direct debit when that's the most efficient option. I always pay off my credit card in full to avoid paying interest. I have alarms set on my phone to remind me on the first day of the month that I need to transfer money into the savings account (or else the interest rate goes down). Without a doubt I do it well, but whereas I used to enjoy it, now I resent all the time that it takes. I have better things to be doing with my life. 

Recently I was asked to take a look at the Santander 1|2|3 account. Apparently Santander recently ran a survey which found that 26 percent of households don't read their bills properly, and over a million households don't even open their bills at all. Obviously I am at the opposite extreme to that, but I decided I would take a look into it anyway. 

In summary, the account pays both cashback on your household bills and very competitive interest rates (3% if your balance is over £3000).  They have even created a simple calculator to help you see how much you could save. I entered in all my household bills and it comes up with a figure of £231 annually for me. 

I did a bit of research online to see what others were saying about this account. Martin Lewis compares it to the ISA and mumsnetters seem to be finding it quite good too. 

To my surprise, I found myself opening yet another account! 

But... the interest rate here is better than I am getting on any of my savings accounts, so if I move my savings, my income and my direct debits to here it can all be done in one place - that is by far the biggest attraction for me, getting cash back on your bills is just an added bonus. I will be keeping the mums allowance account of course, and my old current account will become a place where I pay myself a budgeted amount each week for other expenses like entertainment food and fuel so I can be sure I don't overspend. 

Then I can close all the other accounts, saving time and money - that has to be a good thing. Hopefully it will work out as good as it first seems. I'll be sure to let you know if it doesn't.

Disclaimer: This is a featured post with Santander. The story is however 100% true, I did really just open a new account as a result of these investigations and I do actually think it will save me time and money - and I promise to come back and tell you if that's not the case!