The gift of giving

This year as part of setting our new family Christmas traditions, amongst other things, we talked about volunteering becoming part of our holidays.  So I set out to start this tradition by taking a day off work and helping out with a local charity that our organisation donates money to – The Joy Fund.  This charity collects money throughout the year to purchase new toys for children who might ordinarily not receive toys at Christmas.  Every single penny donated goes to purchasing toys, the administrative costs are covered by the local newspaper The Virginia Pilot.  This huge programme is run in co-ordination with the Salvation Army, Marine’s Toys for Tots and Operation Hope.  Last year almost 10 000 local children received toys at Christmas.  In addition to toys, many of the families will also receive brand new clothes for the children and a bag of groceries with a frozen chicken.

I volunteered to help out on the first day that the parents come to pick up the toys, clothes and groceries.  The parents get to pick the toys from an incredible selection, some lucky children even get brand new bikes!  There were some 800 bikes ready to be distributed.  Volunteers help the parents with their ‘shopping’ and go around with the parents helping them pick out the toys; my job for the day was to help load up groceries into their shopping trolley.

groceries

every family received a bag of groceries – this was the pile of already packed bags (by local school children), ready to be distributed

I got to meet the parents after they had loaded up their trolleys with the toys and clothes.  You would not believe how emotional some of these parents were.  They were simply overwhelmed with the generosity they were receiving.  Honestly, some of the trolleys had way more toys than I would probably buy my own children.  But these toys might be the only toys the children will get for the year.  The whole operation was simply incredible.

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parents get to choose the toys, volunteers help them with the shopping and make sure the toys are distributed out fairly

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toys!

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more toys!

There were times throughout the day that I welled up with tears with just the thought of those children opening the presents on Christmas day!  The vastness of this operation also made me a little bit sad that in our own local area there are so many families living below the poverty line.  We just don’t see them.

It wasn’t until towards the end of my shift that I thought about the toys I was helping the parents load up with, seeing the vast amount of baby clothes and toys; it hit me hard seeing the number of children some of these families had, many had four or five.  For a brief moment I was insanely jealous.  How ridiculous is that?

Anyway, over lunch we sat with an 84 year old lady who had been volunteering at this programme for over 15 years.  She told me that sadly a few of these parents will sell some of the more expensive toys on for cash to buy drugs.  She also told me of a story one year she helped a seemingly ungrateful and snotty lady with her shopping trolley full of toys to her car – it was a brand new Mercedes Benz, the lady then barked at the old lady to be careful of the paint on the car.  So the old lady pushed the trolley at her and said “Well do it yourself then!” and walked off!  You can’t screen out all the bad eggs, the Salvation Army works hard with the schools to prevent fraudulent applications to the programme or stop the parents from selling on items donated to them.  I’d say that 99.9% of the programme is all goodness and there will be many happy children with a happy smile on Christmas morning 🙂

If we are here next year I will definitely volunteer again with Chris.  What a wonderfully warming family Christmas tradition 🙂

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It was an emotional day, hard work lugging around groceries, but rewarding in the festive spirit

‘Tis the season…Pt 2

‘Tis the season to be jolly.  True.  But my feelings can’t help but be a bit up-and-down like a see-saw.  So I decided to split my post into two.  Depending on how you are feeling this season, you may only want to read one or the other.  Maybe you feel a little bit like me, so read both!

Pt 1: ‘Tis the season to be jolly

Pt 2: ‘Tis the season to be not so jolly


‘Tis the season to be not so jolly

I already blogged about the difficulties of the holiday season for those of us struggling with infertility (my post is here), so I won’t cover old ground.  But this isn’t always the season to be jolly.  And as much as I have equally had lot’s of jolly things going on, I have recognised that life isn’t always quite so jolly at this time of year.

1. Gift Shopping.  I hate shopping at the best of times, and shopping with the Christmas crowds – my worst nightmare – I’ve written about this before.  Shopping for baby gifts – EUGHHHH.  I am an emotional roller coaster with this one!  I love buying cute baby stuff, but when I see cute baby Christmas stuff – especially adorable onesies with “My 1st Christmas” I’m a wreck.  I don’t think I need to say anymore about this one.

2. Distance.  I am a few thousand miles from some of my greatest friends and of course my family.  So when my mum told me she had received my Christmas Parcel and cried, I cried.  Damn it.   It’s not easy being far from loved ones at this time of year.  We have had lovely offers from friends inviting us over to theirs for Christmas Day, but in fact this is something we just can’t do this year.  We are going to start our own family traditions – I wrote about that already – we are excited to do this, but it’s not easy to do.  Some people may say that we are lucky we don’t have to deal with ‘forced family reunions’ with nosey inquisitive family members; but even if we were back in the UK we are lucky that we have the most supportive family that this wouldn’t happen for us.

3.  Trying to Conceive.  Officially we are allowed to try to conceive again, but I have mixed emotions about it.  I wrote a separate post about it so I won’t repeat it, but this has been playing my mind this week.

4. Facebook.  A friend posted on facebook what seemed to be a pregnancy announcement, until you get to the bottom of the long carefully written post and realise they are just talking about santa clause.  It was poor taste for someone like me struggling to get pregnant…but even more so because I felt sad that this couple may just find them selves to be one of the “1 in 8 facing infertility” one day.  I wanted to tell them it was in poor taste, but then realised that I would just come across as a scrooge bag as so many people had already commented how funny it was.

5. Money worries.  As my credit card bares the scars of many swipes this holiday season and our bill from the infertility clinic shows up with a surprise payment from September, I have the constant feeling of every penny counts.  Actually, we are very fortunate to be in a comfortable financial position, but I want to keep our options open for the future and don’t want to close a door because I didn’t keep control of our outgoings.  But Christmas is a time for giving, so in general I don’t feel guilty for the gifts I purchase or the charities we give to – it’s just the gifts that Chris and I give each other and the seemingly endless nights of eating out that make me feel guilty!!!

6. Coping with loss.  This applies to anyone who has lost a loved one, not just those who have had to deal with losing a child, as well as anyone who has experienced loss of something of their physical self.  Ultimately the Christmas holidays plays heavy on the heart of someone who has lost their hopes and dreams.  As I sip my cup of tea in my new mug “When it rains look for rainbows” this reminds me to remember the positive things and love that I have been lucky to have experienced and made me a richer person, and “When it’s dark look for stars”, this reminds me to look up and remember our dreams are still out there and we are being watched over.  It’s still difficult, and gets harder getting closer to the big day itself.

be nice

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you nothing about.  Be kind. Always.


We have far more jollynesss to keep us going for the festive season  but it’s these kinds of things that remind me it isn’t easy for everyone, and even more so for many more people who don’t have the jolly things I described in my earlier post.

On the subject of coping with the festive season.  Resolve has an excellent fact sheet about coping with the holidays (here) – it provides a collection of great articles I recommend for reading over a cup of tea.  You may need some tissues to go with that too.

O-Day

Chris and I shower together – we have a bath that has two shower heads at either end, so we share.  It’s impossible to switch either one off, so we have to shower together to save on the water!!!  It was a bit weird at first, but we have discovered this is the one time of day that we can have a conversation without interruptions.  Today, as we were getting in the shower together Chris asked me

“when will it be baby making time?”.

I knew it was today.  Today is ovulation day.  I don’t need an ovulation predictor kit to tell me this.  I am just so experienced at it, I just know when it’s going to happen.  All the signs and symptoms are here.  O-Day.

I turned to Chris and said that I am not sure I want to try this month.  (For some quite selfish reasons I’ll go into a minute.)  He said “Maybe if we are not trying our hardest, we are not ready to become parents”.  I told him that is a perception not a fact….  I was pretty mad at him for saying that.

….And then I just burst into tears.

I can tell you that being in the shower whilst crying is a great place to be.  You can cry your hardest and it just doesn’t matter where the tears and snot roll down you face.

Let me tell you why I cried.  I cried because I do feel selfish.  I thought about not trying this month because my period is due on my Birthday, a few days after Christmas.  Between O-day and then (the dreaded two week wait) I would feel guilty for every sip of alcohol I drink. Which will mean I will not want to drink.  But I LOVE Christmas drinks – mulled wine, bubbly, mimosas, red wine, hod toddies, baileys coffee, port. I’m not an alcoholic BTW!! Last year, I had a couple of Christmas drinks knowing there was a chance I could be pregnant.

I am also going to be in the 2 week wait worry – and I am out of practice of this.  The last time I was in the 2WW worry I remember feeling incredibly emotional.  I have just got over being sad about the way things worked out after IVF 1.  I want to be emotionally sound going into IVF 2.  If I get a negative test (which will happen to be on my Birthday by the way) I get yet another punch in the stomach that I can’t get pregnant on my own.  To which I already know this.  Why do I want to mess with my sanity when I am in a good place right now?  I would love to not go through another round of IVF.  Seriously, it would be the best thing in the world.

Unexplained infertility leaves you with feelings of ‘There is nothing stopping you get pregnant’.  Maybe we could get pregnant without medical intervention.  So I then have a huge rack of guilt.  Surely if I want a baby then these things all shouldn’t matter – I should just suck it up.

Chris says he understands.  But honestly, I don’t think he understands how I truly feel, it is difficult to understand unless you have felt it.  Yes, he feels the pain of this too.  But it’s not his body that wakes up everyday in the two week wait, hoping – losing hope with every twinge your body makes.  It turns your inside out, it makes you feel sick, it makes you well up on the verge of tears, it eats you alive.  Infertility does this.  It puts you in position of feeling guilty for not trying your hardest.  But sometimes you want to screw up that infertility and throw it in the “just fuck-it bucket”.

I haven’t decided yet.  My feelings are mixed and confused right now.

‘Tis the season…Pt 1.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.  True.  But my feelings can’t help but be a bit up-and-down like a see-saw.  So I decided to split my post into two.  Depending on how you are feeling this season, you may only want to read one or the other.  Maybe you feel a little bit like me, so read both!

Pt 1: ‘Tis the season to be jolly

Pt 2: ’tis the season to be not so jolly


Pt 1: ‘Tis the season to be jolly

I don’t know why I love the festive season.  Maybe it’s the food, maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the gift giving/receiving, maybe it’s the family coming together or maybe it’s just that time when the year is coming to an end where you can draw a line under the past 12 months and feel excited to start afresh with the New Year.  Or, in my case, perhaps it’s because it is also my Birthday ;-p

This is the first Christmas we will spend in Virginia.  The first Christmas in the US we spent it in Vermont skiing, this is where we decided to make a go of becoming parents.  The second Christmas we returned back to the UK and rented a cottage so both our families could stay with us for the holidays.  This third Christmas is less exciting in comparison, we are staying put.  But this is exciting to me because I can finally buy Chris a gift that is bigger than my suitcase!!!

This past week has been filled with festivities abound.  Not just in the physical sense, but the emotional sense too.  Here is a summary of the amazingness (or jolly, if you like) that I have experienced so far:

1. Home made mince pies.  If you read one of my previous posts you will know that these are not easy to come by in the US.  I made Nigella Lawson’s Domestic Goddess Cranberry studded mincemeat pies (recipe here).

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Home made Cranberry Studded Mincemeat star topped pies

My goodness, that pastry was so flaky and the mincemeat so juicy I couldn’t believe that I actually made them.  I shared them with some of my non-British colleagues at work who were intrigued as to what these ‘mincemeat pies’ were.  They didn’t spit it out in front of my face so that had to be a good thing 🙂

2. Decorating my house with a CHRISTMAS TREE!!!  The first time in the US!  OK so we still didn’t buy a real christmas tree, we wanted to see how our terrorquisitive cat Diesel would deal with one.  So we bought a small fake one.  He eats anything that has a dangly bit or rubber on it.  So far so good…everything remains in one piece and the tree still stands.

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It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas!

I also treated myself to one of those German wooden spinning pinwheels.  I have wanted one for aaaaages.  Every time I go to Germany I go to buy one and realise I don’t have enough room in my bags.  Plus they are quite expensive!

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I don’t know why I love it so much!!!

When the lady at TJMaxx rung it up, she exclaimed -“$40 for that!!!!”, I pointed out that in Gemany these were usually over $100.  Anyway, I love it.

3. My first Resolve support group meeting.  Resolve is the US national infertility association and they provide various forms of support for people with infertility. I picked up a flyer from my clinic about this local Resolve monthly meeting about 8 months ago when we were going through our third IUI procedure.  I left it in my ‘to do’ pile of paper work and each month thought about going and never got round to it.  Finally I got round to it!!!  I am so pleased I did.  I met some lovely ladies who just get it.  It was good to talk, and good to listen to their stories too.  I will definitely be going again.

4. The #TTCMugExchange2015.  I participated in the Mug Exchange that Chelsea from Starbucks, Peace and Pursuit of a Baby organised.  This week I received my mug and a few extra lovely goodies!

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I was spoilt with a box of goodies as well as a mug, cosy socks, an Irish Angel of Hope and a travel journal.

The mug I received was so beautiful.  Quite honestly, I think it is the best one I have seen 🙂

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My exchange partner is a bright and bubbly girl from Northern Ireland, she was originally told she would have to do IVF privately but just found out that the NHS will do IUI, so she is preparing for her first treatment!!!  She doesn’t blog, but is on Instagram.  As a result I’ve taken to trying out Instagram you can follow me @thegreatpuddingclubhunt if you have an account!

5. Just feeling the love around me.  We have received lots of invites for Christmas day so we are not alone; we have received lots of cards sending us well wishes and Christmas pressies that now sit under our tree.  And sometimes, it’s the little things that make a difference.  At a work gathering our big boss spoke about a whole bunch of work things and then he turned to talking about the holidays.  He pointed out that this is the time to look around at our neighbours and check they are doing OK.  The holiday season can be difficult for some people, and if we notice someone looking sad, down or simply stressed, take a minute to stop and ask “Are you doing OK?”  then listen.

love