P=O=S=I=T=I=V=I=T=Y

It’s been a really rough week.

I was flying on such a high (and i mean it, I adored my first week on Instagram) I made connections with other people (yes, you! you beautiful people) I had conversations about my wife’s uterus and cervix with complete strangers (and my dentist). I was buzzing. Two and a half weeks ago we tried home insemination for the first time, the world was alive with possibility, wonderment and anticipation. Then it all came crashing down with 4 (yes 4) negative pregnancy tests and the ultimate buzz kill, her period, came on wednesday.

I lost all my positivity; every last drop. I could see no cause for jokes, humour or any merriment whatsoever and its been an absolute roller coaster of shitty emotions. Its not like me at all. I can usually see the flip side of most situations and I do have a resolve to keep chundering on but it was such a big fall from those lofty heights of two weeks ago. That’s the thing that’s shocked me the most and I should of used this time to reach out and keep expressing things because shutting down, and shutting up, were the worst things I could do. But guess what? I’m back! 🙂

You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down. -Mary Pickford

Food [alt title: the history of me]

[LONG post disclaimer, grab a cuppa and get comfy]

I’ll be the first to admit my relationship with food is unhealthy. I’ve been overweight since I was around 12 years old. Being an “early bloomer” (getting my period at 11) it kind of all went downhill fast. I was a very active kid, I loved football and played all sorts of sports; whilst this didn’t stop when I went to secondary school the kids I was surrounded with certainly did change. I can trace my self-awareness and “fat-shaming” to one particular girl in one particular game of rounders. I played after-school netball in the winter and rounders in the summer so its not as if I wasn’t active. But I was being bullied, every day. There were so few things to give me release or freedom from a world that literally forced me to spend 7 hours, 5 days a week, with my tortures.

At 16 (around 6 months before my G.C.S.Es) I was rushed to hospital with what they thought was a brain tumour. It turned out to be benign inter-cranial hypertension (essentially just really high pressure in my head) I was poked and prodded and told that my BMI was too high. Also for the first time comments were made about my facial hair. It seems unreal but I literally had never noticed it before and the feeling of shame and embarrassment that ran through me in that instant has been unmatched since. Instead of any of these doctors trying to figure out what these set of symptoms could mean I was left embarrassed and humiliated and with a very low opinion of the health care service and myself. Even now I have only been to a doctors surgery once in 15 years (because the cat punctured my leg and it became infected, I left it weeks before I sought help).

Some of you will recognize these symptoms; excess hair growth, difficulty loosing weight, irregular periods (I get one a year now). It’s text book PCOS. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out; if any of the doctors had taken the time to actually listen and help me that would have been lovely. Oh well, fast forward 15 years and I’m an obese 30 year old who has to shave her beard every day and has a mustache that rivals Tom Selleck. I take most things with a pinch of salt and have learnt to have a hard skin, most things will roll right off me. I genuinely don’t care what other people think, but every now and then something will get under a chink in the armour.

It has, ironically, been my education that saved me. During those difficult secondary school years there were two teachers who made time to specifically help me, I owe them more than I could ever express and think of them often even now. During my A-Levels, I got new wonderful friends and an amazing social life. This continued onto university (300 miles away from my “home”) where I found out who I was, I was able to be 100% me and be accepted completely; I found my own community and life was great in the big gay university bubble. University however is far from a reflection of real life.

My weight went up and down, I was at my skinniest (around 11 stone) when I met my future wife. Cohabiting with your first girlfriend is a wonderful, crazy, indulgent and at times darn right unhealthy occupation. Love and happiness often leave to over eating because its makes you feel good and you’ve already found “the one” so why’d you have to watch the calories? Doing this over a period of 10 years however has become exceptionally unhealthy. I’m around 15 stone now and somethings gotta change.

In retrospect, I had begun (around 1 year into our relationship) to see my wife [girlfriend] as an extension to myself. I thought we understood everything about each other, I thought she instinctively knew everything about me and that my thoughts were her own as we were completely on the same “wave length”. This was a foolish and youthfully ignorant thing to think and It came crashing down a year after we got married. We’d been in a relationship for 4 years, our wedding day was literally fantastic, the acceptance from our families (especially her father, who doesn’t say much but gave us genuine acceptance and well wishes) was astonishing and life affirming.

Even though nothing had changed (its just a piece of paper isn’t it?!)  the one year itch in a marriage is a spectacular and very real phenomenon which we can testify nearly pulled our lives apart irreparably. We’d been in a relationship for 5 years, struggled to find work after university and generally had a rough time of it but stayed together and got married. Our work schedules were contradictory, I worked nights and she worked very early mornings in an airport. We never saw each other. We moved from a lovely affluent town on the outskirts of Belfast into one of the most deprived economic areas adjacent to her work [serious mistake number 1]. We spent less and less time together [serious mistake number 2]. I plodded along in autopilot and was very unhappy in our new home environment but didn’t really say anything [serious mistake 3]. We just didn’t communicate.

I had the naive assumption that this was just a rut, we’d find a way out and things would magically get better, but its true what they say its a long way down to the bottom before you can come back up. It turns out she’d been having an affair with a male colleague which she’d instigated around 3 months after our marriage, for the best part of a year. In black and white on this page here it reads pretty much as starkly as it sounds and there’s no sugar coating it. Its the reason why I actually don’t class myself as married for 5 years now, its only 4. One year was stolen from me and there’s no way to get it back. But I made the decision to forgive. Well first, I threw her out and listened to a LOT of KT Tunstall (Hold On and Saving my Face became my only salvation, without them I would of ran home to England and never looked back). But then I spoke to everyone that would listen, I’d cry, I let it all out. I got through it. We got through it, but I still don’t know how. I checked her phone for about 3 years, it took 4-5 years for me to stop thinking about it daily. I’m still suspicious to new acquaintances, staff nights out and work colleagues. Its not ideal but i’m getting there, I’ve had to learn to trust her again. Trust is such a difficult thing to get back. Somewhere along the line you’ve just got to jump in again and that’s physically and psychologically terrifying.

Getting back to the point of all this, the last 4 years I’ve put on more weight than ever. I know its in response to trauma; its the last comfort, food has always been there for me. Chocolate, that damn serotonin release is more addictive than any other drug when you feel so at a loss. But therein problem lies, it started with one mars bar, then a pack of four to 3 large bars of chocolate a day. Apart from almost giving myself diabetes, I’ve so little energy and my joints (ankles and knees) are really hurting having to carry this extra weight. Finally I’ve come to realise the temporary comfort of sugary food is NOT ENOUGH to counteract the real negative physiological effects of eating it. This underscores my whole relationship to food. I’m about a week into the new diet and I’ve slipped twice (a mars bar each time!) but there’s none in the cupboard now and I wont buy any more. The feelings i’ve had this week though are so positive. I thought its only processed sugar and chocolate that could give me a boost but actually fruit does the same thing. I’ve kind of jump started my body, I just needed to go cold turkey and throw away the past. It feels pretty good.

 

Chapter 1

I’d like to start by getting something off my chest with the following statement;

My name is Sarah and I’m trying to become a non-biological mother.

To some, I may appear like the one who has the easy end of the fertility stick. I’m not going to argue that my wonderful wife doesn’t have a LOT of added pressure; its her ovaries, her body, her cycles and cramps and vagina being poked, prodded and cajoled into a seemingly never ending Broadway show entitled “Get that speculum in there or so help me!” (picture jazz hands … or should that be jizz?…)

… BUT i’m the one who collects the pieces, tries to keep the level head, marches the band to the never ending positivity parade and I feel every twinge, cramp and body-blowing disappointment (and occasional elation!) WITH her. I am literally the one holding the wet end of the fertility stick (you learn from your mistakes!). I’m a very open person (too open? TMI) and its an obscure feeling to be “the support” and I want to connect, interact and SHARE our experiences. That’s why I decided to get on instagram and start this blog because that feeling of loneliness is real, and there are so many others that have been in a similar place.

There is a special place in hell reserved for women who don’t help other women. —Madeleine Albright

broadway

The State of My Marriage

A little known secret that I harbour is the fact that I’m -English-

Actually, everyone knows it. I have the most English of English accents (no idea where I got it from because none of my family speak like I do and everyone I grew up with had a west country accent -dodged a bullet there my lover!)

Northern Ireland is a small place, it’s home to only 1.4million people and half of those live in the capital city, Belfast. It’s also quite genetically homogeneous, everyone seems to know everyone else and they don’t come across ethnic diversity too often. I work in retail and the number of people who try to guess where I’m from when they clock the “foreign tongue” is bafflingly hilarious; I’ve had South African, Australian, Kiwi, American, Canadian. in fact everywhere except their closest island nation and colonial overlords.

Although part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, is (was?) devolved and separate legislatively from the English parliament at Westminster. Currently we are experiencing a political embargo where neither side of a polarized political elite of nationalists and unionists are talking to each other in a quite frankly childish game of chicken to see who can crack first. Fast forward nearly 18 months and Westminster and senior civil servants now make the decisions in our country whilst the politicians sit and collect their salaries for nothing. They are making as few decisions as possible so as not to overreach and step on the already flustered and failing political party toes in the North.

The main problem to this lack of local government is the fact that Westminster answers to the DUP (unionist) drum beat as they have them by the short and curlies in the Conservative minority government. The DUP are the to the gays as gonorrhea is to the free love movement; a nasty and itchy discharge on an otherwise happy and positive way of life for a minority of people. Now, I use humour to counteract the negativity and unjust things I see every day, but believe me when I say I habour a deep seeded hatred of the way our largest political party consistently and unashamedly paint the LGBT community as abominations, less than human and as a section of our society to be belittled and joked about. It’s no joke when comparative to their heterosexual peers, young Northern Irish LGB&T people are;

• At least three times more likely to attempt suicide
• Two and a half times more likely to self harm
• Five times more likely to be medicated for depression
• Twenty times more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than their heterosexual
counterparts.

—The ShOUT Report Carolan and Redmond, 2003 and Still ShOUTing 2017

In 2004 the Civil Partnerships Act was enacted across the whole of the UK and the first same-sex couple to have their ceremony, Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close,  did so at Belfast Town Hall on the 19th December 2004 at 10am. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples Act) 2013 legalised full same sex marriage in England and Wales from March 2014, Scotland granted the same in 2014. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK and Ireland that does not recognise same sex marriage. A recent NI poll found that 70% of people agreed same-sex couples should be allowed to marry each other. In 2015, the majority of Northern Ireland Assembly members voted in favour of same-sex marriage but the DUP blocked it.

We held our Civil Partnership ceremony in 2012. That’s over 6 years ago now and if we lived in the rest of the UK we would have been legally married for 4 years already. At our civil partnership, my godfather had the following discussion with me:

“So what do we call this now. Have you been civilled?”

I don’t think he was trying to cause offense but as far as he was concerned he attended an event where two people got “civilled”. Its ludicrous to think of our relationship as anything other than a marriage and I don’t want our future children to think their mummies relationship is inferior because they both have vaginas. I’m fed up of LGBT partnerships being belittled, I’m proud of who I am, I’m proud of my wife and I’m proud to be the very best version of myself that I can be. Let me be married Northern Ireland, let me be me.