When I Grow Up I Want To Be…

Careers. Shall we discuss?

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For some the end goal has always been in sight. From early aspirations to the necessary education, training, those first steps on to the ladder and the subsequent climb, there are those in the world who have known what they’ve wanted to do from an early age and have gone on to achieve it. Their career path has been an invariably straight and well thought-out line.

For others (dare I say the majority?), the path is considerably more wobbly. This group of people may go to university to study a subject they enjoy but don’t really know what they’re going to do with; they go on to take jobs that they didn’t necessarily expect to, and end up switching careers a number of times before settling on what they finally realise is their vocation.

And then there are those who don’t really have a career as such. I’m not talking about the unemployed or the work-shy, but those for whom ‘career’ is not the be all and end all. They work to live, earning what is necessary in order to do what they really want to be doing, be it raising a family, travelling or learning etc.

Why am I blathering on about this today? Well, in a couple of months I turn 30. THIRTY. That’s fully-fledged adulthood, a milestone birthday and a new phonetic to get my tongue around the next time I’m asked my age. I have to admit I’m one of those weirdos who has looked forward to turning 30 since I was old enough to count. I was a mildly precocious child, and believed that 30 was the Pinnacle of Life™. Now it’s nearly here I’m surprised to find myself pretty horrified at the prospect of leaving my 20s behind. (And at the two grey hairs Paul has recently plucked from my head in the last couple of months.) I’ve achieved much of what I’d hoped to have achieved at this age: I’m married to the love of my life, we own our own home and have a lovely, if perpetually obnoxious cat, I have a wide circle of brilliant, interesting friends and an active social life, I’m the slimmest I’ve been since I was 15 and I’m certainly the tallest I’m ever gonna get (5’4″ and a half, yes!). But there are also goals that haven’t quite been met and aspects of my life that I’ve perhaps spent too much of my twenties fretting and procrastinating about; my career being one of them.

I love meeting new people, but I’ve always dreaded the question ‘so what do you do then?’. If asked now I would start by simply saying, ‘I work in weddings‘. I imagine this would suffice for some people, but for those who are interested I could elaborate further: ‘I have a wedding planning business and I also work as a stylist in a rather nice bridal boutique’, for instance. I find it bemusing that I can look back at that sentence now and not feel remotely embarrassed, but ask me five years ago and the conversation would have been entirely different…

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: So what do you do then?

Me: Erm… [lowering my voice so that none else can hear me]… I’m an actress.

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: [Mildly impressed] Oh right, been in anything good?

Me: Oh, bits of telly, nothing big…

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: [Jokingly] You been in Eastenders?

Me: I have actually-

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: Have you?!

Me: Just one episode. It was ages ago, it wasn’t a big part…

Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser: So what you doing now then?

Me: Er… just auditioning, you know. I’m not working at the minute.

[Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser looks disappointed.]

Me: …Well I am working but just in a call centre. To pay the bills. It’s for Weight Watchers actually, it’s quite interesting…

[Man at party/taxi driver/hairdresser looks even more disappointed, verging on disgusted. Conversation ends.]

It’s not something I’ve ever really spoken in depth about before, but eagle-eyed readers may have spotted the ‘actress’ reference here and there. In truth it was my whole life and raison d’être from the age of 16 until about 26. A decade of working towards one career goal… until I started planning my hypothetical wedding, subsequently dipped my toe in to the wedding industry and my enthusiasm for the acting world inevitably began to wane. Of course, the fact that I was beginning to get less work and the elusive ‘big break’ was seemingly out of reach were major catalysts in this career evolution, but the move in to my late 20s certainly made me question where I was going with this acting lark, and whether a new career path could bring more success and better quality of life.

You may be surprised to know that despite the sombre note, my acting career was actually reasonably successful. It’s a tough old business, the acting one. Many fall at the first hurdle (securing a decent agent), and only very few go on to make a real career of it. Following a drama degree and then drama school, I did manage to bag myself a decent agent, and I had a slow but promising start with roles on Eastenders, Doctors, The Impressions Show and Being Human, to name a few. The latter was my closest to a ‘break’- a semi-regular part in the very first series which led to me receiving fan mail (yes really) and being invited to sign autographs alongside Patrick Stewart at the UK’s largest sci-fi convention. (Ok, I wasn’t actually sat alongside Patrick Stewart; I was at one end of the stadium at Milton Keynes while he was at the other, more popular end, but he was there. As were a multitude of daleks and jedi knights.)

Doing my acting thang in Being Human Series 1.

Doing my acting thang and looking an absolute treat in Being Human Series 1.

The highs of being a working actress are brilliant and- particularly in TV- undeniably glamorous (anyone claiming otherwise is a liar), but the lows are stupendously low. Rejection is tough and something you have to become immune to, and the periods of silence and waiting for the phone to ring are long and thoroughly miserable. Looking back over the four years I truly considered myself a ‘working actress’, I probably only physically ‘worked’ approximately 28 days out of 1460. That’s excluding the countless auditions, letter-writing and free bits of theatre I did here and there, but for me it simply wasn’t enough. I was 27 years old, approaching the end of my twenties quicker than I could say ‘Welcome to Weight Watchers, Sama speaking‘, and I wasn’t anywhere near achieving the kind of success I’d aspired to. I loved performing (and always will) but perhaps, just perhaps, it wasn’t the career for me.

My retirement from acting was long and drawn out, and played out through a series of small but defining steps. The first was leaving the call-centre for a job at Blackburn Bridal at the beginning of 2011. The second was undertaking a wedding planning course with the UKAWP at the end of that year. The third was obtaining my first client and the launch of Utterly Wow in 2013. The fourth was reaching my target of summer 2014 bookings. And the last, most momentous and finite step was the email to my agent to call it an end a mere two months ago. My heart was no longer full for acting and I wanted to begin my thirties with one career goal, not two. I cried hot, hard tears for days once my decision had been made, but the subsequent relief and freedom I felt was palpable.

A hug at the end of a brilliant wedding. Image by Assaynation.

A hug at the end of a brilliant wedding. Image by Assaynation.

I’m immeasurably proud of what I achieved as an actress, but funnily enough I’m actually more proud of what I’ve achieved so far with Utterly Wow. I may not be earning the kind of money I hoped to aged 29 and 9 months, but I know that Utterly Wow will get bigger and better, and I have lots of plans up my sleeve within this industry that I hope will see this little business of mine grow and flourish for years to come.

The moral of the story? Well, there isn’t one really, except that a career path doesn’t have to be straight in order to bring success. And that 30 is most definitely not the Pinnacle of Life™ when it comes to a vocation. When I eventually have children I will tell them that whilst going to university is an experience that is brilliant beyond words, the subject they take and the subsequent degree they achieve is not the be all and end all. Oh, and to ignore their school ‘Career Advisor’- they haven’t got a clue. It can take an awfully long time to work out what you want to do with your life, and perhaps there are those of you reading who still don’t really know, but ultimately I believe that if you can find your passion, identify your strengths and work hard to merge the two, your vocation will eventually find you.

So now I’d love to hand over to you. I know we all like our anonymity in this blogosphere of ours but I’m fascinated to know what you lot do, and indeed if you’re doing what you thought you’d be doing 10 years ago? How long did it take you to forge a career, and are any of you about to embark on a new one? What’s the dream??

Go on, it’s good to talk…

Sama xxx

 

7 Beauteous Blooms: Spicy Brights

Spicy brights.

Anyone who read my last post on nailing a colour scheme will know it’s my phrase of the moment, but it also happens to be my favourite colour combination and my happy place, so when I saw this bridal bouquet on Green Wedding Shoes a couple of days ago I practically fainted. Or at least I definitely swooned with delight.

Flowers: Siren Floral Co // Image: Tyler Branch

Flowers: Siren Floral Co // Image: Tyler Branch

Isn’t that one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen? For me, I think that is verging on floral perfection. I love the dense central arrangement of roses, poppies and anenomes in luscious reds, pinks and purples, the delicately cascading greenery, the touches of peach and ivory that soften and calm, and then those two little blue cornflowers in the top corner. If I could kiss the screen I would. In fact I have. (Don’t tell anyone.)

Here are 6 more spicy bright bouquets to inspire, delight and warm the cockles on this sunny but fresh Friday…

1. Pink peonies and a vivid assortment of blooms in citrus brights; this wild and bohemian bouquet packs a pretty gorgeous punch:

2. Wowser bombowser! Oversized and abundant, this peach and red ombre concoction verges on over the top… but it is a stunning creation none-the-less:

Flowers: Jodi Duncan // Image: Stephie Photography

Flowers: Jodi Duncan // Image: Stephie Photography

3. This is sweetness and light in a bouquet. Colourful, pretty and utterly bijou (Paul’s least favourite word), I could happily look at this one all day:

4. This compact, pop art inspired number is not to my usual taste, but you can’t not admire the artistry behind it, and those yellow billy balls put a smile on my face every time I see them.

5. An assortment of roses, tulips and peonies in several shades of pinks and peach. Super luscious, super sweet and super, super pretty:

6. And last but by no means least we have a veritable feast of spicy brights featuring all my favourites: peonies, protea, astilbe, roses, daisies, billy balls and more. ‘Tis an absolute beauty and pretty much the exact bouquet I’d have at my wedding. Oh wait, it is the exact bouquet I had at my wedding! Lucky me.

So tell me readers, which of these blooms would you want to carry down the aisle if you were getting married today? Which gets your Friday vote? And are there any brides-to-be out there who will be holding their own spicy bright bouquet in the near future…?

Have a beautiful weekend all.

Sama xxx

Getting Crafty: An Upcycled Chest & DIY Glitter Wall Art

The bonus of being off work for the last couple of weeks is that as my energy has come back I’ve been able to tackle a couple of home improvement projects I’ve been meaning to do for goodness knows how long. Neither are revolutionary or particularly impressive (my DIY skills are, generally speaking, pretty pathetic), but both were certainly satisfying and have made nice, if subtle, changes to their respective surroundings.

An Upcycled Chest of Drawers

chestbefore

First up was this chest of drawers. An ancient hand-me-down which had been passed down when Paul and I moved in together, we had removed the top two drawers, drilled a couple of holes in the back and used it as a TV unit for the last three years. It’s function was spot-on, but the cherry wood jarred a little bit in the room and those empty drawers in particular seemed very unloved.

I have Apartment Therapy on my blogreader and really love the Before & After upcycling projects they feature, so I decided it was time to do my own. Our living room is already full of warm brights, but since getting a framed print of The Kiss by Gustav Klimt for Christmas, I wanted to draw out the gold and yellow tones from it… so a mustard chest with black iron handles was my vision. I wanted to funk the chest of drawers up a bit, making it a bit more modern whilst having some fun with colour.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is all the rage on t’internet. It’s fab for lazy DIY-ers like me, because there is NO prepping, NO sanding, and NO priming involved. Simply give your designated item of furniture a wipe down to get rid of dust, and then on goes the paint. (Hint- I’d read a few tutorials and as well as giving the tin a really good shake, some people recommend turning it upside down an hour before painting, as the colour pigment can tend to settle at the bottom.)  There are two yellows to choose from- Arles and English Yellow- but I went for Arles which in Annie’s own words is a rich yellow ochre with a hint of orange juice. 

First coat on.

First coat on.

Hardware off I got to work, the best thing being that Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is virtually odourless so you can do it indoors. Although two coats isn’t always needed, we did a second as I wasn’t convinced by the colour and wanted it a lot stronger, before leaving to dry overnight. The next morning it was time to wax- a step which is notoriously difficult according to some online tutorials but which I found very problem-free, maybe because we used an old rag (a pair of Paul’s old boxers in fact) rather than a wax brush.

Front drawer waxed, back drawer about to be.

Front drawer waxed, back drawer about to be.

Annie Sloan Soft Wax in clear was the recommended product, and the trick was to use really very little. Once applied (thinly!) and worked thoroughly in to the wood, you should be able to wipe your finger on it and there be no greasy residue or mark. I think using a rag really helped with this, and as the wax initially goes on dark before drying, you can see which bits you’ve done and which still need to be done. I found the waxing very simple, and had the whole thing done in 20 minutes. (Annie recommends leaving your item of furniture to dry for 24 hours before placing anything on it though.)

Wallpapering the drawers.

Wallpapering the drawers.

Next up was tackling those drawer holes at the top. I’d originally had visions of going bold with black and white stripes, but a) I couldn’t find the right paper, and b) I knew Paul would hate it. So instead I bought an almost snakeskin-effect black wallpaper from Homebase which went on with spray adhesive. This was a pretty fiddly job- lots of measuring, cutting up and swearing on my part- but I think the finished look is very clean and chic. All I had to do was wait for the iron handles to arrive from an eBay seller, and bobs your uncle, we had a new re-vamped TV unit.

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Spot the Klimt.

Spot the Klimt.

If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t entirely convinced by the colour at first. The images are slightly misleading as it is a bit peachier in real life, but certainly out of bright sunlight it has the more mustardy effect I was after and I LOVE the new handles. It’s brightened up our little living room in time for summer anyway and despite being a weekend project (with drying time), it was super easy.

DIY Glitter Wall Art

So my second project was something I whipped up in a morning. I had a spare white frame (size 8.5 x 11″) and was keen to fill it with something homemade and meaningful that would look good on my gallery wall. I also didn’t want to have to buy any new materials, with a whole box of crafting bits and bobs at my disposal. Glittery typography it was then.

I had the mantra be brave in my head. It seemed particularly apt given my recent experience, and is generally a good philosophy to live by, I think. I certainly wouldn’t have Utterly Wow off the ground without taking what seemed like massive, scary leaps in to the unknown. Plus who doesn’t love a bit of alliteration?

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The process…

1. After a good play around on Word and finally working out how to amend the line spacing, I printed my phrase on to a piece of card I had left over from my wedding. Using a craft knife and a chopping board I then cut the letters out as neatly as I could.

2. I then laid the cut out phrase on to my black background (recognise the snakeskin-effect wall paper?) before securing together with some washi tape. Then it was a case of brushing on glue and shaking on glitter. Simples!

3. The not-so simple part was the neatening up. Once I’d gently prised off the card (which you need to do before the glue dries), the glue and the glitter had run on most of the letters. The good thing about using wallpaper though is that it’s pretty sturdy, so with the help of a damp cloth, tweezers, a cotton bud and a dry brush, I had those glittery letters whipped in to shape in no time.

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The Wall...

…and on The Wall.

Poor photography and glass reflection aside, I’m thrilled. For something that was so utterly simple, it has a lot of impact I think, and I love the gold, black and white together. And yes, that is my gallery wall, VERY MUCH a work in progress still but as you can see I’m going for the cross your fingers and hope for the best tactic at the moment. I’m not entirely happy with the arrangement or balance, but as we’re *hopefully* moving house in the next few months, the project is on pause right now anyway. For the moment it’s just fun to play and get creative… and I think the Be Brave piece is a rather lovely addition, wouldn’t you say?

So that’s my week of crafting.  Do any of you have any DIY plans for this weekend? It’s meant to be another lovely one so whatever you have planned, be sure to have some fun in the sun- that’s an order.

It’s Friday- woohoo!

Sama xxx

 

 

 

 

Nailing a Colour Scheme

I love colour. LOVE IT, I tell you. Colour has the power to make us feel; be it happiness, passion, envy or calm. Colour lifts our spirits when we are down and relaxes us when we are tense. Colour gives depth, vitality and life to the every day, and if you’re not a fan of it, I’m really not sure we can be friends. Sorry.

Some of my favourite weddings are those that are not only full of colour, but have really nailed a colour scheme. And by that I don’t mean choosing hot pink waistcoats to match the hot pink bridesmaids, hot pink chair sashes, hot pink flowers and hot pink balloons. Quite the opposite in fact. I believe that some of the most stylish and creative weddings are those that manage to tell a story and evoke a mood through the use of a carefully curated palette of colour.

Take this image below:

Not only are the maids in velvet C-U-T-E, but this stylish little bridal party is rocking a colour scheme that isn’t exactly unusual, but is so perfectly curated I had to go back and study the wedding in full. The scheme consists of two lead colours of burgundy and pale pink. Then there is a ‘supporting cast’ of green (from the foliage), ivory, bluey-grey and the warmth and richness of natural wood. This palette is ever-present throughout every aspect of the wedding and the result is something that is feminine without being sugar-sweet, elegant without being stuffy, and stylish without being contrived.

It’s a beaut of a wedding.

“We didn’t have a particular colour scheme…”

I see this phrase time and time again when doing my daily blog check, and I have to admit, it’s one of my biggest bug bears. A bit like a wedding theme, I know that having a colour scheme can evoke negative connotations amongst some. But there is really nothing wrong with having a colour scheme. Colour schemes don’t have to be dated or restrictive. They can be as big or as small as you like; as random or as specific as you and your partner wish it to be. But whether your wedding is an explosion of colour or more muted and natural, I would argue that there is always a scheme of sorts, even if it’s not particularly obvious.

Take this Swedish wedding also featured on Green Wedding Shoes:

coolCollage

coolCollage2

At first glance there’s no colour scheme as such, it’s all very white and pale. But look closer and the silvery tones start to come through; of light grey and the palest blue as seen in her dress, her ring, her shoes. It’s a very ‘cool’ look overall- a colour scheme in itself- and to avoid this looking too ‘icy’ there are hints of natural, rustic warmth coming from the greenery and the vessels that are primarily gold and clay in colour. And then there are shots of black from his suit, the blackboards, and that evocative feather installation. It’s a complex scheme with a very simple overall effect, and I have no doubt that the couple made very deliberate design choices throughout their planning. It’s another beaut of a wedding that positively sings with style, originality and a distinctive (if subtle) colour scheme.

Choosing A Colour Scheme

Ok, so deciding on a colour scheme at the start of your wedding planning can be difficult, particularly if you’re not terribly creative or if you haven’t been thinking about your future wedding since you were in the womb. I think many couples start with a favourite colour, but that’s not always the key. My advice would always be to start with a mood. What kind of wedding do you want? If ‘relaxed’ and ‘fun’ are key words, then a combination of warm brights will work well. If ‘elegance’ and ‘class’ is more your bag, then a more muted palette will probably suit.

Next, take a look at your surroundings. Where is the wedding being held? Are you in a modern, white space? Are you going to be surrounded by natural, rustic materials? Or is a sumptuous, traditional banquet hall your backdrop? Think about the main spaces you will occupy throughout the day- from ceremony and mingling to dinner and dancing- and think about what colours will work within those surroundings. Do you want your colour scheme to ‘pop’ and ‘contradict’? Or ‘blend’ and ‘enhance’? Looking through a portfolio of previous weddings held at your venue (or similar) will help you determine which colour schemes get you excited and which very much don’t.

Finally pick a lead colour or two- those which you want to put your bridesmaids in perhaps, or be in your bouquet- and then think about the ‘supporting cast’ of tones and materials that will appear throughout. Rustic weddings in particular are full of natural colour, be it from the warmth of wood, the blue of the sea or the greenery of trees and foliage. These natural tones are just as important as the lead colours in the curation of a strong and consistent colour scheme.

When designing weddings for my clients, the colour scheme is one of the first things I like to tackle, and I do this by creating or sourcing a visual reference to work from. It helps to set the mood and dictates the design choices that are made as the planning progresses. Below are two colour palette references for two very different weddings that are taking place this August. The first is full of warm, summery brights to give a modern sports hall fun, vitality and life. The second is for a wedding taking place in a woodland setting. This palette is taking a leaf (boom boom) from it’s natural surroundings with lots of muted greens and blues, but there are also pops of purple and peach to add fun and warmth.

tiffcolour

Palette 1

ColourScheme

Palette 2

I’m very much looking forward to showing you how these colour schemes will be brought to life later in the year…

My final word of advice for nailing a colour scheme is to roll with it and not be too restrictive. A visual palette like the two above are merely guiding references. For many of us, the planning process will last anything from 6 months to 18, and in this time your tastes will very likely change. Whilst I wouldn’t want you to do a complete u-turn two months before your wedding date, your colour scheme will naturally evolve and that’s ok.

When I started planning my wedding way back in January 2012 (was it really that long ago?), coral and pink were my two lead colours. But as the planning progressed and my theme evolved in to some sort of Kate Spade-meets-boho glam Mexican fiesta, my palette began to broaden. Halfway through the process I decided I wanted yellow in there too, and flashes of red. At one point I considered adding splashes of light blue, but it wasn’t until the final months that burgundy entered the fray.  A shot of grown-up elegance, I think, amongst a party palette of spicy brights.

My 'Mexican- fiesta' inspired wedding

Images by Dominique Bader

When our day was featured on Rock My Wedding, the post received some amazing comments (which I will fully admit to going back and reading every time I need a bit of a lift), but the comments on colour were the ones that really resonated with me. I remember one person loving how all the colours came together and were prevalent throughout the entire wedding. Another applauded my ‘brave’ choice of spicy tones in a wedding world of dusky pinks. And in my rambling, roundabout way, I think that’s the key to nailing a colour scheme (and yes, I am totally inferring that I nailed it, I make no apologies for this extraordinary bout of arrogance): confidence and consistency.

And now it’s over to you. I’d love to know your wedding colours- past, present or future. Is your palette big or small? Random and vast or very specific? Do you agree with me that every wedding has to have some sort of loose scheme, or have I got it all wrong? I’m off work and in desperate need of social interaction so do pop on and give your tuppence worth…

Sama xxx

Seriously Sexy Serum

I’ve always been a moisturiser kinda gal. My skin tends to be on the dry side, so I slather myself top to toe in cocoa butter after every shower (un-fragranced, if you must know), and for years and years I was a slave to the old ‘day’ and ‘night’ facial moisturisers, feeling quite parched and stiff in the cheek if I ever had to go to bed without.

Recently though, I’ve got in to serum in a big way. Well it’s all the rage nowadays isn’t it? I like the way you’re supposed to press it firmly in to your skin like some sort of ageing Hollywood diva, and a little always seems to go such a long way.

I’m not very loyal when it comes to beauty products. Actually, that’s a big fat lie. I’ve used Soap & Glory’s Hand Food since it came in to existence, and I wouldn’t dream of cheating on the pink Johnson’s Makeup Be Gone facial wipes- they are, quite simply, the best. But I haven’t been very loyal to facial serums thus far, purchasing, it seems, whatever I’ve felt I’ve been able to afford at the time.

But all this might have changed now I’ve found Soap & Glory’s Make Yourself Youthful Super Serum.

serum

I mean, look at it. That is one seriously sexy serum.

Ok, so I may have fallen for the packaging, but what packaging! Four inches of glossy, mirror-effect steel (plastic) that sits snugly in your clenched hand and feels expensive. The lid clicks firmly and satisfyingly in to place, and I like the way it stands on it’s head, proud and erect like a… peacock. (Ahem.) One pump and a perfect face-sized dollop of serum is released in to your palm, ready to hydrate your skin in a seriously sexy way.

Does it work? You’re asking the wrong blogger. How do beauty experts actually judge these things?? I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now and the fine lines that appear around my eyes when I smile still appear around my eyes when I smile, but it’s a lovely consistency, absorbs quickly in to my skin and makes my face feel soft, dewy and hydrated which can only be a good thing.

Do you have a facial serum of choice? Are you a sucker for sexy branding?

Sama xxx

P.S. I was blown away by the response to my last post. To everyone who read, shared, left a comment, sent me a tweet or felt something… thank you.

Lemons… And A Tough Few Weeks

lemons

This is a bit of a difficult post to write. And yet one that I really want to. (I think.)

It’s been a while since I posted on here, you see, and before I get back to weddings and budget breakdowns and colour schemes and sexy serums and all the other things I want to write about, I feel compelled to share with you the reason for my absence first. Some people may find it crass to blog about something so personal, but hey, to me it seems more crass not to talk about the very thing which has consumed my every waking thought for the last couple of weeks. Plus I have a feeling you lovely lot will be able to impart all sorts of kindness and words of wisdom. No pressure.

A month ago I found out I was pregnant. Twas a little earlier than planned, but part of ‘the plan’ nonetheless. We were delighted, surprised and hugely cautious, knowing, of course, that those first few weeks are dangerously vulnerable and that a scarily-high 1 in 4 pregnancies end in early miscarriage. Within days I started bleeding. Only lightly at first, and my fervent googling told me it could be ‘implantation bleeding’ rather than anything more sinister, but as it got heavier and the cramping kicked in, I knew that all was not right.

I was referred to the Early Pregnancy Unit at my local hospital, and after an internal scan was told that there was no pregnancy to be seen and that I’d most likely miscarried. I drove home weeping, telling myself that it was better to have happened so soon rather than further along in the pregnancy, but it wasn’t until I got home and read the many leaflets that had been thrust upon me that I realised my ‘situation’ was actually being treated as a Pregnancy of Unknown Location (PUL); a miscarriage was most likely, but we couldn’t yet rule out an ectopic pregnancy (yikes) or even an entirely viable pregnancy that was just too early to locate.

The subsequent weeks were a rollercoaster of confusion and emotion. Following that first scan I had to go back in for further blood tests which revealed my pregnancy hormones had increased. Not at the rate they should have, but they had increased nonetheless. A second scan showed my uterus lining had thickened considerably (a good sign) and yet there was still no pregnancy sac to be seen, neither in my uterus nor my Fallopian tubes (which ruled out an ectopic). I was asked to come back for a third scan in a week, at which point I swear time actually stopped. I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t have the obvious early symptoms of pregnancy, and yet I was acutely aware of every twinge and new sensation that was going on down there. Paul came with me to the third scan as it was half term (a change of tactic I hoped would result in good news, along with the lucky pants I’d decided to wear that day), but as we stared forlornly at images of my very empty uterus, I found myself getting angrier and angrier with the whole situation. I just wanted to know now- was I frickin’ pregnant or not?

When my blood test results came in later that day I was dumbfounded. In a week my hormone levels had shot up from 277 to 2400. I was pregnant, no doubt about it; we just didn’t know where. I tried desperately not to get excited, but once again Google became my friend and confidante as I scoured forum after forum, searching for positive stories of pregnancies that weren’t spotted until late, and skimming over the ones that ended badly. Once again a whole week dragged by in slow motion, and finally, last Wednesday, at 7 weeks and 2 days, I drove myself in for the scan that was surely going to reveal something, trying desperately to play it cool but failing miserably.

Within about 20 seconds of looking around, my midwife sighed deeply and told me that there was nothing in my womb. After another minute of silent searching she confirmed the pregnancy was in my right Fallopian tube; it was ectopic. Ectopic pregnancies are not good, kids. Your Fallopian tubes are about the width of a drinking straw and are not designed to grow a baby. If left to develop, your tube will eventually rupture and haemorrhage, and this is very bad news indeed. In all those weeks of wondering and waiting, I knew there was a chance it could be ectopic and yet I’d always pushed it to the back of my mind, knowing, I think, that it was the outcome I wanted the least. Now it was here I was devastated. Stoic (I did my best not to sob until I got back to my car), but devastated.

lemon2

In some ways I can’t believe the following 36 hours actually happened. I’d managed to successfully avoid hospitals for 29 years and now there I was, in a gown, on a bed, in a small ward waiting to go up to theatre, a saline drip in one arm and a pen in the other as I potentially signed my life away to the surgical gods. What followed is all a bit of a hazy blur now but memorable points include:

  • Paul providing some much needed light relief by pumping my bed up to it’s highest point before telling me he wouldn’t let me down “until I behaved”. When he did let me down, it was all the way down… to the floor. A mental age of 12, my husband.
  • As my tube hadn’t ruptured, I wasn’t considered an emergency so our wait was 10 hours in the end. I managed to maintain a sense of joviality for the best part… although I crumbled when the anaesthetist came to talk me through the procedure and indicated that I may vomit during recovery. Cue hysterics as I begged him to give me as many anti-sickness drugs as my body could handle. You can take my tube out, sure, but for pity’s sake, don’t let me puke.
  • The surreal journey up to theatre at 9pm at night, through an eerily quiet hospital with my husband beside me. I was simultaneously assuring myself that everything would be absolutely fine whilst taking in every sight and sound as if it was my last.
  • Telling the surgeons that I used to be an actress and that being in theatre “felt just like being on the set of Doctors”. It took me a minute to realise that real doctors don’t watch daytime television and that I probably sounded like an utter moron.
  • The lovely old lady in the bed next to me trying to reassure me that being put to sleep was “better than sex”. I’m not sure I’d agree, but it certainly wasn’t unpleasant.
  • Coming round and feeling completely and utterly elated that a) I was alive and b) I didn’t feel sick, despite the fact that everything below my waist hurt.
  • Seeing my lovely husband waiting for me as I was wheeled out of theatre. He was hoping for an emotional reunion; the first words I barked at him were “SCRATCH MY EYEBROW”.
  • Catheters.
  • Urine being the hot topic of conversation between the four ladies on my ward and I. They don’t let you out until you can naturally pass a certain amount, you see, so there was much camaraderie, comparison and showing off of piss pots.
  • Searing pain. The worst I’ve ever felt in my whole life.
  • The surgeon coming to see me shortly before I was discharged and telling me he’d heard I was a wedding planner so figured I “needed to look good in a bikini”, hence the neat incision below my knicker line. Yep, I do all my weddings in a bikini, me…

lemon3

So I’m home now and recovering well.  I’m no longer pregnant and I’m a tube down but I’m ok. I’ve learnt that I’m very loved. Friends and family have been amazing, rallying round, bringing flowers and gifts, sending lovely messages and making our dinner for us. I have more magazines than I know what to do with. And I’ve learnt that I’m brave. I didn’t feel it at times, not when I was weeping at the prospect of puking, but people seem to be at pains to tell me how strong I’ve been and I suppose they’re right. It’s being an only child I think. Makes you headstrong and wilful.

The last few weeks have been utterly horrendous but we’re through it. In many ways Paul and I are lucky- my tube didn’t rupture and my life was never really in danger. It also didn’t take us long to get pregnant. I imagine if this had happened after a year of trying I’d be in a very different frame of mind, but right now I’m staying positive about the future.

You have a 1% chance of having an ectopic pregnancy. Once you’ve had one, the risk goes up to 5% (or 10% according to some sources) which is a little frightening… but that’s still a 90-95% chance of you not. Similarly, your chances of conceiving are not halved once you lose a Fallopian tube. They are reduced but only slightly. The science is baffling but the general consensus is that through a combination of homing signals, chemical receptors and a couple of rounds of “Marco Polo” your egg and his sperm will find their way to your remaining tube and get jiggy. Or something like that anyway.

I wanted to write this post partly because I hoped it would make me feel better, and it has, but more importantly, I wanted to write this post for others going through a similar experience. In the dark days I found myself locked on to the internet searching for other people’s stories of ectopic pregnancy and finding so little. The fact is in every road on every street in every town of every country there are people struggling to have a baby. Whether it’s through miscarriage, blighted ovums, failed fertility treatments or stillbirth, the struggles are ongoing, lonely and completely devastating for those involved. I was told to get off the internet at several points in the last few weeks as if it were an evil beast, but in a world where we generally don’t talk about this sort of thing, I truly believe that it can be good to share.

I’ll be at home for the next couple of weeks which gives me plenty of time to catch up with blogging and Utterly Wow work. I can’t promise a post a day- I have way too many magazines to get through for that to happen- but I will certainly be around more than I have been.

Thanks for reading.

Sama xxx

P.s. I found these sites and forums on ectopic pregnancy particulary helpful:

The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust

Mumsnet- Ectopic pregnancy support thread

 

House Obsessed

Paul and I are moving house this year. In this half of the year we hope. On Saturday afternoon our starter home of three and a half years is opening its doors to prospective buyers, which means the last week or so has been dedicated to scrubbing, painting, repairing, planting and tidying.  The market is moving ever so fast, and if all goes to plan we should have an offer or two by the end of the open day. FINGER CROSSED. Selling is the easy part right now; buying, it appears, is the b***h. (Anyone else on Rightmove every day at the moment?)

Whereas our current two-up two-down has served us well, we’re on the hunt for our ‘family home’. Not our forever home I hasten to add. We have plans to move deeper in to Kent or Essex for that, but our plan for this home is to see us though our thirties, through babies and primary schools and family Christmases and a growing business (me) and a doberman called Steve (Paul.)

As such, we have grand dreams for our next home. Perhaps too grand, for our modest budget and a housing market that is rising so fast it’s threatening to price us out. Nevertheless, we will continue to dream and search, and I will continue devouring house magazines, watching Kirstie and Phil, and pinning to my Ideal Home board like my life depends on it.

So what’s on our wish list? Well, a 1930′s 3-bed semi is what we’re really after, and thankfully our local area is rife with them, being in the ‘burbs. A driveway and a reasonably-sized garden are musts, as we have neither at the moment and Paul has a fancy car he likes to look lovingly at and wash regularly. (Tantrums have been thrown when I’ve dared show him houses without driveways.)

Inside is where it gets a bit trickier. I want a project, i.e. a house to do up and make our own, but a liveable project. Neither of us wants somewhere we can’t move in to straight away, although I love the idea of completely gutting a house and starting from scratch at some point in our lives. For now though, we have a busy year ahead and we really would like to be able to move straight in if we can.

And now for the actual wish-list… (because the liklihood of getting *all* of these things is looking pretty slim)…

Utterly Wow HQ meets Guest Bedroom

Right now, our spare room houses everything that doesn’t belong in the kitchen, living room, bedroom or bathroom.  It has a desk and a filing cabinet, some fixed cupboards that store everything and anything, Paul’s weights bench, a sofa bed for when guests crash and the laundry basket and airer. Oh, and a half-baked attempt at a gallery wall which I’m putting on pause until we move. In our next house I would reeeeeally like a guest room-come-office that’s practical and pretty… and without a weights bench or laundry basket in sight.

Source // A room of two halves.

Source // A room of two halves.

Source // Wall to wall shelving leaves room for a guest bed.

Source // Wall to wall shelving leaves room for a guest bed.

A Bedroom in Blue

We’ve been a bit spoilt with our current bedroom. It’s huge and drenched in light (as the front of the house is south-facing), and as we painted it in Farrow & Ball Cornforth White when we moved in (the palest of bluey/grey) it has a lovely, calming feel. Paul has stated several times in the last few weeks that we are to “have our bedroom exactly the same” in our next house, a sentiment I adore him for having but don’t entirely agree with.

See, I’m really keen to go a bit bolder with the blue. A bit deeper, and a little bit moodier. With lots of white to still make the room feel bright and airy, and perhaps accents of gold or copper for warmth, I think a moody blue is super chic and ever-so grown up…

Source // This blue has a hint of lilac in  it

Source // This blue has a hint of lilac in it

Source // I love love love the colour and texture of this wallpaper

Source // I love love love the colour and texture of this wallpaper