Home & Lifestyle

Low Budget, Low Faff Wedding

I honestly couldn’t be more content. I’m engaged to a man I adore, we live in our own Victorian house that we’re currently renovating and things couldn’t be better – well, we’re technically poor as I am unable to work, but we’re not in any debt (aside from our Mortgage, which doesn’t reeeeally count) and we’re living inside our means without going without and we want to keep it that way!

With all that in mind, I’ve started delving into the world of wedding planning.

I should caveat that statement with a statement about my hatred (bit strong) for weddings in general. You see, being Autistic, I find socialising incredibly stressful – so you can imagine how weddings can cause adverse reactions in someone who struggles with social situations; I’m also a goth and naturally find that anything frilly, faffy, puffy and white sends shivers down my spine. I just don’t understand the “pinterest wedding” trend of this modern world we live in. Even most of the Rock N’Roll Bride weddings are too weddingy for my dark, dark tastes. (I won’t be wearing any shade of pale, when we get married!)

Oddness aside, it occurred to me recently that I don’t actually think I want to elope – I kinda want my parents to be there when I get married. Originally, I wanted it to be just the two of us and a couple of random witnesses, but the more I think about it, the more I want my parents in the picture – you only have one set of parents and they won’t be around forever, so I know I’d regret not having my folks present when I finally marry the man I love.

So that now leads us down the road of an intimate wedding with parents and siblings. The thought of saying vows in front of parents and siblings fills me with a feeling of impending doom. To say I’m nervous about saying vows in front of more than 2 people would be an understatement. Urgh. Anyway…

Having looked for around ten minutes online at various wedding websites and venue websites, I can say that I do NOT want to spend more than a few hundred pounds on a wedding venue. It is not that important to me to have the ‘fairy tale’ wedding in a big fancy stately home – I’m lower middle class, not a member of the aristocracy – I’d feel like a massive tit swanning around in a stately home that I’d rented (TWELVE THOUSAND POUNDS to rent the Dairy at Waddesdon Manor, for example!!!!) for a day. No Siree!

Honestly, I would LOVE an intimate church wedding. Don’t get me wrong, I am a staunch Atheist and so is my Fiancé but to me, churches are the most beautiful pieces of architectural history and I would love to have a civil ceremony in a Church; they suit my gothic sensibilities to a tee. My other half has vetoed the idea, sadly. (Also, I don’t even think atheists would be allowed to get married in a church???)

So, where is left? I like the idea of a woodland wedding, but would really like to wear heels when I get married, not wellies. My straightened hair also has a shitfit if I spend more than half an hour outdoors… What is a girl to do!?

If you can come up with some ideas of a low budget venue in the UK (preferably England) then I would LOVE to hear your ideas. Please do get in touch if you can help!

 

 

 

 

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Disability and Travel

Me and travel have a complicated relationship; I’ve even go so far as describing it as a love/hate relationship.

You see, I’ve always loved to travel. When I was a kid, we drove to Cornwall for two weeks every summer. As I got older, we went further afield after my long suffering Mum forced my Dad to go on a ‘proper holiday’ and during my GCSEs we flew to Greece for the first time. I was hooked. My mum and I will often just jump in the car and drive and see where it takes us. We love freedom and finding new, beautiful places.

Like most families, we had our favourite holiday destinations; Portmellon in Cornwall, near Mevagissey – where I spent every year of my childhood from nappies to GCSEs. Once my Dad had gotten over his fear of trying something new (we think he is also on the Autism spectrum, but denies there is anything wrong with him!) he threw himself into every Greek holiday we had after that – he learned basic Greek very quickly and we made friends with the locals in Petra on the island of Lesvos – it became a regular occurrence.

I haven’t been back to Lesvos since I was in my early twenties, but I definitely have the travel bug now. In recent years I’ve been to France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Iceland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. We came back from Morocco (my first foray into out-of-Europe travel) on Saturday and we are now looking at our next adventure  even further afield – south east Asia.

This all sounds rather wonderful, until you consider that I am unlike most people and travelling is not easy when you have several invisible disabilities. I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III (Now called Hypermobile EDS) when I was 19 so for years now I’ve had to make certain concessions as a keen traveller. Now, with my most recent diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, do I have to consider MANY things before we even book our flights.

How much walking is involved?

This is the question that rules my life. Because of my EDS, I cannot walk very far at all without being in pain. I have painful feet, ankles, legs and back. I also tire very very quickly and if I push myself too far on the first day of my travels, the rest of the holiday can easily be ruined. I wish I could just ‘book it, pack it and fuck off’ as Peter Kay so eloquently put it during one of his stand up routines, but sadly, I cannot – we have to research the fuck out of where we’re going, we have to make sure there are either taxis, horse drawn carriages or tuk-tuks – hell, I’d ride a donkey if I had to, just to see some of the world.

How hot/cold/wet does it get?

Another irritatingly complex issue I have, is with the weather. Again, we have a love hate relationship due to a condition I have called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome – this is basically my body failing to cope with certain movements like going from sitting to standing and my blood pressure drops so much I feel dizzy, faint and I lose my vision for a few seconds. Heat is my biggest enemy.

So, not only do I have to consider how hot it gets, but also how wet – because if you’ve ever had the misfortune to have arthritis or any other type of joint injury or pain, you’ll know that wet, damp weather is torture on the body. I absolutely love travelling around Europe, but the dampness is often a problem, so I have to go armed with heat packs a plenty.

Do I have enough earplugs?

I have struggled to sleep when there is background noise for many years now and it seems to be getting tougher and tougher. I cannot sleep in noisy environments so booking a cheap stay at a hostel and sharing a room with other travellers is a no-go. I can’t even sleep with my Fiance unless I have at least one earplug in – just someone breathing next to me is enough to bring on an autistic meltdown.

Where shall we prioritise?

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is degenerative. That means, it’s getting worse as I age. That also means that we have now had to start planning which destinations we want to put on the top of the list and which destinations we can afford to hold off on. We really REALLY want to travel to Peru to see Machu Picchu but the sheer size of it and the fact that it is an incredibly physically demanding place means that we’re going to have to do it sooner rather than later. The older I get, the harder it is going to get to travel around the places like this. I’ve looked into holidays for disabled travellers and there is a company out there that will literally carry you up the mountain to Machu Picchu in your wheelchair. Sadly, we’re a couple on one salary (of a Primary teacher!) so we cannot afford to book a package holiday like that – we have to do it ourselves somehow. And we will, we just have to figure out the logistics.

We spend so much time and energy planning our travels. We have to. I am limited physically and mentally. I find ordinary life incredibly tough, so add the complexity of foreign travel and you can imagine how hard it can be.

Which airport/airline is best for Special Assistance?

We have only recently realised that there is something called Special Assistance. Basically, the airport or the airline have people on hand to help disabled travellers get around the airport and on and off the planes. I booked my first airport assistance when we were flying from Gatwick to Germany and after quite a wait, I was transported via Wheelchair from Departures to the gate. As you probably know, it can be quite some distance to whichever boarding gate your flight is leaving from, so being able to save some energy was a real help.

I have to say,  we flew to Morocco from London Luton and the special assistance service was absolutely fantastic. We somehow managed to arrive rather short on time so the guy rushed us through security via the Priority Boarding lanes and I was also escorted onto the plane via a lift that meant I didn’t have to tackle any stairs at all. I couldn’t fault the service at London Luton aiport. Thank you!

Marrakech Airport also, took me by surprise. As soon as we got off the plane, there was a gentleman and a wheelchair waiting for me. He transported me through the airport, through security (there was apparently a 45 minute wait for able bodied passengers) and he even took us to the Bureau De Change (you can’t take currency into Marrakech, you have to exchange it when you’re there) and then out to the taxi rank. The service when flying back from Marrakech airport was also fantastic – I was transported straight to departures, through security and the only waiting we had to do was for the gate to open! I was so so surprised by the hands on attitude to disabled travellers at Marrakech airport. It is strange to say this, but we had a far far better experience being disabled in Morocco than we have visiting some places in England! Thank you Marrakech ❤

Can we afford it?

I can imagine a lot of our friends/acquaintances wonder how we manage to travel abroad at least once a year and have a mortgage on just one salary – the answer is; living frugally!
Honestly, it’s as simple as that. We don’t smoke, we buy a bottle of wine maybe twice a month and we eat a mainly vegetarian diet (I eat meat when we eat out – usually using Tesco vouchers – thank you Mum!) and we are big savers. We don’t live a hugely expensive life – we don’t have Sky (we’ve only just bought a telly with money given to us for Christmas) and we are lucky enough to be on a friend’s Netflix account (massive massive thank you to Andreas, you beaut!) so we can afford to pay our mortgage, bills AND save for our holidays abroad. We rarely go out socially and we also brew our own beer – or rather, my other half does (I’m wheat intolerant, of course – not to mention lactose intolerant too but that’s another blog!)

So you can see, if you make the necessary sacrifices, you can do more. You can choose to attend the same festival year in year out (not my thing, but if that’s what you like, I couldn’t care less!) or you could travel further and see more of the world.

We have travelled by car, ferry, bus, train, airplane and horse and carriage – we will see the world by any means necessary. That is how important travelling is to us as a couple, and how important it is to me, as someone with disabilities. I will not let my illnesses define me, or stop me from living my life. If I can do it, you can too!

DIY Victorian Stair Makeover

One of the first things I thought when I viewed the house for the first time was ‘urgh, who paints everything white?’ and my second thought was ‘How the fuck am I going to undo all this!?’

A couple of months after we moved in, I did some research online and found a chemical paint stripper that would be strong enough to remove the paint from the stairs (Yes… there is white paint from floor to ceiling!!) I settled on Langlow’s Strip Away Pro. It had brilliant reviews online for its efficacy,  I decided to give it a go. A word of warning though – it is designed to be used by ‘professionals’ and as such, is only available to buy on Ebay and Amazon. It is incredibly strong stuff and burns through latex gloves – I double glove with Marigolds AND latex gloves underneath and still have to replace them after a few uses. Langlow paint stripper BURNS the skin, so protective clothing, gloves and facemasks are definitely necessary. It’s also important to adequately ventilate the area before, during and after use as it also burns the lungs if not properly ventilated during use.

So, I have my stripper, some wire wool, a scraper, protective wear, some cloths and a bucket of water and get to it. I started on a floorboard nearest the bedroom as we have a yoga mat in the hallway (it’s incredibly echoey when everything is painted and there are no carpets!) so I could hide it if it didn’t look good or work out. Luckily, the paint came off incredibly easy with the scraper. Sadly, the previous owner hadn’t done the best job (to put it lightly!) on painting or varnishing the entire hallway upstairs and down. The whole lot needs to come off, then be sanded down. What a job!

I have to say, I am loving every minute of it! Yes, it stinks, yes it’s hard work physically (I’m wearing my wrist splints more and more since I started the stair makeover) but the instant gratification of the paint coming away is indescribable! Renovating a house is an incredibly slow, laborious thing if, like me, you have no money. I’m doing the stripping myself as my Fiancé works full time and I am really enjoying having something to fill my time with.

Here are some pictures of the stair makeover so far…

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I quickly found out that to strip the paint (mainly gloss, with 2 layers of Victorian varnish) from the skirtings was not a job for a chemical paint stripper. I googled how to strip paint from skirting boards and architraves and decided the best course of action would be to purchase a Heat Gun.

I practically ran down to my nearest Screwfix and bought their cheapest (yet most highly rated!) 2000w, 240v heat gun by Energer. I already had everything I needed so the next day after watching several You Tube videos, decided to give it ago.

It’s definitely all about trial and error and I learned quickly the best techniques for stripping the skirtings. I’m really enjoying the process of stripping, but I honestly can’t wait to hire a sander and get them ready for my next step (staining them as dark as possible!)

Here’s what the skirting boards look like.

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I ran out of chemical stripper so am waiting for a delivery of the next 5 litre can. I’m working with the heat gun on the skirting boards while I’m waiting to finish the stairs.

The next step, as I’ve said, will be to hire a belt sander (my dad’s loaning me his hand sander for the fiddly bits) and then I’ll look into the array of wood stains. My plan for the hallways and stairs is to stain the wood as dark as possible – a dark mahogany, hopefully, then matt varnish over the top. I’ve been researching original victorian floors and the plan is to get them looking as authentic as possible, so that means they’re going DARK! No more white paint thank you very much!

Watch this space – I’ll be posting another blog once I’ve finished the stripping process and I’ve hired a sander… that’s the really scary bit! Eeeeeek.

The things no one tells you about being a first time buyer…

In May 2017 my partner and I set about looking for our first home together after 3 years of hard saving and scrimping and some help from a very wonderful Aunt.
We finally moved into our first home on Friday 13th October 2017 – yes, we are aware that we are nuts to choose to move house on Friday 13th but if you knew us as a couple, you probably wouldn’t be surprised!

Here are a few tips we picked up along the way – some obvious (now, in hindsight!) and some not so obvious…

ONE

Know thyself. 

When I say this, I mean know exactly what you want in a property before you set out – it really helps to have a firm idea of what you need vs what you want. We agreed very early on that we would never consider purchasing either a flat or a new build – a period property (Victorian, or Edwardian at a push) was the ONLY option for us and we stuck to that – even when offered to view affordable 1930s properties, we stuck to our guns because we knew in our heart of hearts what was right for us.

TWO

Know the Compromises

We knew we’d never be able to afford a ‘liveable-inable’ house straight off. We viewed some real shit holes to begin with then as we viewed more properties we learned what certain things mean in property listing on sites like Zoopla and Rightmove; such as a ‘manageable, low maintenance garden’ usually means a concreted or paved courtyard that you couldn’t swing a dick round.

There was one thing we were not prepared to compromise on, and that was the garden. We did however, fall in love with a property that had quite a tiny garden but we put an offer in anyway as the house itself was almost perfectly formed. Thankfully, we didn’t get that house – we found a house that was even better with a BIGGER garden in the end – so, perhaps ignore that bit of advice 😉

THREE

Know your limits

If you’re confident at haggling then this will definitely stand you in good stead for the ‘making an offer’ part. Be prepared to hear the ‘big sell’ – things like exaggerating how much interest they’ve had in the house, exaggerating how many offers they’ve had and even being asked after you’ve made an offer, if you can offer more. If you have trouble saying no, then try and get some help from friends or family to give you support while you make your negotiations. Don’t be fooled into thinking the estate agent is working on your behalf – they are not, they are working for the SELLER to sell the house at a price they want (and the estate agents really want to sell houses and get their commission!)

FOUR

Know your budget – and stick to it.

When we agreed on our budget, we decided on what we could afford to offer and we stuck to it. We stuck to our guns so that we didn’t break into our ‘renovation fund’ that we had running alongside our deposit fund. We sat down and agreed on the mortgage we could afford – we did not go for a huge mortgage, we saved for a bigger deposit instead. We agreed that being mortgaged up to the hilt is not for us and we want to have a good quality of life while we pay off our mortgage; so we worked out how much per month we could live comfortably on while paying the mortgage.

FIVE

Know your geography or at least learn it! 

We moved to a relatively new town – I’d been a frequent visitor to the town for years but have never really paid any attention to anything other than its shopping centre. We learned very very quickly from many many viewings which areas to avoid! There were around 6 areas of the town and we very quickly shaved 3 areas off the list simply by viewing houses in the area. The best piece of advice I can give you is ‘buy a not so great house in a great area, not the other way round’ because after all, LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. It’s a cliché  but it’s true.

SIX

NEVER Scrimp on a survey

I spent months reading and researching Victorian properties and quickly learned a few important differences between new builds and period properties. I phoned up innumerable surveyors and asked how they measure for damp – old houses are usually damp and I found a wonderful gentleman called Peter Ward (look him up on Youtube) who knows everything about period properties – from his site I learned that a decent surveyor won’t use damp meters. They will know that victorian properties need to breathe and will point out things that a not-so-knowledgeable surveyor may not notice. I can personally recommend 1st Associated surveyors – we had a full survey done and the report was over 100 pages in length and was incredibly detailed. Even our estate agent was impressed with it – it helped us to re-submit a lower offer taking into account the structural issues with the house that we wouldn’t have known about without the survey. It wasn’t cheap, but it was absolutely worth every penny (or pound!)

SEVEN

KNOW YOUR PROPERTY

LIME EVERY TIME

The most frustrating thing I found when viewing properties was how much damage people have inadvertently caused when ‘modernising’ period properties. Seemingly simple things like re-pointing brickwork with cement mortar instead of lime mortar can severely impact the level of damp in a house. Cement mortar creates a barrier that means that moisture in the house cannot escape the way it was designed to – through the bricks and mortar.

Another death to period properties is double glazing windows (and in lots of privately rent homes, we noticed very few extractor fans were in use) and no ventilation – and hence, damp and mould.

PERIOD PROPERTIES NEED TO BREATHE – That is the difference between new builds and period properties.

Also look out for modern plastered walls – always try to replaster period houses using lime based plaster, not gypsum plaster, so that the house can BREATHE.

A Final Word

For us, the biggest hurdle when buying a house, was the deposit. It took us years and years of living separately and saving. We lived within our means (and continue to do so) and saved as much as we could get away with, without leaving ourselves ridiculously poor. We went without – I didn’t fritter my money on clothes or shoes and when we did buy things, we bought things ‘for the house’ – like furniture (thank you to my Mum and Dad for allowing us the use of their loft as storage for the past 3 years!)

The hard save is worth it – that pair of shoes or latest games console, is not.

Your deposit is what gives you freedom – freedom to choose a decent mortgage, a decent property and gives you freedom to own more of your house from the outset. In my opinion, there is no point putting down a 5% deposit and paying a huge mortgage for 35 years and living hand to mouth. Live within your means. Good Luck!!!

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Victorian House Hunting!

I last wrote in March about how uneasy I was feeling about my life. It’s amazing how quickly things can change.

Tomorrow, I turn 31 and on Saturday I’m taking my other half to view a house that I’ve fallen in love with. It’s a beautiful (yet slightly dilapidated) Victorian Terrace in a village and is full of potential for our first home project.

I’ve written previously about my passion for history and my biggest obsession in life has been wanting to buy a Victorian house and restore its original features like fireplaces and open fires, sash windows and corbels etc.

Luckily for me, my partner in crime hates new build houses as much as I do, so we quickly agreed we wanted to buy a period property and do it up in the style we like. We settled on a Victorian terrace. My Grandparents owned a Victorian end-of-terrace in Liverpool and we visited them during my childhood. I can still remember the high ceilings, big rooms, beautiful wooden banister, the red carpet running up the stairs with stair rods, the stained glass porch and the bakelite light switches. From the age of around 8 I fell in love with that old, dilapidated house and I’ve been determined to own something so beautiful myself.

With that in mind, we started house hunting only a few months ago, and in the space of around 2 weeks we viewed 11 properties of varying states of undress (!). The first Victorian house we saw had a 200 foot garden, which had such amazing potential, especially for us, as we’re keen to get green fingered and I’m something of a Hedgewitch. Unfortunately, the house (or cottage!) itself was “compact and bijou”, in need of an awful lot of TLC and the kitchen was the smallest kitchen I’ve ever seen with the lowest ceiling I’ve ever seen! Suffice to say, we let someone else take a punt on that house!

Next came another Victorian terrace that had been refurbished upstairs but not downstairs so the 1970s kitchen was in desperate need of being ripped out and started again, with a more age-appropriate kitchen. The road it was on was unbelievably claustrophobic, so that was a no from me.

We then went to view 2 properties a few doors down from each other. Both were previous HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) and were damp as f*ck. There’s no way we could afford to sort out the damp and have enough money to make the house liveable in. So they were instant nos.

It’s actually incredible how fast you learn when you’re thrown into the deep end of a project. I’ve never lived anywhere other than in my parents council house – it’s a terraced house built in the mid to late 70s and structurally, we don’t do any maintenance to it as it’s not our responsibility. So, looking at Victorian buildings with absolutely no experience in home owning/building has been a very steep learning curve already.
I’ve spent many hours researching how to renovate old buildings, and together, we have built quite an arsenal of knowledge over the past couple of months. I’m actually rather proud of myself – I’ve spoken to mortgage advisors, estate agents and the like, and I’d never done anything so grown up in my life. I definitely feel like I’ve achieved so much personally, already.

Knowing what we know, we’ve narrowed down our search radius to two areas of a town we want to live in. We’ve excluded ‘rougher’ areas from our search as we’re in the mind of buying a ‘shit house, in a decent area’ and making it nice. Postcode means a lot to us.

I have to say, I have, at this stage, fallen in love with a house. It’s everything I want (even if the garden is a little smaller than I’d like, it has potential to be really cute) and I can really imagine us living there together, as a family. I can already see what I could physically add to the house (stripping and painting architraves for example) and I can see the wallpaper I’ve chosen on the walls and the fireplaces opened up and restored with open fireplaces and wood burning stoves. It’s in a beautiful village on a beautiful street of Victorian terraces that all look loved and cared for…

The Big But…

Unfortunately for us, I can say with absolute certainty that this ‘dream house’ is also going to be the ‘dream house’ for many other house hunters. The house is for up for informal tender – this means that you view the house, then you write a ‘sealed bid’ – hand your sealed, secret offer into the estate agent for the vendor to then decide who they want to sell the house to. It’s a fair way of doing it, but still absolutely heartbreaking if our bid isn’t successful.

I know I shouldn’t put all my eggs into this one basket, but when you fall in love, you can’t stop it, you just have to go for it. So, we’re going for it. We have our deposit, our mortgage in principle and I’m so ready to start my new life with my incredible partner in crime.

I just hope with all I have, that this is the house for us. I’ll keep you posted x

*Disclaimer: Featured image subject to Copyright – the Victorian Emporium*

Childfree at 30; female sterilisation. 

Eighteen days ago, 30 year old childless me walked into the Day Surgery Unit at my local hospital, with my hand in my partner’s and my Mum on my other side. I was about to be admitted into hospital for an elective Laparoscopic Tubal Ligation – or to the layperson – to have female sterilisation.

I entered the unit with my long term partner (I would say boyfriend, but he’s more than a boyfriend but not quite a husband) and my Mum. Both of whom I couldn’t have done this without. My support network was exactly what I needed. I was so nervous and excited at the same time but having my loving partner holding my hand and my amazing (Nurse) Mum beside me made the whole procedure much easier to take.

The all important support network

If you’re considering having a Tubal Ligation, having a support network around you is extremely important. Making the decision to end your mothering capabilities forever is a huge decision and having family and friends around you, supporting you, makes all the difference.

The Surgery

At 11:15 I was admitted to the day surgery ward. There was quite a long wait but there were some lovely chatty ladies already in the beds around me, which made my stay a little bit more enjoyable.

I was told to take a urine sample with me on the day of surgery (I believe this was to confirm I wasn’t pregnant) so this was given to the nurse and I was told to wait for the Anaesthetist. As I have a rare illness (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) I made sure my Nurse Mum explained to my Anaesthetist that my illness causes me to be resistant to anaesthetic, so we made sure both the Anaesthetist and my surgeon both knew before I was put under general anaesthetic.

My Gynae consultant who was performing the surgery came to see me and to tell me about the procedure. He said it should only take him half an hour as it is a straightforward procedure and he’s done many many of them (admittedly, not to too many women my age) and he did ask me if I was one hundred percent sure I wanted to go through with it. He did say that he didn’t like performing this surgery on one so young. (I’ll get to that in a minute!)

Anyway, so the chat with the surgeon went well and I put my not-so-sexy compression socks on and my backless hospital gown and it hit me – I’m going to be put to sleep for the first time in my life and it started to feel real. I was really nervous.

My time came and I was wheeled off down to the Anaesthetic room to be put under. The porter commented on my long unpainted talons and that took my mind of the coming surgery, just for a moment.

The nurse started attaching the heart monitors to my chest and an IV line was put into the back of my left hand. The nurse was lovely and started asking me about my eyebrows (she was surprised to hear that they are naturally arched and I don’t shape them like that myself!) and again, this put me at ease. A mask of oxygen was put over my face as they put the general anaesthetic into my IV… and I was gone.

The next thing I know, I’m awake and I can hear lots of voices but I can’t see straight. I saw a man in glasses peering down at me and I had an oxygen mask over my face. I fell in and out of consciousness for around half an hour (or so I’m told)…

Paul, the man who was looking after me in the recovery room immediately after my surgery, was lovely. He chatted to me about my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (I felt a bit like a celebrity, as I seemed to be the talk of the town because it’s unusual to have a patient in surgery with a resistance to anaesthetic) and he gave me a very sugary cup of tea and not one, but TWO packets of biscuits – My mouth was incredibly dry from having a tube down my throat so I only managed a biscuit and a half so he gave me the other pack to take back to the ward with me.

I was in recovery for around 45 minutes. This is apparently unusual but because I’d had to have more anaesthetic and more painkillers (I’m on a morphine derivative permanently at home) so it took me longer to be brought back to the ward.

Oh Holy Oramorph!!

I must admit, I was surprised by how okay I felt having been wheeled back to the ward… and then the morphine wore off…

Holy mother of all things merciful I have never felt pain like it. The pain came from not only having my organs pushed and pulled around, but from the gas they pump inside your stomach so they can see what they’re doing in there. It’s this gas that made my stomach so painful. So, they gave me two lots of Tramadol and when that didn’t work, they offered me Oramorph. I drank it and within 10 minutes I was right as rain again.

Around 20 minutes after the morphine, I was wanting to get up and move around, so I went to the toilet for my first wee. It’s important that you wee after surgery, or they won’t let you go home. I was relieved that I’d peed and eaten so I was soon to be discharged.

I got myself dressed (they encourage you to do as much for yourself as possible) and the nurses all looked at me incredulously, like I’d made a miraculous recovery – I was writhing around in agony just 30 minutes before!

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Shortly after receiving 2 doses of Tramadol and 1 dose of Oramorph!

My Saviours are here!

I text my Mum and within 10 minutes I was walked down the corridor by a nurse and there I saw my Partner and Mum standing there, peering behind the door looking relieved to see me. I’ll never forget their faces in that moment.
We walked slowly and gently to the car (me wearing my pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers) and home to rest I went.

Post Surgery

I cautiously moved around my house for a few days after the surgery, careful not to lift anything heavy or reach upwards. I had a couple of dissolvable stitches inside my belly button and another stitched wound near my left ovary, just below my knicker-line.

Within a week, I started to feel much more like myself and I took a tentative trip outside with my Mum just to the shops for a little walk around. I’m now 18 days post-op and my belly button looks exactly as it did before the surgery. The wound on my left hip is healing more slowly, but it’s getting there.

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I received a pre-assessment information pack that I read cover to cover. It featured all the information about the surgery, the anaesthetic and the recovery.

 

Thoughts

Q: How do you feel now that you are permanently unable to bear children?

A: Exactly as I did before the surgery. I didn’t wake up and think ‘Oh God, what have I done?’ I felt no different whatsoever.

Q: What if you start to regret it?

A: I’m a firm believer in instinct. If my gut tells me something is right or wrong, I tend to listen. At the age of 30, if I wanted children, I would have had them by now. I do not see myself ever wanting children and that is why I made this permanent decision to be sterilised. If in ten years’ time I find my mind wondering about children, I’ll remind myself of all the reasons why I chose to be sterilised in the first place.

Q: …And what are those reasons?

A: One, lack of maternal instinct. I’m not going to wake up one day and feel broody. I have never felt broody.
Two, I don’t like children. There, I said it. They’re loud, they’re messy, they’re expensive, they’re needy, they’re tiring, they’re stressful.
Three, I am an introvert. I am sensitive to the energy of other people and my people-battery gets flat after a short while. Being around a baby or child runs that battery down twice as fast and I would definitely resent it. I need quiet, I need to be alone, in order to re-charge my batteries.
and finally, number four, the “big kahuna” – I am invisibly disabled. My health has been poor since my early twenties and I have several chronic illnesses; two of which, run in my family. I do not believe it is morally right to bring a child into the world if there is a known possibility of them inheriting a health condition.

Q: But what if you didn’t have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, do you think you would feel differently?

A: No. I do not believe I would. I listed my EDS as the last reason and there’s a reason for that – I am a woman, first and foremost. I am a woman who has never felt the urge to procreate. If everything in my life was perfect, if I had all the money in the world, If I had a large house, a garden, Nannies, and I wasn’t disabled, I still would choose not to have children. My own lack of maternal instinct is reason enough. I shouldn’t have to justify not wanting children and it shouldn’t rest on whether or not I was physically fit enough to bear a child. I don’t want children, period.

Q: Do you have any words of advice for other women out there who are contemplating Tubal Ligation?

A: Yes, think, think and think again. It is such a personal decision, no one can make it for you. You have to be absolutely sure that you never ever want a baby, because Tubal Ligation is non-reversible. It is a permanent solution.

Q: Okay, so I’ve decided I want to go through with it, where do I start and do you have any advice?

A: Yes; Stand. Your. Ground. Your first port of call (this is advice for ladies in England, I do not know the procedure for private health care or that of US health care) will be with your General Practitioner – they are the ones who refer you to the NHS for the procedure.

Even in 2017, Doctors are reluctant to refer women for sterilisation who are “young” and “childless” (and even in some cases, after having children they still are reluctant!)
You will need to assert yourself at every point, and make your argument clear. When approaching a Doctor, have your facts. Research the procedure, the success and failure rates, research other women’s successful cases and have every answer to their questions thoroughly thought out. I was asked about why I didn’t want to continue with the Mirena Coil and my own feeling is that my body does not react well to added hormones, so I wanted a permanent solution that didn’t involve hormones.
Unfortunately, you will come up against doctors who will refuse outright, either due to their own personal opinions or because they think they know best. My advice is to stand your ground and don’t take no for an answer. If you have no luck with your own GP, book an appointment with another GP at your surgery and ask them to refer you.
I was turned down by my own GP but when I saw another, after somewhat of a fight, I was referred on and then got to be assessed by the Gynae team (they are the ones who make the final decision).

Q: Do you have any other advice?

A: All I can say is, do what is right for you. I knew deep down I didn’t want children at a very young age. I did wait until I was 30 to broach the subject of sterilisation and I did try every available form of contraception before making the huge decision to be sterilised.
I won’t sit here and say it’ll be easy, or that you won’t regret it – the decision is 100% yours and you have to be prepared for the possibility of regret. If you can accept that, then good luck to you on your journey to being childfree.

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“Motherhood is not for every woman, and that’s okay.” – Beth Von Black

Millennials; Isn’t it time to grow up?

So, I was sat doing the usual daily scroll through Facebook this afternoon and it occurred to me how many memes there are making light of twenty-somethings and their failures…


But it wasn’t always like this. In the 1940s, at the age of twenty they were enlisted and sent off to war. They were MEN, fighting for this country, taking responsibility for their country and their family, often leaving their wives behind to work in the factories and fields.

In 2017, I am surrounded by men in their late twenties who simply refuse to grow up. They spend their wages on nights out, illicit substances, booze and then fall into their (private rented) bed with a takeaway. This happens regularly and they then sit down the pub and moan about how much debt they’re in, how awful their relationship is or how much they hate their job (in some cases, all three!)

And I’m sitting here thinking… Grow the fuck up! Take responsibility for the (terrible) choices you’ve made that have put you in the position you’re in now. If you hate your life so much, do something to make it better instead of burying your head in the sand (or by shoving coke up your nose) and hoping it’ll go away.

I’m no saint, of course. I’ve made some not-so-sensible decisions in my 30 years I’ve been alive, BUT I can say that I have made the best of a bad situation.

Through no fault of my own I still live with my parents. I was born with a disability that means I cannot support myself financially and as I live with my parents, I do have disposable income. However, I have not disposed of this income in the way I described above, for the main reason of knowing how hard my future will be when I can no longer rely on my parents.

At the age of 13 I was given £200 when my Grandma died. It went straight into a “car fund” that I set up for myself because I have always wanted to drive and be independent. The Car Fund grew, slowly and it has been used to buy myself a car.

I was in a nasty car accident at 19 and got a nice chunk of compensation. Of course I bought myself a new wardrobe, a flatscreen TV and a laptop. I went on to sell the TV and I still wear most of the clothes I bought back then (and they’re now falling apart!). I like to think that I’m careful with money and appreciate how lucky (or unlucky!) I have been to have what I have.

Others don’t seem so grateful. If anything, they appear like spoilt brats to me; they’re able bodied, able to earn thousands of pounds a year, yet due to bad decisions, they’re scraping by every month and continue to moan about it and posts memes on their Facebook making light of their seemingly miserable lives.

I am fully aware that I’m not perfect, but I can say I am an aware and authentic person who is trying to think about my future and plan for it.

I’ve been sensible with money and I have chosen a partner who is also good with money yet it wasn’t an accident – if I happened to get into a relationship with someone to find that they were terrible with money (like my own father is) I would run for the hills. According to an article in the Huffington Post money problems (and incompatible views on money) is one of the biggest factors in divorce in the modern age.

It’s not just about money though, I think it’s about maturity. It’s a known fact that men mature later than women, but I’ve also noticed the abundance of women in their twenties who still love Disney, still fantasize about finding their Disney Prince and refuse to grow up. It’s an epidemic. We are still behaving like children well into our twenties and thirties.

Millennials, isn’t it time you grew up?

Sterilised at 30 – part 3

On 28th October I sat in the waiting room of the Gynaecology department at my local hospital (alongside lots of pregnancy bellies) and I couldn’t sit still. I was incredibly nervous.I could feel my pulse pounding all over my body. My boyfriend of just over two years was sat next to me, holding my hand in one hand, and a book in another.

It didn’t take long for me to be called in for the initial weighing, height taking and blood pressure. All was normal (which is surprising, considering I normally have low blood pressure, but I put that down to the fact that I was feeling rather stressed in this instance!)

Then, I was ushered into another room. The lady asked me all sorts of personal questions about my menstrual cycle, my sex life and she asked me about the different contraception I’ve tried over the years.

I was quite surprised by the fact that she seemed shocked that my boyfriend of two years wasn’t keen on having a vasectomy – Apparently, when asking for a female sterilisation, the first thing they do is ask if your partner would be willing to undergo sterilisation instead (it’s less invasive than female sterilisation). The fact that he’s younger than me (only by 2 years, but still) and that we’re not yet married meant that I wasn’t willing to try and persuade my other half to make the life altering decision to undergo male sterilisation. After all, my quest to remain childfree has been MY quest since I was a young teenager. It’s not his responsibility or burden.

We moved on to discussing other reasons for sterilisation. As you are probably aware, I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type, which is a debilitating, degenerative and genetic connective tissue disorder. There have been reports (from specialists in the EDS field) that suggest a link between the Mirena Coil – which I currently have – and the worsening of EDS symptoms. I know for a fact that my EDS flares up during that time of the month and if I can have the option to go without any hormonal contraception, I would benefit from it; emotionally and physically. The lady doing my assessment was keen to refute the idea that the Coil could have any effect on my EDS but I held my ground. I made in clear that I wanted rid of all hormonal contraception, end of.

She then went to another room to discuss this with the Consultant. 5 minutes later, the consultant came in, shook my hand and said she understood that I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and asked me who else in my family has the condition. I explained that my sister and mother are both hypermobile, as were my Grandmas on both sides of my parents. She explained that she understood that EDS is an autosomal dominant condition and was happy to give me the go ahead for female sterilisation.

I couldn’t believe it, I grinned from ear to ear. I said thank you very much, and she left the room. It was then down to the other lady to go through all the paperwork with me and explain what’s going to happen next.

It was explained to me that there are some risks associated with a Tubal Occlusion and they are: possible perforating/damage to the inner organs during surgery, infection, failure rates and so on. I am due to undergo a Tubal Occlusion using the clipping method which has a failure rate of 1 in 200 which doesn’t sound too great, but as we all know, abstinence is the only way to stay 100% pregnancy free, unfortunately!

But, this was all worth it, to me. Knowing I won’t have any other hormones in my system other than my own, is worth the risk.

I signed the consent form there and then, and even underwent a surgical pre-assessment – bloods and a medical history were taken and I was told that as I don’t work, I may be asked to attend surgery at short notice, which is absolutely fine with me! The sooner the better really.

So that was my (surprisingly short and easy) experience with being referred to Gynaecology for female sterilisation.

I feel I must add my own thoughts.

Firstly, if there is anyone else out there that is young, childless and absolutely sure that they don’t want children and would like to be sterilised on the NHS, I would absolutely recommend talking to your GP about it. My own GP refused to refer me, so I got a second opinion from another GP who, when pressed, put me forward for it.

Unfortunately, with the country and the NHS in the state it’s in, we now have to fight for treatment. We have to put our case forward and fight to be taken seriously. But, the funding is out there for female sterilisation – you just have to make a case for yourself.

I went to my GP fully armed with information on the NICE guidelines for female sterilisation, articles on my genetic condition and articles on other young women being sterilised on the NHS. (If you’re not aware of a young woman named Holly Brockwell, look her up – she has been an inspiration to me, in my quest for sterilisation). Holly fought for four years to be sterilised on the NHS and she had never even had a coil fitted (unlike me, who had to undergo every type of contraception before being taken seriously!) so if Holly and I can be heard, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be heard too.

Being childfree is a choice that we all have a right to make. If you don’t want children, that’s entirely up to you and no one should make you feel bad for your own lifestyle choices. Be proud of the life you lead and stand by it. If you’re at all unsure and think you may want children someday…. sterilisation is definitely not for you. It’s a big decision that requires years of thought and you must be absolutely sure.

I’ve never been more sure.

Stay tuned; I will be updating this blog every step of the way and as soon as I get a surgery date, I will let you all know x

Student, once again!

I can’t believe I haven’t written a blog post about the fact that I’m now a student (again!)

I am 5 weeks into a BA (Honours) History degree with the Open University and so far, it’s been great! I’m ahead in my studies and handed my first assignment (on Cleopatra and Cézanne!) with 16 days to spare. I figure even if I’m way off the point, the second assignment is a second go at the first assignment so all’s not lost!

This is my desk at the moment (borrowed laptop, antique dining chair!) and it’s not overly comfortable. Having a condition like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome means sitting is difficult, typing is painful and so is holding a book open! Thankfully the Open University have a great support team for disabled students and they sent me ring bound copies of the course texts so I don’t have to hold them open!

I’m also in the middle of applying for Disabled Student Allowance to hopefully get some dictation software, an ergonomic chair and some other things that will help me study more successfully while being disabled. 

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the Day School as I haven’t been given any funding for travel yet (hoping that DSA will cover this) but I did make it to a local tutorial which was nerve wracking but really interesting. I actually found myself answering all the questions the other students directed at our Tutor so I’m feeling like I’ve absorbed all the necessary information!

I will be writing updates on my studies as this is something that may interest other disabled people who would like to study but don’t know where to start! 

If you have any questions about being a disabled student, please do feel free to get in touch, I’d be happy to answer your questions! 

She Said Yes; Part Two – Sterilised at 30. 

Earlier in the year my own GP said “no chance” when I first inquired about being sterilised. I left it a good few months, booked an appointment with a lady GP who dealt with my Mirena Coil and broached the question with her. She was resistant at first but relented when I pressed the issue – that was on 7th October.

Today, I received a call from the Gynaecology department at my local hospital asking if I can be available in 10 days time for an appointment regarding female sterilisation! I am over the moon!

Because this issue seems to be quite a taboo subject (and a growing number of women are choosing the childfree life) I have decided to document my experience of being sterilised at 30, so that it may give other young women the courage to stand up for what they want in life. It isn’t anyone else’s job to tell you whether or not you want kids, nor that you should live your life having to constantly worry about falling pregnant by accident because for people like me, who are sure about who they are and what they want, there ARE options to make sure we never get pregnant, full stop.

Follow me and follow my quest to be childfree and fabulous!