Sunday 18 September 2011

It just hit me that I love living in England

I met my american husband at the University of East Anglia.  Once I graduated we moved to Boston so that he could finish his degree at UMASS, while I worked on an internship visa at Massachussetts General Hospital.  Two years later, we moved to Glasgow so that I could do my Masters at the University of  Glasgow and we married that year in England at Chiddingstone Castle (saw them use the castle for a photo shoot on that show about liking yourself naked).  We then moved back to the US to Maryland so that Ryan could do a PhD at Johns Hopkins University and we remained there for over 7 years.

We really loved living in Baltimore, it was a little daunting at first, Ryan moved there a few weeks before a big hurricane hit the State and flooded half of downtown.  Crime rates are also pretty high there, and if you have ever watched The Wire, it really is like that in some areas.  After we had lived in Baltimore for a while I landed my dream job working for the WIC program (Womens, Infants and Childrens Supplemental Nutrition & Breastfeeding Program) in Anne Arundel County, which really married my two interests in Nutrition and Breastfeeding really well, and I felt like I was really able to make a difference in people's lives.  I worked with some really amazing people (you know who you are), and got to go to some really amazing places and learn so much about the program, the government, nutrition and breastfeeding.  The last two came in handy when I had my first baby in 2008 when we had a few teething problems breastfeeding, but I had an amazing support network around me and we are still nursing to this day (well, I think he nursed twice this week).

I remember interviewing for the job and being asked where I wanted to be in five years time, and my answer was England.  I never really saw my self staying in Baltimore forever, and England seemed the logical choice to me.  Actually, I'm surprised that they still hired me, maybe they didn't believe me.  I spent almost six amazing years working for the Maryland WIC program in Anne Arundel County, and it wasn't an easy choice to make to move back to the UK.  I had a job I loved, my husband had a job offer that would have meant we could stay in the same house which we loved, and we had grown to love Maryland and all that it has to offer.  The one thing we were missing was family.  Ryans' family are spread all over the US, just nowhere near Maryland.  My closest friend in the States had just decided to move from Washington DC back to San Diego.  I think we had taken advantage of a babysitter one time by the time my son was 3 because it was so expensive, and hard to justify.  Ryan's friends gradually got married over the time we lived in Baltimore, and a few times grandparents had to fly in just so that we could attend.  When I put William in daycare at three months old, I had to ask my work colleagues to act as emergency contacts (which they were more than happy to do), but it wasn't ideal.

Fast forward to December 2010.  I said goodbye to my dream job, we sold our home and packed our belongings into 20 suitcases and boarded a plane for Heathrow.  On arriving at Heathrow, we lost William at baggage claim.  We searched everywhere for him, hoping he hadn't jumped on a conveyor belt and been whisked behind the scenes or fallen off and hurt himself.  After a good 30 minutes frantically looking for him, we heard word that he had made it through customs and walked out alone into the international arrivals area of the terminal.  I ran through customs to find him while Ryan collected our 20 bags, and found William happy as anything at the information booth.  I was so happy to see him that I made the biggest mistake and smiled (possibly grinned).  I say this was a mistake as I spent the next five minutes of my life being lectured to by a Heathrow policeman about how I should be ashamed of myself for taking my eyes of my son and having the audacity to look happy about it.  Apparently he was the perfect parent, and had never taken his eyes off his children for one second their whole entire lives.  I remember thinking "Did I make a mistake?", "Take me back to America!".

Yes, it was just about warm enough to go to the beach this year

We made it to my parents home in one piece (actually we forgot one piece of luggage), and we have been living at my childhood home ever since.  There have been times that I've wondered if we made the right choice when it gets a little crowded (we still haven't moved out and I've since given birth to a gorgeous baby girl), but a few days ago (Wednesday, September 14th 2011 I believe) it suddenly hit me, and made me smile.  I was driving on my way from dropping William at nursery going to Pembury to attend breastfeeding peer supporter training with Ellie.  I was running late and we were stuck behind a truck trying to pass a car in the narrow lanes between Kemsing and Seal.  Once the two vehicles had passed each other I noticed an even larger van coming towards me, so stopped to let it pass.  It was my Dad.  It made me smile so much because I never had that in Baltimore.  I'd never gone for a walk or a drive and seen anyone I knew.  Here in SevenoaksWeatherspoons in Sevenoaks on a Sunday, I'll probably bump into my parents long standing friends Graham and Pauline.  On Thursdays William attends the local pre-school, and we car pool with the neighbours, who also looked after William when I went into labour with Ellie.

You'd think he'd been doing it his whole life
(My Dad didn't meet William until he was 11 months old)

We now live in a village surrounded by fields.  We are close to London, close to the beach, close to France even, and close to family.  You just never know the importance of having family close by until you have children.  I think we made a very good decision to move close to family, and we may argue from time to time, but now I can't imagine not having them here.

William and Granny at Diggerland

I am sad that we cannot be close to all of our family, but it's getting harder and harder for families to live close by because so many people are traveling for work, and moving all over the globe.  It is a big reason why we so desperately need breastfeeding support groups and breastfeeding peer supporters, in a world where you can no longer rely on the wisdom of other family members to help us when we have questions, friends and peers take their place to provide the answers and guidance.

This is how I find the time to run the new business and write blogs

The NCT, NHS, WIC, La Leche League and ABM are among many organisations that provide breastfeeding support in your area.  Please find a support group near you before you have your baby so that you know exactly where to go and who to call.  I have a list of breastfeeding resources on my website.

 My Kiddies
William (January 2008) and Ellie (April 2011)

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