Monday, 2 January 2017

2016 in review plus our new baby!

Wow what a year this has been! It seems strange now to think back to January - it feels like a lifetime ago. Or a different life at least. So much has changed since then.

The year started with snow on the hills near our house. It was so beautiful. I worked on a personal Victoria Stitch project whilst I waited for feedback from publishers. I can't put it on the internet right now as I have (very long term) future plans for it but there's a couple of snippets from it below. I bought a spiralizer and started eating courgetti loads. We also tried cauliflower pizza for the first time which was really nice - and also healthy! We watched a really great film called I Origins which I found really powerful. Also The Hobbit. We got some starry cushions with eyelashes. I wrote Isadora Moon goes to the Ballet. Henry started his evening MA classes and I accompanied him to them. It was an excellent two hour window with no distractions in which to write. I also invested in a Smart Camera seeing as I don't have a decent mobile phone to take pictures and upload to the internet with and it was a gamechanger! I love it.

In February I discovered Wrest Park which is a stately home type place with beautiful landscaped gardens right near our house. I had no idea that such a place existed so close to us. We ended up going there quite a few times over the year as it is so nice to walk around.

I also created Topaz, a green haired character to take photos of as I was worried Celestine was getting a bit old and precious to take around with me after three years. So Topaz came to 'visit' for a bit though if I'm honest I was never one hundred percent happy with her. Sorry Topaz!

In March Henry and I both had birthdays. I made Henry a big chocolate cake with multicoloured flame candles. I got a tiny, tiny little green dragon amongst other things. Henry made me cauliflower pizza again but now I remember I was actually ill over my birthday. I worked on the illustrations for Isadora Moon has a Birthday which was quite fitting. I found out that OUP wanted me to do an Isadora Moon 5 and 6 which I was delighted about!

I also did two school visits in March. One at a primary school and one at my old school where I went in and talked to the year 8's and 9's. Both of those were great experiences. below photo is taken from the St Francis College website.

In April Henry and I went on a trip to Whitby for a few days which was so nice. We walked round and looked in all the interesting shops, went to the beach, went on a speedboat ride, ate out lots. I found the tiniest mini ever!

It feels strange to look at this photo of us taken when we went to Whitby (below) now because it was the last one we took of us before the end of April when we found out I was pregnant! I remember how much my heart pounded when I saw the blue lines on the pregnancy test. It was a Sunday morning and I only did the test on the offchance, not expecting it to be positive at ALL! I feel like our life started to feel different  from that point onwards. I got morning sickness for the first trimester - not so bad that I was actually sick but I just felt sick all the time. Also I went off any healthy food! All I wanted was white bread and pies and pizza and cheese. Though I did crave lots of fruit too. Gone were the days of courgetti! Vegetables turned my stomach. It was funny because before pregnancy I absolutely loved eating lots of vegetables. Also I found I was absolutely exhausted during the first trimester. I used to nap during the middle of the day and then go to bed at about 8pm!

It was a weird time. I was also illustrating the whole of Isadora Moon number four during this time. In a way that was quite hard but in another way really good because I had something to distract me and also it made me HAVE to get up and work through the tiredness. Otherwise I might have just ended up not getting out of bed!

I think May must have gone by in a blur of working, tiredness and feeling sick. We did have my friend Sian's wedding though which was a lovely break amongst it all. I was a bridesmaid for her and I also made her cake toppers which I was really pleased with. Little penguins! These photos (below) were taken by Piers Cunliffe who was the wedding photographer.

We had the first ultrasound of our baby in June. I am sure like all parents to be we found our scan photo to be the most beautiful one we had ever seen! We thought it was funny how we could see the baby's teeth so much so we nicknamed it Dracula for a while. It was amazing to see our baby wriggling around on the screen. It was also reassuring as up until then I had found it hard to believe I was actually pregnant. To be honest, during pretty much most of the pregnancy I couldn't really believe there was an actual baby in there. It all seemed really abstract to me for some reason.

I also finally came to the end of working on the first four Isadora Moon books in June. I celebrated with a cupcake that Henry bought for me although I only ate one bite as I was still feeling a bit sick haha.

In July Henry and I went to the Orkney Islands. It was an amazing holiday. We both loved it so much. I can't wait to go back to Scotland! I brought Topaz with me and took some photos because I just like to have a miniature person to photograph on holiday! I had started to find it a bit difficult to get down on the ground to take photos by this point though due to being pregnant!

I also worked on the covers for Isadora Moon 5 and 6 around this time and I drew up a dummy book for my second picture book with Penguin US. Here's a tiny snippet below. I can't show too much at this stage. I think a lot of it will change for the final version anyway.

In August we went to Cornwall with our friends Rob and Sian. This was the first holiday in a long time where I didn't really take any miniature photos. I was finding it too hard to get down on the ground by this point and also my heart wasn't one hundred percent in it. Being pregnant made me feel distracted and tired a lot of the time. We also had our 20 week scan in August and found out that our little baby was a girl!

I worked on some original Isadora Moon illustrations and also an Isadora Moon dress up doll and colouring sheets to be ready for the release of the books. I enjoyed doing the originals as I could put glitter and sequins on them.

September was the month that Isadora Moon was released! That was really exciting as up until then most of my books had been published in the US so I had never seen them myself in book shops.

It was really cool to see Isadora Moon published in other languages.

And she made it into various newspapers. Most noteably the Guardian!

I did lots of Isadora Moon events at different Waterstones bookshops and libraries in September and October. We made vampire and fairy wands in some of them and in others I used a flipchart and drew pictures. My favourite event was at Hitchin Waterstones. It just went so well and I had such a great time at it.

September was also when I created Vinetta. As I said before, I wasn't that happy with Topaz so I tried to create another miniature person to photograph who I liked better. After lots of tries, because I am so fussy about faces, I managed to create one I was finally happy with! So that was pleasing. I also like Vinetta because she has black and white hair so she can wear all colours without clashing. I found Topaz's green hair a bit limiting when it came to surroundings/clothes.

Here's a token pregnancy shot taken around October time seeing as I spent most of the year being pregnant! Always felt awkward posing in these 'bump' photos so never really put any online.

In October my book 'The biggest Smallest Christmas Present' was released!

November was mainly spent working on Isadora Moon 5. I wanted to get it done before the baby arrived. Thankfully I managed it - though it was a challenge as I felt very tired again by this point.

And then December! December is still very fresh in my mind of course and it is when the biggest thing of all happened. Our baby was born! 

From very early in the pregnancy I knew I would be having a c section as I had been advised to by my midwife and consultant (for medical reasons) and I think that actually happened to make me feel very calm throughout the pregnancy. Over all I felt like I had a very smooth and calm pregnancy which was good. On the (very early) morning of the 20th December we left our house in the dark and drove to the hospital. It was weird knowing that in a few hours we would be meeting our baby! We found out we would be second to go in for a c section that day so we had to wait for a couple of hours in this room with lots of beds in it. There were lots of other pregnant women lying on the beds for various different reasons. I saw one women come in who was in actual labour! The anesthetist came in and talked to us about what options we had for the anesthetic, general or spinal. I went with spinal as I wanted to be awake to see our baby being born and also we were told it was safer. Henry and I played a game for a bit and then suddenly someone else came in and told us that it was time! We hadn't had any warning so I had to quickly put on the hospital gown and then we were led down a corridor to the operating theatre. I started to feel very nervous then and started shaking a lot. The operating theatre was big and so shiny and clean. There was a bed in the middle of the room with lots of space around it and there were also lots of people in there. I had to have a cannula put in my hand which they couldn't get in straight away and then the spinal injection which was such a weird feeling. I absolutely hated not being able to feel my legs and the only thing going through my mind at that point was that I hoped I wasn't the one in one hundred thousand who would never get the feeling back! Once the anesthetic had set in they started the operation. It only took five minutes to get our baby out! Our little Celestine Elizabeth Honeyblossom Stardust. She came out crying at 11.31 and it was honestly the most intense, emotional and amazing moment of my life. I wasn't able to hold her straight away - they took her off to do checks but then Henry brought her to me so I could see her. Once the operation was finished she was handed to me for skin to skin and I was wheeled into the recovery area. I was still obsessed with trying to wiggle my toes and legs to get the feeling back! It took a couple of hours though. We just stared and stared at our baby. I couldn't really believe a real fully formed baby had come out of my tummy! Later on I was taken up to the ward where I stayed for two nights. It was SO hot in there and very hard to sleep. I had to buzz for the midwife every time I wanted to get Celestine out of her cot or do anything which was a bit frustrating. I would say that has been the hardest thing about having a c section overall - not being able to do things myself and having to let other people do them instead (though Henry has been absolutely amazing at looking after us both.) I can definitely see why you would not opt for a c section unless medically necessary. I am still, at 13 days post birth, not able to do a huge amount. I just absolutely cannot wait until I am able to go out on a really long walk and just get on with stuff really! However, I would also say that for me a c section was the right choice and that I actually had a really wonderful and non- traumatic birth experience. It all went very smoothly and not at all as painful as I thought it was going to be. I am so grateful to the NHS for delivering our baby safely and all the doctors and nurses were so nice and kind. On the 22nd December we finally got to leave the hospital in the evening. I put a pillow across my stomach in the car which was helpful. There were lots of Christmas lights twinkling everywhere.

One thing I did not expect with having a baby was the emotions that come with it post birth. That was/is a crazy rollercoaster! I wanted to write about Celestine's birth before now so that I didn't forget any of it but I was just too emotional to do it! I almost wish it hadn't been Christmas so soon after she was born as I felt like I had to hold it together in front of people a lot of the time when really I just wanted to cry! Not because I was unhappy but because everything was so intense and overwhelming. And I just wanted to hold Celestine all the time and stare at her but kept feeling like I had to give her up for other people to hold. I guess it had only been a few days since she had been inside my tummy. If it hadn't been Christmas I think I would have just cocooned myself away for a week or two to get stabilized. Still, Christmas was lovely anyway, even though it didn't really feel like Christmas because we were so wrapped up in baby things.

So that's the story of our baby Celestine. We love her so much. It's actually been an amazing journey to go through, being pregnant and then having a baby. I must admit I didn't love being pregnant, I found it a bit of a chore what with the tiredness/sickness etc. I couldn't wait to not be pregnant! Now though, I think back on the pregnancy with an almost nostalgic feeling which is funny - though obviously I much prefer having Celestine here.

I really want to try and limit the amount of pictures of Celestine that I put on the internet but I can't resist this one of her after her first bath the other day. Bath time has never been cuter!

Now I am looking forward to being fully recovered from the c section (though I think it's going to take another good few weeks - I've been told six) and getting a sense of normality back - or a new sense of normal anyway. (Though on the other hand I just want time to slow down too!)

Usually I am big on setting New Years Resolutions but I think that this year  just want to focus on spending time with Celestine and doing the work that I need to do for publishers. I think that's all I'll have time for! I am hoping that we will get another car really soon so that I am able to get out of my village and take Celestine to baby groups, swimming and things like that. At the moment Henry has the car all day for work so I can't get anywhere as there isn't even a bus link to the nearest town. Before now it didn't matter but now that we have a baby I think it's important to take her out to things. Also I wouldn't mind meeting some other mums as I didn't do any antenatal classes so haven't met any other people with babies yet. I don't want Celestine to have no friends! So that's all I am planning for 2017 really. Work and baby!

One of my New Years Resolutions for 2016 was a continued one from 2015 - read lots of books. I found it a bit harder to do in 2016 - probably because I was pregnant and distracted but I think I still did reasonably well with it. I like to record them on my blog so I can remember what I read. So here they are:

I especially really enjoyed Lorali and The Christmasaurus. I thought they were brilliant! I highly recommend them.

(I also added the three films I enjoyed the most in 2016. I had seen Malificent and Arrietty before but I rewatched them in 2016 because I love them. They are two of my favourite films.)

And that's all I can think of for this post. It's been an incredible year for me personally. I hope you have had an amazing 2016 too. Here's to 2017 and whatever it may bring.


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