The one where I somehow turn an embarassing moment into an amazing experience.

I hate New Year’s resolutions.  I really do.  I can’t keep them.  Besides, whilst the intentions are always good, you always end up breaking them. So think of this as a half arsed promise.  Next year, I’m going to try to blog at least once a week. , I’m appointing you my official poker.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy that :P.

The past 12 months have been here to teach me a few lessons.  Mostly the lesson of patience, that I’m not actually able to do everything myself and most importantly, that I should ask for help…

Oh, and that you should ALWAYS check what your email signature contains.  ALWAYS.

Way back here I told the merry story of the scientist and the placenta.  Amusing story, right?  He thought so too.  But how on earth, out of all the blogs, and all the people on the internet did he find it?

When the girls were 6 months old, I sent an email to him telling him about the girls progress and sent some pictures.  Honestly, it was intended as a simple catch up and a ‘Hey, thanks for everything you did for us in hospital … here’s the kids now’ kind of thing.  I pushed send, and didn’t really think much of it until the following day when I received an email thanking me not only for the update, but the funny story about himself in my blog.  Honestly, I think if the ground could have opened up under me and swallowed me right then and there, I’d probably have welcomed it.  I turned several shades of red, and quietly died.  Apparently, I’d left the link to my blog in my signature on the email, and he’d opened it and read it.

Mortification does not even begin to cover it.

Rather quickly, I sent back an email saying thank you and, with a rather burning face, tried to forget the experience.  After all, I’d just compared the man to Gollum with the ring over a placenta.  There’s no way you can live down that shame. I decided the best course of action would be to simply pretend it never happened.

And so I did.  Until September.

We’d just arrived back from the US (we’d been to a wedding … I should post about that too.  Are you taking notes here, ? 😛 ) My phone rang (not unusual) and a woman introduced herself as one of the scientist’s PhD students.  She’d also read my blog, (oh, the shame.  It got around!) and as I’d previously offered my services to the department for follow up and assistance, would I be interested in sharing my story at a symposium she was organising?  After all, she’d gotten my details from the scientist. Oh, and would I mind telling … the placenta story.  But, could I come to the hospital and talk to them first.

Hello, ground hole. I think this time I’ll dive in head first.

And so the time came, a few weeks later, to meet the man I had called Gollum again.  This time, face to face, no heavy pain killing drugs, no technical jargon, and most importantly, no placentas.

Somehow, I knew things would be ok when he was happily wearing my daughter’s headband and clapping his feet in time with her …

2 weeks later, I found myself in front of a room of faces – some familiar, most strangers.  They were doctors, researchers, specialists from all over Europe.  They were there to learn more about the condition that almost took our daughters from us – and at that moment, they were waiting to hear my story.  Somehow, my stupidity had turned into a moment where I could speak for parents who had been in our situation.  I could tell the doctors on our case what our experience was – and how they could make the experience different for others.  Most importantly, my story was heard, and acknowledged. I was able to thank the people who helped us.

So that’s the story of how my embarassing moment turned into an amazing experience.  Sometimes things happen for a reason.

And yes, I told the placenta story.

So, how do you know Lana?

(and I dedicate this entry to the delightful, inspiring and amazing friend who is Lana – you can read more about her journey through breast cancer here)

One of the things I've learned being an expat is that the community here is really small.  Pretty much everyone knows everyone – either in person, by extension, or through various expat groups and organisations.  People have heard me speaking English to my daughters and have gone 'Oh, you're Stephanie!'.  I have no idea who this person is, but they know me.  (Obviously, in Almere, there are not that many Australians who have twins!) It's happened at the child health nurse, the bus stop, the supermarket …
Of course, it also means that you meet many people. Initially, you are clinging to try to find your circle of friends – just like the ones you had back home! – a group of people who are confidants, drinking buddies and that essential shoulder to cry on.  You friend everyone you meet and sometimes this has disastrous consequences.  You are sometimes forced into social situations with people you ordinarily wouldn't even give the time of day to.  There are the inevitable bust ups, the blockings and the sour taste of things going bad…

And just occasionally, you meet a Lana.

The inspiration for this particular post comes from a discussion around Lana's dining table (which was groaning under the weight of a gazillion delicious Filipino dishes).  A mutual friend (ironically, in our own 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon halfway across the world from home is the childhood best friend of the sister of one of my best friends … it really is that small a world) asked us all "So, how do you know Lana?"

I met Lana through the international group we both belong to – she offered to write some articles for the group's website.  It started with a few jokes, and progressed to a working relationship.  It really wasn't til everything went pear shaped with my pregnancy and the birth of the girls that I can truly say we became friends.  She's one of those rare people who asked the simple question every now and then – 'How are you?'  and meant it. I started writing for her online magazine, and I spent hours just chatting with her.  We shared parenting ideals, experiences and frustrations, and many laughs.

From there it's blossomed into a friendship I truly treasure.  Despite her own personal struggles, she still pops up and asks 'How are you?'.  And you know that she listens and is ready for a laugh. She shares openly, she embraces people and she cares.  Her home is open to everyone – and there is always a feast on the table and new friends waiting to be met in her house.  And of course, her generosity is legendary 🙂

So really, the point to my post?  I hope you all have a Lana in your life.  And I hope that I can be someone else's Lana someday.  But for now, I'm going to cherish an amazing friend. 🙂

One year on …

Today we celebrate the first birthday of 2 incredibly determined, strong little girls. A true pair of fighters who overcame incredible odds to be here.  Looking at them, you wouldn't know they were any different from any other 1 year old in the world.  They chat away in their baby language, crawl lightning fast,  and have started climbing on things and standing next to the furniture.  They have rosy cheeks and sunny personalities – and charm everyone they meet.

Their story is well known.  You only have to read the previous blog posts I've made to understand what kind of difficulties and problems we encountered during pregnancy and birth.  But today isn't about remembering the bad – it's about celebrating what we have achieved in 12 months.

Today we celebrate them overcoming the serious problems they were born with.  We're celebrating health and happiness, which came through rivers of tears.  We're celebrating life, which came through several brushes with death.   We're celebrating them – because they are the strongest people I know.

If you had have told me a year ago that my girls would be the poster children for the condition they were born with – anonymously famous through journals, websites and researchers – I would never have believed you.  If you had have told me a year ago that I would have spoken to renowned doctors and specialists about my experiences in a symposium – I would probably have laughed at you.

So today, we celebrate.  It might be cold and wet and windy outside – but there's plenty of sunshine and warmth here.