Sunday, January 26, 2014

Contrary to Popular Belief

Contrary to popular belief I don't actually 'tell the world' everything.  I tell 'the world' what I want 'the world' to know.  I work in PR after all.  There are things that I want to talk about on a general level and then there are things that I discuss with people who I feel can contribute or assist in some kind of meaningful way.  I have people I talk to about my work. I have people I talk to about relationships and friendships.  I have people I talk to about motherhood. And I have people I talk to about infertility.  Because, that's something I have been dealing with for several years now and chosen not to broadcast.

The great news is that I am now expecting my second child and I feel like I can write about this without anger or resentment or pain because I have more than I could ever have wished for.  I'm extremely aware that I am one of the very lucky ones.  I was hesitant to publish our baby news on social media last week because I know what a dagger to the heart that feels like when one so fiercely wishes it was you with the news, you with the morning sickness, you with the tight pants and the stretch marks.  I know that feeling and I get it.

The truth is, I went off the pill in 2009.  My son had just turned one and I was 'ready' (haha) to start thinking about having a second child.  It had taken us a year to fall pregnant with our first and I assumed that would happen again.  My 'plan' (haha) included an almost 3 year gap which seemed conservative and manageable.  I'm told by everyone I know with 2 or more children that there is in fact no perfect gap and no 2nd child is an easy addition… but of course you love them more than you thought you possibly could etc.  I got that.

In 2010 my husband quit his job and we moved continents from Dublin back to Australia, which had become 'home' in our nostalgic musings.  We took a long trip via South Africa to get to Sydney and I was convinced that I would get pregnant somewhere along the yellow brick road to Oz.  The return to Sydney was difficult.  You can never 'go back' - as they say. And it's true.  Everything was different. Our circle of friends had changed through additions of children and breakdowns of marriages. New partners were on the scene and largely people were struggling - with the job market and with each other.  As we had all entered our mid 30s and 40s, life had become irreparably complex and our merry band of carefree (mainly) immigrant friends were dealing with that thing commonly known as 'real life'.

I started a part-time job and then added another part-time job on top of that. My husband eventually landed a contract for 3 months which got extended and we began settling into Sydney life.  Our 3 years in Dublin included nannies and cleaners and an abundance of 'ex-pat' revelry.  Sydney was a rather rude awakening after that and the stress manifested in a series of illnesses for the 3 of us.   Colds and flu's and diverticulitis and ear infections … and 2 back-to-back miscarriages for me (while on a course of Clomid in 2011).  Eventually, I went back to my old job (the one I'd left in 2007 to go to Dublin) and I decided to focus on that. Things were entirely on the upswing.  My husband's contract had been extended again and we began to see a future in the place, which we hoped would be home.

As is our general pattern, the moment we got 'settled', the call came for us to move to New York.  I had become content in Sydney - our lives had normalized and our careers were thriving.  Our son was settled in a superb pre-school near our home and had access to an exceptional local "big" school the following year.  We had our baby-sitters in place and had reacquainted ourselves with our friends and reinserted ourselves into our 'circle'. We still decided fairly quickly to say yes to the move and the opportunity for 6 months in the most exciting city in the world.

We continued on our quest for baby but were having a little bit too much fun to really get too disappointed by the monthly failures.  Eventually, the New York role became permanent for my husband and, when it became clear that this Manhattan madness was to become 'real life', my quest for baby reasserted itself but the fear of IVF and other intrusive options kept me a little bit ambivalent.  I wanted my son to have a sibling but I was also really rather happy with my life exactly as it was. I was, however, a little nervous about hitting the 40+ zone and having regrets. Midway through 2013 we had another loss.  Three losses were as many as I felt able to deal with.  I am very resilient and I am very strong, but the pain of those losses is something that will never leave me.  I think only women who have been through miscarriage have any idea - whether it be early on or a little later - what THAT feeling is.  The indescribable joy and then the total devastation so soon after.  Not for the faint of heart.

When our son started Kindergarten in the latter half of 2013, I decided to book an appointment with an infertility specialist. The soonest I could get was 17 December.  Halloween, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah distracted me and, in early December, I realized that I was over a week 'late'.  Five years of erratic cycles and 'maybe maybe maybe' haunted me.  I didn't do a test until days of dizziness eventually took me on a trip to the local drug store.  I decided to do it the way they recommend on the instructions for once. I peed on my 10 000th stick and left it in the bathroom while I waited in the living room for 3 minutes.  I returned to the bathroom to find 'Pregnant' written on the digital stick.

I spent several hours on google and eventually found an OBGYN who was located near enough to my husband's office for him to be able to come to appointments with me. I called and scheduled my first appointment. It was to be on 17 December. The same day that I had scheduled my infertility treatment to begin. My mantra for the last couple of years in New York has been 'Leap and the wind will catch you' and I feel like that is exactly what happened. I needed to make that mental shift and accept that what we were dealing with was secondary infertility and I needed to ask for help.  As it turns out, the help came from well above that scheduled IVF appointment on the 17th floor.

The usual anguish-filled wait until the 12 week mark had some unexpected additions which added to my emotional state.  They also made me realize how important it is to pursue the things you really want NOW and not wait for anything or anyone.  You never know what is around that next corner or what the next phone call will be - for better or for worse.

I'm excited for 2014 and hoping it will be filled with more good news than bad but, contrary to popular belief, you probably won't hear about it until I'm ready.  


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Madrid

Being a mom is hard. Really hard. So is being a wife. I mean, the fairytale is that you get married and live happily ever after. The truth is that the point up until the wedding and the baby is the easy part.  If you're among the fortunate ones, you get to grow up in a home with 1 or 2 loving parents or in 2 houses with 3 or 4 loving parents, you get your washing done, your meals cooked, you get sent to school and taught stuff and then sent to University and taught more stuff. You have someone looking out for you all the time. You have options, decisions, choices to make about what YOU want to do. The possibilities are endless.  You just have to grab a hold of something and run with it - supported lovingly by family and friends who applaud each wobbly step you take from toddlerhood to graduation. Then you date, you mess around, you drink, travel, explore, screw up. You do all the stuff YOU want to do. Pizza at 3am - sure! All nighters are completely voluntary. A trip to *insert relevant location* for the weekend - LOVE to.

At some point you find a girl or a guy and things are great. You move in together, you get engaged and then you have a wedding (or some variation of that sequence) ... and eventually if you are lucky enough to be of the fecund variety, you have a baby.  At that point every single thing you want to do moves to the bottom of the list.  Your child's needs, your husband's needs, your family's needs become numero uno.  Sometimes you hide in the bathroom. And sometimes, that is not enough. You want, on a very overwhelmingly primal level, to run away. ANYTHING, anything at all would be better than the relentless malaise of a suburban fairytale your life has become.

That is what The Madrid is about.  Edie Falco plays the tormented yet detached Martha, the mother of 22 year-old Sarah and wife of John.  A family of teachers, they live in a middle-class neighborhood surrounded by doting friends and a crotchety Frances Sternhargen as Martha's mother, Rose.  Martha runs away. She leaves a message saying 'I'm leaving' and that's it.  Her husband, daughter and mother are bereft. One day, Martha arrives at Sarah's workplace (Starbucks) and their fractured, dysfunctional relationship unfolds before us.  Sarah feels the need to take her mother's place at home, nurturing her father and actively taking care of her aging grandmother.  She holds it all together while John and Rose lose the ability to function without Martha.

The play is uncomfortable.  This isn't supposed to happen - mom's don't just leave. You only get to leave when you die - as Rose points out.  No-one knows how to deal with the situation in a satisfying manner. Should John date? Go on Match.com? His wife exists, is living, is in the same city presumably but not in his home. What are the rules here?

Sarah begins a clandestine relationship with her mother. She accepts a $10,000 bribe to keep her location a secret. She is so desperate to be near her that she actively lies to her father, her grandmother and their neighbors.  Eventually, the mother/child bond supersedes Martha's desire to run away and be anonymous.

What I took home from this play was that once you're a mother, you're a mother.  You may have a fervent desire to escape the sometimes stifling confines of that role and all it entails, but the fundaments of your being are irreparably altered.  This isn't the kind of piece that provokes a rousing applause or a standing ovation.  Certainly there will be audience members who leave the theatre frowning and shrugging.  Martha spends 3 years saving and planning to make her escape.  This play explores the repercussions of what happens when mom runs away from home.  A modern fairytale? Maybe. Sometimes happily ever after ain't all it's cracked up to be.



Friday, March 15, 2013

Liza and Alan


In theatre, there are many famous collaborators – Kander and Ebb, Rogers and Hammerstein, Gilbert and Sullivan … You’ll notice that they are all composers, they are the ‘creatives’ behind the scenes.  It is rare to hear of an on-stage partnership in a business notoriously bitchy and fraught with narcissism.  And yet, last night I had the tremendous privilege of witnessing not only a collaboration, but what seemed almost to be a rite of passage –a ceremonial knighting of a new icon. 

Liza Minnelli is a star of the highest order – the child of Judy and Vincent – born into the gilded world of show business at a time when being talented meant something.  She has quipped that she exited the birth canal looking for her best camera angle.  Liza is that rare triple-threat – a singer, a dancer and an actress – and an Oscar, Tony and Grammy Winner.  Despite a life plagued by illness, addiction and heartbreak, Liza battles on as one of the few remaining genuine stars of our time. 

Alan Cumming cracked Broadway wide open with his dexterous performance as the overtly sexual, crass and deliciously wicked EmCee in ‘Cabaret’.  Liza won her Oscar 30 years before that as Sally Bowles in the film adaptation of that musical. When Liza saw Alan’s performance she reportedly went straight to his dressing room and said ‘I want to be your friend forever’. 

‘Liza and Alan’ seemed to be the very incarnation of that grand statement. In a land of air kisses and staged marriages, this was a celebration of a real friendship and a shared love of New York, showbiz and all that sparkles.  Sure, there were missed cues and flubbed lines, sure Liza is older, more fragile and husky, debilitated by 2 hip replacements, a bum knee and a sprained ankle but no-one cared.  I felt as though I had been invited to a night at Liza’s house – a night where Liza introduced us all to her new BFF the fabulous Alan Cumming  - her protégée or the son she might have had if life had dealt a different hand.

Alan’s solo-set included an extraordinary mash-up of Adele’s Someone Like You, Lady Gaga’s Blaze of Glory and Katy Perry’s Firework, an original work about an ex with a penchant for plastic sugery, a Bacharach/Sondheim medley and more all woven expertly together with charming repartee.   We heard that when Liza went to Fire Island, "It was like a papal visit--if you can imagine the church full of homosexuals." The crowd erupted. "Don't cry for me, Argentina," quipped Alan wryly.

Liza’s set began with ‘New York New York’ and included ‘Ring Them Bells’ and Charles Aznevour’s ‘What Makes a Man a Man’.  Perched on a director’s chair, Liza held court rasping her way through her self-deprecating banter, peppered with that trademark cackle.  At one point she lost the false eyelashes off one eye and proceeded to rip the others off too. There is no vanity here, no insecurity or fear – Liza is at home on the stage. She knows that her audience is reverential. After all, this is Liza Minnelli on stage in New York, New York. 

After two and a half hours, 3 curtain calls and a jubilant audience singing Happy Birthday, Alan and a visibly depleted Liza left the stage.  I couldn’t help but notice that many of the audience members were in tears. For my fellow theatre devotees, this was like our Woodstock. We were there that night when Liza sang with Alan.  We were there. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New New York


We had a roller coaster of a year.  I mean, another one.  We don't do things by halves. Most people get a new car or buy a new house or a boat when they need a 'change'. Others dump their boyfriends or have an affair.  Some go on holiday.  I find moving countries is rather more effective.  I've done it 6 times now and each time it brings renewed vigor and vitality to my life. For a while.  My maximum stint in any new country has been 5 years.

In 2012 we moved to New York City.  I mean, we really did. Really.  It wasn't some fantastic dream - it happened.  How often does that kind of opportunity come along - to have your husband go 'Uh honey, how do you feel about New York'? How do I FEEL about New York? I freaking LOVE New York. Are you kidding me? It's the capitol of the world.  New York is everything - it has everything. Everyone fantastically awesome is either FROM New York or lives here.  Really - so HOW do I feel about Nww York? In what context? Food? OVER the top amazing. THEATRE? The best in the world.  SHOPPING? Come. On.  Museums and Galleries? Sensational.  PLUS you get 4 actual seasons which means 4 wardrobe changes.  I see NO down side.  Plus  it's a 6 1/2 hour flight to my other favorite city in the world  - London (lived there)  - instead of that monstrous 27 hour 2 day extravaganza.  So, yeah. I kind of like it.  'That's a yes then?' says my husband.  'Yes to what?'  I asked,  suddenly confused.  'You wanna move there?'.  I really love my husband.  

There was a brief lapse of gleefulness when I remembered that we have a 4 year old.  A four year old human boy child who has a life in Sydney too.  He's had half of his life there.  The first half was in Dublin (we were there 3 years in total).  He has gorgeous friends and a wonderful school, fields to run in and beaches to play on, sand castles to build and a rugby captaincy to aspire to. He has barbecues to scrape down and snakes/spiders and a host of other life-threatening beasties to avoid.   My son is an Australian by choice - he will tell you even now after 7 months in New York with his American twang that he is indeed an Australian.  But I'm South African, my husband is Scottish, our families are in those 2 countries respectively and we somehow landed up in Australia - which geographically makes no sense, but what actually ever really makes sense? 

The truth is we don't make as much sense anywhere else as we do in New York because New York is a global melting pot of divergent, eclectic cultures, religions and ethnicities.  Everyone from everywhere is welcome in New York.  They LOVE our accents, love that we're different, they welcome our quirky colloquialisms with generous good humor.  New York is about YES. The people are hospitable and welcoming.  They have totally disarmed me with their no bullshit, life-affirming generosity.  I mean, New York had the most ferociously violent attack in modern history perpetrated against it. New York knows devastation and loss so she knows that there is a bigger picture.  Don't get me wrong, the small stuff is shouted about across streets from taxi driver to taxi driver.  Highly caffeinated cabbies quibble over impulsive lane changes and the absence of indicator signals.  But the general, pervasive feeling in the city is one of community.  The real stuff, the big stuff is the focus.   We had only been here a few months when the monstrous storm collided with our chosen island and we experienced the incredible indomitable spirit of that great city and we were energized and heartened that shit goes wrong, but people make it right again together.

So, come rain (sleet, snow, hail) or come shine - we're New Yorkers for now.   Sometimes I hide inside just to press pause for a moment.  Sometimes I feel like I just want to stand in Times Square and absorb that electric current of energy.  The air is caffeinated here.... and y'all know that coffee is my drug of choice!







Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

I wanted to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!


I am grateful for my beautiful boys, my wonderful parents and loving parents-in-law. 
I'm grateful for our family, both blood and selected and for the best friends I could wish for. 
I am grateful for the privilege of living in arguably the greatest city in the world and experience highlights that have raised my expectations and extended my bucket list. 
Mostly, I'm grateful for the opportunity to live the life of my dreams and to raise our son in a world that is ever more loving, enlightened, giving and accepting. Happy Thanksgiving EVERYONE!





Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Moved


It must surprise you to know that despite my lithe athletic figure, I'm not a great dancer.  I struggled through 3 years of Physical Theatre at University, artlessly maneuvering my graceless physique across dusty sound proofed stages.  I spent my undergraduate years not morphing into a beautiful swan, but rather a cumbersome Dalmatian - covered head to toe in large dark bruises, my tail between my legs and my enthusiasm to one day hit the Broadway stage as the next Shirley MacLaine triple-threat entirely obliterated.

I immersed myself in the history of dance, learning about Twyla Tharp, Martha Graham, Pina Bausch and Alvin Ailey.  I marvelled at their creativity and their ability to reconfigure what people perceived as 'dance'.  I may not have been any kind of dancer, but I respect the athleticism and enormous creativity and determination that dance demands.

My eyes glistened with tears as I took my son to his first day of pre-school in New York City and discovered that the Alvin Ailey dance theatre is across the road. Every day we walk by and watch these beautiful creatures leap majestically in classes 5 stories high and 5 rooms wide.  A marvellous Rubik's Cube of diversity and brilliance.

I have found many things in my life that I can do well and learned along the way that being an appreciative connoisseur of fine things is more satisfying than being a bitter, defeated critic.  So many parts of my life have shown themselves to me in this city over the last 5 months here.  New York is like a giant magnifying mirror.  I'm so grateful that I like what I see.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sandy vs Horror-Crane


I'm the opposite of a hypochondriac - my initial reaction is always "It'll be fine don't worry about it". When news reports started talking about a 'hurricane' on the way, I took my usual approach to things:  I confirmed our restaurant reservation and babysitter and went out for dinner.

My husband, our friend and I were amused by the dramatic signs confirming stores would be closed until further notice. We joked about the boarded up windows as we meandered up Broadway to Cafe Luxembourg on the Upper West Side.   As we sat down and noticed that Liam Neeson was at the table opposite us (no joke) we were comforted and felt sure that this 'hurricane' business was nothing to worry about.  

A bottle or 2 of red wine later, we exited the restaurant to howling winds and our smirks were somewhat reduced.  Monday was a weird day - eerily still, the streets were empty, the stores were all shut and we sat in our apartment waiting for something to happen.  I've never been anywhere near a hurricane before.  I knew all about Katrina but surely that couldn't happen in Manhattan? I decided to spend the day in our West 56th street apartment in my jeans, hair scraped back in an unwashed pony tail and no make up on... Might I add that I have NEVER done that before. I am a make up whore and haven't left my house without mascara since I was 15.  And then there was a knock at the door and 3 burly rather gorgeous firefighters stood there in full Hollywood disaster movie garb and said they had 'bad news' for us, the 95 story crane behind our apartment had flipped over and was dangling precariously and we had to evacuate IMMEDIATELY. It seemed the wrong time to say that I needed to put some make up on.  We threw some clothes into a backpack, took a teddy bear and a fluffy blanket for my now very excited 4 year old son and we left. 

Outside, the rain bucketed down and the winds were intense.  We walked 35 blocks to our friends' apartment on 30th street where we hoped to stay over night until we could return home.  Shortly after we got there, all the power went out.  Absolute darkness, no television and no WiFi.  We had no idea what was going on around us aside from the limited internet connection which provided a twitter feed and the occasional text message.  The last glimmer of 3G coverage provided me with one last tweet which read 'All bridges and tunnels from Manhattan have been closed.  There is no way of exiting the island now."  Why hadn't we brought Liam Neeson home with us?!

At that point my imagination went wild.  What if Manhattan just sank into the sea and we all just disappeared? My husband and the friends we were staying with suggested we should all just get some sleep.  I tried, but spent most of the night awake staring at my beautiful sleeping son and wondering what the hell we were doing in this crazy storm-ravaged city.

In the morning we left their apartment and walked up Madison Avenue towards Midtown to ascertain what damage had been done.  The streets were soaked and covered with trash, mangled umbrellas littered every corner and thousands of people meandered about just staring at each other.  As we walked, we heard more and more about the damage and destruction in Lower Manhattan, Jersey and Long Island... the cars floating down streets, the facades of buildings ripped off, the deaths and the loss of homes. After months of non-stop election coverage and relentless campaigning, the stark reality of what is truly important in this country has begun to set in.  

It is several days later now and we are still homeless, we spent a few nights in the darkness of 30th street, showering in our friend's hotel room in midtown and trying to ascertain when exactly the crane will be secured so that we can go home.  We are intensely grateful for the kindness of friends - and indeed strangers - but mostly that we are indoors safely together as a family.