My fourth baby was born at the start of 2015. We’d been warned early on in the pregnancy that he would likely be early, possibly very early. Potentially scarily early.
For various reasons, I was closely monitored and told to get to hospital as soon as labour started. I spent the pregnancy holding my breath. Figuratively, anyway.
Our due date was 23rd December 2014. He was eventually born on 2nd January. It was 46 minutes from established labour to holding him in my arms. In the final moments, he got seriously stuck – shoulder dystochia, it’s called – and a team of people ran in, and I mean properly legged it in to the delivery suite, to free him. I pushed and they pulled, and suddenly a chubby, squirmy 8lb 13oz baby landed on my chest. And I screamed, “My baby! My baby!”
That roller coaster birth was the most apt start to a year from which my head is still spinning.
In 2015 we have:
• Gone from a family of five to a family of six. We’re officially a crowd rather than a group.
• Gained the happiest little sunshine baby who has filled my cold heart with so much joy that I still spontaneously burst into tears when talking about him.
• Thrown away a huge skip and a skip bag’s worth of junk, given away half our stuff (I heart you Freegle) and done more tip runs than I ever dreamed possible (I love the tip).
• Switched an open plan house with a garden in Kent, England for a canal house in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, complete with four flights of the narrowest stairs imaginable.
• Sold our car and have a bunch of bikes instead. However, I still insist on walking everywhere and the only pedals I’ve pressed have been at the gym. Every Dutch person I’ve told is horrified.
• Learned that stoned people LOVE cats and our cats LOVE hanging out at the brown coffee shop on the corner of our street.
• Said goodbye to our friends and watched with nervous pride as our kids made new friends from all over the world at their international schools, and picked up Dutch like it was NBD.
• Realised that if a letter is important enough, they’ll keep sending copies of it until you give in and type it all into Google Translate.
• Fallen in love with our beautiful new city (and its cheese, restaurants, cheap wine – cheaper than the UK, anyway – and super tall people) so much that we’ve just bought an apartment here.
• I said we bought an apartment! Painting without a landlord’s permission?! Be still my beating paint chart heart.
• Realised that it really doesn’t matter where we live so long as we’re together and that for all the bickering and eye rolling, we actually ARE one of those families.
In 2015, I have:
• Flown on a plane by myself for the first time. Even after they told me cheerfully that there was a delay because they needed to “check for explosives” (there’s that famous Dutch directness for you), I still got on it.
• Got offered an upgrade from Economy to Business that was so exciting I overlooked the explosive situation and asked for champagne before I’d even buckled up. (And then discreetly – not that discreetly – took billions of photos of the loo and the flat bed and the everything).
• Went to New York to meet my amazing US editor and team at Ballantine Books/Random House.
• Tried to get used to saying things like the above but failed, because it still gives me the sillies.
• Worked really hard on my next book while preparing for my first book to be published.
• Also tried to get used to saying things like the above. Also failed.
• Hung out with my friend Ilana in New York like a couple of hip young gun slingers. I mean, she is but guys, I’m really, really not.
• Experienced a waiter saying “you do know that’s a beer?” when I gave my drink order.
• Vowed never, ever to drink tequila again after I got absolutely wasted at my husband’s work do (poor guy, he’s so patient and forgiving) and my dress got caught in my knickers and I’m the worst.
• Heard that my book, Try Not to Breathe, would also be sold in Taiwan, Poland, Russia and The Netherlands. Joining the UK and Commonwealth, United States, Canada and Germany.
• Held my book in my hands and SOBBED.
• Learned that Try Not to Breathe had been chosen as part of WHSmith’s Fresh Talent list for Winter 2016 (scream!)
(Pic by my amazing agent, Nicola Barr, at Belfast City Airport)
• Watched as real people, real readers, reviewed my book and – whisper it so it isn’t really awkwardly arrogant – enjoyed it. Oh thank goodness, they have enjoyed it. I love them all. I cried reading so many of them. What a plonker. When I hit 100 Good Reads reviews, naturally I played it down.
• Tried to get used to saying all of that stuff but didn’t. Because I don’t actually want for this to become normal, and everyday. I don’t want to take it for granted because this is everything I’ve dreamed about MY WHOLE LIFE and more. Much more.
I can say with absolute certainty that 2015 has been the best year of my life. I’m almost scared to see if 2016 can top it.
Thank you to everyone who has A) read this enormous, ramshackle list, I promise my book is better. B) Been so lovely and supportive about book stuff, and life stuff, and Amsterdam stuff. Even if you were actually rolling your eyes, you did it behind my back so that I never saw it. Absolute pros.