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The 30th Birthday

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 It has been one year since I began the American Baby Plan in London. The idea of this blog was to get my life sorted and become pregnant by my 30th birthday. The choosing of this particular birthday was not arbitrary: I knew I wanted to have children, and finding myself in the ideal situation of being happily married and in a good financial position, I decided to use my  biology to my advantage and start my family now.  But because I am an educated woman from middle class background with a successful career this decision has come as a shock to some. You are so young! They have said. Are you sure you want to jeopardise your career? They have said. Don’t you want to see a bit more of the world and have fun before you settle down? They have said.
 
The truth is that women in my demographic are waiting much later to have children. The saying goes: the more degrees you hold, the older you will be when you become a mother. The number of children born to mothers under the age of 25 fell from 369,000 in 1971 to 180,000 in 2008. Clearly there is a trend for having children later in life. But why? Is it because women are putting career before children? Is it because women are taking longer to find a suitable partner and are delaying marriage as well as kids? Is it because women see having a child as the end of their ‘life’ as an independent and carefree woman? I am not sure I buy any of that, honestly. I think it has more to do with our own perception that we have all the time in the world to get all these things accomplished. So why rush?
 
Not many women are aware of this, but a woman’s fertility halves by the time she is 35 years old. 35! The problem is that although women are of course aware our biological clocks are ticking, few have a clue as to how quickly that clock is actually ticking. This means that after the age of 35 it will be twice as hard for you to become pregnant. Anyone who knows someone with fertility issues will tell you of the strain and stress it can cause to them, their mental health, and their relationships. Even with the cutting edge baby making technologies at our disposal (which enable women to delay motherhood well into their 40’s) there is no guarantee that it will work for you. Indeed, it is not just my 30th birthday this year. It also happens to be the 30th birthday of Louise Brown, the world’s first IVF baby. Thirty years of IVF have brought joy to couples who could not get pregnant any other way. But we cannot naively think that we have all the time in the world just because these technologies exist.
 
So if there is no biological advantage to putting off having children, why then are so many women doing it? I believe it all comes down to the sexual revolution. The swinging sixties saw a generation of liberated women take control of their bodies and their sexuality. They were the first generation to decide when they wanted to get pregnant and make sure it suited them and their life goals. Contraception allowed married and unmarried women to choose when to have a child. Today you can even get the morning after pill over the counter in the UK. This all happened as a result of earlier works by the feminist movement, which fought to give women choice over their lives and eventually equal rights to men. Women could choose to work, go to university, or be a housewife. It was their choice.
 
The impact of women in the workplace was huge. The 1980’s saw a decade of aspiration and wealth because for the first time there were significant numbers of dual income households. Women were working and loving it. But balancing home and work life became and increasing challenge for families with two working parents. Ultimately, the women were now responsible not only for running a home, raising the children, and looking after a husband - but also a nine to five. The phrase ‘Supermom’ came to represent women who had it all, or at least tried to. There was immense pressure on women not to crack under the pressure and achieve all these things with grace and nonchalance.
 
These were all amazing things and the result of the hard work and dedication of the feminist movement, to which all modern women are indebted. But there would be some unforeseen side-effects. The first thing to happen was the rise in divorce rates. Women could now support themselves and did not need to stay in unhappy marriages. They moved out and got a place of their own. It also had an effect on the number of married people: in 2008 the number of marriages (143,000) fell by nearly half in the UK, compared to 340,000 in 1971. By the 1990’s 2.2 million children were born into single parent households.
 
Because there were more divorced couples, unmaried couples, and single people then ever before, this had an effect on the housing supply. In 2009 on average 2.4 people live in a single home, compared with 2.9 people in 1971. Families that would have occupied one large house now needed 2 smaller homes. This put a strain on the housing supply, which could not adapt as quickly as our society was changing.
 
Additionally, as these things often do, the luxury of having two incomes quickly became necessary in order to live. Our living costs grew to meet our newfound spending power and the rise of consumer goods quickly matched our two person incomes. When I think back to my grandparents’ generation when the husband was the bread winner and the wife a homemaker, I am flabbergasted to consider that they could make ends meet with only 1 person working. Try supporting a family these days with just one income, it is almost impossible! In 2008 the biggest household expenses had become housing, fuel and water - compared with food and drink back in 1971.
 
There have been a lot of factors that have allowed for the social shift in having children later in life – from feminism, to contraception, to women working, to IVF and fertility treatments. And although I am grateful for these advances and appreciate the important role they have played in our social history, my personal choice to have my first child at 30 was made based on unalterable biological constraints, not social ones. Simply put the longer you wait to have a child the harder it is. Society may allow us to delay motherhood but that does not change the simple physiology of our human bodies.
 
And to address the questions posed to me in the beginning of this post:
1.       I am not too young, I am the perfect age in terms of my biology
2.       I am perfectly capable of working and climbing the corporate ladder with or without children (would we ever say to a man who is a father that his career is at risk?)
3.       and I have every intention of exploring the world and sharing all its amazing adventures with my children
 
So as I celebrate my 30th birthday I will be anticipating the greatest gift of all – the birth of my son in no less than 9 short weeks!

p.s. - please do not read this post thinking that I am preaching that all women should do as I have. I recognise that everyone's life is different and we all must make the choices that are right for us. I am simply stating the reasons why I have mede the decisions that I have. I realise that I am exceptionally lucky in a number of ways: not only have I been born at a time when I can choose what to do with my life, I live in a country where women have rights to exercise those choices.
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Driving Me Crazy

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 What do you get when you take two licensed drivers, put them in a big city, and add in loads of bureaucracy? Two pissed off drivers, that's what!

Two weeks ago I got a call from Husband.

" Hello honey! How did it go?" I asked, anxiously.

"You'll never believe it", he said, "I passed!"

"Wow congratulations! That is amazing. I can't believe we both have driving licences now, where do you want to drive to first? We'll have to join that car club now. We can go anywhere you want."

"Well, I'm not so sure about that, I don't think they let new drivers join." he said.

"Sure they do, don't they? How else are you going to get experience driving? We don't own a car and we don't have anyone closely who can lend us one. What's the point of having a license if you can't drive anywhere! Don't worry, I will look into it." I said.

And I did look into it. In London, you cannot join StreetCar or any other car club without having a license for at least 1 year. This is bonkers and illogical, I thought, so I contacted the company. I told them that if he waits 1 year the only thing that will be different is that his license will have aged 12 months. In fact, I explained, his driving will actually be worse in a year because he will have not been able to drive a car! They didn't care, they said. The insurance company sets the rules. There was nothing we could do about it. So then, I offered, If we want to actually make use of his license we will have to buy a car, insure it for a year, and then sell it in 12 months when we will be able join your car club? That is preposterous. Utterly preposterous.

When I started this Baby Plan, nearly a year ago, one of the only things Husband needed to check off his list of things to do was get a driving license. We had no intention of buying a car: we live in a city and would only need one for occasional weekend use or long trips. But in London they have these amazing car clubs, where you book online and go to the nearest car in your neighbourhood. The cars are parked on the street, so you can collect it at any time of day or night. You just tap your electronic key on the windscreen and in a flash the car has unlocked and you are driving away. So we figured that the car club was a good solution for us. The only problem was that I would not be able to join the club because I have been living in the UK for more than 6 months and my license is therefore invalid in this country (despite having held it for over 12 years without a single point on it!). Husband never got his license when he was younger, so it seemed reasonable that he get his now. That way, if we wanted to have a family day out all we'd have to do was book the car - Husband would get in the drivers seat and off we'd go.

But this has now completely complicated things. Despite having 8 months of driving lessons costing over £2000 and passing his test on the first go, we are still in the position of neither of us being able to rent or hire a car in London. Yes, we get to tick 'get license' off the Baby Plan, but these stupid circumstances have gotten us no closer to the actual goal. Our child will be 9 months old before we get to drive it some place nice for the day.

"You could always get a UK license, you know. You are a great driver, you's only need 3 or 4 lessons on UK road rules. You'd pass first time, guaranteed!" Husband suggested one night.

"I suppose, but I am still really upset and offended that my US license is no good here. If I were from Canada, Australia, South Africa or any European Union country I could convert my license. I don't see why immigration criteria (ie: former commonwealth or EU status) should be applied to something like a foreign earned qualification. Surely the USA has equal driving standards to Poland! I swear it's against my human rights. And besides, I would have to get an automatic license. What is the point of getting an automatic license in the UK anyway? All the cars are stick shift."

"You could always learn to drive manual." Husband teased.

"What! Bite your tongue! I am an American. Driving is a huge part of my cultural identity. We drive automatics. It is bad enough that I live here and spell 'colour' with a U. I don't' want to convert. Besides, I've seen total jackasses driving their manuals - 'ooh I am so cool pretending to be a formula 1 racing driver revving the engine so that I can change gears 0.5 seconds faster only to have to slam on the brakes in 10 feet because of the traffic'! No way. We live in the city and would do all our driving in traffic - why would I want to complicate things? Manuals are fine on the open road for the pleasure of driving but in reality that would only be about 10% of all journey's. The rest of the time it would be a pain in the ass. Plus it would cost more to have the additional lessons to learn."

"Well if you got a UK automatic license we wouldn't be able to drive the same car; renting would be fine but I wouldn't want to own an automatic. We would have to get one of those French cars with an electric auto/manual combo gearbox." Husband said.

"Yes! Like the ones we've rented before! They are great, I love them! You can put it in automatic when you are in the city or in traffic, but you can also gear up and down with the electric shifter. There is no fiddly clutch, which is a leftover of another motoring era. But we'd have to BUY that, and the whole point was that we were not going to buy a car." I Sighed. We are back where we started, with no solution.

This kind off circular reasoning is something we have been doing a lot of lately. Should we buy a car? Should we buy a house? Should we move out of the city? It seems like the more information we have the harder it is to make a decision. And because we are both so damn reasonable - neither of us have particularly strong feelings in either way because we both see the pros and cons of each option - neither of us is pushing the other towards any kind of resolution.

Three months to go before the baby is born and we are still just spinning our wheels.
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The Birth Plan

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"You are so pathetic! You are going to have to get over your fear of blood when you give birth, you know." husband taunted me as I had my blood taken at the doctor's office when I was 12 weeks pregnant.
"I know!" I said, as I slowly sat up from the table and fought back the waves of dizziness that were starting to take over.

Ever since I was a small child, I have always gone green in the face whenever anyone talks about blood. Actually seeing the stuff literally makes me pass out. The worst instance was when I was in my freshman high school english class. The school was having a blood drive and my teacher was going into graphic detail as to the technique they used on him. The last word I remember hearing was 'tourniquet' as the room suddenly went hazy and my vision blurred. Not wanting to pass out in class and thinking I still had time to reach the bathroom, I got up out of my seat and walked to the door. But then things went black. I woke up on my back, having struck my head on the doorframe just as I passed out, and fell backwards onto the floor in front of the whole class. The crowning glory to my humiliation was that my catholic school uniform consisted of a traitorous pleated skirt, which betrayed my by exposing my day of the week underwear. I was known as 'Tuesday' for the rest of the year. My irrational fear of blood has proven harder to shake then the nickname.

But, like all fears, mine has specific parameters. I can just about tolerate other people's blood, but not mine. And I don't need to actually see my own blood to be freaked out - merely talking about it will do the trick. I am fine with guts and can watch operations on television with no problems. But when it comes to me and my body I hit the floor. So you can see my concern when I have started to prepare for my birth plan, which my midwife has suggested I do.

Writing a 'birth plan' is ridiculous because you cannot plan anything as complex as a birth, but I've given it my best shot. This birth plan is actually a 'best case scenario' - one that does not involve me passing out, freaking out, or wimping out. I don't give myself very good odds of actually sticking to it. But I have done my research. I asked all my relatives and friends who have children for their advice, have read the chapters in the baby books on giving birth, and of course have trawled the internet for ideas. So far I am planning a hospital birth with the maximum drugs I can have that allow me to be as mobile and active during the birth as possible. I don't want any drugs that will affect the baby, so certain pain medications by injection are out. I want to be able to sit in the tub during contractions or use yoga postures to get through the early stages, and I don't want to be confined to a bed for 12 hours. I've been taking pregnancy yoga classes each week since I was 12 weeks pregnant and I want to be able to put those classes to good use. Therefore, I am going to request what is called in the UK as a 'walking epidural'. This allows you to have maximum pain relief whith out affecting the baby but still feel and use your legs to change positions or stand up if you want to. The other specifics of the birth plan are as follows:

My Birth Plan
  1. I plan on staying in the comfort of my own home during the first stage of labour. There are 3 stages of labour and if you sit in the bath you can ease the pain of early contractions (I am told) and by staying calm and relaxed at home for the longest of the 3 stages, you prevent yourself getting frustrated sitting in a hospital bed.
  2. Once my contractions are 3-5 minutes apart, I will get a taxi to the hospital with my husband.
  3. Once admitted to the hospital I do not want continuous monitoring during labor, just intermittent or as required by the condition of my baby. This is so that I can move freely without being hooked up to machines.
  4. Once admitted to the hospitalI would like to be able to use active birth techniques combined with gas and air for pain relief. This means being out of the bed, using a big bouncy ball to get the baby in the right position and the gas and air will help take the edge off.
  5. Once I can no longer tolerate the pain I would like to receive a mobile epidural. If this is not available, I would like a standard epidural. I want to be warned before it will be too late to administer this pain relief.
  6. There will be no photographs or video footage of the actual birth - I would prefer these to be taken after the baby is born.
  7. During the birth I would prefer not to have forceps used unless the baby's life is threatened.
  8. During the birth I would prefer not to have an episiotomy unless absolutely required for my baby's safety or to prevent tearing.
  9. When baby is born, I want immediate mother-to-baby skin to skin contact. I will be breastfeeding.
  10. Because I will be breastfeeding, I don't want any bottles given to my son after birth.
  11. My support people are my husband and sister-in-law and I would like them to be present during labor and or delivery.
  12. I would like to have my baby examined and bathed in my presence.
  13. I am happy for my son to be given Vitamin K by injection when he is born.
  14. If my baby must be taken from me to receive medical treatment, my husband will accompany our baby at all times.
  15. I do not want my son circumcised.
  16. I would like the umbilical cord to stop pulsing before it is cut.
  17. I am planning on donating the cord blood to the NHS and would like it to be sterile so it can be collected.
  18. I do not want to be discharged from hospital until breastfeeding is established.

So that is the plan. We'll see how well I can stick to it!
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The Babymoon

wedding photo
If you are pregnant, one of the first things you do is go to the newsagents and trade in your normal weekly purchase of Grazia, Vogue, or Glamour for magazines with titles such as 'You're Pregnant!'. They can be very helpful for giving advice and tips to the mother to be, and inevitably there will be an article in each dedicated to the Babymoon.

This is a 21st century concept. The idea is that towards the end of your pregnancy you will want to kick up your heels and indulge in some r&r with your hubby, crucially, before the baby comes and turns your worlds upside down. As a woman who never turns down the opportunity for a holiday, I was intrigued. You see, over the last 2 years our family life has been fraught with trauma and tragedy. With the sudden illness and death of husband's mother, we have all rallied around each other in a wonderfully comforting way. However, it suddenly dawned on me that after 2 and a half years husband and I have not had much time 'just the two of us'. Our annual holidays have been extended to include multiple family members and any public holidays or long weekends have also been spent with extended family. In addition to some well deserved alone time, it just so happened to be our 5th wedding anniversary this Autumn. Well, that settled it. We would have our 'last chance' romantic couples holiday and celebrate our anniversary and we would do it in style. This would be our version of a 'babymoon'.

Our first year of marriage was bliss. In fact, each year we have been married has been wonderful. Not to brag, or sound cliche, but we truly enjoy each other's company. We do everything together - our evenings and weekends are sacred and we do not put others before each other. We are best friends and miss each other terribly when apart. We have dinner together each evening and husband will call me if he is running late. We trust and respect each other and we share the same values so we really don't argue about things. We squabble, of course! But it is the lighthearted 'wind each other up' playful sort of squabbling. As our first anniversary approached, I was worried we were simply in the 'honeymoon phase' and waited anxiously for the honeymoon to end.

But it never did. Our first anniversary was spent in North Africa, on an eco-holiday that allowed us to experience the local culture outside of resort towns and big hotels. It was amazing and hands down the best holiday we have ever been on. We booked through a company called Naturally Morocco and spent a week in a former palace on the edge of a mud-brick walled ancient market town. We visited local villages, saw how investments in electricity and water were changing their lives, met and played with local village children, visited hidden oases in the desert, had mint tea and couscous in the mud hut of a village woman who would not let us leave without feeding us, hiked in stunning mountain gorges and passes, and visited a traditional hamam, which was exhilarating! We left with a deep love and appreciation for Morocco and its people, who were some of the poorest we had ever seen, but who were somehow the most generous.

Unfortunately, the magic of our first anniversary was not to be repeated for some time. Because of the nature of my job I normally travel quite a bit in the fall and spring. Having an anniversary in September has been especially awkward and in fact, apart from our very first anniversary, husband and I have had to resign ourselves to congratulating each other over the phone, long distance. I remember a particularly difficult anniversary where I was traveling for over 12 hours, and because of the time difference I only had a small window of time when I could call home - when I was standing at the baggage carousel in between flights!

After having spent the last 4 anniversaries apart, I was hell bent on being able to celebrate properly this year. Because of my pregnancy, I was not traveling for work this year, hurrah! We wanted to re-create the magic of Morocco by visiting another islamic country such as Turkey or Egypt, but due to the health risks to the baby this was out of the question. And honestly the thought of having to be on a long haul flight while 6 months pregnant did not get me overly enthusiastic, so we limited our choices to European cities. The Caribbean and far east would have to wait until another year. In the end, we chose a city that was less than an hour's flight away: Amsterdam.

Amsterdam may not be most people's first choice for a Babymoon, but for us it was perfect. We found a 5 star hotel deal online and the flights were cheap. We would do Amsterdam in style, not in the dizzy, foggy, juvenile approach that so many of its hedonistic visitors indulge. We were after romance, culture, sophistication and luxury. And we were not disappointed. Husband thought we were there a bit too long - it simply did not have enough to keep us interested for the week we were there - but it certainly did the trick. As we wandered arm in arm along the canals, artfully dodging bikes and trams, we got just what the doctor ordered: quality alone time. It will be the last time, for a long time, that we will be able to do this as a couple, so we cherished every minute.

So, if your natural skepticism is to dismiss the Babymoon concept as another construct to get you to spend money unnecessarily, I urge you to reconsider. In my opinion the Babymoon is the greatest idea EVER. When I am knee deep in dirty diapers, I am sure I will not regret it one bit.
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wedding photo
5 years ago today, husband and I said 'I will' in front of our family and friends. Not 'I do', but 'I will' which is the correct grammatical reply. Our wedding day was everything we'd hoped for despite the haste in which it was organised. I've already told the storey of the proposal, and no less than 4 months after we were engaged we were wed. To add further stress to the situation, I was finishing my masters degree the very same month we were married. September 2005 was a month like I had never experienced before. It all began with husband sitting in our back yard at the house we shared with friends in south london telling me that we could go down the pub after the civil ceremony.

"Ha ha, very funny." I said.

"What? I'm serious. You don't expect some huge production do you? This is going to be cheap and cheerful. Besides, you have a thesis to write! I don't want you failing your masters course because you distracted yourself with wedding planning."

My heart sank with the phrase 'cheap and cheerful' as my little girl dreams of a fairytale wedding were shot down. I tried not to look too disappointed but I was thoroughly gutted. Because, at the end of the day I knew he was right. How would we be able to pay for a fancy wedding on our own? I didn't want to go into debt for just one day, no matter how special that day may be. Husband had a bit of savings but that was meant for a house, and I had some money left from my student loans but it was nowhere near enough for a wedding.

'Ok, I said as I took a deep breath. "What about this. You tell me what you think a reasonable amount of money is to spend on a wedding. If I can find a way to have the wedding I want within that budget, will you agree to it?" I propositioned.

"I guess". Husband said reluctantly. "But seriously, weddings cost tens of thousands of pounds. You won't be able to do it for cheap and in only 4 months. It's impossible."

"You just watch me!" I challenged. That week, Husband found his first grey hair. An omen of things to come? Perhaps.

I spent the months of June, July, and August trawling the internet for wedding advice and shortcuts. I had managed to gather up 5 thousand pounds between the two of us (plus another thousand from his parents and my mom). My determination to have the perfect day sent me into hyper drive. In one of my favourite books, Vanity Fair, the character of Becky Sharp, aka Mrs. Rawdon Crawley, explains how one lives in an expensive Russell Square townhouse for practically nothing a year. Her method was credit: she put everything from the servant's salaries to the butcher's bill to the dress shop bill on credit. Me? My method would be to avoid credit, get bargains! And this is how I did it:

The first thing to organise was the registry office. We knew straight off the bat where we would be married: in husband's home town. I never knew until I planned my wedding that you do not choose the day you get married. You get married when there is an available slot. Very romantic. We were given our slot and I was told to apply for permission to get married at our local municipal office. They wanted to ensure we were getting hitched for love and not a visa, fair enough, and although I joked about being asked where husband's moles were, we took our interview seriously and were granted permission.

Next came the reception venue. This is where the majority of people spend a fortune because most places charge you for the meal AND the use of the venue space. After looking at several options, which were all over budget, we found a gorgeous medieval hall and gardens that only charged you for the meal! As the venue wedding organiser gave us a tour of the facilities, I thought "Oh my god, don't look too thrilled". When her back was turned, I mouthed to husband 'don't say anything - keep your mouth shut'.

"So," I said, nonchalantly "If we have dinner for 10 people, for example, we still have access to the grand hall for the reception? And the gardens for photos?"

I almost screamed with delight when she told me, "Yes you have access for the whole day".

It was settled. We would have dinner for the smallest number of people we could get away with, followed by a reception and light buffet for 70 guests. Regrettably, we had to disappoint friends and relatives by having separate guest lists for the ceremony, dinner (which ended up being for 20 people), and reception. However, we hoped that they understood that we were paying for this ourselves and we had to keep costs down somehow. In the end, we tried to have as many people as we could at each event. The mid morning ceremony was followed by canapés at my new in-laws lovely home. Then it was off to the venue for photos before a late afternoon dinner, and finally cocktail hour (which was not open bar) and a buffet for the whole group.

Now, for the dress. I decided to make an appointment at one of the big department stores on Oxford street to try on different styles and - secretly - to have no intentions on buying a thing! I tried on several styles to see what suited me. When they got the tape measure out, I made mental notes of the inches and centimetres. Once I thanked them kindly for their time, saying I needed to think about it, I quickly searched through hoards of online wedding boutiques and wholesalers to find my perfect dress. When I had it narrowed down, I asked friends at my part time job which suited me best. I needn't have asked, the verdict was unanimous. So, from a small boutique in California, after giving them my measurements, I bought my dream dress. Entirely trusting my instincts that this dress, which I had never even tried on, would be the one for my wedding day - was a huge gamble. But it only cost $750, including shipping!

Husband was easy. We agreed he'd wear a tux and looked into renting one. Then, by chance, we were searching through the clearance racks of suit jackets in the basement of a department store. He found it - a tuxedo jacket in his size! He went home and paired it with his nicest work trousers and shoes, and it looked the part. The fabrics matched and you would never have known they were not a set. I already had a black bow tie and cummerbund from my days hostessing at a fancy Manhattan restaurant. All he needed was a £20 tuxedo shirt to complete the look.

By the time August finally came, most of the arrangements were made. We found a DJ online who was mid-priced and let us choose the entire playlist. Our guests nearly brought down the 1,000 year old ceiling beams of the grand hall dancing to Guns n Roses, Green Day, Orbital and the Prodigy! The photographer was a professional who just so happened to be a former art student of husband's father, and she gave us a cracking deal and took the most amazing photographs. For makeup I had a friend who worked at a posh london cosmetics counter give me a demo in the store. She gave me free samples of everything I'd need to do it myself on the big day. For my hair I got it coloured at the trendiest London salon's training academy. A whole head of highlights cost £30! And it turned out perfect. On the actual day, I had my hair styled at the salon in town and did my own makeup while they were flat ironing my hair!

There were things we couldn't afford: a videographer, a fancy car to drive us between venues, fancy wedding invitations (I made them myself in the end) and expensive centrepieces (our total flower bill came to £150 including my bouquet). We didn't even have a wedding cake - and no one noticed!! It could have all ended in disaster and tears - I was taking real risks here for a young girl's wedding day - but it all turned out wonderfully. No tantrums, no tears. In the end the day went off without a hitch and we did not miss, nor did anyone notice, any of the little things people think you must have at a wedding. No one knew what our budget was - they thought we'd spent double at least! And the dress? After a last minute alteration to fit a woman who had suddenly lost 10 pounds due to stress, the dress was simply amazing.

The only part of my wedding that I wish we could have done differently was that we were only able to give my US family 3 months notice of the wedding. My mother would not have missed it for the world and she was able to spend the most important day of my life with me. My aunt was also able to come and represent my family, but the majority of my family, and in particular my father, were not able to share my day with me. In fact, my father had never even met Husband before! They had spoken on the phone, and of course Husband had met my mother several times. So immediately after our UK wedding we flew to New York (which was Husband's first time in the USA) and I introduced him to my father at a family dinner that my mother organised for us as a second reception.

I wore the dress again and Husband wore the tux. He held my hand as the door to the elevator opened onto the ballroom where my family were waiting. Amid the cheers and applause, I spotted my father smiling humbly. He came and gave me a big hug and kiss. Once he let me go and looked at me in my lovely dress, he raised his eyebrow as he took in the man by my side.

"Dad, this is my husband". I said

"Pleased to meet you", Husband offered.

My dad took his hand, looked him stern in the eye and said "I'm gonna kick your ass!" He was only kidding. But that night husband spotted his second grey hair.

After a quick visit to the New York British Consulate to turn my soon-to-be expired student visa into a spousal visa, we were off on our honeymoon. And my masters degree? I turned in my thesis with final revisions two weeks before the big day. I managed to get an upper second class degree (US grade B+/A-).
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