Exactly one week before my last day at work, we exchanged contracts! Hurrah! The completion date we’d been given was the following Wednesday, the day before my last day at work. That was going to be one busy week. We spent the next few days frantically packing everything we owned into cardboard boxes and labelling everything up with where it should be left in the new house. We decided not to bother with removals as we lived in 2 bed flat. We were leaving our wardrobes and our mattress had seen better days so we ordered a new one to arrive in the evening of moving day at the new place. All our big appliances, washing machine, tumble dryer etc. were integrated so other than our fridge and sofa, everything else could either be dismantled, binned or would fit in boxes. We hired a huge Mercedes Sprinter for two days and called in help from my Dad and step-Mum, Sue for the day. The plan was Dad and Michael would move all the big items, Sue would clean (she’s more of a clean freak than me, which was perfect) and I would do things like make beds, make tea and lug around my 38 week old bump. What could possibly go wrong?!
Moving day arrived and we were up at 7am ready to go! Dad and Sue arrived shortly after and began loading the van. Initially we thought our stuff would be rattling around in there but it soon became apparent that we owned more than we thought. We sort of, kinda, forgot we had a loft until the night before! Duh! So once all the Christmas stuff, camping gear and DIY gubbins were down things were getting very tight. The van was filled and the flat was not empty. We then started loading Dad’s truck. The truck was filled and the flat was still not empty. We then moved on to filling Michael’s car and then mine and with things balanced on my shoulder for the 4.6 mile journey the final door was closed. Michael and I went back in alone and sat on the floor of the lounge for a few minutes for the last time in our first home together. We’d been there for five years and it was so strange that we were about to leave and never come back. We bought this flat having only been together for nine months. People’s opinions of ‘wow that’s soon’ were obvs the least welcomed of opinions because when you know, you know. We both said we remembered sitting on this same floor during the time when we were buying the flat. We bought it new and it was finished a couple of weeks before we were able to get the keys however the lovely sales assistants at Taylor Wimpey said that anytime we wanted to measure up for furniture or just sit in our new home for an hour, we could pop along at pick up the keys – and we did exactly that. Our bedroom looked like square main had just been murdered with the amount of tape on the floor marking out where each item would go and here we were over five years later with most of that furniture either on the van or at the tip whilst we sat in our empty flat thinking of all the amazing memories we’d created here. It was in this flat that we’d held so many incredible parties. It was in this flat we’d had 12(!) for Christmas dinner one year. It was in this flat our beloved Colin (our house rabbit) had spent two years but sadly died a year earlier. It was in this flat that we opened all of our amazing baby shower presents. It was in this flat I told Michael he was going to be a Dad. It was sad to be leaving but so exciting to start our new adventure – this time with a garden!
We bid the flat farewell in convoy. Michael driving the van, Sue driving Dad’s truck, Dad driving Michael’s car and Me driving mine. Working out who was insured on what and under what capacity took longer to work out than loading the bloody van! We were good to go by 11am and as the transaction wouldn’t take place until at least midday we took Dad and Sue for brunch to thank them for their troubles. After a lovely breakfast, several cups of tea and many a phone call to the solicitors, we’d completed and could go and collect the keys! We jumped back in our convoy of vehicles and we were headed to the new pad! Dad hadn’t seen the house, only pictures so I was interested to see what they thought. They both loved it and loved the road and could see exactly why we’d gone for this one. As we pulled up with these four massive beast vehicles we brought our new quiet cul-de-sac to an abrupt halt as we jumped out and gathered on the front lawn. Soon after, the neighbours were all coming out to greet us and bring us drinks, they’d noticed I was pregnant and asked if I needed anything. They were all such a lovely bunch and it made us realise our move was a good one.
Dad and Sue started unloading whilst we went in alone to have a look around our new family home. The previous owners had left us a lovely note with a few instructions about things and wishing us well on our next adventure. Such a nice touch. Then the chaos began. Kitchen boxes were in the dining room, spare room boxes were in the downstairs loo and I was seriously losing my shit. It was a mixture of tiredness, exhaustion, swollen ankles and an inability to do anything but carry pillows. I just wanted a perfect family home for our little one who could be here any minute now but all I could do was walk around and notice things I hadn’t noticed on our two previous viewings. Once their furniture was out more problems became apparent. The walls were not as smooth as they seemed. Some of the skirting boards were cracked, some of the doors didn’t shut and I was starting to think we’d bitten off more than we could chew. Michael, my Dad and Sue were absolute diamonds that day. I couldn’t do much but point and boil kettles but they worked like Trojans and slowly but surely our home was coming together.
That night when we went to bed I remember panicking that we hadn’t unpacked any boxes and I had nothing to wear to work the next day – my final day! I rummaged around for a good hour and found some skinny jeans, a grey maternity t-shirt and heels. Not the best outfit for my last day and maternity drinks but by this point I didn’t even care. My head hit the pillow and in what felt like seconds, my alarm went off. Michael was off that day as it was the day before Good Friday anyway so to get some bits done ahead of the long Easter weekend he stayed home to get started. He took delivery of our new washing machine, unpacked some boxes, stripped all of the wallpaper and got the carpet up in the nursery ready for the plasterer that was scheduled for two days’ time! I was determined to get that nursery finished if we worked every day until he was here, even if the rest of the house was a bit of a dump.
My last day at work was lovely. As usual my colleagues had gone the extra mile and bought me and bump so many lovely gifts. We went for a farewell lunch and for the afternoon I pretty much just chilled out and went round and said my goodbyes. By 4pm we were in the pub. I couldn’t believe my turnout! Either I had amassed quite an array of friends in my time there or they were just making sure I’d definitely go, probably the latter. Michael turned up later on in the evening which was a good job really as I’d have struggled to get all of my presents on the train alone. We left about 10pm and I remember leaving with such mixed emotions. On one hand I was like ‘WAHOOOO A YEAR OFF’ but on the other hand I was really sad. I love my job, I love coming up to Canary Wharf every day, I had the best colleagues and I didn’t know what the future held. Would I be that person that says they’ll be back and then can’t bear to leave their child so quits? Would I go back but be offered a different position (as I was on secondment to another division when I left) that I wouldn’t like? I honestly didn’t know if I was leaving that night for 12 months or for good.
We got in just before midnight and it did not look like the same house that I left that morning. I was so happy I actually cried. Michael had hung all our photos, the kitchen tops had all my appliances out, the bed was made, my toothbrush was in the bathroom and it was starting to take shape. He’d worked his socks off that day and didn’t tell me all night. He let me enjoy my last evening with my friends and instead of me coming home to cardboard chaos it was sort of looking like this could now be our home. He is the very best.
That Saturday was manic. We had the plasterer in the bedroom with my Mum’s boyfriend who was pretty much rewiring the entire room around him. Michael was toing and froing to the tip all day (it was at this point we decided to get a skip), my Mum and I were creosoting the fences in the garden and my brother was jet washing everything in sight. It was chaos but I look back on that day so fondly as everyone really pulled together for us as they knew how important it was to me to have that room finished and we were really on a tight deadline.
The following few days went a little like this:
Sunday – Michael’s Dad came round to put the coving up in the nursery.
Monday – Michael gave the ceiling a coat of paint in the morning and coat a night.
Tuesday – Michael gave the walls a coat of grey in the morning, went to work and did a coat when he got in that night.
Wednesday – My Dad came over and fit all new skirting boards and architrave in the nursery and I laid on the floor and glossed said skirting as he went.
Thursday – I did a second coat on the skirting and glossed the windowsill and architrave round the door.
Friday – Michael fitted all the new chrome sockets and switches.
Saturday – at 2:00 in the morning my waters broke.
Saturday – at 3:00 we were at the hospital being examined and I was told I was in early labour. He wasn’t due for another week!
Saturday – at 4:00 they told me I could go home and wait for contractions to begin but I had to stay at the hospital and wait for my blood pressure to go down as it was dangerously high. Of course it was bloody high I’m about to have a baby and the nursery doesn’t have a carpet yet!
Saturday – at 7:00 they let us go home.
Saturday – at 7:50 we arrived home.
Saturday – at 8:00 the carpet fitter turned up. I was adamant we were not rescheduling that fitter!
The carpet fitter said I looked tired and I can’t have long to go. I told him I’d been awake since 2am and that I was in fact in early labour. He nervously laughed, necked his tea, fit that carpet in record timing and was gone quick as a flash. I don’t know if he thought he was going to be roped in to help with the birth or something but he did not look comfortable.
Once he’d left we called our parents to let them know he was on his way but nothing was happening so we were going back to bed for a few hours. I assumed the contractions would wake me up!? We woke around 1pm and started building all the nursery furniture. Michael did the cot and wardrobe and I did the changing table. I was very conscious that we were on a very new, very expensive, very light fluffy carpet and I’d heard about this ‘you have two lots of water’ shenanigans but I figured it would be covered in sick and faeces soon so I just cracked on. We put up his blind, unpacked his clothes, hung them in the wardrobe, made up his bed and filled his toy box. It was so lovely to see it all finished, even if it we were cutting it a bit fine.
That night we ordered a take away and watched the Anthony Joshua fight. We went to bed around 11pm and with no contractions still I set my alarm for 7am. I was told when we left the hospital that if my contractions not started naturally, I’d be induced at 8am the next day. I’d read absolutely nothing about inductions and all about natural labour but as I was shattered and it was now less than 10 hours away I thought what you don’t know can’t hurt you so I finished packing my bag and got my nut down. The alarm went off at 7am, we got up, had a bit of breakfast, packed the last few bits and we left our still very new home to meet our even newer little boy.
Nuggets of Knowledge:
· You own more than you think you do. We were lucky that we had a massive sprinter, my Dad’s pretty big truck and Michael had an estate. Had we just had the van and a smaller car I honestly don’t know what we’d have done. As much as my Dad and Sue were a god-send that day I’d defo hire removals next time. They do it every day and it just takes a little of the stress away from an already stressful day.
· When you leave a house that you’ve lived in for a while just spend 5 minutes at the end sitting on the floor and think about all the funny, sad, memorable events that those walls have seen. I’m really glad we did that.
· When viewing a house, really look at it. Look at the ceilings, look for cracks, shut the doors, shut the windows because what you think can be sorted with a lick of paint can end up costing thousands. We learnt the hard way.
· Don’t say to a midwife who is taking your blood pressure ‘has it gone down yet only I’m having a carpet fitted in an hour and I really need to get back’. They have no time for your carpet.
· If, like me, you’re being induced, really enjoy that last night at home as just the two of you. Most people don’t have the luxury of knowing when their last night as a two will be as it’s a waiting game one minute and then bam! Waters everywhere and contractions are in full flow. I counted us incredibly lucky that we didn’t have the mad dash to the hospital and actually enjoyed our last day together alone. From that morning on, it was never going to be just us again.