Balcony doors and a baby

It’s been a mixed month, full of milestones and emotion!

Balcony doors

Our doors arrived at 10 o’clock at night at the end of October, having left the UK the day before. It had been raining and the driver wasn’t sure he’d be able to make it up the hill, which was a worry. We didn’t fancy carrying them all the way from the car park! But after a good run-up, he skidded his way up there and we unloaded them under the stars by the side of the field. Having been told by someone at the factory that one person could carry a door on their own, we were disappointed to learn they weigh 80kg each! Even Dave and Omar between them were having a hard time lifting them. But my little trolley came to the rescue and they rode them in over the muddy field one at a time and we finished at midnight.


Bringing them in on the trolley

November arrived in good autumnal fashion. I went out with Charlie just before sunrise. The trees were boasting their end of season colours and the warm breeze was casting joyous bursts of leaves into the sky like confetti.

Over the next few weekends we set about installing the new doors. It took us a few hours just to get them from the downstairs of the house to the upstairs since they wouldn’t fit up the indoor steps and our outdoor steps have yet to be rebuilt since the earthworks. We took out a few panels of chipboard flooring and hoisted them up through the gap.

We got the top and bottom tracks installed nice and straight and level then mounted the doors in place. We had a few little hiccups here and there but went slow and steady and they’re getting there now. The house is starting to feel more house-like by the month!

Difficult diagnosis

My peaceful plans for November went out of the window at the start of the month when I got some less than ideal news about my health. Back in August I started getting a visual disturbance in my left eye. I thought it would be some pregnancy-related fluid build-up on the retina, but the ophthalmologist said my eyeball was fine. After being passed to a neurologist and having various tests in September and October, I finally got my diagnosis this month. It’s an unusual condition with the acronym NAIOM where the anatomical weakness of having a tightly packed optic nerve combines with some event causing a temporary lack of oxygen to the nerve and part of it dies, leading to blind spots in the field of vision (or complete blindness in some cases). People who have it in one eye are also at risk of getting it in the other eye. There is no known treatment or prevention. In my case they don’t know why it happened.

Whilst the neurologist was telling me this, I managed to keep it together and try and concentrate on what she was saying (nothing like hearing bad news from a medical professional in your third language). Once outside, I mourned the loss of my left eye and started feeling anxious about the right one. I had a few really bad days where I was obsessing about my good eye going wrong, and didn’t eat or sleep much. Then of course I started worrying about the baby being flooded with cortisol and deprived of nutrients! It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster.

What I can see with my left eye is relatively normal peripheral vision but with a mostly blind spot in the centre. So if I am reading for example and close my right eye, I can see the outline of the book or screen but the page appears blank. I can see my surroundings but anything I actually try to look at disappears – objects, faces, scenery. If the other eye developed the same problem, I’d be able to walk around with a stick but would be unable to read, drive, see people’s facial expressions or do intricate tasks that couldn’t be done by touch alone. If I met someone like that, I would assume that they could still live a happy, independent life, and I’m sure that I would under the circumstances. But nobody wants to lose capability and make their lives more difficult.

If we assume that I maintain my good eye as is and I can let the fear and anxiety subside, I can live a normal life as I am now. The blurring and distortion are annoying and my eyes get really tired, especially now that the days are shorter and I spend more time indoors with artificial lights, but I can generally get about just fine. So I’m working on shedding the anxiety that sits in the pit of my stomach and trying to get enough sleep.

Dave has been a great support, I really can’t fault how he’s dealing with this. I’ve been so lucky to have him be there for me whenever I’ve needed him (which has been a lot!). My Mum has been a blessing as always too and I think between us now we’re basically world NAION experts!

I had a week long treatment of steroids in week 37 of my pregnancy. The doctor was doubtful they would have any effect but thought it was worth a try. By the end of the week I was totally exhausted and had terrible fluid retention. I spent about a week recovery from that and as far as I can tell my eye remains the same.

Everything else

There were so many nice jobs I wanted to get done this month – rebuilding the retaining wall and steps up to the balcony, planting out the food forest, tending to the garden. But between the relentless rain, countless hospital visits and the last of the baby preparations, everything landscaping-related has pretty much ground to a halt. One night of extremely high winds finally saw an end of the greenhouse plastic. Every time there’s a storm it gets a bit more battered and it finally gave out by getting a great big tear along the front of the roof. We took the plastic off and the frame will just spend the winter as a skeleton.

We spent one afternoon trying to get the water off the terraces. The constant rain had filled up the dips, making a rather large pool on each terrace, creating its own spillways down the banks and in two places leaving land slumps where parts of the bank started to come down. Of course now it seems like this was a total inevitability and we should have had the digger driver put drainage channels in the back of each terrace – as was the original plan! But hey ho, now we have to manage it as best we can.



With a few weeks to go until my due date, I did get some time to just relax and recover after all the chaos of hospital visits. Some friends threw a surprise happy baby party, which was wonderful. And I spent time cooking, walking Charlie and taking naps.

Six days before my due date I woke up with my first contraction at 6am. I was very excited! When Dave woke up at 8 we went for a walk together before breakfast. He then spent the day tying up loose ends at work whilst I cooked and napped my way through early labour. By 6pm the contractions were still pretty mild but coming every four minutes so we packed up and headed to hospital. It was nice and quiet arriving at 8pm and we had the maternity ward to ourselves. The midwife was wonderful and we had an uncomplicated and empowering birth, bringing Leona into the world at 11.15pm on November 27th.

I spent a few days high on adrenaline, marvelling at our little girl and not sleeping a wink. Dave was immediately adorably besotted. Then on the 30th November we went home to start the first day of the rest of our lives as a proper little family.