2017 – a reflection

Well, I made it through another year. And what a year it was..

As is now somewhat of a tradition, I revisit this wordpress site, hope I remember the password, and write a reflection of the past 12 months with hopefully a positive look at all that has happened within it.

I just re-read the 2016 entry and shocked myself that those things happened last year, not this year, which tells me 3 things – time flies, the wider world is still a troubled and worrying place, and my memory isn’t what it used to be.

Before I get to that, let’s look at the world in general. Brexit and Trump dominate headlines and things look gloomy and bleak in many places around the world. I try to stay informed, stay active and engaged, but also practise self-care and tune it out when it’s necessary. On those lines; at the start of the year, I decided that Facebook was bad for my mental health and so I decided to cut back. I logged in only once a week (on a Saturday morning) to sift through notifications. I kept Messenger and Pages so that I could keep up with friends and work, and I was so much happier and productive. Then, in May, I found myself awake a lot and needing something inane to do, so I signed back in and just. kept. scrolling.  I intend to go back to my once-a-week from now on. It was good.

Everything changed in May. So let’s talk about that now. I’ve been meaning to jot this down for myself for 7.5 months now, so it may get a little long-winded…!

At 8:50am on the 17th of May, our little Bean came into the world. At 41weeks and a day, he was overdue and I was definitely ready to stop being pregnant. The previous morning, I had been to see the midwife and she had booked my induction. She had also examined me and so I knew I was relatively close to a natural labour. After that, I had a feeling it would happen that night. Though, of course, I’d been thinking that every night for about 2 weeks, so I wasn’t sure I believed it.

Around midnight, I couldn’t sleep as Christopher was restless, so I moved to the spare room. I felt twinges, but I convinced myself nothing was going on as I felt like I’d managed a good few hours sleep. Turned out it was about 25 minutes… At around 3am, I woke Chris, knowing I was now having contractions about 4-5 minutes apart. Fast forward through a few phonecalls to the LGI, some ridiculous “prioritising” from Chris (who insisted on having a shower before packing the car!) and we arrived at the LGI Maternity Unit around 6:30am, just as the staff were changing over. We were the only ones in the ward, so we turned off the poppy radio station and shortly after handover, with contractions every 1-2 minutes, I headed to a birthing room where they set the pool running for the water birth I had been hoping for. It was now 7:40am.

I had an amazing midwife and student midwife who kept me grounded. They wanted to put me on a drip as I was dehydrated. In my stubbornness, I wanted to avoid this, thinking it would stop me going in the birthing pool, so I drank a lot of water instead! It’s worth noting that at this point, the only pain relief I had taken were 2 paracetamol at 3am. The tens machine I had borrowed hadn’t even come out of it’s box.

Being told he had a good few hours, Christopher went to move the car. On his return, things were not quite so calm. Contractions were strong, and I was not doing too well at keeping relaxed and quiet, despite the hypnobirthing CD playing.

At around 8:20am, I was told the birthing pool was ready but they just wanted to check the baby’s heart rate. They couldn’t get a good read and it seemed weak, so they would have to put a clip on his head to get a better read. That was the end of my water-birth hopes, and I was disappointed.

From then, things became a bit of blur. I was told I needed to get on the bed. I looked up and in addition to Chris, the midwife and the student midwife, there were 5 other people in the room: Head midwife, 2 registrars, 2 paediatricians and then later a consultant too. I was urged to have gas and air, which gave me something to focus on with my breathing (I don’t recall it helping with the pain!) My waters were broken, I was given an episiotomy and the registrars explained they would have to use forceps. I heard them say they had only 20 minutes to deliver the baby. They tried twice, then the consultant arrived. She was all business and sternly told me what I needed to do. She delivered my baby and after a few seconds on my belly (where I heard him cry), he was taken to the corner of the room to be looked at by the paediatric team. She was a superhero. After 15 minutes of being examined and having to have a high-flow of oxygen, he was placed in a special cot, brought over for a kiss from his parents and then taken away to the High Dependancy Unit. I was left on the bed awaiting a trip to theatre.

I headed to theatre a couple of hours later where I had all the drugs I had wanted to avoid in delivery. The guys administering them were great and chatted to me about music; they put on some Ella Fitzgerald as I was ‘repaired’. Chris was up on the HDU watching our son, and once out of theatre I was told as soon as I was able to get into a wheelchair, I could meet him.

6 and a half hours after he was born, I got to hold my son for the first time. He had various tubes giving him extra oxygen, antibiotics and monitoring him, but he was doing ok. Christopher had discovered that his name was Joseph and I agreed. Joseph Bradley.

JB stayed in the HDU for 3 days, on antibiotics and oxygen. I stayed in a private room on a different floor without him. Unfortunately, I was accidentally given dairy on my 2nd day there, which made me ill. I was placed in isolation and was not allowed to visit him (or leave my room) until they could determine that it wasn’t an infection. It was heart breaking. Christopher was amazing and split his time between us, but needed support that I couldn’t give, so my Mum came down to help. Eventually, I was cleared and we were reunited again. We spent a further 2 nights in hospital on the maternity ward (the first was dreadful, the second was much better) and were discharged on the Sunday evening.

There are so many things I could say about the NHS at this moment, and about the incredible staff I encountered at the LGI that week. They literally saved my boy’s life, and I can’t thank them enough. Two moments will forever be etched in my mind, though.

The first was when I was lying on the bed, post-delivery, and waiting for the operating theatre. Charlotte, the student midwife, had read my ‘Birthing Preferences’ and knew that none of this had been what I had wanted. But, I had written that if these things were necessary for the baby, I would agree to them. And they were necessary. In that way, she said, I stuck entirely to my plan. That helped a lot.

The second happened as were getting ready to be discharged. We had been told the consultant who delivered Joseph would come and give a debrief, in case we had any questions, but with being in isolation that didn’t happen (I got one 6 weeks later with her, which was an incredible service and very helpful). Instead, a different consultant came to talk us through some of what happened. Her nickname was ‘Winnie’ and she showed us the trace of JB’s heart during the end stages of labour, in those last 40-or-so minutes. It was a really bad trace, she said. “I am a woman of science, but someone was watching over him” she told us. “He’s destined for great things”.

I assumed that, had he not been able to be delivered by the forceps, I’d have had a c-section. I later found out at the 6-week appointment that that wasn’t an option. There were no other options.

So, we had our incredible baby boy. He had given us quite an entrance, but 5 days later we were home. The day after we got home, we headed to Asda to buy blankets and various other things we didn’t feel we had enough of. I think it was good that we got out into ‘the real world’ at that moment, otherwise I’m not sure I would have done for weeks!

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of our hospital stays. He lost 19.8% of his birth weight (8lb 1) and the midwives couldn’t work out why. They generally ‘allow’ for 10% so we had daily weigh-ins and eventually were readmitted the following weekend for a further 3 days, meaning I missed most of Hullzapoppin’ (priorities!)

We were finally discharged with no real answers, but the doctors were happy and with a few more weeks of monitoring were eventually given the all-clear. Looking at him now, you wouldn’t believe any of this went on, but I know it will always stay with me and it makes me feel even more blessed and grateful to have him, and the NHS, in our lives.

With all the ins-and-outs of hospital, I sort of forgot that the gig I had provisionally taken at the start of June had not been ‘depped. So, at 16 days old, the family headed to Sheffield and I did a gig. Christopher and Joseph were both amazing. I was tired and sore, but I did it. And it lead to many more ridiculous work-undertakings. I even did a double-gig-day (Nottingham and then Leicester) with my Mum in tow a few weeks later!

So yes, work this year has been good, if not challenging.

I kept teaching at my Bradford school until February half term and made it to the end of Semester 2 at the University. I gigged until 37weeks and started again at 16 days; Honeybirds, AppleJacks, Ladies of Swing, Solos and Wall Street Stomp – some with Joe and Chris/Mum in tow. We made it to Edinburgh in December and are seeing 2018 in in Wales. I ran a choir that JB and Chris were in from July until September and started teaching at Uni again at the start of the academic year, when Joseph was about 4 months old. I even ran a ‘Choir for All Ages’ with Joseph at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and managed a Teapots and Twirls tea dance with Jules in November, to boot! It’s been hard, and I’ve relied a lot of family (and our childminder), but I’m proud that I have been able to continue doing what I love. Oh yeah, I also recorded an ep with 4 original songs on it too! Turns out Joe is a bit of a muse for me

Christopher is now well on his way to becoming a Social Worker, and I’m very proud of him.

Pre-Joseph, we also continued work on the house and had a new kitchen installed (call it ‘extreme nesting’) and we’re now turning our attention to a few more bits and pieces that need tackling.

We also managed a couple of holidays – one to Castleton in the Peak District and one to Thailand! My brother, his partner and my niece live out there and so the family (Mum, Dad, Sister, Brother-in-law, niece, Christopher and JB) headed out to see where they live when Joe was 3.5-4 months old. He’s such a brilliant and happy baby, he took it all in his stride. Though he did manage to get a nasty cold from the air-con!

Our first Christmas has been perfect. We stayed in Leeds and the 3 of us, plus Bessie and Hendricks (when he decided to put in an appearance!) started to make our own traditions. 2018 promises to be just as exciting, and we’re headed to the USA in February to introduce JB to our friends in NY.

There are many things to be thankful for this year, and whilst the above covers quite a few of them, I am also incredibly grateful for the support of friends old and new that I have had this year – particularly those I have met through the NCT classes we took and the choir I ran at YSP. I’m not sure I could have gotten through everything this year threw at me without those people around.

So thank you, 2017. You have tested me more than I think I’ve been tested before, but you have showed me I am strong, resilient, and capable. You have also shown me that my capacity to love another human being is far far greater than I ever could have imagined. I can not completely remember what life was like before Joseph, but I don’t think I need to; he is perfect and destined for great things. The Doctor told me so.

I hope that 2018 is a successful, happy and healthy one, full of love.

Tessa x

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2016 – a reflection

It is time to take a few moments and reflect on the past 12 months.

As the only blogging I seem to do on this site any more, this has become an exercise in contemplation and gratitude that is now in it’s 7th year.

As usual, it serves as a personal reminder of the journey I have taken this year; things I have achieved, places I have been, stuff I have seen, changes that have occurred. However, this year it does seem important to reflect, briefly, on the wider world too.

2016 has been a tough one, globally. With every December 31st that approaches, there’s always an element of ‘Good Riddance,’ but more so this year. Many high-profile deaths have hit the headlines this year, and I don’t think that it’s hyperbolic of me to say that this year has seen hatred, division, intolerance and fear take centre-stage in Politics and Media.

I will not pretend that I am not devastated by the result of the UK Referendum on whether to leave the EU or remain in it, nor that I am not terrified and disgusted by Donald Trump’s US Election success. Both these things bring an uncertainty and a real danger to many people’s lives, and the stability of our societies. I can only hope that people rally, as they appear to be doing so, against the forms of intolerance and hatred that are too often being seen at the moment and realise, as Jo Cox MP reminded us, that we have more in common than that which divides us.

However, whilst it is imperative to be aware of these things, to stay informed, and to challenge intolerance wherever it is encountered, the point of these posts has always been to accentuate the positive and remind myself to practice gratitude, and so I will continue in that way.

Personally, 2016 has brought some great and huge changes for me. Last year, Christopher and I moved house, added a kitten-shaped addition to the family, and got engaged.

This year, we continued to decorate our house, almost lost our new feline addition due to a late-night collision with a motor vehicle, got married and are preparing for another, human-shaped, addition this coming May.

The house continues to take shape, with a new bathroom and most rooms decorated/carpeted. A recent discovery (and very cold house) means that new radiators are required, and hopefully the kitchen will be starting it’s journey to completion soon in the New Year.

On May 29th, Christopher and I got married in my home village among family and friends. It was a beautiful day, and I could not have asked for more. There was vegan curry from Manjit’s Kitchen, vegan cake from That Old Chestnut, a bouncy castle, a Pipe Band, amazing music from a variety of friends, dancing, booze, merriment, good weather and lots of happy faces. My husband continues to provide me with laughter, joy, strength and understanding every day and I love him very much, which is just as well really!

Chris began studying for a new career in Social Work in September, which he is excelling at. This means we are both at Huddersfield Uni for a large proportion of our time.

In January, my workload at the Uni more than doubled and left me working far more than ever before (or at least since my hospitality days!) I have enjoyed it immensely, and it’s definitely worth the tiredness when the students exceed expectations in their performances. This has continued throughout the year and this Autumn saw me teaching and choir-leading more than I ever have before.

My Choir work has continued to take up a large part of my time, and the addition of one or two more choirs this year has been lovely. I look forward to more in 2017! I’ve had a few dance-teaching gigs too, though I have taken a small step back from dancing this year. Still, Teapots and Twirls has had some successful workshops/dances, Hullzapoppin’ remains a fixed event in my calendar and I have continued to enjoy singing for dancers/dances a lot.

Gigs have been great and varied this year. As well as gigs with The Applejacks, a couple of Solo performances and some 1920s-style performances, The Honeybirds have been working on a theatre show (Ladies of Swing), and I created a show focussed on the music of Peggy Lee which I hope to continue to share in the New Year.

Not only have I performed around the country, but I’ve also seen some great performances around the world: Kurt Elling, Sarah Jaroz, The Fruit Trilogy (complete with Eve Ensler Q&A – she’s amazing!) Billy Elliot, Carole King, The Colour Purple, Blackbird, The Humans.. the last 3 (and another Kurt Elling Show) being in NYC!

Travel has featured again this year – Christopher and I visited New York in February (his first time) to celebrate my 30th, and we had a mini-break in the gloriously sunny West of Scotland just after our Wedding Day.

We had planned to take our ‘proper’ Honeymoon in Thailand to visit my brother, his partner, and my new niece, in October but we had to cancel due to news of our own little Bean and the spread of the Zika Virus to Bangkok. So instead, we rescheduled last minute to go back to NYC, where I got to see Cynthia Erivo in The Colour Purple (SO GOOD!!), Kurt Elling at Birdland, visit our lovely friends The Flemings, and spend some time napping in my favourite city (pregnancy made me VERY sleepy at the beginning!)

And so, as the Festive Period draws to a close, I am content in knowing my family are happy and healthy, I am my 3-year-old niece’s favourite (she told me so herself), I have 2 happy and almost fully-functioning cats (poor Bessie still has a limp, and Hendricks still comes and goes as he pleases without bestowing on me the attention I crave from him), I have a very active little Bean inside me (kicking quite persistently as I type) and 2017 promises to bring possibly even more excitement and life-changes than 2015 and 2016 combined.

I wish you all a successful, happy, tolerant, peaceful and exciting new year!


Tessa x



2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010

2015 – a reflection

In what is now a little Tessa-Tradition, it’s time to write a reflection/account of my past year. I think this is my 5th now, and will probably be the one that recounts the biggest changes to my life so far.

I began the year 2015 in my 3-bedroom house on the Models in Armley, living on my own with my cat Hendricks, happy in a new(ish) relationship.

I ended my year in our 5-bedroom house in Bramley, living with my Fiancé Christopher, Hendricks, and our not-so-little “kitten” Bessie. But the journey to get here has been far from straight-forward…

My past reflections have tended to focus on my career, which has been going well this year.  I continue with many choirs, teaching in Bradford and at the University of Huddersfield. I have had gigs as far North as Darlington, as far south as Titchfield, East of Hull, in the West of the Wirral and many places in-between. I’ve sung many 1920s songs, taught Charleston at weddings and Birthdays, performed with a Big Band on numerous occasions and enjoyed myself greatly. I also managed to complete my tax return in April (*smug face*), so this January is strangely unstressed, and leaves me looking forward to many more varied and fun gigs in 2016. Teapots and Twirls continues to be ace, and with some extra help, Jules and I hosted our biggest event yet in November.

More than gigs and choirs and tea dances and teaching, 2015 has challenged me in ways I hadn’t expected. It has allowed, and demanded, me to be a strong individual, and a strong member of my relationship with Chris. It has definitely tested my resolve.

All year, I have struggled through coming to terms with experiences in my past that have been difficult, detrimental and defining. I began the year with a realisation that some things are not ok – no matter how long and strongly you excuse them – and are not deserved; that I deserve respect and that I am not at fault. I spent a few months in counselling, and I tried to learn ways to cope with the physical manifestations of these stresses. I also took a related course at sarsvl which was fascinating and beneficial, despite not being able, at this time, to see it through to the end. Through these struggles I made stronger friendships and a stronger relationship, and I am truly grateful for those who have been part of my journey. Thank you.

More literal, physical journeys have been made too. Christopher and I spent 9 days in China this December, travelled in Kenya and Tanzania in April and spent our first anniversary in Poland (it was an anniWARSAWry 😉 ).

It was on our last day in Warsaw that we heard a pipe had burst in my loft and the house had been flooded. Christopher had only moved in 1 month before (February) bringing with him a surprise kitten for my birthday.

Thankfully, our possessions (and cats) were fine, but we needed to move out for the whole house to be dried and renovated; new ceilings, new floors, new tiles, new plaster, new kitchen. After 2 weeks in Africa, we came home and moved out for 3 months to a small house close enough for Hendricks to keep heading back to the flooded place.

During preparations for our return, Christopher suggested we might buy a house together, so we began looking. We completed on September 29th and took the keys of another house that needed completely re-plastering and a full re-wire! 3 months later, and with some paint on the walls, we are very happy! And I don’t intend to move house again for a very long time, if ever.

December brought with it good news and bad:

Christopher proposed, in our new living room, on the 7th – the night before we headed to China. I am very much look forward to the adventure of marriage!

On our return, some bad news from my Sister was delivered. But she’s a resilient type, and I know she’s going to thrive in the face of adversity.

Christmas was a full family affair, with Thai-dwellers in tow making it 21 for lunch – my first Christmas as a vegan; a decision I feel even more confident about each day.

The year ended with the devastating news that my fathers (unoccupied) childhood home was burned to the ground; Woolsington Hall. The incredible location of many a fond childhood memory, it has been as if a member of the family has passed away. I have shed many tears as I try to remind myself that a building’s walls doesn’t hold memories – we do.

And so with that, I look towards creating many more memories in 2016. The year I will turn 30, and the year I will get married (May 29th – eek!)

I hope everyone has a reflective and successful New Year.

Tessa x


2014 2013 2012 2011 2010