Yes, 5 years ago today, Phil and I went on our first date. In some ways I can’t believe it’s been 5 years already yet when I tot up how much we’ve crammed into that time I can’t believe it’s not been 10 years!
Whilst on holiday to Devon with my cousins, I was forced into setting up a Match.com account so I picked the cheapest possible subscription option, uploaded the one and only photo of myself that I had on my iPod (can you tell it was before the selfie really took off and before I was a blogger?!), answered the questions and then went out sans iPod.
That evening I started chatting to some bloke from Nottingham. I liked how he looked, because yes it does matter, I liked his passion for travelling, his interest in music and his sense of humour. Before long we had swapped numbers and arranged to have our first date the following Friday when I returned home.
Needless to say that the date went well and in that short space of time, I went from being completely disillusioned by relationships to feeling a spark I’d never experienced before. Phil was on holiday with friends shortly after that, but we still spoke and we went on an amazing date in between his two separate 1 week holidays, which ended in our first kiss. I was smitten!
We moved quite quickly from the word go really. Phil had plans to visit friends in Germany that winter and invited me to go with him within a couple of weeks of meeting. By October I’d moved into his house in Nottingham, leaving my place in Lincoln in the hands of friends who had been lodging with me. December 2011 saw us head to Germany for our first holiday, we went back in December and celebrated the new year in Cologne watching fireworks and drinking beer and Gluhwein.
2012 brought a trip to the Lake District for Phil’s birthday in March, Turkey in July, plans for a big backpacking holiday at the end of the year and moving into a small rented place so that we could save for a house of our own. Phil had indicated that he might not want to get married, but that he definitely wanted children. I was gutted at the idea of not getting married – my best friends’ beautiful weddings that July and September cemented that feeling – but I said I’d prefer to be unmarried to the right man than married to the wrong one.
When on Christmas Day 2012, Phil didn’t propose, I resigned myself to it because we’d spoken about trying for a baby the following year and by the end of Christmas Day, we were en route to Cambodia for the first stop on our month long adventure. We finally got to Siam Reap on the 27th and arranged a tuktuk to go and watch the sun rise at Angkor Wat the next morning. Unfortunately it wasn’t the most spectacular sunrise but the day brightened up and as we explored the temples, I was completely oblivious as to what Phil had in his bag.
We reached a tower and Phil suggested we stop for a rest. That was when he started telling me how much he loved me and wanted to be with me forever. That was when he presented me with a box, which unwrapped to reveal the most beautiful ring. That was when, inevitably, I cried! Phil knew I’d hate a public proposal so the very busy (and in the end unspectacular) sunrise hadn’t ended up being the right time. This tower was perfect, it felt like we were alone in our own little world. Seconds after I’d blubbed the word “Yes”, some American tourists below who had spotted us started whooping and cheering; If I’d have known they were watching I’d have hated it, but their part in our special moment was unplanned, unexpected and really lovely!
We got back home after some amazing adventures in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand and in February we found a house that we wanted to buy. Offer accepted, mortgage eventually sorted and contracts signed, we moved in that June, with wedding plans in full swing ready for September.
The new house needed a lot of work, so we had the beams sandblasted, we sanded and varnished the stairs and bannister, treated the beams, painted the walls and had new carpets fitted. More needed doing but it was perfectly liveable and we had a wedding to plan and attend!
I became Mrs Hannah Clarke officially on September 20th in a beautiful garden ceremony at our local registry office with a small congregation of our nearest and dearest. That night, all of us plus about 20 others descended upon a farm in the Peak District and the following day we had our ‘big’ ceremony in a marquee. A friend conducted the ceremony that we had written, one of my friends played guitar and sang Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’ as I walked down the aisle, my cousin and my best friend were bridesmaids and another friend and my brother did readings in between Phil and I saying the vows that we had written to one another in secret. We then had a hog roast meal followed by live music from an amazing band and a playlist on the iPad that Phil and I had put together. It was perfect.
We had a lovely restorative week in Fuerteventura, dressed as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman for Halloween and then right at the end of October, the word ‘Pregnant’ appeared on the test I’d bought. I woke Phil up at 5:45 one morning (oh how that seems like a lie-in these days!) and told him he should stay off work because we had some exciting news to celebrate.
Our 12 week scan was the day after Boxing Day and as we ended another year, we revealed that we were expecting our first child.
I started this blog in March, a diary for my pregnancy with Baby C. We didn’t find out the gender at the 20 week scan but I was convinced we would have a boy. Nursery decorated, pushchair bought, car seat fitted, I went into labour on the evening of July 7th 2014, with Toby Christopher arriving at 11:58am the following day, one day before his due date.
2014 was not an easy year because of Toby’s terrible silent reflux and associated constant screaming. We struggled, but we stuck together and 2014 was a year of firsts; First baby, first family holiday to Sherwood Pines over our first wedding anniversary, Toby’s first Christmas aged 5 1/2 months. We made good memories in spite of how hard we were finding our gorgeous little man and we were still in love – with each other as well as with Toby.
A week in South Wales, a week in Tenerife to celebrate my dad’s 60th, me handing my notice in at work, getting back into running and putting more effort into my little blog. Life started to feel more settled with Toby’s reflux under control and him attending nursery once a week. We even went to see the Foo Fighters with my brother, which was a-freaking-mazing!
Toby turned one and we had a wonderful garden party and a trip to the zoo to celebrate, with a photo taken at the exact time he had been born. Phil and I decorated our room, we had date nights most weeks and we were trying for baby #2. On August 16th, almost 4 years to the day since our first date, we found out that we were expecting again. Excitement, nerves, but again everything together. At about 7 weeks pregnant we spent the weekend with my parents, brother and family friends at the CarFest South festival, seeing gorgeous cars and fantastic live music, life was pretty good!
Phil took on extra responsibilities with Toby and the house when I was suffering with morning sickness, migraines, SPD. He did everything he could to make things easier for me and I couldn’t have loved him more for that. As the last month of the year rolled around, we found out that we were having a daughter, tears of joy that our baby girl was doing okay, a gender reveal video which Toby was so grumpy filming but that came out well thanks to Phil’s good directing and editing, Christmas hosted in our log cabin with both sets of parents and Toby developing a love for hoovering.
With me unable to walk at times, I often felt like a failure of a wife and mother, but Phil never allowed me to do so for long, telling me “Don’t speak about my wife like that” on more than one occasion! We decided to move house again, had an offer within 36 hours of going on the market, everything was on track to move just before Baby Girl was born, but then mayhem. An incorrect default on Phil’s credit report, mortgage problems, it falling through then working out countless times as one thing after another went wrong. We and our lovely buyers were absolutely determined to make it happen and with our baby due in April and their wedding booked for June, we were against the clock.
A home birth was off the table because we had no idea which home we’d even be in, not to mention that boxes don’t make for the most relaxing surroundings in which to give birth. April came and went, no house and no baby. May 1st, 12 days late, I gave birth to Martha and Phil was my tower of strength through an incredibly difficult labour which ended in the most wonderful birth.
Two children, a house move that finally happened at the start of June, loads of blog work, the decision to set up a new business. Phil and I sometimes feeling like we were living separate lives with one child each during the times of Martha’s cluster feeding and Toby’s insistence of being outside as much as he possibly can.
Toby’s second birthday, overnight at West Midlands Safari Park, a holiday booked and my 30th birthday imminent. I’m struggling lately, I’m exhausted and finding being a mummy of 2 very difficult alongside the house, my blog, my business. At times I’ve pushed Phil away, convinced that he’d be better off with someone – anyone – else, but in spite of my tears, my frustrations, my insecurities, Phil is always by my side.
Like all couples we have our ups and downs, we bicker sometimes and since Martha’s arrival we don’t have as many date nights, but with the acceptance that things are a bit harder lately comes the choice to either drown in it or come back stronger. We will always choose strength.
Phil has a chart in the office full of date night ideas that we can do with Martha around – a massage therapist coming round to us, ice cream tasting, YouTube roulette, nice candle lit meals once Martha’s in bed. We can keep the spark alive, we just have to be inventive!
It’s hard to believe how much we’ve crammed into 5 years and this is just a skimmed version of it all, believe it or not! I adore my husband, I wouldn’t ever have wanted for anyone different to spend my life with and he’s made all of my dreams come true, including the ones I didn’t even know I had.
Phil, you are the love of my life and these 5 years have meant everything to me. Thank you for being my husband, my friend, my rock, the best daddy to our children, my everything. I love you xxxXxxx