ababytwit

An honest view of motherhood.

Who doesn’t love an update?

It’s been 100 years since my last blog post (same old excuse of no time to write – pathetic really), so here’s a little update.

NB: ‘his’ and ’he’ reference my son. Got it?

  • We no longer speak of his age in months. We say he’s “just over 2″.
  • My motto with this parenting lark is still “whatever it takes”.
  • The child minder has turned into my urban mum. Some days I’m not sure how I would cope without her.
  • I love Peppa Pig because he loves it.
  • I hate Peppa Pig because it makes me want to kill myself.
  • We [mostly] sleep all night long.
  • The mornings always start too early. Always.
  • He can sing all the words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and it makes me cry with pride.
  • He’s addicted to the iPad (yours is too, right?).
  • He licks stones.

I think that’s all the important stuff. Next post will be much more thought provoking, obviously.

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ababytwit’s A-Z of baby illnesses

Dear parents, cast your mind back to when you decided to have a baby. Or maybe you didn’t decide and it just happened. Either way, I bet you were all consumed with the thought of bringing a child into this world and the massive responsibility you’d have to find from somewhere, right?

I’m going to take another bet, and guess at no point did you think about all the 100 million illnesses your baby would get, and how you would deal with them. Am I right again?

I am obviously only expressing these views from personal experience, but I can’t believe any first-time parent thinks sufficiently deeply about the massive lack of immune systems these little creatures have – and if they did think about it, or have any insider knowledge, then I’d bet they’d go through with the decision with a little (a lot) more trepidation.

I remember reading an A-Z of illnesses when I was at the cot-side of my brand-new baby boy in the neonatal unit we were in. Notwithstanding the fact he was already suffering from being 7 weeks premature, I thought I’d better get clued up on what we were about to face as first-time parents. It scared the shit out of me. I had no idea how I was going to cope with it all, and I secretly hoped that my baby would sail through life sickness-free and we would be on one of those TV shows for freaky people that never get sick.

In fact, the exact opposite happened, and it feels like we’ve been hit with every single illness a person who has only been on the planet 18 months could get.

I’m going to give you my own A-Z* of baby illnesses, in the hope just one first-time parent finds it useful. I should add at this point that our son is only 18 months old, and what seems like a lot, is probably only the tip of the iceberg of what he’s going to get.

Vegetable-Graffiti-Letters-A-Z

A – Anal fissure (see Fissure)

B – Bleeding, Bruises, Bottom

Bleeding because anytime you see blood coming out of your baby you pretty much freak out. It doesn’t matter if it’s an accidental cut lip, or a small nick with the nail clippers, it’s pretty much the most horrific thing you can see. In addition to this, babies seem to bleed, bleed and bleed some more. Obviously, if you feel the bleeding is uncontrollable then get off to A&E, but generally, putting pressure on the bleeding bit for a minimum of 10 minutes should calm things down.

Bruises (also see Head-banging) come with movement. The more they move, the more bruises. Simple.

Bottoms are a bloody minefield. Not only are they squiggy, cute and lush, they are also disgusting, smelly and red. Just be prepared, OK? Actually, nothing can prepare you.

C – Croup, Coughs, Colds, Constipation, Conjunctivitis, Colic

C is the biggest group of illnesses. We’ve had to deal with six Cs already. SIX! He got Croup when I was ill. Croup – that’s the nasty barky cough they get. Scared us shitless as it sounds so awful. Rushed to A&E and they gave him some steroids straight away. It calmed down after that, but it took about a week to eventually disappear.

Coughs and colds are pretty much constant. As is the constant runny nose that they can’t themselves blow, so you’re always trying to wipe it clean. They, of course, think that every time you reach for the tissue you are about to cut their nose off with a hacksaw. I feel I’m particularly para about keeping my boy bogey-free as it’s a pet hate of mine to see kids with crusty bogey-nose. I need to let this go, I know.

Constipation (also see Wind) can be a bloody nightmare. It came about in our little one when we changed his milk from my boobs to formula (I’d done 10 months and was sick of wearing those boobie bras). His body just couldn’t process it as well and as a result was bunged up like a goodun. It’s so awful to see your child suffering, and try as you might (high fibre diet, constant hydration, lots of cuddles, etc), nothing seems to work. We went to the docs a few times, and have since been on Movicol Paediatric. A powder we put in his milk (now full-fat cows). It works! It’s all flowing just fine now, and we even have the odd day of poo-megatron. That is not cool, but it still makes me happy. How weird, but it honestly does. Anything to not see him screaming once or twice a day.

Conjunctivitis is the thing that makes your eyes stick together. Nasty business. If your baby has it, again, it’s a nightmare to see. They can’t open their eyes and scream because they are scared. It’s normally cleared up with some eye-drops from your GP, or (in our case) some stronger antibiotics we put in his milk. It cleared up within a week or so. Horrid horrid horrid.

Colic – we were lucky and never plagued with this one. I can’t really comment except I do know it doesn’t last forever. Hang in there and give your very best cuddles.

D – Diarrhea, Dry skin.

We had the opposite problem to diarrhea (see constipation), but this obviously happens in many babies too. I’d say just don’t go out and keep the little mites as hydrated as you can. Dioralyte works just as well on babies as it does adults – give them a load of that.

Dry skin happens a lot with premature babies, but I’m told most babies have this too. Aqueous cream is the Daddy. Don’t bother with all the expensive stuff. Just buy tubs of the cheap stuff and chuck it on them every single day.

E – Eye problems (see conjunctivitis).

F – Fissure, Fever

This is going to be a massive over-share, but the fissure I’m referring to is that is the anal variety. A tear in the anal passage and a classic result of constipation. Fissure’s make even thinking about ‘number 2’ a horror film. And once the thought sticks with them that it’s the most painful thing in the world, they don’t want to go. And when they don’t want to go the constipation gets even worse, and the pain gets worse, and they don’t want to go… you get the idea. It becomes a horrendous psychological circle that can be very hard to break. My advice – get to the doctor ASAP. Get Movicol ASAP. We ended up seeing a specialist as it got so bad. Fortunately the fissure healed and things got a lot easier. It can be all-consuming for you as parents, and you find yourself talking about it with friends and family as if you were discussing what you had for lunch. All very embarrassing now I look back, but hey, we’re parents, it’s what we do, right?

Fevers come and go. Do what you can do get that temperature down. Cool flannel, remove bedding/clothing, and go to town on the Calpol. Anything out of the ordinary – like a temp of over 40 then get off to A&E. We’ve never found a thermometer good enough so we just feel the back of his neck, you can usually tell if he’s feverish that way.

fever

A picture of Peggy Lee is a lot nicer than a picture of a thermometer.

G – Gastroenteritis

Yeah, this is frickin’ horrid.  A non-stop vomiting, crying, floppy nightmare and another night in A&E for us. The most important thing here is making sure their nappies are wet. It doesn’t matter if they’re off their food, just make sure they are drinking. Their appetite will eventually come back (within a week), but until then you’ve just got to ride the wave. And keep washing your hands, because if you or your partner are man-down then you’re in real trouble.

H – Hernia, Hand, Foot & Mouth, Head-banging

Our little boy had a mega hernia. In fact he had 2.5 hernias. If you don’t know what one is then Google it. I just remember changing his nappy in the hospital about 4 weeks after he was born and thinking “damn, that’s not right”. Great Ormond Street hospital sorted him out and all was well, but nothing quite prepares you for seeing your child coming out of a general anesthetic. My heart was literally torn open seeing him whimpering there on the operating table. He recovered really quickly and we’ve had no problems since. Just one of those things you’ve got to deal with.

Luckily he’s never had Hand, Foot & Mouth, but we’ve had a threat of it. Turns out it was Roseola Infantum (see below). HF&M is VERY contagious and looks unsightly. It’s literally a rash around the mouth, on the hands and feet. It’s common in young children apparently so if you see any signs of it, keep them home and wait for it to disappear.

Headbanging. Does anyone else’s baby do this? Ours does. All the time. And it’s hard to think people aren’t judging you when you’re out and about… They look at your baby, covered in bruises all over his head, then look at you, then look back at the baby. Oh God. I’m told it’s a phase, but it seems to be every time he’s in pain, or trying to get our attention. And we have wooden floors, so it’s extra distressing for us to see. We try our best to ignore it (so’s not to fuel the reason for doing it), but it’s really difficult when he’s smacking his head against the floor and crying. he must get some sort of release from doing it, mustn’t he??

J – Jaundice

Most babies have this don’t they?  Ours did. It’s a lack of one of the body’s vitamins (E?) and can be helped along with the aid of ultraviolet lights. Most cases aren’t very serious.

IMG_1200

Me and my little jaundice week-old baby. He’s wrapped in a ‘billy blanket’ of ultraviolet light.

N – Nurofen, Norovirus, Nightmares

Love Nurofen for babies! Great for teething and for use with (but not at the same time) as Calpol. Best use for it is at night when teething.

Norovirus (see Gastroenteritis).

It’s hard to tell when you’re baby is having a nightmare. I’m not sure our baby has had that many, but all I’ve done is turn my cuddle power up to a Spinal Tap 11 and all is well. If he’s screaming every night he’s most probably cottoned on to the fact that when he screams he can get a good old cuddle. Don’t be fooled into this – they are clever, these babies!

P – Prematurity, Projectile vomiting, Poo.

Prematurity – kind of an obvious one for us, and it’s not technically an illness, but if I didn’t add it in, it would be weird.

Projectile vomiting is gross, but quite funny. Actually, every time it’s happened to us, we have a good laugh about it later. You can talk about the distance it travels, where the puke ends up, how bad it smells… you get the idea. You have to laugh, because otherwise you’ll just be a depressed mess of someone who cleans up sick after your toddler’s just had salmon for tea (this is the worse smell on earth, btw).

Poo – we’ve talked about this enough already, haven’t we? It happens, it stinks, especially when your baby isn’t very well. Get over it.

R – Rashes, Roseola Infantum

Rashes make me laugh. Not literally, but almost every rash we’ve taken to the GP is “nothing to worry about”. You sort of just have to accept your child will get rashes, for no apparent reason. Sometimes the reason is obvious – bubble bath, new washing powder/tables, different foods, etc, but most of the time, they just appear and then go. The last time our son had a rash it was something called Roseola Infantum – a virus where they have the rash, then a crazy temperature, then the rash goes away. It’s contagious (isn’t everything?) and lasts for about a week (doesn’t everything?). Again, it’s “nothing to worry about” it’s just one of those crazy things that they pick up.

S – Spots, Shivering

Spots (see rashes).

Shivering generally means turn the heating up or chuck another layer on. But sometimes it means they aren’t very well and need attention ASAP – and it’s not because they’re cold! Ours was shivering when he had gastroenteritis. It was his body’s way of protecting him, or something. Anyway, when you see your baby shiver like that, just get to A&E. Nothing is worth the worry.

T – Teething

Teething – ha, I could write FOREVER about teething, but it might have to wait for another bog post. It’s a bloody nightmare!!! Or at least it has been on occasion for us. The first teeth lured us into a false sense of security – they came through just like that. The rest have been awful. The nighttime crying is the worst. The molars are the worst. IT’S ALL THE WORST. General rule is Calpol in the day, Nurofen at night, and lots and lots of distraction.

V – Viral infections, Vaccinations

Viral infections – it’s a bit of a general term isn’t it? But it basically means you can’t treat what is it because it’s viral – you just manage the symptoms and ride it out. Be patient and give cuddles on tap.

The vaccinations your baby has to have are ultimately a good thing, in my opinion. However, they made our baby sick as a dog. Especially the last lot where they shove three diseases in their arm and thigh and then send them on their merry way. These babies are too tiny to take all of that! Our little one ended up in A&E (again!) with massive welts all over his body. He’d developed a crazy reaction to the injections. He looked horrendous. Again, it was “nothing to worry about” and it cleared up within about a week (there’s a theme here isn’t there).

injection

Cute, calm baby having vaccinations. Wonder if he had welts afterwards?

W – Wind

No joke. It’s actually a serious thing, when they can’t sleep, they are all miserable and everything. I’m talking about bottom wind. We even took him to the GP about it – I was convinced it was the reason he wasn’t sleeping through. You could hear him trumping away all through the night, and the grunts were so loud! I’m still convinced he had some weird mega wind, and that the GP just didn’t know what to do. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Phew – I think I’m finished. Like I said, he’s only 18 months old, so watch this space.

A few golden rules for you:

1. It’s almost always “nothing to worry about”.

2. It will clear up in about a week.

3. Don’t be too hesitant to go to A&E. If you have any doubt, taken them in.

4. When you are covered in puke and stink of regurgitated salmon, laugh.

5. Never, ever run out of cuddles.

*I’ve not got anything for I, K, L, M, O, Q, U, X, Y and Z. Not because they don’t exist, just because we’ve not experienced them yet. Have no fear, I’m sure they’re coming.

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ababytwit writes for Wriggly Rascals

Wriggly Rascals, a website dedicated to giving pregnancy & baby advice, asked me to write something about how scared out of my mind I am about having another premature baby. I remember being in intensive care with my baby and the woman next to me was in with her 5th – yes 5th – premature baby. FIVE PREMATURE BABIES. O M to the G.

If you’ve got any advice on how I might calm my shakes about the whole idea of having another one, then I would be very grateful if you would share it: http://www.wrigglyrascals.com/blog/2012/09/worried-about-having-another-baby-with-issues

 
And what about you? Have you got an experience on this topic? Fill this in and tell the world (everyone loves a survey, don’t they?): http://tiny.cc/wriggly137c

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It’s a work of art

Oh God, I’ve turned into one of those parents that gush over a squiggly, smudgy, sticky picture drawn by my child. And I’m not the only one – when presenting said picture to his Daddy this evening I could see the same gush of emotion wash over him.

A childless me would turn away from these pictures with a rolled eye if I ever saw them. Visiting friends or family and looking on fridge doors, making all the right ‘coo’ noises thinking ‘my God, what the blazes is that supposed to be?’ and ‘don’t be ridiculous, it’s utter shite’.
And here we are, on the 17th September 2012, with the very first picture our Son has drawn. He is 14 months old, and we are very proud parents.

Before I pick up the phone to the Tate Modern, have a look. Good, innit.

My first picture, aged 14 months

 

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The dos and don’ts of a mum returning to work

I took one year off when I had my baby boy. I had originally planned to have 9 months off, but as he was born prematurely I felt I was owed a bit more time. Very happy to have made that decision too – it took me about 9 months to get over the shock of it all.

Returning to work has been a big learning curve for me, and I thought it worth while to note a few points down. You might agree with some of it, and you might even feel compelled to write a comment. Wow, imagine if you did, that would just make my day.

The decision to go back to work

  • Do keep in touch with your boss when you’re off. They need to remember your name. It’s important when you turn up on your first day back.
  • Don’t just talk to your boss, talk to HR as well. I’ve recently learned that they should keep in touch with you too, but in case they don’t make sure you’ve gone through all the relevant paperwork. Yes, there’s paperwork to fill out. I know, I didn’t know this either. If HR is your boss, you are sorted.
  • Do tell all your friends so they can congratulate you on being a ‘super-mum’ and make all manner of supportive noises. This is what they are there for and they will make you feel brilliant.

Preparing you

  • Don’t forget to buy new work clothes and shoes. Very important. When you have new work clothes on, don’t forget to remove expensive jacket/blouse when you are kissing/cuddling your sweet, sticky, smelly, sicky, snotty bundle of joy goodbye.
  • Do go back for a visit/meeting or two before your start date. And go without your baby. This is not only completely surreal, but it makes you feel like you can do anything. Even make AND drink a whole cup of hot tea by yourself. ANYTHING. It also shows your face in the office to a few people so they get used to seeing you. It makes the first day back a little more bearable and a little less shocking for all concerned. Particularly those hoping you might not return at all.
  • Don’t think you can’t do your job. You can. You might be different, but it is the same. You’ve done it before, and even been paid for it, so someone thinks you can do it. This is very easy to forget.

Preparing them

  • Do let go. Unless you are a superhuman, you can’t do everything. I know you think you are, just like I do (I am in fact superhuman, I am), but you are not. Let/tell your partner to do stuff. And let them mess it up. Sounds terrifying doesn’t it, but if you don’t let go you’ll end up in a padded cell somewhere with no-one to talk to.
  • Don’t think they don’t understand. They probably do. It’s a massive deal – you are leaving your baby and going to work. Your partner, your family and your friends are there for you, so let them be. I don’t have anything sarcastic or silly to say about this. It’s true and you should use them for as much support as you can.
  • Do leave your baby sometimes to get them used to you not being around. It’s funny how they survive without you. They are really quite resilient, these babies. They can survive without you, even for a whole day.

Being a working mum

  • Don’t put yourself under any more pressure than you already have. It takes time to get used to your new life and you should allow yourself some decent breathing space to get back into the swing of things.
  • Do look fabulous. It does wonders for your confidence.
  • Do remember how hard this all is and how easy you are making it look.

There are probably many more to be added to this list, if you can think of any, please add them below.
And if you are loaded and don’t need to go back to work, please can you send me some money. I accept cheques and all major credit cards.

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Crazy little thing called sleep

Before you venture into reading this post, please note that this is not an attempt to win any ‘I’m more tired than you’, ‘I’ve had less sleep than you’, or ‘I’ve got it so much worse than you’ competition. I have always believed when a person is tired, it’s relative. You are no more or less tired than anyone else – you are simply tired and need more sleep, babies or no babies.

Having said that, at this time in my own life, I have never been more sleep deprived. I knew having a baby would be tough, but I had never realised it would be quite so hard. I bet that if you are reading this and have children you are now laughing out loud in a BAHAHAHA HA HA kind of way. And those without children are probably rolling their eyes.

Yawn

Premature baby sleeping

We had a tough start to parenting with our baby being born 7 weeks early, and spending those 7 early weeks in a neonatal unit, but I have gained some perspective and now know there were many silver linings to our situation. For example, we brought our baby home with a built in 3-hourly feed clock, he was sociable with others from being handled by lots of different nurses all the time, and miracles of all miracles, he seemed to know what day and night was. In fact, at night he was sleeping in 5-hour stretches pretty much straight away, with just one night feed in between. How lucky were we!

Someone took my baby

At 3 months old, almost overnight, he changed. He wanted to feed ALL NIGHT LONG, and would only sleep for 90 minutes at a time. It was as if someone took my baby and replaced him with a different baby wanting completely different things. “Oh don’t worry,” said the health visitor, “it’s a growth spurt.” Phew, well that’s OK then. “How long does the growth spurt last for?” I asked. “A few weeks is about normal,” she said. Even better, at least we know it’s going to end soon. But, it didn’t end. What they didn’t tell us, or couldn’t possibly foresee, was that our baby had developed a habit. He’d been through his growth spurt, but was now waking every 90 minutes just because he’d got used to it. How were we supposed to know the growth spurt had ended and now it was just him playing us to get more food? After a couple of months we finally twigged we’d have to do something. We were suffering from extreme sleep deprivation by this point and we needed an intervention, fast. Our baby was nearing 6 months old.

Co-sleeping

I love co-sleeping. There is nothing I love more than having our baby snuggle in with both of us and him drift off to sleep. And not only that, he seemed to sleep for longer stretches with us next to him. Result! But it’s not really sustainable is it? Not for us anyway. I know some parents do it for a long time, and if that’s what works then great, but it didn’t make us feel all that comfortable to know we’d be doing that for a long time. We would bring him in our bed when he couldn’t settle at all. We would do it most nights… in fact, every night, but we knew we couldn’t carry on that way.

Sshh don't wake the baby

Night nannies

A night nanny – the crack cocaine of the parenting world. You know you shouldn’t, you try it once, you say never again, it’s too expensive. You give in, just once more you say, just one more night – and before you know it you’ve invited her back five or more times and you’re £500 down. Ooops. I remember after one of the nights the night nanny said to me “you know you’re going to have to do this by yourself at some point don’t you?”. I just stared at her with a blank look on my face, paid her and said thanks, see you in a few days. Joking aside, we did work together to cut down on the night feeds and she helped us with new techniques of how to settle him. So the money was well worth it.

Natural flukes

These pop up every now and again and give you hope that you’ve cracked it. A few times our baby slept 5 hours, 7 hours, even 10 hours. Every time you think “this is it, we’ve done it!” But no, you’re back to square one almost immediately. You’ve just got to be prepared that sometimes your baby will have a laugh with you – make you think the cycle is broken and trick you into a false sense of security. These babies are clever. They know they’ve got you right where they want you and there’s nothing you can do about it. Damn you babies!

Sleep clinics

We eventually got to the point where we were at breaking point. We were snapping at each other all the time, losing our tempers over silly things and weeping most mornings. I even stopped tweeting! As luck would have it, I happened to talk to another mum at a group I went to a few weeks ago. I didn’t know her at all, but we started talking about sleep and our babies. She told me about her friend who had used a sleep clinic to help her with her baby. She said they had worked with the parents and got her baby sleeping through the night in 11 hour stretches in just a few weeks. I nearly bit her hand off for the name of this clinic and promptly called them for help. Working with the clinic we devised a whole new routine for the day time and night time. The night time plan did include a bit of controlled crying, but to my surprise, it hasn’t been all that terrible. The longest he’s cried for so far is 15 minutes.

Results

We’ve been following the new regime the clinic set us for 7 days now and check this out:

Night 1 – a disturbed night with him waking and us having to use controlled crying three times, but his cumulative sleep was 9 hours

Night 2 – he woke a few times, self settled and got a stretch of 11 hours sleep

Night 3 – a disturbed night with him waking and us having to use controlled crying twice, and he slept about 10 hours

Night 4 – an 11 hour stretch without waking

Night 5 – a 10 hour stretch without waking

Night 6 – an 11 hour sleep waking at 05:20 but back to sleep for another hour

OH. MY. GOD. We are making progress!! I sometimes feel that by getting external help we are cheating, but I then rationalise these thoughts by knowing that by spending a couple of hundred quid we’ll eventually be able to get a night time routine that is sustainable and we can finally feel human again. Also, we are lucky enough to be able to find a couple of hundred quid to make this happen. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t sit in our lounge on beanbags full of fifty pound notes, but we are lucky enough to know that spending this money won’t kill us too much. And so far, it’s paying off.

Tips

Here are some things that I’ve learnt over this whole sleep deprivation episode:

  • Look for signs your baby’s habits are changing. Don’t ignore them because it might be too late. I ignored the signs. It was too late.
  • Co-sleeping is good for a temporary sleep solution, but it’s not necessarily sustainable. Make the most of it while you can.
  • Celebrate the flukes, but know they are just that, flukes. If you don’t realise they are flukes you will cry uncontrollably with frustration the very next night when your baby is awake ALL NIGHT LONG.
  • Night nannies are awesome, but expensive. If you get one, use her wisely. They don’t last forever (unless you have more money than God).
  • There is no shame in getting external help. If you can scrape the money together, it could be the best money you’ve ever spent.

The clinic we are using is called Millpond. Have a look, they may just change your life (they didn’t ask me to say that, by the way).

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We don’t need no education. Except that we do.

Before we had our premature baby, we didn’t know anything about what it would be like to have one. Why weren’t we warned? Why didn’t we know what it would be like? But, you have to ask yourself, why would we? I mean, no-one really needs to know about having a premature baby, unless you actually have a premature baby, right? Why would the NHS scare an expectant mother by telling her all the nitty-gritty details of being on a neonatal ward, or taking your premature baby home?

It’s right that us mum-to-be’s aren’t told all the horrors, but it’s not right that once you have a premature baby there is little information available for you to find out warts ‘n’ all about having a prem baby.

That’s how I felt. How we both felt. It was all new to us, and every day was a shock. The machines, the beeping, the incubator, the nurses, the expressing… oh, the expressing! When we were first told we’d be in the neonatal unit for a while we thought it might be a couple of weeks. They said it could be 2 weeks, or it could be until his due date – which in our case was 7 weeks. Of course, we thought it would only be 2 weeks and it wouldn’t be that much of an ordeal. We were so blinded with the shock of what had happened I don’t think we were really listening. It wasn’t until we were going to the hospital day in, day out, did we start to realise actually how hard it was, or how long we were going to be there. It was devastating and I don’t think we’ll ever quite forget how it felt.

Why am I going on about this now? I’ve recently been made aware of a charity called Tommy’s. Crazy I’d not heard of them before as they seem quite established, but basically they are a charity that fund research and provide information on the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth and still birth. They’ve just launched a brand new booklet about having a premature baby, and I would have loved to have had a copy when we were in our neonatal unit.

Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t completely in the dark. We were given the best NHS information available, but this new guide is so much better than what we had (I’ve just received my copy in the post – it’s FREE!). It talks you through absolutely everything – even the hospital stay bits. It’s really well presented and has real life quotes from real life parents that have gone through exactly the same thing as you. I read it pretty much cover to cover last night and still found out new information! And I know this shouldn’t be important, but it looks and feels lovely too. Surprising considering they are a charity, but they received a grant from the Asda Foundation which means it’s a quality booklet and smells of posh glue.

Brand new booklet - looks and smells delish

I guess what I’m trying to say is if you are reading this and are at risk of having a prem baby, have just had a prem baby, or just want to know more about it, you’d do well to order yourself a copy. It’s available for free right now at www.tommys.org/store.

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Breastfeeding made me a bit bonkers

Bonkers – one of my favourite words. For me it describes a slight mental imbalance without sounding too serious. I would definitely describe myself as bonkers during the start of my breastfeeding journey.

Some people think I'm bonkers

Giving birth to a premature baby has all sorts of challenges, but the main one for me was establishing feeding. To start off with I had a traumatic birth. My baby boy was an undiagnosed breech and I delivered him naturally (yeeouch!). The hospital wanted to do an emergency C-section, but the little blighter was coming way to quickly for that. My waters broke at 8:30pm and I had a baby 3 hours later.

One of the most traumatic things about giving birth to him was that I couldn’t be with him straight away. They whisked him off and he was put in an incubator so they could make sure he was OK. Luckily he was perfectly healthy, and aside from being early, there was nothing wrong with him.  We spent the next 7 weeks in a neonatal unit (intensive care, then special care) patiently waiting for him to cook and be ready enough for us to take him home.

I remember the first moments after they took him away. I was wheeled out of theatre and back into the hospital room and my partner went to see our new baby. He came back into the room to report back to me that thankfully everything was fine and that our new baby was beautiful. I noticed he was holding a bag full of syringes. Weird. He said to me that a nurse said I had to “express”. I had no idea what he was talking about, and neither did he as no-one had explained it to him. They eventually wheeled me to see my baby for a few minutes before transferring me to the labour ward. I laid awake all night in utter shock and disbelief at what had happened.

The next day I got up and ran (hobbled) down to see my baby in the neonatal unit. A nurse asked me if I had started “expressing” and I still didn’t know what it meant. I think the nurse must have noticed that I looked like a little-girl-lost and took pity on me. She sat me down and showed me how to ‘hand express’ my first colostrum. I literally could not believe what was coming out of my nipples! It was like bright yellow puss. It looked pretty gross if I’m honest, but the nurse got all excited and happy and said it was brilliant. She told me to go and fill a 1ml syringe by dripping the colostrum into it bit by bit. I thought there was NO WAY I could fill a whole syringe and I suddenly felt a lot of pressure on my shoulders. She said it was really important that I give this colostrum to my baby as it was full of all the nutrients and vitamins he would have otherwise got in the last few weeks of my pregnancy. PRESSURE. Understanding the importance of what I had to do I went off and got to work. By the next morning I had filled 7 x 1ml syringes. I was like a proud peacock! The colostrum was fed to my baby via a tube in his nose. Heartbreaking, but it felt great knowing I was giving him the good stuff.

7mls of the good stuff

We then got transferred to another hospital and the first thing the nurses asked me was “are you expressing?”. I had never realised how important expressing was, or indeed what is was. They encouraged breastfeeding as soon my baby was ready enough to be held and his suck reflex had kicked in. I ended up expressing with an electric pump every 3 hours to keep up my milk supply and trying every single feed to breastfeed. I am very thankful that I had lots of milk. I couldn’t believe the quantities I was producing. I was producing so much that I was freezing most of it and taking up most of the freezer in the hospital. Also, at times I would get so engorged that the pain was unbearable. In fact, once I ended up in A&E and given morphine because I was so engorged – the milk was going to places it shouldn’t (gross). My baby was being giving my milk via his nose tube and I was constantly working with him to try and breastfeed.

It never happened. He never latched on and I was devastated. I’d worked so hard to keep up my milk supply – expressing every 3 hours around the clock – and still nothing. I thought he didn’t like me and that I couldn’t satisfy my baby. The nurses said he would get it eventually, but he never did.

I carried on trying, every single feed, and expressing every 3 hours for 7 weeks. I’ve lost count of the times I nearly gave up. The support from my partner was amazing and he helped me carry on. In the end we were just so desperate to have our new baby home that we decided to put my breast milk in a bottle and give it to him that way. We eventually got him home on his due date and feeding continued via the bottle.

Expressing started to make me bonkers. The sound of the breast pump would ring in my ears, my back would ache from the position I would have to sit in, not to mention the hundreds of milk bottle labels I had to write (name, date, time). My entire life was all about expressing – it was all-consuming.

I was still very keen to breastfeed, even after all we’d been through. I found support through The Breastfeeding Network and went to breastfeeding groups and eventually, when our baby was 10 weeks old he latched on! I couldn’t believe it. I was crying with happiness. All this time, all this effort, and it was finally paying off. My milk supply was still really good because I’d carried on expressing.

I thought that was that – we were breastfeeding now, woohoo! Haha, how naive was I?! The next 3 weeks were utter hell. You name it, I had it. Sore, cracked, bleeding nipples, Mastitis, milk blebs, blood blisters. Once we even ended up in A&E because the little one was vomiting blood. It took the paediatric nurses and doctors 3 hours to work out he wasn’t vomiting his blood, he was vomiting my blood. OHMYGOD! I was relieved he was OK, but in shock that things had gotten this bad. The pain was gut-wrenching, toe-curling bad, but I kept attending breastfeeding groups and my partner carried on being as supportive as ever. Eventually, things got better and 3 weeks later my baby was feeding like a pro. Feed by feed the pain reduced and finally we began PAIN FREE breastfeeding.

Now I can really say WOOHOO! I’m so pleased I persevered. It’s so amazing to be able to feed my baby and know he’s satisfied. He’s currently 6 months old and constantly gaining weight.

My friends, family and other mothers often ask me why I persevered so hard. I honestly don’t know. I think I felt pressured by the nurses and knowing that breast milk was the very best thing I could give my baby. I know that formula isn’t bad at all and that millions of babies are perfectly healthy being formula fed, but for some reason I had to breastfeed. The feeling was so strong I couldn’t explain it. I think it’s really important to go with your gut instincts on these things, but also know that every baby is different, as is every mother, and at the end of the day, you just have to do what is right for you.

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Baby’s first Christmas

Before the festivities, lots of friends and family were wishing us a brilliant first Christmas together, after all, it’s quite an occasion isn’t it? “The first Christmas” – the first for the baby, and the first for us as a brand new family.

Of course I was looking forward to it, I mean it’s the first time I’m a mum at Christmas, and the first time I was part of another family besides my own. my partner and I aren’t married, but because we now have a baby together, I really do feel like I have a much bigger family now.

I was also full of anxiety about it. Our families live at opposite ends of the country so that meant having a ‘pre-Christmas Christmas’ with my family, then having ‘Christmas Christmas’ with my partners family. We had it that way around this year because we spent last year with my family, and well, it was just easier to do it that way. Also, we don’t live anywhere near either family, so it meant two big car trips, with presents, and our 5 month old baby. Argh.

As it happened, it all went very well. We got to both family homes in one piece and with all presents in tact. And despite the seven hour (!) car journey to the in-laws, our little boy coped brilliantly. The baby was obviously the main attraction with both visits, and Christmas really did feel more magical with a baby in the house.

Santa baby

My anxieties were around the things that only a mum needs to have anxiety about… Will feeds change? Will he settle in both places ok? What if he cries all the time? What happens if he gets ill? What if the in-laws or my own family take over and ‘know best’? All these worries (and more) really didn’t need to have taken up any of my head space because it was all fine, but you just can’t help it, can you?

We had a lovely first Christmas together, and our son was showered with presents galore – everyone was so generous. But, I have to say, now I am enjoying a bit of peace and getting back to muddling through like we did before.

Here’s to 2012!

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My birth story

The time has come. It was going to happen sooner or later, so you’re just gonna have to put up with it and let me have my air-time. Yes, it’s time to talk about the birth of our baby boy.

It’s a fairly traumatic tale and, to quote one of the nurses, a birth some of them had never witnessed before. If you don’t read any further than this, know these two things:

  1. My baby was an undiagnosed breech.
  2. I delivered naturally and it hurt. A lot.

To set the scene, I must first tell you I had a fairly normal pregnancy. Normal in the sense there were no real problems. At 6 weeks pregnant I had a crazy rash all over my body which they later discovered was shingles, and a week before I gave birth I went to hospital due to a mild panic over some ‘unusual activity’ down below. It was nothing (or so they thought!). Yep, my pregnancy was something I really enjoyed and, looking back, a part of me feels a little disappointed I didn’t make it to the end.

Rewind back to Sunday 10th July at 8:30pm. The reason I so clearly know what day of the week it was is because I always empty my work inbox on a Sunday afternoon, and that’s what I was doing just before my waters broke. I was just 33 weeks pregnant and my waters broke. I could not believe it. We’d just sat down to have a substantial Sunday night tea and BOOM. Yes, it was that dramatic. Like in the movies. It was everywhere and it wouldn’t stop. I should tell you at this point, that during the day we had been at our very first antenatal class at the hospital. We had booked on to a paid-for NCT course at the end of July, but I thought hey, you can’t know too much about this stuff can you, so I dragged my other half off the to freebie class at the hospital. The class was 10am-4pm – we were back at the hospital at 9pm catching the live show.

Back to the waters…Well, they just kept coming. I ran to the bathroom to sit on the loo and then change my clothes. I went through 3 pairs of trousers in about 5 minutes. Nothing was stopping it. Meanwhile, my other half called the hospital and they said, unsurprisingly, to bring me in ASAP. He then set about grabbing a rucksack and chucking anything and everything in it. I think the final result was 3 big towels (bath sheets size) and a pair of trainers. He then asked me how we should get the hospital – drive or get a taxi? I didn’t feel I could help with this decision due to the tricky waters-breaking situation I was in so screamed “YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE THE DECISION FOR US”. We ended up getting a taxi.

I made a rather undignified exit of our flat with a towel rolled up in between my legs. No, not one of the towels from the rucksack, so that made 4 massive towels we were taking to a building where they pretty much have an endless supply of towels.

The taxi driver was very understanding and drove like lightening to get us to the hospital in 10 minutes flat. We ran (I hobbled with towel between my legs) into the hospital and on to the labour ward. We were laughing. We didn’t really understand what was happening or even believe it had anything to do with a baby being born. I can honestly tell you we thought it was just a blip. A setback. Something that we’d get over with a little bit of R ‘n’ R.

The head midwife lady – who, incidentally, looked remarkably like Jimi Hendrix – settled us into a side room. She hooked me up to the machine thingy and put 2 straps on me. One to measure what was happening to me, and one to measure what was happening to the baby. She then skipped off, told me to relax, and said she was going to assign me a midwife. This confused me because I thought she was a midwife, but whatever.

We were stunned, and still laughing a little bit.

I was in no pain, and nothing much was happening other than my waters kept coming, albeit much slower. There was also a slight tightening of my tummy. The machine was printing out 2 wiggly lines. All looked fairly consistent so we weren’t worried. And we were definitely NOT having a baby, oh no.

9:30pm. Jimi Hendrix came back to check on us. We asked her if I was in labour. She said they were waiting to see but try and relax. Haha, try and relax. Funny. No really, it was funny. We were giggling at this point. And I was still in no pain. The lines on the print out were getting a little bit more wiggly and I could feel my tummy getting a bit tighter. Even though all this was going on, I was still not having this baby, oh no.

Next came the examination of the baby. They felt all around and suddenly I felt a slight panic in the room. They told me the baby was breech. Very strange considering I’d been checked just 2 weeks before and was told the baby was in the correct position. I’d also just like to add that at this point, they still hadn’t confirmed I was in labour.

9:45pm. My tummy was getting a little bit tighter and now I had a dull ache, like a period pain. Ooof, I thought. That hurt a bit. The wiggly lines were getting closer together.

10:30pm. More people came in the room and now we’re thinking, hmm, this maybe looks like I might be in labour. I know I know, it seems obvious now you’re reading about it, but seriously, we didn’t think we were having this baby. I’m pretty sure this is what mental health professionals would call ‘complete denial’.

10:45pm. The surgeon came in, with Jimi Hendrix, and tells me I’m in labour and because the baby was breech I had to have an emergency C-section. Hmm, no. No, I didn’t want a C-section so that wasn’t going to happen. I actually hadn’t given much thought to what sort of birth I wanted, but I had a very strong instinct all of a sudden that I didn’t want a C-section, and some guy telling me I was going to have one did not compute. They continued to monitor me and my other half was watching what we then knew were contractions. I was having contractions every few minutes and they were now getting owowow.

I was examined and told I was 3cms dilated. 3cms was enough time to get me ready for the C-section I didn’t want and deliver this baby. All the while we both strongly believed that we weren’t having this baby, oh no.

11pm. OWOWOWOWOW. The sensation to push was overwhelming. my contractions were happening every few minutes and they gave me some gas and air. I couldn’t seem to coordinate sucking and blowing the gas and air whilst having contractions so really, it was a bit of a waste of time. They examined me again and I was 9cms dilated. NINE. How the hell did this happen? From 3cms-9cms in about 10 minutes – CRAZY. My other half was helping me to breath and some nurses were trying to get DVT socks on me. I had to sign a consent form (mid-contraction) to say I was happy to have a C-section. I was not happy, but I scribbled on the paper anyway.

My memory form this point onwards gets a little sketchy, but I know that the sensation to push was something out of my control. The many people in the room were screaming “don’t push don’t push”. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in labour, or know anything about it, but you can’t not push. It’s impossible. It really is impossible.

11:20pm. They told me someone was in theatre so I’d have to hang on. Hahahahaha. “Don’t push don’t push” they were screaming. I was screaming “the baby’s coming the baby’s coming”. Oh dear, things were getting tense. I then heard beeping and a lot more people came into the room.

I had somehow found a position on the bed I could cope with, which was on my right side. This didn’t fit in with how they wanted me to lie on the bed so kept trying to turn me on my back. Every time they pulled me on my back, my body sprung back on my right side. I wasn’t being deliberately difficult, my body just took over and started doing what it wanted. I had also developed a sort of on-the-bed-march, like I was in a marching band, but lying down. Highly inconvenient for the poor nurses trying to put those DVT socks on me – I ended up kicking them in the chest a few times. And the noise I was making resembled that of the noise you heard if you’ve even seen the movie Jurassic Park – you know, the noise the dinosaurs make in the distance? My other half said I turned primeval. I couldn’t make that noise now if someone paid me.

11:45pm. A nurse came in the room to tell us that theatre was now free and we could go in. Like lightening, they wheeled me into theatre (still on my right side, marching/kicking, half hanging off the bed) to get me ready for my C-section. They were still screaming “don’t push don’t push”. I really was trying, but nothing was stopping this baby. It was coming and that was that. I kept telling them they didn’t have time to do a C-section, but they kept screaming “don’t push”.

11:50pm. The room was chaotic. There were about 17 people, all shouting and busy, and there was me on the table, legs in the air telling them a baby was about to come. At this point the surgeon shouted “EVERYONE QUIET”. Gosh, it was like a teacher telling off a room of naughty kids. He said he only wanted to hear me, my other half and Jimi Hendrix. He examined me again and I’ve no idea what he did, but he somehow manipulated the baby. He didn’t turn him to the correct position, just flipped him clockwise. Then he said “I think I can deliver this baby”.

11:51pm. Whaaaaaat? The realisation was hitting me that I was actually having a baby and that I was going to have to deliver it naturally. The surgeon went on to say that on the next contraction he wanted me to push. Suddenly, the entire room went from shouting “don’t push” to “PUSH!”. I took this as my cue to get down to business. My screaming stopped and I put my chin on my chest (on the instruction from Jimi) and on the next contraction I pushed.

Midnight: Like magic a little foot and bottom came out! I could not believe it. All I could hear was the room shouting “PUSH, PUSH” and all I could see was my other half close up on the right hand side of my face, and Jimi on my left. Jimi said to me that on the next contraction she wanted me to really push. I said to her “am I actually having a baby?”. She said “yes, yes you are”. My other half tells me I screamed quite a few expletives throughout my labour, but the only one I actually remember is at this moment when I said, “SHIIIIIT!”.

12:06am. On the next contraction I pushed with all my might and the rest of my baby came flying out, like a torpedo. The whole room cheered and clapped. I saw a baby, all tiny, blue and shriveled. They put the baby on my chest for a millisecond and then whisked it away. My other half found out the sex of the baby and told me it was a boy. A BOY!

12:07am. Then I couldn’t hear anything. It was like silence descended on the room and I was worried for the very first time. It took a whole minute for my baby to breath. I heard a gasp of air and tiny whimper of a cry, and then I burst out laughing! I went into hysterical laughter which lasted about 5 minutes.

They then started to work on him. Initial reports were that he was fine and breathing on his own. They took us back to the side room where we had begun, both in utter shock and disbelief. We didn’t know what the hell just happened, and we had no baby with us. It was very hard to compute. Everything was so quick, so painful, and we had no baby.

My best friend came to the hospital and brought things I actually needed (I had called her whilst in the labour I didn’t know I was in), and we waited for further news. My other half went off to see our baby and came back to report to me he was beautiful and healthy.

We had no idea how big an adventure we were about to start, but I was just so thankful that, even though he was born early, he was a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

I just want to end by saying thank you to the nurses, midwives and surgeon at UCH hospital in London, and in particular, Jimi Hendrix – you were absolutely amazing.

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