Monthly Archives: August 2015

Blogging – is it worth it?

Yesterday I received a message from a friend. She is running the Great North Run in a couple of weeks and she had just set up a Justgiving page to raise money for Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society). Friends and regular readers will know that this is a cause very close to my heart. I was really touched, because she told me that reading my blog had moved her to choose Sands. Claire and I don’t see each other very often, I bet it is a good 4-5 years since we last met. We have a mutual close friend who we were both bridesmaids together for and so we get updates on each other through Olivia. We also both have boys of very similar ages and obviously get to see them growing up through Facebook.

Receiving Claire’s message made me so incredibly happy. Sometimes as I am tapping away late at night on the laptop (when really I should be getting as much sleep as I can with two rainbows to run around after), I wonder how many people are reading my posts. Before getting into the blogging business, I was aware of a few parenting blogs, but I had absolutely no idea how many! There are easily hundreds, likely to be thousands. Maybe more. Some have tens of thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers. Some of them blog as a full-time job. How can I compete against that!

To date I only have 134 Twitter followers, 106 Facebook Likes and 10 people subscribed to my blog, yet lots of these wonderful people have taken time to send me some lovely messages of support. In the beginning it was only friends and family reading, but I know now there are ‘strangers’ out there. People I’ve never met. That in itself is incredibly exciting.

So I just need to remember that it’s not about competing. I didn’t start writing to be Britain’s Most Popular Blogger. I started writing for the all the reasons I put in my very first post. I am writing for me. And inspiring someone to run 13.1 miles for a cause that I have written about……. Sometimes there are no words for that.

If you want to sponsor Claire, please visit her Justgiving page. I need to give her extra kudos because she had a baby in January, just a few weeks before me. I can just about manage a 5k Parkrun on a Saturday morning. Getting fit enough to completing a half marathon is no mean feat, so my hat is definitely off to her!

Sands logo

Anyone can raise money for Sands. Visit their website for ideas. Let me know if you do.

 

Oh and if you like what you read and  want to share my blog on Twitter, Facebook or wherever, please do!

The Longest Weekend – My Stillbirth Story

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Writing the beginning of our stillbirth story was quite emotionally draining, but also quite cathartic. It feels good to see it in black and white and published for anyone to read, because it is important not to brush stories such as these under the carpet. I received so many wonderful comments, either through Facebook, Twitter, on the blog or personal messages. I am sorry that it made you most of you cry, but I can’t guarantee any further posts won’t. Apologies for that.

So anyway I am ready with the next chapter; the weekend we spent at home before going back into hospital. Again some parts of that weekend are crystal clear, others a bit more blurry.

Adam and I arrived home from the hospital around tea time. I spent the next 48 hours barricaded in the house. I couldn’t bear to leave. I didn’t want anyone to see my pregnant tummy, whether I knew them or not. Strangers have a habit of talking to pregnant women (absolutely nothing wrong with that and quite understandable), but I couldn’t cope with the thought of anyone approaching me and asking questions.

Adam took me upstairs and got me into bed. I couldn’t think of doing anything else. I can’t remember how long we’d been home before my mum and dad arrived. They’d been over at my brother’s house in Stockport and driven back as soon as Adam rang them. Understandably they were inconsolable. We had to explain what had happened (the first of many explanations) and what was going to happen. They were both so upset and mum couldn’t stop crying. It was then that I realised that it wouldn’t just be our own grief we had to deal with, but that of our parents, family and friends. Not only would our parents grieve for their lost grandchild, but also cope with feelings of helplessness for the pain and suffering that their children were going through. I remember a feeling of mild panic. Hang on. I can’t handle anyone else’s grief. I need to focus on mine and Adam’s.

I can’t remember how long they stayed. An hour. Two? My dad drove Adam back to the hospital to collect his car, which he’d had to leave there. After that, Adam barricaded himself too and hibernated with me, at least I don’t remember him leaving. At some point he rang his mum and dad to break the terrible news. They live in New Zealand so he had to wait until a reasonable hour to ring, which wasn’t in the middle of the night for them. I started a process of ringing my friends. This was a quick learning curve. I rang two of my closest friends. When they answered, I burst into tears and blurted out ‘I’ve lost the baby’. There was stunned silence on the other end. Understandably so. Eventually they managed to speak, I started my explanations, they began to console me. I had to wait until late in the evening to ring one of my other best friends in Australia. I think she had an inkling something was wrong with the urgent sounding texts I sent. After those phone calls, I decided to start sending texts instead to break the news. I felt that it would be more helpful for people to deal with the shock first, without me waiting for a response on the other end of the phone. The news was shocking and being able to digest it without having to think of comforting words and ‘saying the right thing’ would be easier.

At some point both my brothers rang, one in Stockport, the other in America. My Stockport brother wanted to come and visit the following day. He said that they would leave their 8 month old son with his other grandparents, in case seeing him upset us. This was another important milestone. Seeing another baby. I spoke to Adam and we agreed that we should see our nephew. Although it would be hard, we knew we wouldn’t be able to avoid seeing babies when we emerged into the ‘real world’, so it would only be a positive to see him. I am so glad we made that decision. I can still see my nephew now when I saw him for the first time, sat on our sofa, smiling with the pure innocence that only a baby has. It made me so happy to see him and I didn’t feel any regret.

Sleep wasn’t really our friend that weekend. It happened in fits and starts. We went to bed with the light on. On Friday night I remember going to bed but then getting up and spending a lot of the night downstairs. This was the time I used to absorb the Sands website and read story after story written by countless parents in similar situations. I cried a lot. At one point I cried so loudly that it woke Adam up and he came down to comfort me.

We had a lot of cuddles from our cats that weekend. Call me odd, but I am sure they knew that something was wrong. I’m sure they could sense our unhappiness and sadness. They were more loving and attentive than usual. Pets definitely have a sixth sense.

Although we didn’t want to see tonnes of people, we let down our barriers to allow other close friends and family visit. It stopped us going stir crazy. At this point I was starting to feel a lot more pain and was less mobile than before. I don’t think I moved much from the sofa and definitely didn’t even consider getting dressed. I have one vivid recollection of my mum’s cousin turning up on the Saturday night. I opened the door and she was stood in the dark, in the wind and rain and she just simply said ‘I had to come’. She didn’t need to say anything else.

Adam and I made the pact that I have written about before. That we would talk about anything and everything, no matter how silly or embarrassing we thought it might be. He was such an incredible source of comfort to me that weekend (and every day since). Some men are not good at expressing their thoughts or feelings, or dealing with emotions. Adam is not like that. Many people have said how strong I have been and how well I coped. That may seem true, but I couldn’t have done it without Adam. He was my rock then, and every day since.

On the Sunday, we started to make preparations to go back into hospital. We’d been advised to go in for about 6pm (unless labour started sooner), so the day really dragged. We had to pack our bags. There was no excited and careful planning of what to pack, which is usually what happens with a maternity hospital bag. Just a case of throwing in the necessities.

We had, however been advised to bring a couple of specific items. I can’t remember if it was the midwife we had seen on Friday, or through the Sands website.

  • A camera to take photos of our baby. I was unsure about whether it was appropriate to pack it at the time. Now I am so glad that we did.
  • An outfit to dress him in. Because I was only 32 weeks, we didn’t have lots and lots of clothes at that point. Just a few bits and pieces that I had started to pick up. We sat together going through the tiny clothes. We both cried knowing our baby would never wear them. In the end we chose a Very Hungry Caterpillar vest.
  • A small toy. Adam’s boss had bought a beautiful little elephant, for Christmas I think, to give to our baby when it arrived. We packed this too.

In the late afternoon, I had a bath. I had started to get very weak contractions at this point, but wanted to feel as fresh as possible before going in. I remember looking at my tummy sticking out of the bath and willing it to move. So it could all have been a big mistake.

It wasn’t.

Time to leave and make the short journey back to the Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre at Burnley General Hospital. We parked up and realised that we had no change for the parking meter. Thanks to the lovely staff at the hospital we were let off under the circumstances.

The walk to the birth suite seemed to go on for ever. Then we had to open those doors, and see those beautiful baby canvasses again. We went to the desk and asked for Elaine, our midwife from Friday. I think we both broke when giving a brief explanation of why we were there. Quickly we were ushered into a delivery room. And onto the next chapter of our lives……

Don’t sweat the small stuff

So the boys have just been tucked up in bed and I’m sat on the sofa with a glass of wine, toys strewn over the floor and a house full of dripping wet laundry. Anyone who knows me well will know my obsessive love of drying my washing outdoors. It has featured in both my 100 Happy Days (ok it didn’t make it to my 2015 top 10, but I would be a pretty sad lady if it did). I just don’t think you can’t beat the smell of freshly dried laundry. It honestly lifts my soul. I do have a dryer but use it as little as possible (I’m a tight Northerner). I also have a heated airer (from Lakeland) which was an amazing buy. It uses a lot less electricity than the dryer and last winter got a lot of use. But when it is summer, I can’t bear to use either. It’s outside or nothing for me.

Laundry

2015 Happy Days Laundry!

Last week I got very little washing done. I worked every day, leaving at 7-7.30 most days and either got home late or extremely knackered. I am usually extremely organised with laundry checking my weather app every night to see whether I put a load in. Last week I just couldn’t be bothered. So by Saturday the baskets were overflowing and the boys were running out of clothes. After last night’s thunderstorm, the forecast for today was sunshine, sunshine, sunshine. Whoop, whoop! Jude and I were out at 7am putting the first load out, followed by a second and a third. This was turning out to be a perfect laundry day.

Laundry 2014

2014 Happy Days Laundry!

Adam has recently starting working shifts and is often away for 27 hours at a time, including working weekends. It has its benefits though and he will definitely get more quality time with the boys than in his previous job. Plus he loves it which is a bonus. Anyway he is away all weekend, so my parents have helped out and mum offered to meet me this afternoon to take the boys swimming. It was a bit of a rush leaving the house. Jude had woken up in a grumpy mood so needed lots of attention. The garden was a mess covered in various piles of clothes along with plenty of toys. The sun was still out and I quickly reasoned that it was highly unlikely to break, so I did rush (and very poor) clean up and bundled both boys into the car.

In the pool half an hour later, I looked out the window to see a tropical downpour. Not a shower, or that fine rain, but a full on monsoon. I frantically searched my mind. I brought all the piles of dry clothes in ….. right?

WET garden

WET garden

Wrong! I got home two hours later (we stopped for food after swimming). Not only were the clothes on the line absolutely dripping (including two large towels and bath mat), but all the beautifully ‘dry’ clothes were now sodden. Oh and the sand pit cover was off so mini pools were forming, Jude’s bouncer was in puddle with its saturated cloth cover, the ‘sun’ tent had blown over and my copy of ‘The Book Thief’ which Dylan has taken a shine to taking out of the ‘Elf Library’ (my bookcase) and had earlier left on the garden table, had doubled in size.

photo 4

WET Laundry basket

For 10 seconds, I surveyed the wreckage in horror. My heart racing, my eyes watering, a scream forming in my throat. And then I remembered what I wrote in my last post, about trying not to ‘sweat the small stuff’. Should I have cleaned up before I left? Yes. Should I have brought all the washing in? Oh absolutely. Is this the end of the world? No. Has my house collapsed around me? No. And whilst I calmly ran in and out of the house, stripping the washing line, covering the sand pit and the rest, Dylan and Jude entertained each other by laughing at each other in mutual admiration.

It might seem bizarre and quite sad to write a post about laundry. And trust me I’m not always this relaxed when ‘disaster’ strikes. I think the boys being in a good mood after their swim and a hearty meal helped. But sometimes it is worth putting things into perspective and looking at the bigger picture. It made me think about when we moved house three weeks after Ewan died. We hired a van and on the last run of the day, we scraped the side of it against a post, making a bit of a mess. I can’t remember how much we were charged by the hire firm for the pleasure of a repaint. It wasn’t excessive, but also wasn’t cheap. We were both really annoyed with ourselves. But then I remember thinking what we had been through. And seriously, were we going to let this get us down? I just think back to that moment and that feeling sometimes. It doesn’t always work. But today I just smiled and tucked the incident away as a lesson learnt. Don’t blindly trust the BBC weather app and always bring clean and dry washing in, straight away.

Now my wine glass is empty. I guess I’d better fire up the dryer and airer. They’ve got a lot of work to do tonight!

 

 

11 Things About Me……

Things have been pretty manic this week with little time to be able to devote to my blog. However when I was tagged by ‘mummuddlingthrough’ (thanks for the blog love!) to complete this ’11 things about me’ challenge, I decided to ditch the boring things (work, ironing etc) and treat myself to an evening of writing once the boys were in bed (with one eye on ‘Bake Off’ of course). It took some time and deliberating to complete but finally it’s done. Phew! Here are my questions and answers (apologies for the length of some):

1) What are you best at?

Wow what a difficult first question. Us Brits aren’t good at blowing our own trumpet are we? I would probably say my organisational skills. Not quite so at work (my argument is that I have too much to do to be properly organised), but in the home situation there is definitely an element of military precision to how my day is organised.

2) If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Probably until the age of 16 I would have said my hair. I hated being ginger. Now it’s one of my defining features and a real part of my identity.

I wouldn’t pick a physical feature. I would like to lower my standards a bit (that sounds odd!). Sometimes I can be extremely hard on myself and beat myself up over the slightest mistake and in reference to point 1, if my military organisation doesn’t run quite to plan, I get quite upset. I am getting better at chilling out and not ‘sweating the small stuff’, but I still have some way to go.

 3) Where is your happy place?

Argh I can’t think of a specific place. The outdoors. In the lush, green countryside. Even better if I’m having a picnic with my boys.

4) What’s your signature dish?

Mmmm my pulled pork

I love cooking so this is difficult to choose. I would have to go with pulled pork which I have just discovered how to make. With homemade coleslaw (secret ingredient maple syrup, thanks Nigella), brioche buns (from Aldi – not homemade!) and skinny sweet and normal potato fries. Perfect when making food for a crowd.

5) How would your best friend describe you?

I’d like to think that they (I don’t have one best friend … I have 3-4 really close friends), would say that I’m always there for them if they need to talk. And that they could talk to me about anything.

However they might just say that I’m loud!

6) What song would you like played at your funeral?!

Adam and I had a long discussion about this and what constitutes a funeral song (one which is my favourite? one fitting the occasion? one that sums me and/or my life up?) I would like to choose something which would make everyone smile (thinking about the funeral of Liam Neeson’s wife in Love Actually), however I’ve gone for the version of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ recorded by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. I know it’s a bit cliché and a popular funeral song (and it isn’t like me to go with the masses), but this version is just perfectly beautiful in its simplicity. Please click the link if you haven’t heard it before. This was one of two songs we played at Ewan’s funeral. I struggle to listen to it without crying but I still love it.

7) What’s your dream job?

I do love my current day job – supporting students in a local Further Education College. We help students whether it is careers advice, support with money, problems at home, safety in or out of college, the list is endless. Some young people don’t have supportive families, so we can sometimes really make a difference. I would always like to be involved in helping others whatever job I am doing.

HOWEVER I would love to run a Bed and Breakfast. I’d quite like to get up in a morning and rustle up a hearty cooked breakfast every day. Adam sighs whenever I mention it. He says that I think that all guests would behave perfectly and that’s not the reality (he’s probably right – damn!). But it’s nice to dream.

 8) What do you hope to achieve from your blog?

Hmm hard one this. I am enjoying writing at the moment although I don’t have enough time to devote to it. By using it to write about my experience of stillbirth, I am hoping to raise awareness of it, and for people to realise that it’s ok to talk about it.

9) What’s under your bed?

Shoes! Lots of them. In plastic boxes. Both mine and Adams. Not very exciting really.

10) What one possession would you save from your burning home?

Ewan’s memory box. It has lots of keepsakes – photographs, his footprints, a lock of hair and cards we received from family and friends. One of my friends made a beautiful cross-stitch with Ewan’s name on which I keep in there. Everything in there is irreplaceable and the box itself is beautiful.

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Ewan’s memory box

11) You have an evening of ‘you time’….what do you do?

I can’t believe how boring this is going to sound. Relax and watch TV! In particular I would work my way through Sons of Anarchy on Netflicks. I’m currently on Season 3 and I’ve 4 more to go. In a nutshell it’s about a biker gang (think Hell’s Angels) set in California. I’m completely hooked on it which is odd as it can be pretty violent at times. The characters are brilliant and I can’t believe the lead Charlie Hunnam is from Newcastle and started off his acting career in Byker Grove!

Here are my 11 questions posed to:

athomewithruth.com

wonderfullyaverage.com

twinsmakefive.com

  1. When and where did you meet your partner?
  2. What would you chose for your last meal?
  3. What was the first single you bought?
  4. If you could be reincarnated as any animal, what would you be?
  5. Who is your celebrity looky-likey?
  6. What was your most memorable holiday?
  7. What is your favourite Disney film?
  8. Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter?
  9. When was the last time you cried?
  10. What household chore do you most despise?
  11. Were you a rebel at high school or a goody two shoes?

Feel free to contribute your responses to any of the questions I had to answer, or have posed!

The Words No-one Ever Should Hear – My Stillbirth Story

I’ve decided that I would like to share Ewan’s story. Most of our friends know that he was stillborn at 32 weeks. Not everyone knows exactly how it happened and how in just one day our lives changed forever. Although stillbirth isn’t a quite a taboo subject, it’s not something that is written about a lot in great detail. Information is there if you look for it, for example through the SANDS website (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) as I have written about previously. I don’t know if it is standard human nature to feel uncomfortable talking about death, and in particular the death of a baby. Is it the British in us? Anyway one of the reasons I set up my blog was to write about Ewan. The story is long so I will do it in stages. This is the story of our pregnancy.

I found out I was pregnant at the beginning of July 2010. Adam and I were delighted. It was our first pregnancy and we’d only been trying for a couple of months. We considered ourselves lucky that it hadn’t taken us very long. I had an enviable pregnancy. I was one of those really annoying people who could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times they suffered from morning sickness. We told a handful of close family and friends our news, and instead kept quiet until after our first scan at 13 weeks. At this point once we had seen baby floating and kicking around on the screen, we thought we were out of the woods and safee. October saw our 20 week scan and another opportunity for a photograph. Bubba he was then known (we chose not to find out the sex), gave us the thumbs up on the ultrasound. Christmas came and went. We were secretly happy to have an excuse not to go out on New Year’s Eve and instead stopped in with a takeaway and boxset of 24.

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Ewan at our first scan

From the moment he planted his first kick, Ewan was very active baby. I would love sitting in meetings at work and feeling him turning somersaults. He was most active at night when I was reading and relaxing in bed.

Fast forward to Friday 14th January 2011. I remember certain events of that day so incredibly vividly and others are a bit of a blur. I remember waking up that morning, laying in bed hearing the birds sing thinking it was the first time I had heard them for a while. On the way to work I stopped off for some petrol. I remember being at the pump when the thought occurred to me that it was 8 weeks exactly until my due date. I distinctly recall thinking ‘My baby could be in here in 8 weeks. Actually in 10 weeks it will definitely be here.’ Obviously this gave me an extra spring in my step, or a spring in my waddle.

About 6 months pregnant

About 6 months pregnant

It was a busy day at work. I work in a Further Education College and at the time there was a campaign being set up to challenge the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance, which the then new coalition government had announced. I was trying to organise the student body to sign an online petition and arrange for PC’s to be set up around college. Around lunchtime I managed to snatch some quiet time in my office. As I sat at my desk, after a couple of minutes my thoughts turned to my bump. It all felt quite still. I couldn’t recall the last time I had felt it move. My brain went into a mini overdrive. I tried to think back to the night before. Was Bubba performing its usual circus routine? I just couldn’t remember.

What I haven’t mentioned is that morning I also had a pain, which was unusual. I hadn’t felt anything like it before. I had read that baby’s sometimes started to engage from 32 weeks and wondered if that was the reason why. Not knowing when baby last moved, coupled with the pain prompted me to pick up the phone and ring the hospital. It took me a while to find the right department, but eventually I spoke to someone on the antenatal ward. I’m not sure why but when I started to explain why I was ringing, I only mentioned the pain. The midwife asked me to describe it and suggested I had a bath. I then told her that I couldn’t remember when I had last felt baby move; straight away she told me to come down for a scan, just to get checked out and make sure everything was ok. ­

I locked up my office and set off, calling into see my boss on the way out to tell her where I was going. I remember trying to make light of it and just said that I was a little bit worried so wanted to double check there wasn’t anything serious. In the car, I rang Adam. His phone went to voicemail so I left what I hoped was a slightly cheery, reassuring message saying I was sure everything was ok (I probably didn’t do a very good job!) and told him where I was going. I quickly nipped home to get my notes and then headed to the Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre at Burnley General Hospital. I live about 4 miles from college and 1 mile from the hospital so thankfully it wasn’t too long a journey. I don’t remember much about driving there, other than still trying to reassure myself, and also willing Bubba to move.

I finally found my way to the antenatal ward. Now I do vividly remember the walk upstairs. At this point I started to think the worse. On the ward I gave them a quick explanation and the loveliest midwife (I was to meet a lot of these) took me into a private room. I lay on the bed and she used a Doppler to try and find a heartbeat. Whilst it made a lot of noise (something to do with the ultrasound waves), the regular sound of a heartbeat couldn’t be found. She gave me a reassuring smile and said it was probably a problem with the instrument. She left to get a portable scanner, and seconds later reappeared with a doctor. Unbeknown to me they were waiting outside the room – I am guessing someone buzzed them when I arrived. On went the gel again and the doctor started to scan. I could see the monitor at this point but wasn’t really sure what to look for. Then, there was the most telling sign. Marie (the midwife) who was stood at the end of the bed put her hand on my feet. That was the point when I knew. I knew that she knew. No one had said anything, but they all knew. I burst into tears.

They wanted me to go for a proper scan, with the ultrasound technician, as they said sometimes the portable scanners didn’t pick up faint heartbeats. But they still knew. It just needed to be confirmed.

I think I refused a wheelchair and walked back down the stairs holding onto Marie. I sat and waited for the ultrasound. The technician came out of her room and Marie went up to her. I could see the technician wasn’t happy. I think she had a backlog of patients already. Marie whispered to her, and instantly the technician’s face changed. I was beckoned to go in and Marie came with me. The technician told me that she wouldn’t talk to me until she had finished scanning which could take a couple of minutes. She said that it was important for her to concentrate. I could have looked at the monitor but instead I covered my eyes with my arm. I didn’t want to see and instead just hoped against hope that the news would be good.

Then came the words no parent-to-be ever wants to hear. ‘I’m sorry, but there is no heartbeat’.

I remember just giving a loud groan and started to cry again. I can hear the sound now. It came from the bottom of my belly. Marie held me. I don’t know for how long. Somehow I got back onto the ward and into a room. The word stillbirth was being used. Still Birth.

This part is a bit of a blur. What I do remember is asking how this could happen. I think I even uttered the words ‘but this only happened in Victorian times!’ But that is what I was thinking. Only Victorian babies were stillborn, weren’t they?

Then my phone started to ring. It was Adam. I think I answered it (if not it was Marie). I just told him to get to hospital. I don’t even think I told him where to go. I definitely didn’t tell him what had happened because he was either driving or about to drive. It seemed like an age before he came. But then I can’t remember what happened between him ringing and arriving. So it probably wasn’t that long. I just blurted out ‘I’m sorry, I’ve lost the baby’. I can see his face now and can feel how his arms gathered me up and give me the biggest and warmest hug I probably have ever had.

After some time, during which Adam rang my parents for me because I just couldn’t face breaking the news to them, we were moved from the antenatal ward to the Birth Suite. Now this was hard. Really hard. We had to walk through a door where there were beautiful canvasses of newborn babies on the walls of the corridor. Fresh tears. We were taken to the Serenity Suite. This is a room especially designed for parents like us, who wouldn’t give birth to a living baby. Who knew these rooms existed in hospitals? It had a kitchen area, shower room, double bed and television amongst other things. It was a place we would be able to move to after the birth, recuperate a little and spend some time with our baby.

A doctor and another midwife, Elaine, came to speak to us and talked us through what would happen next. Although they were lovely, nothing could prepare us for the next bombshell. We would have to give birth naturally by being induced. I had just expected a caesarean section. We would have to go through labour. Now it makes perfect sense as to why, but back then we were just dumbstruck.

I was given something which would start the induction process (no idea what, a pill I think?). We were told we could stop in the Serenity Suite for the weekend, but instead we chose to go home. We wanted to be surrounded by familiar things, surroundings, our cats and be in our home. We had to return back to the Birth Suite in 48 hours for the next stage of the induction process, provided nothing happened before then. Elaine reassured us that she would be on duty and so would look after us when we came back.

We left the hospital about 5 or 6pm I think. Being January it was already dark. Which suited our mood. Adam drove us back home to what would be a very long weekend. To tell family and friends. To continue with our lives together. Down a very different path to the one we were happily walking along that morning.

 

 

Bloglovin

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Writing a blog has really challenged my technical IT skills. 21 years ago I achieved a grade A in GCSE Information Technology (wow that makes me feel really old!). It could have been 100 years ago given the pace at which technology moves.  I have learnt so much in the last month in putting my blog together and I’ve been so proud of my persistency in trying to make it all work and look reasonably good.

Anyway the purpose of this post is very simple. I need to register myself on a site called Bloglovin’ where thousands upon thousands of blogs are hosted. To do that I need to post a blog with the above link displayed. You won’t believe that I had to reach out to a Bloggers group on Facebook to help me with it.

So that’s it!

Adios

My 100 Happy Days Greatest Hits!

Have you heard of the 100 Happy Days challenge? The premise is quite simple. Can you be happy for 100 days in a row? Participants choose a platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc) and then publish a photograph each day of whatever has made them happy, using the #100HappyDays hashtag. I embarked on the challenge last year from April to August and successfully completed it (apparently 71% of people who start it, don’t finish). For some crazy reason this year, on the 1st anniversary of my first happy day, I decided to start it again. The Facebook ‘Memories’ tool helped to serve as a reminder. I finished the challenge last week. Although it was tough, it was also enjoyable. It also helped me to start this blog. Because as well as posting a picture, I also like to write a small (or long) narrative. It made me realise how much I liked to write and wanted to carry it on, but maybe without the time pressures of doing it every day! Now that I have this blog and a platform to get my thoughts, musings and feelings out in public, I doubt I’ll be doing it again though. I would recommend the challenge to anyone, although perhaps pick a time of the year that isn’t particularly stressful. I started at the end of spring and carried on throughout summer, which isn’t a bad time to choose. I avoided my extremely busy period at work. I guess if I really wanted to challenge myself then in theory this would be the best time. But I wanted to give myself some chance of success. Anyway, as some of you won’t have seen the #100HappyDays on my personal Facebook page, I’ve decided to share with you my top 10, or as my husband just said, my ‘Greatest Hits’. Picked either because I particularly love the photograph, the event, or the narrative. Enjoy!

I just love this photo. My dad was completely oblivious to me taking it.

I just love this photo. My dad was completely oblivious to me taking it.

Day 4. I love seeing my parents with their grandchildren. I took this photo today of dad with Jude – he was keeping him entertained by chatting and singing whilst I had my hair cut. Precious moments.

Netball

Chosen because I just LOVE netball!

Day 14. I played netball this evening for the first time in almost a year. I can’t believe I was a little bit nervous walking onto the pitch. I absolutely loved it. We aren’t the best team by a long shot, but we certainly aren’t the worst and we played really well tonight. Being part of a team is so much more satisfying than doing something on my own like running. I used to love playing when I was at school but like most people gave it up at 16 – I’m so glad I picked it up again a few years later. I can’t wait for next week’s match now (although my aching muscles might not agree in the morning!) ** Notice I haven’t posted a photo of my very red face at the end – I do have some dignity.

I was really impressed with this photo ... although I took about 20!

I was really impressed with this photo … although I took about 20!

Day 28. A walk to the shop with Dylan in tow is never straight forward and takes twice as long than if I was on my own. There are plenty of fun things to discover on the way – including finding a tonne of dandelions. I tried (and failed) to take an artsy photo with me blowing the seeds. This was the best of a bad bunch.

Pulled pork
I am salivating even now just thinking about this meal. I was so pleased with it.

    Day 33. Oh wow, my genius in the kitchen has just gone up a notch. I’ve rolled onto the sofa and I am just revelling in my first attempt at pulled pork along with my homemade coleslaw and BBQ sauce. To quote Peppa Pig and family it was Dee-licious! Now relaxing with a beer!  

Just great memories and a brilliant weekend with my friend who I don't see a lot

Just great memories and a brilliant weekend with my friend who I don’t see a lot

Day 47. I’ve had a brilliant weekend with one of my bestest pals. Invariably we spent some of the time reminiscing about our university days, helped in part by the Happy Book. In some ways not dissimilar to the 100 Happy Days project, we spent the summer term of our first year (18years ago!) writing down reasons why were happy. Needless to say the majority of the book needs censoring as it was filled in after many nights out at the union. However it provides a huge amount of fun for everyone concerned. Everyone tagged either wrote or was featured in it in some way. Fabulous memories from a fabulous time. Made me wish I was 18 to relive it all again. Only this time with better dress sense!

Although they can be hard work, I do love our cats.

Although they can be hard work, I do love our cats.

Day 55. I didn’t have the heart to put these two out last night because of the rain, but I have to keep them in the kitchen so they don’t trample on my head at 4 in the morning. When I came down this morning they were both sat waiting for me. They looked so cute I ran back upstairs for my phone so I could take a picture. I’d like to think they were looking forward to seeing me – but I think they just wanted breakfast!

Me and Adam - 10 years and still going strong.

Me and Adam – 10 years and still going strong.

Day 57. A historic 10 years ago today, Mr C and I went on our first date. Well I say date – in truth he asked me out in the morning if I fancied a drink after work. We went to the Talbot and then into Burnley and got pretty trollied. I asked the DJ in one pub to play Meat Loaf & Cher ‘Dead Ringer for Love’, and when Adam followed me on the dancefloor, I knew I had found the man for me! It’s been an amazing 10 years and I’m happy to say that it’s mainly been ups. But when the bad times have hit we have worked hard together to get through them. I love you to pieces Mr C. Enjoy one of our first photos together.

Blog

A momentous day for me!

Day 75. Wow I am super excited about today’s post. I have been thinking about starting a blog for some time. So after a bit of work over the last week, I have finally hit the ‘publish’ button .. about 10 minutes ago, on my blog ‘An Angel and Two Rainbows’. If you are interested in having a read (and I hope you are), head on over. It will need more work over the next few weeks (it looks a bit basic at the moment) and I am getting to grips with how it all works. Hopefully I’ll be an expert soon. Enjoy!

It was just a wonderful moment when Adam made this wand

It was just a wonderful moment when Adam made this wand

Day 77. Anyone who has watched Ben and Holly might understand the significance of this post. I bought Dylan a Ben and Holly magazine and the ‘free’ gift was an elf horn (Ben’s) and fairy wand (Holly’s). Despite being flimsy and cheaply made, Dylan loved them and asked for them every day. Today he dropped the wand down one of the slats on our deck. There is no way of retrieving it. He was absolutely MORTIFIED and took himself up to his room to howl. Quick thinking Mr C grabbed a pencil, blu tac, some scissors and card and quickly rustled together a new homemade wand. Suddenly we had a happy, smiling boy again. Oh to be 3.

I loved watching Adam and Dylan 'working' together on this table

I loved watching Adam and Dylan ‘working’ together on this table

Day 85. The worker and his apprentice! Mr C enlisted Dylan’s help in building our new garden table. None of the help was actually required e.g asking him to help tighten the screws with his plastic screwdriver as Dylan is doing in the photo, but he was delighted to help his daddy (plus it kept him entertained for a good half hour!).

Who doesn’t love a freebie?!

Like a freebie? Read on!

A package came in the post for Dylan the other day. It was the arrival of our first blog freebie. Well actually it wasn’t really a blog freebie at all BUT I only got it because of my blog. If that makes sense?? When I set up my blog, I set up a Twitter account (follow me @angel2rainbows if you aren’t already!). Not really being a Tweeter in the past, I spent a bit of time getting to grips with retweeting, following (I still am, I don’t think I’ve quite got the hang of it yet!) etc. I discovered, through following another blogger, a company called Toppsta. They send out books FOR FREE to children between the ages of 0-12, on the expectation that a review will be written. The Northerner in me was, of course, delighted with anything free!

Noisy Dinosaur

The first book I saw being offered was pitched to 3 year olds. Perfect, I have one of those! About dinosaurs. Even better, he is bloody dinosaur mad!! All I had to do was favourite and retweet, which I just about managed to do. I promptly forgot all about it, until a couple of days later when I saw a congratulatory tweet telling me we had won. Whoop whoop! It was only afterwards, that I realised it would probably lead to an increase of Dylan running up and down going ‘Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa’! Oh well.

Using his dinosaur to make the noises!

Using his dinosaur to make the noises!

 

Anyone can try and win, so if you do have children, make sure you either like Toppsta on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. There isn’t an expectation to write pages and pages of A4. Take a look at some of the reviews for an idea. It’s worth putting your hat in the ring! We all love a freebie.

 

 

For the record, here is the review I submitted:

For a child who is currently in the midst of a severe dinosaur obsessive disorder, ‘Noisy Dinosaurs’ is an excellent choice of book and we were lucky to be sent this book by the publisher after entering a giveaway on Toppsta.com. It is tough to pitch a dinosaur book at a 3 year old. Too much information and detail and they will be turned off because it is too difficult. Too basic, simple and not enough scary teeth and they will be turned off because it is too baby-ish. I am pleased to say that the team at Little Tiger Kids have pitched it perfectly. The front cover has a suitably scary looking T-Rex with tonnes of pointy teeth on show. Good start!

There are 5 dinosaurs in total, one for each page. There is a good balance of factual information for each dinosaur, 3-4 beautifully detailed illustrations and the best part, the Noise. Each touchpad is different in shape and texture, the variety being another plus point. They are perfect for small fingers to press and my son manages to produce a noise more often than not (as sometimes it can be difficult for kids to hit the right point on a touchpad). The noises are loud, scary and again varied. So 5 stars there!

All in all this is an excellent addition to our book collection. After just one day he had already remembered some of the words and repetitions. I can imagine it will keep my son entertained for a good 12-18 months before he is able to absorb more detail and information.

And just for the record, his favourite dinosaur is the Diplodocus, because it is the BIGGEST!

Definitely a success!

Definitely a success!

My First Parkrun

My first Fit & Active post. On Saturday, I was up bright and early (nothing unusual there), I donned my running gear and drove to Burnley’s Towneley Park to take part in the phenomenon that is ‘parkrun’. It’s now nearly 6 months since Jude was born and I am slowly but surely trying to get back into shape. Let’s get this straight. I’m not an elite athlete, but I’m not a novice runner either. Confession: I ran a marathon once, so I do have some running experience. However over the last few years I haven’t been in the habit of running regularly. So I’ve decided to do something about it.

If you haven’t heard about parkrun before, let me enlighten you (if you have, skip to the next paragraph!). Starting in 2004, parkrun was set up as a weekly 5k timed race for local runners in Bushy Park, London run by volunteers. Over the next few years it expanded to different locations in the UK with everyone meeting at the same time, 9am on a Saturday morning. Eleven years on, parkrun now takes place in a 10 other countries including South Africa, Russia and the USA and is still run by volunteers.

Anyone can sign up and register. It takes a few minutes on the parkrun.org website and then you are emailed your personal ID along with a barcode. In order to take part you just have to turn up with your printed barcode. Thanks to my crafty mother, mine is even laminated! Once registered, you can take part in any parkrun … in the world!

There are hundreds of events in the UK alone, and in my locality (the North West) there are over 30 to choose from. Although my local event is Pendle, I chose the Burnley parkrun which is just a few miles further away because a) it attracts more runners (so it’s easier to get lost in the crowd), b) I know the park really well having walked, run and played there both as a child and parent and c) it is a slightly easier route.

parkrun 3

Towneley Hall

Towneley Park is a beautiful location. Locals refer to it as the jewel in Burnley’s crown. On a sunny and ever so slightly chilly Saturday morning, it didn’t disappoint. I parked up and as my husband recommended, just followed the crowd of runners. I had that nervous feeling in my tummy walking up the ‘avenue’ to Towneley Hall. Initially it seems as though everyone looks like an A grade, Olympic standard athlete. Whilst there were some very lean and fit people there, on looking around a bit I saw a few more runners like myself – slightly shabby running gear (you know the cheap stuff from Sports Direct) and maybe carrying a bit of extra weight around the middle!

There were a couple of announcements before the race got underway. Because the course route has recently changed, one person gave a quick explanation to us newbies and anyone who hadn’t run it before. The person in charge (or the one with the megaphone at least!) then announced the pace runners. These were 6 volunteer runners with bright yellow tabards and numbers on the back, representing the time they were going to complete the course in – 20, 22, 24, 26, 28 and 30 minutes. I completely ignored everyone except the 30 minute pace runner – there was no way I was getting anywhere near the others.

parkrun 5

At the start. My slightly nervous smile!

Before I knew it, the sound went to signal the start of the race. And we were off! I kept to the back and just settled down to follow everyone. I am not a fast runner by any stretch of the imagination. I can sprint, but only for about 20 metres maximum. I would call myself a plodder. I am the person you might drive past on the road and feel a bit sorry for, thinking I have been running for an hour (when in fact it has been 10 minutes). Anyway I decided not to go hell for leather and instead settled into my ploddy pace.

The race is about 2 ½ loops of the same route. This means that approximately 7 minutes in, the slower runners (like me) start to see the much faster runners on their way back towards us, already having doubled the distance we have run. It could be slightly demoralising. However I pretended they were just super-humans and ‘normal’ me put my head down and plodded on.

I won’t bore you with every inch of the race. Suffice it to say that I finished. Not in the most spectacular time, but I finished all the same. And I was happy. Happy to get off the mark and get my first parkrun under my belt. I received my timing chip and handed my barcode (in all its laminated glory) to be scanned. I knew it wouldn’t be till later on that day that I would find out my time and position in the race.

As I was walking to the car park, I bumped into my old primary school teacher. He was always one of my favourite teachers and actually encouraged me to run at the age of 8. I reminded him that he would take a group of us cross country running in the dead of winter in the pouring rain. We gave up our lunchtimes willingly and voluntarily! I felt slightly embarrassed when on discussing the race he told me he had completed it in around 24 minutes. The guy is almost twice my age! I knew that I was a good 7 or 8 minutes behind that.

A couple of hours later I received a text message. My time was 31 minutes and 32 seconds. Not bad I guess for a first effort. My aim was around 30 minutes, so I wasn’t too far behind. I now I can focus on beating that in races to come. As well as the text, there is a webpage with all the day’s statistics. You can see how many took part (254), your position (176th), the winner (not me) and their time (17 minutes 12 seconds!!!!). I could also see that there were 100 women who took part and I was 52nd (hmm not bad). You can also see every other runner’s statistics if you are bored and want to look at that level of detail (I did …. Just for a nosey and research purposes obviously!).

So that was it, my first parkrun complete. I am hoping, childcare permitting, to do many more. Actually, if I had one of those fancy off-road buggies, I could take Baby Rainbow Jude with me, but I don’t. Children are welcome too. I know someone who takes her 7 year old (and he gets a better time than me), but under 11’s have to be under adult supervision at all times. Maybe I’ll wait until Dylan is a bit older, and in the meantime concentrate on smashing the 30 minute barrier!

parkrun 4

 

Make your voice heard people – The NHS Maternity Services Review

I am big fan of our National Health Service. Before Ewan died I probably would have been quite non-committal about my thoughts on the NHS. Sometimes I would be pro-NHS. They agreed to take my tonsils out when I was 21, which, having suffered from tonsillitis approximately 8 times a year, I was eternally grateful to them for. But then I didn’t like my GP practice for a number of years – the GPs were grumpy, stroppy and had terrible ‘bedside’ manners (for the record I LOVE my current GP. He is ace!). On the whole I would probably have sat on the fence if asked for an opinion.

Since our experiences with Ewan’s stillbirth and my two subsequent rainbow pregnancies however, both Adam and I have not been able to fault the care we have received. If anyone asks, we could talk for hours about the professionalism, compassion and dedication of the maternity teams at the Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre at Burnley, in particular our beloved midwives and consultant! I honestly don’t think I could find a bad word to say about them. The midwife who delivered Ewan was simply wonderful. I am so grateful to her for helping to make what was in essence the most awful experience of our lives, into a beautiful, calm, peaceful and memorable time. I hope one day to write a blog post about this particular experience. We were then supported through our next pregnancies with kid gloves by an amazingly kind and considerate consultant who absolutely understood our worries and stresses.

maternity review 3

So when I heard about the current NHS maternity review, I knew I wanted to go along and make my voice heard. There is currently a roadshow of drop in review events taking place up and down the country. Today I went along to my local event in Preston to share my views and also make suggestions. I am not so naïve to realise that a) improvements can’t be made and b) everyone has received the same care that we have. I truly believe, for example, that women (and men) would benefit from seeing the same midwife from day one, through all their antenatal and then postnatal appointments. We were lucky with our second pregnancy to be allocated a case-load midwife. I saw her every few weeks. She attended some of our hospital appointments and visited me at home. Through this I was able to trust her and ask questions that I may never have asked a ‘random’ community midwife. After we took Dylan home she came to visit a few times and I remember once compiling a list of about 15 questions for her. Some of them seem ridiculous now (I had about 3 questions alone about burping…. the baby, not me!), but I knew that she wouldn’t laugh at me because I had already built a good relationship with her.

Also, in relation to my last blog post, I referenced how mothers should be tested for Group B Strep as standard practice in the latter stages of pregnancy.

Maternity review

With Rainbow Jude and my old school friend Kelly who is now involved in NHS service commissioning

Anyway the review is ongoing for the next couple of months. So if you have had experience of maternity services anywhere in the UK, either as a parent, grandparent, friend or in any other capacity, now is the time to feedback about your experiences. Positive or negative, the NHS want to hear what you have to say. If you aren’t able to make it along to one of the drop-in sessions here, then email england.maternityreview@nhs.net.

Make sure you have your say.