Monthly Archives: October 2015

Forward, back, forward, back?

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Tonight I aimed to put the boys to bed an hour later than their normal time. In reality it was actually about 20-25 minutes. But the intent was there. Just before Jude went down, Dylan accidentally FaceTimed my brother. He was surprised they were both still up (as I’m usually a bedtime Nazi) so I reasoned it was so they would hopefully wake up later in the morning. ‘Now that never works’ was his amused response.

I remember our first clock change after having Dylan. We’d just about started to establish a good bedtime routine and I was petrified of losing it. I Googled how to deal with Daylight Savings with children (I Googled most child-related questions back then …. wait, I still do). I can’t recall which site I picked it up from, but the advice I followed involved starting the week before (serious planning required then!). It recommended moving bedtime by 10 minutes every night so that it wouldn’t come as a huge shock to change it by an hour the night before. I followed the advice diligently. D you know what? I actually can’t even remember if it worked or not.

Fast forward to earlier this year when Jude had arrived. With two, I wanted to be as prepared as possible. I spent all week moving their bedtime 10 minutes later each day. Then on the Saturday night as I was quietly sat giving Jude his last feed an hour later than normal, it suddenly dawned on me. I had moved the bedtimes the wrong way! The clocks were going forward not back. I tried to blame sleep deprivation, but in reality I was just being ultra dim!! The following day felt super short indeed.

So tonight I just tried to keep them both awake as long as humanly possible. After a long session at soft play this afternoon, Jude had a later than normal nap and even Dylan managed to sneak in a little kip on the car journey home. So it wasn’t quite as hard as anticipated.

And tomorrow? Well if they do get up earlier, I guess it just means extra opportunities for smiles, kisses and cuddles from my beautiful Rainbows!

P.s The photo at the top is our wallpaper. I’m not obsessed with time … honest!

 

Juggling Mummy – Home life, Work and Fundraising

Juggling balls used to keep things in the air

Wow it feels like such a long time since I sat down at the laptop to write. The blog I posted last week about Ewan’s birth was one I had written (in the main) some time ago and I just updated it and made tweaks. Since we returned from our holiday last month it just feels as though life has been super hectic. I am getting to grips with returning to work, adapting to Adam’s new job and shift patterns, keeping up with day to day house jobs and running around after a now mobile baby and his brother. Then on top of all that, last week I organised and held a quiz to raise money for Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) and a local charity Friends of Serenity. Don’t get me wrong. I love the crazy, mad busyness. And although some days feel hard, I thank my lucky stars that I have two happy and healthy boys to run around after.

Juggling work and being a mum

I’m not even back at work properly yet. Having gone back to work full-time after having Dylan, I was so pleased that I could finally reduce my hours to 4 days a week this time around. Since August I’ve been doing a couple of days a week, mainly because it is our busiest time. From this week I am working 3 days. So I’m having it easy really. I’ve slowly been getting better and better at getting the boys up and ready and dressed and into work on time. Ok I’ve not quite nailed it, but I’ve definitely improved compared to a month ago!

Adam started a new job in July which means he is away for 27 hours at a time, 2-3 times a week. Although it seems a long time to be away, we’ve quickly got used to it. In the long run it’s definitely better as he’ll get to spend more quality time with the boys. And tonight when I came home from work, my tea was ready and on the table. Happy days!

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My mobile baby!

 

Jude loves to explore, and now he is mobile, it’s going to get harder to keep him occupied in the morning (without worrying he isn’t tearing the place apart!). At the moment he is quite happy playing with toys on the bathroom floor whilst I’m in the shower, but I bet that won’t last for long! Adam put the stairgates up today so at least I won’t worry about him toppling down them.

 

I’ve learnt not to put the telly on for Dylan. At first I thought it would help and keep him quiet. But actually all it does is distract him and make him more reluctant to get dressed/have breakfast/brush teeth. So I don’t mention the ‘O’ word (Octonauts) and he seems quite happy to potter around and play with whatever toys are lying about.

Fundraising and quizzing

I feel like one of the things that this blog has done is to reinvigorate my passion for fundraising for Sands. In the two years after Ewan died, we set up a Justgiving Page, organised two quizzes and ran a 10k race raising nearly £8,000. Recently we haven’t done a lot and by writing about stillbirth awareness I am back in ‘that place’ where I want to get involved and help again. At the beginning of the month I went to the Sands AGM and conference, which I am hoping to write about (when I have the time!). Hearing about all the research that is needed to help reduce the stillbirth rate has really spurred me on.

So last Thursday night, which happened to coincide with Baby Loss Awareness day (15th October), 45 of my family and friends gathered together for a night of me on the mic asking questions about anything from Shakespeare quotes to celebrity couples. Typically I was up until about 12 on Wednesday night still writing the questions. Disorganised as usual! The venue for the quiz was at my local college (which also happens to be where I work!). Because we teach Catering, there is a restaurant for the public to dine so that students can practice cooking and front of house skills. The students made huge vats of meat and veggie chilli for us and kept everyone well fed.

RaffleIt was a great night. Although I was hoping for more people (Thursday nights aren’t the best I discovered for other people to get babysitters), we raised almost £600 from the ticket price and raffle. A friend of mine donated a huge chocolate bouquet which definitely led to more raffle tickets being sold. However what really boosted the total was the fact that college only charged me cost price for the food. This added £125 to the total. I was delighted. I think it helped that my friends made good use of the bar!

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I even managed to light my candle at 7pm before the quiz started as part of the international Wave of Light and kept it on all night.

 

Life isn’t going to calm down any time soon. Especially now I’ve got to start fitting in all the training to get ready for the Great North Run. Seeing as I published it here a few weeks ago, there’s no going back! But I can’t complain. It’s all for a great cause. I’m just learning to embrace the chaos and go with the flow!

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Meeting Ewan – My Stillbirth Story

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As it is Baby Loss Awareness week, now feels the right time to share the next part of Ewan’s story. I have already written how we found out about losing our baby, and the weekend we spent at home before coming back into hospital to give birth.

Adam and I were checked into a normal delivery room. We sat on the sofa, waiting to be seen by Elaine, our allocated midwife who we had met on the Friday. I remember what I was wearing – I put on one of my nicest white maternity smocks. I felt like I needed to make an effort and look good. I also wore a necklace that one of my best friends bought me some time ago. I had been wearing it on Friday and I don’t know why, but it felt appropriate to wear it again.

At this point I just need to explain that one thing that got us through the next 12 hours (actually the next week, month and years) was a little bit of humour. It may sound absolutely bizarre in the context of what I am talking about. But when you are in such a terrible situation, humour keeps you sane. It reminds you that you are still alive. That the ability to smile and even (shock horror) laugh just stops you from spiralling down a gloomy black hole never to return.

So we whilst we were waiting in the delivery room, Adam started to fool around. To break the tension of why we were sitting and waiting. And mainly to try and make me smile and feel better! There was a yoga mat so he pretended to do some school-style gymnastics for me. I am smiling now just thinking about it. I commented that anyone looking in at that moment in time would think we were absolutely crackers. As the evening went on we sat talking about our favourite comedy programmes and quoting lines and jokes.

The next couple of hours just involved settling in and trying to get comfortable. Labour wasn’t really progressing very quickly and I only had a few pains. Elaine kept bobbing in and out. She had a lot of blood to take, from both Adam as well as me. This was mainly for genetic tests I think, to see if there was any reason they could find which would explain the death of our baby.

Elaine was just what we needed at that point. Adam and I smile when we talk about Elaine now because she had some bizarre topics of conversation, our favourite being her dog which had ADHD! She was chatty and upbeat and again kept us from slipping into the hole I talked about earlier. She was very experienced and explained what we would expect during and after the birth. At 8pm there was a shift changeover and Elaine left us. We met our new allocated midwife Paula as she came to introduce herself.

I’m a bit fuzzy as to the right order as to the next events. I was probably given a pessary and then went on a drip to try and kick start the induction. It worked. At about 9pm the pain suddenly hit me like a train. I remember getting out of bed to walk around and my waters broke. The contractions came thick and fast. With it came the feeling that I didn’t know whether I could actually get through this. Every woman will tell you that labour is tough, really tough. But for the vast majority of women, it is just about bearable because a) it doesn’t last forever and b) there will be a healthy baby at the end of it. That wouldn’t be the case for me.

I suddenly turned into an uncontrollable raging crazy lady. A brief conversation about pain relief (me asking for as much as I could get) resulted in Paula paging the anaesthetist to give me an epidural. I’m not sure under normal circumstances I would have got one so quickly. But this wasn’t a ‘normal’ situation. Adam was doing his ultimate best to keep me calm and help wherever he could. I don’t think I was very appreciative or accepting of any assistance. It felt like a lifetime before the anaesthetist arrived, but in reality it was probably only 15-20 minutes. My mum and dad had arrived at this point. I hate that they saw me in so much pain, but it was good to have them there.

The epidural was a bizarre experience. The anaesthetist was a gruff, Eastern European man. He had few words and was quite surly. Maybe he knew our situation and didn’t really know what to say. I was petrified when he gave me the instruction not to move, otherwise I could be paralysed. In such pain I didn’t know whether I could do anything but writhe around in pain. It went in successfully though and by the time he finished, my mum had managed to win him round with her light-hearted chit chat. He had softened to the point that he smiled as he left. Another clear memory.

Once the epidural kicked in, things calmed down to the point where I could lay on the bed and even managed to doze for a bit. I was aware of mum, dad and Adam sat round the bed talking. Paula popped in occasionally to check on us. At about midnight, I woke up a bit more and realised that the sensations I was feeling had changed and so we buzzed Paula. After a quick inspection she told me I was fully dilated and that it was time to start pushing.

It’s important to paint the scene a little bit more so that you can understand the emotions I am going to describe. Because it was midnight, obviously it was dark outside. We had really soft lighting; it felt like we only had a small lamp on and the other parts of the room were dark. It was quiet and peaceful. The word I really want to use is ‘serene’. Thanks to the epidural, I wasn’t in any physical pain for which I am so incredibly grateful. And it probably sounds bizarre when you read this, but I can’t imagine we could have had a better birthing experience given our circumstances.

Now you will remember that I said Elaine was great for the early stages and kept us upbeat. As labour progressed, it became clear that Paula was the perfect midwife to guide us through delivery and the hours that followed. When I think about Paula now, I have an unbelievable sense of calm. And feelings of absolute gratitude. To me she was like an angel sent to guide us through our ordeal. She was controlled and calm, kind and understanding. I know that this description might seem odd when I talk about Ewan as our angel, but I really can’t think of another word to use. And I am frustrated with myself that I can’t think of better adjectives to describe the impact she had on us. She was born to be a midwife. She was born to comfort grieving parents. I get incredibly overwhelmed when I think about her.

You may imagine that the physical act of giving birth to a baby who isn’t breathing is a horrendous experience. For many women it is. Especially for those why the baby dies during or at the start of labour. But we had some time to get used to our situation. We knew our baby wouldn’t be alive. I had an epidural so I wasn’t in pain. And it was the middle of the night. It was calm. It was dark. It was winter. It was peaceful and it felt like there was no-one else in the world at that time but me, Adam, Paula and the baby we were about to meet.

Our son was born at 12.44am on Monday 17th January 2011. It was calm and peaceful. No cry, no screams. There was silence. Paula told us it was a boy. I remember saying sorry to Adam. Why? I guess I thought he would be more upset because we had lost a son rather than a daughter (yes, stupid I know). Paula handed him to me to hold. Paula asked Adam if he wanted to cut the cord, which he did. I cradled my baby. Adam cradled us both. And we cried.

We called him Ewan Mark. Ewan (you may remember) was our favourite boys name, and Mark after Adam’s dad.

Time slowed for the next few hours. We sat with Ewan in the delivery room. We held him and kissed him. I asked Paula if we could bathe him. She said it would probably be a better idea not to, because his skin was so fragile. So we didn’t. Instead we dressed him together and wrapped him in a blanket. We took photographs and created memories. My mum and dad came into spend some time with their grandson. Paula moved in and out, staying in the background, and was there if and when we needed her.

When we were on our own, the three of us, Adam played some music. The one song that sticks with me is Beautiful Boy by John Lennon. Seeing Adam talking to Ewan about John Lennon and the Beatles just broke my heart.

At some point in the early hours mum and dad went home and we moved from our birthing room to the Serenity Suite taking Ewan with us in a crib. There was a double bed in the suite and after a shower, we tried to get some well needed rest. We were exhausted and drained, both mentally and physically. We probably only slept in 20-30 minute bursts. When we were awake we would kiss and hold Ewan, talking to him and each other. Paula kept popping in and I remember being in a half awake/half asleep state as she took my blood pressure.

As it started to get light, Paula offered us some toast. Isn’t it funny how I can still remember the taste of that toast now! It was dripping with butter and tasted amazing. I was so hungry.

At the 8am shift change, Paula came to say goodbye. I tried, but probably failed miserably, to thank her for all her help and support. I knew that she would go home emotionally drained too, and wanted her to be aware of what an amazing job she had done. We gave each other a huge hug.

It wasn’t much later when we asked to be discharged. It felt like it was time to go home. Although staff said that we could stop as long as we needed to, we wanted to be back in our familiar and comforting surroundings. Earlier, Adam and I had a discussion about whether we should bring Ewan home with us, or to leave him at the hospital. In the end, we decided not to bring him home. One of the midwives came in and asked us how we wanted to leave. Did we want someone to come and take Ewan away first, or for us to leave him in the room? It moved me that they asked such a question. I didn’t really want either, but we needed to make a decision. We opted to say our goodbyes on our own and leave when we were ready.

Walking out of that room was one of the hardest parts of the whole weekend. It absolutely broke my heart and I cried harder than before. We held onto each other and somehow guided ourselves out of the Birth Suite and out of hospital.

Our arms were empty, but we took Ewan home in our hearts.

Always loved and never forgotten.

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Our Super Scottish Holiday!!

And so begins my first ever holiday blog. I’m really looking forward to writing about our Scottish holiday, because hopefully in years to come I’ll be able to look back and fondly read through, recalling a lot of the detail that I will probably have forgotten.

It will be hard to cram it all into one post. Especially seeing as we have done so many wonderful things. My plan is to write a few more specific posts about some of the things we got up to (if I have the time!). We were only away for a week yet we managed to pack so much in, despite being pretty sleep deprived for a lot of the time. Poor Jude was been teething most of the week, which he shared with us most mornings around 3, 4, 5 and 6 am! Bless him, I can tell he was in such pain. It also means he was a bit crammed during the day, so it wasn’t always easy keeping him happy (lots of walking up and down in the Baby Bjorn helped though). Still, Dylan had a brilliant time. He has really grasped the concept of what a holiday is now and it is great to witness everything through his eyes.

We chose Scotland because it was almost 18 months since our last visit and 3 years since our last proper holiday. As I’ve written before, Adam and I love visiting Scotland. Whilst we want the boys to see the world which we have been lucky enough to experience, we also want them to appreciate the beauty of the British Isles.

Saturday

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The view from the cottage

Although it was only a 3 hour journey to Dumfries and Galloway, we built in a lunchtime stop at Tebay services to make sure the boys weren’t too fed up strapped in their car seats. I absolutely love this place. It’s so family friendly and is the most picturesque motorway services I’m aware of. Whilst Dylan was still asleep in the car, we managed to quickly set up his room and Adam laid out all the toys we had brought so he would be excited and hopefully take to the room without a problem. It worked, and he was more than happy to be on the first floor on his own. Even more exciting was seeing the sea from his bedroom window.

IMG_7137Carsethorn itself was a pretty small place. A few houses, a B & B and a pub. The beach is stone and shingle so Dylan was more than happy throwing stones into the sea. The bigger the better. We wandered down the beach to the pub and stumbled across a shark rock. This was heaven for a boy currently in the midst of an Octonauts obsession. There was also a wooden boat to fulfil his pirate appetite!

 

Dylan was pretty mortified when it was time for bed, but perked up when we told him he could come and visit the shark and boat the next day.

Sunday

Our plan for the day revolved round a visit to Dino Park, east of Dumfries. Our eyes lit up the day before when we drove past the sign. Given that most of the books and toys Dylan had brought with him were dinosaur related, it was a fitting location. And it didn’t disappoint. The park was full of various dinosaurs, with information plaques (and helpful phonetic aids to get the pronunciations right!). We had been warned that the noises would be triggered as we moved closer. At first Dylan was stunned and (although he wouldn’t like to admit it) a bit scared. He soon worked out that they weren’t real and was happy to run from one to the next. A dinosaur themed bouncy castle and an adventure play park were the icing on the cake.

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Monday

We drove out past Kircudbright to the Cream O’ Galloway activity centre. This was an absolutely amazing place and I can’t wait to write more about it. Being school term-time, we almost had the run of the place to ourselves. We packed in a walk with some cows and a picnic (always a winner with Dylan) before throwing ourselves onto Go Boing – a network of suspended aerial trampoline-like nets. It wouldn’t have been safe to take Jude on, so Adam and I had to take it in turns to jump around like fools with Dylan. We had so much fun and it was difficult to tear him away to explore the 3D maze and huge viewing tower. Given that the Cream O Galloway is an ice-cream company, obviously we had to sample the goods. Thumbs up from Dylan!

We treated ourselves to a meal in the pub in Carsethorn, the Steamboat Inn when we got back. As well as serving beautiful seafood, it was always desked out with various nick nacks including a huge shark mounting on the wall – guess who wanted to go and see it time after time?!? It was so nice to be able to have a sneaky glass of wine without having to worry about driving back anywhere. I was pretty chuffed with this photograph.

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Tuesday

Walking up to see blue skies and sun, it would have been rude not to head to the beach. Dylan had been asking ever since we arrived if we could make sandcastles. So armed with buckets and spades, another picnic (and various other paraphernalia!) we hit Rockcliffe beach.

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This is a great place for kids to explore – rocks to climb, searching the rockpools for sea creatures and of course, plenty of sand. The tide was well out, but we weren’t really planning on swimming! Jude was particularly crammed so we took it in turns to explore with Dylan. When it was my turn, we started making sandcastles, until Dylan decided it was much more fun to watch me make them and then for him to kick them over! Errr no Dylan!

Wednesday

Our first and only rainy day. But no matter. I had a particular place in mind to visit; the Cocoa Bean Company near Kircudbright. Another brilliant place to visit, this was a perfect place to spend a few rainy hours.

Jude experiencing soft play

Jude experiencing soft play

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Chocolatier in training

There was a café and soft play but the main feature for us was the chocolate making workshop. Again I want to write a lot more about this as it was such a great activity and Dylan cites this as being the highlight of the holiday. Great praise indeed.

 

 

The rain also cleared for us to spend some time in the outdoor play area. What 3 year old wouldn’t want to spend the rest of the afternoon on a pirate ship? We had to dig deep with our persuasive skills when it was time to leave.

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Thursday

P1100397It was a bit cooler and windier, but we still managed to spend some time at the beach again. We went out for lunch first to a nice wee village called Kippford. Jude fell asleep in the car during the 5 minute journey to Rockcliffe (typical) so Adam stayed in the car with him. We figured Jude needed to catch up on his sleep. So Dylan and I braved the wind and were determined to have fun. I initiated a game of football in order to warm up!

I took this photo below on Rockcliffe Beach.

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I’ve decided to try and write the names of my angel and two rainbows on every beach (or holiday) we go on. The first time I did it was in Whitby when we went for a break in April. I guess I want Ewan to know we are thinking about him. Dylan gave me a hand this time. He doesn’t know the significance yet. One day he will.

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Friday

On our last full day, we went on a bit of a journey. We drove nearly two hours up to Glasgow to meet up with my sister-in-law. She lives with my brother in the States so we only get to see her once or twice a year if we are very lucky. She was over in Scotland visiting her mum and it happened to coincide with our holiday, so we could resist the temptation to see her. Even just for a few hours.

The Kelvingrove in Glasgow
The Kelvingrove in Glasgow

 

She suggested the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, thinking it would have a few things to keep Dylan amused. She wasn’t wrong.

We had visited the Natural History Museum in London a few weeks earlier, which he loved, and there were some similarities. The Kelvingrove is a beautiful building (like in London) and given the huge variety of exhibits, it’s no surprise that it is the most visited museum in the UK outside of London. Oh and it’s free too!

Dylan particularly loved the natural history; animals, sharks and (of course) dinosaurs. I was intrigued by these floating heads. Maybe we didn’t take as much notice of all the exhibitions as we should have (too much nattering and catching up), but there is nothing to stop us going again!

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Back home after the two-hour drive, we treated ourselves again to a meal at the Steamboat Inn. Another glass of wine and possibly the best fish pie ever! To round off the holiday, we watched Braveheart back at the cottage.

 

Not including our weekend in Whitby, it was our first proper holiday as a foursome. Despite Jude’s disrupted nights and general poorliness, we still had a brilliant time. Just being together as a family without having to think about all the run-of-the-mill, day-to-day jobs, housework etc, is heavenly. We picked a wonderful spot to stay and this particular corner of Scotland has so much to offer for little ones. I can’t wait for our next break away.