Sunday, 14 April 2013

Keeping drawers: handling the creative genius of your children.

Our children like to make & draw stuff. A lot. This is great & we try really hard to nurture their creative sides.
We also like to be able to sit down without crushing a dragon made from an old egg box, some bottle lids & a scavenged piece of tin foil.

"No mummy, that's not a dragon that's a nazgul on a fen beast duh".

Our latest solution to this ongoing saga of our adult luddism is the 'keeping drawers'
Each child now has a drawer (a box would work just as well) where they can put all their crap/amazing creations & then once a big term they have to filter through it to make space for new stuff.

Today was the day of the Grand Sort & it was actually lovely! They are getting better & better at being able to decide what they still feel proud of and it is pretty amazing looking at how much their drawing, numbers and letter writing have improved.

Unfortunately we seem to have misplaced Lucas's first class book in which he wrote "I wiw kiw yoo" on every single page (why would his class teachers not have been concerned enough to mention this?).

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

20 Spring and Summer things to look forward to.

I am feeling miserable today. I've realised that I'm over half way through my 6 months' maternity leave & it's still never ending winter and we continue to be beset by one illness after another; currently horrible, painful sinusitis.
I think I had this picture in my head that by the time I went back to work we'd have had a lovely spring & Maddox would be sitting up, starting solids. It's turned out, though, that no. 3 is a particularly sleepy baby who has been poorly quite a bit & is just not in a rush to do anything except cuddle, feed & smile. Which is lovely, just not quite what I had pictured so I'm having to rethink my way through feeling trapped & a bit panicky about the whole thing.
So, in an attempt to achieve this, here is my list of things I'm looking forward to for this spring & summer (assuming we actually get something that fits those descriptions!) :

1. Erin is turning 4! We are planning a Mad Hatter's Tea party for her.
2. Lots of trips to the zoo with our season pass. We've started taking sketch books with us for the kids & they love to sit & draw the animals.
3. Maddox naming ceremony. We're keeping this really small on account of space & poverty & such but it will be great to celebrate the completion of our family.
4. Using our new Boba 3g sling to go on walks as a family.
5. Picnics in the park
6. Buying fresh, local fruit from roadside stalls & the market.
7. Just popping to the local park
8. Beach!
9.The outdoor pool.
10. Making camps in the woods
11. Primrosing & walking through the bluebells.
12. A Big joint party with my besties for our 30ths.
13. Camping in our lovely bell tent.
14. Getting to go to Ireland for the first time for our good friends' wedding!
15. Maddox learning to sit, move, eat and otherwise exploring his world.
16. Working on our garden.
17. Lying in our garden with my Kindle/book.
18. Getting to teach again (sad maybe but I love my job).
19. Flowers.
20. SUN!!!

What are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

When to intervene: should we be calling the Doctor?

We've had 3 poorly children since Christmas, ranging from the sniffles to needing hospitalisation and as a result, Den & I have ended up having a few discussions about what point they needed trips to doc and/or medical interventions.
Generally, I pride myself on the health of our children. They have all been breastfed, we take a supplement called Juice Plus which my husband is registered to sell, eat healthily & live a healthy, lifestyle. The children are pretty robust so we're reluctant to mess with that with antibiotics etc. and assume they'll just fight off coughs and colds.
When they get anything more serious though, I feel I'm willing/keen to take them to the Doctor sooner than Den is. I'm not sure if it's that a maternal instinct kicks in or something else but when my cubs are poorly I have no issue with appearing like the paranoid, hypochondriac Mother if I feel it's something serious.
I recently read about a charity called Mother's Instinct which aims to encourage medical professionals to listen more to what they are being told by parents & respect them as 'experts on their own children" and my recent experience in the paediatric ward would certainly support the need for this (although I found the nurses to often be quite good at this already).
I' m still not quite sure how I feel about antibiotics though. The views always seem to be so very polar about this but I think that I'm somewhere in the middle in reality. I completely agree that it does more harm than good to give antibiotics for a cold, and I do think we should give our bodies the chance to fight for themselves but after 4 days of watching Lucas be lethargic, cough and be (extremely unusually) off his food I just thought that we really are not medical professionals and if there was something the doctor would pick up on that we hadn't, or if their years of training told them antibiotics would be beneficial in this particular circumstance then it was totally worth (almost literally)  pushing Den out of the door to take him to the Doc.
Does anyone else have a timeframe/criteria before they take the doctor and medicine route?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

6 Things to do when stuck indoors with sick kids

The last couple of week have been pretty rotten, with the kids seeming to take it in turns to get ill whilst the snow trapped us in the house. Cabin Fever has certainly set in ; the kids are now well enough to be bored and I'm going stir crazy from not having left the house in days while we waited for Maddox to be fully over bronchiolitis. 
So...  here are a few of the things we've tried to stave off the kids' boredom & without losing (too much) of my sanity:

1. Watch David Attenborough. 
It's totally fair enough that poorly sick kids need to be snuggled up on the sofa & allowed to watch quantities of t.v. that would never normally be acceptable but there's just no way that I can cope with that many rubbishy cartoons! Nature shows are our compromise on this. They have the ability to really cheer you up on a miserable day as you wonder at the world whilst also allowing a sick child to zone out guilt free as it's educational. Right? 

I like to think of this as 'modelling'. In which, I read my book and the kids 'read' a book of their own whilst we snuggle up together. After a while they can be rewarded with being read a few books of their choice (although I'm quite picky about which ones I will read them). 

3. Meal Planning
This is a necessary evil but we've found the kids really enjoy getting the recipe books out and picking pictures of meals they'd like to be added (which we then filter carefully before adding). 

4. Metaphysical Hide and Seek (hat tip to @luciemussett and @TashaEhmann) 
-This is like 20 questions except you think of a location (this can be anywhere in time, space, fiction or reality). So for example I could be hiding behind Mona Lisa's front tooth in the Louvre or on top of our wedding cake (otherwise known as the leaning tower of cheese). 

5. Learn important life skills
-so this week Erin has learnt how to blow her nose independently and Lucas has learnt the importance of not leaving snotty tissues lying around! 

6. If all else fails, let them get every single toy out & make a 'world'. 
Looking ny Town
What could you add to this list (all my suggestions have had to be achievable whilst breastfeeding no. 3)?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Bronchi Baby

Baby in a box

Maddox has kept us on our toes pretty much since he was conceived (you can read about the pregnancy here and the birth here) but this month he gave us another scare through getting really poorly with bronchiolitis.

He started off with a snuffly cold which I first noticed as the Health Visitor was weighing him and telling us how great he was doing. By the following evening (typically a Friday) his nose was getting so blocked that it was interfering with his feeding and he was coughing. I thought I was being paranoid, but given all the news about whooping cough, I phoned the out of ours service on Saturday morning and we were given an appointment with an out of ours GP which involved a 20 minute drive with all three children. By the time we got to the appointment I was concerned about how sleepy he seemed & that he was not feeding that much but he had been a sleepy baby since birth so it was very hard to judge with a 4 week old. I'm very glad I trusted my instincts though as the GP notes that he was difficult to rouse and that his breathing seemed a bit laboured- sinking slightly in just under his ribs so phoned and booked us in to the paediatric ward at the hospital. 

Another 30odd minutes drive trying to stay very calm so as not to panic the other 2 children, we arrived at the paediatric ward & I took Maddox in, still thinking we were probably overreacting but better to be safe than sorry, while Den took the other two children into the town to occupy them.

The first doctor that I saw was brilliant. She sat with us for a good while, made sure she actually heard what the cough sounded like (it was intermittent but coming in little coughing fits), saw the laboured breathing, thoroughly examined him & noticed that he seemed to be jaundiced again so ordered blood tests. 

She explained that he most likely had a virus called bronchiolitis which was quite common in babies. The symptoms are similar to bronchitis in adults. The virus is largely a bad cold in older children/ adults but with little lungs and noses it can become more serious in babies. The major concerns seemed not to be the cough but the risk of dehydration where he was losing the energy to feed and possible effects on his breathing from restricted airways.

After a few  hours of observation, where I still couldn't rouse him enough to get him to feed, the decision was made to put in a naso gastric tube to prevent dehydration and keep him in overnight. I was expressing milk by this point as he wasn't taking it and it was starting to get painful so we used this expressed breast milk in the ng tube which made the whole thing seem slightly less invasive (I still cried though).

By the morning, the tube feeds seemed to have given him enough energy to start feeding from the breast again and the doctor told us that if he was feeding for normal (15-20minute) feed again then he was happy to discharge us. So at about 4.30 we left the hospital to come home with 24hrs of 'Open Access' which meant we could phone and go straight back to the ward if we needed to. Maddox was still sleepy but he was feeding longer and his breathing seemed alot better. 

He seemed better for about 12 hours but in the night he just stopped feeding. My breasts became full of milk but I couldn't rouse him to feed at all and he seemed like he was struggling with breathing again. So, after a hurried arranging of childcare (thanks Gram!) we were on our way back to the hospital getting increasingly worried. Unfortunately, when we got to the ward it was extremely busy. To begin with we were put in a general day clinic waiting room (which in hindsight seems an odd choice given that bronchiolitis is infectious) and when we asked if I could express some milk we were taken out of the ward  and into a parents' room off the corridor for a bit of privacy. As we waited, Maddox would still barely feed and his breathing seemed to be getting worse with his stomach sucking in under his ribs and a spot on his throat also sucking in. It was pretty terrifying. 

Our nurse was very reassuring but there seemed to be little she could do to mitigate the fact that they were just incredibly busy. Finally, after taking his raised temperature, we were taken to see a doctor who seemed more interested in the (perfectly normal) milk spots on his chin than his breathing issues or the fact that he had not fed for 12 hours! We had to become a bit pushy  about the need to give him an ng tube to get milk inside him  but finally, after waiting in the hospital for 6 hours, they reinserted the tube. Something wasn't right though, he was crying when they tried to pull fluid out to check it and grabbing at his face like he hadn't the first time. After trying several other theories, the nurse eventually remeasured the tube and realised that it wasn't in quite far enough which would explain his discomfort & why they couldn't get any fluids to test (fluids are pulled out to check for stomach acids to prove the milk will be going to the right place).

We started again with the tube feeds and me expressing milk and  he gradually started to be able to take a bit of milk from the breast. At this point, the nurses started to say that little and often was actually better for babies with bronchiolitis as a full tummy puts excess pressure on the lungs that are already struggling. I was quite surprised that this was so different to what the doctor had said when he discharged us and have found the nurses' advice to be much more useful and logical. 

By the evening, Maddox's feeding was much improved but even little and often seemed to be putting effort on his breathing & every time he fell asleep his oxygen saturation levels started to drop so we started putting him in an oxygen head box to help ease his breathing. By about midday the next day we stopped the tube feeds but left the tube in for the moment but he was still needing the oxygen. We felt abit trapped by the numbers on the monitor as when he was awake his pulse seemed to spike, setting off the alarm and when he was asleep his sats would drop, setting off that alarm!
I became obsessed with the numbers!
The left is sats which needs to be between 93 & 100
and the right is pulse which needs to be between 120 & 180 for a baby!

We continued to find the doctor quite dismissive, he made no attempt to come to our level when he spoke to us, seemed quite dismissive and it felt like we had to really push for another night even though he was still using the oxygen when the doctor came for his very brief round. The nurses were great though and another night of using the headbox at their suggestion seemed to be enough to give him the strength to fight on his own so that by the next morning that sats had stopped falling and we were back to basically a miserably cough & cold and finally came home. 

The first night back home was fairly terrifying as the early hours seemed to be when it had got worse each day but we got through it ok and after about a week the cough has now fully cleared up.

It may be a coincidence or it may have been the ng tube but since coming home from the hospital Maddox has been quite colicky and refluxy and in need of being held pretty much all the time. Hopefully this too shall pass!

Birth Story: Baby no.3

Baby Maddox  Born 13th December 2012 at 8,52pm weighing 7lb 9oz
My first two babies arrived via lovely, calm & only gas & air assisted, very natural home births, so we were quite anxious & unhappy when it became definite that this would not be the case with number 3 (you can read about why this was here). After 10+ years of Endometriosis, 5 years of Fibromyalgia, bleeding in early pregnancy and two miscarriages, hospitals are not a place I feel safe or at ease.

So... after I'd recovered from a little cry, Den and I discussed how to make the best of a bad situation. We arranged to have a later than normal appointment so that we could send the older two off to a normal school/ nursery day, packed a hospital bag that was mostly full of food and set off for the hospital determined to  not allow any form of intervention, whatsoever, without a full explanation that we were satisfied by; how annoying we must be to the busy, overworked midwives!

We arrived at the hospital just after 10.30 and  were shown into a ward with three (empty) beds, a sofa & a tv. We waited, reading our books, until around 12 before I had my initial assessment. It turned out that this was bizzarely reassuring as the midwives had been waiting to check with my consultant before beginning the induction as this not standard at 39 weeks. We did point out that the notes were misleading at this point as one of the registrars had notes spd down as a joint reason for early induction which it was not (I did not do this with the other 2 & would not have this time). We took the opportunity of this first assessment to make it very clear to our lovely midwife that we were very apprehensive about any intervention, both for the baby and the risk of permanent damage to my pelvis because of the spd Symphysis pubis dysfunction) . The midwife's response was again reassuring 
and on assessing me she explained that although I was 'favourable' for the 
prostin gel, she wanted the baby's head to be more engaged first so she 
conducted another membrane sweep (I'd had one two days earlier that hadn't 
worked) and we were sent off for a walk around the hospital.
The walking round the hospital was tough because my pelvis had become so 
painful by this stage in the pregnancy and I could only achieve it in little stages 
but I found the birthing ball to be very helpful; at least it felt like I was doing 

I think about an hour later I was next assessed and this time they used the 
prostin gel and off we went round the hospital again. By about half 3 the 
contractions had started and were becoming regular but manageable. By 6 I 
was ready for things to move on but was told they couldn't examine me until 
at least 7 which made me a bit tearful (well that and the crazy hormone 
overload!) At 7 I was hooked up to the monitor for another 20 min check of the 
baby and as all was ok I was assessed again and my waters were broken 
(not fun!). After another 20 mins on the monitor we were told we could move to 
one of the labour rooms. As soon as I sat up to get ready to move down the 
corridor I could feel that the contractions were stronger and longer and this felt 
oddly reassuring as it felt like progress and it felt familiar from the other 
pregnancies. It was quite a relief as we'd been told that they usually give you no
 longer than 2 hours after the waters breaking for labour to become established 
and I was DESPERATE not to end up on my back on a drip.

As soon as I started to move, supported by Den, down the corridor the 
contractions seemed to pick up even more and I kept having to stop. By the 
time we reached the labour room I was feeling really dizzy and like I was going 
to faint. It took me some considerable effort to communicate this to Den and 
 for a midwife. Den helped me to change out of my clothes and up on to the 
bed but I felt like I was really struggling at this point and was experiencing 
rising anxiety as if something wasn't going right. It felt to me as if quite alot of 
time had passed here but it really can't have been very long at all. 

At about 8.20, the new midwife (after 8pm shift change) came in to introduce 
herself and her 3rd year student & check if we were ok. I managed to
 communicate that I felt I was struggling & they set me up with gas & air. 
This helped me to ask when the baby needed to next be monitored as I was 
feeling anxious about him, we'd been told we'd need constant monitoring but 
that hadn't happened. The midwife left her student to assess me whilst she went
 to get the monitoring equipment ready but suddenly I had a contraction that just
 didn't stop. I was aware of the (very capable) student midwife asking Den to 
press the button to call back the midwife, of Den saying that he'd been pressing 
it but it wasn't working, of the student asking Den to call out the door, of both 
Den and the student shouting for the midwife and then the baby was there! 
Maddox started to cry as soon as his head was out and it was such a beautiful 
relief to hear that sound; the last thing I'd been aware of thinking was that he 
needed to be monitored so my anxiety was quite high I think. Apparently I said 
"he's alright" as I heard him cry. The midwives passed him to me through my 
legs & they and Den helped me lean back & turn around so that I could sit back 
and hold him skin to skin. 

Maddox proved to be a sleepy baby, his lack of enthusiasm for a first feed was 
quite disconcerting after my first 2 greedy guzzlers but probably a blessing in 
disguise at this point as I got a serious case of the shakes after all the adrenaline
 of such a speedy delivery! ALthough I'd had a natural 3rd stage with the other 2
 babies, I agreed after an hour to have the injection as my legs were shaking so 
much I wasn't sure I could actually manage it otherwise.

After Den had gone home to be with our other two, the midwives helped me to 
bath & get into a bed in a maternity ward where I failed miserably to sleep & just
 stared adoringly at our boy until he had his first proper feed around 4 in the 

It was truly amazing to take home our wonderful, complete family the next day!

Three is enough!