On winning differently

So you seem to have failed at this year’s NaBloPoMo third day out, but to be fair you have only just got home from work, you are ill, and it is a holiday tomorrow.

Today.

Whatever.

I don’t know why you didn’t realise that moving countries and flinging your children into a new school each would mean that they hit every germ on the way down, and then give them to you.

You have resorted to giving them extra vitamins. Squishy bear vitamins. Not like in your day, when it was a spoonful of orange flavoured vitamin C fortified cod liver oil throughout your childhood. Ineffectually, you suspect, given quite how often you got tonsillitis. Or the giant capsules your Granny Rod sent you at Uni, which you took mainly because you felt quite loved by her insistence over them.

Anyway. I seem to remember it took you and the Star the better part of a year to build up a resistance when he started English school, so expect many more moaning posts between now and then. Except more so, because now the Comet and Babushka have joined in the fun.

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On convalescence

You aten’t dead.

Your husband aten’t dead, although he might be traumatised.

The children are also fairly perky, which is excellent news. Mainly due to the power of both Calpol AND Nurofen mind. There has been no more throwing up but the sheer amount of snot two children working together can produce has to be seen to be believed.

So you are in lockdown mode. The windows are sealed shut, the TV is on, the pancakes are slathered in chocolate spread, the toys are scattered all over the floor, and your MiL’s voice is in danger of going, after she has read approximately five million books in one day.

Tomorrow, round two. Attack of the even better feeling children. You have therefore decided that the Solnushka family will be making Christmas cards and/ or presents, depending on what you can find lying around the house.

Might as well get some use out of the situation. Especially as you can probably post the pictures for tomorrow’s post.

On statistics

So the Comet has just woken up with a raging temperature and in the same 30 minutes, the Star’s cough got the better of him and he has thrown up.

All over his Papa, which makes that a 100% record. Papa covered in 100 litres of sick in the last four and a half years, Mama zero. Result.

You have resisted the impulse to take a picture of the carnage for blogging purposes. Just.

On Better Miscarriage Care.

You have had two miscarriages and you consider yourself lucky.

Obviously you consider yourself lucky because despite miscarrying you have two live, healthy and handsome children. But you also consider yourself lucky because you had your miscarriages at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. And Chelsea and Westminster Hospital is pretty good when it comes to looking after miscarrying women.

This is worth mentioning. It is worth mentioning because good care of miscarrying women is not something that miscarrying women can expect. And it should be.

So you feel that Mumsnet’s latest campaign should be supported. They are asking for a Miscarriage Code of Care to be implemented.

They want, we all want, we all should be able to expect:

  • Supportive staff
  • Access to scanning
  • Safe and appropriate places for treatment
  • Good information and effective treatment
  • Joined up care

But what does that mean in practice?

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital has a special ward, somewhat euphemistically called the Early Pregnancy Unit* separate from the ante or post natal wards, so separate it is on the opposite side of the building and on a different floor, for women who have pregnancy of other gynecological or obstetric complications. This means that you were not forced, as others have been forced, to miscarry while surrounded by pregnant women or new mothers. Admittedly, you found out that your first baby had died while surrounded by pregnant bellies, but that was because you had a missed miscarriage which was only discovered when you went in for your 12 week scan. They let you hide out in the scanning room, though, while they booked you in to the early pregnancy unit, which given that the ante natal clinic of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital is busy busy busy was not an inconsiderable favour.

The staff at the Early Pregnancy Unit have clearly been trained in how to react to people who are miscarrying.  For your first miscarriage they provided you with a room to sit in and cry, and when you were admitted to the ward for a D&C** they put you at the far end, drew the curtains, and left you alone as much as possible. For your second, you were even more grateful. You were only six weeks along, but the nurse announced the confirmation of your loss with the same weight and sympathy you would expect in the announcement of any family member’s death. That acknowledgement meant a lot and still does. And yet it is not something that everyone gets.

You also did not have any trouble getting a scan. Of course, you were sensible enough to have your miscarriages midweek, which helps. And since the point of a missed miscarriage is that nothing is happening, a scan for assessment purposes was inevitable. At the time you personally needed it to confirm that the nightmare was real. You were torn between hope that a mistake had been made and that the heartbeat would show up this time and dread that a mistake would be made and a D&C would be performed on a perfectly happy baby if you didn’t check and double check just one more time. The fact that there was no need to fight for that, as some people have had to fight for it, is something you are grateful for.

Given that your second miscarriage was so early that you had only a few days before let your GP practice in on the situation, it seems you were also lucky to be able to phone the unit up on the morning you started bleeding and get an appointment for first thing the next day. You were armed with the promise of a referral from the (sympathetic) on-call doctor at your local surgery, but given that you’d only just put the phone down to him when you phoned them, you were mildly surprised to find they were so accommodating.

The quality of information they gave you in order to help you choose what you wanted to do was similarly without reproach and they were careful, especially in the first instance, to bring the miscarriage support groups to your attention.

Unfortunately, you will say that after you D&C you had not realised, and nobody told you, that you would start getting contractions, and really quite impressive ones, when your body finally caught up with the reality of the situation. They did seem bemused that you were waving away the painkillers as you left, but it has been your experience that Hospitals are often a bit vague about what might happen to you once you are out of their care. It’s something you feel could be improved across the board for all types of health issues. As it happens you were able to ring up NHS Direct, who explained the fact of life patiently and reassure you that nothing had been damaged permanently. Still, a heads up would have saved you some anxiety, and you might have taken the painkillers they offered you home too.

As for the joined up care, for your second miscarriage, despite the trip to the Hospital and the call to the doctor’s, you still received all the letters booking you in for your first antenatal appointment, along with your free prescription card and a magazine-style brochure detailing every week of pregnancy and containing lots of jolly articles about what you could expect over the next 40 weeks.

You don’t know when you received it, though, as in an act of great wisdom and kindness, your husband hid all of these things from you and you didn’t find them all until some months later***. You are therefore going to assume that this was just an accident of the timing of your miscarriage so close to your initial GP visit. Certainly, unlike others, you heard no more about it when the appointment time duly rolled round. Still, you do feel that perhaps the notifications of miscarriage to the relevant departments could be given a higher priority.

That was your experience. But it seems that you simply won the postcode lottery this time. To help make the experience as bearable as possible for all women, join the campaign. Write to MPs, to the Health Secretary, to the local NHS trust, and even the local paper.

Mumsnet has some advice about this here.

*The name could do with some work, it’s true.

**Which is what you have if you decide not to let nature take its course, when you have a dead baby inside you showing no desire to leave of its own accord. You are afraid you absolutely refuse to explain the procedure any more than that. You had to explain more times than you care to remember while you were waiting to have it done, as it seems to be standard practice to ask patients what they are in for every time blood pressure or whatever needs taking and you had neither learned the acronym nor thought of a gentle way to phrase it. This could be improved. Unfortunately, you are not sure how as undoubtedly there is some sound reason for checking the patient knows what is being done to her, and the alternative, having the nurse supply the prompt would probably look like this: ‘So you are here for a D&C?’ ‘What?’ ‘[Insert brutal medical description here]’.  Still, advising miscarrying women to memorise the acronym quickly might help.

***It’s all still there, in an obscure corner of an obscure cupboard. I don’t think either of you can bear to remove it.

On Postnatal Depression.

So about a month ago your Health Visitor decided you had Postnatal Depression (PND).

To be fair, you had sobbed all over her twice in two weeks, including  a particularly spectacular meltdown in the middle of a very busy baby clinic.

However, it seems neither she, nor the doctor who you also cried at, are actually allowed to tell you they think you have PND.

Or at least this was what you gathered from all the heavy hinting they were doing. ‘The tears,’ the doctor said, very carefully, and trying to make you look her in the eye, ‘ are worrying me.’  The Health Visitor just kept patting you, asking if you were sure you were all right and arranged a home visit for the next weigh in.

You assume the idea is not to put diagnosis into the patient’s head.

In spite of everything, you found this quite amusing. And you were very tempted to see how far you could push them before they said something specific. Sanity prevailed, however, and you didn’t.

Anyway. You disagree.

Or rather you are unclear what the difference between PND and being sleep deprived is.

Don’t get me wrong, you freely admit to having been unhinged following the birth of a child. After the Star was born, you were slightly psychotic about anything to do with feeding him bottles.

You had a separate kettle just to boil the water for his bottles. You took the skin off the back of your hands using anti bacterial soap in a really frantic manner before you touched the feeding aparatus. And you would obsess about getting the exact level scoop full and no more (or less) of formula into the water to the extent that you would start again if you felt you had got a few grains more or less in the bottle than was strictly required.

You never got on with pumping partly because you never produced more than a couple of ounces of milk out of it and partly because you couldn’t bring yourself to feed milk to your son which could have been contaminated with germs, or gone off, or got switched with ooooooh, I dunno, bleach while it was innocently sitting in the fridge.

And do not ask about weaning and the cleaning trauma that caused.

It was your way of coping (or, perhaps, not coping) with your failure to exclusively breastfeed the Star.

This time the breastfeeding went tits up a lot more quickly. Or rather, when the Comet started flatlining the growth charts you caved in a lot quicker. Never let it be said that you are incapable of leaning from history.

But you can’t say you were happy about it. Hence the tears.

Now the problem with trying to exclusively breastfeed when you don’t seem to be producing enough milk is that on top of the sleep you aren’t getting because you have a two month old baby, there is the sleep you aren’t getting because you have a two month old baby who you need to wake up in order to get an extra feed or three in. And when even this doesn’t work, you will still continue with the extra feeding and the loss of sleep to minimise the amount of formula you have to pour down your child’s throat.

Plus, when you have two children to look after, they tend to seep in shifts. You never catch up.

When you are suffering from extreme sleep deprivation your face goes numb.

You get light-headed and ever so slightly delirious.

You can’t remember anything and it requires a five-minute effort of will to work up the smile to interact with anyone, including, sometimes, your baby, your toddler or your husband. Particularly your husband, who is not quite as inherently cute as your children.

It’s not a great way to live. And it goes on for months. And months and months and months. And, for some people, years, but luckily your children take after their mother and sleep quite well.

When they aren’t being woken out of a deep sleep at 3am so their Mama can desperately get them to laboriously suck another half an ounce out of her uncooperative breasts that is.

So given that you, the woman who needs eight hours straight every night or you get cranky, have been surviving on three-hour stretches maximum for the last three months, is it any wonder you start to have symptoms such as these (from Netmums):

  • Low mood.*
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in your relationships or surroundings.
  • Constantly feeling tired. No energy.**
  • Sleeping problems – can’t get to sleep or waking in the early hours and not being able to get back to sleep.***
  • Crying a lot, often over the smallest things or for no reason at all
  • Can’t eat or over-eating.****
  • Physical aches and pains, such as headaches, stomach pains or blurred vision and worrying that it is something terminal or serious.*****
  • Lack of motivation to get up and do anything , feel things are piling up around you. ******
  • A constant underlying sense of anxiety maybe escalating into panic attacks. Easily “set off” and difficult to calm down.*******
  • Difficulty concentrating, say on a book or film or even on a conversation.********
  • Putting on a front. Feeling like you are playing out a role rather than just living the moment.
  • Feeling lonely and isolated. Perhaps feeling rejected by friends, family, even your partner and your baby or children. Or avoiding going out and meeting people.
  • Sense of feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope.
  • No interest in sex.*********
  • Feeling guilty about everything – especially wondering if you are being a bad mother.
  • Overly anxious and over protective of your baby.********
  • Feeling emotionally disconnected from or even rejected by your baby.*********
  • Strange, frightening thoughts or visions popping into your head about harming yourself or the baby********* or awful things happening.

At bottom, it’s not so much the diagnosis you disagree with, and you certainly don’t mean to make light of the condition, but that the available solutions worry you. The real reason why you didn’t push the Health Visitor or the Doctor to get off the fence was that you couldn’t bear to be offered drugs or counselling when what you really need is sleep.

And so this time round, now you are over the first shock, you have abandoned all shame regarding your need to supplement and have been letting the Comet sleep through if she so pleases. If this means increasing the formula at some point in the future then so be it. Both the Star and the Comet need a mostly sane and occasionally competent Mama more than you need to obsess over the odd ounce or two of powdered milk here and there.

In fact, last Thursday you got seven and a half hours sleep. Seven and a half hours, people! Admittedly that is yet to be repeated, but the Comet is stating to settle for longer and longer periods.

And you are feeling better.

Which is good, because you hate feeling like that when in fact you know, you KNOW, you have nothing, NOTHING, to be depressed about, you who have two, TWO, whole, healthy, living children to delight in.

This post is now part of a ‘carnival’ on the topic of PND at Celebatingmums. Many thanks to Mumsarcade for organising this.

*Surely a minimum requirement for any condition labelled ‘depression.’

**Ha ha. Ahahahaha. Hahahahahaha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Hahahahahahahaha. Oh deary me.

***See above. But, ok, they mean when you aren’t actually being woken up by a child.

****Sugar. This is because I can’t drink a lot of coffee. It’s either sweeties or cigarettes.

*****Aha! You don’t have this! Which proves that you don’t have PND! Because no WAY would you miss out on a hypochondriac episode if one were in the offing.

******That would be the washing. And dust.

*******Well, that explains the obsessive bottle washing then.

********What part of ‘All new mothers are sleep deprived’ do they not understand here?

*********It’s not so much no interest as a lack of opportunity. Are they both asleep and/ or quiet? No? Yes? Yes! YES! OH GOD YES! Do you hear something?

*********You never got these. Thank god, because all joking aside, this is the very definition of what fresh hell. On the other hand, you did kick you husband a couple of weeks ago.  Barefoot, so you broke your toe instead. That’s not very funny either, to be honest.

On damage limitation.

About six months ago you bought a car. Your first car, which is quite an achievement for a thirty <cough> year old and shows just how much of your adult life has now been spent living in cities.

You bought the car for two reasons really. Firstly, to make the weekly shop less of a huge logistical performance. And secondly, to make it easier to get out of London sometimes.

You certainly didn’t buy the car to drive in London, which is a good thing as the times when you have thrown caution to the winds and attempted to have been marked by a lot of sitting in traffic, a complete lack of anywhere to park, and on one occasion, a congestion charge fine after being stuck in traffic and then not finding any parking resulting in an aborted, but ultimately very expensive, trip to the Imperial War Museum.

However, the problem with using the car to get out of London is that first you have to get out of London. And so you have developed a definite fondness for the A3, a route which does indeed whisk you away from the big smoke with the minimum of fuss and breathing other people’s petrol fumes.

So you are now looking forward to many years of visiting any and all tourist attractions within easy reach of your getaway route.

This inevitably means you are going to be spending a lot of time at RHS Wisley Gardens, where you went with the Star on Wednesday.

Or not, because you and the Star will have made such an impression on the long-suffering staff on this first visit, that thy may well pull up the drawbridge at the mere suspicion of your silver spanner pulling into the car park.

Which was surprisingly full. Although you later realised that because it isn’t in London, and because there is parking, it makes it a prime target for both the elderly and the very young. Particularly as under sixes get in for free.

The trip started well. It was the first in the series of glorious sunny days here in Southern Britain and the drive down only took a monumental forty minutes or so. The Star had had a nap in the car and was all fresh and happy, and soon the Gardens rang with the warning, “This one is for smelling, sweets, not for picking. Remember, not for picking.”

Surprisingly this actually works, and the sight of the Star solemnly bending over and sniffing in the general direction of a bloom reminds you irresistably of the grave demeanour of wine connoisseurs tasting the first sip of a new glass of vino. This makes you laugh quite a lot.

But the Star was more appreciative of the bugs the flowers attract. He followed the progress of bees from nectar source to nectar source, chased butterflies across grass, flowerbeds and picnicking mothers and children, and lay on the ground to study ants. Until, that is, you found a fish pond, with large numbers of huge hungry carp, who saw the shadow of a toddler looming over them and fought each other for the best position should the toddler’s Mama have thought to bring some bread. The Star thereafter refused to budge from the fish for a good twenty minutes, which was fine by you as you were in the shade, with a stout fence between the Star and the water and a nice post to lean against while he gawped.

When he had torn himself away from that, there was still a glasshouse full of interesting ferns and orchids and such to run round, and finally, a dedicated play area, which had considerably fewer brightly coloured metal and plastic swings and slides sets and considerably more strategically placed tree trunks and wigwams.

The Star loved the wigwams. He’s just discovered the concept of playing house and spent a happy few hours when your brother was around last, sitting in his little den of clothes horses and sheets opposite Uncle Urk’s den of clothes horse and sheets, performing domestic duties such as making the bed (out of a cushion and a blanket), insisting on synchronised sipping of water and indulging in the occasional visit between the two houses (“Knock knock!” “Who’s there!” “The Star!” He can keep this up for hours).

So the idea of frames covered by portable sticks just aching to be rearranged, into which and out of which you can carry wooden bricks* in self-important bustle directed by a bossy young lady of four who calls you ‘boy’, and where you can sit and indulge in a satisfying toddler gossip with some other two year olds, well, it almost topped the fish.

But after forty five minutes of relaxing in the shade on a bench you decided it would be a good idea to have some refreshment, particularly as the Star had just attracted the attention of two stick wielding older kids, and was showing signs of fighting back (note to self, teach the Star that if a child chases you waving a stick** menacingly, pick up a bigger stick to defend yourself with, not a twig).

So you set off towards the nearby cafe.

And this was where disaster struck, because somehow the Star fell over, probably twisting to take a better look at a passing worm, and as you were holding his hand at the time, you overbalanced and went down with him.

You managed not to land on the Star.

You also managed not to land on the Comet’s bump.

Unfortunately, in avoiding landing on your Firstborn or your Unborn, you managed to come down very awkwardly on your left leg, and within a few minutes of a concerned elderly lady picking you up, helping you to a nearby bench, rounding up the Star and sending her husband to the cafe for help, you realised you had a problem.

How were you going to get home? Your initial idea of getting one of the gardening vehicles to give you a lift back to the car and taking it from there receded into fantasy as your ankle started to really throb.

This was soon replaced by the more urgent concern of you feeling faint.

Being seven months pregnant and feeling faint after a fall is not a relaxing state to be in. It’s not a relaxing state for other people to be in either, which is why more staff were summoned, you were removed to the first aid room and an ambulance was called.

Of course, by the time the ambulance arrived, you were feeling better and while they checked you out thoroughly, it was soon clear they were not going to be recommending that you be rushed to hospital. The foot was merely badly sprained, and the dizziness was temporary. The Comet was kicking and all your vital signs were normal.

So you returned to the logistical problem of getting yourself, the Star and, preferably, the car, back to London.

It was at this point that you were forced to admit that you do not carry a mobile.

You made it sound like a temporary inconvenience. In fact, the Star nibbled the buttons off yours more than six months ago. You had been using your MiL’s, but she took hers back to Russia. In January.

So you borrowed the Operations Manager’s, he who was supervising your care. And who subsequently had to wheel you, the Star and the Comet the length of the Gardens in a wheelchair, load you all into the car, drive you to the nearest train station, and wait for his boss to come and pick him up.

By this time, it was well after closing time.

The Star, meanwhile, had been having a whale of a time. He had had a whole staff member assigned to him. She read him stories, gave him apple juice in a carton to drink, fed him an apple, the chocolate cake she had unwisely brought with her when summoned from her break, a banana and some cheese. She let him run up and down in the corridor outside and took him out to see the ambulance. She didn’t complain that she had to do this while enduring the powerful smell which he was letting off, having taken the opportunity of his Mama’s attention being elsewhere to poo his pants.

Luckily, you had a change of clothes with you. In the car.

Still, all’s well that ends well, and to cut what is now a very long story short, B was able to come out on the next train to drive you home. He collected your brother along the way, which was helpful as you were unable to move independently for two days, and are only now able to hobble slowly without having to hang on to bits of furniture or your husband. The hurt has subsided too. It’s more a dull ache than a blinding pain now.

Particularly when the Star decided he found it amusing to jump on your leg at regular intervals, being apparently skeptical at the negative response he got when he asked ‘Mama fixed?’ every five minutes.

Luckily, it’s for situations like these that Grandparents were invented. He’s had a lovely time this weekend.

Anyway, you can highly recommend RHS Wisley Gardens for all accident prone visitors, and to those who are able to remain on their feet also.

And in the meantime: send ice.

*The bricks are the only weak point of the play area. They are made of solid wood and quite heavy. The Star does not always distinguish well between square heavy bricks and balls, particularly when older children are slinging them round with abandon, albeit rather less dangerously aimed abandon than the Star does when he copies them. Still, the time out he got for that allowed you to get some water into him, and the baby did not appear to be permanently damaged, so that’s all right then.

** Actually, sticks the perfect size for picking up and playing swords with are also, on reflection, not such a good idea either.

On you shall not smoke.

Gosh but a lot of people smoke here*.

What’s particularly startling is the number of young women who smoke. And even more noticeable, the number of mothers of small children. And this from a woman who, back in the UK, lives where the tracksuited-scraped-back-hair look is not an uncommon mummy look.

But it was when you were sitting in a restaurant and one of your party lit up that you really felt out of place. Good lord, you thought. People used to do this in the UK. You used to do this. In the UK. Within the last five years. And yet it felt wrong wrong wrong.

How quickly we can become re-educated.

And yet now you are back in a smoking culture, you could see yourself taking it up again, something which hasn’t crossed your mind since you gave it up and They banned smoking practically everywhere in the UK**.

Of course, then you remember how much you really hated it towards the end. Let’s hold onto that.

*Or rather, in Russia. See What I did on my Holidays Part 1.

**In, you would like to point out, that order.