Tears with fears

Today, the Miracle is two weeks old and, I won’t lie, it’s been a challenging time. He was sleepy, and difficult to feed. I became engorged and, as the Miracle grew steadily more yellow, he made less effort to latch and refused to even try on my swollen, hot and excruciating mastitis-threatening side. When the midwife came, my temperature was starting to climb and, combined with my Day Three Blues which hit like a sledgehammer this time, I was feeling pretty ropey. A La Leche leader came to help me. These ladies are brilliant. The service is free, and she was here with her knitted boob within 15-minutes. The following day, things had improved. The Miracle was feeding better and the threatening mastitis was making a slow retreat.

But it didn’t last. By his seventh day, once again he was very lethargic and it was taking me over an hour to persuade him to latch. I’d bully him, stripping him off and tickling his toes all the time with tears running down my face. I called the midwife out again. By this time, not only could he have auditioned for a part in The Simpsons with his yellow tinge, but he did a weird wee that looked like a cross between lemon jelly and clarified butter. The midwife decided to call it in, and Neonatal asked us to go in with an overnight bag ‘Just in case’.

In actual fact, we needed a six night bag. Our little Miracle was poorly. He scored below the treatment line for jaundice, but two urine dips came back with a positive result for a UTI. We later learned that it was caused by E.Coli, but on that first night, we were warned of sepsis and an attempt at a lumbar puncture was made. The medics don’t like mums being in the room while they do the more invasive procedures, but my tears fell from a couple of doors away. The procedure failed, and the following day was unsuccessful again. By this point, the paediatricians were confident that his malady was down to the UTI and decided not to make a further attempt at a lumbar puncture.

With an NG tube in place, it was decided that I would try for half an hour every three hours to persuade him to feed normally. If he wouldn’t try, then he’d have my expressed milk through his tube. That first night was a cacophony of alarms going off to feed, to pump, for obs, for antibiotics… The soundtrack to the fear that our Miracle was properly poorly and the questions constantly running through my head: What if we hadn’t brought him in? Did this happen because of something I’d done or failed to do? I had a UTI in late pregnancy, did he somehow catch it? Eventually, a paediatrician told me to stop looking for reasons to feel guilty and that this was ‘one of those things’ and there was nothing I’d done or could’ve done to prevent it.

If he days spent in hospital were long, the lonely nights were even longer. It felt like years since I’d seen Big, Medium and Little when Lovely Husband brought them in two days after our admission. Little had grown exponentially. Medium was shy and Big was just pleased to go to the playroom on the children’s ward and see the nurse that looked after her when she was poorly. Escaping the stale air with a walk outside became a daily target, though finding time amongst the calls for obs, IV antibiotics and doctors’ reviews was a challenge. Meeting amazing but exhausted mums whose babies had been born too soon brought home how lucky I was. I guess the upside was that I could just sit and cuddle the Miracle and sniff his beautiful head. As he improved, I sat singing to him while he cooed in reply.

He has a journey ahead of him. Six to seven months of antibiotics, blood tests, consultant appointments, various scans… But the Miracle that we brought home two days ago is a different baby to the one that was admitted to special care last week. This baby is pink, alert, feeding well and determined to spend all of his time in my arms. Once again, I am truly thankful for the diligence of the medics, for the love and support from Lovely Husband and my mum and for the Miracle himself for fighting back.

We are home. We are six. There is so much love.

Tears with fears

The Miracle has landed

He’s here. My Miracle is in my arms. On Wednesday, I took my doubts into hospital and, on discussion with a very nice doctor, took their advice. They broke my waters at 3.25pm. At 8pm, I’d achieved a whopping 2cms. I sat harvesting colostrum, dragging on gas and air and watching the Masterchef final. Multitasking, even in labour. By the next examination, I was fully dilated and pushing with about three pages to go on the book I was reading. I really wanted to finish that book, but it had to wait.

It was a quick and easy labour, with just a little ventouse assistance at the very end, because the Miracle thought he was Superman and had his hand above his head. His heart rate started to dip a little, so he needed to hurry up. A second degree tear meant two-and-a-half hours of stitching, two midwives proficient in needlework and two attempts to put me back together, and I don’t mind admitting, it’s all a bit ouchy. The midwives have instructed me to rest and keep my feet up for a while.

Friends, he is beautiful. With Big’s pout, Medium’s chin and one of Little’s dimples in the middle of one perfect cheek, he’s simply delicious. There is so much you forget about the newborn days as your pixies grow. That amazing, intoxicating smell, the little mews and unique noises, the old man stretches with eyebrows pushed above their brows… I wish I could bottle it all. He’s perfect. I am so in love, it is overwhelming.

With every child, you fall in love with the ones you already have all over again. You arrive home from hospital in amazement that they seem to have trebled in size since you last saw them. The smiles on their faces when they see you are home and their baby brother has finally arrived are priceless. Big, a reserved and quiet little thing, likes to watch and observe for a while. As I closed my eyes for a desperately needed nap, I noticed her standing over the Miracle’s crib just looking. I watched her through my eyelashes, not saying a word, knowing this was something she needed to do. She went to get a book and read him a story. The first, I suspect, of many.

Medium wanted to hold him – just briefly. She did her ‘pleased’ face – a half smile with closed eyes, but it’s Little that has surprised us. She’s always been possessive of me, insisting on sitting between me and whichever sister was on my lap. In the later stages of my pregnancy with the Miracle, she’d happily sit on the top of my bump if it meant she was closest. If I held another child at a toddler group, she’d be over like a shot in floods of tears. I had visions of her sobbing as I breastfed the Miracle. Instead, she kissed him and has been loving and interested.

I strongly feel their need for my presence, though. I am following midwives’ orders and resting. In fact, I’m being uncharacteristically obedient. That might only be because moving really does hurt and triggers sets of explosive afterpains. But they visit, a little shyly at times. Medium climbed into bed with me this afternoon and just wanted to be there. We talked, gently, and I read her a story. Big wanted to read to me and to look at her brother. Little has appeared in a nappy and her wellies numerous times, inexplicably clutching a carrot. Despite exhaustion and the typical desire to guard my bruised and swollen body, I welcome them, cuddle them, kiss them and love them.

And like Jack’s ever-growing beanstalk, the love that the Miracle brings grows yet more. I should have remembered how the depth of my feelings for Lovely Husband grows deeper with each child. I’d forgotten. He was a rock during labour. So strong and so supportive, physically and emotionally. And then there he was, cradling the Miracle – so tiny in those huge hands – while I was put back together. And here is now, juggling the pixies, who are demanding and testing him, as they try to understand their place and the changes in their family; trying to manage the house; trying to make sure I can rest and recover, build a milk supply and ensure our son starts life with the love and security he felt inside me; trying to overcome his own tiredness and need to process the birth and the responsibility of another child; trying to cope. I watch him and I see him, this amazing man of mine, and I love him too.

Like I said, there is just so much love. Welcome to the world, Miracle. And thank you for all the love that you bring.

 

The Miracle has landed

Tears and tantrums (mine)

I can’t work out if I’d just forgotten the hormonal rollercoaster of late pregnancy, or if it simply didn’t happen with the pixies. Everything about the Miracle has been different; his gender, the fact that he was a natural conception and consequently I didn’t have four months of synthetic hormones to start with, the way I’m carrying him, the fact that I already have three children of five and under to run around after… The list goes on.

I am five days away from Rubber Gloves Day. I’m spending a lot of time in tears. In tears over trying desperately to collect non-existent and reluctant colostrum. A soul destroying process that’s time consuming and sore. Trying to catch whatever tiny drips I can create in a syringe before a small child grabs the syringe and runs off with it, or demands a drink or takes their nappy off to show me the contents. Generally, the midwives are unsympathetic and suggest treating it as if I was feeding the baby. There’s a fundamental difference: the baby will be latched and catching the milk. Small children cannot grab the baby and run off. And of course, the baby will be the best stimulant anyway!

I’ve been very tearful over Rubber Gloves Day being brought forward to 38 weeks from 39, and I’m not sure I understand why. I had a very tearful conversation (tears are a common theme at the moment!) with a particularly lovely midwife a couple of days ago about this. I just have this niggling gut feeling that I won’t be ready. I know the Miracle is term. I know he’ll be ready. But if I’m not, there’s a higher risk of tearing and of the induction resulting in a c-section, something I am desperate to avoid.

Big was induced at exactly at 38 weeks and the experience was horrendous. I know that much of that was due to hospital mistakes, which, as a first time mum, I was not equipped to cope with emotionally, practically or mentally. Much of that has changed, as has the hospital that we’re booked into, so the chances of a similar experience are low. Nevertheless, there is definitely an association there that’s adding to the maelstrom of emotions.

A c-section also means some sort of ‘help’, something I am very resistant to. I know there are fabulous nannies and mother’s helps out there, and I’m sure they’re worth their weight in gold to their families. For me, it’s not something I would find easy. I simply do not want to have someone in the house when I’m recovering from pregnancy and birth, trying to teach my newborn Miracle to feed, establishing a milk supply and helping the pixies cope with our new family dynamic. However helpful the extra pair of hands may be in practical matters, I’m quite a private person that loves my family bubble. I would really struggle with anyone piercing that. Put simply: I just don’t want someone hanging around.

With any kind of birth, there are risks that need to be weighed up. With my history of postpartum haemorrhage, Lovely Husband doesn’t want us to delay the Miracle’s arrival. His concern is that the bigger he gets, the more dangerous it becomes for me. I understand that, though I think I’m more likely to tear and have problems if I’m induced too soon and my body isn’t ready to do it. I totally get it: all the time he’s enjoying his deluxe VIP suite in my body, he’s growing bigger and bigger. He’s already over the 95th centile, so waiting too long means delivery could be difficult and, again, it could end in a c-section. Difficult scales to balance.

I’ve agreed to go in on the booked Rubber Gloves Day in any case. The midwife will do an examination and see how ‘favourable’ I am. If it looks like it’ll be easy, they’ll go ahead. If not, they’ll treat me to a sweep and send me home for a day or so. I think I feel better with this plan, but still the tears roll.

Many of them have no reason. Seeing videos of a young Marti Pellow and realising how much I miss my best friend in Australia sets me off. A Dogs’ Trust advert with lots of pleading faced hounds reduces me to a puddle. Big telling me she likes it best when ‘just Mummy’ comes to pick her up from school. Medium cutting Gransy spoily time short because she just wants to see me. Little picking a daisy and proudly presenting it to me. Realising the building work over the road is disturbing the magpie nest and they probably have babies they’re trying to protect. My feet being cold because they’re in flip flops as I can’t do up my shoelaces anymore. The house being untidier than normal. The overwhelming realisation that this pregnancy is hurtling towards its conclusion and all the worries that come with that. Everything and anything sets me off.

I’m having acupuncture, which has levelled out my mood a little. I’m a big believer in the power of the needles and my acupuncturist will do an acupuncture induction the night before Rubber Gloves Day. Let’s hope the Miracle decides to arrive before the rubber gloves get their moment of glory and I get my sanity back. For a brief spell, anyway.

Thanks for listening, friends. You’re good sounding boards. I feel a bit better now.

Tears and tantrums (mine)

Hard work with little to show

Take a look at this picture, friends. This represents 90 minutes of hard work. Really hard work. As a gestational diabetic, I have to harvest colostrum three to four times a day from 36 weeks. Babies of diabetic mothers – gestational or otherwise – can experience a fall in their blood sugar postpartum as their sugary party comes to an end*. The midwives want extra colostrum to help them to bring their sugars back up. 90 minutes may not sound like a lot of time over a two day period, but believe me, when your squeezing your boobs until tiny drops appear and then trying to catch them in a spoon while simultaneously pressing play on a Peppa Pig episode and separating warring siblings, it redefines multi-tasking and hard work. You end up knackered and sore. Squeezing (excuse the pun) in colostrum harvesting while juggling three smalls is not easy.

When Big was born, she spent ten days in special care because her sugar levels were critically low. This stemmed from a mass of clusterfucks by the hospital. Amongst them, a refusal to repeat my glucose tolerance test at 28 weeks (I was borderline), to check her sugars at birth, to notice her tongue tie or to give me adequate feeding support. While in special care, a nurse mistakenly fed her someone else’s breastmilk – thankfully, it didn’t contain any medication. It was a difficult experience for a first time mum and completely avoidable. As a consequence, Medium and Little were born elsewhere and the experience was very different, with properly managed diabetes for me and incredible support from fantastic midwives. Needless to say, the Miracle will make his appearance at the same place.

The Miracle may not need the fruit of my hard work. Little never did. The bag full of lovingly expressed liquid gold went in the bin when I found it at the bottom of the freezer months later. Hours and hours of pummelling and squeezing into the bin. That kind of hurt. I hope the Miracle doesn’t need it. I’m doing my best but Nature’s not being too helpful at the moment. I have 13 days to get as much as I can for him before he is evicted.

Eviction is planned. He’s a big boy, above the 95th centile, so my consultant has opted to induce at 38 weeks. They asked if I was ‘Open minded on pain relief’. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘I’m very closed minded. I want all of it.’ I don’t know why his size surprises me. Lovely Husband is a man mountain with shoulders wide enough to take on the world. I really hope the Miracle hasn’t inherited those shoulders. It makes me wince almost as much as the 90 minutes it took to produce that 0.2ml of colostrum.

Labour ward are nervous. With a history of postpartum haemorrhage, gestational diabetes, geriatric maternal age (yes, they actually said that), a previous emergency C-section, and two VBAC births with one requiring ventouse assistance, I think the booking midwife is hoping she’ll have the day off when I arrive. I have my concerns too, but for the Miracle’s safe arrival rather than for myself. I just want him to arrive healthy, happy, safe and well. Isn’t that all any mother wants? I’m not religious by any means, but for his safe arrival, I pray. Boy, do I pray.

So, this is it. The final furlong, He has 13 days to beat the rubber gloves and their eviction methods, some of which sound a bit odd. I’m huge, he’s huge and getting through the day has become a challenge. The school run feels like a marathon. Getting out of the bath is a cacophony of grunts and oofs. But very, very soon, I will be kissing that perfect little newborn head and life will have changed immeasurably once again. Five will be six and there will be even more love. I can hardly bear it. This Miracle? He will complete us and I cannot wait to feel his velvety skin and just sniff him.

colostrum

* This state is temporary – their risk of developing diabetes is not increased from their mother having gestational diabetes. This risk differs if their mother has Type One or Type Two, though.

Hard work with little to show

Family Friendly Breaks: Wallops Wood Cottages, Hampshire

So, at 35w pregnant, I wasn’t going to travel far for an Easter break. If anything, I wanted to be closer to the hospital and not further away. We settled on Hampshire and chose to stay at Wallops Wood Cottages, booking Glenside for a five night break. Attracted by the enclosed garden with a private hot tub and a baby friendly promise, we were quietly optimistic about our choice.

Prior to arrival, the owners emailed us several times to let us choose from their children’s kit (travel cot – for once with a proper mattress! – high chair, booster seat, toys, etc.) and to let us know of events in the area that we might enjoy. This personal touch is the kind of thing that can make or break a holiday and it was appreciated, as was the home-baked cake, apple juice, beer and wine that had been left for us.

The cottage was comfortable and very well equipped. The beds and linen were of good quality and the children settled easily. Always a good sign. Sadly, our first night was somewhat marred by our neighbours next door having a very loud and sweary barney until 3am. Our only criticism of the accommodation is that the dividing walls are very thin and at times it felt like we were on holiday with the shouty people next door.

That said, after the initial noisy couple of nights, it did quieten down and the silence was glorious. We utilised the paddock at the bottom of the garden for an impromptu Easter egg hunt and to play tennis. The strong wifi meant we could take our Firestick with us to catch up on all the things we never have time to watch, as well as to catch up with each other.

The cottages are well appointed for getting out and about, and notable things to do in the area included a lovely Easter egg hunt at Mottisfont, a fun packed and busy few hours at the Winchester Science Centre and a great day out at Marwell Zoo, where the very beautiful but elusive snow leopard treated us to an appearance.

But the highlight had to be lunch at The Shoe, Exton. We went for Sunday lunch on Easter Sunday and the food was superb. I’d go as far as to say it was the best roast I’ve ever had and the children’s meals were of excellent quality and beautifully presented. Service was attentive and prompt and we all had a great time. A gorgeous gastro-pub that we’ll return to.

Now we’re home, I’m manically nesting. Every cupboard is being cleared out. I’ve filled ten bin bags in less than 24 hours. No matter how tired I am, no matter how much I ache, I simply cannot stop. The pixies are scared to stand still in case they’re bundled up and tidied away. I don’t blame them. We’re on the final furlong. The Miracle will be here before we know it.

Family Friendly Breaks: Wallops Wood Cottages, Hampshire

On the eve of Mother’s Day

Today I went to do the pixie’s Big Shop for the next season. Big passes her clothes down to Medium in nearly new condition. Medium trashes them and Little gets new ones. I like to dress my children like children, so I am increasingly shocked by the ripped denim hot pants and sloganed t-shirts on offer to kids as little as four. Seriously, who dresses their children in this tat? Who wants their four-year-old to have their pants on display?

That frustration aside, it was a lovely day spent with my mum. The sun was shining as we went (waddled, for me) from shop to shop with frequent tea  breaks. I’m huge with the Miracle. I’m measuring a fortnight ahead and at 31+3w, I look ready to pop. I feel it too. The Miracle mainly likes sitting on my sciatic nerve (ouch!) and trampolining on my bladder. My blood sugars have just started to misbehave and I’ve started Metformin tablets and a diet of denial. Lovely Husband has a list of All The Nice Things he must buy/make me after the placenta has been delivered and I am back to normal. Salted caramel cheesecake, I’m coming for you.

I returned home to a newly poorly Medium. Just as we seemed to get rid of the bugs, it looks like a new one has moved in. I’m hoping Mother’s Day isn’t cancelled for us tomorrow.

Some, I know, will be wishing Mother’s Day could be cancelled. They’ve faced weeks of reminders about the impending day and each one will have been a twist of the knife embedded in their heart. Women who have lost their own mothers, lost their babies or simply can’t seem to have a child. Having Mother’s Day shoved down their throat is a bitter pill and one few will feel able to swallow.

While we hope to celebrate after our rocky but ultimately amazing journey to parenthood with our three ICSI pixies and now the Miracle, I will have a quiet moment to send vibes of solidarity to those that are deep in the wilderness. Those that are in the throes of the rollercoaster of IVF, of dusting themselves off after yet another disappointment, waiting for appointments or wincing as they jab themselves with powerful hormones that will make them feel like they’re going crazy. I will raise a glass to these strong women and hope that this time next year, they’re getting a slobbery kiss from the baby they’ve longed for.

As the Miracle kicks away inside me after a lovely day spent with my mum, I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

On the eve of Mother’s Day

Family friendly breaks: Rockefeller, Dorset

So, the ordeal continued. Exactly a week after our discharge, Big woke with a high temperature and was – weirdly – completely unable to bear weight on her knees. In these circumstances, Dr Google is not my friend. After scaring myself, I took her to the out-of-hours doctor (why do these things always happen at the weekend?!) who scared me even more by talking about septic arthritis. After ten hours back on the children’s ward and a battery of tests, the orthopaedic doctor said she had a virus in her joints. It could be the same one that caused her previous hospital stay, or she could come out in chicken pox spots imminently, as Medium had brought it home to share. Apparently, in some children, as the pox develops it causes chronic joint pain. Who knew? “She can’t have chicken pox – she’s been exposed multiple times,” I said. “And we fly to Lanzarote a week on Monday!”

Two days later, Little burst out in violent pox. You could not see skin between the spots. I’ve never seen her so poorly – and nor do I want to. Her temperature hovered just above 40, despite regular paracetamol and she felt very sorry for herself. It was seven days before we were due to fly, and I spoke to our lovely GP who did the plumber-teeth-sucking-thing, and said it’d be tight, but he’d see her on Friday to assess whether she was fit to fly.

Friday came, and it was obvious she wasn’t fit to fly. And nor was Big, who came out in a splattering of pox spots, as predicted by the orthopaedic doctor, in sympathy. Instead, our GP certified them as not fit to fly. You have no idea how much we needed that holiday. A week of sun to see off the winter bugs – and we’ve had more than our share – was just what the doctor ordered. Except he ordered us not to go. Fortunately, Lovely Husband had the foresight to insure what was going to be a very expensive holiday, and, as we should get the money back, we decided to book somewhere exceptional in the UK for a week. We might be in quarantine, but at least we’d be in quarantine somewhere fabulous.

We booked Rockefeller via Unique Home Stays, in Studland, Dorset. Studland is an area I know well, having enjoyed many drunken riding weekends there. In fact, it felt decidedly strange to be in Studland without a beach gallop or a pint of the local brew! Studland is a beautiful place; a sandy, National Trust beach (watch out for nudists!), miles of heathland, a great pub with micro-brewery and now the Pig on the Beach, with its kitchen menu and quirky beauty treatments in old shepherd huts. I sampled the latter with a lovely pregnancy massage and I have a sneaky suspicion I may have snored.

Nearby, there’s Corfe Castle, where we enjoyed a memorable family day out once the poxy pair had dried out. Big astounded us by following the children’s trail and filling in her workbook all by herself. I’ve taken a photo for her teacher. Lovely Husband and I have a thing about National Trust coffee, so we enjoyed a snack in a flash of rare sunshine too.

We found a local activity farm, Farmer Palmers, that the pixies loved. It was rustic, compared to the farm parks local to us, but innovative and Big loved the slides strapped to straw bales and building straw mountains.

A visit to what must be the UK’s smallest museum was also a success. Medium loves dinosaurs, and enjoyed the Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester – three rooms of fossils, models and dinosaur information, including a ‘Sniff a T-Rex’s breath’ feature. All three enjoyed the Bournemouth Oceanarium, particularly Little, who finally decided to get up off of her bottom and walk around and around and around the turtle tank. Boy, did she love those turtles.

And what of Rockefeller itself? It’s certainly swish, with electric blinds, underfloor heating and all the mod cons. It’s location in Studland is fabulous – high on a hill with sea views and a terrace that cries out for gin and tonics to be enjoyed on. The house feels safe; it has a high electric gate and even in the midst of Storm Doris’s rage, we felt snug and secure.

I won’t lie, it wasn’t cheap and more than we would usually spend on a holiday rental. We tend to book five star properties only and are firm believers that if we’re going on holiday, the accommodation needs to be better than that at home. There were a few disappointments. The directions to find the house weren’t clear and my car Sat Nav, which was trying to help me find the house was apoplectic with rage as I stubbornly ignored it and tried to follow the instructions given to us. Eventually, I asked a local who directed us to the rough area, but the house had no signage other than a biro nameplate on the electric gate key pad. By the time I found the house, Big was winding up Medium, who was screaming and Little was hungry. Hell hath no fury like a hungry Little.

We weren’t the only ones who had trouble finding the house. Unique Home Stays promise a luxury hamper on arrival. Ours arrived in time for departure because their delivery driver couldn’t find us either.

If I’m being really picky, the beds were too firm for me, but I accept that’s personal choice. With The Miracle’s tendency to snuggle down on my sciatic nerve and render me a limping, puffing grump along with the eternal cold I’ve been nursing for five weeks now, this didn’t really allow me to conquer my sleep deprivation, despite Lovely Husband’s best efforts.

The weather wasn’t as kind as it could’ve been to a family that desperately needed a dose of vitamin D, but at least we were away and all together. There is nothing more precious than time in our family bubble – pox and all!

 

Family friendly breaks: Rockefeller, Dorset