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

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

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

Punishments

I guess it was inevitable that I would be punished in some way. I did, of course, leave my little poxy Medium for several days. I didn’t expect her to be quite so cold though, preferring my Mum’s lap to mine and looking at me through narrowed eyes with a sulky expression. She is furious with me. She’s three, she doesn’t understand that her sister was so poorly I couldn’t leave her. All she sees is that I wasn’t there.

I came home for two hours yesterday after Big was moved from the High Dependency Unit to a normal ward. I just needed to sniff Medium and Little for a moment. Lovely Husband insisted I got a cab as it would be dangerous to drive in my state of sleep deprivation, stress and heightened emotion. The round trip cost over £100, but I guess I’m quite precious too. I got home in time to have tea with the two littlest, bath them and then head back to the hospital to settle Big for the night.

And last night – finally – was the night she really turned the corner. The night before she had been very dependent on the oxygen machine, with it cranked up as high as 70% at times. All of my instincts told me that she needed sleep to recover. She needed to be left alone. When the consultant made her rounds with her nurse for the day the following morning, she said she wanted to repeat Big’s chest x-ray, take bloods and for her to have another session with the physiotherapists. “Fine,” I said. “But I want all of this to be done by 10.30, along with any medication that she needs to have, and then I don’t want her to be disturbed. She is not going to recover without sleep.”

I think they knew not to mess with a hormonal, stressed and sleep deprived pregnant mother. By 10.30, Big was fast asleep and I was guarding her like a tiger does her cubs. A nurse walked in, I growled, she put her hands up and left. My baby slept for nearly three hours, her saturation levels normal and her heart and respiration rate as they should be at rest. She woke up and the world was a brighter place. My little star was back in the room.

That afternoon, we were moved back to the ward and she continued to bounce back. Last night, she was disconnected from the oxygen machine and medication was given via a puffer, rather than a nebuliser. She slept. Boy, did she sleep. She slept through the monitors beeping away. She slept through new admissions joining us on the ward. She slept through the very poorly boy with pneumonia crying with every painful cough. She woke up as if she’d never felt poorly and wanted to go straight to the playroom.

We’re now home. As soon as the doctor said we could go home today with 72 hours direct access to the ward in case of a relapse, I nearly collapsed with gratitude and exhaustion. As I sit here typing, listening to the normal sounds of our family home – Lovely Husband calling the girls for tea, Big and Medium fighting over a toy, Little just shouting because that’s what she does – I feel an overwhelming sense of relief, of gratitude and that I can finally exhale.

But now the ‘What ifs’ start. What if I hadn’t tucked Big up on the sofa and had put her to bed instead? She was in severe respiratory distress. How much worse could that have got had I put her down for a nap and assumed she was sleeping soundly? She was admitted with suspected pneumonia. Luckily for us, it just turned out to be a very strange but nevertheless nasty viral chest infection. Other parents on the ward weren’t that lucky and now face what will feel like forever in the vacuum of the hospital, where time keeps to it’s own vortex and you have no idea what time it is, what day it is, whether it’s raining or that there’s an outside world beyond the curtains around your child’s bed. God, I’m glad we’re home.

I cannot fault the treatment we’ve received. From our GP’s immediate action to help Big, to the paramedics fast response, the paediatric A&E team’s calm and professional manner and the cheerful porters that tried to keep Big’s spirits up as she was pushed from x-ray to paediatrics. The nurses, the doctors, the consultants, the physios that finally got her to cough and move the phlegm, the wonderful play workers who distracted her through blood tests and sugar checks and the healthcare workers who brought me tea, told me to take five minutes, didn’t look at me like I was crazy for welling up every time I had to come up with some new story to persuade her to let the doctors treat her. Yesterday, the butterfly on the blood testing needle needed to drink her blood so he could go to Tesco and buy his dinner. I have no idea where that came from, but she bought it (“But he can only have a little bit!”), much to the amusement of the nurses helping with the procedure. All of them are wonderful. The hours they work are ludicrous. Our nurses worked from eight until eight. Some of the doctors started at eight and were still there at midnight. Think of these people if you want to malign the NHS, then think of how lucky we are to have them.

We’re home. She’s safe. Tonight I will be setting an alarm to administer medication at the right time and in between I will sleep. I will sleep knowing that her chest is rising and falling as it should and that we are the lucky ones that have escaped the uncertainty and the interminable time that seems to span decades in a hospital bed.

Friends, may you never ever have a week like mine.

Punishments

A bit of a week

It’s been a bit of a week and I ask that you forgive my somewhat disjointed attempt at sharing it and no doubt a few glaring grammatical errors. I’m really tired.

On Monday afternoon, Medium came out in the pox. I’ve been waiting for that one to get us. None of my three ICSI pixies had succumbed, despite pretty much licking children that were contagious*. The tell-tale spots arrived on Monday afternoon. A quick trip to the GP confirmed it, and Medium began to enjoy feeling poorly. She likes a fuss and having the priority ticket to Mummy’s lap.

On Tuesday, Big bounded into school with a slightly snotty nose. Most children at this time of year are snotty and there was no temperature and no other symptoms to speak of. At 12.30, her teacher phoned me to say she had a bit of a temperature and seemed very tired. I collected her and she fell asleep on the sofa. Her breathing became laboured and rapid. I rang the doctors, and said to the receptionist that I probably needed an ambulance but I wanted her seen quicker than that. She said to bring her straight down and within ten minutes, she was on a nebuliser with an ambulance on the way.

No parent likes to hear a medical professional say, “I don’t want to worry you, but…” I have heard that three times in the last however many hours it is since Tuesday. In the ambulance, the paramedic said, “I don’t want to worry you, but I’m not happy with her sats and the speed she’s going downhill, so we’re putting our lights on.” Last time I was in an ambulance with the lights flashing and the siren going, I had an arterial bleed, my hand was broken in a million places and degloved. This time, sitting helplessly with my child struggling to breathe, was a million times worse. Take all my skin off, make all my arteries bleed… Just make her okay.

She was quickly assessed at A&E by incredibly calm, competent and kind staff and she became more comfortable with burst treatment, oxygen and the wonderful, magical elixir that is Calpol. They didn’t even need to tell me she was staying in. The paediatrician ordered a chest x-ray that showed mucous on her lungs (weird, when she didn’t have a cough – who’s ever heard of a chest infection without a cough?!) and we got settled on a ward. With her sats starting to respond to the nebuliser, steroids and oxygen therapy, I thought at first she’d have a night of treatment and we’d be sent home with antibiotics.

Until she fell asleep. She was exhausted and she just wanted to sleep, but as she sunk into slumber, her sats plummeted and the machines monitoring her started a cacophony of warnings. This cacophony was added to by the wails Big emitted every time anyone in scrubs even looked at her. The doctor in charge decided to move her to the high dependency unit, which is where I sit typing now, nursing not just Big, but a beautifully timed stinking cold.

And so began probably the longest night of my life. An endless stream of screaming machines, an over-tired and emotional Big, well meaning and highly skilled medical staff in and out, in and out, monitoring, obs, treatment, canulas, drips, drugs, blood gas tests, blood sugar tests, questions… So many questions. By the time the second, “I don’t want to worry you, but…” arrived, I hadn’t slept for about 21 hours and I was starting to feel a bit tired and emotional myself. “I don’t want to worry you, but we’re concerned about Big’s blood sugars and would like to talk to you about Type One Diabetes.” Oh, that small insulin-dependent-for-life condition. Peachy. Just peachy.

By morning, the thoughts had changed to Big’s high blood sugar being caused by stress, which reminded me to check my own. As a gestational diabetic, I have to stick to strict sugar levels to protect the Miracle. My sugars were so far off the scale, they had their own postcode. According to the specialist midwife, this is also caused by stress, and “I don’t want to worry you, but you can’t really bring them down until you’re less stressed. Here, have a quick glug of maternal guilt for not being able to control your blood sugars.” Okay, she didn’t put it quite like that, but I hadn’t slept and my brain’s not in its most rational place. What she actually said was, “We’ll see what they do when you get home and take it from there.”

I hadn’t had time to think about poor, poxy Medium at home with my Mum, who, always wonderful, cleared her diary to make sure I didn’t need to worry about Medium and Little. Of course, as soon as I had a moment, I received another nice healthy dollop of maternal guilt that I was away from poorly poxy and this trebled when I heard Little had started throwing up. I don’t often swear, but I don’t mind admitting I did then. Loudly. Guilt and stress are such good friends, they’ve been enjoying a party in my head ever since. Add in a helping of my old mucker Sleep Deprivation and you can imagine the picnic they’re cooking up.

But back to Big. During the day, she improves. She’s still on opti-flow oxygen all the time with nebulisers every two hours. She’s on antibiotics and steroids. She sits up in bed and does craft. She’s not complained about being unable to get out of bed or having to use a commode with me clumsily grabbing at the millions of wires and tubes while simultaneously trying to load her onto the commode and pull her gown up. She’s not complained when I’ve got her tangled up in the wires or pulled the monitoring probe off her toe and made all the machines go mental. The only thing she’s complained about is taking medicine. She’s always been tricky to give medicine to, and initially it was given by canula. But after yet another fell out today, both I and the medics were reluctant to pierce those tiny veins again. The nurses insisted they could get her to take her steroid orally. I told them she’d throw up. I was right. We tried mixing it in chocolate milk, but Big is no fool. She makes a cat look easy to dope. Eventually, I ground pills up into a tiny bit of strawberry yoghurt and added a little bit to a normal spoonful of the same yoghurt until she’d eaten all of the laced version. It was better than fighting, and I didn’t want to see her being held down and forced to take the medicine for three reasons: 1. I knew she’d throw up, 2. I didn’t want to see her fighting, and, I think most importantly, 3. I didn’t want to see her stop fighting.

At night, it all goes wrong. Her saturation levels plummet the minute she falls asleep. Children’s airways are a bit floppy and don’t hold open like adults’. As she sleeps, her airways flop and the gunk that’s inside them blocks the stream of air trying to reach her lungs. I sit and watch her little chest and tummy rapidly rising, falling and sucking in as she works stupidly hard to satisfy her little body’s needs. The machines start shouting every five or ten minutes to tell the nurses to turn up the oxygen. When they’re not shouting, I’m acutely aware of people moving around, checking her, changing drips, adding drugs to her airflow, listening to her chest, working on her, around her but always doing their best to help her. I’m aware of the nurses’ station just outside the room, with it’s special window so they can watch her monitors. I’m aware of the Miracle moving inside me to remind me he’s there. I’m aware that I’m not with Medium and that I’m not the one dabbing calamine on her spots or soothing her when she wakes at night. I’m aware that I’m not the one who’s cuddling Little after she’s been sick or changing her cot and making it comfortable for her. I’m aware how much I’m asking of my Mum, Furry and of Lovely Husband, who – yes, is their daddy and a damn good one at that – has also had to put everything on hold to juggle the two poorlies at home, run to and fro the hospital, swallow his worry about Big to support me and frantically try and keep on top of work in between.

Primarily, I’m aware of how lucky we are. I know that Medium and Little are loved and well cared for in our absence. My brilliant Mum is keeping on top of housework and the small stuff that I shouldn’t sweat about, but she knows I would. We’ve had offers of help from the lovely school mums and our neighbours. Once again, I feel blessed to be part of such a supportive community. Today, Maddie was sent her book bag from school with a card the children had made and some videos of her friends saying, ‘Get well soon.’ I was going to show her the videos in the morning, but an impromptu blood gas test means I’m typing while stroking her to try and get her to settle back to sleep. It’ll take a while. She thinks the 20-minute sleep she had before blood gas-gate was a restorative nap. The steroids are making her twitchy. I just want to sleep, but I know I’ll be jumping every time her monitors tell me to.

Most importantly though, Big is improving, albeit slowly, and we will leave the hospital in days rather than weeks. It won’t be tomorrow and it probably won’t be the next day, but it will happen soon. Well, as soon as we can sort out the oxygen drops at night and consequently wean her off the opti-flow night and day. We’re a little way from that, and maybe I’m being optimistic. Looking out of the window from HDU onto the ward today, I saw a little girl with tufts of blonde hair walking by with her exhausted mother. She’s been here for five-and-a-half weeks as part of a two-and-a-half-year plan to beat cancer. She’s just four-years-old. I cannot imagine the fear that her mother feels, or the guilt that she wrongly feels for her two other children at home – one only a few months old – that she and her husband are tag-teaming between to keep their family united and secure. I’m on my knees as I approach my third night in the HDU. My tired brain cannot process what that poor family are going through, or the fear they must have of what the future could hold. I feel a fraud for feeling so worried and exhausted. My little girl will, I hope, be back at school towards the end of next week, God, medical science and her little lungs willing.

And that, my friends, is why I count my blessings. Even in the depths of the night when my body is screaming for sleep and aches because I’m contorted in a position to hold Big in a way that comforts her without compromising her tubes and wires, I count my blessings. Yes, this is scary. Yes, this is hard. Yes, this is exhausting. But it will be brief and soon we will be home with poxy Medium and pukey Little and I will hold my three pixies and my Lovely Husband and never let them go.

Hold your family close, friends. Love them. Annoy them. But most of all, be with them.

 

* I should add that is wasn’t my intention for them to play with children that were incubating the pox. It was coincidence that they played with these particular children and the subsequently and very shortly afterwards came out in pox spots.

A bit of a week

A bit of a mishmash

Once again, friends, my apologies. It’s been a while. Truth be known, I’ve been dealing with a never ending snot trail that began with one child, transmitted to another and then another and then me, where it promptly turned into the sinus infection from hell and took a week of antibiotics to make it go away.

It’s been a rough couple of months. Medium and Little batted tonsillitis to and fro with serves that would rival Andy Murray. Big managed to ward off the germs until term finished and then the night before I was due to take her for a special treat to Olympia, her temperature suddenly rocketed to 40degs and instead we went to the out of hours doctor. A trip to Center Parcs was abandoned a few nights in and all three were on antibiotics by Christmas Eve. By Christmas Day, I could no longer move my head and looked longingly at All The Lovely Effective Decongestants in the medical box that I wasn’t allowed to take. By the time I saw our GP after the million bank holidays, I was in a right state and burst into tears as I sat down. Thankfully, Lovely Husband was off work and able to juggle the smalls, so I actually got to lie very still and concentrate on not moving my head. A further blip with Medium last week topped up my sleep deprivation levels, so you’ll be pleased to know that my eye bags are still capable of carrying a full week’s Big Shop.

Speaking of shopping, I finally bought something for the Miracle today. I’ve always been a bit superstitious about buying things for babies before they’re born, but unless this poor boy suits pink, he’d be a bit chilly, so I bit the bullet and bought him a very cute babygro and hat. It has to be said that shopping for boys’ clothes is nowhere near as much fun as shopping for girls. Everything either has dinosaurs or trucks on it.

I’ll be 23 weeks pregnant tomorrow. It’s certainly harder this time around. By the time I’ve finished the school run in the mornings, I feel like I’ve run a marathon. I feel huge and I’ve got aches on top of aches. My blood sugars, which will rise as the Miracle grows, are okay at the moment as long as I eat before 5.30pm. By 9pm, I’m starving. Despite this, I relish every moment that I feel the Miracle move. He’s a night owl (which doesn’t bode well for swapping my Tesco crate eye bags for a smaller, more chic tote bag, for example) and likes to have a disco just as I’m falling asleep. As time marches on, I can feel myself becoming cautiously excited. In 17 weeks, he will be here and we will be six. The love. There will be so much love.

I am always surprised by the way the love for your child can suddenly hit you ten fold in the chest when you least expect it. It happened to me today. I had a parent consultation with Big’s teacher. I nearly cried as she extolled Big’s amazing progress. Big is thriving at school; her teacher is her hero, and mine if I’m honest. My shy little button is getting stuck in. At pre-school, she rarely played with other children and struggled to understand them. Today, her teacher told me she is rarely on her own and always asking to be involved. This is a big step for a child like Big. She’s recognising other children’s emotions and trying to help them and, as she gains new feathers in her wings, her confidence is growing by the day. I’m so proud of her.

I’m also proud of myself. Over Christmas, Lovely Husband nearly bought me the horse of my dreams. I even flew to Portugal to ride him and have him vetted. He was delicious, and my heart was telling me to buy him, buy him, buy him. Sadly, an issue with his x-rays meant that I didn’t go ahead and I still feel sad about this. When I examine my feelings, though, I realise I’m sad about what he represented rather than the horse himself. He represented time to myself, a little freedom, an opportunity to be me, a childhood dream realised. I had an amazing livery arrangement organised, with a ton of expert support. But it would have been a dream compromised and I would have constantly been grappling guilt; guilt that I didn’t spend enough time with the horse (who frankly deserved a better rider and a more competitive home than I could give him) and guilt that my son spent too much time in a pushchair at the side of the school. My time with the horse of my dreams will come. Lovely Husband has promised me that. In the meantime, I will enjoy every second sniffing the Miracle and counting the dreams that have already come true.

A bit of a mishmash