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

Desperate bedtimes

Any parent that says bedtime is completely stress-free is a great, big fibber. By the time the dulcet tones of Charlie and Lola start, I’m ready to grab that smiley CBeebies logo and throw it in the log burner. The witching hour (this is not a myth: The witching hour is a real phenomenon. Designed to drive mums to wine. Or whine. Or probably both) is underway and the Big One and Medium One turn from lovely, fun little girls into WWF Pro Wrestlers jumping on each other and seeing who can make the other cry first. Once they’ve ascertained who wins that round, they try to see who can make the other cry the loudest. The winner of that round is hard to judge: I’m usually wailing above them.

I can remember when the Big One was a baby, and friends would tell me that their little angel was sleeping through already. They’d swiftly follow this statement with something along the lines of, “I only had to jump up and give him/her their dummy a few times.” I would adopt my polite face, and say, “Oh, that’s good.” Inside, my inner banshee was screaming: “THAT IS NOT SLEEPING THROUGH! Sleeping through is eight hours undisturbed bliss.” I haven’t had the latter since 2010.

We’ve been through all the bedtime traumas: The Medium One went through a stage of refusing to fall asleep unless Husband or I sat on the floor by her bed praying to the god of sleep that she’d fall asleep soon. We could be there for hours. The Big One used to want to suck my finger to sleep. Supernanny’s gradual retreat technique was pretty good, but fundamentally it took a strict routine to teach Big and Medium that when Mummy said it was time to go to sleep, it was time to go to sleep.

Part of this routine is a bath. Prior to my Sleep Dictator Mummy guise, bath time was fairly noisy. There was a lot of splashing and brightly coloured toys. It’s a quiet affair now. I leave the main light off and the girls bath with Husband’s cleverly designed mood lighting. There are bubbles, but no toys. It’s 15-minutes of winding down, gentle songs, trying to keep the girls at opposite ends of the bath to stop them resuming their wrestling. After their bath, they have a quick story, a kiss goodnight and, all being well, they’re left to fall asleep.

Tonight I had a secret ingredient and they were both out cold by 6.45. Little was sleeping off her bath (oh yes, I have all three in the bath at once. I’m brave, me) and feed in her rocker and I actually had a hot supper for the first time in forever.

I’m tempted not to share the identity of my secret ingredient, but I’m more selfless than that and I think there’s plenty to go round. InfaCare have brought out an ultra-mild night-time baby bath. Now, I’ve tried night time bath things before and been sadly disappointed but this one nearly sent me to sleep on the bathroom floor. Good job it didn’t. The bottle says it’s a ‘specially selected, safe and gentle fragrance’ but doesn’t specify exactly what it is. There’s definitely lavender in there. It certainly calmed my little wrestlers down and me, too. Instead of coming downstairs in a knot of argh, I was pretty calm.

I have to be careful with bath products; Medium has eczema and Little is too small to use anything but the kindest stuff. InfaCare say their bubble bath is gentle and suitable for littles with dry and sensitive skin. Medium’s skin certainly didn’t seem to mind it, but the proof will be in longer term use.

But why should the smalls get the best stuff? I’m going to let Husband juggle Little later and go for a soak myself. InfaCare, I’m coming to get you.

(I can’t help thinking I’ve jinxed the whole bedtime thing by writing this blog. I might yet be praying to the sleep gods again.)

Desperate bedtimes

An open letter to Medium

Dear Medium

When Daddy and I decided to try for Little, everyone said, “But that will make Medium a middle child.” My answer then was the same as it is now: If ever there was a child that should be a middle child, it’s Medium.

You, my darling girl, are the glue. You look up to your big sister and look after your little one. You love them both with such enthusiasm. Everything you do is with such enthusiasm. You’re a joy. You’re brilliant. You’re the one that will keep the three of you close. You’re the one that means I can worry less.

Every day, you amaze me. You’re only just two but you’re speaking fluently… And loudly. You were born without a volume dial, but do you know what? That just adds to your charm. The second Little cries, you find me to announce, “She wants her Mummy Mulk (milk).” You can’t bear her being upset. If I say she’s been fed, you tell me she needs a ‘Tuddle’. You just want everyone to be happy.

You smile all day, every day – just showing your bottom teeth. You’re out in the garden in your pyjama top, nappy and wellies as soon as you get up to go for a bounce on the trampoline. You crunch your little chubby knees up as high as you can, laughing as you bounce as high as possible. It’s ever better when Big joins you and you play chase. I’ve never known anyone smile and laugh as much you do, my happy little soul.

You eat. Boy, do you eat. All day. Everything you see. But I’m not surprised; you don’t stop moving. Big will sit down and watch a film. You? Never. There’s too much to DO. And too much to eat.

You’re no picnic though, Medium. When things don’t go your way, you’ll lie on the floor and protest like any other two-year-old. Often silently, but you’ll refuse to move and it’s best to leave you on the floor. Otherwise it really does get loud. That said, you adjust amazingly. When I felt it was time to limit your doh-doh (dummy), I expected a fight. I didn’t get one. You just shrugged your little shoulders and said, “Okay, I’ll just have it at bedtime.’

You’re hilarious. I never know what you’re going to do next. It’s not uncommon to find you wearing Little’s hat, Big’s wellies and my coat. You draw on Little’s head, call random numbers on my phone and climb anything and everything. You’re inquisitive, clever and just great fun. As Daddy says, you’re good value. You have a fan club. I actually get emails asking what you’ve been up to because you’re so funny.

You are just awesome, Medium, and I love you to the moon and back. I can’t wait to see what your future holds and I can’t wait to be there with you.

Love, Mummy. xxx

An open letter to Medium

Ping, there goes another rib

There are days when I can feel my temper is frayed to the seams. When the children push every button they can, where I want to put CBeebies on at the start at the day and not turn it off until the kids are sparko. There are days when I just want to go back to work because it would undoubtably be easier than spending every hour of every day (and every night, given Medium’s habit of bed hopping into our bed) with three small children who want to absorb every cell in my body.

Today was not one of them.

Today was punctuated by bursts of belly laughs. Mainly, mine. We started with a lovely playdate. The pre-school mums really are a lovely bunch. Medium took strongly to one of our host’s toys and I feared a meltdown when we left to go home, but she coped well and I now know what to buy her for Christmas. Father Christmas can thank me later.

As we busied ourselves at home, Big surprised me by picking up one of our fabulous chickens. Now these birds are tame, but to allow a four-year-old to carry them like a handbag doesn’t do anything to dispel the myth that chickens really are stupid.

Despite the rather rough handling, Mrs Huggins, our Moran cross, happily sat on Big’s lap outside in the sun. She was less keen when Medium grabbed her by the throat and expressed her love with a little squeeze. Still, she stayed on Big’s lap.

Medium and I busied ourselves on the trampoline and when I turned around, Big and Mrs Huggins had disappeared. Assuming she’d got bored, I didn’t think anything of it. Until I walked indoors and found her sitting on the sofa, chicken on her lap, watching CBeebies. Not something you see every day.

Medium, at two-and-two-months, is speaking fairly early. Weirdly, with a cockney accent. I don’t have BBC diction, but my mum would’ve rapped me on the knuckles for dropping my Hs and Ts. I have no idea where she’s picked up this accent – too much EastEnders in utero maybe.

She’s made me smile by running around the garden announcing that she’d “Dun a blow orff’ and introducing me to “‘Orse, innit.” (To the uninitiated, that translates as “Horse, isn’t it.”)

The day ended with Big asking if she could ‘do a show’. This show consisted of her singing the chorus of ‘Let It Go’ while running around the room with Little’s baby gym wrapped around her waist. I feel slightly dazed.

So today was one of those days where my temper wasn’t frayed, no buttons were pushed and I definitely, definitely don’t want to go back to work. Those girls? They’re my world.

Ping, there goes another rib

Got to love a Guiness

It’s amazing what a few rays of sunshine can do.  This morning’s dawn of a brighter day seemed to put me into overdrive.  I’d made bread,  a venison stew and achieved the utopia of empty washing baskets by 8.30am. My efficiency drive continued and the baskets are still empty now*.

I had a rare opportunity to pause today.  My mum and I took the smalls to Petworth for a walk. After lunch,  Small demanded hers so I sat on a bench in the sun and had an incredibly happy half an hour feeding her and looking at all the beautiful colours Autumn had brought with her this year,  highlighted by the unseasonably warm sun. To my right,  my little pixies were climbing trees.  To my left,  some other children were on a deer hunt.

Given the dinner I’d put on to slow cook that morning,  the irony wasn’t lost on me and it set my mind off on a train of thought about the provenance of food. This is something I’m increasingly passionate about. I don’t buy supermarket meat and I love game. For me,  these animals live a very non contrived life with a more natural diet than their farmed counterparts. This can only be good for us.

Venison is one of my favourite meats. It’s lean,  high in iron and incredibly tasty.  Here’s how I did it today:

A large handful of diced venison per person, tossed in seasoned flour
A few shallots,  chopped
A can of Guinness
Punnet of redcurrants or jar of redcurrant jelly
A few sprigs of rosemary
A punnet of mushrooms.

Seal the venison with the shallots and mushrooms. Add the Guinness,  redcurrants and rosemary and bring to the boil. Chuck in the oven to slow cook for as long as possible and serve with mash,  veg and a glass of full bodied red wine. Or Guinness. 

But the best thing about my solar powered efficient day? I was tucked up in bed by 7.30 with Small for cuddles.  Get. Right. In.

*Is it cheating that subsequent washing was just thrown straight into the machine,  thus bypassing the baskets?  They’re still technically empty.

Got to love a Guiness

Fear of forgetting

Today I submitted our school application for the Big One. She’ll be five next September and my tiny baby will be plucked from my arms and into the world of school. I’m not ready. She’s not ready. Even my mum’s not ready. NO ONE IS READY.

I have no idea where the time has gone. It seems like yesterday that I was sitting on my sofa with my six NCT friends, bemoaning our first experiences of piles, reflux and stroking our enormous bumps. Lulled into a false sense of security by our four birthing classes in which we were promised that our partner massaging our feet would make it a beautiful, slightly ‘uncomfortable’ experience and that breastfeeding was easy and completely painless. Gullible twits that we were. The reality is that it bloody hurt and who knew that nipples could actually bleed?

But I digress. As usual.

I’m scared I’ll forget. I worry that I won’t remember what it feels like to see Big’s beautiful face light up in the best smile when she sees me at Pre-school pick up. That she’ll get the swagger of a schoolgirl and Mummy becomes Mum and totally uncool. I worry that she won’t ask to do craft any more and that the endless cry of, ‘What are you doing, Mummy? Can I do it too?’ will cease. I worry that my shadow will disappear.

I fear forgetting the tickle of Medium’s fuzzy hair in the middle of the night when she’s joined me in bed without me knowing and the way she smiles, just showing her bottom teeth. Sometimes I forget she even has top teeth. I fear her lovely, chunky toddler legs will disappear too soon and she’ll no longer climb on my lap and let me stroke them.

And then there’s Little. Will I remember how she snuggles into me as if she wants to get back inside my skin if I make a move to get out of bed? How much I love just lying in the dark with her in my arms and sniffing that intoxicating baby smell on the top of her head? The feeling I had when I first saw her smile and the tears at her first laugh.

I feel like I need to back up my brain, like I do the photos on my phone but I’m not convinced Dropbox stores memories. Perhaps they could work on that. In the meantime, if time could just slow down a little bit – just a little bit – so I can stop and smell the children, that would be great.

Fear of forgetting