Monthly Archives: April 2017

Enjoying the little things

I don’t have particularly fond memories of school. I stood out in Primary for being the first in my class to have divorced parents and then we had the only Stay at home single Father who was loved and adored by all the mothers and even the all female staff. When I moved to Secondary I was placed in a very small class (18 students) of exceptionally gifted and talented 11 year olds. It seems I had a natural gift for English and Maths which put targets on all of us. We were the geeks and/or nerds of the school and expected to lead the way for excellent results during the next 5 years. My saving grace was an incredible group of friends. 

We were a quirky lot, got down to work when we had to but also found the time to laugh and break the stress of the day. We all dressed in black one year to fundraise, one of us could speak passable Klingon, another hid a shed full of animals and is now a Vet Nurse. We were good for eachother and I made some life long friends who will never understand how much they meant to me at a time when I felt extraordinarily lost. 

One of the girls and I had a very up and down relationship; she was my bestfriend and also my achilles heel. She knew so many of my secrets and she occassionally slipped up and would dump me in it with one boy or another that I was head over heels in lust with and it would all end in tears. Looking back it was fairly typical teenage hiccups but, also, I thought of her as a cousin or stepsister. That’s the relationship we had. I told her all the darkness and she would try to find me some light. I put up with her catty side because I loved her dearly and it was nothing to the way my own sister treated me. Her family were, and are, awesome. Her parents are some of the coolest going and they never seemed to get fed up with my constant visits. They are truly diamonds of the South.

My bestie and I fell out around the time of our GCSEs. It was a biggun and it took me a very long time to forgive. Too long. We would find eachother over the next 14 years and have a quick catchup. I was at a different point in my life to my school friends. Happily married, a houseful of kids, chicken pox, washable nappies, and the start of my aches and pains. She was a working woman, living her life the way she wanted to and still getting through her own baggage. 

Then we hit 30 and whilst I was still making babies, she was starting a rollercoaster that she never planned on. 

She was having shoulder pains which they were struggling to indentify and eventually a bit of a push from mum about an “unrelated” issue made the doctors look a little deeper. Yeah, cancer. This woman who had lived her life in the positive had been hit with a killer blow. That’s when it stopped being about where we were in life and it came back to a group of friends who had each others backs. 

I had missed my bestie. The odd sense of humour, the dark laughter, the sage advice. I was glad to be able to reconnect even if the circumstances were less than ideal. Oh, who am I kidding? Less than ideal? They couldn’t have been worse. It shouldn’t have taken cancer to bring us back together. Any hurt that happened half our life time ago should have been well and truly buried. It was buried. I knew that we were a couple of teeny boppers just finding our feet and hurting inside because of things we had no control over. 

We laughed again, giggled inappropriately, enjoyed giant yorkshire puddings and afternoon tea. It was simple. I want anything for it to be simple again. 

Her cancer isn’t shy. Her Doctors have been doing a fabulous job at pushing it back, holding the flood gates. The multipe surgeries have helped, certainly she finally got the breast reduction which had always been a back seat “one day” – something we had a dark laugh about. We also chatted about the special one of a kind face mask they use to hold her head completely still for targetted treatment. She tells us that there are these fabulous murials on the ceiling rather than crappy hospital tiles. The staff are extraordinary too. They go above and beyond to make sure that all of their patients are as comfortable as possible. 

We often moan about waiting times, prescription costs, time hanging on the phone whilst sorting out appointments, and yet, our NHS has gone above and beyond to help my beautiful friend. It does so every single day around the UK. 

That word seems to be said so often now. Cancer. There is sound scientific reason behind it too. We have a 1 in 2 risk of being diagnosed with cancer across the course of a lifetime. That’s some seriously scary odds. The good news is that we are increasing the odds of surviving every single day so for the majority of people who get dealt the Big C card, they will beat it and go on to live happy, healthy lives. www.cancerresearchuk.org

My friend got given the rubbish hand. She has managed to hold off her ending for longer than she was first told. I am so glad she did. I found my friend again, just when I needed her. I’m so incredibly blessed. She has helped me to live again, just at a point where she can’t. Hold your loved ones close today and everyday. Don’t weigh yourself down with hate, work through it and let it go so you can enjoy the daily grind – okay, not enjoy but you have to count the days that are normal as a good thing. I do the night rounds at home, checking in on each child, removing the hard plastic dinosaur, tucking teddy back into bed to avoid an early wake up alarm to find him, turning off the cd player, and brushing the fallen locks off the faces. Today has ended well and I enjoy knowing that we made it through another day. 

I don’t know what happens next, I suspect it will be awful. I want to remember the little things like daisy chains and pizza parties, blue lemonade and bent chips. It’s the little things that matter the most, they all add up and make amazing memories. Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. I’m glad I have the opportunity to revisit, to make anew, and find time to look back.

Love you, V xxx

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All in your head

I first complained of pain when I was about 13. Every now and again I would get a killer headache or this brace like tightness across my back or my legs would go into hideous cramps that I could do very little about. My GP claimed it was growing pains, almost tutting that I was being dramatic. Before I knew it I was suffering on a more often than not basis. It made me feel awful, not being believed. I wasn’t a liar! I was known for my honesty and sense of justice but now I didn’t know how to get the help I needed. 

At this juncture my life felt impossible. My parents hated each other, we went for months between visits with Mother and my dad was left to raise 3 hormonal teens and was also a fairly selfish man who didn’t want to lose his single lifestyle. By the time I hit 14 I was near suicidal. 

My life seemed to be clouding over, forever in a dark and lonely place. I missed my mum. I can only admit that now, as a mother myself with all the hindsight that gives you. I absolutely needed a mother but my own was so caught up in the blackness of her own depression that she was completely unavailable. It would be another 20 years before a relationship could again be broached. 

All of my friends had fantastic relationships with their mums. I envied them and that hideous green tinge tainted my thoughts. I tried to talk to people but no one seemed very interested or they looked at me with pitying glances that just made me feel even smaller. Which was odd because I was actually putting on weight at an alarming rate.

I had secret stashes of paracetamol and ibuprofen. I knew how many to take to do a proper job of it and I would plan which days it would be best to finally take them, which days it would be my dad who would find me and not my little sister. I wrote a note, I didn’t hold back, I wanted him to know exactly how I felt. 

My physical pains felt like manifestations of my mental distress. Maybe it was all in my head. Could my weird, strange, alien thoughts be the reason for my aches and pains? At the time it made sense to me, it was my punishment for being such a nuisance for my dad, for being unkind to my little sister, for missing my crazy, unstable, often cruel mum. At 15, an attempt to become more social ended in a “friend” raping me. I told no one for weeks, for months. People saw that I wasn’t doing too well. The physical pain was unbelievable and yet everyday I continued in my daily activities as I pretended that everything was fine. I wasn’t fine. I was contemplating walking out into traffic or perhaps walking into the local fishing lake on one of my many late night wanderings.

I visited GPs a few times before I turned 18 and became a mother. No one asked me how I felt or considered that it was a question which should be asked of one so young. Then I was diagnosed with PostNatal Depression and that’s how it has been labelled ever since.

Nobody mentions it face to face. Some people have openly told me that depression is a sign of weakness, it’s mind over matter, that people should just get on with it and stop claiming….

Everyday, I do just that – I get on with it. I get on with the darkness swirling about my head and get on with the pain that is now my constant companion. I don’t think it is ever going to get better, not really. 

Everyday I wake with this constant thrumming pain throughout my body, it spreads into my brain and I realise that it is now a part of me. I’ve lived with my dark friend for almost my whole life and although the antidepressants I take to help combat the fibro quiten his whisperings and purrs, they never make it so I can live without him there. 
Depression isn’t a dirty word. It shouldn’t be the whispered word of quiet conversations or the hidden label worn by the woman with the fake smile. 

The pain I suffer from my condition isn’t all in my head. It is real, very real and yet I still get up everyday and fight for the right to rule my own body. It is an easier fight than the one I have been working on for the last 20 years. It hasn’t bested me yet, I’m hopeful it never will.

Picking Favourites

For quite some time now, my eldest daughter has been slinging ‘ the favourite’ card at me. This is usually connected to the future CEO – daughter no3. I can see why she says it, to a 13 year old it would seem that I am unfairly favouring a sibling who is frequently rewarded. I guess this is where carrot not stick falls short. 

Here I am, asking the kids to help with the household chores. I don’t think I’m being unduly harsh on them for asking that they pick up after themselves, make their own beds, bring their own dirty clothes down to the basket, take clean clothes upstairs again, load or unload the dishwasher, help with lunch or dinner. Please remember, they aren’t doing that all day every day. I’ll allocate 3 or 4 jobs each. Easy tasks which are all connected to themselves. The screeching from Miss Hormones, the stamping from Miss Dreamer, the pursed lips and folded arms from the youngest Gingerling, and the boys both conveniently disappear siting homework as the reason. The only child who is likely to just get on with it is Miss CEO. Occassionally we get the odd “it’s not fair!” from her, afterall, to her it feels like she is the only one doing anything (because she is) but then she gets the reward which I have stated repeatedly, is open to all helpers when they’ve finished their jobs. The reward can be *helping with the shopping!* which will often lead to a small treat of new colouring pencils or a pretty hair dye, or maybe getting to choose the movie night treats, or even just getting their hair plaited which is now quite a rarity with my fingers cramping up. Nothing is extravagent, they all get the same chance but the results are the same. It will always be the tweenie who helps, you know, the child caught between their care free childhood and the peer pressures of the teenage years. 

This stage of life is actually the easy bit but it doesn’t last for anywhere near long enough. It is the last year of primary and life seems to go through like a bagillion changes, or so Miss CEO seems to suggest. As a mother, always fostering independance whilst slowly letting out the apron strings, I’m no longer surprised that we are seeing a gluttony of depressed youngsters. The demands our children are under starts before they even start school at 4, constantly being tested, watched for errors, placed on tables relating to how well they do or don’t stick to the lines when colouring… 

I am not a keen results reader, I much prefer to sit with a teacher who knows my child and who can tell me who their friends are, what their favourite topic is and how wonderfully knowledgable they are about Minecraft, Peppa Pig or the rights and responsibilities of the LGBTQ+ community. Instead I get to go in, interrupt the teacher who has their parent’s evening chit chat memorised and say actually Mr Teacher, would you mind if we can talk about how my child feels isolated and threatened whilst in your care? I have to explain that, yes, I understand that Miss CEO has a very secure sense of The Rules, how society should behave and, unfortunately, how it actually behaves. I have to again suggest that perhaps “ignoring” the problem is making it worse and that, perhaps, if the children involved were pulled to one side and asked to follow The Rules as they are supposed to. I don’t want to know that she must be popular because she was chosen by her classmates to be class rep, it doesn’t alter how much my book worm, mathematics enthusiast, teacher’s pet has changed, how now we talk about why it is important to attend school instead of why she can’t possibly be ill because she has to go to school. Even speaking with the Head didn’t help. One particular child is a handful in class and particular hurtful to Miss CEO because his mother doesn’t agree with the School Behaviour Policy!?! (I still can’t get my head around that one.)

I am more than aware that no child is an angel, I’m not overly concerned by the fact that all 8 of my children are unique and fall across the behaviour spectrum, but I am concerned that one after another my children have felt bullied at school and it is at those moments that my tweens, as each has been when this occurs, naturally demands a little more of my attention, an extra squish before school, and a touch more responsibility and praise at home to remind them that their beautiful nature and enthralling character is worth so much more than this bully or bullies will have them believe.
So, no. I don’t have a favourite child just a favoured child at *this* time. It will soon change. The bullies will lose and my little Future Leader will regain the confidence at home to be a stroppy dot again reminding me that we are doing a good job with our kids – they fell safe and secure enough at home to push the boundaries and ignore the mess *just* long enough to not get in to real trouble. At this point I think it worthwhile to point out to my eldest two (who have both acknowledged having a nose) that I still love them just as much when they are being messy, antisocial, food demanding, adolescents. But I also really would like you to bring those messy cups and plates down, thanks muchly.

I am utterly proud of my children, it would be impossible to pick a favourite. Each child is maturing into beautiful examples of what people could be, I am enjoying seeing them grow, change, tweak their own world view map, bring new insights to our family table, and even behave in an adorable childlike way whenever we find a bridge over a stream to play Pooh Sticks or a particularly interesting looking tree to climb.

I have many favourite moments, my children feature in all of them.

Nine years and still mulling things over

I am a birth enthusiast, although if that surprises you given my tagline then this post might not be for you.

I have experienced 

  • long, drawn out, boring labour
  • super quick and super exciting birth
  • spontaneous vaginal birth
  • urgent c-section
  • midwife led, hands off 
  • hospital “by the book”
  • home “birth before arrival” 
  • induced
  • and most importantly, live & healthy babies

I am also a very lucky recipient of some of the best healthcare available, free at the point of delivery, and world leading practices and staff members. There’s no doubting in my mind, the UK nationals are incredibly blessed to live in an era where labouring women have access to the best of the best.

I have met some extraordinary Consultants, Midwives, & health care professionals. There are also a few too many rotten eggs that we could do with pushing out of the basket but that is true of all walks of life so the easiest way to deal with them is to write your concerns down and send them in for the powers that be to act upon. Okay, it isn’t perfect but it is ours and I prefer not to kick a wounded animal, thanks all the same.

Anyway, back to my musings and mullings.

The Boy was a bellyful before he arrived. He span around so many times in the last three months of pregnancy that it was hit or miss regarding our plans for a homebirth. I believe that a breech baby can be safely delivered at home with appropriately trained midwives, they would also more likely be birthed without diffculty in this situation than trying a vaginal breech delivery in hospital. I feel this is mostly down to hospitals dealing with complications of medical interference and the setting being the best place for births needing closer attention. Personal opinion, lots of reading and researching, not medical advice.

My final antenatal appointment at 41 weeks had the head back down safe and our plans back on the kitchen table, so to speak. Unfortunately I felt him spin as I played puzzles with his then toddler sister as I gently breathed through contractions. I had already sent for the Mr to come home, arranged for the elder children to be collected after school, rang for my sister to come and sit with the smalls. In the 30 minutes it took for Mr to cycle home my waters burst magnificently and to my despair, the familiar brown colour meant that homebirth dreams where finally dashed. 

The drive to the hospital, only 10 slow minutes, was hideous. Why do hospitals put speed bumps around the very long drive to maternity? And why do councils seem to put them on every side road they can? Or so it seemed at the time. I could see that he was the wrong way around with each contraction. He’s broad back streched tight under my ribcage as my lower uterus failed to find a body to push lower. It took about 40 minutes from arrival at the labour ward to arrival at the theatre doors. My treatment was overseen by some of the not so world class midwives and my obvious upset and distress was “over looked” as my operating team set up around me. From the minute we decided that a c-section was the best course of action I cried almost uncontrollably. Some tears fell silently as people bustled around me, others slid across my cheeks as my breathing became rough and heavy, and my sobs heaved, the not so tiny boy pushing against my lungs making it harder and harder to focus on the positives. 

Our only request, to see for ourselves the gender of our fifth child after what, at the time, was four beautiful girls, was at first agreed to but unfortunately forgotten as the registrar pulled first his bottom and then his legs from my abdomen. An encouraging “come on big boy” was heard as yet more waves of fear gripped at my body, now shaking uncontrollably, and a terrifying pins and needles sensation was felt in my toes. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t express how utterly broken I was as my 100% healthy, squawking, blue bundle was wrapped and taken to recovery. My only words were to Mr to go with our son, to not let him out of his sight.

The tears continued to fall, my heartbeat erratic and breathing still laboured. The equipment check saw a missing swab and a broken clamp. By this point I was all but sewed up and the tingling sensation had now reached my thighs, I can recall the anaesthetist joking with me before a rapid search of the room finds the missing articles and the final knot is formed. I had regained enough movement to shuffle myself over on to the recovery trolley, the only part of me still numb was my now deflated stomach, the empty housing for the 41 weeks it took for my son to grow. I can see how people would think I should get over myself, that others have truly horrifying experiences, that my desire for a “natural” birth experience at home was just a pipe dream, one of those things, so time to move on. But I can’t. I’ve tried so many times to move past the pain and chalk it up to experience, but the pain is still real.

This evening I found my file containing my birth notes. The tears flowed freely as I see laid out, line by line, the timescale of my labour. It notes my blood pressure and temperature, the baby’s trace and the ineffective contractions. It says very little of my distress. Even my outburst as I demanded the room be cleared and I flung the ctg straps from my belly was conviently omitted from the entries. Only a short note that the monitor was repositioned and a fresh trace performed before my transfer from the delivery suite.

Perhaps, if I had sought help sooner, the pain and distress that I still feel today would be more managable. Unfortunately the Boy wasn’t an easy baby and the postnatal depression gripped me so hard that I doubt I could have properly addressed the issues even had help been offered. 

One day I hope to be able to help mothers who feel like I did, like I do. I want to reach out to them, to hold their hand, to cry with them and laugh with them, and to find a way to live well despite the trauma. We don’t talk enough about the weird ways our brains work when pregnancy takes control of your body. We don’t talk about how difficult it can be living with guilt, with disappointment, with the discomfort of nightmares and night sweats, waking in tears or dreading falling asleep as a birth gets replayed over and over again and sucks you back into grips of depression.

Postnatal depression, post traumatic stress disorder, “baby blues” – why do we take them so lightly? Mothers like me, we are so glad to be holding our happy, healthy bundles of joy but that is a position running parallel to the mind which can’t “pull itself together”, which can’t just be happy for a positive outcome. 

Mum, don’t feel alone. What you are experiencing is all too familiar to many other mums and we will reach out to you, if you let us. I know it hurts, I know that is draining you mentally and that it is so tough right now, but we can find new ways to make it better, to make it hurt a little less, to make it managable at the very least. You are not alone.

Hormones

It seems like our household is run on those tricky parts of the human system and it is terribly difficult to navigate.

Personally, I had the implant embeded a couple of years back. I am not overly keen, I never wanted to override my bodies own balance in such a way but we hadn’t made a decision about our families future so this gave us breathing space for three long years. Between this and long term breastfeeding my periods have stopped and my empty switch seems to have disappeared as my belly has increased considerably. In fact, I lost a none too shabby 2.5 stone just before deciding on the implant and I’ve gained that and the same again since. I am now hovering around the largest I have ever been and I’m not best pleased with it. I have also been put on some serious anti-depressants to try and counter the Fibro symptoms which may have helped the gain. Sucks to be me this year. The pain is so intense right now so exercise is not an option, even a short walk around Lidl has me beat and makes the rest of the day a right off. At least I don’t have mood swings anymore.

The big girls are all flooding with the damn things! All day, every day, one after the other we will work through an emotional outburst. Generally, it is easily dealt with, nothing outrageous or unmanageable but they seem to be a catalyst for the next big bang. I know the theory of all this but I never imagined just what a minefield it is. Suddenly a simple clothing suggestion becomes an on switch for a plethora of self doubt and accussations of sabotague. I swear, one day my head is going to spin so fast that it will fly off like a spinning top. There is no way to keep up with three teens who are all competing with themselves, each other and the social media peer group which I would quite like to take a massive delete button to. The messages coming from the images, memes, and quick quotes on Snap This and Insta That are a ginormous boiling pot of misery masked as sympathy and “advice”. We are the lucky family that are tech savvy and switched off enough to talk to each other and work through some of the damage these social groups can cause. When I hear tales of their real life school peers, the time they spend interacting with trolls and frenemies, the backlash they experience for wearing the wrong brand or not being quite “on point” with the latest eyebrow shape, I shudder and allow an audible profanity to escape whilst describing these faceless internet users. The boys are no more protected from this mockery and hate filled onslaught, they are just more likely to internalise the self loathing this invisible bully causes. No wonder that depression, anxiety, self harm, & low self esteem are hitting terrific highs in recent studies. The lack of personal, non-study based classes in the UK has to take a hit on this too. If we do not take the time to educate our young people about the positive role they can and will play in society, the impact their future job or position could help to raise the sense of self worth, and just the ability to decipher the hideous circus that the World Wide Web can so often be.

Our Big Lad has his own horomonal battle to fight. If it isn’t bad enough that his body is producing an abundance of the “wrong” hormone for his personal body preference, he also has to take a different hormone based prescription to help counter balance this cruel reminder that somehow, somewhere, something went a bit skew whiff. He has been considering blockers for a good long while now and it is the likely route he takes on his path to finally taking testosterone. This has it’s own complicated set of checks and balances, as well as a huge list of unknowns for this relatively new regime.

As a mother I’m finding this all a great deal to take in. For a 16 year old taking GCSEs (or whatever the damn certificates will end up saying) this must be a consideration which takes up more time than you’d prefer to allow as you chart out a revision timetable and pencil in study groups and classes running before and after school. I wish that I could make this process easier, to take away some of the stress and strain but it isn’t in my power. I get to sit back and offer a listening ear and the taxi service to various appointments, classes, and youth groups. 

To think, all those years ago when we first planned a large family, I never really gave much thought to how challenging this part of parenthood could prove to be. Now I’m living it I can confirm that it is as tough as all those commentaters have joked over the years but I can also confidently say, even with the teenagers, and the Threenanger, and the Queen Bee baby of the bunch, the Smiler, and the Boy – I would do this all over again. 

Despite the drama, the mayhem, and the sheer overwhelming need for reassurance that hormones seem to elicit, my young people are coping in a way I can only dream of. The sheer awe that I feel when I see each of them find their path through the hurdles and the set backs is almost beyond words. Our eight wonderful, individual, unique, and outstanding examples of the beauty that dna can create far outweighs this mass hormone onslaught. This is what gets me through, that and knowing that one day they may well experience a little of this rollercoaster with their own dna experiments.