Saturday, 27 February 2010
Friday, 26 February 2010
Thursday, 25 February 2010
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
When a baby is born and goes to special care, everyone gets "the conversation". A run down about how the ward works, about expressing, and about the peculiar special care "snakes and ladders" phenomena.
Premature babies are, quite simply, not ready for the world. They have no fat and cannot maintain their body temperature, their skin hasn't formed so it doesn't act as a barrier to the outside world and they are incredibly susceptible to infection, they are not ready to breathe, they are not ready to eat. It's all alien and strange, because us, as mothers, should be protecting, feeding and nurturing that baby inside the safety of the womb. But nature (or in my case a consultant team) have decided the baby is safer on the outside.
So the reality is there is a lot that can go wrong. And this scenario is without any underlying problems that even a term baby can face, such as heart defects. Many premature babies develop life threatening problems particularly in their first weeks in special care.
One is warned that the journey will be two steps forward, one step back. One day, you can walk in, the baby is breathing on their own, looking good, maintaining their body temperature. The next day you walk in and they're back on assisted breathing, a funny colour, and the incubator is turned up.
The baby might be feeding like a pro, using a bottle, and then just not able to for a day or two, gets too tired, and you feel like your back in the beginning again. It can be crushing, and so hard to remain positive and stay strong for your baby.
And to a lesser extent, once a baby is discharged this can continue. Weaning (which I promise I will get to tomorrow!) is a case in point.
You have finally got feeding, whether bottle, breast or mixed feeding, down to a fine art. You know when feeds are due, you know how the baby is likely to react, what size teats to use, how much to make, and then you have to add solids.
This can be a frustrating and difficult time for parents, and their babies. It can also be a joy, as its another step in your tiny baby's journey to join the world.
Monday, 22 February 2010
My other friend is my kitchen. It's so tiny, it looks like it should be on a boat!.The smaller the kitchen, the less to clean I suppose. There is room for my Kitchenaid Artisan, a large fruit bowl, and my big toaster. What more could I want ?
I am a collector of cookbooks. I have, rather aptly given my title, every single Nigella book. And suprisingly perhaps, her Express is my favourite, despite the lack of convoluted recipes for cakes and slow cooked extravaganzas. Every0ne needs one of those books that give you quick ideas when your pressed for time, or just can't face an hour in the kitchen.
My other cooking hero is Stephanie Alexander, not well known in the UK, she authored the epic Cook's Companion. If you only ever treat yourself to one, huge, encyclopedic cook book, make it this one. Its separated by ingredients, so if you happen to have a glut of one particular ingredient, or if you see something new at the supermarket, or especially if you get a veggie box and get some strange item in it and not sure what to do with it, this book is a lifesaver. As well as long recipes, she has quick short margin ideas. Its an invaluable resource. I love her other books too, especially Recipes My Mother Gave Me, a reworking of her mother's recipe book.
I love baking and I am a sucker for cupcakes. I love them. Partly because they are small, so you can always find a little space in your diet for a cupcake. Nothing is prettier than a nicely decorated cupcake. They also repay you if your fundraising. Out of one batch of mixture you would get one big cake, but 20 cupcakes. You can easily get £1 for a cupcake, but much less likely to be able to cut a big cake into 20 slices and comfortably charge £1 a slice.
I own a few beautiful baking books, but The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook is a current favourite, along with Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery. My dream would be to own such a bakery here in Ramsbottom or Bury, and bake beautiful cakes to brighten up a dull day (and we have enough of them up here!)
My biggest culinary challenge though, has been weaning Joseph, I will talk to you tomorrow (hopefully) about this delightful and somewhat daunting experience!
Until then, browse Amazon and drool over my favourite books!
Sunday, 21 February 2010
When I was a poor student, and unable to buy treats from the Body Shop (and Lush hadn't been invented yet) I used to buy Epsom Salts for a lovely bath time treat. Nothing relaxes the muscles like a dose of salts. (Its used for constipation as well, however I'd rather have prunes thank you very much)
Little did I know then what an important role Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) would play in my medical future.
Just to recap a little, at 26weeks + 6 days I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. So just what is it? Eclampsia is a Greek word, and it means "bolt from the blue", eclampsia is a massive seizure, and can be fatal.
Pre eclampsia is the state before eclampsia happens. True eclampsia is rare, partly because of good ante natal care, and the fact that pre eclampsia can be spotted and treated. Pre eclampsia though, is somewhat of a misnomer, as eclampsia can happen without pre eclampsia being present. Also it can appear after eclampsia has occured. In some instances pre eclampsia can occur immediately after birth.
No one is really sure why pre eclampsia happens. Some things put a woman at greater risk, such as a first pregnancy, being obese, and having a history of high blood pressure. But equally, many women without any of these risk factors find that they are afflicted with this horrible condition.
Pre eclampsia used to be known as toxeamia. And that is a good description. Occuring after the 20th week of pregnancy, once the placenta is developed, the body starts treating the placenta as hostile. It can then cause the placenta to stop functioning, and the baby to have problems. In Joseph's case he had severe intra uterine growth retardation (IUGR) he should have been 1kilo at 27 weeks, but he weighed just 680 grams (1lb 7oz)
The only cure for pre eclampsia is delivery of the baby. However this needs to be well timed, as pre eclampsia can cause the mother's liver and kidney to stop functioning, so deliver too early by caesarean section, and death can occur. Deliver too late, and of course, the consequences are obvious, full blown eclampsia, and the loss of baby and mother.
This is where magnesium sulphate comes in. Given by infusion or injection, it causes the internal body systems to relax, the blood pressure to drop, and diminishes the risk of eclampsia.
What happens these days, is that if premature delivery is expected, the mother is given two injections of steroids to improve the baby's lungs. (this also plays a role in diminishing the risk of cerebral palsy in extremely pre term infants)
So the magensium sulphate buys some time, for the steroids to work, to stabilise the mother, and to conduct a safe c-section. In many cases, including mine, treatment continues for 24 hours after birth.
So next time you hear the phrase "like a dose of salts" just think how amazing simple Epsom Salts really are.
Saturday, 20 February 2010
Friday, 19 February 2010
And can you tell me doctor why I still can't get to sleep
And why the Channel 7 chopper chills me to my feet
And what's this rash that comes and goes
Can you tell me what it means......
God Help Me.....
I was only nineteen, Redgum
Trauma and loss are common experiences for anyone who has been through a premature birth, whether your baby makes it, or sadly does not. You grieve for the birth experience you dreamt about, for your baby's first weeks, for all sorts of things.
For me the post traumatic stress disorder did not start until over a month after Joseph came home. It made no sense to me. I was feeling dreadful yet Joseph was well.....
Sometimes, something stops the grieving process. Post traumatic stress disorder, to me, is like a computer virus. A worm, a trojan. The traumatised part of your conscience fragments, and it weedles its way through your brain, your memories, dragging out files and corrupting them, in an attempt to make sense of what has happened. It stops you from following your thoughts, from having insight, from making sense of what has happened, and letting go.
For example, the stanza of the song I have quoted, kept coming to my mind. I haven't heard the song in well over ten years, yet it played through my head over and over again. This virus dragged up all sorts of memories, mainly traumatic ones, and linked them to Joseph's birth.
I was having nightmares, nightly. It got to the stage where I was avoiding sleep because I was scared of the nightmares. I had flashbacks in supermarkets, in the park, at home, everywhere. Here I was with a baby who slept well at night, yet I was awake all night, waiting for the next drama.
It wasn't until I broke down in our baby massage class that I realised I had a real problem, and it was not going away, it was getting worse.
I felt so confused, as I wasn't depressed. On the good old Edinburgh scale of post natal depression, I scored low. I couldn't really comprehend what was happening. I thought, like in my song, post traumatic stress was something that happened to war veterans, not mothers of small babies.
I went to my GP, and started receiving treatment. Suddenly, the world seemed a kinder place. I could finally see outside my own grief and see that of others around me. And I could see Joseph. As a bonny, growing, funny, clever little boy. And it's taken a long time, but I finally saw myself as a mummy, a good mummy doing the best she can.
And finally I could let go of my little tiny translucent skinned fragile being in an incubator, and focus on the future.
Thursday, 18 February 2010
Meet Joseph. Lovely isn't he. Not even a bag of sugar! In this picture he weighs just 652 grams. Take a bag of sugar out of your pantry. Yes, now. Hold it, look at it, marvel at just how tiny a human can be.
This picture was taken in May 2009, dreadfully hot, an early English Summer. That's me in the picture, the first time I held my darling son, at just a week old. The bruises aren't from a bar fight, they're from my friendly anaethetist. I had severe early onset pre eclampsia. Not. Fun. At. All.
I've spent a good many months thinking that pre eclampsia, and the early birth of my son was the most horrendous thing that could have happened to me. I had a six month pity party. Balloons, cake and everything.
Until I woke up. Joseph is the greatest thing in my life (apart from my husband of course). He is a precious gift. Ok so childbirth was not how I expected it. And I expected Joseph's first bed to be a nice cosy crib, not a cold hard incubator.
But I have learnt over the past months that things could have been so much worse. Women in 21st Century England still die of pre eclampsia, babies are still lost.
So my not even a bag of sugar is now many many bags of sugar! A pallett!
Joseph has inspired me to blog, not just about premature babies, and my experiences, but everything that touches me. Especially baking, now that takes a bag of sugar!