Wednesday 30 May 2012

In the News - Child Neglect and Sentencing

Last night a story popped up on my Twitter feed. I do apologise, it is the Daily Mail so it is sensationalised, and I wouldn't go near the comments. But it's this incredibly tragic story about a two year old boy who died as a result of drinking fertiliser. His mother was growing marijuana in her house to make money. I read this a day after hearing another painfully upsetting story about an eleven year old boy who was kept in a cell like room in his house in Blackpool.

In the first case the mother has received a 12 month suspended sentence. That is, she is received no custodial time at all, although her child died not just because she had fertiliser in the house, but because this woman's care had been so inadequate he had not had a drink in over 24 hours, and drank the fertiliser thinking it was a fruit shoot. Whilst on one hand I appreciate what the judge is saying, that she will suffer forever for what she has done, I just don't think this is good enough.

I'm not a lawyer, or a psychologist, or anything other than a mum, but as a member of a community, my gut feeling is that sentence is inadequate. What sort of message does that send to other families, living on the edge, doing things to fund whatever habits they have? Make a catastrophic mistake and its ok, you don't need to be held accountable for that? It doesn't sit right to me.

The second case is interesting too. The child is now ok, he is in foster care and recovering and reading between the lines it sounds to me that he had some behavioural issues or underlying condition that the parents didn't know how to cope with, so kept him away from the rest of the family. Many years ago I did some work with families who were in similar predicaments.

The parents pleaded guilty and received 2 years custodial sentence, which initially I thought was inadequate but compared to the first case now seems almost harsh! The parents have been described as "inadequate rather than wicked"

I want to understand how those decisions are reached, and who is looking after the victim in all this. In the first case a child has died. He has a younger sister in foster care, and the mother can still visit her. In the second case a boy could have died, thankfully he is now doing well.

I can't imagine ever not feeding, changing or caring for Joseph. I can't imagine ever being in that place. Is punishment the answer? Do we support parents enough? Is there something as a community we need to do better? I want to know. How can we stop these stories? Can we stop them? Or is this sort of neglect something that will always be part of our society?

We're banned from taking photographs of our children in soft play centres, lest we accidentally get another child in shot, we worry about pedophiles on every corner, yet as a community we're tolerating neglect. Children not receiving enough to eat, not having their own space to play, not having access to the correct educational support, top and bottom of it, not receiving love and acceptance.

I just don't get it. 

Monday 28 May 2012

Music Monday

So this week I have decided to do some memes and join in some linkys. I hope you enjoy my posts. I am pretty tired after my efforts this weekend, so just taking it easy! Today's Linky is from Stressed Rach.

Joseph has taken a liking to the Black Eyed Peas. Last week I was search for Peas songs that don't have rude lines in them and found this gem!

I really love it and it spoke to me this week, as I really felt that the 10k was beyond me. But now I am inspired to do more, and really make a difference for families affected by stillbirth, miscarriage and premature birth. I know support is important which is why I campaign and volunteer for Bliss, but research, to me, is the key, which is why I fundraise for Tommy's/

I hope you enjoy this boppy little number, I do apologise as you will be humming "I wanna own it" all day long!

A cheeky reminder you can still sponsor me! Wouldn't it be great to get up to £700 by the end of the week, every little helps!

Thank you to all for your support and encouragement. 

Sunday 27 May 2012

It is Done - Bupa 10k for Tommy's

What day. After weeks of rain and cloudy weather, London turned it on today. It was flamin hot I can tell you! Last night I had a major attack of the collywobbles, and turned to Facebook.

I posted this

Feeling a bit emotional and nervous about tomorrow. Need focus. I'm doing this for everyone on my friends list who had had a miscarriage, stillbirth our premature baby. Like this status if that's you.
 Nearly 100 people "liked" that status. And to be honest that's is what got me through. So a massive thank you to everyone who "liked" and commented.

My asthma over the last few months really affected my training, and then my knee injury 2 weeks ago, I was close to pulling out. But that response gave me all the motivattion I needed.

My running buddy Jennifer was an absolute star she kept me sane, and focused. And importantly supplied Percy Pigs at every 1 kilometre mark.

By 8 k I'd had enough and was ready to quit, but Jen kept me going, and got our her iPod and played "mmmmm bop" that song is forever etched in my brain! I was crying at the finish line, I just couldn't believe I did it, and in the last 2 k when it was hard I kept thinking "this doesn't compare to how hard it is to lose baby, get a grip".

PlacePlace AGPlace in genderNumberNameAge Group5k TimeFinish Time
10509 3281 5073 15572 Kylie Hodges Women 18 - 39 00:56:37 01:53:51

So this was my time and place. Unfortunately it would appear that I haven't made selection for the Olympics this time.  I have to say I am utterly thrilled I did it under 2 hours, with the poorly knee, seeing as this time last week I couldn't walk 1 kilometre let alone 10! For the record, Mo Farrar, the winner managed it in 29 minutes and 21 seconds! You have to laugh. However the Guardian goes on to say that the time wasn't anything to write home about, so even Olympians were doing it tough in 28 degrees.

I'm really proud to announce I've raised £635 for Tommy's and you can still make a donation on my Virgin Money Giving page.

A massive thank you to Tommy's for giving me this opportunity, and to the Landmark Hotel who gave Tommy's a weekend room, which they kindly gave to us. It's been a fantastic weekend.

And next time I want to raise money, I'm baking cakes!

Friday 25 May 2012

Twit and Twoo - Giveaway

Happy Friday folks! I have a nice little treat for one of my readers, a little prize from Twit and Twoo. You can read my review here. Twit and Twoo are a lovely little series of books with an accompaying arrange of merchandise. The books are suitable for all ages, Joseph loved them, and the colours and illustrations will appeal to little ones too.

This is the prize, Twit from Twit and Twoo with a book. Have a look at the lovely website too. It will help you with the Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday 24 May 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful - Week 21

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

 I don't join in the lovely Michelle's Reasons to be Cheerful nearly often enough. I think its because I am genuinely jolly and don't really need to be reminding of what to be grateful for. But, as you will know I am going through a bit of a tough time with my PTSD flaring up a bit so now is a good time just to reflect on what to be thankful for this wee.

1. Blue Sky - Well it's been a while but that was the view looking up from my garden the other day. Beautiful clear blue sky. The weather really lifts the mood I think! I can tell I'm getting old, the first thing I do when the sun is shining is plan my next bit of work on the garden, not go to the swimming pool!

2. My cheeky boy It was so sunny when taking photos in the garden I couldn't see the screen, so until I came back inside I had no idea he was being so cheeky! If I ever needed a reminder that this isn't a poorly little boy in a box, this is it!

3. Britmums This was the first blogging network I ever joined, way back when I had no idea what I was doing. I find them so supportive, I've recently been blogger of the week, been mentioned in several round ups, and I am now a finalist for a Brilliance in Blogging award, which I am chuffed to bits about. 

4. Work My employers have been working hard to find me some hours since my last service user passed away. I have been working again this week, which I love and find really rewarding. And having pennies certainly helps too.

5. My mum It's my birthday coming up and my mum has treated me to an early birthday  present of lovely plants for my garden. I am hoping by the end of summer they will have taken root and I can show you a display of colour.

6. My online community I love our blogging community, and my other on line friends and they have been a great source of support this week. Especially the lovely K at Mummy Pinkwellies.

7. My garden Until recently the back garden has just been lawn, but we have had access to a little bit of money and decided to invest in some plants and a bench. We've only had to do a bit of work, but its paid off!

I used up some old tiles that I had lying around, sadly not enough to do the six flags, but it still looks lovely I think. I've finally done something with the rocks, given to us by a friend. I am in the process of planting some climbers to cover up the fence panels.

So there are my reasons to be cheerful I am sure there are loads more!

If you have some reasons, join the linky!

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Pre eclampsia and Kicking Through The Roof

I was thinking about doing a post about some of the funny things doctors say, and recalled an incident that happened in hospital in the hours before Joseph was born. It's turned into quite a sobering post!

When my pre eclampsia was diagnosed, although I was scared, I felt like a blanket of calm was laid over me, and all the people treating me. My somewhat disjointed antenatal care became joined up, co-ordinated and like a well oiled machine, plans were put in place and followed. I listened to what was being said, and asked question. I felt well-informed, but I didn't ask too much about the detail of what they were doing.

One of the things that baffled me was the knee hammer. Quite often doctors would come and bash my knees to watch my legs. The first time, a quite young doctor came and said "just testing reflexes". He tapped at my knee and to my surprise my leg appeared to fly through the air like Bruce Lee kicking a bad guy. The doctor looked at me with utter concern and said "did you do that?" and I said "um no, I didn't think I was capable of kicking that high", and he ran off to get a senior.

No one really explained to me why they were bashing me every hour, and there was so much more going on that I didn't think to ask. When the next doctor came he told me to relax. Which is very difficult. When someone tells you to relax, when they are about to knock your knee with a hammer, and your worried you might kick them into the middle of next week, it's no mean feat. From that point on I would do my creative visualisation and pretend I was somewhere nice. My legs still continued to fly alarmingly, if anything slightly worse each time.

Out of interest I have just googled pre eclampsia and heightened reflexes. This is what I found

I believe the most useful application of reflex testing is in a woman who has already been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. In this patient, the severity of her reflex responses (3-4+, or even clonus) will help me gauge how close she may be to having an eclamptic seizure. The more brisk the reflexes, more danger of seizure.
 I had already been diagnosed at this point, and this is what they were watching for. Eclampsia, as I have explained before, means "bolt from the blue" and describes the devastating seizures that can result from pre-eclampsia not being picked up in time.

I will never ever be anything other that exceedingly grateful to my medical team, for the care they gave me, their expertise, but also protecting me from some of the scarier facts. I did hear "seizure" mentioned a few times and "risk" and I was never left alone for long during my 24 hours of intense monitoring.

I could see the fear in the faces of the younger doctors at the time, and I now understand why I was so interesting! Even doctors who weren't treating me asked to come and see me, and take notes, I must have been a great learning opportunity! And that actually makes me happy, if me being so ill, and also so open to having students attend at the bedside saves another woman, that makes me feel it was all worthwhile.

I never stop hoping and praying that one day we'll see a vaccine, a treatment or a better predictive tool, and a cure for pre eclampsia that doesn't involve delivering the baby so early.

Speaking of knees, I am doing the Bupa 10,000 in London this Sunday to raise money for Tommy's, who fund research into pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia. Please sponsor me if you are able. 


Tuesday 22 May 2012

PTSD - The Elephant in the Blog

I hate the saying "Elephant in the Room" but that's how I feel. I've been keeping the blog busy with various posts and reviews and things, and I'm trying to walk around it, under it, even climb over it, but I can't ignore it anymore.

I thought I was fixed. I had the therapy, took the medication, started my blog. I work pretty hard for charity, and volunteering.

It was #borntoosoon where the trouble started this time. I think the United Nations, World Health Organisation and March of Dimes were shortsighted in releasing the Born Too Soon report the week before Joseph's birthday. I tweeted, I blogged, I shared, I worked hard, but all those images, all those "what ifs", in what is an emotionally charged time of the year for me was quite tough to handle.

What is hard for me at the moment is I feel very much alone. Everyone has moved on, especially my husband. I feel the need to talk about Joseph and his start, but no one is interested. It's old news. And who can blame them? He's fine.

So if he's fine why do I check if he's breathing before I go to bed? Why am I not sleeping, checking him during the night? Why am I considering pursuing a referral to a paediatrician for "one final check".

Because I still have post traumatic stress disorder. I still am disordered in the way that I am processing and dealing with what happened.

For me, it's not birth trauma. Joseph's birth, the moments when he went from living inside me with my dodgy placenta to breaking free and into neonatal care were calm, beautiful moments. It's those ten weeks that he was in hospital that stay with me. Everyday I can't help but think of what I was doing this time three years ago.

I wonder whether my Pollyanna persona did me more harm than good, repressing the scarier emotions. I didn't feel I had much choice. The loneliness was crippling, I felt I had to stay strong and just deal with it. My husband was back at work, I had no family to help me, it was scary. And it still hurts. I have irrational feelings of abandonment and I still feel bitter about that to this day, angry that my husband couldn't be with me, that there was no one to support me. Days and days of bus travel, of dealing with bad news, doctors, conflict, it was the hardest time of my life.  

It was Simon from 100 Marathons 100 weeks who brought me back to reality in a radio interview this week. He is a returned serviceman who has PTSD from service in several countries, he's an inspiration (he's not keen on being called that), but he was saying how it's never really over. You can have all the treatment in the world, but it will be there.

I can intellectualise as much as I like, that all is ok now, that its in the past. But what happened to us as a family, and to me personally, was a big thing, it is a big thing. And its ok to still feel at times the fear, the anxiety and to think through the what ifs.

I just need to keep perspective.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Our Honeymoon - Sri Lanka 2008

Sometimes I wish I'd blogged way back when we were planning our wedding. My husband to be had dearly wanted to go to Sri Lanka, he'd done India, and he thought Sri Lanka would be a perfect place for a honeymoon. We did some looking into it, and booked with the Student Travel Agency.

When we first arrived Corey and I looked at each other. Machine gun nests on bridges, regular stops for passport checks, police everywhere with guns. We got to our nice hotel and they didn't have record of our booking. We had pre paid. My husband took charge and said "give us our key we're going to sleep we'll sort this out in the morning" and off we went. It was soon sorted.

Sri Lanka was a troubled place at the time. Our hotel was right on the presidential route. Stupidly we had booked  5 nights in Colombo. Every morning we sat on the verandah and had tea, as we couldn't go anywhere til the President had bedded in for work! One day a huge policeman with a big gun came over and said, "someone wants to meet you". It was the Chief of Police! He was curious as to what we were doing in Colombo! When we explained he just rolled his eyes! But we had a lovely chat over a cup of tea. After that we were treated like royalty. We then embarked on a tour of the island for ten days, and then spent a week recovering in Negombo.

Sri Lanka taught me a lot. About injustice, about ugliness balanced with stunning beauty, about faith and how it isn't always fluffy and nice. It taught me a lot about myself, we had lots of scary times as well as fanastic ones. I can't wait to go back though, and see it in a new light!

One day. 

Saturday 19 May 2012

Are You A Savvy Online Shopper - SOS Friday

I'm so pleased to be joining in SOS Friday, a new linky by the very lovely Kate on Thin Ice. You can join too here.

“Savvy Online Shoppers Friday started over on Kate on Thin Ice’s blog where she encourages you to check out an easy way to ensure that money goes to charity when you shop online at no extra cost to you. Read more here

To start us off Kate has given us some questions to answer! I love questions almost as much as I love shopping!

1. How often do you shop online?

At least monthly and sometimes more often. As a non driver I find supermarket shopping infinitely easier than going into the store. It's also cheaper than taxis, and puclic transport to supermarkets is dire around here.

2. If you can remember, tell us about the first time you shopped online?

I honestly can't remember. I am not even sure if I online shopped in Australia or not til I moved to England. It seems crazy to think of a time when I didn't shop on line!

3. What do you buy regularly online?

I shop for groceries regularly on line, and clothes too. I have an expensive Scandinavian boys clothes habit, and most of the brands I love are mainly on line. I also have an Amazon habit!

4. What other type of products or services do you buy online? (flowers, gifts, holidays, insurance etc)

I tend to look on line for deals and then use the phone for things like insurances. I find sometimes you do better with a human. I do like buying flowers on line, particularly as I get them sent abroad. I do buy flights online, but for long haul usually do it in person or on the phone after checking prices.

5. What are the advantages of shopping online?

Clearly convenience. Shopping with a small child is the path to madness. I think its easier at times to stick to a budget on line, and certainly find that with online supermarket shopping, you can shop for best deals, easily put things back on the virtual shelf, and you can even finalise, then go back and change your order. I find I spend less doing it online. I also love looking around different shops and comparing prices. One of my favourite finds is Cooperative Electrical on line! It's brilliant, and delivery is so quick!

6. Are there any disadvantages of shopping online?

It can be easy to impulse buy, especially on Amazon when you can do fast click buying. I think sometimes you can pick up bargains in supermarkets that never appear on line, like close to date goods. Also, and I find it happens less now, but I used to get dreadful fruit and vegetables on line, and missed the ability to select my own, but I have found that that has improved a lot over the years.

7. Do you ever shop online in secret?

Um do I have to answer that? Occasionally I may have bought a little something that didn't need to trouble my husband's busy mind.....

8. What is the very last thing you bought online?

A book from Amazon, "The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark"

9. If someone was buying something online for you, what would you like it to be if money was no object?

Oh that's a difficult one. My birthday is coming up, and if someone bought me a trip home to Australia that would be nice. Or an I-Pad would be lovely, or even just a lovely cook book. Anything really, I am not fussy. Surprises are always nice!

10. Have you heard of Give As You Live? If not find out more here where a video will show you all about it.

I most certainly have and was excited to see that Britmums and Kate are supporting it. I started using it in December. I have learnt about the extensions for Firefox and Chrome, that make it so much easier, and have found loads of online retailers that I wasn't aware of. I didn't know I could use Give As You Live with Tesco for example, until I started using the extension for Firefox.

It's such an easy, and free way to give.

Like Kate I support Tommy's.  Now being a good time to remind you I am doing a 10k hobble with my poorly knee in a week's time. Please support me with a donation if you can.Will my new short hair help my running/waddling? Time will tell!

Friday 18 May 2012

Palmers Department Store and the "Other" Kylie

Palmers Department Store is a delighful place to shop, located in Great Yarmouth. My husband's family have a house there, and we always drop in when we are in town. Don't live near Great Yarmouth? Then that's no problem. I have discovered they have a fantastic on line store. What I love about Palmers is they are not a chain, their service is impeccable, and it feels like a true family business, and that feeling is replicated in their online store.

The products are really lovely, and at competitive prices. I was given the opportunity to do a little online shopping, an activity I don't seem to get enough chance to do these days. I decided to treat our home!

I ordered this lovely cushion from the Kylie Minogue at Home range. It just had to be done, and it's now sitting with pride of place in our sitting room. It's far too pretty to be hidden upstairs, for only the cat to see (and sleep on)

The fabric is really beautiful and the button is sewn on fast, great quality, and its nice to have a bit of Kylie bling in my male dominated household. I may never be able to wear her hotpants, but I can have her cushion!

My next choice was a teapot from the Denby collection. Like many others I love Denby pottery and I will definitely be shopping with Palmers again and adding to my collection. Everyone has been talking about beautiful teapot in the Halo range, and I'll most certainly be adding mugs and the breakfast bowls soon.

I have to say, knowing the fine detailing on Denby wear, I was concerned that it may not make the journey intact. My fears were unfounded, the teapot was well protected, and buffered by air filled cushions, so although there was ample packaging, not loads of it, so not adding too much to landfull.

I really adore the teapot and it really lifts our outdated kitchen, far too nice to hide away. My next job is to knit a lovely cosy for it!

I'd highly recommend Palmers. They have an excellent price promise, personalised service, and great delivery. The range of items is impressive.

Very impressed.

I was given an allowance for online shopping. All product choices were my own, and my opinions are mine.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Twit and Twoo - And Conquering Toddler Fears

So earlier this week I blogged about Joseph and his fear of owls in his bedroom. Happily I was sent 3 books in a new range called Twit and Twoo.

What struck me first when I opened the parcel is that the books are the most beautiful colours. They are inviting and just beg you to open them and read them. As soon as Joseph saw them he said "oh mummy, pretty owls not scary", on to a winner.

Mona, the author, sent me three, and I planned to spread them out over three nights.

The story is simple, about two owls, one can only say "Twoo" the other "Twit". They meet each other and become room mates. At the moment there are two further stories

I really enjoyed this one and it shares a lovely message about working together as a community to solve problems. The other owl characters are fantastic and beautifully drawn. Joseph loved looking at all of them and guessing their occupations!

This one is about combatting boredom and all the things you can do on a rainy day, and we really enjoyed it.

Joseph loved the books so much he demanded all three of them in one sitting, and the next night too.

Mona's creativity knows no bounds it seems and she has created a range of beautiful merchandise to accompany the books, which you can look at here. She also has a lovely Facebook page where you can look at her ideas in progress.

I'm really delighted to have discovered her books, and Joseph can't wait to see what Twit and Twoo get up to next!


I am delighted to have a guest post today over at Diary of a Premmy Mum. I love Leanna's blog, and am so happy that she has been shortlisted in the MADS for Best Baby Blog. Please go and read and show some support to Leanna.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Incubator Envy - Baby Bloom Healthcare

All my first pictures of Joseph were taken from outside a plastic box. Whilst I was well aware of the clinical indications of using an incubator, to keep him warm, protected and safe, I hated it. It was cold and hard. It looked like a fish tank. I felt like it was designed to keep me out. It made me sad, that I had failed my baby and this was the best we could do. Nothing can prepare you for the acute separation from your baby, and that's what still hurts me most, 3 years on. Being apart, and my baby in a box.

Over the weekend my little Prem Posse on Facebook shared this article from the Daily Mail. We were all sharing and commenting about how we wish our babies had had a Baby Bloom in NICU. The penny dropped for me as I realised Baby Bloom followed me on Twitter! I knew they designed pretty incubators but didn't know much more than that, I set about doing some reading and research.

So what's the fuss about. Surely all incubators are equal and anything else is just window dressing?
Image used courtesy of BabyBloomHealthcare
What you notice first, after the absolutely beautiful design of the incubator, is that it has a free standing base. This means it can go over a bed or wheelchair. I remember perching perilously at the edge of a wheelchair trying to get a glimpse of my tiny baby.

But this is not just for parent comfort and to facilitate bonding. Regular readers will recall that for the first 24 days of life Joseph was very poorly. In the incubator all sorts of medical procedures occur. This incubator allows doctors to sit, and get close to the baby, and prevent back pain. It's fully height adjustable.

Image used courtesy of Baby Bloom Healthcare

Apart from all these features, the nifty covers come down over the incubator and protect the baby from light and sound. No more daggy incubator covers that need washing and replacing, and are a potential infection risk. This also provides sound insulation for the baby. Exposure to light and sound is potentially damaging for tiny babies who still should be inside the womb.

The incubator has a light sensitive videocamera so nurses can check on the baby without disturbing their sleep. Parents can view the video camera remotely too. How wonderful if you can't be with your baby all the time? 

In my Kangaroo Care piece yesterday I talked about Family Centred Care, and I am so pleased, as a parent to see this innovation. Family Centred Care is clearly at the heart of what Baby Bloom Healthcare do as a company. They also have something else wonderful that I will share with you at a later date! I can only hope that hospitals are forward thinking enough in the UK to embrace this new technology.

I think I'm in love with an incubator!

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Hold Your Preemie - Kangaroo Care Awareness Day

Kangaroo care seem so simple, the art of putting a baby skin to skin with the mother or other primary caregiver. It makes such sense, that the natural body warmth of the mother will keep the infant warm, that this intense contact will help milk supply. Especially in the developing world, this is so vital. Formula is expensive and hard to get, and can be contaminated easily. Exclusive breastfeeding is so important.

Why do we need an awareness day for something so simple? The fact is that the benefits of kangaroo mother care are not known throughout the world. Unbelievably, in some developing countries, and even in the UK at times, kangaroo care is seen as primitive, and that incubators and artificial forms of care are somehow superior to a mother or father's love and care. I'm not saying incubators aren't important, they are of course, and having the latest equipment is essential too, but particularly in developing countries, implementing simple measures can and will save lives. It is estimated 444 000 babies could be saved by a programme of kangaroo care in developing countries.

I wasn't given access to Joseph for kangaroo care until he was a month old, and he wasn't a particularly needy neonate, the hospital just hadn't come across a mother wanting to do it before, with such a young baby. In some hospitals babies are offered kangaroo care whilst still ventilated. I also felt passionately that my husband needed to kangaroo too, and this wasn't encouraged either. So we just did it!

In the UK this is changing. Hospitals are implementing more and more family centred care initiatives, and the benefits of kangaroo care in the UK are largely accepted, so if you do need to challenge there are some clear resources you can use.

Where the real issue is, is in the developing world, which I outlined in this post during the release of the Born Too Soon report.

If you are passionate about this, join in today, tweet, share and spread the word. If you work within hospitals, raise awareness about kangaroo care. It's up to us, as mothers, to help those mothers without resources, without a voice. I remind you again that Save the Children are working hard on this issue internationally.

When I first had kangaroo care with Joseph, it healed my heart. I felt bonded with him, I felt like his mother, that he was mine for the first time since birth. It's just so important. Here are what some fellow mothers had to say.

bonding, happy baby, happy mum, boosted milk supply and a great shift when I enable it, especially with teenie vented babies :-) Karen
 The first time I got to really bond with my son :-) Sammantha
 It means everything to me too, he's almost 2 and we still have Kangaroo cuddles although he can't fit down my top anymore! Helen
To me it means bonding with the baby who shouldn't be there and proving the doctors wrong. Nikki
Kangaroo Care reminds me of the very first time I got to hold Ellen, 5 weeks old and on 40%+ oxygen but 2 mins on my chest and her oxygen could be reduced to 21% Sarah
It saved my son and I. Susanne
The first time i held my babies after delivery and 6 days in nicu 2 days after i had been discharged. was the most amazing, emotional and tender moment that made me feel like i was really their mum! irreplaceable and never forgotten. Vanessa
Please do what you can to help more mothers bond and care for their babies the way nature intended, and for doctors and nurses to understand the power of kangaroo care. 

Monday 14 May 2012

Owls in the Night - Dealing with Toddler Fears

I heard a blood curdling scream yesterday afternoon, followed by loud footsteps and flying thud. We have baby gate on Joseph's door due to sleep walking. I went upstairs and Joseph was shaking, his skin looked blue, his eyes wide.

"The owls the owls", he shrieked.

Photo by Nemodus

Of course no child of mine is going to have normal fears, like monsters! It appears Joseph is fixated on owls. I am suspecting it comes from the Gruffalo movie, which he has started watching.

Last night we had it again. He went to bed then about half an hour after settling down, it started again. I explained that there are no owls in his bedroom, and that owls are really quite friendly birds, and nothing to be scared of.
Photo by Mario Davalos

A lot of Joseph's books feature owls, and I have some lovely new books to read to him, and share with you for a review this week, very timely!

I am hoping its just a phase and will pass soon. I find it interesting that I remember very clearly at the same age being scared of penguins. My fear was from driving through the town of Penguin in Tasmania and seeing this creature.

Overtime my fear lessened as I developed more happy images of penguins, and I am hoping I can do the same with the owls!

Wish me luck!

Sunday 13 May 2012

The Ingenuity of Mothers - 101 Uses for a Muslin

Today is Mother's Day for a lot of the world, and rather than do a soppy post for my own mum (we're not that sort of family) I thought I'd celebrate the ingenuity of mothers the world over by doing a post about 101 uses (well maybe not quite that many) for a muslin cloth!

When I reached 20 weeks in my pregnancy, I decided to do some shopping. I bought a ridiculously dear changing bag, some newborn baby clothes (that fit when Joseph was 6 months old!) and several packs of muslin cloths. I read in a baby magazine that they were useful. Little did I know how useful!

Joseph above is wrapped in a muslin cloth. Just to give you an idea, here he is playing with one this morning.
When in NICU I used them every day, I always had a store of them. As well as a blanket, I used them as sheets, the cot sheets the NHS uses can be a bit crunchy and muslins are much softer, and also protect the sheet from leaking babies.

I used them as emergency nappies, often they would come to weigh Joseph, then get distracted and we'd have to wait, rather than over handle him putting another nappy on only to take it off again, I'd wrap his bottom in a muslin.

I can't believe that same cloth wrapped him several times over. So with lots of input from Facebook and Twitter 101 uses (well not quite) for a muslin cloth!
  • Sun shade on a pram
  • Picnic blanket
  • Boobie protector when baby wearing
  • Nursing cover
  • Peekaboo facilitator
  • Strain raspberries for coulis
  • Making paneer cheese
  • Straining cooked soybeans to make soymilk
  • Place herbs in for a bouquet garni
  • Straining quince puree for jelly
  • Making homemade ribena
  • Sheets for a small baby
  • Playing memory games
  • Road for a toy car
  • Napkin for messy adults eating spaghetti
  • Spice bag for chutney
  • Wet wipes
  • Tying to a stick for running away to seek your fortune
  • Parachute
  • Wine making
  • Comforter
  • Mattress protector
  • Changing mat
  • Window cleaner
  • Magic tricks, wrap watch in cloth and pretend to smash it
  • Sheets for a doll pram
  • Cloth nappy for a tiny baby
  • As a cloth nappy liner for a bigger baby
  • Great tip putting one in a disposable nappy near toilet training time so toddler realises they are wet
  • Hang off pram hood when you don't want people touching your tiny baby
  • Wipe up spills
  • Strainer for grated potato when making rosti
  • Poultice for eczema and other skin irritations, place tablespoon of oats in muslin, tie to taps and run water through it in bath. You can also use it directly on skin.
  • Wrapping mucky clothes in if you forgot a plastic bag
  • A baby bottom towel when a baby wipe just will not do
  • Tying up hair when breastfeeding
  • As a bandana for hiding a bad haircut
  • To practice tie dying
  • To protect Christmas presents in storage
  • Emergency breast pad
  • A pirate flag
  • A lettuce spinner
  • Cleaning football boots
  • Wrap spices in for mulled wine
  • Transfer of scent - give one to baby in NICU, one for mum to sleep with, then swap regularly
  • Face cloth for messy toddlers
  • To put on floor for naked time for babies
  • Duster and polisher
  • Emergency teatowel
  • To strain stock
  • To clarify oil after frying to use it again
  • Bibs for babies
  • Breastfeeding cover
  • Some people even use them for wiping up baby sick!
I'm sure there must be more! Thank you to everyone who joined in and gave me a good giggle! Some great uses for a muslin, do you have any more that haven't been covered here?

Saturday 12 May 2012

Five Things NICU Taught Me

You might notice that we've had a little facelift around here. I am less than useless at blog design, had no idea how to customise my header, so yesterday during Joseph's massive afternoon nap decided to tackle it. At first, you may have seen, I had three NICU pictures, I then decided I had to change it.

This is Joseph's 3rd anniversary of his NICU stay. I can't seem to control it much, but I tend to relive that experience every year. Not big, not clever but it is what it is. I was very proud of myself yesterday, as I decided I needed to reflect our journey in my blog header, and I think the photos do that.

However, I have been thinking a lot lately about our time in NICU, and I wanted to write something positive that reflects what I learned from the whole experience.

5 Things NICU Taught Me

1. When the going gets tough, I get cheerful:- Diary of a Premmy Mum wrote a great post about Mummy-Bot. I have written a guest post for her, so keep an eye out, about Pollyanna Mum. I found that when times were tough I got uber positive. I had a smile on my face, I reached out to others. I kept calm and cheerful. I like that about me. The only downside is I think it makes the crash worse later.

2. I am quite comfortable challenging medical staff: I used to work for a private health insurance company, and worked my way up from member services to a clinical department. It used to scare me challenging consultants. When Joseph was poorly I found I could easily put our case across and question things. In week 2 I was told by a consultant that Joseph would never eat food, he would have a PEG feed for life. I was very calm and just asked a load of questions about what that was based on, what the likelihood was etc. I then grinned and said "He's a Hodges, he'll eat, they all do". The consultant was quite taken aback, but turns out I was correct that time.

3. I need to be part of a community: People deal with NICU in different ways. Some people go inside themselves, and don't want to talk to anyone at all outside their family unit, and that's fine. Me, I need to reach out to others, talk to people, feel part of something. What is really lovely, is that my husband is exactly the same. We made some lovely life long friends, and our kids are growing up together, which is just great. I remember watching a programme on Sky Real Lives about a neonatal unit and one of the staff saying that parents look fondly on their time on the unit in years to come. I never thought that would be the case, but I do feel that way now. The time in NICU wasn't all bad.

4. I need to take photos: Photography is not my thing. I have never been a great displayer of photos, and as such am not a great photo taker. I found when Joseph was in NICU especially intensive care I needed to take photos regularly, as it was the only way I could have him near me. Now I have a lovely record of that time, so I am so pleased that I did that.

5. I need to help others: As I've explained before, our NICU mainly took later gestation premature babies, and I felt incredibly isolated, as we had the smallest, earliest baby on the unit. When I got home it took me a long time to feel better, but then I started to meet other parents who had had babies the same or earlier gestation than Joseph and that helped me enormously. I feel a great responsibility to give back.

On that note, I've formed a little group of premature baby bloggers (and sick newborns and angel babies too) if you would like to join, please let me know.

One of the group's members has been shortlisted for a MAD Blog Award and I am so proud of her. Please vote for Diary of a Premmy Mum in the baby category.

Friday 11 May 2012

The Ultimate Baby and Toddler Q & A - Netmums

I really love Netmums and was delighted when I was asked to review The Ultimate Baby & Toddler Q & A. For new parents, although the internet can be a godsend, it can also be a curse. It's hard to navigate the wealth of information and often a well researched thought out book can be a huge help.

This book is compiled by Hollie Smith, a regular Netmums author, with contributions from a paediatrician, two health visitors and a psychotherapeutic counsellor. A lovely feature of the book is small excerpts from parents. If you read carefully you may even see some from yours truly.

The book is framed around 50 commonly asked questions, around key ages Newborn, 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months then 12 months +. Each section has 10 questions, and it's very easy to find what you are looking for. The questions are ones we've all probably asked ourselves like "is it OK to bring her into bed with me?" "How do I bath her?" "Should I go back to work?"

I will say that whilst it's called the Ultimate Baby and Toddler Q & A this is, essentially, a baby book, and a very good one. The art of the toddler is covered briefly by the ten questions which include "when will she start walking?" "when will he stop napping?" and "what's with the tantrums?" I think its a lovely introduction into dealing with toddlers, but not comprehensive, and nor is it intended to be. The book, I think, is designed to be bought towards the beginning of your parenting journey with your baby.

What I loved most about the book was the combination of sound, well researched advice and parents stories. It gives the book a very accessible feel. It's also very reassuring, the parents that are chosen cover a broad spectrum, and the advice is very sensible. It's a book that lends itself to quick reference just reading the bit you need at the time, but also reading from cover to cover too.

From the point of view of a parent of a premature baby, prematurity is mentioned (and is indexed) in the book, but  is not comprehensive. I would argue that such a book may prove useful once your baby is a little older than newborn. I am delighted that there is information and advice from parents like me in the book and it feels very inclusive.

I personally would have found this book valuable from about 6 months onwards (3 months corrected) and highly recommend it, it would also make a lovely baby shower gift or in a parcel for a new mum or dad. 

Thursday 10 May 2012

A Special Anniversary - 10 years in England

10 years ago today I arrived in Manchester England, a little crumpled and disoriented. It was my first ever long haul flight. I had never been to England before, but I'd sold most of my possessions, left my cat in Tasmania, and made the break. I remember the date well, when I arrived the news was just coming through of the Potter's Bar rail disaster.

People often wonder why on earth I would leave Australia to come here! I was sick of life in Tasmania. Although I love it, and it will always be "home", it's so small. I'd gone through a divorce, and I just felt my past around me wherever I went. I didn't feel like my life was my own. I could have done something less drastic I suppose, like move the the mainland, but I was worried that the first hurdle I met, I'd go home to Tassie. Much harder to do that from the UK.

I chose Manchester for a few reasons. I knew I didn't want to move to London. I thought I'd fall into an Aussie ghetto and not assimilate. I'd met a few people (and yes a man) online (not Mr Bag of Sugar) and thought Manchester would be a great place to start. I loved it straight away. Manchester, at the time, was a little run down but it was easy to get around.

Back in 2002 the streets were lined with gold and I had little trouble finding a job, but it took me a while to find the right one. Life wasn't always plain sailing. We'd lived in our flat for a short time, when a policeman was killed very near where we lived. Manchester suddenly felt dangerous, and we moved further out to Ramsbottom.

Me and the boyfriend did fine for a while, but gradually our differences became too much (he was 21 years older than me) and we wanted very different lives. Then I met Mr Bag of Sugar, not on-line, on the 90 bus!

I really adore life in England. I adore the countryside, the scenery, I love the people, the humour, the food (most of the time) and I love the proximity to Europe. I think England is a fantastic melting pot of cultures, and I've met loads of people from different walks of life.

Of course, we've had our little boy here, who is very English, very Lancastrian, and that suits me fine. He doesn't have dual nationality, but maybe I will do that soon.

Whenever I go back to Australia now I feel very English! I don't really feel Aussie anymore, even though every day someone asks me where I am from and what am I doing here!

I never regret selling all my possessions and moving here. I really love the Graeme Connors song "Sicilian Born" and the line "home's not where your born, home is where a man is prepared to die".

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to move us all "back home", but then I think of all the things I'd miss about English life, and I stop myself from pondering any further.

England is home now.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

The Queens Speech - A Rant

Dear Minister

Today you will be listening to the Queen's Speech. You have no idea what this day means to me do you? Let me explain. You see, today you will be talking about reducing basic maternity leave to 18 weeks. Then talking about sharing paternity leave with dads. And paying maternity leave in a lump sum at the beginning of maternity leave.

You see government minister, today marks the first full day my son spent in Neonatal Intensive Care. He was born at 27 weeks. Under the existing legislation, which I am quite sure you will not change, you have to take maternity leave as soon as your baby has been born. So I would have used 13 weeks leave before my baby was even due, leaving just 5 weeks left. When my son was 5 weeks corrected he wasn't even 7lb. He was still frail.

And minister, one in sixteen parents are in the same boat as me, and many many more have babies with medical conditions who cannot be just shoved into over priced childcare. This morning I asked my facebook friends what they thought about this change and I got dozens and dozens of responses. And yes, I understand that fathers can then take leave, though I don't even you know how much yet, but the whole hospital system with a neonate is around the mother.

And minister, what about exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months? How are we meant to do that if we are back at work?

And what, if like most babies, your baby is in and out of hospital. And minister, what about those families whose baby has an extended stay far outside 18 weeks? Fathers are, by and large, the main breadwinner as your system favours men in terms of salary. Who can afford to lose that income?

And minister, what about the hidden costs of hospital stays? Parking, meals, transport, accommodation?

I am so angry about this, minister, because through no fault of my own I had a premature baby. You would have put us even more against the wall financially than we already were. You don't put nearly enough money into preventing prematurity, into research. The NHS is so busy they can't fully monitor all pregnant women in a way that would help prevent prematurity, so before you go reducing maternity leave, minister, why don't you look at that? Why don't you see the big picture?

You say you are "family friendly", but minister, I would argue you are anything but.

This isn't the last you will hear from me


Tuesday 8 May 2012

Chocolate Bun* Cake for Birthday Boy

My little man is 3! It's just amazing how quick those three years have gone! This was taken a few days after Joseph was born, he weighs less than his birthweight here, under 600 grammes. Inconceivable that my little man, not even a bag of sugar is now a big strapping lad of three!

Joseph woke early, came down stairs on his own (he normally insists on being carried) and tackled a pile of presents! He received all sorts of things including this really lovely Smafolk top from Love it Love it Love it . I love the clothes Ruth stocks, and suggest that anyone with small people check her out! You have to follow the Twitter account too, Ruth is hilarious!

But this post is really meant to be about the cake! I found this cake when I first joined Pinterest and bookmarked it to make in the future.

First I made a chocolate Victoria Sponge. I use the recipe from The Great British Book of Baking, leaving out 25g flour and substituting it with cocoa powder. I then made an industrial sized quantity of buttercream using this recipe doubled. I made two sponges and then sandwiched them together, then coated with buttercream and put a kitkat fence around it.

I tied ribbon around and this point to keep my fence up! Then I opened three packets of Smarties and tipped them in!

The added the candles, and all done!
This is the easiest cake I've ever made and it looks absolutely amazing, if I do say so myself! I'd highly recommend giving it a go for a birthday!

Today is a happy day full of celebration. In the back of my mind, I feel a little sad, as this day marks the beginning, 3 years ago, of  our 3 month hospital stay. But today isn't about that, it's all about the Joseph that he is now, a happy, strapping, cheeky lad. 

*Don't know why, but smarties and M&Ms are known as chocolate buns in this house!

Monday 7 May 2012

The Post I Wasn't Going to Write

Three years ago today I was sitting in a waiting room. Next to me were several very excited women going for their 12 and 20 week scans, and there was me. I had my husband and my own midwife. I was terrified. I had an emergency scan to find if all was ok, whether the pre eclampsia was affecting the baby. Joseph.

We were terrified. As the scan commenced it was clear. He was not ok. Not only was he tiny, he had stopped growing. I couldn't understand what was being said, I felt confused.

I hope Bliss don't mind me using this again, but that is what happened. The world as we knew it got turned up side down and shaken. Everything I held dear felt like it was going to be snatched away. For the first time in 9 years I wished like hell that I was at home in Australia with my parents around the corner.

And the hours that followed were awful. Just a rollercoaster of emotion, and feeling sick, and scared. Everyone, every doctor, every nurse treated me with kindness and respect, but you could see their concern, even fear. I was very sick.

I remember making a doctor cry. I was being worked on. I don't know if you've ever had intensive medical treatment, but its horrible. They have to work so fast in a concerted effort and no one has time to talk to you through it. I had two nurses between my legs putting a catheter in, two nurses on the other side putting the magnesium sulphate in and a doctor doing the hartman's solution. My recall is so clear of those hours.

Anyway, I had huge silent tears and was shaking as they worked on me. I was so swollen my veins were hard to find. I felt so sick, and like I was looking from outside at what was happening. The doctor left the room, he looked a bit shaken too, he was a junior doctor. Later he came back in, he took my hand, and I apologised to him for being so scared, and thanked him for working so hard to make sure I was ok. Huge tears filled his eyes, and he left. Two midwives ran in to find out what I said, they thought I'd been abusive, as he was incapable of speech.

I will never ever ever forget the kindness of everyone who helped me that day. I will never ever be anything other than extremely grateful for NHS care. When the chips are down, there is no better system I don't think.

Sometimes I wish, like This is Your Life, or the Reunion, I could bring all these people together, show them Joseph, show them my blog, show them how grateful I am for all of them, and their care of me, and the following day, Joseph.

Having had a premature baby does not define me, I don't think of his start every day or look at his baby pictures. Joseph has a massive personality that doesn't allow it anyway, he reminds you every minute that he is a strong, hilarious, brave little guy much bigger than his story.

We are so very lucky. 

Joseph's Party

Joseph is turning 3 tomorrow, and I could do a post about how I feel about everything that happened, but you know, I actually feel ok about things this year, which is such progress, I am so happy I am not feeling sad and traumatised this year! So let's talk about Joseph's party. I have to say this year I decided to outsource. his party was held at Boomerang which I have blogged about before. I even outsourced the cake. I adore baking but it just felt too much this year.
Thanks Mr Tesco

The party was amazing. The kids had an hour to play in the three rooms. At first Joseph was just completely overwhelmed. He had ten friends present, from various walks of life and seeing them all in one room was a bit too much for Joseph at first! But he soon got into the swing of it!
Joseph looking gorgeous in his new top, getting into the music session

After all the fun and games there was a huge table full of food and hungry little dinosaurs. Joseph was so hungry he ate six sandwiches!

 Soon it was time to sing Happy Birthday, and cut the cake. We had a very tired boy in the afternoon, but far too excited to sleep!

His party was an absolute joy, thanks to the team at Boomerang!

Sunday 6 May 2012

Peppa goes to Joseph's Birthday Party

I was given the opportunity to review Peppa goes to Joseph's Birthday Party a personalised book from Pen Wizard.

Joseph is Peppa mad, he adores her and her little brother George, and I thought it would be great to get for Joseph's birthday coming up on Tuesday.

The Pen Wizard system is so easy to use. Where you go into personalise your child is called "the changing room" which I thought was cute. It would be a lovely thing to do with a sibling too, as its very visual and easy to use. I was impressed that the little boy came out looking a bit like Joseph!

The books are dispatched remarkably quickly too, it only took a couple of days to arrive, and it arrives in a thick envelope and even our grumpy postman managed not to crease it!

I read the book with Joseph on Saturday morning before his party and the look on his face was priceless. Joseph featured throughout the story posting letters with Mr Zebra. He was so excited to be featured in his very own book.

The book was a huge hit, and I wouldn't hesitate paying for it.  Joseph was transfixed by the story and stroked the pictures, repeating key words. The pictures are lovely and bright. The books are priced at £14.99. Postage is normally £2.50 but as a special offer readers of my blog can use code 150920 for free postage.

Highly recommended!

Saturday 5 May 2012

My Name is Kylie and I #Blogitforbabies

I'm late to the party here, this week Save The Children together with the inspirational and colourful Annie from Mamasaurus has been running #blogitforbabies part of their Build it for Babies campaign. She has been travelling around the country, doing daft things, like running into the sea at Brighton! Now regular readers might twig why I have not blogged before now. The Born Too Soon: Global Action on Preterm Babies report was released on Wednesday afternoon, Save The Children are one of the key contributors to the report.

In terms of pre term babies Save the Children are committed to a number of initiatives, namely providing equitable access to:-
  • provision of antenatal corticosteroids
  • kangaroo mothercare
  • neonatal resuscitation
  • improved cord care
  • breastfeeding support
  • treatment of neonatal infections.
The specific aim of #blogitforbabies is to raise money to provide life saving equipment for a delivery room in a healthcare clinic in Bangladesh.

This is significant in terms of the report, there are 10 countris that account for over 60% of the world's preterm births, and Banglandesh is one of those countries.

Here is a list of what they want to buy, and many of these items directly relate to those goals of helping deliver preterm babies safely.

I am passionate about saving the lives of preterm babies from Bolton to Bangladesh and I hope you will join me in sparing a few pounds for this vital campaign.

So how do you give to this campaign?

A really simple way is by text.

Simply text 70070 with the code XVRL71 £1 to donate.

There are other ways too just visit the #blogitforbabies website.

My son was saved because of fantastic neonatal care, safe, sterile equipment, the latest research and medications. I want all babies, regardless of where they are born, to have these basics. And I think you do too.