Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween

Halloween has never been something I have been overly into until I had Joseph. For some reason I love embarrassing him dressing him up for Halloween. I hope you enjoy these pictures, and whatever your doing tonight you have fun and stay safe.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Moments that Define Us

Today I was filling in a questionnaire about Joseph's birth and how it affected me. It's interesting, whenever I feel that actually I am just another mum, in the playground, waiting outside preschool, at the soft play centre, I am brought back to the start again. And it is still affecting me, panic - yes, anxiety - yes, replaying the birth - yes.

This moment. I don't know what you see when you see this picture. I look into my eyes. I look completely and utterly knackered. And there is fear.  I feel much older than my 36 years here. My smile is forced, but my embrace is not. I remember holding this tiny Joseph and just wanting to take him away somewhere quiet, like a mother cat looking for a cupblard to put her kittens in.

Joseph must be two weeks old here, yet still my bruises are fresh. I can't see this photo without feeling sad.

Does having had a premature baby define me and my parenting. Yes, it does. I can't hide from it. The way I mother Joseph is all tied up in the way  he was taken from me, not yet developed, not yet grown, my body incapable of its basic function, keeping him safe.

And you know, that's ok. I don't have to pretend anymore. If I am hung up on him being born 13 weeks too soon, that's just fine, we all have our hang ups and achilles heel, and that's mine.

We're heading into November in 2 days time, and I'll be busy with lots of activity around World Prematurity Day. Prematurity isn't something theoretical to me, and mother's like me. It's real, it's long lasting. And it matters. Preterm birth matters. And it matters because of its deep last effect on babies, and their families, and their communities.

I look at that frightened mother and wonder, what could we have done better to look after her? I think some of the American charities and organisations are leading the way here, what can we do better to look after mums, dads and other family members?

And isn't it just as well that someone in the family isnt bothered about being born 13 weeks early.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Help Dora Help

Help decide which UK nursery will win £20 000 in Nick Jr's Help Dora Help campaign. You can vote here

Five nurseries selected from submissions from across The UK have been chosen as the finalists for Nick Jr.’s Help Dora Help Campaign. The initiative is supported by The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts and is designed to support nurseries, preschools and children’s centres in their educational curriculum. Almost 300 nurseries and preschools submitted an entry to this year’s campaign with applicants from Cumbria, Derbyshire, London and Lancashire elected as finalists. The winner will be decided by members of the public.

“The quality of entries for Help Dora Help was extraordinary and gave a great picture of the areas of educational interest across UK preschools,” said Helena Dowling, Nick Jr., presenter and Help Dora Help judge. “With funding required for things such buying a minibus to creating a mini beast learning zone, the finalists each demonstrate a desire to offer more educational opportunities for their pupils. I am looking forward to seeing which entry the public chooses to receive the award.”

Voting is now open to decide which of the finalist will receive the award. Voting is open to anyone within the UK and voters can take a look at all five finalists and learn more about their submission at Voting is open until 2nd November with the winner of the award announced on 19th November.

The five finalists for this year’s campaign are:

Greystoke Under 5’s, Greystoke, Cumbria
- The rural volunteer playgroup would use the award to revamp their outdoor play area as well as their kitchen.

Oakmount Day Nursery, Preston, Lancashire
- The nursery would use the award to purchase a minibus, ideally equipped with exploratory items such as a metal detector and telescope.

The Old Forge Day Nursery, Findern, Derbyshire
– The nursery would use the award to build a log cabin with sensory room, a library and dance studio.

Parkfield Children’s Centre, West Hendon, London
– The Children’s Centre would develop their Early Years playground to reflect various countries, cultures, seasons and festivals.

Walton Lane Nursery School & Children’s Centre, Nelson, Lancashire
- The Centre would create a bug hotel so that children could increase their knowledge of mini beasts.

About The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts:

The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts is an educational charity which champions the power of the arts to transform and enrich the lives of disadvantaged children across the UK. The charity’s projects have helped to create long-term partnerships between arts organisations and their local schools. Two core programmes, Start and Quests both highlight the potential of learning outside the classroom, enabling children to visit their local cultural venue to work with professional artists, and then developing this experience through class-based projects and activities. Since 2006 the charity has worked with over 100,000 children and hopes to substantially increase this figure in the next few years. For more info please visit

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Autumn Walk

We've had a very quiet half term break, as Joseph has been poorly with the worst cold imaginable, or so he tells me. Man flu appears to start very young. He's spent a lot of time playing power rangers, doing jigsaw puzzles and playing with my tablet computer. Yesterday I managed to persuade him to try a walk to the playground.

We ended up spending 3 hours at our local country park playing with dogs, feeding ducks and having a wonderful time. It was so lovely just to get out and about, just the two of us. After everything that's been going on it was just so lovely to connect with him outside.

We are very blessed to have this lovely place to go to right at the end of the street! 

Did you know I also have a Facebook page which is a great place to connect, not only with me but other parents who have had a premature or sick baby. I would love to see you all there, and see your photos and stories too.

Friday, 26 October 2012

On Coming Out and Moving On

Joseph on Friday - sums up how we both felt I think!

Last Friday was one of the strangest days of my life. Prior to it, I could count the number of people who knew about my secret on the fingers of both hands. Thousands of you have read, dozens of you have commented, I have had emails, tweets, texts and have been surrounded by love, for which I can only say thank you. I still feel exposed and scared, but its all part of the journey I guess.

It's a tough time for a lot of people at the moment, and I can only say let's all be kind to one another and to ourselves. You never know what lies in someone's heart and the reasons for their behaviour or feelings, so be open and be kind.

As October draws to a close, my focus is two fold. For myself, to start getting proper healing. I am seeking counselling through my very supportive employers, and am also going to look at returning to anti anxiety medication for the short term. Now is the time I need to take care of myself, and finally move on. My past has held me back. My lovely friend Lisa at the Mummy Whisperer  spoke right to my heart when she said "I often wondered what held you back". I now know this is my time to finally live, as an adult free of my past and achieve all the things I would like to do. I'm going to need a lot of help, but this has taught me I have a larger support network than I ever imagined, and sometimes its ok just to say "I am not ok and need some help".

The new focus blog wise is for World Prematurity Day, and I make no apologies that your timelines on Twitter will be full of it, your Facebook feeds, you cannot hide from this day! I am on a personal mission that the UK leg will be like the Tyne bridge, leading from the Australian activity to the US activity. I do hope that as many of you as possible will get involved. Every tweet, every picture, every story will help show the world that prematurity matters.

In the run up to the day I will provide some clearer guidelines as to what you can all do to help spread the word.

Thank you again to all of those who have emailed me, supported me, sent a thought or a hug. I appreciate you all very much. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Lightbulb Moments- Why My Blog is Different

I entirely blame years of shiftwork, but in the 1990s I acquired a rather serious Oprah habit. I make no apologies. In my mind she talked about child abuse before anyone else. She has tried to make it ok to talk about, and I thank her for her spirit of truth and openess.

I am in no way the only blogger to talk about prematurity. Am I the best blogger? Absolutely not, and I have never set out to be. There are loads of fabulous blogs out there that you can read, many of which are listed in my recommended reading list. I love reading about other people's journeys with their babies, its inspiring. I would love to see a million premmie mum blogs out there!

What I have realised over the last few days is this blog is and always has been less about the baby's journey and more about the parent's journey, and ok, more specifically the mother's journey. When Joseph was born I felt completely alone, I remember that loneliness so well. I felt I had no one to turn to, no one to really talk to about my feelings, worries, insecurities, and as has become clear, the situation was terribly complex.

What I wanted was a mentor. Someone who had been through that experience and come out the other side. Someone to give practical advice, a shoulder to cry on, and a kick up the bum from time to time. I wanted to be scooped up in love, told that this time would pass, that Joseph would be safe, that I would be able to be a proper mum eventually. And yes, I did get those messages in bits. It's funny, looking back, my biggest source of every day support were the chaplains at the hospital.

In many ways, Joseph has been far less affected by his premature birth than I have. Looking at him now, you would never guess, his childhood is unmarked by it, for which I am forever grateful and thankful.

What I've realised is that a lot of us who have had premature babies have had really crap things happen in their lives, and that premature birth brings it back, in spades. I am hoping now I can have a new spirit of openness on my blog and help other parents, other mothers, sat by incubators with their pasts tumbling over them, threatening to drag them under.

Premature birth is about the baby, and babies should be at the heart of everything we do. However I am passionate that there is just not enough true support for families going through this.

That's why I work with charities like Bliss and Tommy's as I know they are both passionate about this. But in the end, its up to us, as mothers, to be mentors, to provide comfort, hope and support to one another.

And I hope that in some small way, I have helped with this.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Blog Camp and Vida Moda

Happy at Blog Camp
I've been having a wardrobe crisis lately, nothing seems to be quite right, and I was so grateful to be offered an outfit by Vida Moda to wear to Blog Camp. I don't know about you, but as a mum I seem to live in jeans and t-shirts or jumpers, and at work I wear my uniform. Smart clothes seem to have become a thing of the past in my wardrobe. I was so excited looking through the Vida Moda collection.

Vida Moda has a lot of choice, and the clothes are refreshingly different to what is generally available in high street shops to those of us with fuller figures. I chose this gathered black dress

I chose this dress because its really versatile. I have actually worn it twice, at Blog Camp I wore it with slim fitting trousers, for a meeting in Manchester I wore it with tights and heels. I love jersey. The dress washes and wears amazingly well, the fabric falls over the areas I am less keen on showing and is, above all, very comfortable to wear.

Vida Moda

The dress, intriugingly, has ties inside so you can alter the length, which really does make it very versatile, and its the sort of garment you can wear for many different events. 

I am so pleased to have discovered Vida Moda and I hope you enjoy looking through their collection.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Post Traumatic Stress - The Whole Story

This was meant to be a post for #musicmonday at I'm Well Confused , but has ended up a tumble of words instead. But here is the song I have chosen.

My regular readers will know that I got post traumatic stress disorder after Joseph was born. I always thought it started well after Joseph was born, but looking back, it didn't. My first panic attack happened in hospital. Joseph was 2 weeks old, his bowel wasn't functioning. I arrived in the unit one morning and saw him lying prone, without a nappy with the nurse trying to get him to open his bowels.

I felt sick, my head was banging, tears stung my eyes. I couldn't breathe, and I fell against the incubator. I quickly managed to blame my blood pressure medication. My protective instinct kicked in big time, but I knew what was happening. That wasn't happening just to him, it was happening to me too. No one told me that when you have a baby your past kicks in, and how. I felt I had let him down, so very much.My mind new it was just a medical procedure, but my heart hurt for him, my tiny baby, who I was powerless to protect. Because abuse is about power and control, but, as it turns out, so is having a premature baby.

Then my thoughts started spiralling out of control. Because I was so tired and drained and scared all the time, I lost my grip on reality. I couldn't distinguish the past from the present. I felt that I was allowing Joseph to suffer the way I had, it was extremely hard for me to be objective. On the outside I was calm, smiling, dealing with it, on the inside I was a mess.

I was plagued with the most horrific nightmares. Some nights what happened to me was happening to him and I couldn't stop it. The images were all confused in my head  It was so horrible, it was like being in prison. I stopped sleeping. When Joseph finally came home I slept during the day and was awake most of the night. Day time I wrapped myself up with him, and that helped keep it at bay. 

I couldn't talk to anyone about it, as I felt I had to put all my energies into Joseph. I felt like I was going mad. When Joseph came home I was on high alert all the time, not only about his health needs but also about protecting him. I became the classic mother lion. I was fierce. And I still am.

I finally went to the GP and got a private referral to a psychiatrist, who wrapped me up in love and trust, and explained what was going on. That everything had tumbled into one, all the traumatic experiences of my life, even my childhood bullying were being exposed.  Joseph's traumatic birth had triggered everything off again, and it was going to get worse before it got better. And I'd need drugs.

Slowly, I was put back together again, thanks to citalopram, my sure start support worker, my husband and my friends. 

And three years on, I am doing ok. Except at the moment. The old voices are back in my head, I am feeling panicky, scared and exposed.

I don't regret writing that post, not for a minute, because it had to be written. The feedback I have received, in private and in public, has been phenomenal and I know that I have helped break the shame and help others not to feel so alone.

Now I have to do that for myself. I need to visit that little girl, I need to tell her she is ok now. that she is safe, and that she can let this go.

And I am going to need some help.

No More Pain. No Drama.

Monday, 22 October 2012

British Red Cross First Aid Challenge

So hands up, who is going to the Baby Show at Earl's Court this week, which starts on the 26th October, I know a lot of you are. If you are attending the British Red Cross are launching their First Aid Challenge with training sessions taking place each our. If you are unable attend on 26th October, on the same day, the British Red Cross are launching a new website featuring free videos, emergency advice and information on first aid courses around the UK – the campaign will also encourage parents to download a letter to send to head teachers to ask local schools to teach first aid in the classroom. You can sign up already here

I am absolutely passionate about First Aid, and the British Red Cross offer wonderful courses, I've always kept mine up to date. As a parent of a premature baby having those basic skills was very reassuring. At our special care baby unit and most others around the country you are given resuscitation training before you take your baby home. It's a stark reminder that our babies are very fragile.

I strongly believe every parent should have some kind of training. Some of the First Aid techniques are so simple, they're not scary, and the British Red Cross courses give you ample time to practice and ask questions. I've used my First Aid training on numerous occasions, and a couple of times with Joseph.

Also launching is the British Red Cross First Aid for Babies and Children. I was given a copy and its an invaluable book to have around the home. All the techniques are illustrated clearly with pictures, most using photographs. Its the sort of book you can quickly read through, say once a month and just familiarise yourself with it. The book retails at £10.99 and is one of the best investments you will make for your family.

It also contains useful information such as what to have in your first aid kit, safety tips to avoid accidents and a handy reference guide to fill in important phone numbers. It's a great book to leave with a baby sitter or grandparent too.

I'd challenge all my readers to sign up for the challenge, consider going on a course, and buying a book, it could save a life.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

World Prematurity Day - PicMonkey

If you "like" my Facebook page you will have seen some pictures pop up with sayings, quotes and thoughts on them. Pictures are great aren't they? I can tell you I had a baby at 27 weeks, but until you see his little foot smaller than a thumbnail, its hard to appreciate it.

One of the tips we got at the recent Blog Camp was to use PicMonkey to do this, to customise your photos, make collages and add sayings. I am not a photo editor. I can't do fancy stuff particularly, but PicMonkey makes it incredibly easy.

If your thinking of doing some social media sharing on World Prematurity Day then pictures are a great way of doing it. You can Facebook them, blog them, tweet them, Google+ them and pin them.
If you check out the Pinterest World Prematurity Day Board that the premmie blogging mums have set up and are pinning to, you can see some examples. On November 17th it would be great to see loads of these out there being shared.

Here are some that I have made. I hope you like them and are inspired to do the same.

Saturday, 20 October 2012



Yesterday was one of the most overwhelming days of my life. I described it to one friend as like being in a dream where you are naked and standing in the middle of the town centre with everyone staring at you.

I really don't know what to say, other than I am blessed. Yesterday so many of you read, commented, tweeted, emailed, hugged, cried, and I feel loved. I feel free....ish. So much shame has lifted. Ironically, yesterday Operation Yewtree changed from an inquiry into a criminal investigation, as some of the allegations against Savile involve people still alive.

My prayers and thoughts are with the over 200 people who have come forward, and with the officers who are listening to these stories and gathering the evidence. This is more than just about Savile, for survivors like me its saying that child sexual abuse matters. That you matter. That I matter.

One of the touching emails I received was from an author in Australia, Jayneen Saunders who has written the most incredible book and resource pack called Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept. I will do a proper review of this book, and intend to purchase it today. The book is read on YouTube by Debbie Byrne, one of my childhood heroes, and herself a survivor. I have embedded the link for you here.

This book had me in floods of tears. It's simple, elegant, not scary, and gets at the issue in a tender way. I will have no issue reading this to my son.

Yesterday also saw Joseph being poorly, which rarely happens. The happy little boy in the picture was a most poorly one an hour later, but once home with mummy picked up, but I had loves and snuggles a lot yesterday.

I am so grateful.

Thank you

Friday, 19 October 2012

Jimmy Savile is Dead

Before I begin, just to clarify, I think it's right that this story is out in the media. If, and I believe there was, a systematic coverup, then it needs to be exposed, brought to light, lessons learnt, convictions if necessary.  Victims overcomers need to have their voices heard whatever the case, and I know that the story was due to break before Jimmy Savile died. This piece is personal reflection not a political statement.

When it first broke, that Jimmy Savile story, I quivered. I knew what was to come. An opening of the floodgates. And it happened. Story after terrible story, being told by adults, who inside are still children, terrified of a man now dead. You see, when you think about the things you have kept locked away, your not a rationale grown up. In that moment you are back where you were, a vulnerable, frightened child. Jimmy Savile is dead.

And the media,  the armchair commentators speculating about why it took so long, why these people chose now to speak up, why they didn’t say no, why wasn’t something done. And the answer is complex, but it’s simple too. Jimmy Savile is dead.

So many of these stories are written and spoken by people who weren’t around in the 1970s. It’s easy to dismiss things like CRB checks and safeguarding protocols as politically correct nonsense. We take it for granted. Now, there are systems in place that protect children. Do they fail? Yes of course they do, we only have to see recent news coverage to tell us that. But they are there, and they do, by and large, work.

Let me tell you what the 1970s was like. I heard my first talk on stranger danger at primary school, at the age of 5 in 1977. But no one told me. No one told me that you were far more likely to be a victim of a family member, a family friend, someone known to you. And when you did realise that those advances, those touches, the things he did to you and asked you to do weren’t right, you realised he had created a world where you just would not be believed. And he made you believe it was all your fault, not his.

Clever abusers don’t just grab a child off the street and molest them. No clever abusers work systematically. They isolate their victim, build a world where the child becomes convinced that no one will believe them. They blur the lines between right and wrong. And that is the true twisted genius. If a hug is ok, then a touch on the bottom is too, yes? If a kiss is ok, a kiss below the waist isn’t so bad is it? That is how they work. Their perverted logic. 

People, and specifically men, who abuse children are not just evil. They are also master manipulators. They build themselves up as the friendly neighbour who will watch your children, fix your car, build that tricky slide or trampoline you have just had delivered. They will, very quietly, threaten your children. “You can tell your mum, but she won’t believe you”. “If you tell your parents, I will hurt your sister”. They cleverly construct an outside world that hides what lies within.

Add to that mix a culture, that like it or not, existed in the 1970s, that adults are believed over children, and you have a recipe for a huge cover up, a scandal, that will take years to deconstruct. People will speculate, wonder how it could be allowed to happen. People like Savile manipulate all those around them, not just children. They use their power, prestige, and paying power to keep their minions quiet. And to them, everyone that is not them, is a minion. 

I have struggled to know what to share, how to share it. I can’t stay silent anymore. These people who have bravely gone to the police and the papers are showing us the way. They way to break the silence. For by staying silent, we allow these perpertrators to win. 

My instinct is to share it all. To tell you just what that man, thousands of miles away from Jimmy Savile, with none of his money or influence, did to me. But it’s too private, too poignant and too disturbing. Sometimes it all feels like a nightmare. 

These brave people  are people like me. Sat with their heads in their hands, memories coming back, tears flowing, anger rising, that old fear and shame cloaking us once more. We are not victims anymore. We are not little children lying in hospital beds, or television studios so happy to be chosen to be on telly or playing in the neighbour’s hen house. We are survivors. We are overcomers. For Jimmy Savile is dead. And we are not. 

To all those who have come forward, I thank you. For now we can talk about it. We can break our silence. We can inform law makers, and the media and most of all our families, our children. We can break the cycle. 

Jimmy Savile is dead. 

And he can’t hurt us anymore

This post is only possible through the love and support of four special Twitter friends

And a big thank you to to Nickie at Typecast.

 If you have been affected by this post and need support NAPAC are there to help as are Victim Support 

For a very sensible, balanced article that gave me the impetus to write this piece, please read The Guardian article.  

This piece by Suzanne Moore is what I wished I had written, please read this and share. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

TLC - Know Your Breasts

I thought I knew how to check my breasts. I used to do it in the shower, quite systematically checking for lumps. If this is all you do, you aren't doing it quite right and may miss the signs of breast cancer.

I attended a female health check and it was so enlightening. The doctor got me to stand in front of the mirror, and look, really look at my breasts. It was quite confonting. I don't normally wear revealing tops, I certainly don't go topless, and really looking at first seemed strange. Now its part of my routine, once a month.

So just what are we looking for when we examine our breasts?

1. Lumps - they may not be visible, you may have to feel.
2. Dimpling or Puckering - the lump may be much deeper than skin level
3. Discharge from the nipple
4. Crusting or rash
5. Change in the direction of the nipple

When Joseph was born I got to know my breasts really well. I expressed milk for him which meant daily massage and expressing, and I got a lot more confident in knowing what is right for me, what my normal is.

The year after son was born I received the devastating news mum had cancer, which you can read here. There are two things I want you to know about breast cancer.

Most women who are diagnosed do not have a family history of breast cancer

You may not be able to feel a lump.

Mum's lump was detected on a routine mammogram. If you are over 50 keep all appointments, breast cancer may be symptomless. Mum's own surgeon couldnt feel the lump. It was caught early. The treatment was not nice, but mum is ok now, thankfully.

Finding breast cancer early could save your life. Know the signs, text TLC to 84424* for your free handy TLC guide from Breakthrough Breast Cancer, or register at
*Standard networks apply”

Today is my mum's birthday, wishing her a very happy birthday, and many cancer free years to come.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Preparing for World Prematurity Day - November 17

I am excited about World Prematurity Day, as you can probably tell if you follow me on social media, and I know a lot of you are excited too!

I am so excited that this year Bliss has joined with March of Dimes along with charities around the world, making World Prematurity Day truly global.

This day, however, is not about charities and NGO's sitting around talking about prematurity. No. It's about you and your babies and children. These organisations are here to facilitate and to help, but this is our day, your day.

November 17th, World Prematurity Day is so important, because its a day we can all come together and celebrate our babies and their achievements. We grieve too, for those who lost their fight, and most importantly we work together to help reduce prematurity and to ensure babies everywhere have the best start in life.

Now this is a call to action. I want to tell you how you can get involved.

  • Start here at the World Prematurity Day Facebook page and tell your story on the map. Stories need to be short, 250 characters. Everyone can do this! And you don't have to own your own preemie to do so.
  • Now if you want to share pictures go to PicMonkey the easiest photo editing in the world. Find a saying, write your own. Play around, the undo button is fabulous! You can share directly from PicMonkey on to Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, you can download your masterpiece too. Use these photos to share your thoughts. 
  • Visit Pinterest this link will take you to my World Prematurity Board. I would love to get more collaborators pinning and sharing, that would be fantastic. If you would like to become a collaborator, please ask.
  • Twitter is key. I love Twitter. There will be some composed tweets you can use, but please be creative and come with your own. You can tweet pictures as well as words, share articles, blog posts, just make some noise. Closer to the time I will give you some times for your diary so you can join in some prearranged chats. I have a Twitter list which you are welcome to join.
  • I have been showing the Not Even A Bag of Sugar Facebook page some serious love, and will use this to help keep you all updated, and for you to ask questions and get help with your preparation for the day. Please come and like and
  • If anyone is on Google + you can find me easily there, and it would be great to have a Hangout, let me know if you are interested in doing this.
  • And finally I am going to do some video blogs on You Tube, and share these too.

What to share
  • If you blog that would be wonderful. If you are considering starting a blog now would be a great time to start. If you want me to host a post, I have a spare blog space to do that, and I would love to host stories from those of you who are not bloggers.
  • A picture speaks 1000 words and its true. Before and after pictures, montages, sayings, share them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google + anywhere!
  • If you don't own your own preemie it doesn't matter, be part of the support team and share articles, posts, pictures, maybe someone you know has had a preemie and you can share thoughts on that. 
I am really excited this year, because I know we in the UK (and around the world) can do something amazing, and really pass the baton from the Australian, and Asian activity to the US activity.

We have a chance to really show the world how amazing our babies are. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Reincarnation - Kate Takes 5

I love Kates Listography, and I only ever seem to join when they are whimsical ones. I don't actually believe in reincarnation but no matter!


Here are my top 5 things I'd like to be reincarnated as:

One of my cats: It's been a long standing joke, as a cat owner of some 20 years, that I would want to come back as one of my cats. Now this is far too much information but as I type this, laying on my left arm is my cat, attempting to breastfeed (I might add I am, at this point, fully clothed). Our cats are well fed, well loved, always indoors, and given top billing, well perhaps second now we have Joseph.

Atticus Woo - our older, non breastfeeding cat

Mark Seymour's guitar: Now Mark Seymour was not my first teenage crush, that title probably belongs to John Taylor of Duran Duran, but after I got over my eighties hair and make up fetish, Mark became my number one, and is probably my most enduring crush. I would be most happy to be reincarnated as his guitar! And that's as suggestive as I am going to get!

A meerkat: Long before that hideous meerkat marketing campaign, I have loved meerkats. I always make a bee line for them at zoos and enjoy Meerkat Manor and the like. One teeny issue I have with being reincarnated as a meerkat is the diet. They eat live locusts and cockroaches. Now I guess if I have zero recollection of human life, I will be fine, and won't know any better. But life in a close family, in the sunshine, with meekats to look out for me, yes I think I would love that.

A vintage pram: I took this photo when Joseph was in hospital. Seems madness now, I was released on the Friday, and on the Sunday Corey went out to wet the babies head, and I went to the War Weekend in Ramsbottom dolled up to the nines. We had been ordered to take a break from the hospital. I walked around and took pictures, then crashed at home and sobbed my heart out. I love these old prams, imagine the lives you would take care of and the stories you could tell.

A tree: Now I don't want to be any old tree. I did at first think I fancied being an old growth eucalypt in a Tasmanian forest, but I think my roots are British and I belong here. And I don't fancy being turned into pulp and sent to Japan to be processed as typing paper or worst still, the Daily Mail, imagine? No I want to be a well preserved, happy tree, and to illustrate have used these magnificent trees in St James' Park in London

Monday, 15 October 2012

International Wave of Light

This evening at 7pm, what ever time zone you are, it's the International Wave of Light. October 15 marks the end of Baby Loss Awareness Week, however the whole month of October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

Losing a baby is an intensely personal thing. If you lose a child, an adult, then the whole community of that person comes to grieve, and to support. But when you lose a baby, the only people that really had a relationship with that person, are the immediate family. I think that's what makes it so isolating, other people, of course, can be caring and understanding, but the loss is your to bear and yours alone.

I have had two early losses, and when they happened I felt completely devastated and alone. It's weird to think that back then the internet wasn't as evolved as now, there was no Facebook, and whilst some people certainly were, in early forms, blogging, I was not. I found it very hard to speak to people in real life about what had happened to me.

Now, having had Joseph, I have met the most amazing families, with such devasating stories of loss, that just break my heart. Tonight, though a thought is given for my two little ones, my thoughts are with those who are grieving so intensely.

The Wave of Light is an opportunity for all of us to say "we care and we remember" It's a simple, virtually free act. I have had the same candles for 3 years, great big things that I light once a year, that I save for this day.

Now is also a good time to share some news that I received last week. I have been asked to speak at the Saying Goodbye service which will be held at Manchester Cathedral in March. I would love for any of you who are local to Manchester to attend and stand with us, as we commemorate and remember the special little lives that have touched us so much. I have no idea how I am going to speak without sobbing, but I have decided that that's ok, if I stand up there and cry, everyone else will be crying with me.

I would just like to say, for those lighting candles tonight, thank you.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Blog Camp Manchester

I went to Blog Camp Manchester yesterday, and let me tell you, it was just fabulous! Blog Camp is run by Tots 100 , and is provided free of charge to bloggers, thanks to the dynamo that is Sally Whittle who writes here at Who's The Mummy? one of my favourite blogs.

Blog Camp Manchester was really different to the last one I attended in Birmingham. For a start there were no workshops, we all stayed together in one big room. I have to say at first I was a little concerned by this. At blog camp you have bloggers like the very lovely Jess who blogs at Catch a Single Thought , who is just starting out in blogging (and doing a wonderful job of it might I say, and then K from Mummy Pinkwellies, who like me has been blogging for a while.

I didn't think that the needs of diverse bloggers could be met in this format, but I was wrong. I deliberately avoid talks on photography and video making as I am not good at them and not particularly interested. But by attending these I learnt a lot and realised the power of these mediums, and am now determined to be better. I am still not 100% convinced about vlogging, but I am willing to give it a try. I do think that for some of my audience, people who have babies in NICU, hearing information can be easier than the written word, so that's given me something to think about. Becky and Tom from The Ar-Blog,  shared some really genius simple ideas to make our photos better, and I'm inspired to try harder.

I enjoyed Ruth from Geekmummy talking about video blogging. I really love Ruth because, as much as she loves her geekery and wizardry pokery, above all, she is a clear communicator. I love her blogs and always go away thinking I have understood things that previously were a mystery.

The highlight of the day for me was Cathy, the Queen of Playdough, who writes the successful and very helpful blog Nurture Store  , which for a long time has been my go to place for activities with children. Cathy talked about using Facebook and Pinterest to grow our audiences. I have a Facebook group as it's the "done thing" but I don't do enough with it and I know I don't. The thing was, until yesterday, I had no idea where to start. But now I do! So thanks Cathy for your simple pointers.

It was such a refreshing day, and I left feeling like I had been taken back to basics. After my break away, I have been left feeling that I need to do more to reach outside bloggers, to ordinary mums and dads with babies in neonatal, or who are now home trying to pick the pieces up, so I hope to really be able to make a difference and get my voice heard.

I highly recommend Blog Camp, it's such a fantastic place to learn, meet other bloggers, and of course, eat cake.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Justin's Funny Faces - Giveaway

We were delighted to receive a Justin's Funny Faces Sticker book to review. We love Justin Fletcher, of Something Special and Justin's House Fame, and Joseph's eyes lit up when I showed him the book.

Image courtesy of Amazon

The book has got more than 10 pages of faces in different scenarios with lots of stickers, far more than you need, which is great. Not only will you not run out of eyes and mouths, there's lots of choice to give your face personality.

Joseph is 3 and a quarter, and he loved the book. He got the grasp of the facial features straight away. Unlike many sticker books the stickers are easy to lift off and place. The stickers seem to give a chance or two so if you place it wrong, as long as you haven't pressed too hard, you can still move them.

This book is available on Amazon and retails for £3.99 although it appears to be on offer at the moment, and would make a great stocking filler, travelling present or for hospital appointments.

You can follow Justin on Twitter.

I have one sticker album to give away. To have a chance to win please tweet:

I would love to win a Funny Faces #stuckonjustin sticker book with @kykaree

Please leave a blog comment to let me know you have tweeted.

For an extra entry follow Justin but be sure to let me know you have.

Keep an eye out for the annual that will be out in time for Christmas!

*Giveaway prize is Justin Funny Faces Sticker book. Ends 19th October 9am. Winner will be selected by random draw

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Child Bride #dayofthegirl

When I was 20 I made a massive decision. I decided to get married. I got married one month after my 21st birthday. My mother was so upset, although my parents supported me. She felt I was wasting my potential, settling down too soon, not living the life she wanted for me.

And you know what, I now know at the age of 40 she was spot on. There was no rush, I wasn't going to be left on the shelf, there's a big wide world out there and a life there for the taking. It wasn't until I was almost 30 that I finally freed myself legally from a disasterous, abusive relationship that could have ended in tragedy - though I had fled many years earlier. A story I have never told fully, and am not sure its for this blog. Suffice to say that I married an older man, who wasn't emotionally mature. The worst moment of my marriage was finding out I was pregnant. He laid his hands on my stomach and prayed. That God would decide. The following day I started to bleed and lost my baby. That spelled the end for me, and I was moved out with the help of Tasmania Police and some kind and loving friends.

Today is an important day, it is the first ever International Day of the Girl. World Vision has asked us to tell you the story of girls, marrying too soon, losing their potential, living a life they do not wish to live. These girls are not marrying for misguided love, they are forced, as girls, to marry often older men. I made my own choice, no one forced me, but I can relate so much to these young girls, living a life not of their choosing or making. The importance of personal autonomy cannot be understimated.

Each day an estimated 24,500 girls will marry before reaching their 18th birthdays. At current rates, 100 million girls will marry as children in the next decade. This is a staggering loss of potential.

We know, from my work for the #borntoosoon campaign that having children too soon is a leading cause of prematurity in the developing world. We also know that poor spacing out of pregnancies is another cause. These children are having children, living lives of poverty that we cannot hope to understand or grasp. Very often they lose babies. I had miscarriages at 23 and 27. I didn't have the emotional maturity to deal with this, how can a 15 year old? Or even younger.

Children need the chance to be children. To play, to get their education, to experience decision making and choice, to find their own destiny and path in this world. Getting married too young isn't healthy and as Amira's story proves, in their own countries, is often not legal. Amira was saved by the laws of her country, facilitated by World Vision, and now has what we have ample of in our own communities......choice.

How can you help?

One way of making a difference to a life of a girl is through child sponsorship. I am "auntie" to a boy from Niger, with three other bloggers, but hope to form a similar coalition to sponsor a girl. If you are interested please message me and we can arrange something. To sponsor a child is under  £25 per month, if 5 of us got together we could sponsor a girl.

By alleviating poverty, you give a girl, and their family, choices. They don't need to get their daughter married off, and she can complete her education. It's so important. 

You can tweet, share and campaign. Already there is a buzz on Twitter, and you will see a lot of tweets during the day, it would be great to get as many voices as we can together on this.

You can find World Vision UK on Twitter here.
World Vision UK can be found on Facebook here

Please join us and help end enforced child marriage, let girls be girls, let women marry - not children.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Where is My Mind? #WorldMentalHealthDay

Have you ever lost your mind? Your thoughts are not ordered, you have intrusive ideas, concepts and images intruding your thinking. You feel lost, alone, scared. You can't grasp what is going on. You need help. Taking that first step to say "I am not ok, where is my mind" is truly difficult.

I am one in four. I am someone who has had mental illness. I am very very lucky, I have won. For now. But I know my battle is never over, it can come back, any time without warning.

On World Mental Health Day, we are talking about stigma. I find it inconceivable that there is still a stigma. It's ok to talk about liver failure, heart failure, cancer, but mind failure? Still a taboo, and I find that sad.

Talking about mental health doesn't bother me. I am happy to put my hand up to depression and anxiety problems, including PTSD, but I have felt the stigma. I declared my history on my pregnancy notes, and felt the stigma, and then the change in attitude amongst some health professionals, using my mental health history as an excuse to what was going on inside my body. "Oh its not pre eclampsia your blood pressure is high due to your anxiety issues"......wrong. Many times I wished I hadn't been honest as it blocked my care rather than facilitated it.

We need to understand mental health much better as a community. We need to support one another and help each other.

Of particular concern to me is those of us who have had traumatic births and/or premature babies. So often our feelings can be written off as "normal", but these high pressure situations can cause deeper problems. "Oh its understandable you are a bit traumatised" yes fair enough, but when you are avoiding sleep just to avoid the nightmares, when the checkout at Tesco with its beeps like an oxygen monitor sends tears streaming down your face, when taking your baby to checkups at the hospital he was once a resident at makes you sick, then its time for help. I would argue it should never be allowed to get that far. Proactive treatment is essential, a stitch in time well and truly saves nine.

Mental health services need to be better targetted, to be easier to access and be quicker. I found the waiting list so long after Joseph was born, that I opted out and went private for my treatment, as it was quicker, and I had the means to do so. I was lucky.

I got help, not only medication and counselling, but support through our Sure Start centre. My support worker took a broken, frightened mummy and turned her into a confident, caring mother who wants to help others in the same boat. 

Losing your mind is terrifying, there are no two ways about it. You feel powerless, scared and alone.

Responsive care, caring friends and family, and lots of love and support make all the difference.

It did to me.

So how are you today? Really. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Hama Beads with Craft Merrily

I have been intrigued by Hama Beads since I saw my nieces making amazing pictures with them about six years ago. They spent hours placing their beads, and then waited patiently for their mum or dad to iron them. Many Hama bead decorations can be seen on display in their home in Luxembourg.

When we were given the opportunity to try some Hama Beads ourselves, I was intrigued to try these melty beads, that stick together when you iron them. I was a little nervous too, as up until recently Joseph has not shown any interest in craft activities.

We were sent My First Maxi beads to try.

Inside the pack is a plastic template which shows you how to place the beads, a bag of beads and some ironing paper.


Joseph got the hang of it right away, doing the eye first and then moving to the tail. He really loved it, but his attention span is quite short and mummy ended up finishing him. 

Once he was finished, Joseph declared his name was Eggy and he went over to the ironing station. You really have to iron this creature. It took me a while to get it right. Once its ironed leave the paper on, and the weight your creation for it to dry. The melty beads do have to really melt to stick together and I think it will take a couple of goes to get it right.

I was really impressed with our first attempt at Hama beads. As you can see I rushed a little toward the end and forgot his yellow chest!!


I really enjoyed our first go at Hama beads and look forward to showing you another kit we were sent next week.

I can't wait to further explore the range of ideas from Hama, have a look at the Pinterest board that Craft Merrily has lovingly put together.

I would highly recommend the maxi beads, and am definitely putting some on Joseph's Christmas list. He really enjoyed his project and I am sure he will become more proficient with creating with Hama beads.

I was sent the Dinosaur My First Hama maxi bead kit to review, all opinions are my own. Or that of a 3 year old!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Talking About Termination of Pregnancy

I feel a little uncomfortable writing this. However it was a tweet that inspired this post, which I can't find now that said basically that the electorate has a right to have their voices heard. So I have a voice, and some opinions and my blog, so here goes.

I don't like abortion. However, I have seen societies were termination of pregnancy is illegal and I really don't like that either. If we outlawed abortion it would happen still, but putting women in extreme danger. Now you can, unbelievably, buy abortion tablets on the internet. Disreuptable illegal clinics would sprout up. Women would flee to other countries.  No I believe in medical termination of pregnancy in safe enviroments with counselling and support.

However, I believe strongly that something is going wrong in terms of the amount of unwanted pregnancy and all this talk of lowering limits is shutting the stable gate. Lets catch the horse first. 

As I was considering what to write I found this fabulous blog post by Dilly Tante, my new favourite blogger (is it wrong to idolise a favicon - so pretty) where she talks about Jeremy Hunt and his desire to see the limit for termination of pregnancy reduced to 12 weeks.

What annoys me is this, what are we actually doing to prevent the rate of unwanted pregnancies in the first place? Where is the debate about what is going wrong?And where are the Tory voices in this? We have more contraception choices than ever before, more means of communicating those choices, yet still the abortion rate continues to be high. We have sex education in schools. I don't know why the unwanted pregnancy rate is high, and I'd love to hear more debate about this and to understand it.

We also have increasing sexualisation of, well, just about everything. Seeing the world through my son's eyes, whilst oftentimes is delightful, is also downright scary.I see what he is exposed to on a daily basis and I worry. I was in my 20s and married before I lost my virginity. I worry about what age Joseph will be when he loses his own.

To me, the talk of lowering the gestational age of termination of pregnancy to 12 weeks is somewhat ridiculous, and that change inadvertantly may cause the rate of terminations to go up not down, as women feel under immense pressure to have the appointment booked by 12 weeks .Chloe talks about this on her post, also written this weekend, from a very personal viewpoint.  Also Jeremy Hunt is not giving the NHS any credit, for their target is to have most terminations done by 10 weeks. The vast amount of terminations are done before the 12 week mark anyway.

I totally agree with Dilly Tante, that Jeremy Hunt's comments are to make Dorries' suggestion of lowering the gestational age from 24 weeks to 20 weeks more appealing. But what really saddens me is that no one seems to be talking about what we can do to reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies in the first place. 

Currently the legal limit stands at 24 weeks, and for a lot of us, this seems very high. Many of my readers have had babies at 24 weeks gestation, or indeed younger, and I know that when these debates surface it is upsetting, as there are vehement arguments on both sides. The simple fact is, despite the statistics that might elude otherwise, babies are born at 22-24 weeks, and do survive, albeit with a lot of medical help and support, but they do survive and thrive.

I do think there is a case for lowering the limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. I do appreciate that no one enters into a late term termination lightly, however there is already provision for termination beyond 24 weeks in extenuating and compelling circumstances. Unless the Tories are considering changing this as well (and I've seen no mention of it in the press) then there is still a safety measure in place.

What I think we need overall is dialogue. Termination of pregnancy happens, for lots of reasons. I think as a community and as an electorate we need to unpick those reasons and work on them, help women manage their fertility in a way that suits them, but we need that safety net in place too.  We need to talk about termination of pregnancy, and we need to do it now.