Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The One Where I Make An Announcement

When Joseph came home from hospital, I was a bit of a mess. I found it really hard to make sense of what had happened. I felt bitter and jealous. I found getting support really difficult. In my area of the UK there wasn't a strong support network. I floundered.

I started my blog purely as self indulgent writing to help me make sense of what had happened. As I wrote I was heartened by the support I received and the messages I got that helped me realise that my feelings were pretty normal.

Over time my confidence grew, I joined blogging networks, attended conferences, and joined some of the rankings like eBuzzing and Tots100. I was nominated for a MAD blog award and later a Britmums award.

I started working with charities like the March of Dimes in the US, with Bliss and with Tommys. I spoke to media and wrote for newspaper blogs. I found my voice.

But what I found most was support, friendship and love, often from the most surprising of sources.

Every single one of you who has read, hugged, encouraged and supported me, whether in real life or online, has helped me more than you will ever know.

I have grown so much as a person, in confidence, in personality, and most importantly as a mother, to use the experiences of Joseph's premature birth to grow and develop.

I am excited to announce that on January 17 I start work for Bliss in their brand new Manchester office as a Regional Volunteer Coordinator. I am so proud that I am now a Bliss employee, and to work for the charity that has given me so much. And to enable me to achieve one of my objectives, to make face to face, peer support much more available in our region, a goal Bliss shares too.

As a result I have decided that Not Even A Bag of Sugar will no longer be as it is now. My hours of work will be demanding and its time to work on my two important careers, motherhood and with Bliss.

I would like to thank each and every one of you, there are too too many to mention individually here, but I appreciate you all so very much.

Over time I will be creating a website to collate much of the content of Not Even A Bag of Sugar, and hopefully some more projects are in the pipeline. I hope to continue personal blogging in some way and will let you know once that has started.

Thank you again for all your kind support and love that you have shown Joseph and I over the past 3 years.

Kylie x x x

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Twelve Twitter Tweeples

That I would love to have over for a dinner party.

Sheldon - who belongs to @Daniel___Bsc sporting the hat and scarf I knitted for him

I love Twitter. I really really do. It took me a while to come to grips with it and now I have a beautiful bunch of people, some of whom have become the dearest of friends.

I was rereading this marvellous post, Twitter is Like by Dorkymum (who can't be on the list as I've met her in real life already and know she would be the consummate dinner party guest!), and came to thinking that some nights lately Twitter has been like a fun, lively dinner party for me. So what an amazing way to introduce you to some of my favourite folk on Twitter.

So my first criteria for guest selection was that I haven't met these people in real life (yet) which is why there are some ommissions.  This may be another post! I have managed to have an equal split of men to women, which was unintentional, but rather clever! These are all people that I interact with not just follow. I hesitate to say no "big name" celebrities, because there are a couple on here who are quite well known. These are all people whose opinion I value, who make me smile, laugh, and think. Several of them are people I can call on when I am sad or lonely and are real friends.

Daniel My dear friend Daniel needs little introduction if you have read my blog in the last few months as he has guest posted for me. Daniel is so funny, quick witted, intelligent, insightful and caring. He also does not "do" parties and would be a bit grumpy at being invited I think. So it's just as well that two of his close Twitter friends are friends of mine too, and they can call sit together at the end of the table! They might even lead him astray.

Professor Francesca Stavrokopoulu Francesca would make a fabulous dinner party guest, though would possibly break rules, I doubt, like one of my other guests, she would stay away from religion, and possibly not politics either. Francesca would bring a depth of conversation to the table, and my I say, probably a bit of silliness too, when partnered with her double act.

Stamatina sister of Francesca, Stam is great fun at parties, and I know this as I have seen the pictures! Together with Francesca she would be guaranteed to cheer Daniel up and include him in the party, whether he likes it or not. Only thing is, I would possibly lock the vodka up until all the food had been consumed.

Becca whilst Francesca would definitely break the religion rule, I am relying on Becca to break the politics one! Becca is a great Twitter friend, quick witted, clever and writes an amazing blog. She is the type of person who makes you think things in a different way. One of the things I love about Becca is her ability to challenge people's perceptions about prettiness, disability and periods.

Odette is a lovely Twitter friend, and would help to keep order at this end of the table, in fact I am relying on her. Odette is so inspiring, swimming, golfing and has lovely dogs! I trust her to deepen the conversation and reign in the religion and politics somewhat!

Ranj Singh I often say I followed Dr Ranj before he became famous! My definition of fame has changed since having a child. You are not truly famous til most under 5s know your name. Dr Ranj would definitely bring a lot of fun to the table, not trusted to stay off politics, particularly if we get onto the NHS. And he can even sing the poo song if he wants, but perhaps wait til after coffee and chocolates...

Shelly It's not a dinner party without a fellow Tasmanian! I met Shelly as she is a fellow Richmond Tigers fan, and we've really hit it off! I am hoping Shelly brings some treats from home. She is guaranteed to bring her lively sense of humour, and we'll drive everyone nuts with Tassie in jokes and Aussie culture.

Dan will also bring some Aussie flavour to the table. Dan provides some great financial advice in his blog but is so much more than just a financial planner.  Dan is witty, interesting, and also very caring. He can chat on a wide range of topics, and I am also relying on him to steer the conversation away from politics and religion.

Tattoed Mummy is one of my long standing tweet mates! A prolific tweeter, and a lovely combination of fierce, friendly and funny. Not to be trusted to keep to any rule, she would certainly be great fun at a dinner party. Might possibly fight Stam for the vodka so I will be sure to have plenty in supply.

Bobby Ghaheri MD is just one on his own. I mean with someone who has on his Twitter bio "I pick noses and clean earwax" just has to be the ideal dinner guest. I am going to have my work cut out for me at this dinner party catering for vegetarians, Paleo eaters and everything in between I fear. Sat firmly at the bacon end of the table, bacon ice cream anyone?

Hisham Rana MD was one of the first people I ever followed on Twitter, found through a retweet about medical issues. He is my go to person for the latest research, and he is great fun too. Although I am not sitting him with Bobby, that is just asking for trouble. Sorry guys! And no talking about cars at the table, unless you bring me a nice one for my hostess gift!

Rev Richard Coles you have to admire someone with so many followers who operates such an interactive, supportive account. I count him as one of my Twitter friends, someone who inspires, provokes thought, but is never preachy. Another not guaranteed to stay off religion or politics, and I am still deciding whether to sit him next to Prof Francesca or at the opposite end of the table, though I gather they have as much that unites them as divides them.

So there you have my 12 Twitter Tweeples I would invite to dinner. Who are yours?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

10 Fun Festive Things to Do Next Week

I wrote on Thursday about my problems with Christmas and that this year I want to enjoy the lead up and have fun. So I thought what better way than to plan some activities and I have you all to keep me honest! I will blog about what we do as well so you can share the fun!

We're going on a (Polar) Bear Hunt

One of Joseph's favourite books is We're Going on a Bear Hunt. We'll read the story Sunday night then first thing Monday we'll start our hunt. Our local Garden Centre has an awesome Christmas display.....with polar bears! Hopefully weather permitting we'll walk, if not there's a bus right to the door! Joseph hasn't been there at Christmas since he was a baby so he won't remember, which will add to the excitement.

Magical cupcakes and sausage rolls

Christmas is all about giving. We have two treasured elderly neighbours that live nearby. Firstly Pat, who was a Salvation Army Officer, we will make her some cupcakes with an angelic theme. Secondly Ernie and his grown up sons. They are not cupcake people I don't think, so we will make them some yummy festive sausage rolls. We'll do our making in the morning on Tuesday and our giving in the afternoon.

Make a snow man

I have started this today, snow or no snow. I have a great pattern for a papier mache snowman, that we can fill with treats as a pinata. I'll do the papier mache and then we'll pain him or her on Wednesday. No photos yet as it is in a very embryonic stage and looks a little scary!

Sing Christmas Carols

Joseph loves to sing and one afternoon this week we'll dust out the Christmas songs and have a good sing song!

Make a Chocolate Log

On Friday we're going to make a chocolate log, to have over the weekend before Christmas. A bit untraditional but there is so much rich food on the day that I thought it would be nice thing to make and to share with the neighbours too.

Glitter snowflakes

I bought some love cutters from TKMaxx, and I'm going to make some glitter playdough in white for Joseph to play with. He loves play dough!

Christmas Cookies

On Thursday we're going to bake some tree decorations. The tree is up and looks lovely but some biscuits would finish it off nicely. I didn't want to do these too early as I appear to have a 3 foot high rat living somewhere between the living room and the kitchen, and wanted some on the tree on Christmas day!

Animal hunt

Weather permitting on Friday we're going to go to Heaton Park and take photos of the animals and then catalogue them. Joseph adores animals and he will enjoy going to the farm park and finding them!

Christmas message

With all Joseph's extended family living abroad, this week we are going to record a Christmas message and Daniel, my friend is going to help us edit it, or talk me through it, as he is a whizz and I have no clue! It should be great fun as Joseph loves to talk! (not my child clearly)

Card delivering

Also this week we are going to take a twilight trip to Stubbins, the village where we used to live, and take some cards and gifts. One of the houses is always spectacularly lit, so we'll go and visit that too.

I am really excited about this last full week before Christmas and look forward to spending it with Joseph and getting in the festive spirit!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Tis the Season

Christmas is hard.

I am trying to be enthusiastic, but I am finding it difficult. I find myself singing "Tis the season for tears and tantrums" to myself whilst rocking in the corner. Joseph doesn't yet quite get the concept. He thinks all toys come from Argos and its up to me to buy them all! I am hoping next year he believes!

He has discovered superheroes in a big way. The other day he said "Mummy can I go on Skype and ask Father Christmas the iron man question?" I stupidly asked "What's the iron man question Joseph?" and he looked at me as if I was 3 and he was 40 and said "can I have an iron man for Christmas". I have a feeling he is just humouring me.....

But on this journey I've been on I kind of realised something. I lost my first baby at Christmas 17 years ago. (that's a bit scary, I could have a teenager sitting exams....). It was one of my first adult Christmases and I think since that happened, my innocence for Christmas went away. Shortly after that miscarriage my marriage ended.

It's not with self pit or self indulgence that I write this. For many people Christmas isn't a happy time. It's lonely, sad, tainted with memories, of missing relatives, of grief. That's life, isn't it? Life is pain, as Wesley says in the Princess Bride, and anyone who says anything different is selling something.

So this year, I am determined. I am going to put sadness behind me and have fun. I have started by doing a mad project that hopefully I can blog about tomorrow, Royal Mail permitting! I am making plans for next week, as Joseph has the week off. We are going to the local garden centre where there are amazing Christmas displays, working on a Christmas pinata, and doing some festive baking.

I am going to have fun this year, enjoy the lead up, and relax and enjoy the day.

Tis the Season to be jolly after all.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

PTSD, Paroxetine and PSY

I had a lot of response to yesterday's blog post, particularly privately. I wanted to explain a bit more about PTSD and the medication that I am on. This is personal reflection and my experience only, its not a clinical article. For accurate advice please contact your own health professionals.

Last night I was playing on Twitter, as you do, having a banter-type conversation with two friends. One friend referred to me as "sexy". I panicked, and initially felt very uncomfortable. Now the old me would have over reacted, deleted and blocked that person. But the new me approached things slightly differently.

Let me explain. When we are in a traumatic or difficult situation all our senses work to protect us and determine whether to use "fight or flight", that basic survival instinct. As a little girl the man who I was afraid of would often refer to me as "sexy" before doing something I didn't like. That word would trigger a response, the hairs on the back of my neck would stand up, I'd start to breath quickly, sometimes my asthma would flare up and I could hear myself wheeze, my airways constricting. I'd start to dart my eyes about looking for an escape, wrack my brains looking for a way out. Sometimes I would be able to make excuses and get away, sometimes I would fail.

When I was a little girl, to panic at that word and put a plan in order was an entirely appropriate reaction. The emotions and physical responses it would trigger would alert me to the trouble ahead, and enable me to react in a way that would try and keep myself safe from harm.

Now I am 40 that response is not appropriate, its an overreaction. The person who called me that yesterday is a Twitter friend, who I chat to occasionally, and he was just being playful, he didn't mean anything at all by it, it was just friendly banter. I was frightened because of past associations I have with that word, it wasn't his fault. Someone else possibly would have been flattered.  It's up to me to change what I associate with that word, to change it from something dark and frightening, to something more positive.

The medication I am on slows that firing in my brain that says "danger, delete and block - protect yourself". It enables me to step back and go "hang on a minute, is this a real threat or am I just perceiving it as one". It also enables me to have a laugh at myself and move on.

One of the things I have learnt previously is EMDR eye movement densensitisation and reprocessing. However there are other ways to reprocess fears and negtive emotions. My therapist taught me a variety of techniques but one is to associate something else to a trigger. So for me the word is "sexy" which to me means "danger", "scary", "not safe". So what could I do to help myself think of this word in a different way? As in the pictures, I can change the colour, that shape, the way the words look.

And as for sound, the answer is Gangnam Style. Genius. How could that music, that dancing and my good friend PSY singing "Hey Sexy Lady" be frightening. It isn't scary, its silly, and it makes me smile, laugh even. If I repeat the word, in my head (even I am not going to attempt to sing Gangnam Style, for all that my first real boyfriend was Korean), it changes the meaning and makes it funny, approachable.

There are ways to desensitise from these feelings, with or without medication. It could be preventative. As NICU parents its something we can do for new parents beginning our journey.  I always suggest buying NICU mums a lovely smelling moisturiser, or better still a range of them so there are always different scents, and a positive feeling, of soft sweet skin. I often suggest buying blankets for babies, so they can be used in hospital to help counteract the white sterility and bring a little bit of home in to the hospital. Later on once home it could be that you need to work to turn those beeps of the monitors into something else, rather than symbolising a hospital stay incorporate them into a song, or another sound like jingle bells. The song NICU at Nite does this really well, look for it on YouTube.

I'd urge anyone struggling to seek out help, there is lots around, you just have to look for it.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Drugs Don't Work.....

Um yes they actually do.

So it's been six weeks since I wrote that post, Jimmy Savile is Dead. Six weeks is a long time in politics, the media, and as it would turn out at NEaBoS Towers. (I'm loving the anachronism, I can't remember who coined it, if it was you, please own up!)

So initially I had commented on a few blog posts anonymously, then after consulting a very dear friend of mine, decided to open up on my blog about things that happened a long long time ago, which was very cathartic. But, my readers, that was only the start of the story.

Following the post a lot of memories came flooding back, and emotion, and with that anxiety. I decided to go and have a chat to my GP who was highly sympathetic and supportive and suggested I tried Paroxetine.

I approached my very caring employers and they gave me the number for their Employee Assistance Programme, and I have commenced a course of counselling, which is helping enormously.

The Paroxetine has not only stemmed the anxiety, its given me better clarity of thought. It's also helped me slow down a bit, and take time to enjoy things again, like being a mum. Hence the lack of blogging, as I am sleeping more, spending more time with friends, and a lot more time with Joseph. I am cheered enormously by my friends and the support I have received.

What is also amazing is the IBS has gone. I am no longer bloated, I am beginning to lose weight, and bought size 18 jeans for the first time in six years. I thought it was just coincidence, but have discovered that even in the absence of psychological symptoms, Paroxetine is used in persistent IBS, so hooray for Paroxetine, it's really helped a lot.

There's a lot of stigma around mental health, and around anti depressant and anti anxiety medication. Some brains just don't work effectively and need a little help. For me it appears to be just from time to time, and I anticipate working to come off these sometime, probably not for 12 months or so yet.

If you have arthritis, you take anti-inflammatories, for asthma you take inhalers, it makes sense that sometimes if your brain is broken you take the meds. And give them a chance.

Life is looking brighter and I am greatly looking forward to 2013 with new challenges and a renewed focus.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Christmas Shopping Challenge at TKMaxx

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love shopping at TKMaxx. I love the variety, the brands, the layout, the thrill of finding something amazing. I was given the opportunity to buy gifts for 6 of my nearest and dearest family and friends with £200 to spend. I was so surprised at the amazing gifts instore and the prices, I actually managed to buy 8 gifts.

My local store in Bury is so organised, bright and welcoming. I felt excited as soon as I walked in, and immediately started finding some amazing pieces.

Here is group one!
A lovely beanie, infinity scarf and socks - £26

Purple shirt with a shaving mirror - £27

Chainsaw man playset and power ranger - £15

Sister in Law

Purple handbag and treasure box - £33

Now for group 2

Dinosaur tracing set and pirate puzzle £11

2 cotton shirts £37

2 jigsaw puzzles £12

Cosy socks, nail varnish and make up brush £24

I was really spoilt for choice instore, and am really glad I set myself a time limit of 90 minutes or I might still be there! There are also amazing home decoration ideas, foodie gifts, kitchenalia and loads more to choose from.

If your looking for some brilliant individual gifts this Christmas definitely check out TKMaxx.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Premature Birth in the News

Yesterday was one of those days when as a parent of a premature baby you catch your breath. It was everywhere. Myself and many other parents were called upon by the media to give our "soundbites" short little insights into our world. A world of tiny babies, of highly medicalised beginnings, and for many parents, uncertainty and ongoing problems.

The reason for the buzz about preterm birth was the release of new date from the EPICure project. You can learn more about the project on the NHS website here. EPICure looked at data collected from maternity and neonatal units in 1995 and then 2006. I have a few issues with the EPICure methodology and just how much it is relied upon, but that's a post for another day.

EPICure looks specifically at babies born between 22 weeks of pregnancy and 26 weeks. The article I have linked to gives more specific information about the data but in essence the study found that survival rates have increased over the period of time from 1995 to 2006
  • 9.5% increase in survival (1995 to 2006) for babies born at 23 weeks
  • 12% increase in survival (1995 to 2006) for babies born at 24 weeks
  • 16% increase in survival (1995 to 2006) for babies born at 25 weeks 
The main reason for the increase in survival rates has been reported to be the delivery of steroids to the mother to improve lung development. I do think there is greater awareness of pregnancy problems, and as mothers to be become more aware of developments in this area, they are a driving force behind good care provision and proactive management.

Sadly the range of problems that can beset a premature baby remain unchanged, and the rates of complications like retinopathy of prematurity are going up rather than down, although it could be argued that this is due to better screening protocols than actual real increase.

What is undeniable is that preterm birth rates are not going down, and that the likelihood of these babies going on to have long term health problems remains a constant risk.

My concern, as a parent, is what is being done to prevent premature birth? We need more research, much more money spent on real solutions to pre term birth, better education of mothers to be about issues like infection, pre eclampsia, and rupture of the membranes. We need to get better at talking about risk and management of that risk.

Women are intelligent, resourceful, resilient, we can cope with the real facts. So many times I have heard "oh I don't want to hear about what can go wrong, I don't want to be frightened". And thought I can understand, sure knowledge gives us power to make decisions and fight for good care.

We deserve it, and sure as hell our babies do too. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Ultimate Christmas Song Meme

Yes I am still here. Life has been very busy at Not Even A Bag of Sugar towers, with work, play and Christmas preparations. So I interrupt my silence to bring you my entry in Mummy Alarm's Ultimate Christmas Song Meme

1. The Christmas song that gets me in the mood for Christmas

This was one of the first Christmas songs I learnt to sing at school, and whenever I hear it I know Christmas is coming.

2. The Christmas song that reminds me of my childhood

Growing up in Australia, though we had the traditional Christmas Carols, we also learnt some Australian Christmas songs, and this is one of my favourites.

3. The Christmas song that I could listen to all year long

This is such a calming and uplifting piece of music, and when sung beautifully is just perfect, too good just for Christmas.

4. The Christmas song that gets me rocking around the tree

Not really into Christmas rocking, this is as close as I get!

5. The Christmas song that my kids love the most

I can only apologise, I love this song, and Joseph adores it too!

6. The Christmas song that I always sing from the top of my lungs

When I was a little girl attending our country church on Mt Nelson, only the adults were allowed to sing this. So now I am a grown up, I sing up loud!

7. The Christmas song that reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas

I love this song, it tells the Christmas story simply and beautifully.

Hope you are all having a peaceful and enjoyable lead up to Christmas.