Sunday, 30 June 2013

Dear Bounty Lady

Over the last few weeks Mumsnet and NCT have been running a campaign to rid the NHS of Bounty. I feel quite strongly that whilst I am sure there are issues with Bounty in some hospitals, that there are far bigger fish to fry in maternity service provision than Bounty. Today Emma at Crazy with Twins has posted why she is against the Bounty Mutiny, and please read her post. I have wanted to post for quite some time but wasn't sure, I have left the Mumsnet blogging network and removed the widget as I dont feel I can be a member when they choose agendas that I think are quite spurious in nature.

Dear Bounty Lady

You won't remember me. It was a Sunday morning at 9am. The midwife comes, my baby was born two days ago at 27 weeks and is in neonatal, I am too sick to go down to see him, but my husband isn't allowed in until midday, I am lonely and upset. "The Bounty lady is here, you can say no if you want", I am desperate for company and say yes.

You come in, nicely dressed, made up, with two big bags. You tell me they are of limited use yet and just to put them away for when my baby comes home. You pull up a chair, hold my hand, and just listen whilst I sob and talk not making a great deal of sense. 

You are gentle with me, just making idle chit chat, I can't really remember what we talked about but I know you were there a very long time. You gave me hug and wished me well.

Thank you for your kindness on a very bad day.


I do understand the issues, around data collection etc, and I understand what some mothers have said. However, Bounty provide services such as the distribution of information on safe sleeping and SIDS prevention, Bliss information on prematurity or having a sick baby, and Tommy's information. Bounty are a commercial organisation, however we will see much more of this, not less, in coming years, and the important thing is how companies like Bounty are monitored and regulated, not just getting rid of them.

But my big issue is that there are so many massive things that need improving in maternity care. Our still birth rate and prematurity rate is still unacceptably high. Babies go undiagnosed of congenital conditions, midwifery is understaffed, there are massive things to be fought for in terms of maternity care.

I feel personally hurt that I have done many posts, and been part of campaigns and mumsnet haven't given me any support. Maternal death, fetal death, neonatal care really matter, these are the issues that need to be brought to government attention in my opinion.

Mothers and babies lives depend on it.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Black Cherry Chutney and Why We Still Need Feminism

Last week on Twitter a tweet caught my eye. It was a question from a member of the public as to whether Julia Gillard was wearing black nail polish. I mean really? Why would anyone care what nail polish she was wearing? Can a PM wear black nail polish? I mean really, should she be wearing any? I mean she is a politician surely not a woman, one must defeminise to be a politicial leader surely?

What concerned me even more was the tweet back from the Prime Minister's account. No it wasn't black it was this.....

Image used is from the beautiful blog The Opinionated Finger
Yesterday Julia Gillard was ousted as PM in a caucus challenge. We are now back to status quo. Men in charge. Phew! Who wants a nail polish wearing PM anyway? And....And she knits! Oh for goodness sake how can you be taken seriously as a political leader if you spend your time knitting kangaroos for royal babies, I mean really? You should be out playing golf, or shooting kangaroos for goodness sake. You cannot expect to be taken seriously whilst knitting.

Feminism is still relevant. Because women are still oppressed, because they wear nail polish, and knit. Yes, men knit too Daily Mail, they really do. In many quarters women are still valued for what they look like, what they wear, not who they are.  Julia Gillard was always up against it, right from the start. Because she is a woman.

I am a feminist. No it doesn't mean I burn bras, bras are useful. My boobs would appear from under my shirt without one. It doesn't mean I hate men. I love men. It doesn't mean I think stay at home mums are irrelevant, motherhood is intensely personal and one must mother the way one's instincts tells one to do. The way you bring up your child working mum, stay at home mum whatever does not make you a feminist, or not. Feminism is about valuing women for who we are, what we do, what we bring to society, it's about addressing imbalance of power.

I don't shun pink. Whilst I don't wear nail polish I do wear make up and dresses. In fact I have them on now, make up and a dress. My failure to wear nail polish has nothing to do with being a feminist.

I am a feminist because even now, in the 21st century, women's choices are restricted. Women still have to fight for basic rights. There are still inequalities that exist purely because I am a woman. I am judged differently because I am a woman and not a man. And I will never believe that this is right.

A lot of what drives me is because I am a feminist. I strongly believe if men had babies we wouldn't see the imbalances in maternity service provision that we currently encounter. I believe if men had babies there would be more impetus on finding solutions to birth complications, prematurity, etc. I might be wrong, but I don't think I am.

Mum was the first feminist I ever met. I grew up with the Female Eunuch, with a nana who believed I would be the first female Prime Minister of Australia.

I am sorry I failed you nana, but Australia is just not ready yet. Perhaps my time is still to come.

I am a feminist, and I will never believe that women are second best purely because they are women. Judge me on my personality, on my worth, on my achievements. But do not judge me because I am a woman.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Blogging with Heart

Photo Courtesy of Liska from New Mum Online
Bloggers write for different reasons. Some bloggers keep a record of their daily lives, some write about political issues, about charity, about politics, some write reviews and work with PR a lot, we are all different.

But one thing unites us, we all put our heart and souls into our blogs. Blogging is a passion. Yes some fortunate few make a living from it, or because of it, but for most of us its a passionate hobby.

I mentioned in my last post I was on the Blogging with Heart panel with Hayley, Annie and Liska, talking about Blogging with Heart. Here are some of my tips and thoughts some of which I shared and some I didn't have time too.
  • We can all blog with heart from time to time, or all the time. Often if you have a burning thing in your heart, you will find a lot of people feel the same and will open up to you. It builds community and unites us.
  • If you are unsure of a post and nervous about it, test it. When I wrote Jimmy Savile is Dead I tested it first with a few people. I am really glad I did that as I knew it was strong, but there were some down sides with sharing it, and these people prepared me for them. 
  •  If you do share something very personal, be prepared for how you might manage the feedback. I had a lot of people open up to me about their own abuse, which was really lovely to be trused so much, but it was overwhelming at times.
  •  Some of us build our blogs around issues, like mine, around prematurity, and sometimes you can encounter negativity and bad feelings, and that's ok, we all have our own baggage and some people find it helps to put it on others. When you are that "other" it is hard but try not to personalise it if negativity happens, embrace it and move on. And find people who can support you through it.
  • Trolls happen. I am very fortunate only to have had one serious incident of trolling. Trolling is the act of deliberately being provocative or downright nasty to provoke comment. Trolling is very difficult to deal with especially if your blogging your heart out. Know your tools and your rights. It's your blog, your space. 
  • Find and build a supportive community. Blogging is amazing, you will find the most wonderful friendships and support. This alone will balance out any negativity you encounter.
What are your tips for blogging with heart?

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Britmums Love and the Blog Post that Changed My Life

Owly Images
Image courtesy of My Two Mums

No, for once, not a typo. This year, I had a new agenda for Britmums Live. I was asked to help present a session with the beautiful ladies Liska at New Mum on Line, Hayley at Downs Side Up and Annie from Mammasaurus. Entitled Blogging with Heart our session was about blogging to give and to receive support.

I am passionate about blogging as a means for getting and giving support. I started this blog purely for selfish reasons. I was lost and alone and needed a vehicle to just talk. It's become so much more, and I am so proud of it. I am not a top blogger by any means, I am not the best blogger, I'm not even the best premmie mum blogger. I am just someone who writes and loves it.

It was amazing to be part of the panel, all doing similar things, Hayley blogs entirely for support, Liska was talking about Kerry and her quest to help her find healing, and Annie about her own personal journey through a very acute crisis. The thoughts and questions from the floor were equally inspiring.

For me, most recently this blog has helped me very much in overcoming childhood trauma, which I documented in Jimmy Savile is Dead. The very lovely Ruth at dorkymum nominated my post. She did ask me first and to be honest, I never thought in a million years the Britmums folk would choose it. The subject matter is so heavy. I was delighted and terrified when I was told it had been chosen as one of the keynote posts to be read at the culmination of the conference.

When I wrote Jimmy Savile is Dead not many people knew about my past. To my shame, I hadn't really told my parents or sister, I thought they knew, it seems bizarre now. This post started me on a course of therapy and of healing.

Reading Jimmy Savile is Dead was initally daunting, but it was just so empowering, I felt strong, I felt loved, and I felt supported and most of all, accepted. My twitter feed has been full of congratulations and thanks. Thank you to everyone who has commented or even just thought of me. The biggest shock was getting a standing ovation. Mummy Barrow who has supported me so much, wrote this last year about Hayley from Down Side Up.

And Katy Hill coming up later to give me a hug was the icing on the cake. Not because she is famous, but because last year I was scared crapless and didn't speak to her. This year I walked up to her in the Hub at break on Friday and introduced myself. I couldn't have and didn't do that last year.

I have come a long way.

And on Saturday night I had a photoshoot with the lovely Yuri from Urban Vox and got my kit off. I don't know where or how I will share the pictures, and how many I will share, I am yet to decide, but it was about taking my body back, about taking ownership, and putting the shame of my childhood behind me. The end product is, in some senses inconsequential.

Sitting naked but for a scarf, with a dead ferret on my knee, in front of a man I had only just met is one of the strangest things I have done, but I was safe.

I am safe.

Thanks for the love Britmums.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Britmums Live

I am delighted to be going to Britmums Live this year and am very excited to be both co presenting a workshop on Blogging from the Heart and also reading "Jimmy Savile is Dead".

Here is a bit about me:

Name: Kylie Hodges
Twitter ID@kykaree
Height:162 cm (5 foot 3 ish in old money)
Hair: Shoulder length mousey brown
Eyes:Brown with a hazel tinge
Is this your first blogging conference? 
No would you beleive its my 5th!
Are you attending both days?
Yes Friday is my chill out and meet people and see the sponsors day, Saturday is my speaking day.
What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2013?
Sharing my experiences, reading my keynote speech and have the biggest cuddle with Jennie I can muster.
What are you wearing?
Not a clue see my tips at the end of this!
What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2013?
For me Britmums isn't about blogging, its just about community. I feel happy with what I've achieved in blogging and its had to take a back seat to life this year. Perhaps I will have renewed vigour after Britmums, or perhaps it will be the end of my blogging journey, I don't know.
Tell us one thing about you that not everyone knows
I had never been to England before I decided to move here. I arrived with a suitcase and fell in love with the place straight away and have never looked back.
My tips for Britmums Live
  • Dress for comfort. It's a long day, particularly on the Saturday. Don't worry too much about fashion, there will always be someone more dressed up than you and less dressed up.
  • Leave your laptop at home. I took a laptop to Cybermummy and never used it. By all means take a tablet (I don't have one) or your fancy phone, but honestly you will be so busy you may not use it.
  • Don't underestimate the pen and paper, I take copious notes and still find this the easiest.
  • Smile, relax and enjoy. Everyone is feeling nervous and a little apprehensive.
  • Make friends. I feel really shy in crowds so if I seem aloof I'm not being rude, just being me, and snap me out of it.
  • Don't feel you have to attend everything. Playing hooky from a session and visiting the sponsors whilst everyone else is in session is a great way to get around and discover who is there and what they have to offer.   

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Father's Day

Being a dad isn't easy. When your child is born sick or prematurely its a whole new ballgame. In many neonatal units there aren't structured opportunities for dads to take part in the day to day routine of the unit. Many dads have to go back to work immediately after the baby is born, saving their paternity leave for when the baby is discharged. Units are usually located within maternity services, so traditionally babycare is done around the mother.

My husband was amazing when Joseph was born. He was by my side as they removed Joseph by c-section, he went to the treatment room to see him, and popped down to neonatal. It touches my heart that my husband saw him before I did, that he was there for him when I could not be.

In our unit we set the tone for Corey's involvement, I did morning cares, he did the evening when he finished work. Until we started having kangaroo care at around 4-5 weeks I didn't attend in the evening, to give Corey a chance to get to know Joseph without me around.

Once we were allowed kangaroo care, I fought to ensure Corey could do that too, although as can be seen from the picture above, I think its more gorilla care than kangaroo.

Corey always called Joseph his little action man, and believed in him from day one. He always talked about the future, at times when I was too scared to. The video of our first cuddle has Corey saying "he's going to be a strapping lad", and he was right. He had nothing but belief that everything would be fine, and he was right, even though at times I found his attitude difficult, he was right. 

At Bliss we work to help units involve families especially dads, in their baby's life whilst on the unit, ready for life at home.

If you are a dad, or know a great one, and want to volunteer for Bliss in the Greater Manchester area, please contact me.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Feeding the 5000 - Manchester

Manchester Feeding the 5000 - Piccadilly Gardens Manchester
12 noon - 4pm on Saturday 15th June 2013
This Saturday Manchester Friends of the Earth will be feeding the 5000 with a free, hot nutritious lunch with food that would otherwise be wasted. Bendy carrots, potatoes with too many eyes, a misshapen tomato, supermarkets won't sell these perfectly edible items, and they end up being ploughed back into the ground or thrown out.

Households waste around 20% of the food they buy. I know I have worked hard to reduce waste but even now I still get it wrong and overbuy at times, especially with my huge change in working hours and Joseph being in full time nursery sometimes I get it wrong and end up throwing food on to my compost heap.

Feeding the 5000 is an international campaign, that is designed to raise awareness of food waste and to encourage us all to make a difference to the amount of food that is thrown away needlessly. 

At the event on Saturday there will be cooking demonstrations, practical solutions to reducing waste at home and a chance to meet new people and talk about important issues.

My office is near the Manchester Friends of the Earth crew, and I've been impressed by their dedication and passion and encourage you all to come down and visit on Saturday, have a free lunch and learn about food waste, and perhaps get involved in the deeper issues, and help us all to reduce food waste.

Wonky carrots - Valerie Stokes

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dear Joseph

Last week Mrboosmum at Premmeditations wrote a stunning letter, urging herself to let go of the guilt of premature birth. I have written posts in a similar vein myself. She has created a linky and rather than link an old post I thought I would write something new. But then on reflection I felt that I actually had no guilt anymore. Ok I got pre eclampsia and Joseph was born at 27 weeks, but I know now that it wasn't my fault.

Then this morning it happened. I am wearing a white top with green polka dots, its quite close fitting. Joseph looked at me glowing with happiness "oh mummy there is a baby in your tummy I am going to be a big brother". Bang. There it is. That old familiar feeling, guilt. This is all my fault.

Dear Joseph

When daddy and I decided to have a baby, we decided to have a family. You would be our first baby then there would be another. And maybe even another after that. We dearly wanted a family, and neither of us pictured a scenario where we would have an only child. We both grew up the eldest with a younger sister, and that's what we wanted for you too, well maybe not a sister, it may have been a brother, afterall you can never have too many cars, Avengers and Power Rangers!

When you were born, mummy and daddy had never known such joy in their lives. But, and it's a big but, we had never known such fear either. The doctors told mummy she could have died, and that we could have lost the baby. 

A lot of babies go straight  home when they are born, or are born at home, but you had to stay in hospital for 3 very long months, and for the first 4 weeks you were very poorly. It was a frightening time for mummy and daddy, and you were so brave and strong.

When you were 7 weeks old I had to go and see the chief consultant and head midwife and we had a very honest and frank discussion about future babies. They both felt, in their professional opinion, it would be wiser to not go again. To not have another baby. To not give you a sibling.

Preeclampsia is two things. It's evil and its also unpredictable. I may not get it again, but in all likelihood I will. You are a very special loved little boy and I would never want to put you through any pain if I could avoid it, and having another baby is dangerous.

Sometimes I feel very guilty that you will grow up an only child and resent not having siblings. As you grow you will have friends, deep friendships that will last your whole life through. You will have lots of amazing experiences and know deep love.

I am letting go. I am letting go of the guilt and the sadness.

Joseph there is no baby in my tummy, its just cake.

Love you always


Sunday, 9 June 2013

A Little Round Up

It's been a busy time for me lately. I passed my 3 month probation at Bliss and I'm commencing recruitment activity for our volunteer roles in Manchester and also East Lancashire. If you are interested in getting involved, the time commitment is two to three hours a week and you could really make a difference to a baby in special care. Contact me to find out more.

Joseph is doing well in nursery, and has got into our primary school of choice. There are beginning to be little whispers that he may be on the autistic spectrum, which comes as no great surprise, but its just watch and wait for now. He is doing so well and I am really proud of him. The premmie game continues in my head, this time 4 years ago he was just finishing week one in HDU, he has come a long way since then.

I am attending Britmums in two weeks time. I am speaking on a panel with some gorgeous blogging friends, and then reading Jimmy Savile is Dead. I am really excited about doing this, and feel that its something I really need to do, even though its scary. Following this I am having a photo shoot done, partly for my own journey but also as part of Kate's Naked Mums initative. It's not about gratuity or sex or anything like that, its reclaiming my body for me, and being proud of it and that its carried me thus far.

Finally I wanted to tell you about two blogs you should be reading. The first is Premmeditations: Reflections on Premmie Parenting. It's a truly stunningly written blog, and I love it very much. Please follow and support it. My own blogging is sporadic as I am so busy at present and Premmeditations is a very thought provoking read on premmie issues.

The second blog is written by a dear friend of mine Kimberley. Ruby + Lottie has stunning photography, beautiful writing and stories of HOPE Helping Others and Promoting Education, mainly around Hypermesis but also other conditions of pregnancy.

The yarn bomb is still ticking a long too and I will update about that next time!