River Of Slime

Peter Venkman: Hey, how many of you people out here are a national monument? Raise your hand, please? Oh, hello, Miss!

I find myself thinking about Ghostbusters II a lot these days.


Bear with me.


I’m an 80s baby, and the Ghostbusters films were truly awesome. My brothers and I loved them. What’s chiming for me at the moment is the storyline of II.

In case you’ve never seen it, the basic idea is that there’s a river of supernatural slime flowing underneath New York City and feeding off all the negative emotions of the population. Everyone’s bad temper, anger, misanthropy and hatred is creating a monster.


I’ve been thinking about it a lot because it feels very much like what we’re living through at the moment. There’s an awful lot of negativity online, in the news and in the streets. In London everything feels uneasy in a way it hasn’t in all 18 years I’ve lived there. It might just be me that’s changed because of having a baby, but I don’t think it’s just that. There’s been a shift.


In the film there turns out to be a pretty brilliant solution. The boys take the “mood slime” (turns out it reacts to positive emotions, too), use their guns to fire it all over the Statue of Liberty, put on some banging tunes and have her walk through the streets of Manhattan with everyone singing and waving. They bring some positive energy back. It strikes me that we could do with something like that, albeit a little less bonkers. Back in the day, when I was teaching, I got to create my very own positive mood slime all the time. I helped my colleagues bring kids and staff together with singing, positivity and love every time we put on a show or a concert. It was our very own Ghostbusters II finale, twice a term. On a larger scale the 2012 Olympics did the most amazing job of bringing everyone together. People from all over the country volunteered and welcomed athletes and visitors,and for three weeks we were the place to be. It was amazing.


Right now there’s a lot of head-shaking. A lot of people ask the question “What kind of world are we bringing our children into?” and I understand the concern. I sometimes find myself sinking into anxiety at the dark place the world seems to be right now. So I’ve started turning off the TV, ignoring the trolls and filling my timelines with positive people. I’m living life on much smaller scale for the time being, and it’s helping. 


Moments with Arthur are constantly amazing. Today he has clapped for the first time, kissed his cousin on the head and held her hand, reached out his arms for his grandparents, uncle and aunt and made “brum brum” noises playing with his toy steering wheel. Not bad.


Wishing you a whole river of positive mood slime.

Wonderprods For New Parents

I’ve been promising a pregnant friend of mine I would write this post for quite some time now! There is so much baby stuff out there now. Some of it’s good, some bad, and a lot is overpriced. I’ll happily share what’s worked for us in the first (nearly) five months, but it’s worth bearing in mind that babies are all different! Little so-and-sos. Some of these products are cheap and some expensive, but I’ll tell you if I think you could save your money and not bother. I’m not sponsored by any of these people. Chance would be a fine thing.

Before I start, the best thing you can possibly do as a new mum is to get on Mumsnet and find the baby group for your month. More often than not someone sets up a Facebook group. Mine is my lifeline. These women are my friends, confidantes and more than made up for not being able to do NCT as we meet up monthly, sometimes more. There are women on there from all over the world and it is BRILLIANT. I’m sure there’s something similar for Dads, but I haven’t investigated.

These are in no particular order!

  1. Sleepyhead https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleepyhead-Deluxe-Months-Pristine-White/dp/B00ACK676E/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469023&sr=1-1&keywords=sleepyhead

This was a Godsend in the first three months. It’s pretty spendy for what it is, and I think there are cheaper things out there that do the same job, but just so you know about it. Arthur, like all babies, was teeny tiny when he was born. Even the small side sleeper cot we had at the time seemed huge to him. He didn’t really take to swaddling as he’s always loved being able to wave his arms around, so this was the expensive solution to the problem. It made him feel nice and cosy and cocooned, and improved his sleep almost immediately.

2. Ewan https://www.amazon.co.uk/ewan-the-dream-sheep%C2%AE-grey/dp/B011CCMOTE/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469196&sr=1-1&keywords=ewan

If anyone asks you what you’d like as a present, say this. In the first few weeks of a baby’s life they are pretty confused about where they are and what the hell is going on. This little sheep is a bit of a hero as he emits a glow similar to that baby would have seen in the womb, and he makes comforting noises. However…

3. FREE THING ALERT: White noise app

We have the app ‘Baby Sleep Sounds’ on our phones, and an old phone for when we need ours. Basically white noise works way better than lullabies and helps baby stay sound asleep when you’re still crashing around. Use liberally for naps and bedtime. The great thing about this is it’s completely free as long as you have a smart phone, and when Ewan no longer works (around month 3 for us) you can use this to great effect as you can get it much LOUDER, which is what baby needs at this point. Don’t ask me why, it just seems to work.

4. Side Sleeper Cot

My son is enormous and grew out of his by the start of his fourth month, but this was amazing in the beginning. There are a few versions out there, but it means baby feels the security of being next to you, and you’ll feel good about not having to get out of bed eleventy million times in the night. Be careful of your back when twisting and lifting though.

5. Red Kite Travel Cot

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Kite-Sleeptight-Travel-Black/dp/B001CMB2KC/ref=sr_1_3?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469564&sr=1-3&keywords=travel+cot

So this is what we’re using now so that Arthur can stay in our room until six months. This is brilliant, lightweight and approved by Mumsnet Grandmas. I first used one when staying at my parents and realised how much Arthur loved it, preferred it, in fact, to the side sleeper by this time. I figured for £35 plus a decent mattress it was worth it since we’d use it for travel all the time. Arthur LOVES it and starfishes out like a good’un. He also loves lying in it to play as it doubles as a play pen, and he rolls around cooing and playing with his feet. Also good for putting him in for nudey time before his bath. Babies LOVE being naked when they get a bit bigger.

6. The Haakaa (for breastfeeders)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Haakaa-Silicon-Breast-Pump/dp/B01KMSQC8S/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491469806&sr=1-1&keywords=haakaa

WARNING: Do NOT waste your money on bottles and breast pumps before baby arrives if you’re planning to breastfeed. If you’re feeling anxious, get a self-sterilising MAM bottle (only one please, you won’t need any more at first). Take it from me; if you manage to successfully breastfeed it’ll be a massive waste of money, and if you don’t you can always get stuff when baby arrives. Important to know that NOT ALL BABIES WILL TAKE ALL TEATS. Seriously. I could have saved myself a lot of money if I’d know this. And if anyone wants some unused Tommee Tippees, give me a shout.

The Haakaa is pure witchcraft. As a breastfeeder, I wanted Arthur to be able to take a bottle if I needed to, you know, leave the house without him. We had an electric pump and a manual, but neither of them yielded much. The Haakaa is so easy. You just pop it on to one breast whilst you feed on the other and you get LOADS. And it’s really cheap. I love it and the £50 pump languishes in a drawer.

7. Massive Muslins

There are a few companies that make good ones, but my Mum picked mine up from TK Maxx. They’re made by an Australian company called Little Green. You can, however, find them on Amazon if you look for ‘mega’ or ‘giant’ muslins. Honestly, I hate using smaller ones. These double up as a bib and a nursing cover at the same time, and as a blanket in the summer. Arthur also loves to play with them and use them as a teething toy or snuggle blanket. In terms of feeding, I’m no longer bothered about getting a boob out in public, but I have a tendency to spray (ahem) if a distracted baby lets go. This stops my milk from hitting my dining companion in the eye. Top tip: Never get muslins that are completely white in colour. Trust me. They have a shelf life of five minutes.

8. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cuddles-Collection-Twinkle-Nursing-Pillow/dp/B0173WU0PM/ref=sr_1_4?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1491470600&sr=1-4&keywords=nursing+pillow

These are just great, and so cheap. They’re fab for something to prop everyone up when feeding, and great for sticking the baby on to keep them safe for a minute or two whilst you leave the room (you will be able to eventually, I promise). When baby is first starting to sit up these are great for support too. Arthur’s in his next to me on the sofa right now, kicking me in the ribs.

9. EXPENSIVE THING ALERT

http://www.pramworld.co.uk/brand/uppababy/uppababy-baby-prams-from-birth

Prams/buggies/travel solutions are very personal, and you really must go to a retailer and try them all out. Promise me you will. We had a very good piece of advice and went to Winstanley’s Pramworld in Orrell, Lancs and we landed on this one. The Cruz is light enough for city living, more manoeuvrable than any of the others we tried, and works for me (5’2) and husband (6’4). It’s amazing, and I can even get it up the ridiculous steps at the front of our house with no issues. The basket at the bottom is massive, too. Whatever you go for, I completely recommend Pramworld as they deliver nationwide and have a great website, and do bulk deals including car seats and carry cots. Be careful with second hand prams, and all advice is not to get a second hand car seat.

10. GAME CHANGER

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Baby-Products/Ergobaby-baby-carrier-collection-bundle/B01JG0FF18/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1491471170&sr=8-2&keywords=ergo+360

I had very few expectations of birth and motherhood. I’m an older mum (36) and have watched friends and relatives go through the stress of making a ‘birth plan’ and wanting to breastfeed and ending up with emergency c-sections and formula feeding. Babies do not work to your plan. Ever. YOU have to be flexible, and be prepared that all of your dearest hopes might come crashing down around your ears.

Although my birth plan was ‘get the kid out’ and thus my EMCS didn’t really bother me the way I know it does some people, I was really committed to the idea of baby wearing. I wanted to be the mum who could throw her baby effortlessly into a sling, grab a light backpack and off we’d go to explore the city.

Yeah. When someone has cut open your core muscles with a scalpel, and you weren’t able to do any exercise for nine months because of HG, lugging a baby around in a sling is almost impossible. But oh, how I tried! I have been given no less than three different slings as well as being bought one, but nothing has actually worked until I stumbled upon a bag of jumble outside someone’s house with the Ergobaby 360 sitting on top. I know, right?

It’s BRILLIANT. The Ergo style carrier is best for babies as it supports their hips properly rather than leaving them to dangle, and it supports you properly too. I have an ergo original with a newborn insert which my best friend gave me and I loved this too, but the great thing about the 360 is that you can turn baby around to face outwards which they LOVE when they’re old enough. I carry Arthur happily now, making sure I take rest days when I need to. He’s a heavy lump.

 

Whew. That is one LONG post. Sorry everyone. Hope it was useful! Next time; gifts for new babies and their parents.

 

 

 

 

Have you tried ginger?

After four years of trying and a tough round of IVF I was finally pregnant. It was one of the best moments of my entire life, but I already knew I was thanks to the dreams I’d had all night long. Positive after positive. My body was trying to tell my mind. To finally get that result on the stick, to be able to rush into the bedroom and tell my husband “You’re going to be a daddy!” was just wild. I’ve never been so happy. We had a week of celebrating, opting to tell people rather than do the cautious wait as most of the family knew we were having IVF treatment. I think it’s something that should be discussed, not hidden away.

But that’s a story for another time.

Today I want to talk about what happened after the pregnancy test. After the euphoria. Today I want to talk about Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

We had a week of joy. Endlessly talking about the baby, what we’d do, where we’d live. Our best man came to stay for the night and shared the news that his wife, too, was expecting. We celebrated with pizza and toasted each other’s good fortune.

And then I got sick.

This wasn’t just morning sickness. This couldn’t be cured with ginger biscuits and eating little and often. This was absolutely off-the-charts vomiting. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, could barely move. All I could think about was the little life inside me, trying to survive whilst I puked and puked. At the end of my sixth week of pregnancy I ended up in A&E with severe dehydration. The hospital gave me a couple of bags of fluid and sent me home. By now I was on the entry-level drug for HG, cyclizine. It didn’t even touch it. Thankfully, an emergency scan showed the little heartbeat that was already going like the clappers, so we knew things were OK with the baby. But while he was cooking away, I couldn’t share a bed with my husband any more because his smell (I couldn’t believe how strongly he smelled all of a sudden) made me sick. We couldn’t even hug each other for comfort during those frightening days.

It was when I started vomiting blood that we got really scared. I remember a real low point. I was still trying desperately to struggle into work. I’d vomited on the train into a bag, then continued to vomit on the 20 minute walk from the station to the school where I worked. I just didn’t know how I could carry on. In the end I went on long-term sick leave, something I had never even considered I would need to do just for being pregnant. Over the course of six admissions to hospital, drips, overnight stays, chemo-strength anti-emetics and eventually steroids, there was never any doubt in my mind that this was a serious illness. On one overnight stay my mum lost count of how many bags of fluid they’d given me at 12.

By the 16th week of my pregnancy I had lost ten pounds in weight. I know that that was partially down to the vomiting, but also loss of muscle tone. I wasn’t able to move, so I was literally wasting away. On a visit to my parents’ in Lancashire, I was hospitalised again and found out for the first time what proper care looked like instead of being patted on the head and sent on my way.

By August I’d had a few ‘good’ days. My childhood friend (also my husband’s cousin) was getting married. He means the world to me, and I was determined to go. It turned out to be the final straw. I woke in the night shivering uncontrollably, and the vomiting started again. The next day, my husband drove me back to Lancashire and I transferred all of my care there. Away from the stews and smells of boiling hot London, cared for as an invalid by my parents, I made as much progress as I was ever going to. Thanks to my parents and the staff of Wigan’s Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, who finally prescribed the steroids I should have been given weeks earlier, I started to have a few vomit free days. I was still weak and terribly nauseous, but the worst had finally passed. By this time I was seven months pregnant. Without the drugs I was taking, managed carefully by my GP, there was no way I would have got to this point.I can’t imagine how I would have coped without the incredible support I received from my family; my brother even gave up a week of his holiday to care for me while my parents were away.

I’m really, really glad that Hyperemesis Gravidarum is in the news at present. People need to know about it, especially employers, and to understand that it is a real and debilitating condition. It makes me, and the other women I know who suffered, incredibly sad and angry that the BBC still saw fit to refer to it over and over again as ‘severe morning sickness’. That condition is bad enough, but HG is something else entirely.

 

I look at my beautiful, amazing 3 month old son and I’m so grateful that our fertility treatment worked, and we were able to bring him into the world with the help of the NHS, my parents and parents-in-law. But as to ever trying for another, I simply cannot imagine putting myself, my husband, and most importantly my son through it. We’d need more fertility treatment too, so it’s pretty much a non-starter. I know I’m not on my own in feeling this way. 

 I’d like to thank my parents, husband, in-laws, staff of the Albert Edward Infirmary for their amazing care of me and my baby Arthur. I’d also like to thank my head of department and headteacher, who were unfailingly supportive and understanding. 

If you or anyone you know is suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, please encourage them to seek help from the wonderful women at www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk, where I found out what my care should be and found the strength to demand it.

Resolution Revolution

January. The most miserable, grey, cold month of the year, and yet somehow also the month we’re supposed to use for strict physical self-improvement. Diets, exercise, cleanses, detox, running with a personal trainer at 5am before work…

It’s never really done it for me. I’ve always been a September goals kind of gal. As a teacher I adore September, with its gorgeous warm light, morning mists, new stationery (oh, how I love the new stationery. More on that another time), and the sense of a new beginning, the mental challenge of a new academic year. I’m a geek, you see, and I’ll always be much more into mental challenges than physical ones. 

This year, though. This year is different. I spent most of last year in and out of hospital with a very difficult pregnancy, suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum for the whole nine months. I couldn’t work, so when my colleagues and students were celebrating the start of a new year, I was starting my maternity leave two and a half months early. Not for me the lovely squeak of a new board pen on the whiteboard, new uniforms and fresh smiles. I was staying in Lancashire with my kind, generous parents, which nevertheless was all a good 200 miles from my own husband and home. 

So this year, I’m embracing the New Year. I’m even embracing the resolutions, which I normally shy away from and just pick a word of the year instead. (Last year’s word was ‘adventure’. That was an understatement).

There is no way, though, I’ll keep something going for an entire year. No way. I’ve tried it before and just failed on a hideous level, beating myself up with it from February to December. I can’t imagine that being much better with a little baby in tow, either. It’s a waste of my time. So I’m doing things a little differently. I had a good idea. 

I’ve seen people use old jars for things like this before. ‘Happiness’ jars, where you write down one nice thing that happened in a day and place it in. That kind of thing. So I decided to wash out an old coffee jar (I don’t have lovely Kilners hanging around, and any I do have are put to use), write down twelve different monthly challenges and pick one out on the last day of each month. Some of them are health-related, but many of them are just nice things I’ve been meaning to do for ages but never got around to. Like reading a poem every day. I adore poetry, and every now and then my husband and I spend a pleasant hour just reading our faves to each other. I’m aware this makes us sound like over-educated douches, and I must stress that we never plan it, but still, this is what we do sometimes. Or practising the piano every day for ten minutes, which is what I beg my students to do; ‘Just ten minutes a day and I swear you’ll notice a big difference!’

So… here’s what I came up with. 

Some of these are the more traditional health and fitness goals, but you’ll notice I’ve made them achievable. ‘Lose four stone’ is something I’d really like to do by December, but let’s face it, even breastfeeding like a demon I’m very unlikely to manage something that huge, and it’ll just haunt me and make me miserable. So I’ve made them tiny, bite-sized goals. I love the brain resolutions the best. I love listening to the ‘Coffee Break French’ podcast anyway, so doing that once a day will be a joy. Doing an online course? Ooh! Fun! In what? No idea, but I’ve got time to think about it. I’ve tried to do those pesky Morning Pages (from the book ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron, every frustrated creative has a copy) so many times, but failed because I was expecting to do them EVERY MORNING FOREVER. Clearly unlikely. 

I’ve given myself permission to put a resolution back if it doesn’t seem like the right time for it. If I have loads of events then five fruit and veg per day might be a stretch, whereas reading the books might still be achievable. You get the idea. 

If you’d like to try it for yourself then please, go ahead! 

*Disclaimer: I still picked the most boring one for January. No sugary treats. Because, well, it’s January. 

Let me know what you’re doing this year!

Hindsight. 

Looking across the aisle of the train carriage, I realise that I’m looking at the old me.

 

She looks like a student on her way back to university after the holidays, with a backpack and battered suitcase. Her hair is scraped back, she wears no make-up (she doesn’t need any), she’s in a comfortable hoody and trainers, looking sweet and wholesome and on the cusp of life’s adventure with her problem skin and three day hair. I wonder if she had a big last night at home with her friends, perhaps a boyfriend at some other uni across the country who she’ll break up with when she realises what love really is. I wonder if she has siblings, a warm, loving family with a joker of a Dad and a fierce, house-proud career Mum. 

I wonder if she’s looking at me, the mother with the pram, and wondering about me, my baby and our life. Except I know she’s not. I never did. But nevertheless, in my heart I wish her the joy I have known since my own student days. Of falling in love, of wild nights and adventures spend with friends, of travel and joyful, meaningful work. Of the sweetness of returning home to her family. Of the magic of building a new one, with mortgage and car and marriage and baby. Of looking at pictures of herself as a younger woman, shaking her head as she realises how pretty she really was in her youth. I wish her all of it, and more. 

It’s a beautiful life, little student girl. Enjoy.