101 days old

I wish I was able to write blogs weekly, but as you can imagine, the last few months have been a crazy busy and a complete roller coaster of emotions. But as of today, baby Emily is 101 days old, a week before her due date, which in itself is extremely bizarre.

I thought it was time to update you about Emily’s status and tell you about our experience of having a premature baby. Some of you reading this may have recently had a premature baby of your own and I hope that in ways you can find comfort in what I write. I spent many hours googling every single word a doctor said and every thought I had and blogs written by other parents of preemies were often the most helpful.

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Life in Nicu

We were lucky enough to spend the first 5 weeks in accommodation at the hospital meaning that we could spend as much time with Emily as we wanted, and my older girl Alex could stay with us. This was still hard because occupying a 4 year old in a hospital is a challenge in itself. But eventually they said we had to stay at home because there were sicker babies on the units and another family needed the room. Going back and forth from Bedford to Addenbrookes, and Hitchin for Fane to go to work, was a tough routine to get into, but we got there in the end after much expense and begging lifts were I could to save Fane the odd trip. It did mean that sometimes I had to just stay at home, which honestly was needed! Just to rest and do what I would be doing had I still been pregnant and preparing things for our babies arrival home. It took a lot of planning for each day; what to take to eat, who was taking Alex, what to do with Alex if she had to come with us, when we would squeeze in a food shop and doing the laundry!

I have spent each day going into hospital and watching Emily day after day grow bigger and stronger, but not without her going through a lot. There were countless blood tests, medications, infection scares, blood transfusions and feeds through a tube; it took time to get used to looking after my baby through an incubator. Every day I was getting more desperate for her to be transferred to Bedford, particularly as Alex was about to start school.

The day finally came when Emily was 9 weeks old. She had nothing going on except her oxygen and she was on full feeds and we transferred to Bedford. It was the first time she was in an open cot and in clothes! We were so unbelievably happy to have her closer to home and have both my girls in the same town. And a short time after, Alex started school which was another wonderful day in our lives. Things were definitely looking up.

Life was starting to feel normal again and to add to the happiness, I was able to witness one of best and closest friends tie the knot!

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We were told from the start that things can change very quickly for premature babies and they were not wrong. The week progressed and Emily was showing signs of an infection, so they put a cannula back in and started treating her with antibiotics whilst they did tests, including a lumbar puncture. It felt like everything was spiraling out of control again; there had been infection scares before but always negative results. This time felt different. This time I had a horrible feeling. Her tummy was distended and she wasn’t enjoying her feeds, having just started the odd bottle.

Back to whence we came 

On Friday the 16th of September, as I attended my friends little ones first birthday, I got a call from the hospital informing me that they had stopped her feeds and had spoken to Addenbrooke’s, they had put her on more specific antibiotics for something called NEC (Necrotizing enterocolitis). This condition was always expected somewhere along the way but we thought we had passed the time frame. Fear struck into our hearts, if the worst was going on it meant surgery, which is why we were transferred back to Addenbrooke’s that weekend.

It almost felt like going home. All the nurses and doctors were sad to Emily back, but were welcoming all the same. They commented on how big she had got and how good she looked, minus the distended tummy. She was immediately looked at by the surgical team and given yet another blood transfusion. Knowing that she would be off feeds for a while they had to put a long line in again, which took days to find a suitable vein and eventually in went in her head. 14449931_10157529186970581_1109445574314301461_n

Watching Emily feel starving for over 2 weeks (10 days nil by mouth and another week getting back up to full feeds) was the most painful of this entire experience. No baby should have to endure such things and no parent should have to watch. It was horrible. Alongside getting bounced between rooms due to a deep clean of the unit! Eventually her tummy returned to normal, she was happy having milk again and her long line wasn’t in for long.

The exhaustion and expense was worse this time; having to drop Alex at school and go on a 2 hour bus journey and sometimes have to get a bus back too, it was tough, but she was obviously in the right place and I was happier her being there and sometimes just not being able to see her at all. Part of me didn’t want to even come back to Bedford hospital but we knew it would happen. She got off her oxygen and started having more regular bottle feeds so it was inevitable.

Almost home

Last Saturday, Fane and I got to the hospital and were surprised with the news that Bedford had a bed and a transfer was going to happen that day. We didn’t even know they had been in contact. So here we are again, home but not home. This time it is a lot more frustrating and this was again something we were told from the start. We don’t know why she can’t just come home! So for the last week we have gone in each day and watched very little happen. She is off oxygen still, not even got her monitors on and having mainly bottle feeds. She isn’t gaining as much weight as they want, but I honestly think this will improve when she is home and not spending as much time crying which for a tiny baby is masses of exercise. The medicines she is on are going continue at home and we know we are going to go back very regularly for tests as she has a couple of ongoing conditions; so why is she still there? I am sitting at home, knowing my baby girl who is now capable of screaming the place down, is in a room by herself and I am just imagining her being ignored. Which probably isn’t true! The nurses are loving and caring, but not as much as me and her daddy.

We can only find comfort in knowing that it will be soon, very soon. And we just have to hope that we are prepared!

And to sign off, here are some adorable recent photos of Emily being a real baby…

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Feelings so far…

Emily is 10 days old. In some ways it has gone very fast and in others it has gone slow. It feels like months ago that I was first admitted to Addenbrookes but it was less than 2 weeks. Time passes by very strangely when you live in a hospital. 

Emily is doing pretty well, considering she is still minus 14 weeks. But emotions are running in all different directions and swing from one second to the next. Here are some of the things I am feeling. 

Loss

I’ve lost a few things by having Emily so early. I lost a third trimester, the excitement of feeling her move around and kick and knowing that she can hear me 24/7 and being comforted by the warmth of my womb and the sound of my heart beating. A bond only other mums would understand. But Fane has lost that excitement too. He was starting to talk to her and feel her kick too. But now she in a perspex box, in pain with canulas and lines and a feeding tube…I can put my hands in and touch her and help her by feeding and cleaning her and comforting her in any way I can. She needs to know I’m still here, she needs to still feel my warmth and hear my voice, even it isn’t 24/7. 

I’ve lost 15 valuable weeks of maternity leave…they will be spent in hospital rather than at home bonding like a normal mother and child. So I will take advantage of all the bonding that I can whilst I am here even if that is just singing lullabies through the perspex.

I’ve lost the excitement of nesting…buying everything, building furniture, getting all her clothes ready, making sure the car seat fits…it all feels rushed now we have had to buy what is needed and don’t know when we can sort out everything else as we can only take every day as it comes.  

I have lost time with Alex…the only thing I imagine being more difficult than being a mum in nicu is being a mum in nicu with another child at home that you feel you have abandoned. Which brings me to my next point…

Torn

I am feeling constantly torn between my two babies. Alex can’t be with us 24/7 and even when she is here she gets bored quite easily. She loves her sister and just wants her to come home as much as we do and trying her best to understand. In the mean time I have to split my time in some way that Alex doesn’t feel abandoned and that I don’t feel like I’m leaving Emily too much. And what makes it that little bit harder is that Fane isn’t going through the same thing so I feel even more guilty that I make him leave Emily at times even though he wants to only be by her side…and I completely understand that! It just makes my emotions go absolutely mental and I don’t know what the right thing to do is.  

I don’t want Alex to feel that I don’t love her and I don’t want her to resent Emily for me having to be at the hospital so much. All I can do is make sure Alex is involved; let her bond with Emily, let her help where she can, let her speak and sing to her…I can’t just tell her to sit in the corner and be quiet…she would hate hate me. I refuse to let that happen. 

Alex feeding Emily

Helpless 
Every parent just wants to make their sick child better. I know Emily isn’t sick as such, but she isn’t ready to be out! She’s so small and has to work so hard just to breath and there is nothing I can do to make her feel better. 

Everyone is telling me that I still have an important job and that is to ensure I’m producing milk for her and I know how important that is, but I need to see a tangible difference before I feel that is any use. 

Sad…but not really

It’s an odd feeling…I’m distraught that my baby is in an incubator and is having to have so much help to kept alive and that I cant feel her inside me anymore. And it makes me so sad, for the reasons above in particular. But at the same time I’m not sad because I know she did the right thing coming when she did. My womb was not a happy place and she was surrounded by infected fluid. She was clever and used her initiative and escaped! I guess the only way to describe it is relieved. The bleeding was an indication that something was wrong and now we can see her and know that all is well…within reason. 

I’m sure over the next 14 weeks I will feel many more different things and my moods and emotions will be crazy. I’m sure I will have good days and bad days. I’m sure I will laugh and I’m sure I will cry. I’m sure Emily will carry on being brave and I will carry on feeling proud. 

But I don’t know what each day holds.

That is the scariest thing.  

Wasn’t expecting that to happen…

Some people say that your second pregnancy is easier and there is some kind of pattern that your pregnancies and labours follow. Others say every pregnancy is just different and to expect the unexpected. During the episodes of bleeding, Fane and I definitely accepted that this was going to be an unpredictable pregnancy. But what we were not expecting was our baby girl to be born at 24 + 5 weeks gestation, at 11:05pm in Addenbrookes, weighing around 550 grams.

On Wednesday the 29th of June I put Alex to bed as normal, watched some Dexter and hit the sack looking forward to the staff conference at work because it’s always a bit of a doss and we get a free lunch. I awoke at 1am soaking wet. I thought I had peed myself, but upon investigation I was lying in a pool of blood. It had gone through my pants, my pyjamas and the sheets. I woke Fane up and he was so calm as if it had become a routine. I messaged my brother in hope he would be up and thankfully he was. He looked after Alex whilst we went to Bedford Hospital Cygnit Wing for the third time.

Upon arrival we were taken to the usual examination room on delivery suite and showed them the mess on my clothes. They went ahead and poked and prodded and once again we heard the same thing; we don’t know where the bleeding is coming from, you’re fine, the baby is fine but we have to keep you for 24 hours and do another scan. The difference this time was that I was 24 weeks pregnant so they decided to give me the steroid injections that would help the babies lungs develop in case she came early. Some of the night is a blur, all I remember is sleeping in one of the big delivery rooms for a little while whilst Fane slept on a fold out chair.

In the morning I was an emotional wreck. The midwives were lovey, but the doctor who came round was certainly not. Before Alex I had a miscarriage and the doctor who examined me that time was absolutely horrid and to my surprise he entered the room. I immediately went into shock, I was shaking, I could feel my face getting hot and my stomach churning. He was cold and stern and didn’t ask me anything about how I was feeling. It was a very quick “chat” in which he told me I’d be sent to Luton. I knew why he was saying this but I told him to leave and let me speak to the midwives. In tears I was desperately begging them not to send me to Luton. “She isn’t coming”. I was showing no signs of labour, I still wasn’t in any pain and nothing was opening up downstairs.

So we were admitted to the ward again. It was staring to become very familiar, we recognised most of the midwives and the consultants who were floating around and they remembered us. Thankfully Alex was in nursery that day and staying at her dads that evening. Sadly, the following day was to be Fane’s 30th birthday! I was so upset that we weren’t going to be able to celebrate it as planned; we cancelled the bbq that many people had arranged to come to and I wasn’t going to get out to buy him a cake or wrap his presents or even write a card. Obviously he didn’t care about any of this and he was only concerned for me and the baby. Sadly, my anxiety doesn’t allow me to see it that way. So I spent that Thursday in hospital distraught that I had ruined everything. 

We were discharged on the Friday around lunch time and had to go back for a scan for 4:30. So 1 macdonalds and a happy toddler and Fane later I was back. This time they actually found the possible cause of the bleeding! A small blood clot and tear in the placenta which could either keep on bleeding throughout the pregnancy or heal itself. The worst case scenario being that the placenta tears away completely and they have to deliver baby…again stubborn me would not accept this…not gonna happen, I said! 

Finally we were able to go home and celebrate Fane’s 30th birthday with caterpillar cake, many Game if Thrones related gifts and a 9pm bedtime!

The weekend had to be relaxing! I had to get through Saturday and Sunday with no bleeding and get to Disneyland on Monday! So I spent Saturday doing as little as possible, which for me was still a bit of cleaning and pottering about. Alex was happy making gloop in the garden and painting Fane’s face green. 

Doctor Kim called me again in the morning and sadly advised against going to Disneyland in any way after talking to some of her colleagues about the clot in the placenta. So this put a massive downer on the day, but I decided I wasn’t going to let Alex not have a holiday! We booked a last minute trip to Butlins instead because luckily Alex never knew it was going to be disneyland. 
After a crazy day of playing and noise and not really relaxing at all we sat down with a curry to watch The Hateful Eight. Only 20 minutes in I felt something familiar happen downstairs and on a visit to the toilet, there was lots of blood once again. I called Fane to come in and he said “Right, let’s go, back to the hospital!”. I was in tears and tired and frustrated and I just desperately wanted the bleeding to stop and everything to just be normal! 

We spent the night again and this time the bleeding wasn’t settling. It wasn’t horrific but it wasn’t settling. So the concern for early labour was much higher but I was adamant it wasn’t going to happen; I was arguing with everyone about it and just outright refusing to be transferred….so we were transferred to Addenbrookes. Considering that I should be trying to avoid labour they made a good go at trying to induce it in the ambulance with their blues on whizzing down the A428! 

Fane met me at The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge and it was decided that butlins definitely wasn’t going to happen…not for us anyway, but I gave the trip to Alex’s dad instead so she could at least go! 

When Alex came to see me on Monday before she went there was a lot of upset from all parties, we just wished we could all go together. But it was for the best. She brought me flowers and a card.

The bleeding had stopped but my back was killing me. We had another ultrasound with a fetal medical specialist and he didn’t seem massively concerned. It was just clear that she was going to be tiny but he said not worryingly so. But so so so tiny!! 

My mum made it over after work and Fane popped out to call his parents. During this time I expressed my concern to my mum about the back ache I was experiencing as my tummy started hurting simultaneously as well…I told a midwife who was remarkably good at hiding her concern but she asked if it felt like contractions. Nahhhhhh don’t be silly! She’s not coming! 
She got a doctor to check my cervix but she couldn’t get a good look. The pains…or contractions…we’re getting more intense and closer together, so that was it, over to delivery suite, “just in case” they said. Fane was looking more and more and concerned but kept his cool.

So much is a blur again…I don’t remember the order in which things happened. A neo natal consultant came in and was very concerned at this point as the contractions were getting closer and closer and I was getting louder and louder. She said a load of stuff about decisions that had to be made and cesareans resuscitation options…my mum was taking it all in and Fane caught bits, but I was just desperately trying to keep her in! Then there were neo natal doctors that came in and I was surrounded by a dozen people trying to explain to me what was going to happen if I gave birth which they were clearly convinced was going on. 

I was hooked up to a drip with liquids, antibiotics and infused with magnesium which would protect babies brain. This burnt like hell, I felt like my face was on fire, and I started feeling faint and sick all I wanted was a bucket of cold water thrown over me. This took 10 minutes to go in then there was a diluted version dripped through the canula. Fane was trying to tell me that it could still turn back around as that happened to his mum once, but I knew he didn’t really believe what he was saying. 

Several people spoke to us about possibilities; a neo natal doctors spoke to me…no idea what was said…and an anaesthetist spoke about cesareans…don’t fully remember what he said. It all felt so fast and we were both so exhausted. 
The herds of people left the room leaving just the midwife, my mum and Fane. My pain became constant and as a neo natal nurse came in the midwife checked my progress…5cm and I was wailing!! She told the nurse to get the team quickly and I felt it was time to start to push. 

Literally within 3 minutes all neo natal people were in the room and God knows who else and I started to push my baby out before they all even had gloves on. And 1 more push later she was out…my mum was in tears and Fane was in complete shock. She was whisked over the doctors and nurses and put in a plastic bag to keep her warm and they intubated here and god knows what else I kept saying sorry to Fane that I couldn’t keep her in for any longer. 

They let Fane take a picture but I wanted to wait till she was wheeled past me. A doctor came over after a matter of minutes and said she was doing well, everything happened the best that it could have. She came out naturally and in the sack…which is apparently a good thing. But there there was an infection. Which explains why she had to escape so soon. 

They brought her past me and I burst into tears. She was the most beautiful and tiniest little thing I had ever seen. And then gone to neo natal to be looked after. It was 23:01 on July 4th…15 weeks and 2 days before her due date. 

There are some more gruesome bits to the after birth, but I won’t go into detail. We didn’t see her again till 9am the next morning because of these things though.

We were warned that the unit would be scary with lots of wires and noises and things going into her, but when I saw her none of the mattered, all I cared about was that she was okay. 

5th July
6th July
7th July – she likes the little nest that was made for her

As I write this it’s been 2 and a half days and she is breathing without a ventilator (thanks to the steroids I had in Bedford!), she is still on antibiotics, her general health is good and they are pleasantly surprised at a lot of her progress. They might be feeding her some milk today; my new job is to express every 3 hours! 

The nurses watch her 24/7, we can see her whenever we like. At this point Alex doesn’t know but she will meet her this weekend. 

Emotions are running high for all of us and my hormones are playing havoc. All we can do is take every day as it comes and hope for the best. We are incredibly thankful to have been in the right place at the right time and couldn’t praise all of the midwives doctors consultants and whoever else enough between here and Bedford! Our position now would not be so positive without the help of every single one of them. Not to mention the free accommodation we have been given on site. There will be a lot of fundraising when we’re home! 

When will it end…

If you read my last blog only a few days ago you will know that I have experienced many ups and downs over the last couple of weeks, but particularly the last week.

I returned to hospital on Monday morning after the bleeding becoming heavier again on Sunday night. I tried to stay calm, I tried not to worry and I tried to keep Fane positive…this is really not easy when inside you are terrified that you’re going to lose your baby.

After more examinations from a very nice doctor I was admitted to the orchard ward again and advised I would be kept in for the whole day and night for observation…what fun! This meant not seeing Alex that night as the logistics were too difficult. Worrying about one child and missing another like crazy is quite heartbreaking for any parent.

Blood was taken several times, a cannula inserted into my hand in case I bled heavily again and needed fluid, and I was poked and prodded in many uncomfortable ways.

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I also had an ultrasound which gave us no indication as to why I am bleeding but it did mean I got to see my baby girl again and her heart was beating away nice and strong (legs are still little).

Another night spent not being able to sleep in hospital…as much as I commend the Orchard Ward and the Cygnet Wing in general, sleeping anywhere but your own bed is just not easy. I was hot, it was noisy and it was lonely. I did however get to meet a friends new baby whilst I was there, congratulation to Amy Blowles and Craig on the birth of Amber!

Once again, this morning, I was examined and spoken to by a doctor, a consultant, two midwives and a student nurse aaaaaall at the same time, and told there was no obvious reason for the bleeding, I just have to keep an eye on things and was once again discharged.

I am not upset or angry that I can’t be told why I’m bleeding; they would never conduct any kind of invasive tests on pregnant women or babies in order to do more research into such things as it’s simply too dangerous. I’m happier with that. I’m just said that it is still happening and that I feel helpless and that Fane feels helpless. But we can find comfort in the knowledge that it isn’t anything dangerous; it’s not the baby, it’s not the placenta, it’s not my cervix and I’m definitely not showing any signs of labour!

Oh, but just to add the the fun, they did find Group B Strep, which is an infection that would be dangerous if it was passed onto baby, so I need to be put on antibiotics via a drip whilst I am in labour and kept in for a minimum of 12 hours after birth. Woohoo…

On a brighter note, Fane’s parents bought our buggy for us which I absolutely love and cannot wait for baby girl to be in it!

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Second Pregnancy…the story so far

So it’s been a long, long while since I wrote a blog, but I have recently felt the need to share some of my recent experiences throughout my pregnancy, which honestly, have not been particularly nice.

As a woman, one of the hardest things we do in our lives is go through pregnancy and labour. Those women who make the conscience decision not to have children have to go through relentless questions about why they don’t want children and be patronisingly told that they will probably change their mind one day; I sympathise with you. And for those women who want children, but for many reasons cannot have them, my heart goes out to you.

But this blog is about some the difficulties of pregnancy. This is my second pregnancy; my first consisted of 25 weeks of daily vomiting, not being able to eat anything, months of leg cramp and back ache, sore boobs and constant exhaustion. Those were just the physical aspects. The hormones were crazy and my mental health suffered drastically due to some so called friends taking it upon themselves to decide what the right and wrong thing to do during my pregnancy were; we are no longer friends.

Apart with my close friends, everything becomes about being pregnant; every conversation you have with colleagues and associates is about pregnancy and babies and all I’m thinking is “this isn’t my only job”. But instead of conversing about work, films and the weather, I spend my time updating them about how far along I am, expressing my tiredness, nodding and smiling when they say “WOW you’re getting big” and trying to keep a smile on my face and stay excited for the benefit of everyone else…that’s the hardest part…

I am currently around 22 weeks pregnant. This was an unplanned and very surprising pregnancy. That’s the first hurdle. How do you tell people that you’ve fallen pregnant only 2 months into a relationship when you know full well that you’re going to be judged? I feel that most people get judged when they fall pregnant, I am certainly guilty of it! I’m sure many of you have thought “how are they going to afford it?”, “she will ruin her career”, “they’re too young…too old…too childish…”. So I feel the need to make a little joke about having 2 kids from 2 different dad’s just so people know that it doesn’t bother me. But why should I? But anyway! After getting over the judgmental “wow…that’s…erm…great”…We have to move forward and bake a baby.

This pregnancy has had little to no sickness and other general pregnancy symptoms haven’t been too bad! So I did start to think, fab, this’ll be nice and easy! But boy was I wrong.

When finding out I was pregnant, my partner and I discussed the logistics of moving in together. At the time I was in a big enough 2 bed flat, so I asked my landlord if my partner could move in, but unfortunately he said no; he didn’t want a baby in the flat but instead let me out of my contract so that we could find somewhere for all of us. It was kinda nice of him…but kinda mean at the same time. I had to move for a second time in a matter of months. Everyone knows the stress of moving, but add being in the early days of pregnancy when your hormones are insane, and add a 4 year old who has only just settled in…it’s not fun! So after a stressful and yet again expensive move, we are in a lovely 3 bed house with a garage and garden and for the first time ever I feel financially stable. Things are looking up.

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12 week scan picture

Everything was going swimmingly, just dealing with normal day to day life and freaking out about Alex starting school in September more than anything. But the day before being 20 weeks pregnant, I receive a phone call from a midwife at Cygnet Wing advising me that I needed to have the blood test done that day that I should have had done around 15 weeks…but honestly I just kept forgetting about it. This blood test was to replace the Nuchal translucency measurement that they were unable to do at my 12 week scan as the baby wouldn’t get in a good enough position. This test would tell us how likely it is that the baby would have an abnormality such as Downs Syndrome, Spina Bifida or any of the other hundreds of things. I clearly thought nothing of it! I’m 29 years old, Alex is perfectly healthy and it would never happen to me! So a midwife popped round, took some blood, Alex watched and her face was hilarious and off my blood went to be tested.

The following Monday brought a very exciting day! My 20 week scan when we hopefully get to find out the gender of the baby. I wanted another girl because I know what I am doing with a girl and the idea of a boy kinda weirded me out. And Alex would obviously love a little sister. Fane had no preference (but really he wanted a boy). So the ultra sound technician did her job, measuring all the limbs and organs and checking the heartbeat. We were advised the baby has a short femur and would need another scan 4 weeks later to keep an eye on her growth, but she didn’t seem that concerned. We also got the wonderful news that the baby is another girl! Due to her short legs we have decided to call her Stumpy.

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20 week scan

On leaving the hospital over joyed with the news and about to go work, I receive a phone call from an unknown number. The very serious sounding woman at the other end of the phone said it’s so and so from Cygnet Wing, I thought they must have forgotten something, but no, she said she had the results from the blood test I had the previous week. She didn’t sound like the usual happy midwife that you speak to so my mood changed dramatically and the skip in my step died. She advised us that there my results came back high risk for a chromosome abnormality with a 1/24 chance that something is wrong. Shocked and confused I just say okay…she then goes on to tell me that we need to decide whether we want further screening, and I knew exactly what this consisted of, she didn’t need to give me all the information. I was asked to get back to her asap with a decision.

I told Fane what was said and in the car explained to him exactly what further screening meant. An amniocenteses; a needle entering the amniotic sack to withdraw some fluid to be tested. The test brings a small chance of miscarriage. Depending on who you speak to or where you look on the internet will depend what this chance is, ranging from 1-5%. Fane tried to stay positive with logic in mind, but I caved and burst into tears about the situation. Do we go through the rest of the pregnancy not knowing and being unable to prepare for a possibly disabled child, or do we risk the test and I know exactly what we are dealing with? Thousands of women make this decision every year and the outcomes are varied. Some are told they are high risk and their baby is fine and some are told they are low risk and their baby is still born without an abnormality. But no matter how many websites, forums, and stories I read, nothing made me feel better or made the decision any easier. What would I do if she had an abnormality? I would cope, I would have to, I would love her like I would if she was perfectly healthy. But could I cope if I didn’t know what was to come? No I couldn’t. My anxiety wouldn’t take it. I wouldn’t be able to go the next 20 weeks not knowing without having a daily breakdown, and Fane felt the same. I called my mum to tell her what was going on and she came home from work immediately to comfort me; no matter how old I get I will always need my mum in times of distress. Martin also came home as he was very worried about me too. We were all in agreement that going ahead with the further screening was the best option for my sanity, I called the Cygnet Wing and they got me an appointment for the following day at Luton and Dunstable.

The appointment wasn’t until the afternoon, so without any sleep, we just pottered around the house in the morning, went to Franky and Bennys for pancakes in an effort to cheer me up, and then headed to L&D. The women and children’s health ward is nowhere near as nice as Bedford’s Cygnet Wing. It’s much older and colder, dark and gloomy hallways, paint stripping off the walls and a tiny waiting room for the ultrasound department. Neither of us could really speak. We just waited to be called.

When entering the room noticed it was not as welcoming as Bedford. The consultant and the midwife did not have beaming smiles on their faces. They explained the process to us again and about the chance of miscarriage and began with a scan to take the babies measurements again. She mentioned the short legs as the technician did the day before, but this time she expressed her concern; it could be a sign of this, a sign of that, but not once did she say “it could be nothing”. Eventually we got to the amniocentesis. The sterilised and covered things and got everything prepped…all I could think was what if the baby moves and hits the needle…

She spent what felt like a life time looking for a suitable place to enter the amniotic sack, and the first time she put the needle in the quickly pulled it out as it wasn’t as suitable as she thought. It wasn’t very reassuring that it’s that easy to make the wrong decision. She entered a second needle and was happy with the position. I asked Fane to keep looking at me and I at him and I squeezed his hand as I felt what was like the worst period cramp you could ever imagine. Thankfully it was over in about 30 seconds. But then it felt like we were being kicked out the door.  I was happy to hear that we would likely get the results back in 2/3 days…but these 2/3 days were the longest of my life.

Both of us went to work on the Wednesday and Thursday and carried as normal as much as possible, both telling our colleagues and hearing similar stories from their/their partners/their friends pregnancies. It seems so many couples go through the same difficult time, some being told they had in a 1/5 chance and still finding out their baby was healthy. It was hard to keep distracted just like waiting for any other important phone call.

That Thursday afternoon my phone rang during a lesson and I left the room to answer it. I was so nervous, my hands were sweating, my mouth was dry and my heart was beating out of my chest. I answered the phone and the midwife who was there during the examination was on the other end. Her voice was enthusiastic which immediately gave me hope, and she very quickly told me that the test results came back negative and she wished me luck through the rest of my pregnancy. The massive weight was lifted and I couldn’t contain my happiness. I immediately called Fane and gave him the good news. We could once again be excited and tell everyone we were having a healthy, baby girl.

We attended a wedding that weekend and I am so glad we could do so knowing the test results, I even had a couple of prosecco’s to celebrate…and a cheeky cig.

Our lives were back on track, we started buying clothes and writing lists and planning our future with Alex and the new baby.

However, good things rarely last it seems. On Friday I noticed some spotting; I wasn’t overly concerned to begin with, I was at my brothers with Alex and Fane was at work so I didn’t want to cause any worry until I got home, bathed Alex and called the day unit. Whilst she was in the bath I spoke to a midwife, explained what I was experiencing and although she said it didn’t sound too concerning she advised me go in and get looked at. I told Fane at this point as I didn’t want to panic him beforehand! I called my brother and told him to put his Friday night on hold and he would have to look after Alex and tried to explain to Alex what was going on without scaring her. She was fine and happy to be having a sleep over with Uncle Thomas!

We arrived at the hospital around 8…I think…it’s a blur. I showed the midwife my underwear so she had an idea of what we were dealing with and she asked me loads of questions and wasn’t worried. I wasn’t experiencing any pain or discomfort. She left the room to look for a heartbeat Doppler and as I lay on the bed, I felt something happen…something more than just spotting. I looked in my underwear again and this time it was blood…bright red blood. I had absolutely no idea what to think in this exact moment apart from that we were going to lose her. The midwife didn’t take long and I showed her and she seemed a bit more concerned now. I laid back down and she looked for the heartbeat with the Doppler which thankfully she was able to find pretty quickly and all sounded well. I just had to wait for a consultant to come and give me a proper examination. During the wait I bled more and it came through my jeans. When the consultant arrived she asked a few questions and got me prepped for the ‘examination’. Women, you will know what I mean, men, I won’t go into detail! She confirmed the blood was definitely coming from inside, through the cervix…but no signs of labouring which is good! But where the hell was the blood coming from! There was much more blood after the examination and it wasn’t showing any sign of stopping. Fane and I were obviously petrified at this point and being given information about labouring at this time and she wouldn’t survive if she came now and I couldn’t take it all in. Clearly the fear from everyone in the room was that I would miscarry at 22 weeks, when I would have to give birth to the baby. But the heartbeat was still there and still strong, so all we could do was hope and wait.

I stayed in the hospital overnight for observation; Fane went home and packed me a bag. He didn’t want to leave the hospital of course but he had to, so he picked a sleeping Alex up and went home. If you have stayed in the orchard ward you will know that it is a lovely ward, with the friendliest and kindest midwives and nurses you could ever imagine. I was fed and watered before trying to get some sleep. This wasn’t very easy! It’s a lovely ward, but a noisy ward. Fane sat bolt upright all night worrying about me and the baby as you would expect.

The bleeding did slow down, and I still didn’t experience and pain or discomfort, but the worry was still there…is this the end? Is this going to happen again? Why is it even happening at all!? No one could tell me why and 90% of the time they can’t tell anyone why. It is insane that in this day and age pregnancy still has so many unanswered questions.

I was examined again in the morning, the bleeding was just spotting now and the babies heartbeat was still going strong so thankfully they could tell me that at least for now everything is well. Alex and Fane came in the morning, she behaved for about 2 hours and got bored as you can imagine, but luckily they let me go at lunch time. Stressed, tired, confused, upset, unsure whether it’s over or not, we went home. Alex went to a friends and naps ensued!

We have borrowed a heartbeat Doppler from a friend for the weekend just to keep our mind at rest till the bleeding completely stops, but today I still feel lost. The baby is fine, and that is amazing, and there is apparently nothing wrong…but I can’t just flip back from insane worry to excitement again, I just don’t work like that. Until the baby is here and she is in my arms I will now be on constant alert- and that for me is the worst part of this pregnancy.

I’m sorry this entry has ended up so wordy, but I needed to write it all down and share my recent experiences. Thank you for reading,

 

Rhiannon xxx

NUT strike again!

Why are you striking? Some ditz at the BOS asked today. Why the hell do you think I am striking you ignoramus, do you not watch the news!.

Millions people are in full support of public sector workers striking and asking for fair pay and working conditions, and a minority are not in support (the ones with fair pay and working conditions). But when it comes to teachers striking parents are always the hardest to convince.

Today I went on strike and like millions of other teachers I did it to stand up for education! Fair pay, workload and pensions are only a small part of it; the more they cut out of the budgets for education the more nagatively out kids education is effected! The more workload teachers are given the less time they have to plan actual interesting lessons. Did you know that on average a full time teacher is only given 2.5 hours of admin time? Meaning a majority of work is done after hours and at home? The funding for 16+ has recently been cut meaning Bedford College had to cut 1.5 hours a week from every course; meaning we have to teach the same thing in less time and still expect good results. Teaching hours being cut means jobs being cut!

The dfe tries to say that teaching is still attractive and they have more trainees than ever – teaching is a vocation, young people who want to be teachers will still train to be teachers! But let’s remember that 50% of NQTs leave within 5 years.

I almost left this year. After working in a school and having to do report after report after date collection after parents consultation etc etc etc I truly understand how difficult teaching is for those teaching subjects like English and Maths who have 30 kids in each class. It crushed my soul a bit. But I love teaching, I want to make a difference in the system and I am not going to just strike to do it. action will be taken at every opportunity no matter how big or small. But I am not doing it for Gove or Cameron or Ofsted, I am doing it for my students and I hope that in return that they, and their parents, support me in when I choose to strike and stand up for their education!

The Bedfordshire ‘Just Because’ 48 hour film challenge

So last weekend I ran the The Bedfordshire ‘Just Because’ 48 hour film challenge in association with Oxjam and Bedford Film festival and I must say, organising it was more stressful that I thought. I was constantly worried that not enough people were signing up and that it was all going to be a train wreck! But that is just me, a worry wart!

But the weekend came, I emailed out the briefs which were randomly picked out of a hat by my 2 year old and the challenge begun at 6pm on the Friday! We made a film of our won which I am quite proud of, apart from my acting! But Alex is also in it and she was so good, and well behaved and followed instruction for the most part! Without her cooperation it would have fell apart. 

This is Donum by BFMC – https://vimeo.com/97047388

The other entries were all great and in the end I was so proud to have organised it and encouraged filmmaking, regardless as to how few teams were involved. These are the other entries – 

https://vimeo.com/97040847

https://vimeo.com/97149563

https://vimeo.com/97050710

https://vimeo.com/97040849 (mature audiences only)

Unfortunately there were several other teams that were sent briefs, but they didn’t produce the goods! Hopefully next time – to be honest the whole process of making a film in 48 hours is not blaming easy!

I hope you enjoy the films, all teams would appreciate your support and feedback! 

 

What is a 48 hour film challenge?

Many of you who know me often hear me talk about 48 hour film challenges and to be fair you just nod and smile, until I actually explain to you what it is – and as I am trying to host a 48 hour film challenge of my own, I thought it best to fully explain what it involves. 

So first we need a group of talented people who are willing to do nothing but the film challenge for 48 hours…screw that, they don’t need to talented, they just need to be available! You will spend weeks getting actors to be available then they will pull out and you will have to act it in yourself.

You will also need access to equipment – at minimum a camera (people have been know to use their mobiles) and some editing software, even if it is just Windows Movie Maker. But just to clarify, we use a number of DSLR’s and Adobe Premiere. If you want a green screen, paint a wall or dye a bedsheet – its that easy!

You will wait nervously for your text or email with the information that you need to include in your film – this could be a mixture of genre, prop, line of dialogue and a theme. Once that information is received the scriptwriting begins…well the brainstorming…the tea and coffee…the takeaway….the smoking….6 hours later you might a script! But the good thing is that a team of you can write, source props, locations and actors all at the same time so once the script is done it’s BOOM out the door!

Now you spend half of the rest of your time filming, somehow everything you discussed whilst script writing has been forgotten and the director will change his/her mind ALOT! after all, the script has literally just been written! Your actors will grow impatient, as will your runners and any small children you happen to be looking after at the same time. If this is the case I suggest that you film in a toy shop! Once you have about 1 minute of footage which is in fact just 1 shot, it is time for more food! after an hour arguing about where to go you finally cave and do Maccy D’s…This is why I suggest that you use 1 persons home as a base and ensure there is a big pot of pasta made up and fridge stocked with sandwich fillings!

The next part of filming has much more momentum and it all goes really well, everyone is pleased with how the time has gone – so now lets get to the edit. 

The editor (me) sifts through the footage (as there is rarely time to keep a FFL, we did it once) and complains about not knowing what anything is and why it is there and why this shot is so fucking long and why the hell are there 8 takes of the him drinking coffee and AAAARRRFFFGGGHHHH everyone go away! 

Personally I prefer to edit alone but I don’t always get my way. For a film challenge I do suggest that you have the director with you so at least if you fall asleep they can edit for a little bit and when you wake up you can fix all of the mistakes they just made…

AND BREATH! An edit is complete, now to add music and sound effects! Try try try to have someone on board who is good at this cause I literally scour the internet for free music and sound effects, but it always turns out ok…the best ones however are always original scores! We are lucky enough to know quite a few musicians that allow us to use their music as well!

Then everyone watches and there is a massive sigh of relief…we did it….fuck, we did it. We just made a short film in 48 hours, from concept to completion…with time to spare (which you need for rendering and exporting!). 

No matter where your film gets to in the challenge, the opportunity for people to watch your film from all over the UK and network with other filmmakers is still one of the best things about doing any kind of film challenge. And all the stress, and all that hanging around, all that chasing children through toys ‘r’ us, all that money you spent on fast food, all that sleep you didn’t get…was 100% completely worth it. 

So if you haven’t already, sing up to do the ‘Just Because’ 48 hour film challenge…https://www.facebook.com/groups/699804410083414/ 

Back to the blog – Little Kickers

So I haven’t written in my short lived blog for a long long time and as there is actually so much going on my life right now I thought I would try it again because I really want to talk about Little Kickers! 

Little kickers is a football course for toddlers and pre-schoolers and from what I can tell it’s all about fun, exercise and co-operation – everything little ones needs. 

So I tool Alex to a free trial this morning. I was dubious at first – is my crazy loon of a child going to listen to instruction from a stranger? is she going to try to steal a ball? is she even a real human person? Well the first two questions are answered; she did listen to instruction and there was no attempted theft! The third question…I am still waiting for an answer. 

It was so much fun and she had a smile on her face the whole time. There was lots of games and as they are only the very little ones it was basic football skills – mainly kicking the ball rather than throwing it! Coach Paul was fantastic with the kids, definitely kept their attention and changed activities at a quick pace so that they never got bored. 

Alex and I are definitely signing up – for me it is finally something to do on a Saturday when James is at work, but for other mums it is something that dad’s can do leaving mummy to have a lie in! It is on a Saturday morning at Bedford College at 2 different times

9.15 – 10.00am “Junior Kickers”, 2 – 3½ yrs
10.10 – 10.55am “Mighty Kickers”, 3½ – 5th b’day

Paul is lovely and doesn’t mind you contacting him via Facebook which is handy! Search for Paul Stokes on my Mums of Bedford page or visit the Little Kickers website

I recommend this for absolutely anyone with children under 5 to take part in! Let me know if you go for a free trial or sign up!