Monthly Archives: April 2013

Keep on Running

Bliss

This wasn’t the blog post I planned to write tonight. Like many people worldwide, I spent most of last night (when I should have been thinking about my next blog post) gazing blankly at the TV in disbelief at the devastating news from Boston.

I first heard of the bombings on Twitter and periodically checked the hundreds of tweets expressing anger, condolences and admiration for the many acts of kindness that emerged from this appalling tragedy throughout the night. All acts of terrorism are horrifically irrational and unfeeling. But there is something especially senseless about yesterday’s atrocity. As David Baddiel tweeted shortly after the news broke: ‘Who the f*** blows up marathon runners?’ (And their supporters, we might add.) Who indeed?

I started running a month after Mr Boo was discharged from the NICU. I have never been, or even aspired to be, particularly fit and the last time I had a gym membership was early 2007. I had meant to try to get more active after Sissyboo was born, but the combination of a young and wonderfully distracting child, a commute, a job and a botched caesarian, put paid to that. But something changed after having Mr Boo. As he got strong enough to come home I started to worry whether I was strong enough to look after him and his sister. Physically and emotionally I was running on empty after six weeks in two NICUS. My children needed me to be healthy. Getting fit wasn’t about getting into pre-maternity clothes or looking a bit more like seemingly every other Surrey mummy when I picked up Sissyboo from nursery. It was a responsibility.

More than that, though, I needed to do something positive to counter the difficulties that we had faced as a family and the challenges, it was becoming all too horribly clear to us, Mr Boo would likely face for the rest of his life. I wanted to commemorate the determination he’d shown as he overcame oxygen dependence, terrible silent reflux and meningitis to get home to us. I needed to show how proud I was of him and I wanted to thank Bliss, the UK’s charity for babies born too soon, too small, or too sick, whose leaflets, website, phonelines and training of medical professionals had helped us (and continues to help us) more than I can say. If I could raise money, maybe I could help make a difference. Maybe other families might not have to go what we and so many others have gone through. I entered a half marathon. If I could push myself to the end of 13.1 miles, I figured, then maybe we could all get through anything. Maybe it would all be alright.

My first ‘run’ was a full 30 seconds before my first walking interval of a minute. Never has 30 seconds seemed so long. But over the weeks and months between June and Christmas, I managed gradually to build up my running times and mileage by sneaking out 2-3 times a week, usually after the children were in bed. I was still breastfeeding and I was sleep deprived. But it made me feel good, nonetheless. Then Mr Boo started having seizures and on Boxing Day was admitted to hospital where he was diagnosed with infantile spasms. I’ll write more about this devastating and thankfully relatively rare form of epilepsy in a future post. For now, it’s enough to know that we were admitted to hospital and discharged subject to daily blood pressure and blood sugar tests in the Children’s Assessment Unit to monitor Mr Boo while he was on a dose of steroids that adults with severe arthritis might be prescribed. On these visits to the germ factory, as I not so fondly call it, he contracted RSV and bronchiolitis. He was still fitting a week after treatment started and we were readmitted to hospital.

The steroids stopped the spasms a day later (please, please let them be gone for good…), but there followed another 5 long weeks of steroid treatment. These were the worst 5 weeks of my life. Apart from the constant anxiety caused by the fear of the spasms coming back, we had to deal with Mr Boo’s uncharacteristic irritability and incessant hunger (I lost 7lbs in 5 days while eating normally). Worst of all, though, was the acute insomnia. For the next month or so, Mr Boo was only able to sleep for a maximum of 3 hours A DAY in chunks of 50 minutes of less. His sleep is still not back to normal.

I nearly lost my mind. I have never felt so ill. I couldn’t run. I could barely stand. With 6 weeks to go, and a longest run of 6 miles some weeks behind me, I knew wouldn’t be able to do the half marathon.

But I did. Because I wanted to. No: because I had to. For me, for Mr Boo, for Bliss. (I clearly had lost my mind!) Over the next few weeks I ramped up the mileage (a little too quickly for comfort) and was forced to run less frequently than was sensible as Mr Boo’s steroid-suppressed immune system failed to battle a constant stream of illnesses.

I think I was the only runner fundraising for Bliss at the event. But the sea of brightly coloured vests I saw ahead of me, and sometimes passed, showed that the vast majority of the field was also running for worthy causes. It was clear that for most people racing that day, the 13.1 miles was the easy bit. This was the part of the journey that was manageable because unlike the illness, tragedy or grief that had inspired us to run in the first place, it was finite. The race would end.

When I crossed finished the line, I burst into a flood of tears. So did my partner, my Dad and sister. Sissyboo screamed like a wailing banshee and Mr Boo looked bemused. I hadn’t just run 13.1 miles (I still can’t believe I can say that). I had got through 11 of the most difficult months of my life. And now I knew that, no matter how hard it got, I could get through whatever else was thrown in our way.

For all the sadness that had brought people to the start line that day, the overwhelming emotions I felt during the race were hope and optimism. It was completely exhilirating to see how far people were prepared to push themselves, how much they wanted to help others through their fundraising and the words and expressions of encouragement that strangers shared as we willed each other to the finish line.

And this is yet one final reason why yesterday’s atrocity is so utterly senseless. Because what yesterday shows, is how resilient we are and how the most appalling tragedies only make us stronger.

Our optimism cannot be suppressed. Our determination knows no bounds.

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On Being Lost

Today I took Mr Boo to his first two-hour settling in session at nursery. It shouldn’t have been too traumatic. Mr Boo is incredibly sociable and loves being with other people. Moreover, I know the nursery well as Sissyboo spent part of four days a week there for four and a half years. I’ve been in to see them several times about Mr Boo’s unique needs and have been repeatedly reassured. But I felt awful being without him. It wasn’t just that I felt guilty because I am going back to work in three weeks. It wasn’t just that I missed him, worried about how he’d be or that he would love his keyworker more than me. I felt all of these things with Sissyboo and none of my worst fears was realised. But this feeling was different. Awful.

I felt lost. Irretrievably lost. Like a child separated from its mum in the supermarket, I felt frightened, as if things would never be OK again, and I felt utterly paralysed by confusion and the disorientation of being separated from someone who I need as much as he needs me.

The only thing worse than the feeling itself was my intense recollection of having felt this way before. Having your baby lie in an incubator, dependent not on you as they should be, but on people you’ve never met, who have to teach you how to cuddle, bathe and change them so as not to disturb wires, cannulas and ventilators, is one of the most unsettling experiences I have endured. But it is nothing (and I mean NOTHING) to how profoundly, gut-wrenchingly wrong and unnatural it feels to leave your baby and go home. But that’s exactly what I did, the morning after Mr Boo was born, even though I could have stayed a day or two longer. I didn’t want to go, but I had my reasons. And one day I hope to forgive myself. But not today. Especially not today.

Birth: If Only I’d Known…

I have a confession to make: my name is Mrboosmum and I am a compulsive planner. I love lists, updated calendars, synchronised diaries and neatly filed documents. I also believe in and really enjoy doing research, in being prepared when doing anything in life, whether it’s buying a breast pump or a house, planning a shopping list or holiday. It’s a prerequisite of my professional life and makes me feel more in control at home. That’s invaluable to me and why I was interested to read about Aptaclub’s new ‘Preparing for Birth’ app to help mums through the last trimester of pregnancy. It’s a great idea and if Sissyboo and Mr Boo were to have a sibling (which they’re not, I hasten to add) I would have it downloaded before my 12-week scan.

Now for my second confession. While lists and research help to make me feel sane in the enjoyable chaos of life with two young children, my desire to plan, prepare and be in control simultaneously drives me (and no doubt my partner, the Grumposaur) mad. Since having Mr Boo, before my third trimester had even begun, my to do list often extends no further than ‘1) Make a to do list’, my filing is more an act of improvisation, shall we say, and my research consists of lots of open tabs on my smartphone for websites I read with bleary eyes during Mr Boo’s nightwakings.

Knowing that life would be like this before having my children wouldn’t have helped. To be frank, it would have horrified me. What I wish I’d known, what I wish I could go back and tell myself, is that part of good planning is knowing that you can’t plan for everything. If only I’d realised that accepting this would make me feel happier and, paradoxically, more in control.

You see neither of my babies had read my birth plans or diaries. I’ve recently written our birth stories for this blog so I won’t go into details here. Suffice it to say that my planned natural, minimal intervention delivery of Sissyboo ended in an emergency c-section that saved her life. Mr Boo, on the other hand, arrived naturally with no warning at 29 weeks, 10 weeks before the day he was due to be delivered by a planned Caesarian. I hadn’t packed my bag, bought any baby clothes or nappies, or got the car seat down from the loft. I was 65 miles from home, giving birth in a hospital I’d never set foot in, wearing a borrowed maternity dress, jewellery, make-up and low heels. It was purely by accident that I had my maternity notes with me. I vividly remember thinking during both labours, this isn’t what’s supposed to be happening. This is not what I had planned. It made two different, difficult situations worse. It was terrifying to feel so out of control.

Neither birth was what I wanted. And I would do anything to change them, particularly to go back in time and do something to make Mr Boo stay put, to have him grow up without the challenges he faces. But both deliveries and the following months would have been easier if I’d allowed myself to factor the unexpected into my plans. Having Mr Boo, in particular, has taught me that our reserves as parents and babies are bigger than we could ever imagine and we are stronger than we know.

It’s good to plan. It builds confidence and equips us to make the many decisions we parents take, consciously or not, multiple times every day. But we should also recognise that we can’t necessarily choose the birth we want or plan for our children’s lives to look and be a certain way. But we can choose to believe in ourselves and in the depths of strength and love that can pull us through even some of the hardest times in our lives.

Being prepared for the unprepared is not to be disorganised. It is to be liberated.

This post is Premmeditations’ entry into the Aptaclub’s ‘If Only I’d Known…’ Competition.

Good News Friday

Writing up our birth story has been incredibly therapeutic. But whenever I relate Mr Boo’s story, I always feel dissatisfied. In some ways, it’s much easier to do this in print than in person. That way you don’t have to deal with the emotions of others. I know how selfish that sounds. But however I tell Mr Boo’s story, I know how inadequate the facts (meningitis, PVL, infantile spasms, vision problems, developmental delay, cerebral palsy) are to our experience. Life is hard (whose isn’t?), the appointments are relentless and draining, the worry sometimes paralyses me. But our lives are full of fun, laughter and great pride.

So, in part to remind myself of this and, if this doesn’t sound presumptious, to offer hope to and to show solidarity with other parents of prem or special needs babies, I have decided to make Fridays ‘Good News’ days.

My intention is to celebrate the good things in our week. My hope, if others find and like this blog in the future, is that it they will feel free to share their good news too in the comments section so we can all go into the weekend a little buoyed up.

The good news for Mr Boo this week is that his bronchiolitis (his third bout since Christmas) has almost gone. This means we are all sleeping better. (Six hours straight last night for the second time in a year! Yay!) It also means we can get stuck into the daily physio we do at home and work on those inchstones, as I’ve learned to think about them.

In more good news, at our fortnightly physio appointment on Thursday, Mr Boo was showing some small but significant steps forward. His head control (pretty good but not perfect) is improving, he is starting to self-correct when tilted in a sitting position and even putting hisoften uncooperative arms out to balance. They seem sure he will sit independently now. His weight-beairing was described as impressive. He is even trying to creep. This is HUGE!

The best news, though, is that he is back to his super happy, giggly, amazingly contented and determined self.  He has loved that Sissyboo is on school holidays and she has encouraged him in ways that no physio could, with love and an intense bond that makes me happy every day.

I hope you have some good news, too. I’d love to hear it!

Birth Story Part 2: Labour

I’m not wild about suprises. Don’t get me wrong. If someone wanted to whisk me off to Paris tomorrow or if more than 4 hours sleep in a row were to come my way (pretty please, it’s been a year…) I’d be thrilled. But if I’m honest, I’d be much happier still if I had advance notice to work out my travel itinerary or know I could have a large glass of wine without regretting it. My dislike of surprises is one of many reasons why I find all of this so hard. I couldn’t plan for Mr Boo’s birth. I wasn’t ready. But what really kills me inside now is that I can’t plan for Mr Boo’s future. Will he walk one day? Will he have learning difficulties? Will the spasms come back? When Will we he be diagnosed with cerebral palsy? All I know is that I don’t know anything.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. When I went to work, 65 miles from home, on 2 April last year, I knew I was in for a long day. I was interviewing. I had to be intelligent and on the ball. For a brief 30 minutes or so at the start of the day I felt both of those things. But by mid-morning I wanted to go to sleep and I and was very uncomfortable. At first I thought my discomfort was caused by the chair I was sitting in. (That’s how much I was in denial.) But by the time the lunch break came round I couldn’t sit down at all. The enormous sense of pressure and brief waves of pain welling up inside caused me to curl up in a ball in my office while hoping no one would knock at the door.

I’d hadn’t had normal contractions with Sissyboo, and while the pain I was in fitted the descriptions of what I’d read in the pregnancy manuals all those years earlier, the length of them didn’t. They were 10 seconds of intense pain at most. But they were coming every 2 minutes. I couldn’t be in labour, I told myself, so what could it be? I phoned a friend who’d just had her second baby for advice. And she told me what I knew but desperately didn’t want to hear: ‘You’re in labour. Phone for an ambulance. Don’t worry; they’ll stop it’.

So I made the call and packed my bag with work for the following day and a stack of papers to read overnight in preparation for the next morning. Not only was I coming in to work tomorrow, but I’d be home in time to make dinner for my daughter, who was in nursery in other county.

The paramedics were brilliant and reassuring. They gave me a choice of hospitals local to my work. One was near but I’d heard horror stories from colleagues who’d had their babies there. One was twenty minutes further away and I’d heard lovely things about it. I wanted to say take me to the lovely hospital. I couldn’t be in labour after all and I might as well be sent away with a flea in my ear from a nice hospital than one I’d been told never to be caught dead in. But although I didn’t admit it to myself, I knew things weren’t right and I remembered how wrong they’d nearly gone with Sissyboo. I needed to get anywhere quickly.

I phoned the Grumposaur and in my best cool as a cucumber voice told him that I was having some odd pains and that I was sure I was fine but was going to the hospital to be checked over. It was my calmness that worried him. It’s only when I am really worried that I am ever that collected. He got our daughter out of nursery, deposited her with relatives and got in the car.

When I was wheeled in, on a stretcher and breathing in gas and air, to the maternity day unit, a concerned receptionist took one look at me and said reproachfully to the paramedics that they should take me to the delivery suite asap. I think I frightened at least 5 expectant couples. There I was hooked up to monitors, assigned a fabulous midwife and awaited the arrival of the doctor.

They would stop this. My friend had said so. The paramedics had said so. The doctor said so. And then she examined me and everything changed. It was happening again. I was 10cm dilated and Mr Boo was making his appearance in the world whether I wanted him to at that precise moment or not. Incredulous, I stupidly said, ‘But I’ve just been booked in for a planned c-section in 2 and a half months’. ‘The baby hasn’t read your diary’, said the Aussie doctor. ‘You need to have this baby now and to give him the best chance, you should deliver naturally. There’s no time for steroids. When will your partner be here?’ I said I didn’t know. ‘Try to hold on she said. If it hasn’t happened already, we’ll break your waters as soon as he arrives.’

I’d battled all pregnancy to get the birth I’d wanted. To have the best chance of delivering my baby safely with people who could help if it all went wrong. Instead, I was more vulnerable and more frightened than I ever imagined I could be and nothing was within my control.

The Grumposaur arrived, mercifully in one piece, just as a team from the neonatal unit was showing me an incubator and explaining intubation and the challenges Mr Boo would face. I barely remember a word they said. This can’t be happening, I kept thinking. I’m lying here, in a borrowed posh maternity frock, in jewellery and make-up. I’m not ready to have this baby. I have a maternity swimsuit on order from Amazon.

But it was happening. And somehow those 10 second contractions were doing their job. They broke my waters and shortly afterwards Mr Boo arrived. I didn’t see him at first. What I saw was his Dad’s face, amazed, adoring and utterly terrified. Mr Boo cried and it was only when I let out a sigh that I realised I’d been holding my breath. He was big for his gestation as we’d known he would be. At 3 lbs 11 oz (6.75 kg) he was more the size of a 32-weeker, we were told. This had to be a good thing, didn’t it?

I was allowed to cuddle Mr Boo for the briefest of seconds and he was taken away to the incubator we’d been shown minutes earlier. His Dad went to follow him but was told that intubtation was too distressing a procedure for him to watch. We sat and we waited, not knowing whether our son was winning or losing his battle to live or what health problems he had. After 2 minutes, I realised I couldn’t recall what he looked like. And I wondered why it was that I couldn’t force the tears I desperately wanted to cry out of my eyes.

I don’t really remember all that much about the next two hours or the things Mr Boo’s Dad and I tried to talk about to pass the time. I vaguely remember being put on a drip to re-start my contractions as the placenta had not been delivered. My body was in shock. The first thing I remember clearly was a doctor on the next shift coming in and trying to remove it manually. It was excruciatingly painful. And fruitless. I lost a lot of blood and was prepared for theatre for a manual removal with a spinal. All that effort and I ended up in the operating theatre anyway.

As I lay there listening to the theatre staff talking about their dinner and wedding plans it slowly started to sink in. I was not pregnant any more. I had two children. And I had failed them both by giving birth to one too early. When the surgeon started to tell me jokes, I feigned sleepiness and pretended to drift off while my mind raced with the vertiginous possibilities of what life would be like now. I only opened my eyes when the midwife who had held my hand, made me laugh and allayed my fears throughout my labour came into the theatre and kissed my forehead before going off shift.

While I was in theatre, Mr Boo’s Dad got to see our unexpected guest in what he called his goldfish tank. The nurses took a photo to show me. After the epidural I wasn’t going to be going anywhere near Mr Boo for some hours. I was thoughtfully put in a private room so as not to be near mothers who could cuddle their babies and so that I could get some sleep. I was grateful. But sleep? Are you kidding me?

I spent the next 6 hours on my phone reading every website on premature babies my 3G signal would let me look at. My search terms were crude and desperate: “29 weeks”+”survival”; “pre-term birth”+”health problems”; “prematurity”+”disability”. I became obsessed with the statistics websites presented me with. The odds that Mr Boo would survive and grow up without major health complications were good, I found. That was before I lost faith in statistics, however. Before I realised that statistics are actually meaningless. It really doesn’t matter if you only have a 1 per cent chance in life of being run over by a bus if you are one of 1 per cent.

When this got too overwhelming I sent dozens of emails to work colleagues, calmly explaining that I was on maternity leave with immediate effect and cancelling meetings and so forth. Then I kept looking at the clock and  trying to wiggle my toes, desperate to be able to move again and see my baby.

A nurse came round early in the morning and asked if I wanted to see Mr Boo. I said yes. She asked me how I was feeling and explained I had lost a lot of blood and my iron levels were being regularly checked. I said I was fine. She said she’d come back to get me. I went to prepare to see Mr Boo and as I got out of bed, my legs went from under me and blood went everywhere. I called for a nurse who greeted my stupidity with unreserved kindness and offered to take me to see Mr Boo in a wheelchair while my bed was re-made. I insisted on walking. If I could pretend everything was alright, then it just would be, I reasoned.

And it was. As I entered the NICU, overcome by the smell of hand detergent and confused by the carcophony of beeps I can still sometimes hear as I drift off to sleep at night I saw him. My boy. My gorgeous boy. He had ripped his ventilator out overnight and they had let him breathe in air for a few hours before re-intubating him. He was going to be OK. I knew it.

Some surprises, I realised, could be good after all.

Birth Story Part I: Pregnancy

I have read and cried my way through many birth stories since having Mr Boo. Reading them makes me realise how fortunate we were, and not just because Mr Boo survived. I didn’t have a tortuous pregnancy, although it wasn’t much fun as you’ll see. I didn’t have preeclampsia, PROM or any of the harrowing conditions that so many fellow premmie mums have endured, often for weeks or months lying flat on their backs in hospital beds, hoping that labour can be stalled for as long as possible. I can’t imagine how hard that would have been. And I wouldn’t trade my experience for another’s. Although having Mr Boo wasn’t a walk in the park, it was quick and I had no time to worry beforehand. So how come I can’t stop this lump welling up in my throat and this knot from forming in my stomach as I write this?

Let me begin at the beginning, which isn’t April last year. It’s November 2007 when Sissyboo was born.

My first pregnancy was a doddle. Of course I didn’t realise that at the time, just like I didn’t appreciate until watching Mr Boo’s struggles and endless setbacks how miraculous it was that she met all her milestones ahead of time. My first labour was no fun at all, though. I’d been to my NCT classes and listened attentively while my partner, the Grumposaur, looked mildly terrified and a wee bit disgusted. I’d read about the three stages of labour and had a birth plan. I must have missed the class or page about precipitate labour. The first I knew about it was when my waters broke, Niagara style, while watching TV. I was in agony. No wave-like contractions followed. I was in immediate, constant agony and Sissyboo wasn’t moving. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew it wasn’t right.

I phoned my maternity unit and was told I was making a fuss. As a first time Mum I was panicking unnecessarily and I should have a bath. I probably wouldn’t need to go in for at least 24 hours. Really? That couldn’t be true, I thought. But I tried to get in the bath. I thought I was going to collapse. The Grumposaur, suitably alarmed by my screams, phoned again and said we were coming in. They reluctantly agreed I could, but advised that I should expect to sent straight home when they confirmed that my labour had just begun. I arrived at the hospital barely able to walk, vomiting the vegetatian chilli and raspberry leaf tea I’d hoped might hurry things along (ha!) all over the corridors. (It’s so dignified this motherhood lark!) As a midwife went to examine me she started to say it was probably just my nerves getting the better of me, when she stopped mid-sentence. I was 10cm dilated and had skipped the first stage of labour. Sissyboo was coming out “like a bullet out of a gun”.

I was very lucky, I was told. It would be quick. No 48 hours of labour like so many of my poor friends had endured. But there was also excruciating pain and no time for pain relief. Sissyboo clearly wasn’t listening anyway. She got stuck and our luck was starting to run out. They tried to turn her manually in the hopes that she could make her own way into the world. I nearly passed out. Then everyone’s expression changed and they quickly got me to sign consent forms. They were going to try forceps in an operating theatre, but wanted the option of performing a c-section if necessary. What no one told us, but my partner knew as he quickly learned to read the monitors, was that Sissyboo was in distress. They quickly administered the epidural, abandoned the forceps, pulled her back up the way she’d gone and cut her out.

We were lucky after all. Yes, it was frightening. Yes, it was excruciatingly painful. But she survived. She was unscathed. That was all that mattered. I was grateful, but not nearly as grateful as I now know I should have been. Because now I know things can be so very different. Even when you’re lucky enough to have your baby live.

It didn’t sink in at the time, though. How serious it had been. Not even when the surgeon came in and told me three times what a near miss we’d had. We only realised later that she was trying to explain, albeit in surgeon code, why they’d done the section. Why they’d messed it up in their understandable haste. Why I’d be in pain every month for the next four years. The epidural numbed the pain and blocked out the reality of the situation we’d flirted with in the previous couple of hours. But nothing was as soothing as my beautiful daughter’s face, even though she would look like she’d been in a vicious rugby scrum for the first weeks of her life. The only thing I remembered clearly from the surgeon’s chats was her repeated advice for future pregnancies. ‘If you have any more children, have an elective caesarian. We don’t know what went wrong, but we don’t want it to happen again’. Too right, I thought.

So when I went to see a midwife at 12 weeks pregnant with Mr Boo (I phoned them at 5 weeks, but this was the earliest they could book me in), I explained my history and she agreed, yes, I should have a section. Past experience, plus the painful cyst I had gone to A and E with when 5 weeks pregnant with Mr Boo, coupled with the fact I was over 35 – a geriatric in the pregnancy stakes – meant this was a high-risk pregnancy and was told I would be put under a consultant and prepare for more than the normal number of appointments. Mr Boo, she warned, could make his entrance in the world even quicker than Sissyboo. Second-time precipitate labours are often, but not always, quicker than the first. And if a baby is early, a second can be earlier. So there was to be no working up until my due date as I had done with Sissyboo. I hardly called 39 weeks early and there had been no premature babies in my family. She was just being cautious, I thought. I didn’t have a chance to ask her to explain in more detail what she was trying to tell me might happen. She changed jobs the day after my appointment.

Two weeks later, at Christmas, when visiting my parents and therefore out of area (the site of most of Mr Boo’s medical scares, you’ll find), I had some bleeding. Not much. Enough to worry me. I saw a lovely doc who did lots of tests. Mr Boo seemed OK. I heard his heartbeat for the first time. He was OK. It was probably a urine infection. But I don’t know. Because in the next four months, despite numerous calls, my doctors failed to get the test results from the hospital we’d been seen at. Nevermind, I thought, the consultant would examine me. Except I didn’t get to see a consultant. Not until 5 days before Mr Boo arrived.

My pregnancy was a catalogue of cock ups, administrative rather than medical, but stressful in their own way, nonetheless. When I went for my first “consultant” appointment, which replaced my 16-week midwife check, I saw a registrar who did the VBAC talk. I was expecting this talk at some point in my pregnancy, but I wasn’t expecting the aggressiveness of it or the blame being thrown in my direction for wanting the caesarian the surgeon who had delivered Sissyboo had urged.

This isn’t the place to go into the rights and wrongs of elective caesarians, but I’ll return to this in another post in the future. Long story short, I had two more “consultant” appointments, where I was never examined, but was aggressively lectured about my irresponsibility in choosing a section (read: my local hospital has a very high rate of sections and had been told off). I was accused of not doing my research (if you knew what I do for a living you’d know why that incensed me, but regardless, it’s not how to talk to people). I was told I could not have a section, despite the two registrars I saw admitting not having read through my notes, despite the embarrassing flood of tears and uncontrollable shaking that followed this pronoucement. And just to make matters worse, the midwives at my local surgery wouldn’t see me (despite the cyst, the bleeding, the high-risk pregnancy) because they were chronically over subscribed and I was under a consultant. Never mind I hadn’t seen a consultant and I was heading into the third trimester.

I phoned PALS (the Patients Advisory Liaison Service) and they were fabulous. Within two days I saw a consultant who said it was clear I needed to have caesarian, not only because of my past medical history, but because of the obvious state of anxiety I was in. I was a wreck throughout my pregnancy.  (PLEASE tell me that this wasn’t why he came early, that this is all MY fault…) I was terrified that what had happened with Sissyboo would happen again, but that this time labour could be even quicker, potentially without medical staff nearby. My baby could die in the living room, or in the car.

That was when I was 28 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I was advised to go for a growth scan the next day as I was measuring big for dates and at that appointment I was told Mr Boo was going to be a whopper. 11 lbs or probably rather more. Whether it was the fear of lugging around this enormous baby, the stress of 28 weeks of pregnancy with one midwife appointment, a handful of VBAC talks  and constant condescension and frustration at not seeing the people I needed to, the cause of the bleeding or something else, I went into spontaneous labour at 29 weeks and 2 days.

I was at work. I was 65 miles from home. I was totally unprepared. I couldn’t understand why it was happening and I still don’t know why it did one year on

Reflections of a novice blogger

What the heck am I doing? It’s a question I’ve asked a lot over the last twelve months. I used to know what I was doing. At least I think I did. But now I’m not so sure.

When I was pregnant with Mr Boo, our much longed for second child, I looked forward to being more relaxed and better equipped than first time round. After all, I’d done it before. So much for confidence.

Now all I know is I know nothing. About Mr Boo’s future or about what our family’s life will look like in ten years or even tomorrow. Frankly, it sucks!

But I do have something of an idea about why I’ve started this blog, even if I don’t know much about blogging or if people will read this. Is there anyone out there?

Since having Mr Boo last April (more on that next time) I have devoured blogs. I had never read one before. Now I feel connected to people all over the world that I’ve never met. And I may never meet Kylie, Amymouse, Jennie, Premmy Mum, Jessi, Tatum, Beadzoid or Mummy Pink Wellies. But their words and pictures have given me what few family members, friends, healthcare professionals or medication could: hope, wisdom and above all a feeling of community. They make me feel less lonely on this crazy, frightening path we tread.

One day I would love for this to make someone else feel the same. But I can’t claim to be doing this for wholly altruistic reasons.

I need to talk.

So much of premmie life is spent not saying things or saying things you don’t mean to make others or yourself feel better, or to give the illusion that everything’s OK, or that you can cope. Such self-censorship does not come naturally to me. In my other life (to which I must return soon) I am immersed in words. In the last year I have become terrified of some (cerebral palsy, infantile spasms, developmental delay, special needs…). But even so, I still believe in the power of words to alter perceptions and change realities.

So here it is: my words; my blog; my life; my feelings. I may not know much, but I think writing this is a good idea. Although I could be wrong.