Thursday, 15 September 2011

Mayhem ensues...

I have not taken a photo for today. I am feeling far too mellow to cobble something together.

What you're reading now is being typed under the influence of some heavy-weight opiates, thanks to my continuing back spasms. Strangely, I feel almost as though I'm sitting next to myself. My body feels a bit numb and heavy and all sort of floppy. But my back still hurts. A lot.

It's been a funny old day. It began with my daughter informing me that my son had tried to flush her pyjama bottoms down the toilet. There was no physical way of me being able to sort that out. "OK. Wait for Daddy to come home from his night shift, then he'll get them out for you. No more flushing Jim-Jams down the toilet, please. Apologize to your sister!" 

I was quite pleased with myself at breakfast time: I managed to help with toast-buttering and hair-brushing, giving the kids their medications and making drinks. I even started to see to my own breakfast: hot weetabix. I put it in the microwave this morning. As I type this (at 11pm), I have realized that the bowl is still in the microwave, patiently waiting for something to happen...

Later I had an appointment with the GP to get some stronger pain relief. I have measured my progress by comparing my ability to walk. I was walking like a Zombied John Wayne; now I walk like C3P0 has crapped himself.

 I look stunningly awful. All of my stomach tone has been reduced to a muffin-top, thanks to the muscles in my back doing all they can to protect the spine from further damage. I can't do anything with my hair; and my face has broken out in spots because I can't lean over the sink to wash my face, properly. Thank God I'm not famous, or my career would be in tatters as a result of photos showing how exceedingly terrible I look, such is our fickle society...

This afternoon was a bit better. My son woke from his nap in a foul mood, and whilst I gingerly hugged him on my lap, trying to cheer him up, he weed all over me. That's a real sign of trust. He felt that relaxed and confident with me that he felt he could just "let go".

Later, my daughter had an almightly meltdown, largely as a result of the week's unusual events. In the middle of the screeching, she suddenly demanded that Daddy painted her bedroom bright red. 
I sensed anger issues. We declined that order, which only increased her rage further. 

For the next twenty minutes, there was absolute mayhem. In the background, Simon Mayo was  playing tracks and talking to us about something I couldn't hear, because one child was screaming about red paint, and the other child wanted some sellotape so that he could hold the sausages in his frying pan in place. Pat was telling the screaming child to calm down. I was trying to not tense up, to avoid the spasms in my back, whilst attempting to make dinner. I was feeling guilty about not having fed us all healthy food so had decided upon roasted butternut squash and pasta, something far beyond my capabilities in my current state, and required a mammoth effort. In the end, the screaming child went into time out to calm down, Pat went to work, my son volunteered to lay the table, and I contacted the GP surgery to ask whether someone could do a home visit as my symptoms were getting suddenly worse. Looking back on it now, I can see why!

The GP did come, for which I was very grateful for - just as the kids were sitting down for dinner. I hobbled upstairs with her, instructing my children to sit nicely at the table and eat. Whilst I was being examined, my daughter was giving me regular updates: "Mum! Mum? MU-UMM? MUM!! He poured his drink into his bowl and now it's overflowing and it's gone all over the table and onto the floor! MUM! Are you listening to me?!" I sighed. "OK. Thanks for letting me know". "Mum? MUM! MU-UMM? We don't want anymore, can we watch TV?" "Yes". There really are days for picking battles. Today is not one of them...

And now, the kids are asleep, I'm feeling the side-effects of Tramadol, still feeling pain in my back, and reflecting on how mayhem can be amusing, especially whilst under the influence. I've just watched the last episode of Torchwood, but didn't understand any of it.
 I can see how people become addicted to opiates, as they are slightly marvelous, but they are also hard work. I can't be like this all the time, it's just too weird. On another occasion where I had severe back pain, I had the misfortune of watching an episode of Dad's Army having taken a Tramadol tablet. It made me laugh. Hard. Tears were streaming down my face, before I realized that I was laughing at a programme I've never liked. Then the tears were of sadness, for realizing that things were that bad.

I have one thing to be grateful for, though: I still have a sense of humour. I've certainly needed it, today!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Laughing gas - but I'm not laughing...

A few days ago, I was playing with my children up at Putlake Farm, in the softplay area. We were playing "It".

As you do.

Suddenly, as I was crawling about, I felt a big twinge and spasm in my lower back.
"errr...hahaha..ermmm, kids...I'm going down to the bottom, er, um...nowOooooWWwww!"
As I looked around me, feeling the muscles clamp tight around my spine, I tried not to panic. I thought. How the bloody hell was I going to get down - I was on the 2nd level? I looked at the wavy slide. No. No. I can't do that. I looked at the padded steps. No. No. I can't do that. I looked at the wiggly tube that would take me down a level. Nope. Oh God. I'm stuck! I'm stuck here! My kids were happily continuing the game and had run off. I decided that the padded steps was the only way to do it, so I edged towards them, then slid down on my stomach until I got to the bottom, and was able to stand upright.
"Oh dear!" I said. I inwardly congratulated myself for not swearing in front of all the sweet little children. "I um...appear to have hurt myself. A bit. Um...ooohh, this hurts!" A mum heard me and helped me to put my shoes on and tie my laces.

This was all painfully familiar: I have these episodes where my back just completely seizes up and I can't walk or move properly for several days, the spine twists so that my belly button looks as though it's straining to see what's happening behind me, and my hips go in two different directions. My posture resembles that of a bendy straw. It all started when I had a car accident 14 years ago - someone kindly rammed straight into the back of me whilst I was waiting to do a reverse park during a driving lesson - and since then I've been a regular user to chiropractors, physios, osteopaths and A&E. My spasms have been so bad that in the past I've been stuck on the toilet and Pat had to call the paramedics to get me off; or I've felt pain, blacked out and woke up on the floor to see my daughter lying next to me, asking if I'm OK.
The worst time was at my brother's wedding reception, at the hotel where we were lucky to be staying. I was having 2 hourly baths all through the night to ease the pain, to coincide with the 2 hourly breastfeeding I was doing with my daughter, who was only 4 weeks old at the time. I spent the whole of the reception in barefeet and jeans, trying not to scream whenever I moved, and feeling ridiculously out of place. At one point I had to crawl up the stairs to get to my room so that I could go to the loo - all the while feeling the humiliation while fellow wedding guests watched me - the very strange woman who would take one step at a time before apparently growling and saying, "don't worry, I'm fine!" - before crawling to the next step Another very embarrassing situation with maximum capacity to humiliate me in front of people I'd known for most of my life; and complete strangers.
All of these previous experiences went through my mind, whilst I got the kids to walk to the car, and get into their seats. I managed to get into my seat - and then froze. I could not move. There I was, gripping hold of the steering wheel, saying, "OK, I'm having a bit of trouble, here, kids. I think I might need to get some help." I had no choice but to call for an ambulance. Pat was at work, and there was nobody I knew to take the kids home for me. I phoned him to tell him the good news - that he had the rest of the day off!
Whilst I was waiting, knuckles white as they gripped the steering wheel, I could hear the ambulance sirens. Oooh, great. They're attracting more attention. I thought they were going to send a car as a non urgent case, but no, it was the full-on, bright yellow van, sirens-blaring cavalry.
I was so happy to see them, yet the feeling of humiliation was coming back.
The paramedics were brilliant. They gave me some entonox (gas and air, or laughing gas) which helped and reminded me of all the other times I'd needed it - including when I was in labour with my daughter. The staff at Putlake were brilliant, too - they took the kids back in to play and gave them an ice lolly, to wait until Pat came to pick them up. I went home in the ambulance, feeling very embarrassed and a bit sorry for myself, too.
By 2am, the spasms were getting worse and I couldn't actually lie down, anymore. I phoned the emergency care service, on the advice of the paramedics who'd helped me earlier. The GP I spoke to advised me to have a warm bath whilst I sent Pat on the 40 mile round trip to pick up a diazepam prescription. I explained that he'd been up for 21 hours and, at the time we were talking, it was 3.30 in the morning. By the time he would be back, the kids would be up for the day, and he would have had 3 hours sleep. Her advice was that "'s possible to go without sleep and function for 48 hours".
Well that's OK then.
In the end a lovely ECP came to see me and gave me the medication I needed, so that by 5am I was able to get back to bed and sleep for a couple of hours. I'm still in lots of pain but I know that this will get better...sometime soon, I hope.
I am very grateful for the emergency and urgent care services, and to Pat, who has helped me do everything as well as look after our children, and go to work on nights. He's a superstar!

Thursday, 8 September 2011


I really like this sculpture. If it is a sculpture. I don't know what else to call it! It looks like pencils falling out of the sky. The windier it is, the faster the sculpture spins around. It stands outside the maternity entrance at Dorset County Hospital, in Dorchester.

Now why was I visiting the maternity department?


Nope, it's not that!

I went along for an induction day as a volunteer to work on the maternity unit as a breastfeeding counsellor (in training!). I want to gain some experience working with mums in the first few days after giving birth, to support them with initiating and establishing breastfeeding. I hope that myself and Emma, another volunteer breastfeeding counsellor, can help the staff support women to breastfeed. It will be great experience for me and will help me with my training, and support for mums when they come to the breastfeeding group.

I am still breastfeeding my son, who is 2 and a half years old. This week I have reduced him down to one feed per day, and he's accepted it very well, much to my relief! Now for anyone out there grimacing and saying "eugh" or words to that affect, I would like to defend myself.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that a mother should exclusively breastfeed until their baby is six months old, and continue to breastfeed until the age of two and beyond.

Breastmilk does not really change much in terms of nutrition and antibodies from when a baby breastfeeds at six months old, so it is still a healthy part of a healthy diet for a toddler.

Breastfeeding for this length of time is reducing my risk of developing osteoporosis, breast or ovarian cancers.

My son may have a higher IQ thanks to the benefits of breastfeeding!

He will have stronger bones as a result of breastfeeding for this long.

And many more positives! I know that there may be some out there reading this who will label me as a breastfeeding nazi. I hate that expression.

The reason is this: our society has been dominated by labels. Formula manufacturers are far more guilty of strong, bullying (and illegal) tactics (look up Ne$tle boycott for more information) that aim to predetermine how a mother feeds her baby than a breastfeeding woman, with the sole aim of making money out of them. They don't really care about the increased risk of obesity, and diabetes that will result in babies being formula-fed. They're not really that concerned about the environmental impacts of formula milk manufacturing, and they certainly aren't interested in the financial burdens associated with formula feeding.

Don't misunderstand me, though - a mother has a right to choose how they feed their baby. I am not ever going to judge a woman, no matter how they feed their child. Breastfeeding is difficult to get used to and can take a few weeks to get going with it properly - but that's why it's so important that they are supported and know where to go for the right help if they're having problems. I also understand that some women just aren't interested in breastfeeding at all. That's fine for them and I respect their decision.

What is wrong is the way in which formula manufacturers take advantage of women who haven't had the right information about feeding their baby, or where a mother hasn't had enough support or encouragement to breastfeed (and most women can feed their baby, as long as problems are identified early enough and they are helped through it by experts and support from their peers, friends and family).

What is wrong is the way in which I and other mums who choose to breastfeed beyond what someone considers to be an "acceptable" amount of time, are labelled as weird or disgusting, when if we really think about it, if it weren't for the invention of formula milk in 1873, we'd all be breastfed for longer periods of time and nobody would think anything of it!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Surfin' Swanage

It's not often that surfing can be added to the list of sea-related activities, in Swanage. Today there were a few eager folk making the most of the opportunity. Despite the high winds and drizzle, there they were, ready to catch the next wave that came. Some managed to stand up for a bit - but let's face it, it's not Bondi, is it?! Kimmeridge would probably have been a far better place to go to surf, but to be fair, there were some waves, there were some boards, and there were some men prepared to give it a go, so why not? Brrrrrrr.

I do like a bit of spontaneity. I imagine the guys in these photos probably had other plans for today, but they dropped them in favour of some fresh air, sea and rain and to feel they made the most of the opportunity given to them. I am beginning to live more in a spontaneous mode. It's one of the perks of not being regimented to work hours or shift patterns. There are days when I don't have any plans at all, beyond dropping my daughter off at school. I walk out of the school gates, and think about what to do. It's a liberating experience, albeit slightly unnerving, as I sometimes wander aimlessly through town until I think of something interesting to do! Occasionally it involves cake in some form; frequent trips to the supermarket to get stuff I forgot to buy the day before/earlier; getting the house straight, painting with my son or playing with lego, or going to the park. All these and more. What an exciting life I lead!!
The most spontaneous thing I ever did was to enter into a marathon. I just did it. I decided one day that I would find a charity to sponsor (Quest4Change), and enter to run. I didn't think that hard about it. Running a marathon was a childhood ambition, and one that I never thought I'd achieve, but when I came to the application page, I thought it might be fun to do. And a good way to keep fit. I did the Brighton marathon earlier this year. The training was the exact opposite of spontaneous, though, and required meticulous planning, a huge amount of discipline, and some cake. I made a fabulous friend in Claire, my running partner and co-Brighton marathon completer, and I couldn't have done it without her. I look back at our training runs with happy memories...the leg pain, the cold, the hills, the dog-crap pavement-dodging, and the mud; the sweets to get us to Old Harry, the chats we'd have and the feeling of achievement at the end of each run, and ultimately, of course, at the end of our Marathon run. All this from a spontaneous moment at my laptop.
It is possible to achieve anything in life.  Sometimes, it might feel like climbing the most difficult of hills to get to the top, but once the struggle to climb is over, the view is breathtaking, the sense of achievement is fullfilling, and the desire to continue on to the next adventure continues. Sometimes, it may mean stepping into a cold, stormy sea, but once in the water, the waves start appearing, and it becomes a matter of time, patience and perseverence to ride the crest and feel the buzz of elation, accomplishment and satisfaction that a goal has been achieved.
I firmly believe in stepping out of my own comfort zone, to push further and to explore what I am capable of. Living in the moment, taking on acts of spontaneity, being prepared to see where I am taken is increasingly how I am viewing life - within reason of course...jumping on the next plane to Australia and backpacking for a year is not reasonable, although something I plan to do later on -once I get over the fear of flying - and I plan to be spontaneous more frequently. I AM grateful, thankful and lucky to be where I am in my life at this moment. I don't know where my next spontaneity will take me but I'm happy to find out!

Saturday, 3 September 2011


We've been camping in the New Forest, for a couple of days, along with our friends Claire and Tom, and their 2 year-old girl.

This was our first camping trip as a family. The last time Pat and I went camping was about eight years ago, back when we would sleep through the night without having cold little hands and toes and excited squeaky voices to drive us out of our sleeping bags. We would go for walks and cycle rides, take long lunches in the pubs, go to the beach and attempt body-boarding/surfing before returning for a BBQ and a few drinks with friends. We had a 3-man pop up tent, a limited supply of camping equipment, and lots of time on our hands.

Oh, how different things are when camping with children!
We made the decision to sleep seperately, so that we could each be with one of the kids, in case of night wakings and confusion about where we are, leading to waking up the rest of the campsite.

At some point, last night, I woke up because I really needed to go to the toilet. Instead of getting up, I decided that I'd try to hold on, because I didn't want to walk all the way over to the toilet block. I also didn't want to wake up my son.
Unfortunately, I couldn't get back to sleep, and I couldn't ignore the need to go. My brain teased me by suggesting different scenarios about how to creep out of the tent without waking my son, and which tree would act as an accomplice to my deed. It was still very dark, so I knew I had a long wait.

Eventually, I couldn't wait any longer. I  s..l..o..w..l..y sat upright, found my torch and inched my way to the zip of my pod. He was still asleep. Until I pulled the zipper and suddenly he was awake, sharp as a pin, and wondering why Mummy was in plank position halfway across the tent floor. So he started to whimper. In a loud whisper, I called Pat, both to detach my son from my leg, and to help me find the zipper to the tent entrance. At this point, my daughter woke up and started crying because she was confused and worried about why her brother was crying. In the meantime, I staggered out of the tent, torch in hand, and feeling very desperate, I made it to my pre-planned tree, did what I needed to do, all the while aware of the fact that I had woken my family, and my family were now waking up several other camping families. It was also at this point that I realised my torch was a beacon to moths, midges and also allowed anybody who did happen to see what all the noise was about, to see me crouching by a tree next to a tent with two crying children and the father speaking in theatrical whsipers about "Mummy just needed to go for a wee, she'll be back in a minute - look, she's just by that tree there - can you hear her?"

Bloody hell!
All this, at 3.45am. I should have just used the potty.

The thing about camping, is that it doesn't have any surprises. Would anyone really be shocked to be woken up by other people's children, when sleeping inside a piece of nylon, in the woods, during a period of good weather in the summer holidays?
On the other hand, how would you feel if you awoke to see a horse nuzzling your noodle bags?
 Yesterday, whilst we were out, a couple of opportunistic horses decided to raid Claire and Tom's tent. Quite formidable, considering it was completely zipped up. The horses have learned how to unzip tents, enter and inspect before inviting their gangs to join in the fun. In this case, they changed their minds when they saw the marmite ricecakes and Upsy Daisy books.
Now if they'd broken into our tent, they would have found wine, mayonaise, and crayons: Party Time!

We've had a great time exploring the campsite, cycling across Balmer lawn, playing at the stream, and being headbutted by a hornet. Yes, really.
We really did have a lovely time. The kids enjoyed themselves, particularly the cycling and strangely, the washing-up. I guess it is exciting when you have to carry your dirty dishes across the road to a communal washing area, instead of just putting it on the worktop for your parents to deal with! 

Thank you Claire and Tom for a lovely weekend! 

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Put A Fork In It!

Recently I joined my friend, Sacha's allotment plot. I am enjoying it, although I'm clueless about allotment keeping, and I'm learning as we go along. It's been a few weeks since I got up there, but today we went up to measure up the beds for some wood to put around them. It probably has a fancy gardeners terminology but I will call it "wooding up", a term I have used in the past for all things related to planks of wood, or anything to do with sanding.
Pat was required to help measure for the wooding up, but as I had bought a cheap tape measure, it wasn't long enough, as it only went up to 9ft long. It was clearly a girls' tape measure. I have been nagged and lectured about buying tools. I once bought a cheap set of screwdrivers, just for keeping under the kitchen sink, for moments when varying loud and annoying toys ran out of battery power. Pat keeps his toolbox somewhere I can't generally find it, and so having my own tools to hand seemed fine to me. But each time I pointed Pat in the direction of the cupboard under the kitchen sink to use a screwdriver, he would wince. Eventually, I convinced him that they were perfectly adequate for the job in hand. He suspiciously scanned the item, started to use it...and promptly bent it. "You broke my screwdriver!" I accused. "That's because they're made of cheese!" came the reply. "well I've used that screwdriver lots of times, and never had any problems. It's never done that before!" and so it went on. So when I bought a cheap tape measure for me to use when I needed to measure something important, like windows, to measure up for curtains, I felt I had contributed to the face of womanhood. I had a tape measure. And I know how to use it. Yaaay! Today that tape measure let me down, because it just couldn't quite measure up!
I have a bad record with tools, it seems. The fork that Pat is brandishing has just been re-fashioned, having become a victim of my usage. Admittedly, it was Sacha who bought it, but it was me who bent it. One of the prongs was at a 45' angle to the others, after a particularly unforgiving session of weeding, where it struck a stubborn thistle bush. Pat fixed it, and he looked so good holding it, I thought it was only fair that he tried it out, to make sure it worked properly. Half an hour later, and he'd dug over a bed. Although he complained about it, I think he enjoyed it, really - otherwise he wouldn't have finished the job, would he?!

Thursday, 18 August 2011


Boy have we had some rain, today! It's been incredible. So much for hanging out the washing on the line, or going to the park. Even walking from the door to the car was enough to soak us to the skin. I've read reports of two weeks' worth of rainfall in half an hour, today. Bournemouth had flash flooding and roads were blocked. I had a day with my daughter, today. She wanted to go to the new Sunshine Ceramics shop, so off we went. By the time we got there I needed to wring out my jeans, and the windows of the shop had already steamed up.
We chose a salamander each, and decorated them. I was able to sit and enjoy the time we had together, and create something, too. The salamander reminded me of my trip to Baracelona seven years ago, where I went for my last girls' break away before I fell pregnant. We visited the Gaudi park with the mosaic salamanders. Even though it was really busy, I felt at peace in that park. It was beautiful. It had something special about it. Or perhaps it was just the thrill of being away, seeing something new, and having great fun with my friends! I think there was a part of me that knew it was to be my last holiday before we started a family. I'd love to go back and show the kids, and Pat what an amazing place Barcelona is - especially the bits away from the touristy areas.
Today, I had a girly day of a different kind - and it was lovely to spend time with my daughter, having fun together and chatting away. It would have been nice if the weather hadn't been so rubbish, though!