Friday, 14 November 2014

Royal College of Midwives' Annual Conference 2014

On Tuesday, I attended the Royal College of Midwives' Annual Conference, representing Pregnancy Sickness Support with my fellow trustee, Caitlin Dean (aka Spewing Mummy). It was my first ever RCM Conference and it was a great (but very tiring) day.

From 9 o'clock in the morning until after 6 o'clock in the evening, Spewing Mummy and I talked, and talked, and then talked some more to the delegates as they wandered past our small stand. I soon lost count of the number of times I had explained that PSS gives support and information to sufferers, has a volunteer peer support network and online forum, provides education to healthcare professionals, carries out research into the condition and so on.

By the end of the day my legs ached from standing up all day (with only a quick sit down for lunch and to fold more information cards when we ran out of supplies) and my mouth was dry with talking. But it was a day very well spent. The Conference was a fantastic platform for the charity. We were able to speak to hundreds and hundreds of midwives and student midwives and increase awareness of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) and the charity.

Spewing Mummy
It was a really positive day, with the vast majority of midwives and students being extremely receptive to what we had to say. Many had not heard of Pregnancy Sickness Support, but they listened and willingly took our information cards away with them to hand out to any sufferers they come across on their ward or in the community.  We also made some great contacts with some of the other exhibiting organisations and charities.

Charity Chick
Sadly, there were also a few not so positive comments, such as the lady who professed to understand what it's like to have HG and then added  "... my sickness always kicked in at 3.30pm when I was driving home". Sorry, love, if it only kicked in at 3.30pm (and you actually managed to drive anywhere) then you did not have HG! Or the young midwife in the queue for the shuttle bus who had bought a whole load of ginger lozenges for a friend who was suffering. When I commented that ginger wouldn't help, she added "well, to be honest, I think it's mind over matter for her". Grrrrr!

I am well aware that many sufferers encounter such unsympathetic and ill-informed attitudes from medical professionals but I had been fortunate not to have witnessed them myself. Thankfully though, these moments were few and far between at the Conference and the positive conversations by far outweighed the negative ones.

And in a strange way, even the negative attitudes have a positive side to them in that they reaffirm the need for the work that the charity is doing. They demonstrate that we do need to increase awareness of the condition and how to treat it; they demonstrate that we do need to do more research into HG; and they demonstrate that we do need to work with the medical profession to push for more HG day centres and home IV fluid services across the country.

None of these changes, which the charity is working so hard to achieve, can happen without financial resources. Sadly, the charity does not have very many resources, in fact it is largely run on a shoe-string by a small number of individuals in their spare time. This is why the charity campaign currently being run by Ebay could give us a much-needed financial boost.

If you would like to help us, you can do so by making a few clicks and "favouriting" Pregnancy Sickness Support on Ebay during November or December. It won't cost you anything but it could help us win one of the three cash prizes (£7,000, £3,000 and £2,000) that are up for grabs in Ebay's "My favourite charity" campaign. You will also stand a chance of being one of ten people selected at random to win £250.  It's very simple. All you need to do is click here for the Ebay leaderboard, scroll down until you see Pregnancy Sickness Support and then select the charity as a favourite.

 Please do it now! We need your help!

Pregnancy Sickness Support needs your help!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Go-Tri Aquathlon

Now I must point out that I am not in the habit of wearing an all-in-one lycra suit, but as I stood on the poolside sporting my newly-purchased tri-suit, I was wondering what I had let myself in for.

I was about to do my first Go-Tri aquathlon organised by Stafford Tri ClubGo-Tri is an initiative set up my Triathlon England to give people the chance to take part in a triathlon, duathlon or aquathlon and is aimed mainly at newcomers. I have to say though that some of the participants looked a little too professional for my liking!

An aquathlon involves a swim plus a run. I had decided to sign myself up for it as a way of dipping my toe into multi-sport events before taking the plunge and doing a full triathlon.

First up was the swim which unfortunately didn't quite go to plan. Since January I have been teaching myself to do front crawl as my usual breaststroke was a no-go after my knee op. I thought I was doing pretty well, but it seems that swimming in a very small hotel pool alongside ladies who do not like to get their hair wet has lulled me into a false sense of security. It turns out I am not quite as competent as I thought I was.

Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the race environment, maybe I just set off too quickly to try and keep up with the speedy bloke in the next lane but I just couldn't get my breathing right and a little bit of panic set in. For a moment I actually thought I wasn't even going to be able to finish the swim. I discovered that panicking and front crawl don't mix and, after a taking a couple of large gulps of water instead of air, I switched to breaststroke to regain my breath and my composure.

It was then that I caught sight of my little fan club looking though the large glass window at the end of the lane. There was no way I was going to let them down. Spurred on by my children grinning and waving at me each time I swam in their direction, I made it to the end of the swim, hauled myself out of the pool and ran to the transition area to put on my trainers.

The swim had exhausted me much more than I had expected and I found the run really tough. My limbs ached, my heart pounded and I felt a bit nauseous but I pressed on. I was very relieved when I saw the Leisure Centre coming back into view as I knew I was nearing the finish line.

When one of the organisers asked me straight after the event if I had enjoyed it, I couldn't honestly say I had as it didn't feel like a lot of fun at the time. "Er, sort of", I replied. But now, looking back, I feel a huge sense of achievement that I did it. I was pleasantly surprised by my result - I didn't come last as I had feared might be the case - and I am even starting to think about my next one!

But it also made me realise that I have a long way to go before I am ready to tackle a triathlon and there is some hard work ahead. Bring it on!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A girl's gotta tri

Earlier this year, I was looking for a goal as part of my recovery from knee surgery when I joked about doing a triathlon. Well, you'll never guess what. I have decided that next year I will actually attempt my first triathlon!

There. I've said it. It's in writing. So I can't chicken out now, can I?

Have no illusions though, I am not a super-fit, health-conscious, fruit and veg-eating goddess. Far from it. I have to force myself to go to the gym and I am just a little too fond of cakes and chocolate.

So, this is a pretty big deal for me and I will not find it easy. You see, it's not just a run, but a run straight after a gruelling swim and an energy-sapping cycle! I am out of breath just typing it!

This is not me!!

To show I mean business, I have decided to throw myself in at the deep end (note the carefully crafted pun!) and have just signed myself up to do an "aquathlon" next week! For the uninitiated, an aquathlon is a swim followed immediately by a run. So it's two out of the three triathlon disciplines. And yes, you did read that correctly, it's next week!

You would be forgiven for wondering why I have chosen to put myself through this. Well, there are a few reasons.

Firstly, because I can.  It's over 25 years since I tore my anterior cruciate ligament and it has stopped me doing so much over the years. I feel as though I have been given a second chance and I have a lot of catching up to do. OK, I have to admit I was a little disgruntled to discover that I now fall into the veterans' category, but, hey, who cares?

Secondly, I am a firm believer in setting goals. When I was training for the Race for Life (my first 5k run) in June, I was so much more motivated at going to the gym and for a run. I need a goal or else there is a real risk that my new-found fitness regime will lapse and all the hours of physio over the last year will have been wasted.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to show my children that you don't have to be the best at everything, but you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it and work hard.

It's 12 months to the day since I was sitting in a hospital bed having just had my knee fixed and with a long road of physio ahead of me. Today, I start a journey of a different kind.

Let the training commence!

Monday, 22 September 2014

RNLI Fundraising Part 2 - the Lichfield Fun Run

On Sunday 14 September J and C took part in the Lichfield Family Fun Run to raise money for the RNLI. They have raised £360 so far. It's not too late to sponsor them. They have a fundraising page here.  Thank you!

J had already done his Kids Triathlon in August (which you can read about here) and so this was the second part of his fundraising challenge. But for C, who was too young to do the triathlon, this was the big one, the one she had been looking forward to and the one she had been telling all her nursery friends about.

Proudly sporting their RNLI t-shirts and race numbers the children both waited eagerly at the start. When the hooter sounded, J sped off into the distance with his dad while C and I set off at a much more leisurely pace.
And we're off ...
I had feared that a certain amount of encouragement (and perhaps even a piggy back!) might be needed on my part to get C round the 2 km course, but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I was pretty impressed that she actually ran nearly the entire way, which I don't think is too bad for a three year old with very little legs!  I suspect that in a few years' time I will struggle to keep up with her.  On this occasion though I definitely got the easier ride as the girls finished in 21 minutes, about twice the time the boys took to reach the finish line.

So fast that they're blurred!
Not quite so fast!

At the end of the race we each got a medal, a bottle of water and a banana appropriately presented by a gorilla from "Go Ape" - not a real one, of course!  C was a bit unsure about the gorilla and couldn't be persuaded to have her photo taken with it even after the lady had lifted her mask to reveal herself.  J didn't mind though. 

Which one's the cheeky monkey?
We did it!
So, well done to J and C on completing your first Lichfield Family Fun Run. And well done to everyone involved in organising an excellent event. We will hopefully be back again next year!
Well done!
A well-earned ice cream

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Hyperemesis gravidarum and the royal baby - A time of mixed emotions

I was delighted to hear the news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child.  However, for me, the good news was tinged with feelings of sadness. I can't help but feel extremely sorry for the Duchess as she is again suffering from the awful and debilitating illness, hyperemesis gravidarum.

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a severe form of pregnancy sickness involving constant and unrelenting nausea and vomiting. Women lose a considerable amount of weight (in some cases this can be as much as 10% of the woman's pre-pregnancy weight), they become dehydrated and frequently require IV fluids in hospital. HG renders sufferers too ill to carry out simple daily tasks and they are often bed- or house-bound for months on end. This leads to an overwhelming feeling of isolation which can result in depression.  A second or subsequent pregnancy brings with it additional feelings of distress and guilt at not being able to care for older siblings. HG is not confined to the first trimester and can last for the full nine months.

As news of the royal pregnancy broke, upsetting memories of my own pregnancies came flooding back to me.  But at the same time, I felt excitement. I was excited that this little-known and often misunderstood condition, and the charity for which I am a trustee, Pregnancy Sickness Support, would get much-needed publicity as a result of the sudden media interest in the Duchess's illness.

On Monday afternoon two of my colleagues and friends found themselves on trains heading for London to appear on national television the following morning talking about HG. How amazing is that! Fellow trustee, Caitlin Dean (aka Spewing Mummy) appeared on This Morning and Amanda Shortman (from the Family Patch), who is the charity's volunteer coordinator, sat on the sofa next to Dr Hilary on Good Morning Britain. 

They both did a brilliant job of conveying what a truly awful illness HG is, dispelling some of the myths about the condition (e.g. that ginger will not help a woman who cannot keep down even the tiniest sips of water!!!) and highlighting that support is available through the charity.  Frankly, having co-written a book on HG, they both know a heck of a lot more about the condition than the medical experts they were sitting next to! They were fantastic ambassadors for the charity and for all those women who are suffering or have suffered in the past and I felt hugely proud of them.

So, it has been a very busy and exciting couple of days for the charity. OK, the media may not always get the facts right and many are (frustratingly and incorrectly) still intent on referring to it as "acute morning sickness" or even "super sickness" rather than giving it its proper name, hyperemesis gravidarum.  But at least the condition has been brought into the public eye and is being talked about. For me that can only be a good thing. We are already seeing the results as women have joined the charity's online support forum having seen the television coverage. 

But let's not forget that the reason for all the media attention is that there is a very poorly woman, probably with a drip in her arm, lying in bed with a vomit bowl by her side or her head in the toilet. A Duchess she may be but she will be suffering just like anyone else with HG. I am sure she has plenty of support and is getting the best care and treatment available but this does not change the fact that she is likely to be feeling extremely ill, thoroughly miserable and possibly even frightened at what the next 8 or so months have in store. Coupled with this, she may be overwhelmed with guilt that she is unable to look after Prince George. My heart goes out to the Duchess as it would to any sufferer and I would like to wish her well at this challenging time.  

If you are struggling to cope with HG or pregnancy sickness and would like to talk to someone, you can contact the charity in a number of ways:

Helpline: 024 7638 2020
Online forum:
You can also find the charity on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Shropshire Kids Fun Triathlon - A Great Event!

The swimming course at Dearnford Lake
On Saturday, J completed his first triathlon at the ripe old age of 7!  It's something that no-one in our family has ever done and we are immensely proud of him, not just because he wanted to do it to raise money for the RNLI Lifeboats, but also because he did it with a big smile on his face.

The triathlon was organised by UK Triathlon and took place at Dearnford Lake in Whitchurch, Shropshire.

Ready for the swim
Pre-event briefing
The event

The triathlon was very well organised from booking right through to the end of the event. Booking could be done online or by telephone and was very easy. The cost of entry was £20 which I thought was good value considering the amount of organisation involved and that a souvenir t-shirt was included. Registration at the event was also quick and easy. We were given J's t-shirt, race number, bike sticker and two wristbands, one for J and one for an adult who could enter the bike rack area to help him during transition.

The event was divided into age groups with different distances for each group.

Age 7-8: 25 metre swim, 1 km cycle, 500 metre run
Age 9-12: 50 metre swim, 2 km cycle, 1 km run
Age 13-16: 100 metre swim, 3 km cycle, 1.5 km run

The swim was in the lake and was very safe.  There was a lane rope which children could hold on to if they needed to catch their breath and divers and canoeists in the water to help the children if necessary.

The location

Dearnford Lake is a beautiful setting.  It's family-run and has a lovely cafe on site where we enjoyed yummy ice creams and cakes after the triathlon.  The cafe also serves breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas and I'm sure we will be returning to sample some of these before too long.

There is also a children's playground, walks around the lake and, for the more adventurous, wild swimming in the lake for a £5 fee.

Into transition

End of the bike lap
On the day

Following registration, we took J's bike and kit to the transition area.  We racked his bike and laid out his trainers, towel, helmet and water bottle.  As newcomers to this triathlon business, I had a bit of a nosey to see how other people had done it first! We then had time for a bite to eat which, as we were very lucky with the weather, was a picnic by the lake. Lovely!

As it got nearer to J's start time,we headed down to the lake. The children had individual start times and entered the water one at a time at regular intervals.  About 10 minutes before their start time, children were given a short briefing in small groups. The man told them the information they needed to know but also joked with them and high-fived them all. I'm sure that helped to relax the kids and dispel some of their pre-event nerves. I'm not sure it helped the nerves of all the parents standing on the side though!

I made a quick dash up to the transition area to make sure I was in position for when J appeared. I managed a quick photo of him running towards me and then it was all stations go helping him to make the quick change: swimming top off, feet dry, socks on, shoes on, t-shirt and number on, helmet on, bike unracked ... GO, GO, GO ... and he was safely off on the 1 km cycle, followed by the 500 metre run. Phew!

At the end of the cycle, marshals took the bikes and helmets and racked them so the children could go straight into the run. As J approached the finish line his name was called out over the PA system, as well as the fact that he was raising money for the RNLI.  All children received medals for completing the course and, quite rightly, there were lots of very proud parents and grandparents cheering them to the finish line!  Well done to all the budding little Brownlees who took part! They were brilliant.

Nearing the finish line
Well done - you did it!
The verdict

J thoroughly enjoyed doing the Shropshire Kids Fun Triathlon and is looking forward to doing it again!  I would highly recommend it to any child who likes swimming, cycling and running and enjoys being active. Many of the children were taking part in their first triathlon and it was a very safe and supportive environment. Thank you to UK Triathlon for a very well organised and fun event and to Dearnford Lake for such a beautiful location. We will definitely be back next year!

J has raised more than £340 so far for the RNLI.  He still has to do the second part of his fundraising challenge, the Lichfield Family Fun Run in September, so it's not too late to sponsor him.  If you would like to sponsor him please click here. Thank you.