Tuesday, 8 April 2014

I had a little weep the other day …

I was playing with my little girl the other day and we were having lots of fun. She was giggling and messing about with my hair, I was giving her lots of cuddles and kisses and the sun was shining.  She is at such a lovely age.  She is chatty and can sometimes be quite gown-up in her conversations (think 3 going on 33!), she is giggly with a funny sense of humour and we have lovely pretend play moments usually involving her making me cups of coffee and cake and playing at "Costa" (I have absolutely no idea where she gets that from).

It suddenly occurred to me that when my son was the same age this was when I started to be ill with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) in the very early stages of my pregnancy.  From that point onwards, until about 6 months into my pregnancy, I was so ill that I was unable to look after myself, let alone my son, and I had to rely on huge amounts of support from family and friends.

The reason I cried? Because I realised that this was the period in my son’s life that I missed out on and during which I was not there for him as a mum should be.  It was a very tough time and one during which I felt immense guilt at not being able to look after my son. 

I remember one particularly low moment for both of us.  My mum was bathing my son and he was crying and shouting “mummy, mummy”.  I was lying in bed, listening helplessly to his distress, too ill and weak to get out of bed to go to him.  He was only a few feet away and yet I was unable to help him and comfort him. When my mum brought him to the bedroom after his bath, he lay on the bed with me, we hugged each other and I cried and cried.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing and I now know many things that I didn’t know then.

I now know that children are very resilient, more resilient than we often give them credit for.  They have an amazing capacity to bounce back from difficult times quicker and stronger than we imagine.

I now know that my “absence” as a mother didn’t have as profound an effect on my son as it did on me.  I have had the occasional flashback to the trauma of HG (when something has triggered a memory as it did the other day), but I don’t believe my son remembers much (if anything) about that time, apart from the little anecdotes we have told him since, such as how he would rub my back when I was vomiting and how he once pleaded with me not to “sick the baby up”.

I now know that my son benefited enormously from spending more time with other family members, such as my parents and my husband, than he would have done had I not been ill.  My husband did pretty much everything for our son while I was ill and my own mum was amazing, travelling from Lancashire on numerous occasions to care for me and her grandson.  As a result they have formed close bonds that will last a lifetime. 

I now know that, even though my pregnancy seemed like an eternity to me at the time, my period of illness was relatively short in the context of my son’s life.  He is already seven and hasn’t suffered any adverse effects from the whole experience.  I have years ahead of me to give both my children the time, love and attention that I so desperately wanted to give to my son then but simply couldn’t.

Of course, there is also one huge positive to come out of the whole experience and that is that my son now has a gorgeous little sister and the bond between them is something very special indeed. Yes, they squabble, but they also join in each other’s imaginary games; hold hands across the back seat of the car; plan where they will live together when they are grown-up and no longer live with mummy and daddy; make dens together under the dining room table; cuddle up under a blanket when they are watching television; wash (and splash!) each other in the bath and climb into each other’s beds in the morning before we get up.  Only last week, my daughter came home from nursery clutching a picture of “Harry Potter” that she had painted for her Harry Potter-obsessed big brother.  The look on his face, a mixture of pride and elation that she had done that for him, was an absolute picture.

None of these special moments would have been possible if I had not gone through those few, dark months of HG. So, yes, I missed out on a period of my son’s life and he missed out on time with his mummy but, looking back, it was a relatively short period in the whole scheme of things.  In contrast, we as a family have gained so much in the long run and I have so much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Charity Chick on the run - at least I look the part

A few weeks ago I wrote about finding a suitable goal to aim for following my knee surgery. (You can read about it here.) Thank you to everyone who came up with some great suggestions. I have chosen one which I think is achievable but challenging for me and will also raise money for a great cause - Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life.  

Race for Life

Date: 8 June
Venue: Sutton Park
Distance: 5K

OK, I am the first to admit that 5k doesn't sound very far - and it sounds even less when you convert it to miles!  But considering I wasn’t even allowed to run until a few weeks ago, and before that I hadn’t done any proper exercise in a very long time because of increasing problems with my unstable knee, believe me, this is a challenge for me. And what's more, I am pledging to run the entire way - no walking will be allowed!

Since January I have been going to the gym regularly, as well as doing short runs, as part of the rehab for my knee.  Things are definitely getting easier but I still have a way to go. My first few runs were done after dark so I wouldn't be spotted by anyone I know.  I am now feeling braver and am actually running in broad daylight. I have even purchased a pink hi-viz top (which frequently matches the colour of my cheeks) so there's no chance of anyone missing me now!  

The pink top was just the beginning though and since starting my new gym and running regime, I must have spent a small fortune on new kit - trainers (my old ones had holes in them), tops, leggings, and not one but three (!) undergarments essential for the female runner.  The old kit lurking, unloved and neglected, at the bottom of a drawer was rather tatty and, I am sorry to say, on the small side.  It had to go. At least now I look the part if nothing else and maybe the financial investment will act as an added incentive to keep at it!

Thank you to my good friend Julia for agreeing to take part with me. She has demonstrated her commitment already by purchasing new kit and embarking on the NHS Couch to 5K . So we are both good to go.  The countdown to the big event starts now!

And who knows where it will lead? Maybe this time next year I will be running 10k, a marathon or even taking part in a triathlon! Hmmm ... then again, maybe not!

If anyone else would like to join us on 8th June in Sutton Park, you would be more than welcome.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The challenge continues - what's the latest?

My Nine Months Of … campaign to raise awareness and money for Pregnancy Sickness Support continues apace.  Here’s a quick update on what I have been up to lately.

Raising money

I have now received my fee for lecturing midwifery students at Birmingham City University which I have donated to Pregnancy Sickness Support. Thanks to this, my Pamper Evening and generous donations from friends and family, my fundraising total so far is £248.

This is well over my original target but I would love to make it even more. So please do take a look at my fundraising page and consider making a donation.  Every little counts so any donation, no matter how big or small, would be very much appreciated.

Raising awareness

In the last few days I have spoken to one of the lovely midwives who looked after me when I was pregnant. She contacted me a few months ago, having seen an article in the local newspaper about my volunteering for Pregnancy Sickness Support, and asked for information leaflets about the charity to pass on to ladies struggling with pregnancy sickness.  She was very keen on my request to go and speak to all the North Birmingham community midwives and she is going to let me know when their next team meeting is so that I can join them. Result!

Mums In The Know Sutton Coldfield, who kindly welcomed me to one of their Play Dates, have also agreed to feature information on Pregnancy Sickness Support in the charity section of their website.  They would also like me to be one of their “Mums in the Spotlight” talking about my role as a mum, a solicitor and, of course, a volunteer for the Pregnancy Sickness Support. Double result!

Finally, my Nine Months Of … challenge and this blog were featured in this month's departmental update at the law firm where I work.

So with just two months left until the official end of the Nine Months Of… campaign, there are still plenty of things keeping me busy but I am still on the lookout for other opportunities and events to attend.  Please let me know if you are aware of any. Thank you.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Student midwives' lecture - delivered at last

On Friday 7 February 2014 I gave my long-anticipated lecture on hyperemesis gravidarum to sixty student midwives at Birmingham City University.  As a solicitor, I might not seem like the obvious choice to lecture on a midwifery course!  But I suffered from the condition during both my pregnancies and I am now a volunteer for the charity, Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS), so I am probably more qualified than most.

My remit for the session was to share my own experiences in order to help the students understand the impact that hyperemesis has on the sufferer and her family and to discuss how midwives can best help anyone suffering from hyperemesis .

Since having my two children, I have a huge amount of admiration for midwives and the important role that they play in bringing new life into the world.  I imagine that many regard it as a privilege to be involved in one of the most precious moments that a family can experience.  However, sadly, they will also encounter loss and grief and they will need to show strength and compassion to support families through dark and tragic times. I believe it takes a very special person to take on this role.

It was not surprising then that the group I lectured were a really lovely bunch of ladies.  I had no problems engaging them in discussion of the case studies I had prepared and they were very willing to share any experience they already had of hyperemesis 

During the session I spent time discussing the significant differences between hyperemesis and the "normal" pregnancy sickness that many people will be familiar with. My intention was to give an honest and personal account of what I went through and to highlight the support and resources available from Pregnancy Sickness Support.

I ended the session with five key messages for the students to remember:
  • Hyperemesis is not morning sickness. It is not a normal part of pregnancy but a serious complication which is both mentally and physically debilitating.
  • Hyperemesis requires proper treatment and support otherwise there are risks to mum and baby.
  • Safe and effective medication is available.
  • A midwife’s role is to believe, listen to and support the woman and to ensure she gets the medical treatment and support she needs. 
  • Support, information and resources are available from Pregnancy Sickness Support.
From my own perspective, I felt the lecture went very well. That said, I was not expecting the round of applause I got at the end of the session!

I would like to thank Rachel and all of the students for giving me the opportunity to come and speak to the group. It was a real pleasure and I would be delighted to come again next year if the University will have me.  

If you have enjoyed reading my blog please sponsor me for the Nine Months of ... campaign here. You can find out more about the Nine Months of ... campaign here.  Thank you.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Student midwives' lecture - two days to go

It doesn’t seem very long since I was writing about my excitement and trepidation at being invited to speak to student midwives at Birmingham City University about hyperemesis gravidarum.  You can read my previous blog post here.  At the time, February seemed such a long time off but, as is so often the way, time has flown by and here I am just a few days away from the lecture.

I thought I would get the students thinking early on in the session with some multiple choice questions about HG. Why don’t you have a go at the questions yourself and see how well you do? You might be surprised at some of the answers! Answers are at the bottom of the post.

1. Which of the following symptoms are associated with HG?

          (a) Excess saliva
          (b) Aversion to noise
          (c) Sensitivity to smells
          (d) Severe fatigue
          (e) Dehydration
2. Which of the following are likely to help a woman suffering from HG?

          (a) Ginger biscuits
          (b) Acupressure bands

          (c) Eating little and often

          (d) Rest

          (e) Thinking positively

3. At what point will most HG sufferers’ symptoms start to improve? 
          (a) 12 weeks
          (b) 16 weeks
          (c) 20+ weeks
4. What percentage of HG sufferers continue to experience at least some symptoms of HG for 9 months?
         (a) 5%
         (b) 30%
         (c) 60%
5. A woman is more likely to get HG in a subsequent pregnancy if she has had it before. True or False?

6. A woman is more likely to get HG if her mother or sister had it. True or False?

7. What percentage of women require time off work because of pregnancy sickness or HG?
         (a) 30%
         (b) 40%
         (c) 50%
Answers: 1. All 2. (d) 3. (c) 4. (c) 5. True 6. True 7. (a)

If you have enjoyed reading this please sponsor me for the Nine Months of ... campaign here.  You can find out more about the Nine Months of ... campaign here.  Thank you.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Charity pamper evening in pictures

Head and shoulder massage, mini-facial, hand and arm massage, mini-manicure and express hair styling ... these were just some of the fabulous treatments on offer at last night’s Charity Pamper Evening at Shear Success Salon and Spa in aid of Pregnancy Sickness Support and their Nine Months of ... campaign to raise awareness and funds for the charity.

I had a relaxing head and shoulder massage and express hair styling (after which I felt very glam) followed by a lovely hand and arm massage whilst lying on a heated bed with dimmed lighting and soothing music ... bliss!  

Although I had arrived feeling a little frazzled after rushing home from work, doing the school run, the nursery run, making the tea and getting ready in 5 minutes flat, I was soon feeling chilled out with all the other guests.

We were treated to bubbly and canap├ęs and the salon kindly donated a wonderful raffle prize of a mini-facial or mini-massage plus a blow dry.

It was a perfect evening with great company and we raised £136 for Pregnancy Sickness Support.  Thank you to everyone who came and helped to make the event a huge success. Thank you also to Angela and all the staff at Shear Success who were amazing.  They did everything which meant it was very easy for me to organise the event.  All I had to do was sell tickets ... and then enjoy the evening.

I have only one question – when’s the next one?

If you have enjoyed reading this please sponsor me for the Nine Months of ... campaign here.  You can find out more about the Nine Months of ... campaign here.  Thank you.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

What do I have in common with Theo Walcott?

Not a great deal, I imagine. But there is one thing. As I watched the news last week, when the BBC newsreader reported that Walcott had suffered “the injury that all footballers dread” I knew, I just knew. I turned to my husband and said “ACL”.  Bingo, I was right! He had suffered the same injury I suffered - a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament - and has just had the same knee op that I had twelve weeks ago.

It must be a pretty common injury even among mere mortals who do not command seven figure salaries for kicking a round thing around a field.  There are at least four parents’ of children in my son’s class who have had the same injury … and as far as I know none of us are footballers.

But what has this got to do with charity?  Hang in there, I am getting to the point.  According to the news Walcott is likely to be out of the game for six months.  I can certainly vouch for the fact that it is a long recovery process.  Three months into my recovery, I have only just been allowed to do my first jog since the op. It was only round the corner but it was indeed a jog, not limp or a hobble or even a fast walk but a proper jog!  This was a small step but a significant one for me.

This brings me to goals (excuse the pun). Walcott has major incentives to get his knee back into shape as quickly as possible after surgery – his career, playing for his country, not to mention that seven figure salary!

But what about me? In recent years I have become less and less active as the effects of my injury increased and the stability of my knee deteriorated.  Of course, I want to be able to do sport, get fitter and maybe even lose a bit of weight but my main incentive and motivation is this: as my children grow up I don't want to be afraid to play tennis with them, kick a ball around in the park or even just kneel on the floor to play for fear that my right knee might “clunk out of place” and have to be then clunked back into place.  This is why I got it fixed.

I have been very conscientious with my physiotherapy but I am beginning to feel that I need a concrete goal to aim for.  So, I am thinking that it would be good to do some kind of run, cycle, swim (not all three, of course, as that would be madness!) and that as an added motivation I could do this for charity.

But what? And when? I have no idea what would be an achievable goal or an appropriate timescale to aim for. Clearly, I will not be doing an Ironman Triathlon or the Marathon des Sables any time soon but there must be something more realistic I could aim for.  Bearing in mind that I am currently not allowed to jog for more than about 10 minutes at a time, as well as the shamefully low fitness level I am starting from, I expect that I will need a long time to prepare!

So, I am now on the lookout for opportunities towards the end of this year (or even next year) and any suggestions would be appreciated.  Answers on a postcard please ... or via more 21st Century means of communication if you prefer!