Friday, 18 October 2013

The one where I might get naked on national TV

Some of you may know already that One Born Every Minute is being filmed in Bristol's Southmead Hospital RIGHT NOW - literally there could be a baby being born under the spotlight as I type. Until November the production team will have their rig up in Southmead's maternity ward and at the newly opened Cossham Birth Centre.

Filming in Cossham Birth Centre is a new direction for the programme which has been somewhat associated with 'on the back medicalised hospital birth pumped full of drugs'. To be fair not all the births it features are like that at all but there is definitely room to show a wider variety of births and to get out of the hospital wards.

But even bigger changes are afoot and this year OBEM will be featuring home births for the first time, yes that's right home births. Now I don't know about you but I have watched pretty much every series of OBEM and I found it particularly useful in the run up to Leelah's birth. I mean witnessing birth isn't an every day occurrence for most of us and certainly few of us are privileged enough to be present as another person's birth unfolds. Watching the series made me understand so many things about what we go through as women and as partners. It demystified so many elements of birth for me and made me confident that I could do it too, it also made me not want to give birth in a hospital, I just don't like them and to me birth wasn't about being treated, it was about what nature gifted me with, about nurture and the comfort of home. I am also lazy and the thought of rousing myself into a taxi in the middle of labour just didn't appeal.

I digress.

So after I had given birth to Leelah at home (you can read about our amazing, funny, wonderful story here on Emma's blog ) I watched OBEM with different eyes and one incredible birth experience behind me. I said to Mr B: "It's such a shame they don't have any home births on this series isn't it?" I said it like a bloody parrot every time I watched it, then one day I said: "Well I would do it, I wouldn't mind sharing our home birth on something like this".

Then I forgot about it... until a couple of months ago when a Twitter friend Retweeted me into a Tweet from the OBEM  production team saying that they were looking for people planning a home birth in Bristol between August - November 2013. Well that put us out of the running, or so I thought. As it turns out home births don't need to adhere to the strict production schedule because they don't rely on a big rig up and only involve a tripod, a camera and one camera person. Simple. So....

I knew I wanted to do it. I was fortunate enough to have had other people share their wonderful birth experiences with me and each and every one was different but equally inspiring. Hearing those stories helped me believe in my own strength and empowered me to embrace the gift that mother nature gave me. It also helped Mr B and that is just as important in my eyes. The experience of the birth partner is also hugely important to see and share. To me doing OBEM would be a way to share a natural and beautiful experience with many people, to demystify and empower other people to believe they can do it too and that there is nothing to fear. It's not for everyone and I understand that but there are people who just don't even think about a home birth or that birth doesn't have to be hard and torturous, many people have only ever had one option presented to them PAIN SUFFERING HOSPITAL. We've come to dread birth and I think that is really a shame as it isn't always that way.

Bloody hell I am rambling off again.

Just like with having a home birth the first time round it is Mr B who had the doubts, not about being at home but about having someone else there with us... and not just someone else but millions of people. How would it affect me, him, the baby, the process of birth? I know it is going to be different to our birth experience with Leelah, every birth is different but I feel ready and able to share our birth experience if it will help other people find strength and inspiration to choose the birth they want without fear and anxiety.

So we've said yes. We will do it. We've met two of the team at our house (a female producer and female camera operator) and talked it through at length. Mr B and I have talked it through. We can pull out at any time if we aren't comfortable.

Is it going to change the atmosphere of giving birth at home? Who can say how it will be, it's all just speculation after all. Last time there was a point when three young male paramedics were discussing my record collection with me as I lay stark bonkers naked on the floor laughing between contractions.

I don't mind people being there if they bring the right energy to the space.

Birth is about celebration to me, I was as high as the stars last time.

Who knows what the birth of little nugget will bring but I am ready to share her birth and our experience.

Would you be willing to share your birth experience on camera. How do you feel about programmes like One Born Every Minute? Am I wise to be flashing my all and sundry to the world?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Guest Post: The waiting game

Today I am very pleased to welcome the lovely Corinne to my little space on the blogosphere. She normally blogs over at Motherhood Journeys but she is having a battle with technical gremlins at the moment, which means her blog is out of action for now and she needs a space to let off some steam... so I was more than happy to provide a platform for her to do so. 

Corinne was a great support to me earlier this year when we had to make the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy at 15 weeks, you can read about that here. She helped me through a difficult time and reading her blog and her story gave me strength to make the decisions that were right for us regardless of what others might think. I have been both moved and inspired by her emotional strength during her current pregnancy as that too has not been easy. She is an awesome woman so without further ado over to Corinne:

My blog is playing up and I can't access it, strangely some people can access it and others can't. It's driving me nuts and all the things I'd usually blog about are backing up in my brain and I'm a bit worried about it starting to leak out of my ears... A guest post seemed to be the safest way forward, so thank you Mrs B for letting me post this on your blog.

Of course, now it comes to actually writing my mind has gone a bit blank and I wonder how much whinging I can get away with on someone else's blog? (Answer - as much as you like, Mrs B). If you don't know me or my blog, my name is Corinne (@MotherScuffer on Twitter) and I blog about my life as a Mum to 3 boys. I am currently pregnant with boy number 4 and this is my biggest whinge source at the moment, I usually love being pregnant but I'm struggling this time and would quite like to stop being pregnant soon.

So, here I am at 34 weeks and 5 days pregnant. A combination of pregnancy exhaustion, insomnia and a heart murmur means that I'm pretty much stuck at home bored out of my mind trying to entertain 2 small children who are equally fed up of being stuck indoors with a really dull mummy. I want him out. But I know he's not at term so obviously I don't want him out, but I'd like to fast forward 2 weeks and 2 days and for him to pop out. If I knew he was going to arrive at 37 weeks I'd probably be coping a little bit better, but as all of my boys have arrived 10 days past their due date I know that this little one is more likely to arrive in October instead. October feels a long way off. Oh, I know in the big scheme of things it's not that far off, but like I said, I'm whinging.

Then there's the other side of me that remembers that I'm actually going to go through labour and have a baby. This little one has a brain condition called Agenesis of the Corpus Collosum, which basically means the 2 sides of his brain aren't connected and he's likely to have developmental issues. There's also an increased risk of him not being able to breathe after birth so I'm a bit worried about that.

An amazing MRI image of Scuffer Boy Number 4 at 29 weeks

We'll need to stay in hospital for a few days after he's born so he can have checks done, I've never had to stay in before and that feels a bit strange. Gareth (my husband) is due to start a new job in a couple of weeks and we're not sure if he'll get time off when the baby arrives. I don't think he's even told them I'm expecting a baby yet! I'm trying not to think too much about childcare issues and just think we'll sort something out when it comes to it.

Then I remember that I'm going to be bringing an actual newborn baby home. I'm so excited about being able to sleep and walk and breathe that I sort of forget that I'm going to have a baby to look after. I wonder how I'll manage a 4 year old, 2 year old and a baby. Again, I know I will but if I think about it too much I get a bit overwhelemed and have to stick my fingers in my ear and sing "lalalalala" very loudly.

I think what this basically boils down to is that I have too much time on my hands while I am a bit housebound so I am over-thinking everything. This has been a stressful pregnancy with all the extra tests and things, so the main thing for me is wanting to hold my baby boy in my arms and to know that he's OK and he's safe. I'm sure I will look back on this time and forget how hard it was, forget how the time dragged as I waited for him to arrive and then I will turn to my husband and ask "shall we try for another?"

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Story of Mum: Making an Exhibition of Yourself

By now you have all realised that I am a completely useless blogger. If you can call someone who blogs once every two months (if that even) a blogger! Well things are going to change from now on because the lovely Pippa at Story of Mum has invited me to be part of Story of Mum: Making an Exhibition of Yourself so I see this as a kick up the bum to get this blog into gear and start getting the ideas and thoughts contained within my trusty notebook and unleashing them into the blogosphere.

story of mum exhibition

As part of this exhibition I have to choose an exhibit by another blogger to share with you all and then add my own piece to this inspiring celebration of motherhood.

Now it's fair to say that I got completely lost in all the great posts on the Story of Mum site. I spent several hours reading, listening, watching and crying at the stories, images and love that I found there. There are some incredibly moving videos and funny accounts of motherhood that had me in stitches but in the end there were two pieces I kept coming back to.

My first pick is from Sorayah July (great name for a start) at Totally Teen Mum. Sorayah's positive and determined words and defiant yet happy expression in her 'I'm a Mum and...' photo really caught my attention. I can't imagine how my life would have been had I become a mother as a teenager but I would like to think that if I had I would have had Sorayah's strength and emotional maturity to hold my head up high and be proud.

Here's a paragraph from her post:

"...I was proud. I am proud; I just wish that I had enjoyed motherhood properly from the start.

This is why I was so saddened by @CandiesOrg’s #NoTeenPreg campaign. They are using tactics that will make other young mothers feel ashamed of what should be the most joyful experience possible. Why should a mother not enjoy parenthood just because of her age? Young women and teenagers have been having children since man begun, why has it been made so taboo today?"

And here is her contribution to the Story of Mum exhibition

My second pick is from Ben at Mutterings of a Fool. Yes I know he isn't a mum but he is a parent and a husband. I follow Ben on Twitter and have had many conversations with him over the last few months. I am a regular reader of his blog which I thoroughly enjoy. I picked his poem because without my husband Ingo and his love and support I wouldn't be the mother I am to our daughter. Through the dark nights and crazy fog of early parenthood we held each other up, we shared the fear, the joy, the journey into the unknown. All to often the affect parenthood has on dads is underestimated  as all the focus is on the baby and then the mother... Ben's words are a beautiful tribute not just to his wife but to him as a father as well.

Mum.  Mother. Mummy.

Many names but the same meaning, a loss of identify, of personality.

But deep down it’s still there, a glimmer every so often of a life that seems so long ago.

The tidal wave of parenthood takes over, washes you out, strips you down.

But you don’t panic, you stay calm, fight the urge to scream. Mostly.

One day you decide enough, you take control, you restore the balance.

The same person, but different, that smile returns. A glint in your eye.

A reminder of where it began. This adventure we embarked on together.

My best friend, cake baker extraordinaire, owner of the best smile in the west, red wine lover, Peanut M&M addict.

Oh and greatest mum in the world. 

So now for my turn. And I am stuck, totally stuck, Despite all the inspiration on the site I am stumped. How can I put into words or images how I feel about being a mother? I want my contribution to be good, to be worthy of how much I love being a mother, worthy of the love I feel for my beautiful daughter and all she has taught me. So I have to think about it some more, because that's me nowadays, there's no point stressing out that I haven't created something just yet as it will come to me I know it will. I want to make a little video, I want to create a Muma Mash-up, yes and I want to do the others too. I am starting simple and then perhaps I will get round to doing the other things as well, from small seeds and all that.

So to end this post and begin my own Story of Mum journey I am going to share with you my contribution to the Join Our Mums' Poem because it is simple and small yet together with the contribution from other mothers it is strong and powerful. It's this feeling of shared motherhood and experience that I felt during the birth of my daughter. I imagined millennia of women around me, supporting me as I brought my daughter into the world. It was an incredibly powerful feeling and one that I carry with me everyday.

I was the kind of child that always coloured in really neatly, never going over the edges, a perfectionist. Perfectionism followed me into adulthood, sometimes to the point that it was crippling and I wouldn't start something for fear of failure. Then I became a mother and I started to accept that it is okay not to be perfect all the time, because what does perfect really mean? So here are my words and a little image by me and Leelah for the Join Our Mums' Poem...

Perfectly imperfect

I don't know how long it is going to take me to get my other exhibits up on the Story of Mum site but I will. It just might be a while. I am not perfect... but that's okay.

BritMums - Leading the Conversation

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ten Songs: A Guest Post by Lewis

Back when I started this little blog I wanted to do a little feature every two weeks called Ten Songs. It would be a mix of tunes and songs I had heard in the week that inspired me or that I had discovered or rediscovered, whatever took my fancy really. I also wanted it to be a platform for guest bloggers to share their musical gems and for us to all discover some new tunes together. 

I managed to get the first list up in the first post here but I am a slow starter with this blogging thing and it's taken me a while to get this great post from Lewis up on the blog. He very kindly wrote it ages ago and has very patiently been waiting for me to unleash it. So many thanks and over to you Lewis.

Hello there. I’m rather flattered to have been asked to write a guest post over here. Mine will be the first in a series of #10songs posts in this little portion of internet.

So, ten songs which mean something to me, with a line to explain why. Easy, right? No. Not really. I’ve been thinking about which songs I want to include for days now, and I’m no closer to feeling like I’m going to choose the right ones.

Well, I can’t procrastinate forever (well, I could, I’m actually VERY good at procrastinating) so I’m going to go for the songs which are right today, even though many of them may not make the list if I wrote it tomorrow.

The songs:

1. The Stranglers – Peaches 
You probably remember a time when car stereos only had tape decks, right? When I was growing up, my dad’s car had a bad combination: a tape deck AND a tiny glove box. Which meant listening to the same tape over and over and over again on long journeys. At least my dad had some taste. Peaches is a great tune, marred a little bit by one of the worst “oh fuck, we’ve run out of rhymes” lines ever recorded. If you know the song, you’ll know the one I mean.

2. The Specials – A Message to You, Rudy
My mum likes ska. I’m glad, because it rubbed off on me, and ska is ace. This particular song reminds me of being in the house where I grew up, singing along in the living room, with my mum. Happy childhood memories, with a fantastic trigger.

3. The Offspring – Smash 
When you’re young, but you’ve reached the age where you think you already know everything, somewhere around thirteen I guess, music suddenly becomes more than just music, doesn’t it? It becomes a way to identify yourself as part of something, or not part of something. When most people at my school were practically orgasming over whatever yawnsome dirge Oasis had just released I was quite pleased to be introduced to a bit of American punk-pop. Smash was fucking brilliant, precisely because it wasn’t being played all day on Radio 1, and because most people in my town hadn’t heard of The Offspring yet (that would come later – Pretty Fly for a White Guy anybody?) Yes, I was one of those people who only liked the bands other people didn’t know about. I’m less of a prick now, honest.

4. Nirvana – Something in the Way 
More teenage angst here. A friend from America who I knew I wouldn’t see for a decade, a skinful of White Lightning, a school playing field, and an acoustic guitar rendition of this Nirvana song.

5. Incubus – Summer Romance 
Nu (ack) Metal for people who didn’t really want to like Nu Metal, in my opinion; Incubus were my favourite band for years. A love song in the middle of a riff-filled album appealed to me enormously. But, more than anything, Incubus made me realise I loved singing. I’ll never be Brandon Boyd (pity), but I’ll always love belting out his lyrics.

6. The Mars Volta – Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt 
It could almost be any of their songs, at least from this album. Irresistible, audible, energy. Coincided with me going to university, and therefore a new period of wanting to define myself as “other”. Yep, still a twat…

7. Buck 65 – Roses and Bluejays 
Played at the best gig I’ve ever been to, an audience of about twenty in a room designed for over two hundred. Me and one of my longest standing friends. High as a kite. Brilliant.

8. Flight of the Conchords – Robots
Most “funny” songs aren’t. This one is. All of the FotC songs remind me of that nice, settled, but still largely free of responsibility, period before shit gets serious. It’s an important time to be able to remember.

9. Cat Empire – Two Shoes
The song me and my wife walked out of our wedding ceremony
to. Relentlessly optimistic and uplifting, I listen to this song every time I need to remind myself that despite all the shit things that can happen in life, I’ve got it pretty good.

10. The Moldau
A little out of place this one? Yep. When Cam was born, some friends of ours gave us a CD of lullabies. This piece of classical music is one of the tracks on the CD, which became a firm part of our bedtime routine. Also our re-settling him in the night routine. I think it’s beautiful. If I’d heard it before Cam was born I’d have liked it, but it is now completely interwoven with my early memories of my son. I get a lump in my throat whenever I hear it, because I think of the tiny, fragile version of Cam I was holding when I first heard it. This is currently a bit awkward, as it’s being used in a TV advert for Guinness, which is not a beverage which moves me to tears.

Well then. There we go. I was asked for a line about each song and I’ve accidentally written a short essay. Still, that’s what music does for you, isn’t it? It’s more than just a collection of notes, it’s a carrier of thoughts, memories and emotions. It’s who we think we are, and who we’d like to be, at the same time.

Thanks to Sharmila for inviting me over, hope I haven’t outstayed my welcome, I look forward to reading other people’s #10song lists in the future :-)

*toddles off to Spotify*

Thanks so much to Lewis for giving us a little insight into his life's musical adventures. You can follow his excellent and very funny blog here and find him on Twitter under @babberblog. He is a pretty ace chap, you'll like him. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A new addition to the family

Yes that's right. We are expecting another new addition to our family.

And I am not talking about Baby Number 2.

We are getting an au pair. WHAT??? Yes that's right an au pair. Pass the Guardian and that bowl of Quinoa salad please.

Now I don't know about you but I always imagined that people with au pairs are the kind of people that drive gas guzzling 4x4s (that never see even a speck of mud let alone cow shit, unless they are off to their second home in Cornwall), wear matching deck shoes, chinos and popped collars and are friends with David Cameron. In other words posh, rich people.

Look very carefully. We are NOT in this picture.

Well we don't own our own house or even a car and neither of us have ever worn chinos. I am certainly no friend of David Cameron, I vote Green. And we definitely aren't financially rich. That's not to say that we aren't doing okay. After years of the usual mix of crap and good jobs we have got to a place were we are comfortably off and happy with our lot.

So how did this all come about? How did we, of all people, decide that an au pair was the right thing for our family, or at least something we wanted to try.

It all started with the painful search for affordable, flexible childcare.

We currently have a lovely childminder but she's moving far far away at the end of June so we had to start the search all over again. I looked at nurseries and childminders but here in Bristol it seems that you have to sign your baby up when it's still in utero to get in to a good place!

Another important factor in our decision was my work as holistic massage therapist, which I love. I have been struggling to build my client base as I have to turn people away if they can't come on a Thursday (when L is at the childminder) or a Saturday morning (when Ingo looks after her). This isn't good for business or family life at the weekends. I decided that we had to find something more flexible so that I could accept clients on any day at any time.

My parents live and work in France running a B&B and Ingo's Mum lives in Germany so there's no quick fix there. I don't think you can babysit via Skype...

Back in March I went out for my birthday to the wonderful Bishopston Supper Club (could I sound any more middle class - might as well embrace it right?) and remembered meeting a couple who were treating their German au pair to a lovely meal and night out to say thanks before she left. I remember thinking "they don't seem like the sort of people who would have an au pair." I managed to get in touch with them as they live round the corner from us and we met up and had a long, honest chat about what it was like to have an au pair and how they went about finding one. I was reassured to see that they were a family very similar to us and that they didn't live in a mansion. There was however a 4x4 parked out the front. I didn't ask if it was theirs.

Well I was converted. We are lucky enough to live in a big house with a big spare room that our parents contribute a little to so that they can stay for a couple of weeks at a time a few times a year without us all driving each other mad. The room is empty most of the time and it make sense to use it properly as it seems a bit of a waste at the moment.

And what about having to be rich, surely it costs loads? Well here's the thing. An au pair works out far cheaper than any nursery or childminder. Most people I know pay anywhere between £45-£80 per day for a childminder or nursery place. We currently pay £55 for 8 hours of childcare on a Thursday and of course it means that I can only work on that day... it appears that not many people want a massage on a Thursday. We are offering our au pair £65 per week pocket money, board and lodgings in return for help with looking after L when we need it, babysitting occasionally and here's the best bit... help with the cleaning and sometimes cooking.

I hate cleaning so much I get my toddler to do it for me
So that's about 25 hours per week of childcare and help, giving me the flexibility I need to pursue a career I love and to finally bring to fruition some creative, work projects that have been ripening nicely in my many notebooks and sketchbooks.

It's not just about childcare. L is half German and we really wanted to bring her up bilingually (that's a whole post waiting to happen) so that she can speak to her Oma who doesn't speak any English. It's also a pretty awesome thing to be able to speak other languages and according to studies it's easier for people to learn languages if they already speak more than one from birth. The reality of that isn't as easy as you would think as Ingo only spends about 2 hours a day with her and the rest of the time she is with me babbling away in English.

L and her lovely German Oma
I couldn't speak my Granny's language and I regret it to this day
An au pair becomes part of your family, they aren't just someone you palm your baby off on to (although there are people that do this) so it is a really big step for us and if we didn't have this house I don't think we could do it. It's not for everyone as you are opening up your home and your lives to a relative stranger. We have a track record of doing this on a very small scale as we are veteran couch surfers (both hosts and surfers) so in some ways this is an extreme version with mutual benefits all round. I am really excited about it, for us it just seems to be the perfect solution.

What do you think? Could you welcome a stranger into your family. What do you think about effectively buying in a 'member of the family'? Does this mean I have to wear chinos and buy a 4x4?

Welcome to our family

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Six Weeks

I'm back!

After an absence of several weeks, er make that months, I'm returning to the blogosphere and gradually plugging back into Twitter.

When I started this blog I had high hopes that it would start with me announcing my pregnancy with our second child. It was going to be a happy start to the blog followed by a journey through pregnancy, toddlerhood, parenthood, travel and all the ups, downs, laughter and cake that would involve.

Unfortunately you know how that ended and that's where my blog has sat for weeks and weeks. Neglected and sad.

I struggled with finding motivation to sit and write anything. My notebook full of ideas teased me from my bedside table but I couldn't be bothered to write. Then the longer I left it the harder it became to restart.

In the meantime I have been enjoying life, loving watching Leelah grow up into a walking, talking toddler . I've been building up my massage business, getting regular clients and loving it. I am learning and developing all the time.

Life has been good.

And it just got better.

I'm pregnant.

It's just six weeks in, so it's early, early days and we are happy and just a bit scared.

I know there's a long way to go but after all the support we had from family, friends and Twitter it feels right to start blogging again and to have this as the first post back.

Here's hoping that this time we'll be saying hello to a new Baby Bousa next January.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Through the Keyhole: Hope Fades

It's been a long and painful two weeks since we first found out about the problems with our little bean. I have been trying to write it down for the last few days and it's hard. Hard because it's now all a blur. Hard because we are coming to terms with our loss; grieving and starting the process of moving on. However I find it cathartic to write about it and I hope that in some way writing this down will not only help me deal with what's happened but also other people who may be going through the same thing. I certainly found some solace in the writing and experience of the wonderfully supportive and caring Corinne of the fantastic blog Motherhood Journeys. There's too much for one post so what follows are three separate posts following our journey on three particularly difficult days.

Hope Fades
Wednesday 23rd January 2013

Sitting in a waiting room full of happy, expectant people. The hubbub of excited chatter and intimate whispers. Couples waiting; hand in hand, hand on belly, head on shoulder, arms intertwined. Of course some of them might be like us, waiting nervously, a nugget of fear lodged in the pit of their stomach, but if they are I can't see them, I am too preoccupied by my own fear.

My fingers drum a rhythmic pattern on the arm of my chair and my stomach clenches tightly. I glance at the clock. 

Tick tock.

That was on Wednesday. We went back to the hospital for our third scan, the one that would tell us whether our 14 week pregnancy had a future, whether the baby inside me had any chance to grow and thrive into a kicking, giggling little being on the outside.

Earlier in the day we had a telephone call from the lovely Midwife we had seen the previous week during our consultation with the Fetal Medical Consultant. She was able to give us the initial results of the CVS test. Alongside our first trimester blood and nuchal scan results they showed that there was no chromosomal abnormalities with the baby and that we were very low risk for Downs Syndrome. Of course the full results are yet to come back, it takes up to three weeks, but it is likely that they too will show no chromosomal abnormalities. So before we went in we knew that if the bladder of our baby was still enlarged then it was likely to be a structural development problem. Which in some ways made it all that much harder... we knew that decisions would have to be made. Before going into that room we were still clinging on to that tiny glimmer of hope that the bladder had drained and we would be seeing a normal healthy baby on the screen.

As I did at the last scan I ask for the screen to remain off, it would break my heart to see the baby with that huge black hole again. As I lay back on the bed the Consultant gently squeezed my leg as if to say "it's okay, I understand what you are going through, I know this is hard." It was a small but significantly caring and important gesture. It may have been only a moment of human warmth and contact from a stranger, but the tiniest things mean so much in these fraught and emotional situations.

Silence. One hand rests on my eyes to block out the room, the other is curled up in Mr B's hand. 

Another clock. Tick tock. The cold gel and the hard, smooth probe pressing into my stomach.

A gentle voice says "the bladder is massive."

The words weren't a surprise. I didn't react, I felt dumb, numb. Then we sat in the bright light of the room talking about what to do. In just 10 days the bladder had gone from 15mm to 32mm and was starting to form a keyhole shape. As yet everything else seemed to be functioning normally but the very soon the kidneys, lungs and heart would all sustain damage from the pressure of the grossly enlarged bladder and the flow back of urine into the baby. My amniotic fluid would decrease slowly but surely. The Consultant was very calmly and sympathetically took us through our options:

Just wait and see, come back for your 18-20 week scan and see what course nature takes.

Drain the bladder and come back in a few days to see whether that has solved the problem. Then follow if needed with vesicoamniotic shunt for our baby to keep the bladder from filling and to keep the amniotic fluid from reducing. 

End the pregnancy now.

Sitting here looking at those options in writing it's easy to think well let's go with the first one. There's always hope right? Maybe there is but what hope? Even if there is the tiniest hope what greater things are you sacrificing for that tiniest slither? After giving us these options the Consultant went on to explain the scan; the bladder shape and rate of increase in size - the baby had severe fetal megacystis. 

We asked a lot of questions about each option. A lot of questions. It started to become clear what he thought, but at no point did he push us to make a decision in any direction, I always felt like this was our decision and ours alone. He told us that from the scan it was probable that the urethra of the baby was blocked by a valve not developing and draining the bladder would only lead to a temporary fix. Sometimes draining works if the valve is a bit weak and it just needs a nudge to get it functioning properly, but in those cases the bladder doesn't fill up as fast as early in the pregnancy or become as huge as that in our baby. Draining the bladder would be highly invasive to both me and the baby, it also carried a risk of miscarriage and in all likelihood would need to be followed by a shunt. He said that taking into account the size of the bladder we would probably be in the same situation in a couple of weeks but with a more developed baby, a baby that would be by then showing significant signs of other problems caused by the build up of urine in the bladder; pressure on the heart, lungs and kidneys.  

We decided there and then that we had to let go of this baby. It was clear that even if it did survive, there was no chance it would be without very severe complications. I am sure there are people who will read our story and wonder why we didn't just keep going and see what happened. But the thought of having to go through this at 20 weeks plus is untenable, or to have a baby with very serious complications who probably will be born very premature and wouldn't survive past the first few weeks or be on dialysis or need a heart or kidney transplant in the first year doesn't bear thinking about. Who would we doing it for, us or the baby? 

And then there's Leelah to think of, darling beautiful Leelah who is so young and needs her mama and papa. We have a healthy and vivacious one year girl old who fills us with joy and we had to think about her as well. The last two weeks had been hard, we were exhausted from all the waiting. It all seemed so emotionless at the time, neither of us cried, we seemed calm. I remember thinking "I should be bawling my eyes out, what's wrong with me?" Looking back now I realise we were just in shock, numb not emotionless. Just lost.

The Consultant was incredibly reassuring and told us that we were just very unlucky and that they only see this purely structural problem with the urinary system two or three times a year (as opposed to issues associated with chromosomal issues such as Down's, Edward's and Patau's Syndromes). The we were back in the little room again.

Tick tock

Door opens. Laughing, smiling couple walk by clutching their scan pictures, cooing over their perfect baby. Thoughts dance unbidden through my mind. "Why us not them?"  

Forms to sign. Termination. Such a final word.

Tick tock.

This time we left wordlessly through the back door. The next day I would return to take the pill that would stop the pregnancy.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Snow in Happy Lane

After yesterday's sadness today was a better day. Why? Just because.

Oh and it snowed.

Those of us in Bristol and the surrounding area finally woke up to this cold, soft, wet white stuff falling out of the sky. I think it's called snow, at least that's what the people on the NEWS are calling it and on that programme the BBC cobbled together tonight they called it snow too, so I guess it must be true.

You always know when it's snowed, even before you open the curtains. The light filtering through the chink in the curtains is brighter. And there's hardly a sound. Just muffled faraway noises. Everything seems at peace. And then after a while you hear the children laughing. Such a wonderful sound to wake up to. Distant laughter coming from the rows of back gardens all around us. I still start with excitement and sigh with delight at the beauty of the fresh, white world outside my window after the first snow fall of the winter.

When the snow comes I love how (most) people release their inner child and just have fun. Adults throw snow balls at each other in the street. Roads and pavements become honorary members of the playground. Kitchen trays become sledges. Snow people and snow animals morph seamlessly out of the ground. Neighbours work together to make igloos in the park, which their kids then take no interest in whatsoever.

This year of course it was Leelah's first experience of snow and I think she enjoyed it. I know we've all seen plenty of snow pictures today but your child's first snow is another one of those happy moments to treasure. So to add to the glut of wintry, white photos already online, here are my highlights of today's snowy adventures.

There's a serious side to the effects of the cold weather too. Remember to check up on elderly neighbours and relatives and of course there are people who don't have a roof over their heads so spare a thought, hot drink or blanket for them. Maybe even give a bit of money or time to local charities that help homeless people. I've donated a little food and money to Bristol Soup Run Trust this year. I know it doesn't solve the root of the problems, we need to pressure government for that so that less and less people are in a situation where they need the help of such charities. Another blog post for another day I think.

For now I'm going to enjoy the snow, whether it's building a snow person or curling up on the sofa with a nice hot cuppa.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Black Hole

'You can't always get what you want. Life's a bitch, life is sweet, life is life.'

A simple quote from my husband that pretty much sums up the last few days for us. I told you that this blog would go up and down and round and round.

Two months ago we found out I was four weeks pregnant. Hoorah! That was quicker than we expected, a July baby, a younger sibling for Leelah to boss around at her mercy. But of course in those first months there also lingers a doubt, the spectre of miscarriage, of hope dashed. We'd been there a year or so before Leelah; a missed miscarriage was revealed by an emergency scan at week 11 and showed that the fetus had never reached week 8, there was no baby but my body carried on thinking there was for several weeks. As if given permission to let go I miscarried naturally that night and we grieved, we talked, we moved on. Such is life.

And so here we are. Our 12 week dating scan was on Monday just gone. Of course we hoped we'd come back from the hospital jumping with joy, clutching images of a healthy baby bouncing around in my womb. We had started to look forward to sharing that grainy black and white image with our friends, family and anyone who was polite enough to feign interest. After all we'd got to 12 weeks and I felt great, no signs of anything amiss.

And then there was the black hole. 

Our relief and joy at seeing the tiny waving being on the screen soon subsided into silent angst. Our tiny little one had a huge black abyss in its belly, too big for something as wee as this little mite. A 'grossly enlarged bladder' we were told by the very lovely Sonographer. 'We'll need to book you in to come back this week for a re-scan and some tests.' Then we got led into the little room. Every ante-natal clinic has 'a little room' and you know when they lead you in there it ain't good news.

No one told us much on Monday, they couldn't really say much until my blood tests and the nuchal scan results had come back. All we knew was that the enlarged bladder could mean one of three things; a chromosomal disorder, a structural development problem or just that the little tyke hadn't done a wee just yet and its plumbing hadn't kicked in efficiently. 

There was hope. 

We prepared for the worst but hoped for the best. That's what I do and it works for me. I am a pragmatist but I am also emotionally open. I talk, I share. I might seem flippant but I'm not, I just don't bottle things up. Ever.

And so today. I felt sick, couldn't eat. Too much work to do. Emotions all over the place. Just getting on with stuff as you do. Both of us working, working. 

Back to the hospital this afternoon. This time to see a Fetal Medicine Consultant. He was very nice, calm, sympathetic but practical. He ran through the possibilities with us and told us our risk of Downs was almost negligible but there were other chromosomal disorders that may be causing an enlarged bladder. And so to the scan. Both Mr B and I were still clinging on to a very real hope. I asked for the screen to be turned off and closed my eyes in the dim light of the room.

A gentle voice... 'I will continue the scan but I can tell you that the bladder has got larger.'


As the lights came back on I wiped off the gel and sat up slowly, a couple of tears rolled down my cheeks. That small ray of hope was fading into a dim flicker.

And then the reality and the practicalities kick in. Fast. Within minutes I was on the bed again, this time in bright light. I had a CVS test, which will reveal any genetic abnormalities. I think this was worse for Mr B as he watched the long needle penetrate my abdomen and sucking up bits of my placenta. I just felt numb, physically and emotionally - my brain finding some quiet place to process what was happening.

So it doesn't look good for this little bean inside me. It's doubtful it will make it to the scan we have booked in next Wednesday by when we'll also know the results of the CSV. If by some miracle it does make it but the bladder is still enlarged then we have some difficult decisions ahead. 

But that is for another day.

I don't know how I feel right now. All I know is that coming back home and seeing my beautiful daughter look up at me, with her cheeky, toothy grin and listening to her babble away to me in her soft cooing voice, makes my heart soar.

And for her, my husband and the good things in life I am thankful.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

About time too!

I've been threatening this for a long time. It's just what the world needs isn't it? Another blog.

It's only taken me a year of procrastination and fannying about to get this far, to put my fingers to keys and tap tappety tap some words for someone out there to read and maybe comment on. Or maybe it's just for me to whizz out the sometimes chaotic content of my grey matter so that I can empty out this old head of mine. 

A picture selected for no good reason other than I like it
So what am I going to write? Well I had this idea of being all PR and organised and launching the blog with a slick design and tabs and all that shit. In the end I just thought to myself: 'Just get on with it woman and write SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Just start the damn thing and see what happens.' So that's what I am doing right now.

So let's see then. I won't be focusing on anything in particular but it's bound to reflect my life and experiences. That means that it will be all over the place; happy, sad, funny, mundane, reflective, self indulgent, silly, visual, ranty etc. I'd like it if eventually it was useful and informative, but let's not aim too high just yet eh!?

Inevitably there'll be some stuff about being a parent, but there'll also be stuff about getting out of the house and seeing bands (fuck yeh!). Oh and I might swear, so easily offended types look away now as I won't be using ###s. 

Best of all (for those of you already in the know) I will be keeping you up to date with #NappingBrother so look out for further instalments.

For now I will leave you with this list of 10 great songs that I love. #10 Songs will definitely be a regular blog post and I'd love you to share yours with me too. 

Spotify them, You Tube them or find them however you wish. Listen and enjoy:
Sergio Mendes - Cristal Illusions
MGMT – Time To Pretend
Ween – Japanese Cowboy & Buenos Tardes Amigos
Lou Reed – Satellite Of Love
Beach Boys – God Only Knows
Aaron Neville – Hercules
Ryan Adams – New York

The Primitives - Through the Flowers
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Bell Bottom
De La Soul - Ring, Ring, Ring