ISIS MAE ON YOUTUBE {THE ORDINARY MOMENTS 16 #1}

Isis Mae on YouTube {The Ordinary Moments 16 #1}

Hello, welcome to the first ‘Ordinary Moments’ post of 2016.  I felt I was doing really well at keeping up with these on my old blog but here at ‘I’m Every Mum’ I’ve been so inconsistent the latter part of the year.  So much going on, well, here’s to 2016 and beginning again.  I’m excited to work on my blog and YouTube channel this year as now I’m not working, I just have this, the children and university to focus on.  Yes, that sounds like a lot, but when you’re no longer working four nights a week (they fired me because of my anxiety), it’s much more manageable.

Our beautiful Isis Mae got lots of lovely things for Christmas but one of the main things from us was my old laptop and DSLR.  They were sat around not being used, and I figured that seeing as she kept asking about blogging, but I was struggling to find the time to sort out my own blog, nevermind have time to sit around waiting to blog whilst she was typing things up, this seemed like the best thing to do.  It’s been so lovely being able to just sit down together and work.  Once our office is sorted it’s going to be even easier and more relaxing.

I don’t want this to become any kind of chore for her, I have said that she can sit with me, one night or two at the weekend for a couple of hours when the babies have gone to bed and she can blog or plan for her YouTube channel, or whatever she wants to do.   She often spends this time sat by my side watching me blog anyway, so now, she can work on her own.

She is a mini me, a little imitator, and it’s lovely that the things I’m interested in, she shows real passion for too.  I always love when we find these little connections as obviously I didn’t give birth to Isis and I only met her when she was 5.  Sometimes, I look at her and find it so uncanny how similar we are, when she isn’t biologically mine.  When I think about what God gave me when He brought James into my life, I strongly believe that I was supposed to be these little girls Mum too.  Of course they have a Mum, but on the days that they’re with their Dad things could’ve been so different if James hadn’t chosen to be with me.  Those little girls are definitely supposed to be a part of my life.  The day Judah was born was beautiful in so many ways but also in the sense that, it dawned on me that these little girls and I had a blood connection.  Not that it’s all about blood, but it hit me that God forbid anything should happen to tear James and I apart, sickness, death, an unforgiveable situation (you know what I mean ladies, it’s not that we expect these things but our over active minds think about this kind of stuff once in a while, especially when we’re pregnant), these beautiful little girls still would feel connected to me.  I was now the Mother of their brother and they would always be welcome to come and hang out in my home, whatever ‘home’ would look like.

My mini me wanted to have a blog and I wanted her to have her own YouTube channel, as I love the videos she films for my channel, but we obviously are two different personalities, and as much as we’ll still be a part of each other’s channels, she deserves the chance to build up her channel herself.  She has a HUGE personality that will only continue to unfold on camera as she becomes less shy (on camera, she is certainly not shy in real life), her and Shayla-Rae love to do silly challenges, so she will be doing more of that too.  I also have hardly any subscribers.  Isis may end up connecting with other children that watch YouTube and build her channel to way beyond what I could imagine.

Blogging, vlogging, YouTube, Reviews, I see these things as amazing skills that will only help her in later life whichever course she chooses to follow.  They increase her confidence, organisation, technical skills (she watches me edit and we’ve been working on photography since she received the camera at Christmas).  I imagine that she will interview so well when she’s older and applying for jobs.  She also wants to use her channel as a platform for singing the songs she writes.  This is something I’m privileged to make a reality as I have access to the University recording studios as part of my course.  So we will just go in whatever creative direction she would like to.

Also, if she decides she doesn’t want to do it anymore, then she can do that too.  There is no pressure at all, this is her space, her creative outlet and I’m looking forward to seeing all that she does in and through it this year.  We were watching lots of ‘What I Got For Christmas’ videos on YouTube the other day, so Isis decided to film her first video for her new channel based on this too.  It’s very cute.  If YouTube is your thing or you have children you think would enjoy watching her, please show her some love and subscribe.

Thanks guys.

I’m excited for 2016 and all that will happen for us, and all of you.  Thank you for coming on this journey with us. xxx

I’ll leave you with the beautiful Isis Mae and what she got for Christmas :

Thank you Katie for hosting again ‘The Ordinary Moments‘ we look forward to joining in this year

New Years Eve with Children

noise makers, New Years Eve with children, I'm Every Mum, parent blogger, mummy blogger

New Years Eve with Children

I was going to share this post after the fact with the photos of our evening but I figured that this may be helpful for someone else so it’s better to post today.  It is the first year that we have had the girls with us for New Years Eve in the 5 years that I’ve been with James.  It just hasn’t fallen on our days, although we’ve seen them on New Years Day to celebrate the New Year together.  For the next few years it will fall over the weekend so we will be able to start a new tradition that then the babies should be old enough to carry out on the sad years that we don’t have them with us.  So as we’ve never done this before and my past was spent as an entertainer pre James, so I was always working New Years Eve, I am really excited to have this time to celebrate New Years Eve with the children.

Obviously I did what every modern Mum does who is pretty clueless what to do with four children for that amount of time, I took to Pinterest.  I found so many great ideas, and it’s going to be a lot of prep work for me tomorrow in the day, but we have no plans other than going to visit the Stick Man trail at some point, so I decided I wanted to go for it and make New Years Eve really special for us as our first one as a family.  I won’t be pressuring myself though and if we don’t manage to get all of the prep work done then we don’t, it won’t stop us enjoying our evening and having a really good time.

I saw the Time Activities on a few different posts and decided this was a great idea.  We don’t have to be rigid and not all of the time will be scheduled as some won’t take the whole half hour to do, but it looks like a great way to pass the time and the children will be excited to see what is happening next.

Isis is reading this over my shoulder as I type so I don’t want to give it all completely away, so I will write the list of our activities but not necessarily the correct time that we will be doing them at.  Some need time to dry though so you can imagine those will be earlier in the evening.

6:30pm – Making Noise Makers ready for Midnight

There are so many different ways to do this on Pinterest.  They can be really beautiful and intricate or really simple.  I will see what I find at Hobbycraft later to determine which we make but here are a couple of examples:

noise makers, New Years Eve with children, I'm Every Mum, parent blogger, mummy blogger
Photo credit : BuzzFeed

7:00pm – Make party hats

This is obviously pretty self-explanatory, we’ll be able to wear them throughout the evening or just for the photo booth, or pictures at midnight.  Whatever they want to do but they can have decorated their own with glitter or drawings.  Freedom reigns in this activity.  I’m sure we’ll have a wide variety of colours and designs between the six of us.

7:30pm – Dance Challenge

I’m not sure if we’ll set up the Wii and use a Just Dance game or if we’ll just whack on YouTube and have a good boogie to our favourite tunes from 2015.  Probably the latter but I will give them the choice.

8:00pm – The Family Awards

We will start our first annual family awards.  We don’t share our surname on the blog but that will be the name of the awards.

They will be things like –

Best Performance of 2015 i.e. Isis singing on the Rock FM stage

Funniest Moment of 2015 i.e. Daddy falling into the Christmas Tree

I will have held a vote with the children earlier in the day (I’ll probably give them multiple choice to make it easier while they are younger).

8:30pm – Scavenger Hunt

I am going to print out 12 big pictures, one taken each month throughout 2015, they have to search around the house to find these 12 pictures and then match them to the corresponding month they were taken.  This will end up being a big laid out on the floor working together to figure it out challenge, so this should be fun.

9:00pm – Decorate Cupcakes with Sprinkles

I will have baked some cupcakes during the day (probably with the children’s help) then we will ice them and decorate them together.  I may even get sparkler candles for the top, depending on whether Daddy thinks we can keep them safe enough, maybe these will just be for the older two girls.  I’ll be shocked if the babies make it to midnight.

9:30pm – Photo Booth

There will be lots of random props in this bag, glasses, hats, and we will pose in front of the wall that James and I will have set up earlier in the afternoon.  I’m going to set up the tripod and have it on multiple pictures so we can do lots of silly poses at once.  This is going to be lots of fun and I look forward to the results.

10:00pm – Write for the Time Capsule

We’re going to have decorated a time capsule earlier in the day.  Again there are lots of different versions that can be done, bottles, boxes.  There are printable forms that the children can fill in available online.  This looks a fun thing to open up each year and see the difference in the children’s answers, and also ours.

10:30pm – Sing Off

This will go down well in our home as they’re always putting on shows etc.  So we’ll have a mini Our Family’s Got Talent competition.  This will be a fun way to spend a half hour for sure.  They all love performing.

11:00pm – Video Time Capsule

We will record our answers for our YouTube channel this will be fun to watch back on New Years Day each year and see the change in their answers.  This will be especially cute as we’re able to capture the littlest ones, the way they talk and the way they say things incorrectly at this stage.  When we’ve been doing this for 5 years I will edit them together to show how they’ve grown and it will just be precious.

11:30pm – Wishing Tree

I am really looking forward to this one.  It will definitely be the best until last.  We will each write something we wish for ourselves for 2016 and something that we wish for someone else for the coming year.  To remind us that it’s not all about us and to hope for the best for others too.  There are some really beautiful ones on Pinterest.  We are going to be making the exact one below, I’ll have decorated the stars with them earlier in the day so they’ve had chance to dry and I can have threaded the string through ready to write on them and hang.

At MidnightWe will be popping confetti balloons, having a big balloon drop from the ceiling if James and I have managed to get the sheet to stay up there earlier in the day.  We’ll be shaking our noise makers, and praying for all those we love and that our wishes for them will come true.  I’m so excited to ring in the New Year with our poppets, we will all then be exhausted and heading to bed for a lie in New Years Day and then a family meal at my Mum’s house in the afternoon.

There are lots of other ideas that we will have prepared already that aren’t included in this post.  Also, lots of party food will have been consumed.  If you’d like some ideas, check out my Pinterest board :

Follow I’m Every Mum’s board New Years Eve with children on Pinterest.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and every happiness for 2016.

WHEN TIME OUT’S STOP WORKING

When Time Out’s Stop Working

We have a crazily clingy three year old.  I don’t know exactly when the transition happened.  I know it had something to do with when I started working even though my shifts were at night and he was asleep when I was out of the house.  He also started pre-school in September for the first time, but he LOVES it.  He absolutely LOVES it.  When he first started going he NEVER wanted to come home.  I was the Mum at the end of the day who’s child wasn’t bothered to see her arrive, would run off because he didn’t want to leave, and although it upset me a little I was really pleased that he loved it there.

Whether it’s the combined people in his life now instead of just his Dad and my rules, he seems to have become wild and uncontrollable.  It’s impossible to get his attention sometimes unless you raise your voice, but if he thinks for one moment that you’re shouting at him (I’ve never been a shouter) then he is heartbroken and sobs until you apologise for shouting and give him lots of cuddles.

Yesterday morning he came down from playing in his room with Eden screaming at her, full on screaming, it was difficult to decipher what he was saying at first but then I figured it out. ‘I want Eden to play with me’.  Eden had run in seconds prior to cuddle me, for what seemed like safety, she was obviously not wanting to play with the screaming child as that didn’t seem like a fun idea to her.  Who can blame her?

We don’t do them often anymore as we don’t really seem to have much need but I put Judah on time out to calm down, so he sat on the bottom step of the stairs, I could still see him, and I explained that once he calmed down he could come and have a cuddle.

This was a disaster.  It resulted in an hour of ‘Mummy’, ‘Mummy’, ‘Mummy’, ‘Mummy,’ ‘I’ve calmed down’, he was pretty much shouting this though.  I said no baby, that’s not calm, you just need to be able to be quiet a moment.  I had long given up on the ideas of a three minutes time out, I just would settle for a few seconds silence.  I’m surprised he had time to breathe.  He was incessant.  After a few minutes Daddy tried to speak to him about calming down, well then it just became ‘Daddy’, ‘Daddy’, ‘Daddy’, ‘Daddy’, I was determined that seeing as he wasn’t listening we couldn’t give in.  Maybe we need a new approach in future and a lovely lady on twitter was giving me some tips and ideas, but I was not going to give in this time, he had to just be silent, even for a second and we would welcome him back with open arms.

I have to explain at this time, at no point was he hysterical.  He was not particularly unhappy, he just refused to acknowledge the concept of being quiet a minute.  To be honest, as I think about it now, it reminds me of his Dad when we row.  He doesn’t know when to leave things and always thinks he can talk his way out of any situation when sometimes all I want is a little bit of space.  This is what Judah was doing, he was trying to barter his way off the step rather than listening to the brief of a few seconds silence resulted in him coming back for cuddles anyway.

It completely wore me down, I was literally holding my fingers in my ears, I could feel the anxiety in me rising (I’ve been struggling with anxiety recently if you’re not a regular reader of this blog).  I knew we had to see it through.   Sometimes I just have to go with my gut, I wasn’t deliberately being stubborn to prove a point, it just felt like he had to understand, and I wasn’t helping him if I gave in.

I’ll be honest, I felt like he was breaking me, obviously this isn’t his fault, he’s just a child, but I just thought this is too hard with my anxiety issues.  I was almost wishing deafness upon myself.  I wanted to start drinking.  I needed distracting.  James had gone off to clean out the fridge, he decided it was a nicer alternative than listening to Judah’s relentless noise.  Yep, it was really that bad.

Anyway, after about an hour, he was silent for about 10 seconds to be honest and I called him back in, he wasn’t upset in any way.  You’d think after going on and on and on (and on) for an hour, he’d be hysterical, but he was cool as a cucumber.  I just feel like this approach is no longer going to work for him.  Obviously, I don’t want him to be upset, he just has a lot longer capacity for being relentless and providing incessant noise than I have the ability to withstand it.

Any suggestions are massively appreciated.  I’ve had a few, I’m not sure which approach will work best.  Maybe, we’ll need to try a few, maybe we should suck it up and carry on with time outs.  Any thoughts?  Comments?  They’re hugely appreciated and the sooner we find an approach we can be consistent with the better.

Thanks for listening to my ramble.

 

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BREAKFAST TREAT & TODDLERS BUYING GIFTS | ADVENT #2

Breakfast Treat & Toddlers Buying Gifts | Advent #2

December 2nd we awoke and I was so pleased I’d managed to get out of the house the day before I figured to keep the ball rolling we would go out for breakfast together.  I needed to go and have some bloods taken, (I’m being tested for a few things at the moment) so we set off to the GP and then after that we kidnapped Daddy to join us at Frankie & Benny’s.

My Mum telephoned me around this time, my Grandad had fractured his back and was in hospital so I wanted to go and visit him, so as soon as had finished breakfast that was where we were heading.  After being at our child friendly local Italian the night before it was difficult to keep the toddlers at the table, they just figure it’s a free for all wherever we go now.  We seem to be at a stage where we’ve lost control of them.  To be honest, I don’t mind leaving them to play happily and get up to their own devices so long as they’re safe and not doing anything they really shouldn’t.  Running around the restaurant obviously falls into something they shouldn’t be doing, so we had to use some iPhone bribery, and balloons etc to keep them at the table whilst the breakfast was cooking.

We love going to Frankie & Benny’s for breakfast, it’s becoming a little tradition of ours if we want to have a nice breakfast together.  The portions are great, the prices are great.  The children always love the food, the staff are very friendly and it’s not too expensive if we go as a six.  Judah and Eden usually share an adult breakfast between them.  James always opts for the pancakes, Shayla loves a good cooked breakfast, Isis has started copying me and our favourite is always the Eggs Benedict.  Hmm… scrummy!

Heading to my Mum’s the babies were in a good mood, albeit sometimes fighting over the balloon that had survived in the car.  We waited for my Dad to come home from work and all headed to see my Grandad.  We took it in turns watching the babies in a cafe area while we went to the observation area my Grandad was being assessed in.  I took him a balloon, which my husband thought was silly but he really loved it as he had to stay on his back, with nothing but a ceiling to stare at.  This broke my heart to be honest so I stayed with him a couple of hours until he fell asleep, so he had company and James took the toddlers off for a McDonalds treat.  Oops, two treats in one day, anyone would think it was Christmas.

On the way home we took the babies to see the Christmas lights in Lytham (round the corner from my Mum) and then to buy a gift for each other in Mothercare.  Eden was great at choosing for Judah.  We all know that he loves dinosaurs.  Judah was finding it more difficult, either finding something he would want, or the most expensive thing in the place, something we already had (we have ride-ons coming out of our ears), or Eden kept changing her mind what she liked.  In the end, we still ended up with a blow up rabbit that she can sit on, but they were happy.

Another book advent later and they were off to sleep.  It is strange having these advent moments without the girls, but we will take them to shop for each other soon, and definitely another visit to look at Christmas lights or two will be happening when they’re with us.

Hope your advent is going well so far.  We’re really enjoying ours and I’m loving documenting it over on our You Tube channel with Vlogmas.

Here’s the day in video form, my favourite bits are Judah dancing outside Frankie & Benny’s and the children running around in Lytham enjoying the lights.

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CHRISTMAS TREE HUNTING | ADVENT #1

vlogmas-day-1-preferred

Christmas Tree Hunting | Advent #1

I have been crazy busy with filming and editing and yes, finally taking my children out, (wuhoo!) that I have been behind with my daily blogging.  However, we have been daily vlogging over on our YouTube channel for Vlogmas.  It’s hard work doing it daily, not so much the filming but the edit.  We’ll see how we go.  After I’ve written this post I’m about to edit day 3, so we’ll see how I get on.  These posts will follow along with the vlogs as we savour our memories this year.  December 1st we went Christmas tree hunting and it always makes the children so happy.  It’s one of my favourite times of the whole year.

I hope everyone else has been enjoying advent so far.  This time of year can be so difficult for people.  I’m aware that as difficult as I’ve been finding my daily dilemmas they are absolutely nothing compared to what is going on in the world.  So I choose to be grateful for all that I do have despite not being at my best.  I don’t want to be political in my posts really, but I’m very sad with the way things are going at the moment.  It is going to be a horrendous Christmas for some countries across our planet.  I know this is nothing new too, but like many others I am becoming increasingly aware as I look at the world around me, as a mother, bringing new life into this chaos.  I just hope to give them the nicest life I can, and the most precious memories that I can, while I can.  We are so fortunate to live where we do.

Our wooden advent box hadn’t arrived in time for the 1st as the post has been a nightmare.  I could see that she’d sent it recorded delivery guaranteed next day, but it didn’t arrive, so oh well, I just chose one of the tasks for the babies, and it was to go and choose a tree.  I wanted to wait for the girls to do this, but I looked at my list and I just couldn’t choose any of the activities that I could bare them to not be involved in.  I decided we’re just going to have to go ahead with our daily tasks, knowing that they would deliver it for Thursday when the girls were with us and we could all decorate it together then.  It’s hard being a blended family at this time of year, but the girls get to have twice the joy, so that makes me happy for them, even though we don’t get to have all of the memories with them.

We went to one of my favourite little Christmas Tree farms.  The little place they sell them from is only open seasonally of course but they always have such lovely trees to choose from.  The children were mesmerised.  Judah wanted a little small one that he was bigger than so that he could have it in his room.  I don’t think that’s happening, but he seemed really thrilled with the idea of being taller than the tree.  He did agree with us on the tall bushy one that we chose in the end though, so that was a bonus.  He’s at that age now where he is REALLY opinionated.  He has a take on everything and lets me know about it.  It’s difficult to work with but at the same time, I like him being a part of the decision making process.

After we’d chosen our tree to be delivered Thursday evening we went to have food with friends at a little Italian restaurant near to us.  I will write them a review separately as I’m always so impressed when we go there.  They are just so incredibly child friendly.  You couldn’t ask any more of them really, considering they’re a restaurant.  The food is great, the atmosphere is relaxed, the children can go and play in a corner with some toys that they provide.  Children eat free before 6:30pm (with an accompanying paying adult) and for only £3 after that, or on Fridays and Saturdays.  The price is fair for the adult food too, and they also deliver, their take out menu is even cheaper.  We’ve never used them for take out yet, but I guess that’s because the atmosphere is so great for children, it’s nice to get out every so often.  There’s not many places that I feel comfortable taking our four children where we won’t be disturbing other people.  So I could not rave about it more.  Gusto Italia for anyone local to the North West of the UK.

We had a really lovely meal, we could’ve stayed and chatted to our friends all evening, but obviously all our toddlers were getting tired and fractious so we went home.  Eden was too tired to join in the book advent properly, but Judah really enjoyed his book ‘Norman the Slug Who Saved Christmas’.  We read it at least three times, and he asked for it again the next morning.  So this one is definitely a win with our three year old boy.

Again, I hope that everyone else is enjoying advent so far, but if you are struggling at this time of year, talk to someone.  You can direct message me on twitter @imeverymum or message me on my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/imeverymum .  I definitely do not have all the answers, but I can try and help you feel less alone.  Also, make sure you call someone if you need someone to chat to, there are some great teams of people out there just waiting to talk to you.  Contact people like the Samaritans that are available 365 days a year.  Click here for all their contact details, their phone number is free.

Here is our first daily Vlogmas, hope you enjoy.  I’ll try and remember to take my big camera out and get pictures too for future advent posts

OUR BOOK ADVENT AND ELF ON THE SHELF

Our Book Advent and Elf on the Shelf

So tomorrow is the 1st of December which marks the start of Advent, lots of new traditions for us this year with our Activities Advent Calendar, a book advent and the first appearance of our Elf on the Shelf.

I had been seeing all these Elf on the Shelf pictures around and didn’t really understand the story behind it.  One of my friends first reaction when we said that we would be doing it this year was, ‘so you’re going to lie to your children?’.  A little extreme maybe but a valid point that I know a lot of people share.  We as parents, James and I, just want to make Christmas as memorable, magical and beautiful as we can when they’re young.  I don’t think as a Christian parent that teaching my children to have faith is a bad thing, even if it is in make believe.  We believe in miracles (I know you may now think I’m a loon, but I do) so it’s just good practice for when they’re older if they decide to believe in miracles too.  Anyway, that random side note aside, we are really excited to do the elf on the shelf this year.

Shayla-Rae has an elf on the shelf in her class at school, and she 100% believes in the magic of it, so I think this year I will be most excited to see her reaction when she sees that the elf also comes to check on her at our home.  I’m not sure the toddlers will fully understand what’s going on but they will find it funny, and I know that Isis will find it hilarious when she sees the scenarios that we concoct for our little elf.

If you’d like to see some of the ideas that we’ll be trying this year then check out our ‘Elf on the Shelf’ pinterest board below

Follow I’m Every Mum’s board Elf on the Shelf on Pinterest.

Also this year we will be doing a book advent and reading a new book each evening.  I’ve tried to vary them up a little.  I want to have some books that are good for Isis’ age, and some that are for Shayla-Rae (although I know she’ll enjoy the toddlers books too) but as the toddlers are here more days than the girls the majority of the books are aimed at them.  The older ones I know Isis will maybe read them a couple of pages the day she opens them and then she can keep them in her room for bedtime reading throughout December.

As it can be expensive buying 24 hardback books, we have been purchasing a week at a time.

Here are the ones that we have purchased so far, again they’re in no particular order as I will be wrapping them tomorrow when the children are at my Mum’s and I’ll make sure the days correlate with which children we have around on each day:

  1. The Night Before Christmas : The Classic Rhyme with Flaps to Lift and Sparkling Surprises!
  2. Bear Stays Up For Christmas
  3. The Polar Express : 30th Anniversary Edition
  4. Peppa Pig : Peppa’s Christmas
  5. Norman the Slug Who Saved Christmas
  6. Little Christmas Elf
  7. Father Christmas Needs A Wee
  8. Rudolf the Reindeer Can’t Find His Hat
  9. A Christmas Dinosaur : With Yellow Eyes
  10. One Snowy Night
  11. Olivia Helps With Christmas
  12. Nativity Flap Book
  13. A Boy Called Christmas
  14. How Many Sleeps till Christmas
  15. The Smelly Sprout

As you can see we still have 9 books to buy, so if you have any recommendations please put them in the comments or contact me.

Hope you’re all as excited for the 1st tomorrow as I am?  Eek

our book advent calendar, advent, christmas countdown,

THE ORDINARY MOMENTS 2015 {BEING A STUDENT MUM}

The Ordinary Moments 2015 {Being a Student Mum}

Wow!  It has been a long time since I have linked up to my favourite linky ‘The Ordinary Moments‘ as I have not been the best at blogging in recent times.  I made a choice this week to challenge myself and get back to blogging daily.  It is so important for my creativity, to not get stuck in a rut, having writers’ block, procrastinating, all of those things.  I read a brilliant article from Hannah one of the editors at ‘Live. Love. Blog‘ called ‘6 Reasons to Embrace Your Passion Daily‘ and it really resonated with me.  So, as far as is possible writing daily is now very high on my priorities, as this is something I see being a HUGE part of my life and my husband hugely encourages it as he sees the positive effect that blogging has on me.

A lot of my posts have been more personal recently.  I have many people telling me that they love these kinds of posts.  I love being able to be transparent and open with my readers, but I’m also very aware that the main reason I started this blog is to record the memories for our beautiful children.  There are so many things that I’ve missed documenting because I’ve not been putting my hands to the laptop, but I do have files and files of photos and video footage that I am slowly working my way through so I can put them here.  So, if my blog seems out of sync with ‘real life’ time please excuse me, I will try and post an extra post those days as we catch up with all the beautiful ordinary moments that are currently sat on memory cards, hard drives and in my dropbox.

At the moment I am signed off with anxiety but I am getting stronger every day.  The physical pain in my chest when I had to do anything, even such as go to the supermarket has now left me, so the tablets must be working their magic but this week I have been full of flu like symptoms, so our poor toddlers have been stuck in with me anyway.  The weather has been so dreary that I haven’t wanted to take them and their chesty coughs anywhere, and as much as I’m starting to feel a bit better, if I dared venture into soft play hell without my husbands company I think my anxiety would’ve come back with a vengeance.

I’m sat here this morning child free because my wonderful in-laws have had all four children since Friday night for us.  It has been surreal to not have them around.  We haven’t done anything particularly exciting because my flu like symptoms now seem to have settled into a chest infection (I’m going to have to hit up the GP’s tomorrow for some antibiotics) but we did spend all yesterday, well after 2:30pm as we took ages having a lazy morning because we didn’t have to be up haha, with our dear friends and their little boy.  It was lovely to be out and not have to wonder which toddler was trying to destroy what, or jump to certain death off book cases, to feel fully relaxed and at ease with friends was just wonderful.  We sat playing board games all afternoon (they have an amazing selection) and we left late last night after discussing so many things, not the least of which was planning a potential holiday together next year.  Eek, I’m so excited.

So, anyway, back to the post in hand, I am currently signed off and not at university but I am really missing it.  I need to speak to my tutors, who are all aware of my situation but I haven’t actually formalised anything and applied for some extensions so I can now feel the deadlines looming.  One of my favourite modules at the moment, big surpise, has been Photography.  I am enjoying this SO much and my tutor has been amazing.  So helpful and really understanding in the recent weeks.  I have been working on a black and white portraiture project inspired by the works of Sally Mann called ‘Let Kids Be Kids‘ for my first assignment and I’ve been really loving the challenge of setting my photographs.  Designing the concept for each shoot in my head and then trying to make them happen.  I haven’t always achieved my desired results but that has been part of the journey and learning how to really use my camera has been amazing.  I’m really loving it.  I can’t wait to get back to University, it has been the best part of my week in a way as I felt I was starting to find who I was again, and I REALLY enjoy learning and getting my teeth stuck in to a good assignment.  I’ve always been a bit of a technology geek as well at heart and learning how things work really fascinates me.  I am LOVING my Audio/Visual classes for that, and web development has been interesting as we’ve been learning how to code and all the history of the internet.

To some that must sound so boring, but I am really LOVING it and just writing about it now makes me excited to go back.

One of the last things I did for university before getting signed off was an experiment for my photography project in the studio, to see if I could achieve one of the effects that I was after.  These shots may seem strange as they’re a mixture of ones that fit my concept and just ones I caught and loved, so some are a bit more stylised and some are more candid.  I absolutely LOVED working in the studio.  This isn’t something I would’ve thought would be my forté but I had such a positive reaction when I posted them on my facebook.  I am going to be doing lots of shoots when I am well for friends who have noticed my work for a small fee (also some freebies for some close friends who don’t mind me using them as experiments as I constantly try to improve).

Here are some images from that photoshoot to leave you with for now.  Thanks for bearing with me my lovely readers whilst I’ve been on a journey recently.  I really appreciate all the love and support that this blog has been bringing me, from other bloggers, and from friends who contact me after reading my posts.  I love you all, and am grateful for every single one of you.

let kids be kids, black and white portraits, beautiful children, siblings, portrait photography, photography, studio photography, I'm Every Mum. Alexandra James, mummy blogger, llfestyle blogger,

The Diary of a Working Mum {Part Three}

The Diary of a Working Mum {Part Three}

Another stunning guest post from my beautiful friend Heather in our series (to read Heather’s other posts click here)

Feel the Fear and do it anyway

On October the 9th 2011, I went back to work. Nick and I had decided that he would take my first full week back as annual leave, so I could get to grips with my new responsibilities at the council, without the added worry of how Martha was settling in at nursery and whether or not her Grandparents had picked her up on time. I am so glad we staggered the new routine this way. It gave me breathing space and allowed me to gradually introduce the new routine to Martha, Nick and myself.

I immediately felt at home in my new job. Something, which I absolutely didn’t expect. My new colleagues were friendly, funny, understanding and if I’m honest, they were a breath of fresh air too after months of weigh in clinics, paediatric appointments to chart Martha’s progress, eye tests, ear tests… all the things that prem babies have to attend as part of their follow up. It felt so good to be back in the company of adults. People you can have a conversation with other than a gurgling, albeit delightful, nearly one year old, and I had a new sense of worth that I was contributing to an organisation, and I was bringing home money that I had earned, I must stress that for me, money is not a priority on my list as a motivation for working. I work because of how it makes me feel; confident, important, sane and happy. I actually took home more money on maternity leave than I did going back to work, but that wasn’t the point. I was back in the game, and it felt great.

Although my post at the council is a full time funded position, I had agreed with my new boss that I would work 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) with a view to increasing my hours when Martha started school. This worked perfectly for us as a family. I had one day in work, the next day with Martha and so on. It meant that if I had a bad night with Martha, I only needed to get through one tired day before I could catch up again. It worked amazingly. Plenty of people said ‘why don’t you get work out of the way for the week at the beginning of the week, then you could have Thursday, Friday and the weekend free for Martha?’ but that was totally not my mentality. I didn’t want to ‘get work out of the way’ I wanted to incorporate it back into my life. Make it a part of my week and look forward to it. Besides which, working Friday’s is brilliant, everyone else is on wind down and I come in ready for action! I don’t like monotony and the mixing up of my week suited me well. It made me appreciate both my time with Martha, and my time at work all the more, because by the end of each day, I was ready for the alternating next.

I had loved my time off with Martha. So many people don’t get as long as I did, and whilst it was wonderful to be with her, especially after all she and I had been through, I can now admit that I was (gasp) quite bored. Months of no routine to my day, nights where Nick would get back from work and I’d still be in the same clothes as when he left (i.e. pyjamas), Peppa Pig on TV and meeting with friends who also had become new mums, was not doing my mental health much good. I had no stimulation other than going to the gym when I wasn’t too tired, or cooking an elaborate meal for dinner because I had nothing better to do. I just didn’t feel like me. I wanted the old me back, and I wanted to show Martha what the old me was all about. I hated going to Mum and Baby groups because the women there were obsessed with their developing children and so competitive and I always felt like the underdog. I took Martha to Baby Massage once when she was tiny and she farted her way through the session attracting some disgruntled looks so I think we were both relieved to get out of there and never go back. Don’t get me wrong, we went on lovely walks, picnics, we joined the library, we visited my Gran every week, we ate in cafes, we sang, we danced, we became very familiar with the Trafford Centre but I felt I owed Martha more. Much more that I could give her if it was just us two.

They say that prem babies have an amazing mental capacity in the first two years of their life. Their physical development is often delayed, as was the case with Martha who took her first steps at nearly 20 months old. During this time when they are not yet strong enough to walk, their tiny minds are going ten to the dozen absorbing, processing and taking in so much more than would be normal for their age. Martha had made this apparent from Day 1. She is such a clever little soul. We always wanted her to be brave, to speak her mind, to share her opinion, and to ask questions. When I was small, I was often told not to be cheeky, not to answer back, and I used to be so frustrated because all I wanted to do was share my opinion. I now know that my Mum was probably just trying to referee 3 kids and was at the end of her tether most days, but I had just one child and I wanted her to have a voice.

Because Martha is an only child, and will be the only child we have, we felt is so important that she socialise and mix with other children. I am one of three, but Nick is an only child, and so was my Mum. I’m sure they would both agree that the importance of relationships with friends is paramount to the only child. Nick and I count our friends as family. They are part of us, and we them. Martha proudly boasts about her big family (we’re not a big family, she just includes our friends) and going to nursery certainly helped her socially and grew her confidence. As parents our job is to equip our children with the tools they need to prosper, to make relationships aside from us as parents; to be independent and have a stronghold on who they are as an individual, what they believe in and how to treat the world with compassion. I could not have taught Martha any of this as effectively as Playdays (her nursery) did.

At nursery school Martha met two friends called Abigail and Isobel who are one of the few sets of identical twins in the UK to have Downs Syndrome. Martha has known Abigail and Isobel since they were babies. She grew up with them and she learned sign language so she can communicate with them. We once bumped into Abigail and Isobel shopping with their Mum Jodi in Morrisons, so Martha shouted ‘Mum, there’s my friends, can we go and see them?’ I have never been more in awe of the amazing little people kids are when my 4 year old daughter started to sign to them and they had a conversation, whilst I stood there like a lemon wondering what the 3 of them were nattering about. How cool is that? In that moment, I had such a deep sense of contentment that I almost skipped for joy out of the supermarket.

My headstrong daughter was on her way, making her beautiful footprint in the world.

Going back to work was so much easier than I thought it would be. Yes, there are tough days, days when you struggle through on 45 minutes of sleep, days when you were up 6 times in the night, feeding, changing bums, changing vomit covered sheets, wiping up nosebleeds and soothing teary nightmares. We’ve had some rough bumps along the way which I will share in my next post and there have been many times when my choices have been called into question, not just by others but by me also. But having this added purpose in my life, this independence, this work ethic, this routine and this life was ultimately absolutely the right thing for me and my family to do. We made the right choice for us, and that’s all any of us can do.

WHY WE WON’T BE HAVING ANY MORE BABIES

Why We Won’t Be Having Any More Babies

Our beautiful daughter Eden turned 2 last Thursday.  I can’t believe it, 2 years old.  The time has flown and dragged all at the same time.  She was the most peaceful and teeny baby for so long, she would always look at me with so much expression, I used to think there were times she was mocking me, but would dismiss it as she was tiny.  She still pulls those faces now but she can also back them up with her words.  She really does mock me sometimes, she has such an amazing sense of humour.  So much personality in one so tiny.

Eden turned 2 last Thursday and I still weigh a crazy amount more than before I got pregnant with her.  I still struggle to walk and have a very weak body.  My emotional state has NEVER been what it was before we conceived her.  It has been 2 years and I am so over feeling broken.

This baby has brought so much joy into my life.  They all do, but the effect going from 3 to 4 had in my life was absolutely crazy.  Maybe, it was having 2 toddlers, maybe it was because I had to be Mum to 2 older girls as well as having 2 toddlers that I was learning how to Mother full-time.  Who knows, but I have felt like a failure most of the time since we had Eden.  When we had Judah and the girls I felt like Super Mum.  We constantly had people round at our home, our home was always tidy (massively so compared to how it is now), I would cook meals fresh every evening, I would go to the gym at 6 o’clock in the morning, I would attend Zumba class, I would take 3 non-swimmers swimming each week, and taught 2 of them to swim (Judah was still tiny).  I would manage a 40 minute each way school run in all weathers to collect the girls on the school days that we had them (Thursdays and Fridays), I learned to drive a car.  I taught singing lessons from my home.  The girls attended ballet, tap and modern every week, partook in shows and exams.

The person that I am now, is a very different one.  I feel like a failure constantly, like everything I do, I can’t do it well.  I’m so thinly spread.  I want to be the best Mum in the world, I want to do arts and crafts, I want to cook them healthy meals, I want to be able to exercise and go out for long walks, I want to be able to provide extra curricular activities.  I want to be able to earn money.  I just seem to fail at EVERYTHING.  I can’t be a good Mum because it all feels too much.  We had an aupair for 5 months and I still couldn’t get on top of things.

Gosh, I sound like such a whinge bag, but I’m just putting this out there for others that may feel the same.  As soon as I became pregnant with Eden I experienced a chemical imbalance.  I was immediately suicidal.  I went straight to the GP as I knew that this was completely irrational, I had never been happier.  They put me on some tablets, and a week later I found out I was pregnant.  Judah was 7 months old.  Of course I came straight off the tablets, and my emotional state was monitored throughout my pregnancy.

I am a terrible pregnant person, I stopped blogging at this point because all I had to say was never anything positive, every single week was a struggle.  I have horrendous hyperemesis gravidarum when I’m pregnant, I couldn’t keep water down at one point and would be constantly at the GP and hospital.  I also, as well as SPD, have hypermobility which displays itself as my not being able to walk when I’m pregnant without my extra lax muscles making my hips come out of joint.  I was on crutches from 9 weeks pregnant with Eden and bed bound before I hit the second trimester.

As the pregnancy drew to an end and my due date came closer I would be worse.  I was at the stage where I couldn’t take myself to the bathroom, James had to do EVERYTHING for me.  I would beg to be induced at every appointment once she was at a safe gestational age.  Something in my sound mind I would strongly object to, but I just wanted her out of me, I wanted to feel normal again and to enjoy this beautiful baby girl that I knew I was carrying, but felt as though would never arrive after spending months in my bed.  I have to say I am a rubbish patient too, the amount of times I would be scrubbing tiles in the shower as I was nesting and refusing to give in to my lack of movement.  I’d sit on my pilates ball and try and move myself around the house to clean, which would result in my tummy muscles tearing even more than usual and my just becoming more and more useless all the time.

After all this, I have to say that I would go through it all again in a heartbeat for another child.  Every single one of our children is the biggest blessing and Eden especially brings so much joy to us.  Maybe it’s because she’s so dinky, maybe it’s because she’s the baby, maybe it’s because she’s so cheeky and always happy.  We don’t have favourites, but she just is, as her name means, a ‘delight’.

Due to the fact that I am horrendous pregnant, we planned a vasectomy for my husband before my pregnancy was over, we knew that if Eden arrived and was happy and healthy in the New Year this was the first thing that James was going to do.  He wanted it too, after experiencing how traumatic my being pregnant was for the whole family.

I see so many friends and especially bloggers at the moment that are pregnant.  It makes me ridiculously broody.  I always wanted 3, James always wanted to have 3 with me.  We wanted 5, I’m one of 5 (2 adopted siblings) so I guess that’s where I’d determined my family size from.  James, well, he would just have as many babies as he could, he LOVES little babies.  He is a very broody Daddy and amazing with newborns.

I look at my life and I see that it would be absolutely ridiculous for us to have another child, and feel grateful that we already made it so that couldn’t happen, as James and I in our impulsive natures would probably have thought, ah, forget it, and conceived another anyway.  Eden is 2 and I still can’t walk properly.  Another pregnancy would probably finish me off (and maybe my marriage haha, just kidding James I know you would amazingly put up with me and survive somehow).

We’ve talked about adopting.  In the future, when Eden is older, about 10 we’d like to adopt a 7 or 8 year old.  A child that they say is past the point of achieving a Forever Home, and we long to give them a forever home.  This hole in our hearts will be filled one day, and I’d love the child to be able to look back here and know that they were extremely planned and wanted by us.

So, anyway, I just wanted to put it out there as we are both extremely broody at the moment, why we won’t be having any more babies.

Please comment if you are in a similar situation, or if like me you are horrendous pregnant.  I always feel like all my friends are like the glowing lady in ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ who can still wear 7 inch heels and strut around looking like a supermodel whilst pregnant with twins.no more babies, hyperemesis gravidarum, baby portrait, 3 week old baby, black and white mother and baby, imeverymum, mummy blogger

World Prematurity Day

World Prematurity Day

I have a beautiful friend who has been guest posting a couple of times on my blog, she doesn’t have her own blogging platform, but I believe her voice is powerful and she inspires me everytime she encourages me through a private message on facebook, or on email.  She has been writing my ‘Diary of a Working Mum’ series and if you’ve read any you’ll agree, she’s a gifted writer, she also has a beautiful little girl who was born at 29 weeks gestation (31 weeks and 3 days pregnant).  I asked her if she wanted to share anything for ‘World Prematurity Day’ and she has written me an amazing guest post.  Thank you Heather, you are truly one in a million and I know all reading will be blessed, moved, encouraged and inspired after reading this.

I’ve wanted to write this blog piece for so long now but have always chickened out at the last minute, partly because I would not know where to start, but mainly because I am absolutely petrified of re-visiting the memories associated with that time. As I write this, it is exactly 5 years to the day that my premature baby story started.  Nick and I are huge football fans. We both used to be season ticket holders at Bolton Wanderers (Nick still is) but now we have Martha, I don’t get to go as much as I’d like. The season of my pregnancy, we decided to try and go to as many away games as we could so I could soak up the football and have something to occupy my time during the weekends where we’d usually be down at the pub having a boozy afternoon followed by a greasy take-away, neither of which is befitting for a pregnant woman!

On Saturday November 13th we headed off to Wolverhampton to watch Bolton beat Wolves 2-3. It was a brilliant day. I can remember taking a picture of us both in the Concourse at half time, laughing together whilst eating the staple half time Footy Pie. That picture is still on my phone. The next picture I took was of a tiny baby, in an incubator, with a cannula in her hand with wires and tubes attached to her.  On the giddy journey home from Wolverhampton, we both discussed upcoming fixtures, and deliberated how many of them I would be able to realistically go to before the baby arrived. Little did I know that that would be the last game I attended for quite some time. That night, as I slept, my waters broke. I was 30 weeks and 3 days pregnant.

Waking up to a wet bed is not something you would expect a 36 year old to do, but I was pregnant and my pregnancy hadn’t been a smooth one. I had bled on and off throughout and had been in and out of hospital with various different problems. To make matters worse my baby wasn’t very active.  She barely kicked at all, but always had hiccups, something which I found quite reassuring. Upon waking that morning my first thought was ‘I’ve wet the bed. It must be something pregnant women do’ and shared my conclusion with Nick who presumed the same. A couple of hours later Nick and I built a wardrobe (I know, how stupid of me) but I think I was just trying to take my mind off these little trickles that kept seeping out of me. It wasn’t until later on that afternoon as we were walking round Tesco that I finally said ‘Nick, this isn’t right. I’m leaking. I’m going to go to the hospital’. Not wanting to worry him too much nor have us both spend hours in a waiting room at the hospital only to be told everything was fine as had happened many times before, I decided to go on my own, and call Nick as soon as I knew what was going on.

Speaking to the receptionist at the hospital in a blasé manner, I explained what had happened and that I was sure it was nothing to worry about. She had other ideas.  I was ushered straight out of the waiting area and sent into a private room. A doctor was with me within seconds. I had an internal examination and was told I wasn’t going home because my waters had broken. I was immediately given a steroid injection in my bottom to mature the baby’s lungs if its arrival was imminent. I was so very scared. That’s when I phoned Nick. I told him to bring me essentials like pyjamas, toothbrush etc., and to phone my Mum to tell her what had happened. I think I was in shock. I had no idea what any of this meant. I knew that some babies were born prematurely but I didn’t know any of them personally. What was happening? Was my baby going to die?

I was diagnosed with PPROM (Pre-term Premature Rupture of the Membranes). This in laymen’s terms meant that I had a tear in the sac that carried the baby and was leaking amniotic fluid. There was no cause for it; it was just something that happened. I had no other signs of labour, no pain, no gushing of waters, just a slow trickle which only seemed to happen when I stood up. That night I was sent for a scan which revealed that the tear was at the top of the sac – good news as amniotic fluid is reproduced as it is lost and the sac that carried the baby would therefore keep topping itself up as fluid leaked out. I had substantial measureable fluid which was a good thing for the baby, but because of the tear, the baby would be prone to infection, and once infection set in, the baby would have to come out. Fast.

Nick arrived shortly afterwards with the following items; A Terry’s chocolate orange, a football shirt, 2 pairs of highly inappropriate knickers considering my circumstances, and a toothbrush. Bless him; I can just imagine him running around the flat in a blind panic, grabbing anything he could. And so began my bed rest. The best thing I could do for my baby was to stay in hospital and stay horizontal.  No baths, no standing up unless necessary, daily scans, and to just wait. I was on a ward with 7 other women all in risky situations, and I met some amazing women that week. In the bed opposite me was a lady called Carren who had not been feeling her baby kick often. She already knew that the baby had a heart condition. We chatted a lot and are still friends to this day. Her little girl Lagan was born full term and underwent numerous operations on her heart but sadly passed away the Easter of her first year. Carren has since set up Lagan’s Foundation in her honour which gives invaluable support to woman and families of children with heart conditions.

I witnessed some amazing things happen on that ward. One of the girls who had also Pprom-ed re-sealed (something very rare) and was allowed to go home, and another girl announced she felt like she ‘needed a big pooh’ – etiquette flies out the window on a ward full of pregnant women – and came back from the toilet with a screaming baby. There was never a dull moment, or maybe you just observe so much more when you are laid on your back all day and night. I mostly kept myself to myself for the week and kept my curtains closed. I think I just went into survival mode. I ate so much that week, determined that if this baby was coming, I was going to give it the best chance of being healthy and a good weight. And I read loads. I restricted myself to an hour a day of the internet because it was so tempting to try and predict my baby’s chances. My sister brought me one of my favourite books to read as I was growing up – ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole’ and I cannot express how much comfort reading it gave me. It transported me back to a place in time where none of this heartache was happening and the escapism was just so lovely. I would get to the end of the book and start again, something which I’ve always done with books (and films) I love.

One of the pieces of advice the nurses gave me was to drink lots of water, which I did in abundance, but one of the down sides to this was how many times I would have to go to the toilet. I had been told that if my situation took a turn for the worse, the first signs would be bleeding, so I became absolutely petrified of going to the toilet in case I found blood on the pad I had to wear for the leaking. I would regularly call the nurses in the middle of the night crying hysterically and asking her to check my pad as I would be convinced there was blood on it. The pad once had tiny strands of lanugo on it (the fine hair that covers a baby’s body and sheds as they develop) and the sight of this upset me so much. I still get freaked out when I visit a public facility with the same toilet paper dispenser in it as the hospital. It’s the little things that can set me off. A few years after Martha was born I got into a lift in a department store and it smelled of the Neo-natal unit and I stood there quietly sobbing at the memory.

Bed rest in the hospital continued with no change until the following Thursday evening. I had only told my close friends what had been happening and had removed myself from Social Media to avoid having to tell anyone. My only visitors were family and my best friend Helen. I didn’t want anyone else there, I just wanted to hide until I’d come out the other side. My Dad used to come and visit me on his lunch hour, but often I would be dozing, so he would quietly stand at the ward door watching me as I slept. That Thursday night, Helen, my Mum and my sister came to visit. I casually mentioned to my Mum that I was getting what felt like period pains and they were happening every 7 minutes.  Just a tightening and nothing too painful. I really don’t know why their existence didn’t alarm me under the circumstances; perhaps I was sub-consciously in denial, as I thought the longer I kept the baby in, the safer the outcome would be. My mum told the nurse and I was monitored over night to see if, what I now knew were contractions, were getting any closer together. Nick came the following morning and we had an emergency scan. Sitting in that scan waiting room with other healthy pregnant mums having their sex scan and coming back into the room cheering and crying tears of happiness was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I literally buried my head in Nick’s chest and cried, hard desperate tears.

The scan revealed that we had little or no measureable fluid left but the doctors wanted to see if they could stop the labour. That night I was put in an isolation unit with a nurse monitoring me through a glass screen like something out of a sci-fi film and given a cocktail of drugs to stop labour.  Nick stayed with me all night as I was too petrified to be on my own. He slept in the chair next to me and I didn’t sleep all night. It was an awful, awful night and I was that tired, I thought I might go mad.  I can remember having this wild look in my eyes through the trauma of it all.  The next morning I sent Nick home. I wanted him to get some proper rest and I wanted him to go to the football that day. I know people will be aghast at that but I was really adamant that he went and had a break. I had the stadium on speed dial and there was nothing any of us could do other than wait to see if the labour stopped. My sister came to take over sitting with me and whilst she was there, it was decided that stopping the labour hadn’t been successful and I needed blue lighting up to Preston because the baby was coming and there were no available incubators at Bolton. Nick arrived back at the hospital with my brother-in-law Simon and followed the ambulance up to Preston. I can’t remember much of that journey except to say that a really weird peace came over me. I felt like I was on a cloud. As the ambulance doors shut in Bolton, Simon mouthed through the doors ‘it’s going to be ok sis’ and suddenly I felt calm.

At Preston I was left sat in my pyjamas and coat on the end of a bed for 2 hours. Another patient made me a cup of tea, and I waited for the doctor to assess me again. I settled into my new bed and the contractions started coming faster. I can remember watching Match of the Day that night (we had beaten Newcastle United 5 -1) and throughout the night I was strapped to the heartbeat monitor. I hadn’t slept a wink in 48 hours. In the morning a doctor and 2 nurses came to see me. I was again given an internal and the doctor decided that they urgently needed to get the baby out as infection had set in. I was induced at 2pm that day. I was exhausted, frightened and now I had to give birth.

I’d heard that labour was painful, but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience.  Being induced apparently makes the contractions more intense and mine were off the chart, literally off the chart that hung above my bed that mapped the pain and the time apart of the contractions. I can remember screaming for an epidural and asking my mum to kill me (neither of which happened).  It wasn’t helped by the midwife who was seeing to me and kept telling me I wasn’t in labour and that I must have a very low pain threshold. She left the room an awful lot during labour and thank God my mum and Nick noticed that my frantic screams had turned into pushing because Mum ran out of the room to retrieve the midwife, who was eating a sausage butty, and told her to get back into the room with the necessary equipment because the baby was about to be born. The next few moments were a blur. All of a sudden the room went dark, the midwife looked shell-shocked that everything was happening so fast, and a man came into the room with an incubator and breathing equipment. I vaguely remember him standing at the bottom of my bed holding one blue hat and one pink hat. 3 pushes later at 8.12pm, the room erupted with the crying of a baby. A girl. A tiny 3lb 12oz baby girl born at exactly 31 weeks and 3 days.  She was quickly cut away from me and everything went quiet as they put her in the incubator. I can remember asking over and over ‘is she ok? Is she ok?’ and the man with the 2 hats shook his head, and I panicked. He then quickly clarified his head shaking by saying ‘She doesn’t need it, she doesn’t need oxygen, she’s fine’. Oh the relief that engulfed me. I was then passed my precious daughter to hold for a minute until she was taken from me to nicu. The next couple of hours were what I would describe as post traumatic shock. I was so very relieved that she was ok, but I was so angry with that midwife for not listening to me, for not believing I was in advanced labour, for not giving me any pain relief that I so desperately needed, for not having the equipment there if things had gone wrong.  After I had birthed the placenta, I was encouraged to have a bath, then wheeled back to a mother and baby ward filled with new mums and their new-borns, whilst mine was somewhere in that hospital being assessed and stabilised. I was in so much pain physically from the labour and emotionally I was in absolute shock.

Later that night, Nick and I went to see our girl who we had named Martha Iris. She was so small, all curled up in her plastic box with a huge cannula in her hand. But she was the most beautiful, most precious thing on earth to us and she was just perfect. This was the start of learning a new language for us that becomes second nature for all nicu mums and dads. We were invited to do something called ‘Kangaroo Care’ which is skin to skin contact with baby and encourages the bonding process.  Both Nick and I loved this. Having that warm little bug curled up in the nape of your neck is absolute bliss. We were shown how to do ‘Cares’ which is changing and washing your baby through the doors of the incubator without disturbing the many wires attached to them. And of course how to feed them via the tube inserted into their little nose.
I was given sleeping tablets that night and with the help of earplugs and a sleeping mask, I slept for around 9 hours. The most I had had in a week. At around 9am I was awoken by a nurse asking where my baby was! I’m not proud of what I said next…’Are you f*%king kidding me? Have you even read my notes?’ After a profuse apology, she then asked me to begin expressing as it would be beneficial for Martha to get the antibodies associated with breast milk. This began a long process of endless
pumping as I became obsessed with giving Martha every chance of getting stronger and getting out of hospital, back home where she belonged.
The next couple of days I stayed in Preston hospital because I needed to be near to Martha until she was transferred back to Bolton when space became available. 2 days after she was born, she made the journey via ambulance in her incubator with Nick and me anxiously following behind to Bolton’s fabulous NICU facility. I had briefly visited the unit in the week leading up to Martha’s birth and had met mums with babies born at the same gestation in order to prepare me. It was an emotional visit but one which made me feel so much better and not as alone. Everyone was so encouraging and hopeful in there. The nicu mums were some of the strongest I have ever had the privilege of meeting.
 world prematurity day, 7 months pregnant, imeverymum, mummy blogger, premature baby, NICU

Going back home to our flat without the baby was exceptionally difficult. It’s something you never imagine possible, and for some less fortunate than us, it’s permanent. Walking through our door having left a week earlier full of worry and uncertainty, I broke down. I ached for my little girl. She was 5 miles away all on her own, without me looking after her, but I knew she was safe. And so began a new routine of thrice daily visits to the unit to be with her. Nick had been granted 2 weeks paternity leave, but of course he had used up one of those with all the drama of the week previous, and he wanted to save the other week for when Martha came home so we could be together as a new family. We made the difficult decision for him to go back to work, and for him to join me for the evening visit each day.

Nicu is an amazing place. The nurses or ‘Aunties’ as they prefer to be called are wonderful, gifted, caring people. I would wake in the middle of the night, desperate to know how Martha was, and we could call any hour of the day or night to speak, cry, be reassured and comforted by someone who was looking at Martha as we communicated. It was so bittersweet, but Martha’s progress was exceptional. She started bottle feeding my expressed milk and moved from the high dependency unit to an open cot within a week. Exactly 3 weeks after she was born, and a week before Christmas, we got to take her home. We were invited to have a ‘sleep in’ at hospital with her so we could have on hand support if we were anxious, then she was discharged to us along with 70 bottles of my frozen breast milk – I told you I was obsessed!. We couldn’t quite believe that we had been entrusted with this precious jewel to look after at last. We were deliriously happy.  Martha progressed well, and we eventually settled into a new routine with her feeds. I had been struggling so much time-wise to express, then feed her, then express again in time for the next feed. I literally wasn’t leaving the house. Martha couldn’t feed straight from the breast as her suck was too weak and her feeds from the bottle could take up to 2 hours followed by an hour of winding as her back was too weak to get the trapped air up. We eventually gave up on breast-milk after about 2 months which gave me so much more time to enjoy Martha. One of the things you’ll find, not just as a mum of a premature baby but any mum is that the pressure from others can be immense. I actively rally against some of this pressure because I get so angry that as Mum’s we often turn against each other in our bid to be perfect. Breast or bottle? Co-sleeping or not? Baby led weaning? Pain-free labour? It makes me feel like screaming ‘It’s none of your damn business, because you don’t know my circumstances’. What I have learned from my experience is that no 2 stories are the same and the choices we make must suit our families best, not every other smug mum out there.

I’ll always remember those dark days when we feared the worst and to that end I continue to be an active part of a Pprom support group, offering advice and encouragement to ladies on bed rest all around the world. I have also taken part in races raising money for BLISS – (a registered charity for premature babies) who gave me invaluable support and advice when I needed it most.  As we remember all the babies born before their time this week, my heart breaks for all those who grew their wings too soon. Martha was one of the lucky ones and we are incredibly fortunate to have her here with us today, a feisty, independent nearly five year old who makes my heart burst with pride every day. Since Martha’s birth, I have come to realise that being a Mum of a prem is actually all around us. So many people I have spoken to in passing have said they are Mum’s of prems who are now healthy strapping adults. I love hearing those stories; they fill me with such hope and joy.

Prematurity does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone regardless of race, colour, age, religious beliefs etc. I don’t believe that we are ‘blessed’ with our girl who is safe and well, we are just extremely fortunate to have come through the other side happy, healthy and relatively unscathed.  Going back to my first football game a few months after Martha was born was brilliant. The ladies who sit behind us in the stadium had been kept up to date by Nick and I was welcomed back into the football family with open arms, warm hugs and requests to see pictures of our awesome little fighter.  We lost the game that day, but I felt like I’d won the best trophy of all, a beautiful miniature girl who had changed my world for the better.  My advice to Mums out there or to pregnant ladies for whom prematurity is a concern, real or imagined is this: take a deep breath, always trust your instincts, always ask for help, love your baby like only you can and know above anything else that, as the advert says, you’re all doing a great job.

The poem I wrote for Martha’s christening :

For my baby – 1 year old tomorrow

We fell in love with a heartbeat on a screen,

Right there, a life, all new, to the world unseen.

We shared our news with tears of joy,

Was that heartbeat our daughter or a mischievous little boy?

We watched you grow, we nurtured you,

The weeks went by and my bump grew.

One night we laid, and watched the moon,

Then morning came, you were coming too soon.

Frightened I lay in a hospital bed,

Fear and anxiety rushing through my tired head.

In the dead of night, snow fell and rested on trees,

I cried out to God, and my troubled soul eased.

The very next day, our girl was born,

So tiny and sweet and perfect in form.

Our hearts broke again when we couldn’t take you home,

But you were so small, you hadn’t fully grown.

As Christmas approached you were still so small,

Came the news that we dreamed, our best present of all.

We climbed the stairs and switched on the tree lights,

The beginning of tired days and some very long nights.

Precious nights spent together, getting to know each other,

My tiny little angel, teaching me how to be her mother.

As springtime came, you got so much stronger,

A smile then a giggle and legs so much longer.

Now summer’s here, our worlds revolve around you,

You bring so much joy, if only you knew.

I love seeing you, laughing with you Dad,

He’ll always be there for you with a cuddle when you’re sad.

We’ll both do our best to equip you well,

To live your life fully, to make all hearts swell.

I’ll try my best to set you free,

To show you the wonder of love that you’ve taught me.

Every day we thank God for our little treasure,

Who’s improved ours lives and surpassed beyond measure.

So this is your day, your family and friends are all here,

To give thanks for our fighter, Martha Iris, so dear.