Bye Bye Baby Days…

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Jet lag lasts a couple of days usually if you’ve crossed 3-5 time zones. So, in theory, by the 10th March, I definitely should have been back to ‘normal’. However, I am only just getting round to doing normal tasks, in which I mean catching up on emails, getting round to replying to messages I’m behind with. Life remained chaos when I was away and consequently it’s taking me ages to get back on top of it all (HA! As if I’m ever ‘on top of it’, it’s taking me ages to feel like I’m only six feet under it rather than 12..!). So I have written blog posts on the fly but they have remained a lonely word document waiting to be finished and published.

 

Consequently, some of these entries will seem a bit higgildy piggildy as I go back and finish off, but for today, the big news is that my baby is one year old! Baby Holly turned one on the 19th last Sunday, as both kids had been quite poorly swapping bugs back and forth from each other (including a rather gunky conjunctivitis!) we’d gone back and forth on riking booking an event and inviting lots of people only to potentially have to cancel. In the end we decided to go for a meal with immediate family before some more family and some of the girls guideparents popped in throughout the afternoon to see us! We also plan to take both girls to Legoland as we did with Scarlett near her 1st birthday for a birthday day trip when both girls are feeling back to best!

 

We now officially don’t have a baby in the household! Our youngest is fast becoming a toddler. Our eldest starts school next year, in no time at all, we seem to have gone from a young unmarried couple having an “oh my goodness in nine months time we’re going to have a tiny baby,” to a slightly older now married couple having an, “look at our two beautiful little girls both turning into actual little people” (usually followed with… “ok whose turn is it to stop Holly pulling her sisters hair in the buggy..?”

 

It’s made us both very nostalgic, even slightly so for the difficult times! Obviously not the traumatic side of those moments, but we’ve looked back on the long late night drives when I couldn’t sleep (or needed a late night McDonalds milkshake in the case of Scarlett’s pregnancy, or a McDonalds Apple Pie during Holly’s!) and we’d chat endlessly about what it might be like to be parents, what we wanted for them, for us etc etc.. Sitting in the hospital watching little grey blobs dance about on ultrasound machines, the two occasions we found out we were expecting girls. For me really distinctly, despite the fact that both births are blurs because of the epilepsy medication and they were both emergency csections. HOWEVER, I really distinctly remember on both occasions staring into my husbands eyes. Knowing that everything was going to be alright because we were there together, and I was looking into his eyes the first time I heard both my daughters first cry. That’s a memory I will never forget.

 

My girls have changed my life. In so many ways, I get even less sleep now, I get peed on much more than I used to and I have more people grabbing onto my hair/clothes/face than I ever used to! But I’m also more motivated, I have more drive, and my days are even more mental than they were before but kind of brilliant. 

 

In my first ever blog post I mentioned wanting to walk the Great Wall of China with my child but that I wasn’t sure if it was something I’d realise was a bit idealistic after having children. But nearly three years in, having travelled quite a bit with both of them (there’s definitely ways of doing it and ways of DEFINITELY not doing it!), I feel like it’s doable, one day. And so I really hope that one day, both girls in hand I’ll still make that ridiculous idealistic milestone that I somehow set myself!

 

Feeding feelings…

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After Scarlett was born when I ventured out of the house, my huge worry was that when I fed her, people would judge me for breastfeeding in public. 
Now Holly’s been born and I’ve started to slowly venture out of the house, my huge worry is that when I feed her, people will judge me for bottle feeding.
One of the reasons I’m not planning on having a third child is because, I’ve run out of feeding worry options that I’ll assume people are judging me for! I honestly think I’d feel no less worried about it all if I bottle fed without my top on, at least then all bases of judgement can be covered!
Scarlett was early, so my milk supply took a little time to come through but not too long but then only lasted for three months. Holly was premature, so added to the extra amount of medication messing with my bodies natural rhythm, my milk supply took even longer and there isn’t sufficient to exclusively breastfeed. I’m therefore supplementing what I can provide with top ups of formula to ensure she’s gaining weight. Currently as a team we haven’t quite got her back up to her birth weight but we’re certainly getting there now we’ve started combination feeding.
Anyway, getting back to my initial point. It made me realise that it really isn’t breastfeeding mums vs bottle feeding mums as some of these forums and magazines often portray. As soon as you have a child, your choices are questioned, sometimes by the strangest of demographics. As Mums, we all want to do the best for our children. Feeding choices are made for a variety of reasons, all valid. Some desperately want to breastfeed, but for whatever reason can’t. Some really want to bottle feed and then end up breastfeeding. I read an interview recently with a mother who desperately wanted to bottle feed as she felt uncomfortable breastfeeding, but couldn’t afford the powder and necessary equipment and ended up breastfeeding, and not leaving the house unless she was sure she’d be back home before baby needed a feed. 
My personal take on the matter is that breastfeeding is evolutionarily what breasts are for, I am comfortable enough with my body to not fear feeding in front of people or outside of the home, and it’s significantly cheaper than formula (a reason I always put last because it feels less noble but is equally as valid!). At first, I was upset at the idea at not being able to feed. It felt like failure; not because I think choosing to bottle feed is wrong or a failure. But because I made my choice and couldn’t do it. I’d feel the same if I’d chosen to bottle feed and then bought the wrong equipment.
But whichever decision you make, going out past the safe sanctuary of home immediately opens you up to what the rest of the world thinks. And I’m not sure what it is about the decision on how you feed your child that convinces ‘the rest of the world’ that they have a say. Having now done both, there are several differences but that anxious feeling of being judged or feeling I need to justify my actions remains the same. So although we most likely can’t change the world, maybe us Mums could at least make it easier by being on each other’s side regardless of personal choice. After all, we’re all aiming for the same thing, a happy, healthy, well fed baby. How we do it is surely somewhat irrelevant? So whether it be by breast or by bottle, let’s all try and give each other a reassuring smile when we see our fellow comrades out and about! 
That’s right world, we may have baby sick in our hair, we may have odd shoes on, we may even have come to a cafe without our phone/keys or purse…but we’re out, we’re…well we’re worrying about 4,000 things at once, but we’re feeding our baby’s, and that is all that really matters!

First moment memories…

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I’ve become a bit of a go to for questions in the ‘April 2016’ internet group I’m in. Reason being is that with Holly’s birth, I was in labour for a day and a half (some of which I didn’t realise!) and I had an emergency csection. 
So I have the (slightly dubious!) honour of experiencing the pain of contractions, and the recovery process from the csection. Cue a lot of questions about both. Now I had a rather substantial seizure in the middle of proceedings so there’s a lot of gaps in my memory due to that anyway; but I can honestly say that even less than a week on, it’s tricky to recall certain details. 
Csection recovery questions are not really ones I can answer just yet. So far? The fact that my husband makes me laugh is now a curse rather than one of my favourite things, and it’s amazing how many things you discover you use stomach muscles for when you suddenly can’t use stomach muscles without an incredibly large amount of pain! But it’s improving daily and knowing that the pain is a result of our baby’s safe delivery into the world makes it much easier to bear. I know that sounds like a horrendous cliche but it’s true. 
The contraction pains? I read up myself on what they felt like before the event (before it had been confirmed that a natural birth would be too high risk for us) and it seems other people were able to describe it better.
As for me I really struggled to come up with an adequate description beyond ‘indescribable pain’!
Then yesterday I was looking through the photos on my phone (there are a lot of the labour and birth process, something I requested of my husband because I knew that in the case of seizures, I was unlikely to remember a lot of it and wanted to at least be able to have a clear picture of how it all went in years to come.) and one of the photos I saw, I felt probably summed up the pain and emotion better than I could ever explain. 
Apparently it was taken when I was waiting for them to complete various tests before being able to head to the operating theatre when the contractions were very close and very strong. As they reached a peak I would grab onto my husband and he would grab my hand and try and help talk me through it until it subsided. 
I couldn’t have done it on my own. It was frightening, it was painful, and unfortunately in my case I had quite a lot of missing brain power! For me, the best person to be by my side was my husband, for others it can be a parent, a sibling, a friend etc. But having a person there, whoever your person may be, is a huge part of the whole experience in my opinion. You are vulnerable, you are being put through one of the most demanding physical experiences of your life. It’s so demanding and so intense, your body and your brain blocks a lot of it out post the event! You need someone there to give you strength, to pull you through the moments you think you can’t do it. 
And it’s tough for them too, as the mum you forget a lot of what goes on. Your person watches a person they love go through something without being able to do anything to help or take some it from you. They most likely don’t realise how valuable their moral support is.
With the various health complications, I will not be able to safely carry another baby without serious kidney implications, not to mention the increased epilepsy risk after this pregnancy. So from about half way through this one, we were aware it would be our last biological baby. So throughout all the relatively dramatic process of Holly’s birth, we tried to focus on how special it was being the last time.
And although I have rather clumsily typed all the feelings of the above out, when I came across this picture, it made me tear up. And not JUST because the new Mum hormones have kept me more emotional than normal! It means a great deal. I’m gripping onto my person in pain. He’s gripping onto me in support. And we’re doing it together for the last time. 
After a hugely difficult few months, this one moment feels like the most appropriate representation of how we both felt.
So as far as answering technical questions, in all honesty, I’m pretty rubbish! I think it’s such an incredibly personal experience. Chatting to friends only goes to prove to me that no labour story is the same. When you’re pregnant, all you have is questions, thoughts on how it’s going to go. After labour? I’m not sure you really have any answers! But you have moments. We had several across the entire pregnancy, but this is the one representation, the picture I will always go to. It’s not very helpful in answer to any questions I’m asked. But it’s the closest thing to an answer I have.

Dear daughter…

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03/11/15 An open letter to my daughter. (Side note: I’m hoping that by the time you’re old enough to read this, you’ve also managed to turn ‘Gaggy’ into ‘Mummy’)

Dear Scarlett (and any other child I may have!),

I hope your view of your Mother is that of a strong, confident woman who has stubbornly shown you how women can achieve whatever they want to. This is not a letter to you about feminism, or equality, or anything else socially or politically driven, sometimes I think those things put an added pressure on us all, men, women, adult and child alike.

Instead, this is a letter to you to tell you that although I hope to be a strong role model throughout your life, sometimes I am weak. Hopefully I keep that from you and you will grow to be confident and self assured, but also kind, and compassionate. But you should know there are some days when I am, frankly, an emotionally mess. In my scientific role, I am a young woman amongst many older men. In a lot of ways, it is a boys club, this is a term that I think may be less familiar when you are in the workplace. I recently had to give a presentation in a room of nearly twenty 40-something males, all of whom were aware that I am pregnant with my second child and mainly raising you, my first child between myself and your Dad. They have an ‘investment in families’ program which is mainly beneficial to working mothers, this is a great thing to help more women climb more influential career ladders but also causes some friction from the middle aged men who wonder why they don’t get extra time off for things like maternity appointments or allowances for child care. I understand that. As you know your Dad and I co-parent but legally he has significantly less rights than I do, when you were born, I was able to take a year off that side of my work and although it was a bit longer than some are able to afford to do, nobody thought anything of it. Your Dad took July off and then took extra work in August to make up for the deficit in what he hadn’t earned, and had to field questions about why he wasn’t available in late July. So I understand why for a lot of the men I stood in front of giving a presentation; they were most likely thinking that I was in the role to fulfil a quota, to make the employer look good for hiring a working Mother. I was aware that I need to work twice as hard to prove my place and with my obviously growing belly, in a few months time, I will temporarily disappear from the scene and they will be expected to deal with that without complaint.

This pressure sometimes gets to me. At the presentation in question, I know it was a damn good one. I am very good at my job. But I could feel their doubt and instead of just proving myself, I questioned myself and I (without any of them making any comment) wondered if they all thought I shouldn’t be there. This weekend both your Dad and I have some important work in London, and so your Grandad is coming to stay at our place to look after you, so although my work is one day and your Dad’s is the other, we’re away the whole weekend. And because of the type of work we both do, we quite regularly need help from your Grandparents to look after you. It sometimes makes me wonder if I’m making the right choices. Today this came to a head and I felt like not only was I not spending enough time with you, but I wasn’t succeeding enough in my career. But that’s crap.

We’re very lucky, we get to spend a lot of time with you even when we are working, I was hired because of my knowledge, experience and based on merit. My worries are based on my own insecurities, not once has a colleague made any comment about begrudging my position, and if I’m honest, I think you, Scarlett, my little lady,  benefit from having such close relationships to your Grandparents and other close family members that live near by. Do I still feel guilty for the efforts your Grandparents need to make so we can thrive in our chosen work fields? Yes of course I do, I can only hope they know how appreciated it is and how much of a difference it makes. It has enabled us to get where we are and carry on providing you with a certain quality of life. Do I still feel the pressure of our heavy workload? Of course, but I count my lucky stars that we both love our careers.

My Great Grandmother Kate set up the women’s side of the British Legion. I always used to think that she could never have achieved some of the things she did in life (especially for the early half of the twentieth century) by doubting herself or worrying about whether she was a good enough Mother or questioning whether she was doing the right thing. But thats also crap. I’d somehow put my Great Grandmother on some kind of unattainable pedestal. I look at proud pictures of her with her family, look at newspaper articles of her achievements and I tricked myself into believing that her highlights reel had no unseen backstage pass. After a day of feeling like I wasn’t succeeding enough on my own path, I had a little look through my own highlights reel. Had a little read of what you kids and your children may some day look back on. And you know, when I did that, I saw a strong, confident woman who is succeeding and achieving, having a blast doing it and sharing a lot of it with her bright, happy little girl.

So which side is the lie? Is the happy highlights a myth? Or is the self doubt, struggles and hard work the illusion? The truth is, they’re both my reality. The self doubt sometimes keeps me grounded. The precious moments I share on social media keep me motivated and the struggles remind me it’s all worth it. Every bit of it, the guilt I feel over your Grandad having to make a six hour round trip from Brighton to look after you for the weekend, the joy i will feel when i pick you up after being away from you for three days and seeing that smile light up your face, all of it has put me here.

The definition of a strong, confident person does not mean one that never doubts themselves, it doesn’t mean someone who never has a bad day or find their choices difficult. Strength is often found most in the hardest times. Someone who has constant success or continual highs has no need for strength. Someone who has never had bad times, has never needed to overcome them. As your Mother, I will fight to my last breath to keep you safe and give you as idyllic a childhood as I can but the truth is, as you grow up, the lows will be just as important as your highs for getting you where you need to be.

So I hope the view of your Mother is that of a strong and confident woman. And I will tell you about your Great Grandmother Kate and what she achieved; as your Dad and I will tell you probably countless times about all your family members. But for you, my highlights reel will be accompanied by at least a sneak peek of the backstage pass, the parts you can learn from, the bits that could give you strength. I never met Kate Lade and that’s a real shame as I would love to be able to sit down with her and find out more about how she felt when she was being a trailblazer. I’m sure there were some days when she felt weak, when she questioned if she was making the right decisions, she probably even had afternoons where she had to stand up in front of a room of men, except instead of having a respectfully quiet audience; in those days she would have had to force her way through to being heard in front of a probably rather hostile crowd! So my beautiful girl, in your weakest days, remember that you are strong. In your most insecure days, remember that you are confident. Remember these things when you can’t remember why you’re doing whatever your doing, and know that through all of it, you are unquestionably, and unchangingly loved.

All my love,

Your Gaggy, the strong wimp.

Ditching the dummy…

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Today is the 14th October. Scarlett is just over 15 months old and we are about to move into our new home. A new beginning, and as part of that, it’s time, to finally say goodbye to the dummies!!

Yes the dummy question! A lot of strong opinions on both side of the fence and we’ve managed to somewhat straddle the fence with our decisions. I’ve always been against them but the guidelines had been changed and the advice we received was that dummies are easier to get rid of than thumbs(…!) and so I relented and for the past year or so, Scarlett has used a dummy when tired or suffering from teething pain. Our plan was for her to use it when teething and then get rid of them before they started being a barrier to speech development and/or affecting her teeth alignment which are the two main concerns of using a dummy past age 1. Unfortunately for Scarlett her teeth are taking quite a long time so our 12 month cut off point started to get delayed. However, she’s now got to the age where she’s attempting to talk and say more words and with a dummy hanging out of her mouth, those words are harder to say or get distorted as she attempts to communicate with it in her mouth. And as that can lead to some sounds not developing properly, we decided it was time to ditch the dummies!

Now firstly, I would like to say that this is all personal preference, and some parents allow their children to have a dummy much longer, in the same way that some parents decide to never use one at all. In my group of friends with children Scarlett’s age, I have two who are dead against dummies and one who more than happily let her first child have one until he was 3 and a half and is doing the same with her second child. And I’m not saying that any of them are wrong. We’ve gone for a mid way compromise between the two main schools of thought because we were undecided and that’s what’s worked for us. 

We know we’re in for a few difficult days of ‘dummy withdrawal’ but already on day one of going cold turkey, she’s happily had both her normal naps. She took a bit longer to settle down for them but she then slept as usual. She’s stroppier today and obviously wants the comfort of her dummy but at this age, it’s much easier to break a habit in a few days than it is than when she’s older. And as she was able to sleep without, it’s obviously more of a comfort habit, than essentially required item.

So we’ve affectionately dubbed this time as Scarlett’s ‘dummy rehab’, we’ve been given her some dentinox when her gums seem painful and otherwise just accepting that a few extra tears for a little bit are inevitable. We’ve contacted family and friends who spend a lot of time with her or look after her to let them all know, as there’d be nothing worse than going through these few days only for someone to then unknowingly undo all our hard work and make us have to repeat the process all over again! And so far the response has been really positive, and we’ve warned that anyone breaking the rule is in for a big penalty! (Specifically a high cash fine so we can treat ourselves to a fancy dinner out if we have to do this process more than once!!) 

You may be reading this thinking, ‘alright you dictators!’ And usually we are very relaxed parents and don’t have lots of strict rules. But as we have three days now where we’re not due anywhere (we FINALLY have a bit of time to actually pack up our house!) it’s our very short window of time we can afford to have a slightly more screaming child without it affecting more people than ourselves (and the public in general)! We travel about a lot for work as a family and Scarlett is very well behaved, but if she’s upset and struggling without a dummy, it becomes impossible to take her to a busy theatre rehearsal, for example. And as we’re coming up to an extremely busy period with one Winter tour and one Paranormal festival on top of our normal schedules, the last thing we need is to have her suddenly screaming because she’s unsettled. It’s not fair on the people we work with, her or us! She generally enjoys exploring theatres and watching fight/acting rehearsals and workshops and it would make our jobs ten times harder for her not to be used to being without a dummy. So we’re being really strict as at her age, with no-one caving and giving her a dummy (even ‘just for a little bit’!!) it will only take a few days for her to adapt and find other ways of soothing herself or not being bothered by discomfort of her teeth coming through. So with a short window of time to achieve it, our relaxed approach is being replaced with a more determined, ‘don’t make this harder for her and us’ demanding approach! 

Saying all that, it’s never nice for a Mum to see her daughter crying knowing that she could stop the tears by giving her a dummy, but I know it’s for the best. And if it means she’s got a better chance of straighter healthier teeth and clearer, better developed speech, a few difficult days are more than worth it! 

I could get all my old child psychology textbooks out and start to talk about how it’s good for young children to be shown that her parents stand strong in their resolve for things like this so she gets a sense of security which can reduce the chance of things like low confidence and anxiety in the future. Or that even at this age, showing a child they can do something like cope without a dummy can install a sense of determination and lead to them sticking with things more in the future. But I’m not going to. Not because it’s not true but because frankly, even working within a psychology field I take all those things with a pinch of salt. Each child is so individual so we can try and give her the best chance developing in a happy healthy way, there are so many environmental and personal circumstances (not to mention her unchangeable genetic makeup) that will affect who she grows up to be, there’s no point in relying on these theories to guarantee she won’t end up either needing a brace, or lacking in confidence! 

So yes, the decision we’ve made is to take away the dummy, we don’t think this will magically mean she’s guaranteed a more successful life later on or that in doing so she will be problem free, we’re not quite that naive! But for us, this is the decision we’re making that’s best for our little family of three (and a half!). Hopefully I’ll be able to confirm next week that she’s dummy free! However this is parenting we’re talking about, so we all know there are no guarantees of a smooth ride…!

A New Baby, The Sequel!

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Good afternoon dear friends and comrades! I hope your week is going well and you all have exciting plans this weekend (and I count things like zip lining AND things like sitting on the sofa in pyjamas with a takeaway as equally exciting!). For myself and my husband, we both have some work on, a family meal to attend and we’ll try and get in some sofa slouching as well at some point.

I am feeling much better, and am starting to re-emerge back into the real world. The antibiotics have finally done their job and I in the meantime am waiting for my kidneys to be put through some more tests to get them sorted on a more permanent basis. Now a few family members and close friends guessed. After all, a kidney infection is something I’ve had before at quite a specific time. Likewise, it seemed odd to some of my friends in the medical profession that I was given such weak antibiotics when clearly a stronger drug would have been a better option. 

I thought it would be harder to keep a secret, and as we were high risk and going through a difficult time health wise, I was worried about people guessing and then heartbreak following. HOWEVER, the ‘benefit’ of being so poorly is that I’ve barely seen anyone over the last month and a half! Much easier to keep a secret!

So what is this secret I’m alluding to? 

Scarlett is going to be a big sister!

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Yes indeed, our little family of three is expecting a fourth player at the beginning of April next year and we have recently had our 12 week scan to confirm that baby is healthy and strong, if anything, significantly healthier than I am at the moment!!

We are extremely excited and after a worrying first trimester, we are looking forward to a *fingers crossed* smoother ride from here till delivery day although I’m sure it will have it’s own ups and downs to provide! 

And I have a confession to make, when I blogged to say I was continuing my blog…we knew we had a little bun brewing in the oven! So I’m looking forward to seeing how this pregnancy compares with my last, how having number two compares to having number one, and how Scarlett will react to the new addition! One things for sure, I won’t get as many nap times as I did last time!! And when I was younger the idea that I would one day run upstairs with a toddler under my arm to then sit her in an empty bath whilst I vomit was not something I pictured! However, luckily Scarlett not only isn’t bothered, she finds the visual hilarious! If only I could find it quite as entertaining! 

Like last time we’ve managed to be moving house when I’ll be roughly four months pregnant again, only this time we’ll also have a toddler to negotiate! Unlike last time, I’m not due to be on stage at seven months pregnant but I do have a couple of work trips abroad! All in all, I’m sure it’ll be chaotic, fun, ridiculous and a wonderful roller coaster! 

As with the last time, any tips of having a second child will always be welcomed, as well as your stories and anecdotes! It is not true that having a second child means you’re a more experienced parent, you’re an amateur all over again about to embark on the journey of multiple children! So it’s back to square one on the learning curve for us and we look forward to everything this time has to offer! 

Vacant Health Visitor…

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Scarlett is a very good eater, There’s nothing she won’t try (and we’ve been very mean in even getting her to try things like olives and raw onion) and very little she’ll turn her nose at (funnily enough one of the only foods she won’t eat is strawberries!). That being said, her appetite size is rather small. She suits eating little and often but recently we’ve been wondering whether it’s slightly too little. 

We looked online and saw that actually it’s quite normal and portion sizes that are now deemed ‘normal’ are actually very grossly overestimated, and we have been right to go off her cues and not try and force her to eat more than she naturally seems to want to. And as she enjoys a real variety of healthy foods and a good balance, we don’t need to worry about her nutrition. However, the one thing we did learn was that she is probably having a bit too much milk, now she’s over one, the full fat milk she drinks should be as an accompaniment to meals and roughly two thirds of the amount she currently drinks. 

As I’ve mentioned several times, internet research is fantastic but dangerous. When it comes to parenting horror stories, you don’t have to Google for long to be confronted with a horrific tale to make you think that whatever you’re doing is harmful to your baby. We only allow ourselves to look for answers on NHS websites and another government backed one that we’ve found realistic and thoroughly informative without any scare tactics (or information worded to sell a product!). You may ask why we haven’t had this information from a health visitor? It’s a fair question. 

Sadly although I have nothing but praise for our NHS and I would violently defend it and all the hardworking staff within it (and with several hospital stays and three operations within the last year and a half, I’ve met a fair few of them!) I really don’t want the following to have any implication on my view of the NHS because (in our experience) it has been amazing. However, our health visitor, we last saw her in July 2014, you may recognise that as the month our daughter was born. We saw her towards the end of the month as we were away some of August and she was away the other half of it, and so the 6 week check was booked in slightly early. At that stage all was well and we waved her off as she cheerily told us that she’d see us in September for a routine check. I should add that she meant September 2014 as that’s when Scarlett should have had a three month check and should also correspond with around the time she had her injections. We have seen nothing of her since that sunny July day. Now firstly, I know she’s ok because we tried to contact her a couple of times and were promised callbacks or were informed she would get back to us. Scarlett’s vaccinations all went well and apart from a couple of minor appointments since we have no major health concerns so as we’re busy people, we frankly haven’t had the time to chase any more. And as we have a perfectly healthy little girl we kept telling ourselves that we didn’t want to hassle and there must be lots of baby’s with more urgent needs. After all no news is good news right?

However, when we find we’ve been inadvertently giving her more milk than she should have at this stage, it does frustrate me a little bit. Both my husband and I are intelligent people and we have several books that we reference and if we have any urgent queries we can phone the Dr but we SHOULD have been able to have access to a health visitor to answer the questions we had. We weaned Scarlett onto solid foods at six months (as guided by the NHS website) we adjusted her feeding patterns as we checked along the way; but as two very busy parents, we don’t check every day and as amateurs we don’t necessarily know when these landmarks occur. 

My point is, for us, it hasn’t been disastrous. But only through dumb luck to a certain extent; for some families, without that support, they might come across illnesses through no fault of their own because they didn’t know what sort of cows milk to use, or didn’t recognise the signs of an allergy to cows milk. Now I know that in our society we are very lucky to even have health visitors, let alone be privileged enough to only have a lack of health visitor contact to complain about. As we’re also in the process of buying a house in a slightly different area, we may well be able to be assigned a new health visitor (when do children stop having a health visitor? I know it’s not supposed to be at a month old but I’ve no idea when it should be!) and be able to have someone to ask these questions to that aren’t a computer. Likewise, it means that with any future children we won’t be assigned the same one which for us is a huge relief. 

The other obvious outlet for questions are our own Mums and other Mums, but the problem with that is (with the greatest of respect!) the advice has changed since their day and each child is so different it’s difficult to know what advice to take when you can get such varying reports. So although my friends and I chat about our children at similar ages, at nearly every stage they’ve all had different experiences. The area of childbirth and babies is in reality a field in which there is still a lot of unknown, in pharmacies, there are several drugs that have certain cautions on them, not because they know it causes a problem, but because there’s not enough information available and so they understandably err on the side of caution. Guidelines change month by month because we find out more every day in the world of medicine. The honest answer to quite a few question in pregnancy and early childhood is still ‘we don’t know’. Therefore, it’s understandable that looking online finds a plethora of not necessarily very sensible advice. Our first trip online when I first found out I was pregnant was about epilepsy and pregnancy, the first four links led us to stories on death in childbirth and complications/deformities that could be caused by epilepsy in pregnancy. if we had looked before getting pregnant, that would have terrified both of us! The reality (and when I say reality I mean the medical science) is that actually there’s very little risk and in this country, in our situation, there was no real reason to worry at all. And in fact the majority of the problems we encountered were not to do with my epilepsy! My point here is that becoming a mother, especially the first time, is frightening and you’re suddenly immersed in the unknown. Whilst growing your precious cargo, you have little control over how everything is going in there and with so many contrary opinions on whether it’s ok to have the odd glass of wine/whether you can eat prawns/whether you should sleep with one leg in the air, (ok I made that last one up but I bet someone could come up with some reason as to why it’s better!) it’s difficult to know where to turn. Your midwife and then your health visitor are your assigned links to sanity. They are experienced and have all the up to date information for you and your baby, you develop a relationship with them so they get to know you and your individual baby. We as parents can behave by instinct and with as much knowledge as we have but we, in this country, are lucky enough to be gifted some medical professionals to help us and make sure we’re doing the best thing as far as today’s knowledge goes, for our baby.

We have not had that hand holding. I know how spoilt that makes us sound, we are lucky enough to have access 24 hours a day to the internet and the NHS, we live financially comfortably and our baby doesn’t want for food or clothes or warmth or any of the real priorities. However, my parenting knowledge is that of an amateur with 14 months experience and as a relatively typical British person, I worry about ‘hassling’ the Dr with seemingly small queries. at the same time, although I trust the NHS website, like every parent, I’m terrified at making an innocent mistake that even in a little way, harms my beautiful little girl. I would really rather have that right hand calming voice who I know knows her stuff and knows my baby. I trust the health profession, I trust the NHS and I am sad that in our particular individual circumstance, we’ve had a bad experience. 

Based on friends opinions, and my memory of my little brothers health visitor, I know just how invaluable a service health visitors can provide. In fact I was only 9 when my brother was born and yet I still recognise his health visitor Liz who was just amazing and still recognises me and asks after the family. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect my baby’s health visitor to be so involved that she recognises Scarlett’s siblings in thirty years time! HOWEVER, from such a fantastic experience, it has made us feel a bit stiffed! I am someone who likes to praise others hard work, as I think there are enough things in life to complain about, and I know this blog post is probably a bit counter suggestive! However, I’d like to finish off by reiterating that out of the hundreds of NHS staff we’ve had dealings with since Christmas 2013, we only have this ONE negative, and it’s likely because we’re in an area of a lot of young families, and our needs are very minimal so it’s right that we are the ones that fall through the net. I wouldn’t like to have an attentive health visitor if it meant someone who needed it more was slipping through. From surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses, doctors, administrative staff, porters, kitchen staff, we can not speak more highly of those we’ve come across. But again that’s our experience.

For those of you in a similar position, I’d love to know what gems of wisdom you’ve had from your health visitor, or the positive difference they’ve made for you, and I hope that in the future when Scarlett maybe has a sibling, we’ll be able to share a more positive experience! In the meantime, I’m going to ‘look forward’ to an upcoming hospital appointment, which I never would be able to have if it wasn’t for our wonderful NHS!