Monday, April 30

Oh No

Oh no. That time has come. The time to roll out and your best "NO" and really mean it. Every time. Continually. Even when you are shattered and just need some peace.


I'm practising but it appears to fall on deaf ears. Or works for say, two seconds before the culprit tries to resume whatever has attracted the no in the first place. Wriggles is now just shy of 20 months old, 17 months corrected and developmentally anywhere between 12-17 months depending on which consultant or professional is talking to you. 

She is an absolute titch and is commonly mistaken for having just turned one. This isn't a problem itself, the issue with being small is that when we are in group situations, everyone imagines that she is a younger more fragile baby and their hulking toddler is about to shatter her innocent peace. In the vast majority of cases, Wriggles is always the eldest and is just as likely to swipe whatever they are enjoying and not give it back. When all the babies were younger it didn't seem that important. All babies I have met operate under 'the grass is greener on the opposite side'-whatever your friend has is ALWAYS better even if it is exactly the same. Little baffling babies clonking rattles on each others heads and stealing each others socks is quite sweet. I feel though that me and Wriggles have got to the point where I need to enforce sharing a bit more militantly. In the last week she has tried to push another little girl and grab people's clothing to try and move whoever is in her way to what she wants. She is most of the time a very placid, sociable and sweet-natured little thing and it was a bit of a shock to the system to realise that like every other child, she also has a split personality whereby she can be a terror when she wants to. 

I hope I'm not being blind in that I am sure it is just a phase and not the beginnings of a selfish thug emerging. I am very conscious of the fact that she is and is going to be an only child from a single parent family. Both these things conjure up a stereotype of children who can range from precocious to unruly and have a complete lack of discipline. We all know that things are never this black and white and for every badly-mannered child from such a background there is an angelic one and that any child from any background can grow up into a nightmare that even Super Nanny would shrink from. I so want to get it right; she has been such a good baby so far I do not want to spoil things or her, and by default bring up someone who people will nudge and whisper about and hesitate over inviting to birthday parties.

Wriggles has always been quite bold and happy with rough and tumble. She is only now beginning to have a shy side which is normally only reserved for when she is teething and feels a bit rubbish. She is very much her own person and is resilient and knows what she does and doesn't want. Some things, like feeding, I have to tread carefully over and let time take it's course, but I am wary about applying this approach to everything. Over the last few weeks, I have been watching fellow parents with keen interest to see how they handle stressful situations. Obviously I only have insight into this in public and am only privy to what they choose to share, but it is useful to observe different styles. I have always had a make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach and as both Wriggles and I have been happy coasting along, have been lucky in that setting down a few ground rules and routine and otherwise being fairly laid back has not thrown up any problems. She does not always demonstrate a brilliant grasp of understanding, though is beginning to be more clear in this arena and of course by now I am able to second guess an awful lot and know her inside out. As there is just us in the house, I have for better or worse, a 'what's yours is mine' approach which has been good in building up her confidence to explore things and pique her curiosity which has helped development. Now she is a little older though, I think I am going to have to set out some slightly firmer rules about what is and isn't allowed and try and enforce the concept of sharing and patience. Having no prior experience of children, I have no idea if I am barking up the wrong tree too late or too soon.

All parenting tips welcome on a postcard!

Out and About

When Wriggles was a little un, getting out about was pretty simple (as simple as juggling a baby and all their accessories can be). I could pop her in the pram and whizz off. Now she is crawling and much more awake, alert and showing far more personality, getting out and about is more of a compromise. I sympathise; I can;t remember my buggy days but it looks no fun being wheeled around when you just want to be investigating your surroundings on all fours. No longer can I get away with a trip to Salisbury's being stimulating enough to satisfy a morning out.

So what do you do with a baby who just wants to wriggle everywhere??!

The obvious choice is soft play centres, which are beginning to come into their own. They seem best earlier in the day in the middle of the week as Wriggles becomes very overwhelmed and distressed when they are noisy and full of bigger children. One near me has a sensory room also which I was very impressed with. Unfortunately Wriggles was slightly less impressed and finds it all a bit too much.  They are easier to go to if we go as part of a group outing so she recognises other babies and parents around and can attention seek if she so wishes! I suspect as she gets older they will become a much more used haunt. 

Parks are a favourite on a sunny day, or basically a day when it is not hurricane conditions. When there was nicer weather, we would decamp there with a picnic blanket, sun hat (wishful thinking), lunch, a spare feed, a few toys and books and a parasol and while away a few hours investigating twigs, dirt, grass and the icing on the cake: swings. We found swings relatively late as she was not to be trusted in supporting herself for what felt a long time, but now we have found them there is no stopping us! When we approach the little playground at our local park, Wriggles gets so excited and starts waving her hands and dribbling with anticipation. It is far sweeter than it sounds!

Farms and animal centres so far have drawn little interest as she is more interested in looking at the other small children and trying to either hide in my coat or wriggle out of my grip. Cultural places unfortunately are also echoey which means they are ideal places for her to try out her voice. I can live with her hooting but other visitors tend to get a little miffed that their intellectual peace is being disturbed.

Thankfully, I have recently found that two of the museums in the city centre have designated pre-school areas which are our current haunts and life savers. As big public places they have reasonably good access and facilities and both have cafes afterwards for a caffeinated treat-for me not Wriggles that is. The Laing Gallery and the Great North Museum in Newcastle are both operated by Tyne and Wear Museums which run several places across the Tyne and Wear. The Laing houses several floors of art and antique pieces dating back from around the seventeenth century until the modern. It has several local exhibits and is quite traditional. It has a great area dedicated to under 5s and has an adjoining area for older children to craft. Both are next to the cafe so an easy trip afterwards and has a secure gate to stop any minxes escaping. The area has an array of toys and books as well as some interactive art activities. One of the best, and our favourite, is a colour mixing bubble lamp. Yes-HOW good?! There is a colour wheel next to it, and as you press different combinations the lamp 'mixes' the colours. Such a great way for more aware children to learn and for younger children and babies to get sensory stimulus and a 'reward' for practising fine motor skills like pressing buttons.
The Great North Museum is my favourite; it is like a museum of curiosities. Among the dinosaurs, Ancient Egyptians, remnants of Hadrian's Wall and sparkly things, there is a myriad of stuffed animals. A huge exhibition of them, some in glass cases and some suspended in mid air or open to see. The really are a spectacle and a wonderful resource for children to see them up close, even if they are dead. The pre-school area here is called the Mouse House and is a dedicated room which boasts story times on Thursday mornings and every other Saturday. There are some simple exhibits for children and a tree trunk filled with sparkling stars, puppets and dressing up, books and a soft play style giant cheese with holes to jump down. It can get very busy, but at quiet times is fabulous and much time can be spent whiled away. It is very easy to walk straight into the main museum from there as well if it all gets a bit too much. Best of all, both places are free!

What do you or did you do with energetic and opinionated little people not quite walking yet?

Sunday, April 29

Life on the Children's Ward

We have spent a fair amount of time hanging around in hospitals. They are tiring places. When we escape, people often expect us to be serene and well rested. Well, Wriggles might be but I am normally frazzled! Getting back into the swing of life can be a bit of a chore when you just want to curl up on the sofa. Luckily right now we are going through a good patch, after most of April being on the nasty and testing side.

Reasons why being in hospital is wearing:

1. They are normally either quite hot or freakishly cold. Assuming it is the former, then after a few days of smugly marching around in shorts and flipflops, you feel unnaturally sleepy due to oppressing heat and lack of fresh air. You feel permanently dozy and of course the minute you drop off, the doctors will finally start their rounds.

2. Well would YOU like being a zoo exhibit? Even if you are lucky enough to be in a cubicle, there are continually people charging in and out. Many for good reason but this doesn't make the utter lack of privacy any less infuriating. Like the above point, if you dare the lock the bathroom door to get dressed or go to the toilet, you will miss the one meeting of the day you have been waiting for. Just to enhance all zoo-like feelings, the nurses like to point all equipment with reading to face the corridor and nurses station. Although this is useful for them, it does mean that every bugger who so much as saunters past will goggle into your room.

3. Whoever got a good night's sleep a) on a camp bed b) without a proper duvet c) with people banging in and out every few hours to administer drugs and record observations? Who knew so many things could go beep?

4. If your child is connected to a series of beeping equipment, the likelihood is they are quite poorly. That is worrying for you. Even if you know they will be fine, it does not take away from the fact you are anxious, worried, scared and exhausted from all these. You might also be angry with you know, life. These intense feelings are energy sapping. And don't say relax. That is neither helpful nor possible.

5. Recounting medical histories approximately 6532971 times in one admission really addles your brain to the point you are convinced you are wittering gibberish and must have made some of it up. If there are bad memories attached to said histories, it is quite probable you will struggle with confronting these on a daily, often more frequent basis.

6. Lack of nourishing food. I am yet to come across a parent who ever consumed their five a day whilst in hospital, without outside catering and a bottomless wallet. The main food groups for your duration are caffeine (plural), sugar, carbohydrates and whatever looks least congealed from the canteen or food trolley. You also loose track of meal times for yourself and either end up having dinner at 10pm after finally settling a poorly child to sleep and meeting the night shift before being able to briefly sneak out the ward or get to 10pm and fall asleep.

7. While your child naps (if they are able to) or is knocked out by drugs, a popular past time is reading. If you can read the 300 page intellectual book in your bag, you may come from another planet. Often the only reading matter available is out of date gossip magazines or children's books. Neither of these are horrendously problematic but do have a tendency to turn your brain to mush. After the last stay I had, I had re-read two Jacqueline Wilson stories and knew all the names of The Only Way Is Essex cast, which I have never before or after watched. I have not been able to concentrate since on a grown up book as my reading age and attention span has plummeted.

8. It is exhausting trying to cheer up a (justifiably) whining poorly child. They will require your undivided attention and total love. In return for reading and re-reading their favourite book about 400 times in an hour, they may share their virus or vomit down your last clean t-shirt. On rare occasions, they fall asleep on you rather sweetly.

9. Cabin fever is unavoidable. Paediatric wards are not babysitting services. If you would not leave an 18 month in her cot whilst you popped down to the supermarket, you cannot leave them here to go for a walk. Obviously if they are (fast) asleep or you can collar a play nurse, friend, partner, relative or gain permission then you can escape temporarily. Key word: temporarily. However, the over priced coffee shop downstairs never felt so liberating. You do feel like you have mislaid a limb though. The only solution I have found is to hum the Muppet Treasure Island 'Cabin Fever' song to lift spirits:

10. Worried relatives and friends expect constant updates to save them from worry. If you are unlucky, this can spark off unkind words when someone criticises you for leaving it over 12 hours or longer between something happening and you knowing. Managing family politics ontop of everything is not for the faint hearted. Telephone trees are ideal for stressful situations. So is compassion to yourself: right now, focus on the moment. Everything else can wait. Except sometimes it doesn't. If you are struggling, do ask for help. Fighting friends can fall over themselves to keep the small stuff ticking over if it helps. It doesn't make you any less brave to accept kindness.

I am eternally grateful to all medical staff and this is not intended as any form of criticism of the NHS or hospital protocol. 

17/52 New Skills

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Silent Sunday

Saturday, April 28

A Week

A week can make such a difference.

In a week we have:
  • been to a new toddler group and intend to go back (!)
  • been for lunch with some mummies. I did have to slightly wrestle Wriggles from cheerfully breaking the china by forcefully banging the plates with a spoon, but aside from that it was very pleasant.
  • when bumping into a mum we sort of know, rather than make excuses and scuttle away panicking, we stayed and played and chatted for over an hour.
  • Wriggles has gone from wobbly pulling to stand to being able to take a few steps sideways. She can go forwards sort of, but due to her tight muscles, her feet flinch upwards in a more climbing motion.
  • Likewise, she has learnt that then letting go and launching herself backwards = a bumped back of head
  • Wriggles can make a tower of 6 stacking cups. Hooray for Poundland!
  • Wriggles can effectively turn the television on and off. She can also put on sunglasses (upside down) and has learnt that thrusting them up my nose is code for "Mummy!! Put these on so I can take them off again!!!! Now"
  • I made a cake and didn't burn it. It even tasted yummy. Tip: translate 1 tsp of cinnamon for several Tbsp of allspice.
Boast over! 

Thursday, April 26


I had one yesterday.

It just crept up on me slightly unannounced. In fact, had it not been for the few cards that plopped through my letter box, it is entirely likely I would have forgotten the whole affair until probably the weekend when I would have been in a huff for forgetting it. Anyway, I didn't. I was going to ignore the whole thing but in the end had really quite a lovely little day with no fuss.

I live fairly near the coast, so we went to the seaside. It was really quite nippy and windy so we didn't sit on the beach, but did go to the playground opposite the seafront and I showed Wriggles the big blue sea and she got to try out the swings. We also went in and out of several charity shops (I love charity shopping and bargain hunting) and for £1.98 bought four books and also a stuffed camel to post to my crackpot parents who collect them. As my treat, we went to a ceramic cafe and had a go at doing some Art together. Wriggles was not too keen. Under sufferance though, we did paint a plate full of our multi-coloured handprints which I will be able to pick up from the kiln next week and see what a mess we made of it! Two friends came round in the afternoon and eager to show off, Wriggles made my day by taking two supported sideways steps-her first attempt at cruising.

Birthdays are a bit flat though once you are older and especially if you are on your own. I have to say, Wriggles has very few faults but one major one is ignorance of birthdays and special events. I had to make my own tea and breakfast and everything! Birthdays are quite exciting when they are for other people; there is something quite lovely about focusing on someone and thinking something to make them smile, be it a gift, an outing, some kind words or a small token that they mean something to you. Children's birthdays are definitely the best, although so far this applies mostly to other people's offspring. 
Wriggles has only had one birthday and it was a very mixed day. Obviously I wanted to celebrate her and rejoice that a year on she was here and healthy with me and had pulled through all of the bad patches. But it was also an intense day of bad memories. Her birth was not a happy occasion and the immediate period after was very fraught and traumatic, for both of us in very different ways. It isn't that I didn't want to celebrate the day she came into the world, it's just that that particular day is still very raw and there have been many happier days since. Once you get older, birthdays are far less about the birth day and far more about the person as a whole, especially for other people celebrating with you. I certainly have never thought on the way to a friend's party that this is the anniversary of their birth in anything less than the abstract sense. Birth is something which can be very idealised which in actual fact is quite primitive in that it is a sweaty, slightly gory and very physical and also emotive event that often surprises people. I find it hard to associate myself once being born years ago on my birthday, especially now having gone through birth myself. 
I still feel quite separate from birth; I know I have given birth but when I hear people speak about labour or I watch One Born Every Minute there is no flicker of recognition at all and it is as if it never happened to me. It is as if it happened to another part of me that I have lost or become separated from. I'm still in the early days of parenthood but I think for me, it always will be tied in with birth. Is this just memory tidying things away or is it the subconscious burying traumatic events to dull the pain to enable you to carry on with life? Is it more common after 'birth trauma' or a difficult aftermath-I frequently wonder if I would really differently if I had had a more typical birth of get baby out-get baby placed on you for skin to skin-hold baby whenever you want. My baby was whipped away non breathing. I didn't see her for hours. I didn't know what sex she was for hours. I didn't know she was still alive for hours. I didn't hold her for days. And that all still really hurts. I don't think it won't, but I do expect it to fade over the years as her birthday becomes more about her: who she is now and what good things have happened and are yet to come. I hope I am correct!

First Birthday

Tuesday, April 24

To be or not to be?

Cheerful, that is.

I am currently signed off work to come to terms with and acquire adequate/successful management of my depression and anxiety so that I can juggle both single motherhood and working at the same time. After a slow-building but sick-inducing wobble very recently, I simply could not do both and with no family or back up, it was with both regret and relief that I agreed to forgo a small period of working to make sure I could mummy as best as I could, rather than fall apart and let my one year old take the consequences. I am already feeling calmer, more rational and more positive with regards to the future. This weekend was a stressful weekend, as Wriggles was poorly again, but I am proud to say I held my cool and even made us leave the house yesterday to go to a parent and toddler group we haven't been to before, and speak to strangers. You know what; I think we both even enjoyed it. A breakthrough. Before I could barely manage the duration of such a group without a panic attack or breaking down into tears either and running off (with Wriggles in tow of course!).

Today was a good day.
I had a productive appointment with the psychologist I see.
Wriggles and I went to an art gallery with an interactive pre-schooler section and listened to a story and then played with some blocks, a plastic tea pot and a colour mixing bubble lamp (honestly, that alone signifies a brilliant day surely?). 
We met up with my good friend and had lunch (ie. cake) in the cafe and Wriggles ate half a packet of Quavers (dietician approved. Salt content is soooo yesterday...when your child doesn't normally eat) and consented to having some spoonfuls of fruit and custard too. 
Afterwards we went for a wander in the sun and put the world to rights while Wriggles dozed in the pushchair, wrapped up in her pink coat and spotty socks.

Then I saw some people from work.

It was a bit awkward.

When you are sick and it is not a physical illness with obvious signs, how can you prove it? Answer, I haven't a clue. Answers on a postcard please. I felt a fraud. I know I am not, but I still felt one. Do they think I'm making it up or exaggerating? Do they think I just don't care? I worried and wondered if they would say anything to my seniors back at work. Silly, even if I was at working, Tuesdays are my day off anyway, why shouldn't I be out?

There is a real misconception that depression means a constant state of melancholy and wringing your hands. Depression can actually manifest in many other forms and is very changeable. You can have several good days followed by many more terribly bleak days. You can have several good weeks, followed by despair and isolation. Depression is not just unhappiness, it is more complex. Depression is always there in the background, but on good days it is not the defining factor in your day. It is possible to laugh and smile and do "normal" things. It is possible to make decisions and feel motivated. In fact, it is really quite important that on the good days, you really make the most of them. Sitting inside and feeling guilty is only going to enforce a negative cycle of behaviour. It can be a self fulfilling prophecy-I am depressed therefore I must act depressed therefore I will feel more depressed... in a nutshell, not helpful to you, people around you or people helping to treat you.
I know that this time off is imperative that I will be able to get on with life in all spheres soon. But I desperately needed this little break to slot my mind back into thinking mode and start feeling like I am "living" again and not just "existing". This time off is helping my focus, concentration, ability to make decisions, ability to prioritise and face up to things and think rationally. It is letting me manage things not let them manage me. It is reducing my anxiety and rekindling interest in anything other than hiding under the duvet. I have never questioned my feelings for Wriggles in the dark moments, if anything my love for her burns bright with a fierce intensity, but I could see my capabilities and my day-to-day devotion through simple tasks and attention slipping away as I would struggle with daily tasks, routine and getting things done that needed doing. I am clawing those things back now, and breathing in each moment as it happens. I am trying hard to be here in the present, not floating in the ether looking down.

But can you show people that in a brief meeting? How can you say that when people say "How are you?" and you reply on autopilot "OK, good thanks." Because anything more is a long and/or delicate conversation that is not really for fleeting moments.

I am revelling in feeling cheerful again. I am getting better, just not "cured" yet. I know my close friends and family understand.

I just hope other people do too.

Monday, April 23


Generally I have a lot of love for doctors, indeed most medical staff. I have felt very well supported by both specialist teams and also from my GP surgery. My previous GP surgery was about as much use as a chocolate teapot and the Out of Hours doctors range from rather nervous to a bit hopeless in my experience, but generally my surgery have demonstrated much that is brilliant about the NHS. The GPs have been very positive in supporting my mental health, and in the main have been very sensible about Wriggles. There however nearly always is a duff one. Today we got him.

Wriggles has a cough again. A cough that is full of mucus and dried blood and that is causing her to be a blimming nightmare to get any fluids or medication in. We have been up through the nights and been reliant on our trusty Ventolin, which while usually does bugger all, now she is a bit older, is quite good for semi-emergency use at home, before having to bother the doctors. That and vomiting are the only things keeping us home, as the coughing fits have a nasty habit of inducing dusky colour changes and labouring her breathing as well as clearly causing acute and prolonged distress. So our little inhaler friend has been living within arms reach and being used fairly frequently. As this has been ongoing for at least 48 hours and the use is moderately frequent, I want a second, well first opinion from a trained doctor rather than the cobbled wisdom of previous admissions and common sense from my head. Plus, it has been drummed into me to seek regular medical advice should we be in the position of using it regularly especially if combined with other factors like a temperature (check!) and potential for dehydration (check!).

The GP now looked at me as if I was mad.

Wriggles was doing her infuriating trick of looking the picture of health if as white as a sheet, whilst twenty minutes earlier she was teeming with mucus and screaming in pain. At the time of making the appointment hours earlier she was refusing all drinks and had not urinated for some long hours. Now, she just wanted to creatively rearrange the paperwork on his desk.

He admitted she was well on the way to being dehydrated as she was a borderline case now but was very chipper about the whole thing, as he did a test to determine how hydrated she was or wasn't. He was boggled that she is not on solids: "And does she, you know, actually grow?"

And then, after describing the coughing and chesty episodes that had plagued the last days he seemed perplexed about administering Ventolin to open up her airways, which are narrow and easily clogged. I had explained that not giving her anything leads to breathing difficulties. He didn't seem to understand still.

GP: And what if you didn't give her ventolin?
Me: [trying to work out if he is asking a strick question] I haven't actually tried that at home yet. But from experience, generally an emergency admission to resus following respiratory distress needing oxygen, nebulisers and sometimes IV fluids and continual monitering as her heartrate becomes erratic. When it has been held off in a controlled environment like hospital, her breathing becomes worse and worse and she becomes tired, disorientated and takes even less fluids if possible and will still need either a bronchodilator inhaler, nebuliser or oxygen in the short term after delaying it. There is a reason why we have been prescribed it and told to use it when a virus or respiratory infection is present!

I know they have to be careful that untrained parents are not self medicating. I know they have to ask routine questions.

He nods and leans forward in a conspiratorial manner. "Is she your first child?" he asks in an almost pitying voice.

I could have lobbed the Duplo brick Wriggles had at his head.

I am acting on advice given to me by the hospital who look after her care in the main and have witnessed her in various states of health over the year! I do not sit in surgeries for fun or as a hobby! If i thought I could be managing this ticketty-boo, we would be sat in front of CBeebies at home! Believe me, I would swop you for a mug of coffee and a chocolate finger right now if I could.

Thankfully, she has perked up a little and the coughing is subsiding this evening. She has even had a wee (I am sorry Wriggles) and a tiny drink. I however, am still in a huff!

Sunday, April 22

Neonatal Charities

As well as large and vital charities like Bliss among others, many neonatal units up and down the country have their own smaller charity attached that supports both the unit itself paying for medical equipment ontop of the NHS budget to ensure the units remain cutting edge, contributing to research projects, looking after parent and family welfare, paying for extra staff and providing support for the families be they in for a day or 6 months.
My local neonatal unit is at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Ward 35 houses the intensive care, high dependency and special care rooms that make up the unit. It cares for over 600 babies a year born anywhere in the Northern region and at any one time can take 34 babies. It is one of the bigger units in the UK and last year, won the Big Heart (by Mother & Baby magazine and Bliss) award for Neonatal Unit of the Year; not a prize taken lightly when you think of all the fantastic units that save lives every single day. It is by sheer luck that it is my local unit. After university, I applied for jobs liberally and it just so happened my first offer was in my university town of Newcastle so there I stayed in a city suburb, before my daughter came along very prematurely in a matter of a few months. Because of the size of the unit and the specialist Intensive Care it provides, it meant we did not have to be transferred, potentially many, many miles away like many families.

Friday, April 20

How to Get Married

I am going to pause in my melancholy musings and share with you a genius book I have come across. One of my closest friends has just announced her engagement and I was looking for a suitable inexpensive gift. Anticipating she would be snowed under with toasters and bunches of flowers, I remembered a book that tickled me whilst working in a children's bookshop.

How To Get Married by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sue Heap is a very useful book for anyone of any age looking to embark upon marriage. It has some very good tips which you might not have considered.

For example: "When you are choosing a Husband or a Wife you must be on your best behaviour. You can't be mean, you have to be nice. For instance no one will want to marry you if you gobble up all your sweets and don't offer any. Or if you pick your nose in front of them or yawn when they are talking. They won't ever want to see you again."
See, very useful advice. I don't recall picking my nose infront of the opposite sex, but I am feel sure I am quite territorial about my biscuits. Especially the chocolate ones. My getting married friend recently ate each and every single one of my macaroons when she visited. She only just redeemed herself by asking me to be a bridesmaid. Had she not done so, I would have been very cross and possibly sent her a bill for £1.69 to replace my snacks. I don't know whether to warn her fiancee or not about her biscuit thievary. I presume he has an inkling as they live together, and I do want to wear a nice dress.

In case you have been proposing to people for quite some time with little success and are very well behaved, polite and generous with all of your sweets then there is also a list for the hopeless:

One you have successfully snared the object of your affections, or at least, an object, you will need to plan your wedding. Again the book is full of handy hints and tips, some which you might not have thought of. Some of them are far cheaper than hiring out a castle and neatly side-step religious issues:

It also gives you some ideas for the clothing. Sometimes people are very misguided in their choice of wedding outfits, but if you follow this advice then you won't go wrong. Probably. 
  • A pure white dress like the moon
  • A wig
  • Moustache
  • Some shining armour
  • Some ears, in case you are marrying a rabbit
Once you have dressed in the appropriate items, there is a VERY IMPORTANT BIT OF INFORMATION. It is one I have never thought about, but if I do ever get married will be at the forefront of my mind. After all the trouble of picking The One, you could be at terrible risk if the lighting or location is all Wrong. 

And very lastly, do remember that whatever you thought marriage was about, you do have a moral and social responsibility to please you friends and society. There is a code of conduct which Jane Austen, Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother and the like would be proud of...

Disclaimer: if you read this book and fail in any matrimonial adventures. I take no responsibility. At all. Even if you have had a bath and not dribbled your dinner down your chin. I have done both and read the book at least three times and am still Prince Charming-less. So there.

Recipe for Teatime

Equipment needed:

1 child. I am using an orally aversive one just to be difficult. This is not necessary, especially if you have a nervous disposition
1 highchair or sitting device, preferably with a table
100000 spoons or thereabouts
A wipe clean floor. Start with it super-clean


1-2 small pots of fromage frais or similar
approx 40g fruit puree
2 cheesey biscuits (can be replaced with other dry food like crackers, breadstick, ricecake)
A soft texture like strips of bread or cake
A few soliders of buttered toast/hot cross bun/tea cake/use your imagination
Some slices of fruit/avocado/steamed or roasted vegetables
Several large dollops of patience, and then a bit more for good luck

  1. Seat child in the chair. Strap said child in: they will try to escape.
  2. Lay loose food items out on tray of highchair. 
  3. Let the child browse and pick them up. Many will fly over the sides. Try to intercept as many as possible. A clean floor is vital. If you are unfortunate enough to live in a carpeted kitchen, put down an old sheet, newspaper or similar NOW.
  4. Encourage child to touch items they are blatantly ignoring. 'Share' in the meal. Better still, have a similar one at the same time or use the time for a buffet style snack.
  5. If child attempts to feed you (hint: thrusting dribbly half-chewed item of food at your nose is code for sharing) take some nibbles and then try and return the favour. Try not to be mortally offended if they refuse.
  6. Once you can see teeth marks in food items and there is now more on the floor or in the stomach of the child than on the table, unleash your spoon collection.
  7. Take top off fromage frais pot
  8. Administer small spoonfuls. Assuming this goes well, carry on. Child may at this point start trying to grab the spoon. Unveil your patience and allow this. Replace with one of your many spare spoons. Repeat as necessary.
  9. Once you have reached approximately half way through the small pot, start to add some smooth fruit puree. Try to get a mix of half and half on the spoon. Feed child as normal.
  10. If child does not bat an eyelid or scream the house down, repeat for a few steps.
  11. If this is still going well, steadily add fruit puree.
  12. ADVANCED MOVE (optional): crack onto the second fromage frais with fruit combo. Use your intuition on this.
  13. When child begins to cry, hide under their arms or bite the sides of the highchair, it is time to stop. This is different from avoidance tactics like staring into space and squwarking. 

Thursday, April 19


This is a picture I took 
recently of my napping daughter,
 who likes to sleep on her front with her knees 
pulled up underneath her and her bottom stuck in the air. Lord knows how it is comfortable, (I tried out of intruige) but it is how I find her most times at morning or afternoon. It's not the best photo in the world but I love the peace and the stillness. There is little more pure or innocent than sleeping babies and now my baby is very much on the move, she barely sits still for a minute. But at naptimes and bedtimes I carry her to her cot with her little arms looped around my neck and listen to her snuffle softly and the world feels Just Right.

Wednesday, April 18

The Compassionate Mind

In the past year when I have struggled I have briefly dipped my toe in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help change unhelpful thoughts and break the cycle of behaviour which ultimately spirals into feelings of acute distress and failure. When last week, I reached a falling apart point and realised enough was enough I started reading up again and finding some exercises to do at home to rationalise thoughts and reduce anxiety. One of the things I came across was something called the Compassionate Mind by Professor Paul Gilbert and Dr Michelle Cree. This has it's roots in CBT, and I found that the way it explained the workings of the brain resonated with me, and allowed myself to use compassion to shake off the feelings of failure, which ultimately is the idea. I have only the briefest of understandings of psychology and the biology of the brain, but found the way it talks about the primitive brain reactions with more modern thinking was useful into trying to understand how as a reasonably intelligent human being, you can be felled by pure emotion and allow reactions and feelings to run your everyday life, cutting you off.


Dear You,

I think we should have some serious words.

I know you've been having a hard time recently. Or rather, Brain has been giving you a hard time. If it is any consolation, it isn't your fault about Brain. It's nothing you've done or not done that makes her a bit unstable; it's nothing your parents did or something that happened, it's just that that is how you humans are made. Sorry. It's an evolutionary thing. Those cave-ancestors have a lot to answer for, they set a pattern of primitive reactions designed to protect and save you. Only things have become far less clear cut since then. That's where I came in, to reason and rationalise, to plan and remember. Brain got a bit boisterous and took over a bit. The default alarm went off. But I'm back now and I'm just going to do some spring cleaning if you don't mind.

*does some dusting*

Tuesday, April 17


Today I went to see the psychologist I have known since neonatal who has given me counselling and been somewhat of an extra helping hand for me. At low points in the past she has taken charge and sorted things out with my GP to kick-start more help and has offered in the past to help with things in a non-professional environment like watching Wriggles or doing some ironing. We get on well and I think she takes joy from seeing Wriggles growing up into the menace/delight that she now is. I told her how I had been feeling recently again, and we talked about ways to try and un-knot the knots that are stopping me in my tracks. She referred to them as "grounding" and a cross between meditative exercises and a comforting device. 

Monday, April 16

Letting Go

As silly as it may sound, I am afraid of letting go of the past. Despite the pain and disruption that neonatal and PICU have caused, I am scared of forgetting them and moving on. They are such an important part of our lives and whilst caused unimaginiable hurt, they also made me intensely grateful and changed the way I look at things now. They are so integral to Wriggles' journey and health, how can I just write the experiences off? How can I move on when they can loom so large?

Because things are different now.

Because this:

Is not this:


Part of the shock from having a new baby is that suddenly you go from being well, you, to 'Mum'. No one can remember your name except from the bills company and unless you are attached to your new bundle, people seem to seldom recognise and acknowledge you. Of course, part of this is lovely. There is a certain inner glow that comes everytime someone says "So-and-so's mummy" and you think, yes! Me! I am so-and-so's mummy! After all it is such an important job, why wouldn't you want to tell the world? But somewhere along the line, there are days when it grates on you. Days when you think that it would be nice if just once someone at least pretended they knew your name once. And then comes the guilt. Why would you want to do or be anything that is not 100% mummy?

Personally I think this guilt is nothing more than a reaction. Wanting something for yourself does not mean you are neglecting your child, as long as you are not dropping their care. Wanting to reclaim some of your personality or maybe even a hobby (there is more to life than folding tiny socks...? Really?) or a social life does not mean you are trying to shake off being a parent. I think a good parent is one who has a healthy sense of self; if you heap everything onto your child that is suddenly a lot of expectations for that child and at worst, a chance resentment might build up. of course we all have periods where this comes and goes, circumstances, mood and even mental health fluctuate. We cannot be perfect, or striving to be sort-of-perfect all the time.

For myself, having gone through difficult periods of neonatal and a sick child, I am beginning to feel this even more keenly. I don't want these times and grief to describe me or settle my identity. As a single parent, I want to be a strong person and a good mum. I want this blip in coping I am having to be nothing more than a blip. In these times, Wriggles become like a benevolent force or shield, saving me from seeking deeper. She is the reason that when I feel bleak that I do not feel like contemplating removing myself forcibly from the equation. She is like a rock in a turbulent sea to cling onto. I feel naked without her, like I am exposed and that there is nothing to look back to. She is undoubtedly the most important thing, but I want to be able to claw myself back without relying on her alone. I will always do it for her, but I need to have a stronger sense of self again. I know it is in there, just hiding. A bit lost. I am primarily Wriggles' Mama but I am also a young woman who has a range of interests, passions and dislikes. I don't believe that finding other things equates to losing some of her care or giving up some love, more that it stretches things to include more. Yes, I am changed since our experiences but this is time to stop just dwelling and start doing. I owe it to my daughter and I owe it to myself. I want to stop saying the right things and start doing the right things. Whatever they are...


Friday, April 13


Although it is more of an "acceptable" subject these days, mental health still holds something of a taboo. It is not one to be discussed lightly and can be a minefield of political correctness, ignorance and compassion. We're all guilty of claiming to be "depressed" when the washing basket is too full, "going mad" when it's been a bad week or five or "traumatised" over losing something but none of these really go anywhere near acknowledging how it really feels if you are genuinely battling with a mental illness. Mental illness sounds terrifyingly serious. It describes a huge umbrella of things in varying severity, many of which can be recovered from and escaped. I don't think anyone ever expects to become a sufferer or a loved one to succumb. Until you are gripped by one, it is very hard to fully understand being controlled by thoughts and emotions, many devoid of reason or rationality.

There can also be such a fine line.

When do the baby blues turn into postnatal depression? When does grief turn into depression? When does shock turn into post-traumatic stress? When does worry turn into full-blown anxiety?

I cannot speak for everyone, only from my personal experience. At present, I am currently signed off work for a small period following over a year of dealing with post traumatic stress, depression and anxiety. In the main, I have largely been able to control these with help from sertaline (a selected serotonin uptake inhibitor, or SSRI drug) and a course of counselling. There have been low points certainly but so far I have been able to juggle things even if that means really struggling. Lately though, the struggle has been getting harder. Motivation and concentration have gone out the window, and I have been exhausted. My mind has spiralled into a whirlwind of pure emotion, little based on fact. It's not something visible or that people can necessarily understand, which I have found the hardest part. It's easier to joke about loosing your marbles than it is so say "I really, really need some help."

I don't know whether the feelings started from a difficult birth and extended stay in Neonatal, but they certainly grew at an astounding rate shortly after discharge from Paediatric Intensive Care when Wriggles had pneumonia at 6 months old. Then I became quickly swamped, and whilst I could muddle through in the day, when Wriggles was in bed and separated from me, I became a mess. I couldn't eat, drink or sleep, let alone do the washing up. I would sit, glued to the sofa because I felt too leaden to move. I was in a perpetual state of hyper vigilance, waiting ears pricked for disaster to loom again, and would cry silent tears and become surrounded by flashbacks and nightmares of my daughter in distress. The relief after admitting how far things had come was huge. I was told it was a form of post-traumatic stress. Granted, it wasn't going to be the severity of soldiers from combat or people who have suffered horrific abuse or ordeals but in my little world, my family had been rocked as I had stared bleakly at the prospect of losing my child. I was started on sertaline and began counselling in earnest with a wonderful psychologist who had had a premature baby herself previously, which acted as an excellent bond and feeling of trust that she knew what I was going through. With support, the acuteness and rawness began to fade and I began to gain confidence and relax. Daytimes became better, where I could revel and immerse myself in Wriggles without inhibition and slowly I re-learnt to be "normal" at the end of the day and enjoy working. Unfortunately Wriggles had other ideas and an admission lasting nearly a month and enduring a mis-diagnosis of queried brain damage with an unsafe swallow triggered everything off again. I regularly would "hear" the noises of the ventilator and alarms going off and would burst into tears at anything. Thankfully, I was in good hands and able to get back on track with the healing process and shaking things off before a welcome break in the hub of my family over Christmas.

So what now, five months on? Where did I slip again when it was all going so swimmingly? Wriggles is 19 months today, it is just a year yesterday since leaving the hospital after our PICU scare and she is blossoming all the time. It isn't as simple as accepting things are better and consequently getting on with things. It isn't as simple as processing memories. I suspect that like everything, it needs time and these are relatively early days. I imagine also the sense of responsibility and physical demands of being the sole carer as a single parent have not helped, draining me of some energy and quickening the need for maturity and stability. Of course I wouldn't have it any other way, and I would do it all again to have my little girl with me. But once you have been gripped by the fear, it is all too easy for your brain to muddle up facts with emotions and responses with feelings and turn a vulnerable mind into a seemingly random generator of reactions. Depression and anxiety can be bred from post-traumatic stress, they can be there independently. It is beside the point how they got here for me, only that they are there and it is the physical symptoms of them which made me go to GP this week and resulted in some weeks off. It isn't as easy as pointing at a specific memory and saying, "yup, that one there. Zap it" as it is far more complex, especially as some upheaval and work-based anxiety is very much playing into this at present. It wasn't easy admitting it this time and agreeing to take time off. I have been encouraged to in the past but always declined partly for feeling it would be selfish. Yes, it is my responsibility to keep our heads above water financially. But it is also my responsibility to make sure I can care for Wriggles to the best of my ability to ensure that she remains the happy and healthy toddler she is. 

I am confident I can return to being myself, i just need to harness this blasted anxiety and stem the flow of overpowering emotions that come from memory which will enable to me to clearly deal with everyday worries rather than letting them get out of control and taking on exaggerated and fictitious fears. Much of the feeling is a peculiar form of grief and guilt. One blog I enjoy has put this into words better than I can here. It feels wrong to use the word 'grief' without reference to a bereavement, as I am acutely aware how lucky I am not to have had to deal with such and my heart goes out to all that sadly have. The feelings are similar though, and in my experience can stun you into a sense of separating from the rest of the world. Asking for help and admitting that I can't just lock a box of the past away has been one of the hardest things I have done, and I am not naive enough to think it will all just magic away and that there may be repercussions in how people tread in the future. But that is another day. For now, I am looking after Wriggles, and looking after myself *puts kettle on".

Weekly Waffle

After a hard start to the week, things are slightly improving.
  • I am feeling calmer.
  • Wriggles has received both glowing reports from an assessment by Speech and Language and physio who is going to plead our case to the consultant that Wriggles is actually a genius.
  • We have been invited back to hydrotherapy sessions from May onwards.
  • Wriggles ate a whole big pot of yoghurt with a squirt of blueberry-mush-for-babies for lunch today and didn't throw a tantrum when I put some jam and clotted cream* on her lips to taste.
  • I have made a noticeable dent in the pile of washing.
  • We have discovered that our nearby soft play place also has a sensory room. I think I like it slightly more than Wriggles who was in a grump! Twice.
  • Swings make everything better, especially the moods of teething babies.
  • At least one of my friends does not think I have lost the plot.
  • I have two large punnets of plums rescued for 20p from Asda. Now I just have to think of what to do with them....
  • I found my black cardigan, lost since I moved a year ago. At the bottom of a box of junk. Where else would it be?!
  • Wriggles is trying to stand up. Go Wriggles, go!
  • I have been invited to join the management committee of a group I have recently become involved with, running and promoting nearly new sales to raise money for our local neonatal unit. So far, over £11,000 raised in 18 months.
  • At the grand age of 19 months old, Wriggles can finally wear her 6-9 month trousers without them falling down. 
Here is some proof of some other grand successes:

Behold, one standing child. Wriggles has worked out that if you are kneeling and put all your weight through your tiptoes and push reeeeeeeaaaaaaalllllyyyyyy hard then you can get to standing if you don't break all of your toes first. One foot in largely still on tip toes while the other is flat but hey, I can take compromises. She did this first last week in the hospital and then stopped and has been showing off since Tuesday. All the time. Including in the bath.

LOOK! She is EATING! Alright, she is sucking the butter off strips of buttered and toasted hot cross bun with the raisins removed, but she is PUTTING FOOD NEAR HER MOUTH**. Out of free will. And some crumbs are actually being swallowed and presumably digested. And although she won't let it go anywhere near her face yet, she has consented to play with the cup and spill water down her trousers. Huzzah!

Wriggles helping with the housework. She is no longer scared of the hoover and instead quite likes to climb on it and has worked out how to turn it off and on. She also quite likes riding on it, however cannot yet be trusted without two piles of cushions either side and a mama tottering ready to catch her as her balance is wobbly to say the least.

I hope you have all had wonderfully lovely weeks and any Small People behaved!

*with permission and active encouragement from both dietician and paediatric consultants, plural.
**if you haven't read my blog before, Wriggles has oral aversion meaning that days of food-near-mouth are few and far between and largely the only food that she doesn't gag on is fromage frais. A super diet for a one and half year old.

Monday, April 9

The Straw

The final straw.
The straw that broke the camel's back.
Not that I'm a camel you understand.

This weekend I have gone a little bit....dislodged shall we say. Discombobulated. Finally accepted that perhaps you can't do everything all the time. Accepted that sometimes principals have to be flexible. Accepting that help does not equal failure.
Tomorrow I am going to go to my GP and plead to be signed off work for a period. I cannot do it all. I just can't cope. It's been brewing for a while and in the last five days, I have fought off anxiety attacks like nothing else. I have been constantly on edge and unable to concentrate on anything at all. I could barely bring myself to play properly with Wriggles, couldn't get dressed til gone noon. I know we all have off days, but I know this is me falling apart.

I had Wriggles at 23, barely out of university. I was so desperate to prove I wasn't a silly young girl who had just got pregnant that I was terrified of not working. As a single mum, a young single mum, there is still very much a preconceived idea of who you are and a stigma attached. I wanted to prove it wasn't me, that I could take care of my little family. That I could do it all. That I could hang out with the Cool Mums and still pay my cheque in at the end of every month. Damn prematurity and all that came with it playing with my brain.

Sunday, April 8

Age Appropriate

Now in the grand scheme of things, this isn't something very big at all, but it is something that sometimes frustrates and throws me and it does cross my mind that this may be a precursor for the future if we were unlucky.
I'm talking at "baby classes" or baby groups which are segregated by age. I do, in fact, think it is sensible to put an age limit on classes and to group children of a similar age and ability together so that toddlers don't squash newborns flat and newborns don't drive toddlers round the bend with wailing etc. However my irritation comes when your child does not meet all the developmental milestones associated with age and such groups become barriers.
I like baby classes as it gives you a chance to meet other parents and have an activity, and as a lot of the mother and baby/toddler groups in my area are unfortunately either on days I work or terrifying. I would love to go to more of the library groups but they all clash with me coming home from work, as does many of the nearby Sure Start activities. I have tried to keep going to a Sure Start group organised nearby, but always feel a bit of a sore thumb as it was primarily set up for teenage parents and though they now welcome others and whilst I may be younger than some, I am not teenage at nearly 25. This problem also annoys me when it comes to days out which charge by age. I resented paying full price for soft play for example at age 1 when Wriggles could not yet even sit unsupported, let alone cruise or walk as the centre assumed 1 year olds do.

14/52 Blizzard

Silent Sunday

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Saturday, April 7


I have always loved the name Isabel.
I don't know where I first picked it up or heard it, but it has always since I was small, thought it would be the name that my daughter would have. I'd been adamant about it and like many girls, dreaming of my first baby. Baby Isabel. No doubt born into a loving family of two parents almost besotted with each other as much as her. Born into a solid and secure house and to a fufilled mother and financially secure couple. Needless to say, she would be full-term because babies just weren't really born early except in very rare and exceptional circumstances were they? Not anymore.

And then Wriggles was born.

And my hopes and ideals were shattered.

Friday, April 6


"Mummys aren't allowed to be ill." My Dad

They certainly aren't allowed to be ill when there is just one parent, an absence for 300 miles of family and your fall-back best friends are on holiday in London or Canada. Yesterday, I was caught utterly short by this predicament.
I have been exceptionally lucky and only be truly knocked out twice so far in my daughter's lifetime, but they are times I would really rather not repeat. When there is literally no one to step in, it is really tough. Not wanting to sound like a whinger, but surely if there was a benevolent force, single parents would be made immune to all bugs, viruses, lurgies and exhaustion at the pinnacle point of singledom?

Thursday, April 5

Baby Signing

In the days pre-Wriggles I had little to no knowledge of "baby classes" and thought the likes of baby yoga and such like sounded ludicrous and waste of money. Fast-forward to actual mummyhood, and like most of my pre-child preconceptions, I think differently. Since, the days of my mum having me and my sister when your choices were the NCT and the local mother-and-toddler church group, there is a plethora of choice available to offer an escape from staring morosely at the pile of washing and grimacing through repeats of In the Night Garden.

I have tried out a few, namely those that come with a free cup of coffee and chocolate biscuit, and my favourite so far is Baby Signing classes.We started going purely because they were quite near and on one of my days off and not too expensive. I also had in the back of my head that speech delay in prems is very common, and if Wriggles picked it up well then it certainly wouldn't hurt to have some sign language under our belt.

Wednesday, April 4

How did you get that big?

Human biology really is incredible. Two years ago I was hosting a cluster of fast multiplying cells. Today I have an energetic genuine human being crawling around and giggling. How does it happen? (Now settle down; I know how it happens, I do not need reminding) But how does one moments, one event, one relatively very small period of time, one meeting of people who may be very close or may barely know each other, how does that suddenly become another entirely different human being? How is it allowed without fireworks, a fanfare, something magical to mark that a new creation is taking place? I often wonder about it when I watch my daughter. I could just watch her all day, discovering new things. She has just worked out basic shape sorting and stacking toys and her new favourite game is "putting things on grown ups heads". It looks like she is trying to sock you in the eye with Rabbit; she is actually trying to give you a new hat. But how did that come out of something that seemed so insignificant at the time? When her father comes to visit, I often wonder if he thinks it to but isn't brave enough to say either. How did we, now so separate, make a truly wonderful person not just with ten fingers and ten toes but with a cheeky personality, a mind and a set of thoughts all of her own?

Tuesday, April 3

Home Sweet Home

Oh little home am I glad to be back!

After writing my last post, we ended up back in hospital within hours. Wriggles was refusing all hydration and vomiting medication and syringes of water back up. After a breakthrough with a spoon of runny ice cream, I was convinced we had crack it, but soon this came up with copious amounts of dried blood. As the afternoon wore she grew floppier and more lethargic and I began to panic. Luckily we still had open access after being discharged just hours earlier, and a phone call to a nurse confirmed they were keen to see her. Being a pessimistic sort, I decided to take along some jimjams and spare clothes as well as a washbag. Just In Case.