Mother Of Two

The cutest little monkeys.

Being a mother of two is…
– Spending weeks thinking about what you’ll do when they both nap at the same time and then wasting it looking at instagram when it finally happens.
– Sometimes counting the ‘high point’ of your day as the time when the babies poo at the same time so you can use one nappy bag for both. Economic!
– Nodding and smiling nicely about 58 times a day when people tell you you’ve got your hands full.
– Trying to ram the double buggy through doors that aren’t wide enough, down aisles that it clearly doesn’t fit down and around people who have no concept of where it’s appropriate to stand and have a chat.
– Attempting to make important phone calls while feeding the baby, helping the toddler create a crayon masterpiece, eat your breakfast (at 2pm) and change somebody’s nappy.
– Wondering if you could squeeze into a nappy yourself so you save time having to go to the toilet.
– Being more tired than you ever knew possible but also more happy (had to throw a nice one in there cause I do really like my children!).
– Wondering if it looks twee or cute if you’ve accidentally matched the kids’ clothes but going with it anyway because changing one would be more hassle.
– Deciding if going to the loo, eating or sitting down for two minutes are the priorities. Deciding you can actually combine all three!
– Trying to stop the big one squashing the small one.
– Being tempted to write a Facebook bragging status when you get to the bottom of the laundry basket.
– Wondering how baby always has a bigger pile of clean clothing in each load than anyone else despite being much smaller than everyone.
– Deciding you’ll have bulging biceps in no time when you’re carrying round baby in his car seat and toddler at the same time.
– Trying to get both of them to look at the camera simultaneously just once.
– Feeling really responsible when you realise you’re in charge of two human beings.
– Giving yourself a mental high five when you get to the end of every day and they’re both still alive, fed and changed, even if they (and you and the house) are covered in sick, bogeys and food.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Max’s Story: Part 1

Our super baby

When you have a baby, you expect long days, restless nights, tears and ups and downs. You probably don’t expect an extended hospital stay, machines, wires, nurses, doctors and uncertainty for the future. But that’s what happens. And sometimes it happens twice.

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while will know I became critically unwell after having my first baby Alexandra in August 2015. Things were touch and go for a time. We were just beginning to start healing from that awful, awful experience when we learned we were due to become parents again. Many appointments, injections and scans followed before our son Max was born five weeks early on Sunday, March 26th 2017.

It would be untruthful to say we had been relaxed during the pregnancy. We’d put on a positive front but there had been moments behind closed doors where either or both of us had crumbled under the weight of the anxieties and unknowns of the pregnancy. While I was medicated and my illness was diagnosed this time, doctors couldn’t guarantee the CAPS wouldn’t return. They couldn’t guarantee they could deliver a healthy baby.

Most of the time I kept my spirits up. Sometimes I looked at Alexandra and wondered if I’d see her grow up (this all sounds so dramatic reading it back but it’s true). Sometimes I looked at Dylan and wondered if we had gambled too much this time and whether I’d be leaving him to raise our children alone – if our son even made it into the world safely.

So when the most gorgeous 4lb 13 little boy was placed on my chest at 11.57am on March 26 and I held him there for 15 minutes or so, it felt like finally this was our moment of luck. This little boy had been sent along to complete the tiny hole in my heart that I thought would never be filled when a second baby looked unlikely.

We had always felt lucky to have one healthy baby together. It’s hard to comprehend just how much Alex battled against the odds to be born at term with no complications aside from borderline jaundice. But to have two children. My heart was full.

So what happened next seemed especially cruel after having those moments after birth.

Day 0 –

Max was taken upstairs to the transitional care ward to have all his checks done by a paediatrician. The plan was that I’d follow him up there after six hours – I had to stay on the labour ward until then to be monitored. Dylan went with Max and our midwife Antoinette (who was beyond amazing! I want to talk in a separate post about the differences between my two births and how fantastic our midwife this time was) helped me get a wash and some food down me.

By the time I was ready to go, we were told Max had started grunting – a sign of illness in prem babies – and had been taken down to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to be monitored. I was wheeled down there and got to have quick cuddles with him. At this point he was on oxygen being given through his nose and also had a feeding tube. It was worrying but we were hopeful it was something short term.

Day 1 –

X-rays showed Max had congenital pneumonia, meaning a chest infection which starts either before birth or shortly after. He was moved over from the high dependency to the intensive care side of the unit. I popped out to the cafe in the evening with my parents and by the time I came back it was obvious he was really struggling.

It was like he was trying to scream at us. The doctors agreed he’d deteriorated and decided to ventilate him, which means putting a tube down his throat which gives oxygen and pressure to help with breathing. I’d been ventilated during my illness and had an awful experience with the sedation drugs given while I was on life support – so the thought of my tiny baby going through the same process (even though they only give them a small amount of meds while the tube’s going in and they’re not kept sedated) was awful. I can’t even describe the pain of going back to my room on the postnatal ward and listening to other people’s healthy babies crying while mine was having a tube put down his throat to keep him alive.

Why? Why us? Did someone not think we deserved a break this time!

When we went back downstairs to see him after the ventilator was in place, it was instantly obvious it was the right decision. It was like looking at a completely different baby – calm and not struggling anymore.

To be continued…

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

1st Birthday Party

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Last Monday, we held Alexandra’s first birthday party in our garden. We decided to host it at home which meant a lot of hard work (mainly for Dylan!) to get the garden ready in time but I’m really glad we did in the end – especially as we had lovely weather for it!

Among her presents, Alex had got a trampoline, sand pit, ball pool and inflatable skittles game for her birthday which we put outside along with some picnic blankets and the paddling pool to keep everyone entertained. Food wise we offered up the typical party buffet with sandwiches, crisps, pizza, samosas plus a fruit platter and chocolates and biscuits plus the all important cake!

As we’d gone for a teddy bears picnic theme, the cake was a bear (Oscar cake from Sainsbury’s), we put teddies outside and the little guests bought some too. For the party bags, each child had a Barny bear snack plus a little tiny teddy bear (bought in packs of eight from eBay) plus some cake in a little white paper bag bought from HobbyCraft. We’d also found some teddy bear bunting from Amazon which did the trick alongside some white, pink and purple balloons for decoration.

All in all, everyone seemed to have a great time and we had a fab turnout of family and friends to celebrate Alex’s big day!

Harriet and Alexandra x

Baby Bonding

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The bond between mother and baby is one of the strongest known to man. But when does it begin? Conception? Birth? Or a while later?

Mainstream media, television, films and celebrities will have you believe it’s something instant. That the second that baby is placed on your chest after birth, you feel a sudden rush of love like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. In reality, I don’t believe it’s a simple as that.
There are so many people who have extremely difficult births, for whom things are touch and go for mom/baby/both, who don’t get to see their babies for a while or sadly where there are mental health issues at play. Postnatal depression is extremely prevalent and there are a million things going on in those minutes and hours after birth. Having read many people’s stories during my pregnancy and since becoming a mother, I’m coming to the conclusion that instant rush of love isn’t as common as you might think and for many the bonding process is a lot more complicated and drawn out.
Personally, I think I loved Alexandra while she was still growing inside me, I loved her even more when I first met her but I definitely without a doubt love her a million times more now. When she was just born, there was of course an overwhelming need to protect her and an absolute delight that this baby we had made together was finally here and so utterly beautiful and perfect.
Circumstances dictated that I didn’t really get the chance to have as many newborn cuddles as I’d have liked to. I didn’t have the opportunities in the wee small hours to sit and hold her and take in everything about her. Yes I saw her and sometimes held her and sometimes fed her but I didn’t really get what you’d term a ‘normal’ first few weeks. Still, I think if you’d asked me then I would have told you I loved her and felt bonded with her.
I met her again when she was about eight weeks old and I probably felt a bigger rush of love and more emotional when I saw her then than I did at her birth. That sounds terrible but the only way I can rationalise it is that when she was born, we expected to meet her, we expected her to be healthy and although it was a magical moment it was one we always thought we’d have. When I became ill, even before I was on intensive care, part of me believed I’d never get better and never go back to ‘normal’ life and being a mommy. So to get the chance to hold her again, even to see her beautiful little face, was a huge deal for me when I knew how close we’d come to not having that moment, to me being a photograph Dylan showed to her and never a real person she could touch and talk to and know.
At that time, although she felt like my child and I loved her intensely, I didn’t feel like I was her mother. I hadn’t learned how to be yet. Her first smiles had been for someone else and it took me a while to figure out how to get any for myself. She responded to her daddy and her nanna’s voices most of all and they knew her routine and her little quirks much better than I did.
It’s taken months for me to get to know her inside out. And in doing so I believe we have developed that bond. She looks at me now if she doesn’t understand something as if she trusts what I’m doing – if I’m smiling she’ll go along with whatever’s happening. I know what songs bring the biggest smiles. I know that putting her arms into clothes often provokes a cry but only for a second or two. I know that courgette is so far her favourite flavour. I know her ins and outs and that’s where the bond has come. As her personality has developed, so to has the love between us.
I may have loved her at birth, but I truly adore her now. I just hope I feel the same way when she’s older: a strop at six months is still quite cute, a strop at 13 most definitely isn’t!
Harriet and Alexandra xx

This Year…

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This year…I found out I was pregnant, carried a baby for almost 38 weeks and gave birth!

This year…I experienced the joy of being a mother and having your baby smile at you for the first time!

This year…I moved in permanently with my other half Dylan.

This year…I spent more time than I would have liked to in hospital – although I did get to meet the amazing maternity team at the Princess Royal.

This year…I became a Mrs but not a wife (yet!).

This year…I made some wonderful mommy friends in addition to my lovely friends and family.

This year…we became a family!

This year…was tough but ultimately very amazing.

Happy New Year!

Harriet and Alexandra x

Bedtime

Bedtime essentials - including this super cute book bought by nanna!

Bedtime essentials – including this super cute book bought by nanna!

 We don’t yet have a bedtime routine sorted each night and I’m getting to the point where I’m unsure whether we need to! I know a lot of people like to have set timings when everything is done but then Alexandra is sleeping through the night and hasn’t woken up for a feed for well over four weeks so I can’t see it’s affecting her too much!

I worry if we start trying to get her into bed really early, firstly it will massively reduce the amount of time she gets to spend with her daddy and secondly she’ll need to wake much earlier for a feed. Currently she has a bottle at around 6pm – 6.30pm which means she’s normally finishing up ready for a cuddle with Dylan when he comes home from work. From there, she might have a little play and then on ideal evenings she’ll be sleeping while we have dinner and get things ready for the next day. She doesn’t have a bath every evening (we take her in the shower if she’s not having a bath but that tends to be in the morning – she loves it!) but I’m trying to ensure she has a book read to her as often as possible.

Alex then has her last feed anywhere between 9pm and 10pm – Dylan does that one – and then tends to be asleep by 11pm. We then get a relatively quiet night, aside from a couple of grumbles if her dummy goes missing, until gone 6am when she wakes for breakfast.

So having said we don’t have a bedtime routine, I guess we kind of do! Do I need to be more rigid though or is being fairly flexible a good thing?

Harriet and Alexandra x

One And Only

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This post is a bit of a ‘rambling, typing the thoughts as they come into my head’ type post. I might get a bit emotional during it, prepare the Kleenex (other tissue brands also available).

We’ve made the decision to only have one baby together. When I say decision, I don’t really feel like there was a choice and that’s the part I’m struggling a little with. There, I’ve got that off my chest; now I’ll try to explain.

When I came round in hospital (if this makes no sense to you, the story starts here) and found out what my condition was and how it could have and did affect both myself and my child, myself and Dylan immediately said we would never try for another baby. It had never been completely decided we would have a second (for me, a fourth for Dylan) but we had discussed it and I’d always been upfront that I imagined life with multiple children. If it had been up to me, and ignoring all other factors such as finance etc, I would have wanted a second within a couple of years. I was convinced we’d have another girl, imagined them growing up being really close and we’d even had a theoretical talk about names.

But to wake up and be told you’ve just almost died and you have a condition which claims the life of 54 per cent of babies conceived to women with the illness, plus you’ve had the more severe form of it which occurs very rarely and kills half of the people it affects: that changes things. Every pregnancy has its risks and I could be given medication to counteract the effects should I become pregnant again, but suddenly there’s all these other life changing and frankly terrifying ideas to get your head around.

Even if we managed to conceive and carry a baby to term again, without facing the heartache of recurrent miscarriages which so many women with APS endure, how could we relax and enjoy preparing for a new baby and those precious first few days and weeks bearing in mind what happened this time?

I fear anyone reading this, or anyone I talk to about it, could take it the wrong way and assume I’m ungrateful for the child I have. I’m really not. I adore Alexandra and I look at her every day and think about how lucky I am to have her and to be here to watch her grow. I know many, many couples never have children and I feel hugely blessed to have been given the chance to be a mother. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel sad that we’ll never have the joy of deciding to have another baby, we’ll never go out and buy tiny little outfits (for ourselves, clearly we will for other people’s children and I will still adore doing that!), we’ll never watch a little baby kicking me and making strange shapes inside my belly, we’ll never have that perfect moment when your child takes its first few breaths while it’s placed upon your chest.

I have so much to look forward to as a mother. The delight Alex has brought to me in these first few months of her life is set to continue as she grows into her own little person and I laugh and smile with her every day. I’ll never get complacent about that or stop remembering how lucky I am. But some days, as I read posts on mommy forums about people getting pregnant again or when I just stop and think about it for a while, I just feel a little bit sad.

Harriet and Alexandra x

Getting Better

An Alexandra montage!

An Alexandra montage!

This is part four of the story, click for parts one, two and three.

That Friday in ITU where I saw Alexandra seemed like a bit of a turning point and from then on they started taking out all of the lines going into my body – I had a few in my neck and my arms. I had a shower for the first time on the Saturday and started being able to walk a few steps. On the Monday I had my catheter out, which was the last step towards being able to go up to a ward. I finally had no lines going in me at all! The downside of that was they had to stab me every time they needed blood from me rather than being able to take it from an existing cannula but at least it felt like I was getting back to ‘normal’. The following day I was transferred upstairs to the cardiology ward, again in a side room but this time with my own en-suite and a view of outside! Okay it was only of roads and traffic, but I could see the helicopter landing and it was just amazing to see the outside world.

I stayed on the ward for a week and a half, although it felt much longer. The pace of life there was so much slower than ITU where I had one-to-one care and so much was going on. In a lot of ways it was fantastic because I could sleep better and I knew I was well on my way to getting home, but it also meant time went so slow. I’d be watching the clock waiting for my mom to come in as she was always the first visitor in the day. I’d already had an angiogram which had showed there were no clots left in my arteries – which is what we expected but of course good news – so now it was just a wait for a slot to get an MRI scan to see what damage had been caused to my heart. Once I had that it confirmed I’d had a heart attack at some point when I was very poorly, caused by a clot in one of my arteries (not by lifestyle such as high cholesterol or smoking which people traditionally associate with heart attacks) which had left some of the muscle dead and some stunned. The hope is eventually my healthy muscle will start overcompensating for the dead muscle and the stunned muscle will wake up, but at the moment my left ventricle is pumping blood around my body at a rate of 25-30 per cent when it should be 55-60 per cent. So now it’s a case of heart meds for life, cardiac rehabilitation classes and regular monitoring to see how it’s repairing itself, if it does.

The doctors had been saying they hoped to get me home at the end of the following week but, although I was excited, I didn’t dare get too overjoyed in case it didn’t happen. Even on the Friday morning when they had confirmed I was being discharged, I kept saying I wouldn’t believe it until I was walking off the ward. Well come 3.30pm and that’s exactly what I was doing. They asked if I wanted a wheelchair to get to the car but I wanted to walk out of the hospital myself. When you’re recovering from an illness you have to be motivated and determined, and what could be better than ending my hospital experience walking with my amazing other half to go home to our perfect baby daughter, when three weeks previously the nurse who first looked after me when I arrive thought there was no way they’d keep me alive.

I now face a long journey to get back to full strength, they say around a year to recover after a stay on ITU, with the added complications of my heart and hand and the knowledge I’ll be on medication for life. But I’m sat here writing this while Alexandra sleeps soundly near me and I’m waiting for Dylan to come home from work. Being able to be part of this family is an absolutely blessing and I will truly always be so thankful for whatever it was that made me pull through – the medical teams, luck, my age, a combination of all that and other factors too. Who knows? All I know is I’m very happy the journey didn’t end there and although all of us have been through an ordeal, it’s made my relationships with my loved ones stronger, it’s made me feel stronger. There will be bad days as we all process what’s happened but there will also be so many good days as we all watch Alexandra grow and I get to do all the things I always wanted to do with her and so nearly never got the chance to.

So thank you doctors, nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, everyone at both hospitals who really did save my life. Thank you family and friends, especially my mom who was at the hospital daily. Thank you Dylan for being an absolute rock, for being ‘Mr Mom’, for everything you’ve done and continue to do for our family. Thank you Alexandra, your pictures all around my hospital room are why I fought so hard to get walking again, get mobile and get home to you my precious little lady.

Harriet and Alexandra x