Thursday, May 31

Uninspired

Dear Bloggy, this last fortnight I have been feeling out of sorts. Not down exactly, just unsettled. I can't put my finger on it: nothing is wrong, and actually I've had some pretty lovely days sitting in the park with the Wriggly one. I've even been unusually social and made an effort with mum and baby friends and been rewarded with fantastic afternoons, company and birthday invitations. I'm finally feeling less of a fraud and more of one of the gang. So what is it? Maybe it's the impending knowledge my job is coming to an end and I've got to fix up and suddenly be a full-time mum on *whispers* benefits. Maybe it's that change is all around, and not always happily. Maybe that time has suddenly flown and somehow I've got a toddler who won't go to bed properly and likes ferreting in the bin. Maybe it's because I am dreadful at religiously taking my anti-depressants. Maybe I shouldn't torture myself watching programmes like Great Ormond Street and reading Call the Midwife, because some of the content is a little too close to home, however interesting it may be. Maybe it's that old favourite hormones. Maybe it Just Is. 
Anyway, while I try and scrape my brain back into my head, here is some of what we have been up to:

How much can I pull off the bookshelf and fling everywhere...?
Practise makes Perfect
Bookworm
Bonding with Talking Teddy (who appears to have short circited and thinks his foot is his hand. No Teddy, no)
"Higher, mama, higher!"

Wednesday, May 30

Fright

Yesterday at work, I had one of the more enjoyable tasks I do: filming rehearsals with the dance company for the new piece which is being choreographed. The new production is a telling of favourite fairytale Rapunzel, originally a European folk tale that was collected and retold in the Brothers Grimm book in 1812. There are several variants of the story which pre-date this, including Petrosinella in 1634 and Persinette in 1698 which all have in common the story of a witch stealing or bargaining a dearly wanted child away from her parents and locking her in a tower until a prince finds her and begins to visit her by climbing into her tower from her long hair. 

As a child reading the story, the bit we all focused on was Rapunzel being in the tower and sneaking her prince in while she falls in love before being banished by the evil witch: the stuff of drama and romance. As a more mature understanding, it is quite a complex story and there are more illicit and darker undertones. In many variations of Rapunzel, she is banished because she has become pregnant herself, which is how the witch or Dame Gothel figure finds out about the nimble-footed prince. It is as much about desire, sexuality and fertility as it is about princes and princesses and good conquering evil. But before this section of the tale, is the beginning whereby Rapunzel leaves her parents, which before I had never given much of a second thought to. Of course, it is just a fairy tale and has no basis in reality, but it is powerful the notion of parents giving up their child in any form, fictitious or otherwise. As I watched, I thought and reflected as a mother on how it might be to have my only child snatched by a sorceress (as you do). A lump rose in my throat-as a parent who has been through NICU I know all too well about separation and the fear that you may never get your happy ending. The idea that I might have lost the sunshine in my life made my pulse race and my thoughts strayed to real life parents who for many assorted reasons have either been separated from or lost their children.

The studio was warm and the dance was entrancing and emotive, and I happily sat with the camcorder in the corner when my manager walked in. She came over and said in a low voice.
"Your childminder has just rang; she's concerned about Wriggles."
My childminder never rings.
She has only rung about once before in over a year she has looked after Wriggles. She has a remarkably high threshold for sick or cross babies and is full of common sense and does not take things like this lightly. She will exhaust every avenue before ringing.

My little world suddenly slowed down and came to an abrupt stop.

I ran up to the office, stubbing my toe on the way out. Pelted up the stairs and shaking, scrabbled to find the phone and her telephone number. My hands fluttered and my heart was in my mouth as it rang.
Wriggles had had one her "moments" again. No one is quite sure what causes them, but every now and then she will get horrendous and prolonged coughing fits out of nowhere and become very breathless and chesty sounding. You can audibly hear copious amounts of secretions rattling around (mostly transmitted upper respiratory although they can also be lower respiratory too, particularly in her right lung which is the most scarred) and her breathing becomes very rapid with recession. Sometimes if she makes herself sick, they pass quicker but this is by no means a given, and it is usual for them to last several hours at a time. Although they have some similarities with asthma attacks, doctors are confident that it is not asthma. To me they seem to be connected to sleeping or feeding and the doctors have said it may be a side effect of reflux and chronic lung disease that hopefully she will grow out of in time. It could also be as her airways are still very narrow as a result of prematurity that any catarrh can block them very easily.


I left as quickly as I could, losing one sock in the process (later located in handbag: no idea how). Wriggles was calming when I got to her but still very chesty and breathing fast. She had not been able to take any fluids to help because of the coughing and chestiness and as I was nearer to the doctors than hospital I decided to cross my fingers and take her there and hope it was the right decision. Luckily it was, and we got to see a doctor who has seen these episodes before with Wriggles. It was beginning to pass after about two hours by the time we saw him: typical! He was very understanding though and found an ear infection and catarrh as well as advising use of inhalers and antibiotics for the next few days. Panic over... We returned home via the supermarket with some ice cream as a treat.

Wriggles went off to bed with some persuasion and I let out a long breath. Compared to some of Wriggles' escapades it was so minor. But there is nothing like reawakening fear to put you on high alert and dredge up memories and anxiety. Having seen some pretty horrible sights of Wriggles being on the edge that are burnt into my memory, every tiny and slightest threat brings them back to the forefront. Do I think that Wriggles having an increased work of breathing for a few hours will send us to Intensive Care? No, I do not. I know what merits an ambulance and an emergency and what merits scanning the shelves at Boots. I don't automatically assume that every single infection is life threatening. But living with memories is a curse as well as a blessing. Because for a split second, fear overpowers love and knowledge and you realise that you cannot ultimately protect your child from everything, try as you might. And that, is scary.

Saturday, May 26

Miracles do happen

Saturday 26th May, 2012

Wriggles' food diary
age 20 and a little bit months (17 and a bit corrected)

07:00
200ml Paediasure Peptide milk (high calorie formula milk that has been partially broken down to aid absorption)

09:00-10:40
Graze on small crumbs of biscuit found on the carpet. Buffet is interrupted by Mummy hoovering said crumbs up. Lord knows where they came from/how long they have been there

11:15
What are these delicious items?! About five Organix Tomato Slices (wheel shaped puffed corn type items. Mercifully containing no salt, unlike the beloved Quavers Wriggles has lived on for the past two weeks)

12:45
[ferrets in my handbag and thrusts yoghurt pot at me] "Mother, this here I believe is a yogurt and this is a spoon. Feed me!!"
Just over three quarters of an Alpro soya yoghurt, toffee flavoured

13:15
[mime] "What is that, mother?"
"My sandwich. Yum yum yum."
[grab]
"Errrr you can have A BIT. I need some lunch!"
"Hmph."
Chews a corner of malted bread: first time she has consented to trying to eat bread!
13:28
One cheese and onion crisp (Scottish Grandma's lunch)
Half a ready salted crisp (Mummy's lunch)
Several more Organix snack thingies

13:32
Stop trying to sneak food past me. I can see you have opened the chocolate rice cakes. Give!
A nibble of rice cake. Does not pass the taste test.
Another chew of becoming-stale corner of Mummy's sandwich

13:48
The end of a cardboard kitchen roll tube

13:50
160ml Paediasure Peptide with some chilled water as it is Very Hot

15:40
125ml Paediasure Peptide mixed with 25ml chilled water

17:30-18:25
Polish off remainder of Organix Tomato Slices bag and nibble on fingers

18:35
Two thirds of Alpro vanilla soya yoghurt with a about a quarter of Plum Apple and Raspberry stage one puree pouch whilst waiting for the metro back home

18:50
Few more spoonfuls of soya dessert and fruit with intermittent grazing of bit of sponge finger located under the bookshelf. (Note to self: must tidy up more often)

19:15
Chew fridge magnet.
Swiftly have fridge magnet removed.
Return to increasingly soggy sponge finger

19:40
150ml Paediasure Peptide

20:10
Gag on bottle and projectile vomit across collection of toys, sofa and carpet.
Looks suspiciously like entire teatime contents from 17:00 onwards*

20:45
125ml Paediasure Peptide as nightcap (and to replace the vast majority of dinner and previous attempted nightcap)




Ignoring the gag-induced vomiting, this is the most Wriggles has eaten for bloody ages.
It is also probably the healthiest she has eaten for bloody ages.
(Alright, it might not read very healthily, but largely she lives on a) high calorie milk which usually makes up around 90%+ of her daily nutritional intake b) Quavers-the curse of Speech and Language's suggestions c) occasional crumbs of biscuit, and not always sugar-free baby-friendly guilt-free ones at that)
It is certainly the most adventurous. She tried at least two new things. In one day.
Does this mean that my own meals are no longer sacred?!




*people always say airily of vomit "oh it's never as much as it looks!". However, Wriggles is very good at disproving this theory. On previous admissions, nurses have done double takes at the enormous pools of yuck on the floor and frequently have been known to exclaim mildly unprofessionally "Christ almighty, was that just in one sitting?" and her notes generally read 'vomit: MASSIVE +++'. She appears to have a pretty sluggish digestive system too and can quite easily soak a large adult bath towel. She has also previously (accidentally I sincerely hope) aimed into receptacles such as a mug and bowl. Classy.






Friday, May 25

Out of Office



Dear Reader,

Gone sun bathing. Normal service will resume later.

Remember your sunhats,

Love from 

Mouse

 xxx

Thursday, May 24

Handbag

Sometimes I wonder how being a mother has changed me day to day. Occasionally I think maybe it hasn't. Obviously I am one, but am I that different? I have always erred on the bumbling and scatty but am I mum-type-bumbling? At work today, my fellow mum-colleague came in and fished in her handbag for a pen. She pulled out several snapped crayons with a puzzled expression and rolled her eyes. I thought about my own attempts to find anything in my bag and there found my answer.

In my handbag this morning I found:
  • my wallet (chewed)
  • my mobile
  • my keys
  • my spare keys in case I lost my keys
  • my camera
  • one either spare or dud battery-must check later
  • antibacterial hand gel
  • miniature bottle of Burt's Bees lotion
  • lipbalm covered in fluff
  • assorted crumbs
  • crushed packet of Quavers containing approximately two Quavers left
  • packet of paracetomal
  • Passport; presumably in case it all gets a bit too much
  • biro
  • spare biro
  • spare spare biro (yet can never find a biro at time of need)
  • six stacking cups, mercifully still stacked
  • one shaky egg
  • one board book, cunningly concealed
  • a half chewed arm of gingerbread person (chewed by Wriggles, not me)
  • hairband
  • assortment of expired bus and metro tickets and receipts
  • squashed mini packet of wipes
  • collection of bangles to distract Wriggles from swiping my keys and spare keys
  • dog-eared leaflets I cannot recall picking up
  • my friend's address scribbled on the back of a Pizza Express menu
  • pair of tiny socks (kicked off by Wriggles)
  • Sudocream
  • Small bottle of factor 50 sun cream
  • sweet wrappers (alas no sweets)
  • unposted birthday card for uncle
  • exceptionally tatty coffee shop loyalty card
At least rattly frog didn't make it in this time...

Wednesday, May 23

Park Life


Sunshine makes everything feel better. This week, I have been trying to put any niggles to the back of my mind and utilise my day and a half off work into getting out and about with the Wriggly one. We are very lucky in our little city of Newcastle that there are plenty of small-person friendly things that are either free or cheap and do not need a car to get to. Hooray! One of my favourite places to go is Leazes Park in the centre of town, opposite our beloved hospital the RVI. It is just minutes from a metro stop and bus route and St James Park looms over, and yet when you are there, the traffic noises melts away and all you can hear is birdsong, ducks and people chatting. 
As parks go, it is quite large. It was the first public park open in Tyneside, opening in 1873 after working men petitioned for a space for recreation and relaxation. The park centres on a large lake with an island in the middle and there is a bandstand, boast hut, former lodge and tennis courts. There was once deer roaming freely through the park but now you have to make do with the still-surreal cows that are permitted to graze on the bits of the Town Moor next door.


Since Wriggles was introduced to swings and the love affair began, we have been to many parks but this is an extra good one. The swings are pretty good but the huge amount of open space is a plus and proximity to town should you need emergency facilities like a good toilet or biscuit shop. I suspect when she finds her feet, places like these will become even more brilliant to toddle around in. At the moment, Wriggles is quite suspicious of everything. Although she is willing to be tolerant and even mildly curious, she is very much Not Sure about grass and her legs twitch as though she is not sure she really wants to sit on it! She was quite intrigued however by daisies and cheered up once I had wrestled the picnic blanket out from underneath the buggy. We set up a mobile library and toyshop and I proceeded to use nearly a whole (little) tube of sunscreen on the pair of us. Well, you can't be too careful and 'lobster' is so not Wriggles' colour.


All in all, a very enjoyable afternoon. Mr Weatherman-more of the same please!





Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Gingerbread


A year ago, I would not have believed this picture. A year ago we were in the hell of trying to persuade an orally aversive child to eat before I realised it was oral aversion. Wriggles is still not a brilliant eater and has made what seems minimal progress but to me and to the medical people around her is phenomenal. And the important thing is that we have made progress, no matter how small or large. Very slowly but surely, the list of foods is inching longer...

At 20 months old, or 17 and a half corrected Wriggles can:
*eat fromage frais and similar textures like set custard or thick yoghurt
*she can manage small, dry foods in her own time, like Quavers, crackers or biscuit
*she will sometimes decide to try or at least touch what I am having. So far the only progress made on this front of going on to eat this is one chip at the childminder's but I live in hope!
*eat most fruit puree and small amounts of vegetable puree if it is mixed with fruit puree or yoghurt

She is even beginning to show preferences, such as apricot yoghurt is the best flavour fromage frais and that cheese flavoured things are yummy. Above, she is gnawing on her new favouite: gingerbread men! She can manage about half of one leg at the moment so I get the rest-not complaining there!

Sunday, May 20

Proud proud proud

video

In between some sad times this week, LOOK what my precious Wriggles has figured out!! A genius I tell you. A GENIUS.

Shock

I have suffered with mental health and I have known many other people around me suffer. Some have been classed as "severe" and complex, but it wasn't until the last few days that I saw someone truly on the brink. I have seen and experienced debilitating symptoms, breakdowns in communications and relationships, lack of interest and energy in anything and an acute feeling of helplessness and no future but now I've seen the next step when it gets worse. And it is chilling and sobering.

One of my closest friends has had complex depression for as long as I have known her and over the last six or more years has bounced from psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, medication and various forms of therapy. Somewhere she lost her footing and the last few weeks, and in particular, since last weekend had been very bleak. On Tuesday things reached a head and also information was uncovered about the extent of what has been going on, the depths of concealment so she didn't worry her loved ones and the ritualistic obsessions which have defined her existence and either accidentally or intentionally endangered her. Eventually she turned herself to the Crisis Team. It was expected she would be admitted to a psychiatric unit or similar care for a temporary period. Whatever she said to the doctor, she was released for the night and her parents decided to come and take her home. The next day was fraught with meetings and then the act of her leaving. It feels very disloyal thinking how she veered in and out of being herself and would flip within minutes to being full of clarity and understanding to being consumed with pure emotion and reaction and would become almost violent and child-like again. It took a long time to get her to leave her sanctuary of her bedroom, which although was understandable from her point of view, was also necessary for her to move forward. It took sedatives to calm her down and be released from panic attacks, before she was driven off down South.

Those of us close to her feel numb to the level of hurt she has felt and that we have not been able to wave a magic wand for her, and this must only be a fraction of what she has been dealing with in her own mind. To be tortured and imprisoned by thoughts is very sobering, especially when they impact on your physical actions and decisions and cloud your judgement from tiny things to much bigger things. It feels almost very surreal when the situation is real, but half of what the things someone says are not "real" except in the briefest of moments. It is very sad to see someone so vivacious, intelligent and talented felled by essentially thoughts

It is scary to have a glimpse of what things could have been like for anyone who has suffered from depression or anxiety. I held Wriggles so much tighter the day it all came to light and have done each day since, and been so grateful I turned a corner. And then wept a little inside, that my friend had not reached out for help or let herself lean on us, the way she has supported me. It is such a strange situation; we all felt so guilty for not realising sooner, not delving, not putting two and two together...but were two and two there? Hindsight is so clear but also mixes up the elements and clouds the reality. And whatever hindsight can throw up, the important thing is the here and now: this has happened, it is what happens next that is now important.


I miss her.


I miss meeting up with her. I miss sitting in coffee shops with her. I miss her coming round and playing with Wriggles. I miss the way Wriggles' face lit up when she was allowed to play with my friend's copious bracelet collection. I miss her gentle demeanour. I miss her humour and our funny jokes and memories together.


I so badly want her to recover and yet I don't know how to help her.


I'm not afraid to put my hands up and say I probably don't have a brilliant understanding of how and what she is feeling. I know how I felt but it isn't the same because my experiences were directly related to very specific experiences. I don't have experience of sedatives being used or the particular problems she has, I don't necessarily understand self-harming and even in my blackest times, I can't imagine being that close to the edge, because I have Wriggles. Who knows if I didn't? That thought conjures up an empty void that frightens me.

It was also a very strange split to see as a parent: partly, I was shielded from a lot of things that our other friends dealt with and saw as Wriggles needed me and partly it was a small leap to be in her parents' shoes. It would break my heart if Wriggles was that poorly and I was that helpless. It was really quite terrifying to even contemplate that her perfect, innocent and beautiful little mind might be sullied by other voices muddying it and planting vicious thoughts. 
I have felt very redundant as a friend. In the old days, I would have been in the thick of helping and doing everything I could; now Wriggles is my priority and that means that both practically and physically I cannot always do everything I would ideally like to. I am doing what I can and sadly, that is not a lot. We have been told she needs space and also time with her family who will for the time being be her primary carers again like when she was a little sick child. Their baby. Hopefully they will be enough so that she will not have to be sectioned, something I know frightens her hugely. I know they will do everything in their power and more and that is a relief to know that finally she is being looked after by the people who love her the best. I know as a parent that there is no stone you will leave unturned in the quest to make your child better, whether it be from tonsillitis or depression!

It won't be an easy journey but one that needs to be taken. This is one where you can't just get off.





Monday, May 14

Commemorative Quilt


I've talked before about the importance of charities that support neonatal or indeed any hospital unit that can offer vital funds that will enhance the unit beyond the NHS budget and be able to prioritise family support, community care, extra staff training to ensure that knowledge is kept cutting edge and small details that seem insignificant, but to families and in-patients make the difference between a scary stay and bit of a fuzzy glow.

Babies should start their growing up at home with their parent(s) and families. However, for 80,000 babies this isn't the case and they will start their lives in a neonatal unit. Wriggles spent two months there, which although is heart breaking, considering how much longer some children spent, is barely skimming the surface. Too many people think that premature birth or sick children is something that happens to other people. Premature birth counts for 7.8% of the number of live births in the UK and up to 40% of those cases have an undetermined cause. In my city, 6,500 babies are born every year, and 600 from those and from other hospitals around the region and the North of England will pass through the neonatal unit, through intensive care, high dependency and special care. Tiny Lives our charity support the unit, including directly funding breastfeeding support posts raising expressing and breastfeeding to 95% and for two specialist physiotherapists who do vital positioning work which is especially necessary for babies in for extended periods of time. They also focus on family support and allow for items outside of the NHS budget to be purchased. 


To celebrate the marvellous work the unit does and the lives of the babies who have passed through since the unit opened in 1993, a quilt is being made by an events group supporting Tiny Lives. There are 93 squares being personalised by parents and a border of buttons are being sponsored by anyone who wants to support the project and from friends, families and businesses.


 So if you would like to get involved or donate, hop over and have a peek. Including Gift Aid, the total raised currently stands at £1009.18 which can be added to the total monies raised so far from the group which is £11,673.89. Hundreds of other people also raise thousands for Tiny Lives across the North East; having had a experience of special care makes an enormous impact on lives from the babies, parents, friends and family.

No parent ever plans to be on Special Care but when you have no choice, having a first class unit, dedicated team and a supporting charity to ease the financial burden, it makes a hard time much easier.


Text QUIL99 £1 (or any amount you like) to 70070 or visit the Just Giving page and we will sew a button on for you 
 


Saturday, May 12

19/52 Exploring


TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Silent Sunday
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

I have always loved the seaside. There is something magical about the idea of being on the edge of a country and thus the wiggly line of a map. The tide that goes in and out by the power of the mood; the coastline being eroded by the power of nature, slowly eating into land. And the purity of an expanse of sand, just as the tide has gone out only littered with pebbles. It is like new snow, untouched and unmarked, ripe to be covered in marks and memories of days out and as a transient record of time that will be erased only hours later. Of course the less romantic side is seeing man-made debris washed up and when pollution disasters happen. I wish people would stop and think about their actions to be able to preserve things for the next generation and the one after that. I want Wriggles to be able to walk along perfect, albeit mildly chilly and blowy, beaches long into old age. If she has grandchildren (!) I want them to be able to play sandcastles in the summer here in the UK without having to worry about health effects. 

When I choose to move to Newcastle, I have to admit I was very swayed by the proximity of the coast. It is less than 10 miles from the city and the Northumbrian coast is stunning. I love the wild swathes and the more populated straights with ice cream shops and buckets and spades. Wriggles and I went to our new favourite haunt, Whitley Bay, today to play on the swings at the brilliant playground metres away from the beach and to sit on the sand. Wriggles was a bit nonplussed at first but began to cautiously touch the sand and dig her fingers in. It wasn't her first trip to the beach, but it has been quite a while since we have been which is baby-terms is like forever! I can't wait until August when we are going to East Devon for a week and weather willing, can sit on the sand every day. Ihave so many memories of sitting in the sand and grazing our chubby knees rockpooling and digging moats round sandcastles and trying to make them reach all the way to the ever changing sea. On a good day, I find there is nothing more relaxing than sitting and watching the waves. Especially with ice cream.


 Exploring at Whitley Bay, May 2012

Another bit of favourite coast of mine is Bamburgh and the surrounding stretches and seaside towns. Myself and a best friend went up there in September 2010 on a rare day off we had that coincided. Both of us had been working mad hours at our respective places of work and so it was a welcome break. We got a "scenic" bus which turned out to be one of those that drives in the opposite direction from every sign post and you begin to worry that just maybe you accidentally got on the wrong bus. It took over two hours to drive the 50 miles although it was a very pretty route. Still, two and a half hours on a bumpy bus... We had a perfect day, lunching at a quaint tea room and then running up and down the flat yellow sand. We turned into children again, laughing and shrieking and wading knee-deep in the clear sea. It wasn't that cold; not for the North Sea anyway! The sun was high and hot and we must have spent hours on the beach, soaking our clothes and letting our cares go free. Once dried off, we sat in a beer garden having a lemonade before reluctantly setting back home come tea-time. We decided to stop off at Craster on the way back and unfortunately made the discovery that we had £2 in cash between us and the only place serving food that was open was very expensive. Instead, to kill the two hours waiting for the bus we sat by the harbour and walked along the clifftops as dusk drew in. A perfect day and one that truly feels like my "final hurrah" as a child-less singleton. Because less than 48 hours later I had a very small and very sick newborn living in a plastic box. Although there is no real link, the time at Bamburgh feels like part of my birth story. It isn't of course; I didn't even begin labour there let alone deliver Wriggles behind a sand dune, but the proximity to the event and the carefree nature feels such a start contrast to the fateful Monday that followed, that it feels that that day was meant to be, like a final gift before weeks of pain, anxiety and a thousand different emotions before I got back the best gift of all.



At Bamburgh, September 2010
Less than 48 hours before Wriggles made her entry into the world



Craster on the cliffs at sunset 

Note: Alnmouth is a long way to walk from Craster. It is not advised especially a) in the fading light b) without a map c) with no telephone reception, supplies or adequate clothing d) right on the cliffs-see first point and e) when pregnant. We walked for a few miles and then wisely decided to turn back for the rickety (last) bus rather than getting lost and having to cosy up to some sheep. After Wriggles was born I became increasingly paranoid the premature labour was from either physical exertion such as loony sunset hikes or from catching something in the North Sea. All the doctors and nurses heavily disputed this pointing out neither me nor Wriggles miraculously had a present infection before or after, my waters had leaked weeks before, that my placenta was wrecked and that if I was accustomed to doing long walks or jumping about then my body would acclimatise this in pregnancy and it would not have had an effect until nearer term had I got there. Their view was that the only thing ridiculously stupid about it was given what happened in the following 24-48 hours, was that if it had happened any earlier then we would have had to rely on seagulls who are not known for their midwifery skills. Then again, as I discovered neither are toothbrushes or bath towels.



Thursday, May 10

Winging It

After a period of uncertainty, a wobble and some time off working, last week I finally heard what was happening in my job. Namely that it wasn't happening. Unless divine intervention hands me a new contract, as of the end of June I will be made redundant.

It is both a relief and terrifying.

A relief because I will have the pressure of trying to do it all and have it all taken off.
A relief because I will be able to drop the mask of pretending it's all hunky-dory and of course I can do everything. In five minutes. Five minutes yesterday that is.
A relief because I will be able to feel more of a mummy rather than someone who says goodbye several times a week.

Terrifying because I haven't been with Wriggles 7 days a week since she was about 6 months old (illnesses notwithstanding).
Terrified because I am worried how I will be judged-yet another single parent reliant on the welfare state for a period of time.
Terrifying because I am scared I will not be up to the job.
Terrified because it feels like so far I have been winging it and it is just pure luck we have scraped through.

What if I can't entertain her all the time? What if she's bored? What if she misses going to the childminder and is in a grump with me? I can't provide a cat or a garden swing. What if when I have no escape I tip back into fighting demons every day? What if it is years before I can contribute financially again?

Part of me is really looking forward to some time with my little girl.She is growing up so fast and it makes me sad to loose out on her new discoveries, even for 24 hours a week. When I drop her off in mornings and she instantly goes to the toy box and waves me off it makes my heart ache. Whilst I am proud of her Independence and assurance, I miss the closeness and warmth of my little baby I carried everywhere. When we are at home, she is vehement in that even though she wants to do everything by herself, she wants me to be watching, hovering in the background to jump in and rescue her or praise her achievements. I am looking forward to doing that all the time, and am hoping without the stresses of work I can throw myself into it without distraction.

But part of me is worried and feels like a failure if I am not putting something in to the bank of my own doing. I know it's just a stereotype but it does worry me that I will just be chalked up by people and written off. I never ever envisaged that I would be in this situation. I feel at odds with myself-the idealist black-and-white view against the compassionate. The maternal urges against cold hard reason. 

Sometimes being a mother, and a single mother at that, is like having two voices in your head constantly arguing. Go to bed, voices. Please.

Tuesday, May 8

Maternity Leave

Tomorrow when the Queen gives her speech, she is expected to address the proposed new changes for maternity and parental leave as put forward by the Coalition government. After reading the proposals, I found them slightly chilling. The new proposal stipulates that mothers would be entitled to just 18 weeks maternity leave with anything further by personal agreement.
Currently, mothers are entitled to 39 weeks of paid maternity leave and 13 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Mothers can go back to work after just two weeks if they choose to or have little choice in the matter, but are entitled to take up to a year off which would not be paid at the decision of their employer. Fathers are entitled to two weeks of paid paternity leave.
The proposal put forward in the Government's Modern Workplaces consultation, published last year, would give mothers just 18 weeks of maternity leave, and at the employers discretion up to four weeks of reserved paid parental leave, followed by 17 weeks of paid parental leave and 13 weeks of unpaid parental leave, which could be shared between mothers and fathers.

There are some loopholes in the current wording putting parents at the mercy and sympathy of their employers and I personally found that when your working contract is at odds with legal maternal rights, no one, including Citizens Advice Bureau or Welfare Rights knows what to do with you. The new proposal sounds even worse for cases that may differ from the norm or at such stage involve complications often beyond the mother's control. At present, there is no allowance for special circumstances like medical need, including maternal problems pre or post-natally or conditions affecting the baby, such as infections or preterm birth. My own maternity leave, started the day Wriggles was born rather unexpectedly. From what I recall, my working contract did not actually include anything to do with maternity leave or in the event of, as I was a new graduate and at the time of employment, no one including me, knew I was pregnant. This made things even more complicated than they would have otherwise been and I was passed from pillar to post whilst someone tried to work out what I was entitled to, which was then further complicated by Wriggles being discharged on oxygen meaning that formal maternity leave went out the window and I ended up being on parental leave as a carer instead. However, for other parents with more watertight or appropriate work contracts, preterm birth can mean that maternity leave is brought forward drastically (one woman I spent the NICU journey with, started 6 months maternity leave after leaving work at 26 weeks to go on bed rest and then having an emergency Caesarian section at 27 weeks) or if you give birth spontaneously then maternity leave can start from that date.

The difficulty with a complicated labour, birth or neonatal period is that there are no magic answers, no fixed timescales and no promises. A rigid set number of weeks for maternity or indeed paternity or parental leave has no mercy on the world of NICU when things can change rapidly. If your child has been born prematurely and with no other obvious complications, parents are generally told to aim for discharge around the due date. Some get to leave early if things are going well and some stay in days, weeks and occasionally months afterwards. We all wish we had a crystal ball to predict things, but parents live on hope whilst employers and legal systems demand answers. Like, yesterday. 

Even once you have escaped hospital, you have two things staring you in the face: 1) you have just lost a huge chunk of time sat next to an incubator staring blanking and jumping out of your skin every five minutes when the monitor beeps and 2) you have possibly also mislaid a chunk of your mind as you process what your little family has just been through. Some parents seem to be able to walk away with a shudder of the past; many, many others struggle if not immediately afterwards. It is so hard to predict also what problems relating to or independent of prematurity will arise along development and how that will affect your working ambitions and situation.

Looking at the dates laid out, I have looked back over my 'maternity leave' and was horrified that I might have had to return to work when my daughter was only just 6 weeks corrected: an utter newborn.

18 weeks 17th January

At 18 weeks, Wriggles was still on full time oxygen. She was 5 weeks and 6 days corrected. She had no concept of a sleep routine although was slightly less erratic. Although she was a very good weight and lounged comfortably on the 50th centile for corrected age, she was a titch and was still largely in premature baby clothes as all the high street "tiny baby" and newborn sizes hung off her. She could have keep all her toys in the bottom of the sleepsuits! At 18 weeks we were still having visits twice a week from the community neonatal team to do oxygen saturation spot tests and check her weight and feeding. We were seeing the physio team regularly to deal with her torticollis and plagiocephaly and also had regular contact with the nutrition department and respiratory team to have monthly RSV jabs, to ensure she did not catch the virus which could have been extremely debilitating for a premature baby on oxygen. She would wake for small periods in the day (or night) and was largely floppy still. There were signs of her beginning to twitch her facial muscles although a smile was a while off yet, and her cry was very definitely the mewl of a newborn still. Reflux was here with a vengence and she would regularly projectile vomit and be quite unsettled. She fed 4 hourly on the dot and was a bit bemused by life, the universe and the idea of wearing tights (tried once only).

26 weeks 14th March

At 26 weeks (13 weeks and 6 days corrected) Wriggles had been weaned off oxygen in the daytime and was completing a sleep study with a view to removing it at night time too. She had had her first bout of suspected bronchiolitis. She was not yet on solids, although we started weaning the following week. She was sleeping for longer periods at night time and napping still in the morning, lunch and afternoon. She was in a pattern whereby she liked to have a bottle (100ml-125ml), go to sleep and then have some more milk when she woke up. She would drink roughly 20oz in 24 hours on a good day and had started teething, although no teeth would appear for another 6 months! She could hold her head up and smile and was very slowly beginning to tolerate tummy time. When on her tummy, she could raise her head for a few seconds and balance on her forearms and was beginning to learn the basics of cause and effect-.ie. hitting things on the baby gym. She could hold things briefly, like her frog rattle and the thing that made her smile most was our stuffed Very Hungry Caterpillar walking over her head and bopping her nose. I had been diagnosed with PND and was not coping marvellously well. I was sleeping and eating terribly, had lost quite a bit of wake and was struggling with social interactions and jealousy when other people held my baby. I had convinced myself she didn't know I was her mama and wouldn't care less who she was with; I loved her fiercely and this made my thought even sadder. The best bits of the days were cuddles on the sofa and Wriggles dozing on my chest. We still had weekly visits from the community neonatal team and had had the appointment for our 6 month check though.

Actually returning to work-33 weeks Early May

I was due to return to work in April 2010, in what would have been Wriggles' 29th week. However, she had the dreadful bad manners to contract pneumonia and wind up in Intensive Care for three weeks, effectively wiping out most of the month. Towards the end of the month, we ended up back in A&E once if not twice and so it ended up being the first week of May I was back. It ended out working out quite nicely as this gave us time to move and settle in and to also get to grips with our new GP surgery who would come to know us well. We got to know the childminder better and gave Wriggles some proper settling in time and me some piece of mind. By this time I was beginning to fall apart mentally but was determined to return to work with my single mother mantra held high. I started sertaline, a SSRI anti-depressant and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress and was constantly haunted by nightmares and flashbacks. I felt incredibly detached from everything and it felt like difficulty bonding all over again. Gradually this would ease and I would learn (in the snatched healthy moments) to enjoy every millisecond of being with Wriggles and laugh and sing. Wriggles had miraculously put some weight on and despite every other weekend being rushed to hospital, was thriving in between. She was rather excitingly beginning to fit into 3-6 month clothing and could sit supported in the rather fantastic Bumbo which we were lent by the physio community team. She could finally bring hands to midline although refused to roll over. The oral aversion had started by now but at this point, not acknowledged by the medical team.

39 weeks 13th June

Although I would have preferred to have been off until at least 9 months corrected, if I had had to return to work at 39 weeks when Wriggles was 6 months corrected then it wouldn't have been the end of the world. Of course I already was at work and had been for over a month and with honesty was really struggling. I was too afraid to speak up in fear of jeopardising my position and barely had the time or energy to seek any advice which might have helped me. Further to the stress of having returned to work, we were in the thick of admissions and oral aversion meaning feeding was a struggle and we seemed to be at the hospital as much as home. It felt quite a bleak point for me, as it seemed that when Wriggles was well she was being looked after by someone else whilst I fiddled about with highlighters and when we were together it was at the blooming hospital again. I was finding things easier though in terms of mental health and my relationship with Wriggles felt stronger. I was finally accepting that she loved me back, and we were tentatively starting to go to mother and baby groups and socialise a lot more. Had I have been off until this point, I think I would have maybe had more chance to build and strengthen friendships with fellow parents, meaning I would have felt less isolated. I would have also felt more confidence in my mothering skills and certainty that I knew my daughter best.

52 weeks 14th September

At a year old, Wriggles could very-almost-nearly sit up for incredibly brief periods but was determined to master this skill. She did in the end a few weeks later, but was having wobbly periods of trying now. I was having much less wobbly moments although found her birthday harder than I had hoped I would. The oral aversion had been taken a little more seriously although the range of food she would accept if any, was very limited. She relied nearly entirely on milk although was more relaxed touching food. We had regular activities to go to and Wriggles was proving to be quite the party animal meeting other people. She has always been a social and smily baby, but the older she gets the more she seems to charm people! I do think, had I had all this time off then I would have returned to work with maybe a tear in my eye but ultimately well adjusted and ready for a fresh challenge. It would also have really helped as throughout the summer, respiratory infections came so thick and fast and each one was like a kick in the stomach. Things no one can warn you about truly whilst at NICU but something which nonetheless can be part of the package of a premature baby. Juggling this with a work regime is tiring, mentally and physically. Most evenings I would collapse on the sofa and it would be all I could do to try and concentrate on simple TV programmes let alone more adventurous stimulating hobbies.

Charities and parenting groups have already begun to express their concern. A key group of 17 groups wrote to the ministers outlining their concerns and pushing for a minimum standard of 26 weeks maternity leave to be implemented. They highlighted issues such as childcare problems, life with a newborn, parents coping at work and unforeseen complications such as a period of time in hospital for mother or baby or postnatal depression. The letter to ministers was signed by Bliss, Child Poverty Action Group, Citizens Advice, Family Lives, Fawcett Society, Maternity Action, Mothers Union, National Childbirth Trust,  NUJ, Prospect, Twins and Multiple Births Association (TAMBA), TUC, Unite, UNISON, University and College Union, Usdaw, and Working Families. 

You can join the Six Months For New Mums campaign run by Working Families including on Facebook, which is campaigning for all mums to have the right to a minimum of 26 paid weeks of maternity leave.

The more I have thought about it, then more passionately I feel that new mums with whether their first, second of fifth child should be valued and respected enough to have a sensible amount of time off. I know we are in a recession and that employers and the Government do not have bottomless pits of money or are there to act as charitable causes, but to me this proposal is sending out the wrong message to women and parents alike. It looks set to widen the gap between gender, those with and without families and endanger long term pay and working situations for families as well as ambition and motivation both at home and in the workplace. We are supposed to cherish family life: not wish it away.

Happy Memories

Monday, May 7

Breakthrough with extra ice cream

This weekend something amazing happened.

We were invited to a birthday party.

Now, this might be an everyday occurrence for many mums. But I have been spectacularly rubbish at making and keeping mum friends, my depression and anxiety cutting all ties with rationality and sending my confidence and voice deep down into a pit of despair, cutting off the sunlight. I would shrink from other mums, like a vampire from the dawn. Not at all because I didn't want to be their friend, quite the opposite, but because I would just panic. Why would they want to be my friend? I kept trying to go to baby groups, I would make myself because if nothing else my darling Wriggles has always been quite partial to "borrowing" other babies rattles and charming stranger's grannies. I don't know quite what has happened but somehow things turned a corner and bit by bit I began to talk properly to the other mums and remember their names and stop my jaw dropping the floor if they remembered mine (or at least Wriggles'-it's practically the same thing once you give birth). Then I plucked up the courage to accept invites to coffee and this week, exchanged phone numbers with not one, not two but three, yes THREE mums. And received a party invitation for my troubles.

After this feat of brilliance, I seized the day yesterday and went small-person-affordable-gift-shopping. I wrote (on behalf of Wriggles) a card and sealed the envelope in the hope that if I wanted to chicken out I might reason that that would mean a wasted card. This morning I wrapped up a copy of What The Ladybird Who Heard whilst fending off an energetic Wriggles who wanted to eat the sellotape, and tried to find a pair of leggings that didn't have any food down: a near impossible task. For someone that barely eats, all her clothes are covered in bizarre stains and trodden in crumbs.

As the time drew near I ummed and ahhhed. I felt nervous and began to look for excuses. I could see the opportunity slipping away and in a rare fit of decisiveness, grabbed the A-Z and tried to locate the party location. It was less than 10 minutes walk away. The sun had come out. I was running out of excuses. Wriggles had found a shiny box and was pacified. As long as she was still allowed to hold the box, she was happy to put her coat on. Now I had no excuse. Before the moment was gone, we left. As I walked along the road, thoughts niggled at my brain. Was I going to be the only unmarried one? Were their husbands going to be terrifying? I don't even know why these felt important things. I think the one of the hard things about mental health wobbles are the feelings of inadequacy it cloaks you in. I often have felt conscious of being babyfaced and a single parent and worry that it isolates me. In reality, it doesn't or at least hasn't so far. I have been pleasantly surprised that no ones gives two hoots if your house is magazine-perfect (mine isn't for the record, it is a scruffy flat) or Mr Darcy brings you breakfast in bed. Probably as so many mothers are battling through sleepless nights and chasing around after mad toddlers to rub together enough brain cells to care. It is so easy to forget the two things that unite most parents are their children and the helpless desperation to Get It Right whilst doubt and guilt gnaw at you every time CBeebies is switched on. 

The worries were all unfounded. We had a truly lovely afternoon, the babies all played (relatively) nicely and everyone was so friendly. I hope these are the beginnings of real friendships; even if they are not, I can't think of many ways better to spend a weekend that in the company of some Good Eggs especially when you get two types of cake and ice cream at the end.

Walking back home at 7pm (if you're going to party, you need to do it properly. I'm installing this in Wriggles from an early age) in the golden fading sun, I felt euphoric. It is such a small thing, but for me, such a big step. It felt like I had broke through a fog holding me back and hiding me from the world I crave to be part of, that I should belong to. It made me so happy to feel like I was grabbing life with both hands and loving it, rather than living in bad memories. 


Friday, May 4

Holiday

Hallelujah! I have bitten the bullet and booked a flight to go on holiday.  I am shamefully ignoring all carbon footprints and flying to Exeter, as the prospect of 7 hours on a train with a toddler on my own plus buggy plus suitcase sent chills up and down my spine. But an hour and half in a whizzy aeroplane suits us fine, so we exchanged our pennies for a flimsy looking ticket on a budget airline which turned out to be slightly less budget after adding luggage, a seat, and a rather cheekily not-declared-at-first-infant-fare. However, it is done now and so for the first week of August, Wriggles and myself are intrepidly exploring East Devon to stay with my parents and godparents in Sidmouth and probably get rained on horrendously by the beach. 

I cannot wait (no sarcasm intended).

Sidmouth remains a special place in my heart and I am hoping it lives up to expectations to show to Wriggles and pass on some seaside magic. Every year since I was little (really little, as in an actual baby) my family would bundle into the car and drive all the way across the far south east to the far south west for a week in August. My father discovered the folk festival as a be-sweatered and long haired student at university years ago and after he met my mother, eagerly took her with him. It was the moment of truth: would she accept his eccentric hobbies? Luckily for him, she was a touch on the mad side too and has an obsession with the coast so instating it as an annual holiday suited her down to the ground. And then, in the fateful summer of 1987 came an event I would rather not think of. Sadly, it has been brought to my attention regularly by my family who think it is hilarious. As we would drive past a field on the outskirts of the town, one or both of my parents would gesticulate towards a tree. "There! That's where you were conceived! Hahaha!"
Not what you want to hear as a teenager.
While my parents immersed themselves in ill-advised morris or sticking-and-cutting-arts-and-sticky-crafts activities, I grew up over the years for one week in August in Devon from a small shy child to a curious teenager then young adult. With friends I saw annually I went on adventures, learnt why some if not all cider should be avoided, got propositioned by dodgy straw hatted students, fell in love for the first time (not with a dodgy straw hatted student) and slept under the stars. I have so many happy fond memories as well as acutely remembered grumpily sitting in my friend's van in a cagoul, wellingtons, six fleeces with a camping mug of coffee, watching the rain pound the tents. Likewise, I recall my friend hissing "Psssssssst, your tent is about to slide down the hill, quick!!" whilst I was blissfully not-sleeping and having to de-camp rather quickly in the very early and dark hours of the morning, jump into the van and help manoeuvre out of the quagmire that used to be a campsite. Although afterwards it seemed an adventure. Once I had wrung all my clothes out and drowned out the sounds of sodding morris bells.

I hope this year will be substantially drier and warmer. I haven't been back for several years; at least four if not five. I'm sure it will have changed and surprise me and maybe be completely different to how it is in my head. Still, it will be a holiday, a break, a new place. There will be donkeys, cream teas and buckets and spades. Oh, and beardy men jangling around with hankies. Damn, I'd forgotten about them.


We are going to go to the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary



Thursday, May 3

Born Too Soon


I started blogging as a direct experience of parenting a premature baby. It has become my personal therapy and a way of connecting with other parents who have shakily stepped off the rollercoaster and are beginning to think 'what the hell do we do now!'. Prematurity took over my life as it was overwhelmed and blasted my mental state into what felt like space. I felt so anxious for my child, so guilty for what she had been through and so disconnected from the real world. Born spontaneously at home before the paramedics arrived, Wriggles arrived into the world at 27+6 weighing 1090g (2lbs 5oz) and although took a breath, then crashed. She was rushed to hospital whereby she was resuscitated. They used a new research method of "cooling" keeping the body temperature low to protect the brain. The fact she had cooled naturally in my draughty bathroom whilst waiting for the team and was still attached umbilically is what I have been told saved her life and brain function. She was then taken to the RVI Newcastle upon Tyne and stayed there for ten weeks. A large chunk of my blog is about prematurity and the experience in neonatal and the effects afterwards, so for this fantastic Tommy's campaign I have decided to hand over the reins to Mouse, who came into our lives on day 2 of Wriggles' life and kept watch by the incubator and has slept with her ever since.


My name is Mouse. I popped out of a carrier bag as Wriggles' First Toy bought by her grandparents on Wednesday 15th September, 2010. I was presented to Mama who felt me very tightly and closely. I could hear her heart thudding away as she pressed me to her, desperate to find comfort in the strange new world. Later that day, we traipsed down the corridor hand in paw to meet Wriggles. She was in the Red Area (Neonatal Intensive Care) and there were 4 incubators in the room and two nurses. She didn't have a name yet, just Baby Girl [surname]. By this point she had come off the ventilator and was on CPAP which was attached to her face with a little grey hat. The huge CPAP tube was nearly as big as her face. She wasn't very big; maybe a little bigger than I was and definitely thinner. My little stuffed arms and legs looked so chubby next to her bony limbs. But we looked at each other, beady eyes to beady eyes through the incubator, pressed against it. I'll look after you. I'll be here when your Mama cannot be. She trusted me with the biggest job of all to keep you safe and keep you loved. Because Wriggles was poorly I was not allowed inside the incubator as part of infection control, but I sat on the top or next to it. I kept Mama company during the long hours and hard times and helped her keep a diary. Her memory was so fuzzy I had to help prompt her a lot, and she would cling onto me as if I was her baby, as she couldn't do so with Wriggles. NICU was an odd place. There were always people everywhere and everything was conducted with speed and a sense of urgency whilst trying to maintain a blanket of calm, yet depsite the hustle and bustle it was very lonely.

First day in a cot
We spent a total of ten weeks in the neonatal unit. Other babies and their companions like me came and went. Most of the babies were born at a later gestation and spent far less time in. Some were there for a fortnight, some a little more. In the Green Room we graduated into, we got to know another extreme prem baby girl, E and her guardian toy Bear. Me and Bear got on well; long into the night we would whisper over the tops of the incubators and keep an eye on each others little people. One day, E had a nasty bradycardia and apnoea moment and went purple, needing stimulation. Bear stood poised in shock, willing E to regain breath. She needed some stimulation. Afterwards we were on a high alert, like guards waiting. It was a stark reminder how changeable things are even when they seem to go well.Only a few days later, Wriggles herself had a nasty turn twice in a row and was taken back to HDU to be kept a closer eye on. She had tests taken to see if there was an infection brewing. The HDU was less lively; although there were more doctors and nurses, the atmosphere was more somber than the nursery room which could be quite jovial. I missed Bear, who I could laugh with. Mama was much more worried after relaxing, and would keep vigil until her last metro home some nights. She would sit by the cot, watching Wriggles sleep. I think she wished she could swop places with me, and be cosied up next to Wriggles, touching her fragile skin. I would smooth it with my soft paws and let her clasp her tiny fingers round me. After a few days and an improvement, we were allowed back into the nursery but to our distaste, our 'spot' had been taken over and we were relegated next to the bins. Yuk!

Around 34-35 weeks
Everyone expected Wriggles to kick the oxygen habit she had developed. She had been so clever at coming off the ventilator and CPAP relatively quickly, it was a surprise when her oxygen requirements began to rise. The nurses kept trying, but within minutes the alarms would ring out. Bear gave me a sympathetic look over the room. E's feeding really took off, and she and Bear went home when we had been in around seven weeks. It was quite sad without them. Mama and E's mum used to talk merrily through the day and chat with the nurses. All the babies we knew had gone home, so it was just me, Wriggles and Mama. Wriggles was finally learning to suck and swallow and taking tiny amounts of bottles. Just 10ml at first daily, but we built it up. I was so proud! After the third air challenge failing, it was decided that she would go home on oxygen. Things got very busy with forms to sign, oxygen to order and Mama to calm down. She was taken off to learn resuscitation and first aid and talked through using oxygen. Before we knew it, it was time to room in. Mama looked so proud, wheeling the cot with me and Wriggles in. The three of us settled into our little room. I did some gymnastics while Wriggles napped-it was all just too exciting!

Rooming In
We finally came home on Monday 15th November at midday. Mama's friend R came with us and snapped pictures to put in an album to treasure. It was such a surreal day, walking out. I was tucked up with Wriggles in the carseat. Mama had found me a tiny new knitted hat so I could have something to keep me warm against the brisk November air. It was hard to imagine that when I had come in September it had been warm and still! Mama had brought Wriggles a furry suit with ears so we could match, and it was so big she looked swallowed up! She looked so confused going out. I whispered that it would be alright, that we were going somewhere where Mama would never have to leave us again.

Going Home
Too Exciting
So, settled at home we were in bliss being all together again. Every morning, Mama looked so dazed as though she couldn't believe her luck. I noticed a crushed photograph stuck to the wall by her bed-I guess it was the next best thing to sleep with when Wriggles was far away across the city. Since coming home, we have had lots of highs and some lows. We have had adventures like going to the park and learning to sit up and some scares like dashes to hospital where Mama would unceremoniously shove me in a coat pocket! Although I got a bit squashed, I was glad to come along for the ride. I started out life as being Wriggles' protector and guardian, and I don't intend to give that up easily. Even though she is now FAR bigger than I am and has learnt to stand up, giggle and play peekaboo, I will always look out for her and remember the humid, quiet nights as I watched her grow and develop as if still inside her Mama. She turned into a real little girl, from a scrawny newborn and I feel privileged to watch her fall asleep and wake up every single day.

At home, around 37 weeks
Growing up, 19 months old
Wriggles was one of the lucky ones. Preterm birth (before 37 weeks) is the number one cause of mortality for newborns and is the second leading cause of mortality in the under 5s, second only to pneumonia. Premature birth is one thing that is not specific to poorer countries, although economic and social circumstances do play a part. It is a worldwide problem and one that is one the rise. Every year, 15 million babies are born too early and of these, 1.1 million will sadly die. Many others will have substantial problems relating to prematurity. In the UK, there is a current rate of 7.8% of live births being premature and this is estimated to be increasing at a rate of 1.5%. The UK is ranked 46th out of 184 countries when looking at their premature birth rates. I personally found this surprisingly high, but then considering there are around 60,000 premature births per year maybe I shouldn't have been. All of this is frankly, rubbish and the really rubbish thing?
It could be prevented.
There are a known number of factors which increase premature birth that should be implemented either pre-conception or addressed as early as possible. Women and their carers need to be empowered with the right information to look after themselves and their developing children. No one wants to face the prospect of losing their child, so things need to step up to ensure that all women, across the world have a better chance of carrying to term. 15 million is too many. The Born Too Soon report is the first of it's kind, bringing international figures together and uniting in a new goal to halve the mortality figures by 2025, a goal championed by the UN.
 
 
Join in the Twitter party between 3-4pm today if you are in the UK, using the hashtag #borntoosoon tweeting with @tommys_baby.If you have written a post about premature birth or the Born Too Soon report, then linnk up at Not Even A Bag of Sugar.