31 March 2013

Happy Easter

I love the Easter cards the boys made at school this week. Such a simple design and loads of fun for them to decorate.

We don't really celebrate Easter, although the 'Easter Bunny' did leave chocolate eggs in the garden for the boys.

We went on a very chilly egg hunt this morning.

Last Easter we were at my in-laws - look, no coats.

This weekend I've been mostly looking forward to the clocks changing and having more light in our lives. There must surely be some warmer weather on the way too. Winter has dragged on for so long and I am sick of living in the same three jumpers - especially the one with the cowl neck that I always spill food on.

Happy Easter, friends.



30 March 2013

My Trip to the Pampers R&D Centre in Frankfurt

In February I was taken on a flying visit to the Pampers R&D Centre at Schwalbach, Frankfurt.

It was great to spend some time with my long-time blogging buddies Amy and Karin, as well as other bloggers, journalists and the Pampers PR team from Hill & Knowlton.

We were given a disposable nappy history lesson and a tour of the huge facility, by the head of R&D, Dr Frank, and Ioannis from P&G Baby Care.

My children are well out of nappies, but I found this trip fascinating. I loved the 'science bit'. We watched blue liquid being poured down a tube and onto a couple of nappies. The recently launched new Pampers Baby Dry nappy soaks up the liquid at an impressive rate. Researchers had found that when babies are sleeping on their backs and then pee, they can wake up and struggle to get back to sleep if they feel wet. The new Extra Sleep Layer enables more liquid to be absorbed, faster than before.

It can take up to ten years to develop a new nappy. I know, ten long years. It is painstaking, careful work. I was surprised how much Pampers care about producing a quality product. Families in Frankfurt are supplied with free nappies and give Pampers regular feedback. Every morning sixty babies are brought into the facility, still in their overnight nappies, to have their skin moisture tested. There is also a play room, where babies' movement is observed and again moisture readings are taken.

This little boy was a real cutie pie

One thing that I found fascinating was discovering that the gel crystals, that absorb the liquid in the nappy's core, are harmless. On the odd occasion that one of my children had a truly sodden nappy and some of the gel escaped I used to worry that they were getting harmful chemicals on their skin. Dr Frank was genuinely upset that this had happened - it's not supposed to - but I did explain that this had happened to a bouncing three year old over night. Still, it was reassuring to know that these crystals are similar to those used to bulk out diet foods (not so reassuring if you eats those diet foods I guess), but still, harmless.

You can see a little of what we saw on this video. See if you can spot the sensory rooms where you can experience what the world looks like from a baby's eye view. We all enjoyed ourselves in those.


Another highlight of the trip was meeting (deep breath) Pampers Village Parenting Panel Sleep Expert, Wendy Dean.

Wendy answered all our sleep questions. I wanted to know whether you should wake child when they're having a nightmare or night terrors. Wendy's answer was no, leave them, as they will probably not remember by the morning. If they wake up, however, obviously go to them and comfort them.

I also asked whether you should ever wake a sleeping baby. I always used to wake mine from their afternoon naps so that they would go to sleep at bedtime. A routine suited me. Wendy agreed with my approach. Looking back now, I can see that I was pretty inflexible. I would never go anywhere at nap time, unless my child would be able to sleep at their usual time. Having said that, from when both boys were about six weeks old Andy and I had our evenings to ourselves.

This led to me asking about long-established routines. My children (aged 5 and 4) still go to bed at 7pm and usually wake up at 6am. I'd love them to sleep until 7am. Or rather, I'd love to sleep until 7am. Wendy thought they were getting enough sleep and so suggested a later bedtime. She did warn that it could take a month for a new routine to establish itself. I may wait until the summer holidays to try this as Presley and Cash may be too tired if they're at school every day.

Here is Wendy answering a few of the most common baby sleep questions.

Disclosure: All travel, food (including one of the best steaks I have ever eaten, at the Radisson Blu hotel in Frankfurt) and accommodation expenses on this trip were paid for by Pampers. Thank you to Pampers and Hill & Knowlton for looking after us so well.


20 March 2013


Imagine if this was your day...

8am - You are gently woken by your husband. He makes you breakfast before taking the children to school. You sit at the kitchen table with your laptop, crochet, books, magazines and DVDs to hand.

9am - Your husband comes home from the school run, makes you another cup of tea and fills your glass with water before he starts work. He works from home and is in his office should you need him.

10am - Your husband makes sure you have everything you need. He passes you a banana to save you going to the fruit bowl. You think about having a shower.

11am - You shower and dress, taking your time. Afterwards you go back to the kitchen table.

12pm - Your husband makes you a cup of tea, before asking what you would like for lunch. He pops to the supermarket. You rest your head on your hands.

1pm - Your mum arrives. She asks if you need anything before starting on the housework. You explain exactly how you want the laundry done.

2pm - Your mum makes you a cup of tea, fills your water glass and then starts preparing the evening meal.

3pm - Your mum collects the children from school. You listen to them read for a little while. Your mum plays with them in the other room.

4pm - Your mum cooks. You explain exactly how you like your fish cooked, which wooden spoon for the sauce, how much pasta to put in the pan.

5pm - You eat while your mum loads the dishwasher and washes the pans.

6pm - Your husband baths the children. You sit and watch. He reads them a bedtime story. You sit and watch. Your children gently hug you goodnight. You kiss their heads.

7pm - Your husband makes you a cup of tea and makes sure you're comfortable. He spends the evening with you. You try to concentrate on a film.

8pm - You start to think about going to bed.

9pm - Your husband refreshes your water while you sort out your medication.

10pm - You go to bed.

Does that sound like fun to you? I mean, who wouldn't like to be waited on hand and foot? Me, that's who. It's horrendous. I've been out of hospital for nearly three weeks and this has been my life.

I always thought I was a stereotypical fatandlazy person, but now I realise that I hardly ever sat in one place for long. I was always doing at least three things at once. I never left a room, or walked up the stairs, empty handed. I was always busy. I rarely sat and watched television. I did everything at top speed.

On my discharge from hospital, after being treated for pneumonia, all the consultant said to me was 'You can go home now. Rest'. That was it.


I haven't sat at the kitchen table day in day out for weeks because I like to do as I'm told, or because I'm fatandlazy, but because I physically can not do anything else. I have no energy. It is difficult to describe exactly how that feels. You're not out of breath. You're not yawning. You just have to sit down. You have to rest.

The first week out of hospital I sat and willed myself to stay alive. That sounds dramatic, but I felt at death's door half the time. Last week I progressed to being able to make my own cups of tea, but had to sit down - exhausted - afterwards. This week I have forced myself to eat more in an attempt to generate some energy and it is working. I've read the children's bedtime stories, I've folded a bit of washing and I've chopped a bit of salad. After each tiny burst of activity I go back to my seat and sit for an hour, but I am improving.

I had no idea that recovery from pneumonia could be so slow, but I understand now that it could take 4-6 months before I'm back to normal. That's a awful lot of rest. I wish I could concentrate on my laptop, crochet, books, magazines and DVDs. Most of the time I just sit and rest.



11 March 2013

Morphine for Breakfast

Pain is a strange thing. Once it's gone you can't remember it, although you know it was unbearable at the time. If I'm in pain now, I always compare it with the pain of being in labour. Is it worse than being in labour? It can't be. Surely labour pain set the bar at an all time high? The pain of pneumonia and pleurisy was pretty awful. Added to this I was holding so much tension in my shoulders that I had muscle spasms. I certainly couldn't sleep because of the pain.

In hospital I was given morphine in A&E, but once on the ward I must have been marked down as only give pain relief if required. With hindsight this was a mistake. Pretty soon I needed all the pain killers, one after another, until I was left sitting in bed just blinking. The pain was still there, but I was so out of it I had drifted away and been replaced by Zombie Sandy. I'd stopped screaming and crying anyway.

I saw doctors and an amazing physio. The physio reminded me to how to breathe using my diaphragm - not my shoulders. I was given regular pain killers and the option of morphine at night, when the pain was unmanageable. I took it. The early hours of the morning were worst.

After five days in hospital my blood test results showed an improvement in the sepsis and pneumonia. During the day I was fairly mobile, once I'd come round. The doctors dangled the carrot of going home, but only if I could manage without morphine. I was desperate to see my children. Then I remembered a pain management technique I had been taught. Mind over matter was worth a try.

This was the point I contacted Dawn from Think It Change It. I was her guinea pig when she was training to become a Cognitive Hypnotherapist last year. I asked for a reminder of the technique that she had taught me to help with my slipped disc. She dropped what she was doing and rang me. I spent the rest of the day practising. I repeated this mantra and used it throughout the night:
My muscles are completely relaxed. My back and my shoulder are as comfortably numb as my leg.
Mumbo jumbo you may say, but it got me through the night. It wasn't easy, but I managed the pain without morphine. I slept for three hours too. In the morning I was able to text Andy "Fruit & Fibre for breakfast" and he knew I would be coming home that day.

I can't thank Dawn, or recommend her services, highly enough. She has also helped me to remove the mental barriers that were preventing me from losing weight. At some point I'll do a ta daa post, as I am a fair bit smaller than I was last year. Dawn works from her therapy room in Dundee, but also offers downloads and online support. Check out her website to see if she can help you with phobias, pain, weight, smoking and more. She has also written a book about her personal transformation, again details are on her website. I'm proud to call her my friend.


8 March 2013

I Didn't Say Goodbye

The last couple of weeks have been a bit difficult.

I am trying not to dwell on how seriously ill I was, but I am struggling to process my thoughts. I went from thinking I had flu, to collapsing and going to A&E via ambulance. I then spent a further five days in hospital, in quite a bad way. I've been home since Saturday and am still pretty poorly.

I guess I am in shock that my life, and that of my family, could change so quickly.

I'm only 43. I had pneumonia, sepsis and pleurisy. My blood pressure dropped to below 60/30. I had hallucinations. I cried with pain, then was in too much pain to cry. I was given morphine every day in hospital. I still haven't slept properly. I've had consultants leaning over me telling me I'm seriously ill. One A&E doctor got very excited over my blood test results and chest x-ray - she'd never seen anything like them. It's all been rather surreal.

I've watched my mum worry that she was going to lose another child. I've watched my husband age. I've put on a brave face and smiled at my boys. I held on tight to them when I got home.

The worst part was realising that I hadn't said goodbye to my children. I was quite out of it as I left the house with the paramedics, but I thought if I didn't say goodbye then I would have to come back to them. Later, when I felt worse, I panicked. My babies could be left without a mummy and I hadn't said goodbye, or told them I loved them. I hadn't written them letters, kissed them or held their hands. I couldn't remember what they looked like.

Now I am home. I think I'm out of the woods, but I'm not certain. We have a great deal of support from family, friends and neighbours. When people have offered help, they've meant it. The NHS have been excellent, I was surprised by the high standard of care at Milton Keynes hospital - from staff at all levels. I've even had a home visit from my GP.

My four year old, Cash, said he'd put a wish on the wishing tree at school. He said he wished his mummy would get better. I'm doing my best, darling boy.


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