(Mis)adventures of my womb

In the last five months I have become a statistic.  I have joined the ranks of women who suffer more than one miscarriage and it sucks.  My first miscarriage was my first ever pregnancy and it hit me like a high speed train, leaving me prone on the sofa watching the Gossip Girl box set (every cloud??) and eating my body weight in chocolate whilst also cracking open a bottle or two of wine.  I ambled along to my first scan at 13 weeks innocently looking forward to seeing our baby and feeling a little bit smug that we had fallen pregnant so quickly.  My blasé attitude was soon shattered when we were told that the foetus on the screen had no heartbeat and that it had stopped growing at around the 8 week point.  Before this experience I hadn’t even realised that missed miscarriage was a ‘thing’ and unfortunately it has made all subsequent pregnancies lose their sparkle a little bit during the first trimester.  The following week saw us make multiple visits to the hospital (a 90 minute round trip) due to a myriad of administrative cock-ups with our final trip ending with me having Surgical Management before going home to wallow.  We were lucky this time and after one period I fell pregnant again giving birth to a healthy (translate that as LARGE!) baby boy in February 2013.

The next part of my pregnancy story happened just as easily (ignoring the slightly stressful time we had at the beginning with dodgy nuchal fold measurements and subsequent amniocentesis) and in October 2014 I had a second healthy baby boy (who is currently creating merry hell in the kitchen with his big brother)  Following a fairly horrendous first labour and birth our second son was born by C Section in the most calm and tranquil atmosphere imaginable.  As they placed him on my chest I remember feeling very strongly that I didn’t want him to be my last baby.   Having had a 19 month gap between my first two children I was quite happy to have a slightly bigger gap between my second and potential third baby so I therefore threw myself into enjoying being a mum of two and making a life for ourselves in our new location (we had arrived in Glasgow when I was 32 weeks pregnant and at that point I didn’t know a single soul)

And so we come to 2016 and the (mis)adventures of my womb.  After a weekend in London back in late November I realised that my period was MIA and even though I was convinced I couldn’t be pregnant as we had been avoiding my most fertile days (HAHAHAHA!!!) a pregnancy test and subsequent calculations revealed me to be almost six weeks pregnant.  Whilst not exactly on our perfect timeline (we would be moving house when I would be 37 weeks pregnant, I would be attending my brother’s wedding one week postnatal and then would be left solo parenting with three kids whilst my husband went away for eight weeks) we were thrilled and started tentatively thinking about life with three kids under four (needing a new car etc)  On a Saturday in January I went to the toilet and noticed that there was a light brown discharge in my knickers and when I wiped after a wee.  I used Doctor Google and established that it might be something to worry about but that it might also be fine so decided to keep an eye over the next few days.  On the Sunday it wasn’t any better so I rang NHS24 and was told to go to the Out of Hours GP Clinic.  The doctor there managed to get me an appointment at the Early Pregnancy Unit and so we had a family outing to the hospital (always a joy with a 2 year old and 1 year old!)  After an abdominal and internal scan (having my hand held by an nursing assistant as my husband was looking after the kids outside) the midwife said that the foetus wasn’t looking viable and that I would need to come back in a week for another scan.  The situation was obviously upsetting but I resigned myself to the fact that I was more than likely going to miscarry the baby and carried on with day to day life.  That Wednesday I suffered a quick and thankfully complete miscarriage and was lucky in that my husband was able to rush home from work to sort out our boys as I was in no physical state to do any kind of parenting.  My main feeling throughout this process was that whilst rubbish it was a hell of a lot easier to cope with second time around as I still had to deal with my gorgeous boys and they are an amazing distraction when feeling a bit sorry for yourself!  The follow up scan revealed that everything had passed away and I was given the all clear to try again (or recommended to sort out my contraception!) as soon as I was ready.

The second part of my 2016 pregnancy story begins in March with another positive pregnancy test.  I was thrilled to be expecting again so quickly and rang the Early Pregnancy Unit to book in for an early scan (I had been told to do so after the previous miscarriage)  At 7W3D I went in for my scan.  Once again I was told that it wasn’t looking viable and that I would need to come back in ten days for another scan.  However this time around was different as there was only a gestational sac and no apparent foetus.  I went home and used Doctor Google again to find out more about the situation.  Through my research (I hasten to add that I did look at official sites as well as the doom and gloom chat rooms) I established that it could either be a blighted ovum or that my dates were wrong and that was why there was no visible foetus yet.  I started feeling nauseous (not something I’ve really had in any other pregnancy) so was hopeful that it was the latter rather than another loss.  I also looked at the statistics for recurrent miscarriages and told myself I would be unlucky to be in the 1% of women (Mayo Clinic Statistics) who have more than one miscarriage.  However it turns out I am in that 1% and it is a really rubbish club to be in.  My follow up scan showed no further growth and so I was booked in for Surgical Management the following week.  Rather inconveniently my husband was going away so we had to call in the support of my Mum to fly up and look after the kids whilst I underwent the procedure and then had all of 24 hours rest before normal parenting responsibilities resumed.  I’m quite a robust person and pride myself on my get up and go attitude to life (something that is very useful when your husband is in the forces and not always around!) and I dealt with this loss in the same way as the previous one in that  I was upset but life went on and we decided to try to conceive again as soon as the post op bleeding had stopped.

My 2016 story so far ends with the unexpected events of this week and to be honest at the moment I’m in limbo not knowing how things are going to turn out.  Last week I had a missed call from the Early Pregnancy Unit asking me to ring back regarding some test results following my procedure.  Alarm bells immediately rang (being a bit melodramatic I imagined all sorts of horrendous issues….) as I had not had any sort of follow up after my first miscarriage and first Surgical Management.  I eventually got through yesterday and was told someone would ring me back as soon as possible.  I received the phone call whilst having lunch in M&S with my boys and was told that the test results showed that I had had a Partial Molar Pregnancy and that it would need to be followed up by the specialist unit in Dundee.  Feeling more than a little bit bewildered I managed to reign in the tears whilst in public but the last 24 hours have seen a lot of uncontrollable sobbing whilst I come to terms with the fact that this third miscarriage is by no means resolved and that I am probably going to be told that I can’t try and conceive for at least six months (and this is only once I have started the actual monitoring that you have to have after a molar pregnancy and had satisfactory results)  Typically my husband is away and so he has suffered a snotty weepy wife on the end of a long distance phone line whilst I try to sort out the logistics of starting the follow up monitoring in one place and then potentially transferring to another location if I need to.  I am now waiting for my consultant at this end to respond to the specialist unit so that they can then send me out the relevant information, process and equipment (basically having to send blood and urine samples in for testing for as long as it takes for my pregnancy hormone levels to reduce thus making sure that the issue is resolved and isn’t going to need to be treated with something more invasive)

I have cried more in the last two days than I have throughout the whole process of this particular miscarriage and I think that this is for two reasons; because I thought that it was physically resolved once I’d had the Surgical Management and had stopped bleeding and because I hate the idea of being prevented from trying again straight away.  In both my previous miscarriages I have known that the way I will be able to move on (as much as you do anyway) is by falling pregnant again.  I am so blessed to have two healthy boys and I know that there are plenty of people in this situation that don’t have this but I can’t help feeling sad at the thought of my third baby not being something that will happen.  I look at my boys and don’t feel that my tribe is complete even though they give me more happiness, joy and love (and frustration!) than I ever thought possible.  I tend to mentally plan my life away and I imagined having my third baby at some point during the next academic year (ideally fitting neatly between a number of family weddings including one where I am a bridesmaid!) and then being able to go back to work the following year knowing that my family is complete.  Instead I find myself in a situation where I want to apply for jobs but would hope that in reality I can’t work all of next academic year because I’m expecting another baby at some point.  With a CV looking increasingly full of gaps due to army postings I’m torn between going back and potentially looking flaky or staying at home for another year and being even more out of the education loop.  At the moment everything is a bit confusing and up in the air and coupled with our imminent house move and related stresses and preparing the children for changing nurseries and a new house I feel a bit overwhelmed by everything.  I’m generally a firm believer in things happening for a reason but at the moment  I’m struggling to see why this is happening to me and for what reason.  So I finish this (epic!) blog post facing an unknown couple of weeks/months and hoping that at some point in the future I have the opportunity to carry one final baby in my belly and to enjoy the delights of a newborn once again….

The Ordinary Moments #11 – London!!!

London is my favourite city in the world and I love having opportunities to show Teddy my favourite places (I’m sure he is really appreciative of all our John Lewis visits…..). My husband is currently away in Latvia (!) for a month so I decided to book some cheap flights home rather than spend another weekend twiddling my thumbs in Germany (where nothing is open on a Sunday!) A fairly horrendous Ryanair flight later we are here enjoying catching up with my sister (and meeting her new bloke!) and cousin and enjoying the touristic delights on offer.
Yesterday was the trooping of the colour and so we made our way to Buckingham Palace to watch the flypast. Once we had made our way through the crush (with buggy in tow – yes I was that annoying person!) we found ourselves a good spot with view of the balcony and with space to sit down for a quick picnic. Unfortunately at that point the rain showers started and with no coat and only one umbrella between three of us I found myself using the maclaren rain cover as a temporary rain mac. This just added to the Britishness of the day and so we sat it out and waited for the action (whilst stopping Teddy from destroying the beautiful flower beds!). At bang on 1pm the rain stopped and the first aircraft flew over and for the next few minutes Teddy was transfixed by what was happening in the sky.
It is trips like this that I remember from my childhood and I am so pleased to be able to do the same sorts of things with my family and store up similar memories for my children.

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The Ordinary Moments #9 – Snuggly Cuddles

This is going to be a relatively short blog post this week as both Teddy and I have been struck down with some horrid gastro bug and have therefore spent most of our time this weekend on the sofa snoozing and feeling sorry for ourselves. Typically, this has also happened during yet another period of lone parenting…… I never thought I would be grateful for Teddy being under the weather but because I have also been ill it has been a hell of lot easier not having to do too much running around after an increasingly speedy 13 month old! However, every cloud has a silver lining etc and one of the bonuses of this weekend has been the lovely snuggly cuddles we have been having. Teddy is a very active, self-sufficient little boy and only usually wants cuddles when it is bed-time. It has therefore been quite nice to have a little boy shaped hot water bottle to cuddle whilst I’ve been watching endless re-runs of Four Weddings, Don’t tell the bride and Keeping up the Kardashians (I like trashy TV and there’s no point trying to hide it as my Sky Box offers plenty of evidence…) I know that moments like this will become ever fleeting as he grows up and so for now I am going to savour every single one.

Gorgeous Boy…….

Gorgeous Boy…….

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The Ordinary Moments #7 – Thank God for baby groups

I feel like I have had the busiest week ever this week and until the husband gets home tomorrow from his skiing trip (not jealous at all….) it won’t really be over.  I like to be busy but even I have found the last week a bit of a struggle and so I am very much on a countdown to the Easter holidays as we are heading back to the UK to see family and friends and whilst we will be travelling around a lot we will also hopefully get some down time!  I work three days a week, am involved in running our local Military Wives Choir and run a baby music group on a Friday morning.  This week, to add to this, I have also been helping out with our unit wives club dress sale which was held on Friday night.  Foolishly I offered to keep all the items given to be sold at my house and as they were a bit slow to arrive at first I then said I would also label them ready for sale.  This was a massive error of judgement! As the dresses (and shoes, jewellery and bags) flooded in, my house began to resemble a jumble sale.  I spent about ten hours of my life this week matching dresses to descriptions in the book we were writing everything in and then labelling them up with the correct number, price and size and at this point in time I never want to see another dress that doesn’t belong to me or that I am eying up in a shop ever again…… 

The saving grace this week has been the amazing friends I have made by going to baby groups since Teddy was born.  They have known that my husband is away, have seen that I have been unbelievably busy and have rallied around amazingly.  I will admit to going to my first few groups with quite a bit of trepidation as I wasn’t sure whether I would go mad being surrounded by hundreds of babies.  However, the friends that I will take with me from this posting are the ones that I have met through having a child and I will be eternally grateful that they came into my life when they did.  So this week’s post is a big thank you to the ladies who have offered to babysit both in the evenings and daytime and who have entertained Teddy so that I can get on with stuff.  It has reminded me what a fantastic community I am part of and I will be sad to leave them all when we head off in the summer for pastures new.  I think sometimes people forget how amazing these groups are for meeting other mums (myself included at times!) and sometimes all you need after a busy week is a cup of tea and a chat (aka rant) whilst the kids play.  I think the busyness of this week has also rubbed off on Teddy and it seems he has also found this week a bit tiring……

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Teddy is 1!

Where the heck has the last year gone???  As Teddy turns 1 today I am both thrilled to have got him to this point and sad that it has gone so bloody fast.  It seems like only yesterday that I was being wheeled from the delivery unit to the postnatal ward cradling my not so tiny little man (he was 8lb15oz) and wondering if my lady parts would ever be the same again (you can read my birth experience here if you so wish!)  I am now very much the mother of a toddler not a baby and whilst this is exciting it is also rather overwhelming.  He is changing so much every day and if the next seventeen years go as quickly as this one has in no time at all I’ll be packing him off into the big wide world.  This thought terrifies me and I can finally see what my mum meant when she told me that you never stop worrying about your children however old they are.  If only I had a time machine…..

My little boy astounds and amazes me every day.  He is a happy, chilled out little fella who likes to give big open mouthed kisses and twist my hair around his fingers whilst he sucks his thumb (this is starting to become very painful as he gets stronger)  He has just started walking although because he can crawl so FAST he isn’t particularly interested in doing so.  He loves listening to music and playing with his instruments and the piano but he has also recently got into cars and enjoys pushing them around the carpet going ‘brrrrmmmmm’.  He loves toys with buttons, remote controls and phones and will sit for quite a while looking at his books when he has the occasional quiet moment!  He eats everything and anything and throws his food on the floor once he is either finished or bored of a particular item.  He is beginning to use a fork and spoon independently to feed himself which is making mealtimes a whole new level of messy!  He generally sleeps well at night going to bed quickly and easily at 7pm and waking up at about 6.30am.  He has gone down to one nap a day which is a bit of a killer as it leaves me with less time to drink my tea in peace and watch ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ (when the Sky is working!)  He is happy to be left with his childminder and we have not had a single morning when he has cried or been upset.  He loves hanging out in the kitchen, sorting out his cupboard which we have filled with non-breakable items and playing with the dishwasher (he loves the dishwasher for some reason!)  Most of all he loves bath time and could happily spend hours in there if allowed.  He is my gorgeous little auburn haired soldier and words cannot describe how amazing the last year has been! Thank you Teddy and Happy 1st Birthday!!

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“As a mummy……”

I once worked in a school where a number of parents would start all our conversations about their children with the words “As a mummy….” (i.e. you don’t really have a clue because you are not a mummy)  The sentence would continue with (in general) a litany of reasons why they didn’t think I was doing my job properly:

“Why do you only read once a week individually with my child?”

“Why don’t you do PE more often?”

“I think you need to watch my child during break-time because I think they are being bullied.  If you could do this everyday in the morning and at lunchtime I would appreciate it.

“Why can’t you sort out the behaviour of the child that is disrupting my own child’s education?” 

My internal answers would read as follows:

“Because I have to fit phonics, maths, guided reading, snack time, blah blah blah into my day and I have thirty children in my class”

“ditto”

“ditto”

“Um, no. Because I want to go to the staffroom, have a cup of tea and a biscuit and moan about the delusional parents I encounter on a daily basis”

My actual answers were probably:

“I will try and fit in more reading (internal scream)”

“I will try and fit in a longer PE session (but when the **** will I manage it when I have to fit in maths and literacy every day as well as everything else)”

“Of course I will look into that (I will do it a couple of times to cover my back)”

“We are dealing with it as a school (hahahahahahaha along with all the assessment, planning etc etc we have to do)”

etc etc etc etc

Teaching is a hard job.  It is a relentless, tiring existence.  It is also the best thing I have ever done and I miss being a ‘proper’ full-time teacher more than I ever thought I would.  It is AMAZING watching children flourish and grow and it is an absolute honour to be allowed to parent these children between the hours of 8.30-3pm.  However, would I feel the same way if I was working from 8.30 until 6pm for 45 weeks of the year?  I’m honestly not sure but I don’t really want to have to find out. 

The government proposals for an extended school day are, as we have seen, a controversial one and I can, to a degree, see why some people think it will be a positive step.  However, I strongly believe that it will not be right for all children and I think that we would disadvantage as many as we advantage.

I have taught in a range of schools since qualifying as a teacher and have always taught either FS2 or Year 1.  My teaching practices and NQT year both took place in inner city schools in London where the majority of my classes spoke English as a second (or even third) language.  A large proportion of these children came from the large social housing estates located near the schools and a considerable number of these children received very little support at home.  By this I mean both academically and extra-curricularly.  The progress a lot of these children made was entirely down to the amazing staff at school; their parents did not read with them or help them with the minimal homework we set nor did they support the extra programmes that were put in place to support their move into Year 2 (and forthcoming SATs)  In this particular case a lot of these children would have benefited from extra time at school to work on homework, play sports and music and generally do the kind of activities a lot of other children take for granted.  These were children who were living in high rise estates with no real outside space (often in much smaller flats than actually accommodated their families) and who despite living in central London had not seen the River Thames or been on a bus or tube train before we took them on school trips to some of the amazing (and free) places London has to offer.  I left this school feeling that I had really made a difference to their education and hoping that they could continue to blossom as they moved through the primary system.

My next two schools were both in more affluent areas and the difference in parenting could not have been more obvious.  At the first school (a very small, idyllically located village school in Hampshire) I learnt to deal with a different kind of problem parent.  These parents wanted to know why “Edward is only on Stage 3 of Oxford Reading Tree when his friend Johnny is on Stage 5 and I know he isn’t a better reader”.  These parents filled after school time with swimming and French and piano and horse riding and ballet and tennis and wondered why their children were so tired that they struggled to get up in the morning to come to school and then couldn’t concentrate past 12pm.  In a strange way some of these children would also have benefitted from longer school days as they might have actually had a bit of down-time and had some release from the achievement obsessed parents they had been blessed with. 

After two years there I moved to another village school in Wiltshire.  I hate to use the word ‘normal’ but I would describe this school as filled with ‘normal’ families who generally filled after school time with a sensible amount of activity and who therefore had happy, well-balanced children.  The children in my class used to tell me about their swimming lessons and the football and rugby they played but would also tell me about their play dates and how “we got home and had a movie night”.  These children DO NOT need to be at school for ten hours a day and would actually be disadvantaged by doing so as they receive everything they need in a combination of a normal school day and a loving, thoughtful, constructive and fun family environment.

I think that Michael Gove needs to be very careful with his plans for the education system or he (and therefore the Conservative Government) will risk alienating entire swathes of the population.  I can see the benefits for SOME children spending longer at school but I don’t think it should be used as a way for working mothers to receive more free child care and I don’t think that it should be a blanket decision.  It should be the result of a holistic approach to individual children’s needs (just like all our lesson plans are supposed to be!) and should take into account personal circumstances as well as academic achievement.  Without this we run the risk of producing a generation of automatons who will not be able to independently manage their learning or time once they grow up.  I remember vividly which peers of mine struggled with the independent learning required of us at our local sixth form college –  it wasn’t those of us who had been to the local all-comers state school; it was those who had been through selective state schools where the results were amazing but where people were spoon-fed everything they needed. 

We only have to look at the education systems in other countries to see that whilst we send our children to formal school at the earliest we don’t do particularly well in league tables against them.  I have British Army friends based in Germany who choose to send their children to local German schools rather than to the MOD run British schools.  This is for a number of reasons; because the German schools do not start ‘formal’ education until the equivalent of Year 2 and instead encourage play based learning, because it allows their children to learn a second language in a natural environment and because the shorter school day allows children to pursue other interests outside of their academic learning.  Infant children generally finish school at lunchtime and most go home at this point (there is very cheap childcare available in the afternoons if required).  We have to acknowledge that more German mothers do not work and that therefore this shorter working day is less of an issue than it is for many British women but from what I have seen it does seem that it is a more natural, child led environment with more outside play (whatever the weather!) and a smaller emphasis on reading and writing until the children are actually ready. 

I can see both sides to the proposal of a longer school day but it worries me that my little boy might start school in a few years and enter an environment that places too much emphasis on academic achievement and not enough on social skills and being a child.  It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next months and years but I for one will not be willing to work the hours that are being suggested.  As other bloggers have pointed out, teachers already work these hours (and longer) planning activities for the children in their care.  We have to be careful not to place more of a burden on them and as a result stop them having the time to plan creative, engaging lessons that suit all types of learning.  If this happens, I can see a return to the era of the worksheet as getting to the photocopier will be the only planning time they are left with……

PS Starting sentences with “As a Mummy” still makes me want to scream even now that I am a mummy so if I ever hear myself saying it to any young teachers I come across in the future I promise to apologise……