The Going Gets Tough

As I write this, I’m coming out of a month’s fog of broken sleep, anxiety,  aching wrists and hospital visits. Winter has struck Scotland and has brought the usual round of bugs and illnesses which seem to target the most vulnerable amongst us .

Early December, Charlotte picked up a tummy bug which resulted in a week long episode of runny nappies that over spilled onto vests and outer clothing and resulted in a very sore red raw little bottom. How she screamed when I changed her nappy and no matter how gentle the process was carried out she would look at me pleading  and screaming, ‘Ma’, in horror as I wiped her peeling skin.  I troweled on the nappy cream thickly to protect her skin but there was nothing else I could do but let the bug take its course. Which it did.  So far so good.

As she was getting better and her little system was returning to normal I noticed she had a sniffle and a little cough. Then one night  at about 3 am she awoke with a huge cough choking back phlegm.  This went on for the rest of the night and by the morning  had a full blown chesty cough. I probably got about 2 hours sleep.  I administered the usual paracetemol concoction for a few days but she went off her food and wanted lifted all the time. In fact, she didn’t want to sleep in any other position other than in the arms of my husband and I. For a quiet life, we submitted to the will of this little, mucus filled cherub, My right wrist which has been painfully sore from carrying her throughout both 9hr flights to Orlando and back in October, and in the lines for the rides, now was screaming at me! However to alleviate the pain I was now using my left hand to support her weight as I comforted her several times throughout the night. No beauty sleep for me.  My left wrist is now tender and aching too. Great, both wrists are painful. Must see the doctor about this!

I had taken her to the doctor who examined her chest, throat and ears but there was nothing significant so we were asked to keep her drinking  fluids and come back if her condition deteriorates.

After a week Charlotte  seemed to improve and her sleep patterns returned although she now would only fall asleep in the arms of one of us before we gently laid he in her cot. A habit we have not broken since! Her runny tummy returned for a few days and went away .

Over the Christmas week she was not quite her cheery self, being very clingy and whimpering continuously if my husband and I vacated the room leaving her with other members of the family. On Christmas Day, we had a lovely family dinner at one of my sister’s who live in the seaside town of Troon , famous for it’s golf course and in spitting distance of Trump’s Turnberry Estate. Charlotte wanted to be lifted and hugged all the time.

In the meantime, my Aunt Babs, 88 yrs,  my late mother’s oldest sister, had grown frailer over recent months. She was viewed by all my mother’s side of the family as the familial matriarch. She still lived and managed (just!) on her own in her flat in Dumbarton. To cheer her up I would have taken the kids to visit her over the holidays but she had developed breathing difficulties over a number of weeks and was struggling to hold a conversation. She had begun to lose her appetite. She resisted the idea of going into hospital but the doctor insisted she needed to be treated for a chest infection which was debilitating her, so she relented and was admitted to the Vale of Leven Hospital a week before Christmas. I visited her, as did many family members, and she seemed resigned to stay in hospital for a couple of weeks until she was strong enough to return home. I was relieved as she now had round-the-clock care. However, a few days later, weak and still frail, she discharged herself despite doctors’ advice!

She preferred the comfort and familiarity of her own home. Family started to check on her but she fell on two occasions in her home and could not get up and eventually resigned to being re-admitted to hospital.  I would describe Babs as stubborn, stoic, very much her own women, but also very generous, kind and extremely family-orientated. She had never married nor had a family of her own but was very much part of all our lives.

It was important to let her know that we cared about her so immediate family, including us nieces and nephews, visited her in hospital from near and far. With Charlotte being poorly, I felt guilty for not seeing her more often but Babs appreciated every visit and always asked after the children.

Between Christmas and New Year, we did take Charlotte with us to a Pantomime with the other children and she was very well behaved, sitting on our knees in turn,  in awe of the colourful goings-on, silly antics and loud music on the theatre stage. She is much better I thought!

Then on Hogmanay she wouldn’t sleep, playing around on the floor and being very lively to almost 1.30 am! We wouldn’t let the other kids stay up for the ‘bells’ to welcome in the New Year, and here was our 9 month old insisting on playing whilst we wanted to get to bed!

This is it, I thought. This is why babies are usually a younger person’s domain. No regrets, obviously,  but we were exhausted. Three weeks of continuous broken sleep now  –  Charlotte was waking 3-5 times a night  -but at times could not be comforted easily. Her sleep pattern was all out of sync.

We got her to sleep after 1.30 am New Years Day and she awoke at 3.30 am with the same chesty choking cough she’d had a week or so before.  The mucas and wheezy cough started again. This time she went right off her food and refused to eat for a few days, taking only her bottles. So back to the Medical Practice and saw a doctor (a different one this time) who examined her and couldn’t find anything wrong .

By Sat I’d had enough. She wasn’t getting any better and her fluid intake had reduced. She hadn’t eaten for 6 days.  I called NHS 24 and explained her symptoms. I was advised to go to my nearest out of hours clinic with her, at the local hospital, which I did at 11pm. Two hours later, we emerged with penicillin for her – a chest infection. It was -4C outside as I bundled her back into the car.

A week later she is so much better, although the medication gave her cramps and diarrhoea which woke her several times (again!) during the night and was painful for her. During one of her cramping episodes, as she screamed and writhed in pain, I paced the floor of our converted garage as it was the furthest away room from our sleeping kids (and one husband doing his best to fall back to sleep!) between 3.30 and 6am.

Told you, this baby thing is suited for the youthful, resilient and/ or those  who need little sleep!

The next morning I drove down to visit Babs in hospital, some 40 mins away, in the bright chilly sunlight but felt drunk on the lack of sleep. Spaced out.

Now, at last, normality seems to have returned to Charlotte’s world –  and our own. She is back eating three meals a day  –  although now and again prefers to wear her food! But that’s OK. Her wee smiley personality has returned and she is happy once again exploring her toys on the floor without crying to be lifted.

After Babs  was re-admitted to hospital she gradually got worse. Her breathing never improved and she was sipping only the smallest amounts of fluid in the end which could hardly sustain her tiny frame. I sat with her for one hour the day before she passed away and I talked about the family and my plans for getting back into work. I told her Charlotte was much better and she smiled in-between brief bouts of sleepiness and made attempts to speak.  We await her funeral details which her only surviving sibling, my Aunt Trish, is currently organising. Her only brother, my fabulous Uncle Gerard died from cancer on the day Charlotte was born.

In the meantime I thank Babs for her generosity over the years both to myself and my children. I thank her for the interest she showed in my growing family, and above all for the total acceptance of my first pregnancy at fifty years old and the support and love she showed to me thanking God for the miracle of little Charlotte’s life.



Highs and Lows of Theme Park Fun

The kids loved their trip! There were only a few incidents of bickering –  and this was among the adults! 🙂

90 degrees humid heat was a good stamina challenge for all of us moving around each theme park. I love high, dry temperatures with sunshine, but even I was wilting and losing my sense of humour at times under the unrelenting blazing heat. The baby sat sweaty with half shut eyes as she was pushed around in her new stroller through the colourful and noisy walkways.

Charlotte had been a little star on both 9hr flights – contentedly sitting on my lap or standing between my legs at my chair. She didn’t sleep once on the flight over which was tough going on my right wrist which is now very painful (and feels continuously swollen and tender) and managed 3hrs sleep in my arms on the flight back.

We spent 4 glorious days by our resort pool throughout the 2 weeks and the rest in a frantic dive from ride to ride at each theme park – we chose Universal and Disney parks.  And the parks were busy, busy, busy for most of the time we were there! Some rides had between an 80 and 130 min wait! Really! Who wants to wait in line for that long?! Some fast passes for specific rides could not be booked for love nor money e.g. Avatar. We hadn’t realised you could fast pass book weeks in advance for Disney. Note to self: read the bloody bumff sent with the holiday details!

However, noting its popularity (said 130 min wait!) we chose to stay on late one evening at Animal Kingdom and experienced the Avatar simulation at 9 pm (only 35 mins wait). So glad we did.  A wonderful surreal sensory  journey, sat on a motorbike, through a paradise-like landscape! Bliss. Of course, this had to be done via the rider switch option which meant hubby had to wait outside with the baby whilst myself and the older kids enjoyed the ride, then it was my turn to wait with the baby (by this time 9.40pm). If you have a child who cannot/ will not ride, then the Disney rider switch option enables one adult and two children to use the ‘fast pass’ line if an adult has already queued prior. However we have 3 children, so each time we used rider switch we had to choose two out of three to enjoy the experience –  nearly caused World War 3 each time.  Disney take note!! Discrimination against the larger family!

After a few days we got into the way of things…. Child swap/ rider switch at Universal was really helpful as their facilities enabled us to wait in line as a family unit which was not possible with the Disney child swap option where we had to line up separately with one adult and baby killing time in the heat waiting for the others to finish their ride. This disappointed us as Disney markets itself as being very family orientated!!  We had to carry the baby in our arms in each long line on every ride (as, no matter what the predicted line length,  every stroller had to be parked)  to the top of the queue then one of the adults would stay in the family room to let the other take the ride then swap over with the kids to have their go without waiting in any other line. This usually enabled the kids to have at least two rides one after the other. Each family room had a baby change facility which was thoughtful and essential, at times!

The Universal family rooms enabled us to swap over a few times if the ride was good and so the kids could have as many as we would allow them!  I must recommend the Hulk rollercoaster (my favourite ride) where you could go straight to the family room without waiting in any line and swap over when it was time!  We had quite a few consecutive rides on this squeal fest! It’s such a buzz! The Harry Potter simulator was brilliant too!

Some of us mastered the single rider concept to  speed through the lines –  although my 8yr old was too young to do this!

We had Charlotte on some of the slow rides – Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Nemo, Haunted Mansion and a couple of short shows  e.g.Monsters Inc and Muppets 3D. It was bliss to be inside for the air conditioning! Again, a little star, sitting patiently looking around her (probably wondering what the heck was going on). She was in and out of her pram at least a couple of times every hour  –  and we spent an average 6-8 hours at each park.

Towards the end of the holiday we ditched some of the rides to line up for up to 40 minutes  to meet a character!  Had to be done. You can’t go all the way to Disney and not meet some famous characters, including the main man! Mickey. Tick.  He was very good with Charlotte and came over and gave her a hug when it was our turn to step forward to have our picture taken with him. Charlotte, who is teething, immediately reached out (as if to return the hug) and promptly bit his nose! Ha!!ha! A proud moment for us parents.

We’re back under the grey clouds of Scotland, but the sunshine of Florida still burns in our memory. The children keep asking when we can return. Ideally next summer, but in reality, in about another five to ten years time when Charlotte can stand in line independently and my now-eight year old should be tall enough to get on ALL the rides he wants, and, of course, when we’ve saved enough to go back and enjoy the whole experience again 😊

Disney Matter!

Hey-ho! We’re off to Florida tomorrow! Theme parks. Mega meals. Disney characters. Fun in the sun (Hopefully). My hubbie has packed his suitcase – I’ve packed for the rest of us! So let’s hope it’s all there.

Hubbie  says the largest bags of all are under his eyes!! Well, Yes, I agree with him. Baby Charlotte is still not sleeping through the night  and it’s taking its toll on our looks! So nothing new. It’s just living with  constant light sleep, peppered by us awakening when she is not awake (but you do anyway), and then being pulled from any deep sleep by her gentle whimpering which starts to crescendo into cries, intermittent, then gradually into a constant shrieking if left unattended for more than 5 minutes. Charlotte has learned to roll over onto her stomach but cannot move from this position yet. Most of her night wakes are due to the fact she is on her tummy and frustrated. She needs moved back to lying on her back but by the time I’ve dragged myself out of bed she is all but awake. I rush her into my bedroom to feed and comfort her and promptly lay her by my side and we both fall asleep somewhere between 3 and 5 in the morning. A bad habit! She can then sleep to after eight o’clock. Sweet.

So a nine hour plane journey awaits us from Glasgow to Orlando. The kids are so excited. We are going on holiday with one of my sisters and her family, and her friend and daughter.  We will be one of those families whom people want to avoid on planes.  A bunch of noisy, excited, lively, hyper children – a  lovely 7 month old child who rarely sleeps during the day (unless in the car or pram),  an 11yr old, 10 yr old, 9yr old, two 8yr olds and a  7 yr old –  all super animated and, most likely, hyperventilating at the very thought of stepping foot in Florida!

I’ve been to Orlando  a few times in the past  –  but not with so many children. This will be a different type of holiday to that enjoyed in the past. Not a bad thing. Just need to be more organised e.g. I’ve ordered pre-made milk formula and feed from the pharmacy at the airport to avoid any issues with liquid allowance as  we go through the necessary security checks. I’ve packed enough nappies to ensure we are covered for every eventuality! I’ve brought teething gel, teething toys (Charlotte has two teeth growing in now), soft toys, squeaky toys, comfort toys etc.  My older kids have suitcases packed with clothes for any kind of weather! Reports state that sun to thunder and lightning is forecast for our two week break!  But Disney awaits, Disney matter about the weather!

So looks like we’re all set to go. Taxis are ordered for the short journey to the airport early morning.

Ha! What can go wrong! 

Things They Don’t Tell You

The reality of being an older – 5 decade old – mum is that even the doctors aren’t 100% sure what is likely to happen hormone-wise after the birth. At my 6 week check-up I asked the doctor when, and if,  my menstrual cycle would return. Would I go back to normal  or would the birth and all the artificial hormones I’d taken leading up to it, kick start the peri-menopause?

‘Good question’ she said. She wasn’t sure. I guess everyone is different but surely there must be a general rule of thumb about what is likely to happen. So I’m finding out as it happens!

My reality is that my cycle took 14 weeks to re-commence followed by another cycle 8 weeks then 6 weeks later….so I’m assuming I’ll return to a monthly regular drumbeat at some point. But who knows.

My thick pregnancy head of hair has now started thinning 4 months after Charlotte was born  (gently pointed out by my sympathetic hairdresser!) which wasn’t much of a surprise . My c-section  scar twinges uncomfortably every so often depending on what I lean against and what abdominal exercises I undertake! Not much of a shock.

What was somewhat surprising  was my teen acne has returned in full glory!

Good grief! I’ve got a persistent array of zits/ plukes/spots on my chin which an over-the-counter – acne gel will not shift!! That’s 3 months now of stubborn bumps! No-one tells you these unglamorous hormonal side effects.  I feel like the Oldest Teen In Town. Often it feels like these zits shine like a beacon for all to see. Now and again they sneakily start to withdraw, then when you have a planned meeting with the school teacher or a night out with friends, they  protrude proudly,  daring you to tackle them knowing they are there for the long term! (And it wont be a pretty sight if you do give it a go!)

I used to get the odd zit now and again  in my thirties and forties   – I called them wine spots  due to my penchant for a nice glass of wine 😊 but these  babies have got a life of their own and are bloody  obstinate.

Anyway, the best news is that Charlotte is now in her own cot bed in her own room and actually slept through the night for the first time last night! Wahey! Maybe my zits will fade now that I can get a decent night’s sleep. More wine please!

Happy Baby Pose

I have to say that Charlotte is a contented baby. She has her moments, as you would expect, but given half the chance, she can be found lying on her back clutching at her feet and bringing them to her chest, gurgling away cutely.

My youngest son finds Charlotte in this pose extremely amusing and adorable and squeals with pleasure (still!) each time he sees her doing so.

She now drools immensely going through several bibs per day soaking them with the continuous flow of water dripping from her gums. She is in the habit of pulling her feet to her mouth and sucking intensely on her chosen big toe which must give her some comfort!

I laugh inwardly at this move, as for the last 6 weeks the last track in my Body Balance class asks us to lie down on our mat in ‘happy baby pose’ wrapping our fingers round our big toes and pulling our feet to our chest. The idea is to relax and stretch out the hamstrings a little whilst massaging our lower back. (Always the risk of some trapped wind escaping at this time, I must point out!)

 I’m always so tempted to see if I can manage to get one of my big toes in my mouth, like Charlotte! Although the prospect of tasting a sweaty foot with a big toe of hard skin is not appealing!

I’ve regained my flexibility since her birth although I’ve not attempted much cardio workouts yet. My post C-section body needed to heal completely and I’ve avoided any aerobic activity to date.  My last venture into the park for a jog two weeks ago resulted in a pulled lower calf which took a few days to go away. I still do 20 mins walk on the machine in the gym several times a week usually after my Body Balance or Body Pump class. Re-introducing cardio is next on my list as I need to combat the pounds that are creeping back on thanks to my sweet tooth and love of chocolate!

I’ll keep up the happy baby pose but will add some cardio to compliment it……one of these days 😊

Sleep is Over-rated!

Well, my little treasure is 3 months old now, adored by all who come into contact with her! Her brothers and sister absolutely love her and have been a great help  –  asking to feed her, hold her, cuddle her. I have been heart warmed by their response.  The only thing is …. she has never, EVER, slept more than 3 hours in a row during the night. A few months previously, an ante-natal nurse advised a group of us expectant mums that our babies would keep a similar pattern to that in the womb, once they were born. My daughter was always very active at night but I assumed,  naively, that she would soon resort to ‘normal’ day/night behaviour! How wrong was I.

So, 3 months on,  I have had one night of unbroken sleep (family friends offered to take Charlotte for one night to let us catch up with some well needed beauty sleep) and all nights before and since have been regulated by wake up calls around 2am, 4am and 6 am –  the only blessing is that the waking periods around these times have shortened (Yeah!!!) from 45 mins of feeding and winding to 15 mins or so. I’m grateful! So grateful!

And I’m proud to say I’ve managed to function on minimal sleep –  although I don’t understand why. I still need to get my 3 children to school and back, do shopping , ironing, housework etc. I don’t nap during the day…. never have done; not my style, and choose to go to my body balance and body pump classes in the mornings when I can. Super important for both mind and body!

Having lost both sets of parents over recent years, my husband and I are very fortunate that we have two good baby sitters –  an aunt and family friend who are so willing to take my little bundle of joy for a couple of hours. She’s a real tonic to them.

Don’t get me wrong, the lack of sleep does mean that concentration dips from time to time! However, although I’ve not absentmindedly left my baby behind in the local shopping mall, I have managed to:

  1. Leave my driver car door wide open for 2 hours in the car park whilst visiting my aunt in Dumbarton, my handbag lying on the floor in the back (to the good people of Dumbarton, I thank you for not being tempted to make off with any of the contents I’d generously left for anyone to take!)
  2. Put a washing through its whole cycle and hanging it up before realising that I’d never added any detergent! I actually found myself considering whether I would get away with it. Er no! Did not pass the smell test!  (I’m sure that won’t be the last time I do that )
  3. Undress to take a shower and put my bundle of clothes down the toilet and shut the lid before realising it wasn’t the washing basket (Well, I didn’t flush so that’s a bonus!)

Well, maybe I should take a nap! As I speak my little cherub is dozing peacefully on her playmat and is likely to do so into the early hours…until she awakens for her habitual feeds and burping! She has no daytime routine, but has stuck well to her nocturnal schedule – no matter what!

And It Had Been So Easy!

My pregnancy had been straightforward, only frequent nausea superseded by stinging heartburn had been the price to carry my little angel. She  hadn’t caused me any worry or alarm. In fact,  my Consultant stated that he was impressed at my healthy blood pressure at each clinic visit as well as my level of fitness and energy. I was secretly smug, feeling I had proved that older mums can have a good pregnancy, especially if they live a consistently healthy(ish) lifestyle prior to falling pregnant.

I ended up spending 6 days in hospital after my little girl was born at 10.04 on 11th March. She was  small and fragile, but healthy. I was, and still am, grateful for this little treasure who has chosen to live with our family and who trusts us to raise her and guide her in life!

I was taken down to theatre around 8pm later that evening after I’d started to bleed in bouts (post partum haemorrhage). In my naivety, I thought this was  something that was common to most new mums and ‘had to be done’ as a precaution. My baby was wheeled  down behind me, as were my belongings,  and all placed in one corner of the room. She slept the whole way and for a number of hours later.

Once in the room, a team of nurses swarmed around me and I was hooked up to various machines. There was little small talk. I was asked several times what my little girl was called, but I explained that my husband and I couldn’t agree on a name yet! As I gazed around the room I was impressed at the teamwork of the nurses and the efficiency with which they carried out their roles. Each new the part they were playing.  I wasn’t aware what they were giving me but I know they said my name each time they administered a fluid into my veins and told me what it was. A doctor, who never made eye contact, advised a speculum was being inserted to catch the flow of blood to measure it ….a nurse stated they had collected 500 ml…….900 ml… a 1000 ml…..I heard them announcing the time certain medicines were injected (9pm , then 9.30, don’t remember much after that). I noticed a nurse was vigorously massaging my stomach for the entire time and I thought that this action should hurt as I’d had my C-section only hours before. I didn’t feel a thing! It hadn’t dawned on me that I had been given a strong painkilling drug! I was given gas & air and every inhaled breath made me feel lightheaded and drowsy. I felt I was drifting off and remember thinking that this is strong stuff!  I looked over at my sleeping bundle of joy wondering if my condition could be fatal and would she be left without her mother. I thought I can’t die without giving her a name. ‘Charlotte’ I said to the nearest nurse ‘Her name is Charlotte’.

I wasn’t sure where this name came from as it wasn’t on my top 5, nor my husband’s,  but it felt right.

Then a nurse told me I was being given warm fluid to raise my body temperature.  I realised I was sweating. I asked her outright if my condition was dangerous as my thoughts had turned to my own mother who had not survived a hospital operation two years before, and had been given a warm fluid in intensive care to warm her cold body as she lay unconscious, the family around her willing her to survive. She couldn’t and didn’t.

‘Could this be fatal?’ I asked a nurse, as I looked down at the large pools of blood spilled over my bed sheet, over my legs, splattered on the cabinet next to the nurses, then looked back to my young daughter, sleeping soundly. ‘I have up to 7 shots of this anti-clotting drug I can give you. You’ve only needed two  shots so far’, she said. ‘That sounds fairly positive’, I thought to myself.

I was given oxygen to inhale alongside the air and gas. Time stood still for me.  One by one the nurses left the area, including one who had been splatted on the face by my blood caused by an over zealous ‘collection’  by the overseeing  doctor who had been manually lifting the fluid into bowls to be accounted for. ‘Yuk!’ I thought ‘Poor lady!’

Then it was over. I lay in recovery for a few hours , then was asked if I was able to walk around before being taken back to the maternity ward. So at 3am I found myself gingerly shuffling  up and down the corridor feeling proud of my attempts.

I was back in a ward around 4am. Disorientated. Tired. Sore. And Charlotte wanted fed!

Despite my mini-drama, I was woken at 05.30 by a soft tapping against my bed…the daily ward cleaning was underway and a brusque Auxiliary was mopping around me, the head of her mop gently brushing against my bed frame. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. No long lie-ins for me in this ward. Well, better get used to it!! Preparation for things to come as a new mum!