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.



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! 

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!




She Has Arrived

There are no scheduled Caesarian operations on Saturdays – only Mon to Fri –  but I was advised that mine would happen at some point that day and to be prepared to go to theatre at 9am in case I should be taken first. Weekends are reserved for emergencies.  So I psyched myself up for a potential delivery in the morning, which could be pushed back anytime into the rest of the day.

Showered and fasted, I walked with a nurse to theatre to the floor below before 9am whilst the porter put all my belongings on my bed and wheeled it behind us. My sister was arriving at 8.30 am at the house to let my husband come to the hospital. We are lucky in that we live only a few minutes drive away. My husband arrived and was asked to change into theatre clothes as I was getting wired up to monitors, blood pressure machines and being given step by step information on the spinal anaesthesia procedure. The topic of C-sections had been covered at one of my ante-natal classes so I was comfortable with the process.

Once the fluid was administered into my spine, the anaesthetist stated that I would feel my bottom getting warm –  a sign that the epidural was starting to work. In a few moments I sure did feel the warm heat travel through my bottom and then I couldn’t feel my legs.

Everything then happened very quickly… a large screen went up, and off they went. My squeamish husband sunk low into his chair afraid he might catch a glimpse of the operation taking place on the other side! Whilst I, on the other hand,  had noticed that if I gazed up into the lights I could see about twenty small mirrors reflecting the procedure and my curiosity got the better of me. I could see in miniature what they were doing to me but all I could feel was a slight tugging! Strange!  Then the pressure in my stomach lifted and I said to my husband “She’s out”. Only a few minutes had passed by since the first incision.

Then the glorious sound of her crying loudly could be heard behind the screen as she was taken over to one side of the room to be checked and weighed. My husband was asked to cut her chord (which I knew he wanted to do but would find it grotesque at the same time!)

The midwife exclaimed that the baby had peed on her hand. “Well both her lungs and waterworks are in good working order”, I thought.

As the doctor sewed me back together, the baby was wrapped up and brought over to us. Small, adorable, healthy, perfect……a precious gift. Weighing in at 6llbs 7oz, she was like a delicate doll.

I couldn’t hug her as I was still strapped up to monitors with both my arms outstretched, but the nurse put her head next to mine and I felt the warmth of her cheek against my own and a tear stung my eye.

The dream I dared not dream had come true. The hankering to have my own child, although abated over the years, did not truly go away, and I had held the vision and belief that it could happen for me one day. She has completed our family. I love my adopted children. They are ours and are part of us. This little lady has arrived to cement the team and, although only early days, has brought so much love and excitement into our family unit, it has made me so proud to have held dear my conviction to have a baby …. it’s just that it happened for me later in life !



Head – Engaged!

Less that two weeks to go and finally her head has settled in the downwards position. In the post, so to speak. Preparing to make her appearance. I guess this is what they call the ‘drop’. The baby has shifted to my lower regions, nestling comfortably on my bladder. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been experiencing tightening Braxon Hicks ‘contractions’ on an adhoc basis, most noticeably in the supermarket mid-shop last week, which then lasted for the rest of the evening bringing nausea as a companion. However, no major side-effects that I’ve not experienced before. Heartburn is not so intense now. Happy days!

I continue with my light exercise Mon-Fri mornings, including my Body Balance classes. These are so good for stretching and balance. No matter how run down, tired or ‘out of sorts’ I feel before a class, I feel great by the end of each session. For me, fitness has always been part of my life and I’m determined to keep it up to the (messy?) end 🙂 of my pregnancy. No doubt to the concerned looks of my fellow exercisers!

The thing is,  I’m supposed to be taking a daily ‘baby’ Aspirin to reduce the possibility of clots and pre-eclampsia, so this is my way of keeping the circulation moving! Whenever I took an aspirin tablet in the past I had nose bleeds early morning which I’ve never had before, so, to me, aspirin is not required. My blood pressure is excellent and no swelling on feet or hands.

Running around after 3 children (11, 8 & 7) is also a good way of keeping active! The food doesn’t shop for itself, neither does the washing, ironing or housework kindly arrange to be completed without manual intervention! Kids clubs and hobbies continue as usual and my husband and I are often going in opposite directions to deposit a keen swimmer, footballer or dancer at their chosen clubs!

Anyway, life will change forever shortly. And the little kicks on my right hand side below my ribs remind me it won’t be long now.