Don’t feel rushed through your antenatal appointments

I had lots of lovely midwives who looked after me during my pregnancies and the births of my two boys. But I also remember the bad one. She spoke so fast and in an accent that I had difficulty understanding. She acted annoyed when I asked her questions or to repeat herself, and I never felt like she was listening to me.

Every time I saw this midwife, I would leave the surgery in tears. She made me feel so unsupported and so insecure. If I had any worries about my pregnancy, I felt even more worried about them after meeting with her. It made me more timid about asking questions when I saw midwives, because I’d been made to feel that I needed to hurry through the appointment.

Having a problem with your midwife, or simply hearing all the time about how busy the NHS is and how strained midwifery services are, or even just a natural desire not to “make a fuss”, can lead to us not speaking up about our pregnancy worries.

A poll on the Babycentre website showed that more than 60% of women worried about wasting time when thinking about raising a concern, and almost 30% of women didn’t speak up because of it. This could lead to missing a chance to get medical help for a complication in pregnancy.

If things go wrong in your pregnancy, it is never your fault. But, you have a right to speak up and ask questions if you’re worried about anything, and trusting your instincts could lead to a problem being spotted before it gets worse. If you encounter a crap midwife who won’t help you, ask for a second opinion. And don’t let worrying about time-wasting or being a nuisance ever stop you from speaking up.

Tommy’s, King’s College London and Babycentre have launched the ‘Always Ask’ campaign to empower pregnant women to overcome fears about speaking to professionals about health concerns. These short videos aim to empower women to speak up and help them voice their concerns effectively.

The campaign is underpinned by a research-based project led by Dr Nicola Mackintosh at King’s College London. ‘The Re-Assure project’ aimed to enable women to share their safety concerns about life threatening illness in order to facilitate a maternity response. The project brought together women, health professionals, a writer and a digital artist to create an animation that follows a pregnant woman through her pregnancy journey.

The campaign also offers tips for speaking up in pregnancy, which have been gathered from women who took part in the project:

  • Don’t play it down – take your concerns seriously and others will too
  • Be specific – say what has changed, even if you don’t think it’s related to your pregnancy
  • Begin by saying, “I am concerned …”
  • Ask the healthcare professionals for their name
  • Make a list of all your concerns
  • Write down what you’re told
  • It’s ok to say you are feeling vulnerable and frightened
  • Before you leave that appointment – consider whether you have asked all your questions and are satisfied with the answers
  • If you can’t make yourself heard or you don’t agree or you feel uncomfortable, say “Let me think about that and get back to you”
  • If you are not happy with the response ask for a second opinion.

A good midwife would rather reassure you 100 times than miss a problem ONCE. If you are unsure, always ask.

This post is based on a press release received from Tommy’s. I did not receive any incentive to publish this information.

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Should I give my child Paracetamol or Ibuprofen?

A guest post by Dr Afrosa Ahmed (MBBS, DFFP, DCH, MRCGPmerit) who blogs at mum2sons

Editor’s note: Dr Ahmed asked if she could guest post on my blog and although many of you might know a lot of the information below, I thought it was still usefully presented. I know when my kids are sick I get stressed and forget the rules. Her explanation of which medicine to give when is particularly useful.

As a GP I often advise on self-care measures when seeing ill children. However, understandably parents are often confused as to which of these common medications to use and for which conditions. Both are available without prescription.

Paracetamol

Can help relieve pain such as headache, earache, and tummy aches as well as reduce fever. It is usually recommended as the first line for pain, as it is relatively safe for most and side effects are rare. One of the brand names for paracetamol is Calpol.

For older children, paracetamol is available as tablets. Tablets should be swallowed whole with a glass of water or juice. They are not to be chewed. (Calpol Fastmelts, however, require your child to dissolve it on their tongue.)

For young children, it can be taken as a liquid form. Shake the bottle well for at least 10 seconds and measure out the right amount using a plastic syringe or spoon that comes with it. Do not use a normal kitchen teaspoon as it will not be accurate.

Your child should start to feel better after about 30 minutes. Always leave 4 to 6 hours between doses and do not give more than 4 doses in 24 hours. Do not give your child paracetamol with alongside other medicines containing paracetamol, such as Lemsip, as there is a risk of overdose which can lead to problems such as liver damage.

Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is also a painkiller and can help with fever. In addition, it has anti-inflammatory properties, so can be used for injuries such as a sprain. Your child should start to feel better about 20 to 30 minutes after taking it. Give this medicine with food so it does not cause an upset tummy; do not give it on an empty stomach. Brand names include Calprofen and Brufen.

An important fact regarding this medicine is that there are some children who you should not give it to. They include children with asthma, chicken pox (it can cause severe skin reactions) and liver or kidney problems.

What if your child vomits? If your child vomits within 30 minutes of taking ibuprofen, then you can give it again. If it has been more than 30 minutes then do not give again.

Paracetamol vs Ibuprofen

These are both effective painkillers and can reduce fever. However, they work in different ways. For some types of conditions such as swelling (including swollen gums during teething) and sprains, ibuprofen may be better due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Do not give paracetamol and ibuprofen together at the same time. However, if you’ve given paracetamol and they’re still unwell before the next dose is due, you could give ibuprofen. No child under 16 should be given aspirin.

As with all medicines, keep them out of children’s reach and read the leaflet on dosage instructions and other details. Advice about medicines can also be provided by your GP, pharmacist or www.nhs.uk.

Five ways running could make you happier

I am not a runner. I could never be a runner. My boobs are too big and my ankles too weak. I hate being out of breath. It’s boring. It’s too difficult. It’s raining / hailing / snowing outside.

These are the things I used to tell myself about running. But, more recently, through sheer desperation to get fit in a way that fits around work, parenting and a budget, I started running. I did the Couch to 5K programme, which involves interval training, starting very gently to work up to 5K.

My friends were impressed that I was running 5K. They asked me if I’d thought of doing a 10K running event. NO WAY! said I. Why would I want to do a silly thing like that? I don’t need to prove myself.

But shortly after that conversation, The Children’s Society asked me to run the London Vitality 10K and blog about it in support of their work. My blogging obsession converged with my newfound running skills and a desire to help the charity, and thus began my 10K training journey.

With less than a month to go until the big day, I’m actually amazed at the progress I’ve made. Yes, there have been setbacks: illness, work commitments, very inclement weather and even grief. But at the same time I’ve proved to myself that I can run 8K at a decent speed (and if I can do 8k, what’s another 2k?), and have increased my speed at running 5K. I’m now confident that, barring any disasters, I can complete the 10K on the big day before they close the course (i.e. in less than an hour and a half).

And I want to urge everyone to give running and especially training for an event a try. Unless your GP tells you not to, I believe that anyone can run. And the benefits are about more than just fitness. Here are some of the serious and less serious ways that training for this event has improved my life:

Mental health

Before my training really took off, I was suffering from some serious anxiety problems. But since I really started amping up my running efforts, the anxiety has just disappeared. The running has also been absolutely essential in helping me deal with my grief at losing my grandmother recently. She is my number one top most loved person other than my husband and children. Running has given me space to contemplate and address that loss.

Perseverance

I am so surprised and pleased with myself for sticking with my training. I never do as much as I want to or hope, but it’s clear that there has been an improvement since I started this journey in February. Some people doubted my ability to train for such an event, but I’ve proven that Marty McFly (from Back to the Future if you were born yesterday) is right: “if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything”.

Confidence

I haven’t lost a single ounce of weight doing all this running. Mainly because it makes me mega hungry and I just can’t be bothered to diet on top of all the other stuff going on in my life. But my clothes fit better, my rear end is tighter and I just feel better. I’m technically overweight according to BMI scales (which I don’t entirely agree with), but the running has proved to me that health and fitness isn’t just a number on a scale.

Fashion sense

Running clothes tend to be brightly-coloured and tight-fitting. I have a bright green top, skin-tight running tights and day-glo orange running shoes. Nothing will make you feel more daring than dressing in a ridiculous clashing ensemble composed of bright colours and spandex. It’s made me a bit more confident in my style generally. See featured photo for a representation of the sheer blinding colour of my trainers.

Washing

My commitment to running has increased my commitment to doing the washing because:

(a) Running clothes are expensive. I have two sets and I’m not buying any more. So they need to be washed.

(b) They’re smelly.

And you can’t do just the running clothes as they don’t make up a full load. So I’ve been totes catching up with my washing just because running forces me to do the washing.

And by catching up, I mean the hamper is merely full, rather than overflowing.

I’m running 10k on 29 May and it’s going to be bloody hard work. But the money I’m raising will help children and young people suffering from mental health problems, abuse, debt and a whole host of other rubbish things. If you’d like to help The Children’s Society improve the lives of these kids, please check out my JustGiving page.

Big Girls DO cry

Sometimes, life is just a bit too much. Sometimes things are a bit crap. I’m not going to define what crap is. It might be catastrophically crap; it might be an everyday, yet relentless sort of crap. But it happens to all of us.

My current sort of crap is the type that is little things piled on top big things that all conspire to crush me.

The big one, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, is that my grandmother is dying. She brought me up when I was little and is one of the people I love most in the world. She has been unresponsive for months now and we’re finally moving her into hospice care. It has been difficult: missing her already but not feeling I’m allowed to grieve until she’s truly all-the-way gone. And I have yet before me the task of learning how to exist in a world without her in it.

The second biggest one is that I keep having these weird episodes in which my heart pounds and races. The other day one of the episodes lasted a full 10 minutes and my Fitbit said my heart rate was 194 bpm. I ended up spending that night in A&E, but they didn’t find anything wrong beyond a slight arrhythmia – which is apparently pretty common. So I’ve been worried about my health. Do I have a heart problem or is a stress/anxiety thing? I don’t know yet.

And then there are lots of other little/big things. Getting called in by the headteacher at school to meet about my son’s “behavioural issues”. The mum that snubbed me at the school gates. Running behind with work deadlines. Feeling emotional at work and fighting back tears at ridiculously inappropriate moments. Feeling fed up with blogging and yet not truly wanting to quit.

I’m sure all of you can relate to some of this. Big problems, little problems, 1st world problems – whatever. There is no hierarchy of problems. The fact is: if they are upsetting you, affecting you, making it difficult for you to function as you would wish, then they are significant.

Ignoring these things, downplaying them and telling yourself to get over it is not going to help. You need to confront these feelings head on. To say, “this is the way I’m feeling, and that’s okay”.

But at the same time, we all have a lot on our plates. I know there have been days when all I wanted to do was curl up on the floor and wallow in my grief. But I didn’t. Because I couldn’t. I’ve got small people to look after. And if I lay down on the floor they are going to jump on top of me and demand to be flown around in the air.

I have a job that needs doing because I have a mortgage that needs paying. I have other friends and family that need me to be there for them. As much as I’d like to, I just can’t give up. I can’t mentally check out and take a holiday from all of my responsibilities.

And so the pressure of all of my troubles weigh on me and are compounded by my need to keep on going even when I want to quit.

But the other day, after I’d spent the night in A&E – when I felt tired and lost and lonely and sad and fed up – I had a revelation. My husband was at work. My kids were at school and nursery. I’d called in sick to work because I’d been awake all night in hospital. And when my grief pricked me in the eye, I let it. There was no one there to see.

So I cried.

But I didn’t cry like a grownup. I didn’t cry the way you cry at a sad movie, with tears running down your face quietly and the odd little hiccup. I didn’t cry the way you do in front of other people, when you are desperately trying to stop – trying to hide it – apologising for your crass display of emotion.

I cried like a child. I screamed. I moaned and groaned and probably sounded much like a cow giving birth. Nobody could hear me. So I let every messy feeling pour out in tears and great wracking sobs.

And when my tears dried up and I was tired of railing against the universe, I simply stopped. And it was like a great weight had been lifted.

I’ve since been doing a bit of googling about crying and apparently there is scientific evidence that crying releases stress. Tears actually contain stress hormones that are leaving your body when you let them go.

Ever since my big cry, everything has seemed easier. I’m not crying at work anymore. I’m not feeling as tense around my family. I’m able to keep doing what I need to do while I weather my personal storms. I had thought if I didn’t cry, I was being strong. But really I was stifling all of the emotions that scared me, instead of facing them. When I didn’t let them out, they festered.

So I’m not going to start making crying one of my big hobbies. But it’s comforting to know that I can – and should – cry when I need to.

Crying is okay AND it helps. So the next time it’s all a bit (or more than a bit) crap, send the family out of the house, close the curtains, put the kettle on, and let the tears flow.

Tips for starting the The 5:2 (Fast) Diet

I’ve seen a few people around lately asking about what diets worked for people, and even specifically about the 5:2 diet, also known as The Fast Diet. So I thought I’d write a little piece about my experience with the diet and some tips to help you if you decide to try it.

I first heard about the diet in February 2013. I had just returned to work after having my first son, and I weighed about 200 pounds (just over 14 stone). For me, that was not a comfortable weight. At lunch one day, some of my colleagues started talking about this diet where you eat just 500 calories (600 if you’re a man) for 2 days of the week, and eat normally (2000 calories/day ideally) the rest of the time.

I thought it sounded like such a ridiculous fad diet, and possibly even dangerous. I also thought I would be extremely grumpy if I didn’t eat enough in a day, and possibly even wouldn’t be able to function.

And because this is the sort of person I am, I decided to read a book about the diet. Just so I could tell my colleagues that I read it and still think it’s rubbish. So I bought the Kindle version of The Fast Diet by Michael Mosley. He is the guy off of the TV show, Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, and one of the originators of the 5:2 craze. He tested out the science of intermittent fasting by doing it on himself, and the book lays out his findings.

It was utterly convincing. I gave the book to my husband – who is the biggest sceptic you could ever meet – and he thought it was great too. We decided to do it together.

It took me about 9 months to lose 20 pounds (about 1.5 stone) the first time I tried it. Then I got pregnant with my 2nd son and gained it all back. I started again when I stopped breastfeeding my 2nd, and again lost the 20 pounds. So the weight loss is slow, but that is what makes it sustainable. You will also see from the book that there are other reported health benefits, such as lowering your risk of cancer and diabetes.

I don’t have much in the way of before and after photos, as like a typical mum, I’m not in many of the pictures, especially full-length ones. But here I hope you can see the difference in my face, from April 2016 to now.

So I’ll let you read the book for yourself – it’s a quick read – but here are two lists from me. One with the pros and cons of the diet (and I think the pros far outweigh the cons), and another with a few tips for getting started.

Pros & cons of The Fast Diet

Pros

  • It works around your social life. You don’t have to be the one who can’t drink or have anything on the menu on your night out. Just plan your low-calorie days to work around your life. Ideally, they should be on non-consecutive days of the week, but it doesn’t really matter.
  • It doesn’t cost a lot of money. So many diets require subscriptions, or for you to attend groups or buy specialty foods. This diet isn’t trying to sell you anything (except maybe the recipe books, but they’re not necessary). We found that we even spend less money on food generally because we are eating less!
  • It can work around your family. You don’t need to eat a separate meal from everyone else. The diet works on the premise that in order to keep yourself feeling good on your low-cal days, you should eat mostly plants and protein. So a fast day meal might be some chicken and vegetables. This can easily be adapted for the rest of your family by adding some rice or potato. And, once again, it’s only twice a week – so it won’t really hurt the non-dieters to just eat the same as you.
  • It resets your eating habits. I found that it changed the way I ate even on my “normal” days. I’m less hungry all the time and my appetite is smaller. I don’t get ridiculously hungry between meals and mostly forget to snack! I’ve found it’s easier now to ask myself if I’m really hungry before I eat, rather than just bored or emotional.
  • It improves concentration. You might think that not eating will make you tired or cause you to have difficulty concentrating. But I (and many on the diet) have found that I concentrate better on my fast days.
  • It’s a diet for people who love food. I haven’t had to give up a single food that I love. I’m still allowed cake, chocolate and alcohol! It’s only 2 days/week that I restrain myself. And there are still delicious things to eat on those days, with just a bit of effort. Just don’t totally binge on your non-fast days.
  • You don’t have to obsess over counting points/calories/planning meals, etc. I’ve tried loads of other diets, like Weight Watchers, and if anything they made me more obsessed with food. Constantly counting calories and thinking about everything I put in my mouth is not for me! On this diet, I just plan 2 low-cal meals per day for 2 days per week.

Cons

  • It still requires willpower. I’m not going to lie. It’s not always easy when, for example, your neighbour drops by on a fast day with a beautiful piece of chocolate cake. Or when you’re having a really bad day. But just try and wait until tomorrow to indulge. And if your willpower fails, you can always fast on a different day!
  • It still requires planning. You do have to be careful about what you eat on fast days. You need to eat vegetables and protein in order to feel full. Crisps, chocolate or other junk food is going to use up your calories quickly and leave you starving.
  • The weight loss is slow. I only lose about 2 pounds per week. And some weeks nothing. It did take me about a year to lose those 20 pounds. But they say that the most sustainable weight loss is when you’ve lost it slowly.
  • Sometimes I feel cold or get a headache. The headache means I’m not drinking enough water. You get lots of your water from food, so you need to drink more if you’re eating less. I think the cold is just par for the course. Cardigans and hot tea seem to fix it!

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Tips for getting started and carrying on

Think about when you’re going to eat on fast days

Some people have breakfast and then eat again at dinner time. Some people starve all day and eat all their calories at dinner time. I like to eat lunch and dinner. I find it easy to skip breakfast, and actually that eating breakfast makes me more hungry over the day. So experiment and see what works for you. Also think about what fits into your lifestyle.

Think about when you’re going to fast

As I mentioned already, this is totally flexible and can be different from week to week. Just consider whether you find it easier doing some things than others. I find it difficult when I’m with my kids because they’re constantly eating, but if I’m working I just focus on that and forget about food.

Think about what you’re going to eat on fast days

It’s good to start out with a few meals planned. If you’re having 2 meals in the day, it’s probably best to have one 200-calorie one, and another 300-calorie one.

You can get lots of recipes for free on the internet by searching for 5:2 diet recipes or recipes with the calorie value you’re looking for. The Hairy Bikers do some good ones. I also highly recommend the Fast Diet cookbooks, The Fast Diet Recipe Book and The Fast Cook. There are loads of other books out there though.

Finally, it’s also worth noting that you can eat convenience food on fast days. If I’m at home, my lunch will usually be two eggs quickly scrambled with 1-calorie cooking spray and no milk. I stick some salt and chili sauce on top for a quick 200-cal lunch. There are many tinned soups that are 200 calories (Baxter’s Hearty have a few nice chunky ones). You can eat a pretty massive amount of salad with chicken or tuna on top for 200 calories. And you can even get diet microwave ready meals.

I also work in London two days per week and buy lunch out. Pret a Manger, Itsu and Crush all list the calories of their food in the shop so you can pick something appropriate. Pret’s Tuna Nicoise salad with a squeeze of lemon and salt is very filling and less than 200 calories. You can also check most food shop’s websites to see if they have any low-cal options.

Drinking is your friend

No, I don’t mean booze on this occasion (sorry). I mean keep yourself hydrated on your fast days. Keep a bottle of water with you. You can even use one of those fruit infuser things to keep it interesting. Sparkling water with a dash of lemon juice is a good option. You can drink unlimited coffee, tea and herbal tea, as long as you don’t add sugar. If you add milk, try to be sparing as this can rack up the calories. You can use artificial sweeteners if you really need sweetener, but it’s better not to.

If I’m really struggling on a fast day, I do give in and have a diet (zero calorie) soft drink. This is not encouraged but allowed. The sugary flavour really helps me feel fuller.

Get support

See if your partner or a friend will join you at least in eating a fast day meal even if they don’t fast all day. It will be good for them too and great to have support. I also recommend The Fast Diet website. It’s got forums where you can connect with other Fast Dieters and even track your progress if you want.

Be kind to yourself

I’m not going to lie. The first 2 weeks can be tough. But if you stick with it for that long, it will get easier. And if you have a bad week or are sick and can’t do it, this diet has absolutely no guilt. Just pick up fasting again when you’re ready.

Are you convinced?

I should mention that I’m not trying to sell you anything here. This is NOT a sponsored post and I have nothing to gain from you going on this diet. I just wanted to share what worked for me (and is still working, albeit slowly), after years of unsuccessfully searching. I hope you’ve found this useful, and if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments.

Please note that this is not medical advice and you should check with a doctor before starting a new diet plan.

Life According to MrsShilts

Being an epilepsy mum

A guest post by Leslie from MessyBlog

Last year, I became an epilepsy mum.

Not something I ever had aspirations of being, but life hands you cards sometimes and you don’t get a choice. 

I’d had some experience with epilepsy already, after my sister tragically lost her life at 26. It’s also something many people I know have, including friends and my niece and nephew. 

Dexter’s first fit was completely out of the blue. We were at my sister-in-law’s house and he was playing on the floor with the trains. He was laying there quite happily at first and then something went wrong. 

To give you an idea of what his first fit was like, here is an excerpt from my blog, from the post I wrote after that first one:

He lay on the floor as kids often do and then arched his head backwards as though he was trying to look at the cat but then he started twitching. We called out to him but he didn’t respond. At first I thought he was just playing. You know, just not answering us because he was being cheeky but we all got down to the floor and quickly realised that he was not messing about. Liam got his phone out and turned the torch on. He shined it in Dexter’s eyes. His pupils weren’t dilating. His hands, feet and eyebrows were twitching and shaking. I called 999 while Liam continued to call out to him and bring him round.”

I can’t fault the ambulance for how quickly they responded. They were with us before the fit had even ended. They did some tests, tried to bring him round and after we answered a few questions about what happened, we decided he was going to hospital.

Dexter started to return to his normal self once we were stood waiting to be seen in A&E. Liam parked the car and came to find us.

We were taken to a bed where many more doctors and nurses repeated the same questions: what was he doing when it happened? How long did it last? Has he been ill recently? Etc.

On eventually leaving the hospital either very late that night or early the next morning, we were advised to call our GP first thing on Monday and get a referral for a neurologist.

We did this and had an appointment booked for a couple of week’s time.

Already, based on the info we had provided and the notes from the hospital staff, our neurologist was pretty convinced that it was epilepsy, but wanted to run some tests before medicating, just to be sure. 

Over the next few weeks, he suffered some more fits so we were sent to Addenbrooks for an MRI as well as having an ECG at Peterborough.

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Both tests were inconclusive. By now, they knew it was epilepsy but weren’t able to pinpoint a cause or a trigger. But at least we were able to get him on some medication.

I’ve cried so many times. Watching my sister spend a week in a coma after a seizure caused her to stop breathing, and then being at her bedside when she passed away, makes the reality of what could happen to Dexter so much more real. It’s scary and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Not having a trigger or a known cause of his fits makes it harder because we don’t even know what to avoid. I don’t dare take him swimming; he worries me every time he has a bath, and with most of his fits having been at night time, I’m scared every night when he’s in bed. We have an anti-suffocation pillow for him and monitors in his room, so he’s about as safe as he can be, but it’s always there in the back of your mind.

There are many types of epilepsy. The one most people think of is photosensitive epilepsy, whereby the sufferer is affected by flashing lights or strobe effects.

Some people have full on tonic clonic seizures. This is what Dexter has but we don’t know what causes it. It’s all very random.

There is also another type of epilepsy, which both my nephew and my friend have, where they don’t “fit” as such, but they black out momentarily and come round having little or no knowledge of what happened. My nephew has actually done this several times while crossing the road or while just walking along outside.

Each form of epilepsy, although common (I’m sure it’s 1 in 4 people suffer with it in some form) is hard to live with. As I mentioned, it’s hard for me to even bathe Dexter at times because he could fit at any given moment, and in or around water would be especially dangerous.

He’s on daily medication at the moment, and for now we seem to have his dosage right, as he’s not had a fit since November. That was a particularly hard one, though, as he had 3 in the space of four hours, one of them being when he had gone to the shop with Liam and was walking home. It happened in the middle of the street and I felt such immense guilt that I wasn’t there.

But still, in the back of my mind, I’m wondering if the medication is keeping them at bay or because we haven’t had one for a while, is one due at any moment?

Sadly it’s just one of those unpredictable things.

If you do happen to be around when someone has a fit, there are things you can do to  help and keep them safe:

  • cushion their head if they’re on the ground
  • move them away from anything that could cause injury – such as a busy road or hot cooker
  • loosen any tight clothing around their neck – such as a collar or tie, to aid breathing
  • when their convulsions stop, turn them so that they’re lying on their side
  • stay with them and talk to them calmly until they have recovered
  • note the time the seizure starts and finishes
  • Do NOT put anything in their mouths
  • If the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, call an ambulance.

I hope this post has helped to inform at least one person on what it’s like living with a child with epilepsy. And if any information has helped to raise awareness in anyway, then I’ve done my job.

For more information on epilepsy, you can visit https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/ or https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/

You can also read more of my posts about Dexter’s epilepsy on my blog

Please check out Leslie on social media:

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Mindfulness and coping with grief

Trigger warning:  the topics of losing a loved one and teenaged death are discussed in this post. 

I am going through a tough time at the moment. My grandmother, who raised me in my early years, is very ill. She is unresponsive in hospital, and it’s looking like I’ll never get to speak to her again. So although she is not completely gone yet, I am already missing her. I will probably be writing a few posts about my grief and in tribute to her when the time is right. In the meantime, I asked the wonderful Hayley from Mission: Mindfulness – the blog to share some thoughts on how to cope when we lose someone who means the world to us. Hayley’s thoughts here are helping me every moment that I wish I could hear my grandmother’s voice on the phone.

A guest post by Hayley from Mission: Mindfulness: the blog

Dear Reader,

Nicole wrote to me a few weeks ago asking me to write a guest post for The Mum Reviews blog. Nicole is a blogger buddy of mine who I didn’t want to let down, and I was honoured to be asked. I really wanted to write something that fitted with her remit of mindfulness and suffering a loss, yet I was fearful of writing such an important post. I am certainly no therapist and not an expert in grief management, but said I’d have a think and get back to her. And then yesterday I knew what I wanted to write, so here it is.   

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Today was the usual busy morning at our house.  Porridge being served.  Bread being toasted.  The radio blaring out.  The kids were, well, just being kids really …

And then suddenly an unexplained and unanticipated sadness hit me – coming from what seemed like nowhere. I was transported to a different place and time. But, as I tuned into the song on the radio, I recognised what was going on. Oasis’s “Masterplan” had started to play. My chest felt like I’d been squeezed too tightly in a big, unsolicited hug, and my eyes prickled in the familiar sensation I feel when tears are close.

Although nearly 20 years ago, the power of music was able to vividly remind me of a tragic event. A time when the fragility of life became palpable to me.

The time when my older sister’s boyfriend was suddenly taken from the world in a tragic car accident.

We’d all had a fabulous summer – working and playing together. It was the era of Britpop, and some of us were enjoying the twilight of our teenage years, while others were embarking on the beginning of their 20s. I recall the new Oasis album had been playing A LOT as we drove around the country roads of Lincolnshire, causing great debate. Some of us loved it – Adam, my sister’s boyfriend, being one.  Others of the group were not so sure.

That I remembered all of this as if it were yesterday is testament to how powerful music can be. At that moment, the sadness of losing Adam seemed as raw as it had at the end of the 90s.

And yet Adam had not been my sweetheart. Nor my son. Nor my grandson. Nor my  brother. Nor my best friend. And so I can only begin to imagine how many times, and how intensely, this happens to people who were these things to him. And as my thoughts overtake me, whisking me away from my residual feelings, I wonder: how did they cope?

Of course it would be crude to speak of a hierarchy of grief. Yet in reality it seems that the rawest of emotions come when a person is taken from us too young. By this I don’t just mean someone of a similar age, or younger, to the beautiful Adam, but even someone much, much older who still also seems to have so much life and living left. That sense of injustice and anger which mixes with the deep sadness of the grief must be an almost overpowering blend of emotions.  Understandably these can lead to very dark thoughts.

Until recently it has seemed the norm in our culture – in keeping with the idea of the British “stiff upper lip” – not to allow these thoughts and emotions to consume us. Rather, to distance ourselves from them as quickly as possible, to distract ourselves, or worse still for our “inner critic” to take over and berate us for not “coping” as we perceive we should.

Instead, Rumi, the 13th century Muslim poet (much quoted on Mindfulness courses and retreats) offers a different perspective. The suggestion is to allow these feelings and thoughts to freely come and freely go.  Without judgement.

To be with them for a moment or two. If that feels okay at that particular moment in time. To view these thoughts and feelings as passing guests and treat them accordingly.

This principle, so important to mindfulness, is eloquently described in Rumi’s poem The Guest House. 

The Guest House

Translated by Coleman Barks

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Wishing all who are going through difficult times at the moment much love.
Hayley xx

Blog:  www.missionmindfulnessblog.com
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Tammymum

Running to help vulnerable children

It is perhaps unoriginal to say that the suffering of others is upsetting to me. But becoming a mum has turned me into an absolute mess when I hear sad stories. I can’t watch any of those big charity fundraising programmes on TV because I just sob all the way through.

When I read the paper on the train to work, I’m often fighting back tears. It’s not that I didn’t have empathy before I had kids, but now that I do, that empathy is visceral.

When someone loses their child, I feel the fear of losing my own child.

When someone loses their parent, I think how much the idea of not being there for my own children worries me.

When children are lost, abused, broken, I think of the sweet innocence of my own children and how brutal it would be if that was torn from them.

Children are living in war zones, watching their families being murdered as they run away to escape their own death, rape or enslavement. Children whose families have lost their homes through debt are living in filthy hostels full of drug dealing and despair. Children are living rough to escape abuse at home. Children are sacrificing their childhoods to look after parents who are unable to look after them.

It’s easy to feel helpless when faced with the world’s violence, hatred and despair. I can only find my way through this by resolving to make some small contribution whenever I have the means or opportunity. So when The Children’s Society asked me to support them by doing a 10K in support of their charity and then blogging about it, I saw a great opportunity to help disadvantaged children whilst doing something healthy for me too.

Last year, The Children’s Society worked with over 18,000 vulnerable children and young people, and their campaign wins will bring life-changing support to more than 5.6 million children. I’m not that keen on running to be honest and never thought I would do a 10K. But it’s very motivating to know that by doing something that will improve my health, I will be playing a small part in improving other people’s lives as well.

If you’d like to know more about The Children’s Society and my training plans, please check out this little YouTube video.

How you can help

If you want to support me, the best (and completely free) thing you can do is to share this post on social media.

If you would like to donate to The Children’s Society in support of my 10K run, you can do it on my JustGiving page.

If you would like to get involved in your own charity challenge, check out The Children’s Society’s challenge page.

Tammymum

R2BC at Mummy from the Heart

When am I going to drop a plate?

I have had this post title, ‘When am I going to drop a plate’ in draft for months – probably since shortly after I started this blog last July. What do I mean by dropping a plate?

I mean that this guy is a metaphor for my life: giphy.gif

Running around, trying to make sure all the plates are balancing on all the sticks. It’s impossible to be everywhere at once or to keep the plates spinning forever. Sooner or later, one of them is going to fall. Even more likely: they will all come crashing down at once.

I have felt like I’ve been coasting along keeping the plates spinning for quite a while. But all the time with a sense of foreboding that I couldn’t keep it up forever.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, this January has been accompanied by the jangling of smashing crockery.

I was staying healthy, but now I have the flu. I had a flu jab, but I still got the flu.

I was keeping up with work at my day job, but now I’ve missed 3 days in a row from the flu, so cue the overflowing inbox next time I have the strength to look at it.

I was keeping the house tidy. Now it is not tidy.

I was keeping up with the blog. Now I’m struggling to write anything or find time to promote it.

I was staying positive mentally. Now a beloved relative is very unwell and I can’t help but dwell on that. Even though my being upset will do absolutely nothing to change it.

I’m just about managing to keep the kids alive and happy. That’s the only plate that is never allowed to fall.

What do you do when your plates come crashing down? I’ve been limping along, pretending they’re still spinning, doing the bare minimum of everything just to get by. Then when the bug hit, I let them fall. I was relieved for an excuse to lay in bed for 3 days straight (at least while the kids were at school/nursery, that is – not everyone has that luxury).

How do you get some new plates and start them spinning again? Do you focus on one at a time until you can slowly build back up to the full performance? Do you hoist them all up again with one herculean effort? Do you sweep one of the plates under the carpet and pretend to forget about it?

The plate that would be forgotten, swept away, and never replaced would have to be the blog. I’m not allowed to give up on working or existing. I even (vaguely) need to keep my house tidy.

But I’m not one who easily lets go of things. Whether that’s a good or bad quality – it’s difficult to say. It makes it harder for me to accept that things change. But it might just help me keep going when I feel like quitting.

So I’m going to focus on one plate at a time for now. Tonight I’m hoisting up the blog plate with this honest post about how hard it is to keep going sometimes. This weekend, I’ll look after myself, my house and my kids. On Monday, I’ll tackle those work emails.

And I’ll forgive myself for all the broken plates. Because none of it would be worth doing if it was easy. And gravity catches up with us all.

The Pramshed