Sunday, 27 September 2009

My bargain yarns and my beginner's knitting

My lovely Thom in his jumper, hat and scarf - don't look too closely - slightly wonky in various places, but the overall effect is kind of engaging.....; my bargains - gorgeous yarns all for £9; I have even cleared a drawer to keep all my knitting things in - I LOVE finding / creating storage space; and what will become a hat for Kez's bump who is due on my birthday - it's very exciting knitting for someone who hasn't arrived yet - I like thinking lovely things for Kez and her birth and her baby as I'm knitting.

Noah's Story

I've never really recorded the story of Noah's first few weeks anywhere. They have had such a long-lasting effect on me that I thought I ought to - before the befuddlement of child-rearing subsumes them in my memory.
At present there is a sort of slideshow of moments in my mind. I remember my best mate, Jo, giving me advice about my wedding day - to try to take a series of mental photos, to consciously stop at points during the day to take in what was going on around me. Then I would be able to remember specific details, and have definite memories to treasure rather than just a merry blur. Obviously, I didn't set out to do this with Noah, but it seems to've turned out that way.
The first is on the antenatal ward I'd been admitted to as the midwives weren't sure whether I was in labour. It was a beautiful early summer afternoon, and Harv and I were chatting between contractions - I said what a beautiful day it was to be born. He arrived about an hour later. I wrote his lovely birth story a while ago so I can move on past that - we were discharged and had a couple of days at home. It was ok – but I was expressing (only a tiny bit as it was so early) because of his cleft, so not the babymoon I would've chosen. He was posseting milk - but I kept telling myself not to worry as midwives, health visitors etc always say it looks worse than it is. And he wasn't crying - he slept a lot - I thought he must be getting what he needed. So when he was weighed on day three by Emma, one of the lovely Gobowen midwives, and had lost 500 grams, it was a horrible surprise. She phoned the hospital and we went back in.
The next 'shot' is of us arriving there - Harv had given him 90mls of colostrum (my milk had come in by then) - and it was now all over his little cardigan.
At first we went onto the postnatal ward, into the flat there. By Sunday morning he was on the SCBU and had an NG tube. Nobody knew what was wrong with him - his cleft confused things because cleft babies often struggle with feeding and take in too much air, which can make things difficult and cause vomiting.
My brother and his wife came up to visit that Sunday - my next snapshot is sitting with them on the SCBU ward - and my wonderful brother offering to swap jeans with me as Noah had just thrown back hours’ worth of tiny portions of milk all over my lap, and, due to this happening so often in the previous day or so, I didn't have any clean clothes left. Jen was almost crying, but bravely hid it.
My next snapshot is probably the lowest point - I'd gone home with Harv and Eve on that evening, to have a meal with them, and was driving back to the hospital by myself. As I sped along the familiar roads I contemplated losing my baby. It's not something your brain will let you do usually - it's too horrendously awful to think about - but at that moment I looked it squarely in the face. It sounds like a huge over reaction as I read that now, looking back, but at that time there was still no diagnosis, and by then, instead of expressed breast milk my brand new baby was being sustained by IV fluids. It was only 36 hours from being readmitted to hospital until finding out what was wrong, but that time is still more like weeks in my mind.
Cut to me, asleep. The SCBU nurses had sent me off for some rest between expressing sessions and somehow, I'd managed to fall asleep watching Grey's Anatomy in the little post-natal flat. Noah was in a more specialist cot now, and being given a bit of extra oxygen too. There were too many wires and tubes for me to feel I could hold him. One of the nurses suggested a dummy to comfort him and stimulate his swallowing reflex. He didn't feel like my baby, like I could do anything for him. So I wandered off to the flat. Around midnight, about an hour after I’d fallen asleep, Dr Bob (he does have a surname but this is what he's known as) came in and explained Noah's condition was a blockage in his stomach that needed surgery - but was totally fixable. Exhale.
The next day was hard - we were waiting for a transfer to Birmingham Children's Hospital. It was a Bank Holiday so there wasn't much going on - and Harv is a bit crap around hospitals and just didn't want to be there. I think that was just his way of dealing with it. I insisted on spending most of the day sitting by Noah's cot - it seemed important for him to have his family around him, to know we cared and that he was part of a bigger unit, not just his tiny self, and the plastic cot and various machines he was attached to. I talked to him a lot, but I thought it was just as important for him to hear our voices in the background instead of just beeping. He slept almost all of the time, but once, while he was briefly awake I saw him looking around - and the expression on his face was one I found very reassuring. He looked as though he was thinking wtf is going on?? (This is another of my snapshots - that expression.) It seemed that he realised that all this wasn't normal, and wasn't how things should be; and the fact that he recognised that was a great comfort - he knew things wouldn't always be so tough, and that it was worth getting better for. Of course this is all rather fanciful projection on my part (but I'm also right).
My next snapshot is of the ambulance crew's arrival. They arrived to transfer him at about eight that evening. I'd gone home with Harv and Eve to get clothes etc and bring a car back with me (mums don't travel in the ambulance with babies). I arrived back at the hospital just after they arrived, walking past the open-doored ambulance on my way to SCBU and following the crew into Noah's bay. I hadn't cried at all since Dr Bob had explained tings to me, but the relief that they'd arrived to transfer him was so great that I kind of gasped or gulped or sobbed. The hug that the ambulance nurse (don't know her proper title) gave me is one that I will remember for life - SO comforting.
So.... I set off after the ambulance - I wasn't allowed to 'follow' it though - I had to find my own way to BCH. It went off ahead of me, and I drove along the A5 a couple of minutes behind it. Until I saw it up ahead in the distance. It had pulled over onto the hard shoulder, lights flashing. There was no doubt it was Noah's - I knew the registration number. I slowed down to pull in behind it in terror. The world had stopped and shrunk down to become this tiny strip of road and the inside of an ambulance. I really thought the worst. One of the crew got out as soon as I pulled up - I even apologised for stopping before I asked if Noah was alright. His canula had tissued - that was all - and they'd had to stop moving to be able to re-canulate. 'Carry on, mum,' he said, 'we'll overtake you on the way.' I set off, driving as slowly as I dared on a motorway, and constantly looking in my rearview mirror. Sure enough the ambulance cruised past me a few minutes later, but I still didn't quite believe he was alright until I arrived on the ward and saw him for myself.
Noah's particular 'named' nurse was Clare - and she was fantastic. She wasn't just interested in Noah's medical care, but also had lots of ideas and tips for keeping him as comfortable and happy as possible during his weeks on the neonatal surgical ward. I'm sure lots of nurses are just as good, but I thankfully have fairly limited experience - and she really struck me as a wonderful nurse. She took Noah and I down to radiography early the following morning (not as simple as it sounds, involving a lot of unhooking and rehooking). The radiographer asked me if I might be pregnant - Noah was six days old...... Anyway she then, very quickly discovered that Noah's tummy had a blockage, and that it was also malrotated. She showed me what was going on on the screen (my next snapshot). 'What kind of tummy is that, Noah Greener?!' I whispered to him. He was put on the list for emergency surgery later that day.
We took him down to theatre about 8pm. I phoned Jo for a chat to help pass the time. I explained to her what had been going on. 'So he's in theatre now? Right, I'm coming over.' Jo broke various speed limits and drove through several red lights on her way across Birmingham. She said later that she'd not been fined for anything but I'm not sure I believe her. We talked for a few hours, about our teenage years (and getting drunk on Thunderbirds in the park - oh dear) - both getting restless as midnight approached as the nurse had said he'd only be in theatre for a couple of hours. At midnight, Claire (another lovely nurse with the same name) came in and said that Noah was ready for us to collect. And that's my next snapshot. The theatre nurse handed him to me wrapped in a towel. He was awake but obviously quite confused - he was actually cross-eyed, poor lamb! It was the first time Jo had ever seen him - his cleft was bilateral and quite shocking at first sight, and with his eyes crossed, an NG tube and the rather unconventional surroundings it must've been quite a 'first meeting' for an odd-mother (our borrowed term for secular godparents) and her odd-son. Jo was unphased by all of this though, and was deeply touched instead that this was almost like a second birth - that he was wrapped in a towel kind of added to that - and said she felt really privileged to be there.
There followed about three more weeks on the NSW. Noah recovered well - his surgeons encouraged me to hold him as much as possible - the nurses helped us not to get tangled up the first few times as he had a long line into one foot, a probe on the other, a canula for IV antibiotics in one hand and an NG tube with a bag on it to drain his tummy. I soon got used to all the clobber and could pick him up for a cuddle whenever we liked - we spent days cuddled up as Noah healed and I read easy novels. He had a long line (which ‘feeds’ you straight into your bloodstream, allowing the gut to rest) for ten days. This was removed when he showed signs of infection, and he started oral feeds which he tolerated pretty well, with the odd blip here and there. I remember very well the first time I took him for a walk down the ward - when he no longer needed to be constantly monitored or the NG to drain his tummy. I don't think he even had the canula in his hand any more then. We walked down the ward and looked at the fish tank - such a simple, common occurrence - mum showing baby the pretty fish - but it felt like we'd come a rather long way round to see them!
During Noah’s stay in BCH, I travelled up and down between there and home on the train quite a lot - spending occasional nights and days at home with Eve, but mainly spending my time at the hospital. Noah came home with me 'on leave' for the weekend just before he was discharged. We officially came home from hospital together when he was exactly 4 weeks old.
Obviously we've been back since for his cleft repair ops which have their own stories, but it's the one above - the unexpected one - that I really needed to record.

I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that whilst writing this he has been harassing me for toast, a banana, an apple which he ate only half of then put back in the fruit bowl, a Dora DVD, his trucks; tried to wake up his brother twice; and peed on the rocking moose and the play room floor.

Thanks for reading if you got this far - but even if nobody does it doesn't matter - this recount has done its job and Noah's mum is happy...

Noah, May 2007

Noah and Eve, July 2009

Monday, 21 September 2009

Season Swap

These are the lovely knitted acorns sent to us by Sunshine - thank you!

And here are the felt leaf and little knitted pumpkin we sent to Arianwen:-


Harv was away gorge scrambling this weekend, so the four of us spent a LOVELY relaxing weekend at home. This was Saturday afternoon in the garden - some pastels, drinks of milk and a screwdriver = happy family.

I love the days when we haven't anything planned - Lisa, Max and Elsa stopped by after school, and the children all raided the dressing up box, while Lisa and I chatted in the garden.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Autumn Season Table

I always thought our summer season table looked a bit scruffy, mainly because I didn't put a cloth on the table, and also because it always had a multitude of flowers and other bits of greenery strewn over it, all in various stages of decay. But this was the way Eve wanted it, and that's the important thing. She really enjoyed the summer and took so much interest in the world around her. She was regularly taking caterpillars, weeds and flowers (and the odd nut and bolt) in to show her pre-school friends and teachers. I think she's slowly accepting that we can enjoy flowers without picking them now, which is quite a relief.
Anyhow, I really love our Autumn table. On it:- blackberry fairy (thank you, Gill!); a hedgehog and wooden mushrooms that I found in the saw mill at BlistsHill, a local Victorian Town; some lavender from the garden; some shells and stones from various beach visits; a butterfly, because our garden is still full of them; and a beautiful card, made by our litte friend, Carys, which Eve decided would look lovely on the table.

My Growing Boys

Thom and Noah seem to be growing up so fast at the moment. Noah is talking in sentences, dressing himself (albeit in Thom's new stripey trousers on occasion), and making his own snacks. He loves doing things independently.

And I've put on a photo of Thom's first 'proper' cold. We have one of Eve's when she was about 6 months old too. She looks SO miserable, poor little chicken, but Thom's quite stoically smiling through - just looking a wee bit disgustingly gunky..... I think it's important to remember these little things, as well as the more traditional things like crawling and walking - it's good to think of their resilience / robustness (if that is a word). This picture's only a couple of days old, but he's pretty much ok now - and VERY mobile. He crawled right under our bed this morning while I was dressing - it freaked me out a bit - I could hear him cooing away but couldn't work out where he was.

And this one's just pure indulgence on my part :-

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

My brain's a bit fried this evening - too many things on too many metaphorical burners...... So I'll just share my home-made Christmas Glutney - hope it tastes ok.....
Oh, the blackberries didn't go in! The ones that were left afted Eve & Noah found them went into a crumble.

Camping with Dad

Harv took Eve and Noah camping in Montgomery, to a site with a working water mill. Of course they had a great time, my little monkeys....

And here's Noah in our back garden. His lovely dinosaur t-shirt was made specially for him by Willa from the GP forum. "Snap snap!" he says, whenever he wears it.