medical notes

In the blur of days following the birth of my twins I was given a leaflet with details about someone I could contact to discuss my birthing experience.  It didn’t seem relevant at the time as I was trying to look after two new beings whilst slowly (and painfully) emerging from a drug-induced fog.

Whilst I knew that I had nearly died in childbirth; I buried that piece of information and instead focused on surviving those first gruelling months of motherhood.  As I became more capable in my role I had more headspace for thought; and when I thought about “the birth” I usually found myself crying.  I assumed it was hormones and tiredness; and that it would pass.

When the twins were 6 months old I took them to see a Cranial Osteopath to help with their sleep issues.  Whilst there, the Osteo asked me if I’d been administered many drugs during the birth.  I said I didn’t know and explained the length and difficulty of the birth, resulting in an emergency c-section. He suggested that I had probably been given quite a lot of drugs and that it would be pertinent to get my notes to know exactly what they had pumped into my body; particularly since it could have impacted the twins.  I hadn’t even considered this…and so I set about the mammoth task of getting my medical notes from the birth.

I phoned the hospital and asked how I should go about obtaining my medical notes.  I was transferred a couple of times; quizzed on why I wanted the notes and then advised that a form would be sent to me.  The form itself was reasonably straightforward; however, there was a section about whether or not I intended to take legal action against the hospital.  I duly completed the form and sent it off registered delivery.  After a few weeks I called the hospital to ascertain when I might receive my notes; and they advised me that they had not received my request.  I provided them with the registered delivery details and suggested they look into it.  A week later I called again; and again; and again.  Eventually I lost my patience and suggested to the last lady I spoke to that perhaps they were deliberately avoiding dispatching my notes to me because they had something to hide.  Interestingly she called me within the hour; advising me that they had tracked down my request and that my notes would be copied and sent to me within the week.  A week later I called again – apparently they were short staffed and my notes hadn’t been copied; after another of my outraged rants I was advised that someone would do it that day.

I received a large bundle of notes a few days later which I read; and using Google, partially translated into comprehensive chunks.  I was indeed administered a shit-load of drugs over a 48 hour period; all of which I copied down to share with medical professionals in the future regarding my health and the health of my twins.

For about a year after giving birth; any discussion or thoughts about it resulted in tears.  I am pleased to say I can now talk about it like a rational person; however I do bear a bit of a grudge against the hospital….for two reasons.  1) the idea of talking through your birthing experience with someone post event is a really good one.  It would probably be better for a health visitor to provide the contact details once you are home and settled, with an explanation about how it could help; rather than pushing one of many documents into the hands of a scared and exhausted new parent.  2) we are all entitled to access our personal data and should be able to do so without hurdles or hindrance; particularly if that information we are seeking to obtain is pertinent to our well-being!

cranial osteopathy for babies

When the twins were about 6 months old and we still hadn’t had a full night’s sleep I started researching the elusive subject of babies and sleep.  I stumbled across a number of articles written by an Osteopath that had solved a number of baby and toddler sleeping (and other) issues.

When you’re sleep deprived almost anything seems worth a try (as long as it doesn’t hurt your child in any way).  I went along to a cranial osteopathy appointment with the osteopath that had written the articles I had read.  I was unsure what to expect but he was clearly experienced with both babies and nervous Mums and set about explaining the effects of a c-section on a baby.

By way of summary, the Osteo explained that a c-section involves the rapid removal of a baby from a comfortable, warm and safe environment to a cold and noisy one.  Some medical professions compare it to throwing a bucket of cold water over you in the middle of night.  It is considered a traumatic birth and some of the effects of the trauma can be longer lasting than is commonly known or expected.

While in my arms, the Osteopath placed his hands around the base of each of the twins’ skulls (not at the same time).  He told me that both felt very tight and needed to be loosened.  From an observer’s perspective it simply looked like he was cradling their heads; and both of the twins seemed comfortable and content to be in his hands.  He told me that they might be sleepy on the way home; and if they didn’t sleep well that night they would the next.  Both of them were asleep before I had pulled out of the car park and were pretty lethargic for the rest of the day; and they did sleep well that night and the next.  We saw him every fortnight for a while and then just had maintenance visits every few months thereafter.

The twins, at age 3, are still not sleeping consistently through the night; and we have tried pretty much everything!!!  See the other sleeping articles for more info on little people and sleep.


thoughtless words

On the third day after I’d given birth; family came to visit us in hospital.  One of the first things someone asked me was whether they had accidentally “left one in there” pointing to my swollen stomach. I was so upset, that after they left I anxiously asked one of the nurses whether the swelling should have subsided by now. She said something along the lines of – you’ve carried two growing babies in there for 6 months and you’ve just been through a significant operation…it will take time.

The day after we were discharged from hospital we decided to go to a cafe in an attempt to be “normal”. A pretty young mum intercepted me as I was hobbling back to our table and told me I looked “amazing” and I should be very proud of myself that I had made it out. I didn’t look amazing, but the fact that she took the time to say something so nice really touched me; and whilst I did (of course) have a little cry about it, it made me feel immeasurably happy.

In stark contrast the countless people that stopped me when I was out to comment on the fact I had “double trouble”, or “you’ve got your hands full”, or “poor you”, or “I can’t think of anything worse” probably didn’t realise the effect their thoughtless words had on me. With one of these utterances I could go from being thankful that I had been able to get the little people out of the house, to being tearful and full of self-doubt and fear.

A while ago a new friend and mum of twin girls popped round for a play-date. She was tired and the girls were clearly wearing her down. She told me that she had received an anonymous note through her door with a link to a website for managing crying children. On the same day after a long and emotional day, her husband had relieved her of the girls and she was having a well-deserved quiet moment in the garden with a glass of wine. Whilst sitting there she overheard one of her neighbours on the phone saying that she was “sitting in the garden having a glass of wine whilst her kids are screaming inside”. My friend retreated to her bedroom and cried.

If only people knew how utterly exhausting (on every level) it is being a new parent; how destructive thoughtless words can be; and how desperate many of us are for just a kind look or a word of support from those around us.

new born imperfections

When the twins were born they were very little – 4.9 and 5.4lbs.  They were also born with black hair which was a bit of a surprise; but apparently this isn’t unusual for new borns.  Just as eye colour changes, so does hair colour.

One of the first new born problems we encountered was Barnaby’s inability to retain and maintain heat.   This is considered dangerous because a new born may need to draw on glucose reserves to keep its body warm. At one point, he was taken away and placed under a heated lamp.  He was then put in a heated cot and brought back to me.  He stayed in the ‘hot cot’ for a few days until he could regulate his own body temperature.

Emilia had a red mark that started on her nose and spread over her forehead and eyelids.  I thought it might be a permanent birthmark but after about a year it started to fade.  It reappears very faintly when she gets really upset, but otherwise it has pretty much disappeared.  Again, this is not unusual.

The twins were induced at 37 weeks and so when they were born they were quite under-developed.  Consequently, Emilia was unable to latch-on which is common in premature babies, and so despite my best efforts she only drank breast milk from a bottle. 

Barnaby showed a willingness to latch-on but something was preventing him from getting as much milk as he should.  Upon a full examination, it was discovered that he was tongue tied.  This is when the string of tissue under the baby’s tongue (frenulum), which attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth, is too short.  Whilst we were in the hospital I was asked if I was happy for the unnecessary bit to be cut and it was done very quickly after he had been given a little bit of a sugar hit.  Thereafter he could breastfeed without a problem.

A few days later when Barnaby was being examined again, the nurse pointed out a red mark on his chest.  It stood proud of his skin and was a deep red colour.  She told me it was a ‘haemangioma’ which is due to the extensive development of blood vessels in that area; and that it would grow and fill with blood, and then after a few years it would start to disappear.  Barnaby is nearly three and the mark is probably 2cm wide and 0.5cm in protrusion.  The blood has disappeared and the mark has deflated and is now a pale pink colour.  

Between 5 and 15 days after a baby is born the umbilical stump dries out, turns black and drops off; then a couple of weeks later the belly button heals completely.  Once the cord remnants were gone it was clear there was a bit of a problem with Emilia.  Both her belly button and the area around it protruded a lot.  It wasn’t an ‘outy’ it was more like a little hill.  We took her to see the doctor who referred us to the hospital where we were advised it was an umbilical hernia. Apparently umbilical cords pass through a small opening in their stomach muscles which closes soon after birth. An umbilical hernia occurs when the stomach muscles don’t join completely and the intestine or other tissues bulge through this weak spot around the belly button.  We were advised that it wouldn’t be causing her any pain and that if it didn’t shrink back over the next two years we should return and they would consider options.  Luckily it did shrink back after about a year or so and she now has a perfect little button.

Having researched each problem at the time and again to write this, it seems to me that these things are perfectly natural and reasonably common in newborns; but it didn’t stop me from being in a constant state of anxiety for quite a few months after they were born. 

I was lucky (I can say that now even though it didn’t feel that way at the time); we were kept in hospital for about 5 days and so the nursing staff were able to spot problems and imperfections quickly, and provide us with the information we needed.

Whilst supportive in some ways I didn’t find our health visitors able to help us with many of the issues we identified after we returned home.  Instead they referred us to the GP again and again.  A large majority of the GPs we saw either seemed bored with my concerns and/or left me with the distinct impression that I had become a neurotic Mum.  To avoid this I decided to visit doctors only when absolutely necessary and instead became a homeopathy and acupuncture convert; something that has proved invaluable over the last few years.

“older” mums

When I told one of my friends about the concept of this blog, she asked me if we would be writing about being a Mum when you’re in your 40’s.  Whilst pondering that, another friend suggested that we write about how hard it is to make friends with other Mums.

I’m an early 40’s Mum and since I only know being “an older Mum” (hideous phrase) I can only give my perspective which will of course be biased.  Unlike a few new Mums I have spoken to who have struggled to get out of the house in the first few months of being home, I forced myself to get out of the house and mingle with other human beings as soon as I could for my own sanity.

The logistics of getting out of the house with newborns are quite demanding.  Remembering to pack enough nappies, changes of clothes, blankets, comforters, car seats, buggies, milk apparatus…then you need to think about where you’re going: accessibility, changing facilities, how long you will be out for, will there be coffee, etc.  On the basis that I was carrying two of everything, I soon discovered that classes better met my logistical requirements than my preferred cafe jaunts; and discovered that my desirability criteria of a class was Mum based.  Whether the teacher could sing in tune (a rarity it would seem); whether the craft ideas were achievable; or whether there was decent tea/coffee and biscuits served were important but not as important as the Mums that attended.  That probably sounds a bit small-minded, possibly selfish, but when you are spending every waking moment with little people, what limited time you have with adults must be as good as it possibly can be otherwise you will find excuses not to leave the house.

I mentioned this to someone once and we laughed about the fact that is a bit like being back at school.  You want to be liked, you want to be considered fun to be around, you want people to choose you to sit with and possibly (dare I say it) suggest a get-together outside of the class.  In order for this to work, you also need to make an effort – fresh clothes (I won’t say “clean” because we all know they don’t stay like that for long); a bit of make-up (not too much); the ability to self deprecate and laugh at yourself; something non-child related to talk about;…basically you need to present a side of you that you may not be feeling; that may not be entirely authentic at that particular moment in time.  All of this just so that you can find some “friends” and soften the acute feelings of loneliness and disconnection.

Despite the Office of National Statistics stating that:  “54% of mothers in 2016 were aged 30 and over, up from 41% in 1996 and 48% in 2006”; I found that a lot of the classes I went to were attended by younger Mums.  Mums in their 20’s and 30’s.  Mums whose figures had snapped back and were shown off by super-skinny jeans; who were still regularly partying into the early hours; who were seemingly unfazed by their change in lifestyle; and who weren’t comparing notes on energising teas and anti wrinkle products.  With a mixture of (subconscious) envy and a perceived lack of things to talk about I would (subconsciously) circumnavigate this cohort and seek the comfort and familiarity of the older Mums.  The Mums who were training hard to reconnect with muscle tone and fitness; who didn’t have the stamina to be out past 9pm; and who were still trying to figure out what it meant to be a Mum.  


post natal depression

When I went along to my NCT classes I mindfully tuned-out to the sessions covering depression and c-sections.  Neither of these things were going to be relevant to me so I spent those classes looking at the other parents sitting in the circle wondering what their babies would look like.  Had I known more about the statistics surrounding both and the likelihood that it could affect me I may have tuned-in.

The following statistics have been taken from the findings of a survey conducted by the charity 4Children:

  • Approximately 33% of mothers who experienced depression symptoms during pregnancy went on to have PND.
  • Approximately 25% of mothers still suffered from PND up to a year after their child was born.
  • Approximately 58% of new mothers with PND did not seek medical help. This was often due to them not understanding the condition or fearing the consequences of reporting the problem.

These figures are frighteningly high; and yet we still seem to bottle up our experiences with shame when really we should be sharing and supporting each other with the knowledge and acceptance that it can happen to anyone.

Here’s my account.

Mother B

3 months into being a Mum.  I felt tired – exhausted actually; lost; scared; unconvinced that this was a role I could fulfil effectively; isolated; lonely; unprepared and…ashamed that I wasn’t the happiest person in the world for finally becoming a Mummy.

I had no one I felt I could talk to about it; and so with encouragement from my husband I booked an appointment with the local GP. When I sat down in front of her I was still not convinced that I needed to be there; but her first words: “why are you here?” prompted uncontrollable crying.

When I finally pulled myself together I remember saying that I was “finding things a little hard”. The GP asked a few more questions along the lines of: “do you have family and friends close by to help you?”: “do you think you could have post natal depression?”; and “do you feel suicidal?” all of which I answered no to and then started crying again.

The GP explained that it is not uncommon for new Mums to feel overwhelmed; and that post natal depression can creep up on anyone at any time. She suggested taking some anti-depressants and having a telephone discussion with a counsellor.

I was resistant to both suggestions but concluded that I had nothing to lose. I had two telephone-counselling sessions, which were pretty ineffective, possibly not helped by the fact that I had screaming babies on both occasions. I felt the Counsellor’s main objective was to ensure that I wasn’t a danger to myself or others; and so once I had confirmed that I was neither, we determined that further calls were unnecessary.

I took the pills for less than 6 months. I didn’t feel particularly impacted by them, and when I woke up one morning and decided I didn’t want to take them anymore, I just stopped. I didn’t discuss my intentions with the doctor, in fact I deliberately didn’t return to see her again. I just stopped – which by the way is generally frowned upon by medical professionals. I didn’t feel affected by the pills because they had effectively enveloped me in a thick wad of bubble wrap that not only prevented me from falling and hurting myself; but also stopped me from working up enough bounce to jump.

The pills undoubtedly helped me get through a rough patch. They afforded me the time and headspace to adjust to my new role. I could have explored other options: homeopathy; acupuncture; in-person counselling; asking friends for help and support…but I was so exhausted, frightened, overwhelmed and embarrassed that I was unable to even consider alternatives.


Mother B

When I had put together my Birth Plan, I had bravely (naively) stated that since I have a pretty high pain threshold I didn’t want to take any drugs that could impact the babies. Three or four hours into labour I had abandoned the plan and asked for every kind of pain relief available…as a consequence my recollection of the next few days is patchy.

Things I do remember are: being in a very high bed; being hooked up to lots of machines and tubes; being monitored every few hours; bad reception on the radio; seeing a sequence of anxiety, boredom and expectation on my husbands face in loop mode; being hungry and not being allowed food; reminding myself that a large proportion of women go through this at least once and so it can’t be that hard…

Over the thirty two hours I was in labour, sleep was intermittent. Since there was no knowing when I might be sufficiently dilated, KB was allowed to stay the night in my room. He was guided to the birthing mattress and given a pillow and a blanket. Because I was awake so much through the night I knew that he had slept soundly. The following morning when he awoke he told me how uncomfortable he had been and that his neck hurt. I remember this exchange vividly…my poor poor husband had a sore neck whilst (by that time) I had been in labour for twenty hours!!!

My dilation progress was slow; and every time I was checked and advised that nothing much had changed I felt like I was a disappointment, a let-down, a poor performer. There was very little to do but watch the clock; despair at the highly depressing day-time TV; and look at the hideously flat stomached, tanned women in the magazines I had taken in to keep me distracted.

The latter part of the second day is particularly hazy…but at some point I was told to start pushing…and I did! A lot. The number of voices increased, the chatter became faster and then quieter…and then a male voice announced that the babies were in distress, my temperature had dropped and my blood pressure had increased…or maybe it was the other way round…and discussion about an emergency caesarean ensued whereupon I was presented with a consent form. I could barely hold a pen but they wanted my signature which I gave in the hope that the chat would stop and the action would start. Kelvin looked tired and strained and was hovering…he hovers when he’s not sure what to do…I knew at that point that there was a possibility this could all go horribly wrong.

I remember being rolled down a very brightly lit corridor and welcomed into a theatre. A sheeted wall was erected covering my lower half; and a male voice suggested a ‘who’s who’…I think there were about 13 introductions.

Before the team started cutting me open they kindly checked that I couldn’t feel anything. Luckily I couldn’t but I was well aware of what they were doing as my body was being rocked from side to side. Kelvin was sitting by my left shoulder and I felt like I needed to be strong for him but my teeth started chattering and I suddenly realised that I had absolutely no control over my body whatsoever.

Shortly after my post operation “clean-up” up I had the opportunity to properly hold my babies; a boy and a girl. My initial observation was that they had black hair – I hadn’t even considered that as a possibility, and wondered if KB was maybe wondering about that… My second observation was that they were incredibly small, tiny in fact. I was wheeled into a ward with four other women all of whom were attempting to sleep, and I was positioned with a plastic cot on either side of me. At that point KB said he was going home to get some sleep but that he would be back first thing in the morning. I felt an overwhelming panic set-in. Why did he want to leave me now; how was I going to cope without him; would he come back or had he seen enough to scare him off? A lovely nurse came to see me soon after his departure and asked me if I needed anything. All I could think of was a lovely cup of tea, so I asked and shortly thereafter she helped me sit me up and gave me my first cup of tea as a mother. It was delicious. My delight at the tea was soon replaced with the realisation that logistically I was somewhat incapable. I couldn’t move without searing pains around my abdomen; and so couldn’t put the empty tea cup anywhere, let alone twist to touch my babies. I was desperately tired, but I was gripped by the fear of something happening to my babies. Was I supposed to be feeding them? Should I be holding them? Were they breathing….? I rang the bell and the cheery nurse reappeared…I asked her what I should be doing and she told me to get some sleep and that they would be monitoring the babies for me. I felt relieved…but then started to worry that they could accidentally get the babies mixed up with other babies and I hadn’t spent enough time time looking at them to recognise whether I did in fact have the right baby. Two cups of tea and more irrational worrying later, the nurse told me they needed to take my little boy away because he was struggling to keep warm. After an intolerable hour I called the nurse back and said I needed to see him. I’d worked myself into an awful state and I think the nurse could see that. He was brought back in a heated cot and I fell asleep shortly thereafter.