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Baby abroad

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Family Selfie

Well, we took a brave step this week and decided to take April on holiday to Majorca.  After the last year we had we felt we deserved it.  We were going to stay in the UK, but we thought it was still going to be as much work trying to entertain an 8 year old and look after a baby, so we may as well do it in the sun.

So, the first hurdle was packing.  Crikey, it was not until I started thinking about what we needed I soon began to realise this was going to be no mean feat.  We literally had to have a whole suitcase just for April’s things.  I mean, yes she has teeny clothes and didn’t need that many, but when you start breaking down everything that you need day to day for a baby it soon mounts up…

  • pack of 66 nappies,
  • swimming nappies
  • 50 disposable bibs,
  • 1 tin of formula,
  • enough pouches of baby food (fruit/protein/pasta) to last us a week (and travelling),
  • baby bottles,
  • formula dispensers
  • sterilising bags,
  • sterilising tablets,
  • 4 packs of wipes,
  • muslins,
  • washing up liquid (yes I know – but how else was I going to wash the bottles),
  • spoons for feeding,
  • toys
  • towel
  • medicines/syringes
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All set at the airport

And that was without the baby vests, dresses, swimming things, toiletries (yes babies do have toiletries albeit small and not many)

Thankfully we travelled with Jet2.com and we got 22kg luggage allowance, so we had enough room in our suitcases.  Mind, gone are the days of multiple outfits and a different pair of shoes for each night for me!

We tend to fly from Glasgow or Edinburgh as Scottish kids have gone back to school and we can save £400-£500 on the cost of the holiday.  They are generally early flights, so we tend to travel up the day before and stay over.  This time we flew from Edinburgh and stayed in the Holiday Inn Express right at the airport.  We had parking included and there was a shuttle bus to the terminal, so it was all relatively easy.  The flight was at 6.30am, so we had a really early start, having to get up at 3am…however this was not at all helped by the fact that April decided that she did not want to sleep the night before.  I literally had about 3 hours sleep and could have cried when it was time to get up!

Security

I was a bit worried about going through security with a baby and all the things we needed.  My hand luggage was now in the form of a baby change bag, rather than beach bag, with snacks, books and magazines, and crammed with everything I could possibly need for April for the next 24 hours.  I’d read up online before hand what I could take through for April.  I made up 4 bottles of water ready for the journey and had some food pouches ready for feeding times.  Now usually you can only take through 100ml of liquids, but with baby food it is slightly different. At security I took out all the baby food and it was taken away to be tested (luckily I didn’t need to sample any of it!)  I then carried April through the scanner as her buggy was checked over and swabbed. That was it…nice and easy 🙂  and we were off!

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Out for the count

The Flight

The next thing I was worried about was the flight.  You know yourself when you’ve not got kids and you see someone coming to sit down with a small child or baby you cringe hoping they won’t sit down near you, to potentially scream all the time and spoil your journey.  I was now this person…and I was dreading “those” looks as we boarded the plane.  Luckily we were near the back and could sneak on last.  However, I needn’t have worried.  April was a little angel.  I had heard that you should give a baby a bottle when taking off, so I did just this and it worked perfectly as it was around her normal feed time.  However, I probably gave her it a bit too soon and she had guzzled it down before we even started taxiing to the runway.  Luckily she fell asleep before we took off and didn’t wake up for an hour or so…it also meant I could top up on my 3 hour sleep from the night before.

Coming home she was the same, took her bottle and fell asleep.  She didn’t make a peep!  It is quite hard sat in one position for a long time with a baby on your knee, so I stretched my legs once or twice, but my worries of being the mum with the screaming baby were forgotten and instead of people staring or scowling, we got lots of attention and comments like “ohhhh isn’t she good”, so I was a happy Mammy!

Fun in the Sun

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Check me out Mammy!

 

We had arranged a private transfer from the airport to the hotel, which meant we had car seats for Eve & April and also meant we got straight to the hotel, than going round the houses.  When we arrived our room wasn’t ready to check in, so we were able to have a wander and grab some food.  When we did get our room it was great.  It was newly refurbished and had everything I could possibly need for a baby.  There was a cot, highchair, baby change table, microwave and kettle to boil water.  Having these facilities made such a difference to the holiday and just meant things were a little easier.

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Bath time in the sink

The hotel we stayed in was very family orientated and it was great for Eve as there was a splash park, so once she made a friend on the first day, we pretty much didn’t see her again (unless she needed us – she was having far too much fun and was far too cool to hang round with us ha!).  All Inclusive is great for kids that are a bit older and just help themselves to ice cream, snacks and drinks.

However, one thing about having a baby abroad is that the routine doesn’t stop.  Phil set his watch to Spanish time, but I kept thinking in English time and tried to keep April to her normal routine as much as possible.  This actually worked in quite well with the timings of meals etc as I could get her sorted before we needed to eat.

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Asleep in the restaurant

It wasn’t easy though and trying to do everything you do back home, in a strange place without everything to hand was hard work.  We had to change our routine a couple of times as often at night time when it came to feeding in the restaurant she would just start screaming (then we were those parents with the screaming kids!) I nearly batted one bloke for starring at me!  So, we changed our routine slightly.  Instead of feeding her in the restaurant, I came in an hour early during the day, got myself ready, then fed her and then got the rest of the clan ready.

Phil and I were like a little tag team on holiday though.  As I got up to feed April, he would do the utmost important job of securing our sunbeds for the day.  I would then get everyone ready and generally did the feeding, whilst Phil was the walker.  I couldn’t bear the thought of walking April in the sun, but Phil quite enjoyed it, so if she was getting grouchy off he’d go with the buggy and come back half an hour later with her sleeping.

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Chillin’ in the shade

Usually on holiday you would get up leisurely and enjoy the sunshine, but with a baby you get snippets of relaxation…mainly when April fell asleep in the day.  I wasn’t as concerned about getting a great tan, than just chilling and sitting in the shade playing with April.  We’d have an afternoon splash around in the pool, which she loved too.

As well as keeping up the routine and hard work on holiday, April continued with her lack of sleep.  I can’t say it was the heat as the air con in the room was brilliant.  I just think the change of surroundings, being in a different cot etc must have been unsettling and we didn’t get much sleep at all.  I can’t say I feel relaxed coming home as you can’t stop when you go away with a baby and all the hard work continues.

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Matching cosies

Then to make things even more tricky, April got a cold.  She had been poorly a few weeks back where we’d have to give her antibiotics and an inhaler.  Luckily I took the inhaler with me as she became poorly again.  One night was horrendous as she just couldn’t sleep from all the coughing and spluttering, poor thing.  She was very wheezy and full of cold…and then I got it too.  Woo hoo – just what you want on holiday!  We took a trip to the pharmacy and loaded up with strong Spanish medicine, but April still sounded awful.  As soon as we landed in the UK I was going to get her back to the doctor/hospital, but  got home too late to make an appointment.  Hopefully she will get over it soon and her breathing sounds a bit better, but it really is a worry when she gets poorly; especially abroad!

IMG_2194So, all in all we had a lovely holiday.  I wouldn’t say it was the most relaxing one I’ve had, but we had some giggles, made some memories and I’m glad we went.  I wasn’t particularly happy about the mountain of washing that faced me when we got back, but 6 loads later I’m through it!  I was glad to get home and to get back into my old routine.  April is still a bit poorly and refusing her solids, but hopefully we’ll all be back to normal soon.

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Sleep deprivation

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Me & my gorgeous girl

A friend said to me the other day that in some countries they use sleep deprivation as a form of torture.   And, recently I can honestly say that with the sleepless nights we’ve been having it is like torture!

In pregnancy, tiredness hits you like a bus.  Unless you’ve been pregnant before it’s really hard to describe how tired you actually feel.  Think back to a time you were tired, after a night out, a long drive or travelling home off holiday…then times it by 100 and that sums it up.  Your eyes sting, you can’t function and just have to have an afternoon nap…well I did anyway!

Then there was tiredness in hospital.  Although you don’t really want to be in hospital, it is an opportunity to catch up on some of that sleep.  Well, you’d think wouldn’t you!  But, no…every 15 minutes I was being prodded and poked and checked over and then when you thought you’d been left alone, the dinner ladies would come in at 7am and wake you up again!

After that, there was tiredness of NICU.  I was still in hospital at this point, but spending a lot of my time in the unit with April.  The only thing I felt like I could do to help was express to give her breast milk.  That means every 2-3 hours I had to hook myself up to a milking machine like daisy the cow and get sometimes only tiny drops of milk.  This was so hard motivating yourself to stay up to midnight, then get up again at 3am, then 6am to “milk”

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Newborn tired

Most people will be able to relate to this bit…newborn tiredness.  This is when we brought April home from hospital.  I was breast-feeding and expressing for a while, so was carrying on with my routine, but April would also want feeding.  It was like clockwork 6am, 10am, 2pm, 6pm, 10pm, 2am…and repeat.  At the time you feel really tired, but at least you’re prepared for it and know what is coming.  However, the relief when baby starts sleeping through is amazing and you feel like a new woman.  After months of no sleep, having that first night of full sleep is unlike anything else!

Now, we were pretty lucky as April would normally go down about 7pm and sleep to 6pm.  Occasionally I’d have to get up in the middle of the night to pop her dummy in, but we had it nailed and things were starting to feel much easier.  Now, I’ve always liked a lie in and my sleep, but even a 6am start felt good after sleepless nights.

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Sleeping beauties

Now, we’re in a whole new dimension of tiredness.  April has decided she isn’t as keen on sleep anymore.  When her first teeth started coming through, we got off lightly and they just appeared, but since it’s been a nightmare!  She has been going down relatively well, but would wake up 1 or 2 times in the night for half an hour to an hour.

The past 3-4 weeks has been awful and every night I go to bed holding my breath as I just don’t know if I’m going to get any sleep or not.  At first we put it down to teething, but still no new teeth.  Then the weather, but we live in Cumbria…and it got cooler!!  In desperation one night I bought a Ewan the Dream Sheep off Argos, so I could collect that day.  A few people had mentioned him to me.  He seemed to work for a couple of nights when she was dozing, but he didn’t work for her when she was crying and screaming.

Then in desperation I stapled leftover blackout material together and pinned and taped to the window to hide any light in her room.  She was tending to wake up at 4 or 5am every morning.  This did the trick and since Tuesday she has been sleeping until about 7am wooooo hoooo…until last night, when she went back to her old ways.

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Flat out!

I felt like a yo yo up and down all night.  She was awake from about 3am-4am.  Luckily it’s a Sunday, so Phil took over at 6.30am and I could get a lie in.  So, we’re in a new stage of tiredness.  It’s the broken sleep that’s hard work. At least when they’re all new, you know they pretty much just need a feed and nappy change.  Now, it’s broken sleep and different patterns every night – you just can’t judge it!  So, I’ve been feeling like a zombie most of the time…which is pretty hard when I run a business and need to work the next day, or go to a meeting.

There are a few other babies on the development where we live and they’ve all been doing the same.  I’m hoping it is a phase, or the weather, light mornings or something!!!  Mind, I’m sure there will be a new, equally as challenging phase round the corner and I’ll still be feeling tired when she’s 6!

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So emotional

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Shattered 

The memories of having a premature baby never leaves you.  it is something I would say i think about several times a day.  Every time April smiles at me, every time I kiss her little head and every time she does something for the first time.  All babies are miracles, but i always think how amazing it is that is was born so early and so tiny and is doing as well as she is.

I find it helps me talking to other mums and telling them about what happened, but trying not to “go on” about it too much.  You’re very aware of not talking about it too much, or only talking about certain things.  but, it is so hard when it really does still consume a lot of my thoughts.  Yes, April is growing, yes, she is healthy and yes, you’d never know she was a prem baby unless you knew, but the memories and feelings of being in NICU and SCBU haunt me (even writing this I can feel myself welling up!)

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Girls on tour in Blackpool

Recently I have been shortlisted for the North West Enterprise Vision Awards, as sole trader of the year.  I won last year, which was amazing, but little did I realise I’d be in hospital two weeks later!  To be shortlisted again is a fantastic achievement and so proud that I’ve been nominated after such a tough year.  As part of the process I have to give a presentation to a panel of judges in Blackpool.  I’d say I didn’t have as much time to prepare this one, but wrote a good presentation.

I tried to reflect on the past year and how it has been running a business, whilst having a baby.  It was important the judges know what i had been through, but I needed to reflect how this had affected by business…after all it was a business awards I was in for.

I was totally fine writing the presentation and getting everything together.  However the night before I had to go to Blackpool I was scrolling through Facebook as you do and looking at the BLISS charity page.  For some reason I ended up clicking on a post and found a message from a lady who had been in NICU in Middlesbrough the same time as us.  It then hit me that it was the lady who lost her baby.

This was one of the hardest days for us in NICU (read my blog about it here).  I clicked on her profile and saw pictures of baby Noah.  I was in pieces.  He looked so much bigger than April.  Why didn’t he survive, why was April so lucky?  it just really hit me again of how delicate and precious April was and how things had been so touch and go…that could have easily been us.  I exchanged a few messages with Noah’s Mum and it felt so nice to hear that the smile I had given her across the incubators she had remembered and it had helped her.  I remember just wanted to give her a cuddle.

So, on the day of the presentation I felt OK, not nervous, I knew what to expect and I had put aside my feelings from the night before.

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Fun with Mammy

Presentation time arrived.  I composed myself and faced the panel of 4 judges.  I was doing great…and then I opened a little book we had made with photos of April in hospital.  I broke down.  Everything came flooding back and standing up, talking to strangers about the profound impact this had had on me was really difficult.  The judges were so lovely and understanding and let me compose myself one of them even began crying as well.  I felt I really touched them.  I was mad at myself for crying, as it was a business presentation, but I felt I gave a really strong and passionate presentation and felt like I had really put into perspective the challenges I have had to overcome in the last year in life and in my business.

Watch this space to see how I get on.

I’m a very emotional person and Phil probably deals with things a lot better than I.  I’ve said many times he was my rock through the whole situation.  he helped me deal with things day to day and we got through it together.  However, I know that although Phil has dealt with things and moved on; focusing on the positives, the whole experience still affects him too.  It is hard for the dads in NICU as well.

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I don’t think the pain of what happened to us will ever leave me and I have to deal with my emotions as and when they come along.  I just still feel thankful every single day that I have a precious, healthy little angel still with us.