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Hospital review

 

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One proud Mama

Last week we had a trip back to Carlisle Hospital for another one of April’s check ups.  They are meant to be every four months, but we’ve not been since January!

 

Last time we visited we saw a new doctor and it was the same doctor again.  He was so lovely and got a shock when he saw April.  Last time we saw him, she was just starting to walk around the room holding on to furniture.  This time she strode into his office no problem, saying hello and giving him a Hi-Five.

As soon as she walked in she spotted the toys and made her way to the pile of books.  She sat happily playing while we were talking.  We talked lots about April’s development – how she is talking loads and has a vocabulary well over 100 words, she can string sentences together and have conversations with us.  He asked if she was right or left handed and we didn’t know, which he said was a good thing.  Apparently, if you can tell which hand is their strongest hand this early it could be a sign there is something wrong with one side of their brain, so that was good.

 

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Not much eaten again!

We also talked about her eating habits.  I’ve been quite worried about this as April would literally eat nothing all day unless we give her something and then when we do she doesn’t really want to eat much at all.  He said this was fine and she is still eating quite a range of foods.  She has put on weight since her last visit so he was not overly concerned.

 

My only concern with April really has been her bowel movements – or lack of them.  Sometimes she can go days without going.  We give her 10ml of lactulose every morning and night, but it never seems to do much.  Then when she eventually does go it’s like she’s passed a tennis ball, bless her.  He told us to ‘up’ the dosage and up to 50ml a day if needs be.

April was playing happily while we were talking and the doctor seemed impressed with her progress and then out of nowhere, with no coaxing she just started singing ‘the wheels on the bus’.  The doctor stopped talking and said in amazement “She’s singing!” – we were like yeah we know.  “You should be filming this” he said, and we were like “yeah we have.”  He put his pen down, sat back and said “just remarkable”.  She then got up and started putting different coloured shapes in the right holes of a puzzle.  When he asked all the colours she knew them.  I actually started welling up.  It is the proudest moment – thinking of the reasons why we were there, to how much our little girl has come on and is amazing even the doctors.

 

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Adventures up mountains too!

Right back when she was born the Professor in Middlesbrough hospital said to us she was a “text book” prem baby, doing everything she should.  She certainly hasn’t let us down and continues to amaze us every day.  She is one clever little thing – I’m sure she has been here before!

 

So, since we’ve been giving her 20ml of lactulose every day and there is no stopping her – it’s ha certainly done the trick!  We’re back at the hospital in 6 months, when hopefully she will be signed off and fingers crossed it will be the end of her preemie journey.

 

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Clever little girl

 

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Me and my precious girl

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog.  Time just flies away with me, busy being Mammy, running a business and running a home I just don’t have time to write as much these days – or am shattered by the end of the day I just don’t have the energy to put my brain into action.  I really don’t know how I found the energy when the April was in hospital to write a blog every day.  I think it was like therapy for me then.  I want to keep writing the blog now and then, so April can look back when she’s older and see what happened to her.

 

The last few months have flown by and it feels like it has been a real turning point for April.  She has really come on leaps and bounds and surprises us every day.

 

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Story time with daddy

Probably the most striking thing about April is that she is talking loads.  I can have a proper conversation with her.  It’s not just a few words here and there, but she can string sentences together easily.  April loves books and is a proper book worm.  If she had to choose between a toy or book, she would go for a book every time.  Her reading has really progressed and sometimes she will pick up the books and know the words as well.  I’m not sure she is reading quite yet, more getting used to the books, but she is learning really fast.  We have some alphabet flash cards and she recognises the whole alphabet and pictures.

 

Not only is she conversing and reading really well, but she has also started counting and counts easily to 10 – even getting to 20 sometimes.  I had to “Google” when children should be able to count and it says she should be able to count to 3 by the age of 2, so I’m a bit gobsmacked that she is doing this much!  The doctors said to us that we wouldn’t know until she went to school if she had any learning difficulties, but I really don’t think we need to worry about that.  It was one of the things I was looking for signs of, but I really can’t see her having any issues.

 

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Baking with Eve

April still isn’t at Nursery as we have 2 amazing Nanas who love looking after her.  We’re going to put her name down for Nursery to start when she is 3, so she gets the best of both worlds, meets new people and gets a bit more structured education before she starts school.

 

April is still quite petite and in 12-18 month clothes.  I find she is really tall, so she ends up with half mast trousers and crop tops, but the bigger size would just fall down!  Hopefully, we’ll be able to progress to 18-24 month clothes soon!

April is a little character, she loves dancing and having discos in the hallway (perhaps it is me that enjoys them more!?) She absolutely adores her big sister and her face lights up when she walks in the room.  She enjoys a spot of TV now and then, which toddler doesn’t!  Teletubbies, Twirlywoos and In the Night Garden are her favourites.  She also particularly likes the Go Jetters theme tune!  She is cheeky – often poking her finger up my nose or using me as a climbing frame and is very inquisitive.

She really is coming on a treat and I get so much joy out of her.  Knowing that she is progressing well is such a relief and I am sure the doctors will be happy on her next visit to the hospital next week….watch this space!

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A very special reunion

When April was in hospital, she shared the ‘pod’ in NICU with a set of triplets – Joseph, Amelia and Matilda.  They were also born at 30 weeks, but a week before April.  Their Mum and I became friends during the time we were in Middlesbrough.  It felt like we were going through it all together and we would disect everything that happened to them each day.

Although our experiences were different, we had so much in common and have kept in touch.  At times it felt like no one else really knew what I was feeling apart from Vicky.  We chatted whilst expressing, consoled each other and became email pals comparing notes.  I found Vicky was a great emotional support to me; knowing that someone else knew how I was feeling from a mum’s point of view…not just trying to empathise.

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Well, today after almost 2 years we finally met up again for the first time since we left NICU.  It was so lovely to see all the babies together again and to see how well they are all doing!  I am not sure I could cope with triplets and Vicky certainly deserves a medal!  If I ever think April is hard work, I just have to imagine what it is like x3!

 

Once again, we slipped right back into talking about the children’s development and our experiences from NICU and the past 2 years.  We compared notes and like most children they are all at different stages.  One thing was very apparent though is that all 4 of our children have been on an amazing journey and they are little miracles.  There was one time that they couldn’t breathe and now they are all coming on, growing up and developing magical little personalities!  I can’t wait to see them again!

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Fundraising for the babies

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What we do it all for…

19 and a half months ago, Phil and I sat in the Neo Natal unit of James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough faced with one of the most challenging times of our life.  We were so overwhelmed by the situation that we were in, that at that point we made a pact that if we were ever in a position to do any fundraising it would be for premature babies.

The support and care we got was unbelievable.  It opened our eyes to this hidden world of premature babies, their families and the amazing work of the professors, doctors and nurses in those units.  it is not something we’d come across before – we didn’t really know anyone who had had a prem baby.  Or if we did, didn’t realise what it was all about.

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Carlsile SCBU

So, since April turned 1 we have been doing loads of fundraising.  We are so excited to announce that as of June 2017 we have now raised just over £11,000!!!!!!  We are completely gobsmacked.  Gobsmacked by everybody’s support and generosity.

We have been able to donate £2,000 to the Cumberland Infirmary Special Care Baby Unit, £4,000 to James Cook NICU and £5,000 to BLISS – the charity for premature babies.

How we did it:

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April’s Bash

In October we hosted a party night and auction.  The event was great and I think there were a few bad heads the next day!  We had some amazing prizes donated like tickets to see the Cirque du Soleil, the naming of an Eddie Stobart Truck, Mini i-Pad, a weekend break in Blackpool and Liverpool, a pressure washer…the list went on!  We raised £4,000 from the auction alone!

Next up my Mam and her friend decided they would throw themselves out of a plane and do a skydive!  My Mam decided that Mother’s Day would be a good day to do this.  I guess as she is April’s Nana and also to honour her Mam (my Nana) who is no longer with us.  She was a wreck in the morning and I could hardly get two words out of her!  I thought once she was up in the plane and was gliding down looking across Morecambe Bay she would enjoy it, but she hated every minute of it!  She was as white as a sheet when she finished.  I certainly don’t think it is something she will be repeating!  I have a new found respect for my Mam – she is amazing!  Between her and her friend Jenny, they raised almost £2,000.

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Supergran

Along the way, people have offered to do events to raise money for us as well.  A couple of Phil’s colleagues did the Fireball Rally Challenge; a 4-day rally across 8 different countries.  The owners of Twinkletoes in Penrith also did a 24 hour cycle in their shop and raised over £500 for us and Phil’s Mum’s best friend held a raffle at work to raise money too!

Most recently, Phil ran the London Marathon.  He was so determined to do something to raise money and kept going through those long winter nights with his training when it was battering down with rain or snowing.  I kept telling him “you’re doing it for the babies.”  His training was going so well until he was struck down wit an injury in February.  He damaged his Achilles tendon, which really set back his training.  He was unable to do any running – his ankle would swell up even after Park Run.  So for the next couple of months, he kept up his fitness by swimming and spinning.  He is the most determined and competitive person I’ve met and didn’t let it defeat him.  He ran the Marathon in style – with a smile on his face…and even a kiss and cuddle for us along the way!  I was so proud of him as he ran it in 4 hours 19 mins, with an injury at that!

I’m not going to lie…I was quite glad the training was over.  Although now he’s talking about entering again next year or even doing an IronMan!!!!!  Must be nuts!  I’ll stick to my event organising and he can take care of the physical stuff!

That leads me nicely on to our next event…a sponsored walk for the little ones!  Click here for more information and how to join in!

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April’s Monitor

At the weekend, we returned to James Cook NICU.  The money we have donated has enabled the unit to buy a new Phillips monitor.  If you’ve ever been in a NICU it’s what makes all the beeping.  The machine basically monitors the baby’s vital stats including oxygen, heart rate etc.  As soon as we walked back on the unit you could hear the beeping and it made me shiver.

Last time we had gone back, just after Aprils’ birthday I had felt quite emotional, but I felt a lot stronger this time.   I felt a bit apprehensive on the way there, but it was so lovely to see a couple of the nurses who looked after her.  They showed us the new monitor and I felt so proud that we had been able to do a little bit to help.  It only scratches the surface of all the money a unit like that needs to keep tiny babies alive, but it was our way of saying thank you and helping more babies have a fighting chance of survival like April 🙂

We would like to say a really heartfelt thank you to everyone who has donated money or prizes, written cheques, helped with events and given us support to do this! There are too many people to name, so thank you – you all mean the world to us and you can join us in feeling proud that you’ve helped us help more babies’ lives!

 

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April at 19 months old – how did that happen!?

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My fun loving monkey

April is growing up very quickly – it’s hard to think she’s 19 months old…where did that time go!?  It’s so true that children grow so quickly and I don’t think you quite appreciate it until you actually see your own child growing in front of your eyes!

I’ve not posted in a while as I have been super busy.  The other night it struck me what a juggling act being a Mummy and running a business is.  I was managing some Twitter posts for a client before I went to bed – work head on, in the “zone” next minute April started screaming and I then had to flip so quickly into Mummy mode to soothe her.  When I’m not with April I’m working and then when I’m not working I’m with April – it’s hard to fit anything else inbetween.  There are times that it can be hard if I’ve got work deadlines, but I’ve got the best of both worlds that I can work, yet be a Mummy who spends a lot of time with their child.  It’s hard, but I love it and wouldn’t change it for the world.

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I do not want to get dressed!

So, April is developing really quickly, growing, talking, getting a mind of her own.  She has this cheeky nature that can be really cute, yet infuriating at times.  I guess that determination is what got her here and hopefully she can use it well in the future, but I think we’re going to have some battles.  Like most toddlers she just laughs in my face and runs off when I’m trying to change her bum, or get her dressed after bath time and she fights going to sleep – she doesn’t want to miss out on the action.  She is also nosey – swimming lessons are a nightmare as she just wants to watch the lifeguard and everyone else instead of concentrating on swimming!

She’s now in 12-18 months clothes and even then they are still sometimes big for her – her leggings often resemble MC Hammer pants!  I don’t look at her and think she’s small anymore, she seems to have caught up.  We’ve not been to have her weighed recently, so I’m not sure on her weight in comparison to others.  She seems like she is  going to be tall as her trousers are often half mast, or dresses short, she is just petite elsewhere.  Perfect to us!

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Tea time entertainment

She’s not a big eater – she likes what she likes.  LOVES cheese, sausages, eggs and bacon, toast and crisps.  Not to keen on chocolate or cake.  She goes through phases with fruit and vegetables – sometimes munching down everything then the next pushing it away.  She doesn’t like to be fed anymore and insists on feeding herself – often ending up with most of it on her face.  She has a habit of drinking when she doesn’t want to eat, then gets mad when you take the cup away.  You also know when she’s finished as the plate ends up on her head, with her saying ‘hat’.

Her talking is coming on wonderfully and her vocabulary is expanding each day – she even counted to 4 the other day.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  Every day she comes out with all sorts of words and phrases.  She loves books and would grab a book over a toy any day and I think that is where she is learning a lot of it from.  In the last couple of weeks she’s started wanting to read more advanced books that she is getting off Eve’s bookshelf, like Topsy & Tim and the Biff & Kipper books.  I’ll keep encouraging her – we may have a young Matilda on our hands.  No mean feat being born 10 weeks early – I’ve been looking for signs of learning disabilities, but I’m sure we’re not going to have any problems.

 

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Above everything April loves her cuddles.  She is such a loving little girl giving kisses and cuddles to us all the time.  She has started cuddling my leg when I’ve not picked her up, or just throwing her arms round me, which just melts my heart.  It’s little things like that just make any bad day great!

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Our little girl

 

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Such a big girl!

At 17 months old, April has turned from a baby into a little girl.  it is so cliched to say time goes fast, but when you have a baby it really does.  I can’t believe the rate at which they grow and develop.  When April was in the hospital it seemed like nothing happened for ages and then all of a sudden she’d have a spurt of development; whether that was putting on weight, learning to breathe or feeding.

 

Every month it seems like she just comes on leaps and bounds and is developing so quickly.  So, she started walking in the last couple of months, but now is attempting running.  She is so sturdy on her feet and just goes for it.  She wants to be ‘in’ everything, constantly exploring the house and everything in it.  I have had to put all the trinkets and ornaments away and everything is picked up, kissed, used as a phone, or thrown down.

 

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April’s first trial with a spoon!

She is going great guns on her eating now too.  She has always been like a little bird and would only eat if we fed her.  Now she is getting more confident as she has discovered the spoon and what she can do with it.  All started well until it gets launched across the kitchen.  Food mainly now ends up all over her face, in her hair or on the floor, but at least she’s feeding herself, which takes the pressure off a bit.

 

 

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Cheeky chops

Her speech is also really coming along and she is starting to copy more of what we’re saying.  You can tell she really understands you as well, which is so much easier for communication.  I don’t think it’ll be long before we’re having conversations.  Though I think she is going to be a total chatter box!

 

She has gone slightly clingy at the moment.  She just wants to be near Mammy all the time, following me around like a little shadow and throwing a fit if I walk out the room.  Oh and the tantrums she has now started throwing agagagagagagahhhhh!   She really does not like having her nappy changed and lying on the floor.  She doesn’t like getting ready for bed and finds it rather amusing when I have to chase her around the living room!

 

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Tired monkey

She is also teething again.  We’ve had a few sleepless nights recently, which is a real shock to the system when she’s been sleeping 10-11 hours most nights.  The bloomin’ teeth are taking their time, though.  She’s had 5 for ages,  new ones have popped through on the top, but everything is just sooooooo slow.  I wish they would hurry up and pop through.

 

April is definitely not a baby anymore and it is just lovely watching her develop into a lovely little girl.  I often stare at her in amazement at how well she is doing and am always truly thankful that she has not had many complications in her journey from being born 10 weeks early.

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Don’t stop me now…

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Loves a good old box

April is now 16 months old.  How did that happen?  I don’t feel like I’ve got a baby anymore; I’ve got a toddler.  She is properly walking now and there is no stopping her.  It took her 2 or 3 weeks to become more confident from her initial first steps, but now she’s so speedy and potters around the house no problem.  At playgroup, she’s off – not bothered about me.  At home, it’s pretty much the same.  Trying to get into everything she can – emptying cupboards, opening drawers, sitting on things, climbing up things.  Her new trick is climbing up the footstool, on to the sofa and doing a roly poly down off the arm.

She’s always falling over or bumping her head, but she’s quite a robust little thing.  We had her measured for her first shoes last week and since they’ve given her great support – it’s like she knows there her walking shoes and she’s determined to show us how to use them!

 

One of the things the consultant said to us when we went for a check up was that we won’t know if she has learning disabilities until she goes to school.  I’ve never been too worried about that and the way she is developing I don’t think we’ll have any cause for concern.  She is doing things that I think are quite clever for a baby; stacking cups, reading books, making animal noises, responding to commands.  Phil says she’s just being a baby, which yes I guess is so, but I have nothing to compare her with other than other babies and children we meet along the way.  Considering she would be 13 and a half months if she was born term I think she’s cracking on pretty well!  Time will tell I guess, but I’m not worried about that.

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It’s hard work this eating malarkey

As the time ticks on the journey through having a premature baby gets easier and the worries you have seem to be less and less.  They are the same sort of worries that all mums have – not the additional ones when they arrive early.

 

I sometimes feel like I’m a more confident Mammy now and know what I’m doing, but then other times I feel like I just don’t have a clue.  Everybody has different ideas, different ways of doing things, there are a million and one books you could read or web pages to look at, but I’m such a strong believer in that maternal instinct and knowing what is right for your baby.

Every stage of having a baby is totally different and it feels like when you’ve just got one stage to a ‘T’ the next challenge appears.  I have loads of questions at the moment – should I start taking her dummy off her?  Am I feeding her the right food?  When do I stop giving her bottles?  How on earth do I get her to use a cup (still refuses!!) What activities can you do to entertain a 16 month old…the list goes on!  I’m going to tap into my maternal instinct and just take it as it comes…as we’ve always known she will do things in her own time and when it is right for her.  I think Mum’s put too much pressure on themselves and worry what others think.  I know my baby girl loves me and she is doing amazing and that is all that matters!

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In Daddy’s running vest

Hubby deserves a big cheer today as well.  He is currently training for the London Marathon and running in aid of BLISS (the charity for premature babies) though he is suffering from an injury at the moment.  He is so passionate about his training and doing the marathon for April and just hope this setback doesn’t stop him- we are so proud of him!  My Mam is also doing a skydive for BLISS to help towards our fundraising efforts – she’s just crazy.  There is no way I would throw myself out of a plane…I’ll stick to organising events thank you!

 

We are raising money for BLISS, Middlesbrough NICU & Carlisle SCBU to say thank you to those people who helped bring April into the world safely and have looked after and supported us.  I write this blog to help other Mums who may be going through a similar experience see that there is life beyond NICU and that no matter how early they appear or how little they may be, these teeny miracles can grow up into healthy, thriving little children – hard work like the rest of them!

You can sponsor Phil here and Nana Carol here.

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Proud Mammy moment – April graduated Baby Sensory!