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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!

 

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We have a walker!

 

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1 day old Vs 15 months old

Yes, that’s right – April is WALKING!  April is 15 months old, but really would only be 12 and a half months old, which is pretty good for a baby to walk.

 

Watch her here – I managed to capture it!

I googled it like you do and it said…

Most babies take their first steps by their first birthday. By the time they’re 15 months old, most toddlers are walking unaided, though often with uneven steps (babycentre). 

So, I think that’s pretty darn good!  A baby born so premature to be walking already.  I say walking, but I mean she’s taken her first 5 or 6 steps without holding on – it’s not like she’s chasing me around the house yet (or should that be the other way round!!)  Many of the other babies we know of a similar age are walking and some have been for ages, but when you think of it in her term dates, she’s spot on!

It’s sometimes hard thinking of the ‘what age would she be’ when you’re trying to work out her milestones and it can get confusing.  Through the whole journey, I’ve learnt not to sweat it (well not the little things anyway).  I count my blessings that our little miracle can even walk! I read on an online group the other day about one baby born premature, 32 weeks in fact and he’d only just started walking with the aid of a frame age 2.

I just try to encourage her now, but I’m sure she’ll be off before we know it!

 

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Cheeky grins

At 15 months April is really getting a little character.  She is so cheeky and pulls the cutest grin when people smile at her.  She loves attention and laughing with people.  She has also discovered books and loves us reading to her – anything with noises or flaps she can lift up.  She is into everything and you have to watch her all the time.  I feel like a broken record saying ‘no, no, no’ constantly.  however, you generally only need to tell her a couple of times and she will stop…or throw a paddy!

 

I’m not sure what this paddy thing is all about – it’s come out of nowhere.  One minute she’s fine, the next if you tell her not to do something she starts crying and throws herself on the floor.  I tend to ignore her and walk off.  The soon stops her!  I hope this is just a phase!!!!!!!

 

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Sleeping beauty

Talking of phases – the sleep.  You just can’t judge what she is going to do next.  We’ve gone through months of her going to bed well, then usually waking up 3-4am as her dummy has fallen out, or she is upside down in her cot.  Then for a week or so it was amazing – she was sleeping from 7pm to 7am.  I didn’t know what to do with myself…all this sleep.  I started not being able to get to sleep at night as I had not had a broken sleep and almost had too much sleep.  You forget how good it feels.  I was a bit hyper and so much energy.  However, it’s not lasted long.  She always goes down really well, but we’re back to waking in the night..and worse of all waking up at 5am and screaming!!!!  Sometimes I can get her back to sleep, but generally, she’s up at 5.45am.  ON the plus side she is now having 2 good naps in the day – that was nnon-existentbefore!  I am hoping this is a short phase and she goes back into the 12 hour shift – it was bliss while it lasted!

 

 

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She’s gonna be trouble!

 

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Flashbacks and drugs

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April’s first photo

I was planning on writing a blog this evening – the football is on the TV.  However, I did not think I’d be writing it after howling at the TV after an episode of Corrie.  If you don’t watch it, tonight one of the main character’s Michelle, lost her baby at 23 weeks.  If you do watch it, you will know why I ended up in floods of tears!

It is things like this that just trigger something inside me.  It brings all those raw memories flooding back.  I was lucky that I was 5 weeks further on when I ended up going into hospital.  However, in the scenes there were Neonatal doctors and similar equipment on standby for the baby.  The baby was delivered and after a while was given to Michelle.  It was so tiny; just like April.

Anything to do with pregnancy sets me off – christ I was crying in the cinema when I went to watch Bridget Jones’ baby last year!  I even cried at the Royale Family over Christmas when Denise brought her new baby home to see Nana.  I don’t think that will ever change and Phil will always just need to be on standby with a box of tissues and a shoulder to cry on!

The feelings and emotions you have as a pregant woman  is so intense anyway, but throw in the trauma of a premature birth and they just escalate!  I think I am getting better, but the lastings affect it has on you mentally is sometimes quite hard to cope with.

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Smiles all round!

On a brighter note – I AM NOW DRUG FREE!!!  After 14 months of being on medication (20 months if you include the time I was actually preganant) I have officially been signed off by the doctor and am no longer required to take medication for my blood pressure.  This is a massive step for me.  It feels really good not to have to be worrying about my blood pressure anymore.  The doctor said I don’t have to be checked for another 5 years.

This is also good news for my purse as it was going to be bloody expensive paying for medication on prescription now that my maternity exemption is about to run out – good timing dear doctor!

 

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April’s second first Christmas

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Christmas Eve

We’ve just celebrated April’s second Christmas; however last year was such a whirlwind it felt more like this Christmas was her first.  Last year Christmas was cancelled – we faced it in hospital and I just couldn’t think about anything else apart from April.  Then when we were sent home early everything was such a rush.  I imagine anyone who has a baby near Christmas feels the same, but perhaps has a bit more time to prepare.

Anyway, Christmas was lovely and April was utterly spoilt, not only by Santa, but doting grandparents and family.  I was a little worried when the Christmas tree went up, but she was quite unimpressed by it.  She sat in wonder looking at the lights and had a little play with a bauble, but that was it.  She also didn’t really ‘get’ presents and wasn’t too excited about opening them…not even playing with wrapping paper, or boxes.  All in all quite a chilled out baby through it all – made my life a bit easier!

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My poorly baby

April was a bit poorly between Christmas and New Year and we had a bit of a scare.  We’d had a nice day with friends at a local visitor attraction and April was fine all day, though didn’t eat her lunch.  She slept all the way home and when we got back wouldn’t let me put her down.  She screamed her head off, so I just sat on the sofa and cuddled her.  Later on when she was awake Phil called me from the kitchen as April had been sick all over the living room floor – very unlike her!  She’s not a sickly baby.  She was also really hot.  About half an later I checked her and she had a rash all over her face and a temperature.  I called the doctor and they advised me to take her to hospital.

It was a cold night, so wrapped her up and off I set.  I couldn’t help feeling sick to the stomach; I couldn’t face hospital again,  What if there was something serious and she had to stay.  I guess when there is a raging rash you just worry.  She was so lethargic and clingy.  She she was being examined she just sat there and let them; not bothered at all – which is totally unlike her.  She usually wriggles everywhere!  Upon examination the doctor found she had tonsilitis.  We could go home yey!  I was so relieved – I was preparing myself for a long night.

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Catching up on sleep

It was actually a long night.  Once I got April settled, I popped to a neighbours for drinks.  I was a bit on edge, but it was the only night I’d really got out over Christmas, so I needed it.  However, after 2 hours sleep when I got back April woke…and would not go back to sleep.  She was sooooooo clingy; I’ve never known anything like it.  She must have been in such pain bless her.  This continued for 3 or 4 days- I was shattered.  Luckily Phil was off work and let me have a lie in.  I’m not sure I’d have coped otherwise.  April is now on the mend and we’re sleeping through again (yey)

Generally April is just growing into a gorgeous little girl.  She is developing really well.  There are certain things, where I think she may be a little behind, but I don’t let it bother me.  Her crawling has developed into side walking and moving along furniture and she has been taking steps, being guided and held up.  I don’t think it’ll be long she takes her first steps unaided.

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Reading with my big sister

Her eating is coming along – she still feeds a little like a bird, but is getting more used to feeding herself.  Still drinking out of a bottle though – I”m trying to get her to drink out of a cup, but she really doesn’t like it.  I’d rather give her a bottle with handles if it means she’ll drink rather than have nothing to drink all day.  I’ll keep trying though.

She has a new found love of books as well and really enjoys sitting on your knee and looking at a book – particularly a pop up book or one that makes noises.  playing with her toys I’ve noticed she has started thinking about things and is getting good at working out how to stack things or pull things apart.  Talking wise, she’s still not saying much.  She has lots of conversations with herself, babbling away and still says mama/dada etc.  She tends to try and copy sounds you make, but no properly formed words as yet.

img_3368She is a very cheeky little monkey as well and has a habit of pulling this cheeky grin and showing off her teeth.  She is also really good at giving kisses (wet sloppy ones) and cuddles.  We have many battles trying to change her nappy or get her dressed and it can be hard work; but then she flashes a cheeky grin and it melts your heart!