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April at two

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April on her birthday

April turned two in October, but I’ve not written this post until her due date, which was the 29th December.  Although she is now two years and two and a bit months, she would have only turned two now if she had been born when she was expected.

 

Two is quite a big milestone for April as it’s the age at when premature babies are meant to “catch up” with their peers and in many cases when they stop being seen by a consultant.

April is full of surprises.  She came into this world fighting; a determined little baby who surprised us all at how well she developed.  Things have not changed and she continues to amaze us!  Most notably is her speech.  She can have a full conversation with you, she can form sentences, answer questions and ask them.  Even today when we were having lunch she said it was “absolutely fabulous” (honestly it wasn’t that great!)  it is these little quips and comments she comes out with that are just so funny.  Gone are the days are of saying ‘cat’ and ‘dog’ – now it’s “Mammy look at that cute little dog, he’s very funny” for example.

She has also started using the toilet.  She refuses to sit on a potty but has to use the ‘big girl’s toilet’ with a little padded seat.  She generally goes before bath time at night and first thing in the morning.  We have yet to master during the day, but she has started telling me if she needs the toilet or has had a wee.

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April in her bedroom

Then, most recently she’s started sleeping in a big girls bed!  This is great, but just means tired Mammy again as I’m up several times in the night putting her back in again, or untangling her from the covers.  I felt very proud, but a little sad when the cot was turned into a bed.  She looked so tiny tucked up under her new Peppa Pig Duvet.  Not a baby anymore!

 

She hates having her hair done (which is curly and is right down her back when wet – a lovely light brown/blonde colour), she gets very frustrated when she can’t do something, hates being told off by Daddy, loves looking at herself in the mirror, resists sleep during the day, is always on the go and into everything, she is so inquisitive, cheeky, but loves giving cuddles and saying she loves you.

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April eating out

April does not really like eating and would survive on a cracker all day if she could – she is far too busy to eat.  I’ve been having a battle for several months with her eating.  She used to eat loads when she was younger – anything I gave her and it was great as she would just have what we were having.  Then she became fussy and refuses to eat most things. At the moment her staple diet is sausages, sausage rolls, pizza, potato waffles, mashed potatoes, Sunday roast (minus the veg) Yorkshire puddings, bread, yogurts and that is generally it!  However, last night I was making leftover turkey curry and she asked for some and guzzled it down.  I am hoping we may have started to turn a corner!  My other struggle is that she still refuses to use a cup of any variety.  She always reverts back to her baby bottle.  I started putting just plain water in her bottle and a more tempting juice drink in her cup, but then she just goes without drinking.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to crack this one soon!

 

I hope the eating sorts itself out soon, as April still struggles to poo.  It is one thing the consultant wants to watch.  She currently has 2x 20ml does of lactulose daily but she can go for a few days without pooing and then explodes – usually getting covered in it and ending up in the bath.  The other day she was sitting behind the curtain and I heard the explosion.  When I was stripping her off I noticed it had come out of the top of her nappy and smeared all down the patio window – nice!  I’m hoping when she starts eating more this will get better!

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My little cowgirl

April has had a chest infection before Christmas and ended up taking antibiotics, steroids and inhalers.  Of course, being Mum I also got it, but when they’re so little they look so fragile when they’re poorly and you worry more.  I noticed her breathing was bad and she was quite wheezy, so I ended up taking her to hospital.  When she was born she was on a ventilator and had assisted breathing for the first few weeks of her life, so we have to watch for any complications with that as well.  Generally, she’s OK unless she gets a cold.  Hopefully, it won’t turn into asthma when she gets older.

 

To celebrate April’s birthday this year we took her to the cinema for the first time to see ‘Room on the Broom’ which she loved and has been obsessed with the book ever since.  Then in the afternoon, we had family round for a little tea party.  She loved opening presents and her little face was a picture.

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Me and my baby

Last year I was very emotional around her birthday, remembering everything that had happened to us both.  This year I felt OK, but then a few days before it started hitting me again.  I felt a bit strange on her actual birthday.  Of course I was happy it was April’s birthday, but I felt sad as well and very reflective – it is a day that marks that I’m still alive.  I had a nightmare the night of her birthday as well and flashbacks of neonatal unit and all those emotions come flooding back.  It is a really strange thing to explain – how you can feel happy, but sad at the same time and I’m not sure anyone who hadn’t been in the situation would really understand.  I tend to keep this to myself now as people might think I’m being silly as April is doing amazing.  But those emotions are buried deep down inside and keep coming back to haunt me.  I’m also still dealing with the battle of not having any more children – would I want one, would it be too much of a risk, what if, what if, what if!?  I have never seen a therapist for PTSD, but have recently started seeing an alternative therapist about some ways to help.  I think it will get easier in time, but will always be raw and will always creep back into my mind at this time of year.

 

On a brighter note, Christmas was very exciting this year and a lot more eventful.  April seemed to grasp the whole concept, from opening her advent calendar each day, to visiting Santa in his Grotto and knowing he was going to bring her presents, to the opening of the gifts the next day.  There was paper everywhere and you couldn’t move for ‘stuff’ – needless-to-say, our dining room is no longer a room for entertaining, but a playroom…and even then you can’t move for everything in it!

In February we head back to the hospital to see the consultant, where we hope we will be signed off to our own doctor.  Last time we saw him he was amazed by how far April had come and how well she had developed.  I am confident that we won’t have any issues going forward.

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How time flies

I started this blog when I was in the hospital to keep friends and family up to date with what was happening.  I couldn’t cope with all the questions at that time and it was easier for me to tell people to look there.  It was also to help other people who have had a premature baby understand that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I’ve had a few people comment, or message me to say what I have written has helped them, or that they have become more aware of what it might be like to have a baby born early.  If someone reads this and takes some comfort knowing that a baby can be born so early and two years on be doing so well then that makes me happy – job done.

 

Going forward I am going to update the blog, more of a record for April to read when she grows up so we can remember this journey we took together and little things like when she comes out of nappies, when she starts riding a bike and starts school.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my musings and will continue to follow our little journey of April Eleanor Rose Jackson – my miracle baby x

 

 

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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.