Monday, 29 August 2011

The small things

Ella was 9 months old on Friday.  For the first time in a while, I've had a look to see which 'milestones' she should be reaching for her age.  Sitting, transfering objects, babbling, cruising and crawling...... 

Ella is almost sitting, she can transfer objects, has just really started babbling in the last couple of weeks.  She is, however, nowhere near crawling or cruising yet. But that's ok.  I have always been focused on what she is able to do, the rest will come in time.

One of the rewarding things about having a baby with additional needs is that you are more aware of their achievements than you would be with a ’normal’ baby (whatever that is!).

Smaller milestones that may be overlooked in other children are noticed, nurtured and valued, sometimes more so than the bigger ones. 

How many of you with children have felt pride or whooped with joy when your baby held his head up during tummy time, gained weight or sucked from a bottle? These are some of the small things that I have enjoyed celebrating.

I'm aware that I don't speak from experience here as Ella is my first baby, but I know I certainly took a lot of things for granted before I even thought about having children.  The number of times I was asked if I knew the baby’s sex while I was pregnant and without a second thought answered the usual ‘oh we don’t mind what we have, so long as he/she is healthy.’ I assumed all would be well and who doesn't? 

When I look back to the sleepy, floppy baby I brought home from hospital, I can hardly believe she has come so far in just 9 months. For Ella life has, until recently, been more about overcoming challenges than reaching milestones. 

The biggest challenge for Ella has been her feeding.  She has come from not being able to take from a bottle due to her heart defect making her tired to drinking milk from a cup and eating a 'normal' 9 month old diet (via an NG tube and open heart surgery!).   

But what I have learnt is that she will do everything that other babies do. 

She will just do it in her own time.

And in her own way.

But it hasn’t dampened her spirit.

To all you wonderful friends, family and colleagues of mine who said ‘enjoy them while they’re little, they grow up so fast.’ I understand completely how important this is. Please know that I am taking your advice every day and I have learnt to never take anything for granted. Ever.

P.S please excuse the quality of some pictures, camera phone is not great

Thursday, 25 August 2011

High days and holidays.....

Around the corner from our house there is a ‘cupcake boutique’ (far too close to be healthy!). And it is every bit as lovely and decadent as it sounds. The shop itself is away from the main high street and ideally placed for quiet tea and cake, or school children passing on their way home.

The beautiful and brightly iced cakes could almost be overlooked as the retro and vintage decor is what first grabs your attention and makes you feel as though you’re stepping back to another time. It’s become a favourite place to meet friends or to go and choose some cakes to take if we are going visiting.

So, I found myself once again stood in front of the neat rows of cakes, all with befitting fairytale names such as ‘Hansel’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Mother Goose’ or (my favourite) ‘Prince Charming’. I came away with a box of treats to take to my heavily pregnant friend with the semi-idea that a sugar rush could help induce labour! (It didn’t work, but I thought it was worth a try).

You can check out the Airy Fairy website following the link below. Be careful though, you might find yourself booking a cake decorating class or ordering a fairy godmother!:

With the weather being glorious (and the need to work off all the cake calories....) we decided to head out for a walk. I am now very aware of my time on maternity leave quickly coming to an end, so am conscious of making the most of days when Ian is off, the weather is good and we can do things as a family. We spent a lovely afternoon walking along the Dovedale River between Ilam & Milldale in the Peak District.

Only recently has Ella been able to go forward facing in the baby carrier due to her poor head control (which has improved a lot very recently). She did well, but we had to swap her to rear facing half way round as she did get tired.

She loved being able to see what was going on.....and to eat ice cream!

Talking of going back to work, I did do a random 'keep-in-touch' shift on Tuesday.   I arrived a little early so had a quick glance down the off-duty to see who I would be working with that afternoon. To my surprise I only recognised one name.  The other three girls are all new and have all started since I left last October.  We had a busy but steady afternoon (no dramas or problems, I wasn't ready for that yet!).  It was good to meet the new girls.  They are all, unfortunately, on temporary contracts and a vacancy for just one full-time post on the ward has come up so from what I understand they are all applying for it but only one of them will get the job.  It doesn't seem to be affecting the atmosphere, how hard they work or their working relationships which is testament to how good they all are.

Being back at work is strange, but in a good way.  I expected there to be a lot of changes and things to get used to, but other than new faces (patients and staff), everything seems very much the same. Being a nurse is much more than just a job, it is part of who you are and what makes up your identity and personality. 

When Ella was born, she was on special care for two weeks as we had problems establishing feeding. I found it a really difficult time being a nurse, who had  - more importantly - just become a mummy to a poorly baby.  The clinical environment was familiar and comforting (although to other parents I can appreciate it's a very daunting and frightening experience). The nurses did a lot of Ella's cares and Ian was cup feeding her while I expressed milk for her next feed.  I felt bereft and detached - neither a mum nor nurse. I didn't know what was expected of me and, at times, I didn't even feel like Ella was mine. 

Thankfully, this all changed once we were home and I was able to properly become a mum. By this time she was being bottle fed so I was now able to be involved at feeding times too.  It made me realise how much what I do for a living influences who I am and it's probably for this reason that I am (not so secretly) looking forward to going back to work.  Don't worry about Ella though, she will be off to nursery which will be great for her character and development. A daunting but exciting time....

Bring on the mayhem!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday in South Manchester

So, Sunday.  The end of another busy week, or the start of a new one depending on your views.  It is also a day of rest....for some.  Unfortunately, to a small baby, Sunday is just the same as any other day.  And with Ian on nights, there was no lie-in for me.

The best days are those where there are no plans.  No work, no appointments, no visitors.  No need to tidy the toys off the carpet, think about what to wear, make the bed or worry about getting out of the house on time. 

Today is a rare, empty square on my calendar - like life is holding it's breath.  A quick text to some friends turns up no takers for coffee or a walk.... their calendars dictate charity cricket matches, family visits and holidays. 

So, we head off to Lyme Park for the afternoon and take a stroll through the woodlands, letting Ella wonder at the trees and explore the world around her.  She's not entirely impressed, having cut her first tooth yesterday and with a second not too far behind.  Her grouchiness is, however, interspersed with moments of rapture as she smiles at her daddy in a way only a baby girl can.

There is a huge emphasis on sensory learning for babies.  Especially those with additional needs.  So, wherever we go, we encourage Ella to see, hear and touch the world around her as much as possible (as for taste, everything ends up in her mouth at the moment!).  The woodland was an easy choice, Ella loves trees. There is a huge horse chesnut tree at the end of our road. It's trunk sits in the corner of the school playground with the huge branches creating a complete 360 degree canopy. We stop underneath it everytime we pass and it never fails to light up her face and make her eyes twinkle. I will be sad when autumn comes and the leaves begin to fall.

The only thing with lazy days, especially Sundays is that they are over all too quickly.  Ella was soon tucked up in bed and Ian was leaving for work.  As for me, I am going to enjoy my blank square for a few hours longer, before life exhales and Monday morning brings in a new week.......
Photo dump of the day:

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