Being Teddy’s Mum

Being Teddy’s Mum

If you don’t already follow Elle aka @feathering_the_empty_nest you should, her feed is an oasis of ‘calm-tastefully-put-togetherness’; (all the sort of things I hope to achieve but never quite manage it). Not only does Elle have exceptional taste she is also doing wonderful for things for baby loss awareness.

In May 2016 Elle and her husband lost their precious son at just a few days old, here she shares a glimpse into that time and the legacy Teddy has left behind:

  • After a full term, healthy pregnancy; Edward Constantine Wright, or “Teddy” as he’ll always be known, came into the world on Monday 16th May 2016, at 6.45pm and weighed 6lb 2oz.  I remember thinking “how tiny” he looked.

  • I felt like the proudest Mum who had ever lived when I wheeled him down the corridor in his little tank, as we made our way to the ward.  Bursting with pride, I wanted to show him off to the world.

  • During that first night, as we were sleeping; Teddy stopped breathing.  My world stopped turning.

  • The nurse ran away with him, his little arm falling limply to his side. I will never un-see that.

  • As sense of panic ran through the ward as we saw lights flashing and figures running; they were trying to save our son.

  • Half an hour, or so, passed and we were visited by a paediatrician who told us we had a “Very sick little boy”, but they had brought him back.

  • Teddy was in the SCUBU, and was going to be transferred to a NICU at another hospital.  Truth be told I didn’t know what either of these things stood for, why would I?

  • I now know that SCUBU means “Special Care Baby Unit”; they are able to look after most poorly babies, but not those who are critically ill.

  • NICU means “Neonatal Intensive Care Unit”; it’s here that they care for the babies like Teddy who are very unwell after birth, or those who enter this world early.

  • We went to the NICU later that day to follow Teddy who was taken in a specialist ambulance.  When we got there, I couldn’t really take in what was happening.

  • Teddy was rigged up to so many machines; all beeping and monitoring his every function.  My heart ached to hold him, but I couldn’t touch him.

  • He looked so tiny lying there; so tiny and helpless.

  • Our parents came to meet him.  My Mum stroked his little head and spoke to him.  I didn’t think I could feel any prouder of him, but I did in that moment.

  • The consultants kept on meeting with us; they were trying to find out what was wrong with Teddy and they were running every single test they could on him to find possible clues.

  • Teddy’s condition was deteriorating; we had been in the NICU for over 24 hours and he was just two days old.

  • We spent every moment we could with him; willing him back to life; wishing so hard that he would just open his eyes.  I used up every single wish I am ever likely to be granted in this lifetime.

  • I hated seeing him with wires coming out of him; I hated it so much.  I wanted to rip them all out and run away with him, but I knew they were keeping him alive, and I knew that the team in the NICU were doing everything in their power to keep him comfortable and make him better.

  • We read him a bedtime story over his tank, as we stroked the back of his neck.  We were a proper family of three.

  • The following day the doctors told us that Teddy wasn’t getting better; that he wasn’t going to get any better.  That we had to let him go.

  • I howled with pain and dropped to the floor.  I felt like I could physically feel my heart breaking in two.  My Mum and husband held me as I sobbed.

  • Our parents were so sad; I kept saying sorry to everyone.  I felt guilty and it felt like it was all my fault. Bringing your baby into the world is supposed to be the happiest event of them all.  How had this happened to us?

  • We had a matter of hours with Teddy to do all of the things we hadn’t been able to; hold him, change him, and create memories to try and last a lifetime.

  • At 8.30pm on Thursday 19th May 2016 Teddy took his last breaths in our arms; no wires or machines, away from the sterile environment he had been in for those days, in a hospital room surrounded by his family.  As he did we read bedtime story; “Guess How Much I Love You?”, as he slipped away, knowing we were there and knowing how much we love him.

  • I didn’t feel afraid, because I didn’t want Teddy to know I was. I wanted him to feel safe and loved, in that moment and forever.  

  • After Teddy died we left the hospital and drove home, with an empty car seat in the back and a bag full of clothes and nappies he never wore.  In that moment, I felt like the only person who had ever left a hospital empty armed and broken hearted; I felt completely alone.

  • I didn’t believe in “heartbreak” until I lost Teddy; but those days that followed his death I swear I could feel my heart breaking, it was a very real and physical pain, one that I will never forget.

  • In the months that followed, I realised that, sadly, I wasn’t alone; that thousands of babies die in the UK every year.

  • I am proud to say that many of these incredible Mothers who have lost babies and are now honouring them through charity work, and writing, have now become my dear friends.

  • My husband and I agreed that we would never let what happened to Teddy define us in a negative way; that he would never be the reason that we didn’t or couldn’t in life, but the reason that we did.

  • I wrote many letters to Teddy in the weeks that followed his death, and I made a promise to him that I would do everything I could to ensure he was remembered and that he created a legacy that would continue to save the lives of other sick babies.

  • In January 2017, I began writing my own blog “Feathering The Empty Nest”, a story of how my home came to save me after losing Teddy.

  • Blogging has been both cathartic and a brilliant way to connect with even more wonderful women who are experiencing this kind of Motherhood.

  • Now I never feel alone, and I would hate to think that there is anyone out there who is feeling that way.

  • Lots of my time is taken up with writing and replying to all of the lovely people who get in touch; but much of it is also taken up fundraising for Teddy’s Legacy fund.

  • So far, we have raised over £35,500 for the NICU who cared so lovingly for Teddy and who worked tirelessly in those days to try and save his life.

  • We will never be able to thank them for all that they did for Teddy, but hopefully the money that we are raising will help to save the lives of other sick and premature babies so that less families have to leave the hospital empty armed.

  • I now volunteer on the NICU committee, so I also get to be involved in the decision-making process of how the money raised is then invested back into the unit and the staff; it is both an honour and a privilege to be involved in.

  • My blog isn’t just about Teddy and baby loss; it’s about home, fashion, lifestyle and lots of laughs along the way.  Learning to laugh again after loss can be really hard, but I like to think that my humour and outlook has helped us through.

  • If it wasn’t for Instagram and blogging, goodness knows where I would be today.  Meeting other women who experienced what I have, really did save me, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

  • I really hope now that I am writing that my words can do the same for others, and I really hope that I am keeping my promise to Teddy and creating a legacy that he is proud of.

  • Teddy may not be here with us now, but he is, and will always be, so very loved.

Motherhood and Ramadan

Motherhood and Ramadan

I came across Nilly Dahilia via the @channelmum page, Nilly was sharing her experience of Ramadan and I was absolutely fascinated. My knowledge of this part of religious calender has been very limited, other than what happens in and around the streets of Peckham, I loved getting a personal insight. The biggest insight I took from it was a new appreciation of what it must be like to look after small children whilst fasting.

Thank you Nilly for this special glimpse into your life and Eid Mubarak!

  • Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar and it is when you fast from sunrise to sunset for upto 30 days. The young, elderly, sick, travelling, pregnant, breastfeeding are excused from fasting. This is the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar as the Qur’an was revealed to our Prophet (peace be upon him). It’s also the most exciting for me, as I love celebrating Ramadan with my kids!
  • This month is special as we use this time to reconnect with God. Alongside not eating food for daylight hours, we also cannot drink anything – yes, not even water. We use this month to encourage ourselves to pray more, be kinder, avoid swearing or lying, gentle in our character and we also are not allowed to have sex. That has to be saved till after sunset, ladies!
  • As ramadan is falling in the summer months these last few years, some countries are fasting upto 22 hours! UK is fairly long as well at 19 hours this year! However, as the hours are rather long, many Muslim mothers in the UK are finding this month, although spiritual, a very lonely, tiring and long month. Some mothers are not able to complete all their prayers and they find they cannot reconnect to God the same way they did prior to being mothers. And, many mothers do feel guilty about feeling like this. But, we are encouraged to remind ourselves that it is about the quality of our prayers rather than the quantity of prayers we do.
  • For suhoor (breakfast) we try to eat wholesome meals which would provide energy for the entire day so we tend to eat porridge with chia seeds, honey with lots of fruit. But, you can eat whatever your heart desires. My husband usually eats another dinner, with complex carbohydrates, vegetables and chickpeas as it keeps him fuller for longer. And, we like to drink coconut water to boost our hydration. But, it is hard to eat a full breakfast at 2am in the morning!
  • Chasing after young children on an empty stomach is draining enough, and can put mothers in a low mental state, however, due to maintaining children’s bath and bedtime routine, mothers are home for the entire evening and not being able to break their fasts in a social environment with their friends like they would have done in the past makes mothers feel extremely lonely. This is something I have personally struggled with since becoming a mother, especially even more so when my husband is not home in the evenings, either. I am breaking the fast on my own entirely.
  • For iftar (breaking the fast) we are encouraged to open our fasts with a date or two, as it fuels an empty body with sugar, energy and nutrients quickly as they help the body’s blood glucose levels return to normal. It also stops you from overeating, which is what most people assume we do after a day of fasting! Non-Muslims also assume we have a large feast everyday, but most people have a small meal as they have to do evening prayers and additional ramadan prayers, as overeating can leave us feel lethargic and we end up getting lazy with our prayers. I like to have watermelons, pineapples, oranges, cucumber and any other fruit or vegetables that have a high water content so hydrate my body quickly. I also enjoy having a biryani, salad and yoghurt for my meal. And, if I’m feeling naughty, I like to have some samosas, but we are discouraged from eating fried foods.
  • One way I have tried to find the spirit of Ramadan again is to make it a big deal for my children. My parents never made a fuss about Ramadan or Eid. They never did decorations and didn’t make Islam fun! I always found the month to be a chore, and regretfully, I would dread Ramadan growing up.
  • This is something I definitely did not want for my children. I want them to love Islam and approach it with happiness and not dread. The beautiful thing about having a young family is that you can start Ramadan/Eid traditions for you and your family to enjoy. We always put decorations up at the start of Ramadan, fill the advent calendar with small toys, sweets and a task of the day (this is mostly to keep the kids occupied and I don’t need to think too hard on activities for the day).
  • I get the kids involved and excited for Ramadan by making homemade decorations, baking treats for neighbours, reading Islamic stories, preparing iftar (breaking the fast meal) together and, of course, buying lots and lots of presents! I even made a kindness calendar for my toddlers, so they had a kindness task of the day. It was a great opportunity to teach them about being kind. This is the first year, Kamil has been interested and asking questions – I’m sure it has nothing to do with his Ramadan advent calendar which has a piece of chocolate for each day!
  • Some Muslims might think I am OTT with my Ramadan decorating, as they feel it takes away the essence of Ramadan, which is reconnecting with God. But, I grew up with celebrating and putting more emphasis on Christmas than a Muslim holiday, which I think is more important to do for my faith. And, this isn’t how I wanted to raise my kids. They are of dual-heritage where their grandmother on my husbands side is not Muslim. Where they celebrate Easter and Christmas. I do encourage my kids to be involved in their celebrations so they can experience other faiths. But, it can be confusing for them if they see Christmas trees everywhere except their living room. And, this is why I do decorations, activities everyday for the month, constantly talking about it for the month, so they can see that they may not celebrate Christmas like everyone else, but we have Ramadan and Eid, which is equally as exciting!
  • I like to break the day up with activities and we like to do a different arts and craft activity everyday – we usually do this around 3pm when I start to lag. We’ve made cardboard mosques, Eid cards for family, Eid decorations, homemade presents and decorating sugar cookies. And, its just such a lovely way to teach them early about the faith.
  • We are now at the end of the month of fasting, and to mark the end of this rewarding month, we celebrate with a major festival called Eid al-Fitr! It’s a great opportunity to see friends and exchange gifts. It’s a joyous time and there are a lot of samosas passed around! We wear new clothes/ our best clothes as we are now the best versions of ourselves after a month of soul detoxing. We mark the occasion by saying – ‘Eid Mubarak’. ‘Eid’ means ‘celebration’ and ‘mubarak’ means blessed – so you’re blessing someone’s celebration! We find out at sunset on Thursday if we will be celebrating Eid on Friday or Saturday.
  • The boys go to the mosque to perform their Eid prayers first thing in the morning. They wear thobes (ankle length gown worn by men) to the mosque and this year, I have matching thobes for them, which I’m very excited to see! And, by the time they come back, I would have prepared our special Eid breakfast, which is a combination of Bangladeshi breakfast and Turkish breakfasts, as I know my husband appreciates me incorporating his culture into our routine. Bengali breakfasts are usually sweet with a vermicelli milky dessert, handesh (fried batter made from flour and date molasses) and luchi’s (puris). Whilst, traditional Turkish breakfasts consist of eggs, spicy sausages, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, jam and honey!
  • After that, we exchange presents, which is definitely the highlight for us as its so lovely to see the children get excited for all their new toys. And, it’s something I didn’t do as a child so I go all out and spoil my children to make up for it. We then go out for an Eid lunch and visit friends and family until it’s time to come home for the kids bedtime.
  • I always feel a little deflated once the month of Ramadan is over, but they say it takes 21 days for a habit to form and if you have been good for the last 30 days we should be able to carry on with our good behaviour once Ramadan passes, which is comforting to know. The kids are a little too young to miss Ramadan once it passes and I’m sure they don’t miss me nibbling off their plates once I can eat during the day again! But, it’s just such a beautiful month and we are really motivated to make the most of Ramadan, as we are never guaranteed to meet the next Ramadan!
  • As I pack away my decorations and the children’s crafts this year, and hopefully when they look back in the years to come they can see we have always celebrated Ramadan and Eid (and their mum always went all out)…I know I did the best job I could to make it fun and memorable for my children.
  • If you see someone celebrating Eid over the next few days, do smile and say Eid Mubarak. I promise, they will be so happy that you greeted them with this phrase.
  • Eid Mubarak, Ladies!

My Husband The Agoraphobic

My Husband The Agoraphobic

Any longtime followers will know I am passionate about mental health. Though my focus is frequently in relation to Motherhood, I am all too aware of the terrifying stats surrounding male mental health. We lost a family friend to depression in his early twenties and as a Mum to boys I really want to help them find ways to express what’s going on in side their head.

Sarah Perrins account of her once outgoing husband suddenly struggling to go a short distance from home without being plagued with anxiety really struck a chord. Mental Health is indiscriminate, it really can affect us all. And sharing our own experiences, such as this, is one step towards opening up the conversation:

  • Before my husband developed Agoraphobia, I had never heard of it. I had no concept of what it meant, what could cause it, how to treat it or how to cope with it on a daily basis. It has taken an awfully long time for us to reach a place of mutual understanding regarding this illness. Now I don’t ask him to go to places with me or the girls because I know he can’t, and if he can then he will without the need for me to ask. It’s been really long, difficult journey up until now, and it’s one I know we will all be incredibly happy to see the back of when he eventually gets better.  

  • If you don’t know, and there’s no shame in it if you don’t, Agoraphobia is the fear of going outside. There are many different types of Agoraphobia and my husband suffers from “Distance Related Agoraphobia”. This means he can go so far from the house, but then becomes irritable, has sudden panic attacks, anxiety attacks and the onset of severe IBS. He has to get home as quickly as he can. Some kind of fear sets in which he cannot rationalise or justify, he just has to be back in the safety of his home, where he is surrounded by familiarity.

  • He had to leave his job before he was diagnosed because the stress of travelling 20 minutes to work, having to stay there, so far away from home and then travel 20 minutes back again. It was making him so ill and anxious. He hasn’t been able to get back into work since and I think he’s worried that if/when he does, the Agoraphobia will come screaming back into his life and he will have to start the healing process all over again. He is slowly getting back on his own two feet, but it’s a slow, arduous process.

  • I was totally unprepared to look Agoraphobia in eye when our daughter was born in 2010, when I was just 20 years old. My husband, even less so. He went back and forth to hospital to have endless tests, and after 18 months of wondering what the hell it was, he was finally referred to a councillor. The first councillor he saw wasn’t experienced enough to handle my husband’s case so he tried a different councillor, and another, and another, until eventually he found a man who he clicked with, who understood the issues he was facing and knew how to help. 

  • He was told that the stress of having a new born had triggered it.

  • He suddenly wasn’t in control of his life anymore. The baby had taken over and his brain just couldn’t cope with it all, so it took over control of his ability to leave the house. It’s hard to understand, believe me; I’ve spent a long time trying! To be honest I don’t think my husband understands it fully either. Unfortunately, this wonderful councillor had to move away to a different practice that was too far for my husband to visit.

  • The last few years have been a huge (ongoing) journey for us as a family, and for us a couple. But, first and foremost it’s been the most challenging, trying and difficult time for him. He was, and still is to a point, the most sociable, outgoing person I’ve ever met. He’s the complete opposite of me, and if it wasn’t for his shining personality I’d probably still be stuck in my shell. I’d imagined a perfect life for us, as all couples do, but mental illness doesn’t give a s*it what your plans, hopes or dreams are. Anything we had planned now has to wait. The is no deadline for this to end, we have no choice but to wait for as long as it takes.

  • Looking at my husband you would have no idea. He’d never tell you he suffered from Agoraphobia, or the IBS, panic attacks or anxiety attacks. Mental illness can be so well hidden by a person if they choose to hide it. I know he doesn’t like to talk about it because more often than not, the people he talks to can’t understand it, and he doesn’t blame them.

  • Mental illness can be impossible to understand from an outsider’s point of view.  I find it so hard to read him sometimes to gauge how he’s doing, but I’ve learnt that all he really needs from me is understanding and although sometimes I feel totally in the dark with how he’s doing, I just have to deal with it.

  • You need to have an endless amount of patience. It’s a difficult concept for anyone to wrap their head around so dealing it with one day at a time is SO important. One day he can feel almost completely back to full health, and other days he can’t leave the house for a minute.

  • My husband once described his Agoraphobia to me like this, “Imagine if every time you opened the front door there were millions of spiders outside. You wouldn’t leave the house”. And he’s right. I wouldn’t.

  • It’s been hard for me to cope with at times. Although I know it’s much harder from him, the strain this put on our relationship was almost palpable at its worst.

  • Wrapping your head around someone else’s mental illness is extremely difficult, particularly when it’s not such a common illness and it’s not in the spotlight as much as others.

  • Speaking up about it really did help. My husband is a closed book. There is no way to know how he really feels but he did acknowledge he needed help and after several referrals to less experienced councillors, and others that he just didn’t click with, he went to see a fantastic councillor. Over the years they worked together to try to recognise, understand and overcome his triggers. He’s tried different mental and physical exercises to find what works best for him. Now he’s moving forward with the tools his councillor gave him so he can continue to progress on his own.

  • Over the years, whilst learning how to deal with everything, I was selfish. I was angry. I was properly p***ed off. I still am to a point. Not at him, but just at how cruel life can be. Nobody wants this, and if it wasn’t for this mental illness, we would all be happier.

  • To this day we haven’t been on holiday as a couple or a family.

  • We’ve just started to go on day trips that are close to home, and as a couple, we’ve been out on a handful of dates in 9 years. I know that in the grand scheme of things none of that really matters but it does sometimes, especially because it means that we don’t get to spend time together as a couple, instead of as parents. Not having that alone time, can push your patience and relationship to the limit.

  • The financial strain this put on us has been pretty intense. After he left work 7 years ago, it was hard to imagine how we were going to cope. He had to apply for benefits, in particular ESA (Employment and Support Allowance). It took months before the Department for Work and Pensions recognised Agoraphobia as a serious mental illness. After several letters from various doctors and his councillor, and after endless hours of phone calls, they finally believed him. Meanwhile, I continued to work full time to do what I could to help us all cope.

  • Our eldest daughter, who will be 8 this year, has grown up with all of this. She knows that if we go to the beach, or somewhere far from home, Daddy won’t be coming with us. She still wants him to, but it’s second nature for her to go without him and not really question why.

  • Sometimes she gets upset when he can’t come with us to various fun places, but like all children, she’s very resilient. We balance things out with her Dad taking her to places nearby, like Music School every Saturday morning, and I take her and her little sister to places further away, like Disneyland this winter.

  • In the end though, what I’ve really learnt is that mental illnesses can affect everyone. I was, I’ll admit, ignorant to how much it can affect a person, and how incredibly difficult it can be for that person to explain how they feel. Having patience and even just trying to begin to understand what that person is going through can go such a long way.

  • Every day is still a struggle for my husband. Sometimes he believes that he’ll never fully recover, and that he’ll be this way forever. Sometimes I worry that he will, but I don’t let either of us get too down about it. Staying positive even on the worst of days helps us get through it. I know he will get back to his old self, free from the restraints of Agoraphobia and all the s*it that goes with it. We’re both just taking it one day at a time.

Parenting Overseas

Parenting Overseas

I’ve had people write about going travelling with kids and people of different nationalities parenting in the UK, but bizarrely never had anyone share the experience of being an expat. Again, relocating is one of those things I’ve always imagined doing as a family, but as yet haven’t managed to go beyond dreaming about.

Here Kate Farr gives us the inside info about life in Hong Kong:

  • If you’d have told me ten years ago that I’d have two kids, born in Shanghai and Hong Kong – and that I’d be eight years into living in Asia, I would never have believed you!

  • When my husband and I first arrived in Hong Kong from London in 2009, we had no idea that we would end up staying for so long, but after a few months we both fell hard for the city and had a fantastic couple of years partying and making some great friends.

  • I’d always assumed that we would probably return to the UK to have kids, but just as we discovered that I was pregnant with our now-six-year-old, my husband was offered a move to Shanghai for work. We decided it sounded like a great adventure, eventually moving to China when I was four months pregnant.

  • At first I was fine – busy setting up our new place, taking Mandarin classes, doing a bit of freelance writing and running all over Shanghai with all that fantastic second trimester energy!

  • It was only after the dust had settled that it dawned on me that I’d essentially just lost my support network overnight, right when I was about to need it most.

  • I’m not a natural-born networker, but I forced myself to answer every expat forum post, attend every coffee morning and join every pregnancy group, and was lucky to find a small group of great women from all over the world that really I clicked with. As it turned out, this was just in the nick of time, as soon I really needed friends to lean on.   

  • My eldest son’s birth – at one of Shanghai’s fanciest private hospitals (thank God for health insurance) – was incredibly traumatic. A failed induction, three failed epidurals, and eventually, after hours of agonising labour without pain relief, a crash C-section under general anaesthetic. At one point, my husband didn’t know if either of us was alive or dead, and to this day, I have no recollection of meeting my son for the first time, several hours after his birth.

  • I felt I’d completely failed to give birth “properly”, and, from the moment we left hospital, I also felt totally overwhelmed. My son wasn’t a great sleeper for a really long time, and I was gradually sucked into what I now know was PND, with a hefty dose of anxiety thrown in.

  • Living in Shanghai compounded this anxiety – daily life in China can be extremely complicated, bureaucratic and stressful – all magnified when you are a new mum. I was lucky to have a tight-knit group of new friends, as well as close friends back home, but even then struggled to admit to anyone that I wasn’t coping well.

  • We eventually made the decision to leave Shanghai, and returned to Hong Kong at the end of 2012. It felt like coming home, and my anxiety eased almost immediately.

  • Nearly four years later, my youngest son’s birth was completely different. I had a planned caesarean in a government hospital, and I’ll be forever grateful to Hong Kong’s excellent public health system for making it such a positive experience.

  • My kids have only known Hong Kong as home. Although they hold British passports, they have actually only ever visited the UK a couple of times and consider it to be a pretty exotic destination!

  • Parenting kids in a different environment and culture to your own is a bit of a weird one. You come to realise that your cultural reference points are totally different, and that their norms and comfort zones vary wildly to yours.

  • For example, we spent a month this summer with my Mum and Dad, who live in France. One day, my eldest son burst into tears. I thought he was missing his friends, but it turns out that he was actually missing his favourite dim sum!

  • The boys also find driving around everywhere to be wildly exciting, as we don’t have a car in Hong Kong, so it’s relatively easy to entertain them when we visit, just by popping to Tesco!

  • A big challenge is that our kids regularly have to face losing close friends to relocation, and it’s one of the hardest things to help them deal with. So many expats stay a couple of years then move on; it’s tough to be the ones who stay.

  • We consider Hong Kong our home, and so wanted our kids to learn Cantonese, the local language. Our eldest attends a local primary school, and our youngest will start at a Cantonese-medium kindergarten in the autumn. It’s not an easy choice for non-Chinese speaking families, but we feel it’s an important part of helping our children connect with their home city.

  • That said, Cantonese-speaking foreigners are something of a rarity in HK, and my son often pretends not to speak any Chinese, as he hates people staring at him and commenting. I hope in time that will change to pride in what is a pretty impressive ability.

  • The most important thing I can suggest to anyone relocating overseas is to get outside the expat bubble and explore. Get a feel for what most people’s everyday life looks like; try to learn a bit about the local culture, try food that you’ve never encountered back home. Embrace the differences.

  • Be open-minded. You’re sure to miss some things from back home (in my case Sainsbury’s, bonfire night and a garden!), but you’ll find other things that are far better in your new location (incredible views, beaches just ten minutes from the city, and the BEST dim sum!).  

  • I’ve met plenty of people who are on a plane back to their home country every couple of months and, unsurprisingly, never really feel settled. Give yourself time to feel at home in your new location. If you’re feeling homesick, there’s always Skype.

  • I actually dislike referring to myself as an expat, which I feel is a loaded term (although I appreciate this is a personal choice). We’re proud immigrants to Hong Kong. 

My Baby Won’t Eat

My Baby Won’t Eat

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 19.43.04We all know fussy-eaters: one’s who insist on only eating beige food or who are particular about what goes with what. But what if your child struggles more than that? Here Lindsay aka @weaningrigby shares her journey of going from boobing to tube-feeding:

  • The Beginning:

  • Rigby Rose Marie Wark, born 6 days late but came out like thunder. Literally. Water broke and 20 minutes later we welcomed our sweet girl into the world.

  • Took to the breast right away, which was huge for me as I had a lot of trouble with my son initially with tongue tie, cup feeding and pain. This time it would be different. I said. 

  • At home, feeding was going well and Riggs managed to gain all of her birth weight back by the 3rd day – all 9.2lbs of it! 

  • Second baby – I had this. Leave me to it midwife… see you in 3 weeks. 

  • -Strangely at 3 weeks, no further weight had been gained. I was shocked but had to be a good reason. Tongue tie – shit. Okay, all sounding strangely familiar. Wasn’t happy to be going through all of ‘this’ again but lets get it snipped and be on our merry way.

  • 4 weeks. the snip. feed. sleep. feed. poop. cuddle. sleep. 

  • She has always been a great sleeper. We lucked out that one! 

  • 5 weeks still no weight gain. Why??!! 

  • Panic sets in. 

  • Doctors appointments start piling in. Breastfeeding clinic, Midwife. Paediatrician. Specialist Gastric Paediatrician. 

  • Ordered to only breastfeed on one side, pump and bottle feed to see what is going in. Make sure she is consuming X amount. – – Track input and output. Try this nipple. These bottles are good. Clockwork. Weigh her before and after a feed. Weigh her daily. – – Should only be a few weeks, then you will get her back on the boob properly. 

  • 6 weeks. Slight weight gain but very little. Starting to turn away from the breast, not eating as much as we’ve been told she HAS to eat in the 24 hours. 

  • Diagnosed with acid reflux. Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 19.42.55

  • If that wasn’t enough, she also has a suck and swallow underdevelopment – so breastfeeding will be hard for her until she gets older, maybe 4 months? Full bottle feeds with extra fatty powder to get her weight up. Can keep her suckling on breast to keep her interested.

  • Her interest in the bottle is decreasing. We are finding it harder to get her to eat. We push. Must get the numbers in. We find she eats better when drowsy or asleep. So we are confined to a crazy schedule of keeping her to sleep so we can feed her. 

  • Quick she is sleeping – FEED THE BABY! 

  • 7 weeks. She won’t wake up. Rigby has been asleep since midnight last night and its now 2pm – has only accepted small amounts of bottled milk. Will wake when diaper changed or undressed but then goes straight back to sleep. 

  • Our first A&E visit was not pleasant. The doctors did manage to wake her… by trying to find a vein to take blood. Have you ever seen a 7 week old give blood in the arm? 4 pokes later, they got it. 8 hours later, we were sent home. No answer no solution. Maybe she was just overtired from not eating enough. Bye bye. 

  • Pumping full time with 2 kids is tough! We introduce formula – Rigby is not keen. Even harder to get the bottle in her mouth. asleep or awake. Her TFI (Total Fluid Intake) is about 50% of what it should be. Panic. Tired. Stressed. Keep going. Keep going. 

  • Another day of not waking up, no matter how hard we try. The culprit… the reflux medication! Not one doctor out of the 4 gave this as a reason for the extreme drowsiness… we stop these meds ASAP. 

  • Back to the doctors for new reflux meds and now she is also diagnosed with Thrush – meds orally for this. I taste the meds. SO GROSS! 

  • On 10 rounds of medication daily

  • 8 weeks. JABS. Rigby does brilliantly. So proud of our big girl. 

  • That night, Rigby’s fever is rising, she is irritable and refusing to eat. We are worried about dehydration. 

  • A&E trip number 2. They check for dehydration. Although she is on the low line, not dehydrated. Thank goodness! Give me a pat no the back for being strong. 6 hours later. We are sent home. 

  • Decide to venture out of the house so that our son, Barnaby who is 2.5 years can get some play time. Soft play – joy. 

  • Rigby is arching and crying and losing her mind when I try to feed her. Kids everywhere. People looking at me. Stressed. On the verge of tears. Call our doctor – HELP ME! 

  • 9 weeks. The decision is made to admit Rigby into hospital for monitoring and inserting a feeding tube. 

  • It will only be temporary they tell us. Maybe a month tops. Just so she can see what a full belly feels like. This is the first time an aversion to feeding is mentioned. Lets just get her gaining weight. We are worried but feel relief that we will start to see the scale numbers increase. 

  • Admitted on a Sunday. Rigby is a dream with the nurses. Everyone loves her. More blood work. 3 pokes this time. 

  • Failure to Thrive. Aversion to feeding. The tube is confirmed as the ONLY solution. 

  • Wednesday. An NG tube is inserted into Rigby’s nose. The nurses are lovely and very quick. Rigby and I both cry when its going in and for the rest of the night. 

  • The numbers are rising – hurray! 

  • We learn how to feed our daughter through a tube. Syringe out stomach acid. Check PH. Flush with water. Gravity feed milk. Flush with water….our new ’normal’. 

  • We are sent home on a Friday. Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 19.42.44

  • Life with the Tube:

  • Riggs is gaining weight. 

  • No timeline is set. Lets see how she goes they say. 

  • We can start her on solids early. 

  • Try the bottle but don’t push it. 

  •  Feed her with a syringe and dummy. 

  • Feeds through the tube become 95%

  • She pulls the tube out…. panic. 

  • Back to A&E – more crying. tube is back in. 

  • Rigby gets a nasty cold. This time sneezes the tube out.

  •  Back to A&E – even more crying. tube is back in. 

  • People ask “what is wrong with your baby”? Or the beloved ‘poor you’ stare and smile… when we manage to venture out of the house. 

  • The tube is long and in the way. It gets stuck on everything and pulls at her face. The stickers are large and take up her entire cheek. 

  • She pulls out the tube again… you get the picture. 

  • I need a plan!!! Ask the OT and PED what is next?! She is gaining but not taking the bottle? How do we get her to take the bottle? WHAT IS THE PLAN!? 

  • I get a smile and ‘don’t rush it’ comment. Try solids. Expect the tube to be in for 6-12 months. 

  • She is vomiting – a lot. Every feed.She is uncomfortable. WHY? 

  • Her tummy is not breaking down the food quick enough. Try this other medication. More medication. 

  • Try solids – she is 3.5 months at this stage – she doesn’t care about solids! Not enough to maintain a healthy weight. 

  • Pulls the tube out for the 10th time. TENTH TIME. We decide we can’t go back to A&E. We do it. Okay, that wasn’t so bad… besides all of the crying. 

  • Endless searching of #NGTUBE & #TUBBIEMOMS… 

  • I am a TUBBIEMOM! How did this happen?

  • How to wean tube feeding baby. I read blogs and forums of similar stories, not many… but just enough to get me by. We are not alone. 

  • This can’t be Rigby’s life for the next year. Its not fair. 

  • I find a website… could this be our answer?

  • Testimonies are incredible. She is in Australia and has article after article about tube dependency, feeding aversions and how to overcome them! 

  • I email her straight away – within 30 minutes, Rowena replies with a 150 questions to answer. This feels good. 

  •  Rowena replies with some pretty heavy theories on Rigby’s ‘issues’. To summaries; 

  • Tongue tie may have inhibited her ability to feed well at the start. However, part of the reason we may have felt inclined to pressure her to feed is because of the appearance of poor growth in the early weeks. Which may have been at least in part due to something called ‘catch-down’ growth . Basically, Rigby was born nice and plump but was genetically destined to be long and lean like her brother was at birth… in theory. Babies can go through a catch down growth for up to a month… but the doctors kept pressuring us to make Rigby grow. Which we then pressured Rigby to eat in order to grow. She was not gaining an ‘average’ amount of weight… so spring forward 4 months and all of this may very well have been avoided IF any of the number of medical professionals considered this. 

  • Also a good chance we were overfeeding Rigby (through the tube) … her TFI was 30% over the recommended intake in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. We are in Canada, who has a different idea of what is a healthy intake. 

  • I felt sick when I read Rowena’s 2 page reply on Rigby’s history. 

  •  Medical professionals are incredibly clever people. They go to school for years and know how to fix sick babies – I am forever grateful for the doctors who tried to help Rigby. However, Rigby was not sick. She was just developing at a slower rate and instead of seeing this, the doctors had to diagnose her with something … well, medical. There is a very good chance she never did have reflux or a suck and swallow underdevelopment. She just didnt want to eat as much as we wanted her too. So she didn’t 

  • The tube weaning begins

  • After 2 months of having the tube in, ruling our life we find out the tube was a ‘band-aid’ for the real problem. The feeding aversion. In fact, tube feeding indirectly reinforced Rigby’s bottle-feeding aversion because it allows her to avoid feeding orally.  

  • I stop myself from living in the past and look to the future. 

  • Rowena is going to help us wean Rigby off the tube

  • 7 days after we start the weaning process – we take the tube out. 7 days!! 

  • 7 days of tears and stress and happy moments when Rigby starts to except the bottle

  • We are now on day 12 and still tube free! 

  • Still a long way to go. Rigby has been spoiled with only breastmilk but we will have to start introducing formula soon. 

  • There are still bad days or hard feeds but she is learning and so are we. 

  • We let Rigby lead the feed – she now decides, which I know she enjoys. 

  • We hope to never see that tube again!Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 19.43.13**Lynsey has also started Nourish Consultancy offering support and advise on feeding aversions.**

I Was a Homeless Teen

I Was a Homeless Teen

I look back at my teenage years and wince. There was lots of fun but also so much anger and confusion and trying to find myself. But this account of Lianne’s (aka @this_mummy_can_lb) teens spent living in hostels really puts things in perspective. A remarkable story from a remarkable person.

  • At 17yrs old, my social worker broke the news to me that I was ‘too old’ for another foster placement and it was now time for me to go it alone. Petrified, all the anxieties of what life would have in store for me built up, but I didn’t have a choice. It was time for me to take care of myself, become an independent young adult.

  • I was placed in supported accommodation, or what most people call, a hostel.

  • Hostel is a funny word. I had always associated it with the film ‘Hostel’ (you know the one where all the guests are purchased and murdered?!), anyhow, my view of them was not a positive one. Turns out, this was the same for most peoples opinion of what a hostel was, and the kind of people that may live in one.

  • I have never been so scared for my future as I was then. I felt abandoned. Abandoned by the system that had become my parents for the previous few years. My social worker dropped me off with a singular box and a few black bags of my belongings, showed me to my room and promptly left. The hostel was staffed 24hrs a day, but I couldn’t see how I could ever trust another adult not to abandon me.

  • I can still see the empty room. A single bed, a fridge freezer and a sink in the corner of the room. My heart was just as empty. This was my new home. It was meant to be my new ‘safe place’ but I just couldn’t  imagine how this would ever be ‘home’. Even now, whenever I feel vulnerable, I can feel that emptiness.

  • The next day, I went into school. I was in the second year of my A-Levels, and despite wanting to fall down a dark hole, my school had been the only thing stable in my life for the past 8yrs and it was my sanctuary. Teachers were all very supportive, but when other students found out where I was living I felt this deep, painful shame. Too painful for me to go back. That was my last day.

  •  I returned to my room. I wanted to disappear. How had my life come to this? Sadness and fear turned to anger and resentment.

  • This resentment fuelled my need to reinvent myself. I realised I could be whoever I wanted to be. I was no longer going to be the timid, quiet girl who couldn’t bare to lift her head when talking to people. No, I was going to be confident and show everyone who I thought I wanted to be.

  • It didn’t take long for me to make some friends. When you are living in the same building and are sharing amenities, knowing someone for a few weeks felt like years.

  • Some of these friends would go on to be some of the most amazing women I have ever come across. One became my maid of honour and one a bridesmaid. Some are life long friends and I have shared some of the most amazing experiences with them.

  • It goes without saying that some of these friends I met, were not healthy nor real. In my new created character I betrayed myself as someone I was not, and with that I made some very VERY bad choices. I was constantly in self destruct mode. I didn’t care what happened to me, I never saw a future for me.

  •  I would walk round a town I didn’t know and would feel as if everyone was looking at me. They must know where I lived? If I ever had to tell someone where I lived, I could see the judgement in their face. I could feel it.

  •  I could not shift the feeling of shame. I was lost.

  • I attempted suicide, twice. I remember being released from hospital after the first time and going back to my room just to swallow another 80 pills. I laid on my bed and waited. I waited to feel myself dying. I woke up to a member of staff calling the emergency services and trying to make me open my eyes. I spent a week in hospital after being told my liver may never come back from this. The next step was complete liver failure.

  • The next few days and weeks went by in a blur, but I knew that the character I had created had been broken. The barriers were down and I had no choice but to let people in. I had to trust again. At least I had to learn how to.

  • I started to engage in support with the staff. I started to feel accountable. Someone knew of my existence and they cared. They had faith in me and slowly I started to believe that I may actually have a future.

  • I went to college to do a musical theatre diploma. Throughout my school years I had won bursaries for singing lessons, and the stage became my escape. It felt SO good to be back doing something that had given me so much joy.

  • After a while it dawned on me, that actually, I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I would. Its not that I didn’t enjoy it. I just didn’t need it anymore. My heart was healing, there was no longer a need for me to escape.

  • I realised that the journey I was on, was the most profound experience of my life. I relished in the realisation that I was a survivor, that I was going to make the most of my time at the hostel and make something of my life.

  • I suddenly became very proud of where I lived. I would sing at events to raise awareness and even put on my own showcase fundraiser to raise some much needed funds for the hostel.

  • It was at this fundraiser that my life changed forever. Another musician, a drummer came with his band to play for us and he would become my Husband and the father to my three children.

  •  In a serious relationship, holding down a full time job, it was now time for me to leave the hostel. We found ourselves a small flat and bit the bullet and moved in together.

  • 16 months I spent at the hostel. I saw some of my darkest days there but without them, I would never have seen the light. The most amazing and life changing experience of my life. I am indebted to the staff for all their support and the amazing friends I met along the way.

  • There was only one thing I now needed more than anything. I needed my own family. I had the man and the job/flat, and now it was time for a baby. Looking back, yes we were young, I was just 19 when I fell pregnant with my son, but I was ready. We were ready.

  • Our son was born at 31 weeks. It was tough. I never imagined I would have to experience anything traumatic again, but thats life. I had survived the worst alone, I could do this with my new family, we were made of tough stuff.

  • Our gorgeous boy was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when he was 17 months old. The vulnerability set in and for while I nearly drowned. I didn’t, I couldn’t, he was my life now and everything I do has to be for him. I had to have faith, I needed him to know that I believed in him.

  • He is 5yrs old now, and he shows us every day just how strong he is. He has defied the doctors and specialists. His determination and resilience has me in utter ore of him. We are tremendously proud.

  • 8yrs after moving into the hostel I have a wonderful husband and three(!) beautiful children. I could never have imagined I would be where I am now. I have given the past five years to my children and been my sons full time carer. When he started school this September gone, and with our third finally taking a bottle, I was ready. I was ready to go back into the world as Lianne.

  • I got into some charity work and through this was in contact with the manager at the hostel. Without hesitation she offered me a job. I could not believe my luck.

  • I have now been working as a support worker at the very place that changed my life forever for 3 months. I feel so privileged to in a position to have an impact on these young, vulnerable peoples lives. I can offer them something that I could never see. The hope of a future. An understanding of how it really feels to be their shoes.

  • On the other side of the office door of the hostel I understand now the barriers the staff face. There is little to no funding. The situations we have to deal with are HARD. Some of them are very triggering for me. But with this comes healing that I never thought would be possible. Closure is an extraordinary thing.

  • 651,500 – the number of supported accommodation units in the UK as of the end of 2015. Only 29% of these cater for young people ( People leaving care like myself, fleeing relationship breakdowns at home and teenage girls, pregnant or already mothers with no where to turn are all included in these statistics. There simply is not enough support for these vulnerable young people. The government hopes to end homelessness by 2020. Im holding out hope that funding will be poured into the right places to help make this happen.

  • For now, I know I am doing all I can to support those in need. I am forever thankful for the support I received. Someone believed in me and gave me permission to believe in myself. My goodness it feels pretty special to be giving that to others, I love my job!

Mums Have Vices Too

Mums Have Vices Too

unnamed.pngThis one from Alexandre Holder is thought provoking.  I think its fair to say that in my youth I had an unhealthy relationship with booze. Practically every night-out ended up with memory loss and although I had ALOT of fun I also did many many thing I regret.

All of the above is probably why I can name on one hand the number of times I’ve got drunk in the last 6 years. I don’t trust myself. Being in control makes me feel secure. But am I missing out on fun? Or am I just biding my time till my kids are a bit older? Who knows. Here Alex shares her feelings on the matter:


  • By vices I mean drinking and partying, but not as the dictionary also lists: prostitution – although zero judgment here.

  • This list might be really obvious, it could literally read as ‘I’m a mum and sometimes I go out’, but I can still feel judged for needing a night out occasionally.

  • There are two things to tackle with this subject. The first is the idea that mums shouldn’t have vices, being a mum should be enough.

  • The second is that, like decent sleep, the cinema and trying clothes on in an actual changing room, going out-out has to be planned for and managed once you’re a parent. We’ll tackle the realities of this in a moment…

  • But firstly let’s discuss the nattily titled ‘Madonna / Whore Complex’ – Where women are reduced to two states, you’re either a mother or you’re a whore. It sounds extreme, but there’s definite societal pressure to switch off any aspect of your personality that isn’t motherly, once you become a mum.

  • This mum ideal is seemingly mutually exclusive to anything fun, selfish or brazen.

  • As long as your kid is safe, there is no one way a mum should behave.

  • We’re all multi faceted human beings and having a child doesn’t switch off every aspect of personality that isn’t motherly.

  • We also have other roles to play other than mother: friend, partner, colleague, sister, etc.

  • Dads aren’t expected to change personalities like mums are. ‘Wet the baby’s head’ is a common phrase used to describe Dad’s celebrating a birth with alcohol.

  • I’m writing this as Kylie Jenner is being ‘Mom-shamed’ on Twitter for going to Coachella and leaving her 2 ½ month old daughter at home (presumably with 9 nannies). Twitter is full of tweets like this aimed at Kylie: ‘If you wanted to party don’t get pregnant #WhatAConcept’

  • Putting that tweeters words aside, let’s chat about how the hell to do the partying thing as a new mum? It takes so much planning.

  • You have to schedule in hangovers. I am a shitty mum on a hangover, even a couple of glasses of wine means I’m no fun and a little tetchy at 6am (my sons wakeup time).

  • It took me a while to realize that unless I’ve prearranged a lie in and either earned the tokens to stay in bed while his Dad gets up or drafted in a relative, then going out, or even having a couple of glasses at home is just not worth it.

  • And I don’t tend to drink on a Friday night because it means I’m chasing a hangover all weekend and that’s my time with Cass.

  • We went on our first big night out when Cass was 7 weeks old. His Grandma came and stayed over and we went out until about 3am. I pumped and dumped the Aperol infused milk. Looking back, it was probably too soon for me, and if I had another baby I don’t think I’d be as desperate to party that soon. But that was something I had to learn for myself.

  • When my son was 6 ½ months, my boyfriend and I went to surprise our friends for a 30th birthday party in Majorca. I’d just finished breastfeeding and we went for one night. For lots of reasons that felt perfect: There was no waking up hung-over amongst baby paraphernalia as we were away. It was such a special occasion it felt worth the planning and the painful head the next day.

  • Although, that can also be a problem, that it takes so much effort to go out  – baby sitter, family help – and then you do and it’s quite a flat, anti-climax of a night out.

  • Especially when you meet none baby friends who go out all the time so will turn up to a prearranged evening in the pub tired and half-cut from the night before, where as you’ve spent the week texting your mother-in-law to make sure she can babysit and bought new jeans for the occasion. Those nights are always deflating but you learn to not expect so much from going-out.Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 09.32.30.png

  • Although it’s hard not to when you’ve mainly been talking to a baby all week.

  • But you have to remind yourself that sometimes nights out used to be crap, and sometimes they’d be great, and the same still applies to ones now, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that you’ve might have meticulously planned them.

  • Occasionally a night out is exactly the medicine you need. If you’re feeling down, in a baby/toddler rut and haven’t been out in a long time then treating you and your partner to a couple of hours in a pub can make you feel sane again. is a brilliant help, it’s like uber for babysitters but with references.

  • I once, and I only tell you this as a word of warning, threw up outside my local pub at 4pm (don’t worry, Cass was with his Grandma). It was a hot sunny Saturday, I hadn’t drank in a beer garden for 18 months and had totally lost the ability to casually have a few spritzes in the afternoon heat. Trying to keep up with friends that haven’t done 9 months of sobriety followed by 9 months of sleepless nights is why the phrase ‘mum drunk’ exists. Our constitution isn’t the same.

  • Although the ‘Start early, end early’ attitude is a pretty good deterrent of hang-overs. Which is why day-drinking is so popular with parents and why Prosecco is always on tap at all children’s birthday parties.

  • My friend (and I think this is rather genius) pays a babysitter to stay the night, it costs £140 but they get to lie in until 12. It’s A LOT of money, granted, but it means her and her partner get to go out together and enjoy the hangover slumber together and not have to look family members in the eye the next day.

  • Hangovers take their toll when you have young kid, there’s just no time to get over them, and some times an evening babysitter just isn’t enough.

  • Also just to counter all of this, strangely by accepting that sometimes I love hanging out with my friends and drinking, I’ve also been able to accept that often I love not drinking.  It’s all about where I am mentally and I no longer just drink because everyone else is or it’s a birthday party. I feel liberated from social pressure.

  • So to end, promise me two things: Don’t ever watch Bad-Moms. And never ever peek at a mumsnet forum discussing mums who sometimes party.Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 09.32.23.png