I am raising money for this cause that is so close to my heart. My aim is to raise as much money as I can and to finish the 10k. All support is gratefully received and serves as a massive encouragement for me. My nanan, my hero, would think I was crackers but hey ho, thoughts of her keep me pushing on during the toughest of training sessions.
Where to start, 18 months has passed since I was last here. I must do my best to improve on this score... I gave birth last year on 13th December to our daughter Ruth Grace. Ruth is a very spirited baby, she is outgoing and adventurous and has such a happy disposition it's infectious. She is named after my mum who is amazing and one of my heroes. She is an inspiration to me and someone I consider a role model. Grace is the name of Pete's grandma and she is lovely too - someone who takes great pride in her family and loves each member dearly.
I have found having 2 babies under the age of 2 very challenging, especially because Sam is such hard work with his eczema - his routine is long and thorough and he doesn't always co operate. (Who can blame him!) Thankfully I have an incredible husband, wonderful family and supportive and loving church all of whom I am thankful to and for.
My next challenge is moving forward in my career. It is a challenging area of my life because although I love what I do I am not sure if this is the place for me long term and if God has something else in store. While I am reliant on Him for direction, I know that I have a part to play - including praying and 'pushing' on some doors. I am doing some studying that I hope will help me and inspire me. To be honest it doesn't help that my career isn't a major priority. Sure, we have bills and a mortgage, and we pay them. No, we don't have enough leftover for fancy foreign holidays and the kids don't have designer clothes and they won't have a private education. However, they are loved, fed, clean, read too, played with, prayed with, danced with, laughed with, cuddled, chased, tickled and happy. My children are so precious to me and I will never get these years back again so I plan to enjoy them and make sure my children get the best of me and not just what is leftover.
I have so many friends that are heroes to me for so many reasons that I have wondered where to start. But I want to start with my friend Eleanor.
She is an amazing mum of 2 and a midwife in her other life. I have known her through church and our work with young people for over 8 years I think! We got on from the first time we met and have the same sense of humour and love of a bargain. We have had a similar upbringing in the Christian faith too - knowing the Bible is important to us and some may say we have quite set ideas on certain biblical principles!
Eleanor is my voice of reason quite a lot and she is someone who I can be completely myself with despite the fact I know she will be totally honest with me and tell me how it is, whether I want to hear it or not!! I know she totally cares about me and wants me to be the best I can be.
She is someone who I share a lot of parenting values with and I feel affirmed by her and like to think we support each other. Knowing that there are others who want to raise their children in a similar way is a hugely reassuring part of my life.
Eleanor did something last year for me that makes her a very special hero to me. She shared with Pete and I in the adventure of Sam's arrival into the world! I was in labour for what felt like days - all in all 37 hours and she was a constant source of strength and support for both of us. I was taken, rather quickly, to hospital after having quite a nasty bleed and she held my hand and got me to the right place while Pete parked the car. Being armed with all the facts is very important to me so having Eleanor explaining things really helped keep me sane and as calm as could be expected under the circumstances.... As things progressed VERY SLOWLY El stayed with us, looked after us both and said all the right things at all the right moments. (Including explaining to Pete that no one could 'force' me to have more drugs!) She held my hand when I needed it, gave me water, prayed with us, pushed my hair out of my eyes and told me I had given birth to a son. So precious, these words cannot sum up how special those hours were. After Sam was born, the fun really began when my biggest fear was realised and I had retained placenta - a condition that had caused massive problems for my mum and she nearly died as a result. Pete had to look after Sam as I was taken quickly down to theatre. I was terrified and it was El I turned to to ask if I was going to die. She looked at me and told me I wasn't then scrubbed up and sat with me in theatre through the whole procedure. She answered my questions, held my hand and was just there. She gave up time she could've been at home with her family, time she could've spent asleep, time she could've spent blogging or shopping for real nappies online, but she chose to be with me in an operating theatre with all my dignity left at the door, as I cried and wondered how my son was. I can never thank her enough.
As I have faced and embraced being a mum she has always been there whenever I have needed some wisdom or support. I arrived at her door last week in tears after a rubbish hospital appointment and she invited me in, gave me a hug and offered me a sandwich. Who could ask for more!
She is my hero because of the friend and example she is. She has faced 2 very difficult pregnancies with courage and a stubborness in the face of adversity that no one can rival!! She is determined to enjoy her pregnancies no matter how her body objects and stands firm on her faith knowing that all things are possible through our God who proves himself real and true time after time. She sets a standard to be admired and aimed for, both as a wife and mother.
I am ashamed that it has been nearly 5 months since I blogged! Little Sam is not so little - over 22lbs and nearly 9 months old! He is an absolute joy and delight to be around and is so happy he is a blessing to more people than I can say, especially me!
We had a dedication service at church for him on the 7th June - our opportunity to thank God for him and publicly promise to be the best parents we can be. It was also a chance to say thank you to our wonderful church, family and friends for the support and encouragement they have been over the pat 6 year as we waited for Sam and after he was born. Eleanor, who was with me and kept me sane during my labour, read a passage from the Bible that was and is important to me in light of all we went through - 1 Samuel 1:9-20. Even friends who don't usually go to church thought it was so relevant to our circumstances. I guess the other news I should share is... I'm pregnant with baby number 2!! How funny - God has a sense of humour, I can say that with assurance now! We are thrilled to bits to be expecting a brother or sister for Sam and so soon (that was always my ideal scenario!) I am due on December 22nd which should make for a very interesting Christmas. I am determined not to be 10 days overdue this time though - I know, I know, there is little I can so to control these things! However I will be hammering those old wives tales from 37 weeks, oh and going on my parent's neighbour's trampoline! (I am kind of joking about the trampoline but they is no judging how desperate I will become at the end!)
This pregnancy has been very different so far - I had morning sickness for one. 5 weeks of it to be exact and it was more like morning, afternoon and night sickness. I'm not complaining mind you, it was a challenge but it could be so much worse!
People keep asking me what I want - another boy or a girl so we have one of each. I can honestly say I don't mind. Sam is awesome and my main prayer for him is that he has a sibling he is close to and that when I and his dad die he has someone to go through it with and that they support and love each other. I know it sounds a bit daft but knowing I always have my sister is very important to me. I want Sam to know that security of family.
I am back at work now and yes, I know, not for long!! I am missing Sam during the day but I love the smile I get when I go and pick him up from my mum. Knowing he is in such safe hands is a massive comfort and gets me to the end of the day. My mum is a real hero.
It's been so long sice I posted so apologies for that but one of the reasons seems to be that Sam is taking after his mummy as a baby and not doing much in the way of day sleeping - just the occasional 'powernap' during which I get stuff done in the house while I can!
Christmas and New Year were great this year with an occasional moment when my heart ached when I remembered my nanan wasn't around. However my nanan would've gone mad if she thought we were being miserable over Christmas because it was a time she loved. Although Sam is so young he seemed to enjoy himself judging by the amount of smiles and giggles we have been receiving. He was shameless dressed up by me too - a shepherd for his first Christmas party and a full Santa outfit on Christmas day (oh yes!)
My favourite thing at Christmas has to be spending such great time with family. We spent Christmas day with my parents, sister and brother-in-law and it was lovely. Just relaxing together and being a family. I really appreciate how fortuanate I am. On Boxing day we went over to Pete's family and stayed there until New Year.
This brings me on to my next hero. My mother-in-law. I hear so many people complain about their mother-in-law. During these conversations I sit back all smug as mine is a legend! She is one of the kindest, most hospitable and caring people I have ever met. She is a fantastic grandma and Sam loves her - he seems to save great smiles for his grandparents. We went on holiday together last May and it was a fantastic week where we relaxed, really got to know about each other, prayed together, read together, lounged around on a beach together and ate great food together. That is one of my favourite holidays and just what I needed at 20 something weeks pregnant just when I was feel tired and uncomfortable. Praying with her was an important part of that holiday for me as I get nervous praying with others sometimes and with her I was comfortable straight away. That is something special to me,
My mother-in-law was amazing when I had Sam. I was on crutches for a few weeks and was really scared about Pete going back to work because I was worried about my mobility with Sam - would I drop him if I lost balance etc. My mother-in-law came over and stayed with us for week and cooked and cleaned and spent time with me and got to know Sam. It really took the pressure off us and allowed us all to enjoy those first precious weeks. My mother-in-law opens her home to so many people and as for her cooking - mmmmmmmm! I really look up to her and am so thankful to her for raising my pretty perfect husband.
This is a bit of a rant more than anything else about my experience of breastfeeding....
When I was pregnant I was determined to breastfeed my baby exclusively for 6 months. It wasn't that I had done hours of research or had a huge spiritual conviction, I just wanted to and felt it was the best thing to do. As anyone who knows me knows, I am stubborn and if I set my mind to do something I won't give up until it's done.
I had Sam and he was briefly put to my breast to feed. Briefly, because I was rushed to theatre to have a manual removal of my placenta which stubbornly refused to come out! (How rude!) I don't remember much about that first feed as I was so overwhelmed to have my beautiful son in my arms and at the same time frightened that I could hemorrhage if my placenta wasn't out quickly.
In recovery I tried to feed him again but he wasn't too keen so we both slept a bit. Later on the ward with help I fed him again but getting him latched on was hard. We followed the same pattern for the next week where he struggled at first but eventually he latched on and fed well. All this time I stubbornly persevered even though I was in increasing amounts of pain which I put down to me not doing it right because some feeds were better and worse than others. I had the most amazing support from the midwives and support staff at St Mary's, they were encouraging and gave great advice as well as hands on help! By the time I was discharged feeds were at best uncomfortable but at worst I was experiencing worse pain than anything I had felt in 37 hours of labour and childbirth. I was utterly convinced it would come in time, it was my fault and I was failing my baby after allbreastfeeding's supposed to be the most natural thing in the world, most people have no problems etc etc...
When my midwife visited the following Monday I was exhausted and miserable. I was in agony and weeping my way through every feed. This was despite taking advice from the Internet, good friends, midwives and breastfeeding helplines! The midwife came into my living room and looked at Sam and said... "He has tongue-tie." This diagnosis of my 10 day old son changed everything and explained everything all at once. The solution? A 3 second procedure carried out at a local hospital. It corrects the skin under the tongue to make it the right size to breastfeed effectively. I was so excited to get it done - the plan was coming together for me!
In the meantime before the op I expressed breast milk and gave it to Sam via bottle. It was an amazing first feed. I was smiling down at my beautiful son. He was drinking breast milk and doing so happily, not getting frustrated or upset. I talked to him rather than crying over him. In the space of 20 minutes my experience of motherhood changed and I loved it.
10 days later we went to the hospital with Sam and his tongue-tie was treated... kind of. His tongue tie is very severe and it could only be partially corrected. To such an extent it made very little difference to our experience of breastfeeding. That and the fact Sam enjoys his bottle feed - it is quicker and easier for him to get his milk - he is a boy and didn't take kindly to being made to work for his food again.
I decided at this point to mix-feed. By this I mean express milk regularly and supplement with formula. I simply couldn't keep up with exclusive expressing when Pete went back to work - practically it didn't work - I only have one pair of hands and you need two pairs if the baby needs you while you are expressing!!
I kept this up for 8 weeks. I am proud that I kept it up for 8 weeks, it is exhausting. I just expressed tonight for the last time I think. (I might do it again if I feel I need to and can.)
Over these 8 weeks I have been surprised at the attitudes I have come across when it comes to feeding your baby. When I say surprised I mean pleasantly...
Everyone knows what they think that's for sure. But no one has told me what I should think. Maybe it's me and people know better...
My determination to breastfeed never changed. I just refined it, picked out the important bits, my priorities for my son within what was actually physically possible:
1. The whole bonding thing... When I or Pete feed Sam, we look at him, we talk to him and tell him how much we love him. He doesn't have to be attached to my nipple to get that. Plus he gets the added benefit of a feed from his daddy. Oh and I get more sleep while Pete feeds...
2. Happiness and comfort - for both of us. Why should such a crucial part of Sam's existence be a source of stress? He doesn't need his view of his mummy to be one where she is in floods of tears and battling not to resent having to feed him. Why should I be in agony? That's not healthy self-sacrifice, it's masochism and who does that benefit? Neither of us.
3. His health. Sam gets the best of both worlds. (Oooh controversial...!) He got colostrum (antibodies etc) and breast milk ('nature's best'). Plus he got formula. And let's remember it's formula, not poison!!
Breast may technically be best but guess what, it's not always possible for everyone - even people like me who were determined to do it. I tried. I did everything I could - within the boundaries of my heath, personal sanity and common sense. (Plus the advice from healthcare professionals.)
I refuse to feel guilty as so many women end up feeling. I have done what is right by my son who I would die for. Have I short-changed him? No.
My son is happy, healthy and thriving. That is all that counts for me.
Just a short story about my nanan who died in May this year. She was someone with a simple and strong faith, not based on deep theological knowledge but on a love of Jesus, a Saviour who has proved himself true to her.
Nanan had Alzheimer's disease - something that robbed her of so much. It made me so angry to see her deteriorate and I hated seeing her suffer. However, something my grandad told me gave me hope and showed me that her faith was her strength and backbone...
Nanan had to have regular assessments by a psychiatrist and one day when she went she was having one of her 'bad days'. These were days when she couldn't remember the most basic of things -a the day, names of relatives, the prime minister etc. When she got like this she would get very agitated and angry and my grandad would often bear the brunt. The doctor asked her to go over to the desk in the office and just write down the first thing that came into her head. She went over to the desk and sat down. A couple of minutes later she looked up at my grandad and the doctor and said "I've done it." When the doctor went and picked up the paper, he read what she had written. On the paper it simply said "God is love."
How amazing but what a hope.
Even when my nanan couldn't remember the name of the man she had been married to for 60 years, God and his love never left her. When she was in hospital she loved to sing hymns - the words or at least the tunes ingrained in her heart. Her faith and her love of God were her priority - everything else, the stuff that 'passes away' came second. That is not to take anything away from how much she loved my grandad, it's just that everything she was came out of her relationship and walk with Jesus. Because of her love of Jesus, she was the best wife, mother, daughter, sister and nanan and we miss her.
I am married to the fantastic Pete and mum to Samuel Michael (our miracle baby) who was born 2nd Oct 2008! I am on Maternity Leave at the moment but in my other life worked at a big High School dealing with the pastoral issues of 15 and 16 years olds (360 of them to be exact!) Every young person I have worked with has incredible potential and I so want each of them to believe that for themselves and do whatever it takes to reach it!
I am part of a church that I love - it keeps me challenged, supported and engaged with my community.
I love people - my family, friends, collleagues, young people I work with and I set myself the personal goal of seeing the best in each one.