Tuesday, 24 April 2012

How to Worry a Working Mum

It's the curse of the working mother - childcare. Quite apart from the costs, there is always that little nagging doubt about what your child is up to all day and how well they are being cared for. I'm reasonably confident about E's nursery, she seems to enjoy it and although it's hard to get out of her what she's been up to there she tends to come home covered in pen/ paint/ glitter/ unknown brightly coloured substances so I take that as a good sign. Just occasionally though, she says something that sends me into a bit of a panic - like last Friday morning.

E had been complaining that she didn't want to go to nursery, I was pretty sure this was because we'd been talking about going to Granny's house the next day and she didn't want to wait, but a part of me was just wondering: what if she's not happy? Are the staff nice to her? Are the other kids her friends? What if something awful is going on? Then we had this conversation:

E - Mummy - what's the dog called?

Me- Dog? What dog?

E - The dog in the house with the old Man?

Me- What old man? (OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS? Are nursery taking her to see an old man with a dog??)

E - The man with the wrinkly eyes and the funny trousers

Me- Er, what do you mean E? (ARGHHHHH! They are taking her to see a dirty old man and his dog! My poor wee girl is being abused. No no there must be an explanation. But this is practically Peckham! It'll be some murderous, child eating pit bull, OH MY GOD, I'll have to leave work at once, I'm a horrible, horrible mother)

E- The old man with the dog and the trousers and ... the naughty penguin

Me- The what?

E- The naughty penguin and the funny trousers!

Me - We're talking about Wallis and Gromit aren't we E?

E- Yes! Gromit!! The dog is called Gromit! Off the tele!!

Me - (deep breath) Oh yes, good, Gromit (8am is too early for a GnT right?)

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Science of Pain

I find pain fascinating*, especially after experiencing plenty of it in childbirth. It seems so basic a thing that it's easy to assume modern medicine would have pain all figured out, but it really really doesn't and not just because of a lack of basic biological knowledge (although that is a part of it). Everyone's experience of pain is different so how can you impartially, scientifically, measure it?  If you've been through childbirth could you accurately describe the pain? Could you compare the pain you experienced with that of another women? Probably not, psychology and circumstance are every bit as important as what is physically going on and what may be tolerable to one person may be unbearable agony to another and not through any particular weakness or wimpyness on their part.

So what is the best way to manage pain in labour? Given how long women have been doing the birth thing you'd think there would centuries worth of research, but there just isn't. In fact no one even thought to try until a little over a hundred years ago, prior to that childbirth was just one of those curses that women must bear for Eve's sin - if mothers are in pain, if some of them even die? Well too bad girls, should have stayed away from that apple!

Thankfully though we live in a slightly more enlightened age and some studies have been attempting to asses the effectiveness of various different types of pain relief. The Cochrane Library is an organisation that reviews publications on specific topics and by comparing the quality and results of all these papers, tries to give a review of what we know - and how reliably we know it. They recently published an overview of studies into pain management in labour. After looking at reviews of a total of 312 different trials they grouped pain relief methods into three sets:

What Works:
Epidural, Entonox (gas and air)

What May Work:
Immersion in Water, Relaxation, Acupuncture, Massage, Local anaesthetic nerve blocks, Sedatives (non-opioid)

Insufficient Evidence:
Hypnosis, Biofeedback, Sterile Water Injection, Aromatherapy, TENS, Opioid drugs (eg, pethadine)

So slap everyone on entonox and epidural and forget about the rest right? Of course, sadly, it's not that simple. While there is a lot of evidence that the "what works" techniques are effective, they also tend to have a lot of side effects. Gas and air makes many people feel sick, epidurals increase the likelihood of needing an instrumental delivery etc. etc. There is less evidence in favour of the "may work" group, often only one or two small studies, but they tend to have few if any side effects. Some of the techniques in the "insufficient evidence" group are especially interesting. TENS is often recommended by midwives, but there is very little solid evidence for it's effectiveness, opioid drugs get a bad press as there is a concern that (amoungst other things) they will reduce the likelihood of breast feeding, yet only two, of the 57 opioids studies reviewed, looked at breast feeding as an outcome.

So where does this leave us? Is the review all a bit pointless because it can't tell us to pop everyone on an epidural and to avoid aromatherapy like a sweet smelling plague? I think it would be a shame if we gave in that easily. What this review highlights is that far more work is needed to determine how effective each option is, how likely and how severe side effects are and importantly how much someones individual personality and circumstances are likely to influence this effectiveness. I've said it before and I'll say it again - pregnant women aren't silly, hysterical creatures, if given the facts clearly, and early enough in the pregnancy that it's not all a bit too immanent, then most will be able to make intelligent, rational decisions about what is best for them. Without this we will continue to have to put our faith in midwives, antenatal teachers and friends and family  to advise us on this issue, and although these people may be well meaning, their own experiences will heavily influence their opinions of what works and what doesn't.

Having had plenty of time to try out a few things I know that my own experience of various pain relief methods doesn't exactly tally with this report. But I'm also aware that my state of mind influenced this. Things that worked brilliantly when I thought it was all going well, seemed utterly useless once I knew I was headed for theatre, in fact I think there is another whole blog post about the SouthwarkBelle guide to pain relief, but I may just have ranted enough for today...

*not in a creepy serial killer sort of a way, just to be clear.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Simple Reasons To Be Cheerful

I've had some big reasons to be cheerful recently, a great day out at Legoland, Running in the Olympics (sort of) and news of a new baby in the family, but today I'm thinking about the little things that make me cheerful right now.
1- Tea
This morning , before work I sat on my sofa and drank a hot cup of tea, in peace, watching the breakfast news. I almost always try to have a cup of tea in the morning, but after wrestling myself and E into a state that can roughly be described as "dressed", then running out the door, I almost always come home at the end of the day to find the sad little cup undrunk, cold and fit only for the plughole. But with Fred's new job meaning he gets the Easter holidays off, he took care of E this morning and, having got up at my normal "nursery panic" time, I found myself with a whole half hour to enjoy my morning cuppa, lovely.
2- Trains
Also thanks to the Easter holidays the train to work was quieter than normal this morning. I got a seat straight away and was able to enjoy my book (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo BTW, I'm a bit behind on my reading!)
E got to see her cousin on Easter Sunday. They are almost the same age and have just reached the point of being able to really play together, they were also both really really excited about meeting up. They ran around holding hands, bossing each other about and having endless little tea parties but I think my favourite bit of the day was the Easter egg hunt. I hid bright little foil covered Easter eggs all over the garden (in pairs to prevent arguments) and the girls ran around shrieking and giggling together to look for them, actually by the end, quite a few of their (many) Aunties were running around after them giggling too.

 Need more reasons to be Cheerful? Try these blogs:

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Quality Parenting

Some days I reckon I'm pretty bloomin good at this parenting thing, we do educational activities, we sing, bake, plant vegetables and run about outside All our meals are healthy, balanced and made from scratch and my perfectly brought up child is polite, sweet, fun and sleeps like an Angel.

Then there are days like today.

It was E's first day back at nursery after Easter, Fred and I had one more day of holiday and we were planning to make the most of the child free day to get various jobs done and maybe even have a proper grown up lunch date before picking up our little cherub, giving her a healthy tea and putting her to bed. That was the plan; this is how the day actually went:

Fred takes E to nursery,
Fred brings E straight home from nursery as it turns out that nursery doesn't actually reopen until next week. We got the letter, we saw the sign, it's just neither of us actually read them properly.

We do jobs then rendezvous at the park, E learns how to fire a slingshot (somebody else's slingshot).

We take E to buy a scooter, this will encourage her independence, improve her balance and motor skills and er stuff (it'll get her to move less infuriatingly slowly when we go to the shops, plus everyone else has one).
E loves her new scooter but won't actually scoot on it, instead she pulls it along like a pet chihuahua, really, really slowly.

We go out for lunch, there are various healthy sounding pasta dishes on the children's menu,
E has chicken and chips and chocolate ice cream,
E stands at the top of the steps into the restaurant and shouts at full volume: "Daddy!!!! I did a WEE WEE!!"

At tea time we give up all pretence of healthy eating and just get a discounted Simnel cake from our lovely local baker (hey at least we shopped local, supported an independent business etc etc).
Fred cuts the cake while I stare out of the window at the pigeon v squirrel battle going on in our garden:

E: Mummy-Daddy can I eat the chicken?
Parents: (distractedly) yeah, sure...    what?     NOOO!

We hurriedly retrieve a slightly chewed plastic chicken.

We'll do better tomorrow, I'm sure we will...

No children were harmed in the making of this blog post, although it's not looking good for the chicken

Thursday, 5 April 2012

R2BC - Legoland!

We had an absolutely BRILLIANT day this week visiting one of my old work places - not normally a fun toddler activity except that this particular former employer was Legoland!! I had a summer job there many many years ago operating some of the bigger rides and it was the most fun (and most exhausting) job I've ever done so I've been itching to take E there. It is however eyewateringly, hideously, fiendishly expensive so I didn't want to risk that much money if E wasn't really old enough to enjoy it. Fortunately a friend tipped me off about 241 vouchers at WHsmiths and that under threes get in free but if they're over 90cm tall can go on most of the rides anyway. Win! At last having such an enormous child has paid off!

Helicopter school

When we got in we headed straight for my favourite ride - The Dragon's Apprentice. It's a mini roller coaster intended for children too young to ride on the big Dragon coaster and I always loved operating it as it got so many cheerful customers. E isn't the most fearless of children so I wasn't totally sure if she'd like it, but after clinging on to me a wee bit she LOVED it and got properly into screaming on the fast bit, horray! After that there was no stopping her, the higher, faster and bouncier the ride the more she liked it and at least once came leaping off a ride that had reduced an older kid to tears, shouting "AGAIN!! AGAIN!!" *Proud Mummy*

Spot the rather tall Daddy...

I had wondered if we would spend all day in queues as it was the first day of the Easter holidays but there was only one really long one, for a ride that takes you in little "submarines" through an aquarium. This wasn't there when I was an employee and I've not been on anything like it. Small sharks swim alongside you taking a peak in and you can really appreciate the beauty of a ray swimming at top speed when you're at eye level with it. Big fans of Octonauts would love this!

A ride without the parents - she looks a little too pleased about this

There seems to be a lot more there than when I was wearing the uniform and as we were moving pretty slowly with E on foot we didn't get to everything, but having only paid for one of us it was still well worth it. E did really well walking the whole day and with no nap, I was amazed that we made it until closing time with no major tired grumps - but she was fast asleep and dreaming of dragons by the time we got out of the car park!

If you want to be a big pigeon in a small town....

A very rare photo of all of us

Want to read about some more people being cheerful? - take a look at these:

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Escape to the Country

As I've mentioned quite a few times on here, I'd been really looking forward to our holiday at Coombe Mill Farm in Cornwall - well, now we are now back, I've finaly had time to write about it and I'm very pleased to report that it more than lived up to our expectations!

Somewhat cuddlier than my normal fellow (London commuter) travellers
We went there at the same time last year and loved it but if anything I think this year was better. For a still wobbly 18 month old it's a fun place to cuddle bunnies and ride on a tractor. For an up and running two and a half year old it's a place of magic and wonder. Coombe Mill lies at the bottom of a steep sided valley and as we descended into it, and the mobile phone signal shrugged and then vanished. It really did feel a world away from anywhere, especially South London. E was instantly desperate to explore and before poor Fred had even got all the bags into our lodge she was leading me across the grass and down to the little wooden bridge over the river. On the other side we found chickens! Oh the excitement! Oh the amazing need-to-do-a-chicken-impression right now excitement! Win.

Breakfast so fresh  that some of it's still warm!
 On our last visit we did lots of trips to attractions elsewhere in Cornwall, but this year, with a thick sea fog clinging to the coast and so much E was excited about on the farm (plus sunshine) we mostly stayed put. In the mornings we hopped on board the tractor, along with two little lambs (three by the end of the week), and fed all the animals. E's favourite was Dotty the pig, who would always come wallowing out of her little house to see us (well to see if we'd brought her any scraps) E took this as an instant sign of eternal devotion ("I love Dotty, Dotty's my friend") and the huge sow was thankfully completely unfazed by my daughter stroking and chatting to her as she chowed down on our used tea bags. With the animals fed and multicoloured eggs collected for the next days breakfast, we could then head up the valley to the local pub for lunch. After a good nap (not necessarily just for E) afternoons were spent visiting all the animals again, exploring old trees dripping with moss and lichen, playing on one of the outdoor play areas or clambering about in the little soft play barn. Here the favourite game was rolling a giant red disc along and leaping out of the way Indiana Jones style.

E's new best friend, Dotty
We did occasionally tear ourselves away. We celebrated our wedding anniversary with fish and chips in Padstein and had a lovely morning with a friend in Bude. My daughter threw herself flat on the sand, hers burrowed in then tried to eat it. Approximately 500 baby-wipes later we went to a local cafe and promptly covered it in cake crumbs and peas (causing several unusually sour faced pensioners to leave the premises).

Eagerly awaiting out fish and Chips in Padstow
Look out!!! E's driving the tractor!!!

Towards the end of the week we were starting to worry that E would be really upset when we had to go home, but fortunately the promise of visiting Granny and Grandad en-route cheered her right up and having said a last goodbye to Dotty (and the fake crocodile in the lake), we put the car in second, and then first and headed back up the valley to a chorus of beeps from our neglected smart phones. Oh, hello again world.

Not just farm animals....