Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A day of two halves

Not morning and afternoon, not wimbledon... no, just life.

Today I started preparing:
Weaning equipment
Oh yes, I have invested in a new blender. We are ready to start weaning the boys. I get confused, are they six months old? They're 24 weeks, so in my head that's six months, but I think the reality is I'm meant to wait till the 12th July.
But, we can just have little tasters for now.
I loved weaning Seren... and so of course I'm getting paranoid that as we've had such a good experience it won't go quite as smoothly this time.. we'll see.
On the plus side, I can use the bigger tubs (which I have lots of) and we'll not have waste from veg- oh yes, I have already figured out the benefits of weaning twins... and I'm so excited.
We now have tubs full of swede, pears and apples.

To offset the excitement, the surveyor came round today to look at the house. I am so nervous, so far everything is going well, but acknowledging how old the house is means it's not going to be without some faults.

And then Nanna Windows phoned to say she couldn't have Seren tonight. She has Seren every night for an hour or so whilst Mr J plays squash and I get the twins bathed and to bed. It works for all of us and it's always been a trauma to get the twins to bed when Seren is about.

But tonight we had a breakthrough, Seren helped me bathe the boys and was very good at it.
For a girl who doesn't like water poured near her eyes she excelled at throwing water at Tom, fortunately Tom remained his usual laid back self.
Things went from good to excellent as we fed the boys, put them into their cot and Seren agreed it was time for her to go to bed too. So, for the first time ever, all babes were asleep by ten past seven!

And then I walked into the bathroom and found my first grey hair.
Not such a good day!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

How much television is too much?

How much television should you let your children watch? It's one of those topics that you might have really strong opinions about... I know I did. I always thought it was best to avoid the tv in favour of keeping children active. I haven't changed that much from the premise of that thought but I have grown to like the mantra 'everything in moderation'.

From a relatively young age (about six months) Seren was hypnotised by In the Night Garden, at that time we didn't have Sky/ Freeview so only caught it once a day on BBC2, I was amazed by the attention she paid to it, having never liked teletubbies I grew to like ITNG- expecially Igglepiggle.
Another positive came out of this, when Seren was 16months old we toook her to see ITNG Live, her first theatre experience and she was totally memorised.
Johnson Babies at In the Night Garden Live!
Since having the twins CBeebies has been a key tool in the bag of distractions for Squeaks. For the first three months it took an average of two hours to feed the boys, at seven feeds a day that was a lot of time for Seren to spend on her own. Of course every feed was planned- books, toys, crayons, snacks and tv were all lined up ready to go.

In recent months the feed times reduced, we now feed four times a day, averaging half an hour (the joy of tandem feeding). Seren's habits have also changed, whilst CBeebies is still an option Seren has decided she prefers the cartoons of Nick Jr. At first, I rebelled- surely CBeebies is more educational?!? But then I sat down to watch her two favourites- 'Dora the Explorer' and 'Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom' and I was impressed with Squeaks' choice, her favourite cartoons feature older sisters with twins for siblings. I'm sort of hoping she doesn't think this is the norm but can't help but think at least Seren understands her role of big sister to twins a bit better now... or maybe she just likes fairies and backpacks.
Ben and Holly's Magic Kingdom

Dora the Explorer with twins

Monday, 27 June 2011

Random acts of kindness

One of the 'quirkiest' things that I noticed when I moved to Tod was how people say 'hello' to everyone. Where I've lived in the past whilst you greet friends and acquaintances the practice of a greeting from a stranger would immediately put you on guard, in Tod it is just how people greet others. It felt odd to live somewhere remotely 'honest'.

When we lived on our boat we were part of a community, living on a marina where the majority lived on their boats meant everyone looked out for each other (and politely avoided conversation with those on loo-emptying duty).

This continued when we moved into our house. Mr J had bought the house from his friend's mum, he had even rented part of it in the past, the house had previously belonged to his friend's grandparents, this was truly a long-standing community. Our next-door neighbour Peter had lived in his house 'forever', he had been married to the twin sister of Alma, the lady who lives round the front. Peter sadly passed away about eighteen months ago- he was in his mid-80's I think and had really lived- even at 80 we often saw him on his way to work, admittedly this was his code for the British Legion.

I explain this because it does make you feel like you are 'home', and that the decision to move away whilst emminently sensible was a difficult one for what we are giving up.

Yesterday, Seren came home with a keepsake.
Hand knitted Teddy bear
Alma had knitted Seren a teddy bear, so she's wouldn't forget her when we move to Wales.

Pyloric Stenosis

Tom has been the little big brother since he was born, whilst both are considered 4 weeks prem in their red books I have always thought of Tom as being another two weeks behind Seb and put this down to his 4 weeks of static growth.

Tom always threw up some of his bottle since he was born. The health visitor explained this as ‘posseting’, Tom’s eagerness to put on weight- the fighter instinct- meant he was drinking more than his tummy could take and whilst the excess was thrown up. This was a good enough reason for me; both boys were putting on weight.

Tom continued to ‘posset’ and at six weeks he began projectile vomiting. We were taking as much action as possible- winding throughout the feed; leaving upright after feeds; tilting the mattress on his cot- nothing seemed to make a great amount of difference to our washing load, and Tom’s vomiting was not limited to immediately after a feed, they could happen anytime, even two minutes before his next feed.

I discussed this with the HV and as Tom was continuing to put on weight, did not seem in any distress, was weeing and pooing I was advised to move him to a comfort milk to see if a thicker consistency would improve the situation. It took me a week to make the move, I had researched comfort milk and it was for babies with colic or constipation, as I didn’t think Tom had either of these I couldn’t see the benefit of the move. But a week of projectile vomit later I decided it was better to have tried.
Tom continued to throw up, it was just thicker vomit!

At eight weeks Tom went for his check-up. Despite my perception that he was putting on weight the doctor was concerned he hadn’t put on enough. After prescribing staydown and gaviscon Tom did the best thing possible, threw up all over me. Fortunately this resulted in a referral for an ultrasound of his abdomen.

The appointment was scheduled for two weeks and we attempted ‘staydown’- in our case the clue wasn’t in the title and Tom continued to throw up. A week later not happy with the results I made an appointment at the doctors, the verdict- if you’ve got an ultrasound appointment there’s not much more to be done. The news that the results would take two weeks to be back at the doctors just served to concern me more.
The night before Tom’s appointment I woke to do his 2am feed to see he had thrown up blood at some point, even having read this was possible it still puts a fear which cannot be ratified. A phone call to NHS Direct later and a doctor was scheduled to visit. At 5am the doctor arrived, to once again say the ultrasound was the only route to the cause.

With so much pressure on this ultrasound I knew we had luck on our side when the drivers milling around the always busy hospital hadn’t noticed a vacant spot and we managed to park straightaway. Due to Tom’s age a doctor was scheduled to perform the ultrasound, he showed some concern at the results and said he would fax them immediately to the GP, he left me to get our things together. Two minutes later he came back and said he thought it better to get a second opinion. A paediatrician came down to let me know they suspected Tom had pyloric stenosis and we were to be admitted.

The pylorus is the section of your baby's digestive system between his or her stomach and small bowel. Pyloric stenosis occurs when the muscle in this area thickens, causing the pylorus to become narrower. As a result of this narrowing, milk can't get through to be digested.

Pyloric stenosis affects about one baby in every 400. The symptoms usually appear between three and six weeks after a baby is born.

Pyloric stenosis is about four times more common in boys than in girls, particularly in first-borns. It's less likely to develop in babies who are breastfed.

I felt relieved and panicked all once, we had the diagnosis and there was not only something that could be done but we were in the right place and they were willing to see us straight away, on the other hand I really didn’t understand what would be done.

We were admitted to the Childrens Ward and around noon Tom was put on nil-by-mouth. His blood and gas results showed that he was ‘unstable’ from the point of view he had thrown up for so long it had made him dehydrated and his blood levels reflected the impact. In addition his weight was considered to have reached a plateau. Calderdale Royal would not be able to do the procedure needed so a bed would be found at a nearby hospital. Whilst a bed could not be found this was not considered a bad thing, Tom could not be operated on until he was stable and we were near to home.

Tom did not take well to the situation at first (who can blame him), he managed to dislodge his cannula's and by morning he couldn’t be placated having not had a bottle since eleven the previous day, in addition he still wasn’t considered stable. Fortunately by noon a bed was sourced at Sheffield Childrens Hospital and we were transferred mid-afternoon.
Johnson Babies
Travelling by ambulance the safe way
I have only been in hospital for a torn ligament when I was about 13 and my two labours, I am not used to the hospital environment.
After being examined by the SHO a registrar came to see us. At this point, the diagnosis of pyloric stenosis was considered very tentative- Tom had reached the grand age of ten weeks and was considered too old, whilst his bloods and eating habits were consistent, his lack of weight loss was inconsistent with the diagnosis. However, the registrar looked at Tom, turned to the SHO and said “Classic Py”- proving to me that it’s possible to want to kiss a man other than your husband. Unlike previous examinations the registrar immediately found the textbook ‘olive’, because Tom was so dehydrated and his stomach emptied the ‘olive’ was higher up than usual. Tom was now stable, the operation was scheduled and all we could do was wait as whilst Tom was considered a medical emergency it was not a surgical emergency as we were receiving appropriate medical attention.
Pyloric Stenosis
My poorly baby
48 hours later Tom went to surgery. And I do not know how parents do it. I know we have been so fortunate with our babies, and many babies undergo far more intense operations, but I only have this as my benchmark- and I went to pieces. I think by this point I had been given a label by the (lovely) medical staff ‘ever so slightly unbalanced’ would probably have covered it! When Tom came out of his surgery I was asked to go down with his pacifier as he was screaming the place down (that’s my boy!) and when we were reunited all he really want was a cwtch from mummy.
We were kept in for a further 48 hours until Tom could demonstrate that he could take the required amount of milk and ‘retain’ it. Of course he couldn’t, but luckily it was agreed that as he had thrown up for ten weeks it was probably second nature- and it wasn’t projectile and it was (this time) literally posseting, I also think Mr J, Squeaks, Cheeky and my mum turning up made them want to evict us!
Pyloric Stenosis
The reunion
Whilst my tears and concern for my son may at times seemed hysterical, I would just like to credit anyone who works for the NHS- everyone we came across at Calderdale Royal, Sheffield Children's Hospital and the Ambulance Service was simply amazing. And to parents who are in these situations, I know we all have the ability to find the strength to be strong for our little ones and I am in awe!
To understand pyloric stenosis, the best medical stuff I’ve seen can be found at 

Friday, 24 June 2011

Proud moment!?

You can't love your children enough... and them some days they do things which pull at your heart so much you want to cwtch them forever.

Seren's new love is painting. Every day when we wake up the question of "what shall we do today?" evokes the following answers:
"go downstairs"- always achievable
"loops"- honey nut loops for breakfast- possible if Mr J's stocked up
"windows"- going to see Mr J's mum aka Nana Windows (she likes to peek out from the nets). Mr J takes her every day after work, no problems.
"outside... garden"- doing laps of the garden, always good for wearing her out, a definite!
and... the newest addition... "painting".
Seren will paint all day long, and insist you join in, "mummy paint, mummy paint" is her favourite chant mid-master piece.

And Seren drew her first smiley face.... I was so proud... I decided to capture the moment:
Painting toddler style
As I reviewed the photo on my camera I turned back to see she was painting over it. I was gutted, no chance to put this picture onto the fridge. A little annoyed (although of course not showing it!) I asked her what she did that for to have the response "Hiding".... Age 2, and an answer for everything!
Johnson Babies
Can you spot who's hiding?
I've added this post to The Boy And Me's Show Off Show Case as a blog post I thought should've done better!
ShowOff Showcase

Who's the boss? - Meet the Seb and Tom

I had woken up on New Year's Day with a cold. Usual practice is to dose up on every medicine available and sit it out.
Being pregnant meant living through it, with the bonus of a very energetic toddler.

Of course every one then had to go through the process of catching my lurgy so it came to be that the night before I was due to be induced Seren slept in my bed as her fever made her restless.

With bags packed and by the door everything was ready to phone to be induced the following day.

Mum was staying so she could look after Seren when we went to the hospital, and so at 1am when she came to check on every us we were fine.

It must have been about 5.30 that I was 'stirred' from my sleep thinking "hmmm, contractions?" I had no real recollection of what happened last time but I figured as the pains were falling within less than five minute intervals I would phone the hospital. The predicted conversation occurred "Well, if you want to come in... we'll have a look at you in triage". I decided this time I would trust my instinct and make the journey. Awaking Mr J with "Do you fancy taking me to the hospital now rather than later?" and my mum "I'm not feeling too good, can you go in my bed with Seren whilst Mr J takes me into the hospital".

I can't explain the unnatural calmness that prevails in organising everything, whilst stopping every few minutes to ride out the wave of pain.

By the time we got to the hospital at 6am I had decided we would be taking our hospital bag in with us (we hadn't with Seren as we had feared being sent home again. As a result I had given birth in the nuddy as my thick jumper wasn't compatible!).
We arrived in triage to be told "Oh, you're the third twin mum we've had in tonight".
I felt optimisitic- things always happen in threes- "And have they given birth?", "No, we've sent them home." The writing was on the wall.

Fortunately there was no request for a wee sample, simply a hop up on the the bed.
Much to my relief came the news I was 5cm dialated and could be immediately taken to a delivery suite.
Having really missed out on the stages of labour, I was concerned with the next line "just let me know when you want to push", I thought I had plenty of time to wait, but no.
The good news was that there wasn't enough time to get me to theatre, something I had not really wanted, a difficult birth was preventing this, but it was also causing a delay with the doctor- oh dear!

Before I knew it the crew had arrived, the paediatrics team and the doctor as well as a team of midwives. My delivery midwife was Natalie Gledhill and she was amazing, talking me through everything, before we knew it my waters had broken and Tom was born at 6.35, I was able to briefly hold him before he was taken to be checked and I was so relived that Troublesome Twin 1 was ok.
Tension then followed, twin 2 was in no hurry to make it into the world, my waters were broken and my most embarrassing moment was close behind.
Having not had gas and air before (read: excuses) I was told I had one chance to push him out, which I should put everything into, I bit so hard on the gas and air the pipe came apart, and I closed my eyes and pushed- I then asked "is he born yet?", to be told "no"... oh well, maybe it's not that easy!
My other 'moment' was apologising to everyone after mid contraction I said the dreaded "c" word, oh yes my expletives were as bad as they got- 'crap' was my expletive of choice.
The doctor did choose to use ventouse to assist delivery and Seb was born at 6.53. Seb was taken immediately to the paed team to support his breathing.

Both boys were fine, checked over, I got to hold Seb and we were left 'holding the babies', Tom at 4lb7 and Seb at 6lb.
Newborn twin boys
Seb (left) and Tom (right), the first photo, 3 hours old.
Shortly after my alarm went off, it was time to phone the hospital to see if I could be induced- my impatient little boys!
Newborn twin boys
Tom (left) and Seb (right), one day old.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Two of a kind

Of course I did not trust the midwives and health visitors who said "now you've had one you'll get pregnant quicker the second time", what would they know? Did they live with us every month when the dreaded period arrived? So, of course, it was an excellent idea to come off my patches a month before we were married. It was of course for all the right reasons, my course had finished and I couldn't really be bothered going to the doctor's for more.

During the second week of our unusual honeymoon (my parents and Sqeaks in tow) I started feeling a familiar feeling- the tiredness, the tiredness which no amount of sleep relieves. And towards the end of the holiday I was convinced, Mr J wasn't even remotely concerned- it simply could not be.
The day after we got home Mr J was duly sent to the supermarket for a tester kit, and surely yes, we were pregnant.

A trip to the midwife to find out that due to the probability that our second labour would be faster than the first a homebirth was strongly recommended. No thanks, I saw the blood the first time. And a date was set for us to go off to Hebden Bridge for a dating scan.

The weekend before the scan we decided to do the trek up to Gaddins Dam, admittedly I'm not the fittest person but half way up at a rest stop I breathed heavily saying to Mr J "I don't want anything to be wrong with this pregnancy but it's making me so much more tired than last time, it just doesn't feel the same".
Johnson Babies
The view from Gaddins, on an earlier visit- I think I am allowed to feel breathless! 
The day before the scan I had to take a rest stop at work, in the middle of a project launch, feeling embarrassed I confided in my colleague, ending with the truly psychic words "I think it's twins, the way I'm feeling"...

The next day we went off to Hebden Bridge, to of course recieve the words from the sonographer "well, I can't find a third heartbeat"- I am sure they are trained on the best ways to break this news to parents-to-be! Of course, it is a little like the analogy of your life passing before your eyes- in what can only be a minute every emotion possible passes through your mind and body- ending of course with the tears of joy. I am grateful Seren was with us, it made it seem more of a family affair and the reality of going from one, to three.

That day it was Mr J who first spoke the words "We're going to need to move to Cardiff", my mind was processing a million thoughts, and Mr J arrived there before me- how would we cope without the support of my family, we had found it tough enough with Seren.

And so the new chapter began, we discovered that I would not be able to have midwife led care as last time, that I was immediately assigned to consultant led care as a high risk pregnancy (read twin pregnancy) and that this would be a completely different experience to the easy pregnancy I had with Seren.

Whilst I resented so much medical intervention to begin with it did become a necessity of the pregnancy.

The key benefit of a twin pregnancy is how often you are scanned, with a singleton pregnancy it is usually 12 and 20 weeks. With this pregnancy we had scheduled scans four weekly once we reached 20 weeks so lots of opportunity to see the babes and ensure the growth and health was in check.

At our 20 week scan the news was starting to sink in, we had decided the sensible thing would be to find out the sexes of the babies to make us as prepared as possible (how naive!)
Johnson Babies
Our bunkbed babies- two boys!
Things were going well, the consultant remarked how rare it was for non-identical babies to be the same size, and to consider the possibility that they were actually identical.
At 25 weeks the visit was brief, with a registrar telling us there was no way the boys were identical as they had seperate sacs and placentas.

It was the 29+5 scan where I was left really concerned after being told twin 1 was on 5th centile. I didn't really understand the centile stuff but for it to be mentioned was enough for me. We had another scan at 32+5 and were fortunate to meet with the consultant again. Not so good, the customised chart showed both twins growth below the three lines (still not there on the technical stuff) and whilst we were reassured this was based on a singleton pregnancy so not entirely the best thing to rely on, both twins had slowed down to the extent they were now similar weights. The doppler showed that they were recieving food 'normally'. And then we had the further news that the liquid volume for twin 1 was low.
ECG monitoring followed with another scan scheduled to look at liquid and doppler levels. Steroid injections quickly followed.
A scan at  35 weeks (the preferred two week wait to ensure accurate growth) showed twin 1 had only put on 4oz, with twin 2 gaining 1lb 11oz, with twin 1 at 3lb, 15oz and twin 2 at 5lb, 9oz. The consultant advised there was no benefit in continuing the pregnancy as twin 1 has been unresponsive and an induction was scheduled for 36 weeks.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Welcome Seren Poppy

We hadn't realised we were pregnant.
We'd spent so long waiting every month that we'd given up. And I'd forgotten the obvious.
At eight weeks the penny dropped and suddenly we were dropped into parenthood. And for me, no matter how much you read (and I like to read) or prepare yourself, everything went out the window when a baby appeared.

I feel the need to impart my birth stories (as I'm sure all mothers do!) but more because it was so positive, and there are so many birth stories at the other end of the spectrum.

So, this is Seren's story.
At four days overdue I had the dreaded 'S &S' (if you don't know I'm not telling you!) to be told I was 2cm dilated. It provided hope.
At 5pm I could've sworn I was having contractions, but they were on and off throughout the night, by 2am we had worked ourselves into such a state the hospital agreed to let us come in.
We arrived at the hospital, and upon further 'inspection' I was 3cm dialated, I decided at this stage I wasn't having any more babies if I had only 'got' 1cm closer in nine hours... and, if this wasn't 'text book labour' (technical definition it seems)  we were going home- I suspect to the midwives relief.
Mr J decided it had all been too much for him and went to bed, probably around 4am.
I think I managed to get an hour's sleep and then got 'contractions' again, with the earlier experience in mind I convinced myself it was nothing to worry about!!
By 8am I decided it probably was worth worrying about, given I felt the need to push.
I assessed Mr J was awake (he was on the phone to my mum telling her all was fine).
A quick shout to Mr J and I phoned to the hospital- who were willing to welcome us back.
We got to the hospital at 9.10.
As we walked to the midwife led unit I had a contraction outside the main hospital entrance.
Mr J tried to make me carry on walking (because we had been encouraged to have an active labour!!).
On arrival we were ushered into a room (I'm sure they were thinking "It's the panic merchants from last night").
And regardless of anything I said to the midwives they had to have their pee sample, cue shouts from the toilet "Mr J, I can't get up off the loo", two minutes of maneuvering later cue midwife "I can see the head". Lovely.
Fortunately I was able to make it back out of the bathroom to have my gorgeous daughter at 9.54.
An amazing experience which began our daughter's life.
Johnson Babies

Time to commit

So, I did try to create a blog once, a commitment to taking a photograph every day and uploading it, a New Year's Resolution, which probably lasted a week.
I'm hoping with no pressure to blog endlessly that I might just be able to do this one.
Really to record the early days of my children's lives, as I've already realised I've conveniently forgotten Seren's early days- I can't remember her being on more than four feeds a day, which was especially difficult when the boys were on eight or so and I thought I was going insane.

And the last five or so months have been as manic as I thought they would and I don't want to forget them, as I start 'looking forward' to returning to work.

So, all about the Johnson's!
I met Mr J about seven or so years ago, for some reason (and I'm not usually bad with dates) I have to rely on how long AJ's been with Mark to figure out how long ago we met- we both met our respective partners around the same time.
Both being stubborn ejits we refused to give up our respective homes, so we bought a boat- how obvious! We lived on the boat for 18 months before the need for a good shower got the better of me, I sold my flat in Manchester and we moved into his (this probably makes me the weaker partner- but not for long!).
Johnson Babies
We'll move on to the babies next...
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