Category Archives: Mindfulness

Academic ambition

This week something really special happened; I finally attained one of my ambitions. I reached a mark of 80% in one of my MSc assessments. This might not seem a huge deal to many of you. However, if you glance over my posts The Kindle and Finally an answer: dyslexia you’ll see why it’s so important to me. This is another fantastic reason to put another champagne cork in the fish bowl!

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Dreams, wishes and happy thoughts . . .

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A quick post but desperately needed after months of uni work. I wanted to show you something. Over the recent years it’s become a very important reminder of happy times even in the darkest of days. In essence, it’s a goldfish bowl! My amazing twin painted it for me with the instruction of filling it with Champagne corks. As you can see, the bowl is overflowing. There are corks in there celebrating all of the most important events in our family over the last 10 years including engagement, wedding, graduation, the birth of our daughter to name just a few, but all of which we shared with the most amazing and dear people in our lives.

When I clean the bowl, I empty all the corks out and can identify the most special ones and remember where they came from. But now, we need to make a decision, do we need Becky to paint us an even bigger bowl? Absolutely, more good times are always on the horizon ;0)

A birthday challenge

For Vicky’s birthday I gave her a list of 30 things to do at 30 (within 30  months) – we also did one for Becky (Vicky’s twin) – I’m sure you’ve heard of this kind of thing before.

As we had done one for Becky too I made sure that some of them were the same (i.e. a night with your twin etc) and others were the same because I came up with them for Becky too!

It takes quite a bit of thought to produce this sort of thing; some of them are fun / silly (walk in the rain without a coat), others are to over-come fears / inhibitions (learn to ride your bike confidently), some are childhood reminders (swim in the river at Appletreewick) whilst others are to help us get a bit more out of life.

We’ve had what might be termed a ‘difficult’ last 12 months and with Holly coming along within the year before that too, I felt this was an opportunity to encourage Vicky (and by default myself too) to do some more enjoyable and social things. In all honesty, life has passed us by a bit over the last year, particularly socially, so here are a few of the things to get us out and about a bit more;

  1. Go to the theatre / ballet in London
  2. Have a spa treatment
  3. Have a date night with your husband at least every other week
  4. Eat out in each of the ‘Five Towns’
  5. Go to the dogs
  6. Go to Pontefract races
  7. Try Japanese food
  8. Go to a karaoke bar and sing at least one song

As you may well have read, one of Vicky’s presents was a bike – so one of the challenges was to learn to ride the bike confidently. Vicky had a bit of an “issue” about riding a bike so this was a way of encouraging her to learn.

Others are to encourage her to make the most of her crafting skills whilst also being a hobby; this should help her to unwind after work.

I will definitely benefit from some of these – even if it is just the humour of it – learn to juggle, walk in the rain without a coat, watching her do karaoke, doing something that scares her and host a ‘Mighty Boosh’ party!

The rest of Vicky’s list (that isn’t in 1 to 8 above is;

  1. Learn to ride your bike confidently
  2. Wear a skirt at least once a week
  3. Complete a new cross-stitch
  4. Run on Bamburgh beach in bare feet
  5. Do one piece of exercise per week (run or cycle)
  6. Learn to juggle
  7. Make Holly a dress
  8. Make a date with your twin once a month
  9. Swim in the river at Appletreewick
  10. Make a new friend
  11. Read a new book every other month
  12. Grow all the ingredients for a meal (starter and main)
  13. Watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy over consecutive nights
  14. Have a fish meal at least every other week
  15. Make a den with Holly
  16. Do something that scares you
  17. Host a “Might Boosh” party including dressing up as characters
  18. Make a patch work quilt for your bedroom
  19. Support a local cause
  20. Cook a new dish every month
  21. Teach Holly to count to ten
  22. Walk in the rain without a coat


York 10K and one year on

Well we did it, we completed our final 10K to raise funds for Martin House Children’s Hospice. I think Mark and I both found this one particularly difficult. It was a really warm day with zero breeze. However, York was the most perfect and beautiful location. This time my Mum walked the 10K, a big challenge for her as she’s riddled with arthritis and hasn’t had any proper exercise in a while. In the end, we all felt a huge sense of achievement. Especially Mark and I as we’d run all three of the 10K’s.

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Altogether,  Team Tink has so far managed to raise £2,089.01 (£2,533.73 with gift aid) we’re so pleased with the total but, if you haven’t already sponsored us, there’s still time! Just think, each £250 raised pays for a weekend of respite care for a family who has a child with a life threatening/life limiting illness. Being on the other end, I can’t express to you how valuable that is.

It was also very special as a couple of days after the run marked the first anniversary of Keara’s death.

What a difficult year it’s been. I can honestly say it’s been the hardest year of my life. I miss her terribly, but losing her and the time passed has taught me so much.

First, Perspective; I think I can now see the things in life that are truly worth the worry and effort. This is most evident in my relationships. My family mean the world to me. However, I’ve noticed that some of my friendships seem to have become more distant like awkward acquaintances . I’m wondering if these people have their own unresolved issues about bereavement or feel uncomfortable talking to me. They shouldn’t I’m still me. Having said that other friendships have flourished. It’s amazing what a difference it makes when you receive a text message from a friend letting you know they’re thinking about you, and acknowledging that you’re in pain and that they care.

My daughter and husband are my universe. I’m in wonder of Holly for every milestone that she reaches, and I’m always bursting with pride for her. I cherish every birthday of my loved ones, ever excited as if it was my own. Having watched my mum lose her daughter, I will observe every birthday of my own daughter’s with joy, excitement and with a huge smile upon my face.

Second, Patience; I don’t seem to be in so much of a hurry these days. I now find impatient people quite irritating.

Third, Frugality; Money seems quite dull in comparison to the amazing relationships I have. I loathe materialism for the sake of it (give me an afternoon playing in the sunshine with my beautiful daughter and nephews any day).

Fourth, Fearless; I’m up for trying things that I’ve been scared of and discovering new passions in my life. I’m also finding that I’m caring less about what unimportant people in my life think. (blog post coming up about a fear I’m overcoming)

Fifth, Faith: I think I’d have cracked up without it!

Although Keara has gone, she still teaches me so much, I’m forever thankful for my relationship with her. So here’s to moving forward, with lots of silliness, excitement and fun and remembering how lucky I am to have had her in my life.

The Bloke’s Perspective, part 2 – D Day

D Day came, eventually.  It arrived nearly 2 weeks late.  Despite trying just about every old wives tale, it seemed like it would never arrive.  Vicky had even been booked in to be induced, she was that far over-due.

The evening before D Day we’d had a visit from the midwife to help things along, we’d gone for a 2 mile walk (or, I walked and Vicky waddled), been out to eat a spicy Mexican and Vicky even had a glass of red wine.  As a result of all this it was midnight before we settled down to bed.

Vicky woke me at 2am and calmly said, “I think my waters have broken”, I jumped up straight away and felt alert immediately.  I was nervously excited.  At this point the ‘training’ kicked in.  Now, if you read part 1 of The Bloke’s Perspective, you will see we went to the NCT antenatal classes.  This is where I got my ‘training’.  I paid attention to the labour part, as it was the bit I knew least about and the bit I thought that I needed to know most about.   This was in order to try and maintain an element of control and not let things run off from the birth plan.

First task was to establish if the waters had actually gone.  This took a call to the hospital who said to come in and get checked.  We were meant to be going to the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) but they were closed so we had to go to St James’s instead.  I knew Vicky wasn’t going to be happy with this.  Vicky started feeling contractions before we’d got into the car.

We were told in the NCT class that it was only in the movies where waters went first.  Well, apparently we were going to have a “Hollywood” birth.  We were given the option of staying and having some drugs to move things along but Vicky dismissed this, as the plan was to be as natural as possible.  We wanted to relax at home for a bit (expecting to wait a good few hours at home as we were told that the on average the first labour would be a good 6 to 8 hours before you would need to go to hospital, when you were having around 3 contractions in 10 minutes).  I was quite happy with this decision at that point in time given that contractions didn’t seem too bad or too frequent.

However, within minutes I’d started to change my mind. The short walk of around 100m from door to car was punctuated with about 4 stops to allow increasingly painful contractions to pass.  To me, this was a lot and did raise concerns for me.  But I knew Vicky didn’t want the baby at St James’s and felt I just needed to support her in her decisions, to the extent she wasn’t going to harm herself or the baby – which she wasn’t going to do by going home now.

We got back home at about 5:30am.  Vicky had struggled to sit in the car all the way home, once we got in, I ran around trying to get painkillers together.  This is where the NCT came into its own for us, using the pain reliving techniques we’d learned.  It was also the start of the end for my wrist.  If I wasn’t driving at any point over the next 7 hours I was probably rubbing the bottom of Vicky’s back.  By the end of the day my wrist was knackered.  I know in the grand scheme of a birth a bit of a sore wrist for the dad isn’t much, but hell it hurt!  If I leaned on my wrist for any length of time over the next 2-3 months, it hurt.

By 6:00 I was back on the phone to the hospital, luckily the LGI was open again. I didn’t like watching Vicky in such pain and it was a relief to be able to take her to be more comfortable.  Although Vicky could barely sit in the car again, it was fun driving on the motorway to hospital! Small things please small minds!

After being assessed on the delivery suite, which seemed to take ages, they said Vicky wasn’t far enough progressed to stay and we had to go down to the antenatal ward.  Once there, I felt that basically they couldn’t care less how much pain Vicky was in.  They offered paracetamol – wow.  I needed paracetamol, Vicky needed something a tad stronger. So she had a bath.

In all fairness, this was what we had planned to do at home and it did work, not perfect, but it worked.  But we could have done this at home.  It’s not a massive comfort to see somebody in pain, knowing you were so near, but yet so far, from being able to make them comfortable.  It’s almost a tease being in the hospital and not getting pain relief.

After the bath, Vicky was at her bed on the ward and she was clearly in a lot of pain.  I couldn’t get hold of a midwife, partly because Vicky wouldn’t let me stop rubbing her back (I don’t blame her for this at all) and also because it was ward round time and the midwives were going round with the doctors (ignoring patients in my view).  After what seemed another age, the registrar, who had heard Vicky and her little whimpers, popped her head through the curtain and said “I think it’s time you went to delivery suite sweetness” without the need to physically examine her.  I felt like this was one person with a clear understanding of what Vicky was going through in a sea of incompetence displayed by the midwives.

Following this, the midwives insisted on checking progress.  We moved to a side room for an exam, they laid Vicky on her back on an examination table and made her wait half an hour.  I was furious, Vicky was in so much pain she was becoming distressed which made me distressed too.  Finally the midwife came in and did her stuff.  She caused Vicky so much pain it hurt me to watch.  It was probably the hardest thing I have ever done, to not intervene and stop her hurting my wife.  In just about ay other scenario, I would not let anybody cause such pain to somebody else, let alone my wife.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have an issue with midwives.  My mum was a midwife for donkeys years (Bex will get that one!) and our community midwife was excellent, particularly once we got home with Holly.  It just seems the midwives on the antenatal ward at the LGI were intent on making women go through labour without any substantial pain relief.  There maybe reasons for this, such as it still being in ‘early’ labour and not wanting to halt progress etc.  I think it is more because they have become numb to seeing women in pain, it’s become normal for them and they are unsympathetic to it.  To the detriment of the patient at times, and yes I do think you are a patient when you are in labour, natural though it is.

We got back up to delivery suite at 11:30am.   I’d ended up chasing Vicky up there like a pack horse carrying about 4 bags whilst she was being wheeled up telling them to hurry! Delivery suite couldn’t offer us enough pain relief, a complete contrast from the antenatal ward!  Vicky didn’t want pethidine due to its effect on the baby’s ability to breast feed, but epidural – have a bit of that.  This wasn’t what we had planned but, I felt we were still in control of how things were going and this was the right thing to do.

Gas and air was flowing whilst waiting for the anaesthetist, labour tourettes kicked in, which was one of the highlights of the day for me, barring getting a new baby of course.  A mixture of swear words followed by immediate regret and apologising to the midwife is quite funny.  I was still rubbing Vicky’s back at this point, the anaesthetist got the epidural in at about 3pm.  The midwife immediately checked Vicky and said “oh, you’re at 10cm! We’ll let you have a bit of a rest for a couple of hours before we do the pushing”.  I think we were both relieved at this; my wrist could finally get a rest too! I felt a massive sense of relief that, after about 6 hours of constant intense pain, Vicky was finally getting some relief.

I needed a toilet break and I also had to pay for our new gas fire that had been installed earlier in the year.  Obviously without internet at the hospital, I had to call a friend to get him to pay for it for me!  The rest time was good, I got to update family on progress, I’d not been able to do this since Vicky was in the bath.

My ‘training’ was in full use for the next bit.  A foetal heart monitor had been put on the baby earlier so we could see the heart rate better, as the normal straps weren’t working too well.  I spent a lot of time watching that little heart beat.  As Vicky was pushing, the baby’s heart rate was dropping quite significantly. I’m no expert, but I knew that the midwife wasn’t going to let that happen for long or too often.  After the third push she went for the obstetrician.  The doctor watched another push and quickly said we need to get the baby out.  I was in complete agreement, having seen the heart monitor.

After watching the effort going into those pushes, I will never accept a whimpering wife saying “can you open this jar” or “I can’t do it!”.  She could’ve moved a mountain, I felt very proud of the effort from Vicky, but the baby just wasn’t coming out.  I will spare the gory details, but I thought the doctor and the midwife did a great job.  However, at one point I was concerned that a trip to theatre would be imminent.

We didn’t know what the sex of the baby was going to be and I’m not ashamed to say I was tearful with happiness when the surprisingly hot little lump was plopped onto Vicky’s chest and the midwife asked what we had.  Following a kick to the throat for Vicky, we looked at each other and said “we’ve got a girl”.

After waiting 40 weeks (despite being 2 weeks over, I didn’t know she was pregnant for 2 weeks either), I was ecstatic to finally be able to hold my little baby, I know this will sound cliché – but I must have been the proudest happiest dad in the world.  She was born at 5:06pm, which for a first time mum, was pretty quick.

In the end, the whole day was nothing like I had expected and nowhere near our birth plan.  We’d been led to believe that the contractions, and pain, would be gradual, but as Vicky’s waters went first, the contractions were intense right from the off.  As a result of this, as a birth partner, my role was more about knowing plan ‘B’ and trying to direct the situation to stick to our principals and support and advise Vicky.

Our birth plan had been for a water birth.  But, there were enough things that conspired against us that a) it wasn’t offered; b) it was only available on delivery suite; and c) we didn’t ask.  I think, in retrospect, a water birth would have been very good for Vicky especially as she did very well in the bath.

The antenatal ward experience has not soured my view of the birth.  It was still a magical day.  It was long for us (especially having only had 2 hours sleep the previous night) but quick for a first birth.  It was energising but draining. Exciting but scary.  I cannot really put into words how proud I am of Vicky in all aspects of what she went through on that day.  I don’t think I can begin to grasp the pain she went through.  I’m not going to get into the debate about pain relief now and ‘natural’ birth, but I’ll give you my view.  Putting yourself through unbearable pain needlessly is just plain daft.  If you get some reward for it, or it makes you a better mother, brilliant, but it doesn’t and you don’t.  I’ll happily take peoples comments on this.

One year with Holly

This post is inspired by Mick Inkpen’s children’s book “One year with Kipper”. Even before Holly was born, Mark would read the Kipper books to “bump”. If you’re unfamiliar with this story, Kipper documents the year by taking photographs.

Last week, we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday. Being first time parents, this year has been what I can only describe as a magical mystery tour. Holly was born at 17.06 hrs on December the 9th 2009 following a very short and incredibly painful labour.

I will never forget the midwife smiling at me as she put Holly on me and asked “what do you have?” I looked at Mark who was crying and said “we have a baby girl.” It was one of the most amazing and precious experiences of my life – at that point our new daughter kicked me in the throat! We named her Holly because of the Christmas season and chose the middle name Elizabeth to continue a family tradition. Her Aunty Becky (my twin sister and best friend) has the middle name Elizabeth which comes from our great Grandmother (Charlotte Elizabeth) an incredibly warm and special lady who would’ve been 112 yrs old the following day had she still been alive.

So what can I say about Holly. Well,  to us and to those who know her she has a number of names; our favourite is Holly Hula (she danced the Hula if you put her on her feet as she tried to balance). She has reached all of her milestones so far within a normal range and some  early. However, I truly feel as long as children get there in the end, that’s all that matters.

But this post isn’t about her milestones, it’s about our milestones as a family. It wasn’t easy to begin with. Our classes with the National Childbirth Trust were brilliant at practicing breathing techniques during labour but nothing prepared me for the rude awakening I had when I took Holly home.

I truly felt I’d been kicked by a horse, so it was with great difficulty that I learnt to sit down. To top it  off, Holly had a tongue tie so I struggled to feed her for 10 days. I felt that I was failing before I had begun. I thank the Lord for my husband! He would bring me a drink, put something very silly on the TV (often the Mighty Boosh) and tell me that I was doing an amazing job. My new year’s resolution was that I was going to enjoy Holly and stop stressing about everything – something that I have stuck to as much as I can ever since.

People have often said to me, “Enjoy her, she won’t be little for long”, I can honestly say we have embraced every moment that we’ve shared with Holly. I think that we’ve been extremely lucky to have her.

Mark and I feel that we have blagged our way through this first year. We were aware of a number of different parenting styles, but we’re glad we did it our way (as Mark said to me, there is no one right way of raising a child but there are lots of wrong ways to do it, it has to be what you feel is right for you and your family). Holly eats a fantastic diet, sleeps throughout the night, in spite of having a 2-3 hour nap during the day and is a social butterfly. Perhaps I’m biased but she is one of the happiest and most content little girls I have ever met. My mother-in-law says “you know this isn’t usual, she has such a sweet good-tempered nature”. What else could we ask for? Our baby is healthy and happy and makes us laugh every single day. I can imagine that a child can put an enormous strain on a marriage but Holly has made Mark and I even stronger as a couple. Every time she reaches a new goal, we glance at each other with enormous pride.

Each night we go into her room to check on her before we go to bed. We look at her and then look at each other in awe of our greatest achievement in life. Our little girl brings so much joy to us and our wider family. We feel truly blessed to have her in our lives.  I hope you enjoy the photographs of Holly’s first year.

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Family Day – A beautiful Autumnal day at Lotherton Hall

Mark, Holly and I went for a stroll around Lotherton Hall today. I don’t live far from it but I’ve never visited before. We’d been invited to join my sister and her family and I’d recently read about it on  a blog I’ve been reading Littlest Adventures.

The Hall was built in the early 1900’s and within the grounds, there is an impressive aviary and deer park. We all wrapped up warm and enjoyed observing the large collection of birds. Although there was a pleasant hum of people around, we didn’t feel pressured or crowded.

It was wonderful to just absorb the day before all of the leaves have fallen. Such a visually stunning but often overlooked season. I love it, fiery and warm, the trees  and all of nature, packing up in preparation to slumber over the winter months.

It was surprising to glance over the rose garden and see that some of the roses are still in bloom. A reassuring reminder of what is in store for us the following Summer! Holly really enjoyed the walk, happily pointing at everything around her and looking intently at the birds. A lovely afternoon walk, we’ll definitely be visiting again.

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