Group B Strep.

It shocks me how many people do not know about Group B Strep (GBS). It’s caused by the bacteria streptococcus, that can be carried in your body yet present no symptoms. The only way to find out you have it, is to test for it. However, during labour, your baby can become colonised with it and it can cause complications. It is one of the most common causes of infection in newborn babies. A simple treatment of intravenous antibiotics in labour can prevent the transmission of this and in turn, prevent problems from occurring. The big issue is the ignorance surrounding it. It’s not talked about. It’s not tested for. And if you have it, you may not even know. To find out if you do have it, the ECM home testing kit is the best option. It is highly sensitive and was designed specifically for this purpose. It uses an Enriched Culture Medium method, as well as two swabs (one vaginal, one rectal). When properly performed within five weeks of delivery, a negative result was 96% predictive of not carrying GBS at birth and a positive result was 87% predictive of carrying GBS at delivery. The NHS test is a low vaginal swab, which is unselective and produces a high proportion of false negatives. The positive result can be trusted, but the negative is something of which to be wary as it can miss 50% of GBS carriers, at the time the swab was taken.
The ECM test is simple enough. However, here in the UK, we do not routinely test women in pregnancy for GBS and the test offered (it at all offered in the first place) via the NHS rarely uses the reliable method.

It really boils my blood that there are ways to effectively test and treat this, yet we don’t. I was one of the lucky ones and the fact that I carry this bacteria was picked up during my first pregnancy when I had my urine tested for other reasons. I dread to think what could have happened had it gone undetected and no treatment given whilst birthing my darling Molly. And once I was identified as GBS postitive, I was treated during my labour with little Aoife and will be for any subsequent pregnancies I have. (This varies from hospital to hospital due to the fact that it may not be necessary to give the antibiotics each pregnancy, as GBS may not be present in one pregnancy as it has been in others). I am safe because it was accidentally discovered. The same cannot be said for many women. In fact 1 in 5 women carry this bacteria yet we are not offered routine tests for it. The possibility of our infants contracting meningitis, sepsis, pneumonia and the possibility of fatality, seem to not be enough to prompt changes to be made and reliable routine testing in pregnancy to be rolled out. This is wrong. Furthermore, it’s actually disgraceful when the test would only cost £35 to carry out privately, and only £11 approximately on the NHS. The fact that it is so common, and the effects so heart wrenchingly awful, makes the lack of definitive testing something that has to be changed.

The support and information available regarding GBS is also lacking. Even after discovering I was GBS positive, I was still not offered any help or support. I was posted a leaflet telling me the bare minimum, prompting me to google more information. As a heavily pregnant 19 year old, the information google gave me not only turned my world upside down, but prompted a major overflow of emotions. A phone call to my calm and collected mum helped as she prompted me to ring my midwife. I chatted with the midwives on the labour ward where I would birth my baby, and they reassured me the antibiotics I would receive in labour would protect my baby. If you have GBS, the risk of your baby being colonized with it is 50%. If a carrier of GBS is treated during labour, the risk of infection being passed across to her baby drops by a massive 80%. With statistics like that, the fact that the tests are not carried out to determine whether treatment is needed, is pretty darn horrific. Why I was not told about the effectiveness of the treatment, I do not know. The support for this needs to change. There needs to be somewhere people know to go to for help, advice, support and someone to talk to when they find out they’re carriers. I never had any of this and felt extremely overwhelmed and frightened. I wish now that I knew about Group B Strep Support.

Group B Strep Support relentlessly campaign to raise awareness and they really are working hard to change things. They have a great website that has plenty of information and their Facebook page and Twitter handle are great to follow for support, understanding the facts, and just generally raising awareness.

Website: Www.gbss.org.uk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GroupBStrepSupport?ref=ts&fref=ts
Twitter: @GBSSupport

Had I have known about this network of support, I may not have felt so lost and overwhelmed and would have definitely been able to get the answers and help I needed. I think the whole GBS Support network is fantastic and needs to be more widely acknowledged. Maybe this is the key to helping people understand the severity of this “common bacteria” and maybe it is the stepping stones towards making it something routinely tested for in pregnancy.
They are definitely worth visiting to help with the understanding of what GBS is.
If you have the time, it’s definitely worth reading up about. Who knows who it will affect? Knowledge and awareness are key.

Group B Strep Support – preventing GBS infection in newborn babies

Our Summer Bucket List.

After spending a day in the fabulous sunshine today, my head has been spinning with plans for the summer holidays with my girls. We love being outdoors in any weather, but the sunshine makes it all the more fun! This is the first list of plans I have for them both. I’m sure as the weeks progress, I’ll have tons more, but for now, this is it: 

 1. Body painting. Rolling around on massive sheets of paper covered in paint is something I know my girls will love! 

 2. Back garden dens. The washing line and bed sheets make such fun hideouts. It’s something we do every year, but always goes down well. 

 3. Jelli paddling pool. Using ‘Jelli Baff’ is always a favourite, but we have only ever played with it in tubs at the kitchen table. I plan to make a paddling pool full and let the girls go wild this summer. I’m hoping it encourages Aoife to get involved in messy play a bit more, seeing Molly loving it. 

 4. Swimming in the sea. We have a beautiful beach on our doorstep, and while the weather may or may not be hot enough to swim in the sea, we will at least get to paddle in it! 

 5. Pebble and shell painting. Again due to the beach being so close, I can’t wait to take the girls collecting shells and pebbles to bring home to paint. Molly has always collected stones since being tiny so this will go down well I am sure. 

 6. The Crocky trail. I am more excited for this day out for me than for the girls I think! http://www.crockytrail.co.uk 

 7. Chester zoo. It’s a truly amazing day out and a brilliant learning experience for children. http://www.chesterzoo.org 

 8. Troll hunting. My mum and dad used to take me and my brother on walks and get us to hunt for trolls. We loved it so much and it’s a memory I cannot wait to pass on to my girls! 

 9. Crabbing. 

 10. Kite flying. 

 11. Water fights. Give Molly a hose, and it’s a guarantee any one in the house will be drenched. She liked picking on an unsuspecting granddad A LOT last year! 

 12. Catching frogs. Our back garden attracts lots of frogs. We gently catch them, put them in the paddling pool and have a look at them and then release them back in to the mini bamboo forest at the end of our garden. 

 13. Ferry ride from Woodside to Liverpool. 

 14. Growing sunflowers. 

 15. Picnics in the park. 

 16. Making sun catchers. 

 17. Making homemade ice cream. 

 18. Green acres farm. Feeding the lambs at the farm is, and probably will be for many years, a total favourite. http://www.greenacresanimalpark.co.uk 

19. Ice surprises. Freezing mini toy animals or similar objects in ice-cube trays and then letting the girls dig them out. 

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Sexual Consent and Sex Education in Schools.

There is a lot of talk about what is too much to teach young children when it comes to sex, relationships and bodies. It’s pretty topical and seems to be coming up time and time again on parenting groups and forums I am part of. It did just that, very recently.

I seem to be in the minority when it comes to agreeing that children need to be taught sex education and consent from a young age. People keep saying “let them be children” and accusing me of robbing my children of a childhood. Well I’m sorry, but that’s a load of tripe. My children at two and four know the correct name for genitalia and Molly (4) knows that her body is her own and she is in control of who does and doesn’t touch her. That means she knows she is able to say no to family members who want hugs and kisses when she’s not feeling up to it, and also means the PANTS rule (NSPCC) is something she is fully aware of. I answer her questions honestly, whilst still being age appropriate and I always will. I refuse to lie to her. And I refuse to lie to Aoife as she grows and starts to question me too. I want to build trust and honesty with my daughters and that means we all have to be honest and build trust, not just them to me. Lying to them is not something I believe to be fair. They are still human, no matter how small they are, and they deserve to be treated with respect. They have human rights too. And although they seem to know a lot for their age, they still roll down grass hills, pretend they are puppies and unicorns and act like the little girls they are. They are just aware of what body parts are called, that boobs are for feeding babies, that their vaginas are called just that and that they own their own bodies. In my eyes, that can only be a good thing. 

We teach our children the correct names for their elbows, knees, eyes, hair and toes, so why would we not tell them the names for a penis and vagina? By making up ‘cute’ or silly nicknames, you are creating an area of their body that not only are they growing up thinking is something silly or embarrassing, but is taboo. How are our children supposed to come to us with any discussions they feel they need to have or god forbid, to tell us of anything that has happened that shouldn’t have, if it’s all taboo and hushed up. Open relationships and conversations are key. 

So in my honest opinion, age appropriate and honest sexual education is extremely important, teaching them sexual consent is highly important and being honest with them when they ask questions is necessary if you want them to grow up and be able to discuss these things with you. 

I don’t want to be the mum who’s child cannot talk to them because they are embarrassed or because they don’t know how to approach me. There are many things I may or may not do right, and many things I question myself about, but teaching my children about owning their body, the correct names for all body parts and sex education are the things that I am 100% confident I am doing right. 

When you have children, you make a commitment to help them, protect them, teach them and guide them through life. That means in all aspects of life. Hiding away from subjects you may possibly find hard to discuss is not an option. Bite the bullet and answer the questions they have honestly. You’ll be surprised how well they handle it and process the information you give them. In fact, my girls handle what they do know, better than a hell of a lot of adults I’ve met. It’s this that has confirmed to me that how I am tackling this is the right way. I kind of wish I had that confidence in all aspects of my life! But if there was only one area I could pick to be confident in in my decisions, it would remain this one. It is highly important that we change how we view sex education, genitalia and anything else surrounding this area of discussion. It will help our children more than we realise. 

 

 

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Birthday Party Bedlam

It’s March 18th. 15 days until Molly turns 5. 24  days until her birthday party. It’s safe to say the mummy madness has started. My phone is bleeping away with RSVP’s, my wardrobe is bursting with presents and new clothes and my head is spinning with the amount of lists I have written and need to start making my way through. 

What happened to the days of McDonalds parties? Were they did all the hard work and you just turned up, made a mess and then left. I loved those parties when I was a kid. Now though, if I sent Molly in to school with invitations to a McDonalds party (or invitations to any form of ‘junk food’ party) it would be the talk of the playground. Nowadays the party food criteria includes vegetables, fruit and less cake and sugar. To be honest, I’m actually glad. The sugar makes crazy hyped up party children, even more crazy and hyped up, so limiting the sugar is great in my eyes. However, the fact that my party food list includes “Elsa Wand Fruit Skewers”and “Han’s Frozen Hearts” definitely adds to the crazy cat lady appearance I have taken on. Whilst making phone calls to bouncy castle companies, booking in parents and friends to help turn the garden into a Frozen wonderland and emailing people to book balloon arches and giant Number 5’s, I am still contending with the mini teenager my little Aoife has turned in to, and trying to stay on top of everything else a mummy has to do in a day. It’s busy to say the least. Not busy enough to stop me from blogging apparently though!

The birthday parties have become bigger and more extravagant in recent years. I know a lot of people disagree with this and say “they don’t need parties” or “a tea party would suffice” but in all honesty, I actually enjoy putting together a party that I know is going to make both my girls beam from ear to ear and that I know, looking back on, they’ll remember fondly. This party has made me slightly more crazy than years before because now Molly is old enough to make requests, she likes to make them big, themed and in true Molly fashion, never ending! But as I said, I don’t mind, and crazily enough, I actually enjoy it. I can get creative and my weird craving to write lists is satisfied immensely. 

The things I’m not looking forward too? The mess the close to 30 children are no doubt going to make in my house. The madness that will ensue a couple of days before the party, in the form of cleaning, food shopping, dress deciding and birthday cake baking. And of course, the extremely hyped up five year old and two year old I am going you have to try and cajole into their beds the night before. And the things I am looking forward too? The smiles on their faces the following morning, will, without a shadow of a doubt, be the nicest thing. The party once it is all set up and ready to go, the happy faces of Molly’s party guests and the finished cake I am baking as well. Plus, the piece of cake and large glass of wine at the end of party day, is just about enough to keep me going. 

Independence.

Molly is fiercely independent. One of the first sentences she could string together and use in context was “I do it self”. It was said with determination from as young as two and in that baby voice she has now outgrown. It was adorably cute. She know can tell me “mummy, I can do this on my own” and although she no longer says it in that baby voice that sent me to mush, she says it with the same determination as nearly three years ago. She alsor regularly tells me she is “so excited to grow up” and that she goes “to liverpool at night for a coffee” with her friends. She doesn’t, obviously, but the fact that she wants to at not quite five, shows the independence she already has and wants. Recently, she has been asking to make our tea. Not with my help, but totally on her own. At her age, I was very reluctant to allow her. We came to an agreement that I would watch, and if necessary, I could help but only if it got to a point were she was in danger. So she cooked tea, she did amazingly, and it was one of the things that make you realise stepping back a little more, although sad, is necessary.

Here she is, mid cooking. As you can see, she is very happy to be allowed to cook independently.

Pasta bolognaise is both Molly’s and Aoife’s favourite meal. It was obvious this would be the option she went for when cooking and as I guessed, she did. We opted for a vegetarian option as we had eaten red meat only a day or two before. She browned her soya mince and added courgette, yellow pepper, a tin of tomatoes and onion to the pan and then put her pasta on to boil. She was fully in charge of chopping the veg, adding the ingredients to the pan and turning the hob on. She did not require my help at all. Once it was all cooked, I drained the pasta and transferred it to a cold bowl, and moved the veg and mince over to a cold bowl too. She then plated it up for her and her sister and added grated cheese. She set the table and carried both bowls over. She even helped her sister get in her highchair. They both devoured it and Molly was so pleased to not only enjoy her own cooking, but to see Aoife enjoy it too. I had a small portion at the same time, so Molly could see me eat it and the rest I put in the fridge for lunch the next day. Uncle Liam turned up at the right time, and he also had a little bowl of it. I think the fact he doesn’t like cheese put him off a little though.

To say I am proud of how well Molly did is an understatement. I have learnt to allow her more independence and to step back a little more and let her do the things she so desperately wants to try. Her cooking was great and she is excited to make another meal next week. However, she did not wash the dishes and that was left to mummy. We need to work on that!

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The Mummy Fears

As this is Molly’s first year in primary school, and also the first year she has started out of school clubs, I’ve had to get used to letting her go a little bit. It’s been so hard and filled with worry, but she is surprising me every day with how she is handling all the new challenges she is being faced with. Me on the other hand, well she puts me to shame. I don’t think I’ve handled things half as well. Being a mummy is the hardest thing you will ever do. Not because it’s tiring, or challenging in the form of lack of sleep and refereeing tantrums, but because the insurmountable amount of fear just the title “mummy” brings, is more than you will ever be able to understand until you experience if for yourself. That rush of love you get when you hold your baby for the first time, comes quickly followed by the instinct that you will protect that child, from anything, everything and everyone that they need protection from. As they grow, the need to protect them heightens. 

Honestly, not a day goes by where I don’t worry. I worry Molly will be too cold in school because I know she refuses to keep her cardigan on. I worry another child will upset or hurt her. I worry she won’t eat her lunch and will be hungry. And I worry about the type of people she will come in to contact with. On top of that, I worry Aoife will bump herself substantially (due to her tornado like tendencies). I worry that she will eat something she shouldn’t. I worry that she will pick the cat up by her back legs (again) and get scratched, and I worry about the people she could come into contact with.

It’s the people in this world that lead to me sitting up at night and wondering how I can keep them safe. I don’t want my children to fall in with the wrong crowds when they’re older. I don’t want them to put their trust in people who do not deserve it and I don’t want them to find themselves in situations where they’re scared or unhappy. The world is a terrifying place and bringing two sweet and innocent little lives in to it has been the most rewarding, yet hardest thing I have ever done. It has made me question every move and decision I make and I am sure as my darling daughters get older, I will continue to question everything and everyone. That comes with being a mum.

 One of the most important things I have ever heard, and it came from my own mum, is to try and not let the worry stop you from enjoying them. I may worry, but I can and will push that aside to enjoy every little moment with my children that I can. I’ll love them, smile with them, cuddle them, play with them and teach them not to worry. The fact I worry makes me more aware and helps me keep my girls safe, but it does not make me miss out on them. It’s hard to strike a balance, but essential that you do. 

The Chocolate Conundrum

So, Easter is a stone throw away and as always, the threat of being inundated with chocolate eggs for my two daughters is starting to play on my mind. Last year, between the two of them, they got 18 eggs. 18!!! They were three and one and I was horrified. I’m sorry to all those people who bought them eggs, and I deeply apologise if you think I sound ungrateful, I am not! I appreciate that you love my children and want to do something nice for them. I appreciate that at Easter, giving chocolate eggs is tradition. And I appreciate that you probably did not take in to consideration they would get 18 eggs between them. But, most of those eggs got eaten by myself and the girls daddy. It would have been irresponsible of me to allow my children to gorge their way through that amount of sugar, I am sure you agree. You see, the sugar has a negative affect on my darling daughters and basically turns them in to little gremlins. They suffer chemical induced highs and then the inevitable sugar crashes and their moods become something both myself and my girls struggle with. They go from springing around the room like the Easter bunny himself, to teary, emotional and irate, at the drop of a hat. I don’t want them to feel like that, and I know they don’t like it either. So, when you are deciding on eggs for my children, or any children you know, take in to consideration how much chocolate they will get this Easter. Take in to consideration how much they will hound their parents for more. And take in to consideration the negative effects it will have on both their physical and emotional well being. Opt for crafts. Which child doesn’t love getting messy with some paint and glitter and the price difference will be minimal, if anything at all. And I know it’s a popular choice, as I have chosen crafts over chocolate for Molly and Aoife every easter they have been here to celebrate. Another option is books because we all know that reading to your child everyday benefits them massively. Or something to get them out in the garden, such as a child’s gardening kit (again the price difference can be minimal, if you shop around) and what child doesn’t enjoy a watering can to soak the plants, and probably any person in the vicinity as summer approaches. As you can see below, Molly is a keen gardener.

IMG_0077

I know the options above will be well loved by my children and despite the fact that a book may not seem as much fun as a chocolate egg, I can guarantee you that long after that egg would have been eaten, or not eaten as the case may be, the book will still be being cherished, cuddled up on the couch with mummy or daddy. But, better than all of that, give them your time! My girls love nothing more than being surrounded by people they love, and a trip to the playground or to feed the ducks is without a shadow of a doubt worth more to them than an egg.
And please, think of the parents, won’t you. The parents who no doubt end up eating the majority of the Easter chocolate and then end up a couple of clothes sizes bigger, or feeling sick from overindulgence.

The Supermarket Sweep.

Today I have been to do the food shop. It is recently much calmer than it used to be. Molly is learning to read, so can pick out some of the words on our list, and really enjoys helping find the items. Aoife likes to wave and say Hello to most of the other shoppers, and has truly fathomed out how to pull her “butter wouldn’t melt” face, cue lots of old women chatting to her and Aoife loving the attention. I actually don’t mind supermarkets now, but I would not have said the same twelve months ago.
In fact, I dreaded the places. And I say dreaded, because with two young girls, it never would go as smoothly as I would plan. Visual shopping lists for Molly-May would help keep her busy for a while, (Approved by Ewan on Facebook are the place we use to get our activity sheets, and my goodness they come in so helpful, and are loved dearly by my two). Whereas Aoife disliked everything you would try and involve her with, the minute she sat in that dreaded trolley seat. She was much more interested in climbing out the seat, despite being strapped in, and grabbing every item she could off the shelves, particularly anything glass. Even youtube on my phone with “Let It Go” on did not help for long. In fact, one of the last times she was allowed to watch frozen songs on a phone, the result was one very shattered iPhone screen, and one very stressed out daddy.
So, off to Asda I would go, armed with sippy cups, stickers for good behaviour and some form of biscuit/fruit flakes/quavers as a very last resort. It usually started off pretty well and between asking both girls to help me find a particular item, I was able to start off the shopping trip like Mary Poppins. Then the chaos began. Molly wanted to go and find the funniest looking fruit, or pick a “gloomy fish” from the fish counter and Aoife started acting like Houdini and so desperately wanted the jar of pickles, that were of course in a container that could be smashed, and despite the fact she definitely wouldn’t like them. So as we would progress into the crazy Sunday shopper crowd, the Mary Poppins like mummy slowly became more frazzled and eventually ended up more like Cruella Deville.
Here is my take on how our trips to the supermarket used to go:

The Supermarket Sweep.

Uh oh, it’s starting.
The way you look at me,
I look right back at you and Now I can really see,
The tantrum is building,
You’re getting rather bored
And soon you’ll bang your pretty head up against the floor.
The lady buying pork chops
Will tut and have a moan
Because she can’t hear her husband, over her mobile phone.
You’ll start to increase the volume
Whilst your eyes stare at me, strong,
My silly dancing doesn’t work, neither does my song.
I run along the aisle and grab the things I need,
Whilst looking at you begging and trying my best to plead.
“Please not today my little love, we have no food at home
And if you want to have your lunch with the garden gnome
I need to buy the picnic things and a box of juice
As well as some sweets for you, if we can call a truce?”
It doesn’t work, your face turns red and I see you start to weep
So I just grab the essentials in the supermarket sweep.

I most definitely prefer supermarket trips now my girls are older. They are more able to understand that we can make Asda a little bit more fun than it actually is. All it takes is some cooperation, singing songs, shopping lists and of course, some form of biscuit/fruit flakes/quavers as a very last resort. 

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The Playground Brigade.

There are several types of mummies in the playground. I have no idea which one I am.
However, I am sure the fact that I do not know, means I’m probably some crazy hybrid of them all.
Anyway as I said, there are several types of mummy.

The “I poo rainbows” mummy: Everyone has a vice, except for her. Although she really does have one, in fact she has several, she just has this perfect front that most people cannot see through. She is the sickly sweet “we meditate and only watch TV on Sunday afternoons” mother.  The one the ‘everyday mums’ feel like screaming “grab yourself a glass of wine and chill the hell out” at. But hey, as if she would consider pumping and dumping her precious, organic, dairy free breast milk and letting her child have expressed milk. God forbid her halo slips!

The Busybody Mum: The Mum who cannot leave her daughter at gymnastics class without peeping through the door to watch, or can’t go a day without asking Mrs Smith how her son behaves in class.

The Never There Mum:
The one who is working so hard to better the lives of her and her children that she cant make the majority of the school pick ups and drop offs.

The New Age Mum: The mum who doesn’t beleive in smacking and will raise holy hell if any processed food passes her twins lips.

The Co-sleeping Just For Some Sleep mum: A mum who hasnt had a full nights sleep in three years so crawls in to bed next to her son in the hope of just a couple of  hours undisturbed.

The Never Left her Child Overnight Mum: She hopes one day to feel comfortable enough with someone that she can entrust the light of her life to, but in the meantime, she will push herself to the edge and carry on.

What do all these mums have in common I hear you ask? The fact that they label themselves. The fact that they are doing the best for their little ones. That they are trying their godamnmed hardest to ensure they provide the best they can and also the things that work for their families. All the mothers I know, try their best. Despite the fact their breastfeeding journey ended before they had planned, despite the fact they work, or dont work. Despite the fact that sometimes they’ve raised their voice, or promised a craft activity they’ve failed to deliver.
The fact that we all try and love our children more than life itself is what unites us all. So why do we feel its a competition?  Why do we feel we have to do more crafts than Lucy’s mum? Or more nature walks than Sam’s mum?  Should we not just be hypothetically patting each other on the back for the things we do, do? Congratulating each other for the well handled tantrum? Being happy for the mum who got four whole hours undisturbed sleep, despite bed sharing again?
All the competition is unnecessary.  All the mummy wars silly.  And the lack of support and friendship is just plain scary. We all want to do our best for our little darlings,  so let’s start by setting a good example. Put away the negativity and competitiveness and ask a fellow mum for a coffee. Stop labeling ourselves in to categories and just have one “The Mum”.
Lets practice what we preach and see how well that works
Except for the “I Poo Rainbows” mummy. Obviously she already has all that down.

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