birth, labour, Uncategorized

The Gory Details

Childbirth. Leave your dignity at the door, ladies. And let’s be frank: you’re probably not going to pick it up on the way out.

There’s a lot of things I didn’t know about the actual labour and birthing process, which may be down to the fact I wasn’t exactly planning Little Bear and I found out so late I didn’t have much time for things like antenatal classes. But there’s so much that happens I feel we should learn about this stuff in school! Screw the “safe sex” sex ed classes, let me describe giving birth to a bunch of 13 year olds and they’ll never have sex again! So I’m going to try and be really frank about my birth experience- sorry if it’s too graphic for you but you were warned!

Things which surprised me about the birthing process:

1. Your waters don’t just break in one big release.

To those of you who have had a baby or know anything about childbirth, this might be really obvious and I was just super unprepared. But your waters keep coming out. So you’re waddling around being 40 weeks pregnant as it is and then all this fluid starts gushing out of you so you have to put in a huge maternity pad and then you waddle even more and you’re getting flooded by amniotic fluid.

Delightful.

2. “So…did you sh*t yourself??”

…is not a question I ever thought I would be asked by so many people. But the answer is in all likelihood, yes. However, by that point I was trying to push a watermelon out of a hole big enough for a plum, my epidural had worn off, I’d spent the last 12 hours throwing up anything I’d put in my stomach and I had my legs akimbo strapped in stirrups. I really couldn’t give less of a f*ck if there was a little bit of poo coming out of me too. And the midwives were beautifully discreet about the whole thing.

3. I became the queen of bodily fluids.

Blood? Check. Vomit? Check. Tears? Check. Wee? Check. Poo? Check. Sweat? Double check. Literally every bodily fluid you possess can and will pour out of you. I didn’t realise but your digestive system shuts down in labour so everything comes back up. Including Ribena. Which is black when it comes back, and therefore makes you look as though you’ve been possessed by a demon and are in the process of being exorcised. And it doesn’t stop once they’re born… it didn’t help that once Little Bear was born the midwife didn’t clamp the cord properly so there was blood everywhere and then Bear did a poo so there was poo everywhere too. My first cuddles with my daughter had a nice viscous coating of bodily fluid.

4. Your whole body hurts afterwards.

I was expecting some degree of pain, you don’t push a human out of you and expect to come away unscathed (especially in the vaginal region). However, I didn’t expect to feel like I’d just done 3 back to back Tough Mudders and played a week long rugby tournament. All of your muscles work hard and put energy into pushing so they are all strained- my neck and shoulders felt like I’d spent the whole day before doing scrum practise. I did have quite a long and tough pushing stage but still, I just wasn’t prepared for the muscle pain as well as all the pain in the vaginal region. Speaking of which…

5. Bitches get stitches.

I knew I would probably come out with stitches but oh my god you can feel them for weeks. I had an episiotomy to fit the kiwi cup in (the consultant ended up practically dragging Little Bear out) but I didn’t tear, and my heart goes out to any ladies who do tear. I was fairly lucky. But I didn’t expect to be able to feel the stitches all the time. The last four weeks the only place my vagina has felt a semblance of normal is in the bath and even then I still feel aware of the stitches. And that first post partum poo- nobody warned me that it literally feels as though every single one of your internal organs is going to fall out of your bum. And all of your stitches will rip out. And your downstairs mix up will never be the same ever again. But thankfully, I seem to be going back to normal now (fingers crossed). Also you keep bleeding for weeks after bubba is born. As a firm believer in tampon over pad I’ve really struggled with wearing a pad every day which is another thing I totally didn’t expect, and didn’t expect to bother me so much!

6. Baby Blues is a real thing…And it’s tough.

I debated whether or not to include this one- I don’t like admitting to weakness and this was an absolute low point. But I figure, I’m trying to sum up what surprised me and the baby blues definitely did. I consider myself a pretty strong person, physically and mentally speaking- I was so unprepared for what the baby blues was actually like. The fourth day after I bought my little bundle home I found myself sat on the toilet trying to poo, sobbing my eyes out because Bear was crying in her cot and I knew she needed feeding but I couldnt get to her and I knew I was going to be a while on the toilet. So my amazing star of a brother went and got her and I fed her sat on the toilet. I then sobbed because “what will I do when you and mum are at work and I’m on my own and she’s crying and I can’t help her”. I sobbed for what felt like an hour and if my brother hadn’t been there and then a beautiful friend popped in to see me and give me a much needed cuddle I would have sobbed all day. It’s overwhelming and terrifying bringing home a tiny human who absolutely relies on you 100%. But I’ve since realised that sobbing on the loo the day your milk comes in is fine. It’s totally allowed, and being emotional after the trauma of childbirth is to be expected. And it’s always okay to ask for help.

7. I am so loved.

I’ve never not felt loved, but the outpouring of love and support from literally everyone in my life and the generosity of people has been incredible. I am so grateful and overwhelmed by the things people have done for me. My family are the absolute best- my sister washing my hair for me the day after birth because I couldn’t stand up in the shower, my brother sitting with me and talking and soothing me while I had my little baby blues episode on the toilet. My Mum is amazing and if I can be half the mother to Bear that she is to me I will be content with the job I have done. I’ve had so many visitors and Bear can’t actually move for clothes and gifts and cards. We are so lucky and I am bringing my daughter into a world where she is already loved and cherished and held dear in so many people’s hearts and minds.

8.The most surprising thing of all- love.

I can’t believe how much I love this little human that I made. I love her with every fibre of my being and it is the purest emotion I have ever felt. She melts my heart and my soul is hers. We are a little team of two, with huge support behind us and that is perfection.

It’s not been easy- god no. There was a point in my pushing stage when Bear kept on crowning and then disappearing where I was saying to my mum and my sister “I can’t do this any more. I’m trying so hard but I just can’t”. I’ve cried happy tears, sad tears, stressed tears, angry tears over the past 4 weeks. But it’s been an experience, and I truly believe that out of everything I’ve done in my life so far, being a Mum will be my favourite adventure.

I’ve painted it in a pretty crap light. And it is fucking hard and painful and exhausting. But it’s also the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. It made me really appreciate the power and resilience of my body and the miracle of science that having a baby is. It’s an incredible thing and it’s so hard to describe but I am so glad I’ve done it and my heart goes out to all mothers- we are amazing, strong, incredible creatures and do not let anybody make you feel otherwise.

Now, when can I start playing rugby again…?

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Dear Little Bear…

So, four weeks ago (almost exactly to the hour) I managed the superhuman task of pushing another human out of me. I’ll spare the gory details for another post (but oh my god there are so many things about birth that I had no idea about! Watch this space) but I wanted to write a follow up to the letter I wrote to Little Bear when I found out I was pregnant with her.

Dearest Little Bear,

You are currently fast asleep on my chest, making beautiful little cooing sounds like a tiny dove. You are honestly the most beautiful human I have ever seen and I am overwhelmed by love for you.

You were born exactly three months after I found out about you. Three months of fear, excitement, anxiety, love, and surprise. And then here you suddenly were: my perfect little Christmas present. The moment they laid you on my chest when you were born I knew that I would love you with all my heart for the rest of my life. You’ve changed everything, Bear.

I never knew that I would love being a Mum so much- but I do. I love when you smile at me, I love when you fall asleep on me, I love watching you grow and develop. I love singing to you and watching your eyelids drop into sleep. Your yawns melt my heart and when you cry I want to cry and make it all better. I never thought I would be one of those people who stares at their babies- but I could watch your face for hours.

It hasn’t been easy, I’m not going to lie. I’ve never been so tired in all my life, I reckon I can still feel my stitches, and my back is killing me. But none of that matters because you are in my life and that makes me the luckiest person in the whole world. I only hope I can do the very best for you.

I want you to grow up strong, adventurous, ambitious, and independent. I want you to do whatever you want in life and work hard at it. I want you to make good choices but learn from bad ones. I want you to be kind, loving, and patient. I want you to know your own worth and be proud of the person you are. I want you to not care what people think of you and to always, no matter what, be yourself.

Most of all I want you to be surrounded by people who love you, and to love yourself. I will do anything for you, and I will always love you.

Forever and always.

Mum x

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Little surprises…

Two weeks ago today, I found out that I’m pregnant. 

One week ago today, I found out that I’m about 30 weeks pregnant, and had absolutely no idea, I’m due at the end of November, and my entire life plans went out the window. 

This is a letter to my little unborn human.

Dear Little Bear, 

You already have a nickname. No matter what I call you, you will have started life as Little Bear. So just as you already have a beating heart, a thinking brain, legs, arms, eyes…you have a presence in the world. You already matter. 

You’ve not even begun your life yet, and yet you’ve been on lots of adventures with me already, and I didn’t even know you were there. You’ve been on 4 DofE trips, a PGL Trip, a rugby tour, a few rugby tournaments, a holiday to Jersey, a camping holiday… and you played a rugby match about 3 weeks ago. You are, by so many standards, a tiny little miracle baby.

The midwives say that you have a really strong heartbeat. I’m not surprised, considering the 8 months you’ve had tucked up inside me. It’s the strangest feeling, looking back on all of those things and knowing now that you were there all along, part of me every step of the way. They say things happen for a reason, and my body must have known long before my brain did what you would mean to me. It has kept you safe, kept you protected, and that is the biggest miracle of all. 

I’m not going to lie and say that this is what I wanted, and it is certainly not what I ever had planned. But, Little Bear, we are in this together, and we have the most amazing people around us. I am bringing you into a world where so many people already love you, and cherish you, and consider you a blessing. You are going to be one of the most loved human beings in the history of the world. 

I’m going to be honest. I am terrified. You are single-handedly flipping my entire world upside down, and I’m not sure I’ve even got half way through processing it yet. 

But if there is one thing you need to know about your mother, little one, it is that I embrace a challenge. 

And most importantly of all,

I love you. 

 

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Being alone, but not lonely. 

I’m currently sat in the Costa at Waterloo station, having been stood up by a guy I was supposed to be going on a date with. The circumstances of the date are trivial and not important…but the guy in question hasn’t actually given any reason as to why he hasn’t turned up, and I have decided dating probably isn’t for me. 

So I’m sat here with my tea, and my second hand copy of Dolores Clairborne by Stephen King, and I’m listening to Passengers new album. And the surprising thing is, I’m totally content. Yeh, slightly pissed off that I’ve been made to feel a bit of a mug. But actually, this is an opportunity for me to enjoy my own company for a while. We forget so much how important that is in life. The key to true love and happiness, lies in loving yourself wholeheartedly. 

I’ve been single just over two months now, and the biggest thing I’ve learnt is that I based so much of my self worth on what other people thought about me, when actually I need to be able to look in a mirror and love the person standing there. And for the most part, I really do. Because until you learn to love yourself, all of yourself including your imperfections and your flaws as well as all of those things that are great how can we ever hope to ever have someone love us for everything that we are? I have really bad stretch marks on my thighs… but I love my thighs because they are thick and strong and there’s no way I’d be able to do things like DofE or Tough Mudder without them. And it’s okay to not like bits of yourself, as long as you are forgiving of those flaws as you would be with your friends and your family… you don’t not love your best mate because she’s got a flabby tummy or too many moles or her hair never stays straight when it rains. So why on earth do we think it is acceptable for us to hate those things about ourselves and talk about and to ourselves in such an awful manner?

People are beautiful.  People have passions and talents and stories to tell and once you get under their layers people are fascinating and interesting. But that love and passion has to start somewhere and we need to instill it in ourselves and be positive about each other. So much that we see and hear and absorb from the world around us is so negative and breaks people down and I truly believe that happiness comes from finding pleasure in the really small things in life, and building other people up- and loving who we are is a huge part of that. 

So here I am. Sat by myself, in a coffee shop, stood up by a guy. But fuck him, because my own company is probably better anyway, and I just want to read my book. 

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The Problem with Nicky Morgan…

… and the reason why she is proof having a second Referendum would be undemocratic. 

The proposed new Head of Osted was rejected by MPs this week. Put quite simply, she was rejected because she is not suitable for the role- an event which will happen to pretty much 99% of people at least once in their lives. We all know the feeling- you see a job advertised for silly money and you think “ah sod it. I’ll just apply”and send of the most convoluted cover letter ever written.

Amanda Spielman was rejected on a few counts- so much of which are bullet pointed below (thanks to the BBC news website).

  • Ms Spielman did not demonstrate the passion for the role that we would have hoped for. We were concerned that, when asked why she wanted the job, she did not refer to the chief inspector’s role in raising standards and improving the lives of children and young people.
  • She did not convince us that she had a clear understanding of the other aspects of this complex role, such as: early years; primary education; children’s services; child protection; looked-after children; special educational needs; further education; and the educational support role for which local authorities are inspected
  • Ms Spielman did not appear to recognise the importance of building bridges with the professions inspected by Ofsted – in contrast to her predecessor, Ms Spielman would join Ofsted without any direct experience of teaching or children’s social care
  • We were […] deeply troubled by Ms Spielman’s statement that “you cannot say that the buck stops with Ofsted” on child protection – whilst we agree that those delivering children’s services should be held responsible when they fail, the very purpose of inspecting children’s social care is to prevent children being placed at risk through service failure
  • We did not leave the session with a clear sense of how Ms Spielman would go beyond Ofsted’s mission statement to translate it into practice or of the direction she saw Ofsted taking under her leadership

Now, if I got that kind of feedback from a job interview- especially one that lasted for an hour and a half- I would be severely concerned at my own abilities to do the said job. More importantly, if I had recommended a friend for a job and they got that kind of feedback, I’d be mortified, apologise for wasting their time and wishing them well in their next career venture. Which I would then never interfere with ever again.

Not Nicky Morgan. Nicky Morgan instead came out yesterday with the following statement. She said she was“disappointed that the committee underestimated Amanda’s vision, focus and leadership style. Her objectivity and openness are important strengths” and basically, she doesn’t really give two fat rats bums what the MPs thought, because she’s forcing through Amanda Spielman’s appointment.

Now  I have two main issues with this. The first being that we live in what is usually known as a democracy. A democracy where we vote in MPs and trust them to make the decisions that they think best reflect the interests of their constituents. I don’t have a lot of positive feelings toward the MP of Stevenage- but I understand that I had the right to vote, which I used, and that others used their right to vote differently to me, and having an MP I don’t like is the consequence of living in a democracy. So when those elected MPs vote that someone is unsuitable for one of the most important job roles in Education? Surely we should stand up and listen to them, rather than letting one woman push aside all we know about democracy and decide by herself who should do that job.

The second being that this is an example, on a micro scale, of what is wrong with the world when it doesn’t get it’s own way. The EU Referendum happened a couple of weeks ago, and Britain is in the middle of dealing with the fall out from that. One of the responses from the result was to start a petition to have another Referendum. Which is possibly one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard.

We had a referendum to allow people to make a decision. Whether or not we like the result- we have to stick by it! Otherwise those people who voted out will loose all faith in the voting system whatsoever. The voting numbers for general elections are pretty terrible and upset me every time round- if people become disenchanted with the idea of voting because the decision they made and that won overall is changed because a few people aren’t happy with it, what reason do those people have to vote again in the future?

And what kind of example are we setting to our children? “I didn’t like the result of that vote- I’ll do it again until it’s something I want!” We aren’t teaching them democracy- we’re teaching them to whinge until they get their own way. Part of being a resilient and responsible adult is that we face rejection and disappointment, and we use those disappointments and setbacks in our lives to make us stronger. Having another referendum is fundamentally undemocratic because it calls into question the decision that people have rightfully voted for.

Back to Nicky Morgan. I beseech you, please. Take a slice of humble pie, and admit that your suggestion for the Head of Ofsted was wrong. Let someone do the job who understands teaching, who understands the every day realities of working in a secondary school, primary school, special school, with further education. You have done so much which has threatened the futures of British children. You have a chance to do something right.

 

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Teachers Strike

The teachers are revolting! 

But in all seriousness, yesterday saw huge strike action by the National Union of Teachers. Now, I for one am not the biggest fan of striking- I don’t think it is the best form of protest. However- I stand in solidarity with those who did strike and support their choice wholeheartedly.

I’ve started my teaching journey this year (although I’ve been working in schools longer than that) and I have to say, first and foremost, that I adore my job. I love it. And I knew when I signed up for this life, that it would mean evenings spent marking, or at parents evenings, or on school trips, or Twilight INSET. I knew that it would be hard, and I’d probably cry a lot (N.B: I have) . I was inspired by the amazing teachers I saw working around me, and their passion and love for their subjects and their careers. I want and hope that I can ever be a fraction of the amazing teachers some of my friends are.

However- the government is making it increasingly difficult to be a good teacher. The workload is enormous- I don’t have a full teaching timetable and I struggle with the marking, planning, assessments, making displays, making resources, plus all of the other responsibilities. I don’t know how the teachers I know do it- and keep smiling.

My beautiful and clever friend sums up the reasons for the strike so much better than I ever could, so go and visit her blog if you need a quick recap.
thesecretlifeofteachersblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/05/teacher-strike/

I got upset yesterday because someone on Facebook claimed “Only me that thinks teachers don’t care about their students then?”

Okay, I’ll be honest. I didn’t get upset- I got angry. Below is an extract of my reply.

Teachers don’t care about their students? That explains why I spent an entire weekend this month marking instead of going out with my friends or seeing my boyfriend or my family. And why one of our Heads of Department did a 75 hour week last week. And why I spent one of my free periods that I should have been planning/marking talking to a year 9 student who is going through a really hard time at home. Or why a friend of mine used 2 of her free periods to cover another teacher so that the kids in our Robotics club (run voluntarily by teachers) could go on a school trip. I could literally give you hundreds of examples. 

Teachers do one of the most amazing jobs in the world. And without the support of the public when all the government wants to do is to shut down our creativity and give us more and more boxes to tick, how can we ever hope to inspire your children? There are kids in the world who aren’t academic- who don’t enjoy the subjects like Maths and Science and English. And there are kids who don’t get on with PE or practical subjects. What will those kids do without the arts?

Children need an expressive outlet. Scratch that- adults need an expressive outlet. When you put a paintbrush in a child’s hand, or teach them to dance, or to put on another persons persona in play- you aren’t just teaching them. You are giving them an escape, an outlet, and it is often the kids who struggle the most with the academic subjects who absolutely shine in the creative arts.

Stand with your teachers, people. Because at the end of the day, it is teachers who are standing up for the futures of your children.

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Short Story Writing

As an English teacher, it’s probably important that we keep up our application of the skills we teach as well as teaching them- with that in mind, myself and a few colleagues decided to use my amazing purchase from the British Library, The Amazing Story Generator, and have a little fun with some short stories and creative writing. My most recent effort is below for your amusement. Any criticism (as long as it is constructive) would be gratefully received.

 

The rules were thus:
– The story had to be no more than an A4 page long
– It had to include all of the elements from the prompt
– We had to be willing to have the stories criticised.

With only a week to live, a Shakespearean scholar uncovers a hidden family secret.

Like marbled stone, the grey sky weighed heavily upon the frail, watery eyed man’s shoulders as he wearily shuffled down the busy London street. People pushed past him, barely noticing him, as if he were invisible or an annoyance to be swatted away like an overly friendly bumblebee.  

“One week. Only one” he mumbled to himself. That was all the time he could spare himself before it would be an impossible task. Hands shaking, he fumbled for his key in his pocket, and struggled to get it to fit into the wide brass lock. A student walked past him, awkwardly avoiding his gaze. He knew what they all thought of him, knew that the minute he had collapsed in the middle of a seminar that going back to teaching would be almost impossible. It was only a matter of time before his eyes, as well as his heart, got too weak for research, his hands too shaky to handle the delicate pages of his life’s passion. The words were fading, just as he was.

Once in the building, he got into the ancient elevator and punched in the numbers for his office. His office was small, and cosy. His wife had once told him that if they cut open his head, it would look like the inside of the oval room where he had spent most of the last forty years of his life. Books were on shelves, on the floor, piled on chair and tables and on the window sill. There were old books, new books, books which looked like they had been thumbed through every day and books which looked as though they had cost more than the shelves they were sitting in. The only thing they all had in common was that every single one of them had been read and loved.

And tucked away amongst the mounds of books, papers, stationary, and old forgotten tea cups, was a locked metal case. And in the locked, metal case was either the summation, or the destruction, of forty years of study and hard work. Forty years had lead him, slowly, but surely to this moment in his life. It hardly seemed possible that he had begun this journey so long ago- when he could sprint up the three flights of stairs instead of avoiding eye contact with pitying students in the lift, when he made some semblance of effort to keep his room tidy, when he could bend over to tie his own shoe laces instead of relying on the ridiculous slip-ons his daughter insisted on buying every Christmas.

A tortoiseshell cat pawed at the open window and made her way into the room, slinking past piles of books like an acrobat and landing on the one empty spot on the professor’s desk. She watched him as he fetched the metal locked box and shook out his keys.

“Ophelia, my girl. It’s time” he stroked between her ears. She was the only gift from his wife he hadn’t kept locked away after her death. She was named, as seemed appropriate, after a woman affected by a great melancholy, and in the recent months her name had matched his mood. His life’s study had been the bard; his life, his works, his contemporaries, and he enjoyed everything about the study of the great man. His love had begun at school, when he was made (rather under duress from his Bard-obsessed father) to play Hamlet in the school summer arts festival. It started a lifelong love affair- until the day he had come across some family papers, back when he was young enough to be able to read his grandfather’s tiny, wobbly handwriting without the assistance of a huge magnifying glass.

The letter was almost a treasure map, and had led him to a safety deposit box in the heart of the city. His weak and pitiful excuse for a heart still leaps in his chest when he thinks about the opening of that small metal box. It had contained an ancient vellum envelope, and inside the envelope were papers written by an antiquated ancestor. In the end, he had had to stop reading- his heart could hardly bear the information within. He had taken the box to his office, and there it had stayed, just in the periphery of his vision, just enough to remind him of the fact that one day, he would have to face up to the information within. He would have to keep reading. He carried on his studies, kept on working and studying and playing everything the Bard had created. Shakespeare himself didn’t know Shakespeare as well as he did. He had become one of the leading lecturers in the country on the topic. Then the leading in Europe, then the rest of the world had realised his gift for understanding the great work.

And still, the box. The metal box with the eerie ability to be everywhere in his office at once. He had managed to ignore it for most of his life- busied himself with his work, a wife, a family. But sometimes, in the quiet twilight hours that come before the dawn, when he was lacking inspiration for his next lecture or ready to give up his latest book- it almost called to him, begging for its contents to be unwrapped and read.

He has waited until this day. By the end of the month, maybe even the end of the week, he wouldn’t have the strength of hand or mind to do it. He opened the box, and read the papers to the end. And then slowly, but surely, he takes the morphine filled vial out of his bag. He pulls out the syringe, hand shaking from nerves or possibly the illness taking hold of him, fills the vial, and ends the pain within his heart, now spreading to his very soul.

 

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