Life’s essentials

When you stop to think about it, there’s not much in this life that is absolutely essential.

If you strip it right down to the basics, the list is short. Our health – a largely fully functioning body – is obviously important.

Shelter and the ability to get food and drink fulfill our physical needs.

Love and companionship for our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Maybe some money to get by in this modern world.

Really, there’s an awful lot we can do without.

As a parent, however, I am in no doubt that there are two absolute essentials in my life now: my daughters. I would rather loose a limb than try to be without either of them. They are vital to me, as much as my heart is for pumping the blood around my body or my lungs for breathing.

This you know as a mum as soon as you meet your baby, almost as soon as you are pregnant and can feel them moving around inside you.

As you look after them and watch them grow, you worry endlessly about their wellbeing, knowing how intrinsically linked it now is to your own. You cannot even begin to imagine a life without them.

Never have I felt this more keenly than over the past ten days. Hypothetical situations involving ToddlerGirl, imagined fleetingly and then squashed out of my mind, have sent chills down my spine in the past. But an icy terror gripped me when we were told our BabyGirl had this virus.

I can push this aside as we deal with the day to day practicalities of a hospital stay and treatment. But it returns every so often as I hold her to me.

The worry and fear are ratcheted up a notch each day, with every challenge we face in treating this thing, as we realise it’s not quite as simple as “21 days of IV antiviral medication”. Lines fail, options narrow as to where they can go, oral medication is dismissed as not good enough, there is a question mark over the impact of delayed doses while new sites for the IV are found.

I scrutinise her anxiously. If she is crying or fussy, I am sick with worry that it’s a sign all is not well.

I cannot contemplate a scenario in which she doesn’t get better but I’m helpless to do anything to control the situation.

She is absolutely essential to me and I have never been so bloody terrified in my whole life.


Under the sea discovery bottle

Make a beautiful under the sea discovery bottle for toddlers…

Under the sea discovery bottle

This is probably my favourite discovery bottle that I’ve made for ToddlerGirl. I find it really theraputic to swish the contents around and she enjoys rolling it along the floor and spotting the various items as they float into view.

How I made it:

  • Take one clean plastic bottle and part fill with water
  • Add a few drops of blue food colouring
  • And a spoonful or two of play sand
  • Drop in a number of objects to suggest the sea. I used green curling ribbon for seaweed and some shells of different shapes and sizes. I also cut out a couple of fish shapes from orange craft foam
  • Top up with water
  • Secure lid tightly (I used brown tape but you can hot glue it down too)

The bottle is ready for swirling, shaking, investigating and rolling!

We have this out all the time and have also used it as part of our under the sea themed book nooks and for other watery themed play :)


All over the place

Days are long at the moment. I’m virtually awake for the full 24 hours, which gives a lot of time for thinking and a lot of time to run the full spectrum of emotions.

Lack of sleep is probably the biggest challenge – my mood is completely affected by how much rest I’ve managed to get. BabyGirl hasn’t been settling in her bed, so my nights have felt endless. And lonely here in hospital by myself, without the family support I receive during the day.

I am worry, worry, worrying about everything. Is the treatment working? Is my BabyGirl going to be ok? How am I going to make it through on so little sleep? How can we cope as a family? Is there too much pressure on my husband and mum as they pick up the slack? Is my ToddlerGirl ok? How can I make sure she gets enough from me during this time?

I have moments of real despair when it all feels too overwhelming. I want to run away or hit pause but of course I can’t. Three weeks feel like an eternity. I cry and cry and think I can’t deal with it all but realise I have no choice but to.

I give myself a talking to and get practical, trying to make plans for managing these tough weeks, for structuring our days, for ensuring some normality for ToddlerGirl and some breaks for the rest of us.

I feel hugely grateful for what we have. BabyGirl seems to be doing well. I have wonderful support. This will hopefully be a short term blip in our lives.

I see the children and families on the long term ward and feel guilty for feeling so sorry for myself. They are dealing with something even bigger, I should be able to cope with our situation.

I feel a deep fear that our situation will become worse, that BabyGirl will suddenly become very ill and we will be one of those families. Or worse. A fear I can’t bring myself to verbalise in any way.

I feel enjoyment in small moments, pockets of normal life. Playing with ToddlerGirl. Sitting in the sunshine. Seeing friends. Writing.

I long for some quiet, just silence with no beeps or voices. Hospitals are 24 hours a day noisy places. I feel guilty for wanting to crawl into bed on my visits home rather than play with ToddlerGirl.

I feel helpless watching my BabyGirl poked and prodded every day. Seeing her flinching and crying as yet more needles are stuck in her. Telling myself how necessary it is, that she won’t remember all this.

I feel joy and so much love getting to know my BabyGirl. Watching her discovering the world around her. Seeing her first smiles, wonderful huge grins spreading across her face, responding to me, her daddy and big sister.

I am emotionally exhausted as well as physically so. I am up and down and all over the place. I have to hang on and get through this for the next three weeks and hope hope hope we are back home and back to normality then.


A dose of normal life

This week has been a struggle. We’ve been trying to get our heads around this strange landscape we find ourselves in.

There is a constant worry that BabyGirl could be seriously affected by this virus; I am scrutinising her physically and her behaviour, looking for signs that something is wrong.

She has had some very unsettled, fussy periods, including one night where she didn’t settle at all between 7pm and 1am, and another night of her awake and grizzly from 3am-6am. Is this normal newborn fussiness, a reaction to the prodding and poking and meds, or a sign that something is seriously wrong?

I have barely been sleeping, so am completely loosing all perspective. I spent a solid two hours crying in the early hours one morning, unable to settle her in her bed, unable even to hold her and cosleep. I have been feeling very alone in hospital at night, dealing with these unsettled periods where I can’t put her down and fearful that it’s a sign the virus is starting to affect her significantly.

The idea of doing this for three weeks has been scary, with me seeing no way of coping with such extreme sleep deprivation and worrying about the knock-on impact on my husband and parents as they all struggle to pick up the slack.

My thoughts are also on ToddlerGirl. My baby absolutely needs me here in hospital with her but my ‘big girl’ isn’t so big after all and needs her mummy too. I’m trying to reassure her when I see her and want to find a way to spend some more time with her. I worry that all this upheaval will affect her sense of security and her behaviour, although I know she has her daddy and grandparents looking after her.

With all of this, I’ve been feeling fairly bleak.

And then, as a little ray of sunshine, we’ve been told we can go out of hospital between treatments in the day. Suddenly things are seeming brighter as we make plans for either me alone or with BabyGirl to visit home in the afternoons.

Today, the husband, ToddlerGirl and I went to the park. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the air smelt fresh. ToddlerGirl giggled in delight as we played. I chased her, twirled her, cuddled her. It was all so much like our normal, every day life that I wanted to cry. But then again everything makes me want to cry when I can count how many hours of sleep I’ve had over the last five days on one hand!

Sitting on the grass, feeling the sun on my face, listening to my girl laughing… It felt good. It was rejuvenating. A dose of normal life to get me through the day, to be repeated daily until we can all be home together, living our normal life all the time once again.

 

 


Six weeks

It’s been a hell of a couple of months… Anyone glancing at this blog would think it was life as normal, thanks to scheduled posts that I set up over July in preparation for the birth of our daughter. I believed I would have no time for blogging, dealing with sleepless nights and adjusting to life with a newborn.

Well, it’s true I’ve had no time for blogging. Our little BabyGirl took us by surprise and arrived two and a half weeks early. My scheduled c-section went out the window and I ended up having an unexpected (and amazing) VBAC. Week 1 was tough but in the usual way: trying to establish feeding, juggling ToddlerGirl’s needs with a baby.

Week 2 threw a curveball, with BabyGirl needing phototherapy treatment for severe jaundice. We were admitted back to hospital so she could go under the lamps for a couple of days. It was hard to go back, unsettling for ToddlerGirl and I admit to feeling fairly sorry for myself.

Week 3 and it felt like normal life was resumed. BabyGirl turned into a feeding machine. I started to attempt to get back into the swing of things. I struggled with the demands of being a mum of two, feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing enough for ToddlerGirl as sleep deprivation really kicked in.

Week 4 and I started to despair over the feeding issues. How long could I keep breastfeeding when it was such hard work. You don’t have the luxury of camping out on the sofa with baby number two. Issues at ToddlerGirl’s nursery meant we needed to take her out. I felt overwhelmed.

Then came week 5. ToddlerGirl had a temperature, a seeming 24 hour bug. It looked like BabyGirl picked this up as she had a high temperature too. We ended up in A&E overnight, as any temperatures over 38 degrees are treated with caution in newborns. We were admitted to hospital again. Our poor little girl was stuck with needles for a canula and a lumbar puncture. We realised this was going to be more than a quick trip to the hospital as she was placed on 48 hours of IV antibiotics…

We weren’t unduly worried as her temperature was coming down. All test results were clear – meningitis was ruled out. We thought we were heading for discharge.

Then, we were told our BabyGirl had a virus that had been found in her spinal fluid. Suddenly things got a lot more serious. She was put on a course of antiviral medication for 3 weeks. We were in shock. 3 weeks in hospital? I wondered how on earth we would cope. I felt a bit sorry for myself again.

Then I Googled the virus. Then I got very scared. The words ‘life threatening’ and ‘brain damage’ leapt out at me. A cold fear gripped my heart and I felt sick. Our shock and dismay at the 3 week stay disappeared as we realised the necessity of the treatment.

Week six… Well, I’m still adjusting to week six. A near complete lack of sleep so that I worry how I can carry on. Missing my ToddlerGirl hugely and worrying about the impact this is having on her. Trying to get into a routine to see us through. Realising over again what an amazing husband and parents  I have. Being so touched by all the messages from friends.

And my BabyGirl? She’s doing OK. It’s heartbreaking watching the doctors putting canulas and long lines into her. I want to take all the pain away and feel it myself. I have to keep reminding myself how important the treatment is. She’s showing no scary symptoms so the doctors are very positive – and also a little baffled as to why this virus has been detected with no other signs. The theory is that it has been picked up super early. We are relieved and on high alert in equal measure.

And she is smiling, right on cue at the six week milestone. She is guzzling milk and, I am sure, continuing to put on weight.

I am taking it a few days at a time, as three weeks is too overwhelming.

We are surviving and doing our best to keep going, to get through these three weeks and get home, back to normality…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Playtime Pinspiration: Baking sensory tub

A great fun sensory tub from The Imagination Tree that is simple to put together and provided us with a whole afternoon’s entertainment…

Playtime Pinspiration - Baking sensory tub

I spotted this idea for a baking sensory tub on The Imagination Tree a little while ago and have had it in the back of my mind since then as an easy activity to do with ToddlerGirl one afternoon.

It was very straightforward to set up. I filled a plastic storage tub with dried rice and lentils and then added some baking themed equipment to play with. I’m not much of a baker but managed to rustle up quite a few items:

  • Flower shaped cookie cutters
  • Wooden and plastic spoons
  • A lemon squeezer
  • A few tin cake pans
  • Some silicon cupcake cases
  • A mixing bowl

The Imagination Tree also included weighing scales, a recipe book, an empty egg carton and an empty flour packet. I didn’t have the flour packet so substituted an empty rice box and then our little flour bottle ‘shaker’ that I made for her a while ago.

This was all laid out on a large white blanket and left for ToddlerGirl to explore.

Baking sensory tub

She was immediately absorbed by it and particularly loved putting the rice and lentils onto the weighing scales. I talked to her a little bit about how they worked and we pretended to do some weighing of our ingredients before adding them to the mixing bowl. We consulted our recipe book to see what other ingredients were needed, adding a shake of flour here, a couple of pretend eggs there – plus some more unusual ingredients for cake baking that ToddlerGirl decided to include, such as carrots, hummus and garlic!

The mixture was placed in the pans and then moved to a corner of the blanket which had become the ‘oven’. When it was cooked, ToddlerGirl carefully scooped it onto plates and we had to ‘eat’ it. This procedure was repeated many, many times! There was a lot of scooping, pouring, weighing, transferring from one dish to another, all narrated by ToddlerGirl as she explained to me what was going on.

When her interest started to fade, I brought out some decorative cupcake picks, which ToddlerGirl enjoyed sticking into the cupcake cases. She discovered that she had to fill the case a certain amount otherwise the picks didn’t stand up on their own and it took a little bit of experimenting to find just the right amount to put in. I always find it’s worth holding back a couple of the play items for these type of activities as it can help to extend the fun and give it an extra lease of life!

baking sensory tub fun

When we’d finished playing, I packed everything away into the storage box so we could bring it out again another day.

This was a great activity with lots of different elements to it: sensory play, pretend play, learning about concepts such as weighing and measuring. Most of all, it was a huge amount of fun for ToddlerGirl. Thank you The Imagination Tree for a lovely Playtime Pinspiration!


Flower petals sensory tub

Use petals from your fresh cut flower displays before you throw them out to create a simple and engaging sensory tub for toddlers.

Gorgeous rose petals sensory tub

 

I was lucky enough to have a beautiful bunch of roses recently, which looked gorgeous on our dining room table. ToddlerGirl was very interested in them, so when the petals started to fall and it was time to move the flower display, I decided to use the roses in a sensory tub for her.

 

This couldn’t have been easier to set up:

  • Plastic storage tub on a huge white blanket I use to define the play area and contain the mess
  • Handfuls of the rose petals
  • Various tools and containers for exploring the petals, including a magnifying glass, some cupcake cases, a heart shaped box, a couple of cardboard tubes, some spoons

This was an incredibly tactile sensory tub. ToddlerGirl was immediately fascinated by the texture of the petals, which felt velvety and soft. Even I couldn’t resist plunging my hands in!

Rose petals sensory tub

 

We spent some time feeling the petals and then examining them a bit more carefully, holding them up to the light to see the faint veins, with ToddlerGirl using her magnifying glass to get a closer look.

 

She had fun just swishing her hands around in the tub and scooping the petals out with the spoons, piling them into the boxes, dropping them down the cardboard tubes and carefully spooning them out into the cupcake cases to make ‘special treats’ for Mummy.

 

Of course, this being my little ToddlerGirl, she eventually had to clamber in to get the full body experience! Soon, the socks and leggings were off and she was pretending to be in a rose petal bath (very decadent!).

Rose petals sensory tub

 

After a while, the petals came out of the tub and were scattered all over the blanket. This is why I like to use some sort of floor covering, as it makes the clean up a lot easier! It also really helps to define an area to keep the play within and ToddlerGirl understands that any mess creeping off the blanket means ending the activity (after a warning or two).

 

This was really a spur of the moment activity but this simple sensory tub kept her engaged for well over half an hour. When her interest waned, I kept back some of the petals and we made some sensory/discovery bottles.

Rose petals sensory bottle

 

We filled three bottles with water and ToddlerGirl added a few handfuls of petals to each one. Then we added red food colouring: quite a lot to the first bottle, so that it turned a deepish shade of red, and a lot less to the second, so that it was a faint, rosy pink colour. We also sprinkled some glitter in for good measure! The third bottle we left plain, so that we could see the contrast between all three.

 

They looked very pretty with the light shining behind them and ToddlerGirl has been playing on and off with them since then, shaking them up and rolling them around and having a good look at them through her magnifying glass.

 

This was a great way to use up a beautiful bunch of flowers when I was ready to throw them out and ToddlerGirl absolutely loved her petal sensory tub!


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