Sunday, 30 December 2012

The End of the Year

I came on today to have a look at last years new years resolutions (in the vague and vain hope that I kept some?!) and it appears that I wrote none! Well none on here anyway so I shall attempt to cobble some together now. A little news first though - we received the final statement for our lovely boy and the recommendation is that he have fulltime help at school which is brilliant and exactly what he needs. I spoke to his INA and she is prepared to up her hours to accomodate him so I am so happy. A great way to end the year!

The good thing about having neglected to write NYRs last year is that I hopefully haven't broken any I may have had in mind? I thought though that I would start with a quick 'Thankful List' from this past year.

In no particular order (I'm thankful for all of them!) - My Thankful List

1) My son starting school and successfully getting the statement he needs
2) Getting into uni to study midwifery and loving every second so far
3) Husband getting some regular work
4) Passing my review in breastfeeding counselling - next one in three years
5) Mine and my familys good health
6) My wonderful supportive family and friends

So now to look forward

1) Predictably - lose 14lb
2) Be a better mummy *sigh*
3) Keep ahead of uni deadlines and keep on top of work for it
4) Make the most of my time off
     - Spend time individually with my kids
     - Do datenight with Mr Tant regularly
     - Have some me-time else I'll go dolally
5) Actually manage to keep to a daily devotional - read my bible more!
6) Update my birthday book and send birthday cards (I'm so rubbish at this and continually feel wracked with guilt, how silly is that?!)
7) Keep my bedroom tidy - I know... how old am I??
8) Be a good wife, daughter, friend etc etc (No pressure there then)

I think that will do for now. I had hoped to get 10 but thats just my slightly obsessive nature coming through (9... try not to wake in the night thinking of numbers 9&10).

Its been a funny year really, some thought it might have come to a premature end. Well that was never going to happen, I have far too much going on to worry too much about the Mayan calendar changeover. What else has been going on this year? The great news of that little girl coming home to her mum from Pakistan after being abducted 3 years ago by her father. The Olympics and Paralympics. The Queens Diamond Jubilee. Barack Obama winning another term as President of the US.

Then there are the not so happy happenings of the year... the Saville case which was just horrendous. Hurricane Sandy. The Conneticut School shooting...

So I've taken a moment while I've finished writing this to remember the people affected by these.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

So happy new year lovely people, see you on the other side.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

An update of sorts

Well it really has been a while since I last blogged here. A couple of reasons really... Twitter being a bit of a culprit but hey ho. You can find me on there by the way if you like. I have imaginatively called myself @michelletant LOL

The other reasons include my all consuming midwifery course. I kid you not, it has the potential to completely take over your life. Plus of course my family.

So I am here today for an update of sorts.

You may have read my post about my son with (amoung other things) sensory processing disorder ( http://michelletant.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/supermarket-meltdowns.html ) and we have been going through the statementing process with him. What that means it that we applied for a 'Statement of Additional Needs'. You have to apply through the county and it has to sort of be done on your behalf by the agencies involved with the child. So in our case it was the Speech and Language Therapist, the Occupational Therapist, the Educational Pyschologiest, the Early Years Special Educational Needs CoOrdinator... and us (quite nice that they do regard the parents as having some sort of expertise with our children).

Everyone submitted their reports to the county board and we have now heard back that a statement is to be awarded to him. This means that funding is released to the school and now the school has recruited an 'INA' (Individual Needs Assistant) who will be with him for 4 hours per day including lunchtime which is one of his flashpoints. If you'll excuse me for a moment....

WWWWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWHHHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

Its amazing particularly as anybody we have spoken to about it have said how hard it is to get a statement for a child. It was a strange situation because I knew that to us, and to the people who work closely with him it was perfectly and abundantly clear that he needed an INA but would the 'powers that be' recognise that too. Quite nerve wracking really and the relief is immense. If you are a parent of a child with additional needs reading this and are yet to brave the system, just go for it.

So that has been taking up a lot of time and energy but its been a battle worth the fighting. My beautiful boy deserves the opportunity to live his life to his full potential and he is being given that opportunity now at school too.

It remains to be seen whether this will have any impact on our home life. I hope so because we are literally exhausted, every minute of every day. There was this woman who we were referred to by the Paediatrician. She apparently specialises in behaviour 'management'  in children with additional needs. She rang me and said that she runs a course, its every tuesday for 6 weeks. I couldn't make it due to starting uni and she basically said thats a shame. Helpful much. I asked if she had any tips or recommended literature and she said no. She then said to ring her when I have more time. So essentially I am the bad parent who can't make time for my child.

Lady, you have no idea.

So the other 'thing'. Midwifery. I have been a student midwife now for 2 months and it's been a rollercoaster. So much learning to cram in, so many new experiences to process, so many changes to adjust to. As I haven't been to university before I didn't really have anything to compare it to and on discussion with people who have a previous degree, actually this course is not really comparable.

Now that we are out in placement I feel like I am really starting to make the connection between the theory and the practice element and my confidence is growing in my practice already though I'm under no illusions about the amount I have to go... literally the more I learn, the more I see I have to learn which in equal parts is exhilarating and frightening all at once. Every now and then the responsibility of the role hits me like a train.

Its worth every second though. In some ways I even see my children more which is an unexpected bonus. I find I am more careful with my time though which only benefits the kids hopefully.

Well I will write again soon, believe me I still have plenty to talk about; I just tend to witter away on twitter now instead.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Special Child


You weren't like other children,
And God was well aware,
You'd need a caring family,
With love enough to share.

And so He sent you to us,
And much to our surprise,
You haven't been a challenge,
But a blessing in disguise.

Your winning smiles and laughter,
The pleasures you impart,
Far outweigh your special needs,
And melt the coldest heart.

We're proud that we've been chosen,
To help you learn and grow,
The joy that you have brought us,
Is more than you can know.

A precious gift from Heaven,
A treasure from above,
A child who's taught us many things,
But most of all "Real Love"
 
Author Unknown

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Supermarket Meltdowns

My 4 year old son starts school in September and of course in any family this is big news. My baby boy is growing up, leaving nursery and joining big school with his big brother and his baby sister is taking his place at nursery. Part of the normal cycle of family life.

For us though, this has been anything but normal. When I think back to when number one son started school, my feelings couldn't have been more different. I was confident about his ability to fit in, to progress, to get the most out of school. I took it absolutely for granted that this next step in his life would go smoothly, that after a couple of (expected) tears at the classroom door, that he would be flying. And he has... he is happy, popular, well behaved, progressing academically and apparently a pleasure to have in the class.

My second son is a sociable, beautiful character with a delightful sense of humour. He has brilliant rythym and loves music. He is a speed demon on his scooter and he will bounce happily on the trampoline for hours given the chance with the biggest smile you have ever seen on a child. People who take the time to get to know him fall in love with him.

If you don't get to know him though, its unlikely that you will understand much of what he has to say because he has a condition called Verbal Dyspraxia. Put simply this means that the messages from his brain get mixed up between there and his mouth, to the extent that he can sometimes sound like he is speaking another language. For him 'milk' is 'lunk' and 'football' is 'biffall' to descibe a couple of examples. He is also generally delayed and so in some ways is younger than his body would tell us he is. It has also become apparent that his receptive language and comprehension is also limited which means that he doesn't understand everything you have to say either.

Think about that for a second and try to imagine his frustration.

Then add a thing called 'sensory processing difficulties' into the mix. Sensory processing is the way we all make sense of the world. How we interpret our feelings, emotions, touch, pain, sound, movement etc and even time. When a person has difficulty with any of these, certain situations can become bewildering. confusing and even scary. It doesnt take a professional to work out that a child experiencing any of these feelings will act up. Chuck in a lack of impulse control and you're in for fireworks.

Imagine not understanding everything that is said to you, plus those around you not always understanding you either, and then imagine experiencing a rising sense of panic and bewilderment when anything unexpected happens.

My son responds beautifully to predictability and routine and sadly it has taken us quite a while to really understand this, because we are not generally the 'routine' kind of family. Now we have routines for everything. If we deviate from these routines we risk meltdowns which have the potential to change the whole day. The thing to remember about these routines though, is that they are subject to change with no notice... the rules set by our son and our failure to keep to the rules... again... results in consequences for us all.

His response to routines however is one of my greatest hopes for school. Certainly in Reception class, they have lots of routine, things happen at certain times and in certain ways and he will be fine with that once he gets used to them.

Wierdly the fact that he does repond so well has been one of our greatest personal frustrations. Why?! I hear you ask. It is because it makes people doubt you. When you turn up at Nursery utterly frazzled with a child that you are a hairsbreadth away from putting on Ebay, they simply dont understand. Because the second he walks over their safe predictable threshold, he turns into a compliant little angel.

I've had staff staring at me like I'm from another planet and I've gone home and cried in frustration. Is it just us? Maybe we are just terrible parents? Maybe he is just naughty and we have lost control of him. However well meaning staff are in telling me how wonderful he is, every word used to feel like an indictment of my parenting skills. There was a point when I genuinely felt that they thought I was making a fuss out of nothing, that perhaps I was even suffering something like Munchausens syndrome, that I was looking for a problem where there was none. I still get days like that actually.

And I don't think I'm alone in this feeling. It is an extraordinarily isolating feeling.

Unfortunately friends don't really understand either. As a family of a child with extra needs, we have a lot on our plate. Our lives in many ways revolve around his needs. My 6 (nearly 7) year old is expected to jump through the same hoops we do as parents, make allowances and excuses for his behaviour. I frequently feel sorry for him but what can I do?

So when I make certain decisions, like coming home early from a rainy holiday, or not doing certain activities on certain days, its not because I'm an inadequate parent, or selfish, or anything else you may care to discuss amoung yourselves, it's because I have the longer game in mind. Saving activities for a day when my son can concentrate on the fun he is having rather than the rain on his face which is painfully distracting for him, the cold fingers that distract him more than Peppa Pig or Thomas the Tank can. Avoiding the feel of raincoats which he finds unbearable. I make these decisions because I know my child. I don't expect everyone to understand his needs and my actions to respond to his needs but I do need people to respect my decisions as a parent.

All this said, transition to school would have been an absolute nightmare if it weren't for the local Early Years Service. The staff have been amazing. They genuinely seem to care about his progress and school experience. They also genuinely seem to want our input as parents and I get the distinct impression that they believe us! Its liberating. It has taken a very long time to reach the stage of support we now receive for our lovely boy and the relief is extraordinary.

My son is a gift. His easy smile and laugh are catching. I love him to distraction, as I do all my 3 children but when 1 of those children is a fulltime occupation I don't have the time to be continually explaining everything to people who can't see the facts past their own opinion. So the next time you see a mother watching a small boy twirling round on his back in the cheeses aisle in the supermarket while screaming, please don't tut, definately please don't feel the need to give advice ("what he needs is a smacked bottom" is NOT helpful in this situation) and whatever you do don't report them to security. If you must do something, just smile in sympathy with the poor woman and try not to run the kid over with your trolley.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

What Women Want

When I started as a Breastfeeding Counsellor, I used to cram as many things as I could into my antenatal classes.

A year later and some more direct experience supporting brand new mothers in their early breastfeeding experience and I find my classes to be a bit different.

I used to go to great pains to tell parents how they could do it properly, not quite step by step, but almost. I'd justify this approach by thinking about how I would have appreciated the information before I breastfed my first child.

It took being on a postnatal ward with a brand new mother with an hours old newborn to remind me in exquisite shock just what it is like to be a new mother. It took me right back and I started to think long and hard about just how I felt in those first 24 hours. Morphine induced haze aside, when the mist started to clear, I was overwhelmed with the enormity of the task ahead and the minute and beautiful creature in my arms.

The realisation that all the information I'd been given before birth about the future... about labour, birth itself, the postnatal period... are all fairly abstract concepts because nothing really, nothing truly prepares you for what motherhood brings you.

So these days I have stripped back the instruction manual.

1. Milk supply is still there - one of the keys of success. Basic economics - the more you feed, the more milk you will have.
Also - newborns have tiny tums! Colostrum in its tiny amounts is perfect!

2. Your baby has natural instincts to help him/her to breastfeed - learn to recognise and 'use' them. They are called infant feeding cues. Given the opportunity, a baby can self attach.
Also - Glean confidence from this knowledge - its a pairing, you're not on your own

3. Cuddle your baby - Skin to skin at birth and then continue facing your baby while feeding - aka tummy to mummy. Nice and close
Also - Baby needs a wide open mouth - nose to nipple will help to trigger this

4. Support is paramount - Partners, friends, family, HCPs? Who is it that you derive the most support from? Who cares about you?
Also - this is certainly not limited to the babys biological father

5. What if its not working? Many people have heard of Thrush, Mastitis and other pain - how do you deal with these?
Also - many of the problems come back to a latch issue

In a 2.5 hour class thats about half an hour to deal with each section. Is 2.5 hours even nearly enough to re-write the cultural norms of Britain? I do sometimes get the distinct impression that if some people could get their antenatal education in a Twitter party then they would. People want snippits, little nuggets they can file away. But they also want it all.

So welcome to the world of breastfeeding counselling, the daily balance of what we think parents need to know, what we think parents want to know, what parents tell us they want to know, what we wish we had known, our hopes, their fears, joys, anxieties and the heady priviledge of being involved in this extraordinary part of a new mothers life.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Baby Catcher To Be

I haven't posted in a while as I have been a little distracted! On October 3rd, 2011, I applied to University to study Midwifery. I was invited to interview in February and then on 29th March 2012 I heard that I had an unconditional offer and I start this September!

Despite wanting this more than I can explain, I was still overwhelmed by the emotion that poured out of me! All the waiting, the tension... the pure emotional rollercoaster that is the Midwifery application process...

When I first started looking at this all those years ago, people said to me that mature students literally just walk into courses and so in a way I just kind of thought that I wanted to do this, so I'll go to uni and it'll all be wonderful. Back then there wasn't a lot of info online about midwifery applications but the timing wasn't really right anyway. I looked at it again when I was pregnant with my daughter and found www.studentmidwife.net and it was there that I had my eyes opened. Abruptly!

Turns out you can't just walk into a Midwifery course! Thankfully in terms of criteria I was already on the way as I was already studying to be a Breastfeeding Counsellor. Its so amazing to me how this has all developed so organically.

I soon found out that the uni I was applying to usually had in excess of 800 applicants every year, that they interviewed around 200... and of those, they offered around 30. Despite the odds which all of a sudden seemed stacked against me, we decided on a year to try and thats how the 3rd October came about.

So here I am. Student Midwife 2012. You only live once, thats not a cliche, its a very serious fact of life. So I'm grabbing it with both hands (though I hope to be considerably more of a hands off kind of midwife ;) )

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Memories

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow,
For babies grow up... we've learnt to our sorrow.

So quiet down cobwebs,
Dust... go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby,
And babies don't keep.
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Saturday, 7 January 2012

A more direct approach to promotion?

Mothers milk is the gold standard in infant nutrition. It provides absolutely everything a child needs in order to survive and thrive. It is food and drink. It continually adapts in order to pass on mothers antibodies and immunities. We know that it literally saves lives, reduces chances of illnesses such as gastroenteritis, ear infections and more. There is evidence to suggest that colostrum actually lines and seals the babies immature gut to help prevent infections. We know that it also reduces the incidence of obesity. We know that in mothers that it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer, diabetes and helps you to lose weight as an added bonus.

These things are just the tip of the iceberg.

We know that artificial milk, or breastmilk substitute does not even come close. Try as they might, the manufacturers cannot perfectly imitate mothers milk. It is unable to support the babies immature immune system in the same way that mothers milk can.

However we (breastfeeding supporters) are often scared to lay out the benefits of breastfeeding because of the fear of causing guilt, and then we are then terrified about explaining the possible dangers of artificial formula feeding. We are afraid of being labelled breastfeeding nazis and the breastapo amongst others.

Our approach to breastfeeding counselling is a softly softly approach, we don't judge, we are mother centred. But I wonder if a change in tactics is required?

I heard recently about the Rush Mothers Milk Club. www.rushmothersmilkclub.com The idea behind the club is that mothers are provided with up to date research based evidence about the properties of colostrum and breastmilk and they literally treat the breastmilk like medicine, particularly in the case of pre-term babies. The results have been significant.

The counsellor in me does admittedly baulk at the concept of a medical model of breastfeeding promotion, but the more I think about it, the more I think why not? A colleague commented lately that the main reason that the NHS is hanging on to the promotion of breastfeeding is that there is the strong link to obesity, and obesity is the bane of the NHS. So what about a medical model?

If you are a parent, think for a moment about the infant vaccination program. How was it presented to you? Essential? Life saving? Good for society as a whole, not just the individual? (Please forgive me if you choose not to vaccinate, I hope you see this for the analagy it is!) There is little expectation that you would choose not to do something for your child that is considered life saving. (again, please bear with me!).

So why, when we know that breastfeeding is all of those things, do we not promote colostrum and breast milk with the same attitude? You would think that with obesity directly costing the NHS in the region  of £4.2 billion (http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publichealth/Obesity/DH_078098) they might consider taking a more direct approach.

Are we so afraid of hurting peoples feelings that we won't provide the information that can save lives? What kind of upside down world is that?