2017 – a reflection

Well, I made it through another year. And what a year it was..

As is now somewhat of a tradition, I revisit this wordpress site, hope I remember the password, and write a reflection of the past 12 months with hopefully a positive look at all that has happened within it.

I just re-read the 2016 entry and shocked myself that those things happened last year, not this year, which tells me 3 things – time flies, the wider world is still a troubled and worrying place, and my memory isn’t what it used to be.

Before I get to that, let’s look at the world in general. Brexit and Trump dominate headlines and things look gloomy and bleak in many places around the world. I try to stay informed, stay active and engaged, but also practise self-care and tune it out when it’s necessary. On those lines; at the start of the year, I decided that Facebook was bad for my mental health and so I decided to cut back. I logged in only once a week (on a Saturday morning) to sift through notifications. I kept Messenger and Pages so that I could keep up with friends and work, and I was so much happier and productive. Then, in May, I found myself awake a lot and needing something inane to do, so I signed back in and just. kept. scrolling.  I intend to go back to my once-a-week from now on. It was good.

Everything changed in May. So let’s talk about that now. I’ve been meaning to jot this down for myself for 7.5 months now, so it may get a little long-winded…!

At 8:50am on the 17th of May, our little Bean came into the world. At 41weeks and a day, he was overdue and I was definitely ready to stop being pregnant. The previous morning, I had been to see the midwife and she had booked my induction. She had also examined me and so I knew I was relatively close to a natural labour. After that, I had a feeling it would happen that night. Though, of course, I’d been thinking that every night for about 2 weeks, so I wasn’t sure I believed it.

Around midnight, I couldn’t sleep as Christopher was restless, so I moved to the spare room. I felt twinges, but I convinced myself nothing was going on as I felt like I’d managed a good few hours sleep. Turned out it was about 25 minutes… At around 3am, I woke Chris, knowing I was now having contractions about 4-5 minutes apart. Fast forward through a few phonecalls to the LGI, some ridiculous “prioritising” from Chris (who insisted on having a shower before packing the car!) and we arrived at the LGI Maternity Unit around 6:30am, just as the staff were changing over. We were the only ones in the ward, so we turned off the poppy radio station and shortly after handover, with contractions every 1-2 minutes, I headed to a birthing room where they set the pool running for the water birth I had been hoping for. It was now 7:40am.

I had an amazing midwife and student midwife who kept me grounded. They wanted to put me on a drip as I was dehydrated. In my stubbornness, I wanted to avoid this, thinking it would stop me going in the birthing pool, so I drank a lot of water instead! It’s worth noting that at this point, the only pain relief I had taken were 2 paracetamol at 3am. The tens machine I had borrowed hadn’t even come out of it’s box.

Being told he had a good few hours, Christopher went to move the car. On his return, things were not quite so calm. Contractions were strong, and I was not doing too well at keeping relaxed and quiet, despite the hypnobirthing CD playing.

At around 8:20am, I was told the birthing pool was ready but they just wanted to check the baby’s heart rate. They couldn’t get a good read and it seemed weak, so they would have to put a clip on his head to get a better read. That was the end of my water-birth hopes, and I was disappointed.

From then, things became a bit of blur. I was told I needed to get on the bed. I looked up and in addition to Chris, the midwife and the student midwife, there were 5 other people in the room: Head midwife, 2 registrars, 2 paediatricians and then later a consultant too. I was urged to have gas and air, which gave me something to focus on with my breathing (I don’t recall it helping with the pain!) My waters were broken, I was given an episiotomy and the registrars explained they would have to use forceps. I heard them say they had only 20 minutes to deliver the baby. They tried twice, then the consultant arrived. She was all business and sternly told me what I needed to do. She delivered my baby and after a few seconds on my belly (where I heard him cry), he was taken to the corner of the room to be looked at by the paediatric team. She was a superhero. After 15 minutes of being examined and having to have a high-flow of oxygen, he was placed in a special cot, brought over for a kiss from his parents and then taken away to the High Dependancy Unit. I was left on the bed awaiting a trip to theatre.

I headed to theatre a couple of hours later where I had all the drugs I had wanted to avoid in delivery. The guys administering them were great and chatted to me about music; they put on some Ella Fitzgerald as I was ‘repaired’. Chris was up on the HDU watching our son, and once out of theatre I was told as soon as I was able to get into a wheelchair, I could meet him.

6 and a half hours after he was born, I got to hold my son for the first time. He had various tubes giving him extra oxygen, antibiotics and monitoring him, but he was doing ok. Christopher had discovered that his name was Joseph and I agreed. Joseph Bradley.

JB stayed in the HDU for 3 days, on antibiotics and oxygen. I stayed in a private room on a different floor without him. Unfortunately, I was accidentally given dairy on my 2nd day there, which made me ill. I was placed in isolation and was not allowed to visit him (or leave my room) until they could determine that it wasn’t an infection. It was heart breaking. Christopher was amazing and split his time between us, but needed support that I couldn’t give, so my Mum came down to help. Eventually, I was cleared and we were reunited again. We spent a further 2 nights in hospital on the maternity ward (the first was dreadful, the second was much better) and were discharged on the Sunday evening.

There are so many things I could say about the NHS at this moment, and about the incredible staff I encountered at the LGI that week. They literally saved my boy’s life, and I can’t thank them enough. Two moments will forever be etched in my mind, though.

The first was when I was lying on the bed, post-delivery, and waiting for the operating theatre. Charlotte, the student midwife, had read my ‘Birthing Preferences’ and knew that none of this had been what I had wanted. But, I had written that if these things were necessary for the baby, I would agree to them. And they were necessary. In that way, she said, I stuck entirely to my plan. That helped a lot.

The second happened as were getting ready to be discharged. We had been told the consultant who delivered Joseph would come and give a debrief, in case we had any questions, but with being in isolation that didn’t happen (I got one 6 weeks later with her, which was an incredible service and very helpful). Instead, a different consultant came to talk us through some of what happened. Her nickname was ‘Winnie’ and she showed us the trace of JB’s heart during the end stages of labour, in those last 40-or-so minutes. It was a really bad trace, she said. “I am a woman of science, but someone was watching over him” she told us. “He’s destined for great things”.

I assumed that, had he not been able to be delivered by the forceps, I’d have had a c-section. I later found out at the 6-week appointment that that wasn’t an option. There were no other options.

So, we had our incredible baby boy. He had given us quite an entrance, but 5 days later we were home. The day after we got home, we headed to Asda to buy blankets and various other things we didn’t feel we had enough of. I think it was good that we got out into ‘the real world’ at that moment, otherwise I’m not sure I would have done for weeks!

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of our hospital stays. He lost 19.8% of his birth weight (8lb 1) and the midwives couldn’t work out why. They generally ‘allow’ for 10% so we had daily weigh-ins and eventually were readmitted the following weekend for a further 3 days, meaning I missed most of Hullzapoppin’ (priorities!)

We were finally discharged with no real answers, but the doctors were happy and with a few more weeks of monitoring were eventually given the all-clear. Looking at him now, you wouldn’t believe any of this went on, but I know it will always stay with me and it makes me feel even more blessed and grateful to have him, and the NHS, in our lives.

With all the ins-and-outs of hospital, I sort of forgot that the gig I had provisionally taken at the start of June had not been ‘depped. So, at 16 days old, the family headed to Sheffield and I did a gig. Christopher and Joseph were both amazing. I was tired and sore, but I did it. And it lead to many more ridiculous work-undertakings. I even did a double-gig-day (Nottingham and then Leicester) with my Mum in tow a few weeks later!

So yes, work this year has been good, if not challenging.

I kept teaching at my Bradford school until February half term and made it to the end of Semester 2 at the University. I gigged until 37weeks and started again at 16 days; Honeybirds, AppleJacks, Ladies of Swing, Solos and Wall Street Stomp – some with Joe and Chris/Mum in tow. We made it to Edinburgh in December and are seeing 2018 in in Wales. I ran a choir that JB and Chris were in from July until September and started teaching at Uni again at the start of the academic year, when Joseph was about 4 months old. I even ran a ‘Choir for All Ages’ with Joseph at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and managed a Teapots and Twirls tea dance with Jules in November, to boot! It’s been hard, and I’ve relied a lot of family (and our childminder), but I’m proud that I have been able to continue doing what I love. Oh yeah, I also recorded an ep with 4 original songs on it too! Turns out Joe is a bit of a muse for me

Christopher is now well on his way to becoming a Social Worker, and I’m very proud of him.

Pre-Joseph, we also continued work on the house and had a new kitchen installed (call it ‘extreme nesting’) and we’re now turning our attention to a few more bits and pieces that need tackling.

We also managed a couple of holidays – one to Castleton in the Peak District and one to Thailand! My brother, his partner and my niece live out there and so the family (Mum, Dad, Sister, Brother-in-law, niece, Christopher and JB) headed out to see where they live when Joe was 3.5-4 months old. He’s such a brilliant and happy baby, he took it all in his stride. Though he did manage to get a nasty cold from the air-con!

Our first Christmas has been perfect. We stayed in Leeds and the 3 of us, plus Bessie and Hendricks (when he decided to put in an appearance!) started to make our own traditions. 2018 promises to be just as exciting, and we’re headed to the USA in February to introduce JB to our friends in NY.

There are many things to be thankful for this year, and whilst the above covers quite a few of them, I am also incredibly grateful for the support of friends old and new that I have had this year – particularly those I have met through the NCT classes we took and the choir I ran at YSP. I’m not sure I could have gotten through everything this year threw at me without those people around.

So thank you, 2017. You have tested me more than I think I’ve been tested before, but you have showed me I am strong, resilient, and capable. You have also shown me that my capacity to love another human being is far far greater than I ever could have imagined. I can not completely remember what life was like before Joseph, but I don’t think I need to; he is perfect and destined for great things. The Doctor told me so.

I hope that 2018 is a successful, happy and healthy one, full of love.

Tessa x

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