Friday, 18 September 2015

Mindfulness ~ my lifeline over the last six months

Mindfulness has received mixed press recently.  While lots of people praise its benefits it is also being labelled the latest craze and many companies are pushing to make money out of it.  It’s sad really when all the scientific research is pointing towards it being an effective way for us to treat conditions like anxiety and depression which up until now it has been all too easy just for doctors to prescribe pills to ‘solve’ these complex problems.  

Mindfulness takes work and dedication, at the end of the day it is changing the way we look at the world and  acknowledge our own thoughts.  But I have to say having spent the last six months using it to overcome my pregnancy anxiety, it really does work and I will be taking what I have learnt through mindful birthing forward into the rest of my life.

Foundations of Mindfulness

Beginner’s Mind – don’t let fear from past experiences take over new experiences
Non-judging – things don’t have to be good or bad they can just be
Patience – learning not to let things get to you by coming back to the breath
Non-striving – there is nothing to achieve in mindfulness, it’s all about learning to be more present
Self-reliance – learning to listen to ourselves
Acknowledgement – accepting things just are without trying to change them
Letting be – learning to accept situations as they are without trying to run away from them
Kindness – towards ourselves and towards others

The first thing to learn is how to use the breath as a tool to bring you back to the present moment.  Breathing is something we all take for granted, it keeps us alive, and yet it is something we carry with us all the time without even thinking and something we can use to focus our mind on.  Once you come to realise how amazing our breath is you understand how powerful it can be in reducing anxiety and depression.

Once you have got your head around the breath you can move onto a variety of both formal and informal mindfulness practices.  The idea of formal mindfulness practice is to take time out of your day to ‘formally’ carry out meditation.  These sorts of practices include:

  • Body scan – where you really think about the feelings and sensations in your body
  • Yoga – using the breath as part of a series of stretches and exercises
  • Pain Practice – using Ice Cubes to simulate contractions and learning to use the breath to cope
  • Walking meditation – concentrating on the rhythm of walking
  • Loving – kindness meditation – sending loving thoughts to your baby, yourself and others

Informal medication is how mindfulness slowly takes over your life and makes you look at life completely differently.  It’s all about taking opportunities to focus on the here and now.  It might be just taking 2 minutes at work to really focus on your baby’s movements or when you feel pain or an itch.  It could just be taking the time to really concentrate when you are brushing your teeth or walking in the park rather than letting yourself get caught up in your thoughts and missing what is happening in the here and now.

Mindfulness somehow seems to address all the issues around birth.  Whether it be the straight forward how am I going to deal with the pain of labour or the more complex emotions of fear and anxiety from a previous traumatic pregnancy and labour.  To the even more complex emotions of losing a baby in the past – there seems to be a way for mindfulness to help and so I would recommend it to anyone – no matter the situation.
Mindfulness also is so important in our future roles as parents.  Parenthood is filled with challenges, from the pain and struggles of breast-feeding, sleepless nights, sick children, temper tantrums, potty training, the list is endless.  Being able to take a deep breath and let go of our anxieties and judgements allows us to view all these challenges in a more clear way and make better more balanced decisions.

Mindfulness also strengthens our relationships with our partners, how can it not, values like patience and non-judgement can only ever strengthen a relationship.  Becoming parents is hard, having a baby will never fill gaps in a relationship, it will only highlight them all the more and gives so many new opportunities for problems to raise their heads. Mindfulness teaches us to be kind and loving, to try to understand how the other person is feeling and to take a breath before we say something we later regret.  I believe mindfulness helps to fill gaps in our relationships and so I know I will make sure I continue to use it to help me to cope with the challenges of life.

Almost 38 weeks ~ our baby loves chocolate!

Wanted to post something to cheer myself up and hopefully make you guys all smile.

I have been feeling a bit sorry for myself the last few days.  I have managed to pick up Riley’ cold and so have been feeling grotty on top of feeling enormous – not a great combination! Also I have heard from a few of my friends that things haven’t gone so well for them in their pregnancies, labours and with their children.  It makes it feel like there are so many ways things can go wrong and bringing up happy, healthy children is really more luck than good decisions.

But amongst all this I have noticed that our baby loves chocolate! Not 100% sure this is a good thing but it makes me smile.  So when I sit down with a glass of water and my favourite choccy bar then give it 5 minutes and suddenly I can feel baby moving around and kicking lots.  Always puts a smile on my face and feel we have something in common!

Image result for aero chocolate

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

37 weeks ~ the reality it could happen any time!

So yesterday I had a panic, I really don’t know what came over me as I have been feeling so in control but all of a sudden I just felt so anxious and out of my depth.  I haven’t been feeling quite right the last couple of days and I was sitting with Riley on the sofa and thought I had started having contractions… I guess it made me realise it could happen at any time now and I just don’t feel ready.  But do you ever feel ready?

I guess I have just been trying to keep such control over the process and all of a sudden the reality that labour is completely out of our control hit me.  It will happen when it happens and we’ll have to drop everything and just get on with it.  After having had my little panic and then doing some mindfulness I fell asleep and woke up in the night to realise it wasn't the start of labour and everything could carry on as normal… for now!

I think last night made me realise this isn't going to be easy and I need to work on my mindfulness more than ever now to keep some control over my anxiety and not let it get on top of me.   Let’s face it in a month the baby will be here and we will hopefully all be home getting used to life with a new little person in it.  The process that gets us there is out of my control so taking a deep breath and accepting things as they happen seems like a good way to live life right now!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Becoming a big sister!

Riley is well aware she's going to become a big sister in the next few weeks and she seems really excited.  She talks to my bump, kisses and cuddles it and tells everyone she's going to be a big sister soon.  She seems quite aware of what having a baby around entails, she breastfeeds her teddy and can change a nappy!  All in all she seems super excited which is fantastic.

But I am under no illusion that this is going to be an easy transition for her, even now there are little tell tell signs which let me know she needs our support even more at the moment.  Every time someone special leaves we have tears at the moment and asking for 'one more' kiss and cuddle.  But as I have said in previous posts all we can do is show her we love her and take each day as it comes.

I know she is going to be an amazing big sister.  Here's a picture of us on our last holiday as a little family of 3!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Injection time ~ and a chance to build a few life skills!

I had been thinking a lot about the best way to give Riley her MMR and preschool boosters as to me giving a baby two injections at once seems quite mean but at least they don’t remember it after.  But take a three year old who is just developing her own strong opinions on how things in her life should work and it seems to me like a recipe for disaster.  Added to that the fact that I know vaccinations can make you feel a bit rough I decided it would be better to have them done separately.
Then I realised I could time Riley’s MMR with my whooping cough vaccine, it seemed like the perfect situation.  We discussed what would happen at home when I had made the appointment and that we would both be getting injections in a few weeks which might hurt a little bit at the time but would make sure we didn’t get ill.  Riley seemed happy with this and after asking a few more questions went back to playing happily.
So yesterday was the day and it was pouring with rain, so after a 45 minute walk to the doctors I was soaked and feeling a bit fed up (it’s days like yesterday when I really miss being able to drive).  As we entered the nurses room the nurse said, ‘did you get my message?’ I said ‘no’ and she explained most people get the two vaccinations done together as it can be quite traumatic for the child.  Riley can’t have her pre-school booster for another few months so the nurse suggested we waited.
I explained we had talked about what was going to happen and I wanted her to have her MMR now and pre-school next year (as in a couple of months we would be a bit busy with a new baby) and Riley then said ‘Mummy’s going to have her whooping cough injection first and then I am going to have my injection, I’m a big girl, I’m three’.  I think the nurse was quite surprised that Riley was so clued up on what was about to happen and yet not making a fuss at all.
Riley sat on my lap while I had my injection and then snuggled into me for hers.  She then turned to the nurse and said ‘that didn’t hurt and that she didn’t want a plaster because mummy didn’t have one’ and then she chose a sticker with a dinosaur on and explained it looked like Dub (her imaginary dinosaur) and skipped out of the room saying a cheery ‘thank you, bye’.  The nurse smiled and said if only they were all that easy!  Riley then walked home skipping in all the puddles as she went.
We’ve always tried to be open and honest with Riley about everything, explaining things to her in as simple a way as possible but without hiding things from her.  I think sometimes people don’t give young children enough credit for what they can deal with and maybe we shelter them too much.  It’s all about giving them the tools and support to be able to deal with what might happen in life – life’s not perfect and does have good and bad bits and part of our role as parents is to equip our children to deal with this and make sure they know they are loved and cared for no matter what happens.

For us my epilepsy means we have no choice but to talk about some difficult situations.  Things like injections are a good exercise for doing this too and I am so proud of how brave and grown up Riley was yesterday. 

Saturday, 22 August 2015

34 weeks ~ birth plan's in place

I cannot thank Kim the epilepsy midwife enough for all she has done to get us to this point.  It has been her support which has given us the confidence to stand our ground and push for what we want.  We are now finally at a point where we have a clear plan which is agreed by both the consultant midwife and obstetric consultant at the hospital.


We wanted to be in the birthing unit by due to the size of the rooms we have agreed it would probably be better to be up on the ward but they are going to move the bed and medical equipment to the side of the room and put mats and a birth ball out.  My labour will be managed by the midwife unless anything goes wrong.  I am going to have intermittent monitoring of the baby so I don't have to be strapped to equipment.  No IV - something we have thought long and hard about but due to me never having been in status it seems like an unnecessary intervention.

Pain relief

Mindfulness and moving around using different positions as well as a TENS machine which I found fantastic last time.  Then gas and air as needed. If I need any intervention such as forceps or a c section I will have a spinal instead.


We're planning to be discharged reasonably quickly and they have said we can have a private room so that Rich can stay with me, so it's not the end of the world if I have to be in for one night.

It's just been nice to have it acknowledged by both the consultant midwife and the consultant that what happened last time was pretty traumatic for both Rich and me.  The fact they understand that I know my condition the best and are listening to what I want is refreshing and helping me feel more confident and less frightened about this labour.

As far as I am concerned, I am still seizure free and well.  There are no concerns at the moment with more or baby and baby has their head down and seems to be getting into the right position.  So all is looking positive.

Don't get me wrong, I know a lot can change in the next 6 weeks, but all we can do is prepare as best we can and go with things as they happen.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Epilepsy & Me ~ BBC Three

Last night BBC Three showed a fantastic documentary as part of their ‘Defying the Label’ season.

The documentary looked at what it was like to live as young person with epilepsy.  It particularly addressed the hidden nature of epilepsy.  Something which I think can be difficult for us to come to terms with but also those around us.

Amy, Jack, Olivia - Epilepsy and Me

What happens when people can’t see your disability? It’s hidden and can strike at any time, without warning – when you’re walking down the street, in a classroom, at a party or on a date.

The programme looked at four young people with epilepsy and covered a wide range of topics in a short time.

It was also filmed mainly at Young Epilepsy, a place which I know very well from working there for two years and so it brought back a lot of memories of that time of my life too.

Loss of independence

One of the biggest things for me was how closely supervised these young people are.  How can you grow up and lead an independent life when you can never be left alone?

I feel blessed my family have never been overprotective of me.  Even when my seizures were new and much more regular they still allowed me to go off to university.  They must have worried about me, but they never let that show and I am forever thankful to them for that.  I think sometimes we don’t give the people around us the benefit they so much deserve.

I also think we should encourage family and friends to speak out more about their own experiences of the person’s epilepsy.  So many of the problems for people with epilepsy is being limited from doing things because people don’t think it’s safe or don’t know how to reduce the risks. How can we ever change this if the amazing people who support us don’t feel they have a way to talk about how they allow the person they love so much to live life to the full.

Big decisions

The programme also looked at 14-year-old Thomas who was having tests to see if his epilepsy was due to a newly discovered brain tumour.  After many tests it appeared that the tumour was the most probable cause of his seizures – he now has to decide whether to go for the brain surgery which has a 70% chance of curing his epilepsy but risks leaving him with speech and memory problems or to live with his seizures.  

These are big decisions for people so young to face and part of me feels lucky that surgery has never been an option for me – could I make a decision that big?

Stress, anxiety and excitement as triggers

One of the people I related to most was 24 year old Amy, she obviously had no idea when she had had a seizure, the way she was when she came round from her seizures rung true for me, that being confused but not sure why.

She was desperate to live an independent life and was looking for a long term placement, she found The Meath in Godalming and set her heart on it.  Her seizures then got worse so her supervision increased… somehow I could relate to her, doctors put her increased seizures down to her medications but I’m not so sure, I think often the emotional triggers of seizures are overlooked because we can’t fully understand them.  But I know my focal seizures are triggered by stress, anxiety, excitement, it’s a hard thing to accept because all those feelings are part of life, we need to feel them but what do we do if by feeling these intense emotions we end up triggering a seizure?


The only area I felt the programme didn't do justice too was the issue of driving.  And that is a biggy for so many people with epilepsy.

21 year old Olivia hadn't had a seizure for four years and wanted to learn to drive.  I really felt for her as it seemed like a lot of the people around her weren't supportive of her learning to drive. 

They repeatedly said you needed to be seizure free for three years before you could learn to drive and I think they needed to be clearer about his as the general rule is one year seizure free.  I don’t know whether it was her family who had told her 3 years or apparently there are rare cases where due to being on controlled medication you can’t drive but it was a little misleading and I think will lead members of the public to question people with epilepsy driving after only a year, something we really don’t need.

I really felt for Olivia because it seemed like her family didn't have much faith in her abilities.  It made me feel so blessed to have always had my family fighting for my independence, be it carrying on with the activities I loved so much, horse riding, skiing and swimming to getting married and having a baby.  

It’s a scary thing letting a person you care about so much take risks, part of you wants to keep the safe and as a parent now I can understand that all the more.  But for my family it's always been a case of how can we do this but with the least risk, be it wearing a helmet and body protector riding or getting an alarm when I had our baby.  I can’t thank my family enough for their attitude towards my epilepsy, they are amazing.

If you are looking for information on driving rules Epilepsy Action has some great information here.

You can also watch the programme on BBC iplayer here until 10th September 2015.  Definitely well worth a watch - inspirational young people showing us how to live life to the full with epilepsy.