What’s Up Doc? 


I’m trying to do some e-learning in my lunch break at work. The computer doesn’t seem to have sound. I click on the speaker icon a couple of times and acknowledge that’s the extent of my technological skills and I call IT.  

“What’s up Doc?” They ask. 

So I explain and in response they send down the new, young, awkward (dare I say it, stereotypical) IT guy to my room. He comes in, makes very little eye contact and attaches some cables. There is no small talk or pleasantries.  
“That should work now. I will just press play” 

Which he does. On the screen is a role play scenario between a clinician and a patient. I had however, ramped up the computer to full volume (when it didn’t work instantly for me the first time) and  sure enough he has fixed the problem so the consultation comes booming out of the speakers: 

“I just can’t get it up doc, we kiss and cuddle but then it all goes wrong…” 

The module I’m studying is psychological sexual dysfunction. The man (or maybe ‘boy’ would be more accurate) hurriedly clicks pause- several times in his panic- resulting in a stop start continuation of the audio torture. He is mortified. Horrified. He can’t speak and appears to also not be able to move as he is still lunging over the desk staring at the screen in dismay. He remains this way whilst the awkward silence continues.

“Thanks! It sounds like its working” 

I say in an effort to bring the most awkward moment of this poor geeky IT chaps life to a close. Then before I can stop myself I continue:

“Although thats not what he was saying eh?!” Pointing to the computer screen while internally screaming ‘why why why did I just say that?!’.

My effort at humour did not help the situation. He blushed an even deeper shade of red, developed a panicked sweat and literally ran out of my room without saying a word. 

I just hope he never has to be the patient in that consultation. Although I fear I may have traumatised him so significantly he might be…. 

Shhh, Shhh, Shower…


I thought I had showering sorted. I finally thought, 16 months after birthing The Boy I had eventually got to grips with the process of showering, while also parenting the 4yr old drama queen and the tiny destroyer. 

The approach involves confining them both in The Boy’s room (the least hazardous room in the house), locking the child gate, leaving the bathroom door open and speed washing. 

Now, on this particular day – The Deputy, (my friendly but very over involved retired neighbour) rang the door bell. The kids are restrained, I have negotiated the terms of The Girl’s release, I’m naked and literally stepping into my hot running shower. So I ignore it . 

The first time. 

The second time. 

And on the third time it crosses my mind that maybe he isn’t disturbing me to offer me vegetables (he intentionally grows an excess of lettuce so that he can constantly disturb the entire street to share his produce). So I do a naked dash to my bedroom window and spot The Deputy’s wife watering her back garden, and decide that there is no medical emergency and my shower is back on. 

Just as I get myself into the shower and dare to breathe a quick deep relaxing breath. Then the shrieking begins. 

“Mummy!!”  

I ignore it. Just 1 more minute. 

“Mummy!!”

Deep breath. Just one more minute.

“Mummy!!” And she is in there in the bathroom. Right there, just one minute in to my shower. 

Now, The Girl is 4 years old. We have negotiated this, every non work day, for the past few months. She knows the rules. She does not leave the bedroom for fear that The Boy will immediately make a run for the stairs through the, then open, gate and I will have to do a mad mid shower gallop to grab him. 

So I’m not that happy right now. 

“Mummy!!” 

“Right…” and I’m ready to give her some stern words. 

So I turn to look at her. Obviously if I’m going to tell her off I’m going to be an A+ mummy and make eye contact with her……but then I notice something on her face. A big brown streak across her forehead and down her cheek. 

“Erm, What is that on your face?” 

“I thought it was peanut butter Mummy but it came out his nappy when he crawled over my head….Mummy I think it’s… POO!!!” 

There we are. All I wanted was 5 minutes in the shower. 5 minutes alone (admittedly with the door open and my ears on).  

Instead, I got 2 mins of doorbell ringing (it turns out because The Deputy needed to tell me the window cleaner was here-like I wouldn’t have noticed myself), 1 min of shrieking and the grand finale of my daughter having a faeces face mask courtesy of her little brother. 

Yep I got this down. 

Back to the dry shampoo. 

Diarrhoea Despair… 

Firstly, it needs to be said I share the following delight of an experience, not in a search for sympathy but purely for light hearted entertainment. The episode has now passed and I can look back and laugh heartily – with a much more acceptable risk level of soiling myself. 

I got ill. I got the mother of all stomach bugs. I had explosive, incapacitating, diarrhoea. And of course it struck when Phil was on call.

I called in to work sick, for the first time in years. I did get sent home sick once while The Boy was a passenger, because I was definitely sicker than some of the patients, but had attempted to do that typical doctor thing of not wanting to let down colleagues – actually I probably just spread the lurgy, in hindsight it was a bad decision and I should have known better. In this case there was no doubting the sick call had to be made. 

Being that I hadn’t left the toilet since 3am and my bum was clenched and burning, Phil called a colleague to say he would be late and took the kids to nursery. I waved them off from the confines of my bathroom and proceeded to let nature take its course. 

By mid morning I had managed to leave the bathroom – stocked up with toilet roll from the airing cupboard supply and got myself a glass of flat lemonade. I went to bed cuddling a bucket to cover any top end mishaps. 

I tried to nap. The belly cramps were slowing down but a pump was still a very risky business in the white bed linen, so frequent trips to the loo continued. 

Unfortunately mid afternoon came and there was no sign of things letting up. I contacted Phil but of course he was on call… 

Nursery pick up time was rapidly approaching and I was still experiencing torrents of diarrhoea. 

Now in this scenario I decided my options were as follows:

1. Abandon the kids at nursery and let social services bring them home. 

2. Call Phil, demand he returns home at once. If someone has a testicular emergency he will need to explain that he is AWOL and the testicle is to be sacrificed so the surgeons wife can maintain her dignity and not crap herself in public. 

3. Get one of The Boys nappies, nappy up, wear a long top to cover up the bulging underwear situation, clench, get to the pharmacy buy a truck load of Imodium, take immediately, have the most terrifyingly tense drive to nursery, apply alcohol hand gel copiously, grab both kids and return home (driving in an assertive but safe manner) and immediately hide in the toilet again while CBeebies keeps the kids in one place.

All undeniably appealing options. 

Clearly, I went for option 3, and whilst doing so, mentally prepared a business plan for an emergency Imodium home delivery service….

Public Parenting Politics…


I get that everyone parents differently, I’m in no position to judge. There are definitely times when I’m absolutely not winning parenting awards and occasions when I’m barely parenting at all. However. When I say I’m not judging… 

The Girl has swimming lessons. 8 kids in an old school swimming baths, teacher in the water, arm bands all round, parents sit on benches next to the pool. You get the the picture. 

Parents generally sit on the side, perspiring, passing the time of day, some checking their phones, others lightly snoozing, or like me, chasing after a newly wandering baby (who I know isn’t really a baby anymore but I’m damned if I’m gonna accept it). 

 All except Billy’s mum. Billy’s mum doesn’t sit down. Billy’s mum paces the side like an Olympic swimming coach. Billy’s mum is rather vocal. And because of this, every other parent knows that Billy’s mum is “so proud”, we all know that Billy “is the most amazing swimmer ever” (an awkward declaration in front of 7 other “swimmers”), we are all aware that it was “really amazing swimming” when Billy didn’t sink, despite him having arm bands, a woggle and kick board – it would have been more of an achievement if Billy had managed to sink with such an array of floatation devices. 

Now, I know it’s a bit catty, I don’t know the ins and outs of Billy and his mums life (other than how accomplished Billy is at preschool and how much he excels at football, running, and everything else) and I KNOW I shouldn’t be, but I am so intensely irritated by Billy’s mum.

At the end of the class there are 3 showers and 8 children. Billy is one of the first ones in (obviously – he would be, his mum cheer leaded him in to it from the poolside), and Billy’s mum is waxing lyrical to anyone who will listen about how great Billy is. 

Billy says “Mum, I’m going to do a wee”. This is witnessed by 5 waiting children and at least 6 of the parents. One of the parents who didn’t hear is Billy’s mum. Billy’s mum is still vocalising her sons success. So she misses it the first time he says it and also the second time. She also misses it when Billy pulls down his shorts, takes his willy out and starts sprinkling the shower floor, and the poolside with his chlorine water diluted urine. In fact, Billy’s mum only notices when she gets a warm, wet foot. 

Billy’s mum is mortified.

Inside there is a tiny bit of me smugly enjoying the fact that this perfect little boy with his perfect mum is absolutely, totally, 100%, normal. 

Obviously at this point I do the right thing. I drop a classic line “boys will be boys” and follow up with some small talk my urology husband tells me when I question the amount of time The Boy spends playing with his todger. “If boys weren’t meant to mess with their boy bits then they wouldn’t have been made with them at hand height”. 

So, Billy’s mum just learnt that that kids make sure that pride comes before a fall. Billy’s mum, being the way she is, clearly feels more mortified about this than most. 

So, then on reflection I feel guilty about how annoying I find her. I decide over the next week that I will not be annoyed by her over enthusiastic parenting, and will instead recognise that I’m maybe slightly envious, as this highlights my own shortcomings as a parent.  

But then the next lesson comes. And Billy’s mum won’t sit down. Or shut up. And “Darling Billy” is still the “best swimmer ever”. Even if he does publicly pee all over his mother. 

Well, that’s unconditional parental love right there. So I guess Billy’s mum is alright really.  Just wish she would pipe down, because clearly The Girl is “the best swimmer ever”…

Wife of the Year… 


Its Phil’s birthday. He is the ripe old age of 32. So it’s not a ‘big birthday’ as such, but it’s a birthday. A birthday I forgot. 

To put it in context, it’s a Monday and I have been away all weekend on a hen do for my very good friend. I consumed unknown quantities of prosecco and gin, and after doing so threw myself around the dance floor. In my mind I was demonstrating Rihanna-esque moves and oozing sex appeal and rhythm, but in reality looking a lot like a 31 year old married mother of two who has been released for the weekend and thinks that she can still party like her slimmer, perkier, trendier, younger self. So, as a result of my exuberant celebrations I’m not on top form. I’m tired, I’m aching after a hoola hooping master class and so my patience is running somewhat thin. 

I’ve known Phil’s birthday was coming. I’ve been aware of it coming on the same day for the past 12 years. I was aware that I should get organised and in fact last week added it to my to-do list. Phil (ever the optimist) even told me a couple of weeks ago that he wouldn’t look at the Amazon account so that it wouldn’t spoil any surprises. 

He needn’t have bothered. 

Somehow it has suddenly, out of the blue, crept up on me and it’s here. Today. Not tomorrow. Today. Now. 

Thankfully, I have a get out of jail free card. Phil is on call. 24hour on call. 

So at 6am I sleepily tell him it’s actually his birthday tomorrow and wish him luck writing the date in patient notes – anyone who has worked their birthday knows you will write your date of birth at least once – and wave him off from our bedroom where The Girl has already crept in and started kicking me out of bed. 

I attempt to enter super mum mode. We successfully have porridge and The Girl announces she wants to go to playgroup- which starts in 30 mins – so I have a shower and get the three of us ready in record time. At play group I fuel myself with caffeine while the kids run in opposite directions, The Boy terrorising the baby area, and The Girl charging extortionate prices in the shop. I mention to a fellow mum my slight oversight, “You had better get a cake then”…. 

This had not crossed my mind- and yet she is right. If not for Phil’s benefit, for The Girl’s. This leaves me with a dilemma. Either I get home, stick the kids in car and brave the supermarket – jeopardising any chance of The Boy having a nap in his cot (and therefore any chance of me having a moments peace). Or, make a cake. It’s a tough call but with encouragement from The Girl I begrudgingly agree to bake.  

Phil loves a Victoria sponge. Which suits just fine as I definitely can’t cope with icing and we happen to have all the required ingredients in the cupboard. Delia Smith makes some comment in the recipe about this being the easiest cake to make and anyone can do it….unfortunately not if you forget to put in the baking powder. 

The ‘cake’ looks like two thick pancakes with jam and a slightly out of date dairy free equivalent cream, shoved between them. The Girl says it’s “A-mazing”. I’m confident Phil will not say the same. 

Whilst The Boy naps and The Girl watches some far to smiley TV presenter do some dancing, I panic buy – utilising our free next day delivery and praying it arrives early doors tomorrow. Phil will be devastated if his new pillow isn’t here for bedtime I’m sure. 

I then tackle the obligatory homemade birthday card from the children. Once again, I thinks Phil’s delight at a card with two “blackberries” made from finger prints in poster paint with the tag line “We love you berry much” will go down a storm. 

There was a time when for a birthday we would have rearranged shifts, got thoughtful gifts, gone out for dinner, maybe even socialised with friends and had a drink of something special. 

But some things change. Phil is working his birthday, if he gets to come home he will find left overs of the casserole he made yesterday awaiting him in the fridge, he won’t be able to have a ‘proper drink’ and he will stumble over the array of duplo bricks lying in the hall. He will see a mountain of washing up, new paint stains on the kitchen table and if he manages to check on the kids (who had better be sleeping), he will see The Boy (having face planted in to a door frame today and a coffee table at the weekend) has such a bruised forehead that he is starting to resemble something from Star Trek, The Girl – who is sleeping next to a helium balloon ready to deliver to ‘yesterday’s birthday boy’ first thing in the morning, and tomorrow, he will be the proud recipient of a pancake cake, a new pillow, a homemade card and an IOU. 

I would say it’s all part of fatherhood but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t happen to every dad. This dad just got unlucky, with a wife trying to have a weekend off and not spending the preceding month getting organised for it… 

We Are So In Love …


Yet another Facebook baby announcement – “We are so in love”. Are you? That’s great. I wasn’t. I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t a crappy mum (I don’t think). I was normal. My child was normal. 

I was of course delighted that The Girl had arrived safely but in those first few weeks, were we “in love”? No. 

The Girl arrived in a hurry, meaning she got a bit stressed (so did I – just a tad) so the crash alarm went and 40 ppl arrived in the room and I was consented to be knocked out and the baby delivered by c-section. Someone started to list all the things that could wrong…

 “Do whatever you need to. I’m medical this is informed consent!!”

Phil, looking like a bunny in headlights backed me up “Yep just do it”. 

On my arrival in theatre, I was greeted by the anaesthetic consultant who a week before had been supervising me giving spinal anaesthetics for elective sections. “Don’t worry I’m staying at the head end” he might have been but the rest of the crowd weren’t. 

As a medical student I saw a lady have a 4th degree tear and another with a placental abruption who nearly died. Those were the only births I ever saw. I remember telling Phil that we would adopt as I couldn’t go through it – and genuinely meaning it. Then I spent the next 4 years ignoring anything childbirth related and another 9months pretending that Dumbeldore would arrive and magic the baby out when the day came. 

Well, if Dumbeldore is an obstetrician and his wand is a ventouse then it all came true. 

So having literally crapped myself in a room full of my colleagues in a terrifying whirlwind 1 hour labour to get The Girl out, in the most traumatic event of my life, my primary emotion wasn’t love. 

I’m not sure what was. Relief perhaps. I was alive and so was The Girl. This was my mission accomplished. Job done. 

But then there was the baby. Tiny. Beautiful. Perfectly formed. With tiny toes and fingers. Lucky. I definitely felt lucky. 

But the baby had a tiny mouth. A mouth which constantly opened to scream and cry or to grab my nipple and gnaw on it for hours. This tiny little thing which was entirely dependent. For everything. Watch a baby elephant being born and before you know it it’s running around, feeding and meeting its own needs – not a human baby. This baby was 100% relying on me. Me and my body. Day and night. For the foreseeable future. Overwhelmed. I was certainly feeling overwhelmed. 

The baby was like the worst ever bleep – it went off constantly, it had no off switch, not even a volume control and couldn’t be passed on after a 13 hour shift. It would stir from its sleep and scream, the sudden noise would trigger an adrenaline rush to course through me. Anxious. I was definitely anxious.

It’s one thing being responsible for a ward full of patients but another being responsible for this tiny little being. This tiny little being that was my passenger for 9 months was now there. What if I do it wrong? What if she hasn’t eaten enough? What if I fall asleep and drop her? What if I smother her with one of my huge milk filled baps? But then again what if it’s not milk filled? What if I’m starving her? Scared. I was definitely scared. 

Then there was my mummy body. I had to sit on a donut cushion and people would ask how sore I was. They were asking about my vagina. Now, I’m medical and so this should be matter of fact (I would chat about a sore head or leg) but discussing my broken lady garden with every Tom, Dick and Harry took a bit of adjusting to. Embarrassed. Smothered. Awkward. A combination of all three.

I recall coming out of a rare shower to be met by Phil holding The Girl, hungry and screaming. I sat on the bed wrapped in my towel and latched her on. She fed. Milk came out of one boob…and the other….my uterus contracted and something else starting coming out of there…and I cried and laughed all at once. I had stuff coming out of almost every orifice (I wasn’t crapping myself on this occasion) and couldn’t have resembled the front cover of a parenting magazine any less. There isn’t a word for this feeling, even 200 words couldn’t sum it up. But it’s definitely not “in love”. 

But does it matter? 

I met The Girl’s needs. She was fed, cleaned and cuddled. I responded to her every need. I did everything I possibly could to nurture her and help her thrive.

People kept saying “enjoy every minute”. I absolutely did not. Some bits were bloody awful. In fact some bits were the absolute worst. But I survived. The Girl not only survived but blossomed. And Phil didn’t leave me. So actually it was a raging success.  

In hindsight I can see it, but at the time I questioned myself. Do I not love her enough? Why am I not enjoying EVERY minute? Why am I not updating Facebook with how totally in love we are? 

Why? Because I’m normal. Because I’m honest. Because I’m me. 

So, in this week of maternal mental health awareness I want to highlight a version of normal. 

I want to say it’s normal to just survive those first 8 weeks. It’s normal to not be “totally in love”. It’s absolutely normal to NOT enjoy every minute. 

And for the record, now, I couldn’t love The Girl more, or The Boy. I didn’t know it was possible to have so much love for these little pests with their mucky faces, their whining voices and their constant unreasonable demands. Despite this all consuming love, there are also occasions when I just want to list them on eBay- for free. But you know what, I think that’s normal too. 

Under Pressure…


The exam is done. Well the first attempt is complete. And no. I don’t know how it went. It was an MCQ, and I’m human, so out of the 200 questions I answered, I keep remembering the 3 I got wrong. I could have got all 197 others correct (I didn’t, but theoretically I could have) and I would still only remember the 3 astoundingly irrelevant ones. I could have revised day and night for a lifetime and I would still never have got those right. 

Now, in my younger days before children and responsibilities when my time was my own and how hard I worked was down to me- I would be anxious about the results- could I have done a little bit more? Should I have done those extra few questions? Should I have approached it differently? But now. Well, what will be will be.

If I pass it’s because I am amazing. It’s because I worked so blinking hard. Its because I arrived an hour early for work and my lunch breaks were spent alone in my room reading NICE guidelines and the BNF. It’s because I put the kids to bed each night and hid in the spare room answering question after question. It’s because I packed off my children to any willing relative and knuckled down with the cool kids in the library. Its because I sat down with the GCSE and A level candidates and the uni students. Its because I sat surrounded by top knots and high tops, exposed mid drifts and teenage angst. Its because I sat opposite the younger version of me, and watched as she shared her pens with her boyfriend, swapped medical books with each other and had lunch lying on the grass outside together. 

Its because I wondered. I wondered what the hell possessed me to still be doing this. Why 12 years on I’m sat in the same library revising again but this time on my own? Is this really what I signed up for? Didn’t I work hard enough when I was younger? Could I not have taken an easier option? Could I not do something else? 

No. No I couldn’t. I know nothing else. And so, I got on with it. I gave it my best shot. Therefore, if I pass, it’s because I am ace. 

Well, that and the fact Phil put his work on hold and didn’t once moan about the fact that he was bottom of my priority list, my mum basically moved in for a week and became my house keeper and chef, I let the neighbour mow my lawn, I paid a lady to clean my house, a man to cut back the garden, my sister in law took the children to play group, my dad taught The Girl to ride her bike and picked her flowers that made her “sooo happy” when I couldn’t, making my heart swell and break in equal measure. 

They say it takes a village and I’m incredibly lucky to have mine. 

And if I fail? Well, I tried. I did my best. 

So yes, being a working mum and revising seems pretty tough. So many people have remarked on how challenging it is to do all this with kids. But in some weird way it actually makes it easier and less stressful. Somehow having children gives some perspective, a limit to how self absorbed I can be, and constant reminder of the bigger picture. 

The Girl told me today, “Mummy you’re going to be a winner, you have worked so hard, you’re going to be a winner”. So I may not have learnt enough to pass this exam, but it looks like The Girl learn something pretty important. 

Then she puts on the toy stethoscope and tells me she is going to be a doctor. Actually, maybe she learnt nothing at all…