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… 

Always Look on the Bright Side…


In need of a sunny day? I have a fail safe way to ensure glorious sunshine….

1) Arrange to spend the day sat in your local library revising. 

2) Ensure your children see you leave the house so that you can depart to the enchanting sound of wailing and screams of “But I love you don’t go”.

3) Sit in a window seat (thinking it will lift your mood to at least see the beautiful blue sky) but make sure that the radiator positioned right next to you is on full whack. That way you can pretend you are sat in a greenhouse. 

Done. 

Trying to be positive, at least I am getting a break from playing “Post Office” with The Girl. There are only so many letters a mummy can post before before she is wishing she can post a Molotov Cocktail in the letter box…

#5daystogo

#whyhaveimadethesechoices

#thishadbetterbeworthit

#juniordoctors

Old School…


I’m revising. The last time I did this properly I was a student. My stationery was supplied by my parents (Perhaps acquired from their respective places of work- the plus side to teacher parents!), my time was my own. I had access to so many libraries – of which I used maybe one. Once. And my biggest issue was fitting it in around meeting friends for a cheap glass of wine. 

This time it’s all a bit different. It’s postgraduate General Practice exams. I have had to purchase stationery. Everyone who has ever sat an exam (successfully or not) knows it’s all about the stationery. I invested this time, I’m revising and earning (theoretically although my wage is solely to pay the childcare bill which if I didn’t work I wouldn’t need…so why I am working is a question I dare not dwell on). 

So my stationery shopping trip resulted in: 

-A selection of highlighters.

-3 brand new biros with the little clippy bits at the top so I can have 4 different colour biros encased in one slightly more girthy shaft just like my school teachers of the 1990s.

-A rainbow assortment of fine tip felt tips, some it turns out are too neon to be written with but too fine to be a highlighter, so actually an entirely useless item. 

-A rather fancy faux leather post-it note selection holder, half of which are too tiny to write anything of any value on and the others so large, I may as well just fill a page in a notebook.

It’s a truly magnificent set up I have invested in. 

To complete the kit, the creme de la creme is a hard back, A4, Looney Tunes notepad which I won in 1998 by sending a postcard in to the address in the back of my “Fast Forward” magazine and subsequently deemed too precious for everyday use, so I have moved it from house to house over the last 22yrs and it is now, officially, in use.

I also had to spend £100 on a subscription to a revision web site advertising nearly 3000 questions, like thousands of questions is a great thing… which yes it is, but equally it’s totally horrifying to think I’m going to spend weeks of my life trawling through these thousands of questions in a vain attempt to hope I get lucky on exam day and manage to scrape a pass. 

So on top of the £500 exam fee and this whole experience is quite the investment. In an effort to not have to pay for it all again in 6 months time, I need to pass. To do that I need to revise. A concept entirely wasted on my children. 

So last weekend in an attempt to knuckle down and do some work, I made arrangements to drop the kids off with the in-laws and head to a local library (it goes without saying that Phil was at work!). I took with me my backpack, computer and stationery, because revising isn’t revising unless you are making pretty pictures. 

So, I settle down at the only available desk in the silent work area (if silence is an option I’m totally going to take it) and set myself up. I look around and see that I am sitting beside an acne ridden (moderate severity if my revision serves me well) teenager who is revising for his biology GCSE. Next to him are two girls studying for their maths GCSE and an AS level geography student behind me. There is officially no one over the age of 20 revising. I am sat in a library, on a sunny Saturday, as a 31 yr old married mother of two, surrounded by teenagers studying for school exams…..How have I ended up here?! I think I have made some bad life choices. 

None the less, I crack on with a couple of questions before the afore mentioned spotty adolescent next to me turns to ask me if he can borrow a phone charger. Unfortunately glancing at my neatly arranged work station he appears somewhat distracted. No, not by my magnificent array of stationery, but by the fact that on my computer screen is a larger than life up close photo of a vagina – covered in genital warts.

Needless to say I explained I didn’t have a charger and then after an awkward pause proceeded to attempt to explain to the hormonal, awkward and perhaps now mentally scarred school boy, why, in a public library, I am looking at a close up photo of a vagina. Nothing like a spot of freelance health promotion…

Despite this slight mishap I did manage to get a couple of hundred questions done. So provided that I’m not struck off the GMC register for showing inappropriate material to a minor, I will continue with my revision in an attempt to edge closer to the much desired mirage of exam freedom…..Although perhaps saving my sexual health revision for the privacy of my own home. 

It’s Complicated…Or Is It?!


So, what with everything going on in the world and International Womens Day happening, I found myself thinking about my values and opinions regarding feminism. Now, I’m not a raging bra burning feminist or anything but I’m a strong believer in women’s rights. Like I am in men’s rights. And in fact most other rights. So I guess you could say I’m all for equality. 

Now fear not, this isn’t going to turn in to some political blog – I’m astoundingly ill educated in politics (unless it involves the NHS, in which case you just can’t shut me up some days!) so I would only embarrass myself if I attempted it. But I thought it would be interesting to get The Girl’s view on the world. So I thought of a whole series of questions I was going to subtly slip into conversation to explore her take on the crazy world we are living in. First question….

Me: Are boys and girls the same? 

The Girl: Yep…. But boys have willies. 

And she wanders off to tuck up her large plastic roaring dinosaur in its pink fluffy blanket for a nap. 

Right then. That’s that sorted. 

The Working Week: Part 2

Thursday : A smooth start to the day. I’m now a pro at making breakfast in the lounge with the make shift kitchen I fashioned, and my mother has dutifully maintained and stocked. The bags were packed the night before, lunch is in the fridge, the car has fuel, we are out the door. I’m snotty, in a big way, I’m coughing at all the wrong times during the practice meeting and I’m 100% more ill than some of the patients I see today. 

I opt for a take away instead of another microwaveable meal. My dad – part of the 4th emergency service – declines. He spends the evening in the bathroom, not in the recreational sense. He takes to his bed and we don’t see him until I am summoned to his bedside to answer his medical questions regarding throwing up his tablets. I make up a sensible answer, shout it at him (as he has taken his hearing aids out) and steer clear- a cold is enough for me just now. 

Friday: Phil is on Call. Again. But I don’t even notice. I have no work, I survived and more importantly so did the kids. So now with a genuine sense of joy I get to go in to full mum mode. Nappies, snot, tantrums, swimming lessons, food slinging, and being mauled are all welcome. 

The grandparents don’t depart until the evening as my dad wanted to ensure that his tummy upset has fully passed before they set off on their 2 hour drive. Unexpected faecal incontinence is not desired by a man who insures his wife on his car but won’t let her drive it for fear of her “disrespecting” it. 

Whist still feeling thoroughly crappy and full of cold I’m doing good. I finally have a kitchen sink, the men are all leaving today and after nearly 3 years of living in the most dysfunctional 1980’s kitchen, I now have most of a modern-currently-still-dysfunctional-but-at-least-no-longer-with-a-1970s-serving-hatch kitchen. 

I head to bed with slight feeling of contentment, possibly achievement (and some blocked sinuses). But we have been here before, I know when I’m feeling like this, it’s too good to be true. This is when a child is going to shatter my world. 

Enter, The Boy. 

Vomiting.

All over everything. Cot sheets, teddies, sleeping bag, jammies, him. All need washing. I eventually faff around, get him cosy and snuggle him up all clean and dry.

For about a minute. And then round two commences. This one getting all of the above and me. Despite being a medical professional I have never been great with vomit so whilst I’m retching away I decontaminate myself and him, as quietly as possible, and pray that The Girl doesn’t wake up. 

Once again we get ourselves sorted, we are clean and dry, and shattered. The Boy is trying to drop off to sleep again. Realising I only had one sleeping bag left I decided not to put him in it just yet. Which was just as well. 

He hurls again, splattering the bed we are sitting on, him, me, anything else near by… The vomit is also bright red thanks to jelly he demolished at tea time, it’s starting to resemble some sort of a horrific crime scene in his lovely pastel coloured nursery. Where was he storing all this? There is definitely more volume being projected from him than could possibly be stored in his tiny body. 

Fortunately at this point I hear the front door shut. Either we are being burgled (in which case I’m pretty sure they are going to turn right around when they see this) or by some sort of divine intervention Phil has actually come home, and his timing is perfect. I text him. 

“HELP”

There is a momentary delay in his reply so I continue. 

“NOW” ….. “PLS” 

I have never been so pleased to see him. Together we deal with the devastation and pop the first of several washes on before he heads to bed. He is still on call and will be for the weekend.  

Saturday: The wash didn’t flipping work. The machine is full of water so I can’t get the door open. 

I google like a maniac and conclude that my waste pipe is blocked. I proceed to drain the washer via a tiny tube at the front like the Internet told me to, which involves filling a frying pan and then tipping it in to the drain and repeating about 400 times. The frying pan is not the ideal tool I recognise that, but due to the upheaval of the new kitchen I can’t access a more appropriate receptical.  

Eventually, I’m able to move the washer forward to find a kinked and now (thanks to me trying to straighten it out) cracked waste pipe. I’m up to my knees in vomit covered garments and no functioning washing machine. 

Someone get me a mangle and a bar of soap – I’m gonna do this old school style…..Actually, no. No, I’m not. There are still chunks of sick and it smells horrid. 

So I attempt to, whilst trying to entertain and feed the kids their breakfast, attach a new waste pipe. To my untrained eye, it appears to work. So prior to stepping outside to burn my bra and perform a victory dance, I pop a wash on. 

…..It wasn’t quite the raging success I was hoping for. Turns out there is a reason that we have washing machine repair people. The waste pipe connecter I fashioned failed, so the washing machine leaked all over the floor. On the plus side once I wade through the foamy ocean spreading even further as I watch, at least I can open the washing machine door…Which enables me to discover the the new pillow case from The Boy’s bed has turned the whole entire wash a lovely teal colour. Yep. Of course it did. 

So, in true GP style as per my eportfolio requirement, here follows a reflection summary: 

What happened? 

A Sh*t storm hit. 

What happened next? 

It carried on. 

What did you learn? 

How to drain a washing machine, and, incidentally, what bullnose architrave is. 

What will you do differently in the future? 

Buy a lottery ticket. 

The Working Week: Part 1

My first week back at work happened. It’s complete and it was a joy. Now I’m back in the throws of being a GP trainee it’s only right I should reflect on what happened. 

Monday: Following on from a rough night I wake up with a sore throat and raising anxiety levels. The day is tantrum central thanks to The Girl, well thanks to me really, I mean why would I insist that she wear knickers?! Phil is on call, he like the rest of us had a cold. We waved him off from our lounge-cum-kitchen at 7am. The table at the back of the lounge is set up with toaster and the kettle and a box of food, all positioned as centrally as possible as apparently The Boy has grown his arms for the occasion and can now reach all but the very middle of the table. 

The kitchen men arrived at 7.45am and are greeted by me in my snot stained leisure wear and directed to the 1980s kitchen to rip everything out. I’ve packed the biscuits away and don’t have much sugar in the jar so I appear to be providing a little a health promotion to my rather rotund kitchen team. This is not well received so I ferret around and manage to dig out a box of chocolates from Christmas and allow them to indulge themselves. Their type 2 diabetes isn’t my problem but the cost of this job is and the bill is in their control…

The self proclaimed ‘4th emergency service’ AKA my parents arrive in the afternoon. Noise, mess, dust, disease, no kitchen sink and a house full of men requiring infinite tea rounds welcomes them. I could tell they were delighted. 

My evening is spent digging around to find various proofs of address and photo IDs, as the little darlings at the Deanery have lost all the documents I sent them months ago. They only thought to tell me the day before I return to work despite my 5 enquiries prior to this. 

I also appear to have lost my stethoscope. Fortunately being married to a urologist means there is a spare unused one to thieve. I’m prepped. I’ve eaten take away and I’ve laid out everything I possibly can. All I need now is a good nights sleep….

Tuesday: Phil is on call again. He did come home at some point after I had gone to bed last night so it can’t have been too bad. I have had 4 hours sleep in preparation for my first day at work, thanks to a, presumably, teething boy and an ’emotional’ girl. 

We do however, against all odds manage a successful departure from house involving single handedly getting both children dressed and out the door in time to arrive at work which is quite the achievement. There were times in the past when my achievements were getting a central line in or placing a chest drain successfully, now it’s leaving the house….Cheers kids. 

The Boy cries as he is abandoned with strangers (albeit with full DBS checks) at nursery, I keep it together and at the risk of looking uncaring I promptly turn my back and walk out, with a smile on my face and a nauseous, guilty, heartbroken feeling on the inside. The Girl wants to know why we are leaving her baby brother in tears. I ignore the question and bundle her in to the preschool room. 

Wednesday: I woke up alone. Inconveniently some chap had a testicular issue over night so as a result Phil left in the small hours and once the task was complete he opted to catch 40winks in the on call room. 
I tell Phil later that I wish I had an on call room to go have an hours kip.

“It’s a plastic mattress in a cold room, of borderline cleanliness – you don’t”

I explain it’s preferable to a memory foam mattress covered in snot and being shared with 2 huge, bony starfish with a soundtrack of screaming. He doesn’t reply and we continue in our marital bliss.

Anyway, hearing that we are a man down The Boy kicks off the day with a vomit at 6am secondary to the mother of all coughing fits. It’s everywhere, so an early bath is required. The Girl is waving around a vomit stained stuffed panda shrieking about the fact that HER panda was in the cot and fell victim to the spew fountain (to be fair she has a point but The Boy loves it and when he was throwing a wobbler in the small hours I gave it to him). Granny was called into action, this was not a one man job.

I decided once we were all sorted that I would offer him a bottle – huge mistake. He is at this point starving and guzzles the bottle (he’s a newbie to the bottle as time pressures mean I’m claiming the baps back – in the morning at least) so subsequently he vomits all over him, me and the sofa. Last minute costume changes are required. We eventually get out the door, leaving Granny to deal with the vomit and the washing. Grandad hasn’t put his hearing aids in yet, so he is entirely oblivious to what waits downstairs for him.

I drop the kids off (The Boy continues to try and break my heart with his distraught cries) and get to work.

 I complete yet more paperwork and get told for the 4th time in two days how lonely being a GP can be. 

Compared to home this week, ‘lonely’ is actually a bit of welcome break. At one point today I heard genuine silence. Just for a moment – while I tried desperately to find the right icon to magic a prescription, but it was there, pure silence. 

Pretty sure the patient didn’t appreciate the silent (possibly long enough to be a little awkward) delay to their day, but I certainly did.