The Girl Who Will

I’ve posted before about our youngest daughter, Naomi.  Born prematurely at 26 weeks, she had a very rough start.  Between underdeveloped lungs and a massive bleed on both sides of her brain, we were told to expect the worst.  On day one, we were told it was unlikely she would make it to day two.  If she did, she would be the Girl Who Wouldn’t.  She wouldn’t be able to walk or talk, wouldn’t live a “normal” life (whatever that is), wouldn’t even make eye contact.  The brain bleeds were so devastating that we were looking at permanent brain damage and profound disabilities.

Naomi didn’t get that memo.

First of all, she became the Girl Who Lived.  Granted, it took 3 doses of surfactant, some scary machinery, lots of oxygen, steroids and some very hairy moments, but she lived.  Her lungs grew stronger and she moved (eventually, after several false starts) from the horrible oscillator to regular ventilation to CPAP to high flow to low flow to…. home.

Then it became clear that the Girl Who Wouldn’t was rapidly becoming the Girl Who Would.  Or rather, Would, Could and most definitely Will!

She has taken her time with some of her milestones, but has made steady progress and has proven time and time again that she will only work on her own schedule, not anyone else’s.

Last week, we celebrated Naomi’s second birthday.  For someone who wasn’t going to live, she’s certainly done very well on that front.  The day after her birthday, two years to the day when we were told that she would never do it, she decided to take her first unaided steps.  She will only walk when she feels like it, and won’t perform unless she wants to, because…. of course she will.

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Blowing The Whistle

It’s impossible to ignore the stories that have come out over the last while; and nor should we.  Sweeping the problem of abuse under the Church’s great big carpet has done nothing except allow it to fester, and this particular boil is one that should have been lanced a long time ago.  In recent weeks, the extent of the corruption has started to see the light of day.  There’s been a lot of commentary and discussion, and I don’t have the time or the energy to get caught up in it all (or dragged down by it all, as the case would probably be).

These are dark and difficult days for those of us who consider ourselves faithful Catholics but, as a Lay Dominican, I hold on to one of our mottos – Veritas.  Truth.  That is what we seek, and the Truth shall set us free.

I’d like to share my friend’s thoughts on the matter.  She posted this on Facebook a couple of days ago and I thought it gave a good insight.  So here is her post, shared with permission.

I was a whistle blower once.

It was concerning a very vicious bullying ring. The situation ended going to the very top. Though I wasn’t one of the main victims of this bullying (though they did try), it was a matter of justice for me because I was in a supervisory position and knew I was resigning immediately after my upcoming maternity leave. I could not leave the place in the state I found it where numerous adults could not go on holiday because their entire annual leave was being used up on days they were afraid to come to work. The bullies were in a position to dictate who got promoted and who didn’t. It wasn’t top down bullying, it was a ‘team’ spreading across positions suffocating anyone who wasn’t in favour.

It was just before laws and guidelines started to be put in place regarding bullying so I had no protections over and above that what I was saying was truth.

I thought I had convinced the victims to write their testimonies but as soon as I opened the case every single one backed out for fear I’d be unsuccessful and their lives would be even worse. So I did it alone. I can say it was the single most unpleasant experience of my life. Driving to work each day my hands could barely hold the wheel because of the sweat that would break out on approaching my workplace which was adjacent to the headquarters of the organisation branch. Nobody bar one guy would talk to me for months: the bullying cohort out of rage and everybody else out of fear. Even the union representative, whose job it was to protect these victims, who didn’t even work anywhere near me told me to only speak to him at home on his phone because he was afraid to be seen talking to or meeting with me. So I worked alone, ate alone and spoke to nobody.

The investigation spread out across multiple workplaces. I ended up meeting with the head of the entire organisation to give details. Since I had no documents and nobody would confirm or deny because of fear it was exactly my word v silence. My only lucky break was that the 2nd in command who sat in on the meeting knew my parents and family well and could vouch for me as well as my own immediate superior who was humble enough to admit that she had depended on a certain person, chief bully, as advisor regarding important issues.

Looking back I am thankful that social media didn’t exist back then, most people had barely heard of the internet. Because even then, every possible scrap of information about me, my family, my history was hunted down and circulated. Lies about me were commonplace and several times I had to go to high places to put those lies right. Had social media been there at the time I have little doubt what would have happened.

Anyway, to cut a (very) long story short the situation ended up being resolved, a result of which I am very proud. However, my memory of my work is so unpleasant it is the reason I NEVER identify as what my job was.

The reason I’m writing this is because of the current situation. Don’t believe character assassinations, don’t jump to take any sides. The only thing matters is TRUTH. Truth must out. Only TRUTH will set us free.

Being a whistleblower is a horrible horrible lonely road and I don’t wish it on anyone. Pray for all involved, someone is lying because it is impossible for all the versions to be true. Pray especially for whoever that is. Lies are a sticky web which ends up entrapping the web spinner. And on top of that, these ‘men of God’ will have to answer to God. Better to answer in this life.

 

Photo credits:
Whistleblower image.
Hard Conversation image.
Loneliness image.
Lies image.
Set Free image.
Veritas image is mine.

 

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We don’t like to air our dirty laundry in public…

 

(… We prefer to leave it in a different country instead.)

A.K.A. What we learned on holiday.

Not long ago we returned from our first family holiday; 4 nights in Hafan y Mor holiday park followed by a couple of nights visiting my saintly mother in law in Dublin. It was certainly an experience! Mostly good, thank God, but there were a few hairy moments thrown in there as well. Only to be expected when travelling with a bunch of small kids, I guess. (Or only to be expected when travelling with me and the Old Progenitor, truth be told…)

In the lead up to our trip, everything seemed to be going wrong. Our car was sounding like a tractor and we didn’t have the chance to have it looked at before we left. Pretty sure cars aren’t supposed to sound like tractors… But we had to resign ourselves to making sure we had decent breakdown cover instead and taking our chances that in the absence of flashing red lights on the dashboard, it could wait until we got back. Then the brake lights stopped working the day before we left. Both of them. At 4:30pm on a Sunday afternoon. Because OF COURSE THEY DID. We managed to find a Halfords that was open and they were able to sort it out — thank goodness it wasn’t anything more serious than just needing a couple of bulbs. (This may or may not have been caused by our car maybe bumping into a certain neighbour’s car, causing a big dent and a broken wing mirror that is costing a stupid amount of money to fix… Maybe. But I couldn’t possibly comment.)

On top of all this, the washing machine stopped working. My wonderful mother helped us out of a great big hole by washing, drying and folding several billion loads of laundry for us so that we’d actually have clean clothes for going away (and my wonderful mother-in-law did likewise when we were at her house), while we learned that it was beyond economical repair, that the landlord had no intention of replacing said machine, and that, due to the country practically shutting down for The Twelfth, we had no hope of getting a new one sorted before we left. The icing on this particular cake was that the landlord wanted to come over and paint the deck while we were gone, and had said that he intended in performing an inspection of the house while he was there…. So we had to leave the place inspection ready.

So, off we went, safe in the knowledge that broken washing machines, piles of dirty laundry, car insurance companies and dodgy sounding cars would all be here when we got back. And they were…. Well, mostly.

Here’s what we learned from the experience:

1. Checklists are brilliant. I was freaking out a little (okay, a lot) about forgetting something – particularly something that couldn’t be easily replaced (like the charger for the feeding pump)… So I had a great big checklist to help with the packing. Still forgot stuff, of course, but at least I had the charger, so Naomi didn’t starve.

2. Checklists only get you so far. You have to remember to put your packed stuff into the car. This ties in with my next point…

3. Always, ALWAYS check behind the door. You never know what you’ve left behind it until you look. On the way over, we almost forgot the formula and giving sets (basically the wherewithal to feed our youngest for the entire time we were away) but thankfully we looked behind the door and spotted them, just before we locked up the house behind us.

4. You really do not want to be feeding a family of seven on the ferry. Overpriced much?! I’m still in shock at having spent £60 on teeny portions of food that didn’t actually taste that great. And that’s without spending £2.40 per soft drink (I figured we wouldn’t die of thirst in the time it took to go back to the car).

5. The Mini Markets in the Haven Holiday Parks are surprisingly reasonably priced, though. But you probably still want to swing by Tesco or somewhere on your way and grab some supplies.

6. Don’t get too many supplies though. You may be full of good intentions of cooking x, y and z but you’re more likely to be throwing it out or bringing it home at the end of the week. Because life is too short and you’ll be too tired.

7. Don’t try to squeeze in too many activities. At the end of the week you will barely have scratched the surface of what’s there, and by the end of day one you’ll be planning next year’s trip anyway. The kids will be just as happy playing on the swings while the 3 year old takes a nap (napping the 3 year old is a crucial part of any trip).

8. It’s amazing how much (time and money) you can spend in the amusement arcades, even in 2ps. And it’s amazing how much sand will get everywhere. Absolutely everywhere.

9. Nobody is staring at you in that swimsuit and thinking how terrible you look. Put it on, get in the pool, have a good time.

10. 4 nights is not anywhere near long enough to take in that gorgeous part of the world. You’re just going to have to go back. And you’ll probably still forget something, get sticker shock on the boat, buy too much food for the apartment and eat out all the time. But you’ll create more great memories with your family and all will be well.

 

And one last thing:

11. Remember #3, about checking behind the door? Yeah. Recheck. Otherwise your laundry may be having an extra long stay in Wales and may need to be collected by a friend and shipped back to you.  Ahem.

 

It’s one way of dealing with the broken washing machine, I guess.

 

 

 

Photo credit: JULZTphotography on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

Other pics belong to me. Please don’t use without permission.

 

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Raising girls with a healthy self-image

Like a gazillion other people in the world, I have low self esteem. There. I said it. It’s not just for teenage girls, apparently. I posted before about legacies, but this is a “legacy” that I do NOT wish to pass on to my children…. And I’m having to puzzle out how to avoid doing just that.

A little while ago, our gorgeous, talented, intelligent niece graduated from university. Omi and I tagged along for the day, had the nicest strawberries ever (would have been strawberries, shortbread and a cup of tea, but it was way too hot for tea, I dropped my shortbread on the ground while negotiating a narrow space with a buggy, bunch of flowers and the aforementioned food items, and the staff didn’t seem too interested in replenishing my plate), avoided getting sunburnt, and in general had a really lovely day.

Then came the pictures. I didn’t want to be in any of them. Not because I don’t love my niece to little pieces and wasn’t bursting with pride about sharing her big day with her, but the internal record player/cassette player/CD player/MP3 player/audio streaming service (take your pick) was playing the usual broken record/scratched CD/corrupt file/you get the point. I don’t have a colour in my hair and it’s really grey at the moment, I am stressed and have broken out in cold sores, I’m tired and bloated and not feeling great, I haven’t been eating properly and have put on weight, etc etc etc. I did take a selfie with her at one stage, with the intention of it being just for me, yet it ended up on Facebook (cheers, Lauren) to a chorus of mumbling and grumbling from me.

Fast forward a few days later, we decided to take the kids out for a bite to eat. Unanimous decision, we ended up in Pizza Express. Lovely meal, great company, though a little bit embarrassing when Naomi reduced a busy restaurant to complete silence by pulling her sister’s dinner onto the floor and breaking the plate in the process. The Old Progenitor whipped out his phone and took a few pics from around the table. Again, the broken record started playing in my head — don’t take a picture of me, I’m looking terrible, etc etc. He did, and he shared it, I cringed, he took it down again. He asked me if he could take another one that I’d be happier with, so I put my game face on and smiled… He posted that and it got a whole bunch of likes and positive comments. The only person seeing the cold sores and grey hairs and was me. One individual commented “Supermom” (I was wearing a Superman t-shirt) which, given how amazing that particular lady is, I took as a huge compliment. However, never letting a nice word pass without a disparaging comment to go along with it, I replied with “Super tired!”, which elicited the response “Which just goes to show how great you are at pulling it all together!”

This whole exchange got me thinking about how we are our own worst critics. The lens in which we view ourselves can be like one of those warped mirrors, giving a distorted picture of who we are. Certainly the reflection that we see does not match up with what others see in us.

When #2 was learning to talk, she came over to me one day, climbed up on my lap and said “Mama boopiloo!” She didn’t see the bags under the eyes from lack of sleep, didn’t think I was fat and needed to hide under a baggy t-shirt, she just saw her Mummy and thought her Mummy was beautiful.

A very wise friend taught me that we cannot always depend on our feelings to indicate how things really are. “Just because you feel it doesn’t make it fact” has become a well uttered phrase around here. Feelings come and go, and how I felt last week isn’t the same as how I feel today. How I felt this morning before I had coffee is certainly not how I feel now! So, at times I might feel really fat and ugly, but it doesn’t mean it’s a fact. In all honesty, I do need to lose weight in order to be fit and healthy (and I’m working on it), I owe it to my family to look after myself, but a number on a scale or a size on an item of clothing do not determine who I am or my self worth.

I guess half the battle is recognising the lies we tell ourselves and acknowledging them for what they are. It’s hard to change something if we don’t know what it is we’re trying to change. So, that’s step one. I’ll let you know if I figure out the rest.

One of my favourite pics of my aunt was a #nomakeup #nofilter not-looking-her-best picture, taken maybe a year before she died. It’s one of the few pics I have of her when she was battling cancer, and I don’t care that she wasn’t all dolled up and worried that “people will talk”. I’m too busy looking at her smile and how kind she looked, the fun we had the day it was taken and how, 12 years after her passing, these beautiful photos and beautiful memories are what we treasure.

Maybe someday after I’m gone, our girls will look at those pics from Pizza Express and think “Mama boopiloo”.

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We’re all going on a summer holiday

 

So, it’s summer time. The girls have been off school for two weeks now (45 days to go, not that I’m counting or anything…) so we’ve already had two weeks of fun, frolics and…. f….ighting. Okay, they haven’t been that bad! (sometimes)  We’ve been in the middle of a heatwave (by Irish standards — I can hear the collective bless-your-hearts from here) and nobody has been sleeping well which never helps. But we’ve got a bucket list to complete and 45 more days to complete it, so we better get a move on. I’m a mama on a mission.

The main item on our list is our first family break since February 2016’s little stay in a cottage on the Causeway Coast. It rained and rained, and then rained some more, but we had a blast all the same, and the girls are still talking about it.  The last few years have been a total washout, sometimes literally. Summer 2015, the weather was absolutely pants! It just rained incessantly (bit of a running theme here, no?) and we couldn’t really go anywhere or do anything worth talking about. I bought new swimsuits for the three bigger girls that year and never got to use them — in fact, I just took them out of their packaging yesterday, happy to see they are the right size for numbers 2, 3 and 4 for this summer.  (Side note… Does anyone know if you can use sun cream that expired 3 years ago? Asking for a friend, needless to say.)

By 2016, I had returned to work after maternity leave for #4. And was pregnant with #5. (Yip. They just loooooooved me.) I had umpteen health issues going on, massive stress at work just to top it off, and by the middle of the summer I was on sick leave then hospital bed rest. We got a couple of little day trips that year — our girls were easy pleased, when a drive followed by a quick jaunt on the Strangford Ferry (which two of them slept through) constitutes a grand day out.

Then 2017 brought the anxiety of not wanting to go anywhere with a little one with a compromised immune system, a gazillion health issues (her and other family members), feeding and weight problems, hospital stays and an NG tube… Plus lots of grief over a bunch of trees and facing eviction (Ugh. Long story.) Oh, and no money to do anything anyway, lol!

So. 2018 brings nicer weather, by the looks of it. For now, anyway. We’ll probably get rain at some point or another but hey, it’s Ireland, rain is what we do best. Some things have changed — I’ve left work and we’ve moved house, for starters — and others haven’t changed — we’ve still got Little Miss Complex Needs (though I might be a lot less anxious about her now), we still have the NG tube, we’re still skint, and our girls still think the Strangford Ferry is the best thing since sliced bread.

One thing’s for sure, our family has been through the ringer over the last couple of years, and it’s taken its toll on all of us. Kids included. So when Naomi qualified for a grant from the Family Fund, we jumped at the chance to have a family break. After a lot of back and forth on what options were out there, we booked a few nights in North Wales in a Haven Holiday Park. And then thanks to a bit of jiggery pokery with search engines and Tesco Clubcard vouchers, we booked the ferry to Holyhead. Can you imagine what the reaction will be on that trip, for girls who think a teeny tiny car ferry is the bees knees?! There’s lots to do at the Park itself, both indoors and outdoors (so the rain shouldn’t bother us too much — though this is Wales, not Ireland… Do they do rain in Wales?!) and the girls are getting really excited about going swimming and doing all sorts. We’re tired just thinking about it. But overall I think the chance to regroup and hang out together is what we’re looking forward to most. That, and giving the girls some good memories of summer holidays to carry with them.

Of course we’ll still have all those other weeks too, with working on toilet training #4 (oh JOY!!!!) in anticipation of starting Nursery and all sorts on the agenda.

I’m sure we’ll be able to squeeze in a quick trip on the Strangford Ferry too.

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A Family Legacy

On this, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, I am finding myself reflecting on one of the most influential women in my life and the legacy that she left behind.

My Granny Marie was a wonderful woman. With a gazillion children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she was a matriarch in so many ways. I remember I used to be fascinated that she could list off all of the family members in order of age, often with their birthdays as well, up until some of the younger great-grandchildren started arriving and the list got too long to keep up.

The whole extended family was centered around her home, a little 3 bedroom bungalow in the countryside, where you went in through the back door, straight into the kitchen, and you might be treated to some culinary delights. There was “gleen glanny gloop” (with or without a spud thrown in for good measure), the best apple tart in the country (yes, apple TART, not apple pie), banana sandwiches, sugar pieces, the best toast (I don’t know why but toast made in Granny’s house was just…. different, somehow), all washed down with “two sups” of tea. At the right time of year, you might find yourself going home with one of her infamous cakes (with or without “curns”) — underappreciated and now, in her absence, sorely missed.

I have memories of the stools she had in her kitchen, round foamy seats covered in leather and metal legs. I’d turn them upside down and sit on them, navigating the stormy seas of the kitchen floor in this makeshift boat. The kind of activity that I’d probably give out to my own daughters for doing, yet making such fond memories that I still think about now. In later years, I remember sitting in the same kitchen, listening to Granny as she shared stories of her childhood, the Blitz, meeting Granda, and lots more. Some of these tales were harrowing, like the death of her little brother as they played on the streets of Belfast, hiding under the stairs with her family as the bombs fell; yet these were told in a very matter-of-fact way. She was a strong lady, they were different times, and you just got on with things. Other memories were funny; hearing the origin of some of the sayings that had found their way into family folklore (like “DO NOT. LET HIM. GET THE MILK!”), all delivered with that wonderful laugh of hers, as she threw her head back in amusement.

As well as a host of stories and interesting food, another thing that you couldn’t miss about Granny was her faith. She was utterly devoted to her family but was equally devoted to God. Walk from the kitchen into the living room and you could see that. Among the various family photos around the walls, you would see the Sacred Heart, pride of place, with the names of her children written underneath. This same image is now displayed in my own home, as it was passed on to me, partly because I asked for it, and partly because I was the one in the family who was “into all that stuff”. 😉

One of my funniest memories of Granny was when I called in to visit her on my way home from uni one day, and noticed something lumpy sitting in her front garden as I drove my scooter down the driveway and parked up in the yard. When I asked her about it, she said not to worry, that was just the Child of Prague. She had put Him outside in the garden to get good weather for such-and-such’s granddaughter’s First Holy Communion the next day. Only, in true practical fashion, she had put Him in a plastic bag so He wouldn’t get wet!

As she shared her memories with me, the faith was brought into things at every turn — instead of dates, important memories were anchored to feast days and holy days, Churches were used as landmarks to set the scene, her seven children each had saints names that held meaning for her.  She told me she prayed for everyone daily, by name, and at one point she would have said all 15 decades of the Rosary (occasionally 20) every day.  In her final days, there were times when family members noticed that her lips were moving in a rhythmic fashion — praying for her family and friends, even then.

Granny passed away on 7 January 2013 (the feast day of St Raymond of Peñafort OP, as I’m sure she would like to have noted) and life simply hasn’t been the same since. Not that it has been all bad, just that it’s not what it was. There are some people whose passing leaves too big a hole to get over, and, like many others, our family has had more than our fair share of grief over the years. But, like Granny herself, we just get on with things. And she has stayed with us over the last 5 years — an unsettled baby calming down upon hearing “Sweet Heart of Jesus”, seeing my own mother pull a particular facial expression or come out with something that Granny would have said, hearing the words “Ask your Mummy does she forget where I live…” 😉

And sure enough, as time goes on I see myself turning into my mother, just as she is turning into hers. But unlike when I was a teenager and the thoughts of that would have horrified me, I’ve come to learn that this is no bad thing.  Anything but. It’s a legacy, I guess. Whether that takes the form of passing on the baton of faith to the next generation, rocking a child on your knee as you sing “Shush Wee Toady” (to the tune of Stabat Mater, no less) or knowing how to make a lovely pot of “gleen glanny gloop” in the depths of winter, it’s a legacy that I’m happy to be party to. And hopefully, when the time comes, I’ll do as good a job at passing on that legacy of faith, family and love to my own girls as my mother and grandmother did.

 

Pics are all mine.  Please don’t use without permission.
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The Royal College of Bystanders

So, let me let you in on a little secret.  Kids don’t always behave well at Mass.  But sometimes the best thing to do is to just pretend nothing is happening….  Unless you’re willing to roll your sleeves up, muck in and give the poor frazzled parents a break.  Or are able to provide strait jackets in junior sizes, we’re not fussy.

(Sometimes even their Guardian Angel needs to sit them down and read them the riot act…)

 

Sunday morning turned out to be a bit of a washout around here, which meant that we had to load up the whole posse and head to evening Mass up in Belfast. We had a lovely visit with the grandparents beforehand and stopped off in Boojum for something to eat. (Forecast for the next 24 hours was wind. ‘Nuff said.) Tired + Hungry is always a recipe for disaster, so at least we scratched one of those off the list.

So. I lined #5 up with a tube feed and put her in her buggy so she wouldn’t try to do her celebrated impression of a demented octopus, which, when it’s feeding time, inevitably leads to vomit.

So far so good, right? Well. Here’s how things panned out for us.

#4 did a poo (perfect timing), so The Old Progenitor brought her out to the car to change her.

#3 and #1, who were sitting next to each other, started pulling faces at each other. I quietly hissed at them (as only a mother can do) to stop it. right. this. second. They didn’t. #3 started acting up, so, as The Old Progenitor and #4 returned, I took #3 and #5 to the back of the Church.

#3 started demanding loudly that I LET GO OF HER HAND RIGHT NOW so we went out into the porch where I proceeded to silently stare her down (until I was on the verge of laughing at her incredibly cute pout) before asking if she was ready to behave yet. We returned to the pew.

#5, who had been enjoying the little stroll around the back of the Church, started objecting vociferously to the fact that we were now standing still. I mean, what gives?! Rocking the buggy back and forth? Do you honestly think I’m going to fall for that old chestnut? After 5 minutes of walking around, I figured we could safely return to the pew. I figured wrong. By way of protest, #5 proceeded to stick her fingers into her mouth, trigger her very delicate gag reflex, and throw up on herself. Out to the car we go to get tidied up. Aaaaaaand back to the pew.

Now, while Littlest Missy and I were off on our wild adventures, don’t be fooled into thinking that The Old Progenitor was having it easy back there. Cushy little number, sitting there saying his prayers with 4 of his adoring daughters around him, right? Well, I’m not entirely sure what was going down in my absence, but I returned just as #4 was yelling “YOU’RE A BIG MEANIE!!!” at him, during the Consecration. Also, it turns out #3 wasn’t ready to behave after all, as she kept pinching, poking and badgering #1. She’d wait for things to settle down and then pinch her again. Fun times.

So, Daddy’s turn to bring #3 up to the back, while #5 copped on that we weren’t on the move anymore and #4 went from (loudly) asking “What is making that NOISE?!” (the choir) to yelling “I DON’T WANT YOU, I WANT DADDY!” before sticking her thumb in her mouth and putting her head on my chest. It was short lived — she joined her Daddy and big sis at the back, and we made a hasty retreat to the car as soon as the choir had finished shining their little lights. (I am incredibly grateful that #1 did NOT keep her promise to sing it the whole way home…)

The Old Progenitor proceeded to inform me that another Mass-goer had accosted him on the way out to give him “parenting advice”. Y’know. The kind of advice that comes from someone who has just been appointed a fellow of the Royal College of Bystanders. (We came to the conclusion that their mascot is a high horse, by the way.)

Like, srsly. Instead of criticizing a family struggling with lots of little kids who are tired, fractious and getting on each other’s nerves at the end of a long, hot day (and that was just us), how about lending a hand? A friendly word to a child who is acting out could be enough to stop them in their tracks and let Mummy or Daddy catch their breath. Instead of telling a parent how they should be reacting, how about stopping to think about how YOU are reacting? Because, as the saying goes, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all!

 

P.S.  On the up side, #2, who is usually in the thick of it when it comes to making trouble around here, was sweetness and light yesterday.  Wonders never cease!!

P.P.S.  Sorry, Father.  I didn’t catch a word of your homily.  But I’m sure it was great!!

 

Grumpy Gargoyle and Baboon Photos from Visualhunt.com
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Naomi, Abortion & the Irish 8th Amendment

It’s been hard to ignore the fact that the Referendum on the Eighth Amendment is taking place in Ireland in the next few days — a referendum which, if it goes through, would strip the unborn baby of the right to life, equal to that of his or her mother. It’s an issue that invokes a lot of emotion, understandably so, and I’ve seen a huge amount of name calling and mud slinging going on all over social media over the last while. It’s made me very reluctant to wade in and say my piece, but I think in these final days before the votes will be cast, it’s time to tell you about our little miracle.

Meet Naomi.

Naomi is the youngest of 5 beautiful, crazy girls.

(They’re insane.  But in the best way possible.)

Here are the girls with their baby sister the day we got her home from the hospital…

However, this wasn’t the first time they met Naomi.  They first met her 130 days earlier when she was born at 26 weeks and 4 days, weighing a mere 685g.  That’s 1lb 8oz.  Not even a bag of sugar.

(That’s Naomi down at the bottom of the picture.  We had dolls at home that were bigger than her.)

See, like with the last 2 out of her 4 big sisters, I developed pre-eclampsia, among other health issues.  Each time it would kick in earlier and be more severe than the last time.  With  this pregnancy it was so severe that the doctors were starting to doubt themselves, wondering if it even was pre-eclampsia.  I have always been anything but textbook when it comes to medical issues in pregnancy!

My first two pregnancies went to term (42 weeks and 39 weeks) and were relatively straightforward.  With #3, the issues began, but I made it to 37 weeks before delivery.  With #4, things started off earlier, and we got to 33 weeks before the benefits of delivering the baby outweighed the benefits of keeping her in any longer.  So, when my blood pressure started misbehaving at 22 weeks to the point of needing medication, things did not bode well for our little #5.  In fact, within a few days I had finished work and was in hospital, where I remained until Naomi arrived.

Now, why does all this remind me of the Eighth Amendment referendum?  Well, we’ve heard all about the hard cases, we’ve heard that they want to bring in abortion up to 12 weeks for any reason under the sun, up to 24 weeks/viability for “fatal foetal abnormalities”, and up to birth when it is likely (greater than 50% chance) that the baby will die.

We got Naomi to 26 weeks.  That’s the point where the scales tip from there being a 50% chance to an 80% chance of survival… But we were on a knife edge the whole time.  I was transferred from my local hospital to another hospital (with the regional NICU) at 24 weeks because I was in immediate danger of having a stroke and they thought they’d have to deliver that night.  If they had, there would have been a 39% chance of survival.  If it had been a day earlier, at 23 weeks and 6 days gestation, that would have been a 17% chance and they might not have intervened.  It was the expertise of several consultants (and a cocktail of different medications) that helped us get another two weeks, improving the odds massively.  I was being monitored very very closely, with the team ready to act at the drop of a hat…  Which they did, in order to save both my life and our daughter’s life, once things had gone as long as they could.

We knew that our girl was going to be born very early, so as a result we knew that there was a high likelihood of there being issues.  Possibly big ones.  And once my BP went AWOL at 22 weeks, we knew that was likely to happen within the month.  In a different time, in a different place, to different parents, that baby would have been aborted due to issues they might possibly have.

On day one, we were sat down and told that our precious Naomi was a very sick little girl.  She had a grade 4 bleed on her brain (and in the following days, had another grade 4 bleed on the other side), extremely premature lungs, and wasn’t responding to treatment.  If she survived, and that seemed to be a very big if, she was likely to be profoundly disabled, wouldn’t be able to interact with us, wouldn’t have any quality of life worth talking about.

When I first got to see our youngest, it was while she was hooked up to a high frequency ventilator (oscillator) and on 100% oxygen.

 

Just that morning, I had been treated to a quick 3D scan, and saw this precious little face looking at me.

A few hours later, she was on the outside, still the same precious little face, our beautiful girl.

That evening, she was visited by her sisters, her grandparents, and her big cousin, and, very importantly for us, by a friend of ours, Fr Martin, who baptised her.  We let our friends know what was going on and asked them to pray.  And pray they did.  The prayers started flowing in from all over the world — thousands and thousands of people — it was very overwhelming yet very comforting.  And, against the odds, she stabilised and made it through the night.  And the next day.  And the next night.  And she started to improve ever so slightly….

And we dared to hope.  Because at the end of the day, God loves her way more than we ever could.  She’d either get better or she wouldn’t, but nobody could have looked us in the eye and told us that our lives were better off without her in it, even for a short period of time.  One doctor told us that all these scans, all these tests, they only show a part of the picture, they never tell the whole story.  Sometimes a child with a devastating MRI (like Naomi’s) can be fine, maybe a slight limp, and a child whose MRI is “not too bad” can be profoundly disabled.  We were definitely blessed to have doctors who were more than willing to be proven wrong on how they thought the outcome would be.

She was not the smallest, earliest, or sickest baby in the NICU at that time.  Two of her little buddies are 24 weekers, another wasn’t quite as early but has very complex issues, and another little boy we know of (different hospital though) was born insanely early, at 22 weeks.  Two weeks before what is considered “viable”.  He’s now a gorgeous, cheeky one year old.

 

The next several months were a rollercoaster.  One step forward, two steps back…  We nearly lost her several times, she would come on leaps and bounds and then have a setback.  We learned to take one day at a time and to find something positive in each day.  Some days that would be “She’s on room air today!” and other days it would be “Well, she’s still alive.”  And alive she was!  The nurses referred to her as “feisty”, which usually translated to her pulling out her tubes and batting them off when they tried to do anything.  (Some things haven’t changed!)

We got her home after 4.5 months, hopping off one rollercoaster and onto another.  It hasn’t always been easy but it has most definitely been wonderful.  It was never guaranteed that she would ever be able to do anything, so every smile, every giggle, every crawling-over-and-pulling-her-sister’s-hair… we rejoice in all the little things because we don’t take them for granted.  And, as it turns out, 20 months down the line, we’re yet to see any of these massive disabilities that we were told she would have.  She has an NG tube for feeding, as she has some issues with her weight, but otherwise we haven’t had any major issues.

How many Naomi’s will be aborted if the Eighth Amendment is repealed, by parents who are being told that their lives will be better off without going through the heartache of having their child die?  We’re being told repeatedly to “trust women to do the right thing” -what makes us think that Irish women are going to be any different to anywhere else in the world where abortion has been introduced, initially under restrictive terms?

However, we trusted our littlest woman to fight for her life, and look at her now.

 

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And So It Begins…

After working away in the background of TCC for the last couple of years, I’ve taken the leap and joined the giddy throng.  My apologies that the site is not as I’d like it to be; things are rather hastily thrown together and I’ll be tidying up as I go along (or shoving it under the bed… whichever works).

(Disclaimer:  That’s not me.  Or our house.  And our house would never be as clean as that in a million years.  Perhaps you’ve missed the part where we have 5 kids…)

 

But in the meantime, in the interest of getting something out there, here you go.  Our new blog, about life with 5 children and hopefully a wee bit of wit to keep you coming back for more. 🙂

 

 

Image: https://pixabay.com/en/cleaner-bed-the-push-rod-2537314/
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