NVP and me – when Morning Sickness isn’t just Morning Sickness

 

 

In days before Kate Middleton became a household name  Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) was only really on the radar of those unfortunate enough to suffer from this extreme and debilitating illness. It is still not widely known, or understood even by some healthcare professionals, and many many women suffer daily for weeks (and often months) on end with little to no support. I wanted to share my experiences of extreme Morning Sickness, better described as Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy as another voice in raising awareness – I am one of the lucky ones, I did not have HG, but the impact NVP can have on your life is dramatic, and to all the women suffering with HG – you are true survivors.

NVP hit me before I even knew I was pregnant with my first baby. I was helping lay a concrete floor (!) as we were renovating our workshop, the energy drained from me and I could barely put one foot in front of the other, let alone push a barrow of concrete mix. Extreme nausea built up rapidly over the next few days until just walking into the kitchen would make me retch uncontrollably. I have never felt so ill and would describe it as a cross between the flu, a hangover and Norovirus all rolled in to one. Luckily I was working from home – I don’t know how I would have made it into work, it took all my strength to drag myself around the animals to do the morning chores – having to stop regularly to retch. For some reason the smell of hay seemed to affect me the most badly – so feeding the goats was agonising. And that would be pretty much it for the rest of the day drifting in and out of consciousness in bed, taking sips of water and trying to force down some toast. The nausea was relentless, all day every day, with a brief window of relief in the early evening- my partner would get home from work and cook tea, which I would be able to keep down. Inevitably I lost a lot of weight, but neither my partner, or parents could understand why I was so ill, I was after all, only pregnant.

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My doctor, and midwife were entirely unsupportive – as long as I was keeping some liquid down I was fine, it was just a bit of Morning Sickness and was completely normal. I suppose to a certain extent I didn’t give them the true extent of how ill I actually was – as my first pregnancy I didn’t really have anything to compare it to and could not understand why my body was having such a hard time dealing with pregnancy. The magazines they give you at your first midwife appointment convinced me that I was overreacting and that is was very unlikely that I would get any medical help. It was not just my body that suffered, but my mind as well. From being a very busy, active smallholder to suddenly being bed ridden for weeks on end took its toll. There were some extremely dark days, one being admitting to my mum that if I lost this baby at least it would bring an end to this misery. Looking at my bouncing, bright 5 year old son I could never imagine life without him or how I could ever have felt like this – but one of the most tragic statistics of HG is that 1000 pregnancies are terminated each year by women suffering from this horrifying illness.

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My second pregnancy was a very different story thankfully. It also brought home quite how ill I was with my first. Yes there was some sickness, and exhaustion, and I didn’t fancy a cup of tea in the morning, but I could look after my toddler and get out and about to do the daily chores. This, I realised, was what many people experience as Morning Sickness, and this I could cope with.

Roll on to pregnancy number three. I knew pretty much immediately that I was pregnant, and I was anticipating the nausea. It hit me like a tonne of bricks on week five, which also happened to be the first week of the summer holidays. I let those close to me know early on – I knew I would need all the help I could get, but rather than the excitement I wanted to feel about this much wanted pregnancy, the reality was I just felt very ill. This time I went straight to the doctors and was relieved to get a sympathetic response- particularly as I had two young boys at home for the summer. I was prescribed an antiemetic, and other than having to up the dosage, it brought the all day nausea under some sort of control and I was able to eat. It was not the fun packed summer I had planned, but I managed to get the boys out most days. By week 10 I was starting to come out the other side, and have cut down on the antiemetics and am looking forward to the 2nd trimester burst of energy!

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My advice for anyone suffering NVP – particularly if this is your first pregnancy – is don’t suffer in silence. Get to the doctors early and explain exactly what sort of impact is having on your life. HG is a serious and life threatening condition requiring hospitalisation, and can leave sufferers with long term ongoing health problems. There are very safe meditations available for NVP, and although they don’t alleviate the symptoms entirely, they really can make life more bearable. It can be very isolating as so many people are unaware of how severe the symptoms can be, but a great source of online support and information can be found at www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk

 

 

Lambing 2017

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It’s been a little while since I’ve had the chance to write – the weeks seem to fly by with the busiest months on the smallholding being March and April. The pregnant ewes and goats needing close supervision and the garden needing preparation for the coming season, before I know it we are into June!

Lambing.

We’ve been very lucky this winter – it’s been relatively dry and the ewes have continued to graze out on the common land – 30 acres of wet meadowlands that provide an important habitat to numerous species of birds and plant life becoming increasingly scarce in the UK. The ewes went into the winter in good condition and held it through the winter with nothing in the way of supplementary feeding. I had a very bad lambing season last year and put it largely down to getting the feeding regime wrong, with the ewes being given too much additional food too early. This year they just had hay and a high protein bucket to help themselves to what they needed. Four weeks before lambing I started giving them ewe nuts, more to get them used to being around me again and I could get a good look to see if anyone was ‘bagging up’ (milk coming in ready for birth). Portland sheep very rarely have twins, and with just a handful to lamb I don’t get them scanned, and as a primitively breed they thrive on rough grazing with little additional concentrate feed.

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We lamb outside, which I think is a lot less stressful for the ewes, and have a small shed with three lambing pens for any problems. I definitely have a hands off approach but keep a close eye. With just a few sheep I can usually tell when someone is thinking about lambing before the ewe knows, and this gives an insight to just how long it can take for a natural, problem free delivery – patience is key. Over the last few years I have waded in before time unnecessarily, often with poor consequences.

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This year all eight ewes lambed with little interference from me. A couple required a little assistance with some bigger tup lambs, but otherwise without bother. The weather was good, and they all lambed in the day over a two week period – this makes what can be an extremely stressful time, actually quite enjoyable! Navals are sprayed with Bactakil to prevent any infection after the mother has licked them dry, and I leave her to bond for a few hours and for the lamb to get to its feet and get that all important colostrum. They are then moved onto the garden patch where they are out of harms way and on fresh grass.

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One reoccurring problem that I have still yet to solve is that of the appearance of Joint Ill in the lambs from about 10 days of age. This is a bacterial infection that causes lameness and swelling of the joints that can eventually lead to fatalities. It is generally considered more prevalent in dirty, indoor lambing sheds, and where the navels are not treated soon enough, or colostrum not taken within an hour of birth. It can be resolved using a single shot of antibiotics if caught early enough, and I’ve found this to be extremely effective – however I am not at all happy to be using antibiotics a routine treatment and need to find the root cause of the problem. I suspect the bacteria responsible are found in the soil so can’t be eliminated, so next year I am going to use a much stronger iodine solution for treating their navals and try and do it sooner to see if that helps.

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All eight lambs (6 tubs and 2 ewes) are now strong and healthy and out with the  ewes on the common land until the seasons move on and the next round of shepherding – they will be brought in for vaccinations, tagging, worming and fly prevention treatments. But more in that in a future post!

 

Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre

DesignWith the Easter holidays looming, I am always looking for good places to visit with the boys that are 1.Not too expensive, and 2. Not ridiculously busy. We visited on a frosty Saturday in January after a tip off from one of the Mums at J’s school, and we weren’t disappointed.

The centre itself is free to enter, there is a great gift shop (I’m not one for browsing usually, but was actually really impressed) and a cafe that is really popular (you need to book for Sunday lunch). Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to sample the food as O had seen enough at this point and was in full meltdown mode, maybe next time!

29133024_UnknownWhat we had really come to see was the Woolly Mammoth, a full size replica of a mammoth skeleton found near Shrewsbury. J was really excited to see this massive skeleton, and I was taken aback by just how big these animals were. The exhibition includes an Iron Age display, J loved the spears and shield and was keen to try the outfits in the dressing up box.29133232_Unknown

It was great to see some of the amazing archeological finds from the area, and there was brass rubbing to keep the boys amused while we caught up with some of this areas rich history.

Behind the centre is the 30 acre Onny Meadows. We were given a map in the discovery centre and there is a network of paths around the site, through grassy meadows, pond and by the river. The paths are all hard surfaced so would be fine with a buggy in dryer weather, ours struggled a bit as it was quite muddy and the middle of winter. J liked leading the way and being in charge of the map, and we were looking out for early signs of spring.

In all it was a really nice morning and I’m looking forward to visiting again later on in the Spring and Summer and properly exploring the meadows, and hopefully getting the chance to have lunch in the cafe!

The mammoth exhibition costs £3.50 for adults and free for under 5’s. More info can be found here.

The Holy Grail of Independent Play

As with most of my parenting experiences, my pre-child idealistic  version  of play was very different from the frustrating reality. I was under the impression that from babies, my boys would be able to entertain themselves to a certain extent  leaving me free to get on with the household chores and errands, maintain my small business and run the smallholding. Wrong.

My eldest (J) has always craved my company, and has very little interest in actual play with ‘toys’ until quite recently (he is now 4). He was most happy being carried, and later running, round the garden, putting everything in his mouth he could find and ‘helping’ with our seasonal tasks. We soon learned that toys really weren’t for him unless they were small versions of tools that he could use to help  with whatever job we needed to be doing. He is now going through a stage of  imaginative play and dressing up, but still has little interest in other toys, and always with input from myself or their Dad.

This all sounds idyllic, but actually trying to lay a hedge, chop wood, muck out goats, or dig the garden with a baby/toddler/young child in tow is not easy, or fun, though I am sure an excellent learning environment for the boys!

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Baby boy 2 (O) has actually been a lot easier. He was happy to watch his big brother, and has always had initiative to push toy cars around or stack building blocks. I will never really know if this is because he has learned to do this from his brother or if it just comes more naturally to him. They are very different children when it comes to play.

There seems to be a few theories to why children won’t play with their toys and seem to prefer whinging and fighting:

Firstly, some parents suggest that we do too much with our children and they come to expect to be entertained – J asks me on a daily basis what are we doing today. During the holidays sometimes I just don’t know, or don’t actually want to do anything much other than pottering around the house. So there could be some truth in this, though not doing anything with them strikes fear into my heart that we will all go stir crazy.

Others suggest that they need a rotation of toys, and having everything out all the time is just too overwhelming. I regularly try to put a box of toys away for a few weeks and when it’s found there is a brief excitement of finding their long lost toys. They soon get muddled with the rest of their things and we are back to square one. More planning necessary.

I have recently discovered the joys of so called ‘open ended play’. I’m not entirely sure the boys received the memo, but we are working on it. These are toys that can be used in different ways depending  on what your child currently enjoys doing – stacking, knocking things over, sorting, movement etc. J would happily watch me for hours whilst I tried out different ways of playing with these toys, but is not that interested in trying them out for himself, he would much prefer to do a puzzle together, and I guess that’s fine by me.

One suggestion I’ve found particularly interesting recently is that we often provide our toys already set up, such as a train track already made, a puzzle completed, or a dolls house arranged. Children have had the challenge of putting something together taken away from them. I wouldn’t say I fall down too much here, I’m not really one to set up a play area ready for the boys in the morning,  but it could be an area to improve on!

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We do get brief moments when they will play independently, and when it happens I can’t help but stand there in awe. I think that I have really just expected too much too soon and the time will come all too quickly when they won’t want me to be their main source of entertainment, and then I’ll probably feel pretty lost. Are your children good at independent play, and do you have any tips to encourage it?

Chicken lockdown.

So, for the past few weeks we’ve been in lockdown, with the poultry not allowed out to free range due to the risk of bird flu, H5N8. As for most backyard poultry keepers this has been a bit of a logistical  nightmare, and the DEFRA guidelines have not been particularly clear. This (supposedly) highly pathogenic strain is spread by infected wild birds, and can be spread to domestic poultry by contact with contaminated food, water or droppings. We are advised to keep poultry housed, but where this was not possible under a covered run that should not be accessed by wild birds. All feed and water is to be kept in the house.

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The ducks have have not been too problematic, with only three of them we have shut them in the propagation greenhouse near the house. They are safe from predators and have a nice fresh bucket of water everyday to keep themselves clean and I top up the bark chippings on the floor weekly to keep it dry and comfortable for them.

The trio of Dutch bantams are in an ark which I have covered with feed sacks to keep the wild birds out with the end netted for ventilation. Feed and water in the house. Sorted.

My biggest dilemma was the main laying flock. We’ve got about a dozen laying hens that we keep in a large fenced pen. It is far too big to net over the top. With the water and feed placed in the house itself the hens were just not utilising it. Food wasn’t being eaten, and more worryingly they were not touching their water. Their house itself is too small to have birds shut in for any length of time. Like many smallholders we have got a variety of outbuildings and sheds, they are, however, filled with junk all in use.

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I decided to move the hay from its designated shed to an unused greenhouse further away on the veg plot. This involved first clearing the greenhouse of weeds, empty pots and other veg plot paraphernalia and getting some pallets down to make sure the bales weren’t in contact with the damp ground and spoil. With the hay shed cleared, I used a pallet on edge as a perch and to divide the area in two, added a low shelf for the chooks to nest under, and a big, shallow bucket of sand for scratching and dust bathing. There is a stable door on the front, so I made a wire screen to go on the top half to improve ventilation and let in some much needed daylight.

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So far the hens have been reasonably happy with this set up. I make sure they get a cabbage or apple to peck at everyday, and a scattering of corn on the ground. We’ve had a few eggs, but will all be very relieved when this period of confinement is over, and in the meantime I’m going to make the most of it and have a sort out in their existing house and run. I’d love to hear from you if you have any other tips to keeping your birds entertained while confined!

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You can find out what Defra suggests for poultry keepers here

New Year, New Blog

I didn’t start 2017 thinking this was the year I would start a blog – there have been several factors guiding me on this path. Like most people, with the New Year, comes a reorganisation of what we want to try and achieve in the coming year. With a decent  twitter following, a growing Instagram account and a nice little Etsy shop selling handmade goatsmilk soap, is it really the right time to start a blog?

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Just before I became pregnant for the first time in 2013 I took over a small local herb growing business. The polytunnel was set up, the stock plants in the ground, plantfairs booked, business cards produced and a great website was in the making. With a horticultural background, this was my dream job.

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Then after many months of trying, and losing faith that pregnancy was going to happen naturally for us, we finally got that long awaited positive test result. It did, of course, change everything. I had no idea how hard pregnancy could be and was under the impression that MY baby would just seamlessly fit in to my daily routine of caring for the animals on our smallholding, tending our garden and developing my small herb growing business.

So, four years down the line and another pregnancy and baby under my belt, comes the reality of trying to run a small business with two small children. I love horticulture, and growing and selling my herbs, but need to put this to one side, as a hobby, as the financial rewards are minimal (i.e. it pays for itself) and the time input is massive. I will continue making soap and selling in my Etsy shop, but raising the boys, and tending the smallholding needs to be the priority.

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My other job is as a marketing assistant for a brand of cloth nappies that I am truly passionate about. Set up by a friend that I  made during my antinatal classes in my first pregnancy, we are working on building a brand and raising awareness of using cloth nappies in general. For me, this involves spending rather a lot of time on social media, reading blogs and corresponding with bloggers. In reality I’m a social media junkie. There, I’ve said it.

What I really want to try and achieve this year is a place that I can pull all these fragments together in one place. A place to focus, to meet like minded people, and to share our experiences. Welcome to The Mummy Homestead. IMG_2543.JPG