Monthly Archives: July 2015

‘That’ girl

It was 15 minutes into my run when I saw her.

With her long legs and swinging ponytail and perfect running stride. She was wearing tiny racing shorts, for Christ’s sake. And she looked about 15 years younger than me.

I say ‘saw’ her. In actual fact, she leapt past me like a sodding gazelle and was then off, into the distance.

I couldn’t see her for very long.

There I was with my extra stone of baby weight, wondering how attempting to run 5K had ever become so bloody hard. Wearing black capris, even though it was boiling (there’s no way I’m exposing the dog walkers to my legs just yet). And minus the swinging ponytail, which I recently swapped for a pixie cut that is a touch more Shoreditch than suburbs on a good day (I momentarily forgot I was a mother of two at the salon) and a touch more slept-in-a-ditch than Shoreditch on a bad day. It’s 50/50.

Seeing her was almost enough to stop me in my tracks and make me wonder why the hell I was bothering.

Almost.

Because then I decided that, actually, she really didn’t look like she had two children to care for round the clock. Which means she hasn’t pushed the best part of half a stone of human being out of her vagina four short months ago. And her body hasn’t been stretched and softened by pregnancy. And her whole being isn’t weighed down by the very physical demands of caring for two little ones.

On top of that, she won’t have been up in the night feeding a baby or trying to find Nemo. Not a bizarre Pixar-related euphemism, I promise. I mean I have literally had to try to find Nemo, the cuddly clown fish, who has got lost down the side of my son’s bed no fewer than three times this week. [Nemo, hear this: if I am called in at 3am one more time to locate you, I am going to stop thinking you are a cute little toy and start thinking that you are, in fact, a bit of a dick.]

Nemo

Nemo. My nemesis.

So, I might be ‘curvier’ than I was pre-children. I might be more tired. I might be softer and slower, and I might struggle to make it up that final hill.

But deep down, I am stronger.

And I won’t be stopped in my tracks.

Once I picked up the pace again, I realised something. You know what? It really didn’t matter whether ‘that’ girl had children or not. Whether she really was 15 years younger than me, or whether she has simply inherited good genes. In fact, if she is also a tired mother and is still managing to bang out a training run that looked like it could have bagged her a sub 45-minute 10K, well done to her!

Seeing her reminded me that running is an amazingly personal endeavour, with very personal goals and very personal achievements. Unless you are an elite athlete, it really isn’t about racing other people. It is not about comparison. Not for me, anyway. Everyone is running off their own struggles; their own stresses and strains. Everyone is running towards their own personal best.

Some might be a bit speedier or a bit slimmer than others, but at the end of the day, we’re all runners.

If I ever see ‘that’ girl again, I’ll even give her a smile and cheer her on her speedy way.

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Excuses, excuses

“I really like your blog,” my mum told me the other day.

Followed closely by a tentative:

“Although there’s not a lot of running in it, is there?”

Well, no actually. I suppose there isn’t.

But you see, I haven’t yet got my evenings back, because the baby still thinks it’s great to stay up late, and I’m really quite tired what with the night wakings, and I don’t have lots of childcare help during the days, and it’s been quite hot recently, and I’ve had a bit of a cough, and…

OK. Enough.

A friend recently said to me that if you really want something, you’ll find a way, and if you really don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

Which I think is pretty much the truth and has given me a bit of a kick up the arse.

Because when it comes to next year’s marathon, I really really want it. Not that you’d know, because I’ve been making a fair few excuses recently.

I didn’t realise I was making excuses. I thought they were reasons. And pretty valid reasons at that.

But they’re not. And here’s why.

Because I knew I would have very little time to train when I signed up. Just like I knew I’d be tired, and I knew summer was approaching, and I knew – what with a two-year-old who goes to nursery once a week – illnesses would be frequent in our house.

But I signed up to run 26.2 miles regardless. And this time, that means signing up to the whole time-poor, tired package too.

I’ve just started reading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running*. In it, he reveals he adopted the mantra, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional,” to see him through his many marathons.

I now know marathon training as a mother will be many things: painful, tiring, tough. It will require more dedication than I have ever had to apply to anything before. But by embracing this fact, it means it doesn’t have to be awful.

So. The first two goals? Upping my training days during the week and a half decent 10K time by September.

No. More. Excuses.

trainers

*I have two children and very little me-time. In two years I will probably still only be on chapter three.

 

The blog post that might have saved my baby’s life

I first heard of Group B Strep when I was 13 weeks pregnant with my second child. I was at soft play with my toddler at the time, when a friend we were there with bumped into a woman she knew. The woman had a one year old… but had previously tragically lost a full-term baby because of something called Group B Strep.

I remember thinking I really must check with my midwife that my blood results had come back negative for whatever the hell this was.

So, imagine my surprise when I was told at my 16-week appointment that, sorry, but the NHS doesn’t screen for this.

Excuse me? Something that is potentially life threatening to newborns isn’t tested for?

My midwife could only apologise and then gave me a leaflet about a private home-testing kit, which I shoved in my bag and – due to the demands of a toddler and a job – forgot about.

Until, that is, I read this blog post by the rather wonderful DiscomBUBulated, about the fact that a private home test for GBS potentially saved her child’s life.

I was 36 weeks pregnant – the perfect time to test. I sent off for the kit, did the swabs, posted them back, assumed they would be negative and mentally ticked it off my to-do list.

The results came back positive.

Group B Strep is a naturally occurring bacteria that lives harmlessly in about 20 per cent of the population. However, it can be dangerous – even fatal ­– for babies during birth. If you are GBS positive, your baby will come into contact with the bacteria. Most babies are unaffected. However, some babies will develop an infection, which can be serious. Side effects can include septicaemia, pneumonia, meningitis and, tragically, death.

I informed my midwife at my next appointment that I was GBS positive and – here’s the thing – despite the fact it is not routinely tested for in the UK, if you are found to be positive in a private test, it’s taken very seriously. There are even special GBS+ stickers, which were plastered all over my notes to ensure no medical professional missed the fact I was GBS+.

Once in labour, I needed to go on IV antibiotics to ensure the safe arrival of my baby.

In many cases, this is enough.

But my beautiful daughter was born with signs of a possible infection: a higher than normal heart rate and a high temperature.

After a quick cuddle, she was taken away from me to the Special Care Baby Unit and put on IV antibiotics of her own. We had to remain in hospital for three days while she was treated and waited anxiously to see whether her infection markers went up.

IMAG2372

A few hours after birth

They didn’t. We breathed an enormous sigh of relief and took our beautiful, healthy baby girl home.

Others aren’t so lucky.

While in hospital, I met another couple whose baby boy was also being treated with antibiotics. For meningitis. Which developed because of GBS. His mother looked weary, worried and – worse – guilty, despite the fact it was not her fault.

How could she not have known she had GBS, she asked me. Why wasn’t she tested? Why did I receive antibiotics during labour? How did I find out about the test?

Because I read my friend’s blog post.

And doing that might have saved my baby’s life.

July is GBS Awareness Month. GBS is the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies. While many developed countries offer routine screening for GBS to pregnant women, the NHS doesn’t. Please take the time to sign this petition, calling for all pregnant women to be offered information about Group B Strep.

Mini breaks vs mini adventures

My husband has recently returned from a long weekend away. Kayaking. In the Norwegian Fjords. With a spot of wild camping thrown in for good measure. A few years back, this is exactly the sort of adventure we would have gone on together.

Bastard.

OK, OK, it was a stag do, so I wouldn’t have been on the invite list even if we hadn’t had young children. But still. Norway, people. I feel I have the right to be a little pissed off by his 63.5-hour break away. Not that I was clock-watching.

And OK, despite the fact I upped the guilt factor for my husband (obviously), I actually had a bloody good weekend as well. The little ones were (for the most part) on great form, and the weather was beautiful, so we had a lot of time outside – in the garden, at the park and chasing around the woods. Plus we had a night at Nanny and Papa’s house, so we all felt thoroughly well looked after, and I even managed to get an hour to myself to go for a much-needed run.

With Papa

Grandparents. What would we do without them?

But the whole ‘weekend away from the children’ thing got me thinking. Could I? I’m not sure I could. Not just yet. Not while they’re so small.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no saint. There are countless times during the week that I practically have one foot out the door to make a run for it, usually in the middle of a “don’t want that Mummy” mealtime, or after a loooong morning followed by nap refusal, or when I’ve trodden on one too many pieces of Lego that day. There are many times each week I have to stand on the other side of the door to my toddler and slowly count to ten. Many times when I wish I could simply pack a bag and take my own 63.5-hour holiday.

But then I look at them. And I remember that, for the first time in my life, I am completely and utterly needed. That I don’t spend all my time nurturing and caring and clothing and feeding and cuddling and rocking them just for fun. It’s vital.

And all this without even taking into account the fact that, for the first time, I have a bottle-refusing baby. And that, when presented with said bottle (be it filled with expressed milk or formula), she reacts as if I have just offered her battery acid, and only calms down once more when I shove a boob back in her mouth, to reassure her that, in fact, all is still right with the world.

So no, I can’t simply pop out for 63.5 hours.

Mind you, while my husband sits in an office Monday to Friday, right now I get to spend my days having lots of mini adventures with my little ones. And watching my toddler balance along a fallen tree for the first time – and seeing the look of sheer joy and pride on his face – beats a mini break any day.

Balancing

Sharing his daily adventures. How lucky am I?

So I guess it’s 50/50.

Obviously though, I still had to force a smile through gritted teeth when my husband showed me the photos from his weekend away.

His weekend

Jealous? Me? *Sobs quietly*

Like I said. Bastard.