16 unexpected ways parenting keeps you young

Sure, having children keeps you young and makes you feel like a child again. Here’s why:

  1. You need permission to go out  — not from your Mum, but from your babysitter, who is often your Mum.
  2. You become friends with the people you happen to be in closest proximity to in the school playground.
  3. Your social life consists almost entirely of a half hearted Hokey Cokey, something fizzy to drink and some unrelenting sobbing.
  4. You don’t have any money of your own and definitely none to spend on yourself.
  5. You rarely go out after dark and when you do, it’s exciting.
  6. You cry irrationally, and often.
  7. You don’t sleep beyond 6am.
  8. Sometimes you pee your pants a bit.
  9. You don’t get to decide what you do ever.
  10. You don’t get to choose what to watch on TV ever.
  11. You aren’t allowed to go to restaurants which have fragile wine glasses already placed on the table.
  12. Strangers think it’s OK to touch you, talk to you, ask you rude questions and remark on your behaviour.
  13. You leave the house with food on your clothes and sometimes your face.
  14. You are convinced that everyone hates you and what you are doing.
  15. On rainy days you long to make a camp under a duvet and stay there for weeks.
  16. You pick things off the floor and eat them before really knowing what they are.
Advertisements

I see you. Your children see you. Can you see you?

The thing with Instagram mums is you can’t see them. If Sarah down the road has her shoes on the wrong feet (hers, not her child’s, it can happen) you can see it. You can see her unwashed hair, her red-rimmed eyes, the numerous fish finger boxes in her recycling. You can see her ill fitting jeans.

Women have never been perfect mothers. They just never got so incessantly pulled up by the media and they never had to compare themselves to filtered Instagram addicts. Looking back over time, billions of women have looked out for each other, helped each other, listened, noticed, shared and laughed with each other. That circle of support still exists today, down the street and online. My preferred channel of support is the bloggers and the writers who call themselves things like Unmumsy Mum and Scummy Mummies and Hurrah For Gin. They don’t fit the image of ‘mother’ that has been written not just by mothers, but by men, by media, by doctors and experts. They’re written by women who have kids. Mothers.

Modern day internet heroes are those women who make us laugh, who show us their red-rimmed eyes, their fat arses, their boredom, their bottle of gin, their tearful commute to work, their daily guilt, their imperfections, their love for their children. The Sarah Turners, the Helen Thorns, the Ellis Gibsons and the Katie Kirbys.  When was it decided that there was a bar to reach? And who decided it? It definitely wasn’t the woman sitting on the bench in the park with food-stained jeans on, hiccuping back tears and wishing she could just lie down for a minute. She has always been there. She has always sat on that bench. She just never had a world of comparisons and expectations on her shoulders. Her kids are alive and they’re in the park. You did it lady, these bloggers say, every day. You did everything you needed to and sometimes you need to hear that every day.

Kids don’t see Instagram filters or symmetrical cup cakes or fashion-forward scarves when they look at you or your home. They see lines and imperfections and sometimes they see tears; they see you. Not your 3495 followers. Not your dirty kitchen cupboards. Not your Valencia-filtered home-made egg muffins. They see you. If you transcribed the average mother’s day it would probably be a mixture of “God, can you just leave me alone for two minutes” and “I love you so much I can barely breathe” but there is no such thing as the average mother. To your child, the only person in the world who makes you a mother, there is only you.

And if anyone judges you for looking at your text messages from friends that make you laugh out loud and stealing a few minutes of feeling like you while your children play, or for feeding your kids the quickest thing you can find, then you probably want to scream at them that you weren’t always a mother and being a mother isn’t all that you are and, ultimately, you are just you looking after your child as best you can.

The fortunate mothers in this world aren’t hiding in broom cupboards scared of falling short or drinking in secret or pretending this is all they ever wanted or needed. They are doing it all in the open. They’re getting on trains across cities to work. They’re flying to meetings. They’re working night shifts. They’re drowning in laundry. They are fighting every day to balance everything their child needs with what they need. And they’re writing it all down, speaking it out loud and with it, millions of shoulders feel a little less heavy. Their words, their version of motherhood, their stories. Hallelujah to that. And to any mother who receives criticism for how she has done something from someone who has no business to say so, just remember to look down the street, or online, and there will be other mothers, scummy mummies and unmumsy mums and gin-loving mums,  leaving the house with a bat cape on, with cheerios in their hair, chairing meetings, attending school plays, writing presentations, saving lives, teaching other children, taking a bottle of wine out to the recycling and resisting a very slight urge to be sick. They’re doing all of these things.

So what does this have to do with the mummy bloggers who are much maligned by some? What these amazing women are doing is they are saying: You can be both. Just be both. Enjoy your life. Enjoy you and be glad to be you because that’s all your children want or need you to be. Above all, forgive yourself for not being perfect, so that your kids can look up to the happy, confident, joyful, imperfect woman that you were meant to be. To them, you are perfect and when it comes to judging mothers, whose opinion really, really matters?

Solidaritea (and up yours Daily Mail)

Reading one of these women’s posts is the equivalent of panicking because everyone in your post-natal group is bringing out brightly coloured snack pots full of home made humous and pasta salad and you have forgotten a snack but then the woman opposite you brings out a tupperware from her bag from last week that she’s forgotten about and it’s got mould growing in it and everyone sees and you just want to hug her and say “Thank you.”

I started a draft of this post several days ago, before that odious Daily Mail article about Mummy bloggers was shat out into the internet, promoting the repulsed reaction of many alongside the hashtag solidaritea. I don’t have the time or inclination to finesse it so I’ll just churn out what I was trying to say, while the iron is hot (which is never in my house, because I’m ONE OF THOSE AWFUL MOTHERS).

There are several kinds of mummy bloggers. Hundreds of different kinds. Here are some of the more famous (and some of the ones mentioned in that ridiculous joke of a “story”)

  • The tell it like it is. She’s One of Us. (e.g. The Unmumsy Mum)
  • The hilarious, ranty, keeps her family quite private but CHRIST can we all relate to her (e.g. Peter and Jane)
  • The focus on the downright sluttishness, the things we dare not admit – until now (e.g. Scummy Mummies)
  • The straight to the heart, downright funny and visual (think lovely clever cartoons) (e.g.Hurrah for gin)
  • The ones who call each other queens and bitches and reveal painful truths, perfect for when we’re angry and we miss our old selves (e.g. LikeaQueen)

On the flip side, there are the super polished ones who became a brand by working with brands. They have pretty lives, which is admirable, in a way, but I don’t find it interesting. I have also read parenting blog posts that just detail a particular child’s bowel movements. Or their first steps. That is it. That is not a blog, it’s a journal. They’re not much fun to read.

I’ve been going through my old blog posts (dating back as far as 2012) and I like to think I’ve not embarrassed my children. Most of my posts are observations about the funny things kids say, or how a day has gone, or about relationships. General whimsical stuff, crazy pregnancy stuff, random musings.  I don’t complain about my children, I do that to their face. I laugh about them, usually at my expense, which is what most of us do to let off steam.

We’ve just come out of Mental Health Awareness week. We all know that things can topple onto you, make you feel claustrophobic, make you wonder how you’ll get through the day, make you yearn to be alone, make you yearn to be with anyone else but your children, make you yearn to only be with your children, make you so happy you can’t bear to think of all the things that could shatter that happiness if you walk out that door, make you want to stop time, make you scared of everything, make you glad to be alive, make you feel alive.

If you can make someone laugh out loud or let out a sigh of “Oh it’s not just me” you can make a world of difference.  All it can take is one thing to rescue you, make you feel you’re not alone. It’s not always easy to get that thing in the real world. Not on those days when you’re struggling with breastfeeding, liaising with a malevolent toddler, looking after a poorly child or trying to remember the last time you left the house.

Reading one of these amazing bloggers’ posts is the equivalent of panicking because everyone in your post-natal group is bringing out brightly-coloured snack pots full of home-made humous and pasta salad and you have forgotten a snack but then the woman opposite you brings out a tupperware from her bag from last week that she’s forgotten about and it’s got mould growing in it and everyone sees and you just want to hug her and say “Thank you.”

So thank you to all the Mummy bloggers who share their reality, their insanity and their joy at being a parent. And up yours Daily Mail (*swigs gin* AND *finishes the kids’ cold fishfingers dipped in lumpy ketchup*)

 

 

The Wife of Bath: the sequel.

Four years ago I wrote a blog called The Wife of Bath in which I explained why I get in the bath with my small kids. BUB.3 was still a twinkle, the first two were 1 and 3. Today they are 3, 5 and 7. Looking through my list of 8 reasons that I used to swill about in the muck of my children, it’s clear why this no longer happens.
1) I don’t always require a complete change of clothes at bath time. Now only my socks get wet.
2) I’m not so dirty anymore. They, on the other hand, just get filthier with each year that passes. Mostly exploded yogurt and marker pen.
3) Bath time without me just sounds a bit sad. It’s still my favourite time with them. Weird, I know.
4) They still love it. But they’re bigger. And sometimes they try to drown each other. Or they’re pretending to smoke.
5) I’ve invested in a Lifeproof iPhone cover. From someone who has dropped previous phones in pineapple juice, prune juice, down several toilets, through a 90 degree washing machine cycle and into a bowl of chicken soup, I’m the ultimate test for this thing and this thing lives on where others have not been so lucky.
6) They would hate me to get into the bath with them now. I would be insulted like the time BUB.1 told me I looked like a gorilla who had lost all of its hair apart from its armpits.
7) I never care about what I’m wearing anymore. I’ve accepted my uniform of shrunken long-sleeved stretchy black top and bulging jeans. I’m OK with it.
8) I no longer have to worry about them weeing in my bath because I tend to now sneak in before them. Invariably the moment my shoulders hit the hot water one of them wants an immediate poo. I don’t know which is worse. The kid who immediately wants me to leave the bathroom (and therefore extract myself from a lovely hot bath I have been in for 5 seconds) or the kid who wants me to stay. THIS is just one of the infinite philosophical “caught between a rock and a hard place” questions that dominate parenthood. You can never really win with kids. There’s always a trade off.
But one thing never changes from the time I wrote this blog post. The last line. That is and always will be so very, very true.

Tongue-tie: Can anyone give me a straight answer?

An unexpected breech caesarean section, BUB.3 first appeared to me as a long, bright pink, crying blur. “She’s got a tongue-tie which they say they can cut” Willy Wonka said, reassuring me she was OK as they checked her over on the table behind me. From something so certain, the first thing I heard about my daughter in fact, the next 11 days didn’t bring quite so much assurance about what I had been told.

She had a tongue-tie. Severe. 100% we were told. During my hospital stay she was checked and we told it was up to us whether we got her snipped or not but that it would only be done if there were feeding problems. We were told by one person at the hospital that it was a 50% tongue-tie. So immediately there were mixed messages. Some hospitals snip before discharge. But here, at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, we were visited by a tongue-tie specialist and sent home. Unlike some mothers who only find out because they have problems breastfeeding, we were in no doubt that BUB.3 was tongue-tied.

What is tongue-tie?

Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) is when the bit of skin that joins the tongue to the bottom of the mouth is longer than usual, sometimes making it difficult for the tongue to move freely. It’s quite common, with the NHS stating that it affects between 4% and 11% of newborn babies. It can resolve itself, or it can cause problems with speech and tongue movement later on. Tongue-tie is fixed by simply snipping the skin (frenulum) so that the tongue is released. If one early enough, it’s a very quick procedure where a bit of local anaesthetic is rubbed into the mouth and the skin is snipped with a pair of sterilised scissors.

When to snip?

Knowing that BUB.3’s was a severe one, knowing that I had struggled to get my milk going with BUB.2 and BUB.1 previously, that they had both lost weight initially and knowing how very hard I had to work to make breastfeeding a success, I would have preferred to have her snipped as soon as possible so we had every chance of making feeding a success. I know some people baulk at the idea of taking a knife to the tongue of a newborn, but I’m tough and I had read that babies cry momentarily and then move on from it. Some even sleep through the procedure. She was my third child and I knew she’d be OK.

After our initial struggles, I had gone on to feed my first two children for 19 months and 27 months respectively. With BUB.3 I had to forsake my favourite part of childbirth, the pushing, for a last-minute c-section: I wasn’t ready to give up breastfeeding too.

The procedure at my hospital was this: I had to try feeding and if there were difficulties, I had to visit the breastfeeding clinic at the hospital, nine miles from my house, with a two-year-old in tow, and prove that we were having problems feeding. I had to do that three times before the problems would be signed off as due to tongue-tie. This is despite her having a visually obvious tongue-tie which I was not prepared to let her live with knowing that it may, or may not, cause problems later on.

Breastfeeding problems

We WERE having problems feeding. She couldn’t seem to open her mouth properly. So we tried positioning and all that jazz. But all the while, my milk wasn’t flowing because the demand just wasn’t there, and we weren’t getting going with breastfeeding. I was frustrated that I had an extra obstacle to face. Given that I’d had such difficulties before, which I explained to the wonderful breastfeeding clinic nurses, I just wished someone would book me in for a snip as soon as possible. But instead I got mixed messages about the wisdom or necessity of snipping it now. I just wanted it done. I didn’t want to take any risks with her future mobility or speech.

In the end, it took the three visits to the breastfeeding clinic for them to sign her off for a snip. 11 days after she was born. 11 days of struggling with feeding, of going back and forth to the clinic, in and out of the car when even walking hurt due to a very painful c-section wound.

Her tongue-tie wasn’t in question, it wasn’t doubtful. It was 100%. I had to top her up with formula from day one, as I had to have a bladder X-ray after the c-section to ensure no damage had been done during the c-section (the surgeon was worried her scalpel may have slipped in the hurry!), and was banned from breastfeeding for 24 hours.

The day of the snip

But I’m tenacious and once booked in for the snip, I was determined. The snip itself was fine. In the event, I couldn’t look at her as they did it (Willy Wonka was next to her), but I fed her immediately afterwards, as best we could, and she recovered within seconds. From that moment she latched properly, her tongue was free and we took off! I didn’t end up feeding her as long as the others, but I did feed her for six months. I had to stop as my milk supply was lower than the first two and my energy and ability to express milk to keep it up was dwindling under the weight of having a three and five-year-old to look after. But we did it, despite the tongue-tie, and I was thankful we had.

A problem shared

As I thought about what a struggle it had been to get the result I had wanted from the start, I asked friends if anyone else had had a similar tongue-tie experiences. I learnt that the procedure for dealing with tongue-tie varies across the country. I learnt that I could have gone private. I wish I had gone private even sooner than 11 days. But I guess wanted to hear a consistent, facts-based advice from the NHS, which I didn’t get. I also learnt that tongue-tie can affect both breastfeeding and bottle feeding.

I understand that babies need to be monitored to assess whether the snip is the best route for them but in a case where the tongue-tie is deemed to be 100% why did I have to wait 11 days? However, I was lucky someone spotted the tongue-tie at birth, possibly because it was so blindingly obvious.

Amongst a handful of friends (names changed), here are some of their very different experiences

Kate: “My baby kept latching on and then coming off and it became very painful. A midwife noticed a tongue-tie and advised me against snipping. He can’t stick his tongue out very far and mispronounces some sounds.”

Teresa: “I had breastfeeding problems but my baby’s tongue-tie was very slight and the professionals weren’t even sure if he was tongue-tied. Once they were sure, he was seven or eight weeks old, the Royal Berkshire Hospital could not snip that late in the day so we had to travel to Southampton. The doctor who we spoke to gave us some literature and said: ‘Every child has the right to be able to lick an ice-cream!’ Unfortunately, cutting the tongue-tie didn’t solve his feeding problems. I eventually persuaded him to take formula from a bottle when he was about four months old, and his weight shot up from the 0.4th centile to the 25th in the space of eight weeks.”

Zara: “I found out all three of my sons were tongue-tied at birth. Son number one’s feeding problems were solved by a cranial osteopath, my second son was a fantastic feeder but never seemed to be satisfied after a feed, and my third son had a very lazy latch. It was my midwife who said my second child would need surgery. I don’t remember it being any worse than number one of three’s, whose both snapped, but I just accepted this was the route to go and he had the snip at 11 weeks. The after effects of the surgery for the week following were horrendous. Feeding was awful as the tongue healed, I remember the wound looking really sore, like an enormous ulcer….he just didn’t want to feed at all. I don’t really remember being given much advice on how to treat the pain. He was miserable and for that week I regretted every minute of having agreed to the op.”

Elizabeth: I found out my first baby was tongue-tied at about 24 hours: it was severe and there were feeding problems. I desperately wanted to breastfeed and was told that cutting it would help. We got his tongue snipped at about two weeks and went back for two follow up appointments. We had to massage the wound twice a day for two weeks, which was heartbreaking. In the mean time I was putting him on my breast to keep the milk production, expressing to get milk to top up and also topping up with formula. At eight weeks, the poor little mite was still not back up to his birth weight and he was constantly screaming because he was hungry. After a horrible trip to the health visitor where he’d actually lost weight, I got home, gave him a full formula feed and I had a different baby. I came away from the whole experience feeling that for something that seems so common there is a massive lack of advice, support and knowledge. I also feel that the pressure to breastfeed adds massively to the confusion and inconsistent messaging around tongue-tie. I heard in South Africa that tongue-tie is checked and operated on either in the delivery suite or on the delivery ward. I don’t know how true that is, but think my experience would have been massively different if that service was readily available in the UK.”

Susanne: “My son fed straight away and put on weight well but I knew something wasn’t right as he was taking loads of air and his latch didn’t feel right. I breastfed my first son so I knew what it should feel like. A friend who met him at about two weeks suggested he might have tongue-tie, so I took him to breastfeeding clinic at hospital. They were awful. They basically forced him into me so he was all but choking, said he had a “very tiny” tongue-tie and that it was basically my fault for not doing it properly. They refused to cut the tongue-tie and said he was fine because he was putting on weight. I finally called in a private lactation consultant who cut it at about five weeks, which was much later than it should be. She instantly diagnosed a 60 to 70% posterior tongue-tie. She watched me feed him, said “This is NOT your fault” and I burst into tears! She cut it immediately, and the improvement was instant but gradually worsened again. We had it done again as it had grown back a few weeks later but there was less improvement and I wish we hadn’t as he was traumatised by it and so was I. But as he got bigger, his latch improved and we exclusively breastfed until he was about six months and he was a thriving, strapping baby.”

Fiona: “My second child had a tongue-tie. I spent hours in the breastfeeding clinic crying with my nipples bleeding, and mastitis, purely because he couldn’t latch and it was so unbearable I’d never empty. They said they’d book him in for it to be snipped. The appointment never came through and I had to give up breastfeeding.”

Linda: “My first child was diagnosed in hospital by doctors, and during my midwife visit at home she said she wanted to get it snipped. A week later we were at our appointment at the hospital to get it snipped, but when we got into room the doctor took one look at it said and said “It’s not too bad, if he is feeding OK then leave it.” It was just a waste of a morning for me. As a first time Mum I just went along with it but I just wanted everyone to have the same opinion and know what they were talking about. If second child maybe I’d have done a bit more research of my own and not even turned up the appointment.”

What was your tongue-tie experience?

As you can see from just a handful of people close to me, this is a common problem and the approach to it, at a time when new mothers need reassurance and sound advice, is haphazard to say the least.

The problem of tongue-tie is intertwined with the issue of breastfeeding and the associated doubt and guilt about the best way to proceed if your child isn’t gaining weight. The first few days and weeks of a baby’s life is all about getting milk to survive and a tongue-tie can impact that ability. Some babies aren’t affected. But from speaking to people, it’s clear a lot are.

If you have a tongue-tie story to share, please comment, or share this post with others to highlight the need for a better way to deal with something so common but which can be so disruptive to successful breastfeeding in the first few weeks of a baby’s life.

Cuddle Fairy
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Pink Pear Bear
My Petit Canard
3 Little Buttons
My Random Musings

Mummy knows breast

It led to me coining the phrase “expressing like a bastard”, which is best delivered through gritted teeth while brandishing a dripping, overheated breast pump and a crying infant.

imageI keep reading posts advising soon-to-be or new Mums to largely ignore advice and go with their gut instinct. Ah, the irony.

While I agree that you will usually know what’s best for your baby, there are some occasions when you simply don’t have a clue. When BUB.1 was born he was a healthy seven pounds four ounces, but like all babies he lost a bit of that weight. And like some babies he didn’t put it all back on within the ten days or two weeks they hoped that he would.

Sitting in a circle of new Mums in Bondi, where I was living, I listened as my fabulous robust health visitor (“Big Jan”) asked each Mum how much their baby had gained that week. BUB.1’s gain, and I think it was his first gain, was meagre. She asked to see me afterwards.

Standing next to her after the group was another Mum whose baby had also failed to make the grade and we were given our no nonsense instructions. After every breastfeed we were to express milk and give that extra milk to the baby after the next feed. So we were to breastfeed the baby, then give the baby a bottle – or a cup initially to avoid nipple confusion –  of breast milk while also expressing another bottle. It takes a bit of juggling. Bra-snapping. Boob-heaving. Nipple-cracking. A lot of commitment, shall we say.

Over the next fortnight, I did this. It took up all of my time. Willy Wonka’s family were visiting from the UK, so day trips around Sydney saw me hunched over in the back of the car with my manual Avent breast pump. I expressed at the top of Centrepoint tower in Sydney. By night I sat up in bed crying with fatigue, breast pump in one hand, imaginary shotgun in the other.*

It was tough, but it worked. Slowly, over the course of about two weeks, BUB.1’s cheeks puffed out and he started to pile on the pounds. My boobs became gigantic, and I went on to breastfeed him for 19 months, during which time I got to experience all the joys of engorgement and mastitis. I just needed a kick start.

Looking back on photos, we can now see how thin he looked during those first few weeks. But the important thing is no one panicked, he was fine. We just needed to tweak things.

When BUB.2 came along, at a bouncing seven pounds ten ounces, the EXACT same thing happened. The midwife didn’t even have to say anything on my home visit when he wasn’t regaining his birth weight. I raised my hand to shush her, told her what had happened with BUB.1 and she said: “That seems to just be the way your babies are” and left me to it.

I invested in a Medela electric pump this time so I could keep my hands free to deal with BUB.1. I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t exhausting, and left little time for anything  else, but it fixed the problem. He put on weight.

By the time a bumper seven pound 13 ounce BUB.3 arrived, I have to admit, my energy was floundering. She was an undiagnosed breech, and she had a tongue tie. So until she was 11 days old and underwent her little tongue snip, she was having some formula anyway. Even the kind ladies at the breastfeeding clinic said I needed to consider the whole family.

But, I went onto to express again and I managed to breastfeed, with formula top ups, until she was six months old. I meticulously noted down exactly how much formula and expressed breast milk she was having to ensure she got at least equal of both. I drove myself crazy with my little notepad.

A combination of having two other small children, a baby who seemed to be VERY content** with a combination of both formula and breast milk and an overwhelming feeling by 9pm each night that I’d rather put a wet finger in the plug socket than my breast pump yet again, meant that my supply dropped off much quicker than the first two times.

Despite her being my last baby, my fondness for breastfeeding, and the morphing of my breasts into two empty pitta breads, I refused to let sadness cloud me. I knew that I had given my all.

It must be wonderful to have an instant and abundant supply of milk for your baby but for many people, it takes a little bit of extra work to get things going. And even then, it doesn’t always work, or there are other factors such as family or commitments that mean you just don’t have it in you.

I think what I’m trying to say is that if you experience difficulty breastfeeding and the solution offered to you seems difficult, or hard work, it might be miserable but it will probably work quite quickly. If it doesn’t, there will be something else to try. I remember crying down the phone to a breastfeeding hotline handler, but soon enough that misery was resolved.***

As for the question of advice from seasoned Mums, it won’t always be about breastfeeding, because soon enough there will be something new to cry about. Welcome to motherhood.

* It led to me coining the phrase “expressing like a bastard”, which is best delivered through gritted teeth while brandishing a dripping, overheated breast pump and a crying infant.

 ** comatose

*** Since publishing this post I suddenly remembered that yes it worked, but it was a constant balancing act between expressing enough to get the supply going, but not too much that the boobs were empty sacks once the next feed was due ( roughly three minutes after the last one for a newborn) or so much that your boobs overproduced and you became engorged and at risk of getting mastitis, a horrible business involving cold cabbage leaves, red hot bosoms and a weird floaty feeling. Just thought I should mention that.

Group B Strep – wassat?

When the result was sent via text to me a week or so later I was shocked to see the word ‘positive’ on my phone. I had expected it to be negative again.

IMG_6824.jpgSpot the difference:

BUB.1: My waters broke almost eight hours before I gave birth, during which time I was left to labour in the comfort of home. My midwife only came near me about a minute or two before he arrived in the birth centre. I was on my feet the entire time, it was drug-free and I had utter freedom to move around. It was primeval.

BUB.2: My waters broke about eleven hours before I gave birth but I had to rush straight to hospital and was monitored for signs of contractions, which seven hours later had not started. I was moved into a delivery room, antibiotics were injected into my hand and I was hooked up to an IV drip to induce labour. For the four remaining hours I barely moved from the bed because I was attached to the IV. It was annoying.

Why the difference? Because when pregnant with BUB.2 I had tested positive for the bacteria Group B Streptococcus. I had BUB.1 in Australia where it is routine to screen every pregnant woman for GBS, which if passed from mother to baby in the womb or during labour, can prove fatal to the child.

The bacteria lives harmlessly in 25 per cent of people, one in every 2000 births are affected by a GBS infection and 1 in 10 babies with an infection die.

To be honest, because I tested negative for the bacteria in Australia, when I came back to the UK and got pregnant with BUB.2 I had forgotten all about GBS. I was only reminded of it by chance when my Mum mentioned a couple on the ITV programme This Morning who had lost their baby to it.

Although I knew a positive result would mean I would need antibiotics in early labour, which might jeopardise my chances of another free-roaming birth centre experience, of course I had to test. The test is not offered routinely by the NHS here in the UK, so I sent off for a test from the internet (www.gbss.org.uk/test) towards the end of my pregnancy.

When the result was sent via text to me a week or so later I was shocked to see the word ‘positive’ on my phone. I had expected it to be negative again.

At my next midwife appointment I mentioned the result and she stamped ‘GBS’ all over my notes. This was a fact that was clearly not to be missed. This was important. It is important. But it had been up to me (and my Mum) to know about it. To test for it. To potentially prevent it.

I was instructed to go straight to the hospital at the first sign of labour, in my case my waters breaking during the night. Once your waters have broken, the baby is unprotected and could pick up a bacterial infection. It’s important to administer antibiotics during labour to lessen the chances of infection.

Rather than let nature take its course, I was induced first thing in the morning. It was a totally different experience than with BUB.1. With him I never wanted to leave the room he had arrived in. With BUB.2 I couldn’t wait to leave.

But I left with a healthy, living baby.

I had to stay in hospital for 24 hours so BUB.2 could be monitored every hour for signs of infection. He was fine. The seriousness of the GBS stickers across my notes, and the friendly head poking around the hospital curtain every hour after birth, stays with me. Why, if it is so serious, is every pregnant woman in the UK not screened?

When I got pregnant with BUB.3, the midwife said there was no need to do a further test because as a known carrier of the bacteria, I was treated as positive. GBS was again stamped across my notes and I was told to come straight in and the first signs of labour, which again was my waters breaking.

My hand was again punctured by antibiotics. Fortunately this time my contractions ramped up quickly without the need for an induction. As it turned out, she was an undiagnosed breech, so I was dashed into theatre and she arrived quickly anyway. Again, she was monitored for any signs of infection in the 24 hours after birth. And she was fine.

Which is something this couple, who lost their baby daughter to GBS infection at birth, cannot say. They are calling on the UK Government to make it a legal requirement to screen every pregnant woman for GBS and to give antibiotics to high-risk mothers when delivering their baby, and to monitor those babies following the birth.

I’ve signed this petition because an item on morning TV could have potentially saved the life of BUB.2 or BUB.3. A terrifying thought.

Rhyming with Wine