I promised myself I wouldn’t do this

I promised myself I wouldn’t do this, and honestly I never meant to but when I turned the page and saw the words ‘parents evening’ on the school calendar, I realised it has been almost a year since we went to THAT appointment.

The night before said appointment, I was sat in the school hall wearing the baggiest dress I could find trying to hide my growing bump. Even though we were well past the 12 week ‘danger zone’ I still didn’t want to share the news with everyone at school. The teachers and the school staff knew but the 200 children and their parents? Not yet. With the last appointment of the night done, I slid my parents evening notes into my mark book and headed for the door. When I left the building that night, it was the last time I would leave school pregnant with our twins, the last time I would set foot in the building for months and the last time I would feel like ‘me’ for almost a year.

Ok so THAT appointment – Thursday 9th March 2017. We’d spent 40 minutes in an ultrasound scan, the sonographer barely spoke, called in a second person and politely shut down just about every question Mark and I dared to ask. Actually there was one question she did answer – “Is everything ok?”… “We need to get the Consultant to speak to you”. With Mark and I sat one side of the bed, the Consultant and the sonographer on the other, the words that left her mouth went a bit like this…

“As you know with monochoronic twins* there is a risk of TTTS and today we have seen clear signs of severe TTTS. Twin 1 is significantly smaller than Twin 2, there is virtually no amniotic fluid surrounding Twin 1, there are signs of IUGR** and we can see from the scan that Twin 2 has a severe cleft lip and palate.”

While both of us sat there trying to digest the words that had just smacked us in the face, I realised she wasn’t quite finished – brace yourself…

“We can laser the placenta to try and save them although there is only a 10% chance Twin 1 will survive and 70% chance Twin 2 will survive. If we don’t do the surgery today, both your babies will die.”

Now you know when people talk about an out of body experience?  Well that is the only way I can describe what I felt at that precise moment in time. I felt like I was in the corner of the room looking at these 2 people sitting, holding hands, staring at a woman moving her lips and communicating something they couldn’t quite comprehend.  Who the bloody hell was she talking to? It was then I realised she was talking to us. Our babies were going to die, my body had failed them, the two little ones I should have been protecting were at the mercy of a deadly disease and my body had let it happen – what kind of Mother was I?

The surgery itself was horrific, seeing one of their tiny hands on the screen in front of us as they lasered the twins separate from one another was an image that will never escape my mind – no matter how hard I try. Maybe one day I’ll write about the surgery, maybe not, but either way the scars it left were more than physical.

With the surgery complete, we headed home hand in hand with an appointment to return the following week – Thursday 16th March, which just so happens to be my birthday. Then exactly one week after I turned 32, we delivered our twins.

As much as I used to dread parents evening, this year I’m dreading the month of March even more. As much as I’m trying not to make an anniversary out of everything, the next few weeks are going to be an achievement to get through. But if the last year has taught me anything, it’s that one step at a time, I can get through whatever the world throws at me – so come on March let’s do this.

As always thanks for sticking with another one of my offloads.

Love and hugs,

Amanda xx

* Identical twins who share one placenta.

**Intrauterine Growth Restriction

 

 

 

 

Dear Life…

I wasn’t sure whether to share this or not because looking back on it now I didn’t realise how bad things had become. However, on the flip side, looking back on it now makes me realise just how far I have come and actually it’s something which should be shared and I guess celebrated. So here goes…

“Dear Life,

I’m grateful for you, honestly I am but the thing is some days I wake up like my head has been rammed up the arse-end of a swamp. The air, the people, the daily tasks and life in general is totally suffocating, relentless and never seems to end. The thought of going to bed at the end of the day knowing the only thing I’ll have do the next morning is wake up and go through it all again, seems like a pointless and meaningless task. I don’t think I want to do it anymore.”

Can I just start by saying this is certainly not a reflection of how I feel now but rewind maybe even just 6 months ago and it was exactly how I felt…every…single…day. I was tired of just about everything and as clichéd as it sounds there was no light at the end of the tunnel.  I can tell you now from the day the twins were delivered to the end of 2017, I had exactly 3 occasions where I truly felt happy, felt like me and our babies weren’t at the forefront my mind – which was needed.

If I’m being honest I knew at the time I was in a self-destruct, ‘screw you world’ kinda mindset but the things I found in my diary this morning actually made me sad. I could relate to what was written on the page but not the person writing it and I think that was one of the biggest issues for me. For a while, I didn’t know who I was supposed to be – a grieving parent, a new Mum, a heartbroken woman, a supportive girlfriend? In a way I think I was maybe a combination of all of those rolled into one. Except for the last one, the ‘supportive girlfriend’ I didn’t do that very well. Looking back now I feel quite selfish, I was so obsessed with what had happened and how Mark and I had dealt with things so differently that I don’t think I once played the ‘supportive girlfriend’ role quite right. If I could say one thing to the person writing that diary 9 months ago it would be this…

“To whoever you are,

Yes things are bad, yes you’ve been hurt and yes things are going to get worse before they get better. However, you’re not going through this alone, you’re not alone and YOU need to stop pushing away the people who love and care about you. Most importantly, you have to stop shutting Mark out. You’re selfish. You started this journey together, you’ve been through it together and now you think you can do it all alone and leave him to do the same – you can’t. Quit obsessing about yourself and be there for the man who’s been there for you through it all.

Whoever you are, get your shit together.”

Sounds brutal but needed saying!

The fact is men and women deal with things differently and the fact that Mark and I dealt with things so differently became a real issue between us. I couldn’t understand how he could go back to work, leave the house without having some sort of complete internal meltdown and basically just appear to function. For some reason I didn’t expect us to be so different which was exceptionally hard to accept.

So if anyone reading this now has been through something similar and maybe you’re not quite mentally where you need to be, there are a few things that need to be said:

  • It’s ok that you feel like shit (and you will by the way, there’s no escaping that part) you’ll more than likely feel completely lost and that the world would be a better place if humans had the ability to just hibernate. All of that’s ok; don’t beat yourself up about it.
  • It’s normal (I hate that word but it’s true) for men and women to deal with things differently – I wish I’d actually listened to the midwife when she told me that, things would have made a lot more sense earlier on.
  • Now these are probably the most important words so read them, read them again and then stick them in a place in your brain where you can readily access them – be kind to yourself.

And there you have it, a one page explanation and my top 3 tips for getting your act together and learning to function like a human being once again. It will take time and there will be some really rubbish times but if you hold on to the good days or the occasions that make you feel a bit like you again, then my friend, you’re making progress.

Oh and remember my 3 good times? Well they happened in May, August and December and in between each of them I kept thinking back to the last one and holding on to the positives. You will get through it just let yourself be and remember to share, celebrate and treasure the good days.

Thanks for reading – off loading that little lot felt like online therapy! Remember if there’s anyone out there you think might benefit from my random writes then please feel free to share.

Love as always,

Amanda xx

Apparently times a healer

So I decided towards the end of 2017 to do something to fill my time. Working as a teacher, I have a chunk of time off about every 6 weeks, which I used to love – lunch with friends, go visit the parents, a chance to catch up on sleep and generally have some time to myself. But to be honest, it had started to become something I’d fear rather than look forward to – OK I can feel all the non-teachers out there glaring at their screens and seething at the fact I should be nothing but grateful for my hard earned 91 days off. But here’s the thing – they say times a healer but when you have too much time on your hands it does far from heal. Let me explain…

October half term started the same as any other half term, dinner and drinks with the girls, hangover the next day and a week to do whatever the hell I wanted. So what was the plan? I was going to go to the gym, cook great meals, finally get my haircut, catch up on some mind numbing TV and generally chill out in our newly decorated house. Perfect! What actually happened? Well, on the Monday, being in the house by myself triggered all sorts of emotions and anxiety and melted just about every last functioning brain cell I had left. I wasn’t expecting it. I distinctively remember sitting on the sofa and looking out of the living room window, a magpie* was sitting on the roof opposite and that was it my brain decided to rewind 6 months previous and I was back in the ‘black hole’. The thought of leaving the house, getting up in the morning or just having to do anything, felt like an impossible task all over again. I was back to a place I couldn’t handle. The pins and needles in my hands and fingers started again, my extreme tiredness, my racing heart and my overwhelming desire to hibernate for the rest of the year kicked in once again. It wasn’t good.

When we lost the twins I took a few months off work, I didn’t necessarily want to but I literally couldn’t function. I didn’t sleep, I had an immense fear of leaving the house and the idea of having to be around people or interact with anyone filled with me with dread – try teaching a class whilst balancing that little combination! Throughout that period of time, the hardest day of the week was a Monday, it was the realisation that there was another whole week to get through, another whole week of not being pregnant, another whole week of watching everyone around me going back to their normal lives and then there was me. I was ‘stuck’ in this spiraling, bottomless pit of…actually I don’t even know how to describe it…But I was definitely stuck both mentally and emotionally, I had no idea how to go back to normal and to be honest I didn’t even know what normal was anymore. I was supposed to be a Mum to identical twins but I wasn’t, I was this mess of a human being just trying to get through each day 10 to 15 minutes at a time and 6 months later, October half term took me back to that place.

After several conversations with my Mum where the words depression, postnatal depression, anxiety and counselling were thrown into the mix, I decided to give in and pay the GP a visit. It was the conversation with the GP that triggered something and I realised I had a choice – I could either dwell and obsess on the past or distract and refocus on the future. I chose future. So in October 2017 I decided to find a new focus, a something to get me back on track and weeks later I found myself setting up an online babygrow boutique otherwise known as The Little Something Company. It’s still in its very early stages but I’m pleased to report that February half term consisted of nothing more than sourcing stock, building a website, writing for my blog and planning a fundraiser for the Tamba TTTS Appeal.

So back to my original muse – the whole ‘time’s a healer’ thing.  As much as it may help some people, for me I’ve found time alone can be a lonely and self-destructive place. It’s not time that’s the healer, it’s what you do with your time that heals so spend it wisely, focus on something that you love and slowly but surely,  in one way or another, time well spent will start to heal.

 

*I developed an obsession with magpies by the way – story for another time!

We’re having a baby!

I guess you could say finding out we were pregnant was completely unexpected, we weren’t even sure we could have children. I was told about my Polycystic Ovaries at the age of 18 and only the year previous had undergone surgery to remove my Endometriosis – needless to say we fully expected to have difficulties conceiving. But we figured if we didn’t start trying, we’d never know, so we came off the pill and got to it! Finding out we were having a baby (we had no idea it was twins at the time) and announcing it to our families went a little bit like this…

“So I still haven’t come on, do you think we should do a test?” The message I sent when I was 2 weeks overdue and the Christmas work party was only a few days away. Mark picked up the pregnancy test on the way home from work and no sooner was he home I was sitting on the loo peeing on a stick! Three minutes on the buzzer, test covered so we could both see it at the same time, we stood in the kitchen simply waiting for the seconds to pass. One minute left on the clock. Times up. The exact words that escaped my boyfriend’s mouth at the time I won’t repeat! But there we were, two future parents standing in the house we were about to make a family home. To say it felt surreal would be an understatement, everything about the situation felt like it was happening to someone else – we were going to be parents! Although just to ensure there had been no mistake we did another 4 tests that night and then set out about finding out what the hell we were supposed to do next.

With Christmas just around the corner we decided to wait and announce our news on Christmas Day. It was our first Christmas in our new home and both our families were coming.  When the big day arrived, Mark prepared what we were going to say, handed everyone a glass of champagne and made the announcement – “I’d like to raise a glass to our first Christmas in our new home and our last Christmas as just the two of us” OK yes everyone looked just as confused as you probably are right now reading it – note to self, if you ever announce a pregnancy again just come out and say it! “We’re having a baby!” The reaction was overwhelming and actually a bit of a blur, I remember hugs, kisses, screams and my Dad’s face – his eldest daughter carrying his first grandchild, I could feel his sense of pride and emotion and his hug said everything his mouth couldn’t.

That Christmas I managed to over-cook the veg, under-cook the roast potatoes and served dinner an hour later than planned but none of that mattered – we were giving everyone the most amazing gift! We were making our siblings aunts and uncles, our parents grandparents, our grandparents great-grandparents and most excitingly of all we were going to be someone’s Mum & Dad.

The 25th December 2016 is a Christmas I’ll treasure, together we shared a precious moment and despite everything that (unbeknown to us) was due to follow, that Christmas night we went to bed with a feeling I’ll never forget.