How I feel – 22 Months On

How has it been 22 months since you left us? On one hand time seems to have flown by and on the other it has gone in slow motion. It’s a very bizarre thing! I am trying to find the words to say how I feel; I have written and rewritten this so many times, and the truth is… I just don’t know!! I still have so many emotions, and so many triggers. People don’t tend to see the real me! They see the happy, strong, organised me; but they don’t see the ‘me’ behind closed doors! They don’t see the ‘me’ who is jealous of every single pregnancy announcement, and the don’t see the ‘me’ who suffers with anxiety, who is so protective of my other children, and paranoid about something happening to them that I had a panic attack when there was an incident at my son’s school… my son wasn’t even involved but it still caused a major panic attack. These are the things that I keep to myself, these are the feelings that people don’t realise affect me, this is the ‘me’ that I tend to hide.

Because I’m still not sure exactly how I feel, I will start by talking about the feelings and emotions that haunt me, before talking about the positive way I feel… as I’m sure that the good outweighs the bad!

After so many losses, I am still triggered by pregnancy announcements and birth announcements, I still struggle to see new born babies, and although I recently held my friends baby (who I adore) it is hard. I am sorry if this comes across badly; I am truly very happy when someone is expecting, and when their baby is born; but I still feel that pang of jealousy… I don’t show it, but it’s there! My anxiety became quite bad recently, and I finally (after months of my husband pleading) saw the doctor, I am now on anxiety meds and waiting for an appointment for therapy to help with my panic attacks… This was an important but difficult step for me to take, as I like everyone to think that I’m in control and everything is ok!

Now we move to my other children. As you know, I have 3 boys Brett (18), Brendon (12) and Aiden (4); all very different characters but all lovely in their own way. Brett is going through a hard time at the moment, we are trying to get an ‘all over’ assessment by the doctor (we have an appointment tomorrow), because since Christmas he has been really unwell. We’ve been to the doctors 3 times so far, but I’m hoping that by seeing a different doctor tomorrow we may get better results! He needs referrals to lots of different departments to find out why he’s so unwell; and hopefully get him back to college. I worry about him so much because he IS very unwell, and we don’t seem to be getting answers! My middle son Brendon is very outgoing, he enjoys sports and loves to take a football to the park with his friends. This causes me so much anxiety, I ‘have’ to take a step back and let him have fun… but it’s so hard! I like him where I can see him, and I can’t see him if he’s out playing! I try not to make it obvious; going out with your friends is a good thing… but to the ‘me’ that I hide, it is scary! Now we move on to Aiden; he is a ‘character’… that’s they only way to describe him!!! But, my goodness he seems to find danger at every turn! He is always hurting himself, knocking things over, bumping into things… these are normal things for a 4 year old, I know that, but I still can’t help feeling worried! He is probably my biggest worry at the moment, as he doesn’t seem to recognise danger, and he is always putting himself in dangerous situations (Opening the oven door, running in the road, putting his fingers in the hinges of the door etc).

Losing a child changes you, there is no doubt about that… but one of the biggest changes at the moment is the paranoia that something might happen to one of my other children… and this I find hard to shake.

Now I’m going to move on to the things I am grateful for. I am very thankful that I have such an amazing, loving family. Paul and I have become closer throughout the losses, and as I know this can tear relationships apart, I am really pleased that this hasn’t happened with us! My children are happy and healthy (apart from the health concerns with Brett, but we will sort that one out!!), and we are very close as a family; we always keep the lines of communication open so that helps a lot! I am also grateful that I can speak to my mum and step-dad, my dad and step-mum and paul’s mum and dad about anything and everything! We really do have a fantastic family and I owe a lot of my strength and courage to them! They have supported me with anything that I wanted to do, and been there to wipe the tears!

My friends are amazing! I have both friends that I see, and online friends in the loss community… after losing Sophie I ‘lost’ quite a few friends and was upset for a long time; however, the friends that I have now are the most amazing people! It is true that you find out who your friends are when something tragic happens!

I am really happy that I have been offered an unconditional place to study Midwifery at Canterbury Christchurch University in September. Not many people would be happy to receive an ‘Anatomy and Physiology’ book, or a blood pressure monitor for Christmas… but for me… I was over the moon!! I’m excited and nervous!

Sophie has also given me the opportunity to help other people, which although it hurts like hell sometimes, I feel very privileged to be able to do it! Sophie’s Angels has grown so much recently, and although biased, I feel I have the most amazing admin team! They are always there for people, and we all truly care about the members of our group; some of which have become good friends, or formed friendships on the group. It has been great to see the group change and develop! Our Angel Sophie has also grown which is fantastic! More people are hearing Sophie’s story and more people are interacting with the page. Our Twitter Page is slowly growing and I’m finding this to be good way to communicate with a range of organisations and people. I am thankful that we have had media exposure, and were in the Mirror Online twice last week! This article focuses on Sophie’s Story, and this one focuses on the things not to say to grieving parents.

I am extremely grateful with the support that has been shown for the Petition, there are far too many preventable stillbirths and this need to change. At the time of writing this we have 3,069 signatures… still a long way to go, but it is rising and it is gaining awareness! If you could sign and share it then it would be really appreciated.

So, yes, there are now many things that I am grateful for! And although I still get ‘triggered’ and find some things really tough, I can see that we have a happy and positive future ahead!

Forever loved and forever missed my gorgeous girl, but you are making a difference and you legacy will live on xxx

Personal Statement for University

How is it even possible to be this nervous!?

Where do I start?

What do I include?

So…. Here it is! The time has come to start writing my personal statement. I have spent months thinking about what I am going to include and the relevant bits and bobs! But now it’s come to writing it…. I’m really nervous! This is what they use to shortlist and first impressions count more than ever!! I have read a lot that says don’t put personal experiences and then some website say do put them if they’re relevant. I do believe that my experiences are relevant as I will be able to show empathy and compassion. I have experience of things going really well… but also very badly and I just don’t know whether to include it!!

I think what I will do is include a small paragraph and then put that I’m happy to discuss this at the interview… hope this sounds ok! I could literally use the 4000 characters writing about my experiences!!!

I will let you all know if I’m lucky enough to get any offers… but for now, I’ll keep biting my nails!!!

 

The Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle is on average 28 days, although this is only a guide and often varies. There are four stages to the menstrual cycle: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase.

MenstruationIllustration of Menstrual phase lasts from day 1-5 showing uterus shedding its inner lining and menstrual fluid flowing out of vagina - Menstrupedia

The thickened endometrium (lining of the uterus) leaves the body through the vagina; the menstrual flow contains blood, endometrial cells and mucus. This usually takes 3 – 7 days to complete.

 

Follicular phaseIllustration of Follicular phase lasts from day 1-13 showing an egg cell maturing in a follicle in one of the ovaries and endometrium begins to develop in the inner surface of the uterus - Menstrupedia

This phase commences on the first day of menstruation and finishes with ovulation. The pituitary gland releases the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which stimulates the ovary to create several follicles containing immature eggs; one of these follicles will mature into an ovum. The endometrium thickens in preparation for pregnancy. The level of oestrogen also rises due to the developing follicle.

OvulationIllustration of Ovulation phase day 14 showing an egg being released from the ovary and enters the fallopian tube. Fimbriae of the fallopian tube is labeled - Menstrupedia

Two weeks before the period is due the mature egg is released from the ovary; stimulated by the rise in oestrogen, the hypothalamus releases gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) which prompts the pituitary gland to produce FSH and luteinising hormone (LH). High levels of LH then trigger ovulation; the egg ruptures the follicle, leaves the ovary and travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus.

Luteal phaseIllustration of Luteal phase lasts from day 15-28 showing a fully developed endometrium in the uterus. If the egg cell is not fertilized, this phase leads to the menstrual phase of the next cycle - Menstrupedia

The ruptured follicle develops into a corpus luteum. The corpus luteum then begins to release progesterone and small amounts of oestrogen. These hormones maintain the thickened endometrium in the hope that a fertilised egg will implant. If an egg does not implant, then the corpus luteum dies and progesterone levels drop which triggers menstruation.

 

Foetal Development – An Overview

There are three trimesters in pregnancy and each has different developmental characteristics. The estimated due date (EDD) is set by calculating 40 weeks from the first day of the last monthly period (LMP); which means that when fertilisation occurs the woman is already two weeks pregnant.

For a detailed view of foetal development week by week – with pictures! Please click here.

In the first trimester, when an ovum (egg) is released it travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus; the corona radiata (outer layer of the ovum) contains follicular cells that are difficult to penetrate; spermatozoa (sperm) must then secrete a digestive enzyme in order to weaken the corona radiata. Once the sperm have penetrated the egg the chromosomes combine to form a zygote (a one-celled body which contains 46 chromosomes); hCG is then released to increase progesterone levels and stop your period. The zygotes’ cells divide rapidly until there is a cluster of 16 cells (a morula); fluid collects within the morula creating a separate outer layer which encapsulates the inner cluster of cells, the inner layer will eventually become the embryo and the outer layer will form the placenta; there are now 58 cells in the structure and it is now called a blastocyst.

The blastocyst then burrows into the uterine wall (implantation). During the embryonic period (weeks five to ten) the major structures begin development; there are three layers to the embryo; the outer layer (ectoderm) forms the outer layer of skin, nervous systems, eyes, inner ears, and connective tissues; the middle layer (mesoderm) forms the heart and circulatory system, along with the bones, muscles, kidneys and the reproductive system; and the inner layer (endoderm) becomes a tube lined with mucous membranes ready for the development of the lungs, intestines and bladder.

While the placenta is forming the embryo is nourished by the yolk sac. The brain forms and the heart is starting to pump blood through the main blood vessels; the tissue which will become the spine is growing and has developed somites; the eyes are beginning to form, and arm and leg buds are developing. The neural tube then closes and the ears and nostrils begin to develop; the lungs are also forming. By the seventh week the arm buds look like paddles which will develop into fingers. The spine eventually begins to straighten and as the arms continue to grow they can bend at the elbows; toes then start to form and all of the essential organs have begun to grow. The eyelids then fuse shut, and the intestines rotate. At the end of week ten the embryo is termed a foetus. Red blood cells begin to form in the liver, tooth buds appear and the external genitalia starts to develop into either a penis or clitoris. By the end of this trimester the embryo has the appearance of a miniature human.

During the second trimester the intestines (which have been growing in the umbilical cord) return to the abdomen and bone tissue is developing. The ovarian follicles start to form in females and the prostate appears in males. Red blood cells are developing in the spleen and bones have also begun developing, with movements becoming better coordinated; the ears move near to their final position and the foetus can hear sounds outside of the womb; the mouth now makes sucking motions. Fat stores form under the skin, and vernix (a greasy coating) covers the foetus offering protection from abrasions and chapping due to the amniotic fluid. The next stage of development is the swallowing reflex; the foetus swallow’s amniotic fluid and then urinates before swallowing again, this helps to mature the lungs; lanugo (soft, fine hair) covers the foetus helping to keep the vernix in place; and meconium is now made in the intestinal tract. The foetus begins to show signs of rapid eye movements, fingerprints are starting to form and taste buds are developing. In females the uterus and ovaries which contain a lifetime supply of immature eggs are in place and in males the testes have started to descend from the abdomen. Bone marrow is now making blood cells and the startle reflex is developing; the foetus may respond to sounds with movement. Surfactant is now being produced in the lungs, allowing the air sacs to inflate and deflate. 

In the third trimester the foetus rapidly gains weight; the bones are fully developed although still soft, and red blood cells have formed in the bone marrow. The eyes open and the pupils can now detect light; the brain is growing rapidly and during the thirty-first week the central nervous system can control body temperature. The lungs begin to practice breathing, lanugo starts to disappear and the foetus begins to absorb minerals (iron and calcium) from the intestinal tract. At thirty-seven weeks the foetus is classed as early term, all organs are able to function and the head may begin its descent into the pelvis. The foetus is considered full term at 40 weeks.

Foetal Development week by week (beginning with menstruation)

1st Trimester

Weeks 1 – 4

  • The thickened endometrium (lining of the uterus) leaves the body through the vagina
  • The pituitary gland releases FSH (follicle stimulating hormone)
  • The ovaries are stimulated to create several follicles containing immature eggs
  • One follicle will mature into an ovum (egg)
  • The endometrium thickens in preparation for pregnancy
  • The oestrogen levels rise
  • The pituitary gland produces FSH and LH (luteinising hormone)
  • A mature egg ruptures the follicle
  • The egg is released from the ovary
  • The egg travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus
  • Sperm secretes an enzyme to penetrate the egg
  • Once the sperm and egg fuse the chromosomes combine to form a zygote
  • hCG is released in order to increase progesterone levels and stop menstruation
  • The Zygotes cells divide until there is a cluster of 16 cells (a morula)
  • Fluid collects within the morula creating a separate outer layer which encapsulates the inner cluster of cells
  • The inner layer becomes the embryo; the outer layer becomes the placenta
  • The cluster of cells is now called a blastocyst
  • The blastocyst implants in the uterine wall (implantation)

 

Week 5

  • The blastocyst is now called an Embryo
  • There are 3 layers to the embryo; the ectoderm (outer layer of skin, central and peripheral nervous systems, eyes, inner ears, and connective tissues); mesoderm (heart, circulatory system, the bones, muscles, kidneys and reproductive system); and the endoderm (a tube lined with mucous membranes for the development of the lungs, intestines and bladder)
  • The embryo is nourished by the yolk sac 

Week 6

  • The brain forms
  • Some cranial nerves are visible
  • The heart which is beating can be seen on an ultrasound
  • The spinal tissue start to form
  • The eyes are beginning to form
  • Arm and leg buds are developing
  • The neural tube begins to close
  • The body has a C-shaped curvature 

Week 7

  • Eye lenses start to form
  • Nostrils become visible
  • The arm buds now look like paddles 

Week 8

  • The lungs begin to develop
  • The ears are forming
  • The eyes are now visible
  • Fingers have begun to form at the ends of the arm buds
  • The spine has started to straighten

Week 9

  • The arms continue to grow and elbows develop
  • The toes start to form
  • All of the essential organs are growing

Week 10

  • The eyelids begin to close
  • The development of the outer ears continues and begins to take shape
  • The intestines rotate
  • The the end of this week the embryo is termed a foetus

Week 11

  • Red blood cells start the form in the liver
  • The eyelids are now fused shut
  • Tooth buds have formed
  • The external genitalia start to develop into a penis or clitoris and labia majora. 

Week 12

  • Finger nails appear
  • The face can now be recognised as a human.

2nd Trimester

Week 13

  • The intestines (which have been growing in the umbilical cord) return to the abdomen
  • Bone tissue is developing
  • The foetus is now urinating into the amniotic fluid

Week 14

  • The ovarian follicles start to form or the prostate appears (depending on whether the foetus is male or female)
  • Red blood cells are forming in the spleen

Week 15

  • The foetus is developing bones
  • The foetus is growing rapidly 

Week 16

  • The movements are becoming coordinated
  • The ears have moved near to their final position
  • The mouth can make sucking motions. 

Week 17

  • Toenails start to form
  • Fat stores begin developing under the skin
  • The skin is transparent
  • Lanugo has appeared on the head 

Week 18

  • The foetus may be able to hear sounds as the ears are now developed

Week 19

  • Vernix starts to cover the foetus 

Week 20

  • This is the halfway point
  • Many women can feel foetal movement by now

Week 21

  • The foetus is able to swallow

Week 22

  • Lanugo completely covers the foetus helping to keep the vernix on the skin
  • The eyebrows and eye lashes appear
  • Meconium is made in the intestinal tract

Week 23

  • The foetus begins to show signs of rapid eye movements
  • Fingerprints are starting to form
  • Taste buds are developing
  • In females the uterus and ovaries which contain a lifetime supply of immature eggs are in place and in males the testes have started to descend from the abdomen 

Week 24

  • Bone marrow begins to make blood cells
  • The foetus has a sleeping and waking pattern
  • Hair has started to grow

Week 25

  • The startle reflex is developing
  • The lower airways of the lungs develop
  • The foetus may respond to sounds by moving

Week 26

  • The lungs are beginning to produce surfactant (which allows the air sacs in the lungs to inflate and deflate)
  • The eyes have finished developing but are still fused shut
  • The foetus may now startle with loud noises

Week 27

  • The lungs are continuing to mature
  • The nervous system continues to develop

3rd Trimester

Week 28

  • The eyelids are partially open
  • Eyelashes have formed
  • The foetus is gaining weight and beginning to look less wrinkled

Week 29

  • The bones are fully developed but they are still very soft

Week 30

  • Red blood cells have formed in the bone marrow
  • The eyes are also open a lot more
  • Hair growth continues
  • The brain is growing rapidly
  • The nervous system is developed enough to control some body functions

Week 31

  • The central nervous system can control body temperature

Week 32

  • The lungs begun to practice breathing
  • Lanugo starts to disappear
  • The foetus begins to absorb minerals (iron and calcium) from the intestinal tract

Week 33

  • The pupils can detect light and they now have the ability to dilate and constrict

Week 34

  • The fingernails have reached the fingertips

Week 35

  • Rapid weight gain continues 

Week 36 

  • The foetus is running out of room to move in the uterus

Week 37

  • The foetus is classed as early term
  • all of the organs are able to function
  • The head may begin its descent into the pelvis 

Week 38

  • The toenails reach the tips of the toes
  • The foetus is developing a firm grasp
  • Most of the lanugo has now disappeared 

Week 39

  • The chest is becoming more prominent
  • The testes continue to descend into the scrotum

Week 40

  • The foetus is considered full term and is ready to be born.

 

 

I passed ‘Access to Midwifery’ with Distinctions!!

Well… I’ve done it! Don’t ask me how but I have!! It’s been a very long road, and taken me a lot longer than I expected but I have passed with 1 Merit and 15 Distinctions! I should receive my certificate next month. Level 2 work is just graded with a pass (P) or fail (F), and level 3 work is graded with a pass (P), merit (M) or distinction (D). 

A little bit of background information for those of you who don’t already know! I am a mum with 3 living children (Brett, Brendon and Aiden) and 2 angels; one was an early miscarriage at 10 weeks in 2015 and my other angel Sophie was born sleeping at 35 weeks in 2016. Just before having Aiden my husband and I spoke about me going back to work; I decided I really didn’t want to go back to a 9-5 office job and that my passion had always been with midwifery. After careful consideration we decided that we could work together so that I could train to become a midwife. 

I started studying for an ‘Access to Midwifery’ Diploma with the Distance Learning Centre as this would enable me to fit my studies around our family; and as I was pregnant at the time it was ideal because it meant I could begin straight away instead of waiting for the youngest to be old enough to go to a nursery or child minder. 

There have been many ups and downs during my studies, and many times I felt like giving up. But the passion that I have always made me persevere! There are times when I have taken a study break (during my miscarriage I took several weeks off), and I found it especially tricky after I gave birth to Sophie and I cried all the way through the last module (The Human Life Cycle)…. But I did it!! 

I also think that my experience will make me a far more compassionate and sympathetic midwife; not just because I have experienced first-hand what infant loss is like, but also because I have personal experience of Caesarean Sections, VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean), Pregnancy Swelling, Subchorionic Haematoma, Antiphospholipid Syndrome, Miscarriage and Stillbirth. 

So I am now looking forward to my future in midwifery and am looking to go to Canterbury Christchurch University in 2017 to study for the BSc (hons) Midwifery Degree!

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