Guest Blogger

A Mother’s Heartache | Guest Writer Zoe Taylor

“A Mother’s love is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking, it never fails or falters, even though the heart is breaking.” – Helen Steiner Rice

When a lot of people think of seizures they imagine jerky movements from a stiff body – even I was guilty of that image in my head, but each seizure is different and the changes within the episode are so vast. But you would never know until you saw it for yourself. This is my experience so far with seizures.

Life was full on the second Charlee arrived, it was a perfect labour compared to my first but ended in me being knocked out for surgery following a postpartum haemorrhage and transferred to King Eddies on my own. The moment I got home my attention was fought over between a toddler, a newborn and my partner who just wanted some quality time together. A few months flew by thanks to sleep deprivation, my maternity leave was coming to an end and I was running out of patience being around the kids 24/7 so I made a plan to go back to work early. We were coming home from dinner when a car turned through a green light without giving way to oncoming traffic and we T-boned them (at that point this was the scariest night of my life).

Returning Back to Work

I started back at work the next week. It was only a week after the crash when Charlee had her first seizure I second guessed myself and called dial-a-doctor (or a similar service). Because at that point she was still responding to us, babbling, following us around with her eyes, it was only her tiny hand curled up in a tight fist tucked under her chin that was shaking discreetly. The operator said “if you think she’s having a seizure call an ambulance”. Between then and when we finally got into the hospital the seizure had gone over 40 minutes! Once she was stable and awake we were transferred to PMH to be monitored. The doctors assured me this was a once off thing (‘febrile convulsions are very common in babies’) but I knew this was only the start, as childhood seizures were in my family; still the Doctors were positive and so certain in their statements.

Another month after that she had her second. Nearly 3 months went by when we had put Charlee into day-care with her older sister as I was determined to have this ‘normal’ life. Within 2 weeks of day-care she had 3 seizures over a weekend, the last resulting in an induced coma; she was discharged with new anti-epileptic medication and we were so hopeful it would work. Another month and another seizure and another induced coma we were shattered, dosages went up and down and we realized the public medical system was broken as communication between specialists lacked and we had to keep up with all the details ourselves.

My partner was pushed out of his job as they didn’t like him having so much time off to look after his family, they told him he was taking the piss and that “you need to sort your personal life out”. I thought we would be supported by some sort of carers payment but everyone refused to sign documents about her condition, so I took on more hours at work and became the main income earner while my partner became a stay at home dad.

Life With a Sick Child

So far there has been two induced comas, three incubation’s, numerous drugs tried tested and failed. Charlee has had about 12 seizures (that we know of) within 8 months, each followed REturny hospitalisation of a few days. It doesn’t sound like much but they are fierce, I watched my baby turn blue while emergency operators advised not to start CPR until paramedics arrived. I had my heart crushed when they told me they couldn’t stop the seizures and had to ‘put her to sleep’. Time and time again I felt I had failed, as a parent I couldn’t save her I couldn’t ‘fix’ her episodes and on top of that the guilt of knowing the genetics had been passed down through me. I never asked for this, who would ever ask for this? How long before they damage her growing brain? How long can her body stand the cocktails of drugs? And will they ever go away?

While all this was happening I struggled to keep up with those around me; friends and family often came last, I just didn’t have the energy or time to focus on anything outside of Charlee. I was trying to keep up with my girls who were growing so fast, trying to research information surrounding my baby’s condition because doctors didn’t seem to have the time. Every GP/CHN/specialists visit is met with praise and that “she’s doing so well” or “there’s nothing wrong with her” but that doesn’t take away traumatic ED trips and the fact that there is something wrong that no one is willing to look deep enough into. Because they haven’t seen her at her worst, with tubes and wires coming from every inch of her, hooked up to machines to keep her in a ‘safe’ state giving her body and brain a rest before any real damage sets in.

A Mother’s Pain

I fight with my thoughts; ‘you have so much to be thankful for’, ‘you shouldn’t be grieving’, ‘some parents have it so much worse’ and so on. I listen to doctor’s terms that are so foreign they go straight past me, the same terms I quickly become fluent in. Nurses recognise us like we’re regulars at a local cafe, which I am extremely grateful for; you don’t realise how comforting a nurse can be when she too has witnessed the ups and downs of your child.

I am so lucky to have an amazing team of doctors and nurses at our local hospital that recognise our little girl, know the plan as soon as we come crashing through the ED doors and most importantly LISTEN and respect our wishes. We beg to stay local not to be sent up to Perth, we don’t qualify for accommodation at Ronald McDonald house which means our family is split up and usually your chances of sleeping on a chair or in your car are pretty high. PMH stays for us mean 140 km round trip each day plus parking, plus food, plus babysitters for the older sibling, plus days off work, plus medication the costs add up fast and before long we find our sanity has gone out the window and are desperate to be home.

So far it’s been nearly 4 months seizure free in our house and we feel as if it has been a lifetime since our last ED trip. Charlee is now on a different anti-epileptic drug that seems to be working (we aren’t holding our breath) and her action plan seems to work well. She is walking, talking, eating well and is smashing all the milestones for an average 16 month old. At the start of 2018 Charlee’s genetic testing results came back positive for the mutation of a gene known to be related to seizure disorders. We’ve been on this journey for more than 12 months without any real answers; we just don’t expect them anymore.

Things that I have learnt along the way:

  1. Do that first aid training course you’ve been putting off, if you can’t afford it google and YouTube is your next best bet as some first aid knowledge is better than none at all.
  2. If it’s not in writing it may as well not exists, (medical records, doctors’ advice etc.)
  3. Don’t be scared to share with strangers, on admissions they’re usually the only adult company you have as partners and/or family can’t stay.
  4. Go with your gut, your instincts are stronger than what most believe and remember no-one knows your child better than you.
  5. If you’re ever staying at PMH pop into Kalparrin, they are the nicest most amazing people I’ve ever had the chance to meet and I honestly wish there were more support centres around regional WA.

Here are some Websites and organisations that you may find helpful..
https://kalparrin.org.au/
https://www.epilepsy.org.au/
https://www.carerswa.asn.au/

"Be Brave Little One." - Little Charlee
“Be Brave Little One.” – Little Charlee

Zoe Taylor

Mother to Charlee

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The thing I love about Motherhood | Guest Writer Suzanne Jones

It would be fair to say that I needed a little persuading to enter the world of Motherhood. I was enjoying a fulfilling career with all the freedom and excitement a good income allows. What little I did read about motherhood was often negative with any positives listed only as a small footnote. I always understood the need to seek comfort in sharing similar experience with others but came to the conclusion that motherhood was an overall unhappy and exasperating experience.  After all, if it was all that great, why didn’t people write about those aspects? I would see sentimental memes shared on Facebook regularly enough but the long and detailed accounts of life with a baby or toddler were reserved for dissatisfaction and frustration. I did not want to be that miserable. No thank you.

Fast forward a few years and I was happily settling down with a wonderful, caring man. The urge to create a family between us crept in. As happens when you hit a certain age, friends started having families of their own and I was able to see these women go through the most wonderful transformation. They glowed with the love and joy of their babies and, most surprisingly to me, they were still interesting, vibrant and had their own identity. I thought maybe I could be a mother and still be the ambitious, geoscience geek that I am. And so, not long after we married we started trying for a baby. We were blessed with our daughter Madeline Theia in February of 2017 and nothing in this world has made me happier.

Coming up to Madeline’s first birthday I have been looking back over the past year and thinking about all the things I have enjoyed. I decided to write a list of just some the unexpected pleasures that come with being a mum to counterbalance the more negative articles I had read in the past.

I should say that the following are my personal experiences, not a generalization. I have deliberately kept it positive. There certainly are hard times and many challenges but those have already been covered so many times. I am not trying to gloss over the hard times or deny they happen, because they absolutely do. This is just my happy version of the “Dear First Time Mum” blog… and here goes…

Unexpected Positive Experiences When You Become A Mother

The moment a child is born, a mother is born - Rajneesh (Image Credit Lion Fox & Co)
The moment a child is born, a mother is born – Rajneesh (Image Credit Lion Fox & Co)

Just about everyone is friendly

Most trips to the supermarket take a long time. Not because the baby is unruly but because most older ladies you pass will stop me to chat to Madeline. She mostly obliges with smiles but even when she grimaces at them, they still smile back and chat a little. It’s not just the granny types either, the granddads wave and other children come up to say hello to a baby and parents make polite small talk. I overhear people whisper “oh she’s so cute” and yes, I will admit that I actively engage in these conversations and covet the baby compliments. They make me smile and I genuinely enjoy the interactions. Joking aside, there was a time when I started to feel very isolated. We have no family in Western Australia and my husband works away. These casual ‘friends’ I made at Woolies were what stopped me slipping into a dark place.  Thank you friendly strangers.

The Baby Vortex

I can lose hours each day just being with Maddie. We call it the Baby Vortex. When she was first born I could at her sleeping for such a long time I would get neck ache. Newborn babies quickly learn to control their eyes and they can maintain eye contact for what feels like hours. I would wonder what she was thinking and if she knew who I was. Nowadays I catch myself just watching her play, other times I am being silly to keep her laughing. Sometimes a whole morning can go by and I realise that I haven’t done any of the chores I set out to do and I forgot to prepare lunch. The Baby Vortex is amazing. It’s why it takes me so long to get anything done.

More ambition, enthusiasm and motivation (just redirected)

People used to tell me that I would probably lose interest in my career when I had a baby and that my life would be ‘put in perspective’, as if it were out of perspective prior to becoming a mother. I would find it so frustrating and patronising. Well, I have not lost ambition or enthusiasm at all. In fact, I feel more driven than ever. I have a daughter and I need to be a role model to her. I want to show her that she can achieve anything she wants. The difference today is that I may have redirected my ambition. Time is precious and if I am away from my baby girl, it needs to be worthwhile. I feel a strong urge to show young girls that they can be part of the STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine) world. Maybe I have found perspective, my interests have evolved, I am more ambitious than ever because I am now accountable. Its not just me anymore, I have a responsibility to this little girl and nothing is more motivating than that.

Birth can be beautiful

My birth did not go to plan. Not at all. My baby’s heart rate kept dropping so the obstetrician decided to intervene. Maddie was born in a bit of a rush with the umbilical cord wrapped three times around her neck. To make matters worse she was holding on to the cord and with every push she tightened the noose. Then, when Maddie was only two hours old I was taken down to surgery as I was hemorrhaging. It was four hours before I was reunited with my little family.

Thankfully, our little girl was OK. She was perfect and I was in a state of complete bliss. My poor husband was frazzled and in shock. It was now 2am and he had watched me go through a complicated labour, worry about our little daughter and then had to wait whilst I disappeared off to surgery for four hours. Amazingly, on that long day, not once did I feel scared. I had been seeing the same obstetrician for all my appointments and had a student midwife following my pregnancy. I knew the team we were with that day and they knew us. I could have had a very different experience had I not had complete trust in them. They kept me calm and I am eternally grateful for the wonderful care they gave to us all.

I love my stretch marks!

I didn’t particularly want stretch marks. I used three different types of lotions and oils in the hope of limiting the spread of these scars as they grew across my pregnant belly. However, after the birth of our daughter I experienced a kind of sadness that she was no longer inside of me; we were no longer physically attached. My reminder of the nine months of carrying her were these stretch marks and my wobbly, swollen belly. Now, a year later, my belly is almost back to normal but I still have some faded stretch marks and I love them. I smile when I see them when I get out of the shower and I hope they never fade completely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chicks Who Lift | Guest Writer Michelle Wong

We live in an image obsessed world, and in most cases the ‘perfect body’ is what’s portrayed to us on the cover of a magazine. Whether it be the infinite ‘slimness’ on the Vogue cover, the ‘happy family’ featured in New Idea, or the current winner of the women’s INBA bikini model in Women’s Health magazine. We all perceive ‘perfect’ according to our own reality, lifestyle and choices.

I’m not writing today about the ‘perfect body”, the one that many celebrity fitness gurus have made their fortunes selling to the masses, I’m writing about a strong and healthy, female body.

Here’s an idea. How about, as women, we work on our physical strength so we can increase our metabolism, (yes, that means burn fat) live a longer and healthier life by deterring heart disease and bone disease such as osteoporosis, and live independently for longer, without the assistance of carers in our senior years. All this, above and before the cool side effect of carrying the children/shopping with ease, (whichever your lifestyle) and looking smoking hot in a bikini.

Yes, I own a gym, and many of our clients come to us to assist with, ‘the now body’ but I like to think about how we’re helping them and their families in their future years. This is why we as a gym and me personally as a woman, am so passionate about women lifting weights.

There is no arguing with the science behind the body’s reaction to weight training, increased bone density, more efficient metabolism, increased strength and reduced risk of day to day injury. However. The general consensus still seems to be, “I want to get skinny, I should jump on a treadmill.” Ladies, PLEASE LIFT SOME WEIGHTS AS WELL! *Insert bonus side effect of feeling empowered through strength and firm muscles

So, why don’t women want to strength train?

ONE: CARDIO RULES THE WOMEN’S FITNESS INDUSTRY WORLD

Cardio is to the female fitness industry, what the airbrushed model is to the fashion industry. It’s an iconic, extremely well-marketed, (*insert Lorna catalogue here) symbol of all that is good health, and apparently leads to the ‘ideal’ female body. I am in no way discarding cardiovascular training as an integral part of your training program, but it is exactly that; part of an overall program. A program that is also made up of healthy eating, mobility work, stretching and of course strength training. It is the latter that will ultimately lead to the round booty, to the sculpted shoulders and the firm, strong arms.

TWO: I DON’T WANT TO GET BULKY!

I still have a giggle to myself when I remember my first ever PT session with a trainer. I pointed to a picture of a female bodybuilder on the wall and said, “I don’t want to look like that.” Today, I can reflect on his polite smile, and simple answer of, “No you won’t”, as I am now educated and realise that to look like ‘that’, would require years of disciplined isolation training for several hours a day, along with the strictest of diets. Ladies, I can assure you, a daily workout in the gym using weights, will not result in you becoming a muscle-bound beast. It will result in progressive muscle development, strengthening of bones and an overall firming-up of the body.

THREE: I MIGHT HURT MYSELF

My background is in teaching, 15 years of it in fact and one thing I can assure you is this: With complete lack of; or the wrong guidance, instruction and introduction to something new, anything can be dangerous. Sadly, with an inundation of gyms, all catering for the masses, the initial induction to the equipment and training is barely sufficient. Whilst many people share the well-popularised, ‘Gym-Fails’ clips for hilarity and entertainment, I look at them with a sense of bewilderment at how bad the industry is failing many of it’s clients. At our gym, it’s simple – safety first with solid foundations.

Most of my clients are mothers, mothers that have to tend to children or pick up babies, none of which can be done with injury or a sore back. Girls, my message here is simple – choose your gym wisely, get a good trainer who cares about you personally and prides themselves on the correct technique of lifting weights safely and appropriately for your lifestyle and goals. Done correctly, strength training will actually reduce the risk of injury as your strong muscles work to do as they were designed, that is support the skeleton and act as levers and pulleys to get daily tasks done.

In a nutshell Ladies, strength training is HUGELY beneficial to your everyday life and future self. You will not become ‘manly’, (a sadly misused phrase that I personally hate, but use here are a relatable reference point), you WILL feel strong, you WILL notice a significant ‘firming-up’ of your body, and you will totally be a ‘chick who lifts.’

Wongy x

Images by Lion Fox & Co
Images by Lion Fox & Co

Michelle is an educator, passionate about improving the health and well-being of children, families and classrooms!

You can follow her journey at…

Family First Fitness

Bust-a-Burpee

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