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Nina and Ben

February 2, 2012
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Nina and Ben, originally uploaded by Mrs BN.

Welcome to the world, my very handsome teeny, weeny nephew, Ben.

Scrummy!

Size difference much?!

Smacking – Part 4.

January 28, 2012
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The next morning was intolerable. But I set about making it my business to know what I was up against.

I have well placed friends and I started to research. One of my best friends is in the police force and I called her. I asked her about interviews, what I shoud say and what I should do. I told her what had happened and how it had been misinterpreted.

She was amazing. She advised me to absolutely take the duty solicitor for the following reasons:

– they can explain the whole process to you so you know what to expect

– they can go over all of the events with you and advise you how to word things and if there is anything you say that they think you should leave out due to it being irrelevant.

– he advised me on my emotions – he said I may think it would be better to be emotional and tearful but that actually it would be better to be composed and articulate to get it over and done with as soon as possible.

– he was supportive and he was there for me. 100%. And I needed that absolutely. I am so glad I made the call and told Dave I wanted a solicitor after all.

You can easily assume that agreeing to a solicitor implies you admit guilt on your part – i did – but it absolutely doesn’t. I urge anyone in this position to take a solicitor and let them help you. Let them support you and be there for you. If you are lucky enough to get one as nice as mine then that emotional support alone when you know you have done nothing wrong, is worth its weight in gold.

I also asked Dave to move the interview forward – I was so nervous waiting. It was due to be at 2pm but I had also planned on going to school that afternoon at 2.30 as Ella was due to be in the assembly to collect a certificate for good work. I explained and he was so sweet saying he wouldn’t want me to miss that at the school and that I should come at 12pm instead.

I got there on time but had to wait quite a while for the duty solicitor to arrive. I was desperately trying to control tears in the waiting area. People kept walking past me and I was some weepy, snivelling pregnant woman in reception. William was amazing. He talked me through the whole process. He and Dave obviously knew each other quite well and they went for a brief meeting first to discuss the details of the police evidence and so on for a possible charge.

When William came back we went to an interview room. Just like you see on the programs. A table, two benches, a massive tape recorder and grey walls. Nothing else.

He was very upbeat and straight off the mark told me that I didn’t have anything to worry about. He said it seemed very straight forward and that he couldn’t see it going any further than that day. We talked through the events of the previous morning. The children’s descriptions from their interviews.

He did a similar thing to Dave and said he could remember getting a good wallop when he was little – how we all come from a generation where that was how it was done. Dave had described how he knew it was hard – he had small kids too and he knew life could be tough with them. I felt like he was trying to get a confession to be honest. I just shrugged at William and said – well not so much really. I remember getting slapped legs when I was little and the odd slap on the face from my mum but I wasn’t telling him that! I just shrugged and said – not so much really. He told me about controlling my tears and keeping my emotions in check. He didn’t at all suggest I should be withdrawn or blank – just that crying uncontrollably wouldn’t really help.

Dave came in and told me the interview would last about 20 – 30 minutes. William had explained that Dave would ask questions as well as asking me to go over the events. Dave explained the same and then loaded tapes into the recorder.

There’s nothing quite like seeing scenes from various crime programs you’ve watched being played out in front of you in real life – to make you feel quite as much like a criminal as I did right then.

The tape recorder gave a loud beep, I had to say my name clearly, Dave gave his and William’s, the date and the fact I was there voluntarily being interviewed under caution. Then I had those words read out to me about evidence I may later rely on in court.

Crazy.

I can’t actually remember any of that interview at all. If I think back, I can picture the room, I can picture Dave sitting opposite me, William next to me. The baby kicking frantically swimming in the pool of adrenaline my body was creating – no doubt sending it absolutely whappy.

They asked me questions about my children, I remember they asked me about having a fourth baby in a two bedroom house. How will that affect us? Will we cope? Where will they all sleep? He asked about the children’s characters I recall – did they get on, were they naughty children, did they fight, argue etc.

He went on an on about how he knew I was really tired because Rowan had told them Kit was waking early every morning. How was I coping with that … and pregnant – crikey, the stress of it all. You must be so tired etc.

William had warned me – I wasn’t phased as I wasn’t surprised. I just calmly and positively answered all the questions – no they weren’t naughty, we were lucky, they were smart, intelligent, friendly, tactile and loving. They got on – they bickered but nothing special etc.

He asked how I discipline – I explained as I mentioned earlier – with tone of voice, asking them to describe their behaviour to me. Being firm, setting boundaries, repetition. Proper supernanny stuff! Did I smack? Yes I did. Often? No. Where? Hands and bottom and that’s it. And so very rarely. So rarely that Ella didn’t even think it had ever happened before. I explained that smacking was rarer and rarer. It was something that was used as a warning when they were say 3 ish. The years when they are likely to cause themselves harm by being silly, hyperactive toddler/ small child age and sometimes not listening when they really need to – like the time Ella ran into a road after wrenching her hand from mine. There was a car which swerved and did an emergency stop. Luckily she was on reins. Did I smack her hand? Yes I did. Did I shout? Yes.

Was I afraid she could have died? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes.

But my point is Ella never ran in the road again. She got the sharp shock of seeing my horror, the smack on the hand and the yell. She got it. Totally. Did I thoroughly explain on that occasion – no not totally – she was around 2 and a half years old. She wouldn’t have listened to war and peace on crossing roads. But yes I did explain about roads – but I think it was the yell and the smack she remembered. We’ve reinforced it ever after.

Do they get smacked for not eating their tea or bickering? for messing about in the bath or getting dressed slowly in the morning? No, of course not. For me it’s usually an absolute last resort and even then not for just anything. Usually first resort is a time out followed by losing a priviledge. DS games or Wii time, going to bed early and so on. This is how I explained it.

Anyway – the interview came to an end and Dave asked me – do you intend to change the way you discipline from now on?

That was a very difficult question – I knew he wanted me to say yes – I probably should have. Just to make my life easier. But you know? I said no. No I don’t. The big misunderstanding here is that people seem to think that I smacked her so hard that I hurt her. That’s just not what happened. I gave her a focusing short, sharp shock on the hand. A quick smack that didn’t even leave a mark or redden her skin. What happened to her finger is a mystery. I can only assume that somehow it got caught and rucked backwards with my hand maybe or possibly she put it down behind her when I plonked her on the sofa and she sprained it somehow. That’s if it even happened then. I would love to know.

So frustratingly – the only reason I was in this position was because I assumed that I had hurt her.

Dave explained the next step of the process to me.

His boss would have to look at case and sign it off. He wasn’t able to make that call and unfortunately there was no one senior to do that available until Monday. He was very apologetic but said this would have to go on over the weekend. He couldn’t tell me that the Police would be taking no further action but he certainly seemed to be implying that.

William and I went outside into the heat of the day and he did his best to reassure me that everything was nearly over. It was at this point that William made a comment that started the next ball rolling.

I probably could attribute a lot of what followed to him actually.

He said – this just sounds like a school wading in where it clearly wasn’t necessary.

We still had the Children’s Services hill to climb but they were supposed to be calling me on Monday – Anna had told me that they would take their lead from the Police and Dave had just said to me that as soon as he had a decision from his boss, they would inform CS of their decision and so on. So I was thinking – OK, the weekend and then on Monday this should all be over.

How wrong could I be!

The school is th enext step and there are parts I have left out up until now in an effort to not make the story too confusing. But what all started the following week was amazing. Gobsmacking, disturbing, wrong and just so frustrating. And I would love to help stop this ever happening to anyone else.

Smacking – Part 3.

January 25, 2012
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Slight delay in this post as I have had the most horrendous toothache for a few days. It started at New Year and then on Sunday night it was so bad I honestly would have rather taken pill after pill than continue to go through it. Luckily my mum was on the end of the phone and talked me through it.. I don’t even know how to describe it.

Way worse than having babies. Way.

Anyway – smacking story – there is a reason for this story – I do really want to help other people and there are some facts and details in the way that we dealt with this that I would never have known save for the help of my very good friend, C.

We arrived at the children’s Ward anyway – probably around 6.30 or just before. Kit would normally have been having milk around this time and he was grumpy and clingy to me. Obviously wondering what on earth was going on.

There were several ‘worse things’ about this day and I can’t keep saying ‘one of the worse things’ as it doesn’t quite get across how awful so much of this was. When we arrived at the Children’s ward we were let in and basically all the nurses acknowledged Dave and Anna by name. This didn’t really register with me until much later on in the evening when it suddenly dawned on me that everyone … everyone in that ward knew why we were there. We were suspected of abusing our children. The knew Dave – he was an officer for Children’s Police Protection Unit and they knew Anna – a Social Worker from Children’s Services. And they all said hello like they all knew each other. I cringe when I think of the minutes of discussion – they don’t look like the type, or worse, they do look like the type, which child? All of them?

Gossip gossip….

Dave explained once we were in a room that the next step would be a Paediatrician would come and examine Ella’s finger and would also want to look at Kit seeing as Rowan had described the morning with his grump over the mobile phone.

We weren’t quite prepared for what followed though. Anna was clearly watching us – I felt very watched. My every interaction with the children was being observed. Kit was clambering over everything. Standing on the bed, shaking the metal frame, throwing himself around and generally having a whale of a time. Luckily we had some snack biscuits for him in his bag and he was munching on those one after the other. Ella and Rowan were showing off as they are likely to do when faced with adults who are watching their every move and interested in every single word they have to say…

The Paediatrician explained that he had to x-ray Ella’s finger and check for a break and it was kindly explained to me that if Ella’s finger was broken then I would be charged with ABH against my child. A lot of the time now events in my memory are jumbled of this evening. There were times I was in the room with all the family and then there were times where I was next door either alone and talking to Dave and Anna or just Dave. Sometimes BN was with me and sometimes not. I pretty much sobbed my way through the evening when not in front of the girls. I didn’t cry in front of them at all.

Ella’s finger was not broken – as we knew and then the Dr explained that he needed to examine them. Whilst we watched and helped a little a Dr examined Ella from head to toe. including removing her underwear and examining her genitals for signs of abuse. He held an A4 piece of paper where he recorded every single abrasion or mark, cut, scrape or bruise on her body as if I was watching some kind of TV program. To be honest she basically had nothing on her. She had a scraped knee and he asked her how it happened and she said she’d fallen at school. He marked the injured finger and that was it. I kept jolly throughout reassuring her. Ella giggled her way through the whole thing. Her little nervous laugh when she’s not quite sure what’s going on. She does the same thing when she’s in trouble but when she’s not sure quite how much trouble she’s in. Rowan got very unsure at this point. She was in a plastic hospital chair up against the wall and when the Dr started to examine Ella’s bottom, Rowan said ‘I don’t like this anymore, I want to go home.’

My heart absolutely broke for her.. I saw a sudden flicker across her face of ‘what on earth is going on here that I don’t know about…?’

We reassured her quickly that the Dr was just looking at Ella to make sure she was well after she got hurt and Rowan, bright spark as always, said – Ella hurt her finger, why is he looking at her bottom?

What could we say? I just said it was fine and that we’d be going home soon … I remember digging my nails into my hand to stop me from crying.

He then looked at Kit – the Dr I have to say was just lovely. He was an older Indian man and he quietly glanced sideways at BN and I and said he was not concerned in the least – he even said he would expect to see far more marks on kids of their ages just from life in general. He told us not to worry.

Would have been nice not to have to.

Kit was amenable thankfully – he was also stripped naked, nappy off, bottom examined, penis, every inch of his body scrutinised and appraised. I wanted to shout at everyone to just get away from them. Stop touching my babies and STOP IT RIGHT NOW!

But you can’t. You have to let them. And it killed me.

I can’t ever forgive the people that made that happen. Ever.

After this I was taken into a separate room. Kit fell asleep in BN’s arms as we sat and listened to Dave explain what would happen next. I was to be questioned under caution the following day at the Police Station. I didn’t understand at first. When Dave said he wanted to talk to me, I thought he meant that he would be coming round to the house. I asked what time – he was kind it has to be said… he was very gentle with my feelings – probably worried I was going to go into premature labour or collapse. I was so distressed. Sobbing with no tears left.

He wanted my version of events. My side of the story. My chance to explain why all of this was so very wrong. Except of course that isn’t what he wanted. He wanted my version of events to see if I needed to be charged with a crime. Punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

I mean really? The reality of this still hasn’t really dawned on me.

I was asked to attend the station the next day and if I wanted a solicitor which I declined. After this, Anna asked me to sign a voluntary request not to be left alone with my own children. I didn’t even really get it. We asked questions. I wanted clarification of how far this went… how does BN go to the toilet? I do bathtime every night upstairs by myself while BN cleans, tidies, hoovers and gets bedtime drinks ready – is that allowed?

They said just to use common sense. BN had to be within earshot of me with the children. He couldn’t go out and leave me with them. He couldn’t go to the shop. Or to work. I wasn’t allowed to be alone with my own kids. Anna feared for their safety. Until she knew not to.

Around 7.30, the girls were given a couple of slices of toast each by a nurse. They were waning in their enthusiasm for the situation although credit to them they were never naughty, they were bored. But I think by this point they were aware that perhaps there was something else going on that maybe they didn’t understand. I certainly think Rowan had an idea. Although she wouldn’t have known what.

We were released. We called a cab. We got home. We gave the girls cereal, we gave Kit some milk and put him to bed. We sat. We stared. I cried. BN made phone calls to the people we had called. I stared. And cried. Great wrenching sobs. Small tearless weeps.

I sat like that in a daze really – till around 1am when I felt I could sleep. I was awake by 3am and I just lay there looking at the ceiling, weeping, thinking, imagining all of the bad things to come. BN woke up and put his arms around me and I just lay there. And I felt very alone.

I think even in the position I’m in – a very strong, loving, trusting relationship – I felt very alone. I wasn’t prepared for that at all.

It’s one thing having your family examined – it’s another thing being the reason that it’s all happening.

 

Smacking Part 2.

January 20, 2012
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I left work immediately – my manager called BN at work using my mobile as I just couldn’t even speak. I remember shaking badly and walking around my office and trying to press buttons on my mobile and that she took it from my hand.

I met him from work and we went straight to the school where we were met by a ‘family liaison officer’ and shown to the family room. Her name was Clare and it was really evident to us very quickly that she was new. I didn’t need anyone to tell me that she had no clue what she was doing.

I was really upset, BN was more questioning. We asked to see the girls, we were refused, we asked where they were and what was happening and we were told that they were in the school and being looked after and that we were waiting for Police and Children’s Services to arrive and that they should be here very shortly. We got there about 3.20pm I would say, and they didn’t even get there until after 4pm. The girls’ belongings were in the room which was incredibly distressing and I immediately spotted a note on the top of their things written in pencil by Ella’s form tutor, ET.

It said

‘what shall I say to the girls’ child minder when she arrives?’

or words to that effect. It was signed by her and of course what this told us straight away was that this had been going on for hours. We hadn’t been called, notified or contacted in any way. Clare saw me find & read the note, I showed it to her, I think she acknowledged that it was unfortunate that it was there and tried to take it. I resisted and eventually she gave up and let me take it – I told her I was keeping it and put it in my hand bag. It was an uncomfortable moment but to be honest I wasn’t really bothered about what she thought.

Before the Police Officer, Dave, and the Social Worker, Anna, got there, I asked Clare what were the potential outcomes of what was happening. I was clearly pregnant, clearly distressed and she said ‘the worst case scenario is that the girls will be placed in alternative care for the night, ideally they like to place them with family though.’ Her tone and demeanor? She may as well have said – well usually we like to give children vanilla ice cream but if we don’t have any we offer them chocolate.

I heaved really sharply and was almost sick, she fetched a washing up bowl from the sink.

I can’t even begin to tell you how her words affected me. And then she left. She was supposed to be our family liaison officer. And she left the room. She left us. She was clearly out of her depth – she was unsure how to handle us, she didn’t calm us down in the slightest, she offered no concrete process or facts to reassure us or help. She was transparent platitudes and incompetence wrapped up in an unsure bow of inexperience. And it was painfully obvious.

I started making calls immediately. I called my mum and found that she was literally moments away from stepping onto the Eurostar to go on a 3 week holiday. My dad now lives in Egypt and my sister was newly pregnant. All of BN’s family either live just outside North London area or in New Zealand. My brother is in Australia. I was frantic. I was starting to think that if they were to be placed elsewhere then who would they send them to if we had no family?? I thought of a close friend we have who the girls know really well and I could think of my child minder and that was it. Would it even be our choice if we had no family available?? My mind was racing.

I rang one of my oldest friends. It suddenly occurred to me that my good, good friend, C, worked in Children’s Services for a County Council elsewhere in the country. And to be honest, if it weren’t for her and her contacts and knowledge not just then but through the entire ordeal …. then I really, honestly don’t know what would have happened differently.

She was amazing.

I called her – and first of all she reassured me that the likelihood of the girls being placed in alternative care was basically zero. She calmed us down wonderfully and gave us great advice about how to communicate with the Police when they arrived and the Social Worker. By the time I finished talking to her I did feel a lot better. One of my many criticisms of the whole event was that it just shouldn’t have been her responsibility.

When Dave and Anna finally arrived they made it very clear that from a Police perspective they did not want my version of the events from the morning. Dave needed to talk to the girls first and foremost. Get their story, independently from one another. My children were interviewed by Police and Children’s Services. I still can’t get over that.

Dave reassured us that it was very straight forward and that they should be back with us within about 10-15 minutes. He talked us through potential outcomes. In some cases, families have to visit the local hospital to be seen by a Dr. he said and that seeing as he hadn’t seen Ella’s injury as yet, he didn’t want to make a call about it. Again he told us not to worry. He understood it was difficult and so on. He was perfunctory but nice.

They left us and judging by his explanation we looked at the clock and expected them back somewhere around 4.40pm. By the time it got to almost 5pm I was once again frantic. I was pacing, crying, looking through the glass panel in the door into the corridor… pacing, crying. I could see Rowan’s reception teacher from the year before in an opposite room…. and she saw me looking and gave the flat mouth detached sympathy face – like oh dear that poor woman – not poor Rowan’s mum who I *know* but just – that woman. I felt utterly alone. We were alone and I was even more desolate. This wasn’t aimed at BN it was aimed at me.

They didn’t trust me. Me. I was suspected. Not BN. Me. Just me. And it was incredibly lonely.

Finally they returned about 5.10pm and things took an even more unexpected turn.

They gave us the details of the girls’ interviews. Ella had candidly told them she had never been smacked before – which actually isn’t true but I thought that at least showed that it is part of their discipline so infrequently that she couldn’t even remember it happening before. She told them that she had been naughty and that I had told her off, smacked her hand etc.

In Rowan’s interview though – bless Rowan with her dramatics – she told them that I had lost my temper and shouted at Ella and that she hadn’t deserved it. She told them that I threw Ella on the sofa (a fact that Ella disagreed with in her interview when asked) and that I had smacked her hand. Dave and Anna then apparently asked her if anything else had happened that morning that she thought they should know. Rowan told them that I had made the baby cry and wouldn’t let her make him feel better.

Now this was something totally separate. And frustratingly I probably could have avoided this added extra stress at this point if I had taken a bit more time to explain to Rowan in the morning why I didn’t want her to make Kit feel better when I had told him off.

Around 6am – BN had gone to the bathroom – Our morning routine was that we would do whatever with Kit at whatever time he woke up and that around 6 or so BN would go the bathroom first and get showered and ready. He would then come back to our room about 6.30 and all of them would go downstairs whilst I took a shower. Whilst BN was in the bathroom, Kit had been sitting on the bed, crawling around etc. and the girls were watching TV. He was occasionally occupied by telly but at 11 months if any of you are familiar, they tend to watch a bit and then generally mooch, cry, giggle, get tickled, try to kill themselves by leaping off the bed in the direction of the floor, head first usually in Kit’s case.

I had been looking at my mobile and the room was fairly dim, I put it back on the bedside table and I was still very reclined in bed. Just my head and shoulders propped up on pillows and 5 months pregnant. Kit was a big boy. He was over the 100th percentile in development and at 11 months he was wearing clothes sized for 12-18 months old. He was a hefty boy. But obviously not walking yet or being very stable, he was a bit of a lump. He saw the light from my mobile and suddenly launched himself across my body. I think for the phone. Instinctively I grabbed him, I caught him by his hips and pulled him back over my body and put him back on the bed. He would have landed head first on the floor. There’s no doubt in my mind. Beds are soft and infinitely less likely to cause injury to heads. Could I have put him down softer on the bed? I’m not sure really. I was trying to stop him hurting himself and he was very heavy. I had to pull him back hard to resist his falling weight. And he landed on the bed with the force of his own bodyweight I would say is the only way I can articulate it. He was cross – he didn’t like that I wouldn’t let him have the phone and he did a grumpy strop. You know babies, right? A shouty scream at me and clenched fisty type of strop. He was very capable of telling me that he wasn’t happy. Clearly he had no clue that he would have landed on his head on the floor. I told him no, sternly, and then it was time to get up. Rowan went to give him a hug – she’s very motherly which is adorable and wonderful and to be honest? I mostly take it as a tremendous compliment to my own mothering. I think that’s allowed. She loves to hug babies, sooth them, cuddle them, help change them, carry them, help with nappies, mother them and generally be in charge. It’s only that bit that can get in the way sometimes. I snapped a bit I should think. It was 6.30 ish in the morning. We’d already been up for 2 hours. I told her not to make him feel better (because he was in trouble) but I didn’t explain that to her and I probably should have. Could have. It had all happened in an instant and she hadn’t seen it I don’t think so I just…. didn’t.

All they told me was that Rowan had relayed an event from the morning involving the baby and that they felt he should be seen. At first I was gobsmacked and incredulous. I didn’t even remember any event from the morning. Kit leaping off the bed was a ‘nothing’. It must happen at least ten times a day when you have a very young, trying to toddle infant. I felt my jaw drop. ‘Nothing has happened to the baby’ I spluttered. I was wracking my brains trying to think where Rowan was getting it from – I fleetingly wondered if she was making stuff up. There’s no doubt that Rowan loves attention. She particularly loves adult attention and she’s very articulate so I wondered if perhaps she had just embellished something because she (obviously not understanding the seriousness of the situation) just loved that she had two adults simply hanging on her every word….

Dave then described what Rowan had told them. That I made the baby cry, shoved him on the bed and wouldn’t let her make him feel better. It all dawned on me, I tried to explain, he wouldn’t let me. They felt this warranted a trip to the local hospital so the children could be examined by a paediatrician.

A short while later, the girls were brought back to the family room and ET was with them (writer of the note from earlier, Ella’s form tutor). She had her head bowed, made no eye contact with us at all, muttered that she was getting her bag and left the room. I felt utterly judged. Judged and found guilty.

The girls were thrilled to see us – they were full of stories and over excited. I asked them if they had been given tea. I had repeatedly asked if they were being fed throughout the time we had been there. They are used to a cooked meal at 4pm as they go home with the child minder – I really must think of a name for her. I can’t keep writing child minder. We had repeatedly been told in response that they were being well looked after.

They had been given a banana and a drink. The girls actually told us they had been given nothing. But we found out later they’d had a banana. I was livid.

I’d had to call the nursery several times as we usually collected Kit daily at around 5.15 and we were terribly late. Although they were open until 6pm we were never actually there that late. By the time we got there in separate cars – Dave had taken BN and girls to the children’s ward at the hospital and Anna was with me – it was around 6.10pm.

The one girl at the nursery that I didn’t particularly like was with Kit. Sarah just wasn’t on the ball as much as the others. She gave him standard crisps one day instead of infant low salt ones which annoyed me as I’d specifically told her. She wasn’t one of his detailed key-workers and I dunno – I just felt like she didn’t know him as well and I didn’t really feel that she paid attention as much. She was lovely, just a bit meek and mild and not as thorough I guess. The nursery was FAB and I loved it there. It was just Sarah. However, in a nursery when there are shifts and so on, she would occasionally be the one left with the remaining babies and that was the case this day. I asked how he was and she started detailing how clingy he’d been that day and how unlike his usual self he’d been. Well, yes, he’s teething I replied with the Social Worker standing behind me. I felt like Anna was just thinking – hmm clingy, not usual self, we’re going to find injuries. Totting up the evidence. It was just awful.

We put him in the car and made our way to the hospital to meet Dave and BN with the girls.

I thought I’d had the worst three hours of my life by this point. How wrong you can be.

Smacking.

January 19, 2012
by

The whole debate over the Coronation Street brings me nicely onto the issue I had last summer.

I don’t actually watch Coronation Street – or any soaps for that matter – I hate that my parents were right about that. I did grow out of them. Dammit. But everyone is talking about it and I wanted to blog this – so deep breath – get a cuppa. It’s a long one and probably going to be more than one installment.

Last year – I was around halfway through my pregnancy with Nina – it was coming up to the end of June and Kit was a very draining and demanding 11 month old. BN was full time at work – as was I. Kit was going through a very difficult phase – waking very early every morning and never going back to sleep. It had been going on for about 3 weeks. That in itself would have been OK but for months at that point, each and every morning the first thing he would do is wake up, stand up…. and cry. And if you didn’t get him – like – IMMEDIATELY he would scream. Scream, cry, tears, snot, dribble – scream screaaaaam.

We tried sleep training – we tried pick up put down – we tried cuddling back to sleep and then placing him down fast asleep (cue wake up and scream), pacing the floor, Calpol (teething?) extra blankets, a drink of water, milk. I tried everything. Everything in my repertoire – all I had and he was just impossible. So every day started at 4.30am – with screaming and crying – and I must admit it was tough. Really tough.

The days themselves weren’t like this at all – he got himself to sleep every night in his own bed – always cute, funny, great sense of humour – really cheeky and really, really good fun to be honest. Never a dull moment and hardly ever a scream or a cry in the day. He was just learning to walk – taking a few stumbles every other day and eating fine – drinking plenty. Trust me – I really thought of everything.

So eventually – we just stopped trying to work out what was wrong and we just got on with it. Every day started like that – we just had to buckle up and suck it up basically. It was awful – truth be known – every day between 4.30 and 6.30 I didn’t want to be with my boy. But mainly because I wanted to be asleep!!!

The girls were great – mostly they knew we were having a tough time in the mornings and they were ace at getting up and getting themselves ready (with occasional reminders of stop watching TV with one leg in your trousers and continue getting dressed)  🙂 and basically being just fab. Love them.

Ella was struggling with the new baby thing a little bit – not in very obvious ways and definitely not all the time. But every now and then Kit was just ‘in her way’…  in her way of me – of cuddles – in her way of daddy – of anything she wanted at that minute. Those minutes were few and far between by the time he was a year old and considering she was only just 4 shortly after he was born and I think she did pretty well. A tough age to be usurped.

Anyway – on a particular day – she wasn’t being great. Kit had been up since 4.30 crying and screaming. Don’t forget the screaming. I was tired – not at the edge but just tired and you know – wishing it was Friday and not Thursday. She has a very particular way of being cheeky in an amazing way when she’s in a good mood and a very expert way of being cheeky in a very aggravating way when she’s trying to get under your skin.

She was not happy – she was pushing buttons – I had already heard BN telling her off whilst I was getting washed upstairs – it’s never anything serious apart from answering back or having a moan about something she hasn’t been able to do – the usual I’m4andangryattheworldsometimes sort of behaviour.

BN was on an earlier shift that day and he left about 7.30 and I had about 20 minutes before we had to leave. Rowan was disappointed because he had inadvertantly spent longer cuddling Ella when he left and so I pulled her on to one knee and Kit onto the other and called Ella in for a group hug. I’d been snappy and a little grumpy that morning and I always like to make sure that when they leave for school they are happy and smiling and feeling loved. I can’t have it any other way.

Ella took part in the group cuddle which I had to cut short because Kit had started to squirm on my lap and instantly she whined. Why have you put me down, why did Rowan get a longer cuddle, it’s not fair kind of whine. I explained that she’d had a longer cuddle with Daddy and I was trying to make sure that Rowan had got a good cuddle too. I said she had also been part of that cuddle and that (in a firm way) I didn’t want her to whinge and complain because she wasn’t being fair. It’s fair to say I was on the cusp of exasperated. I tried to get everyone feeling happy and settled and it had got spoiled by her moaning – so they were harsh words I suppose.

She flipped – Ella has like a Jekyll and Hyde switch somewhere sometimes and immediately she stamped and clenched her fists and growled at me and gave a response of some kind – I can’t actually remember but it was something stroppy and she went to stomp out of the room.

I picked her up, plonked her on the sofa and told her off. I took her left hand with my right hand by the wrist and slapped the back of her hand with my left hand. I am right-handed. It wasn’t hard. I didn’t leave a mark or hit her hard AT ALL but a few minutes later when all the kids were already absorbed in morning Milkshake TV again, Ella said that her finger was hurting. Her little finger on her left hand – I took her on my knee – it felt slightly warm and looked a bit pink and puffed up – not exactly swollen but puffy. I asked her if it had happened when I smacked her hand and she said yes … my heart absolutely sunk and I just made an instant decision to take her to hospital.

I dropped Rowan off at my childminder – told her what had happened – Rowan being Rowan was distraught that Ella was going to hospital and cried when I left her – I explained that this was just about checking she was OK and that I didn’t think anything was really wrong. I dropped Kit at nursery and took Ella to A&E.

We were seen immediately by a triage nurse who looked at her finger and assessed that there was no serious damage. I broke down on her as well. I felt such awful guilt and I remember she leant over and touched my face and said look – this happens – it was an accident and she’s fine – she even said you can see a Dr if you want – there wasn’t a long wait that morning but that she didn’t think it was desperately urgent to see one if I didn’t want to. I made a choice to stay – around 40 minutes later (after Ella had jumped all over the children’s soft play area) – we were seen by a Dr who said that he didn’t think there was any damage. He said maybe maybe a soft tissue damage or a pulled ligament under the finger but he wasn’t sure if it was even that. I think he said a mild sprain. My only thought that was perhaps when I had taken her hand in mine or when I had put my hand forward to smack her my hand had somehow caught her finger at an awkward angle. The Dr agreed and reassured me that he didn’t think it would have been possible to cause her injury by the smack itself. I agreed. How can smacking a child’s hand on top cause a pulled ligament or soft tissue damage underneath…? She was offered calpol and she declined it saying it didn’t hurt. It was slightly more puffy and pink than it had been an hour before and it was warm but she insisted she was fine and wanted to go to school.

I took her to school around 10am – took her to her classroom and spoke to the teaching assistant as the actual form teacher was with other children in a computer suite and told her exactly what had happened. She again – knowning me from Rowan’s class the year before – reassured me – said accidents happen, she seems fine. I told her the Dr had recommended no aggressive play for the day and to try to keep the hand rested on the desk rather than letting it hang down – only to reduce any potential swelling. I asked her to take Ella to see Rowan to reassure her that all was well and that Ella was back from the Dr and not dying anywhere. Rowan has a tendency to the dramatic 🙂

Ella and I kissed and cuddled, I left and she was all smiles.

I got to work, told my colleagues, cried briefly on another couple of managers at my branch that day and when I say cried I mean not sobbing. Not out of control crying. Just a bit teary that I felt I had hurt my own child and that I didn’t really know how it had happened. I felt bad.

My childminder asked me via text in the day if the hospital were reporting it and I text her back saying she was mean with a 🙂 I said I felt bad enough without her taking the piss – she text me back and said she wasn’t she just genuinely wondered if the A&E dept. were going to report the case. The thought had never crossed my mind. AT ALL.

Smacking is a last resort in our house. We do warnings, we do time out – we do talking, debate and discuss making choices about our behaviour. If they are riling me I generally ask them to tell me about the change in my tone of voice – how does my voice sound? – what is going to happen next? – they’ll answer – we’re going to get a warning, your voice is getting cross. We’ll have time out etc.

I’m not perfect but neither are they – and to be honest Ella is very different to Rowan. She snaps sometimes and when she’s going to have one of her tears and sobbing episodes you very often struggle to get much sense out of her for a good fifteen minutes. She is willful and stubborn and all these things I love about her – but none of them are useful 10 minutes before you have to leave the house in the morning when you still have 5 things to do including finishing to get an 11 month old baby dressed in a coat, shoes and so on.

With Ella? A little smack on the back of the hand works. She focused. I was able to talk to her. I told  her off – she got her words from me – we do not scream, stamp our feet or shout at mummy and so on and it worked. Within 1 minute we were done and she was watching telly. I can’t even tell you the time before that they – either of them – got a smack.

At 3pm – my mobile rang. It was my childminder – she had been informed that Childrens Services and the Police had been called and that my girls were not being released into her care and that she should leave without them. I’d had no call and no warning whatsoever.

I fell to the floor and cried out and I don’t remember much of the following 15 minutes.

Work is Looming

January 16, 2012
by

I have three weeks left.

Three.

Bless my little Nina – Full Stop as she’s known in the house – she was a happy accident – a blessing – but an unexpected one…. last year’s maternity leave left us rather lacking in the financial department to be honest and when it became clear that we were going to be having another baby, we had to make plans as to what was achievable – not achievable – realistic….

It became clear very quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to take 6 months off work again. The mat leave payment scheme at work is pretty good. The length of time I’ve been there affords me 3 months off fully paid – which is great (otherwise I’d have been back at work when she was two weeks old!) but it does mean that I have to go back when she’s only three months.

My bank balance just can’t take another three months paid at only SMP. It’s really sad and I’m not coping very well with it really. She’s so tiny. She’s been smiling for a few weeks but just this morning was the first time I got a glimpse of a proper laugh when I tickled her. And it was great and really awful all in one go.

My childminder is excellent – she has Kit all day as well so the familiarity for them both there will be great – the girls are there every morning and evening too – which is better still. She’s also really honest with me which I love. If Kit says a new word – she tells me – if he does something new like jump – she tells me. I don’t get on very well with the nurseries and so on that keep milestones a secret. It suits some but not us. We like to know.

But it hit me this morning that she will likely be telling me when Nina rolls over… when she crawls, when she walks or says her first word – all of this is likely to be stuff that I miss – that she will see.

And as much as love my childminder – I’m not happy about that and I can’t pretend that I am.

3 weeks to go.

😦 Big unhappy today.

Out in the Cold!!

January 10, 2012
by

We have been bombarded with colds for weeks!

Weeks I tell you!

Weeks!

The baby got one when she was only two weeks old – which incidentally seems to be the way with my new babies – I then got a really bad cold and sore throat which led to a sinus infection which I always get as I have nasal polyps. The baby’s cold lasted for 6 weeks which I thought was pretty mean. I felt really sorry for her.

Then BN got the cold, then Ella and Rowan (although they have it far more mildly than BN who seems to have it worse than anyone) and now Kit. He has also JUST got over one. BN’s led to a chest infection – he’s now on antibiotics – with a cough that WILL.NOT.GO! and now Kit has started waking in the night (which actually he’s started doing anyway) and last night he woke with the start of a cough. A very good impression of a fifty year old dog with emphysema.

Awesome.

And now? Now – now the baby has started to snuffle and snort and sneeze. AGAIN. Seriously – I need some cold break!

On top of this? I have THE worst toothache ever. Last year after Kit was born – about 6 weeks I started to get toothache in one of my molars. I went and she found decay and I had to have a filling. Only my third ever. My first two when I was 16. I take such good care of my teeth and I was gutted. She reassured me that pregnancy is hard on teeth and I should be proud that I only had three but to be honest? It was the pain that I was most unhappy about.

Two or three days before New Year’s Eve I started to get a slight throb in the same tooth. It started off being abated by painkillers, then not. basically. On the Monday evening after New Year, it got so bad and so relentless, I couldn’t even take care of Nina. And I was crying. Crying!

I went back to the dentist and she found decay under the filling and it had reached the nerve. She seemed to do a very mild procedure, took out old filling and replaced. Gave me lots of injections …. two very far back behind the nerve that runs into the bottom jaw. And a week later and I still have really bad ache. Is that normal?? My jaw feels like I’ve been punched. I’ve developed ulcers all down my gums along the offending tooth area. My front teeth seem to have transferred pain. And whilst the tooth itself isn’t hurting I don’t think I also have apparently developed an unconscious need to push my tongue against the inside of my teeth which is making it worse. Worse? I can’t stop.

Argh!

And on top of all of that? More colds.

Bleurgh.