Thursday, 13 August 2015

#TBT My trek America Experience

and 8 reasons I want to be back on the west coast.  

Last year I was lucky, crazy stupid kind of lucky. I won my dream trip to America from the kind people at Trek America. Here are some reasons that going on that trip was the best thing I ever did. 

1. The people. 
It's no fluke that "the people I have met are the wonders of my world" is tattooed onto my ribs. People are special, they make an experience. The people I travelled along the west coast of America with will forever hold a place in my heart. From the Chinese couple to the Scottish sisters, the lone northern girl and even the tour leader herself: this lot are special and travelling with people forms bonds like no other. 

2. I learnt to hike.
I didn't like it, but I did it. Hiking out of the Grand Canyon was the hardest thing I've ever done but finishing those last few steps were the most powerful and inspiring thing ever. And there is absolutely nothing that compares to a shit ton of pizza after a 6 hour hike. Nothing. 

3. Vegas is no joke. 
It broke us all. Getting chucked out of the Bellagio for being too drunk is not clever but it does make for an excellent story. 

4.  I learnt things about myself. 
I think travelling does this to you. You have a lot of reflective time in the van, you chat to people from all over the world and that changes you, always for the better. 

5. San Francisco is epic. 
Probably one of my favourite stops on the tour, San Fran is a magical city. I will return one day to finish what I started. 

6. Camping is amazing. 
I was a little dubious about setting up a tent every night in a different location but by the end our tent building skills were absolutely top notch and we could (and did) do it in the dark with no problems. 

7. The food 
We all put in to a food kitty on the first day and the tour leader bought groceries with that. We made our own breakfast each morning (mmmm blueberry bagels) and prepared our lunch on the go (picnic in Walmart car park anyone?) dinner was a social affair that everyone helped with and there's nothing that bonds a group like the washing up. Occasionally we are out, and experiencing local cuisine was eye opening to say the least. Two words: portion sizes... 

8. The views. 
Honestly, there is absolutely nothing in this world that compares to watching the sun set from the cliffs in San Diego. Equally, watching the sun rise over the mountains, or the clouds pass over the Grand Canyon are things that really stick with you. A helicopter ride over the drop of the canyon, the madness of the Vegas strip, San Francisco from a yacht as the sun sets...absolutely epic memories that even the best camera couldn't capture. 

If you're considering a tour like this one, the only thing I can say is do it. You won't regret it and it has ignited a passion in me for travelling that I never knew I had. Since coming off the trip I've been to Scotland and Denmark to visit my friends, I've booked a flight to the other side of the world on my own and I'm confident in my ability to make friends wherever I end up. It's truly a life changing experience that you can undertake alone, or with a friend. I've genuinely never felt more at home than sitting round a campfire with 2 Danish girls, 2 Scottish girls, a Korean, a Chinese couple, an Australian, a Swiss girl and 3 other Brits, cooking smores and sharing stories. 


When you can't find the heartbeat.

WARNING: sensitive, potentially upsetting topic follows. 

Being a midwife is 99% the best job in the world. On a regular day I deliver wriggly, wet, naked babies into a brand new world. There will be three people in a room, and then all of a sudden there will be four living, breathing, dreaming beings and it's like magic. You deal with the stress and the pressure and the responsibility because nothing in this world compares to watching a family evolve, watching a woman realise her full potential, being a witness to a baby's first breath. If I take time to think about what I actually do, it blows my mind. And that is because I'm passionate about women and childbirth and pregnancy, like all midwives are. We don't do it for the glamour, or the money- It's the most amazing thing and I'm privileged to be a part of it. However it's not always happy endings. And those moments are the moments I go home and never stop thinking about. 
The panic on the phone is barely disguised in her voice. "I haven't felt my baby move" she says "not for a few days now. Not properly" come in right away I say, keeping my voice upbeat and even. Come in, bring your notes and we'll check you over. I look at my colleague, "no movements" I say. The prayer we both say is silent and personal but I can see it in her eyes, and she in mine. Please don't let today be the day. 
When the woman buzzes in, I go to meet her personally at the door. Take her notes, give her a smile. Squeeze her arm. She's been crying but she's dried her tears. She's at the hospital now, it'll be ok. She's come alone, didn't want to worry anyone. Drove herself here, probably a bit too fast. I move her to a side room, the monitor's all set up. Usually I'd chat, do some observations and paperwork before listening in but neither of us can wait. She lays down and presents me with her perfect bump. I put my cold hands on her abdomen and it is at that point that I know, in my gut, this is not ok. My face remains passive as I perform the usual checks. I move the transducer to where I know I should get a thumping heart. Nothing. The silence is deafening. I don't fill it with my usual "this baby's hiding from me" or some other pleasantry. She knows. She always knew. She looks at me, scared. "Do I panic yet?" She half jokes. Is someone coming to meet you, I ask. She says her husband is on his way. Good. I don't want her to be alone for this. I move the monitor about, praying i'm wrong, knowing I'm not. Another midwife comes in, she sees my face and takes the monitor from me. She has a turn at fruitlessly moving it over and around. "I'll get a scan" I say, in my best calm voice. The husband arrives, white with panic. I show him in and close the door behind me. "I'm going to get someone to scan you" I say. Begging her to understand with my eyes, so I don't have to say it. "We can't find baby's heartbeat so it's the best way to know what's going on" the comprehension in their eyes is sharp and frightening. They grip tightly to each other, not daring to voice their thoughts out loud. I nip off, find a doctor that can prove me wrong. Please prove me wrong. They come right away, drop everything to be with me, this family. 
We stand in the dark scan room, focused on the screen. I lean against a wall, cross my fingers behind my back. I'm not qualified to make the diagnosis but I know what's coming. "I'm so sorry, there's no heart beat. Your baby has died" 
In the hours that follow, I don't cry. I save that until I'm home. I am the epitome "swan-like" calm and professional on the surface, paddling like mad to stay afloat underneath. I give myself to this family, to cry on, to blame, to ask questions. I am honest and sensitive and gentle. I leave the hospital in a daze. I pass pregnant women on my way out and I want to urge them "enjoy your baby before she's here. Talk to her. Watch her closely. Trust yourself" I get home and kick my shoes off. I don't even notice the ache in my feet or my back tonight. I run a bath and get in, it's then that the tears come. That poor fucking family. It's so unfair. 
We don't know why. It's possible we never will. Shit things happen, that's not good enough but it's all I have. I go to work the next day with a smile on my face, but I never ever stop thinking of that family. That baby. That mother and father who have so much unknown territory to cross now. A taboo subject, a bomb gone off in their lives that they don't know how to deal with. It touches so many people, when a baby dies. I know I'm not the only member of staff to have gone home and cried that night. We love these women, these babies, they're our vocation. We feel their loss deeply. We learn, move on and heal but we never, ever forget. 

UPDATE: I saw her, in the street. Smiling, with her hands on a tiny blooming baby bump. It filled my heart with joy. I approached her hesitantly, unsure if she'd want to see my face again, to be reminded. We locked eyes and she pulled me into the biggest hug. "I wasn't sure you'd remember me" she said. "Of course." I replied "A midwife never forgets" 

I wrote this post for me, as a reflection on my job. It is not based on a specific event, or case, or patient. It is an amalgamation of my experiences. I hope it hasn't upset you but I desperately want to break the taboo round this subject. Raise awareness. If you're pregnant, or know somebody that is, and they say their baby isn't moving as much- call a midwife. We want to know about any change in the baby's movements, whatever time of night or day. Trust yourself. These things happen and there is very little anyone can do to prevent them, but monitoring your baby's movements and acting on your instincts gives you your best chance. 


Monday, 10 August 2015

#NRWsummer bloggers event

On Sunday I did something I never thought I'd have the confidence to do, and I walked into a pub I'd never been to, to a group of people I'd never met. It was the Norwich Bloggers #NRWSummer event and I couldn't miss out! Being a socially anxious person, I nearly bailed several times but I'm so, so glad I didn't! There was yoga, a social media workshop, fabulous live music and lots of chatting about blogs with some lovely girls. I had an amazing day and I am so so grateful to Justine, Courteney and Hannah for working their socks off and putting on a fab event. And the goody bags are amazing, I'm still working my way through mine but each product has been a total winner so far! Filled with old favourites and new brands alike I can't wait to get properly stuck in! Such a generous bag, the girls did good! 

It was lovely to meet so many like minded girls, and one in particular I really clicked with was Louise. She's a stylist at, and when a stylist tells you she likes your dress it brightens up your whole day, amiright? 

We were joined by Matt the lovely social media mogul who talked us through the do's and don'ts of the all important social media platforms. It was great to listen to someone in the know and actually have a face to face conversation about the important things I.e when's best to post and how much is too much! It made me realise I definitely need to up my social media game. 

The afternoon was rounded off perfectly for me (I had to leave a little early) by the gorgeous and supremely talented Hannah doing a live set on her adorable little ukulele. Honestly, I've already mentally booked this girl for my imaginary future wedding. What a babe. 

I really hope I can attend some future events organised by the Norwich Bloggers. It made me super proud to be part of our lovely community, and made me love my fine city even more. 
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