Double the Monkey Business

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Alpaca and Llama Therapy

Alpaca and Llama Therapy On Friday, I went with the boys on a kindergarten trip to an alpaca and llama…

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Preeclampsia and Heart Disease – Week Three

Preeclampsia and Heart Disease – Week Three

Make the Link Between Preeclampsia and Heart Disease

Preeclampsia and Heart Disease Infographic (Download PDF) (Download JPG)

Debbie’s Story (Download Print PSA)

Women who have had preeclampsia have three – four times the risk of high blood pressure.  They also have double the risk for heart disease and stroke. They have an increased risk of developing diabetes.

While still unknown whether the risk is caused by preeclampsia, or if the woman was already predisposed, these risks
first emerge in the years following a complicated pregnancy. Although this may seem daunting, ample research shows that there are many ways for women to protect their heart health and that of their families!


heart_disease_infographic (1)


Early recognition and reporting of symptoms is the key to early detection and management of preeclampsia.  Contact your doctor or midwife right away if you experience any of the following symptoms.

  • Swelling of the hands and face, especially around the eyes (swelling of the feet is more common in late pregnancy and probably not a sign of preeclampsia)
  • Weight gain of more than five pounds in a week
  • Headache that won’t go away, even after taking medication such as acetaminophen
  • Changes in vision like seeing spots or flashing lights; partial or total loss of eyesight
  • Nausea or throwing up, especially suddenly, after mid pregnancy (not the morning sickness that many women experience in early pregnancy)
  • Upper right belly pain, sometimes mistaken for indigestion or the flu
  • Difficulty breathing, gasping, or panting
  • “I just don’t feel right”

Having symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have preeclampsia.  However, they are cause for concern and require immediate medical evaluation.


HELLP – I am a mummy

HELLP – I am a mummy

HELLP – I am a Mummy

I don’t remember much about the first day of being a mummy.  Anyone reading my First Hours post will know that, so this has been written to the best of my memory.  I am told that I was awake a lot more than I can remember, albeit not for long periods.  I had originally aimed to put this post out last Friday; however, I found it incredibly hard to write.  I needed to walk away and re-group a few times. So hear goes, my next chapter…

I am asleep.  The hubby stays awake all night watching the boys, marvelling as they are mirror each others’ movements.  Their intricate gestures were too complex for it to be coincidence.  They must have been undertaking similar actions and patterns of movement in the womb.  Incredible.

I wake up, eyes blinking in the sunlight.

I am not sure where I am or what has happened.  The first person I see is the hubby – concerned eyes looking at me.  I panic, I remember that the boys are here.  Then, I remember I am a mummy.  I want to know if they are okay.  Before I can ask, the hubby second guesses by the look in my eyes, “they are fine”, he says.  I glance to see them under a heat lamp, the midwife is there.  I didn’t notice her at first.  She says, “their temperature has dropped a little, nothing to worry about”.

Someone asks how I am.

I reply, “I feel like I have been hit by a truck”.  My eyes close.  I feel like my body is shutting down.

***In this time we have a visitor.  My hubby’s eldest brother.  I don’t remember him visiting that day***

I open my eyes.  12 hours of the boys lives have gone by and I have slept through most of it.  I see my parents in the room.  They are feeding the boys with syringes.  I remember thinking that I should be breastfeeding them.  They look up and ask how I am.  I don’t answer.  My heavy eyes close once more.

14 hours after the boys are born, I am back in the room again.   Visiting hours are over.   My parents say goodbye.  My Dad leans in to give me a hug.  I wonder why he is crying.  These are not happy tears.  There is fear in his eyes as he looks at me.  I mutter goodbye and close my eyes.  The look on his face haunts me in days to come.  This was when I realised I was seriously unwell.

16 hours after the boys are born I wake up.  This time I don’t fall straight back asleep.  It is evening now; my hubby looks shattered after his bedside vigil.

I ask him what is wrong with me.

He doesn’t know.  The doctors don’t know.

My blood pressure is all over the place.  My blood tests are worrying. I am blue.  I have been slipping in and out of consciousness for the last 20 hours.

All I know is I feel like I am dying.  At points I wonder if this is how it should feel after you give birth?  Maybe I am being a wimp and just not coping?

I am fearful to hold my babies.

Fearing I don’t have the strength to hold them.  I fear I will drop them.  The best I can do is watch in wonder at the sleeping beauties laying side-by-side in their cot and I hold their hands.  I just don’t trust myself.  Unable to tend to their basic needs.  I can’t give them what they need from their mummy.

A midwife walks in.  She says she is here to help.  She asks what would make me feel better.  I say I would really like a shower.  This is a big ask for someone that has been unable to stay awake for more than ten minutes at a time over the last day.  She doesn’t flinch. “If you feel up to it, then let’s do it”.  She is the second guardian angel I meet on my HELLP journey.

The midwife and my hubby sit me up in bed.

They swing my legs around so they are touching the floor.  I attempt to stand up and fall backwards.  When I say that “I can’t do this”, the midwife responds positively, yet forcefully, “yes you can; we will help you”.

I eventually stand up on wobbly and unsure legs.  It takes me a long time to take the short walk, probably less than 10 steps, to the bathroom.  I have to sit in a chair to rest a couple of times.  I am flanked on either side by the midwife and my hubby.  Eventually, I make it to the bathroom and feel the bliss of the shower washing over me as I sit in the bath.  This was possibly the best shower I have ever had in my life.

This guardian angel takes no prisoners.

She tells – or should I say orders – the hubby to get some sleep.  My hubby startles as this is the first person that has taken an interest in him for the last two days.  I understand the staff were more concerned with me and the children.  But, the thing is, he has been through the mill too.  As he looks at me and the two boys, one of whom is tiny, he wonders if we are going to make it.  He fears the worst.  He is emotionally and physically drained.

The hubby helps to feed the children through syringes.  I am still not strong enough to hold them in my arms.  The midwife expresses from me and pours the breastmilk into syringes.  Babies fed, we are ordered to sleep as best we can.  The hubby settles down on a gym mat on the floor.

I gladly succumb to a restless slumber.

Day one of being a mummy and I have let my children down.  Day one of my HELLP syndrome journey is over and no one has diagnosed me yet.

Baffled doctors are wondering what is wrong with me.  Unbeknown to us, they have called in a specialist…

Want to know more about the days leading up to this event?  Find my previous posts here.



Potty Training: What’s the Problem?

Potty Training: What’s the Problem?

Potty Training…

We are finally reaching the end of this milestone in our house – hurrah!

We can go days now without accidents but it has been a long time coming.  The boys are four in a few months and I first introduced the potty two years ago.

A cream bathroom, with white bathroom furniture

Potty training is frustrating.

Just when you think you have it nailed, you get a day full of accidents and little, or no, successes.

On days like these you feel like you have asked whether they need the potty one-hundred times.  This is when they always reply “no”.  On days like these they are guaranteed to have an accident just after this exchange.  Most likely, they are standing right next to the potty when this happens.  I am pretty sure that the only reason they had an accident is because you have reminded them about their bowel movements.

Even more frustrating than this is when you are due to go out.

There are two scenarios here.

You are due to leave, almost certainly running late for work/kindergarten, when despite going on the potty five minutes earlier you hear: “I need to potty!”  You have no choice but to admit defeat and let them go for it.

More frustrating still, you sit them on the potty for 30 minutes – yes, I had a recent experience of this – to be greeted with nothing in the potty.   You think you are safe.  They can’t need to go or surely they will have done it by now.  You get in the car.  Five minutes later you hear those dreaded words: “uh oh”.

Nighttime; now this is the single most frustrating event you can get.  It is the moment your little monkey realises that ‘needing to potty’ can delay bedtime.  This is a golden moment for little ones.  You can’t say no.  Hands tied, you sit, waiting for them to finish.  Every time you ask if they are done, you are told “not yeeeeet”.

All I can say is thank goodness for chocolate…and wine…

Every child is different

I know that people say “every child is different”, but trust me there is nothing more guaranteed to bring this home than having twins (or more).

Two boys, the same age, reaching milestones at completely different times.

In our house we had two very different experiences.

The Over-Nighter

D refused to even sit on the potty until he was just past his third birthday. He would kick, scream and work himself up into a frenzy.  He hated going nappy free.  I mean, really HATED it.  Then one day, around a month after his third birthday, he said: “I not need a nappy anymore mummy”.

And that was that.

I know it seems too good to be true, but, overnight he was dry.  He can even go for a nap without having an accident.  I don’t have to ask him if he needs, he just takes himself to the potty.

This can be a little embarrassing if you are in the company of someone you don’t know that well.  He is likely to grab his potty, plonk it in front of said stranger, pull his pants down and settle to do a number 2.  And, yes, this has happened to us on more than one occasion.

Seven months later, I can count on my one hand how many accidents he has had.

The Reluctant Learner

L was a very different experience.  He was happy to go without his nappy from around the age of two.  He didn’t mind being sat on the potty. Providing you sat him down at regular intervals, this worked.  But he most certainly was not ready to feel for himself when he needed to go.

He had multiple accidents; by this I mean some days only accidents.  We tried everything: reward charts, bribery, ignoring it…

Nothing worked.

18 months later, he was home sick from kindergarten.  This week I was more concerned with nursing my poorly baby back to health and didn’t push the potty on him.  By the end of the week he just started to go to the potty on his own.  After years of trying to train him to use the potty, he just did it on his own.

He still has accidents but on the whole I would say this box is now ticked.

Different cultures, different rules

On reflection, I wonder if we have the wrong attitude towards this milestone?

We are Brits living in Germany.  Over the years we have noticed lots of things that differ between the two countries, despite sharing many similarities.  One of which is the attitude to potty training, which is vastly different.

For British preschool, it is frowned upon to rock up to preschool in nappies.  In fact, a quick google search finds various threads from frustrated parents on this issue.  In some cases, places being revoked at preschool due to children not being potty trained.

Furthermore, potty training is considered just that.


The emphasis is on the parent.  Your child isn’t potty trained?  You, the parent, are doing something wrong.  I know people in the UK whose children are not ready to make the transition from nappies but have no choice but to send their children to pre-school in pants.  It was that or no pre-school.  It strikes me that this risks creating anxiety around learning to use the potty.

When looking online, I find it hard to find out what the law is around that.  I have read that pre-schools cannot reject pupils based on being toilet trained, yet it seems to happen.

The NHS Website recommends: “Using a potty is a new skill for your child to learn. It’s best to take it slowly and go at your child’s pace”.   So why does this seem to be lost along the way at some schools?   The NHS website recommends that most children will be nappy free by four. Yet this rule is sometimes enforced at three.  It is a contradiction.

German kindergarten has a completely different approach.  When I sent L into kindergarten in pants for a few days, he was sent home with bags of dirty clothes.  Accident after accident.  The teacher pulled me to one side and said: “Let’s put him back in pull-ups.  Children do it in their own time, no need to pressurise him.  It will happen when he is ready.”

L was getting very distressed at kindergarten when he had an accident and the teacher was concerned that this was just delaying things.

I was dubious about this.

After all, I had been told on a few occasions that I needed to hurry the boys along.  That really, by this age, they should be out of nappies.  Yet, instinct told me the kindergarten teacher was making sense.  “All children are different” the teacher said.  She was so right.

We had a new tactic. Pull-ups in kindergarten, pants at home.  This way, at home, he could have anxiety-free accidents.  The teacher was spot on, fast-forward a month and he was nappy free at kindergarten too.  No stress.  No anxiety.  Minimal trouble.

This whole experience makes me think, maybe it should not be called ‘potty training’.  Maybe we should just see it for what it is.  A milestone that, like all other milestones, will happen in their own time.  When they are ready.  Something that just requires calm and reassured consistency from teachers and parents.

Let’s drop the ‘training’ and change it to ‘supporting’.

Tell me about your experience of potty training in the comments section below.  What age were your children ‘trained’?

Mum, Dad and Child's hand on top of the other. Lets change potty training to supporting.

Like this post?  Check out Quiet Hours in Germany

Comparing Potty Training in the UK to Germany. What are the differences and what can we learn?