Oh I couldn’t be a “stay at home mum” – what would I do all day?? Have you ever had someone say that to you? Coz honestly, I was not this busy when I had a full time job. I’m not sure what I would call myself because I certainly don’t “stay at home”. And the housework doesn’t get a look in.
My boys are 4 and 18 months and my journey since I had them has led me into such a variety of exciting projects, things are far more interesting than when I was “employed”. When my eldest, Edward, was a toddler I used to volunteer at the local Children’s Centre and then I joined the committee of a local Playgroup where I took him to Toddlers. After a year on the committee I decided to resign as I was heavily pregnant with David and didn’t think I’d have the time to continue with my role. About a week after my “resignation” I had agreed to become the Chairman. Still not quite sure how that happened….
Being Chairman of Raglan Road Preschool Playgroup in Sale has been such a privilege and it’s something that I hope to continue with until David starts at school (if they’ll have me!). I have met some fantastic people, had lots of fun, been involved in fundraisers and social events and had plenty of meetings in the pub. It has definitely made me feel more a part of the community.
Little did I know that when I took on the role of Chairman it would be even more complicated than simply juggling that role and two children. When I was 38 weeks pregnant a routine midwife appointment picked up a problem with David’s heartbeat. A week later, following scans at UHSM and St Mary’s, David was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. This is a congenital heart defect, not something genetic just something that “happens”, and it means that the left side of his heart doesn’t work. David was born in St Mary’s by c-section at 39 weeks and was transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital the following day, where he had his first open heart surgery at 5 days old. He had his second op when he was 5 months and will need at least one more at the age of 3 or 4. The care that we as a family have received from everyone – health visitors to cardiologists, community nurses to paediatricians – has been incredible.
David’s first operation was the day before the Raglan Road AGM when I was voted in as Chairman and I have to say that the support of the staff and committee since then has been amazing. The first year with David was a rocky road, but his condition led me to the wonderful charity Lagan’s Foundation, which supports families like ours who have children under 5 with congenital heart defects and/or feeding difficulties (which are often associated with cardiac conditions). I spent around twelve months as a member of the charity’s Events Team and had the honour of helping them to raise funds to train and support volunteers who provide in home and in hospital support to families going through unimaginable stresses and strains. 1 in every 100 babies is born with a congenital heart defect – that is 12-15 babies every day.
There are now two projects that keeps me away from the washing and ironing – the first is a campaign to improve the support available for breastfeeding on paediatric wards (as distinct from NICUs and maternity wards). This was the only area where I had any criticism for Alder Hey, and I have been working with their Health Promotions team for the past six months to help them to revise their Breastfeeding policies. This led me to discussions on Twitter under the hashtag #hospitalbreastfeeding, through which I have met so many inspirational and dedicated people, both within the NHS and in voluntary organisations. The culmination of this was the launch in November of my website www.heartmummy.co.uk which aims to help healthcare professionals to better support breastfeeding in a paediatric setting.
My activities on Twitter led me to the wonderful Florence Wilcock and Gill Phillips who have together launched the MatExp campaign to improve maternity services across the UK. This campaign was chosen to be one of ten campaigns featured in the 2015 NHS Change Day event, and I was privileged to be asked to be a breastfeeding champion for the campaign, alongside Emma Jane Sasaru. This campaign has amazing energy and I am so excited to be a part of it and to see where it goes. My biggest contribution to date has been the survey I put together of birth professionals (see the results here).
On a regular basis I even find time to play with my children. Just don’t check behind my sofa, because I won’t have hoovered.
Text adapted from an “In The Spotlight” post I did for Mums In The Know, Hale & Altrincham in December 2014 (http://www.mumsintheknow.co.uk/hale/)
P.S. – there’s something else too. But it’s a secret, okay?