Wednesday, 26 February 2014

We've got a new pet! It's called Nanni... aka the Nano V2

Curly Girl's favourite thing in all the world is not her brother, me or her Dad. It's her dog - 'Doggy Woof'. We bought him in IKEA when she was about 18 months old and they've been inseparable ever since. He has presided over every major event in her life (and been washed a lot as a result) and sleeps tucked up in her arms every night. This is TRUE love people.

Lately however, she's started asking for a real pet. Which is not going to happen.

OH is allergic to animal hair and I'm allergic to cleaning up after them. And feeding them. And taking them to the vet. Whatever she promises about how she will faithfully look after a dog/cat/mouse/rat/hamster you KNOW it will be my responsibility after about 5 minutes.

So it was fortuitous that HexBugs tweeted me back in Janurary and and invited me to their stand at the London Toy Fair 2014 for a peek at their new range of micro robotic creatures - the Nano V2. They run on a watch battery, scuttle convincingly around build-your-own tracks, don't need feeding and don't poo. I tried not to dance on the spot.

Last week, during half term, a package arrived. The Nano V2 Infinity Loop. Complete with a little Nano. The Nano V2 is an evolution of the original Nano range - it now has little spikes along it's back so that it can climb vertically and even move upside down. Pretty cool and strangely life-like (although not quite enough to make your skin crawl thankfully).

The Nano V2 Infinity Loop
Putting the track together only took about ten minutes (all the parts snap together) but under the watchful eye of an impatient toddler it felt like a test from The Krypton Factor (is it just me or do you need to be a an engineer to even get into the packaging for most toys these days?). Eventually the Infinity Loop was ready and I used the little switch on the Nano V2's belly to turn it on.

What followed was pure, unadulterated wonder.

It scuttled. It ran. It went inside the loops, upside down and round and round. Little Man watched with dinner plate eyes, completely transfixed. Curly Girl squealed with delight. Here's what happened next...

"Hello little Nano," she said then switching it off and cradling it in her hand. "You can be my pet." And she promptly walked off to show it her playroom and introduce all the other toys. Nanni the Nano joined us all day long and had adventures all over the house. We took apart the Infinity Loop and rebuilt it in different ways to see what Nanni thought of it. We tried Nanni in a tray and along the hallway. That night Nanni the Nano slept in Curly Girl's room.

A week later and the Infinity Loop is sitting on the shelf. The trouble with pets that aren't really pets is that you can't interact with them in the same way as a dog or cat. "They're really for watching, aren't they Mummy," is how Curly Girl put it. Kids are succinct, eh?

But that's not the real reason that Nanni the Nano is on the shelf. Nanny is waiting.

You see as soon as the Nano V2 arrived Curly Girl raided her piggy bank and the Octonauts Tunip she was saving up for was immediately suplanted. Yes, we're waiting for a new member of the family. Nanni will soon have a brother or sister. And THEN, I have no doubt, the fun will start all over again. In duplicate. We're planning obstacle courses that would challenge the best Wipe Out contestants. Oh yes. And Curly Girl has already decided on a name - NooNoo.

The Nano V2 Infinity Loop costs £19.99 from and the range is also available at

Disclosure: We were sent the Nano V2 Infinity Loop to review and received no other compensation. 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Silent Sunday

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Possible solutions for my aching knees?

Image courtesy of scottchan /
I've always had troublesome knees. What started out as growing pains became a trip to the physiotherapist by the time I was a teenager. As it turned out my knee caps, or platela, were not properly aligned; the ligaments that were supposed to keep them straight were actually pulling them off to one side because one was much stronger than the other. Seriously uncomfortable exercises to strengthen the weaker side and daily palpetations of each platela to stimulate more of the fluid production that oils the 'coggs' of the knees - synovial fluid to be technical - did help.

Then I took up skiing. And motorbikes. And running. And having babies. And running again.

Yeah, that didn't do my knees much good.

I've bought a fab new pair of running shoes and that's helped a bit but even so popping the odd Nurofen when I get back from a five mile run has become second nature to me and that's not ideal. Studies have shown that long term use of anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (they're called NSIADs in the medical profession) can cause all manner of nastiness including corroding your digestive system. *Gulp*

A possible solution for aching knees?

So when Regenovex and Deep Relief contacted me to see if I'd like to try out their products and see the results on my knees for myself I was very interested. I agreed to forgo the Nurofen after runs and just use these products for 30 days to see if they could ease the aches. Here's the technical info:

So what is it? Regenovex combines two ingredients from natural sources - marine Bionovex® Oil and Hyaluronic acid (HA). Marine Bionovex® Oil comes from Green Lipped Mussels found only in the waters between North and South islands of New Zealand and  helps encourage the body to produce its own anti-inflammatory agent, lipoxin. Hyaluronic acid (HA) is found naturally in the body in a wide range of tissues, including the joint cartilage and it's also a major component of synovial fluid. It restores lubrication, provides cushioning, allows movement and helps to maintain the health of the joint. Regenovex comes in capsules and a gel that you rub onto joints up to three times a day. It's suitable for adults of all ages and, so the packaging says, particularly those over 39 *ahem*, (although it shouldn't be used by pregnant/breastfeeding women or by those allergic to molluscs or shellfish).

So basically lubrication and cushioning. Sounds like just what I need.

Deep Relief
This is a gel that you apply to your skin. It has two ingredients that have been clinically proven to help to fight pain - ibuprofen and levomenthol. The ibuprofen reduces pain by damping down inflammation and swelling while the levomenthol delivers cooling pain relief by diluting pain signals (basically our brains think it's an ice pack) and helps the ibuprofen to penetrate the skin. It's recommended for the relief of rheumatic pain and muscular aches, pains and swellings such as strains and sprains and sports injuries in adults and children over 12 years.

Did they work?

Ok, so you've read the blurb and how they work. But did they work for me?

Let's talk about Regenovex first. I followed the instructions on the packet and took two capsules a day for the first ten days, then one tablet a day. I've now finished the packet and my knees haven't been quite as sore after running. The aches haven't disappeared miraculously but there is a little easing when I'm out pounding the road. Is this because of the Regenovex or because of my new running shoes or because I'm just getting stronger? I'm not sure, but I'm happy about it.

On the other hand I can honestly say that for this blogger Deep Relief works. Unlike other ibuprofen based gels I've tried a quick smear rubbed in well after a shower and after 15 minutes or so any aching is greatly reduced. It's even helped the strange twinge I've been getting in the ligament that runs from my big toe down my foot - anyone know what it's called? - I'm calling it Runner's Toe. And because I'm applying it to my skin instead of popping a pill there's no nasty side effects.

Would I buy them?

Although it's available in the UK at most Boots stores so it's easy to get hold of, at £23.99 for a pack of 30 capsules (£11.29 for the gel version) Regenovex is a bit expensive for me. However, if my knees get any worse I might have to consider adding it to my supplement list. Deep Relief on the other hand comes in two size packs - 50g (£5.95 RRP) and 100g (£10.89 RRP) and is something that I'd definitely keep in my first aid kit for aches and strains. It simply works for me.

What are your go-to solutions for aching knees?

Monday, 17 February 2014

Post Natal Depression: Our first birth story - the aftermath

At the beginning of February I finally published and of our first birth story after almost five years. They were two of the hardest posts that I've ever written - I wanted to document what happened to ensure that I didn't lose those difficult but important memories.

But that isn't the end of the story. That isn't how this blog came about.

Post Natal Depression is how this blog came about.

And this was perhaps the hardest post of all to write.

I've let it sit in it's draft form for a week now, reading and re-reading it. But it's not going to change what happened. It's time just to press 'publish' and hope that my story somehow helps someone else who is struggling to cope after a traumatic birth and it's aftermath.

* * * * *

Image courtesy of Master isolated images /
The first few days after the birth were as traumatic as the birth itself. Curly Girl was so tiny that she struggled to feed well. And without the support of a health visitor or midwife visiting me at home I had no idea that she wasn't gaining the right amount of weight. When I finally took her back to the hospital for a check-up she was pronounced malnourished and I was chastised for not feeding her properly. I was doing the best I could but it wasn't enough.

When the paediatrician left the room I sobbed hysterically in my own Mother's arms. We were given a strict regime of breastfeeding every two hours round the clock and I was told to pump after every feed. Pretty soon I was mentally and physically exhausted. On top of this Curly Girl did not sleep. She cried all night long, it seemed, and we walked her up and down the apartment for hours at a time, thinking she had colic. We emptied bottle after bottle of Infacol, syringing it into her little mouth, hoping it would help.

I realise now that she was probably just hungry, unable to take in enough of the nourishment that her tiny body needed because she was just too small.

Thankfully the strict regime worked and she gradually started to gain weight. I dozed between feeds either on a chair or the cushioned window seat in the nursery so that OH could get the sleep he needed to go to work. Slowly time passed but after a few weeks my Mother had to go back to the UK and the lack of sleep and support and constant stress of her weight gain left me ragged and withdrawn.

I obsessed about my milk and wrote down the length each feed, timing them to the minute and keeping a detailed log.

When OH travelled on business I struggled to cope. From the elation of finally seeing our beautiful little girl in my arms after waiting and trying for SO long, I began to feel no emotion towards her at all. I knew that I should be happy but I felt numb and ungrateful. I was so tired but I couldn't sleep. Thoughts started to pass through my head. Bad thoughts.

It was OH who came back from a business trip and realised I needed help. And thankfully, after a distraught and tearful consultation with a private psychologist I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression (now often called Post Natal Illness or PNI). She told me the thoughts I was having were normal after the trauma that I'd been through. She offered me anti-depressants but I refused them, fearful of the side effects. And so we turned to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and she taught me coping strategies that I could use when the black days came. One of them was writing.

Image courtesy of dan /

I wrote and wrote. I wrote on the good days. I wrote on the bad days. I wrote when I wanted to cry and scream. I wrote when it became too much.

And through the writing I started to find a way back to me. A way to cope. A release through creativity.

And then, eventually, seventeen months after the birth of our first child, the writing bore new fruit.

Bod for tea was born.

* * * * *
Post Natal Depression

Thankfully, through writing and a lot of support, I found my way through the fog of Post Natal Depression. These are some of the symptoms of PND (from PND Support) :
  • Tearfulness, weeping frequently
  • Panic attacks & anxiety
  • Being unable to sleep or feeling exhausted even when you have had sleep
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks to your labour & birth
  • Feeling physically ill, and physical symptoms such as chest pain, headaches, dizziness
  • Constant worry over your own health or that of your child/children
  • Worries over cot death
  • Not feeling any emotion to your baby
  • Obsessive thoughts or repetitive chanting thoughts or voices
  • Thoughts that you may harm your child or a member of your family either accidentally or deliberately, most mums with PND DO NOT harm their children
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Many women describe feeling in a deep pit or suffocating feeling
  • Worries over everyday objects that could cause harm to yourself or your child - e.g knives, stairs, even cars or buses
  • Self harm
  • Feeling numb & lack of emotion
  • Putting on a brave face to hide how you feel
  • Feeling like a failure and a “bad Mother”
  • Feeling of wanting to escape and that your family would be better off without you
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
If you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself get in touch with someone - your doctor, your health visitor, your family or one of these organsations and ask for help.

House of Light - PND Support - 0800 043 2031
Samaritans - 08457 90 90 90

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Which Wonderful Women am I with today?

Today I'm proud to be featured alongside some really strong and interesting women over at Honest Mum, the blog of the uber talented and very glamorous Vicki, a film maker and mum of two who somehow also finds the time to craft the style blog Mummy's Got Style.

You've probably had your fill of me (although there are a few titbits in there that you might find interesting...) but do click through to read the rest of the Wonderful Women series including Olympic Swimmer Becky Adlington, writer Hazel Davis, Baby Sleep Expert Jo Tantum, actress Isabel Pravda and wonderful fellow bloggers Hayley from Downs Side Up, Alice Judge-Talbot from More Than Toast and Suzanne from Ghostwritermummy (who incidentally inspired me to write  and - two of the most difficult to write posts I've published here).

Monday, 10 February 2014

Dear Little Man..

...please don't grow

Don't change your blue sky eyes, your little toes, your finger curls, your button nose

Please don't stop

The snuggles, the laughter, the happiness the morning after

the night before

when you screamed for three hours

My arms ache from rocking, my throat hoarse and sore, my lips stiff from pursing to shush you once more

In the end I lay in your cot and balanced you on my stomach, trying to soothe you to no avail

You buried your head into me, you tried to settle but you were so pale

from the pain

So please don't grow

But if at all possible (I beg on my knees)

can we not have a another night like last night, pretty please?

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Silent Sunday

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Our first birth story - part two


I remember that my initial reaction wasn't fear, but excitement. I didn't think too much about the process, the epidural, the operation at that moment. I didn't even think about what having a premature baby would mean. We totally trusted Michelle and after so long waiting at the hospital I couldn't wait to meet our little girl.

Nurses came to shave and gown me in preparation for the operation and at 1.50pm I was helped onto a gurney in my room. OH held my hand and kissed me goodbye - he had to wait while I was wheeled through a maze of corridors by an orderly. Lying on my back looking at the ceiling I noticed the broken lights and ceiling tiles and thought again how different this probably all was to what most Mums-to-be experienced back at home. 

We went up to the fourth floor of the hospital in a noisy goods lift alongside an elderly man in a wheelchair, just inches from my almost bare body. Finally I was wheeled into a large white room and transferred to another table for my epidural. Michelle was there waiting for me, all prepared in her operating gown. The technician barked in Mandarin and Michelle translated that I needed to lie on my side and stay completely still. The table was uncomfortable and I felt like a beached whale. I'd put on so much weight by now that every little movement was difficult. Michelle told me that I would feel a little sting from the injection to numb the area before the epidural was done. Thinking back I can't isolate the two things in my mind - all I can remember is the pain as the needle went in. And came out. And went in again. I kept thinking that this didn't seem right. I don't know how many times they tried to do the epidural but I do remember Michelle holding my hand so tightly and telling me to try and stay calm. I know now that it took 45 minutes.

Eventually they lay me on my back and I started to feel my legs go numb. I was wheeled into another room, the operating theatre, where thankfully OH was waiting for me. By this point I was scared. The curtain was put up between Michelle and us and OH held my hand. I looked into his face with tears in my eyes.

I didn't feel the incision. But we both heard the rush of water as it escaped out of me and hit the floor.

Then I started to feel again. Hands inside me, hands tugging, pulling. The pain started as a dull ache but grew quickly. Tears were running down my face and OH told Michelle that I could feel everything, that I was in pain. But she said that it was too late, she had to take our baby now.

I couldn't believe this was happening. Was she ok? Was everything alright? I didn't care about anything else as long as our baby was safe but the pain kept coming in waves.

And so OH and I went through the visualisation technique that we'd practised in case we'd been lucky enough to have a natural birth. He took me to our mountain at Mont Tremblant in Quebec. He made me feel the cold air on my skin, showed me the beautiful blue sky. He led me skiing down the mountain as he had done countless times for real and I focussed every ounce of my being on that ski run.

I know now that what I couldn't see, what OH could see as he lifted his head to tell Michelle what I was feeling, was our doctor kneeling on the operating table, her hands in my belly up to her elbow, wrenching our baby out of my body. And I'm all the more grateful for his cool head.

And then she was out. Our beautiful little baby girl, just 66oz, joined us in the world. Through the blur of tears I wanted to see her, to hold her but the nurses put her in an incubator before I had the chance. We agreed that OH should go to be with her.

Then... nothing.

I woke up out of a morphine-induced sleep back in our room. I had desperately wanted to do skin-to-skin and breastfeed from the start but as I looked over I could see Michelle sitting on the sofa feeding our baby girl her first milk from a bottle, showing OH what to do.

She was so tiny, so fragile, it broke my heart.

Please don't think that I feel any ill-will towards the nurses and doctors in China. On the contrary without their help we wouldn't have had our miracle. They did what needed to be done. It wasn't the fairytale birth that I'd planned for, hoped for, but after five years we finally had our baby girl.

Our first birth story - part one

This is the first in a series of posts that I have found very difficult to write.

I've written before about my  and the challenging but miraculous fertility treatment we received in China, but I've never written the full birth story of our little girl.

There is a good reason for that.

If you've read my page you'll know that I started this blog as part of my therapy for Post Natal Depression. In fact it wasn't until more recently that I've come to understand that it was probably the traumatic birth of our daughter, Curly Girl, and not just her prematurity or being isolated from friends and family, that was one of the main contributing factors to my depression. I don't write about my PND very often, if at all. I thought that was because I'd recovered completely, but when I sat down to finally write this after reading a birth trauma post by the lovely Suzanne at Ghostwriter Mummy, I realised that I just don't have all the memories.

I have blocked out a large part of my daughter's early life. That realisation leaves me stunned and sad.

I feel that I need to go back in my mind to those early dark days and piece together what I can. Not for closure or resolution - I've moved on - but because I can't bear the thought of losing these precious times, however difficult they were. If I have learned anything in the last year from brave, beautiful Jennie and little Matilda Mae it is that every moment has to be cherished.

And so here is part one of our first birth story.

On June 25th 2009 Michael Jackson died. I remember precisely where I was when I heard the news on CNN because I was lying in a hospital bed in Shanghai, China, just across the street from our apartment, willing my baby to grow.

She had always been small for her dates, but our week 34 scan showed that her slow growth had slowed too much and somehow my amniotic fluid level had started to drop. Ten days later she'd gained no weight at all and the fluid had dropped again, this time down to just under 7cm. Our American born Chinese OBGYN, Michelle, admitted me immediately into hospital so that we could be monitored closely. I was put on an IV drip, paddles were strapped to my belly and I watched as a graph of our baby's heartbeat spewed out on long sheets of paper, the nurses chatting in Mandarin around me. I caught a word every so often and tried to figure out what they were saying but it was too exhausting so in the end I let it wash over me. Michelle popped in later and confirmed that so far everything was ok but I'd have to stay in overnight.

As it turned out I didn't go home until our baby was born.

As well as breakfast, lunch and dinner the nurses started bringing me protein shakes three times a day, the kind a weight lifter drinks. I breathed in thirty minutes of oxygen every few hours, burning my nose and drying my throat. I was given three steroid injection to help strengthen her little lungs, preparing for the likelihood of an early c-section. Michelle wanted to try and hold on until 37 weeks because there was no neo-natal ward at the expat hospital we were in and she didn't want to have to transfer us to the local hospital unless it became absolutely necessary. (If you've read about my experience of , you'll know why I was so grateful for this.)

At a time when I should have been nesting at home it was all very scary and bright and real.

I listened to Sarah Kennedy on Radio 2 over the internet, her reassuring voice telling me the time at home, the weather, the news, anything to still my mind. OH had joined me in the hospital, working from a desk in the corner of my room and going back to our apartment to sleep.

And all the time I had to eat, eat, eat in the hope that it would help our tiny baby to gain weight. 

My weight went up to 11st 8lb.
Hers didn't budge an ounce.

Michelle told us this meant that my placenta wasn't functioning properly and was 'maturing' or starting to break down too early. At the same time I was reabsorbing my amniotic fluid, leaving baby in a dangerous position. Guilt and anger at my own body flooded through me - why had it stopped nourishing and protecting our baby? Then the fear began to creep through my veins, after everything we'd been through to get this far had fate finally caught up with me, was it reeling me back in? (No, no, you're not supposed to have children, you didn't think you actually could, did you?)

The days passed slowly and I had a scan every morning to check our little one's weight and length. Seeing her bobbing about on the screen was a blessing that I looked forward to - just to know that she was still there, still alive, still moving. I began to obsess about fluid levels and heart rates, learning more than I ever wanted to know about the importance of every little ounce and bpm.

On the morning of 6 July 2009, I had my daily scan as usual. But this morning something was different. We could never understand what Michelle and the technician were saying to each other but this time she didn't translate for us. She watched the monitor closely. Then we were sent back to our room. A few minutes later she came in and told us that our little baby girl's breathing had started to slow, ever so slightly, and so she wanted to take her now. I would be having a c-section at 36 weeks in three hours time...

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Silent Sunday

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