18 minutes 36 seconds

Tags

, , ,

Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, is a type of bone marrow cancer arising from plasma cells, which are normally found in the bone marrow. Plasma cells form part of your immune system

I’d not long joined the M4 Eastbound on Wednesday morning when Radio Four was abruptly silenced to be replaced by the melodic ringtone of my phone gently demanding my attention. When I looked at the cars display ‘Dad Mobile’ was there and I suddenly lost the ability to press the correct button on the steering wheel. It’s important to understand that I’m not new to hands free or indeed the set up in my beloved Octavia but my brain seemed to take a lifetime commanding my hand and for one reason only. This was to be the first time I’d spoken to him since learning on Monday evening from my Mother that the ongoing (severe) pain he’d been suffering in his back / ribs was being caused by multiple myeloma, or, in simple terms cancer. 
Of course I knew that we’d speak but what would we talk about? After finding out on Monday night I sobbed to Rachel trying to work out what to say via text knowing he was in hospital, in pain and five hours away. We tend to talk most weeks (when the football seasons on) and spend most of our conversation discussing York City’s latest defeat with maybe the odd dip into real life, work, etc but never anything serious. A serious conversation between us is a rare event and we’ve managed to muddle through my 43 years avoiding them, think Father and Son ‘Men Behaving Badly’ and you won’t be far off (he even has Tony’s hair, well ok maybe 60% of Tony’s hair nowadays).
So as I drove along I spoke to him yet the voice was of someone that I almost didn’t recognise, if it’s possible to hear fear and pain I heard it. We spoke practically about treatment ‘options’ and plans like you would plans of a new car. I asked stupid questions about possible retirement and wondered if he’d ever be fit enough to own the canal boat he’s dreamt of at retirement. For eighteen minutes and thirty six seconds I was consumed with emotions the like of which I’ve never felt before. My Dad’s fit and healthy, he plays tennis, he watches what he drinks, he has salad for tea on a Saturday night for Christ’s sake. Every Saturday fucking night! He doesn’t get ill, he doesn’t take time off work, infact for as long as I’ve been on this planet he’s given his all to the same company and worked his way up. My Dad’s a good guy, and if I end up being half the Father for Noah he’s been for me then I can rest assured my boy will have a good laughter filled (shit football team supporting) life.
As I type this in another non de script hotel room somewhere outside of Oxford he’s in Weston Park hospital in Sheffield (hopefully resting) before another dose of radiotherapy tomorrow to zap the growth that’s impinging on his spinal cord causing immeasurable pain. As for prognosis he’s young (in myeloma terms) and certainly otherwise fit and healthy so it’s hoped that a fairly full on treatment regime of drugs and treatment of the stem cells can kick this disease squarely in the nuts, from what I understand the aim is to get it to plateau (as it can’t be ‘cured’) then monitor in the future.
The last word of the previous paragraph is my biggest fear, just what does the future hold now for my Dad, for my Mum, for all of us? Whatever it may be we’ll be there for him 24/7 as only a family can be. In his own words we’ve to ‘plan for the worst yet hope for the best’, he always has been a practical bugger…

The Art of Noise

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Far from a blog about the group that brought us Peter Gunn in the 1980’s (Google it kids) the title of my blog refers to the worst enemy of any parent of any baby anywhere praying that their beloved will get a decent night sleep. Noise!

Never before the arrival of N into our bijou beachside apartment / ever so slightly fusty flat have we been so aware of anything and everything that can make a noise and how these evil forces conspire to ruin a restful night. Let me explain further, we don’t have the luxury of a nursery or even a second bedroom so going to bed once the little guy is sleeping isn’t the easiest of things. There’s no bedside lights only the vague glow of N’s bedside light which I’m sure actually emits black light it’s so dim, this doesn’t sound such an issue until you realise our one bedroom flat is fast filling up with baby detritus (to accompany our own special collections of ‘stuff’). Now before you glaze over at the contents of our humble abode please consider that all these items, in the dark, in the bedroom, with bare feet, f**king hurt! Now consider that, after harpooning yourself with the soon to be assembled cot or colourful (yet stealthy) rocking horse you cannot even acknowledge your pain with so much as a breath.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen the rocking horse could rear up and bite a limb clean off but compared to the damage R would do to me for waking the baby it’s a mere flesh wound, a nasty knick if you will. Seriously I’m not the quietest of people as it is but now it would appear everything I do in the bedroom could result in serious injury to my person. Gone are the days of waltzing into ‘your’ bedroom and flinging yourself onto the bed whilst breaking wind with the force of a 747… If you snore then expect to be woken regularly to be told you’re snoring (a personal favourite), don’t for the love of all things holy watch anything remotely amusing on your phone (even with headphones) as there’s a danger you may smile ‘loudly’, and never EVER try and talk to your beloved in anything louder than semaphore.

Now, if the above fills you with dread then please don’t panic there is one ‘word’ you need to learn, study, recite and become your baby mantra. That word ladies and gents is *clears throat*

‘Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh’

Not as in ‘you’re being too noisy in the library’ or perhaps ‘be quiet we’re trying to enjoy this film’. No, far from the above examples this collection of consonants now means ‘be quiet or I’ll tear your head from your shoulders with my bare hands’. As harsh as that may sound it’s true. A sleeping baby really should never, ever be woken. If that means internal injury due to stifling a cough or getting out of bed and dashing to another time zone to break wind then do it and do it time and time again. Oh and don’t dare fling yourself over when moving in bed, use every ounce of your pathetic core strength to make your movements as subtle as the time you tried to slide your arm round your teen sweetheart in the back row of the Odeon cinema way back when and pray to whichever entity you prefer that your baby didn’t hear a thing.

If the above all sounds very bleak and you’re thinking that moving into the garden shed / neighbour’s garage / Venezuela for a few years might be easier then don’t despair for I have good(ish) news. This news of what I speak also contains noise, but this is white noise…

When I first heard of white noise I first thought of torture techniques along the lines of waterboarding etc but, far from the alleged practice of the Amercian intelligence agencies this stuff is actually pretty good for babies. That’s right folks, a good noise (thank God I hear your cry / whisper) that you can play from your phone to try and fill the background silence with noise that your little chap or chapess can focus on and perhaps, just maybe, it might help them sleep. Now that’s the good news, the bad news is what seems to be one of the most commonly used noises. That noise, is running water which when you’re ‘thirty twelve’ can sometimes affect one’s bladder and it’s desire to be emptied thus causing another nocturnal trip through the detritus minefield…

Sleep well my friends

Miscarriage

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

miscarriage
mɪsˈkarɪdʒ,ˈmɪskarɪdʒ/
noun
noun: miscarriage; plural noun: miscarriages
1. the spontaneous or unplanned expulsion of a fetus from the womb before it is able to survive independently.
“his wife had a miscarriage”
synonyms: spontaneous abortion, stillbirth
2. an unsuccessful outcome of something planned.
“the miscarriage of the project”
synonyms: failure, foundering, ruin, ruination, collapse, breakdown, thwarting, frustration, undoing, reversal, setback, unsuccessfulness, aborting, non-fulfilment, misfiring, mismanagement, perversion

So there you have it in black and white and so far as definition 1 above quite shockingly plain English. I’d never realised how common an occurrence they were until R and I had one a year for three years and slowly but surely folk came out with their own stories of loss and eventually hope. I’ve been asked to write a little about how it felt from the man’s perspective and this is it.

R and I met in June 2009, by the September were living together and in the October we were on holiday in Lanzarote. It was on that holiday that we made the decision that R should stop taking the pill and we’d ‘give it a go’, neither of us were young so far as having children was concerned so time was of the essence and hey we kind of liked each other…

Almost immediately R fell pregnant, this was amazing and I remember feeling elated that

(a) We’d created new life that would be our child

and

(b) My testicles actually worked!!

Point ‘b’ may seem a little childish but I can’t tell you the relief of knowing that my undercarriage actually functioned as it should.

So fast forward to around ten weeks and R starting bleeding, steadily bleeding. I remember pacing round our living room demanding that surely that the midwives should or could do something…anything and wishing that Google and it’s plethora of information didn’t exist because then I wouldn’t know that this bleeding was most likely the start of a miscarriage. Alas it was and a few days later R’s body ‘passed the products’ of the pregnancy, rather morbidly she retained the little sack for the midwives as requested (not that they ever came to see) and for me to see when I returned from Bristol after working up there for the day. It reminded me of the body of a small squid, we were heartbroken, upset and in disbelief that we’d had a miscarriage.

So far as I was concerned miscarriages happened in soap operas much like plane crashes or meteor strikes, they exist just not in ‘real’ life. I did all I could to support R emotionally and physically over the weeks afterwards until the physical signs had gone and all that was left was wondering about what could have been.

Moving on another year and, after lots of disappointing months of periods arriving like clockwork R and I started using a Clearblue fertility monitor. It basically meant I knew what day of her cycle R was on and, when the indications were right it was ‘time’. If I say that sex became a bit of a chore as it was so premeditated maybe you’ll get the picture. Again at around the same time as pregnancy number one R thought she might be pregnant as she was late, but then one evening whilst cooking dinner she told me through floods of tears she’d had a heavy bleed with ‘something in it’. So that was that we thought but, after speaking to the local midwives we were advised to go for an emergency scan.

A very brusque Doctor with little joy in his life ushered us into a side room, pressed zoom a few times and zoomed in on a heartbeat! We were amazed, absolutely amazed and left with the news R was around eight weeks pregnant and everything looked ok. There was some suggestion that the first bleed might have been a twin but we were just elated that there was a pregnancy and the excitement grew up to our twelve week scan date.

We were again blessed with a stroppy sonographer who berated R for still having belly bar in and was quite off with us, her attitude changed within a few seconds of starting the scan. We all three stared at the screen from our various vantage points looking for our little collection of cells and it’s heartbeat but there was no telltale flicker on the screen. That little heart had stopped beating.

We had second opinions, an internal scan (which looked thoroughly unpleasant and uncomfortable) and with the miscarriage confirmed we were taken away from the other happy expectant folk in the waiting room to a side room somewhere. We were eventually sent on our way with kind words, a leaflet with pansies on the front about grief and guidance of the options to R to ‘get rid’ of the products (yup that word again) had ‘gone’.

R elected to go home and let nature take its course naturally as she didn’t fancy surgical procedure or drugs. Those days waiting were strange, disconcerting and emotionally draining but came to a head early one Monday morning as I awoke to R’s guttural moans from the living room. She was clearly in horrific pain and was bleeding quite heavily, she’d decided not to wake me as I had to go to work but this had all kicked off two hours previously!!

A couple of phone calls to the local midwives and then the maternity unit (80 minutes drive away) and I was advised to call 999, there’s something very grown up about pressing those hallowed numbers but within around five minutes we had an ambulance with two lovely technicians and R was eventually (after more heavy bleeding) put in the ambulance for the trip to Exeter. What I didn’t find out until later was that the ambulance had to stop due to R’s blood loss en route as they were very concerned so it was a blue light run to Exeter.

What I did next I can’t explain, I went to the loo (routine what can I say), had a shave, got dressed and then drove to the hospital. Don’t ask why but it seemed the right thing to do at the time, a bit like the bag I packed for R that included a thong rather than the ‘big pants’ that would have been a little more practical. Perhaps I was in shock?

It turned out that R’s cervix had become blocked so as much as her body tried it was struggling to pass the products of pregnancy. Believe me when I say that day I saw things that would make many a student doctor blanch!

We’re perhaps fortunate in our household to make a joke of anything and everything, it’s how I (and many others) cope in times of stress. We cried together, I often cried alone but slowly and surely we put ourselves back together again and distracted ourselves with wine, holidays and work. I found it tougher than the first time and remember being especially annoyed at the NHS not wanting to offer any tests or support until we’d had three miscarriages. THREE?!?

So (and there’s a pattern emerging here) we again lived by the monitor, that monitor controlled our sex life once more to the point that the whole act at times became little more than a biological transaction. If that sounds harsh then it should, I longed for spontaneity and (as I’d now call it) ‘leisure sex’ that’s about mutual enjoyment rather than reproduction. We even laughed at the amount of years we’d tried to avoid pregnancies and now it was all we were trying to achieve!!

Eventually we were pregnant once more, R went through a dry (and at times tedious) Christmas and we soldiered on in the hope that this time was the one whilst joking privately that at least this time we’d get some tests done if / when the house of cards came tumbling down. Those cards did indeed come down once more at a scan where we were told that there was ‘nothing’ there and the pregnancy must have stopped growing at around ten weeks. I swear my heart broke a little and as I supported R I wondered what was wrong with me and why I couldn’t be a Father. Luckily (if you can use that word) there wasn’t the drama or ambulance ride as this time nature took care of everything which was confirmed with yet another scan.

Following that final miscarriage we had tests, it was around 3 vials of my blood and 11 of R’s along with a chat. A bloody chat, all the money we pay in taxes and we got a chat. I was fuming, absolutely livid. I don’t know what I expected them to do but I expected more. Alot more.

In summary the three miscarriages very nearly broke us, it hit me harder than I ever realised and it’s only in the last six months R admitted she was on the brink of leaving me. The black dog followed me relentlessly wherever I went, people with babies became ‘smug parents’ women or couples with a baby bump became ‘smug pregnants’ and as much as I love ‘One Born Every Minute’ on Channel Four it brought me to floods of tears every week. Looking back I must have been hell to live with yet R persevered, she’d come home from work and I wouldn’t speak, I’d snap about anything and nothing, the miscarriages had slowly brought me to my knees. Whenever I think of those dark days I have to thank her for her dedication / lunacy and for sticking by my side, I’ve never felt the love I have for her with any other person on this planet and strongly believe adversity has made these bonds stronger.

If I could offer advice to anyone else that’s suffered unexplained miscarriage even on repeated occasions it’d be don’t ever give up hope that one day your dream will come true.

On Friday November 22nd 2013 at 08:43 our dream came true, our beautiful son Noah Ace came into our lives and all the hurt and pain was put so far from our memories as to not to dampen our days anymore. I can happily say it was all worth it but we’ll never ever forget those three extra stars in the night sky.

20140517-185631.jpg

Guilt

Tags

, , ,

Fatherhood was never going to be an easy ride especially being as I’m very self critical in everything I do. Whenever I’ve made mistakes in life you can rest assured the one giving me the hardest time has been yours truly, from playground football ‘mistakes’ to neglecting to check the position of an aircraft towing pin (resulting in well over £130,000 of damage) the person being the nastiest bastard was me.

You might ask how this kind of personality trait would manifest itself when it comes to parenting, and this dear reader is what compelled me to write this as it’s been bouncing around inside my head for weeks just waiting for the right moment to put fingers to touchscreen. You see as far as I can see (and understandably) the main person in N’s little life is R. Don’t get me wrong I don’t know anyone else on the planet I’d rather have the reigns when it comes to our precious little man yet at the same time I’m ever so occasionally left with an unescapable emotion. Guilt.

Guilt (noun) the fact of having committed a specified or implied offence or crime

When I typed that sentence above I must admit it reads perhaps a little harsh but there’s no escaping it that from time to time I feel guilt. N is 100% breastfed which is something I’m so proud of R for and have been from day one. From the hospital bed and her not having a clue of what she was doing (and struggling for any real help or guidance) to around four weeks with blanching nipples and pain that made her weep to where she is now. Our little man is steadily growing and filling out due to HER hard work, her eleven weeks of being at his beck and call her eleven weeks of being the one thing that calms him down when he’s in meltdown.

Maybe my guilt is caused by my overthinking things but I’ll happily admit that I’ve been in tears several times because I don’t know ‘what to do’ to calm him down. It rips at my heart when he won’t stop crying for me, inevitably R has the touch or sometimes the boob that does the trick which can leave me feeling a little lost. I’m not a control freak by any means but I like to be able to follow a fairly tight schedule or plan, some kind of structure and if there’s a ‘problem’ I like to be able to solve it. It’s what men ‘do’, isn’t it?

I’ve no doubt as time goes on and we get to weaning / food smeared all over the place I’ll miss the days of plopping N on R’s chest and watching him content in his 1,000 yard feeding stare but for now the guilt of not being able to do everything for my son will remain and will continue to baffle me.

I Miss You

Tags

, , , , ,

Is it possible to miss someone you share your life and house (ok small cluttered beachside flat) with? The answer my friends is yes, quite unequivocally YES!

Throughout our pregnancy we were told that *ahem* ‘physical activities’ really should be restricted till at the earliest 16 weeks and given our history of miscarriages we were never going to argue with such advice. Hell if you’d have told me burning my favourite surfboards would have helped I’d have done it without a second thought. We did as we were told and kept to that same mantra where the only thing that mattered was R’s ever growing belly. When she complained of aching hips during conversation one evening I ordered the mother of all pregnancy pillows. This thing is shaped like a giant ‘U’ and must be at least four feet high but for around five months (it felt like a year) it shared our bed. That in itself doesn’t sound much and let’s be honest I wager not many pregnant couples in our situation are still leaping around every night…there was however something missing, touch.

Next time you turn over and kick your other halves annoying, hairy, stubbly, smooth or just plain familiar leg make the most of it. For that time the nocturnal leg knocking was gone, the sleepy spooning cuddles whilst half asleep were out of the window as our bed was ruled by ‘the pregnancy willop’! Please forgive me if I sound harsh to what was just a pillow bought from necessity but I began to resent it, after all the damn thing had more bed than me and once you added our decrepit tabby cat I was left sleeping on something around the size of a postage stamp (think penny black rather than parcel post)

Since the arrival of N everything has (of course) changed and our priorities are different with our sleepsuit clad boy always front of the queue for attention and love. Just a smile from his perfect mouth is enough to bring a tear to this silly old fart’s eye, he’s made me feel refreshed, revitalised and almost as if R and I have started our lives together from scratch and in doing so there lies the ‘problem’.

I miss ‘us’…I know that in time things will settle down and I’m not for one second complaining about our lot but I miss my girl. I miss the carefree cuddles and the drunken Saturday nights with far too much wine and a cheesy American blockbuster movie. I miss clambering (generally unwanted) into her bath, I miss annoying the hell out of her whilst she’s cooking I miss kissing…as in really kissing.

So in summary the answer to my earlier question has been confirmed you can miss someone you’re so close to. You can miss someone you share your domestic life with. You can even miss someone you share a bed with but don’t despair because just like spring follows winter they’ll return and you’ll forget those dark nights and cold mornings and rejoice in the dawning of a new day.

A Special Time

Tags

, , , ,

I was told on the build up to the arrival of N that taking your baby home and getting used to a new person sharing your space was a ‘special time’. I was also told (on many occasions) that ‘life would never be the same again’…no shit Sherlock was my usual if unspoken retort to such great insight. I’m happy to say though that these soothsayers were correct, life changed immediately and those first two weeks were indeed ‘special’.

Those of you who know me from twitter or even in the ‘real’ world (yeah right) will be aware that I surf. When I say I surf I mean it in the loosest possible terms, think more the inflatable crocodile made famous by Moneysupermarket rather than Kelly Slater but whatever my style I do it often and in almost all conditions whenever time allows. In the summer months this isn’t an issue, if I’m home and there’s waves it’s standard for me too rush in from the office and change to spend the last hours of daylight watching the sunset from somewhere offshore clad in neoprene. Like I said the style may be lacking but the good it does me in terms of fitness and more importantly mood are marked so with the new arrival at home and two weeks off work what else was I going to do?

I was told by friends and colleagues I wouldn’t be ‘allowed’ to go surfing and that I’d have to stay at home and be the dutiful Father 24/7. I was even told I’d have to sell my boards by some of my more evil ‘friends’ with a vicious glint in their eyes. I’m happy to report that wasn’t the case and R again proved why she’s the girl for me. Don’t get me wrong I always asked if she minded me going and made sure she was fed and watered first but I surfed for around eight days of the eleven I was away from the grindstone. This might seem selfish to some but to me I was celebrating the birth of my son the only way I know how, I didn’t get drunk or smoke a fat cigar I paddled out on my board and thanked whoever or whatever ‘it’ is that brings life and eventually death to us all. To the glassy rolling waves beneath my feet and the tumbling clouds above to the steady beating heart of my son safe in the arms of his Mother, I said a silent thank you and smiled at the skies above.

The Beginning

After three years of trying to have a child and three subsequent miscarriages when pregnancy number four was announced to me in the wee (literally) small hours that night I panicked and smiled in equal measures. Truth be told our ‘history’ had hit me hard, perhaps harder than I imagined and the black dog had never been far away. I doubted myself I doubted my relationship and even doubted I’d ever be the parent I’d longed to be.

The months that followed were lived from scan to scan with one every fortnight initially and everytime the relief of seeing a heartbeat was breathtaking. Without fail whenever we heard that steady rhythm coming from the darkness I shed a tear or two of both relief and joy that ‘Bean’ was growing as he should. Of course we still had a couple of scares including a terrifying bleed at 16 weeks that had us racing to Exeter again to be told everything looked ok and it was perhaps just ‘one of those things’ along with R nearly passing out whilst at work (typically whilst I was on the road somewhere).

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know I work away a fair bit so throughout the pregnancy there were messages and phone calls to check on Mother and Bean and finally I was grounded a fortnight before the due date to avoid any midnight dashes across the country. It was something I worried about a great deal as (in my head) I should have always be there to give R a back massage or even just to throw some food together. I know it’s hard to believe but I went from Mr Miserable Black Dog to Mary Bloody Poppins and took care of everything I possibly could to lighten the load, I even managed to control my temper more than ever and smiled (around 14 times over eight months in case you wondered).

So to the big day, three days early (thus avoiding the registrar’s talk of R being induced due to her age?!?) and the feeling of a familiar lump clambering back onto the bed post nocturnal loo visit only for that person to utter the words I’ll never forget.

‘Babe, don’t panic but I think it’s started’

Don’t panic, of course DON’T PANIC!!!!!

To be fair I went and made myself a Lemsip (other cold relief hot beverages are available) as I’d felt absolutely shocking the night before and got on with phoning the hospital. After I calmly let them know R was in labour and that the contractions were around two minutes apart they said ‘we’ll see you when you get here’. So that was that, finally I had permission to spank my company car (complete with its speed tracking device) all the way to Exeter at around five in the morning…imagine a pensioner with bad eyes and a gammy leg in their Nissan Micra and you’ll get the picture for the back roads, once we hit the A30 however I opened the taps a wee bit and we made it to the hospital in record time.

Upon examination R was six centimetres dilated already and we were told in no uncertain terms that we’d be having our baby that day. Those words again won’t ever be forgotten simply because of the weight they carried and how much it meant to us both. We would be having a baby…as in our baby…ya know like grown ups do but not us as it ‘always’ went wrong…

From us arriving to Bean being born was a mere two hours forty minutes later, yes there were tears, yes there was fear there was even a fair smattering of bodily fluids kicking about the place but there was one thing in that room I’ll never forget. I’d always said I thought R would just get in the zone and get on with birth but never for one minute did I know what power (both mental and physical) she possessed. Gas and air was cast asunder as it was making her feel ‘out of control’ so for the period of pushing it was gritted teeth and focus on the job in hand. Technically Bean was born ventouse, however with the suction bowl being cracked (someone missed their daily checks there I feel) it’s impact was miminum and R did 95% of the work required.

The immediate aftermath of the birth room was pretty surreal to say the least, slowly the midwives and doctors disappear leaving three people where only two had walked in. One of them knackered elated and complete with some nifty blanket stitches the other still plodding round with bare feet after nearly fainting early doors due to the heat and terrible man flu (a bit of a sniffle). Nine months of stress and worry had got us to this day and by the time my head hit the Premier Inn pillow that night I already knew it was all worthwhile.