Monday 29 October 2012


You have probably gathered that Family Beans haven't moved house yet. If you've been following the saga, we accepted an offer on our flat back in March, when I was just 12 weeks pregnant. In April we had our offer on a family house in Kent accepted, and the aim was for both the sale and purchase to be completed by the end of June. Sounds pretty straightforward doesn't it? And having bought two properties and sold one before, I had every hope things would progress smoothly.

Well, suffice to say that didn't exactly happen and now here we are in October - about to start all over again. Our buyer pulled out of buying our flat a couple of weeks ago, just days before we were set to exchange and complete contracts. The buyer has been incredibly slow and unreliable, so earlier in the process the Boy and I fully anticipated problems. But when we had got to the point where we had all spent money - our buyer spending over £1k on a very detailed survey of our flat! - we were optimistic the transaction would be closed off successfully.

I was bitterly disappointed that the process collapsed. I've recently had some bad news about my Mum's health and I was very keen to be near her in Kent - I was hoping time with Lucy would be a happy distraction for her at this difficult time. We also did all our antenatal (NCT classes) in Kent and I have become very close to a couple of the girls, and was muchly looking forward to seeing more of them. It is so helpful to know other new Mums when you are just starting out as a parent. We were also both ready to move from our little flat which is bursting at the seams now with baby paraphernalia (as well as everything else we had!) and move to a proper little family house with a garden. The Boy and I had both fantasised about Lucy's first Christmas being in our first family gaff.

Having the carpet pulled from beneath us has been quite a bitter blow and it took us a moment or two to pick ourselves up. The thought of starting again and having to work viewings etc around little Lucy felt somewhat overwhelming and we needed to pause and recollect ourselves. And that we did. We've now had estate agents around, instructed one to sell the property, and we are starting again from this week. Deep breath!

The good news is that the flat has rocketed in value even since March, with the redevelopment of the area. We can now how to sell for at least £20k more than the price we agreed back then - so, I suppose every cloud has a silver lining and all that... and while we would rather not be in this position we will make the best of it. We've lost the house we were going to purchase, and we've decided now to just rent in the area we were moving to at least to begin with. We're both loathe to get stuck in a chain again, and this way as soon as we have a buyer secured we can up sticks and move. Renting means we can spend some time getting to know the area better and making sure we move to the right place. Wish us luck!

Our light

A few more pics of my beautiful baby xx



Lucy will be six weeks old on Thursday - as everyone warned me the time is flying by so quickly already. Every day she is changing. Physically she's grown 12cm in length since she was born (!) and in the last three weeks she's put on about 2lbs in weight. I can feel the difference when I pick her up! Her head is bigger and she is much stronger - she can turn her head from side to side and instead of snuggling into my chest like she did when she was a newborn, she pushes herself up on her arms to look around and take in her surroundings. Trust a baby of mine to be a big nosey beak! Lucy is much more alert and she's starting to show real signs of independence - enjoying time on her gym play mat, sitting in her swing, and also quiet time chilling in her Moses basket when she's had enough stimulation from Mum and Dad.

So, I've been a Mum for nearly six weeks. Blimey it's hard work! Everyone tells you that it is, but nothing can really prepare you for what it is like to have a tiny person dependent on you for their basic needs 24/7. In some ways it's the most challenging thing I've ever done - but the rewards are indeed as huge as you imagine. And as hard as it is, it is still a lot easier than doing the job I was doing before little Miss arrived! Hearing Lucy grunt or squeak from her Moses basket when she is sleeping (no one tells you how noisy babies are when they are asleep!) is enough to make my heart burst, and when she frowns at me with her big blue eyes a little piece of me melts. I can't even describe what it is like when she smiles at me...

I've felt a whole range of emotions over the last month or so in my new role as a Mum. Many I expected, but  some aspects have definitely caught me by surprise. I certainly didn't imagine that I would have times when I would feel woefully inadequate and not good enough. I'm getting used to Lucy now, but at the beginning when I couldn't read what her cries meant and I didn't know how to soothe her, my confidence took a pretty big hit and there were times when I felt quite useless. I've actually been rather hard on myself - I'm used to being a success at everything I turned my hand to, and I admit to wanting to be the best Mum ever from the offset, when of course it is going to take time for us to learn how to be a family and get to know each other. I'm starting to feel now that I'm good enough - not flawless, but who is?! - and that I'm doing a good job... but that has taken some time and is only really kicking in now.

I also carried - and still do - quite a lot of anxiety. In the first few days I didn't sleep well at all, but kept looking at Lucy in her crib to make sure she was ok, and that she was breathing and so on. My paranoia that something would be wrong with her - I guess guided by my previous losses and the slightly unorthodox time I went through having her - was quite intense to begin with. I won't tell you just how many times I've put my hand on her chest when she's sleeping or my finger on the back of her neck to check her temperature - but it feels like rather a lot! I do worry that she is ok and that she is content - much more so than the Boy does. He has been very chilled out and seems to have taken our new addition in his stride. For me, as well as opening the door to a world of excitement and happiness (there are sooooo many experiences I can't wait to share with Lucy, so many things to teach her and moments to enjoy) another door has opened too - one where I worry for her health, her welfare and her happiness... I'm hopeful this will subside a little as time passes. It's already a lot less than it was a few weeks ago.

But I am also very proud of myself and how I am coping with Lucy. We have far more good and happy days than stressful ones. I've taken her on the train to Kent twice by myself and every day when the Boy is at work I take her out somewhere - anything from a walk round the block, to a local Mums group, to coffee or lunch with friends. Most days I manage to have a shower, clean my teeth, get dressed, pop some mascara on and feel a bit like the Beans of old - and these are all mini achievements that I couldn't imagine happening back at the end of September, there was one day the Boy and I didn't even eat anything until 4pm at the beginning! But it's starting to come together and I am confident that things will continue to go from strength to strength for us.

I also love seeing the Boy in his role as a Dad. He is so gentle, patient and loving with Lucy and I can see a special bond between them both really developing. Whereas I can get anxious and flustered when things don't go especially well, the Boy is calm and grounded, and is a welcome presence. He's every bit as good a Dad as he is a husband, and a best friend. I am very, very blessed indeed.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Gorgeous girl

This is very self-indulgent, but here are a couple of my favourite pics of Lucy from the last week. She is sooooo cute! (Although you wouldn't believe the man size farts I can hear coming from her Moses Basket as I write this... how she doesn't wake herself up with the vibrations I really don't know...!).

Monday 15 October 2012

Pathetic postnatal care

It's not often in life I find myself so incensed or upset about something that I follow through with making a complaint. I might grizzle and moan to friends about less than satisfactory customer service, or let my the Boy know when I'm disappointed with the way something has turned out, but that is usually where I draw the line and let go of an issue and move on. I don't like to hold on to negative experiences - I used to do a lot of that in the past and it didn't agree with me. Now I find it better to spend some time processing why something has upset me and then think about how I can learn from that or do things differently, let go, and move on to the next thing life has to offer.

However, the experience I endured in the postnatal ward at St Thomas's Hospital was so bad, that for the first time in a number of years I was riled enough to formally complain. The letter below went to the hospital last week and outlines my concerns - I won't repeat them now as the letter sets it all out clearly enough, but suffice to say the experience was pretty horrific and really set me back in my first few days of looking after Lucy. But I was lucky enough to come home to a wonderful husband, a loving family (which included a midwife) and a great circle of friends, and now it all feels like quite a distant memory. However, I'm aware not every woman is lucky enough to have such a great bunch of people and so much love behind her, so I felt I owed it to people less fortunate than me to raise the points I have done formally. I've heard from the hospital that an investigation is being conducted... I will let you know of any outcomes.

Patient information team

St Thomas' Hospital
Knowledge and information centre (KIC)
ground floor, North Wing
Westminster Bridge Road
London SE1 7EH

To whom it may concern

It is with regret that I am writing to complain about the treatment I received during my recent stay in the postnatal ward at St Thomas’s Hospital from 20-22 September 2012.

I had my first baby, a daughter Lucy, by planned c-section on 20 September 2012 as she was transverse with the cord presenting. Prior to the operation I was in the antenatal ward for a fortnight, and the level of care I received there and during the operation was of a very high standard. I felt safe and respected even when it was evident the staff were incredibly busy, and I was optimistic this would continue when I moved to the postnatal ward.

However, my experience rapidly deteriorated once there and I was appalled by the level of care I received on the postnatal ward. My main concerns were:
·      -   Not being given a clean hospital gown to wear until two days after my operation, despite asking, so I was lying in a blood-soaked gown for 36 hours.
·     -    Midwives being too busy to change my blood-soaked pads on the bed, so having to lie in them for much longer than was dignified. When asking a midwife for help, I was told to do it myself, but I couldn’t see the area and it was too early for me to move about as I had only just had the operation.
·     -    A doctor saying how important it was that my catheter was removed the day after surgery so I could get up and be mobile – but I spent hours asking midwives to remove it and they didn’t until 36 hours after surgery when I was literally sobbing for it to be taken out. They were also too busy to empty it, so it was full to bursting at the side of my bed which left me feeling very unrespected.
·      -   Buzzing for assistance in lifting my daughter from her cot to me so I could nurse her and offer skin-to-skin contact, but having to wait for a long time for someone to assist me – I eventually gave up and did it myself even though it put undue strain on my caesarean wound and was painful to do so.
·      -   Conflicting advice from midwives about how to nurse my newborn – one insisted I continually nurse her for four hours straight, while another said I should only be doing half an hour at a time. No one told me the same thing.
·       -  Midwives not introducing themselves at the beginning of shifts so I had no idea who was supposed to be supporting me, and no one coming onto the ward for hours at a time to check patients were ok.
·       -  Having to buzz midwives to insist on them giving me my blood-thinning injections and pain relief – this was never offered to me proactively, I always had to remind them when I needed the medication which is a lot of responsibility for someone recovering from major abdominal surgery.
·       - Only seeing a doctor once after my caesearean – a midwife looked at my scar quickly before I was discharged but that was the only aftercare I received.
·       -  Being made to feel like an inconvenience – whenever I asked for help I was told midwives were too busy. -I asked if the breastfeeding counsellor could come to see me I was told “do you really want to make her walk in here and see you when she’s so busy”, and when I asked for advice when my baby was distressed the midwife glaring at me and saying “babies cry, deal with it”.
·       -  Hearing other women on the postnatal ward crying about the similar neglect they were receiving.
·      -   Midwives not assisting me with my wound hygiene when I got out of bed. My husband had to remove the dressing with me instead, which I do not find a satisfactory level of care.
·       -  Having to wait until day 4 before receiving a visit from a community midwife in my home.

The 48 hours I was on the postnatal ward were intolerable and spoiled my first few days with my beautiful daughter. Thankfully I have returned to a loving family home with a supportive and nurturing husband, family and friends, and community midwives have since been excellent, so I am bonding well with my daughter and enjoying every moment with her.

However, when I think back to my time in St Thomas’s after the birth it had a massive psychological effect on me and it still reduces me to tears. I don’t think I would be doing so well if I didn’t have such a strong support network so I feel I must complain in case other women have such a negative experience but are not as fortunate as me in their support network. I totally lost my confidence on the postnatal ward, and felt undervalued and like an inconvenience at all times. The only midwife who treated me like a human being was an agency midwife called Christiana. I am grateful to her.

I would like to know by return what steps you are going to put in place to ensure women receive far better treatment on the postnatal ward and make sure this level of neglect does not happen again. I am aware my negative experience was not unique just from talking to other women on my ward.

Please advise what steps you will take to ensure all new mums receive a basic level of care and have their dignity protected in response to each of the points I raise above.

After having a baby a woman can be very vulnerable and I believe the current standard of service offered by St Thomas’s postnatally is well below acceptable and I am prepared to talk to the media about the hugely disappointing level of care I received.

I look forward to your swift response.


Thursday 11 October 2012

International Day of the Girl

In honour of international day of the girl, here's me and my girl surviving our first day without Dad! As you'll have seen from my earlier post I was very anxious and lacking confidence this morning - but it's gone really well and we've managed it! Dad due home anytime now and we can't wait to see him for cuddles xx

Flying solo

Today is my first day with Lucy without the Boy. We have been very blessed to have him with us 24 / 7 the last three weeks which has been amazing. While it's been an exhausting and at times difficult few weeks, being together has made everything so much easier - two pairs of hands have certainly been better than one where little lady has been concerned! It's been like a long holiday and I must confess to feeling a certain amount of trepidation about going solo today. It does feel like I have a little case of the post-holiday blues, you know when you've come back from this most amazing trip and then real life kicks in again and the little bubble you've been in has burst. But this time my reality is Lucy and she is a complete delight (most of the time!) so I'm hoping I'll start to feel a bit calmer and more settled all the time as the hours and days go by, and that I can really start believing in myself as a Mum.

I know I will get more confident as each day passes and the first day without the Boy was always going to be a bit tricky - even when I've been looking after Lucy, he has been in the background offering support, reassurance and advice. When my instinct has been to do something for her, he has encouraged me. When things have been going less well, he's stepped in to try and soothe our lovely girl and offer a calming presence. Now it feels a bit scary trusting myself alone in the day times. I just hope I can get it right and be a good Mum. It is a big learning curve for me and Lucy! Hopefully she will be patient with me - and hopefully, probably key to all this, I can be gentle on myself and not worry too much.

Lucy was a bit grizzly after the Boy left today - we had an hour of unsettled sleep and a few tears and grumblings. But since then she's had a good feed, a bit of a cuddle and play with me, and she's now been asleep for nearly an hour and a half... I should probably be napping too, but I feel a bit anxious today as it all seems a bit new. Am far too wired to sleep! I hope as the days go by I can relax more and make the most of these quiet moments to do nothing and put my feet up! I'll keep you posted!

Monday 8 October 2012

A new arrival in the Beans household!

Please forgive me for the lack of posts lately - the last month or so has been a bit of a whirlwind, as our beautiful daughter Lucy Grace has arrived!!! The Boy and I are completely smitten, completely knackered, and completely overwhelmed to be a family at last!

I may be a little biased but I think Lucy is the most beautiful little girl I have ever seen. It is remarkable to see her growing and changing every day and I can already see how parenthood is going to be the biggest rollercoaster of our lives. She is a very chilled out little lady (must take after the Boy!) and we feel very lucky and blessed to have her with us.

Lucy arrived on 20 September at 4.54pm weighing in at bang on 8lbs. Suffice to say the birth didn't go quite as expected... at my 37 weeks midwife appointment my midwife was a little concerned that Lucy wasn't engaged and didn't seem to be in the right position - having been head down for most of the pregnancy. I was sent up to St Thomas's Hospital for a routine scan to check what was what - where they discovered that Lucy was transverse with the umbilical cord presenting. This is extremely rare (happens in less that one per cent of pregnancies, and is even more unusual in first time mums!) and is potentially fatal - I was told that if I was to go into labour naturally at home or my waters were to break and the cord came out first, it was very likely we would lose Lucy.

So, after the scan I was hospitalised and spent nearly 3 weeks in the antenatal ward at Tommies while we hoped and prayed that Lucy would work herself into a safer position. Unfortunately I had the combination of a transverse baby, a heart-shaped uterus, and too much amniotic fluid which meant that didn't happen. She was happy as Larry wiggling away to her heart's content and mostly with her head parked behind my belly button (extremely uncomfortable!) and we couldn't get her to settle long enough with her head down to try inducing me or going for a natural birth. We gave it our best shot - and those three weeks I spent in hospital away from the Boy at the time felt like the longest of my life.

The best - and really, only - way forward to keep Lucy and I safe was a planned c-section which I had on my due date, 20 September. It wasn't what I had envisaged or wanted, but when circumstances change and you understand the risks to your baby, you have to go with the flow and be flexible. At the end of the day all that mattered was our baby came into the world alive and safe, and thankfully that is what happened.

The operation was very strange and I will write more on it another time, but the staff were very reassuring and highly skilled and everything went as well as it could done. We were still able to incorporate some parts of our birth plan - the Boy cut the cord and I had skin-to-skin with Lucy and was able to nurse her... and now she is here and is so wonderful, the way in which she came into the world seems increasingly unimportant. Physically I am healing well - and after a few hiccups with our latch Lucy is feeding well and putting on weight. Hopefully she'll be a chunkster like her Mum in no time ;-)

On that note it is probably time for me to get back to her and give her some lunch, so I will try to write some more soon about how everything has been, my beautiful girl, my wonderful husband and how we are getting on settling into family life. She's certainly turned our world upside down - but we were so, so ready for a little bit of chaos. She rocks :-) xx