Monthly Archives: May 2018

Your 20 Week Scan: So Much More Than A Gender Reveal

Your 20 Week Scan: So Much More Than A Gender Reveal

By Aimee Foster

There’s so much more to the 20 week anomaly scan than we sometimes realise. I was one of those parents who left the scan room with more than a blurry picture. My baby was the reason this scan is offered to all pregnant women. She was sick, she needed help and without this scan we wouldn’t have had a clue.

The 20 week anomaly scan is one of the pinnacle moments of any pregnancy. In the majority of cases, when the baby is healthy, it is the second and final time you’ll see your baby on screen before you meet face-to-face. Yes, it’s a time to discover your baby’s gender and receive a series of pictures. But that’s not the only reason for the scan. Believe me, there’s so much more to it than that.

It is the most detailed medical examination your baby will have during pregnancy. Each of your baby’s tiny organs will be checked in turn to ensure they are developing properly. The odds are everything will be fine and the shadowy, hazy picture on screen will reveal a healthy baby. But what happens if this isn’t the case?

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(Image Credit: Tiny Tickers)

A natural worrier, during my first pregnancy I obsessed over every minute detail. The complicated and delicate process of growing a baby overwhelmed me and I fretted over every act and omission I had made. I hadn’t taken folic acid pre-conception. I had a few boozy evenings before I even knew of my little friend’s existence. I’d had too many hot baths…the list of worries was endless. The 20 week scan loomed before, a possible crescendo of all these unwelcome anxieties.

Perched on a brown plastic chair outside the scan room, I was physically shaking. In my head I’d been through all the worst case scenarios. I’d lost her over and over again.

Every time the sonographer checked off a tiny organ or body part as healthy, the iron fist clenching my stomach loosened its grip slightly. After the scan was complete (and I left with the obligatory pictures and gender knowledge), I relaxed a little although my fears didn’t completely dissolve until she arrived 20 weeks later.

And arrive she did, in a shock of black hair and disgruntled screams. Bonny and healthy, she was living proof that there had been no reason to worry.

The second time round, I was far more relaxed about the whole baby-growing process. My body had done it before, it knew the deal. On the day of the anomaly scan I felt relaxed and perfectly able to hold a paper cup of coffee without my shaking limbs spilling its contents everywhere.

Seconds before the sonographer called us in, I said to my husband, ‘I can’t believe I was so scared before Susie’s scan. This time I’m not worried at all’.

Oh the irony. The blessed irony of those words.

The scan progressed much the same as my first. The crucial difference occurred when the sonographer reached the baby’s heart. She was silent for too long. There were too many clicks of buttons and too much eye narrowing. I felt cold fear growing inside, rising up to my throat and rendering me unable to speak.

‘There’s something wrong with your baby’s heart’.

I stared at her blankly, still unable to speak or comprehend her life-changing words.

‘Your baby’s heart looks asymmetrical,’ she explained. ‘I need to get the doctor.’

After another deafeningly silent examination, the doctor said she thought she knew what was wrong with our baby’s heart but that she didn’t want to tell us the exact diagnosis until we had seen a fetal cardiologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital. She explained that this was to prevent us from jumping on Google when we got home, which incidentally was all I wanted to do. She must have known the burning desire for answers would in no way be fulfilled by Dr Google.

We left the scan room with a million unanswered questions scattered between burgeoning hopes that this was all a big mistake.

As we drove home, I turned on my phone to find numerous messages from friends and family asking about the gender of the baby. Forgetting my new burden for a second, I managed a small smile. I had almost forgotten we were having another girl. I couldn’t even begin to fathom how to answer those texts and messages. The gender of our baby, which had seemed so crucial a few hours earlier, was now so utterly insignificant.

The neat scan room at the John Radcliffe and our soft-spoken fetal cardiologist became part of our weekly routine until our baby, Grace, was delivered by Caesarean section at 32 weeks gestation.

Before her delivery, we came to know the scan process intimately. To this day, the skill with which our consultant was able to examine Grace’s tiny heart takes my breath away. To me it looked like a mass of greys and blacks, all running into each other like a monochrome watercolour painting. But with the expertise of our consultant we were able to understand Grace’s heart condition and plan and prepare for her birth.

To the sonographer who first spotted Grace’s heart defect, I will always owe my immense gratitude. The alternative scenario, had we continued in the dark without any knowledge of what was really going on inside, plays out in my head often. The sonographer’s eagle eye not only gave us 12 weeks to prepare but also instant access to the best medical care available. In circumstances such as these that’s really all you want – to know your baby is receiving the best treatment possible with no regrets about what could have been if only you’d known.

Heart defects are the most common of all birth defects, affecting one in 111 babies. Early diagnosis gives babies a better chance of survival and long term quality of life. Detection during pregnancy means the right medical experts can be on hand at birth, treatment can begin as soon as possible and parents can start getting the support they need – from the start. This is the purpose of the 20 week scan and something all parents-to-be need to be aware of.

2016-09-28-1475088327-6554886-fullimage.jpg(Image Credit: Tiny Tickers)

If you are about to have your 20 week scan, the chances are everything will be fine and you will leave the scan room in a cloud of excitement and joy. But while you look forward to finding out the gender and taking home a picture to frame, please also make sure you are aware of the importance of this process and how you can help ensure you baby receives the most detailed and accurate examination possible.


If you are pregnant, you can test just how much you know about the 20 week scan through an online quiz – www.think20.org.uk – developed by Tiny Tickers, the baby hearts charity. At the end of the quiz you can also request an information pack with a checklist of questions to ask the sonographer at your 20-week scan, giving you the confidence to protect your tiny ticker.

Six Ways to Brighten Your Child’s Day

Six Ways to Brighten Your Child’s Day

“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s famous quote is especially relevant for children. Many of our strongest childhood memories relate to how we felt at certain times. Children don’t need expensive clothes or toys – it’s the little gestures of love that they will remember best.

Here are six simple ways to brighten your child’s day and create some of those great memories.

Lunchbox Love

Slipping a note in your child’s lunchbox is a great way to show them you’re thinking about them while they’re at school or nursery. It doesn’t have to be a long note – just a few words to say you love them and are proud of them.

For pre-school children, you could just leave a bright picture with a few words in their lunchbox or book bag. Even if they don’t understand the words, they will feel the love from your gesture.

Make a vision board

To motivate and inspire your child, you could help them create a vision board full of positive messages and images to hang in their bedroom. All you need is a stack of magazines, a large piece of card to stick them on, scissors and glue.

This is a fantastic way to help your child lay out their goals and dreams while encouraging him or her to pursue them.  Look through the magazines with your child and cut out any pictures and words that inspire them. You can also include pictures of the people and places they love. Talk about their hope and dreams and add them to the board in words, pictures and drawings.

Once you’ve finished, place the board in a prominent place where they can see it daily.

Bake together

Create long lasting, happy memories for your child by baking some yummy treats together. Not only is baking cakes, biscuits and other goodies a lovely way to spend quality time together, it also helps your child learn various different maths and science skills.

Make a treasure hunt

Treasure hunts are a brilliant way to keep children entertained, especially when it’s raining outside.

All you need to do is find a small box and fill it with treats, small toys and other ‘treasure’. Once you’ve hidden the box, place clues around the house. The treasure hunt can last for as long as you want it to and your kids are guaranteed to have a lot of fun with it. They’ll never forget the excitement and anticipation of finding their treasure.

Make a pass-the-parcel

Pass-the-parcel doesn’t have to just be a birthday party game. Make it even more special by asking each player to write something nice about the other players.  You can wrap the notes between the layers, so everyone gets to unwrap and read out at least one nice statement about another player.

Ask your child to do something kind for someone else

Whether it be helping a neighbour or sending a card to a friend, ask your child to think of something kind they can do for another person. Acts of kindness not only benefit the recipient – they will make your child feel good about themselves too.

How To Handle The Stroppy Sevens

How To Handle The Stroppy Sevens

‘I HATE you!

‘This is so rubbish. I’m soooo bored.’

‘Just leave me ALONE!’

If you heard all the above, accompanied by door slamming and foot stamping, you’d assume you were in the presence of a teenager wouldn’t you?

When everything you say is met by a smart comeback, an eye roll or a grimace, you’d grit your teeth and remind yourself that this is typical teenage behaviour.

So imagine my surprise when my previously sweet tempered and pleasant daughter began acting just like a teenager as she approached the age of seven.

I thought she’d been possessed. Honestly, I couldn’t understand what had happened to her. She’s always been slightly feisty but her behaviour over the past few months has really ramped up a gear.

And the tantrums… She really knows how to ‘voice’ her displeasure when things aren’t going her way. This often involves violence towards her unsuspecting younger brother too.

I constantly have the feeling of trying my best but never being able to win. I’m forever having to hold my temper because she knows exactly which buttons to push and she’s pressing them many times throughout each day.

It’s emotionally exhausting.

To be honest this behaviour has been beginning to get me down. Everything has become a battle and family life has been suffering a bit. Ok a lot. Wine consumption in our house is at an all-time high (even my husband joins me for a glass in the evenings and he doesn’t even like the stuff).

Enter Dr. Google. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to find that this behaviour is ‘normal’. It is a thing. It even has a name.

 ‘The Stroppy Sevens’.

(My son is firmly implanted in the Terrible Twos but I think most people know how that goes. Let’s just say that I’d take the Terrible Twos over the Stroppy Sevens any day – with a cherry on top.)

I started asking my friends if they had encountered the same sort of challenges when their children turned seven. As it happens, many of them had.

 

What’s it all about?

My first question, after feeling the relief of discovering I wasn’t alone in this, was, ‘Why the hell is it happening?’

I came across psychologist Jean Piaget‘s Four Stages of Development Theory. According to Piaget, children go through four important stages of cognitive development. These stages happen at ages 0-2, 2-7, 7-11 and then adolescence to adulthood. It is when the child is about to progress from one stage to the next that challenging behaviour occurs. These transitional periods, when the brain is gearing up for the next cognitive stage but isn’t quite there yet, can explain all the behaviour I’ve come to associate with the Terrible Twos and now the Stroppy Sevens.

Apparently it can last for up to a year (oh goody).

In all seriousness though, being able to understand why my daughter is behaving the way she is and knowing that it’s perfectly normal has made dealing with the challenging moments (and there are many of them) much easier.

So once I knew why my little angel seemed to be possessed by the spirit of a disgruntled teenager, my next question had to be…

What’s the best way to manage the challenging behaviour?

How do I get through this without yelling all day and constantly feeling like I’m on the verge of losing my shit? And more importantly, how can I support my daughter through this stage?

I turned to the internet and found some great advice:

  1. Have a good routine in place

Older children need routines as much as they did when they were babies and toddlers. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that.

 

We recently sat down and wrote a family routine, which I have stuck up on the kitchen wall. My decision to cut down on the kids’ TV time was met with cries of, ‘Why do you HATE me??!!’  I’ve stuck to my guns because, you know, you kind of have to once you’ve made these decisions.

  1. Stick to boundaries

You certainly need some firm boundaries in place to make it through this stage unscathed. So just stick to boundaries, ignore the behaviour and you’ll hopefully get your darling back sooner or later.

Consistency is key, I believe.

  1. Encourage positive friendships

There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that with the burst in hormones at seven children also take a leap of independence. It’s an age where friendships take over as the bigger influence in a child’s life. Encouraging  positive friendships can help with this. It’s also about giving a little more freedom and opportunities to be more independent so you don’t feel they’re constantly banging against that parental wall.

Whereas my daughter used to be happy going to the park or soft play with me, she now only wants to go if she can take a friend. I try to make sure she sees her friends out of school as much as possible.

  1. Offer rewards instead of punishments

I tend to always jump in with, ‘If you don’t stop doing that, you’re going to lose this’. For ‘this’ insert TV, a favourite toy a planned treat. A very wise friend of mine recently suggested I offer a reward instead, to make the whole experience more positive for my daughter.

So I changed my tactics to, ‘if you do that, you can have this’ and we also drew up a reward chart. Reward charts were something I associated with younger children but it turns out they work equally well at this age too.

 

All of the above advice really does seem to help when my daughter is having one of her, erm, ‘turns’.

Basically, you need a bucket load of patience and understanding, the tips above and  a fridge full of wine to make it through to the other side.  I’ve never wanted to believe the words, ‘It’s just a phase’ as much as I do right now. Here’s hoping….


Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, bookworm and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.

Shout for maternal mental health

Shout For Maternal Mental Health

One in ten women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or during the first year of their baby’s life. This week (April 30th – May 4th) is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.  The aim of the week is to encourage more people to talk about mental health issues during pregnancy and beyond.

In order to spread awareness of maternal mental health issues even further, Mummy Links founder Emily Tredget, came up with the #shoutieselfie, an innovative new kind of selfie to raise awareness of an issue so many mums struggle with.

The idea behind #shoutieselfie is simple – take a picture of yourself shouting, share it on social media and tag five friends to do the same. Even if you don’t have personal experience of postnatal depression or other maternal mental health issues, the chances are you know someone who has – even if they haven’t told you.

By sharing #shoutieselfies, everyone can play a part in normalising maternal mental health issues to stop sufferers feeling isolated and lonely. The aim is to remove the stigma around postnatal depression and reach out to those who are suffering in silence.

The campaign has been backed by celebrities such as Made in Chelsea star Binky Felstead and has been gaining traction ever since its conception. Netmums, the NCT and other parenting organisations have also joined in.

With one in ten mums suffering from maternal mental health illnesses, it’s so important to spread the message that it’s ok not to be ok. Help and support is out there and is easily accessible for all. Organisations such as PANDAS and the Assosiation for Postnatal Illness offer support in the form of helplines, information leaflets and support groups. The NCT organises courses and local support groups and events for parents.

It’s very common for parents to feel lonely, but luckily there are now many apps like Mummylinks to help parents connect and meet up for friendship, advice and support. Mummy Social, Mush and Peanut also help obliterate the loneliness and isolation so often attached to parenthood.

To share your own #shoutieselfie, simply take a picture of yourself shouting, share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and tag five others to do the same. Together we can make a difference to the ten percent of mums suffering from maternal mental health illnesses. Nobody needs to suffer in silence.