The Round Norfolk Relay

The Round Norfolk Relay, held in the middle of September, is a race that has been on my radar for a few years now.  The team race is run around the entire boundary of Norfolk (198 miles from start to finish), split into seventeen unequal distances with both trail and road sections and seems to attract a great number of clubs from all over the country year on year.

It was very early on in the year when one of the guys at club mentioned in passing that he would like to organise a team of runners from our running club for the event this year.  I threw my name forward as a potential runner for one of the stages, not knowing at the time that I would be pregnant (and quite so far along) when it came to race day itself.

Although I grew up in North Norfolk and with my parents still living there, the amount of miles I have covered in the surrounding area is much less than I would like.

North Norfolk Fetch Everyone Conquercise zones(Screenshot taken from my FetchEveryone Conquercise game.)

Knowing much of at least the North Norfolk section of the RNR course I would love to have explored the course on foot as part of a race team.  However, with the race falling just a fortnight before I was due to have my caesarean, it wasn’t to be this year, and all I could do was sit on the sidelines and offer to volunteer and crew where required.

Not only does each team require seventeen different runners in order to take part, it also requires a strong crew team who help transport runners to start and finish locations, time each leg of the race, accompany runners with a bike (during the day) and car (during the night).  I’m not quite sure Colin realised just how much organising was required when he agreed to lead the team back at the start of the year.  Good job he knows how to work a spreadsheet!  😉

All those who had agreed to help crew the team met up at the pub a fortnight before race day to learn of our roles and talk plans through for the race.  It turned out that there are some very strict rules for the race to prevent disqualification and we needed to know all of them.  Each of the runners had requested either a road or trail section of the course, and a short or long distance section to run.

Each club is responsible for timing their own runners at all sections of the race.  I was down as the timekeeper for legs 1-4.  This meant that I needed to arrive at the second checkpoint (Hunstanton) at 8am on race morning to collect the stopwatch from Colin and Gillian who would be starting it at Kings Lynn when our first runner, Zac, began the race.

Timekeeper marshal vest for the Round Norfolk Relay

Turns out there wasn’t just one stopwatch…there was a box full of stopwatches, as well as phones and other devices all set up for timing in case of failure!

The weather was awful when I arrived at the first handover point.  Up along the clifftops by the lighthouse in Hunstanton the wind was beastly and, despite being 37 weeks pregnant so fairly heavy, there were points where I thought I was going to get blown right over!

Me with windy hair at the Round Norfolk Relay

Luckily, Colin and Gillian had already arrived and claimed a spot right next to the window in the cafe alongside where the baton handover would be taking place.  They were there along with our stage two runner, and the partner of our runner from stage one.  We had a little wait before Zac was due to come through, so made the most of the shelter and hot drinks the cafe had to offer.  Once Zac was through, and Helen had set off on leg two of the race there was time for a quick debrief on how Zac thought his section of the race had gone.  The weather had been brutal for the entire time he had been out apparently, although luckily, he missed the hail that began just as Helen started her section!

I figured that as I would be traveling from checkpoint to checkpoint along with the runners, there would no real concern about rushing off each time someone came through the finish of their section.  (Although this almost caused a few problems a little later on!)

Stage three began at Burnham Overy and this was the stage Colin was due to run, so Colin and Gillian also headed over to the little hamlet where we once again met up.  There was no cafe to shelter in here, although luckily, the weather had improved somewhat by this point.  I should have used the toilets in Hunstanton though, as the only toilet was a cold, outdoor one owned by the sailing club with a weight to keep the door shut.  It did the job though!

Helen’s stage was 14.06 miles so we had a fair wait around here for her to come in.

Helen and Colin at the Round Norfolk RelayAs timekeeper, when Helen handed over the baton to Colin I had to log the overall time taken since our first runner’s start time onto the official timing sheet.  You can see me wearing my WDAC hoodie in the background of the above photo doing just this!

Helen and Colin at the Round Norfolk RelayThere are some fantastic shots of runners out on the course which were shared on the RNR Facebook page.  (All of the images I’ve used in this post either come from there, are shots runners from my club shared on our club Facebook group, or are ones I took myself.)  Had I not been so heavily pregnant and with a list of people to see longer than my arm whilst back in Norfolk, I would have hung around a little longer with my own camera to take a few shots after my crew shift was over.

Colin’s section was a fairly short one at just 5.76 miles so I got a wriggle on to make my way to Wells and the start of leg number four.

Here I met up with our fourth runner, – James, and we sheltered along the side of the embankment whilst waiting for Colin to arrive.

Handover at Wells beach for the Round Norfolk RelayJames had another fairly long section of the race from Wells to Cley with 11.14 miles of running.  Having hung around for quite a while at the previous checkpoints waiting for runners to come through, I figured I had plenty of time to use the Wells beach toilets and pick up a hot chocolate from the beach cafe.

Hot chocolateThat hot chocolate was very much required by this point.  It was freezing out there and I was glad of all the layers I’d put on that morning!

Having loaded my car up once more I pootled along the coastal road towards Cley.  I got a bit panicked as I reached Cley though.  Cley is a fairly small village with a tiny high street which bends round a handful of shops.  Notorious for it’s tight turns and cars parked on the side of the narrow street at the best of times, this weekend it seemed all was at a standstill!  With support and visitors for both the Round Norfolk Relay and also a 1940s weekend held in a local coastal town taking place on the same day, traffic was high, and with a few buses and larger vehicles who had stubbornly refused to wait, there were two lanes of traffic alongside a row of parked cars and nowhere for the traffic to go!

We were at a complete standstill for more than 20 minutes before somebody had the sense to get out of their car and manage the traffic and drivers to tuck into side alleys and back up so that one lane of traffic was able to get through, clearing the road for the other direction as well.

Despite being less than a mile from the coastal car park where I was due to meet James, I had watched the time I was due to arrive by tick past, and, as so many of the runners and crew had also gotten caught in the Cley traffic jam, the queues to get into the car park were now also tailing right back.

As soon as I had parked up, I leapt out of my car with clipboard and stopwatch, racing over to the shingle bank where the handovers were due to take place.  Luckily, James had not yet arrived and it was here that I met up with Neil, our fifth runner of the day.

Neil and I at Cley for the Round Norfolk Relay(I don’t think I’m normally such a giant…must have been stood up the bank slightly here!)

We actually ended up having quite a wait, and were beginning to grow a little concerned when two guys wearing Bedford Harriers tops made their way over to us to ask if we were the timekeepers for WDAC.  On saying that we were, we were shown the race tracking on their phone.  They pointed out the lovely line of flashing runner numbers headed in to Cley through the village, then scrolled up the online map a long way, to point out where our tracking number was flashing!  James had missed the turning!  (Very easily done, and he wasn’t the only one.)  It did mean that I needn’t have worried about not getting there in time for the baton handover at least!

Colin and I at Cley on the Round Norfolk RelayNeil had a stint of 10.81 miles from Cley to Cromer along the cliff tops.  I’m actually tempted to print off the instructions for this section whilst I’m on maternity leave and have a go at it one time I’m back in Norfolk, as I’ve never even walked this section before, despite it being so close to where I grew up.

Look at all that lovely trail…

Neil at Sheringham on the Round Norfolk RelayEven though Neil had nearly 11 miles of trail to travel I wasn’t taking any chances this time and so sped straight off to Cromer.  I wasn’t due to time the handover here, but instead, hand over the equipment to the next nominated timekeeper for our club.

Round Norfolk Relay timing sheetAlong with the timing sheet and rules attached to the clipboard, I also carried with me parking passes, spare pens, a number of started stopwatches, a pack of water, and a first aid kit, which all had to be hoisted into the car of the next timekeeper.  I didn’t hang around to see Neil in, as it had already been a long day and I was ready for a shower and to sit in front of the fire for ten minutes before heading back out for lunch and dinner plans with friends.

I did spend a few minutes jealously ogling the medal design though.  Check out this beauty…

Round Norfolk Relay - front of the medalA huge medal, rivaling the London marathon medal in size, the front of the Round Norfolk Relay medal contains an outline of Norfolk (the race route), the date and name of the race, along with an embossed 30th anniversary logo.

Round Norfolk Relay - back of the medalThe back of the medal lists all of the running clubs who took part in 2016, with a list of all of the checkpoint locations around the outside.  The inner section of the medal spins round on a pivot.

Very jealous I couldn’t run this year!  I didn’t even realise that there would be medals at the event.  I hope they’re just as good next time!

To meet the time restrictions, the whole course must be completed at a minimum of 8:40 minute miles on average.  Some of the runners in our group were slower than this, but some, much quicker, so it all evened out in the end.  I followed our runners along via social media and the tracker after leaving.  Our final runner, Amanda crossed the finish line after our first runner had begun 28 hours 55 minutes and 31 seconds earlier.

Amanda at the finish of the Round Norfolk Relay

Have you ever taken part in a similar event?
What has been your favourite medal design?

Recovering from a Caesarean: the first three days

I still had several weeks left of my pregnancy when the C-word was first mentioned.  My baby was breech, and the policy at our local hospital is to not attempt a natural delivery when the baby is a known breech presentation.

Initially I was very upset.  I didn’t want to give up running for potentially twelve weeks, giving up driving for six weeks following the operation would be very tough, and I was concerned that as I would not actually be ‘giving birth’ to the baby it would mean that I would struggle to bond with the baby when it first arrived.

However, as it began to look more and more likely that I would require a Caesarean, I came round to the fact that the operation would be inevitable.

Although terrified of the operation itself, it was more the no-driving and no-running post birth that I was dreading.  I had no idea though just how much pain and discomfort I would be in following the operation.  I naively assumed that as I was going in to the birth very fit, my recovery would be much quicker and easier than for most and hoped that the articles I’d found online stating that a new Mother should be able to walk slowly for up to 15 minutes three weeks after the birth were just an exaggeration and wouldn’t apply to someone like me who had been regularly walking and running throughout the last nine months…

So here I am, three weeks following the birth of Oscar, trying to do my best to document the days following my operation.  On Sunday night I managed a twenty minute walk to visit somebody who lives the other side of town, and then made it back again. – The furthest I’ve been to date.  In some ways I wish I’d jotted these notes down sooner when they were fresher, and more clear in my head.  Another part of me is glad that I didn’t though, otherwise I would never want to go through everything again to have any more children in the future!

Pre-warning: there are more squeamish parts in this blog post than there were the birth story itself!  If you want to read my birth story, I have documented that here.

Day 1: Wednesday 28th September

After returning to my bed in the hospital bay late the night before, the midwives had woken me every 90 minutes through the night in order that I could hand express milk, which they then syringed from me to feed to Oscar.  I wasn’t yet able to pick him up or even hoist myself up in bed and, with a catheter, drip and drain all attached I couldn’t even turn in the bed to soothe him when he cried.  The extent of my interaction with Oscar at this point was when the midwife left his plastic see-through crib close enough that I could extend my fingertips to rock it gently whilst I waited for somebody to help me see to his cries.  It felt awful just lying there, listening to him cry and knowing I could do nothing to stop it or soothe him.

Eating toast following a cesarean

I was brought two slices of toast for breakfast and given a slip by which to choose what I would like for my lunch and dinner that day.  There was a choice of several different options, but to be honest it would have been impossible to get five fruit and veg portions in for the day without topping up with food from outside the hospital.
My throat was sore in the morning.  I vaguely remembered reading somewhere before the operation that pressure would have to be applied to my throat so that I didn’t throw up if I ended up having to be put right out.  I appreciated having the scratchy toast to open up my airway a little!  My sore throat, along with the severe lack of sleep and general pain meant that I didn’t feel up to calling anyone from my hospital bed on Wednesday, although throughout the day I texted and privately messaged on social media a few friends to let them know that Oscar had arrived safely.

I had been given IV paracetamol during the night through the cannula in the back of my left hand.  There was also a cannula in my right hand for anything else the doctor deemed appropriate to give me.  All the advice going into the operation was to not refuse any of the pain meds and try not to be a ‘hero’ following the birth.  There was no chance of me refusing any of my medication.  I could not believe the immense amount of pain I was in the following day.

At regular intervals, liquid morphine was brought to me in small pots.  It tasted kind of like a dodgy shot on a night out.  I also had a pot filled with tablets three times a day – two paracetamol, a stronger pain killer, iron tablet and ascorbic acid – as I had lost so much blood in theatre my iron levels were very low and needed picking back up again.  I’m usually rubbish at taking tablets with just a gulp of water, but following my hospital stay I’ve got the technique perfected!

Each evening for the ten days following surgery I also had to be injected with clexane to prevent blood clots as I had been bed bound.  This is standard procedure for all C-section patients, and Dan had to continue giving me injections once I returned from hospital until my ten days were up.

When my pain meds hadn’t arrived on time, my body definitely knew about it.
The pain would start in my lower stomach – almost like a bad period pain but spread right up high across my chest and be completely unbearable.  My stomach felt completely battered from the surgery, although luckily I wasn’t able to sit up enough to see my scar or bruising yet at this point.

At one point in the afternoon I was in so much pain, all I could do was concentrate on breathing in and out to take my mind off the pain.  In my head I half-smiled, as I imagine it must have sounded like I was going in to labour – something I never got to experience!  My breathing became very heavy and the lady in the bed next to me ended up pressing her buzzer for assistance for me.  It wasn’t long before I was being served another portion of morphine and it didn’t take much longer for the pain to fade from my body.

It had made sense for Dan to take his week of paternity leave once I came out of hospital (especially following the complications of my caesarean).  So, although the majority of other ladies had partners accompanying them in their bays during the daytime, I relied entirely on the hospital staff for support and was alone until the evenings, when Dan would be able to stop by for a few hours after he had returned home from work.  On the first day a couple of friends from my running club dropped in to see me and I was very grateful to see a pair of familiar faces at my bedside, despite knowing that I was looking incredibly rough and unwashed by this point!

A paediatrician visited in the afternoon to assess Oscar’s legs.  As he was a breech baby he was born with very ‘froggy’ legs – his knees came right up to his chest and naturally hung in that position.  The paediatrician flexed his legs in every direction and didn’t seem too concerned that there was any chance of lasting damage, although booked O in for a routine scan of his joints at three weeks just to be on the safe side.

Throughout the day several of the hospital staff commented to me about how they aim for Caesarean patients to be up and walking around within four hours of delivery.  By this point nearly 24 hours later though I couldn’t even prop myself up onto my elbows without help and couldn’t ever imagine being able to walk again(!)  In the afternoon, one of the midwives pushed for me to try and move off the bed and onto the armchair in the corner of my bay as she felt that Oscar would have a better shot at latching to feed if I was in an upright position.  With a lot of help I managed to perch myself upright on the side of the bed for a few minutes.  This was made all the more difficult by the fact that I had to hoist my blood drain and catheter bags across with me.  After a few minutes of perching on the edge of the bed, I lurched into a bent-knee standing position.  Then, at the encouragement of the midwife I took one shuffly step forwards, before promptly collapsing into a crumpled heap onto my table.  The midwife pressed my emergency buzzer and within seconds my bay was filled with staff who rallied around to help me back into bed again.
Failed get-up attempt number one!

By the time Dan arrived in the evening, there had been a shift change, and the new midwife on duty in my bay also pushed for me to stand.  I felt much weaker by this point, so with a lot of help from Dan to get my legs positioned underneath me, and with the support from both Dan and the midwife I managed to let them pull me into a standing position.  I remained in this almost vertical position for perhaps a minute before my world began to spin and I had to lower myself back down onto the bed again.

I really underestimated just how much I needed my stomach muscles for every day tasks.  Who would have thought how much you need your stomach muscles in order to help you stand?!  I had to pretty much let Dan take all my weight and then pull me into an upright position.  I wasn’t able to help at all by bracing my weight against him.  When it came to returning to bed I soon realised that the simplest way was to lay on my side, for Dan to fully support my legs, where he could quickly lift them into place and I would be able to roll back up into position.  This incredibly ‘simple’ task would leave me in pain for the best part of the next half hour.

Following my second failed attempt at getting into the armchair, Oscar had begun to cry for his feed so, (as was now becoming the norm) the midwife got him out of his see-through crib (I swear it was just a gerbilarium!), comforted my baby, helped position me onto my left side (the drain was on my right and my stomach was too sore and swollen to support Oscar still) and held Oscar up for him to try and feed.  A few minutes later she declared that once more, we were having no luck.  This time she left Dan with a syringe and instructions to collect 1-2mls of my milk as I expressed.  Not sure that when Dan asked for my number almost ten years ago he ever imagined that he would be syringing milk from my breasts in a hospital bay!

Day 2: Thursday 29th September

On being woken in the middle of the night once more to express and feed, I was in too much pain to be able to do anything but squirm uncomfortably in the bed.  The breastfeeding specialist called the midwife on duty, and it was discovered that my catheter had partially come out, causing my stomach a whole world of pain.  Between the two of them, they made the decision to fully remove the catheter and then help me to stand and make my way over to the toilet opposite the bay I was on.  Although this really was no distance away at all, it felt like a marathon and after propping myself up on Oscar’s crib I heavily lent on both ladies who then supported me as I shuffled for at least twenty minutes, almost sobbing in pain to cross the room to the toilet.  One of them was carrying my blood bag and the other my washbag, under the impression that I would be able to stand to wash once reaching the large disabled toilet cubicle.  Although I had been determined to get there, even I was incredibly surprised when we made it through the toilet door.  The next ten minutes were incredibly undignified as the ladies placed a pot on top of the toilet and helped lower me down onto it.  They left me whilst I did my business but then came back in again to put my knickers on and take away the pot to measure the contents so that they were able to monitor if any urine had remained inside me.  Going to the toilet for the first time in two days was uncomfortable, but not a painful experience, although I hadn’t been able to pass much at all.  Between them, they were able to help hoist me back up from the slightly higher toilet and bring me and my unused washbag back out of the cubicle.  I was already beginning to feel incredibly weak and as my legs buckled under me passing through the door, they shouted to a passing porter for a wheelchair.  I was then wheeled the 50 or so metres back to my bed where I was helped back in so that I could return to feeding Oscar.

Although happy that I had been able to stand and walk (shuffle) a short distance, now that the catheter had been removed I knew that I would have to work hard to improve as the trip across the corridor would have to repeated many times throughout the day.

I was in too much pain to be able to express anything for Oscar to drink by this point and the midwife in charge returned to inform me that they were going to have to place Oscar on a strict feeding plan as he wasn’t getting enough milk.  I felt really helpless.  I knew that I was unable to express anything, and couldn’t even look after myself, never mind the new baby I’d just brought into the world.  I was to go from feeding 1-2mls every 90 minutes to 37mls every four hours!  I had no idea how I was ever going to get so much milk off for Oscar, and was thankful when a pump was suggested, as Oscar was now over 24 hours old.
I managed 9mls in 30 minutes.

Mr Baby Pearson

I was devastated when they pushed me to feed Oscar a bottle of pre-mixed formula.  I couldn’t even do that myself though, as I was unable to hold him in place.  From my position on the bed I watched the midwife feed my son an entire bottle of formula…and then continued to watch as he threw it back up again.

I managed to doze back off for a little while before being woken to three midwives with a scanner entering my bed bay in the early hours.  Because I was still in so much pain, and had passed such little urine, they used the scanner to determine if there was any urine left inside my bladder that I had been unable to pass.  After a few readings they established that things were actually OK and perhaps I just hadn’t consumed much fluid since my catheter had come out earlier that morning.

Oscar’s feeding plan and my choice of feeding was also discussed with me in detail at this point.  I was determined to produce enough milk, and luckily(!) it seemed my milk had come in by this point.  I easily managed the required 37mls which I felt rather smug about and passed over to the midwife for feeding.  My smugness was short-lived though.  It appears that using an electric pump so soon after birth can mess with the amount of milk that your body produces.  I was literally pouring with milk for the rest of my stay in hospital, getting through so many baby wipes as I tried to awkwardly freshen myself up in the unchanged bed and clothes that I remained in for the first three days.

There is nothing dignified about having a baby at all.  There must have been twenty people over that first week who watched me breastfeed, midwives who helped me pull up my underwear and nurses who examined the neat Caesarean scar which I was able to see for the first time the following morning in the bathroom mirror.

Between new roommates, constant feeding, babies crying and the checks on both me and Oscar, there really was never time to get bored on the bay.  Oscar had a hearing assessment on the Thursday, (all was OK), and a doctor came to assess whether or not my blood drain could be removed.  (It was decided to remove it the following day instead as my blood loss had increased due to the moving around from the morning.)

At lunch a lady came to change my bedding but I was unable to get up on her demand.  She was rather abrupt with me and told me I should have been up and about days ago.  She did mellow slightly towards the end of our conversation and promised to return at the end of her round to help me get to the bathroom.  Despite leaning heavily on her, the journey was much quicker than it had been that morning and I already felt like I was capable of more.

I had slept through breakfast and when my lunch arrived I realised that due to the pain I had no appetite and struggled to eat more than a couple of bites.  This was also the case at tea time and I ended up eating barely anything on the Thursday at all.  I was really feeling sorry for myself and just wanted to go home by this point.

My third attempt at getting to the bathroom was with the help of Dan that evening.  We struggled past scores of people visiting the other ladies on my bay and made our way over to the bathroom.  Despite Dan offering to stay with me in case I needed him in the cubicle, I assured him that no husband needed to go that far and that I would be fine if he remained within shouting distance.  The struggle was real when it came to pulling up my own knickers, but with a sudden lunge, rather a lot of discomfort and willpower I made it and called Dan back in to collect me again.

Day 3: Friday 30th September

After the horrific day I’d had the day before I begged for someone to come and stay with me on Friday.  My parents were over at our house, with the aim of my Dad getting the tiling in our bathroom complete so that I would be able to have a shower upon leaving the hospital the following week.  They had intended on coming up during visiting hours that evening, but after a word with the midwife I managed to persuade them to let my Mum stay for the day as Dan would be unable to.  Dan was an absolute star the entire time I was in hospital.  Not only did he head into work each day, but he then came straight to see me in hospital each evening, bringing any items I needed along with him.  Having not initially been intending to stay for quite so long I was out of items quicker than I first thought, and we needed a variety of new sleepsuits for Oscar as he was so tiny and 0-3month items drowned (and still drown) him!
Dan dropped my Mum off at the hospital a little after 8:30 on the Friday morning and I literally put her straight to work as Oscar needed his nappy changing when she first arrived.  This was followed by general tidying and organising of my area.  I felt rather guilty for asking so much of her, but it did feel good to have things looking a little clearer in my bay and it was nice not having to press the button on my bed for help every time that Oscar cried.

After lunch two nurses came to remove my drain.  It was an incredibly uncomfortable feeling as they pulled the pipe out from one side of my body to the other.  I immediately felt so much better for having had it removed though and I feel that my recovery really began properly from this point.  Traveling to the bathroom with just the help of my Mum was so much faster throughout the day.

When visiting hours began that evening, Dan brought my Dad up to meet Oscar and then took some lovely photographs of both my parents with Baby O.  Oscar is their first Grandchild, but he is number six for Dan’s parents.  As my parents intended on driving home that evening, Dan took them back after a little while, before returning to hospital for the third time that day so that he could spend some time with Oscar and Me himself.

…I’m going to leave my recovery story there for now.  I had initially intended on writing about the first ten days of recovery, but looking at the word count after just day three, I know I need to split it! You can read all of my previous pregnancy posts here.

Oscar’s birth story: a not-to-plan Caesarean

You can read all of my previous pregnancy posts here.

Last Tuesday I was booked in for a Caesarean section.  My baby had been breech at every single doctor’s appointment, no matter how much ball bouncing, floor scrubbing and every other turning technique I dedicated time to over the past few months.

The idea of having a Caesarean really scared me.  For someone who likes to be in control of things, you would think that a Caesarean would be a more appealing option; I would know exactly when I would be having my baby, almost able to pinpoint it to the nearest hour.  However, I felt that a C-section would remove my control of the situation and place everything in the hands of the doctors, anaesthetist, nurses and midwives in the theatre.  I wouldn’t be doing any of the work!

There was no way round it though.  My baby was very much breech, with bum stuck down and legs up high.  He was too risky for the hospital to allow an attempt at a natural birth, for fear that it would result in complications and an unplanned emergency section anyway.

Dan and I arrived a little after 7:15am on the morning of Tuesday 27th September and managed to find someone to buzz us in to the otherwise silent Fetal Health Unit.  One final scan was made to ensure baby was still upside down.  Of course he was.  Looked like this C-section was going ahead!  My details were confirmed and then I was branded with a tag displaying my name, DOB and hospital number.  I was issued with a hospital theatre gown to change into and the tightest stockings to wear which Dan fought to get over my stocky calves.

Over the course of the next hour each of the people who would be present in the theatre for the operation came and introduced themselves to Dan and I, explaining their role in the procedure and asking us a series of questions.  Amongst other questions, each one asked if I would consent to a blood transfusion if necessary, and later on I also had to sign to this effect as well.  In total there would be about seven people present for the operation, each one with a slightly different role.

There were two of us who had scheduled sections planned for Tuesday.  Once both Mums-to-be had been visited by all staff involved, the core team stood outside our beds and discussed the order in which we were going to go in.  As they listed the complications involved in the other pregnancy, I knew that we would be second in line and this was confirmed a few minutes later when a doctor told us to expect to head down to theatre about the middle of the morning.  Along with the other woman we were then walked through to the Maternity ward, and allocated the beds we would be staying in for our time at the hospital.  I was due to stay in Bay 3, Bed 2.  The bay contained four beds in total and I was thankful to have been given the one next to the window.  It was super hot up there and it was nice to get a slight breeze from outside.

From here we waited.  The other lady was due to head in for her section at 9am and perhaps rather naively, knowing that the procedure wouldn’t take more than an hour, we expected to be in by perhaps 10:30.  10:30 came and went though and still nobody came to see us.  Dan started to get hungry so picked through some of the snacks in my hospital bag.  I was still unable to eat so I napped on and off for a while, having struggled to get much sleep at all the night before.

Dan and Me before the Caesarean

A friend’s Aunt worked on the ward so stopped by to see how I was getting on which was really nice of her.  I was getting nervous by this point and was doing anything I could think of on my phone to distract me from what was to come.

At 12:05, Alice, the midwife who would be present for the procedure came to collect us and walk us down to the theatre.  All of a sudden things got very real and my legs began to shake.  As we were walking down the final corridor, a guy popped out from behind us in the corridor and led Dan off to get his scrubs and special shoes on so that he was able to join us in the theatre for the operation.  Alice pushed open the doors to the theatre and I followed behind, only to discover nothing like I was expecting at all.

The theatre was a massive room filled with all of the people we had met that morning, now all scrubbed up and busy bustling around with charts and equipment.  The room was perhaps even larger than the downstairs of my house and everywhere painted a clinical white.  Everything in that room seemed to glow under the incredibly bright lights beaming down from the ceiling.  In the middle of the room was what appeared to be a very small operating table and coming from this trailed leads and cables headed off to portable trolleys at the far end of the room.  I’m pretty sure the examination table at the vets I take Bella to is larger than the one I was due to get onto in a few minutes time!

Dan still wasn’t there and I rather tentatively followed Alice around the bottom end of the table and allowed her to help me clamber up.  All of a sudden I became the main focus and everybody clustered around me, both in front and behind the table I was sat on.  Not knowing what was going on and still unable to see any sign of Dan I became rather upset and somebody brought me a tissue and held my hand.  Dan arrived at this point and began earnestly talking to me about running and races and everything I would be able to go ahead and enter after the day was over.  He did a fantastic job of distracting me from the cannula going in to the back of my left hand, and kept me calm when the anaesthetist insisted that I stay sat upright on the bed to have my spinal administered.  I am not very good with needles on a normal basis, but knowing the size of the needle that they were to place between the vertebrae on my back and the consequences if I was to move or they were to not get it in quite the right place were terrifying.  I was barely aware that it was happening though and Dan, along with a female doctor, a midwife and nurse kept me talking the whole way through.  I had worked myself up much more than I needed to and it honestly wasn’t as bad as I was making it out in my head to be.

Once administered, they helped me to lay down on the table (I did fit!) and got to work putting up a blue screen to shield my view.  Everybody had a role now and the hustle and bustle began to increase as instruments were gathered and the operation discussed.  We were asked whether I wanted them to hold the baby up above the screen once it had been delivered or to take it off to be weighed and checked before being brought over.  I said that I would prefer the baby to be taken off and checked over and Dan would then be able to see the baby and know that things were OK.  It had been in my original birth plan for Dan to announce the gender of the baby, and this way it meant that he would still be able to do this.

Dan stayed by my right side as they were getting everything in place and allowing the drugs to take effect.  On my left a doctor repeatedly questioned me on what I could feel.  He got me to pinch my hand, and then my stomach to the same degree and report back.  He asked what I could feel as he moved his hand lower across my stomach and the last point I was aware that he was still touching.  A catheter was inserted and this was probably the most uncomfortable part of the whole procedure.  Eventually the doctor told us that they were then going to do a cut test and if I could not feel that, they would then begin the procedure and work on getting our baby out.

Alice was with Dan again now on my right side and I asked her how long it would take after cutting me open before our baby would be here.  We were told no more than 15 minutes.  It can’t have been more than 3 minutes though before we heard the loud cries coming from behind the screen.  Dan, to take my mind off things had been rattling on about going for gait analysis at Peterborough to buy some new road trainers for next season.  He didn’t even change his tone or lift his head and instead continued talking about Advance Performance and how often you needed to buy new shoes!  I couldn’t concentrate on him anymore though and, vaguely aware that they were taking our baby round to the blind spot in the corner of the room over my right shoulder, I urged Dan to go and see.  Alice led Dan over and Dan tells me everyone around was pointing down at the baby to show what gender it was!  Dan said he hoped that he would have been able to work out on his own!  He came straight over to tell me that we had a boy – a son (still sounds weird!) and reappeared a few minutes later with said son so that I could see.

He had so much hair.  Bright, blonde hair and he was tiny.  He came over sucking his fingers and it’s something he’s still yet to stop doing!

I can remember Alice holding him up to my face so that I may kiss him, but I wasn’t ready for that yet, so just shook my head and stared at him in amazement instead.  We announced his name, so that they may add bands to his arms and legs.  Oscar Daniel Pearson.  He was born at 12:48pm and weighed 6lbs 13, – more than they had predicted based on the scan we had been shown the previous week.

Oscar's legs

Dan continued to sit with me and chatter.  I could no longer respond though.  There was a very tight feeling on my chest and although I could communicate by forcing my mouth to make the shapes and breathe out the air, no real sound was coming out and it was very draining trying to communicate in this way.  I was content being nattered to though and listened to Dan nattering away whilst not taking my eyes away from Oscar.

The anaesthetist appeared at my left shoulder again and asked if I could feel what was happening below the screen.  I tried to mouth that it was uncomfortable but that I couldn’t feel pain.  He told me that he couldn’t hear me and Dan tried to explain that the amount of pressure meant that I hadn’t been able to talk for a while now.  The anaesthetist tried to get me to talk again, which I still could not do.  He then administered something through the cannula in my left hand and disappeared briefly.  Although I couldn’t see the people in the theatre I could sense the urgency in their voices now and grasped from snatches of conversation going on that I was badly bleeding and that I would have to be put right out so that Dan would have to leave.  They came to collect Dan and Oscar who were quickly ushered away.  I remember somebody holding on to my throat and then I remember nothing.

I came round a couple of hours later in a bed placed inside an individual monitored recovery bay in a high dependency unit, where somebody had remained at my side tracking my stats whilst I was out of things.  A drip was attached to the cannula in my left hand and I was aware of a bag of blood hanging from the side of the bed.  I immediately asked for Dan and Oscar and somebody was sent to get them.

Whilst I had been in the operating theatre Dan had been sat with Alice in a small room and had the chance to have skin-to-skin with Oscar, as Oscar was yet to spend any time with me.  Oscar was apparently very thumb sucky, causing people to think that he had perhaps been thumb sucking for a while when he had been inside me.  I was too weak to hold Oscar and my stomach and just generally, my whole body was too swollen and sore to have him near to me with his kicking legs and punching arms.  The midwife tried to help me feed him, but when this didn’t happen straight away, it was deemed more urgent to get some colostrum into him by any means, rather than get hung up over breastfeeding, as he had been delivered several hours ago now.  I was shown how to massage my breasts so that milk appeared, which was then suctioned off with a syringe and fed to Oscar in small doses.  I was told that it was common for breastfeeding to take a little longer due to not having had any skin-to-skin time yet and having not spent the first few hours of his short little life with Oscar.

Over the next hour or so they drip fed me pieces of information about the surgery.  As they were stitching me back up my uterus had torn and bled badly, resulting in blood loss of more than a litre.  They had had to undo stitches and repair me, before sewing me back up again.  Not knowing how much blood the body contains, this didn’t mean a huge amount to me at the time, but on Googling later to discover that there are only about 5 litres of blood in an adult body, I realised just how much this was!

Once I was awake I needed to have bloods taken, which seemed bizarre to me.  I’d just lost a ridiculous amount of blood and they wanted to take more for testing?!  The veins in my right side are rubbish for needles and so I always have to advise using the left side when I go for blood tests.  They couldn’t use my left side now though, as the bag of fluids was dripping through my veins so any test results would be skewed.  A nurse tried twice before calling for a doctor and then even he took two attempts before being able to get any from me, leaving four cotton wool balls strapped to the inside of my elbow and side of my wrist.

Having lost so much blood, my iron levels were now declared very low and I did indeed feel very weak.  It wasn’t until we were here and all obs taken that we finally had a second to call our parents and let them know that Oscar had arrived.  Dan’s Mum had rung and texted several times over the past few hours and I knew that my own parents would be worried by now, knowing what time we were due to go in that morning.  It was nearly 8pm.  Having not eaten for more than 24 hours by this point, my stomach started to rumble and I was glad when I was brought two slices of toast which Dan buttered for me to devour.

They brought Oscar over and handed him to me in bed, – the first time that I had gotten a chance to see or touch him.  He was tiny.  A porter arrived and between her and a midwife, they wheeled my bed through to the bay we had been in that morning, with Oscar by my side and with Dan following closely behind.  Crossing the threshold into the lift was absolute agony as the wheels bumped over the edge and I whimpered in pain.

Oscar's fingers

We were left for a little while and so quickly called or messaged the few people that had known we were due to go in that morning as there was a good chance they would be worried by now having not heard from us for so long.  Everyone else could wait until at least the following day.  It was gone 9:30pm that evening before Dan left for home.  We had made the decision that he would begin his maternity leave once I left hospital, as I would need much more help around the home than if we were able to have a natural birth.  This meant that he would have to be up and off to work at 6:30am the following morning, and he intended on coming straight through to the hospital from work in the evenings to visit me.

Recovery post C-section was much harder than I thought it would ever be, but I shall save that for another post…

For the time being, Dan and I have made the decision not to publicly share any images of Oscar on social media or the blog.

The scarecrows of Stanwick

Over the past few years, it has become a bit of a tradition that at the end of September Dan and I head down to Stanwick to discover all of the scarecrows on display for the Stanwick Scarecrow Festival.

Click on the years to see the entrants we photographed in 2014 and 2015.

This year was no different, and having had a mad week of rushing around with hospital appointments, trying to finish off bits on the house before baby arrived and my final few days at school it was nice to pootle down to the next village and mooch around looking at all of the hard work that had gone into the entries.

Here are some of our favourites from this year…

Stanwick scarecrowsStanwick scarecrowsStanwick scarecrowsStanwick scarecrowsStanwick scarecrowsStanwick scarecrowsStanwick scarecrowsIs there anything similar which takes place near to you?
Which is your favourite from the selection above?