Thursday, 17 November 2016

World Prematurity Day

Today, November the 17th sees the world celebrate all the premature babies and their families. To raise awareness for premature births and to highlight the issues that they face. 1 in 10 babies will be born premature that is 15 million babies each year. Today, may also be the time some children learn what it means that they were premature and the journey they and their family took. It can always be hard to breach the subject with a child, to explain that they faced a tougher start to life than most. That they were poorly, they needed extra care and stayed in hospital. They had to fight, to stay here, to be where they are today.

The world stands up today and celebrates all the babies who were born early, and their families. Today, is for the mums, dads, grannies, aunties, uncle’s, cousins and friends which watched their little one small, vulnerable and fragile flight for their lives. It is to recognise the issues they face, and how we can improve the NICU experience for all. It is to celebrate how far these amazing babies have come, what they have overcome to get here.

Although, Elijah was not premature he was born at 38+3 weeks and was 11 days early, I often wonder how I will tell him that he was ill and admitted to NICU. That for the first 9 days he as hooked up to wires, tubes and fought his way to come home. When do you do this? I mean Elijah is aware when we go to the doctors now, what happens when we take him for his heart check-up in Jan? When do we tell him that the scar running down his chest was because he has had open heart surgery? How do you even begin to explain this? Will he understand? Seeing the pics of himself in hospital will they frighten him? I find it very hard to look at pictures when he was in NICU.

I often wander in the parent section of the library, and you can find a book on pretty much anything, except how to tell your child they were in NICU, they were ill, they were premature. What I am seeing more and more is books for children covering the subjects that themselves will be going through; potty training, first day at nursery or a new sibling. When we were in hospital for Elijah’s operation we were given a leaflet and it again was aimed at a slightly older child but helped them relate and explain what was about to happen. You will find most of these everyday subjects being covered in some sort of way on kid’s TV, Peppa, Bing etc. I find Elijah takes notice of these a lot more. He was see it on the TV, or in a book and it is easy to talk about. The big subjects like NICU, being premature, having lifesaving operations seem to however not cross the producer’s minds.  I for one, however will continue to spread the word about these issues and publish them wherever I can.

I was contacted via another NICU parent and made aware of a lady who had created a book all about explaining to your child they were premature. What they may have gone though in hospital. When the author Ali Dunn got in touch with me, I was delighted that she sent me a copy to review. The book is 24 pages and starts with a little girl explaining that she was premature just like you. I love the one to one concept, like they are two children having an adult conversation. In a way, not to frighten the child the pictures are colourful, even when talking about needing help from wires or tubes it is accessible to the child. I think my favourite thing about the book is the adventures the baby goes on when they are in NICU, a submarine, in a rocket, a kangaroo pouch and ends with the baby going home, that they too have been brave and are a little miracle.
This book is a great way to explain to a child how they started off in life, that it wasn’t easy but they are strong, they are a fighter and they can be anything they want too. You could argue do they need to know this? I think they do, after all as I always say the NICU journey does not just end when you get home. In fact, that is the start of the journey. There are follow ups, development checks, hospital visits and there may be lifelong health issues that will need to be monitored just like Elijah’s heart condition. The more educate the child becomes about their condition, and how it started out the better prepared they are to look after themselves in the future. I would thoroughly recommend this book to any premature parent to read to their child, even if it is just to celebrate how fat they have come from those first weeks in the NICU.

I believe the subject of NICU should be discussed and features a lot more in the media channels such as kids’ books, television and even way before then in ante natal classes. Today we will also recognise the many issues that having a child in NICU brings and this could be the family’s mental health suffering. As you are aware from other blogs I am currently campaigning with Bliss and Little Miracles UK to bring about change due to the lack of mental health care for NICU parents, this includes premature parents too.

What better way to show your support to a premature and NICU parent by taking a couple of minutes to sign the ongoing petition or donate to one of the fantastic charities that help the families when they need it most and are campaigning for the issues that are affecting thousands of families;

I have featured many premature parents on the blog before and in honour of them today I have included the links to all of their amazingly honest words;

To celebrate all of you amazing preemie parents, I have one copy of Ali Dunn of I was a preemie just like you to GIVEAWAY! This is a one day giveaway to mark World Prematurity Day, head over to my Instagram and comment on the post and I will choose a random winner this evening at 20.00! UK RESIDENTS ONLY.


Friday, 11 November 2016

It was my choice to have two kids under two, not yours so back off #mamaissue.

Today my very good friend who I was lucky enough to be pregnant at the same time as (so much so we class the kids as family) explains how she feels when people question her choice of having two kids under two. I have seen first hand they can be a handful normally when naps are non existent and they have run around soft play for 2 hours. So is Elijah and so are most toddlers. But, this was her choice and one she whole heartedly stands by, I know she wouldn't have changed it for the world. So perhaps before you speak, perhaps this post will show you the other side of the coin....
Are they twins? '
No. No they are not.
'Wow your brave.'
Yes. Yes I am.
'Aren’t they alike? '
Seriously?!? ...

Having two children under 2 isn't without its challenges. We are a carefully regimented machine that needs maintenance and plenty of oil to keep going.
I suppose you could call it survival mode. Preparation is key. Clothes are prepared the night before. As are bottles… Washing… Everything. The slightest change or upheaval sends into full blown destruction mode.
I suppose the daily routine being regimented is my way of claiming some sort of control on my life that seems to being pulled in two very strong willed whingey directions!
Don't get me wrong I adore my kids, but I would be lying if I said I didn't fantasise about drop kicking them on the odd occasion. They are like dominoes, one freaks out about being told off for throwing crayons at the cat, the other will laugh, throw more, then the cycle continues.
Disciplining two under two is HARD. Mainly due to the fact one is that much more advanced. She knows what she is doing. If she launches a toy across the veg aisle, she will get pulled up for it. My 1YO however is still in that awkward do I tell him off or don't I stage? Still a baby, but verging on toddlerdom. Then I feel that guilt of only telling one of.
You just can't win.
It's beating yourself up on a daily basis. I try not to compare my life and kids to others purely because we are all battling our own struggles. (although part of me dies inside when I hear a mum of one saying how bad their day was) O you wait Mama, just you wait!!! 😂🙈
When I find it getting too much I remind myself of the good moments.
When my babies sit and laugh at each other while I make dinner. Or if my little girl asks for 'Bubba' to come play. The little things that make you melt. Hearing her say 'Goodnight Bubba love euuuuu' giving him a kind of sloppy awkward snog until his face screws up and he grins back lovingly.
I like to find the fun and hang onto it! Make the mess. Paint the picture. Get the toys out the box. Make a tent out of the sofa that will cause your OCD partner to self-destruct upon walking in the door. Just make the most of it. That's one thing I learnt from my 1st. The time flies. You have to take care of you and yours and enjoy every stage for what it is.
Sam, Elliot and Evelyn
One day you won't have to pick up sloppy beans off the floor while your toddler launches their lunch at you from their high chair.
One day you won't have to wipe another sweet corn bum (gags) or have bogies lined up along your skinnies.
One day you won't have a clingy baby running after you shouting mummy (or in my case two).
Embrace it. Enjoy it.
It's a small piece of the pie.
Coming to terms with becoming a mum is something you could ponder on forever. Or stressing over keeping a clean home. That's not what your kids will remember you for. Two under two is certainly chaos in bundles. But it is our chaos. Their personalities feed off each other and they truly thrive on their relationship with each other.
This is Our story. I know my babies will always have each other and there is truly no better feeling. I could go on for days. Don't get me started on nights or sleep deprivation. Buying a house with two wildlings. Or God forbid a doctors trip 😂
But sadly, there's no time for typing it. Because I'm doing it!! 💃🏼
(Probably don't ask me during a Morrisons shop at 4pm how it is with 2 under 2) I have probably lost my shit by then 😂


Saturday, 5 November 2016

YOU can help make a change to NICU parent care, here is how.

I am delighted to officially announce I have become a Bliss campaigner, and am currently pursuing the lack of mental health care that NICU parents are offered. I slipped through the cracks, and was offered aftercare, and didn't see a mental health professions once. I developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I believe this could have been avoided if the correct care, or in fact any care was offered to NICU parents. After all having a baby in NICU is the most anxious and traumatic time of your life.

In my pursuit of better mental health care, I found the brilliant Little Miracles UK an organisation run by the amazing Marsha Davis which provides support and care for premature babies and most importantly their families. Me and Marsha have one thing in common and it was clear we were both very passionate about campaigning for better mental health care for NICU parents. So it was only logically we teamed up like a campaigning Cagney and Lacey!

90,253 premature and sick babies were admitted to a neonatal unit in the UK. [Neonatal Data Analysis Unit, 2014 report]
Parents of these babies are 10 times more likely to suffer post-natal depression.
41% of neonatal units have no access to trained support; 30% no support at all.

Little Miracles has been doing such good job about getting  NICU parents voice heard, currently a petition is underway which you can sign by clicking on the below link. It is calling for;

(1) Funding/resources for mental health support for all neonatal units in the UK
(2) Mental health screening for all parents of premature and sick babies.
(3) A trained mental health worker e.g. a counsellor, assigned to all neonatal units
(4) After leaving hospital; care and professional support for as long as it is needed
(5) Provision for peer-to-peer support, or similar, for these parents


It only takes a minute or so to sign and your signature could make the world of difference to NICU families.

Another great way you can get involved is to take this survey, this is just for NICU parents and the data received will be turned into a report to illustrate the care that NICU parents are receiving.

You can take part in the survey by clicking here.

You may read this and think that one signature, one survey result it will not make a difference. But it will. To families like mine, a family who was nearly ripped apart because of my mental illness after Elijah's admission to NICU.  You may have seen the news recently where a woman died because of her severe PND and not receiving the help she needed. Please help us make a difference and save lives and families.

Thank you.


Friday, 4 November 2016

You are raising a sexist child and you don’t know it! Maybe…

I bring you yet another #mamaissue that's right two in one week and it isn't even Christmas yet! This amazing post is written by the lovely Anna who I actually know! We live in the same town! She is now starting out her blogging career but I know it will be a successful one if this post is anything to go by! Stay tuned for later in the series when Anna features again! I think by the end of this post you will evaluate if you are really raising a sexist child.

We all know that our children are impressionable and we may think that we are watching what we say around them (most of us don’t drop the “C” bomb right?!) but what about the things that we are subconsciously saying? The throwaway comments that are planting teeny tiny seeds in teeny tiny minds. Here are 8 things that many of us have or do say and the implications that they could have down the line:

1.”Because I am a girl….”
To explain something to your child using the term “because I am a girl” just shouldn’t be legal. Saying you cannot partake in certain physical activities due to your gender especially in front of your sons and daughters is exactly the same as saying that females are the weaker sex. Unless you suffer from a limiting health issue then ability is pretty much 100% optional. Do what I do and at least be honest with your kids and say “Mummy can’t be bothered to get off her arse “. Do you think this woman can’t handle anything that a man can?

2.”Grow some balls and man up!”
By insinuating that your sensitive son is not masculine enough because he is crying is 50 shades of fucked up. Telling your son he should swallow his emotions and carry the weight of his problems silently forevermore is not OK. It seems to me that it is socially acceptable for me to cry into my Ben and Jerries with my friends whilst men in the UK aged 20 to 49 are now more likely to die from suicide than any other cause of death. Let that sink in.

3.”No girls allowed!”
Recently, my Husband joked to our son that our Friend’s tree house was a “no girls allowed zone”. Sure, it was a “joke”. But words are words. And words stick. Are girls not allowed to like trees, climbing, exploring and dirt? How can we expect our sons to take women seriously as adults if they don’t see them as equals in play?

4.”You don’t want to be like her!” AKA Slut Shaming
In today’s society we do not know if we are coming or going. We are meant to be sexy for men (as exemplified by the media) but not too sexy if we are married as heaven forbid we make our Husband’s jealous. We are meant to have perfect boobs but we aren’t meant to slip some nip whilst breastfeeding because that would be gross. Let’s teach our daughters that all women are amazing… even the ones who dare to have sex with more than a hand full of men in their lives. After all, women are more than their sexual choices, right? Right?!

5.”Pink is for girls, blue is for boys”
Ok, so now we are telling our children which colours they are allowed to like? Think about it. How is that normal? I don’t even know where to begin explaining this one so let’s just all agree now that we aren’t the bloody colour police. Insane.

6.”Boys will be boys!”

OK, so what you are saying here is that boys have some kind of magical pass that excuses their behaviors or actions because they are boys? Next time my daughter pushes your daughter over in the playground (let’s face it they can be little shits at times) maybe I will just brush it under the carpet by saying “Oh you know, girls will be girls hahaha!”. No, that shit would not slide. Humans will be humans and will all be responsible for their actions.

7.”Your son has a really big willy!”
So, you are changing your sons nappy and someone feels the need to point out the size of his penis and make some comment like “You’ve got plenty of time to play with that, Boy!” Think of it this way… if we want to live in an equal society then don’t say anything about a little boy that you wouldn’t say about a little girl. If I were to say “Blimey, look at the rack on your little girl” I would just go ahead and close my eyes for that punch in the face. Stop sexualising boys from age zero and protecting girls like delicate flowers.

 8.”That is not very lady like”
I will keep this simple. Practice what you preach. Below is a photo of myself #lovinglife. I don’t want my daughter to lady like… I want her to be open minded, full of spirit and kick-arsingly awesome.

To follow the lovely Anna, you can on;




Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Half of me, Half of you. - the real #mamaissue

The brilliant Jade features today with a #mamaissue that is going on right now. That the outcome will affect thousands of families,  hardworking families, loving families. The election is less than one week away and campaigns are in full swing. But, what happens if you know that YOUR FAMILY will be affected by the decision, that you have no control on as you cannot vote. That your children will be affected by, your husband? When you are now beginning to face prejudice every single day because of one man and his campaign? What do you do? Here is Jade's beautifully written but incredibly raw account of her family being affected by the election 16.

'When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They';re bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting.' Quote – Donald Trump,Republican president candidate, Trump Tower Atrium in Manhattan on June 16, 2015

This quote still makes me shudder. It’s not the only quote that has made me shiver through-out this
farce of an electoral campaign, but it is one that comes to haunt me in the middle of the night when I
can’t sleep. As a white woman the only discrimination I have ever faced has been due to my gender, and even then I can’t really say that it has been any worse than any woman on any given day. I benefit from this privilege every single day, most of the time without realizing it. I’ve always been an introvert, but one who has no issues standing up for myself and others. And I really can’t stand any type of discrimination, or anyone placing themselves above others. We are all human beings.

The thing is, I can continue to say that until I am blue in the face, and I can teach my children this, but I can’t stop the damage that other people’s words may cause them at any point in time. It’s no secret that racism is completely ingrained in this country, that immigration is always considered to be a huge cause of concern for people who have no idea what they are talking about, and that the colour of your skin can open or close doors. So much for a melting pot hey? If one of the two main presidential candidates can get away with publicly saying that most Mexican immigrants are rapists and that he wants to build a wall to keep them out, then we can’t be surprised that kids are going to pick up on this and think it’s a normal way of thinking. (I’m not going to even touch on what I’ve heard say about other minorities…

The word “minority” actually annoys me terribly, because it’s mainly used to describe anyone who isn’t white).

To get to the point of the story, and why I am now affected by these types of quotes more than I was
during the last election (I was more fired up about women’s rights at that time, still am), is that I now
have a partner who is one of those rapist, drug dealing immigrants and we have two half Mexican,
quarter English, quarter Welsh and fully US citizen daughters. Oh, and I also happen to be an immigrant, but because I’m white I suppose that doesn’t really make me a problem. So does this make our kids half drug dealer rapists? Or can we consider my partner to be one of few “good ones”?

Oh gosh, I really messed up didn’t I, I should have thought about all of this before falling in love and having children! What on earth was I thinking?! Sarcasm aside, I wasn’t. Why should I have been thinking about that? I always said that I would only have kids with someone who I knew would always be there for us. Someone I would spend the rest of my life with. That’s how I made my choice of partner. It’s about love and longevity for us; we are in it for the long haul, for good and bad, for the lows and the highs, all of that. I never once thought about our different backgrounds. Yes, there have been times that we have had to climb over a language barrier or two, but we are both pretty adept in that. I’ve always been surrounded by multiple languages anyway, so that didn’t change anything. But I never realised how racism and ignorance could affect us all on a daily basis. And it’s usually little things that you might not notice at first until they happen all the time.

Apparently it is impossible for people to write my kids’ last name properly, even when I spell it out for them. It is really two very common names with a hyphen in between. People write the names properly,but they seem to stick both names together, forget the hyphen or just go by the last name. If you look at doctors’ records, hospital records and health insurance cards their last name is written differently on each of them. I don’t know how many times I have had to say “their name is not Hughes, it’s Castro-Hughes!!”. I think Luna literally had three hospital records created by three different people because they didn’t input her name in properly. Whenever I have to fill in some kind of form for anything there is always a space asking for your ethnicity. I know it’s supposed to be a way to ensure everyone is treated equally (although I’m not sure how that is supposed to work), but since I don’t want to pigeonhole the girls I usually don’t put anything.

This was after a lengthy discussion with my other half on what we should do, knowing full well that if we checked the “white” box life might be a little easier for them… So you can imagine my surprise when I was reading through a routine child check up paper for Aurora and noticed that someone had marked her as “Hispanic”. So I then checked through Luna’s and hers said “White”. So even though we, as parents, had decided to not put anything, someone else had. And someone had decided, without much thought, to also separate my girls by ethnicity, which is exactly what we didn’t want to do. Yes, the girls look like sisters, but they also look different. Luna is very pale and looks a lot like me as a kid, and Aurora has darker skin and looks just like her dad right now. But it’s very, very important to me that people don’t treat them differently, or at least don’t treat them differently because of their appearance. I already worry about the girls going to school and all of the ethnic jokes and slurs that I see adults throwing around quite happily be passed down to their kids, who will then use them without a second thought. I remember when I was at school in a different country it was bad enough; I don’t even want to imagine what it is like here. The American middle and high school system seems to be tough enough as it is, but with all of the hatred and fear that I see surrounding us I can’t imagine it getting any better or any easier.

You only have to start reading the comments section of any political article to
realize that people still segregate in their minds… How often do you hear or read the words “the
Hispanics” or “the Blacks”?! But then how often do you ever hear “the Whites”? It’s as if people think it’s normal to group a bunch of people together because of their skin colour or language (even if their backgrounds are extremely diverse), but not so much for others.

If you have ever been treated differently because of your skin colour you will understand the fears I
have for my daughters. I never have, but I see it happen on a regular basis. My partner is often treated
differently. People assume he doesn’t speak English without even bothering to try, talking in a loud,
slow voice as if he has a hearing problem. The neighbourhood we currently live in is predominantly
white, with your visible Trump supporters scattered here and there, and I see the strange glances we
sometimes get thrown our way. These things were a lot less noticeable when we strolled around the
streets of NYC as a family talking in a mix of different languages. Everything fit in a little easier there.

Sometimes I feel that we stick out somewhat, in both predominantly white and predominantly Hispanic areas, and we probably do. For example when we go to a Mexican restaurant I speak in English and Cesar speaks in Spanish, because I’m embarrassed that I don’t speak Spanish as well as I should. We don’t really fit into a neat little case, like all mixed families. I want our kids to embrace and enjoy all of our backgrounds, my upbringing and languages, Cesar’s, as well as the traditions of the country they were born in. I don’t ever want them to feel embarrassed about anything.

Anyway, I guess my issue is that while I want to protect my children from all of this, at the same time I want them to be aware of the prejudices and judgments that people carry around with them. I don’t
ever want them to be surprised and I want them to be able to rise above ignorance, intolerance and
hatred. I also don’t want them to fall prey to the feeling that they may be superior or inferior to others
because of skin colour, money, gender, sexual orientation or anything else. We will do our best to build a strong foundation of individuality, compassion, love and strength within them, but I can only hope that the current climate in society won’t put a wedge in all of this. I know it’s a bit of a utopia, that perfect world I dream of where everyone accepts each other as they are, but I would like to think that if all of us like-minded individuals stick together, one day we can maybe hope for a better world for our kids where we celebrate differences rather than outcast them, or make them feel inferior.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

To follow the amazing Jade;

Blog, From the Inside:
Facebook Page:
Instagram: @lunajadeX
Twitter: @jadeannahughes