loneliness.

I’ve been listening to Radio 2 a lot this week whilst I’ve been commuting and travelling to meetings.

They are using this week to highlight loneliness, and to explore what it is exactly that is causing this silent epidemic that seems to be gripping so many British adults these days.

The theme has really struck a chord with me, as loneliness is a feeling that I’m all too familiar with, sadly – a feeling that I first experienced when I started University back in 2002.

I had gone from a small town in Lancashire, where I’d spent the past 7 years with pretty much the same people every day of my life to the comparatively huge city of Liverpool where I knew no one and felt like a complete fish out of water.

I felt so lost that my friends could have been a million miles away (they were actually just in Lancaster and Leeds – but still!). I felt like I’d been dumped on Mars and there was no one I could talk to. My flatmates were lovely – they really were. But they weren’t my friends and I wasn’t at home.

I spent my days wondering if I’d made the right decision and my nights wondering why I didn’t feel like going out like everyone else did. Everyone else was having a great time, they were making loads of new friends, they were brilliant. Was I an oddball? Why couldn’t I enjoy myself? Why couldn’t I make any friends? I decided that it just wasn’t for me. The loneliness I felt, even in a crowded room, used to swallow me up and I would often cry myself to sleep.

How I got through those first six months I don’t really know (my poor mother’s phone bill must have been huge!). But I did get through it, and after that first Christmas I snapped myself out of it and I started going out and having fun. Making a real effort. Making friends on my course and getting to know my flatmates – who I was certain thought I was a complete weirdo by that point, but who made me laugh and helped me overcome my loneliness.

One thing I often regret is not talking to anyone about how I felt back then. I kept lots of things to myself and I think that probably stopped me making friends more than anything else.

I often think that, because I didn’t really talk to people much, they must have thought I was such a moody sod. That I didn’t want to join in or that I was boring (reality hits: perhaps I was!). When really, all I wanted was someone to talk to me properly. To laugh with me and to be my friend.

It was good to hear on one of Jeremy Vine‘s show’s this week that I wasn’t alone in how I felt back then. So many students go through the same thing. We didn’t have Social Media back then (just MSN Messenger and some crazy new fangled website called MySpace!) so keeping in touch with friends was much more difficult than it is now – but I caught trains and traveled all over the country to catch up and re-connect whenever possible. And it was like we’d never been away from each other. Loneliness gone. 

I’m thankful now that I can say that I haven’t really experienced loneliness on that level since those early days of University.

There have been times, especially in those long winter months after having Ruby (being at home all day with a baby, no adult company and no family or friends close by to call on or help out), when it all became a little too much and loneliness began to creep in again…but that’s when I would get out, send a message to one of my new NCT group friends and head out for cake.

Glorious cake! Cake solves lots of problems.

I was still lonely (almost 1/4 of first-time mothers in the UK admit that they feel lonely after having a baby), and there were days when it was really difficult but the difference this time was that I talked to people about how I was feeling – I spoke to people who told me that they felt the same!

And a problem shared became a problem halved, literally.

4

So…I guess what I am trying to say is that feeling lonely does not make you unusual. This week has definitely taught me that. Finally. After all these years.

No one should ever feel like they can’t admit that they feel lonely.

And what I want you to know is that if you ever feel lonely, let me know and we’ll sort that right out!

 

 

 

 

arguments with a four year old.

Our daughter, as many of you will already know, is four.

Our daughter, as many of you will know, is also very strong-willed and a feisty little creature.

This basically means the following things:

  1. She knows best
  2. She doesn’t listen to a word we say
  3. She will pretend to listen whilst rolling her eyes at you
  4. She knows best
  5. She throws monumental, melodramatic (and somewhat hilarious) strops from time to time
  6. She flicks from loving her brother to wishing he wasn’t around faster than you can blink
  7. She knows best

She’s a teeny weeny wolf in the most angelic of sheep’s clothing. With a head bob and plenty of “sass” that comes from one too many episodes of My Little Pony!

She’s awesome. She’s kind. She’s clever. She’s frustrating.

She’s Ruby.

There are the usual little arguments that I’m pretty sure are standard for any parent of a four year old…you know the ones, no you can’t have chocolate for breakfast, too much TV will make your brain mushy, no you can’t have chocolate for breakfast, please put your shoes on, I’m sorry but Jamie can’t come to live with us as his mummy would miss him too much, no you can’t have any more chocolate as you’ll be sick…and so on and so forth.

#totalbrokenrecord

But last night, and I have to admit quite often recently, her sass turned into being just plain mean to her baby brother.

And as a result, last night we had an argument that was bigger than the usual ones.

Last night she ended up in her bedroom in tears.

And last night I felt more guilt than I have ever felt after an argument with her. Ever.

Why?

Because I lost my cool. Because she cried so hard and because, last night she looked at me and said, “Does this mean you don’t love me?”.

And that, quite simply, broke my heart because oh Lord, do I love her.

I love her so, so much.

But the thing is…when I see her nastily growling in the face of her baby brother, or snatching toys from his hands just because he is enjoying himself, or laughing when he falls over, it kind of makes me cross.

And it makes me sad, because I don’t understand where that comes from. Is it normal?!

Ruby has never been that child you see. Sure there have been moments, but in general she’s had glowing reports about how good she is at sharing and we are always being told how kind she is. So why is it then, that all of a sudden she seems to have designated Henry as public enemy number 1?

Listen to me please. Stop doing that. Behave yourself.
You’re doing so well at sharing. That was so kind. Thankyou for being nice to Henry.

I’ve tried all the tactics, and I could spout ToddlerCalm, How to Encourage Sharing…all the parenting books you like… back at you, but I’m still no closer to cracking this one.

And this is the one that causes me to have arguments that make my four year old think I don’t love her!

Help!

So much has happened to our little family over the last 19 months since Henry arrived. Meningitis, starting school, we’ve moved house, I’ve gone back to work…and I guess all of these things are taking a toll on all of us.

I don’t know if how I parent is the best way to do things. I tell her I love her every single day. I worry constantly about what she thinks and feels. I spend ages explaining why we’re doing things the way we are. I talk with her after every falling out and we forgive and forget. I wonder every time we fall out how much of all of this she will remember, and how it’s affecting her “future self”. I fret about whether we should spend more time with her on her own, without Henry around. I worry about their future relationship – I want so much for them to be friends. I feel incredibly guilty about arguing with her – shouldn’t I just be loving every single minute I have with her instead!?

Shouldn’t I find it easy to take the upper-hand and just let it all go?

Maybe? Probably? Definitely?

There are lots of things that I don’t know about our four year old and how best to parent her, now and in the future. And I am hoping that this, like other triggers for arguments, is just a phase.

One thing I do know for sure is that I love her so much. I am so proud of her and how she has handled all the changes that have come her way recently.

And that will never change, no matter how many times she rolls her eyes at me!

Any advice? Sibling rivalry getting you down too? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Speak soon x

meningitis.

I started oliphantum back in March 2016 as a way to document our life, our world, the way we see things and to show how normal life as a mother of two unfolds in South Staffordshire (if life with children can ever be described as normal that is!).

It was a way in which to get some of my creativity back (I’m a marketing Account Director by trade) and do something fun! And it was also a way to help me get my head back to “normal” after a horrific experience in September 2015.

That horrific experience was the near-loss of our 3 month old son to meningitis.

It’s Meningitis Awareness Week this week (19th – 25th September) and so I wanted to share our story with you, in the hope that it will help to spread the word about how serious the disease is and make more people aware of the symptoms we all need to look out for – especially in babies and toddlers.

the story.

Henry had been a little unsettled and unusually cranky all day, and when he started to be sick I knew that something was wrong.

We called NHS 111 (the free non-emergency advice line) and they advised that we take him to the Out Of Hours service. The Doctor there believed that Henry had a virus and that we should just take him home and monitor his symptoms.

He slept fitfully that night and the next morning he threw up each and every milk feed (a massive disaster since he was breastfed and I wasn’t pumping!!).

He was restless, kept arching his back and I just couldn’t settle him.

We walked his sister to pre-school and on the way home I called the Doctor and booked an emergency appointment as Henry wouldn’t stop being sick and his moans had turned to a constant, high pitched cry (a big symptom that I had no idea about).

I raced him to the surgery as I knew that something was wrong, this wasn’t my baby.

Henry had a fever but it was only just over the ‘normal’ levels, however, because he was just 3 months old the Doctor immediately referred us to the paediatrician at our local hospital.

The triage nurse at the hospital instantly knew that something was wrong, Henry’s screams were now ear-piercing and there was such pain in his cry. He was quickly becoming floppy and unresponsive and I was very scared.

Meningitis hadn’t even crossed my mind at this point (but I later learnt from the nurse that she thought it straight away).

The Junior Doctor assigned to Henry asked immediately for permission to perform a lumbar puncture and explained that he felt it necessary as he believed Henry was suffering from meningitis.

My whole world fell apart.

what happened next.

I couldn’t hear another word that he said as my ears were ringing and all I could think was the worst.

From that point on things happened so quickly. Henry had a cannula inserted and was whisked away for the lumbar puncture. The team advised me not to attend the procedure, and I was glad not to have been there – he was two rooms away but I could still hear him screaming.

When they returned him to me he was so lifeless. He was deteriorating so quickly, and we needed to move fast. We were placed into isolation in a side room and Henry was hooked up to all sorts of different machines to monitor his oxygen levels, vital signs and to administer fluids and medication. I couldn’t believe what was happening.

At this point I hadn’t even had a chance to call Mr O to relay the news, so I waited until he arrived that evening with Ruby (our two year old daughter, for anyone new to the blog!).

It was when Ruby arrived at the hospital that we started to worry about whether she would catch the disease too, but luckily the Doctors assured us that because meningitis has no incubation period, she would be showing symptoms by now if she had it.

The diagnosis of bacterial meningitis came back to us within a few days, and so Henry stayed on the life-saving medication that he had been originally prescribed.

His temperature was highly unstable and would drop dramatically throughout the day and night, so he was constantly monitored every hour for a week until he stabilised and finally started to show signs of improvement.

After a fortnight in hospital we were allowed home, but had to return each day for another fortnight so that Henry could have his medication through his cannula. His hands were so swollen after all the medication and fluids, but slowly that started to return to normal.

We were finally discharged a month after that bloody awful day.

one year on.

It’s been a year since all this happened now, and it has been an interesting one!

At first, every little thing had me on edge.

I didn’t want to sleep, I didn’t want to leave him for a second…which was difficult since we also had Ruby to love and care for!

She started playing up and being a bit naughty, and I don’t blame her either! Here comes this newborn baby, taking away mummy and daddy from her a little and then REALLY taking mummy away for almost a month as she cared for that baby in hospital. What a mess it all was.

A month or so after we were fully discharged we were called back to the hospital for a routine hearing check, and it was at this check that we were told it was likely that Henry’s hearing had been affected by the meningitis.

We have had three follow-up hearing tests since that point and unfortunately Henry’s hearing is deteriorating and there is fluid building up behind his eardrums. We have been advised that Henry will need grommets and/or hearing aids to enable him to hear fully.

If you follow my blog and IG account you’ll know that we have been so lucky.

Henry is a fabulous, clever, funny baby boy, and his hearing problems are minute compared to some of the after effects of meningitis…

We will always be eternally grateful that we caught the disease so early, and that the Doctors and Nurses listened to my instincts that something was wrong – as the story could have ended up far, far worse than the situation we now find ourselves in.

what you need to know.

Meningitis can kill within hours. It’s a vicious disease, and is (sadly) quite common, especially in babies and children.

I bet that the vast majority of you had “the talk” in assembly when at high school, and I bet that you’ve all seen and heard so many things about meningitis in the past. Perhaps you even know of someone that has had meningitis.

But, somehow, it’s still a disease that is all a bit too ‘background noise’ for us to pay much attention…and you never think it will happen to you, but really it’s never been more important to pay attention and learn about the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.

It can be quite confusing, with some conflicting symptoms. And it’s NOT all about a rash!

Let this cute little baby be your guide to the main things to look out for…

baby-with-symptoms

Looking back on it now, Henry displayed the vast majority of these symptoms…but meningitis didn’t even cross my mind!

So, after all of this I guess the main message really is this:

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.

You won’t necessarily know that it’s meningitis. So if you feel something is wrong, don’t wait – go and pester, tell the Doctor that you feel that there’s something really wrong.

And whatever you do, please don’t wait for a rash.

A rash can mean septicaemia. And septicaemia (the blood poisoning version of the disease) is much more life threatening and dangerous to your little one.

Click here to scoot on over to the Meningitis Research Foundation website and read up fully about the symptoms.

Do you have experience of meningitis? What’s your story? I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you dealt with the experience.

If you’re on Instagram or Twitter, share your story using #mymeningitisstory and the Meningitis Research Foundation hashtag #MRFAwarenessWeek

Speak soon,
K x