Saturday, 7 September 2013

Back to the Drawing Board by Sara

9 months of smiles....

OK, so here I am having decided to join this amazing team of ladies all doing some amazing challenges to help raise funds and awareness for PSS. I’m a little behind the rest of the ladies as I didn’t want to commit to something until I had a better idea of what my work load was going to be like this year (I’ve just started my first teaching job....eeek!!) and sat here now looking at my timetable and the amount of assignments I am going to have to mark (I’m teaching at a sixth form college) I am wondering where I am going to find this ‘spare time’ I need. This is on top of promising myself that I would make time for some sort of hobby – giving me definite time away from teaching, cooking, cleaning and shopping (I hate shopping by the way). 


So... I have decided to practice what I preach and ‘work smart’ by combining this new hobby malarkey with raising awareness (and hopefully some funds) for PSS. I have been saying for a long time now, that I wished I had continued with art when I left school as I loved having the chance to be creative and produce unique and abstract artwork (I’m not such a fan of still life drawing, and definitely cannot draw faces!). With this in mind, I started to wonder whether I could produce anything worth selling and I’m still not entirely sure I can! But, I am willing to give it a shot.

So now I had to think what it was I am going to produce, what is it that I was actually any good at all those years ago, and looking through some of my old GSCE work it confirmed what I already knew – I cannot draw faces. Well at least not ones which resemble the person they belong to! But, I was pleasantly surprised by some of my more abstract work that has been hiding in various boxes in the loft for over 15 years. I found all sorts of bits and bobs that I had played around with, developing my ideas before compiling them onto the final work. This reminded me that I couldn’t just buy a canvas and start randomly drawing shapes and merging colours together if I am going to create something worthwhile, I need to have a starting point. A concept, from which I can draw inspiration and make every mark, every colour on my work hold a purpose; a meaning.

I want my work to be positive reflections on what it means to have survived HG, to give hope and focus to those ladies suffering that there is a reason they are going through this physically and emotionally draining time – to bring new life into their families. So with this in mind, I am going to blog about the everyday things my children say and do which make me smile, and bring laughter and fun to our family. Smiling, laughter and fun are all things which HG steals and it can be so very hard whilst trapped in the midst of it, to imagine ever feeling normal again, let alone being blissfully happy and enjoying life. So if my blog, about the obscure, and sometimes very obscure, things that my children (Samuel 7yr and Jessica 4yrs) come out, with ignites just a little spark inside those ladies currently suffering with HG, then I will happy, very happy. I will then use some of things I blog about as the inspiration for my artwork – giving each piece I produce a very special meaning and a reflection of what it means to have made it through HG because as cliché as it may sound, it truly is worth it as your children will be the most precious things in your world and they will fill it with far far more smiles, laughter and fun than HG could ever steal.


Please support our 'nine months of…' campaign by donating here:

Planning the September walk by Katrina

We've finally arranged a date for our next 9k walk, Saturday 21st September. We've decided this month that we are going to walk locally as we live in a fantastic village with lots of lovely countryside and we should make the most of this. There are lots of hills around us so it's not going to be easy and anyone who knows me well will know about my aversion to exercise! Motivation is very much needed at the moment so please sponsor us here



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Positive developments and raring to go by Susie

Even before the official launch of the Nine Months Of campaign, I was busy contacting different organisations to try to arrange to see them as part of my PSS Awareness Roadshow.  It is surprising how time consuming this is and I was starting to get a little disheartened that I had put in a lot of time and effort without having any dates fixed in my diary.


So I was over the moon to receive an extremely positive response from Birmingham City University.  I am delighted that they want me to contribute to their midwifery course by speaking about HG and Pregnancy Sickness Support to 60 (yes, SIXTY!) of their student midwives as part of their studies.  The focus will be on my own personal experiences of HG, how midwives can best care for women suffering from HG and, of course, the resources and support that Pregnancy Sickness Support offers.

I am particularly excited at this opportunity because, of all the groups I contacted, student midwives are perhaps the one I wanted to speak to most.  As future midwives, they will be an important point of contact for women suffering from any level of pregnancy sickness and are therefore a key factor in whether a woman receives the treatment and support she needs. 





But I have to admit that with the excitement comes a little trepidation at the responsibility I have to those women who will be looked after in the future by these students. It is crucial that I convey to the students not only the enormous and devastating impact that severe pregnancy sickness and HG can have on a woman, her family and their daily lives but also what midwives can do to help. If successful, I will hopefully (indirectly) help many women in the future to get the support, information and treatment that they need. Thankfully the training is not until February and so I have plenty of time to prepare.

Having had such a positive start to my campaign, I feel inspired and raring to go. Keep an eye out for updates on my blog and please sponsor me if you can spare a pound or two.


Please support our 'nine months of…' campaign by donating here:

Friday, 6 September 2013

Week 4 - Muffins and Milk by Sophie

Week 4 of the challenge correlates to about week 4 or 5 of my pregnancy last year: exact times are sometimes hazy - probably as a defence mechanism to forget the ordeal of pregnancy. For me, 4-month-old Merryn, who I am so in love with, is not connected to the bump that made me feel so wretched! I guess this is nature's way of encouraging you to have more!


It was at this time that the waves of nausea - previously put down to exam stress - were getting stronger. I found myself gagging whilst brushing my teeth, both morning and night; whilst getting ready in the morning I was suddenly running to vomit. Working on a labour ward you are faced with many different odours which normally I would not react to, but I found myself heaving as I walked down the corridor. Still, I had not switched on to the fact that maybe this was pregnancy-related sickness. It sounds so daft now, given that I was still waiting for my period - and I am in the profession of looking after women with HG! I now believe that there were a few reasons for me not thinking it was this: I still had a major exam to do which could make me feel sick; I didn't want to get my hopes up of being pregnant; and being in secondary care I only saw people well into severe HG when they had been referred in - severely dehydrated from the community - so had no idea how it started off and really thought 4 weeks was a bit too early! By the Friday night I had sent Tom off to buy a pregnancy test and now one year on at the same sort of time of night we are baking muffins, trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to wake our sleeping baby, raising money for PSS - who supported me through the dark days to come.



This week my cake sale was supported by the lovely Mums at Mamas Milk - a breast feeding support group that have helped me through my post natal challenges of feeding Merryn! I hope that the chocolate and blueberry muffins went down well and would like to thank them all for their generosity!


Please support our 'nine months of…' campaign by donating here:

Hit the road by Marilisa

Last week I happened to come across a notice online for our local cycling centre's open day. This is the sort of event I tend to come across the day after it's happened so I was delighted that, for once, I'd found it in time. Free entry to the facility, free bike hire for a ride round the road track. What's not to like, right?

The venue itself is beautiful. It was a training centre for the Olympics, and has excellent facilities. 2km of road track, as well as off-road/mountain/BMX tracks. It's at the top of a hill, looking down on London; Sunday was a bright clear day without a cloud in the sky, and you could see all the way across the city.

We hired two bikes; the little boy rode behind daddy (and only complained moderately about being forced to wear a helmet) and I had a bike to myself. The course started with a downhill section, so I didn't have time to familiarise myself with the gears on the bike first. I was suddenly reminded of two important points:

1. I don't like speed very much.
2. A bike going downhill on its lowest gear setting is pretty fast.

So I spent a lot of time gritting my teeth, squeezing on the brakes, and wondering what on earth I've let myself in for. My child, meanwhile, was squealing with delight and pushing on daddy's back to make him go faster. Not my genes.

I did make up for all the speed by very slowly and breathlessly pushing the bike up the uphill sections of the track, though, so balance was restored.

This bit is flat! Nobody panic. I've got this.

All in all it was a good re-introduction to being on a bike on the road, in a safe environment away from traffic. I think the last time I rode a non-static bike was about 6 or 7 years ago.

Between recovering from last week's illnesses and life being busy, I didn't get into the pool this week, but I did round off the week with a nice 5k walk (52 mins). I have no idea what the bike times and distances were; I was too busy following the boys and trying not to hyperventilate.


Please support our 'nine months of…' campaign by donating here:

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Creating Crochet Patterns by Amanda

This week I have been adding to my blanket (another 3 rows, yippee!) and trying my hardest to work out what on earth I was thinking when I created the pattern for these baby beanies when pregnant!


Honestly... the pattern made so much sense when I was pregnant. But now I try and follow it again I just can't. And it's my own pattern!

As you may remember, I taught myself to crochet the summer of 2006, following my graduation from uni but before I managed to secure my first job. However I didn't really get to grips with it until my pregnancy in 2011. During the second half of my pregnancy I felt well enough to concentrate on something but not really well enough to do much physically. So crochet was an excellent way to pass the day, especially as I went on maternity leave at 29 weeks!

I knew quite a few people who were pregnant around the same time as me, and so I made a fair few baby beanies that summer. And I began to notice that the patterns all had a very similar way of working out. What had once seemed like a crazily complicated system to me suddenly made sense. It was all about mathematics, working out how many stitches you needed to make a pattern of a certain type or size. And I felt confident enough to have a go at creating a pattern of my own.

And these hats were the product of that pattern.

There was a blogger I had come across a few years previously and we had been through similar health issues before. And crazily enough we both ended up pregnant at the same time and we both suffered from HG and then Cholestasis. The only difference was that she was expecting twins. And that is why I thought I'd make a matching set of hats for her babies.

I loved the idea of making the hats a similar theme but unique to each child. Forgive me for the very stereotypical use of blue and pink for a boy and a girl, but that was all I had in my stash at the time. And whilst I thought they were a little "loose" in the stitch, I loved the end result.

Fast forward to this week and I had the crazy idea that maybe I could offer this pattern up as a free download for anyone who wanted to try it, and ask for donations in return. But when I went to try it out, it just didn't seem to work the way I remembered it. I'm blaming those pesky pregnancy hormones that caused me so much trouble!

I have sent the pattern off to my "crochet guru" and am going to rework it. This does mean that progress on actual items for the auction will slow down a bit, but I can't help thinking that creating some patterns to share in return for donations might be a good way of fundraising too.

What do you think... would you try this pattern if I manage to perfect it?


Please support our 'nine months of…' campaign by donating here:

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

French Chicken by Muma Dean

I created this dish to cook in my new Dutch oven (I know, very funny) which my husband bought for me for our 7th wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. So I would just like to take a moment to big up this incredible man who is a true HG Hero. Not only was he the most incredible supportive and caring nurse to me during my three pregnancies, he also became “super single dad” in pregnancies #2 and #3. Since then he has supported me in my hedonistic determination to change things for the better for hyperemesis sufferers around the country and indeed the world. From taking the kids out for the day so I can work, to supporting my various trips around the country and world for conferences and meetings, as well as fund-raising and working late into the night putting conference packs together in our kitchen... this man really is wonderful :)


Anyway, down to business... I didn't really know what to call this dish but it struck me as rather French and was influenced by a dish a French farm volunteer once cooked for us so I called it French Chicken. Although I cooked it on the campfire it can also be cooked in the oven in a big casserole dish. It's super easy as you just put it all in and away you go!

Although it's an easy dish for a weekday it's also a bit fancy and could be served dinner party style.

I cooked this for 5 adults and 5 kids but I'll reduce the amounts from that so it's more accessible and it's easier to scale up then down I find. I'll do it for 4 people...

Ingredients:

4 chicken breasts and 4 chicken thighs
2 onions (or 3 if they're small)
5 cloves of garlic
25 g butter
Tbsp of herbes de provence (if you don't have this in your cupboard then simply using thyme is particularly good in this dish)
Black pepper
½ bottle of wine
200ml chicken stock
Some single cream, how much depends on whether or not you are on a diet! If you're not concerned for your weight or heart then you could indulge in double cream but if you want to make this healthier you could omit the cream and just stir in some half fat crème fraîche at the end instead. Also then you could switch the butter for olive oil.

Method:

Slice the onions and put them in the pot, chop the garlic and chuck that in, sprinkle on the herbs and some black pepper. Chop the butter into knobs and put that in. Here is a picture of what you'll have thus far:


Lay the chicken breasts and thighs on top and then pour in the stock and wine and cream until you've got the liquid level up to the chicken; like this:


Put the lid on and hang over the fire or put in the oven (sort of medium to hot, maybe around gas 5-6/190deg?) for about 1 hour or a bit longer. Basically until the chicken is tender and falling apart.


Serve with boiled basmati rice, or mash potatoes, or pasta, or whatever you fancy really!


Don't forget, if you like the dish and use the recipe then please make a donation via my BT MyDonate page


Please support our 'nine months of…' campaign by donating here:

Why raising awareness is so important by Katrina

I hadn't heard of Pregnancy Sickness Support during my HG pregnancy, so I had no idea how much help was actually available. The thought that I could have a support volunteer to give me one to one support, someone who has suffered HG in some way themselves who understands exactly how I am feeling, was just a dream to me at that time. To have someone with me at the hospital or at the GP surgery who knew what they were talking about, who would be strong enough to push for the best treatments for me would have being truly amazing. Even for someone who had cared for a HG sufferer in the past who could talk to my husband Scott and understand how he was feeling at the time, someone he could reach out to when he felt helpless or scared. At Pregnancy Sickness Support we have a wonderful group of support volunteers to help and support women through HG, and their carers and / partners. Our website is filled with up to date information regarding treatments, coping strategies, advice for carers, family & friends, information regarding pre emptive treatments and trying for a future pregnancy. We also have a new forum on the website offering support from volunteers not only for women suffering from HG, but for women suffering after HG, for couples planning another pregnancy and also for partners / carers.


You are probably reading this and wondering why I'm not talking about our 9k walks today, but raising awareness of Hyperemesis Gravidarum and the charity is one of the main reasons for this nine months of campaign. So I'd like to ask you all to please share the link to this blog on your Facebook and Twitter accounts once you have finished reading. it will only take one minute of your time and it will make a huge difference. There could be a friend on Facebook or a follower on Twitter who is suffering from HG or who knows someone that is, they may not know about PSS yet and if they see the link that you have shared then you may have just given them the lifeline they desperately need. They could be feeling isolated and alone, but by finding out about PSS they will receive the support they need to help them through the months ahead and they will feel reassured to know they are not alone in what they are going through. I know myself what this would have meant to me if I had found PSS while I was pregnant, which is why it's so important that you share the blogs and help spread awareness.

It is also very important that we raise as much money as we can so that PSS can continue to run so well, so that our wonderful support network can continue and so that the medical research may continue also. Every penny counts so please click here to donate and sponsor us on our nine months of journey...


Please support our 'nine months of…' campaign by donating here:

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Donations: Where They Go and Why We Are So Proud To Be Fundraising!

As you know, every member of the Nine Months Of team is working hard to raise much-needed funds for the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS). As a charity, PSS currently receives no funding from larger sources (such as the National Lottery) and so the work they do is funded entirely by donations and fundraising campaigns such as this one.

So far the team have raised over £400 and it is still their first month! They have 8 whole months to go to try and reach their £9,000 target (and as many of their challenges include major events at the end of the 9 months we can expect a large number of donations to come in at that time).

But where will all that money go? Why should you consider sponsoring our members and supporting PSS? The easiest way to answer that is to share with you some of the ways in which PSS has used donations over the past year and what their plans are for the future.

The past year

Within the past 12 months, PSS has grown immensely. Volunteer numbers have increased significantly and whilst this means we are able to offer support to more women and their families during a HG pregnancy it also means that the logistics of keeping up-to-date with all the volunteers and matching them with those who have requested support has become much more challenging. Whereas before regional volunteer co-ordinators were able to keep up with the demand, we have now reached a capacity where a national co-ordinator and extensive volunteer database is required.

Thanks to the fundraising efforts throughout the previous year, PSS was able to create a part-time paid role for a co-ordinator who had both experience and passion for building the volunteer network. This was a big move for the charity as they have previously relied entirely on volunteers whose time may sometimes be limited. Having a contracted co-ordinator means that volunteers and those requesting support will always have a main point of contact who can deal with any queries quickly and efficiently. And this in turn has led to even greater numbers of volunteers being registered and trained by the charity, allowing us to continue to meet the demand for support which increases as quickly as knowledge of HG and our charity does.

But we're not just about the personal support. We are also passionate about educating healthcare professionals about pregnancy sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum so that women do not have to fight so hard for the acknowledgement and treatment they need. And to be able to do this we need to have access to research and the opportunities to meet with the healthcare professionals who are faced with the condition on a daily basis. That is why we ran our own research surveys (for women and for healthcare professionals) regarding their experiences of pregnancy sickness and it is why we are holding a national conference this week specifically for healthcare professionals in this field. And neither of these would have been possible without the donations that have been given over the past 12 months.

The future

If you look at the charity's aims, you'll see that there are so many other things that we want to achieve. We'd like to have the ability to fund a 24 hour information line which is answered by a person no matter what time of day it is called. At present we cannot provide this and so our information line is connected to an answering machine and is checked several times each day. It is the best we can do at the moment, but we would love to have the line manned by someone 24 hours a day.

We would also like to conduct further research and connect with far more healthcare professionals than we are currently able to. We are building up connections with consultants, GPs and midwives but we could do so much more if funds were available.

With this in mind, PSS will be attending the Royal College of Midwives' Annual Conference on 13th and 14th November this year. This will be a fantastic opportunity to meet so many midwives who could make a massive difference to the care and experience of women struggling through a pregnancy complicated by severe pregnancy sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum. We are very excited about going. But it is at great cost to the charity (we're talking hundreds of pounds just for the stall, without travel expenses etc added on top). And whilst this is a cost we feel is completely justified in what we will achieve through attending the conference, it is taking a large percentage of the funds we have available to us.

Which is why PSS has just launched a "mini fundraising drive" to raise money specifically towards the cost of attending this conference. The call has gone out on Facebook and now we are asking you via the Nine Months Of blog too. Even if you just have a couple of pounds to spare, we would really appreciate it if you could help us cover the cost of the conference. £1 here and £5 there soon adds up (the last time we ran a fundraising drive like this we covered the cost of our research surveys within one evening!)

If you'd like to donate to this, please do so by visiting the PSS Donate page and add your donation via either PayPal or Virgin JustGiving. This is a standalone request and is not directly linked to the Nine Months Of campaign, so please do not try donating for the conference via the team's BT Donate page.

Obviously, we know that many of you are already supporting the Nine Months Of team and have already donated or are planning to donate during the remaining 8 months of our challenges. And for that we say a big thank you to you all. Your support (via comments, shares on social media and donations) means a lot to us and is helping us work through our doubts and fears and continue working towards our goals. And that is what it is all about!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Week 4 - "You're going to be a Daddy!" by Helen

Nine months of 9k Week 4 – Location: Painshill Park, Cobham

A huge thank you to Painshill Park who waived the admission fee for Anna and me to complete this week’s 9k! We did 4.5 circuits of the lake (pram-friendly route!) which drew attention from a few observant strollers who were curious about the woman with the baby who was lapping them every half an hour. Everyone who approached us was genuinely interested in what we were doing - one of the ladies had a friend whose daughter had HG three times! It’s always refreshing to speak to someone who knows what HG is and how horrific it can be. A beautiful park, a brilliant day and I highly recommend a visit to Painshill if you’ve not been there already.

Pre 9k. There will NEVER be a photo of us post 9k. Ever. 

Party in Painshill Park 

Attaaaaaaaaaaack 

Normal service resumed. 
Also a massive thank you to Greg, Jade, Anaya, Finnley & Elsa who donated an incredibly generous £20! An enormous thank you to Laura and Rhys who donated a huge £30 between them! Finally, thank you to 8 month old Anna who appears to have donated £5 to our cause! I am terribly impressed she set up her own bank account, nicked my computer and donated all without me noticing! She's obviously terribly advanced.


Nine months of HG Week 4 – “You’re going to be a Daddy!”

Arriving back to London in early April from St Lucia was a shock to the system; instead of roasting, it was freezing! This wasn't all bad because I started to feel a little better out of the heat and in my natural habitat of biting winds and driving rain. Still, pregnancy lurked in the back of my mind and less than 24 hours after landing I was in the local Sainsbury's toilet staring at a tiny digital screen on a stick. Classy.



My little heart skipped with glee at the positive result and loitering between the paracetamol and personal hygiene, I rang Rich. “Guess what… you’re going to be a Daddy!”


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