Wednesday, 28 November 2012

It's begining to look a lot like Christmas!!

Eek! It's getting close to that festive time of year again. I've made the cake and the mincemeat, I've started buying presents (well more than started, you have to plan ahead when half your family live in another country!) and I feel like I've already made a hundred crocheted Santas for the school fayre.

I started to learn how to crochet last summer and I have to say I've found it pretty addictive.  I learnt a few Granny squares but was little Amigurumi that got me hooked. (Pun intended!) Amigurumi are tiny crocheted animals or figures that originated in Japan. They are totally cute and lovely. While browsing the web last year for Gnomes (it's a family thing, I wanted to wind up my mum and my Aunty who are a little 'gnome phobic') I came across Lucy Ravenscar's' blog where she was making little gnomes to go over corks . Turn the gnome coats red and suddenly you have Santa! 

Consequently I've had half the PTA of my girls Primary school giving me their left over wine corks so I can make little Santas to sell in aid of school funds. (I'll make no comments about who has drunk the most wine in the last 12 months or why the government don't give us enough money for books!!) I've also adapted the pattern to produce fairies/angles.

And just so we're all clear on this, because I know it can be confusing, I am an atheist but I don't have a problem with doing this. It's not that I'd sell my soul to raise a little extra cash for the school, as clearly I don't think I have a soul to sell, it's just that I like all the seasonal trappings as much as the next person. Santa is fun and so are fairies but I think I've given my girls enough information for them to work out pretty easily that neither are real, certainly one of them has already. I kind of look at it like birthdays, it's all marking time spent on this earth so why shouldn't I celebrate it as much as anyone else? Anyway, back to the crochet.

I also found this lovely pattern for a crochet angel with a lollipop head. 
Which I think should be rather popular.

Another quick thing I've found to do are bows on hairbands, just chain 17, half double crochet into the 15th chain (the 3rd from the hook). Half double crochet the rest of the row (15 stitches), chain 2, turn and repeat until you have 6 rows. Finish off then tuck in the ends. Next take a long piece of the same wool, wind it around the centre of the rectangle you just made a few times keeping the end out for tying up later. Place the hairband behind the bow and keep wrapping, this time going through the hair band until all your length of wool is used up, then tie the two ends together to secure.

My flat Reindeer 'embelishments'  are also dead easy,
Chain 9, double crochet in fourth chain from hook (6 stitches) chain another 11, double crochet in fourth chain from hook and in the next 5 chains. 
Congratulations you just made the legs, you are now going to chain another one then single crochet 9 stitches across the top of the legs, chain one and turn. 
Single crochet 3 rows then chain 4 to make the tail. Slip stitch into the second chain from the hook and the next chain then single crochet into the first single crochet of the row below, continue to single crochet across the row, chain 1 and turn.
Three single crochets, chain 1 and turn, repeat 3 more times but on the last one crochet 3 extra stitches into the final single crochet. Chain 1 and turn.
Single crochet into each crochet of the row below, chain 4, slip stitch into the second chain from the hook and the next one, two single crochets into the row below then chain 7 to start the antlers. 
Slip stitch into the 2nd chain from the hook and the next two chains then chain 3 more. Slip stitch back into the second chain from the hook and back into the original chain you branched out from. Slip stitch down the next 2 chains then again chain 3 slip stitch back into the second chain from the hook and back into the original chain you branched out from then slip stitch back down to the head, single crochet then slip stitch then finish off and weave in the ends. With a small amount of red wool sew on the red nose. When you've finished you will need to block this and fix it flat with spray starch or hairspray.
(I admit this is not my best photo ever - it's taken on the web cam as I've temporarily 'mislaid' the charger for my camera! I reserve the right to come back to this post and stick in more photos when I have the real camera working again.)

Off to do more Amigurumi (it's addictive!)

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Me and SPD

This is me taken just 2 weeks before my first baby arrived.
See the great big smile? I was so excited. See the crutches and the big support 'corset'? No? You're right, I left them on the grass, hidden out of view. A deliberate decision, I didn't want to look back in the years to come and remember the agony I was in.

It started when I was 10weeks pregnant, over Christmas. I tried to help my father-in-law plug in his new digital satellite receiver to the TV and came back from squatting on the floor in quite a bit of discomfort. Not in my back so much but more like a Dane axe had hit me between the legs. In the coming weeks I remember sitting on the side of my bed in the mornings crying because of the pain I was in. I spoke to my midwife and my GP about it and was basically told to toughen up. Only when I spoke to my consultant  and he saw how upset I was that I got a referral to the physio. (I got to see my cons regularly as a 'higher risk' pregnancy, I think he just wanted to keep an eye on me because he is the same guy who had seen us for over 5 years of IVF treatment.)

The physio was a friendly lady who diagnosed SPD or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction.  Basically the interpubic ligament had stretched (as it is supposed to do in pregnancy to allow the hips to widen) but possibly too much. The way it was explained to me was that while you are pregnant your body releases a hormone called relaxin. The job of relaxin is not to chill out on the sofa while watching day-time TV (relaxing - get it?), no it's job is to loosen the ligaments between the two sides of your pelvis allowing it to open up and ultimately allow baby through that tiny gap known as the birth-canal. I was told that either my body was making too much relaxin or my body was over sensitive to it, ligaments were over stretching and that was what was causing the pain and this was apparently supported by the way my ankles and knees were giving way by then.

To have a 'diagnosis' was nice, for starters it got me permission to park in the disabled bay at work (don't judge me badly, I really couldn't walk 50m unaided). To have a set of exercises (including Kegals) to do gave me something to focus on, to at least feel like I was controlling it in some tiny way helped. The SPD continued right through my pregnancy and much to my shock, beyond. Though things did improve 6 months later I still taking painkillers for it and was concerned enough to get referral from my GP to another physio-terrorist. (She wasn't as nice as the first one, hence the nickname I gave her). I got even more Kegals and even more 'core' body exercises. Frankly my pelvic floor was developing all the tightness of a steel bear-trap and when it came to the next round of fertility treatment for a sibling for our precious baby things were decidedly uncomfortable. (I'll spare you the details of what they have to do, save to say that it is significantly worse than having a pap smear.)

We were delighted when we found I was pregnant for a second time and waited anxiously to see if the SPD returned. It took less than 10 weeks. Once again I got a physio referral and this time I got a diagnosis of Pelvic Girdle Pain, don't be confused these are more or less the same thing, just this time the pain wasn't quite so bad. I had some extra exercises and as recommendations on analgesics in pregnancy  had changed I got some better pain relief.  I was told it was probably better this time because the baby was going to be smaller - WRONG. Baby number 2 was a staggering 40% bigger than the first, though I survived the birth somewhat better.

When the pain persisted after birth I was told that it was because I was breastfeeding. (WHAT??!! I need relaxin to breastfeed?!! NO way.)
Thinking about it that should have been my first clue that the people I was talking to didn't know what was going on. Anyway I ignored them, tried hard to ignore the pain, put my head down, kept calm and carried on breastfeeding. 

Roll forwards a couple of years and I was still doing the exercises a couple of times a day, yet the pain had not improved. To make matters worse in trying to improve my fitness and lose some baby weight I'd gone to a few exercise classes and given myself groin strain. I resigned myself to always having a weak back and pelvis for the rest of my life, after all plenty of the women in my family had similar pains.

Just over 6 months ago then I was searching on the internet for 'Pelvic pain' and it was then that I found Katy Bowman's blog and just like my life is divided between the time before I had children and after they arrived I think it's also divided between 'life before I found Katy' and 'after Katy'.

I think Katy has a reputation as something of a maverick particularly on pregnancy and baby websites and forums. She suggests that you forget about the Kegels (YES!!) and start thinking about how the bones in your body are stacked up (by our muscles and ligaments), it's mis-alignment in this she says that is causing our problems. Reading her work, it sounded like everything from pelvic floor dysfunction (that's more or less the modern way of saying 'I can't really control my wee') to foot pain, even prolapse and oesteoporosis could be sorted by better alignment of our bones and ligaments. What did I have to loose? I'd already been doing Kegels for 6 years and not only were they not working, I was more than ready to never do another one. Added to that no prolapse and the fact that my mum has severe oesteoporosis which I'd happily avoid  - YES PLEASE!

So I bought a few of her DVD's and set to work. Six months later, the pelvic/hip pain has nearly gone, back pain I didn't know was there has gone, my feet have grown a shoe size, I can sneeze and cough without visiting the toilet first (is that TMI?) and I can nearly run (which let's face it is about as good as ever I was before pregnancy). It's fab and as an added bonus although my weight has only dropped just over half a stone my clothes size has dropped from 14/16 down to a 10!!

I now feel like I'm on a mission, I have to tell everyone how important it is to get your body in alignment, especially if that person is likely to get pregnant anytime soon. And if I had one tip? Swap the heels for some powerflats, get a half-dome and get stretching. 

I felt completely vindicated this week when Katy, started writing on her blog and facebook page about relaxin and what it can do to your body.

PREGNANCY SCIENCE UPDATE: The hormone RELAXIN inhibits uterine contraction, increases the length of the interpubic ligament, and softens the cervix. IT DOES NOT increase the laxity of the joints nor affect the whole body, making pregnant women more susceptible to joint injury.
What we do have is a widespread issue of women without enough strength to carry the rapidly-increasing load of pregnancy, then straining their ligaments, and getting injured. 

Basically I came to realise what I should have figured from the start, my body wasn't strong enough pre-pregnancy (at least not in the right places) and I simply wasn't aligned so when my Symphysis Pubis started to lengthen it came under extra force and torsion from a 'mis-aligned' body and the added baby weight and that's what caused a lot of the pain. So the truth was I was in rotten pain but I suspect that the other truth is that in my case this was almost entirely preventable. In fact my second pregnancy goes someway to supporting this, my second pregnancy wasn't as painful because some of the exercises I was doing had helped me become more aligned. (Not the ones the physio-terrorist gave me though, working with some similar sufferers on line we'd done our research and found exercises that seemed to have a higher success rate.)

The numbers of pregnant women in the western world who are suffering from SPD is increasing and it's not just because doctors and midwives are getting better at spotting it. More and more you will see pregnant ladies sporting a great belt and a pair of crutches. And why? It's because we don't move enough!! We sit or slump on chairs in front of our computers or TV and mistake it for working our bodies. Ladies, to quote Katy  "you don't know squat!" Get up, get moving and get aligned.

I'm off for a walk into the village and back! xxx

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Dear Migraine

Dear Migraine 
You are not big, or clever, you are a bully and I wish you would go away. 
But like so many bullies before you I bet you are poorly understood and in need of some love and attention. 
Let me help you with that.

Migraines are a big part of my life. I've been admitted to emergency care of one form or another more than once because someone didn't understand that a migraine could be that bad (fancy being told by a doctor that you have symptoms similar to a stroke or brain tumour?)

There are two things that have made the biggest difference to the grip migraine used to have on my life. The first was a group of medicines called Triptans. In the beginning they were VERY expensive, I had to beg and plead with my GP to get on them and at £60 for a packet of 3 tablets I think you can see why. Over time I moved onto injections of triptan and then nasal sprays and now I have soluble wafers. The point is that if I catch it quick enough I can beat the migraine in a few hours rather than losing 3 to 4 days to it.

The other thing that improved things was working out my allergies. I've mentioned before that I'm allergic to coconut, other nuts and palm. For me they are essentially migraine triggers. I wont finish up in hospital with anaphylaxis but never the less lying in bed covered in sick and wanting to die is something I prefer to avoid.

But despite these personal breakthroughs I still get migraines and they are still horrible when they come and now I'm a parent things are a little more complex.

While we were trying to conceive and once I became pregnant I had to give up the triptans and go back to paracetamol and if necessary, codeine. Luckily breastfeeding stabilised the hormones for a while but the 'natural weaning' took it's toll and eventually I had to go onto Beta-blockers. I hated them, it was like swimming in treacle, everything I did took so long, I was so sleepy and I started putting on weight. So recently I've come off them again.

I probably got a migraine this week because I haven't been looking after myself too well. I spent the school half-term holidays worrying about two kids rather than the nasty bug I was brewing, I didn't do enough upper body exercise and I am overly stressed about a few things at the moment. This was all compounded by changing hormones and BAM suddenly I'm flat out with a migraine I didn't catch in time to knock on the head with triptan.

So having delivered the kids to school I collapsed on the sofa for a nap. Bad idea, migraine needed more attention than that. Eventually I got the message, I got the hot water bottle out and the TENS machine on, I did a steam facial (it always helps) and popped back a couple more tablets. At first I felt guilty about not doing the housework, the washing, ordering the insulation, chasing the builders etc. then I felt mad at the migraine for making me feel so bad and lose so much of my day. Then I saw the migraine for what it was, a little wake-up call to pay some attention to myself and before I went back to school to pick up the girls I resolved that I would not feel guilty for letting them sit on the sofa and watch TV for the rest of the afternoon.

TV didn't happen though but we did sit on the sofa, sometimes I read a book (even with a migraine I can cope with the big print and easy words), sometimes big-girl read a book and once or twice little-girl did too. Once or twice I got told off for falling asleep but I think that's OK. I looked after me and I looked after them and I hope I reassured migraine that I would listen to it and do what ever we needed to to get on.