Thursday 9 October 2014

Check up

A few weeks ago we took Jake back to St. Thomas' hospital for his grand check up.

The difference between a regular doctor or hospital appointment and one of these days is pretty big; as we had 7 people or groups of people to see there were obviously going to be periods of waiting but we never waited more than 5 minutes and there were some gaps between appointments when we didn't even get to sit down. Impressive.

Firstly we saw the speech guy, then the psychology team, next we saw the hearing specialist, then lunch then the orthodontist, then the research team and finally we saw them all together. There's not much to say other than he aced the lot and they were all very happy with his progress and see nothing to worry about. The update is really that Jake's teeth about a year ahead of schedule in terms of development; that's not a good or a bad thing, it's just a thing but it means that his bone graft op is potentially next year. NEXT YEAR! I can remember writing on here years ago about how we could forget about the next op as it was so far off in the future and all of sudden it's within sight. Whilst it won't be very nice for any of us, it needs to happen and will mark the next stage of Jake's transition from being born with a cleft to having no gaps left at all.

The thing about the day which was most impressive was that, after seeing all of the professionals separately, we then saw them immediately as a group. It was them showing us that this was a team who all know and communicate with each other because they're here for our son. They genuinely care about seeing a child through its development to ensure that the thing it was born with through no fault of its (or our) own affects it as little as possible. And that's why the NHS is so brilliant, especially when it comes to children. We really had nothing to say to them (other than 'thanks') as the cleft or repaired cleft just doesn't affect us; the day before last this post went viral on facebook showing a baby with a bilateral (both sides) cleft lip and it was posted by a proud aunty who was saying she didn't care what people said or thought but she was proud of her beautiful nephew. As you'd expect, given that most humans are good people, the empathy and support was all positive but some of the comments showed pictures of teenagers with clefts and how they were fine and had had good lives, and there was one which showed a kid (maybe 9 or 10 years old) in a Clapa tshirt at a Clapa event. Really, I don't get it. Let me clarify, they're obviously an excellent charity and if I ever get round to running a marathon, they'll be a beneficiary but these events serve several different purposes but one unintended I'm sure, will be to show all the kids that they're different from other kids. By definition, they're there because they were born with the one thing everyone says won't be a problem and yet we group them all together to show how it's not a problem. I'm prone to over thinking things and maybe they get together because the parents got into Clapa at the beginning and made friends but it's not for me. The other thing could be of course, that we've not encountered any of the psychology side yet; I'm told kids start making fun of each other based on differences to appearance around the age of eight so maybe this blog will report differently in two years' time.

For now, all I can tell you is that when I tuck Jake in at night, I tell him he's my best friend and he tells me I'm his and that's completely brilliant.

I tell Freddie that too and sometimes he says it back. We're working on it.

Tuesday 22 July 2014


I feel a bit guilty that this blog is mainly about Jake as the reason I started it is so much less of an issue or even a thought these days. Plus there is another child; I do feel a bit sorry for Freddie as the second sibling because he never got the same amount of attention before he was born, there was less anticipation as we knew (as much as you ever can) that he'd be fine when he arrived. He's also had less of my time as he came along just as I was transitioning away from a local job and started commuter doom working for the man instead of myself. So the combination of job proximity, having to divide time, love & attention between two kids and not one as well as the lack of anything being the matter, has been something of a triple whammy. Obviously the innate love is the same but the patience, quality time and focus is definitely different for want of a better word.

Having been through Jake's operations along with the natural anxiety the first baby brings and the absolute and utter newness and life-turned-upsidedown-ness of your general situation, I suppose I thought number two would be a breeze. Clearly I was wrong as I've never been as tired, stressed or mentally worn out as I have in the last three years. No offence Fred, it's not your fault but the combination of moving from a couple with a kid to a full blown complete family of four with a cat and a fish. Freddie gets frustrated that he can't do everything his big brother can but when Jake was his age his only frame of reference was us the giants as opposed to someone only six inches taller and much more on his intellectual level (no offence Jake!). Anyway, he's getting there in between tantrums and the crying or shouting and zero ability to follow instruction which seems to last some days from wake to sleep.

But it all adds to these times when the days are long but the years are short. I can't believe where Jake's nearly six years have gone, in the same time from now he'll likely have an underage Facebook account and will be travelling to places on the train on his own but we'll be happy he's got his smartphone so we can stay in touch. We'll probably wish he was five again and Freddie was still watching Despicable Me 2 stark naked as he is while I write this. It's easy to wish their difficult years away so that meal times and holidays become more bareable but I'm sure we'll want them back.

With that I'm going to take the naked child swimming just as soon as I can persuade him to put on a pair of shorts.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Making Memories

I didn't do much with my dad growing up as he was busy building a business. We're great friends now and I know, on some levels he probably wishes he'd spent more time with me. If, for no other reason than it's quite fun hanging out with your kids! And particularly on days like yesterday, FA Cup final day.

I follow loads of Arsenal fans and bloggers on Twitter and so many of them talk about the magic of the FA Cup and trips down memory lane; going to Wembley with their dads and grandads or just watching it on telly. As football was never on growing up, I got into it late at the age of 16 and I only picked Arsenal to support in order to annoy my Liverpool supporting study mate. Since then, I've had some pretty good days supporting Arsenal, but not for the last nine years (as every journalist continually reminds us) since we last won the FA Cup, beating Man U on penalties...I remember taking a portable TV into the coffee shop I used to run and watching it with terrible reception sat on the floor as the cable wasn't long enough...anyway, yesterday I got the boys as excited as possible and we got our colours on, ate hotdogs on the sofa and watched in horror as Arsenal went two goals down in the first eight minutes! To Hull!!! In typical Arsenal fashion we did it the hard way and as overwhelming favourites, we'd turned up thinking we'd walk it...we eventually woke up and after extra time we won it 3-2.

Freddie might not remember it but Jake will absolutely look back on yesterday as the day he and his brother watched Arsenal win the FA Cup with their dad. You can't put a price on that.

Friday 24 January 2014

Why I keep writing this blog...

I get lots of emails from people in the position we were 5 and half years ago but this one I wanted to share. (I do reply to them all by the way!).

Like us, they'll be fine and in time the anguish they're currently feeling will completely dissipate, but right now, they'll be going through all sorts of crazy emotions. Having been there I know it's not nice.

But as I said, they'll be fine. Good luck guys.

You have no idea how much better you have made my husband and I feel!.. we just found out our baby boy will be born with a cleft lip and palate in our 21 week ultrasound and have been devastated. Looking up pictures and google we found your blog and you have given us hope that we can do this!. I cried so much reading your first post because it was as though I had written it myself! Thank you for writing your experience you have no idea how much you have helped us!"

Monday 6 January 2014

5th Christmas

Crazy to think but that was Jake's fifth Christmas. And Freddie's 3rd. I recently went to my brother in law's 40th birthday and the guys got table gifts of grey wigs (as he is nearly completely grey) and as we all put them on, I remember thinking that we're all getting a lot older fast!

Christmas gets better and better as now both boys are excited and get what all the fuss is about...Jake's got to the 'more is more' stage of gift receiving and asking for more...something we tried to avoid but like screen time, squash and chocolate, there's a few things you let slide after a few years of being knackered into submission. Pick your battles they say.

Moving on, I subscribe to a free service which lets you store all of your digital photos ever taken for free in the cloud - (check out MyShoeBox) - anyway every day I get a 'this day in history' email which shows photos from this day 3 years ago and 8 years or some other random's  brilliant way of looking at photos you'd almost certainly never see again unless you were really looking. Photos lost forever although stored safely and separately backed up, now popping up like magic.

Five years ago we were this very week planning to take Jake for his cleft lip repair - have another read about the big week.

Here's a couple of the last photos taken of his cleft lip.

And here's a few five years on!