Learning with Lily

Learning with Lily

About Me

After a failed IVF in 2007 I thought I'd never be a mother. Then our second IVF worked and Lily was born in December of that year. Twins Tim and Joe followed shortly after (again via IVF) in March 2012.

Then - against all odds - I conceived a natural 'surprise' baby no.4 in early 2013... Evie was born in October of that year.

What else is interesting? I am an ex sufferer of anxiety and depression, my hubby is 28 years older than me (but I'm not weird... honest)... well, not that weird anyway

Gill Harvey

Follow me on Twitter: @4TinyTearaways

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Good, The Bad and The Flatulent: Fun at the Physio

I've no doubt already ranted about the French aftercare for mummies - physio for pelvic floor and the like.  Well, my pelvic floor has now been passed fit and ready for duty, so it's on to my poor little deflated balloon belly (note: if you can make a sad face with your belly button, it's not a good sign...).

Still, it's nice the French medical system prescribe physio for postpartum tummies, so I shouldn't really complain!

(Although I was surprised I wasn't prescribed some sort religious help - the last rites and all that... I think my tummy might be well and truly finished).

However, I toddled along, wobbles and all, and was asked by the physio to work out on various machines - some I'd seen before (chest press) others a bit more unusual.  Who knows?  It might help.

I was heaving away in a room with several other ladies, most of whom seemed to be either limping or impaired in some way (so obviously more in need of physio than me), working out with various levels of intensity from weird wrist flapping to cycling on bikes.

One thing the physio impressed upon me is that it was important to breathe in a certain way, to ensure my stomach muscles knitted together, deep, deep breathing in and out as I strained against the weights...

Which was fine... until the effort from one of the other unfortunates obviously overrode their bowel function and a stagnant smell filled the room.  We all carried on, despite the elephant (or elephantine fart) in the room, but we all knew what had happened.  And it wasn't pretty.

And let's just say, deep breathing wasn't quite so tempting after that...

I've just been diagnosed properly with hypothyroidism, which is both a blessing and a curse...  Because I've been SURE I've suffered with this for 10 years, but because of an issue with my TSH (which is the hormone they test in the first instance) it hasn't been picked up.

So, tiredness - check, anxiety - check, depression - check, exhaustion - check, psoriasis - check, low blood pressure (9 over 5) - check... all of these things that have made my life difficult for 10 YEARS could have been prevented, potentially with a little tablet.  But  will never know.


Finally, Ray (in his infinite wisdom) decided to assemble the boys' "big boy beds" yesterday when I was out taking 3 of 4 to the softplay centre...  We'd bought these beds because they were in the sale and they were lovely.  NOT because we thought the boys were ready.

I mean, if there was just one of them... maybe, but I was all for keeping them in cots to at least the age of 15.

Matters were taken out of my hands last night, as the cots were gone and beds had taken their place.  Cue an evening of excited shrieks from the boys room, and free-running pj clad toddlers clattering around the upper floor...

But I will say this: ONCE they were asleep... they slept well... and Ray and I were up having a cuppa ON OUR OWN at 7.30am this morning!  BOOM!

Please god let it continue.  I was only up once in the night last night and hardly know myself! :)

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Vomit, vomit everywhere and... well, let's face it we could all do with a drink after THAT

When Ray and I talk about how tired we are/how broke we are/how stressed we are/how busy we are/how neither of us has time to have a bowel movement without having to suck it back in when we hear a cry and 'save it for later,' we tend to reassure ourselves with the words 'well, it is a bit extreme at the moment because ____' (fill in blank: Joe is ill, Lily is ill, Evie is ill, Tim is ill, we are ill, the clocks went forward/back, it's winter, we're weaning Evie, we're potty training twins... I could go on).  The implication of that is 'soon all will be well'...

It occurred to me this evening that perhaps it's ALWAYS going to be an extreme situation in our household.  Yes, Extreme Parenting, a new no-holds-barred sport for the suicidal...

So either we accept that something will always have to give (we'll be tired, the house will be dirty, we'll always be constipated and windy, etc) or find a way to make things better.  Watch this space...  No, seriously, watch this space, the kids are in bed and I'm going to sit on the loo uninterrupted...

Our current "extreme" is poor Joe, who has some sort of vomiting thing poor lad.  I have every sympathy with the little mite... except that somehow his vomit seems only to inexplicably flow when mummy picks him up... Hot sick down the back is not the refreshing treat you might imagine... It seems I am destined to be covered in either peepee, poopoo or something that resembles coleslaw... Sexy.

I can't leave without mentioning my April Fool's joke on poor Ray.  Basically, his aunt died a few weeks ago.  She was 92 lived in Austria - he'd only ever seen her twice, although they did write.  So he was sad, but not devastated.
We were told that we'd hear from her solicitor, and joked that we might inherit some heirloom or other...  Which set my evil little brain whirring...
On 1st April, Ray received the following letter:

Mr Raymond Paul Harvey Esq.


28 Marz 2014

Dear Mr Raymond Paul Harvey
Please accept my kindest condolences for the sad passing of your revered Aunt, NAME
I am sorry of the impersonal note of this letter, but I have yet to locate an English translator for the official telephone conversation.
However, it is my duty as appointed Executor to the Trust of your Aunt to pass on news of a small inheritance.  I am afraid you may find it a little unusual – I too find it a little out of the ordianry, but the wishes of the deceased must always be adhered to.
Your Aunt has asked that you recieve the attached paragraph from her Will and Testament, dated July of last year (2013), but I will outline your inheritance here.
Your Aunt informed me that you have a much younger wife.  To this end, kind sir, your Aunt found it fit to leave such garments in her possession to your „beautiful“ wife with whom, in her words she „felt a connection“ despite having not met Mrs Gillian Jane Harvey. 

You were unaware, I am told, that your Aunt was, for a brief moment, active in the Theatre of Austria – and was quite well known in her 20s for her dancing.  To this end, she has several costume garments of (I am told) fine quality, she felt that Mrs Gillian Jane Harvey was the best placed to receive and enjoy.
Again, sir, I am sorry for your loss.

We will contact via telephone with a translator to sort out safe transit of your inheritance.
My deepest sympathies once again, sir, for your sad loss.


F.O.(o) Law (Apr)

Attached Page: 



And to my DEAREST NEPHEW RAYMOND PAUL HARVEY I hereby bequeath my garments to his WIFE GILLIAN JANE HARVEY of said address, specifically:

1.      Neglige in silk, hand-stitched with pearl detail.

2.      Four panties in lace, hand-stitched with pearl detail.

3.      Nightdress (satin) in fine red material, with logo DS.


(p.3 PARA 14)
PS - all typos and weird wordings are deliberate - I wanted to sound as if English wasn't my first language.  I also printed it on to some mocked up 'headed paper' and put it in a franked envelope.
Anyway, the good news (for me anyway) was that he was completely taken in.  The unfortunate news was that, because he generously let me go for a nap and didn't wake me at the specified time, the joke went on a LOT longer than it was meant to.
He rang his sister.  He rang his brother. 
He then had to sheepishly ring them back...  Poor bugger.
His words to me?  "If you spent as much time cleaning the house as you did on this..."
I wasn't sure he'd fall for it.  Mind you, things are pretty "extreme" here at the moment... 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Mummy 0, Chaos 4

I'm both a perfectionist and a highly competitive person... but you'd never think it to see me here, laptop on lap, surrounded by:
  • a half drunk bottle of Evie's milk;
  • four little shoes;
  • a remote control:
  • an empty packet of baby wipes;
  • a book about frogs, a blanket;
  • a single sock;
  • a colourful caterpillar;
  • a babywalker with its seat inside out;
  • a duvet;
  • a 'Sophie the Giraffe' rattle.
But no crumbs!!  I have swept!  Ha!

And this is how I look:
  • messy hair, from having been attacked by twins;
  • a fleece top that has seen better days;
  • a vest, through which you can see my leopard print bra (grrrr);
  • jeans (of course)
  • stinky trainers;
  • eye-bags;
  • surprisingly attractive facial expression...

What I'm trying to say is that once again, it's Perfectionism 0, Chaos 4.  Tomorrow, we have a rematch.  One day, I will get there.

I always know I've failed when I put the kids to bed then realise I've forgotten to clean their teeth, or when I realise we're only 'just' going to have enough milk to get through the night (here in France shops close at 7.30pm and THAT'S IT 'til 9 tomorrow, so midnight dashes to Asda an impossibility).

Of course, as usual, I'm setting myself up to fail.  And yet I'm always convinced that what I want to do is achievable.  And it is... providing the kids sleep, I sleep, and, of course, there are 26 hours in the day... DOH! 

Mind you, when I read that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have missed their little boy's first steps whilst holidaying in the Maldives, I can't help think - well, I might be exhausted, I might not have "staff" (oh! to have staff!), I might be about as far from having a holiday in the Maldives as it's possible to get, but at least I know that I won't miss any important moments.  Even if I'm as white as a sheet and probably completely depleted of Vitamin D, and definitely have a severe cocktail deficiency...

Anyway, enough moaning - let's move on to the important stuff.  It's the twins' birthday today.  My little boys are two years old!  I'm still not 100% sure they knew what was happening to them most of the day, but hey we tried.

In fact, I've made two birthday cakes over the last 48 hours.  The first, a chocolate fudge cake covered in Smarties to take to crèche (have to educate them about 'proper' cake).  This cake I was proud of.  This cake got a big thumbs up from the crèche staff.

The second... the 'actual' birthday cake well it was delicious, but it wasn't my finest in terms of its... ahem presentation.

I whipped up lovely vanilla cake, filled it with butter icing and strawberry jam - so far so good!  But then realised I couldn't get hold of fondant icing (it's not the thing here in France, so is only really available in specialist shops).  Undeterred, I made some water-icing, and slapped it on.  Unfortunately, it was a bit thin and ran down the sides and across the plate, leaving a thick, white but slightly see-through covering on my slightly uneven cake.  In short, it looked as if a giant albino cow had pooed on the plate. 

But I stuck a candle in it and thanked the powers that be that the boys know nothing about cake presentation.  In fact, my vanilla filled snowdrift got a 'wow.'

In fact, despite having colds, a cowpat cake and a mum that looked like she'd been dragged through a hedge backwards, my little boys were happy.  So perhaps, rather than sit there in the evenings thinking about the things I haven't achieved, I should just ask the kids what they think. 

As long as it's a wow from them, that's good enough for me!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Ooh la la! In which I reveal far too much...

Welcome to France... please leave your inhibitions at the door...

The French are famous for their relaxed attitude to nakedness... and anyone who has had a baby in France - or even visited the gynae - will know that it seems the French are far more willing to cast their sous-vêtements aside and bare all than we modest Brits.

I remember the first time I went to my gynae in France - he asked me to 'take off my things' in the ante-room for an examination... (I was 20 weeks pregnant with Lily).  I stood in there for a while not quite knowing what to do.  How much should I take off?  Was there a robe to get into that I hadn't seen?  In the end, I flung my knickers asunder and hoped for the best.  When he returned, he didn't bat an eyelid - phew!

I was then expected to CLIMB A LITTLE STEP LADDER in order to get onto his very high stirrup couch and, once I had been stirruped, legs akimbo, he proceeded to ask me how things were going and take my blood pressure as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

I'm sorry for any nervous readers who may have been scarred for life by the image of me, elephantine (or "glowing") and approaching my third trimester lumbering up some metal steps naked from the waist down, but as the French say, c'est vrai!  It's true - French it up and get with le programme.

I thought I'd had my most humiliating moment at that point (of course I hadn't given birth then), but it seems that the blasé attitude continues long after you bring life into the world.  Take perennial re-education for example...

I think it's absolutely brilliant that the French prescribe physio to get you (ahem) back together down there after the birth. They also prescribe 10 sessions for the stomach - c'est bon!  But tightening those crucial muscles and preventing the need for Tena Lady in the future comes at a price... your dignity.

You get a prescription for a 'vaginal probe' (I kid you not) which is a kind of electric willy on a wire, which goes where you might expect and is then attached to a little machine which stimulates your muscles and tightens everything up again, over the course of a few sessions.

To maintain my dignity, the physio left me to disrobe and cover myself in a towel and then re-entered... but then, after applying some lubricant to my friendly little probe, he stood there holding the wire as I (ahem) put it in the appropriate place.

Now I hardly flung the towel to one side and put my leg up on a chair in order to put the little bugger inside, but scrabbling around under the towel didn't seem particularly dignified either...

But it was more dignified than when, after the session (for which he left me in peace), he stood there while I removed it with a schllurrrpppp.

Oh, the shame.

Never mind, at least I haven't shared the story with anyone.

Except you, dear reader, and I know you won't tell anyone!

Pics to follow.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

From 0-90: four wonderful generations... and the kindness of strangers

My 89 year old Nan and my Aunt came to visit this week.  I have to say, they are both amazing women. My Nan, who is a grandmother of 8, and great grandmother of ... 8, is 90 this year, and you would never know it.  I'd put her at 70 at the most; she has every single one of her marbles, and a couple of extra ones too!  I have to be honest, there aren't many 90 year olds you'd enjoy spending time with and having conversations with, but my Nan is firing on every cylinder and is a wonderful woman in every respect. I've thoroughly enjoyed her visit and I really hope that she is around for years to come (I secretly suspect she'll see a couple more decades yet).

My Aunt, who is 52, and looks about the same age as me, is also wonderful: she's highly successful, but so down to Earth.  And, even though I barely see her, I have a closeness to her that only comes from knowing someone since you were a young child. 

On Saturday, Lily, Evie, Nan and Clare (my Aunt) went into Limoges together, and it was wonderful to think that four generations of women from the same family were together. It was just a shame my mum wasn't there - she isn't very close to her sister or my Nan at the moment - due to distance and a few other problems that I'll probably moan about at a later date... and that's a real shame. But aside from that, it was a really lovely day - although I think we completely exhausted them!

On a totally different note, I received a lovely present from a lady called Linda, a fellow blogger http://chalkygilbert.blogspot.co.uk/ whom I interviewed for an article in 'Woman's Weekly' on older bloggers.  There was no reason for her to send a present, but I was really touched to receive four little knitted bunnies in the post, for my four cheeky bunnies.  Although kindness from friends and family is wonderful, there's something extra touching about someone being kind to us when they have no reason to be.

Similarly, when I interviewed Jim at www.gruedemoiselle.fr , I visited the retreat on one of the lowest days of my life. I couldn't shake my depression/anxiety and felt that I was really "at the end."  (Without being dramatic).  I just couldn't see a way forward, and I was in despair.  Still, I loaded up my car, camera and kids, dropped the kids at a friend's and went along to see him.
When I was there, although I tried to keep things together, I dissolved in tears and ended up pouring my heart out. Sitting here, happy and rational, I'm a little embarrassed, but the fact of the matter is, he was a complete stranger, but showed so much care and understanding that it gave me the little boost I needed to get through that day and soldier on.  And thank God I did!

When I see someone going through something, I always try to help too. And I hope I've made a difference to someone, or will in the future. It's easy to exist in a bubble, but when we look beyond it, we really do have the power to change lives for the better.  And small gestures or moments in time can make a big difference to someone if they feel low, or just need someone.

Now... where's my violin..?

Just in case I've been too sentimental, let me finish with a little story about the café I went to with the girls (well, women, and babies).  It was a lovely little café at the corner of the square in Limoges, and we had a great meal.  However, the man sitting quite close to our table let one go during our meal. I assume this was an accident... and he was probably embarrassed and hoped no-one had heard. 

Thank goodness he couldn't speak English, though, because, Lily (who has NO volume control on her voice) said VERY LOUDLY: "That was that man wasn't it?  That man did a Pop right next to me, didn't he?!"
I had to look away from my Aunt Clare because we both dissolved into silent giggles.
Nan, Clare, Moi and Evie!
Bunnies - 1 MIA (probably in Joe's cot)

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Growing into a family

Our family has been through a few stages.  Lily, on her own, being indulged with time and fun... Lily and baby twins, when we were constantly scared of (a) Lily feeling bad/neglected and (b) Lily accidentally squashing one of the tiny boys. 

Then came toddling boys and the fear that Lily would knock them over, or squash the bump that Evie was growing in.

More recently, we've had a bit of a 'twin backlash' - will Tim smack Joe?  Will Joe bite Timmy?  Will both the boys squash Lily? Will Lily slap Joe? 

My latest fear is: will Lily squash Evie when cuddling and kissing?  The girl doesn't know her own strength at times, "look mummy! She likes it, doesn't she!"

There's also been the Great Pushchair War - Tim and Joe constantly fighting over Lily's dolly pushchair, both absolutely obsessed with running it around the garden (Joe always pushes his cars and fire engine around in it).  Fights and refereeing, over-the-top tears and tantrums...

Suddenly, yesterday, I had a glimpse of (I hope) the future.

We took the children to the playground in Eymoutiers, mainly because we'd impulse bought Lily a new bike in the supermarket, and she has NO CHANCE of riding it successfully in our bumpy garden.  At the playground, there's a tarmacked basketball court - never used - that we knew she would be able to cycle around as she got used to pedalling.

We took the infamous pushchair and Evie's red Maclaren hand-me-down.  And, suddenly, the children were playing together!  Lily was cycling around (occasionally crashing), Timmy was chasing her, pushing the enormous Maclaren pushchair, and Joe was running around with his little pink version, happy as a lamb. 

And what was I doing?  I was hands-free, baby in her seat at my feet, watching them in the sunshine.  Suddenly, I could breathe, and, as I watched my little ones chuckle and bond, I realised the potential joy of the coming summer and a future with fewer fights and fledgling friendships.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

After 3 pregnancies and 4 babies, I finally "get" how to give birth...

Watching 'One Born Every Minute' whilst doing the sit-ups to remove the last of my baby flubber, it struck me that:
a. although each labour is individual, you learn a little each time; and
b. I finally know how to give birth; AND
c. 'OBEM' probably taught me more than any antenatal class ever could.

Labour No.1

After a couple of false starts (which I now put down to paranoia, first pregnancy nerves and my characteristic impatience), I sat up at 5am on 11th December 2009 (my due date) with a gasp.  That was definitely 'something.'

I was surprisingly calm; I went downstairs, leaving Ray to doze, and began timing things.  As we live in France and, at the time, were in a remote village, we had an hour and a half's drive to the hospital. It was winter, snow was forecast... need I go on?  By 9am, we were heading to the hospital.

I coped with the contractions quite well, was sent to walk around a few times, and by 5pm, was deemed ready to go to the birth suite.  I duly wobbled along, was given an epidural (pretty much the only pain relief available in French hospitals, and the 'expected route' (they were shocked when I said I would 'see how it went' and told me it was better for baby to have one... I thought, sod it then!).

Because I had moved to France when 20 weeks pregnant with my first (I don't do things by halves...), barely spoke a word beyond 'Bonjour' and therefore hadn't known about or attended antenatal classes, my experience of labour came from watching it on films and TV.  All I knew is that I was meant to make a LOT of noise...  And so I duly obliged.

What I didn't know is that squawking like a parrot or howling like a wolf with constipation, doesn't actually help the pushing process - actually, it hinders it.  It took six hours of active labour, an episiotomy, FORCEPS, more stitches than I care to remember and several doctors to wrench Lily from my lady parts... (what was left of them).

My labour mirrored one of the really embarrassing ones you sometimes see on 'One Born' - lots of hot air, screaming and emotion, little progress and then panic at the end...  Luckily, I've forgotten most of it...  I just remember apologising afterwards and being told 'c'est normale'.

Labour 2: TWINS

Completely different kettle of fish (or uterus of foetus) this one...  Waters broke - all very dramatic!  As I'd had a stitch put in my cervix at 28 weeks, I was on standby for months... but in the end, it was 36 weeks and 1 day when my body said ENOUGH, Joe kicked through his sac and waters gushed all over the floor. At 10pm at night.  When we'd just decided we were knackered and going to bed... no such luck!

After this shock, we had to take Lily to a friend's.  I can't believe how lucky I was not to contract even once before we got to the hospital.  Because when I did contract, OMG, did I contract!  I was riding a wave of pain, with barely a breath between the strongest contractions ever experienced.  The stitch was snipped, and I was instantly dilated to 2cm.

I was begging for some sort of pain relief, with the midwife telling me I was only 2 cm, when she gave in and checked again. Shockingly, I was 5cm!  They rushed me to a birthing room, but I would progress to the theatre for delivery, in case they needed to perform an emergency C-Section.

After the epidural was put in at great length, I lay down and instantly had the urge to push. This was only about an hour and a half since admission...  The midwife raised her eyebrows (which seemed to say, I don't THINK so, girlfriend!) (they were very expressive eyebrows - what can I say?) had a quick peep then said: 'try a little push if you want.'

I duly did, felt a movement, heard the word 'STOP!"  Suddenly the room was filled with people and I was rolled, with the worst pain in the world (ever tried to hold on to a large poo?  Well, let's just say holding on to a baby is HARDER) to the theatre, then asked to move from one bed to another...

MOVE?? I couldn't feel my legs!!  I tried to shift one over (no-one helped me for some reason (Health and Safety?!)), and felt Joe coming!  Luckily, Ray ran in the room (he had been getting suited up for theatre), helped me across and Joe flew out almost instantly.

The midwife showed him to me, before he was taken to be wrapped up - my job wasn't over yet!

Two pushes later, Timmy was with us. (3 minutes apart - go me!).  Unfortunately, he needed a bit of help and was rushed straight off.

Looking back to OBEM, I honestly believe that watching that programme helped me to understand how to get Timmy out quickly - and that may well have saved his life...  Chin on chest, shut your mouth and go! go! go!!  That did the trick!

The nurse then informed me that I had been given a sedative (I hadn't asked for or wanted one... but I was soon sleepy and happy!!).

Luckily, both boys were healthy and I was taken to see them in NICU about 2 hours later.   Phew.

Labour 3: The Perfect Labour

Induction, slow to start, then speeding up.  Very little pain, only accepted epidural because they said I might need a Csection if things didn't progress (worried about Evie's heartbeat) and didn't want that to be delayed.

No pain.  Then lots of pain which I breathed through on my side.  Quick examination - shocked MW telling me that Evie was nearly out!  A couple of pushes and POP, she was born "like a bullet" in the words of the Midwife.

Labour is something you can only go through when it happens to you. But what a shame there isn't better 'training' out there to make the first time as good as the last.  Some sort of 'birth simulator' would be good.  

Hey, maybe we could get the hubbies and partners to have a go on it??

Mind you, perhaps it's not just experience: things are (ahem) probably a bit less restrictive down there after four babies... and who knows, if I DID have another (WHICH I WON'T!! INCIDENTALLY!!) it could be just as difficult as with Lily. But somehow I doubt it.

My tips:  Try not to worry, do as you're told, keep your mouth shut, keep as calm as possible and remember it doesn't last forever (it just seems like it sometimes)...

Any scientists out there want to start working on that simulator?