16 weeks 5 days

16 weeks 5 days

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Let's Talk About How Nothing Is As It Seems.

Right, this is going to be a pretty personal post. So, anyone who doesn't want to know deep dark things about me, leave now. Alternatively, the Gossip Girls of you can rush down to find out all my nasty secrets (well, not all. Just quite a lot).

I thought about writing this post a little while ago and decided against it. After the recent news of Robin Williams' suspected suicide, I have once again changed my mind. So here we go. All I ask, is that everyone at least tries to keep an open mind. The purpose of this post is to demonstrate how we can paint one image to the world, when actually, behind closed doors, we're feeling very different to the person we are attempting to portray.

My own foray into the world of "Mental Health Issues" began (as far as it says in my notes) when I was 16 and in the middle of my GCSE's. Personally, I think I've always been funny about food. I may remember very little about my childhood, but I do remember feeling "fat" from a young age. I wasn't fat. I can look at pictures of myself from then, and now I don't understand why I would feel like that. From about 12 I always had restrictive eating patterns. Whether it was simply that I was being vegetarian, or vegan, or I was on a weird health kick where you have to "have a spoon of lemon juice and olive oil every night because this will detox your liver and make you skinny".

At 16 I developed bulimia. Which I initially suffered with until I was 18 and entered treatment. Completely debilitating disease. Makes you hate yourself. Obviously you have a really unhealthy relationship with food, but it consumes your whole life. I saw my therapist for around 15 months to try to work through everything, and by the time I left him, (by which point I'd started Uni) I did think that I was better. I really believed that. Within a week I had relapsed.

That's ok though, because relapse is all part of recovery. Whilst I was annoyed at myself, I got back on track and had a better (yet still not perfect) relationship with food. But it kind of slipped slowly. Initially, there was no real trigger as such, I kind of slid towards being restrictive with food. And I had safe foods. And I became a very obsessive runner. I'd been running since I was around 14 but it was at this point that I became really compulsive about my running. 5 miles every morning at 5am. Which turned into 5 miles twice a day, maybe three times a day on weekends. The real snap in my head came when my boyfriend at the time left me.

"He's gone because you're fat."

And that voice in my head was back. "No more that 1000 calories today. No more than 700. Get it below 500. What do you mean you're hungry? You're disgusting. Have you just eaten chocolate? You're a vile excuse for a person, no wonder he doesn't want you."

And I fell head first into anorexia. Which I simultaneously loved and hated. I couldn't see how thin I was. Again, there are very few pictures of me from this time, but the ones that there are, I can see it now. I was ill. I was really ill. People would stare at me, especially at my arms. I'd never had big arms but now they'd disappeared. They were gross. I was gross. I got the biggest rush ever when I was told I was too thin. That was literally the best compliment anyone could give me. Which is utterly preposterous. ("Oh, I've just got a really fast metabolism- I eat loads!" was always the reply.)  It's quite an arrogant illness in the way that it makes you think that you're better than everyone else because you can refuse food. "You're the strong one. Look at your will power. You're so much better than everyone else."

It got to the point where it was no longer sustainable. And I binged. And that's when I went to get help again. I was scared of eating. I was scared of food. So I was referred. And told I was anorexic. And put on a waiting list to get treatment. In the meantime I had to go to the doctors every week to have an ECG and blood tests to make sure that I wasn't going to drop dead anytime soon. I'd developed brachycardia, which is where your heart slows down in an attempt to conserve your calorie output because you're not eating enough. My periods had stopped. My hair was falling out. I'd got that lanugo stuff on my face and my shoulders. Whenever I went running, I had to stop every hundred metres or so and sit down, because I thought I was going to pass out.

It was unsustainable. The waiting list for treatment was long. By the time they saw me, I'd fallen right back into binging and purging, and I refused their help. I'd put weight on. I hated it. I should note aswell that I was unable to get on a pair of scales. I couldn't do it. I measured my success with the size of clothes I could fit into. So, at my smallest, I was a size 4. And when they eventually called me in to see someone I was between a 6 and an 8. The man who I saw said he could only treat me if he could weigh me, so I ran. I couldn't do it. Looking back, it's really odd. It's like it was a different person.

After I'd refused treatment, I carried on binging and purging. And I became severely depressed. My eating was entirely unregulated. I would have days of eating nothing, followed by days of consuming 3000, 4000, 5000 calories at a time. I was probably at my lowest point. This was in my third year at uni.

In fourth year, I realised I couldn't carry on. I couldn't battle with food and my feelings regarding it whilst attempting to successfully complete a Chemistry degree. It wasn't possible. And this is why I took my year out. I went to see the doctor and told him everything. I said I wanted to have a year, with medication, to try and get myself "fixed" and for that to be my priority. Luckily for me, he saw that as a good idea, and that was probably one of the wisest decisions I have ever made.

So, I had my year out. Was given fluoxetine. For those of you not in the know, that is Prozac. And I felt a lot better. Luckily for me, I stopped taking it shortly before I got pregnant (there's evidence that suggests it can result in heart defects in a foetus).

I still wouldn't say I was 100% fine though, not even at that time. I struggled with getting bigger in pregnancy. After spending the entire of my adult life trying to be thin, it was difficult accepting that I was getting "fat" (pregnant- not fat, you silly brain!)

Having Percy has healed me. (NB. This is not an instruction to everyone to have babies.) I am now fine. I can eat what I want. I can have whole milk in my coffee. I can have ice cream. I can have chocolate. And more importantly, I can have one bar of chocolate, and it doesn't lead to seven more. I can get on a pair of scales and weigh myself. And it doesn't define me (I'm 57kg in case you were wondering, a perfectly healthy BMI of 19.6). I'm not going to say that the reason that I'm better is because  "I have more important things in life to concern myself with", as I don't think that's true at all. When you are ill, in my case with eating disorders, that is the most important thing in your life. That is your focus. Nothing else matters. You don't choose for it to be that way. That's just how it is. It's very hard to convey just how all consuming it is.

The point I'm trying to make, it that you would never know. If I hadn't written this piece, very few people would know exactly what had happened. I can count them on one hand. And I think that's wrong. Robin Williams' publicist has said that he was severely depressed towards the end of his life. And I can't help but wonder, how many people knew about that? If you'd had a limb amputated, or you had a serious physical illness, you'd be far less reluctant about sharing it. You're still ill. It's just harder to see. And it's not your fault. And you're not crazy. (I say this, but I remember one time when I was crying because I'd eaten a piece of toast, so maybe I was crazy!)

I guess I'm sharing my story in the hope that it will help others share theirs. That one day, hopefully, mental health will be as easily talked about as any other kind. And if there's anyone feeling like they're stuck in a really dark place and can't see a way out, you'll get there. I did. At my lowest, I truly thought that nothing was worth it, and now is probably one of the best times of my life.

p.s. Also, Prozac is fantastic, and I recommend everyone gets on it right now.

p.p.s. Kidding, obviously. Only take it if it's prescribed to you!

Monday, 11 August 2014

From Homeless to House in Under Four Weeks (21 weeks + 6 days)

THE BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG  BIG BIG BIG NEWS OF THE WEEK:

WE HAVE A HOUSE!!!!!!!!!

Thank GOODNESS. Situation was getting a little bit stressful.

"But, Harriet", I hear you say, "you have a baby? Surely that means you get given a house and a million pounds automatically, right? Especially if you're homeless?"

No. No, you don't. This is a wonderful misconception that really messes you up when you think it's true.

I don't know how many of you have had experience with social housing applications, but it's a bit of a nightmare. Well, I guess it's not a nightmare if you've lived in the same place for the past five years, but I've got about 10 addresses and you have to fill them all in for every place you apply for, and by the end of it you're just like oh my god, why did I move about so much. Anyway (getting sidetracked), basically you fill in these stupidly long forms and then they assign you a priority band. Once you've got your band, you then start bidding on houses. The higher priority band, the more likely you are to get the house (obviously...).

So, first we filled in the form for Staffordshire (that's where we are at the moment). Now, I'm going to run through a few things that automatically shift you into higher priority bands:

1. You have a baby/dependant children
Me! ME! I have a baby! YAY! Higher priority band!

2. You are homeless
ME! ME!!!! I'm homeless! Oh my gosh, this is looking good...

3. You have a local connection to the area

This is where it starts to get a bit messed up. See, different places have different criteria you need to meet to satisfy this term. Some are you've lived there for three of the past five years. Some are for six of the past 12 months. You have close relatives who live there (parents or children). You work there.

So, for Staffordshire, we didn't meet any of these criteria, so we were stuck in Band B. That's fine. Still pretty high. Off we went on our bidding spree.

And then i looked at the average waiting times for a house for each band. Band B- 14 months.

Say what?! I don't have 14 months!!!!!

So, reconsidered this whole "local connection thing"- my parents live in Shropshire. Local connection! Let's apply to Shropshire!

Now, I don't know how this bloody thing works, but we applied to Shropshire and got a lower band rating than we did for Staffordshire. In Shropshire it goes: Priority, Gold, Silver, Bronze, and People Who Won't Get A House. We were classed as Bronze. HEY SHROPSHIRE, WHAT ARE YOU?!

So, I then turned to London. I've lived in London for over three of the past five years. I go to Uni in London, so surely that's like a job, right?

I'm aware that social housing in London is just like none existent, however I'd read about bond deposit schemes that are run by the local council to help you rent privately. Basically, if you qualify, they will pay up to 10 weeks rent as a deposit for people who can't afford to do it. FAB. I'll ask them about that!

They replied, saying that I didn't qualify for their bond deposit scheme (Kensington and Chelsea) because I didn't have a local connection, as I hadn't lived in that specific borough of London for over three years.

COME ON GUYS! GIVE ME A BREAK!

At this point, I got desperate.

I sent an e-mail to Boris. (I've included it at the end of this post for anyone who wants to laugh at my life).

And then I thought a little more logically, and searched for private landlords who accept housing benefit tenants, and stumbled upon DSSmove.com. Now this is a website that was set up by a guy who used to rent to DSS tenants and thought there should be like a centralised system or something. Either way it's great. I know a lot of private lets are funny about benefit applicants, so it's really cool that someone's done this. BIG help.

Of course, when I was looking through these properties, you still needed a deposit, and four weeks rent up front and admin fees, and all these things that I just couldn't afford. So I figured I had nothing to lose, and I e-mailed every letting agent on there explaining my situation and asking if they had any properties where they could either waive the initial fees, or if I could pay them over a longer period of time as opposed to upfront.

The majority of responses were, as I expected: No. No no no no no. Go and find some money, you banana brain girl.

I also got a few that were like "Yeah babes! Of course we've got something for you? Yeah? You like that? Fab! That'll be £6483760272 upfront then, please." Are you kidding me? I already told you I can't do that?!

Then I got a few landlords who said they could help me out. So, on Friday I went up to Sunderland to view a house. It's in Seaham, which is (clearly) by the Sea. It's like 10 miles from Durham. Half an hour on the train from Newcastle. Literally down the road from Sunderland. And I really liked it. It's got two bedrooms. It's got a garden. It's near the sea. I am sold. And we're moving up there on Saturday!

I'm very very excited. The landlord is really nice. And he's been really helpful (he's actually trying to sort some furniture out for me too, which is fantastic. Really going above and beyond). I actually can't wait to move in, and start getting settled. I've been really really lucky to find somewhere, especially so quickly. So, here's to new beginnings!

p.s. Percy Piglet has now learnt to roll from her back to her front. She did it when I wasn't looking (I was in the middle of taking my contact lenses out) and then started shouting to show me what she'd done. Honestly, she's the funniest baby in the entire world. She's also been having great fun making friends with people on trains. She tries to talk to everybody. Serious social butterfly at five months old.

p.p.s Here's the Boris letter. He hasn't replied (yet!) but the website said that it could take up to 20 days so there's still chance! (Even though I don't need anywhere now, I still think he should reply, because it would be rude not to.)

Dear Mr Johnson

If this reaches you, I will be very surprised, impressed and (depending on the outcome) possibly thankful. I'm aware that you're obviously busy, so I'll try to keep this short and summarise my predicament as concisely as I can (note that I said try- I can't make any promises!)

My name is Harriet and I am a Chemistry student at Imperial College London. I'm actually on maternity leave at the moment, having had my daughter, Persephone, in March this year. I'm in my final year (fourth) at Imperial, and am due to return in January 2015, graduating in the Summer of the same year. 

"That's all very lovely, Harriet, but what has this got to do with me?" 
Well Mr Johnson, I'm very glad you asked that. You see, due to unforeseen circumstances, we are currently homeless. We were staying with my parents, however they asked us to leave last month. Since then, we have been living with my Grandparents, but they can only provide us with somewhere until the end of September. I need to find somewhere else to live.

Optimally, I would then move back to London. I need to be in London to complete my degree. I need my degree to further myself in life (I am hoping to go on to train to become a doctor), to help contribute to society, and to provide a positive role model for my daughter. I am aware that social housing in London is incredibly difficult to come by. I am thus aware that private renting is my most feasible option.

I contacted the local council for the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea regarding the rent deposit scheme they have in place, however I was told I was not eligible as I do not have a "local connection" to the area. Mr Johnson, I have lived in London for over three of the past five years. I may not have lived in the same borough, but I have lived in the city. If I do not have a local connection there. I do not have one anywhere. 

I am asking you- no, I am pleading with you- for your help. I'm sure you receive many e-mails like this, but I am at my wits end. I don't know what to do, or where to turn. And I am hoping that you could find it in your heart to help me. Is there any way I would be eligible for any London rent deposit scheme? Or do you know of any landlords that may waive the deposit/initial fees involved with renting somewhere new?

Any guidance or support you could offer would leave me eternally in your debt.

Warm regards

Harriet Stanway and Baby Persephone

Address (for now!):

Wolstanton
Newcastle
Staffordshire
ST5

And if you have a spare 5 minutes with a cup of tea and fancy reading our blog, here's the link:

www.preggostudent.blogspot.co.uk




Sunday, 3 August 2014

Ready, Steady, GROW (up) [20 weeks + 5 days]

Right, well we've had a very very very VERY busy week/ 10 days. Incredibly busy. We haven't stopped at all. So I've got lots and lots of lovely things to write about.

Ok, so first of all: THE MILESTONE OF THE WEEK. Percy properly rolled over for the first time! We were at Great Nana's house, and she was lay on her tummy on the rug, and all of a sudden she just went. She's been very close for a long time and kept rolling onto her side (she didn't quite get the whole "need-to-move-my-arm-out-of-the-way-to-roll-over" thing). But she's done it now! I was very excited about the whole thing (she seems less excited, and more frustrated over the fact that she can't crawl or sit/stand up yet. I keep having to explain that she's too small and needs to calm down).

We've spent a lot of the past week getting settled in and re-acquainting ourselves with everywhere. We've joined the library. We went for our weekly swimming session (Percy is getting very good now. She's a super speedy fish baby). We've signed up for a baby massage group which starts next week. On Tuesday we went to Baby Sign Language in Congleton, which we really enjoyed. The sessions have finished now for the Summer, so we just went to the last one of the term; we're going to start properly in September. I've wanted to start teaching her sign language since she was born because (obviously) it will make it a lot easier for her to communicate with me before she learns how to talk, so I'm very excited that we've found this group. I really enjoyed it. Percy really enjoyed it. It was really lovely, and I can't wait for our weekly classes to start. The one we go to is part of Tiny Talk (I think?) and although obviously we've only been to the one, I would definitely recommend it. It's just another nice weekly activity for the two of us.

In terms of Mummy-life, I've mainly been trying to sort out housing for the two of us. We've been bidding on a few properties around Stoke to live in until January and we've got a house viewing later in August. I had a look at waiting times the other day and it didn't look too promising, so I think I'm lucky to have got a viewing so quickly. We actually went to the housing office here to say that we were homeless and ask if there was any help they could give us. Apparently though, because I've been out of this area for five years, I'm not classed as having a 'local connection' and so they can't give us any emergency or priority housing. It's a good job I've got somewhere to stay till October! I'm in the process of discussing rent deposit schemes with the relevant authorities aswell in case we're unable to find any social housing. I've contacted both Shropshire and London asking about our eligibility, so hopefully we will be able to get aid from one of them (keeping EVERYTHING crossed!). I'd really like to have found somewhere to live by the beginning of September, (but not necessarily moved in). I think I'm a little anxious about it and I'll feel a lot more settled once it's all sorted out.

Went for some hospital training also this week. Got a meeting with Occupational Health next week and then I should be able to start on the wards. Very very very excited about this. Literally can't wait. 

My Dad and one of my sisters came over to drop some things off for us on Friday. I was very very VERY VERY VERY happy about this because we'd both been living on a serious capsule wardrobe (and it was lovely to see them, of course!) so YAY WE HAVE CLOTHES AGAIN!

We went up to Liverpool yesterday to see one of my friends, which was very lovely. Percy was very well behaved. I ate far too much pizza. It was great. We're spending today in Manchester with Great Nana. Percy is doing lots of travelling for someone who isn't yet five months old! I'm just getting her accustomed to the fact that Mummy isn't good at staying in one place for too long (I joke about this, but I hope the poor child doesn't end up having serious settling issues when she's older. I would have nobody to blame but myself).

We've got another super duper busy week coming up (although some of this "super duper business" is things like: "Mummy is off to go and get her hair done", so not like important super duper business) so we'll fill you all in on that next weekend.

p.s. I almost forgot, HILARIOUS THING OF THE WEEK: I put my name for 6 tickets to go and see The X Factor in Wembley on the evening of the 10th August, thinking that I obviously wouldn't get them because I never do. Unbelievably, I did get them. But you aren't allowed to take under 12's so Percy Piglet is a no-no. And it's one of those things where I have to go so I can't just sell them on. Which is a bit annoying! I guess I'll just have to wait a bit longer before I get to be in the same room as Cheryl Cole! 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Back t' yer roots, duck (19 weeks + 2 days) #PotteriesLove

Well. Goodness me. A LOT has happened since I last posted on here. I think I'll run through everything in order of importance. Major happenings are going to come first, and I'll leave the less interesting revelations until the end. So, without further ado:

1) Percy Piglet is the hungriest baby in the whole world. Ever.
Seriously, she does not stop eating. Ever. I don't know where she puts it all, because she's still only 12lbs... but my God, she can eat. We like chicken and squash rubbish; cheesy spinach crap; fruity porridge; eggy custard; normal porridge (shh it's not just for babies over 6 months...); rice pudding; and (the best) chocolate pudding (took me forever to find some, but I managed it in the end!). We still don't like bananas though. And we consume all of this alongside 5700000 oz of milk each day. Still no sign of any teeth yet, but she's Queen of the Dribbler's and Lord High Commander of the Fist Eaters, so I'm sure they'll appear soon.

2) Percy Piglet knows how to wrap Mummy around her little finger.
Note to all future parents: unless you plan on spending every waking moment doting on your child for their entire life, don't do it for the first 4 months. Percy is a very very very spoilt baby. I spend a lot of time not just with Percy, but actually on Percy. We're generally always having a chatter or a play, or reading stories. We're definitely always chattering. Constantly chattering. I probably spend more time talking to Percy than to anyone else. As such, we've now reached a stage where Mummy wants to leave Percy to play for 5 minutes whilst she goes, for example, to wash the bottles. Percy is not happy. Percy wants Mummy. Percy wants attention. Percy says, "PLAY WITH ME NOW, MOTHER!!!" And if I don't respond within 20 seconds, she has a trick. She does her little lip curl which she knows crucifies me. So I run over, and pick her up and within an instant she's smiling and giggling again. My own daughter knows how to manipulate me, and she is only four months old. Help.

3) Mummy is now officially a volunteer at the North Staffs Hospital!!!!!!!
WOOOOO, YAY! WOOOOOO! Had my interview this morning and they said everything was fine for me to start. Just need my CRB check to be sent off and then on the wards we go!!!! I've got a training day next week. I literally can't WAIT! I'm so excited about starting!!!!

4) Oh yeah, and we've kind of left home. No biggie...
Things weren't really working out, so we're staying with my Grandparents in Stoke at the moment until October. Need to formulate a plan as to where to go after then. The optimum situation would probably be to find somewhere in London that we could move into, prior to returning to Uni in January. So that's what we're aiming for at the moment. But who knows how it's all going to work out. We arrived on Monday, and so far it has been lovely. We've spent lots of time with Great Gran and Great Gramps. We've been over to see Great Nana and spent lots of time with her. We've joined the swimming baths (we're going to Parent and Toddler group tomorrow morning). We've got a running club on Saturday mornings. We're very much liking being able to walk to shops. That's wonderful. We also have a HUGE bed that has room for both of us to starfish in, so I am SUPER happy about that.

 Percy has been so good about the whole thing. She's adjusted so quickly, and settled in absolutely fine. She really is an angel. We left in a bit of a hurry and with limited baggage storage (i.e. it was whatever I could carry), so unfortunately Mummy banana brain left Percy's books and toys at Mimsy and Gramps' house (although I swear I put crinkle mouse in her bag...). Also left our lovely stash of baby food and bulk-bought nappies and wipes. So, at the moment, Percy has The Times and New Scientist as her bedtime stories, and we've bought some bargain Boots nappies to keep us going. 

We are survivors.

p.s. Everyone in Stoke is so friendly and I love the way they all speak. Seriously, yesterday some boys who were like 10 years old offered to help me with Percy's pushchair down some stairs. And I'm 75% sure that they weren't trying to steal anything from me. Ok, maybe only 70% sure. But still, a very lovely gesture.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Recap (18 weeks + 3 days)

Right! So, a little later than promised (as always!) but we're here with our recap of our week/fortnight. (It's a bit disjointed because I'm literally running through the main points of the past fortnight, so as not to have a post that is 12 feet long.)

SO. I believe the last time we updated our blog with general day-to-day things was when we were in Cambridge. We had a lovely time in Cambridge. As a place, it is lovely, and it was wonderful to see my friends again (who were so good with Percy- I was very very impressed). We would be very very very happy to spend four years at Cambridge.

Last Tuesday, had my mock driving test. OH MY GOODNESS. It was hysterical. I am officially the worst driver in the entire world. It was appalling. I don't even want to talk about it, it was that bad.

The following Thursday, went to sit my UKCAT. I was very stressed about the whole thing (as may have been apparent from those of you who are friends with me on fb), but it actually turned out fine. I was reasonably pleased with my result, and I've scored high enough to be considered for the places that I may want to apply to. (Minor boast: I actually got full marks on the quantitative reasoning section because I'm such a super nerd.)

I took Percy swimming on Wednesday, which was lovely. She really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. We managed half an hour in the pool which was longer than I thought we would! I think we're definitely going to make it a weekly thing.

In other baby related news, she has been absolutely fine since the glass incident last week. There hasn't even been a hint of a black eye (Thank God!)

I think she might be teething at the moment because she's constantly trying to put everything in her mouth and chew it, and she's dribbling all over me. I am not being melodramatic when I say constantly. It's great.I love being covered in Persephone saliva. My Mummy said that none of us started teething until we were 6 months old, so if she is teething she must be getting that from her fathers side (apparently teething is genetic? I haven't looked into this yet so if anyone knows if this has any factual basis I'd love to know. Also if anyone knows if her dad was an early teether, I'd love to know that too. In fact ANY health-related information about his side of the family would be really beneficial for us).

I spent yesterday trying to get Percy to roll over. She can roll from her back onto her side, but not quite on to her front yet, so I was trying to encourage her to do that. She seems to be more preoccupied with trying to sit up at the moment though! She is not happy if she is lying down and everyone else is sitting up, and desperately tries to pull herself up. I keep trying to explain that she's still too small, but she refuses to listen. Who knows, by the time we write the next entry she might have actually achieved it!

p.s. I promise we'll write a less rushed, more eloquent blog next week. I'm currently trying to speed-knit Pippa's birthday present (it needs to be ready by Sunday) and I've still got quite a bit to do. I also need to start her birthday cake so needless to say I'm a little preoccupied! 

Friday, 11 July 2014

And Time Stood Still (17 weeks + 3 days)

Ok, so I'll give a brief overview about the past week later on (probably Monday), but the main focus of this post regards things that have happened to us today. It's been quite eventful, and something that (I imagine?) the majority of parents can relate to (in some way or another).

There are a fair few moments where I have said "This is 110% the worst thing that has ever happened. Nothing will come close to this. This is truly atrocious." These have ranged from the now insignificant: getting a U in a Maths AS-Level mock; behaving like an idiot when I've been drunk; my interview for Imperial (buy me a couple of gins and I'll tell you all about that one!), to those which have been a bit more serious (I'm not so willing to share those. Become my best friend, buy me a couple of bottles of gin and I might tell you those at 2am). Today, I can officially say, has topped all of these moments. Today I did the worst thing that I have ever done.

It was around 3pm when it happened. Percy had been fed about half an hour before. She seemed a bit tired so I took her upstairs and put her on our bed. It was warm, so I went to open our window. As I pushed the window open, I knocked an empty glass off the windowsill.

The windowsill which is directly above our bed.

The bed where Percy was lay.

And time stood still. 

It's missed her, it must have missed her, if it had hit her she'd be crying wouldn't she? Have I actually just knocked a glass off? How could I be so stupid? This is not happening. It's not happening. Can I go back? Yes, just go back. We don't need the window open, the window can stay closed, oh my gosh the glass is smashed.

And then time started.

 Percy started crying. Really crying. I started crying. I was frantically cuddling her, trying to conceive what had just happened, and what I may have just caused. I literally didn't know what to do. I was in shock. I called my Mummy. Mummy had gone out for lunch with her friends; she wasn't anticipating receiving a phone call from a hysterical daughter. My Mummy is amazing. She came home straight away and took charge of the situation. We took Persephone up to the doctors where she was immediately seen by both the nurse and the doctor. They checked her over and assured us that she was absolutely fine and they weren't worried. We've been given information on minor head injuries and told to keep an eye on her and if she deteriorates call them again.

At the moment she's lay next to me. She's just finished another feed and she's happy and smiling and chatting away. They've said she might end up with a black eye but at the moment she's just got a red mark above her eyebrow. I'm filled with guilt. I feel like a terrible mother. I am eternally grateful to my Mummy and everyone at the doctors, all of whom were truly wonderful. Persephone is going to be locked up in a bubble for the remainder of her life. I am using plastic cups from now on.

And I have been reminded of what the most important thing in my life is. It's not how fast I can run. It's not how well I do in entrance exams. It's not how good my tan looks. It's my beautiful baby, who I am so blessed to have, and who I love more than words can describe.

p.s. Trudie if you're reading this, kindly stop stalking me, and go and get a life

Friday, 4 July 2014

Judgement Day

Right, so we ended up missing last weeks blog post because we've been very very busy ladies but, as promised, we are back and marginally less upbeat. In fact, if I had to choose a word to describe how I was currently feeling I would say....pensive. Yes. Today has brought on a pensive mood.

HOWEVER, let me recap over what has been happening in our lives before I start getting all deep and reflective and meaningful (i.e. angry and rant-y).

Percy has been getting very very very very hungry recently and I've been giving her lots of different things. She loves fruity porridge. She loves rusks with milk. She even loves (wait for it) cheesy spinach and potato bake (goodness me...). Unfortunately, she appears to really not like banana. Which is fine. I guess. Except that I've bought about 10 pots of various banana flavoured foods. So... that sucks a bit. I'm hoping that it was a case of introducing too many new flavours, too quickly? So I'm going to try again in a couple of days (but honestly, she really seemed to not like it).

Driving is going really well. I've got a mock test next week. Exponentially nervous. But also absolutely buzzing. Percy and I are also running a 5K with Mimsy, Auntie Bean and Auntie Pippa next Sunday (13th July), so we're looking forward to that.

Percy was supposed to have some vaccines yesterday but we had to reschedule them (see below). That means that the nurse missed out on the chance to mispronounce her name (I love her, but she always forgets how to say it).  I'm starting to thing that her name should have the phonetic spelling on official documents so that people know how to pronounce it: "Per-sef-oh-nee". Or maybe some kind of "sounds like" game: "Persephone- rhymes with Stephanie".

As I've mentioned, I am in the process of applying for Graduate Entry Medicine. I'm assuming that unless there are any other prospective GEM students reading this that most people won't know how the course works. It's an accelerated version of the undergraduate course and it's only available for people who already have a degree (so basically, it does what it says on the tin. It's pretty self-explanatory). It also differs in the way that you can apply for funding. Because it's a second degree, the finance criteria are different and you have to self-fund the first £3465 of your tuition fees. You aren't entitled to any maintenance grants either. Financially, it's a bit daunting for anyone. When you have a baby aswell, it's petrifying. Trying to plan how I am going to feasibly find that sort of money has given me a number of sleepless nights.

 In addition to this, the courses require different sets of entrance exams. Some want you to sit the UKCAT, some want you to sit the BMAT, and others want you to sit the GAMSAT. They're all different types of aptitude tests. But, again, you have to pay for them. Now, because I am a lone parent on a low income (i.e. basically nothing) I am eligible for a bursary to cover the fee for my UKCAT exam. Which is brilliant. That is a big help. The other exams don't have that kind of system in place. So, I have to pay for the BMAT, which is in the region of £60. I also have to pay for the GAMSAT. Which is £234. Again, scary number. Bear in mind aswell that there is no guarantee of getting in if you sit the exams. So I could spend that money and be rejected outright from all four of my chosen universities. Which is really scary. There's a lot of fear and anxiety going on at the moment.

ANYWAY, (this is all leading somewhere, I promise), my thinking was that it would be best for me to look at all the prospective universities I wish to go to and then evaluate my choices after deciding if I liked them. Basically, I didn't want to have to end up paying to sit an exam that I wasn't going to require for my application.

So, last Wednesday, I went to my first open day at Swansea. Swansea require you to sit the GAMSAT and don't have any financial aid for low income students regarding tuition fees. I went to Swansea hoping that I wasn't going to enjoy it for that reason. Unfortunately, I loved it. I loved the sound of the course; I loved that you get put on wards and clinical placement so early on; I loved that it was a small school so everyone knew each other; I loved the diversity of the applicants; I especially loved Dr Heidi Phillips, who I found completely and utterly inspirational. Location-wise, it would be lovely for Percy. It's a city, yet it's not too urban; it's right next to the beach; it would be a really lovely place for her to spend a part of her childhood. I really really liked Swansea.

Percy spent the day with Mimsy (my Mummy), and was not a happy bunny. We're not sure if this is possibly because she was still feeling a bit poorly, or because it was the first time I'd been away from her for so long. Either way, poor Mimsy had a bit of a rough time and I felt incredibly guilty about both that, and my poor Piglet being upset.

This week, I've had another two open days. Yesterday, I went to Warwick. Warwick ask for the UKCAT (yay!), but like Swansea, have no tuition fee aid. Warwick is completely the opposite to Swansea in terms of size: they have the largest graduate programme for medicine in the country. However, when I was there, I liked the sound of that. And I loved the sound of their course. And the way that their case-based learning was structured. And here, I loved Dr Colin Melville. And (as silly as this sounds), there was something about the place that I really liked but I just couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. But, in terms of location for Persephone, it didn't have that beauty that Swansea did.

Again, Percy spent the day with Mimsy. But this time she was absolutely, 100% fine. (Obviously she'd had enough of me and felt like she needed a bit of space).

So, as it stood this morning, I had been to two open days and seen two completely different medical schools, both of which I absolutely adored, but for different reasons. I think it comes down to the fact that I am trying to work out what is best for both of us, not just for myself. Today was my third open day. Today, I went to look at Cambridge. Today, I took Persephone with me.

I like Cambridge. Cambridge is a world-renowned institution. I like that. That is part of what I love about Imperial. (I'm not saying that other establishments that I'm considering are not of the same calibre, that is not my opinion at all. I'm simply quoting league tables for overall performance). Cambridge has a tuition bursary for students on a low-income. For their undergraduate course they require the BMAT entrance exam; I'm under the impression that this is the same for the GEM course.

The main reason that Percy came with me today, was that we are seeing some of my friends tomorrow (in Cambridge) who I went to Uni with, and as such we're staying here overnight as opposed to going all the way home just to come back again.  She's also generally very well behaved. She rarely cries, as long as I keep on top of everything and don't run out of bottles or forget to have cooled boiled water in the fridge. At Warwick, I made it very clear to the head of the medical school that I had a baby, and he was incredibly supportive, and said that they were very flexible with parents and it was perfectly feasible to be able to study the course and be a Mother.

Today, I felt like I was treated differently. I want to first make it clear that I am not referring to staff at all when I say that. I didn't speak to any staff members today (except for a lovely lady who let me in through the non-stairs way). I spoke to one of the students who was running the event, and whether it was intentional or not, he looked at me as though he pitied me. And I really didn't like that. I thought it was rude. I thought it was narrow-minded. I thought it was incredibly judgmental.

So, boy who looked at me with pity, next time you see me, I'm going to be training to be a doctor. Because regardless of what you may think of me and my child, we are awesome. We are going to be incredibly successful. And any establishment would be lucky to have us.

I've got several more places that I'm looking at before I make any firm decisions as to where I want to apply. We've got Kings next week, and Oxford the week after. I also want to visit Nottingham. Today has definitely spurred me on though. In terms of motivation, whilst I haven't been lacking in it, I've definitely been having a bit of a confidence crisis. Academically it would be so much easier to remain in Chemistry and pursue a PhD. Medicine is new. Medicine is exciting. Medicine is unknown. So, there's an element of fear there, of the unknown. When I go to these open days, I seem to suffer from superiority and inferiority complexes simultaneously. In my heart, I know that this is the path that I'm meant to be pursuing and I have so much passion for it. When I encounter others who are after the same goal, I know that I would be better than them, and yet I fear that they are better than me. The dichotomy of the entire thing is really odd. I need to go and do some public speaking or something to get my confidence up.

Anyway. Rant over. Needed to get that off of my chest. I'm really looking forward to the moment that everything falls into place.