Group B Strep awareness: our story again

July is group B strep awareness month so I thought I would re-share our experience of group B strep below, with a few edits:AntibioticsOur daughter had group B streptococcus (group B strep). She could have died.

Back in November 2015, I gave birth to a ‘healthy’ baby girl. All seemed well to start with. I had the ‘normal’ after-delivery experience which I didn’t have with our son, where the midwife offered me a cup of tea! Amazing!

Unfortunately after several hours things were no longer so amazing. An hour or so after hubby had left to get some food and sleep, our daughter started grunting and turned purple and cold. The midwife checked her over and spoke to a paediatrician who took her to the Special Care Baby Unit for oxygen, a chest x-ray, tests and observation. She was also put on antibiotics in case she had an infection. Later that morning I went to see her. She was in an incubator but no longer on oxygen and after a few hours was allowed back on the post natal ward with me. She’d need to complete 48 hours of antibiotics.

The following day she had been less interested in feeding and appeared more poorly. That evening we were given the news that she did indeed have an infection and she would be moved back to special care to complete a 7-day course of antibiotics. She would also need a lumbar puncture to allow them to test further. She was back in an incubator and would be fed my expressed breast milk by tube. I took the news very hard and unfortunately hubby had just left to take our son home for dinner.

I was well cared for and encouraged to get discharged from the post natal ward the following day so I could move onto special care to be with our daughter. Once this went through, hubby and I carried my bags down to special care where we were given further test results. Our daughter had septicaemia caused by group B strep (more info below). She would need to complete 14 days of antibiotics. We wouldn’t be going home for at least another week and a half.

It was devastating news. The lumbar puncture was to find out if she had developed meningitis and if the infection had got to her brain. I asked not to be told what the outcome might be. Hubby went home and looked online to find out more about group B strep. As did the rest of our families. I knew it was serious but I didn’t know how serious. I knew she was very poorly and I think I knew on some level that she could die but I hadn’t acknowledged it. That would have been too much.

One thing I really struggled with was that the infection was passed to our daughter from me. I spun myself in circles feeling guilty for making her poorly.

On top of the news that our daughter was so poorly and there could be several side effects, I was separated from hubby and our son. They came in every day to visit – hubby sometimes on his own so we could talk about things, pray, cry and cuddle. Friends and family visited too. But it was very lonely at night. And I was living off sandwiches, soup and ready meals.

After a few days our daughter was declared well enough to room in with me. She had been feeding well without the tube and her vitals were stable so she moved in. I had to take her back to the nursery for antibiotics and observations, and we were given a ‘day room’ to hang out in so we weren’t stuck in my room during the day, but it meant she woke me up in the night to be fed rather than a nurse knocking on the door. It was good practice for coming home.

Praise God, the lumbar puncture results came back clear and her infection levels came down! We came home once she had completed her two-week course of antibiotics.

Sometimes we just carry on as if nothing ever happened but I have been known to look at our daughter and cry tears of joy because she is alive. It was only when I got home that I discovered how serious group B strep is and found out weeks later that hubby was taking videos of her in her incubator not just because she is our daughter, but because she could have died.

During her first two years, our daughter will have regular check ups at the hospital to check for side effects from the infection. So far her check ups have revealed that she is developing normally. Every milestone that she reaches – smiling, rolling over, giggling at her brother – we thank God for. Not that we didn’t with our son, but we are actively looking out for things that might not be considered ‘normal’. Not knowing what the future holds for her means we have to trust God even more.

I cannot adequately describe the range of emotions we went through. Elation that our daughter was born safely, with no complications this time and excellent midwifery care. Confusion after she was taken away to be checked over in special care. Concern as she remained in special care. Shock at her test results. Relief as she was discharged and we came home to our new normality. God gave me all that I needed during that time and I learned what it means to really cry out to him in prayer. I also felt so looked after by friends and family, and knowing people were providing food for the boys at home was such a relief!

What is group B strep? Well there’s not a lot of information out there. The group B strep support website provides some of the following information. It’s “a normal bacterium which colonises between 20-30% of adults in the UK, without symptoms or side-effects”. There is a one in 300 risk that a baby will develop group B strep if its mother is carrying it. Group B strep is the most common cause of infection in newborn babies, however many babies are born to women carrying group B strep but do not catch the infection for some reason.

I had heard of group B strep through online pregnancy websites but I had only read the words, not what it meant. I had no idea that so many women carry it, that it was life-threatening or that you could be tested for it. To have the test done privately it costs £35, however the test would cost the NHS £11 and could provide it at no cost to pregnant women. One of my friends actually got tested after we announced on facebook that our daughter had been born and had group B strep. As well as the support website, there is a petition to get all pregnant women tested as if you are a carrier, you can have intravenous antibiotics during labour to try to prevent it being passed to your baby. If we decide to have any more children, I will have antibiotics during labour because our daughter had the infection.

It’s very confusing because group B strep seems to come and go. You could have it today but it could have gone in four weeks when you’re due to give birth. And vice versa. That, and the number of babies affected by it, means it is not necessarily cost effective for the NHS to test all pregnant women. Plus all of the antibiotics potentially unnecessarily being pumped into pregnant women in case they pass group B strep on… There is a helpful section on the NCT website about this here.

Well after months of pondering, I have signed the petition for women to be tested. Even now, 7 months later, I still think about what happened. I am so grateful that our daughter seems to have come through it unscathed but I know other women will lose their children to group B strep. If we can stop that from happening, let’s try.

Original post published 16 March 2016

Our daughter and group B strep

Apologies that it’s been so quiet over here lately. I’ve been rather busy being a mum of two – we had a little girl at the end of November!

I wrote a draft of this post a few weeks after she was born but was too scared to post it. It’s very personal and there are areas of debate about it, but last week a friend encouraged me to share our experience and another friend admitted they hadn’t realised how serious the situation was. So clearly it needs to be made more public. Here goes…

Our daughter had group B streptococcus (group B strep). She could have died.

I had a quick labour and much better birth experience than with our son. All seemed well to start with. I had the ‘normal’ after-delivery experience which I didn’t have with our son, where the midwife offered me a cup of tea! Amazing!

Unfortunately after several hours things were no longer so amazing. An hour or so after hubby had left to get some food and sleep, our daughter started grunting and turned purple and cold. The midwife checked her over and spoke to a paediatrician who took her to the Special Care Baby Unit for oxygen, a chest x-ray, tests and observation. She was also put on antibiotics in case she had an infection. Later that morning I went to see her. She was in an incubator but no longer on oxygen and after a few hours was allowed back on the post natal ward with me. She’d need to complete 48 hours of antibiotics.

The following day she had been less interested in feeding and appeared more poorly. That evening we were given the news that she did indeed have an infection and she would be moved back to special care to complete a 7-day course of antibiotics. She would also need a lumbar puncture to allow them to test further. She was back in an incubator and needed to be fed by tube. I took the news very hard and unfortunately hubby had just left to take our son home for dinner.

I was well cared for and encouraged to get discharged from the post natal ward the following day so I could move onto special care to be with our daughter. Once this went through, hubby and I carried my bags down to special care where we were given further test results. Our daughter had septicaemia caused by group B strep (more info below). She would need to complete 14 days of antibiotics. We wouldn’t be going home for at least another week and a half.

It was devastating news. The lumbar puncture was to find out if she had developed meningitis and if the infection had got to her brain. I asked not to be told what the outcome might be. Hubby went home and looked online to find out more about group B strep. As did the rest of our families. I knew it was serious but I didn’t know how serious. I knew she was very poorly and I think I knew on some level that she could die but I hadn’t acknowledged it. That would have been too much.

One thing I really struggled with was that the infection was passed to our daughter from me. I spun myself in circles feeling guilty for making her poorly.

On top of the news that our daughter was so poorly and there could be several side effects, I was separated from hubby and our son. They came in every day to visit – hubby sometimes on his own so we could talk about things, pray, cry and cuddle. Friends and family visited too. But it was very lonely at night. And I was living off sandwiches, soup and ready meals.

After a few days our daughter was declared well enough to room in with me. She had been feeding well without the tube and her vitals were stable so she moved in. I had to take her back to the nursery for antibiotics and observations, and we were given a ‘day room’ to hang out in so we weren’t stuck in my room during the day, but it meant she woke me up in the night to be fed rather than a nurse knocking on the door. It was good practice for coming home.

Praise God, the lumbar puncture results came back clear and her infection levels came down! We came home once she had completed her two-week course of antibiotics.

Since then we have been adjusting to life as a family of four. It’s incredibly stressful at times and incredibly incredible at others. Sometimes we just carry on as if nothing ever happened but I have been known to look at our daughter and cry tears of joy because she is alive. I struggle to talk about what happened. It was only when I got home that I discovered how serious group B strep is and found out weeks later that hubby was taking videos of her in her incubator not just because she is our daughter, but because she could have died.

During her first year, our daughter will have regular check ups at the hospital to check for side effects from the infection. She has already had one check up which went well. Every milestone that she reaches – her first smile, her first giggle, kicking her legs, looking around the room when she hears a voice – we thank God for. Not that we didn’t with our son, but we are actively looking out for things that might not be considered ‘normal’. Not knowing what the future holds for her means we have to trust God even more.

I cannot adequately describe the range of emotions we went through. Elation after our daughter being born safely, with no complications this time and excellent midwifery care. Confusion after she was taken away to be checked over in special care. Concern as she remained in special care. Shock at her test results. Relief as she was discharged and we came home to our new normality. God gave me all that I needed during that time and I learned what it means to really cry out to him in prayer. I also felt so looked after by friends and family, and knowing people were providing food for the boys at home was such a relief!

So there you go, that’s what happened and that is why I haven’t been blogging lately. I hope to blog occasionally about the random things I used to blog about!

What is group B strep? Well there’s not a lot of information out there. It’s “a normal bacterium which colonises between 20-30% of adults in the UK, without symptoms or side-effects” (from GBSS website). The reported facts differ but it doesn’t appear to affect many babies per year (300 on one website, 700 on another!). Many babies are born to women carrying group B strep but do not catch the infection for some reason.

I had heard of group B strep through online pregnancy websites but I had only read the words, not what it meant. I had no idea that so many women carry it or that it was life-threatening. There is a support group and there is a campaign to get all pregnant women tested as if you are a carrier, you can have intravenous antibiotics during labour to try to prevent it being passed to your baby. If we decide to have any more children, I will have antibiotics during labour because our daughter had the infection.

It’s very confusing because group B strep seems to come and go. You could have it today but it could have gone in four weeks when you’re due to give birth. And vice versa. That, and the number of babies affected by it, means it is not cost effective for the NHS to test all pregnant women. It is routine in some other countries to test pregnant women but this hasn’t reduced the incidences by much.

Given my baby girl was affected by group B strep, you might think I’d be out there lobbying for all pregnant women to be screened. However, I can see where the NHS is coming from. I know that might sound awful because I know that babies get very sick if they get group B strep and some die. Really, I know! It pains me to say it because if I had been tested, my daughter would never have got poorly. But I don’t know the way around it. Private testing is available but there doesn’t seem to have been enough research on group B strep, or not enough available. And it’s definitely not a well-known illness.

I absolutely endorse the support groups for trying to get more information and research. And I’m definitely not against testing!

Waiting

So this is what it’s like hanging around waiting for a baby to arrive.

Yes, I’m still here. I’m not even due for another week but our son was already 10 days old by now. We had honestly thought he would arrive late and nowhere near moving day so I never did any waiting around for labour to start. Which means I feel like I’m overdue.

So last week I was twiddling my thumbs a bit. I have been prepared for the baby to arrive for a while and the things I tend to think of to keep me occupied are often too physical and tiring. I obviously have a small boy to keep me occupied the majority of the time which helps, but there are those moments when he’s pushing Thomas around the train track for the umpteenth time and my mind wanders onto ‘where is this baby?!’ Perhaps the baby has realised that if it stays inside, it can ‘eat’ gelato. Well, the gelato cake is all gone now!

There are two sides to everything, of course. Whilst baby is inside, I am getting a good amount of sleep and spending time one to one with my little man, even if sometimes that means watching TV having cuddles because Mummy doesn’t have the energy to do anything else (having cuddles is a huge thing actually because he has only become affectionate in the last few months!). I have time at the moment to do things like baking and catching up on TV. But baby being outside will mean, after a couple of weeks, more mobility for me and no more waddling.

When baby is outside, though, sleep will become a distant memory. And how is our son going to react to sharing Mummy and Daddy with a tiny person who requires a lot of attention? Beans on toast will probably become a regular evening meal and shop bought cakes may well become the norm for a while. Plus I’ll wish I had all the hours I have now to do things I want to do or need to do. But we’ll have our baby!

All of this means I am quite up and down emotionally at the moment. I know, that’s also called ‘pregnancy’! But after a weekend of being a bit poorly, today my energy returned and whilst our son was at pre school I was (comparatively) very productive – I did some washing, vacuumed the house and put dinner in the slow cooker. I didn’t rush around doing these so I don’t imagine it will encourage the baby to make an appearance, but it has been really nice to feel a bit more like me. Productive me. Albeit still waddling.

I’d still love for the baby to come sooner rather than later. Our son was only tiny when he was born but caused a lot of damage, so I’m very aware that every day the baby stays in, it is getting bigger. I need to learn to be patient, trust God more and keep myself occupied. And enjoy all the things I can still do before baby comes.

Unico Gelato & Caffe Launch

I was very excited to receive an email last week inviting me to the official Unico Gelato & Caffe launch!

My blog is a little blog. I only have a few readers and I’ve never received any kind of freebie as a result of having a blog, like being sent something to try out or read to review. So being invited to an official launch was quite something. It’s probably because they’ve spotted I’m a bit of a fan even before the launch…

It was a bit daunting to be at a real launch with bloggers and cameras and things. Being 8 months pregnant, I was kindly offered a seat alongside other bloggers (proper bloggers!) in front of the gelato bar, a place I am familiar with.

Unico Launch
Andrij Shevchenko, Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Di Matteo and Dennis Wise

Gianfranco Zola is one of the co-founders of Unico Gelato & Caffe so yesterday he officially launched it, bringing a few of his friends along to try it out too. Hubby joked in the morning that perhaps I should wear a ‘baby on board’ badge but Dennis Wise spotted that I am (quite obviously) pregnant and asked when I’m due. Zola was listening in so I suggested that, should I go into labour during the press launch, I could get free gelato for life! I’m sure that if I was a football fan I would have been quite nervous speaking to them. Even so, I’m not the kind of person to interrupt a conversation to ask for an autograph!

Zola said that, as a gelato-lover, he was fed up of travelling to and from Italy just for decent gelato, so he got behind the idea to open up a gelato shop in Bromley. Good plan!

There were various yummy products to try including, of course, the gelato. I had pistachio and crema bologna. Amazing! Apparently Magic Box, ‘pine nut custard gelato with whole toasted pine nuts’, is Zola’s favourite flavour. Dawn from MealsOurKidsLove.com was sitting next to me and tried Magic Box. She said it had a salty taste but that it was delicious.

Unico Launch
Zola telling us about gelato, and you can see our gelato cake in the freezer behind him!

Unfortunately I had to leave early to pick up our son from pre school so I missed out on a brief one-to-one interview with Zola along with whatever else happened after I left. Before I left I was given the choice of taking home free gelato or cake. I chose cake thinking it wouldn’t melt on the walk to pre school and then home. Oh was I wrong! Well, it didn’t melt, but the cake was a gelato cake!

We had considered buying a gelato cake for hubby’s 30th birthday celebrations but went for two large takeaway boxes of gelato instead. Our son, and his pre school teachers, were intrigued when I turned up with a box from Unico containing a pistachio and cioccolato gelato cake. I am still shocked that it is sitting in our freezer! Of course we tried some last night and it was delicious. I don’t think it will be in our freezer for long though.

Unico launch
Pistachio and cioccolato gelato cake!!!!

So far, Unico has surpassed our expectations. I remember back in May seeing a sign in the white-washed shop window announcing that it would be a gelato bar, the same day that our offer was accepted on the house we now live in, and wondering when it would open and how good the gelato would be. Well, it’s mid-November and they’re doing a thriving business selling ice cream! Initially they didn’t even mention that Zola was involved, they just got going with it and the amazing gelato spoke for itself.

Unico are currently stocking Italian panettone from a particular bakery in Italy and also sell various home made cakes. And of course there is true Italian coffee which I am looking forward to getting a real taste of once I’ve had my baby!

Oh, and a big ‘thank you’ to baby for staying put so that I could attend the launch🙂

Married to a ‘proper’ person

I am married to a 30-year-old. How did that happen?! Hubby was 21 when I married him and I often think of us as still being about 24. So how he’s got to be 30 I don’t really know. Our son ‘bought’ him a Star Wars Lego set containing Storm Troopers which kept them both entertained for a while, so he’s still young at heart.

When we’ve been to friends’ weddings in the last few years I’ve often thought, wow, the bride/groom (whichever one I don’t know very well) seems old and like a ‘proper’ person. By old, I mean the same age as us or maybe a couple of years older. I just don’t see myself as that old! And yet, next year I too will be 30.

Anyway, birthdays mean cake. And at the moment, birthdays mean two cakes.

So for his actual 30th birthday, instead of making the traditional cricket cake I made a chocolate Victoria sponge decorated with chocolate fingers and Aero mint bubbles.

Chocolate birthday cake
Chocolate birthday cake

I’ve seen this sort of cake around a lot recently and thought I’d give it a whirl. It was a nice easy one for our son to help me decorate, too! You need about three packs of chocolate fingers and if you have a pre-schooler helping you, your supply may diminish quite quickly as you decorate, leaving a few gaps. It’s also a hard cake to cut due to the bubbles.

A few days after his birthday, we had all of hubby’s immediate family round to celebrate the big 3-0. We decided to have takeaway pizza (from an Italian restaurant) and takeaway gelato (from Unico) to save me racing round the kitchen at 8 months pregnant cooking for 20 people. I’m so glad we did!

This meant I only had to worry about making the birthday cake and providing food for tea time. So I made the usual cricket birthday cake (plain Victoria sponge with green buttercream icing and cricket figures), only I made it larger than I would usually so that everyone could have a slice. It’s a very easy cake to make. The only issue is usually placing the cricket figures in the right place.

Cricket birthday cake
Cricket birthday cake

One of my sisters-in-law helped me this year however in all the excitement of blowing out candles and being given his main birthday present (tank paintballing!), I have no idea if they were in the right place. Oh well, until next year…

Pros and cons

We’ve been in our house for about 2 months now. It’s gone really quickly!

There are so many good things about living here. And, of course, a few bad things. We discovered a fox den and leaks amongst other things. And the lights in the bathrooms show up the, ahem, lighter hairs on my head. But focusing on the positives is definitely the way forward!

Parking on our driveway is such a huge blessing. Mainly because I am now that – huge. We get junk mail! I know, it’s annoying but we now get things like the weekly newspaper through our door, full of interesting stories… And we’re part of the residents association “for the greater good.” Ironically one of the things that a lot of people, ladies in particular, are fussed about is the kitchen but I wasn’t really that bothered. We’ve always had a modest (a.k.a. small) sized kitchen so I’m used to working with limited work surface space. And yet the kitchen here is crazily big. And I still only use a limited amount of the work surface space when cooking!

One thing I’ve really noticed is that I feel so much more relaxed living here. I hadn’t realised how stressed I’d been in our old place. Perhaps I was starting to think we wouldn’t move before the baby arrived. I don’t know. But I definitely feel more chilled here.

Hubby has a long to-do list and there are all sorts of things we won’t get round to doing for ages. For example, we’d planned to decorate the living room before the baby arrives. We finally bought some paint samples last weekend but we’re not actually going to decorate until after the baby arrives. I’m too tired and there are other things that are more important that need to be done.

It’s really nice feeling ready for the baby to arrive this time, too. The Moses basket is up in our bedroom, clothes are washed, hospital bag is packed. So different to when our son was born! This baby has been told to stay put until hubby’s 30th birthday celebrations are over, but after that I’ll be 37 weeks and baby can come whenever. I wonder if this baby got the memo? Our son certainly didn’t!

Baby expected

In the next few weeks I will be having a baby!

I’m due in just over a month but our son arrived early so who knows when this one will arrive. Probably in December…

But I’m just reminding you as it will all go quiet over here once the new baby has arrived (as in nothing new to read. It will be noisier in my home!). I have no idea when I will be back to blogging after our new bundle of joy joins us. I imagine that in the next few weeks my posts will become fewer anyway as I’m getting more tired.