You’re Twistin’ My Melon Man…

This was the blog that I wanted to post on Tuesday, but things got a little crazy in the Greenhouse, so here we are, a little later than planned…

I want to talk about last Monday, when for the first time since our initial visit back in August, our wonderful osteopath Mark signed Benjamin off; satisfied for us not to return, unless we were still overly concerned ourselves & really wanted to cross his palm with the best part of £40.00 again, for half an hour of his incredibly precious time. He thinks he could do a little more: if we wanted Benjamin to be completely fine-tuned, but for the most part, he was happy & that makes us happy.

In a nutshell (excuse the pun), Benjamin has a ‘wonky bonce’ as Tim so eloquently puts it, or plagiocephaly if you want to be really technical. Basically he has a slightly flat spot on his right side, all because he suffered with torticollis (or ‘twisted neck’) since birth. The abrupt nature of his arrival (right at the end) was a little overwhelming for Benjamin (including his Mumma!) So much so, that he kind of froze in shock because he’d been evicted so forcefully, but very necessarily! After much research, aka late-night Googling, I’ve found that both conditions are becoming increasingly more common in babies. Plagiocephaly in particular since the Back To Sleep Campaign started in 1994. It is obviously desperately important to ensure that babies are safe while they sleep & I am 100% in favour of any advice I can get regarding best sleeping positions. However, no information about these conditions is made available to expectant parents. I wish we’d been told about torticollis/plagiocephaly in Antenatal classes. Learning how to breastfeed is well & good, but it shouldn’t be the main focus. Things like: signs to look out for regarding head movement & shaping, when to worry, things to try in the first instance & even contact details of amazing professionals like ‘our’ Mark should also be included. We were recommended to Mark by one of my amazing Mummy Friends, yep, I’ve used that expression, the one I really hate. This was after I was hitting my own head repeatedly against a brick wall with the Health Visitors, who weren’t taking my concerns about Benjamin’s lack of neck movement seriously. In my experience, they have been next to useless with all of my concerns. Being told, “it’s normal, just put all your baby’s toys on the left side so he’s forced to move his neck, or turn him the opposite end of his cot” multiple times doesn’t treat the problem itself. The poor boy was literally ‘locked’ into this position, so all of these suggestions were of no use at all. As far as Benjamin was concerned, only half the world existed & he literally couldn’t investigate to find the other half: because his neck forced him to always look to his right.

Tim & I arrived at a fairly modest private residence in Dorchester in late August last year, not entirely sure what to expect. My friend had said, he’ll just talk to you & Benjamin & you won’t even realise he’s doing anything. And that’s exactly how it went. Every visit. Yes, he examined him, he held him in fairly standard treatment positions, but what he was actually doing was invisible to the untrained eye. He is such an interesting man, with a mass of curly grey hair, earrings & an incredibly dry sense of humour, which I appreciate. Benjamin was absolutely intrigued by him from the start. Although you’re never quite sure if he is joking or not; for example, in one of our sessions, he flew Benjamin around the room steadily supporting his tummy & back, they were both chatting away to each other as always. I was convinced that I’d witnessed some really technical pediatric osteopathic move & intrigued, I asked what treatment he was doing. He just laughed & said, “well you’ve got to keep it fun with children, can’t be serious all the time!” Of course. Silly me. As the weeks & months went by, everyone could see a massive change in Benjamin & he now has a completely full range of neck movement. It’s amazing to see, especially considering how bad it was to begin with. His head will never be perfectly symmetrical though, but then whose is? As hard as it is to acknowledge that your child has flaws, I’ve decided that he’s perfectly imperfect & that’s more than good enough for us. We won’t send him back just yet. He’ll just have to have a long mane of hair instead. We enquired about the recently celebrity-famed ‘helmets’, but the poor boy would have to wear it for 23 hours straight a day, they are quite restrictive, designed purely for changing aesthetics & with a starting price of £2k, we decided that he can be beautifully & naturally unique.

The best advice that he gave me was to keep Benjamin on the floor. Lots of tummy time, as much as possible in fact & let him work things out for himself. He explained that this is how all babies learn best: plenty of opportunities to explore for themselves & time to get frustrated, all without too much adult interaction or distraction & he is right. I’ve loved & continue to love watching Benjamin figure things out in his head: how to move objects, how to move towards objects & learning about pressure points, all in preparation for crawling (which isn’t far off!) Sometimes I can literally see the boy thinking. It’s magical.

With this in the back of my mind, I’ve always tried hard to keep tummy time fun & varied: to hold his attention longer than 30 seconds. This week we’ve been looking at different kinds of lids on a tray. Even though I washed each of them to within an inch of their lives, he still seems to be instinctively drawn towards the alcoholic ones! Hmmm, I can’t think where he gets that from? I also changed his sensory light bulbs from their festive contents to lots of random Playmobil accessories, colourful rainbow beads & Lego bricks. See the photographs below.

I will always maintain that osteopathy is 50% science & 50% witchcraft, but it works & that’s all we wanted & hoped for. We’ve given Benjamin the best possible start, all from chance conversation with a good friend. I’ll happily give out Mark’s contact details, just leave a comment below or drop me an email. I honestly can’t recommend him enough.

Thank you for reading.

 

Old friends & new ‘Mummy’ friends: because chatting over a coffee is cheaper than a therapist…

I’m good at being on my own, I always have been. Growing up as an only child in a small village: I needed to enjoy my own company & for the most part, I did. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends & I did see them regularly, but I didn’t rely upon them. As clichéd as it sounds, my Mum was my best friend & I was more than happy with that. Now, as I’m older, married & have very sadly lost my wonderful Mum, my husband Tim has taken on this role of being my Bestie. Lucky him! I know, more vom-inducing clichés! I love to talk to him about everything really & I’m sure an outsider would think we were absolute nutters if they heard even half of our eclectic topics of conversation. However sometimes, just sometimes, you need another perspective, another point of view, a female take on a situation & that’s when I start messaging ‘my squad’! I hate this expression, almost as much as I hate the term ‘Mummy friends’ if I’m being completely honest. When I was childless, this phrase used to make me physically shudder. I’m not sure why, but probably because it sounded like a secret exclusive club, that at the time, I never thought I would be in.

I was more than happy with the friends I had before Benjamin was born. My small circle was made up of: my oldest, dearest College friend, my fab holiday companion (from an eventful trip to India a few yeas ago) & two of my wonderful previous work colleagues. A couple of them were Mummies already; so I would ask them for advice if Google couldn’t supply the answer I was looking for. I thought no more friends were needed. I didn’t want to have to talk about myself ‘from scratch’ – akin to dating all over again. I was reluctant to attend Antenatal Classes & I remember Tim having to practically force me out the door to go to Baby Groups in the beginning. But as I look back over the last six months, I’ve realised that I have made three more close friends: two of them being much coveted ‘Mummy friends’ & one of them being my super neighbour, whom I never really knew until Benjamin was born. It always makes me smile that, in a crowded room, you can be drawn towards just one or two people & on some level they are drawn towards you – for reasons unknown at the time. This happened with my new pals…

Tim & I were sat in said Antenatal class, learning about breathing techniques, birth plans (lols!), pain relief & breastfeeding guidance with about ten other couples. We were easily in the top three of the eldest parents, no surprise there. After our visualisations, squeezing a knitted boobie & pulling plastic babies out of replica pelvises each week we were starving; so headed straight for the nearest Golden Arches to satisfy my Fillet O’ Fish craving at the time. We weren’t the only ones with the same idea, our new friends Alison & Richard had shared our thoughts. And that’s how we met. We have the same views on the same topics; including parenting values & we have had spookily similar life experiences. They are such easy-going & caring people, we could both listen to them for hours. Maybe our subconscious knew we would make great friends & we’ve stayed in touch ever since & I am sure that we always will. I love it that Benjamin has a little ‘girlfriend’ already in Amelia (he’s not allowed to date anyone else though. Ever.) And I also love the time that we all spend together. You know there’s a strong rapport when conversation is effortless. It can’t be the first friendship to have formed over a shared love of Maccy D’s sweet & sour sauce, surely?!

I met my second new close friend initially at one of the Baby Groups (that Tim had managed to persuade me to go to back in the early days). It was your standard: plastic toys scattered on the floor affair, large beanbags around the edge for the non-mobile babies (where I had positioned a sleeping Benjamin) & lots of cold tea/coffee for the stressed new Mummies who hadn’t slept the night before. Two ladies approached me & after the usual “hello, how old is your little one? Yes, he’s a big lad: his Daddy is 6’2” etc. etc.” I was asked, “Are you Tim Green’s wife?” They were both in the same year as him at school. This isn’t the first time that this has happened to me: it’s a small village & he was clearly a friendly boy?! I’m just praying that I won’t get asked, “Are you Benjamin Green’s Mum?” later on for similar reasons! Anyway, we had a lovely chat together & I thought no more of it. I didn’t go back to the group for a couple of weeks & didn’t ask for names/numbers. Then, one sweltering August morning I decided to take the boy for a walk – quite early because we were experiencing a massive heat wave & keeping Benjamin cool was a constant worry. That’s when I bumped into Claire. Again, we had much in common & we’ve been ‘baby group buddies’ & good friends ever since. I love her quick thinking & sound advice. I also love the little friendship that Albert & Benjamin have struck up already.

My new neighbour friend, Laura, came over one day to pick up a parcel (one of the ‘perks’ of maternity leave, you get to be a mini Post Office) & heard Benjamin grumbling, so we invited her in. He loves her cuddles & fuss (because Mumma & Daddy clearly don’t give him enough attention!) And we all love our new friendship. The four of us: her boyfriend Adam & Tim, have had many a night putting the world to rights over a bottle of bubbles, complete with baby monitor turned up extra loud.

I guess the point of my blog post is that I’ve realised that there is always room for more friends. Each friend has different qualities; different life experiences to draw from & can support you in different ways. I guess I’ve always known this. I’ve needed advice, guidance & reassurance over the last few weeks & I’ve known which friends (old & new) to turn to. They have made themselves available & have kept me sane. Many cuppas have been drunk & I can’t thank them enough, they are all superstars & I hope I can be there for them when they need a listening ear. I also hope I can show Benjamin the importance of friendship, being friendly & ultimately knowing who to trust. Although the latter is incredibly tricky even as an adult.

I can’t wait for Benjamin to grow up with Amelia & Albert. I really hope they form part of his ‘squad’, his ‘go to’ people for sound advice & support, just like their fab Mummies are for me…well who else can he ask which are the tastiest rusks & best spot for his Cow & Gate elevenses?