Saturday, September 26, 2015


Excellent news this week - Social Services have managed to put a care package in place for me as I transition to parenthood.

The remaining three weeks of pregnancy (plus the two weeks of Steve's paternity leave) there's not really any notable change from my existing care package. My understanding is that they are taking the view that if I've survived pregnancy for 36 weeks on my existing arrangement I will survive the rest.

I disagree with this. I have been horribly isolated and largely housebound during my pregnancy, because I've had to abandon my former activities as I've needed to use up so many of my hours on support for/transport to medical and social services appointments and trying to get the baby essentials in place. We've been extremely lucky in that I haven't had the sort of complications that lead to weekly appointments or all-day clinics. I've also been unable to participate in a number of the recommended activities that I had been hoping to engage with during pregnancy, such as swimming/aquanatal, antenatal exercise/social groups, shopping events that offer discounts on baby equipment, etc.

Plus of course, in this final month, my body is drastically changed and the baby is getting noticeably bigger week by week. We took 30 weeks to get to 3lbs, but only another 4 weeks to get from there to 4.5lbs, and by 39 weeks we should be between 6 and 8lbs. I'm huge! I can't lie on my front or my back any more! I don't dare lie down on the sofa while I'm alone in the house because I can't get back up! I need to wee all the time and I haven't got my stairlift yet! There's not enough room in my belly to eat a proper main meal, I'm supposed to be eating several smaller ones throughout the day but I don't have support to do that! If pregnancy is a marathon, the last bit of it is seriously uphill compared to the previous months!

The failure/refusal of social services to properly support my needs during pregnancy has caused a loss of freedom and has had a documented impact on my mental health (as well as, to a less dramatic extent, my physical health), and that baby and I have "survived" has had more to do with luck and favours than any idea that my support package has been adequate.

However, I have a choice. I can spend the next three weeks struggling to cope AND struggling to fight with social services for resources which, even if I technically win, won't possibly be in place before the birth. Alternatively, I can spend the next three weeks struggling to cope AND trying to focus on thinking the happiest thoughts I can, resting as much as possible, and trying to be ready for what happens once the baby arrives.

And this is the really good news. Once the baby is outside me and Steve has gone back to work, social services have granted me 40 hours per week of support.

It doesn't mean I'll have someone here all the time - Steve works more than 40 hours each week and there's commuting time as well. But if I structure it as two shifts totalling 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and if I'm careful about making sure that at the end of each PA shift baby and I are safely set up with everything we'll need in the next hour or so to hand, then it will work.

I can feel safe.

Of course it isn't indefinite. The plan is to review it every two weeks (I admit to wondering if this will be two calendar weeks, or a social services "two weeks") and to reduce the package as I recover from the surgery, baby gets the hang of feeding, the medical appointments peter out, a routine begins to develop.

But that's okay. I can go into surgery to have the baby knowing that, at least while the stitches are in, someone will be around to help me fulfil my role as a parent. The first month, which I anticipate as being the most difficult, I will be supported.

I had been so scared that they were going to wait until an actual crisis occurred, that either the baby or I would have to be hospitalised to "prove" that we needed help before any help would be forthcoming. Or, perhaps worse, that the baby and toddler years would be like the pregnancy - baby and I would be trapped at home struggling to do anything more than survive, but that with luck and favours and Steve turning himself inside out we'd scrape along *just* well enough that no red flags would be raised, leading to a situation that never improved and a child who started school with all sorts of disadvantages because I had never been supported to provide them with proper pre-school education, socialisation, nutrition, exercise...

Instead, I have a chance. I *will* be adequately supported for that first month and probably for the second month as well. If I can use that time to engage with the Health Visitors, if I can develop attendance at the breastfeeding groups and other baby activities, if I can demonstrate that I'm eating well, if I can line classes and activities up for 2016, then I will be in a strong position to argue that I need to continue with those things to fulfil my parenting role.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Nursery

I don't want to give the impression that this pregnancy is all about doom, gloom and disappointment about disability-related problems. One of the most enjoyable things that we've done has been to prepare the nursery for the baby.

Six months ago, I wouldn't have even dreamed of calling it a nursery. It was a boxroom. Because a defining feature of the room was that since even before I moved into this house, it was full, and I mean full, wall to wall and floor to ceiling, of boxes. Occasionally Steve would have a brief flurry of activity to reduce the amount of Stuff in there - most notably, when we got three big Billy Bookcases for the living room and the boxes of books that had been hidden away for years finally got a more appropriate home - but every three steps forwards seemed to be followed by two steps back as we needed *somewhere* to put an unwanted gift, or a bag of clothes for the charity shop, or a broken Whatever that needed to be taken to the tip "at some point, but not right now, because they're closed/it's raining/we're busy/etc, let's just pop it in the boxroom for now so it's out of the way."

Even as late as June, in a discussion about nursery plans with other women who are due to have babies in October, I somewhat resignedly posted this:
If it helps, ours still looks like a boxroom half-full of junk. I’ve given up on “beautiful” and am prepared to settle for just being able to get the carpet cleaned before the baby is here.

But by early July we were able to get to the window and in mid-July, we bought paint. By the end of July, the walls were starting to look like this:


Steve did the big roller work, the magnolia and the blue. I did the clouds, freehand, using a sponge. It took quite a while to get them *all* done - obviously I could only do very short sessions and only while someone was able to help me on and off my table (a ladder is more traditional but would have been asking for trouble). But I was so happy with how it came out, and it meant a lot to me to have done them myself.

Painting complete, I was able to go ahead and order new blinds, and a new carpet too (plug goes here for Godiva Carpets, a local firm who provided excellent customer service, fast fuss-free fitting, and competitive pricing). A set of flatpack drawers was assembled, and is now filled with washed and folded vests, babygros, sheets, blankets, little hats, tiny mittens and other assortedness. The Big Cot has been assembled too, although at the moment the mattress is still in the wrapper and my hospital bag is sitting on top of it, because at first the baby will sleep in our room. And then to top it off, my mother found some monkey decals online.


More monkeys

It's unequivocally a nursery now. Steve and I both like going in there just for the reassurance of it, that it is a completed project that's ready for Offspring, one that doesn't have to be a second-rate panic solution cobbled together at the last moment. It feels good.

Monday, September 21, 2015

An Update

In my last few posts, I talked about three major obstacles to the baby preparations.

One was the difficulties of getting assessed for a suitable wheelchair. After my last post, a number of people gave me details of companies and charities who had been useful to them. Sadly when I followed up these leads, some weren't able to help, and others were unhelpful by choice, showing me the chairs they wanted to sell rather than the chairs that would meet my needs, and calling it an assessment.

Thankfully, this turned out to be the easiest situation to resolve. The experiences with the "assessors" convinced me that I might as well ditch my fear that going into a mobility showroom would leave me prey to unscrupulous salespeople. I called a local showroom, explained my needs, and arranged an appointment. When I arrived, the salesman had several chairs lined up that did meet my specifications. After a bit more discussion and measuring, I was having a test ride, which included seeing if my favourite one would fit in the car. It did. The salesman then encouraged us to take our time, go home, have a think, and phone him on Monday if we wanted to buy it... and a brand-new one was delivered by him to our house at the end of that week.

I'm gradually getting used to it and I think it's going to meet my needs well.

There was Social Services, where "my" social worker had gone off sick less than three months into my pregnancy. The refusal of Warwickshire Social Services to transfer my case to a different social worker "because she'll be back soon" meant that I had no support at all until my pregnancy was past the half-way point, at which stage it was conceded that the Duty Social Worker team could help out with my case if they had time. I saw a Duty Social Worker at 26 weeks pregnant, but at the time of my last post, I wasn't confident that it had gone well.

At 32 weeks and with my assessment still waiting to be seen by the decision makers, my Health Visitor decided to see if she could intervene in any way. She was told that "my" original social worker was due back in the office any day and would definitely call her back as a matter of urgency. Except of course that this was every bit as much a lie as it had been every time I'd been fobbed off with it during the Spring.

Then at 33 weeks pregnant, for reasons it's probably best not to speculate on, I was officially reassigned to the proper caseload of the social worker who had been the Duty Social Worker who had seen me almost two months earlier. A few days later, I was given a date for my caesarean section which will be at about 39 weeks. I'm not sure if this deadline helped - at 35 weeks pregnant, with four weeks of pregnancy remaining, I think my assessment for additional support during pregnancy was very nearly ready to be submitted to the panel...

On the bright side, the Health Visitor and the no-longer-duty Social Worker are liaising directly now, and I think the midwife might be as well.

Which means I'm free to worry about the stairlift. At the time of my last post, after the delays caused by the absent social worker situation, we had sped through the assessment process thanks to a helpful and super-efficient OT and were awaiting a quote, which arrived, as it was supposed to, just before 28 weeks of pregnancy.

We signed, wrote a cheque for a deposit of over £2,000, and got it back to them next-day. According to the contract, this meant installation would happen within 6-8 weeks - so at the very latest, before 36 weeks of pregnancy (or "well before the end of September" for those of you who prefer a traditional calendar). It was cutting it fine, but it would be okay.

We were quite surprised to then be offered an installation date in the middle of October, or 39 weeks of pregnancy.

There were two problems with that.

One was that it was 3 weeks over the maximum 8 weeks promised in the contract, which really is not good enough when you are forking over five thousand pounds for essential equipment. I signed that contract on the understanding that my stairlift would be installed within the timeframe specified in the contract.

The other was that the date they were suggesting was the actual date for which my caesarean is booked.

After a lot of phone calls (which is always me phoning them, because their inability to stick to their own suggested timescales extends to calling back when they say they will), they have managed to rearrange for installation to happen in the first week of October. This is still breaching the contract - but I don't have the choice to make a big deal about that, because I need a stairlift in place before the baby gets here, and it is too late to get one from a different provider.

I am in my final month of pregnancy. I am supposed to be thinking nice, nurturing thoughts, and doing gentle exercises, and nesting. If I was at work and experiencing this kind of stress, I would be advised to start my maternity leave now. But there's no maternity leave from this situation.