I’ve got a five-year-old son. Half a decade has gone by since he entered our lives and turned everything upside down. It’s hard to believe, even seeing it there written down (and having heard it on a loop all day, he’s been telling everyone he’s five now). Far from the five-pound baby boy who was so tiny that even the premature-baby clothes we had to rush out and buy were swimming on him, he’s now big and bold, and a fully formed personality. He’s off to big school this September, which is approaching so much faster than I’d anticipated. The quote “The Days Are Long But The Years Are Short” is definitely one which is resonating more and more with me as time goes on. We’re thankfully mostly rid of the sleepless nights (these days I just blame academic deadlines rather than a screaming baby or a toddler who refuses to sleep in his own bed), but we’ve still got weekends where it feels like forever until Monday morning and creche is open again so that I can hear my own thoughts without also hearing “Mammy, if these two Pokemon are fighting, which one is going to win?” on a loop. Still, though, five is big. Five is a long time to be a parent, trundling along and learning on the job.
I used the same format for the last years birthday post (and the year before), a snapshot of his life at the age he’s at now, which is nice to look back on and see what has changed, and what has stayed the same. So here we go, Eliott at five: a Snapshot. (more…)
It’s National Breastfeeding Week in Ireland. This means it’s time to celebrate all that is good and great about supporting women feeding their babies. It’s not something I feel particularly well-experienced in to write much about. My experience revolved around 9 weeks of supplementing, of panic and of not enough support – not exactly a ringing endorsement. There’s definitely a lot I’ve learned since. There’s lots that will be put into practice if there’s another baby to make it a better experience for everyone. However, this year the slogan for the week is “Every Breastfeed Makes A Difference”. Here is a stash of breastfeeding resources which I have found to be EXCELLENT. In celebration of the boob-tastic women who fuel their kiddies themselves, I hope you find this helpful.
The Irish Health System is a flawed system, there is no empirical evidence at all to show us otherwise. We have seen a medley of errors causing pain and suffering in numerous ways over the past few years. However, sometimes, we do SOMETHING right, and one of those things is the Drug Payment Scheme. Is it perfect? Not at all, but it’s definitely something that everyone should sign up for because it may save you from financial woe in the future.
Here’s a bit of a look into what’s involved, who is entitled to it and how to get yourself sorted out with the Drug Payment Scheme. Hopefully it is something you will never need to use (the majority of users don’t hit the cap each month) but if you’ve got a house of kids, a chronically ill family member or simply want to prepare for the worst, then make sure to get this card into your purse.
On 20 August 2018, the World Health Organisation released a press release which stated that “Over 41,000 children and adults in the WHO European Region have been infected with measles in the first 6 months of 2018. The total number for this period far exceeds the 12-month totals reported for every other year this decade.” The WHO European Region is made up of 53 countries. 71% of these cases came from 3 countries: Romania, Italy and Ukraine. However, over the past few years, the amount of cases which have been highlighted in Ireland have been increasing and this is a worrying trend. For me as a parent, a chronic worrier and someone who lives with an invisible autoimmune issue, these figures absolutely terrify me.
Measles is an illness which by all accounts SHOULD be extinct. We’ve been vaccinating against it on a worldwide scale since 1971. Doctors have been giving two doses as standard since the late 1980s. By the end of 2017, 85% of children had received one dose of measles vaccine by their second birthday, and 167 countries had included a second dose as part of routine immunisation and 67% of children received two doses of measles vaccine according to national immunisation schedules. So why are we still in a position where not only are children catching this disease but dying from it? It looks like the answer is lying in reduced vaccination rates and in parents choosing to not vaccinate their children.
I do not say this in a sanctimonious way, I do not wish to tell ANYONE that my way of parenting is the best way of parenting, by any stretch of the imagination. However, when it comes to vaccinations against diseases which put not just your child in danger, then it becomes past a conversation about parenting styles and more about protecting the community as well as protecting your own child. I believe that if a child is medically considered fit to be vaccinated (ie not allergic to ingredients or against medical advice), then that child should be vaccinated against these diseases which have potentially life changing and threatening effects.
What Are Measles?
Measles (AKA rubeola) is a highly infectious viral illness. The measles virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This means that you can catch measles by breathing in these droplets or, if the droplets have settled on a surface, by touching the surface and then placing your hands near your nose or mouth.
Measles symptoms appear around 10-14 days after exposure to the virus. They typically include:
Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek. This is also called Koplik’s spots
A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another
Less common complications of measles are:
pneumonia (lung infection), signs of which are fast, difficult breathing, chest pain and deteriorating condition,
hepatitis (liver infection),
encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), which can be fatal, so watch for drowsiness, headache and vomiting,
low platelet count, known medically as thrombocytopenia, which affects the blood’s ability to clot,
bronchitis and croup (infection of the airways), characterised by a hacking or barking cough, and
squint, if the virus affects the nerves and muscles of the eye.
These complications are more common in children under the age of five or in adults over the age of twenty.
The infection occurs in sequential stages over a period of two to three weeks.
Infection and incubation. For the first 10-14 days after you’re infected, the measles virus incubates. You have no signs or symptoms of measles during this time.
Nonspecific signs and symptoms. Measles typically begins with a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by a persistent cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and sore throat. This relatively mild illness may last two or three days.
Acute illness and rash. The rash consists of small red spots, some of which are slightly raised. Spots and bumps in tight clusters give the skin a splotchy red appearance. The face breaks out first. Over the next few days, the rash spreads down the arms and trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs and feet. At the same time, the fever rises sharply, often as high as 40 to 41 degrees celcius. The measles rash gradually recedes, fading first from the face and last from the thighs and feet.
Communicable period. A person with measles can spread the virus to others for about 8 days, starting 4 days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has been present for four days.
The measles virus is exceptionally contagious and spreads easily among susceptible individuals. About 90 percent of susceptible people who are exposed to someone with the virus will be infected. To prevent outbreaks, at least 95% immunisation coverage with 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine is needed every year in every community, as well as efforts to reach children, adolescents and adults who missed routine vaccination in the past.
What is The MMR Vaccine?
MMR is a safe and effective combined vaccine that protects against 3 separate illnesses – measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) – in a single injection. The full course of MMR vaccination requires 2 doses. No country in the world recommends MMR vaccine to be given as three separate injections.
MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988. In the Irish system, the MMR is given at 12 months of age by a GP, followed by a second dose of the vaccine at age 4-5 years, either through the school system or by a local GP.
How Does the MMR Work?
The vaccine triggers the immune system to produce antibodies against measles, mumps and rubella, as though your body had been infected with them. Antibodies are proteins that are produced by the body to neutralise or destroy disease-carrying organisms and toxins.
This also teaches your immune system how to produce the appropriate antibodies quickly.
This video gives a bit of a rundown on how vaccines in general work and may be much easier than a block of text to understand!
What About Adverse Reactions?
As with any medication or vaccinations, adverse reactions are a possibility with the MMR vaccine.
After getting the vaccine, there may be discomfort, redness or swelling at the injection site. Children may be irritable and have a fever. If this happens, you can give them paracetamol or ibuprofen as well as plenty of fluids. Keep an eye on their temperature. It might also be a bit uncomfortable if clothes are rubbing against the injection site.
After 6-10 days 1 in 20 children may get “mini measles” with a rash and fever. About 1 child in 100 may get “mini-mumps” with swelling in the jaw area in the third week after vaccination. These are not contagious. Children usually recover from these side effects in 1-2 days.
In rare cases, a child may get a small rash of bruise-like spots about 2 weeks after the injection. This side effect, linked to the rubella vaccine, is known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). It has been estimated that ITP develops in less than one in every 22,000 doses of the MMR vaccine. There is a greater risk of developing the condition from the diseases that the vaccine prevents. ITP usually gets better on its own, but, as with any rash, seek advice from your doctor ASAP.
In very rare cases, children can have severe allergic reactions straight after an immunisation. This happens in about one in 100,000 immunisations for MMR. Medical staff who give immunisations are trained to deal with allergic reactions to vaccines.
The table below shows the most common side effects from the vaccine, and the levels of same effects seen caused by the disease itself. (Health Protection Surveillance Centre)
People who have been recently immunised cannot infect others with the viruses contained in the MMR vaccine.
The Andrew Wakefield Scandal And Links To Autism
Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet in 1998 linking the MMR vaccine to autism. His initial study appeared to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease. However, his research was not carried out correctly and has since been discredited. It used a sample size of just 12 individuals. Later it was discovered to be funded by lawyers who had been engaged by parents in lawsuits against vaccine-producing companies. This study was far from unbiased or complete.
Isn’t Three Viruses Too Much For Their Little Bodies To Handle? Why Not Separate Them?
Single vaccines in place of MMR put children and their families at increased and unnecessary risk. Generally, it is considered that the mother’s immunity will cover her child for only up to 12 months against measles, mumps and rubella, and some evidence is showing that the timescale for measles is even less than that. In spreading the vaccines, it would increase the risk of a child contracting one of the diseases while waiting for a time period between vaccines. It would also increase the number of vaccines the child needs to six instead of the current two. The combined vaccine is safer as it reduces the risk of the children being infected with the diseases whilst waiting for full immunisation cover.
What About Herd Immunity? Won’t That Keep Kids Safe?
Herd immunity (otherwise known as Community Immunity) keeps a certain level of the community safe. However, to do this, it requires for the vast majority of the community to be vaccinated. Germs can travel quickly through a community and make a lot of people sick, which can lead to an outbreak. When enough people are vaccinated against a certain disease, the germs can’t travel as easily from person to person. This means that the entire community is less likely to get the disease.
That means even people who can’t get vaccinated will have some protection from getting sick. And if a person does get sick, there’s less chance of an outbreak because it’s harder for the disease to spread. Eventually, the disease becomes rare — and sometimes, it’s wiped out altogether.
Herd/Community immunity protects everyone. But it’s especially important because some people can’t get vaccinated for certain diseases — such as people with some serious allergies and those with weakened or failing immune systems (like people who have cancer, HIV/AIDS, type 1 diabetes, or other health conditions).
Community immunity is also important for the very small group of people who don’t have a strong immune response from vaccines.
What About Reports That Say The Drug Wasn’t Tested Enough Before Giving It To Kids?
The normal procedure for licensing was used for MMR. The vaccine was thoroughly tested before being introduced into the Irish routine immunisation programme in 1988.
How Widespread is Vaccination against Measles Currently, And What Is The Scale Of The Current Problem?
While immunisation coverage with 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine increased from 88% of eligible children in the WHO European Region in 2016 to 90% in 2017, large disparities at the local level persist: some communities report over 95% coverage, and others below 70%.
The figures for Irish vaccination at levels can be seen here. In looking at the figures which are broken down by quarter, we can see a national decline from 93% to 92% over the last 6 years, remaining steady for the last 3 years at 92%. In the breakdown by area, Wicklow has the worst average rate of vaccination for the MMR by the age of 24 months, with just 85% of eligible children vaccinated with the MMR in the last two quarters, part of a steadily decreasing trend in the area. On the other hand, areas in the midlands and the west of Ireland seem to be hitting the targets consistently for vaccination. Those, however, are just the current vaccination figures and do not take into account young adults and adolescents who have not been vaccinated in the years since the Wakefield report which caused mass hysteria over reported dangers of the vaccine. The lack of vaccination around the time of that report’s publication and the years that followed has led to an increased number of secondary-school and college-aged people contracting communicable diseases like measles and mumps which had not been seen before at that age in recent years.
In Ireland in the period between July 2017 and June 2018, Ireland saw a total of 95 cases of measles, 20 cases per million of population. During that same time period the year before, July 2016 to June 2017, this figure was just 15, making up 3.2 cases per million of population. In a single year, it has multiplied 533.333%.
The United Kingdom, our closest neighbour, had 947 cases in the July 2017-June 2018 period, making up 14.46 per million of population. In the year before that, it had 413 cases in total, which was 6.3 per million population, in effect increasing by 129% in a 12 month period.
The “target” for disease control as considered by the WHO is less than 1 per million of population. Only 21 out of 53 countries (51 when you discount those who did not report in 2017/18 and 50 when you discount those who did not report in 2016/17) meet that target in 16/17, and only 8 countries meeting it in 17/18.
So, is mandatory vaccination the solution? I don’t believe it is a politically viable option, given the current way that the Irish government functions. There are already policies in place across the Health Service Executive to make vaccinations as easily accessible as possible to patients. Parents are given reminders by text message in some cases, and at checkups with doctors. We do not have a system that allows those doctors to make that choice for the parents, ultimately the choice is up to them. I just hope that in making that choice, they are not making the choice for another child or vulnerable person’s health for them.
Vaccinate your children – give them and the community around them the best chance of good health and avoiding a life-changing or ending disease. Measles is not a childhood illness children should have to get in 2018, and by vaccinating them, it gives them the best possible chance of avoiding its dangers.
Having a baby, being pregnant, the whole lot – it’s a massive learning curve. I’ve written previously about the things I will do differently with my second child than I have with my firstborn. However, I noticed that all of them were things I would do once the baby arrived, and not during the pregnancy itself. Since my pregnancy, I have watched a lot of my friends go through their various pregnancies and new baby stages and am learning a lot from them. I’ve also read a lot, between parenting blogs and books and articles, which has brought a whole lot of learning in itself. I’ve discovered things I wish I knew before my pregnancy, and so, here’s the list of what I would hope to do differently the second time around.
So, today is Leaving Cert Results Day. Students will open envelopes after months of waiting and agonising, and the knowledge of those results will be here. It’s a day that has both students and parents on edge. At 9am, in schools around the country, the wait will be over. It’s something I remember vividly, that wait, the going into the school. I remember walking into the principals office, him handing me the envelope and telling me he hoped I was happy with them, and walking out into the hall to open them. A mixture of emotions filled the hall – some were ecstatic, others less so. One girl sobbed in disappointment, openly.
I don’t remember the exact results I got in my Leaving Cert. In fact, when I was asked a while ago by someone what subjects I did, it took more than a few minutes of thought to remember them all. It’s now 9 years ago. It has faded from mattering, pretty much within the first few weeks of going to college. For the amount of pressure I put on myself for it, the future me is looking back and wondering just what was it for.
“Closing Time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…”
I’m reminded a lot of this song lately, it’s playing in my song almost daily for the first time since my teenage years. It seems like a whole lot is changing and there are a lot of new beginnings going on. This time though, the boy child has graduated his preschool and is moving onto a Montessori in a whole other place, with new people, and is leaving creche, and his baby days, behind. (more…)
I’ve started re-watching old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy lately while I’ve been off work. I’ve been a fan of Grey’s Anatomy since the early days and though I fell away from it for a while, I’m straight back in there now. It’s the perfect mish-mash of funny, serious and damn heartbreaking. I’m invested in these people like they’re real, they’ve been a part of my life for a decade.
While re-watching, I’ve noticed in some bits that they’re referring perfectly to how life with a toddler is. So, here’s 22 times that Grey’s Anatomy perfectly summed up what it is like to be a parent to a small child.
In the cast of Life, this leading lady is now mother to a four-year-old boy. He may not look it, or fit the clothes just right, but he’ll tell you very clearly that he’s four. And that means he’s strong, and brave because that’s what “four boys” are. He turned four last Saturday, and we celebrated with a party with some of his friends from his creche in a Cork soft play centre. There was what can loosely be called a PJ Masks cake, at least one set of tears per child who turned up in the two hours and everyone seemed to have fun, so I guess we call it a success! I like the format I did for last year’s birthday post, an update all about him and his life.
Pancake Tuesday is tomorrow – 13th February. In the past, it was intended as a way to use up all of the eggs, butter and fat before the Lenten fast. These days, it’s much more of an excuse to get pancakes for many meals (or at least one) midweek. Whether you’re a thin crepe with lemon and sugar, or thick American pancakes with all the fixings kind of person, here are a selection of pancake recipes tried and tested by parenting bloggers that you AND your family are sure to love, without any pre-made mixes in sight!
As the man in red is just about to pay a visit to houses worldwide, there are quite a lot of young people looking to be in possession of new Apple iOS devices, iPod Touches, iPhones, iPads. All of which they’ll be working with skill while lots of parents try to figure out how exactly they’re doing what they’re doing. As much as we want to protect our kids from everything that could possibly harm them, or from making mistakes that they will regret, in the era of the screenager, it is a seriously tough job keeping track of absolutely everything they get up to. There are however some safeguards which you can take to make sure that your child is safe in their usage of this technology, while remaining relatively hands-off and allowing them to embrace the age of technology (while ignoring you as they beat their high score in Candy Crush Saga).
Christmas is a magical time of year. It might only be mid-November, but the rush has already begun to get everything perfect and to start picking up gifts. When there are kids in the house, the holiday can become all about them, and less about the adults in the house. They definitely deserve some love too. If you’ve got friends who have recently become parents, or have been cohabitating with tiny humans for a while, here are a few suggestions for Christmas gift ideas they’re bound to love.
That time of year is rolling around again all too quick. The evenings are getting darker, the clocks have gone back, you’re having to put the heating on. And the toy ads, oh the toy ads are INCESSANT. On one hand, it’s great to have the Santa card to pull out when your three year old is having a meltdown about nothing at all. On the other, the pressure of getting it right and making it a lovely Christmas that everyone will remember happily is quite another. Advent calendars are something I remember from childhood as being great for getting into the festive mood (those and the Folens annuals!).
However, in my childhood, they were the chocolate-a-day type, which in our house will not go down well. It’s not that we don’t like chocolate – as my waistline will attest – but more so our lack of wanting to give chocolate to the three year old. He doesn’t react well to the sugar, it makes him crazy, and the festive season is crazy enough. So, for parents like me who wish to dodge the chocolate bullet but want to take part in the Advent Calendar joy, here’s some of the best store-bought sugar free (ie not confectionary) versions for kids I’ve seen.
This week, a news story hit that the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has begun to use a robot for educating their students on the physical elements of childbirth. The news video included some (debatably creepy looking) footage of the robot in practice. Lucina, Ireland’s only “birthing mannequin”, has been purchased for €75,000 to benefit the surgical education of the future doctors taught in RCSI. The reaction to this news story has been mixed, to say the least. Some are horrified at the idea of a robot being used to teach doctors how to work in a childbirth setting. Others find it a genius idea which will likely improve outcomes for future patients as the educational tool will prove beneficial to the doctors in their training. So, what exactly is the reasoning behind the robot, what is it likely to teach that our current system doesn’t have, and is it all a bit of space age nonsense?
In late September, the three of us jetted off on our first family holiday as a trio. As it was Eliott’s first time on a plane, we decided to not go too mad – or rather, we decided to throw caution (and everything else) to the wind, and opt for an 18 hour flight each way and headed to sunny South Africa. It was a wonderful trip, one which I will definitely be writing more on, but it was definitely an educational trip in more ways than one. I feel incredibly lucky to not only be able to go on this kind of trip myself, but also to expose my child at the age of three to a whole different world of things – different weather, different cultures, foods, experiences. We stayed in Durban while we were there and found it to be overwhelmingly child friendly. I would thoroughly recommend it for people with kids, as it’s got so much for them to do, and playgrounds at every corner. However, if you’re thinking about traveling to South Africa with kids, there are a few things you need to have with you.
Ahead of the March for Choice next week in Dublin, there was a Repeal Not Replace demonstration in Cork City on Saturday 23rd September. I was asked by the organisers to be one of the speakers at this event. Initially I was hesitant to speak, feeling like my story wasn’t as relevant of that of many of the women who have suffered greatly under the 8th Amendment to our constitution. However, on reflection, I realised that as a woman who has gone through pregnancy in Ireland, I do have my experiences of maternity care under the 8th to speak about. The 8th Amendment is about so much more than abortion and it’s availability in our state, and I hope that I got that across in my speech. Here’s the full text of the speech, I’d love to hear what you think.
There’s a song in the movie Mamma Mia which might have drawn a tear or two since becoming a parent. In the middle of the movie, Meryl Streep is watching her fully-grown daughter prepare for her wedding, and singing this song as the scene plays out. The song itself, “Slipping Through My Fingers” was written about ABBA members’ Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog’s 7 year old daughter. It sums up the feelings of watching our kids grow up so fast and not being able to grab them back in for a cuddle on your lap, or a snuggle to sleep to keep the baby days going. It’s gorgeous, and right now, it feels very apt for the stage I’m at with Eliott.
Childcare is often declared to be the second mortgage of many homes. Personally, it makes up almost as much as our rent per month, and we only have one child. It’s a major outlay and can really have some families in a bind as to whether both parents working is actually financially worth it. The price of childcare differs dependent on your needs and what form parents use – au pairs, creche, montessori, in house childminders, childminders in their own homes, grandparents and family members. So, how do we ensure we have affordable childcare?
Childhood and teen years are somewhat through a different lens these days. The impact of introducing technology into their hands at a young age has been to change their technical ability, but also opened a whole world up to them that previous generations could only dream about. At our fingertips, we are literally able to find the answers to life’s big questions (Thank you, Google), speak to others around the world and discover things we never would have known about before. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube – they’ve opened our eyes to a much wider world. It’s an amazing powerful thing – but, with great power comes great responsibility!
Another day, another horrific tale in the news. It’s unfortunately part of life in Ireland in 2017. In the last few years, the topics of mental health and the 8th amendment have been in the news seperately and together, but yesterday’s news had something different. The Irish Times journalist Kitty Holland reported on a case from the Child Care Law Report Project which took place in 2016, and opened our eyes to fresh horror.
We all have little memory trinkets that we want to keep. Some people keep baby books, others keep shoeboxes full of memories. In the modern era, there are entire apps and computer programmes dedicated to a technological way of keeping your precious memories safe. Sometimes however, old school is the best way. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that theres a book, an album, to rifle through for the nostalgia. As parents, we want to keep the memories safe. We make sure that our children (and theirs) will be able to look back and see their childhood. What is the best way to preserve these memories?
Parenting is a learn on the job kind of gig. There’s no training course, no book, no YouTube series that will prepare you for how full on it all is. I read a LOT when I was pregnant, and through the sleepless nights of feeds and windy babies. But the experience itself is something that you have to live through – which sounds like one of those things THOSE parents say, the ones we all resent “oh you just don’t know, you don’t have kids”. It’s life in a war zone. A beautiful, funny war zone that will leave you with scars and tears but laughter lines and good memories too. I learned a lot about life, about myself and about the whole keeping-a-human-alive thing. So, what would I do differently on a second baby?
The news came to the fore yesterday that the new National Maternity Hospital was to be placed under the ownership of the Sisters of Charity. The Sisters of Charity is a religious group who in the past were one of the groups who ran the Magdalene Asylums. Under their watch, terrible abuses were carried out on mothers and children alike. In State redress schemes since the news broke of what went on inside these Mother and Baby Homes, the Sisters of Charity have neglected to pay their fair share. In 2013 the Sisters of Charity, along with the three other religious congregations which managed Magdalene laundries, announced that they would not be making any contribution to the State redress scheme for women who had been in the laundries. The Sisters of Charity were involved in five industrial schools – including St Joseph’s and St Patrick’s, Kilkenny and Madonna House in Dublin. They were party to a €128m redress scheme with the State in 2002 for child abuse which took place. According to a December 2016 report from the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Sisters of Charity offered €5m towards the redress scheme – but have only paid €2m. They are currently in debt to the state, and the victims as a result, to the tune of 3 million. So, gifting them a hospital sounds par for the course, right? Only in Ireland.
In the run up to Easter, it’s been great to see a load of kid-centric activities to fill up the holidays popping up. Egg hunts, fun days, these are the things that memories are made of. So when we were offered the chance to try out the Rathwood Easter experience, we jumped (bunny-hopped?) at the chance. Rathwood is a home and garden centre in Tullow, Co. Carlow. I’d been there a few times previously, but never taken part in any of their experiences (I guess 25 is not their target audience age), however armed with the three year old we decided to try it out.