Dr Ranj and how he helped us through the hardest times again and again.

So in my blog so far I have shared about hard times in my life how we got through them and we got through them, but there is one person who has helped us so many times and they didn’t even know that they were helping us. By making what I just saw as a ‘silly’ Tv show with a few songs and puppets they were educating my daughter they have again and again made scary times easier for both my daughter and me. The name of this guy Dr Ranj.

Dr Ranj has never met me or my family (although if I could meet him then I would shake his hand and thank him for his work) but he has been in my home nearly every day both on our TV and on our tablets. He has been educating our children in all things medical. I know it sounds stupid but a TV show and an App really has helped up and put our minds at ease. Ok its not the headlines of “Dr Ranj saved my life” that hit This Morning but to me they are just as important. I want to share just one of the many times he has helped us.

ranjThe first was a few days in the life of our third child, Michael was very ill when he was born. He was hooked up to so many machines a ventilator, feeding tubes, in an incubator and so many monitors Me and Mel were worried sick about all sorts of things; will Michael be ok, will he make it through the night, when will we get to hold him. Then came the time I was dreading letting my other kids meet Michael. I knew Andrew would be ok he was only Two he wouldn’t really know what was going on. It was Elizabeth we were worried about. she was 4, at school and starting to understand the world around her, we were worried about how she would be seeing here baby brother hooked up to all these machines fighting for his life. I was dreading it, before we went in I was fighting back tears trying to prepare her for what was going to happen. We walked in and instead of being scared she was a massive comfort, she looked at Michael and said “Daddy that’s just a nasal gastric tube its for feeding him and the incubator is just keeping him warm” (when we talk about it now she can tell me what so many of the machines do) we were gobsmacked I asked her how she knew, she told us because of Dr Ranj. I was confused at first how could a Doctor on This morning help my daughter deal with what was going on. I started to look at what she watched on TV thinking I was going to Phil and Holly talking to the TV Doctor. But no I found the TV doctor was also a children TV presenter and had a app were children can learn all about illnesses and going the doctors or hospital. By making these shows he has helped my daughter understand something scary and in a strange way put mine and Mel’s mind at rest.

This has Been just one example there are so many other times Dr Ranj has helped us I would be here all day telling you about them. His shows have even made my now nearly 6 year old daughter tell me she wants to be a Doctor she even understands my Job as a Health Care Assistant a little better because of Dr Ranj. And to all you parents who haven’t seen his show find it on Iplayer and get the CBeeBies app.

So Dr Ranj I wish I could meet you and say thanks, I wish my daughter could say thanks in fact I wish my whole family could say thanks. Because without even knowing us You have come in to our home via our Tv and made some of the most scary times of our life that little bit easier.

I know we most probably wont meet as much as I wish we could so I could shake your hand, But if you read this and I hope you do. Thank you so much for all your TV shows all the stuff on the App and the catchy tune I now have stuck in my head so I will finish by singing it why I type.

Be Happy, Be healthy And get well soon.

PS if your ever in Liverpool hook us up

PPS your tunes better than the stick song

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I’m Back and I a talking Kangaroo care

So its been 8 months since I said goodbye for now to the PND world, I spoke about how raising awareness of PND in men had become an obsession when I started writing nearly 2 years ago I was one of only a few dads talking about our struggles and telling men we needed to talk, this was and is an important message and being one of the only people spouting this message was a big responsibility to have. And it took its toll I spent months talking about the past and my road to recovery reliving all the feelings every time I told the story. I needed to get away and focus on being me and not just The PND Daddy. Well now I am back and I’m ready to blog again, this time its going to be different though. Yes I am going to talk about PND and yes I will keep telling men the importance of seeking help when it comes to improving Mental Health. But this time I am not putting pressure on myself to write. I will write when the mood takes me and about things that matter to me. This week its Kangaroo Care otherwise known as skin to skin. This is something more and more NHS Trusts are promoting. When a mother has a baby it is encouraged that as soon as the baby is born they are put skin to skin this helps to build a bond between mother and Baby. I am not in a position to talk about all the medical benefits of having skin to skin time with your baby but Tommy’s Midwifes have a good article about how kangaroo care can help you and your baby. I can however tell you how kangaroo care helped me with my mental health.

I have to admit the first time I had skin to skin it felt very strange, Elizabeth was a few hours old, I was sitting on an chair at the hospital with my top off and a baby asleep on me. It was the most natural thing in the world but it felt just strange. I never really gave it a chance, I wrote it off very quickly as not for me. For the next few months my top stayed on and it wasn’t coming off when it came to spending time with Elizabeth. It wasn’t until after my break down I began to explore skin to skin again. I thought I might have been too late and maybe she would not take to it but I thought I would give it a go. The next time she was crying and we were struggling to settle her I took my top off and laid her on my chest, she snuggled in and fell asleep listening to my heart beat. It was the closest I felt to Elizabeth ever, I instantly had a connection and a bond. From then on we had skin to skin when ever we could. Elizabeth was more settled for it and my mood improved when ever we did it. It even worked in other ways. All 3 of my kids hated water when they were young, now only one hates water, I strongly believe skin to skin had something to do with this. When Elizabeth and Andrew were young I used to get in the bath and put them on my chest bathing them whilst they were relaxed on me. Interestingly Michael is scared of water and he is the only child I haven’t had as much skin to skin with. Maybe I need to take a leaf out of my own book and give Michael a bath with me.

I would highly recommend skin to skin to both mum and dad it is an amazing way of bonding with your Baby, it helps settle your baby quicker and your mental health will see the benefits of it. I know at times it feels unnatural but its how we cared for our kids for thousands of years and is the most natural thing ever. Give it a real chance to work past the awkward feeling an you will see the benefits.

Tony

New site.

well a big thanks to everyone who has read the blog on WordPress.Now some big news we have our own website. So from now on blogs won’t be updated on here but you can visit the new site and read the blog there. I have all past blogs as well as new ones and loads of guest blogs please visit the site regularly and maybe even join the mailing list for regular updates.

www.pnddaddies.co.uk.

 

19 week wait for treatment – just not good enough.

So I have blogged recently that both me and Mel have been struggling since Michael has been born. We have both recognised we are struggling and that we need to get some help before things got worse than they already were. We then both saw a health professional, I saw a nurse at the mental health team and Mel saw her GP we were both then referred to a health service close to where we live and we have both had phone assessment to see if we were eligible to use their service and we were both told we could be offered CBT for PND and PTSD and that we would be put on the waiting list that was around 3 months long. That was 5 weeks ago so we have spent that time trying to figure out how we make ourselves feel better and doing as much self care as possible.

mental-health

However things took a turn this week, Mel got her letter to start CBT next week, I decided today to call the service and find out when things would be moving on for me as my wife has an appointment before me when I was assessed before her and we were both offered the same service. The lady asked what we were assessed for. I explained we were both told we had PND and PTSD. The lady very quickly told me my wife had been prioritised because she had PND. Me being me explained that men can get PND and I also suffer from it so couldn’t I get the same priority. It was explained to me that they only prioritise mums with PND so I would still have to wait and the wait was another 14 weeks.

I have to admit this left me with mixed emotions. I was happy that Mel is getting help and glad she would be getting the help to be happier and start to move forward. However I was and still am jealous and a little bit angry Mel is getting help where as I am left struggling for 3 more months that’s June before I get any help. I need to get help to get better so I can be back at work and actually feel like I doing something to support my family. What about me when will I get my help?

Now before I go on I understand why Mel got prioritised and why they can only prioritise mums with PND the service is stretched right now so if they prioritised everyone then no one would get seen quicker and those in crisis would not been seen quickly. And I don’t blame the service either they have so much funding and so many people in need of help.

I blame the NHS and our government. Cut after cut has left their services short of money and short of staff leading to massive waiting lists and patients who have been brave enough to ask for help  waiting 6 months for help this is just not on. You would not have to wait 6 months to have a cancer that was killing you removed from your body. You would start treatment straight away. So why are we waiting 6 months to start treatment for an illness that is destroying the life of hundreds of thousands people? I know mental health is broad term and there is different severity of mental health illness but you wouldn’t even wait 6 month for the most minor of physical illness.

Only last week the Guardian news paper published that 271 highly vulnerable patients died between 2012 and 2017 after 706 failings by health bodies. 

This is just not good enough there are just the failing that are published.

Services are doing the best they can with the little money they have, charities like PANDAS and Tommies as well as private people like me with my facebook support page and websites like This Dad Can are also trying to support people as best we can. But we shouldn’t have to the NHS should be better equipped to support those with mental health illnesses.

Right now someone in government needs to stand up and be the voice of these people and make sure mental health services are funded correctly and that everyone get the help they need a lot quicker before more lives are lost to the horrible debilitating illness is mental illness.

 

The hardest blog to write so far

I  feel like it is time to break the silence and blog about the birth of my 3rd baby. This has been so difficult for me to do as I feel like I haven’t been ready and I have been keeping it to myself for unknown reasons. Now its time to share and hope this releases some of what I have been feeling.

I went into hospital to be induced on the 15th December. Everything was going well and the contractions were starting slowly. I spent most the afternoon and evening walking around the hospital trying to keep awake and mobile. I was told I needed to try and get some rest but I couldn’t get comfy and let be honest, who actually manages to sleep in hospital. I spent time in the relatives room we had sitting on the comfy chairs and watching TV with Tony. I wasn’t in any pain or discomfort, but I was getting very impatient. I wanted to have our baby and then have checks and get the all clear to go home to my other children the next day. I never knew just how much the plan would be changed.

It got to about 2am and I was starting to get some painful contractions which made me very happy as I knew we were on our way to having our baby here. They continued to get stronger and more intense over the next couple of hours until about 4am when I was then offered some gas and air on the ward to try and help with the pain. I agreed and carried doing the best I could until I got taken through to delivery at half 5.. The midwife was very lovely and was encouraging me and keeping me calm too. I had to make my movements in between contractions so it took a long time to get from the wheelchair to the bed, or so it felt.
I opted to have diamorphine this time as I was in so much pain and I wasn’t sure I could cope with any more. I was warned that if the baby was born within an hour of having the pain relief that there was a risk of baby being drowsy but I was happy with this. So I had the pain relief and then was checked over and I was told that the baby was very close (which I could tell because I kept saying I needed to push and was told not to). The midwife joked with me and said she was going off shift half an hour so if I wanted baby to be delivered by her then I didn’t have long. Well she must have had the magic words because 3 pushes later and Michael was born into the world at 7.42am

Michael was taking to be weighted and then passed to Tony whilst midwife was still seeing to me. After what felt a long time I was finally able to hold my baby boy in my arms. The midwife who delivered Michael then said bye to me as she was finished and I was introduced to the midwife who took over. I was full of love for him and I was ready to burst into tears with pride and joy. The midwives went and got me some toast and tea to have (which taste so amazing after birth) and was encouraged to feed Michael and see how he got on. He was fussing and I couldn’t get him to feed and so I was doing my nervous laugh saying “aww he’s just sleepy still” then the problems really started.

The midwife asked if she could take Michael and just check him over again so I said yes. She laid him in the cot and stripped him. The midwife then said she was going to get a doctor to check him over to be sure. 2 neonatal nurses came in and had a look and by this time he was going a grey colour and was making a grunding noise. They both said they would just take him to the rescue room to give him some oxygen. Tony went with them and I stayed in the delivery room so I could shower and dress. He then came back through and told me they had taken Michael to intensive care as he is really poorly. I broke down completely and said I wanted him back. I didn’t my baby away from me. I thought people were going to take him forever.

When I was finally allowed, my midwife took me through to neonatal in a wheelchair so I could see Michael. He looked so tiny, so fragile. He didn’t look like the same baby anymore. He was in a incubator with wires already around him and oxygen supply going through there too. I asked them to explain what was wrong and what would happen next. They said that they thought he could have an infection so would start him on antibiotics whilst they wait for results. They also said his lungs were immature and this was because I had Gestational Diabetes (my guilt starting to show now) and he was struggling with oxygen levels. He would get them settled and then every time he cried the levels would drop to dangerous levels. I then again asked what would they do to help and they said he would need to be on a ventilator so he could sleep and rest to help get better and then they could also give him the protein Michael needed for his lungs. At that moment I completely broke down. I couldn’t process everything at once. We were then asked to leave so they could carry on looking after him. I started to walk back to the my room and I started to have a panic attack brought on by shock. I felt like I as going to be sick and collapse. Thankfully, my midwife noticed us and came to help. I was then told to get some sleep and to try not to worry as Tony was looking after Michael.

After some sleep I felt better and was then moved to my own side room in the midwifery unit. I was allowed to go back and see Michael. He had the ventilator still but looked peaceful. I was told that only after 12 hours they were going to try and take him off the ventilator and see how he was. He was being fed through a feeding tube and they were giving him formula to start with. I was encouraged to start hand expressing so I could help my milk come in and i was disheartened at first as I couldn’t get much at all. I was told they could continue giving Michael formula and using my milk for mouth care so he didn’t get dehydrated lips and to start to get the taste.. It only took a couple of days for my milk to come in so I was then able to express for every one of his feeds and they could stop the formula.

I really struggled with bringing myself to touch him and hold his hand. I just kept crying and I couldn’t control my emotions at all. My in-laws brought my other 2 children to see us and Tony took them through to see Michael, one at a time. I couldn’t bring myself to take them. I thought Michael wasn’t going to make it out of hospital and I didn’t want Elizabeth and Andrew see their mummy cry. For the first time since becoming a mum, I couldn’t be strong for everyone. I didn’t know how to deal with it all.

For the next couple of days Michael relied a lot on his oxygen supply but was stable. I started to feel more comfortable in touching him and was even able to help change his nappies and wash him. Tony did the tube feeds as I was so scared something would go wrong. We had also got some results back which confirmed that Michael had an infection and he would need to finish his 5 days of antibiotics. I then found it very hard to leave his side. I had to be told whenever it was time to get something to eat and drink. A part of me felt guilty because I had gestational diabetes. What did I do wrong? I also felt distant from him because I didn’t get my skin to skin cuddles after he was born. I had cuddles but he had to be wrapped up and have an oxygen mask close by.

On the Tuesday when Michael was 3 days old I had a member of staff come to speak to me in my room and told me I was going to be sent home that day. Once again I broke down. I was told that she thought Michael would need to be in the hospital for quite a while still and I needed to be at home for my other 2 and live a normal life. Anger crept in at this point. How on earth can I go home and live a normal life when I have to leave my baby behind. I wasn’t going to go. I knew my children were OK with their nanny and grandad so I was able to concentrate on Michael. I then phoned Tony and I broke down to tell him what happened and he phoned and spoke to someone and said I was left feeling deflated. I was told I could stay one more night because of the shock but if there was no change the next day then I would have to go home, this was a plan I could accept.

I went to visit Michael and noticed that the oxygen had gone down and he was breathing a lot better on his own. I asked if I was able to hold him and I finally got my skin to skin bond. He slept on my chest quite nicely for nearly an hour and in that time he didn’t need any extra oxygen. The nurse who was looking after him had said that he was able to go into a normal cot overnight and just be monitored. This made me so proud. I left him in the cot and went to get some sleep myself.

The next morning came, I had to find out how Michael was overnight and if he improved he would be allowed on the ward with me and if not I had to leave him and go home. On the way to his cot I was shaking, I was so scared of seeing him back in the incubator and on oxygen. I went in and there he was, in the same cot I had left him in. I gave a huge sigh of  relief and waited for the doctors round. When they came round I was told that I could try breastfeeding and he was feeding properly he could leave neonatal and come on a ward with me. To start with, he wasn’t very interested so the nurse said she would leave him to get hungry and then for me to try again. She removed the feeding tube as she said he wouldn’t need it anymore. He then started to feed like a champ so we just had to wait for a doctor to check him over and he could be discharged from there to the ward with me. The only thing I had to do was to take him back to Neonatal for his last lot of antibiotics. I was so happy to have my baby boy next to me..

When he had moved onto my ward we had family come and visit again and the children were able to give him cuddles and meet him properly. I felt so much better now I had him back. I took him to neonatal and he had his final lot of antibiotics and it finally clicked that he was a lot better. He looked like my baby boy again and not a delicate doll. We had a fairly reasonable night of sleeping and feeding. It just felt right for the first time since having him. The next day consisted of midwives completing paperwork and asking me question after question about his feeds and nappies. After what seemed a lifetime, me and Tony were finally able to take him home and be a family.

Guilt washed over me, but for different reasons. It had suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t worried about Elizabeth and Andrew and that they weren’t my first thought. It was only when we were all home I realised that I had neglected them and wasn’t there for them. I spent the next few days concentrating on them as much as I could and doing what I could with them to show them that I still loved them.

I then got a sense of peace. Michael was home, we were altogether as a family and we could look forward to enjoying Christmas together. My family was complete and it wasn’t going to change again. No one would come between my family again.

Breaking the stigma – Why I refuse to suffer in silence.

So I have been talking about my struggles with PND for over a year and what a whirlwind year it has been. I have been interviewed for Both the BBC and ITV. Had my story written in two magazines and one national paper. Guessed blogged on a number of different blogs and worked along some national organisations as well as be on national and local radio. I know that might sound like I am raising myself up on a pedastool and trying to say look how good I am.  In truth I hate it, I would rather not have done all these interviews and spoke about what happened to me and what I am doing to change things. Every time I stand in front of a camera or sit at a mic I have to relive one of the most painful times of my life. I have to admit how I felt when Elizabeth was born and how I could not cope with being a dad and how it drove me to near destruction. The positive is I also get to talk about how I improved and raise the point that the health system is failing to support the needs of dads. When I do these interviews I open up old wounds. More worrying in this day and age, I open myself up to attack from both men and women who don’t think men can have PND or that we should suffer in silence and not be talking about our feelings. For every 100 good positive messages I get at least 20 negative and abusive messages.

When I tell people all this how each interview is draining and forces me to relive the worst time in my life and how I open my self up to abuse, I get asked why do I do that? Why not put it all in a box and move on?

The answer is simple 1 in 10 men suffer some sort of mental heath illness following the birth of there children and that figure is only based on those who have spoke out and seek help. So many dads suffer in silence. There is a stigma that needs breaking and someone has to be the one to break that stigma. The NHS is failing to support dads after they have had babies. They are failing to recognise the importance of dads and their mental heath in the life of there children. With so much focus on mum (and rightly so) but no focus on Dad.. how about we focus on the family and both parents as individuals. With up to 21 fathers committing suicide each week leaving 1,092  kids with out dads and in general dads are 5 times more likely to commit suicide than mums.  More needs to be done to get dads talking. And if me doing all these interviews gets people talking then I will happily take the stigma take the abuse and keep opening old wounds. I get people talking, help new dads and men in general realise its OK to not be be OK and encourage them to go the doctors and get help. If my speaking out helps even one dad its worth it and I will keep speaking out until the stigma around mental health is broken and men are getting the help they need.

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That said here is my latest interview on Radio City talk over here in Liverpool. I have to admit I enjoyed doing this one, I always love going up the tower and seeing the views and I have wanted to get in to these studios for years and the views of my city are amazing.

Dad Hair Day

So this past week Mel has been away in Norfolk with Michael leaving me with Elizabeth and Andrew. This meant the school was my responsibility. I have to admit I nailed it this week we were never rushed and were always on time to school.

One thing this week I did realise is I am no good at doing hair.

On the Tuesday Elizabeth was in her world book day costume and she asked for her hair down so I gave it a good brush at sent her to school thinking nothing of it. That was until after school her teacher pulled me to one side and said to me if I took Elizabeth’s brush and bobble in she would be happy to do Elizabeth’s hair so she looked nice. Something Elizabeth reminded me of the next morning when she said “Daddy Please don’t forget to pack my brush and bobble so my teacher can do my hair”

Now I have also made light of the fact I cant do Elizabeth’s hair, after all I am new to hair as a man I just run my fingers through mine and do a quick bit of styling and then I’m done. I have never had to do high ponies, low ponies, pig tails, buns or had to put my hair in a double dutch so why would I be any good at hair. I even used to love sharing this hair hack using a hoover.

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However if truth be told the fact that I struggle with Elizabeth’s hair has always upset me. Friends, family, schools and Elizabeth her self are just a  few people who have made comments on my poor dad hair. No matter what I tried I Just couldn’t get Elizabeth’s hair to look good it was always full of knots and lumps and Elizabeth was always complaining it was never right out and that I cant do her hair. The more people commented the more I got down. I felt like I was missing out on this time with my daughter. Now I know its only a 5 or 10 min task but I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out on that bond. We did everything together I wanted to be able to do my daughters hair to.

I even Commented on our social media about my frustration and how I felt I was missing out. This video made by 60 Second Docs was sent to me by a friend and its changed how I feel about doing my daughters hair.

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You see this video makes a very good point “Its not about the braid its about the bond” This is something I never thought about before I was so obsessed with getting Elizabeth’s hair perfect that I forgot how just spending 10 mins doing a Bad Dad hair style is time we can spend together talking and developing a bond. After all a bad braid is still a braid right.

Phil and Emma are now even offering classes all over the US for free teaching dads the basics of hair management and giving them the tools to feel more confident in doing their daughter’s hair. Their website has all the info you need to know about the classes and even a shop.

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They are even regularly sharing videos tutorials on how to do some amazing hair styles including the hack above on how to do a high pony that I have now tried and swear by when doing Elizabeth’s hair. I have tried a few more of their hair styles with a mixture of results but I am getting the hang of the basics now.

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But most of all now when I do Elizabeth’s hair as much as I want her to look good and have nice hair. I remember those inspirational words of Phil and Emma:

“IT’S NOT ABOUT
THE BRAID
IT’S ABOUT THE BOND.”