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Handmade Christmas Gifts: #PHWinterWorkshop Charity Auction!

A few weeks ago, Parcel Hero contacted me to ask if I would be interested in taking part in a charity campaign they were running. They were asking craft bloggers to decorate a little wooden box and make a small handmade gift to go in it, which would then be auctioned on eBay to raise funds for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH). How could I say no to that?

Their charity campaign last year raised nearly £1,000 for Oxfam, and this year they are hoping to beat that and raise £1,500 for GOSH. That’s enough money to cover the cost of a portable heart monitor! How wonderful would it be to reach that target?

With that in mind, I set about creating something truly special for the auction. I wanted my box to appeal to eBayers looking for a treat for a loved one, and so I decided to create a wintry themed necklace. I pulled out my jewellery making bits and bobs (which haven’t been used in far too long!) and set to work creating something that reminded me of frosty mornings and nights dusted with just a little bit of snow.

Turquoise and seed bed two strand necklace #PHWinterWorkshop charity auction GOSH

The end result was this – a two strand necklace made with turquoise chips (of two different sizes) and seed beads in both clear and blue tones. I was so happy with how it turned out, especially as I’ve never made a two strand necklace before, and really hope that whoever wins it in the auction will treasure it for years to come.

I knew I wanted to combine a blue tone rather than going full-on white for my wintry theme, and the turquoise reminds me so much of the pale wintry skies we get during this time of year. And I’m so glad I managed to add a semi-precious stone in here too, because I love crystals and wearing them in a necklace is a great way to benefit from them.

Turquoise is a really great choice of crystal too, as it has so many healing properties. A quick look in my favourite crystal book told me that turquoise helps to balance the energy meridians in the body and so can support all of the chakras. However I have always associated it with the throat chakra, and its ability in assisting us to speak with truth and integrity. If you want to know more about the properties of turquoise, as well as its influence across the globe throughout history, then do check out this page.

Of course it wasn’t just the necklace that needed making, I had to find a way to decorate the little wooden box it would be placed in. I decided to go with decoupage in order to merge the different blue and white tones which reminded me so much of this time of year. This time, however, I went with a slightly darker theme than the necklace, to reflect the longer winter nights rather than the frosty mornings! I completed it with a royal blue painted inside and complementary gold trim, to add a bit of that Christmas sparkle – the light in the darkness.

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I am so pleased with how it all came together and I really, really hope that it helps Parcel Hero to reach their target of £1,500 this year. If you would like to bid on my box and necklace you can do so here. Bidding starts at just 99p and postage is completely free.

But don’t just stop there – why not check out the amazing range of hand decorated boxes complete with wonderful gifts inside. There really is something for everyone, and if there’s someone on your list you have yet to find the perfect gift for, you may just find the answer on eBay!

Some of my favourites include the:

  • “Live The Life You Love” Box, which has inspirational quotes, 3 healing crystals (I spot rose quartz, clear quartz, and a heart which may be moonstone, perhaps?), and a sweet Christmas decoration. It is a really lovely selection, and having realised it was made by the wonderful Becky of Baby Budgeting I am not surprised – Becky is so lovely! I may even have to drop a few hints about how much I love this box, to see if Santa may make a bid or two for me…
  • Crocheted Wrist Warmers in a Fashion Styled Box, because who doesn’t love a good pair of wrist warmers for the bitterly cold days ahead? They look both warm and snuggly and gorgeously detailed, and as a fellow crocheter I can appreciate the work that would have gone into them. They were made by Vicky of Blush Crafts, which is a blog that is immediately going on my bloglovin list!
  • Christmas Stars in a Christmas Box, which contains enough golden stars to really add a bit of sparkle to your Christmas tree. It was made by Natasha of Serenity You, another blog I am going to enjoy exploring! I love the fact that the box itself is so clearly made for Christmas – can you imagine bringing it out year after year, maybe filling it with small after dinner treats or little inspirational quotes to hand out at the end of the day, making the magic last that little bit longer?

There are so many more boxes than this in the auction, so please do pop along and have a look. You can find all of the listings by checking out the Parcel Hero eBay listings page, or you can see updates about each item on their blog.

Blog It Forward – How We’re Giving Back This Christmas

Earlier this week, the lovely Penny from Alexander Residence posted about a fantastic way to “give back” this Christmas. This time of year is, naturally, a time for giving and most of us want to spread a little holiday cheer. But it can get so complicated (and overwhelming) as we try and get the best presents for our loved ones, plan the perfect feast for our families, and still find time to enjoy the moment. Which is why I love the simplicity of Wayfair’s #BlogItForward challenge…

#blogitforward

 

The idea is so simple – find a way to spread a little kindness this Christmas and if you blog about it Wayfair will donate £50 to Habitat for Humanity. How awesome is that? By one small act of kindness you are helping not one person, but many – how’s that for the ripple effect?

And your act of kindness doesn’t have to be a big one or even cost you any money – say “hi” to that parent who always seems stressed on the school run, visit an elderly neighbour who may be very lonely, take outgrown clothes and toys to your nearest refuge, organise to go and sing carols at your local residential care home, the list is endless…

When I first heard about #BlogItForward, I wondered what I should do. My time and energy resources are very limited right now and whilst I am very often overly optimistic about what I can actually achieve, I knew I needed to keep it simple this year. So when Penny sent me this tweet, it got me thinking:

What things am I already doing that would count as “good deeds” this Christmas. What am I doing that I simply haven’t thought of mentioning but actually support others and spread a little love and support?

And here’s what I came up with:

1. Buying from small businesses

Whilst it would certainly be far quicker (and cheaper) to grab all my Christmas presents  from discount stores and large online retailers offering so many competitive deals, I made a conscious decision to buy as many presents from smaller businesses. I wanted to do this for two reasons – first, I am able to find perfect gifts for friends and family members that they will most likely have never seen before and second, I know that each sale makes a big difference to the person who made the item.

So far this year I have bought a handmade Star Wars pencil case for our niece, some cute Star Wars Bathroom Etiquette magnets for Little Man’s cousins (both from Folksy), and a hand knitted baby bear for a friend’s new baby (from a church Christmas Fair). I still have a few presents to buy and whilst I know I won’t manage to get all my gifts in this way, each one I do makes me feel happy knowing we are supporting a small business.

Handmade Gifts for Christmas

2. Donating to the Food Bank

This is something we do from time to time anyway, but it is becoming a Christmas tradition to add “buy food for the Food Bank” to Little Man’s Activity Advent Calendar. We know how lucky we are to have food on our table, especially as there have been times when without family buying us the odd weekly shop we would not have made ends meet. So whilst we have the opportunity to do so, we want to make sure we are giving back to those who need it.

It is also such a fantastic way for us to start a conversation with Little Man about how lucky we are to live in a warm and dry house, with food to eat, clean clothes to wear, and toys for him to play with. We’ll be talking to him about all the different ways, both big and small, we can make a difference in other people’s lives, and that is in itself another way we can give back as we’re passing on the gift of kindness to another generation.

Donate to Foodbank Adent Activity

3. Sending Christmas Cards

In the age of social media, it can be so easy to feel as if written Christmas cards no longer have as big a place in our lives. I mean, it is so very easy to just send an e card or stick up a status wishing everyone a Merry Christmas as it takes less time, costs nothing (I am the first to admit posting Christmas cards can be very pricey!), and avoids missing the last posting date. And there is nothing wrong with this at all – I’ll certainly be sending those kinds of messages nearer the big day.

But there is something very special and magical about receiving cards through the post, don’t you think? As a child it may be one of the few times you receive post, and as an adult it is most definitely a pleasant break from the usual bills! But more than that, I think Christmas cards bring great cheer in that they both brighten up your room when displayed and they show that the person who sent them felt it important enough to take time out of their busy schedule to write to you and stick it in the post.

This year I’m going to be writing to old friends whose families have had a tough year, to let them know we’re thinking of them especially at this time and hoping that 2016 will be a better year for them. And I’ll be posting cards to old friends who I simply haven’t had time to properly catch up with through the year, as busy as it has been for us. And I’ll also be sending cards to others just for the fun of it. I do hope that they will bring some festive cheer.

Sending Christmas Cards

So there you go, those are the three ways in which I am hoping to give back this year. And in order to take part in Blog It Forward I am sharing it with you here on the blog, and challenging some friends to take part too. So I’m tagging Katrina, Emma, Vicky and Aly. But anyone can join in – all you have to do is write about how you’re giving back this Christmas, paste one of the blog buttons (there are two to choose from) in your post and challenge two of your blogging friends to take part.

Go on, what are you waiting for?

5 Ways You Can Make a Difference Nothing Is Too Small Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hyperemesis Gravidarum – 5 Ways You Can Make a Difference

This time last year, my life was overtaken by Hyperemesis – and I wasn’t even pregnant!

News of the Duchess of Cambridge’s second pregnancy meant that there was an increased interest in the condition, and I raced down to London at extremely short notice for an interview on Good Morning Britain. On top of that, our book was nearing its publication date, so we were full steam ahead on last minute prep. And all of this around my usual work for Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS).

I began to feel swamped, big time, and it only got worse. It is very difficult to describe the effect it all had on me, because quite frankly last Autumn almost broke me and it’s something I would like to forget in many ways. But the reality is, I don’t think I’ll ever stop caring about the cause and that means finding new ways of doing this.

The past few months have given me some space and time to figure out where I fit in the HG Community, and the truth is I’m not quite sure I do any more. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot support the cause, simply that I am no longer an active part of it.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum – The Definitive Guide will continue to help current sufferers and survivors, because the hours of work put into it are now paying off. And the posts on my blog, written over the past 4 years, still continue to get hits from web searches regarding Hyperemesis. Even when I am not actively writing about it, I am still able to spread the word. And that has been the biggest lesson for me this year – you don’t have to be on the front line to make a difference.

I also know that there are so many people out there with a wealth of skills and experiences that can be put to good use in improving the care, support and treatment of women with Hyperemesis, if only they knew how. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d put together a list of 5 ways you can make a difference.

5 Ways You Can Make a Difference Nothing Is Too Small Hyperemesis Gravidarum

1. If you feel like you can offer one-to-one peer support to another woman suffering from Hyperemesis, do register as a volunteer with PSS. This isn’t for everybody, I know – sometimes the trauma from your own pregnancy is too great to support another, and sometimes you’re so busy balancing work and home life that being available to support is just too much pressure. However, for those who do feel able to give support via phone, text or email, it can be a thoroughly rewarding role.

2. Share your experience, to raise awareness. I know this isn’t always easy, and it can often lead to difficult responses from friends and strangers alike who just don’t get it, but the best way to create change is to first create awareness of the need for change. Write about it on your blog, or contact a blogger you know and ask if you can write a guest post for them. Share a video on youtube, or write to your local newspaper and radio station asking if they might interview you. If you’re happy to talk to the national press, join a group set up for that – just be sure that you trust the journalist and/or editor not to put an unpleasant “spin” on the piece.

3. If you don’t feel comfortable writing or sharing your own story, why not share those that others have written. It’s so easy with so many social media platforms available at your fingertips… simply search for specific terms such as ‘Hyperemesis’, ‘HG’ and even ‘Morning Sickness’ (yes, I know it isn’t morning sickness, but you’d be amazed at how many articles you will find about Hyperemesis that only come up when using that search term). Remember hashtags are used on many platforms and you can also sign up for Google Alerts to get articles straight to your inbox. Spreading the word about the reality of HG, the work that is being done to improve women’s experiences, and ways in which people can get involved is so important to creating and maintaining that change.

4. Donate some money or raise funds to help keep services running. You can do this via direct debit monthly payments, one-off fundraising events such as a coffee morning or a sports challenge, selling items on eBay and setting a percentage to go to charity, or even whilst doing your weekly shop by using one of the many fundraising apps such as Give As You Live. And don’t forget that if you are a UK tax payer, you can register for Gift Aid, meaning that the charity can claim a further 25% at no cost to you!

5. And finally, why not look at the skills you have and think about how they could be used to help the cause. I am a firm believer that everybody has something to give, you just have to figure out what that may be. Are you super-organised? Why not offer to help organise events! An experienced PA? What about offering to set up a group calendar that can be used to keep everybody up-to-date and plan ahead for social media campaigns around key events! Talking of social media, are you forever glued to your phone? Why not give a few hours a week to support specific campaigns! Accountants could help with book-keeping, and nurses could raise awareness with colleagues. Chefs could offer ideas of quick, easy, low odour meals and those in retail could offer advice on corporate sponsorship. The way your skills can be used are only limited by your own imagination – so how do you think you could help?

I’m sure there are so many more ways in which you can get involved and make a difference! But I hope that these five provide a place to begin. Whether you can offer 5 hours a week or 5 days a year, your help will make a difference – nothing is too small!

 

 

#savesyriaschildren It could have been me

How Long Must We Wait? (A poem inspired by the current Refugee Crisis) #savesyriaschildren

#savesyriaschildren It could have been me

Scroll down to the bottom to find out how you can make a difference, today!

*****

How long will it be?
How long must we wait?
Until we understand
this is not our fate?

There are things we can do,
there are things we can say;
we don’t have to stand by
and watch time slip away.

Injustice and cruelty,
pain, famine, and war;
when will we stand up
and shout out “NO MORE“?

When poverty hits us?
When death closes in?
When it happens to us?
When will we begin?

The world needs our voices,
our neighbours need love;
Wouldn’t we want the same
were it happening to us?

Don’t fall for the lies,
filled with anger and fear;
don’t blame the victims
or ban them from here.

Our fate is not sealed
and neither is theirs;
we can make a change,
as long as we care.

So let’s open our hearts,
and speak out with intent.
And make sure that our time
on the earth is well spent.

If we start today,
then tomorrow will change.
And together we’ll find
that love isn’t so strange.

How long will it be?
How long must we wait?
Not long at all,
if we let go of hate.

*****

Yesterday I wrote and posted this poem, as I felt I had to do something. Anything.

Today I am joining my fellow bloggers in campaigning together to enact change. We’re using the #SaveSyriasChildren hashtag along with Save The Children in order to raise vital funds and awareness.

TEXT 70008 and the word SYRIA to donate £5 (this goes direct to Save The Children’s emergency relief fund. You can find their terms and conditions here).

If you’d rather donate via the web, you can do so here.

If you want to get involved with spreading the word, you can post a black and white image of your child/ren holding a sign saying “it could have been me/us” along with the hashtag #SaveSyriasChildren like the one I’ve posted of Little Man at the top.

Please also post the following with your image, if shared on Facebook:

”There’s lots that you could do from the comfort of your own home.
Please don’t turn a blind eye.
Do Something to help.
Anything.
Whatever you decide, don’t choose apathy.
#SaveSyriasChildren To donate £5 please text SYRIA to 70008”

*****

If you want to do more, here are some ideas…

Petition to accept more asylum seekers (on the UK Government and Parliament website)

5 ways You Can Help (one of many articles of this kind – Google will provide far more!)

When will we stand up and shout out no more #savesyriaschildren

International Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day 15th May

Together We Can Achieve Great Things (Thoughts on International Hyperemesis Awareness Day)

International Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day 15th May

Today is International Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) Awareness Day, an event which will always hold a very special place in my heart. I may not write much about Hyperemesis any more, but it is something I will never forget. Over the past 3 years I have seen awareness of the condition grow, leading to greater support and better care for families affected by it, in a way that I could never have imagined when suffering from Hyperemesis myself in 2011. And that’s all because individual voices have come together to enact greater change than any single voice could.

Now don’t get me wrong, individuals can make a huge amount of difference. I’ve seen it happen so many times within the HG world: the woman who dedicates vast amounts of time to supporting other women who are suffering through a hell that only she can understand; the doctor who goes above and beyond to ensure that a patient in their care receives the best possible treatment; the team of midwives who agree to meet and listen to a woman share what HG was like for her and how to best support other women like her; and the partners, family and friends of a sufferer who rally around her to make every day as easy as possible, and attend medical appointments to help advocate for her when she is unable to do so herself. These are all really important ways in which individuals make a massive difference to those around them. And we should never underestimate how much change one person can make! But it is through working together that lasting change on a large scale is achieved.

The changes I have seen over the past three years have come about because many, many individuals have come together for a common cause. Multiple charities have formed working relationships which enable them to achieve more together than they ever could alone. The international collaboration of the two big HG Charities, Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS) here in the UK and The HER Foundation in the US, sparked the idea for an International Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day. And a recent collaboration between PSS and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) enabled the production of a report on the number of women feeling like they have no choice but to terminate a much wanted pregnancy due to Hyperemesis. This report led to further media coverage, including mentions on the front page of national newspapers and an interview on Women’s Hour, something which may not have happened without working together.

Even within the individual charities themselves, there are great developments occurring, and this is all because of the sheer number of people supporting them. Take PSS, for example: the active forum is only thriving because of the many members supporting each other through the opportunity offered to them on there; the Support Network only works because of the amount of dedicated volunteers who offer their time and support to those in need (it also relies on many others spreading the word about its existence, as well as funding for staff to coordinate it and further developments); and the research undertaken often relies on the various voices of those who have suffered coming forward and sharing their stories.

This time last year my life was pretty much overtaken by the cause – I was working vast amount of hours every week as the Volunteer Coordinator for PSS and also working on final edits of Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The Definitive Guide. I lived in a world that was full of equal amounts of desperation from those currently suffering and passion for change from those who had survived HG. And despite personally dedicating huge amounts of time and energy to the cause (too much, in retrospect, for a healthy work/life balance), I never once lost sight of the fact that it was the multitude of individual voices that were making the vast changes I was lucky enough to see happening right before my eyes.

My life is very different now to what it was this time last year. 12 months ago I was burning out, fast. Despite the fact that there were many, many people working together to enact change there just weren’t enough of us to make change on the scale that we wanted to. It is a battle that so many causes face, and it is one that is only won through people coming together so that their individual voices are amplified by those singing the same tune. The greatest lesson that I took from my time with PSS was this – one person can change the world, but only through working with others.

So today I am asking you to think about what is important to you. What do you feel passionate about and what do you wish you could change in the world? Please don’t ever think that you cannot make a difference, because you can. Don’t compare yourself to others and feel that you aren’t strong enough or wise enough or talented enough – everyone has something that they can give that is unique to them and will, when given the opportunity, make the world of difference. Whether you can give 10 hours a week or just the odd hour here or there, whether you have specific skills, knowledge and experience or are simply passionate about the cause, and whether you feel confident approaching others or terrified of making that first call, please do consider taking that leap and contacting a group or organisation who need your support and will welcome whatever you can give.

Together we can achieve great things… and it all begins with you!

Being Interviewed live on Good Morning Britain

Talking About Hyperemesis Gravidarum In The Media

I’m currently sitting on a train, heading back home to my one and only beautiful HG Survivor and reflecting on how my experience during pregnancy has completely changed the direction my life has taken.

Had you told me a few years ago that I would be appearing on national breakfast tv to talk about a medical condition I would have thought you were crazy. But that’s what I did today…

GMB 1

Photo courtesy of Emma Harris

As you may know, I have devoted the past 3 years of my life to raising awareness of the truly awful pregnancy complication Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). This has involved working on a book about HG (which I started way back in 2012, finding a co-author in Spewing Mummy in 2013) and working for the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support. I have worked tirelessly to promote the charity’s work, support other sufferers and survivors, and get word out that that this is not morning sickness!

GMB 2

 

Photo courtesy of Emma Harris

Which leads me to this morning, when I found myself sitting on the sofa of Good Morning Britain, talking with Dr. Hilary Jones and the presenters Charlotte and Ben about my own experience of HG. Why? Because with news of the Duchess of Cambridge suffering from HG for a second time, there has been a fair amount of media interest in the subject.

Understandably, the response to this has been varied. Some sufferers are over the moon that HG is being presented to the public in this way, having faced lots of criticism over their own pregnancy sickness in the past. Others are disappointed that it is still being described as “acute morning sickness” and that comments about trying to avoid medications in the first trimester or trying ginger are still being offered up as advice.

But here’s the thing for me… HG is making the news! And whilst we still have a long way to go, we are getting there. 

Whilst there were comments about ginger, it was made clear that this may not apply to HG (it doesn’t) and whilst there is hesitancy over prescribing medications in the first trimester, they are not being disregarded completely. We are not hearing that there is “nothing they can do” or that treatments are harmful, both of which are common messages sufferers often come across.

And whilst my short interview may not have provided the opportunity to discuss these issues in more detail (my co-author and colleague had this opportunity later on with Phil and Holly on This Morning!) it did provide media attention that is so very needed.

This Morning

Caitlin on the This Morning sofa, photo courtesy of Emma Harris

Let me tell you something… whilst I talk about HG on a daily basis, whilst I have written a book on the subject and talk to sufferers every single day, going on live tv is on a whole different level.

And talking about my own experience, well that was pretty crazy too! I tend to try and keep the focus on general experiences of HG sufferers rather than my own personal experience. This is partly because this more detached focus is needed in my work both for the charity and on the book. But it is also, in a larger part, because I have been burned too many times by people labelling me as “milking it” or a “drama queen” and I struggle with that. A lot.

I do what I do to try and help others – after all, I shall never be having another pregnancy myself, so all this work has no personal benefit to me! I do it because I do not want others to suffer the way I did, because I am the perfect example of someone whose HG went undiagnosed and untreated for far too long. Here are a few personal facts for you:

  • I was never officially diagnosed with HG
  • I was given treatment early on which made no difference and then told there was nothing else they could do, despite multiple trips to the GP, until my 5th month
  • I lost over 10% of my pre-pregnancy weight
  • I was surviving on approx. 300ml of liquid per day at my worst point
  • I was refused IV hydration or admission to hospital, despite being told I was “clearly dehydrated” by the nurse assessing me
  • I was told various things from healthcare professionals including “it’s just because you are worried about the pregnancy” and “sometimes you just have to ‘put up and shut up'”

As such, I have doubted my experience for a long, long time. I haven’t felt a true part of the HG Community of women who had multiple admissions, knew all about ketones, or were prescribed a variety of antiemetics. I felt like a fraud for a very long time… yet I clearly had HG and I clearly needed treatment. Based on the facts you cannot dispute that, and yet I still question myself. And that is the legacy that HG leaves, especially undiagnosed and poorly treated HG.

HG stole the joy of pregnancy from me. It stole my dream of having a larger family (we’re sticking at one child). And it stole an awful lot of confidence from me, confidence which I worked extremely hard to develop over many years.

Going on live tv was utterly terrifying in many ways, especially knowing just how many other women were relying on me to give an accurate portrayal of the sheer hell that is HG. I have no previous media experience of this kind (freelance writing or social media, yes, but tv and radio, not at all). And I am certainly not used to talking about it from a personal perspective. But my experience has been so profound that I know I would do anything and everything I can to create change for all those other women out there who are suffering now or have suffered in the past. And if that includes going on live tv, then so be it!

GMB 3

If you are a journalist and would like to talk to me further regarding my own experience, my work for the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support or my book “Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The Definitive Guide” then please do get in touch using my contact form or call me on 07428 119956

For more information regarding the above topics, please see the following:

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The Definitive Guide
One Child Family
My Pregnancy Journey

You may also be interested in the following posts I wrote during the Duchess of Cambridge’s first pregnancy, regarding the importance of accurate reporting.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The Importance of Awareness and Accurate Reporting

 

International Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day 2014 – What It Means To Me

 


HGAwarenessDay_UKurl_FB_ProfilePic

Morning all.

After the flurry of the past couple of weeks (both with hospital appointments and work) I find myself sitting here on the morning of 15th May, a date I have been working towards all year, realising I have not even thought about what I would write today. And that surprises me, because for all the work I do in the HG World and all the times I think about it, I somehow seem to have been avoiding writing a post like this. What does HG (Hyperemesis Gravidarum) mean to me?

I actually and honestly do not know where to start with this one. There is no simple answer. In many ways HG was the unrelenting thief that stole away my health during pregnancy, took the joy of carrying new life away from us, and even wiped away a lot of the joy of becoming new parents when depression hit. And that thief continues to work today as it steals the dream of having more children away from me. But HG also gave me an awful lot…

It gave me greater compassion for others, realising that pregnancy isn't the easy-going, exciting time you hope it is for a lot people. Whether it's HG or some other complication, pregnancy can be tough and we all need support to get through that. 

It also gave me even deeper determination to create change. I've always felt a strong desire to fight for those who need it, but without the absolute horror that was my HG experience I don't think I would ever have thrown myself quite so passionately and completely into anything. When I look back over the past 2.5 years since having Little Man I cannot believe just how much I have done. I threw myself almost with wild abandon into a world which needed strong voices to stand up for those who, like I myself had been during pregnancy, were unable to fight for themselves. 

I have written a book. This is nothing new, pretty much everyone who has ever known me well has expected I would write a book one day. But this was not the sort of book I expected to write at all. Prior to my pregnancy I started writing a novel… that was the sort of book I thought I would write. Not an extensive guide to a medical condition. I mean, I don't even have a medical background. It's been tough, I've had to learn an awful lot and have spent hours pouring over research and learning what it all means. And I very nearly gave up several times. But I didn't and thanks to the wonderful passion of my co-author we got there. Our book is currently with the publisher and should be out later this year!

I have also organised two handmade auctions to raise money for the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS). The first came out of the sudden idea that everybody loves to receive a handmade gift, so why not run an auction and raise money for the charity I loved and wished had been around when I was pregnant. That first auction raised just over £300 for PSS, whereas this year's is still live and will be until Sunday 18th May 2014 at 10am, so why not pop over and see what goodies we have. Some of them are items I made as part of my Nine Months Of crochet challenge – another endeavour I'd have never undertaken without knowing just how hard HG is and how worth every minute the effort was.

And finally I am now the Volunteer Coordinator for PSS. I cannot tell you how much of a privilege it is to go to work every day and work with over 100 volunteers around the country who are as passionate as I am about supporting women in their darkest hours and creating change for the women who are yet to face this journey. I speak to women on a daily basis who are in the throes of HG and I am reminded constantly of how harrowing that experience is and I know, without a doubt, that no matter how overwhelming my work is (and it really is a lot of the time!) it is worth it. Because at the end of the day, we are offering the support and information women and their families need to survive a HG pregnancy and meet their babies at the end of nine very long and hard months.

Which leads me to the greatest thing that HG brought me – my beautiful son!

I know that HG isn't really what brought Little Man to me. I would have had just as beautiful and gorgeous a baby boy had I sailed through pregnancy without any kind of sickness at all. But because it was such a hard-won battle I am constantly aware of just how very lucky we were that I didn't give up, that I didn't allow the terrible medical care I received to push me beyond my limits, that I didn't find myself making the awful decision that some women with HG feel that have no choice but to make and end the pregnancy. I'll never forget that.

But for all that, my heart still breaks at what HG has stolen from us. That awful thief which made my pregnancy a living hell and which has left us feeling like there is no way we could ever go through it again, even with the extra support that PSS provides. I think back to my pregnancy and wonder how different it might have been were the support network and website PSS has today available in 2011. Would I have allowed myself to get to my 5th month before getting any kind of helpful medical support? Would I and my husband have felt so utterly alone and terrified? Would we have made the painful decision to never have another child of our own?

I'm not saying the support makes HG easy. It does not. But it can make it easier and that is something I will work tirelessly for until the day when HG is taken seriously and women are treated promptly and effectively without having to battle for it. I'll fight so that no other woman has to make the decision to never go through the happy times of pregnancty – the joy of a positive result, the excitement of the first scan, the wonder of the very first kick, the fun in choosing a name, and the overwhelming emotion that comes with holding your baby in your arms for the very first time.

Writing that makes me cry, because quite frankly I want nothing more than to be able to do that all again. But I can't. Sometimes I am perfectly okay with that and other times it breaks me apart. It is like a grief that sneaks up on you when you're least expecting it. And I know so many other women feel that same grief. And I'll fight for them too.

Every woman's experience of HG is different. Some do it once, some do it multiple times. Some are in and out of hospital, some never get admitted even once. Some receive excellent care, others are treated in an appalling way. But one thing remains true throughout all of this… HG brings us together. Once you have experienced it you know the depths of another sufferer's heart and that brings us together in a wonderful community of support and acceptance. And that is something HG gives instead of taking away. And that's what I want to end this post with.

For the second year running, PSS has created an awareness video, sharing the photos of HG sufferers and survivors. And for the second year running it has moved me to tears. Please consider watching it as it shows so much more than I can possibly do in my words alone. The video below is only viewable on the computer, so if you are reading this on a mobile then please click this link to view the mobile version.

Thank you all for reading. If you want to know more about the work of PSS and how much is being done today to raise funds and awareness, then please do their blog at www.ninemonthsof.com

 

Want to read more?

There are some amazing bloggers out there who are writing about their own experiences of HG (or severe sickness that hasn't quite been diagnosed as HG). If you don't know where to start, here's a list of some of my favourites:

Adventures of Adam – Emma is a trustee for PSS and writes a blog about fun activities she does with her son, Adam. She has a whole host of HG Friendly Activities – things you can do with your kids that are easy to set up, take very little adult input, and are unlikely to set off triggers such as smells or movement. Her blog has been shortlisted for an award in the BiBs – you can vote for it in the Fresh Voice Category here. Emma wrote about her own HG experience here

Diary of a Charity Chick – Susie is another trustee for PSS and writes a blog about her charity work not just for PSS but also in other areas. Susie is a whirlwind of activity and never seems to stop, so it is great to see all that she is achieving! She has written a post today which you can read here.

Me, The Man and The Baby – another Emma, this time an award winning blogger who is once again shortlisted for another award for her posts about pregnancy! I came across Emma's blog on Twitter and have followed her journey since. She has written about HG today as well and you can read that post here

Mummy Whiskers – Katrina is an amazingly committed PSS volunteer and whilst I knew her before I became the Volunteer Coordinator my respect for her has grown so much since I took on the role and discovered just how much passion, energy and enthusiasm she has for the charity and the women we support. Katrina started her blog last year and it has gone from strength to strength ever since and she has written an incredibly thorough round-up post today which you can read here. 

Ruby + Lottie – Kimberley is another PSS volunteer who is also a blogger (seems there are a few of us!) and she shared her HG experience with the media (newspapers, magazines and radio) as well as on her blog. She has written a post about it today which you can read here

Spewing Mummy – Caitlin is, without a doubt, the most enthusiastic advocate for women with HG I have ever come across. She helped redesign the PSS website, started the support network, runs a blog (which has been shortlisted for not one but two blog awards this year! You can still vote for her in the Commentary and Campaigns category in the BiBs here) and helped me write the book about HG. She is, and always has been, my inspiration and I am constantly amazed by how much she has achieved and continues to achieve for women with HG. I am so proud of her and would recommend you follow her blog if you're currently suffering from HG. 

Blogging for Change!

Between my Nine Months Of challenge, Sport Relief and International Women's Day, my blog posts lately have been rather more focussed on campaigning for one thing or another. And I have to say, it has given me such a boost and reminded me why I haven't given up blogging yet (despite considering it several times).

You see, in between all the random bits and pieces I have blogged about, I have always had an underlying passion to use my words to raise awareness of various things. It took me a year or so of blogging before I felt confident enough to start writing about the things I really cared about rather than just the day-to-day stuff, but it has always been there. 

At first, it was Endometriosis. And this actually led to my first series on iVillage.co.uk where I wrote as a freelance writer for about 2.5 years. Then it was Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which went hand in hand with the book I was writing. And then I lost my nerve.

I stopped writing about these things because it just didn't feel "right" somehow. Once I was a "parent blogger" I felt my blog needed to be more "carefree" somehow and "fit in" with everyone else's. I think this was partly because I was struggling to find the time to write and partly because I wasn't sure all the awareness stuff sat so well with all the family stuff and didn't think people would appreciate it. But by doing this I found myself losing interest in blogging altogether…

However this past month has reminded me just how much I enjoy putting into words the things that I feel passionate about and sharing causes that others feel passionate about too. I have loved pulling together all the information and stats together for the posts I have written to support Team Honk and have found myself being pulled into social media again too in order to keep up and spread the word.

In fact, I joined in the BritMums Twitter Party to celebrate Inspirational Women thanks to all of this and it was at that point that I realised just what inspires me the most – people who put their time, energy and passion into making change! It doesn't matter if that change is big or small, or whether it is completely personal or affects the international community, all that matters is that when someone is passionate about something they automatically create change.

And I come across a lot of people passionate about creating change.  Suffering from conditions such as Endometriosis and Hyperemesis Gravidarum has made me very aware of just how much work is needed to raise awareness of these and create change for women like myself. Talking openly about either of these has led me to some very difficult positions – people just don't want to hear about them. But they need to be spoken about, if for no other reason than to make it very clear that just because these only affect women they should be taken seriously (rather than being a "taboo" subject or something women should just endure because, hey we're women and that's what women do, right?)

So now I find myself wondering what direction to take with my blog – I don't think it should become a simple commentary blog as I still love my crafts and various things we do around the house and home as a family. I also don't have the time or desire to create a second blog. So I think that I need to find a balance between the causes and our general family life. After all, creating a happy and healthy home for your family is just as important as working hard on a major campaign, isn't it! 

I think it's going to take me a while to find my new balance, but I think the timing is simply perfect. Over the coming weeks I can share with you bits and pieces about the charity auction I'm organising and that means mixing a personal hobby with a major cause I care about. Hopefully that will  instill within me the confidence to continue mixing the two together. And if nothing else, simply being able to share the health issues I am currently having (which I have avoided writing about for the most part this past year or so) will be both good for me and raise some awareness in some small way.

In the meantime, I'd love to know what you think about all of this. Do you struggle to balance different areas of your life on your blog? 

Team Honk Digital Postcard from Tanzania – #LastingChange #iwd2014

You may have noticed recently that I have been posting and tweeting a lot about Team Honk and the Blogger Relay to raise funds for Sport Relief. It's a fantastic cause and so when offered the chance to receive a Digital Postcard from Tanzania to find out how the funds are being used I jumped at the chance. 

Penny sent me my Digital Postcard last night and I couldn't have been more thrilled. And now it's my turn to share that with you…

Lucy #lastingchange Team Honk Tanzania

Meet Lucy!

Here's what Penny had to tell me about Lucy:

"Through mentoring and training the Gatsby Trust gave Lucy the confidence to develop her business and to network after moving from the countryside to the city, She is an inspirational creative who brought out so many beautiful, imaginative handcrafted items to show us. More than that she is a teacher and looks forward expanding her business by training other women who want to start up craft and textile businesses."

Lucy has received training and support from the Tanzanian Gatsby Trust (TGT), a project funded by Comic Relief, and is one of the many inspirational women the Team Honk girls (Penny, Tanya and Annie) have met on their visit to Tanzania to find out where the funding goes and see the real difference it makes to people's lives.

If you've been following their journey you'll know that their trip to Tanzania is to find out how even the smallest amount of funding can make a real #lastingchange through empowering women to help themselves and pass on their knowledge and skills to others. 

Lucy's Creations #lastingchange Tanzania

Take Lucy, for example. She is an extremely talented crafter (something I am sure you all know I appreciate very much!) and the training and mentoring she received from TGT has given her the skills and confidence she needs to build her business and realise her dream of helping other women. Lucy is now able to run a sustainable business whilst putting her teaching and crafting skills to use by sharing them with other women.

This is the 'ripple effect' that Penny so aptly describes in her post yesterday which you can read here

"In order to create #lastingchange, this TGT project selects women who have been in business for two years already, then mentors and trains them so they can take their business to the next level. These women then take other women with them, as employees, or by training and mentoring women keen to start their own business." (Penny – A Residence)

Isn't that fantastic? The money we raise helps so many people, not just those who receive the initial support that funding provides. And that #lastingchange is so worth supporting!

But even more than this, there is a real emphasis here on empowering women to overcome challenges we can only begin to imagine. As a female blogger in the UK I come across many women who are paving their own paths, finding ways to balance work and family life, and doing so with relative ease…

Here we have the same education as men. We have the same rights to accessing bank accounts and applying for loans. And business women are more the norm over here than elsewhere in the world, and that makes it easier for us to network and support each other in building up key skills we need to survive and thrive.

But that doesn't mean change cannot and does not happen!

As Team Honk explain:

"The Gatbsy Trust helps 1000 female entrepreneurs by educating both women and their partners about women's rights and providing support and training. It has been around since 1992…

"Comic Relief has awarded Tanzania Gatsby Trust a grant of £264,959 over three years so they can continue helping women in Tanzania."

Thanks to funding from Comic Relief (of which Sport Relief is a part), women in Tanzania are accessing training in key skills and networking with each other to pass on those skills further. And the achievements of these women are to be celebrated.

Tomorrow (8th March) is International Women's Day and it is a day to look at the challenges and discrimination facing women and what we can do to change that. But also it's a day to look at how much change has already happened and is happening right now. 

70% of the world's poorest people are women, and they own only 1% of the world's property… and yet initiatives like TGT are changing that right now.

Domestic violence is the largest cause of women's injury and death leading to more deaths and disability among women aged 15-44 than malaria, war, traffic accidents and cancer… and yet the millions of pounds raised by Comic Relief will contribute to addressing violence against women.

There is so much change already happening, and we can support that change in as many ways as we possibly can. So do you want to get involved? Yes? Well here's how you can…

  • Only got 5 mins to spare? No problem – simply RT, share or support any updates you see using the #lastingchange hashtag!
  • Free at 1pm today for 30 mins (Friday 7th March)? Great – why not join in with the @BritMums #lastingchange Twitter Party 
  • Want to donate? Fantastic! You can sponsor the #TeamHonkRelay here
  • Want to get involved? You star! Sign up for your local Sport Relief event here.

 

This blog post is a Digital Postcard sent by Team Honk all the way from Tanzania. 

"Team Honk is about bloggers raising money and awareness for Comic Relief. To celebrate International women's Day #iwd2014, Tanya, Annie and Penny are in Tanzania finding out how donations to Sport Relief last year have created female entrepreneurs and #lasting change for women, their families and communities and beyond – rippling out #lasting change in Africa."

You can follow all the updates on Twitter using the #lastingchange hashtag.

The Team Honk Relay Baton heads to Nottingham with Robin Hood and his Merry (Wo)men

Mr B. (that would be the Team Honk Relay Baton) left Grantham this morning with a band of Merry (Wo)men on their bikes. They set off in good spirits, despite the wind and rain, ready for their 30 mile cycle. Even Penny, who flew back to the UK less than 2 days ago (crazy lady!) was raring to go. 

SAM_0303

This amazing group are part of the Nottingham Team, who you can sponsor on the Nottingham Team Honk Page. They have already raise £1,235, (as of 25th February) which is 247% of their original target – way to go!!

Edited to add: Tuesday evening saw Mr. B being passed to Becky from Baby Budgeting. She cycled 10k on her exercise bike whilst wearing a ventilator… this is incredible and as someone who has bowed out of the physical activities due to ill health I can only begin to tell you how in awe I am that Becky had the strength to do this and want to give her a massive thumbs up!!

On 26th February Mr. B and the costumes will be passed on to another amazing group of people who will walk 30 miles to Derby. That's a total of 60 miles in distance covered by Mr. B, all thanks to the passion of a group of bloggers who wanted to be part of the Team Honk Blogger Relay.

No matter what the weather, the Relay continues! It was rather wet and windy this morning, but Mr. B didn't seem to mind!

SAM_0300

If you missed my post on Sunday about the relay, then here are the important bits:

  • The Team Honk Relay started in Land's End on 12th January and will end at John O Groats on 21st March
  • Over 200 bloggers are taking part to pass the baton (Mr B.) all around the UK – you can see the route on the Team Honk Master Route page.
  • So far the 38 regional teams have raised a staggering £20,060 between them (as of 12:15 on 25th February) which has smashed their target of £20,000! And the relay still has several weeks to go – how high will it go? Why not visit the Team Honk Fundraising Page and add a donation! You can donate to your own local group if you'd like – they are all listed on there.
  • You can also donate easily by mobile. Simply text HONK to 70005 to donate £5 to Sport Relief .

Every little helps and all the money raised will be used by Comic Relief to help people both in the UK and abroad.

If you want to follow Mr. B on the remainder of his route around the UK then you can easily do so on Twitter (@team_honk or #TeamHonkRelay) or their Facebook Page

And if you're not sure what Team Honk is all about, then have a read of their story so far.

But for now, let's cheer off the Nottingham Team as they head off on their "merry" way!

  SAM_0305

 

Edited to add: The first leg of the Nottingham Team arrived safely in West Bridgford late Tuesday afternoon. They had overcome the wind, rain and 8, yes that's EIGHT punctures along the way! If that determination doesn't spur you on to give them a donation then I don't know what will!! Perhaps this video by Penny taken a mile from their destination with puncture number 7 will… 

Don't forget – this is all part of Sport Relief and you can get involved yourself, here's the lowdown:

The first ever Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Games take place from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd March 2014. The public can join the fun and games by running, swimming or cycling their way to raising cash at over a thousand venues around the country, including the landmark events at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

As one of the biggest fundraising events, Sport Relief brings the entire nation together to get active raise cash and change lives. The money raised by the public is spent by Comic Relief to help transform the lives of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people both at home in the UK and across the world.