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I'm a huge Benefit make-up fan. It's expensive on my budget so I buy a few good bits from Benefit every so often and try to make them stretch. I bought this product for my wedding so that my make-up would stay on my face and not smudge or come off with general 'wear and tear.'
I bought it as part of an offer, so don't know the price, but probably within the £10-20 mark, and wasn't entirely convinced it would really work so well but because it was a Benefit product I felt it was worth a shot. I didn't realise it was shellac; a secretion from the female lac bug, thus not making it suitable for vegans. I know the name is a bit of a giveaway but this was in the pre-shellac fad of the make-up and nail industry days. I obviously wouldn't buy it again on this basis and I haven't seen a suitable substitute for vegans so you're out of luck if this is you.
That aside it held up really well. I found it worked best on eyebrows (with pencil or brow powder) and eyelashes. The product comes in a little blue bag with a drawstring on it and four brushes for different applications. I only ever used the two brushes intended for eyes and lips - I found it felt really weird on my lips so didn't have it on often. I don't think I'd buy it again, even if it was suitable for vegans, as I still have more than half a bottle left and that's not like me with Benefit products!
Although it was very useful for my wedding day and sealing my make-up I didn't really find I had any other occasion that called for wearing this so it went to waste because it wasn't something I consider a make-up essential. It also didn't work as a mascara re-placer because the product is designed to seal mascara and doesn't work as mascara does, also because I only ever used it on my eyebrows and eyelashes (on the rare occasion I wore mascara), I wouldn't have it as a make-up must have or make-up staple. I'm glad I used it and buying it for my wedding day alone was probably worth the spend (I'm shallow ;) ) but again it's not something I'd buy or have in my make-up bag unless I was a heavy make-up user or in need of mascara every day. I loved the packaging and the theme of the packaging - a mystical lady looking into a crystal ball - as like all other Benefit products it tells a story and has a quirky side to it that I like. The bottle of the product looks pretty on a shelf but it would be an expensive accident to drop it so probably best suited for the make-up bag ;).
So like every other child who grew up with Lego and then never really grew up past the phase of playing with Lego I was excited to learn about the Lego movie. Also I have children so I was excited on their behalf.
We don't get out to the cinema much because our youngest son has passed the stage where he'll sleep through a film and has slipped into that stage where he wants down to explore every nook and cranny, even in the dark, so cinema trips don't happen. So everything we watch is either on DVD or through Sky Movies and this film was no exception; so while everyone got to see this film in the early part of 2014 we didn't see it until August of 2014.
The film follows the main character Emmet (Chris Pratt)as he tries to save the world from President Business (Will Ferrel) as part of a prophecy in a which a 'Special' would emerge to save everyone from the end of the world. The film is the first of it's kind and already one spin-off featuring Batman in the first Lego movie and a follow-up film are being planned for 2017 and 2018.
Like all stories the film has a love story between Lucy/Wild Style (Elizabeth Banks) and Emmet. At first Lucy thinks Emmet is a genius, as the 'Special' is meant to be well, special ;), but when she learns he's just a construction worker and might not be the Special, as the prophecy foretold by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman),speaks of. When Emmet becomes stuck with the 'Piece of Resistance' one of President Businesses Super Secret Police Officers follows Emmet through the different worlds. Good Cop/Bad Cop (voiced by Liam Neeson) was one of my favourite characters as I found the split personality element to the story really hilarious and showed that we all have a good and bad side to our personalities.
The world Emmet comes from is very controlled - the same song plays over and over on the radio, the same TV show (the hilarously named, "Honey, where are my pants?") plays over and over, he has the same morning routine, same job and nothing seems to get boring or old. The Lego figures within this world accept things as they are, because everything is awesome, obviously. This allows President Business to plot to destroy the world - perhaps reminding us how dangerous complacency can be.
Of course Lego have managed to make some extra money on the Lego sets they sell from the Lego Movie. I was horrified to see an Emmet key ring costs £7, with other sets going well into the £89 price bracket. This seems to go against the morale of the "Everyone is awesome and you don't need to be a 'Special' or 'Master Builder' to be awesome, you just need your imagination and some Lego" of the Lego Movie itself.
Overall the film delivers a great message but I don't feel it really subscribes to Lego ideals. I also worry the film is an attempt to sell more Lego but with a decent plot that is enjoyable and not all that predictable I think I can live with that.
Well when my son was 15 weeks old our Health Visitor was putting pressure on us to start the weaning process (utterly nuts, I know.) I felt that 15 weeks is way too young as the current advice is anywhere from 4-6 months, with 6 months being the age that works best to avoid future problems with allergies, obesity and breast/formula milk being 'enough' to meet a babies nutritional requirements up to 6 months.
With each weigh-in the pressure would be heaped on us to wean onto solids. "Not this week, not yet," I would keep thinking until he turned 5 and a half months and I finally caved into the pressure and bought baby rice and some fruit pouches from Tesco. I waited another few days before I made up a feed. We started simply on a few spoonfuls of fruit just to see how he got on with the taste and to see if he'd actually take it and try to chew the food. Well...he took to it very well! I didn't anticipate he'd even enjoy it, but enjoy it he did.
I felt a bit annoyed that the Health Visitor had suggested (and pushed) giving solids at 3 months because if I had been a little less unsure of myself I'd have done it. I've been told I don't produce enough breast milk but have never been offered any suggestions or medication to increase supply - other than majorly unhelpful comments that aren't feasible in reality; get more sleep, more rest, more support, grow an extra arm etc ;). The Health Visitors have reached the conclusion about my milk supply as my babies don't seem to gain weight to their (HV's) liking but the doctors are okay with the slow weight gain as the babies hit other mile stones to show they're developing just fine and every blood test they perform doesn't indicate any health issues that they'd associate with little or no weight gain. They have suggested using a 'top up' feed of formula but as this would further reduce my milk supply I don't think it's wise to go down that route...plus formula comes with it's own risks and I'd only consider it if those risks cancelled out any risks of my baby not putting on weight. The Health Visitor was convinced that offering solids was the 'next best option' which the doctor seemed annoyed by - and guffawed at. I think this suggestion is outrageous as, again, it would decrease milk supply.
The thing I have opted for is weaning onto solids at 5 and a half months, expressing my milk and adding it to my son's feeds so that they can be as calorific as possible for him and in turn expressing my milk will help to increase supply and give him a better quality of milk as I express on one side as he feeds, then offer that side, hopefully expressing the foremilk out and getting to the hindmilk, then I express from the other side as he feeds from the side I've expressed from. It's tiring but to me it's more than worth it if it means I can continue breastfeeding and he gets the best of the best. I will also offer him a bottle of expressed milk when I feel stressed about feeding or when he's been cluster feeding and I feel too sore to continue. Sometimes he feeds and gets annoyed at not being able to get anything from me and the expressed milk can come in handy for those scenarios...plus it's nice for my 3 year old to feed his baby brother. The routine we have now is to give about a jar a day of food and then my son feeds from me about every 2 hours (or less/more) and he gets a milk feed before getting his food so he is getting as much calories as possible. I express up to a maximum of three times a day and get anywhere from half an ounce to 1 ounce of milk on each side, I don't always express if I'm feeling sore or fed up as it's a lot of work to feed all day and night (he's had one night where he slept through from 11pm-7am).
I was also (falsely) led to believe weaning a baby onto food would help them sleep better at night...well it doesn't work for my son! ;). He's still just as obsessed with feeding as ever...though I have to admit I notice a difference in his latch while on the breast since he's started on foods. Right now we're trying out different foods but I think he'd eat A LOT if he could, but I simply don't want to overwhelm him all at once. I don't add salt or sugar to his food (obviously) but natural things like cinnamon I've tried him on and he LOVES it. I add a little sprinkling to his food and mix it in. I'm looking forward to sharing foods with him and expanding his tastes but for now we're still in the early days of a few spoonfuls and trying out new things.
I'm a big fan of fruit pouches and jars as I just don't have the energy or motivation to make up my own food - or the time! They're no different to someone mashing their own food at home - they contain no salts, sugars or unnecessary junk and a lot of them are organic (not that I see this is as a benefit!) so I have no illusions that my own home cooked stuff would be any better. I'll go as far as mashing a banana for him right now and offer fruit pouches and jars. When he gets older I'll offer the food we're having - without any added stuff...though I don't even own or buy salt so I can probably just offer as is - and we can eat together as a family. I had hoped to try baby led weaning but I've gone off the idea for the mess factor. I know that sounds bad but I'm currently so over taken by the nightly feeds, expressing milk, day time feeds and taking care of myself (haha!) that I just can't be bothered to have the mess of baby led weaning right now...though he currently dips his fingers into his food and puts it to his mouth but feeding like this would just annoy him so for now we're doing spoon feeds. Overall I don't think it's perfect for everyone, but it's perfect for our family. I just wish I had more time and more energy to spend on making my own foods for him but the jars and pouches on the market right now are brilliant and if you catch a good deal you end up spending less. By the time he's on to chunkier foods he'll be eating with us anyway and it won't take up any extra time to prepare meals for everyone.
We got given this carrier from my sister-in-law before my son was born. I wasn't keen on the look of it as I had wanted something a bit more ergonomic and wasn't really impressed by 'crotch dangler' carriers. Then my son was born and we discovered that taking him around in public in this carrier was actually better than faffing around with prams or buggies in and out of our boot all the time. Our son seems to have no problem drifting off to sleep in this carrier, doesn't show any signs of distress while in it and overall seems happy to be toted around in it.
I hadn't used it up until I needed to get things done as our son does NOT like to be put down. He faces into me and likes to cuddle right in when he's being carried so it's lovely for us both. I did find the carrier to be somewhat cumbersome and not at all like I expected it to be - there is a strap that goes around your back to take some of the weight off from the carrier so it doesn't feel like you're being weighed down by a baby. The two straps that sit on your shoulders I found comfortable and padded enough to offer comfort when wearing. I was able to bend down but every time I was bending down I had to use my other hand to hold my son in place - a big downside and doesn't fill me with confidence!
The carrier comes in a navy colour and it does look boring. No fancy patterns or colours! Still it's better than a huge buggy or pram for getting about and my husband doesn't have complaints carrying our boy about for a few hours in his carrier - though I'm not sure how it will hold up over time. Our baby is 15 weeks old and weighs about 11-12lbs and the carrier distributes his weight nicely. It can sometimes be a bit of a struggle to get him into the carrier with one person doing it but when two people are putting him it's made a lot easier so perhaps not the carrier to take on the go with only one pair of hands available, though my husband manages just fine I'm not sure I'd feel confident enough to carry our baby when out and about on my own.
Inside the carrier is lined with a soft fleecy material that is padded out and my son loves to cuddle into me, with his head resting over my heart, whenever I'm carrying him. The first time I had him in the carrier he was distressed beforehand and as soon as he was close to me he was absolutely fine, made not a peep, cuddled in and nearly fell asleep. His feet happily (I assume) dangle down and his hands pop out at the side. There is adjustable poppers on the front of the carrier to adjust the size and make things more snug or give more room as the baby grows. There is also poppers on the straps for size adjustment. As he develops better head control and gets bigger we'll be able to have him forward facing in the carrier.
The downsides of this carrier are that I'd like it to be a bit more snug, thus making it a tad more secure and safer to bend down and get on with things. I have a toddler to chase after and wouldn't feel confident running too hard in this carrier. Like I said you can't bend down without holding onto the baby in the carrier and you can't bend down too far even doing that. The upside to this carrier is that it is cheap when you compare with the likes of Mei Tai carriers, ring slings and Ergobaby carriers...but you get what you pay for, I suppose! For the price (anywhere between £25-35) I do think it's a decent carrier but you have to accept it's not a top of the range thing, that it's quite basic and will allow you to do simple things like getting from shop to shop or doing some hoovering but you won't be chasing after toddlers or doing a full houseclean when wearing your baby in it ;). Also because it's fairly inexpensive to buy first-hand it can be picked up second-hand for about a tenner - or so I discovered on eBay. When you compare that with an Ergobaby you're looking to fork out £50-60 for a second-hand carrier.
It is comfortable (seemingly so, anyway) for my baby and is comfortable enough for me, if a little bulky and not entirely everything I'd want in a carrier, that I would give it to someone after we use it and I would recommend buying it - after all it's so cheap that if you don't like it you don't feel cheated out of £50/£100 like you would with other carriers and slings on the market. I will still be looking for an alternative 'full time' sling/carrier so I can do some housework or bake cakes with my toddler without tending to a screaming baby all the time - he hates to be put down! - but this carrier does what we want it to for getting out and about in public.
With baby number two arriving we knew we wanted to cloth nappy this wee one from the start - previously we'd only started using cloth part time around 7/8 months with our first and I found it saved us a lot of money, even including the costs of washing, drying and my time spent assembling the nappies together. I also really don't like disposables; the cost is a big one for me but I'm not comfortable with those horrible crystals all over my babies genitalia, thankyouverymuch! I also think cloth nappies look so cute on a wee one :). I'm a cloth addict, I have no problems admitting this!
I only had a selection of newborn cloth to choose from so we had to update our stash quite dramatically if we were to go at the full time cloth nappying adventure. I easily now have about 30 nappies in my stash and could very easily push that number to 60 if I wasn't so restrained ;). We get by on our nappies. 10 of those nappies are the OSFA (One Size Fits All) nappies from Little Lamb. I got very excited when they introduced these pocket nappies but as my son was on the cusp of nappy wearing and toilet training I couldn't justify the spend - and I wasn't sure we'd be adding to our family at the time! When I found out I was pregnant I looked into buying these but again didn't feel the spend was justified and bought some other all-in-one nappies (like a disposable but in cloth.) Then Little Lamb had a sale on their 'version 1' OFSA Pocket Nappies so I ordered 10 for £35! Bargain. I wasn't sure how great or not they'd be but they've worked out to be absolutely fantastic - even my husband, a cloth skeptic, gets on with them very well and doesn't complain about changing nappies when our son is wearing these nappies.
As the name suggests they're a 'one size fits all' nappy which means you can go from birth to potty with these nappies. The cover is stretchy (and always feels dry coming out of the washing machine to boot) and has what I call 'snappies' on the cover/outer layer that allow you to adjust the size to comfortably fit baby to toddler. There is a 'pocket' opening where you can insert boosters for night time wear or for heavy wetters/toddlers. I prefer having a booster that I insert rather than being sewn in as the nappies I have with sewn in boosters take the longest to dry after being washed whereas a separate booster takes a shorter time to dry or a dry booster can be used with the nappies - which take the shortest time to dry due to being made with microfibre.
Wash on a 40 degree wash with non-bio soap powder, no fabric softener as it can decrease absorbency and air dry where possible. When I'm drying inside I hang them on a rack and turn on my dehumidifier
The current price on the V2 (Version 2) nappy is £10 per nappy but if bought as part of a set you can make huge savings - £180 if you're willing to spend £300 on 48 nappies and with 48 nappies your stash would definitely be fulfilled! The nappies come in a selection of colours; hazy sun, snow, big sky, candyfloss, truffle, grape and spice. We have the hazy sun colour variety and they look wonderful on our son and I can imagine they'd be a great colour on a girl so if you're not sure of the sex of your baby then yellow is probably the colour for you as it works as a great unisex colour. I opted for the yellow colour as I love yellow and I love how it looks on babies. These nappies are easy to adjust, fit on the baby and they dry so fast. They've already been through load after load of laundry and look as fluffy as ever. My only gripe is that I wish I'd bought more in the sale!
Having just had my second baby (less than 6 weeks ago!) I feel I'm qualified to talk about labour and the many preparations you should make for it. Everyone is different so whatever you pack in your hospital bag will vary from person to person but there are some definite musts when it comes to packing the hospital bag.
It sounds silly but with my first baby I was very prepared - my birth plan was written at 12 weeks and my hospital bag packed at 20 weeks ;). Of course the majority of the contents of my bag was useless - plenty of moisturizers were packed away but I didn't think to pack things like face wipes or tooth paste. I also didn't think to pack anything to wear while I was in labour. I assumed I'd come into hospital wearing whatever I'd give birth in so didn't give it much thought.
I'd read on various pregnancy forums that most hospitals provide gowns but that a lot of mothers didn't want to wear the hospital gowns and opted to wear their own nighties or husbands old T-shirt - loose, baggy and so what if it gets manky? You can just chuck it away. I wasn't really sure what I thought of wearing a hospital gown, the idea seemed clinical and a bit depressing but I was sure my hospital wouldn't insist on it and that I'd get to wear my own clothes. Then I went into labour, 6 days past my due date, and while I managed to labour at home in my own clothes (an old nightie I'd had for years and happened to be wearing because I didn't want to stretch out anything nice over my massive pregnancy belly) when it came to coming to hospital they were pretty keen to get me into a hospital gown. I felt like the last thing I had control over was literally being stripped away so asked why they were so insistent I wear a hospital gown. "Well it means you don't have to get your own clothes ruined," the midwife explained. Also? It's easier to administer an epidural when a patient is wearing a hospital gown, what with the open back giving easy access to the spine.
As I put the hospital gown on I was taken aback with how comfortable it was - and how soft! It did get very messy (my baby had opened his bowels in the womb and was pretty well marinated in meconium at birth so when they'd passed him to me for first cuddles it went everywhere) with all kinds of fluids and had I been wearing something of my own it would have been ruined. Washable, yes, but hardly nice to ask someone to take it home and wash it for me. If you're breastfeeding - which I was - then you'll want to be able to feed your baby as soon as possible and this is when what you wear during labour is key. Your baby will need access to your breasts so they can feed and as most hospitals encourage skin to skin contact at birth then the same issues arise.
I had a traumatic first time experience - it took them three hours to stitch me up and my son wasn't fed until six long hours after his birth! - so I wasn't wearing the hospital gown when I first fed my first son. For my second birth I decided I would wear a hospital gown during labour as soon as I found out I was pregnant ;). I had to be induced due to having diabetes this second time around so I was in hospital from Thursday - Sunday and gave birth on the Saturday night. It felt great being able to peel off the soiled, manky hospital gown, jump into a hot shower and back into my clean PJs and a freshly made up bed right after giving birth. I know wearing a hospital gown isn't for everyone as people like to feel comfortable in their own clothes but I can recommend it. I'd had an epidural for my first labour under doctors orders and having the gown on made it easier to administer.
If you weren't going to wear a hospital gown there are a few options you could go for:
Wearing husbands/partners old T-shirt: easy to throw out after labour, loose (if your significant other is bigger than you, of course!) and baggy over bump.
Buying a big T-shirt/nightie: obvious option, I suppose, but you could buy a cheap nightie or big T-shirt and throw it out - or wash and keep it.
Wearing something you already have: A good option, probably works even better in the cases of a home birth where you can pick and choose what you wear and then just throw in the washing machine as and when. If you are going to wear something you want to take home and wash I'd suggest bringing a plastic bag to put it into for taking home.
Going naked: I thought this is the option I'd like to go for but ended up feeling vulnerable (and cold!) enough so didn't opt for it. Plenty of women do, especially those who have water births. A few friends of mine who've had water births have opted for wearing a bikini/tankini top in the birthing pool which, to me, sounds like a great option.
All in all it's a personal decision what you wear when you are in labour but if you're unsure then it's probably best to have a few options on hand. It also depends on the type of labour you have - i.e a waterbirth versus a labour spent hunched over a birthing ball ;). The point is that labour is something you should be comfortable doing. If you feel at your most comfortable with a full face of make up or in an old T-shirt it doesn't matter as long as you're comfortable!
My mum bought this for us when my son was born over three years ago (very hard to imagine it being over three years ago!) and now I'm due my second baby any day I've started to unpack all the baby gear I kept stashed should we ever have another. I borrowed a lot of baby gear as I have a lot of friends of child-bearing age but there were a few items that we actually bought or got gifted. This little nest was one of them.
When we first got this I was dreading setting it up as my lung capacity is so crap that I can't even blow up a balloon so blowing up duties were given to my husband ;). Well it didn't take long to blow up at all - not saying I'd have managed it, mind you - I'd say a couple of seconds. As the box says 'suitable from birth' I took this as literal (though I couldn't really see how it could be suitable at the time) but then figured out that it's better to be a little less inflated for newborns. Mostly my son was fast asleep whenever he went into this as a newborn so he didn't interact with the things on the side (I'll talk about this later on.) So slightly deflated for newborns is the way to go - fully inflated will just have them slumped!
By about 4 months we could inflate the baby nest a bit more and our son was sitting up unaided so he could enjoy it a bit more. He used to play with toys in the nest and didn't really start to interact with the toys round the side - a duck that squeaks, a few animals that rustle, barn doors that open etc - until he got a bit older. The downside is that by about 9 months he was shuffling off to the sides in this nest and one time (when we were both in the room, I should add) he fell out of it, banging his head. Definitely NOT what you want to happen.
Across the sides and on the outer material is a lovely, cheerful and bright cartoon farm scene featuring a sheep, horse, cow, pig pen, farmers wife (well I assume she's the farmers wife) carrying a silver bucket and duck pond. The sheep has a lovely soft coat that babies can touch, the pig pen door opens to reveal a pig under neath, the farmers wife's bucket is shiny and slightly crackly to the touch and the duck in the duck pond makes a squeak noise. The material is a soft cotton that can be easily washed - I've washed it a few times with no colour fade or bobbing issues - and then very easily put back round the rubber ring that it covers.
I've found this item to be a complete luxury - you could survive parenting without it - but it was one of the few bigger items I kept, rather than give away when our son didn't need it, as I think it's 'nice' to have. The cheapest price (apart from second hand on eBay) for this item has been around the £25 mark. Personally I didn't realise it cost so much and this is why I class this as a 'luxury' baby item rather than a 'must have' or a 'this helps me be a more sane parent so the price doesn't matter' item ;).
-Canon EF lens F/1.4 50 mm
-Minimum Focus Range: 0.45m
-Automatic and Manual Focus Adjustment
-52 mm Filter Size
-Lens Mount: Canon EF only.
-Maximum aperture: F1.4
-Minimum aperture: F22
I bought this lens back in April as I was getting quite frustrated with the 1.8 50mm lens I already had. It's not a 'bad' lens but it wasn't performing well in low light without me having to use my flash bounce 9 times out of 10. This suited my needs at first but as I increased my knowledge in photography and in my camera I outgrew the 1.8 lens. I really liked the 1.8 lens but I'd heard so much good about the 1.4 lens that I felt it was time to move on.
The 1.4 lens is the mid-range 50mm lens from Canon with the 1.8 at the 'cheap' end and the 1.2 lens at the 'so expensive you'll need to take out a loan to pay for this' end. I'd heard there wasn't much difference in terms of image quality between the 1.4 lens and the 1.2 lens so despite really, really wanting the 'best lens' of the range I opted for the 1.4 lens - why pay more for the same thing? Or you know close to the same thing. The glass on this lens is far superior than the 1.8 lens (sorry, there will be a lot of comparison going on here!) and with the 'better build' the 1.4 lens comes up heavier (but only marginally) than the 1.8 lens. While this lens is still small, it is built bigger, too. This gives it a more reassuring feel if I'm honest and doesn't give off such a flimsy vibe.
This lens will set you back £275 (Amazon) which is actually very good value for what you get out of it. The 1.8 lens is around £70-80 whereas the 1.2 lens is into the £1, 200-350 mark. A very considerable price difference, obviously, and makes this lens look like a good value for money kind of lens. For your money you will get excellent image quality, far more creative control with being able to stop it down further, better quality glass, a lens you're able to use in poorly lit situations - for example I was able to get a decent shot of my son asleep in bed without putting on his lights or having the photo ruined by grain. Outside you'll need to experiment with the F-stop a bit more than you'd have to do using the 1.8. As a basic rule I usually set the F-stop to F11 on sunny days and then adjust it accordingly (along with shutter speed, white balance and ISO) and if I'm shooting in incredibly sunny conditions I might need to set it to F16 or even higher to let less light into the lens.
This is a sturdy lens with a decent enough focus ring on it - it doesn't stick and stays where you want it to. The good thing about the lens is that it's a good all-purpose lens; it can be used to shoot a family day out at the safari park with the kids or shooting professionally at a wedding. You'll need to play around with it a lot if you haven't bought a prime lens before as it does require a lot more work to understand than it's cheaper counter-part. A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length, in other words if you want to capture more of or less of a scene then you stand closer or further to the subject. This is handy for me as I hate faffing around to get a perfect focal length. With a prime lens you can get some really beautiful results and this is why I own so many prime lenses! I think this lens is one of my 'better' prime lenses (my 35mm comes close) and I'm quite happy to have it in my collection but I will confess I use it a lot less than I thought I would. Not for any reason, really, I suppose I have so many lenses to experiment with that it doesn't get as much use out of it as I'd thought.
Auto focus versus manual focus: Well as I said previously the focus ring on this lens is decent and by that I mean it's not too small to operate (unlike the 1.8 lens) and if you can master using the manual focus then you're probably going to get better shots than you would on auto focus, where the lens (well camera, really) decides where the focus should be. This can be annoying as it can 'blur out' important scenes you might want to capture. Mostly I manually focus this lens but I also confess that having a toddler and auto focus is a God send...sometimes he moves so quickly that I don't have time to focus on what I want so I use auto focus and because he moves so quickly I've also found this lens an absolute delight at capturing those Speedy Gonzales moments - toddler running around pretending to be a racing car? No problem. Toddler with their hands outstretched either side of their body pretending to be Buzz Lightyear? No problem! This lens can capture all the action. If I want to control the focus (and I am a bit of a control freak) in my photo then I simply switch to manual focus (MF on the lens) and if I want to be lazy or have my husband take a photo I'll flip it to auto focus (AF.)
This camera has an EF mount which means it will only fit cameras with an EF mount (all Canon EF cameras or those with converters to take EF lenses.)
Overall I would give this lens a 5/5 because I believe it is excellent value for money, great quality, has a reassuring build and I never feel let down with the images it produces.
This is a topic that plays on my mind as it's common theme that runs in my family; most of my family members are obese than not and most have struggled with this over decades. When you hear the word 'obese' what do you think of? Personally I think of people stuck indoors, crippled by their weight, having to make clothes out of duvet covers and the army coming to remove their roof so they can be winched out of their house. In reality it's very different. You need to have a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or greater to be considered obese in the UK - obviously this does't take into account athletes with much lower levels of body fat and more muscle than the average Joe or older people who have lost muscle - and that's honestly not hard to do.
Say the average UK height for women was 5'4 then at a weight of 12.5 stone a woman would be hitting the 30 BMI mark and would be considered obese. Hardly the image of a person crippled by their weight living their life on a sofa. I used to think obesity meant super huge or that a person would have to be at least in the 19-20 stone mark to even be considered obese but as we see it's not the case at all.
Within the 'obese' category there are different 'degrees' of obesity. A few years ago you'd never hear these terms banded about as it wasn't such a huge problem but nowadays it's becoming all too commonplace. I remember years ago watching a documentary about obesity in America and wondering what the word itself meant, it wasn't a word I'd heard before, and as the documentary unfolded it basically became clear that we'd be inheriting America's problems of obesity, in particular childhood obesity. Now I remember laughing at this thinking, "It'll never happen in the UK! The government will step in! Parents won't let it happen!". I have to admit that I blamed the 'bigger is better' culture of America for it's obesity problems - and perhaps I'm not wrong - and didn't believe the British public would ever allow themselves to get to that stage. With increasing numbers of children being not only overweight, but obese in the past couple of years, it's clear to see that the predictions of this documentary were not far wrong.
Obesity causes adverse effects on health and puts people at risk of the following (to name but a few): type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) and sleep apnea. And what causes obesity? Over consumption of calories and not enough energy output = eating too much and not doing enough. There are several layers to this (and I'll discuss those), of course, but at the heart of it this is usually the cause. Obesity is a preventable thing. In other words obesity can be prevented AND reversed. It is now being viewed as one of the most serious health problems of the 21st century.
You may well have known someone who was obese who lived to see their 100th birthday but how much better could their life have been if they were a healthy weight? Obesity not only limits what you can do simply because you might be suffering from a health condition related to your obesity but being heavier just adds weight to you and this can be uncomfortable in itself. There is a huge strain put on your organs, joints and body when you're carrying extra weight around and with the social stigma attached to being bigger or obese it can lead to issues with self esteem and depression.
So what are some of the layers under the first two obvious causes? Food addiction is one. And unlike most addictions food is something you need to stay alive so it can be a vicious circle to be caught in. In this case I'd strongly advise people to seek out professional help which might sound over the top but if it's a choice between being obese, addicted to food or getting help for your problems then it's more sensible to tackle the addiction than to simply live with it and get worse.
Genetics and upbringing play their part, too. If someone is constantly surrounded by messages of food being about reward or portion control is never taught or administered then it's likely that a child brought up in this way will go into adulthood with their continued lack of education about nutrition. If people aren't shown how to cook or do things for themselves they may just rely on a takeaway to provide dinner several times a week. Of course there comes a point in everyone's life where they must face the fact they're an adult and take responsibility for their lives but I believe upbringing plays a massive role in how seriously or not the majority of the population take their health. Genetics are a little more complicated, however, as I often feel they are used to excuse people's problems. Yes you MAY be more likely to develop a heart condition or become overweight but it's not an absolute certainty. You only make it a certainty with the choices you make. If it means you have to work a little harder than the average person, then that's what you have to do. We've gone past the days of famines so we don't need to be carrying extra weight around for the sake of 'food storage', either.
There are certain illnesses (Prader-Willi syndrome for example) where obesity is a major feature of the illness of itself. Medications can also cause weight gain but with sensible eating and exercise this needn't be a problem. Again education is needed. Whenever I have gone to the doctor for contraceptive pills, for example, they automatically warn you that weight gain is expected but they fail to comment that this needn't happen if you control your diet and exercise. The contraceptive pill increases your appetite and your appetite can be controlled - and feeling hungry isn't a prison sentence, it's a normal and healthy feeling - so I don't know why they fail to mention this as most people probably assume they'll put on weight, give into their appetite and then surprise surprise they put on weight.
People also live more sedentary (yet with more stress) lifestyles these days; working at desk jobs, doing less manual labour and having a ready supply of hot, delicious food that might not be the best thing for them (and yes I'm thinking of a certain bakery chain that rhymes with 'eggs.') I think people are more likely to use food as an emotional comfort these days as it's cheaper to buy a big bag of crisps or tub of ice cream with all the supermarket offers of 'buy one get one free' and so on. And it becomes too easy to sit down, after a stressful day of sitting down, kick back with junk food and watch hours of TV than it is to get off your bum and do some exercise. The biggest kicker of the situation is that exercise actually decreases stress levels and would do people good in more ways than one.
The treatment for obesity is to eat less and do more. If it gets so severe that people can't control it in these ways then usually medication, then surgery is considered. In the cases of people receiving surgery it is very successful in terms of long term weight loss but is obviously very expensive and invasive - not to mention risky and painful for those undergoing the surgery - so patients are encouraged to try other methods before surgery is considered.
Overall there is a huge social stigma attached to being obese, more women than men are obese and it can effect mortality rates, put a strain on the finances of a country when you need to treat a large volume of obese patients and the causes of obesity are complex. It's a multi-faceted problem that needs to be addressed earlier in a person's life rather than later when bad habits are cemented and health problems occur.
My husband had been looking around for a good heart rate monitor for a while and we spotted this one in Tesco. I didn't really see the point in them but after he explained a little about why he wanted it, it seemed to make sense to have one. My own heart rate can drop down really quickly and I generally feel a bit weird so I thought it would be good to get one of these to monitor that problem whereas my husband wanted it for working out - I work out, it just doesn't bother me to monitor my heart rate while working out ;).
So for £15 from Tesco (£20 when we bought it) what do you get? First of all a pretty decent monitor. It looks very like a digital watch, is black and quite chunky. It is, I suppose, very masculine but if you're just wearing it to check your heart rate while you work out I'm sure this isn't an issue for most people. We bought this one a few years back and it's still ticking over. I did expect it to not last for very long based on the price but it works just fine. It comes with batteries included (takes CR2025 batteries), wrist and chest strap. The heart rate monitor displays the time and date and maximum and minimum average heart rate levels and has an alarm that will go off when your training session is up. It is also water resistant but I doubt you could take it scuba diving ;).
The chest strap is fairly sturdy, holds up in intense work out scenarios and is fully adjustable so will fit most sizes. It needs to be wetted on the pads so that it sticks to your skin but this can be achieved by putting a bit of water on your finger and rubbing it onto the pads. I haven't really played around with it very much if I'm honest, I just want to know my resting heart rate when it's high, so I can't talk about the other features that come with the heart rate monitor. I feel reassured knowing what my heart rate is when it feels like it's climbing to dangerous levels so for that purpose I'm quite satisfied with this heart rate monitor. I'd say it was a decent entry level/basic monitor and bearing in mind what people pay for these kinds of things I'd say £15 was a good price for this monitor. As the monitor displays the date and time you could also use this as a wrist watch on the day to day.
It's been going for a number of years despite being dropped, bashed and general use which will just wear anything down naturally so it was a purchase that has far exceeded it's life expectancy. On top of this I feel reassured to know my heart rate is either up or not as bad as I think so I really believe it's worth the investment.
Well as I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes back in May I feel quite experienced at finger sticking myself and thought I'd write up a review of these lancets - as they say, every cloud has a silver lining ;)!
I was supplied with these lancets back in May at my first ever diabetes clinic. At first they can be quite intimidating; lancets are intended for blood sampling and as they need to be loaded into a lancing device they effectively look like little needles set on a bit of plastic. With these lancets they come with a snap top rather than a cap - which my new lancets have - which needs to be discarded. The lancet, with the top snapped off, is then loaded into the lancing device which also has it's own lid. Pop the lid of the lancing device on, set your depth on the device, place on the side of a finger and release the button on your device to stick your finger. Job done. In diabeitcs the blood sample obtained from the lancet will be used to test for blood glucose levels - to check whether they are high, low or completely a-okay - and this is known as blood glucose monitoring. Without lancets and blood monitoring devices diabetics used to have to use urine test strips...and these are not entirely accurate or reliable sources for blood glucose monitoring.
That aside I found these lancets comfortable to use which probably sounds a bit strange given that you're stabbing yourself several times a day with a small needle ;). When my pharmacy changed my lancets recently I wasn't very happy as they were less comfortable to use and without a doubt this product is superior. But honestly with these I didn't even notice that I was drawing blood or making small punctures in my skin. I was supplied with 10 - which will give me a few days supply if I'm lucky - at first and they came in a small plastic bag. Normally they can be made available in packs of 100 but as I live in Scotland and live under an SNP government our prescriptions cost us zilch. I know that where you have to pay for medication that diabetes medicines can be free, just not too sure on this as it doesn't effect me and I haven't really looked into it but if you live outside Scotland or Wales it would be worth checking out rather than paying through the nose for something that you literally cannot live without.
From the LifeScan website:
OneTouch® Ultrasoft® and FinePoint® lancets are a type A lancet and fit most lancing devices including:
I didn't know this until I read up a bit more about these lancets but they were designed to help reduce pain, bruising (I know all about that!) and callusing. Calluses are actually quite common if you're using the same testing site over and over - and I've been told countless times not to over-use my index finger and thumb and to switch the sites around every time I test - so anything that reduces this problem is a welcome one.
Once the lancet is used I take it out of the lancing device and pop it into a yellow sharps bin. Another obvious few tips: don't use a lancet that has been used on someone else and the lancets should be used for one use only...although in saying that I have had to keep stabbing away at the sides of my fingers to get a decent blood sample. Before testing always wash your hands as sweat, residue food etc can effect the reading you will get and washing softens up the skin for testing.
Overall I'd recommend these lancets and give them 5 stars because the gauge on them is just right for testing. You don't experience after sting and only feel a slight pinch when the needle goes in at first. They also don't leave any bruising or marks behind which is a bonus. My new lancets, in comparison, are terrible and I'd much rather go back to using these. They are available on prescription in the UK and see above to check out which monitors they are compatible with.
So I'm not normally diabetic but in pregnancy my glucose levels climb and climb, causing me to have gestational diabetes. No one in my family is living with or has had diabetes - gestational or otherwise -, I was only tested for diabetes because my last baby was over 10lbs and I'm not in any of the ethnic groups more prone to diabetes/gestational diabetes.
All the signs and symptoms were there for me, however I just attributed them to 'normal pregnancy' symptoms; grumpiness, tiredness, extreme thirst, peeing loads and even headaches. At first I thought I could be dealing with the lead-up to pre-eclampsia and was utterly terrified. I also couldn't seem to go more than two steps into a supermarket without feeling like (or in some cases actually) passing out, before having shakes, sweats and mental confusion. It wasn't happening all the time but was making me scared to go out, even though I was also having these episodes at home I felt safer at home. I was also waking up just feeling dreadful, almost as though I'd not slept a wink even after 12 hours of sleep!
I remember one time my mum visiting us and we all went out together, I was feeling absolutely terrible. I had to quickly buy something sweet and then quickly had to wolf it down. She made a remark that I reminded her of her friend who suffered with gestational diabetes. I don't know what it was but something seemed to 'click' into place when she mentioned it. I went home, checked the symptoms and seemed fairly convinced this could be an issue for me. I knew my glucose testing was coming up soon enough, though, so thought I'd leave it until then - and most likely the hospital would just leave it till then, anyway, so there wasn't a lot I could do.
I was very, very nervous before my glucose test. Essentially this test is so simplistic but very accurate at diagnosing diabetes. You've to stop eating at midnight, the night before the test, which isn't a problem for most people I'd assume (I'm not a snacker so it didn't prove a problem for me at all) and then you skip breakfast, have your blood taken at around 9am and after the blood is taken you're given a very, very, VERY sugary drink. Well this drink is awful ;). It tastes like orange syrup, but not in a good way. It's not the worst thing in the world and you're allowed to drink water - plus if you're keen to know your diabetic status then drinking a little orange drink is going to be the least of your worries. You have to wait two hours and then another blood sample is taken.
The first blood sample they take is known as a 'fasting blood glucose.' A range of 4-7 mmol is considered within a normal blood glucose range. Anything from 5.5-7 mmol is considered 'pre-diabetes' and causes concerns for the health professionals and if you're pregnant and fall within this range you'll be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. My fasting blood glucose on this day was 5.6 mmol and I just sneaked in at the lower end of pre-diabetic aka gestational diabetes. When I got the letter inviting me to the diabetes clinic a few days later I was in shock. I hadn't been contacted to be informed of my results and as I hadn't heard anything back I assumed no news was good news...until that bloody letter arrived.
I cried a lot at first because I was scared. I've known people with type 1 and type 2 diabetics and it seemed to really impact their lives at different times. Diabetes seemed like a huge intrusion on a pregnancy, too, and I feared that I'd be considered 'high risk' and have to be scheduled in for a C-section at 38/39 weeks - as per one of my friend's experienced in each of her pregnancies. I also worried about my last pregnancy with my son - was he affected? I started to really over analyse the amount of times he would ask for drinks or pee in a day and after he had been born I'd suspected I'd had gestational diabetes going by his size. I know people have bigger than average babies every day but it was uncommon in my family and I have always just felt that something else was down to his size, gestational diabetes always seemed like the culprit but after I brought it up with my husband he simply told me, "They'd have known, you'd have had symptoms!" when I shared my concerns. Well, I did have every symptom with my son. In fact I went to the doctor several times and they put it down to low blood pressure and a winter bug.
Once I had calmed down I read everything I could on the subject - some of it misinformed but most of it actually useful. At first I blamed myself; surely there was something I must have done or not have done, to cause this. I had purposely lost a stone and a half before falling pregnant to reduce my risk of DVT and a complicated pregnancy but I blamed myself nonetheless. Was I eating too much sugar? Too much fruit? Too many desserts? I'd been so, so careful in this pregnancy as I honestly didn't plan on putting on more than 10lbs - and if I could maintain my weight so much better. As I'd had Hyperemesis I also lost another half a stone early on in pregnancy that I'd managed to more or less keep off. I was at my best weight wise than I had been in years, was eating so much better, was doing more but not exercising and even though I could sit there and blame everything on myself sometimes the proverbial just happens.
I wasn't really sure what to expect at my first diabetes clinic. I imagined I'd be shown how to monitor my blood glucose - something I was dreading because I HATE needles - and be shown how to examine my feet (which didn't happen) as well as be told when my C-section would take place. Looking back I have to laugh at myself. I had a whole doom and gloom scenario painted out and when I went along it was far more relaxed and familiar than I'd planned it to be. There were two other ladies who were brought into the room with me and having a group together actually took the pressure off for me. I was fortunate that my husband was able to be there on his day off as I was just so nervous. When I arrived at the clinic I was surprised how upbeat the Diabetes Nurse was. She was also very quick to tell us that it wasn't our 'fault', these things just happened and that they were on the increase - gestational diabetes can be related to weight but there are a lot of cases of healthy weight women being diabetic in pregnancy. The two other women at the clinic had a history of Type 1 and 2 diabetes in their families but I was the odd one out.
The Nurse explained briefly about dietary changes we'd have to make but I'm glad to say that this didn't really apply to me. I was actually eating better than their recommendations but I was determined to cut down my fruit intake and stop having dessert, even occasionally. As I've been living off a vegan diet for almost 9 years I found a lot of the 'don't eat this,' advice wasn't very useful to me. I've never been one for fizzy, sugary drinks and since my dentist explained how bad smoothies and fruit juices were for my teeth they've also been completely removed from my diet for over a year. I'm not a junk food eater, either and everything we eat is about 90% made from scratch. So, what changes *did* I have to make concerning my diet? Well I've found I've had to up my vegetable intake more than anything. I was eating a decent amount before but they're low in calories, full of great nutrients and minerals and keep me feeling fuller for longer - they also have slow release sugars in them which don't raise my blood glucose levels in the same way that chocolate or a fizzy drink would. I find myself eating less fruit as I was eating a lot of it and this would raise my blood glucose levels. Sugar isn't prohibited in the least but I find that if you can eat more 'better' sugars aka fructose over sucrose then it generally makes me 1. feel better and 2. makes me less likely to have a high blood glucose reading. I've never struggled with this aspect of eating whether I'm diabetic or not.
We were asked to increase our activity levels and the recommendation was a half hour walk every day. By the time I had my clinic appointment I was already doing over the recommendations for increasing activity...so again I couldn't exactly relate but it was handy to have the info anyway.
Annoyingly when it came to checking our blood glucose levels with our monitors I had the highest blood glucose reading! This made me feel quite despondent as I hadn't ate since breakfast and I had expected it to be lower. "Does this mean I have to take medication?" I asked the Nurse. "Don't worry about it," she explained. "Just go home, monitor it, do the things we talked about and if you end up on medication you'll know you did everything right, some people just have to take medication." Well I became one of those people. I was upset at the prospect of the medication, mostly because of the side effects, but now that I've been on it for a few weeks (and had to up my dose to nearly the maximum amounts) I don't really feel it impacts my life at all. I'm on Metformin and didn't suffer with any side effects - I've read about people throwing up and having gastro problems but I didn't seem to suffer with these. The only problem with being on medication is that you are considered 'high risk' which essentially means more scans and attending a consultant-led antenatal clinic/have a consultant-led pregnancy. Instead of being able to attend my doctors surgery and see a midwife I have to have my appointments in hospital as well as have growth and fluid scans right up until birth. I'm okay with this as I have a really good consultant and diabetes team who support my decisions and respect my choices - my consultant is very, very keen that I have a vaginal birth and wants to avoid any surgery and induction where possible.
The biggest thing, for me, in being a diabetic is monitoring my blood glucose. Some days it's like second nature to me and other days I simply can't be bothered to monitor - which I would never do, of course. I'm just grateful that I can be in control of monitoring it. If my form of diabetes went untreated then it would result in a macro-somatic (bigger than average and usually over 9.9lbs) baby, which I've had before. It may also result in my baby being admitted to a neonatal intensive unit as babies born to diabetic mothers can have immature lung development, jaundice and hypoglycemia. There is also an increased risk of still birth, with or without controlled blood glucose levels. All of this scares me but I have to be honest and say it's not something I dwell on.
Gestational diabetes usually resolves once the baby is born but if you've suffered with gestational diabetes you're more prone to developing Type 2 diabetes, as are any children you were pregnant with while suffering with GD. To me this is a two pronged attack on future diabetes; I need to keep myself in a good physical condition so I can make my chances of Type 2 diabetes less likely and I need to be a good role model for my children so they don't develop it later on in life. 6 weeks postpartum I have to have another glucose fasting test to determine whether or not my diabetes has resolved itself. As 9 out of 10 women 'go back to normal' after giving birth I'm hoping I fall into that category.
Being a vegan family we do eat a lot of beans and lentils so when I spotted this three bean salad in the bean aisle in Tesco I was quite pleased. I do enjoy cooking and so this bean mix seemed very versatile to me for cooking purposes; from adding it to a chilli, enchilada's or lasagne. I'd imagine that with a mustard and mint sauce that this bean mix would make a nice cold salad to go along with summer BBQ's (whenever we get the summer!).
So inside the tin are cannellini beans (small, white beans), flageolet beans (small, light green and kidney shaped) and adzuki beans (small, reddish black beans.) These three bean variations work really well together as the cannellini and adzuki beans have a similar texture but the flageolet beans give the whole mix a sharp and crisp texture. As you'd expect these are quite healthy and are kept in water and calcium chloride - which is a common ingredient and permitted food additive.
Half a drained can contains 100 calories, 9.6g protein, 13g of carbohydrates, a trace of salt and sugar, 0.7g of fat, 0.1g of which are sat fat and 10.6g of fibre. These are also suitable for vegans and vegetarians which probably seems obvious but it's always good to know, right? ;). If you don't manage to eat the whole tin of beans in one day then pop them into a container and keep in the fridge to be consumed within two days. Half a can is one of your five a day.
Price wise I do think this product is a bit on the pricey side but with Tesco's own brand of chickpeas being 77p then paying 99p for this THREE bean mix isn't that outrageous. You get a good mix of beans that can be added to almost any recipe or made into a nice, light salad. Overall I'd rate this 4/5.
Rod Campbell is a Scottish writer of many well loved and well known children's books with 'Dear Zoo' being amongst the more popular of the books he's written. It has been a best seller in Britain for over 25 years and can be found on most under 5's bookshelves. The book has been translated into Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Persian, French, Gujarati, Hindi, Panjabi, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Somali, Spanish, Turkish, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
'Dear Zoo' is a board book, aimed at the under 5 age group, with flaps to lift on each page. The premise of the story is a child who has written to the zoo for a pet and on each page it reveals the unsuitability of each pet the zoo sends; for instance the elephant that is too big, the giraffe who is too tall or the lion who is too fierce. At the end of the book the zoo finally sends a puppy - who is perfect!
I remember this book from my childhood and have very fond memories of it. As a child who could read from the age of 3.5 years old I can safely say this book was in my collection at home and was something that was read over and over again so when I spotted it in Mothercare (currently on sale for £2.99) I was sure I had to buy it for my son. He was a few months old when we bought the book and it wasn't long before he could lift the flaps on the book and enjoy it so I felt it was worth buying.
My son is now three and has the story committed to memory so whenever we read the story together he knows what animal is coming next. He did rip a few of the flaps when he was 18 months, though, so it's not in pristine condition and I might consider buying another book to replace the ripped one. It does seem to be fairly tempting (and easy) for little people to rip so I would watch out for that with wee ones if you don't want the book getting ripped.
Overall I rate this book quite highly as it's age appropriate for under 5s and can be enjoyed by adults - even if you're reading it for the 20th time that day! At £2.99 I consider this a decent price for such a book as it's a classic children's book and is so enjoyable that even though it's only a few pages long it's still a 'good' price for this type of book.
****************** WARNING: I just want to put a little warning here that this is a review about Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This is a highly complex and rare condition that effects pregnant women. Although I will try not to be too graphic in my review I would avoid it if you're squeamish reading about throwing up or sickness.
Anyone who has been through pregnancy and suffered with sickness will tell you it's no walk in the park. 'Morning' sickness is a misleading term as I found the nausea and sickness lasted all day long and all night long in my first pregnancy with my son, it was dreadful but it wasn't something I felt I couldn't deal with and near the end of the sickness I could throw up and then get on with my day, feeling quite normal and not at all nauseous. I hadn't expected to be completely knocked over with my second (current) pregnancy and was seriously ill before I even took a test - I actually believed I'd caught the Norovirus and with my husband having it this seemed a likely outcome.
After weeks of non-stop throwing up 24/7, night sweats, weight loss, eating two meals within two weeks and not touching any of my Christmas chocolate I knew something else might be the matter. On the 2nd of January I got my answer: I was pregnant. 'Okay,' I thought to myself, 'but surely it shouldn't be *this* bad?' I shrugged my shoulders, decided it was both a mix of Norovirus and morning/all day sickness and didn't think too much about it. My husband's holiday period ran out and I suddenly found myself going from barely able to cope to being completely unable to function. I would fall asleep without remembering I'd fallen asleep, while my son (2 years old at the time) would raid the fridge and cupboards for food. I'd be in bed, in a bad way, trying to hold back the screams of pain while my son ran from room to room to find 'help' for me. Whenever I was throwing up he'd rub my back, hold back my hair and ask if I wanted something to drink. A few times he'd say, "Spit it out, mummy!" very encouragingly ;). We used the iPad for watching Netflix while I slept and all in all, while it was at it's worst, I tried to do my very best. Well sometimes when you're so ill your 'best' isn't that great. There was one week where I literally could not stop throwing up. I couldn't eat or drink because everything I put past my lips made me throw up. I was constantly sleeping, or feeling on the point of passing out. After day two of not eating I was still throwing up my digestive juices, retching even when nothing was coming up. My ribs were constantly in agony, as well as my stomach feeling like it was being twisted from inside. I didn't care about food and in fact the smell or sight of some foods would have me running to the loo to throw up.
After the first few days of this misery I began to become so weak that I had to have a bucket to throw up into because going backwards and forwards to the toilet 20+ times to be sick was getting tiring. My husband tried his best to get me to eat; buying foods that were easy to eat, things I usually enjoyed eating, buying me 'nice' drinks but nothing appealed to me. My stomach was empty, but I didn't care. I was in agony day and night and because I had to look after our toddler, who stopped napping and sleeping regularly at night, I couldn't properly rest.
Now there were times when I thought I was 'getting better', usually a few days or a day of respite between throwing up and being in 24/7 agony, and I'd manage a meal or two and be able to have a few sips of liquid but mostly I'd feel completely nauseous and weak. Once I began to break the news of my pregnancy to various people they were able to help here and there but the day to day running of things was, and still is, in my hands completely. Now normally this shouldn't phase people - not that it would drive you to tears, anyway - but throw a complex and rare pregnancy related condition into the mix and it will completely swamp you emotionally and physically. It doesn't help that my parents live over 6 hours away and that my in-laws are only available on the weekends and evenings (and in the evenings it's strictly emergencies only, like going to the hospital) so that support network for me doesn't really exist. I also find it extremely difficult to ask for help in the first place unless I am in need of a hospital admission - even with a hospital visit I will take my son along and if the hospital would allow it I'd take him in with me. Every day I would cry and beg my husband not to go out, to take a sick day himself so he could take care of us. On the main every day was terrible. I didn't feel depressed or emotionally sapped but physically I just felt so unable to do anything without falling asleep or throwing up.
One day things took a turn for the worst when I couldn't hold down a sip of water. I hadn't managed to eat in days and I quite honestly didn't care. My husband kept insisting we go to the hospital if I threw up once more and when I began to retch he immediately phoned his parents to come and take us to the hospital - they drive and we don't own a car/drive. My MIL suggested we call the hospital/NHS24 first so that we didn't have to wait around for hours to be seen. NHS24 were brilliant and made an out of hours appointment at our local hospital for me. I waited twenty minutes past my appointment time and was seen by a lovely, fairly young looking, doctor who was concerned about everything she tested; my pulse was unusually high, my urine was full of ketones and she didn't 'like the look of me.' I was severely dehydrated and although I was feeling better she wanted to admit me to hospital. We chatted about my general health up to becoming and during my short pregnancy to that point. I hadn't had any diarrhoea, my abdomen wasn't hard, I wasn't taking any medication to explain the sickness and my body weight had dropped considerably. I'd also been sick very, very early on in this pregnancy and didn't develop sickness in my first pregnancy until 9-10 weeks. Basically it felt like 'something more than' just morning sickness.
I really, really didn't want to be admitted to hospital because I wanted to be at home with my son. I was also starting to perk up and feel a lot better - I even managed to slurp down some water and to keep it down in the presence of the doctor. She prescribed some pregnancy safe anti-sickness tablets and rehydration sachets but insisted I come straight in if I kept being sick. With the promise I would do that we went home where I threw up several hours later. I threw up once more that next morning but I knew all I needed was to sleep and I'd be feeling much better. When I didn't improve that next day my husband proposed we head back to hospital but after I was able to keep down a bowl of cereal I convinced him that I was getting better. Now I HATE hospitals with a passion, they put the fear into me and my blood pressure rises the minute I step into those places. They make me nervous and anxious at the best of times so I really, really wanted to avoid going there again...however if I hadn't got better after eating then I wouldn't have thought twice about heading back. I may hate the places but they're the best place to be when you're so ill - rather that than dead, right?
The anti-sickness tablets started to kick in for me but they weren't a miracle cure. I was still throwing up and still not getting any relief after throwing up. However the tablets meant that I was only throwing up 4-5 times a day rather than 20+ times a day. The rehydration sachets tasted like crap but they built me up again after a particularly bad spell where I lost a stone in three days.
However the tale doesn't end there, oh no. While my sickness lessened and the pain subsided somewhat there are still days where my stomach feels like it's going to erupt due to the agony of the stomach cramps I'm feeling. Quite honestly I'd rather be in labour - the pain was/is definitely comparable if not worse. After my trip to the hospital it was arranged that my mum would come down for a few weeks to look after the toddler and well to look after me, I suppose. I'm not a very good patient, though, and I tend to do everything for myself anyway but it did mean that if I should fall asleep randomly that someone could be here to oversee my son not electrocuting himself or juggling knives. Well when my mum got here I seemed to improve - and this is the trick of HG just when you think you're getting better or you're improving it will throw you a curve ball; a sickly, crampy, unrelenting curve ball at that.
On one of these sick days I threw up in the morning, didn't eat much all day and foolishly decided it would be a good idea to get 'fresh air' and head out to our local Morrisons for a shop. Well I began to feel very, very, very crampy and then very sick indeed the whole time we were out. When we got to the check outs I scanned the seating area, which was occupied by a bunch of children, and decided I just needed a drink of water and I'd be fine. I asked my husband to get me some water quickly and told him I felt like I was 'going to pass out.' Suddenly I began to feel very disorientated; everything around me became a big blur and all I could feel was the blood draining from my body. Now I have felt this way before, many years ago in my first pregnancy, and I decided I just needed to ride out this feeling, throw up and I'd be fine. Apparently while I was thinking all of this I was also stumbling all over the shop, trying to clutch any surface to steady myself meanwhile my lips matched the colour of my face; a deathly white. Right after my husband made a joke about me being drunk I felt my whole body flop and suddenly I was surrounded by people, staring down at me. I'd lost consciousness and fainted, right in the middle of the shop. There was a lot of drama going on while I passed out that I hadn't been really aware of and to be honest I wasn't really sure what had happened; I believed I'd tripped over something or I'd lost my balance. I wasn't really embarrassed as it's not something you can control but it was a horrible feeling and I felt pretty dreadful for the rest of the day. This is all the 'fun' that comes along with Hyperemesis.
Along with throwing up, fevers, fainting, starvation, very painful stomach cramps, weight loss and unable to live a normal life there are other symptoms I've been accustomed to such as crumbling teeth. On the left side of my mouth one side of my molar is non-existent as it crumbled to pieces one day without me even noticing. I'm just praying and hoping that no more teeth decide to crumble in this way as post pregnancy I'll have to live with this consequence - the cramps and sickness I can just about handle but I do like my teeth *in* my mouth.
So, onto the stats of this condition. It's reported (though I don't know where it's reported as I've just picked these stats up from Wikipedia) that 80% of pregnant women suffer with vomiting, it's a very common occurrence in pregnancy, but HG, or Hyepremesis as I call it (because I can't pronounce 'gravidarum' haha) is rare. So rare in fact that only a tiny 0.3-1.5% of pregnant women will suffer from the condition. To break that down it's about 1 in 100 pregnant people that will suffer from Hyperemesis, at the higher end of the statistical scale. It shows you that HG is indeed a very rare condition and isn't something that is worth worrying about if you're thinking about children. By all means factor it into the equation, after all it *could* happen, but it's worth remembering it's a very rare condition and effects a small percentage of women.
I feel that awareness of the condition is lacking. In America home care nurses can be provided for HG sufferers so that they can be given IV fluids at home yet in the UK a hospital admission has to be made for an HG sufferer to receive IV fluids. I'd imagine that a home care nurse is a saving to the NHS as hospital admissions run into the hundreds per day, especially with IV fluids and anti-emetic medication being administered. It would also mean that the extra pressure of worrying about childcare or being anxious about leaving younger children at home while you go into hospital (which was my fear) would be alleviated, though it would add the pressure of caring for children at home when you feel like death warmed up.
There is also the fact that any time I've shared the fact I'm suffering from HG with anyone that they recount their own morning sickness stories. A few times I've actually said, 'Oh that does sound horrible but HG is actually more severe than morning sickness and being sick doesn't make you feel any better, in fact it makes you feel worse.' This isn't about competing with people but it's about making people aware that HG isn't 'just bad morning sickness.' Morning sickness is horrible, like I said, after all I suffered with it previously but HG is a whole other ball game. With HG you have the threat of going into hospital, of fainting at most opportunities, your teeth crumbling from their gums and then the worry that you may go into renal failure if things get really, really bad. Also if people don't seek medical assistance for HG then other conditions can arise; hypoglycaemia, anaemia, jaundice, malnutrition, B12 deficiency and the list goes on. Depression can also occur and it's no wonder, this condition is very depressing indeed and can lead you to thinking it will never end so while I haven't developed depression over having HG I can understand why others would. It's worth pointing out that depression is a symptom of the condition but that the condition itself isn't a mental one and it is indeed physical but depression is the effect of the cause, rather than being the effect of cause.
As for the cause itself...well there aren't really any clear conclusions drawn on that one. Some theories suggest that HG is caused by genetics, body chemistry and overall health. I've even read theories on body weight; if the woman is over weight before her pregnancy she is more prone to HG and then on the flip side the same is theorised about under weight women.
One theory I'm happy to go with - as it makes the most sense - is that the hormone produced during pregnancy (human chorionic gonadotropin, or hGC for short) produces an adverse reaction in the body when elevated levels are produced in the body. Increased levels of Estrogen are also assumed to be one of the causes of HG.
To understand the cause would lead to understanding a cure or at least lead to preventative methods for pregnant mothers or those trying to get pregnant who have suffered with HG in the past. Little research has been done on HG but it is the second most common reason for hospital admission, with pre-term labour being top of the list, during the first half of pregnancy. I'd imagine this costs thousands on the NHS per year that they could potentially save if they were to carry out some research on the condition. Not to mention that it would improve the lives of the women suffering from this condition.
Now I'm very glad that I didn't have HG in my first pregnancy because I am done with pregnancy and babies after I have this baby - I was done at two children anyway but HG has really hit the nail in the coffin for me. I couldn't bear to go through this again and put two children through it, too. I honestly do not know how some women have the strength to suffer through HG pregnancy after pregnancy. Once you've suffered with HG there is an 80% chance you will suffer with it again in subsequent pregnancies and so far every woman I've spoken to who has went on to have subsequent pregnancies has suffered with HG for each of those pregnancies. That isn't a chance I want to take to be honest because it is quite honestly a living hell and like I said if I become pregnant again (assuming I'm not a multiple pregnancy, I won't know until 18 weeks as the NHS is 'too busy' to scan me before that) I'd have two children to look after and a complex, rare, painful and debilitating illness to deal with. No thanks. As we plan on home schooling this isn't a viable option for me and it just doesn't seem fair to myself or my family so I am done with this pregnancy and HG has really hammered it home for me.
However if treated early enough and managed correctly I'd imagine that although it would be terrible to go through HG again that it *would* be manageable. However I'm not one of these women that is happy with 'manageable' because there is the risk it could be more severe and that I wouldn't be able to cope and it's a risk I'm not willing to take or think about right now in the throws of HG ;).
It *does* get better, believe it or not, but there is a lot that comes before that for any HG sufferer - as I've outlined here - and I suppose the reward of all this suffering is that you get a baby out of the deal and that's worth it in the end but while going through HG it's hard to see beyond the day to day management of the illness and all you really want is understanding and support.