Wednesday 12 April 2023

The Days After Louis

Baby Loss Oligiohydramnios

We left the hospital on the 22nd July 2020 without baby Louis. 

Leaving him there in the hospital was perhaps the hardest part of all of this. I had just delivered my baby and now I was leaving with empty arms. Heading home to an empty flat for a full nights sleep that I desperately needed, but also a sleep that should have been disturbed with newborn baby cries and feeds into the twilight hours. 

We had spent the entire day drinking Louis in and memorising the curves of his face. Now it was the evening and it was time to leave him. My Mum drove me home, the feeling of guilt growing with every step I took away from the cold cot, away from the bereavement room, away from the hospital.

As I got into the car and we put miles between Louis and the hospital, I really believed that would be the last time I ever saw him...

The evening was spent eating pizza with Leo at my parents house, and thinking of words to write a Facebook post to announce the arrival and departure of my Louis Christopher to my immediate world. The tears fell silently down my cheeks with each sentence I composed, and they fell even harder when the comments from friends and family started pouring in after learning that despite all the fighting of the last 8 and a bit months, there wasn't to be a happy ending.

Eventually Leo and I returned home to the flat, the flat that never felt like home. I don't recall arriving back or even putting the key in the door. I don't remember getting into bed, I don't remember sleep coming and I don't remember waking up the following morning. 

All I do know is that the next morning, I knew I needed to be back at the hospital. I needed to see Louis again. I couldn't stop thinking about him being all alone in the hospital morgue. My Mum and sister came with me, and we spent a second afternoon in the bereavement room at Worcester Hospital. 

I had brought along a swaddle blanket that I had bought for Louis. It was what he was supposed to spend his first nights fast asleep and dreaming in…I spent time wrapping him up and making him cosy. I found it ironic that I was putting all of these warm aids on him, when ultimately the biggest concern was making sure he was cool enough through this heatwave. 

I asked the midwife for some baby wipes, Louis was still as he had been born. I hadn't thought about cleaning him the previous day, while he was alive I didn't dare move, and once he was gone cleaning him didn't even cross my mind.

Baby Loss Oligiohydramnios

Now my natural instinct was to clean him up. I wanted to see who the baby boy was under the dried blood, I very gently wiped him all over, his face and his hair, revealing his beautiful face as it was meant to be appreciated. Watching his real features appear as the dirt lifted away made me feel like I was finally getting to be a Mum to him, even if it was just for a short time.

Simply cleaning Louis up changed his whole face, it revealed his blonde locks and from certain angles you could almost convince yourself that he was just sleeping. 

By 16:30 we had spent another summer's afternoon within the confined walls of the hospital, stealing every moment that we could. I already knew that I would be back again the following day (July 23rd 2020).

I tucked Louis back up into his blanket and back into his cold cot, and I knew that this wouldn't be his resting place for the night. After I left he would be moved back to the morgue where he would be entirely on his own again. 

Leaving that afternoon was just as hard as it was that first day, and I spent that night going back and forth over bringing him back home with us... 

Suddenly I knew I had to bring Louis home. I needed my baby home for however long I could.

It was a strange realisation, I had gone over and over this while I was pregnant and for a long time I always was going to bring him home. Somewhere along the way, that plan changed. I think out of concern for Leo and how it may effect him. I had a chat with Leo and asked what he thought about bringing Louis home, he jumped at the opportunity. Leo had taken everything the last few days had presented in his stride, and now he just wanted to bring his baby brother home. 

Baby Loss Oligiohydramnios

The 23rd July dawned, and I knew that today I was heading back to the hospital to discuss bringing Louis out of the hospital and back with us to the flat. My bereavement midwife was amazing, as she had been ever since I met her on the run up to my delivery. Straight away she started making all of the arrangements for us to take Louis out of the hospital and transport him in our car back to our modest 4 walls.

We were provided with a cold cot and a police reference number just in case we were pulled over on our journey, and had to explain why we had a deceased baby in our company. Something that I really hadn't considered in all of the thoughts I had had over getting Louis from the hospital back to our home. 

We loaded the cold cot into the car and then we brought Louis out, it all felt very cloak and dagger. It didn't feel like we should be seen, we didn't want to upset anyone else. Louis was placed in the cold cot on the back seat with me, he didn't need a car seat, he didn't even need restraining with a seat belt.

I remember that my Mum was driving, and I remember leaving the hospital for the last time, but I don't remember arriving back at the flat or how we transported Louis from the car and into the flat. From that day, Louis was with us.

Leo had been staying in my room since his dad left at 28 weeks pregnant, my little comfort blanket. This meant that we could set Louis up in Leo's room with his cold cot. We could take Louis out of the cold cot as often as we liked and there was something extremely comforting about having him there with us. 

We were in the midst of a heat wave so I was very worried about how this may affect him, the cot had come with a set of instructions of what we could expect, but we were also advised that we may have to take ice packs from the freezer and put them around him to ensure that he was kept cool enough.

Leo and I would stay up watching television and bring Louis for cuddles on the sofa. It felt completely normal and Leo adored this time with his brother. He got the snuggles and I got the snaps I had always dreamed of having, of my two beautiful boys together. 

A good friend of mine very kindly offered to take some photos of Louis for us, I jumped at the chance. We had some shots taken by a charity when we were in hospital, but I wanted something that I could have my own personal spin on now I had cleaned him up and we were home. We had these new photos taken and I am so pleased that we did. They highlight a time of immense sadness, but also a moment in time that was fleeting and would soon only be in our memories.

Baby Loss Oligiohydramnios

Having this time at home allowed family members and friends to come and meet Louis who wouldn't have ever had the chance to meet him otherwise. Some kept coming back to see us, no one seemed to be worried about meeting him. The most un-natural thing had happened in losing Louis, but having him close to us in the days after his passing and the run up to the funeral was the most natural thing in the world.

On July 24th Taylor Swift released her surprise album, Folklore. This became the soundtrack to Louis being at home. To this day when I hear it playing it takes me right back to being in that flat with Louis and Leo. After everything 2020 had thrown at us, I felt like this album was written for me.

I kept busy in those days, covid and lockdown were still raging on outside the confines of the flat but I had reached a point where covid was the last thing in the world I was worried about. The hospital had very kindly taken casts of Louis's feet with a set I had purchased, and I couldn't wait to get them painted up and framed. When I wasn't painting I was writing bits for the funeral and making plans for our final goodbye all while Folklore played continuously in the background.

I began walking again and exercising a few days post birth, I knew I had to get those endorphins flowing for my own sanity. Walking and Folklore became my therapy as I walked and took in the words, as I began to process all that had come to pass.

Being left how I was left is something I still struggle with. A lockdown, a pregnancy, a baby with a prognosis not compatible with life, another woman, an affair, the lies, the hurt, the mourning of my family, the mourning of Louis. All the milestones that ultimately made me face the rest of my pregnancy alone, the birth without the one person who should have fought fiercely to be by my side. Instead after Louis arrival and departure, I was in the bereavement room all alone. 

Baby Loss Oligiohydramnios

When I wasn't walking I was organising,  I had a wonderful funeral director who was already an acquaintance of mine through work, and I knew that as soon as we got on the phone together we were going to get along just perfectly. We discussed the dates that were available for Louis's funeral and how I wanted it to look. I always thought I would opt for a burial, but actually when the time came I chose cremation. 

I didn't want Louis to be anywhere I wasn't, I knew that I could keep his ashes with me for the rest of time, and perhaps at some point place him in a ring. This was something I was looking at while I was still pregnant, I think I always knew what was going to come to pass despite the blind hope burning.

Louis was due on my birthday, August 8th, and as we were now well on our way into August we decided to have Louis's funeral on August 7th 2020. The day before my birthday. We kept Louis at home with us until July 28th after having him home for 6 days.

I made the decision to take him to the funeral directors when the heat wave persisted and I was just incredibly worried about how this would affect Louis body. Just before 5pm I wrapped Louis up for one final time, I stood and took a photo in front of the mirror just to remember how he looked in my arms and then we got in the car to drove him the short distance to the funeral directors.

Baby Loss Oligiohydramnios

I knew I was leaving my baby boy in safe hands at the funeral directors, and I was invited to pop in to see Louis whenever I wanted to. I did do that a few times over the days that followed. We chose Lous's casket, a beautiful wooden coffin, the smallest I have ever seen. The next time I saw Louis he was placed carefully inside.

With Louis safe from the heat at the funeral directors, it was back home to the confines of the flat to continue planning his final goodbye.

Monday 10 April 2023

The PAJ Power Finder 4G GPS Review

Glyders Snowdonia

 During the lockdown of 2020 as Covid raged without prejudice, I found a comfort in walking. I began walking locally at first but I was covering some serious miles each and everyday and very soon needing a new challenge to push me further. 

When the lockdown eased and we could travel again, I progressed onto walking our local countryside, Bredon Hill and then the Malvern’s. Eventually covering the Malvern Hills from end to end and realising a desire to give some mountain peaks a go! 

By the end of 2021 the other half and I had completed the 3 peaks, Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. Each were incredible for different reasons, some more challenging because of weather conditions but each a huge achievement in their own right.

We always travelled using our car, and we found that often we were having to leave the car quite remotely and then of course we were covering some large distances. It always worried me that we wouldn’t be able to find the car again, parking up on a quiet Mountain view road and then walking away into the unknown. I often thought it would be a great idea to have some kind of device that would help us find the car again at the end of our adventures….

When you think of a car tracker, you ordinarily consider the anti theft properties or even retrieval of your vehicle post theft, but when I was asked to review the PAJ Power Finder 4G GPS Tracker I knew that there was a real value and sense of calming in always knowing where your car is in relation to yourself (and you can actually see this on the app! You can use your phone to ping your location and exactly where your car is!)

Over the past month we have been putting the tracker through it's paces. Our model arrived ready to go after a short charge, ordinarily you have to follow the short instruction manual that is included within the box.
PAJ Power Finder 4G GPS Tracker

What's in the box?

- PAJ GPS Power Finder 4G

- Charger and cable (please note that the charger is a 2 pin plug, so if you are in the UK you will need to use the USB charger with a compatible plug)

- Power Finder Quickstart Guide

- Power Finder 4G Instruction Manual 

Setting up the PAJ GPS Tracker

PAJ Power Finder Set Up

The tracker comes with absolutely everything you need to get started. Simply scan the QR code on the the quick start guide and it will walk you through the steps on your phone. Here you can purchase your subscription to the PAJ GPS Portal (5.99 a month, £54.99 a year) and get the app downloaded so that you can begin to keep an eye on your vehicle.

Before you use the tracker for the first time though it is recommended that you fully charge it for 8 hours. The battery terminal can be found underneath the plastic cover, as mentioned above if you are in the UK you will need to use a USB plug with the included USB charger as the included plug is 2 pin.

You will know when the tracker is fully charged as all the bars on the battery indicator will be lit and none will be flashing. 

The SIM card is already installed in your tracker and you do not need to take it out or do anything with this. 

Once charged it is time to turn on your tracker for the very first time. Admitedly when I first attempted this I had neglected to read all of the instructions and the other half had to step in and save the day! It's pretty simple though, it's just a case of opening the housing cover, removing the rubber cover and sliding the slider to 'on' and then closing it all back up again.

That's the PAJ GPS Tracker charged and ready to go!

PAJ Power Finder 4G GPS Tracker

Using the PAJ Finder

We have been using the tracker in the other half's BMW, I don't really think my 2010 Skoda is at much risk of being taken... and the reality is we go pretty much everywhere in his car. We have popped the tracker inside the glove compartment where it gets a lovely strong signal, you know if you have a good signal because the Red LED will flash quickly. If it flashes slowly then there is either no signal or it is looking for one.

PAJ Power Finder 4G GPS Tracker

 When you have a good signal your car shows up on the Online Finder App, this is where you can watch your vehicle on the app, it refreshes every 30 seconds, so you can always see where your car is but it does jump when it refreshes if you are following live. 

The app is nice and simple to use and offers a range of features, you can tailor alerts for:

- Vibration - If the tracker gets dropped or lifted

- Low battery

-Speed limit - You can set the speed limit here too.

PAJ Power Finder 4G GPS Tracker

The app provides you with precise, worldwide location data and what I really love is that you can click on your vehicle, and then then open directions to it in Google Maps! This is an absolute god send for us when we head off on our adventures, as we now know that we can always return to the car at the end of play.

I have even used the tracker to pick Leo up from rugby training, the other half took him and I couldn’t recall exactly where it was! Thankfully I could view the car on the app and then export the directions to Google Maps! I was there on time to pick him and bring him back home. 

The battery lasts around 40 days and up to 90 days in stand by mode, as of this review we have not yet had to charge the tracker, but we have set up the low power notifications in the app. When the time comes we will be ready!

We are really pleased with the PAJ Power Finder and it is reassuring to know that we can check in on the car whenever we feel the need. For us it offers a level of security in the event that the car ever would be stolen, but it also has a very practical use for our day to day running. 

Another feature that we have really liked is the speed limit notification. If this has been purchased for a new driver, the wary parent can keep a watchful eye on the fledgling child as they take to the roads but also know if they have been giving care due and attention on the roads.

It's incredibly versatile and easy to use and the other half has already laid claim on the tracker long term. He runs a British Super Bike Race time (BSB) and he is excited to use it in the lorry that carries the race bikes all over the UK. Most importantly he wants it for the security as often the lorry is left fully loaded and if it was stolen, at least we would have a better idea on how to potentially retrieve the contents!

The PAJ Power Finder is available from Amazon for £149.99.

Disclaimer: We were sent the PAJ Power Finder in exchange for this review. All views and opinions are completely honest and my own.


Wednesday 5 April 2023

Dive the Mary Rose 4D at Portsmouth Historic Dock Yard

Dive the Mary Rose 4D at Portsmouth Historic Dock Yard

Until May of last year, I had never been to Portsmouth or the docks myself, but the other half had actually visited as a child when the Mary Rose was being housed under a tent after it's recovery (we are talking back in the 90's) and was still drying out. 

We decided to take the children to Portsmouth Historic Docks for the day to see what it was all about, and it turned out to be a really wonderful day. Leo had a great time running all around the HMS Warrior and learning all about its history and talking about all of the ghosts that may be skulking around.

We were there on the Ultimate Explorer ticket, but seemingly ran out of time to see everything as there is so much to take in. Add into the mix children who would rather you didn't actually stop to read anything and you have a recipe for not getting everything done in one day... 

Over the course of the day we walked around the HMS Victory and finished at the Mary Rose. The other half was rather amazed to see just how far the preservation of the ship has come in all those years since his first visit. There is now an entire building dedicated to the Tudor ship and a museum full of the artefacts and history they found on the ship. 

They have recovered bodies from the fateful day the ship sunk a couple of miles off the shore of Portsmouth, the crew who were thwarted by the netting that was in place to keep boarders from entering the ship... But ultimately stopped them being able to get out as the ship sank.

500 people died on that day in 1545 as the Tudor ship bowed down to the bottom of the ocean, and did not see daylight again until it broke the surface during its recovery in 1982.

The ship lay undiscovered for hundreds of years , entombed within the sea bed, the wreck was finally located by divers in 1971. It then took over 10 years of excavation, over 500 divers and 28 thousand dives before the remains of the hull could be raised.

I was really excited to receive an invitation to the opening of the docks new immersive experience recently.... Dive the Mary Rose 4D, and on Thursday 30th March, the other half and I went CHILD FREE back to the docks and got our Mary Rose experience!

Dive the Mary Rose 4D at Portsmouth Historic Dock Yard

The event was held the day prior to it opening to the public (Friday 31st March 2023) just in time for the Easter holidays where families could visit and make the most of their time off together. 

We arrived and head straight to the Mary Rose, we made our way inside and got to have a thorough look around the museum without the protests of 'I'm hungry' 'I want to sit down' and 'I'm tired' from 2 well walked children. This time we leisurely walked through the museum, re-discovering what had captured our interest and finding out so much more about it. 

Cannons baring the Tudor rose and even the skeleton of the ships dog are all on display in the museum. Then there is the Mary Rose herself. She is kept in a temperature controlled room in the centre and you can view her from many different views thanks to the well designed walk ways on multiple levels. It is a fascinating sight and it really gets you thinking about how they raised the ship and preserved it the way that they have. 

Dive the Mary Rose 4D at Portsmouth Historic Dock Yard

The new Dive the Mary Rose 4D experience is a great way to gain a real appreciation to just how much work, time, money and effort went in to even just finding where the Mary Rose sank, not to mention how one would then bring the Mary Rose back to the surface.

The 4D experience it's self is pretty special, as the film plays you are fed smells, sounds and newly created footage to simulate the diving experience during the biggest ever Maritime excavation and raising narrated by the one and only Ross Kemp.

The cinema set up is very impressive and boasts a curved screen, you are provided 3D glasses as you enter your screening. I especially liked how they added actual bubbles to the ones popping out of the screen. I was pleasantly surprised when I realised I could actually pop them!

Dive the Mary Rose 4D at Portsmouth Historic Dock Yard

Dive the Mary Rose 4D at Portsmouth Historic Dock Yard

The film demonstrates how much work actually went into bringing the Mary Rose back to the surface, once they had found the ship they had to remove all of the sand and shells that had deposited upon it and protected it from the elements. To raise the ship from the depths of the ocean they had to place it on a platform and slowly bring it back up to the surface.

It was fascinating to see just how much work went into bringing the Mary Rose back so that future generations can see her for themselves.

All of the narrators involved in the film, including Ross Kemp have dived on the wreck site. Many of them helped them recover 19,000 unique Tudor artefacts to add to the already impressive collection already housed inside the Mary Rose Museum!

Dive the Mary Rose 4D at Portsmouth Historic Dock Yard

The new Dive the Mary Rose 4D experience is a great reason to visit the docks, or return like we did. 

We still intend on going back and fitting in the other attractions that we haven't had chance to see yet.

Disclaimer: We were invited along to the Mary Rose Musuem and screening event. All views and opinions expressed are completely honest and my own.