Guest Post For Fathers Day ‘A Difficult Birth; a Dad’s Perspective’ by Mark Bullows

I have had seven babies in total, only one of them was a normal birth. My eldest was diagnosed with a heart condition during pregnancy. Of the five I’ve had with Claire (may partner) we lost our first due to prematurity and then went on to have four more premature births with Claire spending much of her pregnancies threatening to go into labour.

 There are three that really stand out on the subject of a dad’s perspective, my eldest son with his heart condition, my eldest surviving baby with Claire, and our youngest daughter who was Claire’s VBA2C (that’s vaginal birth after two sections). 

 When my first wife was 20 weeks pregnant with our first baby we went along for the scan – excited expectant parents like everyone else. Then we had that classic silent moment, where you know something is wrong. We went round to see my wife’s consultant and he explained that they thought they had found something wrong with the heart. He told us that there wasn’t anything we could do until the birth but they would run tests to investigate the extent of the problem. Throughout the remainder of the pregnancy, the hospitals looking after my wife and baby couldn’t do enough to make sure we were fully informed, answered every question we had. At 38 weeks they induced my wife, scheduled a theatre and had an ambulance on standby. When our son was born she had enough time to look at him before he was rushed off. I followed behind and got to the hospital with enough time to have some paperwork thrust at me to sign before he was taken into theatre. When they brought my son out of theatre and I got to see him properly for the first time I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: he was covered in tubes and wires. Despite how awful it all was, we felt prepared and were able to cope with it. I really have nothing but praise for the hospitals.

Three babies later and despite what we’ve been through, me with my son and losing our first daughter, Claire and I were happy expecting another daughter. She had an easy pregnancy and we had no reason to think anything would go wrong. As she got to the late 20s Claire had started to track her Braxton Hicks. She didn’t get them often but they were quite strong and regular when she did. She even had an overnight stay because of them. So at 31 weeks when Claire went off to B&Q with her dad and a notebook and pen to write her Braxton Hicks in, we didn’t really think much of it. After an hour I got a call saying to get myself ready and be waiting with her green notes.

Claire had had a scan that morning and had been having contractions during the scan which staff said were nothing to be concerned about, so we did not think they’d be too worried. They sent us around to the waiting room and gave her a sample pot. After Claire cried out during a contraction, one of the midwives came around and said “was that your pain?” and she got us straight into a delivery room. Even strapped onto the monitor, with a drip set up to stop the contractions and steroids already administered we didn’t think anything would come of it. We were laughing together, I’ve never been forgiven for coming back from the shop with a coat full of chocolate and drink and opening it as (Claire describes) like a dodgy watch salesman and asking if she wanted anything followed by “Oh you can’t can you? You’re nil-by-mouth!”

After an hour the doctor came back to examine Claire to see if anything had changed. He just calmly said “we need to get this baby out now” and suddenly the room was full of people. Claire had her nail varnish cleaned, her jewellery removed, her drip capped off, three consent forms explained to her which she had to sign and her clothes changed for theatre, all at the same time. Neither of us really knew what was going on and, as it was a crash and she was having a general anaesthetic, all I could do was sit outside with her mum. I saw our daughter in passing as she was wheeled past on her way to the neonatal unit. They took a long time to do the operation and Claire took a long time to come round but no one explained what was happening or why things had gone like they did. Really my son’s birth should have been the hardest of the two, but the lack of information in this one made it the hardest.

Claire went on to have another section under similar circumstances but slower and things felt better having already been there.

Then Claire got pregnant again and she decided as it would be her last she was going to get a Doula and she would try VBAC. The team that Claire was under were brilliant, they were very supportive and came up with a plan that we were all happy with. We met some lovely people along the way who agreed with our decision and Claire felt confident going into the birth. Sadly on the day we had a team who were determined she wasn’t going to get the birth she wanted. There was a lot of shouting, they forced her into stirrups which she knew was bad for her because she has pelvic issues. The midwife and doula tried to stop them but they were yelling at me to hold my wife still. It’s very difficult as a man when you see the woman you love in distress but being told by medical staff that you need to do something that is going to make her worse. I wish I had understood better before the birth why she kept saying “Mark, remember, stirrups bad” because for a long time it has been a source of guilt for me, even though Claire says it’s unnecessary. Our daughter was born APGAR 9, pink and screaming after 6 minutes of unaided pushing.

I know I could have done things differently to support Claire better and I think that would have helped how I felt afterwards, so here is my advice to expectant dads:

 1. Take an interest, there’s a good chance she knows why she is saying what she’s wants.

2. Memorise her birth plan, get her to tell you what is non-negotiable, what you need to know about any health issues.

3. If you can, get a doula, as they’re an extra brain to remember these things and it’s their speciality anyway so it comes naturally to them. If you do get a doula, attend antenatal sessions with her too, you can work as an amazing team to support your partner if you do.

4. Don’t be scared to question the staff, if there genuinely is no time you will know it, but make sure they explain to you both afterwards. Don’t be scared to tell them no either, practice your best authoritative voice saying “She said no. She does not consent to that!” It is always the mother’s word that goes, even in birth and if she doesn’t want something done to her that’s her decision.

I learnt a little acronym that helps: TBRAINS

  • Time/ Talk: do we have time/ can we talk?
  • Benefits: why do you want to do this?
  • Risks: what could happen if you do that?
  • Alternatives: what else can you do?
  • Instinct: what does my instinct tell me (or hers, she even has the say over you, sorry)?
  • Nothing: what if we do nothing and just wait to see what happens?
  • Smile! It’ll help keep you calm, the staff are more likely to listen to you and calmness is good for a birthing mother as adrenaline can complicate the labour.

I highly recommend antenatal classes too. Claire dragged me to one when she was expecting our youngest. I’ve had 6 babies before, what can I learn from an antenatal class? Actually I found it really useful.

The last thing to remember, debrief afterwards, especially if the birth was particularly difficult. Whether that’s down the pub with your mates, your Doula, or you make an appointment to see a Supervisor of Midwives (amazing people, if doc says no, ask the SoM!) Don’t try to hide it from your partner either, you are in it together not separately, you don’t have to be strong for her, you need to be with her.

Support group links

Birth Trauma Association –


Living with Ménière’s Disease

Never heard of it? Neither had I 18 months ago, it is a “silent” disease. Now it’s a daily presence in my life.

The Ménière’s Society ( describes it as “a long term, progressive condition affecting the balance and hearing parts of the inner ear. Symptoms are acute attacks of vertigo (severe dizziness), fluctuating tinnitus, increasing deafness, and a feeling of pressure in the ear. The incidence is between 1:1000 and 1:2000 of the population; depending on the source. Both sexes are equally affected and it can occur at any age. About 7-10% of sufferers have a family history of the disease.”

  • Ever been swimming and had the feeling you have water in your ear you can’t shake? That’s what I have every day. Some days it’s so bad it feels like my head is leaning to one side with the weight.
  • Ever got up from sitting down and felt dizzy? Had one too many drinks and the room wobbles? In the midst of an attack that’s what it feels like permanently. Add to that a hangover style headache and you’re there.
  • Had ringing in the ear when you’ve had your MP3 player too loud? Yep once again pretty much every day, varying degrees depending on where in the cycle I am. Sometimes so bad I want to claw my ear off. Thank god for audio books at night to distract me! Ménière’s causes damage to the hair receptors in the inner ear.
  • Increasing deafness. I am that annoying person who says “Pardon” pretty much at least once a conversation. See me turning my head so my left side is facing you? That’s because the right has a “moderate to severe hearing loss” It is believed this is caused by an increase in pressure in the endolymphatic space.

No-one knows what causes it.  Mine came on suddenly.  I had been feeling a bit dizzy on and off for a few days. Suddenly I was sat at my desk and felt sick, next thing I knew I couldn’t even lift my head off the toilet seat or even open my eyes I was that dizzy.  Work ended up calling an ambulance as I couldn’t move. *Embarrasing*

It took me 18 months from that day to get a diagnosis with attacks averaging every couple of months.

Symptoms vary for each sufferer. The main symptoms are unpredictable attacks of vertigo with nausea and vomiting. Attacks can last from a few minutes to 24 hours. There may also be tinnitus, hearing loss and a feeling of fullness in the affected ear.  Usually only one ear is affected (in my case the right), but up to 50% of sufferers may develop the condition in both ears.

My symptoms are a feeling of pressure in my ear which steadily gets worse, along with “louder” tinnitus. Followed by increasing dizzy spells finally culminating in a severe headache and not being able to walk in a straight line.  Strangely once I vomit the symptoms abate within hours.

There is no known cure for Ménière’s. I have anit-vertigo and “travel sickness” tablets that I carry round with me permanently. The hearing loss is too far gone in my case so inevitably I will end up with a hearing aid.  When I was first told this I had visions of the massive hearing aids that you used to see elderly men wear, but I am reliably informed they are a lot smaller now!



For more information on Ménière’s contact the Ménière’s Society

Hearing aid picture from



Feature – Millfield Autos

I would think it’s pretty safe to say that most car owners in Peterborough have at one time or another popped into Millfield Autos. A veritable treasure trove for amateur mechanics and car geeks.

photo 1 (1)

The History behind the store 

Husseinaly Jessa Damani set up the store along with his two brothers Hassan and Hyder in 1985. They are still in the original building nearly 30 years later. Sadly in 2010 General Manager Husseinaly Jessa Damani passed away, as a recognition of his legacy his family was presented with the Pride of Peterborough Award in 2012.

They are now an established retailer offering a wide selection of car parts and accessories throughout Cambridgeshire. They also offer delivery to over 1500 garages in the greater Peterborough area going as far as Spalding, Huntingdon and Godmanchester.

With over 1,200 likes on Facebook and 360+ followers on Twitter, MAP are using social media to it’s full potential in engaging with customers.

Currently over 700 retail customers are signed up to the website to receive personalised emails which are used to send out in store offers and info. They also receive up to 12 different vouchers to be used in store.

They have also created their own winter checklist for customers who want to ensure they are safe in winter. The downloadable PDF can be found here

Guest Post – When Mumsnet Norfolk Local met Emma Healey

Reblogged with the kind permission of Nicola Miller, Editor of Mumsnet Norfolk.


The book the whole country will be reading this summer – and it’s written by a Norfolk author

First-time novelist Emma Healey was courted with tinned peaches and forget-me-nots when her book sparked a bidding war, took her first careers advice from the film Clueless, and has fallen in love with Norwich.

Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth is missing. Picture: Martin Figura
Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth is missing. Picture: Martin Figura

Nine publishers vied for Emma Healey’s first novel and next week the national launch of the book, already being hailed a masterpiece, takes place in Norwich.

Emma always assumed she would have to beg publishers to take her book but instead looked on, bemused, as they competed for her attention.

Publishers wooed her by staging elaborate meetings, based around the themes of Elizabeth Is Missing.

Penguin, which eventually won the right to publish the book, gave her hand-written notes from staff at all levels of the business who had loved the book. Another publisher sent her an old-fashioned suitcase packed with some of the possessions and passions, ranging from pearls to tinned peaches, of her heroine Maud. Then there was the meeting she arrived at, to find Maud’s favourite music being played, missing woman posters all over the building directing her to a room full of forget-me-nots. “I was nearly in tears,” admitted Emma.

Elizabeth Is Missing has already been sold and translated around the world and has just been voted pick of the month by library staff across the USA.

It tells the story of an elderly woman whose friend vanishes. Maud sets out to solve the mystery of her missing friend, while battling her own dementia, and discovers unsettling parallels with the disappearance of her sister, half a century earlier.

Emma is just 29, but her ability to write with the voice of an old woman whose mind is being destroyed by dementia has been hailed as astounding and likened to Mark Haddon’s portrayal of an autistic boy in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

“It’s incredibly flattering,” said Emma. “Reading him helped me realise you could write a mystery without having a detective.”

When we meet, in a Norwich café, the first thing she notices is how our window table will be wonderful for people watching when she is old. So does she have a particular affinity with much older people?

She says some of the inspiration for the book came from her grandmothers.

One is severely affected by dementia, the other had always been good at telling stories and anecdotes. Emma wrote down the stories, both to have something to remember her grandmother by, and as something to talk about when she visited her in hospital as she lay dying.

Her other grandmother no longer knows who Emma is, but was able to read an early draft of part of the book. “She said she didn’t like it because it was too real,” said Emma, who took the criticism as an indication that the novel was beginning to work.

Emma also scoured manuals about caring for people with dementia and admitted: “I even went with a friend to visit a relative once and sat taking notes. Isn’t that awful?!”

Self-deprecating, friendly and funny, Emma still seems shocked by the runaway success of Elizabeth is Missing.

She was working as a web administrator at the University of East Anglia when the fairytale began.

She had been writing since childhood but never saw it as a career option.

“I told people that I was going to be a litigator. I really had very little idea of what a litigator was, but I had heard the term in Clueless. The dad was a litigator and it seemed like a proper grown-up job!” said Emma.

In fact she left school at 16 with very few qualifications and went on to art school, where she studied for degree in book art which included crafts such as bookbinding and embossing. “But I was terrible at that too!” she said.

She found a job in marketing, but continued writing in secret and applied to do a creative writing course at the University of East Anglia.

“I didn’t admit to having any aspirations because it was hugely embarrassing,” said Emma. “I felt like it was a dirty secret that I was going home and writing things. I would say I was going to do an MA and hope they wouldn’t ask about the subject!

“It’s like saying you want to be a pop star, or astronaut. You’re supposed to grow out of it! Plenty of people say ‘I’m writing a book.’ I didn’t want to be that person.”

She found her voice alongside her character, Maud. “Until then everything seemed to be about a woman in her 20s living in London and it was so boring! I didn’t want to read it myself, so why anyone else would…!”

“I thought writing about dementia would be cathartic and imagined that if I knew enough about it, it would become less scary, but now I’m absolutely terrified of my parents getting it.”

So has she discovered anything positive about old age?

“Maybe you can get away with bad behaviour a bit, but although I don’t want to be depressing about it, not really. I look forward to a time when you are not constantly thinking about the way you look, but maybe you still are…”

She is discovering that being a successful writer demands an unsettling mix of being intensely solitary and hugely gregarious, of meticulous planning and unimagined chains of events.

To keep track of the many strands of a mystery straddling half a century, being investigated by a heroine with a disintegrating personality, meant her Norwich home was strewn with plans and maps of her imagined house and town. She used different fonts for each period and character, to keep track of the many voices.

And as the book took shape she submitted parts of it as her MA dissertation. It was put forward for an award and a literary agent involved in the judging process asked to see it when it was finished. It was sold in Canada before it even had a title.

Since then Elizabeth is Missing has been sold to 20 countries including China, Brazil and Turkey and translated into 18 languages. Television rights have been snapped up and the American deal included Emma’s second book too, which is something of a problem looming beyond the whirlwind of launches and interviews, tours and signings.

“It’s not even started. It’s a seriously vague idea in my head!” admitted Emma.

The UK launch of Elizabeth is Missing is in the Norwich branch of Waterstones on Tuesday, June 3.

Emma has fallen in love with her adopted home city. “Norwich is where the book really became what it is,” she said. “It’s so nice. How can one ever leave? It’s such a great place. I was such a London-centric person I didn’t leave London to live until I was 25 and I came here and it was like ‘Oh this is why people don’t live in London!’ Norwich is amazing. It’s busy enough. It’s just hipster enough. You can get good coffee and there are interesting shops but it’s not unbalanced. You don’t feel it’s too studenty or too local. And there are about a million writers in Norwich so it’s not difficult to find other writers to talk to.”

Having found Norwich, she is slightly reluctant to leave.

“You know that bit when you get back from a holiday and think ‘that was lovely’ that’s my favourite moment. Most of the time I’m actually away I’m anxious!” said Emma. “I’m quite nervous about it all – and scared I’m going to swear in a television interview!”

Emma has another reason for launching the book in Norwich’s Waterstones. She not only had part-time jobs in branches in both London and Norwich but also met her boyfriend, a fellow UEA student, in Norwich’s Royal Arcade.

“He was a history student. I was a Christmas temp.” Now the store is a Jamie’s restaurant and the couple returned for an anniversary dinner.

“I never ever said I was writing when I worked there, but I did use to daydream about where on the shelf my book would go!”

What did not cross her mind was that her book would be destined for a place among the best sellers!

• Elizabeth is Missing is being published by Penguin and the UK edition will be launched at Waterstones in Norwich on Tuesday, June 3 at 7.30pm. The free event includes refreshments and the opportunity to buy a signed copy of Elizabeth is Missing – recommended retail price £12.99.

• Emma will also be appearing in the book department at Jarrold in Norwich on Tuesday, June 17 at 6pm. Tickets are £3, including a glass of wine, with £3 redeemable off purchases of her book.

This first appeared in the Eastern Daily Press on May 27th 2014.

Feature – Peterborough Voices

If someone says the word “Choir” to me I am transported back in time to my school days, stood on a bench at the back singing “Water of Life” and “Sing Hosannah”.  Celine Dion I am not.

So when I was invited to the Housewarming Party of Peterborough Voices, the women’s choir, at their new home of Broadway Theatre, I’ll admit I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

I was pleasantly surprised. Starting with a rendition of “Moon River”, they moved onto “Wind Beneath My Wings” (one of my favourite songs ever) which actually made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Finishing with “The Trolley Song” which I had heard before but never actually realised what the name was.

We were then treated to two songs by Peterborough Youth Choir which was enchanting, finishing with an impressive song from the Peterborough Male Voice Choir.

Peterborough Voices were formed in 2011 after the “Sing for Life” project, where PMVC were asked to help set up a women’s choir.  Hoping to originally recruit 40 women to perform at a concert for Cancer Research, 220 applicants turned up at the auditions.  120 women sang at the concert with the late Bernie Nolan and afterwards wanted to continue singing together. Peterborough Voices was born!


Directed by William Prideaux (who I couldn’t stop watching, it fascinates me directing and conducting) they are now preparing for their latest show “Saturday Night at the Movies” on Saturday 5th July at the Broadway Theatre.


All three choirs, accompanied by the 46-piece Peterborough Festival Orchestra will be performing a salute to Hollywood’s greatest composers, with music from Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, James Bond and many more.  If the songs are anything like the taster from the Housewarming Party then this promises to be an amazing night.


They are also starting “Sing for Life” from scratch in June. 40 women are wanted of all ages and experience to sing in the charity concert in aid of Sue Ryder’s Hospice appeal. Check out the website for further details.

Pictures courtesy of Peterborough Sings! website


When Mumsnet Local met Sid.

One of the perks of Mumsnet Local is the opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t necessarily get to meet in every day life.

Mumsnet Norfolk & Suffolk recently got the chance to meet Actor and CBeebies present Sid Sloane at a press day and ask him some questions posed by Mumsnetters and their families. And yes the biscuit question was asked, well this is Mumsnet after all…..



Check out the blog post with the lovely Sid.

£2.5m Lakeside @ Ferry Meadows opens its doors

Those of you who have been to Ferry Meadows lately will have seen work being done on the old Watersports Centre.  The last time I went the walls were up and all the glass windows were being put in!

Nene Park Trust sent out a press release this week with lots of information regarding the new opening.


On Friday 11 April, following a £2.5 million investment from Nene Park Trust and a year of extensive works to the building and surrounding landscape, the new Lakeside @ Ferry Meadows will open its doors to Park visitors.

Lakeside provides a hub for activity and relaxation within Ferry Meadows as the home for Nene Outdoors, a new watersports and outdoor activity venture and Lakeside Kitchen & Bar, a contemporary dining and function venue at the Park.

Anthony Chapman Director of Nene Outdoors said “With access to the beautiful Gunwade Lake, Nene Outdoors caters for many activities on and off the water. This includes hire of kayaks, canoes, row boats and pedaloes, group activities such as raft building, land games and orienteering and structured courses in sailing, windsurfing and kayaking. Nene Outdoors also boasts a brand new 60 seater conference and meeting space with projector, air conditioning and fantastic views of the lake providing a professional environment for away days and meetings. With a campsite and outdoor clothing and equipment shop Nene Outdoors has something for everyone.”

Lakeside Kitchen & Bar will be headed by Raj Regmi of Regmi & Sons, who many will know as the operators of Ferry Meadows Café, and Mike Lucy of the prestigious London catering firm, Company of Cooks.  This exciting partnership will offer a new lakeside eating experience for Park visitors as well as the perfect setting for functions such as parties, weddings and conferences.

To add to the exciting facilities that will be on offer at Lakeside, a leading cycle hire facility will also be provided, with the target launch date being late Spring.

As well as introducing new faces and facilities the complex is also home to long-standing Park friends; Lakeside Sailing Club, Peterborough Sailability, Nene Bowmen and, more recent addition, Peterborough Adapted Cycling Scheme operated by Vivacity.  These groups are working closely with the new businesses to provide a variety of leisure opportunities for all abilities and backgrounds.

To get a feel for all that Lakeside has to offer why not visit the park on Saturday 10 May when Lakeside will be hosting a Family Fun day. There will be opportunities to watch and take part in various activities whatever your experience and ability as well as lots of family friendly offers. For more details about the event please visit the Nene Park Trust website, drop into the Visitor Centre or contact the office nearer the time.

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