Elvie – A powerful exercise tracker for “better back, abs, control, and yes, even better sex…”

As a midwife, I talk about pelvic floor muscles on a regular basis, and am often the one advising women in pregnancy and postnatally of how important they are to exercise. They have many functions, including: control of continence, acting as a ‘hammock’ to support your abdominal organs and in turn maintaining your core strength/supporting the rest of your body, and of course a big role in sex.

I know, however, that many don’t have the motivation to keep them up (myself included – you don’t have to be pregnant or to have had a baby to do them), and some are not even sure they are doing them right. Elvie is ingenius in that respect, because not only does it make it fun but the sensitivity of the Elvie body means it can pick up pressure in most directions – and even tell you when you’re not quite doing it right! Some people have a tendency to push down instead of pulling up at first – Elvie will let you know if you do.

Pelvic floor strength is important for women at all stages of life; 1:3 have problems in this area whether parents or not. A huge 50% of those women also find this can spread to affect other areas, presenting as back pain. This is something I have had a huge struggle with in the last few years and I am always looking at new ways to improve, so when I heard about this I was even more interested in giving it a go.

I was lucky enough to be given one of the first Elvie‘s on the market this Autumn 2015, after being contacted by the development team due to the nature of my work as a midwife. I have been excited about the idea from the time we first spoke, so it felt like Christmas when it arrived!

First things first, the presentation was great. The packaging is discreet (I’m pretty sure the postman didn’t have a clue); there is nothing to make you think it is anything to do with women, let alone an intimate area! The bag, the box and the contents look really high end, and a little, well, exclusive – not words I would normally use to describe the packages that come to my door.

Elvie is similar in size to a tampon (and has an additional sleeve included to adjust the size yourself), and has a little ‘tail’ that remains outside your body and houses the bluetooth technology (used to communicate with your phone – it will all make sense soon!). It lives inside a little ‘pod’ when not in use, where it is also able to charge via a USB connection (the same as most modern phones so no need for extra wires).

Once activated (by a simple 3 second squeeze in your hand or by your pelvic floor muscles), it is connected to the Elvie app. You download this for free onto your Android or iPhone. After that, it’s pretty straight forward! The app takes you through a quick instructional set up and then you reach the ‘exercises’ – although they’re more like games given their interactive nature.

Elvie - photo from http://www.dezeen.com/2014/11/07/goodwin-hartshorn-chiaro-elvie-vaginal-activity-monitor-pelvic-floor-muscles/Elvie app still from forbes.com

You set your own targets based on the strength Elvie detects in your pelvic floor muscles on that day (so no comparing to a generic strength value which could make some feel unsure). Next, you complete the ‘games’ based on strength, hold, pulsing and more. As you ‘progress’, or depending what level you feel comfortable at each day (it can change regularly, even in the same day), you begin to learn more about how to target the right muscles, and also begin to improve their strength and function. A daily workout can be a swift 5 minutes – although it’s pretty addictive so you may find yourself doing more!

Elvie is coated in medical grade silicone, making it comfortable and really easy to clean – simply run under warm water and pop it back in its little home when it’s dry, ready for next time. The ‘pod’ is small, compact and discreet, and can easily fit in your bag (or even coat pocket) to be taken with you wherever you may find the chance for a quick exercise, or two.

As Elvie develops, Chiaro (the team behind its creation) will be updating and improving its function via the updates to the app – with new exercises and new diagnostics to come that will further improve its performance. I have to say it’s pretty snazzy as it is, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how they can make it even better!

If you are interested in purchasing one for yourself, please get in touch with me here and I will treat you to a lovely discount. For now, I’m off to get some practice!!

 Elvie- screenshot from Google Play app store

 Elvie- screenshot from Google Play app store

Dr Grantly Dick-Read describes his own methods…

Famous for his work around the theories of Fear, Tension and Pain, and his last book ‘Childbirth Without Fear’ (completed the month he passed away in 1959), Dr Grantly Dick-Read talks about how his own ‘Dick-Read Method’ may be described.

Dick-Read Methods quote

Coping and relaxation in labour and birth: There’s more than just breathing… Written by Jenny Gough 25th April 2015

Off the top of your head, how many different methods of coping and relaxation can you think of for use in pregnancy, labour and birth?

If you reached a total of less than seven, read on. If you got more than that, check the list to see if there’s anything you’ve missed (or give yourself a pat on the back)!

Non-pharmacological:

The aim of many of these is to allow the body to relax, and allow the natural processes of labour and birth to occur. Many support or encourage the release of natural hormones (oxytocin and endorphins) and reduce unnecessary stress. For more on this, take a look at my other blog about Overcoming Fear & Worry in Childbirth.

  • Emotional support and advocate (birth partner/doula) – reassurance reduces stress, which reduces tension, which reduces fear
  • Positions/mobility (including birthing ball) – working with your body and baby to find the best position
  • Environment – space to relax and feel comfortable/safe
  • TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) – interrupts pain signals from the lower abdomen, stimulates body’s natural pain killers; endorphins
  • Breathing techniques – relieves tension, aids relaxation to work with body’s natural instincts
  • Deep relaxation – relaxes muscles, relieves tension and allows your body to work as intended
  • Self-hypnosis – enabling yourself to think positively about situations, events and processes, and associate these with positive thoughts
  • Visualisation (colours, processes of birth – opening, waves – ‘happy place’, baby…) – focus the mind on something positive/relaxing to help alleviate stress and anxiety
  • Positive affirmations – positive thinking, empowering statements, positive hypnosis of your thoughts
  • Water – soothes and supports, interferes with pain signals
  • Music – familiarity, focus, relaxation, choose a style that works for you
  • Vocalisation (chanting – baby name, positive affirmation – moaning, low noises, humming, sighs… relaxed throat, relaxed cervix!) – focus, meditation and relaxation
  • Acupressure (discomfort, pain relief, baby’s descent, contractions…) – stimulates and clears energy paths in the body
  • Acupuncture (requires a therapist to be present) – stimulates and clears energy paths in the body
  • Aromatherapy (familiar smells, therapeutic smells) – analgesic, calming, regulating contractions, placenta delivery, anti-anxiety, uplifting.
  • Reflexology – points and reflex areas on the feet correspond to different body areas
  • Massage/light touch (with birth partner, professional or using props) – relieves tension and aids relaxation, allows natural release of oxytocin and endorphins
  • Heat/cold – soothes and stimulates
  • Wash/brush face and teeth – refreshing
  • Food/drink (bite sized, high energy, isotonic, favourites) – energising
  • Distractions (normal routine at home, magazines/TV/walks in hospital) – switches off your conscious brain and allows the primal, subconscious side to get to work…

Top tips from the RCM (Royal College of Midwives)

Overcoming Fear & Worry in Childbirth (by Jenny Gough) – trust and work with your body in labour and birth

Pharmacological:

  • Paracetamol
  • Cocodamol: Paracetamol and low dose codeine phosphate (opioid)
  • Gas and Air/Entonox: (Inhalational – Nitrous Oxide & Oxygen – patient controlled – acts in ~ 20 seconds, on demand)
  • Pethidine/Meptid/Diamorphine: Opioids – injection in leg or buttock – sedative/relaxant – takes 20 min to take effect, lasts 2-4hrs
  • Remifentanil: Opioid – drip in arm – patient controlled – effective within 1-2 minutes, available when required
  • Epidural: Anaesthetic – injected into epidural space between vertebrae – patient controlled or anaesthetist controlled – aims to completely block pain from umbilicus [belly button] down – effective within 20 min of first dose, topped up as needed, wears off within 6hrs of last dose)

Obstetric Anaesthetists Association – information about pain relief options via leaflets and videos

Overcoming Fear & Worry in Childbirth – written by Jenny Gough 27.11.2014

Written by Jenny Gough

One of the most common barriers preventing expectant parents from achieving the birth they want is ‘fear’, but what is fear? Why does it matter? How can it interrupt the physiology of birth? And, how can we combat it?

Read on to find out….

What is Fear?

Fear can present in many ways, from the occasional negative thought to frequent worry or anxiety which may even result in phobia. They often exist due to a previous experience that has negatively impacted upon you. This could be something as simple as watching a traumatic birth scene on TV or hearing a friend retell their ‘horrific experience’, but it can also stem from more obvious events; a previous birth, abuse, mental illness or a medical condition/complication in pregnancy. You may find yourself worried about being pregnant, the labour/birth, the baby or becoming parents, and indeed some feelings are common – you may find that you are not alone!

Why does it matter?

Fear creates tension in our bodies – represented by a variety of symptoms including: tight muscles, sweating, nausea, grinding teeth, fast heart rate, restless legs and repetitive thoughts. If it persists, it can result in pain. When you are worried or fearful in labour it creates tension in the inner circular muscles of the uterus – preventing dilation and descent of baby. The outer, longitudinal muscles are still working to push baby down and draw the lower end of the uterus up over baby and this is where the pain originates; the muscles are working against each other.

This is known as the ‘Fear àTension àPain’ cycle.

Fear also initiates the ‘Fight or Flight’ response – diverting attention to the major organs of the body, and altering hormone levels.

Muscles of the Uterus J Gough 2014

How can it interrupt the physiology of birth?

In order for labour to progress effectively the mind and body need to be as relaxed as possible, allowing the muscles to perform their functions. The inner circular muscles relax and dilate and the outer longitudinal muscles contract to shorten the uterus, and push the baby downwards. When one of these muscles are in the opposite state the uterus may not function as intended meaning contractions may be painful, ineffective or infrequent.

The ‘fight or flight’ response diverts attention away from the uterus, stopping labour until the mother is safe (an animal’s labour can often halt if feeling threatened, only to start again when safe). Heightened levels of ‘stress hormones’ (e.g. adrenaline) can reduce the ‘labour hormone’ oxytocin (produces contractions and also known as the ‘love/mothering hormone’ – present during sex, intimacy and breastfeeding) resulting in less frequent and/or effective contractions. Less contractions = slower labour or no labour!

How can we overcome fear?

Firstly, in order to overcome your fears or worries, you must uncover them. You may not be aware that you have any, but once explored effectively some may surface. It is then important to explore these fears – where they come from, why they remain, the worst case scenario and alternatives – and learn coping mechanisms to overcome and release them.

In order to this, it is important to talk openly and honestly with your birth partner, and maybe your care provider. This can be done alone if you feel happy to, or with the help of a birth preparation and/or hypnobirthing mentor trained in exploring thoughts and feelings in the childbirth period. They will guide you to discover more about yourselves and each other by exploring fears both individually and together. They will then help to create a plan tailored to your own needs and wishes, and support you to find techniques right for you.

The ultimate aim is to reach a point at which you are able to recognise worry and tension, and then relax and cope through this. A number of techniques can be used, including self-help methods and also those guided by a mentor or therapist.

Think about what normally helps you to relax: A hot bath? A massage? Listening to music? A cuddle? Low lighting? Familiar surroundings?

Then try to think of ways in which they can be used to help you during pregnancy, labour and birth. These methods can be the key to maintaining focus during the most difficult times, and preventing fears from overcoming you and interrupting your body’s natural efforts.

A mentor may identify further techniques to suit your own coping styles and preferences, such as: deep relaxation/self-hypnosis, visualisation, breathing techniques, support from your birth partner, acupressure, massage, a nurturing environment, positions, aromatherapy and much more.

By exploring your thoughts and developing coping and relaxation techniques that work for you, you will already have increased your chances of achieving the birth you want!

For further information on this article or available courses, please contact Jenny on:

Tel: 07510436626 or Email: birthrockslondon@gmail.com

You can also take a look at the Facebook Page ‘Birth ROCKS London’ or websites ‘Bumps, Births, Babies and Brains’ and ‘Birth ROCKS Academy’.

BRA Birth Experts TALK #5 – Jenny Gough, Midwife and Birth ROCKS Mentor

This week I am absolutely honoured to have been interviewed for the Birth ROCKS Academy (BRA) Birth Experts TALK series, amongst some very big names in Midwifery and Birth!
The series is running between November and January, and is set to publish 2 interviews per week with some inspirational people – I’m over the moon to have been asked.

Here’s what I had to say about all things pregnancy, birth and beyond (you can also click through to the website using the link at the bottom of this blog post):
IMG_537006593999

Name:
Jenny Gough

Location:
London, UK

Name of your business/group/your role/job:
Qualified Midwife, Birth ROCKS & Baby ROCKS Mentor, Positive Birth ROCKS Forum Facilitator, Infant Feeding Support, Perinatal Mental Health Awareness & Advice

Why do you love all things pregnancy birth and baby?
I’ve been fascinated by science and nature since I can remember, and no matter how many people I meet in the childbirth period I still marvel at the fact 2 people can make a whole new unique one! We often find ourselves overwhelmed by technology and advancements in Medicine yet the childbirth process still cannot be matched; I think this deserves the utmost respect. I love the fact there is always something to learn, and also the relationships formed through supporting people at this time.

What brought you to this line of work?
I decided I wanted to train as a Midwife when I was in my early teens (after a fair few family experiences and watching many Midwifery related TV programmes!), and after working as a zoo keeper for a few years I commenced my degree. Unfortunately, I began to suffer from long term back problems which prevented me from performing my clinical role, so I decided to start looking for alternatives that allowed to me to continue working with women and families in the childbirth period.

I came across Birth ROCKS & Baby ROCKS and suddenly everything clicked – it was the way forward! Three areas of special interest for me as a Midwife were Preparation, Perinatal (Antenatal & Postnatal) Mental Health and Infant Feeding, and I now get to work in all of these areas, learning more every day! I have made some fantastic and unbelievable connections since deciding to ‘go it alone’, and have presented with opportunities I had never dreamed would be possible.

What does your work involve and why do you feel it’s so important?
I support expectant parents and their birth partners to prepare for, cope with and enjoy pregnancy, birth and parenthood. This is through Childbirth Preparation and Hypnobirthing courses (Birth ROCKS) and Parent Craft classes (Baby ROCKS). I also host free support groups for all those with an interest or experience in pregnancy, birth and beyond – these are twice a month (Positive Birth ROCKS Forums) and in association with The Positive Birth Movement. Early this year I became a member of a steering group too; we are working on a national campaign to raise awareness around Perinatal Mental Health – a health issue that is all too often overlooked and not given the attention it desperately needs.

There is a lot of stigma attached to both childbirth and mental health, and I want to provide people with a positive yet honest place to turn to and find support. Along with that, I am developing my interests in Infant Feeding, and will shortly be launching an antenatal and postnatal preparation and support package!

Although I firmly believe that as humans our bodies have evolved to successfully child-bear and child-birth, many people have unfortunately lost faith in their abilities. We are also continuing to ‘evolve’ by overcoming the laws of nature and surviving in situations we perhaps wouldn’t have previously. Many women are not given the opportunity to witness and assist pregnancy and birth as they would have a few generations ago as we now move further from our families, into areas where communities are not as strong as they once were.

Our transient lives mean for many the only experience we have of these times are passed on by friends, family, TV, films, magazines – sources other than reality. Stories are often tailored to entertain their audience, and rarely does a happy, non eventful pregnancy or birth make for good viewing and listening. In turn, this has lead to a culture of hearsay, horror stories and stigma attached to the childbirth process and can result in many expectant parents being misinformed prior to their own experiences.

It is for this reason that I do what I do. I want to provide people with the opportunity to prepare for their own experiences, make their own choices and be ready to face whatever may come. I am creating a local, supportive network, a ready made community so to speak, for people to turn to when they reach this time in their lives. I want there to be somewhere for people to turn to when they have a silly question, when they need a friend, when they are faced with judgemental attitudes, difficult situations or negativity – a home from home, a place to drink tea, eat cake and laugh! I also want them to have an individual source of support to guide them along their own journeys, to assist them in making the choices right for them and preparing them to cope with and enjoy whatever they experience. No two people have the same story to tell, and I want them to feel respected for the paths they choose.

What is the most important piece of advice you would give a pregnant woman?
Trust your instincts – you know your body and your baby best! Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself, and those around you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions – no matter how silly you think they are. Avoid the horror stories, and find an antenatal course that’s right for you. There are a wealth of choices out there, but pick one with a philosophy you agree with.

The childbirth period is traditionally an event that unites families and communities, but unfortunately these days many people have moved away and don’t have the relationships they once would have with family and friends. Seek out a local community of support and friendship – this may be a friend in a similar situation, or a new group for expectant parents, but one in which you feel comfortable. Don’t allow anyone to pressure you into doing something you don’t feel comfortable with, and don’t be afraid to ask if you are unsure – no matter what the situation, you ALWAYS have a choice!

What is the most important piece of advice you would give a new mum?
Accept any help you are offered, and sleep when your baby sleeps! The Midwives are NOT coming round to inspect your house… I have had so many women tell me how worried they are about the Midwife seeing a messy home, but that is honestly the last thing we are looking at when we visit new families! We are there for you and your baby, if we see an immaculate home we are probably more suspicious than when we see one covered in baby clothes with closed curtains…

Those first few days and weeks can be intense – so concentrate on the important things: your health and baby’s health. Babies will determine their own sleep patterns, and during this time the easiest thing to do is to follow theirs! You will feel a lot better to have had an hour’s sleep, than to have cleaned the house. You are all learning – whether it’s your first, second, third or 6th baby – and new skills take time for you both to develop. Whether it’s feeding, bathing, sleeping or just managing your time, be kind to yourself and know that you are not alone – it WILL get better! Your life will be different to how it was before baby arrived, and it is a good idea to talk about this before you have the baby.

You will most likely experience numerous sleepless nights and may be learning how to feed your baby – and the energy taken by these two factors are often underestimated by new parents. Your body and your baby’s body are built to survive the tricky times, but if there’s ever something you’re not sure of just ask. If it’s the middle of the night – call the Postnatal Ward at your hospital! You will be glad you did when you realise it may have prevented another sleepless night.

Do you have any great tips for childbirth or a ‘must have?’
The right birth partner! It is so easy to expect you partner or close friend/relative to be the one to accompany you in birth, but have you actually spoken about it or thought about whether they’re really the right person to support you? You may want to choose more than one, so that they can relieve each other or fulfil different roles. Or, if you would feel better knowing the people who will be caring for you in labour, consider a Doula (kind of like a professional birth partner) or Independent Midwife.

Remember you will want your birth partner to be with you throughout when you are feeling like you need support, and you will not know how long it will last until it happens! You need someone with mental and physical stamina, who can protect your environment and your choices, who knows you inside out and who doesn’t irritate you in stressful situations! If all you need is for someone to believe in you and support you, but they are too afraid or don’t think it is necessary, you will soon realise the effect it can have.

The ultimate birth partner will respect and advocate for you, protect and nurture your birthing environment, work alongside you to help you cope and relax, believe in you, and keep you calm if things deviate from the expected path. You both need to feel comfortable in the situation, and need to be honest with each other about your emotions, wishes and choices.

The events of the ‘big day’ will stay with you forever, and you will experience the entire journey as a team. Choosing the right person can make the difference between a positive or a negative experience, no matter what the outcome, so it worth getting it right!

What is your personal birth philosophy?
You can do it. Humans have been giving birth for long enough to get it right, and we have faith in the rest of the animal kingdom to do it, so why should we be any different?! Turn down your thoughts and allow your primal brain to take control – it knows what it’s doing.

What are your thoughts on preparing for childbirth?
I would definitely recommend doing an antenatal childbirth/parenting preparation course TOGETHER, as you you will both be needed as much as the other. A good course will give you the chance to think about the things you may not have been aware of otherwise, learn more about yourself, each other and how your body works with you, and develop coping and relaxation strategies that work for YOU. Feeling positive and confident before going into labour can greatly increase your chances of achieving the experiences you want – keep and open mind but be aware of the things that matter to you.

Your top tips for getting back to work after birth and working around your family?
Talk to your family, be honest about what you want from the situation. Develop a plan that will allow you to get a good balance between home and work, and only go back when you are ready. If you need to go back sooner than you would like to, make sure you are leaving baby with someone you trust and know they will have fun with. Think of all the things you can still do when you are not at work to continue nurturing your little one as you have been doing. If you feel that you need to go back to work sooner than you thought, make the decision that’s right for you. If you are happy, baby will be happy. They may appear upset the first time you leave, but they are very resilient and can understandably be nervous of new situations. With time you will both get used to the situation. If you don’t feel like you can go back to your previous role – don’t be afraid to look for something new. Many women start new ventures at this time, and if you want it to work it will. There are countless new opportunities out there – think about the things you enjoy doing and research roles in this area. Consider changing your working hours – perhaps part time or flexible working if it’s an option – or look into working for yourself. Set up is not as complicated as you think! Ultimately, make the decision that is right for you and your family, and concentrate on the positives.

You can also take a look at the official post here…

What’s On 4 Me Awards 20th November 2014

Last week I was privileged to attend the What’s On 4 Me Awards ceremony at Earls Court.

I reached the finals of the ‘Best Socialising, Networking or Support Group’ Award – nominated and voted by those who have come to meet me through the services and support I provide.

It was an absolute honour to be beside so many fantastic people and see a selection of the best activities on offer throughout the country. I was overwhelmed by the support shown for me in the voting stages – I still don’t know who originally nominated me but I want to say a HUGE thank you for such an incredible experience!

The awards highlighted to me the importance of providing excellent, accessible services to adults – something that is often overlooked. Many of the families I have met through my work have said that they find it so difficult to find something they can join or attend because of financial reasons, the feasibility of getting there or the fear of judgement from others. It has only motivated me to try harder and continue providing bigger, better opportunities for expectant and new parents in London!

I was also delighted to be able to see YogaBellies and their founder Cheryl MacDonald win both Best Sports, Health or Fitness Group (NI & Scotland) and Most Inspirational Coach, Instructor or Tutor (NI & Scotland)

Here are some photos from the event:

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Professional event photos:

#PNDHour 9th July hosted by me!! Chosen topic: Infant Feeding & The Impacts Upon Mental Health

Breast or Bottle? Which is best for your mental health?

So I have been honoured with the task of hosting tonight’s #PNDHour – as fantastic idea born from the mind of the inspiring Rose Wren. She created the great @PNDandMe (which is also now on Facebook), and has provided at least hundreds of people with the chance to access online peer support with just the mutter of the tag ‘#PNDchat’. She is also the founder of the new project ‘Youngness’, which can also be found on social media. This project aims to promote awareness and support young mothers and fathers between the age of 14-25 affected by perinatal mental health.

As a qualified midwife (who has recently been forced to take an ‘early retirement’ due to back problems) and now antenatal educator (more details in my ‘about.me’ section), I have a passion for advocating and supporting women and their families during and beyond the childbirth period. This experience has fuelled my specific interests in Perinatal Mental Health (or Maternal & Paternal Mental Health/Family Mental Health – the nation is yet to settle on a name!) and Infant Feeding (the physiology and the support of which, and yes, breastfeeding, bottle feeding and everything in between), and this is why I have chosen said topics for tonight’s chat.

With a mere 7 years experience in the NHS, and a few more outside, I have witnessed and experienced a whole wealth of differing services, professionals and attitudes regarding these areas. In fact, I am yet to find two people that think the same, no matter how good their intentions! It has highlighted to me that no matter how much we have tried so far, the services and support we provide are nowhere near up to scratch, and there are many women and families failed every day by the systems we have put in place. Equally, I have seen a fair few situations where we have excelled in our care, and our ‘clients’ have benefited from our knowledge, experience and skills. For me, though, it will never be enough until we are satisfying the needs of 100% of the nation – and as I imagine that is near impossible, we should never stop trying!

To input the perspective of one (former) midwife (me), here are a few of the reasons I feel we may be struggling to meet the oh so important demands of everyone around us:
1. The NHS does not have the staff, which in turn means time, to provide the care needed.
2. The communication skills of trainee staff are not assessed well enough in some areas.
3. You can teach a skill, but you can’t teach a passion. Not everyone is as focussed on mental health and infant feeding as we would like to believe!
4. There is not an equal focus on physical and mental health – resulting in mental health often taking a back seat.
5. There is not enough awareness around the impact of poor detection rates of mental health issues or poor infant feeding.

But tonight is not about what I think – it’s about you. We’re here to offer support, share information and experiences, signpost and most importantly learn. So, here’s a few questions to get you started:
– Do you think your infant feeding experience and choices impacted upon your mental health before or after childbirth?
– Were you offered enough support with infant feeding and your mental health?
– Do you feel the way you chose/are going to choose to feed your baby will improve your mental health?
– What advice would you recommend to other mums regarding mental health and infant feeding?
– What would you like to see changed with mental health and infant feeding services?
– Did you feel pressured to feed your baby a certain way and did this affect how you felt before or afterwards?

I honestly look forward to this chat every week. It has had one of the biggest impacts on my life since leaving Midwifery than anything else I have done (on a par with setting up my own business!). It has opened so many new doors to me, enabled me to meet a fantastically huge network of the most amazing, supportive people – and friends! – and to Rosey I am extremely grateful. It has made me realise I do not always have to hide how I am feeling, and brightens up my Wednesday evening every week. Thank you for creating this fantastic #PNDFamily, I really do believe that #TogetherWeAreStronger.

And that, readers, was my first ever (successfully published) blog post! Phew!! (Completed 8.01pm… not bad for an 8pm deadline, after having written one a day in advance then tragically losing it to the Black Hole of Internet Death!)