Monthly Archives: October 2011

She makes us laugh

Frances writes:

mia has been a little dimond these past cupple of days more then usual it seems when im hapy it rubs of on her she has been doing some seriouse smiling and gigling its so cute she makes me and hassan laugh 2. Hassan has been great like always making me hapy and helping me with everyday things from cleaning to looking after mia so i can have my own time to do my thing he is realy sweet, im more hapy now i have him and we have mia we are a proper family. I went to see my mum today she is stil in the hospital she seems wel but she stil has problems with the pain its sad but at least she gets cumpany mybe not as much as i would like her to have but we al have are own lifes i wil continue to go and see her as much as i can tho just thought i would give u an up date on the past couple of days

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The 50th centile

“Any guesses what she weighs?”
The health visitor from the Family Nurse Partnership is here, measuring Mia on the baby scales.
“She’s massive on them now,” says Frances.
“She’s 9lbs 9ozs,” says the health visitor who, until I have her formal approval, I am calling Jane. “That’s wonderful. 436 grams.”
“So, she’s put on how much?” asks Frances.
“She’s put on 1lb and 3ozs. So she’s put on 19ozs in two weeks which is absolutely wonderful. Look at her now,” says Jane.
Mia is looking straight at me, as if she know she is being photographed, enjoying it.
“She’s not camera shy, is she?” says Frances.

Before the weigh-in we’ve all been downstairs, at a meeting to discuss Frances. There were three professionals: her social worker, her support worker from this place – accommodation for vulnerable young mums – and Jane. Frances has been asked to invite some ‘supporters’ so as well as her and Hassan (and Mia) there was Ruth from the Reclaim Project, and me. I’d never been to one of these meetings before. Are they called ‘case conferences’?

I’d promised everyone that I’d not blog about what we talked about but, I have to say, the idea of all these people discussing the future of this 16 year-old young woman made me feel uncomfortable. I compared this to my own 16 year-old daughter, absorbed in her A-levels, supported by her family, her future her own.

Upstairs Jane is explaining that Mia is doing well, she’s on the 50th centile which means she’s fine, she’s bang on average. Straight off, I like Jane. There’s a positive in everything she says. She’s on Frances’ side, on Mia’s side. Everything is focussed on getting a good outcome for them.

There’s lots of advice, lots to consider. And with Jane it comes thick and fast. I can’t help thinking it’s because she has an overflowing caseload and she needs to be somewhere else. Within ten minutes she covers the heel prick result (it’s normal); GP registration; immunisations; the wheel of healthy-eating, (“…first class proteins can be expensive… how are your finances?”); baby communications (“Look, she’s talking already with her eyes, mouth and arms,”); feeding patterns; and now whether or not the baby is too warm. Phew.

There’s a ‘How-do-you-know-if-your-baby-is-unwell-quiz’, but that’s saved for the next visit.

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The three-hour round trip

Mia was one month old yesterday. “Did you have a party?” I ask, jokingly.

“No, but he wants a big party for her first birthday. He wants to hire a venue and invite lots of people.”

Frances is reading the first four posts of this blog, before it goes live. It’s important I have her agreement. I’ve told her she can write for it as well but, for now, it’s not her priority. “There’s a bit here you should take out,” she says, underlining a short paragraph about their early relationship.

On these last few visits, I’ve been meaning to ask about money and find out how she copes now she’s a mum. “This place is paid for out of housing benefit,” she says, “and I’ll get income support, child benefit and family tax credits, but I haven’t had any of it yet.”

“What do you mean?”

Although Mia is now a month old the benefit system hasn’t caught up. Frances says you can only apply for benefit AFTER the baby is born and so she hasn’t received anything yet. “So how have you managed?” I ask.

“His money,” she says of Hassan, “and my social worker has given me the odd £30 when she is here.”

If the social worker cannot hand over emergency cash personally Frances says she is invited to pick some up from their offices in Longsight, across the other side of town. This reminds me of Barbara, a 70-year-old Zimbabwean asylum seeker I followed a couple of years ago on her bus journeys to pick up £35 in supermarket vouchers. Four bus journeys in all. It took all of one morning.

Later, at home, I plan the proposed route on the local travel website. The 15-minute car journey would take an hour by public transport: three separate bus rides. So, had Frances needed the cash desperately, she would have to pay for six bus journeys and take her month-old daughter on a three-hour round trip for £30. She didn’t do it in the end but relied instead on Hassan’s benefits.

While we are talking Hassan is busy preparing a bottle and a bath for Mia. “She’ll be awake soon,” he says, measuring the formula, checking the temperature of the water. He’s a hands-on dad.

“We have no hot water,” he says, “it’s broken, so we have to use the kettle. They say it’ll be working again on Monday.” It’s Wednesday today.

As a team, Frances and Hassan, change, bathe and feed their daughter.

“Which one?” asks Frances of the two Babygros she has brought from the bedroom.

“What shall we wash first, face or hair?” asks Hassan.

“Why are you asking me? You know what you are doing, you do it every time.”

Before I leave Frances asks how to get onto the website. “It’s ‘’.”

Hassan smiles. “Just that?”

“He’s getting excited,” says Frances.

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