Sunday, 15 March 2015

Not Born Under My Heart...

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Being denied the opportunity to become a biological mother is a challenge. It's one thing choosing to remain child free but another altogether when the body parts don't work together in some sort of musical harmony and the metronome beats out of time. As a society there is much made of the biology of being a biological parent. Men slap each other on the back and make exclamations using the words "super sperm" when announcing the pregnancy of their partner and women practically take ownership of each other's bumps. Infertile people are on the fringes of society; whispered about behind closed doors and averted eyes.

Not everyone who adopts comes from the infertile sector of society. I have friends who have chosen to adopt for other reasons with no desire to establish their fertility first. I took a long while to give up running on the conception treadmill. Not, I've come to realise, through a massive desire to be a biological parent, but because I was on a path to overcome a medical mystery. Until I realised that solving that mystery was no longer important I was unable to get off that treadmill. Once I did hang up my worn out trainers and clamber off with aching muscles and heart I realised that the place I was running to was a different destination to the one I had set out to arrive at. Not only that but it didn't matter to me and hadn't for a very long time. I didn't need to grow a child under my heart in order to grow a child in it. 

I won't lie. I would love to know how it feels to feel a baby kick inside you; to know how it feels to push that life from your body into the world. I would love to have a few moments to feel those sensations, just to know; to marvel at the wonder of the life inside me. I would love to be present at a birth; to share that moment of first breath and experience the awe that is new life. I don't need those experiences to be a mother though. Being a mother is both far less and far more complex than those experiences. Choosing to become a mother, or father, through adoption is also both a simple and complex choice. The biggest single anxiety for adoptive parents is being rejected by their child. How many parents choose to have a child knowing that fear yet going ahead anyway because the love they have to offer child far outweighs that fear? How many biological parents even have that fear on their radar? How many biological parents choose to have a child knowing that their child will be born or will experience early life changing trauma? How many parents will choose to have a child knowing that they will have to employ specialist parenting techniques or experience being assaulted on a daily basis as their child's fear and frustration takes hold of them? How many parents first meeting with their child will be quite as unusual as an adoptive parent's? The moment I met both my children though was as emotional and amazing and intense as any birth. 

Being an adoptive parent is an enormous privilege. It's not second best. It's not something to be whispered about behind closed doors. I am the luckiest mum in the world to be a parent to Katie and Pip. They are both the most amazing and incredible human beings. They have experienced so much at such a young age.  They fight and conquer so much more than the school curriculum so don't ever look upon them, or any other adopted child as being less than any biological child. The choices of another will determine how easily they can learn and will leave them with scars that most will not see or understand, but it's my job as their mum to try my best to understand and to help them understand and heal. There are days when the responsibility for that or the knowledge of the information contained in their permanence report becomes overwhelming; when parenting the fallout from all the emotions spilling out becomes too great; days when a good cry and a cup of tea and copious amounts of chocolate with a friend is more than a lifeline. But despite those days I do not ever question my choice to become a mum; their mum.

Becoming mummy to Katie and Pip is my greatest event in life. Their light shines bright enough to light up the heavens. Their bravery is limitless. I am proud to be their mummy. I am so very proud of my choice to be their mummy. Blood isn't thicker than water and there is so much more to being a parent than biology. If I could have given birth to any two children, I would choose these two children. But if I had given birth to them, they wouldn't be these specific two human beings so I don't seek to change anything of their biology because it's what makes them them. Yes I would choose to change some of their experiences, both in-utero and after birth but I've not been given the bigger picture. Their story is still being written. They have been created within a set of circumstances that will form a part of their gift to the world. Who knows what will drive them as they grow older; what changes they will bring to the world. And as their mother it is my privilege to guide them through however much of their lives I am a part of.  

That's quite an honour and one I sometimes forget in day to day life with the whole daily grind getting in the way so I'm glad I can use this moment to write these thoughts and feelings down to remind myself on this Mothers Day. I had my first Mothers Day during introductions with Katie which brought a real "meant to be" feeling to the process. I don't need a meteor shooting across the sky or a sparkly card to know that my children and I are in each other's lives for a reason. We were brought together by skilled Social Workers and some help from above and beyond and our fates are sealed tightly together.

For Mothers Day this year the adoption agency Coram are talking about mums who became mums through means other than birth and are sharing those experiences in the form of short films. I'm sharing one of those films here and on Twitter and the Life with Katie Facebook page to help celebrate all the mums (and dads) who are parents through adoption and to share the stories of others for whom adoption was the option they chose towards becoming a parent.  You can read their full thank you to adoptive mums "here" as they say:
“All these mums have transformed the lives of a child who was facing an uncertain life without anyone to give them the love and care they need. They have given them a safe place to grow and develop their own potential to love.
“Thank you to all our mums.”



To all the adoptive parents I know this day can be a tough day as well as a quietly special day.  It can be tough on our children as it brings up memories from their previous families or inner anxieties and guilt about their feelings towards their adoptive families.  It is a day loaded with emotion for birth families as well as adoptive families and we are always mindful of all the emotions the day can bring. For me, as I honour my own emotions for my children I say simply this.....


Not flesh of my flesh, 

Nor bone of my bone,
But nevertheless still my own.
Never forget for a single minute
You weren't born under my heart 
But in it.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Half Term!

I'm struggling with the right way to start this week's blog post and the words to present the dichotomy between the images I can share and my internal feelings and dialogue.  The external issues; interruptions; distractions and stressers are just too loud and distracting and my brain is screaming for some quiet time to just stop and sit comotose in front of a film or better still a day at a spa where I can be totally away from everything

The image of this gingerbread house was one from one of the first days of half term and it actually depicts how I'm feeling very well currently.  It looks pretty and there was some fun that went into creating it but it fell apart about 20 seconds after I took this picture. I could be philosophical at this point and note that the finished house was just one part of the process and the bigger picture would be these....






The reality though was there were too many sweets and insufficient icing to hold all the pieces together....
The finished gingerbread house!
The children enjoyed the making and the eating parts enormously though and the making part gave my lovely friend and I around 4 minutes to chat together without interruption.

 Half term isn't a time to crave peace and quiet though. Half term is a time when the children get a week off school (or 9 days in our case thanks to the joyous words INSET day!).  In our house we take time to transition from one routine into another so the reality is that just as the children are starting to settle down a bit, it's time to go back to school.  My brain gets strained to the point of fracture at the endless whingeing and whining and tale telling and destruction and mess and angst and anger that is the internal and external relentless dialogue of my two little beauties.  Half term obviously comes on top of everything else I've been writing about for the past 7 months or more. As I am writing this Katie is singing in my ear despite being asked to stop.  She's not actually singing I might add. Singing is nice and she has a lovely voice but she isn't using her lovely voice at the moment. She is making some high pitched grating sound with words that resemble Taylor Swift's Blank Space that is designed to get my attention. It's a practised skill of course that works wonderfully well if you're Katie although she is a bit of a negative attention junkie I think.

The only way I can handle half term in the house we are currently living in is to get out of the house. That would be great if it wasn't February and damp and cold.  Which sadist thought February half term was a good idea?  Clearly a teacher without children, who can snuggle up in front of a roaring fire with a book that you can read with actual brain cells for the week!  So the reality of being out of the house in February is mud and lots of cleaning up of the mud afterwards and don't even get me started on changing nappies when the littlest member of the household is up to his knees in mud and soggy jeans (and yes there is the fact that waterproofs would help but this week Pip has decided to grow out of his as you can see by his arms - an urgent purchase is on its way from Amazon as we speak!).
The children found a trampoline that was full of water!
Great fun but then the realisation that she was wet kicked in......
We spent some lovely time with friends old and new during half term week.  We met up with a new adopter who lives in our county and had a lovely time getting to know them a little.  I use the phrase "a little" with precision because Pip morphed into the Tasmanian Devil on that particular day and spent the day doing this.....
Pip legging it (again)!
I totally lost him twice the day we met our new friends.  The fear and stress for those moments was just horrendous.  Pip is a boy with his own mind, as do both of my children if I'm honest. He wanted to go and do something else and it was a literally blink and I'm gone scenario.  Thankfully it was a that day only scenario over the holidays and it hasn't been repeated since.

Katie and I managed a little bit of Mummy/Katie time whilst Pip was with his Childminder midweek and had a little bit of LoveBombing.  Thankfully Katie included a trip to Costa as well as her visit to Claire's Accessories in her choice for the afternoon after spending the morning clearing our garage out a little bit.
Katie is in love with Mango Fruit Coolers!
I had my customary Decaf-Soya Hazelnut Latte (although I think Katie chose better on this occasion)
Katie with her acquisition of a new makeup bag with fake nails inside and lip glosses inside
As is often the case there were highs and lows over the holiday. I enjoy getting out of the house with the children rather than staying in.  I'm not an arts and crafts sort of person. I'm already having palpitations at the thought of making Easter Bonnets and a model of The Titanic this term (although I've sourced a 3D puzzle to put together sssssshhhhh!).  The children enjoyed getting out and about and seeing friends.  We spent a particularly lovely day with Auntie C who almost won the award for Best Friend EVER by giving Katie lots of attention all day and completing Katie's diary for the class Bear who kindly came home with us for the half term.  I was busy trying to get Play Doh out of the printer whilst the writing up was going on!

Auntie C posing enthusiastically for the camera!
Cedar Bear driving the train!
Auntie C explaining the inner workings of turning circles!
It's been a short week this week due to the second INSET day but it's been nice to get back to our normal routine.  I think I need it as much as the children....... does chocolate prevent a nervous breakdown?


Thursday, 12 February 2015

#Thinking Slimmer Week 2 and a bit...


I could blame the fact that I'm ridiculously busy and utterly exhausted on the lack of Week 2 post about my Thinking Slimmer project but that would be lying.  I am busy and exhausted but I'm also hormonal and hormonal means HORMOANAL and a less than perfect relationship with food so I'm feeling quite low on the weight loss front.  In fact I've put on 2 of the pounds I lost - although I'm not entirely sure how; I only had one packet of biscuits after all and only 2 glasses of wine in a week.

The problem with PMDD is that it impacts very heavily on my body.  It impacts on how I see myself; how I feel about myself; how I react to things; my impulse control; my energy levels; my overall mood; and how my body processes the food it eats.

My PMDD is currently a shadow of its former self thanks to monthly Prostrap injections. Prostrap keeps me in a chemically induced menopause pending a hysterectomy at some point when I have a window where I can take some time out to factor in the recovery time. Shutting down my ovaries means that I react less severely to the changes of hormones during my monthly cycle. The minor wrinkle is that it's common for the injection effects to start to wear off before the next injection. Some months are better than others but I get a few bad days prior to my injection and for a few days afterwards whilst my body resettles again.  Oestrogen patches help but around injection time I feel generally all over the place and one of the major symptoms is that I feel exhausted and hungry all the time.  I had been doing really well with the impact of listening to my Slimpod but this past week has been a massive challenge as I crave carbohydrates and sugar.  On the plus side (and I am good at finding the plus side) I did put back a packet of biscuits onto the shelf in the supermarket and only bought the milk and bread I went in for.

I will admit that this past week I've just wanted to say to hell with it all. I've got too much on to be stressing over my weight as well.  But I want this for me.  I want to feel slimmer and healthier but more importantly I want to repackage my relationship with food once and for all.  I want to not feel fearful if I go out without a snack and to be able to handle feeling hungry without thinking I'm going to have a panic attack.  I won't bore you with all the reasons why these issues have evolved.  The most important thing is that I do know the origins just as I know why I have to eat everything on my plate irrespective of whether I'm full or not.  Sorting the psychology out is more important than any current weight loss because I'm in this for the long haul. I want to sort this out for the rest of my life and have the tools I need to do that.

So despite the fact that I've put on a few pounds this week and my jeans are feeling very snug again, I'm trying to see the bigger picture and understand what I'm really trying to achieve here and keep the faith that, in time, I will overcome the psychological issues that keep the weight on my body.  I asked myself many years ago what I had to gain from being overweight and I understand the answer. Periods of vulnerability have traditionally brought about a weight gain as I seek to protect myself. That is the stuff that I am working on and hopefully the weight loss will come about in time.  I'm making lots of healthy choices. I'm not drinking alcohol and am eating very little chocolate (interestingly I noticed a direct correlation between drinking a glass of wine and desperately craving chocolate - a great realisation to come to just prior to Valentines Day!)

So I will keep listening to Trevor; read some more of the healthy eating literature I've been sent; remember to write down my three daily changes which I've not been doing; and think about adding an additional listen in each day at my evening trigger time and see what week 3 brings............

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Reasons to be Cheerful?

I'm linking up with his week's #WASO topic of Reason's to be Cheerful because I thought it would be nice to look at some positives at a time in my life that is about as intense as anyone could imagine.

I'm struggling to start writing my positives because Ian Dury is now running through my mind. I love Ian Dury, he was the most amazing music creator and I was lucky to see him perform in Hyde Park supporting Paul Weller just prior to his death, but I could not stand, in fact I actually recoil from his song "Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3". Because it reminds me of my childhood abuser. He used to sing that song trying to be funny when I was a child. As I'm typing this my stomach is churning with sick, nervous knots and I'm starting to feel my face and hands start to tingle because I appear to be holding my breath. It never ceases to amaze me how physical my emotional reaction to him and that song can be. My memory is flashing full of images of that person in his blue dressing gown and I'm feeling physically sick at the image. Why am I sharing that? Well because it can highlight to adoptive parents just how infinite a reaction to an abusive situation can be. I've overcome much with counselling and time but there are some elements of my childhood that will never leave my physical and emotional memory and all it takes is a little innocent and seemingly positive trigger to bring it all flooding back. So if you're wondering why your child has suddenly disappeared into a fog and haze of emotional reaction and you can't reach them remember this and understand that it can be something as simple and innocent as a nice smell or funny song that can take a memory back into a dark and scary place. 

I'm going to plough on with this post because my counselling has supported me enough to be able to self regulate again after a trigger and as I deep breathe I can remind myself that what happened to me was a very long time ago. More of my life has been living in a safe environment than was ever in that situation.  I can be cheerful because I left those people behind a long time ago although the reside of "what if" sneaks in fairly regularly. Yes they sneak into my thoughts but they can no longer hurt me. I am safe. That is a massive reason to be cheerful. Safety cannot be rated highly enough. It's a fundamental human requirement for healthy development yet so many of our children did not receive that basic gift when they were in-utero or born into this world and the impact of that will probably blindside them at times through out their lives.

I'm now trying to refocus on what is going on in my bedroom where I'm currently writing in bed to
see my two little reasons to be cheerful. They are both playing with IPads and wearing cuter dressing gowns than that blue one that is threatening to sneak back into my vision. Katie is watching yet another Shopkins video on YouTube and mentally perfecting her American accent for when she records her own little videos. Shopkins are her current obsession, along with the Little Pet Shop and Squinkie toys that litter all the rooms in our house. Pip is watching a snail, I think, fall from the sky as watches Agnus and Cheryl.  Both love their iPads in the morning with a drink of milk and a "niknik" (Pip's word for the little picnics I make them in the morning). Their smiles and their love fill me with joy at unexpected moments each day. A spontaneous cuddle from Pip as he sprints over to me and wraps his little arms around my legs or a moment of peace as I stroke Katie's hair and she presses her head against my hand in acceptance of the moment of tenderness. Pip has just toddled over to feel my glass of "Jooooose" and tell me it is "colt" (cold) and ask for me to put "bear" onto his iPad (Little Charley Bear). He threw his arms up into the air and cheered "yeah" as I put an episode on for him. What better reasons to be cheerful could you ask for?  Keep it simple and you can't go wrong.

I'm delighted that currently both my children are going to bed nicely. I can't believe what we've been through on that front over the last year. I will never take an uneventful bedtime for granted again. I think I was losing my mind there for a wee while. I consumed a serious amount of alcohol and probably rearranged the shape of my backside for life after all those hours sat on the landing outside Katie's bedroom. At least there was a chair in Pip's room when TCM and I sat our vigils with him when he transferred from his cot into his big boy bed. The knock on impact of more sleep is that Katie is regulating her emotions a lot better nowadays. Tantrums are (mostly) shorter lived and she seems happier in herself at home, more relaxed and happier. 

Our house build is moving along in the right direction. There's a long way to go but it's taking shape and it was exciting ordering our new amazing kitchen recently. I think we might be able to make some of the obscene amount of cash the build has cost back by selling tickets to see the show kitchen when we move back home! I need to get back home. It's a massive daily need. I miss the security of my home. We've endured a lot of difficulty in this rented house that I cannot call home. We will move home before the house is finished I think just so we can try and resettle ourselves. The thought of getting home is a reason to be cheerful as is the wonderful builders we have who are creating our dream. We are blessed with our own Bob the Builder whose vision of the finished house is helping us feel secure in his Hagrid sized hands.

Katie has just snuggled up into my arm, her head laying against my shoulder. What bigger reason to be cheerful could you ask for? I have stopped writing to stroke her face and delight at the trust she has in me. Our relationship is complicated at times but the love we have between us is enormous. Pip, of course, has sensed some love in the room and my attention shifting to Katie and has ensured my attention is transferred back to him by stealing my glass of "joooose". He's very good at holding an open glass but there is a nervousness on my part as he holds it as I brace myself for what might happen next. Family life. The joy lies in those simple moments. Listening to Katie and Pip singing "That's How You Get The Girl" (or "Girl" as Pip calls it) by Taylor Swift. We love TS in our house and in the car. She doesn't ever go far from the CD player. Hearing Pip sing along in the car is a daily joy as is hearing his speech developing. 


This video isn't Taylor singing the song as she is yet to release a video (come on Taylor!!). 
But this is a lovely cover of it by Lauren Bonnell.

I have friends who bring joy into my life. I speak to my dear friend Mrs VanderCave daily and I think I can thank her for keeping me sane over the past 2 years particularly. We joked last night that if all else failed we would book beds next to each other in The Priory.  Other friends kept me sane on Facebook on those long hours sat outside Katie's bedroom. Seeing a little message from one special friend from The A Team ping up saying "Are you on the landing?" raised a smile through a very challenging period. Another local friend is quietly there in my life. She makes no fanfare about things and her presence is gentle and soothing. Our outings with the boys brighten up my life considerably these days and she has become a dear friend whom I love spending time with. Other friends have been in my life for many years and are there as a calming influence. Our long history offsetting the loss of the dream of my own birth family.  I have many reasons to be cheerful.

My stomach is still slightly knotted and I'm still feeling lightheaded but the feeling is starting to diminish as focusing on my writing and a little love and normality helps me re-regulate. Pip is now distracting me by (yet again) trying to understand where the Christmas lights have gone. "Blooooo ligh back Mama?" he asks me with deep intensity, his big blue eyes looking confused.  He desperately wants them back. We've kept some up on the patio doors to appease him a little but he doesn't understand why they've gone and asks every single day. I told him they'd be back again next Christmas and he punched the air and cheered.  11 months is a long time for a toddler to wait though, poor thing. I'm hoping the Easter Bunny might help move the situation along a bit. Watching the love developing between the children is a true blessing. Katie can be incredibly sweet with Pip and he utterly adores his sister. He's now kissing Katie and I in turn, sitting between us after launching himself over us excitedly as he heard the theme music to Lego Juniors that Katie plays.

What more do I need to be cheerful? I am truly blessed. 

I added this video after posting because this is what I was dancing to with the children straight afterwards
 and it was joyous!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Being an Adoptive Mum!

I'm the archetypal people pleaser in many ways so it can take me a while to realise when something it starting to gnaw at me.  Even when things do worry me I'm not always one to shout about it. Actually it's more about when people upset me that I find it hard to say anything because I try to see the bigger picture and find myself sitting on the fence out of fear of upsetting someone or not giving someone else a voice.  As adoptive parents we are always seeking to understand why our children behave in certain ways. I'm also still doing the same for myself.  For me, speaking out in my defence against my family led to me being rejected so it's hardly surprising I've learned to keep some opinions to myself.  However, there are times when I feel I need to speak out and that is what I want to do today because something has been eating away at me for a long time......

A few weeks ago a Birth Mother sent me an emotional outpouring as a comment on one of my blog pieces ( you can read it here on the comments section).  I sent a measured reply back because I do try and always consider other people's emotions and I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to have your child removed from your care. These comments reminded me of a conversation I had in my car with a "friend" one day when she asked me if I knew that my children were "stolen" and how I felt about that.  I was incredibly upset by her comment because I know the history of my children and I did give her quite an emotional response back.  The issue of stolen children has been thrown at me many times now on Twitter and it hurts and it isn't true.

All these different scenarios and conversations are becoming more and more common in the world of adoption and they can spark intense outpourings of emotion on all sides.  Every person involved in an adoption has strong feelings at the situation.  Birth parents are understandably angry and upset at the situation they find themselves in.  They might blame the authorities who removed their child.  They might not be able to or want to fully comprehend why their child was removed from them for a variety of reasons.  I'm just going to say here that I'm not entering a debate on any scenarios when a child may have been removed in error.  I'm sure that does happen but it is the exception and not the rule.  Adoptees are often very emotionally and sometimes physically damaged because of the experiences they had both in utero and post birth that led to them being taken into care.  Adoptees may also spend their lives feeling a sense of loss because of the cutting of the connection to their birth family; a deep feeling of loss and rootlessness that they cannot pinpoint or fully understand. They might romanticise what their life might have been if they had remained with their birth family. They might feel a loss of identity at having a different surname and even first name.  I can empathise with all those feelings and understand the need to explore those feelings and realities.  I will also say that I used the word "may".  Equally they may not.  One experience is not the same for everyone.  Everyone one of us has our own individual experience of life.

Into that myriad of emotions we are now going to bring adoptive parents.  It seems to me, as an adoptive parent. that we are the easy prey for everyone's emotions.  It's easy to put all the blame on us because we have a face.  Many of us write about our experiences here on the web, to share our experiences and form bonds with each other to support us through what can be very difficult times. Birth parents blame us for taking their children.  Adoptees will throw the whole gambit of their emotional distress at their adoptive parents. As adoptive parents it is our job to help heal some of the wounds of our children.  I will say "our" children because I love my children as much as I could if I had given birth to them.  I will say "our" children because we are the ones who help our children make sense of their experiences whilst being kicked and punched and spat at because our children are often left unable to regulate their emotions because of the harm done to them in the womb and after birth.  I will say "our" children because we are the ones who sit outside our child's bedroom for 2 hours every night whilst we support them to relearn how to soothe themselves back to sleep because they are unsettled again by a change in their lives or are afraid to sleep.  I will say "our" children because it is our job to help our children to feel safe again and to be able to trust the world that surrounds us.  I will say "our" children because it is us our children turn to when the world seems scary and they need a hug or they need someone to try and stop their world spinning out of control.  I will say "our" children because it is us who have the difficult task of liaising with other parents when our children are struggling with their friendships because their anxieties lead them to want to control their relationships and other children might feel bullied.  I will say "our" children because we do everything that a regular parent will do for their child and more.  I could go on and on with this list but I'm actually starting to feel quite angry.

I'm feeling angry because I'm getting fed up with being the target for other people who might see the world in more simplistic terms or who are simply reacting through their own rage.  My daughter is beautiful and has many talents but she is also very challenging to parent.  I spend my days working hard to be a therapeutic parent.  To mop up her emotions and be the target for those emotions and offer containment whilst she rages against the world.  Imagine the experience my daughter might have with someone who couldn't even stop drinking and smoking and taking drugs in order to keep her safe in the womb and after she was born.  How would that person deal with the rages and aggression that Katie has to express her feelings?  How would they deal with her emotional regression and the fact that emotionally she is only aged around 3 or 4 most days? Heavens only knows I get it wrong far too many times and I'm learning every day.  That person has been unable to take care of herself let alone take care of a child.  Would she be able to react therapeutically whilst she is committing armed robbery to feed her drug habits?  My son is a typical toddler in many ways but he also gets very hyperactive when he's tired or overstimulated and he is a major pickle and sometimes quite destructive.  How might someone who seems unable to take their of themselves nurture and channel that hyper stimulation whilst trying not to get cross because he has pulled all his books off the book shelf for the third time that day?

I have a lot of sympathy for my children's birth parents and they will always be their birth parents. I do not seek to take that away from them.  They are part of my children's life story.  They have all been through experiences that nobody should have to go through and my children were born into an impossible situation,  It breaks my heart to think of the bigger picture but my maternal instincts also say that if I can put aside all the emotional crap that I have going on in my life and head (and there has been a lot of crap) to put my children's needs first, why can't they?  I have worked with young mums who have had equally awful childhoods who have been able to do just that and become good parents. So I will allow myself a little anger that my children weren't offered a better start where their needs were put first.  Reading their Permanence Reports tears me to shreds for the things they experienced and the impact that that has had and will continue to have on their lives.

All that aside though what is really bugging me is being told that I will never be my children's mother.  I will never have grown them in my womb that is true, and we will always recognise the role of their birth mother, but believe me when I say I am every bit my children's mother for all the reasons that I have stated above. As someone who is a natural empath I have soaked up all the emotions flying about the internet and worried myself over it all. I've been anxious about the truth of my children's situation and questioned the validity of the story in their Permanence Reports.  I have come to the following conclusion though.  I love my children.  My children will be put first and shown all the love that they deserve,  I will not hold back anything from them because of a quiet voice that someone else has put in my head that says "you are not their mother" or "those children were stolen".  I know better.  I know what it says in their Permanence Reports.  I know the truth.  And yes, it is the truth so don't try and tell me that Social Services have lied to me.  I know the truth from other sources as well.  I will do everything in my power to help my children heal and grow and try and undo the damage done to them.  I will not spend my life and theirs feeling that I have stolen someone else's child because my children need a mother.  Their birth mother couldn't give them what they need.  They need someone who can offer them all the love and practicalities that go with being a mother.  Love isn't enough for an adopted child.  They need far more than love.  When they are ready I will let them go into the world knowing that I have their back. I will never prevent them being curious about their birth family or make them choose me over their birth parents.  I will support any reunions if they are desired and pick up any pieces without any recourse.  I have been through hell in my own birth family and I understand so much about the emotions of loss and rejection.  I am also older and wiser.  I know how strongly I felt about things in my teens and 20s and I know how much more mellow and understanding of the world I am in my 40s. I know that my own issues of rejection have never left me and that my job as a parent is to equip my children with the tools they will need to spend their lives fighting all those emotions that will impede their lives just as I have learned to do. I will support them as they decide on their identity, whatever that might be. That is what being a mum is all about.  So don't try and tell me that I am not their mother.  I am their mother in every sense of the word! If I didn't feel all those feelings then I wouldn't be a good mum to my children and I certainly wouldn't be able to fully commit to being their mum.  If I didn't commit to being their mum with every fibre of my being then they are being doubly robbed.  They deserve better.  They deserved better the first time around but were let down. It's my job to try to pick up the pieces.

The world of adoption is coming out of the shadows and is being scrutinised and the Internet gives a voice to everyone. We need to listen to all the voices and learn but to also understand that not everyone shares the same feelings.  Not all birth parents feel the same and neither do adoptees or adopters.  Those who feel the most strongly are the ones who shout the loudest and those who don't shout are often the ones who are either content or don't feel empowered to do so.  The shouters are not necessarily representative of everyone at every stage in their journey. It's also important to remember that that time is a great healer.  I understand so much more about my past now than I did in my 20s.  I was far more militant about wrongs against me and able to solve all the world's problems in my 20s.  I see the bigger picture now and whilst I don't condone what happened to me I do understand more of it and see the history in my story. I've learned to live better with feelings of loss around the family and experiences I experienced. It is only a part of my life story. It isn't all of me.  It is important that voices are heard and respected but it is important to hear all the voices before forming a decision. It's also important to try and respect all sides of the story and not target the adoptive parents who are trying hard to undo the damage to the children in their care. Yes many of us may have come to adoption through infertility but that doesn't make our children any less loved or cherished and they are certainly not second place.  I cannot imagine my life without my two wonderful little fire crackers and I'm only just learning now what it means to be their mum. I wish with all my heart though that they didn't need to be adopted; that the family they were born into was able to take care of them.  I feel sad for the lives their birth parents endured and how life has shaped them but I won't put on my rose tinted glasses and absolve them from all responsibility.  I can't imagine my life without them but I would wish that life had dealt them a better first hand.  I wish that because I love them.  It is a love that isn't selfish and it's a love that wants what's best for them even if that isn't always what I want.  They deserve that I will endeavour to give them all that!


Sunday, 1 February 2015

Thinking Slimmer Week 1


One of the things I've not been particularly happy about over the past year is the weight I've put on as a result of my Vitamin D deficiency.  As I mentioned briefly in Moving on Up last week I've been lucky to be involved a programme called Thinking Slimmer which I started on Monday.  
This programme is a little different than other weight loss programmes in that there is no dieting involved.  There are no points to count.  No syns to worry about. No food is off the agenda.  There are no prescribed rules or books to follow.  All you do is listen for 8 minutes a day to a SlimPod which is a downloaded file recorded by a man called Trevor who lulls you into deep relaxation to listen to a message of positivity. It's obviously a very cleverly and psychologically thought out recording that taps into the sub-conscious and helps to reframe your thinking and enables you to start to make healthy and more positive choices about your life.

True to the ethos of the programme I am not actively dieting.  I am not eating salads or carrot sticks. I am not actively depriving myself of anything. I've not been shopping and spent lots of money on foods that I "have" to eat.  I had already stopped drinking alcohol on 1st January and have been successful in going the whole month without a single alcoholic beverage.  There were a few moments when I harboured a little longing for a glass of nice, cold, fizzy Prosecco but in all honesty the month hasn't been overly challenging.  In fact I am going to maintain my sobriety for a while longer. Actually one thing I have realised this month is the collusion amongst parents about drinking.  It is acceptable to drink to ease the stress of modern day parenting.  Add to that the challenges of parenting children who have added challenges and it's easy to forgive yourself for turning to the cold, fizzy stuff.

Two of the bonuses of cutting back on my nightly tipple have been a) a decrease in my desire for sweet foods, particularly chocolate and b) a few pounds off the wobbly bits.  Add to that my Slimpod this week and I've lost about 5lbs so far.

So what have I experienced with the SlimPod? Well I could say very little because it's been so subtle that I would be forgiven for saying "very little".  However there have been little changes that are creeping in. The most notable is a decrease in my fear of feeling hungry.  I have coped several times this week with actually feeling hungry and not needing to react to the situation immediately.  I've also noticed that I'm eating more slowly and enjoying my food a little bit more.  Other people have reported a complete change in the way they are eating but, for me, it's been more a not knowing what I want to eat. Mostly I'm thirsty. I've not had any sweets or chocolate (other than a hot chocolate) nor do I feel that I'm missing them.  So something is happening.

What are my goals?

Well my goals are to drop back to a comfortable UK Size 12 from my current sometimes snug Size 14. I'd like my legs to grow 2" but I don't think that the Slimpod can quite manage that.  I'd like to slim the legs that I have down a bit with some more exercise although my energy levels are still low and this feels difficult to achieve still.  Hopefully a little less of me might help my energy levels increase though.  I'd like to feel happier around food generally; to not use food as an emotional prop or eat because I'm feeling tired or bored and certainly not because the hands on the clock say it's a meal time. I'd like to leave my sugar addiction in the past (which I'd say is pretty much already achieved).  I'd like to look in the mirror and like who I see.  I think that last one is more than just about being slimmer though.  Being slimmer will help the image but not necessarily the emotional reaction.  However I think the emotional and over-eating link are intrinsically linked and they feed (pardon the pun) each other a lot.  Resolve one and it should help the healing of the other.

I think these are realistic goals and I'm feeling positive about this 12 week programme.  I'm going to blog about it every week to keep a record of how I'm getting on and how I'm feeling.  This week I'd say my tight jeans are a little less snug.  In fact I'm wearing them currently and am sitting comfortably without feeling like I'm going to explode so that's always a good thing.  We've even been for a family walk today (which sounds more positive than it actually was because it was cold and both children cried and whinged for the whole walk).  I have dusted off my exercise bike though which I am planning on actually sitting on once my current cold and subsequent asthma episode resolves itself.

I'll keep you posted on how I'm getting on but will also still be blogging on the adoption front so the blog won't be totally hi-jacked if you don't want to read these posts!



Conversation with an Educational Psychologist

We're very lucky because our Post Adoption Team buy sessions with the local Educational Psychologists each year. I was lucky because I managed to bag one of those sessions this week to discuss some concerns with Katie that I have around her relationship with numbers and how that's impacting on maths in school; her long term education; her behaviour generally and her transition to Junior school.

Like many children who are adopted, Katie was exposed to undetermined amounts of alcohol whilst in-utero. She doesn't have any of the physical features of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, although has always had a small head circumference but we were aware that some of the cognitive issues might start to present when she started school. In Reception year she was flagged as potentially being dyslexic after the DEST (Dyslexia Early Screening Test) Test although both her Reception Year teacher and I felt that she wasn't dyslexic. Katie is actually currently one of the top readers in her current (Year 2) year. Conversely with maths she is at the opposite extreme and struggles to understand the relationship between numbers. We have been working on her number bonds to 10 for over a year now and she doesn't seem to be able to understand that e.g. 7+3 is the same as 3+7 or how they add up to 10. I'm forever trying to think of new visual ways to help her. What concerns me is that other children in her class are doing number bonds up to 100 now (anyone who can "see" number relationships will understand that 1 is effectively the same as 10) and that the gap between her and them will widen to a point that Katie won't be able to keep up. I was particularly concerned whilst completing some Education City maths homework recently when she was expected to be able to work out something like:

38+5+3 is the same as:

A) 20+8+5+10
B) 16+9+7
C) 30+9+7
D) 25+10+7

Now you've all finished working out the answer, ask yourself the route you took to get your answer. Did you add up the tens and see the relationship in the number bonds to the tens? Did the numbers and their individual values make sense to you? You'll know the answer was C. Katie just couldn't get anywhere with this homework.

TCM was attempting to do this homework with Katie whilst I bathed Pip. I listened tensely as World War 3 erupted downstairs whilst wondering if it was simply too late to be doing her homework or whether the expectation on her abilities was too great. I made an appointment to see her new teacher the next day.

I'd already asked for additional maths support at school using Pupil Premium Plus money but I'm concerned that she's now bringing home her 3 times tables yet still can't do number bonds. We are also limited with educational time at home plus Pip is always with us which makes it difficult to concentrate or spend quality time building skills. I met with her new teacher and flagged up (yet again) about Katie's difficulties with concentration in school and highlighted (again) that Katie seems to have Hyper-Vigilance which means that she is constantly checking everything going on around her so is very easily distracted. One thing that frustrates me is that I'm not convinced that school are taking my concerns seriously or really understanding the reasons for Katie's challenges. I explained to Katie's new teacher about these difficulties and the challenges we experience at home. She said that she finds it difficult to reconcile the child she knows at school and the child I was describing because they don't experience the aggressive behaviour. She was keen to know the outcome of the meeting with the Educational Psychologist though and I will be making another appointment to see her again soon as a result of the meeting.

Speaking to the EP was very helpful. To talk to someone who took what I was saying seriously was wonderful in itself. It helped that I had met this particular EP at an NVR training workshop recently and the familiarity felt comfortable. She had a trainee with her who was also incredibly insightful. We discussed at length her behaviour at home and school and my concerns I had about Katie's friendships currently.  I feel I am seeing a gap appearing in how she relates and plays with her peers and am noticing a need to control the play being described more and more in the stories and anxieties Katie is bringing home from school. I expressed my concerns about the transition to Junior School that is forthcoming this year plus the timing of this with our move back home to our (hopefully) completed house in the spring/summer. 

We talked about our ongoing difficulties getting to school on time and the EP considered whether Katie might be sabotaging going to school. We talked about the fact that her favourite TA is always waiting at the door and this was flagged that it was probably positive for Katie to have a personal greeter on arrival to support her transition from home to school. The EP queried whether Katie was also struggling with time telling. Katie has been slow to understand time concepts like tomorrow and yesterday and last week but she does seem to be remembering the basic concepts of time telling such as half past; quarter past and quarter to. We're going to be working on this more at home using the iPad and our learning clock.

One of the first things the EP highlighted was some recent reading she had done around FASD and a situation where children can excel in one area but be massively behind in another. From the reading I have done on this subject I think this relates to a type of FASD called ARND which stands for Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder see http://complexld.ssatrust.org.uk/uploads/1c%20fasd-info.pdf for more info. Things I've also picked up from my reading is the link with OCD which is something we're seeing more and more with Katie and the difficulties around attention span. 

When talking about Katie's aggression at home and her controlling behaviour with her friends the EP used a Russian Doll to highlight the layers of behaviour that Katie is exhibiting and how they escalate. The outer doll showing the girl who is holding it all together; the next doll is showing some anxiety by controlling things around her in play with her friends but also by being bossy or not listening; the next doll depicts angry Katie who is feeling out of control and scared by her feelings. These dolls are protecting the tiny doll inside who's scared and anxious. I had several tears when the last doll was revealed. I explained to the EP that it's hard to hear how anxious your child is feeling but also how hard it is to remain therapeutic and mindful of the origins of behaviour when being punched and kicked. I will say that the Russian Doll analogy has helped me see Katie's behaviour very differently. 

Between us we made a list of pointers to take back to Katie's current school and to flag up with her new school to aid her transition. 

A) Sensitive support around friendships and groups in school. I might suggest the Friendship Club concept that my nephew had at his school whereby the child stays in at break or lunchtime but chooses one friend to accompany them with the teacher helping them play well together and supporting any tensions that arise. The problem is that this requires teacher input and might not be achievable.

B) The transitional benefit of a personal welcome from the same adult each morning;

C) A quick connection from school to me to share any daily difficulties with me.

D) Highlighting the difficulties with our morning routine and lateness but also looking at ways we can encourage Katie's dressing independence.

E) A visual timetable if Katie is struggling with a number/time based timetable.

F) Homework and expectations: I've already flagged these difficulties with Katie's Infant School and will pass this information to her Junior School Head. We do homework where we can but, if we feel it will result in an irretrievable meltdown at home we don't do the homework. 

G) Being curious about what helps her learn and what hinders her and asking school to be creative in their teaching methods.

H) Be careful praising. I've highlighted this already with school but will be feeding this back to the teacher. This is because there is a gulf between how Katie feels inside and the quality of good work and she may be seeking to pull her work down to the level she feels inside. Praising specifics such as some nice writing or a good picture seems to work better for Katie than praising her behaviour in general. 

I) Using visual cues to support Katie's memory and learning including visual timetables.

J) Hyper vigilance. Asking questions such as : Where will she sit? Is there too much going on? Are there too many visuals in the classroom that will be distracting? Will she have her own desk to encourage a sense of security?

K) To aid Katie's transition, visit the new school after everyone has gone to help her build a sense of structure before introducing other children.

L) Highlighting Katie's fear of being sick and of others being sick and other issues relating to security/anxiety she has.

M) Highlighting that when Katie becomes controlling it's because she's anxious. 

N) Constantly reiterate with Katie the things that are staying the same and things that are changing for both school and the move back home. 

The EP is also going to email me a booklet to support Katie's transition. I suspect it might be similar to the sort of book we make for our children to support their transition to their new home during introductions. 

Both school and our Social Worker were invited to attend this meeting but neither could attend. I will admit that I was grateful to have the time alone with the EP to "chew the cud" so to speak but it does then place the emphasis back on me to disseminate the information and strategies potentially putting me back in the overly anxious parent role. I'll see how my next meeting with Katie's teacher goes and ascertain how many of these points she feels are achievable in her class.




Sunday, 25 January 2015

Moving on Up.....

I've been a little too self absorbed lately but stress will do that to you so I'll forgive myself. It's been hard to see the woods for the trees or even a little overgrown pathway to follow. I hate writing whingey, grumpy posts and I feel like the optimist that is my natural personality has been stuck in a muddy bog. Not gone completely, but finding it hard to slosh her way out and fearful of leaving a welly behind.  Things are still much the same in terms of stress but instead of focusing on those I'm trying to tease out the positives and take some action to help myself more.

So doing just that, here are some achievements in a more positive vibe regarding the children.....

Pip is now going to sleep without anybody sitting with him. This is a huge relief particularly as we now get to eat earlier! Some nights he takes a while to settle and seems worried I might not be there (I only generally go out a few evenings per month but that is a few evenings too many in Pip's opinion!) and you can hear him quiet calling "Mama, Mama?" as he goes to sleep. I always call back to him that I'm there and stay upstairs until I know he is asleep. I was thinking I might record my voice saying that for TCM to play on the nights I'm out. Mostly I'm sat with Katie in my bedroom reading or playing on our iPads so I can settle Katie and put Pip back to bed if necessary. Pip's speech is developing at a rate of knots. He's learning 5 words at least a day and communicating verbally all the time now. Once again my cautious approach has paid off. He will be assessed again in early Feburary by the Health Visiting team but I'm not concerned about his speech delay at all. 

Pip has settled really well into his once a week day with the Childminder. He has fun there and separates from me in a healthy manner, which involves some crying or clinging but he recovers well once I've left. He's always pleased to see me when I get back and I get lots of hugs and we spend a lot of time repeating that when I say "goodbye" then I will be back again later. Pip hugs me and says "Mama back" when I arrive to collect him.  We've just been approved for 2 year funding as well which is great news and something that adopted children are eligible for so I will get his sessions with his approved Childminder for free. We have chosen a Childminder who is Early Years trained and has lots of experience. We have a great relationship and she is wonderful with the children.

Pip and I had our first swimming lesson this week. Pip and pools are quite hit and miss (mostly miss). He screamed the place down last time I took him. The silly thing is he loves "oooowah". He's forever turning on taps and flushing the loo. He loves washing up and water parks but swimming pools...not so much.  We go to a bounce about session at our local leisure centre and he's been watching the swimming through the windows there. He gets ridiculously excited, and we even had to leave the play session early one day because he was so desperate to see the swimming, so I hoped things might have improved. I booked the lessons and I've been slowly increasing the depth of the bath water at home to help him.......

To say the lesson was an unmitigated disaster might be pushing the outcome a little too far but it wasn't far off that. He wasn't impressed unless he was playing in the showers or on the steps of the pool. It was better than the last time we went in that he didn't scream the whole time. The class level was a little too advanced in its expectations for Pip though so we've been moved to an earlier class that has more of a play and music focus.  Let's see what next week brings. I just hope it's worthy of my £35 panic buy Zoggs swimsuit at the leisure centre because I can't find any of my suits plus they've kinda shrunk in the pool....either that or there's more of me to squeeze into them!

Katie is also going to bed very nicely now. Should I dare say that aloud and commit the statement to the Information Super-Highway? Will I jinx it? She is still having some meltdowns but they are significantly reduced (if I ignore the horrendous tantrums I've had to deal with whilst unwell today - I don't think she can handle me being unwell). I think having more sleep is helping there. I'm concerned about school and how difficult she is finding maths and her concentration levels though. The report has come through from the assessing Social Worker from post adoption with some recommendations for Theraplay and seeking an assessment via the GP to determine any physiological causes for Katie's difficulties. I've made an appointment to discuss the educational issues with an Educational Psychologist. I've met with her new teacher to go over the issues and impact of having yet another new teacher and to highlight with her that Katie is hyper vigilant and not "just" easily distracted. I talked with her about being cautious in how she praises Katie due to her need sabotage after praise and also how low Katie's self-esteem is. I found her teacher approachable and interested in what I was saying. She was keen to hear the outcome of the Ed Psych appointment (as am I!). I forgot to ask about any reward charts they use at school but Katie's behaviour is fine at school so I don't think they are bothering her overly.  This year is a transition year though.  Katie has SATS in the summer followed by a move to another school for Year 3.  We will also be moving home around the same sort of time which worries me enormously because I don't want to unsettle her too much.

I've started doubting myself about what's going in at home at times and whether I'm just exaggerating it all. I suspect you get used to a situation being a certain way and no longer question how extreme it is because it becomes the norm. I am also very sure that the difficult environment we are living in and the stress levels of myself and TCM are exacerbating some of the issues. A few days ago, sensing a difficult after-school few hours, I threw the children a Mad Hatters Tea Party. Both children are under the weather and not really eating much so I decided to cut myself (and them) some slack and not have their tea at the table. Instead we had a pretend birthday party. We had fruit and cheese and cheesy biscuits and a few crisps. Katie poured the water and (mindful of how behaviour can get with too much sugar) they shared a Cherry Bakewell with two candles in for dessert. We played party games and I gave spot prizes for all sorts of silly things. We all had a blast and bedtime was more relaxed than its been in a long time, despite all the improvements. It made me think about my distraction levels and the impact it has on the children. The phone is constantly ringing with decisions to be made for the builder or issues arising related to my mother-in-law. My iPad is surgically attached to me as I am looking things up or just seeking a few minutes solace from Facebook. I need to find a way to be more available more of the time to the children (something else to feel guilty about as well).

As for me? Well I decided to take part in Dry January. The stress of the last few months has seen me supping far too much Prosecco. I was starting to look forward to my 7pm glass of the fizzy stuff a little too much. When I first thought about stopping all alcohol for a month my first thought was "Will I cope without my 7 o'clock glass of vino?". That was reason enough to stop for me. I'm well over half the way through the month and have stayed dry and am feeling better for it.  I'm not sure I will go back to drinking during the week again now although I would fancy a nice cold glass of the fizzy stuff at the weekend.  A friend has introduced me to a rather yummy alternative to alcohol however and the knock on impact is that I'm not craving chocolate either.
In addition to cutting my alcohol back I have decided to tackle the weight I've put on since developing the Vitamin D deficiency. It might have something also to do with those swimming lessons I mentioned earlier as well and the fact that Katie said her friend asked if I was pregnant!  An opportunity has presented itself through the blogging community to take part in a programme called Thinking Slimmer. It's a 12 week programme that involves listening to messages daily using a Slimpod which will help me make better nutritional choices and learn to say No! I think it must work on some sort of hypnosis or suggestion planting. I will be blogging about this over the coming weeks and sharing how I'm getting on. I'm looking forward to refocusing on my health and wellbeing and shifting the pounds that have crept on. It will make a change from me moaning about my stress levels (I hope!).  I'm excited about losing some weight and feeling healthier.  I don't generally get involved in any formal dieting method because mostly I think the industry is just making money out of desperate people and I also think the word "diet" needs to be replaced by "healthy eating".  "Dieting" is a very negative word and brings up feelings of loss and deprivation.  "Healthy Eating" sounds positive and achievable.  My Nan used to say "everything in moderation" and I think she was right.  She never put on any weight, was always slim, and often had at least two cooked meals per day, just not large meals.  I need a little bit of help to help reset my moderation button because it's been rather over-ridden over the past few years and about 2 stone has sneaked on a pound at a time.  I pick up Pip, who weighs 2st 4lbs and think my weight gain is almost a whole Pip.  He's very heavy so that is a lot of additional weight to carry around and is a rather sobering thought now I think of it.......

Wish me luck!!