Friday, 18 July 2014

Bedtime!

Bedtime is becoming a bit of a swear word in our house at the moment.  Trying to a) get Katie to bed and b) keeping her in bed once she is there. As bedtime approaches every evening I start to dread it.

This is an issue we've certainly traversed before, many times. With every change in Katie's life (except when she moved in with us interestingly) bedtime is effected.  This is the worst period we've ever had though because it's not just the getting out of bed that is the issue.  There is an underlying hyper-activeness and aggression at not getting her own way that is making the issue harder to manage this time around. The house move and the hot weather is exacerbating the situation as she struggles to settle and gets hotter and hotter.  She just seems to be buzzing. Totally unable to settle herself at all.  Trying to physically tire her out doesn't seem to make any difference neither does limiting sugary products.  It's like she's decided she is staying awake.  She's up and down like a yo-yo which then prevents her from settling and getting to sleep.  She regularly holds out until 10pm and it was nearly 11pm a few nights ago because I was out. In fact she is noticeabley worse on the evenings that I am out. As I'm typing this she is banging about upstairs, thumping up and down her cabin bed and has just appeared downstairs again and I'm starting to feel my stomach knot up in sheer frustration. 

When we go up to her room we are met with aggression and rudeness. She is experimenting with verbally threatening me with violence i.e. "if you don't give me my light back I'm going to pull your eyes out". My response was a simple stare. No words required. Eye to eye contact Iearned from many years of dealing with aggressive teens. It says "I'm not afraid of you".  Inside though I'm worrying if this means my child is heading towards becoming one of those teens and that terrifies me. I'm hoping that she's just testing. Her response to my stare was to say she didn't mean it. I hope she didn't.

I discussed this with my counsellor and she congratulated me for not doing the obvious thing that many parents would do and not go out.  To be honest at the moment, with how things are for me personally, I need that time out.  I need to be able to laugh and relax a bit.  I need a little time (without becoming a Beautiful South song) to try and rekindle the person that I used to be because the "me" inside feels tired and heavy.  It feels like I'm having to force internal calmness on a moment by moment basis so that I don't constantly blow my top  in sheer frustration at everything with Katie being a battle. I said in my last post "Moving House" that I feel shell-shocked.  I'm naturally a very peace-loving and positive person.  I generally see the good in most things and love to help and support other people.  At the moment I just want to disappear inside myself and seem to have nothing to give myself, let alone anyone else.  I'm burnt out, not depressed.

I'm not a sit back and let it happen sort of person so as well as continuing to go to my Reiki healing share I often attend talks at our local Holistic group.  We have been blessed with some incredibly inspirational speakers over the past few weeks and I was particularly inspired this week by a man called Ian Tucker.  His message is very simple and the same as many other spiritual authors.  He suggests approaching life from a place of love and the positive impact on the self that this will have.  I hear that message and really, really, really want to embrace it.  In fact I floated home and managed to maintain it, for nearly 24 hours, until I couldn't handle the relentlessness of my daughter for another moment.  I could feel that anger and frustration rising and feel like Phil Berquist in City Slickers.  Now, I don't personally hate anyone but the outburst that Phil has in the film feels like the turmoil going on inside me and I will honestly say I find it hard to like my daughter and hold onto a loving feeling when she is behaving this way because it feels like a personal attack. 

I think I understand why Katie is behaving the way that she is.  There is so much in her life that is out of her control so she has regressed to an emotional time in her life when she moved in with us.  Maybe there is healing from that time that needs to happen so that she can move forward again.  Maybe Pip joining us has rekindled all those feelings again.  Maybe moving house has exacerbated all of that. Maybe my current emotional distance as I manage my illness and Katie's behaviour is making Katie feel unsafe and has become a Catch 22 situation? It it also the summer term at school which is well known for being a time of general horrendousness.  The nights are light and warm so children aren't sleeping well. Katie has said she wants to come down and watch the programmes that TCM and I watch (Banshee? No way on this earth missy!).  So if she can't watch them then neither can we because we are spending all our evening putting her back to bed or are terrified she'll walk in on an unacceptable programme for her so we're not getting our wind-down time.  

There is a big change coming up as the children head into a new school year.  What will be expected of them? Why do they yet again have to leave what is familiar and safe?  Emotional rugs are being pulled from under children all over the country so much of Katie's behaviour might also be related to that. The difficulty as a parent is that you never really know.  I'm hoping that the summer holidays might bring some healing for us all.  I am going to hold on to the message that Ian Tucker gave and I do believe he's right.  I can see how overloaded I have become whilst dealing with a lot of emotional things.  I don't like feeling negative or seeing only problems. It's tiring and it's a waste of time.  I don't want to feel this way and I have nothing to gain from it.  Katie and I may well be on the same page with how we are feeling perhaps?

On so many levels I feel like I'm in a holding pattern, waiting.  Waiting for an essence of myself to return so that I can engage with life and my family in the way I want to.  Waiting for this phase with Katie to pass.  I know we will sort out the bedtime issue, we always have in the past.  I hope the summer holidays will help.  It's been a long term and we're all exhausted.  For Katie, being tired brings hyperactiveness not sleep. She's always been the same.  Thankfully she's sleeping in until about 7am so she's at least getting some sleep but she's emotionally on a knife edge, melting down in the manner of a two year old.  I'm waiting for my Vitamin D levels to rise so that hopefully I no longer feel so tired and in pain and I can be the parent and person that I know I am.  I look back to this time last year and feel that we have been emotionally up in the air since then.  I'm not dreading the summer holidays this year though so I can see that there are some shifts. Katie is often much better with Pip now and I can see moments of real love between them.  Pip utterly adores Katie and there are times when you can see she feels the same but there are also times when she looks at him with a look that contains enormous anger and I worry she wants to hurt him.  Now that Pip is more mobile I think the holidays will be easier.  Although it's taking it's toll currently I am coping/ticking over with Katie's behaviour and I think that she needs more time with me.  There's a part of me that feels like I don't want more time in a war zone but the therapeutic parent part of me suspects that we need to pull everything back to basics for a while and the holidays are a great opportunity to do just that.

From a parenting perspective we are trying to be consistent.  TCM and I have acknowledged that we are often not quite on the same page.  TCM definitely wears the "Good Cop" badge more than I do and we've agreed our boundaries over bedtime so as not to give a mixed message to Katie.  The routine of bathtime then bedtime is agreed and clear.  Coming down for a bit of TV is something that Katie cannot cope with because she gets too upset when it's bedtime.  We're both keeping tight boundaries over unacceptable behaviour and trying very, very, very, very hard to ignore a lot of the rude behaviour (I find this part incredibly difficult and is probably my biggest anger trigger!). We're letting her read until she's sleepy with her nightlight on because she'll just turn her bedroom light on or sit in the hallway. Short of locking her in her bedroom, which we will obviously not do, I'm at a loss to know what else to do. She used to go to bed and sleep beautifully after a story and kiss and cuddle and her musical dog. Now she is constantly looking for an argument. I just don't know what to do. Reward systems aren't working nor are penalties. I try to just ignore all the banging about and not give it any attention but that's often easier said than done.  I internally worry about Pip being disturbed but rarely let on to Katie that I am concerned so as not to give her more ammunition. She doesn't care about anything and that's even more sad to see. I can't imagine what is going on in her head.

I'm sure I'm not alone in these experiences. Please come and share your stories with me. How did/do you cope? What strategies do you use? 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Moving House!

I'm currently feeling a little shell shocked.  I'm struggling to articulate the feelings I have if I'm honest. Blasted is a good word.  Dazed is another one I could use.  The reason for this is the fact that we have moved house.

I'm quite a settled person, as is TCM.  We don't move house very often.  In fact we have only owned 2 houses in our 20 years of marriage.  Moving is quite a trauma for us - mostly because we have way too much stuff and partly because we like our home and have no plans to leave there.  But move we have because we are treating our home to a massive refurb and extension.  When it's finished it will be amazing. As with all building work, it's just the interim bit that is the problem.

Our rented house is very small compared to our home so it's all a bit of a squash and a squeeze which I am finding quite claustrophobic.  TCM commented it was a bit like being in a holiday home which, with the intense heat we are experiencing here in the south and the fact that this house is very hot, I am tempted to agree with.  I am really missing the coolness of our bungalow which, even in the hottest weather, stays very cool downstairs.

I was very worried about moving the children, with good cause it would appear because Katie is really unsettled.  To try and help them we visited the new house several times before we actually moved in so it felt familiar to the..  I tried to approach it a bit like our adoption introductions.  Pip appears to be coping very well with the move. He took about a week to settle but now seems quite happy and back to his usual cheerful self, if a little more hectic.  In fact he loves his new garden because the owners have kindly left the children with a play house and some garden toys.  Pip spends as much time as he can down there, tinkering with his toys and playing with his toy kitchen.  I've nervously let the cats, Willow and Leo, out and have already had to retrieve Leo from our neighbours house at 10pm when he got over the fence but couldn't get back due to being an enormous Maine Coon and only having one hip.  We then had to retrieve him again the following morning so I suspect it won't be the last we see of our neighbours garden! Thankfully they have been lovely about it all and I'll be baking my famous brownies as a thank you to them tomorrow.

My main concern is Katie.  She regressed quite significantly when Pip arrived last year and we were still working through all those feelings and I'm wondering if the move has also triggered a memory of the emotions she felt when she first moved to us as a toddler.  It seems likely.  She noted that the house doesn't smell like us and she's right.  It will take some time for our smell to embed in the house and that must feel very unsettling for her, I know it does for me.  She seems to be quite an angry little girl at the moment; argumentative and rude and prone to very baby-like tantrums and tears and lots of baby talk yet it's clear she really wants me around.  In fact she has started to reject TCM again, just as she did when she first arrived which is really tough on him because he just wants to help.  She had started to challenge bedtime again prior to our move but over the past 10 days this has worsened and she is taking several hours to settle and go to sleep.  This is putting extra pressure on me because Katie currently doesn't want TCM to put her to bed.  Being so over-tired is impacting on her ability to regulate her emotions.  On the day of the house move she kicked one of her best friends at school in what appears a totally unprovoked manner.  Thankfully her teacher is fully aware of the move and of the fact that she is adopted and handled the situation well.  I wasn't sure it warranted the Head Teacher phoning the parent of the other child though which made the situation more serious than it really was.  I was able to do damage control with the other child and her mum and all seems to be fine again now. We moved on the Friday so I gave her the Monday off school to spend with me and Pip. I was a bit worried she was just too stressed to go back into school and I'm glad I kept her home. She enjoyed ransacking my makeup bag and found a whole new use for my sultry grey eyeshadow!  It seemed to help her feel more settled and she's certainly been fine at school. Yesterday however Katie had a full blown panic attack at school after another child was violently sick in class. Katie has a bit of an anxiety around being sick at the best of times and I'm starting to feel concerned that this is becoming a real phobia. Her teacher calmed her down and managed her well it seems (it also gave her an excuse not to clean up the sick which, she confided in me, she really struggles with) but Katie was very pale and low yesterday afternoon and bedtime was even more of a challenge last night.  I suspect all the other emotions she is experiencing made the anxiety around the child being sick all the more intense.  A trip to Costa helped perk her up a little but she's definitely not herself.  She has said to me that she wants to go back to our other house to live. I agreed with her and said that I felt the same and I feel really guilty for putting this build on her.  The additional space will benefit us all though and Katie will have an amazing new bedroom that will meet her growing needs.  To be honest I think we need the summer holidays to begin so we can keep Katie's stress stimuli to a minimum and let her be with me as much as possible.  I'm hoping that will be healing for us both.

To try and help her with everything we are visiting our home after school everyday to see what has been happening there (or not as the current case is).  I park at the house and walk to school along our usual route so that Pip still gets the familiarity of seeing his favourite stream and the cat we say hello to every day and Katie is able to scoot back with her best friend as we have done for the past 2 years. We have been slowly bringing extra bits with us but we made sure we brought nearly everything that belonged to the children so that we could create as familiar a surrounding as possible in the new house. We've taken our neighbour's dog for a walk to spend a little time together.  One of the things that really helped her was the new series of Topsy and Tim returning on the Monday after we moved house. The first episode was all about the fact that Topsy and Tim had moved house. Seeing how excited they were about it all was useful for Katie, in fact she watched the episode three times in quite succession.  We've been talking about the adventure we are having and have been finding new ways to walk to our new house from school and the local park.  We have been pleased to meet other friends from school on the new walk to school and I am forcing myself to enjoy enjoying the longer walk to school.

We are also trying to remain as calm as possible, which isn't always easy and I feel like I fail at this on a daily basis.  Katie isn't a small girl, she is tall for her age and, although she is as skinny as a rake, she is strong.  When she lashes out it is a difficult experience for all involved and I find it hard to not react. I am trying very hard to ignore as much of the rudeness as possible but I will admit I find it difficult to accept being spoken to in the way that she often speaks to me.  I've bought her an Hello Kitty light to clip onto the side of her cabin bed so she can read in bed (and hopefully stay in bed). This has helped things a bit but she wants to come down and watch the TV programmes that TCM and I are watching so gets up constantly which obviously prevents her from sleeping.  I find it hard though to feel loving with someone who is constantly lashing out at me or being rude and feel like I have to pretend those feelings and act in a loving way in the hope that Katie will start to calm down and then it will feel more natural.  Internally I feel like a bomb about to explode though and am stress eating chocolate again. Luckily our wonderful SW has organised for some counselling for me with a specialist adoption counsellor so the timing is perfect to discuss all this with her.   The counsellor noted that Katie's regression has taken her back to the age she was when we adopted her.  Interestingly, when I mentioned that a 1, 2, 3 parenting approach was now working with her, my counsellor noted that she had probably moved forward to being about aged 3.  So some progress is being made and I can only hope that maintaining tight boundaries and helping her with her emotions will help her continue to move forward in age.

I have ordered Katie and Pip a butterfly garden so we can watch the changes that the caterpillars go through before becoming butterflies.  My aim is highlight that changes can be good but that sometimes you have to wait a while before you see how good it is.  I'm hoping this will also help with the transition to Year 2.  Thankfully, aside from the kick, Katie is doing well at school and meeting all her targets. She passed her Year 1 Phonics Tests very easily and is reading and writing ahead of her age. Her maths is about where she should be but needs some additional work.  This is mostly being hindered by something that has always been a difficulty for Katie.  As long as I have known Katie I have noticed that if she finds something difficult she will get very anxious and upset.  Her self-esteem is quite low and she will decide that she can't do it.  We have been helping with this over the past few years by introducing swimming and gymnastics so she can see her progress and start to learn that she can overcome difficulties and challenges.  I have also been trying to encourage her to think about how to solve small problems i.e. when Katie says to me "I don't have a pen" I ask her to think about the solution she needs and then rephrase her statement to ask me to help her solve the problem i.e. "Mummy do you know where I can find a pen?"  Her teacher has noted in her school report that this is an issue at school and that she needs to ask for help more.  Katie is more likely to head off to a friend for a chat than let the teacher know she is struggling so this is something we are trying to help her with via her homework.  This hasn't been helped by said teacher introducing work that I think is too difficult for the children, particularly when they arrive in the mornings.  Recently I took Katie into class in the morning to discover they were expected to complete a maths sheet about arrays.  It took us a few moments to sort out what she needed to do (whilst I was worried that I'd left Pip outside the classroom door and he would start getting fretful).  It then transpired that Katie really didn't know how to do the sheet and I could see she was getting anxious and I felt awful because I then had to leave because it was 9am.  I walked home feeling like the worst parent in the world.  I will be making an appointment to see her new teacher as soon as the new term starts to go over some of these issues.

Of course all of the above is not helped by the fact that I'm still struggling with my energy levels.  My body hurts in the joints and I struggle to walk to and from school.  I'm plugging away at it but I feel mentally distracted quite often because of the ongoing fatigue.  I had a chance conversation with another mum at swimming on Saturday and it transpired she had also had low Vitamin D levels and felt exactly the same as me.  We noted to each other, with our eyes swimming with tears, how much of a failure as a parent we felt because we didn't have the energy to be the parents we wanted to be.  That shared moment helped us both tremendously I think.

I will keep plugging away as I always do. I am so pleased that I have the opportunity to engage with the lovely counsellor.  I felt very strongly after my first session that she will help us all enormously.  I felt lighter and calmer after my first session after I unloaded a whole heap of emotions that had built up over the course of two adoptions.  I am looking forward to unpicking them all and emerging as my own personal butterfly from the cocoon that is currently restricting me.

So our building adventure has begun.  I am writing about that separately on a new blog called "Bricking It! The story of how 5,000 bricks made a home."  I am sure that this project will being all sorts of challenges both at the building site and at our temporary home.  I'm hoping that things will start to improve here.  It's early days yet and I know I'm not feeling settled yet so how can I expect Katie and Pip to feel settled.  I hope that it's not going to cause irreparable damage to Katie and hope that it will provide an opportunity for her to work through some of the emotions from her move to us and enable her to shed her cocoon as well.




Monday, 23 June 2014

PR/Media

Life with Katie is a PR friendly blog. The children love reviewing toys and games and we've had lots of fun reviewing family days out and even some household gadgets.  

We are open to working with companies to review certain products; include sponsored posts or guest posts, if they complement the content of the blog.  If a blogpost contains a gifted product from a PR company it will be clearly stated.  All sponsored links will be "no-follow" links and all reviews will be honest and written in my own words.

Here are the blog's statistics:

Average Page Views per day: Around 500
Blog Followers: 84
Twitter Followers: 1,630

If you are a PR Company and would like to get in touch please contact me via email at threebecomefour@gmail.com

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Thursday, 19 June 2014

Seriously?

Katie's new favourite word is "Seriously?".  Everything new I explain to her has this response.  She says it in a very grown up, very posh, Sloane Ranger sort of voice which makes it all the more amusing to hear.  I was wondering where she might have learned it from but my reaction to statements made by Michael Gove and the Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, this week had me exclaiming the same word and realising where she got it from!

So what was the statement that had me mimicking my daughter?


"Parents should be fined if they miss parents’ evenings, fail to read with their children 
or allow homework to go undone, the chief inspector of schools said".

Seriously?

Or in the infamous words of tennis player John McEnroe .......

"You can not be serious?"

The reports from the BBC and The Times can be read in full but basically Michael Gove has promised tougher sanctions for parents whose children are not "ready to learn" if the Tories are elected again next year.  He also claimed that, when he was a Head Teacher, he would inform people if he thought they were "Bad Parents" and is encouraging Head Teachers to follow in his footsteps.  Thankfully the Deputy General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders felt that, in his opinion, "engaging with parents was always the better option".  Thank heavens for some sense.

There is obviously a bigger picture here.  There are a lot of children who may be failing in school because they don't have sufficient support at home.  However my feeling is that you can't just jump to conclusions about so called bad parents and I certainly don't believe you can tackle the issue with yet more legislation.  I know people who struggle to support their children with their homework due to being poorly educated themselves.  The fear that they feel because they are unable to understand the homework requirements should not be underestimated.  As children get older the portfolio of their learning broadens and parents may not always have the skill set and knowledge to support them across the whole curriculum.  Teaching methods have changed considerably since I was in school.  Number lines in maths are a mystery that I am having to wrap my head around for example.  Whilst I am well educated, I fear it will be a challenge to keep abreast of the curriculum alongside the day to day life of being a parent and running a home plus all the other things we grown ups have to do.

Some parents who work all hours just to put food on the table and a roof over their childrens heads may struggle to find the time to help with homework or attend parents evenings. Obviously there are parents who don't care about the welfare of their children and I could be questioning why there aren't wider agency reviews of those families underway as a matter of course to ascertain what other issues may also be present.

I will note that my parents didn't help me with any homework during my education.  I was expected to organise it all myself.  That was the norm at that time.  The only reason this is being focused on now is because our education system seems to be falling behind that of other countries so the easiest people to blame for that are the parents. I don't really see how that is the solution. I think the constant tinkering with the education system clearly hasn't had the desired effect and our educational approach doesn't generally meet the needs of our children. The one-sized approach has been failing for a long time. 

I also want to comment on this article as an adoptive parent.  Many adoptive parents find the education system non inclusive for their children at the best of times.  I hear reports that teachers are unsupportive of the needs of children with attachment disorders, mostly due to lack of training and also lack of time and resource.  Adoptive parents often find homework a very stressful event.  I know I have to pick my times carefully in order to ensure Katie's co-operation.  When you are already experiencing behavioural difficulties at home, forcing more structured time on a child at home can seriously impact on a potentially delicate parent/child bond. I want to broaden Katie's life experiences with hobbies and trips and feel these are equally as valid and important to building her self-esteem and employability as her education at school is. Having said all that I do support her reading and learning at home and we do attend parents evenings. We don't always read her structured reading books from school however, because Katie finds these uninteresting. Instead we read books from her own library at home and her reading is above average for her age as a result. I mutiny at times and don't write in her white reading book although have reassured her teacher that we are reading at home.

To end my thoughts on this particular news statement I think, in response,  I would like to call for fines for MP's who fiddle their expenses or refuse to turn up for every vote in Parliament.  Maybe they should get their own house in order before focusing on ours! 

Seriously?









Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Pip's Adoption Day!

The day finally arrived when we went to court to formally celebrate Pip's Adoption.  I was very excited because, although we had already received Pip's new birth certificate in the post, it marked the end of a very long journey to get to that point.

I had it all planned.  We wanted to mirror Katie's adoption day so that she could revisit her own celebration 4 years later.  The day would involved a morning at the Blue Reef Aquarium followed by lunch at Giraffe and then off to court to meet the judge.  I knew Pip would love the aquarium because he is very fish crazy at the moment.

Things didn't go quite according to plan though.  I should know better than to plan by now, shouldn't I?

One reason why started late afternoon the day before our court day.  I popped to the petrol station after
collecting my nephew to top up the petrol. I didn't really need any petrol but the Girl Guide in me always liked to be prepared for any eventuality i.e. Martians landing and I have to drive to Scotland without stopping for petrol. Also it's what we Brits do for any special occasion that involves the car. We wash the car and fill her up with petrol.  It's almost cultural!

At the petrol station my lovely daughter decided to repeatedly open and close her car door, despite being told to sit quietly with Pip and my nephew.  I was hot and distracted and had to repeatedly ask her to close her door. I filled the car up with petrol and jumped back in the car to drive to the pay booth.  As I put the key in the ignition a horrible feeling washed over me.  I had just put unleaded petrol in my diesel car.  A four letter word washed around my mouth.  The words I uttered were "Oh No!".

Thankfully I realised before turning on the engine.

So there I was on the petrol station forecourt, at tea time, in the baking heat, with three children in the back of the car. First port of call was to phone the AA and let the petrol station know. The forecourt attendent kindly told me off for using my phone on the forecourt and told me I had to move quite some distance away.  I told him I had three children in the car, including a baby and couldn't leave them.  He was very unhelpful, to put it mildly. He received a piece of my mind when I left.  With the AA sorted I phoned TCM and asked him to collect the children whilst I waited with the car.  You can imagine how delighted he was at what I had done.  I now know that 800 people do the very same thing every day. It was an expensive mistake though but not one I have ever made previously in nearly 30 years of driving.

Long story short I was on the forecourt for 2 hours whilst waiting to be picked up and the car returned home.  Fuel Assist were booked for 7.30am the following morning to drain the car for me.

So with everything going on we had to reorganise our timetable for the Adoption Day.  We decided to
do the aquarium in the afternoon after the court visit and let the children burn off some steam after having to contain their energy whilst in court.

Court day arrived with beautiful sunshine.  It was really the most wonderful weather.  The reorganised schedule meant I was able to put Pip down for a nap before we left.  My sister was able to come with us at the last minute which was lovely that she could be a part of the day but  felt ironic because if she had decided to come the day before I wouldn't have been at the petrol station with all the kids in the car at the time I was because my nephew wouldn't have needed to stay overnight with us!

With everything going on the day and the children arguing it felt quite rushed and I was feeling quite stressed about getting to the places we needed in good time.  We didn't have as long as we wanted for lunch, although the lunch was lovely.  I can thoroughly recommend eating at Giraffe.  The food is delicious and the staff we so helpful.  The children had loads of plastic giraffes to take home and a balloon each. I had a lovely jambalaya which was gluten-free so I was delighted with that. Pip loved his pasta and enjoyed sharing my lime and soda (his face at the sour taste was a picture!).

We made it to the court with 5 minutes to spare (I swear I will write into my will that I have to be late for my own funeral!).  Our Social Worker and his Foster Carer were waiting for us outside.  It was lovely to share the occasion with them both.  The judge was the same judge who oversaw Katie's adoption case as well so it was lovely to catch up with her and for her to see how well Katie was doing.  Pip wasn't interested in being in the court in the slightest.  He was hot and bothered and very grumpy.  It was lovely to see Katie helping him stamp his certificate though and remembering how she stamped her own certificate nearly 4 years ago.  It was difficult to immerse myself in all the memories and emotions though with Pip charging around everywhere and the intense heat!

 We attempted to get some nice photos of us in the courtroom but, by this point, Pip was having none of it and it was very hot in there so we rushed it all through.  The older children had a play about in the dock and looked around and then it was time to leave.  It really is a very odd event I must say.  It's a day that feels like it should be filled with lots of emotion but the reality is it's a quick affair and there's little opportunity to reflect. I felt like I was floating above it all rather than being a part of it.  Still, it was lovely to be there and know that Pip is legally ours and to mark the occasion.

We said goodbye to the judge and she asked us if she would be seeing us again in the future.  My response was "No way!" I know my parenting limit and two children is definitely it!

We had a few more pictures with our Social Worker and Pip's Foster Carer outside the courts and then we went off to the aquarium.

As I predicted, Pip loved the aquarium.  TCM was holding him on his reins and all I saw of him was the pair of them whizzing past at high speed, back and forth, excitedly looking at all the fish, especially his beloved Nemo fish. My sister and I attempted to keep up with the older two children. Thankfully we know the aquarium well and it was quiet there so we knew that they could have a certain amount of freedom although we did lose them once which caused a panic!  I had given them two disposable cameras each to take their own photographs of the day so I await with interest to see what they have photographed.

An ice-cream outside the tearooms ended the day and we put a very tired Pip into the car to drive back home.

It's funny, I reflected later on that I almost had the same expectation of the day as I might do of a day like Christmas.  There was the hope that it would be a day to remember; a wonderful day full of sunshine and happiness and emotion.  We did have the sunshine and there was plenty of emotion.  The emotion was mostly as a result of the older children bickering or moaning or demanding a toy or sweets or ice-cream etc etc.  If I was honest, the day was a reflection of our family life.  Just like Christmas the relationships between people do not suddenly change because there is a special occasion. Children don't really understand that a special occasion means that they could try being on their best behaviour.  It can feel like that they morph into crazy children who seem hell bent on doing everything they can to sabbotage the day.  The reality is that they are just being kids.

I wanted Katie to feel that the day was as much about her as it was about Pip.  I hope we succeeded in that.  I made them both a beautiful Moonpig card with photos and their adoption dates on each and she brought her adoption teddy that the judge gave her along to the court. Interestingly the bear Pip received was tiny compared to the one she received but Katie generously offered to share her bear with Pip. Katie seemed to be far more bothered by her interplay with our nephew than anything else however.  The day was a constant one-up-man-ship event between the two of them that left my nerves frazzled. TCM said to me that my expectations were too high of the day and he is probably right.

Since the adoption day Katie's behaviour has regressed badly again so there are clearly a lot of thoughts dancing through her brain.  This isn't really a surprise and I was expecting it although, as always, the reality is difficult to manage.  She has been talking about her Birth Mother and generally challenging every single thing she has been asked to do. At her request we have created a smiley face peg chart to move her peg up and down according to how well she has behaved.  This is a very instant way of her seeing that she is behaving in an undesirable way although I'm sure she is confused at the moment and I can allow her a certain measure of kicking off because she must be full of confusing emotions.  I know many adopters have issues with the peg system used in schools but Katie likes the visual and it seems to be helping her to modify her behaviour a bit more so it will probably be a useful short-term tool whilst we get back on track.

As for me? Well I'm getting back to normal after it all again too.  We now have a house move to sort out.  We're moving in 2 weeks time and the work to extend our house and rebuild the upstairs will commence.  I have nothing organise or packed so I might be a little quiet on the blog for a week or two whilst I galvanise my poor, still exhausted, body and brain into some sort of action.  I'm also feeling a little concerned as to how the children (and cats) will handle the house move but will see how it all pans out before I dive into anxiety over that part of it all.

Never a dull moment eh?




Monday, 16 June 2014

Miscarriage Care or Care-less?

I don't often write about the infertility experiences I had before we adopted Katie and Pip.  It's mostly because my life has moved on but partly because it's not a time I want to dwell on too much nowadays because I want to focus on the positives.  So why am I writing about it now you might ask?

Well I wanted to lend my support to a campaign that Mumsnet are running to improve the care that women receive when experiencing a miscarriage. Having had 10 miscarriages you could say I'm sadly a bit of an veteran.  My experiences haven't been overly positive I must say.  I would like to see set standards implemented for how the medical community should treat their miscarriage patients.

I say patients in the plural for obvious reasons but also because there are generally men involved alongside the woman who is miscarrying.  The men will probably be surprised I'm mentioning them because, for the most part, they are ignored during the whole miscarriage process. But they are very much a part of the experience and are dealing with their own feelings whilst supporting their partner through what can be a traumatic experience.

I will never forget my first miscarriage.  It was awful.  I had never been pregnant before but something felt wrong, right from the start.  I continued to have positive pregnancy tests and the GP felt that my uterus was growing as expected.  No-one listened to me and my symptoms dismissed.  A scan was never offered.  At nearly 13 weeks pregnant I had my first routine scan only to discover that I had a blighted ovum.  This is where an amniotic sack continues to grow but there is no pregnancy inside.  I was confused and devastated.  I just wanted it all removed as quickly as possible.  I was put on an antenatal ward overnight and spent the night listening to the shouts and screams of women giving birth. The only follow-up I was given was a leaflet from the Miscarriage Association.  I later discovered that the remains of my pregnancy had been kept by the hospital for tests.  This was done without my permission.

I had three more miscarriages before being referred on to a specialist miscarriage unit in London. Each of these miscarriages were first trimester and after a heartbeat was detected.  During that period I can recall having scans in the main UltraSound clinic despite being a miscarriage risk. I had to sit with heavily pregnant women with a bladder full to bursting with water.  With each pregnancy I would have a heartbeat for the first scan but an emergency scan the following week, due to bleeding, would show that the heartbeat had stopped.  Each time I had to walk back into the busy waiting room to use the toilet the empty my bladder so that I could have an internal scan which would confirm that my baby had died.  We would then be whisked away to a relatives room with a chintzy, flowery sofa and pretend windows on the walls to await the poor lady who would come to talk to us.  Our fourth miscarriage was a twin pregnancy and the devastation cannot be described.  It was gut wrenching and we thought we would never recover.  With these four miscarriages I was a patient on the day surgery unit.  A soulless place where I was ignored by the nurses yet I often heard them being supportive to a patient in the next cubicle.  It was like they didn't know what to say to me but it felt like they couldn't be bothered.  The Doctors/Anaesthetists would come and ask questions to prepare me for surgery.  Most of the questions were sensible pre-op questions but there were also questions like:

"How far along is your pregnancy?"
"Are you having a termination?"

Cruel and insensitive questions.  They should just read the file and know those sorts of answers before coming to speak to me.  They should know I had just been told my baby had died, I shouldn't have to tell them over and over again.  I bit back the response I wanted to give.  It was very impolite.  Instead I answered their questions with no emotion.  When the Doctors were accompanied by a student they would discuss my secondary infertility as if I wasn't there.

With each pregnancy I had to book in with the Practice Nurse.  I had to go through all the booking in questions whilst wondering what the point was.  I had to let the nurse know each time we miscarried. No-one else told her.  I received vouchers through the post at the time of the due date.  It was a kick in the teeth every time.

Being referred to a specialist unit in London was a breath of fresh air.  Here were people who understood the stress we were under and the devastation we had experienced.  They gave us hope. They offered us weekly scans. We could phone at any time.  It was a massive trek though: to and from London, which was over and hour on the train plus and underground journey.  Doing that when bleeding, yet again with the next pregnancy, was horrific.  We went through three pregnancies with this unit.  I had surgery to remove a uterine septum in the worst hospital ward I have ever encountered. I took asprin and injected heparin daily due to a blood clotting disorder.

Each pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Each surgery to remove the pregnancy (ERPC) came with a visit to the local day surgery unit though where I was ignored over and over again.  I knew the drill by then. I would arrive at the crack of dawn as instructed; endure the questions; have the surgery; eat some toast and drink a cup of tea; go to the toilet to prove my bladder wasn't damaged and then I would get dressed and wait to go home.  I never had a visit from a sympathetic nurse to ask me if I was OK.  I took a book and shut myself away emotionally.  Waiting until I could get home and howl my pain in safety.  There were never any follow-up visits.  No-one ever checked if I was medically well.  I had to ask for pain relief, having learned that paracetamol was insufficient to take away the pain.  It was never offered by the medical staff.  Everything I needed was led by me.  I had to sort everything out myself.

We decided to try some different treatment and referred ourselves to another clinic in a neighbouring county.  My sister had a positive experience here.  They weren't specialists but they had some good ideas.  Here we probably received the best patient care out of all of the hospitals we experienced during the time we were trying to conceive.  I was well cared for in their day surgery unit.  The doctors were really lovely.  They didn't know why I kept miscarrying but they supported us as best they could. Their kindness was very well appreciated at a time of extreme lows.  With this clinic we also tried two rounds of IVF and, whilst both treatments ended in pregnancy, both babies died after a heartbeat was detected.  At the time I came to the conclusion that my body was just ahead of medical science and we decided enough was enough.

I have only recently discovered that the remains of all my babies were all incinerated alongside the hospital waste.  I was never given an option for what I wanted or have a choice as to how they were cremated.  I wish I had known that I could challenge this.  I would have. Now I am left feeling that my babies didn't receive the treatment that they deserved.  This will haunt me until I die and I hope that no other woman has to suffer this.

This is a snapshot of 15 years of pregnancies and miscarriages.

I have seen an improvement in services.  The local hospital does now have an early pregnancy unit. This arrived during our period of infertility.  The scans for early pregnancy and threatened miscarriage are now delivered separately from the main antenatal unit although you do still have to share the same main waiting area when you first arrive so you can't avoid seeing heavily pregnant women. They may have improved this even further but I've not set foot in there for many years now.

I was never offered counselling.  I thank the heavens for my friends.  They all knew the moment I was pregnant and they held my hand throughout the whole process.  They learned to dread scan day as much as we did.  They were brilliant.  I can't thank them enough for their support during that time. I was always very open about my experiences and I feel that I benefited emotionally from this.  I did seek counselling for myself through this process to try and understand what I was experiencing and to fathom out a why.  The "why" came, for me, as a spiritual answer the day I met my adoptive daughter, Katie.  I knew I was born to be her Mummy.  A lot of the emotional load fell off me on that day.  It does hit me from time to time though. Moments when the emotional pain tears through me.  Having since adopted Pip has helped me open some of the baby doors I had closed when I thought I would never have a baby but it has been difficult to allow those doors to reopen and I'm due to start a period of counselling to talk some of those emotions through.

I am writing this very difficult blog post today to lend my support to the Mumsnet campaign in the hope that changes can be made to prevent women and their partners from suffering anymore than they need to during a miscarriage.

So what needs to change?

1. Well the language used for one thing.  I could have literally punched each and every person who told me I was having an abortion.  No I was not having an abortion! Yes I know it's the medical term but do you know the emotional impact hearing the word "abortion" has when you're having a miscarriage? It's insensitive and please just use the word miscarriage.

2. Don't ask a woman who is laying in a hospital bed how many weeks pregnant she is when it's clear from her records she has had a miscarriage.  Read the file before you speak to her please!

3. Give all women an early scan in a place that is not even remotely close to the room where you are scanning heavily pregnant women.  The last thing you want to see when you have  just learned your baby is dead is someone rubbing their hands over their blossoming baby belly.

4. If a woman is miscarrying at home then please scan her quickly so she can understand what is happening to her and offer her the appropriate care - both physical and emotional.  Please can there be a dedicated telephone number that she can phone for help and advice whilst she is miscarrying? It's so scary when you miscarry at home because you have no idea what is going on and whether it is a complete miscarriage or not.

5. Tell the women and her partner if she has one with her what is happening.  Be supportive but clear. They will be in shock.  They will be feeling very emotional or very numb.  They might not hear everything you are saying.  Keep it kind but clear.  Offer a follow-up appointments for all the questions that will follow later on.

6. The hospital need to speak to the GP surgery and the Practice Nurses to tell them what has happened.  Do not leave it to an already distraught person to have to tell everyone.  The GP Practice should then follow up their patient with a call or an appointment to make sure they are OK.

7. Please acknowledge the partner at all times.  Don't just speak to the woman.  My husband was treated as though the miscarriage hadn't happened to him.  He was invisible.  He had no purpose.  The doctors only ever spoke to me.  This made it even harder for him when he was trying to be supportive but was also devastated himself.

Mumsnet have developed their own Miscarriage Code of Care which I want to support.  The details of this can be found here:


There is also a news report in The Guardian today highlighting some of the outcomes of a recent Mumsnet survey into the experiences women had had of miscarriage. Click here to read the article.

As a final point I just want to add that women experiencing miscarriage need a lot of care.  Emotional care and physical care.  The medical profession often seems careless with their terminology and their care generally feels lacking.  This needs to change and it takes so very few things to make it better.  I call on all the political parties to do something radical and actually talk to each other about this.  Don't try and score political points at the expense of a tragic experience.  Help us to get the best care available.

Thank you!



Edited: 22 June 2014 to add:

Mumsnet have produced a short film to accompany their campaign.  Check it out on You Tube. It is poignant and the statistics brought tears to my eyes......





Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Where has the year gone?

Talk about blink and you'd miss it! It's been a year now since Pip moved in and became part of our family.

A year!  

A year?  How did that happen?  I've just had another birthday and am definitely feeling another year older.  I certainly have more wrinkles and grey hair than I did a year ago.  A friend of mine told me that she doesn't remember much about the year after she adopted her second son and I can see what she means.

I can hardly believe that this time last year I was writing about how overwhelmed and underwhelmed I was feeling with the adoption process and all the changes in our lives.  In many ways not much has changed over that year.  I would say with a degree of certainty that we're settled and established as a family of four now but we are still grappling with the dynamics of having an additional child.  I've come to the conclusion that some people are naturally just made to be parents.  They are calm and unflappable and see the love in everything. I've also come to the conclusion that I'm not one of those people! I'm not an earth mother. Funnily enough people often comment how calm and relaxed I seem but I am anything but.  I'm just good at hiding it...... some of the time.  I'm beginning to realise that there is no permanent settled destination and that things are always in flux and that I have to try and go with it.  And I'm learning to accept that that is OK.

I'd say this past year has been one of the toughest emotionally and physically I've had in many years. to get up every day and just do the best I can do on that day.  The years of infertility were soul destroying in a different way.  This year has brought the feeling of constantly never quite getting it right; of being so exhausted that I just want to curl up and let everyone get on with it.  I've endlessly questioned everything about myself.  I've struggled with the whole adoption process and its ineptitude.  I felt enormous stress over the issue of Pip's weight which raised so many issues internally about my own weight battles.  I've felt out of my depth on a daily basis with Katie's behaviour.  I've beat myself up every which way I could think of.  I've questioned why we thought having a second child was a good idea.  I've struggled with out of control hormones and increasing exhaustion and fatigue.  (I finally might be getting to the bottom of the fatigue having been diagnosed with almost non-existent Vitamin D levels.  I'm having more tests now but feel like I'm finally getting somewhere.)  I've felt depressed; I've felt elated.  I've felt invisible and unsupported. I've felt tired and I've felt hyper and I've felt bored on more days that I should admit to. I've felt deskilled and I've been the most disorganised I have ever been in my entire life.  I can definitely say I've felt every emotion under the sun.  I definitely have young children because I suspect all of these emotions come hand in hand with young children.  It doesn't help that I have a desire to get things right due to my own lingering issues of being badly parented but I'm learning that I simply can't get it right all the time....or even most of the time! 

Bit by bit I have started to challenge the voices around me and I have started to feel more confident and stand my ground over the things I feel were important, particularly over the pressure around Pip's weight.  I look at my now normal sized son now and feel justified that Mummy did know best!  I am slowly wrapping my head around Katie's needs and seeing the patterns in her behaviour and responding (mostly) calmly.  Now I'm receiving injections to stop my hormones I feel calmer and more emotionally balanced.  I've started on high doses of Vitamin D and now have moments of energy returning although I have to pace myself carefully.  This has given me the ability to step back and review and not feel the need to dive in with some new parenting technique because I felt out of control. I've learned that "control" is a word that needs to be thrown out of the dictionary and that I have to embrace the crazy a bit more because our life is crazy now.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em isn't that what they say?  I do find it difficult to see life crashing crazily by though and often am not sure how engaged in it all I actually am.

So how has life moved forward since the crazy moving in period of last year?  Well Pip is 19 months and toddling now and running full pelt at life.  We call him Hercules because he is so strong and probably could lift small buildings out of his way if he wanted to.  He is making good progress. He's holding off on speaking much at the moment which I'm trying not to allow to bother me.  He says "Mama" and "Dadda" and "gargen (garden)".  He attempted "steam (stream)" today.  He occasionally says a word really clearly (i.e. Blue Bear) and then refuses to say it again. Most of his communication involves smiling or screaming and shouting "Ugh ugh" at me.  I think it's all in there though and suspect he'll just come out with sentences when he's ready.  He understands everything I ask him to do and he seems a smart cookie.  I'll see how he is when he hits 2 years old and look at whether we need to have hearing tests performed.  Katie had some hearing issues when she first joined us but she was an early and very fluent talker.  Pip is a boy though and very different.  I don't think there is anything wrong with him, just a reluctance to speak.  He probably can't get a word in edgeways in our house with all the noise. I'm doing a lot of sitting and reading and repeating words and he'll find whatever I want him to find in the book so I think he's hearing OK.

Katie is getting there.  We had a lovely half term, which was a surprise.  She and I had a wonderful time together and really rebonded.  I felt very relaxed by the weekend which I hadn't expected.  I was dreading the holidays if I'm honest.  I capitalised on good behaviour by rewarding her with beads for every little thing she did that was nice.  She earned herself a few toys and her coveted Elsa dress and was a total delight to have around.  I really hoped we were building up to a real, lasting change.  What was interesting though was how that changed over the weekend when Daddy was home and how it worsened considerably again yesterday after her first day back at school.  I am going to watch and monitor that very carefully.  Katie always did punish TCM for being out at work all day and I wonder if that is still the case.  I also wonder if we are simply getting the fall-out at home of having to behave in school all day? The insights are interesting though and it's made me realise that the holidays seem calmer when it's just me and the children.  That's tough on me in many ways but it does seem to run more smoothly.

Katie still has a lot of anxieties. She worries a lot about being sick and I have to feel her tummy quite often to make sure it isn't sicky. She's rarely ever sick but it's stuck in her head and refuses to budge and I suspect it just offers an identity to her anxiety rather than being an issue in itself. We had a reprise of her temper tantrums last night again after having a week free of them.  There does seem to be a pattern of her having a tantrum when she feels an injustice has been served against her, even if logic dictates otherwise.  When in that situation she is unable to manage her emotions.  Add to that being tired after school and over-excited after a playdate that involved her best friend and her thinking it was a good idea to bounce on the trampoline and throw their school shoes into the very overgrown bushes and it was probably all too much to hold it together.  It took us 2 hours to find her shoes.  Not a happy Mummy and Daddy and ultimately not a happy Katie who refused to go to bed because she wanted to stay in the garden whilst TCM was looking for her shoes, despite it being bedtime.  She then lost her temper in the garden and TCM had to carry her upstairs for her bath kicking and screaming. She did calm down relatively quickly though. Generally though she has made progress and I think I'm learning to parent her better.  I'm trying to be less directional because I know how much I hated being told what to do.  I do forget some days when the pressure to be somewhere is on though. I am trying to stop worrying about how she'll be in 10 years time and trying to focus on how things are each day and letting the future take care of itself.  We have asked for some additional support from our Social Worker and Post Adoption Team to help us though and I've also asked for some counselling to help me through some of the issues that I think might be getting in the way for me.

This coming year will bring a temporary house move for about 6 months whilst we rebuild and extend our house. The timing isn't great with me being unwell still but it's all an adventure isn't it? Naturally I am concerned about how the children will fare with a house move but am hoping that having us with them will smooth things over.  I'll respond to anything else if and when it happens.  We're going to visit the house as much as possible in the meantime to familiarise ourselves with it and have discovered friends of Katie's who live in the next road so lots of playdates are already planned.  I'm trying to ignore the fact that we have to move and to sort through our house and all the decisions and stresses that a build will bring with it.  Again I'm going to take it all day by day and see where we end up.

Next week we have our Adoption Day in court for Pip and I'm focusing my attention mostly on that. It's been a long time coming and I'm looking forward to the day very much.  It will be a real cause for celebration and I hope my plans to involve Katie and my nephew will work well.

It has been an interesting year, lots of highs and lows.  I wonder what my review next year will read like?