Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Eye Eye.....

Well it's been a week and I've not written anything here. Where have I been? What on earth has been going on?  Well, not very much online (well not that I can tell you because I've not been there) but something quite big in the world where you can touch people physically (and not just emotionally).

I've had laser eye surgery!

I had the surgery, very romantically, on Valentines Day (funnily enough they had some spare appointments). I now officially have 20:20 vision (better in fact!) and am a Non-Glasses Wearer (NGW) - well until the need for reading glasses becomes even more apparent. But for now I'm relishing seeing the world with more clarity (with just a little bit of haziness around the edges until I'm all healed up) than I've seen it for over 20 years. All I can say is WOW!

Because I'm supposed to be limiting the strain I put on my eyes I've not been online very much and certainly haven't been writing (although I'm itching to write all the details of the surgery down in full and graphic detail for anyone who's interested).  Do let me know below if you want to hear all the details!

I've  been a reasonably good girl and followed doctor's orders.  Honest!
(I've not spent the past few days trawling through the internet to book hotel and flights to EuroDisney......)

I have been good and not been blogging or spending vast quantities of time on Twitter and Facebook though.  I've not watched much TV and I've rested my eyes and listened to my weight-loss hypnosis app every day!

I won't be able to keep it up for much longer though as my fingers are twitching and the need to write is creeping in although the dryness that are currently my eyes is keeping me fairly on the straight and narrow if I'm being honest.  It's half term this week so I'm too busy entertaining Katie and her various friends; chasing the builders; and moaning about the mess that is currently our house to have time to write.

I will just say that we finally have a date for panel and our PAR is just about finished!! 

I'm now signing off to go back to watching the TV resting my eyes and will see you all again soon!!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The MADS 2013

Am I a little bit MAD?

Some very kind people have nominated this blog for the following MAD Blog awards: 

Best Writer
Best Family Life Blog
Blog of the Year

Thank you to everyone who has nominated me.  I'm very humbled and a little bit excited.  If you agree and would also like to nominate me then please click the link on the right hand side of the blog and know that your support is very much appreciated.

Monday, 11 February 2013


Today, upon phoning my GP surgery to make an appointment with my lovely GP, I discovered she had retired just after Christmas.  I then had to make an appointment to see an unnamed locum tomorrow (the surgery don't know who they will have with them tomorrow).  I felt a variety of different emotions:

I immediately felt sad and a bit cheesed off for myself.  My GP was a wonderful lady who knew so much about my background.  Lengthy explanations were no necessary.  She had supported us through our first adoption and through our current one.  She knew why I experienced certain medical issues. I felt safe and understood with her.  She was interested in how things were going with Katie. I trusted her.  How dare she retire and leave me the child inside me whinged!

I also felt a bit annoyed that I wasn't informed that she had retired.  I would have liked to have given her a card to wish her well, for I do wish her well. I may well still send one via the practice.

I felt annoyed that I have to see a locum who isn't even known to the practice.  There will potentially be no continuity of care with this outcome.

I felt sorry for the poor receptionist who probably gets it in the neck from patients who aren't as polite as I am who are also fed up at the concept of seeing an unnamed locum and all the other changes currently happening within our practice.

I'm mature enough to understand that changes aren't always a bad thing though. I might have an even better meeting with the locum without all the history attached. The changes at my practice may well be beneficial to all the patients.

As I pondered on my forthcoming appointment I was struck by the various feelings that arose.  How the loss of that familiarity could make me feel anxious and it reminded me of how a child must feel when either being placed into care or leaving care to live with their adoptive family (this is merely showing empathy and not making a direct comparison before anyone jumps on me!).  Whatever the circumstances there is safety in familiarity.  You know what to expect. You can predict the outcome of certain events.  How scary and unsafe it must feel for a child to be ripped away from the safety of a happy foster home.  I often wonder if this is how Katie felt.  She had lived with her foster carers from her birth.  Grandma (her foster carer) was really the only constant mother she had known at that time.  Katie was perfectly happy there.  She loved Grandma and all the family that were a  part of her life, and they loved her.  How must it have felt to have all that taken away?  Did she wonder if Grandma didn't want her, or love her, any more?  Did it bring up emotions in her from when her birth mother left?  She was too young to articulate any of those emotions.  I do remember her breaking her heart when Grandma came to visit us not longer after she moved in.  Those emotions will be stored in her though as will the emotions linked to her birth mother.

We've kept in constant touch with Grandma.  Visiting often and asking Grandma to become an official Grandma so that Katie, hopefully, doesn't feel rejected for a second/third time and so that Grandma is on hand to fill in some of the gaps for her.  Nowadays she visits Grandma's and leaves with me very happily.  She seems safe and secure and happy.

I wonder if she will always feel that way or will she carry a feeling of abandonment with her? We're are doing all we can to keep the channels of communication open with her birth family as well as with her foster family. I know we can only do what we can do and I also know that Katie may well have feelings of abandonment because she is adopted.  I have experienced tremendous feelings of abandonment because my mother has chosen to stay with the step-father who abused me.  I cannot change the situation but I can understand and accept where those feelings originate from and know that it's OK to have those feelings.  I can also see all the people in my life who have not abandoned me and I draw strength from those relationships.  I cannot, and will not, give Katie a fantasy life or try and encourage her to push down any worrying feelings she might have about being adopted.  Any feelings she might experience will be part of her and her life experiences.  They will shape the person she will become.  I encourage her to talk about how she is feeling, even when that also makes me feel uncomfortable or a failure.  That is the job of a parent, and mostly particularly the job of an adoptive parent.  Today Katie and I discussed that it was OK for her to love her Birth Mother and me.  I have reassured her that she doesn't have to love one more than the other and that she can have room in her heart for anyone she wants to love.  I hope that she will grow up feeling safe enough to discuss all those feelings with me and know that there is love and support for her regardless of what she is feeling.  It took me a great many years to feel safe within myself and I'm now in my 40s. I know that it may take Katie equally as long although I hope that I can give her a strong foundation from which to work.

(This post was edited and updated on 12th February 2013 to add some additional thinking from it's original publication date of 11th February 2013)

P.S. The appointment with my locum GP went really, really, well.  She was helpful and insightful and has referred me for physiotherapy for my dodgy hip and changed some medication for me.  All those anxieties were unfounded (although the jury is still out on the continuity of care issue)!

Some very kind people have nominated this blog for the following MAD Blog awards: Best Writer: Best Family Life Blog; and Blog of the Year.  Thank you to everyone who has nominated me.  I'm very humbled and a little bit excited.  If you agree and would also like to nominate me then please click the link on the right hand side of the blog and know that your support is very much appreciated.


Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Little Miss Hanky Cranky!

Life is a game of highs and lows in the Katie household at the moment.  Katie is the girl with a curl!  Katie picked up a bug from school recently so has been a bit under the weather.  She woke up very early a few days and she seems quite tired as a result of that and the school day and with that has come Little Miss Hanky Cranky (at least I hope that's all it is)!

Cranky is a bit of an understatement really.  In all honesty I'm having to dig in deep with some of her behaviour.  Sometimes she is sweetness and light and a real joy to be around (mostly in the mornings after a good sleep) but we've had a return of the hitting and spitting when she's angry or isn't getting her own way.  She seems to quickly lose all perspective and shouts/screams angrily at the top of her voice with her hands on her hips and slams doors.  She then usually manages to bump herself in the process of this which makes her even more incensed. She hurls insults with the passion and power of a javelin thrower.  I'm sure you get the picture.  Time-out on her stool isn't being overly effective because she is doing everything she can to get attention whilst she's on there.  Interestingly (and thankfully) she is fine at school so this behaviour is mostly limited to when she's at home.

Time to review how we manage this......

After having a little think and a chat with some friends, both adoptive and birth parents, I am doing the following:

  1. When Katie kicks off I take her up to her bedroom to calm down and I walk away.  The door remains open and she can come down whenever she is calm again.  There is no time specification on this and I am repeating this until she calms down and modifies her behaviour.  Cuddles and kisses are waiting for as soon as she is calm.
  2.  Hitting and spitting has a consequence.  Tonight the consequence was that she wasn't allowed to watch a programme on the laptop at tea-time; the second consequence, when the offence was repeated, was that she lost her bedtime stories (this was after being repeatedly spat at and slapped).  I explained to her that I felt she was behaving unacceptably because she was so tired and clearly needed to go to bed. So she was in bed for 6:15pm.
  3. I am calm throughout all of this.  Other than a stated consequence I am not engaging with her behaviour.
  4. I'm picking my battles and trying to ignore behaviour as much as possible.
So far this technique (for want of a better word) is working quite well.  I was concerned about leaving her in her bedroom because I know it's been debated amongst adopters but I feel that Katie needs to be apart from me to actually calm herself down and see that I will not tolerate this behaviour.  The timeout spot isn't working anymore for this particular behaviour.  I will still use the spot for general things but aggressive outbursts will now be dealt with in the new way.  I felt calmer for removing her totally from the situation and, so far, the result has been favourable (although I hate hearing her cry or feel angry).  I am ensuring I am clear that the time in her bedroom is to calm down and that she can come down whenever she wants to, as long as she has calmed down and is ready to behave nicely.

I'll see what happens next. I'm hoping this is just a phase and is just old fashioned tiredness!  She has an INSET day on Friday so hopefully an extra day off school might be just what the Doctor (and the Mummy) ordered......

Unique Experiences....

When I was training to be a counsellor one of the things we talked about was the unique experience of our clients.  Empathy is the ability to walk in someone else's shoes whilst keeping one of your feet firmly on solid ground and not being overtaken by your clients experiences.  We all have our own experiences and our own reactions and emotions as part of those experiences.  No two experiences are the same and it is not possible to totally share someone else's experience.  Given the same set of circumstances you might respond and react very differently and the impact of those responses will impact upon you in a very different way.  Your character and resilience and early experiences will shape how you react to experiences.  This is very obvious with adoption.   No two children will react and behave in the same way to a particular set of circumstances.  As an adopter it is not possible to have any guarantees as to how your child may react during their life to their experiences before adoption and subsequently once they become part of your family (obviously the same is true of birth children).

Recently I received a tweet in response to my post "Deciding to Adopt".  In that post I talked about the 10 miscarriages we experienced before becoming parents to Katie through adoption.  The tweet I received said that Katie was actually my 11th choice and the tweeter wondered how that might make Katie feel.  I felt incensed to receive such a message.  "Katie is certainly not my 11th choice" I inwardly raged.  Katie is everything to me.  She is an amazing young lady and I couldn't imagine my life without her now.  I see my journey through infertility as the path that led me towards being her mum.  The tweeter has a point though.  Will Katie see it that way in the future?  Will Katie feel that the only reason we adopted her was because we couldn't have a birth child.  That is a tough question to answer and I can only give my experience as a reply because Katie will have her own feelings on the subject.

When we started to try for a family we didn't question how we would become parents.  We just tried to get pregnant.  I only knew one adopted person at that point so adopting wasn't really on our radar.  We then found ourselves on a medical treadmill of trying to sort out the reason as to why I kept miscarrying.  Somewhere along the way that treadmill took over the desire to be a parent and it became a problem to solve.  I suspect we both lost our way a bit during that time because the need to not give in took over.  Deciding to become a parent through adoption was a much more considered journey for both of us.  We questioned our desire and ability to be parents in far more depth.

When you start the journey towards becoming an adoptive parent you will hear and read and absorb a lot of information about adoption and the children who need to be adopted.  There are blogs written by Adoptive Parents; Adoptees; Birth Parents and Agencies.  Each one detailing the writers own unique experience and their resulting thoughts and feelings.  It is easy to get confused as you read so many stories of extremes.  I churned inwardly for about 48 hours after receiving the tweet I mentioned above.  I worried.  I read some of the links the tweeter sent me.  I spent a lot of time thinking and feeling some very big and quite scary emotions.  But then a feeling washed over me.  It reminded me a bit of the scene in "Good Will Hunting" when the psychiatrist Sean has the following conversation with Will after Sean had a sleepless night thinking about things that Will said to him:

"Sean: Thought about what you said to me the other day, about my painting. Stayed up half the night thinking about it. Something occurred to me... fell into a deep peaceful sleep, and haven't thought about you since. Do you know what occurred to me? 
Will: No. 
Sean: You're just a kid, you don't have the faintest idea what you're talkin' about.  
Will: Why thank you.  
Sean: It's all right. You've never been out of Boston.  
Will: Nope.
Sean: So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you'd probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can't tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You're a tough kid. And I'd ask you about war, you'd probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, "once more unto the breach dear friends." But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I'd ask you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn't know what it's like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn't know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms "visiting hours" don't apply to you. You don't know about real loss, 'cause it only occurs when you've loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you... I don't see an intelligent, confident man... I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you're a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart. You're an orphan right?
[Will nods]
Sean: You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally... I don't give a shit about all that, because you know what, I can't learn anything from you, I can't read in some fuckin' book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I'm fascinated. I'm in. But you don't want to do that do you sport? You're terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief."

This scene encapsulates perfectly the assumptions that people make about each other.  The tweeter made an assumption about my life based on their own feelings and attacked me based on those feelings and assumptions.  Those weren't my feelings or my experiences for that matter (and I'm not comparing the tweeter to Will Hunting here in any way shape or form - I was just using the scene as a metaphor).  Once I came to that realisation I felt much more comfortable and able to have a dialogue with the tweeter with my fears and anger put to one side and (hopefully) based on mutual respect and understanding that we come from very different perspectives on the whole issue of adoption.  I could have easily just blocked the tweeter (and I was tempted as I have enough stress in my life as it is without seeking out any more) but I felt that there was a valid experience to be heard.  It doesn't mean it will be my experience or Katie's experience though.

The adoption system is a part of our culture.  Adoption, in various forms, has been a part of our society for as long as humans have been around I would imagine.  If a parent is unable to care for their child, for whatever reason, then (I feel) it can only be a good thing for that child to be placed within a loving family.  I was watching Les Miserables the other evening and struck by how Fontaine leaves her daughter, Cosette, in the car of the unscrupulous Inn Keeper and his wife because she is forced to find work to support her child.  Legalised adoption enables children to be cared for with parents who have been vetted and deemed suitable (one would most certainly hope although this isn't always going to be the case as no system is infallible).  Obviously this same system finds some birth parents unsuitable to retain custody of their child and there is a great subjectiveness within this system that I do not feel qualified to write about.  There are some who are calling for adoptions to be allowed to be overturned and for an adoptee to be legally repatriated with their birth name and all the legal rights that entails, if they so wish.  This is an interesting debate and I can empathise with the feelings and reasons involved but I am also aware that not every adopted child will want to do that.  Those feelings and desires will be based on each adoptees own experiences.  It's also worth acknowledging that feelings change as the years pass by.  I do not have contact with my birth family and I have experienced a great many feelings over the years before arriving at the acceptance that I currently have.  I have enough years under my belt to see a bigger picture - what I call the "10 Year Review" where you can look back and see how things interconnect and lead you to a certain point.  I can see the challenges that my experiences have brought and the things I have achieved as a result of those experiences.  I felt able to be an adoptive parent because of some of the sadness and pain I have experienced.  I no longer see my life in black of white but embrace the many shades of grey (in a very non-Christian Grey sort of way!).

As an adopter, it would be so useful to be able to sit down and really talk about the various layers of adoption with adoptees and birth parents.  To hear each others feelings without being angry or judgemental with each other or trying to invalidate each others experiences.  To set aside the need to be right but allow the ability to just come together and share experiences. To be able to really listen and learn from each other and to, hopefully, benefit the children that are coming through the care system and being placed within adoptive homes.  What an experience that could be!

I would be really interested to know if that is happening within the UK and, if so, what the results have been?