Enjoying some self care

No one will quite understand this unless the are a SEND or LAC/post-LAC parent… but I’ve been a bit pong-y today. I’m now fresh out of an uninterrupted 10 minute shower, where I not only got to shave what could only be described as “manly” pits, but I also washed my hair, quite literally 3 times. 3. Why? Cause I liked the way the suds felt in my hair AND I had the time to… and I used a fresh towel to dry myself. A nice crisp clean one that no dirty hands had dare touch. And shortly I fully intend to thoroughly brush my teeth for 2 whole minutes, instead of the usual flick around, job done.

May seem disgusting or TMI to mention. May even seem so trivial and small, bordering unpostable, to some. But in reality to me, it’s pretty major. These simple things are often overlooked for primary caregivers of SEND or children in/from care. Unless you live it you don’t really see the sacrifices, not even as a parent of children who haven’t faced trauma, or don’t have SEND. So I thought I would post, to reassure those out there with compassion fatigue, approaching caregiver burn out, you aren’t alone, I stink and am too hairy most of the time too… and to take your moment when you can, to enjoy that 10 minutes if and when you can, to destink. You’re worth it.

Strained positvity…

On 3 hours sleep, I have had a tough day. I have deadlines to meet by tomorrow, that look like a lack of sleep again. However, rather than mark the day with a list of negatives, I am choosing to post my favourite moment of today to leave that as the history I record:


Today as the heavens opened and the rain poured down the tremendous sounds of thunder became apparent. I ran upstairs (where I had sent the children to play) and ignored the riotous scenes I was greeted with to declare to the children there was a thunder storm and asked if they’d like to come spotting with me. Aware that a waterproofs routine may cause us to miss out, and knowing how they like to be appropriately dressed in the rain, I took the initiative to invite them to the “viewing platform” (otherwise known as “Mumma’s desk” or more aptly described as the junk storage corner). The excitement of every flash and the anticipation of every rumble was an amazingly happy experience in the midst of such utter nonsense that I took a step back. I smiled. And I enjoyed!

PS I got my new replacement laptop… so watch this space…

I took some time for self care last night…

By that of course I mean, I put clean bedding on my bed and took a shower. You may think that these two things are simple enough to do, but actually (and this is going to sound really disgusting – but when you are in a high trauma time, you just don’t have time/energy for anything not entirely essential) I haven’t changed my bedding in 7 weeks. When I customised my bed and made sure I had a superking, I didn’t think about how much of a battle putting a superking duvet in a duvet cover would be… but alas, I fought my battle, and even though I needed a shower, I definitely was in dire need by the end of the battle. Plus, feeling clean and then getting into a clean bed is one of the most awesome feelings ever.

I then had a date with both children’s disability renewal forms. It’s that time again. I really hate the paperwork, it’s such a chore. And I really hate having to claim too! But no one else is supporting anything therapeutic for them besides the 10 sessions of intensive family therapy we get as a family through the Adoption Support Fund, so I need it to provide them with the support they need (groups/lessons to aid their physical development, passes and parking for admission to nature places where they can be mindful and feel at peace and educational resources as schools can’t accommodate them but home education is a “choice” so we get no other means of support). Whichever way I look at it, it’s money that we actually need, and it’s less than a placement at a specialist school so we have to, much to our dismay.

Anyhow, feeling clean and fresh, and sitting in a fresh bed was so happy and motivating, that one is now complete and the other is half way done. So bonus, I feel even happier as a heavy weight is lifting! 😀 YAY!

In the background

I am doing things in the background, I really am – there are several posts (well perhaps several hundred would be a more apt description). I don’t hide that the last few months of the year are always a strain in this household, but this year has brought its own unique challenges. We are coming out of the other side now, but doesn’t change the fact that I am worn to the core, 7 weeks behind at uni (I just scraped in an essay on time – 48 unfocused hours to do 4 weeks of work, write the essay and get it roughly proofed and referenced), in the middle of more major work at the house (this time landscaping and flooring), trying to home educate and now, train a puppy… yes a puppy. There will be a post about him appearing soon enough I am sure!

But I wanted to come online and post a quick “Happy New Year, we are in the background, we’re not in a fantastic place, but we aren’t entirely broken either…” message. Once I have sorted us out here, I will get on it. In the interim you may see posts sporadically coming in… I keep dreaming of this time that I will be able to have a regular scheduled place and time to sit and study and write my blogs. It will happen. It WILL! I swear it. IT WILL! Hehehehe.

 

“When are you sending them back to school?”

  • “You’re getting more settled into a permanent home, the kids are more confident than they have ever been, they are actually learning now and thriving in the life you have given them… when are you sending them back to school?”
  • “How are they gonna do their SATs?”
  • “Well, what are you going to do at GCSE time?”
  • “How can you be sure you aren’t going to ruin their futures by refusing to send them to school?”

Common themes of conversations now that we are in our permanent space and settling.

Well let me put it this way, I can’t actually know for certain what they will achieve in their futures, but I can say with conviction that right now it is the best (and only) option. Their therapists have put it in black and white that with their combined issues “neither child can be in a classroom at present”. Not from my pushing, but from their personal assessment, observations and findings. A school institution cannot have a positive affect on their development, health and well being right now. But guess what? Home life does.

Right now they are trees with broken roots, replanted into healthy soil, being nurtured and encouraged to grow and develop. They need time for the roots to establish themselves and grow. Then they can flourish. And who knows, at some point in the future that may involve school. But if we put them into school right at this moment, they’d be unhealthy trees, overshadowed by taller, more established trees, unable to get enough sunlight through the healthy canopy towering above them, but healthy enough to not just topple and die. Existing, but never truly flourishing.

DSC_0083

I have days where I find it hard, but I am never ever in doubt that this is in the best interest of the children. Bruce is the same, he has days where he doubts whether this is the best thing for me (given that I never get a break), but there’s never any doubt about the children’s best interests. School is not in the vision. But our lives, as ever changing as they are with the children’s needs, are ever changing.

Adoption: why does it create burnout?

As per my previous post (Burnout) my body is so burnt out that a cold turned into a chest infection. 2 weeks later I’m still getting over it and knowing my body well and how it feels I can see I’m going to be battling chronic fatigue now. This is the result of secondary trauma, compassion fatigue and a support system that doesn’t work. Adoption isn’t hard because of the kids. Adoption is hard because of a system that’s too weak to support the children’s needs.

They are only entitled to basic medical needs on NHS (if they needed A&E through accidental, or if they had a medical problem like anaemia or asthma etc.) Anything mental health, sensory, behavioural and developmental must be done through the Adoption support (because the NHS won’t even look into until they know it’s not ado[tion related). Which means, £5000 is their cap on therapeutic support and specialist equipment. £2500 is the cap for assessing. Meaning they can be assessed once in a year. If one of them needed a specialist car seat (which we are on the border of needing) it costs £2200+. So we’d have the option to self fund that £2200 bill, or to halve our current therapy which is only 8 sessions per year as it is.

Adoption is not hard because of the kids. Adoption is hard because of the fights you have to go through to get their basic needs met. Because of the circles you run in trying to prove whether their needs are medical or adoption related (don’t even go there if the two overlap – dyspraxia/DCD+ attachment related development and sensory issues).By the time you finish the fight, there’s pretty much nothing left for the children who need all of your energy and attention to help them heal. Do you fight, and neglect them whilst you fight? Or do you not fight, and neglect them by not getting them what they need? Either way, they are left neglected in some form. It’s not right.

The children are being removed through experiences of neglect, and in turn they are being setup to be neglected in some way shape or form. Us adopters aren’t robots or machines. We have a finite amount of energy. Things shouldn’t be made so difficult for us to help the children. I made the selfish choice to adopt, to become a mum. But I did it not knowing they’d be refused all they need. It is torture to watch. Exhausting to live. And isolating.

Things need to change. Not just for us as a family, but nationally, as I know we are just one in a picture of thousands of families in similar situations. We didn’t mess our children up, we are trying to pick the pieces up, unsupported. It’s like trying to push toothpaste back into a tube that’s still being squeezed. It’s not working.

I don’t want to mum today.

Almost a week of this stupid bug, kids with anxiety so high that even just trying to get to breakfast is an exhausting battle, and having to get through the trauma of the nights (nightmares really high again for one child, crying/defending self in sleep, the other just flat out refusing sleep or help).
 
I don’t want to be a mum today. I just want to hide. My body is in agony. No one sees this side, everyone just sees my “charming, well behaved, polite and compliant” children. I apparently make up their struggle, or exaggerate it to my own end. “How could they possible be as bad as [I] say they are”. Trauma that’s how, they hold it together in front of everyone else to protect themselves. But at home, in the place they feel safest (not safe, just safest, they still don’t have any reason to trust me to be the mum they need me to be). 
I am burnt out. Caitlin had the same cold as me. For her it lasted 12 hours. For me, a week later it’s still going strong because my body is too exhausted to fight it. So yeah, once again I am sat here, out of energy, depleted of the patience and tolerance I need to get through the day and it’s not even 9am yet wondering how the hell any of us are still going to be breathing at the end of the day. 
I hope I can turn it into a positive day, despite knowing right now I don’t have much hope. But I thought it’d be worth sharing this in the moment because these are the times no one sees.

Please stop using your children as weapons.

I have been biting my tongue on this subject for freaking ages. But you know what, in the last month alone 4 people close to me have been in the middle of these type of scenarios and frankly it’s frustrating the absolute hell out of me.

Whether you decide to have a child with someone, or things happen and you are unexpectedly welcomed into the parenting world, you have a child and a responsibility to ensure that child has the best opportunities in life.

Now, you can consume yourself in the breast vs bottle debate, or argue parenting styles ’til the cows come home. But what isn’t up for debate is that the child had NO choice in being welcomed into the world, and the child deserves to be no part in the disputes you have with the other half of their DNA.

Yet, repeatedly I am seeing parents chanting their parenting mantras as gospel and declaring they are the best and everyone should follow suit, yet on the flipside denying the other biological entity any involvement, or fluctuating involvement based on how they are getting along as adults. Or even just denying any responsibility for the child.

THE CHILD IS THE ONLY ONE THAT MATTERS.

What part of that is unclear? If the child is safe with both parenting parties, why is it wrong to give them contact? And even if there are concerns we have contact centres… there are solutions.

Is it not our responsibility as parents to go out of our way to ensure they have everything they are entitled to? And speaking from an adoption background where little is known, knowing who your birth family is and having regular contact is key to being able to accept your identity, the very integral parts of who you are.

Hell, I know that none of these people who are having issues has done anything half as bad as what my children have been through, and yet I still prioritise making sure our letters are sent to birth family (not just the birth parents I may add, extended family too), not just once but a few times a year, and not just letters, but personalised art work for each recipient too. And that is prioritised above anything else in life besides the children’s immediate needs. If I can do that, and have to fight for everything else I can, knowing what I know about life events, and put my thoughts to one side for the sake of the children being able to have their identity accepted, I am positive that not a single one of you holding your child to ransom has a leg to stand on.

It genuinely makes me feel physcially sick.

I don’t care who is offended by this. I have, in all honesty, fallen out with friends who use their child against their ex. I won’t stand around and watch it happening. It is disgusting.

Stop it.

Society, get your act together

So… my son has long hair and he’s forever being called a girl. Not in a bullying kind of way. More in a completely ignorant kind of way; people see the long hair and assume he’s my daughter. There have been times when he’s had “girly” hairstyles (please tell me why it’s so unacceptable for boys to wear their hair in braids for example), but most of the time it’s either worn long, in a low ponytail or in a man bun.

This week delivered a fine example. We had to go to the opticians to pick up my contact lenses and his glasses. I gestured towards Logan as I said “I am here to pick up my son Logan’s glasses”. We were ushered to the waiting area and then called to be “booked in”, where the following exchange took place:

Assistant: OK, so now you are booked in, and your appointment is imminent, so we’ll get you sorted and then fit your daughter’s glasses afterwards
Me: My son’s
Assistant: Excuse me?
Me: My son’s glasses. I am here to pick up my son’s glasses, my daughter doesn’t need any
Assistant (looks over both Logan and Caitlin): Oh, where is he then?
Me (gesturing to Logan): right there, he’s a boy can’t you see?

Anyway… fast forward and over a 20 minute wait for my imminent appointment. We get back out, go to the front of the store and say “We were told my son’s glasses would be sorted and fitted once my appointment has finished. My appointment is finished so can we get his glasses now”. The response “well, your son actually has to be with you to pick them up”. Logan and Caitlin are directly next to me. I don’t even say anything at this point, I just gesture towards the children. We get directed to a seat back to the waiting area.

An assistant comes over and says they are ready to see us, there’s only one chair, Caitlin is in her wheelchair. I tell Logan to sit as it’s his fitting. The assistant says “You know I can’t release these to you without your son present right?” I stare blankly at him for a moment like “are these guys for real? if they want to be stereotypical, just look at his darn clothes: cut off chinos, grubby Tshirt and a ‘boy’ cardigan – what?” and then point towards Logan and say “not for the first time today, but he is a boy. This is him, and this is why HE is sat in the only chair”.

Anyways, after much of a kerfuffle later (the wrong lenses had been put in the wrong frames) we were able to leave. But not without feeling once again disgruntled at, seemingly the majority of, society.

 

Aching muscles, processing pain.

It’s hard for Caitlin to understand pain. Well, her and Logan both in all honesty, but her more so. When she first came to live with us I remember her being jabbed with 2 needles and not even knowing if it had happened. She genuinely asked me if they had done it yet. Or when she fell over, she might cry as a shock reaction, or even have a panic attack if it triggered a violent body memory. But she never could express, or recognise the pain.

Slowly through melodrama, lots of plasters and overreactions on her behalf, and lots of sensory input about soft touch. She’s started to recognise these things. So, when she was younger, and her mobility and muscular issues were still an unknown problem, she wasn’t able to alert anyone. However, she’s able to tell us about her aching muscles a little more now. Not always in time for us to be able to prevent her getting too bad, but significantly more than previously.

This weekend, she tested her climbing frame, she had a few falls, she was running back and forth, we have steep stairs. It all adds up. I look at it like someone on a diet – if you have had a fat slab of cheesecake, you can’t really get away with a sneaky glass of wine and a bar of chocolate, hips don’t lie! 😉 For her, each activity would be representative of food. Walking on the flat, whilst wearing supportive shoes and her orthotics is relatively low impact. And whilst she cannot walk on the flat indefinitely, it’s not the most taxing. Going up and down stairs is like a having something out if a box of chocolates, in moderation is ok. Rock climbing, soft play, the park… These things are all like the fat slab of cheesecake, you can technically have the other bits with them but “hips don’t lie” (in this case her muscles) and so she’s woken up today on the wrong end of activity binge.

This morning we have had tears, screams, drama. Today is going to be low activity, low impact. Wheelchair restricted when out, sofa/bath restricted at home. These are the days people don’t see. That people say I exaggerate for my “life of luxury”. I’d give up any of the things to not have to see her suffer, to watch her be included at the same level as her peers. But for today, I’ll just give her what she needs. Rest and nurture.