Fault

I don’t think ‘fault’ is the right word to use but I’m going to use it because that’s the word the senior social worker used this week.

During a phone call with my husband, she mentioned that I seemed to be being evasive about having a meeting. My husband explained that was because the last time we met, they had made it seem like the difficulties we are experiencing were my fault. She replied, ‘Well I won’t apologise for that. That is a professional judgement made by the PASW. She doesn’t love Big as much as Little and it’s her fault that Big feels the way she does.’

I’m sure that the way things are with Big is not helping. But to say that I am the fault of all the difficulties that she has seems unfair and upsetting. Loving a child who is unable to give anything back is hard. Being met with violence, being met with words that are mean and unkind, being met with no response to a cuddle or a touch is hard.

It does have a bearing on how I am with my children. I know that I am wary of Big. I know that there are days when I don’t give her as much as I should. But I try. For three and a half years, I’ve tried.

Fault is an interesting word. Is there fault with anyone in this situation? Is it Big’s fault that she has lost trust in her caregivers? That she is so worried that she will move again that closing down is the only way she can protect herself.

Is it the fault of her birth family? Should they have looked after her better? Should they have been better at putting aside their own needs to take care of her?

Is it my fault? Should I be doing more for her? Should I be meeting her needs better? Should I be able to move past the constant violence and rejection?

Clearly, Big  is not at fault. She had no control of the things that were done to her.

Are her birth family at fault? Clearly they didn’t do the very things that parents are supposed to do, keep your children safe, clean, well fed, nurtured. They didn’t look after their children. Should more support have been offered to them to help them be able to do this?

Am I the ‘fault’ of all the difficulties we’re having? That is the decision that has been made. Is there truth in it? A bit. I have asked for help with this. I have asked to speak to somebody who knows about blocked care. I have asked if we could take part in some Theraplay. I have always been very honest with people about how things are, I have never tried to pretend that everything is okay. To have asked for help for three years and then to be told that this is all my fault and there is nothing they can do left me fairly broken.

No one is at ‘fault’ here. Everyone tried or is trying to do their best. Trying to do their best living with early life experiences or trying to do their best to show love, to be there, to start each day with a smile and a hug.

The best bits

Big did an AWESOME vault at gymnastics. She ran to the springboard, jumped and then jumped up with both feet on. She did good.

This morning, at an ‘o’ clock that is not really made for being awake, Little came through to us, got three satsumas out of the fruit bowl and peeled one for each of us. ‘Here’s some sunshine’, she said as she gave us them.

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Asking for help

The first time I asked for help with parenting my children, I remember having to work up to it. I remember feeling that if this was something that I wanted for so long, why wasn’t I able to do it very well? I remember feeling like asking the social worker was a big thing and I was worried about it. When I asked for help the first time the response I got was, ‘Post adoption depression is a thing you know.’

A few months later, my husband and I both asked for help. We requested a meeting with our social worker and the girls’ social worker. I mentioned the girls’ sensory needs, Big’s language delay, and the fact that Big really struggled to play. I was told, ‘Maybe you need to stop focusing on being a teacher and just enjoy being a parent.’ We then mentioned that we were very worried that Big didn’t seem to feel safe with us, that she was starting to be violent in her response to us. We were told, ‘You just need to give her some time and to relax a bit.’

We stopped asking for help for a while.

Over the last three and a half years, things have becoming increasingly difficult. We asked for help again. I was told that the fact that I ‘seem to parent them differently’ was the cause of everything we were experiencing. At that point we requested an official minuted meeting to discuss support for our family.

The support that has come from this period of difficulty has been the department agreeing to pay for my husband to be off for one day a week. I understand that we were very fortunate to get this. At the meeting we said that this was the one thing that really needed to continue. That it was just about giving us chance to breathe before we went into the weekend.

It was decided that a ‘professionals meeting’ should be held to discuss how people could support us further. The outcome of this meeting was to take away the day off for my husband.

When we ask for help as a family, it is to try to get help for our children. It is to try to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to support them. Big’s trauma is huge. It is all encompassing. Little is being engulfed in it. (As well as dealing with her own trauma.) I have run out of words to try to describe what this is like. How every single part of every single day has to be managed so carefully.

When we ask for help it is because we need help. It would seem that in our region, either people aren’t asking for help or, because there are relatively few adoptions, we’re the family that are experiencing such difficulties or, that we’re doing a terrible job of parenting our children. It is clear from the responses from the department that they think it is the latter. That really everything should be tickety-boo by now and why do I keep pestering them?

But we need help. So do I keep asking and keep being told that this is to do with what I’m doing and for them to tell me that I need to do better? Or do I stop asking? I don’t know. But we need help.

The best bits

Big floated in the pool last week. She let me hold her to get her set up then she let me let go so that she could try it by herself. And she did it!

Little and I did some very early in the morning baking yesterday. We made mince pies. We discussed the word ‘mincemeat’ a lot. (We actually mostly made jam tarts and a few mince pies.) She proudly carried them to the person we made them for and announced, ‘Here’s some meat pies for you. I don’t like meat pies. I like jam tarts. Will you share them with me? You can have all the meat pies though.’

 

Talking and Not Talking

Last night putting Big to bed…

Big: AARRGGHH!

Me: It must have been really hard today with everything being different and everybody looking different.

Big: GRR!

Me: I wonder of you’re showing me this because actually it would be easier if you didn’t have to do these days but you can’t tell me about it?

Big (in a high pitched voice): I wonder if you’re showing me this because actually… argh.

Me: I know, it’s really hard. We don’t have to do them. We can say to school that it’s too hard.

Big: Nods

Later putting Little to bed…

Little: I don’t want to be called Little.

Me: How come?

Little: I don’t like it.

Me: That’s the name that birth mummy and birth daddy chose for you.

Little: Ugh. I don’t want that name, I want a different name. I want mummy to choose it.

Me: If you still feel like this when you’re a bit older we can talk about what name you might like.

Little: Did you have other darlings* before me?

Me: No, you and Big are my only darlings.

Little: How come they choosed that you couldn’t be a birth mummy?

Me: I’m not sure lovely.

Little: I don’t want you to be my new mummy. I want you to be my birth mummy and my new mummy. Just be my birth mummy and then I wouldn’t have needed a new mummy.

Me: Oh darling.

Little: Mama sad?

Me: I’m sad that you’re sad.

Little: Baba sad.

Me: I know lovely, I’m so sorry.

Little: Cuddle. I love you.

They have such different ways of managing how they’re feeling, talking and not talking. And I’m hopeful that one day Big will find the words. And I’m sure that Little’s feelings will change about things. But sometimes it feels that I’m not able to help either of them. Finding the words to say to silence and the words to say to words are sometimes just as tricky.

*I must call them ‘darling’ a lot because darlings seems to have become the word for children. ‘How many darlings do they have?’

Celebrations

We don’t really do celebrations in our house. They tend to be too noisy, too busy, too different, too ‘not about me’ etc, etc. We keep everything as low key as we can, same people, same things, same food and we get through.

The run up to Christmas is not an easy time. As much as we avoid it in the house, it is EVERYWHERE in the wider community. School are already practising ‘the show’ and things are already becoming too much.

Last night, in a bid to try to feel we could still do things, my husband and I watched a film. A film called Gifted. I won’t say too much about it but it is about a girl who is being raised by her uncle. At one point, the wee girl is heartbroken thinking that when she was born nobody was excited about the event and nobody wanted it to happen. Her uncle took her to a maternity ward and they waited to watch the celebrations that occur when someone came out to tell their relatives that their baby had been born. He then told her ‘It was EXACTLY like this when you were born.’ and she replied ‘That happy?’ ‘That happy.’

It was like being hit in the chest. I cannot share that story with my children. I cannot tell them that what it was like. But worse, I know that for one of my children, there were no family members there, no one there to celebrate the safe arrival of her. What awaited one of my children was a hospital room and a stranger.

I’m not going to lie, my feelings about birth family are complicated. They did things to the girls that should never be done and I’m angry about that. But at the same time, it’s easy for me to sit here, never having had an addiction to something, never having suffered severe mental health issues and to make sweeping statements about things. In that moment, I cried for my eldest but I cried for her birth mum too. In a time that for so many people is a time of huge celebration, she was alone, knowing that she was not going to be taking her child home with her.

There is so much loss in the girls’ lives. For one of them it is one of the first things they experienced and there has been so much loss for her ever since. I understand her need to keep celebrations at arm’s length. She’s still waiting to lose everything all over again.

The best bits

Little chose Goldilocks for a bedtime story last week. When I’d finished reading, she reached over, cuddled me and said, ‘You’re just right too mummy.’

When I tucked Big in a few nights ago, I whispered ‘I love you’ and she whispered ‘Love you too.’

 

 

I never imagined…

I never imagined I’d be hurt by my child as frequently as I am.

I never imagined that I’d be driven to almost complete despair almost every day.

I never imagined that I could love as fiercely and completely as I love Little.

I never imagined that the flashes of love I feel for Big would be so intense.

I never imagined that I’d be awake singing ‘Hush little baby’ most nights around 2.30.

I never imagined that my eldest child letting me stroke her with a cotton ball would reduce me to floods of tears.

I never imagined how much I would have to fight, day after day. Fight to get listened to, fight for support, fight to say, ‘Help.’

I never imagined that I would cry when an OT told me that she could see how much I’d tried to do.

I never imagined that nearly every day I’d wonder if we’re going to make it as a family.

I never imagined that seeing my eldest child manage to answer a question or to wave at someone when she sees them, would make me burst with pride.

I never imagined trauma could be so huge, so vast.

I never imagined that I’d feel such a complex range of emotions about the girls’ birth family.

I never imagined that the word ‘sensory’ would become so important in my life.

I never imagined that I could cry as much as I have.

I never imagined that people wouldn’t believe me. Or that they would say that I’m exaggerating.

I never imagined that I’d be loving someone who cannot show love.

I never imagined that fun would be such a tricky thing.

I never imagined that the sight of a real smile would be so rare and so wonderful.

I never imagined how hard my children would find everything, every single day. And for that, I’m very sorry.

The best bits

On Tuesday night, Big let me brush her hands, arms, feet and legs with a cotton ball. She then let me rub baby lotion into her hands. I think this is the most direct contact she’s had with me for 3 years and 3 months.

Little’s been amazing this week. She has been so loving and kind to us all. Last night when Big was really struggling, she said to me, ‘It’s okay mummy, Big needs you, I’ll be okay on my own.’

Little was AGES in the bathroom this morning. I went to see what she was doing. ‘My feet are soaking wet because I’ve just been drying them. I’ll just dry them with this wet cloth mummy.’

 

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time a happy young (ish) couple decided they wanted to have a family. The woman’s body was full of endometriosis so they weren’t able to conceive a baby. They decided they wanted to adopt.

After a very short ‘preparation’ course they were approved to adopt a sibling group of two children under 4 and then they waited.

One day they got a phone call saying that there were two wee girls who needed a home and it had been decided that they were the best people to give them one.

The first day that the couple met the girls was in a room with four social workers, their foster carer and their foster carer’s children. The couple sat in a meeting with all these people and watched the girls listen and watch while the people discussed how they would slowly start the move from their foster carer to them. The couple knew that they should really have stopped the meeting and ask that the girls weren’t there but they felt to be the least experienced people in the room so they kept quiet. When the meeting finished (with the girls still in the room), the senior social worker said, ‘And I assume that the girls know that they’re going to be moving and that this couple are going to be their mummy and daddy?’ The couple were staggered to learn that the girls hadn’t been told and were staggered further when the girls were then told in front of them and everyone else in the room. The couple knew that this wasn’t right but again, didn’t feel like they should say anything.

After nearly four weeks, the girls moved in with the couple. And something else came with them. Trauma. Lots and lots of trauma. The couple hadn’t been told about trauma. They didn’t have a room for trauma. The couple had been told that they were ‘happy wee girls who were meeting all their milestones and loved imaginative play.’ Very quickly, the woman began to see that things were not okay. She tentatively began to say to people that she was worried about her children. But trauma is sneaky. Trauma was able to hide away in front of other people and it left the woman feeling like people didn’t believe her, or that they thought she wasn’t able to manage parenting two ‘happy wee girls.’

Eventually the couple asked for some help. They thought that people would want to help the two girls. Help them to feel safer, help them to understand what had happened to them a bit more. But the couple were shocked to find that people didn’t want to help them. They wanted to criticise the couple, particularly the woman, and they wanted to say that perhaps the woman was anxious or depressed and that she should just be enjoying being a parent more.

As time went by the couple noticed that their youngest’s child’s trauma wasn’t quite so ferocious anymore. It was still there and it still fought sometimes but the youngest child began to let the couple help her, she came to them when she was hurt, she told them how she was feeling and she began to describe her early experiences in her own words. The eldest child’s trauma was so huge that it began to look for more space in the house. It needed other people to be a part of. It needed more heart and brain space and it began to cause secondary trauma for the other members of the house.

Again, the couple asked for help. The eldest child began to see a psychologist once a fortnight. The eldest child would sit in the room and rip paper to pieces, she would hide under the bed, she would occasionally sit next to the woman, but she could not speak.

The trauma fuelled violence in the home increased ten fold. The woman spent an awful lot of time trying to keep everyone safe. She really struggled to keep her youngest child safe from her eldest child. The woman spent a lot of time trying to work out new or different ways to help her eldest child.

In the days and weeks and months that followed the couple thought that the trauma in the house might overwhelm them all. They found that they couldn’t really talk about it with anyone because either people didn’t want to hear it or people would dismiss it as ‘not being as bad as all that.’ They wondered again what else they could do to help their eldest child. How was it that they didn’t seem to be able to do anything to lessen her pain?

Again they asked for help. This time they were told that there was no money available. They were asked if they wanted to continue ‘the placement’. The people they asked for help did not understand trauma. They didn’t understand that trauma has the power to take over an entire house. They didn’t understand that trauma hides when it needs to. They didn’t understand that trauma is terrifying, that it causes fight or flight or freeze. That it needs to exert such control over everything. They seemed to think that the trauma ¬†should have magically vanished by now and why were the couple still feeling the need to talk about it.

I wish I could write that this story has a happy ending, but the truth is, I don’t know what ending this story will have. What I do know is that life is not a fairytale. Trauma and everything that surrounds it is not make believe. The violence that we live with everyday is very real. I know that I wish I could have done so much more for the girls when they arrived. I know that Big’s pain is with her everyday. And that her pain is huge. I know that I would like to find a way to help her. I know that I would like to find a way for Little to be able to live without Big’s trauma.

I have hopes for our story but I have fears too. It’s a very different story than I ever thought I’d be telling.

 

 

 

Tired

I’m tired because for nearly 3 and a half weeks Big has been falling asleep after 9.30 and then Little has been waking up at 2 for a few hours. (And they’re both still up before 6.)

I’m tired because Big has severely hurt me every day for 24 days.

I’m tired because I’m sleeping on the floor in the living room.

I’m tired because I keep trying to ask for help and instead I keep being told that it’s my ‘fault’ for the way things are.

I’m tired because in a meeting on Friday, I talked about how black and blue I currently am and the conversation quickly turned to ‘Oh, yes, it’s like when you work in a residential care home, you have to use safe holding a lot then.’ (I admit at this point my voice did raise slightly when I said, ‘I’m not working in a residential care home.’)

I’m tired because my brain seems to enjoy trying to process everything just as I climb into bed.

I’m tired because life has to be so thought out. Every single detail has to be planned through.

I’m tired because when someone is unable to be nice to you, it wears you down. When every gesture of love and kindness is refused, it gets harder to make them.

I’m tired because of the levels of adrenalin and cortisol that are currently in our house. They are so raised that every request, every smile, every gesture is met with anger and meltdowns.

I’m tired because I don’t want my eldest child to have to feel like this. I’m tired because I wish there was a way that she could let me help her.

I really wanted to try to write something positive this week. But I’m tired.

The best bits

Big rode up a wee hill on her bike today. She kept going and worked really hard to get to the top.

When Little was in the bath the other night, my husband asked her to wash her armpits. ‘These aren’t called armpits daddy, they’re undershoulders.’

Whenever we go out with Little she points out every cow she sees, usually by shouting ‘COWS!’ at the top of her voice.

Little: You like cows don’t you daddy?

Daddy: Yes, but I couldn’t eat a whole one.

Little: No, but you’d eat a bit of one though wouldn’t you?

We’ve had a lot of fun exploring beaches the last two weeks. We’re very lucky that we’re so close to the coast.