Today has been one of those days. Not one of THOSE days, we’ve been having those days so much that they’re now just days here. But one of those days.
Today we have been on an adventure. The sun shone, the wind blew a hoolie from the north and we needed both suncream and jackets.
We saw lighthouses and porpoises. We had a picnic and an ice cream. We saw a castle and a harbour. We played in a park overlooking the sea.
We ran and climbed and jumped and explored. We smiled and laughed and made ‘ooh’ noises.
We looked at a sparkling sea and ran up and down many steps.
We had fun.
And when we got to nearly being back, B said, ‘Yay, we’re nearly home.’
In our house today looks like any other Sunday. We’ve done the park run, we’ve been to the skate park, we’ve had lunch. Nothing has changed. But it has become so difficult to avoid Mother’s Day, as the girls have got older and their reading skills have improved it is impossible not to notice the plethora of ‘stuff’ related to Mother’s Day.
The Mother’s Day we have now seems to resemble nothing of its origins, a day meant for returning to ‘the mother church’ for women that were working away from home.
I don’t know if it’s our Britishness that means we need to have a day where we can show thanks. A day when we can show someone that we appreciate them through gifts and a message in a card. (Or a message to the world on Facebook.) The idea that a whole year can be given thanks for in one day seems unlikely. And therefore seems to be set up to create feelings of it not being enough.
I say that today is like any other Sunday but it isn’t. It is layered with a constant noise. A noise to drown out any thoughts that might be circling. Conversations and wondering to try to allow the noise to settle are not working. The thoughts that are circling are huge and scary and sad and bring a feeling of being ‘other’ and of huge unfairness.
We’ve made cards for birth mum. Put them into special folders. Talked about that we hope that one day, she might get them. But today, it’s not enough. The feeling of loss is so much I can see it hanging onto one of my children.
There’s no expectations on my part for today but that doesn’t make today any easier. I wish I could take away the pain for my children. But if I could, I wouldn’t be writing this post because I wouldn’t be their mother. And that’s Mother’s Day in this house. Sadness and pain and guilt. And then when L seeks me out, in the park run warm up to wave at me, a feeling of such immense love that I couldn’t put it into words if I tried.
This morning was tricky, as most mornings are. There was hurting and shouting and screaming. There was ‘I’m not coming, I’m not getting ready, I hate you, I’m not yours.’ There was complete refusal to look at or speak to me in the car.
Then we started running. B ran the whole way round the 2km. She didn’t get cross when people passed us, she didn’t panic when she had to pass other people. She kept moving. And when she heard L and her daddy behind, she kept moving. She didn’t give up, she didn’t let them past, she kept moving.*
This is the first run she’s done where I could feel the determination in her. I could feel her wanting to achieve something.
When we’d finished, she said ‘I feel proud’. I felt proud too. Obviously I kept my pride quiet but she phoned my mum to tell her that ‘I ran round all the way round and I didn’t walk’ and that was good to see.
I’m so pleased for her that she had that moment. Where she felt something so positive. I wish I could tell her this in a huge voice and throw my arms around her. But I can’t yet so I told her in a quiet voice and hope that anyone reading this can hear just how huge my voice is.
*And yes, I realise we’re now heading for a tricky time when they’re going to be very close in the times that they finish in. We’ve already started doing some work around this.
The past week has been something of a triumph for L. She went to her first session at Rainbows and stayed all by herself. She’s done her assembly and delivered her line perfectly. She’s read me a book and she’s managed to go to sleep on her own.
When I took her to Rainbows I said I would wait outside for a bit then, when she was settled I’d go for a quick walk then come back. I went for a very quick walk and got back just as she came out to nip to the loo. ‘I’m absolutely fine mummy, you can go now,’ she said as she went back in.
Last Sunday she brought a Julia Donaldson phonics book down with her for her story. ‘I’m going to read you a bedtime story tonight mummy because you’ve read me so many.’ She read it from cover to cover, all 24 pages. (Usually we get to page 5 before she says ‘you read it mummy.’) When we went upstairs she asked if she could read herself to sleep. We worked out a way to move her lamp so that she could reach it to switch it off and she did it. I went up half an hour later and she was asleep!
Her assembly this week was about Comic Relief. Her line was ‘Here are some of the red noses we have designed.’ She looked at me the whole time as she said it then blew me a kiss as she went off. (And I cried a little bit in front of the whole school again.)
I worry so much that L is not getting the childhood she should. But this week she’s had experiences that most children have and she’s tackled them brilliantly. She’s managed to go to sleep once more on her own since Sunday which is huge for her and she’s asked for a Rainbows t-shirt because she wants to go again. I’m so happy for her.
Almost eighteen months ago, I phoned social work to report something that had happened with the girls.
This reporting lead to me being told three things: ‘It didn’t happen’, ‘adopted children were usually much more settled than this by now so maybe you need to accept that you’re doing things wrong’ and that B was feeling this way because ‘it was clear that I loved L more.’
I haven’t been able to speak to anyone in social work since then.
Until yesterday when I phoned to once again ask for help.
This came about because last weekend I had to email my headteacher to say that whilst I would be in on Monday, I’d been having panic attacks all weekend and that I wouldn’t quite be firing on all cylinders. There was a planned meeting for a child at school that a social worker would be attending. My head asked my permission to speak to her to see if there was anything they could offer. The response I got back was ‘Has she read ‘Building the bonds of attachment’?’
However, I was maybe a bit quick to be cross and roll my eyes because the family support worker, who was also in the meeting, phoned back later in the week to say that the team did want to help and could I give her a phone.
Yesterday I phoned and spoke to the family support worker. I mentioned the last conversation that I had with members from a different team. Her response was ‘Well, it seems quite clear that you love her, why else would you put yourself in the difficult position of asking for help for her if you didn’t?’ then said ‘It sounds like B finds it very hard to accept love and it is going to take time for her.’ She also apologised that I’d been spoken to in the way I was and stressed that they were wanting to help us.
I hadn’t realised how much I’d been carrying those comments round with me until someone said that they weren’t okay to make. Yesterday I felt a little bit of hope that at the very least, someone had listened to me and understood what our family needs. Even if it doesn’t lead to any concrete support, that phone call made a whole heap of difference. The person on the other end of the phone understood that we need help. They spoke about helping B, they didn’t say ‘she should be fine by now’, they spoke about the impact that this was having on L and if there was anything they could do to support her, they listened. And it seems that that’s an incredibly wonderful thing to do.
Without being melodramatic, I’m quite used to pain. I live with the pain of endometriosis and have done for nearly twenty years. I live with the pain of Chiari Malformation, with IBS and recently with arthritis.
My body is covered in scars from operations. I’m covered in scars from falling off my bike, from coming out of my kayak and catching my legs on rocks in the river. From falling down stairs and landing on a carpet shampooer, from kneeling on a pair of scissors.
I’ve lived with the pain of infertility.
For the last four and a half years I’ve lived with the pain of seeing someone in so much pain and not being able to help them. I’ve watched them disguise their pain in a huge ball of anger because the huge ball of sadness is just too scary. I’ve watched them hurt, scream, lie, steal and control their way through in a bid to keep the sadness locked up tight. I’ve watched someone push away love, I’ve watched them sabotage days meant to be full of joy, I’ve watched them constantly hurt the person who is closest to them. I’ve watched this person try to manipulate situations so that it remains ‘us against them’ and watched them be so confused and disappointed when it doesn’t work. I’ve watched the violence increase in our home. I’ve felt their body go rigid when I try to offer comfort. I’ve seen glimpses of this sadness before it’s pushed back down again.
At the moment I am the outlet for all her pain. I take it in the hope that I am lessening it for her, even a tiny bit.
Seeing her pain lets me know that I don’t know pain at all. I just hope that one day I can help her to feel less of it.
Birthdays are tricky.
Every year I think I’ve prepared everybody for how tricky it’s going to be and every year I’m still surprised by how tricky it actually is.
Birthdays often result in conversations about where some of us were on other birthdays. Birthdays that they didn’t spend with us. ‘What did I do on my one birthday?’ ‘Who looked after me?’ ‘What did I get?’ Questions I have no answers for and that people around us in the swimming pool were quite surprised to hear. Questions that are traced with sadness and cause more sadness when I can’t answer.
Birthdays cause huge amounts of pain for the person not having the birthday. I’m sure all the surrounding neighbours have heard just how hard it’s been.
Birthdays mean the realisation that a party (decided upon the week before) is too much and that even four children is ‘too many’. Birthdays create a sadness of wanting to do something ‘everyone’ else does and then realising that it’s not actually something they want.
Birthdays make me wonder about the birthdays they weren’t here. Gaps in their stories that I can’t fill. Birthdays make me wonder about who else might be thinking about them and how they’re feeling. Birthdays make me amazed about the passing of time and how on earth it is possible that they’re now the age they are.
Birthdays make a little voice whisper to me, ‘I wish we could just have one day where it’s okay.’
Birthdays are tricky.
The best bits
We went swimming today. L sat in the front with me. On the way we had a wonderful conversation about whales and sharks, about whales saving people from sharks, about what whales eat, about where Tiger sharks live, about narwhals. The conversation included the best impression of a basking shark that I have ever seen and her face on discovering things was just a picture.