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.’

 

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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.

 

Repair and repeat

At the moment Big is unable to stay in her bed. We have tried taking the having to go to sleep part away and saying she can colour/read until she wants to go to sleep, we’ve tried smells, warm teddies, hot drinks, cuddles, more stories, less stories, no bath, longer bath, audio books, and classical music.

When she’s up she’s not calm at all and is finding ways to escalate things as much as she can. She is hurting us constantly, saying hurtful things and breaking things in the house. We have no bedroom to go to, no space of our own anymore and it’s becoming so hard to feel safe.

There is a definite pattern emerging in that I can manage for about two and a half hours and then I get to a point where I can’t manage and I shout and get cross. Then I say sorry and the next night we do the same.

I realise that I’m still looking for something that isn’t going to happen. I’m still looking for her to be able to tell me what’s wrong. I’m still looking for her to say sorry for hurting me. I’m still looking for her to be able to show some sort of regret for the things she’s done. And I know this isn’t going to happen. But every morning I’m looking for it. Because my brain cannot understand how you could hurt someone repeatedly and not feel sorry about it. But her brain can’t feel that. And somehow, I need to stop looking for it.

I’ll be honest though, I have no idea how I’m actually meant to do that. How I keep being loving and open and smiley and happy when I really don’t want to be. I guess it’s hope that keeps me going. Hope that one day, she will be able to let me help.

The best bits

Big is trying so hard at gymnastics at the moment. She’s running and jumping straight onto the trampette, she’s pushing herself over on a backwards roll and she seems to have just a tiny wee bit more confidence. It’s good to see.

We went to a new beach today. At the end of the day, Little held my hand and said, ‘I love exploring the world with you mummy. Thank you.’

Failing

There have been many points raised about my failings as a parent over the last few weeks. It does feel at the moment that we are failing her. But I do think that as a family, we’re being failed due to lack of support, we’re being failed by lack of understanding, by a basic lack of empathy which if I’m honest has been one of the hardest things and as a result of these things we are failing to be the parents that Big needs us to be.

It does feel though (and it has been pointed out) that there are things that I worry that I should have done more/better/different with. In three years Big doesn’t feel any safer here than when she arrived. And I should have been able to help her with that. It worries me so much that she lives in such a state of fear and anxiety and that I can’t help her with it at all.

In three years Big isn’t able to talk about things anymore than when she arrived. Again, I should have been able to help her more.

We’re currently in our twelfth night (in a row, we have other nights but there is often a break of a few nights which lets us breathe) of Big being unable to stay in bed, hurting us, breaking things, trying to get to Little. I’m failing in that I cannot find a way to help her. I’m failing her in that she doesn’t feel safe enough to go to bed.

I’m failing Little in that she is surrounded by Big’s trauma all day. The whole house is full of it and I cannot keep her away from it. ¬†She isn’t getting enough sleep, she’s waking every night and she’s full of anxiety about things.

At the moment Big is being failed. By a system and society but also by me. I cannot find a way in. And I really wish I could.

 

More

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The above is very true. And the most of the time, I acknowledge and respond in the right way. I recognise that my child is hurting and that I need to recognise how she is asking for help.

What it doesn’t say is that even when you respond in a loving way (nearly every time), they will keep asking in unloving ways.

Even when you spend all your time thinking about how you can help them, how you can make things slightly easier, how you can change things/move things/do different things to make even a single part of their time even a little bit easier, they will respond in unloving ways.

That when you’re responding to their unloving ways in a loving way, you also have to minimise the impact of everything on their sibling. While trying to manage the impact on you.

That you can sleep on the floor on the living room, to ensure that they have their own space, and they will still spend most nights up until ten o clock hurting you.

That when you’re trying desperately to respond in a loving way, they’re throwing all the love back. (Sometimes literally by selecting the heaviest things to throw at you so they can hurt you the most.)

That when you’re trying desperately to respond in loving ways, that love is emptying out faster than you can pour it in. And as much as you try to fill it back up, it will empty before you have time to catch a breath.

That they will always need more, even when you’re so empty you have no energy for anything, they will always need more.

That responding in a loving way to a child who is unable to be loving, is quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

Every night this week I’ve gone to bed thinking that I have nothing more to give. And everyday I’ve had to find more. And I’m sure tomorrow I will too. But just now, it’s really hard.

A Little bit of the good

It would be fair to say that things are ‘not good’ here. So far away from good in fact that I feel like we’re just about clinging on. I keep trying to write about it but it’s too hard just now.

So I’ll tell you about my Little one for a bit. I’ll tell you that last week when we took our bed down and moved her bed in so it looked like she had a bit more of a ‘proper’ bedroom, she walked in and whispered, ‘Wow, thank you so much mummy and daddy.’

I’ll tell you that her face lights up when I go and pick her up from school.

I’ll tell you that that after nearly 5 weeks, she seems to have made a wee friend at school and is a wee bit happier to go.

That when I got home from work yesterday I was invited to a tea party and that it was a ‘VERY special tea party and that there was tea or coffee or pizza.’

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That when she’s going to sleep she whispers things about her day and holds my hand tight.

That when I blow her a kiss, she tells me, ‘Thank you mummy, I’ll keep it in my heart.’

That she likes to check that the invisible string between us still works by standing in the bedroom and shouting, ‘Can you feel it?’

That she asks me what ‘those boys and girls at your school were learning about today?’ when I get home from work.

That if a bird lands on the feeders she says, ‘SHUSH, move slowly everybody!’

That her favourite thing is to swing as high as she can. Wherever she is.

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That she’s been through an awful lot in the last five weeks. And she’s able to come to us when she needs help. And that hopefully we’re helping her even a wee bit.

The best bits

After being at school for nearly five weeks, Big was able to wave at Little in the lunch hall today. She told me about it.

Little has discovered ‘writing’ this week. She is so excited to be able to communicate things and has asked for a special writing book.

Three years ago I was the nursery teacher at school. In my current role I’m seeing some of them again which is lovely. One of them has now got a diagnosis of ASD. During his IEP meeting his dad said that he was really pleased his son had me as a teacher again as I had gone to huge efforts to ‘really get him’ when he was in nursery.