As a foster carer I love reading articles regarding fostering, those that celebrate both the wonderful people that open their homes and hearts to children in need but also, and maybe more so the amazing children that come into the lives of foster carers like myself. I adore reading about their strength and courage and their innate desire to change their story.
Still there is one thing that really frustrates me about some conversations regarding fostering and this the celebration around the numbers.
Let me explain, only a week ago I read an article about a foster carer who in her life had fostered over 5000 children and whilst the couple are pretty amazing my heart breaks that over 5000 children needed a home.
5000 children worlds were turned upside down, 5000 children were walking again into an unknown out of their control.
In England alone
56,160 children were living with foster families on 31 March 2019.
This is 72 per cent of the 78,150 children in care looked after away from home (Department for Education, 2018).
This isn’t a number we should be celebrating.
Don’t get me wrong, whilst I am so thankful and proud to work in foster care it’s one profession where I wish I was unemployed and not needed.
The other reason I struggle with numbers is that some foster carers will never have 5000 children through their doors, not because they don’t work as hard or aren’t as open, but because they foster long term. Take myself I have now fostered for over 10 years and only 4 children have come to me. This isn’t a failing on my behalf it’s because when they come to our family it’s with a plan for a long term stay and in the case of my now adopted son,forever. There are many different streams of foster care, from respite, emergency to short and long term, from a fostering perspective it’s not about the number of children we have but the lives we can impact upon.
Fostering is an incredible job and one I’m incredibly proud of doing but it is hard at times when the numbers are celebrated.
To me, those numbers are hearts, broken scared hearts that crave love and stability. They are vulnerable spirits craving somewhere to call home.
The only time will should be celebrating the numbers is when the number of children needing to be fostered is reduced and when the amount of families kept together and supported is rising. Then I promise I will be celebrating the loudest.
This last November we faced the 11th anniversary of Livvy’s death and as always as we remember, we like to love forward as she would like us to. So this year in Livvy’s memory we donated some sensory boxes to our local children’s ward.
As you know I have spend many days, weeks on this ward with Daniel and one of the things that has always struck me is the need for sensory toys for children like Danny to play with.
It was wonderful to deliver the boxes to the ward and meet with the play specialist but more importantly we have already have feedback from some parents about how their children are enjoying the boxes.
Facing anniversaries are never going to be easy, but paying Livvy’s love forward is something that blesses our heart.
Also our local hospital has a craft appeal happening right now, being in hospital over Christmas is hard ( believe me I know). So the appeal is for craft supplies to help occupy and give the children some fun. We donated some supplies but the appeal is still happening now.
and a season for every activity under the heavens”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 New International Version (NIV)
I have walked many seasons in my life, and I know one of the longest and hardest of these has been my season of grief.
From the time my daughter Livvy was diagnosed I have grieved for what should have been, the life she should have lived or it in reality the life I had expected, planned, wanted her to live.
Then when we lost her 11 years ago, I grieved for her physically, grieved for her missing, her smile, her touch and the blessing of her spirit.
My grief felt like darkness.
My whole spirit crushed by the pain of missing.
I didn’t understand the why and I was often angry screaming at the ‘why her.’
This was my season of darkness and no matter how hard I tried to pretend I wasn’t sure I would live a life with light anymore.
Yet Jesus knew.
My dear friend sent me a link to Christian singer songwriter called Steven Curtis Chapman. Steven and his wife lost their daughter the same year I lost Livvy. Through his grief he wrote and produced an album called Beauty will rise. This cd, these songs, the words broke through my darkness. In the midst of my pain I could not see God in my Bible, the words lost as my tears blinded me from his love. Yet in these songs, in the lyrics, hope started to grow once again, and the promise that I could hear in the melody slowly healed my heart.
One of the songs is called ‘Spring is coming ‘and this week as we have faced 11 years without our beautiful girl, I have held on tight to this. Not because I am waiting on the Spring though this cold weather is already getting to me, because I know the blessing of the new. I have felt the new life burst inside of me. I give thanks and praise to the changing seasons and the love, the hope and the promise each one brings.
So today I am sharing this with you, sharing my heart and my journey, because God has asked me to share my story. He wants all to know that he is the light in the darkness.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus was and is my light.
So, if any of you are now struggling in the darkness and if you are feeling the crushing weight of fear, doubt or anger, hold on to the fact that this time is a season and that seasons change. Life is a journey often full of pain and loss believe me when I say I know this but whatever you are facing, know that you are not alone, that Jesus walks beside you.
If you had asked me 11 years ago if I would know joy again, I would have said no easily, my heart was broken. I still miss Livvy so desperately and often still fall under the weight of grief but now my heart knows the promise, the promise that one day I will be reunited with her. Yet in this life whilst I walk it without her physically right now, I know that Jesus has great plans for me and joy it does come in the morning, not promising what morning but it does come.
So, I just want to remind you that whatever you are facing you are not alone. That you can do this and even in the crushing darkness there will be and always will be a light, the light of Jesus.
Sometimes I get angry at time I dont understand how one minute can often seem like lifetime then others fly past like a gush of wind.
You know when you are so excited to go on holiday that the days before your trip seem endless. Then when you are finally away the days just shoot on by.
It seems as if time is often controlled or interperted by our own emotions.
When I was young a year seemed like forever yet now as I am older the years feel like minutes.
I remember when my girls were born, my hopes, my dreams for them all, how they were to grow, learn, love. I never consider time running out on us. Never imagined that one of their journeys would end before mine.
Life played a cruel hand and I lost my Livvy.
Time, oh time, you beautiful, awful thing.
I had nine and a half years with my beautiful girl. Nine and a half years filled with so many special memories but nine and a half years is not enough I wanted my lifetime.
A parent is not supposed to out live their child, it’s as simple as that or so it should be.
Yet the seconds still continue on and the minutes turn into hours and life moves on.
Eleven years, eleven long years since my darling Livvy went to Jesus. I still dont understand why, I only know the how. Eleven years now of moments she wasn’t part of, new memories she was not here to create.
Time they say is a healer I disagree but it has certainly been a teacher.
Over this last eleven years I have had to learn a lot, learn how to live without my beautiful girl, learn how to breathe through the agony of grief, learn how to survive with a missing piece.
Yet most of all time has taught me that still every moment matters.
I was so blessed to have nine and a half years of my beautiful girl, I’m so incredible thankful I have all the memories that I cherish. But I also know that time does go on and that life is a gift and you have to still make the minutes matter.
I know in my heart that Livvy wants me to make my days count. So I’m going to love hard and try to bring some of the joy she brought to me to others.
I want to honour her memory by loving, laughing and living. Livvy is one of my four beautiful girls and whilst I miss her every day I still hear her in her sisters laughter. See her in the sparkle of their eyes. I know she is with us, watching her sister grow, fall in love and make me so proud in all that they do.
I have no doubt that Livvy send Daniel my way, even today talking to his teachers about his mischievous ways there was a moment, a moment when a memory echoed through the school corridor of a blond haired fireball of mischief. A sister leaving footprints for her brother to follow.
I miss my beautiful girl so much but I know how blessed I was and how lucky I still am. One day I will hold my daughter in my arms again and my heart will be whole. Until then my dear Livvy I will love the hardest I possibly can just as you taught me.
Until we meet again, I love you my sweet baby girl. Xxx
October is coming to a close and I’m rather annoyed at myself. I so wanted it to be a month where I shared my heart and raised awareness of Rett Syndrome, but it hasn’t and I didn’t.
You see I just haven’t been able to find the words. Nothing has come tumbling out, I’ve spent ages looking at a keyboard praying for inspiration and substance.
I so wanted to find the words to let the world know of the evil of Rett syndrome, how it effects the lives of children every day. How it continues to break the hearts of moms, dads, grandparents, siblings and so many more each and every day.
I wanted to tell you of the amazing girls and boys living with this condition and how incredible their parents are surviving and fighting for a cure but I just haven’t found the words.
I wish I could find the letters to string together to share my heart in a new way. I’m just so aware that so many times I’ve brought this conversation to you.
Yet how do I tell you again of the pain of my loss, the words feel stagnant and unnew, yet my brokenness still feels so fresh and raw.
What more can I tell you about my amazing Livvy that I haven’t said before? Does anyone again want to hear about her mischievous smiles or blond beautiful curls? My photos have been seen once before, my magical moments shared and heard once, twice so many times before.
You see Rett syndrome just didn’t break my heart or steal my daughter from me. It also stole our future together, my words they feel repetitive, my emotions like an never ending rollercoaster of which I just want to get off.
I dont have anything new.
I dont have anything new to share of my beautiful girl, she hasn’t been anywhere new, created anymore memories, our story ended then.
Rett syndrome ended our memories then, 7th November 2008.
So I’m sorry I haven’t been the best advocate for this fight, I haven’t been the one coming out of the corner fighting. I’m a little lost in this world right now, not sure of my place.
So instead of trying to repeat our story once more, I want to share with you some amazing families who bless my heart daily. Some incredible moms and dads shining the light into the darkness of Rett Syndrome and some beautiful children that have my heart.
Let me introduce you to Kelly Butler and her beautiful daughter Brooklyn. I wish I could find the words to tell you how much I love this lady and her family. She may not know it but when I was tumbling into the pit of despair after losing Livvy she was one of biggest lifelines. She never let me feel alone and it’s my dearest wish to one day visit the USA and meet with this beautiful woman and to hug her so tight. To get to munch on her beautiful daughter and are equally adorable son. You can find Kelly over on her blog http://specialmommyx2.com/
Kelly has been in the midst of it this last year or so, Brooklyn’s health has been a constant worry and whilst she hasn’t had time to blog in a while, her posts are all so worth a read. Kelly not only raises awareness for Rett Syndrome her handsome (growing up way to quick) son Boston has down syndrome and Kelly will be found fighting his corner too. She is really amazing.
Secondly If someone was to ask me to describe a woman who I admire, who is a tireless warrior against Rett Syndrome as well as being an amazing mom and advocate for her daughter I would easily tell you about Rachael Stevenson. This woman is relentless, her drive and passion is inspirational. Rachael believes and strives for the cure of Rett Syndrome, she was one of the co-founders of Reverse Rett UK back I think nearly 10 years ago determined to raise funds for the vital research for this condition. As well as caring for her gorgeous family her wealth of knowledge and medical know how is mind blowing. Besides the work she does for Reverse Rett UK I find her writing on her blog heartfelt and so true. Life, Rett etc is a really insightful place to visit and read.
Last but in no way least, I want to tell you about a family that I came across only this year or maybe the end of the last one on Instagram. A family I have never met but who have my heart completely. The Foster family, two beautiful identical twin girls with Rett Syndrome, Charlie and Olivia and an adorable new baby girl Madeline, the Foster family are amazing. I am so in love with this family. Cora is so open with their journey allowing us to see how Rett Syndrome has and does affect the lives of her girls and their family. Her and her husband Trey who is a little more camera shy really bless my heart. They work as a team loving on those girls whilst living full professional lives. They are also medical aware in a way I only wish I could be. I follow the Fosters over on their instagram.Pink puzzle pieces They are amazing advocates for Rett Sydrome, beyond sharing their story publicly they do numerous awareness events, fundraising and I’m sure they are involved in the medical research research side to. I absolutely enjoy their posts and admit to being a little smitten by all three of their beautiful girls.
The three families I have shared here are only a tip of a mountain of incredible people raising their voices for Rett Syndrome. With an estimated 1 in every 10 thousand births a child is born with Rett Syndrome the need for more research and more funding is growing.
Livvy’s life may have come to an end on November 7th 2008 but the battle for others is still on. Please I know I have asked this before and I know I will ask it again and again until we have a cure for this evil. Please consider supporting those with Rett Syndrome today.
One day will end the story of Rett syndrome. Please let it be one day soon.
How in the world are we already in October, where has the last month gone? Oh yes lost in a mess of sleepless nights, post traumatic stress and so much fear but that’s a completely other post. I need to focus on what October means to me right now and that’s it is Rett Syndrome awareness month.
Now if you have been reading my blog for a while you know I have a love hate relationship with Rett Syndrome, I loved a girl with Rett but I hate that it stole her from me.
My beautiful Livvy had Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder that affected every part of her life, a neurological disorder that eventually took her life.
Rett syndrome is mean, it takes your beautiful girl or boy and steals them away twice. Livvy was born perfect, she walked, she talked, she smiled but then in the darkness Rett syndrome became the thief in the night and stole all this from her. Livvy struggled to walk and ended up using a wheelchair, Livvy lost her words, I lost the joy of hearing her call my name. Livvy lost the ability to control her breathing, hyperventilating to the point of blueness. Seizures, evil seizures tearing into her days endlessly robbing her of her joy.
Livvy lost her life to Rett Syndrome, again the thief in the night came and took her away from me. Leaving emptiness and brokenness where a blond haired bundle of joy once was.
Rett syndrome is an evil and one I want the world to know about. One I want to shout about. I want a cure so desperately, yes I know it’s too late for Livvy but not for the other beautiful children out there fighting against this syndrome. I want a cure so our girls and boys can live life free from this evil. I so want this cure so that moms and dads can sleep at night without fear.
November 7th 2008, should this of been the day Livvy’s story came to an end, the day she left this world for what I believe is a better place.? Should this have been the last ripple she caused on this world? Regardless of what should have been or what could of been, her story did not end there, only here did the next chapter of her story begin. Her promise, her teachings and most of all her hope, the unique new paragraphs of her legacy
If I’m going to be completely transparent as I write here, I have to confess I didn’t see the next page straight away, I stumbled back and forth through the last pages day after day. I questioned the ending, stumbling over the reasons, failing to find the acceptance in what had become. I wasn’t ready for my hero to die, not ready to give up on our numerous adventures and devastated not to have one more of her incredible hugs. I couldn’t see beyond her end. I couldn’t feel beyond the pain of her loss, and grief well it had become my best friend never leaving my side moment by moment, breathe by breathe.
Right then at that time the only legacy I could see was pain, was loss.
I will not tell you time eased anything because being honest time was an evil that I hated, every day that passed was one more without her. It didn’t ease, time twisted the knife in deeper making her seem farther and farther away.
Time became my enemy and the past something I prayed for.
Yet through time I learned that no matter how much your heart breaks the body continues on.
No matter how you cry out for the world to stop turning, it still spins.
I will not tell you the next step of my transition came straight away or that I picked up any particular signs but overtime the more I shared my heart about Livvy the more I remembered her fighting spirit. I remembered all the moments Dr’s had given up on her and how she had fought on.
My heart began to feel with her courage, her spirit began to feed through my veins.
I had to make a decision, a decsion to live,
Determinded to live loving harder.
I knew In my heart that Livvy had lived loved, she had known a life full of love, security and a lot of laughter. Yet many, many do not know this and this was something I could do, something I wanted to do for others.
The next chapter was a new beginning, new begining’s for others. Livvy, she may have not been physically here, but my heart held her in every decision I made and in every heart I wanted to heal.
Her legacy is and always will be love.
My children are my reasons.
When Daniel came into my life she couldn’t have made it more obvious unless she had gift wrapped him with a bow labelled, “send in love from Livvy”. He was ours to love and love hard, he was our gift of joy, heaven send.
Daniel like Livvy is a great reminder of the truth, that life is not measured by days, weeks or years but by the hearts that you make feel whole. Riches are not found in money or fancy things but in the smiles you create.
Livvy’s story is still unfinished, her legacy is living and loving, right here and right now.
The pages are still being written, chapters yet to be wrote, page by page, memory by memory.
I often wonder what my life looks like through another’s eyes. How do they view me? Do they see the internal struggle I face daily just to be or do they see someone in control?
You see I think I’m like a swan creating the illusion of gracefully swimming through life when in reality my feet are furiously trying to get me in the right direction.
Right now I feel like no matter how hard I paddle the current will always overthrow me. Dragging me the way I dont wish to go. Yet again everyone just sees the graceful not the exhausted.
I think I need to be stop smiling when people tell me ” I have it all together” or correct them when they say ” I don’t know how you manage to do it all”. Speak with the truth ” I dont and cannot”.
No one has or will ever have it all together. Life isn’t meant to be perfect and we are not meant to try and pretend we hold perfection in our hands.
Perfection breeds exclusion, I’m sure, no I know others dont approach me because they believe I cannot understand their struggle. That my decisions meant I’m ok with the constant life battles and that I don’t feel the weariness as they do. The fact is this illusion only adds loneliness to my weariness.
I’m tired of thinking all the time, I’m tired of medical routines and I’m tired of appointments and meetings and fear and worry.
I’m not tired of being Daniel’s mom, but I am lonely living in a world that cannot really be understood unless you live within it.
Daniel depends on me for everything and I’m perfectly ok with that I just get exhausted with the constant battles we face to get him what he needs. I’m frustrated with egos getting in the way of forward movement. I’m angry that budget cuts separates my child from moments and experiences that others can have.
But I will always keep swimming because Daniel is my reason for it all. He and his sisters are my heart but I am learning to stop pretending it’s all ok. Learning to stop saying yes when I really want to say no. Learning to stop trying to be the all as no one person can be.
So if you look through my eyes right now you will see a mom whose heart is full, whose mind is overwhelmed and whose body is in desperate need of a coffee.