October is Rett syndrome awareness month and I need for more people to know and understand and fight with me against this devastating condition. I need people to remember my beautiful girl, my wonderful joy giving daughter who my heart aches for. I need to celebrate her life and the wonderful nine and a half years I had with her, whilst also praying desperately for a cure for those suffering with this condition right now.
I need people to realise you cannot walk away even when your heart is broken. You have to, no you need to fight, fight for every child, fight for the hearts of every parent.
My arms are empty due to Rett Syndrome, in Livvy’s memory I won’t give up until there are #nomoreemptyarms.
I cried, I am so frustrated with myself but I cried.
On Friday 10th September 2021, I attended the DCP parliamentary event to raise awareness of the impact of Covid-19 on disabled children and young people. As a parent carer I was asked to discuss the impact of Covid -19 on our lives. The event was hosted by the lovely Mary Foy MP and the fantastic DCP staff.
I had been given the list of questions before the event, I had my answers prepared, I so wanted to be professional and get across the impact of how Covid-19 has affected our lives, but as soon as the question was asked I cried.
I cried because I had listened to the young people as they shared how they had been affected by Covid-19, their words, their struggles, I cried.
I cried because there I was asking, begging parliamentarians to see my son, to see me.
The week of this meeting we had been away to Yorkshire for a few days and we had to return because of Daniels need for bloods and his levels checked. We also came home because we couldn’t afford to book an accessible place to stay and we were physically broken.
The night before the meeting I had held Daniel tight as he tried to breathe through another panic attack. Why should a seven year old feel so much fear?
The morning of the meeting my back had given up lifting Daniel as we still wait for his hoists and adaptions to be done nearly two years on from the planning, Covid delays.
I cried because I was exhausted and I was tired of pretending to be brave.
This event mattered, it was an opportunity for those attending to hear firsthand the impact the pandemic as had, not the numbers, but the people. It was important to give the parliamentarians the opportunity to hear our stories but also to ask us, how, why and what could be done. To reach the ears of those that can effect change, their voices heard.
I cannot find the words to do justice to the impact of Covid- 19 on my family, on Daniel. How do I find the words to describe the fear of a young boy who felt abandoned, who felt forgotten? A boy who has been hospitalised due to separation anxiety, the fear that I will leave him like others. How do I explain the impact of watching my daughter sob heartbroken because her baby brother is reaching for her and she cannot hold him, cannot hold him close and tell him it will be ok, because its not.
How do I tell you about the fear that my son may get this virus and that it may take him from me, the anxiety that crushes my chest every time I have to engage with the outside world? What if I caught the virus, who would care for him, who would love him the way he deserves to be loved?
Words are inadequate when I see his body stiffen and his pain levels raise due to no physiotherapy beyond what I can do, but I am not a professional. Sitting in a wheelchair that is crushing his chest so that his breathing is harder, new wheelchair delayed because of Covid.
What words describe the exhaustion of my husband and I managing a 24 hour care plan with no support, sleeping in shifts, broken, scared and exhausted. Our beautiful boy dependant on us for everything yet our human bodies were failing.
Covid-19 has impacted so many, I am not trying to underestimate that, but I have sat watching our politicians on the screen waiting, praying for them to talk about my son and those like him. To mention the parent carers isolated at home, yet no words are spoken for them.
This meeting mattered and I am annoyed I cried but how could I not, I am broken, I am isolated and I am angry that my child was forgotten.
” I want my son to matter, I want him to be spoken about”
This meeting was to highlight and raise attention to the research and report published by the Disabled Children’s Partnership
Then There Was Silence – brings this research together alongside new analysis and an evaluation of how the voluntary sector responded to the meet the needs of children and families. It draws on the experiences of countless families, through surveys and interviews, as well as information obtained through Freedom of Information requests and other research.
Key findings in the report are that –
Children and families have been isolated and abandoned; and not been listened to.
Covid restrictions meant services were stopped or reduced; and many are still slow to return.
Mental health and wellbeing of all the family has deteriorated.
Children’s conditions have worsened and needs become more complex; delays in assessments mean needs haven’t been identified.
The charity sector demonstrates agility and flexibility and was able to extend its reach to help support families.
As a result of our findings, we have identified five vital steps for central government, local government and the NHS.
Prioritise the needs of disabled children and their families within covid recovery plans and programmes.
Tackle the backlog in assessments and ensure that children’s needs are re-assessed in light of missed support during the pandemic.
Ensure the right support is in place for all children and families, including education, health (including mental health), therapies and equipment.
Take a whole family approach to assessments and support, including siblings. This should include the provision of respite/short breaks and opportunities for families to take part in activities to overcome the isolation felt by so many.
Invest in disabled children’s health and care services through the Comprehensive Spending Review.
This report is the tip of an iceberg, Covid-19 has only highlighted a system that was already failing, underfunded and uncared for. Children and young people with disabilities matter, they deserve to live a fulfilled life whatever that may look like. They deserve love, compassion and the chance to achieve. But most of all now as we try and return to some normality of life with Covid-19 these children, these young people need to heard.
I woke last night screaming, somehow my sleep had become a time machine and I was there again in the hospital begging my child to wake. Desperate to see her chest rise again, begging the Lord to save her.
How can 12 years just disappear in a moment?
Yet I know in grief, time is only my enemy.
I miss my girlie so much, how I wish I could just hold her in my arms once more, to just breathe in the sweet smell of her hair.
Grief is a complex devil, playing games with your heart moment by moment, memory by memory.
Does it ever end?
Only with eternity I guess.
Oh I never knew the heart could survive such pain. The crushing weight becoming bearable against my wishes.
I don’t want to sleep again, I had to leave her once I’m not sure I could do it again.
Why does your memory invade your dreams?
Is there nowhere free from grief?
I couldn’t pretend for a while, I could not create the facade of being ok in those darkness hours. So I let the tears fall and as my whole soul hiccuped through my body I allowed myself to miss her.
I let the memories swarm my mind like a tapestry of bees as they create their honey, I created my moments again. I held her in my arms, I heard her sweet giggle of mischief on the symphony of the night and I breathed her in deep and I sobbed.
I still don’t understand why I had to lose her, why Rett Syndrome had to win the battle for her life. Yet I know it wasn’t for the lack of love. My Livvy, their Livvy, your Livvy was loved with the depths of so many hearts.
If love could have saved her life she would be here.
No the question still stands unanswered, our hearts still forever broken.
I couldn’t breathe anymore the tears had tore my soul and I did fall into an exhausted sleep.
I wake still desperate to hold my daughter once again.
The new day begins,
I trust, I breathe and I hope.
Until we meet again my beautiful girl, until.
Joining in again with five minute Friday, set your timer for five minutes and write.
I asked on my socials for some ideas of blogs that people would like to me to write and one question asked was “Why did you want to foster? “
So here goes
“Why did you want to foster? “
I think I was 12 years old or maybe 13 as we have moved up into the bigger school and there was a boy in my year who was in my thoughts then a ‘nightmare.’ He was always arguing with the teachers, always late and often coming to school dirty. Then one day he just seemed to stop coming to school, just disappeared until a few weeks later he returned but you could barely recognise him, he was so different, in clothes that fit, clean and seemed so happy and his behaviour in school was really improved. He was trying hard in lessons and actually listening to the teachers. About a week after he had returned, we ended up being partnered up and being the inquisitive (nosey) person I was, I asked him what was different, why he was different? He then told me that he had been moved out of his family home into foster care and whilst he missed his family his life had changed a lot, his foster carers listened to him, cared for him and were worried about him. He told me “That he felt wanted for the first time ever”. This obviously shocked me, I had no idea what his life had been like but the difference in him stayed with me for a long time and as I go older the desire to foster was grown in my heart. I remember telling my husband when I met him, I wanted 6 children and to adopt and foster many more and bless him he stayed around and came along for the ride.
Obviously 12-year-old me wasn’t going to become a foster carer but after we got married Alan and I enquired into the process and after discussions and Olivia’s diagnosis we decided that maybe when the girls were older, we could foster alongside caring for Livvy. As you all know life did not go as I had planned, in November 2008 we lost Olivia to a rare virus which she had contracted due to her diagnosis of Rett Syndrome. Our hearts were broken and in all honesty our minds were literally trying to make it to the next day.
Olivia died on November 7th and for what seemed an ironic moment that was the year I had finally got myself organised for Christmas so there sitting in my wardrobe haunting me was the Christmas presents I had brought for my beautiful girl that I was never going to get to give. Practically I knew I could return the gifts for a refund, but I just couldn’t, I had brought these as a gift, so I needed to do that somehow, gift them. So, after an internet search we found our local children’s home and called for a visit to drop off the gifts.
Turning up at the children’s home was strange, obviously we were still in the midst of grief, but I just felt so sad that homes like this had to exist. I was pleasantly surprised when we got inside and shocked that the home was actually for children with disabilities, I hadn’t realised that when we called. We chatted for a little time with the manager who explained all the fantastic things the children did and what they had achieved but I asked the question why these children weren’t in fostering placements etc. The reason was simply because they struggled to get people to foster children with disabilities, they are fearful which we understood completely it is far from an easy but yet reason this stayed with me, stayed with us. When we returned home, we spoke to our girls about how we had taken Livvy’s presents to the home and how lovely the children were. Our girls’ questions were like ours, “why are they there” “why doesn’t anyone foster them” and the question that came back to a few days later “why don’t we foster them?” You see fostering had been a family discussion for many years, our girls always knew our hearts and here they were asking us to live our hearts.
Well let’s be realistic here I was in pain, I was in pain like nothing I had every felt before. I missed Livvy with a desperation I did not know I had. I felt lost, I felt empty. My days stretched endlessly before me, caring for Livvy had been a 24-hour job now I was redundant and just did not know what to do with myself. Yet regardless of my desire to love on those children that needed it, my head wasn’t there. I had to make sure my decision, our decision was made for the right reasons not just to fill an emptiness which that let’s be honest could never be filled. But the desire didn’t fade in fact it began to burn brighter in my soul and my girls well they never let it drop, they came up with a campaign to get us at least enquire about it. So, enquire we did, enquiry led to interviews, interviews led to an application and application led to panel and panel led to approval.
In September 2009 we were approved as foster carers and it was a fantastic day, the joy of knowing we were going to make a difference really blessed our hearts, yet it was not one which we could really focus on as the very next day we were on our way to meet a beautiful boy that captured our hearts, our very first placement.
Over the last 12 years we have only had 4 placements as we foster long term and whilst I have to say fostering is a profession it has allowed me to hold hearts in mine. The joy we as a family get from watching a child lead a fulfilled happy life knows no boundaries. It has not been an easy journey, we have faced pain, a lot of anguish and often felt that maybe it is all too much, but the children, the children whose lives we get to change are worth it. The children we get to love upon are so worth it.
It is so worth it.
If there is any other subject you want me to cover here on the blog please get in touch.
Often when we face a loss in our community of special needs parenting, our hearts break alongside those facing the pain. We emphasise with the anger and missing we feel the disbelief and sadness. Myself personally I ache for the pain I know those left behind will feel. Each new loss reopening a wound that is far from healed.
Yet one of the things I still do not understand about loss in the disability community is that from those outside of it, is the feeling that somehow it’s acceptable. That in some way it is less. The concept that a life lived with a disability is not as full as one without.
There is no denying that being part of the special needs community we face loss maybe more than most, the wider our community the wider amount of pain. But that’s our life, we choose to walk alongside one another through the good and the bad. We celebrate the achievements and too often we have to grieve the loss.
Yet often those outside the community do not understand our journey and more often than I would like, do not understand our joy.
Statements like “oh well she had been poorly for a while” “sometimes it’s for the best” or my favourite (irony) “God knows best”.
When Livvy died she had a devastating neurological condition. Her body faced so many obstacles, seizures, abnormal breathing, sometimes uncontrollable movements. Yes, to list her conditions it may seem dire. Yet what the reality was that yes she had this list of issues but what she also had was a life filled with love and laughter. She had a family that adored her, she had parents she wrapped around her fingers. Sisters she teased and played with. Teachers she adored, friends she loved. Her life was full of joy and mischief. She was not her list of conditions. Yet still when I speak of my missing, people speak of her with pity. When I speak of her loss, people speak with acceptance, as if her disability makes her death more ok.
Whilst I know this attitude is meant with kindness I need to share that it’s not. When someone who has a disability dies it’s not ok, it’s not even a little ok. It’s a heartbreaking, soul destroying grief.
You see people are not their disabilities they are simply people. A child with disabilities is simply a child.
So I beg of people, I ask desperately that when dealing with a grieving mother, a broken father a missing family, that before you speak of freedom from pain, limited lives or God’s choices, STOP. Whilst the lives lost may have seemed hard to you, or the disabilities overwhelming those grieving see the little boy whose eyes twinkled as he looked at them. The little girl whose smile lit up the room, their son, daughter, sister, brother. We don’t grieve the disability, we grieve the one we loved and their disability wasn’t what defined them. Our pain is not less and their death is not and never will be acceptable.
Mother’s Day, a day where we come together to celebrate all things that are Mom in whatever form that comes, stepmoms, adopted moms, grandparents being mom and so many more.
Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world. The exhaustion of pregnancy, the labour of delivery, feeding, sleepless nights and so much more but yet it’s often the most rewarding role we will ever get to hold.
It’s tough and this last year has been a real struggle , ‘wow’ is pretty much all I can say about the last 12 months. From home schooling to the deep pit of fear that has been in your stomach since the words Covid 19 were first spoken, it’s been a year.
Still if I wish to challenge all moms a little now in fact probably all parents regardless of gender. What do you think is the one thing that is the hardest to cope with when being a parent?
Exhaustion, worry, finances,
Shall I share what I have placed on my heart this week. What God has wanted me to share with you all.
The hardest thing about being a parent
These pesky little things that penetrate our minds and hearts.
I should be
I could be
All turn into
I’m letting them down.
Now I’m coming to you as a mom of a five so a little experience here and also as professional of therapeutic childcare and I just want to state something here and I really want you to hear me.
You are enough
You are enough.
Our children enter this world with only a few needs, to be fed, to be warm and to be loved. Speaking confidently right now I am sure that each of your children are having those needs met. They are either grown and off living lives that you have encouraged and nurtured. They also could be there in your arms snuggling tight or even kicking out in your precious womb. They could be causing complete mayhem running around the house but all done in the knowledge that ‘they are loved’.
You are enough.
Yet we only have to look back the last 12 months and the changes this virus has brought into our lives. Homeschooling, isolation, exhaustion, fear. How many of use have felt lost, that they are failing?
My hands are right up in the air, me me.
I have watched social media posts of moms with beautiful converted classrooms with their children willingly working away. Houses spotless, make up perfect and I’ve literally cried. I have cried as Daniels homeschooling paperwork fell off the printer for the 15th time, cried as he completely ignored me as I tried to encourage him to work, sobbed at the state of my house and as for being perfectly made up, well I’ve had a shower and I’m saying Amen to that.
You see I couldn’t reach the expectations I had put upon myself and that’s ok. Because Covid 19 or not, being a mom is hard.
We mess up, we lose our temper and we suck at patience some days. Because motherhood didn’t come with super hero powers just the responsibility.
Anyway where am I going with this, well I’m leading to something I have personally took a long time to learn.
You don’t have to do this life alone.
As friends and family we are there to walk alongside one another. Reach out to friends, not only those at your stage at life. We have a wide breathe of generational wisdom to tap into.
But most importantly
Reach up, reach out to Jesus and ask him to walk alongside you. Ask for wisdom, hope and a big one for me, for patience.
Ask him to free you from the lies of the enemy that you are not enough. Free you from the untruth binding of expectations. To be beside you as you raise the next generation and to guide you as you walk this pathway of parenthood.
I ask you to look now at your child or if they are not with you bring them into your mind. As your heart swells of the love you feel for them as the love you have warms you to your very core, I want you remember.
I want you to remember
“We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:19
He loved us first,
He loved us first.
Remember that Jesus loves us as we love our children, that warmth you feel for your children he feels for you. He loves you to your very core.
Well hello March, what happened to January and February? Oh that’s right Sara you got lost. Lost in sadness, lost in anxiety and lost in defeat.
2021 started wrong, I’m sorry but I survived 2020 by patiently waiting for it to end. Pretending that it’s ok, hiding in a false facade of a comradery of equal suffering. “We are all in this together” “if everyone looks out for another” “we can do this”.
What bull that was, whilst some were hosting garden parties or indoor raves I was still locked behind my door scared to breathe deep.
So 2021 you need to behave, I have no more inspiration for homeschooling. I don’t want to talk to my husband any more and as much as I love Daniel I need sleep and I really really want to hug my daughters.
I cannot pretend anymore and that’s ok but unfortunately in my brain it wasn’t. So January and February I did my familiar act I locked down. I couldn’t disguise my sadness any more so I hid. I found my anger at the injustice of the forgotten vulnerable had started to warp my life view, jealous of others park walks none the less. Shopping trips envied to the point of stupidness I mean who cares that Asda has a new bedding range.
I did it 2020 I survived you but 2021 you need to play fair.
I’m not asking for a lot, I have no desire or money to travel (lockdown for foster carers didn’t fit the furlong scheme). Just to walk along a beach to feel the freezing cold of the British sea on my feet. To take Daniel to the local farm where he can indulge in his cow stalking behaviour to his hearts content. To eat in a restaurant where someone serves me and washes up.
I want to hold my daughters tight, to be there physically if they need me. To watch Daniel be held by those that love him as we repair his attachment bonds and remove his fear of rejection. To start his therapies again and to do all I can so he gets to live the fullest of lives.
I want so much to be there for my friends, to drink coffee, babysit whatever they need. To be able to hug them when they cry, to be able to listen without being out of reach behind a screen.
I want to people watch with joy again. To be able to see those around me without fear of infection.
Mother’s day is a day of celebration, a day where we honour the bond of a mother and a child. The period of time you are a mother is irrelevant. Physical birthing isn’t a necessary. Motherhood is about loving someone more than yourself. Living and breathing for their dreams to come true.
I adore being a mother, from the moment I knew I was carrying my first child in my womb my heart has loved hard. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve messed up and I’m sure I still will but my children are my life, my world.
One of the hardest things I have faced as a mom is letting go, watching my children grow and flourish and become Independant and assured. Seeing them bravely love, suffer, face heartache and rejection. The overwhelming urge to take them away from painful situations, to stop them before they try. Yet as a mom I’ve had to let them be, to live is to learn.
I am a mom to four amazing daughters and one handsome son, each one so beautiful and incredible in their own right. Individual with their own needs, wishes and dreams.
My dearest Livvy is in heaven and whilst the veil of this lifetime separates us physically now. No time, space or worlds can separate the love of this Mom from her daughter. My soul craves for my girl, my arms ache to hold her. My heart will be forever missing a piece, beating with a broken melody.
Yet I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
Mother’s Day is a celebration and I have a lot to be thankful for. So I’m going to hold on tight to the memories, run forward widely into the future with the knowledge that the greatest role I get to live, is that of a mother.
When your child is born your mind is full of the moments that are coming. The special dates that will fill your calendar. You start planning for the celebrations, their first birthday, their christening, their first day at school. Your mind races forward into their future, will they fall in love, will they be happy? So many will they be’s just as it should be, yet no parents expects to add, when will I lose them? How do you add how to plan their funeral to this future planning list?
Yet when your child is born with complex needs these thoughts invade your mind even when you try hard not to allow them. You live in a constant battle between hope and fear.
When we were told by Livvy’s consultant that he couldn’t promise us forever our minds went to places no parent should ever have to go.
When we lost her, another date appeared in our diary. Not one of celebration but one of brokenness.
We do mark the day we lost Livvy yet I know others that don’t, they don’t want to dwell on the day they lost their child and I get that. Yet for me personally it would always be the elephant in the room, the day my heart broke into pieces.
We take Livvy flowers and decorate her grave, not in celebration but in appreciation. Thankful for the gift of being her Mama, for the wonderful nine and half years she blessed this world.
It may seem strange to some but the day we lost her is a day I have to acknowledge, an anniversary I have to remember. I have to allow my heart the space to break and my mind to grieve. It’s a day where I can admit that life sucks without her and I’m still annoyed the world keeps on turning.
It’s also a day where I remind myself how lucky I was to have her and how my journey isn’t finished. It’s a day I love harder on her sisters, her new brother and of course her Daddy. I hold on to the gift of life and the memories we have and those we have still to make. Make plans for magic moments to come. Places to visit, friends to hug.
Yet the only thing I can guarantee about this day is that I have no idea how I will feel and that’s perfectly ok. It’s a day I don’t have to enjoy, have to make special it’s a day I just have to be. To be whatever my heart needs it to be.