Are you really my friends?

I’ve been honest here before about my struggle with friendships. How my awkwardness and self doubt has often left me pulling away from friendships. The fear of losing people has often led me to push them away.

I know why I do this, but stopping myself is a whole other battle.

Anyhow I was asked the other day about why I talk about my internet friends so much? Also are they really my friends?

So are you?

I’ve never been the best at friendships, never one for big groups. They just required too much brain power and for me to be out of my own mind more than I was willing. Family commitments and having a lot of siblings just never made me feel the need for large friendship groups. Also the dynamics of social groups mess with my mind. Cliques, status I simply couldn’t be bothered or understand. I often just don’t get people and social situations and I’m lousy at small talk.

So hello internet.

For someone who hates talking on the phone ( a whole other blog post) I found online forums to be freeing. I could chat to who I wanted and when I wanted. The groups were those with similar interests as me or similar lives.

First it was the special needs forums then with Livvy’s diagnosis it became the Rett community and then unfortunately I found myself in the bereaved family forums. All people willing to chat, support and guide me without any pressure on me to be anything but myself.

Then hello social media,

Wow I loved it, again I was given the opportunity to develop friendships with people miles away from me who just got it. Rett moms who cried themselves to sleep after watching their daughters seizure, parents trying hard not to lose their minds with their teenagers.

It was great, until it wasn’t.

I’m not sure what happened but losing Livvy changed the way I viewed the world. I couldn’t do arms length anymore. I needed close, deep friendships but I wasn’t ready. Emotionally I just couldn’t invest time or mind-space into others. I needed to heal, love on my girls and I suppose be a little bit selfish. I couldn’t be compassionate when my heart was broken. I’m sure many other bereaved parents will tell you that one of the hardest moments after losing a child is when you realise the world continues on without your child in it. I struggled with this so I hid away until my anger subsided enough to let me live again.

Hello hashtags

I laugh when writing this but Instagram and hashtags became my best friend. Literally a search engine to likeminded people. I love them, how many times would you expect #seizuresuck to appear, more than you imagine that’s for sure.

#Panhypopituitarism

#hydrocephalus #diabetes insipidus, #cerebralpalsy, visionimpaired #hypothalamicdysfunction #epilepsy

#Chroniclungdisease

#specialneeds

#complexneeds

#disabilityawareness

These hashtags have brought me in contact with some amazing people and now I’m determined not to hide from the friendships I am forming.

I have come across parents with children with complex needs with such a love of life that I cannot help but be excited by them. Their energy is contagious and their children’s smiles so infectious. like myself they live to make the moments matter. Standing up against discrimination and showing that our children matter, all children matter.

I am finding that sometimes it’s easier to be transparent behind a screen, to admit you are struggling when you are not face to face.

I have also seen waves and waves of support literally lift people out of the depths and I’m so proud to call these people my friends.

Yes some relationships I have formed are deeper, some I literally feel are family where others are not so close but I’m equally thankful for.

Some friendships will stay behind a screen and that’s ok but others I’m nervous but so excited to bring into the real world.

But all I value, all matter to me.

So in answer to the question are my internet friends real friends? My answer is this, “Completely, I don’t want to do life without them. “.

Not a thing

I know people mean well but sometimes I want to scream “shut the heck up. “

Only the other day I was having a conversation with someone who I have known for a while. I won’t say we are friends but we chat when we bump into each other. In fact sitting here now I cannot actually remember how we met but anyway hey ho I digress. Me digress what a shocker.

Anyhow we were chatting as you do when she turned to me and said “ I don’t know how you do it, I don’t know why you do it” then the clanger “you have to give up so much”.

Now before I seem like a complete bitch I know she meant no harm but the “it” she was talking about was fostering, adoption and ultimately Daniel.

Yet you see adoption isn’t a thing.

It’s a heart, a heart that you are promising to love, care and protect for a lifetime. It’s a web of emotions, a tangle of heartbreaks and brokenness that you have committed to hold in your arms and whisper I love you’s to.

It’s a gift, a blessing and hard work all rolled into one but it’s never about giving up it’s about getting so much more.

I know the questions was aimed at the special needs aspect of our adoption but Daniel isn’t his special needs, he is everything all squashed together into one adorable package.

I’m not going to pretend it isn’t hard at times it is but that’s ok, life was never promised to be a bed of roses.

When I met Daniel I didn’t see a list of conditions, it wasn’t the pages of hospital notes that won my heart, it was the way his tiny hand gripped my finger. Not opening his eyes or turning towards me just holding my finger tight.

My heart just opened and he jumped right inside, right then, right there.

He had my heart.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I truly believe that the best things in life aren’t.

I know my friend didn’t mean harm and I wasn’t offended but this is something we have come across so many times. People telling Alan and I how amazing we are caring for such complex children. How lucky the children are.

Children in foster care aren’t lucky that they have a new home. Their hearts are broken and their souls sore. What they knew is gone and even if it wasn’t the best of experiences as they often aren’t It was what they knew, their normal.

Children who get adopted aren’t lucky, the parents who now get to call them their child are the lucky ones.

My girls, Alan and I, we know we are fortunate , we are wonderfully lucky that we get to love upon children that need it. We get to open our hearts and our home to children who need us. We get to love, care and cherish.

How incredible is this?

As for Daniel I haven’t given up anything to be his mama, I have been incredibly blessed that I get to call this wonderful little boy my son.

My heart, my boy.

It’s your fault

Having a child with disabilities means I often find myself meeting with professionals who are supposed to be in place to support and guide me and make sure my child’s reaches his full potential. I use the world supposed because sometimes and some would say often this doesn’t happen.

I have met some amazing people who are incredible at their jobs and I have met some doozies who seriously need to either consider a career change or at least attend a training course on compassion, respect and understanding.

Yet thankfully I have never come across one like the one my friend has met this week. My dear friend is at breaking point she adores and loves her child with every breathe she takes but after literally sleeping for less than three hours on a good night for the last how many years she is broken. After asking again for the numerous time for a little support and respite she actually told a professional that she is close to breaking, she is physically and emotionally on her knees. To which the so called professional replied “well how is that going to benefit your child, you have a responsibility to keep yourself well for your child”. What the **** seriously I’m not sure how my friend stayed calm in this situation without demanding a manager or someone at a higher level but she did (I actually think she is just too tired to fight anymore). Yet how, just how can a someone say this, it’s not as if my friend wouldn’t love a good eight hours sleep each night, the chance to spoil herself and have a haircut, a night out on the town with the girls. She would desperately love this but as a sole carer, her child has and and always will be her priority. How is her exhaustion her fault?

I’m sorry but do people really believe this ? That parents of children with disabilities just cannot be bothered to take care for themselves.

Let me give you a little breakdown of my day,

It’s starts pretty much where yesterday finishes, I have medication to give at 12am, 6am, 8am, 12pm and 6pm. I also have an overnight feed to prepare from 12am till 7am, also another 8 Bolus feeds to give throughout the day.

I have a minimum of 10 nappy changes each day with all nappies weighed and recorded.

My child sleeps maybe 3 hours max at a time needing comfort, moving and generally loving throughout each night and that’s on a normal night. This can double or treble if unwell in any way.

To leave the house, besides feeding, changing and lifting my child into his wheelchair I also have to pack feeds, meds, and emergency protocols and emergency meds. I cannot ever just wing it and just grab my handbag and leave. His life depends on me carrying the medication he may need.

Let’s also realise that normal chores are often doubled or tripled, washing for example does not consist of the normal one outfit a day but the numerous we need from unexpected changes, sheets bedding etc etc.

Add to this caring for my child’s needs, dressing him, bathing him, moving him, lifting him and of course playing, amusing him and loving him.

Oh I almost forget I’m also my child’s personal assistant arranging, rearranging and chasing his numerous medical appointments, the EHCP paperwork, ordering his medications, his equipment and so on. I’m also his advocate fighting for the things that he needs to live with a quality of life he deserves, his voice and his fiercest defender.

So please tell me where or when I am supposed to take care of myself? And guess what I have a supportive husband, great older children and actually a care package that is working for me. For a professional to suggest my sole carer, 4 hours each month respite friend literally is bringing her ill health on herself makes me see red.

Times are hard, right now we have a government that believes everyone can make do a little more, well everybody besides the top 1% of course. My friend already has to make choices between sleeping and eating but hey I guess she can make do a little more. I mean who needs food? She loves and adores her child and so wants the best for him but all she was asking for was a little compassion and support, is that too much to ask?

If she does break and her child goes into a residential facility where he will need 2 carers to support him at all times he certainly will be costing this government so much more.

I actually didn’t know what to say to my friend when she told me what had been said, part of me wanted to go in kicking and screaming and demanding an apology for her. Yet I’m realising the problem is a lot wider.

When you have train companies believe it’s ok not to make trains accessible for disabled people, when you have superstores using disabled children for advertising whilst depriving them of the basic facilities to have their care needs met, I realise this world needs to change.

When you live in county where almost three quarters (72%) of carers have said they had suffered mental ill health as a result of caring, while well over half (61%) said their physical health had worsened.

You know things have to change.

I welcome the news released yesterday that a joint report by two Committees of cross party MPs, the Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Health and Social Care Committee, calls for new contributions from individuals and employers into a dedicated fund to be ringfenced to help pay for the growing demand for social care in the future. Highlighting the immense strain that the current system is under, including families providing unpaid care, the MPs have proposed a series of measures including a new “Social Care Premium”.

But there is a long way to go..

Figures released by Carers UK show that

1 in 8 adults (around 6.5 million people) are carers

By 2037, it’s anticipated that the number of carers will increase to 9 million.

Carers save the economy £132 billion per year, an average of £19,336 per carer

Over 3 million people juggle care with work, however the significant demands of caring mean that 1 in 5 carers are forced to give up work altogether.

Carer’s Allowance is the main carer’s benefit and is £64.60 for a minimum of 35 hours, equivalent to £1.85 per hour – the lowest benefit of its kind.

People providing high levels of care are twice as likely to be permanently sick or disabled

72% of carers responding to Carers UK’s State of Caring Survey said they had suffered mental ill health as a result of caring.

61% said they had suffered physical ill health as a result of caring.

Over 1.3 million people provide over 50 hours of care per week.

Again I will stress there is a long way to go.

Yet how hard or how little would be needed for those professionals in the lives of carers to actually think before they speak. To actually show compassion without passing judgement.

My dear friend hasn’t the energy to ask for an apology and right now is literally holding it together in her words “with Gods grace and the love of my boy”. But how many more are out there struggling feeling alone and broken?

I know how hard it gets and as I have said I am one of the lucky ones.

All I hope is that change will come but until then if you are struggling, if you are feeling alone please get it touch because none of us can do this alone but together we can and will make it.

To love is to be vulnerable

I am in a little bit of a state right now, anxiety is winning the battle for my mind and my soul.

I hate that I get this way, I wish I could lie still in the peace of faith but I cannot. In fact I suck at lying still anywhere.

Tomorrow my little one is having an MRI which requires him to have a general anaesthetic and the fear of the ‘what if’s’ are just eating away at me.

Do I pack for more than a day? Can I trust he will be out on the same day as planned and the major one and the truth of my heart, will he be ok?

My head tries to remind me of how many people have this kind of a test each day, how its a simple non invasive test but my heart just is screaming “My son”.

Having a child with complex needs leaves you open and fearful. Your heart and mind goes to places many others never venture. Being a mom who has lost a child my mind has been there and lived it and somehow is just about surviving it.

So why do I do what I do?

This is a question I get asked a lot, mostly from parents who have children with disabilities or those that have lost a child. Why do I put myself back there. Why have I adopted, why a child with complex needs and why do I risk my heart again?

To be truthful I am not sure I have an answer for this question.I think we need to go back to the beginning. I truly believed I was a weird child, I struggled with emotions and worries before I even knew what they were. Sensitive to other people’s feelings to an extent that would have me cry myself to sleep with another’s pain. The world seemed a scary place and people often cold and distance. I didn’t understand people and to be honest I am not sure I actually do now.

I would watch people destroy each other with words out of hate, jealously or indifference and I just wanted to run and hide. I tried often to lose myself between the pages of a book preferring the lands of make believe to reality. When books didn’t work I turned to alcohol just to allow me the freedom from thinking, from caring. A few drinks in and life made more sense or so it seemed. But with sobriety came reality and my reality was that I was difference and that was something I had to find a way to accept, to understand.

I had to learn to embrace who I was and the ways of my heart. Understand that oblivion wasn’t a place I could stay or actually a place I really wanted to be.

I had to find what made me happy and that journey of self acceptance started with my marriage but mostly from becoming a Mom. I guess this reads as mush but I truly believe being a Mom allowed me the freedom to know and understand true love. Everything I wanted for my children was what I had always wanted for the world, It was a real aha moment.  But being a Mom is scary stuff besides having to feed, clothe and keep these little ones alive you are the window through which they start to see the world. I never wanted them to feel weird or difference. I wanted them to realise that they were unique, that each of them had been individually made with purpose. That they were exactly who they were supposed to be.

But guess what if my children were made with purpose and they are exactly who they are supposed to be then by default this means so am I.

Yes I may be a little weird or strange (I’ve been called) my heart may break more often than others and I may love with an intensity that seems insane to others but this is me. This is my heart and just as my girls were perfectly formed in my womb I was in my mothers.

I still strive for answers to questions others don’t understand, I think way more than should be humanly possible (my husbands words) but I am who I was meant to be.

I love to love. 

This is me in a nutshell.

I love the joy of knowing that someone understands how valuable they are, how they are a gift to my life in so many ways. I want everyone on the planet to know their true worth.

Happy clappy, airy fairy, who cares, I am who I am.

So why wouldn’t I be sitting here in a state of fear loving a child that was not born to me. The biology bit is irrelevant, God called me to be his Mama and I am so damned happy he did. Yes it’s scary, yes I am fearful but I am so blessed to love this kid.

Why did I adopt?

Why not, when there are children in this world that needs a home and someone to love them, why shouldn’t I. The complexities of anyone comes in so many difference forms, who cares, we are all uniquely and wonderfully made.

I feel C.S Lewis says it perfectly here, “to love is to be vulnerable” but after spending so many years of my life trying to stay in that dark and safe casket I can truly tell you that right now I am fearful, but I am living fully.

Anxiety, heartbreak and fear they are emotions that do and will often overwhelm me, this is part of who I am. Acceptance of these is still journey I am travelling. But non of these compare to the joy of living my life fully, how being true to my heart is freedom in itself.

It’s not our choice

Having a disabled child wasn’t part of my life plan. I was shocked, confused and generally devastated at first. I had to slowly find my own peace with the life that I had and the disabilities of my child. But if I am honest there were times where I was frustrated and angry at the way her condition controlled my life.

I couldn’t holiday easily, we couldn’t get insurance to fly for a start and the fact  that there was always a high risk of cancelling, due to hospitalisation, illness etc.

I couldn’t work full time, there was no way I could meet all her needs, hospital appointments and therapies whilst being a productive employee.

I couldn’t have an evening out without proper planning in advance and hoping that I would get some respite that was few and far between.

At times I couldn’t even go to the toilet on my own without fear of her seizuring in my absence.

There were so many choices taken away from us all. 

But the reality is that my lost choices were nothing compared to what Livvy faced.

Right now my local council has decided that parents of children with special needs post 16 have to pay towards their transport to school. Their reasoning is that most parents have to pay when their child goes to college etc and that its only reasonable that we put towards this cost as transporting our children is expensive.

£600 a year, is this fair?

Lets look at this closely,

I didn’t choose my daughters school, I didn’t get to make a decision on league tables or the curriculum offered.

My daughter didn’t choose her school, she didn’t get to view different courses, or placements and come to a decision that was her’s. No the council and it’s professionals made the choice that this was the school suited to my child’s needs.

They didn’t consider the fact that every morning she would see her sister’s get up and dressed in a different school uniform and watch them leave with their friends.

They didn’t consider the fact that maybe she didn’t enjoy travelling 30 minutes each morning and afternoon to and from school.

They never considered that myself and many other parents like me struggle to be in two places at the same time often twisting ourselves up with guilt from missed performances, parents day and so much more.

No they made the decision on the best place to cater for her needs and I understand that. Yet why are we being asked to pay for something we had no choice in?

I am actually not saying that I have an issue with paying towards the service but I do think it should be in line with the costs I would have to pay for my other daughters. I don’t know many parents that have a spare £600 lying around and if someone mentions mobility to me again I may scream. Have you tried to fill the tank of a mobility vehicle on what our child receives each week? Do you drive to numerous medical appointments, pay for parking at so many hospitals for again reasons beyond our control, our choice.

Olivia didn’t choose to have Rett Syndrome, she didn’t choose to fight each day. She didn’t choose to have uncontrollable epilepsy and she certainly didn’t choose to lose her battle for life so early. 

I am so tired of seeing disabled people persecuted for something that is out of their control. Our children didn’t choose not to go to the local school, they didn’t choose not to be able to walk the journey on their own, backpacks on their backs as they laugh and joke with their friends.

They didn’t choose this life and as their parents we didn’t either.

Yet right now our local council are making parents feel as their children’s education is a luxury, a luxury that they have been funding. I’m sorry Walsall Council I completely disagree. You have an obligation to support our children with an education, the fact that these education placements are far and few between well that with your current funding and cuts to school is only going to become more of an issue and isn’t our fault or our choice. Do you not think we would love to walk our children to school, to chat with other parents on the playground, to be able to feel less alone in our already isolated worlds?

But before you harp on at parents already struggling to survive with reduced respite, reduced support,cancelled play schemes etc please remember this, these children, these parents they don’t have a choice.

Our lives, our children lives are far from what we had planned. When we celebrated their conception and decorated their nurseries we never imagined the lives we had yet to live.

We are trying, trying each day to make the best of it all. To love on our children with all that we have. To fight for therapies and support that will enhance their quality of life, and most of all we fight for their happiness, their chance to do whatever they dream.

Because whilst you may see them as expensive, we see them our hearts.

Trolling should be a criminal offence.

I love the internet, it has widened my world more than I could have ever imagined. I have met and become friends with people that wouldn’t have come into my life without the wonderful world wide web. I have experienced friendship, support, advice and so so much more.

Yet in the mist of all this positivity there are some that use the internet just to be idiots. They hide behind their keyboards to insult, mock and bully. They are cowards in the worst form.

I personally have received some vile emails and comments, people mocking the death of my child, my size, my life. They have crawled out of the their pits of slime to abuse, insult and tear me down. Their words have hurt and scarred.

But who do I get angry at?

They hide behind user names and false identities.

Did I mention they were cowards?

Thankfully Katie Price has decided that she has had enough. After years of her severely disabled son Harvey being mocked and bullied online she has started a petition calling for online abuse to become  a criminal offence. I stand behind her 100%. Whilst she may live her life in the public eye this never gives anyone the right to abuse her  or her child like this. No one has that right ever. Yet here on the internet these trolls, these cowards are free to continue their evil without any comebacks. This has to change. Please join Katie and stand up against these trolls, sign her petition.

We need to make a stand against the horrific abuse people are facing on a daily basic. Racism, homophobia, sexism and so much more. This isn’t a question of free speech its hate in the purest form. It’s time to say enough, sign the petition and also email your MP and ask them to support this and lets get this discussion happening in parliament. Lets bring these cowards out into the open and make them accountable for what they posting.

Countdown to 40

40

 

I realised last night that in under a month I turn 40. This is a major milestone in my life but one I am so excited for.

Growing up I remember thinking 40 was really old, I mean it seemed that my mom was 32 forever so I was sure I would stay this way. Yet time has moved on and I have been slowly creeping towards this age.

I remember when I turned 30 I was really freaked by it all, I didn’t feel ready to be 30 years old I was uncomfortable and not happy in my own skin. Life wasn’t easy and I had just started to show signs of the illness that changed my life. I look back to those days when I was chasing after 4 children under 10 and teaching dance. I remember just not feeling complete as if I wasn’t living life to the full.

Fast forward the last ten years and my goodness a crazy amount has happened. I have walked through some of the darkest moments of my life. My heart has been broken, tore up into millions of pieces and then trodden on. I never imagined at 30 that I would have to bury a child let alone two. I would have never been able to comprehend surviving the loss of my daughter and my foster son. Never in a million years. Yet somehow I have survived, my heart may never be complete but it is learning to love on, learning to beat strongly again and I am learning to live life to the full again.

I know deep down that 40 isn’t really a special age. I mean I preach often about celebrating every day we have here, but still I am rather excited for the day.

This may sound big headed but I like who I see in the mirror now. I may not be a dance teacher or able to fit my bum into a size 12 but I truly love my body and I’m so grateful to it. It has given me four amazing girls, completely different, independent ,inspirational girls. It allows me to foster two truly awesome boys, each a blessing in their own special way. My body may be a little battle worn but it’s not been beaten and I am so thankful for this.

I look back to the person I was 10 years ago and I know I have been on a journey. I use the term “self discovery” loosely  as is the only way to get close to describing  the transformation I feel I have faced.

I love who I am (yes I may have said that before) but I seriously do. I love my emotional side, no more will I apologise for my random tears or unexpected hugs. I’m empathic and I care and this is something I am proud of now. No more calling myself soppy and pathetic, I actually rock.

I love my courage, I am more willing to put myself out into the danger zone, being vulnerable, feeling scared but still moving forward.

I love my brain, it’s ok that I am a little geeky at times, that sometimes the idea of a good book wins against a movie or a night out. That I appreciate my own company and yes at times I get lost in my own mind.

I love myself and I love my life.

As I head towards this birthday milestone I do so with so much gratitude.

Over the last years I have had people walk into my life that have blessed me in so many ways. Friends that love me for me, deep true friendships that can pick up after a time apart just where we left off. Friends I can laugh with, friends I have cried on. I am so grateful for each and every one of them.

I am so thankful for my family, my daughters and my sons each so unique and so beautiful. Getting to watch them grow and learn and experience life is such a wonder, such a gift. My Dad, my Step Mom, my inlaws, my aunts, uncles, cousins, relantionships that I truly value and people I truly love.

My husband, I am completely in love with this crazy man, after nearly 20 years of marriage I still get that flutter in my heart when he walks into a room. He makes me laugh, he drives me insane, but he truly is my soul mate.

I am so thankful that I miss my Livvy, because missing someone is the recognition of an amazing love, a truly unbroken bond. My girl and I will be together again one day, but until then I am going to try and live as she did, fully and with all my heart.

So the count down to 40 begins and I’m so excited. I’m so ready to celebrate the 40 years I have been here with all my family and friends. An evening full of laughter, music and hopefully a gorgeous outfit.

Yet 40 is only the really the beginning, the start of a new stage in life, one I hope will be full of love and laughter and the people that really make my life truly amazing, my family and friends, because with them and because of them I actually love myself more at 40 then I ever did.

 

40 looking good