We need to remember what Livvy taught us.

I worry we are forgetting, not about Olivia herself but all that she taught us.

I can still see her in my mind clear as yesterday. Her blond hair that twirled between my fingers. Her cute mouth and the way it did it’s little Elvis curl.

I can hear her giggle at the silly things or the most incorrect moments.

Her teasing way towards her sisters, her daddy.

I can see it all and I’m so thankful for this but what she taught us is slipping through my fingers, through her Daddies fingers.

To make the moments matter.

This was what Livvy taught us, on the day of her diagnosis we realised that we didn’t have forever so we needed to focus, needed to revalue and we needed to make the moments matter.

We were never going to be wealthy enough for amazing trips but Livvy didn’t care less where she was as long as there was laughter in the air.

Give her a sea shore and splashing waves and she was content.

Give her a battered roe and couple of your chips and she was happy.

Give her your arms to snuggle in and she was in her moment.

Life has become a little forgetful as of late. The normal is invading into our moments a little more than I like. Laughter feels rationed and magical moments are becoming less.

I know we cannot live in a permanent state of magic but we do need a reminder of what Livvy taught us.

Daniel needs us to remember.

Yes money is tight and that always adds the extra weight upon anyone’s shoulders but money does not equate happiness and it doesn’t bring guarantees.

I want to remember the moments we shared.

I want to create new moments for Daniel.

Tropical hurricanes aside I want magical moments again. I want to laugh until I cannot breathe, dance in the rain, drink tea with friends whilst the night sky entertains us with star dances.

I want to throw Daniel into moments the Drs never imagined for him, defy odds and breathe life in deeply.

I want to remember what Livvy taught us and make her proud by being her best student.

I don’t want to forget, we all need not to forget.

Life is for living,

Living like Livvy.

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.

Not hiding my boy away

A child breaks their leg, Mom shares image on social media and the comments that follow are full of “bless them” “oh little brave one”. A special needs parent shared their reality and the response is so very different.

Regardless of how people have viewed the coverage regarding Alfie Evans I am getting truly tired of hearing “you shouldn’t show photos like that” “who wants to see a sick child”.

It’s comments like this that makes us special needs parents feel we have to hide in the shadows. It’s ok to share a photo of a normal (I hate that description) healthy child with a broken leg but how dare you share a complex kid?

Comments like “it’s made me feel uncomfortable” are driving me crazy. I’m sorry my life is making you uncomfortable, I apologize that my child’s feeding tube makes you look away. That you feel sad that you have to think of children in situations like this.

Jog on,

Our children are gifts, if we want to share and journal every step of their journey we have the absolute right to. If we want to share our fear, pain and worries we will.

It’s comments like those written above that left me struggling alone with Livvy. It’s attitudes like this that stopped me reaching out to be supported.

It’s not happening again, I will not hide my beautiful boy from those that are sharing our journey with me. I will not allow myself to feel isolated again. As far as I’m concerned if you don’t like what you see or read, don’t follow.

I am so thankful for the community of parents whose children have complex needs here on social media. For the wide-awake club who keep me company in the endless early hours. Those that have been there that can advise or encourage me and for those that just get it.

Social media has brought the world closer, its connections have brought me friends I love dearly that I have yet to touch or hug, but they have pulled up when I’ve been feeling down, wrapping me up in encouragement and love.

Yes, social media has it low points but the community of parents with children with special needs have been a lifeline to me. I love seeing photos of their beautiful children, love sharing in their moments both good and the hard. Love being given the opportunity to support and encourage them as they do me.

So, will I let those that “feel uncomfortable” stop me from being part of this amazing community, no chance I love my people.

Will I hide my child from the world, no way he is too blooming gorgeous?

 

 

 

 

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.

My favourite photo

This was taken in May this year and it was the first photograph of Daniel without his NG tube. It isn’t my favourite because it’s the first without his NG but because of my relief of seeing that smile after surgery.

 

There is nothing worse that handing your child over to surgeons and theatre staff, you have to trust them with your heart. This gastrostomy surgery was the first we had faced with Daniel and nothing could have prepared me for the fear I felt as I left the theatre, my legs literally felt like lead. I could barely breathe for the hours he was in down.

So this photo is my moment, the moment I could breathe again. 

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.

A wonderful resource 

Having a child with complex needs means I often get to spend more time that I would like in hospital. In fact over the years my local hospital has felt more like home than my actual one. Livvy spend weeks at a time causing chaos on the children ward. I have some incredible memories of my time on ward some which are painful but others full of laughter. We were so lucky to be surrounded by first class paediatricians and nurses and not forgetting the support workers. They all made what was often some of the scariest times of life less fearful. 

Medicines and treatment are only one part of the solution when it comes to getting children well. They need a holistic environment that relaxes and reassures them allowing them to heal. 

This Is why I was so happy to be at yesterdays official opening of the new Paediatric sensory room on Ward 21 at the Walsall Manor Hospital by the Deputy Mayor.

I actually didn’t spend anytime on ward 21 with Livvy, she didn’t hang around long enough to visit on the new children’s wards. But the old Canterbury Ward was a place we spend many a week. A place where my youngest Brodie spend many a hour in the playroom whilst the nurses cared for her sister. She spend hours being occupied by the wonderful play support staff whose passion for the children they support is evident in all that they do.

Conversations spoken 15 years ago of wishes for a fully functioning sensory room today got to come true and I honestly don’t think you could have seen happier staff than those there today. Such well deserved pride.

The sensory room is perfect it’s going to be a place where children can relax and recover. A place where children with extra needs or not can escape the confines of the ward to a little place of harmony. Healing the soul as the doctors heal the body. 

I can personally attest to this as thanks to my visit on ward with my little man a few weeks ago we got to experience first hand what a wonderful resource this sensory room will be. He absolutely loved it. What’s even more special is the fact that the ward now also have a portable sensory unit which means that this resource can be brought to the beds of those that cannot visit the room. Those hooked up to machines or oxygen, they too can have a sensory experience at their bedside.

At the opening yesterday I was joined by a family that have walked life’s journey with me. A family who I met actually on the old children’s ward, a family who have become my family. Livvy and their handsome Ryan met on the children wards over 13 years ago and became the closest of friends. We share so many memories of them together, memories that light up our lives and fill us with joy when we recap on them. They simply were double trouble, but both of them were such great gifts to our lives. 

It was so lovely to be there yesterday and imagine our two in that room. Climbing over the equipment, loving all the lights. Both really benefitting from this amazing resource. Whilst it was nice to be lost in our memories for a while just watching the children play yesterday warmed our hearts. This sensory room is going to bring much joy to this current generation of children and hopefully many more. I know we will personally love using it if ever little man decides to visit again (please not for a while). It truly is a special place and well done to all those that tirelessly campaigned for such a resource and a massive thank you to all those that donated and fundraised towards it all.

Of course we don’t want to stop here, Walsall Paediatric unit still have a lot more that they would like in place to offer the most holistic environment for the poorly children that crosses their door. Their next wish is to revamp the waiting area in the paediatric assessment unit. A place where children are often unwell and frightened. The first point of course on their journey or stay. How incredible would in be to have a interactive waiting area that could occupy children as well as distracting their fear. I know this would be so amazing for both the children and their parents.

If you would like to support this next venture please get In touch with Georgie the fundraiser at Walsall Manor give her a call on 01922 656643 or email her @georgie.westley@walsallhealthcare.nhs.uk let her know that this is the project you wish to support. Please tell her I sent you so that she knows where you heard about it. 

It is so hard when children are ill, unlike adults they don’t often understand why and what’s happening to them. This is why the environment they are treated in matters so much. This paediatric sensory room is going to be a wonderful resource in reducing this fear allowing children the space they need to aid their healing. So thank you Walsall Manor Paediatric unit for all you have done and for all you do in keeping our children well.