Strong

“Oh she does so well”

“I don’t know how she does it.”

“She is always in control.”

“She is so strong.”

These words are often spoken over me, as a mom who has faced loss then chose to adopt a child with complex needs people seem to think I’m some kind of superwoman, a special heart, so strong. 

I may be all of those things at times but I have allowed these words to stop me opening up, fearful that in my honesty people would see weakness.  

You see there is beauty in strength but choosing to be vulnerable is one of the scariest things we can do. Allowing our hearts to be transparent, now thats hard. 

Yet I often think strength and vulnerability are the same thing. 

Some days I feel far from strong, I find myself hiding in the bathroom as I let the tears fall. I feel the nausea in my stomach as my legs go from underneath me. 

I feel all of this and in this I am strong. 

When my heart beats so rapidly in my chest and I can barely catch a breath, I am strong. 

In the panic and fear I feel, I am strong. 

Yet I still find myself hiding for fear of judgement, fear of weakness. 

How wrong am I? 

You see life is going to be hard, we were never promised anything different but its in the showing up I realise my strength. 

Yes, adoption is hard, but I show up

Grieving is hard, but I show up

Being a medical mama is hard but I show up

Being exhausted from caring is hard, but I show up. 

Being lost in the anxiety is hard but still, I show up. 

I am strong, I am vulnerable, I am a glorious mess of all these emotions. 

Strength isn’t in not breaking, it’s allowing yourself to fall apart in love.

And then showing up. 

I am no longer going to hide under the words spoken over me but I do choose to stop them allowing myself to be honest. 

I refuse to allow the fear of being weak stop me from being vulnerable. 

My weakness is my strength 

In my fear I am strong. 

I show up. 

Writing again in the Five minute Friday link up.

Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write. 

It’s not ok that our children died.

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 love

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

Expectations

These pesky little things that penetrate our minds and hearts.

I should be

I could be

If only

All turn into

I failed

I’m useless

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.

and I want you to say this loud

“we are enough. “

I am enough.

Holy cow it’s March

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 broken…

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.

I want to not feel so angry, so lost.

2020 I survived you, 2021 behave.

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.