Archive for February, 2014

Comforts and Cuddles

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Today Pickle fell and banged her cheek really hard

She started crying immediately and I picked her up to comfort her as I always do, empathised and rubbed her cheek and kissed it over and over again while I held her close. Normal scenario right? Not for us. And it wasn’t until this moment in time that I realised just how much we’d become used to her not allowing us to really comfort her.

I noticed the other day that she’d started to give me her hands or her feet to kiss better if she’d banged or stubbed one of them but she would always offer the other one for kisses too and seemed to enjoy the attention, care, kisses and love that I was showering her with. Not that I was complaining! But it was interesting because she’d never done that before, she never really let’s us comfort her “properly”. If she knocks herself and she hurts something but not too badly she will push us away after a second or two of comfort. Even if I’m just rubbing her back after getting down on the floor she will run away like nothing is wrong even though I know she’s hurt. And that’s what we’ve started to do so we’re not pushing ourselves on her if she doesn’t want to be comforted.

But even if she really hurts herself and she loses her breath (which is when we know she’s really bumped herself) she will only let you cuddle her for a second or two and then she’ll push you away. And if you don’t let go she has a tantrum or hits you. As I say, it’s strange what you notice subconsciously but don’t notice until something changes.

And today it did.

Today she fell and banged her cheek, hard, as we were playing. I went to pick her up as usual and I was sitting down so I gathered her up on my knee, rubbing her cheek, empathising, cuddling her close and kissing her cheek over and over again….and I suddenly realised she was letting me do it. Not only that, I was managing to calm her down and she’d started enjoying the kisses on her cheek and she was still sitting on my knee cuddling in. That’s the moment I realised it was the first time she’d allowed me to do that. It was amazing and surreal all at the same time. There’s no feeling quite like being able to comfort a child properly and having them accept and enjoy it.

6 months and at 21 months old Pickle has allowed me a little bit further in to her life and I feel honoured.

Clearing Moss

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

By definition moss is a plant with no true roots 

That’s what I’ve felt like for the last two weeks. I haven’t felt rooted to anywhere. Not to the ground. Not to my family. Not to my friends. Not to my husband. Not to Pickle. Not to the world around me. Not to myself. I’ve felt disconnected, isolated, alone.

I couldn’t shake that feeling and it got worse and worse as time went on. But then one day this week I woke up and felt a little bit better. I felt a bit more ‘there’. The change was significant and all down to hormones. I’ve always suffered with PMT but it seems to be exasibated more now because I have someone else I need to think about.

Having realised this I booked an appointment at the doctor to finally sort myself out and decided to get myself outside to do some gardening with Pickle and Jack the cat for a bit of therapeutic weeding and de-mossing and afterwards I felt exilerated. It took nearly 2 hours to get that rootless (could’ve fooled me) plant up off the drive but by the  time I had I felt alive and ready to face the world again. Having ripped up this rootless pest with a vigour that I thought I’d lost forever I suddenly felt part of the world again. I felt patient and calm and a little bit happy.

I have become rooted once more. 

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Or so the saying goes

In the last few days I’ve felt like I’m going to die. Not literally, I hasten to add, but definitely metaphorically and, quite possibly, emotionally. It’s not been a good few days at all. In fact, it’s not really been a good few weeks. But it’s been a builder. A slow ride to hell with peaks every so often to throw myself in to doubt as to whether it was actually happening or whether the decline in to hell was all a figment of my imagination. Sadly not. But it’s amazing how a guardian angel can come to your rescue right at the end of that road and whisk you off course to get back on the right track.

I was put in touch with another adopter. We met and ate lemon drizzle, drank through 2 pots of tea and chatted….for 2 hours! We had so much in common it was scary, even down to the nicknames we call our daughters. But what was so important for me was to be able to speak openly, candidly and honestly about how I felt and not have to explain why. She did the same. She was able to speak freely without fear of judgment or the badly hidden eye rolling that I seem to get from all angles at the moment.

It’s nice to tell someone about “The Time When Someone Picked Up Pickle And Walked Off” (like a title from friends!) and have her put her head in her hands in solidarity and empathy because she totally gets it and I don’t have to dive head first in to explaining why that is SO bad for everyone, not least Pickle, me and my husband. It’s refreshing. Easy. A relief.

As I left my Pickle in the capable hands of my Dad to meet this fellow adopter, this person who just “got it” without explanation and no sighing because she disagreed, I felt a sense of strength that I’ve not had in quite a while now. And the longer I was with her and the more we talked candidly about our experiences the more I felt my sanity seeping back.

Sometimes you don’t want solutions. You certainly don’t want judgements and having to feel like you’ve got to explain every last scrap of the why’s and wherefores. Sometimes you just need to let it all out to someone who just bloody well gets it and understands.

I think we both left that meet up a bit bouncier than when we arrived. I adopted 6 months ago. She adopted 6 years ago. It didn’t matter. We ”got” each other. And it was nice.

This whole experience may have been difficult but today I feel stronger.

And as I drove away a song came on, quite aptly. Kelly Clarkon, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. And the sun came out and I felt good, positive and ready to face everything again.

I also feel like I’m standing a bit taller.

Scared of the Wind

Friday, February 14th, 2014

It’s 05:20 in the morning and I’m wide awake and downstairs

Everyone else is sound asleep. Well, apart from jack the cat who’s decided to have a race around the house while I creep trying not to wake people.

I woke up because I’m coughing. I stayed awake because I can hear the wind and the rain beating against the house and it’s scaring me.

I usually like wind. Especially that of the ferocious kind. It usually represents excitement, cosiness while we’re bundled up inside, blowy hair while on a walk and giggles being drowned out by the howling gales. Being pushed along by an unseen hand and the promise of a cup of tea to warm up when we get back home. I love mother nature in all her forms, particularly the powerful stuff because it reminds me how insignificant we all are and how she’s very much in charge. Ironically it usually makes me feel more empowered.

Not today. Not this week. It feels like it’s pounding on my front door trying to remind me of all my failings of this week. It’s like an omen shaking the house telling me that I can’t do this, why have I taken on such an enormous task like that of being a mother. What was I thinking. I’ve been horrifically ill this week. I’ve “only” had a cold but it’s meant no energy which, in turn, has meant we haven’t been out and I feel like a dreadful mother. I’ve been snappy, impatient, shouty and not in the least bit empathic.

Pickle has pushed my buttons this week but she’s also been very sweet at times. And that’s where the guilt comes in. The wind is beating at my house yelling “you horrible mummy” and I can’t answer back because I feel it’s true. I’ve not given her any time, I’ve put the tv on (all day!) I’ve snapped immediately on her doing anything, the poor girl hasn’t stood a chance with me this week and I’ve woken up with the wind reminding me of this fact. The fact that I’m not coping at all well and I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock is wanting to get stuck back in to the way I was doing things before but having no energy. I want to get back to it enthusiastically, empathically, lovingly (genuinely not faked) and with passion and energy and confidence.

The hard place is just wanting to hide away. Hide away from everyone and everything and just say “I can’t do this, it’s too hard”. And then more guilt sets in as I think about this beautiful, charismatic, funny, adorable, feisty, fantastic, cute, clever, sparky and bright little girl who is now in our lives, forever.

And then I see a chink of light in the clouds and the wind quietens down for a few minutes and allows me to think about that. It’s not too hard at all. In fact, it’s very easy.

I’ve been so ill (physically and mentally) and so consumed in my own darkness that I’ve lost all perspective on normal. I want to do things so right that the pressure I’m applying on myself is immense and with that comes the guilt because I’m never going to get it right all the time. I am only human and I can only take being hit in the face so many times during the day so I’m bound to snap. I can only take so much screaming because I haven’t quite got food ready quick enough (in about 10 seconds to be precise) so I’m bound to shout back at some point. And I can only take so much defiance so I’m bound to get defiant back sometimes. The trouble is I only remember those moments because in my head they outweigh all the times I snuggle her and kiss her and stroke her back and laugh with her and all the lovely things we do. But they don’t. The guilt just sets in and rots them away.

Next week I am going to the GP. Next week I’m going to get some proper help. There’s nothing shameful in that, that’s life at the moment.

And this weekend we’re going out and we’re going to face the wind together, as a family.

Housebound

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

I’ve been in for 3 days now, 3 long days.

I’ve not felt this rough in ages. I’ve woken up every day with a horribly sore throat and feel really weak. I’ve slept every day while Pickle naps in the afternoon and I’ve nearly slept on the sofa while she’s playing or watching the tv in the mornings. She knows things aren’t right which is why she’s playing up. I’m not right, I’m snappy and impatient and it’s not fair.

I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. The adoption process tells you, I’m no uncertain terms, that a child should not be looked after by anyone but you and your partner for quite a considerable time. But, now I’m ill, I’m realising how unrealistic this is. And, quite frankly, unfair. Not on me or my husband but on the child.

I’m not being fair to her at all. My patience is so low and I’ve so little tolerance that I’m giving her no leeway at all. And it’s only because I’m ill and we havent been out that I’m being like this. And, for the same reason, she’s been “difficult”.

She’s now 21 months. Anyone else with a 21 month old would probably have other people who they’d feel able to look after the child. The only people I have is my mum and dad at the moment and even then I don’t like to ask too much. Maybe any other child would go to a nursery or child minder. Not that I’d do that anyway but I’ve had no respite at all. And I’ve struggled. I’m struggling.

Being ill with a child is crap at the best of times. But being ill with a child you’re still creating attachments with, but you’re being impatient with and leaves you feeling ten times more guilt than your average person, is rubbish.

It’s made me feel even more sh*t than it would have done if I’d just left her with someone else for 3 days…but I’m not “allowed”.

It’s left me feeling more bereft than I would have if I’d asked for help. The trouble is I feel I can’t.

This process has sent me, quite literally, bonkers.

Hitting the Wall

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Today I hit a wall. A big, solid, hard, high, unmoving, psychological brick wall

Everything always seems to come at once doesn’t it. I woke up yesterday with a really sore throat having caught the cough and cold that Pickle’s had for several days. I felt awful. But it got worse today. I have no energy, my body feels weak, I am snappy and impatient and I had to call on my Dad to come and look after Pickle downstairs while I went to bed. It worked, a little. It doesn’t help that it’s the time of the month either and that Pickle, the little darling, has hit her wall too…..the wall of the terrible two’s I imagine.

I’ve never quite heard screaming like it. She starts off with a normal (but still very very loud) scream and then you hear the change, from somewhere deep inside, and it ramps up like I’ve got my hands around her throat and I’m about to murder her. Anyone listening in would think just that. It’s blood curdling, ear splitting, horrid and is very very annoying. Especially as it’s because I haven’t managed to get her food to her in 1 second or I’ve turned on the tv but it’s not *gasps* CBEEBies! Heaven forbid! She goes for it. Nobody would know, if they couldn’t see me, that I’m sat there, quietly holding a cup of tea, ignoring these rancid screams.

I seem to have reached the end of my tether with it all. I know I haven’t, deep down….deep, deep, deep down, in the pit of my stomach where I’m having to reach with all my might to muster the will and the strength to find any ounce of empathy/fun/joy to do with the life I am now living.

The unbearable truth is that, at this moment in time I feel resentful. I feel like I’ve given up my work, friends, lifestyle, money,identity…basically life as I knew it for a screaming, tantrumming little person who, at the moment, won’t cuddle, sit, snuggle, kiss, smile, laugh (unless it’s because she’s doing something she shouldn’t) and of course, I read that back and know it’s not true ALL the time. It’s just that I’m so immersed in it right now that I cannot see the beautiful smiling girl for the screams and tantrums. It’s hard.

And how dare I feel resentful. How much have we gone through to get where we are now? We should be rejoicing every day and celebrating every last drop of experience we have with Pickle. But, of course, that just assumes that someone who has given birth having got pregnant easily loves their child less than I love Pickle, which isn’t true.

I do love her, very much. But at the moment I’m struggling. I have said I don’t think I can do this, that I want to give up. But of course I’m saying this (and very aware of it) through the mist of PMT, a bad cold, terrible tantrums, a deep winter and people constantly questioning what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, why we’re doing it and disagreeing even if they know nothing about adoption (which is most). None of which helps in the knowledge that what we’ve done is HUGE. More huge than I’ve ever given it credit for. It’s mind blowingly boggling but life doesn’t stop and all of that piles on top. Then all of a sudden it’s like the ticking time bomb has exploded and you’re left thinking “what the fuck have we done”. There, I said it.

I can say this without an ounce of guilt because I have friends who gave birth to their children and have felt exactly the same. One friend in particular uses the phrase “dig deep” when she’s referring to bad times. And I like that. It works on both levels. It reminds me to do just that, dig deep. But it also reminds me that I’m human and other people, how ever their children arrive, feel exactly the same in those dark moments.

And then, like a soft glow in the dark gloom of depression (because, let’s face it people, I am depressed) a friend, a really really good friend helped me. I want to share with you what she said to me as I think it applies very well to most parents. And after she talked to me I felt better, calmer, less panicked. It’s always good to be honest, hence this post, because other people need to know that it’s normal to feel like this. You just need a little help to get through.

And remember, dig deep!

Dependancy

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

“You don’t want a child who is too dependant on you”

This was said to me by someone after I’d tried to explain why it can only be the parents who look after a child when they move in, and for a good few months after that. This person even said she didn’t agree with what I was saying, adding “for a child to be too dependant on you is bad”.

I thought about this one, for quite a while, and then dismissed it having remembered that this person has, possibly, one of the most dysfunctional families I know.

It’s an odd thing to say at the best of times but even more so it points to the fact that people really don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to children, even less so about adoption.

My gut reaction said it all. I replied “my daughter will never be dependant on me, ever, if we don’t put the hard work in now to make her feel dependant on us”. Can you imagine forcing a child to be independent of you before they’re dependant? How cruel and unnecessary. A child, whatever age they are, needs to depend on their parent/s. Without that dependency who could they rely on? How can they feel safe, secure, loved?

Dependency must come before independency. That’s where the hard work comes in and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. I want to carry my child everywhere, I want to meet all her needs, I want her to be totally dependant on me. Then I can help her become independent with her knowing that we’ll always be there for her.

Then she can spread her wings and fly free.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt…..

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

…..We’re going to catch a big one. Preferably a teddy bear on a beautiful day! 

I’ve read this book several times. That’s several times a day, not in total, over the last week! Pickle loves it, and so do I. You know why? Because it’s a time for bonding between us that is tangible, real, lovely, warm, close, exciting. I decided, last week, that I’d start a daily ritual at 10am of milk and book time. Pickle loves her milk in a bottle. At 21 months I’ve been told by several people she’s too old for a milk bottle but it comforts her, relaxes her and she still really enjoys it and it’s created a perfect opportunity for me to read to her every single day and it’s paying off. She loves it!

She gets herself settled in the corner of the settee between the 2 big cushions and waits while I get her milk ready and her books in place. She enjoys it and I love it. At the moment we read, in order, “Giraffes can’t dance”, “Room on a broom”, “what the ladybird heard”, “Guess how much I love you” (where my voice cracks at the end, every time!) and “We’re going on a bear hunt”, her absolute favourite which she’ll let me read to her now without the milk bottle to give her concentration. Sometimes I think I read it too well as she gets a bit scared but she loves it, she’s a thrill seeker (something that we may have to direct healthily later on…..Alton Towers “Oblivion” here we come!) and she’s started following my facial expressions, vocalises as I read and gets very very excited as we near the cave with the bear inside. She climbs on me, sits on me, puts her arms round me, kisses me, kisses the book, looks right in to my eyes as I’m reading and hides in my neck (when we get to the forest!)

Reading to children is always special. But it’s different and even more special when you’re reading it to a child who is building attachments to you and you to them and they feel so safe in your arms and on your lap to be able to allow themselves to get scared and enjoy that thrill. I feel our life is so enriched with Pickle being here and we are honoured to have her in our lives. She’s a very special little girl. And whatever troubles or problems we may encounter along the way….

……we’re not scared. 

 

 

 

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2014 All Rights Reserved

Grandparents and Other People (part 2)

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

I wrote about this subject before we even knew about Pickle, but what I wrote back then hasn’t changed

In fact, I’m quite proud of the fact that I “got it” so totally and utterly at that time. But hey, it’s because I listen. And, it’s because we needed to listen and we needed to get it. For any child moving in to your lives, this is so fundamentally important that I thought I’d jot down what I feel now about other people getting it, understanding it, listening and respecting everything an adopter says. In fact, I’d go as far to say that this would and should apply to anybody in relation to any child.

I was told a story the other day by a friend. She’s got 2 boys, by birth. When she had her first boy she was at her Mother in laws house. She was cradling and rocking her baby who was crying. Her Mother in law walked over to this young, new, vulnerable mother and took her baby off her and proceeded to comfort this baby while telling him “my baby”.

I’m going to pause for a moment so the ones of you that are sane and right in the head can gather yourselves to get your breath from reading about this utterly selfish and disrespectful act. For the ones of you that are thinking “what’s wrong with that” you need a good dose of education about attachment and a big kick up the arse quite frankly! How dare that grandmother behave in such a selfish way! Who did she think she was? What gave her the notion that she had a right to do that to a new mother?

Now, imagine you’ve adopted a child, a child who has to learn who their parents are. They have to learn that they go to those parents, for everything. Love, security, safety, comfort, warmth, milk, food, nappy changing, cuddles. Birth children don’t have to “learn” in that sense because (unless people keep grabbing that baby away) they will have received all that care from the parents for a long long time before they start being picked up, comforted and looked after by other people. Those attachments to the parents are in place, firm, secure, solid, tight. But if your child is 15 months old when you meet, those attachments aren’t there, they don’t exist, nothing. It doesn’t help when your 15 month old appears to be doing ok. Everyone seems to think that once a child moves in, everything is done, complete, everyone lives happily ever after, the end! But it’s not like that and it has to be kept in mind that these children, no matter what their age, have been ripped from the only life they’ve known (or twice or three times removed) and its a huge task to make those children feel secure and safe, loved and nurtured.

It’s also a huge task to help these children to understand who their parents are, their primary carers. It all may appear like its going really well from the outside and, for us, it is, but the situation still needs a lot of work. We, and everyone else, still need to be mindful of the situation as it stands. We are only 5 months in and it feels like people have forgotten we are still on a journey. I’ve had people pick my daughter up when I’ve asked them not to. I’ve had people carry her off, away from me so I’m left feeling like a spare part wanting to carry my own daughter (thank you very much) and I’ve had people comfort her when she’s upset which is the biggest “no no” you can do with a child who is building their attachments with his or her new parents. When people have done those things I can tell you now it rips me apart. What’s funny (not ha ha!) is how people react. Their first response or question is usually “but was she [your daughter] ok/comfortable/happy when she was picked up/carried away from you?” [by someone shes met twice!] And my response is always “yes”…..but THAT’S THE POINT!!!!

Our daughter came from a very large and very busy foster family where anyone and everyone would walk in, pick her up, play with her, feed her and comfort her when she got upset, fell and hurt herself or just needed a cuddle. If we allowed anybody and everybody to pick her up, carry her away from us, comfort her or even just pick her up and hold her in front of us, where is the difference in her life? How will she ever work out that we are her parents?  The other people in an adopters life HAVE to listen to the adopters. You have to respect what they say and you have to follow their guidelines on how to behave. You have to be patient. It may be months and months before you can even pick the child up. Do not get offended or defensive about it because that will not help the adopters. Be understanding to what a huge lifestyle change these people have had and be kind and thoughtful always. And don’t put the adopters in the awkward position of either having to come across as rude and risking offence (can I have my daughter back please?) or just letting you do what the hell you want  (because they don’t want to offend you) for your own gratification of cuddling a child….who will cuddle anyone!!!!! Stop and think about how your actions are offending and upsetting the adopters who are new parents.

These words of advice apply to everyone. Friends, family, even the grandparents. They are all fundamentally, and for reasons of understanding the situation, “just other people” for a little while. Adopters are a different breed. They have not adopted to give you a grandchild/niece/nephew. Please respect that and never claim “ownership”.

Encourage the relationship between the new parents and the child. Don’t ever ever encourage your own relationship with the child over that of the parent. So if the child runs to you for comfort, by all means show empathy, support, love and kindess as you normally would but, with an arm around the child, encourage them to go to mummy or daddy. Quite often I will get asked “but what if you’re in another room, you wouldn’t want me to just ignore the child if they’re hurt/upset?” And I say of course not, but that’s just taking it to the extreme. We’re not asking you to become robots with no feelings for the child. We’re asking you to respect us, as the parents. So if they get upset and we’re out the room then you’d comfort the child while at the same time bringing them to us while telling the child that you are “finding mummy/daddy”. It’s not that hard.

The same goes for picking a child up and walking away with them. I had a scenario where a friend did this to me and, as always, my daughter was fine/happy/laughing. But, again, that’s the point. We were 4 months in to placement and my daughter had met this person 4 times. That’s not an awful lot of times. So, no, it wasn’t at all right that she was swept up and carried off by my friend who I’d had plenty of conversations with about what not to do which made me realise just how difficult it is for people to get it and to listen and take it in.

It IS hard. It IS unusual. And it may not feel right to anyone else. But it is right and I wish that people would listen. I often get the comment that “but it’s not normal” applied to everything I say. It’s not normal for grandparents not to comfort an upset grandchild. It’s not normal for friends not to pick your child up and carry them away to “give you some space”. It’s not normal for a child not to be allowed to run off at a playgroup without you staying so close you become a helicopter parent. And everyone is right, absolutely and totally right.

But this isn’t a “normal” situation and people need to remember that. 

Things to remember;
  • Listen to the adopters and take everything in. In fact, get them to write you a list of “do’s and don’ts” if that will help.
  • Do not pick the child up without first being told that it’s ok to do so. You can interact with a child without having to pick them up. Get down to their level on the floor or sit on a chair.
  • Do not comfort the child, under any circumstances, if the adopter is there. If the adopter is out the room comfort the child while at the same time going to find mummy or daddy.
  • Do not interfere with the adopter parenting the child.
  • Talk to the adopters. One of the things we really struggle with is that whenever we are with other people they forget we are there and we end up not being talked to.
  • Stop asking when you can take the child out on your own. You can’t. For a very long time.
  • In fact, put quite simply, step back and allow the adopters as much space and time as they require to settle in as a new family. This isn’t about anyone else other than the new parents and the child. Be respectful of that, always.

 

 

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2014 All Rights Reserved