All in your head

I first complained of pain when I was about 13. Every now and again I would get a killer headache or this brace like tightness across my back or my legs would go into hideous cramps that I could do very little about. My GP claimed it was growing pains, almost tutting that I was being dramatic. Before I knew it I was suffering on a more often than not basis. It made me feel awful, not being believed. I wasn’t a liar! I was known for my honesty and sense of justice but now I didn’t know how to get the help I needed. 

At this juncture my life felt impossible. My parents hated each other, we went for months between visits with Mother and my dad was left to raise 3 hormonal teens and was also a fairly selfish man who didn’t want to lose his single lifestyle. By the time I hit 14 I was near suicidal. 

My life seemed to be clouding over, forever in a dark and lonely place. I missed my mum. I can only admit that now, as a mother myself with all the hindsight that gives you. I absolutely needed a mother but my own was so caught up in the blackness of her own depression that she was completely unavailable. It would be another 20 years before a relationship could again be broached. 

All of my friends had fantastic relationships with their mums. I envied them and that hideous green tinge tainted my thoughts. I tried to talk to people but no one seemed very interested or they looked at me with pitying glances that just made me feel even smaller. Which was odd because I was actually putting on weight at an alarming rate.

I had secret stashes of paracetamol and ibuprofen. I knew how many to take to do a proper job of it and I would plan which days it would be best to finally take them, which days it would be my dad who would find me and not my little sister. I wrote a note, I didn’t hold back, I wanted him to know exactly how I felt. 

My physical pains felt like manifestations of my mental distress. Maybe it was all in my head. Could my weird, strange, alien thoughts be the reason for my aches and pains? At the time it made sense to me, it was my punishment for being such a nuisance for my dad, for being unkind to my little sister, for missing my crazy, unstable, often cruel mum. At 15, an attempt to become more social ended in a “friend” raping me. I told no one for weeks, for months. People saw that I wasn’t doing too well. The physical pain was unbelievable and yet everyday I continued in my daily activities as I pretended that everything was fine. I wasn’t fine. I was contemplating walking out into traffic or perhaps walking into the local fishing lake on one of my many late night wanderings.

I visited GPs a few times before I turned 18 and became a mother. No one asked me how I felt or considered that it was a question which should be asked of one so young. Then I was diagnosed with PostNatal Depression and that’s how it has been labelled ever since.

Nobody mentions it face to face. Some people have openly told me that depression is a sign of weakness, it’s mind over matter, that people should just get on with it and stop claiming….

Everyday, I do just that – I get on with it. I get on with the darkness swirling about my head and get on with the pain that is now my constant companion. I don’t think it is ever going to get better, not really. 

Everyday I wake with this constant thrumming pain throughout my body, it spreads into my brain and I realise that it is now a part of me. I’ve lived with my dark friend for almost my whole life and although the antidepressants I take to help combat the fibro quiten his whisperings and purrs, they never make it so I can live without him there. 
Depression isn’t a dirty word. It shouldn’t be the whispered word of quiet conversations or the hidden label worn by the woman with the fake smile. 

The pain I suffer from my condition isn’t all in my head. It is real, very real and yet I still get up everyday and fight for the right to rule my own body. It is an easier fight than the one I have been working on for the last 20 years. It hasn’t bested me yet, I’m hopeful it never will.

Picking Favourites

For quite some time now, my eldest daughter has been slinging ‘ the favourite’ card at me. This is usually connected to the future CEO – daughter no3. I can see why she says it, to a 13 year old it would seem that I am unfairly favouring a sibling who is frequently rewarded. I guess this is where carrot not stick falls short. 

Here I am, asking the kids to help with the household chores. I don’t think I’m being unduly harsh on them for asking that they pick up after themselves, make their own beds, bring their own dirty clothes down to the basket, take clean clothes upstairs again, load or unload the dishwasher, help with lunch or dinner. Please remember, they aren’t doing that all day every day. I’ll allocate 3 or 4 jobs each. Easy tasks which are all connected to themselves. The screeching from Miss Hormones, the stamping from Miss Dreamer, the pursed lips and folded arms from the youngest Gingerling, and the boys both conveniently disappear siting homework as the reason. The only child who is likely to just get on with it is Miss CEO. Occassionally we get the odd “it’s not fair!” from her, afterall, to her it feels like she is the only one doing anything (because she is) but then she gets the reward which I have stated repeatedly, is open to all helpers when they’ve finished their jobs. The reward can be *helping with the shopping!* which will often lead to a small treat of new colouring pencils or a pretty hair dye, or maybe getting to choose the movie night treats, or even just getting their hair plaited which is now quite a rarity with my fingers cramping up. Nothing is extravagent, they all get the same chance but the results are the same. It will always be the tweenie who helps, you know, the child caught between their care free childhood and the peer pressures of the teenage years. 

This stage of life is actually the easy bit but it doesn’t last for anywhere near long enough. It is the last year of primary and life seems to go through like a bagillion changes, or so Miss CEO seems to suggest. As a mother, always fostering independance whilst slowly letting out the apron strings, I’m no longer surprised that we are seeing a gluttony of depressed youngsters. The demands our children are under starts before they even start school at 4, constantly being tested, watched for errors, placed on tables relating to how well they do or don’t stick to the lines when colouring… 

I am not a keen results reader, I much prefer to sit with a teacher who knows my child and who can tell me who their friends are, what their favourite topic is and how wonderfully knowledgable they are about Minecraft, Peppa Pig or the rights and responsibilities of the LGBTQ+ community. Instead I get to go in, interrupt the teacher who has their parent’s evening chit chat memorised and say actually Mr Teacher, would you mind if we can talk about how my child feels isolated and threatened whilst in your care? I have to explain that, yes, I understand that Miss CEO has a very secure sense of The Rules, how society should behave and, unfortunately, how it actually behaves. I have to again suggest that perhaps “ignoring” the problem is making it worse and that, perhaps, if the children involved were pulled to one side and asked to follow The Rules as they are supposed to. I don’t want to know that she must be popular because she was chosen by her classmates to be class rep, it doesn’t alter how much my book worm, mathematics enthusiast, teacher’s pet has changed, how now we talk about why it is important to attend school instead of why she can’t possibly be ill because she has to go to school. Even speaking with the Head didn’t help. One particular child is a handful in class and particular hurtful to Miss CEO because his mother doesn’t agree with the School Behaviour Policy!?! (I still can’t get my head around that one.)

I am more than aware that no child is an angel, I’m not overly concerned by the fact that all 8 of my children are unique and fall across the behaviour spectrum, but I am concerned that one after another my children have felt bullied at school and it is at those moments that my tweens, as each has been when this occurs, naturally demands a little more of my attention, an extra squish before school, and a touch more responsibility and praise at home to remind them that their beautiful nature and enthralling character is worth so much more than this bully or bullies will have them believe.
So, no. I don’t have a favourite child just a favoured child at *this* time. It will soon change. The bullies will lose and my little Future Leader will regain the confidence at home to be a stroppy dot again reminding me that we are doing a good job with our kids – they fell safe and secure enough at home to push the boundaries and ignore the mess *just* long enough to not get in to real trouble. At this point I think it worthwhile to point out to my eldest two (who have both acknowledged having a nose) that I still love them just as much when they are being messy, antisocial, food demanding, adolescents. But I also really would like you to bring those messy cups and plates down, thanks muchly.

I am utterly proud of my children, it would be impossible to pick a favourite. Each child is maturing into beautiful examples of what people could be, I am enjoying seeing them grow, change, tweak their own world view map, bring new insights to our family table, and even behave in an adorable childlike way whenever we find a bridge over a stream to play Pooh Sticks or a particularly interesting looking tree to climb.

I have many favourite moments, my children feature in all of them.

Nine years and still mulling things over

I am a birth enthusiast, although if that surprises you given my tagline then this post might not be for you.

I have experienced 

  • long, drawn out, boring labour
  • super quick and super exciting birth
  • spontaneous vaginal birth
  • urgent c-section
  • midwife led, hands off 
  • hospital “by the book”
  • home “birth before arrival” 
  • induced
  • and most importantly, live & healthy babies

I am also a very lucky recipient of some of the best healthcare available, free at the point of delivery, and world leading practices and staff members. There’s no doubting in my mind, the UK nationals are incredibly blessed to live in an era where labouring women have access to the best of the best.

I have met some extraordinary Consultants, Midwives, & health care professionals. There are also a few too many rotten eggs that we could do with pushing out of the basket but that is true of all walks of life so the easiest way to deal with them is to write your concerns down and send them in for the powers that be to act upon. Okay, it isn’t perfect but it is ours and I prefer not to kick a wounded animal, thanks all the same.

Anyway, back to my musings and mullings.

The Boy was a bellyful before he arrived. He span around so many times in the last three months of pregnancy that it was hit or miss regarding our plans for a homebirth. I believe that a breech baby can be safely delivered at home with appropriately trained midwives, they would also more likely be birthed without diffculty in this situation than trying a vaginal breech delivery in hospital. I feel this is mostly down to hospitals dealing with complications of medical interference and the setting being the best place for births needing closer attention. Personal opinion, lots of reading and researching, not medical advice.

My final antenatal appointment at 41 weeks had the head back down safe and our plans back on the kitchen table, so to speak. Unfortunately I felt him spin as I played puzzles with his then toddler sister as I gently breathed through contractions. I had already sent for the Mr to come home, arranged for the elder children to be collected after school, rang for my sister to come and sit with the smalls. In the 30 minutes it took for Mr to cycle home my waters burst magnificently and to my despair, the familiar brown colour meant that homebirth dreams where finally dashed. 

The drive to the hospital, only 10 slow minutes, was hideous. Why do hospitals put speed bumps around the very long drive to maternity? And why do councils seem to put them on every side road they can? Or so it seemed at the time. I could see that he was the wrong way around with each contraction. He’s broad back streched tight under my ribcage as my lower uterus failed to find a body to push lower. It took about 40 minutes from arrival at the labour ward to arrival at the theatre doors. My treatment was overseen by some of the not so world class midwives and my obvious upset and distress was “over looked” as my operating team set up around me. From the minute we decided that a c-section was the best course of action I cried almost uncontrollably. Some tears fell silently as people bustled around me, others slid across my cheeks as my breathing became rough and heavy, and my sobs heaved, the not so tiny boy pushing against my lungs making it harder and harder to focus on the positives. 

Our only request, to see for ourselves the gender of our fifth child after what, at the time, was four beautiful girls, was at first agreed to but unfortunately forgotten as the registrar pulled first his bottom and then his legs from my abdomen. An encouraging “come on big boy” was heard as yet more waves of fear gripped at my body, now shaking uncontrollably, and a terrifying pins and needles sensation was felt in my toes. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t express how utterly broken I was as my 100% healthy, squawking, blue bundle was wrapped and taken to recovery. My only words were to Mr to go with our son, to not let him out of his sight.

The tears continued to fall, my heartbeat erratic and breathing still laboured. The equipment check saw a missing swab and a broken clamp. By this point I was all but sewed up and the tingling sensation had now reached my thighs, I can recall the anaesthetist joking with me before a rapid search of the room finds the missing articles and the final knot is formed. I had regained enough movement to shuffle myself over on to the recovery trolley, the only part of me still numb was my now deflated stomach, the empty housing for the 41 weeks it took for my son to grow. I can see how people would think I should get over myself, that others have truly horrifying experiences, that my desire for a “natural” birth experience at home was just a pipe dream, one of those things, so time to move on. But I can’t. I’ve tried so many times to move past the pain and chalk it up to experience, but the pain is still real.

This evening I found my file containing my birth notes. The tears flowed freely as I see laid out, line by line, the timescale of my labour. It notes my blood pressure and temperature, the baby’s trace and the ineffective contractions. It says very little of my distress. Even my outburst as I demanded the room be cleared and I flung the ctg straps from my belly was conviently omitted from the entries. Only a short note that the monitor was repositioned and a fresh trace performed before my transfer from the delivery suite.

Perhaps, if I had sought help sooner, the pain and distress that I still feel today would be more managable. Unfortunately the Boy wasn’t an easy baby and the postnatal depression gripped me so hard that I doubt I could have properly addressed the issues even had help been offered. 

One day I hope to be able to help mothers who feel like I did, like I do. I want to reach out to them, to hold their hand, to cry with them and laugh with them, and to find a way to live well despite the trauma. We don’t talk enough about the weird ways our brains work when pregnancy takes control of your body. We don’t talk about how difficult it can be living with guilt, with disappointment, with the discomfort of nightmares and night sweats, waking in tears or dreading falling asleep as a birth gets replayed over and over again and sucks you back into grips of depression.

Postnatal depression, post traumatic stress disorder, “baby blues” – why do we take them so lightly? Mothers like me, we are so glad to be holding our happy, healthy bundles of joy but that is a position running parallel to the mind which can’t “pull itself together”, which can’t just be happy for a positive outcome. 

Mum, don’t feel alone. What you are experiencing is all too familiar to many other mums and we will reach out to you, if you let us. I know it hurts, I know that is draining you mentally and that it is so tough right now, but we can find new ways to make it better, to make it hurt a little less, to make it managable at the very least. You are not alone.

Hormones

It seems like our household is run on those tricky parts of the human system and it is terribly difficult to navigate.

Personally, I had the implant embeded a couple of years back. I am not overly keen, I never wanted to override my bodies own balance in such a way but we hadn’t made a decision about our families future so this gave us breathing space for three long years. Between this and long term breastfeeding my periods have stopped and my empty switch seems to have disappeared as my belly has increased considerably. In fact, I lost a none too shabby 2.5 stone just before deciding on the implant and I’ve gained that and the same again since. I am now hovering around the largest I have ever been and I’m not best pleased with it. I have also been put on some serious anti-depressants to try and counter the Fibro symptoms which may have helped the gain. Sucks to be me this year. The pain is so intense right now so exercise is not an option, even a short walk around Lidl has me beat and makes the rest of the day a right off. At least I don’t have mood swings anymore.

The big girls are all flooding with the damn things! All day, every day, one after the other we will work through an emotional outburst. Generally, it is easily dealt with, nothing outrageous or unmanageable but they seem to be a catalyst for the next big bang. I know the theory of all this but I never imagined just what a minefield it is. Suddenly a simple clothing suggestion becomes an on switch for a plethora of self doubt and accussations of sabotague. I swear, one day my head is going to spin so fast that it will fly off like a spinning top. There is no way to keep up with three teens who are all competing with themselves, each other and the social media peer group which I would quite like to take a massive delete button to. The messages coming from the images, memes, and quick quotes on Snap This and Insta That are a ginormous boiling pot of misery masked as sympathy and “advice”. We are the lucky family that are tech savvy and switched off enough to talk to each other and work through some of the damage these social groups can cause. When I hear tales of their real life school peers, the time they spend interacting with trolls and frenemies, the backlash they experience for wearing the wrong brand or not being quite “on point” with the latest eyebrow shape, I shudder and allow an audible profanity to escape whilst describing these faceless internet users. The boys are no more protected from this mockery and hate filled onslaught, they are just more likely to internalise the self loathing this invisible bully causes. No wonder that depression, anxiety, self harm, & low self esteem are hitting terrific highs in recent studies. The lack of personal, non-study based classes in the UK has to take a hit on this too. If we do not take the time to educate our young people about the positive role they can and will play in society, the impact their future job or position could help to raise the sense of self worth, and just the ability to decipher the hideous circus that the World Wide Web can so often be.

Our Big Lad has his own horomonal battle to fight. If it isn’t bad enough that his body is producing an abundance of the “wrong” hormone for his personal body preference, he also has to take a different hormone based prescription to help counter balance this cruel reminder that somehow, somewhere, something went a bit skew whiff. He has been considering blockers for a good long while now and it is the likely route he takes on his path to finally taking testosterone. This has it’s own complicated set of checks and balances, as well as a huge list of unknowns for this relatively new regime.

As a mother I’m finding this all a great deal to take in. For a 16 year old taking GCSEs (or whatever the damn certificates will end up saying) this must be a consideration which takes up more time than you’d prefer to allow as you chart out a revision timetable and pencil in study groups and classes running before and after school. I wish that I could make this process easier, to take away some of the stress and strain but it isn’t in my power. I get to sit back and offer a listening ear and the taxi service to various appointments, classes, and youth groups. 

To think, all those years ago when we first planned a large family, I never really gave much thought to how challenging this part of parenthood could prove to be. Now I’m living it I can confirm that it is as tough as all those commentaters have joked over the years but I can also confidently say, even with the teenagers, and the Threenanger, and the Queen Bee baby of the bunch, the Smiler, and the Boy – I would do this all over again. 

Despite the drama, the mayhem, and the sheer overwhelming need for reassurance that hormones seem to elicit, my young people are coping in a way I can only dream of. The sheer awe that I feel when I see each of them find their path through the hurdles and the set backs is almost beyond words. Our eight wonderful, individual, unique, and outstanding examples of the beauty that dna can create far outweighs this mass hormone onslaught. This is what gets me through, that and knowing that one day they may well experience a little of this rollercoaster with their own dna experiments. 

Mothering the hard way

I was fairly young when I became a mother. I had turned 18 about six weeks previously and had just taken the keys to my first home. 

I can tell you that from a very young age, all I could think about was jobs that helped people and being a mummy. I played with dolls for a lot longer than I would admit to my peers, I recall quite clearly wanting to breastfeed too which seemed quite alien having never actually known anyone to feed in this way. I loved the idea of cloth nappies and baby clothes hanging on the line to dry, trips to feed the ducks and hiding behind my fingers as I listen to a little voice saying “watch me, mummy!”

Nobody warned me about the sleepless nights – well they did but I thought it meant the occassional night because of teething or a bit of earache. Why did no one tell me that some babies just don’t sleep? Seriously. I’m pretty certain that The Boy got by on these 20 second cat naps for a solid three years. I am not exageragerating. There was only one night when he slept for very long whilst my breast was out of reach and I used it to escape. My depression was at the point where I just kissed him goodbye, nudged the Mr to look after him and I fled. 

It was gone midnight, I parked at the top of a hill which meant I had a clear view of our local area and I cried until I ran dry. It was also across the road from my younger sister and my heart leapt when I saw her light go on at near 2am. She welcomed me in, gave me tea, listened to my rantings and bemusedly told me that there was nothing she could do, I had to seek out help for myself. I wanted to cut her tongue out and feed it back to her. She was, of course, quite right. No one could help me but myself. I arrived home to the familiar sound of my tiny son’s wail and knew I was back where I belonged. Still wanted to kick my little sister under the table for being a know it all.

Also, dithering. I never dithered before children. I wanted to achieve something so I did and if I didn’t I just tried again. Or not. It wasn’t a big deal. When you’re a mother every decision counts. It starts before they are born with finding out the gender, writing a Birthing Plan, choosing pain medication, to give Vitamin K or not, to swaddle or wrap, to bottle or boob, choosing a name, a cot, a nappy brand….. When you reach the stage where you are choosing their educators you freeze all over again. You ask yourself why it took so long to settle on the Supermarket label over Big Brand Names when *this* choice is the one that really matters. I cheated. I couldn’t work out what I wanted from a school so I just let the council decide for me by submitting the forms late. This is not a recommendation. We were thankfully offered a place at the first choice school about 2 weeks after the Firstborn started which was handy because so far I really didn’t like the second place school we were given.

I thought I would do things differently when time came for secondary choices but it was no easier and I darn sight harder. Five years later, at the end of secondary school life, I’m still unclear on if we made the right decision but I think it’d been mostly okay. Best of a poor bunch possibly.

And that’s just the important stuff. Accepting the vegetarian declaration followed by another child being a pescatarian was a bit of a nail biter. Allowing Tellitubbies back into my life? I wish I had the choice to say no! I swear, the smalls know how to navigate our tellevision setup better than I do. That’s the other big small issue. Tech time. The (nearly) seven year old comes home with Internet based homework. With each year they spend in school the tech time needed continues to climb. I can’t even say much because, well, the Mr is Mr IT. He spends all day fiddling and fixing technology so it seems only wise that schools are cluing in to this situation and making students tech savvy but that ultimately means that the children have more screeen time each day than they do PE or playtime. 

Everyday I’m winging it. I have no guru waiting with sage advice, there is no one size fits all “idiots guide” and the only advantage I have over most others is that we have enough children to keep experimenting and trying to get it right.

I don’t think I’m doing too badly either. The strength of their characters is plain for all to see, the spirit with which they each grab life keeps me on my toes and astonishes me daily, their warm, kind, giving, generous hearts is often mentioned by those around us and we both consider ourselves blessed to end each day with our children having taught us more about the world, the human race, ourselves, than when we awoke. 

I find children to be so utterly enthralling. Yes, of course I have days when I am just glad that *my* bedtime has finally arrived but I would never choose a do over. I’m ready to start a new day and see how many lost shoes there are, how many chocolate krispy cakes survived the night, and how just one night will have altered at least one of us just enough to say that our family has grown in one way or another. 

There may well be 10 in our bed but not for all the riches in the world would I change it. I am already the richest of mothers and though it may be very hard at times, I’m loving every minute of it.

 

You’re still my baby

I watched you sleep that first night in a plastic crib next to my bed. I couldn’t reach you with my new favourite scar still recovering from your arrival. The midwife, Hazel, “walked” you  over to me, she said she loved it when the babies were still new enough that their legs stiffened instead of folding up. She handed you over and I held you close all night long. Your long legs filled the newborn babygrows and your beautiful orange fuzzy head wasn’t going to cope with the first size hats! 

As you grew so did my love. You outgrew the crib and slowly but surely outgrew the cot, before I knew it you were at school and then secondary. That was when I noticed. You weren’t as happy, you lost confidence, you seemed unsettled in your own skin. I tried to help, to offer an ear and to try and relate but you knocked me back. You didn’t want me to relate, didn’t want my empathy and you pulled away. 

I was saddened when your peer supporter got in touch. I wanted to be the person you relied upon and I felt that I failed you. I didn’t, you told me as much. You wanted me to know but didn’t know how. Having a buffer helped you to communicate with me and made some breathing space for you.

My heart broke when I saw the red lines from where you cut and smashed when we realised that you were suicidal. I couldn’t help you, this part of your journey you did alone. It was almost a relief when you finally admitted what was going on. You were my son, no more the hormonal girl of yesterday but my son.

I have never been more humbled than by your open and honest expression that day. I thought I was losing my child, I was terrified that you were following my own dark path of depression and I didn’t know how to help you there, I’m barely helping myself over 20 years later! 

For the last two years I have watched you transform. The last summer holidays you were so happy, so free spirited and filled with this bristling energy which was such a joy to watch. I felt awful sending you back to school, truly. Watching you make the decision that your education was worth more than your wellbeing almost broke me. I would have done anything to stop you retreating back inside the shell of your female persona but your adamance demonstrated, yet again, that this journey was your own and I was just a rather useful passanger. 

The day we legally changed your name was just awesome. I could see the calming effect it had on you and the pride you took seeing your name in print. I know, I know, I had to have my meddling way with name order but (and don’t tell your dad this) I was never as keen on your birth name as he was. It was my choice to add that middle name and, being mum, I wanted to be able to keep that bit of you. I will own it. I choose your name because I wanted you to know that there was no ceiling upon your life – you can go as far and as fast as you possibly may, I want that for you, to know that it is okay to actually stop and make a life wherever you think is best and that I will continue to love and support you no matter what.

I made a promise to you, to the baby that swam in my belly all those long years ago, it went like this:

Baby, I don’t know whether you are a girl or a boy but I already know that I love you more than I ever thought possible. I will fight for you until the end. I will stand in front of you to prevent you from harm, I will stand behind you and push you when needed and I will stand beside you always. I love you, Baby. If that is all I can offer you then I hope it is still enough. 

That has never changed, it could never change. You are my baby, you’ve always been my baby, you will always be my baby.
I am so completely proud of you. It is my honour to have you call me mum. 

Signing Off

Or starting again.

Cards on the table, the past 7 months have been a complete and utter nightmare. I mean, things weren’t good for my physical health anyway, I was hit hard by the CFS and the return of the school routine meant that I suffered a dip which means the house takes a nose dive. No one was getting food poisoning, everyone was fed and watered, bills were paid, clothes were washed but rooms were chaos and my living room was crazy with crafting and outgrown uniform and, you get the idea. Our eldest wasn’t quite 16, the baby not yet 2, my priority was keeping the kids doing what they needed to do. I couldn’t do the house too. The Mr is only 18 in house training terms – a work in progress, if you will.

I digress. One afternoon, the weather still wonderful, the mediums wanted to play, the baby had a 4 o’clock call with the breast and the bigs were being bigs – “homework” was being completed. I saw the Dare Devil pass the living room and going upstairs to the bathroom. Normal, everyday, ignorable. A few minutes later the Fashionista and the Protester come running downstairs “Mum! Mum! Can you hear him?” 

No was the simple answer. DD was upstairs, what had he done? Only now he was downstairs. In the garden. Having avoided the stairs…

My crazy, climbing, clingon (as was) had taken a fall from the upstairs bathroom window. It’s a 10, maybe 12 foot drop. My heart was in my mouth and my stupid body was frozen. The Protester carried him in to me, whimpers and unshed tears; no blood and all limbs moving, relief flooded me. I rang for an ambulance, I rang The Mr, I rang The OutLaws. Nearly 90 minutes I held him as still as I could in my lap, talking to him, playing with his floppy mop of curls, telling him about my day and anything else I could think of to keep him with me. He told me he hadn’t hit his head but he’s 8! What does he know? My heart broke as he went off with Dad in the ambulance. I could barely walk, I wasn’t the right person to support him. 

Short of it, he was absolutely fine. A tiny crack on the inner side of the pelvis so a bit sore but other than that he practically managed to walk away from it thanks to some fancy hand holds and swinging rather than dropping. Jeepers, I love that boy!

The long of it. The house was a mess, our 8 year old was able to fall out of a window, flags were raised. Anyone who knows us would say that is a bit extreme but not everyone knows us, unfortunately. 

The Social Workers turned up the following evening. I was at home with The Smalls and because of how my body handles stress it was as bad as you might imagine. I all but freaked out when they left and all of our wonderful friends and family rallied around. The Mr’s week off was put to very good use, I reached out to my own Mother (who has been a trooper even to this day), battle lines were drawn. 

The system is flawed, it’s hard work to navigate, and you really get left in the dark. Immediately there was talk of child protection and despite not one other issue Social Services forged ahead. I can see why, I really do, but I loathe the not knowing and that was where I was left. I had to chase, chase, chase. I was proactive, writing my own “reports” on each child, summing up our flaws and trying to big up our good bits. The day of the Child Protection meeting I was certain I was going to be sick. I hadn’t slept in weeks, I was on hyper aware, the whole family were permanently tense. And then they cancelled. That was my breaking point. How could these people be the best judge of how I run my family when they can’t organise a meeting? Or at least have the decency to tell us before I had a hideously long walk to get to the Civic Centre with no parking. More emails, more chasing, another date set. 

They worked out that we had 80 years of parenting experience and this was the first time we appeared on their radar. Their concerns were my organisational skills (clutter), a lack of interaction with the Health Visitor and getting everyone counselling because. Yeah, just because. One was too selfless in her thinking, one not concerned enough, one so absorbed in their own journey which in itself was also a cause for concern – because being transgender is a big “we haven’t dealt with this before” issue for Social Services down our way.

I would have laughed if it hadn’t been for the tears rolling down my cheeks. None of it made sense to me. My house smelling of cats was their number one problem, apparently The Smalls weren’t talking as expected but I think my prepared list of words they can say put a big footprint on that. Listen people, if a 2 and 3 year old don’t want to talk to you when they’ve only known you five minutes that doesn’t mean they are somehow abnormal (count to 10, count to 10…)

The children were now part of a Child In Need plan and we would have meetings with 2 new Social Workers. Finally, 7 months after “The Incident”, our case has been closed and the relief was overwhelming. We expected and anticipated it and managed it as best we could. The OutLaws stepped up and helped with the school runs and looking after the Smalls so all I had to do was rest. I slept for 30+ hours in a 48 hour window and it was so very needed. Oddly, I don’t feel like I’ve recharged as much as I might have once hoped but I do feel like the weight has gone.

In conclusion;

>It wasn’t as awful as I feared

>It was as “red tape” led as I expected

>For some families, this could have broken them

>If I never see these four women again it wouldn’t leave me heartbroken.

>I am now less likely to tell others that it will be okay and that they’re only there to help

>They don’t help. They issue demands and give no thought to how people are going to “fix” the problems they have found

>It takes it’s toll on everyone
My son did a ridiculous thing and I was all but blamed because I should have been properly supervising him. They want you to do the impossible. As a disabled mother, I already feel guilt day in and day out. All the things I used to do without thinking have now become the most tiring  of experiences; just getting off the sofa takes a great deal of physical effort, a bucket load of pain, and a few internal choice words. I am no longer the easy going, carefree parent I used to be for the first four but instead, I am a worrier, a hesitator, a person constantly on guard and someone who has been forced to rely on others. This experience has made my motherly paranoia 10x worse and they will never understand the damage they have caused.

Social services can and do make a tremendous positive impact on families and often, quite literally, save lives. They are not infallible, they are, after all, only human and this means mistakes can and will happen. Granted, the mistakes for our family were made because of the system and not through malice but I think that makes us the lucky ones. Two women walked into my home and immediately made assumptions which I can’t blame them for. I *think* we are one of the good families, one of the switched on, educated, engaged families. There are others out there who are falling short for similar reasons as our own but I fear the children in those incidences will live with the repercussions for a very long time.

My boy thought he had been bad. He still feels that for those 2 weeks where it was “recommended” that he stay with his grandparents he was being punished. By me. He’s eight, he has no idea of what the real reasons were or that my lack of visitation was because I couldn’t move and not because I was angry with him. Our bond has been shaken and I don’t know if it will ever be the same. Some families have been through this and didn’t make it out the other side. My heart breaks for all of those families. I lived in daily fear of my children being taken and it took an army of people to make sure that I made it through. When people talk about social services now I get it. I understand that even if you have done nothing you still have everything to fear. These strangers have complete control over your children and depending on how their local enforcers view things could make life take a terrible turn.

I wish it wasn’t so. I wish we all spoke openly about our experiences and therefore forced accountability to be out in the open too. Social Workers don’t want to take away children, they don’t want to break apart families but the role they play in society means that is exactly what they do. 

When the original knock at the door happened I was totally taken aback. I asked them if they could hold off, could they come back tomorrow, it’s already 6:30 and the babies need their baths before bed. “Oh no” they said. “It won’t take long” they said. “Better to get it done straight away” they said. I was a disabled mother caring for two young children whilst her husband visited with the older children as he stayed at the hospital with their son. They shoulda woulda coulda left it and come back the next day. Too late now. Nothing can change anything for us but perhaps next time they will do things differently and will still manage to do the best by the family they encounter. 

The Big D

If you know anything about me you probably know that being a mother is everything. I’ve never not wanted to be one, I told the Mr on our first date that I wanted a big family and a home full of love and laughter.

I was never going to be “one of those” mums who allow themselves to be depressed…..

Blimey, I was an unthinking fool. 

My depression probably hit immediately. I looked at my beautiful blue baby with orange fuzz and the rush didn’t happen, that overwhelming sense of “wow” that I thought happened. I kept waiting for it. I knew with every fibre of my being that I loved them and would do anything that was needed to protect them and yet, I felt nothing else. 

I think we were 3 months in before the HV persuaded me to speak to the GP after a routine vaccination appointment. He shoved pills at me. I should at this point tell you that I was badly depressed as a teen, I was suicidal and able to spend a ridiculous amount of time alone, I regularly skipped school but was able to hide it from the adults in my life, I tried stealing from shops but no one ever noticed the slightly chubby school girl walking up and down the makeup aisle. I was utterly miserable and as pills were my weapon of choice – counting out just the right number of paracetamol I could take without my body self-emptying to avoid danger, the pills moving from pile to pile and each one having the name of the person who pushed me to the edge. So when I was offered pills by the Dr I felt invisible yet again. 

I battled alone, took more fresh air, planned a wedding, watched my little Gingerling grow. At the 11th month mark, I threw my back out and I was given a huge box of paracetamol and I knew the darkness was lifting. Had they been placed in my hand 6 months earlier I would have seen it as a sign that fuel had been given to my journey, that devil on my shoulder would have grown further and the light finally extinguished.

This has been the pattern for as long as I can recall. At times it was easier, the process shortened, the help more readily available, and then there was the time we do not talk about. I have birthed in many ways but by far The Dare Devil’s delievery pushed me to my limits. I had an urgent ceaserian section due to breech presentation. He had spun again and again before flipping one last time in early labour, bracing himself against my ribs, stubbornly refusing to exit as expected.

I cried throughout the warm up, I cried throughout the surgery, I cried throughout recovery, I sobbed silently all night long so as to not upset the other new mums. I had some of the best friends at this point. My two Young Aunts took control and made sure that I stayed healthy. They filled my day with visits and playgroups, they insisted on lunch out and let me cry when I needed too. It wasn’t easy, this recovery process is never easy and I don’t think you ever fully recover. I have nightmares on the weeks leading up to Easter and his birthday, as I did last night. I remember so clearly sitting in my car, the engine running, looking at the wall across the junction pondering if it would matter, begging for sleep that was never found. The light was so hard to find, almost invisible, buried in the darkest of corners where I was forced to admit that I wasn’t the best person for my baby son nor for his older siblings, forced to accept that I needed help and could no longer pretend that it was all okay. I was pregnant again before I asked for help, my younger sister holding my hand, reminding me that, just like Pooh Bear, I was stronger than I seemed, that not only could I but I *would* come out the other side and that actually, I wasn’t failing my family who were all safe and warm, fed and loved but that it was myself that I kept beating up, it was myself who had taken one too many beatings and needed time to heal and to feel the love that my Dare Devil was giving me. I had spent so long surviving that I had forgotten what laughing felt like, I had forgotten what fear felt like. I was numb for so long whilst I hid from storm clouds that I missed all the bits that reminded us that we are human, that we are alive.

I admitted the fear as I wallowed in the soothing water of my birth pool, I embraced the feeling of love as I opened my arms with trepidation and became a mother once again, I smiled as I looked down into the deep soothing eyes of my newborn and I knew things could get better. It took a truly scary moment 6 weeks later to know that it would. The Dare Devil flew. Or crashed. I sat nursing the baby whilst he decided to climb on the top bunk before falling over the edge. He bit his tongue nearly in two and I didn’t know if it was possible for a child to survive after loosing so much blood. He bounced. I’m sure he must have because by the time we reached A&E he was miserable and tired. He had lost his latch so could no longer latch and despite this ravine along the length of his tongue showed no other signs that he had been involved in an accident. That was the first day of my future. Don’t get me wrong, I still have days when I feel lost and alone but somehow I am better equipped to deal with the storm. 

My family, and the friends I consider family, taught me how to dance in the rain whilst seeking out rainbows. They taught me not to be afraid of a storm but to ride it out, to see it for what it really was, just a darkness not a blackhole. They said that it was okay to talk about it, to share that of course it can, and often is, the most terrifying of places but also to share the hope, to let others know they are not alone, that others have gone before and found their own path out, to allow me the chance to be the hand that holds another so they no longer feel so utterly alone.

You, yes you. You are not alone. Maybe your depression came hand in hand with the baby, maybe it came from a young age and a chaotic family life or innocence lost to another by force. Maybe it is the result of years living with pain that no one heard, the physical condition which has no name, no cure and no hope.

You are not alone. There are many friends waiting to offer a handand they are ready whenever you are. There is no time limit, there are no conditions, you can have the support time and time again if need be, we really don’t mind. As long as you know you are not alone because we are here. Always here.

#depression #pnd #postnataldepression #mentalhealth #youarenotalone

Crash and Rebuild

Fibromyalgia, the illness that keeps on giving.

This past year has seen my living condition deteriate. My joints have becoming incresingly stiff and tender with the lightest of touches sending a seering pain through my arm making holding hands with the Toddler a rarity. Likewise, my knees are working against me so when said Toddler decided to wander close to the road I had a challenge reaching her.

Today was a perfect example of how stress changes my delicate hold over my body.

Yesterday, my CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) hit hard and I was asleep for the night at 8pm – issue no1: I didn’t take my night time meds. I woke around 2am with everything screaming at me – issue no2: where did I leave my meds? FibroFog is a kicker. Found some and then looked at my extra big bed filled with the Mr and child 5th, 7th, & 8th. No room for mummy 😦 Starting to sound like Peace At Last, if you ask me 😉 so off to the Pre-schooler’s bottom bunk. Oh I’m so glad she’s got a delicate bottom – issue no3: over sensitivity. Every spring in that mattress wanted to say hello but my impolite response seemed to be ignored (obviously learning from the children) Around 6am, I heard the start of the alarms. It took 10 minutes to get off that bloomin’ bunk and another 10mins to walk the 15 steps to the loo. By this point I know I’m on a losing battle. Found the wonderful tramadol and flopped on to my slowly emptying bed. Game over – issue no4: joint lock. My shoulders pulled together and clicked, my hips pulled apart and locked, and my back hummed the inner hum of a mother on the edge.

I admitted defeat and the Mr stepped up and took charge. I often moan about his helpfulness but he didn’t miss a beat. I think we both knew it was due and we are in the incredibly fortunate position of having the Mr’s parents ready, willing and able to help out. 

The whole family has felt the implications of an accident last September but it is only know, 6 months later, that we can start to move forward and destress, hence my body fighting back. I’ll talk more about that another day but for now I want to just be thankful for the NHS, mostly, who continue to provide me with pain altering meds although I’m waiting for a new referral which may lead to a new combo! Also, for having a family who understand that my body is a bit more than a little broken and so step up and help when help is most needed.

I had the whole day to myself today which was used for sleeping and another day to myself tomorrow which I’m going to use for more reviving. My FMS shows itself in different ways to my sister and probably to other lifers too. Today, I was ruled by the fatigue and governed by the joint pain and nerve sensitivity. The fog kept hitting me hard so comprehensive thinking was somewhat delayed and now, at silly o’clock, the insomnia wants to say hello >.> but I’m going to say Night Night regardless in the hopes that this yawning is a positive sign…

TTFN – ta ta for now
#fibro #fms #fibromyalgia #CFS #insomnia #family #NHS

Users of the road

I got my driving license almost 13 years ago and I think I’m a pretty good road user. I’ve had 3 claims on my insurance which have happened in situations which I couldn’t avoid.

The first happened whilst I was 6/7 months pregnant with No3. It was entirely the Mr’s fault. He went into the back of a hatchback because he anticipated the driver being more aggressive about moving on to the roundabout. With car damage and her whiplash claim, our insurance paid out over 10k. That held our insurance back for the next five years.

The second accident, last year, was my fault because I allowed myself to be bullied by another driver to take a gap I knew I couldn’t make. He drove off into the distance whilst I was left to exchange details with the parked car’s owner and a 1k claim to repair the wheel arch which I caught with my fibreglass trimmings on the minibus. 

The last happened just this month and I’m so bloomin’ cross! I parked the car and we went in to playgroup. When I came out I heard a car crunch over something right next to my brand new mobility car – I do not exaggerate, I had 22 days of ownership on my Black Beauty 😦 The bad driver must have reversed into her, felt the impact, drove off. Not a note, not a “does anyone know who this belongs to?” Nothing. Now I have a £100 excess and I’m waiting for the company to collect BB to do the repair.

We’ve been very lucky, no damage to humans just to vehicles and bank balances.

Then we look at the Mr. As well as being a fairly good driver be is also a cycling commuter. Yes. He is one of those nutters who speeds along the cycling super highway to work in offices all over London and he Loves it. Personally, I am not a cyclist. I know how to cycle but my overly rotund posterier just isn’t designed for those ittybitty seats :-/ 

Mr has been hit twice, if my memory still works, whilst *walking* in our local town centre. As a cyclist I think we are on 6 or 7 accidents. One wrecked the bike but saved the man, two meant hospital visits (technically there is a 3rd but you don’t count the cyclist being dippy and going over his own handle bars 😉 ). He has permanent damage and recurring pain and he *still* gets on that bloomin’ deathtrap and zooms off at least 5 days a week. 

Last week, with storm Doris raging around us, he again cycled off, cool as a cucmber and brought himself home without a scratch and proud of a new personal best thanks to Doris helping him on his way. 

When cycling is mentioned on social media, it is normally to scorn the cyclist. Just this weekend a friend posted about cyclists using the road instead of “the perfectly good cycle path”. My response was a little irritated but also, I hope, a polite nudge to remember that a cyclist is a road user too and he isn’t hurting anyone by being on the road instead of the path. I’m not sure she agreed but, for once, every other comment was also to point out the same reasoning. I am blessed with open minded friends. Even C understood why most don’t bother and, of course, she’s allowed to be irked by another road user regardless of the number of wheels and the size of the engine.

It’s a funny old world. Just this evening overtook me because sticking to the 30mph speed limit was too difficult. It’s a limit not a target! The number of people I see on mobile phones is shocking and I often wonder how many people drive without following the legal requirements. Driving is expensive when you add it all up, it’s easy to see why some blur the lines slightly but those who drive oblivious to the rules, I just don’t understand.

If you get 3 points for speeding it is 3 too many. If your insurance is too high try to change your vehicle, don’t just drive without it. Is that phone call really necessary? Could it wait or be put on loud speaker? If you want a drink or 3 leave the car at home. Call a cab and factor the cost into your night out. Seriously, do not drink and drive.
I am someone who tries to avoid being tardy and I get secretly irritated by other people who seem to always arrive late but in all honesty, I’d rather be late to my appointment than early to my grave.

Be safe, people.

#betterdriving #cycling #limitnottarget #callataxi #soberdriver