2015

Having not blogged since October, I wasn’t going to do a yearly round-up post, as it almost seemed disingenuous to sweep in with only a few hours remaining of 2015 and attempt to summarise twelve months worth of incredible highs and lows, and life in all it’s glorious messiness.  Not when this has been my quietest blogging year yet, when great swaths of time have gone by un-narrated.  But then all around me, on social media I have been seeing other people’s concluding paragraphs, and reading about their hopes and aspirations for the coming year and there is just something about that drawing a line and turning to a blank page that I can’t resist.  So here I am, joining in.

We started out this year with very little in the way of goals, but we knew that the year was going to bring big changes as in the first week of January we were approved as foster carers for our local authority and began eagerly awaiting the arrival of a baby to care for.

Little did we know how long we’d have to wait, but sure enough, after a few false-starts, she came into the world in March and into our hearts and home in April.  Then sixteen days ago she left, and there is no way on earth for me to put into words all that came between.  Fostering was a rollercoaster.  People say that about all sorts of things, and maybe it’s a fitting metaphor for them all, but in this case, I am telling you- nothing describes the experience more accurately.  Highs and lows, total loss of control, confusion about which direction you came from and where you’re heading next, and so, so so much vomit. Seriously.

The thing is, I can appreciate the appeal of rollercoasters, but I get motion sickness.  And I’m no longer speaking in metaphors now, I can barely ride the bus into town without turning green.  Fostering was one hell of a ride, and when the ride came to a stop I was glad I’d got on, but I also knew, as I climbed out of my seat on wobbly legs, with my heart in my throat, that I wouldn’t be lining up for another go.

I won’t say never, because it was only 18 months ago I made the decision to leave nursing, and now I’m barely 3 weeks away from going back to it, so I’m starting to see how timing and circumstance play a huge part in so many of the decisions that I see as final.  But for now, we’re done.

As for what else has happened this year- our youngest child started school nursery full-time, which was a huge tug on my heart strings (and, let’s be honest here, ovaries) but was also so right- as he was so very ready and he’s settled in wonderfully.  And Chris started studying for his masters, because he literally cannot just NOT and is determined to be a student forever, albeit now a student with a full-time job, a part-time job, a young family and precisely zero time to write any of the assignments…so yeah…good luck with that cariad 😉

We said goodbye to Chris’s Taid this year, a wonderful man whose last couple of years of life were stolen by dementia.

Then a little later in the year I found myself applying for a return to nursing post, and in what I’m sure is just a coincidence, but felt very *something* I was allocated to an elderly medical ward specialising in dementia and I start work there next month.

I edited the book I wrote last year and a couple of lovely people (you know who you are) have been good enough to read it through for me already and have given me some great feedback.  I also wrote what on some level I suppose, could be called another book?  Or at least a vague semblance of a first draft of something that one day could possibly become a book?!  But such are the pitfalls of NaNoWriMo I guess?  In any case, I barfed out over 50k of words during the month of November and there are characters, setting and even a bit of plot (!) and I’m looking forward to diving back in to sort that wonderful awful mess out at some point in 2016.

Other things I’m looking forward to are settling back into life as a family of four, instead of five.  We’ve overhauled our entire house since Squishlet moved on, and in some ways it’s worked really well, as there aren’t constant reminders of her time with us everywhere, so we’ve got used to her absence probably quicker than if say, her cot was still standing empty and her bottles lined up on the kitchen worktop.  And yet, when I check on the boys before I go to sleep at night, I still take one step towards her door to check on her, and it’s only in the last few days that Chris and I have stopped ‘hearing’ her crying or the beep of her Angelcare monitor.  So…it’ll take a bit more time for us to fully adjust I think.  But it’ll be nice to get back to some of the things that either are, or just feel, impossible with a baby in tow.  Like family bike rides for example *looks out the window at the storm*…ok, maybe not.  But I’m sure there are other things we can do to make the most of our new-found baby-free freedom.

As for any specific goals, hopes or dreams for the coming year, I feel that they’re very much the same as always- happy days with my boys, quiet nights with my nose in a book, more time in the company of friends and family, and if possible to avoid any hospital stays/CIDP related drama- always a bonus 😉

So- farewell 2015.  I doubt I’ll be awake to see in 2016, but I will welcome it with an open heart tomorrow morning when I wake at 5.40 to give Chris a lift into work.  Or at least, after a coffee I will anyway.

And thank you to everyone who has supported us during the highs and lows of this year, and for those of you who’ve taken the time to read my witterings, past, present and future.  I love you all xxxx

mwah

 

 

I am so tiny.

I feel like this should really be two separate blog posts.  The one in which I tell you that we met with our foster baby’s prospective adoptive family, and that they seem lovely and that we are so happy for her and for them, that it wasn’t hard, that yes it was surreal but not in a bad way. For almost two hours our boys and her birth/adoptive siblings played happily together, as though it was the most ordinary thing in the world.  It was truly humbling.  And I don’t use that word often.

That is the post I wanted to write, wanted to share.  One of hope and positivity.

There is a second post though.  The one where I strapped our family back in our car, drove away from their home, put on my sunglasses and music, and cried for about thirty miles.

Not because we will have to say goodbye to her, not because we don’t believe she will have a wonderful life with them (and therefore without us) but because during our visit I learnt that one of her other siblings has recently had their adoption break down, and they are back in foster care.  And I realised that no matter how many times we do this, no matter how many babies we love, nurture and pass on, no matter how we bend and stretch and maybe eventually break ourselves fostering- it will never be enough.  There are so many, so very very many children and our effort will only ever be a drop, in vast, possibly bottomless ocean.

So I cried behind my glasses, and I am crying now.  With all three children tucked up asleep in their beds.  I have been crying for so long I feel like I have cried about everything there is to cry about.  It started as tears for ‘failed’ adoptions.  Why do we call them that?  I thought I hated the term ‘failure to progress’ in relation to a woman’s cervical dilation in labour…but ‘failed adoption’?!  What kind of message does that send to a child?  They have failed at family life, failed to be loveable, failed to be easy to live with, failed at life.  How do we expect them to come back from that?  Who is failing here?  Not the children.  I’d guess not the adoptive parents in most cases either.  Who then?  Birth parents? Many of who have been utterly failed by their own parents, by people they trusted, by professionals, by society.  Should we blame them?  I mean who’s fault is this?  Is it anyone’s at all?

Even thinking about it my heart breaks.  I can’t remember the last time I cried so hard.  Crying hiccuping, crying with snot, crying so hard you feel like you might break in two. Crying as cardio.  These are not silent, effortless tears. I am sad, and I am angry and my mind wants my body to recognise and honour that.

I am crying for A, for every baby like her, babies born to parents they will never live with.  For the babies who aren’t removed but maybe should be.  For the children that grow up hurting, fearful, angry, not knowing who to trust, not knowing how to recognise the emotions they carry inside without letting those feelings destroy them.  For the women who choose their men over their children, for the men who use their power to control, to coerce, to manipulate and abuse- why do they do it?  For the parents who can’t, just can’t because of drugs, or alcohol or some other reason, for the professionals who want to help, but who are only humans themselves, for myself, past, present and future, for my own siblings and for everyone I know.  For all of us.  For the messes we make, and the things we do to try and fix it.

What are we doing?

I. Have. No. Idea.

But I know I have never felt so small.  So tiny. Like a spot plaster on a gaping head wound, that is literally gushing blood fucking everywhere, and only a handful of people have even noticed.

What Are You Asking?

I will preface this rant blog post by saying, I am the most open person I know.  I am more or less happy to tell anybody anything, if I know the person asking, and the question is appropriate…y’know, sometimes even when it’s not, I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt if it seems to be coming from a genuine place.

You want to know about my bizzaro autoimmune thing and the treatment for it?  Just ask! No problem.  You’re thinking of getting house rabbits and not sure how that will work with kids/a dog/a house full of electrical equipment…I’d be delighted to share what (little) wisdom I have to offer.  Birth?  Breastfeeding?  My opinions on local schools (since we looked round pretty much all of them- some twice).  How to go about applying to become a foster carer?  A little about the reality of life as a foster carer?

I will generally chat to anyone about whatever they want to know about.  Maybe, that in fact is my where I’ve gone wrong.  Maybe in being so open, and not drawing any boundaries, I’ve left myself open to people taking THE COMPLETE AND UTTER PISS.

Guess how many times since we were approved as foster carers in January I have been asked if I will adopt a baby…go on- GUESS.  I bet you won’t get anywhere near the actual figure.  In fact, go ahead and take whatever number you came up with and MULTIPLY IT BY INFINITY.  Now you’re getting warm.

Guess how many times I’ve been asked if I’ll be having any more children “of my own” and/or “why not?!”  Don’t be shy!  Take a WILD STAB IN THE DARK.  Is your number in the hundreds?  IT SHOULD BE.

Now for bonus points, can you tell me, WHY IN GOD’S HOLY NAME WOULD YOU ASK ANYBODY THAT?

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Do y’all hear yourselves when you speak?  Do you realise what you’re actually asking?

Because when you ask someone about their plans (or not, as the case may be) to expand their family, this is what they’re likely to hear:

  • Questions about their fertility
  • Questions about their general health and ability to carry a pregnancy to term
  • Reminders of previous pregnancies, births and losses
  • Questions about their relationship
  • Questions about their sex life
  • Questions about their contraception
  • Questions about their parenting skills and current family life
  • Memories of their own childhoods and siblings (if they have them)
  • Questions about their age

And that’s just for starters.  If you’re a parent yourself, then think about the colossal multitude of shit you went through in your head the moment you decided to try for a baby, the things you agonised over, the things you wrangled about, the hoops you jumped through to get to that point.  Or if your pregnancy was unplanned consider all the things that whirled through your mind in the days after you found out.  Now imagine verbalising that to a stranger in the school playground as you’re kissing your five year old goodbye and wishing him a good day.

Last week I had another parent at school who I’ve never spoken to before approach me and strike up a conversation.  Now I like to think I’m pretty friendly (contrary to the vibe this post, and in fact my blog in general may give off!) so I answered her questions, asked my own in reply, and had a bit of a chat.  The parent in question put me on the spot twice, asking me why I wasn’t having anymore children of my own and why I “didn’t want” (her words, absolutely not mine!) to adopt our current foster baby and despite feeling uncomfortable, having not prepared myself emotionally or mentally for that line of questioning at 9am on a Monday morning, I answered as honestly as I could.  She offered some information in exchange and then went on her way.  It was slightly odd but I thought perhaps it could be the beginning of a school playground friendship and maybe now we’d broken the barrier and spoken to each other we’d end up chatting more often.

Well…she hasn’t spoken one word to me since.  Which wouldn’t mean anything I guess if it weren’t for the fact that WE SEE EACH OTHER TWICE A DAY EVERY DAY.

So basically, she saw me suddenly have a baby with me one day, her curiosity got the better of her and she mined me for information, at the expense of my time and emotional wellbeing.

This may shock you all to your very core, since I write some pretty personal stuff on this blog, but just because I don’t burst into tears every time I mention my three miscarriages and molar pregnancy and the fact I have a lifelong debilitating neurological condition doesn’t mean that talking about it doesn’t affect me at all.

When I sit down to write, I get to choose what I want to share (or not) and how I want to phrase it, and if it gets too hard then I can press delete or save it for another day when I’m more ready to delve into that topic.  When someone is bombarding me with question after question after question, like a motherfucking interview, at the school gates, one hour after I’ve woken up and with three small children in my care, it’s not the same thing AT ALL.

So today, at 3.15, as I attempted the epic challenge that is EXITING THE SCHOOL GROUNDS WITHOUT RESORTING TO MURDER OR BEING FATALLY INJURED, yet another parent I have never spoken to before in my life called out to me from behind “Excuse me- but is that your baby?!”

“Yes” I lied said

She looked sceptical

“Really?  When was it born?”

“March” I shrugged and then walked off because I will be damned if I am going to be privy to anybody else’s fucking nosiness disguised as friendliness.

And yes I felt pretty guilty for about 30 full minutes afterwards, because I’m the kind of person who will apologise when someone else steps on my toe, and who tries to see the best in everyone.

But- you want to know me?  Then GET TO KNOW ME.  If all you really want to know is the ins and outs of foster care and what kind of situation Squishlet’s birth parents are in and why I’m suddenly parading around with a baby despite not having been pregnant recently then I may as well be filling in a bloody questionnaire.  Because that aint friendly, there’s no give or take, there’s nothing behind that other than sheer nosiness.

Look I’m as nosy as the next person but I would never EVER, in all my merry fucking days ask anybody other than perhaps a handful of my absolute closest friends whose situations I was intimately acquainted with, if they were thinking of having a baby, or if they could see themselves adopting a child at some point in their life.  For the most part I don’t ask people anything, I find that if people have something they want to share then for the most part they will WITHOUT INTERROGATION.  I know, who would have thought it?!

So please, and I’m asking nicely, before you ask somebody a BIG QUESTION like that, stop and think for a second, what is it that you’re really asking?

Do you know how that question might make that person feel, both in that instant and for the rest of the day?  Are you yourself prepared for the answer?

If you jokingly ask someone if they’re pregnant with twins because they’re so ‘big’ are you prepared for the fact that maybe they were and they lost one?  Or maybe they’re not but there are problems with their pregnancy, like excess fluid that maybe they don’t want to discuss with a total stranger in tesco but might now feel like they have to.

If you’re curious why as a foster carer someone wouldn’t put themselves forward to adopt a child living with them, before you verbalise that maybe have a think if there’s anything you don’t know, that they might not be able to share with you about their situation or the child’s situation that might make it not an option.

Or if you can’t put the brakes on your mouth then at least brace yourself for what might be an emotional reaction, or for receiving information that you then can’t process yourself.

I’m not saying DON’T TALK TO PEOPLE.  I’m not saying don’t attempt pleasant chit-chat or attempt to make new friends, I’m just saying that interrogating people you don’t know very well (or at all) is NOT the way forward.

Ok. I’m done.

**prepares self for no one ever speaking to me ever again after reading this**

If She Was Mine

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If she was mine

she would have been born in this room, before dawn’s light could creep through the blinds

If she was mine

her name would not be her name, but something else that grew over time, as she did inside

If she was mine

my milk would be hers and hours we’d spend intertwined

If she was mine

we would be inseparable day and night,

and no one could know her mind as I would

If she was mine

her brothers by blood would live here in this house

and they’d call her “my sister”

and it would be fine

If she was mine

But she’s not

so instead, we tiptoe around with our words

“is she your third?”

(No she’s not)

and someone else carried her inside their womb

Not me

and when people ask, I think “can’t they see?”

That she’s not

She’s not mine

so bottles I scrub, and the basket it stands

and I pass her over to her mothers’ hands

twice a week

She is hers

Not mine

and in time, she’ll be someone else’s too

and at first, will they think

“She’s not mine”

as I do?

but over the months and the years she will be

for she never really belonged to me

but to them

and when I see them I hope I’ll know

“Yes she’s yours”

and then I can let her go

but for now we will love her

and try to pretend

because though her time here will finish

the love won’t end

The Hardest Thing?

There have been times in my life when I have thought “This may be the hardest thing I have ever done, or will ever have to do”.

Like walking out of the door when I left home at 15 and leaving my two younger sisters behind.

Like as a student nurse on ICU watching a lad my age die right in front of me.

Like driving behind my Dad’s hearse, with my 6 week old baby in the back of my car who he never got to meet.

Like holding the hand of a woman as her baby is forcibly pulled from her body and taken away for resus.

But today, sitting across the table from a mother begging me, through tears, to please keep her baby if she can’t have it. That is definitely right up there.

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Anticipation

10 days ago we got the call that we’ve been waiting for since the 6th of January- when we were officially approved as foster carers.  The call to say that there was a little one who needed somewhere to stay.  Even the phone call itself was emotional, and the three days that followed were even more so- the highs of excitement at his possible imminent arrival and getting everything ready, the lows of not knowing if he was definitely coming or what he would be like when he did.  It felt wrong to be excitedly preparing for his arrival when even just the fact that we’d been approached to take care of him meant that his little world was about to fall apart even more so than it might already have done.  But having waited almost three months for our first foster baby all of us were eager to get started.

Then our social worker delivered some ‘bad’ news- he might not be coming after all, and several hours later, following court we we finally found out for sure that we were no longer needed to be on standby as he definitely wasn’t coming.

i actually found the couple of days of not really knowing if he was or he wasn’t, the hardest. Once we knew he wasn’t I could let go and get on with life as normal.  It was disappointing of course, but it also felt wrong to be disappointed and like I posted on facebook at the time, it isn’t my job to second guess the judge and whether or not s/he made the right decision- all we need to do is just be here for when we’re needed, although I won’t lie, the passivity of this bit of the journey is driving me to distraction.  There is literally nothing to do but wait.

Anyway, as it turns out we didn’t have to wait long.  The following day I had three separate phone calls within the space of 90 minutes, each with a new referral.  People have asked me how that works and if we then get to choose which of the three we’d prefer, and the answer is no.  It doesn’t work like that.  The fostering team call us with referrals that match our approval criteria- we have been approved for one child aged 0-2 of any gender or ethnicity.  In this case the first referral wasn’t appropriate (twins!) and of the other two it went on priority.  We can of course always say “NO”, if we felt that we couldn’t for whatever reason go ahead with the placement but right now it’s hard to imagine a child or situation or scenario that we would decline, although I’m sure there are some that I won’t have thought about because of being so new to it all.

So we are once again in the position of knowing that there is a baby out there to whom we have been ‘matched’ and we are just waiting for court (again) to make it official.

After the first call we spent three full days completely baby-proofing our entire house, making several trips into the loft and out to the shed, attaching squidgy rubber corners to the sharp edges of furniture, moving all the boys teeny tiny toys into their bedroom and replacing them with more baby-friendly toys so that I wouldn’t have to worry about a baby choking on a Batarang,  I got all the 12-18 month clothes out of a box in the loft and piled them neatly in the room, hung curtains and picture frames and searched online for some cute posters to put in them.  We did so many things that then felt entirely pointless when it turned out he wasn’t coming that I swore that next time I wouldn’t do anything until I knew for sure.

But that’s just not how it works.  You get the call, you’re matched to the child and straight away you’re thinking What do I need to buy/do ready for his/her arrival?

Maybe it’s just my tendency to want to be super-organised and prepared but the idea of waiting for a social worker to ring on their way from court saying “I am coming to your house with a baby RIGHT NOW” before making any kind of preparations is horrifying.  I would rather spend hours rearranging and building furniture and washing baby clothes and hanging them ready to be told it was all for nought, than do nothing and be racing around like a maniac at the last minute.

So our house has once again been altered in preparation for this little one, and nappies have been purchased and cot-beds built and baby monitors tested, and now we just wait (again) in anticipation.

There is so much that I won’t be able to share about our fostering experience, because of confidentiality and this blog not being anonymous (an oversight on my part, I have often thought!) but I will continue to share what little I can of our journey hoping that it will help anyone else who is thinking of fostering, or already doing, and that it will be a reminder for me when I want to look back on each stage and see how far we’ve come.

Panel

I don’t think there’s now anyone left on the planet who doesn’t know about the result of fostering panel, but nonetheless I realised that I haven’t yet blogged about it, so just in case anyone has been in space these past two weeks, or wants a more in-depth version of the experience itself, here goes:

We were scheduled for panel at 10am, so had arranged to meet our social worker there at 9.45 so we’d have a bit of time to prepare before being called through.  At least, that was the plan.  What actually happened was that we got there at about 9.30 in the pouring rain and were shown through to a room with a huge table and a drinks trolley (tea, coffee, hot chocolate, not bourbon, gin, rum...which may have been more useful under the circumstances) There was a smartly dressed woman sitting in there already, who I assumed was there for the same reasons as us, i.e. waiting to find out if she’d been approved to foster, but it turned out she was actually a social worker, going to panel to present a ‘match’.  She was waiting on someone else to arrive, who had apparently gone to the wrong set of offices, so even though we should have been second on the list, someone from the panel came through to ask if we’d mind going first and when we said that was fine, they sent word up to our social worker, who was upstairs in her office, grabbing a coffee.

So it was a bit of a whirlwind- one minute we were slurping drinks, analysing our nervousness levels, thinking we’d have time for a little chat with our social worker before going in, the next our social worker was there and being called straight through.  Then after about 5 minutes they then called us through.  I’m not sure there is anything I can really use to compare the experience of walking into a room full of people sitting around a table who have all read ostensibly EVERYTHING there is to know about you.  It’s sort of like an incredibly intense and personal job-interview situation, I guess.

We went to take our seats at the big rectangular table, next to our social worker and she cut through the massive tension by attempting to pour us both a glass of water and knocking it everywhere, for which I was very grateful!  Someone produced a tea towel (which in hindsight, I was like “Wut?!  Where did that come from?!”) and then the introductions got under way.  There were 10 people and then the two of us.  They all introduced themselves with names and job titles and I now can’t remember any of them.  There was basically a head of panel, an actual foster carer, a social worker from the fostering team, our social worker, a scribe, an independent body overseeing it all, and then others.  I remember smilling and nodding at each one and trying to commit their names and reasons for being there to my memory and failing completely.

The person chairing the panel welcomed us and started out by saying that they “appreciated our application to foster” which right off the bat made me think:

“It’s a no”

because really, isn’t that how every gentle rejection begins?  “I’m flattered you want to marry me but…NO” “We’re grateful for your job application but…NO”

Anyway, the first question they had for us was basically “Why NOW?” which I attempted to answer with a “carpe diem” kind of explanation, and then worried they’d think we were so busy ‘seizing the day’ that we wouldn’t have considered the practicalities, so tagged some actual logical reasons on to the end.

The second question was more complex but really boiled down to “Do you really think you can do it?!” so I waffled extensively about how the boys are moving on and I feel I have the time/space/energy to give mentally/emotionally/physically to another child, and then Chris kind of saved me from eternal waffling by chipping in with some practical strategies and ways we would cope with the demands it would present.

Towards the end of the questioning Chris said that the panel head said something that made him think “we’re in”, like a slip of words, meaning to say “IF you were approved you’d need to make use of the support offered” but saying “WHEN you are approved” instead…but I was so busy being HELLA NERVOUS that I missed that, so was genuinely relieved/surprised/delighted when she looked around the table and said “I think we will be recommending your approval?” and was met with a sea of nodding smiling faces.

It was explained that technically panel do not approve, they recommend, and that it takes about 10 working days for The Master of the Universe (or, you know, an independent head body person) to actually, as Chris put it “rubber stamp” our approval.  After that we were congratulated and wished luck and sent on our way.  The whole thing took maybe 15 minutes maximum, but felt much longer!  We had a hug and a little debrief from our lovely social worker, who I will be so sad to say goodbye to, as she doesn’t get to follow us on the rest of our journey- we will be passed to a supervising social worker now.  Then we celebrated in the entirely ridiculous manner of going food shopping in big Asda and putting the christmas decorations back in the loft…lame, I know.

So, just 7 months after making our initial enquiry into fostering, we were approved, and now we are waiting for a visit from our new social worker, and for our ‘equipment’ (pram, cot, baby monitor etc) to be in place and then we will be added to the vacancies list, which will mean at any time from that point we could receive a call about a potential ‘placement’, i.e. a foster baby or child!

We have been approved for one child of any gender or ethnicity between the ages of 0 and 2, so it’s kind of crazy knowing we could suddenly have a tiny newborn, or a toddler, or any age in-between living with us within the next few weeks…but it’s also pretty damn exciting.  I finally feel like I can really clear out the spare room and that I won’t be ‘jinxing’ anything, or getting ahead of myself by doing it, because for sure, there is going to be a tiny person using that space very soon.  Eeeeek! 🙂