Wednesday, 5 November 2014

National Adoption Week. Life with a sibling group.

As it's National Adoption Week and the focus is around adopting sibling groups I wanted to share our experience and join in the discussion.

There are so many things I want to share shout from the roof tops, but not all of it is appropriate to detail in a blog and some of it you would just not believe. 

I have read a few articles and blog posts this week on adopting sibling groups and surprisingly a fair few posts from adopters who have taken on sibling groups of three.  Sadly, there is a concurrent theme - family life has been turned on it's head, life is hard and challenges are presented daily. Their stories are filled with pain, disappointment and uncertainty. 

Our story is no exception.

Perhaps my husband and I were naive thinking we could manage the various attachment issues that we would be met with, maybe we were not given the full picture by those caring for the girls whilst in foster care or possibly it was the lack of preparation by the Local Authority. It could be an assortment of all three elements. Either way it has resulted in our dreams of taking on our diamonds has not become our reality thus far. 

So what are the challenges?
  • Never being able to split yourself equally.
  • The fight for attention - as my husband said 'from day one we were outnumbered'. 
  • Trying to understand whether their behaviour is linked to their past, their present or their age. 
  • Then deciding within a split second the best way to respond. Therapeutically? Empathetically? Super Nanny style? What was that sentence my post-adoption social worker said to use? 
  • The behaviours that take you by surprise and send you into a mild panic ie: stealing food and cutting hair.
  • The intensity of one or more of your children always wanting to be close, always presenting a need to be met and once that need has been met presents another one. 
  • The exhaustion. 
  • Lack of understanding from other people on adoptive parenting and people questioning us as to why we are parenting differently.  
  • Being able to bond and attachment difficulties. 
  • Feeling disappointed in your parenting and therefore feeling like a failure.
  • Finding and holding onto the correct form of support.
Are there fun moments? Sure, we have moments were we laugh like crazy, sing our hearts out, cuddle and have vague thoughts that we are making a difference.  But if I am 100% honest these moments are less than I would like.

One of the purposes of writing this post was to raise awareness into the realities that us adoptive parents can face on a daily basis and the need for more post adoption support. Far too many families are left to just get on with it and fend for themselves after taking on children who are traumatised.

I would say that in some respects we have been fortunate in that we have had a post adoption worker and she has helped us enormously and more importantly truly cares about our well-being. However, I still feel that more should and could be done to support us and I think this may be an ongoing discussion battle!! I tweeted earlier this week stating that I want to raise awareness, make a difference and demand more help for adopters, but like others I don't know how best to go about this. As one of my fellow adopters of three put it beautifully, 'how do we get them to see the pain behind our eyes?' Other than them walking in our shoes and feeling the pain I'm sad to say that I don't know what the answer is.

Surely, we have to keep on raising our voices and helping others to see the pain and challenges that we face daily in trying to love and care for our children who have had such a harsh start in life.

We must keep on hoping and believing for the best - for all of us.

If you would like to participate in helping bring about a change in post adoption support services, please sign the petition below by pressing on the link: Thank you!

Changes to Post Adoption Support Services

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Sweetest Place...

Sit still, my daughter! Just sit calmly still!
What higher service could you for Him fill?
It's hard! Ah yes! But choicest things must cost!
For lack of losing all how much is lost!
It's hard, it's true! But then-He gives you grace
To count the hardest spot the sweetest place.

 J. Danson Smith

Friday, 19 September 2014

Dark Days....

I have been quiet on the blogging scene for awhile, the reason I hear you ask is because things are difficult in our household at the moment. I often like to write about things in hindsight, once it is all done and dusted. I worry that people may judge us, criticise or just simply won't be able to understand the complexity of what we face as adoptive parents. To be honest I am not sure that I will press 'publish' once I have written this post and I am sure there will be plenty of editing and if I'm brave enough to press publish, I will await people's responses with apprehension.

However, these difficulties we are experiencing are not clearing up. The longer they go on the harder it seems. One way I have found help in order for me to cope is to reach out to other families, especially adoptive families. The online community of adopters has been great and I WELCOME any help with what we are facing.

So what are the issues?

Where do I start?

I desperately want this adoption to work.

I desperately want to make a difference to her life.

I desperately want to love her.

I desperately want to bond with her.

So why is it so bloody hard??

For over a year I have struggled to bond with my youngest daughter, KS. I have worked and worked on this issue with a counsellor and my social worker, not to mention reading various articles, books and talking to friends and family. However, I am still unsure of exactly why this is case. Things over the last few weeks have hit crisis point and I have asked myself a few times whether I can carry on. Needless to say it has taken my husband, social worker and friends to put me back together so I can keep on going.

Since spring last year KS has been wetting herself daily. It started with just once or twice a day, but this has slowly built up and pretty much she only uses the toilet if promoted or if she needs a no. 2. To say that I have been frustrated is an understatement. She used to be potty trained in the day and was doing really well. Thoughts of why she has regressed have plagued my mind. My husband and I have tried everything we can think of - reward charts, praise, anger, asking her sisters to take her and sticker charts. Nothing seems to work or hold her attention for long enough. She will be four in a couple of months and as time goes on it leaves us feeling more and more desperate. Our social worker has explored the reasons behind the wetting and why the above may not be working. She has suggested that I need to work on my relationship with her and then, God willing, the wetting will cease. This sounds easy in principal, however, how do you do this when you feel so low and you are struggling to build a relationship together. Many people have said it maybe due to her little brother arriving, and this may not be helping, but it started before he arrived and I don't think it is as simple as that.

KS for a long time now has been displaying intense needs. Given her past it is understandable but funnily enough that doesn't always make it easier when dealing with it in the moment. Over the last couple of weeks, with the help of my social worker, I have been working hard on trying to meet her needs, sadly this is often through gritted teeth. Interestingly, once I have met one need she immediately displays another. I can find this extremely exhausting as she keeps on moving the goal posts. As a result I am left feeling drained and as though I cannot meet her needs. My social worker and I discussed this at length this week and it is a possibility that she is trying to sabotage the relationship as on a macro and micro level this is what she has been used to. This behaviour can often throw me and at times I have sat there overwhelmed, feeling inadequate, with tears in my eyes asking myself again and again, how can I meet her needs and I am the best mommy for her?

Some good news to throw into the mix is that she has begun to settle down at night. She had got into the habit of lying in her room singing at the top of her lungs until 9pm or beyond! We are not sure what has changed to make her go to sleep quietly. We are just happy that she is quiet!

It may sound silly and I hope the point of what I have learnt does not get lost in translation whilst trying to explain. Recently I spoke to an adopter who has experienced the dark days that we are currently negotiating our way through.  She was full of good advice and one thing that she said that stood out was that we would never be a 'normal family'. It suddenly hit me that I had been subconsciously striving to be 'normal'. I have thought that if I can just solve the wetting and the intense needs, then all will be fine! Well that's a load of rubbish because actually, as parents of adopted children, there will probably always be some complex, deep-seated issue that we are trying to help them with.

I was also advised by an adopter to try and separate my feelings for my daughter from her behaviours. This is something again that had become deep rooted in my thinking that I didn't realise. Again, I thought that if I could just solve her current issues then perhaps it would be easier to build a relationship.

I haven't wanted to admit it for months as the shame of not coping has felt too great, but I have had to face it recently. I am at times battling depressive thoughts. I have started some herbal medication and I hope this can take the edge off the low feelings. I have also built in 'me' time which seems to have helped as it recharges my batteries and gives me a chance to relax and smile.

We made the decision this week that little one will attend nursery full time. This has felt like a huge weight has been lifted and the anxiety reduced. This will hopefully allow me to better meet her needs when we are together.

Time will only tell if these changes will help sustain us through the hard times. I desperately hope so as we did not enter into becoming adoptive parents lightly and ideally my husband and I want this to work. We want to look back when they are older and think "yes that was hard work but well worth it."

There are two reasons why I am sharing our story with the world. One is to gain any help and advice from those who can relate to the above and secondly, to let others know if they are experiencing the same that they are not on their own. It would be lovely to connect with you if you sit in either camp....

Thank you for taking the time to read this looonnnggg blog post....

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Our Summer in Pictures....

Our summer has been a little crazy, but we have made it to the other side. Thought I would share some pictures so you can see what we have been up to....

Lazy days on the beach...

Day trips out

Bank Holiday fun

Picnics in the cold

Fun in the Park
Plenty of this stuff to keep us going....
Birthday Celebrations!!!
& finally I am learning to have a bit of me time.....

Friday, 1 August 2014

Story of My Life

Since having E.J. the girls curiosity has naturally grown into their birth family history. The questions have been more frequent and you can see their little minds trying to make sense of who they have lived with and the time frames this all falls into. They have included questions such as, 'Where was I born?' 'Who's tummy was I in?' and 'Which hospital was I born in?' Whilst addressing these questions the best I could, my eldest daughter told me that she could not remember what her birth mother looked like. I thought now may be an appropriate time to tell her that we had been given a photo and then asked her if she would like to see it, to which she replied that she would.

Taking down the life story books from the attic, I felt nervous to share the information as I know in the past they have got upset and on occasions, experienced nightmares when confronted with their past. Sitting down at the dining room table with my oldest two daughters we opened the books. My oldest daughter only wanted to look at the picture of her mom, cried, cuddled me and then put her book away. My middle daughter however wanted to look through the whole of her book. Sitting next to her I nervously turned the pages and sat anxiously while she scanned the photos. Again, she cried and needed a cuddle. Since looking at her book she has been struggling with missing her birth family. I found it interesting to listen to her as it is clear that she does not understand time frames or when people were or were not present in her life.

My youngest daughter sat on my lap earlier today whilst looking up at a blown-up picture taken from on our wedding day. She asked me where she was when that photo was taken. I wasn't quite sure how best to answer, as at the time, her birth mother would have been pregnant with her and how do you explain that to a three year old?!

What I have found to be positive is the fact that the girls are able to talk to my husband and I about their feelings and feel safe enough to ask various questions. We knew at some point we would need to address these topics and I would rather have an open conversation with the girls over the years rather than deal with it in one go when they hit puberty! Another positive is that they have taken to their little brother and are keen to cuddle him and to help me with little jobs that need doing. I believe that the girls feel included and this is important for them. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Our latest addition!

He has arrived! 

Three weeks ago our little boy, E.J. entered into the world.

He is beautiful, adorable and I would even go as far as saying that he is pure perfection!

E.J. kept us waiting. On my due date there were no signs of any twinges and to be honest I felt quite disappointed. I was ready to meet my little man and I wanted to get things moving.

A day short of being two weeks overdue, I began having cramps at 1 am, however, after a few hours the pains stopped and I thought it must have been a false alarm. I was booked into hospital to be induced later on that day, so after being delayed a couple of times, I made my way down to the delivery suite. Once I was examined, I was told that labour had indeed started and I was asked if I would like my waters broken to move things along. So that's what we did. After a fairly comfortable labour (thanks to an epidural) and twelve hours later, E.J. was placed in our arms. It was an emotional and proud moment for all of us that I do not think we will ever forget.

It was important for us that the girls were able to meet E.J. as soon as possible, so they came to visit us in the hospital. The girls appeared to take to their little brother straight away. They all gave him a cuddle and I don't think they stopped cooing over him. It was certainly a relief that the girls were happy with him and that they wanted to be involved. One adoptive & birth mother who I know through Twitter gave me the idea to buy the girls each a present from E.J. to help build the bond. I thought this was a lovely idea and my girls certainly love receiving presents. It didn't cost the earth, the gifts were personal and something they could each play with.

Once home, it was lovely to introduce family and friends to our bundle of joy. People have been so kind in their gifts, help and support. I don't know how we would have got through the last three weeks without the help of our parents, other family members and friends.

I think the biggest shock to our system would have to be the lack of sleep. It appears that every time you close your eyes and begin to drift off that E.J. wakes up demanding to be fed! To say it's painfully tiring is an understatement! To help me get through the long nights I have recorded some of my favourite shows, bought some chocolate biscuits and turned it into a bit of 'me' time. I am also finding it hard to juggle E.J.'s feeds with meeting the girls' needs and everyday activities, especially as we are not yet in a routine, so I am constantly second guessing when he is going to wake up. 

Another big shock that is about to hit me is the SIX WEEK HOLIDAYS! On the one hand I am looking forward to lazy mornings and not having to make three packed lunches each morning. However, on the other hand, I am nervous about needing to entertain three children and care for a newborn all at the same time. We have some fun things planned and a family holiday to look forward to. I can recall feeling apprehensive last year and the holidays flew by and we all survived. So I am sure we will survive the coming holidays.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Keep Calm we're expecting Baby No 4!

Three weeks today and I am due to pop! The time has flown by!

We are feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement, although we are relieved to say it is mostly excitement. 

I think we are prepared, practically anyway, I'm not sure anything can prepare us for the emotional challenge that is ahead.

Last week, two close friends and my sister and mom threw me a wonderful baby shower. The weather was perfect, food yummy, amazing cake and the games included guessing what chocolate bars had been melted inside various nappies - YUK, but by far the best baby shower game out there!
Made by the children's godmother!

My friend and I are expecting 10 weeks apart from each other, so we have attended a labour & birth and breastfeeding class together. We have had a giggle, been informed of our choices of pain relief, pulled some faces at the thought of the indignity of it all and I have wondered why we have been given conflicting advice on a couple of topics already!

The nursery has been decorated in a monkey jungle theme, essential items have been bought and people have been very generous and given us some beautiful clothes, toys and keepsakes. Today, we went on our (hopefully) last shopping trip before baby arrives. We decided to buy baby his first teddy. We chose a design together as a family, had baby's heart beat placed inside (so when we press the teddy''s hand you can hear what sounds like a train at high speed). The girls were then given a silk heart each by the shop assistant that they were asked to make a wish on, kiss and then place inside the teddy, before he was stuffed and sown up.

Bump and teddy Peanut

Over the last few months I have been practicing Natal Hypnotherapy by Maggie Howell. The idea behind this is to help you prepare for birth through the art of relaxation and positive visiualisation. I have enjoyed doing this and, after speaking to others who have used this technique, I am hopeful that it will help me to stay calm during the 'lovely' contractions. I would like to have as natural a birth as possible and I am even thinking of having a water birth (something I never thought I would want to do). I am looking forward to trying the gas & air too! With that said, I am keeping an open mind as I am not brilliant with pain.

Throughout the pregnancy we have discussed whether we would like a hospital, home or birth centre birth. In the end, due to possibility of needing additional medical support, we opted to go to our local hospital. Four weeks ago we went to have a look around the hospital to see what we thought. I must admit I came away feeling quite emotional as I did not like the clinical setting, the hot stuffy rooms and as we left we could hear a woman screaming - I couldn't get out quick enough!

I don't think there is much more to do now, other than sit and wait for baby to make his entrance into the world. Every time I get a twinge I am wondering if this is it! I think, like most first time birth mothers, if I'll know whether I am in the early stages of labour or not and then there is the additional worry of whether or not the hospital will give me the correct advice on when to come in. I have known a couple of moms who have been told to wait at home as they did not realise their labour was progressing. One gave birth at home unexpectedly in the bath and the other 20 minutes after she arrived at the hospital.

I keep telling myself to enjoy these last couple of weeks and what will be will be. I will get through the birth one way or another. I have loved being pregnant and I am very grateful for this experience.