Forks

There are now three forks left in the house.

They are becoming a metaphor for my life: forks as allegory for our lives.

She packs one when she takes a salad to school. Then she just throws it in the bin because ‘her bag is heavy’. Then she screams when she needs one, because there are no forks in the house; with utterly no clue about her role in that.

Because her amygdala, her trauma, her attachment, her FASD all think that forks – like everything else (money, socks, coffee sachets, homework, friends, me) – are magic and ‘should just be there’; available, ready and waiting the instant she needs them. Be there seamlessly. Be there unimpeded by thinking, or planning, or asking, or decision making, or responsibility, or action; no obstacle or challenge blocking the way. Sometimes, even the opening of the cutlery drawer is too much an obstacle; too much a challenge. There can be no intermediate steps to the fulfilment of the need, because they too are experienced as threat, and their very existence summons her amygdala into protective action.

The lack of a fork – directly to hand, exactly when it’s needed – is perceived as a clear and extreme danger that will be fought with the same all out ferocity of hand to hand combat with a lunging sabre toothed tiger. Any interruption to her thinking process, any delay in a need being answered, and her amygdala is there to fight her way out of the problem.

It’s not just things either. The train she needs to catch, the movie screening, the skate session timetable, the click of the boiled kettle, the Saturday job shift, the dinner arrival, the lift; all required by her amygdala to be available and ready exactly and only when she announces she is in need of them, the instant she needs them.

Like magic.

And likewise, if she doesn’t like the bread in the crock, her amygdala throws the whole loaf away. If the shampoo smells funny, her amygdala empties the whole pot somewhere in the bathroom. If the season of her favourite programme comes to it’s end, her amygdala smashes the controller. The mince I defrosted yesterday to cook with today has already vanished like magic because … her amygdala must have seen it, decided it doesn’t want it, and thrown it away.

If it’s night when she needs it to be day, if it’s Monday when she needs it to be Thursday, if it’s Winter when she needs it to be Summer; amygdala springs overzealous and armed to the teeth to her aid. This amygdala – her protector – was once her biggest friend. It is now her greatest foe.

Her home, her life, her body, her actions, her thoughts – as well as mine – are ruled and ruined by this tiny almond shape misfiring button in her limbic system.

And it hates forks.

 

 

Blogging

Blogging helps me feel connected. It helps me rally and collect my own thoughts. It helps me feel stronger about my parenting, and it helps me grow and learn and find better ways over time. It helps repair my shattered psyche when events have destroyed my confidence and morale. Blogging helps me hone in on what is important to me as an adoptive parent. Blogging helps me seek answers to what is often unanswerable in this conundrum that i live beside – and often within – called trauma. Blogging helps me gain insight to my actions and my thoughts from others as a single adoptive parent with no one to talk to or help me reflect. Blogging helps me feel less alone in the wee hours of the night after a day that has taken me to the very brink of despair. Blogging provides an outlet to my frustrations, my hurt and my wounds. Blogging helps me gain perspective when my world view of a situation becomes distorted and destructive. Blogging often helps me find the humour in the bleakest of moments, and reminds me to see the strange beauty that lies hidden within the torments. Blogging helps me take a place amongst my peers in this fraught and flawed community made up of adopters and adoptees. Blogging breaks the silence in the times when I experience suffering at the hands of the trauma and a wider world that doesn’t understand it or care about it and it’s carriers enough. Blogging helps me feel like the trials, tribulations and lessons of what my family goes through can have some tiny effect on the shape and style – the politics and framework – of ‘adoption future’.

Blogging sometimes is the final shovel full of dirt that buries me beneath the weight of my responsibility that makes it all too heavy to bear. It can reveal the subjects that are still fully taboo – or at least too scary – to talk about, and lay bare the things I’m just not ready or equipped to talk about fluently.

Blogging gives me – the me that lies beneath what cht requires of mumdrah – a voice to my needs when my day to day experiences demands they sit unanswered in silence.

But most of all, blogging helps lift the weight of the thoughts and the challenges that I carry. Blogging reminds me that I am the writer of my own thoughts, and I can chose to take the blue pill or the red in how the extreme demands of my everyday sit within my soul.

Back to the future

I find myself wondering more and more often: how will we ever be able to look back to the future?

How will we tell the stories of our lives? Will we remember things with fondness? Will we be able to laugh at all that has happened between us? Will we ever be able to revisit the painful moments with positive reflection? Will we have anything good to say about it all?

Family is so much focused on retelling.

Sat around the Christmas table, the best man’s speech, pouring over the family album. Each gathering prompts the spilling out of all the personal tales; the moments that made us proud, the embarrassing stories that make us who we are. The successes, the mistakes. The serious and the funny. The adventures, the times shared. The events that make us grow weave a shared past that knits us together without edges or seams. Families explore each other, and gain understanding into how and who we came to be. We laugh, we cry, we get lumps in our throats; we share. All of it.

But how will our future family navigate that retelling? Will we remember all the things we did together differently, and not as shared?  Will we be able to spin yarns about our family’s tapestry without hurting each other with the painful truths that underpin each and almost every event? And how about the parts of our family history that we didn’t share together? The years before we met? How will we find shared meaning in those huge, gaping holes?

Will I ever be able to laugh at the memory of things that – beneath the understanding, and the empathy, and the therapeutic parenting – still felt so hurtful? Will I ever be able to talk about my Love without feeling the sting of sword hidden amongst the pinions*? Without hurting her more? Will she? Will honesty in recounting the events of our lives ever be appropriate, or allowed? Will we ever be able to reflect back on our lives together with anything close to the truth? Will we simply leave out all the trauma from every tale, or dare to open Pandora’s Box on the pain we invoked in each other? Will our memories of events always be tormented by shame (and will our retelling always reopen old wounds, unearth new ones, or create new layers of pain)? Will these ghosts of our past and our present inform the way we can look back on our lives in the future … forever?

When every story we have comes with a dark side of trauma, will we dare to look back to the future at all?

And perhaps worse; in the future, will we even be together to reflect at all?

*thanks Kahlil Gibran

The Keys To The City

As an adopter, looking back to the beginning I understood I’d been trusted with ‘The Keys To The City’.

Those keys represented a commitment to fight for this child. For this child’s rights to a life; a life after her early years, the decisions of state intervention, and the adoption process itself imposed on her a world of pain and trauma over which she had no choice. Each of those keys on that huge and heavy fob represents a life that forcibly handed her more than any person can cope with alone. The keys – I thought – were her pass to access everything she needs to help her through.

What I didn’t understand was that the responsibility for those keys would not be shared. That in truth doors would be closed, barred and locked before us; the keys would become mine and hers alone.  Social services, support agencies, the state, doctors, teachers – all of those people that took decisions which culminated in a life of turmoil – would stop recognizing her past, her present and her future as in any way ‘their responsibility’ from the moment those keys were handed on to me. As if she had suddenly become a different child. As if she no longer needed those keys. As if adoption alone had become the answer – their answer – to the chaotic life their decisions had once taken a part in creating.

I do not understand this. I do not understand how the fight I was trusted with also includes fighting for support from the institutions who time and time again work against her, add to her trauma. Institutions that now see her as the problem. Institutions who choose to forget what made this child, and their role in that.

When ‘the process of adoption’ allows society to relinquish the keys and close the doors to our children’s progress, then it’s time to question the process of adoption.

Because it takes more than one set of Keys To The City to make a difference.

Hot smoked mackerel

Hot smoked mackerel.

Two mackerel, hot smoked in my bucket smoker. A boiled egg, laid by my girls just this morning. Three salads with a slice of tough sourdough smothered in homemade butter. Tonight, this meal is a reminder of who I am.

The swallows my ears tell me are swirling high above. The newts i watched with a contented smile, busy in my squatted shadow over a newly cleared pond. The single stem of cuckoo smock carefully left to stand  in the lawn freshly moved. Today, these are the moments that I let define me.

The kindness a neighbour sought from me. The help a friend asked for on a deep worry. The trust that was placed upon my loyalty. This morning, this was the reassurance of who mumdrah is.

Self care for me is no treat; no simple indulgence or tidbit. Self care is a reset; a reminder of who I am, away from the chaos of adoption. Some reminders I seek out and create for myself; some come unbidden through the eyes and mouths of others.

This is who mumdrah is.

Away from the shaking, sweaty palmed sense of failure during the crisis. Away from the self doubt and the questioning and the fear. Away from the worries, the dilemmas, the quandaries. Away from the insults and raised voices and the threats that come when she cannot cope. Away from the challenge which – however high you climb to meet it – has little or no feedback of success, or progress.

Reminders are needed. Of who I am. Of what I am worth.

And the hearty taste of those smoky mackerel on my tongue – the first of the season – are reminder enough.

Hemmed in

I feel hemmed in.

Hemmed in by the complexity of every contorted situation that presents itself. In some strange pincer move, every option for solution to each of the problems she experiences is cut off.

Food/Hunger: she angers at my every suggestion of meals. She angers when I ask her to suggest what she wants to eat. She angers that there is no food in the house that she likes, and yet angers if I ask for recommendations for the shopping lists. She angers and refuses to say when she will be back so dinner can be ready, and then angers again when dinner is not ready the moment she decides she wants it. She angers if I pre cook food that she or I can reheat, and she angers if there is no food prepared for her to eat.

Money/spending: she spends the money I give her for bus fare, and then calls me angry because she cannot get home. She decides to stay for a second session at the skate park, then calls me angered because she has spent the money I gave her to pay for it and demands more. She angers when I can’t give her the money I promised to buy new jeans because she has already stolen it and has it hidden in her pocket.

Help/support: she angers because she can’t do something, calls me to help, and then angers because I try and help as asked. She angers because she has missed the bus, calls me and demands angrily that I drive 25 miles to come get her, and then angers at me when I arrive. She angers because she can’t find her new crop top in her tip of a room, and then angers at me when I tidy up to try and find it for her. She angers if i speak, and angers if i stay quiet. She angers if i help, and yet angers if i hold back. She angers if i try to spend time with her, and angers when i give her the space she asks for.

In every situation a cul de sac is created with no exit, no solution, and no end. No end save for anger directed outwards in a stream of amygdala fueled consciousness towards me. A torrent of blame. To be repeated again and again.

Sometimes the therapeutic parenting is just something to hide behind. Something to do and occupy myself with while the hurt on the receiving end smarts and stings. I understand. I understand it all; her pain, the trauma, the workings of her brain. But it still hurts. And confuses. And fills me with sorrow.

Hemmed in; I have nowhere to go.

Mother love

Today I can’t help but think of my little girl’s mum; her wonderful, beautiful, fragile, misunderstood mum. I hope I do you proud; for the both of us, but mostly for our little girl. We miss you.

Today I can’t help but think of all those adoptive mother’s and foster carers who struggle with the traumas their children carry and relive day after day. Those who find and give love even while under fire.

Today I can’t help but think of my own mother, who listens when I’m failing, when I’m angry and tearful. When I am afraid. Who fills me up with love when i need it the most.

Today I can’t help but think of those mothers I meet at the foodbank who struggle to feed, clothe and warm their children. Who fight fiercely to put the food on the table, to get their kids to school. To sing them happily to sleep at the end of the day with full bellies, while their own growls with hunger.

Today I can’t help but think of those mother’s forced to flee war and persecution, only to find themselves shielding their little ones from razor wire, tear gas, the baton and yet more hatred.

Mother’s day marks our recognition of the nurturing compassion, kindness, open hearts and open arms of that special kind of Mother Love.

Yet so many of the Mothers I meet are left alone in their times of need.

Three legged stool

I realize mumdrah is a three legged stool; with each leg distinct in it’s character.

The first is ‘therapeutic mumdrah’.

She understands. She needs little, and she’s happy to give. She moves naturally and empathically – from the heart and mind – with ease. She soothes even in the maelstrom of a scathing attack. She is patient, and calm. She sees things through the eyes of a yogi. She plays the long game. She makes hot chocolate while objects fly, covers post it notes with heart shapes. She sees the trauma for what it is. She is the amygdala tamer to a little girl who hurts.

The second is ‘stepford mumdrah’.

She labours. She uses huge amounts of energy. She goes through the motions; does what is expected and hopes it is enough. She wears thick protective armour. Her lips are tight in attempt not to let anything slip out. She is not natural, or flowing, or easy. She is tightly in control, forced and robotic. She is born out of sympathy, but also of exhaustion and self-protectiveness. She clings to knowing what is right, but she doesn’t get it right. She is sometimes a little withdrawn. She survives. She is the amygdala tamer to herself.

The third has no name.

She hurts. She is the traumatized wounded sister to cht. She is deeply hidden. She rises to the surface rarely and explosively. She craves the signs that everything is – or will be – okay. She buckles under the pressure of getting everything right while being pilloried for getting it all wrong. She comes when she can no longer ignore the hurt, or the blame, or the selflessness. She is needy, and can no longer put other people before her self. She cries out for acknowledgement, for help, for understanding. She is the amygdala tamer to no one. She is her own amygdala gone bad.

The stool doesn’t stand right without accepting all three parts of mumdrah. They each rely on and inform each other in some way, and they each help me understand my role as an adoptive parent that little bit more.

Each and every aspect needs acknowledgement, and love, and nurturing. Perhaps some forgiveness too.

Bin bags

I opened the door to chaos.

Two foster carers, two social workers and two foster children. They piled in, bringing nappy bags, baby carriers, lunch coldkeeper bags, handbags, backpacks and briefcases. Bags everywhere. Bags fit for purpose. Bags for everyone.

They all talked over each other, babbling and organizing and whirling about. The baby needed changing, the boy had been sick in the car on the long journey. The social workers hadn’t met the foster carers.

I stood to one side, trying to ignore the requests for drinks, the hellos, the opening gambits for conversation. Because just inside the door was someone else. A frightened, rigid, silent little girl, all alone. She was the centre of it all – the reason we were all there – yet forgotten by the immediate demands and priorities of everyone but her.

Next to her was dumped a pile of three oddly shaped, split and squashed black bin bags.

Her bags.

I pushed through all the people, and offered her my hand. I kept my back to everyone; wishing i could make my shoulders wide enough to block out everything else that was happening in the room. I knelt down. We looked straight into each other; her eyes wide and seeking, mine as soft and as safe as I could make them. I led her to the stairs, and sat on the second step. I gently pushed an unruly curl behind her ear, and she made the move to sit beside me.

“It’s very noisy” I mouthed, smiling gently. She nodded.

“Is that your stuff?” I asked, tilting my head towards the crumpled pile. She shrugged.

“Shall we take your things upstairs to your room?”.

“They’ve lost my teddy” she whispered. And burst into tears.

 

Madlug believe that no child in care should carry their life in a bin bag. For every bag bought, they donate a travel bag to a child in care.

 

The BuddyBag Foundation supply bags to children who find themselves in emergency care after a traumatic incident

 

 

Fake news

Fake news: Her story and my story are never alike

The differences in our stories are not just those of opinion; they are rooted in the chemical hardwiring of our brains.

My memory: that time when she stepped off the curb as a six year old right in front of a bus, and I snatched her back safe from harm.

Her memory: that time when I grabbed her and hurt her shoulder.

My memory: the time she kept running into the wall head-butting it while trying to throw herself down the stairs, me stood trembling in the way to block and protect her, when she pushed me and I fell all the way down.

Her memory: the day I slammed her against the wall and made a big bump on her head.

My memory: The time she turned her room upside down in a rage, lunged at me with scissors, tripped over the upturned broken chair on the floor and scraped her head on the edge of the table.

Her memory: the time I threw her against the table and cut her head open.

My memory: the time her sister’s FCs failed to make arrangements for our visit in the summer despite attempt after attempt to make it happen.

Her memory: the day I stopped her from seeing her sister.

My memory: the time she chose to miss the last train (again), and was angry at me for coming out to collect her; grabbing at the wheel so we swerved off the road on the long way home.

Her memory: the time I tried to kill her.

Her story and my story are never alike, and yet each of our stories is true.

Her experiences are framed always by her constant perception of being in danger. Her sense of truth is shaped by a worldview that sees everything and everyone as perilous; to be fought against tooth and nail.

No part of her rational brain can pierce the memories forged in those moments. No period of quiet, calm reflection can balance these truths for her in any way that helps her see or embrace the safety she now resides in. She lives forever in the maelstrom of hazard. Her ‘stories’ aren’t designed to mislead, to misinform, or to manipulate an outcome. They are pure survival born out of fear. She is obliviously locked in to the perilous world her amygdala presents to her, and every day this fake news filter sabotages everything for her; reinforcing the story of a dangerous world just that little bit more.

The truth of her fake news is what scares me the most.