Tag Archives: adoption

The Best Laid Plans…

I know it couldnt be further from husband’s mind, but after this most recent unexpected pregnancy and miscarriage I had hoped than once we were in our own home finally we would be able to start the adoption process again.

But two weeks before we were due to move house, my mother had an emotional crisis and was showing such severe signs of confusion and possible dementia that it was decided she would have to move in with us.

So there goes our ‘spare’ bedroom. Mum has actually been much better in the six weeks she’s been with us, so the plan is to make this a permanent arrangement.

Maybe it was just never meant to be. Every time our situation was starting to look promising, another hurdle would be thrown up in our way.

And now of course, I’m 45 so even if I could get on top of my health issues (I’m currently being investigated for Cushing’s and Diabetes Insipidus, all relating back to a head injury I had back in 1983) it would be too late for babies.

I keep thinking that I should just give up making plans and just let life wash over me and take it as it comes. Just shrug my shoulders and accept that whatever will be will be.

Years ago (actually straight after I lost my twins), a friend suggested I get myself a puppy. At the time I thought it was a really insensitive thing to say. But now, after 13 years of empty arms, secondary infertility and multiple recurrent miscarriages, I would settle for a teddy bear.

Tearful Reunion

In my dream, I happened to be sitting at a bar in a pub in London (when I worked in London 20 years ago, this was something we did rarely as it was so pricey) and I caught sight of an actor I had seen on the television the previous night.

He had played the ‘baddie’ in something or other. He was tall and slim, with a very stereotypical British-looking thin face. I told him I thought him very dashing in the programme, and he invited me to join the cast on their celebratory drink.

A little while later, I spotted an old friend and waved her over, but then I noticed her amazing resemblance to the man and so I introduced them. There was an immediate recognition.

As is the way in dreams, the pub had the facilities to carry out immediate genetic testing, and the two were able to ascertain not only that they were related but that they were in fact brother and sister.

That same evening, the woman rang her mother and said she would be coming home with a surprise, and took the man home to meet her.

The man was introduced to his mother, who gradually realised that this was her long-lost son that she had been forced to give up so many years before. The circumstances were not discussed at this meeting. It was a joyful, tearful reunion.

The next day, the man contacted me to thank me for helping to reunite him with his family, but he was clearly distressed.

He told me he had not known he was adopted, and during the night he had dreamed of memories of a life with that family, and with that sister, which suggested that he had not been given up at birth but later. Why?

He parked his car, and we arranged to meet there again later, but I did not get my answers as I woke up.

I wonder what prompted this particular dream? Adoption isn’t particularly on my mind at the moment. (Ditto London, genetic testing, or British baddies on television!)

Voluntary adoption (a mother giving up her baby or child) is very rare in the UK now, although this dream adoption might have taken place 40 years ago when the social pressures were quite different.

There are many aspects of adoption that seem cruel. The UK is alone in Europe in allowing involuntary adoption (where children are removed permanently from their parents on the grounds of abuse or neglect), most countries preferring to permanently foster such children without irrevocably severing ties.

Voluntary adoption is something else quite different that I feel unqualified to discuss as I have very little knowledge of it. I am sure there are many reasons why a mother would give up her child, but in most circumstances I think I would tend to be more in favour of supporting the birth mother to keep her child. Adoption in such cases seems to be a poor choice of kindness.

(Although if the only alternative is abortion of course I would always be in favour of adoption. The recent idea that abortion is ‘kinder’ than adoption is beyond bizarre. It is, in any case, a false and illogical dichotomy. If birth mothers were supported, fewer would face such a horrible choice.)

Overall, of course, I still support adoption, but the trauma of a child being divorced from its origins seems so severe that I suspect we ought to look at alternatives.

Out in the cold, dark night

So here we are, almost nine weeks after moving out of our rented house, from which we were being evicted, into the brand spanking new housing association property. Minus the mold and the awful landlord and letting agents, but also minus carpets and curtains, the gardens, the fabulous view and minus the dining room, the built-in wardrobes. (We’re also still waiting for our deposit to bé returned) I could go on, but I’m trying not to dwell on the negatives.

One negative I am really struggling with though is the lack of landline phone and internet. Thank God for my mobile phone, but it is costing me almost as much to run this mobile as our only phone and internet source as it was to run broadband and wifi for the whole house before.

Nine weeks is long enough, don’t you think? If I had a choice not to use BT I would certainly vote with my feet, but of course they rely on your inability to go to anybody else for a landline.

I have been through a few traumatic events in the last few years, so in one way I’m used to it, but in another, I feel battle-worn and weary, traumatised too many times.

I’m basically middle-aged now. I thought that by now we would have a stable, comfortable home with a stable, comfortable network of friends and family around us. Nothing could bé further from the truth.

Needless to say, my health has taken a turn for the worse in the last few weeks, to the extent that – apart from a few necessary errands – I am mostly needing to lay down in bed in my room. Even sitting up is too painful, my neck feels unable to hold my head up for long.

I had a conversation on Saturday morning with a pentecostal friend, and I mentioned my ill health, so she said a prayer online which she asked me to agree to, which I did, but then she said “Now we have done ‘spiritual warfare’ and you are healed. Don’t invite back the spirit of infirmity.”

I have spent some time in pentecostal churches, so it shouldn’t have surprised me but I was taken aback. If only life were that simple!

The problem with having such a simplistic worldview is that it becomes inevitably judgemental – if you don’t get well, if your circumstances don’t improve, you must have failed in some way, failed to adequately wage spiritual warfare, had a lack of faith, spoken negative words to “invite” negativity back into your life! (Remember the ‘Secret’?)

Unfortunately, unless you want a potentially self-defeating argument, you learn to have to watch what you say around people with this kind of thinking. I feel another sense of loss that I can’t trust this friend with my true thoughts and feelings.

Anyway, our big news is that, in view of our circumstances, in view of my health, our finances, my husband’s age (over 50 now), we don’t intend to pursue adoption.

That decision comes with another terrific sense of loss and grief and guilt, but we left it too late I think. I wish we had looked into it ten years ago, but on the other hand it would not have been good to put adopted children through what we have been through in the last few years. It looks like it just wasn’t meant to bé. (Either that, or I didn’t wage enough spiritual warfare. Joke.) 😦

I dreamt last night that there were a bunch of children that weren’t mine out in the shed, out in the wet cold night, and one of them broke into the house and threatened me with a gun. Somehow I knew that they were out there, and I was more shocked that I hadn’t let them in than that this child was standing in front of me with a gun. Dreams are stupid, but I expect that’s the guilt talking. I would let you in, but I don’t think I would bé very much good for you.

Memories of Lidingö

This is probably a bit random and disjointed. It’s largely taken from a series of tweets that I posted, so apologies for anybody who has already seen most of it. Apologies also that there are no photos – I have some, I just can’t figure out how to get them into WordPress.

Earlier in the week, I was unable to sleep. I was worried about the whole business of eviction in general and specifically about meeting with the housing association the next day. As I was tossing and turning, a memory came to me which reminded me that this is actually our third experience of eviction.

Last time, it was quite a different experience – the landlord decided that he wanted to move in to the house we were renting, but because we had only been there a few months, we hadn’t unpacked everything.

I had unpacked too much, but most of it was still in boxes and some of it was still in storage. So although it was unpleasant, I don’t remember it completely flooring me. Somehow, we just got on with it. It didn’t even occur to us to apply for emergency housing because at the time we still had our own house that we were renting out back home.

The first time we were evicted, we were in Sweden. We were renting a tvåa apartment – that is, a two room apartment (one bedroom, one living room) in Hjorthagen in Stockholm.

We were only given one month’s notice to get out, due to the whole apartment block being refurbished.

I had finished my course (Scandinavian Studies) at Stockholm University as part of my degree from UCL in London – the reason we were there in the first place – and since we had felt quite homesick, and it was so hard to survive there on one income, we decided to move back to the UK.

I don’t know what we were thinking. Can you imagine what it is to organise an international move inside of a month?!

To complicate things, Husband’s employer refused to let him go.

I don’t know what the laws surrounding housing or employment are in Sweden. Now, it seems to me that both these demands were unreasonable. Surely one month isn’t sufficient notice of eviction, and it surely isn’t acceptable for an employer to refuse to accept a month’s notice to leave a job! But that was what happened, and not knowing any better, we just did what we were told.

Somehow we packed our stuff, cleared our apartment, bought a big trailer to fit all our furniture and shipped it  all back (actually took it ourselves), with our car, to my mother-in-law’s house and then we flew back to Stockholm.

We had found and arranged a temporary sub-let of a tvåa apartment on Lidingö – the beautiful, big island outside of Stockholm. We were there for around six weeks, and it ought to have been a pretty fabulous summer holiday, except for the fact that I was too stressed to enjoy it.

lidingömap

I remember buying bread (I’m not sure why that’s such a vivid memory) and I remember that the little local library was ‘sommarstängd’ (closed for the summer) the whole time we were there. I had forgotten until I started thinking about it, but the main library in Lidingö Centrum stayed open, and I remember getting the bus there with my son several times.

I have a vivid memory of being on the bus to Stockholm one time when my son needed the potty, and I just had to get it out for him there and then! His dagis (short for ‘daghem’, day home, meaning nursery or kindergarten) hadn’t been willing to potty train him at all, so I had decided it was time and that I would get him trained before the end of the summer. I don’t recall whether or not I was successful. I suppose I must have been.

We had to walk past the library every day to get to the little supermarket and the beach. I remember there were dozens of flying ants all around the pathway through the woods to the library, and that they fascinated my little boy but gave me nightmares, playing to my fears of being powerless I suppose.

I remember spending a lot of time at the tvättstuga – the ‘washing cottage’ which is a communal laundry centre that apartment buildings have. This apartment complex was much more modern than the one that we had lived in all year in Hjorthagen. There, you only needed a key to get into the building (and it seemed to be left open during the day) but on Lidingö you needed two sets of keys just to get into the tvättstuga.

I also remember with envy the fantastic torkskåp clothes driers. You can’t get them in the UK, which is such a shame because, in my opinion, they are much more efficient than tumble driers and since you hang the clothes up to dry inside the cupboard, they come out in a much better condition. Perhaps one day I will be in a position to import one! 🙂

The landlady was a divorced American vegetarian, Sunny I think her name was, with a son named Attila, which is obviously memorable. She was taking her son to the States for the summer, and our enforced holiday perfectly coincided with hers. I have a vague feeling that we may have left meat in her freezer, and I worried for ages that I might have left the toys out, or left the back door unlocked. That’s the sort of thing stress does to you. If you’re reading this, Atilla’s mom, I apologise. Thank-you for letting us use your lovely apartment.

I also remember a fellow Englishman coming to visit and cooking spaghetti bolognese for us! Mike? He was a friend of a friend (Marie Åberg – whatever happened to you?!) that I had met at the Swedish Church in London. Neither of us were religious at the time, but it is a great place to connect with Swedish people when you’re learning the language.

I remember that, on the last day before we went home, Husband was late coming home from work. I remember being super stressed and irritable and worried about making our connections the next day.

While we were waiting for him, we went to the play park behind the apartment building. I remember having a conversation with another foreign mum. I can’t remember whether she was British or American, but she said that she had lived in Holland before moving to Sweden. I asked her how she had found Holland and how it differed from Sweden.

She answered that she found that Swedes were not at all service-orientated. She explained that there was no ‘the customer is always right’ philosophy. Whereas in Holland, or the US or even in the UK to a lesser extent, people will go out of the way to ensure that the customer was happy and would return for more business, but in Sweden, people dealing with the public all seemed a bit grumpy and unhelpful. I confess I had also found that somewhat to be the case myself. I had also found that you get a completely different attitude depending on whether you spoke English or Swedish, but that’s for another post I guess.

I remember that, while we were on Lidingö, Husband caught the ferry to work rather than the bus through Lidingö Centrum and into Stockholm. That was pretty cool actually. I miss the ferry. Cornwall definitely doesn’t have enough ferry boats. Ferry boats are my favourite. After hovercraft. (That shows my age a bit there!)

The last week we were there, my son lost a little ‘kramkanin’, a soft cuddly rabbit. We lost it somewhere in Stockholm, so we had to go back and retrace or steps but we never found it. He had had it since we first went to Sweden when he was 20 months. In fact, I think it was something he had had since he was a little baby and that it was a gift from Grandma. When we left Sweden, he was 3 and a half. So I had gone out to Sweden with a baby, an d was coming home with a big (little) boy.

That little kram-kanin represented him and his lost ‘babyhood’ somehow. I think I was more distressed and emotional than he was. I may have made up the word ‘kramkanin’ by the way. I remember trying to explain to the ferry staff that we had lost this little teddy rabbit, and they looked at me like I was nuts. So I suspect that ‘kramkanin’ probably isn’t a real Swedish word! 🙂

All of that happened 17 years ago now. But it is all very fresh in my mind now. I hadn’t even thought about Lidingö for ages up til now.

It is funny thinking of living so close to the seaside then, since we live by the sea now (although not close enough to walk there). The weather that summer was fabulous if I can trust my memory and I think we went there almost every day.

It was quite a nice beach although I don’t really remember whether it was sandy or stony. Stony, probably. I remember that the great big Silja car ferries came past between Stockholm and Lidingö on their way to Finland, and that as they did they caused a huge rippling wave to crash onto the beach, and that it made all the children scream with delight.

I remember finding an injured bird on the way home from the beach one day, and that all the people I asked to help with it refused, saying that “Things just die. It’s the natural way of things.” I didn’t dare take it back to the apartment as there were lots of cats around, so I just left it. But I remember being a little shocked and stung to find that people could be so hard. Or maybe I’m just a softie?

Anyway, the stress of being evicted and unsettled after Sweden began ten years of insomnia for me. I eventually managed to get on top of the problem but I know I am prone to sleeplessness. I really don’t want to start it up again so I try to be quite strict about bedtimes, and if I can’t sleep I try to avoid getting up and going downstairs.

But now we are so unsettled again I think I may need to learn some kind of meditation techniques or something to protect myself.

We saw the Housing Association yesterday and it all seemed positive in the morning. They pretty much said that the house was ours.

But in the afternoon, there was a flurry of calls from the Housing Association and the Council querying the fact that we used to have a house, and we used to have money a few years ago and now we don’t.

It seems as though they think that we are somehow scamming them or have done this to ourselves on purpose. Because, you know, losing your house and job to rent somebody else’s place is *such* an attractive and tempting prospect. (Really?)

And then to top it all, I finally got a call back from the Adoption Agency this morning, three weeks after telling them that we were having to move house. They have decided to take us off their books and close our file, and they told us that, if we want to go ahead and adopt, we will need to contact them again in a year’s time.

Realistically, having waited all this time after all these losses, I think I am just exhausted physically and emotionally. I also think I will just be too old (45) in a year’s time. Unless my health improves drastically (as opposed to worsening due to stress and disappointment), I don’t think I will have the ability to take on another child, and especially not a deeply traumatised one as I know is inevitable with adoption from foster care. So that is probably the end of our adoption journey, unless God intervenes with blessing and favour, of which – despite everything we have been through – I always remain hopeful.

 

 

 

Twisty-turny Lifey-wifey

2015 is not shaping up to be all I hoped it would be so far.

2015

Firstly, I was not able to go ahead with the next OU module due to a funding error. The same funding error that Student Finance England promised me was sorted out in September. So now I have lost a whole year’s worth of study. I’m beginning to feel that perhaps I’m not destined to study with the OU.

Then the Ministry course that was being run in North Cornwall, for 28 churches, was cancelled because only 3 people (myself and my eldest son included) had signed up for it. Out of 28 churches. Yes, you read that right. Spirit of Apathy, anyone?

And then, this week, just in time for Lent, we have been served with an eviction notice. Our Landlord – the one who has delayed and prevaricated and refused to pay for repairs for the entire time we have lived here – has decided to sell the house, and that it will sell more quickly empty. Charming. (Now that he’s evicted us, he’s decided to actually replace the boiler.)

I wonder whether there are any nice, kind, honourable landlords. And then I remember being a landlord. We thought we were nice, kind and honourable. But we were also appallingly naive.

Because we knew the tenants, and they were down on their luck, we didn’t take a deposit. We set our rent at a level just enough to pay our mortgage so that we could rent elsewhere, not a penny of profit. We left the house in an outstanding condition – better than we had ever had it while we lived there.

But our tenants, when he lost his job, rather than contacting us to let us know they were having trouble, just stopped paying rent. From October to May, we had no rental income. Our actual income was so low that we didn’t have money for food. we literally didn’t know where the next meal was coming from. We were forced to evict our tenants. It felt awful.

Our tenants never contacted us, they just skipped town owing us thousands and thousands of pounds.

When we went back to our house, we were astounded at what they had done to it. They had utterly ruined our family home, short of setting it on fire, they had done everything they possibly could to make it unliveable, and it was covered in thick, black ooze from chain-smoking. Their poor kids. It didn’t get like that overnight – they must have lived like that for months.

As we were penniless by that stage, we had no choice but to sell it, at a loss, barely covering our debts and the deposit for this house.

This time round, we have no savings, no way of raising a deposit for a new house, and strangely we find that landlords and letting agents don’t like people who rely on housing benefit to boost the pay their pitifully low income to pay the rent.

We are in the unenviable position (as so many thousands in this country are) of being totally at the mercy of merciless landlords, in a merciless society.

I wonder what happened to our tenants, where they went, who would possibly have taken them on.

I was angry with our tenants for a long, long time. How could they have been so cruel to us when we were so good to them?

And then I remember that he was an adult adoptee, abandoned in the ’50s with no knowledge of his parentage, and estranged from his adoptive family. I remember that he was depressed already when they moved in. And I wish I had tried harder to help them. (Even though I still wish they hadn’t taken it out on us.)

I’ve been surrounded by rich Christians all my life. In fact, I was one of them. I grew up in a reasonably wealthy family. We owned our own home in a nice neighbourhood, we wanted for nothing, really. But my family’s fortunes changed a long time ago, and it has been downhill ever since.

But not one time in all our crises have we ever been offered financial help, practical assistance, or even emotional reassurance from the Church. If there’s one thing that makes me more angry than anything else it is that. The Church at least should be a haven of mercy.

timey

The title of this post refers, of course, to Doctor Who, and wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey things. Life is so twisty-turny and unpredictable. It seems that nothing is guaranteed, nothing in this life can be relied upon.

If I could go back in time, to a better part of my life – when things were less complicated – when would I go to? If you’ve seen the film ‘About Time’, you’ll know that you can’t go back beyond the birth of your children, so I think I would choose to go back to the day my youngest was born, before everything went wrong.

And I’d do things differently.

Parenting Choices

Over Christmas, I had what almost amounted to an argument with a very old friend, on facebook (of course). I could rant and rave how facebook is the spawn of the devil and brings out the worst in everybody – which it does, but that isn’t the point I’m wanting to make this time.

Our almost argument was essentially over parenting styles.

Another, even older friend had re-posted a photo of a monkey with words along the lines of “I can’t wait until the monkeys go back to school (and I pity their teachers)”. Personally, I found the whole sentiment sad (what an indictment on society that mothers can’t spend two weeks’ holiday with their children without wishing them away) and bordering on offensive. (Perhaps I’m easily offended – maybe that’s the topic for another post…)

I re-posted it with words to the effect that “I find this really quite sad and offensive, and if you feel like this, I feel sorry for you.”

I had several mothers chime in with comments agreeing with me, and a couple from abroad who mentioned that the UK seems to be a very anti-child culture and the openness with which mothers speak so negatively about their children, even in front of their children, is really quite shocking.

My friend, however, posted a snarky comment to say that she did feel that way, and that it was quite normal for ‘normal’ parents to feel that way, and if I thought she was a bad parent, it was my problem.

Hmm.

I had never to my knowledge suggested that she was a bad parent or had made bad choices, so I suspect that there is a little bit of a conscience-prick (or cognitive dissonance?) happening to make her feel defensive, but here is the thing. We made very different and opposite choices.

We both have children with special needs. We both have a child with ADHD and very difficult behaviour. My friend sent her child to school and encountered enormous difficulties including suspensions and permanent exclusions, psychiatrists, CAMHS and medications, and getting the help she needed involved an enormous amount of fighting against the system to force the system to address the problem so that he could cope with the system. Actually I admire her tenacity and determination. It is not so much my friend’s parenting or parenting choices that I dislike so much as the system itself.

The choices I made involved avoiding the system altogether.

Special needs were not the initial reason that made us choose to home educate (my eldest son’s special needs were of a quite different nature) but by the time our third child came to ‘school age’ it was obvious that there was no way he could be squeezed into the box that the system required.

When his behaviour started to become difficult to manage, we did try to deal with GPs and CAMHS, but without success. But since he was home educated, I concluded, as I had done with my eldest (who has suspected Asperger’s but for whom we also failed to obtain a diagnosis or a Statement), that we would just continue to find solutions at home. For the most part, I believe that was the right decision for the children and learning at home has been a much calmer and better choice.

There is a ‘but’ though.

For me though, for my health and sanity, home education has possibly not been the best choice. It certainly hasn’t been the easiest choice. I have no doubt whatsoever that the stress level has contributed to my overall ill health and in as far as adrenal exhaustion may play a part in ME, I think that stress has broken me. Really. I am certainly not the person I was  – either physically or mentally / emotionally – as I was when I started out on this journey just over 15 years ago.

So my choice has come at a rather high price.

I have wondered seriously whether I am well enough to go forward with our plan to adopt. Right now, I do not feel that I am, and that feeling of failure just adds to my overall state of mind. My Plan A, to have more children, failed spectacularly, but now I wonder if my Plan B will fail. I don’t have a Plan C. Just be sad indefinitely?

However, would I do it again, even knowing what I know about how hard it is? Yes, I would. For my children’s sake, I would. I am glad I did. Would I home educate an adopted child? I have to say, despite everything that I know now, that I absolutely would.

From my observation, school for the most well-adjusted children is tough and often comes at the price of impacting the child’s personality and character negatively. For adopted children, who have already been through trauma, loss and worse, it has the potential to be downright abusive and even in the best cases seems to add another layer of trauma which inevitably adds to their overall difficulties.

Please don’t get me wrong. This is not intended to be a judgement on parents – especially adoptive parents – who choose school. I’m only looking from the outside, and I know that I don’t fully understand the special stresses that come with adopting a traumatised child. Home education is not the norm, and for most people, it can seem like an extreme solution. It involves one partner giving up their job, or a very difficult financial struggle. There is no ‘respite’ from home education, and I wouldn’t even suggest anybody try it unless they have a very supportive husband or extended support network. You will need a break, you will need support, and you will need a very strong sense of humour to be able to laugh when life and the state of the house is just so awful it’s ridiculous.

But for me, from a list of imperfect possible choices, home education seems to be the least bad, least damaging option, especially for children with special needs.

Rounding Up the Year – 2014 – It’s been a weird one.

2014 has not been the greatest year, but it certainly hasn’t been the worst year by a very long mile.

We had only just moved into this house (in November 2013) with mixed feelings – not the home I had hoped for, we’re still renting with no end in sight, but relieved to be out of the hell that was the previous rental. But on the home front I have spent most of the year battling the agents over a long list of problems, not least of which the intermittent hot water, which thankfully was finally fixed in time for Christmas.

At the beginning of the year, I set out meaning to read one book a week for #Read52 but I doubt I have even read one a month. I can’t remember another year when I have read so little in fact. I started off the year with lots of energy and did several courses – an OU course, DD101, an introduction to Social Science, as well as several MOOCS, and I also volunteered with Scouts and Guides AND Boys / Girls Brigade. By the beginning of the summer holidays I had totally overdone it and had a relapse which kept me almost housebound over the entire summer and well into September. I have been getting better since then but I have had to pace myself and I haven’t resumed any of my volunteering again so far.

In the Spring – also when I was feeling healthy and strong and on top of the world – I put myself forward for Ordination. I had two interviews and was informed that, although it was considered that I had a ‘call’, I wasn’t quite Anglican enough yet and needed to do several things before coming back to them. Although I know it was the right decision, I did experience that as a kind of rejection that has made me feel quite miserable and frustrated since. This Spring I will need to decide whether or not I want to pursue it. I have a feeling that it may be an uphill struggle, and it’s a funny kind of mirror of the struggle one has to go through in order to convert to Judaism – you can expect to be sent away and persist several times before your wish to convert is taken seriously.

And then the other big issue of 2014 was the beginning of a possible adoption journey which so far has consisted of a lot of reading (mainly of blogs – see the blog roll to the right for recommendations) and attending information meetings with the Council and an agency, but not much else so far. I have been lucky enough to discover the amazing adoption community on twitter which, since mostly anonymous, is able to be very open and honest about the reality of adoption and they have been kind enough to answer my questions.

Oh and finally, I did successfully complete my second ‘novel’ for NaNoWriMo in November. I haven’t started editing yet…

Overall, 2014 has been something of a weird and unusual year – not good, not bad, but a lot of new stuff and big stuff being contemplated which could possibly lead to big changes.

There seems to be a lot of pressure to make resolutions and have a ‘new start’ for the new year. But ‘New Year’ is an invented non-entity. The winter solstice has already passed and there isn’t even a new or a full moon – there is no astronomical reason to say that the year turns on this day or night and yet somehow we imbue this date with significance that give it a kind of magic. Whatever. Every day can be a new start. I would love to resist it, but I find myself – as I often seem to do – in the position of being very unhappy with where my life is and feel the need to make some decisions about the direction it is taking. In that sense I would like to avail myself of the opportunity to make a new start. but on the other hand, I feel as though there is very little within my control that I can change.

I have realised that I perceive myself as a victim in many areas while often seeing everything as being ‘all my fault’ – all of which results inevitably in misery. in other words, my thinking has become rather negative and unhelpful.

I have made some painful realisations recently, the details of which I won’t go into in any depth but they revolve around needing to rely on myself for what I need. This is nothing new really – when I did the 12 Steps back in 2010 in working through grief and did a ‘life evaluation’, it became clear that my life was very strongly characterised by disappointment. What has taken me a little longer to take on board is the fact that it hasn’t just been ‘bad luck’ or that I just need to wait for hope to be realised around the corner. No, it is that my expectations (of God, of marriage, of family, of friends, of church, of community, of neighbours) were wildly outside what they were prepared to give or be to me. (The book ‘Disappointment with God’ by Philip Yancey, that I read many years ago springs to mind. Worth reading, although it doesn’t resolve anything, and I seem to remember wanting to throw it across the room! But it very eloquently explores the theme and I do recommend it.)

So the crux of the matter, I think, is that I need to change my thinking. I don’t mean that I need to ‘think positively’ – I have had an earful this year about ‘the Secret’ / Law of Attraction from people who have a ridiculously easy life because they’re selfishly and thoughtlessly living at others’ expense but believe they have ‘attracted’ their good fortune by thinking positively while all the dreadful things that have happened to other people were also somehow ‘attracted’ by them. NO, NO, NO! Although that philosophy may be ‘attractive’ (pun intended) it really is the most offensive claptrap when you think about it in any depth. So as my Dad (of blessed memory) used to say, “Take the meat and leave the bones” – if it helps you to think positively, that’s great! Please just don’t let it be a weapon to bash yourself or others when disappointment, failure and disaster happen. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault. And if you’re successful while others aren’t, it’s not their fault. Really, people, as a philosophy LoA is severely lacking. It’s not that simple. Life is (and people are) complex, multi-faceted, inter-connected and unpredictable.

What I do mean is that I need to start thinking of myself as capable – capable of providing for my own needs without relying on anybody else to make me happy, capable of making my own decisions, capable of making the life that I want for myself without relying on anybody else to do it for me.

So, 2015…

My main goals are always along the same lines – get healthier, enjoy life more, be a better person, be more disciplined. This year though, I would also like to learn better how to look after myself (knowing now that nobody else is going to do it). That means, in the first instance, forcing myself to go to the hairdresser’s. Its such a small thing but I have developed something of a hairdresserphobia. I have probably only been perhaps three times in the last 15 years or more. I know that, if I manage to get there, I will feel better for it, but I really do have to force myself to do it.

I am intending to sign up for some new courses. My OU account is still apparently having funding problems, so I’m still not sure whether or not I’ll be able to do the course I had intended (I wasn’t able to sign up for anything in September but I was assured it had been sorted in time for the spring term, but it seems not…), but I have signed up for a Ministry Course with the deanery and a free Archaeology MOOC, and I may do some other things, depending on finances.

I have been extremely frustrated with my de-cluttering efforts over the holidays so far. I was hoping to be able to have the house spic and span with a view to finally registering for Stage 1 of the adoption process. (It has been around 8 months now since we first enquired with the Council about adoption). So now I’m not sure whether untidy house is an insurmountable obstacle. I have got rid of nearly 50 books along with old furniture and lots of other junk including 20 years of magazines! But the place seems ten times more untidy that when I started so it’s obviously going to be an ongoing project.

I do know that, for the purpose of adoption, I need to do some work on building up a bigger and better support network, since any that I had before we moved down here is now completely non-existent, and developing a new one down here has not come easily.

I may come back with some more specific goals linked to specific times and dates because I think the deadline aspect is a crucial layer of accountability that causes resolutions to fail when they’re not included.

So finally, wishing all (any?) readers a happy new year and, as ever, I hope to be more consistent 🙂

Open to Life

I had a dream last night that I was at a Christian large family conference somewhere (and as far as I know, there is no such thing). The room was filled with pregnant women, mothers with babes in arms and prams and pushchairs, and the speaker was talking about how the church needs to value children and families, and we should all be ‘open to life’.

Meanwhile, I was standing at the back, and although I was in the same room, it was as though there were a glass barrier between me and the rest of the room. I could hear the speaker, and the sound of the mothers and their babies, but I was screaming and crying and flailing my arms about trying to get somebody to pay me attention, but nobody could hear me.

screaming

Well I guess I may need therapy! lol!

Co-incidentally, I had a phone call out of the blue from the midwife. It was odd because I had left a message with the surgery months ago asking about a miscarriage / babyloss support group – there isn’t one here, and I miss the fellowship of the groups I used to go to.

The midwife confirmed that she’s not aware of anything near here, so she gave me some numbers and suggested that I might like to try and set something up. There is a need for support, and there is nothing on offer for at least an hour in any direction. (The same is true for most things of course, and is just one of the issues of living in a very rural & isolated place.)

My grief comes in waves – it is becoming a longer and longer time ago, but when the waves hit, it is just as raw as ever. I don’t think it ever goes away, and I am not looking for something to make it do that. But I do think that sharing burdens lightens them, makes them easier to carry, and I think that sometimes the best way to help yourself is to step up and help other people through the same thing.

Going back to the dream, churches are variable obviously and have different ideas and different emphases, but I have been involved with groups that place a lot of emphasis on children as a blessing, with the linked idea that a large family is a reward for being a good and faithful Christian (and the flip side of that being that loss or lack of children must therefore be the result of sin or failure as a Christian – I reject that notion, by the way, and I think that the large family advocates haven’t thought through this logical flip-side).

I think there can be also be an emphasis in any church on ‘happy families’ which can be excluding to people who struggle with singleness, infertility, miscarriage and babyloss, as well as to families who struggle with children with behavioural issues, which could include families of adopted children who have been through trauma. We definitely need to learn to be more sensitive and inclusive of people who hurt.

With Adoption Sunday coming up on 2nd November, hopefully churches will get a brief window into the fact that not all families are happy or healthy, and be introduced to the idea that as Christians, we should be open to life from a different source, and that the whole church community needs to get on board to pray for, support and bless the families of looked after and adopted children.

The congregation I am part of is around 90% retired, so I don’t expect there will be many offers to actually go in for adoption, but hopefully it will be my chance to tell my church community that, if we do go ahead and adopt, I will be relying on their support and prayers to carry us through.

Taking this from Home for Good‘s Adoption Sunday Pack and service outline, I’d like to leave you with the following questions:

  • Is God calling some of us here to step forward as foster carers or adopters?
  • Is God calling us, as his family – the church, to do more to support families that foster and adopt?
  • Is God calling us to use our voice, our influence, our prayers and our money to make sure every child that needs one has a home?

The adoption Sunday Pack, if you would like to make use of it in your church, can be downloaded as a pdf file here.

Autumn Update

autumn

When all my activities finished at the end of term before the summer holidays, I was relieved because I knew I had been overdoing things. But what I hadn’t realised was that when the adrenaline (or whatever) stopped, I would completely crash.

I spend a lot of time determinedly denying that what I have is M.E. I have eight pages of notes to bash my GP with – there are so many other things that I should be tested for, that should be ruled out before they give up and diagnose M.E., so many things they should try, so many things they could offer before they tell me that “there’s nothing we can do”. But this thing of feeling terrible when you stop, this ‘post-exertional malaise’ is typical of M.E.

The whole summer was essentially ruined because I was too ill to go out – despite living a few minutes’ drive from the beach, I wasn’t able to get there. I wasn’t even able to sit out in the garden. I haven’t been this ill for a long, long time.

So I haven’t resumed Scouts or Guides, and I have given up Boys/ Girls Brigade, with no plans to take it up again any time soon. I had another reason for dropping Scouts and Guides – after nearly two years of volunteering, neither of them had bothered to do a CRB check (or DBS as I think they’re called now). Neither had they sent me for any training, despite me repeatedly asking for it and indicating that I was serious and wanted to be a uniformed officer. In fact, at one stage I was asked to take over the section I was working in, and I indicated that I would be interested to do it, with help, but the help wasn’t available.

It seemed to be the case that it was completely up to the volunteer to ensure that they have the correct training and certification, and nobody seemed bothered. I wasn’t prepared to carry on in the position where, if something when wrong, I could be liable. That really isn’t acceptable.

There were a lot of things about Scouts in particular that opened my eyes to bad practice and some of the inappropriate people involved in it, and I have to say that I would be very, very reluctant to put any young children of mine in a youth group that I hadn’t investigated thoroughly, or that I could perhaps be personally involved with. The willingness of parents to leave very young children with people who are really not at all suited to be working with children amazed me. The stress of that is something that I am very happy to be leaving behind.

I have had approximately ten weeks rest now, and although I’m not really feeling better, I am hopeful that my GP is now willing to offer me something since he has discovered that my blood pressure has shot up suddenly (although he doesn’t know why – he likes to blame it on my weight, but I haven’t put any on in the last year, and this time last year it was basically perfect). I have no idea why, but hopefully some medication might start to make me feel more human again.

Unfortunately, I am cross that in all that time, being unable to go to church, I haven’t had a single visit or even a phone call. I have been getting more and more cross about that as the weeks have gone on. I assumed that they knew how ill I was because my eldest son is a bell-ringer and sees them every week. But he told me last week that my husband told them I was “fine”. Because apparently, from experience, this is how he deals with things. They have to be private, nobody else is to know, in case we worry people. Please.

Really, am I an awful person for wanting to tell people I am ill and need help? Should I be worrying, like he does, more about everybody else not worrying?!

Needless to say, I have become progressively more depressed and distressed over the last ten weeks. But part of that is to do with having too much time on my own to dwell on all the trauma and distress from the events of the last few years. While I was busy, I thought I was moving on to a new normal. But now I am right back in that dark place of grief.

I have continued to wonder about adoption. One of my online contacts had got to the point of being approved by panel, but then decided that she couldn’t go ahead. It’s huge. Taking on a traumatised child – even a baby – is so much more fraught with difficulty than having a baby yourself. If I manage to get my health to a point where I could consider going ahead, do I have the emotional strength to cope?

Additionally I have had the stress of having to make a formal complaint about my boy’s paediatric diabetes team. I won’t bore you with the details right now, but suffice to say that we have elected to transfer hospitals in an effort to secure a better service. But this has been stressful and upsetting to say the least. But I have done it.

I discovered today that my old friend’s wife, the one who made a fuss a few months ago that I hadn’t enthused about her pregnancy, has blocked me on both my accounts. I don’t care much about her to be quite brutally honest. She is a shallow, selfish character who would never even want to bother trying to see somebody else’s pain or point of view. I felt like sending him an angry, ranting message or unfriending / blocking him in retaliation. Instead, I just sent him a message telling him that I am sad.

When you have lost babies, or have a sick child, or you have to deal with ill health, you are going to have some level of underlying sadness. I would love to just get happy. I want to live, I want a full life. I just wish I knew how.

My next post will be happy, I promise.

On Hold

The same day that I applied to the Diocese to become a priest, I also enquired about the possibility of exploring adoption. The two things are essentially unrelated, except that the thing that prompted me to look into adoption again at this time was a little advert in the Diocesan newspaper that the adoption service had placed, saying that they were particularly in need of adopters at this time.

On the priestly side of things, I have had a couple of interviews with the assistant DDO (that’s the Diocesan Director of Ordinands to non-Anglicans), and submitted my Journey of Faith document to the DDO’s office.

On the adoption side, we had been to our initial meeting, and agreed that we are keen to go ahead.

But now both endeavours are on hold.

After consideration, the DDO has said that he agrees that I have a ‘call’, but that the call needs to be tested, and I should come back to them in a year. And within that year, there are a number of things that I should do, and a number of things that I could do if I wish.

The requirements are:

– To keep a prayer journal
– To develop my spirituality (along Anglican lines)
– To learn more about Anglicanism, more about women in leadership
– To find a spiritual mentor / spiritual advisor

So although it wasn’t said so in so many words, it is clear that I am not quite Anglican enough, which was to be expected. It was intimated that I need to prove my commitment to the Anglican church. (I think that with my twisty-turny history, they suspect I might be a flight risk!) 🙂

But within that year, I would be free to for example, pursue my interest in starting a children’s work at my local church, and to pursue the beginning of a ‘Fresh Expression’ locally, although they would be loathe to allowing me to ‘lead’ or ‘teach’ in anything that I start, but that I could also pursue a local Worship Leader’s course which would enable me to do those things in a limited way.

So I think  that on reflection that, although I feel a little bit disappointed (because I am raring to go!), that is a good outcome, with some useful aims and goals which will be a step towards what I want to achieve ultimately.

Funnily enough most of my good friends here have, by coincidence, connections with the priesthood: one is the wife of an ordinand, another is a reader and her husband is a deacon. So I have lots of useful contacts for help, advice and encouragement.

On the adoption side, after conversations with the adoptions liaison, we have agreed to put it on hold for a while until we can manage to get the house in a bit more order after moving. They want us to be as settled as we can be before we start the process.

I am also very conscious as well about the state of my health. We heard through friends of friends the awfully sad and tragic story of Jenny Groothuis, a mom and adopter or 15 children in total (7 birth children) who was killed in a car crash on Sunday. My heart goes out to her husband and the whole family. She sounded like an amazing, beautiful, wonderful person, but now she’s gone. It made me think seriously about the responsibility of thinking about all the ‘what if’s’.

I would not want to ‘not’ do things because of the risks, but you have to consider actually, well what would happen to all these children if something happened to me? You can’t prevent tragedies necessarily, but you can work to create a buffer against disaster – a support network, Godparents, church, friends, family. We’ve been here for 3 years now, but we’re barely getting our foot in the door. We need to do some more work on building up a support network.

In both cases, then, it isn’t a ‘no’, it’s just ‘wait’.

So it shouldn’t feel like a disappointment, but it is frustrating.

But ultimately, I think I just need to do what I can, where I can, when the opportunities present themselves, and trust that God does have a plan, and a purpose, even when awful things happen. Jenny’s death seems so senseless, so cruel, so unnecessary; the questions ‘Why did God take her, why did God do this’ are inevitable, but even if we believe that it wasn’t God’s idea, it was just something that happened, why didn’t God prevent it? She was so needed, so irreplaceable, so loved.

But God does have a way of bringing good out of the most unthinkably dreadful  circumstances.

This amazing charity organisation, Take Them a Meal, has organised for well-wishers to do something practical for the bereaved family. Scroll down and take a look at the number of people who have committed to provide food for this family. The road ahead for this family is going to be long and hard and full of grief, but this practical action is a start, it’s a help, what an amazing support network they have.

If you would be interested to support them, either financially or through prayer, take a look at this page which tells their story.