anxiety, autism, dance, depression, diet, excercise, general, health, health and fitness, lifestyle, mental health, parenting, post natal depression, special needs, wellbeing

My postnatal depression story

I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I have trouble remembering the first two years of my sons life. I can not tell you at what age he got his first tooth, his favourite food as a baby, his first word or when he began to sleep through the night.  I’m not even sure of what age he took his first steps.

My second child, I can tell you all her milestones. I think that’s mainly due to the amount of times I’ve had to go over them with paediatricians, therapists, doctors. She has autism, and was finally diagnosed at age six just last year.

My youngest,  Emily. I know all her firsts. Mainly because I was extra vigilant looking out for any red flags we had with my eldest daughter.

Each pregnancy was different. All had the usual sickness and discomfort.  But my third pregnancy, I just wasn’t feeling those feelings you associate with pregnancy. The excitement,  the happiness, the eagerness. I didn’t really feel anything.

I brought my feelings (or lack of) up with my midwife whilst getting my bloods done. I was assured it was perfectly normal , due to hormones and it would all settle down probably by my next appointment.

Only it didn’t.  I didn’t take joy in shopping for baby clothes, I was in no rush to pack my hospital bag, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was emotionless.

I booked a 3D scan around the 32 week mark, hoping that would make everything feel more real, I don’t think it did. It was a wonderful experience, of course it was, but the sadness continued.

The years which followed my daughters birth in September 2011 were dark, very dark. I was dealing with the likelihood of my oldest daughter having autism, which was causing stress along with that lingering feeling of worthlessness. But before even falling pregnant with my daughter, I was dealing with body image issues. I hated my appearance to the point it was affecting my everyday life. These feelings got worse. I’d stay home all day unable to face the world, or I’d only leave the house when it was dark. I’d avoid mirrors and my reflection in windows. I’d panic if we had a party or wedding to go to. I hide away in the toilets to avoid any social interaction.  And my heart would pound and my  head spin if I saw anyone with a camera.

I’d apologise to my children, as small as they were and unable to understand, for being a useless mother. I’d tell them I loved them as the tears rolled down my face, and that I was doing my best. I’d ask my husband why he was with me and give him the option to leave, which always left him gobsmacked and confused.

I’d go to bed each night and secretly wish I wouldn’t wake up. I’d have dreams of living a life where I am happy and have friends around me, and wake up devastated when I realised they were just that. A dream

My husband found me a video on Youtube about the ‘Black dog’, and asked me to watch it. I did. I broke down and he told me to get help.

I went to my GP, told her my feelings and filled in a questionnaire. From that she gathered I had depression and extreme anxiety. I was referred to the Mental Health Team. Again. I was already in therapy before falling pregnant with Emily dealing with body image issues. Hence my panic when faced with the prospect of having my photo taken. I was a mess. An absolute broken mess

That was September 2013. From then on I had fortnightly visits from my Health Visitor. She didn’t come to pry or check up on me. She came to lend and ear aswell as advice and support, and I thanked her for that.

October 2013 I began attending well-being courses. I picked up techniques to deal with stress, become assertive and gain confidence.

Summer 2014 I had my first appointment with I think it was a life coach. She pretty much assessed me to see if she could help. She couldn’t. My condition was too extreme.  I was then referred to a clinical psychologist. Again

I met with my therapist every two weeks and I think I had around 10 sessions before I decided I felt ready to face the world alone once again.

I learned through these sessions I was suffering with post-natal depression, and that the depression had even grown DURING pregnancy. I found out through a quick glance at my notes at the doctors surgery as they came up on the computer screen during an appointment, that  I had been suffering with PND after the birth of my second child. I found out through a letter sent to my doctors and a copy to sent to me, that I’d even been suffering with PND after the birth of my first child way back in 1999. I had my son at 21 so I’d spent most of my adult life with depression. I genuinely thought I was just useless, unlikable, disgusting. I was non of those. I was depressed.

PND took away my memories of my first child growing from baby to toddler, it kept me indoors, it filled me with fear, took away my self-esteem and stripped me of my confidence

When the therapy ended, I took up blogging. I decided to chase my dreams and enrolled on a distance learning course. This both occupied my mind and my confidence began to grow. I‘ve taken up exercise, and spend most days either in a gym or an exercise class. I’ve made new friends. I even spend two hours on a Sunday night as part of a team for a local radio station. I’m still building up my confidence to become more involved, but I know I will. I know I can do it. I can do anything if I continue to believe in myself.

Over the months I’ve thrown myself into situations I would usually avoid. I’ve done things I could never imagine doing and I am in a place now where I have never been in before. A very good place and although I am an anxious person by nature, I have my anxiety under control and I will never let depression take over my life or steal my memories again.

birth, general, health, humour, lifestyle, pregnancy

The truth about labour

Between Hollywood and old wives’ tales, there’s a lot of misleading information about childbirth out there. But until you’ve been through it, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.

I’ve had three children, all natural deliveries. Two induced, one spontaneous labour, each experience different. So thought I’d clear up a few myths and expectations and tell it like it is based on my experiences

It’s nothing like One Born Every Minute

First off, I can’t speak for other mums and dads, but there was no playful chatty excited banter in the delivery room with my other half. None.

Mainly because soon after my  first dose of induction gel with my second child, my hubby was given a bed, snuggled down and went to sleep. Which worked out fine anyway, as I wasn’t able to think of anything other to say other than repeat ‘I am SHITTING myself’.

I then labored very quietly an hour later, for around three hours, before waking him. Then once again repeatedly told him I was shitting myself.

How do I know I’m in labour

If it’s your first time you may be expecting your waters breaking will be your first sign of labour. This was the case with my first two children, but with my third, contractions started soon after my second sweep.

They actually started as we went to do our weekly shop in Morrisons. Intensified throughthe night, so off to hospital we went at 5am, via McDonalds drive through, for carbs.

I was checked over. Confirmed  I was in active labour, but sent home. They got stronger as soon as my waters broke whilst bouncing on my yoga ball watching ‘Thismoring’. So straight back to hospital we went. Me sat in the passenger seat on a pampers changing mat to protect the seats. Seriously.

I was convinced I wasn’t going to make it from the car park to the delivery room. Rushed through the hospital recption area pulling my overnight hospital bag replying ‘NOW’ as someone asked when I was due, and stood in the lift insisting ‘it’s coming out’ whilst thinking ‘phew, we’ve made it just in time’ and ‘go me’ for doing it all drug free.

I went another 5 hours

Your birth plan goes right out the window

Nobody can predict how a birth will go. With my first I stated I’d rather not have any students present, yet I had 3 or 4 stood at the end of the bed, watching intensely and taking notes as I was stitched up after labour.

I hoped for a water birth with my third. I had a vision of this completely calm, earth mother, serene drug free experience. Just me, the midwife, and the hubby

My daughter opened her bowls, ruling out a water birth. I panicked every single time the midwife left the room and continuously sent my hubby out to look for her, snapped up her offer of ‘pethidine’ without hesitation, and again welcomed a few male student doctors in the room. Pretty sure I kept asking them random questions, although I have no idea what – I was off my face.

They congratulated me and left as soon as I’d given birth, turning down the opportunity to watch the needlework.

The birth plan goes right out the window, along with your dignity

The truth about the poo

Yes, you might have one, no you will not realise this, yes your partner will find great joy and hilarity in telling you, and no you will not care

The tea and toast

I think I was more focused on the tea and toast I knew I’d be getting after labour than the hugs with my baby whilst laboring with my third. I knew the drill at this point, baby, placenta, repair, toast.

I swear my hubby even spurned me on with ‘Think of the tea and toast, Lou’ as I pushed through the final contractions with my third

Post birth tea and toast is the best tea and toast you will ever have in your life

Your hospital bag

Pack underwear, plenty of it or like me you’ll be texting your mate asking her to pop to Peacocks on their way to hospital to visit, to pick up a few packs of big black size 18s

This is also the one occasion it’s perfectly acceptable to rock a nighty and pair of fluffy socks. But trust me, it’s gonna get messy so make sure they’re cheap ones.

And just when you think you’re done

You have to endure the not so rewarding third stage of labour, which nobody tells you about. The delivery of the placenta. I think it just pretty much slipped out with my first two, but with my third I was convinced it was twins and powered through it with gas and air. There was a moment of panic as I heard the words’surgery’, but out it popped just in time

The hospital exit

Boy is it emotional. Not only are you  met with ‘congratulations’ off hospital staff as you pass them, you also feel a slight pang of ‘we’re on our own now’ anxiety

I’ll always remember filling up with tears as I heard my other half say ‘welcome to the world, little one’ as we exited through the doors with Emily.

It’s a special moment, take it all in

 

You’ll probably vow ‘never again’ 

Whilst in the final stages of labour, then whisper ‘I’d do it again in a heartbeat’ the second you hold your long awaited perfect tiny little bundle.

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Twitter @LouAlexa

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general, humour, lifestyle

I’m a ‘hot mess mum’ and that’s ok

So today I’ve had yet another morning of dragging my reluctant 5-year-old through the school gates. She’s still going through a particularly clingy phase, and tells me frequently between 7 – 8.50 each morning ‘Mummy, you are my best friend’ in hope they’re the magic words to bag her a day off school.

My response is the same each morning. I give her a hug, tell her I love her, then hand her over to staff and give her a wave as she looks back and throws me evils across the yard as she’s led into school by her teacher.

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Part of me feels I should go home feeling incredibly guilty, and ring in half an hour to check she’s settled ok. But the other part, like 90% of me part knows that this is life, she’ll be fine and I have nothing to gain in sitting around worrying. Then I feel incredible guilt for not feeling any guilt and wonder if this makes me a bad parent.

Infact I often find myself doing, or not doing things which make me question if I’m a bad parent.

As I type this, my house is slightly messy. Nothing serious, but I’m aware one of the kids left a half eaten lollipop stuck to the sofa as we were about to leave thismoring. Possibly Emily. She’ll have had it for breakfast along with the chocolate eyeballs and jelly fingers from Trick or Treating last night. Jessica had a slice or the godawful Halloween cake I made, with Angel delight, and I did too. You see some mornings I’ll get up extra early to make them berry topped ‘Brain Booster Pancakes’ for breakfast (oats, flaxseed, banana, coconut oil. That sort of Pinteresty shiz), others I’ll take the extra 20 minutes in bed and serve up a packet of chocolate digestives.

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Sometimes I’ll spend an hour or two preping and peeling veg, another hour cooking and dish up a particularly healthy and colourful tea. Others I keep it real and know most of it will end up in the bin so processed food it is. Like chips. Fishfingers and chips. They always go down well with about half a bottle of ketchup for the youngest.

Sometimes we’ll take them to McDonalds. Sometimes once a week (dead cert on a Saturday), sometimes even twice a week. But definitely 4 times a month, at least.

Sometimes when it’s a rainy day, we’ll do arts and crafts, or I’ll try and suppress my inner ‘would you like mummy to mix in the crispies/cut the cookies and you just eat them. Please’?  control freak, and let them do some baking

Okay, not necessarily rainy, but the ones where I just can not be bothered with the drama that is putting on coats and shoes. But the times we do go to the park, I’m often the parent sat on the bench Facebooking. Telling them to go on the slide as mummy is too tired to push a swing for half an hour. Yes, I sometimes use it as ‘me time’.

And others I’ll give them the Ipad and let them watch Dora the Explorer. It’s educational. They’ve both picked up some Spanish

girls

Sometimes we’re super prepared in the morning and we take a stroll to school stretching the one minute walk down the road to 5. We’ll go the more ‘scenic’ route looking in neighboring gardens and Emily likes to point at and name the flowers each time we do.

Others I’m running around looking for something. Usually my phone, or my sanity if it’s a Friday. Then I’ll realise as we’re about to leave the house my daughter hasn’t yet washed her beautiful little face. And I’ll take her to school anyway.

Sometimes I’ll hear one of them complain ‘I can’t find any clean socks’, and I’ll offer the solution of ‘wear yesterdays’.

Sometimes we’ll go out to eat and I’ll give them a little behavioral prep talk and that ‘pleeeeease just. behave’ glare when I can see they haven’t quite listened. Others I’ll think sod it, get it out of your system and lie on the floor under the table if you must.

Sometimes when we tackle the dreaded task of food shopping, I’ll quietly hurry behind them every time they run off in opposite directions, then get down to their level and explain why it’s not acceptable behavior. Others I’ll lose my shit and shout both there names followed by ‘get back here. NOW’!!

car

Sometimes I have a run of taking the kids to every single party they’re invited to. But sometimes I forget one, or we arrive late. By a week. That’s happened before.

Sometimes I’m on a roll with the kids homework and ‘Weekend Diaries’. But others I’ll spend 15 minutes on a monday morning  searching through the kitchen drawers for a pen, then I’ll scribble away and knock up a story making their weekends sound so much more adventurous than they actually were.

And after I’ve finished typing this I’m off on a hunt for twigs, leaves and conkers to put into Emilys ‘Half-Term Autum Treasure bag’ I found inside her book bag. Thismorning

Sometimes I’ll yell at my kids. Sometimes I’ll laugh at them. But I always laugh with them

There’s some parents who appear to have it all together. Then there are the rest of us. We aren’t lazy. We aren’t incompetent. We aren’t bad parents. We’re still kick-ass awesome, loving caring mums.

We’re just, for lack of a better term, a hot mess.

 

diet, excercise, general, health, health and fitness, lifestyle, mental health, parenting, special needs, wellbeing

So I clearly can’t blog daily. But I’ve had a really hectic weekend. My hubby spent all day yesterday in hospital after feeling ill most of this week. He’s had a virus, but by saturday morning it was getting worse so he thought it best to go get checked out.

Obviously having two young children, I had to stay at home with them. There was no phone signal at the hospital, or wifi so I couldn’t get in touch with Andrew to find out what was happening and he couldn’t contact me, so I had an anxious few hours. I did the one thing that’s really not a good idea and googled his symptoms, then started to fear meningitis.

Oh and the central heating decided it wasn’t gonna work, so I had that to stress about too.

But thankfully he’s feeling much better today, but it feels a bit like we haven’t really had a weekend as he’s spent most of thisafternoon in bed. And I had a lonely saturday night infront of the tv with no one to talk to :o(

I hardly ate with stressing out yesterday, which i know isn’t good, but I have today.

We’re also having a diffucult time with my oldest daughter since returning to school. For anyone reading this who hasn’t read my blogs about her, she was diagnosed with autism last year. The diagnosis wasn’t a shock, we expected it. But she can be quite a handul, and her younger sister copies her behaviours so it’s often like having two children on the spectrum.

Jessica lives her life at a million miles and hour and want’s everything done instantly. She’s ready for school each morning an hour and a half before transport even arrives to collect her. And Christmas morning, she asked at 7.30am if Christmas was finished yet, and if it’s Valentines day next? Not sure why a 7-year-old would even be interested in Valentines day, but it’s Jess and she loves occassions.

She did seem to calm down and stop the demanding and shouting, and running around the house over the holidays, but she’s back to being her hyperactive self since going back to school. So it can get a bit mentally exhausting. If it wasn’t for having things in my life now which I enjoy and keeps me sane, I hate to think how I’d be feeling tonight.

I’ve done the usual 4 Clubbercise classes this week, my last one being thismorning, and it’s great to be back. I have found them more tiring than I usually do, particularly the first one on thursday, but I’ll get my energy levels back up again in no time (hopefully)

I’ve ate nothing I shouldn’t have this weekend, absolutely nothing, which I’m really pleased about. It’s so easy to justify something fattening just because it’s the weekend.

So this weekend has threw things at me which I may have resolved in the past with overeating. I didn’t sleep too well last night worrying about Andrew, but I was still up and ready for Clubbercise at 9.30 thismorning. I knew if I didn’t go, I’d only lounge about, and then regret not going, and feel crap.

So here’s hoping for a better week.

asd, autism, general, health, mental health, parenting, special needs

Today I hate autism and this is why

I like to keep my blogs light-hearted, positive and happy, as that’s pretty much how I feel most of the time. But I would be lying if I implied all the time, and that life with an autistic child is all rosy and I cope just beautifully. The truth is, it isn’t and I don’t.

Today I hate autism and the reason I hate it is because I took Jessica to a pop concert yesterday, and spent most of it completely choked up inside. It’s not often we’re around other kids. We rarely go to softplay, the cinema is virtually empty whenever we go, I doubt there are parents desperately trying to entertain their kids before 10am on a sunday morning, and Jessicas party invites are few and far between. Being in a class of only 9 children, and some of those children unable to deal with sensory issues a party brings, it’s not often she brings home any invitations.

It’s when I’m in a situation where I see other children, I’m overcome with sadness. Jessicas differences become more apparent, well more apparent to me. And it hurts

The reasons I hate autism are

1)  Four years in and I’m tired of having to explain Jessicas condition to people. Not friends, I’ll answer any questions they have at all, but strangers. Whether it’s some grump complaining about her behaviour (I got evil looks off a man trying to eat his lunch in a cafe last week when I was there with the girls, which I chose to ignore), or someone being friendly and talking to her. She won’t answer any questions she is asked, I answer for her. Then I feel the need to explain she has autism and doesn’t conversate well. It hurts so bad even hearing myself say that.

2) The whole ‘label’ or ‘autism doesn’t exist’ comments I’ve had thrown at me. It’s not a label, it’s and explanation, and trust me, it exists.

3) Apologies. People ‘apologising’ when I do explain Jessica has autism. But to be fair, I’m not exactly sure how anyone should act. I mean what else can you say to that little conversation stopper.

4) The assumption that people with autism don’t show empathy, or sympathy. Jessica knows when someone is hurt, and will tell me and her teachers in school. She may not run over and ask if they are alright, but she will alert someone. That’s empathy and genuine concern. She also gives the most amazing loving cuddles you could wish for.

5) Stupid damaging articles such as this one http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/11553012/Smartphones-making-children-borderline-autistic-warns-expert.html Talk about demonising autism and the very thought of having a child on the spectrum. Oh the actual horror!!

6) Attitudes and reactions towards my choice to stop vaccinating my children. I chose to refuse Jessicas MMR booster, and Emily hasn’t had a single vaccination since she was 16 weeks. I’m not for one second insisting the MMR is the cause of Jessicas autism, but I’m not saying it wasn’t either. I’ve spent a lot of time reading into this and concluded that I would be silly to allow Jessica to have a booster. How would I even live with myself if I had to then watch her regress? I’m not a neglectful parent, I’m a cautious one.

7) The feeling of isolation I experience every single day. Over the years I’ve lost all confidence and even refused to leave the house sometimes. I’ve missed opportunities to make friends at parent and toddler groups, and turned down meeting up with friends and nights out. How could I possibly have enjoyed myself when I’m experiencing such sadness at home?!

8) The assumption that I’m coping fine. Jessica is on the whole very well-behaved, so I must have an easy and quiet life, right? Wrong, I’m up at a time most parents only get up at at Christmas every single day. Jessica lives at a million miles an hour. She wants her breakfast the second she is awake, then her clothes on instantly, then her shoes. Meal times – she wants pizza, but she wants it now, she doesn’t have the patience to wait for it took cook, so I find myself repeating ‘wait, good waiting’. It’s exhausting both mentally and physically.

9) Milestones taking so much longer to achieve. I hate seeing other children become more responsible and mature than Jessica and I find myself wondering if she will ever even achieve some milestones. I feel consumed with guilt that I dread seeing Emily overtake Jessicas developement. What kind of a parent dreads seeing their youngest  child reach milestones??

10) I’m constantly ‘on alert’. I follow Jessica meticulously around a park, I avoid softplays as I’m constantly scanning the damn thing looking for Jessica, which gives me a headache. I’m terrified she may wonder off so I can not take my eyes of her for a single second. I go to bed at night aware I will up in a few hours, a few hours less than I want to be. I’m constantly waiting for the next meltdown. Not that she has meltdowns like you would expect, she’s just very anxious and crys over the littlest thing, then will apologise for crying and I tell her she has nothing to apologise for. The anxiety is becoming more apparent, I have to speak to her really gently sometimes and offer constant reassurance.

11) Not knowing Jessicas future. I heard the other morning that only 15% of adults with autism end up in employment. I’m guessing that is down to capacity to work rather than job opportunities. I am praying she is in that 15% I want her to live alone and independently. I want her to fall in love, and have children, and live a happy life. I want everything that my other two children will have.

12) The belief that autism is a ‘gift’. Really?! Jessica is a gift, all children are a gift. But I’d like to return the autism, please. It’s somewhat hindering my beautiful child’s development and distorting her understanding of the world

13) I hate myself for having all these feelings, but I am only human and I’m entitled to my own thoughts and the ability to voice them. But they don’t come guilt free. I love my daughter unconditionally, but today, and every so often, I hate autism

asd, autsim, parenting, speical needs

What followed Jessicas diagnosis

Three weeks ago, I received Jessicas Autism Assessment report. I’ve spent the time since then just kind of taking it all in and reading it over a few times. It’s 10 pages long, contains quite a lot of information and each time I read it I seem to pick up on something I hadn’t already.

I met up with the Clinical Psychologist and Autism Specialist nurse, who gave me some time to read through the report, which is quite hard to do when in someone elses presence. The pressure!  Obviously there was no pressure, but it’s a bit like being asked to provide a sample on demand during an anti-natal appointment. Your bladder refuses to cooperate, as does my brain sometimes. Some parts were quite upsetting to read, but I wanted to remain composed and deal with any feelings later on my own.

It’s not easy reading that during the school observation, the psychologist found that Jessica would sit next to, but not interact with other children, or that she doesn’t show any emotions other than excitement. Her ADOS assessment also showed that Jessica would only talk about items or topics she was interested in, and didn’t participate in to-and-fro conversation. I already knew all these things, but it’s different seeing them in print.

The report concluded that Jessica demonstrates a range of autistic traits in the areas of language and communication, reciprocal social interaction and stereotyped behaviours, reaching the threshold for a diagnosis of autism. Along with this, Jessica also has a learning disability.

After a few minutes I started to ask questions, after originally having non. After almost four years of reading up on autism, I kind of felt like a pro. I thought I would just thank them for their help and that would be everything done. But I needed to know how her future looks regarding school. I absolutely love her school and feel like I owe the world to the staff, but there is a little bit of me that remains convinced I could be taking her to the school just down the road myself some day. But the learning disability means that Jessica needs a visual timetable to get through a school day, she needs a quieter environment with minimal distractions to concentrate and visual aids to learn. She learns through seeing pictures rather than hearing words. Her needs may always be too high for a mainstream school. But I do mean it when I say I am absolutely fine with that.

I was also interested to know where Jessica falls on the spectrum. I didn’t really get a definitive answer. I think there is a preference not to classify as children can move about on the spectrum. But from what I could gather I think the general feel is pretty much mild, but almost leading into moderate.

The nurse then stared to talk about Jessica growing up and going through adolescence and how I might need help preparing her for change, and different stages of life. I know all kids need help with that, but more than a neuro-typical child. Something I hadn’t really given any thought to. And about how she is going to need to be taught skills which she doesn’t have or will ever come naturally to her. How to hold a conversation. How to act in social situations. What is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in public as opposed to at home. Just everything. Everything we do and our children do and we take for granted. I’ve pretty much got to manually programme my daughter in a sense. But with the help of support, books and any resources I can get my hands on, I can do it. I’ll do whatever I can to make Jessicas life as fulfilled, enriched and absolutely full of friends, as it should be.

asd, autism, general, parenting, special needs

So today we got a diagnosis

Today came the news I’ve been waiting for since january this year, and anticipated since january 2011. I’ve gone from fear and denial to acceptance and hope.

It was just over a year ago that we decided we wanted an offical diagnosis for Jessica. I know some people feel a diagnosis is a label, I did at first, but it’s an explanation. I want people to understand why Jessica is who she is, using just one word, and I want her to be able to do the same as she gets older.

A diagnosis takes time, and it wasn’t until January this year the process began. The four parts were all done in quick succession. The first part was a meeting with the Child Disability nurse where we talked about Jessicas development, then the second part, the ADOS assessment in school, part three involved the team meeting and talking with teachers, and observations. Part four, a meeting with the psychologist where we discussed Jessicas development, her areas of concern and family history. Everything was done the first week back after half term in february, and I’ve been waiting every day for a phone call to arrange a time to discuss the results. Every time the phone has rang I’ve answered it hoping it was about Jessicas assessment. I said I wouldn’t let the wait get to me, but it has.

The phone call came today. I knew it was the psychologist as soon as I heard a voice. She apologised for not being in touch sooner, as they’d been very busy. She said she would like to arrange a time to come out and discuss the results of Jessicas assessment along with the nurse. We arranged next thursday afternoon. My heart sank as I thought I’m going to have to wait another 9 days to find out some kind of conclusion. I thought about asking her what I could expect to be told, but I knew if she could give me any information over the phone, she would, so decided not to. But, she then went on to explain that she and the Child Disability Nurse will be meeting up with Jessicas pediatrician next week, and they’re going to tell her that Jessica does meet the criteria for a diagnosis of autism. The doctor will then give the official diagnosis.

She then kept talking, but I have no idea what she said, I was taking in that one sentence, the one I’ve waited four years to hear. I think I cut the phone call short by saying ‘ok, see you next thursday at 1.30’, hung up the phone and just stood there. It’s the result I’ve both expected and hoped for. It’s the only diagnosis which explains every aspect of Jessica. If I’d been told she didn’t meet the criteria, I’d have been disappointed. But it’s news you don’t ever really expect to be told, so it’s one of those situations where you can’t possibly predict how you will react.

I have had a few tears. I rang my mum to tell her, then my dad. I knew Andrew would be home in about an hour and didn’t want to have it on his mind driving home, so decided to wait to tell him. He came home, I told him and like me, he expected it but still felt slightly in shock. We told Callum, he gave her a cuddle and even actually asked if I was okay.

I’m not sad, I’m not upset, I’m not worried. I’ve spent too long being all of those things. I’m relieved, I’m content and I feel so incredibly lucky to be her mum. If it wasn’t for Jessica, I wouldn’t not only be writing this, but any blogs at all. I wouldn’t be the strong person I’ve had to become. My life wouldn’t be half as unpredictable and colourful.

So that’s it. My beautiful, smart, funny, clever, intelligent 6-year-old, who didn’t call me ‘Mummy’ till a week before she turned 4, who repeatedly asks the same questions, who is currently OBSESSED with shop names and clothes labels and will only wear clothes from H & M at the minute (not a fashion or brand thing at all, a logo thing), who tires me out with her sometimes 5am rises and extensive energy, who lights up my life like I cannot describe, has autism. And I’m so very proud of her

asd, autism, general, health, parenting, special needs

What April 2nd means to me

For many parents, today is the last day of term with one long weekend followed by two weeks to spend with their children at home. For me, it is that, and so much more.

April 2nd, is World Autism Awareness Day. A day I wasn’t even aware of until two years ago, and a condition I knew nothing about till 4 years ago. Today is about spreading awareness of a condition which affects 700,000 people in the UK, and taking into account their families, touches the lives of 2.7 million people, every single day.

If you’re reading this via Facebook, and you’re one of my friends, I know you’ll know what autism is. I’ve made my families journey with autism public for just over three years now. I’ve done it because I want to normalise a condition which I knew pretty much nothing about, as I’d never been exposed to it. I’ve done it because it helps me cope with the situation. It’s an outlet, it’s therapeutic. I’ve done it because I’m so incredibly proud of my daughter and I want everyone to know that disability does not mean inability.

But for anyone reading this who is unfamiliar with autism, it is a lifelong and disabling condition, which without the right support, can have a profound and often devastating effect upon individuals and their families.

Autism affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and makes sense of the world. Autism causes difficulty in three main areas, social communication, social interaction, and social imagination.

For me, it’s important to create awareness as autism can be described as an invisible disability. A child having a meltdown brought on by a variety of factors (light, sound, smell), can easily be mistaken for a ‘naughty’ child. I want my child to be accepted and understood. I want to feel supported, and not judged.

But most of all, I want EVERY parent of a child with autism to feel their child is accepted and understood. I want EVERY parent of a child with autism to feel SUPPORTED, and NOT judged.

autism, general, health, parenting, special needs

Experiencing how it ‘should be’

Our house has been hit with a lingering bug this past week, Jessica suffering the worst.

School transport pulled up outside as usual on wednesday night. I opened the door and was handed a black bin bag containing Jessicas coat, scarf and book bag. Dennis, the driver began to explain she’d been sick on the bus, as a very pale Jessica ran right past me and upstairs to the bathroom. I wasn’t concerned, Emily had been ill today also as was I. don’t really worry when the kids get ill. They pick up and spread germs all the time, it’s part of life. My initial thought was at least we’ll have a quiet night rather than the usual chaos which starts from the second Jessica comes home and continues till bedtime. But, I was wrong. I went upstairs to change her out of her uniform, pick up a blanket and her bun bun, and lie her on the sofa. And there she was, jumping on her bed, as you do minutes after throwing up.

The next day I kept her off school. She seemed fine, but it’s school policy. Although complaining of a sore tummy, thursday was as tiring a day as usual. Both girls fighting. Jessica running up and down stairs, jumping up and down on and climbing on furniture. At this point I was feeling quite convinced Jessica just does not ‘do’ ill. She’ll have the symptoms, and the temperature, but it’s like she remains unaffected, she still functions as normal.

Friday she was fine, but saturday she was quiet. I could tell she was coming down with a cold. I managed to have a shower without having to grab a towel numerous times and run downstairs to break up a fight between her and Emily. We spent the afternoon at the Tim Lamb Centre which we take her too. She sat for about half an hour in the art room painting a picture. Then went into the games room and she sat next to two other girls playing a board game. Emily tried to join in with the other girls, well the best a 3-year-old can, which was taking the counters off the board, but she wanted to be part of the game. Jessica sat near the girls, but playing with lego. She wanted to be with the other girls, but doing her own thing. That was fine. I then took Jessica to the sensory room where she sat next to a water light for about an hour, and we just talked, and sang.

We went shopping, no drama, came home, no drama, and both girls were in bed by 7 and I had very little mess and destruction to tidy up than usual. Sunday morning, Jessica woke up with a temp again, and complained once again of a sore tummy. We did go out just to get her some fresh air, but she said she wanted to go home, so we did and the three of us watched Peppa Pig together.

Monday, although more colourful and happier, I kept her at home. We spent the day playing shops, singing and drawing. Jessica NEVER sits still for more than a few seconds to watch anything, or can hold her attention long enough to engage in any kind of proper conversation. We get fleeting replies to questions, as that’s what most of our conversation is based on. She has to be asked questions, or she will just pretty much narrate what is going on around her.

Today, I kept her off school again. She’s better again, but slightly pale and nothing like her overly energetic self. We took Emily to her little pre-school. I then took Jessica for her breakfast as we discussed yesterday we would do. I was even ready to leave the house earlier than normal for a week day.

We went to a cafe, and we left when I suggested. Not because Jesscia refused to sit down, or because I was sensing animostity from others, but because we had finished, and I knew she wanted to go to the library, which we did, for an hour, with no outbursts, no running up and down the aisles of books. She even prompted me ‘one more minute then we’re going to get Emily’.

When we got home she told me she’d had a lovely morning and that I’m an ‘amazing mummy’. Words to melt anyones heart. We had another enjoyable quiet afternoon. When Jessica is calm, Emily is too.

I’ve had four days enjoying both girls more than ever. Four peaceful days. Four days of how it should be. Watching them both play together. I’ve loved hearing Emily ask Jessica ‘would you like to buy an ice cream’ as she’s stood holding rolled up paper, then asking Jessica for ‘one thousand pounds’ as Jessica says ‘yes please’. I’m loving Jessica asking me questions and answering mine, Jessica singing, Jessica reading, snuggling up and watching a dvd with me and Emily. Just things I would expect are pretty much the norm of a 6-year-old. I can handle the routines and rituals, the embarrassing things she says in the wrong place or at the wrong time, her waking me every couple of hours in the night to tell me that she knows she has to be quiet because Emily is asleep, her new little obsession of only wanting to wear clothes which she has, from a particular shop as she has a new little fascination with labels. It’s the hyperactivity, anxiety and screaming which makes everything hard. It’s like her body is being taken over with too much energy, which takes a full day to burn and she is refuelled while we should still be sleeping, and those three things which I hate right now as they are stopping me from learning more and more about my beautiful girl.

films, general, parenting, teenagers

Why every parent should watch Boyhood

Last nights Oscars saw ‘Birdman’ win four awards, including, Best Picture and Best Cinematography, making a disappointing night for Richard Linklaters Boyhood. I haven’t actually seen ‘Birdman’ as yet, so can’t comment on the film, but reading the synopsis, I know that it won’t be one I can relate to or that will stick with me like Boyhood has and probably will for years to come.

For anyone who doesn’t yet know, Boyhood is an American coming-of-age drama film, which was shot intermittently over the course of 12 years. The film starts in 2002, and concludes in 2013, and depicts the adolescence of a young boy growing up with divorced parents.

We see not only Mason (Ellar Coltrane) evolve from a cute little six-year-old, into a handsome young man, we see events unfold over the 12 years that wouldn’t normally be movie worthy, but it works and the reason it works is because we can relate to them.There is no hugely dramatic, thrilling or gripping story line, no speedy car chases, or startling special effects, no deeply saddening tear jerking moments, but you will be gripped and you will cry.

At the start of the film I thought about what I was doing in 2002. August 2002, my son was 3 and I’d become a single parent just 4 months earlier. It was also the year he started nursery, a hugely memorable milestone for any parent.

We then see 12 years pass by in just under three hours. We see transitions of hairstyles, fashion, and politics. We see Gameboys, and Wii Sports and the attendance of a midnight release of ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’. As each year passes in the film, I found myself thinking back to that time in my life.  Remembering my son at that age. Hoping like Masons mum, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), I was doing my best.

One thing which I’ve struggled with as my son became a teenager, is conversation. Any question I ask is met with little more that a one word answer. There is a scene in the film where Mason Snr (Ethan Hawke) voices his frustration over the lack of feedback as he asks his two children what they’ve been upto since her last saw them. What we are seeing is the harsh reality that generally, teens just do not want to talk to us parents much, or divulge more than they feel necessary. As a teenager, ‘How was school today’, no longer warrants the reply of what they learned, or what they had for lunch, or who they walked home with. A simple ‘fine’ sums it up and I now accept that that’s okay.

As Mason celebrated his 15th birthday, I found myself become more emotional involved in the film. I’ve just watched a boy grow up on-screen, and replayed my sons 15 years in my mind, now it’s like a glimpse into the future. Boyhood may be about a fictional family, but the phases of life depicts reality. What can I expect to happen in the next three years, before my son is an adult and no longer depends on, or maybe even needs me?

My son has just started going out with friends, and coming home at around 10. But luckily, it’s just to football matches, no partys – yet. But I now know and fully accept that there is time where he will come home after having a few drinks, and I will be mad, not only because of the drinking, but because he will be out later that he is allowed, and I will probably be worried sick, but that’s ok, it’s a milestone. Not quite as welcomed as the day he took his first steps, or his first day at school, but a milestone non the less, but something I now accept will happen. I often worry that he doesn’t know where he wants to go in life, what he wants to do, what he inspires to be. But that doesn’t matter either, because I’m confident one day he will. Maybe he even does, and that’s just something else he doesn’t wish to share.

As I type this, my son is sat in his Maths mock GCSE exam, with the rest to follow over the course of this week, sitting the real things in May. Then he plans to go into sixth form. I now realise that I may only have only three years left with my son at home before he decides to go off to university. University isn’t something I’ve encouraged or discussed with him just yet. I’m put off by all the student debt and lack of job opportunities for new graduates. But I want all my children to live life to the full, and experience everything life has to offer. It’s not solely about education, it’s about spreading wings, making friends, and having fun, and I’ll make sure he knows and understands that.

It’s now a week since I watched Boyhood, and I still find myself thinking about it. I now find that every time I feel frustrated with my girls as they fight over the same toy they refuse to share, or interrupt every time I try to speak to my husband, or cannot get my three-year old daughter to remove her Frozen Jewellery for bed, I need to treasure these moments. They aren’t difficult or challenging times, they’re moments I will never get to experience again.