2 Cor 12v9

Monday, 24 September 2012

Guilt vs Truth

Last weekend (Ace’s birthday) was great. Everyone had a fab time, and the birthday boy himself was brilliant. There are times when you get flashes of just how far your kids have come, that can be easily missed in the every day plod of forming your kids’ characters, and it makes you so proud. For Ace, who has always had issues with impulsiveness – not using thoughts and words before actions – it was so sweet to see him taking time to open cards and thank people before he even opened each present, with no prompting from us at all. He was really keen on getting everyone involved in the activities rather than just making it all about him, and he was so grateful for every contribution to his day.

On Sunday we were at church and in the middle of worship I thought about how well the weekend was going and how thankful I was, when I suddenly got blindsided by old memories and a horrible feeling of guilt. 

Usually as a mum, on your kids’ birthdays you allow yourself to have a little reminisce  about the day your child was born, but I rarely did when it came to Scooby and Ace’s birthdays because I didn’t enjoy it all. Not that excruciating pain, blood and the most undignified actions of my life is fun to think about on the others’ birthdays, it’s just that the other three births were followed by a relief that the worst was over and overwhelming joy at the prize at the end of it. For the twins’ birth, however, there wasn’t much pain involved as I had to have an epidural, and once they arrived the overwhelming feeling was more akin to panic that there really were two of them and now I was expected to take responsibility for them both at the same time. Due to lots of blood loss, I felt out of it and I was having out-of-body type experiences off and on for the rest of the day, so it’s all hazy in my memories. Once we were up on the ward, the two boys were only with me for about an hour before the nurse noticed that Scooby was grunting slightly, and wasn’t feeding at all, and he was taken to the neo-natal unit for tests.

This is where the guilt factor comes in. I was weak, hardly able to sit up, with another baby to look after, and Scooby stayed on the neo-natal unit for five days. I couldn’t get up there myself as I needed to be wheeled up, and the ward was so busy and understaffed that the nurses couldn’t take me. So I had to wait until Richard came to visit, for him to take me. So my brand-new baby only got cuddles from me twice a day for his first few days. Once I could start walking again, around day four, I then had to try and work out when I could go up on my own, between sleeping, looking after Ace, and producing milk to be taken up to Scooby for his nose tube. Every time I managed to go up to cuddle him, I would come back to a hysterical second twin who had woken up while I was gone and bawled his eyes out for who-knows-how-long?

At the end of the fifth day, Ace and I were officially discharged, and we then moved onto the tiny parents’ bay on the neo-natal unit, where finally I could be together with both my babies. Determined to get them both home (my feelings of panic had turned into resolve!) I persisted with feeding Scooby as often as I possibly could, day and night, so I could get his sucking reflex working and get that nose tube out of his stomach. All his tests came back fine, the grunting had cleared up, and once his course of antibiotics had finished on the eighth day, we were able to all go home and be an exhausted, chaotic family of five.

But those first few days continued to bug me for a long while after. I knew he was only on the lowest level of care on the neo-natal unit, and so probably had plenty of time outside of his little pyrex box, being cuddled by the lovely nurses on there, but it wasn’t me, the body he’d just come from, that he was getting his cuddles from. I felt like I’d been forced to choose between a baby with higher needs who had lots of people to look after him, and a baby who was physically fine but was completely dependant on me as no one else was there for him.

I hadn’t thought of this stuff for a really long time, but it all just flashed into my mind at that moment on Sunday morning. It hit me hard and unexpectedly, and I felt overwhelmed with grief and regret.

Attacked in the middle of worship. It’s an old, old story.

I know that my God is the God of turn around, so I gave it over and waited to see what He would do with it. And back it came.

First of all, never mind about what happened in the beginning. Never mind about what it is out of your control. Never mind about what you ended up having to do in the midst of a bad situation. Even if wrong decisions were made, the past is the past. Forget what is behind and fix your eyes on what was ahead. Didn’t you more than make up for those first five days? That kid was never EVER in doubt that he was loved, wanted and, for a long time, the centre of the family around which everyone else revolved. He knew how much everyone loved him, and how everyone did as much as they could, without complaint, to try and bring him health and happiness. You got hours and hours and hours alone with him, telling him and showing him how important he was. And the cuddles? Oh yes, more than you ever thought. You two were by his side the whole time, right to the end.

And where is he now? In the BEST place. With the BEST care, and without a single need at all. Better arms than the neonatal unit, I can promise you. So you just focus on the ones I’ve left in your care, including that twin brother of his. Don’t worry about your boy anymore – his past or his future. Your job is done, you’ve seen him safely home.

It’s all good.

Restored, refocused and equipped to fight again. It's an older, better story.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

My Birthday Boys

This weekend is a new first. On Sunday, one of our twin boys will turn nine, while the other twin brother will forever remain an eight year old. It’s such a weird concept, I can’t even work out what to think about it. The nearly-nine-year-old in question thankfully doesn’t seem to be hampered by this troubling concept – he’s been planning his ninth birthday for months. It’s even weird for us to be actually planning out what we’re doing for one of the kids’ birthdays. We haven’t done that since Rocky was two and we spent the day at Legoland the day after a friends’ wedding in Luton. Since then every kid’s birthday has been dominated by hospital activities – several have actually been celebrated in hospital, which ended up being some of the best ones thanks to the generous nature of NHS staff who are willing to put up decorations, sneak in cakes and give presents – even when it’s the patient’s sibling’s birthday rather than the patient himself!

So we are going to use the house in Preston we stayed in over the summer on Saturday, as Ace wants a treasure hunt and a Nerf gun war, and other things that will work well there. He’s written a specific list of things he wants, some that he’s definitely not getting (pet lizard/pet frog/his own iPad, etc), and others that he’s stated that he HAS to get otherwise it will be the worst day ever. Hmm.

Last year’s birthday wasn’t so great. We managed our usual tradition of a McDonald’s breakfast, but after that Scooby struggled for the rest of the day with seizures. We should really have taken him into hospital, but he was on weekend release and desperate to stay at home. Plus our friend Steve (from the aforementioned wedding) was staying over with his family and Scooby didn’t want to miss them. Ace had an amazing day, as our attention was so taken with his brother, because we let him play computer games nearly all day, which is complete heaven for a newly-eight year old boy. He thought it was the best birthday ever! We managed to keep Scooby at home, though we had to medicate him and put him to bed very early. The next day was when we took the kids for a walk along the prom and Scooby had an absence seizure in his wheelchair and seemed to stop breathing. Richard had to perform mouth-to-mouth on the prom and eventually an ambulance came and took him back into hospital, where he stayed for several weeks. After that, we had very little time at home with him.

So their last birthday isn’t one I like thinking about, but I love remembering their birthday before that. Although their actual seventh birthday was spent in Manchester hospital, that weekend Scooby was out and so we took them all to the Lego Discovery Centre in Manchester. We bought them a few presents each, but also gave them some money to spend when they were there. They ended up with a few more gifts of money from family members, and suddenly these two seven year olds had fifty pounds each. We don’t give them actual pocket money at home (we use a points system where they save up for what they want and then I usually order it online) so to have that amount of money at their disposal, which they’d never seen before, was hilarious. We watched with interest to see what they would do.

As soon as we were out of the play area and the gift shop, Ace immediately identified which Lego sets he wanted and asked us how much they each were. This kid, who pretends to hate maths at school but is secretly really good at it, turned into a human calculator as he rearranged boxes in front of him, putting them together in groups, weighing up which ones he would have to reject in order to get the most from his money. Within ten minutes, his decision was made and three sets had been purchased.

Scooby, on the other hand, agonised over what to spend his money on. He looked at nearly every Lego box in the shop, settling only on an activity book. He was so relieved when we told him there were other shops in the Trafford Centre and he didn’t have to buy Lego! We hadn’t realised how much he only played with it to join in with the others until then. The book was bought, leaving him £47.50, and then we went round umpteen toy shops in the rest of the centre. He picked things up and put them down, and said maybe he would save his money and spend it another day, but we reminded him that we very rarely took them to the shops (four boys, a baby and shops don’t mix well at all) so we should look a bit longer. Then I thought of my favourite shop – WHSmith. We went in there and Scooby’s eyes lit up. He went up and down the bookshelves and stationary aisles, pouring over every offer.

“Ooo, one pound for crayons!” he said.

“No, it says one pound off,” I told him. “See, the sticker says £2.99.”

“No, that’s too expensive to pay for crayons,” he said, moving on and leaving us to wonder how on earth he knew what was too expensive to pay for crayons!

He sniffed out every bargain he could find – a Where’s Wally? collection that was cheaper than buying them separately, DVDs that were half price, and – his favourite find – a board game that was half price just because it had been opened and the pencil was missing. We had to convince him to buy another board game that he really wanted but wasn’t on offer, reminding him he was allowed to buy things at full price too! When he finally left the shop,with his carrier bags stashed full, Richard and I were howling with laughter at the difference between our twin boys.

Not only had they never been taught how to shop or spread their money so well, but we were blown away by their similarities to us. Ace shopped exactly like Richard did, with no hesitation, getting exactly what he wanted immediately, with no desire to change it even after seeing everything else in the shops; Scooby did exactly what I always did, agonising over every decision, wondering how to make the money go as far as it possibly could and almost refusing to buy things at full price.

It's one of my favourite days with them ever, and one of the many ways that kids constantly help us to understand our character, by reflecting it back to us. 

Hoping that this weekend will produce more happy memories and character building for all of us!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


We've done it. We've moved back in, with some rooms beautifully decorated and so lovely to be in, and others still full of boxes and bags that need sorting out. Sometimes it feels wonderful that we've done it, and other times I wonder what the heck we're doing.

We successfully got three boys to school last week. I am so glad I am able to take three boys where three boys used to be, even if one of the boys is different. I'm glad that in the busyness of trying to remember an old routine, and buying new things to take and wear, and worrying about a four year old who doesn't often settle in new places, that there isn't much time to wallow in memories of a boy who loved school so much and was last there fourteen months ago, running and playing with his friends. Busyness is a wonderful companion to grief.

Rocky was fine. He saw the computer screens and went straight in, only temporarily annoyed that he wasn't going to be with his brothers all day, and reported when he came home that apart from eating his lunch, he did nothing all morning. Funny, that's what they all used to do in KS1 - "nothing", along with an occasional bit of "I can't remember".

Ace has been doing really well - apparently he watches the clock for most of the afternoon, counting down till home time, but for a kid who doesn't do sitting still, concentrating or written work very well, I'm really proud of him. He's trying hard, and got 'Star of the Week' last week.

Turtle came out on the first day telling me that he was House Captain and Year 6 representative on the school council. "Um, how many hours have you been back, son?" was my response. He also got 'Star of the Week' for his class, and is charging at every challenge that comes along in a way I've never seen him do before.

I know we have a long term ahead, and no doubt the work will get harder and their initial enthusiasm will wear off, but I am breathing a BIG sigh of relief that there is no doubt that taking last year off school was the best decision for all of us. I think they've grown in confidence and character despite (perhaps because of?) everything that has happened, and their approach to life is so different since they were last at school.

And now my head is all in a tizz again as, having crossed that huge milestone, Turtle then casually hands me the paperwork entitled 'Secondary School Admissions' and I realise we have only a few weeks to make another monumental decision about our children's future - yikes!!