Mother’s Day (a few thoughts)

It’s my/our first Mother’s Day tomorrow, and although it’s a great feeling being finally able to celebrate be a mum myself, it’s brought up lots of mixed feelings in me….

Joy: I had dreamed of being a mum for many years, and as those years went on the dream got stronger and the disappointment and sadness did too. So, this year I am a mum to a gorgeous precious little girl and I couldn’t be happier or more proud. I heard her and her Daddy working on something together this morning, it sounded so cute and I can’t wait to see what they’ve created tomorrow.

Determination (and self doubt): I am determined to do the very best for my little girl, and to try to be the best mum for her. I think I feel that because of her start in life, I need to be supermum to make up for what she may not have had. However, I’ve realised these last few days that this is probably not very helpful for either of us. yes, I need (and want) to be a good mum, but I’m putting too much pressure on myself to be perfect. When I’m predictably not perfect it makes me feel like a really rubbish mum, and I really doubt myself. Everyone around me is saying I’m doing a good job, but sometimes I really don’t believe it. I think I need to remember more that I can’t be perfect all the time, and that what my daughter needs most is a warm, loving mummy. Yes, the theories, therapeutic parenting and other influences are really important, but I can’t do that all the time, and I need to believe that thats ok too. ¬†I need to try to relax a bit more, and enjoy the joy that parenting can be. I need to learn from my daughter and smile and move on when something doesn’t go to plan.

Sadness: Mother’s day makes me think of people who are longing to be mums, have lost their mums or who have lost their children and are no longer mums. I know people who have experienced all of these, and I hope that they know I grieve and are angry with them. I really hope and pray that even though tomorrow will be painful, that they have supportive, understanding people around them.

I am particularly thinking of my little girl’s Birth Mum. I know that some would say ‘she’s not for you to worry about’, but I am probably too sensitive, so actually, she is. I know that she was given notification of the application for little one’s adoption order this week (great timing!), and all I can think of is she’s probably not in a great place now. She actually told us she supported the adoption, but now it’s (hopefully) about to actually happen I wonder how she feels?. I hope and pray that somehow she has some peace, and that she is comforted by the fact that she knows that we will/do so so love little one.

My daughter is too little this year to fully understand adoption, but I do wonder how Mother’s Day will be in coming years, and how I’m going to help her understand her story. I expect that in the future Mother’s Day’s will stir up some big feelings, and I hope I can help her discuss and explore them together. I will make it clear that her Birth Mum will always be an important part of her, and her story.

Excitement: I am about to become an aunty to my first little niece. I’m so excited, and can’t wait to meet her. I hope she grows up to become a strong woman, and I hope I can be the best aunty to her. I hope I can support my little sister as she starts her journey of being a mum, and can be someone she comes to whatever she needs.

Grateful: lastly (but not least) I am so grateful to my own Mum (and of course Dad too). As I am adopted, she already knows what it’s like to be an adoptive mum. her support and advice have been invaluable to me, I couldn’t have got through the adoption process (actually my whole life up till now) without her. Whenever I need a some encouragement she is at the end of the phone, and I often come away feeling so much better. She is simply amazing!

So, lots of feelings at the moment, that won’t go away when Mother’s day has ended, but for tomorrow I’m going to enjoy the day, and hug my precious girl tight because I am so grateful to have her, and honoured to be called her Mummy!

I wonder……

This last week we have attended a feedback session from a theraplay assessment we had at home, and I attended some brilliant PAC-UK training at our adoption agency. The main take home message for me from both for me was ‘I wonder…..”

What I am about to discuss may seem obvious to some people, and in adoption, it should be, but I am just starting to understand the importance of it, and hope that someone reading may benefit from this knowledge too.

A few weeks ago our daughter’s social worker came to do a MIM (Marschak Interaction Method) assessment with the 3 of us at home. This is a theraplay based assessment which is used to observe and assess the quality and nature of the relationship between the caregivers and the child. It consisted of play based activities that we completed each on our own with our daughter, and also the 3 of us together. The social worker filmed it, and it was sent to a therapist to analyse. We went this week to have the informal feedback.

The good news was that the therapist said that our daughter has a good attachment to us, and clearly wants and likes to be with us. This was encouraging and we feel this is due to lots of hard work on our part.

The more challenging news was that even though she appears to be engaging well with us, this can be quite superficial and the deeper attunement (non verbal and ‘in the moment’) needs to be developed and encouraged. being told that your child is disengaged to you is pretty hard to hear actually as we thought we are doing well. Then I realised we are doing well, it’s early days, and to have that determination to get it right and learn how to parent better can only be a good thing. If we can get this right it will help her recognise and manage big emotions, and will help in every area of her life as she grows. No pressure then……

Some ideas that he gave to increase that attachment/attunement to create a non-verbal connection of togetherness are:

  • voice her thoughts, e.g. does it feel like….. I wonder…..
  • She can be quite hyperviligent and anxious, and will ask lots of questions (e.g., who’s that man?, what’s that noise?) He suggested we create stories so that she understands in the moment, and knows that we acknowledge how she feels. It voices that you are thinking the same as she is, and creates that togetherness. He suggested that she will use the feelings to go back to a time when she felt them before, and we need to help her match those feelings to current experiences. (e.g., ‘that man is just going for a run, maybe he’s going to get a medal. I wonder if sometimes when people run around and surprise you, it makes you feel a bit anxious and scared. Mummy and daddy will keep you safe so you don’t need to be scared.)
  • match her emotion and shift, e.g. if she is frowning, frown, then smile. This can be done as a game, and she quite enjoys this. It encourages positive eye contact.
  • do lots of non-verbal contact (theraplay games can be useful here)
  • narrate lots, it’s what you’d do for a baby, and she may have missed out on this stage. It enables her to understand emotions/feelings and make sense of the world
  • don’t ask questions, just lead, she’ll follow & learn to internalise.
  • if you ask questions, this may lead to stress and panic, and she won’t actually be able to process and remember. Questions put her under pressure.
  • she needs to know that you know, it encourages trust because if she believes you don’t know that answer, that’s stressful to her.
  • she needs lots of feedback that she’s a joy to be with, otherwise she’ll internalise that she she is not worthy. Just a frequent smile helps with this, everytime she looks at you. Give lots of encouragement.
  • blank or disappointed faces can be interpreted as anger.
  • always respond with empathy first. (e.g., ‘that must be really hard’)
  • Once you disconnect from her, she will stay disconnected for 2hours, so any chance of progress is gone.

I also attended some training about ‘managing difficult behaviour’, and really the message was very much the same. The trainer also said that being sensitive to emotion ( and the reason for them) is one of the most important concepts. She said that naming and exploring¬†emotions with children is so valuable because it means that they feel heard and listened to. Their emotions feel valid, and they learn that there are ways to manage emotions. It reassures them that you know what you’re talking about, and then trust increases. she says always think before you respond. Like the therapist she said avoid questions. She talked about ’emotion coaching’, which uses empathy and specific ‘scripts’ that you can adjust as you need. She also said using ‘I wonder….) is the best thing you can say.

So, after all this training (and driving to them), I feel exhausted with all this new information, and disappointed in myself for not getting it before now. But, I have the knowledge to make positive changes, and it makes so much sense to me. I’ve already started to use some of the techniques, and it seems to be helping, even if it just prompts me to think first before I respond to my daughter. I think it’s helping me be more empathetic, and calmer. I know that the tantrums and difficult behaviour are not going to disappear over night, and that it’s a work in progress but I’m hopeful that it will make a positive difference to my daughter, and that can only be a good thing…..