A few of my favourite things…

When you become an adoptive parent (actually any parent) all the advice is that ‘you must look after yourself’ ‘you must practice ‘self care’. I’d seen a few people go on about it before our Little One came home, and wondered what it was all about. Wondered why it was seen to be so important.

Since our daughter came home, I totally get what they were all talking about, and it does make sense. Before I was a parent I thought I was pretty good of taking care of myself (I think that’s what I thought self care was) I ate ok, I slept ok, and did some exercise to keep active and fit. I had some hobbies that I enjoyed and was reasonable good at. I had good friends, a great family and I was doing ok at work. I now know that it’s so much than these things. Yes it is taking care of yourself, but it’s also about sometimes prioritising taking care of yourself. It’s about doing things for you, to benefit only you. Things that help you switch off, to relax, to de-stress and recharge. The knock on effect of taking care of you, is that you’ll be in a much better place to take care of others. Everyone’s perception of what self care is is different, and that’s ok, because it is individual to them. What one person might love, another would really not. Some people see having a glass of wine and chocolate as their self care, and thats fine. For me, I’d much rather go on a random run and watch the sun go down. The end result (you feel calmer, more present, more in control) is the same, I guess it doesn’t matter how we get there.

When you first become a parent (whatever way you become one), it’s a massive shock. One thats takes quite a while to start to settle. I don’t actually remember a lot about the early weeks now nearly two years on. What I do remember was that it was hard, really hard. I struggled to come to terms with the change in roles I had. I missed work, I missed my friends. I missed most of the activities that I would class as ‘self care’ For a while I didn’t do any of my favourite things, and I think I felt a bit lost. My sole aim was to keep my new little person safe and happy, and I think I forgot a bit about me. It wasn’t that I didn’t look after myself, I did eat, sleep, wash etc. What I didn’t do was continue with most of those activities that would have helped me to switch off, to feel more myself and content.

Next month we have another big change in our life, one that will change everything about our current routine. Our Little One will be starting full time school. She’s absolutely ready, I’m not so sure about me though. Anyway, the plan was that her being at school full time would mean I could increase my hours at work. For a number of reasons I have opted to actually stay at the current hours, which will mean a bonus 1/2 day to myself every week. This is on top of the full day each week I already had planned. So the prospect of all this time to myself got me thinking that I really want to use it to up my self care activities.

It got me thinking about a few of my favourite things, and I’m going to try really hard to do more of them. Not just in the day, but the evenings too. I tend to be very unproductive in the evening, so I feel like I’ve wasted it all. I want to make better use of my time. I’m not going to start doing all of them at once, as I’d never have time for anything else. But if I can make more of an effort to prioritise myself, then hopefully I’ll be a better version of me for all the people who need me. I thought about how my favourite things make me feel, how they help my mood and well-being. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Running: I’ve run for years now. I used to be able to run quite well and did my first (maybe only) 1/2 marathon the week we met our daughter. It was a massive sense of achievement, and made me very proud. I was the most unfit person at school. I hated PE and felt it was only for sporty people. I think doing ok at running just proved to me that people can change, and people can start to like sports later in life. It helped me to have a goal to aim towards, and something to motivate me to achieve. I do struggle to get out for a run, but once I’m out I very rarely regret it. I love being outdoors in the fresh air. Some days a run is the only time I get to myself, so it’s precious me time. I am an introvert, so I don’t mind my own company. It gives time just to unwind and think, or not think. It’s peace and quiet. Exercise does make you feel good.
  • Gym: Before our daughter came home I was a member of the gym, but gave that up when she came. I’ve recently just gone back, and am so far loving it. I guess I go for all of the reasons I go running. But, it gives more opportunities for a range of activities in a comfortable temperature. Im quite a goal/numbers driven person, so the stats on the equipment are a great motivator to work hard.
  • Baking/cooking:  If i’m left on my own to cook or bake I find it quite relaxing and enjoyable.  I rarely actually eat the baked goods, but I I like making food for others, to give them something they’ll enjoy. I feel like I should do this more, I know lots of people who will happily eat my baking. I’ve recently discovered that I like taking pictures of tasty food I’ve cooked. Sounds a bit strange I know, but i guess the achievement of knowing I created/made something that looks really good feels great.
  • Reading: When I was younger I used to read for pleasure so much. I rarely do it now, and I really need to make more effort to read. Getting lost in a book is so good for you, and one way I can really switch off, if I let myself.
  • Sewing/knittng: I used to do quite a bit if very basic sewing/knitting. Again it used to be a good way to do something productive in the evenings that wasn’t just staring at my phone or the TV. It was a chance to create things, and be proud of my achievements. I would really like to progress from the basics, but will only do so if I commit and make time to learn and practice. These sort of activities are also really relaxing.
  • Time with friends: This last year I’ve been able to make some great new friends through the local adoption group and church. Both groups tend to meet on Wednesdays, and Little One and I have loved going along to both. It’s been amazing to have adoption friends who ‘get it’, and who I can chat things over with as well as friends who just want to ‘do life’ with you. Having all these new found friendships this has massively improved my well-being because for the first year with Little One I don’t think I made any new meaningful friendships, and that made me feel very lonely. I pushed to continue to have Wednesdays off because it means that I can continue to go to and be apart of these groups without Little One. For me, that’s really important, and I’m so grateful I can.

So, the challenge is on. It’s time to prioritise some self care, and start looking after me a bit more…..

Family ‘Meet Up’ – Take Two

Today we attend our second ‘family meet up’ This would be more commonly known as ‘contact’. I now prefer to try not to call it that as to me that sounds to formal, too clinical. I see it more as an informal family get together. Ours was certainly not formal or clinical. It involved getting soaked in the rain, cheese toasties, puddle jumping, ice cream, whistling and giggles. I don’t think most people would call meeting up with their family ‘contact’, and nor shall we….

The concept of family meet up’s or ‘contact’ is quite a difficult one for people who don’t know adoption to get their head around I think. They may wonder ‘why would you meet up with the people who the child was remove from?” I think it’s important to understand that face to face meet ups would never be considered if there was any safety risk to those involved. Also, if it would cause psychological distress or harm to anyone.. I think the majority of families who have face to face meet ups have them with Birth parents or siblings. Ours is with another Birth Relative, one who was very involved in Little One’s life pre and during care. Kate (*not her real name)  is not her Birth Mum, but is someone she did live with before care, and someone who is an important part of her story, her life.

This was our second ‘meet up’ Read all about the first one (here)

It went pretty much the same, and was just as successful. We told Little One the day before as like last time, we didn’t think she needed too much time to think about it as too much time could make her anxious. She was fine. She went off to sleep nice and quickly at bedtime, and woke up very excited to see Kate. She was excited before we left and kept asking when we were going. She was excited on the journey, and kept asking if we were there yet. It was not anxious or distressed asking, just excited to be seeing someone she loves.

It was really interesting to see how Little One was this meet up compared to the last one, which was almost exactly a year ago. I think it helped that it was in the same place, so she knew where we were going and what to expect. When we got there, Kate got out the car and waited for us to get out. Little One was much more confident this time. Very keen to get out, was waving and smiling happily. Last year she was quite shy and reserved and clung to me. This time she was straight in, and was happy to go ahead with Kate holding her hand and they walked along and chatted in the pouring rain. It was like we’d only seen each other yesterday. I think both reactions were appropriate, and show how much she has changed in a year. This year she took great delight in telling Kate a few times ‘that’s my Mummy & daddy’ and pointing to us. She clearly feels secure and confident in her identity for now. I think she understands a bit more about her story now. She told Kate she couldn’t live with her because she was ‘too old’, which is true, and what we’ve told her previously. We’ve been talking quite a bit about when she came to us, and what life was like for all of us before she came. She  understands she wasn’t always our daughter, but also understands that she is absolutely ours now. Bless Kate, it maybe wasn’t easy for her to hear us referred to as Mummy/Daddy, but to her credit she totally backed that up.

It was really helpful for us to find out a bit about how Birth Mum is (she didn’t reply to any of the letters). What we were told was not a surprise, but still desperately sad. I think I was more shocked/sad than I was expected to be. I’m glad we know as social services have not said anything to us. Having as much insight and knowledge as possible can only be a good thing I guess, It makes me very sad for her future. It also makes me very glad that Little One was removed when she was, and that the plan was adoption. I hate to think what could have happened if she’d not been removed, or if she’d been returned. I think events have shown exactly why adoption was the safest and best route for little one. I think that Kate realises this too. She told me she could see that Little One was very happy, very settled and doing brilliantly. I hope that this reassured her that adoption was the right thing for her. She did tell me previously that she was relieved that Little One was no longer in that damaging environment.

The Support Worker who accompanied Kate to the meet up told us that there is a high likelihood that meetings in the future would not be ‘supported/supervised’ Now they do not need to be supervised from a safety point of view, but having that support/supervision has been helpful and reassuring. I think for Kate more than ourselves. We have each other, and Little One. She has no one, and obviously has to go away without Little One. I can’t imagine how that must feel. The support worker feels that she needs this emotional support, and that she’ll continue to need it. It makes me so cross, that something that a vulnerable person, (yes, I think she is) needs will probably be taken away. Our Meet Up’s are so positive, and are so valuable, to risk losing this is scary. I think people need to understand that it’s not just the day that will be affected, it’s a little girl’s whole life. I think these meetings will do a huge amount to help her make sense of who she is, where she comes from. She’ll have questions when she’s older, if Kate is not supported properly, she may not be in the position to be able to meet up, which would be terrible. I’m going to make sure we push really hard to ask for supported meetings in the future. We’ll do all we can to make sure she’s supported. I think people sometimes forget the people left behind in adoption (e.g. Birth family), but to make these sort of events work, everyone needs to be supported. Birth Family have feelings and needs too…

So, another meet up has been done, and again I’m so proud of how Little One has coped. I guess it’s just another reminder to me of how different she is to most children, and how she has to deal with events, feeing, emotions most adults would struggle to get their head around. I know I’m not supposed to say she’s ‘lucky’, but I do think she’s very lucky to have Kate in her life, her family. To all of us she is our family. I know we wouldn’t have Little One without her selfless love, and so for that I’ll be forever grateful. So, from one very proud, emotional Mummy, Thank You Kate!