Get your filthy paws off my fundamental human rights.

This is not a #youknowme 1 in 4 story. I’ve never been pregnant. Never will be. My abstinence, timing, contraceptives or luck weren’t what prevented drama and hard decisions. My inhospitable womb is responsible.

Despite how much I desperately wanted to get pregnant I fiercely defend abortion as a fundamental human right and categorise it as healthcare.

No-one should be legally compelled to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. No-one should be forced to continue a pregnancy with the knowledge that their child will be born to die or be profoundly impaired. No-one should be compelled to play Russian-roulette with their physical or mental health in the hope that everything will be ok when all medical evidence and experience suggests otherwise.

Individuals must be given the agency and ability to make the hard, heartbreaking and life altering choices than any pregnancy can bring.

I was pro-choice as a teenager comforting my 15 year old friend who’s mother gave her no option but the termination. I was pro-choice in my 20’s when I accompanied another friend to a clinic and tucked her safely into a blanket fort to heal. But it’s in my 30’s that I’ve become confident and unashamed to shout that I am pro-choice.

Partially, because I am witnessing and navigating the long lasting impact and damage of inadequate early years care. My eldest daughter is massively affected. Read up on attachment disorder and containment theory and then bear in mind that we believe that this damage was inflicted while my daughter was within foster care.

This propaganda of utilising unwilling individuals as incubators before handing babies over to a fit for purpose system, which is caring and nurturing is bullshit. So called pro-lifers aren’t concerned about the life of any children.

On the 31st of July 2018 there were 14,738 looked after children in Scotland. 2% of Scottish children. Looked after is the official terminology used by Scotland’s national and local government bodies to describe children and young people in the care of the local authority.

Even with legalised abortion our services are in crisis, desperate for more foster and adoptive carers for vulnerable children and young people.

I would be really interested to see how many of these so called pro-lifers are doing the training, checks and opening their homes to the children who are in desperate need.

How many are out there campaigning for vastly improved sex education, free and easy access to contraception and engaging with the parents of these teens? All proven to reduce rates of teenage pregnancies.

How many are supporting rape crisis centres, refuges, child poverty charities, campaigning against the governments austerity cuts and educating themselves about the myriad of mystery that having a womb can entail.

How can you claim to be pro-life when there is a wealth of evidence that prohibiting abortion kills women?

My personal option is that a foetus is not a life. Life is something which is completely in the power of the individual carrying that foetus. When that individual acknowledges and accepts that they are forever beholden to that wee bundle of cells. For some that will be the instant a test confirms their suspicions. For others there was no life, no baby, nothing but the abject horror of possibility.

I’m pro the life of that teenager violated by a family member.

Pro the life of the desperate mother who has just been given an incompatible with life diagnosis on a much wanted and already much loved child.

Pro the life of my friend who ‘thinks’ that they used a condom on a drunken one night stand. Who absolutely can’t have a baby 2 years out of university and in the very early stages of launching a stratospheric career.

Pro the life of the already beaten mother who can’t afford or face the idea of adding another child to her burden.

I celebrated when the Republic of Ireland repealed the 8th. Now I’m badgering my MP to stand with Northern Ireland and making sure that he knows that I won’t allow the UK government to continue to breach it’s international human rights obligations. The link is here if you agree with the United Nations that the rights of NI women and girls are being violated and want to ask your MP what they are doing about it.

Feeling the overwhelm: Could pleasure seeking respark your joy?

I work from home, only have two children and am fine with our house being clean-ish but chaotic. I should have hours to spend as I please. Time to spend on activities to revitalise, refresh and rejuvenate me.

Except I didn’t. I spent very little time doing anything which brought just me any joy. All my focus was on other people. All my joy was derived from the happiness of others.

I know that I’m not alone in this. My friends, sisters and the equally exasperated women I encounter are all saying the same thing “we never get any time for ourselves”.

But we do. An Oxford University study has shown that we have lost some leisure time since the 1970’s. But we’ve only lost 2.46 hours a week. Leaving us with 113 glorious hours of free time. So why are 81% of women reporting that they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope?

An operation on my ankle, and a period bed bound, gave me an insight as to why this might be. With instructions from the doctor to rest, I was relieved of all household and childcare duties. I worked from bed but the rest of my time was my own. I was miserable.

I had no idea what to do to spark joy. I watched hours of Netflix, convincing myself that an opportunity to watch all of the box sets was a great thing. It wasn’t.

Being stuck in bed wasn’t the problem. I was so disconnected from what brought me pleasure. I had no idea how to spend my time when all I had to do was please myself.

I brainstormed all the things that I could do to make me happy and started seeking joy.

I wrote letters to friends and family, delayed gratification but the flurry of post in return was joyous. I read, 9 books in 3 weeks. I wrote lists, journal entries and even a couple of short stories. I phoned people, not text, actual conversations. In short, I did things that I claim I don’t have time for when I’m on my feet.

It was heavenly.

Of course, I had to get back out of bed. I wasn’t dreading it. An idea was starting to form. It isn’t about the time devoted to pleasure it’s about maximising the pleasure in whatever time you have.

It’s easy to prioritise the needs of everyone else and much harder to take control and say “I need”. So start small.

I set my alarm 5 minutes earlier. This way I have time to disguise the dark circles under my eyes and apply an eyeliner flick and some mascara. It brings me great pleasure to feel pulled together and not see a wisened old crone every time I pass a reflective surface.

I’ve stopped talking the dog on our ordinary, boring route and now factor in an extra 30 minutes so that I can get to the woods or beach where walking him is an absolute pleasure.

I bought my husband fancy headphones. It was a completely selfish gift to give me peace while he watches tv of an evening. I spend those blissfully quiet, child free hours reading.

I grab myself a take away coffee at the supermarket. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable the weekly shop is when I’m adequately caffeinated.

I haven’t managed to add a 25th hour to the day. But these wee nuggets of genuine, completely selfish, joy make my days. And as with anything the more you go looking for joy the more you find.

Mummy Manifesting

It took us a while to become parents. Years of trying, fertility investigations, treatments and adoption. My girls are very, very wanted and It is no secret that becoming Mummy was and is massively important.

The other day I caught myself mid rant. Miserable. Exhausted. Thoroughly fed up with the whole thing. I am not the mother I envisaged. Admittedly that lentil weaving, floaty skirted, zen mama maybe is a little unachieveable given my personality. But even so this short tempered, screeching, she devil is way too far in the other direction.

I do not want. No that isn’t strong enough. I completely reject the knackered, shouty, stressed mother I have become.  I spent years putting heart and soul into becoming a Mother. It was not for this.

I love being Mummy. I adore the house being filled with their laughter, sticky finger prints, plastic tat booby trapping every floor, socks of varying sizes all missing a buddy and all the apples in the fruit bowl missing just one bite. This is the life I dreamt of. This is precisely what I signed up for.

I’m going to be a lot more conscious of the mother I want to be.

Using a quiet and calm voice. The fact that this is way more terrifying when a small knows that they have done wrong is definitely a bonus.

Actively seeking out time with and activities with my girls. Spending time with them is a pleasure, a joy and a privilege.

Refusing to engage in moaning, bitching or embracing the negativity. We create the life we focus on. Yes there is always room for improvement. By concentrating on the good, the joy that they bring me and the smiles this becomes the story.

I am manifesting that zen mama. Although I’m still at a loss as to how you weave a lentil…

 

 

Kindness

I sailed through my early life blissfully ignorant of the power of kindness. I was lucky. Unscathed by life. Of course, life has a funny way of catching up and boy did it catch me.

Infertility, a gruelling and unnecessarily cruel adoption process and the complete life overhaul that becoming a parent brings left me a broken shell of my former self. Depression followed and I was left lonely, anxious and with my confidence in tatters.

G’s unfailing love and support was hugely important. But on the horribly bleak days it was often the kindness of complete strangers which lit my way.

The wonderful man who brought back the purse I dropped out of the buggy. He brought it to my house, with all the money still in it and wouldn’t even let me say thank you properly.

The wee lady who told me what a smashing job I was doing as my toddler screamed herself blue with rage in Tesco.

The scotrail employee who refused point blank to follow procedure and charge me a full days parking for a lost ticket. He said that I looked like I needed a break. Some days the Mum bun in unwashed hair, under eye luggage and obvious got dressed in the dark uniform will be your friend.

The mothercare staff who understood that a lost teddy was an emergency and pulled apart their stock room to find an out of stock bear. Then stayed after the store had closed while I drove like an eejit to meet them in the car park. My now teenage child is blissfully unaware that Teddy is actually Teddy II.

None of these acts are particularly grand gestures. None has taken people massively out of their way. Each also took place a decade, maybe more, ago. Yet the memory of each is fresh and clear. These small acts were/are massively important to me. Each shaped and defined the person I strive to be.

My main wish. My oft repeated rant is ‘Why can’t it just be kinder?’ Of course the it changes with the situation.

Why can’t the adoption process truly put the needs of the child above all else. Treat the child with kindness and it does.

Why can’t the school’s handling of bullying be less victim blaming and more restorative? Treat all involved with kindness and it does.

Why does getting help and support involve prostrating ourselves at the feet of the worthy and being left to feel weighed, measured and found wanting? Treat applicants with kindness and this stops.

Most problems I encounter are at least diminished in the face of kindness. Genuine empathy and treating people the way I would like to be treated. It’s a revolutionary act. I’m calmer. More forgiving, Open to the truth that most people are innately good, but distracted. Happier, it is uplifting and beautiful to see the good, to be positive and to hope beyond hope that maybe one of my small acts is the beacon in someone else’s day. That maybe something I do will still be clear and fresh in the recipients mind years later.

This is why I’m taking part in Proper Post’s 5 Days of Kind Challenge Whilst it is absolutely something I endeavour to do 365 days of the year a wee shake up and following some fun prompts can’t be a bad thing. Who knows where it will lead. If you fancy joining the revolution it isn’t too late. Sign up here

When love just isn’t enough

My eldest daughter has complex additional needs. Her diagnosis is far from clear cut and includes a couple of conflicting conditions, which aggravate, mask and exasperate each other. Getting her help is never going to be a magic pill which miraculously transforms her into the girl she normally manages to pretend to be.

See this is the truly heartbreaking nature of it. If you were to meet my eldest daughter you would find her to be charming, personable and engaging. If you got to know her well you might think her a little socially awkward but these complex additional needs, well her mother is obviously neurotic.

Only I’m not. Ok, well not in this instance!

My darling, kind, funny daughter has two sides. A side that she shows to the outside world. A mask she can maintain when everything is calm, safe and predictable. Sadly, her conditions mean that very often the world to her is far from calm, safe and predictable. She lives is a heightened state of anxiety. A state she is completely unable to cope with.

In this state of anxiety the other side of my daughter makes our family life miserable. We call them meltdowns. Probably the easiest comparison is to a toddlers temper tantrums. But in a 12 year old and with a 12 year olds stamina. They can, and frequently do, last for days.

During these periods we all have to endure being screamed at, insulted, physically threatened and what is worse watch her treat people we love so horribly. It absolutely is emotional abuse in a pure and potent form. If she was my partner I would be packing up and running. But she’s my daughter.

This behaviour is functional. She is attempting to communicate her distress. I am massively sympathetic to that and on hand to help in anyway I can. But when she is in this state she is beyond reason. In this state she absolutely does not want to sit down calmly and tell me how a classmate’s perfectly innocent comment has left her confused, hurt and entering into a primal fight or flight adrenaline roller coaster.

No, in this state all she is capable of is trying to show me how she is felling by making me feel the same. I’d describe myself as pretty empathic, finding it incredibly easy to imagine how another might been. If she was able to articulate even a fraction of what she was experiencing I’d get there. But she isn’t able to identify, untangle and discuss her emotions in this way. She just doesn’t have the ability.

How she communicates is by inflicting pain. My girl who isn’t really able to understand that the sensation she is feeling is cold and can be fixed by putting on a jumper is an absolute master at finding a point of sensitivity and exploiting it, mercilessly.

I am used to screamed insults, my younger daughter will frequently play in the middle of what should send a less desensitised 4 year old crying to their Mummy, my husband normalising the physical interventions when he has to get in her way as she flies at me. Our family life is frequently a battle ground. And I am without a weapon.

I need to find a way to protect myself and those I love without wounding a confused and distressed wee girl.