Where to begin. These past few months have been tough. That’s probably beyond an understatement, but sometimes I can’t find the words to describe just how challenging our ‘everyday’ can be at times.

autumn olbyOliver’s growing up, becoming a ‘big boy’; and a handsome one at that. Physically he is changing more than ever, however mentally, not so much.

Naturally, as he’s getting older the gap is only becoming wider and more prominent between ‘normal’ kids and himself; and to some extent even ‘special’ kids and himself. Which is fine (isn’t it?), it’s the expectation we’ve been lowering adjusting ourselves to for a while now.

I am trying so hard not to be negative (honestly) and look on the bright side. We are so incredibly thankful that he finally seems to be growing more resilient to infections and that he has managed almost a year without an acute admission. But, no matter how much I try to outweigh the negatives with positives, sometimes I feel that I am fighting a battle instead of preparing for a war.

If I am constantly pressuring myself to spin every negative into a positive I can never truly mourn the childhood Oliver should have had.

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There is no doubt that our lives are becoming slightly more complicated, that the mundane ‘everyday’ is becoming tiresome and more testing.

If I’m not consumed by the guilt of working full time instead of being with Oliver I’m exhausted from fighting to keep the next ‘thing’ out that’s waiting to swoop in and take its place.

I’m beginning to realise that coping with something and busying yourself with everything other than what you should be focussing on are two very different things. Sometimes I become so wrapped up in convincing everyone else that I’m ‘ok’ that I begin to fool myself.

I can pretend that my mind isn’t depleted daily by desperate fantasies of a world that Oliver can access, that my soul isn’t crushed by my sheer despair at wanting things to just magic themselves better; that I’m fine and that my heart isn’t heavy with the tears I refuse to cry.

I am truly, utterly, unconditionally hopelessly devoted to Oliver. Just as any parent should be to their child. Frankly, I don’t think there is anything more I could be doing for him, and if there was I would do it without hesitation. But sometimes, I can’t help but wonder if some of my efforts are in vain.

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Generally, Oliver loves life. He is the happiest, most innocent little soul who is unaware of just how cruel the world can be. Despite his blissful ignorance, it’s beginning to dawn on me just how little he can do for himself.  If he didn’t have us he wouldn’t have anything; and sometimes that thought becomes too unbearable to fathom.

He still can’t hold a milk bottle or feed himself, he can’t go and play with his toys independently. He can’t pester us to wake up in the morning and take him to a park. He can’t make friends, he can’t hug us, he can’t verbalise how he’s feeling. He can’t sit independently nor stand. He can’t crawl or walk. He can’t dress himself. He can’t have a tantrum. He can’t make choices. He can’t discover a passion. He can’t love us the way we yearn to be loved.

He can’t …

The list goes on and we’re under no illusion that as the months go by it may become more extensive. And yes, disregarding that list there is lots he can do but for every ‘can’ there are a hundred ‘can’ts’ and for every ‘can’t’ there are a thousand ‘mights’. It’s a ruthless, maddening, vicious cycle that we struggle to escape at times.

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Ultimately, no matter how much I do for him it will never be enough. I will always feel that he has been robbed of a life that he was destined for. A life where he has the autonomy to forge his own path. To entertain his own wants, have his own ambitions and desires and fulfil them in his own way. He deserves normality, he deserves independence and he deserves, more than anything, a childhood.

The past two years have been an explosion of fear, shock, exhaustion and uncertainty and when I take the time to reflect on our journey of parenting thus far I have no idea how we’re still here.

I suppose it’s beginning to simmer down to the fact we’re starting the transition to being noticeably ‘different’, noticeably ‘special’ and I’m not too sure how I feel about it.

Oh, my darling boy. There is something so spectacularly precious about you I can’t even begin to find the words to describe it.

To describe your purity & kindness. Your delicate, loving nature and beautiful temperament.
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Your positive energy and determination astonishes me. You are truly extraordinary and I love you more than anything else in this entire world.  Parenting is everything I never expected. It’s a long haul, one of endurance and I’m with you, by your side every step of the way. I will never, ever stop wanting nor relentlessly persevering for the best for you.

Most days, we get through. Others, my mind whirls and I remember that I’ll probably never hear an ‘I love you Mummy’ leave your lips.

You may never have the ability to learn words to comfort me.  You can’t reciprocate nor initiate a warm embrace. But, a strategic shuffle to feel your arm across my neck as if you are holding me is working thus far.

I don’t need the physical appreciation. The deliberate hugs or kisses. Trying to bite my face off at any given opportunity is your thing and I’m fine with it. I’m learning that it will be enough; it has to be.

Although, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes the burning desire for you to hold and cling on to me, to joke with me, to play with me becomes too much. Overwhelming in fact.

I know that you have bad days and I try my best to nurture you through them. We all do. However, the communication barrier and your inability to find comfort in our words is proving more challenging by the day.

I know when you’re unhappy and something’s bothering you. Despite your frustration being brazen, it kills me that you can’t tell me where it hurts or what you need.olive blog

I mean, I know that you need me, probably not as much as I need you, but you do need me. As a mother, as an advocate, as a carer. Trust me when I say I am trying my hardest to exceed expectations, I truly am, but it’s tough.

It was your birthday the other week and with it came an abundance of conflicting emotions. You were none the wiser. Of course you weren’t. You weren’t particularly fond of the heat and I’m almost certain a sneaky tooth was trying to break through, but you sure are loved ever so dearly by so many people. Whether you showed it or not, I know that you felt it. You felt that warmth and love; you felt safe.

No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t help but feel that pang that I try so hard to shut out. Every photo or video I took, every moment I stopped to take in I had the fleeting thought of ‘What if this is your last?’ ‘How many more birthdays are we going to get spend together?’ Ten, twenty? Two or three?

The words life limiting resound in my head almost constantly and I have the odd moment where the severity of everything you are going through wipes me out. It’s like my feet are gone from under me and I can’t muster the strength to rebalance.

Once one of those thoughts worm their way in they all do; they invade my rational mind and I despise them. I allow myself to panic briefly; to try and envisage a world without you and I can’t. All I see is emptiness. And it’s at that point that my true desperation to fix you unleashes and I cannot catch my breath.Oli bday 2 blog

Then, I look at you smiling so sweetly or sleeping so soundly and I manage to steady myself again. To absorb your innocence for a moment; to envy it. To allow it to nullify those dreadful, yet sadly, potentially realistic thoughts.

I must remind myself that you are unaware of so much. You don’t understand the world as others do and I’m starting to wonder whether there’s a reason for it. You don’t feel fear. You don’t know life any differently and you certainly have no idea just how handsome you are.

You are happy just the way you are. It’s enough for you.

I think know you are far too virtuous for this world and I am truly blessed and beyond privileged to have you as my son.

Happy Birthday Sweetpea; here’s to many more.

These past couple of months have been a whirlwind. Oliver has barely managed a week without appointments, I haven’t had time to blog (brace yourselves, it’s a long one);  juggling work and trying to stay on top of all his paperwork has been a struggle.

IMG_2611Home Suction being sorted (finally) has made a massive difference. Receiving this equipment has been such a weight off of our shoulders. It means that when Oliver can’t manage his oral secretions or does fall ill we have been able to intervene a bit at home and stop him from aspirating. It’s not a miraculous cure and I’m under no illusion that we may have to have a hospital visit soon, but I’m trying to be more of a ‘glass half full’ person … I know, I know, we’ll see how long it lasts. 

After taking some getting used to, Oliver’s glasses are having such a positive impact on his development. Despite him not being a major fan of them and looking slightly like an alien, he is far more responsive, vocal and does seem to be taking more of an interest in things so that’s a win!

 

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His new chair finally got delivered the other week which he LOVES. If I’m honest, I think he may love it more than me and Craig. Seeing him happy and playing (smashing everything he can get his hands on) independently is priceless … even if it does involve him manoeuvring every toy he possibly can into his mouth and then lobbing it any in direction. His co-ordination isn’t the best but that’s fine – there’s no rush and I’m confident that he will learn.

My inner cynic can’t help but feel slightly annoyed that it took 20 months for him to be able to have a chair that he can use as a high chair and wonder what his development might be like if he had been able to have it sooner, but hey. 

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It is so nice that there are aspects of Oliver that we can finally see developing and progressing. Nevertheless, it is becoming more apparent that he has good and bad days with a vast contrast between the two.  His absence seizures are still prominent and there are days where he really isn’t with it,  in his own world entirely, glazed over and not really responsive.  Some days he doesn’t want contact, some days all he wants is to be held. Other times he won’t eat and gag before a spoon or bottle teat has even touched his lips, or he’s a little piggy and can’t down his bottle quick enough.

Most recently, It’s like a switch has been flicked and he’s loving life! Many months have been spent willing and persevering with him to take an interest in things, at times unsure if our efforts made were in vain. He seems to have developed so rapidly recently, almost overnight. We can’t quite believe the positive change we’re seeing in him and it’s the most cherished, overwhelming, rewarding feeling. We are seeing him deliberately happy, enjoying his food, making different noises.  He’s been extremely hit and miss with his solids and swallowing but recently has been tolerating different textures and food. This progression has given us hope that a feeding tube may not be an inevitable future prospect.

We’re starting to feel hopeful for the first time in a long time.  I’m unsure if this is embracing the half full glass or delusional, but I’m sure time will tell.

IMG_5524Craig and I have been off work this week too which has made a huge difference. Family time is the best time. Even just all of us taking the time to watch a film and be silly together. It’s the simple moments that are treasured.

We took Oliver to the zoo yesterday and the weather was great which lifted everyone’s mood. Oliver wasn’t the happiest sausage and slept the majority of the way around, intermittently stirring from his slumber to give us a death stare, but it’s making memories that counts.

Oliver had a skin & muscle biopsy back in March. After we felt confident his wound had healed and the weather brightened up a bit we took him back to his favourite place – the swimming pool.  It was the most wonderful time and it was as if he had never been away! He tolerated a whole 45 minutes kicking and splashing around, looking at the sensory lights and laying there like a King whilst we showered him with the watering can every now and then.  If I’m ever fortunate enough to win the lottery the first thing I’m buying is a Hydrotherapy pool!

I’m trying to forget about the medical side of things for the time being and just enjoy the time we’re having together. His most recent MRI results weren’t what we were hoping for (I’ll go into this another time) but we’re learning to focus on him and his abilities rather than what a scan is telling us.  We’ll hopefully get his skin & muscle biopsy results in a couple of months too and know more about everything then … hopefully.

 

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There are so many possibilities with Oliver and his conditions, in all honesty we are struggling to keep up.  So, we’re trying to be positive and remember that any outcome, positive or negative is exactly that … a possibility.  It’s not definite nor confirmed, it’s something that may or may not happen.  If you’re reading this and can relate in any way, it is taking a long time but we are slowly learning to have hope.

On the bad days it’s hard, especially when all you can recall from recent months are hospital admissions, appointments, feeding struggles and a miserable child who you can’t console or communicate with how you wish to. But just that one day, one hour even, of happiness or the slightest miniscule development in their behaviour can turn your world upside down in the best way.  Oliver is generally a happy child, ecstatic almost,. but when he’s feeling under the weather we sure do know about it and it’s important to stay positive and hopeful particularly during those times.

Hope makes anything possible. 

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I really hoped that I had managed to get around to blogging before now but in all honesty we’ve been too busy staying out of hospital and enjoying quality family time at home! I know, I can’t quite believe it either …Oli southampton.png

This summer has been so lovely and Oliver has been as good as gold. We’ve had frequent routine appointments but other than that we’ve spent our days either in the hot tub, playing or getting out and about. It’s been the first prolonged period of good health and progression with Oliver since he was born and we’ve not taken one moment for granted.

He’s turned into a little piglet and is now eating ‘proper food’- blended mash/veg/chicken daily and gobbling it up. Of course, there is still the odd cough/splutter but he’s actively chewing and moving food around his mouth which he just didn’t do for so long.

His swallow assessment lady (I know, ever technical with correct professional terms) has agreed to hold off on a video fluoroscopy for the time being too – woohoo! I’m definitely feeling hopeful. We now just have to get him to master drinking from a sippy cup as opposed to a bottle; fingers crossed it just clicks one day.

The standing frame has essentially been made redundant at the moment. He’s still in it occasionally but he isn’t so keen on his piedro boots. The standing frame was great but in a sense it’s quite restrictive; he gets quite bored and frustrated now because he just wants to be moving. Also, it requires far more effort from him to play in there as opposed to his chair so there’s probably a sneaky element of laziness there too.  oli eating

 

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Despite Oliver not being able to sit/stand/support himself I’ve often wondered whether if he was supported and the option for him to move his legs was there whether he might give it a whirl.  So, we spoke to his physiotherapist about a walker instead of the standing frame to see if it might encourage him.  She agreed and we’ve got an appointment at the beginning of October to go and see what one will be most suited to his needs. So excited – rock n’ roll lifestyle right here lads.

Medically we’re still in the same boat really. We had one abnormal result from his skin/muscle biopsy which has been referred to a mitochondrial team for further testing and analysis. Again, we’ve been given no definitive timescales nor information on what we can expect to come from it or what it may mean for Oliver’s prognosis. Shock, it’s another waiting game. He has a neurologist appointment in the near future so hopefully we may get some form of an answer or at least a plan going forward then.

 

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I won’t lie, despite our circumstance not essentially changing it still affects us when we receive news of any sort. I suppose we don’t know its significance or relevance yet, but it’s still ‘something’ for us to take on board and work into our considerations.

It resurfaces those horrible feelings of uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the unknown. It brings back those moments where the ‘what if/but’ questions endlessly intrude our minds. Although, we’re slowly developing and realising how important it is to allow ourselves the time to have those moments, those moments where we ‘lose it’ for a little while and then rationalise the situation and remember that still, we have no diagnosis, and that still, we don’t really know a great deal about Oliver’s illnesses. And, of course, to just take one look at him and see how well he has been doing and how happy he has been recently. God love him!

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Other than Oliver’s recent happenings, not a great deal has been going on. We’ve just been enjoying settling into our new home and getting back on the wedding planning train. What we had booked we ended up cancelling as it was just too much pressure and there was no way Oliver would’ve been comfortable. It was booked long before we had any idea of the extent of Oliver’s conditions and in hindsight pushing it back was wishful thinking.

So, we bit the bullet and cancelled. Initially, it was a weight off with everything else going on but then it sank in and we realised how much we do want to get married.  So, here we go again. It’s going to be very intimate, small and in our back garden with our nearest and dearest. Oliver has all of his creature comforts (ok, mainly the swing) and sharing our day with the people who have been there for us throughout everything is all we need.

Bring on the good times! (pretty please)

Unsurprisingly, life doesn’t always go to plan. Sometimes this can work in our favour and other times it can be somewhat destructive. Life can change in an instant, it may be a curse, a blessing or both. It can be a welcome, sometimes encouraged change or a very uninvited, unexpected change.

I first started to notice my son wasn’t developing as he should be when he was about three/four months old. He wasn’t engulfed by rolls of chub, expressive or particularly interactive. I voiced my concerns countless times only to be reassured by medical professionals, friends and family that he was fine.

So, I carried on as ‘normal’, pushing the growing niggles to the back of my mind and allowing myself to indulge in everyone else’s optimism and reassurance. I queried the missed milestones but was met with an abundance of similar retorts – ‘all babies develop differently’ and anecdotes about their own offspring.

As imagined, more milestones were missed, more hospital admissions were encountered and the endless optimism and reassurance from others became less convincing. I could sense the doubt in their eyes but their words were as desperate as ever. I knew they wanted to believe as much as I did that he was just ‘a bit behind.’ IMG_2447

To cut a very long, upsetting and difficult story short my son was six months old when he was first classed as having global developmental delay and neurological abnormalities.

Initially, I completely dismissed this information, searched for alternative answers and was in denial for a long time. I so desperately needed my instincts to be proven wrong. However, as time progressed the inevitable dawned on me and I had no choice but to begin to accept, well, the inevitable.

Acceptance is imperative. Because once you begin accept things aren’t how you imagined, you can start to move forward. You can start to live your life. The adjusted, altered, real version.

Nonetheless, with acceptance came anger. I was consumed by resentment and began to see the world from a very obscure, unattractive and bitter view point.

A sense of entitlement for what I had ‘lost’ overcame me and bitterness crept in throughout the most mundane of tasks. I could have easily strangled the pregnant women I saw smoking outside the labour ward without a second thought. The things I was getting myself worked up about bared no relevance nor significance to my current situation. Those pregnant women smoking weren’t affecting Oliver, and if they stopped he wouldn’t suddenly get better. Of course he wouldn’t. It wasn’t impacting him at all, but instead of letting that anger subside I let it build up into such an overpowering sense of resentment I didn’t recognise myself.  There was literally no one to blame, nobody was at fault and there was absolutely nothing I could do that would make my son better.

In order to overcome the anger and begin to accept Oliver’s prognosis, I had to begin to adjust, to forget the ideal of parenthood that we had envisaged throughout pregnancy and stop allowing this bitter parasite of hatred taint my every day. I realised that by holding on to these negative feelings I was only turning an incredibly difficult time into a far more challenging time for myself and those around me.

Adjustment is an ongoing process and in time, it becomes natural. I have become accustomed to our own journey. I have learned to forget the milestones and the ‘should haves’ and the ‘have nots’. To adapt and start living our life to best of our ability, to stop comparing it to the ideal it should have been and have the best intentions to reflect on every single positive aspect that I can daily.

No child deserves to be unwell and no family deserves to experience the grief and hostility that accompanies it.

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I think I’m still at the anger stage and probably a part of me always will be. Oliver is only 20 months old so we have a long road ahead of us. I’m bordering on the adjustment line and teetering on the edge of acceptance.

The three A’s are all part of the journey of a child who is medically complex or has special needs. Like most journeys, you can take a wrong turn, you can climb a mountain only to reach the top and see a plague of mountains, far higher and far bumpier. Some journeys don’t have an ending, sometimes it is a long road that never turns. Sometimes it’s a short road with lots of turns or barely even a road at all.

My son has taught me so much about myself, the world, and life.  I know what unconditional love is and I know that it will see us through anything.  Some days are harder than others and some days are a little less hard, but one look at him and I know in that instant why I keep going.

I can only ever hope to have a soul as perfectly pure as his one day.