Did you know there are around 1.8 million single parents in the UK – they make up nearly a quarter of families with dependent children. 1.62 million of these are women. I never really thought about this until it happened to us.
I could lie to you all and say we have had an easy ride of things recently but I think you probably know that’s not the case. This is a big adjustment period for me and more importantly for William.
My main focus is to continue to ensure William has a good solid routine in place which is pivotal to him. He is keeping me extremely busy as he seems to be struggling with this huge change in his life, bed times and mornings are now only ever with me and I don’t think he enjoys them very much. He fights and kicks me when I try to change his clothes, runs away from me and screams but we get it done.
We take the dog for nice little walks (well he walks us🐕🦺) which William seems to really enjoy even though he is in the comfort of his stroller and flat of refuses to do any walking. I’m tempted to stay at home and just tie the dog to the stroller and let him pull it arpund the street like a sled 🛷 but I think that would constitute as child cruelty or animal cruelty. Maybe neglect? So I best continue to go with them 🤣
We are eating healthier (as healthy as a boy thats half chicken nugget will eat anyway🍗) and trying to turn this into a positive thing for our lives and look to our future.
We’ve had meltdowns and shutdowns (from both of us😭) but we’ve come through it and these are getting less and less frequent on both parts. He is slowly adjusting to his new routine and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel but its hard. Harder than it ever was before but we are doing ok. In fact we are more than ok, we aren’t just surviving like I thought we would. We are actually living thanks to our amazing support network of family and friends.
We can not thank everyone enough for reaching out to us, the doorstep visits, dropping off shopping and just being there for us. It means more than you all could ever know 😘 Much love M x
Its a Monday and when I was office based it used to be my favourite day of the week but not anymore, today feel like the most Monday-ist Monday ever! In the words of that Geldof prick and school shooter Brenda Spencer… ‘I don’t like Mondays.’
Today me got to meet our new health visitor; Louise. we all know how much we rated Sarah so she does have a lot to live up to. Louise has been the health visitor for our area for 15 years which is a long time for a health visitor to remain in the profession.
She turned up in full PPE as you would expect in todays current climate, Mask, goggles, gloves and full length plastic apron. Brilliant first impression… the neighbours must think we either stink or are getting fumigated 🦨🤣
She introduced herself and immediately jumped into questions about William, I must say the sceptic in me immediately though she hadn’t read his notes but she was also referring to him and wanted a thorough picture for herself of his capabilities and behaviours.
She confirmed she will be attending next Mondays meeting about his EHCP just like Sarah used to despite not receiving the official invitation.
Before I could even ask her about the Nappy Service she told me she had looked into our request and there was no leeway with him being under four, again this impressed me that she had looked into things that we had hit brick walls with without having to be asked. This one was on my little things I had written down during the months I was unable to speak with Sarah.
She has decided to put us through to a sleep specialist to help us hopefully get William to sleep easier and keep him asleep, this will involve lots of assessments and advice before potentially leading to medication such as melatonin. Melatonin will help most kids fall to sleep but not all… The problem is some parents believe it will help a child who is procrastinating going to bed, stop a child waking up early or having nightmares but that isn’t the case. Melatonin is usually a natural hormone that our brains release in order to help us fall to sleep. Melatonin supplements are available easily online but they are NOT regulated and may do more harm than good. If you are considering Melatonin please ensure you speak to a professional before buying something that you cant be 100% sure of what’s in it. There are concerns that because melatonin is a hormone that it may effect your child’s development when they hit puberty and it is something we will need to consider deeply if we reach that stage.
I asked her to refer us to Wheelchair services so we can get a specialised buggy but she wasn’t sure if she was able to do so. she said she would be in touch about it and… within 2 hours of her leaving our house she was on the phone advising us of who we need to speak to as only two organisations can make that referral, Occupational health and Physiotherapy but William doesn’t need any of these 😕 Its not that he can’t walk. Far from it. Its when he does walk he will drop to the floor in a floppy state no matter where he is including roads, its the fact he has no danger awareness and a buggy at times he goes floppy or has a meltdown would prevent him from getting hurt. I’ve lost count of the amount of time Dave has had to stop cars because or child is laid in the street. 🚗 we have spoken to our G.P surgery and have a telephone consultation booked next week for the doctor to decide if its appropriate for him to refer us 🙄
I’m not sure if we mentioned the questionnaires that are sent out prior to a child’s development check up but they have always been brutal to us. They focus on what children should be doing for their age group and as we are all aware William isn’t at his age group so it was a lot of negatives for us. These are called the Ages & stages questionnaires and unless I am mistaken are to identify children who may have developmental disabilities. He will now be assessed based on the Nelson scale which focuses on the age he is at for each area rather than where he should be for his actual age. I think this will be much easier to help us understand the next steps in his development. We see little improvements and new achievements but we find that the standard ages and stages just doesn’t celebrate or include those and will continue to score zeros despite developing slowly at his own pace.
On the plus she has weighed and measured him and he is in the 25th percentile which is where he has been all along. This made me feel so much better about his eating habits as I do worry he may be underweight but apparently he is perfectly healthy… which is always good to hear.
I think because Sarah was all we had know for 4 years we held her on a pedestal and it was unfair to presume Louise would be inferior to her. She has already made a brilliant first impression but I guess I’m just skeptical due to the amount of agencies who have failed to uphold their promises but Louise seems really promising and honest and I guess that’s all we can ask for. She will only be with us until William starts school in a years time in which the school support will take over… if we get in but thats a whole other worry for another day.
I recently read an article detailing the fact that a doctors surgery in Somerset sent a letter to Voyage Care, a facility in which supports adults with Autism and other learning disabilities.
The letter stated that the adults in their care should all have a DNR agreement in place in light of the current Covid-19 pandemic. In case you don’t know what DNR stands for it means do not resuscitate which basically means that if your heart stops or you can not breathe then medical staff will not issue CPR. No chest compressions. No mouth to mouth. No respirators. No defribrillation.
The ethics of asking anyone to sign or agree to a DNR is shaky at the best of times.
This letter was sent without any consultation with the families of the adults in question. Having any form of learning disability is never a reason to decide not to help someone to survive!
The British medical association states that a blanket DNR targeting one group is completely unethical and unacceptable. But then that raises the question of who authorised this letter to be sent in the first place! There is a huge stigma around those with learning difficulties including Autism as many people do not fully understand. We as a family are still only dipping our toes into the waters of understanding.
I simply can not understand how anyone would think it was ok to send such a letter! Can you imagine either been that ignorant or prejudice that you decide a whole group of people don’t deserve to live? Look at the people who pump themselves full of drugs and alcohol… they deserve transplants and a second chance at life but my boy when he is older would not?
Remember Emma, Mark, Martin, Ted, Tom and Warren? If not scroll back up and take a second look…
In 2007 Mencap published an article called ‘Death by indiffernce’ that highlights the fact there is an institutional discrimination within the NHS which leads to those with learning difficulties getting a substandard quality of care or in some cases none at all.
Emma. July 2004. 26 years old. Emma had a learning disability, this mean she often exhibited challenging behaviour and had difficulty communicating. Emma had Lymphoma B1 cancer. Her survival chance was 50:50. Her treatment was delayed on multiple occasions as she could not consent to it. No pain relief was given. The high court had to get involved and when treatment finally started palliative care was the only course to take.
Mark. August 2003. 30 years old. Mark had a severe learning difficulty and very little speech but he had his own way of communicating with his family. Mark broke his femur and had an operation which resulted in him losing a lot of blood (40% of it to be precise). The staff also failed to give him his epilepsy medication. He was discharged despite still incurrring pain and had to be re-admitted on multiple occasions. It took 3 days for the pain team at the hospital to see him. He died less than 9 weeks after his operation. The medical staff involved did not believe Mark’s family when they told them something was terribly wrong with him.
Martin. December 2005. 43 years old. Martin had a learning disability and no speech. Martin suffered a stroke and was sent to hospital were he contracted pneumonia. The stroke effected his ability to swallow so he could not take in food or water orally. He was placed on a drip which he didn’t handle well and often pulled out. On his second week in hospital it was established that the drip wasn’t providing him with the nutrients he needed. A speech and language therapist visited him repeatedly and advised he should be nil by mouth and other methods of feeding should be introduced. He was in hospital 3 weeks before they decided to intervene and by then it was too late. His veins had collapsed and a PEG feeding tube needed to be inserted but he was too unwell to withstand the operation. Martin went 26 days without food and nutrients before he died. The hospitals policy was to introduce alternative methods of feeding after seven days but they failed to adhere to it costing him his life.
Ted. May 2004. 61 years old. Ted had almost no speech and a severe learning disability. He was admitted to hospital with urine retention requiring a minor operation and remained there for 3 weeks as he suffered a mild heart attack and a post operative infection. His condition was assessed as concerning but the hospital pushed to discharge him back to his residential home. He was sent home and collapsed and died the following day. Following an inquest it was established that he had died from aspiration pneumonia.
Tom. May 2004. 20 years old. Tom had profound and multiple learning disabilities. Tom’s school advised his parents his was distressed but presumed he wasn’t happy there however they knew he was distressed because he was in pain and pushed for medical investigations. A consultant stated further testing was needed but it seemed to be an issue with his digestive system. No further investigation took place. Tom’s doctor decided against a PEG feeding tube because of fears Tom wouldn’t tolerate it. There was no discussion of alternative feeding methods with his parents. After school was over there was nowhere suitable for Tom and he was placed in a psychiatric unit who stated they would assess his needs and act upon them. They didn’t. Tom was losing weight fast and expressing some disturbing self mutilating behaviour in which his parents were sure it was him expressing his pain. Tom was moved to a social services residential home who admitted him to hospital. Tom had an ulcerated oesophagus. The hospital agreed to fit a PEG and the operation was carried out. Tom died before he could receive the nutrition he needed. So many different agencies look after Tom before he died and no actions were carried out resulting in his death.
Warren. September 2004. 30 years old. Warren had a severe learning disability and very little speech but could communicate well with his family. When Warren first showed signs of distress his parents called the doctor out on three occasions. His parents had their suspicions that he had a problem with his appendix or bowel but the doctor said no. A month down the line they called the doctor out again as he was having trouble swallowing and losing weight. They were told it was a virus. As he was not eating he was also not getting epilepsy medication as it was administered via his food. The doctor gave paracetamol and diazepam to calm his seizures. The next day his parents called an out of hours doctor out who told them to take him to hospital for a stomach xray but that nothing was seriously wrong. A few hours later they called him again and an ambulance was sent. Warren’s parents deceived a negative attitude towards Warren by the hospital staff. 2 hours after admission Warren had died. It was his mom who noticed he had stopped breathing. He died of an infection caused by appendicitis and a blockage caused by a paralysed bowel. Warren could not communicate but multiple people refused to listen to his parents concerns despite them knowing him better than anyone.
Remember them… they are only a small selection of people.
It took the deaths of Emma, Mark, Martin, Ted, Tom and Warren to bring about an inquiry into the inequalities within care that people with learning disabilities face.
Death by indifference: 74 deaths and counting…5 years on. Published in 2012 contained multiple case studies. Including the below remember them; Sophie, Kirsty, Lisa Barbara T, Daisy, Chantel, Carole, Kyle, Betty, Maria, Barbara D, Christian, Karen, Clive, Paul, Tina, Brian, Christopher, Ronnie, Kelly, David I, Michael, Alan, Sandra, Anne, Nicholas, David T, Sammy, Susan, Noel, Raj, Jasseke and 15 unnamed people.
Seems like a large number doesn’t it? Well almost 1200 people with learning disabilities die unnecessarily in hospital each year! Mencap have launched a campaign called ‘treat me well’ which advocates in making simple changes which will have a big impact to the way in which hospitals deal with patients with learning difficulties. I have signed up for as much information as possible in regards to the campaign so hopefully we as a family can get involved in making things better because let’s face it… it couldn’t get much worse.
Gavin Williamson our current Secretary of State for Education has made a ‘temporary’ amendment in regards to EHCPs. In my basic understanding an EHCP is a document which outlines the needs a child has in regards to their education and the local authority must adhere to it.
This amendment in laments terms basically means that EHCPs are now pretty much null and void. It’s completely understandable that the government would do something like this to protect themselves in such unprecedented times.
Most parents will understand this amendment as it’s not reasonably possible for an EHCP to be followed to the letter when schools are closed to the majority and social distancing needs to be enforced.
As you can imagine, me being the neurotic mess I am immediately panicked… William doesn’t have his in place yet, what if we can’t get one? He can’t get into a school that will meet his needs. He will fall further and further behind… the whirlwind in my mind went on and on 🌪
I reached out to Lisa who is the SENCO for early years to find out if and how this would affect us. Luckily new applications are still being accepted which has put my mind at ease (a little) as without one we can not apply to go to our school of choice which we are almost agreed upon. 🤣
Our PCP meeting is still due to take place over email or Skype or in some other technological way 👩💻 which is brilliant as we can get the ball rolling despite the current situation.
My main worry is the ‘temporary’ part of this announcement. When it’s safe to leave the house and get back to what will be put new normal, will EHCPs be enforceable again? Or will there be another reason to suspend them.
I worry about what’s going to happen in the future for the children with special needs. The world is only just starting to understand ASD and I worry this will set us as parents of these children back in our fight to get out children the best possible care.
William himself has had some amazing days recently. He’s spent a lot of time in the garden and engaging with our neighbours especially when food is involved 🍲 honestly he’s like a little zombie trying to get brains 🧟♂️
After the good days there is always a few bad. He’s not eating like he normally does. He doesn’t want to spend time with me… which is understandable but he doesn’t even want to spend time with Rusty 🐕 which is almost unheard of.
The nights he wont sleep and cant be settled are upon us. I feel so useless on these nights and could quite often sit and cry with him… pathetic I know.
Then the (disgusting) icing on the cake… this morning he was on top form and spread poo all over his room and himself. He was literally as happy as a pig in shit. 🐖 Then comes the trauma of having to hose him down and clean poo off his face and every other surface. It was like that scene in psycho. 🔪🚿
Postpartum depression and anxiety that 11-20% of women experience is not at all the same as the more commonly experienced ‘baby blues’ 80% of women experience for a few weeks.
Judy Dippel, Author of ‘Breaking the grip of Postpartum Depression: walk towards wellness with real facts, real stories and real god.’
I make it no secret that I am not a naturally maternal person and I work really hard to ensure I am the best Mom for William; the kind of Mom he needs me to be but I wont lie it often feels like i’m trying to roller-blade up a mountain ⛸.
It took me 18 months to admit I was struggling as people often referred to some of the feelings I had as ‘the baby blues’. It took me a long time having these thoughts and feelings building up for me to tell anyone and even then it was practically forced out of me in the most inappropriate way possible… A meeting at work 😳
Let me start from the beginning about my journey through trying to conceive, pregnancy, labour and beyond… We agreed it was time to start trying for a baby about a year before I fell pregnant. We quit smoking and tried to be healthier. I spoke to my doctor and agreed to come off my medication; I have a neurological disorder called Trigeminal Neuropathy and the medication I was on at the time was linked to birth defects so it wasn’t worth the risks. Every month my period came like clockwork ⏰ and every month we felt great loss as if we had lost something that wasn’t even there to start with. I’m not going to sugarcoat it but I think we both blamed ourselves. Why wasn’t my eggs working? am I infertile? I know Dave felt very similar about his swimmers too. This year of trying was constantly talking about how perfect our child would be and all the things we were looking forward to. Monday 17th June 2016; I felt pregnant but had done every month so wasn’t holding out too much hope. I didn’t even wait for Dave to get home before I peed on the stick but there it was… that extra line we had been praying for🤰🏻
Pregnancy wasn’t easy; I had several factors which placed me on the high risk list and an induction was discussed from almost day one… There flew my plans of a drug free natural birth🕊 As the weeks ticked by more and more things went wrong leading to more appointments, more medication and more worry. I left work officially on February 3rd 2017 to take my remaining leave before my maternity kicked in on the 6th March. We nested and cleaned and prepared the house for a whole tribe of babies even though we just had the one – Both of our dads are twins (not together obviously!) so at every scan I asked them to check there wasn’t another baby hiding 👶👶 1st of March I had my final consultant appointment. They needed to induce me asap to get William or Barry as we had nicknamed him (his uncle Jim still calls him Baz 3 years later) The consultants exact words were “when would you like to have your baby?” OMG! Obviously since they had driven it in to us how important it was for him to be out asap we said as soon as possible, We were booked in for Tuesday 7th March 2017. Our baby would be here in a week. 😊
Only that wasn’t quite the case… your consultant tells you what he thinks should happen and why but he doesn’t tell you if it is possible or what kind of state the wards are in. Thanks very much Fatima Allam for building your birthing suite for future labours but for me at this point it was a massive fucking inconvenience! The day arrives and we were told to bring our hospital bag… Our appointment was 6pm and no one came to us until nearly 7:30pm. We didn’t need our hospital bag; they wanted to try something called a Foley Bulb induction. I wont go into the gory details but it didn’t work and we were sent home at 2am and told to come back… with our bag at 9:30am the following morning. They wanted to try the ‘Propess’ Pessary. 24 hours under close observation. Nothing happened and i’m sat on the Maple ward with other Mothers popping out their kids left right and center despite the fact I have been there longer! How fucking inconsiderate of them! Then came the tablet pessaries and the long wait for my waters to be broken. Not to mention the numerous stretch and sweeps (Dave kept calling these scratch and sniffs 🤮) It got to the point that I didn’t believe the labour ward actually existed until my 8th day of trying to be induced… My mother had visited on day 7 and like the tornado she can be (to which I am very grateful)told them exactly how badly this was as no one was telling us anything and we were both just a wreck. It was so important for them to get him here quickly but no one was rushing. I was scared something would happen to William or to me. I wrote a letter in case i wasn’t around. One to Dave and one to William; you know with the usual. Why I fell in love with Dave and what I needed from him in my absence. A bit dramatic I know but it was how I felt.
Then day 8 arrived and by 6:59pm so had William. Lots of pain, crying and a lot of help from the surgical team but he was here. By the time I was moved to a ward it was time for Dave to go home as they didn’t let dads stay back then… I was not ready for this. This tiny little bundle cried for what felt like all night and I was in a shared room. The anxiety of this crippled me. I was awake all night holding him telling him every family member I could remember and their personality traits.
The love I felt for William was instant from the moment we fell pregnant but my life was changing so much, I wasn’t me anymore or the person I thought I had been. Work had been my life since I was 17. I had worked full time and made my way up and honestly loved my job, I would stay late, arrive early and log in from home. All my friends were there or so I thought. I always remember a conversation with my sister about how people had vanished from her life when she had my niece. I wouldn’t happen to me (insert eye roll here 🙄) But she was right… I hate it when that happens. People I spent every day with for years and nights out, boozy lunches were suddenly too busy to text. I’m not going to lie it fucking hurt and I was lonely. There was something about Williams development that just didn’t sit right. It was OK for me to think it but if anyone mentioned anything I would become defensive and justify his delays. Thinking it was one thing but admitting it is something very different. I hated being on maternity leave, I was itching to get back to work and some normality. Some adult conversation. Then in the November I get the call… my office is closing. My job is at risk. AGAIN! It didn’t just effect me but my mum also and so many others. I didn’t want redundancy. I had just had a baby. I needed flexible hours and a steady reliable income. We were saved! the company I work for now was bringing us in house. I felt so relieved and happy but there was just something that made me uneasy. A deep seeded worry that I couldn’t quite shake off. I returned to work in January 2019 and felt so out of my depth doing just 3 days but it wasn’t possible to do any more because we had no childcare or the funds to send him to nursery at that point. I couldn’t remember anything and there was no refresher training or brief about what had happened in the last year. Nothing. Everyone was trying to prepare for the move and I felt lost. What was once my world was now somewhere I went where hardly anyone knew me so I had no one to talk to. No DSE equipment for my bad back as someone had taken it whilst I was on maternity and lets face it, the company was closing us down. It wasn’t going to buy me equipment for the last 2 months.
My last day at my office was emotional; it felt like the end of a massive part of my life. My mom worked in the same building so on bad days I could go and vent or cry to her but not anymore. Hell i would even miss the mold on the canteen wall, the windows that wouldn’t open and the suspicious stains on the carpet. The new office was beautiful, so modern and clean. It was only 4 years old and made me feel proud to work in a building like that but it wasn’t home; Its crazy because there were people there in the same situation as me and I just plastered on a smile… ‘this is great’ ‘yes William is beautiful’ ‘no don’t worry i’m fine’
Fast forward a year ⏩⏩⏩ A year of denial about how I was feeling, Fake it till you make it… I was under performing in my job, I couldn’t focus on almost anything so I wasn’t functioning at anything particularly well and have so many dark thoughts running around my head… Would William be better off without me? Am I the one that has caused whatever the problem is with him? how can I do my job in 3 days? Why don’t my team respect me? Why am I so lonely? Why doesn’t my child love me? why do my colleagues seem to single me out? What if our landlord follows through with his threat to sell the house? What will we do if we end up homeless? What if they take William away from me because it’s my fault? What if something bad happens to Dave? what about Big Nanna? would William be better without me? would he? Have you ever been taken into an office and told your shit at your job? actually no that’s not what was said but its what it felt like at the time. I was forced in a little cloakroom style office to face some things… some things I hadn’t spoken about before. And with each irrational sentence that I sobbed, I felt a tiny bit lighter. That night my boss called me at home to make sure I had told Dave how I felt and that I was going to the doctors… Yes and yes.✔✔
I didn’t know what to say to the doctor and spent a fair amount of time just sobbing and telling him I didn’t know what was wrong with me but he did… Postnatal depression and anxiety. Too far gone to see a councillor. That wasn’t what was said but he recommended drugs for a quicker effect; I knew I needed to say yes as I had to do something as soon as possible to prepare myself not only to be able to function in day to day life again but for the fight I would shortly have for William. I ended up on anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants and it hasn’t been an easy road as they make you feel that you’re OK when your not so when I first broached the idea of coming off them I though I was ready but was given some poor advice by another doctor and took a deep crash back to despair.
That was over a year ago now and I’ve slowly gotten to a place where it is time to start coming off the tablets. I haven’t had to take any anti-anxiety tablet in a long time. Work is work; I am in a new job that I thoroughly enjoy and I am away from aspects that had helped me spiral but it isn’t my life. It is just a small part of it; Its my little 3 day break from my real life. I go to work on a Monday (my favourite day of the week) and my last shift is on the Wednesday and then I switch off and i’m done… well at least more than I ever was previously. We have moved house to one that isn’t falling down around us and it’s more of a home to us than the other one had been in 7 years and as you are aware we have accepted and admitted that William has additional needs and delays and things have been put into place for William to help his development and I am fighting tooth and nail to ensure he gets the support he needs going forwards. I am now a ‘Momma Bear’ and can be fiercely protective about William and his needs rather than sticking my head in the sand. I am nearly off the antidepressants all together… 1 half dose twice a week, then going down to once a week and then i’m done.
I’m not sure why I felt the need to get this down in writing. It’s not really part of our ‘Journey onto the spectrum’ but it was a big part of leading up to this point. Its a part of me.