1904 Days. D is for Diagnosis.

It took 1904 days for Tilly to be diagnosed with the rare metabolic disorder called GAMT deficiency. 1722 days of waiting from when I realised she wasn’t quite right at six ish months old.

Almost 2000 sleepless nights. Almost 2000 days wondering what the hell I did to cause this. Almost 2000 days of holding my breath. Waiting for them to tell me the neurologists were right and it was degenerative, that it would leave her quadriplegic and unable to do any of the things she loved. Waiting for them to tell me it would kill her. That I’d have to live my life without her one day. I can’t tell you about the nightmares I’ve had. The words won’t come. Just know that they were the type of nightmares that woke me in the middle of the night sobbing and struggling to breathe. All I ever wanted in life was a daughter, I couldn’t let myself think about losing her. My subconscious thought about it for me, I drowned in my dreams instead.

Drowning. Who knew you could feel like you were drowning whilst sat in a hospital room a few miles away from the sea. You can. You can sit there and feel the air leave your body as the professionals tell you that your child’s EEGs look bad, that the medications aren’t working, that things are getting worse. I have sat and silently drowned more times than I let myself recall. The pain is unbearable, the searing heat that rips down the back of your throat whilst you try to sit there and look composed and nod in all the right places…

Two weeks ago I had a call from Tilly’s geneticist. They had found a diagnosis. GAMT deficiency. She wasn’t going to regress, she wasn’t going to live in her wheelchair, she wasn’t going to die.

Because there is treatment for her condition.

My girl may well be able to talk, run, sing, jump, shout and do all the things she wants to do.

Again, I can’t describe how I feel about that. The joy is so pure and so unbelievably amazing that there aren’t the words. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think she could be treated. Never.

Never did I dare to believe I could go on to have more children. But I can now if I want to.

It took me approximately 48 hours to realise the full extent of Tilly’s diagnosis. I was and am so happy about treatment options that I glossed straight over one glaring fact.

If it had been diagnosed at birth, she would have been saved from all this.

Treatment from birth has led to children being either unaffected or only mildly mentally “impaired”.

The sheer fucking unfairness that my child didn’t have to be like this. That she could’ve been the girl she was meant to be. That hurts. That hurts like a knife to the stomach. One blood test at a few days old and I could have saved her from all of this. She didn’t have to be locked into the prison that is her mind for all these years. She could’ve been free.

Dwelling on that will kill me. So my focus is on gearing up ready to start her on treatment and look forward to all the improvements she will hopefully make on it. She will never be “cured”. She will never not have severe learning difficulties but she will achieve everything she wants to. I feel unbelievably lucky that my child’s diagnosis has given her a very exciting, new future. I know full well that 99.99% of the time, this isn’t the case. In the back of my mind I am thinking of the parents who didn’t get this news. Who were told their worst nightmares were coming to life. I only wish I could share this with them. No parent deserves to go through that.

I have always said my girl would rule the world and she will, in her own wonderful way.

Bring on the future.

The Girl with No Friends

There’s a lot of things you take for granted when you have a child. That they’ll talk, walk, dress themselves etc. One thing I took for granted is that my children would have friends. I met my oldest friends aged two and they’re still stuck with me now after all.

But when you have a child with SEN, it’s not that easy.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to read about Tilly was a report about 18 months ago that stated that other children were scared of her. 100% true and 100% justified but utterly soul destroying. Tilly always wanted to have friends but she couldn’t behave appropriately around other children, her love for them involved ripped out chunks of their hair, skin and faces. It was pretty horrendous. There was a lot of blood. No exaggeration.

Last summer after eighteen months of various epilepsy medications with hideous side effects that caused her to be incredibly violent and volatile I decided enough was enough. She wasn’t happy. I took her off the massive doses of drugs she was on.

Best decision I ever made. The difference was almost immediate. Her brother could be around her for the first time in his life. I could go to the toilet and not have to close her into her bedroom to keep him safe from her. They have Friday night sleepovers in her bedroom and curl up together. These are siblings I had to separate with a metal room divider at one point to stop her from tearing him apart.

Tilly started special school in September alongside some of her peers from Nursery. They remembered her and rightfully so they were scared. A few months Tilly was chosen by another boy in the class as his friend during a friendship activity. I cried when I found that one out.

Tilly’s behaviour around other children improves every day. Through the impressively hard work and determination of the staff at her school, she has been taught and has learnt how to behave appropriately around other children most of the time.

Today Tilly had her first ever play date with the other girl in her class. They went to Nursery together too and Tilly targeted her as she loves her and her hair is especially long and lovely to pull 😫. But not anymore. Both girls were happy to see eachother. They sat together with her younger sister in a restaurant and nothing was broken, no one was injured and the place didn’t burn to the ground.

My child finally has friends aged 5 and a bit.

And I have a friend who gets it. ❤️

How to raise a child with special needs as a single parent and juggle everything else.

So it’s no secret I have a lot going on. I’m a single parent, I have two small children and one happens to be disabled. On top of this I’m a student Midwife, a peer supporter and all round busy bee. It’s a juggling act but I manage. I was asked how I do it all…

This isn’t an easy question to answer. I’m not sure I can really do it justice as I don’t entirely know. But here goes:

  • Always say yes. If someone offers you help, say yes. Don’t be a martyr.
  • Prioritise and don’t waste energy. You don’t have to do it all. Find ways to make your life easier. Get a dishwasher, hire a cleaner, get your Mum to do your ironing 😜.
  • Accept how you’re feeling is okay. It’s okay to think it’s really unfair. It’s okay to feel really sad, admitting that to yourself and accepting that it’s okay to feel the way you do is half the battle.
  • Learn to fight. You won’t get anywhere until you learn when to stand up and fight for what your child needs. Never let them fob you off and never back down.
  • Have PJ days. You don’t have to be out and about all of the time. It’s okay to stay home and chill out. Kids need down time too so don’t feel guilty if you’re all still in your pjs way past lunch.
  • Don’t do it on your own. Find your tribe. Tilly has a team of around 50 people who support me to raise her. Family, friends, teachers, support staff, nurses and paediatricians.
  • Celebrate every little thing. We have a roast or sit and watch a film cuddled up eating snacks every time something positive happens. Life is for celebrating after all.
  • On a similar note always plan something to look forward to. Even if it’s a quick coffee with your friend, life is more bearable if you know something fun is on the horizon.
  • Self care self care self care. Treat yourself. Do a face mask, have a bath, get your brows done, buy the shoes, go and walk the dog. Do what makes you happy.
  • Try not to stress. Stress helps no one and it makes you ill. Write a list of what you need to do, tick it off and then go and have a lie down. It’s okay to delay filling in that form or making phone call that makes you want to cry for a few days.

But most of all, talk about it. Talk about how you’re feeling, talk to others in similar positions, talk and laugh with your friends. Always talk.

Online Friends are NOT Real Friends.

Social media has picked up massively in the last decade. You can message, tweet, snap, DM or scroll through your friends various forms of social media at any hour of the day. Friendship is always there, right in your pocket, ready to talk to you. 
When I fell pregnant with Tilly back in 2012 I was massively lonely. My friends were still at universities all over the country and I was the only pregnant one. I was desperately lonely and had no idea about pregnancy or babies. I remember googling “how to make friends when you have a baby” in those first few months and eventually I struck gold and found the Bounty forum for those due in October 2012. I had to send a friend request on Facebook and then I’d be added to a secret group. It was very exciting. 
That group became my lifeline. I was obsessed. I would ask questions all day, every day and pour every last part of my thoughts into this group of 300ish women. I wasn’t alone anymore. I had found somewhere to belong. The group had its difficulties with a few less than delightful women who were needlessly unkind or seeming to try and scam others. After a year or so things settled down and now, five years later, the ladies in my first due in group are some of my closest friends in the world. I’ve been to weddings and hen dos in Warwickshire, Brighton and The New Forest, various birthday parties and meet ups as far as Cardiff, Manchester and London. I am also in a group from when I was pregnant with Arlo and have lifelong friends from there too. 

I have cried rivers of tears for babies lost by women I have never met and I have confided my darkest fears to women I have never met. I’ve even been to the funeral of a woman I have never met. I drove for seven hours to be there and it never even crossed my mind that I hadn’t met her. She was my friend and the grief and loss I felt and still feel was very real. Someone I spoke to most days… of course she was my friend. 
So imagine my horror when I was told that my online friends were not real. They felt and looked pretty real to me. 
I’ve made a lot of my “IRL” friends online. Only today I went for lunch with a friend I met after she messaged my blog page 😍. I’ve even been a bridesmaid after befriending another friend on instagram 😂. I’m secretly very shy so getting to know people online first helps me to be less of a socially awkward lemon 🍋 

So! I asked The Girl Tribe, the Mama Unexpected group (yes you can join Click here ) about online friendships and their feelings on them so here’s a few things I’ve learnt. 
As a whole, online friendships are a positive. Most said they tell their online friends things they wouldn’t discuss with their other friends. 

Deepest darkest secrets are told to the people in my pocket… I love you all! 

Others told me that (like me) online friends made them feel less lonely: 

Online friends have been a comfort blanket for me at times when the world has felt incredibly lonely. 

And many told me that they felt that their online friends had supported them through difficult times and even went so far as to say that their online friends had saved their lives. 
Amazing hey? 
There were a few darker stories, it’s easy to be a bully via a keyboard after all and kind gestures sometimes back fire. I would advise always being cautious. 
The main thing I learnt from asking about online friendships was this: 
Online Friends ARE Real friends. 

I wouldn’t be the mother I am today if it wasn’t for the “people in my pocket” 
Thank you ❤

(strong girls club tee is from the epic Muthahood)