Sunday, 8 May 2016

I am the fixer upper...the one who makes it all better...I am the cleaner of the puke!

I have been wading my way through this motherhood malarkey for the last 14 years now and I thought I had pretty much seen it all. The tears and tantrums, the snot and nits, the poop and sleepless nights. I've been there and got the T-shirt! And glamorous it 'aint.
I like to think that I take it all in my stride and do what needs to be done. It’s what we do every day isn’t it us mums?
However last night I have to say that for the first time ever, I had to psych myself up to deal with what came my way on the ‘being a mum with poorly kids night shift’.
You see you never quite know how these nights with poorly kids will go do you....
It almost certainly always involves a hot sweaty child creeping into your bed and nicking all your duvet covers, while you painfully watch the minutes tick by on the alarm clock fighting to drift back off to sleep. Whilst clinging onto the edge of the bed huffing and puffing as you get more and more irate about how your hubby snores through the whole bloody thing.
And most of the time these nights also involve some kind of bodily fluid being dramatically expelled from your poorly little person. That’s pretty much a certainty really isn’t it…whether it’s a wet bed, snot, a nose bleed or the old favourite vomit at 3am…it never ends well, and is always guaranteed to be messy!
And occasionally it will involve creeping downstairs in your nightie to get the Calpol from the kitchen cupboard in the dark, trying not to wake the rest of the house up. Only to swear in pain when you stand on the remote control that one of your little darlings has left on the living room floor.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I should have seen the signs coming thick and fast yesterday telling me that I was in for a rough night. But to be honest my son is very rarely the one that ever gets ill in our house, so I was totally unprepared for what was heading my way!
You see my poor little man had been complaining of having a headache for most of the afternoon, and his youngest sister has been off school all week with tonsillitis. The clues were there that I was in for a long night weren’t they! But silly old me didn’t see it coming. 
Stupidly I went to bed after having a couple of glasses of sloe gin (it was Saturday night after all). I had popped my head around his bedroom door before I went to bed myself, and all was quiet. He was fast asleep. So naively I assumed that all would be well until the next day. Think it might have been the gin that relaxed me that little bit too much!
As I was awoken at some ungodly hour by a feeble “MUM, MUM” coming from his room. I dashed out of bed and ran in, turned the light on and I froze. I actually froze on the spot.
Let me set the scene… my little man sleeps in a high metal framed cabin bed. He has his gaming chair and PlayStation all set up at the desk underneath, as well as his turtle table where his pet 'Teddy Tortoise' happily resides. He sleeps above all this on his cabin bed and has ladders to get up and down - as it’s pretty high!
Now my poorly little man must have woken up and needed to be sick. So of course he had leaned his head over the side of his bed and well, all hell had broken loose let me tell you! It must have been vomit of the ‘projectile variety’ I can only assume. And as it had been evacuated from such dizzying heights (there’s no polite way to put this) it had splattered onto every surface, crevice, nook and cranny in his entire room. Headphones, turtle table, gaming chair, chest of drawers, walls and carpet, the lot!
It was 'vomit Armageddon'.
His poor pale little face sadly looked down over the sides of his bed at me, and I am ashamed to admit that I was frozen to the spot. My sleepy senses were bombarded with smells and sights no mother wants to see after a few too many gins! But in my defence this was enough to test the stomach of the sturdiest mum in the middle of the night, gin or no gin, trust me.
“My poor baby” I spluttered out eventually.  
“Sorry mum” he sobbed.
My heart melted and I felt awful.
“Are you going to be sick again?” I asked.
“I don’t understand, how do I know?” he said.
It slowly dawned on me that his experience of feeling sick and knowing that he needed to go the bathroom was something that he may not be able to plan when he felt so ill, or even recognise like we do. He couldn't help it poor kid.
It was time for me to man up and face the battlefield of vomit that lay ahead (and above, and on the sides and in-between my toes).
So I counted to 10, grabbed as many cleaning implements as I could lay my hands on and did what every mum does…got stuck in with the clean-up mission, whilst holding my breath for as long as I could and trying not to slip over in the fallout!
An hour later, I left my little man sleeping peacefully whilst clinging to the biggest bowl I had been able to dig out from my baking cupboard. And stinking of bleach and beyond exhausted I then slowly crept back into bed while my husband heaved back over to his side of the bed with a grunt.
Scrubbed and clean I lay there listening to the hubby snoring and the birds singing outside. All was quiet again… like nothing had ever happened. I had done it. My little man needed my help despite my little wobble I had done it.
Because no matter how messy things get, I am his mum and I will always be there for my kids no matter what time of day or night, no matter what the issue,  and no matter how much mess there is that needs cleaning up.
More than that I am my sons’ safe place. I am the fixer, and the one who makes it all better.
I am the cleaner of the vomit!
I may feel overwhelmed at the task ahead sometimes, but after a few deep breaths us mums can tackle anything that’s thrown at us can’t we!
We may have more wrinkles, grey hair and dark circles around the eyes than we used to, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I bet you wouldn’t either! Because my kids are worth every sleepless night and every midnight scramble for the disinfectant.
So bring it on I say!  
The joy of motherhood is the unconditional love and the devotion that I feel for my children, which is enough to drive me on to clean any amount of bodily fluid at 3 in the morning I can tell you.
So ‘vomit Armageddon’ I laugh in your face and say “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough!” This momma can take you on and more, any day of the week! (Well maybe a night off tonight would be great if you could be so kind).
Mrs M x

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

How daily life drains my sons' engine until it's empty.

How daily life drains my sons' engine until it's empty!

Hi folks, I feel like I need to say sorry as I have neglected you all somewhat over these last few weeks.
But I think I needed a bit of a break as I had done so much writing for other people in preparation for autism awareness month, that I kind of burnt myself out really. I had written eight different pieces in one week as everyone wanted it in by the beginning of the month. It was great and I really enjoyed every second of it. But when I had stopped to catch my breath, I think my brain simply sighed and said “no more!” The fuel tank was empty. I had become sick of worrying about how well my various pieces were being received, whether or not people liked my work, and how many shares it was getting etc....that I was driving myself mad with it all!
I just felt like it was becoming another thing to worry about, rather than something I was doing for pleasure.
So my natural reaction was to shutdown, switch off the engine (and the laptop) and focus on me and the family for a while. It meant that I could refuel my tank. Does that make sense?
I didn’t know how long it was going to take, a few days, weeks, or months maybe? But I assumed I would just know when I was ready to return. And as it happens, its only been a couple of weeks that I have had off now. And I have to say that I actually feel much better for it.
So today was the first time I have felt like picking up the laptop. 
And it’s kinda got me thinking... is this how my son feels when he becomes so overwhelmed with stuff that he just switches off, removes himself from our world and needs to be by himself?
 And he can often take several days to recoup after he has had to work hard in a situation. Almost like he’s refuelling his reserve of energy. Filling up his own tank.

Take this weekend for example. It has been my mum’s birthday celebrations, and we have had several days where things have been out of sync at home as a result.

On her birthday we went to her house for tea. All our extended family were there. We had singing, balloons, cake and lots of laughter. Little man found it tricky but he tried really hard, and he got through it for her and she was so proud of him for trying so hard.
But what we couldn’t see was that a quarter of his tank had been drained as a result.
Then the following night I was up until late making decorations for nannas party with my sister.  The house was full, bedtime got pushed back late and tea was a takeaway that hadn’t been planned. Again he coped really well, and got through all the changes.  
But as a result his energy tank had been drained a little more.
Finally it was the big party night at a hotel. We checked in, and we decorated the room with balloons, banners and pictures. He then had to sit still surrounded by people he didn’t really know, eating a meal at a table he has never sat at before. Contain his anxieties. Leave the comfort of his bedroom. Not play on his PlayStation like he usually does on a Saturday night. Smile at people he feels unable to talk to. Pose for photographs. And sleep in a strange room, in strange bed with lots of new smells and noises to keep his senses on high alert all night - so no sleep.
Inside his tank was spluttering on empty. It had taken all his energy to get through it all without having meltdown that when we got home …. then came the burnout.
His tank was empty. His tolerance was low and his anxieties were raw and seeping out through his body, unchecked and unregulated because there was simply no fight left in him.  
We got home and he didn’t want to move. He couldn't cope with any demands on him at all. And that was fine. So he spent two days recharging.
But the problem came this morning when it was time to go to school. There were tears, huge anxiety, refusal, heightened sensitivities and one guilty mummy forcing her child to school in tears.
It’s not that he doesn’t like school, I know he's happy there. It’s just that he wasn't fully recharged from working so hard to be part of our world over the weekend. And as a result his anxieties were still high, his senses were still super sensitive and therefore his ability to cope was still drastically reduced.

And he knew that in order to get through the day ahead in school, he was going to need to use more energy and effort from his tank. The tank that wasn't ready to make that journey yet - because it was still running on empty.
You see every fibre in his nervous system is so fragile that it takes so much unseen effort to fit into our world, and control himself when being bombarded by sensory overload, that its going to take time to repair and recharge. And today, well he wasn't quite ready. So his defence mechanism this morning was to go into ‘flight or fight’ mode to protect himself. His refusal and panic this morning was his way of telling me it was too soon. 

Just as I didn’t know how long it would take me to feel recharged enough to put pen to paper again, for my son it's no different . Who’s to say how long his body will take to recover and recharge fully? Not me that's for sure.  And I don’t think he really knows himself to tell me. He just feels better in his own time, and I have to follow his lead. Today I pushed him too far because I felt the pressure to get him into school.
But we should never take for granted how hard it is for kids like my son to fit into our world. And how long it takes for them to recover. I mean in my case it took several weeks until I felt ready to do something I love – writing! Never mind facing a day at school which is full of challenges and struggles.
So imagine how hard it must be for children on the spectrum that often don’t even fully understand why they feel like they do in the first place. They need us to be patient and understanding and to look beyond the behaviour to understand what they are trying to tell us.
Their engines have to work so much harder than ours just to keep up, and as a result that must drain their energy and tolerance levels so much faster too. So it’s understandable that they will need that bit need longer to recharge fully and recover.
Time and patience is what they need to refuel.... well that and a whole heap of love!

That is why when my little man walks through the door tonight, I will make sure I tell him how proud I am of him for getting through the day. I'll make his favourite dinner, and then I'll  give him the space and time he needs to top up that tank!
Mrs M x