This (life in general with 4 children and a husband and a house and all that stuff) is obviously going to be crazy hard.
My life has become little pockets of quiet surrounded by an oblivion of noise and children and work and washing up and laundry and hoovering and cleaning and milestones and smiling and laughing and tellings off and time-outs and giggling and cuddles and homework and spelling and folding and ironing and non-stop craziness.
Kit is changing by the day – saying more and more words – he cheekily tells me Nooooooo to pretty much everything I ask him now – so stupidly funny – has me in stitches every time he says it. He’s understanding everything we say – in fact that’s been quite a while now – ‘come here’ or explaining that he needs to tidy his toys ready for bed, bathtime, tea time – he even went into the kitchen today and got out three bowls from their cupboard – placed them on the counter and pointed at them and then at his tummy and then ran and pointed to the shelf with the cereal on it…. all the time babbling away to me in Kitkat language and laughing his head off.
He is just adorable. Simple.
I had a moment this morning when I was feeding Nina, laying down next to her in bed and realising that this weekend she is 5 months old. Five months!
Where did that time go?? Seems like 2 minutes since she was born. And I know people say that all the time – but seriously – where is my life going? I’m 35 in 3 months and I just cannot believe that. It’s nearly two years since beautiful Freddie was born and died and I just can’t get my head around that either.
The last few weeks I’ve only done 3 days a week and had Thursdays and Fridays off – and it’s been mental – work is back pulling my every corner of brain back into the party and I’m all like – dude! Yeah! I remember this! Engagaing my thoughts and conversing with adults… it’s actually quite nice! My job is busy – I love my staff, I’m happy here although under a lot of pressure. But I worry about money and I wish I didn’t have to. Soon I’m full time – and I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that is going to be.
But mainly – I am starting to wonder about how much time I’m not spending with my children. Nina is crunching her tummy and craning her head forward like mad when she’s laid down flat or in her reclining chair – she’s desperate to sit up and she’s so alert and active and engaging. She sings and talks and gabbles away already – at 5 months! I want to be with her showing her things and bringing her on. I don’t think it’ll be any time at all before she rolls over and hopefully with two weeks off after today..
So…. and breathe.
I literally have not stopped.
I am desperate to write – the reasons why I haven’t
Last week of mat leave was just crazy. Both girls got a bug that meant washing and disinfecting my entire house. MY ENTIRE HOUSE! Sheets, beds, hoovering, every dish, plate, cupboard, toy, cutlery, cushion, skirting boards, windows, mantles, ornaments, towels. Everything. EVERYTHING.
Those that know me well know that my house is reasonably tidy and reasonably clean. I don’t dust every 5 minutes. I do not have OCD. Kids clothes are clean, beds are clean, kitchen and bathroom and clean but do I dust skirting boards religiously? Erm no.
So that was fun.
Nina then decided that should be the time she turns the cough she’s been harbouring for 3 weeks into a chest infection and started waking through the night coughing until she was sick and strugglnig to breathe. That was great.
Then on the Thursday evening (my first day back was the next day) Kit came back from the childminder with a low fever. He seemed fine, we put him to bed with neurofen and some calpol and thought maybe teeth giving him some hassle – he woke on Friday with the worst sounding cough. The kind that makes them sound like an angry dog. He has been wheezy and coughing through the night, waking needing drinks and being generally miserable.
I spent all weekend re-cleaning all the things I had cleaned at the beginning of the week – re-did the beds, hoovered, sterilised toys, polished, washed until my hands bled. Literally bled.
‘This house is clean!’
I will have to do it again tomorrow.
Couple all of this with the fact that my IT dept in their infinite wisdom have deactivated the 3G card on my work laptop for whatever reason – meaning a long and involved call to the helpdesk which I have yet to make – has shaped up to no updates.
I haven’t even really had time to tweet.
Then just to make everything really lovely – BN and I both caught the cold and have been knocked sideways by it totally – it’s a crummy one with whole cotton wool head, feeling like you can’t hear properly, bruised face sinus feeling type of cold. BN also has really bad aching arms and legs and keeps falling asleep every time I stop talking to him long enough to keep him awake.
I am back at work. It’s busy. I have 2 days a week off work all month and then two weeks off at the beginning of April and then I’m back full time after that. I don’t even want to imagine what full time will feel like because at the moment all I can think about is the fact that tomorrow I don’t need to get dressed!
Oh yeah – and I get to have baby cuddles all day
I had to stay away from this story – it was getting me down a bit. It’s actually quite hard to go through it chronologically and list all the times that we were wronged by a system.
I finally spoke to Anna, the Social Worker on the Tuesday. Five days since the Thursday that everything had actually happened. I can’t think now whether I called her or whether she finally called me. But it was just not what I expected at all.
Following my conversation with the Police the day before, who were dropping any interest in the events – I had absolutely expected the Ch Services to do the same. But no.
Anna explained that she had to remain ‘in contact’ with us in order to complete our ‘file’ as she wasn’t satisfied that all was well and that she wanted to visit us at home before she would say anything else. I asked lots of questions but I was instantly very upset and probably not very articulate. I asked about the supervision requirements and she said that she would like those to stay in place. It just absolutely killed me. I remember crying a lot and we arranged a date for her to come to the house. She was due to come the following Wednesday which would have been 13 days since the first event.
So in my brain at this time I’m thinking – God – how can this not be over? I’m thinking – well we can’t be of that much interest as surely to goodness they would be coming round sooner than another week away…? I’m wondering what on Earth she has seen that makes her think she needs to stay involved. She was at the hospital with us for hours as a family and nothing happened there at all that could cause concern.
It made no sense to me.
Dave – the PPU Officer – had mentioned at some point that Ch Services might offer support and did I feel I needed any. We questioned what kind of support but weren’t given any examples. He had questioned in my Police interview that we had two bedrooms and soon to be four children. How was that going to work? I wondered if she was going to come and say that our housing was unsuitable?!
It was terrifying.
We cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. I mean our house is not a show home – but it’s not dirty. We have outgrown it, sure – but we can’t afford to move at the moment so we’re stuck with it. We make do – we have some clutter but Jeez – who doesn’t have some clutter?!
I had two friends at the time who worked in Children Services, one for our own County (although for a different area) and my friend C who worked for another County completely. They both worked in slightly different sectors and could offer different advice.
One was able to tell me exactly what to expect from a home visit as she did them regularly – what the SW would be looking for – what she would be observing and what she would be likely to ask. My other friend, C, was able to tell me via her Senior Social Worker colleague – what the red tape of the situation was that we were going through was called – what the actual steps of it were – who would become involved from our lives and what that meant.
This is what we found out – they would call our GP, our Health Visitor and our Childcare for information on our family. They would be looking at professional’s assessment of our kids’ health – how often we visited the Dr and what for and what concerns they had if any. The same of the HV – ask about her opinion of us as parents – discuss any concerns about our home environment or our children’s health. They would also be very likely (although this doesn’t always get followed up) to contact our childcare.
Armed with this information – I started the ball rolling. I contacted all of these people. AT first in writing alerting them to the fact that there had been an incident that had been investigated by the Police and that they had left the situation but that Ch Services were still involved. I described the event. I called the family solicitor, William, who had been so kind to me – and he advised that the letter was absolutely fine as long as in NO WAY WHATSOEVER – was there any admission of wrong doing.
I also found out from C’s friend that this supervision requirement was – in her opinion – totally unnecessary considering the facts of our case. She felt the whole case was ridiculous anyway but she said that it was voluntary – we hadn’t signed anything legal – I had voluntarily agreed to not be alone with my children and I didn’t have to agree to that if it was impacting our family life.
In the letter to the HV, the GP and my Childminder - which I cc’d to Ch Services – I advised that the supervision requirements was having a negative impact on our health and wellbeing as a family. I advised that it was costing us more money as we were having to leave them at childcare earlier in the day. I advised that we were all having to get up earlier because of that, rush the children even more in the morning which in a house with two sleep deprived parents as it was – was not helping. I detailed how distressed I was feeling under this requirement, that I was 22 weeks pregnant and losing weight and not able to sleep due to all the stress of the situation as it was – without the added upset of feeling like a criminal and not being allowed to be alone with my kids. C’s senior colleague advised me to say that as of now I was going to stop adhering to the request and that should they have an issue with that they had 48 hours to contact me and say why. I gave my contact numbers and left it at that. The Principal Practitioner (which is the name for the Senior Social Worker) said not to give longer than 48 hours. They work full time around the clock as they have to be available at any time and therefore there would definitely be someone available to respond to the communication. She advised that I call Ch Services, ask for Anna’s email, her dept head’s email address and her direct manager as well. I emailed them all and also sent the letters by recorded delivery.
I heard nothing. And this was a weight off my shoulders.
The week drifted past with research into the schools Child Protection Policy – lots of research into the rules and regulations surrounding school’s intervention in situations such as ours. Legal definitions of words involved and we picked it to pieces.
My GP called me to say that she had received the letter – asked me to tell her about what had happened and if there was anything she could do. She also really set my mind at rest by saying that I should relax – her words were that if she had any concerns, she would be calling Ch Services herself to advise that the supervision requirement should stay in place and that she certainly wasn’t going to be doing that.
On the Thursday afternoon, I spoke to my HV who said that she was going to come round and see us on Friday evening after work. I’ve known her for years since Rowan was born she’s lovely, knows us well, has been to our house loads of times and is very supportive. She echoed the GP and said she wanted to come and give me a big hug.
It was starting to sound so much better. I was frustrated that we were having to wait for this visit but at least things were looking up.
Nina has slept through the night with no feeding! I’m not counting my chickens but
She went down in her basket at 6.15 and slept through until 6.25 this morning … no nighttime feed AT ALL!
This couldn’t be better timing for the awesome baby it has to be said as I go back to work very soon – a week on Friday is my first day and then I go back for 3 days a week for a month until I’m full time again. Nina has been great – it’s as though she knows… I dread to think what life would have been like if I’d had to go back to work so early after Kit – he was an awful sleeper!
So she’s 16 weeks tomorrow – and all a big girl already. And suddenly that seems like it’s gone too fast…
Quite a few years ago now, BN and I had a bedroom related epiphany.
Don’t close the page and back away – I’m not that into sharing.. well maybe I am…
But not today.
So long ago now that I can’t actually remember when, we realised that sharing one duvet between the two of us, just didn’t work. At all.
Over the years I have come to know that everyone is different in the bedroom – Lots of conversations with girl friends, boyfriends, other couples and such proves that basically – we are all the same. You are either freezing cold… wafted when you least expect it or suddenly reeling like a saucer on a table with the cloth whipped away from you like a magic trick! Now you see it – now you don’t!
There are those of us who are leaders in the use of duvet – and those of us who follow.
We ALL want to do what we want with the blanket we are sleeping underneath – but it VERY RARELY HAPPENS!
I like to be wrapped up like a sausage roll, warm and snug and I turn periodically through the night reserving the right to suddenly throw my covers off for however long it takes me to cool down until I want to be oven baked liked a sausage roll again… but I only ever throw them off my back – never my front. Therefore sharing a duvet – leads to issues! I like to have a warm back which means I would have to face him constantly – but I hate someone breathing right in my face which means…. cold back… the list is endless.
BN likes to have his quilt right up to his nose and tucked under his feet at the same time. He does this wafting thing when he first gets in… he lifts and tucks with his feet and toes repeatedly… a kind of duvet shuffle… that takes around 4 minutes to perfect the art of the right amount of toe coverage – that simply does drive.me.insane.
Add to this the fact that I am a lot shorter – the quilt up to the nose thing for him? Practically suffocated me on occasion… not as funny as it sounds!
I cannot share a quilt with a toe covering obsessed crazy person who suffocates me at intervals through the night, at the same time as being comfortably cocooned up, baking in my trapped
wind body heat. Coupled with the fact that I go to bed usually at least an hour earlier than BN and afore-mentioned toe covering would wake me up just as he got settled - just leads to middle of the night huffings and puffings – and not the good sort!
According to BN – in the dead of night, I apparently would get cold and then follow him round the bed in my sleep like a truffle hunting pig *snort snort* BN is always warm through the night and would end up perched on the edge of the bed clinging on like a shivering mountain goat whilst I absorbed every particle of warmth I could possibly steal whilst wrapped in all of the duvet
So – years ago – years … I mean we have been together almost 12 and this was definitely before we had Rowan – so probably a decade ago… one of us – and I can’t remember which – introduced an extra item to the bedroom.
Meet Second Duvet
Instantly our middle of the night huffs and puffs – our outbursts of hurrumphing and arguing at 3am stopped. He could toe cover like a crazy person to his heart’s content and I could wrap, turn and cool as my heart desired… and we woke every morning with the right amount of sleep and no more arguing over who had been warmest/coldest/more hard done by/disturbed than the other.
Then we bought the king sized bed and our dreams really were complete…. We get as far away from each other as humanly possible some nights, occasionally meeting in the middle for some hot snoring and bed breath action!
Now this is the way it works for us – clearly four kids on, one very recently, almost 12 years together and counting, there are no issues in the romance department – in our bed (even with a 3 month old and a toddler in the house!) occasionally there is some hot duvet action! Really – there is!
I mentioned the other night on Twitter that BN was just the cutest ever as very early in the morning when we got up with the kids, I had very briefly mentioned that I had been cold through the night. When I went to bed (before him) that night, he had been to the cupboard and got out an extra blanket for me and laid it out on my side of the bed all in line with my duvet. Not just put on my side but actually made it for me. I just thought that was the sweetest ever. I had hardly mentioned it in the morning but he thought of me. I don’t care what *you* call it – I call that romance.
But someone brought it to the table in the brief Twitter conversation that followed, that separate duvets indicated that romance was dead in our house – we couldn’t possibly claim love was alive with separate sleeping… but I disagree – OBviously!
So – that lead me to thinking – what are your duvet antics? Are we the weird ones? Does everyone else just prefer to share and argue or be cold when the other person steals? Do you have extra-large quilts or some other secret? Or are you just willing to put up with not being in charge of your blanket?!
So – the weekend was awful. I still was very teary.
I was fairly traumatised by my Police interview as well I think and I kept catching myself staring off into the distance thinking.
Ella would keep asking me – are you daydreaming mama?
I just turned things over and over in my mind. What I could have done to avoid this happening, had I done anything wrong? Should I parent differently? What did they think of me? Would anyone else know? Who else would be involved? What would happen next?
We took the girls to the park on the Sunday afternoon and obviously – because now was JUST the right time! – ran into some family occasion of one of the teachers from the school. Of course! It was the teacher who had been in the room opposite when we were waiting in the family room. She had been acting deputy head the year before and also Rowan’s reception teacher, so she knew us fairly well. Obviously we have a daily childminder so she didn’t know us as well as she may know some parents – but we had met many times – parents evenings, days off etc. and she certainly knew we were there. And her daughter, G, was at the school too.
I was mad with her. Petty maybe. But she represented the school. I was angry and hurt and I felt that she could have (facially anyway) been more supportive that evening. Some kind of sympathy would have been good. And in the park? A smile?? Too much to ask?
Rowan suddenly yelled out – there’s G there’s G!! pointing to this teacher’s little girl and ran over to them – I saw her, she saw me. No hint of anything. No smile, no engagement. We stayed on the bench we were on and after a couple of minutes I called Rowan and Ella back over and we left.
Whatever. I remember thinking – just whatever. Fuck you all.
We tried to be normal for them. I tried. We laughed and played all weekend. Did normal stuff and then all too suddenly it was Sunday evening which I was dreading and waiting for all at the same time.
It seemed to take an age and go at hyperspeed all at once. I watched the clock all through the night. I went to work like a zombie. Had to go all through explaining to my team what was happening. They have worked for me for a long time and one of them had phoned me knowing something was going on, on the Friday evening before – offered support etc. And I just tried my hardest to work all morning until suddenly at around 10.30, my mobile went and it was Dave calling.
He was good. As good as he could be. He wasn’t all ‘we’re the best of friends now I know you don’t abuse your kids’ but he was more pleasant that he needed to be I think. He offered words of support. Again he asked me if I was going to change the way I parented and this time I gave him the answer that he wanted. Because I just wanted it over.
I asked what would happen with Childrens Services and he said that he had already called them before calling me so I should expect a call from them shortly. He seemed so positive. In response to me he said he couldn’t say they would definitely drop everything as PPU and CH Services are separate but he didn’t have any criminal reason for them to remain focused on me.
So I just waited.
And waited. And waited.
Finally at around 2.30 in the afternoon, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I called CS and asked to speak to Anna. She wasn’t there.
She wasn’t even fucking there.
I asked if anyone had access to her cases, if she’d left notes that I could be updated with. Anything. Eventually they put me through to a Principal Practitioner, who is basically like the Branch Manager of their unit. She explained that although Anna was newly qualified (I was right that she was new) she was managing her own cases, didn’t have to report decisions to anyone and as she hadn’t yet had a chance to write up her report, she was unable to give me any information.
She recognised that it was urgent to me and that Dave had called to let me know there was no Police interest and that obviously I was anxious for news and took my mobile number and said she would pass on the message. But that I shouldn’t expect to hear from Anna until Tuesday or maybe Wednesday.
I just broke down. I was so weary already, that breaking down for me had become just this limp, wilting feeling. Silent tears running. I had basically done nothing but cry for almost 4 straight days and I was exhausted. As if being pregnant with two children and a baby wasn’t tiring enough, I wasn’t eating or sleeping. I was constantly dizzy and queasy and just feeling like a zombie. I couldn’t concentrate. There was no way I was working. I was just – nothing.
I left a message for BN and then because I had to talk to someone, I called my friend, C. I hadn’t spoken to her directly since the Thursday evening at the school, although BN had updated her – and I just really needed a friendly voice.
First thing she did, was say we should look at the website of the school and look at their Child Protection Policy. She got all
business awesome like and felt that the way we had been treated was unusual in her experience and unwarranted considering the lack of severity of the injury and this was when it all started to get interesting.
We loaded up the site together, located their CPP and started to read. Their online CPP clearly stated (although the document itself was not very clear in places and desperately needed updating) that unless ‘Significant Harm’ was suspected then the parents of a child should always be notified BEFORE Childrens Services are called. We were both instantly like – dude – hang on a minute! I should have been called??
I should have been called??
I should have been called!!
One of the most distressing things about that entire day was getting a call from my childminder to say that the girls were not being released into her care. She had no details, she was upset. It was not the calm, informed call it should have been for me. Not her fault at all. Another thing – getting to that family room and seeing the note on the girls’ stuff that made it clear something had been going on for hours and we hadn’t known anything.
And then this. These are the details that I left out earlier because it would have got too confusing.
Information at the school – information they had given to Childrens Services and the Police had been incorrect, in more than one place.
Background - The school are highlighted as having Outstanding Child Protection Status due to their invention of a specific form that is a different colour to usual paperwork and used in every instance of suspected child abuse or even any child injury noticed at the school that is sustained outside of school premises. This form, is filled out by a member of staff and then goes directly to the Family Liaison Officer. We later found out that the school instruction is that it should be the member of staff involved directly with the discovery of an injury or the member of staff that has dealt with the child. Once with the FLO, she
will should then (following the CPP that the school have written and placed on the website) call the Parents of the child (unless Significant Harm’ is suspected) and then Childrens Services is an optional extra depending on what the FLO feels after speaking to the parents. This is what should happen. As per their CPP at that time.
Their CPP did state that they were able to call CS for advice on occasion, before contacting the parents, if they felt that something was not clear cut or if the FLO felt there were grey areas and the school required clarification.
It is then common place once this has happened for one of two things to follow.
CS will decide that the information they have been given does not require their presence and will advise the school in how to proceed or advise for the school to deal with it on their own
- OR -
Childrens Services will say on these ‘advisory calls’ this sounds like something we should be involved in – DO or DO NOT call the parents, we will be sending someone etc. and then take it from there.
In our case we found out that CS were called for advice, they *did* say they were sending someone even though the FLO, Clare, didn’t specifically request that as the purpose of her call but they DID NOT say that we shouldn’t be contacted and informed what was happening. This call happened at around 1pm on the Thursday.
So that was the first thing.
Secondly – we had found out on the kick off evening, the information the school’s form contained was wrong. A conversation with Clare, the FLO, before the Police arrived highlighted there were details that weren’t correct but it was really the conversation with the Police and Anna before the girls were interviewed that made it clear there were major problems.
I told my solicitor about it after the Police interview and he called it ‘monumental distortion of fact’. The same conversation in which he had said the school appeared to have waded in unnecessarily. It was one of the reasons that CS and the Police had been so interested in the first place. The form was filled out by ET, Ella’s form tutor who had NOT been in the room when I dropped her off. I had not seen or spoken to her and she had been given no direct information by me whatsoever. Mrs H, the teaching assistant, I *had* seen in Ella’s class was mentioned nowhere on the form whatsoever. Secondly the form implied that ET *had* spoken to me directly and the information was first hand.
The form said that when I dropped Ella off at school that Ella was visibly not her usual self. Not true. She was smiling and laughing with her friends at my side whilst I talked to Mrs H. It stated that I had described grabbing a milk carton from Ella’s hand and had injured her finger in the process that morning. Absolutely not true. I never said anything of the sort. The form stated that Ella said I had smacked her and hurt her finger. Therefore our stories didn’t match which was a worry to the PPU and Ch Services. The form also stated that Rowan had been in the ‘feelings corner’ and been quiet in the morning and that when discussing with her teacher she had said that I had been cross, told Ella off, hurt her finger and that Ella didn’t deserve it and that she was worried. Now I don’t doubt that Rowan was a bit worried – but she is known to milk things rather, so whether she needed to be in the feelings corner or whether she just felt like sitting out the lessons for the day… well!
We were made aware along the way through discussions with various people, that Rowan’s description of the event and the fact that she used the phrase of Ella not deserving it, coupled with my apparent lie when I left her at school, of how the injury occurred not correlating with Rowan & Ella’s description meant that CS had to be called.
Now I want to make it really clear – again, as I did with practically every professional I spoke to – these measures should be in place. They should. People hurt children. Parents hurt children. And that is wrong. And I absolutely, desperately want that to stop along with every other normal person and mother and parent. People that work with children should be vigilant. They absolutely should.
But they should be vigilant in every aspect of protecting that child AND the family if necessary and that vigilance should also encompass the information they present to professional departments. The school severely let us down over this aspect.
Schools and people who look after children, also have a duty to be truthful. And I have no doubt here, and also some evidence, that information and circumstances were deliberately manipulated to create intrigue and concern and doubt. A lot of the information was distorted by inexperience and by accident, I have no doubt of that, but there was gross incompetence at play and also serious judgements and lack of sensible judgement from some involved that meant things took a far more serious turn than they should have.
So at this point in the saga, I am still waiting to hear from Childrens Services. I am still a wreck.
It is Monday evening. The girls are playing in their room whilst I’m in the bathroom with Kit, running a bath and then there’s a thud. And a scream. And then Ella ran into the bathroom, Rowan was hysterical. I lifted Ella onto the laundry basket to look at her head as I understood their frantic babble…
She had nothing, but as I lifted her fringe, blood started leaking down her face. She had a hole in her head It was clear after only a few seconds that she had to go to A&E. At the front door 5 minutes later, I handed her to BN’s open arms and she screamed for me to take her and I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it.
I just kept saying, Daddy will take you, I need to stay with the baby….
I was being left at home under the supervision agreement with my children that I wasn’t supposed to be alone with – and for the second time in 4 days my child, the same child, was going to A&E with an injury and I was totally panic stricken that we were about to be majorly investigated as it was! let alone adding to it with anything else.
I was already damaged by this point – even though she was crying for me not to stay at home, I made BN take her because I was too scared to go.
So wrong. And so unfair.