New Beginnings (New Job, New Schools, New Decisions)

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New New New. I’ma start acting brand new. It’s the middle of July and I feel brand new. It’s been a good couple of weeks, amazing in fact. I know it’s been ages since I’ve written, but there’s a few things to update on.

I’ll start with Zariah. She’s amazing. Suddenly, she’s talking for England. She’s always been bubbly, but recently, she’s come out of her shell so much, and it’s nice to see her becoming more vocal. We’re officially leaving the nursery too. Since we got the news that we’d have to start looking for new childcare provisions, things just felt strained at the nursery. We had a meeting about trying to get her to start a special school early, but in the meantime, I don’t want my daughter to stay somewhere where we just no longer feel welcome. It’s just not the same anymore. That is quite sad to say as she has been there since she was 4 months old, but the vibe isn’t the same anymore. At the meeting last week, it just seemed like the nursery are keeping her there out of obligation, not because of a genuine desire to have her around. Buttttt, this is about our new chapter. So today, I officially gave the nursery notice that Zariah was leaving. She will stay at the childminder that will have her when she starts the special school, as I want her to familiarise herself with the new setting before she starts school. We haven’t got a place there yet, but we’ve officially started the consultation process, so in a few months she will have a new school! For now though, we’ll settle for a new childminder part time, and more time with mummy :).

I finally have a new job! That works around my precious girl! That sounds so basic, but having a special needs child, with a nursery that’s no longer accommodating has been difficult to say the least. I’ve had really good jobs previously, and I would have loved to stay at my most recent role, but having a child with fluctuating health needs and studying at university whilst working a job on the other side of London really took it’s toll. I left that job and have just been doing odd bob jobs so far. I’m excited to start a role in a team that literally changes childrens’ lives everyday. I’m quite excited cos it’s in a hospital that Zariah is a patient in, and the department I’d be working in means I would meet parents of children with similar conditions to Zariah. It just excites me!!!

Speaking of similar conditions, let me jump on to the next topic real quick! I had an amazing weekend away with my boyfriend. This time last week we were on a train to Manchester with no cares in the world. It’s nice to have someone that I can completely be myself around, it’s something I’ve never had before. I’ve never had someone who wants to have little weekend getaways and do loads of stuff with me. It’s a lovely feeling to feel loved. But anywaayssssss, whilst I was in Manchester, I met someone with Cerebral Palsy! We just came out of mini golfing, (where I had won basically everything lol) and whilst we were waiting for an uber, I saw a boy and his dad waiting for a cab as well. I’ve seen other people with CP before, like I remember one time in a hospital appointment in London, I saw a dad and his son who was severely disabled, but the dad didn’t look approachable, and I didn’t want the man to think I was insensitive or just nosey. I saw the boy in his powered wheelchair and just ran over (a bit creepy I’ll admit), but I’ve never had the confidence to approach others, and to be honest, it just feels like everyone with CP is hiding, because I literally never see anyone. When I saw the boy (I didn’t get his name in all my excitement), I started asking all kind of questions about the wheelchair, when he got it, how he gets around, what he had before the powered one, and whatever else came to mind. It was such a short conversation, I explained that my daughter had CP, and the dad was so friendly, it was just really nice. It was an amazing way to end a good weekend. I know it sounds pretty normal, but when I tell you sometimes it’s depressing not knowing anyone with CP or having any parents to relate to. Like even as I’m writing this I’m grinning like a Chesire cat, which might sound creepy, but recently, I’ve had more confidence to approach other people with CP and just start a conversation. I saw another lady like 3 days later in a powered wheelchair whilst dropping my daughter to nursery and did it all over again. When I started this blog, I had never met anyone with CP or with children with CP and now they’re popping out everywhere. I love it!

On another note, I’ve also made new decisions for myself and my family. I have previously stated that I parent Zariah alone, but have tried on multiple occasions to try and keep my daughters father involved in her life. Even though I have always done everything without his support, I was so conscious of being called “a bitter baby mum”, or “spiteful” or one of those mothers that use their kids as pawns when the dad is actively trying, but no. No more of that matey. I don’t think that sounds exactly like good news, but personally, I’m quite happy. I mean in an ideal world, of course I would love Zariah to have her father involved and for her to have an active, amazing, responsible dad, but you cannot force anybody to do the right thing. My constant attempts to keep her dad involved just affected me negatively. I raise Zariah on my own, without his support, without his contributions, without his presence, and he would sing sweet songs of how much he wants to do for her and how he wants to be involved but never deliver. He would flake on appointments, be unreliable, be rude, and just live his life as if he doesn’t have any responsibilities… Urgh. I do an amazing job of raising my daughter, I don’t need the abuse, I don’t need the name calling, I don’t need the insults, I don’t need the digs. I literally don’t need it. He missed Zariah’s first surgery, all the important appointments, would decide not to turn up to things because he’s annoyed with me, and the list just goes on. Last week he told me I’m not okay in the head and “I need help”. This week he flaked on Zariah’s appointment, despite him having the equipment we needed to proceed with the appointment. Enough is enough. I’ve always listened to everyone’s advice, to keep him involved and keep trying, but if it’s getting to the point where he’s negatively affecting my mental health, my happiness, my daughters routine, stability, and home environment, it’s actually enough. Today was enough. So with that, I made the decision to continue alone. I have support from my family, from my amazing partner, from my friends, and from complete strangers who send messages of well wishes. I don’t see this as bad news. This coming week symbolises a new start for me and I am more than excited to tackle life head first. Life is just really looking up.

We’re only halfway through the year, and my outlook on life has changed so drastically. Things are really looking up, I’m all about self love, self progression and just having peace within yourself. I think my new outlook on life has positively affected my daughter too. She’s happier, she’s more confident, she’s becoming more independent (I can leave the room without her now lol), and she’s becoming wayyy more vocal. Everything is amazing right now and I thank God and couldn’t ask for anything more. It sometimes gets depressing, and with all the trials in the last few months, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been abandoned, but God never forgets you. He always had a plan.

Anyways, thank you all for reading, and as always, message if you EVER need a friend, whether you have CP or a CP baby or not. Much Love xxx

Wake up to Domestic Abuse – My Experience in a Toxic Relationship.

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I wasn’t going to write anything on this topic and this is not about Zariah, but again, it’s just one of those things that goes on so frequently in our communities, but just isn’t spoken about.

Love is not anger. Love is not pain. Love is NOT having a lack of self control, it is not physical fights, and it is certainly not being rude, volatile and intolerant because he or she “makes you like that”.

I actually wonder to myself, does anyone actually know what domestic violence/abuse is? You think of violence and just imagine a man beating up his girlfriend, but it’s not just that. It’s sooo much more. I was going to say that this is one for the ladies, but you know what, men need to take a read too (before anyone attacks me, I am well aware that women can also be perpetrators of violence, so this is for EVERYONE).

I covered the tiniest amount of my relationship with my daughter’s dad in one of the backstories (see previous blogs), but mostly just covered the pregnancy leading up to the birth. I never wanted to actually cover the whole relationship, but I will go into the red flags that should have been acknowledged from the get go. As women, we tend to completely put ourselves on the back burner to care for others, but fail to acknowledge when the people we are caring for are not caring for you.

I met my ex partner when I was 17/18. I wasn’t exactly looking for a relationship but when he started speaking to me, I was quick to find out what kind of person he was from the get go (well try). He was 19 and told me he was working, has future goals of becoming a physiotherapist, and was due to start university in September (it was the middle of summer at the time). For me, I thought he was ticking boxes, he seemed like a quiet, nice, humble guy, but things changed so quickly.

He forced himself on me the first time he ever came to my house. I was NOT raped, we did not have sex, but he stormed out after I wouldn’t give in to his many attempts (this should have been red flag number 1, but I gave him chances after that). He told me he stormed out because “my friend was annoying”. What convenient timing…

You know when you’re young, you fall in “love” quickly, everything could be a complete mess but you’re just caught up and completely oblivious lol. He was a party guy, would go out and get drunk with his friends pretty much every weekend which caused him to lose his job (he would miss shifts because he was hung over). Suddenly, me, the looked after kid living in a children’s home, was paying for his upkeep. It started off as him asking me to pay for his driving lesson as a one off, promising to pay me back of course. Then he asked again, and again, and again. I didn’t even have a driving license, and I’m paying for somebody else to get theirs? Excuse me?

Then he asked for me to pay his phone bill one month, and then the next month, and the month after that. This is someone who had the support of both of his parents at home. By the way, I just want to outline that this is not abuse. There is NO problem in helping someone financially, but there is a fine line between being a helping hand and being an idiot. He got so comfortable asking, and didn’t even care to ask what my financial situation was. I was still a kid.

Summer came and went, and suddenly, he wasn’t going to university anymore. Don’t ask why, but he told me that was his decision. I went from dating someone who had a clear path of where he was going, and was self sufficient, to basically having a son. I paid for everything. I was still in college, and working ridiculous hours, but to be honest, things weren’t that bad. I still spent every free minute with him. We spoke about everything, our morals, our plans, our hopes for the future, our childhoods. You name it, we talked about it. I helped him fix his CV, would apply for jobs for him, take online tests for him, get him interviews. I was literally his personal recruitment agent. I searched for jobs all day long for him, would send him endless links, where he would just need to send his CV (the CV I created) to apply for jobs. Like I said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with caring for your other half, nothing wrong with carrying them if they don’t have things together at the time, nothing wrong with being there. Nothing at all, but you can’t spend years of your life giving and caring and doing whilst not even getting 2% of that back in return. It slowly drained my spirit.

Despite that, in the beginning, things were generally good, although we bickered quite a bit. My issue was every time we would argue, I would want to break up, and his issue was every time we argued, he would say stuff that was way below the belt. He would call me names, send paragraphs of insults, shout abuse over the phone and then cut off. He would come back very quickly and apologise, but that in itself should have been another red flag. Someone who says they love you shouldn’t feel so comfortable calling you every name under the sun so quickly. This is abuse. It was never warranted. It is never warranted.

I was a fairly sociable girl before I got into that relationship. I had a good circle of friends. When he would be spiteful and spew abuse, I would go and speak to my friends about the issues in our relationship. I needed to get an outside opinion. Sometimes I just needed to vent. That in itself would cause even more problems. He didn’t like me talking to my friends, “putting our business out there”. He didn’t like me speaking to male friends, and was sure that every single guy had ulterior motives. He would call me naive and dumb for talking to a male, and would say that all my female friends are “jealous of our relationship” and are “haters”. He called all my friends fake. He had a problem with me speaking to anyone, and wanted me to cut that off. So I did, and when serious things happened like what went on next, I was so isolated and had no one to talk to. This is abuse. No partner should ever control your friendships, relationships, or anything else. You should not be forced or manipulated into making decisions. You should never be made to choose. It can be come very isolating, and having no support system can make it even harder to come out of those situations.

Then the biggest hurdle in our relationship came. We had been together maybe 5/6 months, and I found out I was pregnant. I didn’t know how he would react, and it’s such a major thing to deal with at 18, or any age really, but I reluctantly told him, thinking we would make a decision together. We had spoken about what if’s maybe 3/4 months before, and looking back I know I was stupid as hell to ever think he genuinely meant the stuff he said, but he gave all the text book answers that a gentleman would give (I’d be there, I don’t believe in abortion, we’ll figure it out me and you till the end bla bla bla). When I told him though, that “gentleman” was missing. We would talk about it, and he would do all the standard “blame the female” techniques (why didn’t you take the pill, you should have sorted it yourself etc etc), and would tell me I need to get an abortion. There was one phone call in particular where he shouted down the phone calling me all sorts and said that I’m trying to “trap him”. Excuse me? Trap you for what? Men with this mentality that aren’t famous rappers, or athletes or CEO’s are just a mess. For him to spurt that out of his mouth was low, considering he didn’t even have a damn thing to his name, and I was still paying all his bills. He made me feel so small, and said whatever he needed to say to make me decide on an abortion, and that’s what I did. He pressured me to make a decision.

Anyways moving on. That decision really affected me. I was going through a lot and didn’t have his support. Mentally I was drained, and still felt so much shame regarding what I had done. I was drowning in depression, and he didn’t give a damn. I finally helped him get a job, and with that he basically f*cked off. He went back to partying and left me on my own to deal with it. He didn’t break up with me, but we didn’t see each other for around two months. He was living his life, but would still drag me along with the same “I love you, I miss you” lines. In February/March times, I called it off (to be fair it was “off” for months now, maybe I just needed the closure).

I was sad for a while but I moved on. Got a proper flat, got myself a dream job, I was happy where I was and barely spoke to my ex. In the summer, I started talking to someone new. We went out, did stuff together, would speak on the phone for hours on end. I was happier. It was nice to have someone messaging me for once, checking on me, caring for me. Of course, the minute my ex partner got a sniff of me moving forward, he came back. He came clean saying he had been sleeping with girls whilst still dragging me along, and did the most to try and get me back. He was consistent, attentive, plus all the qualities I “fell in love with” before. Of course, he only did that because there was another guy in the picture. He was the kind of person that doesn’t want to keep you, but could never let anyone else have you. Unfortunately for me, I was so in love that I couldn’t see it. Suddenly, he wanted to see me everyday, message all the time, speak on the phone, would cook for me, clean my flat and make all the effort in the world, but again, of course it didn’t last.

Within a few months, he asked for a key. He made a “joke” on the phone, about how fun it would be to live together. Of course he probably just said this to get away from his parents who he resented, but me being stuck on stupid and in “love”, I saw this as a good thing. He wanted to move forward with me. I thought it symbolised him being serious about me, and failed to realise he hated being at home. We spoke about him moving in, and I made it clear that he wouldn’t be living here for free. I expected him to pay half of everything, and made sure he was aware of that before even thinking of taking my spare key, and of course, he promised the world. It never came.

Things went swiftly downhill from there.

He moved in. He didn’t pay a penny, not even in the first month. Did he move out? No. Did I force him? No. I did the same stuff that didn’t get me anywhere before, because I genuinely cared about this man. I updated his CV, and started looking for jobs. I didn’t chase him for his half, baring in mind he still owed me hundreds from early on in the relationship, I just assumed he would pay me back when he had it. But months grew into years real quick.

I was working in a gambling shop, I think I mentioned this in the first back story blog. Because I didn’t chase him for the money that he owed me, and for his half of the bills, he became complacent. He got comfortable. My bills more than tripled, and he still wasn’t contributing anything. He wanted the sports channels, he wanted more games for MY PS4. He wanted more snacks in the house. He just wanted more, all the time there was something more. I rarely even got a thank you. I tried to encourage him to apply for jobs. He had everything set for him, the laptop, the CV, the websites, I sent him stuff for him to look at all the time. I would leave the house in the morning and if he wasn’t sleeping on the sofa, he’d basically be inside the TV, playing FIFA or NBA2K something. If it wasn’t that, it was another game he had asked me to buy him. I got home from a 13/14 hour shift, and he was doing the same thing. It. Got. Draining. The relationship was suffering. I felt like his mum. He didn’t ever ask how I was, or if I’m coping. I had debts piling up and he was so comfy where he was, he didn’t even care. There was ALWAYS something more. I was tired. Working 70 hour weeks meant we never had time for a relationship. I think I started to resent him. Our relationship became more of a room mate situation, and he was the room mate that didn’t pay for a damn thing. Even calling it a relationship in the first place is stretching it.

I got a new contract, and started leaving my old phone at home. He would go through my phones behind my back, trying to look for something to argue over. He had already been disloyal before, stringing me along initially whilst sleeping with other women, so maybe that made him insecure. He would call me whilst I was at work to argue, to shout insults and call me names. He would always apologise by the end of the day, when it was time for me to come home, but your sorry does not take away the tears that I cried and had to hide at work. He would entertain other women and make me look and feel stupid, but if I was to bring it up, he would get angry at me, and find a way to blame me for the unspeakable words that came out of his mouth. This is abuse. His words, his actions, are never your fault.

Things got worse. Our arguments got more heated and escalated into violence. When I tried to ask him to leave he would throw fits, smash things, punch holes into doors, do everything but leave. He would go through anger, aggression, then depression and sadness and would end up crying in one corner of my bedroom. Sometimes it felt like he manipulated my struggles with my mental health to make sure I didn’t leave him. He would tell me he’s worried about me, I don’t seem okay when I was absolutely fine, to make me question myself, or if I mentioned breaking up or him moving out, he would tell me he has no purpose without me, and would threaten suicide. I was never going to take the risk and find out whether he was serious, and I can’t kick someone when they’re down, but in me choosing to stay with him, I was choosing his well being over my mine, and it was never appreciated. This is abuse. Threatening suicide when I wanted to leave? It was manipulative, and again put me in a position where I had to choose someone else over myself and my happiness.

When I was pregnant it was 10 times worse. He found more ammunition. I distanced myself from him because he did not do anything or bring anything to the table but arguments. He was not a pillar of emotional support, financial support or any other kind. By then, I started to realise that I was always caring for him, looking out for him, checking for him, providing for him, and the time where he was required to do all of that he was nowhere to be found. Me distancing myself didn’t help either. He would bombard me with messages, and his insecurities led him to always assume that I was with another guy, and some other man would be looking after “his child”. Maybe the fact that he wasn’t doing a thing for his unborn child played more on his mind and led him to overthink, but that thought caused him to send more paragraphs of abuse, calling me every name under the sun. Towards the end of the pregnancy, he threatened to call social services and mental health teams to lock me up. He would tell me stuff like he will fight for custody and I will never see my child. The word vomit that used to come out of his mouth was honestly horrendous, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. At a time where I was already going through a lot, when I didn’t want to get back into a relationship with him, he would return to being abusive. This is abuse. I was heavily pregnant, and in outbursts of anger he would threaten that I will never ever see her, and will spend the rest of my days in psychiatric wards, away from my baby. It takes a different kind of person to threaten you using your children.

& then there was more. After she was born, he would only show up to things if I was willing to get back together (which meant he showed up to nothing). In spates of anger again he would scream abuse down the phone because I didn’t want to try again. He would tell me I would never find any better than him, and call me names for preferring to have a blended family than get back with my daughters father. Less than a week after I gave birth to his child, he screamed down the phone shouting “err, who do you think will love you with that ugly pregnancy body”. He laughed, mocked my weight and my Caesarean section stomach, and cut the phone. I have never felt so small. I had never felt so insecure about my appearance and that damage lasted a long while. Abuse is not just giving your girlfriend a black eye (although he had done this once before). Psychological scars last way longer than superficial ones. This is abuse.

The timeline just goes on and on. I wanted to take my daughter to her first birthday party when she was a few months old. At this point, her father was not involved in her medical care or any other kind of care (we were aware that she was likely to be disabled), but I still did my best to try and keep him involved, for my daughters sake. I invited him to places, let him know of events in our calendar, and would let him know he was welcome to come. I asked him if he wanted to come to the birthday party weeks in advance, and he said he would let me know. He didn’t come back and let me know. I came back to him and mentioned it once more and he moved oblivious and so I left him to it. I invited my (female) cousin to come with me as I was still anxious to take Zariah out alone, and on the day I got myself and Zariah ready and was quite excited. Her dad messaged me on the day, I guess just to have general conversation. We spoke normally, and I told him that I would speak to him later as we were getting ready. With no mention of a “he, him, man, mr” or any other male reference, my ex blew up. Accusing me of trying to play happy families with a man, calling me a hoe, a slag and every other derogatory term you use on women. He constantly accused me of dating, or trying to replace him as a father, or chatting to men or whatever other insecure thing he could think of. Number 1, I was not talking to any male, and was not in a place to at the time, but number 2, it was not his business. I am a free woman, and not under the control of any man. He entertained women and I left him to it, but the slightest thought of me being anywhere with a man that’s not him would lead to an onslaught of abuse. I didn’t want to argue, so I blocked him on Whatsapp. He then iMessaged me. I blocked him on iMessage, and he Snapchatted me. I blocked him on Snapchat and he called me. I blocked his phone number and he harassed my house phone. He spewed abuse from every possible avenue. If I entertained it, it would escalate, and if I didn’t, it would escalate. This is abuse.

I feel like even this is like a 100 page read so I won’t go on, but the fact that I could go on and on and on is a sign of something horribly wrong in our communities. When I tried to mention that this is abusive, it seemed to trigger him more. I couldn’t speak up, and so many other women are in these sorts of situations, and just believe it’s normal and comes with any relationship. My ex partner still carries that same opinion. It was toxic, it broke me physically, spiritually, and mentally and is something I could never put myself through again. Please understand the true meaning of domestic abuse, it’s more than being dragged across a room and brutally beaten. It is common amongst young adults but does not have to be a part of everyone’s story. I never wanted to write a blog addressing this topic, but the messages from strangers and old school friends made me realise that this is something that isn’t uncommon. It should be!!!

I am far from figured out. I am flawed, but I know now what I didn’t then, and would never subject myself to such a situation again. If you have found yourself in toxic situations, you need to let go and let God.

As I have always said, no matter who you are or where you come from, if you are ever in need of a friend, or a chat, or a support system, please feel free to contact me via my social media. I am ALWAYS happy to talk. Love yourself xx

P.S. This is not to bash my previous partner. I have learnt a lot about myself from that situation and it shaped me to be the person I am today. I am happy, and loved and in a caring, peaceful, happy, HEALTHY relationship. One situation does not define you or your character, and this goes to men and women, perpetrators and survivors. Everyone makes mistakes, but the first step is to acknowledge the problem. To do that you must know what abuse is.

Let’s maintain healthy relationships guys, thanks for reading xxx

They Want My 2 Year Old Driving a Wheelchair?

Cool, so I haven’t written in a while. I should really be thanking the girl whose blog I just read, because she’s actually what inspired me to start writing.

Zariah and I had a hectic week. Not a particularly horrible one, actually it ended quite well but started in a bit of a mess. Nothing particularly extravagant happened, but I thought I should share in the name of raising awareness and transparency.

So like most children with CP, Zariah had appointments almost everyday this week. In the name of this “transparency” thing though, that’s a lie. I really shouldn’t say “like most children with CP” because other than Zariah I know literally zero children with CP, so maybe it’s different for others, so I’ll just start again. On Monday, we had a big(ish) meeting with the majority of Zariah’s medical professionals (the physiotherapist, paediatrician, speech and language therapist and the occupational therapist). It started off as a general meeting just to update all the professionals on where we are with Zariah’s care, because even though they all work out of the same building, their communication can sometimes be trash (no shade to Hackney Ark if you’re reading this lol). Anyways, the appointment. It started off well, the paediatrician is this lovely Caribbean lady, she’s thorough and really knows what she’s talking about. We’ve had her since Zariah was born, which is nice because other than her and the occupational therapist, everyone else has changed like a hundred times. I can barely remember anyone’s names. Moving on though, I filled the paediatrician in on the latest of Zariah’s seizures, updates with medication, how Zariah is coping generally etc. and then we went into Zariah’s progress with each of the other therapists. The physiotherapist mentioned that Zariah recently had the GMFM assessment and the outcome was that Zariah is borderline 4/5 in their grading terms, meaning that it’s unlikely she will walk. It just felt like she kept trying to drum it in. She told me that she had spoken with Zariah’s other medical professionals and they “had all agreed” on it. All I heard is “we all think your child is going to be a vegetable” over and over again. Maybe it’s because I’m young or whatever or she thinks I’m too hopeful, but that appointment was only a few weeks ago love, trust me, I remember. You don’t have to keep beating the stick over my head. It’s just a touchy subject, I still get teary about it, how does one even get over that? It’s heartbreaking news.

I don’t want to keep dwelling on that, and maybe I should start to try and move on from that appointment, but even now writing about it and the appointment on Monday is just making me teary. I told the professionals about our struggle to find a nursery or childminder or school for Zariah. Being the centre for disability in our borough, I assumed that they would be able to give me some advice or have some experience of schools that accept and cater well for children with CP. They gave me the name of a nursery that is accessible and said that they’re not sure of the hours but they do offer around the year care. That boosted my mood a little bit after the whole not walking thing, but it was short lived. The physiotherapist said that once I find a nursery or school that is accessible for Zariah, they will start looking at giving her a powered wheelchair for her to get around, that nursery is the perfect place for her to learn how to use it. I almost choked. Excuse me?

& would you look at that, my tears are back for goodness sake.

In my head I was just thinking wtf? My child is 2. 2?! They want my TODDLER to drive a powered vehicle? I immediately had a picture of the powered wheelchairs you see people using in the street, with like a gear stick that you move about to power it? How are you gonna teach my toddler, who doesn’t understand much outside of the basics, to manage a powered vehicle? On top of that, it kind of just signified them completely giving up on her walking or being mobile by herself. Zariah can’t even sit up on her own, like what the actual hell?! The appointment for me, just felt like it was going from bad to worse. It was hard for me to take it as good news, but I kept it together. The physio and OT could see the shock on my face, and so they said they would email me details about the wheelchair for me to read after the appointment, and we moved on..

So this is the wheelchair image they sent me. Zariah has a communication button that looks just like the buttons that power the wheelchair. It made me feel less freaked out and I stared at this for ages. Still quite depressing. I know it may make life easier for Zariah, but it’s still a lot to swallow, and just signifies them completely giving up on her getting around alone.

Anyways, my thoughts on the wheelchair aside, we spoke about loads of other medical things, like aqua therapy for Zariah, her upcoming botox (I’m going to write a blog about this soon, it’s another thing that I almost choked and died about when they mentioned it lol), and her hip X-Rays. Overall she’s doing fairly well. That appointment wasn’t a horrible one, and I kept it together through the shocks and (what felt like) blows, but I felt deflated, and was one poke away from losing my sh*t.

I took what the therapists said about one particular nursery though, and contacted them in a bid to find out more about what they offer in terms of sessions and vacancies. I called them whilst I was in the car, after dropping my daughter off to her dads. When I spoke to them they said they don’t offer round the year care and they are a nursery “school” so it’s still only 9am-3pm… I know it’s so minor, but have you ever been completely on edge, and the slightest even half irritation just drives you to breaking point? I cut the phone mid sentence and broke down crying in my car. It might sound sooo trivial, it’s really not enough to ruin someone’s day or anything like that, but literally, that was it for me. I cried and cried in my car. Sometimes it feels like everywhere you go, they’re gonna shut the door in your face. It gets depressing. All through last week I spent time looking for childminders, schools, and nurseries, and nothing. I just want to work! It sounds so crazy but sometimes it can be hard, and when I say sometimes I mean a lot of the time. A LOT of the time. I just want Zariah to have the same opportunities as everyone else to be honest. I mean I continued driving after my cry, picked myself up and got back to it, but yeah, it can be hard.

ANYWAYSSS, my week wasn’t all bad, and hopefully I’ll have some news to share with everyone soon, but that was my Monday guys. Hope everyone had a better week lol, and again, if anyone knows anyone who may know anyone, please share! I’ll keep you guys updated and thank you so much for reading x

Let’s Talk About STIGMA…

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I’ve been wanting to write about this one for a minute now, so I’m gonna just dive straight in.

I’ve literally only been blogging for two weeks, and there has been quite a big outburst of support which I am more than grateful for, but I haven’t mentioned any negative, which gives the impression that it doesn’t exist. Let’s talk about it…

I’ve received messages from old school friends, from complete strangers, from charities and much more, and the love has been amazing. I keep saying that I just started this to vent, and in all honesty, I didn’t think about anyone else possibly going through the same situation, but in my community, and in the black community especially, some of the stuff I’ve spoken about seems to affect other people, but we just don’t speak out. Why?

My family have been supportive for the majority. I’m someone who’s not a very great talker. Don’t get me wrong, in real life I’m loud as hell, I play a lot, and can be quite childish, but to talk about serious topics, like how I am coping, my mental health, Zariah’s disability and other serious stuff, I just can’t get it together. I brush everything off as if it’s all great, and I sometimes come off as emotionless. It’s hard for me to talk to my friends. Sometimes I avoid serious conversations with my boyfriend too, it’s just a habit of mine to turn everything into a joke. My writing is probably the most honest open platform I have. But when I shared it with my family, my granny said I should “keep this kind of stuff within the family”. My ex partner said “I shouldn’t put his business out there for everyone to see”. I mean I’m not mad, but it’s this kind of broken mentality that keeps people drowning in depression.

I love how much things have changed in the past few years regarding mental illnesses and opening up, but we still haven’t reached all communities. When I was 17, I was diagnosed with a personality disorder and suffered with episodes of psychosis, as well as frequent self harming. People around me were freaked out by my arms. People thought I was sick or crazy. I mean I was always someone who was outspoken and was confident enough to speak up against bullies, but this isn’t the case for everyone. Even in me saying that I can’t say it’s 1000% true. I was confident only to tell strangers. I didn’t care about the opinions of people who didn’t know me, but I cared about the opinions of people who did. I didn’t tell my family I had a mental illness until I was 20, 3 years after the diagnosis, and the only reason I ended up telling them was because it was a condition imposed by social services for me to come home with my daughter. Can you imagine? I kept a massive part of my life a secret from the people who have known me the longest because around them I felt embarrassed. I felt that they would look at me different, or think I “wasn’t quite right”. I did stints in secure psychiatric wards as a child and as an adult, and didn’t tell one member of my family. It’s quite poor really, but I understood the stigma.

When I had to tell my family, I had two of my aunt’s, my mum and my grandma crowded round my living room with a social worker and a bunch of flyers, and this lady was explaining my diagnosis. I just felt shame. But why should I feel ashamed? Why should I be embarrassed? Why aren’t mental illnesses treated like any other illness? If I said I had diabetes, the room wouldn’t act shocked or start treading carefully around me? Why is a mental illness any different? Why shouldn’t I speak up? We’re taught that we shouldn’t need psychiatrists, social services should never step foot in your house, people outside shouldn’t know your business, but everyone needs help at some point. Young men make up the highest portion of people who commit suicide. Because we don’t talk. We teach our children that “boys shouldn’t cry”, we emphasise the importance of the “man of the house” in our cultures, and expect men to always be the providers. This kind of mentality makes it seem like men should never need help. Our society makes men feel shameful when they can’t provide, when they need to cry, when they ask for help. “It’s not manly”. That’s not the message we should be sending, and the reason why I wasn’t too shocked to hear my grandma’s opinion is because she has been raised to believe that this is something shameful that you don’t bring out the house. It’s enough. I have a voice that I am not afraid to use, and it’s time we start changing minds, changing stereotypes, and eradicating stigma.

I saw this at work the other day. All of the ideas on here are really simple, but they really do make a difference.

And it’s not just mental health. It’s our relationships too. It’s sex, it’s choices with our bodies, it’s finances, it’s disability, it’s literally everything!

Nobody is perfect. Not myself, nor anyone I know. When I had my daughter, I isolated myself and didn’t tell anyone outside my family and two friends about her diagnosis. I wasn’t ashamed of my daughter, I thought she was the cutest thing ever, but I was ashamed of the stigma. That people would look at me different, look at her different. I’m not ashamed to say I had no idea what cerebral palsy was before I had my daughter. Quite bad really, but what I’ve noticed is that unless someone in your family or close friends has a disability, you’re not really aware of what is outside. I wasn’t educated on stuff like that, I only guessed people were disabled if they were in a wheelchair or “looked different”. If I’m honest, I was quite ignorant before Zariah, and having her really opened my eyes to how much I didn’t know, and how judgemental I may have been towards others as a child.

With my relationship too, having an abortion at 18. I was ASHAMED. I still look back and feel ashamed. Ashamed for making that decision, ashamed for finding myself in that position, ashamed for going against my values, my religion, my culture. Ashamed for allowing somebody else to pressure me into making decisions. I couldn’t tell my mum at the time. That stuff is unheard of! Me? A black CHRISTIAN NIGERIAN girl? lol no. I couldn’t tell anyone in my family like that. I ended up relying on my two friends. It’s so crazy that this goes on quite commonly, but nobody wants to start the conversation. People are quick to judge you, quick to disown you and condemn your decisions, and things like that are hard enough so why would I come out and tell someone just to be made to feel worse? I didn’t skip down to the woman’s clinic with a grin on my face, most people don’t. It was a hard decision for me and a large number of people I know. The stigma is soo bad that a lot of girls I knew lied, and say they had a miscarriage (there’s less of a stigma attached to that, people seem to sympathise with you), and some people would keep absolutely everything private. Imagine being at a turning point in your life, where you need more support than you have probably ever needed before, but feeling like you have no one, because everyone is going to look at you different, or make you feel worse, or speak ill of you. It’s not the response that people need.

We as a community need to do better. We need to become better listeners, better friends, better support systems and better people. We have all made mistakes in our lives, and nobody has the right to pass judgement. This is all of our first times on this planet, I don’t think any of us came into earth knowing how to do everything. You may not agree with decisions for religious reasons, cultural reasons or anything else, and that’s OK. It’s never by force you must agree to something you don’t understand, but let’s lay back on the judgement. Be an open ear, you never know how far that can take you and how much just being there to listen without judging can do for someone. Let’s learn to accept people’s differences and learn to love. It doesn’t cost a thing. If you are religious, please let’s also remember that even if God condemns an act, he still loves the person.

Learn to Love. Goodnight all. x

P.S. Everything I have said in previous blogs still stands. If anyone ever wants to talk, to rant, to cry, to shout or just needs an ear, feel free to message me. Whether you have a special needs child or not, whether you are a parent or not, my ears are always open if you feel alone. Let’s talk. (IG: embtp // Facebook: Esther Marlsey-Burkson)

P.S. (Again lol) If you haven’t already, please check out my last blog about our hunt for a “special” school. Share, comment or message me if you know of anyone, or know someone who knows someone regarding childcare for my beautiful 2 year old. We’re on the lookout!

The Back Story – Part 3 (Diagnoses and Our Journey Home)

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Hey guys, it’s been a while. I think it’s just gonna be a thing where I’m thanking everyone at the start of each blog because the support and love has just been amazing. Having Zariah, and being a young mum in general, can sometimes feel quite isolating, and before coming out with our story and experiences, I felt excluded from so many things, even though Zariah is probably too young to understand or feel it.

The outburst of love has been real though, from simple messages of love and encouragement, to invitations to places, messages from organisations, and people being much more inclusive in general. My friends have been incredible as always. Thank you for everyone who has read, commented on and shared our blogs too. Who knew people on the other side of the world could be going through the same experiences?

In the last post, I got up to Zariah’s birth and shared a picture of her whilst she was in a medically induced coma. I’m just gonna explain Zariah’s diagnosis and where we are today.

Zariah is diagnosed with spastic dystonic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. It’s abit of a mouthful to be honest, we just say CP. Anyways, all that means is that her muscles and joints can be really stiff but weak at the same time. She doesn’t have complete control of all parts of her body like most people do, and things that just come naturally to others, Zariah has to learn over more time. She can’t sit up independently, walk, talk, stand, etc. and she is only just learning to roll over. There are some things that she may never be able to do (my first blog was about her physiotherapists opinion that Zariah will never walk), but I still stay hopeful. As well as the CP, Zariah has seizures, and global developmental delay (she is behind her age mates in terms of learning). I didn’t know this would be the case when she was born, I was quite clueless to be honest, but the doctors knew that this was a likely possibility, based on how bad her condition was at birth.

Anyways back to the first day. So even though when I saw Zariah for the first time she was hooked up to a load of machines, I still was hopeful about her outcome, and just thought that lots of babies stay in hospitals for a few days when they are born. At this point, although doctors may have had their suspicions about her likely disability, we had no clue. Nothing was said to us, for whatever reason, so I was just naive as hell. In the early hours of the next morning, after meeting Zariah for the first time, I was moved to the ward where they bring mothers who have just had their baby. On the first day or two it was bearable, but it became increasingly depressing being on a ward with other mothers and families who were so happy about the birth of their child. I kept hearing newb0rn babies crying and cooing at 3 or 4 in the morning. I mean, congratulations to them and all, but my baby is upstairs, I have to keep going to visit her and she hasn’t even opened her eyes to look at me yet. Wasn’t the best environment for a new mother who hasn’t really got to “be a mother” yet.

On one of first my visits upstairs to see Zariah, the nurse by her bedside gave me a flyer to explain what they were doing to her and why. It was late in the night when they gave me the flyer, so I took it back to bed with me and read it. Zariah was placed in the coma so that they could try and cool her brain. They lower the temperature of the whole body and brain, to try and prevent the brain damage from spreading. They were one of only a few specialists hospitals to be able to do this, so I guess it was bitter sweet that she was born there. When I spoke to the nurse they said that they would be cooling Zariah for 72 hours, and providing she reacts well to the procedure, they will bring her temperature back up to normal after that. Also, the flyer had those “success stories” on them, of parents who had gone through the same treatment, that had worked well for their babies. There was a lady on there who said her baby was cooled at birth, and they stayed in hospital for 4 days. Her daughter was now running up and down and a “perfect little girl” with only a small hearing difficulty. Again, these are just memories of me being mad naive, but I thought “okay great, Zariah is gonna be in hospital for 3-5 days. After the cooling, she’ll wake up, be absolutely fine, and we can go home”. That wasn’t the case.

Zariah stayed in hospital for 6 weeks. A long, seemingly endless 6 weeks. I cant go through everyday or every milestone with you because honestly, I’ll keep you here forever. But I’ll go through each significant stage, so here goes..

Day 6: Zariah had finished the cooling and rewarming, they had stopped the treatment on her brain, and they took her in for an MRI scan to try and assess the damage. I remember being with my ex on that day excited as hell, because this was the last thing they were waiting for before they would take away the medication that was keeping her asleep. I would finally be able to see my baby open her eyes after that. Excited was such an understatement man, I just thought when she wakes up we can go home. I felt like we were hitting the finish line.

Day 7: Didn’t go as I expected to say the least. The MRI scan was done on a Thursday and I spent the day with Zariah in the hospital. The doctors told me we would get the results of the MRI scan on Friday, so I came into the hospital bright and early on Friday morning, ecstatic as hell thinking today’s the day Zariah is gonna open her eyes. I came early enough for the ward round and watched everyone else have theirs, and then the doctors came to me and asked if Zariah’s dad was going to be there. That in itself should have raised flags for me but I was so excited to get the results of the MRI, I was oblivious to the fact that it could have been bad news. You know in my first blog, I mentioned I didn’t want to be too hopeful about the results of Zariah walking, cos the let down when you’re overly hopeful is epic? This was the day I was talking about. I can’t even find words to describe how positively I thought this day would go. I contacted my ex to let him know the staff were waiting for him to get the results of the MRI scan, and so he said he was coming in. That wait just felt like forever. The doctors came in twice whilst I was waiting for my ex to check where he was and how long he would be. My ex never came to the hospital everyday and wasn’t that involved in Zariah’s care or her early days anyways, I really should have realised but tbh I didn’t. He arrived and the doctors summoned us into another room.. I remember smiling with my daughters dad walking into that room, I was so giddy, and my ex said “ahh the way they’re walking us into a private room is like it’s gonna be bad news”. We both laughed at that statement. The thought didn’t even cross my mind..

We got into the room now, and there were so many other people there. The mental health midwife that I had grown to really like, like 2 or 3 doctors, the nurses that I was most familiar with and God knows what other professionals. Even then I didn’t think it was bad news, I just thought they needed to be briefed too. They then proceeded to tell me the results. Honestly, when I tell you, the doctor explaining just let off shot after shot after shot. He told me that the images they took of Zariah were horrible. He said that she will probably be disabled, will probably have a learning disability, would probably be blind, and will never smile or laugh. She will never walk or talk or do anything. He told me in much longer terms, “you’re child is going to be a vegetable”. That’s all I heard. Please no one shoot me for saying that, but if you honestly understood how brutally the message was delivered, even till this day I still think he was the worst possible man for the job. I understand doctors are supposed to just speak medically and not emotionally but that man had no soul. He didn’t even let me breathe before he dished the next blow, and another one, and another one. I don’t even know how I made it home that day. Day 7 was the day that killed me. I couldn’t even face going back in to see Zariah. I almost gave up on that day. I remember calling my mum and just screaming on the stairs. She kept trying to calm me down but all I wanted to do was scream. My ex kept trying to hug me, but even he couldn’t do a damn thing to try and get me to act like someone who still has sanity. I was screaming on the floor on the stair case in a hospital. I’ve never been so broken. Literally never. I felt so helpless, I cant even describe the low of that day to be honest. I don’t even know how I made it home. My phone was ringing off on that evening. I understood why the mental health nurse was present. She didn’t need no briefing lol, she was there to make sure I didn’t go and throw myself off a building. That whole day is a blur. I cried and cried and cried. I don’t know how I made it to the next day but here I am, living to tell the tale.

Day 10: After my day and a bit of crying, I had to get it together. My ex partner weren’t stepping up to be there beside Zariah, and I didn’t want her to be there on her own, unconscious, with absolutely nobody around her. That’s one thing I realised from early. I can’t sleep on the job. I couldn’t afford to have days off of parenting, or days of depression where I didn’t get out of bed, because no one is gonna step up and be there for her whilst I’m not. It’s literally just me and her. So I got my ass up and went back to being there everyday. Day 10 was amazing. My baby woke up. She semi opened her eyes on day 9, but was still out of it. Day 10 was the day that I got to hold Zariah for the first time, the first time I got to feel like a mother. I took endless videos to watch when I got home, that was the first high I felt since having her, I needed it tbh cos without it I don’t know if I would have been able to keep going.

We had to teach Zariah to suck, which is a natural instinct that babies have when they’re born, but mine didn’t. I mean by the end of the 6 weeks it was much better, and she was breast feeding, which felt like a major achievement, but she came home with a tube that we would feed her directly into her stomach with. It was a lot to take in. The lead up to taking Zariah home was hectic but we got there. Because the doctors knew Zariah was likely to be disabled, we had the specialist input from early. Fast forward 2 and a bit years and here we are. She has her diagnosis and we are a little bit more familiar with her disability and what it means. It’s still a learning process, I’ll admit I never new what CP was until it was on the cards for Zariah.

Despite the doctors comments, Zariah CAN see, she CAN smile and play, she’s the most sociable little baby I have ever met. Her laugh is contageous, her energy is literally never ending (it gets exhausting sometimes lol), but she has already defied the doctors in so many ways and has so many more achievements to come. I know I’ve fast forwarded ALOTTT, but honestly theres so much to mention, I don’t think it’s something I’ll be able to cover in 1, 2 or 10 blogs.

If anyone does have any questions, I’m more than happy to answer anything and everything, and want to try and be as honest as possible about our experiences so far. It’s just the beginning of our journey, and I’m hopeful for what the future holds.

Thanks to everyone for reading. Even if I can help one person feel less alone, or can give one person hope or advice, or friendship, or support, then I feel accomplished and I am happy. We’re finally up to date now, so no more history/back story blogs for now, and we can get onto our current journey. I have learnt to let go and let God, and I understand that he has a plan. As long as I have Zariah, everything is and will be fine.

The Back Story – Part 2 (The Birth)

Hey guys, hope you’re all well x

I’m just gonna dive straight in. So in my last blog, I detailed up until the last little section of my pregnancy, and mentioned that everything was fine with the baby, so I’m just gonna start from there.

Like I said, the baby was fine. I had packed most of the stuff I thought I needed for the birth, and had it ready in my room. I had read lists from every pregnancy site possible, and still wasn’t sure I had enough to comfortably have my baby. I wasn’t even sure who my birth partner was going to be, I was semi ready to do it alone. I’ll admit, sometimes I over-do the whole “independent woman” vibe. I’ve seen my mum do it ALL, literally, a woman’s job, and man’s job and more. I was following in her footsteps and was good with it. I like having my own, no man could ever tell me anything about my achievements, my success, my possessions, or my daughter’s because I worked for each and every damn thing. My daughter was spoilt, and still is, without any guys contributions. I was on some “Gurrrllll, you don’t need no man” flex. I needed a birth partner though lol, let’s be real, everyone should have one, but since my ex was soooo useless during the pregnancy, I just didn’t want him around. After all his flaking, would this boy even show up? LOL. Not a gamble I was tryna take.

Anyways, on the 26th of January, I was exactly 39 weeks pregnant, with one week to go. I had an appointment that day, and everything was fine with the baby. Who knew in 24 hours, everything was going to go to shit. The 39 week appointment was routine. The midwife was happy with everything, it was standard as hell and I don’t remember anything significant from that day. I was in better spirits, and looking forward to the end of the pregnancy. All I know is, in that appointment, on the 26th January 2017, I went home with nothing wrong with Zariah.

Remember what I said in the last blog about living a separate life to the outside world compared to inside my house? Well that didn’t change. I had one close friend, who had just had a baby a few months before, who was my main support during my pregnancy. She checked up on me regularly, and was just an amazing spirit in general. God bless her man, I think she knew that I was going through a hard time, especially at the end, and she really did try, but I just tend to isolate when I start to feel crap so I didn’t really open up much. I used to brush everything off like it was all fine.

Anyways cool, I got home after the appointment on the 26th, and felt shitty all over again. I sat on my corner sofa with the lights off, crying alone. It’s probably bad to say on this blog, but I had a sort of back up stash of old plates that I kept in one cupboard, for when I felt the need to self harm. I smashed a bowl on the floor in the kitchen, looked for the sharpest piece, took myself to the living room, where I sat back down and began to cut and cry. (This is NOT a good way to cope with things, I can’t emphasise it enough. I don’t care who you are, when you’re reading this, or whatever you’re feeling crappy over, please message me if you ever want to talk, or rant about nothing, or cry, or anything in between. The cutting thing does not do a damn thing. Please, please reach out).

Anyways, that night was a rough one. Just low moods, where you literally don’t know what to do with yourself. I switched my phone on flight mode (not that my phone was popping off like that anyways), and cried myself to sleep. Pregnancy was lonely, and towards the end I doubted myself. I didn’t feel attached to the baby growing inside of me anymore. During the depression in the end, I’m not even sure I felt her move that much, but they don’t tell you how often you should feel your baby move anymore, and at every appointment, including the one on the 26th, everything was fine. The sadness clouded everything, days were just long and miserable, and I would put on a smiley face for the nurses and everyone outside of my house.

I woke up on the 27th and felt the same. Just a suffocating sadness.Unrecognisable sadness. And you know what the maddest thing is, I didn’t know why I was sad. I don’t know if it was everything or nothing, all I knew is that I couldn’t even hear myself think. To try and make out one clear thought in my head was impossible. I was just frozen in my seat, all day, crying. I lost my appetite and had done for a while now, but I remember earlier in the day having a conversation with that same good friend that kept checking on me, pretending I was amazing. It’s kind of creepy the way I could switch it on and off for other people, but when other people weren’t around, I just couldn’t keep up the act. I swear someone’s spirit had just cursed me, and I was choking in a black cloud of depression, whilst my normal, happy and bubbly personality was running for the door.

On that day, I can’t even remember if time travelled slowly or not, but I remember sinking. The sadness just kept getting worse and worse, I started thinking all sorts of madness thoughts, about how to end my life but save the baby. I couldn’t hear my own thoughts, it’s like your soul is being dragged underwater and you’re fighting with your last breaths to stay afloat. In a split second of desperation, around 4pm on the 27th January 2017, I called the perinatal midwife. I had grown to like her before the breakdown in December, and begged her to let me get induced because I couldn’t continue any longer. God actually knows how much of a mess I must have sounded on that phone line, but it was enough for her to panic and send a social worker to my house, and call the police, to escort me to the hospital. I can’t even lie to you, despite the dramas that got me to that point, i.e. the police and social services coming, knowing this is gonna f*ck up my case later down the line, I was so relieved that the hospital agreed to induce me.

I had some random woman in my house helping me with my bags and what not, and I just felt good. Even though I wasn’t in labour at all, I was about to have my baby. I was jolly lol, you would never imagine that I was just self harming last night. The mind can play some dirty tricks on you, and honestly, I can reflect back now and see that I wasn’t well. I all had a spring in my step like I’d won the lottery. It’s sickening how quickly I could just stop crying and start to grin teeth like everything in life was roses and strawberries for other people. Anyways, bags were packed, I was excited as hell, and I got into a cab with this complete stranger social worker to go and have my baby.

Let me remind you that I wasn’t in labour. The hospital agreed to induce me based on social concerns, because of the history of mental illness and what not, and 24 hours ago, everything was absolutely fine. Anyways, I got to the hospital around 5.30pm. They stuck the CTG monitor on me almost immediately (the machine that monitors the baby’s heartbeat and general wellbeing). The nurses put it on me routinely, as I was due to be induced that evening. It started kicking in, like “oh shit this is happening”, and nerves started to creep in as well, cos I had never pushed a baby out of my fanny before. They had me on the bed, spread my legs and put this ridiculous tube in my vagina to see if I was dilated. When I’m nervous or uncomfortable, I just giggle a lot. It’s like an awkward giggle, which probably isn’t the best response in serious situations. I had my vagina out in front of nurses and this random social worker that I JUST MET. Talk about intimate, at least take me out to eat first, something.

Tbh, the whole stranger thing didn’t bother me too much. I spend 5+ years in care, I was used to strangers lol. The nurses kept coming in and out of the room, checking the machine and going. I mean, that’s normal, right? I have never had a baby before, I didn’t know what to expect, and the nurses were acting completely normal with me. One of the midwives asked if I had eaten that day, and I said no. She said “oh baby’s just looking a little bit more tired than usual”, but the way she said it was so reassuring, like it’s normal and happens loads, I’m all here bussing jokes with the stranger social worker lady whilst they’re doing their thing. The nurse said that she was gonna put me on a drip, which was basically sugar water, to give the baby energy and get her moving more. I wasn’t even the slightest bit worried. I thought they were doing ward rounds when the doctor came to visit me, which is completely normal considering I was about to be induced into labour. The presence of nurses and midwives frequently seemed normal to me. All the staff were acting normal, smiling at me and joking around like everything was alright, when in actual fact, they saw something was wrong with the baby from the minute I got in there.

I had been on the bed now for about an hour, and the doctor came into the room to talk to me. He seemed rushed, again which I thought was normal. I assumed there’s so many other women pushing out babies in this place, there must be more urgent people for this man to attend to. The doctor said “oh baby doesn’t seem to be moving enough, we’re going to change your position and increase the drip to see if that helps”. When I look back at it now, he just seemed patronising as hell, but at the time, even that didn’t make me flinch. I thought he was just talking to me like that because it’s minor and normal. He didn’t even in the slightest, indicate that something was seriously wrong. He then said “if it doesn’t improve in half an hour, we may have to consider a c-section”. I remember feeling panicked at that statement, but he made it seem like he was giving the worst case scenario, but that was almost impossible. He didn’t make it seem like a likely possibility. Everyone majorly played down the seriousness of my baby’s poor health. I hadn’t called anyone yet. No one even knew I was in the hospital. I had another friend who got induced a few months before, and I was in contact with her during her labour. It took days! I just assumed we were gonna be here for a long while before anything actually starts happening, so I didn’t call a damn soul. This was about 6.30pm.

Even though C-section was mentioned, when I started to worry he calmed me down and like I said, made it seem like ahh yeah its ridiculously unlikely. They didn’t portray the seriousness of what was going on. Even the social worker still sat up in the room with me giggling about nothing.

Half an hour passed, and the doctors and nurse storm in like “we’re gonna have to have a c-section”. I said waahhhhh? I just started bursting into tears. I didn’t even understand what was happening. I asked why, and even after they put me on an operating table, they played down the seriousness, like nothing was wrong and they were just being cautious. Later down the line, they said they played it down “as they didn’t want me to panic and it negatively affect the baby”. Anyways, I’m crying and scared because it’s just gone wayy left from what I assumed was going to happen. The same nurses that were lounging around doing up casual were suddenly rushing, the doctor is changing clothes and someone hands me some nonsense surgery rag, telling me to put it on. I didn’t even have time to catch my breath. I’m crying hysterically and this social worker is trying to comfort me. Suddenly, she became useless. I wanted my family. I wanted familiarity. As I was crying to the doctor, I asked if I could call someone and wait for them to come before we go into surgery. He said I can make my phone call, but we can’t wait for anyone. Only then is when I clocked, shit, something is majorly wrong. I was a mess, I was lost.

I called my mum, but she was coming from Essex, and I knew she wouldn’t make it in time. I told her to come it’s happening now, she dropped what she was doing and began to make her way. I called my ex and didn’t even explain, I just said come now it’s happening and he made his way. The doctors though, were suddenly in a hurry after an hour and a bit of me laying there doing nothing, despite them knowing and seeing something was wrong from the minute I walked in. They weren’t waiting for no one. I think only then had they realised how enormously they had f*cked up. The social worker lady, offered to come in with me, her service user that she had never met before, and be my birth partner. She sat in the room with me and held my hand as the doctors bent my spine, told me not to move an inch, and put some 100 metre needle in my back (exaggeration, clearly, but that thing was massive). I was shitting myself. Within seconds, they laid me down and started asking me to wiggle my toes and try and lift my leg. I was completely paralysed from the waist down, looking up at the ceiling of some well lit room, and they began the surgery, social worker by my side.

My ex turned up mid way through the surgery and the social worker wished me well and said she would be in touch. He came before they pulled the baby out of my stomach, and I couldn’t feel a thing, but his presence was calming. That’s the one thing he didn’t fuck up. He showed up. Suddenly when he arrived, I was smiling again, and was joking about with him, he was too scared to look at my cut open body and I didn’t want him to be staring at my un-shaved vagina. We were kids. I was 20 years old in the biggest surgery of my life, oblivious to how big the problem was. Until she came out…

Silent and lifeless and blue… My fucking heart.

Even typing this is heartbreaking. My eyes are watering and it just brings me back to the actual day my life started. It’s such a crippling experience. Whether you have kids or not, everyone knows the baby is supposed to cry when they come out. Shit was silent. All I remember is continuously asking “what’s wrong, what’s wrong” and everyone was silent. An alarm like sound went off in the ward, and I can’t even really remember that bit, but it’s called a crash call. All of a sudden there were a bunch of doctors and nurses bursting into the room. It’s like that alarm was summoning the army. Basically, during a crash call, every medical staff available on that ward is supposed to come and assist. They only use it in the worst situations. I didn’t know that at the time but seeing so many people poor into the room, I immediately knew something was going horribly wrong. At this point I was crying and screaming on this table, begging for someone to answer me, and everyone was just ignoring. I mean I shouldn’t say they were ignoring me, as they were busy saving my child’s life, but I’ve never felt so helpless. I was crippled from the waist down, couldn’t even prop my upper body up to see what was happening, all the staff were crowded round my daughter in a huddle. Still no cry… I’m crying hysterically and screaming like a mad woman at this point. I thought I gave birth to a dead baby, and thank God for this country and for technology, because in a less developed country, they could have said my daughter was gone and there was nothing they could do.

Finally, someone responded to my screams. At this point there were a whole football team and subs worth of staff in the surgery room. I can’t remember whose mouth even said it, but someone said “she just needs some extra help to breathe at the moment”. I asked to see her, and they rolled her over on some metal table with wheels, with nurses manually doing her breathing for her with her finger on the mouth and what looked like a mini air mattress pump. They only let me see her for like 5 seconds before they put her in the intensive care ward. I was a mess. My ex was crying, I was crying. I was just living a nightmare. How can the day go so wrong? They patched me back up and wheeled me to some recovery area, and I saw my child properly for the first time in the early hours of the next morning.

Zariah was born at 7.57pm, on the 27th January 2017. We had a 6 week journey ahead of us before Zariah eventually came home. I shared the first picture I took of Zariah yesterday, and she was hooked to every single machine you could think of. It felt like someone was just trodding all over my heart.

I knew this story would be long, but I honestly thought it was something I would finish in 2 parts, but evidently there’s got to be a third. I will try my best to cover the journey home and her diagnosis in the next blog post. Hopefully after that, I’ll be up to date and we can get back to the present day.

I know I keep saying it but honestly, thank you to everyone for the support and warm messages. The response has been overwhelming, and I genuinely hope that at least one person finds support or comfort knowing they’re not alone in some of the topics covered in these blogs. Most people advertise their pregnancies to be amazing, which it should be, but the experience is not the same for everyone, but regardless of your circumstance you should be supported and never alone. Anyone who is struggling, or had struggled with anything mentioned in this or previous posts, feel free to message, to talk or just for a friend. Hope you’ve enjoyed the read x

God Bless You All x

The Back Story – Part 1 (Pregnancy)

Hi everyone! Before I start I just want to say thank you to everyone who has sent messages of love and support our way. I started writing this just to vent, and I didn’t think anyone would read it or care, but honestly the well wishes have meant so much. Thank you to everyone reading, sharing and supporting. Much love xxxx

Because of the way I started this, I didn’t really explain the events that led up to the “never walking” appointment and I didn’t really discuss my daughters diagnoses’. So today I’m going to start from the beginning.

April 2016. I started a job in Santander. Probably doesn’t sound relevant, and that detail doesn’t play a gigantic part in this story, but for me, it signified a positive turning point in my life. I had been with my ex (my daughters dad) for maybe 2 years or so, but the relationship wasn’t the happiest (that in itself is a whole other story). But touching on the basics, my ex had lived with me since about October 2015, and the whole time I was carrying him financially. He didn’t contribute a penny towards living costs but still had mouth to continue asking for more. Before Santander, I worked in a bookies, so I was working 60/70 hour weeks every week, to keep up with his ever increasing demands (like I said, a whole other story). Anyways, Santander signified a new start. I was excited to not be breaking my back working ridiculous hours, I was looking forward to not being exhausted all day everyday, starting at 7am and finishing at 10pm. It was the kind of job your parents would be proud of at 19 years old. I started the job in April, and was planning to go to university in September. It felt like life outside of my relationship was looking up, I was excited.

Anyways, fast forward now, in June, I found out I was pregnant. Let me be honest, the relationship, for me anyways, was coming to an end for a long time now. As each day came and went, I just felt emotionally done with the situation, and was semi ready to go. Then to find out I was pregnant. Whew chileee, it just felt like a slap in the face. I can’t even believe I’m fixing my hands to type that nonsense because I look at Zariah and just think this is my BEST FRIEND. God forgive me for even carrying such thoughts, but it’s genuinely how I felt. My partner was older than me but maturity-wise, at that point he wasn’t all there, so it wasn’t exactly like I could lean on him for support. Plus he was going through his own situation, the whole way through the relationship it was just me supporting him. But nevermind all that for now, the pregnancy. I immediately considered abortion. Culturally, religiously, morally, and in every other way possible, to me, abortion is an abomination. But I won’t front, I considered it, heavily. I was so conflicted because I’d had one before, aged 18 (again, another days story), but when I tell you, I have never regretted a decision as much as I did and still do that one. I didn’t think I could do it again, but at the same time I felt trapped with a guy who doesn’t treat me well, and who I know for sure is not the guy I’m going to spend my life with. If I had the baby, I was mentally accepting that I’m going to be a single parent, even though he’s there, because I’m not spending my life with this guy. I kind of knew how the story would go.

All of this is going on in my head, and I haven’t even told my mum yet. My mind was literally fried. My ex didn’t want me to have an abortion, but I think that’s only because he felt guilty for making me have the first one (I’m sorry for saying this a hundred times, but it legitimately is a longggg story that I will cover another day). The relationship with my ex was at breaking point, bringing a life into that situation was just not a smart decision that anyone could have planned, but hey ho, you might be thinking you’re going one way in life and God just slaps you in a different direction. I ended up telling my mum in potentially the worst way possible. As things with my partner were getting worse, our arguments were escalating. We fought physically (with violence coming from BOTH of us, not just him). Fights would just get more and more violent, arguments more spiteful, and the atmosphere more cold. I would ask him to leave so many times, he just wouldn’t budge. I called the police in a few of our altercations, but one day before work, a massive argument broke out, we ended up fighting, and I locked myself in the toilet and called my mum. She just heard hysterical crying, she was panicked and kept asking what was going on. My ex was outside the door saying God knows what, and I just ended up screaming down the phone “I’M PREGNANT”. God knows how my ex and I got over that situation that day, but all I know is I went into work ridiculously late, with a bloodshot eye, and was lying to everyone about how I got it.

My mum, bless her soul, was so supportive. She expressed clearly she was against me getting an abortion, and didn’t understand why I was considering one when only a few months ago I was singing my exes praises, talking about how he’s the guy I wanna marry and what not. I sat down and told my mum the wholeeeee story, and that was the first time I told her that I had already had an abortion 2 years before. But you know what, that woman is a rider. She knew what her values were and made her stance clear, but was willing to support me through any and every decision I made, as any mother should. I went to the abortion place a few days later, but my ex was messaging me begging me not to, and even without his messages, I don’t think I could have gone through with it anyways. So I left the hospital, and just like that the decision was made. I was keeping my baby…

As I’m writing this story, I’m realising there’s so many side stories that need to be told for you to fully understand this journey, but it honestly is another days job, because I’ll just keep you guys here reading forever kmt. But we move…

Me and my ex had a disgustingly massive fight sometime in June/July 2016, you would have thought we were shooting some WWE fight scene. It was ridiculous, there was choking, spitting, pushing, punching and everything else in between. We broke up from there. He actually tried to resolve it after that fight but I was so furious, I couldn’t hold any kind of mending conversation at that time. He eventually left and tbh that was it. We were done. My heart still loved him but I couldn’t bring my mouth to communicate anything other than “I don’t care” and “F**k you”. We were broken up, but he still came to the first scan at the University College Hospital in Camden/Euston area. The scan was nice, you know when you still love someone and the vibe is good, you forget all the spiteful actions and words that have been said prior to that. We went home together after that, excited about baby stuff, talking about gender, and baby shopping and all the nice things that come in early stages of a pregnancy. This was the kind of vibe that makes you forget you’re broken up. The sun was out, it was summer, he came back to mine, chilled, watched TV, ate ice poles, it was just good vibes, like old times. The first scan went well, there were no problems and we got our official due date – 2nd February 2017.

Don’t get it twisted though, one good appointment with my ex didn’t mean a damn thing. I did the pregnancy alone. He came to the other scan, where you find out the sex, but it was bitter sweet. He actually complained that we were having a girl, which kinda put a spoiler on the mood, and when I mentioned it, he said he was joking, and acted like I was the problem. In that same scan the doctor also referred us to have another scan as he thought something wasn’t right with the heart. The next scan, my ex didn’t show, and I was told that Zariah had a hole in her heart. They told me it was tiny and will probably make no difference, but any news that something is wrong as an expectant mother feels like the end of the world, I had to take that on my own, and cried on my way home.

Anyways lemme rewind a bit. I have a mental illness. Everything I’m saying right now just sounds like a recipe for disaster but I want to be completely honest about my experience and the timeline of events. I have a personality disorder which was diagnosed when I was about 17, but because of that, I had to have regular perinatal (mental health) appointments during the pregnancy. Everything was fine throughout the majority though. I quite enjoyed going to the appointments and speaking to the lady, it was an outlet I didn’t have anywhere else. My ex only wanted to play a part or help out if we got back together, which I didn’t want to do, and every time I tried to involve him, he would flake, and when I would ask for help, he would use the excuse of “you’re not my girl anymore” so he didn’t have to play a part. Majority of the pregnancy went that way. We would plan things, i.e. shopping for the baby, putting together lists of things we need, he wouldn’t show, we would argue, he’d say something spiteful or blow up and I’d block him. He spent half of the pregnancy blocked lol, and I did all the other stuff on my own or with my friends.

Overall, there were so many issues with my personal life at the time of my pregnancy, but the pregnancy in itself was fine. I was categorised as low risk and was planning a water birth. There was nothing wrong with the baby throughout (other than the hole in the heart, but medically, it was too small to make a difference). She was growing fine, all the appointments went well, I felt her move quite a lot in the early days, I got used to doing the pregnancy alone and I quite liked it. My skin was glowing, work was going well, the only real problem I had was my ex, who was super hurtful at times, but I distanced myself, and things went alright. He was ghost most of the pregnancy. His working situation was a mess so I always did everything financially alone, although he would talk of all the things he was gonna do for her, but in the back of my mind, I knew not to buy the dreams he was selling. When he did start working, he didn’t buy a damn thing for Zariah. Instead, he rocked up to my flat in a new North Face jacket. What the hell? I was out here putting everything into getting things for my daughter, which I was quite excited about, and my ex, who was begging to get back together, was using his money to buy designer clothes instead of putting even 20% of his money towards his baby? When I brought it up, he just argued with me. The whole “ur not my girl anymore” argument made it’s comeback. For someone who was texting and calling me everyday talking about he wants to try again, he sure used that line quite a lot. He would advertise himself as single on his social media, whilst texting me at the same time telling me he loves me and our unborn child and wants to be a family. Urgh, I look back now and just think what in the actual hell was I doing lol.

Anyways, back to the pregnancy. Summer came and went, we were into the winter months and February just kept getting closer and closer. Because of the mental illness, in that first perinatal appointment, they offered medication I could take whilst I was pregnant to help me manage. However, the doctor had said that no medication was 100% safe for the baby, and because life was going quite alright (aside from my ex), I wanted to go without. That decision came to bite me in the bum towards the end though.

I got bigger and bigger, but without medication, things began to pile on. I think for anyone pregnancy is a hard thing to go through, but it is especially hard when you’re on your own. I’m the kind person who likes to keep busy and keep moving. When I’m at home, it just gives me space to think about too much and I always end up feeling depressed. I lived a complete different life at home compared to when I was out in the world. From about 28/29 weeks, the depression started to follow me out of the house. I started calling the hospital antenatal line asking to be induced. Because there was no medical problems requiring me to bring Zariah in the world as a premature baby, the hospital kept declining. I look back a lot of the time and realise how completely naive I was back then. I was practically a kid having a kid, I never knew how serious having a premature baby can be, so I just kept asking and asking. Like I said, the hospital kept declining. In December, everything went to shit. I had started my maternity leave, and was getting closer to the due date, and honestly I don’t think I’ve ever been so low. Because I wasn’t going to work anymore, the only time I would leave the house is for the occasional hospital appointment or baby shopping trip with my girl. I spent most of the days indoors crying, self harming and asking to be induced. The end of December was the hardest. I reached my breaking point and the pregnancy was beyond miserable, my ex partner was absent, and only ever showed his face to argue with me and threaten me when I wouldn’t see his point of view. “I’m gonna take custody of her and call mental health and social services and you’ll never see your baby” was the most popular one. For someone that knew of my mental illness from the day he met me, his ignorance was still high as ever. He was spiteful as hell and would say absolutely anything to provoke a response.

Even though I did well not to engage with the back and forth towards the end of the pregnancy, it really did affect my mental health. I was breaking slowly. I couldn’t manage and I began to feel ill thoughts towards the pregnancy and the baby. I kept saying I just wanted the pregnancy to be done, and honestly, I’m not even sure what I meant by that. I stopped looking after myself towards the end. Stopped leaving the house, showering, eating, taking general care of myself or the baby. Everything in my house was neat and prepared for a baby. I built a chest of drawers, a new cot, a new wardrobe by myself. Bought a moses basket, washed, ironed and put away all Zariah’s clothes neatly. Despite me saying I wanted the pregnancy to be done and all sorts of nonsense, I had already prepared.

One day, I just remember feeling really low. I was desperate for my mood to change, as I could feel my mental health deteriorating. I just started feeling sadder and sadder, and then there reaches a point where I stop acting rationally, and can only describe my mood to professionals as “feeling shit”. Once I reached the point, I went to the GP, crying, looking like an unkempt mess, demanding pills. That obviously raised red flags, because the GP was not the person that told me I can just request these pills and they would give them to me should I need them, and even so, medication for your mental health often takes numerous weeks to kick in, making you feel worse before you feel better. At this point I only had like 4/5 weeks left of pregnancy, but I genuinely didn’t feel as though I would make it there. Once the GP told me they wouldn’t be able to prescribe me anything I just upped and left, which didn’t help because they became increasingly concerned and called the hospital and the mental health crisis team. When I’m in states like that though, I tend to isolate. I switched off my phone for days, and missed my perinatal appointment at the hospital. Because of my sudden lack of engagement, social services were called to assess my welfare and the welfare of my unborn baby.

& just like that, my unborn child was on the child protection register.

I mean, it didn’t happen “just like that”, there were a few things that were said and done before social services made that decision, but that’s another days story. But that decision there, was my worst nightmare.

Anyways, even though my mental health was struggling, I didn’t want to harm my baby, so although I disengaged with the mental health services, I kept to all my antenatal appointments, and made sure she was good, and she was. For the whole of the 9 month pregnancy, my baby was fine. We never missed any antenatal appointments, she was growing fine, I felt her kick and move around, she was the picture of health, until the 27th January 2017.

I’m really not tryna leave you guys on some cliffhanger Eastenders vibe, but I really need to pause. I feel like this story has been going forever, and I’m pretty sure I’ve kept everyone for way too long. If you are reading this, I will update the next part as soon as possible and try and get back to Zariah instead of everything else I’ve mentioned thus far. I just wanted to give an honest recollection of my pregnancy and how things were before the birth.

Again, thank you guys so much for reading, I’m still a little in shock at the response, but it really does mean a lot. I wanted to document this story because the stuff covered is not widely spoke about in our communities. A lot of the stuff mentioned, i.e. abortions and poor mental health is something that many people experience or encounter in this day and age but fail to speak openly about due to the stigma. Only after I was born did I tell the rest of my family that I had a mental illness, and even then, it was only because it was a condition imposed by social services in order for me to keep my daughter. The stigma attached is soo real. Anyways, thanks so much for the love, and anyone and everyone can feel free to message me about absolutely anything, should you want to comment or speak about something else. Feel free to share with anyone you feel this may help or inspire. Love x

Here’s the first picture I took of Zariah in the early hours of the 28th January 2017. I’ll update as soon as, and thanks again for reading x

This was the first time I ever saw Zariah. She didn’t look the same as any other babies in the Neonatal Unit and it broke my heart.