Faking Normal School Mum

Faking Normal School Mum

I have a confession to make, the title of this post probably gives it away, but I’ll press on nonetheless… I’ve been faking being a normal school mum.

From the moment I nonchalantly get out the car with Harry, Tallulah, wheelchair, walker, backpack, phone, keys etc etc smiling breezily like my heart isn’t going a hundred miles an hour worrying whether T is going to bolt into the car park, I’m going to drop my carefully constructed tower of paraphernalia or H is going to sob the whole way to the classroom for a reason I can’t figure out.

And to the moment when I collect H, casually chatting to the other mums hoping that they don’t pick up my desperate attempt to figure out exactly what their kids are telling them about school, friends, what they’re learning or anything really and followed by my very brief chat to H’s lovely teacher who then makes her way through the other parents and I stroll away hoping that I appear totally calm whilst my insides are churning with not knowing exactly what Harry did every single second of the day. Did they use his talker? How many times? Did he pay attention? Did they figure out how to model during drama? Who did he play with? What exactly did he do? AAAAARRRGGH!!!!

At around 1am one night, a time when all the best ideas pop up because one’s mind is so calm and peaceful (ahem), it occurs to me… I should just chat to his teacher and see if they can set up a nanny cam in the classroom so that I can see what’s going on. Actually no, better to just skype me in during the day so I can give immediate feedback if they’re struggling with ideas on helping Harry to attend or how to model best. No scrap that, why don’t I just come in. I could sit in a corner quietly, they won’t even know I’m there. It’ll be great.

Yes, 1am, when all the most clear-sighted and rational ideas are conjured up.

So who is this ‘normal school mum’ that I thought I should be especially considering that I loathe the term normal. What on earth does it even mean and who on earth could possibly represent it? I have no idea, but in my hope to try and get through the first term of mainstream school, I imagined an image of her and thought that she is who I should be.

As the weeks went by and I started chatting more and more to the school mums and dads and seeing what was going on for everyone else, the idea of a ‘normal school mum’ started to crack…

The worry about H not divulging his school day to me and assuming it was because he couldn’t tell me on his device eased. As it turns out, the standard answer to what did you do at school today is ‘nothing’, the answer to how was school today is ‘fine’ and finally the answer to who did you play with is ‘no one’. Phew.*

The pieces of ‘normal school mum’ continued to fall away as I watched my fellow school mums and dads struggling with crying kids, getting called in for playground incidents and lurking around the classroom looking to corner the teacher for insight and reassurance.

The final piece of ‘normal school mum’ disintegrated when, towards the end of term, I was chatting with a group of parents waiting to collect our kids and one of the dads said “Don’t you just wish they had a camera in the classroom so you could see what they get up to all day?” (Ha, if he only knew!) But I wasn’t alone, there was a collective sigh of relief and much hilarity as we all sheepishly confessed our agreement.

And so on the eve of the start of term 2, there are no preconceptions of how I should and shouldn’t be or what I should and shouldn’t feel. The only faking going on around here will be the filters on my pictures!

M H and T



*That phew is relief that when he gets home and doesn’t feel like talking to me that it’s all fairly typical. I will still try to help him along by giving him the words he might need to tell me what happened, for when he is in the mood to chat, or to tell me to ‘go away’ as the case may be!

Dear Mum, you’re doing enough.

Dear Mum, you’re doing enough.

Dear Mum
I see you as your thoughts drift back to the unvacuumed home, the overflowing wash basket and the unmowed lawn whilst the faint redness that rims your eyes and the slight puff beneath them belie the lost sleep whilst tending to bipap machines, feeding tubes or a child who, unable to self settle decides to start his day at 3am.
But as sure as ABC Kids starts at 5am, the dust will blow back in, the clothes will get messy again and the lawn will keep growing. Those chores are not a measure of your worth, no, that beautiful measure is in your arms, perhaps beside you in their chair, loving you and trusting you.
You’re doing enough.

Dear Mum
I feel the tinge of guilt every time you drop your kids off at childcare, kindy, school or respite and, for a moment, you feel a weight of relief knowing that for the next few hours you aren’t mother, therapist, neurosurgeon, psychiatrist, neurologist, paediatrician et al. Perhaps I shouldn’t have gone back to work? Will my child be properly included? Do the staff understand the new sign he makes when he needs to go to the toilet? I don’t think I did a thorough enough handover with them this morning.
You’re doing enough.

Dear Mum
I see how you wholeheartedly celebrate every glorious milestone of all your children’s friends whilst deep inside you swallow down your gnawing doubt about the therapy you have chosen or the amount of therapy you’re doing at home. Today wasn’t a good day, I was grumpy and exhausted, tomorrow we will do more kneeling at the couch and I will model more words on his iPad. Perhaps you will and perhaps tomorrow won’t be a day for therapy. Perhaps tomorrow is a day for cuddles or a play on the swing. Your child can see your love and knows your strength.
You’re doing enough.

Dear Mum
I hear you artfully question your therapists and doctors desperate for someone to tell you the magic number and combination of therapies that will ensure you are doing everything possible to give your child the opportunity they deserve to reach their potential. Are weekly and fortnightly sessions of each enough, should it actually be twice a week, what if we joined a weekend group? I know you listen as they tell you you’re doing a wonderful job and you allow yourself to feel a moment’s pride until that little seed lodges itself back in your mind and you feel that no one will give you a straight answer. How much is enough, how much is too much and, terrifyingly, what if I’m doing too little?
You’re doing enough.

Dear Mum
I see the pain as you watch friendships you care for going untended as your diary fills with appointments, clinics and therapy sessions. Do they know just how busy I really am? Will they forgive me for cancelling again? Will they still be there when I come out of this haze of learning to understand and accept? Will I ever come out of this haze? I see you reading late into the night as you fill yourself with knowledge that will empower you and strengthen you. I see you as you build up a virtual network of people to walk with you on this journey and sit beside you when you’re down. Your friends understand and yes, the haze does lift.
You’re doing enough.

You love, you cry, you fight, you advocate, you encourage, you question, you listen, you learn, you nurture, you know.

You do enough.

Dear Mum

A Mother’s Love

A Mother’s Love

NOTE FROM MICHAELA: The Mighty published this post on their site. Wow, such an honour!

Stories often circulate about the healing and comforting power of a mother’s love. It’s something that’s simply accepted and understood by all of us but, for a time, I believed that it was a power lost to me. Until a heart rate monitor showed me otherwise.

In the weeks following Harry’s accident he was in a coma, on a ventilator and had no less than 6 tubes going into his 11 month old body at any one time. I ached to hold him and bury my face into the warm, chubby little folds at the back of his neck. The physical pain of not being able to wrap my baby in my arms was sharply felt throughout my body.

As soon as he was breathing on his own, I attempted to hold him for the first time.  I was terrified. Terrified of holding my own child. It took 2 nurses, a doctor and my husband to attempt to delicately place him in my arms whilst ensuring that none of the lines got tangled and that the most important tube that was draining fluid from around his brain was carefully monitored.

But I knew of the healing touch of a mother.  Perhaps this would be the miracle we so desperately craved.  Perhaps this would be the moment of Hollywood tear-jerking dramas.  My touch would heal, calm and reassure my son.

Slowly, carefully, down into my arms…

Finally I could feel the familiar and comforting weight of my son in my lap.

And then I felt warmth on my arm. The tube draining fluid from around his brain was leaking. Carefully, quickly, efficiently he was back on the bed. Still, silent and safe on the clinical comfort of the hospital bed.

Time passed, tubes were removed.

Harry then entered the confused and agitated stage of recovery after a traumatic brain injury.  In this stage, adults recovering from a brain injury are often verbally abusive and have to be carefully watched for fearing of hurting themselves or others.  They are unable to control this behaviour as they struggle to make sense of the world around them.

For Harry, this stage manifested in him grizzling. His hospital room had to be kept dark, no stimulus, quiet, just the sounds of my boy grizzling.

For 3 weeks, he grizzled.  For 3 weeks I held him, day and night, unable to comfort him. Occasionally there would be a brief moment when my voice would calm him and he’d be quiet and peaceful. But just for a moment.

Time passed, the grizzling ended.

Having only had 11 months experience at being a mother, I feared that I didn’t have the great, big healing love that I so desperately wanted to envelope my son with.  I wanted to touch him and for him to know that everything would be okay, his mum was with him and everything would be okay.

Time passed, my seed of doubt remained.

Harry was back in theatre for some major neurosurgery when we were advised that he was out of recovery and we could head to PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit) to meet him. The surgery, whilst successful, was more complicated than his surgeons had hoped for and our little boy was having a tough recovery.

There he was lying on the hospital bed, eyes shut, head bandaged up, making little cub grizzles. He wasn’t comfortable.  From months of obsessing over hospital monitors I noticed his heart rate was elevated – 140, 142, 141, 142

I wrapped my arms around him – 130, 126, 121

I put my face to his – 118, 114, 110

I kissed his closed eyes, kissed his forehead – 108, 105, 100

I whispered that his mum was here and that everything was going to be okay – 98, 92, 80