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  • Writer's pictureEliza

A Moment of Trauma Healing

Today is the first day of the holidays. I am solo parenting and in preparation have bought all of the things I have been neglecting. Orange juice and spinach in an attempt to make up for too many ready meals over the busy term. I set the dishwasher, tumble and washer going in a vague attempt to convince myself I can get on top of the house for Christmas. I know full well this is an unrealistic expectation and make a mental note not to let guilt creep in if it doesn't happen. There is more to life after all.

I have a plan. Dangerous for me as I am incredibly focused when I have an outcome in mind and plans involving small children rarely, in my experience, turn into reality. Again, mental note not to let future me feel bad for not completing the plan if it needs to flex or change.

The plan is:

  1. medicine for daughter - nip to the pharmacy and while there pick up other daughters prescription.

  2. Clean downstairs.

  3. Get presents sorted and posted.

It doesn't seem too over ambitious...

The time is 8:57. Husband goes o the office to start work and I start mine. We get dressed and teeth cleaned and scrubbed and brushed. All going well. No meltdowns or overwhelm from 7yold in this period which is unusual and welcome. They are calm, relaxed and cracking the best jokes. Holidays are welcome respite from before school anxiety and after school restraint collapse.

9:20. Shoes are on and bags are packed. Spare clothes for both. It is all going so well.

Toilet trips before we go everyone. 'No' says 2 y/o. I breathe deeply. Here we go.

I explain: "toilet first, then outside."

"No, outside now. No toilet." comes the reply.

"Toilet first. We need the wee out before we walk." I say

"outside, outside, outside" a very small but very grumpy toddler answers.

Hugs, distraction, playing races later we sit on the bathroom floor. She sits down on my lap...and promptly falls asleep.

9:40. A sleeping toddler (still not toilet-ed) I go to see where 7y/o has managed to get too. "I need to get changed Mum. I've had an accident" I sigh inwardly and smile outwardly. "Ok off you go. I am getting the pushchair out because 2y/o has fallen asleep. Please be as quick as you can." I know from experience this is futile. One of my 7y/o trauma triggers is being alone in a room. I run to get the pushchair and even manage to pop 2y/o into it before the call comes. "Mum can you come here. I don't want to be on my own." I walk up the stairs wondering if we will ever get out of the door. Michael McIntyre's sketch of parents leaving the house make me chuckle.

At 10:10 we finally make it out. 7y/o is on the bike, 2y/o dozy in the pushchair for now. Back on track with the plan I think as we begin the stomp to the pharmacy. It is a good walk which works well for me and 7y/o. We need to burn off extra mental fizz and for whatever reason being outside always leaves me feeling like it was a day well spent.

I had not appreciated as we pushed our way through a particularly windy patch would make Winnie the Pooh's blustery day look like a gentle breeze. We live in rural Lincolnshire and for those who know it the landscape is rather flat. The consequence being, the wind has free reign to frolic across the fields as it pleases. It particularly like to pick up speed along the waterways and bridges can be pretty hairy.

10:30 Pharmacy. A long queue awaits snaking out past the front door and onto the pavement. A pile of leaves rustles and calls to 7 y/o. A baby giggles as 7y/o kicks and sprinkles the leaves. For a moment I feel emotional. This freedom to be a child, to play and to have confidence to embrace fun and happiness have been hard won. The trauma of feeling so insecure pre and during the adoption process left 7y/o needing to be in control constantly. Having fun, playing and laughing were vulnerable and she could not afford to take this risk of being vulnerable. Seeing her now, free-er at least, was evidence of healing. Little by little happiness and hope was returning.

10:45 Medicine in hand, sneaky trip to Lidl bakery over the road complete and we march our way back. The wind seems to have felt its show earlier had not been appreciated sufficiently and has really upped its game. We cross the bridge and a gust catches us. The bike is pushed over, 7y/o and I are blown to the side and the bakery bag and my gloves are lifted dramatically into the air and away across the road. The trigger was pulled in that moment and sweet 7 y/o collapsed. Tears, fear, screaming. I: rocking, soothing, holding. She had felt unsafe and she went down the rabbit hole of trauma right back to being small.

"Your gloves are gone forever. You love them. They are leaving. You will never see them again." She screamed. "I didn't get to say goodbye."

She wasn't talking about the gloves and I knew it. Logical conversation was not going to help at this point. We held each other. "You are with me here. You are safe. You are loved. I've got you. I am not going anywhere."

Slowly, slowly she came back. Out of the place in her mind which was pure hurt and fear and loss. She looked at me. "But Mummy your gloves."

She was back. I could talk.

"I liked those gloves I explained. I enjoyed having them. It was great. I am sad they are gone too. It is called bitter sweet. I am happy I got to have those gloves for a while."

At this perfect moment 2 y/o reaches over and hands 7 y/o some of her leftover pretzel from the bakery.

7 y/o smiles and hides her face in her hood. She tells me "I feel small like the little sister and you are all looking after me."

"Yes" I agree. "Sometimes when scary things happen it makes us remember when we were small. We will look after you. We are here."

The rest of the walk we hold onto each other for extra protection from the wind and chat. Inside I feel emotional and try not to cry. Today I feel proud to be the mother of my beautiful children. I feel especially proud to be an adopter mother who has put in the leg work and who has shown up again and again in the hard places. I very often get it wrong but today it paid off. The trauma opened a window and her new family showed up. We re-wrote the narrative and every time that happens it counts. It heals, it matters.

The plan after that could be anything. The day was a winner.

If you are working with children with PTSD, attachment disorder or other trauma please know that the showing up means so much. Every tiny moment you show up with kindness it means so much. Keep going. It is so, so tough. Unbearable at times. You are doing a holy work. Unconditional love. It heals.

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