I tried to find myself and realised I was lost

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When you have children you expect it to be all consuming…for a season. It comes with the territory to have more nights in than nights out, to swap posh restaurants for McDonald’s and to exchange studying for homework with the children. The pre-school years are supposed to be difficult, tiring and challenging. But the light at the end of the tunnel is that one day soon they will go to school and you will start to get your life back…at least to a degree. And as they go to high school and later college or university and gain more and more independence, so as a parent you get more and more ‘me’ time to restore the balance in your life.

But sometimes the child you gave birth to, held in your arms and sang nursery rhymes to, just isn’t developing like they should. And one day you realise the likelihood of them living independently, marrying or holding down a full-time job is a reality not entirely guaranteed.

I love my children, but I found the pre-school years of raising my twins very challenging, physically as well as emotionally. Somewhere during that season I lost myself.

I lost my excitement in the continuous nappy changes (which are still ongoing).
I lost my spark in the hours of never-ending sleepless nights. (Still having those too!)
I lost my enthusiasm in the cooking, cleaning, bathing and caring for two growing children who required so much attention. (Still doing all that too!)
I lost my heart in the discovery that both my babies had autism.
I lost my hope in finding out my child had an inherited genetic condition causing him to grow tumours throughout his body.
I lost countless tears trying to teach my child to speak (He is still not speaking)
I lost friends when we realised our lives were going in different directions and I could not join in the parenting boasting game.
I lost sleep worrying how my children would ever catch up with others and survive in school.
I lost my pride begging for help when it seemed overwhelming.
I lost my strength in the never-ending battles for support.

Caring becamee all-encompassing. Autism became a way of life. When the day came and my children finally started school I was sat writing social stories, printing out visuals, finding games to support them or researching online to help them. And when I wasn’t focussed on my own children I was supporting other families in the same situation. I had redefined ‘me’. I lost myself in my children and their needs. I lost part of me to autism.

A friend asked me recently how I was enjoying my free time now both my children were both at school. I had to think twice about what free time even was!

I thought my children were lost in the world of autism. It turns out I have been trying to find myself recently and realised I am just as lost as they are, if not more.

There is more to me than being a carer. There is more to me that being an autism parent. For my own sanity and mental health I need to find who I am again. Did you know you can be a wonderful parent, a great carer and even a warrior autism mum and still do something else besides look after your children full-time? In fact I am sure the more I actually find myself the better I will be at the rest of it all.

I have gained so much as a person, a mother, a wife and a friend these last few years. Raising two children with autism is making me stronger, more confident, more out-going and more aware of others. I have become resourceful, educated, thick-skinned and bolder. I cry more but I also celebrate more. I have learnt to listen when there are no words to hear and pray like I have never prayed before. I am a different ‘me’ to the one I was six years ago.

I tried to find myself recently and I thought I was lost. It turns out I have just been cocooned in a world of caring, disability, the high support needs of my children and everything else that has entailed. It is now time to take hold of all I have gained and rediscover me.

I want to thank these two for making me a better ”me’ thanĀ I ever thought I could be.

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Isaac’s journey

I was so ill in hospital the day I was told I was pregnant. Seriosly ill with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, hooked up to a drip with a catherter and unable to do much without a lot of pain. But nothing could surpress my delight at finding out I was finally pregnant. The elation and excitement at the news spurred me on to recover and 5 days later I was home and able to enjoy the rest of my pregnancy. 2 weeks and two days after getting home I was back at hospital for an early scan and this was what we saw:
7 week scan
TWINS!
The frst 16 weeks I vomitted so much I lost a stone in weight, despite having two growing babies inside me. But things settled and I continued to work whilst having regular scans and check ups. I actually thought I was busy back then, working full time, keeping house and buying all the beautiful things that babies require. Ha! Try doing those things whilst actually having to look after two children and then you realy know what busy is!
Then on 7th Nov 2008 my world changed as Isaac Gabriel Joshua Gwynne entered the world weighing 6lb, 4 oz followed a minute later by Naomi Miracle Grace Gwynne weighing a petite 4lb 11oz. Beautiful and both so perfect.
9 months pregnant Before.
new family 24 Hours later.

And so the baby years, toddler years and pre-school years began. And this week those wonderful, exhausting, precious years come to an end as my baby boy begins full time education. I get to keep his twin sister at home another year and this time next year I will write a similar post marveling at all that she has achieved and enjoyed in those amazing years before school starts. But this one is in honour of my baby boy as he begins his adventure in full time education. So journey with me through the last 4 years and nine months and see how that tiny baby has grown to become a young boy full of character and energy and how he has faced so many challenges along the way. As I journeyed with this boy my life changed so dramatically that I will honestly never look at anyone the same ever again. He is being seperated from not only his mum and dad but his precious twin sister. But they will always be as close as this:
moses basket
looking
and this.

Isaac was a great eater and such a content baby. But a sicky baby too. He brought up a lot of milk but never cried. Eye contact was an issue even as a tiny baby but did improve a little as he approached his first birthday. Isaac was struggling to keep up with other babies and meet his milestones but I was told it was common with multiple births and not to worry. He was gaining weight and was progressing slowly. Here he is at 6 and a half months with his sister by his side helping to support him:
6 months
By 11 months he was catching up and now crawling and by a year he was sitting up unaided. Within a few months he mastered the art of pulling himself to stand:
1st birthday
pulling up
But then we hit a developmental block. We had no speech, only a few sounds and it was getting more obvious he had a significant eye squint. By 18 months referrals started to get made to a developmental peadiatrician. And everything changed. By the time he saw the paediatrician at 22 months we were still no further forward. He didn’t respond to his name, he had no words, eye contact was very poor and he was entrenched in his own world. Dependent heavily on routine and still not walking. Our house had just been repossessed and our world was turning uside down. We had moved miles away from friends, my mum was about to emigrate and then we heard that word for the first time: autism.
We felt lost. He looked lost.
lost
But things started to happen so quickly. Meetings, more meetings, people coming to the house to see the children, courses, professions I had only ever heard of at university suddenly start getting involved. I suddenly needed a diary, a filing system for paperwork and a crash course in a disability that seemed alien to the delights and cuddles my toddler was giving me daily.
He started nursery. Only a few hours at first. Then a few days. He was fast approaching 3 but still in the baby room at nursery. And still not walking or talking yet. And getting further behind by the day. It was all so scary. I had to trust God so much more, lean on my husband more and keep going when my heart was breaking. We applied for disability money and recieved word back in just 4 weeks. I didn’t want to read the reports that helped them make such a quick decision. I wasn’t ready.
He started scanning objects across his eyeline:
scanning
He cried so much:
crying

He refused to wear socks and showed no interest in toys. His only interest was food and sensory play:
space blanket
He started a specialist nursery and enjoyed going for a few hours 5 days a week. But progress was still incredibly slow. Just weeks before starting the specialist placement he took his first steps. But he was still very shaky and unbalanced and a few months later we recieved a mobility buggy. He was sent for more checks after having seizures. In July 2012 he was formally diagnosed as having classic autism, global developmental delay, severe learning difficulties and pica. Before we even had chance to digest this he was called a few months later for a 24 hour EEG to find out more about his seizures:
eeg
In the Decemeber of that same year we found out he has neurofibromatosis type 1. He has tumours on his brain causing his seizures. Tumours that could grow anywhere and at any time on any nerves in his body. But God has his hand on this boy and his story is touching so many people.
That month we moved house again and sadly he had to cope with yet another change of nursery. But this time he got to go with his twin sister even if they didn’t get to play in the same rooms. He had mastered the walking by now but still no speech and still behind in so many ways. Still in nappies. But growing, smiling, laughing and loving life.
As the nursery bus would pull up outside the house he would flap, almost fall out of the front steps in his hurry to get there and grab his beloved toy or book from us as he went. Never once a wave, not even a look at us..but happy in his own routine, doing what he loves.
But now he has finished and a new adventure awaits. Yesterday was the last time my babies got on that nursery bus together. He had no idea why I wanted to take his picture but I had to:
nursery bus
This was his last journey to nursery. The end of his pre-school years. The end of his stay-at-home-with-mum years.
This Wednesday he starts a new journey. A new season. He has came so far, been through so much, and even though he does not understand it, he hasn’t done any of that journey alone. I have went with him, dad has went with him and his twin sister has been to every appointment, been at every home visit and held his hand every day.
Now he has to journey alone…except he will never be alone as God is going with him. And so will mummy’s prayers.
Isaac’s journey just got more exciting…
please keep journeying with him as he starts his school for the first time this coming week.