amber rahim

Chronic illness: the parts we don't talk about


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Come on in, my old friend Self Doubt. Come on in.

Inspired by a session with my coach on how we can shift out of (negative) emotional fields. We all have these thoughts of self doubt, that we are doing it wrong. But we don’t need to stay there. We can invite the feeling in, get to know it and then send it on its way.

Come on in, my old friend Self Doubt. Come on in.

You’ve been knocking on my door for so long. Whispering, and in turn shouting, through the letter box.

No matter how tightly I hold my hands against my ears or how loud I set the telly, I can still hear you.

So come on in. Have a seat. Get warm. Have some tea. Take two biscuits, not just one. Yes we are in the Netherlands but we are flouting the rules anyway by being together like this. Take the whole tin.

So what is that you want to tell me? What must I know?

Yes, I am a terrible mother.

Yes, I am emotionally scarring my children and they will never recover.

Yes, I am not doing all the things I set out to do.

Self Doubt, you keep telling me this as if I don’t know. What is your urgency? Are you trying to keep me away from joy? Are you trying to keep me small, afraid and guilt-ridden?

Well, it’s been working my friend.

But now that I have invited you in I can see you clearly.

You are small and frail. Brittle. Be careful with that tea, it may melt you, turn you into a puddle of ash.

Yes, now that I have invited you in I can see that you are small, not me. You are guilt-ridden, afraid, urgent. Not me.

You look tired. All this banging on doors and shouting through the letter box has tired you out. The anxiety is wasting you away. So let me send you to a wonderful place. A place in the sun, where you can relax. You do not need to speak for there is no one to hear you there.

Go. With my blessing and good wishes, go my old friend Self Doubt. It is time for us to part ways. We do not belong together.

I belong with Self Believe for I am interesting. I am quirky. I am dance.

I am a good mother.

shared.-5


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Dear children, your happiness is not my goal

I sometimes struggle with being a parent, it seems so hard and kids just seem so determined to do their own thing. I sometimes wonder “what is it that I am supposed to be doing here? How can I know if what I am doing is right?”

So I did what I often do when faced with life’s big questions, I perused Facebook. Specifically, my saved items in FB that I have saved because they look really interesting and worth my time (but will actually take some time to look at so I  decide to do it later and continue with the chitchat instead).

I watched this Ted talk by Jennifer Senior on happiness for children. It’s 18 mins long and if you cherish your sanity as a parent, I highly recommend that you watch it. It is the inspiration for my post today for 2 reasons

  1. she has put into words thoughts that I have been struggling to define (and has research to back it up)
  2. I want the best for my children

So here is my attempt to explain why my isn’t my goal to make my children happy.

It helps my sanity, and certainly my anxiety, that I am naturally quite lazy. Hmm, hang on, thats not quite right; I work very hard when I believe in something. But when faced with something I don’t believe in, my response is “what’s the point?”

When it comes to parenting, these are some things I don’t believe in:

  • I don’t believe in parenting as a verb

Until the 1970’s, parent was only a noun (thanks for the info Jennifer): something we could be, not what we could do. This small grammatical change seems to coincide with an increase in the amount of work we apparently need to do as parents. So many objectives, so many goals, things we “absolutely must do” and things that we “must never do”. And that can be the same thing, the answer just depends on who you ask! Why should there be so much work? What is the point of all that running around, of the stress?

  • I don’t believe our goal, our objective, should be that our children are happy

I truly want my children to be happy but I also believe that we are responsible for our own happiness. So how can my children’s happiness be my goal? How can I make sure my children are happy? Take away their autonomy? Take away their independence? Replace it with instructions of do this, do that?

How would I even know what to do for my children when I get lost and sometimes can’t figure out how to make myself happy?

So what are my goals?

When Jennifer says “what if we aim for productive kids, moral kids, and hope happiness will come from the good they do and the love they feel from us?” my heart sings and my soul says “Yes!”

What if my goal as a parent was to teach my children decency, work ethic, love?

Well, to start with, I know what to do to teach these. I can demonstrate decency, a good work ethic and love. I can explain what it is (to me at least) and encourage them to develop their own values.

I can praise them when they practice it with a “you worked really hard on that”. How would I praise happiness? With a “well done, you are happy”? I think they would just look at me like I was a loon.

Decency. Work ethic. Love. I can work with this.

As I write this I realise this is exactly what my parents did for me. They taught me decency: how to treat others; how to behave in society so that my contribution is positive; how to stop myself being rude to the obnoxious colleague and still stand my ground.

They taught me to work hard, work thoughtfully and to be proud of myself.

They taught me how to love unconditionally by loving me and each other that way.

And you know what? I’m pretty happy. I’m fairly confident. So maybe it works after all.

Decency. Work ethic. Love

 

p.s. I am not saying that I have the answer for everyone. This just feels right for me.

This is just my response to that overwhelming feeling from society at large that I should be making sure my kids are happy and I just don’t buy it. Check out what Jennifer has to say. Think about it. That’s all.


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Bonding

They say that the first few hours after the birth of your child are critical for bonding.

If that’s true, I’m fucked. And F has a really great connection with some NICU doctors and nurses whose names I can’t even remember.

At 29 weeks my labour started and they managed to halt it after 30 hours.  My birth plan, which I hand only just started thinking about, became this: keep my legs crossed for as long as possible. Her lungs aren’t ready yet.

A week later you came into the world just before midnight, by ceasarean. 5 eager doctors waiting to whisk you away.

Before they dashed off I got a glimpse of you in the incubator about a meter and a half away. These doctors were greedy to have you to themselves, their reluctance to take those 30 seconde so that I could get a glimpse of you were clear (ok, let’s be fair, they needed to take action quickly to save your life so they couldn’t hang around).

That was the last I saw of you for 24 hours. You were a tricky little lady, with your tiny veins and losing fluids so quickly. They have never had such a challenge to keep a baby hydrated before (and I hope it never happens again).

I did not recognise you that second day. You were so tiny, and so different than the baby I had seen the day before. Wrinkled. Where had all the softness gone?

It took two of them to pick you up, hold your limbs in place and keep all those tubes and wires in place, and place you on my chest. I don’t think you could have found two happier people in the world at that time than us.

We didn’t get long, kangarooing is very tiring for premature babies, and you had to go back in to your incubator,your new womb.

Over the next 5 weeks we didn’t get t spend much time together and I didn’t get to hold you much. You were really ill and sometimes I wasn’t even allowed to touch you at all.

The next few years were a roller coaster where I felt that I never gave you the attention that you deserve because there was so much to do to keep you out of hospital, to get you feeling well.

I always thought that we only started bonding when you were about two and a half. This week you turned 7 and I realise that I was wrong.

We have been connected, bonded since the moment you existed.

I did not have a “big moment” or rush of feelings when I looked at you the first time. There was no sudden falling in love. I was in love with you already.


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The lessons we learn from our children

I saw this on Facebook and wanted to spread the message as it means a lot to me. It’s a cause I have taken up, to create a world where we SEE and are SEEN.

It has also helped me get through something that happened today and I have learned again the value of being seen.

(warning: yes I really did use the word poo 3 times in this blog. well, 4 if we count this warning).

I see you

There is a light sense of irony that while this is my mission with my children and in my work, I have spent the last week feeling unheard, not listened to. Inaudible in place of invisible.

The main culprit is my cheeky minx, little S, but to be honest the whole household has contributed. A huge amount of frustration has been building and was released this afternoon when little S felt unable to wait two minutes for me to get to her and decided to explore her own poo.

Yes, it was as disgusting as you think it would be.

After dumping her in the shower and impressing upon her the wrongness of what she had done I forced myself to stop talking. My tongue was running away with me and I had visions of her in therapy in years to come working through the traumatic “poo incident” where she realised she was naughty.

Man, oh man, yes what she did was naughty but she is not naughty. She is curious, smart and tough (come on, “you make me wait so I’m going to play with poo” talk about playing hardball!). I just don’t think she expected me to flip the way I did.

All cleaned up, I put her back to bed for her nap and gave myself a time out with the Colbert Report (always makes me laugh).

At the end of my time out, nap time was over. Little S told me she loved me and gave me a huge hug. We debriefed the incident and agreed some rules.

She has seen me today, in the many shades that I come in:

in the terrible beauty that is my anger, a sight to behold; forceful, scary, loud

my compassion kicking in to make me stop talking and avoid saying anything more that could harm

my sense of protection, for her and myself, to put myself in timeout.

She has seen me and she loves me anyway.

Though I may not feel heard right now, I am seen and it is transformational: until now I did not see the compassion or the protection, only the anger.

I also see that I am a bit tense, lacking in patience.

No wonder she has been tuning me out. Time to pick a new voice.

 


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It’s all about you

I have to confess, I have been freaking out about my final exam (to become a certified professional coach). I had a fantastic idea to prepare by coaching my own coach. Wow, I was so intimidated that I almost became petrified. This is what was going on in my head: “How dare you think that you can coach this wonderful, amazing woman who has been a fundamental support in everything you have done in the last year?”

I wanted the experience to be amazing for her, I wanted to give her what she has given me. Piling on all these expectations I created such stress for myself that it was almost impossible to speak. While all this was going on in my head, she was fine. She was a great client; open, daring, ready.

It was the best thing I could have done. I learnt what happens when you let your saboteur rule your life; it paralyses you and make you miss what is right in front of you.

She told me:

“It’s not about you or your exam. It’s about the client. Coaching is always about the client”.

You see our examiners are real people with real topics. They sign up for coaching, not just to assess our abilities.

These words helped me to shift my focus from a desire to prove what I know, the skills that I have learnt, into a relaxed state of curiosity about them.

Who is this person and what do they really want?

What do they believe? Is that belief holding them back?

What do they feel? What are they not allowing themselves to feel?

I enjoyed my exam. I met two amazing people and I got curious about them. From that curiosity I slipped into the coaching, like I was gliding through the air, floating. I used the skills I had been taught and some shifts occurred, some kind of transformation.

Now it was only 15 mins of coaching for each client and I will never get to follow up with them. I will never know what happened next. But my intuition tells me something significant happened for them. Now it is up to them to do something with it.

I have to wait a couple of weeks to find out if I passed my exam and I am ok with that. I am still be on this happy cloud of completion; I got here and I did it. The overwhelming feeling I have is satisfaction.

Satisfaction for good coaching.

Satisfaction that I did it. I studied, practised and I did the exam.

Satisfaction that I put aside my saboteur, that voice of doubt and criticism and didn’t try too hard. I trusted myself and my training and danced in the moment.

In this contented state I have been wondering how this event in my life is connected to the bigger picture and to all of you out there who struggle daily with chronic illness, parenting, life. All of you who, at the end of every day, can say “I did it, I lived today.” Deep in my heart is the realisation that this is what we all do: we have ambitions and challenges and we work towards a goal. Sometimes that goal is like the one above, to be competent at my job and really know what I am doing. Sometimes that goal is to get through the day without shouting at my kids. Sometimes the goal can just be to get dressed (my crazy loon friend, you know I’m talking about you again don’t you?). These challenges, pressures, make us stronger, make us who we are.

I found this on Facebook (thanks Ute from expatsincebirth) and it describes how I feel about you guys.

DiamondDedicated to Yasmine, you have always been precious.  The heat is on and we can see you transforming before our eyes.

 


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The upside of bringing up independent kids

In March I wrote a post about the downside of bringing up independent kids and it was prompted by the fear of letting go and what ifs.

Last week’s post was about my “little leader of her own life”, F, who took charge and went off on a school trip for 2 nights. She’s 6 and a half and she packed her own bags and off she went to Elsloo. There wasn’t any of the faffing about that I sometimes do when I am nervous (do I have everything? what else should I take just in case…?) just methodical and fast.

So this is why independence is so important:

Hard truth: we will not always be there for them so they will have to get on with it at some point in their lives. Surely it is better to prepare them, bit by bit, rather than throw them in at the deep end when they are 18?

More positively: she had an amazing time! She loved it, was happy and felt confident. This is what I want for all my children.

In my work as a coach I see people who are courageously stepping up to live their lives they way they want to.  In this journey, a metaphor I hold in my mind is that in these moments of choice, we are standing on a cliff edge, looking out to where we want to be on the other side of the canyon.  It’s risky, stepping off that cliff and a great quote I heard once is this:

You can't cross a canyon in two leaps

(Photo from francis-moran.com)

Little F was resolute, calm and practical. She prepared and leapt, without hesitation, knowing that she was going to get to the other side. She now wants to move the Elsloo.

 

Update on last week:

We received this card from F last Thursday and I love it because it is full of her character:

F card from Elsloo 1

  • Fairness – everyone is included and named on the card
  • Love of patterns and order – alternating the colours of the letters
  • Love of variety – not all names follow the same pattern
  • Use what you have (my favourite) – the foam letters for her name: they didn’t have all the letters she needed so she made them herself using whatever foam letters were available
  • Accuracy!: below you can see she corrected the card when she got home:

photo

She didn’t miss us so with an exclamation “Oh no, that’s not right!” she crossed out the words “Ik mis je” (I miss you). I burst out laughing.  Sometimes this need for such precision drives me nuts but this time, it was wonderful.

She had a fantastic time and that makes me incredibly happy. She will be ok.