Sunday, 22 February 2015

What really does compassion mean to me?

Compassion is one of those words that is easily thrown around. But it is a word full of so much meaning. I don't think I really understood what the word compassion really meant until I became a mother. It was as if right up until that moment everything I had done, suffered, learned, tried and experienced was preparing me for becoming a mother.

I thought I had it all worked out. The baby arrives, along came sleepless nights, play dates, play groups, breast or bottle that was what I thought was the big important topics for me.

Instead after my baby was born I was expressing breast milk while my baby lay in intensive care, play dates for a while were traded for sourcing funding and equipment, therapies and dealing with on going infections and cleaning up vomit many times a day, every day for years. Motherhood wasn't what I expected but I love my version of it and though I wish at times it was easier I have learned to embrace my own 'normality'.

My perfect little girl has been worth every tear cried and milestone missed. She has enriched my life by:

  • teaching me about empathy
  • the power of reaching out to others
  • being able to connect with other special needs mums
  • a different kind of caring for others
  • learning how to demonstrate kindness and compassion through a kind word or action
  • helping and giving has brought on a whole new meaning for me as I have been on the receiving end so many times. 
  • Learning to really listen to others
  •  and the the very hard lesson of being patient.

Compassion takes it form in so many ways and looks different to each one of us. 
What does it feel like or look like to you?

Saturday, 21 February 2015

1000 Voices for Compassion - Two little girls

Sometimes it is hard to make friends when you struggle to talk or communicate. So when someone your own age reaches out to you the moment is special, especially when you are four.

Two little girls,
the same height,
the same age,
one is walking and chatting.
The other is being pushed in a stroller.

An outing is always fun. New things to see and new friends to meet. After a series of humid days rain was a gentle relief. Faith loves to explore and really loves to people watch. She waves at the most unlikely people. She seems to know who is in most need of a smile or wave. But what if someone chooses to talk to her? If she doesn't want to be noticed she will use her hands to cover her ears and pretend she cannot hear them or see them. Then as they continue on their way she'll start the process of waving and smiling again.

Every so often there will be a special moment when she will bond instantly with a stranger.

As we crossed the road, a mother and daughter also did. A passing remark of how gently the rain feels and how it will make you grow like a flower by being watered by the rain.

This little girl was probably the same height and age as Faith. She falls in step with the stroller. Smiling at Faith and I her mum continued walking slightly ahead but close enough to keep an eye on her daughter.

The little girl looking happily at Faith and spoke to me, "can she walk?" "no, not yet" I said.

"I can walk," looking at her feet and smiling.

"Can she talk?"

"Yes, she can but Faith is just very shy" Faith is watching everything with a curious look but with a twinkle in her eye.

The little girl skips every now and then, smiling at Faith she says, "does she get afraid of getting hugs?"

"No, she loves them." I said.

"She can hide really well in there (the pram)" now walking closer to Faith smiling. The little girl chats away to Faith and I asking all sort of questions. Faith taking it all in, reaching out her hand to the little girl. We walked like this passing many shops for more than half block.

Then, suddenly her mum stopped outside a shop and said "this is our stop we have to buy you some nickers".

Just as quickly as they entered our lives they were gone. The little girl waving good bye as we passed the shop.

Faith looked back and reached out tears streaming down her face. She didn't want this little girl to go. What an impact this little act of kindness brought to Faith. The innocence of a little girl reaching out to another little girl who was just a big difference. It brought Faith joy and happiness.

Sometimes showing compassion takes courage. What does compassion sound like, feel like  or look like to you?

1000 Voices for Compassion is a movement by bloggers to write posts about compassion and kindness and ALL PUBLISH ON THE SAME DAY (Feb 20th) to flood the Blogosphere with GOOD! I'm just a little late as usual :-)

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Things I've learned: let people help

Learning to accept help has not been an easy task for me. But in the last year or so my husband and I have reached out to others and this was done with no expectation just hope. We admitted we cannot do it alone, even if we wanted too. We wanted to manage on our own, providing for our family in every way possible within reason. We thought we had it all figured out. But as life does, we all grow and change and with that needs and priorities change. I thought accepting help was a sign of my inability to cope and I was being a bad mum. I was in the mindset that I should be independent enough to do this on my own. To me, I thought it was a sign of weakness, but I was so wrong.

For our family we needed assistance to help Faith grow and develop further. She also requires a power wheel chair for independence and freedom so between intensive therapy, fundraising and equipment it was a feeling of sinking fast. Faith’s intensive therapy is needed in many areas including speech, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and she needs to be involved in normal activities such as being part of a preschool style program. This all comes at a cost not just monetary. There is only so many hours in a day and it is hard to cover every avenue of learning and development ourselves. By therapists and teachers being introduced into Faith’s life she is learning to trust others and therapists and teachers can push that little bit further in learning than a parent can. Even understanding what learning areas to concentrate on is a help with daily activities. She is like a rose coming into full bloom, it is exquisite to watch and be part of.

So with apprehension and some reluctance we reached out and said, “Will you help us do more for our daughter?”

An outpouring of love and support has come from friends, family and strangers. We have discovered how much so many people want to help and in so many ways. Help has come in time, food, money or just hanging around for a coffee and a chat. All of them worth just as much as the other.

One friend came and cleaned my bathroom as she said this was her way of helping. Another sends me roses from her garden weekly, brightening our home and a constant reminder we are not far from her thoughts. Even a conversation about something not medical related is a gift of a different head space and taking me for a short time out of my bubble.

Asking for help has opened doors for rekindling of friendships, building new friendships and being there for others in their own struggles. I have met more people and my life has been enriched by the new connections made. Opportunities have arisen where I can help others too. Because being asked to help others is a gift in itself too.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or an inability to cope as I once thought it was. It is about supporting each other even if it is ongoing. I find it easy to slip back into the pattern of wanting to do everything myself and feeling guilty for asking for help. Even when I question myself thinking “surely people are tiring of us asking for help?” the truth is the majority of the time they are not. Most people just want to be asked.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Seeing the world with different eyes

I remember the first night in our first home. There were boxes stacked everywhere and the only usable furniture was the brand new bed that was delivered a few hours before. When I first thought of buying a new home I was taken with the idea of a high set house. I thought I'd love being up high, having space to store useless things underneath and generally more space. Being up in the trees with the breeze was lovely. I never thought I'd want it any other way until my view of my world changed.

Along came my darling Faith. She wasn't able to go outside very often as I found it hard carrying her down the stairs and carrying her to the car. I couldn't leave her one minute on her own as I couldn't see her and as she couldn't move around or sit up on her own. It was hard. My home, that I loved, suddenly felt very small.

I would view downstairs with longing. Faith loved being outside but with her oxygen and other tubes it was too hard on our own. Even with help it was still a big deal. We would have to connect her to a small but heavy oxygen cylinder. As careful as can be we would slowly take each step balancing the oxygen cylinder and Faith, down the steps. 

Though the view from our house onto the tropical gardens was refreshing it slowly ate away at me. It was as if I was in a tower and rarely came out. Just going to the shops was hard, I had to start relying on others to help me just go out. Then one day as Faith slept I sat on the back steps and really thought about the future and what we needed in a home. Our house was just not accessible for wheel chairs or supported seating. Trying to carrying Faith's supported pram up and down the steps wasn't working. We realised it was time to move on and buy a low set home that would have much better accessibility. 

We thought finding a home might be a challenge but straight away the ideal house was found and it only needed a few modifications. It was all meant to happen. I tried to view the world from how Faith sees it. Our old house was high up and the kids playing outside and world went by and she was an onlooker. In our new home with ramps installed and a lovely new foot path her world is opening up. From whenever she sits, her view is of the garden, birds, trees and she can see through the main living areas. Faith points to where to push her in the pram (not always getting to the TV as she wants) and very soon we hope she'll have a power chair and she can decide where to go.

My view of the world has altered. When we go out I am constantly looking at foot paths and questioning, is where we are going accessible, is there a ramp? Is there steps? Will Faith be able to see what is happening? Will she be included because sometimes being on the sidelines is not always fun. I look at her world and see how to include her, carrying her over to the fountain to splash in the water, taking her over to the book case to choose a book, pick up some sand or dirt so she feel the texture. There are many ways to include her even just a little. I had taken advantage of my world being able to walk up a hill, run through the cool waves at the beach or ride a bike. It was easy and it came naturally. But for Faith there are obstacles and challenges to succeeding and experiencing. When you just try and look at it differently realising you can carry the pram up the stairs or onto the beach or empty the pram and run the pram into the water just to be crazy. Perhaps even chase a butterfly or swirl round and round. The world brings a different beauty and the satisfaction and enjoyment are more just for looking at the world with different eyes.   

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Kindness Abounding

Project Underblog is sharing my story on kindness.
Sometimes it can feel that the world has lost its kindness, but it's there and it's beautiful!

Sometimes it feels as if the world has lost its kindness. We are all busy rushing around, pushing past people and failing to see the world that is nearest. Do we stop and really see a stranger struggling or sadness in a frantic mothers eyes or the loneliness in the elderly lady sitting alone. Have we truly stopped to see who is walking near us or befriended a shop attendant? What if we did? What would see? And who would we meet?Read on

Monday, 2 February 2015

A Brief History of the Wheel Chair

I thought it was time I examined briefly the history of the wheel chair since it is going to bring such a positive change to our life. I wanted to know who I am thankful too.  

The history of wheel chair
  • The wheel chair is believed to have entered Europe about the 12th century, along with the wheelbarrow.
  • In the early part of the 17th century, German mechanic and inventor Johann Hautsch made several rolling chairs.
  • 1655 disabled German watchmaker Stephan Farfler made a three-wheeled chair that he could propel by use of a rotary handle on the front wheel. 
  • About 1750 English inventor James Heath introduced the bath chair, intended for use by ladies and invalids. 
  • Toward the middle of the 19th century, wheelchairs with wooden frames and seats and backs made out of cane were introduced.
  • In the late 19th century, other modifications, such as wire-spoke wheels and rubber tires, were introduced.
  • In the 20th century was the invention of the folding wheelchair,
  • In 1932, disabled American mining engineer Herbert A. Everest and American mechanical engineer Harry C. Jennings introduced the cross-frame wheelchair, which became the standard design for tubular-steel folding chairs. 
  • Following World War II, demand increased for electric wheelchairs. Early electric wheelchairs were essentially standard wheelchairs with motors attached, which came to be known as conventional power wheelchairs. Later, power-base wheelchairs, in which the motor and batteries were positioned beneath the seating component of the chair, were introduced. 
Now, with emerging technoglies the possbilites are limitless. I spoke to a company a while back who want to use Ipads to control power chairs. It is exciting seeing how a power chair brings life and happiness to its user. Faith daily watches the movie of herself in the power chair. It is only a few weeks until she can have another try at the Skippi power chair, though to her waiting that long must feel like a life time.

"history of the wheelchair". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 19 Jan. 2015