My Daughter’s First Word was ****

My daughter’s first word was f*ck.

Which might surprise you because I am a Christian

and I am a doctor.

I sat down to write some notes for my youngest daughter’s special needs school entry planning meeting. We have already had one all about her learning needs due to her Down syndrome. This one is about the impact of her early life experiences on schooling.

But you see, the neat medical descriptions are driving me mad. Because they really don’t do the situation justice. I know why we use such phrases, they convey meaning without having to connect to the emotion.

The problem is, I want those who are going to care for her to connect. I don’t simply want them to read a report. I want them to imagine the world through her eyes.

My daughter spent her first 3 years living in a house that was “scary” her word not mine.

She lived with arguments


regular police and social worker visits

her family was hated , aged 2, sat in a buggy, she had things thrown at her in the street.

Her birth family reports say things like “inconsistent parenting” that means sometimes you would do something mischievious and your father would laugh, the next day you could do the same thing and be locked in a dark cupboard.

“Lack of emotional warmth” is so clinical, but those words don’t really convey a child:

who had learnt not to  cry when she was hurt .. Because no one would come..

who had learnt not to make eye contact… Because noone really wanted to stop and hear her

a child, who age three, did not know how to laugh

“neglect ”

we write and say it so easily.. Those who have studied neglect tell us that it is probably the most profound and pervasive type of abuse.

Shockingly survivors of physical or sexual abuse tend to do better than survivors of severe neglect. Because at least they existed in the eye of their abuser. To be hit or to be hurt apparently is better than to be completely and consistently ignored.

Children who have experienced severe neglect often believe themselves to repugnant and unworthy of love. Because someone treated them as if that was true.

“Loss” those 4 letters do not cut it I am afraid.

Imagine being 3 and in one afternoon losing everything:

your parents

your siblings

your house

your belongings (except for a back pack with a few scruffy toys)

your extended family

the street where you grew up

the crisps you were given if it was a good day

Imagine, if your first journey in a car, was a in police car

imagine if it took you to a place where everything was different

the bedroom looks different and smells different

the food tastes different

in this new home there are strange things such as :

a shower that works

a table to eat food

a lice comb

a bed which has sheets on and “times” like bedtime and mealtime

Clothes that do not smell of urine, faeces or cigarettes.

A house that has routines that you knew nothing about:

Takeaway on Fridays

Hairdressers on Wednesdays

Something called Christmas at the end of December

But there is nothing in this new house which reminds you of the past, no familiar smells, no comforter, no photos.

Imagine 2 years later your new adoptive parents are sitting at a school entry meeting and are told

“but she is with you now, and she has settled well hasn’t she?  – surely she is fine.”

This is code for her “loss” and “neglect” and “early childhood trauma” are behind her now.

Dear school, dear interested friends, dear fellow bloggers.

Our daughter is not “fine” we have not “loved her better.”

She does not (yet) believe our forever family is forever. Why would she? We are her 3rd family in two years. She has our name now, she is clean and is wearing clothes that fit.  The dark circles have gone and the muscles in her legs have grown strong. She has learnt to walk on uneven ground, she is healthy and strong. She has learnt to sign, and to speak , to potty train , to jump, to recognise numerals and phonics, she had made friends, she loves her siblings. Yesterday, she told me she loved me.

But the memories have not faded, things that scare her include: small dark places, spiders, bruises and suitcases.

She is terrified of being moved again.

I asked her if she wanted to take one of her rabbits to watch her swim, “no” she said quite firmly. Small rabbit lives in a pocket in the car. Big rabbit lives right next to her bed. They need to stay there, like an insurance policy, so that she knows she is coming back to see them again.

In her room she has photo album compiled by social services of her first family. They have written to her once. They say that we will never love her the way they loved her.

And in a way that is true.

I do not love Star the way I love Hannah and Ben. I carried them in my womb, I gave birth to them, I cherished them, I watched them sleep, I was there for their first smile, their first step. The first time I was apart from them I physically hurt. I would, without hesitation lay down my life for them.

But you see, I do not love Hannah and Ben the way I love Star.

I love Star, I love her cheeky smile, because it is a miracle,

I love it when she jumps for joy and laughs from the bottom of her stomach because she is healing and the sound is like music to my ears, or perhaps a better analogy would be the dawn chorus – it is the hope that a new day is dawning.

I will fight, write, protect, persuade and plead for Star, in a way that I would not do for anyone else on planet earth, in that way, I guess I am laying down my life daily….

because she is my daughter, I love her, even if her first word was “f*ck”





6 thoughts on “My Daughter’s First Word was ****

  1. Jen Benito

    Thank you for sharing this. My hubby works at our behavioral health with kids who have had horrible lives. People don’t understand how theses events affect them forever. You are doing an amazing thing by truly loving this girl!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was captivated by your honesty, your love & your empathy! It is a wonderful thing you are doing by giving this little girl love & comfort. As a survivor of abuse I can still tell you at the age of 34 that I still crave the love and warmth of a mother figure. Both my parents were unable to love unconditionally so throughout my life I tried to find this warmth in other safe people, mostly therapists.. It took a very long time for me to feel safe and at the age of 30 I finally managed to find this unconditional love in my husband, after more than 15 years in therapy! It is such a shame that people don’t understand the impact that neglect & abuse have on a young child’s brain. All the best to you and your family! May your little girl smile every day and I am sure that she will heal much quicker than I did. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting so honestly. I am so touched by your kindness. I am sorry that what I was describing is something you have first hand experience of . I am so glad to hear that you are healing and have a loving, trusting relationship with your husband. Sending you love and best wishes

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good, beautiful and true

    The unique love you describe for each of your children is so heart moving. Each one is precious, and hold their own place in your heart. You and your family are giving such a beautiful gift to Star and she, I am sure, is giving many gifts to you. Your story gives me so much hope!

    Liked by 1 person

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