I now see my daughter every school holiday. I collect her from school on the last day of term and take her home to my place for a week.
You might think that I would be excited in the weeks leading up to seeing her and for the most part I am, but my mind takes me on a roller-coaster of emotions that can at times be dark and hard to manage.
I love spending time with my little girl more than anything but seeing her stirs up all the feelings of guilt and self-hate I have for letting her go in the first place. As I drive the 200 miles to her home I find myself reliving the weeks leading up to the breakdown and experience flash backs of the day I put her in the car and said good bye. For 3 ½ years I have been doing this journey and not once have I managed to do it without crying.
I shouldn’t be doing this, I tell myself. She should be with me. Why couldn’t I get better sooner, why couldn’t I just get it together and why did I ask her dad to help? I ask myself this every single day. I know the answer. I was ill. But some days more than others I just find it hard to accept and the guilt eats me up.
Once I pick her up we talk about our plans for the week. She is always happy to see me, and I live for that moment she comes running out of class and throws her arms around me. We begin our 3-hour drive home and that’s when it starts. The questions. Every single time she asks the same question. ‘When can I come and live with you Mummy?’. It’s a question I can’t answer. I want nothing more than to have my girl back home but there is now a court order in place that gives her father residency. I am just beginning the process to get this order changed but I can’t tell her that yet.
We arrive home.It has become a tradition that we go to the ice-cream shop after our long journey. One of many memories I try to make. Making memories is my main aim for our time together and we manage to make plenty. She has a horse riding lesson every visit and every day is filled of fun activities to share together. After each day we sit together and write a holiday diary and talk about plans for the next day.
Our time together is special, and I savour every moment. I don’t take a second for granted and despite the agonising pain of knowing I will have to take her home, we do our best to have quality time together.
Every evening we sit on the sofa and have hot chocolate then it’s off to bed. I tuck her in and kiss her good night and always tell her how much I love her. I stay with her whilst she falls asleep and then watch her for a while. In that moment I feel nothing but pure love. For a few moments I pretend that I don’t have to take her home. I watch her sleeping just as I did when she was a baby and feel for a little while like a mum.
It’s clear how much she enjoys coming to stay. As the time approaches to go home she starts to ask if she can stay longer ‘can you just call daddy and ask him?’ she asks. ‘why do I have to go home?’ ‘please let me stay mummy’. My heart hurts so much and I can feel hers hurting too but I can’t let her stay. Her father won’t allow it.
On the day I have to take her back we always get up and leave early. I used to try and make the most of that last day and spend the morning doing something fun, but it was never fun for either of us. We both know it’s the last bit of time together and she just can’t fight back the tears. So now that day is just a going home day. This day has been hanging over us both since before she even arrived. We dread going home day. The long journey back is awful. Crying and questions the whole way. I try to distract her by playing games like eye spy, but this only works for a short time. We both hurt. We miss each other and its painful. Sometimes I wonder how these going home days are affecting her mentally. I’m sure it must be doing some damage. It is to me so it must be to her too but what am I to do? I can’t not see her so its inevitable that we will both hurt over and over again.
When we arrive back at her home she is in pieces. I try not to drag it out because it only hurts us both more. Her father is no help and dismisses me then tells my little girl to stop being silly. It’s not silly. She misses her mum. Her feelings are real and painful, and It angers me that he calls her silly when she’s clearly struggling to cope with the situation. I hug her so tight and tell her how much I love her and that I will see her again soon then I make a swift exit.
Sometimes it’s a relief that it’s over. I spend weeks dreading the going home day so it’s only natural that once it’s done It feels like a weight has been lifted. For a few minutes I feel lighter and begin my drive back. Then it hits me. I look in my rear-view mirror and see the empty car seat. I miss her already. I’m fighting every urge in me that says turn around and go back. But I can’t. I’m not aloud. There is a piece of paper that states when I can and can’t see my daughter and I must by law stick to that. I drive further and further away from my little girl, my heart hurting and my eyes streaming so much that it can be hard to drive. I just want to get home so I can sleep away my pain.