Visit Sunday 17th February

Benji with his front tooth removed

Benji with his front tooth removed

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Benji has had another tooth removed. His front tooth this time. Once again I have no idea why and have not been shown any dental notes or given any medical explanation.

The last time their teeth were taken out, at least a pretence was made of complying with regulations. ‘The father will send the dental notes to the court,’ the woman from the visiting centre told me when 4 of Sammy’s teeth were removed. Needless to say, these papers never materialised and the judge did not deem the removal of a 3 year old child’s teeth sufficiently worrying to even acknowledge my frantic applications to court, let alone investigate why both children’s teeth were removed (4 of Sammy’s, now 2 of Benji’s).

This time, nobody even bothered to mention Benji’s missing tooth. I found out for myself when I picked him up for my visit this morning. I have no idea when it even happened, who was with him during and after the operation, whether he was under general anaesthetic or not. Benji is unfortunately totally unaware so he was unable to tell me anything. It seems I have no other way of finding out this massively significant information about the well-being of my child.

Neither was I informed in advance that I would not be seeing Sammy today. Benji was dropped off alone. ‘Sammy is still ill,’ I was told by the centre, without any elaboration. I had not seen Benji for 12 days. On Tuesday, it will be 2 weeks since I last saw Sammy, my poorly child.

I do not know what’s wrong with him or if he was even taken to a doctor. Of course, the custodial parent is supposed to inform the ‘visiting parent’ about all such basic matters. I know from experience, when our roles were in reverse and the children lived with me, I always supplied copies of doctor’s notes, hospital notes, pharmacy receipts and confirmation of injections so that the father was regularly updated on the children’s welfare, including photos of a rash Sammy once had. When the children were in hospital, I even called the father to let him know and he came to see them there. I, however, am left totally in the dark.

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Benji was in a frightening state when I picked him up. The only word I can think of that comes closest to describing him was shell-shocked. He was even more disturbed, confused and bewildered than usual. He ran up to me and clung to me all the way home, limp, lifeless. His face was grey and his eyes dull and glazed over.

After lots of kisses, cuddles and gentle reassurance, it was encouraging after some time, to see him slightly more responsive, slightly less trance-like.

We did all his favourite activities – went to the park on his bike, fed the ducks and played in the playground. But then it’s always the same. In the midst of enjoying themselves, just when they are beginning to relax, it’s time to put away their toys and return.
By now they are used to the rigmarole. The 45 minute tram – bus – walk – journey. Today, Benji lay snuggled in my arms clutching on to me all the  way; unable to talk, although his sad little face and pleading eyes, knowing he was going back, said it all. I cradled him – a 4 year old child  – like a baby wishing more than anything that there was something I could do to help him, protect him. I felt so helpless.


I cannot begin to describe the agony of handing my children over at the end of visits. 18 months we have endured but suffice it to say, time does not lessen the pain of the experience. I don’t think words can fully convey the agony I go through each time – handing them to the unknown.

I have no idea of their lives or routine away from me and can never be certain when I will see them next. I simply have to draw strength from the memories, photos and videos of each visit which must sustain me and keep me hopeful until the next time.

‘Give Sammy a big kiss from Mama,’ were my parting words to little Benji, choking back the heavy lump forming in my throat as he was led away from me by the stranger in the visiting centre. He will not be able to tell Sammy about his day, where he went or what he did but I hope at least that he can share some of the love and happiness of today with his poorly brother.

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