Author Archives: Eileen Joy

I’m tired. I’m exhausted

There I said it.
Definition of tired

This malaise is more than normal.  It’s a sickness.  I’ve lived with anxiety for a long time.  It’s my not so friendly hyena.  The beast that hugs around my throat, neck, it’s fangs dripping and every now and again it tears a piece from my insides, slowly ripping, staring into my eyes and pulling and tearing, ever so fucking slowly.  That’s the anxiety.  That’s my hyena.
Lately events have been making me more sick.

I could pretend that this is all to do with my exams.  I could sit in that pre tense with rose coloured glasses and pretend that everything is normally peachy, but that’s simply a bullshit lie I’m telling myself.

I’m tired because it’s really tiring holding up the social justice platform.  It’s really tiring when you lose friends because of it, and they think you’re mad.  I’ve lost countless friends over my social justice platform.  There are some who would say don’t push it.  There are some who trot out maxims like “valuing the relationship over what you’re saying”.  There *is* some truth in that, I do not deny that.  There is also the sly undertone in that, don’t speak out, don’t make me feel uncomfortable because I don’t want my vision of reality challenged.

I’m sick because I do challenge things and I can’t unsee them.  There are days I wish I could.

At the moment in New Zealand we are going through our own Steubenville.  I won’t bother you with the details, but it’s horrific.  It’s nasty and it feels like someone has just shat another dump load of crap on my shoulders.  Why mine?  Well, because those of us who are social justice advocates are out there trying to pick up the pieces, trying to point out to those well meaning outraged people that more often than not they are propping up the very system that causes things like Steubenville to happen.

Once again I have thrust myself into the breach only to be called names.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been called a feminazi.  Although recently I did get a new one, apparently I’m a pedophile for suggesting that children should have sex education.  Oh the irony is not lost on me.  Me, pedophilia, it’s just so ridiculous it’s laughable.  It’s a joke, a bad one, but the most awful thing about it was that this person believed it.

I’m tired because so called allies cannot see the good that I do, cannot see when I challenge things, and think that, frankly, I’m a bitch.  I’ve seen it in their cold shoulderedness when they believe that I have gone too far.  They rally around the privilege distressed like you wouldn’t believe.  Again, another incidence where if it wasn’t true I could sit and laugh.  I remind myself it isn’t my place to coddle the privileged, frankly I don’t need to, because the privileged do a damn fine job of coddling themselves half the time.  Their whining of “but I’m not a bad person” is really not the point.  When you come from a place of privilege and expect to get cookies when you’re doing one thing good then yeah, I will call you out on it.  The sad part is when those bridges behind you fall, and they do.

Being a social justice advocate is damn hard.  It’s lonely.  It’s isolating.

It’s why I have a small, very small, select group of friends where I can take the piss online, where I have surrounded myself with the most amazing of women.  Where they have not put me on a pedestal.  Where they accept that I make mistakes, that I’m not perfect, that I don’t have to be held to a different standard all the time.

See the problem with being a social justice advocate is that others who respect you often put you on a pedestal.  It’s a dangerous place to be.  Why?  Because the second you act human and make an error they get upset.  They don’t realise they have put you on a pedestal.  They don’t realise they have put an “ideal face” on you, they just didn’t see the pieces that made you human.  So when your idealised self falls, to them, you have commited a mortal sin, whereas to you, you are human.

Those people, those people are not the people who hold me up, who keep me alive, who keep me going.  However even those people are not enough right now.

So, I’m going to reassess some things.  Going to take stock.  Going to breathe.  Going to look at the meaningful relationships, the ones where I am seen for who I am, the ones where I am “accepted” and I’m going to prune the others back.

Sometimes the social justice advocates need a break from holding up the world for others who frankly don’t give a shit about doing it, or would rather the rest of us hold up the load.

Right now I’m taking a breather.  I need to catch my breath.  I’ve been running so hard and so long for such a long time and doing the breathing for so many other people that I need to stop.  I need my own air.  I need my focus back.

Time for change.  Time for me.

Being a Mother is Not the Most Important Job in the World

I get it, I do, I get what people are trying to say when they say that being a mother is the most important job in the world.  They are trying to put value on something which is devalued, and which historically has been very devalued.
But what does this actually do?  Let’s take a look at it.  It says that ALL other jobs are not as important.  It tells the father that their role is not as important.  It tells the gay couple raising their children, that they aren’t and could never do as good a job as the mother does.  It tells the women who don’t want to have children that nothing that they can do will ever be as important as being a parent, and it tells the people who have infertility problems and cannot adopt that they have failed.

So how should we respond when someone asks that curly question, what do you do for a living and we are a stay at home parent?  I’ve heard responses that range from the mildly humourous to the downright offensive.  I’ve heard the “I do the most important job in the world,” I’ve heard the “domestic goddess” amongst many others.   Somehow we seem to think that by valuing parenting, particularly mothering over and above what other people do we have somehow rectified the past.  No we haven’t.  We don’t gain credibility or traction by climbing over other people, we simply don’t.  It also plays into the deification of motherhood, something which Maria, from Barrel of Oranges discusses here.

When people use all those cute and what are considered to be funny phrases to say what they are doing is creating further division.   Being a stay at home parent is not more valuable than being a parent who is paid for their work. There are plenty of parents who work and don’t want to, they would rather stay at home, but they are not privileged enough to do so.  Equally there are plenty of parents who want to work but may not be able to do so.  There are parents who want to work, who do not wish to stay at home all day with their children, and that’s okay too.  Saying you are a full time parent doesn’t make a parent who works a part-time parent, but that’s what it implies, and it’s simply false.

When people ask me what I do for a living I try not to use those phrases, I try and say that I stay at home and look after my children, I’m a student, and I run a small business, and I am very conscious that I have a degree of privilege in being able to do that.   The key for me is in not devaluing other parent’s choices in how I respond.

We don’t raise the status of parenting by crapping on other people’s choices.
We don’t raise the status of parenting by crapping on other people’s choices.

The Pledge to End Rape Culture

Pledge, with me today, to stop rape culture.

Copy this post, copy it to your Facebook page, your Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest, anywhere you see fit.  Pledge to stop Rape Culture today.

Pledge your support by signing in and commenting on this post.  Copy the image, download it, use it as your Facebook profile.  Spread the word.

We need to stop rape culture, and we need to stop it now.

If you are in any doubt that rape culture is endemic, a pandemic and MUST be stopped, then educate yourself.  Here is a good place to start.
Pledge to end rape culture

Addendum, 6/11/13, I never thought I would have to utter the place names Steubenville and West Auckland in the same breath and mean similar things, I never thought that the place where I live could be a Steubenville.  But a Steubenville it was become.

So, it is with deep sadness and a lot of pain that I made this new meme today, this one, to honour the victims of the vile Roast Busters.

Pledge to end rape culture in NZ

 

Sign the pledge today:

Letter to My 16 Year Old Self

This letter has been a long time coming.  But today I saw you.

Eileen Joy age 16 on a school trip in Japan
Me, at age 16, in Japan, on a school trip. A few weeks before I decided to try and end my life. None of the pictures from this trip look happy. I *try* to look happy, but I think the eyes give it away.

Today I saw you staring at me asking me for help.  My 16 year old self.  The one who thought that life was not worth living.  So, whether I’m ready or not, this is a letter I have to write.  This is a letter to that girl who wanted, who wants, to kill herself, to put at end to the ache, the hurt, the hurt of not being good enough.  I hope I am good enough for you now.

I remember sitting there that night.  I phoned my two best friends and told them what I was going to do.  I can’t recall what they said, they probably tried to tell me not to.  I don’t recall.  I know that it was just before exams.  I was stressed to the max.  I didn’t feel up to the task.  I didn’t feel quite good enough.  I was never quite good enough for anything.  So I believed.  I didn’t believe in my soul, didn’t believe in myself.  All I believed is that I wasn’t worth believing in.  The concept of me being worthless was the most valuable thing in the world to me.  In that moment.  It had been, for weeks.

I looked at my medication.  Back in the day when I took pills to keep my asthma under control.  I took my pills, one at a time, each one being chased down by the next.  I didn’t drink any water.  None at all.  I swallowed, 16 pills, dry.  The doctors wondered how I did it.  I looked at them like they were fucking morons.  One at a time you freaking idiots.  I’m not a moron, don’t treat me like one, I’m not fucking lying to you.  I swallowed them one at a time.  It’s possible to do you know.

16 pills.  I even wrote 16 on my desk pad.  Poetic.  I had a sense of the dramatic.  One for each year of my life.

What would I say to you now, as you sat swallowing, determinedly, one pill after another, sitting listening to whatever music it was.  I can’t even remember it now.

The truth is, even today, I have no magic panacea that will take that pain away.  When the dogs howl and salivate all over your soul and scream to take you into their black dripping maws.  All you can see is the overwhelmingness of the pain, and they beg you to let them consume you, to take you away where you will feel no more pain.

I can tell you that that pain will turn you into the most amazing butterfly, no phoenix.  Butterflies are fragile, touch their wings and their ability to fly is hindered, but the phoenix, the phoenix is strong, powerful, and it’s tears have the power to heal.  You my darling girl will rise from the ashes, from the pain that scorches your body and you will burn brighter than ever.

But even that won’t be enough light to shine in your hole right now.

That hole is a deep one.

So for the moment, I’m going to sit there with you, and hold your hand, and know that I have been there before, and although I am scared to sit here with you, I will fucking sit here with you for as long as it takes, because I’m not going anywhere, and girls like you need women like me to tell them the hole doesn’t last forever, and that we can be amazing, that we are amazing, and that even if you can’t see it now, I can, and you need to hold onto me, even if you can’t hold onto yourself.

Attachment Living

A while ago I wrote about a nebulous concept, one I called “Attachment Living”

Today I’m going to expand on what I meant a little more, because, well because it’s pertinent to me right now, and I think it’s a concept missing in certain sectors of the attachment parenting community.  I think it’s something that get’s forgotten in a desperate game of one up-person-ship.  Who has the best baby carrier, who is “more” of an attachment parent than the next person.  To be frank, I couldn’t give a monkey’s bollocks about that sort of rubbish.  I really couldn’t, and I don’t think the monkey would be too happy if I did.
Plenty of posts have written about this topic.  About not being so freaking rigid.  I’m going to link all of the ones that speak to me right here, so that we get that part out of the way FIRST.

  • This post here from Conscience Parenting, did my head in at first, but now I get it.  I’m with her, I’m tired of the evangelical nature of some people.  I’m not leaving to community, but boy I have been sorely tempted.
  • This post here is the response from Evolutionary Parenting to Conscience Parenting, and it’s one where I support the conclusion, I’m sticking with the community.
  • This is one I wrote eons ago, about what I think attachment parenting is and is not.
  • This one echoes many of the things I wrote, but does it so much better, I only found it yesterday, but boy is it good.  Attachment parenting, is a frame of mind.  This I am in love with.
  • PhD in Parenting has a brilliant definitive history and list of what it is and is not, and breaks down the little nuances.  I’m particularly fond of this quote:  “When people think of Attachment Parenting, they often think of Dr. William Sears. He coined the term and came up with the 7 Baby B’s of Attachment Parenting. This list is essentially seven tools that can help parents to foster attachment with their babies. You do not have to do all seven of these to be an attached parent and you can do all seven of them and not be an attached parent. The seven B’s are a toolbox that can make attachment parenting easier. It is easier to use a drill than a screwdriver in many instances, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to do the same job with a screwdriver or that it isn’t preferable in some circumstances, but it probably will require more effort and more time.”
  • Jan Hunt, someone I deeply respect and admire has this to say on the topic.
  • And finally Dr Laura Markham, another of my go to parenting gurus has these insights to offer.
All of them (and I’m being arrogant enough to include myself in this) say that there are tools, the tools that Sears himself describes, but none of them, like Sears himself are prescriptive about those tools.  Sears himself says they are tools, not rules. So, tools.  Tools that help us form the most secure relationship we can get to with our children.  Like PhD says, it’s easier to use the screwdriver, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible without.  Which brings me to attachment living, and what I mean when I talk about attachment living.  You need to have a good understanding of Attachment Parenting and Attachment Theory to get this, I think Tracy at Evolutionary Parenting has done a fabulous job of this in this post here, so please do go and read it!
Attachment to me, the philosophy, NOT the tools, is about love, and building secure relationships, and about trust and knowing people, and assuming the BEST of someone, and not the worst, and putting yourself in their shoes.  It requires a huge dose of empathy and, to a large part, a huge leap of faith.
What would it look like if we took it outside the parenting relationship.  What would it look like if I tried to apply it to everyone I met, everyone I thought about, everyone I saw.  It means putting aside all the dogma and shit in society that tells you to expect the WORST of someone.  It means letting go of labels and stereotypes.  It means opening your soul to the possibility, the greatness of human change and hope.  It means, against all hope, that you believe in the human capacity for change, for growth, for a person to genuinely see that what they might have done is wrong, even after many years, even on their death bed.  It means that the door for change is ALWAYS open.  It means that you believe in the profound plastic ability of the human brain for change.  It means you trust that someone can look upon others with love and respect.  Yes, I know it sounds utopian.  I want it to be normal.

Like Attachment Parenting, Attachment Living does not mean blind acceptance.  It means being consistently flexible.  I’m a bit of a fan of the concept of “authoritative parenting”.  Like some other parenting philosophy junkies, I call it Backbone parenting.  Just because it makes it easier to distinguish from authoritarian parenting,  The words are so easily confused!  I like the backbone image because it shows at once how we can be strong and flexible, we have our limits.  So when I say Attachment Living, I don’t mean Permissive Living, a la permissive parenting, where there are no boundaries at all.  Note, I’m with Dewar when she talks about her concerns about how people define Permissive Parenting, for me it means letting kids get away with hurting other people, violating other peoples rights and feelings, and deliberate rudeness, so let’s be clear on that before we move on!

How does that look in real life?  Well, it’s freaking hard.
If you want to live Attachment Living, I think there’s some things that are pretty fundamental… so here we go…
You need to be committed to seeing the best in people, doesn’t mean you will do it all the time, it’s a hard thing to do, but it does mean that you will try very hard to do so.
You need to be committed to seeing beyond labels.  Labels are not people, they put them into boxes and don’t allow them to be them.  It’s a way of granting conditional acceptance to someone.  Sure, keep the label if *you* gave it to yourself, but be mindful of giving other people labels.  Sometimes we can’t help it, I do it all the time too, but I am getting better at not doing it.
Be aware that other people haven’t travelled the same journey as you have.  Their journey’s are different, you don’t know the troubles they have gone through, and more importantly the impact of those troubles on that person.  This is called checking your privilege, something people get their knickers in a knot over constantly.  If you’re unsure about what privilege is then check out this link and this one here and watch this clip – it’s short I promise.  Then if you think you need a bit more understanding of it, then read this piece here.  Actually that last link is VERY important, because it talks about how to show empathy, and it’s VERY hard, to someone who seems to be denying their privilege.
Be honest with yourself, and other people.  Being passive aggressive and dishonest seems like the easy way, because it’s non confrontational and it hides things, but really, it’s hurtful.  I’ve been terrifically guilty of being passive aggressive in the past, and probably will be in the future again, but try not to be, it’s not pleasant.  If you have an issue with something someone has said, then say it to them.  This is especially true in the online world, remember, I can’t see your “honest” eyes, or hear your sarcastic tone.  All I have are your words.
Be honest about how you are treating other people, how you are treating your community, your country, the world.  Is it really being connected with other people to not worry about how you are treating the world?  Is it really ethical to not care in the slightest how your chocolate is made or where the parts for your electronic items come from?  Start caring.  I know we can’t fight EVERY battle, that’s not what I am asking you to do.  I’m asking you to make small changes, to think to engage your brain, to attach and not detach from the world around you.
Be honest about your needs and honest about the need to put yourself first and the need to walk away.  Being open to everyone doesn’t mean you have to stick with them, or hold their hand or tolerate what they are doing.  You can and should choose to say enough, I won’t tolerate this any longer, I come first right now, my needs are important, and I choose to walk away.  How that manifests might be different depending on the relationship and context.  Above all, as you walk away, as you put yourself first in that moment.  It could be putting your baby down momentarily, while they are crying, because you are overwhelmed (note I said for a moment, I’m not a proponent of leaving babies to cry for a long period of time!).  It could mean saying no to an abusive partner.  Equally it could mean saying no to a child when they want to do something that is not healthy for them or you.  Be honest, don’t hide yourself and your needs, don’t allow yourself to be a doormat.
Don’t sacrifice all to the cultural gods of either independence or interdependence.  Know that both have their advantages and disadvantages.  One is traditionally associated with the East and one with the West, but it doesn’t make either intrinsically better than the other.
Accept that words have power, that they can hurt, and they they build and define realities.  They have the ability to include and exclude, and your words will build or destroy your relationship with others.
Finally, and fundamentally, for goodness sakes think critically.  Question things, open your mind, don’t just accept what comes, engage with things and think, encourage others around you to think, but think with compassion.  Above all else think with compassion.  Thinking with compassion, acting with compassion.  Even when others diverge from our path.  Even when they walk a path that is littered with the corpses of a detached world.  We still MUST show attachment.
I’m also prepared to believe that this list isn’t definitive for me, it’s a process, there are probably things I’ve missed.  If you think I have, then by all means let me know and we can discuss it, it’s a growing list, the door is open for growth and healing.
So this, this I hold to be true.  I will keep the door open for anyone and anybody, for I above all things believe in the possibility for human change and human growth.  I know that some people believe that there are people in our communities incapable of change, the psychopaths, the sociopaths, I still hold that with the plasticity of the human brain, and the advances in neuroscience that one day there might be an opening for change.  I am attached to that concept, and I swear to live by it.  I may fail on a day by day basis, but I hold this to be my goal.  I aim to act compassionately and with empathy to all within a given situation.  This doesn’t mean I tolerate all, I will not ever tolerate hate speech, or stereotyping, or intolerance.  I will still speak up.

"Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice" - Ayaan Hirsi Ali

That’s the backbone, that’s the bit that is without cowardice.  But when you do it, do it with compassion.  Do it with love.  For you do not know what journey the other person has been on, or is going on.
You do not know what has happened to that person, in their head, in the last hour, day, week.  You might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  You simply might be at the wrong place, at the wrong time.  So, above all compassion.  Speak up, with love and truly be the change you wish to see in the world, and hold that door open, even if just a little bit.
Attachment Living by Eileen Joy

Dear Wilton

Dear Wilton,

I have a dilemma, and it’s one that I really want you to listen to and understand.  You need to listen for two reasons.  Firstly, because I am a cake decorator, I have purchased things from your range, and want to in the future.   Look, here are a couple of cakes I have decorated – I even happen to think I’m quite good at it… yes, that’s all my own work, with a little help from some of your products.
Bear Cake made by Eileen Joy, Parenting for Social Justice

Bear Cake made by Eileen Joy, Parenting for Social Justice

The second reason I need you to listen, and frankly this one is far more important, is because you are a big company, and you need to do the right thing.

Why am I writing to you?  Why am I seriously considering not buying your products again?  Well, I was seriously disturbed today to discover that on your: “Wilton Natural Colors Fondant, Multi Pack” you specifically have written “Skin Tone” under the “Pink” listing and not placed it under any of the other colours.   I’m supplying a handy link here for those people who need to see it for their own eyes.  Yes, it’s hard to see, but it’s there.  Hover over the packet with your mouse and you will see it.  Light Brown, Dark Brown, Pink (skin tone) and Black.

Fortunately the good folks at Jezebel have already talked about this issue here and taken a close up picture of it so you don’t have to strain your eyes (like I did):

Wilton Natural colours fondant with pink "skin tone"
Image from Jezebel.com

What I find odd however is that despite Jezebel reporting this in 2010, you are still selling this item… come on?  Really?

I’d like to point out, that by making a list like this, and including all those other colours, and stating that Pink = skin and the others do not, well, it’s like saying that there’s only one type of skin colour.  Something I am sure you will agree is blatantly false.  It also upsets me.  As the mother of children who definitely don’t fit that kind of skin tone, I’m appalled on their behalf.  What do you think it tells people when you are (even if accidentally) telling them that there is only one shade of skin colour?   It’s a sign of privilege, that only one (white) skin colour is recognized, it renders all others invisible.  A similar dilemma can be seen with “skin coloured” plasters.  This is an issue which Deborah Gabriel eloquently dissects in this blog post.

Let me show you an example of where a company has got it right.  See, Crayola understands that “skin tone” can mean a veritable rainbow of colours, and they did this after years of having only one “flesh” toned crayon.   Well done to Crayola – a big multi coloured thumbs up!

Crayola Multicultural Crayons
Image from Amazon.com

Now I appreciate that this might be an oversight, in which case I am sure you will remove it and update all of your future packaging.  In the meantime, until I hear further from you, I won’t be buying any Wilton products.

Yours Sincerely,

A disgruntled Wilton customer.

P.S. for all those of you who are equally appalled at this, feel free to sign the online petition to encourage Wilton to change their packaging.  You can also go and comment on their Facebook page here, you can contact them direct using this link here, and you can tweet them, here.  And finally, if you’re reading this, and agree (I mean why wouldn’t you) then please share this widely, words matter, and careless use of words is indeed, careless.

A Crafty Christmas Present to Treasure

Both our children love craft activities, and they love little treasures, and storing them.  So, we decided that we would foster their love of crafts and treasures with a unique Christmas present for them both.

We have decided to put a heap of treasure type things together in a traditional bead box as a way to stimulate their creativity.  We have stuffed the boxes with things found from the bargain bin of our local craft store, and from raiding my own craft supplies.  Aided with a wee glue stick as well, we are both convinced that these will go down a treat on Christmas Day.  There is everything from rubber bands to cute little paperclips, stamps, glitter, old buttons and some feathers.
Tackle box filled with craft items for christmas

As we were putting it together it struck me that you could do a lot with this concept.  If your budget was tight or you wanted a more natural Steiner type box then you could fill the boxes with shells, stones, some interesting leaves, wood shavings etc.  Or you could add some rainbow rice, maybe even some small balls of play dough.
With this as a present you can really tailor it to your child’s loves whilst allowing them to have free rein with it once they get their little hands on it.  And as supplies run down you can either refill it as you need to, or you can encourage your child to use it as a treasure box for all those little things they find. I can’t wait to see their eyes on Christmas Day, I get the feeling that this will be one of those presents that they remember for a while!

Emma’s Story of Postnatal Depression

Introducing a beautiful and deeply moving guest post from Emma Fahy Davis:

Eight years ago, with our daughter about to turn two, we decided it might be nice to have another baby. When I look back at that time, I can hardly believe how naive and innocent we were.

13 months later, just as we were beginning to investigate fertility assistance, we finally saw the two little lines we’d been hoping for and dared to hope that we’d soon be welcoming a new child to the family. That hope was crushed just a few weeks later when I began miscarrying our baby on New Year’s Eve.

Crushed and broken, I was desperate to be pregnant, desperate to have a baby in my arms, and worried that it wasn’t going to happen. Yet less than two months after the miscarriage, I once again found myself staring down at those two little lines.

Pink pregnancy test positive

I thought if I could just get through to 12 weeks, I’d be fine, I just had to hold on. Every ache, every cramp, every twinge had me wound up in knots and I was palpably terrified of miscarrying again. At six weeks, we saw our baby’s beating heart for the first time, and I exhaled just a little. At nine weeks, after a small amount of spotting, I went for another ultrasound. The rules of the game were about to change.

I lay there, waiting for the worst, expecting to be told I’d lost the baby, but in fact, I hadn’t lost a baby, I’d gained one – the scan showed two healthy babies. For the briefest of minutes, I was excited, but when a rather blunt and tactless obstetrician pointed out the increased risks associated with a twin pregnancy, the fear returned and though I didn’t know it then, that fear would invade my life, steal my precious first few hours, days, weeks, with my new babies, and cripple my life. My life separated into ‘the before’ and ‘the after’. The person I had been was gone.

The pregnancy was largely uneventful, we had a few minor scares but nothing overly dramatic, yet in my mind I refused to believe that we’d walk away from the whole thing with two live, healthy babies. I shut myself off emotionally – while I went through the motions of preparing a nursery for our baby girls, in my mind I was planning their funerals.

They were born on a Saturday night, three minutes apart after a perfect, textbook labour, and despite being 4 weeks early, required no special care. Sitting in the delivery unit watching my husband cradle our tiny daughters, I went into shock. I was completely numb. He was besotted, and I felt nothing. Not once had I allowed myself to believe that this would happen, and when it did, I had no idea how to respond.

The numbness persisted for weeks. The babies both had reflux and screamed for up to 20 hours a day, I couldn’t breastfeed them so spent hours attached to a machine pumping milk for them, and the whole time I felt as if I was watching someone else’s life pass by. It was literally like watching some other random family’s bad home movie collection. It’s hard to identify rock bottom as there were a lot of wicked lows, but if I had to choose just one, it would be the evening I ended up sitting on the driveway screaming at the top of my lungs because I simply didn’t know how else to vent my frustration, anger and anguish. They were 9 weeks old, tiny, helpless creatures. Why didn’t I love them? Why couldn’t I love them?

It wasn’t until the twins were 8 months old that I saw the first glimmer of hope that maybe I could bond with them after all, maybe it wasn’t too late. It was an ordinary afternoon, I was loading the dishwasher and the girls were sitting on the kitchen floor playing with a bowl of plastic blocks. As I watched them interacting, cheekily passing blocks backwards and forwards to each other, all of a sudden I realised that I was deeply and uncontrollably in love with them. In that moment, I knew I needed to get help.

I was eventually diagnosed with Postnatal Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Through a combination of medication and therapy, I began to find a way to live in my own head, to forgive myself, and to accept that while my experiences frame the person I am, they don’t define me. Most importantly, I began the process of building a relationship with my babies.

It took 18 months of intensive attachment therapy with psychologists who specialise in infant mental health, but gradually piece-by-piece, my precious baby girls and I got to know each other, and to love each other. I learned to let go of the anger and guilt I felt around my inability to bond with them, and learnt that while I can’t erase the past, every day is a new opportunity to move forward in a more positive way.

I’ve since experienced the profoundly healing experience of carrying and birthing two more babies, I’ve learned to parent intuitively and not let the scars of the past weigh my family down. As I snuggle at night with whichever of my girls have crept into our bed to fill the space between my husband and I, I am content.

As the great poet Maya Angelou said, ‘we do what we know how to do, and when we know better, we do better.’

Now I know better.

The Funeral

So I had died.

I no longer existed.  I was at once two and one at once.  No longer knowing the boundaries of my own body, what was once familiar seemed alien, I was I and not I all at once.

I/we sat in the bath, I/we could not sit right, parts of me/us hit the bath that had never touched the bath before.  My/our stomach sagged, my/our breasts were enormous.  I/we looked in the mirror.  Whose body was this, what had happened… she was gone.  Tracks of green criss crossed my/our breasts in a furious pattern of growth and sustenance, blood rushing to grow this new body, this one who was no longer one, but two at the same time.  Did those breasts belong to me/us?

Vent on Tongariro, NZ, vulva
This is a still active vent on Mt Tongariro in New Zealand. To me it typifies the ever changing nature of Mother Nature, and of a woman’s body. It is always changing, always altering, and full of life and death. At once both at the same time and neither at once.

I/we showered.  I/we reached under my arms.  I/we panicked.  There were bulbous grapes underneath.  In my/our dazed state I/we wondered whether this body had developed cancer overnight.  No.  It took weeks for a specialist to confirm that no, I/we was one of a select group of women who have significant breast tissue under the armpits.  My/our armpits were swollen with milk for us/him.

I/we was now, had become the dyad.  But I was still mourning the murder.  ”I” had died, and I/we did not know what to do with this new landscape.

I/we tried to pretend that “I” had not died.  That “I” still existed.  HE did not need feeding on HIS schedule.  I could dictate that.  ”I” could be resurrected from the dead.  This was what “I” had learnt.  This was what “I” had expected.  Where was my/our “What to Expect” book… I/We found it.  And I/We devoured it searching for signs of “I”.  There it was.  HE would need to only feed every three hours.  I/We went to bed, and I/We set the alarm clock for three hours into the future so that I/we could wake HIM and feed on schedule.  HE did not know that I/We had read a book.  HE was reaching for WE and I/We was running screaming back to find “I”.  HE woke.  After 2 hours, HE woke.  HE was not expected.  Not what I/We had read.  This body was rebelling, HE was rebelling, I was running screaming to find “I”, because it MUST exist somewhere.  ”I” had to be able to be retrieved.  Day after day, night after night, my body leaking everywhere, blood and milk, HE tried to reach for WE, HE tried to tell me that WE needed, WE needed me to let go of I.  I/We were in pain, He/We were in pain.

HE would scream for WE.  Every day.  Every single day.  And every now and again WE would come together and WE would smile.  And I/We stopped looking for “I”.  And then as I/We would put HIM to bed, he would smile at I/We asking to stay with I/We and I would run screaming again, and HE would cry alone.  Alone because I/We had run off in search of “I”.  ”I” who had gone on August 14, 2005.  I/We thought he was grinning, was LAUGHING and telling I/We that “I” could never be found every again because HE was in charge.

The books told I/We that yes, HE was manipulating I/We.  That to get “I” back, there was training needed.  So I/We started to break.  I/We fell into a deep pit.  The deepest pit of despair.

I/We called my/our anchor, my/our darling husband and declared that I/We would no longer exist.  That I/We was off to find “I”, that HE would be better off without I/We, that both of them would be better off.

My/our darling husband replied.  ”I want you back”.

I/we thought, he knows.  He knows that “I” is dead.   Husband let me/we lie on the bed, screaming to find “I” as he walked HE constantly, up and down, up and down, up and down.

And then, I/We admitted.  Admitted that “I” might be dead.  That “I” needed to be let go.  I/we sunk into the drugs, the prescribed ones, the ones that would supposedly fix things.  I/we sank into the therapy

But what was left.  What was left?

Because there is no authorised script in this culture for interdependence.  There is only a script for independence.   I/We existed, in a state of mourning, in the longest goodbye to “I” because nowhere in the life of “I” had there been a narrative that allowed the growth of the dyad.

*** This is Part Two in my series on my sink into Postnatal Depression, for Part One please see here.  There will be more posts coming on my journey.  Please stay tuned.

Please also note, that this post in particular is heavily influenced by Luce Irigaray and her polemic, This Sex Which is Not One.

The Day I Died

This is a shocking post.  It’s a hard post to write, and it has been 7 years in the making.  This is the story of the day I died and what happened when I did.

On August 14, 2005, I died.

That was the day my son was born.  That was the day that I died.  Let me tell you how I died then and how I can be here today, over 7 years later writing this post.

He was my first baby.  I was a career woman prior to getting pregnant.  I was a career woman lost in a corporate path, alienating people and forever climbing the ladder.  I knew I wanted children, it was something else to tick off the box, but in the latter stages of 2003/4 I actually wanted children because I wanted children, it was no longer a box to tick.  My husband and I lived in London, when we became pregnant we had been living there for three years.  It was time to come home.  It was time to come home to New Zealand.  We gave our notice, and we spent the next four months preparing and learning about pregnancy.  Well, I did.  Learning about pregnancy and birth.  Because that’s what you do isn’t it?  Especially when you work in a bookshop and have access to what the top selling parenting books are.

I was armed.  My bible swiftly became “What to Expect When you Are Expecting”.  I lapped it all up.   I read it like a bible.

We returned to New Zealand, I was mid way through my pregnancy.  I was armed with my books and my hospital notes and found myself a good doctor to help.  Yes, a doctor was best, wasn’t it?  I mean, this was my first baby, and I would be “safer” in a doctor’s hands than a midwife’s.  Surely.  I rested.  I did not get a job, I had 4 months to go, and there was no way an employer was going to take me on so close to being a parent.  I mean, laws are one thing, but in reality I knew that I wouldn’t get a look in for a job interview.  So, I sat and brooded at home with my books.

I thought.  And I brooded.  Didn’t I think in the past that a homebirth would be amazing?  Didn’t my Women’s Studies degree teach me to know my body.  I quietly questioned people.  Homebirth?  No they said.  No,

definitely not for a first time mother.  Maybe for a second, but definitely not for a first.   I put those niggles away.  I told them to be quiet.  What did they know?

I knew a lot about pregnancy.  I knew a lot about childbirth.  I knew a lot before our Childbirth Education classes.  I felt like a star pupil.  I knew a lot of answers.  I was planning to go as natural as possible.  Didn’t want a C-section, didn’t want an epidural, certainly didn’t want pethidine.  Absolutely I wanted to breastfeed.  Vague niggles about Nestle bubbled up from my Women’s Studies degree, yes, I definitely wanted to breastfeed.  For six month, of course, then don’t all babies go onto solids?

I was prepared.  I had my bags packed.  I had wee speakers to play my favourite music into the delivery room.  Yes the delivery room.

The labour started, it went beautifully, it was short, I had a wee bit of gas, he was born vaginally, I had a perfectly healthy baby boy, and I was perfectly healthy.
Except I wasn’t.  I died that day.

My labour was fast.  My doctor could not come to the hospital.  She was sick.  I got stuck with whoever was on duty at the time.

I was labouring in the water.  Couldn’t I have a water birth?  I felt like I needed to push.  The midwife told me that wasn’t possible.  I couldn’t be ready yet.  I was.  I involuntarily pushed again.

She whipped me out of the bath, flat on my back, to examine me.

I wanted to get back into the pool.  She wouldn’t let me.  She strapped a foetal montior on my belly.  I snarled at her “Is that necessary?”  She said “yes”.

People started doing things to me.  I had to stop one to ask their name, because they hadn’t told me, they hadn’t bothered to introduce themselves.

The obstetrician came in.  He asked me if I would like to be cut.  I asked why.  He said because it would “speed things up”.  He did not say anything else.  I was already upset.  I wanted this over.  I felt myself losing my grip on reality.  My body was no longer my own, I was dying.  I said yes.

He cut me.

My beautiful baby son was born.  He was lifted onto me.  I looked at him.  Who was he?  I didn’t know this person, this wailing, crying blood covered thing.  Was I meant to?  Who was I?  Where was I?

The obstetrician proudly announced that I was great.  That all first time mothers should be this fast.

I felt like a slab of meat.  I was drowning.  Fast.  I was dying.

I started to shake.  My own death rattle.  It started in my heart, and it radiated outwards.
Suicide

I shook, and shook and shook.  I was back.  I was 16 again.  I was in hospital after downing 16 Nuelin Slow Release asthma pills and my stomach had been pumped.  My body was in shock, the effects of the Nuelin were taking control and my body was shaking so hard that the bed was rattling. I couldn’t stop the bed rattling.  I was 16 and 31 simultaneously.  I had tried to die then, I had tried to kill myself.  This time I was dying.

I could not stop shaking.  I was in pain.  I was holding my son, I tried to breastfeed him.  I couldn’t.  Who was he?  Who was I?

It took 5 hours before I had the Anti D medication that I required before being allowed to transfer to the birthing unit where I could recuperate.  I couldn’t urinate.  My body was dying.  The midwife inserted a catheter.  My body was not my own anymore.  Cups and cups of urine gushed forth.  I was still shaking.

I was placed onto a wheelchair and wheeled to the car.  I could not sit.  My wounds were raw.  On the way a midwife snarled at me to sit down or else I would heal all wrong down there.  I sunk down.  Remember, I was dying, my body was not my own.

My husband bundled me and our son into the car to take us the five minute drive to where I could recover.  Our son was asleep.

We got there.  I couldn’t sit up.  I was floating away.  They came to get me from the car.

I got inside, I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t help myself.  I didn’t see my son.  I was still shaking.

There was another doctor, he came to see me.  He pronounced that I had to go back to the Hospital, they didn’t know what was wrong with me.  I knew.  I was dying.

I got back to the hospital, in the ambulance.  Separated from my husband and son.  They told me I was in shock.  I wasn’t in shock.  By then I had died.

The woman that I knew was gone.  She had been brutalised.  Treated like a slab of meat, butchered.

My normal birth was anything but.

I had died that day.   This was the day that “I” died.  This was the day that “I” was born again, with my son.  We were both thrown wailing back into the world.  Because that day I died.  I died.  Because “I” became “we”.

But it took me months to mourn the loss of “I”.  I had died.  And I wanted me back.  No one told me that I might not love my son.  No one told me that I might actually actively not like him.  No one told me that there is a MYTH of the instant bond.  No one told me that there is a myth about natural instincts taking over.  No one told me that I might die.

I was born again.  Born into the shroud of Postnatal Depression.  Because I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had died.  Like a lover mourning her dead lover, I was in shock.  I was in deep grief.  I wanted her back.

Because “What to Expect When You are Expecting” never told me this:

“… with the first childbirth the old status of non-mother is annihilated because of the central importance of ‘mother’ in relation to female identity and the ideological symmetry between ‘woman’ and ‘mother’. This makes it more difficult for women to experience the loss of their old self in a way conducive to their peace of mind. They are not permitted to grieve or mourn, as with other change. So strong is the taboo that women themselves frequently fail to admit their sense of loss in a conscious way.”  Paula Nicolson

** Please note, I will continue this post, with a follow on piece about the grief process, about the mourning, and about the rebirth.

Please click here for Part Two: The Funeral 

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