Thursday, March 17, 2011

Post natal something or other.

I drew a cartoon with the above text about ten years ago. I tried scanning it this morning but the quality was really poor. I have a lot to say on this subject and I've just spent hours dicking around with all that stuff above so now I'll get on to what I really wanted to do - which is to reach out to anyone who might identify with what all that says.

Ten years ago my son was six, my daughter one. I couldn't say I had post natal depression. Saying you think you have post natal depression feels like saying you don't like being a mother. I couldn't separate the two. Now I can. I loved being a mother. I hated the drudgery that went with it. I loved the smell of my children, their perfect skin, the things they did and said, the way they lit up for me. Sometimes I found reserves of patience. Sometimes I didn't.

I hated that the white noise in my head wouldn't allow me to listen to music, the white noise of a cry, the constant demanding, tantrums. I hated that I never managed to achieve what I had hoped to achieve on any given day. I shrank my goals until they were tiny and I still failed. My world became tiny. The endless repetition of daily chores, the Sisyphean weight and pointlessness of them. It was like showing up for a job that I was massively under-qualified for and failing, day after day after day.

At some point I went under. I could neither breathe, nor scream.

Nobody knew.

The cartoon I drew was as close as I could get to saying it out loud. I showed everyone and they laughed and told me I was clever and I wondered that they couldn't see the terror in my eyes. Or the shame. The cartoon was me screaming.

I waited another three years to get help.

It's not like those years were joyless, they were just really hard. Harder than they should have been. Even today I play it down. "I think I had mild post natal depression" I say. I have massive difficulty owning it. I know women who had a much harder time than I did and I don't seem to be able let myself off the hook on that one. Just because other people were having a harder time than I was didn't mean I didn't need help.

I asked for help the day I felt my body catch up to my mind, it stopped coping. It refused step into line and continue pretending everything was okay. I started having panic attacks.

Yesterday, driving over the bridge into Freo the traffic stopped and I was next to a woman with two tiny children in the back seat of her car and I was hit by a wave of relief that those years are done for me, and, hard on the heels of that, a wave of grief that I hadn't enjoyed them as much as I could have.

Post natal depression doesn't mean you're a bad mother.

And just in case your mother or your husband or your mother-in-law or your sister never tells you that you are a wonderful mother could you please say it quietly to yourself now, because you are. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Eleven year old is nagging and whining about wanting Facebook four years sooner than I am ready to allow it.

I explain that I need to see some maturity and that nagging and whining is not very mature.

The remainder of the day is comprised of:

Two hours of sulking and filthy looks aimed at me over a game of Mariocart.

4 hours of fun filled social activity.

Roughly 45 minutes of compliance, which is made up of doing what she's been asked to do without whining and then flagging how mature she's being in case I fail to notice.

"So, can I have Facebook now?"


"Can I have a back tickle?"

Monday, January 31, 2011

He was a Good Boy.

This is about the fifth time I’ve tried to write about this. The epic fail proportions of previous attempts might have something to do with the amount of alcohol consumed at the time. Alcohol consumed morosely, moribundly, lugubriously, lachrymosely – while listening to Josh Pyke on loop. Moribundly wasn’t even a word until now.

I met The Pilot at work; he had the desk next to mine. I was 31 and skinny on a diet of cigarettes, coffee and single parenthood. Jim was just two years old and I had gone back to work, delivering him (Jim) screaming and enraged to daycare each day and trying all day to stuff my blind terror into a place in my heart where it didn’t feel like it was ripping the flesh from my bones. There is no such place.

So The Pilot sat next to me and he has since admitted that he took up smoking to get to know me better. He had this nice way about him and he had a 23 year old girlfriend and that combination was always a lethal one for me – sweetness + unavailability = searing crush. I took to wearing pretty dresses to work and pretending my shit was together instead of all over the place and I postured as this calm, wise, HILARIOUS adult– i.e.: not a 23 year old girl.

So without deceit or lies or anything unseemly we managed to start seeing each other. The 23 year old had wandered off, all by herself, I didn’t even have to pour sugar in her petrol tank.

He had a dog-named Max; I had a kid called Jim.

I always called Max my step-dog and, on the whole, The Pilot did a much better job of taking on the role of stepfather to my son than I did of welcoming the dog to the fold.

Max, who patrolled the boundaries of the yard with his low growl and hound-from-hell bark. All. Fucking. Night.

Max, who buried his nose in the crutch of every visiting female and inhaled - deeply, un-selfconsciously, persistently.

Max, who mounted every visiting toddler and small child and, no matter that they were the wrong species, humped like there was no tomorrow.

Max, who seized the opportunity to devour a pooh dropped seconds before by a 1 year old having ‘nappy free time’ in the back yard, subsequently sending my father into a fit of dry-retching so violent it appeared life threatening.

And, while we’re on fecal material, in a chaotic moment when Jim was suffering from diarrhea and was being carried, bare-arsed, frantically, to somewhere his bum could be washed, Max ducks into the frame and LICKS THE DIARRHEA.

Seriously, how do you love that? Love as a verb, I mean. How?
But then there’s this.

Max, who endured being ridden around the back yard, who waited at the gate until the humans came home, who got brought home in the back of a paddy wagon (6 months ago) because he busted out one last time looking for bitches, and the police knocked at my door and were so sweet, like it was the nicest thing they’d had to do all day, bring home a dog so old he can barely stand but thinks he can still cut it with the ladies.

He learned how to smile. When we all got home from the school run he walked towards us in a kind of crab-like way, tail wagging furiously and the left side of his lip lifted in what could be mistaken for a snarl, but I knew he was smiling, and it made him snort.

In the last two years Max was pretty much stone-deaf. His talent for standing right where you needed to go, or sleeping where you were bound to trip over him (but if you’d seen him first, and stepped over him slowly, so as not to wake him – we had all got in the habit of pausing, mid-step, to check that his chest was still rising and falling, that he was still breathing, still alive) we’d stumble over him and cry out his name in frustration – but he couldn’t hear and just stood there, like a demented old person, probably wondering if he was related to any of us.

My sneezes managed to penetrate his hearing. He would be sound asleep in the back room (kitchen, living, family, i.e.: Life Room) and I would sneeze (loud) and Max wouldn’t so much as wake from his sleep as startle and leap, like a much younger dog, but then land on his hundred-year-old, unsteady legs and kind of stagger hurriedly outside. He didn’t hear “ahCHOO!” he heard “OUTSIDE!!” and it made us laugh and be sad all at the same time.

Max’s life was lived in parallel with me and The Pilot, he’s been on every holiday, exuding foul odor from the back of the car while our luggage was tied precariously to the roof, as much of a daily fixture as a favorite comfy chair - there, taken for granted, loved - sometimes distractedly, half-heartedly. I had my quiet moments of commune with him, after the kids were in bed and I sat outside with a glass of wine, Max would come and rest his head on my lap while I scratched the back of his ears and told him he was a good boy in the dumb voice I reserved for him.

Maxy died in January, one day before Anna’s 11th birthday. I wrapped him in a rug I made for her when she was a baby. We buried him under a tiny Poinciana tree with a ring of petunias at the bottom, in front of the chook house, keeping watch.

I have wept at the dog-food counter at the supermarket, I have wept when he failed to show at the gate, when I thought I heard him shake his collar, or heard his feet on the floorboards in the hallway. I polished the brass name disk on his collar and put it pride-of-place on display, so that all who visit might mourn with us. I sent out a text to our nearest and dearest to tell them the news and my phone was flooded with messages about his legendary appalling behaviour. I dug his grave (The Pilot was away), held him for one last long hug and we played a special Josh Pyke song for him.

Max is with us in stories.

Thank you, if you stuck with this.