Category Archives: the truth about Motherhood

What to expect when you’re expecting (for Dads)

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I was initially excited.  We had been planning and trying to conceive for some time, so this was excellent news.

I still remember her telling me… I had just come home from work, and she was in our bedroom.  She called me in and we sat on the bed together.  She told me she was pregnant and I was so happy… I even made my first “Dad” joke.

I had told her I was about to make a joke, so don’t be concerned…. I asked her if she was sure it was mine.  I thought that this was hilarious… she smiled yet I am sure she didn’t think it was very funny.

After the initial excitement, the time progressed relatively quickly.  Yet, it was still a game of waiting… nine months can be a long time.  While my wife grew more connected to the small life growing inside her, I became more distant.

It was difficult for me to conceptualise the fact that there really was a little person inside her.  I didn’t feel the sensations that she was feeling.  Sure, I had seen images of something on the Ultrasound machine (they told me which parts were the head, the arms and legs… it wasn’t easy to make it out), yes, I had heard the baby’s heart beat on visits to the Obstetrician.

Yet, despite these signs, I felt no real connection.  Sometimes I even doubted that it was real, that perhaps people were making up a story and I could see through it.

Months passed, and my wife’s body now showed the signs that she was pregnant, yet I still found it hard to believe.  I could feel the baby’s kicks through her stomach, I could see in the Ultrasounds that there was a vaguely human shape inside, and we made plans for the day of arrival.  Still, deep inside, I doubted it was really happening.  I could create life?  No, that couldn’t be true.

The day of arrival dawned, and my wife and I were at the hospital.  I said goodbye as she was taken to the surgery for the birth, and I waited till I was called when things were ready.

I felt disconnected, like it was not real.

Eventually I was called in, and I stood at my wife’s shoulder to hold her hand and wait for the delivery.

Now, the situation was beginning to fully dawn on me.

I could be about to become a father… although I weirdly expected the doctor to announce that it was a phantom pregnancy.  After a couple of minutes the baby was free and displayed to my wife and I.

The next few minutes were a dizzy haze.

I was told to watch the baby while they ran some tests on him, checking for any abnormalities.  My wife gave me strict instructions to not let the baby out of my sight, so I quickly followed the new arrival to the processing room.  The nurse directed me to help her to measure him, weigh him, wrap him, etc.  She showed me how to do a nappy and told me how to hold him.

I suddenly realised… I was holding my son.  He was real… I was a dad.  I softly talked to him as I waited for my wife to be brought up.  I told him who I was, and how happy I was to meet him.

A few hours later, while my wife, my son and I were in the recovery room… he soiled his first nappy.  A small group of nurses assembled and chuckled as I stood before my boy.  I looked at the nappy, the mess within, and briefly considered my life.

What choices had I made that brought me to this point… where I was about to change my first nappy, my son’s first nappy.  I realised that this was the first real test, and I would not fail.  I bravely rolled my sleaves up and set about changing my first child’s nappy.

We have had several other children since that first, and I have never felt the same amount of remoteness as I felt at the first time.

I have learned what to expect, when expecting.

Name withheld by request.

A Woman’s Story

Once upon a time there was a peculiar woman. She had two arms and two legs. Two hands and two feet. She had long curly hair and blue eyes, two ears, one nose and a mouth that sometimes smiled.

The woman looked like anyone else on the outside, but inside she was different. Inside her lurked two people. The light and the dark.

She was Irish, she was Scottish, she was Australian, she was Tasmanian. She was a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunty and a wife.

Once, she had been a loyal friend to a few people she truly admired but that was gone now. Now she enjoyed friendship in little crumbs that passed her way from time to time.

She had been a good daughter to her parents, a loving and loyal sister to her brothers. She would have done anything for her family. She had been a good student, completing her studies to Year 12. At the age of 18, she decided against university and instead embarked on a life of travel. She travelled to numerous countries in the world, experienced amazing places and interesting people . On her travels, she discovered her heart belonged to Ireland and since has always yearned to go back to claim it. She worked hard and lived independently. Built her own house and paid her own bills.

She had high ideals, she wanted to save the world, or at the very least, to make it a better place for her having visited. Sometimes she was very proud of what she had achieved on her life’s journey.

She chose one man to share her life journey and he chose her. She loved him and was loyal to him. He loved her but his love could be conditional. His was a difficult and disturbed childhood and in his late 20’s he was diagnosed with depression. When he was not pleased with the world, or himself, he would withdraw his love from her for days on end. He would blame her for all he despised in the world. This would hurt her very deeply and under this pressure over a period of years, something within her cracked.

Not her love for him. Not her faith in him. But after many years she came to believe that everything wrong in their world was her fault, because she was not smart enough, pretty or witty enough. In the course of a normal day, she may have done 50 little things to make him happy or his life comfortable, but if she forgot to do one thing, he would make her feel as though she were a complete failure. That she was lazy and useless. So she tried harder, and harder and harder.

He was not a cruel man. He was not always affected by the depression, but it did come upon him regularly, even when he was receiving treatment. When all was well he could be kind and compassionate, thoughtful and funny, fiercely intelligent and creative. She was the only one who knew of his dark side. He kept his depression hidden from the world and only showed his true nature when he was with her.

Together they had healthy, smart and imaginative children. She worked herself hard to provide everything they needed, day and night. Her hair went grey and thinned, her eyes became dull, her skin tired and her body went soft. When she was young, she would be complimented on her bright blue eyes often. Now, she couldn’t remember the last time anyone paid her a compliment about anything. She was no longer lovely.

She forgot herself. Who she was. Who she had been. Over time, she became just a shadow of herself, and that made him even more disappointed in her. Where was the girl he knew? She had been so quirky, bright and shiny. She was washed out with the dishwater. No longer did they talk for hours on shared interests and ideas. No longer did they laugh or just cuddle.

The cyber world became his best friend, and he tended to this world every minute the day would allow. She could not compete with this world, but she stayed as close to him as she could, in case there was a chance for conversation or friendship.

At night, when the children were asleep, she sat watching tv or writing her novel and he sat in front of the computer, just browsing the internet. Sometimes he would walk through the room on his way to the kitchen and get angry at her because he thought a program she was watching on tv was rubbish. Then he would return to his cyber world thinking she was stupid and feeling justified at leaving her alone again.

She had become the person who collected dirty clothes off the floor throughout the house. She washed clothes, hung them to dry, folded and put them away. She wiped up dirty toilet floors and dirtier toilet bowls. She wiped dirty bottoms, vacuumed and swept floors. She took the blows and punches of angry children. Washed dirty dishes 3 and 4 times a day. Cooked meals that no-one ate. Washed windows. Fed animals. Moved furniture. Bathed children, packed school lunches and ironed business shirts. She was screamed at daily, was umpire to countless arguments and took the blame for things she did not do.

Good and caring friends slipped away as she didn’t have the time to nurture them. They lived in the country, and most days, the only adult contact she had was a one minute chat with the grocery delivery man. Their budget did not allow her to attend classes, pursue hobbies or pay for childcare.

She lost her passion. Her passion for him and her passion for life. She was too tired to feel passion and he hated her for it. He punished her for it, withdrawing all affection. He wouldn’t touch her, wouldn’t soothe her. He wouldn’t talk to her or look her in the eye. When she tried to talk to him, he would pretend to listen as he busied himself doing something else or walking out of the room.

She tried to find herself, to feel passionate about the universe again. She tried many new things, becoming heavily involved in community events, teaching herself to sew and knit. She wrote a fictional novel, grew food and tended her flower garden. All things she could do at the home, close to the children and him.

In her heart she wished she could sing, dance, paint or illustrate, speak in languages other than her own or write something so meaningful it would make the world a better place. But she had no talent for these things. She desperately wished to discover some creativity in herself, hoping if she had something to offer the world, her life might be worthwhile after all.

She tried very hard to make new friends, although she felt she was a fraud. Smiling, laughing, sharing anecdotes and chatting about local happenings, all the while knowing she was worthless and boring and only doing it so that her children would have people to care for them in the community if something should happen to her. After visiting with people, she would be exhausted at the effort of pretence. She wondered why anyone would want to talk to her and was not surprised when the phone never rang. Few invitations came her way. Some days she disconnected the phone so she didn’t have to talk to anyone in the outside world.

She went to her GP and told him that she felt she wanted to drive her car over the mountain cliff. That she felt her family would be better off without her, that they would no longer carry the burden of their useless mother and partner.

The GP gave her some tablets to make her feel better.

The tablets helped, and she had more good days than bad, but sometimes she still felt like driving off the mountain or getting in the car and driving away from everyone forever.

BUT… there was one thing that always stopped her from leaving, even briefly. One thing so deeply ingrained in her psyche that would not allow her to leave her children however desperate she felt. Her father. The memory of her father. This immensely talented man, sacrificed greatness to provide for his family and be a strong, reliable and honourable father. He left school at age 15 to provide for his mother and sisters. He should have gone to university, he could have been so many things, an illustrator, a painter, a writer, an engineer, a boat builder, a teacher or doctor, but he wasn’t, he was a bus driver and a wise man. A self-taught man, reading books constantly throughout his life to gain the knowledge he did not achieve through schooling. He was not in the least bitter for his losses. He was the most gentle, modest and compassionate of men. All went to him for advice and solace in times of trouble and for knowledge of all things great and small. He suffered from depression in his later years but did not want to ‘burden’ others with his pain. He worked hard his entire life and provided for his children who each grew to make positive contributions to society.

The lessons she learned from her father were countless and cosmic and even though he had been dead for 10 long years, his memory encouraged her on dark days to keep putting all the pieces of herself back together.

For all the emptiness she felt in herself, she loved her life. It was difficult to understand, how in such emptiness one could feel so fortunate. How, even on the blackest of days, she can still know how wonderful her life is. She can know it, but not feel it.

She loved her home and her community, and was thankful every day for her good fortune. For all the years of living with his depression, she loved and respected her mate. She would keep her promise to stay faithful to him until her dying day.

In her confusion, one thing she knew for certain, her love for her children was immeasurable. She would do anything for them, give anything of herself for them, and most of all, she would never let them down.

She makes the most of good days, laughing and playing with the kids and providing a strong role model for them. Contributing to their community, helping people, working hard in the garden and teaching them life skills and resilience.

She tells herself…

a loving mother who is crying while chopping veges for dinner is better than no mother at all.

a loving mother who does not have the self-confidence to volunteer at the school canteen is still better than no mother at all.

a loving mother with grey hair and sad eyes is still better than no mother at all.

an imperfect mother is better than no mother at all.

So, from one generation to the next, and like her father before her, she will try every day to be the best person she can be and hope to leave a legacy to her children of resilience, integrity and compassion.

Anonymous

Written in 2010

The King

A Mother’s Pride by Ivy McManus.

NOT when just metres from the finishing line of the 800m run, he stopped to help a mate who had fallen over (his ‘mate’ got up and finished 3rd, my son came sixth).

NOT when he sang on stage to an audience of hundreds.

No, my proudest moment came when he was in 1st Grade.  Every week his teacher would feature a different kind of music to play in the classroom during the day.

On this particular Friday, the teacher asked the class if anyone knew the name of the singer they had been listening to all week.

My son looked around at the other students, waiting for one of them to answer but no-one did.  The teacher asked again and my son, my glorious boy, rolled his eyes and raised his hand.

‘Elvis’, was all he said.

My heart near burst, ‘That’s my boy!’  I stood before the 1st Grade teacher with tears in my eyes, and in that moment I knew, for all the angst of being a first-time Mum, I must be doing something right.

ElvisPresleyAlohafromHawaiiLong live the King!

 

Songbird

I felt completely alone.

An agonising silence where the baby’s heartbeat should have been.

I had heard the heartbeat just days before.  ‘How could this have happened?’  I asked the nurses who busied themselves around me.

It was nobody’s fault…
These things happen all the time…
You can always try again…

My 13 week pregnancy was over.  My baby had died.

They told me the best thing was to have the procedure immediately, an overnight stay then home the next day.

I lay on the hospital bed in shock.  Just yesterday everything had been fine.  Life was good.  I could see the future and it looked beautiful.  In that terrible silence of the ultrasound, everything I thought I knew had fallen away and I was consumed by a kind of horror.

They wheeled me into the surgery waiting room.  I was the only patient there.  One nurse sat at a corner desk.  She didn’t look up or talk to me and moments later she left the room altogether.  Alone.  Just me and my beloved baby.

Then I heard the nurse’s radio playing on her desk, it was tuned to a local station which played mostly heavy rock music.  It was all I could do to breath calmly and not start bawling my eyes out and I just knew if ACDC, or something similar, came on after the news break I would lose it completely.

The news ended and a song began.  It was ‘Songbird’ by Fleetwood Mac.  So quiet and gentle, I was suddenly so grateful to be on my own.  I closed my eyes and said goodbye to my baby.

Just before the song ended, two lovely nurses came for me.  I was crying, but calm.

Eight years later, I still think of this baby every day.  And when I hear that song, I am so grateful for the comfort it brought me at such a heartbreaking moment of my life.

Songbird
by Christine McVie

For you, there’ll be no more crying,
For you, the sun will be shining,
And I feel that when I’m with you,
It’s alright, I know it’s right
To you, I’ll give the world
to you, I’ll never be cold
‘Cause I feel that when I’m with you,
It’s alright, I know it’s right.
And the songbirds are singing,
Like they know the score,
And I love you, I love you, I love you,
Like never before.
And I wish you all the love in the world,
But most of all, I wish it from myself.
And the songbirds keep singing,
Like they know the score,
And I love you, I love you, I love you,
Like never before, like never before.

Anonymous

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