Home' LOTL : September 2004 Contents PARENTING10
BRIDGET HAIRE LOOKS AT AN UNSPOKEN
ASPECT OF MOTHERHOOD.
THE DARK SIDE
This morning I received a phone call about a friend's new
baby. There was no joy in this call: the little boy may not
live and if he does, he is likely to be severely brain damaged.
What a jolt. How do you respond? Baby books are so
determinedly upbeat about the delivery of healthy, 'normal'
babies. We may be encouraged to screen for abnormalities, but
even so there is much reassurance about their comparative rarity.
So much effort goes into reassuring the pregnant woman
that everything will be okay -- or if not, that it can be swiftly
'managed', that dealing with anything other than a healthy
baby is just a footnote.
My friend's experience reminded me of the time last summer
I bounded up to a familiar face from Playgroup at the swimming
pool and congratulated her on her evident swelling fecundity.
But she had just lost the baby -- had to actually give birth to him
at more than twenty weeks -- and her belly had yet to subside.
Her grief, and her bravery in the face of it, standing there in her
bikini with tears coursing down her face, tore at my heart.
A common piece of advice in early pregnancy is to keep
'mum' about it until you are past the danger zone of twelve
weeks, before which miscarriage is reasonably common. It is
advice that I rail against. Are the hope and fears of the expectant
mother too much for the polite world? Is it better to return to
your desk after a discrete absence and a fictitious dose of 'flu
than to tell people honestly that something heartbreaking has
occurred, and that while you have sur vived it will remain with
Before having a child, I could never have understood how
the loss of a pregnancy or death of a baby could be so terrible.
Women are schooled to suffer these losses silently. If losing a
baby, or living with one that is not going to meet its
developmental milestones in text-book fashion, is 'unspeakable'
then new mothers who have perfect live children have nothing
to be depressed about, do we?
Of course the converse is true, and I suspect that we lesbian
mothers may be particularly prone to post-natal depression.
Not because we don't value our children, whom we have often
had against all odds, but because we love them so much. The
searing intensity of that love, the fragility and the beauty of a
newborn baby, and the extraordinary responsibility that comes
with it can be paralysing.
It was for me. I wanted to transform myself for my
daughter, turn myself inside out to be the model of patient,
selfless, indefatigable motherhood that she deser ved. I became
so tired that I couldn't tell if I was speaking or just thinking,
and so anxious that I vomited each morning in a parody of
I got over it, but that's a lot easier to type than it was to
do. Even facing the problem was hard -- here I was with the
daughter I always wanted, and she more beautiful than could
be imagined. Getting help was made easier by a charming,
funny and very depressed lesbian mother in my support group.
(Yep, you can be all those things at once.)
Our relationships are not recognised. That impacts when
you are creating a family. Our partners cannot be legitimate --
legal -- coparents. We have to make hard decisions about how
we negotiate biological fathers. We then have to 'sell' our own
particular family package to our own families of origin, or opt
out of them. All this is hard, and while worth it, takes its toll.
Combine it with the difficult experiences that many have
growing up and coming out as lesbians, it's a lot of baggage.
As a parent, the experience of being parented floods back
in technicolour with surround sound. It's not all raindrops
The love I have for my daughter has transformed my life,
and I know how lucky I am. But extreme emotions have an
affinity, and in my experience love sleeps cosily with fear -- fear
of something happening to the beloved.
Life giving and loss are inextricably mixed. It's a
There is a support group for lesbians who have experienced the
death of a baby or miscarriage. Contact Ros Richardson
(02) 9818 8400 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lesbian and Gay DVDs online
Shop at www.outvideo.com.au
Phone orders available too.
Call 03 9525 3669
Midday to 10pm, 7 days.
When in Melbourne visit our store 13 Brighton Rd, St Kilda 3182 email email@example.com
Indian Restaurant, Valley's Authentic Indian Cuisine. Dinner Nightly
5:30pm--10:30pm, 178 Wickham St, Fortitude Valley. Phone (07) 3216 0605
Links Archive October 2004 August 2004 Navigation Previous Page Next Page