Last year (2011) ABC Open invited me to write a guest blog for Mother’s Day about my particular journey to Motherhood. Finding myself expecting baby #2, I’ve been reflecting on that particular post quite a lot.
“He saved me, that tiny squashed pink and white bundle of skin and bone and sinew and breathing, sighing, screaming life. He saved me because I loved him enough to demand a better life. To stretch into my life with a greater courage than I thought I had because I had a promise to keep.”
This time around, with little Peaches (as bub #2 has been affectionately dubbed for the time being) everything is different. EVERYTHING.
I’m different. My life is different. Even the world is a little bit different.
There was no facebook when my son was born (in 2002). The original iPod was only released the year before (with the first iPhone coming out in 2007).
Since 2002, I’ve watched on screens as news of events like the Virginia Tech Massacre (since followed by many other similar shootings), Hurricane Katrina, London Transit Bombings, the Indonesian Tsunami, the Chechnya school siege (killing 340 people – mostly children), the Writers Guild Strike (which you can blame for all the terrible films in 2007-2009), the Sichuan Province Earthquake (which killed 90,000 people), first African American President of the US, Michael Jackson died, Oprah Winfrey finished up her show after 25 years, the Fukishima Nuclear disaster, the 2009 Victorian Bushfires and the ongoing conflicts across the globe (not to mention Australian politics and it’s increasingly nasty undertone).
There were a whole bunch of firsts for women too, including – Speaker of the House (US), IndyCar winner, Australian Prime Minister, Academy Award Win for Best Director, female director in Saudi Arabia, Nobel Prize in Economics, female Bishop in Australia.
So the world is a little bit different. Maybe even a lot different. But this post isn’t actually about that. This post is a little bit about how different I am, but mostly it’s about how grateful I am and how driven that makes me.
When my son was born in 2002, I was 17 and living with an abusive partner. In utero and in the early months of his life, my son was exposed to a lot of stress and varying degrees of conflict.
I’ve spent a lot of time reading about the impacts of domestic violence and stress on babies in utero and in the first 12 months of life since 2002 (in both popular media and medical journals) and now growing Peaches, I’m reflecting very deeply on a lot of that literature and the stark contrast between Mr Z’s start to life in 2002 and the start Peaches is getting now. Because I’m lazy and don’t keep references for my personal (ie. non uni) reading and because this is a personal reflection not an academic essay I’m not providing you with links to the research (but go hunting and you’ll find a wealth of related reading), but some of the reading I’ve engaged with shows evidence that children exposed to domestic violence in utero and during the first 12 months (and then removed) actually have greater/more long term effects (including issues with concentration, regulating emotions, trusting adults, self esteem) than children aged 4 or above when first exposed (who are then removed). The length of exposure isn’t the issue – but the age of the child and their brain development when exposure occurs. We’ve all heard the stories about how crucial a child’s early years are, so this of course makes perfect sense. Being exposed to extreme stress (in the form of domestic violence) while the brain is making many of its first early connections is likely to have a negative impact on how some of those connections develop.
I think about Z.
And his entry into the world.
Our struggles together to chase a better life (including leaving his Dad), and I’m both proud of that and grateful for the spaces we found to make that a reality in equal measure.
I understand deeply and intrinsically that damage has been done to my first baby and that life will continue to damage us both.
And I think about this new person growing inside of me. This new me. In this new time. In this new world.
All the feelings and thoughts collide in me. Fracture on the insides of my ribs, catch in the texture of my skin.
Guilt. Gratitude. Joy. Confusion. Sorrow. Forgiveness. Anger. Love. Hope. Disappointment. Guilt. Wonder.
Peaches will have such a different beginning. Surrounded by love. By hope. By possibility. By art.
Sometimes the guilt most of all consumes me, but mostly, mostly I just feel grateful, joyous and full of hope. For both my children.
Oh yeah – this happened on Friday too:
Am I bragging?
Because I’m learning.
I’m learning to lay claim to my success and to my power
– not just to my failures and mistakes.
And because I’m grateful. So grateful. To be here, in this moment, with this life.