Poem: The Year 2020

It was the year of solid promises that crumbled away like dust,
Of rising temperatures and gremlins sitting on our chests.
Nothing to listen to but the echoing of our own self-doubt,
Watching careful plans fade away like ink on yellowed paper.
It was a year of suspicion, devoid of hugs or handshakes
When the mechanical birds of flight stayed snug in their hangars
The skies devoid of the faint white handwriting
Diaries of excited travellers in flight.

A year our children were subjected to education
By underqualified, panicky idiots who swore that they weren’t born for this.
The glare from the screens washed their immature brains
With worlds of fantasy – none as scary as this one.
No more was a cough or a fever a mere infection
No more could those we loved most be trusted.
We eyed each other with suspicion. Are they from the same household?
Who are these heathens spreading this new alien disease?
to hide the fear, we joined the zoom calls and the google meets,
Recreated the pubs from our sitting rooms,
Lying to ourselves, telling ourselves we’ll be together at Christmas,
One day, some day, this will all be over

Those voices haunt me at night, like a pile of unfolded laundry-
Will my daughter grow up without my nagging?
How long will my fragile china mind hold itself together?
What will be written on my tombstone?
Assuming of course I won’t be turfed into the fire-
Who knows how many skeletons will lie disappearing into the soil
Their faces covered to hide their pain?

It was a year we’d all sooner forget
Except we must always remember
How we were reminded of how insignificant we were
And how little we really are. How humbling!
A weight off our overburdened shoulders.
Why take ourselves so seriously?
It’s been proven that nothing is permanent
Not even pain.
We will smile again when we and the world heals
Together, as one.

2 1 2021

Forgiveness, Please!

So, where have I been in the monotony of lockdown, I hear many of you ask. Well, like many of you, I have been homeschooling and sorting out my house. Actually, that last part is a lie. I’ve been sorting out my head – after years of using this blog as some sort of replacement therapist, I started talking to a real one, a qualified one instead. If you have the money, I strongly recommend it. Even though I’ve written about my mother dying and the trauma surrounding Alison’s birth/first homecoming, I’ve never relayed any of the feelings behind these things to a professional, and now, at a time when I have far too much time to think, I decided that it was the right time to tackle my demons and get my real life back. And I have to say, it’s going far better than expected. I feel so different, and more like myself. Look, I’m even writing a blog – it’s a miracle!

We started talking about Alison’s birth and the emotional rollercoaster that came with that, the unfairness of the scrutiny we were under and how it affected my mental health to the point where I stupidly fought Postnatal Depression on my own. She responded with things like “that was hard” and “that was so unfair and clearly damaging”, which made me feel validated in what I felt. Then, at the end of the session, she sent me a worksheet – on forgiveness.

My first reaction was, “Well, clearly she wasn’t listening as well as I thought if she thinks for a second that I can forgive the feeling of being scrutinised, not to mention the subsequent three years (and probably longer, if we’re being honest) of depression.” I shut down my laptop, walked away in anger. I’m not ready to forgive, I thought. That time after Alison was born damaged my confidence, and my relationship with my husband and my child. I felt deprived of the freedom to make mistakes like other mothers. I had been subjected to excessive scrutiny, making an already stressful time, even more so.

But a couple of days before my next counselling appointment, I opened up the file again and read it. Forgiveness is not about forgetting how you were wronged, it is about letting go of anger. I realised that I had been carrying anger around for a long time, and that it was now exhausting me. I realised how, sadly, that anger led me to decide that I couldn’t face having any more children in case the same thing happened again. That anger and fear stopped me from seeking help at a time when I needed it most. Every year, I find Alison’s birthday overwhelmingly emotional because those memories and feelings come flooding back.

And I started to think more closely about the anger that I was feeling. I cannot deny that some good things have come from that anger. I started writing about my experiences as a disabled parent because of it. Many of my peers came to me for advice on starting a family and accessing services on the back of those angry words. I became involved in the (Re)al Productive Justice Project, where I spoke about my experiences with the Health services, both positive and negative, and in doing so, highlighting the physical and attitudinal barriers to parenthood for disabled people. I’ve spoken at the International Disability Summer School about the shortcomings of the maternity services for disabled parents. I’ve written blogs and magazine articles. My blog was quoted in an academic study of disabled writers by Elizabeth Grubgeld, Disability and Life Writing in post-independent Ireland. Most recently, my blog was included in a radio segment called “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which documented a range of women’s stories, some of whom had given birth in mother and baby homes. It was the first time that I considered my story to be part of a wider picture, the ongoing injustices against mothers and their children in Ireland. So I am proud of the part my story has played in this wider narrative.

However, if this stupid pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that life is delicate. It’s short. It’s so precious. And now that I am really ready to heal properly, I don’t want to waste any more time seething in resentment and pain. I want to enjoy my life. So here goes…

To the medical professionals who doubted me, and in turn made me doubt myself – I forgive you.

To the Public Health Nurse, for your scrutiny – I forgive you.

To anyone who expressed doubt when I needed your support – I forgive you.

To those who judged me – I forgive you.

And finally – to that face that looks back at me in the mirror every day, who gave your baby the jar food instead of cooking fresh, who gave (and still gives!) their kid way too much iPad time when times got tough. Who saw seeking help as a sign of weakness, who made some crappy parenting decisions (but a lot of decent ones too) – I forgive you too.

And that forgiveness feels so good.