End of a Chapter

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Open Book Gateway, Photograph by Jacky Oh Yeah
The long awaited update post. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in December - another easy homebirth, but another silent reflux baby. She hasn't yet fully outgrown the reflux, but she started crawling at six months and is now pulling herself up to stand at eight months. Her brother hasn't coped very well with the addition of a constantly crying baby to his life, and turning three didn't help, either. We have had to take several steps back and re-group often. But now that the doldrums of winter are finally beginning to shift into spring, we are all feeling a little bit lighter-hearted.

A month after my baby was born, my mother died. It wasn't unexpected; she had been seriously ill and partially disabled since 2007. But when someone is given a prognosis of 18 months or so remaining of their life, but fights for another four years, it comes as a bit of a shock when they succumb after all those extra years. One becomes used to the seeming invincibility of that person, however frail they may be. I had a very troubled relationship with my mother, and last year she was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, which answered a lot of questions, and which was a huge relief to her because she said she felt she was finally understood. I will cover more detail in other posts, but I stood up to her last year and provoked a change in our relationship, received an apology from her for her abusive behaviour throughout my childhood, and we reconciled in the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I was (we were) lucky to end that chapter with no regrets. I'm just a little sad that I didn't get to test that new relationship, to have conversations with her that I never would have dared have before. And I feel sad that circumstances meant she never got to meet her grandchildren in person.

I did successfully complete the first draft of my novel before my daughter was born. 156 days in a row of writing every single day. That's five months. 111 days in a row of hitting a target greater than 270 words. My daily average across the six months was 317 words per day (so I tripled my starting goal). I feel very happy with what I achieved, and especially with the knowledge that I can repeat that process and succeed again any time I choose.

You would think, therefore, that I would be in the process of editing that novel, but, true to form, I've taken on something else. I'm in the middle of a major editing job on another author's novel. I'm thoroughly enjoying it, though, and my client is a pleasure to work with.

So. Come up for air. Breathe. Dive.


Rights and Conspiracies

In post-birth bliss my plans were simple: spend as much time as I can handle at my baby's eye level trying to see the world from his perspective; take it easy, live simply, let the housework go for a while; and gradually, as the mood takes me, get back into the writing I really love - my many novels planned out and half-begun.

I never would've imagined that I would be dragging my baby off to a protest rally to fight for my right to have a natural birth again. Nor would I have believed that almost the only writing I would manage would be letters and Senate Inquiry submissions arguing against the proposed Bill that aims to deprive me of a midwife at my next birth.

I can't help but wonder at the reality of this situation. It seems to be something out of a work of fiction; across two pieces of legislation lies a technicality that strips women of a basic right that most wouldn't exercise anyway... until...  [cue sinister music]. Even in our very real protest against this oversight we enter into the realm of Speculative Fiction. What if?

So let's speculate. Let's take this into the realm of fiction* and have a close, but safe, look at what may be:

-- What if there really was a higher level conspiracy against women? What if iatrogenic depression and trauma has been a convenient way of suppressing women for years, but the alarming trend towards homebirthing has been empowering women instead?

-- What if there were an obstetric monopoly? Or, conversely, what if there were a midwifery monopoly? What if only a tiny percentage of a country's obstetricians were actually retained for emergency situations? How hard would a character fight to hold onto a profession for which they have trained for many years? What tactics could a large body use to ensure a lucrative and easy profession, sought after but exclusive, continued to be protected at government level.

-- What if it were an extreme natural birthing model being enforced by law and no woman would be allowed pain relief or caesarean surgery? What would happen in a true emergency?

-- Isaac Asimov's The Naked Sun explores in part a world where contact between people is abhorrent and children are simply products delivered as efficiently as possible and then raised in a communal nursery until they each, too, can be isolated. Research has since gone further to suggest that removing a baby from human contact following birth increases the possibility that it will attach to material objects. So who could stand to benefit from a civilisation trained to attach to possessions and not people?

-- The movies Code 46 and Gattaca involve authoritarian interference in conception and birth in an attempt to avoid certain defects or to engineer the type of person who is preferable to the particular society. How easy a road is this for a society to go down starting with just tiny modifications that gradually increase? What if a world's authorities have the legal right to order the termination of a pregnancy? Conversely, what type of vast improvements in human biology might be achieved by truly and accurately understanding the genome and being able to pinpoint exact genes for change?

--A study is being done in Sweden into whether caesarean section delivery of a baby causes epigenetic changes to the baby's genome. What group might benefit from being able to deliberately alter the genes of such babies while making it seem accidental? How might such a group ensure that enough babies are available for their requirements?

So, you've received some insight into how one newsworthy item can spark a whole list of story ideas. Why don't you try it? Take a news report that interests you and let your imagine go for a ride on the What If? train.

*Remember this is intended to be fiction. This speculation does not necessarily reflect my personal beliefs or theories and is intended to encourage further thought and debate in the realm of fiction.


Reality Nibbles

It’s amazing how a little dose of reality can put a fictional life on hold. At the start of the year we had the pleasure of house guests (my in-laws, with whom I get on very well) staying with us for two months.

In February we haunted the various rooms of our house trying to stay calm while we made the aching decisions of which of our items were important enough to shove in a suitcase in case we had to make a run for it; bush fire threatened just a few kilometres away. I was 36 weeks pregnant at the time – another consideration for giving myself enough time to get out early. Our family left with more insight into what we deal with most summers than I think they wanted to have. But luckily our area was never under real threat and we were left very grateful after seeing the devastation that hit some other really stunning parts of our state.

And then a week later our beautiful son decided it was time to find out what all the excitement was about. He was 3 weeks earlier than anticipated, but, in hindsight, he and I were perfectly ready for his birth. Just as I’d planned, I gave birth to him in the comfort and serenity of our lovely home, with no drugs or interventions. It was such a perfect experience that I have spent many hours since day-dreaming the labour and birth over again so that I can keep it as fresh in my memory as possible.

But then came colic. And silent reflux. And intestinal wind pain. And hours and hours of soothing a crying baby. It’s been a tough few months. Fiction will resume it’s place soon, I’m sure, but in the meantime it’s too subtle to push aside the impact of reality.

Comments (2)

Selma -
Enjoy your beautiful boy. You will be surprised how as the years go by, you get your time back. I remember those days of colic. Boy, were they tough. I bet you are a great Mum!

Posted 11 June 2009