Catching some breaks

Today has been rather wonderful, and I’ve soaked up every minute of it. I’ve visited or been visited by various lovely people collecting artworks from my exhibition, which made me feel a little like santa and means I’ve had lots of great conversations. We also had lovely friends around for dinner and board games, and I’ve done three loads of washing for my sister and partner, with lots of eucalyptus oil to help get out the burnt smell from the fire. It’s all hanging up waiting to be rained on tomorrow because that’s the most effective smoke remover I’ve come across.

The kitchen is clean, I feel useful, I’m looking forward to a really interesting birth class with our lovely doula tomorrow, and right now I’m happily snugged up in bed with a notepad and pens for sketching.

Third trimester pregnancy is much better than the first two for me! I have a lot more energy (comparatively speaking), I can eat more foods – I’ve finally put on some weight!, and I actually have days when I’m enjoying being pregnant rather than just enduring it. Excited about this little one and the big changes ahead of us. Bubs kicks like a horse at the moment and I’m starting to get a little whirlpool of stretch marks around my belly button. I’m pretty big now, and when little frog gets moving people across the room can see my belly jump.

It’s been a really good day. I’m happy. Baby is kicking. Rose has nearly finished her cert 3. Star is going brilliantly at school. And I’ve been invited to submit a resume to a local community arts organisation. Eee! Welfare have finally come through for Star so Rose did a big shop today and stocked up on food and cleaning supplies and pet food and everything else we’ve been running low on for months. Our pantry is stocked and our fridge is full. Things are looking up. 🙂

IDAHOT Picnic & 28 weeks pregnant

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I volunteered to cut the rainbow cake. I usually do this at family events – I took over from my grandpa when I was a young teen, because he used to do that cut a random size slice and then another random size slice thing, and we’d all pass the slices around the table as he went… thin slices got passed on quickly, thick slices were lingered over like a game of musical chairs but with cake. Inevitably some were deeply disappointed with the slice that settled on them. A quick head count and a little math solves that issue!

IDAHOT is the international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. I waddled up following a morning at the printer and framer putting in the final orders for my exhibition, which comes down this Friday! It was a good, fun event and nice to see friends there I haven’t caught up with for awhile. Rose stayed home and used the time to get lots of homework done on my computer. I stayed out and pretended I’m not possessive and territorial about my computer. I’ve coped pretty well with sharing the rest of my home with everyone else, but my computer and studio (ie table) do bring a slightly crazed one-eyed barky critter out in me.

There was a cool badge maker there so I made this for Rose:
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Pain levels are still very high, I’ve been re-reading Explaining Pain which was a good refresher, but woke at 3am to cry about how hard this is, and sad, and all the wasted years being sick and swamped by pain. Sometimes even the encouraging and helpful triggers such grief and regret. Bubs is head down most of the time, which is causing bad sciatica, hip pain is bad, and heartburn is bad. I have finally put a bit of weight on this pregnancy though, which is great news. Fibro is a bitch, I’m getting bad facial pain, a twitchy bladder (not the same as pregnancy needing to pee every few minutes), muscle cramps in my calves, chronically irritated skin, and fun new sensitivities. I’ve asked for a referral to the psych team at the hospital as I’m getting nervous about how well I’ll recover from birth and worried about being stuck in hospital needing support. The psych team are the only ones who can override the usual rules about partners being kicked out overnight. The prospect of being forced to be left alone overnight in severe pain with our little baby to care for as well as me is a bit harrowing. If anything has gone wrong and I’m feeling emotionally fragile too, hospital is a horrible environment for me. I recall once waking to find night nurse trying to do obs in the small hours of the morning following my appendix being removed. She touched me while I was sleeping and I woke the whole ward with a blood curdling scream and had clawed my way to the far side of the bed before I’d even opened my eyes. When I did I found I was perched on the edge of the bed about to fall/leap out, and the poor nurse was flattened against the far wall. Following that was the slow wail of all the infants in the ward protesting. I don’t know what adding a small baby I feel intensely protective about might do to that reaction but I suspect ‘downgrade it’ isn’t the usual answer.

Baby is growing well, I’ve been doing finger-prick tests and my results are all great re gestational diabetes, and there’s loads of movement and kicks. We’re into the countdown now and I’m looking forward to having more of the house and sheds sorted ready for arrival. In other news, having made us wait an extra 6 or so weeks for our assigned midwife to come back to work, it turns out she’ll be on maternity leave when our baby is due, so we’re being reassigned anyway. There’s a strange sense of hype and disappointment about the whole process with our hospital. We’ve only had two appointments with our midwife so far, the first we spent talking about delivery options and preferences and worries, the second we discovered she’s not going to be here anyway. It’s odd, because I know that we’re very, very lucky to have access to the healthcare we do here in Australia, but there’s this sense of indifference that’s unpleasant, being very small parts of a much larger machine and having very few choices and little power to influence anything. It makes me want to run away and give birth in the bush.

On the plus side though, my appt with the hospital anaesthologist was surprisingly excellent. I’ve never had a good appt with an anaesthetic doctor before, usually they don’t beleive me about my allergies, or they freak out and make me undergo procedures like endoscopies without any. This guy was excellent, he listened, asked intelligent questions, gave me good information about options and how to get the most out of them (did you know gas and air works best if you start it at the beginning of a contraction, count through them, and stop it about 2 breaths before the peak? This allows it time to be effective but lets you ride the last of it without having much in your system for the rest periods, which reduces the chance of side effects). We wound up talking about self hypnosis and he walked me through a short technique for self hypnosis which I took to. It was a good appointment to follow the others with, I felt like there was actually a point to turning up and that in among the grinding machinery of a big public hospital, the endless waiting and being shunted from service to service, there were little treasures of useful information and ideas. Hooray for those.

Following up Waiting for You

I’ve been working on filling the art orders from the opening night of my exhibition Waiting for You. The exhibition is only open for another 7 viewing days (Mon – Fri 4-6pm), so if you haven’t made it in yet you’d best get your skates on!

I delivered this beautiful notebook today to a lovely person who was at the opening and particularly fell in love with this artwork. I ordered it in especially and was really happy with how it turned out on this blank notebook, just beautiful. 🙂

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Of the prints I’ve had ordered for embellishment – in this case the customer asked for a print to be made much larger than the original so they could see the tiny details better. This is about 1 and a half times larger and it’s stunning. If I’m able to hold this exhibition again I think I will display this artwork at this size instead. I’m planning to do all my embellishing of prints tomorrow so that I can send the prints that need it in for framing next. Everything is on track to be ready by the close of the exhibition on May 20th.

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I’ve also created a keepsake for the exhibition, this little booklet. It’s free, on display at the exhibition (or I can send you one). It contains a short biography, description of the origin of the exhibition, price lists of the art, information about the artbook Mourning the Unborn, and links to Sands and other online resources.

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I’ve also placed free brochures for Sands on display by the exhibition for guests. There’s also a little visitors book for people to leave thoughts and messages.

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Guest Post for Sands on Mother’s Day

This year I was invited to write a guest post for Sands Australia for Mothers Day, which I was delighted to do. I decided to share some experiences and photos that I haven’t put on this blog before. It’s been a day that Rose and I have struggled to navigate for many years, so I wanted to talk a little about that journey and how we’ve changed our approach over time. You can find it here; Untold stories of Mother’s Day.

This year, Rose, Star, myself and other friends are away camping for the Medieval Fair, which is very tiring but very lovely.

For all those of us for whom this day hurts or brings up complex memories or feelings, I wish you kindness and gentleness. I hope you find places where it is okay to hurt, people who treat you with understanding, and some compassion towards yourself. It’s okay to grieve, okay to be angry, okay to be confused, okay to ignore it completely. Do what you need to do to find some kind of grace, or peace, or way through. With much love xx

Peace

Everything is quiet. The house has been put to bed, the dog put to bed, the lights turned off, the trash taken out, dinner put in the fridge. My people are quiet now, sleeping or close to sleep. Tears dried, cats curled at the foot of beds, appliances turned off. The dishcloth hangs wet over the sink. The moon sets slowly in the kitchen window.

I lie in bed, baby kicking. My lover’s hand rests upon my back. My mind is roiling with the plans of the week. I talk to it soothingly, like a puppy that needs to settle. Time for sleep now, come home. Come back from the world of ideas and into this body. Feel how sleepy it is, how heavy with fatigue. How much it wants to let go and rest, let the night dim the fire in our joints a little. Feel the baby moving, dancing in their world under my skin. They’ll be here soon, so rest. Breathe the night air, deeply, taste the shadows and the dust. Sleep now, be at rest, be at peace.

27 weeks pregnant and rearranging the house

Today has been brilliant. Rose, Star, and I all slept in then spent the day working on the house. We have rearranged sheds, sorted boxes, and changed around furniture to make room for the baby. I’m now in my third trimester! I’m very excited, a bit anxious, very large and awkward, and baby is kicking like a horse. This is what we did today:

Added extra chests of drawers to my study area. Hurrah!
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Took all the dead flowers out of my birthday bouquet.
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Replaced the chest of drawers in the hallway with a much better, prettier one we found on the side of the road awhile back.
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Admired the dryer I was given for my birthday eeeee!
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Installed a new tallboy in our bedroom. Rose picked it up for free and we turned the broken drawer area into a shelf. It is packed full of baby clothes, which is what happens when you have 7 older siblings I guess.
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Moved the bookshelf out of the bedroom and into the dining room and put all my art on it safely away from the dog. Moved the old one cabinet onto the front porch and put all our gardening supplies into it. Sorted the massive collection of gear on the floor in the dining room into the sheds.
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Rewrote the home page on this blog and my Face painting website, edited my Sarah page, changed my Projects page to a Community Networks page, and added an Exhibition page.

Redesigned my business cards, tshirt with logo on it, after-care cards for face painting, and various other marketing things.

Created a final design for a logo I’ve been working on and emailed it to the client.

Sent a blog post out for a guest post I’ve written.

Generally been brilliantly productive and inspired. I am blissfully happy tonight, thrilled to not be sick today and able to be part of the nesting. 🙂 ❤

Beautiful Review of Waiting for You Exhibition

The most lovely article about my exhibition has been written up by artist Julia Wakefield for the Weekend Notes. She attended the opening night and has snapped lovely photos of me and guests and the embellished prints. I look very pregnant and fairly exhausted but the art is glowing. 🙂 She describes it as “a courageous, beautiful exhibition about a taboo subject” and writes about the history of how it all came about as well as her impressions. It’s gorgeous to read and so good to see some photos of the night! I brought my good camera but left my SD card home, so I don’t have a lot of pictures to remember it by. I very much appreciate an article like this! ❤

www.weekendnotes.com/waiting-for-you-art-exhibition-about-pregnancy-loss-and-motherhood-at-the-box-factory/

Sarah K Reece, miscarriage, pregnancy, art, art exhibition, mental health, SANDS, loss, grief, mourning

More positive feedback is coming in from people who couldn’t make the opening night but have attended the exhibition, which is very heart warming. Some people from further away or interstate have expressed interest in an exhibition local to them, which I shall look into the logistics of. The embellished prints I currently have on display are continuing to sell too, which is very exciting! If you’re planning to attend do sing out, if I can I’m happy to meet you there. 🙂

Wonderful Arty Things

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My lovely exhibition Waiting for You is still on display at the Box Factory in Adelaide until May 19. (details here) As I can’t attend every day, I’ve been working on setting up materials that will be helpful to those who couldn’t attend the opening night. Today I finished the final draft of my brochure about the exhibition and had a collection printed, it contains information about me, how the exhibition came about, the artbook Mourning the Unborn, and prices. I bought these stands today, and they are now on display alongside brochures from Sands, all free for anyone. There’s also a display copy of the artbook for people to have a look at.

If you’d like a brochure yourself, Sands have theirs on their website, and I can pop one of mine in the post for you – those of you with orders will get one with your art as a keepsake. 🙂

I’ve also been to the printer this week and placed the opening night orders for art and frames, and the printer there loves my work and has offered to display some framed on his wall, for sale to his customers. How wonderful!

Tomorrow I will be working on a guest post for the Sands blog for Mother’s Day, which I’m very pleased to have been invited to write.

There’s also a review of the exhibition by artist and writer Julia Wakefield, which I feel very fortunate about and will share with you very soon. 🙂

It’s wonderful to see this exhibition/community event continue to grow in various ways beyond the opening night.

Tonight I attended the Healing Voices film and was once again struck by how tremendously important artists of all kinds can be in creating community and bringing issues to light. While many other people did the hard work of organising the screening, artsy people wrote and directed and edited and created the beautiful content that spoke to people. I still lament that there has been no real home for me in mental health locally, but I am feeling great hope and strength in standing on the platform of arts to be part of change in the world. A friend from down south was lamenting the difficult hours that Waiting for You is being exhibited currently, and asked me if I might be interested in finding a hanging space for it in her area sometime. I think that would be a fantastic idea and I am keen to explore other opportunities for the exhibition beyond May.

I’m also quietly giving some thought to World Hearing Voices day coming up later this year and what I might be able to do as an artist to raise awareness and be part of that. There’s a place for me somewhere.

25 weeks pregnant and a week of birthdays

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What a week. Rose and some friends organised a surprise birthday camp-fire night for me a couple of days after the exhibition opening. Once I got over feeling embarrassed and a little overwhelmed, it was the nicest evening. Everyone else did the cooking and organising and running around and I just lit a fire and sat next to it. It was so peaceful and relaxed. We ate baked potatoes and chocolate cake and sat around in the dark telling stories and jokes and listening to songs on the guitar.

I’ve been taking things very gently since the opening night, a fellow artist kindly warned me in advance to expect a crash so I blocked out a number of days to just rest. I thought I would be very emotionally down after the big high, which often happens for me with personal talks in mental health. This was a very personal talk, I read poems about mourning Tamlorn. I’ve never openly wept in front of a room before like that, nor made so many other people cry with my sharing. It was a very precious space.

But the surprise for me was that the crash has been physical with severe pain levels. I must have been more tuned out of my body and pushing it harder on the lead up than I’d realised, because the moment the last guest left the opening night, it hit me so hard I could barely walk. I’ve done not only all the art and framing and hanging work, but so much admin and organising. I cooked two huge pots of soup for the night so had big blisters on my hands from cutting loads of pumpkin and peeling a big bag of potatoes. I was very lucky to have so much help with the set up and pack up from kind friends.

I spent all next day in bed, getting up for short hobbles around the house every 45 minutes to stretch my joints. Since then I’ve spent until noon or later every morning in bed just managing the pain. I was talking to another pregnant woman today who is a few weeks further along than me, and she told me that yes, at 30 weeks she’s just reached that point where the pelvic pain is kicking in and getting a bit uncomfortable. I bit my lip.

So it’s been pretty wonderful to have the recovery time from the opening match up with people being extra lovely to me for my birthday. I’ve been very spoiled and nurtured which has been very appreciated. I’m calling this whole idea of an exhibition for my birthday a win. I’ve been far less stressed than usual about an upcoming birthday, I feel incredibly proud of myself for pulling off such an important event and bringing to life a dream I’ve had for many years, and the opening itself was a tremendous success. I shall definitely be doing it again.

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In the meantime I’m working on the admin and orders from the opening night and doing all the follow up and finish off work to tidy the loose ends. I’ve been debriefing and reflecting on what worked well and what I would do differently next time and capturing as much of that as possible so that it will be easier to do this again. I don’t know if this was a fluke or the start of something great in my life but I’m hoping to build on what worked. It’s the first break I’ve caught in a long while, the first work related endeavour that has turned out well in a long time! I’m celebrating that. And I figure that one of the indicators of a successful project is that in the aftermath of it, I’m actually excited about the next one. ❤

The Opening Night was incredible

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I’m home in bed, tucked up under an electric blanket to ease the very bad pain I’m in, reflecting on a whirlwind evening. It was an amazing success, whichever way you cut it. The most amazing group of people attended. I sold a lot of art. My talk and poetry were very well received. And the food – and cake especially – were incredible! (thankyou M!) Friends and family pulled together around me, efficiently sorting out the background work. I was stunned by how busy I was, I thought I’d have much more time to talk to everyone. My sales paperwork wasn’t as helpful as I’d hoped it would be, and I was the only one who could work the card reader for most of the night so I was doing a lot more admin and less connecting than I’d hoped… But a self hosted exhibition is a steep learning curve and I have learned so much for next time.

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To everyone who came – thankyou! Thankyou for being there, for crying with me, for buying art, for your gifts and hugs and stories and connection. You have moved me deeply. I sincerely hope that everyone who wept felt safe and accepted, that the pain we touched tonight was healing rather than traumatising. I think we did something special together. I know it was very hard for some of you, very risky, that it took courage and trust in me. I honor that. It was very hard for me too, but very beautiful, very precious. Thankyou for doing it with me.

I know a lot of people couldn’t make it – the exhibition itself is still on for another 4 weeks until May 19th. I’m also going to be getting the rest of the prints up in my online store over the next few days, my artbook is already available and I’m more than happy to sign a copy for you and pop it in the post.

With love xxx

Freedom & safety for a charged topic

My Waiting for You exhibition opening night is just around the corner and I want to speak briefly about creating safety when dealing with such a painful theme.

For many of us, this is a really charged topic. It’s painful, intense, deeply personal, and may not be something we’ve ever really had a chance to process – much less to engage in a public setting. Breaking taboos can be liberating but also triggering and incredibly distressing. I’m deeply aware of this, because Rose and I are in this place in a very real way, right now. I want to share publicly the same conversations I’m having with her, because I suspect she’s not the only one feeling conflicted. I want to speak into the heart of that conflict because it’s what hurts so badly and makes it so hard for us to talk about these things and know what we need. We often feel pulled in contradictory directions – needing to talk about it/see it in public/bring it to light, and also needing to hide away from it and deal with it in privacy. It can be really hard.

I have taken a number of steps to help the opening night to be a safer space. You can help me with this in how you treat the other guests and yourself. Here are some guidelines and values I’ve set for the evening:

Freedom

  • You are free not to come! I won’t be upset with you if I know you personally. You are not under pressure to attend to support me.
  • You are free to be ambivalent and unsure. It’s okay to decide at the last minute if it feels like a good idea to come. It’s okay to change your mind. Please don’t force yourself to do anything that doesn’t feel like it’s right for you.
  • Free to leave any time you need to. It won’t be ‘rude’ to step out or leave early. No judgement. You’re also welcome to step out for a bit then come back.
  • Free to decide you’d rather attend privately instead of for an open night with other people around.
  • Free to buy something that speaks to you to take home, and free to find the art confronting or disconnected from your experience, and support me in other ways if you want to.

Feelings are okay

  • It will be okay to feel things. It’s okay to cry, to be moved, to remember, to talk about things.
  • It will be okay to feel good, or sad, or mixed up, or lots of things at the same time.
  • It will be okay not to feel things, to be numb, or not in that space, or not public about it.

Resources on the Night

  • Sands Australia will have a representative at the evening who is more than happy to talk to anyone looking for information or support. Sands provides a helpline and other resources around miscarriage, stillbirth, and newborn death. She will also have brochures and information you can take home and look at later.
  • Tissues and friendly people around (my tribe is full of good people) who can give you space or a hug. Some of my friends are champion huggers, so just sing out if you need one.
  • A place to be involved. Rose and I have created a small installation We Love – providing a space for you to participate and recognise your own losses. You can write names or something meaningful to you on papers provided and have a time to reflect.

Art can be powerful. It can bring the private into a public space. It can help us to speak about things its difficult to find words for. It can help people not to forget that behind silence and cultural taboo are real people who need and deserve safety and connection. It can express and share our unbearable experiences in ways that help make them bearable to look at. This kind of art can be a speaking back to silence, a way of documenting things that were erased from our lives and never allowed into our histories and family stories. These things happened. We felt many things about them. They changed us. They are important. We deserve space to share our stories, mourn our losses, and rebuild our lives – without secrecy, without shame. In community; with connection, privacy, and love.

Waiting for You Exhibition is Open

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It’s up and beautiful and ready for viewing! The theme of pregnancy, loss, & motherhood is so special to me. The works are joyful, heartbreaking, raw, and tender. For those who missed my heartfelt radio interview about my experiences of miscarriage and this exhibition, it is now available as a podcast through Radio Adelaide here.

The Exhibition

Open between April 19th – May 19th, Monday to Fridays, 4-6pm.

It’s at the Box Factory, 56 Regent Street South, Adelaide. (map) This is a wheelchair accessible venue. All works are available for purchase.

If you are on Facebook the event details are here.

The Opening Night

Was a wonderful success. 🙂

There were prints and cake because this was my birthday celebration this year. I launched my beautiful artbook Mourning the Unborn. As I was dealing with a charged topic, I took care to create a safer space – read about the values and resources.

Last minute questions about food and kids etc.

My Online Store

Especially for those further afield, I have just opened my Etsy Art Store and begun stocking it with prints from this exhibition, and my artbook Mourning the Unborn. It won’t be quite as lovely as seeing these beautiful gold embellished prints framed and displayed, but you will still be able to see the artworks and buy a regular print yourself.

I’ve turned 33 this year, and I’m glad to use this moment to put my work out into the world, and honored to include everyone it speaks to in some way. ❤

Listen to me talk about miscarriage and art on Radio

I was interviewed recently about my experience of miscarriage, my upcoming exhibition Waiting for You, and the launch of my artbook Mourning the Unborn. It’s a very personal interview and lasts about half an hour, with the lovely Jennie hosting on Arts Breakfast. If you’re local you can tune into Radio Adelaide at 101.5 FM, Saturday the 16th April at 10am.

It’s now available as a podcast online here.

I gave the interview yesterday, which was an incredibly hard day for me. I had a fall the night before going out to a date night with lovely Rose. Walking in the dark I turned my ankle in a pot hole and went down a bit hard. Yesterday baby didn’t do the usual morning kicking, and by 3pm they still hadn’t woken up despite me walking, resting, drinking cold water, and eating something sweet. I got a bit worried.

So, following this interview Rose picked up Star and I and we spent a long evening in the hospital waiting to make sure everything was okay. We’ve just got the last test result back this evening, and everything is looking fine. But needless to say I was feeling a bit raw and don’t actually remember much of the interview itself.

I feel it was very good, true to my experiences and work. It’s also exposing and personal and I feel a bit daunted by being so public. I hope it’s valuable and I’m looking forward to meeting people on the opening night and getting some feedback about this whole idea in person.

Rainbows in the morning

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It’s beautiful here. I slept without meds and woke early after a sad dream. Last night I changed the bed to winter bedding, warm flannel sheets, my electric blanket, and Rose got the winter quilt with my favourite rainbow cover out of storage. It was a gift from her, I love it, so bright and warm. The morning sun streams in this window and I can hear cars and birds singing. My lovely girls are up and getting ready for their day, our baby is dancing inside me.

Rose and I have a wonderful date night planned as our teen – she’s chosen the nickname Star for this blog, will be away tonight and these days date nights are precious! I used to show my love for Rose by packing a picnic dinner and taking her to the beach to watch the moonrise… Now more often it’s by sorting the bills out and doing three loads of laundry. It’s not quite the same… I miss dining and dating my lovely lady. Cuddled up to her this morning while my tears dried, I felt my heart swell with love. We had a counselling session yesterday that went so well, I felt like a huge weight of black fear lifted off my heart and the light is shining through again. I adore my family, we are making something very special between us.

I’ve lost a couple of weeks of preparation time for my exhibition which is hard, but I’m finally starting to feel just better enough to be able to tackle some of the tasks again… Last night I framed all the gilded prints that are ready to go, and they look beautiful. Today I’ll be working on price lists and paperwork that needs to happen – no matter how beautiful and creative the project there is a lot of non creative background work that has to happen to make it all shine!

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Yesterday Rose and Star gave me this lovely little rainbow dragon to say thank you for the work I’ve been doing and admin I’ve taken on for our family. Aw man, there’s nothing quite as soothing to the soul as appreciation. 🙂 Life has been such hard work lately, but it is pretty amazing to see what we’re creating. The sheer misery of illness is starting to fall behind me, and while we’re waiting for things to break – for Rose to get work, or welfare to finally get sorted out, and so many other important things that are squeezing us all badly – there are still thankfully, days like this. Mornings with rainbows. ❤

23 weeks pregnant and sick as a dog

Rose is sick, I am sick, bubs is doing great. We’re both on antibiotics for bacterial infections (tonsillitis for her, sinusitis for me) and I have been so sick and sleep deprived this week I’m desperately looking forward to feeling better. With my drug allergies plus being pregnant there’s almost nothing I can take to help reduce the pain or get me to sleep and I’m now very worn out. Food aversions are even more severe than usual and I’m struggling to eat and keep down fluids, which is scary and stressful and makes me feel like I have an eating disorder and worry about developing gestational diabetes. Every time I read about the importance of a balanced, pregnancy safe diet and regular exercise I kind of want to scream because at the moment I can hardly walk 50 yards. The sheer misery of chronic pain is hard to overestimate, I cry a lot, I’m very irritable, and I feel completely exhausted. I’ve also stopped sleeping, which may be sickness or may be pregnancy insomnia…

Just when I think I’ve learned all the horrible things pregnancy can bring with it, I stumble across something else. Frankly right now I’m wildly over all of this and feel like I’ve been sold a load of rubbish about what pregnancy would be like. I kind of can’t beleive I actually wanted to experience this, was really excited about it and chose to do it. The lovely moments of joy at feeling baby move simply don’t stack up alongside months and months of being madly unwell. I’m perfectly capable of being really excited about feeling my baby move in Rose’s tummy, thankyou very much. I hate complaining because she’d love to carry, and because people sometimes think that means I don’t want to be having a baby or that I’m not grateful we are expecting. But hell this has not been fun!! Fibro and pregnancy and sinusitis especially are kicking my ass and it’s not fun or exciting or joyful or glowy, it’s just stressful and exhausting and bloody miserable and yes I chose this. Argh!

Fortunately froggie is pretty unaware, kicking away every day, especially in response to Rose singing to them. Thankfully! Our GP got out the doppler today and that wonderful heartbeat, so strong and rhythmic, it’s such a relief to hear. I finally have an appointment to meet my midwife for the first time next week, which is a big relief because the bloody hospital has been confusing us no end with all manner of contradictory information.

I am, as you can hear, pretty overwhelmed. Rose has been superb. Pain overwhelmed me last night and she rubbed my back and talked me through a visualisation where I hadn’t spent the day crying on the lounge, sleepless and exhausted, but instead we went out together on a picnic through the beautiful autumn trees. And the pain stayed there in my body and face but for a little while I went somewhere else, with Rose, somewhere peaceful and beautiful where everything was okay. And I saw the wall I have to jump over to reach that place – grief and hurt for every night I’ve ever spent alone with such pain. But last night she took my hand and I lept the wall and away we ran; into the red and golden leaves, into a place of quiet and promise. Into a world where my body is whole, and we sit beneath the trees by the water together, red velvet against grey stone. Her hand in mine, her beautiful hair snagged with a tiara of leaves. She is my home. She is my peace.

Poem – Terror

I am terrified.
I try very hard not to be.

Everything I build is a bright island
In a black sea
One day
There will be a storm
The water will rise
Or the land will sink
the sun will go out of my world again
not dead, or lost, or drowned
still shining somewhere else
but whatever blessing I was living on
will be withdrawn.

There will be no sense to it.
There will be nothing I did, or did not do.
It will follow no pattern.
All that is bright in the world
will be a memory
everyone I love will die
everything I care about will drown
beneath that black water
life will be unbearable pain.

Over and over again.

1 in 135 births is still born.

Even if the light shines on me
someone else goes home drowning
the simple arithmetic of loss
someone will get their heart broken.
I’m 23 weeks pregnant
and drowning in survivors guilt.
Terrified of the future
And I still can’t talk to the baby.
Oh Job, did it work for you?
Can you really give back children after taking them?
Or did you howl in the bitter hours of the better days too?
Like all of us who love from brokenness.

The sun is shining
and the sun is shining
and I’m not afraid
and there’s no darkness coming

The sun is shining
and it shines for me
because I’ve done the right things
and I’ve figured life out

Nothing bad is going to happen
Night will never fall again
Everything is under control now
Life gives us what we deserve.

How do we live without our lies and illusions?
How do we face the sun when we know it’s dying?
I crawl from my broken place, over to you love
touch your face, and it’s wet with tears too,
kiss your wet face with tears in my mouth
the sun on our faces shining
The sun shining on your glorious face
The glorious sun shining on your tears.

22 weeks pregnant

I’m on the upwards swing of my mood cycle, and enjoying it immensely. I have DONE things and FINISHED things and I am back for a little while in the place where hosting an art exhibition actually seems like a good idea. This is unlikely to last so I am getting as much mileage out of it as I can. 🙂

Last week I learned that Centrelink (Australian welfare) had given me until today to gather a very important assortment of supporting documents from individuals and organisations. Considering the Easter long weekend knocked 4 business days out of the already tight timeframe of one week, I have been a very busy person. It’s like war, really. Of paperwork. The most stubborn and well informed person wins, if you don’t starve to death or beat your own brains out against your desk in the process. At least, that’s my take on things. So today I uploaded a stash of documents and I am hoping that I’ve made some pencil-pusher somewhere very happy and they can photocopy them in triplicate and file them all to their heart’s content. I’m done!

Yesterday I picked up a second big collection of prints for my upcoming exhibition and spent the evening cataloguing them and filing the originals safely away. Very time consuming process, but also exciting and satisfying! They are sooooo lovely. I am very excited about showing them to people. And I’m hoping like crazy that my catalogue will make re-orders much easier for me, and adding new information a simple process… please?

I was recently introduced to trello.com and I’ve trialled it this week to help me keep track of my various to do lists… I am managing the household admin for my family, a lot of admin for our amazing teen, everything for my exhibition, and my own personal stuff that needs doing. I’m loving trello. Managing multiple projects is much easier when I can update and modify things online instead of endlessly rewriting my lists as they get harder to read over time. I am taking on admin better than I ever have this year, I’ve accepted that it’s just going to be one of my roles in my family and the faster I adapt to that and the more skills I develop the less stressful it will be. There’s still days I want to set my desk on fire, of course, but I am delegating more and accepting that my fledgling organisational skills are needed and necessary and help my family run more smoothly. I’m also finally counting the admin as ‘housework’ and not double loading myself trying to make sure I do lots of that too- I think growing up it wasn’t treated as a real thing that actually took time and effort and skill, like lots of the things women traditionally did for their families. Repositioning it as important (and something no one else wants to do) and acknowledging that it takes dedication on my part is helping. We keep tinkering with new structures for housework and bedtimes and homework and sharing the very small space we live in now there’s three of us here and bit by bit I feel like we’re muddling our way towards approaches and systems that work for us.

Pregnant still at 22 weeks now. Bubs kicks and does back flips and wriggles around every day, mostly just a nudge here and there, but sometimes a good hour of frenetic dancing I can’t sleep through. It’s pretty awesome to have that constant reminder they are alive. Both Rose and I are still struggling with pretty intense anxiety about them, personally I feel almost obsessed by my fears about having a stillbirth. I still haven’t heard from my midwife despite many phone calls and messages left for her. I have a letter from the hospital telling me she will be in touch sometime, and reminding me that until I have that all important first meeting I’m not officially in the program or allowed to ask for support from them. So irritatingly I’m trekking off to my GP for hand holding and advice about horrible itching (which can be a sign of important things going wrong, or can just be my usual unhappy skin being extra unhappy) and so on. I know having a midwife doesn’t magically make anything safer or better but as the weeks go by it’s getting harder not to resent not having her on board or take it all personally or feel a bit overwhelmed by the fears of something glitching with my health and being kicked out of the midwife program anyway. There’s a whole lot of things I can’t control and won’t be given a choice about, and having that restrict any further is a possibility that feels suffocating.

Health wise I have a lot more energy, thankfully, and the nausea is much rarer. Food aversions are in full force still and unpredictable. Cravings are starting up, so far I’m fascinated by coffee which is unusual for me. I’m restricting myself to 2 cups a week but those I am very much enjoying. Possibly linked to that is that the fibro pain levels are high, and my mornings and nights are nasty. I can barely walk most evenings due to severe back pain and uncooperative nerves that don’t want to bear weight on my legs. Mornings I wake up feeling like I’ve been kicked a few times by a horse. My life currently puts deadlines in front of me that require I drag myself into the world of the living and make things happen. Once the deadlines have passed I usually need some days of seriously not adulting very much at all to recover. Tomorrow will hopefully be one of those days.

Tonight, I’m loading up an online game to reward myself, and in the background I can hear Rose singing our stressed teen to sleep. I adore my peoples. ❤

20 weeks pregnant and date night

Half way there! Woooooo! Rose and I are out on our first date night in several months (I’m waiting for her to come back with food, and taking the opportunity to blog), our teen is hanging out with friends, and all is briefly right with our world.

There’s been so much going on this week and a lot of it hard or sad. Rose has had a death in her family which was quite sudden and very sad. Friends and family have supported us with some other tough situations and difficult admin, which has been so appreciated.

But for tonight we’re at a Bowie evening with ice cream and taking some time out to hold hands and not problem solve anything. ❤
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Our bub is growing well – we had our important morphology scan this week and everything was looking good. Rose was thrilled but I went into a weird headspace with the words from every stillbirth or late term loss I’ve read about ringing in my ears ‘everything was fine, we don’t know why they died’. Sometimes you just don’t react the way you think you’re going to, and it’s a jangly, confusing place to be in. But bubs is healthy and big and moving around every day. We have a ritual every morning and night where Rose feels the bub moving and talks or sings to them. Whatever else has happened, it’s a good way to bookend the nights and days.

Precious growing family. ❤

Anniversaries of loss

Today is the one year anniversary of our first scan with Tamlorn, the one where we found out they were not okay and we would most likely lose them, which we did. I wrote here on this blog on March 13th in 2015; Some days are just sad. This week, Rose and I celebrated 3 & 1/2 years together. Rose has had a couple of anniversaries of miscarriages recently. Later this week we will have our morphology scan to check the health of our little froggie. Today I learned that another of my lovely friends on the other side of the world has recently suffered a miscarriage too. So much. Everything overlaps like currents in a sea.

I am creating my first self hosted solo exhibition and some days the doubts overwhelm me. I’ve learned to stop working on any artwork for a day or two at the point where I’ve come to hate it. Putting together a whole exhibition on a theme is new territory – exciting but also new. Mortifyingly exposing and personal. An exhibition about grief and loss feels like the strangest birthday party I could possibly arrange. And yet… it also feels right.  There’s so much grief in the background of my life at the moment, under the surface, forming the soil from which my new family is growing. I’m working on new artworks to balance the exhibition and they are a fitting way to mark these painful anniversaries that come towards me like trains, and slip past me like leaves in a river. There’s not enough time in the world to weep all the tears, instead they flow quietly from my brush in a corner of my lounge room late at night.

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A sample of an ink painting I’m working on for the exhibition

And the strings of heartbreaking stories like strands of pearls that unfurl in the threads following declarations of loss call to me. Some days I struggle with feeling my exhibition is silly and pointless. Then I’m reminded so many people have suffered this way, without acknowledgement, without funerals, silent and nameless and secret and broken.

So, it’s a little thing I can do in a big world full of hurt. Make a place where we can remember, where the grief is shared and public and accepted. It’s not much in the big scheme of things, but it’s something I can do, and maybe those who need it will find it.

19 weeks pregnant

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Whoo hoo! Made it this far. I’m getting big and lugging around a tummy and breasts like squishy melons. The baby is moving and we can feel it now, morning and night in bed when I’m settled and they wake up. I can’t feel much in my tummy yet as my placenta is in front, but gently pressing with hands it’s easy to find them and feel kicks and wriggles. It’s the most wonderful thing in the world.
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I’m feeling a lot less nauseated lately, the fibro pain and fatigue are pretty bad but it’s really nice to be able to eat again most days. Home life remains very busy and and at times intense with emotions running high, but I’m finally making headway on the load of admin, and it feels like the crises are spacing out a little more as we find some good supports and resources. Although there’s been lots of stress, there’s also been some huge upsides for me. My household has gone from 2 to 3 – soon to be 4! – and it feels like everyone is adjusting to the change really well. I’m building a whole new relationship with our lovely teen where I’m needed and valued. I’m feeling a whole lot less scared now about being a parent or trying to be Mum and an artist. The pregnancy is far enough along that most days I feel that it will work out okay. I’m grounded in the present and have a useful role. My exhibition preparation drags my attention away from too much investment in everyone else’s needs and plans, and it’s coming along well. I have a sense of hope. My tribe is full of generous, caring people who are helping us carry the heavier loads. Life is good.

This week I did a print run of Welcome Packs from the DI, and folded and collated them all. It felt good. The online discussion group is still going and I’m starting to feel really proud of myself and especially the other admins who kept it alive through my severe exhaustion last year. I kept having to talk myself out of closing down the networks because I felt so burned out and discouraged. I’m glad I didn’t.

I feel like I’m coming out of the shadows and into the sun. My mind is waking up, I’m reading psychology books again, feeling good about my networks even as I’m sad and frustrated I can’t grow them at the moment, and starting to investigate options for paid work and study again down the track. Still hoping I’ll find the support I need somewhere in academia to help me open the doors to credentials and employment. Hope goes a long way.

Waiting for You Exhibition & Artbook Launch

Waiting for You-001

Everyone is invited to come and celebrate my birthday this year with an exhibition of my art and the launch of my little artbook Mourning the Unborn! The theme is pregnancy, loss & motherhood, so come and meet the artist and view beautiful, sad, and joyous artworks. I will share the unique experiences behind the creation of my artbook Mourning the Unborn.

Click here to listen to a beautiful interview on Radio Adelaide about my experiences and this exhibition.

There will be books and prints available to buy and cake to share.

The Opening Night (ie when cake is being served) is on
Friday the 22nd of April,
The Box Factory, 59 Regent St S, Adelaide – this is a wheelchair accessible venue
(map)
starting at 6pm

If you are on Facebook the event details are here. This is a public event, open to all.

The art exhibition is available to view between April 19th – May 19th on Mondays to Fridays between 4-6pm.

For those who cannot attend in person, I have prints and the booklet for sale in my Etsy Art Store.

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18 weeks pregnant

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Whoo hoo! I have quite the bump now, but have found that when I dress like this (the pants are about 3 sizes too big) it disguises it well and I look alternative/stroppy enough with my head sides shaved that random people don’t touch my tummy. This is making me very happy! I hadn’t realised how quickly the touching issue was stressing me, so I’m wearing bump revealing things at home or with friends where I can feel all rotund and earth motherly in peace, and clothes that hint I might tear off sometimes arms if they touch without permission in public, and I’m feeling so much more relaxed. 🙂

The Quickening is happening… This poetic term describes being able to feel the baby move – this occurs when they are big enough and there’s a reduced pond of amniotic fluid around them so they bounce off the walls so to speak. We are getting this! It’s very hard for me to feel in my tummy as my placenta is in front of the baby and blocking everything, but particularly at night when they are active, a hand pressed gently in the firmest area is usually rewarded with little flutters and taps.

There’s been a lot of stress around lately like rapids to navigate between calmer stretches, and one of the ways it’s been expressed is through nightmares. Rose in particular has been suffering from terrible dreams about death and loss, and by mid last week was getting swamped with fear about this baby. This time last year Tam stopped growing but we didn’t know that for several more weeks until our first scan. The fear that something is wrong and we just don’t know it yet can be paralysing, and a couple of tiny pops and bubbles and wing brushes from inside that might well be all in our minds is not yet reassuring. So kindly one of our best friends paid for an extra scan and we got to see the baby again, all alive and doing flips and waving at us. We were sitting in the waiting room beforehand, feeling that awful mix of very stupid but also half convinced that something was terribly wrong, telling the little one that later on the expectations will jump a bit, but right now all we want from them is a heartbeat and a wriggle. They certainly did that and we’ve been able to breathe again while we wait for kicks to be stronger and the next reassuring scan at 20 weeks.

In the scan they were positioned lying face down and very uncooperative about being looked at or photographed. So Rose sang ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ to them and they turned around to listen and gave us a couple of photos. ❤

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I’m enjoying looking after our family and spending time with friends. We have had the most wonderful rallying around us, as we’ve taken someone in our tribe is embracing them too. People are helping us with food, and money, and car repairs, and driving places, and debriefing. We’re not alone, and although I’m still waking up crying because I’m not studying anymore and my goals around my degree and work that I’ve been putting so much effort into for so many years feel like they are further away than ever… I am finding myself surprised by how fulfilled I feel to be looking after my family. My mind is clear, I’m efficiently coping with several hours of admin a day, I’m asking for help and setting up routines and doing the intensive support that will help us all get through the intense crisis phase and into calmer waters. And when I have a moment here and there, I’m working on my exhibition and feeling quietly surprised that anyone else is interested in it, and a tiny glow of hope that I’ve created something people might connect with or find value or peace of some kind in.

Everyone’s invited to my birthday

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I’m not that great at birthdays, to be honest. I often get depressed and confused, and spent too much time wondering about the state of my life instead of arranging a lovely celebration. Choosing who to invite fills me with gnawing anxiety in case someone feels left out, and trying to word “please don’t bring gifts if you are broke/forgot it was on until an hour ago/would find that stressful BUT equally if gift gifting is something you love and part of your love language I will not be angry/set them on fire/refuse to speak to you again if you do” so that it fits on an invite gives me a headache. The event itself, which I find mildly terrifying but slightly less awful than not having an event, either falls to my long-suffering partner or friends to conjure, or in a last minute fit of bewilderment gets sprung on my nearest and dearest with anything up to 6 hours notice.

This year will be different! With encouragement from Rose, I am working on a project I have been thinking about for a while – I will be hosting an art exhibition for my birthday instead of a party. It will be exciting, give me something to focus on, justify the expense and time, give people things to look at that are not me, be open to everyone who wants to come, and there will still be cake! Win-win.

I’ve chosen the topic of pregnancy, loss & motherhood as that’s been a huge focus over the past few years and I would love to showcase the artworks. My artbook Mourning the Unborn will also be launched and available for sale, as will prints of the art. I am working hard on the second draft of the artbook at the moment, which will be my first ever publication! I have also put in a new order for 24 karat gold leaf and look forward to showing my beautiful hand gilded prints for the first time!

The Opening Night (ie when cake is being served) is on
Friday the 22nd of April,
The Box Factory, 59 Regent St S, Adelaide
(map)
starting at 6pm

If you are on Facebook the event details are here. This is a public event, open to all.

The art exhibition will be available to view between April 19th – May 19th on Mondays to Fridays between 4-6pm. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

Pregnancy & Grief

The most wonderful news came in last night – the laws here in South Australia have been changed and just in time for Rose and myself. This means that she will be able to be on our babies birth certificate and has full legal recognition as their parent, alongside me. We were so happy we cried. It makes such a difference for our little family.

I am 15 weeks pregnant now and my bump is too big to fit my jeans or a lot of my skirts comfortably any more, although I still weigh a lot less than I did at the start of this pregnancy. I am experiencing a little less intense nausea and getting about 2 good days out of every week, but the fatigue in particular is still severe and demoralising. My world is home at the moment; I do housework, and household admin, and debriefing for people, and drive people to appointments when needed. A lot of time is needed to rest. Eating is still a bit tough and often takes some time to recover from. I’m hoping that as the pregnancy progresses I might start feeling better and better. Rose is busy and productive with her full time study, and the teen staying with us is a studious school student, so I feel a bit lost without a project of my own, in that rather unglamorous and unrecognised place of spending my health on whatever needs doing I can manage around the edges. I’ve been getting very teary and distressed at the prospect that I might not make it back to paid work or wind up with a degree or a career despite all the work I’ve done towards those goals.

Rose is such a help. She doesn’t get my distress personally – her focus is on being a Mum and that fills her world. I always wanted kids and work outside of the home and I’ve been so ill for the past 6 or so months I’m starting to lose hope. She was up with me until 1am last night while I just cried my heart out. It’s a madly intense grief and it’s all tied up with self worth and a sense of significance and belonging and connection and making a difference in the world… I don’t feel any sense of judgement towards others who need support or are sick, I’m just struggling to navigate it myself. It’s a little better than it was 6 months ago when it actually felt like if I couldn’t figure work out and find a way through I couldn’t survive. Planning a baby has kicked my sense of wanting to financially contribute to my family into overdrive, far beyond my capacity. And where pre-Rose my focus was strongly about contributing to the world – doing something of value whether I got paid or not, with a family I suddenly also needed to bring in money. Those are very difficult values to pair up at the best of times. I feel like I’ve been mangled between them.

It’s become such an obsessive focus for me that I’ve been unable to do other things that I love, like paint, because it doesn’t even feel like I can breathe until I figure this out and am on track for a paid job. Combine that with very poor health and that’s a long time of beating myself up and not breathing. I was chatting with a friend the other day who was angry about someone who was breaking the law and being horribly irresponsible and I mentioned that I was not feeling like I was being very responsible at the moment. She looked at me oddly and said that being on disability support wasn’t criminal or irresponsible. I know that but it actually kind of surprised me too. The kind of urgency I feel is as if what I am doing now is illegal and I must find an alternative. I know it’s not rational but it’s incredibly difficult to put the brakes on it.

I find it so much easier to be brave about my mental health than my physical health, which is the reverse of most people and probably partly a hangover from having all my physical health issues treated as psychosomatic for so long. To talk about having a child while on welfare, in my culture? It takes more courage than I have most days. I get attacked, like everyone who’s poor or queer or has a disability does when they want kids of their own and it’s just too much to bear a lot of the time. Too public, too vulnerable, too much vitriol from too many directions. All spewing the same message of worthlessness, as if I haven’t heard that enough in my life, felt it enough. In some ways being a parent feels like crawling back into the school yard to let the bullies have another go at me. See if you can hit me where it already hurts, some of those wounds aren’t very healed still. I feel an intense grief to be where I am, such a sense of lost years and lost health, so much pain and chaos. So many dashed hopes and so much hard work.

All my accomplishments start to twist in my mind and what I was once proud of, like my extensive voluntary work, I start to feel ashamed of, that I was foolish and trusting and exploited. That I somehow fell short being good enough to pay. That I trusted the wrong people, made the wrong decisions, invested in the wrong career paths, and cared too much about keeping my precious ethics intact to deal with the real world of work – which is that I am nobody and have no power and no voice and should simply have put my head down and done whatever was asked of me. My overinflated sense of personal responsibility and grandiose ideas are the real problems. My sense of connection to and trust in other people twists too. I feel very envious at times, and in some cases very burned and bitter, in others just overwhelmed. It’s a painful place to be in.

One thing that has helped a lot has been reading Mary O’Hagan’s memoir Madness Made Me about her terrible years of suffering and her path into advocacy and activism. Maybe because she makes herself so accessible, I was surprised that her road into paid employment was simpler than I thought it would have been. Maybe she was gutsier than I’ve been about pursuing grants, but I could see for a moment that she was in a time and place where there were opportunities for someone intelligent, passionate, aware of the dynamics of power and with a capacity to doubt all the simple answers. It unhooked me for a minute from my frantic soul searching to figure out where I’ve gone wrong or what else I need to do to try and make it across the divide of activism and into paid employment. Some of the answer here is being in an environment where the opportunities are present. I have a lot of opportunities around me and very few of them are paid, and none of them are employment or regular work. Some of the answer too is that most of the other mental health peers I admire so much and have been trying to emulate haven’t had to deal with the multitude of issues I’ve been hit with such as severe physical illness and years spent as a the carer for other people. Many have experienced one or two of the batch but being hit with childhood bullying and abuse, a repressive religious environment with queer sexuality, family violence, severe physical illness, homelessness, years of intensive caring, major mental health challenges, poverty, isolation… It’s been a complicated life.

Some days it helps to remember that for someone who has come through what I have, still being here is a success. Not having died when I first wanted to at 10 or at 18 or 23 or 27 is a huge deal. I accidentally burned my wrist on an oven tray cooking this evening and it was very triggering because my wrists were often the target of my desire to self injure – such an intense, shameful, private drive that I spent many years learning to understand and dismantle. That’s something I’m proud of too, and it’s something else I can talk about openly and with compassion when I’m connecting with someone else in that kind of pain. It matters that I can do that even if I don’t get a badge with my name on it and a pay check. I’m not useless or lazy. (I’m so scared that I’m useless or lazy)

It helps to remember that I’ve brought things out of nothing and made things that help ease pain. I’m so, so beyond sad that I haven’t been able to grow them bigger, that the DI is just a little website and a few brochures that the spiritual-cause people find too clinical, the clinical and diagnosis people find way too maverick, and the rest find too mainstream. I know it annoys in some way almost everyone connected to it because trying to find a middle ground between all those perspectives is irritating to everyone. It seemed like a good idea anyway, a safe meeting place for everyone. I don’t know. I know that some people found it helpful and if it really is a good approach I’m sorry to everyone else that I couldn’t get the message out any further or louder and that it will probably die with me. I’m just too tired to do much more. But all the little things count too, right, not just the movements that gain momentum and change the world in a big way, it’s also all the little pebbles bouncing down the cliff years before the avalanche that makes the big difference.

That’s another pincer – that what I’ve dedicated my life to wasn’t worth the cost, or that it is important, but I can’t take it any further anyway. Either way I’m swamped in grief.

I want everything to be better before the baby gets here, in an insane way I know I can’t achieve. I want the house to be organised and the back yard to be planted and clean of poop, and to have resolved my work dilemmas (do I have enough spoons to be a part time receptionist and a Mum? How can I know? I know I don’t right now – how many months after the birth is the fibro likely to still be severe? Is there any point in hoping anymore?)… I want to be a better person and eat less chocolate and watch less TV and be calmer and cry less and… sigh. It’s all so painfully vulnerable!

It’s not enough to stop living while I try to force myself through this brick wall. I’ve worked so hard to be here, and it’s not my fault the wall is so high. I need a hand over it and I haven’t found one. I have to be okay with that, at least for now, and that means letting myself grieve, and it also means going back to the things that give my life meaning and joy. If I can’t do ‘real work’ it’s okay to spend time on my voluntary work. It’s okay to make art even if I’m doing it while the rest of my household is out doing real work. If I can’t find a work related project then I’m going to make a life enhancing project I can work on on my better days and get excited about and feel connected to the world with. (hold on, my love, one day there’ll be a place for us) Not so many years ago I was friendless, suicidal, recurrently homeless, terrified of my multiplicity, and deeply wounded. Not so many years I couldn’t shower without assistance or make it through the shops without a wheelchair. I remember a time when my pain was so bad I would scream myself to sleep. Here I am, fattening with a little dragon wriggling inside me, loved and safe in my home and family that’s suddenly 3 of us and waiting on the 4th. I refuse to keep suffering to punish myself for not having recovered further and to motivate myself to reach that one last big goal I can’t seem to secure. It’s okay to fail, it’s okay to fall, it’s okay to hurt about it, and it’s okay to build yourself some kind of compassion and forgiveness out of all that blood and broken bones. It’s okay to live anyway.

What do you do when the dreams burn down? What I’ve always done, mourn and howl and dream new dreams. When the bullies make me bleed I paint my face with it and refuse to become one of them. I find my warrior and call them out on it. I run into the wilds where they can’t trap me. I’m 15 weeks pregnant and sometimes now whole days go by where I’m not afraid the baby will die. It’s the most wonderful and joyful thing, especially last thing at night when I’m lying in bed in the quiet and Rose rests her hand on my bump and all the world is just the sound of our breathing and the warmth of our skin. It’s humming with usefulness and competence on the good days, making phone calls, mopping floors, paying bills, listening to people who need a compassionate ear. And it’s pain and vulnerability, ugly and awkward and embarrassing, it’s snot dripping from my nose and making my sinuses ache, and feeling obsessive but unable to let go, and getting cabin fever from another day aching and hurting on the couch, and getting afraid that maybe I’ve complained too much on Facebook or not said enough to my friends how happy I am to be pregnant. It’s waiting and waiting and waiting and following all the instructions about forbidden foods and drinks and worrying that lying on my back will reduce the blood flow to the baby and going to mummy events and feeling weird and alienated and icked out by the overwhelming pink and pastels and brutal birth stories. It’s strangers touching me and not being able to reply to messages despite feeling guilty, and wanting to make art but feeling like it’s in a locked room and I haven’t done enough to earn the key yet. It’s wanting to but still not being able to talk to or write to this baby directly.

15 weeks pregnant is not a stretch cream or baby formula commercial. It’s life and it’s messy and some of it really, really hurts. And I’m sobbing with sadness about my career at the same time that I’m overjoyed beyond words to be pregnant. It’s feeling useless and horrible on the bad days and proud of myself for making sure my people have clean clothes and for navigating difficult conversations well on better days. It’s not a happy ending, it’s not recovered, it’s not out of danger or no longer at risk.

It’s not without pain, but neither is it without meaning. It’s precious, and it takes courage.