12 May 2023

Creative Corner 3 - It's Just The Baby Blues

I wanted to really challenge myself with this next creative writing post, so purposely chose something I know nothing about and cannot relate to, being a mother!

Prompt – “It is just the baby blues they said - postpartum depression in the 1950s”  #triggerwarning suicidal thoughts

I cannot remember the day when we stopped being happy.  Together for two years, then married for two years.  Two years yesterday to be exact.

I remember that glow I used to feel when I was around him.  It felt like that the sun had come up when he walked into a room and everything was just that bit brighter.  He said that he felt the same. 

We were so in love.  We wanted the same things.  Marriage, a family, a wonderful life together.  We shared an interest in current affairs, books, films.  We both knew that the other was “the one”. 

I was 19 when got married, Michael was 22 and an insurance agent.  I had always been raised to be a stay at home wife.  This was expected not only by my family, and Michael; but also was and is still the done thing in the society we live in.  But Michael always knew that I wanted more than just that.  My interests took me to places far from the stove and the bathroom floor.  I wanted to know, learn, do, be.

We talked before we were married about my doing a correspondence course.  We planned on having a library of sorts that we could read from and discuss.  He was proud of me he said.  My clever girl he called me.   We were perfect for each other.

We decided that when we married, we would hold off a few years before we started a family.  To have a time that was just us.  We were still young after all.  Children were absolutely wanted, just not yet.

We both walked into this marriage so excited for our future together.  Now, today, I am walking out of it.  He doesn’t know.  No one will remember me fondly or kindly when they realise I’m gone.  Not only leaving my husband of two years, but also my child, Lucy.  The child that I thought that I wanted so much. That I had always planned to have.  Knew I would love.  Except, I didn’t. 

For the first six months of our marriage, everything was perfect.  Although I struggled at first with settling into the stay at home wife role, I soon found that I loved it.  My house was my show piece, the meals I cooked showed my love to Michael and how hard he worked for us.  He encouraged me to start the correspondence course we had talked about and I was already enjoying it.  We still went on dates and talked about everything, from politics to travel to what was on at the movies that week that we might like to see.  Life was good. 

Then, I missed my period.  I didn’t think too much about it as I had not always been perfectly regular, but when the second one was missed; I went to the doctors and took a pregnancy test.  We had been being careful as children was not on the cards just yet, so I was sure that it must be something else. 
It wasn’t.  I was pregnant. 

We were both shocked but after the initial shock had wore off, Michael was so excited.  We can still live as we have been darling, he told me.  But now there will be three of us.  I was not happy that I fallen
pregnant so soon, but fate had decided so I decided to go along with it.  What could I do after all?

I didn’t have an easy pregnancy but was determined to be the best mother that I could be.  I read everything I could about babies.  Decorated the nursery.  Made plans about how to schedule keeping up
my home, cooking and the baby.  My course would have to go on the back burner for a while of course, but the baby was more important.

We decided on names.  George, after Michael’s father if it were a boy and Lucy, after my favourite aunt if it was a girl.  I felt that I was as prepared as I could be and waved after offers from my family to come and help after the baby was born.  I could do it all.  My mother had.  With four of us.  Michael was not really involved in any of the planning or baby talk but why should he?  I would be looking after it.  Michael had his job.  I had mine.  The house and now the baby.

Lucy arrived at 6.15pm on a stormy night on the 15th October 1953.  I could hear the torrential rain and lightening bolts bang and crash outside as I delivered her.  It felt strange, wrong.  Surely the world should be calm and peaceful for the arrival of my baby?

I don’t know what I expected to feel when the doctor told me that we had had a girl and put the baby to my chest.  Love, elation.  But I felt, nothing.  She looked alien to me.  Like she was not even from me.  A part of me.  She was a screaming bright red creature, a demon that seemed to have come from hell itself.  I felt terrified.  I said nothing.  All others in the room were saying how beautiful she was.  They didn’t see what I did.

Soon I was moved back into my room and after being cleaned up, washed and dressed more appropriately, Michael was let in to see me and meet his daughter.  See me first though I thought, make sure I was alright, but yet he ran straight to her.  I didn’t get a second look.  It was excitement of course, joy at his newborn daughter, a completely normal reaction yet I had never felt more alone in my life than I did in that moment.

I hoped that these feelings would leave me.  No one actually noticed.  Why would they?  Everyone visited the hospital to see our new baby, she was the centre of attention.  As she should be.  Michael showed her off to visitors, the proudest father you have ever seen.  As he should have been.  But me, I was just not, there.  I felt cold, detached, like I was looking at everything from behind a mirror.  I looked at my baby and still felt nothing.

When it was time to leave the hospital I decided to pull myself together.  Lucy's birth had not been easy, and also earlier than expected.  I was not ready.  This was all new to me.  I simply had not found my feet yet I decided and love for Lucy come quickly now I was out of hospital.  I was sure of it.

The problem was, that love never came.

At first I put it down to struggling with keeping the house up to the same standard and making dinner.  Michael would arrive home to a house in disarray and food only half way prepared, or not at all.  Take it easy love he would tell me, this is all new.  You will find your way.  But my world was turning dark and I feared that the path was being hidden from me.

The world seemed to be turning against me.  As soon as I got into some sort of organised mode where the house no longer looked like a tornado had hit and meals were, mostly, on time again; Lucy got colic.  She screamed.   All of the time.  It never ended.  Except when Michael came home and was able to miraculously sooth her.  Something I seemed unable to do.

I thought perhaps that Lucy knew.  Knew that I didn’t love her.  Didn’t even like her.  I could not understand why, but I felt nothing.  Nothing however was turning into dislike.  Why would she settle for
Michael but not I?  

Thoughts that I knew to be irrational started to float around in my head.  Michael preferred Lucy to me.  She hates me.  I was never meant to be a mother.  This is wrong.  This is wrong.  This is wrong.  I want to die.

I told no one for a long time.  What could I say?  I didn’t like my child?  I regretted becoming a mother?  I wanted to run away?  I could not say any of that.  Everyone else managed, why couldn’t I?  Everyone else loved their children, why didn’t I?

But then Michael started to notice the difference in me.  The coldness.  The detached way I looked at Lucy.  That I cried at the drop of the hat.  I admitted to him that I was not coping well.  I told him that I didn’t think Lucy liked me.  He didn’t understand.  He tried.  But he didn’t get it.  He got to leave the house, go to work and the baby was much happier when she was with him.  He slept through her screams in the night.  He always slept through everything.  I remembered joking once that he could sleep through a hurricane.  I wasn’t joking any longer.

When Lucy was four months ago I tried to talk to my mother, telling her that I was not doing as well as I had thought.  That Lucy never settled for me.  How the screaming was starting to get to me.  In truth, the screaming was driving me slowly insane.  I had started to hate her.  She insisted that it was just a little of the "baby blues".  I would get over it in no time she said.  Just keep at it she said.  So I tried.

Although the colic thankfully dissipated after a few months, it seems that the damage was done.  This baby, whom I now realised was indeed beautiful and not a demon, was not meant for me.  I was not meant to be a mother.  I was a bad person.  A terrible person.  I didn't deserve her, or Michael.  I wasn't event the same person that he married.

They say that crazy people don't know that they are crazy, but I knew.  I knew that I wasn't normal.  This wasn't normal.  That I alone was the problem.  I tried to keep up a fa├žade to Michael and my family that everything was fine, but it was not fine.  I was drowning.  Michael had started to look at me differently.  Demanded to know why I cried, all the time.  Why couldn't I be happy he said?  We have a wonderful life, a perfect baby.  You want for nothing.  It was true, yet I was dying inside.

That brings us to today.  Michael and I's second wedding anniversary.  The plan was to leave Lucy with my mother, spend the afternoon getting ready and go out for a meal with Michael at night.  I had taken my bath and was supposed to be getting ready.  Yet I had been sat on the bed, with one thought running through my bed.  Run.  Get away.  They will do better without you.  Lucy will be better off without you.  She doesn't like you anyway.

Decided, I got up from the bed and headed towards the front door.  I was leaving.  I didn't realise that I had not packed a bag, or even put on a coat.  I was leaving.  That was all that matters.  All I hoped is that I could run far enough away that I even lost myself.

This was the end, wherever it led.

27 April 2023

Small Details to Improve Your Bathroom's Appearance


Image Credit - CCO License

Something that you may want to bear in mind is that the bathroom is a hugely important part of the home. When it comes to your interior design, the bathroom has a huge effect. The way it looks affects the way the entire home looks, in fact. For that reason, you’ll want to make sure it’s as good as possible. And to make sure of that, it’s wise to focus on a few small, key details. Let’s look at what those are, and how you can ensure you are paying thorough attention to them.

Thematic Touches

First of all, you’ll want to think about the theme of the bathroom in general, and whether or not it is as you would want it to be. This is something that is both a small detail and an overarching thing, but it really is often detailed in the way that it gets used. You’ll be able to do it subtly, for instance by having a few choice colors here and there, and often that is the best way to make it look how you want. So this is one of the first things you should make sure you are happy with if you want your bathroom to look its best.

Grouting

Most bathrooms are going to have tiles - whether on the walls, the floor, or both. Sometimes, you’ll even have tiles on the ceiling - and there will certainly be some around the bath and shower area too, not to mention the sink or basin. One of the details that makes the tiling look its best is if the grouting is as it should be. Using fosroc conbextra gp to keep it clean and looking new can really make a huge difference, as can cleaning the grouting whenever you feel you need to - especially if it is getting mold.

Faucet Options

You also of course have plenty of options when it comes to the faucets, and this is another small detail that can have a surprisingly large effect on how the overall room appears to be. So if you are keen on trying to keep your faucet looking great, make sure that you choose well. You need to think about color and material, of course - whether brass is appropriate or not makes a huge difference, for instance. And you’ll need to think about size and any ornate designs you may or may not want them to have as well.

Rugs

Finally, you may decide to have a rug or a runner on the floor of your bathroom. If you do, you need to think carefully about the effect it will have on the room as a whole, and on the effect of the home’s entire decor. Again, this can be surprisingly important, so it’s definitely the kind of thing you should make sure you are focused on. If you can be happy with this choice, it will make for a much more attractive bathroom on the whole, and that is a great thing to have.

23 March 2023

The Moment You Turn From Child To Prey

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus according to the book by John Gray.  We may not be Martians or Venusians, but while men and women are both human beings, we are wildly different. I do not know how a man thinks. What he feels, how he feels and how he expresses those feelings.  A man cannot know that about a woman either.

Our bodies, our hormones, our way of thinking, the experiences that we have growing up; these all form what it is to be a man or woman.  Society has always had expectations and presumptions of both sexes.  But for women, it is our bodies that puts us at an lifelong disadvantage.

In a normal childhood, a girl enjoys the first years of her life being safe. You are looked at and treated as the child you are.  We are innocent and are allowed to be in that cocoon of safety.  Most of the time.  Until that one day arrives.  That day comes at different times for all of us, but we all feel the same when it arrives.  We want to go back to the cocoon where it is safe.

I was an early developer.  At the age of ten I started my periods.  My breasts started to develop.  I didn't know then that the world would change.  But it did.  It felt like overnight.  I was a child, but the way I was treated immediately became different.

The way that some adult men interacted with me changed.  The way that they spoke to me.  There was a change in their voices, an intonation that I did not understand.  A unfamilar expression on their faces.  A smile, but with a strange leer.  I did not understand back then these men were flirting with me; a ten year old girl.

What I did understand was that feeling that I got when they did it.  That uneasy "danger, danger" feeling that comes upon you.  You know that something is not right, even if you do not understand why.   Those are the first lessons a girl learns, a child learns in my case, how to extract yourself from an uncomfortable situation without letting them know that you are scared.  How to remain polite when inside, you want to run.

There used to be a playground near my old house that I sometimes used to frequent.  The street where I lived was full of old people, with no other children to play with and as a result, I often used to make my own entertainment.

I remember being around 11 when I went up to the nearby playground to read my book on the swings and have a go at the merry go round.   It was only around the corner and I felt safe there.  My mum had no qualms in letting me go.  Whilst sat on the merry go round slowly spinning around, I remember a group of boys approaching me.  14, maybe 15 years old.  They surrounded me.  Talking about how I was young to get "titties" and asking if they could touch them.  

I didn't understand.  I was a child.  But I felt the danger.  I took advantage of one of the boys saying "leave her alone she's a kid" and ran.

When I got home I told my mum what had happened.  She told me that it probably wasn't a good idea to go to that playground alone again.  That we maybe should throw away that jumper.  That was the first time I truly understood that the world I lived in had changed.  

The change in your reality that you realise that you have suddenly become prey, in a world where half the population are men and as a result, the way that you look at, not just men, but the boys around you; changes too.  It is inevitable.

You shouldn't have to feel that way at 11.  But for me, that was the day that the world changed.  My growing female body was now restricting me from going to places because of what may happen to me.  Because I was female.  Even though I was still a child, that label no longer meant that I was safe.

I learned too that it was my job to protect myself.  Don't go places on your own.  Don't wear that jumper, it will attract the wrong attention.

I remember being so excited when I was a little girl about becoming "a lady".  I remember watching my mum getting ready on a Saturday night with her pretty dresses, makeup and lovely hair.  How her womanly shape looked so amazing and how much I wanted to look like her.  How my dad admired and complimented her.  It all looked so exciting.  What could be better?  

Except now my growing body was something I no longer wanted.  I wanted to still be a child.  I didn't want boys leering at me in a playground, intimating things that I did not understand.  I didn't want grown men speaking to me in a way that I knew wasn't right, but again I didn't understand quite why.  I didn't want the breasts that attracted more and more attention.

I remember being in my first year in high school and an older boy telling me that because I already had "tits", it meant I was going to be a slag.  I didn't know what that was.  But it didn't sound good.  Also, he was leering at me the way that adult men did.


The problems, as I called my breasts at that time had started growing early and as a result, I was a C cup by the the time I was 14.  Any woman reading that will probably have the same reaction.  Closing your eyes.  Oh god.  Because every woman knows that that is not a good thing.

By 14, the rest of my body was also catching up and I no longer looked like an early developing child.  I looked like a woman.   With a pretty dress, hair done and make up applied I could have looked similar to my own mum who I used to aspire to be when I saw her getting ready on a Saturday night.  But I did not want that anymore.

But I was stuck in this body and as every girl learns, you have to just, deal with it.  You learn how to build your defences.  You learn the right responses.  How to remove yourself from situations you don't want to be in.  

As time goes on, you realise that your womanly shape, your curves, your breasts hold a power.  A power that you understand that you have and try to weld; yet you do not fully understand how dangerous that power is.   And that is isn't really power at all. 

I'm reminded of the famous line from The Breakfast Club.  If you don't, you're a prude.  If you do, you're a whore.  My growing body earned me many forms of the latter insult, despite having not even yet kissed a boy.

I raged against the injustice of it all.  I had to be careful where I went, what I said, what I wore, how I acted.  Boys were not held to the same standard.  Although they were going through their own experiences of puberty and teenage years, which as I have said, I cannot understand as a woman as it is their experience alone, they were allowed to get away with so much under the clause that infuriated me beyond all else (and still does).  Boys will be boys.

Boys will be boys I was told when I told a teacher about the name calling.  Boys will be boys I was told by another teacher when two boys frequently tried to grab at my breasts.  It's their hormones!  I was told.  Wear a larger shirt, they said.  My shirt was not tight.  But no shirt could have made my breasts disappear. 

Looking back now, my mind boggles that these excuses were used to justify and allow this kind of behaviour.  If you were to report a sexual assault to the police, I don't think a "he just couldn't help himself" would wash in a Court of law.  

But would it? Because now I recall a case in Hull where the Defendant was found guilty of raping a sleeping woman and the Judge told him "She was a pretty girl and you fancied her.  You simply could not resist".

Most women have stories similar to mine.  The truth is that from the time a girl hits puberty to the day she dies, she is prey.  The lifelong game we play is how to avoid the carnivores that would hurt us.

It is a game of life that we never signed up for.  But has also prepared us, has strengthened us and has bonded us together.  It is why we fight for our rights.  For our single sex spaces.  Why we hold on so strongly to the word woman.  Because we know what it means.  And what it takes to be one.