Monthly Archives: October 2013

My best friend’s gay wedding.

I’ve known Louise since I was five-years-old.

We sat side by side in Mrs Robinson’s grade one class and became instant bosom buddies in that Anne of Green Gables/ Diana Barry, Mary Tyler Moore/Rhoda Morgenstern, Laverne De Fazio/Shirley Feeney kind of way.

She was the girl with the sparkly, mischievous eyes. I was the girl whose parents dropped her at school in an orange Leyland P76. Nevertheless, we were united by our love for Leif Garrett and HR Pufnstff.

Since that fateful first meeting, our friendship has gone on to span 37 years.

Primary school, high school, university, first loves, first jobs, first perms, first dates. Last dates. We have seen each other through it all. Louise’s dad being diagnosed with terminal cancer. The stillbirth of my daughter Georgie. My Vegas wedding (and, er, my quickie divorce). Her revelation that she was gay.

There was the year she took me by the shoulders and shook me out of an emotionally abusive relationship.

And the time I gently pointed out the long-distance love affair she was in had ended long ago.

bec1 380x283 BEC: My best friends gay wedding.

Louise (far left) and Bec (far right) in Year One

And in between all of this we talked of love. Finding it. Keeping it. Losing it. Screwing it up. The times it was unrequited. The times our hearts were smashed up, so bruised we thought we’d never recover. We despaired some days of ever meeting ‘the one’.  We wondered and pondered and worried and stressed about whether we would ever find someone who would truly love us.  Get us. Cherish the weird, stupid, foolish bits we so often tried to hide from the world. We talked about babies. And weddings. And houses by the beach. And raising kids who would be best friends and love the Counting Crows’ August and Everything After album as much as we did.

When I met and married my husband Brad, Lou stood next to me and cheered me on as though the wedding was her own.

And then she met Felicity.

And I knew.

I knew from the first time I heard the way Lou’s voice changed, softened, floated when she first mentioned Felicity’s name.

I knew from the photos I saw. Their eyes. Their smiles. That look someone has when finally they are truly themselves, comfortable in their own skin.  Loved unconditionally.

I knew from the moment I saw them together in person. That zing you feel when you’re around two people who are gloriously happy and in love.

4 380x283 BEC: My best friends gay wedding.

Ava and Ella – the flowergirls at the wedding.

I knew that she was it. The person.  The great love Lou had longed and hoped and dreamt about since we were five-years-old.

And I cannot imagine a more perfect love, best friend, companion for my best friend.

Two weeks ago Lou and Flick married on a day a new government was voted in to run the country. They married on a day when both sides of politics chose to stand on the wrong side of history. They married on a day when the entire Brisbane sky behaved like it was auditioning for a storybook – all brilliant blue, shimmery and cloudless.  And in an inner-city park that was bustling with picnics and kites and cricket matches amongst mates – 150 of Lou and Flick’s friends and family and dozens and dozens of complete strangers who happened to be in the park that day stood around these two women, to witness Lou and Flick say “I do”.  To bloody well cheer them on.

Because for Louise and Felicity marriage is about more than ‘the law’. It’s about community and accountability and they wanted to take the opportunity to make themselves accountable for their relationship with the people they love. And while they’ll keep advocating for marriage equality, for them the greatest advocacy activity they could undertake was to go ahead and have a wedding to show they believe marriage is important and valid

Watching my daughter Ava and Lou’s niece Ella act as flower girls, giggling and whispering and waving as they carried a bunch of candy store coloured balloons down the aisle is a moment I will cherish. Watching Lou – her face beaming with joy – walk down the aisle on her mother’s arm towards the love of her life was one of the truly great days of my life.

wedding 3 380x253 BEC: My best friends gay wedding.

Bec giving a speech at the wedding

Because she bloody did it. In this cynical, tricky old world, Lou found that big love we all want.  One that is true and real and good.

One day in the not too distant future I hope our politicians will feel foolish and small-minded and, frankly, ashamed for acting as though this great love, this marriage between two women who adore each other is somehow not real. Not worthy.

Because I was there. I have seen it with my own eyes.

And let me tell you, Lou is awesome. And so is her wife.

*Thanks to Elleni Toumpas for permission to use her photos.

*Unfortunately we’ve had to keep Louise and Felicity’s identity secret because they work as aid workers in a country where it is illegal to be gay. Sigh.

I had a baby and became a crap friend.

At some point when I wasn’t looking, I became a shit friend.

The type of friend people start whinging about a lot when they’re at dinner and they’ve stopped discussing whether Ali could totally go all Fatal Attraction on Tim’s arse on The Bachelor.

The type of shit friend who never returns phone calls. Or emails. Or er, text messages. The type of friend who LIKES your FB update as soon as you post it but who then 20 seconds later doesn’t answer your personal message. The type of friend who is notoriously unreliable.

You know the type of friend I’m talking about. She’s always the one saying, “Sure I’ll bring the three bean salad to the BBQ on Saturday.” And then she arrives late AGAIN with a bottle of Pepsi Max (AGAIN) from the servo down the road. And then she leaves early because blah blah blah <insert excuse about CHILDREN>.  Or worse, she just does a no-show instead.

You’ve had that friend. I’ve had that friend. And now, suddenly, dammit I AM that friend.

Oh God.

And I’m not entirely sure how I got here.

Because once upon at time I was a great friend. I remembered all the important stuff.  Your birthday. Your kids’ birthdays. The anniversary of your dad’s passing.  The name of the boss you loved two years ago who got transferred to Perth.  I dropped everything to be with you the Saturday afternoon your dog died.  I fixed up your resume for you when you went for that job. I moved heaven and earth to get us front row seats (okay, third row seats) to Prince. I was connected and reliable. I sent birthday cards IN THE MAIL FOR GOD’S SAKE.

But that was then.

Now I am deep deep in the trenches with three kids. And my ability to maintain friendships appears to have evaporated along with my ability to get to the hairdresser. Or talk on the phone to anyone ever about anything for longer than 2m 47 seconds. Or watch any TV show past 8.30pm without falling asleep ten minutes in.

phone 380x253 I had a baby and became a crap friend.

“I feel like Will Smith in Independence Day.”

As I struggle to stay on top of the grocery shopping and the cooking and the laundry and the laundry and the laundry and picking up 3 million pieces of %$*&^%# Lego off the carpet and sitting through my four year old’s magic shows that NEVER SEEM TO END and breastfeeding my eight-week-old while I spoon feed my 18-month-old porridge which he seems to prefer to mash into his hair and try to recite the full lyrics to Sophia The First for my four year old who is DESPERATE to know them … the emails and the text messages and the phone messages from friends and colleagues and some woman in New York who’s an artist whose put me on her exhibition mailing list KEEP COMING.

They’re like aliens. The more I open and respond to and delete – the more they seem to pop up. I feel like Will Smith in Independence Day.  Okay, not really. At all. But you know.

I have no hope of getting to them all. Actually, some days – many days – I have no hope of even getting to one. And believe me when I say this annoys me far more than it annoys you.

And then by the end of the day when all the kids are finally asleep and I know I should be returning calls, the truth is all I really want to do is sit on the couch, watch crappy TV and not speak.  I’m spent. I have used up all my words. Okay that’s not true. But I’ve said the words “No” and “Put that down” and “Uh uh uh” and “I’m COMING!” about 5 million times. By 7pm I have nothing left to give anybody as much as I’d like to. By 7pm I cannot stand the sound of my own voice.

But don’t think I’m not thinking about you. I am. I’m trying to stay in the loop on Facebook. Keep up with your news. LIKE your photos as some kind of lame way to show you I care. I do try and ring for all of 45 seconds when I can. And I’m still cheering you on; I’m just doing it from the kitchen with a disturbing amount of baby vomit on my pyjama top (and it’s 1pm and I’m still in my pyjamas. You with me? My life right now is a zoo.).

What I’m hoping as I navigate this new workload of motherhood is that you’ll give our friendship a temporary leave of absence.  A sort of long service leave. You know how we have to wait a few months before the new season of Offspring starts again? THAT.  Because while I’m a crap friend now, it won’t always be this way.

I’ll find my way out of the fog. I’ll start getting some sleep again.  I’ll hide my daughter’s magic kit.

Don’t give up on me just yet.  Because I’ll be back with a vengeance. I promise.

The love-letter I needed to write.

 

If I did a stocktake of the posts I’ve written for Mamamia over the past three years, I suspect there would be a dominant theme to them:  outrage.

 

I’m good at being outraged. At being pissed off.  At putting pen to paper (or chewed fingernail to filthy keyboard) when I spot an injustice or something that just, you know, shits me.

 

Politicians behaving like twats!  Sexist ads! Doctors shaming older mothers!  Former Home and Away stars getting precious and boasting about their French bulldogs!

 

Fuelled by angry thoughts, five cups of tea and, yeah okay, several Oreos I’m banging out a call to arms faster than you can say, “Girlfriend needs some Xanax and a good lie down”.

 

Of course what rarely crosses my mind is to write posts when I  stumble across something amazing. Something that makes me catch my breath it’s so damn delightful. Or something that exceeds my expectations in ways I never saw coming.

 

bec q 380x506 BEC: This is a love letter (and its not for my husband).

Bec with Quincy

 

Which is why I’m writing this post today. Consider it a love letter. To midwives.

 

Last year, some of you will remember that I had a less than fantastic experience having my son Fin. I felt bullied by some of the midwives … especially when I was berated at the maternity ward’s front desk (in front of other new mums and staff) for not ‘trying hard enough to breastfeed’. Forget the fact that I was breastfeeding.

 

I apparently just wasn’t doing it well enough.Or often enough. Or long enough. Or blah blah blah blah YOU’RE A SHIT MOTHER blah blah blah (which is what I eventually started to hear).  Ahhh, good times.

 

The whole experience left me feeling a little, er, bitter towards the whole midwife profession which is a ridiculous over-reaction, I know. Particularly  considering two of my friends are (amazing) midwives. And my own mum is a nurse.

 

But when you have a baby – be it in a hospital or birthing centre – I truly believe the midwives play an integral role in the whole experience.

 

When you’re a nervous, scared, fragile soon-to-be-mother or new mother … doubting your abilities, stressing about what lays ahead or your decision-making or your body’s ability to do what is required, well the very last thing you need is a woman by your side making you feel incompetent or worse, like a bad mother. It’s not rocket-science.

 

So last month when I went to hospital to have my son Quincy, to say I was apprehensive is an understatement. It wasn’t the caesarean I was worried about. No siree.  I was in a cold sweat about the midwives. This is despite the fact I was giving birth this time in a different hospital in a DIFFERENT state.

 

Didn’t matter.

 

And yet my experience in having Quincy could not have been more amazing, more nurturing, more positive and it was all because of the team of midwives at the hospital I was in last month. And as someone who exclusively breastfed one baby and combo fed (breast and bottle) another, I’ll also say that I learned more about breastfeeding in 20 minutes from a fabulous midwife called Sam than I have from any other midwife at any other hospital in the past. It made me realise that having a successful breastfeeding experience is as much about connecting with the RIGHT midwife at the right time who ‘gets you’  as it is to do with your boobs and your baby.

 

bec BEC: This is a love letter (and its not for my husband).

“When I went to hospital to have my son Quincy, to say I was apprehensive is an understatement. It wasn’t the caesarean I was worried about. No siree. I was in a cold sweat about the midwives.”

 

Anyway, the day Quincy and I were due to go home to my crazy zoo of a family, I cried saying goodbye to these women  … they’d meant that much to me.

 

And that’s the thing:  if a bad apple midwife can leave you feeling like the most hopeless mother on the face of the planet, then the opposite is certainly true too.

 

A fabulous midwife can leave you feeling confident and capable and NORMAL even at 2am when your baby is crying and you’re crying and wondering whose idea it was to have this baby in the first place and WHERE IS THE CHOCOLATE?

 

So consider this post a giant THANK YOU to all the amazing midwives out there.  The midwives who hold our hands while we’re in labor,  who are one step ahead in predicting what we need and how we’re feeling whether we’re six cm dilated or about to be wheeled into theatre for a caesearean.

 

Thank you to those midwives who in those early hours and days of new motherhood make us feel capable and supported, nurtured and understood. The midwives who get it, who know the right thing to say or do while we are overwhelmed with thirty emotions at once.

 

The midwives who accept and respect our choices, who know that looking after a mother’s mental and emotional well-being can only have a positive ripple effect onto the little bundle for which we are now responsible. And, of course, the midwives who so tenderly and gently care for the women whose babies never come home.

 

If I haven’t said it enough in the past – and I know I haven’t – your hard work and dedication and care is so, so appreciated. So thank you to every single midwife at Greenslopes Private Hospital where I had Quincy — you made me feel so supported. And thank you too to the midwives at North West Private Hospital who so tenderly looked after me after I lost Georgie in 2010.

 

I, for one, am a better mother because of all of you.

 

*This post first appeared on Mamamia.

The four-letter word every woman needs to stop using.

One itty bitty word. Just four letters long. But dammit, I’m going to force myself to stop using it.

So what’s the word?

Wine. Just joking.  (Have we met?) And if you think I’m not going to be muttering the word ‘wine’ – or more precisely ‘Give me all the wine’ –  post delivery, then you’re cray-cray.

Nope. The word I’m planning to ditch from my vocab is “just”.

Just.

Think about it.

When women are feeling self-conscious, not good enough, as though they need to justify something they’ve done, they tend to use the word ‘just’ in their answer. It’s a word that signals to the world that you’re excusing yourself away. Belittling your own choices. Feelings. Decisions. The word ‘just’ – when used in an answer to a question – tells the world you’re apologising for who you are.

Q. So what do you do?

A: Oh, I’m just a stay at home mum.

OR

Q. Are you going back to work already?

shhhhh BEC: The 4 letter word every woman needs to stop using.

I solemnly swear that ‘just’ will not grace my lips ever again.

A: Well, it’s just that my maternity leave has finished/financially I need to return to work/I miss my job/living with baby Epponnee-Rae is like living with Anna Wintour coming off a nasty ice habit.

OR

Q. Did you seriously quit your full time job to go to Magician’s School?

A. Well, it’s just

Sound familiar?  Ever found yourself in a situation where you are repeatedly apologising for the choices and decisions you’ve made?

What’s really interesting is that psychologists will tell you that women and men who are routinely berated (read: verbally or emotionally abused) by their partners often use the word “just” when explaining what they’re doing.  In her book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship: how to recognise it and how to respond, author Patricia Evans says:

‘…the partners of verbal abusers often say, “I was just …”. And if they have been berated quite consistently, they may preface most of their actions, even when no-one is around to hear them, with “I’ll just …”, such as “I’ll just vacuum this room because I have a little time before I have to pick up the kids …”. The partner’s habit of saying, “I’ll just …” may be a way of saying, “I hope no-one will find a problem with this and berate me for it or vent their rage on me , or devise a negligent or malevolent motive for my actions.”

Devise a negligent motive for my actions. BINGO.

At no time do women worry more about being seen to have selfish motives than when they’ve just given birth. That’s when  the word ‘just’ gets one hell of a workout. All of a sudden the delivery, the feeding, the sleeping habits, the care of that baby are (apparently) EVERYBODY’S business and you are forced to justify your decision making.

And Lord do I know this from personal experience.

You see, I’m about to have my fourth caesarean. No, no, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. You read that correctly.  My fourth child will once again be delivered via the sun roof.  As Mia joked to me last week, ‘When you had Ava in 2008, you should’ve just asked them to put a zip in.” I laughed out loud at that. Well, I would’ve laughed out loud if my mouth hadn’t been full of chocolate.  But seriously, WHO has FOUR caesareans?  Who do I think I am? Victoria Beckham? (Actually, right now, I look like I ate Victoria Beckham …).

Even as I type this post, it is taking ALL MY WILLPOWER not to justify to you how it is that I’ve ended up having each of my children via caesarean. In fact, every single time I’ve been asked – sometimes subtly, sometimes not – about how I’ve delivered Ava, Georgie and Fin, the word ‘just’ has crept into my answer.

I find it impossible to simply say, “I had a caesarean.”

Instead I hear myself saying, “I had a caesarean. It’s just that ….”

But why do I need to tell you whether my caesars were elective or emergency ones? Why do I care what you think? And more to the point, why do YOU care what my reasons are? Does it really matter?

And I know this need to justify our childbirth decisions is true for the deeply personal decisions we each make about every other aspect of motherhood and, you know, OUR LIVES.

The reality is, so often we wrongly judge others by joining dots that simply don’t exist. We jump to conclusions. Make assumptions.  But the fact is we can’t control how others perceive us or what assumptions they make. Also? You can’t try and live your life by other people’s totally subjective rule books.

So from here on in I’m going to work hard to remove the word “just” from my vocabulary.

In a week’s time if you ask me how the delivery of my fourth child went, I flat out refuse to feel bad and I’m simply going to say, “I had a caesar. And we’re both doing wonderfully” – which will be quickly followed by, “Now hand over all the wine  …”

*This post first appeared on Mamamia.

I’m fed up with Australian politics. Here’s why … (June 2013)

 

Screen shot 2012 08 24 at 12.23.49 PM BLOG: Im fed up with Australian politics, and heres why.

Australian politics has become all about mud slinging.

 

 

 

Yesterday a menu made my head explode.

For those who missed it because you were perhaps LIVING YOUR LIFE, a photo of a menu taken from a Liberal party fundraiser in March was leaked to the media.

The issue? On the menu Prime Minister Gillard’s body was likened to cooked quail and referred to in the most utterly crass terms. The description of her breasts, thighs and vagina left me sick to my stomach. And I wasn’t alone.

Social media went into meltdown with claims that this latest low act by the Libs was precisely what Prime Minister Gillard was raging against. And so, in the wake of the vile menu being made public, the Prime Minister called for the disendorsement of Mal Brough for whom the fundraiser was held. And I, for one, whole-heartedly agreed with her. My feeling is we need zero tolerance for this type of sexist filth whichever side of politics it comes from.

And then.

And then the truth came out.

Mal Brough BLOG: Im fed up with Australian politics, and heres why.

Mal Brough

The menu and those remarks were not written or sanctioned by Mal Brough or his Liberal National Party cohorts. It was a mock menu created by the restaurant owner Joe Richards and his son as an in-joke for the kitchen staff and was never distributed. The menu in turn was photographed and Facebooked by a restaurant staff member (sigh) and subsequently seen by a gleeful ALP member.

Apparently.

Because while I’m inclined to believe this is true (it was all a bit convenient for that March menu to surface yesterday as the perfect “I told you so” from the PM) … I can’t be 100% sure.  How could I?

Both sides of politics have about as much integrity and credibility at the moment as those ads for Sea Monkeys I used to stare at wistfully in Archie comics. (But mum, they have crowns!  We could have an underwater Royal family! And did I mention the crowns!).

In 2013 truth and policies mean nothing.  Australian politics is now entirely about mud-slinging and gotcha moments.

Political commentators will tell us that this frenzied hatred from both sides stems from the fact Gillard is leading a hung parliament. Compromises are made. Policies watered down. Deals broken.

Tension is high between both parties. Disillusionment and disappointment – whether justified or not –  is even higher amongst the voting public.

But my malcontent with the current state of politics is about more than the vulgar and childish mud-slinging from both sides. It’s about the fact politics has been completely reduced to half-truths and spin and lies. I mean it’s always been a part of politics but now, well we’ve reached a new low.

My Direct Action Plan will be cheaper and more effective than the carbon tax! says Abbott.

Oh really?

The NDIS will be fully funded by a Medicare levy increase, says Gillard.

Sure it will.

Abbott will banish women from the political landscape, scream the ALP.

Gillard and her government have screwed our economy, screech the Libs.

When comedian and former Obama speech writer Jon Lovett gave the recent graduation address to the Class of 2013 at Pitzer College, he said something that has stayed with me ever since: One of the greatest threats we face today is bullshit.

 BLOG: Im fed up with Australian politics, and heres why.

Jon Lovett speaking at Pitzer College.

“We are drowning in it,” said Lovett. “We are drowning in partisan rhetoric that is just true enough not to be a lie; in industry-sponsored research; in social media’s imitation of human connection; in legalese and corporate double-speak.

“It infects every facet of public life, corrupting our discourse, wrecking our trust in major institutions, lowering our standards for the truth, making it harder to achieve anything.”

Lowering our standards for the truth.

Nail. On. Head.

When was the last time you really cared if what you were posting on Facebook or Twitter (and I’m talking mostly about political rants) was actually true? Credible?

We, you see, are the problem.

We buy it.  We run with it. We Facebook and tweet and email the screaming headlines and one-liners that fit neatly with what we want to believe about ‘the other side’.

My ALP voting friends post the most vile, demeaning and blatantly untrue crap about the Liberal party without a second thought.

My Coalition voting friends do EXACTLY the same thing about the ALP.

Screen shot 2013 06 13 at 4.02.30 PM BLOG: Im fed up with Australian politics, and heres why.

Mud slinging. That’s all there is.

Why let truth get in the way of a good whipping, right? It’s more fun to sink the boot in.

We’ve stopped being critical thinkers. We’ve stopped taking the time to investigate the claims we so desperately want to believe.  We can no longer be bothered to find out the truth for ourselves underneath the layers of highly skewed facts and dodgy research. And the political parties know that.

We are the ones who want the 10-second sound bites.  Entire policies or rebuttals reduced to mere grabs. Why? Because we care about the issues, we’re just, er,  busy. Too busy to actually, you know, research the issues for ourselves. To find out if we’re being played.

Newsflash: we’re being played.

I’m fed up with Abbott and Gillard, make no mistake about that.

But I’m also fed up with us – the public – for taking over the mud-slinging where our political leaders leave off.

We want better behaviour from our pollies? Then maybe, just maybe, we need to start with ourselves.

* This post first appeared on Mamamia.com.au