As folks in these parts will know, the inquiry into my births, life, website, opinions and daughter’s stillbirth ended last week. Once the media’s favourite cherry picked condemnations of me hit the news, the hate mail started rolling in. Once I notice it, I call a friend and she deals with it. Readers of this blog will know that The Crone reads and disposes of (with a pleasing ding, according to her) the opinions of those who take issue with me, or more precisely, the version of me they’ve constructed. The email fairy put a forward on my email for words like death, die, murder, murderer, bullet, and the like. So I still got the polite ones which simply called me crazy/unhinged/satanic/whatever and disposed of those myself with a quick swipe. Didn’t have to read anything but the first line. As someone once said to me, you don’t need to drink the whole bath to know it’s bath water you’re drinking. One line is sufficient.
I got lots of hate mail when my baby was born too. Probably more than I’ve got this time around. Perhaps the three years of this legal process has worn some people down and they’ve lost interest. Perhaps some of them have had second thoughts about abusing a woman who has lost a baby. I hope so for it would probably speak well to their growth and humanity. Sometimes it’s anonymous, sometimes it’s signed in full, it’s fairly equally spread between those identifying as men or women. There are occasional healthcare workers who write to tell me how sorry they are for my loss and that they see stillbirths relatively often, which judging from the perinatal data, is true. There are approximately six stillbirths a day in Australia, after all, and more than 99% of them occur in hospitals. Stillbirth is no respecter of venue or cast, which is something all birth workers know despite the constant waving of the dead baby card as a way to control women.
It’s rare that I read the hate mail. I post about it on Facebook because I feel like I need to acknowledge it but I don’t read it very often. I don’t read any of the media, open letters, blog entries etc which claim to be about me or addressed to me.
Here’s the thing: your hate mail, article, blog entry or open letter is not about me, it’s a reflection of you.
I realise that birth, death, women’s rights and feminism are some of the hottest buttons in western society. Mixing them up is a potent cocktail which rushes to some people’s heads and leads to some big reactions. The misogyny on which our society is based lives in all of us, some of us just feel more free to let it out and share it especially towards women we perceive as transgressive, like me.
I wrote earlier about preparing to go to court and how I needed to watch the video of my daughter being born and my initial attempts to clear her airways, call her in, drain her and so on. I hadn’t watched that video (I haven’t ever watched the video of my middle child’s birth either) until I sat in my solicitor’s office and watched a number of times while talking to him about what we could see. He needed me to tell him what I was doing and I needed to see the video to do that because I have no memories of that time except some physical and emotional memories. So it was almost like watching someone else. That day was a profound and painful one for me. In order to prepare myself I went into the city early and walked down to the harbour, through the Botanic Gardens, stopped briefly in the Art Gallery then headed on over to Peter’s office. I felt a galvanising, powerful sense of acceptance as I walked because I needed to breathe, dive and just embrace what was about to happen or the pain would overcome me. I also had a really powerful sense of forgiveness towards the Crown solicitors and the coroner because they knew I would have to see this video and I knew they would play it in court as part of my punishment. They did. And I had to watch it and so did her father, my attending friend and all the journalists, court officers, supporters and any other random people who popped in that very full day. Imagine yourself naked, on a large screen, being shown to strangers against your will. Discomfiting, isn’t it?
I had the same profound sense of acceptance and surrender and also of forgiveness as I sat in court for five days with assumptions, anger, misinformation and untruths being paraded and somehow associated with me. I feel that in order to put a woman and her family who’ve lost a baby through three years of uncertainty, dubious legal workings and punishment, you have to be really disconnected from your humanity and deeply invested in the oppression of women. I saw intense undisguised anger from lawyers who should be without prejudice in a courtroom. I saw judgement from police officers and ambulance officers. And again, as I sat in the stand being cross examined, my overwhelming sense was of compassion for such suffering and hardness of heart. Listening to yourself being misinterpreted and perceived as evil is a trial but it can be borne. It ends even though the memories linger. Those living with such disconnection from heart may well be on a lifelong journey removed from love. That is really sad.
So when I get emails from people who claim to loathe me, I feel sad for the anger and hatred they carry. I know that many of the women who write about me are carrying unaddressed, unacknowledged, untreated trauma from obstetrics and other forms of violence against women. You can’t live in the western world without experiencing it in some form. I know that many of the fathers who write to me are carrying the pain and fear of witnessing what their partners have experienced and that they really want that to have been for a good reason since they felt helpless in the face of it – which they were. I know that our society breathes and eats cognitive dissonance or it just wouldn’t look like it does. So many people are confused, unable to see past what the propaganda tells them and in pain from the effort of twisting themselves into what they think they ought to be.
In a final twist of irony, as I was writing this, the phone rang and it’s the email fairy telling me that a notorious North American blogger has published my full address on her blog along with the, as yet, unavailable to the public findings. One wonders about her sources on occasions like this. One wonders about what it is to live in that valley of hatreds too but not for too long because it’s just plain unpleasant to contemplate. Obviously her concern for my daughter doesn’t extend to the safety of my earthside children. I cannot fathom this kind of behaviour, in fact, it causes a kind of brain freeze it’s so very alien to me. Apart from being upsetting, it’s a clear sign that we live in sad times where this kind of behaviour is acceptable to someone who claims to be a healer of the sick. Since it’s overseas, Australian law and our publication suppression order on my address, do not apply. And of course, as internet safety people will tell you, nothing is safe on the internet so don’t post identifiers or addresses. Even if she agrees to my lawyer’s polite request to redact my address, it’s out there, the cat is out of the bag and it’s on other blogs and never to be private again. I never address her because I don’t like to dignify hatred with a response but for her readers, I hope it gives you pause that she’s prepared to endanger me and my older children despite claiming to care for my dead baby. That doesn’t really make sense, does it? If it is redacted I’ll be noting it here.
I fully realise the irony that hate mail will appear in response to me publishing this. So in case you missed it, this is what I think of your hate mail: I’m sorry you have so little compassion for self and others. I’m sorry your life has such hatred in it. I hope that you move towards love and find ways to be in the world which are nurturing for you and those around you. I wish you love.
ETA: I’ve been informed that my address has been redacted on that site.