Why I don’t read hate mail

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. 

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33 Responses to Why I don’t read hate mail

  1. Homebirthmum says:

    Lotsa love ….. and love to those in the darkness of hate. Love. Love. Love. xxxxx

  2. Stacey says:

    I’m so sorry you are still dealing with people’s fuckwittery. I feel full of incoherent rage right now, and sadness that people are, as you say, so lacking in compassion.

  3. Abby says:

    I’m sorry you’re having to go through this Janet…… I so wish for you this side of things was all over. I hope your family remains safe regardless of the stupid actions this ‘expert’ has taken. I’m ashamed of our legal system……how on earth did she get that information??!

  4. annie says:

    Wow! I love your strength. Thank you for your compassion towards all of those who don’t even know they need it. Thank you for writing. Keep doing it. Please keep writing. Do not stop. Don’t ever stop writing Janet. It is because the notorious North American blogger exists, it is because women don’t have a choice in childbirth that you need to keep going on too. xxx

  5. Kris says:

    I am so sorry. I wish that you and your family were granted the same privileges as the others who lose a child, to grieve in peace, to remember your daughter. The behaviour of people who believe they have a right to stand in judgement of you, who believe they can pretend to know you, know your love for your child, never ceases to sicken and disappoint me. I wish for you peace and much love.

  6. O says:

    I can’t see a rose without thinking for a moment of your little girl. <3

  7. KK says:

    Keep telling your story Janet. When we have nothing else… we still have our truth. Love to you, and to those you hold dear, that hold you in turn.

  8. saoirsewoman says:

    A woman who experienced obstetric violence chose to give birth at home. She did so, in the safety of her home, supported by people who loved her. Her child is alive and well today. When she got pregnant again, she once again chose to do the same thing. As I myself have done, 4 times. As millions of women do, around the world, every year. She gave birth at home, surrounded by people who loved her. What she did not know is that this time, her precious unborn baby had passed away, and she was born still. As many babies are, in and out of hospitals, every year. Because Janet did not use a doppler, she had no way of knowing that her little one had already passed. This was her choice. I have never used a doppler during labour either, and during pregnancy, only very rarely, in two out of 4 pregnancies. 2000 families suffer the loss of a child every year in Australia. It is sad, and these families need love and support, and their grief to be honoured. Yet these families, even if their babies died due to iotrogenic causes, are not dragged through punitive proceedings that of course, cannot possibly end in formal charges, but are merely designed to scare the living pants off any other couples who may dare to exercise their civil rights as Janet has done. So people, please think about the concept of “projection” as you use a family’s private tragedy as fodder for your own notoriety. Consider that you are not more entitled to your opinion and your choices that Janet (or I, and my friends and colleagues) are. You must be responsible for the outcomes of your choices and beliefs, as we are too. Your copy books aren’t pristine enough to be judging anyone else. No categorical conclusions can be drawn and trumpeted from Janet’s experiences. Attacking Janet, or freebirth/ers, or homebirth/ers, will not make the world a better place or save more women or babies. On the other hand, prejudice, ignorance, black-and-white thinking, judgement, arrogance and spite will do much damage – especially to the causes you may believe in … and to your own hearts. So practice a little critical thinking, perhaps a little self-examination … and most of all, practice an ocean of love. And so much love to you Janet. I am so sorry for the loss of your precious child, and for the pain an unthinking, unfeeling society has put you through. And I am in awe of your courage, the courage you have shown to live your life with an open heart and open arms, to love and forgive and live life fully and freely.

  9. Lou says:

    My heart goes out to you and your precious family Janet. It’s so sad that the Internet hides these nasty trolls that hide behind usernames and computer screens. I admire your strength and compassion of the haters. And thank you for standing up for our rights as women. You truly are an inspiration. Blessed be :)

  10. Robyn says:

    Dear Janet, no one can know the deep pain you and your family have gone through with the loss of your baby daughter. That you were able to give her the experience of birth is a true gift, a private moment and all the more sadden with her passing back through the veil to rest once more in the arms of love. Hold onto that love Janet, and know that there is not one living soul on this planet who can take that away from you. Hold strong to your compassion and know that for every ill wisher there is the equivalent of 100 hearts who wish upon you only the space to grieve as a mother, a woman, a nurturer. You are a brave woman !! I also wish for you peace and much love.

  11. GP says:

    I wish I had wise words of comfort, but all I feel is stunned and enraged at your situation YET AGAIN.

    I don’t even….

    But I do know I love you <3

  12. Gabrielle says:

    just love xxxxxxxx

  13. IndigoMumma says:

    Janet, as always I stand by you and yours. You have been to hell and back and lived to tell they tale. I still thank every day that I look at my son with love that I found your writing and JB, it was the first step to self healing and that gift alone makes me thankful. Much healing and love from one woman and mother to another, keep your light shining.

  14. maia says:

    Nothing but love here. Stay strong.

  15. Paula says:

    Your strength, dignity and understanding are something the majority of us can only aspire to Janet. I for one, cannot even begin to fathom the motivation of those who have no compassion for you loss and all the trauma surrounding it.
    Wishing you peace and safety.

  16. Michelle says:

    Apparently my blog and loss story got brought into the discussion on that site on the post about your loss. I will never understand why people think it is okay to be abusive to loss mothers. I am so sorry this happened to you and I admire you strength. Love to you!

  17. goneanon says:

    An inspiring post, thank you.

    As someone who did condemn you to my friends and on an internet forum in 2009 I can verify that what you say is true. My condemnation was born of ignorance and fear. Actually it was a wonderful thing for me to observe my very different emotional response to the media coverage this time and realise that it was due to having grown in wisdom and compassion in that time without having known.

    I once went to the children’s court with a friend who I met through volunteering with a respite service for families with children with disabilities. Her child had been removed due to alleged neglect and she was trying to get him back in her care. I was utterly shocked by the attitude of the lawyers and the magistrate. It was exactly as you describe. She was doomed as guilty well before she even walked into that courtroom. The facts were essentially irrelevant. As her companion I felt for the first time in my life what it is like to be viewed as scum by people who don’t even know you, because they’ve made unconscious assumptions about your social status and believe themselves to be superior to you. It was truly horrible.

    Something the magistrate said which I’ll always remember (& I’m not supposed to say what went on but this is very minor & doesn’t really concern the case in question, I might change my name to anon just in case) was that if my friend’s son had been taken as a babe in arms then it would have been easier, there would be no bond and therefore they wouldn’t have to facilitate in the care plan the biological mother having any contact with her child, but because he was four years old a bond would have developed so she was given supervised visits once every two months (why they have to be supervised I have no idea). This blew my mind. This man knew nothing about the bond between a mother and her baby.

    The circumstances of this case, the social injustice of it, would shock anyone with an ounce of compassion but that makes no difference to the outcome. My friend now has virtually no prospect of getting her son back.

    Oh my god something just clicked . . that magistrate was Scott Mitchell. I heard he’d moved from the children’s court but I had no idea he’d moved to the coroner’s! Assuming it is the same Scott Mitchell?

  18. Robin says:

    mama I am so sorry. somehow I missed your loss, in the management of my own campaigns. Much love to you and your family and support in the face of the idiocies of the ignorant and hateful. xoxo Robin

  19. Diana says:

    {{{hugs}}} I am so sorry you and your family had to go through that insanity after such a loss. I hope the haters will see the light soon.
    Much love

  20. Janet says:

    Thank you, everyone.

  21. Pria says:

    I am weeping reading this. You are so fucking courageous. Thank you. Stay strong. Love to you x

  22. goneanon says:

    I was listening to Michael Chamberlain on the Conversation 702 the other day, he spoke about him and Lindy were “dehumanised and demonised” in the public eye & I immediately thought of this. Our society has learnt nothing from the Azaria case despite all the talk in the last couple of weeks.

  23. goneanon says:

    My condemnation was about more than ignorance, ill will and fear, it was also about a desire for social acceptance, to fit in with the herd.

    Reading this has helped it to sink in that I don’t need to work at getting people to like me anymore, that strategy has outlived it’s usefulness (although it’s still a hard habit to break). People pleasing comes from the survival instinct but ultimately a choice needs to be made between that and Love, which transcends the animal/material realm.

    Some people I’ve known, people from rich, powerful families, the sort with streets named after them, display a confidence that is mysterious to me. They know they are right. Their conservative, unthinking opinions reflect the status quo but not because of any deep down fear of ostracisation. Of course I’ve known other people from those families whose do not have that confidence. Expelled from the nest because they are gay, or mentally ill, or not successful enough.

    When I told my husband last night about Mitchell’s babe in arms comment he was surprised, he thought someone would in that position would be aware of the stolen generations, of the social and historical context in which his assumptions were made. But what he didn’t understand is that things haven’t actually changed. All this banter in the media about political correctness is just that. Liberals who engage in that banter don’t run our institutions. That same day at the court there was an Aboriginal man in tears, his teenage granddaughter had been removed from his care because she was getting into trouble, put with white foster carers four hours away.

  24. Janet says:

    Thank you, goneanon. Your thoughts are eloquent and appreciated as well as very thought provoking. I’m curious now about DSC Mitchell’s other judgements and may look them up. It’s been suggested to me that the higher up you get in the justice system, the better the law. These tribunals stacked against transgressive women and those perceived outside the Pale of decent society (or as counsel assisting said of me, “Swimming so far outside the flags that no one could reach them!”) are the lowest level of law, they are simply our prejudices revealed in chilling power with no judicial integrity. If we could all afford to seek actual justice, in the Supreme Court and the High Court when required, there would be a lot less of this socially sanctioned outrageous bullying.

  25. goneanon says:

    Yes that makes sense. My friend now deeply regrets not appealing his decision in the District Court immediately (she later tried but was denied legal aid), where her lawyer said she would have a better chance. But at the time she was so traumatised by her treatment in the box – she’s dyslexic & got all muddled up & totally hammered by both the other side & the magistrate, he ridiculed her responses – that she couldn’t face going back there in a month’s time. She’d had to testify for a week the previous year as a witness against the child’s father and was simply terrified of court.

    Apparently SM was kinder to women there for drug problems (my friend had her autistic child taken because DOCS decided she’d asked for help too many times – as the young manager said in court “it is not an unpaid babysitting service” – she had no family support & was stupidly too proud to ask friends & trusted the system). The decision in the end came down to the assumption, that seems to be held by many in that sector, that a woman who chooses the “wrong” type of partner is going to do so again & again. Which may be generally true perhaps but in her case it isn’t. And because there was a rich childless couple willing to foster the child long-term (which isn’t that common).

  26. Janet says:

    He does ridicule. He ridiculed the idea of me being suicidal or traumatised by my first hospital experience in a way that really made my skin crawl. Rape denial is alive and well in the judiciary. He made fun of the idea that my midwife had recommended I have a caesarean with my first baby and clearly indicated I lied about that but then he was prepared to believe the same midwife suggested I go back to the hospital for counselling when I was suicidal. At the same time they became convinced I had had two years counselling for PTSD (I didn’t. It was nothing like that long. And there’s no evidence of it from me.) they also clearly didn’t believe I had any trauma. The place people inhabit when putting their beliefs onto women can make them simultaneously hold views which simply cannot coexist but they do it without shame or apparent insight. Which is the definition, after all, of cognitive dissonance but seeing it in action is profound. As I’ve previously said, I really do experience brain freeze when it happens. Cognitive dissonance is not my strong suit. Neither do I wear bow ties….

  27. goneanon says:

    Wow. That was exactly what he ridiculed my friend over, her suicide attempt and the treatment she had sought for depression. And was then merciless because she tripped herself up answering his questions. She was so confused and embarassed by the ridicule, undisguised contempt and his bizarre reference to scottish highland dancing.

    “The place people inhabit when putting their beliefs onto women can make them simultaneously hold views which simply cannot coexist but they do it without shame or apparent insight.” Yes indeed. He was very disparaging of the health professionals my friend had reports from, and the parenting courses she had taken, but in ways that were oddly contradictory. But whilst the things he said in court didn’t make sense and were cruel his final report used the evidence selectively in a way that it all sounded reasonable.

    I was so upset after spending the day in court with her, shocked that this goes on every day and people don’t know, that I emailed him. I was very respectful, I just wanted to tell him the truth about my friend, her mental health and her parenting ability because that hadn’t come out in court at all (and wasn’t that the whole point of the process???).

    He was furious. He made the – wrong- assumption that her lawyer had given me his email address and apparently blasted her out in the open in front of everyone (she’d only been doing it for a year – I was told she grew up on the Block & got into because of successfully fighting DOCS to keep her sister, who they wanted to take & put with a non-Aboriginal family). SM seemed to treat this lawyer with a lot less respect than he did anyone else in the room (apart from the parents).

    He was so angry that I’d dared to address him he threatened to scrap the whole proceedings & my poor husband was terrified we were going to get charged with the costs of restaging it! I felt terrible in case SM punished my friend for what I’d done but it was clear he’d made up his mind prior anyway.

    It never would have even occurred to most people in that court room to think about what it might be like coping with the trauma my friend had recently experienced through no fault of her own (which like yours was significant, by anyone’s standards) and at the same time doing her very best to care for a child with autism and very challenging behaviours.

  28. Pingback: Cyberbullies 101: Part 1 – muffling their megaphones « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog

  29. Cathy Mifsud says:

    Lots and lots of love to you Janet XO

  30. Heather says:

    Beautifully written Janet. Much love to you and your family xxxxx

  31. Natalie Greene says:

    Janet I live in the UK and my sister has bought your story to my attention. I am speechless, words cannot express how this has made me feel. I wish you and your family a wonderful future, remembering your daughter without the experience that followed afterwards.

  32. Janet says:

    Thanks, Natalie, I appreciate your kindness. xx

  33. Sending my love to you, Janet. May you feel the embraces of we your sisters from afar, in all of those times when the road gets hard. Peace be with you. <3

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