29 November 2018

Teaching kids to give a shit #kidsoffnauru

Explaining things to children is never easy. They have more questions than you could have ever dreamed possible when you started the conversation, and they often (thankfully) don't have the experience to realise just how awful humans can be to one another so can't fully picture the scenario you are explaining.

Our daughters have been attending protests, marches and other 'activist' activities since they were in the womb - we are all rounders. We're all about human rights for all people - so we've marched in support of women, equality for our LGBTQI friends, refugees, asylum seekers, not being a racist numpty, and so on.

I'm not even going to pretend they had much of a clue about it all in the early days - they came along for the sunshine, the snacks and because they go where we do. I've had people accuse me of brainwashing my children, forcing them to believe what I believe, and these are people fresh from taking their children to church. The irony.

Source: My facebook feed circa 2013
We don't take our children to these events for fun. We do it because we believe that the standard we walk past is the standard we accept and we are just lucky that we live in a country where we can say what we like about our government's policies and our politicians without fear of retribution. (Note: unless you're Richard di Natale calling Barry O'Sullivan 'a pig' - which is actually much nicer than most Australian's would call him to his face given the opportunity)

Nick (Richard's mate) and Jimmy (everybody's mate)
Photo courtesy of Richard Tuffin and World Vision Australia
On Tuesday this week I took my daughters' out of school for the day to go to Canberra to take part in the #kidsoffnauru protest outside Parliament House.  Along with a couple of other kids we're connected with via Mums4Refugees, they presented a petition containing over 170,000 signatures requesting the immediate removal of children from Nauru to the politicians Kerryn Phelps, Andrew Wilkie, Derryn Hinch, Rebekha Sharkie and Nick McKim. The event was organised by World Vision Australia and over 400 other organisations working tirelessly to improve our treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and others not lucky enough to be born into a safe country.

Photo: Mine

Photo: Mine

Photo: Screen Shot of Jana Favero's Twitter Feed

I am totally blown away by the tirelessness of the people and organisations involved in supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. It is a dispiriting process because as soon as you think the government has gone as low as it's possible to go, they go lower. These organisations are constantly reconfiguring their offerings and fundraising endlessly to make sure nobody slips through the cracks if at all possible.

Presenting the petition full of signatures that happen because people are ace
Photo: Richard Tuffin and World Vision Australia
Shortly after, Scott Morrison, one of the great orchestrators and believers in imprisoning innocent children, women and men, walked out on Kerryn Phelps maiden speech.  The labour party voted along with the government to stop supporting refugees in our community - no funding, no medical, no working, no education.  On the same day, I'm trying to explain why it's important to listen to other points of view, and to do all that we can to help others, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us - my government, their government, is demonstrating exactly the opposite.

From the archives

And during the road trip down to Canberra, and in the sun under the giant Australian flag, we were still having the conversation where I tried my hardest to explain (yet again) to a six year old and an eight year old why our country would lock up refugees.  Tully heard one speaker say 'no parent takes their child into the ocean unless it's safer than the land' and she wanted me to explain why we jail people that were desperate for peace.

I had no answer.

Cassidy wanted to know if we were the lucky country why we didn't want to share with people that were unlucky?

I had no answer.

Tully asked me why we are so afraid of people who need to be refugees on boats but not the ones that come other ways?

I had no answer.

Cassidy was outraged about the fairness. The unkindness. The cruelty. 

I had no answer.

I tried to explain why people worried about refugees and their impact on our society and our 'way of life'. But neither of them could get their heads around those as legitimate reasons.

They weren't sure initially about going to Canberra to be part of it.  It sounded like there would be a lot of talking (there was), a lots of people (there were) and they weren't sure what politicians looked like (just like old people in case you wanted the truth by Cass) or how you held a petition (nailed it).  But when I asked them after the event what they had thought, both were very pleased to have been part of it.

"Mum, I would get in so much trouble if I was unkind deliberately at school. I don't understand why Australia is being so unfair but if us coming with you helped those poor kids in the camps, I'm really pleased we came."

"Yeah, we'd come again wouldn't we?"

"Yeah, I can't imagine being locked up. Even with your Mum. It makes me feel so very sad"

"And Mum, just the other week we did that thing at school about remembering war so that there would be no more wars and yet there are still wars. Why do we do the remembering if there are still wars?"

I had no answer to that either.

South Sudanese refugee Akual Garang spoke. She said "I was forced to live as an adult and have to witness many things children should not have to go through, so bombs and suicide and things like that are common memories that children like me - and refugee children like me - experience every single day. "Those are the memories I live with. And I don't want any child to have to go through the things I went through."
Akual Garang
Photo: Richard Tuffin and World Vision Australia
As a human person, I don't want that for Akual, I don't want it for my own girls Tully and Cassidy, and I sure as hell don't want it for any other child on this planet.  I know I can't change everything at once. But I do know, that it is people like me, people like my daughters, turning up, showing up, speaking out and basically boring the pants off every one we know, is the only way we can make any change at all.

And I want them to know that now. That there is nothing so important as standing up for people who don't have the freedom to stand up, for speaking on behalf of somebody with no voice, and most of all, how kindness impacts people in many more ways than you can possibly imagine.

Dirt Girl and Small Girls with Big Beautiful Voices
Photo: Richard Tuffin and World Vision Australia

I can't say if we're getting it right, but as parents we are trying. Because as Dr Seuss said in the Lorax
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

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7 November 2018

HumanKind. Be both. Or don't choose nursing

I have a friend who is studying to become a mid-wife. She was working the other day in a maternity ward and helped a patient out and was afterwards spoken to her by the supervising nurse who said that there was 'no time for kindness' and she needed to get on with her job.

As she told her story over a coffee, she said, quite rhetorically, what is nursing without kindness? Is there ever a time we don't have time to be kind?  We agreed that she was right, nursing requires kindness. 

It turns out that that conversation was quite triggering for me. It has made me furious.

Quite frankly, her supervising nurse shouldn't be nursing. Especially in a maternity ward.

When I had my first daughter, I was diagnosed with complete placenta previa early on in my pregnancy.  I had two scans and they told me I would have to have a caesarean before my due date because if I went into natural labour and the placenta ruptured it would be bad news for the baby and me.  

It wasn't what I had wanted but that's the way the cookie crumbles. During that pregnancy, every time something unexpected happened I was hauled in to check on the baby and make sure there was no rupturing etc. It was a stressful time. I finished work two weeks before my scheduled c-section, turned up the day before for the scan to confirm where the placenta was. 

It was then the doctor told me that whoops, a mistake had been made, I didn't have this, and in fact, looking at the early scans I didn't have it then either. It was a misdiagnosis.  I should go home and come back when she was ready to be born 'vaginally'.

So being a good patient. I did.  Despite having spent the last 4 months mentally preparing to have a c-section when I had wanted to give birth 'naturally'. Accepting that sometimes the way we end up doing something is not what we had hoped. 

I went in at once stage shortly after my due date because my waters were slowly leaking out of me, but was told I didn't know what I was talking about and sent home.

I was finally induced two weeks after my due date. Over the next 55 hours, I would be poked, stretched, swept, moved from my bed in the middle of the night to make way for 'somebody who needed it', ignored, talked over, poked, prodded, squeezed, stabbed and so on.  I had failed inductions, a couple of failed epidurals and by the time I had been doing this for almost 48 hours they hooked me up to a drip, gave me some gas and put the induction up to maximum.  The pain kicked in like a steel boot to the vagina. My midwife told me not to suck on the gas until I was properly in pain. When I asked her if she had ever had a baby she said no. I felt bad for feeling pain. So much pain. While I was giving birth. Get your head around that. 

I was not only in pain, but I was tired. I hadn't slept since Sunday night and it was now Tuesday night. I had had my private parts looked at by so many nurses and doctors I had lost count.  Despite the inductions and all the rest of it, I was still not even half way dilated. My daughter went into distress shortly after midnight on the Wednesday morning and was born by emergency c-section four and a half weeks after my scheduled c-section. During that time I was told off by the surgeon for chatting to my husband - yes, a woman who had just been paralysed from the chest down, after 55 hours trying to give birth, who had an extreme reaction to the anaesthetic and couldn't stop shaking, whose child's heart beat had plummeted and who was understandably really worried, was told to stop trying to distract herself by the person cutting her open.

My baby girl was born safely shortly after, with scratches on her head from some of the instruments used to examine me and they concluded I was right, my waters had broken some time before I gave birth. However, the main thing was that she was okay. Yay team. And I told myself that they were right. That was the main thing. 

Eventually, I was moved to a maternity ward. I finally drifted off to sleep when she started to cry. I tried to sit up to get her but couldn't move. Not because of the stitches but because I felt like I was tied to the bed. I rang the bell and a nurse came in and when I asked her to hand me my baby, she said no. She then launched into a diatribe accusing me of being lazy, and saying it was a hospital and not a hotel and I might as well get used to getting up to get my baby now.

About twenty minutes later she returned and said 'sorry - I didn't realise you were the c-section', and I felt FUCKING grateful can you believe it? She then checked me over and realised that my catheter was wrapped around the winding mechanism so I was literally pinned to the bed.  She fixed that up, handed me my baby and left.

In hindsight, I was able to see how many ways the professional staff - both doctors and nurses let me down during that whole experience, but particularly after I was admitted for induction. But that hindsight wasn't to come for some time. 

It is a hospital and not a hotel. But nurses can't not be medically competent and unkind. People in hospital are vulnerable, particularly mothers who are going through something that is profoundly physical whether or not the birth is vaginal or otherwise. 

Following the birth of my eldest daughter and before the birth of my second daughter 19 months later, I was diagnosed with PTSD and PND. I felt like a complete failure as both a mother and a person. Before those diagnoses I thought about killing myself and I wept for days for the life my daughters were going to have without a mother. I kept telling myself that the main thing was she was okay, but if I had got it so wrong the first time, what could go wrong the second. 

It was hell. It took me a long time to recognise that I hadn't done anything wrong. I had trusted my instincts. I had done what I was supposed to do.  It was the medical professionals that turned what I had hoped to be one of the best experiences of my life into one of the worst.

I had my second daughter via an elective c-section. The experience was quite different, but due to some complications with her breathing she had to go to NICU.  They were great. She came out a few days later and we went home. But by then I was on anti-depressants, and I worried constantly through the whole experience. There was no relaxing for me.  Another experience transformed because the of the unkindness shown to me during the first.

So, dear supervising nurse, if you can no longer find time in your day to be kind - you need to quit. My story is but one in a myriad of stories both positive and negative.  But it is our ability to be kind and empathise which makes good humans.

And if you don't have time to be one of those, nursing is not for you.

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5 November 2018

Dear Terrified of Turramurra

Dear Al,

I’m suffering from anxiety and depression caused directly by Donald Trump. I am losing sleep, and have no idea where to turn. My friends just laugh at me. What should I do? 

Terrified of Turramurra

Dear Terrified of Turramurra

Well firstly - your friends are arseholes. I think that's where we should start. It might not seem rational to them but that's not the point.  The whole point of friends is that they should support you and love you even if they think you are batshit crazy.  I suggest new friends.

Secondly, I think that anybody that isn't feeling some level of anxiety about Donald Trump is clearly over medicated or perhaps not living on Planet Earth.  I mean, the man is the President of the United States of America - a position so deified that Hollywood have been making movies about it for years. 

I mean lets be honest, there has been no movie where somebody abducts the Prime Minister's of Australia's plane and the closest anyone has given a shit about the Prime Minister of England is when Hugh Grant got to defend Martine McCutcheon's honour in Love Actually.  

The horrible thing is, in America, the guy in charge has a great deal of influence.  And when that influence is in the very, very tiny hands of a megalomaniac who lacks impulse control, respect for any kind of human being that isn't himself and could potentially set off the third world war in one fucking tweet - that is anxiety inducing.

Not to mention if anybody but anybody ever paid attention in history class, you would be able to see the parallels between whats happening in 2018 and what happened in the 1920s/1930s. Except now, despite having access to more information than ever before, people say they don't want to know.  Well of course you don't want to know. Who does? But standing back and doing fuck all about it doesn't make it go away. 

Ask ANYBODY that was Jewish or a minority how that turned out for them when a teetotaling, megalomaniac decided to play on the fears and insecurity of people based on the economic climate of the time by vilifying, blaming and building up a storm of hate towards other people.  ANSWER: REALLY FUCKING BADLY.

So in short, Terrified of Turramurra, the anxiety is reasonable. But counter act that by doing things that are meaningful in your local community to break down stereotypes and create connections with people that you might not ordinarily meet. Find ways to to meet people from different backgrounds and life experiences to ensure that there is no US and THEM when it comes to our own little corner of the world.

Because it is cliched sure, but the fact is - the only way to change the world is to do something. And it all spirals from there. 

And lastly, if you can't sleep - see your doctor.  A good night's sleep makes all of us feel better no matter what. You need to sort that shit out pronto.


If you have something for 'Dear Al', please send to talkingfranklyblog@gmail.com - Thanks.