bellyache.

I’m 37 in 3 months. Sometimes I forget, and think I’m turning 35. I’m startled when I remember my real age, like someone has told me a shocking piece of news. As though I’ve been duped for years.

When I was 33 I got a divorce. This fact also startles me, like walking down a street deep in thought, and turning a corner and smacking into a stranger all of a sudden. Divorce seems to be a drama that happens to other people. But it happened, and to this day, I’ve only said it out loud only a handful of times. It still doesn’t seem to fit me.

Making that decision to rebuild your life was the hardest and easiest I’ve ever done. Extracting a life you’ve built with someone for many, many years required more than a deep breath to ready yourself. It was not like ripping a bandaid. It was a slow death by tiny, little cuts to the skin of our relationship. It was very clear, months later, that we were doing nothing but stifling each other. Together, we couldn’t breathe, we couldn’t grow. When we let go, we flourished. We became who we always wanted to be.

At 34 I met a man significantly younger than me. But he was wiser and older than many men I’ve met, and we recognized each other instantly as though we had met one another many, many times before. In a different life, dressed up as different people perhaps. We grasped each other quick and tight like time was running out, and none of it felt unnatural.

There were many things that wanted to pry our fingers off of each other, but for some reason not loving him wasn’t an option. So that was that. That happened.

For years I’ve been trying to have a child. I failed at this, more than once, and i excused it every time as life not being ready for me, or me not being ready for life. In any case, something wasn’t ready. And in any case, a tiny part of me died every time.

I felt perhaps I had destroyed my body so much that it became a worn out vessel that couldn’t hold something so precious. At this stage, I felt more and more profoundly, that as a woman, your very purpose on this earth is to create life. I had succeeded in so many things so far, I rebuilt my life majestically from scratch. I had an amazing career. I look 30. All of this I had done on my own, yet my body can’t succeed in doing the one thing I was inherently put in the world for. And i am really, really struggling being ok with that failure.

I have spoken to my closest friends about this, and they tell me to not put so much pressure on my self, that the stress isn’t helping, that patience is a virtue, that if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.

My best friends are the most magnificent people on this planet, but they are women having their second child, they are men who do not bleed, men who do not feel the pain in your stomach that comes every month and you lie in bed with your eyes shut tight thinking – please don’t be, I did everything right, you’re not meant to come… I did everything right.

This sadness that comes flooding through me is starting to strain the man I live with. Young and trying to carve a remarkably demanding career, declaring month in and month out his love and support with relentless tenderness and humor. But lately I’ve seen questions causing silent panic fly across his beautiful eyes, when he looks around and sees mountains of paper about conception, the blood tests and daily thermometers, when we have charts telling us when to try.

There is fear in me that the pressure will combust the both of us, together and separately. This wonderful man with his life ahead of him, how easy it would be if I was someone younger too. But I am selfish and I think – no, this is what I want. Try again try again try again.

I’m starting to get bitter. I can see it unfurling within me, slowly but powerfully and it is unstoppable. Friends tell me their good news and I am happy for them, because it IS a beautiful thing and they are my sisters, but on the inside I think – how many do you want? Like there’s a ration of children out in the world that people are allowed to have, and everyone’s grabbing way more than they should.

I’m starting to retreat too. I have this complicated rationale in my mind to avoid people and drinking and crowds and noise, to cave down and rest and not touch a drop and take care of my body after a long week of work. To cocoon it in cotton wool, remove it from all situations.

And all of the above, when there is silence, there is guilt and loneliness so sharp, and age when I look in the mirror, and fear in the pit of my stomach. I think of my mother who is shrinking into her own skin, who goes to church and lights a candle every single day that I would give her a grandchild. And I think oh ma, it’s the one thing in the entire world you’ve always always wanted to have, and what if I fail you? Not once have you ever failed me.

In 3 months I turn 37. I officially tick over the scientific threshold of conception as a real issue, beyond lifestyle, beyond choices.

And i feel hollow and out of touch with all that I have known in this world, all that I once thought was precious to me, all that I had given my energy to.

There’s one thing that throughout the divorce, throughout all my past heartaches, all the losses, the sleepless nights, the facade – is that I am resilient. Resilience is a skill that I’ve worked out like a muscle, it comes hand in hand with hope, of which I thought I had an endless supply of.

For the first time in my entire life, I’m starting to think that hope is just that one human joke that people before us made up. So people today can start running around looking for it, when their hands can’t find anything solid to hang on to.

.written on my phone, June 2019.

Dancing in the dark.

there is unbelievable loneliness during the first three months of pregnancy.

there’s the hormones running rampant through your body. there’s you trying to comprehend the enormity of the situation. you’re recognising the sudden changes in you because you’ve read about them – there’s Google, and your friends, and the mountain of literature your doctor just gave you.

but its not until you’re in the depth of it, do you realise how horrendous it actually is.

the loneliness doesn’t stem from the sudden lack of control over your body. although *huge side note* for people who are OCD like me – who needs to feel in total control of everything all the time – pregnancy is inconceivably jarring. it leaves you feeling completely helpless about all the things that’s happening to you, and everything you once knew so well about your physical self is flipped on its head.

so that has a part to play in the loneliness. the other huge part is the fact that women, in their first trimester, succumb to the suffocating silence of absolute secrecy.

here is the landscape:

firstly, there is monstrous, crazy stuff happening in your head – the sheer thought of you being a mother. not small. the fact that (especially if you’ve been trying to conceive for a while), its actually finally happening and you want to jump up and down and shout it from the rooftops but you can’t (but also no, because at this stage that sounds completely fucking exhausting). the sudden change in your daily habits and shifting of all your future plans. the majestic leap of faith and trust you’re having to take not just within yourself but also with your partner. the overnight enormous and ridiculously uncomfortable boobs. the cramps, the constipation, the pimples, the debilitating nausea and acid reflux. the heavy, heavy lethargy that wraps around you every single day like a wet woollen blanket.

all of this, and so much more, you’re forced to experience in absolute silence because society tells you that it’s not entirely acceptable to announce that you’re expecting until you’re 100% past the ‘safe zone’.

praise be.

why, exactly?

are you politely shielding your friends and family from the burden of having to uncomfortably comfort you when you don’t get past the first trimester? is it removing all the future public drama if you don’t? telling your family or friends that you’re only 4, 6, 10 weeks is almost embarrassing – like celebrating winning the lottery when you’ve only just bought the ticket. announcing you’re expecting at the early stages is very often followed with, “oh but it’s very early, i don’t want to get too excited.” with a wave of a hand. all nonchalant. like, whatever.

and right there, my friends, that is where the core of the loneliness lies.

who told women that they should hold back their excitement because there’s a 1 in 4 chance of it not continuing full term? isn’t that more of a reason to celebrate? especially if you’ve been trying for a baby for so long, the moment you get those two lines on the stick, isn’t that more of a reason to tell your close friends and family that you’ve finally succeeded?

instead, the first three months are clouded with oppressive fear and anticipation. if you’re sharing that fear with the ones closest to you, wouldn’t that make this excruciatingly slow feels-like-ten-years journey to the second trimester a little better for you? knowing your very loved ones have your back if it goes this way, or goes that way? especially if your friends have children, wouldn’t it nice to ask for their wisdom and not turn to Google and give yourself anxiety with assumptions?

even the average days during the first three months, i know it would be nice to not lie to colleagues why you’re feeling really inexplicably tired at 9.15 am, or hiding the fact you’ve just spent 30 minutes in the bathroom trying to hold back your breakfast. it would be nice to text a close friend to say nothing, just that you literally bawled your eyes out because you saw the Westpac ad about that bakery in Budapest, or you haven’t taken a shit in four days.

all incredibly petty for some, im sure. but when you’re doing all this in the silence of your own company – you’re wanting to share, complain, ask, or just silently lean on someone because deep down, this can all get pretty scary but then realise you can’t – you feel immobilised, isolated, and very, very sad.

the stigma of having to be silent in what many say is the hardest few months of pregnancy is a lot of bullshit. it builds enormous pressure on top of an already highly emotional time in your life. society shrinks from people showing vulnerabilities and this makes me sad(der).

i was going to write a poem. it was going to be cryptic, and strong and short, but instead i found myself typing out all of this in the quiet of my living room. one of my bestfriends is celebrating her birthday tonight, at a cool restaurant with lots of wine with cool people and cool skinny pants. im usually the first to order a crispy pinot grigio, sneak out with a girlfriend for a cheeky cigarette after a meal of sushi, be one of the last ones standing in some bar at 3am with a Manhattan in my hand.

but tonight i had to say i wasn’t feeling well – not a full lie – its a stomach bug, so weird, it just came on. but really i couldn’t front my beautiful friends and evade the questions why im not drinking, why are you leaving so early etc etc. its a seesaw of confiding in people you confide everything about, and retreating because you can’t. not yet, anyhow.

which brings me to the other point of this toxic societal attitude of keeping quiet. what happens if it doesn’t happen? you suffer a loss, and again you’ll suffer in silence. the time when you need your close ones really close to you, you were told to hold them back all this time. so through this grief, they remain unreachable.

how can that be right?

they say it takes a village to raise a child. it should also take a village of support when you’ve just found out you’re growing one inside you.

. aug 19

make a wine glass sing.

i am seated in a wine bar facing the door.
there are leather couches and empty wine bottles on shelves flickering from tea candles;
Peyroux moaning with heartache in the background.
i’ve been watching people having conversations:
women with their red lipsticks, a man smoking a cigar.
occasionally, I see a figure walking
on the other side of the window, and the foggy glass
melts and disassembles them into someone else.
when they walk in, i relax my grip
on my unlit cigarette. it’s not him. i
exhale, smooth my hair. i remember I am still waiting,
and this is how i know
i am in love.

there was always a romantic melancholy to the
image of a solitary thinker,
sitting in a bar full of shadows and too much red wine.
the waiting and the wine has led me to think too much
about how i feel.
i feel like the word shatter.
you can wet the rim of a glass
and run your finger around the rim and it will make a sound.
this is what I feel like:
this sound of glass.

. an excerpt, found in my emails.
may, 2010

salt eyes.

i made a list today.
eggs, milk, potatoes x 6,
a box of tests that would tell me
if again i’ve failed,
and another box of tests to tell me
when I should try again,
bread, toothpaste, windex.

this regime is exhausting
and banal, all in the same breath.
once it was something you avoided at all costs,
it may happen so effortlessly, when you’re not thinking,
like slipping clumsily stepping out of the bath.

now, it’s all apps and timings
and frequency and temperatures,
a quizzical, problematic plumbing issue,
requiring diligence and maintenance and money,
like a leaking tap.

i have made a vocation of it.

how did it swing from
frantic avoidance and frivolous plans,
to suddenly bursting into tears in the bathroom
with red on my fingertips,
wiping clean a weeping nose and
the silent reminder that comes every month,
a solo act.

i think,
all month i’ve built
a lifetime in my head
and now the sun sinks to
undo it.

i am not sure how this all happened.
it is in these moments, the most raw
when I realize with full brutality
how it truly feels
to be a woman.

little charlton.

he openly cries at the end of Disney movies.
he revived all my dying, wrinkly, brown-crispy plants.
his eyes are so blue and transparent and vast, its like looking
into flying.

i like his warmth and his leanness
his bad jokes and good pie graphs,
how on the first night, in the back of the Uber
he took my hand and held it gently between his,
like we were old companions.

i love how at night he would fold me up in a tiny bundle and fit his limbs
and face and chest into the nooks and crannies of me,
how he swings from wise, vinegary old man to
petulant child to father to lover to me.

what is only pieces, doled out from here and there
from this boy and that boy, is all reconstructed
and the puzzle is getting clear, i am seeing an image.

when you were 6 years old, watching a stage play of Cinderella
sitting on the floor, eyes wide in the half-dark
‘can somebody love me?’ Cinderella sobs, ‘love me just the way i am?’
and amidst your tears, your little voice cries out –

‘yes, i will!’

shallow

more and more i am feeling the edges of me
dissolve and fade,

i hold my ear close to my stomach
hear the slow, silent seconds
the reflection of time lost
the fruitful moments dismissed with
a wave of a hand.

this kind of hunger draws
everything into its own space;
nor can we talk it all over,
have a calm rational discussion it seems

there is no reason for this, only
a starved dog’s logic
about bones.

the birth of a star.

the word soulmates have a bad rap.

soulmates aren’t the ones who make you happiest, no.
they’re instead the ones who make you feel the most.

burning edges and scars and stars.
old pangs, bewilderment and beauty.
like you’ve been winded,
like you’ve surrendered.

jealousy and sweetness,
madness then laughter
a seesaw of delight, delicious
and dangerous doubt.

they hurl you into the abyss.
they lullaby you back in cotton wool.

they taste like hope.

terms and conditions.

watch out for power,
for its avalanche can bury you,
angry, hungry feet wanting more above you,
snow, snow, snow, smothering your mountain

watch out for hate,
it can open its mouth and you’ll fling yourself out
to eat off your own leg, gauge out your own eyes,
shameless, rabid, and sad.

watch out for people,
because when the betraying comes,
(and it will come, from the side, from behind)
they will bury their heads in the toilet
and flush themselves away.

watch out for intellect,
because it knows so much it knows nothing
and leaves you hanging upside down,
mouthing knowledge as your heart
falls out of your mouth.

watch out for games, the actor’s part,
the speeches planned, rehearsed, unfelt
for they will give you away
and you will stand like a naked little child
bewildered, snotty,
needing a nap.

landed on mars.

male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies?
up on a pedestal or down on your knees,
it’s all a male fantasy:
that you’re strong enough to take what they dish out,
or else too weak to do anything about it.
even pretending you aren’t catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy:
pretending you’re unseen, pretending you have a life of your own,
that you can wash your feet and comb your hair unconscious of the ever-present watcher
peering through the keyhole,
peering through the keyhole in your own head – if nowhere else.
you are a woman with a man inside watching a woman.
you are your own voyeur.

– m.a

countertop dancing.

the world is full of women
who’d tell me i should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. quit working so hard.
get yourself a child
stay home, make sourdough,
scrub the grout in the bathroom walls.
sell something, at a minimum wage,
instead of pulling 11 hours,
emails up to the neck, creatively
naked as a meat sandwich on a male-only butcher tray.
sell gloves, or something.
instead of what i do sell.

i look around here and realise
everyone here would actually understand.
the rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. but they go home
and look at themselves in the mirror, and realise they are
as bewildered as the next person.

some of my enemies
are tired just watching me, watching me
wall myself up
in my own body.
they’d like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.

Look — your feet are tiny, how do you walk?
you are so short, how did you get up there?
you think i’m not a goddess?
i am like a duck in water,
feet scurrying, a flurry, frantic, hidden
but look how i glide.

i am not done yet. i am not yet finished.