Just a month earlier the Grumpy Old Man had come home from work one afternoon to find Erik strapped into a highchair sobbing quietly, Lukas laying in his bassinet screaming loudly, and me hiding in the foetal position at the far end of the couch - out of a line of sight to either of my distraught children.
The Grumpy Old Man had let Erik out of the highchair and given him something to eat, and hugged him. He'd picked Lukas up out of the bassinet and put him in the Babybjorn where Lukas had promptly crashed into an exhausted sleep. The the Grumpy Old Man made me go have a shower and a cup of tea.
We'd talked and with a lot of crying on my part and a lot of quiet persistence on his part we'd decided to talk to a friend and work colleague of his who had been hospitalised for postpartum psychosis nearly three years earlier. She put us onto PANDA who sent us to our local doctor, who told me I needed to stop co-sleeping (which was bullshit, because I knew there was something wrong with Lukas, not our sleeping situation) but had also referred us to a paediatrician who put Lukas on Zantac and gave us a script for Losec "just in case".
I had started taking Zoloft but hadn't started seeing a psych yet. The Zantac was helping but we were still in the middle of colic at night (on top of the reflux) and I was on a very restricted diet and taking ludicrous amounts of fish oil, flaxseed oil and other supplements.
So, as I lay there on the morning of September 11th, 2001, I was in a depressive, emotionally and physically exhausted stupor. I could hear Erik and the Grumpy Old Man in the lounge room next door but I could sense that things weren't as they usually were on any other weekday morning.
The Grumpy Old Man came into the bedroom - which was the dining room converted into a bedroom - and looked at me without saying anything for a moment.
'We'll get up in a minute,' I said as Lukas dropped off my breast - he would never stay on unless I supported his head just so. Milk dribbled from his mouth and he rooted around for the missing nipple.
'Before you come out, I've got to tell you something, and I don't want you to freak out, okay?' said the Grumpy Old Man.
'Well, that's really not a good thing to say if you don't want me to freak out.' I said. I sat up and scooped Lukas into my arms, he tense little body reflexively arched away, causing me to grip him closer. He wriggled and started to cry. I felt almost immune to his cries still, though he had started smiling very occasionally a couple of weeks earlier and that had softened the tough shell I'd built around me as protection from the continuous crying.
The Grumpy Old Man reached for Lukas and I more than willingly handed him over.
|Lukas at birth 11 weeks earlier.|
'Listen, before you go out there, I have to tell you something.'
'What is it, I need to pee.'
'Okay, but don't turn the t.v. on yet.'
'Yeah, sure, whatever.'
I went to the loo and came back. Erik was playing with Duplo on the louge room floor, he looked up when I came in and sat on the lounge.
'No Widdoos?' he said. I looked at the Grumpy Old Man, who took a deep breath.
|Erik in June 2001|
'Okay, so when I got up this morning, Erik had already turned on the t.v. but he wasn't watching AusFit [an early morning aerobics show he seemed to find completely fascinating and would watch in preference to cartoons], he was watching what looked like some war movie. So I changed the channel, but it was the same thing on every channel; the same footage over and over again of what looks like a bomb blast or something in the middle east. Something has happened and I'm not really sure what it is, but I don't want you to freak out.'
'Okay, let me see.'
'No, I don't want Erik to see any more of it, so I thought I'd go make the him some breakfast in the kitchen and you could see it then. If you're okay with that?'
I didn't know if I was okay with that, but I had to know what was going on, so I shooed him and the boys into the kitchen and I flicked on the t.v.
The first thing I saw - and it's as clear as if I just watched it now - was people running along a street, but the street was enveloped in a thick brown cloud of dust and there were bits of paper floating about. It looked like a dust storm, only people were talking about a blast of some kind. It looked like the middle-east, but the people running with hand-held cameras where speaking in American accents. The footages went on for a few minutes without any explanation, and finally it cut back to a news desk in a studio in the US, or the UK, but not in Australia.
There was talk about some office building collapsing, which didn't make any sense to me, and then more footage. It felt like an age before there was mention of location or cause, but before Erik finished breakfast and I had to turn the t.v. off again, I did manage to figure out that a couple of planes had crashed into office buildings in New York City and the buildings had later collapsed and thousands of people were dead.
For the next week, we didn't turn the t.v. on during the day, but at night while we walked and rocked the screaming, colicky Lukas, we watch compulsively repeated footage of planes crashing into the Twin Towers to the point where I just couldn't watch it any more - to this day, I have to look away when that footage is played, I don't need the footage to see every moment of those crashes.
In a blur of post partum depression, screaming reflux baby and global mourning and rage I found myself wondering what kind of idiot I was to bring two children into this world of horrors and suffering. Ten years ago, I couldn't see that there would ever be a time where I would feel safe again.
Ten years passed. There were other attacks, there were wars, dictators were toppled and eventually, earlier this year US forces finally enacted revenge on the man who has been held, almost solely, responsible for the attacks on the US on this day in 2001.
Is the world free of terrorism? Is it a safer, better place to birth and raise children?
Many things have changed under the guise of fighting terrorism. Many human rights have been revoked and many innocent bystanders have sacrificed a lot for the fears and anger of those affected by the terrorist attacks. One religion - Islam - has been blamed and hated for a decade in many parts of the world.
In July a young man in Norway (a home country of mine for some years) attacked his own people for taking in refugees who also happen to be Muslims. The result of this is that terrorism is no longer viewed as only an Islamic threat, as it has been by so many over the years. Now anyone can be a terrorist, even a white, middle class, conservative Christian.
Do I feel safer than I did ten years ago, do I feel my children are safer?
Do I feel less safe than I did ten years ago, are my children less safe?
What has changed for me in the past ten years is that I am less naive than I was when I first had my children. Back then war and terrorism was something that happened in the olden days, or in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America; places where people were dictated to and really severely oppressed. Now I know war happens anywhere people have been driven insane by fear and anger and a need for revenge.
Now I also know that you can't live in constant fear or anger because you will be eaten up by it. You will become what you fear. You will become the monsters you fear.
My wish for my children is that they understand this earlier than I did and without the circumstances in which I had to lose my naiveté. I wish for them more wisdom. I wish for them an understanding that they are powerful in their lives through how they choose to interact with others and that there is far more power in love and compassion than in fear and anger and hatred.
Ten years on, we're still here, there are more of us now, and the world has not come to an end - neither has the warring. The only changes that have occurred are within individuals who choose to embrace that change.