Years ago, as a child, I read the amazing poem Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith and the words have stayed with me since. It’s so powerful, and has the ability (as all great written works do) to stop you in your tracks and contemplate the world, the people in it and your own position as a tiny fleck of something. To know that nobody can hear you and yet you still keep making a sound. You still cling to that desperate need to be heard, to be saved. To signal so desperately for help help HELP but to be misunderstood instead. To have people smile, nod, wave back to you. Nobody has the time. Nobody wants to get involved. Nobody wants to save you. To prefer to believe excuses instead of accepting that you stood by and did nothing. Nothing. Wow. It’s little wonder this poem haunted me for so many years, and probably always will.
And it’s been pertinent for me, because for a long time after my son was born I was that man in the water. I was the one trying desperately, in the only ways I knew how, to attract attention and to make people understand. I was the one who was still moaning, long after they’d turned their backs and walked away. I was the one waving madly in their faces like a loon, while they simply waved back with a smile. I’m sure we’ve all been that man before.
I’m not saying I’m ‘cured’ or that I am 100% a new person, but I do feel I’ve changed my perspective. That’s the only way I know how to put it! I haven’t moved on because I’m not sure I ever can, nor that I ever really want to now. But I HAVE changed my perspective, in that now I am not downing, but waving.
I am WAVING. I want you to know. I want you to listen. I want you to take action. I am speaking up and I am speaking out and I am speaking. Not moaning. Not lying uselessly as the water drifts over my motionless body. I am not going to accept you waving back at me and making excuses. I am WAVING now and most definitely not drowning.
Last year I was lucky enough to attend a second maternal mental health conference at the House of Commons organised by the wonderful Dr Raja. During the afternoon we were urged by Norman Lamb MP, who spoke of his own family’s struggles with mental health, to contact our MP to make them listen to us. We were also told by Richard Harrington MP and Tim Houghton MP that they had no idea about the issues surrounding maternal mental health. We were urged once more to contact our local MP to make them listen, to open the doors to conversations that need to be had. We were told to keep on waving.
And so while I fully intended to leave behind this part of my life as far as this blog is concerned, I’ve realised recently that I really cannot. Two months ago my son turned eight. Eight! And I did not cry, not even once. Not even happy tears. I didn’t use my open pass to slot back into therapy as advised. I didn’t need to. I didn’t reflect on his birth here, either. That is me, waving. That is my change in perspective. I stand by all that I’ve written here about what happened, how I felt and how it impacted my life. And while at the time I felt I was drowning, now I can see I was waving after all. And I shall carry on waving. I will wave until you cannot take no notice!
Most definitely not drowning, but waving.