Saturday, January 5, 2013

Part 5: The dad question

The first four parts of The dad question can be found here:

Part 1: The day we met
Part 2: A new addiction
Part 3: Walking into the abyss
Part 4: The opposite of rehab


Together alone

The couple in the back ran the joint. They collected everyone's rent and paid the landlady who would call by once a week. They dealt small amounts of pot which guaranteed a steady stream of weirdos making their way up the hall and past our room, through the lounge room and to their bedroom via the yard at all hours of the day and night. They didn't like him because he was unreliable with the rent and I guess they knew stuff about him that I didn't. He was rude to them and constantly started arguments. They liked me though because when I moved in I always paid the rent on time.

Living off disability pensions, both of them made weekly trips to the nearest methadone clinic which was a bus ride away. In their forties and in bad health it amazed me how they survived. He had no teeth and an incredibly strange pallor to his skin. She was always doubled over with cramps. They did heroin when they could afford it which freaked me out completely. They obsessed over the tiniest issues with the house. There was always some reason to have a go at us or any of the people that lived there: The rent, the garbage, recycling, the kitchen, the lights being left on.

Sharing a tiny sun room off the lounge room were two teenage boys. They were skaters and deviants but sweet and harmless. I liked these kids the best. I felt hope for them. One had completed his HSC and said he was just having a year off to bum around on the dole before going to uni. I could tell he was smart and he was still in contact with his family. The boys would deal a little LSD on the side to make some extra cash. They would do anything to get high: inhale nitrous bulbs, sniff paint. Anything. This also freaked me out. It felt so desperate and dangerous.

Opposite our room lived a single man in his forties or possibly fifties. He worked a regular job at a local supermarket stacking shelves. I had respect for him because he worked and paid tax. He was an ex crim and a functioning alcoholic but he was trying to make his own way in life.

On the other side of our room was another couple. They had the nicest and largest room in the house. Ex junkies as well, the woman also had no teeth when I first arrived to the house. She was waiting for her new Medicare provided dentures. She was thin, with long hair down to her waist, also in her forties. Apparently she was a stunner before heroin stole her looks. She also made regular trips to the methadone clinic and smoked bongs all day but was strict with herself and her partner when it came to booze. No grog til after 5pm. She was a massive INXS fan and when her partner was at work as a painter she played Michael Hutchence and co at full bore. She was fastidiously clean and tidy and was the only one who cleaned the two bathrooms and the kitchen.

Her boyfriend worked when he could. When he wasn't working he was at the house smoking weed and sneaking drinks with my partner who was still enjoying a steady supply of beer and cans of Jim Beam and Coke provided by me. This bloke was a huge Star Wars fan and had a replica light sabre that he would prance around the hallway with as if he was Skywalker himself battling an imaginary Vader. Around the same age as his partner, but short, with a beautiful Japanese koi tattooed on his right arm, he often came to blows with us over silly things. Or should I say, come to blows with him.

The final tenant lived in the other front room. He was a man in his twenties. He lived like a pig. He had a funny little Jack Russell which, when I arrived at the house, was pregnant. The dog lumbered around looking half stoned thanks to the thick cloud laden with THC that permeated the air in the house. Finally giving birth to about four pups we discovered she'd been having it off with a red Pomeranian. The puppies were gorgeous and, in my secret pregnant state, I fell in love with them.

This bloke, when I said he lived like a pig, I was not exaggerating. He worked in a record shop during the day and while away the women of the house would care for the puppies. At night he let the Jack Russell and her pups sleep, eat, pee and shit in his room. Anywhere in his room. It was fucking disgusting. That room was like one big dog pen that was rarely cleaned out. That guy didn't even shower regularly and his feet stunk like they had some sort of fungal disease. I would retch every time the smell would drift up the hall.

Arguments amongst the house's residents could be easily sparked when everyone had been drinking. Especially on dole day because the inmates were flush. He was often at the centre of the blues that could rage for hours. Voices were raised and violent threats were made but it never came to blows. The others knew he could kill them if he wanted to so no one was ever brave enough to throw the first punch. For some reason he never actually hit anyone but it always felt close.

The house was like a little micro society in itself. Every little thing that happened seemed important because there was not much else going on in our lives. Us three women who lived there didn't leave often. The men came and went. We all kept to our rooms, especially at night. He and I sometimes sat in the lounge room for a change of scenery when we were off our trolley before I fell pregnant but other than that the skaters were the only ones who used that space. Oh, and the Poppy Seed Man, but I'll come to him in a minute.

There was a couch and a lounge chair and an ancient TV that I remember watching reruns of Godzilla on while tripping off my brain. The walls were covered in old band posters, bits and pieces past tenants had pinned up, and graffiti. There was a mannequin dressed in black lace in one corner and an old wall unit filled with pantry goods that had been obtained from the local Salvos. I hated walking through there in the dark on my endless trips to the toilet during that first trimester.

By mid year there was a homeless guy sleeping on the couch - it was too cold for him to sleep in one the caravans in the yard. Cockies scuttled across the split lino floor as I tiptoed out the back to the loo, desperately trying not to wake the transient artist who had passed out after consuming yet another pot of tea he'd brewed from poppy seeds. Yes, poppy seeds.

(I've actually seen Poppy Seed Man recently at our local shopping centre. Total freak out. He's the only person from that time that I've seen in over four years. Guess what he was doing when I saw him? Buying a single bag of poppy seeds from Bi-Lo.)

When it came time for my 12 week scan I was in cautious contact with my family and some friends. A girlfriend came with me to the private clinic and all looked good on the screen. We left and went for a coffee. I got a call from clinic not long after asking me to come back. I'd left before getting my results. I told my friend I'd be ok, everything would be fine so she should go get on with her day. When I returned to the clinic I was called into the doctor's room and told that the baby's nuchal fold was a little longer than normal and they wanted to do a CVS test immediately.

I didn't give myself any time to think about it and agreed to the test. On my own, holding a nurse's hand, the doctor then inserted a massive needle into my uterus to extract some fluid to test. It was scary and painful and I held my breath as I realised my escape from rock bottom could be whisked away from me.

I remember walking away from the medical centre and vomiting in a garden on the way to the bus stop. The chances of a Downs Syndrome child were still slim but not remote enough to not risk a miscarriage by putting a needle in my guts. I was supposed to be in a relationship with the father of this child growing inside me but I was alone and had no one to feel this pain with me. No real partner to hold my hand and tell me it will be ok, if there's anything wrong, we'll just try again.

The next ten days as I waited for the results were the longest ten days of my life. I was starting to see sense in my situation. I was seeing the man I was sharing my bed with for what he was: An addict who was never going to get sober, never going to get a job to help provide for me and my child, a man who didn't really love me but was living off me while he waited for his ex and mother of his other children to take him back.

When it was time to make the call to the pathology centre for my results, I sat alone in the room that had been my home, my prison, my sick bed. I gave my details to the woman who answered the phone. Without having to wait a moment longer she told me everything was fine. There were no chromosomal abnormalities with my baby. The anonymous woman on the end of the phone asked me if I wanted to know what sex the baby was, I immediately said no because he had told me he didn't want to know. I hung up the phone and sat quietly with the knowledge that my baby was OK.

My baby.

My mind flashed through with what I'd learnt of its father over the previous four months and made projections of what kind of person he would be into the future. I picked up the phone, pressed redial, gave my details again and said I'd like to know what the baby's gender was.

"You're having a boy".

I started crying then. With pure joy and happiness. It was all real for the first time. After three months of vomiting, pissing dozens of times a day, doctor's appointments alone, hours spent in the ER with a drip inserted in my arm to rehydrate me, and lying around going over and over in my head questioning if I could possibly stand another minute of this pregnancy, another day, another month...

Sitting alone in that room I named him Noo.

And I wasn't alone any more.

Mid October 2008, six weeks before Noo was born

I took stock of where I was and I made the decision I had to get out of that house. We had to get out of that house. I needed to feel clean and smoke free and back in control of my life and my surroundings. I had to get back to my world. I had to do it for us.

While that seedy little house provided shelter when I needed it, it was now time to leave.


Sometimes when I think about that period of my life I've described above, it doesn't seem real, or like it happened to me at all. I don't feel bad about it. Not at all. What I do feel is lucky. Lucky to have made Noo, lucky to have my family, lucky to have the support of my employer to give me time to work shit out even though it has taken years. Lucky to have a team of medical professionals over the years that have helped me get to this place I am now.

Noo and me today

Most of all I feel lucky that I gave myself a chance to wipe the slate clean. To start again and begin a new life. It has been a hard road but worth every battle won, every backwards step, every struggle with self doubt, just to look in my beautiful son's eyes and know I love him and he loves me and together we are going to be just fine.

Thanks again for reading.



Rachel @ TheKidsAreAllRight said...

V, the pleasure is all mine. xxx

The Babbling Bandit said...

Thanks Rachel

Kylie Purtell said...

Wow V, what an amazing story. I am so glad that Ned was able to help you find your life again. Thank you for sharing what must have been a hard story to tell. You are amazing!

The Babbling Bandit said...

Thanks Kylie. It was actually a really rewarding experience to write it. Writing this all down has helped put into perspective just how far I have come. I'm really proud of myself and of Ned. And I'm so excited about what we have in store for us. Life is good.

Deborah Cook said...

Wow, how far you've come!

Shari Wakefield said...

This is the first time I have visited your blog and when I first started reading this blog post I thought that it was a fictional story - I can't believe that you have survived that. You're amazingly brave and I'm so glad that I stumbled across this post. Shari from

The Babbling Bandit said...

Hi Shari. Thanks for popping by. V.

The Babbling Bandit said...

Thanks Deb!

Jeanie said...

Another saying well shared - I went back and read all installments and may I say very well done.

cass said...

xxx hope you guys are doing well today. i finally finished your story- well, the parts you have finished, I guess.

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