As I looked at the faces of the other people in room, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. For the past few years these faces and many others had been so integral in my life, knowing I would soon be leaving them filled me with bittersweet sadness, my time here was coming to an end and even though I know I must move on, I can’t help but wish I could stay.
Eight years ago my mother died. Four months after she died, my first child was born. Two years later my second child came along. When I fell pregnant for a third time my husband told me this was the last one. I secretly thought to myself, “That’s what you think, Buddy!” At 19 weeks and 6 days I woke up in labour and found out a few hours later my son had died. I will never understand how the world turned from sunshine to darkness in the space of one day, one hour, one minute, one second. A year later, at seventeen weeks, I lost a daughter. I plunged deeper into the dark. I could barely breathe for the grief I felt; it was crushing me and those around me. It seemed insurmountable. It seemed infinite. It seemed like there was never going to be a time when I could see the light again. A few weeks after a big night on the champers, I discovered I was pregnant again. I was terrified. How could I possibly face going through this again? How was I going to cope when yet another baby died? How would I tell the kids?
One of the midwives at the hospital told me there was a new support group starting that might be good for me to go to, a group called Peach Tree. They were a group who were offering support to parents with mental illness. I didn’t even know I had mental illness! Looking back I can see how unwell I was, I can see how fear, anxiety, depression and grief ruled my life. I didn’t want to go. I mean, I really didn’t want to, but I was willing to do anything I had to do to keep my baby alive so I went along that first day and as I sat, gripping my takeaway coffee cup, I wished I was anywhere but there. “I’m Jen,” I heard myself say, “I’m eleven weeks pregnant and I lost my last 2 babies in the second trimester.”
As the weeks ticked by I grew larger and every Tuesday I looked forward to going to see these ladies. We drank coffee, we ate cake, we cried and we made each other laugh. We shared what was going on in our lives, our heads, we leaned on each other so no one could fall. It was my lifeline. It was the thing that kept me going. It was the one place each week I could be truly honest about the “crazy” in my head and it was alright because we all had our own kind of “crazy” in our heads. At last, the day arrived. Just after 9am on my 35th birthday I was wheeled out of theatre holding my very beautiful and very alive new born baby son. If that wasn’t the best birthday present I’m ever going to get, I don’t know what is. I couldn’t wait to see the ladies from group to show off my rainbow baby. To see them celebrate his birth with me warmed my heart and made me feel like I was part of something bigger.
Without Peach Tree I’m not sure how I would ever have come through the hard times. It has taught me that whilst we are all on our own journey, none of us can do it alone. It has taught me that we all have bad days, and bad things still happen but facing them with someone in your corner makes it so much better. It has taught me how to give support to others but also to allow others to give it to me. So often we think we should be able to cope alone. Life is so much easier when we ask for help and allow it to be given to us.
As it turns out, I was asked if I would like to facilitate a Peach Tree group. I was excited to be asked, I was excited to become a part of something special that offers support and hope to parents. I have now facilitated for just over two years, in that time I have seen many faces come and go. I have been touched by the stories of so many families. I have laughed, I have cried, I have been touched at the way that in times of need people will be there for each other. I have seen how mental illness affects families and I am honoured to be a part of such a group. I am honoured to have met each and every person who has passed through the doors of Peach Tree.
The Peach Tree groups are run purely by volunteers, as is the whole organisation, with no ongoing funding of any kind. It is only through the generous community donations received that our groups are able to exist at all. One of the main fundraisers for Peach Tree each year is the Peach Tree Trek, to be held here in Brisbane on Sunday 1st May. Trekkers will walk along the Brisbane River from Orleigh Park (West End) to New Farm Park (New Farm) and the money raised from the trek will go towards the continued growth and development of Peach Tree, their groups, and the personal and professional development of their volunteers. If you would like to contribute by taking part in the Trek or by making a donation, simply click on the link below… Every little bit helps!
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