The Pill Popping Mamas – By A Very Loving Parent

From: Women and Disability – An Issue. A Collection of writings by women with disabilities. This booklet was produced by the Melbourne based Women with Disabilities Feminist Collective in the late 1980’s. The exact publishing date is unknown. Copyright.


It all starts soon after the baby is born. You know there is something wrong but no-one believes you. The paediatrician says you have a perfect human specimen and baby is crying, not feeding, not sleeping, etc. because you are not firm enough, too tense, too anxious, too scared and on it goes.

Go home, take an aspirin and lie down. Everything will be fine tomorrow. Of course it’s not, and after a couple of months of no sleep, feeds every hour, and burst eardrums (the Health Centre Sister has given up by now) you visit your local GP in tears, no longer having any faith in the paediatrician. The GP takes one look at you and suggests something to calm your nerves before he even asks about baby. Naturally he’s decided that all baby’s problems really boil down to a neurotic mother. Another month goes by – the aspirin didn’t work and nor did the nerve pills. Baby is still crying, not feeding and not sleeping and by now he is not doing those first little baby things that all the books tell you about. In desperation you decide to try the casualty department of the most appropriate hospital.

After waiting over an hour to get near a doctor you really do need the aspirin. The sight of an efficient young man in a white coat and stethoscope gives you courage and you launch into a history of what has happened to date. As he examines baby the doctor keeps glancing at you out of the corner of his eye and finally suggests that perhaps you should get something for yourself! Baby is fine – a little underweight perhaps, and very tense, but if mother gets something to calm herself down all will be well.

At this stage you do either of two things – avoid all doctors like the plague and try and continue as if everything is fine (except that everyone else’s baby of the same age is sitting, playing with rattles, eating solids, and babbling while yours just lies and cries) or you keep going back and back to the hospital in the hope that someone will listen. If you choose the latter (the result is pretty much the same whichever way you go) you eventually find the doctors barely speak to you, won’t listen to what you say and obviously dread the thought of having to have yet another session with this neurotic and aggressive woman.

The social worker steps in and tries to convince you that baby is fine but perhaps you would like to see a psychiatrist. Have you been back to your doctor? Has she given you something to sleep? Something to calm your nerves? A tonic to pick you up? Some antidepressants? Now you begin to think that maybe it really is you who has the problems, and not baby.

By the time baby is approaching 12 months it is painfully obvious to yourself and all friends and relatives that something is definitely amiss. You decide on one last session at the hospital and insist on a positive answer of some sort (of course you have no idea what you’ll do if the doctors still won’t listen). Just to get you off his back the doctor decides to run a few tests (you never did find out what they were) and says come back in a couple of weeks for the results. A tiny ray of sunshine appears on your horizon. You’re finally getting somewhere. You’re sure it’ll be some simple little thing like diabetes or thyroid (simple?) and with medication all will be well.

The day arrives. You step into the doctor’s office and the silence is deafening. Finally you are told, quite bluntly and unemotionally, baby has……………. Take him home and try to keep him happy and that’s about all you can do. He’ll never talk, sit, walk, or feed himself. We’ll refer you to a physiotherapist to help you with the handling but don’t expect anything. Now, where are the aspirin, nerve pills, tonic, and antidepressants????