As it’s Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Week, it feels like the right time to share a poem I wrote a while ago, about a lady who lives across the street from me.

She was always fairly reclusive and kept to herself, but when she brought a new baby home, I was really worried that she might be struggling. I’ll admit I was that crazy neighbour staring through my blinds multiple times a day. She didn’t leave the house and didn’t seem to have any visitors. Her baby screamed a lot, at all hours of the day.

Then I noticed she’d start leaving the house while the baby was screaming. Not crying, but really really screaming her head off. She’d stand in her front yard, while I could hear her baby screaming and choking. I wasn’t sure if she was stepping out for a breather when the crying got overwhelming, or if she was trying to implement some sleep training at a very young age. The most worrying thing for me, and now also my husband too, was the disconnected look on her face when she was standing out the front, watering her garden, while her distressed baby screamed and gagged alone inside.

When I posted on Facebook, asking friends what they would do in my situation, the overwhelming majority was to mind my own business and to not judge. I was really disappointed that my friends thought I was judging this lady, because I wasn’t – I was worried about her, and I don’t think that’s the same.

In the end, I actually did go over to her house with a cooked meal for her one afternoon, and I told her that it sounded like she could use a break from cooking that night. She looked embarrassed, and although she accepted my meal, she didn’t talk to me, and she shut the door quickly. A few days later, I came home to the plate on my doorstep with a thank you note, but now whenever I see her, she avoids me. It hurts my heart to know that I might have made her feel ashamed, I just wanted to check in on her.

Anyway, I don’t know what the moral to this story is? It feels wrong to me to ignore what feels like warning signs that someone might be struggling. Even though I’m devastated to feel like I embarrassed this lady, I still maintain that I am glad I let her know I cared enough to try and do something nice for her, and hopefully she felt a little less alone that day.

I guess the happy ending of sorts though, is that about a week after I took that meal over, I noticed she was getting more visits. It looked like perhaps a community nurse started visiting once or twice a week, and an elderly man (perhaps a grandfather) started visiting often, and he’d walk the little girl up and down the street. I remember feeling teary when I noticed the way he always held her in his arms, never put her in a pram, always kissed her and talked to her while he walked with her.

So after often thinking about this lady, her family and whether I was out of line by going over, or whether that might have got the ball rolling on somehow getting this lady some help, eventually I wrote this poem to vent some of my frustration about the whole situation. Most of it is accurate about the situation, but I’m happy that the actual lady across the street appears to have had a happier ending than the one in the poem.

“The Lady Across The street

There’s a lady who lives across the street
She’s lived there quite a while
She doesn’t look like a happy person
I’ve never seen her smile

There’s a lady who lives across the street
I see her puffing at her gate
She struggles to walk up her steep driveway
She’s really quite overweight

There’s a lady who lives across the street
I tried to say hello
Not wanting a friend, she turned away
What could I do but go?

There’s a lady who lives across the street
She leaves her baby screaming
She stands in her front yard watering her plants
Vacantly staring, daydreaming

There’s a lady who lives across the street
Her hair is always messed
She collects her mail just in her robe
Why doesn’t she get dressed?

There’s a lady who lives across the road
Her face is lined with sadness
Her daughter has beautiful, curly blonde hair
Why can’t her mum feel gladness?

There’s a lady who lives across the street
I don’t think it’s a happy home
Sometimes her husband leaves late at night
To sleep in his car, alone

There’s a lady who lives across the street
But they took her body away
“We knew she wasn’t doing well”
Is all the neighbours could say”

The PANDA National Helpline has trained counsellors available on 1300 726 306.  They also have lots of information available on their website here.

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1 Comment

  1. Wow Lauren this made me shed a tear. You are truly a beautiful soul. I have no doubt she appreciated it and needed it!

    Becoming a mum has profound impact on our lives and our careers. No one openly shares with us that the little bundle of joy is akin to a grenade going off in our world.

    It’s beautiful. It’s raw. It’s amazing. It’s real.

    Burning, sore, red eyes from chronic sleep deprivation. Guilt for not spending time with our partner. Feeling the weight of the world on our shoulders given the pressure of keeping up with our career and friends. Wanting to get back to work yet feeling overwhelming guilt.

    This time last year I was crying to my husband asking how long he thought it would actually take for someone to die of the tortuous effects of long term sleep deprivation. I hadn’t slept for than 3 hours in over a year, my business had gone from thriving to surviving, and I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. And I felt chronically guilty.

    However this year it has been much different. Whilst sleep deprivation is still a constant theme in our life, my confidence is strong and my work is more fulfilling than ever. And I don’t feel guilty (or very rarely)!

    On Friday 17th November at 1pm AEDT we are hosting a free webinar for new and expecting mums to learn the 5 tips for busting your guilt and boosting your confidence.

    Can’t make it but want to know more? Register and we will send you the recording so you can watch in your own time.

    Please share with any mums who you think would love to join us – and please remind them to register.

    Best wishes and thanks again for writing and sharing your beautiful story and poem.
    Vanessa x

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