My Story

(Picture by Kieran Brophy.)
(Picture by Kieran Brophy.)

In my twenties I had a baby who had Cerebral Palsy. When she was a year old I had to bring her to a clinic specially for children and adults with Cerebral Palsy. The journey took two hours by public transport and I didn’t drive.

Every 6 weeks I would pack up my baby, her buggy, food, nappies, extra clothes and set off to get the bus to the train station and take the train. Then when I got off the train I would walk the last ten minutes to the clinic. There I met the Pediatrician or the physiotherapist or the occupational therapist or the eye doctor or the gait lab team or all of the above.

And every time I went there I was angry. I was angry with the bus driver for making it difficult for me to get on the bus with a buggy and a baby. I was angry with the queue at the train station. I was angry with the doctors, the therapists, the clinic in general, I was angry with my baby when she cried or when she didn’t do her exercises and I was especially angry with my husband because he wasn’t as angry as me.

I thought my husband wasn’t angry because he didn’t have to make the long journey each time to the clinic, where I was asked, “Is she threading beads on a string yet?”, which I translated into “A good mother would ensure her baby could thread beads on a string, are you a good mother?”. My answer was always, “No”. She was never doing the thing they asked about, she seemed to “know” what game was especially important and she resisted those games every time. Meanwhile my husband escaped to work and was never questioned about the quality of his fatherhood.

But I made sure to question him.
When I wasn’t questioning his abilities as a father I was trying to persuade him that he needed to take our baby to the clinic instead of me, so that he would see how I felt. He was having none of that, he said “You just want me to feel as bad as you!”. To which I would reply, “No I don’t I want you to feel instead of me.”
But that was an impossible want and I didn’t know then what I know now – to him sentences like, “Is she putting beads on a string yet?”, translated into “Is she putting beads on a string yet?”. Nothing more, nothing less. He could never see things as I saw them because he didn’t believe the story I believed. The story I believed was – I’m a bad mother. (By the way, I also believed I was a bad daughter.) So my anger and pain continued and I continued to spread my anger and pain to those closest to me.

But all that time there were little opportunities (learning to drive and the birth of a perfect baby), that were bringing change. And all I had to do was notice them, well actually I didn’t even have to notice them, but it was such good fun noticing them that I did it anyway!

And little by little, day by day, moment by moment the anger started to fall away. And it turned out hiding behind the angry “she-devil” was a scared, sad little child-adult. And when the child-adult came out of her hiding place, she started to grow up, she started to take responsibility for her own actions and she started to flourish. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t a straight road – it was a bumpy one – the falling away of that anger. In fact, looking back it seems that my anger increased. Both my parents were targets, until my father died and I let him off the hook! Also, I attracted a fair share of angry people to me, becoming angry on their behalf thereby causing myself even more pain.

And then in 2006 I started to lose weight and when I finally went to the doctor it turned out I had auto-immune hepatitis, now for those of you not familiar with new age thinking, the liver is linked to anger. Not entirely surprising for me then? (Actually I was surprised because I didn’t think I was angry, he, he, we’re always the last to know!) So here I was making great progress with the falling away of the anger and I get this anger disease. Boy, was I angry now!


Although that time was scary and anger-inducing, it was probably the best time of my life. This was the time I started to learn about what I wanted. Up to that point I had more or less done what was expected of me. Been a good girl, a nice girl. But all that veneer of “nice” was covering a boiling cauldron of rage. Being sick gave me permission to be whomever I wanted to be, to do whatever I wanted to do. And the first thing I wanted was to be healthy. And I did that.

By the way, one of the things being sick gave me permission to do was ignore the door bell. Previous to that I was on alert all the time, to the sound of the doorbell. In order that “the nice person” could be there for whoever called at my door and do whatever they wanted (even if I didn’t want to do it but I had to be nice.). I couldn’t spend more that a few minutes in the back garden because I couldn’t hear the doorbell from there.  Having permission to let go of the doorbell meant I could spend time in the garden and do some gardening. Gardening is actually very healing, which I didn’t know till I tried. Incidentally, I don’t think the doorbell ever rang when I was in the garden. And no one was immobilized outside my door unable to function due to my gardening and healing.

While I’ve been writing this story I am amazed by how my life has changed. I had forgotten how bad things were for me and how bad I was making them for me and for others. I am amazed that my husband stuck with me and I and very happy that he did. I am amazed that I believed my old story about him, about the doctors about the bus driver and about me. I am also amazed that my mother has not disowned me and changed her phone number without telling me the new one. All the time that I was angry with her she thought I was wonderful, all the time that I hated myself for being a bad daughter she thought I was a perfect daughter (in fact my aunt, her sister, told me she was fed up hearing how great I was from my mother!).

I am amazed, especially, that my little baby who was born imperfectly and was thereby a catalyst in the journey of my anger falling away thinks, and has always thought, that I am a great mother. And I am amazed that I never once believed her when she told me.

My life is very different now, and I like it.

During the hard times I loved the following:

“All shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”

Julian of Norwich (1342 – 1416)

….. and from here, today, its easy to believe it was always true.

What is the new story you want to write for yourself?

Contact Details:

Mairead Hennessy

Mobile Number: +353 86 8272332