“Tonight as you lay half on, half off the bed, watching me write through the door ajar, aged 2 and a month, you said, ‘I love you, Mama. Daniel very happy.‘
I had been writing my response to Chris’ argument against backpay in child support due. His stalling against facing responsibility to Daniel had wrought stress in our lives for over two years now. Financial, physical or spiritual; unpaid debts accrue. I could not change the nature of cause and effect, but Chris sought me to stem its flow in his direction.
Since I had received Chris’ application against backpay in the mail, every time I collected Daniel from him or spoke with him on the phone, Chris badgered me to tell the Child Support Review Board that he owed nothing, that he had paid me. It was harassing, wearying, caused me conflict and doubt.
“Thank you darling,” I said to Daniel, his body hanging over the edge of my bed to manoeuvre a view me. “I love you too. You know Mama loves you very, very much. Now, you must sleep.”
Love: a feeling, emotion, energy. A gift. Daniel’s love unfathomable to me, washed clean the wreckage in my heart.
‘Attention: Child Support Unit Review Board’, I wrote. I would type it up later, and print it out at the library. ‘Mr W has been pushing me to tell you that he has contributed toward his son since birth, in attempt to reduce his dues as per your recent decision. Preferring not to be dictated to, I word Mr W’s request from my perspective…’
Reading Chris’ argument, I was perplexed. Was Chris truly not able to see that buying a baby capsule to enable him to transport Daniel was not child support; buying nappies and clothing for when he had Daniel was not child support; the TV he got from somewhere that I didn’t need or want… Could Chris not see that, or was he being opportunist in claiming that? I just did not know. My compassion, my downfall
I stopped writing, looked at the pages before me. It was curious that on this planet where we were landed, others would make decisions about our lives because we could not reach a consensus of support of our son. The Scales of Justice imbalanced fatigued me daily as I suffered not only my very mind, but the weight of Daniel and his needs. If Chris would just pay 50% of Daniel’s keep – and he was capable – I would have greater energy for Daniel, and my depression at being, ever searing potential joy with despair, might (could it?) be lightened.
I was tempted to look upon Daniel again, but must not keep him awake. Knowing he was watching me, I brought the nib of my pen to my page again, and continued.
I wrote the background of Chris and my relationship, of the $100 Chris gave me a week after Daniel’s birth when he said he would give “what I can when I can”; how I opened an account in Daniel’s name with that $100; how after eight months I realized Chris was not inclined to give what he could afford to his son – rather, what he was willing to let go, in keeping his lifestyle. ‘Due to lack of support,’ I wrote, ‘I closed the account on the 5th of August.’
I wrote that I never pushed for money from Mr W ‘because my pride would not allow me to beg’. Rather than beg Mr W’s support of Daniel, within two months I was keeping two jobs (court reporting/dictatyping from home and cleaning).
I was ashamed Chris had outed my weakness, my breakdown, when, tortured by insomnia, unable to eat, rendered zombie by exhaustion, I had closed my blinds and doors until I could face the world again. But instead of hiding in shame, I acknowledged it and told the Board it had been the turning point – that at eight months when I brought up child support with Chris and he shouted “I’ll piss off, you’ll see!”, then disappeared for a month to punish me; after I handed Daniel to him and lay crying in my room for days, did not answer the door, did not answer his calls – after being brought to my knees, I had come out, determined to not bear Chris’ dues to his son as well as my own: determined to seek support of Daniel regardless of Chris’ urging that I “Tell them I’m a student who went back to China.”
I wrote that my Legal Aid Lawyer gave me an option to add to Chris’ debt the prenatal expenses – my nine months of pregnancy – but I could not in my heart do that, for I had survived that period thanks to the ladies at work – even women I did not know but for their face – who had given and given and given to me in a surprise baby shower. I could not claim that abundance begifted me by work colleagues, as items and expenses due by Chris. Life had greater meaning than gathering money at every opportunity: I just could not do that.
I recalled the baby shower.
“The afternoon went on until I was surrounded by countless “baby things”, wrapping and cards. Tears had broken from me during the afternoon and I felt tired, overwhelmed. Gina offered to help me drive the gifts back to my bedsitter, which I accepted gratefully as they literally would not fit in my car alone.
I drove back to my flat in a daze. This morning I had nothing for the child in my womb; now I had everything. Most difficult to understand, though, was why they all gave to me. I just couldn’t get over it, the generosity, all directed to me and my unseen child. I had never in my whole life experienced such an avalanche of goodwill…
I sat on the floor and leaned against the wall…
Emotions wild like raging seas, wrought from somewhere deep, swelled in my chest. I felt like all of my Christmases had literally come at once. Particular dismal memories of childhood had just been wiped away – like the ocean cleans sketches in the sand.
The emotions swirled a while and then, unable to stop the tide, poured through my eyes in tears. I don’t know why, I cannot explain why, but alone in my bedsitter, pregnant and without family at side, I cried hard, heaving sobs. A powerful release occurred.
I cried a torrent and a day.”
I looked across at Daniel. At last his eyes were closed, his whole body surrendered in peace. I got up and carefully moved him into the centre of my bed. I looked forward to going to bed, placing my arm over my toddler son, our spirits united, sleeping. But I had to finish what I had to do. I would rest when I licked the envelope, stamped the letter, posted it. In posting it, I would let the it go. Until then, I could not rest.
To Chris’ alleged unemployment, I pointed out to the Board that he advertised his business in a new age magazine monthly at $26/month (I discovered); paid for a stall at the Fremantle markets; a stall at the Alexander library; a stall at the Conscious Living Expo. ‘I would have remained silent on the above’, I wrote, ‘if Mr W’s greed had not brought me to write to you.’
I felt drained. I wanted to not bother. But every mistruth I read, or inaccuracy, I felt driven to correct.
At 17 minutes past 1 a.m., I finally I lay down my pen. I had in my handwritten draft, I believed, righted the course of the ship of which I was captain: Daniel and my lives, together. We were back on path for Daniel.
‘However, I do credit the father’s attitudes today’, I wrote in closure, ‘believing him to have genuine loyalty toward his son’s future.’ I wanted by those words for Chris to see that I could see he had changed a little in his responsibility for Daniel – I thought, wasn’t sure. But I had faith in him. I wanted to bode well for the future, and let the Child Support Review Board know it was surely a misunderstanding by Chris – he didn’t seem to understand the enormity of what we together owed Daniel.
I placed the pile of papers in order on my desk, turned off the light, and crawled into bed alongside Daniel, still in my clothes. The comfort of the large blanket covering us, sheltering us, resounded deeply inside me. I smelled Daniel’s beautiful hair, listened to his light, gentle breath, and felt my heart beat with love against his small flesh being. The vibration of the love which emanated from my chest set a rhythm upon which I cast my fatigue deep, deep in my bones, and surrendered.
Mother and child, we slept.
Copyright, Noeleen&Daniel 50/50