Walking into the Arena


 ‘The only certain thing about the arena is that you’re going to get your ass kicked.’ Brene Brown

This week I told the story of how I conceived my little girl on national television. At the same time an opinion piece I wrote was published on several national news websites. My face was seen across social media promoting the program I was on. I did radio interviews. I started promoting this blog.  It was scary and exhilarating.

On top of sharing my story this week I’ve spent the week at a workshop in Cairns for the start of my masters. Even though it’s coursework I’m a little terrified. It’s scary. I have no idea if I’ll be able to do this. I’m already a single working mother dealing with the reality that my mother has cancer. Life is tough enough without the added pressure of post grad study. But I’m backing myself. Because if not now when?

There have been trolls. The majority are faceless social media profiles with insightful comments like ‘bimbo should’ve swallowed’ or something horrible about the way I look. At times I want to respond. But then I remember, they’re not in the arena with me.

On the flip side putting myself on the line has brought out the cheer squad. The girl gang group chat has been overly active. My phone has been flooded with messages of support and I’ve got coffee dates lined up with friends when I get back.

The point of this post is to say I’m here, I’ve entered the arena. I’m putting myself on the line. I’m so pleased you’ve found your way to my blog. I’ll also be posting on facebook and Instagram. Come say hi. Search for Haus of Treen and you’ll find me. I’ll post a link when I figure out how to do it.

He Consented to Sex, not to parenthood

Once I heard about a girl who on leaving prison, decided the best way to turn her life around was to find a man and have a child. It became a running joke with my friend. Then I had a baby and turned my life around.

By the time I swiped on the match that changed my life, I had been on and off tinder for several years. While looking for potential mates I ended up with some genuine friendships. I had some lovely dates and some not so lovely dates. This guy seemed normal enough. He was younger than me, a tradie into classic cars and loved that I did retro pin-up. The conversation was interesting enough. Weeks of messaging led to drinks, above average sex and the agreement that we’d do it again.

Then things got weird. Plans were cancelled, changed or discarded without explanation. I was often left hanging and unsatisfied. A quick check on Facebook confirmed my suspicions. Tinderboy had a girlfriend. No wonder he would only communicate on snapchat. Feeling disgusted I ended it.   

Shortly after, I got the news that Mum had been diagnosed with cancer. I was devastated. Three years before Dad had died also from cancer. At 33 life was not what I had hoped for. Completely lost, I reached out to tinderboy. He asked if I minded if he had a girlfriend. As far as I was concerned that was his issue to work out. In my mind it was every man for themselves. I just wanted a distraction from the emotional pain I felt. Two months later I was pregnant.

I took the test one afternoon after work. It was hard to concentrate, I kept rereading the instructions certain I made a mistake. I was 33, single and pregnant to a guy who had a girlfriend. This was not how it was supposed to happen. I was so numb, there wasn’t sadness, joy or any other emotions. Just the knowledge that I had to do something. I sent a message to my friends, a photo of the positive test. I called my doctor friend to ask advice. Sitting on the floor I began weighing up my options.

Even though it takes two to tango this was a decision I needed to make on my own. I was on the pill and knew the failure statistics, not once thinking I would be one of the ones that fell outside the norm. I was in shock.

It took three days for me to tell Tinderboy via snapchat. That’s what our ‘relationship’ had been reduced to. I captioned the positive pregnancy test with ‘let me know when you can talk’. The messages flooded my phone.

‘We can’t do this’

‘we need to terminate’

‘are you sure?’

All I wanted was to meet up to talk. I didn’t feel comfortable discussing such a huge matter over a social media app. He kept pushing the ‘we’, tried to tell me what ‘we’ should do. I didn’t see a ‘we’, I saw two independent adults who had consented to sex but not to parenthood. Disregarding my request to meet up, tinderboy continued to relentlessly push for a termination.  I already felt alone in the situation, his unwillingness to regard my feelings reinforced the isolation.

The previous year I had given up on the idea of being a mum. Abortion didn’t feel like something I could do. Especially since I had always wanted to be a mother. The next conversation I initiated was asking whether he wanted to be involved. Either be on the birth certificate or disappear. Sadly but not surprisingly he disappeared. I didn’t chase him. Tinderboy had consented to having sex with me, not to being a parent. Just because I had decided to become a mother, I wasn’t forcing fatherhood on him.

I gave birth in July 2017 to a beautiful girl. I chose a name that means ‘light’. When I told a friend’s mother that I was pregnant, her response was that it was wonderful because it meant that I now had a future. As old fashioned as that is, it’s also very true for me. Some people find purpose in life without children. For me, before I had my girl I was clutching at straws. Afterwards, I finally graduated at uni. I enrolled in my masters. I’m budgeting, meal planning and abstaining from alcohol. I no longer believe that it’s every man from themselves. We’re all in this together. My aim is to be kinder, a better all-round human with the hope that the world will be a better place for my girl.

As for the girl at the start, she had a baby. She’s on the straight and narrow with her new partner and their rowdy little toddler. Nothing transform your life like having a child.



A Grief Cheat Sheet

As a white middle class Australian, I’m confident when I say that people don’t know how to act when someone dies. Other cultures have traditions like not moving anything or wearing the same clothes for days. Maybe it’s the lack of traditions to hold onto that result in the dumb things people do while trying to comfort the grieving individual. For example, here’s a sample of just some of the things that were said to me after my dad died from cancer;

 ‘It was because he drank so much diet coke’.

‘It was because he didn’t eat organic’.

‘At least now you’ll be able to go to his gravesite and win all the arguments’.

And about three years after his passing it was suggested that I go and talk to someone because I didn’t seem to be ‘getting over it’.

Even to this day if it comes up that my father has passed away it gets very awkward very quickly. Even at my dad’s wake things were a bit awkward. Nowadays when people ask about my family I don’t mention my father in hopes to save us all from that uncomfortable moment. Now if people ask I just say he’s dead. I’ve given up my quest to make others feel less uncomfortable. And I use that word, ‘dead’. Not ‘passed away’ or ‘gone’ or anything that’s slightly ambiguous. Because if they missed the first clue I gave them, I don’t want them to misunderstand a second time.

Several my friends that are thirty somethings with deceased parents have reported experiences that parallel mine. Many people just don’t know what to do. The following is a cheat sheet I’ve done up. It’s a bit vague and not one of those neat tick and flick ones because grief isn’t neat. I’ve written this down because about eighteen months ago my mother received her own cancer diagnosis. And for the long term it’s not looking good. Here are a few things I need you to understand when it comes to my grief. 

1. Do not ask me to take family photos at the funeral. Because that’s what happened at Dad’s funeral, grandad’s funeral, grandma’s funeral…Why? I know it’s the first time in ages we’ve all gotten together but if you really want photos let’s all pull our fingers out and organise a cheerier event. For goodness sake people are grieving, just because we’ve all got cameras in our phones these days doesn’t mean we have to use them.

2. Understand that grief is not a straightforward process. It’s unpredictable. Grief is as brutal as it is ugly, it builds as it takes away. Some days I felt like I was drowning in emotion. Other days I felt fine until I went for a run and ended up ugly crying the whole ten k’s.

3. I won’t be the same on the other side. To walk through grief is to walk through fire. Grieving for my dad refined who I was. It made me more determined and less tolerable for time wasters. My social circle is smaller, and my calendar is now where near as full.

4. Let me be silent.  The two most profound things friends did for me while I was in the depths of grief was to be silent with me. The first friend came up to me at the funeral after everything was over. I was sitting in the front row with the shiny white casket before me. Everyone else had gone outside. I wasn’t ready for this to be over. I wasn’t ready to leave the room because once I left there was no coming back. It was done. Zoe came up to me and wrapped her arms around me as I sat there. To this day it is still the single most powerful thing anyone did for me. It some ways I’m still sitting there on that pew, not wanting the funeral service to be over. Not wanting to face reality. Zoe’s touch reminded me that I wasn’t alone. 

My other friend Chris, let me crash his house and sleep. He’d go about his life while I slept so many days away. Often, he’d feed me porridge or Indian from plastic containers.

For me grief was so lonely. It was a beast I had to face alone. I wasn’t close to my family, emotionally or physically. Some days the last thing I wanted to do was go home and be alone. Just like I didn’t want to leave the funeral home, going home would mean facing my reality.

5.  Appreciate that grief can start before the person dies. Hope is essential for the patient, family and friends when someone is being treated for a potentially terminal illness. When the diagnosis changes to terminal, hope for the future is killed. I was grieving for our future while my dad was still present. It’s going to be so much harder this time with Lucy here. Already I feel ripped off. Not just for me but for my little girl.

6. Lastly, do not talk to me about your cancer theories. I don't want to know about what you think caused it. But I do want you to go see your doctor and get ALL the appropriate checks. Respect what I'm going through by respecting the life that you have. Get the colonoscopy/skin check/mammogram. Adopt a healthier lifestyle. Do what you can to reduce your risk. 


Too Much/Not Enough Vs Fabulous and Loved

There are conversations happening all around the world regarding people’s experiences with sexual abuse. Movements like Time’s Up and Me Too have assisted in facilitating these discussions. For many, this is the first time they have spoken openly about the times they have been abused. I have a theory as to why so many have kept silent for so long.

Through traditional and social media, society is constantly expressing to females that they are either too much or not enough. Sometimes these messages are covert, such as the underlying messages in the perfectly popular Instagram page of a gorgeous tanned girl who always seems to be on holiday. Or it’s explicit in the gossip sections that no one ever seems to get away from. Women are told they’re too fat, too pale, too talkative, too opinionated, too assertive/bitchy, use too much make up, are too emotional, too hairy or too self-absorbed. Or else we’re not skinny enough, not smart enough, not like (insert celebrity or random person’s name here) enough, don’t have enough hair, not sexual enough, or not focused on career/family/health/goals enough. The list goes on and on and on. Pretty soon without any decent opposition these messages become part of our self-talk. Once this happens it’s a struggle for positive self esteem to flourish.

Studies have shown that women have an internal locus of control when things go wrong. That is, females are more likely then males to blame themselves when something goes wrong. If a man has a horrible day it’s because of the weather or that idiot who lives next door. A female experiencing a bad day will say it’s because they didn’t get up and exercise or that they should’ve gone to bed earlier the night before. Other examples include;  

 ‘Maybe if I wasn’t so drunk he wouldn’t have done that.’

‘Maybe if I was more assertive I would’ve been able to get out of there.’

‘Maybe if I was more … and less… that wouldn’t have happened.’

Shame is another reason abused people stay silent. If shame arrives into an environment where negative thought patterns are the norm, it will amplify the negativity. In a negative environment shame has an easy time bringing the victim down and keeping them silent. It whispers thoughts like 'who will believe you?' and 'what will it matter if you speak out now, it's your fault it happened in the first place.'  Shame thrives in the darkness. It does not like being discussed. 

So what do we do? How do we change? I grew up in a home with domestic violence. I have seen too many of my friends experience abusive relationships and situations. Now that I have a daughter I want to do what I can to fire proof her against abusive relationships and situations. According to my therapist it’s as ‘simple’ as ensuring she knows that she is loved and she is fabulous. Because people who know their worth will not put up with being treated like trash.  People who know what it feels like to be whole heartedly loved, will always be pursuing that.