Nova's motherhood story - Giving my daughter a voice
For the first twelve weeks of my pregnancy I had no idea I was pregnant. I was travelling around Tassie with a friend in a campervan. I kept waking up in the morning and vomiting. I thought it was the scrambled eggs!
I vomited throughout both pregnancies. All I remember of my first pregnancy was being sick. We went camping and I vomited. I went to work and threw-up. It was a constant. Then my daughter was born and I forgot all about the vomiting.
She didn’t sleep much. She lived in a sling on my stomach. In the mornings, I’d get up super early and write. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would end up becoming my second published young adult novel. At the time I thought it was just a chance to fall back into my head, to have a bit of space for me. But after I finished the book, I started another one. And I soon realised that I loved writing for young adults.
When my son came along three and a half years later, everything ground to a halt. My partner was working a lot, and my son never slept. He fed all night. I was beyond tired. I collapsed at Fed Square and the ambulance driver told me it was exhaustion. He suggested I stopped feeding my child all night and got him out of my bed. Easier said than done.
Looking back now, those years were a bit of a blur. But somehow I managed to keep writing. I wrote for my first television show and was sacked after only a year. I wasn’t writing great television! So I decided to try and get one of my books published. I found an agent and she found a publisher.
Writing for young adults and for children made sense because that was the world I was in. And I discovered that I loved it. When someone I knew had a breakdown, I tried to explain it to my daughter who was about 11 at the time. She was struggling with it, so I started writing. I’d write during the day and come home at night and she’d edit my words. She was very honest about what worked and what didn’t. She explained how the character was feeling. How angry she was or upset, or confused. It gave my daughter a voice for all that she was feeling too.
I finished that book very quickly. It was published in April 2016. Called The Secrets We Keep, it’s about the effects of parental depression on children. After I wrote it, I did many school visits, where the 10-12 year-old readers wanted to discuss what was going on for the character. I realised they understood this emotional terrain better than I did. They knew what depression was. They could identify with the 11 year-old character and they weren’t afraid of the raw emotions in the book.
Last year my publisher suggested I write a sequel. I wasn’t sure at first. It felt like I was finished with that chapter in my life. But the more I started thinking about it, the more I realised that the story wasn’t complete. I had to write the next book to explore all the feelings the character had about her parent becoming well. Depression and mental illness is not the end of someone’s life. They can be if it’s not treated, but if it is then it’s just an aspect of them. It’s not all of them.
Every one of us will know someone who has depression or mental illness. It needs to be talked about and bought into the open. My daughter just wanted a voice and a way to discuss how she felt. I realised that we’re not very good at giving children this.
Writing the two books (the sequel The Secrets We Share came out last year, November 2017), gave me a way to talk to my daughter about everything she was feeling. Young readers are capable of reading all sorts of tough emotional topics. In many ways, reading about these topics feels safe. They can explore how they feel through the world of a book. It can help them voice their questions and make them feel less alone in their experiences.
There are many great emotional books for young adult readers aged 13 plus, but we tend to shy away from exploring tough subjects for younger readers. I think this is a mistake. I think children are very good at working out if a book is too advanced for them. In my experience they stop reading if it is. We need to ensure there are books out there that explore all sorts of tough subjects, so that our kids can read, and talk about things that are real.
Writer, baker, ex-netballer, op-shopper, reader and collector of old recipes.
Hood: Inner North
Motherhood in 5 words: Learning, Rewarding, Exhausting, Joyful, and Surprising.
Fav family-friendly place: NGV
Biz: Nova Weetman
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