Ch 26. Year 1983
Sue and I had two boys aged nearly 5 and 2. Sue was pregnant again. I was so busy with meetings and the various things involved in running a rapidly growing ministry that I was not taking much notice, so I am describing what I came to understand later, more than what I picked up on at the time.
This pregnancy was different. Sue had always bloomed in pregnancy. Not this time. She became quieter, withdrawn and let things slip on the domestic side. As I said I didn't notice: I was too busy looking after other people to see what was happening right under my nose.
Our first daughter, Elizabeth Inez Louise, was born in March 1983. Sue discharged herself from hospital after a few days – a week was the usual stay then – so that her mother would not come down from Sydney to look after us. That should have made me think something was wrong. She went to stay with Inez and Orrie. I think for a couple of weeks. She always seemed to be in bed, she always seemed to be crying. It was the same when she finally moved home. One day coming back from wherever I had been I came in on this scene: Our two year old Timothy was crying and banging on the outside of our closed bedroom door. He held a box of tissues in hand. Most of the contents littered the floor, obviously used blowing his nose and drying his eyes. Sue was inside crying out “Go Away!” Tim had heard her crying in there and had wanted to bring her some tissues to comfort her. Still I didn't see.
One day Orrie called me over to his surgery. He told me to sit down and read an article from a medical magazine. The article was actually a story about a man whose wife had post natal depression. I can't now remember the details but as he described how the kids complained that all he ever cooked was sausages and mash it hit me. I was the man! Not long before, I couldn't think what to feed the kids one night. In desperation I made one large banana milkshake – adding raw egg for protein. Then thinking that still wasn't a proper dinner I added vitamin drops – which made it taste so bad the kids wouldn't drink it.
When I had read the article Orrie told me that Sue had a profound post-natal depression. Like the man in the story I had not noticed the signs. Like the man in the story I had slipped into a sympathetic depression which made me incapable of helping.
It was a devastating blow. Orrie's very authoritative manner brooked no dispute – especially when he was normally so convivial. This was the doctor speaking, not the family friend. He went on to say that he did not hold out much hope that Sue would live through the depression. (the really effective modern drugs had not been invented then) She would, he believed, certainly die if she were put in a public hospital, and we had no private health insurance. He said he and Inez would do all they could, but I must do my bit and pull back from church work to save my wife and care for my children.
Inez and Orrie were wonderful. They had unbeknowns to me already gone through our medicine cabinet and removed anything dangerous. The drugs available in those days for depression were lethal in high doses, so Orrie only handed out the tablets a few day's supply at a time. When we went on holidays he and Inez even took simultaneous holidays so that they could meet up with us halfway with the next sub-lethal quantity of Sue's medication.
I can't tell you how bad I felt, just that it was so bad that my mind has completely blocked it out. I could not bring all the details of that time to mind if I tried.
I rearranged things to spend more time at home. We had money laid by as a deposit on a house. Over the next few years we spent it on home help. Ian's wife Leon was a retired hospital cook. She came several nights a week to bath the kids and cook dinner for all of us. We hired other ladies to clean house and do the washing and ironing.
Some of the new converts were a fantastic help – possibly without realising it since Sue could not bear anyone to know about her illness.
When we had left Sydney and our families to move to Gippsland, Sue had asked God to provide substitute grandparents for the children. Now God answered that prayer. Inez and Orrie were the main ones. Elizabeth was as she grew was baby-sat by Leon and Ian who developed a special relationship to her. Tim also had a special person, Helen, who I mentioned before. She had the contract delivering mail out to the farms around Lang Lang. She took Tim out with her each day in her car, and Tim put the mail into the roadside mail boxes. It probably made her job take much longer, but Helen did it for several years with no thought of payment.
It was a terrible time, and God did not magic it away, but he provided everything we and the children needed to survive.
Next: problems at Bayles