Motherhood has made me a big, fat sook.


I write this today with Dr Phil on in the background. A mother is recounting the story of how her own mother picked up her two babies from day care (aged two, and six months), and took them home to her house where she shot them both dead before shooting herself.

I watch, with one hand to my mouth and that awful train-wreck feeling – it is horrible, unimaginable pain and suffering, yet I cannot look away. Both my children are alive and breathing and nobody has shot them dead. But for one split second, I almost feel the overwhelming grief of what losing them would do to me. A feeling I could never fully describe because there are no words. There is no neat explanation of what it must feel like to have your child die, particularly in such a violent way.

In the course of my work, I describe the story of little Deirdre Kennedy to a room full of university students. Deirdre was killed in the 1970s and the man charged with her murder walks free today, after two successful appeals of guilty sentences. Deirdre’s mother actively advocated for the law of double jeopardy to be changed if fresh and compelling evidence comes to light after someone has been found not guilty of murder, so they can be tried again. Dental records show Raymond John Carroll was indeed the man who abducted the 17-month-old baby before dressing her in women’s underwear, sexually abusing her, biting her thighs, and flinging her onto the roof of a toilet block in Ipswich, Queensland. He will never be punished for his crime.

I started teaching about this particular case way back before I was a mother. Then I taught it again when  my own baby was 17 months old. It hit so close to home that I struggled for a bit before pulling myself together and getting on with the lesson.

Last semester, though, having been a mother slightly longer, and also after the birth of my second child, I was setting up my class for the day. I opened a bunch of links to website stories that I use as examples of the points I make throughout the lesson. I opened this link to a story about Deirdre, and when I scrolled down I gasped and frantically fumbled to close the window. Even now I cannot bear to look at the picture of a chubby Deirdre sitting on the grass in a pretty dress, bracelet around her dimpled wrist. For I know now the body of a toddler, and I could not bear the thought of this happening to my own. To find a baby abused and killed and thrown away like rubbish.

A few days after Daniel Morcombe’s remains were finally laid to rest I was driving to my mother’s house. The route passes the spot where he was abducted and I always think about it when I’m near. This particular day I drove past the spot and thought about him like I usually do, and continued on. Two minutes later when I passed the cemetery where he now lies I spontaneously and without warning burst into tears. I sobbed like an idiot halfway to my mum’s, recalling the things I’d read about what that man is accused of doing to that clearly terrified boy. Every time I pass the road where he was taken, I think of him.

I can’t live my life in fear of something happening to my children, for that is no way to live. In fact, it’s almost so horrible that I can’t comprehend it, so I don’t try. But boy, I have never felt anything so deeply in all my life, and I can’t help random thoughts from sneaking in from time to time. And I can’t help feeling keenly the pain for others who must endure it.

When I first fell pregnant, I was chatting to a friend who has three grown children. She told me I’d never listen to the news the same way again, never watch a movie where something happens to a kid the same way. Author Elizabeth Stone said “Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body”, and it’s true – they make up such a part of me now that my heart will never be the same. Which is both good and bad. And it means I now carry a hanky with me wherever I go!

so yeah… motherhood has made me a sensitive soul, and a big, fat sook. But I dare say I’m not alone.


  1. Bettina says

    U r not a big fat sook- exactly the same things happen to me now I’m a mum! I actually write that quote on every ‘birth’ card I give because it so well describes my experience.

  2. says

    It opens up a deep well of emotion that we never knew we had.
    I can’t see or read anything to do with Deirdre or Daniel it’s just too crushing.

  3. MotherDownUnder says

    Definitely not alone.
    When I was pregnant I cried all the time…I would be insanely happy and then would start crying. I chalked it up to hormones but I think it was just my body and my mind preparing me emotionally for being a mother.
    And I just don’t watch the news anymore. And I skip over sad parts in books. And I hug my boy tight.

    • says

      I may have just teared up. This is ridiculous! How am I supposed to deal with a lifetime of my children’s hurts if I can’t even handle it now before it happens?!

  4. Peppermintpig says

    I’m not a mother but I am an Aunt and that’s made me a big sook as well. I cry at the news when a child has been injured or killed and rage when I see kids teasing other kids in public transport. We found out my niece was bitten in child care and my brother was calmer about it then I was.

  5. Reannon Hope says

    I am a giant sook! I don’t watch crime shows or medical shows & I avoid books that are too ” real”. It’s not the best way to be but my mind works OVERTIME so I need to block out things that trigger stupid thoughts. I worry about my kids far more than I should but I think it’s just something that happens when your a mum, it’s unavoidable!

    • says

      yes, the books! I wince when reading them now… and avoid the ones that will turn me into mush. I am only just beginning to worry about little silly things like people being mean to them in the playground and I wonder how I’m ever going to survive their childhoods!

      • Reannon Hope says

        Urgh, the playground! My biggest started high school this year & for the weeks before I was a mess! I kept thinking of everything that could go wrong but he didn’t skip a beat! Sometimes we are our own worst enemies :/

      • Meg says

        Yes, I used to love crime books – fiction and non-fiction – but now can’t read them.

        Deidre was the most beautiful baby from a beautiful family. I think anyone who saw 60 minutes would agree that Raymond John Carroll is quite disturbed and not all there. It will be interesting to see of QLD amend the double jeopardy laws so that they become retrospective.

  6. Sarah says

    Two days after my son was born, I heard on the news about a mother killing her newborn son. I was an emotional wreck for about 2 weeks thinking about that poor little boy and what his life could have been and even said to my husband I wish we could take it all back and bring him into our home as impossible as it may have been . Every now and again I’ll look at my son and think how luck I am to have him and how luck he is to have a great family who love him to bits.

    It really angers me to hear about mothers doing this to their children, or abusing and neglecting them in anyway. There are women out there who can’t have kids for whatever reason, and would give their right arm to be a mum. It’s those women and those children who suffer the most.

  7. Carly Findlay says

    What a moving post – thank you for being so open. Though I haven’t had children I did myself more sensitive to the news reports – Daniel Morcombe, Jill Meagher and today’s report of Kiesha Abrahams have all made me cry.
    I hate the thought of people being hurt or killed in cold blood.

  8. Melissa Gasson says

    You are definately not alone as its something I think about often too.
    You dont think you could be any more upset since becoming a parent as the crimes are horiffic to any normal person but when you are a parent, it definately hits home 10 times worse.
    Oh that poor baby. I didnt know that story and I cant even begin to imagine those poor parents.

    • says

      Oh it is horrific, isn’t it? Then some bastard came along and stole little Deirdre’s ashes right out of her mother’s home. Who would want those besides a grieving parent? So, so horrible.

  9. Melissa Mathews says

    LOVE this quote, perfectly and succinctly describes how you feel once you become a mother. I cannot watch anything that involves kids on the news or TV shows anymore and my heart breaks at the thought of anything happening to my little girl.
    As you say even the thought of someone being mean to them at daycare or school makes me want to cry!

  10. Katie Rainbird says

    Off with their heads! I know that makes me eye for an eye violent but it’s how I feel when I read these stories. If anyone laid a finger on my daughter they’d lose it.

  11. Lisa Mckenzie says

    It happens when you become a Mum Stacey and I am afraid to say it never goes away ,you always worry about your children ,now mine are older it is more along the lines are they happy,do they feel safe with their partner and I hope they don’t have an accident,you get my train of thought I am sure . I read a story in the Womens Weekly about a cool hippy woman who’s husband “dropped” their baby boy into the river ,he lived the Father but not the bubba and she forgives him!?!??!? I don’t think I could he has been charged with murder.Try not too worry when you are at home with them ,but trust your gut instinct if something or someone doesn’t feel right they usually aren’t ,I call it my mother intuition and it is never ever wrong!

  12. says

    I call it the invisible thread that connects me to my children. With every new thing they do it gets yanked out a little further. When they are little the yank doesn’t hurt as much, but by the time they hit their Tweens and teens, that yank… Far out. It’s bittersweet.

    Being a mum is the hardest job I have ever had. Being responsible for helping grow three people is HUGE. Having said that, they have taught me, and given me far more then I have for them, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

  13. says

    so much yes. anything to do with children being harmed in any way is so distressing to me. and that is so true about the movies and news. I think I had about two years — three maximum — when I was a teenager and oblivious and then I was a parent and have been a bleeding heart ever since.

  14. Jacinta says

    I’ve had to stop watching the news because I get way too upset (my son is 8 months old). Sometimes I’ve read or watch something in the evening and then can’t sleep because the news story has upset me so much!


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