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St Kilda
Thursday, December 9, 2021
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Cristina Ceddia

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My mother booked into the Mercy Maternity Hospital to have me, very trendy and competitive to hold a place, given babies were booming back then! After my non-arrival on or around my due date, Mary consulted her doctor. In tears she explained, “I have been pregnant for 11 months.” Another re-calculation was made, and it was determined my due date was November and not September or October as first thought. Sadly, for my mum, who believed status mattered, the only hospital available was St. Vincent's, she lost her prized place for our birth. You see mum's background was Italian. She was still breast feeding my brother when she noticed some spotting. Her Aunties told her “you are gone!” The spotting meant, according to the backyard medics, that she was pregnant, when in fact she wasn't. To add insult to my birth, the Doctor who was meant to deliver me, was out playing golf, it was a Monday afternoon. When I arrived the Midwifes determined I was premature. And the Doctor was horrified that he had so let my mother down. He promised he would make it up to her next baby and was dully present when my sister was born almost three years later. I am the second child of four children, my bother is sixteen months older and the last sibling, also a brother, is almost eight years my junior. My sister, mum's biggest baby and me, mum's smallest baby, clashed. Sadly, my younger brother has an intellectual disability and this, along with my mother’s battle with Lupus shaped my childhood. My Birth Certificate states Rathdowne Street Carlton as my place of residence, a safe haven for Italian's back then. I am Australian, my mother Australian, but this did not stop me from being picked on and called contaminated by the Irish Catholic stock at my primary school in East Bentleigh. When I was born my mother looked at me and looked at her skin and my father's skin and thought, "I know we are dark but not that dark." It was in fact jaundice, she was seeing a yellow that naturally disguised ‘fair’ olive skin. I was also covered with hair and the mop on my head looked as though I was ready for my first haircut, a family characteristic from my father’s side. As you can tell, both mother and daughter were traumatised by the birth and already my mother was worried about how society was going to react towards my skin tone. So, I can well imagine what it feels like to be born black. There are things about my childhood that society needs to feel ashamed of and like a sponge, I felt deeply a longing to belong. Black Lives Matter!

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