A message from Sue Cotton, Gidget’s mum:
“She was beautiful. She was fabulous. She was amazing. I wish that she was here today. She would have loved to be in this enormous room but we are all here because she isn’t.
I’m sure that there are lots of you here who I don’t know, but who knew my daughter. For those who didn’t, I thought you might like to know a bit about how we all came to be here today.
Her name was Louise. She was the first of our three daughters.
Before she was born, I had never even held a baby; I didn’t really like babies. My 21st and wedding were coming up. In 1967 there were rather a lot of unplanned pregnancies. Mine was one of them. Summer of love perhaps…
When I found out I was horrified. Apart from suffering a bout of morning sickness during the wedding photo shoot, it was a very uneventful pregnancy. It wasn’t long after her birth that I felt it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
My mother was with me at the hospital when Louise was born as my husband had a job that took him away from Monday to Friday every week. In those days new mothers spent a week or so at the hospital being pampered, we hardly ever got out of bed.
My mother came home with me and stayed for 5 days. When she told me she was going home, I thought, ‘she can’t, I won’t know what to do’.
In Auckland in 1967 most mothers didn’t go to work. The gym was for bodybuilders. No one went out for a coffee or for lunch. There were no child-friendly cafes, actually there were very few cafes. A social outing was a few hours of tennis where the other mums took turns looking after the children. There were no distractions. My husband was away and Louise became my number one and we muddled through somehow.
I got her to sleep during the day by putting her flimsy carrycot on the back seat of my red and white mini, and driving around. No such thing as a seat belt and when we got home I would leave her in the car in the carport while she slept. I would have been arrested if it had been today. Life was so much simpler in so many ways. I don’t know how you girls manage your very busy lives.
My mother was right. I did manage and I came to love my little girl even more. In fact, she became my best friend and that continued all of her life. She was a very sensitive child, very caring and happy.
We moved to Australia in 1970.
Louise started kindergarten and screamed every day when I left her. That happened when she started school too and didn’t really stop until her sister Jacqui started school two years later. Lou was probably jealous of Jacqui being at home with me, as she didn’t like missing out on anything!
Louise always put maximum effort into everything she did. She became an amazing adult, she was a giver, not a taker. She was always true to her word, she never took things for granted. She always followed things through, she was smart, caring, kind, sweet, strong and gentle all at once. She was stylish (she loved her designer labels). There was always something really special in her wardrobe and she often had things made so that she could have exactly what she wanted. She was a really good cook and loved entertaining. She had the most fabulous laugh; she loved to laugh and really lit up a room.
She was the National Advertising Manager at Australian Country style magazine and loved her job.
She loved Easter show time when all the country ladies who advertised in the magazine came to town. Some of them told me that one of the reasons they came to the Sydney show was because they loved spending time with Louise, as she was such fun to be with, and a bit naughty.
She fell in love with Dave the man of her dreams and married him wearing a bright red wedding gown. They bought and decorated their first home. She was so proud of it. Their life seemed perfect. However, they had problems conceiving their longed-for baby, like lots of you, and were looking into IVF when she found out she was expecting Jasmine … she was so excited. She rang me from the car outside a public toilet somewhere on the Great Ocean Road to tell me their news. She loved the birth and said straight after that she hoped to have more children.
I saw her almost every day and I was always around if she needed me. Our family is very close. She had a lovely group of friends, some who had babies around the same time
Jasmine didn’t sleep well, she still doesn’t, and Louise was exhausted. I had no idea that sleeplessness could be a symptom of depression. I spoke to her almost every day of her life. She had always said quirky things that would make me think, ‘Where did that come from?’ So I wasn’t concerned when she said a few odd things. She told me all of her secrets, even things she shouldn’t have. But she wasn’t able to tell me the most important secret of all.
She appeared to be doing so well that I didn’t think for a moment that there could have been a problem.
I feel that she found being a Mum much more difficult than she imagined. Louise was a perfectionist.
She thought she would be able to finish her degree before she went back to work.
She adored her baby Jasmine and often spoke about how amazing it was that she and Dave had made such a perfect little girl. They were so in love I thought they would still be walking down the street holding hands in their 80’s.
They often came to our home for dinner. Louise was so tired one night that I offered to have Jasmine overnight so that Louise could get a good night’s sleep.
When she rang in the morning to see how our night was, she said that she had hardly slept at all. I told her not to rush to get Jasmine as I was going out to lunch and wouldn’t be leaving until 11.30.
That was the last time I spoke to her.
Jasmine was nearly 9 months old.
Back then I knew nothing about postnatal depression. Lou had seen a new GP who diagnosed her as having mild postnatal depression. He gave her a referral letter to Tresillian and some medication but no counselling. He took some blood and asked her to come back in a week. She spoke to Tressillian who gave her the Edinburgh Scale test. I was with her when she spoke to them. She might have answered the questions differently had she been on her own.
She said straight afterward, “Fancy them asking me if I felt suicidal!”
She died just a few days later. She was 34 years old.
I know that like all of us who have lost a child, that I will love and miss her forever. I feel that a huge part of me has gone. That the pain of her loss will never go away. It’s easier after 16 years, psychiatric help and medication that I have been taking for the last few years.
I have a journal in which I write notes to her to keep her informed about the things I think she would want to know about. All of Jasmine’s milestones and what she and Dave and all the family and her friends are up to. I always tell her about all the Gidget functions, as I said earlier Louise didn’t like missing out on anything. Writing the notes probably helps me too.
When I think about her now, I know that she had a fabulous life. I’m just glad that she was a part of mine.
Not long after she died, a group of her close friends along with Jacqui and Simone (her sisters), got together and talked about doing something in her name … they were so devastated. There was nowhere on the North-side specifically aimed at postnatal depression and they decided to try to do something about it.
I went along to their first meeting but found it too hard to be there with Louise’s friends and their little ones without her, so I have watched from the side-lines as the Gidget Foundation has grown into what it is today.
They decided to call it the Gidget Foundation as ‘Gidget’ was her nickname, given to her by a very close friend. She looked a bit like Sally Field. The original committee has been joined over the years by so many others who have organised fantastic events, the Board, the Ambassadors and many medical experts who have taken the Gidget Foundation to another level and turned their hopes into reality with all the programmes now available. Everyone at Gidget House, the wonderful volunteers, and benefactors, lots of groups who have organised fundraising days, all of these very generous people have helped them achieve so very much more than they could have ever imagined. I’m so very proud of all of them.
Whenever I am at a Gidget function I think to myself that she would have loved to be here. To get dressed up, meet her friends, laugh and chat and have a great time. What an amazing legacy.
When I read through what I had written for today I noticed that I used the word love many times. Her life was full of love. If this could happen to Louise it could happen to anyone.
Her daughter Jasmine has just turned 17. She is a beautiful girl in every way. Her mother would be so proud of her and her Dad and what they have achieved. We all are. She has had to cope with bullying, weight issues, and skin problems, just like lots of other teenage girls. She has a lovely boyfriend, they have been together for a year. She also has a car and is about to go for her P plates. Jasmine has a very close relationship with her dad Dave; it’s lovely to see them together. Jasmine has been very fortunate, as Dave has been an incredibly loving and capable Dad.
The Gidget Foundation came into being because of Louise, but it’s not about my little girl anymore. The Gidget Foundation is all about the other Gidgets and guys out there suffering. Let’s all do whatever we can to get them to start talking.
A big thank you to all of you for joining and supporting us today. Now, it’s time to start talking.”