Sarah and Lucca

I’ll never forget the night we found out we were pregnant with Lucca. 

My husband, Dustan, had just returned from a trip to South Africa and we had spent the night discussing the prospect of us moving there as part of our work.  By the end of the evening, we were pretty sure this is what we both wanted to do.  We felt nervous because it was such a massive move, but also really excited for the adventure.

I had no reason to suspect I was pregnant, but before we went to bed, I felt a strange urge to do a test.  The positive result meant we went to sleep that night with a lot to think about.  We knew 2017 was going to be a big year for us!

The following weeks and months consisted of lots of thinking and praying, as we prepared ourselves for what will probably be the most significant move we’ll ever make.  We will relocate to the coastal city of East London, South Africa in mid-November this year to be Lead Pastors of Calvary East London.  Calvary is the church we are a part of here in Townsville and there are campuses in seven cities across Queensland.  East London will be our first international campus.  

At the beginning of 2017, I remember us saying to one another, ‘We’ve got a big year ahead of us! We are having another baby, and we’re moving overseas’.  We joked that these were pretty insignificant life events, really.  Knowing that it was a lot to process all at once, we decided to focus on having the baby first, then we would get the wheels turning on the move to South Africa.  It was quite funny, a few days after Lucca was born, I turned to Dustan and said, ‘Okay, so now we’ve had our baby, we should start thinking about moving’.  Of course, we had already begun the visa application process, however there was only so much we could do before Lucca was born.  Her birth meant her name was now official, which meant we could get her passport, and so forth.  

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Our families have been really supportive of our decision. We are both very close to our families, so the move isn’t going to be easy.  Having said that, in the context of history, there hasn’t been a better time to make a move like this, because technology affords us the ability to be able to stay in touch easily.

I speak to my own mother often, so we’ll have to find a new groove with the time zones to maintain our regular chats.  My mum has been a huge influence on the way I raise my own children.  She’s often my go-to for any parenting advice.  I’m one of four children, so Mum has got plenty of experience in the motherhood department.

She’s such a selfless woman.  She’s practically devoted her life to raising her four children.  She was so conscientious in the way she mothered us, and I think that has definitely influenced the way I approach parenting.  She always says, ‘the best thing I ever did was raise you kids’. 

My generation wants to be able to do everything – right now.  We want the career, the lifestyle, the social life – and we want to be awesome parents.  But you can’t always do everything.  Mum has taught me the importance of being present in raising my own children, instead of trying to do too much.  Sometimes, she says, ‘Sass, you need to just focus on your kids right now.  Your main responsibility in life is to look out for them, especially in these early years when they’re developing so much in such a small amount of time. Take every opportunity to stop and play with your children’.  And I do!  Our lives are still extremely busy, but I feel like we’ve found a really great equilibrium.  I love the time I spend with my kids.  I try my best in every moment to be as present as possible.  I know that for this season right now, my role is to be a great mum and wife.

Life in South Africa will be very different to what we’re familiar with in Australia.  I think the culture shock will hit us, but that’s part of the fun.  In terms of the location, it’s not dissimilar to Townsville, or the Sunshine Coast, where both of us grew up. It’s coastal and a regional capital; about an hour and a half flight away from both Cape Town and Johannesburg.  It’s a really beautiful city, but there is also so much need there.  Right on your doorstep is extreme poverty and corruption; hence the reason we want to lead the church there—to hopefully help make a difference in people’s lives in that city.

As a mother, I believe I have a really unique opportunity to instil something positive into the character of my children.  External influences obviously play a big role, but particularly in the first couple of years, I recognise there is so much a mother can do to influence her kids.  My desire is to help my children get a good understanding of how to manage their emotions and to be empathetic toward others.  I’ve heard that one of the key factors in determining a person’s success is their ability to recognise and manage their own emotional health.  More than genetics or good schooling, success comes when a person has a healthy, balanced awareness of self.  When this is the case, you’re able to interact well with others and be influential in your sphere.

If I can help my kids understand themselves, and help them get perspective on who they are in the context of the bigger picture, then I will be happy.

A lot of people think we’re crazy, moving to the other side of the world with our two young children.  But for Dustan and I, doing something like this has always been on our hearts.  We’ve always talked about one day living and working overseas, and raising our kids (at least for a part) in another country, where they would have the opportunity to speak another language and interact with people of different cultures.  I think it’s a really good opportunity for the kids to expand their worldview. 

We never imagined our move internationally would be to South Africa, but the more we think about it and get ready for the move, the more excited we are to hopefully make a difference in people’s lives in that specific part of the world. 

 
 

Emily and Darcey

I was T-boned by a truck when I was in my little hatchback. He hit my passenger side and after the car stopped spinning around, I took my belt off but I couldn’t move my legs. I was super worried I would be in a wheelchair. I had to be cut out of the car and sent by helicopter to Townsville. My pelvis was fractured in 5 places and I was in hospital for 6 weeks. I found that really hard. I was on my back for so much time and I lost a lot of weight.

I was told that I could try and deliver my baby normally, but it wouldn’t be possible to know for sure until I actually tried.

The most difficult thing about labour was trying to stay focused. Toward the end I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even talk to anyone. It’s actually a little bit lonely. It’s not that no-one is listening to you, but it feels really hard to talk to anyone; I was that out of control. I really just needed someone to make the pain go away. It felt like I was really defeated.

It’s not that I didn’t want to have a caesarean, but I was really determined to try and have a natural birth. I’m one of those people who has to experience things. I was determined to try to have as natural birth as possible, but I was also open to whatever was best for baby and me. So if it ended up being a caesarean, I was happy with that too.

My heart broke for my partner Kirk. He was really struggling. even though they don't have to do the labour and stuff, it can be really difficult watching someone else in pain and not being able to help them as much as you’d like to.

He knew that I wanted to try and do it without pain relief, and he felt ‘I hope she doesn’t feel disappointed with me the next day. I hope she doesn’t feel like I didn’t stick up for what she wanted.’  He was worried that he might have let me down because he couldn’t encourage me through that hard part.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter to me whether I have a natural birth or caesarean, because she came out perfect 😃

Nicarri

When I was 8 weeks I had spotting, but I thought nothing of it, as it only lasted a few days. I guessed it was implanting bleeding. It come back again when I was 10 weeks but then was a constant flow for a week. My GP sent me for extra scans, she had a strong heartbeat but they noticed a blood clot in the placenta. That's where the bleeding was coming from and they told me it would settle.

I got closer to 16 weeks and started to bleed heavily. From there I couldn't keep count how many times I had more bleeds. My GP requested more scans and we found there was a haemorrhage behind the placenta. Luckily there was still great blood flow to the baby and she was happy.

From that point I just had a feeling I needed to do all I could to keep that baby in and to try to reach viability.

At this point I couldn't go a day without wearing a pad. I really thought that this baby wasn't going to last. Each week i was counting down to 24 weeks. The closer I got to 24 weeks the longer the stays were in hospital. I would get discharged to only end up there again at 2am with an even bigger bleed.

When I got to my 5th admission, that was my last. I was there for good. Once I started to reach 24 weeks I was given steroid injections to help prepare her lungs. I felt I was giving the best chance for my baby. At this point the bleeding was constant. It barely ever went away and if it did, it wasn't long till I had another big bleed to start it all off again. The tightenings were getting stronger and more consistent. The pain killers were making me drowsy enough to sleep but never stopped the pains.

I can remember the day clearly when I woke to what I thought was a light bleed. I buzzed the midwife on night shift to come check. I got up on the bed for an examination, and suddenly a gush of water come out of me. The room got busy, my membranes had ruptured. And then the tightenings really started to kick in. My body went into shock, and my heart was racing. I messaged my husband to let him know what happened.

My mum arrived pretty quickly, and by then they had discussed giving me magnesium sulphate, which may stop the labour progressing, but the main reason was to protect my baby's brain if she were to be born early.

After having the magnesium sulphate hooked up, the first 20 mins were the worst. I had hot flushes and felt so sick, with an instant headache. I felt horrible. Mum was counting down till they reduced the dose and I just kept telling myself this was all for my baby. The only thing that made me feel a little better was someone rubbing down my whole body. My mum pretty much did it for a whole day. She was trying to make me feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible.

I felt a little gush again. More blood. The doctors come in to check and she called the head doctor on duty.

They decided to do the operation and get baby out while she was still OK. She was at a good weight for her gestation. I agreed, I wanted best for this baby. My body was starting to fail her inside, I thought she would have the best start outside now.

Once they started the operation they were quick. Once she was out i heard the tiniest cry - it was more of a squeak! We didn't know if it was going to be a boy or a girl when they held her up to me. I didn't have the whole feeling of surprise and excitement as I expected. I just had a feeling of worry, I felt my body had failed her. She was so tiny and she shouldn't be here yet.

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The doctors told me that the placenta was pulling away from the uterus wall, there were blood clots all behind the placenta also. I felt so lucky that they decided to pull her out. It could of turned much more dangerous for us both. I really was a ticking time bomb.

She was then rushed into the neonatal intensive care to start her journey there.

Once I was in recovery they were staying how amazed by her they were, they could hear her screaming. She had a good set of lungs on her and this made me feel a little better. I knew she was going to be a fighter.

The first time I walked in there, the machines suddenly went off alarming. The nurse on duty opened up her cot and gave her a little rub, just to remind her to breath again. I wanted to cry. They reassured me that she will do this regularly. It was normal for her being so prematurely born.

She spent 81 days in hospital and only had to have 1 blood transfusion. She started to breastfeed at 32 weeks gestation. She would shock us all with her achievements.

We were able to bring her home before her due date. I couldn't wait to have her home and end those hospital runs 3-4 times a day.

Now she's a very happy 9 month old. She's cheeky and loves to learn about the world around her. We couldn't be more proud of her. Our beautiful Nicarri.

Sophie and Makayla

Because of the distance, our first scan wasn’t until about 16 weeks. That was when we found out that we were having twins. And it was a real shock! During scan they told us that they couldn’t find the membrane that normally separates the twins, but said not to stress about it. At the next scan, they still couldn’t find it and we realised then that actually it wasn’t there. 

That was when everything went into turmoil. Because it was such a rare situation, no-one could give us accurate advice about exactly what this meant. Our twins were monochorionic, monoamniotic, so both shared the same fluid sac. We had an obstetrician in Hughenden, but she didn’t know much about it, so that was when we were moved over to the Townsville Hospital.

We started out with fortnightly scans, which meant me travelling 4 hours each way, in and out of Hughenden. I was still doing the school run each day, everything else as normal but travelling in every 2 weeks. Things plodded along, but they were underweight. As we did each scan it became clear that twin B wasn't gaining as much weight as twin A. At 24 weeks, my obstetrician was going to be away and he sent me to Brisbane for another specialist to take a look at how things were going.

When they scanned her there, they said it looked like she wasn’t going to make it. They said that we might have to intervene. We spoke to 4 or 5 different doctors and they all had their own different opinion, which made it really difficult. We just wanted to be told ‘This is what you need to do’ and we would do it.

Because the babies' cords were only a short distance apart where they joined the placenta, they explained that it was like tree roots and the bigger roots were close together, making the chance of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome a possibility. They were initially going to try and laser between the two, but because they were so close together, they couldn’t do that.

The other option they gave us was to clamp off twin B and let her die to save her sister. We didn’t want to make that decision, it still wasn’t definite that she couldn’t survive, so how could we possibly have the final word on that? We then spoke to another doctor who agreed with our decision to not to intervene if we didn’t have to. If twin A - the healthier one - dropped off, then we could make that decision. That was on the Friday. We then had had the weekend off, but when we went back in on Monday, we found that she had passed away.

In some ways it was better that way, because we didn’t have to make that decision ourselves. Of course it was incredibly sad, but it was in some way a relief, because it was nature's way, and God had made his decision.

So then what? The pregnancy remained high risk and we needed to keep monitoring. We went back to Townsville, started having weekly scans. I then became very anxious about it all - we knew their cords could still get entangled at any time without the membrane separating them, and our live baby could then die too. I requested daily monitoring, so we had it every day at the hospital to be sure she was OK and - eventually 10 weeks later - we had made it to 34 weeks. It was incredibly tiring and emotional - we just wanted to get to the end.

When we met Sophie, we were so relieved, so happy and blessed that she was healthy. I didn't know what to expect, I’d heard lots of stories about 34 week babies having breathing problems and other difficulties, but she’s just perfect. It was the biggest relief after everything that we'd been through.

We already had two girls names chosen, right from before my first son was born - Eleanor & Makayla. We had stuck with those names all the way through, but when we started having the dramas we decided that we just couldn’t name them. It was probably us trying to detach ourselves. I think it was a survival technique, we just put it off. Then in Brisbane before she passed away, without even talking about it we started calling our twin B Makayla. After she passed away, we went back to calling them twin A and twin B, I think again we just needed to distance ourselves from all that was going on.

When the girls were born, we decided we couldn’t take that name away from her. It was the name that she had when she was alive and when she passed, we couldn’t just take that name away. So she became Makayla Jayne. She received a care package from the hospital and inside, there was a little teddy bear that had the name Sophie on it. Sophie was another of the 4 girls names on our shortlist and we felt it was fitting that her sister had that name. Eleanor then became Sophie’s middle name and it all fell into place.

Makayla was baptised at the hospital - it took us a few days to bring ourselves to be able to do that.  I didn’t see her until late on the day they were born, so with the surgery, it was still a bit of a blur. It was really important for us to have her baptised as a way of recognising that it really did happen, accepting, and letting go. We did it in the hospital room, with our family priest. It was really beautiful. We already had quite a few weeks after she passed to grieve, and we did a lot of that before she was born.

We were always very honest with the boys and when she passed we had to tell them straight away. My older son is quite intelligent so he had a million questions about where is she now, why is she still in there, how will they get her out, etc. It was really quite difficult because I had to deal with that as well as my own emotions. But he had to know, so we were honest and explained everything. Our youngest is quite an empathetic child and was very upset by it all. You would think he might not really understand, but even now says I miss my baby Makayla. On a level they can understand it.

My husband Tim has been my rock, he’s been so good. He gets emotional and that surprised me too, but he bottles it up a lot as well.

I still feel like I can’t quite breath easy just yet. When Sophie's out of hospital, then I’ll be on Cloud 9 I think. They say that she’ll be another 2 weeks if she puts on a good amount of weight and takes to the breastfeeding fully. We can’t wait to get her home. 

Arlo

When I was 27 weeks I was traveling to Switzerland, so we did an ultrasound scan to check my cervix length.  The cervix was great but it was then that we found that he was smaller than expected and my uterine artery dopplers were abnormal.  I knew there was trouble ahead. At that stage my cervix was long, I wasn’t having contractions so the risk of going into labour was low. The one thing that I was most scared of was having a placental abruption on the long haul flight. While I was in Switzerland I saw an obstetrician for a couple of scans - I felt safe because I knew that if something was to happen at that stage, we would be fine.

From there it got a little bit worse each time and eventually - at 35 weeks - he stopped growing altogether and his placental blood flow became abnormal. We thought it might still be ok to get a bit longer, but then his heart rate dropped on the monitor. That day I had to stay in the hospital - I had a hairdressers appointment, my car was being serviced, but I wasn’t allowed to leave after that. I was told it was going to be in the morning the next day. I had to have two more monitorings done later that day and at the night and if there were any further drops in his heart beat, it would have to be that day. It was the 31st of January - who wants to be born on 31st January!? It’s got  to be the 1st February! I don’t know why, but at that stage it really mattered to me. Even though the plan had only just been made, I didn’t want it changing again. I didn’t sleep much that night - which I guess was to be expected. I wasn’t nervous about the operation, it was more about him and how he would be. 

I guess it didn’t work out the way I wanted - I’m not disappointed, but I would have liked for him to be a bit bigger. I really didn’t want him to go to Special Care. By the end I knew that he had to, and I adjusted, but for me that was the hardest issue. He was there for 7 days. I pushed all the limits. I stayed longer on the maternity ward and then stayed with him as a boarder. We went home fairly early - they actually discharged him still losing weight and under 2kg, which I think was a favour to me. 2 days after his discharge they wanted him to come back and then he had put on weight, then they were happy!

When he was born I didn’t know what to feel. Before I saw him later that day in Special Care, it was like ‘Oh, they’ve pulled the baby out’, he’s gone… I always thought the birth would be a bit more overwhelming - honestly, it was probably more underwhelming!! I still got that feeling eventually, but it was just a bit different than I expected. I think it’s also different if you go through labour, and when they arrive you’re finally at the end of it all.

I first got to hold him later that night, when he was about 10 hours old. He was grunting and they didn’t want him to come out of the incubator before then. First cuddle was really nice. He got straight onto breastfeeding which was nice too because I was worried about him being small. That relieved a lot of the anxieties.

Looking back at my experiences from childhood and my mother I would like to instil in him the understanding that there are always so many options and you can really do whatever you want to do in life. I don’t want him to feel like he’s on some kind of path where he has to do what is ‘expected’ of him. I don’t want to be overprotective, something I think I got from my Mum. She was always there, but always let us do what we thought we could - without pushing the boundaries too much. That’s one of the things I want to teach him - that he can explore his own boundaries. I want him to have freedom in his life and to know that he can talk to us about anything. 

I never wanted to be a full-time Mum so I’m fine with coming back to work. I’ve left him a few times with other people already, I think that’s a good thing for him and me. I was saying to my partner today that I hope no-one feels that I’ve got an unhealthy relationship with my child because I leave him with other people. I think it’s good for him not to be too attached to one person. Our plan is to get an Au Pair. Hopefully we can find one who speaks German. I do speak to Arlo in German but it feels a bit odd. I have to keep trying or I’ll get into trouble with my Mum! She’s very protective of her language. He will have to speak it, otherwise they won’t be happy - even if it’s with an Australian accent! She is very excited about becoming a grandmother but struggles with the fact that she’s so far away. And that she has to wait until April to meet him. She’s told everyone, shown all the photos around - Arlo’s her first grandchild.

I don’t think being pregnant has changed me as a person, but I believe motherhood will. I never actually felt that pregnant - I know that sounds weird, maybe it’s because he wasn’t ever big and I wasn’t so big either. I never felt like it was affecting me that much. I had the usual pregnancy symptoms, but they were never a major issue.

Being an obstetrician helped me to understand throughout the pregnancy problems. I’m a bit of a control freak and it helped to know things. Maybe it made me a bit obstructive though. A couple of times Luke told me to just be a patient rather than trying to interpret things myself. Having a caesarean was very interesting. I could follow all the steps of the surgery in my head and feel them being done. It was kind of comforting for me, because I felt like I had some control, in the sense that I knew what was happening! It also gave me a good idea of how daunting the experience must be for my patients who have a caesar, especially if it’s an emergency one. I found the being shoved from one bed to another hard to accept and for someone who didn’t have any background knowledge or know the people who are handling you, it must be a daunting experience. I gave me a real appreciation for what they go through. 

I chose to have my baby at the hospital I work at. I just felt more comfortable in the public system. I do like the fact that I knew people - and not just the medical staff - everyone on the floor who passed by, I found that very comforting. I don’t feel to strongly about what people might see or hear or find out, so for me that was quite an easy decision. Even before I realised Arlo would need Special Care, I felt more secure knowing the NICU was nearby.  

The body achieves

“The body achieves what the mind believes”
  — SJ, successful VBAC

Candice

My own mother taught me many things, but the most important thing in life she told me is to take everything day to day, don't rush things. When I had my first baby, I didn't know what I was doing. I was young, I was a single mother and she supported me. I was stressed, I was getting bloated and asking many questions from my mother. I always asked her silly questions like why are my feet swollen, why can't I do this and that. She stopped me from doing things that can harm my baby. She taught me to be a mother and how to raise a newborn. Family is important to me because its unconditional love and support. We may have ups and downs, but at the end of the day, you love and care for one another. 

I was 4 weeks when I found out I was pregnant the second time. My mother was excited, but during the pregnancy I found out she had stage 3 cancer and had only one month to live. She told me I was having a girl, because she always wanted a granddaughter. A month later, we decided to celebrate an advance 60th birthday for her, and a few weeks later, she left us. It was the saddest moment of my life. It built up so much stress on me that I was scared it would harm my unborn child. At 20 weeks I went for a ultrasound to find out what gender my baby was. I asked the lady to put it in a envelope so my partner and I could open it together - it was a girl. I cried as my mother predicted it was a girl. 

My contractions were intense and decided to call the hospital. I went into the hospital and the birthing suite was such a long walk for me but I had to do it so I can speed up my labour. I was put in a room in the birthing suite and the contractions were all over the place. A few hours later they told me to have a nap as I was only 2cm dilated. 3 hours later, I felt a big kick to my stomach. I tried so hard to find the button to call the midwife, but the contractions were really strong. My midwife told me I was in active labor. I went from 2cm to 7cm with just that big kick. 3 hours later, my daughter was born. It was such a relief. Today she is 8 months and crawling.

Being a mother has changed me for the better, I am more mature, more committed, more independent and self confident.

My family came from the Philippines and moved to Australia. I was born here and know the Australian lifestyle and traditions. But my family have taught me about their traditions, their beliefs and religions. How my parents raised me, I would like to raise my children. Before my parents gave me solid food for the first time, it was their tradition to for their children to taste a cooked chicken bottom - it gives the children confidence in talking to each other (chatterbox) and teaches them not be shy when growing up. I have given my first son this family tradition and my son has felt confident to talk to others.

Parents want so many things for their children, but my main goal for my children is to have a happy, healthy life and for me to help guide their way towards success.

Lily and Sommer

Motherhood to me has been the most amazing journey. Although I had expectations of the hard times, I had never, never realised just how rewarding it would be. 

My first pregnancy was difficult from the start, we hadn’t planned to be pregnant but I was definitely happy. It was harder for my partner to get his head around it, but by the time we had the scan at 20 weeks he was excited too. We found out that we were having a girl, and even at that stage I loved her so much. Then at 22 weeks, I knew something was wrong. I was at home and started to get some pains and all of a sudden I was uncontrollably bleeding. I called the hospital and asked them what to do. They told me to call an ambulance and still in my mind at that stage I thought that everything was going to be OK. I don’t know why I thought that, maybe I was just trying to be positive.

We drove to the hospital and in that time I soaked through 2 towels worth of blood. We got to there and I was put into a wheel chair and taken up to birth suite. I still remember the poor doctor who came in and had to tell me that because of how early I was, she couldn’t make it. I was told she would likely come in the next few days. I didn’t even cry, I was just in shock. A few hours passed and nothing more happened, so I was taken to the maternity ward where I had my own private room. They said that this is where you’ll have your baby. It could be soon or it could be few days.

After a few more hours, the pains started to get a lot more stronger and closer together. I had so many family members come and visit me, because we all knew what was going to happen. I was just trying to get through the pains. I remember lying in the shower crying. Everyone was crying. I had such a big support network there. I had my Mum and my Dad, my partner, his Mum and Dad, my cousin - who is one of my best friends - and we were all a team. Someone would get me some water and someone would shower me down, and we all needed each other because we were so emotional. We had all loved that baby and people that say ‘You didn’t get to know her, so it would have been easier to grieve’, are so wrong. I had her in me that whole time and I knew her. 

I think it was after 38 hours that I had been in hospital and the doctors did and internal. They said I was ready to push. Everyone in the room was crying because they hadn’t checked her heart beat in the last few hours so we didn’t know if she would be born alive. I pushed and it was actually really easy. She was born with the sac still all around her and it was the most beautiful thing, we could see her little arms moving inside. I have photos of her at that moment and they are some of the most special memories I have. Then my midwife cut the sac open and she was still moving around. It was so special. I put her straight onto my chest and I felt her breathing. I have photos of her with her mouth open and with it closed. I can see her breathing in those photos. I don’t have an exact time of when her breathing stopped, but I got to meet my baby alive and I had those moments with her. Those memories that I have of being with her, those few days with her body are so so precious to me.

I got home and I wrote them all down so I’d never forget them, along with all the beautiful photos, to remember forever. I still do things to this day to remember her, she’s never ever going to be forgotten. We always go down to the cemetery to see her, we go to ‘Walk to Remember’ every year and we light a candle on her birthday. I think about her on her due date, when she was supposed to be here. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it, but I’m definitely learning to live with it a lot better than when it first happened. I was so young and it was such a big trauma to deal with and work through. It was so hard.

Lily was a person, she was my baby. I want people to know that and I don’t want to hide from it. I know it makes people uncomfortable sometimes when I tell them I have two babies, but one of them has passed. They look uncomfortable, but I have two babies and I do want to talk about both of them. 

After that I remember just working, day in day out, but just wanting more, wanting to have more meaning to my whole life in general. I knew that we had to try again for a baby. I remember one day taking a pregnancy test and it came back negative, and I just cried for the whole day, wishing that it had been positive. A few weeks went by and I took a blood test and it was positive. I cried the whole way home again! Out of excitement and joy and I knew that I already loved that little tiny thing that was inside me, incredibly much.

I think having a baby at 22 weeks and having her only for a short period of time, made me have so much appreciation for the fact that I was even pregnant again. I knew this was a chance for another life. Before I had Lily, I thought you just get pregnant and have a baby. You don’t realise that not all pregnancies are like that. You don’t realise how many don’t have the happy ending. I think having that experience made me appreciate even just that positive test result. And then going through the pregnancy I was terrified of all the little things that could happen. I think from the day I found out I was pregnant, my whole world changed. I didn’t want to do certain things because I was worried about my baby. You stop worrying about yourself and put your baby first. 

All the scans were great, then at about the 25 week mark, I was just getting ready to go to my Mum’s when I started having quite serious pains and I was really concerned. I phoned 13 HEALTH and was on hold for ages, I couldn’t get through to them. I had a midwife appointment in the morning so thought I’d wait until then. I got to the "appointment” and - because of my baby brain - I actually didn’t have a midwife appointment at all. I had this hunch inside that something was wrong and I should go to the hospital. I don’t know why I knew that, but after everything that happened I knew that I had to go. I was seen in the antenatal clinic, then was sent up to birth suite - they said initially it was probably just a pulled ligament. They then did the internal and found I was slightly dilated and having contractions. So - again - tears... lots of tears, I was so scared that the same thing would happen again as last time with Lily. And just so many questions that I wanted answers to: how long is this going to go on for, when am I going to meet my baby, is she going to be OK… just so many questions. We went for a tour of the NICU and I just wanted to know when the labour was going to happen. I assumed in my mind that if you start dilating, then you go into labour within a week or so.

I was so lucky that it held off for a week, and then it held off for two weeks, and every week I had these little goals and little milestones to get to. It was such a rollercoaster. I spent almost the whole time in hospital after that. It was almost 2 months, with only 7 broken days at home during that time. It was really hard to be there and not be in my own bed. But it was so reassuring to now that if anything happened I was right there, near where I had to be. My baby listened to everyone who came in to see us - everyone said ‘We just need you to stay in there a bit longer, you just need a bit more cooking in there.’ And I think she listened. As crazy as that sounds, I really think she did.

Then at about 30 weeks my waters broke. I thought she would be coming for sure, only a matter of days now. But she still stuck in there until we developed an infection and then that risk just outweighed the risks of being born too early. I was induced at 33 weeks and 4 days, and it was a really quick birth. It was really hard. With the indution, I felt like my contractions just weren’t stopping. Even though the labour was short, the contractions kept peaking and came one after the other, with only a little rest between them. It was so hard and I remember feeling like my whole body was just trying to push my baby out. I said to my midwife ‘I feel like I need to push’ and she said ‘Oh, no, not yet, it will just be your body getting ready’. She actually went out to have a cup of tea and that was when I yelled at Mum ‘I need to get my pants off!’ and literally she jumped out of me! She was so excited, it was one push and she jumped right out. My midwife had to catch her from falling off the bed. It was such a relief. That feeling of holding her was just incredible. When they put her onto my chest, I looked at her face. I had never seen her face properly on the scans and when I finally got to see her face, it was everything I had dreamt of. I didn’t think that my baby could be so perfect, but she was. 

She was probably only with me for 20 minutes and most of that time she was on the resus machine across the room. I had another quick hold, but it wasn’t for very long. She was then taken with my partner up to NICU. I was really lucky to have the photos of the birth. I was still down in the birth suite, and I got to see these amazing photos and it was just so good, because although I couldn’t see her in person, I still got to see her. 

She was in NUCU for around 3 days and then into special care for just under 4 weeks, which was amazing. Being at home and having your baby at the hospital was even harder than when I was in hospital waiting for her to be born. I had her with me the whole pregnancy and then suddenly, I don’t have her and I have to go home without her. Those days were so hard. We had assumed that she would be in special care until her due date, but in the end we got to take her home 3 weeks earlier than expected. It was so special to finally have her home.

I think that having Sommer has really helped me to heal too. I wouldn’t have Sommer - without a doubt - if Lily had survived. I am so grateful, I treasure every moment. Even the migraines, the hard nights, it makes it so much easier knowing that I have her. I know that being a Mother is what I am supposed to do, I feel amazing - it sounds a bit cocky, but I feel that this is what I’m supposed to do, I’m so good at this and so happy. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I have needed everything that I have gone through to get to where I am now, I am so grateful of everything I have.

New possibilities

“In giving birth to our babies, we may find that we give birth to new possibilities within ourselves.”
— Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

Judith and Malaika

"I came to Australia 12 years ago to study. I had a great childhood - we used to play in the mud, climb trees, roll around on the floor all the time. We didn’t have TV, computer games and all these things. We used our imagination, we made our own footballs and our own dolls. My kids growing up here will miss some of those things.

My Mother had a big family around to help, always lots of cousins and aunties there to take care of us, which I don’t have. That makes things harder. But I look back at how I was raised and bring that experience to how I raise my own children. Respect is so important. We have a huge responsibility as a Mother - we only have one chance and we have to do our best. There is no ‘do over’.

 
 
Motherhood is harder than I thought. I wouldn’t apply for the job if I were to be paid for it... but I can do it for free!
 

I want my children to find that special something that makes them happy - their passion - that’s all I need for them in life.” 

 
 

Emily's twins

For me, being a mother means I have the complete privilege of raising the children that have been given and entrusted to me. I fully believe that children are a gift and I don't take that honour lightly. I get to inspire them, I get to encourage them, but most importantly, being a mother means that I get to be the person that they will run to when they are hurt, I get to be the person that answers their questions, and I get to love them unconditionally. For the first part of their lives, I am their whole world and that is a big responsibility. I get to share all my dreams and aspirations that I have for my family and guide them into being the best people that they can be.

I pray for my children every day and I want them to grow up being very aware of their surroundings and responding in kindness, empathy and love. I want them to grow up knowing that they have incredible privilege and to be thankful for even the smallest of things.

Myself, I had a wonderful family upbringing growing up in a Christian home and I grew up seeing the role of a mother to be admirable. We ate every night around the family table, were taught to save our money, went to church every Sunday and were all encouraged to pursue a higher education - all of which are things I intend to instil into my family in my role as a mother.

My mother taught me a lot about sacrifice but it wasn't until I became a mother myself that I truly realised the sacrifices she made for me and my sisters growing up. My mother gave up a lot of things to raise us at home and taught me the value of family and the value of a strong family. My mother for as long as I can remember has been very quick to help others and that is still something I admire in her.

My pregnancy had various complications being a twin pregnancy but regardless of that I loved being pregnant (95% of the time!). I absolutely loved the feeling of them moving around and it never ceased to amaze me just how amazing pregnancy really is and how precious life is. I felt like my birth was quite traumatic and it was not what I had envisioned for the 9 months leading up to it, but the moment my first baby was placed on my chest I knew that what I been through had been worth it and it gave me some momentum and empowerment to start pushing again! I felt the most bonded with my babies after I started breastfeeding them and it is a bond that is incomparable with any other relationship.

The first time that I held my babies, I knew a love that I can't explain! For the whole 9 months you feel your babies moving around, you talk to them, you touch them, they kick you back and they go everywhere with you. So when you first meet them its almost like a sense of familiarity like "oh hello its you". You already feel so connected to them so that 'motherly love' upon first seeing their face is just quite overwhelming. There are no words.

Motherhood has definitely made me more instinctive and more aware of my surroundings. My days are now planned around feeds and naps, and play time and cleaning up little messes, but I honestly wouldn't change it for anything. I love this new season in my life and I love that I have the privilege of taking care and nurturing my babies. My husband and I have tried not to stop our lives - we try to still do the things we previously enjoyed before they came along such as camping and going on trips away as I believe it is so important to make wonderful memories as a family early on. There are obviously difficult days/nights and when I feel tired and the babies are sick or unsettled, I just think to myself, "they are never going to be this little again. Tomorrow they will just be that little bit bigger, that little bit older, and because of that I will cherish this moment regardless of how I'm feeling".