Her first ‘Medallion Day’

Strap in, this is going to be a long one.

When the twins were born and we subsequently lost Charlize, I made a conscious effort not to look towards the future. Sounds hard doesn’t it?  I was protecting myself. I was terrified to build a connection with this tiny, fragile human who relied on me every minute of every day to make the right decisions for her. To keep her alive. The fact is, you have to connect.

When she wrapped her entire tiny hand around my little finger, my whole body tingled from her touch. When she opened one of her eyes for the first time and gazed at me, her soul bore into mine. When she squealed like a kitten because she was in pain, because she was scared, because she was alone, because she missed her twin, my heart broke. Our connection was vital to her survival and mine.

But still I tried not to look forward to when she would crawl, walk, go to preschool, go to school, because what if she never did those things. My heart hurt. So instead, I embraced each day slowly and one at a time, a total blessing. Slowly she reached her milestones and we celebrated them loudly because at times it was a miracle she did them.

One day, all of the sudden, I was dressing her in a school uniform and sending her into the arms of the most nurturing teacher for five whole days a week.

Today, six months after starting school I sat next to my husband in the school hall. Both of us excited for Lucia. Both of us unbelievably happy that we all made it here, smiling, healthy, happy and full of love.

Lucia received her first medallion for ‘Positive Behaviour for Learning’. When they called her name her little face lit up (even if they did pronounce it wrong). As I shakily pinned her medallion on her collar her teacher said to me “Savour this moment”. I replied “Oh, I am” and I really did.

I didn’t cry because there was nothing to be sad about. Even when I was sat back down and stared into her beaming little face standing up on stage and my mind flashed to the months she spent in hospital, to how very unwell she was, to those moments when we really didn’t think she’d survive, to those moments of utter triumph when she learnt how to breathe on her own, when we finally took her home and as we watched this little flower of ours bloom into the most amazing little girl.

Dearest Lucia, today is a defining moment in your life, a day when you realise your kind natured personality, your beautiful manners, your curious mind and your infectious warmth all come together to reiterate how very amazing you are. I know that you are only one of many who received an award today but, no one has travelled your path. Your life journey started out a tumultuous road and the road ahead is now a smooth one.

You my darling, are a fire cracker. Keep being YOU. Always remember where you started and how far you’ve come and how much we love you and that you can do anything you put your mind to (as you’ve already shown us a million times before).

We love you more than anyone in this world. We love you so much and so hard that sometimes it hurts. When I look at you and my eyes fill with tears, I am not sad, I am overwhelmed with emotion at who you are.

You are the final branch on our family tree and we are so proud of you.

Keep smiling beautiful girl and enjoy “Medallion Day”.


Day 33: 100 Happy Days Project

On New Years Eve every year I write myself a list. A list of things we want to do as a family, a list of things we need or want to do to our home and a list of things just for me. It’s a type of goal setting I guess.

This year I decided I wanted to try as many new things as I could but they had to be meaningful and they had to bring me joy.

Earlier in the year I went to a workshop on working with clay. I found it so soothing, creating such an element of slowness that I organised a private lesson for the children and I. It was even more than I expected. It was total bliss and I loved how all my creations turned out.

A few months later I learnt macrame. I was delighted that I created a beautiful pot hanger. It reminded me a lot of crocheting but without the hook. I loved the result.

Today I did a crochet workshop. I know how to crochet because my Mum taught me and then Nanna taught me to correct my errors along the way. I made a beautiful bag today. Sitting quietly sipping tea, eating cheese and crackers and relaxing in the warmth of the sunshine for three hours with a crochet hook in my hand was bliss.

I didn’t realise when I gave myself this goal for the year how happy it would make me and how special some of the connections I’m making with other local women have become.

The art of working with our hands gives us a specific purpose. An end goal. But it gives us connections with other creatives, other humans who encourage each other along, who talk about life’s journey and give each other advice for that journey. To sit and create, to eat, to drink, to talk, to be silent, to watch, to listen, to smile, to laugh and to be happy.

This is exactly how life is supposed to be.

Day 32/100 Happy Days

I feel like I should elaborate slightly on my Happy Days project on my blog a little more…..

In all the ‘glow’ that’s apparently radiating from me, although I’ve felt calm, Happy and relaxed, I have felt unbelievably fatigued.

Our bodies are just like plants. We need food, water, sunshine, rain, nurture and love to thrive and sometimes we even need fertiliser.

After making so many changes I was surprised my fatigue wasn’t lifting. It felt heavy and a little disturbing at times. I knew I’d need to get up out of bed but I lacked any sort of energy to move. I’d have eight solid hours sleep and wake up feeling like I’d not even slept.

I suspected something was amiss. After seventeen years of not having a thyroid I knew my signs pretty well but if my levels were too low I’d get very specific symptoms but that hadn’t happened.

Turns out my thyroid indicators were severely amiss. My fertiliser needed some serious topping up.

Last night I had the worst sleep I’ve had in ages, totalling around 4.5 hours and somehow I woke up wide eyed and full of energy. The fertiliser was seeping deep into my metabolism literally filling my depleted bucket. Yah!

What a perfect way to start my 32nd Happy day.

It was freezing when I finally emerged from the cocoon of my warm bed. I slipped on my unicorn slippers and pressed that magic button which turned our house from six degrees to twenty degrees.

I boiled the kettle and sat on the lounge listening to nature awakening. I made a cup of tea and poked my head outside into the freezing cold and perched on my bench and watched the sun rise over the top of my autumn trees. I sipped my tea and warmed my hands. Big Red started his crowing and Olaf happily joined in. I felt so immensely grateful to be awake enjoying the peace and delight of a new day.

After school drop off was complete I was lucky enough to spend the morning at yoga with two beautiful friends. We stretched and breathed our way through a routine that will make us all hurt in places tomorrow we never dreamt of.

I had lunch with my dear friend Donna. We ventured into Bangalow and explored as many coffee and food stops as possible. This woman came into my life last year and we bonded. That sounds like such a wank doesn’t it? But seriously it’s like we’ve known each other our whole lives. We could talk the whole day long and not be tired of each other and we laugh. We laugh so much. Donna makes my heart warm. I get excited when I know I get to spend time with her. Our friendship is relaxed and easy. Nothing is a trouble and my children are head over heels in love with her. In fact, Indiana has been known to lose her mind if I’ve promised a visit to Donna’s and we change plans. Actually, Donna got quite upset when our boys were put on different tennis teams this term. She wasn’t upset for them, she was upset for us. The coach found this highly amusing.

After a fabulous day with Donna I got home to see our poor goat Mint, was still pregnant. I walked into her pen and she didn’t even bother getting up. The effort is too much for her now. We are certain she has twins in there but I worry there could be triplets. I found a spot in the hay next to her and stroked her chin and her belly. The kids were wriggling around under the warmth of my hand. I told Mint that I understood. I too know the effort to carry two babies. I too know the fatigue. I told her that today is the first of June and she was actually due in May. I sensed a slight irritation when I mentioned that. I’m pretty certain if she could talk she would’ve said ‘Seriously woman, my udder is the size of a bucket, these babies are sapping all my goodness, my teats are now hanging down to my knees, my back is aching so much I can hardly get up and my vagina is now hanging outside of my body in a rather unfashionable way. Don’t you think I want these kids out yesterday.’ I figured if I gave her a brush down, some fresh water and a biscuit of hay she would like me a little more.

I noticed our mother hen and her five chicks being stalked by our dog. The hen would herd her babes under a bush and then run at the dog and peck her in the face. I couldn’t help but laugh. The dog decided basking in the sun would be more pleasurable.

I found my afternoon spot on the lounge in the sun and pulled out my knitting.

Soon my cherubs will be home and the house will be full of chatter and food as we settle in for our Friday Night Roast and Movie Night.

What isn’t there to be happy about?


Why didn’t I do this sooner?

Last month when I was told to make some drastic changes to slow down I dug in my heels. I struggled to make those final decisions to pause everything I needed to be doing and just stop.

It took nearly two weeks before I finally relented under a whole lot of pressure.

I woke up one morning and looked in the mirror and was frightened by what I saw. My face was drawn and my eyes were dull with huge dark gaping circles around them. My ribs were too visible and I know everything about me screamed ‘run down’.

Then the physical symptoms got worse. I wasn’t sleeping, I was irritable, agitated, had a persistent pain in my chest (the pneumonia probably didn’t help) and my hands shook all of the time.

It turns out I was, okay I AM, suffering from PTSD. I laughed when they told me that. They told me I had an irregular heart rhythm and an eptopic heart beat and it was triggered by stress and anxiety. I laughed again.

I laughed because I realised what they were saying was real and if I didn’t laugh I might cry for a whole week. Everything had become difficult. Mothering, making lunches, eating, sleeping, conversing, having a shower. I was sapped dry. The accident had taken its toll on my body and soul.

It has been a month since I’ve become a ‘Lady of Leisure’. Apparently it suits me. That’s what people are telling me anyway.

Today I noticed my eyes are no longer dull and those circles are barely visible. I have energy again and I find joy in everything, okay maybe not everything but most things. My hands don’t shake so much and I’m learning to breathe.

A few weeks ago I had a massive panic attack whilst driving on the M1. Not an ideal situation but I was aware enough to see the signs. I initially struggled to see the trigger until I looked in my rear vision mirror and noticed a rather large truck travelling behind me.

I was strong enough not to fall apart. I talked myself through it knowing I was in control and we were all safe and very close to exiting the freeway. A month ago I would’ve coped very differently. I wouldn’t have coped. I would’ve been distraught and it would’ve taken days to recover.

Today I walked up to my vegetable garden and sat and watched everything around me. The excitement that surged inside me when I saw a ladybird was quite funny. Finally they are back to eat the bugs who torture my sweet potato leaves. I noticed the Gladioli bulbs have just started emerging from the dirt so the bees should come visiting soon too.

I watched two of our hens fly and climb higher and higher in our pine tree until you could no longer see them. I watched our new goats introduce themselves to our darling Daisy Goat. Basil the Buck got a little to upfront and personal with her and I saw parts of Basil I wish I hadn’t. Then they all found a big pile of weeds and started chewing them to the ground. How lovely.

I noticed the red and brown onions I had planted as seeds last month have finally poked their little heads through the ground. This is my third attempt at onions so I’m pretty happy.

As I sat and watched and pottered in my garden I knew that I should’ve listened to my body better. My body loves this. It loves to be still. To see, to hear, to touch and absorb all. Our bodies don’t thrive in chaos, it’s too much for them.

I initially thought I would hate being without a job or study full time. I was so wrong. I wish I had done this sooner. I feel so lucky to be here every afternoon when my cherubs get off the bus and have afternoon tea all set up for them.

To be ready to give and receive those warm hugs. To be ready to have their excitement or sadness of the day listened to. To have a calm afternoon transition into a calm bedtime because I’m no longer in a rush.

I feel so lucky (and happy).

Why didn’t I do this sooner?

All because of her

2nd May 2018, 9.13am. 6 years and nearly six months since she died.

I sat on the lounge closest to the back door so my body was drenched in sunlight. I had decided to wear something comfortable; my gray loose fitting pants, a singlet top and a nice soft loose jumper. I had my cup of tea sitting on the coffee table beside me and a glass of water. I made sure I’d eaten a big bowl of porridge beforehand so I didn’t need to stop to eat. The box of tissues were ready beside me. I had my phone on silent and turned on the answering machine on the home phone. I wasn’t going to be disturbed until I had done this.

At 7.55am this morning, I had opened the front door to walk the children to the bus stop and there was a package sitting against the door. I looked at the sender and my heart broke.

I stood at the bus stop with the children like it was any other day. But it wasn’t. I kissed them and cuddled them a little too hard as I put them on the bus. I watched the bus drive off much longer than I needed to. I was dreading picking up that package. I knew the minute I opened it life would stand still and it would take me back to a place in such detail that I was frightened to go there.

I stalled. I fed all the animals, slowly. Talking to them and petting them longer than normal. I sat with our goat Mint who is heavily pregnant with twins. I told her that I understood what it feels like to grow two babies. To be so tired and emotional you struggle to draw breath. I gave her belly a rub and was delighted to see the twins wriggling around inside of her.

I ventured up to my vegetable garden. A place of peace and calm for me. I sat on my bench seat and admired the wonder in front of me. I pondered what the next few hours were going to be like for me. I watered my garden gently and lovingly and realised I had grit my teeth so hard my jaw was aching. It was time.

I stood under a hot shower and then dressed in my comfortable clothes. I knew I’d be sitting on that lounge for a while and wouldn’t want to move until I was done.

The packaging was easy to open and the reams of paper were organised in to perfect bundles with cover pages identifying my name, Lucia’s name and Charlize’s name.

Seeing her name in print “Charlize Ersilia Stephens” made me smile. I said it aloud as I stroked my finger over the words.

I read in great detail the events that took place from the moment I entered the hospital at 8 weeks and 2 days pregnant, right up until after Lucia was finally discharged from hospital three months after the girls were born.

I was admitted to hospital on Thursday 10th November 2011. The twins were born on Monday 14th November 2011.

Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) was diagnosed as Stage one on the Thursday. On the Monday it was stage three. It was a race against time to get our girls out of my belly and detach them from the placenta which should’ve been nourishing their little bodies. Instead that placenta was plagued with TTTS. It was killing them.

The pathology results that came back on my placenta show certainty of the severity which was TTTS. In fact, it details the disproportion of blood vessels which is so extreme it is a wonder that Lucia survived those last few days in-utero. Her little heart was under so much pressure it was noted that my cesarean was due to a catastrophic event. She was already in heart failure.

During those days that the TTTS rapidly moved from Stage one to Stage three our girls were subjected to absolute terror and torment inside my belly. Charlize’s blood pressure dropped dangerously low then escalated dangerously high. Her entire body was under extreme stress. When she was born she was floppy, she was severely anaemic and she was critically unwell.

I read Charlize’s medical file with my heart in my throat the entire time. Hoping beyond hope that the outcome would look different. That I’d realise this was a terrible nightmare that I’d finally wake up from. Tears streamed down my face and my eyes blurred as I shoved them out of the way so I could keep reading. These are all things I didn’t know. I didn’t know how sick she was from the moment she was born. I didn’t know her organs were already affected by the TTTS and may never recover. I read the medical jargon that described those last hours where I was standing beside her willing her to fight until I realised she had been fighting for so much longer than a few hours.

As I read it was like a slow motion movie played inside my head and my heart ached. I remembered the sounds of all the machines pushing oxygen into her lungs, watching her chest rise and fall in sync with the machines. I remembered the hushed voices of the staff as they tried every single thing they could to change this. I read those words and I remembered hearing them like it wasn’t real. “I have explained to Saxon and Christine that Charlize is dying.”

Those words…

Charlize is dying.

Removing life support.

A priest is coming in to baptise her.

Would you like to hold her?

Seeing it in the doctors handwriting makes it real. I know it’s real though because it happened to me. To us. To her. Buy why?

I have asked this question for six and a half long years.

Six months after she died a psychologist I was “encouraged” to see told me there was discussion about a contaminated blood transfusion which caused her death. For six years I have harbored a deep sadness that those people who cared so lovingly for my daughters may have been at fault. This was never the case. The relief I feel knowing solidly that this is untrue is like a giant weight has been lifted from me. My shoulders feel lighter, the burden has gone and my heart doesn’t hurt so much.

The final notes in Charlize’s file are written with emotion and love. Charlize died of invasive sepsis. Somehow in her 32 hours of life the medical paraphernalia that was used to save her life, caused an infection and took her life. Her tiny body, only weighing 749 grams, had no immune system to fight it. The infection was too strong for her because she had been fighting to survive for a long time. Our darling girl was tired. Because she fought so hard to survive it most likely saved Lucia’s life. It may surprise many to see me write that I believe divine intervention enabled Charlize to become an angel. The best place for my daughter is in my arms as a healthy and vivacious little person. Had she survived her life would not have been that. Her injuries and illness were complex.

I removed my glasses and wiped the tears from the lenses. I got up off the lounge and I sank to my knees. With the sun warming my face I sobbed. Deep, heart wrenching the sobs. Sobs that I’ve kept in my heart for six years. I cried for losing her. For blaming myself. For blaming the hospital. I cried because of the anger I’ve held for so long. I cried for the psychologist who made insinuations to a fragile, grief stricken mother that caused years of guilt. An emotion that’s plagued me with such ferocity. I thought for years the sepsis came from me. I cried so I could forgive myself. I cried because I was so exhausted from crying. I cried all the stages of grief all over again.

I forced myself to get up off the floor. At least to stop the dog licking the heartbreak from all over my face. I boiled the kettle, washed my face, made a cup of tea and sat down to read Lucia’s file.

Instead of the devastation that was Charlize’s story, Lucia’s file reads of a determined and feisty baby girl with an immense desire to survive. I smiled and laughed as I read Lucia’s file. The nurses made notes continually in her file like this: Baby girl, pink in colour, settled, calm. Cranky when handled. Active when touched.

When Lucia was described as pink, Charlize was described as pale. Pink is life. Pale is not.

When Lucia was described as active when touched and cranky when handled, Charlize was described as floppy, non-responsive to touch. Active is life. Non-responsive is not.

I spent the next few hours reading through the file of the pink, active, cranky little girl whose personality blossomed in the three months she spent in Intensive care. I read and I remembered her intense determination to breathe on her own, often even pulling her oxygen off her face or her IV out of her arm or leg. She was ferocious and her will to survive was obvious.

The sun began to hide behind the clouds and the lounge room grew dark and cool. My body felt lighter. My mind felt clearer and my heart a little less broken.

I will never get over losing her. I will always look at Lucia and wish that Charlize was physically beside her but now I know her story better I feel honoured that we got 32 hours with her. We were blessed to get that. She fought long and hard to be born live and for that I’m forever grateful.

In losing her, we have discovered so much more. Grief does something to you on a deeper level that is indescribable but it stretches you. It encourages you from the cocoon you were existing, to a life you never imagined.

In losing her, we left the city and found the country. We have a connection with the land we never knew existed. The land that gives me great pleasure and calm in placing my hands in it and watching it grow and thrive.

In losing her, we have a connection to a community. We didn’t even know what community was until we found the country and what a blessing it is. This community, the one who never walked beside us when we lost her, have embraced us so deeply that we feel cocooned by their love, support and friendship. They are our family, because of her.

In losing her we live a richer life. We see things clearer and we hear things better. We love abundantly.

All because of her.


Four Days!

This photo was taken four days before my life changed once again.

Four days before we celebrated our twins sixth birthday.

Four days before we woke up to our sixth year without our daughter in our arms.

Four days before we sat in my childhood church and said goodbye to my Granny.

Four days before we laid her to rest in the cemetery.

Four days before a butterfly landed on us at the cemetery.

Four days before a ten tonne truck ploughed into our car and nearly killed my entire family.

Four days earlier my husband and I were enjoying a rare weekend together, child free and spontaneous. This photo was taken under the Harbour Bridge.

It was the first time as our daughters anniversary approached that I didn’t feel my heart breaking into a million pieces. I felt strong and I felt well. I had just started running again and was doing yoga at least three times a week. I loved every single element of my life.

Four days later life threw my whole being into utter chaos. I did what I always do though and I ran continuously until every little spot fire had settled.

I nurtured my three precious children back to health and made sure they were strong and emotionally able to stand up and enjoy life once again without fear.

It’s been five months since that truck ploughed into us. We have endured the chaos of a brain injury, concussions, broken bones, night terrors, anxiety and a spinal cord injury. All the while I continually gritted my teeth every morning when I woke up in pain and tried not to limp through life. All the while I learnt how to navigate life with continual migraines from the concussion and to see a little differently after experiencing damage to my eye.

Over a month ago I woke up one day with a croaky voice. My croaky voice turned into pharyngitis and for 4.5 weeks I have struggled to recover the proper sound from my throat. A few weeks after that I was told I had pneumonia and to rest. Rest I did not. How do you rest when you have three children to get to school, to appointments, to sport. When you have washing to do, study to do, animals to feed.

Last week I became very unwell. The infection has now affected my heart and lungs. I was told to immediately reduce stress and take an extended break. I laughed when two doctors said this to me but they didn’t seem to be accepting no for an answer.

My husband called me upset that I had not listened the first time. He suggested, actually no , he insisted I drop everything I’m doing and rest.

It took some time for me to accept that this is what I really needed to do.

I had been running on empty for five months. It had taken all the reserves within me and everything was starting to break down. My engine was beyond exhausted.

It was time to start filling my cup. You know what my husband suggested? Well he said this ‘Stop filling gaps in your life with stuff. Where there is nothing, enjoy it. Play in your vegetable garden, read books in the sunshine, go to yoga everyday, enjoy walks on the beach, have coffee with your friends, but just slow down and rest. We all need you’.

What husband says this? He didn’t want me to work. He didn’t want me to study. He wanted me to just be. A husband that says this is a husband who has watched his wife break.

It made me realise that I made sure that everyone was glued back together with all the love and nurture I could muster after the accident but I hadn’t done this for me.

I needed to be glued back together. I needed to be able to have a full nights sleep without waking up again after dreaming of the accident again. I needed to wake up without pain and I certainly needed to rest and I certainly needed to learn how to sit still and relax.

I decided to write this post today as I sit on my bed with the rain pouring gently from the sky. I have a cup of tea on my bedside table. I just watched yet another show on Netflix that I’m enjoying. I just downloaded three books on my kindle and the biggest decision I’m making this hour is what one will I read first.

My children emptied the dishwasher, they picked up the clothes from the bathrooms and even sorted them into whites/darks/colours/towels like I’ve been teaching them. Someone has realised one of those baskets is full because I can hear the washing machine is on. Someone fed all the animals. Someone even made me a cup of tea.

I’m writing this post so others like me can realise you must look after yourself first. Just like in a plane emergency, you put your own oxygen mask on then attend to your child on your lap. As mothers we instinctively want to look after our children first. We must remember to look after ourselves. Remove the guilt and enjoy some time without your children.

Yesterday my beautiful friend picked me up in the morning and we spent four hours together eating breakfast, drinking coffees, walking, shopping and talking continuously. At the end of it I told her I was so relaxed. It was exactly what I needed.

So, I have heard you life and although I really do enjoy you, I’m going to enjoy you even more. I’ll go to bed earlier and get more sleep, I’ll spend more time doing all those things that bring me the greatest joy and make me feel relaxed at the same time. I’ll tend to my garden, I’ll do yoga again, I’ll watch the sunrise on the beach, I’ll spend time creating and cooking in my kitchen after picking my homegrown plants from my garden. I will learn to be still. I will read all day until my bum hurts or my tummy grumbles. I will learn to breathe. I will learn to teach my mind to be still.

I will learn to fill my own cup each and every single day.

A gift from above

Some time ago both my girls had a conversation that I happened to be listening to about Charlize’s life in Heaven. They tried to imagine what it was like for her up there. There was quite a bit of discussion about how she would definitely have a bike and ride it around Heaven.

The past month has opened my eyes  a little wider to the signs I get from Heaven. Around the time of Charlize’s 2nd anniversary I had a medium clairvoyant come to the house and one of the things that has never left me was Charlize telling me to slow down and I will see the signs of her all around me.

Every single morning I walk up to my vegetable garden, I have my cup of tea and I sit, I wait and I watch. I love to see the dew on the ground and the spider webs glistening in the morning sunshine. Because it’s so peaceful early in the morning I can hear the bees and then as I patiently walk around and water my beautiful plants I see the shadows above me. Sometimes they come extremely close to my face, sometimes they just do laps around the garden and hover nearby, but they always come, the butterflies.

Over the last week a series of extraordinary things have happened.

Mid last week, there were two Dunk Island butterflies, these are the gorgeous Ulysses butterflies. They flew in unison constantly and from where I was watching it looked like they were dancing. So in sync with eachother, it was total magic. Then out of nowhere a third one arrived. She didn’t dance with them but it was like they were guiding her direction towards me. I was awestruck as I watched and appreciated the magic of them. I even whispered, “Charlize, have you brought me my Granny to visit”?

A few days later my son was home with me. It was just the two of us in the lounge room. The girls were not home and my husband was down the other end of the house in the study. All of a sudden I heard a little girl talking and she dinged her bike bell. Orlando started looking all over our property and checked our neighbours driveway but couldn’t see anyone. I too ventured outside and knew no one was there. I smiled. Orlando came inside and said, “Mummy, I know this sounds strange but do you think that was Charlize? Maybe she heard the girls asking about her having a bike in Heaven”. I told him that it wasn’t strange and that’s exactly what I had thought too.

Earlier this week we visited the dentist. It just so happened that my daughter was wearing a dress covered in butterflies with butterfly clips in her hair. I thought nothing of it until the dental assistant called her butterfly girl. We were quietly sitting there when Charlize’s song came on. It’s not a current song and not even a very popular song but it was on and it played and neither one of us said a single word. It was like we both pretended we weren’t hearing it. I had to discreetly wipe my eyes though.

Later in the day I heard her tell her sister that Charlize’s song played at the dentist and they agreed she must’ve been with them today.

Today I woke up early. I watched the sun glisten on the hill outside my bedroom and I felt an overwhelming warmth around me and I looked up and noticed my Pa’s hat hanging on my wall in my bedroom. After he died, some years ago when I was still in High School, he used to come to me often. My musical clown would start playing at 3.00am. I’d wake up and know he was sitting at the end of my bed and it was always 3.00am. He stayed with me for years and then he left. He recently returned in my dreams. I have no doubt it’s because my Granny was reunited with him in November.

I miss her dearly, beyond words. I feel like Charlize and Pa have sent me all these signs so I know they’re all together and my daughter is loving the time with her great-grandparents as much as I did as a little girl.

Tonight I sat down on my bed with my cup of tea and I heard a noise like something had dropped. The strangest thing happened. Charlize’s story book that has been sitting in the same place on my shelf for quite some time, dropped off the shelf. When I noticed, I felt overwhelming love.

Some people are probably reading this thinking ‘this lady is a total nut job’ and that’s okay.

Today I was lucky enough to spend some time talking about my daughter to some of my friends. It felt right and it felt special to share her with them.

Darling Charlize,

Sometimes in life, your Mummy gets busy and I forget to slow down and see you.

Over these past few weeks I have seen you.

I have heard you.

And I have felt you.

I see the beauty all around us when you remind me to slow down.

I saw a delightful old couple walking ever so slowly and they were holding hands. It made me remember the intense and magical love my Granny and Pa had for eachother. It made me smile.

I got up and watched the sun rise over my favourite spot on the beach the other morning. I sat on the bench chair dedicated to a man with the butterfly sign. As the sun glistened on the water and the ocean gently rippled I was happy. I was lucky I had woken up, my heart was beating and nature was putting on such a beautiful show.

I was sitting in my garden and as your butterfly friends danced around my head, the bees started singing. They buzzed as they worked and worked as they buzzed. I was grateful.

Your little sister hears you and sees you and feels you all of the time. I am certain her personality is as big as it is for both of you. She has spirit.

Thank you for reminding our family of all the reasons to smile, to laugh, to be grateful and to love deeply.

In losing you, you have undoubtedly become the greatest joy.


Seventeen Years and Counting.

About twenty years ago I moved out of home whilst I was doing my HSC and moved in with my Uncle Paul. My house was noisy and his house was quiet. The perfect place to study.

I finished school and scored myself a full time job at Telstra. I had only just turned 18 and one night was home alone when the phone rang. Paul’s best mate who he worked with, was calling to talk to him. His name was Saxon. I explained Paul was not home and this guy Saxon asks me if I’m Paul’s new girlfriend.

“Umm NO. I’m Paul’s niece.”

Saxon replied, “Ohhhhhh.”

From then on Saxon and I began to talk frequently and send emails. It was quite some time later before we actually met. I thought he was old and he thought I was too young.

Somehow we began dating and became inseparable. Three months after that Saxon proposed. A year after that we got married.

I was a month off turning twenty when we got married. If I had a dollar for how many people told me I was too young, I’d be rich today.

Last night we went out to dinner together. We laughed as we remembered the past seventeen years and delighted in the journey we’ve been through together and how much we have accomplished.

In our first year of marriage I got cancer. Saxon was by my side when the Professor called me to tell me this devastating news. This should be a memory of the worst day of my life, but it isn’t. It’s one of my favourite memories. He touched my arm, lifted my face and folded me into a hug. We didn’t need words. I knew he would be there, all the way, holding my hand.

Later that afternoon he told me he would go to the shops to pick something up for dinner. When he got home he went and got a sheet and laid it down on our living room floor. He then brought inside three massive blank canvases and all sorts of paints and brushes. You see, we had this wall in our new home that needed some artwork, so we created it together. We painted all afternoon, all night and for the next few days. We laughed and cried. We talked and we were silent. We loved those paintings and the memory they created.

Then there was the day I was in hospital hoping our first baby wouldn’t be born prematurely. Four days earlier I’d been admitted and they had stopped my labour. On this particular day they had stopped the medication and my labour started all over again. Except this time they weren’t stopping it. They told me to call my husband.

Me: Hi Hun, it’s me. So, I’m in labour can you please come to the hospital.

Saxon: Honey, you’ve been in labour for four days. I’m in Bunnings, do you think you could wait?

Me: Sax, leave your shit in Bunnings and come to the bloody hospital. We are having a baby today.

He finally arrives covered in paint and dust. He’s wearing a t-shirt that says ‘Schlongs Hot Dogs’ and when the porter tells him he needs to change into theatre pants, he announces he’s not wearing any underwear.

The look on his face when Orlando was delivered and placed in his arms was one of total adoration.

When I went into labour with the twins at my work, I called him on my way to the hospital. Repeatedly. I couldn’t get hold of him. You’d think he’d have learnt seeing as though this was our third time around. I finally called his Personal Assistant who finally tracked him down.

I received a call from him delighted that he was able to get out of the most boring six hour superannuation meeting. Five days later I was still in hospital hoping to keep those tiny babies baking and I was a wreck. On the Monday morning I had worked myself into a frenzy and was delighted to see him right by my side as they wheeled me in to have another ultrasound. He told me he woke up and thought he should stay home from work and make sure I was okay.

A few hours later our very premature twin daughters were delivered. I was anything but calm. Saxon was a pillar of strength.

Two days later our lives were crushed when Charlize died in our arms. There is no one in the world I would want more, to help me through those days than Saxon. He never left my side, for a whole week. He got me food, he got me tea, he got me pain relief, he brought me the children to keep me smiling, he put me in a wheelchair and took me up to the NICU and we spent hours gazing at Lucia and willing her to keep on breathing.

He got me through the worst two years of my life. A depression so deep with grief that I struggled to stay afloat. He was patient, he was loving, he was kind and I was none of those things. He told me repeatedly how much he missed his wife, how much he loved me and willed me to stand up and start living. I looked into his eyes that day and saw the deepest fear and sadness. I felt guilty. He had lost his daughter too. We needed eachother to get through this.

We were told a few days after Charlize’s death by the social worker, that over 70% of marriages do not survive the death of their child. We were not only going to survive, we were going to thrive. I stood up and cried into his chest for hours. I knew at that moment that we were all going to get through this.

I am forever grateful for this man. My one and only true love.

He is my happy when I am sad.

He is my stable when I am crazy.

He is my strength when I am weak.

He is my patience when I have none.

He is my biggest supporter.

He is a brilliant Dad.

He can’t say Charlize’s name without a tear escaping.

I have heard so many people say that marriage is hard. I feel like we are the lucky ones. Our marriage isn’t hard. Life’s journey has created hurdles and we have had to learn how to navigate them even when there’s nothing left to jump.

For every day that we are lucky enough to open our eyes and wake up we choose eachother. There is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’. We are one in the same. We need eachother to parent and to love.

Life is all about relationships. You need them to survive.

Sax, you make me smile. You make me laugh. You have made me love you more today than I did yesterday.

Seventeen years and counting Baby!

You’re pretty lucky to have me too!

I miss you already!

Alicia and I went to high school together. In fact, we can’t really recall how we met. We think it was year seven Maths.

We have been friends ever since. It hasn’t been a ‘normal’ friendship in our adult years because a few years after school she moved to the other side of the world. Finland. But, whenever I needed her she was there.

In 2010 she visited with her gorgeous three month old daughter. It was when a volcano erupted and we got to spend unexpected time together as their flight was delayed home for a few weeks. I was heavily pregnant with my second child and I remember those days fondly. Me with my big belly and Alicia and I playing peek a boo and admiring her baby as we drank copious amounts of tea.

Late 2011 she visited again. This time our visit was filled with tears. I had recently delivered my extremely premature twins and then we lost Charlize.

Alicia met me at the main entrance of the hospital and her husband occupied their two year old daughter so we had some time to ourselves. The relief at seeing my best friend, to hug her, to sob on her shoulder, I don’t think I have the words to really describe that moment.

I was so proud to take Alicia into the NICU and introduce her to our little Lucia. I have this beautiful photo of Alicia standing at the humidicrib with me and both of us are admiring Lucia.

At the end of that visit, which wasn’t long enough, Alicia told me she was expecting her second child. I was delighted for her.

Throughout the months that followed Lucia’s long journey home, Alicia emailed me regularly. She also posted me beautiful hand written letters and packages of beautiful clothes she had purchased for the twins.

I don’t think she realises how much those things kept me standing. I don’t think she realises how any communication with her brings me immense joy. A smile spreads over my face immediately.

That was the last time we saw each other.

Until now!

We have emailed, texted, FaceTimed, you name it we’ve done it to stay in touch as the years went on.

Last week I could hardly contain my excitement when she arrived. I am also proud to say that neither one of us cried once. We talked and laughed so much I have lost my voice.

We got the pleasure of spending a whole week with my best friend and her family. The joy at seeing our children play together, laugh together and learn each others cultures was delightful and fascinating.

We realised both our engineer husbands are as competitive as each other. Watching them play a game of Checkers was hilarious. The intensity and concentration was next level.

We all enjoyed each others company so much. One night I snuck out to have a shower and came back to find all our children in one room, tucked in next to each other and Alicia sitting on a chair reading them a bedtime story.

Another night we put the children to bed early and then stayed up late playing board games and laughing so much it hurt.

Today we had to say goodbye. I felt sad last night going to bed knowing in the morning it could be years before we see each other again.

I watched as Alicia cuddled and whispered beautiful words to each of my children before they headed off to school. I may have had a dripping eye at that point.

Finally the time came to say goodbye and we didn’t want to let each other go.

Until the next time, I miss you terribly already!

When my heart melts!

So, my heart melted today. Twice!

Lucia was asked to take in a treasured item to school. When Saxon and I read the note together we knew what she would take. Without hesitation she packed in her school bag her Lucia and Charlize teddy bears and her book about Charlize.

We hit the jackpot this year when Lucia started school. She has the most beautiful, caring and nurturing teacher anyone could ask for. Mrs T, is like Miss Honey from the movie in Matilda. She oozes warm and fuzzy and she enables even the over-protective Mum like me, to walk away without hesitation. She also happens to be a Mum to 27 weeker twins! See how lucky we are!

So, Lucia takes in her treasured items and I knew she was supposed to talk about them. She gets home from school and I say, ‘Chia, how did your treasured news go today? What did you talk about?’

Lucia looks at me, shrugs her shoulders, walks away and mumbles, ‘I forget.’

I was a little deflated. I suspected she knew her over-emotional mother would cry when she told me what really happened.

Mrs T told me how all the children sat around Lucia, listening to the story of how she’s an identical twin and how Charlize is around her all of the time. My heart did in fact melt when she told me this story. I’m also immensely proud. This is the first time in her life where SHE gets to tell her story. It’s not Mummy, Daddy or her siblings, it’s her.

Because Charlize is a part of our daily conversation, our daily life, she is not a cause for tears and sadness. She is a reason to smile, share her story and celebrate the strength of two little girls.

So then later this afternoon my heart melted again.

Indiana had her very first singing lesson today. She has asked for quite some time to have some lessons. Finally last week I made a call to the most patient and talented man in our town and he said yes!

She asked me to drop her off and come back at the end. The excitement she was feeling was contagious.

I considered hiding out the front and listening but I knew she would probably sense my presence.

I went to the shops and loaded my trolley with chocolate instead.

I returned five minutes before her lesson was over. Her back was to me and she was standing up, wiggling her little hips from side to side and when she was told, she lifted her voice and sang her little heart out. She sang Vance Joy’s Riptide. Her favourite. Then and there my heart melted.

I silently wished I could film her but, that image is etched into my heart and mind for all eternity. When she finished I clapped and she turned around with her eyes sparkling and her smile reached her ears.

What a perfect ending to a day.

Both my girls filled with happiness.

Thank you to all the wonderful teachers in our lives, who often underestimate the talent they have for drawing the best out of our little humans.