Galaxy Eyes; a poem for my daughter

Cobalt and teal, emerald and sage.

Cerulean, indigo, lapis and silver swirl

in a starry night sky close to home.

As the river mirrors the trees that reach across its waters

so do your eyes seem to reflect the wonder of the heavens.

No, it’s far more than just a reflection.

The entire soul of a galaxy has dived right in

and in your little human eyes swims a complete solar system.

I see a Milky Way,

I see a thousand constellations.

Sparkling, shining.

Floating near the surface and submerged down below.

I’m in awe of how someone so little

can hold a whole world.

With a galaxy in your eyes you house so many futures.

Which one will be yours?

Or does a part of each of them belong to you?

This galaxy is untouched, untainted.

There have been no regrets, no what ifs, no too lates.

Fear does not cloud them.

Instead they roar,

just a whirlpool of possibilities.

This galaxy is calm and clear,

but I can see a ferocity.

No one can hold the stars without strength.

Be brave my keeper of the galaxies,

for though you have might,

you are home to a wonder of delicate treasures.

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Hey Mumma, you won’t always know best

So many people will tell you to trust your gut as a parent. They say; don’t listen to the bombardment of advice and instead do what you think is best and everything will work out OK.

But sometimes it won’t. Sometimes you won’t chose what is best. And that’s OK. We’re all learning on this journey.

But can I encourage you, when you don’t know what is best to not throw out all the advice. Use your discretion to listen just to what could be helpful.

Yes, sometimes people will give you advice when you don’t need it and it won’t always be said in the best way, if you need to just let this go then do. But, there are so many people who have walked the path you’re walking and learnt more than a thing or two that could save you so much trouble.

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I know when I was pregnant the sheer amount of advice from well meaning people started to make me really anxious because I realised just how little I knew. Instead of ignoring it all and choosing to forge my own course, I shutdown the real source of my anxiety (namely a Facebook mother’s group) and mostly just listened to the women close to me.

However, from time to time it may be necessary to thank everyone for their input and still go with your gut and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I just hope that you see the value in the experiences of others.

I’ve seen many new mums quick to complain about how their own mum or mother-in-law “interferes” with their parenting of their new child. People tend to respond to this with so-called encouragement to the new mum to “trust themselves” and to “stand up for themselves” by doing their own thing.

But, I wonder how much easier we might find life if we made the most of someone else’s experience and wisdom, instead of viewing it as a threat to our own capabilities?

You are smart and able. So are others. Let them help you and make your road smoother.

Reading Proverbs 31 as a mother

I’ve always felt the woman in Proverbs 31 to be a ridiculous overachiever who all women are encouraged to strive to be. I mean she makes clothes and sells them at the city gates for crying out loud.

It wasn’t until I read these verses as a new mum that I suddenly could see some similarities in our lives. Now, I don’t claim to be as accomplished as she by any means, but if you’re a mother perhaps you too will resonate with these verses in the same way, and if not maybe you can you see your own mother in them?

Verse 13. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.

How much of motherhood is hands on? Changing nappies, making dinner, cleaning floors, furniture and clothes. The only difference between 21st century mothers and the Proverbs 31 woman is are we doing it willingly?

Verse 15. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.

Hands up who’s had to get up at night to feed a little babe? Or rise in the early hours when it’s still dark to get on top of some of the household chaos? Sure the context is different, I mean I ain’t got no maidens, but the sentiment is still the same.

Verse 17. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.

Many mothers like to keep physically fit in one way or another. From the gym to pram walks or joining family cricket games, somehow we find time to also look after our health.

Verse 18. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.

I know a lot of busy wives and mums who run their own little business to turn a profit on the side of their full-time family life. Often these women work at late hours after everyone else has gone to bed in order to get it done.

Verse 21. She is not afraid of snow for her household for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

Women have great foresight. We are always prepared and we always want the best for our family. Just like the Proverbs 31 woman, we organise new clothes before a change in season, no one is going to go without. How often do our husbands ask for something only for us to say, ‘I already bought you a new one weeks ago’? Mothers are great at anticipating needs.

Verse 26. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 

It might be hard to see yourself in this verse but you’re there. When you’re giving your teenager advice you’re speaking out of your learned wisdom. When your over enthusiastic toddler accidentally whacks you with a toy for the tenth time that day and you chose to show them what gentleness means, instead of yelling at them to calm down, you’ve put kindness on your tongue.

I’m not saying I achieve all of these things all the time, but when I think of the Proverbs 31 woman in context of motherhood I suddenly feel like she’s not so unattainable; and that maybe striving to be like her is a little more worthwhile and possible than I first thought.

My birth centre birth story

I want to share my birth story as nothing more than an encouragement to other women that birth can be positive and things can and do go smoothly.

I know during my pregnancy I heard about a lot of different birth experiences, and while a couple of them were positive, from many of them I felt increased anxiety as I heard about all the things that went wrong and the interventions that took place.

Absolutely those things can be necessary and I’m so glad that in all the stories I heard, healthy babies were born.

From start to end, the birth of our beautiful girl was covered by God’s hand and she followed a textbook perfect entry into the world.

This is not a retelling to brag about how things went or to say this is the way other mums should journey their labour – not at all! My hope is this is simply an encouragement to  expecting mums that you don’t need to fear it.

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My plan was always to give birth at the Family Birth Centre, which is attached to King Edward’s Memorial Hospital. To use the birth centre you agree to a drug free labour, however if you change your mind or circumstances change during the labour they can move you to the hospital to get what you need. This appealed to me because I’ve always felt quite uneasy around the intense hospital atmosphere but I was also glad to know that should something not go to plan I would be in the right place to get the care I needed.

Probably one of the most attractive things was that the birth centre offers water births. It wasn’t something I had ever thought about until getting pregnant, but as someone who loves to swim it felt like it just made sense. If you want a water birth you definitely can’t have an epidural so this was one of the main drivers behind why I chose to go drug-free (as well as some information I turned up through research about the effects of an epidural on the labour) However, while no epidural was a goal I also said to my husband I never wanted to feel like the option was completely off the table should I really need it.

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On a Monday at 1am – 11 days before our surprise gender baby’s due date – I woke up to realise my waters had broken. I instantly went into shock at this point thinking ‘Oh my goodness I’m having a baby today’ and ‘how crazy is this only 10-15% of labours start with the water breaking’. I hopped into the bathroom to wait out the gush and started googling what to do if your water breaks but you don’t feel any contractions yet. The consensus was to try and sleep since this will be your last chance. I grabbed a towel and hopped back in bed but my mind was too far gone at this point.

I chose not to wake John as our birth classes had reminded us to let partners sleep if labour starts in the middle of the night as it will be long and best to have someone who has had some rest. I also knew I didn’t need to call the midwife unless the fluid was discoloured, but to wait until morning. It was pretty crazy to be experiencing all this and not yet able to tell anyone!

Not long after I started feeling mild cramping and noticed it was coming and going. I downloaded a contraction counter and timed them as I lay in bed. From the get go my contractions were about 3 minutes apart and lasting 30 seconds. This didn’t really line up with what I had read about early labour contractions starting as long as 20 minutes apart, but since they weren’t very sore I didn’t worry. I’m still not sure why they were so close together throughout my whole labour the furthest apart they got were 5 minutes.

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Giving up on sleep I moved into the lounge to start putting into practice some of the pain management techniques I had read about. I started just by counting 1 to 8 over and over through each contraction and progressed to walking around with the count each time.

At 4.30am I woke John. I wanted to give him more sleep but I also really wanted his help to put on the TENS machine, which they say to use as early as possible before things get too painful. Despite using the machine for 14 hours, I never felt like the TENS actually helped the pain but it was a nice distraction and at least made me feel like I was doing something to combat it.

I called the midwife around 6am to discover my midwife would not be able to attend the birth and someone else would step in instead. I wasn’t too concerned by this as I knew it was likely to happen and every midwife I had met at the birth centre I had felt very comfortable with. After I let her know where I was at she recommend I lie down, try to sleep if I can and also to eat plenty. This was her advice for several hours as I called back each couple of hours with an update. Needless to say I could not sleep, but I didn’t mind the lying down as much as I thought I would. I also tried taking in food in small doses.

As the day went by John notified work that he would be taking his leave now and we let our families know what was happening. We watched a bit of TV to help the time pass and tried to have some lunch. The hours actually seemed to whizz by as by lunchtime I couldn’t believe I had been at this for 11 hours.

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A plan was made to come into the hospital at 6pm for antibiotics as it would have been 18 hours since my waters broke and the baby would be at risk of infection. However at around 3pm there was a noticeable shift. My contractions were taking all of my focus now, I was banging stressballs on the fitball and making loud ‘Ahhh’ sounds to work through the pain. After one ended there wasn’t quite the respite as before, I still felt pain in between and was shaking a lot.

The midwife asked if I could try 10 more minutes at home, but to pack the car and then call when we were on our way. John got all our gear together while I sat on the floor and told him what things we needed. I thought maybe 20 minutes had past by the time we hit the road but it turned out John had stalled us for almost an hour! He was afraid we might get there too early and be sent back home.

The car ride was intense. I remember telling John off for doing less than the speed limit on the freeway. Here, I was banging my stress balls on the dash each time a contraction came. We got to the birth centre at about 4pm and things had progressed even more. A midwife had to help me through the front door. They did a quick examination and then said I could hop in the bath. I later found out that upon arrival I was 9cm!

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This was definitely the hardest part of the labour. I remember crying a bit and asking if it could all stop (all of which I hear is a pretty normal response at this point). I took some gas after a while because I had a hard time breathing through the contractions and fighting the urge to push when it was still too early. Having my support people here (John and the midwife) were what got me through. I felt like I must have broken John’s hand every contraction and the midwife was an amazing guide, completely calm and gentle but with the confidence I needed to see.

About 2 hours after arriving at the birth centre our beautiful daughter Bethel Anne was born. It was a very exciting moment to discover we had a baby girl. I was in shock when they handed her to me because it was almost as if I had expected to recognise some part of her but I didn’t and my first thoughts were ‘who are you?’ I was not in the least surprised that she had plenty of hair like her mum though.

 

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Overall I had a 19 hour labour with 17 hours at home. The midwives were super impressed with how everything went, even my blood loss was very minimal. One midwife even suggested I could opt for a home birth next time – not that I’m thinking about a ‘next time’ right now! I did suffer a second degree tear though and needed some stitches at the hospital.

After the placenta delivery, the stitching, feeding Bethel and having her checked by the pediatrician we had a very short cat nap and were discharged 7 hours after her birth at 2am. I do wish we had of been able to stay that first night but since there were no complications we were well aware of the quick discharge protocol of the centre.

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I left that place having been through easily the most intense experience of my life. Physically and mentally it was incredibly demanding but I was also so encouraged by the staff and my loving husband. I also knew that things could not have gone more perfect and have no doubt God had His hand around our little family the whole way through, and still does as we learn to navigate this brand new season.

Goodnight, no wait ‘Will you marry me?’

It’s been almost one whole month since John asked me to marry him! Time has really flown. We’ve been swept up in a wave of incredible joy, blessing, excitement and busyness as we plan our wedding and start to set up our lives together.

The first few days of our engagement were a whirl and I explained our engagement story in many different long and short variants. Here, I will tell it in full for those who never got to hear it or only heard the main points.

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About a month and a half before, John asked if i would like to go on a date some time the next month where we could film parts of the date and create a vlog from it. I was a little bit suspicious of this and thought it sounded out of the ordinary, but at the same time he had just come back from Vidcon and had talked about doing a vlog for some time so I tried not to get ahead of myself.

August came and went and we never went on the date. When I brought it up John feigned having forgotten and asked if i still even wanted to do it. I was a bit disappointed by that but let him know that yes, i did indeed want to go on a special date. (This was all part of an elaborate plan that would make me think the date was more my idea).

During the week of, John told me he was going to buy a new suit for our date and encouraged me to also get a new dress. I went shopping with Lauren and bought something a couple of nights before and we talked about our suspicions and excitement about this date, all the while trying to make sure I didn’t get my hopes up. On the day dear Susan came around to do my hair and make up beforehand. I’m lousy at doing both of these and wanted to look a little nicer than just diverting to the messy bun.

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John came to my door and picked me up just like he did for our very first date and looked very handsome in his navy blue suit with brown shoes and bright red socks (which he knew i would appreciate). He brought me a huge bouquet of flowers as well!

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He drove us to a surprise dinner at Friends restaurant in the city. We were given the perfect table sitting right in front of the window overlooking the Swan River. We enjoyed an amazing five course meal and were devastated that we both couldn’t come close to finishing our dessert.

Towards the end of the meal, I said I might order a cup of tea with dessert, to which John said he had thought that maybe we could go next door to the Hyatt to have tea, but then added that I could have one in the restaurant instead if i wanted. I said we would stick with what he had in mind, but it did make me think i must be wrong about the date and he didn’t actually have a particular plan.

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The restaurant gave me a flower as we left and went next door to the Hyatt conservatory for tea. As we often do on dates we talked a bit about marriage and the future, and John said he promised to make a decision about us before we got to four years of dating as he knew he needed to make one soon. I got quite sad at that point, realising that I was obviously all wrong. (Later that night John told me that he said it because he felt i was getting too close to guessing, but tried to change the topic when he saw how it affected me).

After leaving the conservatory John suggested a walk around Elizabeth Quay if i felt up to it, but that maybe I would like to go home as it was getting on in the evening and we were both still recovering from colds. At this point i was fairly convinced he couldn’t have anything planned since so much of the date seemed to be my prerogative. We did end up going on a little walk about the Quay and John set up his camera on a step to film us hugging in front of the changing lights. Something in his personality changed during that moment and he held me for a long time (he later told me he was tempted to propose then but decided to stick to the plan and not do something “so cliche”).

After this lovely evening of talking, eating and enjoying being with one another we drove  back to mine. John walked me to my door (as he does every time he takes me home) and said goodnight. As he hugged me goodbye he said in my ear “just a little bit longer”. It made me smile, knowing that he was thinking about our future and that maybe he had intentions to propose in a few more months (little did i know it was more like a few minutes).

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I went inside and said hello to my parents (who knew and were wondering what on earth happened). I told them about each course of our dinner and went to get ready for bed when John texted me to ask if i had changed yet. He said he lost some of the footage we had filmed and asked if he could come back to redo it.

We walked to a nearby park with his camera and as we entered the park I saw all these candles lighting up the ground and could eventually make out his keyboard with fairylights. I was so confused and happy and completely overwhelmed. In my mind our date was done, so what was happening now!?

He stood behind the keyboard and played the beautiful piano piece he wrote me when we first started dating. I was gone. I completely burst into tears. John said he couldn’t finish the rest of the song as he wanted to come and grab me. He took me around the side of the piano, held me close and said a whole lot of lovely things.

Then he took out a ring box and got on one knee and i couldn’t believe what was happening. Still writing it it feels surreal, but wonderful. More crying followed until i had to take off my glasses because i couldn’t see a thing!

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John asked me to marry him in the same park where I embarrassed myself two and a half years ago by telling him i already knew i wanted to marry him.

All through the date i kept asking what was going to be the end of our vlog as just the date alone didn’t seem like a very good story. Well this was by far the most perfect ending. John set up the camera before he played the song and filmed the whole proposal.

God has blessed me with a love story better than what I could have ever been praying for.