I have a beautiful journal, in which I write letters to my daughter Ava Grace. I’ve been doing this since I was pregnant with her. I tell her the story of her birth, my hopes for her, how we chose her name and of course how dear she is to us.
Recently I knew I must write her all the things I want to make sure she will always know, her whole life. As I wrote I realised they were things we all need to remember, so this specific letter is for you, too. In case someone forgot to tell you. Or if you stopped believing it. These words are written through me but not by me – they are words from your loved ones, from your truest self, from Life, to You. Please keep this letter where you can refer to it whenever you need to.
There are certain things in life it is so important that you know, and always remember. These things are few and simple, but essential. Here they are:
You are SO loved
You are deeply protected
You are divinely guided
You are seen
You are heard
You have unique gifts
The world needs you
You are here for a specific purpose
Your life matters
I love you.
Let me know below – -what will you be adding to your letter?
Kath is a writer, speaker & teacher of self worth and stress-management for heart-centred women.
Perhaps you can relate to me? Up until a few years ago, I felt pretty good about myself. I was always looking out for everyone around me, so I must be a good person, right? Except then everything fell apart… my health, my relationships, my work life… even my dreams.
And I realised that if I was to ride this tidal wave, I could no longer exchange “niceness” & all my energy for the approval of others. I had to ride my way to dry land and finally build a solid foundation of unconditional self worth.
Luckily, I had the resources I needed – training & experience in occupational therapy and solution-focused therapy, a lifetime of practicing spirituality, and years of working with clients through their challenges of mental health, physical illness and life transitions.
I got back on my feet. I let go of roles that no longer serve me. I took a stand for my own self worth & happiness – and found it! Now I can’t wait to share this with you and other women. That is why I bundled my love & wisdom into my signature support system, Adore Yourself.
Life is full of vitality now. I live in a cute, cosy house with my sweet hubby John and our 2 puppies Bessie & Maisie, next to a rain forest (bliss!) in the friendliest little village. This work is my passion. I write from the heart and feel so connected to you. I see you – giving too much like I once did, too.
“A Mother’s love is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking, it never fails or falters, even though the heart is breaking.” – Helen Steiner Rice
When a lot of people think of seizures they imagine jerky movements from a stiff body – even I was guilty of that image in my head, but each seizure is different and the changes within the episode are so vast. But you would never know until you saw it for yourself. This is my experience so far with seizures.
Life was full on the second Charlee arrived, it was a perfect labour compared to my first but ended in me being knocked out for surgery following a postpartum haemorrhage and transferred to King Eddies on my own. The moment I got home my attention was fought over between a toddler, a newborn and my partner who just wanted some quality time together. A few months flew by thanks to sleep deprivation, my maternity leave was coming to an end and I was running out of patience being around the kids 24/7 so I made a plan to go back to work early. We were coming home from dinner when a car turned through a green light without giving way to oncoming traffic and we T-boned them (at that point this was the scariest night of my life).
Returning Back to Work
I started back at work the next week. It was only a week after the crash when Charlee had her first seizure I second guessed myself and called dial-a-doctor (or a similar service). Because at that point she was still responding to us, babbling, following us around with her eyes, it was only her tiny hand curled up in a tight fist tucked under her chin that was shaking discreetly. The operator said “if you think she’s having a seizure call an ambulance”. Between then and when we finally got into the hospital the seizure had gone over 40 minutes! Once she was stable and awake we were transferred to PMH to be monitored. The doctors assured me this was a once off thing (‘febrile convulsions are very common in babies’) but I knew this was only the start, as childhood seizures were in my family; still the Doctors were positive and so certain in their statements.
Another month after that she had her second. Nearly 3 months went by when we had put Charlee into day-care with her older sister as I was determined to have this ‘normal’ life. Within 2 weeks of day-care she had 3 seizures over a weekend, the last resulting in an induced coma; she was discharged with new anti-epileptic medication and we were so hopeful it would work. Another month and another seizure and another induced coma we were shattered, dosages went up and down and we realized the public medical system was broken as communication between specialists lacked and we had to keep up with all the details ourselves.
My partner was pushed out of his job as they didn’t like him having so much time off to look after his family, they told him he was taking the piss and that “you need to sort your personal life out”. I thought we would be supported by some sort of carers payment but everyone refused to sign documents about her condition, so I took on more hours at work and became the main income earner while my partner became a stay at home dad.
Life With a Sick Child
So far there has been two induced comas, three incubation’s, numerous drugs tried tested and failed. Charlee has had about 12 seizures (that we know of) within 8 months, each followed REturny hospitalisation of a few days. It doesn’t sound like much but they are fierce, I watched my baby turn blue while emergency operators advised not to start CPR until paramedics arrived. I had my heart crushed when they told me they couldn’t stop the seizures and had to ‘put her to sleep’. Time and time again I felt I had failed, as a parent I couldn’t save her I couldn’t ‘fix’ her episodes and on top of that the guilt of knowing the genetics had been passed down through me. I never asked for this, who would ever ask for this? How long before they damage her growing brain? How long can her body stand the cocktails of drugs? And will they ever go away?
While all this was happening I struggled to keep up with those around me; friends and family often came last, I just didn’t have the energy or time to focus on anything outside of Charlee. I was trying to keep up with my girls who were growing so fast, trying to research information surrounding my baby’s condition because doctors didn’t seem to have the time. Every GP/CHN/specialists visit is met with praise and that “she’s doing so well” or “there’s nothing wrong with her” but that doesn’t take away traumatic ED trips and the fact that there is something wrong that no one is willing to look deep enough into. Because they haven’t seen her at her worst, with tubes and wires coming from every inch of her, hooked up to machines to keep her in a ‘safe’ state giving her body and brain a rest before any real damage sets in.
A Mother’s Pain
I fight with my thoughts; ‘you have so much to be thankful for’, ‘you shouldn’t be grieving’, ‘some parents have it so much worse’ and so on. I listen to doctor’s terms that are so foreign they go straight past me, the same terms I quickly become fluent in. Nurses recognise us like we’re regulars at a local cafe, which I am extremely grateful for; you don’t realise how comforting a nurse can be when she too has witnessed the ups and downs of your child.
I am so lucky to have an amazing team of doctors and nurses at our local hospital that recognise our little girl, know the plan as soon as we come crashing through the ED doors and most importantly LISTEN and respect our wishes. We beg to stay local not to be sent up to Perth, we don’t qualify for accommodation at Ronald McDonald house which means our family is split up and usually your chances of sleeping on a chair or in your car are pretty high. PMH stays for us mean 140 km round trip each day plus parking, plus food, plus babysitters for the older sibling, plus days off work, plus medication the costs add up fast and before long we find our sanity has gone out the window and are desperate to be home.
So far it’s been nearly 4 months seizure free in our house and we feel as if it has been a lifetime since our last ED trip. Charlee is now on a different anti-epileptic drug that seems to be working (we aren’t holding our breath) and her action plan seems to work well. She is walking, talking, eating well and is smashing all the milestones for an average 16 month old. At the start of 2018 Charlee’s genetic testing results came back positive for the mutation of a gene known to be related to seizure disorders. We’ve been on this journey for more than 12 months without any real answers; we just don’t expect them anymore.
Things that I have learnt along the way:
Do that first aid training course you’ve been putting off, if you can’t afford it google and YouTube is your next best bet as some first aid knowledge is better than none at all.
If it’s not in writing it may as well not exists, (medical records, doctors’ advice etc.)
Don’t be scared to share with strangers, on admissions they’re usually the only adult company you have as partners and/or family can’t stay.
Go with your gut, your instincts are stronger than what most believe and remember no-one knows your child better than you.
If you’re ever staying at PMH pop into Kalparrin, they are the nicest most amazing people I’ve ever had the chance to meet and I honestly wish there were more support centres around regional WA.
It would be fair to say that I needed a little persuading to enter the world of Motherhood. I was enjoying a fulfilling career with all the freedom and excitement a good income allows. What little I did read about motherhood was often negative with any positives listed only as a small footnote. I always understood the need to seek comfort in sharing similar experience with others but came to the conclusion that motherhood was an overall unhappy and exasperating experience. After all, if it was all that great, why didn’t people write about those aspects? I would see sentimental memes shared on Facebook regularly enough but the long and detailed accounts of life with a baby or toddler were reserved for dissatisfaction and frustration. I did not want to be that miserable. No thank you.
Fast forward a few years and I was happily settling down with a wonderful, caring man. The urge to create a family between us crept in. As happens when you hit a certain age, friends started having families of their own and I was able to see these women go through the most wonderful transformation. They glowed with the love and joy of their babies and, most surprisingly to me, they were still interesting, vibrant and had their own identity. I thought maybe I could be a mother and still be the ambitious, geoscience geek that I am. And so, not long after we married we started trying for a baby. We were blessed with our daughter Madeline Theia in February of 2017 and nothing in this world has made me happier.
Coming up to Madeline’s first birthday I have been looking back over the past year and thinking about all the things I have enjoyed. I decided to write a list of just some the unexpected pleasures that come with being a mum to counterbalance the more negative articles I had read in the past.
I should say that the following are my personal experiences, not a generalization. I have deliberately kept it positive. There certainly are hard times and many challenges but those have already been covered so many times. I am not trying to gloss over the hard times or deny they happen, because they absolutely do. This is just my happy version of the “Dear First Time Mum” blog… and here goes…
Unexpected Positive Experiences When You Become A Mother
Just about everyone is friendly
Most trips to the supermarket take a long time. Not because the baby is unruly but because most older ladies you pass will stop me to chat to Madeline. She mostly obliges with smiles but even when she grimaces at them, they still smile back and chat a little. It’s not just the granny types either, the granddads wave and other children come up to say hello to a baby and parents make polite small talk. I overhear people whisper “oh she’s so cute” and yes, I will admit that I actively engage in these conversations and covet the baby compliments. They make me smile and I genuinely enjoy the interactions. Joking aside, there was a time when I started to feel very isolated. We have no family in Western Australia and my husband works away. These casual ‘friends’ I made at Woolies were what stopped me slipping into a dark place. Thank you friendly strangers.
The Baby Vortex
I can lose hours each day just being with Maddie. We call it the Baby Vortex. When she was first born I could at her sleeping for such a long time I would get neck ache. Newborn babies quickly learn to control their eyes and they can maintain eye contact for what feels like hours. I would wonder what she was thinking and if she knew who I was. Nowadays I catch myself just watching her play, other times I am being silly to keep her laughing. Sometimes a whole morning can go by and I realise that I haven’t done any of the chores I set out to do and I forgot to prepare lunch. The Baby Vortex is amazing. It’s why it takes me so long to get anything done.
More ambition, enthusiasm and motivation (just redirected)
People used to tell me that I would probably lose interest in my career when I had a baby and that my life would be ‘put in perspective’, as if it were out of perspective prior to becoming a mother. I would find it so frustrating and patronising. Well, I have not lost ambition or enthusiasm at all. In fact, I feel more driven than ever. I have a daughter and I need to be a role model to her. I want to show her that she can achieve anything she wants. The difference today is that I may have redirected my ambition. Time is precious and if I am away from my baby girl, it needs to be worthwhile. I feel a strong urge to show young girls that they can be part of the STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine) world. Maybe I have found perspective, my interests have evolved, I am more ambitious than ever because I am now accountable. Its not just me anymore, I have a responsibility to this little girl and nothing is more motivating than that.
Birth can be beautiful
My birth did not go to plan. Not at all. My baby’s heart rate kept dropping so the obstetrician decided to intervene. Maddie was born in a bit of a rush with the umbilical cord wrapped three times around her neck. To make matters worse she was holding on to the cord and with every push she tightened the noose. Then, when Maddie was only two hours old I was taken down to surgery as I was hemorrhaging. It was four hours before I was reunited with my little family.
Thankfully, our little girl was OK. She was perfect and I was in a state of complete bliss. My poor husband was frazzled and in shock. It was now 2am and he had watched me go through a complicated labour, worry about our little daughter and then had to wait whilst I disappeared off to surgery for four hours. Amazingly, on that long day, not once did I feel scared. I had been seeing the same obstetrician for all my appointments and had a student midwife following my pregnancy. I knew the team we were with that day and they knew us. I could have had a very different experience had I not had complete trust in them. They kept me calm and I am eternally grateful for the wonderful care they gave to us all.
I love my stretch marks!
I didn’t particularly want stretch marks. I used three different types of lotions and oils in the hope of limiting the spread of these scars as they grew across my pregnant belly. However, after the birth of our daughter I experienced a kind of sadness that she was no longer inside of me; we were no longer physically attached. My reminder of the nine months of carrying her were these stretch marks and my wobbly, swollen belly. Now, a year later, my belly is almost back to normal but I still have some faded stretch marks and I love them. I smile when I see them when I get out of the shower and I hope they never fade completely.