What I learnt from grief

Today’s Guest Post is so inspiring and breath taking I wish that I could make the entire world read it. I wish I could swallow it down into my soul and truly embody it, and as the New Year approaches I am determined to meditate on Amy’s thoughts and *try* to apply them to my own life.

Amy and I went to Primary and Secondary School together and we weren’t always the best of friends. In Primary School she hated how I would “show-off” and do the splits everywhere and I thought she was annoying and a “teacher’s pet” – I mean, her mum worked at the school, what was with that?!

Somehow we managed to put these differences aside and maintain a civil relationship through out High School, but it has been in the years since then that I’ve really seen the depth of her beautiful character. Amy is now a Classical Chinese Medicine Doctor who works tirelessly to bring fabulous health and strength to her clients, and she absolutely loves loves loves her work!

You are about to read just a snippet of her journey – prepare to be encouraged, motivated and challenged! Thank you so much for sharing with us Amy!!!

x

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quote

Three years ago I went out to play pool with my brother.

We’re actually not blood related at all, but Pat had been a part of our family since I was in primary school. He had been a weekly fixture at Wednesday night Changing Rooms and Roast Nights at mums since I was 12.

We would sneak off and play pool after dinner to avoid doing the dishes, and he would hang me upside down by my ankles over the slate floor, and then let go of one of my ankles until I giggled myself beetroot red and mum was forced to intervene with a stern “Ah… Patrick… I think it’s time you put her down…”

Pat picking me up in one arm + holding a beer in the other at my sisters wedding. So Much Fun!

Pat picking me up in one arm + holding a beer in the other at my sisters wedding. So Much Fun!

He was the gentle giant that made the whole room giggle, and he broke up the girl-on-girl sister tension with his bold and deeply cheeky ways.

So, three years ago, we went out on the town to play pool.

And two weeks later he was gone.

Because two weeks later it all got too much,

and Pat committed suicide.

He was 31.

I cannot express what it feels like to experience such overwhelming grief and deep sadness in every part of your body,

in every nook

in every cell

right down to your very wounded and fragile soul.

Those weeks are a blur. I didn’t go to work. I remember helping to choose the suit that Pat would be buried in. I remember sitting with my sister and Pat’s beautiful long term previous girlfriend sifting through photos for the funeral. I remember staring blankly at walls.

I wrote a lot. For hours each day I penned streams of subconscious thoughts and feelings.

And I gave myself permission to feel it all.

Deep, full body, heartbreaking pain. Numbness, shock and raw emotion.

I had a godsend of a beautiful counsellor to help support my path.

The big decision I made early on was to sit with each emotion as it arose; to embrace every moment for what it was.

I chose to feel the depth and breadth of it all in each moment because I knew deep down that even though the full experience of grief is so painful it’s almost debilitating, it’s also the only way to heal.

Every day was a big day.

Hard day after hard day.

But at some point, something changed.

The condolence flowers on the desk in my bedroom began to wilt and die in front of my eyes. Something shifted.

‘Don’t we all die at last, and too soon?’

I started wondering how it was that I had programmed myself to believe that I was always entitled to another day.

I owned up to the big elephant in the room…that some day each of us will have our last day.

Boom.

There it was.

The shift.

Instead of contracting, shrinking, blocking and controlling, I expanded and welcomed.

I stretched out on the river of change.

It was painfully refreshing.

Liberating difficult.

I distinctly remember walking around Brunswick and being overcome by a massive, whole body wash of deep gratitude for all that we have in each moment.

I remember not wanting to put my sunglasses on, because I wanted to feel and see the world in all its raw intensity.

The delicious rays of sunlight.

The leaves dancing on the pavement.

All such delightful miracles

And treasures to keep

If we only see it.

It caused a palpable and ever-present shift in my life – and it all comes back to how I changed my perspective on that day, lying curled up in my bed, staring at the red wallpaper of my Brunswick share house.

So what changed?

I am no longer prepared to live a life that is any less than breathtaking, amazing and deeply soul filling.

I am here to live the depth and breadth of all that I can be.

I am so clear about what makes me feel amazing, and knowing that I won’t be here forever somehow gives me the courage make big and bold decisions based on what I am here to do in this crazy beautiful life.

I invite big and scary change. I love them in fact.

I moved states

away from all my family and friends.

I found the love of my life

and created my very own business that I’m so deeply in love with that I can hardly call what I do “going to work”

I designed a life that I love

And I wake up every day with a smile on my face

at this crazy, beautiful life!

I’m no longer willing to compromise or falter when it comes to what truly matters

because I feel big clarity.

I work tirelessly to create a reality that is totally in line with what I crave from my life experience.

I give my brain, my ego, over thinking and over rationalisation a whole lot less credit than I used to. They’re more like backseat drivers to me at this point.

I listen to and act on what my gut/heart/intuition tells me, and I pursue the things that I am deeply passionate about.

I’m careful what and who I surround myself with.

I’m not perfect, but I no longer aspire to be.

I know what I am here for.

I know what matters.

And I am unapologetically myself.

I barely ever wear make up

And I smile when I look in the mirror at just how lovely and true to my deep nature I am becoming.

I am here to feel clear, light, vibrant, deep and whole.

I am here to experience truly amazing health,

to burst out joy and to radiate kindness,

to help others discover their own fabulous health.

I treat my body like it is the most beautiful vehicle for change,

Because I believe that it is.

I want to inspire, create, to live and to love.

So I do.

Every single day.

And boy it feels good!

I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude on an hourly basis.

When I start to sweat the small stuff,

(And I do, because I am human)

I stop. I take time out. I ask myself what I really need.

I resist the urge to get swept up in it.

I ask my partner his honest thoughts.

I surround myself with notes that make me smile,

Peg my goals and desires above my desk.

And meditate each day to check in and realign with that deep clarity.

Because I know I am worth it.

Which is lovely in itself.

I still feel overwhelmingly devastated that the world lost such a cheeky and kind-hearted, beautiful treasure, but the feeling of loss has paved the way for the deepest sense of privilege that I was blessed to share those moments with him at all.

My life would be void of so many beautiful moments, adventures, giggles and fun without his presence.

At the end of the day,

I just want to learn all that I can from the deep experience that I was gifted.

So when it comes,

I welcome the pain.

And I am grateful for it.

Pain is beautiful because it reminds us of all that we have.

And it reminds me of the lasting and deeply beautiful effect you can have on your fellow life travellers.

Little things like walking past a pool table at a pub can beam joy right into the core of my heart, and make me feel giggly, full and grateful.

Other times it can open up a deep fragility.

And occasionally it overcomes me,

But I learnt to let go of judgement long ago.

If tears come,

I don’t mind,

I’m sure as hell not going to hold back anything that my body wants to feel, because that ain’t the path to fabulous health!

I simply respect the feeling, the beauty, the loss, and often I’ll say something in my head or my heart to my brother Pat,

I breathe, I embrace, and I gently move on.

I learn and grow.

Learn and grow.

I stretch out on the river of change.

Gentle tips for finding your way through grief

  1. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind. Be patient. Let go of expectations. The most beautiful and useful thing that no one ever tells you about grief is that we all deal with it in our own unique way, and that that’s okay.
  2. Find a brilliant counsellor to guide, support, and hold the space for you as you move through the complex up-and-down of it all.
  3. For all types of transition, my favourite book is ‘Broken Open’ by Elizabeth Lesser. Truly beautiful.

All the best with your beautiful journey. You’re doing a good job.

Amy

Amy O'Brien

Amy O’Brien

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What did I tell you?! I think everyone can take something from this amazing reflection! Thank you so much Amy for giving us an insight into your journey, I’m sure it will speak to many people.

Make sure you check out Amy’s website, Fabulous Health, and ‘like’ her Facebook page, Chinese Medicine + Fabulous Health, where she regularly posts tips to achieving (you guessed it) Fabulous Health!

I am truly so blessed to know so many beautiful ladies like Amy – we can all learn so much from each other! Thank you again Amy! xoxoxo

In Loving Memory of Pharaoh

Lady Breaks was created as a space for women to be real about their struggles and heartbreak, and to use those hardships as fuel to push themselves upward rather than down. Of course this is much easier said than done, and sometimes the valleys are so deep and vast simply choosing to take another step requires more strength than anyone should ever need to muster.

Losing a child is an agony that I cannot even begin to imagine or process; yet devastatingly one in every four parents experiences it. I feel so incredibly honoured to share Bianca’s story with you today. Bianca and I knew each other as teenagers, and reconnected again through the wonder of Facebook. Although our journeys have been extremely different, there is some sort of unspoken solidarity through shared grief.

I can’t really express how much I admire her strength and bravery through this time, it has inspired me to push on and keep sharing my own journey. Thank you Bianca for giving us an insight into your grief, and allowing us the privilege of meeting your son Pharaoh.

x

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A year ago, I would have never pictured my partner and I decorating our first family Christmas tree alone. A time that is meant to be full of joy and excitement is now overcome with emptiness. I had so many visions of what it would be like to have a new baby to spoil on his first Christmas day.

It has been 10 months since Pharaoh passed away, although I am now a lot stronger in my grief it still hurts to know all of my hopes and dreams for this year, and forever, are gone. I know each year I will grow stronger, but the first milestones and celebrations are always the hardest.

Pharaoh

Grief can be a very isolating journey. I know at times I have felt very alone and misunderstood. It can also be quite challenging for loved ones around me to really understand and accept all of the emotions and feelings that come along with it. I understand life has to go on for the world, but my world is only just starting to, very slowly, spin again. I feel I have literally been stuck in time, back with all of my hopes and dreams for our son.

I know to some it may seem like I’m being selfish but I can’t and won’t change my journey through grief. It is such a personal experience so who are others to judge or have false expectations? It is very easy for society to suggest we grieve in a way better suited to them. Unless you have been through what 1 in 4 mothers go through, there is no way they could possibly understand how debilitating it can be. Every experience is different, and people deal with things in their own way, in their own time.

When your baby dies, the world is put into a new perspective. Things that were once important now seem superficial and materialistic. It tests some relationships and makes others stronger. It helped me to be outward with my grief, and I found different ways to express all the emotions I was feeling. I created ‘Pharaoh’s Page‘ for this very purpose and I appreciate anyone who ‘liked’ our page and read an article or two. The page was never created to preach my alternative beliefs, and ways of living. It was a way for me to share the lifestyle I had planned for Pharaoh, and a way for me to still parent him. Every article that was read and acknowledged helped me to keep his memory alive. So I would like to thank each of you who have followed my journey through healing. It is far from over, and I know each day will be a new one.

Pharaoh 2

It amazes me how much you can grow and learn about yourself, just when you think you’ve got things figured out life hands you another load to deal with. All of these challenges and obstacles make me the person I am today, the person I am still growing to be. Although I wish my son was here more then anything, I am accepting why the universe has made things the way they are. I am different now, I can love, understand and empathise on a whole new level.

My new way of thinking, feeling and seeing the world would not be possible if it weren’t for Pharaoh’s short time with us.

Bianca quote

I just want to take the time to thank the few special people in my life. I know I have been absent this whole year, I’ve missed birthdays, engagements, and dinners. I’ve ignored phone calls and text messages – I’ve pretty much been a bad friend. It takes a lot of empathy to understand that my actions were not a personal attack on you or of my feelings toward you, more a reflection of my grief. I didn’t have the energy to maintain a friendship, and you all held me up by not judging me, and you kept the friendship alive even when it came across like I didn’t care.

So thank you for being so selfless and understanding, to me this was priceless and the best kind of support. I can’t promise I will ever be ‘back to normal’ or spontaneous and social like I used to be, but I am still me and I want you to know that I love you very much.

So even though I will feel the emptiness this Christmas, I will still feel enough joy to celebrate our baby’s life and our new little family. Christmas will be a very sad time for a lot of other families in this world. Instead of celebrating with their children by their side, they will be celebrating with them in their hearts. So please take the time to remember these families, I know they will appreciate your thoughts.

In loving memory of

Pharaoh Ireland Bryar – 26.1.13

Max Baker James – 17.12.07

Taya Joy Delbridge – 11.12.12

All the angel babies

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Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us Bianca.

Please don’t forget to visit and ‘like’ Pharaoh’s Page!

x

Spare room of shattered dreams

A few years ago, after we were fed up with getting nowhere on the Ethiopian waiting-but-not-really-waiting list, we decided to try and pursue local adoption.

We chose local adoption over Permanent Care because for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was important for us to legally be parents rather than “guardians” to our child. It also meant something to us that our child would have been relinquished by his/ her parents rather than removed. Finally we also could see ourselves spending periods of time overseas due to work commitments and didn’t know how this would fit in with access visits and DHS regulations.

Now, in hindsight, I can’t be sure if this was the right decision to make – after all, as we heard last week, Permanent Care can definitely be a beautiful and healing option for all involved. In fact, had we pursued Permanent Care we probably would have a family by now, but we weren’t to know that back then. As with every stage along this journey you just have to keep knocking on doors until one finally opens. Unfortunately so far we have just had a lot slammed in our faces.

So anyway, I digress. A few years ago we decided to pursue local adoption. Actually we first went to an information session about it back in 2008 but then decided to knock on the intercountry and IVF doors until our knuckles bled. After attending an information and training session you write a life story that covers the most personal and deepest aspects of your life – from your childhood, to your finances, to your relationship and fertility, and even your sex life. We spent ages trying to make our Life Story stand out from the crowd of crappy word documents. We sent it in to DHS in July 2011 along with references from family and friends.

A blurred up sample of some of our Life Story xo

A blurred up sample of some of our Life Story xo

Then we waited.

A year went by and then we received a phone call saying that they would like to begin our assessment. We were overjoyed and hopeful and nervous for the first time in years! We scrubbed our house from top-to-bottom and prepared for the first interview. We were interviewed twice as a couple and once individually. It was nerve-wracking and exciting and deeply intrusive but we didn’t care. Something was finally happening and we felt closer than ever before.

Before the final safety inspection on our house Mr. Lady Breaks went around affixing safety locks to every cupboard and corner in our house. He put together the Boori cot my mum had bought us during our IVF days. We called together some family and neighbours to lay some soil in the backyard of our newly built house. We wanted to show: WE ARE READY. WE WERE BORN READY.

After this our lovely social worker wrote up her report on us and recommended us for adoption. We sat with her before a panel of DHS staff who grilled us on everything from our intentions to our religion. A few hours later we received the call to say we had been officially approved for local adoption! It was September 2012.

Our social worker said that our chances were quite good. After all we were young, probably one of the youngest couples waiting, and our file stood out. It could actually happen before the end of the year even. I was so distracted. I couldn’t focus on the thesis I was supposed to be writing, or on my work. My heart leapt at every phone call.

Unfortunately our social worker moved on from her role and we were handballed to someone else whom we didn’t know at all. We didn’t feel like she “got” us, and we certainly aren’t a priority. I think I have received about two touch-base phone calls over the past year. Not to demonise her at all – these social workers have so much to balance and so little time that facilitating adoptions often gets the last priority. Making sure that kids are safe is of course always going to come first.

So here we are… We were removed from the intercountry list when we were approved for local adoption, and I guess now I’m just waiting for this door to slam shut like all the others. Mid-way through next year we will have to get reassessed because our approval is only valid for two years.

Last weekend Mr. Lady Breaks dismantled the cot and hid all of our baby items away in a cupboard. Even though we could in theory get a phone call any day, reality begs to differ, and it’s too painful to have a shattered dream set up in your spare room.

Instead, Mr. Lady Breaks is setting up an art space for me – a place where I can start dream again. Thank you Mr. Lady Breaks, I couldn’t have walked this without you.

xo

White Ribbon Day

white ribbon day large
Chances are you know someone who is suffering violence in their home. Chances are that they haven’t told you about it, or maybe they don’t even know that what is happening to them is actually abuse. The statistics are astounding: One in three Australian women over the age of 15 report physical or sexual violence at some time in their lives. Yes, report, not suffer. This means that the actual rates are much, much higher.

Today I have the absolute honour of sharing one very courageous woman’s story. Corina and I have been friends since high school. She is a fabulous writer and journalist, and one of the most honest, genuine, crass and loyal cat lovers I know. She is also a tireless campaigner against abuse, especially when it comes to violence against women.

I’m constantly inspired by women who face fear head on and speak out about injustice and hardships. It breaks the silence and stigma around personal struggles, and it gives voice and hope to all those who have been silenced. Thank you Mena for putting in to words what so many women can’t. x

Corina’s story:

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In Australia, one woman is killed every week by a partner or former partner. The sorts of men who commit these crimes pass us every day in the street. Men in suits, men at the gym, the man in front of you at the checkout, the man walking his dog. Domestic violence is woefully under-reported, and it’s a sad fact that these statistics are probably inaccurate; the amount of women who suffer and die from abuse is likely to be much higher.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have not had a boyfriend hit me. I have however, been a victim of domestic abuse. Violence is not always physical. It can’t always be spotted with a black eye or a broken arm. Emotional abuse is even more common though, and it leaves a mark. I want to tell you about my mark, the one I got in my very first relationship.

*Alex was twenty five when I met him, and I had just turned eighteen. Ecstatic to have just come of age, I had the world to conquer, and conquer it I did, with a steady routine of driving my parents’ car, voting, having anonymous sex, and enjoying an almost daily dose of partying all night long with my friends. I was intelligent, attractive and confident. I was also naïve.

Alex had been raised in a violent house himself. His father was a recovering alcoholic and his mother, now living in a different state after abandoning the family, had spent much of his childhood years telling him how useless he was. Alex considered himself a fuck-up. And he wasn’t far wrong.

He fell in love with me on sight. In case you were wondering, this in itself is a massive red flag, but I was too innocent to know it. I believed that Alex’s devotion to me was pure, that I was special to him and that even though he had more experience than I did, he had never loved a woman quite like he had loved me and that we would be together forever.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Like with every other recorded case of domestic abuse, it began slowly. Subtle things, like feelings of insecurity when I went out with my friends, jealousy because another man had looked at me. Gradually though, it became more dominant, and I found myself watching my mouth, careful not to step out of line. If I said something to make him angry, he would drive recklessly, whipping his car around corners and darting in and out of traffic to frighten me into behaving. He refused to wear a condom when we had sex, and he would slyly try to coerce me into doing things that I told him I didn’t want to do. When I talked about returning to study, he forbade me to do it. He would stop speaking to me and refuse to talk to my friends if they interfered with our time together. He talked me out of exercising because if I lost weight, I would “be hot” and not want to be with him anymore. One time when I ventured the idea of overseas travel, he bashed his dog.

So why didn’t I “just leave”?

Because I needed him.

At the time, I was having a lot of trouble with my family. They couldn’t accept that I was in an adult relationship and they made their displeasure very obvious. They were rude to Alex, treating him like a second class citizen, and Alex, with all his hang ups about being a failure, needed half an excuse to fight. Soon they were alienated from my life, along with all the friends who told me that he was bad news. One person after the other was eliminated until I had no one left. I could see what was happening around me, but whenever I would stand up to him he would threaten to leave me, telling me I was too good for him and I deserved better. I was so scared of losing him, I stopped fighting. I gave in to his every tantrum and whim.

It’s true that hindsight is twenty-twenty. Alex picked me for a reason. I was young and foolish, in love for the first time and willing to do anything to keep my man happy. He wasn’t with women his own age, who were more likely to recognise his manipulation for what it was. He chose a silly little eighteen year old who wanted to defy her parents and fall head over heels in love. I was easy to control, easy to trap.

That relationship was not physically violent. Of course, the signs were all there that it would have eventually become so, but I don’t like to think about that. After a few months of lying, cheating and doing drugs behind my back, I became too much trouble to deal with, and Alex left me for someone more easy going. That relationship of course failed as well, and the last I heard of Alex he was living alone, unable to maintain healthy romances and with a fractured relationship with his family. He still does drugs and he is still verbally abusive.

I get asked a lot why I “dwell” on this story. Well, the truth is that most days, it is the furthest thing from my mind. I am grateful to the experience with Alex, it played a huge part in making me who I am today. But I tell this story because it’s important. Domestic abuse is not always a broken nose or fingerprint bruising. It is subtle. It can be sexual, financial, or physical. But most commonly, it is emotional. It bullies and belittles, leaving the victim feeling pathetic and lost, with only their perpetrator as a source of comfort. It happens to both men and women, to teenagers, to the elderly, to same sex couples, to children and even in platonic friendships. I tell you this story because it happens everyday. It is probably happening to someone you know right now.

Never tell her to “just leave.” Do not ask her why she stays. If you or somebody you know needs help, go to www.whiteribbon.org.au or www.wdvcs.org.au for services, counselling and how to provide help. You can stop it before it happens again.

Corina Thorose

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Thank you Corina for sharing this all-too-common story. Your honesty and bravery is inspiring!

To hear more from Corina you should check out either of her two (!) blogs. She reviews films, theatre shows, events and more on ‘In my Humble Opinion‘ and her newest venture is ‘Their own Bells‘, a blog that showcases the lives of inspiring women.

xoxo

This post just wouldn't have been complete without a cat gif. Thanks Mena! Source: http://canv.as/p/s0vna/reply/1307507

This post just wouldn’t have been complete without a cat gif. Thanks Mena!
Source: http://canv.as/p/s0vna/reply/1307507

Electing to Love

I guess in many ways, Mr. Lady Breaks and I were lucky. Long before we found out we were infertile, we discussed our desire to adopt. We always said that we would like to have one or two “of our own” and then we would pursue adoption. Of course at the time we were completely ignorant of how difficult achieving either of those dreams would be for us.

But that just the thing, it was two dreams. Biological was separate and distinct from adopted. Not worse, or better, but not the same.  If we get this, we will do that.

Discovering that we were infertile started to break down this division in our hearts and minds. I remember sobbing one day thinking about the fact I would never see my husband’s eyes in a child, never see his curly mop bouncing away on a toddler. Never feel the gravity of a tiny foot pressing against my stomach, or feel the warm pressure of a newborn held tightly against my chest.

And this knowledge does still overwhelm me sometimes, but gradually I came to understand that experiencing these things does not make a child “your own.” Indeed, there are many biological parents that, for one reason or another, don’t experience some or any of those things (take fathers, for instance).

215673-arnold-schwarzenegger-junior

No, parenting is about making daily choices to love and nurture. Choosing to envelop someone completely into your care. Biology doesn’t determine whether you do this or not – of course there are plenty of biological parents who have sadly chosen not to. And, obviously, there are plenty of non-biological step/ foster/ adoptive parents who have chosen to do this. So, all in all, I have to conclude that being blood-related really doesn’t determine whether you’re a real family or not.

Just as I chose a non-blood-related husband “of my own” to love, fight, eat and create a family with, I can also choose to love and create a family with a child who needs one.

Last week I met a man who put this concept so beautifully and eloquently to me that I just have to share it. He said: “Adoption is an act of election, an act of belonging. It’s about choosing to love and care for someone, committing to protect and nourish them, just as you would a husband or wife.”

By electing to love, I am choosing to remove the invisible barrier between biological and adopted, just as the sweet poem for adoptees by Fleur Conkling Heylinger shows:

Not flesh of my flesh,

Nor bone of my bone,

But still miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute,

You didn’t grow under my heart,

But in it.

x

 

How long does it take to adopt?

Last year I stumbled across a blog about an American family’s road to adoption. I can’t for the life of me remember their blog details but I took down some notes at the time to compare their journey to my own.

On their site they had a timeline that spanned just over a year (!). In June 2010 they felt they would like to pursue adoption, so they made a phone call and begun their assessment. By November 2011 they had their court date in Addis Ababa where the adoption of two Ethiopian children was finalised.

We also have a timeline for an Ethiopian adoption. It goes like this:

December 2007

After struggling with infertility for almost two years, Mr. Lady Breaks and I thought it was time to start pursuing adoption. The requirements at the time were that you had to have been married for over two years (check!) and over 25 years old. Well, we were only 22 and 23 years old but we knew the adoption process would take a few years and we would definitely be over 25 by the time the adoption was finalised.

Wrong! When I made the phone call to book in for the session I was aggressively told that I wasn’t allowed to attend. She said that I “should not even be considering adoption at my age” and to wait until I am “at least 30” to attend a session.

22nd June 2009

We attended our first information session and expressed our interest in pursuing an Ethiopian adoption.  I chose not to reveal that I was only 24.

At the time Ethiopia was the only African country that Australians could adopt from so despite our experience and knowledge of Kenyan culture, Ethiopia was the only real option for us.

It feels so stupid to look back on now, but at the time my best friend was pregnant with her first. I remember dreaming with her about how her unborn child should be around 4 by the time we adopted, and our child would be likely to be a toddler as well. We couldn’t wait!

Needless to say, her baby turned 4 a few months ago.

5th August 2009

Placed at number 254 on the ‘Confirmation of Expression of Interest’ form. This is not the waiting list – it is the waiting list to get on the waiting list.

19th October 2009

At number 224 on the ‘Confirmation of Expression of Interest’ list.

17th January 2010

Down to number 222.

1st March 2010

Number 214.

10th March 2010

Number 211.

Around this time a form was sent out saying that realistically only special needs children and older children would be able to be adopted. We had to fill out a form detailing all the various disabilities, deformities and diseases we would adopt. After this the list decreased dramatically.

9th July 2010

Number 61.

3rd December 2010

Number 54.

7th January 2011

Number 51.

10th November 2011

Number 28. Once we reach the top we will be able to start the Education sessions and actually get on The Waiting List.

28th June 2012

Ethiopia program closes.

So, after five years we weren’t at the place the American family was when they first enquired. This is why National Adoption Awareness Week is so important.

x

Don’t forget to ‘Like” Lady Breaks on Facebook!

Not Your Normal Family

I am SO incredibly excited today to share something special with you: It’s the very first Guest Post on Lady Breaks!

I am so inspired by this amazing woman and her family it’s not funny. Linda and Cam Bailey are about the funniest, warmest, giving and down-to-earth couples I know. Their personal struggle with infertility has only increased their capacity to love and love and love! It’s just amazing! I am honoured to be able to share Linda’s story with you today.

Thank you Linda, Cam and the rest of the family x

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“You look way too young to be a grandmother!”

grandparents2

While I know this comment is meant to be a compliment – and as I am only 35 years of age, it is also very true – I can’t help but be reminded that people have a fixed idea of what family should look like.

A couple of children, two middle aged parents and a few grey haired grandparents thrown in; that’s what all families look like, right? Well, our “family” begs to differ.

Just last week I realised that my husband, Cameron, and I started trying to conceive nine years ago. We have not been successful in having children naturally but that does not mean our house is empty.

Seven years ago Joy joined our family. She was 13, in foster care and in need of a home to live.

Linda, Joy and Cam

Linda, Joy and Cam

My husband and I have always had the philosophy that we don’t open our home to foster children, we open up our family. Joy didn’t have a positive sense of what family really was and I think only now, as we help her raise her own child, does she understand what a healthy family means.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re by no means perfect! We just have a desire to help those in need. Sometimes we get it right and other times we just need to try again.

Joy became very independent when she turned 18, so we decided to extend our family a little further. Twelve months ago, two brothers – four and five years of age – joined us. These two boys have turned our lives upside down! They are so full of energy, laughter, cheekiness and questions. Every day brings new challenges but also new opportunities, as we help these young boys grow to the potential they were created for.

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Just when we thought we were at capacity, our family changed again. At the beginning of the year, Joy discovered she was pregnant, and with the father of the baby taking flight, we found ourselves as the support people for our daughter.

Her gorgeous son entered the world (and our family) one month ago and has brought forth more love than we thought possible.

I can confidently say, as a barren couple, our family is full! And my advice to everyone is to embrace your family, no matter what it looks like.

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While Cameron and I were childless we enjoyed taking holidays, throwing ourselves into our local church and providing cheap board for some young adult friends. As the kids have come along we’ve dedicated ourselves to be their advocate and to give them all the love and support a child should have. And now we’re grandparents we’ve enjoyed supporting our daughter while delighting in having a newborn in our house for the very first time.

None of this takes away the sting of being infertile, or the challenges that foster care brings, but I refuse to waste my life waiting for my “own” child when there are thousands on our doorstep needing the love and affection we have to give.

Linda Bailey.

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What a beautiful, amazing family! I’m so blessed to know them.

If you would like to hear more from Linda, she regularly writes about her life, faith and God on her own blog, Daily Devotional.

xo

What’s Wrong With Adoption in Australia?

I’m so overwhelmed by everyone’s feedback following my last post. It’s astounding to me that so many of you are actually making the time to read my ranty rants amongst your busy lives. It’s just so touching – I can’t really describe how supported it makes me feel. Thank you.

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As promised I am sticking to the topic of adoption this week as it is National Adoption Awareness Week here in Australia.

It would seem that I am quite a slow learner because I bothered to read the comments left on yesterday’s Herald Sun article featuring Deborra-Lee Furness. There is just so much negativity around adoption! I mean I definitely think an honest dialogue about adoption is absolutely necessary, but it just has to be constructive – adoption is not blanket “good” or blanket “bad”. Just as there are some biological families that don’t get it right, there are adoptive parents that don’t either, but this doesn’t make the whole concept wrong or evil.

The reality is that adoption always involves suffering. For an adoption to occur, there has to have been some form of breakage or separation first. This is, of course, not an ideal situation at all, but as we know we don’t live in an ideal world. Adoption, in my humble opinion, can be a beautiful pathway towards restoring what was lost, like healing a wound though the scar may remain. It’s for this reason I believe it should be embraced and celebrated.

To be honest I’ve re-written parts of this post so many times now, trying to balance directing my thoughts at the (very vocal) anti-adoption lobby, and just sharing my own honest feelings and experience. It’s hard because the whole topic is so complex; what goes for local adoption may not be relevant to intercountry and so on. But at the end of the day I think to most people it’s pretty obvious – every child deserves to grow up in a family.

In fact a rule of thumb is that for every three months a child resides in an orphanage, they lose one month of development. It is well documented that institutionalisation is detrimental to the physical, social, and psychological well-being of children. I am planning to talk more about my time in orphanages and my passion for family reunification and community-based solutions to orphan care later, but the bottom line is that we should be ensuring that children grow up within families. Adoption is one way to make this happen.

Except… The Australian government doesn’t seem too keen on this. Last year there was less than 150 inter-country adoptions for the whole of Australia, despite thousands of hopeful couples. This is not because there are no orphans in the world, but rather because we have an outdated and clunky system designed to discourage adoption at every turn, even local adoption.

Believe it or not, but you can’t be on both local and inter-country adoption lists at once, even though the process is likely to take years. And, in Victoria at least, you can’t do any reproductive treatments while waiting to adopt. All in all it makes for a very frustrating and heartbreaking situation where both children and potential parents miss out. There just has to be change soon.

Thank you Deborra-Lee and Hugh for your advocacy work 🙂

As Deborra-Lee says in the article: “The system is broken here. There are children who need families and we need a system that works.” It’s my hope that by sharing my personal journey, a greater awareness of the need for reform is gained.

x

Haters Gonna Hate

Image courtesy of Feministing.com

Image courtesy of Feministing.com

A few years ago, in a fit of rage, I slammed out this Facebook post for all my friends and family to see. The response I received was so overwhelmingly supportive that it ignited the idea to write this blog. Of course I was lazy and it took me a couple of winters and a healthy dose of unemployment to actually start, but to everyone who commented on this the first time around I can’t thank you enough. Your encouragement has helped me to press on despite every ounce of me wanting to give up on the whole stupid, impossible dream.

I’ve decided to share it again today because it still adequately reflects how I feel, and it helps to show some of the stigma surrounding adoption and ‘infertiles’ here in Australia.

I should also mention that since I first wrote this rant the Ethiopian adoption program in Australia that we had been waiting on has been shut down. Years of waiting down the drain, another door slammed shut in our faces…

June 2011
Adoption, Infertility and I’m ANGRY right now!

It’s late, and I know I should be going to bed right now and not rambling on facebook, but something has just got me shaking and I’m considering this as my way of expelling bad energy before sleep time.

For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Lady Breaks and I can’t have kids. As fifteen year olds, we used daydream and fantasise about our future children, naming them and imagining what they would look like. Fast forward to our first year of marriage five years later and we were ready to turn our dreams into reality. Except it didn’t happen. Sludge through another six seven years of appointments, IVF, and the looooong road to adoption, and you’ll get to where we are today.

Anyway, by and large, I’m excited about the future, and I feel like I’ve loved and longed for my future child for the best part of the last 12 13 years. Adoption is something we can’t wait to do, we research it constantly, and are making every effort to ensure that we are able to provide our child with all that she/he needs to develop a strong identity, with a powerful connection to their culture. We even already have a collection of children’s books about adoption.

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But this journey certainly hasn’t been easy, in fact it has been incredibly unbelievably painful – but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, sometimes little things still catch me off guard, like someone complaining about having kids when I would do anything to have that problem, or the sheer length of adoption waiting times. So tonight I was having a little downer with myself in the car, asking God why on earth He made Mr. Lady Breaks and I infertile when we would love our kids so so much? What was the point to all this? It wasn’t fair, blah, blah, blah.

And then I got home.

Like any other good Gen Y-er I checked my facebook and I clicked through to this article about adoption in Australia.

And the article itself is really quite good and just what kind of information needs to get out there. But then I read the comments…*

Now, I know so many of you are amazingly supportive of our adoption journey and eagerly anticipate the day we adopt alongside us. In fact many of you are so supportive that you probably don’t realise there is a whole other side to the story that us ‘infertiles’ have to deal with. That stuff is thoughts like this:

  • It is time adoption was outlawed. Adoption requires the taking of a baby from its mother to satisfy the wants of adopters. It is a very selfish act. If you cannot have a baby of your own then you are not entitled to one from someone else.. It is time people looked at the history of adoption in Australia and come to realise that very few babies were willingly handed over to adopters. They were stolen. The majority of adoptions between 1950 – 1975 were illegal. It is time people realised this and accept that they cannot have a child and get on with it.
  • Adopters do not have the right to someone else’s infant. It is interesting that Mother’s rights are not mentioned in this article just the infertiles desire for a healthy fresh-out-of-the-womb infant.
  • It would be wonderful if people stopped referring to parents as birth parents of Bio parents. These titles are rubbish. You have one set of parents. The ones who created you, then you have adoptive parents. They are the ones who look after you when you are adopted but they are never ever your actual parents. It would be appreciated if people would stop calling mothers these names.

Anyway, that’s just a taster. If you want to see more, go to any adoption video on YouTube – most have comments on them saying that they have stolen a baby, bought a baby, ruined a life, etc., etc.

As many of you know, I have spent time in countries with an enormously high percentage of orphans – many of whom will grow up in institutions or worse. In Kenya alone it is estimated that 300 babies are abandoned every single day. I am not suggesting intercountry adoption is the only answer, far from it! Of course, a child’s indigenous culture will be the best answer for them. However, until adequate foster and orphan care systems are in place, intercountry adoption has to remain an option for the sake of the children.

I do believe very strongly in the absolute importance of ensuring the child’s culture is ingrained in their lives, and yes, I won’t be able to do it as well as their birth mother in their home country would. But the situation isn’t perfect, and no amount of telling me I’ll always be second best at it will change that. There are children whose parents simply cannot or do not want to raise them. There are children without parents at all. We are a couple who can. More than that, we love love them already, just as I imagine a mother expecting a baby would. Only our pregnancy has gone on for years and years.

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I acknowledge that some of you will read this and agree with what the commenters are saying, and you have every right to do that. You may believe that no matter which way I try and spin it, adoption will never be the same as “having your own” (<—HATE those words). All I can say to you is that for me and my husband, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. Our love for our future child is just as valid and as real as yours.

So, after a very long ramble that I’m not sure anyone will even read, I think I know why God made us infertile. And, what’s more I’m thankful for it. I, unlike many others, will get to say to my beautiful child, I longed for you with every fibre of my being for years and years and years. I knew how perfect you were before I met you and I conquered every obstacle placed before me to get to you. That’s how much you are worth to me.

x

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* Comments on article have since been removed

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The Adoption Option

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Generally speaking, after I’ve bored some poor stranger’s ear off about not being able to procreate, they will think for about 5 seconds and then casually say: ‘So why don’t you just adopt then?’ And we laugh and laugh and I will fill out some paperwork and 6 months later I’ll have a baby in my arms.

mitch and cam

Yep… Except this isn’t my dream world. This isn’t America either. And it’s not England or France or basically any other country in the world. It’s Australia, and in Australia adoption is a dirty word. In Australia you are dissuaded from adoption at every turn and treated like a criminal for even considering it. It’s costly, taxing on your emotions and relationships, and it takes years, and years, and years. And years.

Now, to be fair, we do have a fairly bad track record with adoption and care institutions for children here. You don’t have to be a history scholar to recognise the devastating injustice of the Stolen Generation and the British Child Migrant schemes. There are also horrific stories of children stolen from their impoverished families in developing countries and sold to wealthy families in the West. There were forced adoptions. There are stories of children growing up disconnected from their birth countries and identities. There are stories of children who are abused within their adoptive families. All in all it makes for a pretty bad case for adoption.

So, rightly so, a lot of red-tape and bureaucracy has been put in the way to mitigate these risks. I guess the thinking is that it will weed out the potential child abusers and only keep the desperadoes that are willing to wait up to ten years and spend their life savings. You are told adoption is a selfish, self-centred decision. You are told that there are no orphans in the world. You are branded incompetent parents at best, and criminal at worst. You are callously removed from lists you have waited years on because of a change of policy.

But this kind of thinking is so wrong. This kind of thinking means that children miss out on having families. Adoption can be a beautiful, life-changing, sacrificial, and wonderful thing – I’ve seen it in families who have adopted around me, and I’ve heard it from friends who are adopted themselves. There definitely should be a process, and checks and balances need to be in place, but it has to be done with more humanity than it currently is.

As potential adoptive parents we studied the history and culture of the place we intended to adopt from, we set up a nursery, we read books on adoption and attachment parenting, we bought toys and storybooks, we put safety locks on cupboards, I painted pictures for the room. We eagerly awaited and longed for our child’s arrival… And six years after my initial enquiry, we are no closer to adopting at all.

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Adoption is something that needs to be celebrated and embraced by Australia. We can do much much better than this. Next week is National Adoption Awareness Week and I will be sharing more of our journey towards adoption.

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