I met him on the day he was born.
Dark skinned and a head full of dark hair.
He was eight pound something and long.
His mother was over the moon.
When he was small he moved in with us for good
and had to learn our ways.
We learnt to love each other.
We’ve had our ups and downs, especially this year.
He’s spent much of it angry with me
but that’s okay.
He was never very demonstrative but some days he surprises me still.
Strong arms wrapped firmly around my shoulders.
He still comes for a good night kiss.
He’s so tall now, much taller than anybody else in our family
and now he’s sixteen.
In the early days, I could never imagine him as a teenager
but here he is.
Almost a man.
We celebrated quietly because we had to
and because I am that strict parent who will not condone underage drinking with mates
where many others would.
I’m proud of him though
and despite what he thinks, I love him
and wish him the world.
Happy birthday, mate.
Welcome to 16.
When I was in high school we had out of uniform days to raise money for a charity of one kind or another.
At the time, I’m not sure I understood the impact that something like that could have on another person
but I do now.
In its third year of running Team Ivy Day at the biggies’ high school,
I am in awe and amazed by these kids every single day.
I am thankful for them.
It’s an out of uniform day, yes
but the whole school makes it a day for Ivy (and Noah) too.
They come dressed as fairies and super heroes
and other weird and wonderful characters,
they come with cupcakes and other things to sell
they come with money that many of them have earned themselves at after-school and weekend jobs
and they put everything in for the day.
This year the kids put on a concert
and a soccer game of students versus teachers.
It was nothing short of wonderful.
To add to this seems hard
but on top of it all
groups of students and parents (and one amazing local business) had been quietly donating blood and pledging it to Ivy
starting the first Team Ivy blood drive.
I’m so grateful -
for people willing to donate blood,
for the teenagers and teachers who put themselves out there to make Ivy feel like a princess and Noah feel like a super hero,
The money raised this year is going to John Hunter Children’s Hospital
but it is going to a very specific program.
The high school will be the first sponsors to get the Bravery Beads into the hospital
for chronically ill kids -
kids just like Ivy, who have to endure so many things.
I could write so much more.
Instead, here is a slideshow of the day.
The speech I gave is underneath
and it still can’t express how thankful I am.
At the beginning of this year Ivy went through eight weeks of hospitalization – from March until May she stayed in the ward away from her family and her school and her friends.
She went through four operations, had at least 20 attempts to put a needle into her veins, four different antibiotics each day and still she became sicker.
She needed oxygen, heart monitoring and she had the need for intensive care twice during that time.
Every day she had blood tests and other invasive testing and by the end of it she was so traumatized that by the time we were ready to be discharged the sight of a tiny subcutaneous needle left her crying and frightened.
Unfortunately, Ivy needs to have medication through a needle every day, sometimes she has two and some days it’s three but every day was becoming a nightmare for her because of them.
A friend suggested we try a beads of bravery program to help her be able to see how courageous she actually was and to give her something tangible
so that she could literally see everything she had been through and every fear that she had conquered.
Each coloured bead that is added means something.
A blood test
but this program was not available in our hospital for kids like Ivy.
It had been in the oncology unit for several years but nothing like it was in place for chronically ill children, who go through so much each and every day of their lives
so we started our own.
It changed the way Ivy looked at the procedures she needed to have because she could look forward to choosing colourful beads at the end of each one to represent all she had been through.
Then we thought, why couldn’t we bring it to the hospital for other children
and that’s what all of you – fairies, super heroes, amazing characters and teachers out there are doing today.
Mt View High School will be the first sponsors of The Beads Of Bravery Program at John Hunter Children’s Hospital for chronically ill kids.
You are all doing something wonderful today – you are giving those kids extra strength to keep going,
you are giving them something to keep that says “I did this and I got through it okay”.
You’re giving them something to hold onto in really bad times
and I am thankful for you because of it.
This year’s Team Ivy Day is the start of something special.
In a month I will turn 40.
I’ve joked and said that September will be cancelled
but in all honesty I’m not worried, nor can I stop time from ticking over.
It’s just another year, right?
Another year and a new decade.
and it’s been mostly undoable.
I look at it now and wonder what I was thinking.
Hoping for a very healthy year for Ivy, I think.
It has been the total opposite of my expectations.
I did make a rainbow cake though
and I did go strawberry picking
but there was so much more I wanted to accomplish
and it has been some of the most simple things that have been pushed aside;
a walk along the beach on a Winter’s day,
I look at the list of things and feel sad and frustrated and unmotivated.
The last year of my thirties seems a waste
but I can’t look at my life like that.
I can’t feel that it’s been nothing when I really have been given so much
and so I thought I could make a new list.
This time with some of the things I have achieved in my life (so far).
Some of the most amazing things.
A life list, I guess -
I’ve sung a solo in the Opera House.
Danced on my toes.
Played a lead role in a musical,
and had my major artwork displayed in the Art Gallery NSW.
and lost some.
I’ve been a brownie guide leader
and a joey scout leader.
I’ve built survival lodging in the trees
and carried a boy with a stick impaled through one side of his leg and out the other to safety,
after performing first aid.
Camped under the stars in a small country town.
Sung until I’ve had no voice left
and eaten whipped cream sandwiches with drunken men around a camp fire.
I’ve been bucked by a ram and bitten by a horse (twice)
and tipped a cow in Kangaroo Valley.
I’ve loved a lot of dogs.
I’ve visited an elderly friend when I was just a teenager every day until she died
and her husband told me afterwards that I was what she looked forward to every afternoon until that day.
I’ve muddled my way through death too many times now to count.
I’ve had hair so long I could sit on it
and hair so short I could get away with not brushing it in the mornings.
I’ve lived at eight different places since moving out of home, one of which we had built.
I’ve been in love just twice (but I’ve had a few crushes – some who have surprised me)
I’ve been married once to the man I’ve loved the most
and the longest
and together we’ve had six babies.
I’ve known what it’s like to have twins (twice over)
to have just one baby
to lose by miscarriage
and to have a baby in my arms and lose him too.
I know caesarean
and normal vaginal birth
and I know the warmth of a chunky term baby
and the mixed feelings of love and fear when a baby is born prematurely.
I’ve breast fed and I’ve chosen bottle feeding too.
I know what it’s like to learn to love another person’s children
and to feel like nothing else matters when it comes to your kids (biologically or fostered).
I’ve saved, spent and lost money.
I’ve done it hard
I’ve known times when we have enough.
I’ve studied and learnt at university.
and finally settled on nursing
and then midwifery.
I’ve done CPR on a man I had been talking to just an hour before.
I’ve pulled gravel from the back of a twenty something year old youth because he was only wearing a singlet top and shorts when he crashed on his motorbike.
I’ve run for my life from a man with unstable schizophrenia because he didn’t like the way I tied his shoe laces and he wanted to ‘punch my lights out’
and I’ve been hit by a little old lady with dementia, with her walking stick, because I stopped her from scaling the fence to escape her nursing home.
I’ve helped patients to get better,
and dressed them in death
and I’ve helped women bring new life into this world too.
I’ve seen a lot of babies make it earthside
and some who didn’t
and every single day I felt as though that was something I was supposed to do with my life.
I’ve holidayed in Victoria,
caught a ship to Tasmania and stayed in a haunted colonial house
and walked the beach at sunrise in Queensland.
I’ve been to Disneyland twice
and had food poisoning in Hawaii (stay away from the liquid cheese)
and travelled business class once.
I’ve had a rich tapestry of adventures and day trips with my family -
some more adventurous than others.
I’ve been the ballet mum,
the school mum
the scout mum
and the footy mum.
I’ve made costumes
and watched concerts and ceremonies
and cherished every memory.
I’ve been a mum working full time, part time, from home
and I’ve been a stay at home mum now for five years.
Each has been challenging in their own right.
I’ve taught myself photography,
scrapbooking, folk art
and how to paint with water colours.
I’ve had two stories, some photos and a poem published
been on national television three times
and spoken on the radio with one of my favourite people ever.
I’ve met the dancers of The Australian Ballet.
I’ve met amazing people from all walks of life.
I’ve learnt more about genetics,
foetal alcohol syndrome,
global developmental delay,
and the immune system than I ever thought I would.
I’ve learnt a lot about medications,
and blood products,
felt the highs and lows of having a very sick child
and I’ve seen both sides of the hospital bed.
Some days feel like they move at a snails pace
and some take my breath away.
I’ve seen and done a lot in these first 39 years and this is just a small portion of it
and that list I made, I might achieve one day
but for now I know I’m happy.
It’s been quite the adventure -
my life so far
and in no way a waste.
1. It’s her 14th birthday today. (Happy birthday beautiful).
2. Born on a Friday, under a full moon – she was first on the list of caesareans for the day and was my most gentle of births.
3. On exiting theatres her crib ran over the midwife’s toe, breaking it – she was only 4kg.
4. She was the only girl in a sea of boys born over the three day period we were in the hospital.
5. She set the nursery on fire – she was under a warmer because she couldn’t keep her temperature up and an electrical fault in the wiring caused a fire to start in the walls.
Needless to say we were evacuated.
6. She was born with a full head of hair that stuck straight out and didn’t sit down until she was 8 months old.
It was the cutest thing.
7. First song learnt: Old MacDonald Had A Farm (ee-i-ee-i-oh)
8. At 14, she loves One Direction and harbours a (very) strong desire to meet them.
9. She is very artistic.
10. Is obsessed with stationary (that’s my girl)
11. Loves Vans shoes and skateboards.
12. Favourite thing about herself: the colour of her eyes.
13. Loves ice cream and chocolate (that’s my girl).
14. Is a great big sister.
One of the best things I ever played a part in creating.
Happy, happy birthday Lily.
Love you to the moon and back.