One Mum’s Amazing Foster Story

Sometimes we choose motherhood, other times it chooses us. For 28-year-old Victoria it seemed that foster parenting was destined for her, despite having always dreamed of a big family of her own. I spoke to this remarkable mother about the difficult times and the wonderful rewards of being a foster mother.

Written by Brisbane-based family photographer Minna Burgess as part of the Remarkable Mothers blog series.

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Victoria grew up in Brisbane as the eldest of two girls. “I remember always begging my mum to have more kids because I wanted to be part of a big family,” she says. “All I wanted was to get married and have lots of kids.”

At 23, a year into her professional life as a high school teacher, Victoria bought a one-way ticket to London and less than one month after landing at Heathrow airport she met the man that would soon become her husband. “14 months in London, 12 months in his home country South Africa and 7 days back home in Brisbane and we were married. It was December 2010 and Brisbane was about to disappear under water, my husband and I both had jobs to find, a car to buy and a house deposit to save for so despite my childhood intentions to have a baby the moment I got married it was over a year before we started to try and conceive our first child,” explains Victoria.

“Throughout this entire time however I was not on any form of contraception, choosing instead to use a natural family planning method of avoiding pregnancy so that my body was as healthy as it could be. I have always had perfect regular cycles and by the time we started to try and fall pregnant I knew my body and my cycle better than anyone” she says. When three months later there was no sign of a positive pregnancy test Victoria knew intuitively that something was wrong. “I was only 28, and ignoring the fact that it is recommended a healthy couple of that age try for at least 12 months before becoming concerned, I booked an appointment with our GP.”

Victoria’s husband started months of testing and during this time Victoria attended the Lord Mayors Christmas Carols in the city. “On the back of the program for the event was a full page advertisement for a foster care agency. This was the first time my attention had been drawn to this path and I kept the program because for some reason something was drawing me to it.”

A few weeks later the difficult news came that Victoria’s husband was infertile. “I declined our GP’s offer for IVF and other fertility information and reassured her that I didn’t need time to grieve like she said I would. I wasn’t rushing into things just because my plan was to call the foster care agency I had seen advertised the minute I got home,” recalls Victoria. “There was no decision making process. I just did it. It felt like that was what I was meant to do.”

The decision was a little less straightforward for Victoria’s husband. “My husband was slightly more hesitant, more willing to pursue fertility treatment, perhaps because he felt responsible for this circumstance that we now found ourselves in. However, he followed my lead and neither of us have ever looked back.”

The couple decided not to tell people straight away. “We waited until we found out we had been officially accepted as foster carers to share because I wanted to make a ‘pregnancy announcement’ just like every other mother.”

On a sunny Saturday morning in early September 2013 the day came to meet the little boy who would be their first foster child. “We had spent the evening before buying bed sheets, clothes and games that we thought a 7-year-old boy might like,” Victoria remembers. We were given the address of a house we were to arrive at to pick him up. We knocked on the door for ages before anyone answered, looking back now it was probably because he was as anxious as we were. I have tears in my eyes as I think back to this day and how far we have come nearly two years on. I didn’t realise at the time how possible it would be to care so deeply about someone else’s child.”

The couple’s first child is still with them and will be until the day he chooses to leave. “I am not sure how I will cope with that goodbye. We have had many other children come and go for short respite stays, so the goodbyes are different and often ‘see you next time’!”

In Victoria’s own words the key to raising children is very simple. “Strong boundaries, calm approach, choices and related consequences, love, quality time and attention, nothing much more and certainly nothing less. It is impossible not to see a positive difference in a child that lives with those things,” she says.

There have of course been many difficult and tricky situations for Victoria and her husband over the past two years. “Each circumstance is difficult ind different ways,” she explains. “There have been many days I have had to explain to my boss that I need to leave work immediately to head up to the school because my little man is refusing to come down from a fence, or throwing rocks at people, swearing at teachers or hitting people.”

“There was the Friday night when we welcomed a 4-year-old into our home and the first thing he did was grab a large, sharp kitchen knife and stab my husband in the hand with it. And the Saturday morning that a quirky 8 year old girl announced to a group of rugby fathers (who didn’t know my husband was not the dad in question) that her dad had killed her baby brother when she was a toddler.”

“There was the night I drove over to my friend’s house in tears after being screamed hatred at by the 9-year-old boy I would give the world for because his emotions were all over the place after a neighbour’s mother had let him play grand theft auto on the playstation. Then there are the moments when I think about the fact that I will never get to post pictures and boast about my kids on facebook, have a baby shower, announce subsequent pregnancies, do things without seeking permission, be my little boy’s actual mum, not feel awkward on mothers day, raise a child from birth exactly the way I want to … those are difficult situations.”

“The children that come into my care need someone who doesn’t let them down and keeps their promises, someone who will give them strong boundaries and lots of love and attention. Someone who will listen to them, someone who will tuck them into bed each night and sit holding their hand until they fall asleep. I have never found it hard to be that person,” Victoria says.

In Queensland alone around 7500 children under the age of 18 live with a foster family. To open up your home and be able to provide a secure, stable environment to children who come from very difficult backgrounds, you need to consider the following, says Victoria:

“Foster parenting is not a replacement for having your own child, nor should it ever be, you are always going to be caring for someone else’s child. You need to be strong enough to handle a child, that you would give the world for, tell you that they hate you. You need to accept that despite everything you do for them they would probably rather live with their biological family. You need to be ok with being judged, and stared at.  You need to be willing to advocate for your child with medical professionals and school principals. You need to understand that, for a while at least, your life will be on hold for someone else’s. You need to realise that it’s possibly one of the hardest things you will ever do but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it because at the same time it’s probably the most meaningful thing you will ever do. Being a foster parent has made me a passionate advocate for the rights of children and the importance of motherhood and family.”

For Victoria there is no doubt that the rewards by far outweigh the difficulties.

“My children have taught me that life is complicated but very beautiful and very good, and most certainly worth living. I am a stronger, more patient, less judgemental and more empathetic person as a result of being a foster mother. I can’t ever see myself doing anything else again other than advocate for motherhood, families and children through my life and work.”

If you would like more information about foster parenting in Queensland you can visit this website

the curse of the creative mind ~ and its hidden blessings

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There is a curse that seems to come with being a highly creative and sensitive person. If your life is fuelled by creativity then I bet you are familiar with its name: FEAR! If that doesn’t ring a bell it has many nick-names and especially likes to make itself known as Anxiety, Self-doubt and Panic. I wanted to write a personal blog post about this because Fear and I have been on a first-name basis for several years. In fact we know each other so well that Fear has introduced me to its special friend Depression on more than one occasion. Unlike Self-doubt and Panic, Depression isn’t fleeting. It is all-consuming. You don’t want to get to know Fear to the point where it throws Depression into the mix. Trust me on that one!

What I have finally come to learn is that Depression itself isn’t the problem. Fear isn’t the problem either or the many ways in which it manifests itself. The problem lies in the way we go to war against it. “I’m going to beat this,” we say, and we fight and fight and fight, but it will always be a losing battle … Why? … Because you cannot get to know the depths of your own creativity if you are only willing to embrace the parts of yourself that you consider acceptable. Your creativity exists in its full potential in that space between fear and inspired action. Take fear away and there is no space. If all you have is inspired action how can you recognise it as such? Like with everything in life we need to experience both sides to gain appreciation and gratitude for what is good. We cannot fully understand how blessed we are to live in peace until we hear stories of war or experience it first-hand. The further towards the extremes your experiences are, the bigger your space for learning and creating. If you have lived through war, rather than hearing stories about it, your gratitude and appreciation for living in a peaceful country is naturally much higher. Similarly your creativity comes to life in that space of awareness. When you have experienced panic, anxiety and depression you are in a much better position to recognise inspired thoughts when they show up. This is fantastic! But how do we stop fighting all the negative thoughts? This is where I have been stuck until two things happened. I read the book “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I re-watched the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” Ok three things happened, I also had some personal stuff going on that spurred me into facing my deepest fears head on. I was ready for answers, ready to receive and as the saying goes when the student is ready the teacher appears. In my case the message I needed the most came wrapped in a little book that caused a big change in me.

In “Big Magic” Elizabeth Gilbert talks about fear as an inevitable part of the creative process. She writes “your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.” The goal at this point isn’t to get rid of the fear, but to make space for it, because “when people try to kill off their fear, they often end up inadvertently murdering their creativity in the process.” As someone who seems to always be in a battle with fearful thoughts this rocked my world. I don’t have to fight anymore! It’s normal to be afraid! What is avoidable though is the fight. Elizabeth Gilbert doesn’t fight her fear in any way whatsoever. As mentioned she makes space for it. Lots of space. Not only that, she addresses her fear by the name of “Dude”, takes no shit from it and gives it a speech every time she embarks on a new project, which as you’ll read below makes for hilarious reading:

“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting – and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still – your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”

I just LOVE this! How freeing to know that this incredibly successful, best-selling author who delivers the most confident, well-spoken speeches, is just as consumed by fear and equally afraid of failure as the rest of us, yet she chooses to drag that fear along for the ride. This ties in beautifully to the movie “A Beautiful Mind” which is based on the true story of mathematician and Nobel Prize winner John Nash and his experience with Paranoid Schizophrenia. My point of comparison is to the way in which he eventually learns to accept his hallucinations as creations of his mind. He stops fighting them and stops listening to them. There are some powerful scenes in which he carries on with his daily tasks around the two main figures that he thought to be real for so many years and who still talk to him daily. He stops giving them attention. They don’t go away, but they no longer control his life.

All of this came together at 6am during my morning walk today. This blog post literally wrote itself in my head while I was walking, as if someone was reading it out loud to me. That in itself is a testament to how well this way of approaching creative living works because let me assure you I don’t have a habit of 6am morning walks. I like my sleep. Way too much. I struggle terribly to get out of bed in the morning, but in the last couple of days I have understood that my “I can’t” thoughts are nothing but my fear reacting to something new and unfamiliar. By recognising this I can allow space for those thoughts and put them in the back seat while I take charge of where I truly want to go. And I want to get up early. So now I do! and now I will! And in return I created a space for creativity to flourish. A blog post was written. A post that would have never existed in quite the same way had I not gotten up at 6am and declared:

“Dearest Fear, I’m starting this new morning walk thing, now you’re welcome to come along with me, but creativity and I are going to brew up some new ideas and though we welcome your input we’re not going to follow your path or walk at your speed. In fact, Buddy, we’ll soon be running and though I understand you’ll do your best to keep up, you are to stay behind us at all times.”

Suddenly fear is not so paralysing to me, more like a little pathetic and desperately attention-seeking.

What fears are holding YOU back? What would happen if you made space for that fear and allowed it to be there while you continued on with your dreams full force?

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What if you stopped listening to the negative self-talk, knowing that those thoughts are not the truth? Your fearful thoughts are simply a creation of your mind as you go through the natural creative process. They arise from fear because fear reacts to change. What if you recognised this part of the process and continued on without letting it slow you down or depress you? What could you achieve if you had nothing holding you back? Make a deal with your fears today and create that important space around them so you can put your energy towards the areas that really matter.

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Minna Burgess, info@minnaburgess.com, tel: 0432 953 003

(Of course nothing is ever as simple as what can be put across in a short blog-post. If you would like to read more about fear and creativity I highly recommend the book Big Magic, more information here. )

Camilla HansenOctober 7, 2015 - 12:47 pm

Beautifully written. Inspiring too.
Will be reading Big Magic for sure. X

connie lawsonOctober 7, 2015 - 8:39 pm

oh honey you have written this so perfectly, and it resonates with me so very much – now to face my own demons xxxxx mwa mwa you are amazeballs

Ali RussellOctober 9, 2015 - 2:59 am

oh Minna! Brilliant!! I have been crippled over and over for the past 20 years. Fear still has controlled a huge part of my everyday…. The anxiety I get from even replying to a customer FB message in fear that I have done something wrong… Day by day I go head to head with fear and some days fear wins. But I love this and may just read the book!
It is a very tiring existence dealing with mr anxiety, while fighting off master depression all because little old fear is stirring the pot!
Thank you! X x

minnaNovember 2, 2015 - 3:39 am

Absolutely Ali, I agree, it is exhausting! The book is brilliant and I really hope you read it, I know you will love it. The other thing that works well to control anxiety for me is to keep a gratitude diary. There’s also a great app called “Happier” which is like a gratitude diary but with photos 🙂 It’s really great. I’m really glad you got something out of this blog post.

minnaNovember 2, 2015 - 3:40 am

Thank you so much Connie 🙂 I’m so glad it resonated with you 🙂 xxxx

minnaNovember 2, 2015 - 3:40 am

Thank you Camilla 🙂 xxx Definitely read it, you’ll love it.

KarenMarch 13, 2016 - 11:25 am

What a awesome read Minna. Thank you so much, fear is something that plagues me constantly. My beautiful ten year old daughter is very creative and suffers anxiety which really impacts her creatively. She has huge potential but won’t even explore it. I will share this post with her and buy the book you mentioned. I know fear holds me back creatively and I’m looking forward to overcoming that challenge. Thank you.

[…] A big turning point for me, when it comes to my reactions to Fear and feelings of inadequacy, was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. She talks about Fear being a natural part of the creative process. It makes sense really when you keep in mind that Fear is just trying to keep us safe. As photographers we are creating and exploring new ways of viewing the world, – this step that we take out of our comfort zone during times of creativity triggers Fear to step into action. Once we are aware of this we can consciously allow these thoughts to flow through our minds, acknowledging their existence but not attaching any importance to the message they have to offer. (I wrote another blog-post that goes into this in more detail. You can read it here.) […]

minnaMarch 15, 2016 - 12:06 pm

Thank you so much Karen, I absolutely love your work. I have a ten-year-old creative daughter too, she loves to draw but can be very hard on herself too. I hope your daughter responded well to the article. I wrote another one that I think would speak to you, it’s on the blog at http://www.minnaburgess.com/FirstMoments

Choosing motherhood

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect, but this remarkable and courageous woman decided not to let anything stop her from being the mother she had always dreamt of being.

Told to Minna Burgess by Amanda Maree

“After many years of caring for other people’s little miracles, I made the massive decision to have a baby on my own. It wasn’t easy. I struggled medically, financially and emotionally for years to make my dreams come true. But that moment when ‘my’ new life was in my arms, gazing up at me, I felt utterly complete for the first time in my life. As he nuzzled against my breast the battles we both had overcome seemed so small.”

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“I always knew I was meant to be a mother, it just felt like the way my path would go, but as I got older I started to wonder if it was going to happen the way I had imagined? I left my previous relationship because my partner didn’t want kids and Ive been on my own ever since. My job is taxing and shift work isn’t always social life friendly. The one thing my job did show me though is that life is precious, time here is brief and it is so very important to make every moment count. Many of the families I care for in the NICU have had long harrowing journeys to become a parent and sometimes when that is almost in their grasp it is whisked away. I didn’t want to be that person. I didn’t want to wait, only to miss out because of age or health.”

“Once I hit 30 I decided that if I hadn’t met someone by the time I was 35, I would do it on my own. In my early 30s I went to a fertility clinic to discuss my options in regards to egg freezing, just in case. They asked me ‘what I was waiting for?’. When I said Prince Charming they laughed! It really got me thinking, just because I have a child doesn’t mean I am ruling myself out to the prospect of meeting someone down the track, and honestly, I would hope that a future partner would respect me for having taken this decision into my own hands. So, I jumped into the deep end!” 

“They say it takes a village to raise a child and in my case, I knew that would be true. I work full time, and I love my job, so while I knew I would take time off to have a baby, I would need and want to return to work at some stage. Shift work is not necessarily family friendly and I knew I would needs lots of support from my family and friends to make it all work. My mum is my best friend and my biggest support in life. When I first sat down with her, I knew she would be excited for me and support me 100% but I needed more than that. I needed to know if she would be willing to help me and look after my little one so that I could work when the time came. She works full time too so I knew it would be tricky but of course she cried happy tears and jumped at the chance to stand by my side through this journey. I guess that was the seal of approval I needed to share my decision with other family and friends, most of which were amazingly supportive.”

“My mum raised us on her own, so my brothers and I are all very close. My youngest brother was so excited but my older brother was a little more guarded. I know his sadness was because he wanted me to have it all, a loving partner and picket fence included to help me on the massive journey that is parenthood. Thankfully he came around and both of my brothers are amazing paternal roles in my little one’s life to this very day.”

“My grandparents are all very traditional and I wondered what they would think but they were all supportive too and knew this was what my heart yearned for. The last hurdle was telling my beautiful best friend, who had recently lost her own little one, and was walking courageously through the journey of life after loss. I worried my excitement of trying to conceive and all of the whirlwind that went along with that would hurt her, but she put her loving warm arms around me and was just as excited as I was to get on this roller coaster with me. That’s all I needed, right? Anyone else who didn’t support me didn’t matter!”

 “It felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders to be moving forward with the next step of my life. I thought back to my 30th birthday where I felt completely and utterly depressed that my life hadn’t turned out as I planned. I had the most amazing job you could ever dream for, I get paid for doing what I love. I am healthy and happy, and have wonderful family and friends, but ultimately I felt empty. I knew this was what I needed to do.”

“As I sat anxiously in the waiting room of ‘Life Fertility Clinic’ with my best friend by my side, we both commented how it really seemed like such a welcoming place. Each person there felt like part of a family, and in hindsight I would come to need that family during all the highs and lows of my fertility treatment. My specialist, Glenn Stirling was amazing, the kindest, funniest, easy going guy who goes above and beyond to make you feel like you’re his only patient.”

 “I was put on a low dose medication and a plan was made for my next cycle. I was given a handful of donor profiles and told to go home with a bottle of wine and ‘date’! It was way more hilarious than I imagined and I think that making it light hearted made it easier! Each donor profile was massive and included every single thing you could ever want to know; a baby photo, an adult photo, medical information, personal information, and family information, and why they wanted to be a donor. I sat down with a couple of different friends and family members and a stack of post it notes and we listed the pros and cons of each. Ultimately though I went with the first profile I picked up, I just got the right feeling about him from the get go. I thought I had prepared myself for the highs and lows that would come with fertility treatment and I completely talked myself into the fact that the first try wouldn’t work but when it actually failed I was devastated.”

“Anyone who has had trouble conceiving would know all about the dreaded two week wait and the following disappointment every time the test is negative and your period arrives. Over about a year we did a further 3 fully medicated cycles of IUI, each failing. By the end of the year I was disheartened and we decided to take a different approach. I had some investigative surgery which revealed severe endometriosis and a damaged fallopian tube but my Dr was optimistic I could get pregnant if we moved to IVF. I took 6 months off to heal medically and financially, finally in the new year we started again.”  

“Then, right before my egg pick up I was given the news that the donor I had been using was no longer available. The clinic is the only clinic in Australia to use those particular donors at any one time and they have a 10 pregnancy cap, so once 10 families have had positive pregnancy tests, the donor is no longer used. Those families can continue to use the donor, but no new donors. In the beginning this was something that appealed to me as I was anxious about my little one going to school with 50 of his half siblings!! But now as I was pumped full of drugs and feeling extremely hormonal I had to try and find a new donor and I didn’t really like any of the new ones. I remember a friend who had used a donor years before me ask me how I found the process and she was shocked when I said I found it easy. She had really struggled and actually put everything on hold for 6 months. When I decided on the first donor it felt easy and natural, this time around not so much. Of course I eventually decided on a new donor and my IVF cycle went ahead. Miraculously I fell pregnant first go!”  

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 “Sometimes I feel the hardest part of doing this alone is the actual alone bit. I think about having a partner to sit with at appointments, to cry with during downs and cheer with during ups. Someone to wake up to after operations and someone to be just as excited about seeing that little heartbeat on the screen. Someone to hold my hand during labour and someone to be equally as overwhelmed when that little life is placed on my chest and then I remember I have all of that and more in my beautiful family and friends, my village. They have banded together to be my husband, to be my partner, to be a father to my little one as well as still being my family and my friends, and I have never once felt like either of us will miss out.”

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“My journey has not been easy; two years of fertility treatment was followed by a complicated pregnancy and delivery. I was induced at 39+1after 18hrs, a temperature, IV antibiotics, position complications, an epidural, a vacuum, a fractured coccyx and a vaginal arterial bleed, he was safely in my arms. I had always hoped I would be ‘good at this’. I worked in childcare for many years, I then went on to do pediatric nursing and then neonatal nursing. Ive cared for so many children over the years, I HAD to know what I was doing, didn’t I? The most over qualified mother there could be? Some days I think I do ok, some days Im confident Im screwing things up but when I get complimented almost daily on how beautiful and loving and caring and kind my little one is, I know Im doing a good job. He is turning into the most amazing little human and deep down I know that’s because of me.”

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“Caring for other people’s children is really nothing compared to being a mother, and more so a mother on your own. Many a time I hear people say ‘oh Im practically a single mum, my partner works away or does nothing at home anyway’ but to that I say pfffttt. Regardless you have someone to cry to even if it is only on the phone once a week, you have the peace of mind that someone will come home and help you at some stage, even if its just someone to sit with you. You have another income so that fear of being solely responsible for absolutely everything is not constantly in the back of your mind. There have been times when I haven’t showered for days, when the baby wont stop crying, when I sit in the dark and cry myself too. When I’m sick and want to collapse in bed, life still goes on. Some days I look back at what I have created for my little one and I think ‘Im definitely kicking butt at this mother gig!’ Especially now as his babyhood comes to an end, I am hanging on to those little moments, the sweet smell of a newborn, the blissful moments of breastfeeding, just he and I, the first time I wrapped him to my chest and we ventured out in the world, each skill I mastered as a new mumma are now being replaced by learning of a different kind.”

“To anyone who is considering having a child on their own I say ‘go for it’ – don’t miss out on the opportunity at motherhood just because your situation is different. I know many older women that did not have the opportunities that we do in modern society, take advantage of that and take your destiny in your own hands. As long as you have lots of support, you can do it! And even if you don’t have lots of support, do it anyway. The pure joy of creating new life and becoming a mother is the greatest gift you could ever hope and dream for.”

TraceySeptember 15, 2015 - 2:36 am

Amazing story! I am so happy you got your longed for baby in the end. Despite looking after all those precious NICU babies it really is not the same compared by to the moment your own child is placed into your arms.

Life with twins

Written by Brisbane baby photographer, Minna Burgess.

Having a baby turns your life upside down, that’s a fact. There isn’t a pregnant woman out there who isn’t aware that everything is about to change, forever. But no matter how many books we read or how much advice we receive from family members there really isn’t anything that can truly prepare us for the profound ways in which a baby impacts our hearts, relationships and routines. Of course when twins come along the emotions, the love and the challenges are even more intense. I spoke to first-time Mum, Katie, about her incredible journey into motherhood, the ups and downs of raising twins and the wonderful ways in which her marriage has been strengthened by having two beautiful little people join their family.

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Despite going through three years of various fertility treatments Katie and her husband John did not go into the 12-week scan expecting the possibility of twins. “After a couple of previous scans by our specialist we were under the impression that only one of the two embryos that had been transferred had implanted,” explains Katie.

Katie had taken the Panorama test a few weeks earlier, a non invasive blood test that provides information about the likelihood of chromosome conditions such as Down syndrome, Patau Syndrome or Edwards Syndrome (you can read more here). Unfortunately on the morning of the 12 week scan, the test had come back abnormal. “Our specialist wasn’t optimistic but wanted us to go along to our scan to see if more information could be determined.” she says. “It was the worst 2 hours of my life waiting to go into our appointment to check what could potentially be wrong with our baby.”

Thankfully, due to the way the Panorama test works, it can only be used conclusively on pregnancies of one baby. It had picked up the DNA of a second baby thus throwing the results. “When the ultrasound technician laid the wand on my stomach and we immediately saw two babies – two very separate babies – I could not stop crying,” says Katie. “We were having TWINS!! My husband was in tears too and pretty soon the technician was crying as well. She thought we knew it was twins already.”

“I was very lucky to have a fairly trouble free pregnancy. Being classed as a geriatric pregnancy because of my age meant going in for a lot more scans and tests than most, but it also meant I got to see a lot of my babies on the ultrasound screen,” says Katie. “We found out at our 20 week scan it was going to be a boy and a girl, and were ecstatic. Within 5 minutes we had the names chosen. It just seemed like I was having the dream pregnancy. Even towards the end, being hugely uncomfortable and barely able to sleep, it just kept plodding along.”

At 38 weeks it was decided the best way forward would be for Katie to have a caesarean. She had reached full term for twins and twin one was not engaging. “I was so uncomfortable and tired and it seemed like the best decision,” Katie explains. “I had a trouble free delivery, no time required in special care for either babies and we were home as a family after 5 days in hospital.”

Photos taken by Katie & John 

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For most families those first few weeks of settling into life with a brand new baby is a bit of a blur, for Katie and John this was no exception. “Ask me to recall the first 8 or so weeks after bringing them home and I couldn’t tell you a thing that happened,” says Katie. “Apart from the fact we got very little sleep. I was very lucky to have my husband home for the first 6 weeks and my sister who stayed his last week at home and his first week back at work. My husband was so amazing. I couldn’t believe how involved he was, so by the time he went back to work we had gotten into a great routine, but I knew that I needed to do it on my own.”

“Those first 6 weeks I cried every day. Our little boy had a lot of trouble digesting his milk and would scream for hours trying to get out the gas. We had no idea how to help him and the constant crying was draining for both of us. I have always been in control of everything in my life – and relinquishing control to a tiny newborn was demoralising. I felt like nothing I did made any difference,” says Katie.

“But slowly, out of the fog we came. After a very positive visit from our midwife and a subsequent visit to our paediatrician, we put new plans in place. Different formula to try… different bottles… increasing amount in the bottles so we had longer between feeds… and eventually a solid 7 hours sleep in a row from both babies at the SAME TIME. After three months our little boy had improved, we were getting much more sleep and were a much happier household. But it didn’t last long,” Katie recalls.

When the twins were around five months of age Katie and John decided to take a two-week family holiday. It turned out to be the end of their new-found routine.

“While away our little boy began teething, developed terrible nappy rash and picked up a horrible cold,” says Katie. “Sleep went out the window, and for the next two months his sleep got steadily worse and worse. We had to separate the babies into different rooms so they wouldn’t wake each other and at our lowest point we were rocking him to sleep up to 12 times a night. My husband and I were absolutely exhausted. I had reached breaking point. My husband had to go away with work for three weeks and the thought of being on my own filled me with dread. I survived… but barely.”

At this point Katie heard about a local sleep school called “The Brisbane Nurture Centre.” – Located at North West Private Hospital it is the only mother-baby unit in a private hospital in Queensland. They aim to provide parents with education and support for some of the difficulties they may experience with babies and toddlers up to 18 moths of age. They write on their website: “This new and innovative centre is designed to give families an opportunity to address the immense physical, emotional and social transitions associated with having a baby and bring about positive changes.”

Katie got a referral from their GP, begged to be put on their standby list and was lucky enough to be called in after only a few days wait when someone had made a cancellation. “It couldn’t have come at a better time,” says Katie. “He had become so used to being rocked to sleep that he had no idea how to get to sleep by himself. The nurses and midwives there were amazing. They did most of the hard work. We weren’t leaving him to cry and cry and cry, but there was an element of leaving him to learn to settle himself, it was still difficult taking a step back and watching him unlearn everything he’d done up until that point.”

On the third and final night, he slept through from 9pm to 5am. “When I got up in the morning and the nurse told me this I burst in to tears,” says Katie. “I couldn’t believe it. When I had gone to bed the night before I felt that it wasn’t working and couldn’t see any improvement. I was so upset thinking that it was never going to get any better. And then to find out that he’d not woken once overnight was just fantastic. I really didn’t expect miracles, but once we got home he slept through every night since.”

“Finally after months and months of lack of sleep I was able to get a good 8 hours each night,” says Katie. “It would seem however that constantly being so tired was masking other problems. Once the tiredness fog cleared I realised I was having anxiety and panic attacks. Not often, but enough to worry me. The smallest thing would trigger one off… not having breakfast ready and both babies crying because they were hungry would make me feel so overwhelmed. I started crying a lot again. I felt like nothing I did was right and I was being a terrible parent.”

“Thankfully I could actually see what was happening and was able to take a step back and think about the little things that triggered off an ‘episode’,” says Katie. “Putting plans in place made me feel more in control again. Things like getting breakfast ready for them as soon as I got up so that if they did start grizzling early then I didn’t need to rush around trying to get on top of it while they cried. Creating a mantra to repeat like “It’s okay, everyone has moments like this – it doesn’t make you a bad parent,” helped and I also found a great technique for refocussing myself by verbalising things I could see, touch, hear and smell. Slowly each day is getting better,” says Katie. “I feel the absolute joy in watching my two babies discover the world and such pride in every new thing they learn.”

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“And out of all of this the most important thing I found was how wonderful and supportive my husband is. Throughout the whole pregnancy and everyday since bringing them home he has been there to help with cooking, housework, feeding, nappy changes, putting babies to bed, giving me hugs when I needed them and space when I needed it.” says Katie. “They say a great marriage is a great partnership, but on top of that, a great partnership makes for great parents. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to be by my side on this most amazing journey.”

Please leave a message of support in the comment section below and let us know your thoughts.

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Minna Burgess is a baby and family photographer based in Springfield lakes, 35 minutes South West of Brisbane. To book a session call 0432 953 003 – If you have an incredible story linked to your pregnancy, birth or journey into motherhood and would like to to be featured in the Remarkable Mothers blog series please send us an email: info@minnaburgess.com

Welcome Baby Bridie

 

 

Meet beautiful little Bridie. I had such a wonderful time photographing her. You can leave a comment for Bridie’s Mum and Dad below.

Lee and Glen KolpakAugust 29, 2015 - 10:17 am

What an amazing ride we have been on together can’t wait to go on the next long journey together. Thank you for being such great friends. Bridie makes the long wait and hard process to get to this point all worth it I am sure. She is just beautiful xx

Allison CainAugust 29, 2015 - 10:38 am

Absolutely beautiful!
Bridie is just breath taking… Beautiful! ❤️

Ruth OllettAugust 29, 2015 - 7:20 pm

Beautiful name Beautiful baby well worth the wait xxx