Guest Kween: TAM HEINJUS “My Wonder Twins And A Fight For Life.”

Guest Kween: TAM HEINJUS “My Wonder Twins And A Fight For Life.”

I just remember being so fucking angry.

Why is it that a chick on crack can deliver perfectly healthy babies? And here I am, off alcohol, off ham, off mouldy cheese, off everything!! And yet, my babies – yes, plural – babies! Are fighting for their fucking lives?

It was at this point, the NICU psychologist suggested I continue my sessions.

The NICU.  The Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit.

It’s a world unto itself.

My hope is, you never have to experience it. It’s where all the really sick babies go; and the lower your bed number, the sicker you are.

My twins occupied beds 1 and 2, for over six weeks. It was only about half of their time in hospital… and yet, we were lucky!

Hi. My name is Tam, and I was never going to have kids. I have one ovary (the result of an ovarian cyst removed during an endometriosis operation). However, in a bizarre twist of fate, I conceived on the first attempt at pregnancy.

So again, lucky right?!

Yep. These are the things I kept telling myself, sitting bedside in the NICU, while twin 2 stopped breathing for the 10th time that morning.

It had already been a difficult pregnancy! At 12 weeks, I’d been told I was having a miscarriage. Only to discover, I’d actually lost one of three.

At 20 weeks my water broke, and I was told to abort the pregnancy, and start again. I ignored that advice, and decided to take it day by day.

Every day was a long day. Especially after the twins had been born. Welcome, 12 to 15 hour shifts sitting bedside in the NICU. These are my children. I love them. But I couldn’t sit for 15 hours a day.

I couldn’t sit there and watch them stop breathing every three to four hours, only to be brought back to life. With that moment of hesitation every now and then, when the regular ‘tricks’ didn’t work. When the monitor kept triggering the non-responsive alarm a few too many times; wondering if this was it. Am I going to lose a baby right now, in this moment?

It was mentally draining.  Day in.  Day out.

My only reprieve was going to milk myself in what we called the ‘boob room’ every three or so hours. Hooking my massive twin mum melons up to a double suction machine, to get every last drop of milk out for the twins’ current diet of 1ml, every two hours. Yep. 1 ml!!!

Fun fact: even when you deliver a baby 15 weeks early, your body knows you’ve expelled life, and starts producing milk.

Just a reminder, my name is Tam.

The woman with: one ovary, two premmie babies and a gazillion tears.

A miracle mum to twins born at 25 weeks gestation.

I can tell you, at 25 weeks, babies are U.G.L.Y.

Their skin is transparent.  They still have hair all over their bodies. And they’re small.  So small. Imagine a tub of margarine, and add a half. That was the size of the twins. Less than 30 cms long from the top of their heads to the tips of their toes.

Black eyes, because their eyes actually haven’t developed yet. And their lungs are so tiny, they actually can’t operate on their own; so they need breathing assistance, 24 hours a day.

Add to this, a Swine Flu outbreak.

It’s 2009, and Melbourne is reeling from a Swine Flu epidemic. I walked into the NICU, and the section where beds 1 and 2 are, is isolated. The rest of the beds in that room have also been removed.

There’s a certain kind of paperwork across a bed area, next to twin 2, so I know someone’s baby has died.

Truth is, I saw that baby dying the day before, when the nurses called a code blue. I left my babies’ bedside that day, so the mother of the dying baby could spend time alone with her miracle. The mother of that baby saw me the day after. She didn’t speak to me. She simply squeezed my arm in appreciation for allowing her to be with her baby privately.

For us, the isolation meant five days of sitting bedside wearing face masks and waiting for the results of two blood tests. Finally we discovered the twins didn’t contract Swine Flu.

What they did contract though, was a certain ability to talk to each other subliminally.

Still, Twin 1 wasn’t well at all.  For the best part of nearly two months, machines had been doing the breathing for her. As her mother, I’d only held her a handful of times in those eight weeks. In fact, it was seven days before I got to first hold her after she was born. Seven fucking days. An entire week of not being able to hold my newborn daughter.

I had to sit beside her crib, and just watch a machine breathe for her, holding onto her tiny little leg while another blood transfusion made its way through her translucent foot.

It was at this time, twin 2 needed an operation that could only be performed at a different hospital. So, off we went in the morning for surgery. There was no room in the NICU for twin 1 post-surgery at this other hospital; so we were on ward. It was AWFUL.

I pleaded to get my boy back to the same hospital as his sister, and back into the same NICU and as fate would have it, we luckily qualified for the last transport ambulance for the ‘week’.

We made our way back to the hospital where twin 1 was pulling her usual ‘help me breathe’ routine. As twin 2 was wheeled past twin 1 on his way back to his crib, he stopped breathing.

Alarms start ringing. Twin 1 then decides to stop breathing also. More alarm bells!

The nurses put twin 1 and twin 2 side by side. They both start breathing fine. No alarms.

And this continued for the entire night.

This was my life. Watching these tiny, tiny humans communicate through lung capacity!

I had visitors during the week, each helping me take my mind off the fact that one or both of the twins could die at any second. But it was the weekends that were the longest.

One weekend hubby would be down, relieving the pressure on me for a few hours. The next weekend, I’d be on my own.

We lived four hours away from the hospital and with a mortgage to pay, another child to care for… there were only so many times he could come and visit.

I remember thanking the guy at the local coffee shop with a card when we were allowed to leave the hospital. He pretended to understand why I had looked forward to his coffee every Tuesday afternoon. He really had no idea.

No one has any idea how hard it is to have a premmie baby, unless you’ve actually had one (let alone two).

This isn’t meant to be an ‘I’ve done it harder’ story. This is simply a ‘Fuck, I did it hard’ story, that you may or may not identify with.

Either way.  Motherhood…

It’s the hardest, most rewarding, awful, beautiful, gratifying, disheartening, fucked up, beautiful thing… ever!

I just hope your journey, doesn’t include a NICU. But, if it does, I’m here if you need to talk.

Tam Heinjus is an overworked, underpaid creative writer who writes for passion when she can’t pay the bills. A woman who tries hard to be a good mother, wife and friend… and fails miserably at all three some days.

Tam Heinjus

365 Real Days

Kween Kulture: ILIZA SHLESINGER ‘Elder Millennial.’

Kween Kulture: ILIZA SHLESINGER ‘Elder Millennial.’

“Whatever kind of woman you are, you’re quiet, you’re fat, you’re small, you’re big, you’re tall, you’re loud, you don’t know much, you got a gill: whatever kind of woman you are, you are right! That’s it. Whatever you’ve chosen to be, whatever you want to be, you are correct in being that, as long as you’re happy.”

“If you are the shy type, if you are the wallflower, if you are the shrinking violet, if you are another floral metaphor that has to do with being an introvert, my point to you is, you don’t want the guy, who wants you, because of that energy.”

“In movies it’s not the strong girl, the funny girl, the brave girl, the smart girl, the loud girl, the opinionated girl, who gets the hot guy. It’s always the quiet girl, the new girl that gets like, Channing Tatum. It’s always the girl that doesn’t realise how beautiful she is. Which by the way, that Hollywood archetype… bullshit!”

I feel like Iliza has been sitting in my head for the past year. Her opinion on how women are represented in fairy tales and movies is just spot on, or at the very least thought provoking. Not to forget to mention her take on dating, women hitting on men, women wanting babies and the rejection that comes along with it; I could quote her (and will) for days. This is a MUST WATCH!!- Carmela Contarino

“A big part of the reason women don’t hit on men is that women aren’t seen as equal to men. Therefore when we step out of a traditional feminine role and do something alpha and hit on a guy and he rejects us, it hurts that much more.”

“Another big part of the reason that women don’t hit on men, is because men typically don’t find strong women attractive. They love venerability.”

Guest Kween: JANAE BRANDIS “My Angel Baby.”

Guest Kween: JANAE BRANDIS “My Angel Baby.”

The last Friday of June in Australia is Red Nose Day and I’m one of the unlucky parents who this day has a very significant meaning to.

For as long as I can remember, all I wanted to be is a mother. Growing up all my friends had specific career goals that they wanted to achieve but for me, all I knew for sure was that when I ‘grew up’ I’d be a mum!

Well, as they say ‘dreams do come true’ but my journey into motherhood has been far from what I dreamed it would be as a little girl.

On Monday, the 22nd of August in 2011, my dream became a reality when my first son Nate Lachlan Brandis was born. My labour was long and if I’m honest, waaaay more painful than I could ever have imagined. I ended up in an emergency C-section but it was totally and 110% worth it when my big 9lb 9oz baby boy was handed to me.

The first week was tough, Nate’s blood sugar levels were so low, he needed to stay in the special care nursery. My milk never came in, which after my third baby I finally discovered I had IGT (Insufficient Glandular Tissue) which is quite common with women who have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). Recovering from a C-section was also no walk in the park! After that week, I caved and decided I was going to bottle feed (my now starving) child.

I have to admit, it was one of best decisions I ever made. After his first full bottle, he slept!! He slept so well that I was the mum at my mothers’ group who lied to all the other poor mums because I felt so bad that my now three week old baby was sleeping eight hours straight a night! (While they were up every hour to attend to their baby.)

Nate was the easiest, crusiest, happiest, cheekiest baby I’ve ever met. (I’m not even joking, he actually was!) He fitted right into our world so perfectly. My husband Paul and I both thought life was pretty damn sweet.

When Nate was ten months and three weeks old our lives were irrevocably changed when he passed away from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I was totally blindsided. How could this beautiful, innocent soul be taken from us so soon?

I was that mum who never put the cot bumper in the cot and dressed my baby in a sleeping bag instead of blankets (as that was the SIDS recommendation). I did it all and it made no difference!! It just didn’t and still doesn’t make any sense!

The next few days, weeks and months were a total blur. All I can remember is the amount of love that surrounded Paul & I from our family and those few friends (who know who they are) that we now consider as family.

I remember in the days after Nate died, I was peeing on a pregnancy test just praying for my baby to come back to me; like I was asking for some sort of miracle.

The pain of losing a child never leaves you. You just learn of ways to cope and live with the pain, as if it’s a new part of you.

So that’s what we did. Paul and I decided to live life. We both took nearly half a year off work and travelled the world together. We did so many amazing things on that trip from learning to scuba dive in the Greek Islands to skydiving over the North Shore in Hawaii to learning the art of making traditional Spanish sangria & paella in Barcelona. It was exactly the escape I needed but it was also such a bittersweet time in our lives too.

In the back of my mind, I expected to return from that trip pregnant and it devastated me that I didn’t. However, after nearly four years of struggling with infertility and having to go on a range of fertility meds, we were finally blessed with our rainbow baby, another son Luca. Luca’s name (as well as being a family name) means ‘bringer of light’ and that he certainly is!!

Two years later we were blessed again in a rather suprising & unplanned way (due to some of my own serious medical issues, which is a whole other story in itself) with the birth of our third son, Hudson.

Being a parent after the loss of a child is hard, I mean ‘parenthood’ is hard in general but it adds a whole other level. Those fucking ‘mum guilts’ creep in way worse when you’ve just had enough but it makes you appreciate the little things just as much too.

Nate’s still every bit a part of our family. Luca knows all about his big brother ‘Angel Nate’ and Hudson will grow to know about him too.

So this Red Nose Day (as I do every day) I will be thinking of my darling Angel Nate and sending love not only to him but to all of the other angel babies and the families they have so sadly left behind. Please join me.

Find out how you can be involved and support Red Nose Day here. Help reduce nine deaths a day to ZERO and donate.

Janae Brandis is a Bunbury girl, born and raised. She’s been married to the love-of-her-life for 10 years and she’s a mother to three gorgeous children; one of whom lives in heaven. Janae is obsessed with wine and cheese but thinks chocolate is life. In other words, don’t come between her and her Snickers bar.

📷: Red Nose

Guest Kween: LAETITIA ELFASSY “First Time Mum, Married And Divorced In Two Years!”

Guest Kween: LAETITIA ELFASSY “First Time Mum, Married And Divorced In Two Years!”

If you told me 5 years ago that today I’d be a single Mum in France and going through a divorce, I would have said “Yeah right!”.

3 years ago, I moved back to France from Australia after living and working there in media. While I was there all I cared about were my friends, having a drink, planning for my next holiday and pretty much LIVING THE LIFE!

Having already spent thirteen years down under I made the decision that it would be best to move back to France and be close to my family. I had to do things differently in order to get a different outcome. I was petrified of the unknown and what was going to happen next but I was certain about one thing: I had to take charge.

So at the end of the Summer of 2014, I quit my very well-paid job in radio, gave notice to my apartment in Bondi Beach and packed all my belongings into storage.

In June, I flew to France and spent 3 months there living at my Dad’s. I realized soon enough that I definitely had to move back permanently and start a new life there close to my loved ones.

So I flew back to Australia in September to sell my car and all my belongings. It was hard to say goodbye to all my friends, mostly my best friends that I shared all my favorite memories with from my twenties and thirties but here I was now forty and needing to start something new. I was frightened of what was to come but at the same time excited and ready.

I still remember that first day arriving back home in France with my suitcase, it was cold and raining, a typical winter’s day. “Fuck! What was I thinking?!”.

Regardless, I was motivated and I knew I would be able to start over. I immediately started to send out my resume and look for apartments in the city. By January 2015, I had moved into my new flat and things started to get easier. I decided to check out Tinder to see what kind of men there were around here.

I quickly began to make a few connections, and with this one guy in particular, let’s call him Samuel! 😉 He was kind and persistent. I waited 2 months and turned him down 3 times before agreeing to our first date on the 25th of February 2015.

When we met, it was love (or lust) at first sight. We had dinner and drank all night, and from that point on we started seeing each other every day. He was very romantic, wrote me little notes, sent me flowers, took me to London, Paris, Spain. He spoiled me with gifts and told me everyday I was the most beautiful girl in the world. He was extremely nice to my family and we had a lot of common interests. The romance was there, I was hooked!

On the 31st of July 2015, he proposed with an amazing diamond ring and by August I was pregnant with our child! I was very lucky to fall pregnant quickly, being forty years old. We were happy and were looking forward to the future.

We quickly moved in together and started planning our wedding (well now that I look back, I planned our wedding, hahaha!).

In March 2016, we bought a 3 bedroom apartment, in April I gave birth to our son, whom I named Sydney after the beautiful Australian city I lived in and in August, we said “I do”.

Everything happened so fast, I didn’t have time to realize what was going on. That’s when things started to change.

After the wedding, our lives slowed down and I had huge postpartum depression. This shit is real and those hormones hit you hard (even harder when you’re forty I reckon). I adored my son more than anything but couldn’t fight the sadness and stress of the sleepless nights and the scare of anything happening to him. Yep, depression is real!

Instead of supporting me and helping me through this phase, my husband was blaming me for being depressed and scared all the time. I decided to ignore his attitude and keep moving forward. I started a new job and focused on my son’s happiness and wellbeing.

My husband was working too and we lived together like this for a few months but we soon became strangers to each other; that’s when we started sleeping in separate beds and the communication was non-existent. We only discussed matters about our son and his needs. Within a few months after getting married, we were like roommates. We stopped going out on dates but mostly stopped making plans for the future. It was dull, boring and suffocating.

A week before our first wedding anniversary, my sister had a terrible accident and was in intensive care for 2 months and that’s when things really started to go downhill. My husband was not supportive and couldn’t care less about what I was going through. We decided it was best to go our separate ways. Making that decision was a hard pill to swallow for me but seemed easy for him as he was married twice before (should have listened to my gut more and noticed the red flags, but hey).

I’m now going through a divorce but thankfully I am able to keep full custody of our son. My only goal in life now is to ensure I provide the best life for my little man (who’s now 2 years old). Its not easy, I miss Australia and my friends every day. Raising a 2 year old can be challenging at times, but I wouldn’t change my situation for the world. Even though my ex was not the right person for me, he gave me the most precious gift in the world: my son – and for that I am forever grateful.

Lessons learned:

• Don’t do online dating

• Take time to know someone before you commit

• Be independent no matter what

• Be positive and keep moving forward

• YOU’RE NOT STUCK; you’re just committed to certain patterns of behavior because they helped you in the past. Now those patterns have become more harmful than helpful. The reason why you can’t move forward is because you keep applying an old formula to a new level in your life. CHANGE THE FORMULA to get different results!

Laetitia is a senior sales executive in media. Being a single mum, she is also currently enrolling in real estate courses to be able to work from home and look after her little boy. She lives in the south of France and enjoys a nice work-life balance surrounded by her family and beautiful beaches.

@laetitiaelfassy

Guest Kween: AMY CLARKE “Am I Really Done With Kids?”

Guest Kween: AMY CLARKE “Am I Really Done With Kids?”

This question has been looming on my mind for the last few months: “Am I really done with kids?”. Even though my two critters have been pretty bloody tough work of late, I still feel like I’m not complete. My family may be, but am I?

Apart from the lack of sleep, I just LOVE newborns. I love their smell, their noises, their clothes, their non-smelly poos; but all kids grow up, and then the chaos begins. Most of the time I have about five out of seven good days with my little girl Pippa, who’s now ten months. She is a happy, content and a super cute baby. The other two days you’ll literally see me on the ground in the kitchen crying over a glass (or seven) of wine. I can’t say she’s any easier than my first born, Leo – now four – but I guess it does get easier and I can roughly understand what’s coming.

After the newborn phase, when your eyes feel like razorblades trying to shut and you are always hungry and feel like you’re constantly battling the flu, comes the cute six-nine months phase. They interact so much more, they are playful and I don’t know about you, but they start to sleep better (marginally). Pippa is a great sleeper, and I admit I’m lucky, but we worked hard on it. Yes, we did sleep training, and yes you’d find me crying too outside her door at 2am in the morning, but at eight months, she’s started to sleep through. So why the hell am I considering another child!? I am starting to get my life back now. I’m going out with friends, I’m working and having time to ‘myself’ has just arrived from whatever planet it came from and I can now enjoy things a lot more. Every day can be a challenge in some aspect, but I don’t let it stress me the way it used to with Leo as now I keep saying to myself “This’ll be the last time Amy, so enjoy it”. I mean, I can’t even really cuddle Pippa now unless she needs help to sleep or has hurt herself, so in a blink of an eye, that snuggly phase is over too.

So right now, my life is great. I’m the first Mum to drop off and last to pick my kids up from kindy because I love my alone time: whether be it working, lying on the couch watching Netflix or searching the internet for hours watching funny cat videos, and I really don’t miss my kids (too much) when they are gone. I’m not quite sure I can go back to three hourly feeds, mastitis and the uncertainty of whether or not I can leave the house that day.

So my question is, how do you know if you’re finished having kids? I see some friends with three, even four kids and they still manage to get through it all. I heard going from two to three kids is easier than one to two kids – is that true? I worry not having my Mum and Dad around (who sadly passed a while back) will make life harder? It’s the moments you truly need your parents around that I fear the most. I remember when Pippa was only three months old, and Leo and I both got gastro and it was terrible, like more terrible than any other common sickness. I was bed-ridden, so was he, and I can’t recall life being so hard. It was that one moment in my life that I really really needed my Mum. She would have been over in a heartbeat, cleaning up our mess and looking after us all but that is something I’ll never have, or experience, so that also adds to my dilemma.

I’ve heard that if you think you’re not done, you’re not done. My heart says I’m not, but my head says I am. I guess only time and my weekly income will tell. Let me know your thoughts!

Amy Clarke is a graphic designer, a mum and a bit of an all rounder kind of person. In between running two businesses from home, she attempts to manage a crazy household of kids, pets and chickens. Amy owns Fox and Beau greeting cards: a small bespoke stationery brand that allows her to be creative and also bring in a little extra income. She’s energetic, honest and sometimes a little crazy.

@foxandbeau