Happily Ever After? Guest King: MATT BASELEY

Happily Ever After? Guest King: MATT BASELEY

To celebrate #STFTL’s one year anniversary, we’re checking in on some of our favourite Kweens and Kings.

What are these gems up to now? And how much can really change in a year? So…

Well, here we are… one year on. Firstly, a huge congrats to #STFTL on their first year anniversary. I can’t even commit to making a cup of tea, so well done!

Speaking of tea, I thought I’d take this opportunity to mention an award I picked up this year. Bit of a humble brag, but it seems there was some kind of vote amongst the children of the world of ‘who the greatest Dad’ was.

They held the ceremony on Father’s Day and as a shock to me, I was awarded the trophy which comes in the form of a tea cup with the words ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ on it. So, yeah, pretty chuffed to receive such a prestigious award. I imagine it’s like winning a Logie. 😉

So other than winning the above mentioned award, what’s else has been happening in the last 12 months since this?

  • My 3 and half year old daughter ‘Billie’ has learnt how to crack eggs and worked out that Nanny Plum in Ben & Holly and Miss Rabbit in Peppa Pig have the same voice! (So voice over actors, you’ve been put on notice, mix it up a little!!)
  • Clearly as you can probably tell by the above: I still haven’t got myself a ‘proper job’. I do get to dabble in the world of show-biz every now and then (thanks to my amazing wife and extended family), but stay-at-home-dad is what is on the email signature. It’s not really, it just says ‘Sent from my iPhone’.
  • I have become terrified of my 18 month old. I never experienced this fear with my first born, as I do with him (Ziggy). I feel like he warms you up by batting his eye lashes and giving you this cheeky grin, and then he will burn your fucking house down, but I love him all the same.
  • I ran a marathon… blah blah blah! I’ve pretty much told everyone I have come into contact with by shoehorning that into the conversation, so it’s only fair to them that I bore you with it too.
  • And, oh yeah, we are having another baby!!! Well, I’m not, my super wife will be. So yeah, another mini-human will be living with us early next year. Yep, we just really like the idea of being out numbered.

It’s funny telling people that you are having a third child. With the first one: people are thrilled like, genuinely excited for you.

The second: well, they kind of expected it. Especially considering they haven’t stopped asking you since the firstborn “Soooo, when are you going to have another one?” but, there is still that sense of excitement.

Some people would consider us lucky to have had a girl and a boy. I think it’s called the ‘pigeon pair’ (not sure why, except for the shit on the ground part). People would congratulate us on it (unlike when I won the award I mentioned earlier), but I did nothing to earn that congratulations; I couldn’t care less if we had two boys or two girls.

Telling people you’re having a third child when you already have the ‘pigeon pair’: the excitement from the first two announcements is replaced with more of a confusion. It’s always followed with “Why?” “But don’t you already have one of each?” “Are you fucking crazy?” Well, possibly. Grandparents excluded, they would have us breed a mixed netball team if they had their way.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a scenario where we needed to sync up our routines and make sure we were ‘doing it’ at that moment when the moon was aligned with the stars: we know how babies are made, but this wasn’t expected. And after the initial shock, we are now pretty damn excited/terrified. Bella & I had always dreamt of having three kids (weirdos), this just happened earlier than we thought.

When the newbie gets here: Billie will be 4, and Ziggy, 2. So much joy has come into my life through Billie & Zigs; a joy that I never knew I could experience. I can’t wait to do it all again. Sure, the dream-feeds, the witching hour and the fear that the baby isn’t breathing are pretty brutal, but the good far out weighs the bad and at least we’ve increased the odds of one of them looking after us in old age.

Something that people do keep telling us, that is true, is that ‘a party of 5’ changes everything.

This year we are saying goodbye to cool, grungy, eclectic, hipster filled suburb of Newtown in Sydney and we are off to the suburbs: the land of active wear, SUVs and wine memes.

We are super pumped about it, we’ve out grown this place, but it will always hold a special piece of our hearts. We will even miss the homeless man who uses our wall in the back lane as his urinal (every morning).

Whenever a mate of mine calls me, his first words are “You bought a KIA Carnival yet buddy?” We won’t be going down the people-mover path but a car change is definitely a reality. Unlike when I was growing up, there are actual safety rules when it comes to kids in cars, we need to have 3 car seats across the back seat until they are 8. I used to have to get in the boot of the station wagon of our Toyota Corona when we’d have Nan in the car.

Sure, we are going to need more arms, more patience, more food, more hours in the day, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Maybe ask me in a year if I feel the same way. 😉

Anyway, I’m considering anyone who has read this far as a willing babysitter and I’ll be in touch with your allocated times.

Thanks for your application,

Matt

Matt Baseley is a 34-year-old former pastry chef, who dreamt of captaining the Australian cricket team or playing the Phantom on Broadway but he wasn’t good enough at either, so he ended up working in commercial radio for almost 13 years. Matt is now a stay-at-home-dad, who also features as ‘that guy’ in a few TV commercials and a reporter on Channel 7’s Sydney Weekender.

@MattBaseley

Matt and Billie also have a ton of fun in the kitchen making healthy(ish) food in a simple, realistic way. You can follow their cooking adventures here. #CookingWithBillieCoco

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

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: MARIA CONTARINO “An Open Letter To My Firstborn.”

Guest Kween: MARIA CONTARINO “An Open Letter To My Firstborn.”

Dear Carmela (Moo),

I loved you from the minute you were born and still do.

From a young age being a mum was all I ever wanted: I honestly couldn’t wait to fall pregnant.

At 11am on the 21st of February 1986, here you were, finally in my arms. It was a very long labour that ended in an emergency C section but from that moment my life completely changed; you were my world, the air that I breathed. Yep, the bond was there right from the start; I loved the fact that you needed me. Everything finally made sense. I was a mummy, it made me feel important.

You were such a bubbly baby; you completed my days. We were like a team. I talked to you every minute of the day and waited every morning for you to wake to do it all over again. Poor dad, he felt rejected, as all my focus and attention was on you.

When your sister Domenica was born you helped me in every possible way, we were in this together. Team ‘Mum and Moo’ was the best team ever. We filled our days talking, watching TV and having afternoon sleeps together in the big bed (my bed).

Life was great. Having two little girls felt like a sense of achievement. I dressed you both the same whenever I could.

Then came along your brother Sam, and I guess that’s when you really turned into a ‘mini-me’. Domenica wasn’t fussed but I think you thought he was pretty special. You helped me raise Sammy right into his teenage years.

With me being the youngest child of a large Italian family, I was incredibly spoilt. I really had the very best childhood. So when I became a mum I also wanted you to experience the same feeling. I’m just not too sure how I went with that, because with me having to work most of the time, I don’t think growing up you were as happy.

Nonna was always home and I got away with lots. As for you Moo, it just wasn’t the same because you had to step into my shoes when I wasn’t there. You were only eleven-years-old when I was running a supermarket deli (meaning I wasn’t around in the mornings). You would wake your sister and brother up, make them breakfast and walk them to and from school. You were a part- time mummy/part-time sister and were always asking if I needed anything. This is probably why you’re so mature for your age: you had to grow up really quickly. We needed your help but it’s one of my regrets.

Sometimes I feel like I failed you and wasn’t the best mum going around. With the long hours that I worked to bring the extra money into the house (which I thought was important at the time), I missed out on spending precious time with you. I compensated for this in your teenage years. I wanted you to make your own decisions. You probably thought I was the biggest pushover but I wanted you to love life and enjoy being free.

Even though I had the most amazing childhood, your nonno told me who, what, when, why and dictated how things were done. He made all my decisions till the day I married your father and life with your Dad has been pretty much the same. I didn’t want that for you. All I really ever wanted was to be a stay-at-home-mum and not work.

Carmela, we were friends all through your school years. I liked how you trusted me and talked to me about lots of different things. It made me happy.

When you moved out of home for the first time to live in Sydney, you left an empty place in my heart. You were on a journey to build your career and I thought ‘ahh she’s going to forget me’ but we still kept in touch (most days). I loved when you would call asking for advice (like the time you needed to know how to boil pasta) haha.

As the years have gone by, you’ve moved from Sydney to London with no job and no place to live. You’ve been there on and off for three years now and traveled to places I can only dream about. I want you to know how proud I am of you and your achievements; with all the ups and downs, you’ve always managed to survive.

Rumour has it you’re my favourite, well let everyone think what they want. 😉

Thank you so much for all the things you have taught me: mostly to believe in myself and have faith that I can do anything.

Most of all THANK YOU for loving me, still giving me cuddles and allowing me to be your mum.

LOVE YOU Moo,

Mummy.

P.s. Team Mum and Moo Forever.

Carmela’s response:

Dear Mum,

Please don’t feel guilty for having to work during my childhood. I’ve sensed for a while now that it’s been eating you up inside.

Don’t you dare let it!

YOU are the reason I am brave, the reason I am strong, the reason I have an impeccable work ethic, the reason I am resilient, the reason I am a fighter, the reason I am bold, the reason I am successful, the reason I am kind, the reason I am loved (and know how to love) unconditionally.

From a young age I watched a woman raise a family on her own and sacrifice everything to provide for them; you’re still providing for us now.

Don’t you get how fucking proud I am of you? In a world where you’ve never had it all, you’ve always ensured that I did.

For over a decade you held down the fort while dad worked in Perth. You took a small business and turned it into an homeware institution. From not having a proper education; you’re the highest-paid person in your field. You’ve had three kids and somehow are skinner than me. Haha.

You were never just the mum that worked and wasn’t there. You squeezed in as much as you could and juggled it all. Even today (at nearly 60 years of age) you do a 9-5 and still put a home cooked meal on the table every evening.

No one ever has a bad word to say about you; though I brag about how ‘I have the best mum’ all the time anyway. You’re a second mum/nonna to so many and that’s because you’ve welcomed all my friends into our family home and treated them like family as well.

Yes, my childhood was different to other kids but I also got to grow up with a mum that I could tell anything to and never had to hide anything from. You trusted and respected me from such a young age; I think it’s really why I’m a feminist and enforce women empowerment.

You’ve taught me to put memories first before money and never stopped me from living my life (no matter how unusual my choices may be). I am the lucky one.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Love,

Moo

Maria Contarino is Carmela’s mum, she’s also the successful store manager of House in Bunbury (otherwise known as ‘Mrs House’). Maria cooks a mean bowl of pasta, is an obsessive owl collector and is the first one on the d floor whenever ‘Dancing Queen’ or ‘You’re The One That I Want’ is playing.

Guest Kween: FRIDA PAYNE “Autism, My Son And Me.”

Guest Kween: FRIDA PAYNE “Autism, My Son And Me.”

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a mother. Growing up in an Italian family we were always surrounded by our younger cousins. I couldn’t wait until I had my own.

I met my darling husband at 31. I got married at 33 and I was knocked up 6 months later.

It was a long 9 months and the birth, it didn’t go to plan. Antonio was one week late and I ended up having an emergency C section. We named him after our Dads: Antonio Ross Payne and from that day on in December, our lives changed forever.

Motherhood was not what I expected it to be. Antonio did not sleep for the first two months and when I say he didn’t sleep, I mean he’d be down for a max of 40 minutes a day. We tried everything; rocking him, driving him around, he just would not settle. Antonio didn’t breast feed well either. I stuck it out for two months and then put him on the bottle (side note: my second child breast-fed for 18 months with no issues).

The first few months were like a blur. I did not have that maternal feeling and I was questioning everything. I’m usually a confident person but when it came to this, I was shit. It was like I was an ‘amazing parent’ before I actually had kids! I did everything I said I wouldn’t do. And I hate to admit it but I felt like I didn’t love him.

This makes me cry when I think about it now. How could I not love this child? Deep down I knew I loved him but something was missing. That loved up motherly feeling that everyone talks about wasn’t there. This should have been easy for me and I just wasn’t getting it. (Side note two: when you have a baby take all the help you can get. Don’t be a hero! People do want to help).

When Antonio was six months old we decided to try for another baby.  I mean seriously, what the fuck were we thinking? Lol! But things had settled down heaps, Tonio was in a great routine (after a lot of hard work) and generally he was a happy baby.  We got pregnant on the second try and nine months later our little Kiki (Chiara Lucia Payne) was born. Making it 15 months between the two of them. Chiara was the total opposite to Antonio, she slept well, fed well, and things were generally going great!

At this time my husband Marcus started working FIFO (fly-in fly-out in the mines). His roster changed a few times but mostly he would be away for 28 days then back for seven. At this point, we had a two-year-old and an 11-month-old, so off he went. At the time, it felt like 99.9% of things were okay, but when I think back on it now, I honestly don’t know how I did it. Silver lining: yes, it did enable me to stay home with the kids without working but it was even harder on Marcus as he missed out on a lot of the kids growing up (he missed every one of Kiki’s Birthdays until she was five). To survive, I spent most weekends at my Mum and Dad’s house. My sister also lived around the corner, so the kids were able to spend heaps of time with their Nonno, Nonna and their cousins.

Generally Antonio was a happy toddler, he didn’t really speak that much and was always fussy with his food. He would pick one thing to eat and pretty much refuse anything else for the next few months. He wouldn’t eat vegetables without adding something sweet to it. When he turned one he just refused to eat anything. Nothing!! He would have major tantrums in shopping centers and it got to a stage where I would just not take him out. He would flap his hands and walk on his tippy toes, sometimes even on pointe, like a ballet dancer. He was always moving.

Around the age of two he started to write letters. Totally self-taught. I remember my sister (who is a special needs teacher) saying to me “You do realize that it is not normal for him to do this at his age”; it was like he had a photographic memory.

I guess I always had a gut feeling something was off, so I went to my GP.  He advised me to wait because of Antonio’s age and explained that things may settle down. I must say they did. He started talking more but he also started to bang his head against doors and walls. It wouldn’t hurt him, he just wanted to do it.

Just before Antonio started kindergarten at the age of three, he was writing big words like ‘elephant’ and ‘iguana’. He could read books. But the meltdowns were also more frequent and I knew we had to investigate it further. An angel came into our lives in the form of his kindy teacher. I explained to her what was happening and with her help, Antonio was referred to the school Occupational Therapist.  The OT (another beautiful lady) did some tests on him and wrote us a letter to take to a developmental pediatrician. Cue another trip to the GP to get the referral to the pediatrician. You would think getting an appointment would be easy right? The waiting lists were six to nine months long. Luckily for us the pediatrician (another angel in our lives) had a cancellation and we finally had an appointment.

She told us she thought there was reason for him to be tested for Autism. I was not sad, nor unhappy, I just wanted to help my child quickly and get it done.  This was just something we needed to deal with.

A speech pathologist and a psychiatrist came to our house (Marcus was home) and they started doing the tests.  I held it together for a little bit but then I just broke down. I knew what the answer was going to be but the reality of seeing him with these two women really broke my heart. He was happy and fine. Mummy and Daddy were not.

Nine months later we had our diagnosis. Antonio had Autism. So what’s next?

Well, there isn’t a ‘person’ that you can go to get ‘all’ the answers. Nope, a magician does not come riding in on unicorn and tell you everything that needs to be done. You have to research OTs, speech pathologists, psychiatrists, etc. You need to research what’s going to be the best form of therapy to get him through a day, to get him through his life. Forms needed to be filled out, there was funding to get. So many factors all wrapped up in this one word “Autism”.

The first two years of school were a learning curve. Yes, kindergarden was hard but we got through it. Antonio had two brilliant teachers and an amazing Educational Assistant. He was having therapy weekly and he was making progress. He even tried a strawberry (that was the one and only time, but he tried it). Antonio had an IQ test to see how exactly smart he was. He was doing fantastic.

Then BAM! There was full-time school: new rules. I was so used to everyone listening to me and working as a team with people around him and all of a sudden no one was paying attention.

“He has to do this, he has to do that. He has to eat his lunch.”

“Antonio doesn’t eat. He will eat when he gets home.”

“He has to eat!”

“He won’t eat, do you understand?  Do you realize his brain does not work like ours?”

“Antonio is hitting, he is aggressive.”

“Hitting? Who is this kid?  He has never hit me in his life!”

“We need to tell the other kids he has Autism.”

“Why? We aren’t ready to have that discussion yet.”

I literally felt like I was the one now hitting my head against a brick wall.

In the middle of last year my Dad suddenly passed away from a heart attack. It turned our world upside down. Antonio did not cope. On the day of the funeral, it finally hit him. As we were walking in to church Antonio was saying to me. “Where is Bello (a name he called my Dad) ? Why did Bello die?” The reality had set in. His words were so literal. He asked me “Can we build another Bello?”.

He still will not listen to any Elvis songs (my Dad was a massive fan). My kids would see me crying every day which in turn would make them cry. “Mummy please don’t cry, please don’t cry. I don’t want you to cry anymore.” The loss of my Dad left a massive void in not only my life but my husband’s too. He was dealing with his grief and I was dealing with mine.

So in the middle of all this grief, Marcus and I had to decide if we were going to change schools. Countless meetings had not changed anything. Do I leave this school where he has amazing friends who knew his quirks, who loved him? Do I move my daughter who loves this school? Chiara, who had had been to every therapy session with him, who stood up for him when he needed help? My blue-eyed gorgeous angel Kiki, could I do this to her too?

While debating the issue, I would drop Antonio off at school with nerves in my stomach. What was this day going to bring? To cut a very long story short I started interviewing schools. I spoke to a lovely lady who said all the right things. “Nothing you are telling me about your son is anything we haven’t dealt with before.” YES! I had finally found the right one. I cried and thanked her. (Side note three: I’ve lost count of the amount of crying I have done in front of strangers).

After a lot of soul searching, we decided to change schools. Marcus was back from FIFO as things were getting too much for me to deal with on my own.

The first few weeks were bumpy but I am so happy to say we made the right move.  I knew going to a new school was not going to magically fix everything but having people around him who understood why he does what he does is making life a lot easier for all of us. He loves it there and so does Chiara. He has had the best four weeks at school – better than the whole of last year. Kids are so resilient! I also started working again this year which added another level of stress but it has all worked out amazing. To be honest I think my dad has been pulling some strings up there.

The one major thing I have learnt out of all of this is you find out who your real friends are. The people you think will be there, really aren’t. To the point where I told a ‘friend’ I would fucking kill her if she spoke negatively about my son and his Autism again. A bit dramatic I know (and as if I would) but I’m also lucky to be a part of a big supportive family and an amazing network of friends.

I thought it was quite apt that World Autism Awareness Day fell on my Dad’s birthday this year. My Dad was always open to finding out more. He came to a few of Antonio’s appointments and really tried to understand how to help him.

Everyone out there be aware. If you see a little boy or girl having a tantrum, it could be part of a bigger problem. For example, one day we were out and Antonio could find every letter of the alphabet in this shop but couldn’t get to the Z. He had a full blown meltdown in the middle of the supermarket. There was nothing I could do but reassure him that we would find the Z somewhere. We ended up getting a piece of paper and writing it all down. In situations like this, please don’t stand and stare, there is nothing worse. He cannot help his behavior.

To any parents on an Autism journey, keep fighting and be an advocate for your child. You are the only one that can, you are their voice!

The one thing I do know is with our love and support and the right people behind him, Antonio will be fine. He is one of kind. Just like my Dad. He also loves to sing and perform (like his Mumma). He is obsessed with words and letters. He is so fucking smart.

We never question anything Antonio says. He can’t lie (unlike his sister hahaha). He is going to do something great one day, I know it, and if anyone crosses him Chiara will kick their ass.

Motherhood may not have been what I thought it would be but it has taught me so much. I would die for those two little fuckers. I love them so much my heart hurts.

Frida Payne is a fun, loving Mum-of-two from Perth, Western Australia who lights up any room she walks into. She’s a one-eyed West Coast Eagles supporter, a mad Elvis fan, a vintage Barbie collector and a karaoke enthusiast. What’s not to like?

@fridapayne

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

Things people say to single thirty-something year olds.

Things people say to single thirty-something year olds.

“What do you mean you can’t afford it? It’s not like you’ve got 3 kids to feed at home?”– No, I don’t. Thank you Capitan Obvious. But that doesn’t mean things aren’t expensive for me too. I’m responsible for my rent, my bills, my groceries (which don’t come at a ‘discount rate’ because I’m single) and I don’t have the luxury of sharing those costs with someone else.

“I don’t know how you travel so much, don’t you want to buy a house?”– To quote the little Mexican girl in Old El Paso ad, “Why don’t we have both?” It doesn’t have to be one, or the other. And even if I wasn’t traveling so much, I’m sure all my money would be going on smashed-avo-on-toast right?

“You’re soooo lucky, you have all this free time to yourself, you get to do whatever you want.”- Yes, I do. That’s my choice. You had that option too and you chose a different lifestyle. Accept it. The grass isn’t always greener.

“I wish I had your life. I miss having one-night stands.”- Ha! I spend most weekends at home. I hardly ever go out. I haven’t been to a club since Ja Rule was a thing. I’ve had sex once this year.

“Let me go on your Tinder and choose a guy for you.”- Oh, what a fun ‘game’ for you. Go ahead.

“Do you think you’re just too fussy? Loosen up a bit and date someone!”- Forgive me for not throwing myself in front of every bachelor. If choosing to be single over shacking-up with ‘Basic Barry’ (because I don’t fear being alone) is wrong, sue me.

“So, why don’t you have a boyfriend?” Followed by “Oh my god, don’t get a boyfriend, they’re so annoying.”- Stop asking single people ‘why’ they don’t have a boyfriend. 98% of the single-population don’t know why and the other 2%, well… be prepared for a 5-hour conversation about dating apps, how dating is harder these days, how no one dates anymore etc. Also, there’s no need to play-down your relationship in front of your single friends. You’ll find most of your single friends are happy that you’re in a relationship- even if they’re not in one. Seriously.

“So, don’t you want kids?” Followed by “Honestly, don’t do it, kids are the worst, mine is being such a little shit today.”- You don’t have to talk your single friends into having kids. You also don’t have to tell them about the bad stuff in order to make them feel better about not having kids. Single people aren’t getting around all ‘single’ because they don’t want to reproduce. For some, that might be the case, but majority of singletons just haven’t found someone they want to start a family with yet. And some are struggling to get to the 3rd date stage, let alone the baby-making stage. OR maybe, just maybe they’re not ready yet and have other things they want to get out of the way first. Like, numerous Sunday bottomless brunches that involve smashed-avo-on-toast.

“Can we go on a girls night? I just wanna get drunk and do random stuff like you.”- I’m in bed by 7pm most nights. Is that random enough for you?

“Are you one of those weird feminist types? When will you people stop complaining?”- You first.

“Are you a lesbian?”- Lol! I wish. But since your sexuality isn’t a choice, let’s just settle for the fact that it’s not as simple as switching teams and Bob’s your uncle, your single days are over. Thanks anyway Detective Dickhead.

So to conclude, try some of these instead…

“Wanna just have a night at home instead? I can’t afford to go out and you probably can’t as well?”

“Where are you off to next?”

“I’m free this weekend, let’s drink all the wine!”

“Fuck, how shit is Tinder? And how many dic pics are you gettin’ on the reg? Not cool man!”

“Hey, congratulations on surviving any single-person stereotypes today!”

“Screw the haters, you do you boo!”

“You’re amazing and your life is amazing just the way it is.”

“Slay girl, slay all day!!”

Ok, ok. I think you get my point. 😉

Big love,

Carmela

x

Introducing Carmela Contarino, the #PowerKween behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’ 👸🏻♥️✨

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼