It’s okay to feel ripped off by COVID

When this all began in 2020, I was 28 years old. I had a 4 year old daughter who was a handful but a happy handful. I had a partner who had been living with us for nearly 12 months and we were pretty happy. We’d booked a holiday for my daughters 5th birthday which was in March and we were really excited about it! Not only was it going to be my daughters first holiday but it was also my own first real holiday and I’d managed to scrape up the money all on my own without having to ask my family for a hand. Things were going well.

We never made it to Queensland, though. Our nationwide lockdown began on the 30th of a March, the same day as my daughters birthday and a day after we were supposed to fly out. We would have been stuck in another state for months… looking back now, that may not have been such a bad thing. That was the first of 6 hard lockdowns that Victorians faced throughout the following 18 months, with the days adding up to more than 260 as of December 2021. Restrictions in place meant that people were only allowed up to 2 hours outdoors a day and only essential services and supermarkets were open. Schools only ran remotely, meaning children have lost the best part of two years learning in a classroom and playgrounds were closed for a large portion of the lockdown period.

That was coming up to two years ago. Two years that feels like a very painful blink of an eye for most Melbournians, who are not only residents of the most locked down city in the country but the most locked down city in the world.

COVID has felt like a universally bad dream that we couldn’t wake up from. Our lives, relationships, jobs, homes… nothing was left untouched. The deaths, although extensive, were a small detail on the list of damages left behind by COVID restrictions, lockdowns and isolation periods. Hard workers lost their jobs, which meant some lost their homes, kids fell behind in school and people with once good mental health began experiencing anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. Adult children couldn’t say goodbye to loved ones in retirement homes, funerals were cut down to 10 mourners and weddings were put on hold for an uncertain amount of time. Nobody was safe from the impacts of COVID-19.

My experience centred around my home, my family and our mental health. I fell pregnant in May 2020 and gave birth the following February. And as if it wasn’t bad enough that I had lost my 6 year old daughters final year of kindergarten to COVID and lockdown but I watched my daughter slowly becoming a different person… her spark was starting to dim and she was struggling with her own mental health. I was helpless in watching it happen… It was Melbourne’s 6th lockdown that was the icing on the cake. My daughter most likely had undiagnosed ADHD before COVID but the uncertainty of the last two years really intensified her behaviour to the point where we are currently seeking medical intervention after the informal diagnosis of ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder). I am left sitting here wondering whether this was our path all along or whether COVID put us here…

It’s okay to feel ripped off by COVID. I do! I was supposed to be enjoying my children and showing them the world before they grow up. I wasn’t supposed to be a grumpy, tired, stressed, anxious mess of a mother. That’s what I have become, though… I feel like as each day goes on I am losing another day of freedom with my daughter, another day of enjoying her childhood, another day of my life. I am doubled vaxxed as is my family and when they can, my children will be too. But that doesn’t replace the time we’ve lost being stuck between these walls. It won’t give my daughter those two years of crucial early childhood development. It won’t make the world feel normal again… because like with everything, once you move forward… you very rarely go back.

An Open Letter To My First Bully

This is part of a collection of short stories depicting and detailing true events and personal experiences in my life, with a few tweaks for the privacy of all involved.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with bullying or depression or mental health in general, please seek the help of your GP or healthcare professional or a friend/family member.

I should begin by saying, for the most part, I didn’t have bullies who went out of their way to target me. That happened on a few occasions, usually very short lived though. My bullying took place in the corridors, on the school bus, out in the yard… the places where it was basically unavoidable in a school environment.

It began in primary school, and I remember feeling hurt. I remember the feeling of sadness and loneliness, I remember questioning myself with “why me” probably the first time in my life and worst of all, I remember trying to be friends with you. We couldn’t have been more than 8 and I was new to your school. The nerves were there, I didn’t know anybody and I was the chubby little girl of a young single mum. I already felt different but you cemented that for me right from the start. Our teacher assigned you and your friends to show me around, hang out with me and basically just be a friend to me. Instead, as I tried to play along with you and your friends, you said “don’t touch me” and looked at me with disgust. I remember that moment so clearly and it was 22 years ago. I remember the burning sensation as my face turned bright red, the tears welling up in my eyes as I tried not to blink and create a waterfall down my cheeks… That was the first time I felt sadness, real sadness.

In the years that followed, I have many memories of feeling left out and eating lunch alone, having nobody to partner up with for activities, cruel words being said to me on the playground… I was never mean to you, to any of you. I was quiet, I was harmless. You made me quiet, actually. Before I changed schools, I wasn’t this quiet and isolated. I wanted to be a Vet, I wanted to get married and have lots of kids. I could have been school captain one day or the lead in the school production. I had friends at my first school that I didn’t want to leave, it wasn’t my choice though. And after that nerve racking summer when I finally stepped foot into your school, you lived up to my expectations of what changing to a new school would be like. All of my 8 year old anxieties were verified when you would all stare at me and whisper, calling me fat just loud enough so I’d hear you but not so loud the teacher would notice. 8 year olds don’t treat people this way without reason, without learning the behaviour and actions from someone else…

It was after school in the courtyard when you and your friend ran up to me and stood in my way as I walked down to meet my mum at her car. “Is that your sister that picks you up?” You knew damn well who it was but politely, I reminded you that it was, in fact, my mum. You giggled and ran back your mum, to report your findings. I remember her looking at me… judging a child for the age of her mother. Catholic school parents… And that’s the first time I heard the word bastard.

You had to end up at the same high school as me, as if I hadn’t endured enough of your negativity. I never had much to do with the popular girls in high school but I’m sure you told them all about me. What you didn’t tell them is that I used to be bright, I was happy and I had potential. I wonder if you let them know about the time you bellowed at me in front of the whole grade 5 class for something I wore on free dress day… probably not.

I hate that I still think about you. I hate that you still occupy space in my head. I am sure you haven’t thought of me since the last time you saw me. I was nothing to you. I was just something you used to kick when you’d walk past, an object to flick stones at when you were bored… I didn’t take up an inch of space in your mind. And I still don’t. So why am I left with your shadow burned into my memory? It doesn’t seem fair that you earned a place in my head forever by destroying my self esteem. I was a nice girl who you teased and isolated until I basically gave up on myself.

I labelled this article “An Open Letter To My First Bully” because you were the one who started it all. You were the Regina George of primary school, if you were mean to me… so was everyone else. And then that followed me through high school, as well. I failed high school because I was too afraid to ask for help, too afraid to join in during class, too afraid to even remotely stand out. After I left school, with zero self esteem, I searched for somewhere to belong. I didn’t find a job but I found drugs. Due to drugs, I ended up in abusive relationships and now I am sitting up writing a blog about you because when I try to pin point how it all went wrong, I keep coming back to you.

I guess I just wanted you to know that…

I had potential before I met you.

Sensory Activities for Energetic Kids

Christmas is so exciting and that’s double true if you have young children. The magic that is Santa Claus, Family and decorating the Christmas Tree will always be a memorable time of the year that your kids will remember for the rest of their lives. But how often have you spent hours racking your brain to come up with a unique present that won’t get pushed to the back of the cupboard by the time Easter comes? I know I have spent countless nights writing lists and scrolling pages trying to find a gift for my eldest daughter, who has little patience for slow toys. My daughter is almost 7 and she has a lot of energy. She also is a very sensory-driven kid so that means lots of mess, lots of mixing and mashing and lots of outdoor activities! I find it extremely hard to keep her entertained for longer than 5 minutes without taking her out to a playground or to a friends house.

During my hunt for the perfect Christmas gift, I came across a few ideas that are a little too late for Christmas gifts this year but nonetheless, I will share with you all for future reference!

1. Home Jungle Gym

This is what I decided on for my little energiser bunny! Practical, multifunctional and something I don’t think she would have dreamed of in a million years. The downside is you will need the space to safely set it up. But the upside is a jungle gym is something that will get used not just for one year – but they will get fun out of this right up until they hit high school.

Junior Jungle Monsoon
Indoor Wooden Play Gym

2. Sandpit

You can’t go wrong with a sandpit! It is a sensory wonderland: sand, water, mixing, making… and you can find some great sandpits with covers, storage space and water tubs for a great price if you look around. Not just hours but years of fun will be had with a sandpit!

Playfort Sandpit With Canopy
Lifespan Kids Strongbox Sandpit

3. Backyard Obstacle Course

A backyard obstacle course could be the answer to your prayers if you have a child with high energy and you are looking for something that will help them burn some of that energy up. You might struggle to find a full set up but it’s such an easy thing to put together yourself, made up of single activities that you can buy on their own from somewhere like Kmart or Decathlon.

Kmart Balance Beams
Bunnings Kids Tent & Tunnel

4. Boxes and Boxes and Boxes

Everyone loves a good ol’ box fort – especially kids! And who wouldn’t love to wake up on Christmas morning and see a mound of boxes waiting for them? I know my kids would! This is a cheap, out-of-the-box (no pun intended) way to keep your little ones preoccupied for a while. In my house, a box obsession lasts longer than a toy obsession!

Officeworks Boxes
How To Build A Box Fort

5. Teepees with Sticks

Depending on the age, capabilities and interests of your children, large/long sticks (or even small branches) are a great way to keep young ones entertained outdoors as well as keeping their mind active. Box forts? Why not stick forts or teepees? This is a great activity for kids who like to get outside and play in nature. *Adult supervision advised.*

How To Build A Stick Teepee

6. Mud Kitchen

Oh, how I wish I knew about these 5 years ago! Mini wooden kitchens with built in sinks for mud and water… it’s like the perfect sensory story. My daughter would have absolutely lived and breathed this when she was younger – she still would. (If only I could find one big enough for her!) The best part is, you can hook the mud kitchen up to your tap so the children get to work on their life skills by turning the taps on and off as well as getting messy!

Lifespan Mud Kitchen
Fruugo Outdoor Mud Kitchen

If you have any other sensory activity ideas to keep the kids entertained for more than a minute, let us know in the comments!

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The Cruel Truth

Trigger Warning: Pregnancy Termination & Pregnancy Loss.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with pregnancy, loss or depression, please seek immediate help from your GP or healthcare professional. There is help out there, you aren’t alone. 🤎

Hyperemesis Gravidarum. You have probably never heard of it, unless you have been affected by it first or second hand. Most women go through their lives never hearing the term because, well, it’s not very talked about. But it is real.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is described as excessive vomiting during pregnancy but that is a very vague description in comparison to what some women go through. Hyperemesis (or HG) is a debilitating condition that prevents the pregnant woman from ingesting food, ingesting water. It effects around 1% of women and when suffering from HG, pregnancy is considered as “high risk”. The severity can range from mild to extreme, with extreme cases being admitted to hospital and in some cases, early induction is needed for the well-being of both mum and baby. The key factors that define HG are weight loss in excess of 5kgs during the first trimester, constant and debilitating nausea, extreme food aversion, extreme dehydration due to excessive vomiting… basically, it makes morning sickness look like a hangover.

I have been pregnant 6 times: I miscarried at 7 weeks when I was 18 , I had a termination when I was 21, I gave birth to my eldest daughter almost 7 years ago, I had another termination a few years later, I then gave birth to my youngest daughter 9 months ago and I recently found out I am pregnant, again. It’s hard to imagine that, at the age of 30, I could have had 6 children right now – ranging in ages from 12 to unborn…… I couldn’t possibly picture myself with so many kids.

Although, every one of these pregnancies was very different in circumstance, they all had one commonality – I was severely ill from the earliest stage possible. It seemed that once I had confirmed my pregnancy with a home test, the sickness would begin and overwhelm me completely. Pregnancy was never beautiful or enjoyable for me. I would look at pregnant women on Instagram and I would sit in bed and cry seeing their beautiful maternity shoots or the lavish baby showers decked out with cakes and treats. I struggled to get out of bed, I struggled to play with my kids, I struggled to go to birthdays and celebrate life because I was constantly nauseous. Pregnancy was, for me, a traumatic and unpleasant means to a beautiful ending.

So in saying that, I waited 6 years between having my daughters and for very good reason – I needed my biggest one to be at least partly self sufficient just to be able to cope with being so sick again. There was so much guilt and so many tears over the 9 months I was barely able to interact with my daughter. She was very understanding but how understanding can a 5 year old really be, right?

Those two pregnancies where I carried to full term almost killed me. They didn’t just physically drain me, my mental health and emotional health was put to the test in ways I never imagined. My two girls are my rewards for putting my body through that kind of trauma. And although, I would have loved a big family, my body just won’t allow it. I’m afraid if I go back again, I won’t make it out the other side and that’s a big risk when you have babies who rely on you. That doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen, though. Just because I said I was done, that doesn’t mean I won’t ever fall pregnant again. Because I can… and I did.

I was on the pill, we used condoms, we tried to be safe but we still fell pregnant. And I became bed-ridden, once again. With now a 9 month old baby and a near 7 year old with excess energy – another baby was a dream best left in my mind. I struggle at the best of times and even though I always saw myself with a big family, it wouldn’t have been a responsible choice given my babies who were already earth-side just wouldn’t be getting the attention they need from their mummy for potentially the next 7 months. I’d already spent the best of the last 3 weeks with my head in the toilet… it was already affecting my ability to parent.

So, I had only one option. My 6th pregnancy became my 3rd surgical termination and preferably my last of both. My mind was sitting uncomfortably somewhere between tubal sterilisation and grieving my ability to create a baby with my body. It’s a cruel condition, HG. Essentially, for me, being pregnant was an allergy; the only answer being taking my chances with it, avoiding it entirely or terminating for the sake of my health and my children. Thoughts like “the ability to carry a child and give birth does not define me as a mother” and “there is a place in the world for women like me” now dancing in my mind. I was now experiencing a whole new genre of trauma: attempting to accept I will never carry another baby, I will never give birth to another baby and our family will never become a family of 5 is going to be harder than I thought…