What My ‘Birth’ Actually Looked Like…

There are very few ‘pretty’ pictures of my first few years as a mum.

Even fewer still are any insta-worthy memories of me and my pram, strolling along the beachfront, new baby tucked in, coffee in hand with a #yolo #mumlife underneath.

Not because I didn’t want to, or because I didn’t try my hardest to be that magazine-perfect image of a mum I’d been sold and completely bought into, but because that version of parenthood wasn’t ever going to exist for me.

We’d just gotten married and had one goal front and centre – to start a family.  I imagined myself skipping along, little cherubs in overalls, collecting flowers and sitting down for Sunday picnics.

Hahahahahahahaha. No.

I’d done what every normal (*cough*) girl does when she decides she wants to have a baby – subscribed to 337 magazines on everything from pregnancy, to birth, parenting, natural parenting, health issues and whatever else I could find. I bought books that covered my 9 months pre-natal all the way up until teen years that covered feeding, sleeping, discipline, milestones, wonder weeks and every possible medical condition I could potential imagine encountering. If my child had a rash or back-chatted me, I was ready for it.  Every single episode of Super Nanny ever recorded had been watched and I was horrified at those people who just couldn’t seem to get it together, it all seemed so obviously simple.

From the outside.

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I went to the doctor at least 9 months prior to our planned conception date (Hello Honeymoon 😉 ) , started my prenatal vitamins, downloaded my ovulation calendar & thermometer, my ‘maybe baby predictor’ where you spit on a little microscope and “if it’s blooming so are you”!

*Note, spitting on a stick just prior to attempting actual baby-making is kind of counter productive*

We attended breastfeeding classes (turns out Phil is a natural, if he’d had the boobs for it), the baby expo, where I purchased every single item that could potentially make my experience as hassle-free as possible, antenatal classes, parenting classes, first aid classes, water birth classes and began squatting in preparation to push that baby out (and…turns out I was a bottle feeding, c-section mama in the end).

I was so SO ready and I totally had this parenting thing down.

Then I became one.

The shock of motherhood, or the ‘birth of a mother’ is something I never knew about until I was there.

There’s my actual birth:

A planned c-section that, although, had dashed my plans for a romanticised ‘natural’ labour,  was thankfully drama free.  I went in, baby came out.  An hour later I was nibbling on sandwiches and drinking lemonade.

And then there was my ‘spiritual one’ where I was hit in the face with the reality of motherhood.  Now, if this rite of passage into motherhood was a physical process for me, it would have looked something like this:

Being rushed along a hospital corridor bleeding out, barely breathing, nurses screaming “we’re losing her!” probably with a fire on some ward and a hostage situation taking place circa 1990’s hospital drama E.R.

Because while the physical birth of my baby was relatively uncomplicated, my start to motherhood was anything but.

Everything that could go wrong did.  Everything I imagined in my mind of what “motherhood” looked like, was the opposite in reality.

The first few weeks were a blur.

My baby cried (screamed). All day. Every day. All night. Every night. For months. And months.  And months.

Crying is pretty much all I did too.

I cried for all my hopes and dreams that were seemingly being shattered with every day that passed. Unrealistic, ambitious and largely unattainable dreams – even for a parent with a baby that did everything they were *meant* to.

Because babies are meant to throw up on you, pee in your face and poop all down your shirt, into your car and into the bath. It’s just not meant to be glossy magazine glam, no matter how much you put fluffy socks onto it.

My turning points and acceptance came slowly. The first was our paediatrician who hugged me and told me that I was doing an amazing job, reminding my to always advocate for my child because if I wouldn’t, who else would? I was his mum, I need to be his voice while he learned to find his own…

…And then she asked me to wait out in the hall (I think she meant a few blocks away) because no-one could hear themselves think with my baby still screaming in the room.

The next revelation was driving home from KMART (that place is just FULL of inspiration). Just randomly I realised that this was MY experience. As difficult as it was, it was still MINE. And I wasn’t about to miss the moments I HAD because I was holding out for some kind of imagined reality.

I decided to just fake it til I made it.  To find joy, even in the most obscure of places, and screw the resentment and regret that I’d kept finding myself lost in.

I decided to take in the tiny moments I did have, really breathe it in, and what was real around me., instead of peering into other people’s insta windows for the moments that I didn’t.

To put it simply, I made a choice to no longer grieve for something that had never existed anywhere except inside my own mind.   The birth, my ‘new parent’ experience and my skewed perception of motherhood all needed to be let go.

I took a second look at the glossy magazines that had fed me images of two-dimensional perfectly dressed mothers with their giggling, smiling (non-screaming) bundles of joy, babies who slept and ate and did everything advertising had told me they should, and I took a breath and decided one last thing.

That no matter how much I was invited to buy into it,

My experience of motherhood was not for sale.

 

School Clutter Clear Out

Today was the last day of school for 2016 for our kids and they return home from a year of learning with all of their ‘stuff’.  So much stuff!

If you ever thought that having a baby created alot of ‘stuff’ in your house, just wait until they’re school age and watch the piles begin to appear.  And grow, and grow.

In approximately 55 days time, they will return again to the classroom with their shiny new piles of ‘stuff’ that you’ll have bought, labelled and laminated.

Crazy as it sounds, my back-to-school prep begins tonight, tackling the piles and jobs that often get put on hold.  Doing it now means that when it’s time to spend nights on end in January labelling socks and covering books, our 2016 ‘stuff’ & clutter is out of the way.

The golden rules to making this work is to:

1) Streamline/double up on your jobs – anything that can be done together at the same time, do it!

2) Touch each item only once.  If you pick it up – deal with it straight away.

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End Of School Clutter Clear Out List

  • Hang their Christmas cards in their rooms (the kids and I will do this tomorrow, tonight I’ve just helped them sort their cards into piles ready to put up with blutak). (10 minutes)
  • Put up the decorations/cards and gifts they’ve bought and made for you.  As well as any awards or Christmas photos they’ve come home with. Each of my kids has a felt pin up board in their room and I’ve simply swapped out and filed some older items from there. (10 minutes)
  • Clean any laminated charts that you need for next year.  Especially the THRASS chart which will be filthy.  A quick spray with eucalyptus & a wipe and it’s ready for next year (2 minutes).
  • Disinfect headphones – a quick wipe with eucalyptus should do the trick.  (1 minute)
  • File all the work you’re going to keep/throw all the work you’re not.  I have a large expanda file for each child and put all their special pictures, drawings and items in there. (At the end of the year/start of next year, I’ll go through it and cull 2016 to keep only what I really want and scan into the computer or throw away the things I don’t.  I find it too hard to do it as it comes in, I never know which pictures are going to be the ones worth keeping until I can compare them all. I also do the same for workbooks, I’ll keep one or two but for now, I put them all into a box to sort at the start of the new year when we can go through and reflect on them). (5 minutes).
  • Copy and laminate any resources that have come home that you’d like to put up in their homework nook.  Such as their names, school logins, alphabets, number charts, left and right reminders.  I copy and re-laminate these because the ones that come home are usually a bit ragged around the edges. (5 minutes).
  • Empty and wash lunch-boxes, lunch cooler bags & school bags (inside & out)  with hot soapy water.  I do this in my kitchen with an Enjo cloth, dishwashing detergent and a towel on the floor.  A quick scrub and they’re now hanging on the washing line to air out overnight. Remove all bag tags as well – Santa has new bag labels for their stockings this year, the ones I’m keeping, I’ve given a quick wipe over to freshen up.   (5-10 minutes) **Streamlining here – I also give my stroller a scrub and remove the seat cover to throw into the washing machine.**
  • Wash all hats, take home bags and library bags.  I throw all of mine into the machine in delicates bags.  My stroller seat is also in the machine with this load. (5 minutes to sort, 5 minutes to hang).
  • Wash or throw out their nap-time cushion (for Kindy/Pre-Primary age). (1 minute)
  • Polish or throw out school shoes.  One pair I’ve kept as they’re only new so I’ve polished them up for next year and the others I’ve thrown straight out as they were just about falling apart.  (1 minute)
  • Read through and scan or file the school reports.  Follow the ‘pick it up only once’ rule.  Don’t forget to celebrate their achievement! (5 minutes)
  • Sort and store their stationary into the cupboard.  Test texta’s, sharpen pencils and throw out anything you don’t need to keep.  (15 minutes)
  • Put away all empty workbooks – these can be sent to school next year or used at home to practice homework. (1 minute)
  • Strip wash school socks. The soap build-up from washing can leave them feeling hard and crunchy, a strip wash 1-2 x per year will get them feeling fresher and softer.  Method – Soak in napisan, launder on a normal wash with regular laundry soap.  This is to remover dirt & stains. Launder once more with a tiny squirt of dishwashing detergent (but NO laundry soap!) and put some vinegar into the rinse dispenser.  Run a rinse cycle 1-2 times to remove the soap build up and dry indoors on a rack to keep their newly returned softness (10 minutes plus time in machine).

Hopefully that helps you clear out the clutter that comes home from school this year a head start into your back-to-school prep for next year.

Let me know if you have any tips or routines you follow to stay on top of the end of year ‘stuff’… I’d love to hear it!

Rebecca xx

How A Cowan Candidate Is Taking On The Terrorists

Election Year 2016 is upon us.

Yet, it feels as if the political turmoil of Labor V Labor, Liberal V Liberal was only yesterday as the parties became somewhat keenly focused on overthrowing their own leaders, leaving everyday Australians like you and I not only election-fatigued but also a bit over the tantrums and turmoil that seemed to be preoccupying Parliament on a daily basis.

What’s different for me this year, and the rest of us in my local electorate, is Labor’s latest high profile contender for the seat of Cowan.

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<image credit: The Australian>

If you’ve not yet heard of Dr Anne Aly or you’re unfamiliar with her work, that’s all about to change over the coming months.

Counting her as a good friend, and knowing her personally for years, I’m in the unique position of being able to give some insight into who Dr Aly really is.

Aside from being a political scholar, academic and counter terrorism expert, she is also:

  • A WA Women’s Hall of Fame inaugural inductee from 2011. It was this chance meeting that sparked the beginning of our friendship which has already spanned half a decade.
  • She’s an Ambassador for the Bali Peace Park Association and one of our most fierce supporters, campaigning for the project at the highest levels of Government.
  • She was the driving force behind Beyond Bali – an educational initiative that both Phil and I are a part of to counter extremism from a grassroots level.
  • She’s the founder of the international organisation PaVE – People Against Violent Extremism.
  • She has coordinated a national mentoring program for young activists to brainstorm and develop counter-messaging to extremist propaganda online.
  • She’s a major political player on the international stage when it comes to finding solutions to the ever-changing face of violent extremism.
  • She’s faced death-threats and intimidation while carrying out her work, yet she has never been one to back down.
  • She’s not only someone who puts her hand up to say “I will”, she actually gets herself out there and gets the job done. Every. Single. Time.

She is an inspiration not only to me, but also to Phil and many others around the world.

She is a game-changer when it comes to Australian Politics.

When the time to vote finally rolls around, each candidate should be counted on his or her merit. Especially when considering who you will be selecting as representative for your local electorate.

What Cowan ultimately needs in Federal Parliament is a voice.

And Dr Aly not only has a voice that will be heard, she has a voice that is to be reckoned with.

Your Child DOES Come With A Set Of Instructions

Have you ever tried to put together Ikea furniture without following the instructions?  I don’t even know if that’s humanely possible.  Even with instructions, it’s frustrating and overwhelming at best.

When it comes to parenting and all the various ‘styles’ that are out there, I believe that as long as you do your very best for your child and commit to really being present with them on your journey together, there’s very little that can go wrong.

Wouldn’t it still be nice though if your child came with instructions that could help you figure it all out? I don’t know why they don’t tell you in the hospitals or in the parenting magazines, but they actually DO!

Perhaps it was so small you missed it when the stork delivered your bundle of joy or it was stuck to the inside of the wrapping, thrown out and left behind when you took baby home.

The fact remains that each and every individual child DOES arrive with an instruction manual to guide his or her parent through.  Shy child? Yep there is a chapter on that.  Difficult baby? – A whole section dedicated in there!  If you’ve got a problem, this manual 100% has a way to guide you through.

Now, before you start googling or getting your credit card out for Amazon… just hold off a minute. You already have a copy imprinted directly on your heart.

When my first child was born, I realised very quickly that he (and therefore, I too, as his mother), didn’t seem to fit in.  Born not quite at peace with the world, it took an incredible amount of soul searching and challenging of everything around me perceived as being ‘right’ to find our path together.

I sought answers from every expert.  Label us, please tell us what’s wrong!  But no amount of expert opinion could give us an answer.  In fact, the very opposite.  They simply reassured me that while our situation was definitely not ‘normal’ (…”the doctor has asked if you could please wait down the hallway with your screaming baby”…) he himself, was perfectly ‘normal’.

So it only left one other possibility to consider.  That it was me.  But while I was trying my hardest, I was still failing dismally and day after day, I would find myself staring desperately at my wailing child, images of sweet lullabies and walks in the sunshine fading further and further away.

One night, a few months in, he finally fell exhausted into one of his beautiful deep sleeps. I remember sitting there, outside his door for a very long time in the silence of the night, weeping until my tears ran dry and feeling emotionally drained.  I just sat there silent. And it was in that silence that I crawled back into his room, looked at my sleeping child and simply whispered to him “I’ve got this kiddo”.

I found renewed strength, took a sledgehammer to the images in my mind, in my heart, of what my child was supposed to be like, how it was supposed to feel and what society said he was supposed to do and I gave both of us a clean slate with no expectations.

Fiercely protective and burnt out from judgement being passed on a daily basis, I decided from then on to start walking to the beat of my own drum and the beat of my own heart.

I became responsive, instead of reactive.  I tuned into his world and was respectful of his individual needs, as opposed to what others wanted from him.  I found joy in his individuality, instead of despair.  I searched for him.  And I found him.

And in doing so, he and I began to thrive.  It didn’t become easier, in fact, it became harder. But I had answers.  I had confidence.  And I had trust.

Society at large often didn’t agree however.  More and more judgement was passed our way.  I cannot tell you how many times I heard through the grapevine or worse, overhead them myself, that I was doing it wrong.  That by not pushing him harder, or being tougher on him that I was only going to create bigger problems further down the track.

But tonight, as I yet again watched my happy, kind-hearted and well-adjusted child move confidently outside of his comfort zone, I give thanks for those early days that forced me to look deep within and learn to ignore societies expectations. And for helping me discover and open the instruction manual for my child that I so desperately needed to find.

If you ever feel lost or overwhelmed, just pause.  Quieten the world around you, open your heart and find the instructions that are sitting there waiting for you.  No-one knows your child like you do.  If it feels wrong, it is.  You’re born with that instinct, an unconscious connection between your heart and theirs.

It’s quite simply just parenting by heart.

And always remember… You’ve got this kiddo.

The Guaranteed Way To End Mealtime Battles FOREVER

Almost every family has no doubt experienced it.  The dreaded mealtime encounter of “I don’t like it, I’m not eating it”, followed by the battle of wills, pleading, bargaining, commanding, then onto the endless hours of googling and pulling your hair out trying to find a way to please everyone’s individual mealtime preferences.

If you’re exhausted just reading that, no doubt you’re exhausted living it!

There is a way to end that problem once and for all.  And it’s not a magic recipe.  A special way of cutting or presenting food (though that never hurts!) or a ‘formula’ to follow to create willing palates.

Far simpler than any of that.  You just have to make a choice not to get drawn into the battle.  Just make a choice not to argue about it.  Plain and simple.  The battle is over before it begins.

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Food is one of the greatest pleasures in my life and it’s something I believe is incredibly important to pass onto my children.  A love of and an understanding of good nutrition and a healthy relationship with their food is a priority on my parenting journey.

Of course my kids try it on.  They tantrum and experiment with their likes and dislikes, just like everyone else out there.

I just make a choice, plain and simple, that I’m not going to turn it into a battle.  And far quicker than you think, kids very quickly get the message.

I am far too busy working and caring for all three of my kids to stress myself out about what to cook every night that will please everyone.  I’m far too appreciative of a varied diet to succumb to only having spaghetti bolognese seven days in a row. And I’m far too conscious of the importance of good food to allow them to survive on a diet of junk.

Our Family Mealtime Rules

  1. Parents provide, children decide.
  2. I provide healthy, nutritious options, my children can decide how much they eat from what’s served up.  And sometimes that means nothing.
  3. There is no replacement option.
  4. The kids are actively involved in making choices about the food we eat.   It’s not about control, it’s about being efficient and providing boundaries for a healthy diet.
  5. I take into account our family preferences and create family-friendly healthy options.  No fancy cuisine in this house, just simple, good food that the ‘majority’ of the time, is readily accepted.
  6. Treats are totally fine, I just don’t have them in the house.  They are very much a ‘sometimes’ food.  We ‘crowd out’ the cravings with healthy food, so that when it comes to the more indulgent items, it’s no big deal.
  7. We discuss what good food is and how good food makes you feel.  We also discuss why they may feel ‘not so great’ after eating not-so-great foods.
  8. There are no strings attached to a meal.  Food is there to nourish your body.  It’s not a bribe, a punishment or a ‘you can xzy if you eat…’
  9. We encourage playfulness with food.  Don’t want to eat it? That’s fine. But bet you can’t kiss it!  Bet you can’t lick it! What – you did!  WOW!
  10. Variety is the spice of life.  I offer a lot of options, regardless of whether or not they ‘like it’.  Children often need to see food many times over before they will be ready to try it.  It took me three years of regularly serving up carrots to get my eldest to try them.
  11. We don’t say ‘doesn’t like’.  We simply say ‘choosing not to eat that today’.  A food being rejected a few times, followed by the frequent labelling of a ‘fussy child’ and a consistent validation of ‘doesn’t like, doesn’t like” can end up with you creating your child’s own truth!
  12. Children’s appetites are incredibly varied.  Especially during the toddler years.  Be aware of growth spurts and energy needs.  Your child may need more frequent, smaller meals at a younger age than a traditional three meals and two snacks per day.
  13. When considering how much to serve up, halve what you think you should put on the plate.  Then halve it again.  This will save food being ‘wasted’ and avoid your young child feeling overwhelmed at the sight of a large meal.  You can always give more if it’s readily accepted.

It’s not easy.  But having a firm boundary around mealtimes and not allowing yourself to get sucked into mealtime ‘battles’ can make a huge difference, not only to your families diet, but also your sanity and sense of happiness.

My kids are great eaters.  But still, they dig their heels in every now and then and more than once have gone to bed with an empty, rumbling tummy.

But I give them a hug, remind them of the choices they made them which created that hunger and reassure them that there will be a yummy, nutritious breakfast waiting for them in the morning.

And I pause, reflect and give thanks for the fact that my children are so blessed in this life to be able to experience hunger, while never having to truly fear it.

I can’t promise you that this strategy will get your little one to start becoming more adventurous with their diet, but I can promise you that by choosing not to enter into a battle with them about it will result in a far happier, less-stressed you.

If you’re worried about any aspect of your child’s diet or their relationship with food, please don’t hesitate to seek expert help.  There are a number of dedicated nutritionists and child health experts who can help guide you and your family back towards the path of good health.

Body After Baby: The ‘Miracle’ Product Every Pregnant Woman Needs To Know About

“I’m pregnant!!!!” First comes the big announcement

Then comes the apparent fact that you can kiss your waist, breasts and “lady bits” goodbye.

Perhaps for me, it was because I’d spent the last decade working part time as a model, perhaps it was the well meaning, yet overly terrifying images that people unintentionally imprinted into my imagination, or perhaps it was the fact that my mother had lamented on an almost daily basis about the mummy tummy gifted to her by yours truly.

Whatever it was, as soon as we had our “Let’s start a family” conversation, I raced out to research every possible way that I could support myself throughout pregnancy and beyond.

What I found straight away was two definitive answers:

  • That no matter what, your body will permanently change in some way, shape or form. Feet can even go up by an entire shoe size.   Or two (“Yes, Darling… I need ANOTHER new pair of shoes. Not my fault, my feet are bigger after bearing your children…”).
  • That every single woman has an individual divine design that will dictate their own unique size, shape and body type.

Being healthy, fit and supporting my own body shape, became my priority as well as minimizing any damage that could result from the incredible physical feat I was about to embark on.

No different to applying sunscreen every day to prevent premature ageing of the skin, I decided that prevention would be much better than cure and so I focused on products and healthy habits that could assist me this outcome.

My first discovery was the SRC Recovery Shorts. If you know me, and you’ve told me you’re pregnant, you no doubt have heard me go on, and on, and on, and on (and on!) about these shorts.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a pretty confident statement that I believe 100% that these shorts are the reason the waist I was born with and enjoyed in my early 20’s is a very close cousin of the waist I have now in my 30’s after bearing three gorgeous babies.

I also have no doubt that it has the potential to manifest further back into a slightly more mature-looking identical twin sister once I manage to start hitting the gym again.

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Pre-Baby On Board                  Two Weeks Post Baby 1         Back Shooting In Studio

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Six Days Post Baby 2      36 Weeks Along With Baby 3    Three Weeks Post Baby 3

In the three post baby photos, I was right in the middle of wearing my SRC shorts.   During this time, I literally watched my stomach go from swollen and unbelievably stretched back to a place of normalcy by being supported and protected during it’s most vulnerable phase of metamorphosis.

The theory behind the shorts wasn’t rocket science, in fact, it was simply a better designed, packaged and convenient way of centuries old belly binding.

The SRC Recovery shorts are a medical compression garment designed to be worn for the first 8 – 10 weeks post pregnancy, for as many hours as comfortable (both night and day) for best results.

For the first few weeks after having a baby, you will still be losing fluid and research has shown that providing support to a wound or swollen area can reduce swelling, pain and aid healing.

The SRC Recovery shorts also allow greater core stability, supporting your abdominal muscles, caesarean wound and/or perineum.

Think of it like this… for 9 months, you’ve slowly grown a watermelon inside of your stomach. It’s being held up there in an insane, gravity defying way, then the next minute, the watermelon is out and everything has nowhere to go but back down to earth. You want to guide that previous watermelon residence back down to earth gently with a scientifically-proven support crew in place.

I began wearing my shorts the moment I was up and out of bed and I wore them 24/7 for 6 weeks or more post partum. I also had a piece of medical tubing that I would use when my shorts were being washed, dried and I put them straight back on again.    And the results were nothing short of amazing.

By the time Ava was born (2013), the market seemed to have a few more products on offer. I did try some of them out but I found that the level of support and the results were nothing like what I was seeing with my SRC Recovery Shorts. They’d proven to work twice before and I was not going to take my chances third time around.

Yes, it was at times irritating to have to wear them 24/7 in the middle of a hot Australian summer but seeing my stomach defy THREE TIMES what I had been lead to believe was the inevitable, was more than enough incentive for me.

A word of warning however: If you are going to do it, spend money on a product and put your faith in it, you MUST follow through on the recommended instructions. Wearing intermittently, wearing for a short time, not starting them early enough, using a product that has been worn for multiple pregnancies and/or not cared for according to instructions may not give the same results.

Another cautionary note: This product is a support garment, not a weight loss product. It has the capacity to support your mid-section and return you to a great point to restart your post baby fitness goals, and while I can only describe my results as ‘miraculous’, it’s not going to give anyone a waist, butt or thighs that they weren’t born with or that they didn’t work hard for.

Even if a flat tummy is not high on your list of priorities, there is a huge amount of research to show why post partum belly binding is something to still consider for health and wellbeing reasons.

SRC Health has a range of products to support women in pregnancy and beyond. Their original Australian designs meet the needs of a new mum and the rest of the family. More information on their unique, patented designs, sizing guide and online shop can be found here: http://www.srchealth.com

The Moment My Life Changed Forever, My Life, My Choice, My Future.

Hand on the bible, I took the oath “I swear that the evidence I shall give, shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God”.

I swallowed and stared directly at who was first to question me on the stand. I couldn’t bring myself to look around the courtroom, terrified of the familiar faces I would see and what they were about to hear.

My hands woven together tightly in my lap, having hot flushes and starting to sweat down my back, I clenched my stomach and commanded the nausea to stop.

Taking a deep breath, I reached out with shaking hands and took my statement as it was offered to me. I was instructed to read it out loud to the court.

Wanting to run, wanting desperately to hide, to be anywhere but there, I simply focused myself on the task at hand.

Word by word. Sentence by sentence. Recounting the abuse I had endured for almost two years. Every humiliating detail played out for all to hear, every instance of systematic degradation vibrating down the microphone, bouncing off the walls of the packed but otherwise silent courtroom.

My statement was finished yet my anxiety continued to grow.

Then came the witness examination. Though I told the truth, I could feel their frustration as they wanted me to confirm their assumptions based on my experiences but I couldn’t. I wasn’t there to help them. Or him. I was only there because I had to be. And all I had to say was the truth of what had happened. Though how it applied to this case, I had no idea.

The day after I arrived home from my honeymoon, I was subpoenaed. Told I would need to be in Court and as the day drew near, the media hype surrounding the case grew.

Day by day it was played out on the TV, morning after morning, front page news. My dread continued to grow.

The fact that I had been granted a witness suppression order stopping my evidence being made public gave little comfort for what I had to go through, however, I was eternally grateful that the intimate details of what had played out in the years before I was married could remain, for the best part, confidential.

Except of course, that is, for the seemingly endless number of faces staring back at me in the Court.

After what felt like an eternity I was excused. I lifted my head high, stared straight ahead and walked out with as much dignity as I could muster, despite feeling as if I had been stripped bare for all to see.

Domestic Violence. “Oh it wasn’t that bad” “You could have left” “There’s always two sides to every story”… the stereotypes and misguided assumptions are everywhere when it comes to this topic.

But did you know that more than a million women have experienced an assault at the hands of their partner in Australia alone? That even still, 64% of women who experience physical assault and 81% of those who experience sexual assault at the hands of a partner do not report it? That the WHO describes the levels of violence against the world’s women as being of ‘epidemic proportions’ requiring urgent action?

Hit across the face, lifted by my throat and slammed into the wall, kicked, smothered, degraded, humiliated and insulted, I lived every day in hell. Cut off from the rest of the world, slowly, methodically until I was at the point where I felt totally dependent on him, suicide games used to keep me on edge and confused, terrified to leave for what he would do, instead of running, I tried to ‘save him’ to secure my freedom.

“People keep telling me that I look different, but there is nothing I’ve changed. I know why though. It’s my eyes. They say your eyes are the window to your soul and I no longer have one. I am empty, alone and dead inside, I now just go through ever day waiting for the rest of my body to catch up”. This is part of a letter I wrote myself, or for anyone who might find it one day, I don’t know. I just had to write. I read it back to myself with disbelief that I was the girl who could utter those words.

Four years later, happily married, yet I was having to relive something I thought I had left long ago in my past.

My testimony done, I fled to the car with my Dad behind me, ready to begin the long journey home. Three hours to be exact. And even though it was over, my body still felt exhausted, ill, from head to toe. I closed my eyes and drifted off, just wanting to wake up tomorrow and start again now that this was all over.

Later that night I sat crumpled on the bathroom floor, utterly exhausted and drained. It felt like an eternity that I sat there as the minutes ticked slowly by.

Eventually, I knew it was time to get up. Time to pull myself together and face whatever lay ahead. Slowly I got to my feet and looked deeply into the mirror. Searching every line, every tear stained blemish on my puffy cheeks for some kind of reassurance.

I looked back down again, a slow, determined smile creeping across my face and stepped over the crumpled shadow of a girl that I was leaving behind on the floor.

Purposefully and with new hope, I allowed myself to believe again. Believe in joy, in love and the possibility that life would now be just as I wanted it to be.

Because despite the fact that I had felt tossed around relentlessly from wave to wave, through a dark tumultuous night that had lasted so many years, here in my hand I had the proof, the motivation that life from here on would be my choice.
I would live it my way, on my terms and create my own future. This was my moment, my defining point where I stopped, held up my hand and decided I would never again be that girl.

Because that’s not who I really was. It’s only who I though I had to be. Who I had been groomed to be.

I was Rebecca. Wife, fighter, dreamer, believer.

And now also a mother.

I tucked the small strip with two very definite positive lines back into my pocket and went out to wait for my husband to come home.

Life for me, had simply now, just begun.

I was whole, I was complete, and I was free.

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