I’m laying on the beach at Scarborough, Western Australia typing this on my iPhone. That statement in itself should tell you how blessed I am. 2016 has been a tough year for many people I love, but for the first time in as long as I can remember, I am not one who struggled through the year that has been. I entered 2016 already ahead in excitement, 2 and a half months pregnant with our first child. I had all my life dreamed of having children, but life with type 1 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome and other health issues did not set me up for an easy road to motherhood. We were blessed to fall on our first attempt, and I was especially blessed with an uncomplicated first trimester. No morning sickness, generally feeling well and had tight control of my diabetes.
2016 was the year we were going to become parents to a beautiful little boy and I couldn’t wait.
I enjoyed my pregnancy immensely, despite commuting in the heat of summer and finding it quite anxiety inducing thanks to Metro’s best efforts to delay my journeys as much as possible. Every day I would enjoy for the first time seeing myself through new eyes. Where I had previously loathed my stomach and wished it smaller, (it was never flat) I began to marvel at its ever expanding size, enjoying the growing bump and all the little jumps inside it. I stopped looking in the mirror and sucking my stomach in; wishing for a different body, and started loving it for exactly what it was: a perfect place to grow a human life.
Gone were the days I looked at myself and groaned. I now looked in the mirror and saw myself with pride – as a fearfully and wonderfully made woman growing into a mother with every passing day. I enjoyed the looks of strangers who noticed I was pregnant instead of dreading if they were wondering if I was, or if I just had a pot belly.
March arrived, and Stu and I headed to Perth to have our last holiday together alone. Two days before we flew out we were presented with the sad news that Stu’s Mum Julie was given a few weeks to live. The cancer in her liver combined with an infection was shutting her body down. Uncertain as to what we should do, we trusted God and got on the plane. We had a baby shower planned and were unsure of what would happen. The day after we arrived in Perth, Julie passed and the next week was a stressful blur for Stu trying to work out if he should fly back straight away or closer to the funeral. It was also Easter weekend and flights were impossibly expensive. Instead of rushing back to sit around for a week, we took a brief trip down to our favourite beachside destination in Geographe Bay and then took Stu to the airport so he could get home in time for the funeral.
Julie was a remarkable woman and I am ever grateful for the son she created. He is an amazing man and I am lucky to be married to him.
April arrived and my plans to work until 33 weeks were put on hold with the arrival of preeclampsia, a high-risk pregnancy illness that elevates the blood pressure to dangerous levels, placing strain on the baby’s heart. I began my maternity leave at 30 weeks, 8 weeks before my suggested term c-section, entering into twice-weekly day stays at the hospital to monitor baby Skywalker’s little heart. As if the swelling and stress wasn’t enough, we moved house 4 days before I was admitted to hospital, and 6 days before we welcomed our son into this beautiful world. I spent 5 days in the complex care ward under constant monitoring and plugged into a number of lines.
It was worth it though, as on May 19th at 9:37am our entire world changed for the better. Samuel Jasper Walker was born at 33 weeks and 6 days by emergency c-section, and my heart felt as full as it could possibly be. He spent nearly 3 weeks in the special care nursery due to being so premature and I spent 11 days recovering from eclampsia symptoms and migraines so bad only morphine could provide relief. I was in a bubble; a beautiful oxytocin bubble of joy, bliss, peace and love I could never adequately describe for my son and husband. I existed on the fine edge of a new mother’s emotions, surging with the power and fury of a hurricane at the edges of perfect calm.
We brought Sam home and spent the 6 weeks together, courtesy of Stu having enough carers leave to take the time off to help me as I recovered from the C sec.
Then came the challenging part. The pregnancy, the preeclampsia, the emergency surgery, the delivery and recovery all pales in comparison to the learning curve that is parenting for the first time. I had to learn a lot and quickly, and alone, with no family to support us in Melbourne. It has been a joyful, exhausting, overwhelming experience for me, but with every day that passes, no matter how challenging, my heart continues to expand to volumes I didn’t know I had the capacity to feel. Some days it might burst, like the first time I heard Sam laugh, or in the morning when he smiles at me as if I am the whole universe.
I never thought putting my own needs and myself after someone else could feel so fulfilling. I never dreamed having someone in my space all day every day could make me so happy. I didn’t know I was capable of this kind of love. It is, quite simply, still blowing me away.
It’s been 5 years since Kristian passed away on Monday. I like to think he would be proud of me and my life these days. I’ve found who I am and exactly where I belong being Sam’s mum and Stu’s wife, and most importantly, being me. It hasn’t been an “easy” year, but damned if it’s not been the greatest one of my entire life.
So as we close out 2016, I am thankful beyond words. For my blessings, for my challenges, for my husband, for my family, for my son. For my life.
Thank you, 2016, for the lessons you’ve taught me and the things I’ve gained this year. You were one that will go down in my history as the most life changing yet.
Happy New Year to you.