After a massive two years I feel the time has come to finally exhale and return to my first true love (other than my family of course), my writing. So, a big hello to anyone who is reading this. It feels good to be back. 

So where have I been exactly?

The past 24 months have been a wild ride comprising of studying, completing my degree, home-schooling due to COVID lockdown (wasn’t that fun?!), and then desperately trying to destress post study.

Then the secret heartbreak of fertility struggles… Sounds a bit much doesn’t it! Well, it was most of the time, but I am coming out the other side and can honestly say thank fuck that part of my life is over…

I am elated, relieved, and proud that I got through my degree, even when it felt like I was hanging on by a thread towards the end. I had been studying on and off for the past decade and the deadline to complete my degree was fast approaching. Ten years does sound like a long time, but when you’re moving around the east coast of Australia and collecting children along the way time can creep away from you. And it did.

The last slog was tough. Staying up late to finish assignments only to wake up early to get my kids ready for school, do the school run and look after my pre-schooler was hectic. I got through it (barely) and I’m proud of that. But my sleep was terrible during that last six months and took until the end of 2020 to get it back into a fairly good routine. 

“I always imagined a feeling of elation on that glorious day  when I handed in my final assignment…Oh, how wrong I was.”

Looking back in relief, I can’t believe the impact stress had on my  body. My nervous system went into overdrive and affected not only my sleep but also my ability to deal with life in a rational way. I felt I was in a constant state of high alert; instead of getting a little annoyed when something didn’t happen the way I wanted it to I would become hypersensitive and anxious. I even had to see a psychologist to help me deal with my post-study comedown. She likened it to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because the pressure of finishing a degree made my stress and anxiety levels skyrocket. 

Luckily she gave me some tools to help me switch off and retrain my brain into not worrying about things at bedtime. And this is the time when anxious thoughts would creep into my head, like ‘Am I going to get this assignment done in time? Did I spend enough time with the kids today? Did they wear clean clothes to school?’.

Bedtime became my enemy #1.

I always imagined a feeling of elation on that glorious day  when I handed in my final assignment. Fireworks would burst across the sky and I would actually feel the weight of endless assignments and study brain lift off my shoulders. Life would return to normal. Oh, how wrong I was. It has taken up until now to feel human again and I will NEVER take sleep for granted again. I even promised David I would never study another degree. My health, and our marriage, wouldn’t survive!

But do you know that most annoying part of it all? The graduation ceremony was postponed until February this year due to the COVID situation, so I had to prolong the celebrations a little longer. It was so worth the wait though. David and the kids watched as I took to the stage to officially receive my Bachelor of Communications degree; finally it felt like I had achieved what I had been working towards for the last decade. 

I’m pretty sure I was the only graduate to take a decade to finish! It may be embarrassing to some, but I am so damn proud. And I think it’s great to show my kids that I have my own identity and interests too. 

Luckily the last 18+ months hasn’t all just been about university and trying to destress from it. There have been some beautiful moments too. Home-schooling my kids gave me a chance to reconnect with them on a level that is often lost when we are in the usual cycle of school drop offs, pickups, after school engagements, and needing a little time out after all that running around. There was nowhere to go, nowhere we had to be, and it was liberating. 

The pressure of being a chauffeur was lifted. I got to just be in the moment with them and it was beautiful. We built a chicken coup, put together a new trampoline and planted a herb garden. I also loved being part of my kids learning experience. I didn’t have to do that much though – our school was amazing and was pretty quick to come up with a parent friendly home learning schedule

To be fair it wasn’t always rainbows and confetti. There were days when I wanted to claw my eyeballs out but instead  I would send the kids for some time out on the trampoline or we’d go walking along the beach. But we got through it and bonded throughout the experience… and so did hubby and I.

At the start of lockdown I was sleep deprived, coming down from study stress and hypersensitive. Hubby was burnt out and had nothing left in the tank for our relationship. Either did I, but I wanted that to change. So, we argued for several weeks to the point where I threatened to separate because I needed change.

I wanted him to give me more attention, focus on work less, and to see me as a person – not just the mother to his children. My life had been consumed with getting through study while parenting, and now that phase was over I wanted life to return to normal. STAT!!! 

“Chaos is so widely accepted in our lives and almost revered in a way. If we are busy then we are doing enough to make our lives meaningful, right?”

After almost a month of our relationship being on the rocks we reached a turning point; for the first time in a while we were connecting and felt like an actual team again. I was so relieved to feel the warmth back in our relationship instead of it just being like a business transaction. Things were starting to look up. And while that period was sad I feel it only made us stronger.

But after talking to other women about their experience during lockdown and 2020 in general I realised we weren’t an isolated case. It forced a lot of us to navigate life from a different perspective. Chaos is so widely accepted in our lives and almost revered in a way. If we are busy then we are doing enough to make our lives meaningful, right?!

That’s what I thought, but being forced to pair back helped to reset my internal compass. I didn’t want to be overextended anymore and I started to realise that cramming as much into our days doesn’t mean we are more fulfilled. This scaling down reminded me that quality experiences over quantity is key. 

But lockdown also tested people in other ways. It forced them to reassess their careers, tested their relationships, and also gave people a chance to take stock of their lives and what was really important to them.

For my husband and I, adding one more baby to our tribe was something we had wanted for more than three years. Having been blessed in the past to fall pregnant with ease I never expected to have trouble this time around.

I managed to fall pregnant in 2018 but sadly that ended in a miscarriage. It took me a while to get over that, and then no luck falling pregnant again. So, in June last year we found an amazing fertility specialist and started the whole IVF process for one last shot at #5. And in November we were lucky enough to fall pregnant after three embryo transfers! The whole IVF experience was emotional and deserves the respect of a seperate post which I’ll upload soon.

I am so happy to be back and to have last year behind me. Like many people I too felt 2020 was a test. A test of perseverance, a test of inner strength, a test on relationships, and a chance to reassess career paths and priorities. 

Right now I feel a little like the phoenix stumbling from the ashes… It’s time to dust myself off and kick what’s left of 2021 in the nuts. I was so happy to break  up with 2020 and there was no better song to sum up my mood going into the new year than Lorde’s Green Light.  

Does anyone else feel the same? How was 2020 for you? How did you survive lockdown? I’d love to hear some stories.

Your very relieved friend, and parenting peer

Cherie x