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As Australia’s cosmetic surgery rates surpass America’s, our obsession with social media and the current COVID-19 pandemic creates a minefield for those who struggle with disordered eating and body image issues.

 So far, 2020 has been a lot to process. In what will most likely be a once-in-a-lifetime historical event, the world has been totally affected by COVID-19 – a virus which has so far killed more than 264,000 people.

As Australia combats this, most of us have found ourselves on leave, unemployed or working from home. As the lockdowns have progressed many businesses have shut down and the nation’s gyms have not been immune.

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of content online focused on exercising from home, especially on Instagram, which has become flooded with posts about ‘body goals’, losing weight and becoming ‘healthier’ in quarantine.

The COVID-19 pandemic offers numerous triggers for those who are struggling with an eating disorder or those with distorted body image and low self-esteem.

“We understand that the prevalent discussions around stock-piling food, increased hygiene measures, food shortages and lock-ins can be incredibly distressing and triggering for people experiencing disordered eating or an eating disorder,” states The Butterfly Foundation in relation to COVID-19. 

When you combine these triggers with an increase in spare time to spend scrolling social media, such as Instagram, this can create the Perfect Storm.

Instagram and its tribe of entrepreneurs and models is no stranger to criticism from body positivity advocates, largely because the app is focused on images, a majority of which are highly edited. The concept of Instagram is the ideal social media app- share images and see images of your family and friends – plus your favourite celebrities, bridging the gap between fan and friend.

Instagram launched in 2010 and had 1 million users within two months, it has since been purchased by Facebook and become one of the largest social media platforms in the world.

The New Yorker journalist Jia Tolentino has talked extensively concerning the phenomenon of Instagram models, and their strikingly similar looks in ‘The Age of the Instagram Face’. 

She writes, “The gradual emergence, among professionally beautiful women, of a single, cyborgian face. It’s a young face, of course, with pore-less skin and plump, high cheekbones. It has catlike eyes and long, cartoonish lashes; it has a small, neat nose and full, lush lips.”

The commodification of women was once selling the products to make us beautiful, but as ‘Instagram Face’ rises and social media continues to excel, cosmetic surgery becomes more commonplace than it ever has been before.

Presently Australia’s cosmetic surgery numbers have surpassed America’s; in 2017 Australian’s spent more than 1 billion dollars on plastic surgery, surpassing America’s procedures per capita numbers, a feat considering America is often considered the ground zero for enhanced beauty.

Since when did this new prototype of a woman, a mish-mashed version, a high light reel built to bend over; a tiny waist, big lips, no blemishes- become the new standard of beauty, and how achievable is this?

Claire Finkelstein has been a clinical psychologist for fifteen years and is co-founder and co-director at Nourish.Nurture.Thrive, a multidisciplinary practise based in Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula that specialises in helping young people who struggle with eating disorders and body image.

Claire and fellow clinical psychologist, Ainsley Hudgson, started Nourish.Nurture.Thrive after years working in the public health system and seeing how overwhelmed it had become with a “growing population with eating disorder concerns,” says Claire.

Isolation, quarantine and an increase in social media can be very triggering for not only those who struggle with eating disorders but anyone who finds themselves feeling out of control in this stressful time.

“Everybody is showing their exercise routines at the moment, everybody is making those jokes about putting on weight during lockdown and I think it’s just incredibly triggering even for people with a fairly robust sense of self-confidence and body image but particularly for people who are in the eating disorder space,” says Claire.

The showing of exercise routines is found on Instagram amongst other social media, promoting diet culture.

Diet culture is defined as a system of beliefs that worship thinness and oppress people who don’t meet this beauty standard and idea of health. The one underlying fact for nearly all diets and wellbeing programs is that thin is best, demonizing certain food groups and body types, all while promoting the most important idea of them all; if you weren’t so lazy you’d have the body of your dreams.

“It feels like you can control your weight, so in a time when you feel out of control you try and control your weight and what we know is that your weight is biologically determined within a set point and that’s one of the difficulties – all these messages around ‘this is something we can do’ and if you’re not doing it successfully you’re inadequate and that is such a damaging, damaging story that is part of diet culture,” says Claire.

The infamous ‘beauty is pain’ mantra handed down to young girls from their mothers has a whole new meaning, the pain having grown from a waxing strip full of pubic hair to a surgery scar or a vigorous training regime.

Earlier this year glamour magazine Girls Girls Girls collaborated with Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon to create a video titled ‘Be a Lady they said’. The piece included various clips from movies, news, and glamour shots to tell the story of the myriad of requests and expectations women are meant to be adhering to, ironically the women featured in the video are beautiful, thin and passive.

One of the most impactful lines reads,

‘Be a size zero, be a double zero, be nothing, be less than nothing.’

Cynthia Nixon spits these words at the screen as it turns dark and the sound of someone’s heart flatlining takes up the darkness. It is powerful commentary on the notions behind our desires for female perfection and the gruesome control it creates.

As Naomi Wolf states in her classic, The Beauty Myth, published in 1990, obsession with beauty and thinness is a form of control and oppression.

“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one,” says Wolf.

The US health and weight loss industry is worth an estimated $72 billion and Australians are estimated to spend $452.5 million on weight-loss counselling services (and the low-calorie foods and dietary supplements that go with it) in 2019-2020.

These figures show what has been in the shadows all along – this business is big money built off the back of diet culture. A truth hid underneath the bright lights of Instagram, the ‘life updates’ and the relatable posts – the influencers who make you feel like a family, like you could look like them if you had the grit – when you’re just a customer.

 Resources and coping mechanisms

For those who are spending a lot of time online and feel triggered by the change in routine, there are ways to seek help, guidance and support.

The Butterfly Foundation suggests that stretching, light exercise, talking to a loved one, drawing, being creative and mindfulness techniques can help you support your health and wellbeing during this crisis and stop negative body thoughts.

Their Helpline is also open on webchat, email or phone from 8am-midnight, 7 days a week.

Claire Finkelstein from Nourish.Nurture.Thrive admits boycotting social media is unrealistic, especially as it is one of our main sources for communicating with the outside world, however, she does recommend an ‘audit’ of who you follow.

“Use social media to connect rather than compare, use it to engage with people who are important to you, who you feel supported by, who give you a laugh who make you smile, who make you more connected and less alone and try to engage less with social media that leaves you feeling terrible afterwards,” says Claire.

Unfollowing accounts that make you feel inadequate or leave you feeling unhappy and starting to follow body positive accounts instead can stop that downward spiral of self-loathing many of us find triggered by social media.

“Research shows if you have a diverse imagery, diverse bodies, diverse beauty, or other images like architecture, animals or whatever makes you feel good – that that can really dilute the impact, the negative impact of imagery that doesn’t make you feel good,” says Claire.

Below are resources for those who need help.

The Butterfly Foundation:

T: 1800 33 4673

W: https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/

Beyond Blue:

T: 1300 22 4636

W: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/national-help-lines-and-websites

Lisa lets it out, “I hate kids Birthday Parties”. With mounting pressure to keep up with escalating extravagance for children’s birthday parties.

she decides to make a bold stand and opt out of Birthday parties in favour of mum-daughter holidays. I’m going to share a fact with you right now that might result in you spitting out whatever hot beverage you’re consuming or cause you to want to throw a heavy object at a picture of my head, so my advice would be to stop drinking immediately and move away from all objects not connected to the floor or plugged into an electrical socket.

This fact is humiliating to admit and it’s a game changer in terms of parenting. Good, loving, decent mothers shouldn’t feel this way. But I do. And I want to get it off my chest because I’ve kept it inside for too long. The fact is, I hate children’s birthday parties. Yes. You read correctly. I hate them. Including the birthday parties of my own child. I don’t want to have them and I get absolutely no joy out of attending them.

 

“I am a busy working mum who still loathes the thought of organising a child’s birthday party.”

Let me go so far as to say that I cringe at the thought of year, after year, after bloody year, having to come up with a plethora of brilliant, new, innovative ideas so that my child can have a better party than Sally up the road, because hers was a circus theme with proper clown machines where you can stick balls into their mouths and all the kids ate fairy floss and toffee apples and would you believe that her mother hired ponies for the kids to ride on the front lawn and it gets better because Tinkerbell herself flew all the way from Pixie Hollow just to say hello as she is great friends with Sally’s mum. Oh please. Give me a break. Without a party planner I cannot afford and a thousand helpers I can’t pay on the day, I’m not going to be able to top Sally’s party EVER.

But I’m not ignorant to the pressures on kids these days to fit in with their peer groups and to be able to talk about awesome experiences their parents have bestowed upon them.

So I’ve worked out my modus operandi to explain to my precious child for years to come why this is the case and why she is never, ever, going to have a fantastic birthday party like Sally. I’m going to lie. Well ok. If that sounds too harsh let’s say I’ll stretch the truth.

I’m going to tell Bells (my three year old) that mummies only have a certain amount of money for one special thing every year, and Sally’s mummy uses her money to hire ponies that hate being ridden by annoying children who grab them by the hair and kick them in the ribs so they go home and cry. Hopefully she will see the error of Sally’s mother’s ways and ask what special thing we will do for the year. Which will be my cue to explain that we do a much more special thing than Sally’s diabetes-enabling, pony-abusing, mother because I take us both to Bali where we swim for hours in the pool and Mummy drinks Daiquiris which make her relaxed and fun and, really Bells, if you had to choose would you prefer a happy mummy or diabetes in later life?

Yep. I reckon I’m on a winner with that one. Sally’s mum is probably having a nervous breakdown from the stresses of organising a small child’s birthday party of epic proportions while I am sitting on my couch googling Bali Villas and thinking about how many Christmas presents I can buy in one Balinese DVD store. What can I say? I’m super practical.

But I’m not ignorant to the pressures on kids these days to fit in with their peer groups and to be able to talk about awesome experiences their parents have bestowed upon them.

I’m sharing all of this with you because my daughter turned three in October. I can recall like it was yesterday being asked to feature on the cover of the inaugural Offspring magazine when she was only a few months old. But I can honestly say that back then, I wasn’t sure I should do it.

I was just easing into my breakfast show on 92.9 and by easing I mean struggling. Being up from 3.30am whilst breastfeeding and thinking of strategies to get inside Lady Gaga’s hotel room are a lot to deal with, and I felt quite alone as I’m not the type of person to let on that I was finding circumstances tough or that I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Unfortunately both were the case but I kept those emotions locked away and I pushed on because I had no other option. I had to work to earn money, I’d made a commitment to my co-hosts and I’d said I was ready to come back. Also, I was not a typical role model parent (I was a single mum working full-time and living with my Dad), and these facts only served to lower my self-esteem and I absolutely doubted my capabilities as a parent. So to be approached by a parenting magazine to talk about parenting was completely out of my realm. But I hesitantly said yes.

I was met at my house a few days later by a young girl who looked about 18 years old. It turns out she was Offspring’s founder and editor, Kate, and after chatting with her for a few hours I realised there were others out there juggling being mothers and wives, while taking on jobs and careers that are, to be brutally honest, really bloody challenging. That day was, as they say, a game changer. My meeting with Kate opened my eyes to the fact that there are lots of women doing more challenging jobs than me and doing them well.

Since then I have become less hard on myself about the parenting decisions I have made and will continue to make. I am a busy working mum who still loathes the thought of organising a child’s birthday party. So when my workplace offered to do just that for Isabella, I jumped at the opportunity and it was an absolute blast. The very first ‘Baby Rave’ in Perth on the rooftop of my station. There were 30 kids dressed up as little Ravers, 30 parents who were thrilled they didn’t have to do anything at all, a kiddy dance floor, Wiggles music blasting through a loudspeaker, kids dancing while shoving handfuls of lollies into their mouths, bubble machines, balloon animals and a Miss Maud’s Dora Backpack cake. Brilliant. Because I organised nothing. I wonder what Sally’s mum would’ve thought? But then again, should I really care if my kid had fun on her birthday?

More and more women are going under the knife each year for breast augmentation surgery, for most it is about improving appearance and boosting self-confidence or getting back those pre-baby boobs. Offspring examined why these bags of silicone (or saline) are proving so popular and what is involved when you take the step to enhance your chest.

Despite the recent French-made PIP-implant scare, the popularity of breast augmentation around the world continues its steady incline. No longer confined to celebrities and strip clubs, our suburban neighbourhoods and play groups are filling with these new perks, pardon the pun. And they are becoming harder and harder to spot with advancements in procedures and implants able to give a more natural appearance than ever before.

Specialist cosmetic breast nurse at the recently opened Assure Breast Centre in Subiaco, Jill Brady, says the centre has seen the number of breast augmentation procedures at least doubled in the past 18 months with mums making up the largest increase in breast surgery.

“There is definitely increasing social acceptance of breast surgery,” she says. “Surgery is more accessible and surgical techniques have improved, costs are more affordable and the quality of implants has improved. All of these things contribute to society’s support and acceptance of this type of surgery – just as society is more accepting of other cosmetic procedures now than it was 10 or 15 years ago.”

“The pressures of pregnancy, labour and breastfeeding can all contribute to unwanted changes in the body. Breasts can become overstretched and saggy-looking. Other problems like enlarged areolas, unevenly shaped or ‘empty’ looking breasts and stretch marks are all common complaints from mums.”

Ms Brady, who conducts the centre’s initial client consults, says breast surgery can be as much a functional operation as it is an aesthetic one. That aside, Jill said she was always careful to remind patients that surgery was not a solution to psychological or emotional issues and not right for everyone.

“Breast surgery should be a personal choice and is only appropriate for women seeking to improve their own self image. A woman who is depressed or trying to please a partner should not have the surgery,” she says.

The three common types of breast surgery are enlargement, reduction or lift, sometimes a combination of two options.

Some reasons women consider breast enlargement:

  • The breasts have reduced in size following pregnancy, breastfeeding or weight loss.
  • The breasts are smaller than normal, uneven in size or out of proportion to body size.
  • To boost self esteem and improve overall appearance.

Some reasons women consider a breast reduction:

  • The size of the breasts is uncomfortable.
  • Pain in the lower neck, shoulders or back, or the breasts themselves.
  • Discomfort during physical activity.

Breast lift surgery can help to:

  • Reshape sagging breasts and improve contour.
  • Increase the firmness of soft breasts by removing excess skin.
  • Raise the position of downward-pointing nipples and areolas.
  • Reduce the size of the areolas.
  • Balance the size and shape of unequal breasts.
  • Increase the volume of breasts, in combination with a breast implant.

The decision to have breast surgery, whether to increase or reduce current size, like any surgery can be daunting. Many women contemplate the idea but don’t pursue because of the cost, the recovery, the perceived vanity, the permanence and the confusion about where to even begin. The decision is made even more complex, because breasts are a functional and symbolic icon of femininity and motherhood and the end results are designed to be noticed.

Dr. Brigid Corrigan, specialist Plastic Surgeon at Assure Breast Centre says no matter the breast surgery under consideration, the choice of surgeon is the most important factor.

“If you are thinking about surgery, the first step would be lots of research and then book a consultation with a medical expert who will sit down with you and discuss your expectations and the options that are right for you. If you decide to go ahead, an initial appointment with a plastic surgeon would then be scheduled,” she says.

“Having the surgery involves at least two consultations with your surgeon, plus time for in-depth thought about whether to proceed.

“The process cannot be short-circuited over the internet, with photography and email as a substitute for face-to-face appointments with a qualified surgeon because techniques and options will differ for each patient.”

Dr.Corrigan elaborates that depending on the type of surgery, a patient can expect to stay in the hospital a few hours, up to a few days, and explained there are a number of surgery methods available depending on the patient and the procedure.

“The implant insertion, for example, can be done with a small incision under the breast, around the nipple or in the armpit,” she explains. “The plastic surgeon will determine the most suitable approach depending on the patient and overall look to be achieved.”

And an inevitable result of any surgery is scarring, generally a few centimeters long and often positioned below the breast, with fading expected over time.

Dr. Corrigan says while the chance of post-operative problems is relatively low, some of the worst complications have occurred in patients who have traveled overseas for surgery.

“There is no regulation of the industry in places like Asia, so consequentially the risk of post-operative problems is much higher,” she says. “People have told us cost is the main reason for choosing to travel overseas for cosmetic surgery, termed ‘medical tourism’ but if there are complications and revisions required, that initial cost can blow-out.

“While some bruising and swelling can be expected for a few weeks following any breast surgery, patients can usually resume normal routine around two to three weeks after surgery, but we do not recommend people travel by plane for at least two weeks (ideally six weeks) after surgery and returning to strenuous exercise may take a little longer.

“The post-operative period is crucial to recovery, making it a poor combination with an overseas holiday. Recovery is a time best spent at home with close family to help out.”

And the cost?

While the cost will vary depending on the surgeon, anesthetist, implants, and hospital, the procedure usually ranges between $10,000 and $15,000. Some private health insurers will help with a hospital bed and theatre fees, especially for reconstruction or reductions so having a GP referral will enable you to claim some of the cost.

Note to readers: The information presented is not an endorsement of breast surgery. Readers must evaluate the options for themselves under medical guidance.

“I recently moved to WA from the Gold Coast and breast implants are fairly common over there. I heard advertisements on the radio for different clinics and friends who have already had the procedure gave me recommendations of reputable surgeons. I did some research and find a surgeon that offered 100 percent finance, sealed the deal for me. I wanted them to look natural, it was important to me that they didn’t look bolted on, so I opted for Brazilian teardrop implants inserted through the nipples, which were also reshaped. I am a small person and went for a large C-cup, small D-cup, depending on the bra, from my current A-cup.

All up it cost me $11,500, which I pay off fortnightly, but I felt safer and more comfortable having it done in Australia than going overseas and being able to go home to my own bed afterward. I know I could have got them for around $4,000 if I went somewhere like Thailand but I have heard the horror stories.

Prior to the surgery I had about four consults and had to start taking a Vitamin C and mineral powder drink every day to boost my immune system.

I stayed in hospital four hours in total and was sent home with Endone and Arnica. I wasn’t allowed to shower for two days after surgery, had to sleep sitting up for about two weeks because it was too painful to lie down, and was required to wear a sports bra 24 hours a day for six weeks. I was still on Endone for the pain a week later and took two weeks off work. The recovery was very hard and very emotional for me.

I am concerned about what will happen if I have subsequent children and try to breastfeed but the surgeon assured me after the first year it would be safe to fall pregnant and if I wanted to breastfeed, it all still should work as normal.

I have heard from friends that in order to keep the implants looking ‘perky’, the surgery should be redone in about 10 years, and while the end result is worth it, the pain of the recovery means I doubt I will go through it again.

It has been almost a year since surgery and they are looking and feeling very natural now. I am very pleased with the results.

For me, the surgery has given me back what I had before pregnancy, breastfeeding and weight loss and renewed my confidence after separating from my husband.

In light of the recent surge of mums heading for the operating table, many plastic surgeons now offer ‘mummy makeover’ packages combining breast enlargements, lifts or reductions with a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty), liposuction or other skin rejuvenation techniques. Mother of two young boys, Kelly, says combining an enlargement with a tummy tuck not only reduced costs but also meant there would be no need for multiple surgeries.

“The recovery was really easy compared to what I expected. I was back at work a week out of surgery,” she said. “It was the best thing I have ever done. My confidence has drastically increased. I would highly recommend anyone considering getting it done, to do it.”

Funny mummy Ari contemplates the value of play dough for kids.

The great existential question that has been bothering me lately is, who the hell invented play dough? And how do we punish them?I’ll be frank. Play dough is one of the great loves of my son’s life. He is the king of play dough, in fact, and I freaking hate the stuff.

In fact, I hate it so much I hide it in a big plastic tub behind walls of chaos in the labyrinth of things-that-need-to-be-sorted-out-but-I-cannot-currently-deal-with that I call our garage. I hide it so well that pretty much no one can ever find it, not even me.

Except the child.

The child has a sixth sense about both hidden play dough places, and hidden chocolate biscuit places, I’ll give him that. He does not have a sixth sense about where his shoes, socks, school hat, library books or swimming goggles are, which would be far more useful.

It’s all about motivation I guess. He can find that damn play dough tub in about half a nano second. He will never, ever find his school hat or his second running shoe. As far as play dough goes, his modus operandi is quiet stealth, which I should have cottoned onto by now. If ever my kid, who is in the habit of providing a running narrative of exhausting questions I am required to answer non stop, is ever quiet I know he’s up to no good. NO. GOOD.

 

He will ask me a series of stupendously tedious and exhausting questions, while he observes me sidle towards the teapot so I don’t lose the will to live.

Sometimes, however, I just need to sit down and have a cup of tea, stare blankly into space and not answer any questions. Heck, sometimes I don’t KNOW THE ANSWERS TO HIS QUESTIONS, ISN’T THAT WHAT GOOGLE IS FOR? The kid knows the game. He will ask me a series of stupendously tedious and exhausting questions, while he observes me sidle towards the teapot so I don’t lose the will to live. In these moments of weakness, he ever-so-quietly tootles up the hallway and slips into the garage, scales the pile of stuff for the council pick up, like a mountain goat, and seizes the play dough tub toot suite.

Then he drags it into the play room and sets about making a complicated sea anemone that he saw some deranged mother, who has nothing better to do, make on YouTube. Of course, his sea anemone looks nothing like the YouTube mother’s sea anemone. OF COURSE IT DOESN’T. That YouTube play dough mother has an online play dough making course she’s selling. Why the heck else would you make a sea anemone out of play dough?

 

 

My son, bless his play dough loving heart, is not wise to the ways of crafty-YouTube-mothers-making-a-buck-on-the-side. He will spend five minutes trying to make his sea anemone look like a sea anemone, and not like a lump of pink and yellow stuff, and then yell, “MAMA, CAN YOU HELP ME?”

Then he drags it into the play room and sets about making a complicated sea anemone that he saw some deranged mother, who has nothing better to do, make on YouTube.

Obviously, the only thing to do is to pretend not to hear. Never works.

“MAMA, HELP PLEASE! HELP PLEASE! MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! MAAAMMAAAAAAAAAAA!”

The point is, this could go one for hours – me pretending not to hear, and the child chanting my name like some sort of mantra. The other point is, I will crumble first. So the only way to deal with it, is to sit down with the child and try to make a play dough sea anemone while fobbing off questions about why our sea anemone looks so rubbish in comparison to the YouTube one.

Toot suite.

This is a story about lost love, grief and the strength of one mother to keep going on after losing her husband the the father of her kids in a sudden and fatal accident.

On Saturday 25 June 2011, Graham Santich kissed his wife and two young children goodbye and left for work. He never returned home. A tragic accident on Perth’s Mitchell Freeway left a family shattered and struggling to find a new sense of normal without him.

The Santich family were in a state of bliss with their tenth wedding anniversary celebrations quickly followed by the birth of their second child Darcy, a much loved brother for three year old Charlotte. Sadly, their time together as a family of four was to be brief. Just eight weeks.

Michelle, still recovering from the caesarean delivery, vividly remembers the phone call from police telling her Graham had been in a car accident and how her world stopped in an instant.

“I have thought back many times to things that happened that day,” she recalls. “I was at the shops with the two kids when the police called and told me Graham had been in an accident and I needed to get somebody to drive me to Royal Perth Hospital as soon as I could. All I could think was that he was not going to make it and had horrific images going through my mind of what he might look like when I finally got to him.”

Her parents rallied to her aid, and soon they were met by uniformed police at the emergency department doors and led to a small conference room.

He was perfect. His eyes were closed. He looked like he was sleeping. There looked to be nothing wrong with him.

“It was then that I really knew,” she says. “I knew he was gone and the police confirmed my worst fear.”

Reliving the events, Michelle recalls seeing Graham for the first time after what seemed liked an eternity, on a hospital bed, in a hospital gown, with not a scratch on him.

He was perfect,” she says. “His eyes were closed. He looked like he was sleeping. There looked to be nothing wrong with him.

“I am grateful he looked the way he did but it was also very confusing, because what was in front of me didn’t match the images in my head.”

The details surrounding Graham’s death quickly raised more questions than answers. Police explained their suspicions that Graham had passed out while driving. It was a relatively minor accident, with minimal damage to the car. He became a case for the Coroner. And so began the long wait for answers.

The question of organ donation was raised and consent was given to retrieve his corneas. DonateLife quickly became the liaison between Michelle and the Coroner because, despite the retrieval, a transfer could not be made to a recipient until a cause of death was found.

In the weeks after the accident, as Michelle and her family struggled to come to terms with their loss, DonateLife offered counselling and information packs which included Bunnings vouchers to purchase a tree to grow in his memory. Michelle now utilises the free counselling service, which also provides some counselling to young Charlotte, and attends support groups.

Michelle describes one of the things that plays constantly on her mind is the memories the children will have of Graham and how the organ donation services have offered them ways to make special connections to him, including adding his name to a memorial wall at Lake Monger honouring all Western Australians that have made the ultimate gift and donated their tissues and organs.

“Since Graham passed we have always told Charlotte that her daddy is magic and lives amongst the stars,” she says. “So when DonateLife adopted a star for WA Donors, it gave us a place to send our goodnight wishes. Charlotte is always so eager to see if her daddy’s star will be the first one out.”

“As time goes on I know I am going to become more my own person and less the person I was with him. I don’t want to but I can’t stop it. I hate this new sense of normal.”

“For me, putting his name on the wall and having the coordinates to a star gives us more connections to him, more than just our memories. The kids will always know their daddy was someone special and did something wonderful. It gives us places to go and prompts us to tell stories about him.”

But it is the lack of personal memories the children will have that causes Michelle angst, in particular that Darcy will never have memories of his own and eventually Charlotte’s will fade.

“While family and friends will tell stories and teach Darcy about his dad, the difference will always be that Charlotte will have three years worth of photos with him, while Darcy has very few,” she says.

“I still go over the accident in my head and ask why him, what could I have done differently, worrying he was alone and if he suffered, and my anger that no one stopped to help him.

“I hope Darcy will develop a strong connection with Graham through our family, our love and our memories. I know that Charlotte will always feel close to him, she was his little girl and they thought the world of each other.”

Michelle has tried hard to establish traditions in his memory such as taking the kids to the beach and collecting shells on Graham’s birthday, something he loved to do with Charlotte. On his anniversary there is the Crackerjack Cup lawn bowls tournament at the Fremantle Bowls Club, the place of his wake and where he spent many hours as a keen player.

Meanwhile, balloons and rainbows have become symbolic with balloons often released in his memory and rainbows bridging a connection to his unforgettable grin.

“Any chance I can get to keep remembering him, I do it. I want to feel like he is still part of our family and to include him in our lives even if though he isn’t here,” she says.

The question of organ donation was raised and consent was given to retrieve his corneas. DonateLife quickly became the liaison between Michelle and the Coroner because, despite the retrieval, a transfer could not be made to a recipient until a cause of death was found.

Listening to Michelle describe how she is learning to live with only half a heart without her soul mate, it is obvious the love and adoration this couple shared. Michelle describes Graham as loyal and loved by many.

“He was one of those people who made friends wherever he went,” she explains. “He always had time for his family and was passionate about sport and music of all genres, and he was exceptionally dedicated to his landscaping business. But above all he was thrilled to be a dad, uncle and godfather and was always full of life when he was with the kids.”

Michelle recalls how she often had to pull the reins to get him to hurry along putting Charlotte to bed after numerous songs, books and giggling, and how at birthday parties he was termed King of the Kids, usually swamped by a pile of ankle bitters vying for his attention. But for Graham, it was never a chore. He saw it as a privilege and revelled in it.

“As much as I still expect him to walk through the door each night after work and sometimes still pick up my phone to send him a text, I have settled into this new life and it is hard to accept, especially because it is starting to feel normal without him. As time goes on I know I am going to become more my own person and less the person I was with him. I don’t want to but I can’t stop it. I hate this new sense of normal,” she says with a heavy heart.

An answer to his death finally came almost five months after the accident. The Coroners Court ruled that Graham died from choking. Michelle still finds it incredibly hard to accept this simple answer.

She, like many others, suspected the Used car, which he had owned just two days, had played a part in his passing. But other than perhaps isolating him from vital assistance, three independent mechanics ruled the car played no role.

“I have had lots of appointments with police, DonateLife and even the Coroners Court to try deal with my ongoing confusion about how he died,” she says. “I still go over the accident in my head and ask why him, what could I have done differently, worrying he was alone and if he suffered, and my anger that no one stopped to help him. More recently I have struggled with the terminology used to represent his cause of death.”

As horrible as the circumstances, Michelle marvels at the love and beauty she has discovered exists in the world through the seemingly endless lengths of support and friendship offered, at times from complete strangers.

As horrible as the circumstances, Michelle marvels at the love and beauty she has discovered exists in the world through the seemingly endless lengths of support and friendship offered, at times from complete strangers. She explains there have been donations to a trust fund for the children, grocery shopping and cooked meals, Graham’s business suppliers wiping their bills, his favourite football team signing a card and the drummer of one of his favourite bands visiting and having a mini jam session with Charlotte, and everything in between.

“I know people often didn’t know what to say or do but somehow they got the balance right. And clearly the willingness to help me and the kids is a testament to the person Graham was and the influence he left on the world,” she says.

And so the saying goes, and never rings more true than here, if love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.

 

For more information on becoming an organ donor with DonateLife visit www.donatelife.gov.au

Holidays are meant to be a relaxing time, right? Hm, well perhaps not when travelling with toddlers! If you have ever travelled with little ones, this may be something you can completely relate to.

Once Upon A Time when I was young, and didn’t have any wrinkles, and used to flit around the world on a whim, I’d watch parents board planes with toddlers and glower at them. Ferociously. I’d will them not to trail their child and all its paraphernalia in my direction and sit next to me. I didn’t care how apologetic they looked. I had been very busy and I had some relaxing to do, and they looked, well, frazzled and un-relaxed. Jeez, couldn’t they put on some clean clothes and brush their hair? What was all that stuff they were carrying, anyway? Hadn’t they heard of travelling light? Of minimalism? They probably had a whole house full of stuff. They probably had ten houses, actually, bursting with stuff and toddlers. I hoped they never moved next door to me, with all their stuff and overflowing bags and their ten houses and 1000 toddlers. Ugh, what was the deal with toddlers and snot, anyway? Couldn’t they wipe the kid’s nose?

And, so it went. Sometimes those harried parents would sit next to me, or in front of me, or behind me, which was hideous, obviously, with the snot and seat-kicking and everything, and sometimes they’d move past me and sit someplace else. At which juncture, I’d heave an exaggerated sigh of relief and thank my lucky stars.

Ah, well. I was young. The world turns, and most of us become wrinkled up parents of toddlers some day, and Karma, as they say, is one hell of a Beyotch.

I know this, because I married the best guy in the world who, romantically at the time, grew up in two different countries on the other side of the globe. Fantastic, I thought. Not only do I get to marry the best guy in the world, I get to travel back to his two countries for the rest of my life, stopping at a couple of places en route because the flights are so Very Very Very Long. Score!

Ahem. That deluded-ness was before I had my baby, who has turned into a toddler who somehow has Energizer Bunny batteries running 24/7. Unfortunately, my husband’s family and friends still live a gazillion miles away and, unless someone can tell me how to close my eyes and zap myself there in an instant, like Samantha from Bewitched, we’re long-hauling for the rest of our lives. Hello, Karma!

Touchingly, a lot of parents think that flying with their toddler won’t be that bad because, well, it’s their child. They are wrong. Always. 110 per cent wrong. Unless, of course, they have a Freak Toddler with a throwback Good Behaviour Gene – and if they do, they should see a health professional about that. Flying with a toddler is just a bad idea. I figured as much when I was an entitled world-flitter and now, after ten flights in four weeks, two of them around the 35-hour mark, I know it in my bones.

We started out well, I guess. We clipped out lists from those “Happy Long Haul Flights With Toddler” articles, and packed our carry-on bags – about six, but who’s counting? – accordingly. We tried. We had milk and water and crackers and toys and books and a blanky and a sooky and a portable DVD player and DVDs and nappies and wipes and tissues and flannels and toiletries and changes of clothes and fruit and, hilariously, a Kindle for me, loaded with all the books I was going to read.

The Toddler did okay on his first flight, probably because it was a novelty. The second wasn’t too bad, either. By the third, in a terrible portent of things to come, he’d had enough. HAD ENOUGH! Especially when we entered Mexico City’s airport, which was about 500 degrees with no air-conditioning. The Toddler was not down with that. He had San Francisco layers on! He became the flailing, thrashing, screeching manifestation of the Terrible Demonic Twos. He yelled. He cried. He insisted on crawling up the baggage scanner towards our ten-tonne cases hurtling towards him. Every time I pulled him off, he arched his back and foamed at the mouth, and then flung himself on the floor and howled until his face turned purple. I kept waiting for his head to spin around and fly off and hit the Baggage Scanner Lady in the neck. Luckily for us it didn’t, but I think we were close.

People stared at us and frowned. They whispered and moved away. Couples nudged each other and grinned, grateful for the Family Entertainment. The Toddler obliged, ramping up the angst a few hundred notches and sweating profusely. The airport felt like it was 900 degrees. I tried to get his goddamn layers off, while he hurled himself around the baggage cart wailing. Our ridiculous mountain of luggage teetered. Those couples grinned some more, waiting for our cases, knapsack, travel cot, camera bag, hand luggage and random water bottles, books, crackers and tissues to spill all over the floor. Obviously, I wanted the Toddler’s head to fly off and hit them smack bang in the mouth. That would have been just fine with me.

Regrettably, he refused to oblige. The Toddler’s screaming head stayed well and truly attached to his flailing, kicking, furious body. Ah, well. Like they say, Karma is a Beyotch. We were three flights down, and counting. Only, ahem, seven more flights to go.

If you’ve ever thought about putting your children in music class, you should definitely consider it. The benefits of children learning to play music extends to their physical, social and emotional skill!

Music researchers have found that the musical intellect of an adult is largely developed during the first five years of life. The first three years of a child’s life are fundamentally the time of the most growth physically, verbally and emotionally. Music stimulates, educates, helps concentration and soothes the soul.

Music stimulates, educates, helps concentration and soothes the soul.

Infants who are exposed to music with assisted movement will remember and later demonstrate their learning when they reach the age of independent movement and speech. Toddlers who are struggling with single syllable words will often sing complete phrases and those learning to walk spontaneously begin to dance.

Early Learning Music (ELM) offers enjoyable, educational music classes for children aged sixteen months to eight years, and beyond. They are designed to help children develop physical, emotional, social and musical skills in a fun environment full of singing, moving, dancing and playing percussion instruments. The classes are sequential and follow a developmental program that is suited to the needs and capabilities of each child.

The fun and stimulation of participating in ELM music classes for children not only supports children’s learning in general, it also develops children’s creativity and imagination.

 

The first three years of a child’s life are fundamentally the time of the most growth physically, verbally and emotionally. Music stimulates, educates, helps concentration and soothes the soul.

The classes are run by highly qualified, trained teachers who use their extensive knowledge of child development and music education to design programs specific to the needs of the children in each music class.

ELM is a Kodaly music school and a member of the Do-Re-Mi association of Australia. As children grow, so too do the Do Re Mi music classes. They move through the levels in a natural, sequential way, adding to and expanding on the true development of a child.

Operating at Scotch College in Swanbourne, ELM aims to immerse children in a musical world of discovery, while parents are taught how to enrich their child’s musical journey.

ELM strives to help families develop an appreciation and love of music that can be nurtured and shared, and last a lifetime.

If you’d like to find out about enrolling your child in a music program with ELM please email ELM@scotch.wa.edu.au

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Time to get out the sunnies and hats and prepare for fun in the spring sun. There’s so much adorable fashion for girls this spring from stripes and Parisian denim dresses, maxi and mini skirts to little miss fashionista tan gladiator sandals and real- leather headbands. Style for little girls just got a whole more grown up!

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Splashes of colour makes spring fashion lots of fun for the little tigers with harem pants, Hawaiian printed tank tops, denim shorts and super cool sunglasses. Choose a tee with a funky cartoon pattern that is very on trend and enjoyable too!