So few women see themselves as inspirational. At Lumi, we want to show the world that all women are inspirational and have an inspiring story – even and especially those women that we don’t see on the cover of magazines or the TV.
Mandy is one of these humble yet incredibly inspiring women. Read her heartfelt, honest and powerful words below!
Tell us about how you got to where you are today. Do you see yourself as an inspirational woman? Why/Why not?
This is a hard one to answer. I studied after high school a Diploma in Children’s Services, worked and ran rooms in childcare centres, learnt a LOT about babies on mass.
I then travelled in America and worked on a summer camp and learnt a lot about 11 year olds on mass 🙂
I came home and couldn’t settle, did temp work for a year and then stumbled across www.qec.org.au and spent the next 5-7 years working there. I worked in the 5 day residential stay, the 10 day program, the daystay, the home visiting, the play group programs. QEC is where my career changed and I learnt a lot about life, about people and working shift work, about myself.
During this time, I got married to Darren and we eventually decided on having a baby and we were given twins. The girls were born at 31 weeks gestation and spent 7 weeks in hospital. At that stage, I would have said it was the most difficult time of my life, as it was such a shock and I was grieving a ‘normal’ birth and ‘bring-home-baby’ life, but that just wasn’t to be. We went into shut down, then survival, and then brought the girls home. You can imagine it was just completely life-altering. Even though I had worked with up to 17 babies in one room, having 2 to myself 24/7 was a whole other experience! I could cope with the demands of the care of the girls, changing nappies, dressing, bathing, feeding, getting them to sleep, and back to sleep. I had all that imprinted in my brain, but the emotional love and worry was a whole other ball game. I knew something was up with one of my twins. She wasn’t doing what her sister was doing and in my experience of working with so many babies, I knew she had cerebral palsy. One year on, her twin was also diagnosed, more mildly, but still nonetheless.
I begged nurses and doctors and specialists to tell me, but they dragged us along with the “developmental delay“ diagnosis. But I knew.
So the roller coaster began of appointments, MRI’s and ultrasounds (thankyou Lisa for coming with me, I will never forget), the sadness, the deep grief, the shutting down from the world, the turmoil in my relationships, the sheer exhaustion of having to keep going with 2 babies when I was sad. It was a relentless time.
But, I don’t see myself as inspirational because I am one of many many millions of women who encounter this.
What struggles have you had to face and what struggles may still lie ahead of you?
The struggles I face was being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The intensity of this has changed now, 10 years later, but I have waves of it. When new crisis emerges and unfortunately that is the truth, new difficulties come all the time and I am living on edge of a new ‘something’ everyday. I also have ‘living grief’ which explains that for the rest of my life, I will have sadness about my children that hits me at all different angles and at all different times. It is something that is just part of me now. But, my biggest struggle is to watch my children suffer.
Having opened up about all of your struggles, is success possible? What does it look like to you?
Success is managing to keep everything going, juggling 20 balls in the air and still having a laugh at the end of the day, eating pizza.
And what in your life can’t you live without?
I can’t live without music, reading, movies, chocolate, and coke zero. Ha!
On another note, do you struggle with work/life balance? How do you try and master this?
I do struggle to fit in everything, but I made the decision to create my own job for my future so that I can be home, and close by to the children, in case of emergencies. I also need to be flexible as we have appointments often and I just can’t answer to a boss about this anymore. I have to make my own way from now on, and I acknowledge and am fortunate that my husband can work and back me up on this.
What are your hobbies? What do you love doing in your spare time?
I sing in a women’s a cappella barbershop chorus. After the twins, i couldn’t’ sing anymore. Mostly my singing was in church, but my heart was broken and I just couldn’t’ sing anymore. But 8 years later, I found this chorus, with these wonderful women, we sing every Monday night for 2.5 hours, we work towards competition and shows, we wear sequins (not my fav bit!) and we sound incredible. It’s tiring, but it’s good tiring, and feeling alive again in a group of women all aiming for the same goal, there is nothing like it.
I also love reading, escaping and learning. I am in the best book club, we have been together for 14 years. My favourite series as a child was Anne of Green Gables and my fav series as a women is Outlander, or Cross Stitch for those of us who are purists, haha!
What message or advice would you want to give people that may read this?
It is possible to live a great and fun and happy life with a broken heart.