I met my daughter’s Embryologist!


Softly spoken, her voice redolent with kindness. An English lady whom I only saw in scrubs and cap, highlighting her beautiful skin and soft eyes. We had three frozen sperm and one follicle, that is all. It was my last chance. I woke from egg pickup with ‘2’ written on my hand. There was a chance this follicle may contain nothing; two was beyond all expectation! This lady watched them grow and divide, and I held my breath. One divided too rapidly, and perished within days. The other burst into a blastocyst; which was terrific news! This lady wished me luck during the embryo transfer, and gave me the dish my embryo had grown in.

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Eleven months later, I brought my miracle back to meet her, and she held my child in her arms. Years passed, and the scientist moved far away. We became reacquainted on social media. She sent a message that she would be staying nearby this Christmas, and another IVF mum and I planned to meet her with our girls. When I walked in and saw her, I squeeled with joy. My daughter was overwhelmed, meeting the lady whose picture is on our fridge; who carefully watched her as a little embryo. We hugged and looked at each other in wonder. Such a long road from where we started to having a ten year old child! I showed her the dish, and she noted the ‘2’ on the plastic. We had a moment of silence and I appreciated that the women present understood the heartache behind the second number. We talked ‘IVF speak,’ and I laughed that nobody else would understand our conversation!

Our girls both love science, and this lady set up a microscope the other miracle had been gifted for Christmas. We saw extraordinary images of cross-sections of hair, blood and many other wonders. Life-when broken down into tiny segments- really is the most amazing thing! Our girls had to battle for life, and their strength is displayed in their lives today, and shall carry them into their future. We swam in the pool on this hot summer day, the girls playing together as though they are soul sisters. I know that they are. Hours passed as we hurridly relayed what we have been up to; what the girls dreams are for their wild and precious lives.

The odds were mightily against this other mum and I, but this lady helped to see us through, changing our lives forever. How can you begin to thank her for the precious gift she handed us? Humble and kind, I pray that 2017 blesses this lady beyond her wildest imaginings. I hope the same for you all. x

Christmas 2016


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I love Christmas; I always have. I love the pageantry, the carols, the celebration, the decorations and the message of hope and renewal. I remember Christmas at my grandmother’s house, and wish my daughter had experienced it. Grandma would be up at dawn, baking. Chocolates lined the beautifully decorated table, and the TV would be playing Christmas movies. Now it is up to me to set the standard for Christmas. I usually try to keep busy, to find joyous activities for my daughter. I also keep busy to escape my own mind, crammed with lamentations and grief. I try not to give it freedom to ride roughshod over Christmas, but it makes me aware of its presence. Dear friends popped in during the week leading up to Christmas, and I was so grateful. People reaching out makes all the difference.

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We decided to go into the city Christmas Eve, to soak up the atmosphere and a lovely family joined us. We went to the Bodhi Restaurant near St Mary’s Cathedral, and listened to a spectacular choir as we drank Chinese Fairy cocktails and chatted to people at nearby tables. The light show was spectacular The Nutcracker was the theme this year-and we sang opera as we made our way home afterward. My daughter had left carrots out for the Reindeer, and had sprinkled Reindeer food outside. Santa had cookies and milk left on the kitchen bench. Wouldn’t you know that in our absence, the Santa sack had been filled! My daughter was delighted to find a punching bag (bought from an op shop) with boxing gloves, and a virtual-reality Viewfinder with National Geographic discs so she could see planets, stars and animals up close. There was also a telescope and microscope, which caused squeals of joy.

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My little girl handed me my gifts. I burst into tears when I saw the little jar filled with affirmative messages “for when you feel sad,” she said. There was also a collage of pictures and a hand-drawn medal from our City to Surf walk. “I loved that you challenged me to do it, and I walked all that way!” she smiled. I hadn’t realized that it had made such an impact on her. Her gifts were so very precious to me.

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We got up early Christmas Day, and went to Ashfield Uniting Church to hear the purveyor of the real and gritty, Rev Bill Crews. The atmosphere was joyous beyond measure, volunteers ready to serve thousands of people at the free Christmas lunch.

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Our plans for Christmas Day lunch had fallen through, and I thought we may instead go to lunch with friends after church. It was a hot day in Sydney, and my daughter had a headache. I asked if she wanted to go home and she nodded. I have always wanted a big family Christmas, like the ones you see in movies (and on Facebook), and felt sad that I was taking her back to an empty house, with no special lunch prepared. I got the familiar, lost, sinking feeling that I have come to know and loathe. Fortunately, I had a little girl here, who wanted me to set up her Christmas gifts, and we spent the afternoon playing. I baked some veggies for dinner, and we toasted Christmas with pink lemonade in cut crystal glasses.

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Friendly enjoyed opening the gifts too!

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We then watched Christmas movies, snuggled up on the couch. My daughter told me it had been the best Christmas ever, and I had a massive revelation. I was enough for her! Boxing Day, I rested and read a book, something I had longed to do all year. We have a beautiful week ahead, filled with wonder and fun, but for now we rest.

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas to all the lovely readers of my blog! This year has been challenging for so many, but we can take the strength, resolve and dreams we have gained into 2017. A brand new start, sparkling with possibilities! May you have a restful and beautiful Christmas, whatever you are doing. All my love, Raphaela xxx

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Leading into Christmas…


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We attended an extraordinary home school Christmas party last week! There were craft tables, snow, disco lights, food and even Santa made an appearance! The kids wrapped up some hapless dads in Christmas paper and decorated them. We had to remind them to provide air holes so they could breathe!

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I met some dear friends at Luna Park, and we waited patiently in line at the gift shop. There were a bunch of school kids in the shop, and one asked to see the contents of a show bag. The friendly assistant held up each item separately, and gave the kid a blow-by-blow description of each piece. Five minutes passed, and he grabbed another showbag and did the same! We were in hysterics, my mind wandering to the infamous scene from Love Actually with Rowan Atkinson. Fifteen minutes later, we were served! It was kind of nice to be in a situation where the assistant had all the time in the world to help a kid make the best choice of showbag. You are meant to be on Island time during the holidays!

I coerced my friend into reclining on the moon seat, and then fell about laughing when the germ-a-phobe came across something unidentifiable and sticky with her hand!

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My daughter and I went to a friend’s house for a playdate. Now this friend is fighting a health battle, and yet had gone to so much trouble. There were red tablecloths, crackers and decorations on the tables. There was a feast prepared, and carols playing. Her gorgeous daughter had made all the kids a gift; a precious decoration for the tree. Another friend (who had endured a tough year), remarked that it really felt like Christmas now. How gracious and kind was this lady, to go to so much trouble. It is a day I will never forget.

I was having a gin with another friend, and when she excused herself to go to the bathroom, two older men-gigantic in stature came and sat down next to us. When she came back, she was alarmed to find one of the fellows had sat himself within an inch of her seat! We both shrugged and talked about how some people have no concept of space. She moved her seat around when they began to argue. Finally, the fellow who had taken over that side of the table apologized. “We are Glaswegian, and tryin’ to sort out an argument; excuse our bad language. We are very sorry.” We started giggling and couldn’t stop. Their tiff sorted, they left. I have missed this friend, and love that I’m now able to catch up with those I haven’t been able to see all year.

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This is a friend’s dog. Isn’t she beautiful?!

I have had to have a few days at home, after the spinal pain became unmanageable. Circumstances saw me having to postpone my visits to specialists and a pain clinic during 2016, something I will have to do during 2017.

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One more thought, posted by a glorious friend yesterday.

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Fragile Minds


I was on the bus the other day, when a familiar gentleman boarded. He is usually quiet, his movements steady. On this day, he was swearing and banging his head with his hand. He had a pronounced tic. The bus driver greeted him by name, and warmly invited him to sit down. I was touched by his kindness. For twenty minutes, this fellow pounded his head with his hand. I wondered what had happened to make his condition heighten. Had his medication stop working? Was he taking it at all? I looked out the window at the rain falling, and a memory emerged.

When I was fourteen, and in the clinic, I was sipping a hot chocolate, when I noticed Robert outside. Robert was a cordial fellow, always with a greeting. He had greying ginger hair and beard. I noted him pacing up and down the courtyard in the rain. Suddenly, he went over to a window, and repeatedly banged his head into the frame. As blood gushed out of his head, I ran over, begging him to stop. Finally he did, and I held him as he wept. I was later told that he had been editor of a big city paper in the later stages of his career. Esteemed and well-regarded, until his breakdown.

What causes people to break down? It is usually those who seem to have it altogether that are the first to succumb. It is damned exhausting, keeping up appearances. I once knew a CEO of a large corporation, who was found under her desk, cowering after years of intense pressure got the best of her. When she told me her story, I determined that I needed to deal with stress as it happens. I learnt not to store it away; not to drink or eat until I drowned.

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People have minds that can be drip-fed abuse of every kind. From the workplace to home life. We need to be careful whom we listen to and whom we consider our allies. It is not only our hearts we have to protect, but our precious minds. Think of all those who give you joy, and stick with them. Christmas is a tinderbox of embers, which can either give a comforting glow, or explode. Life is not meant to be played, as if a game, and minds aren’t designed to be toyed with. Seek out the gentle, the kind and affirmative. Your precious mind is designed for dreams, for visionary ideas and to give solutions to pressing problems. It is nigh impossible to achieve any of that if it is being filled with nonsense from people who have no business being in your life. I saw scores of adults (some famous), rescind during stellar careers and lives. I learnt early on how precious a gift our minds are. Be kind to others, but also to yourself.

Coping with Christmas


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Customs House, Sydney

Christmas can be a time of great joy and conversely, tremendous pain. Remembering those we have loved and lost, reminscing about people and times past, and hopeful about times still to come. A concentrated month filled with undiluted feelings. Memories sparked by carols, occasions and conversations. Lovely memories can be just as tough as bad ones, when the people involved are no longer with us. Half of all Australians find Christmas hard due to finances. It can feel as though it comes upon us when we are least prepared.

There are a few things we can do to uplift ourselves and keep swimming when feeling overwhelmed.

  • Volunteer! Nothing lifts your spirits like being of service to others, whether that be serving meals, wrapping gifts or talking to the lonely.
  • If you haven’t the finances to give purchased gifts, how about offering a service? Babysitting, a dinner, gardening or cleaning may be what your loved one most needs.
  • Cheap and lovely gift ideas include Reindeer food for kids to sprinkle on the front lawn Christmas Eve (A mix of oats and glitter in little bags), bath salts, hot chocolate mixes or a picture of you both in a painted frame.
  • Walk around town and enjoy the free entertainment, window displays and decorations. Find out when carol services shall be held locally. It costs nothing and will lift your spirits.
  • Whatever you do, please don’t isolate yourself. Connect with the community and friends. If Christmas is a challenging time for you, trust me, you will feel worse if you shut yourself away.

Love costs nothing, nor does enjoying the beauty of the season. It is a misnomer that you need money to be able to enjoy Christmas. You just need a full heart.

A Magical Night


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Martin Place Christmas Tree

When you are feeling out of sorts, you tend to let the traditions you hold dear disappear. I was feeling blah, my spinal pain ramping up. We had always gone to the concert and lighting of the Christmas Tree in Martin Place, but this year, I wondered if I should go at all. There was track work scheduled and limited trains to the city. I didn’t want to let my daughter down, so I announced our attendance, and discovered that a dear friend I don’t get to see often was going with her kids and partner. We organized to travel in together. We talked of our dreams for the future, our triumphs and struggles. We found our way to the old GPO building, and decided to grab something to eat before heading out to the concert. Our girls were impressed by the linen tablecloths, and atmosphere, and also the attention they received from the staff. They politely asked for soft drinks, and the adults enjoyed a NZ red. I looked around the table, and saw love, pure and unadulterated love. It was a beautiful feeling. We wove through the crowds and watched the tree light up, fireworks exploding overhead. We walked around town, delighted that David Jones had a fabulous bear-themed window display this year! A cathedral built of lights ran along Pitt St Mall, as did Christmas trees in pots.

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The girls climbed, skipped and sang joyfully, and I paused to take in the scene. This would be up there with one of the happiest nights of my life. All unscripted, unplanned and easy. Everyone happy to go with the flow. Even the long train ride from Central became fun, after we started singing ‘A Good Heart’ by Feargal Sharkey, and the whole carriage joined in! I found him on YouTube, and we went through his back catalogue. I wonder where he is now? Traipsing home after midnight, after a special night with friends, I smiled. It felt like Christmas.

Felting with The Magic Weave


I had the privelage of meeting two of the warmest and gentlest people at the beginning of the year. Cristina is a felt artist from Chile who met her beau in a wondrous collision of fate, and together, they run The Magic Weave. They asked me up to The Creative Arts Centre in Glenbrook to partake in needle felting recently. Though I was excited, I was worried my non-existent sewing skills may let me down. To my delight, there was no sewing required! It was meditative, working the fibres with the needle, before turning them into gnomes, snowmen and angels. Cristina had the packs ready and waiting, and the whole process was like witnessing magic!

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There is such joy in learning a new craft, and I must say, I never knew I could be skilled with a needle and pile of wool and felt! Cristina and her partner, Frank, are excellent teachers. If I can pick it up in a few hours, so can you! I hope you get the opportunity to visit them in the lower Blue Mountains and catch one of their classes.

The glorious Cristina
The glorious Cristina