Some advice for the family and friends of Ada Nicodemou

I was in the kitchen last night buttering toast for my five-year-old daughter – when my husband gasped from behind his laptop.

I looked up.

“Ada Nicodemou’s  baby was stillborn today.”

He kept talking I think. But I didn’t hear anything else. I didn’t need to.

Ada Nicodemou’s  baby was stillborn today.

bec and georgie 300x400 Some advice for the friends and family of Ada Nicodemou.

Bec with Ava, when she was pregnant with Georgie

That’s all I had to hear for my heart to feel like it was suddenly wafer thin and shedding layers. For September 2010 to come rushing back to me. For the moment I too found out that the baby I was carrying – my second daughter Georgie –  had suddenly, inexplicably – died inside me at 36 and a half weeks.

And tears came to my eyes for a woman I do not know. For her husband. And for the excruciating road that lay ahead for them both. A road that I am still on.

This column I’m writing today is not for Ada and Chrys.  Not now. Not yet. Today and in the days and weeks ahead they will be in their own protective bubble. Today, my guess, is that they will have disconnected from the world – both physically and emotionally  – as they try to fathom the cruel hand they have just been dealt.

I remember.

One minute my baby was here. Wasn’t she here? I felt a kick. And now. I don’t understand. She was just here. But we have the clothes. The cot. That new  jumpsuit I bought on Monday. I don’t understand.

I remember.

The raw primal pain. Collapsing in the shower screaming for my daughter. The numbness. The overwhelming desire to stop participating in the world. To just sink into my darkness only to be pulled out again by my two-year-old daughter Ava.

I remember.

But I am here, four years on – strong and happy. I survived something I thought I never could. I have gone on to have two more beautiful healthy, happy children. And my grief somehow sits comfortably side by side with my happiness. Make no mistake  I miss Georgie every single day but she is also an inextricable part of who I am. She has made me more fierce. More compassionate. More wise. I am grateful for how she has shaped me into the woman I have become. These days it is Georgie who is the light in my darkest hour.

Today is not the day for me to offer advice to Ada and Chrys. Today they will be blocking out the world and wanting only to wake up from this nightmare.

No, this column is for Ada and Chrys’s family and friends who right now are in shock and anguish themselves. Who are reeling from the news of Harrison’s death. And who are most likely now asking themselves “What do we do? What can we do? How can we help? What should we say?

And since Ada and Chrys themselves won’t even know yet what they need,  I thought I would step in as someone who has been there and who understands exactly how they are feeling.

So for Ada and Chrys’s friends and colleagues and in fact for anyone who today has been told that a friend has lost a baby – this is what I want you to know …

1. Do not be afraid to say Harrison’s name or the name of any stillborn baby.

Harrison was very real and very loved and he will always be Ada and Chrys’s second baby. Don’t be afraid to use Harrison’s name not just now but in the years to come.  Hearing friends and family use Georgie’s name brings me such happiness I can’t describe. It brings her back to me. So rather than say “the baby” or “your loss” … talk about Harrison and how much you had been looking forward to getting to know him, cuddling him, watching him grow up. Does that hurt to hear? Of course but what hurts more is friends and family behaving as though he never existed in the first place.

2. Give out lots of love and expect nothing in return.

However Ada and Chrys decide to grieve will be the right way for them.  They may shut out the world or embrace it. They may go silent or they may want to talk and talk and talk. But what they will most surely need  is knowing that people care. That they are loved. Send a card. A handkerchief. Flowers. A Christmas ornament bearing Harrison’s name. A candle.  Organise a food roster.  Send a daily text message of love and support and know that you may rarely or never get a reply. But that’s okay.  For me, just knowing that my friends were thinking of us helped us get through each day. Every message I received made me feel like Georgie mattered.

Ada  300x302 Some advice for the friends and family of Ada Nicodemou.3. Don’t try to fix the situation.

You want to take the pain away. Of course you do. But trying to explain this tragedy or ‘find the positives’ will only cause more pain.  You don’t know what to say? That’s okay. Just say that your heart is broken for them and for their two year old son Johnas.  Just say that you love them. That you’re sorry.  Don’t ask what you can do to help. Just help. Leave a meal on the doorstep. Arrange a play date for Johnas. Now is the time to step up.

4. Go to your calendar now and circle six weeks ahead of today.

The six week mark – it’s a particular punch in the guts for anyone who is grieving a loved one. At the six week mark people have moved on and you find yourself feeling very much alone. The world is moving around you as though life is normal. But life is not the same for you. At the six week mark, make a call, send an email, post a card – just don’t  stay silent because the silence is deafening.

To Ada and Chrys – on the off-chance that you read this post one day, I wish for you such love.  And know this, you will get through this. One day at a time. One hour at a time.  It doesn’t feel like it now, I know, as you struggle to breathe in and out but you will be happy again.  You will learn to live with this pain – a pain that will not always be so raw. I promise. (I also know that right now the idea of being happy is the last thing on your mind. It feels like the act of a traitor. So for now just focus on getting through each hour.)

And I am offering you my hand of friendship and understanding. Four years ago a stranger reached out to me and took my hand and navigated me through the crashing waves of grief.

Mia Freedman saved my life.  I hope you find your own Mia as this storm of hurt and pain swirls around you. And if you don’t  – my hand is here ready to pull you through the waves.


screenshot 1654 300x348 Some advice for the friends and family of Ada Nicodemou.Later this month, Mamamia will officially release a book, Never Forgotten,  for parents like Ada and Chrys and all the tens of thousands of families who have experienced pregnancy loss, miscarriage, still birth and neo natal death. The loss of any child, particularly during pregnancy or soon after birth, is an extraordinarily traumatic process and one it can be impossible for other people to understand.

Mamamia publisher Mia Freedman and senior writer Bec Sparrow have both been there and after helping each other through the grief process began to reach out to other women going through similar trauma.

Mamamia readers and writers have joined together to contribute their stories to this book, compiled by Bec and Mia and edited by Paula Ellery. The book is available as an E-book download or in print form [click here to order].

All the proceeds will go towards charities who help families who have suffered this very common yet widely misunderstood type of loss.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

I think Offspring just broke up with us.

Be careful what you wish for.

Three weeks ago, I somewhat controversially wrote that I hoped tonight’s season finale of Offspring would be the series finale. Why? Because I wanted Offspring to leave the party on a high. Go out on top. And I instinctively felt that it was finally time to let Nina and Billie and Jimmy and Geraldine and Darcy Proudman go.

And tonight that’s exactly what happened.

It felt – to me at least – like my wish was granted. And it was bittersweet.

I think Offspring broke up with us tonight.

Every storyline was wrapped up. Every character was sorted out. Darcy and Geraldine are back together. Mick and Billie reunited. Cherie and Clegg are on. God even Elvis got a pash. We all know Zara is going to make a fantastic paediatrician with Jimmy by her side. Billie has finally carved her own place in the world. And Nina. I saw Nina and Zoe walking into their future with Nina’s hand firmly in Leo’s. And I bloody love Leo.

Tonight those crazy Proudmans came full circle – albeit a little older, a lot wiser and with more kids in tow. And tonight I said goodbye to a group of people I have come to love very much.

Will there be another season of Offspring? That’s yet to be confirmed. But tonight felt like the end to me. The family photo. The music. The appearance of Patrick smiling at Nina and giving her fledging relationship with Leo his blessing. It felt like a beautiful end.

And if by chance it was the end, I want to say this (in case I don’t get the chance to again):

Thank you.

offspring and leo s5 OFFSPRING: I think the Proudmans said goodbye.


Thank you to Debra Oswald for dreaming up a show that was laugh-out-loud funny and sexy and fresh and sophisticated and distinctly ours – distinctly Australian without being full of clichés and obnoxious characters. From the very first scene Offspring was layered and complex and whimsical and lovely. It just hummed. It reminded me of the gloriousness of a big, messy family. And it taught us that  ‘family’ is whatever you choose it to be: parents and siblings, work colleagues, friends.

Thank you too for creating a show that was in effect a love song to women over 35. Nina, Geraldine, Billie, Cherie and Kim – reminded Australian audiences that whether you’re 35 or 55 – life is still full of love, sex, family, friendships, career and fabulous boots and scarves. Over five years how refreshing it was to see these women living their complex, independent and interesting lives. They were more than wives or girlfriends or mothers.  They were fascinating women.

Thank you to the crew and the scriptwriters – Deb, Michael Lucas, Jonathan Gavin and their team who made blisteringly great television look effortless. From zinging one-liners (Clegg: “Law degrees are like iPods. Everybody’s got one”) to laugh-out-loud scenes (Nina’s dancing during a drunken night out with the girls, Billie’s pregnancy fantasy sequence, the Nanna Nina Noonan conversation, every scene ever with Martin Clegg) to the poignant TV moments that will stay in my heart for decades.

Like what? Like that moment when Patrick met up with his ex-wife who handed him a baby book of their stillborn son Gus and explained her actions with ‘Well, I’m still his mum’. Billie’s “You are the love of my life” moment at the pub with Mick. The night Nina found the rocking horse Patrick had lovingly handcrafted for their child. And I don’t think I will ever forget a heavily pregnant and newly widowed Nina confessing to Billie that she was worried she’d be too consumed with grief to be able to love the baby she was carrying. When Billie said, “Well, then I’ll cover you. If you’re too sad to start with, I’ll love the baby … I’ll love the baby ’til you’re ready to.” – I wept.

And thank you to the actors – Asher Keddie and Kat Stewart in particular – who breathed life into those words and were so convincing that the mere thought of seeing them in other roles and thus breaking the spell kills me a bit inside.

Oh I know, I know it’s just a TV show.

offspring full cast s3 OFFSPRING: I think the Proudmans said goodbye.



The Proudmans were a second family that I anchored myself to for five years while my own life blew off course and unravelled at times.

Offspring gave me a place to escape to every week. It reminded me of the sacredness of family. The power of life’s biggest forces – births, deaths, first loves, heartaches, and that intense bond between siblings.

If tonight was the end, well I like to think the writers of Offspring handed the baton to us – the viewers – to take over. Now we get to decide for ourselves where life will take Nina and Leo, Billie and Mick, Jimmy and Zara, Cherie and Clegg, Darcy and Geraldine. I’d much rather that than experience another two years of watching Nina and Leo and Billie and Mick repeatedly breakup in an attempt to keep a drama going.

Nope. I’m taking the baton and running with it. I have my own ideas where Nina and Billie and Jimmy will go from here. And maybe, just maybe in five or ten years time – we’ll see a special two-hour reunion telemovie.

Are you listening Debra Oswald? In five or ten years time  I want to check in on those crazy Proudmans and make sure they’re all doing okay and that Billie isn’t in jail for verbally assaulting anyone. So Debra Oswald, I’m going to hand this baton back to you in time but for now – I’m done. And I can’t thank you enough.
This post first appeared on Mamamia.

Dear Offspring, it’s time to call it a day. (July 2014)

’m just going to spit it out:  I want Offspring to finish.  I want this season – season five – to be the last one. In three weeks time, I want to be sitting on my couch, in my pjs watching a spectacular series finale. Not season finale. SERIES finale.

I want to be laughing and crying and reminiscing and I want to be really devastated that my favourite show is ending but more than all that I want it to actually be the end.

(I’ll just pause now as you start bashing out an abusive comment. Just remember – it’s BEC with a c not a k).

I can feel your rage from here. I can.

And it’s entirely possible I’m the only Offspring fan in the country that actually wants their favourite show to call it a day.

But let me explain.

I have loved Offspring from that very fist episode.  Remember it?  When Nina’s ex husband the bomb expert was blowing shit up to impress her?  When Nina and Cherie realised that Nina’s own father was the father of Cherie’s baby. When Nina was trying to hit on Chris Havel?  But most of all from that first glorious moment between the Proudman girls when Nina is grappling with a hospital vending machine and Billie calls her mobile and says, “Have you got your hand up a patient or can you talk?”

I was hooked. Smitten. You had me at hello.

And since that first episode in August 2010, baby I’ve been up for the ride.

The Chris Havel on-again off-again (dude, why are you living with your missing wife’s mother?) situation.  The sheer clustertruck of Nina sleeping with Mick.  The genius of Mick’s apology song ‘Six at Best’.  Nana Nina Noonan.

Screen Shot 2013 08 14 at 3.57.12 PM 290x385 Dear Offspring, it’s time to call it a day.


Jimmy’s surprise chips. Jimmy’s Runaway Bride, Tammy. Jimmy’s hair.  Stillbirths. Premmie babies. Infertility. Eloise. Rosanna. Rocket. Nina drunk and hiding in the bushes. And Patrick. Wonderful, complex, enigmatic Patrick.

But now it’s time to head this ship to shore. Because otherwise you know what’s going to happen. You do. Don’t pretend you don’t.  We all run the risk of falling out of love with our favourite show.

And that’s my fear, if I’m going to be brutally honest. That if Offspring keeps going it’ll jump the shark*. A moment that signals our favourite show is now on the decline.

Like the moment Alex and Rex got married on Secret Life of Us.

The moment Kimberly blew up the entire apartment complex on Melrose Place.

The moment Molly died on A Country Practice.

The moment that pesky Cousin Oliver turned up on The Brady Bunch.

There’s always a moment when fans decide – I’m done. And then what was once our favourite, can’t miss, love it to death TV show becomes Desperate Housewives. Or Lost.  Or True Blood. And every conversation about them is punctuated with “Remember when it was good?”

The writing is on the wall for Offspring.  I can feel it. How many more personal dramas can one family take?  Is a long lost Proudman sibling going to appear on the scene?  Is Jimmy going to die in a freak taco accident? Will Zoe suddenly have aged and be 14 in season six? Don’t’ laugh, my friends. It could happen.

Offspring 0872 photoJohnTsiavis 290x385 Dear Offspring, it’s time to call it a day.

“I hope Nina’s happy”

So at the end of this season I hope the writers have all those beautiful, mad Proudmans wrapped up.

Jimmy and Zara are happy.

Billie and Mick will reunite (we all know they will … Lawrence is too tanned and his teeth are too white. Billie will turn him into relationship road kill).

Cherie and Clegg will be back on.

Those saucy devils Darcy and Geraldine will find their way back to one another.

And Nina? Well what I hope is that we see Nina happy. Not necessarily in love. But happy. (Preferably with Leo). I want to see that woman – a woman who has kept me company and made me laugh and cry and cringe for the past four years – walking into her future with Zoe knowing that the two of them are going to be fine. More than fine. Fantastic.

Now you tell me a better ending than that.

* The phrase “jump the shark” was coined by an American college student to describe the moment Happy Days hit the point of no return. Once Fonzie had done the ultimate motorcycle jump numerous times in Arnold’s car park, the show’s producers decided the only way to up-the-ante was to make The Fonz jump a shark on water-skies. And so the phrase “jump the shark” was born. But it’s not just TV shows that can jump the shark – it’s open to anyone and anything: singers, actors, food (kale has had its day, my friends), scooters, loom bands, your parents. Personally, I peaked in February1987 … I was class captain, my braces had been removed and I was freshly permed. It’s been downhill for me ever since.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

At 30 I had a very clear definition of success. At 42 I threw that definition in the bin.

I made the two-hour drive south to see my parents last weekend and on my bed, waiting for me, my mum had placed an old cardboard box sealed with yellowed, crackly tape.

Look what I found, she said with a smile in her voice.

I recognised the box immediately. Recognised the bubble writing that said ‘Bec’s stuff”.

My teenage self resided inside that box. I winced.

As I pulled the tape away I was about to attend a school reunion, for one.

There were my report cards. Yearbooks full of corkscrew perms and braces and hyper-colour t-shirts. My year 12 formal ticket. My old favourite floral scrunchie that had lost its will to live. My McDonald’s Party Hostess of the Year badge.  Phil Collins “Not Jacket Required” on cassette. And a small crumpled pink envelope with ‘For The Future’  on the front.

I remember making that list of goals.

You see, when I was 17, I’d had a very clear definition of what a successful life looked liked.

I would be able to play Jessica’s Theme (from the Man From Snowy River) on the piano.

Bec list At 30 I had a very clear definition of what it meant to be a success.  At 42, I threw that definition in the bin.

Number 3 was to play Jessica’s Theme song.

I’d be able to waltz around a dance floor; have travelled to New York, Paris and Rome.

I’d be working as either a children’s TV host, a travel writer or a magazine editor.

Had at least one feature article published in a newspaper or magazine.

Drive a grey/black BMW.

And I’d be married to a man who made me go weak at the knees. Or Kirk Cameron. One or the other.

Achieve that and I’d be a success.

By the time I was 30 I dug out that list and crossed off most – not all – of those goals. I’d walked the streets of New York, Paris and Rome. Worked as a magazine editor and a travel writer. Had a column published in the newspaper.  Filled my Wednesday nights with a dance class. And married a man who made me weak at the knees  … most notably when he walked out.

But I was still driving a second-hand 1992 Hyundai sedan with no air con; I’d nicknamed her Meg Ryan (because they’d had the same amount of work done).  And as for Jessica’s Theme? After two years of piano lessons the only thing I could play was ‘Happy Frog’.

My friends thought I was living the dream. But I didn’t feel successful yet, so I started a new list.

You see, when I was 30, I had a very clear definition of what a successful life looked like.

I’d be the author of a best-selling novel.

I’d be working as a newspaper columnist or TV scriptwriter and living in a Hamptons style house with a garden full of fairy lights.

I’d be married (err, again) to a wonderful man and have at least two kids.

Tick all that off and then THEN I’d be a success.

By the time I’d turned 40, I’d achieved everything on that list. I’d met and married a wonderful man. Had a tribe of much-cherished kids. And while our home wasn’t a Hamptons style mansion, my fairy lights twinkling on our veranda made me smile.

I’d had 5 books published to terrific reviews. I’d written TV scripts, soap operas and been offered my own weekly newspaper column.

Bec envelope At 30 I had a very clear definition of what it meant to be a success.  At 42, I threw that definition in the bin.

I ticked off everything from the envelope, and yet that feeling of being ‘successful’ never came.

And yet, that feeling of being ‘successful’ never came.

I remember looking in the mirror the year I turned 40 and thinking, “I thought it would be different to this? I thought by this point I’d feel like a success. I thought that list of goals would bring me more joy.” Instead it felt hollow.

And that’s when I realised I needed to discover my own definition of success. Because for me it wasn’t about the big-ticket items. The job title or the car or the house with the white picket fence.

For me, success was measured by how I was feeling.

At 42, success is feeling like I am significant in my community; knowing that one person on this planet breathes easier every year because I am here.

At 42, success is cultivating joy – taking friendships offline and onto my front veranda and seeing a friend’s eyes sparkle when they give me their status update in real life.

At 42, success is being part of a tribe – spending time with a cherry-picked family and friends who fill me up and nourish my soul and who accept and love me as my imperfect, messy self.

Today success is discovering that happiness is found in the small moments, the tiny triumphs as much – maybe more than – the big ones.

Tying your laces on your runners and going for that first walk in forever.

Mastering your mum’s knock-out Quiche Lorraine

Finally finishing Madame Bovary.

Feeling useful. Grateful. Valued.

So that teenage girl that resides in the cardboard box, I’m happy she’s there with her big dreams (and her big hair) and her to-achieve list.

Because all of that lead me here to where I am now as I write this post. On a veranda hemmed with fairy lights, a cup of tea and six chapters left of Madame Bovary.
This post first appeared on Mamamia.

My life is great. So why is this thought keeping me up at night?

What I’m about to tell you makes me sound ridiculous. But I’m going to tell you anyway because I don’t think I’m alone.And what I’ve learned recently has changed the way I live my life. (Look, yeah I know you’re rolling your eyes because that’s a BIG CALL  saying “changed the way I live my life” as though I’m on Dr Phil but STAY WITH ME).

So a few weeks ago I had one of those fleeting moments where I realised everything in life was going great. My husband and I had finally settled into a new home that we adore.  His work was going amazingly well. I had some fabulous writing projects on the go.  The kids were thriving. And I’d finally bought a dryer (look, don’t judge me).

Wow, I thought. Life is great! GREAT! And for a moment I was flooded with happiness and joy about how well everything was going. And then, as it always does, sheer dread kicked in.

This can’t last, I thought.  Oh my God, I’m too happy. Things are too perfect. It’s just a matter of time before the other shoe drops.

Horrible, awful things happen to people all the time. I should know. They’ve happened to me.  Blind-sided me.  So when happiness walks through the door, I instinctively go into caution mode. Don’t be TOO happy.  Don’t let your guard down.  Any minute now life is going to bite you in the arse.

Sound familiar to anyone else out there?

Looking back I’ve lived this way for pretty much my entire life. And it’s an exhausting and boring way to live because it means that when happiness comes you never truly allow yourself to lean into it. You always ALWAYS hold back to protect yourself. Don’t be too happy because life will punish you.

So thank God one of my friends put me onto Brene Brown.

Brown is a renowned vulnerability and shame researcher and TED X sensation. And I’m now mildly obsessed with her and her books. According to Brown we all use a range of strategies to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable.

c69b7d14d776425c73414cc7cc4ad52d8ddddf48 254x191 Bec: My life is great.  So why is this thought keeping me awake at night?

Brene Brown.

Alcohol. Food. Sex. Drugs. Shopping. Social Media. Perfectionism. And – here’s the one that stopped me in my tracks:   joy-foreboding.


And it’s exactly how it sounds.

Joy-foreboding  (or dress-rehearsing tragedy) is about our  inability to allow ourselves to feel  joy in case it doesn’t last. In essence, Brown says that for some people (ME!!!!) joy brings with it a feeling of terror because we are so afraid the moment won’t last.

Take a look at this clip where Brown discusses joy-forboding with Oprah Winfrey (go to the 1m 35 second mark and start from there).

Can’t watch the video? Don’t panic.

Brown succinctly explained joy-foreboding in a 2012 interview with the Huffington Post.  She kicked things off my saying that joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience.

“And if you cannot tolerate joy, what you do is you start dress rehearsing tragedy.”

Dress rehearsing tragedy, she explains, is imagining something bad is going to happen when in reality, nothing is wrong.

“How many of you have ever stood over your child while they’re sleeping and thought, ‘Oh my God, I love you’ — and then pictured something horrific happening?” Brown asks. “Or woke up in the morning and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, job’s going great. Parents are good. This can’t last.”

During her research, Brown says she met people who had a profound capacity for joy. The difference, she says, is that when something really blissful happened to them, they felt grateful. “Instead of using it as a warning to start practicing disaster, they used it as a reminder to practice gratitude,” Brown says.

Ever since I read Brene Brown’s words I can tell you – hand on heart – that I’ve stopped worrying.

Of course I have my moments but now when I feel my mind going into some kind of death spiral of all the bad things that “could” go wrong, I stop and feel grateful. I am grateful that right now today, my family are well. I’m grateful that my children are safe, tucked up in their beds. I am grateful that right now – all is right in my little patch of the world.

These days when joy walks through the door, I grab it with both hands. Life’s too short not to lean in to the good moments and appreciate them when they arrive.

Dr Jo Lamble’s 5 tips on how to avoid joy-foreboding

JoLamble Bec: My life is great.  So why is this thought keeping me awake at night?

Jo Lamble

I went to Australian psychologist Dr Jo Lamble for some tips on how to better manage this habit of joy-foreboding. Here’s what she had to say …

1. Learn to focus on there here and now. Try not to worry about the future because anticipation is usually worse than the reality and thinking about the future will cause us to miss today.

2. Practice mindfulness = learning to observe our thoughts, feelings and surroundings without judgment.

3. Practice being grateful. You are not going to jinx anything by feeling grateful for your life and loved ones. Being grateful increases happiness.

4. Know that we are resilient creatures. When bad things happen, we somehow learn to cope.

5. Preparing for disaster won’t make it easier if something bad happened. You can’t imagine pain – physical or emotional, so it’s pointless to try.

Have you ever experienced the type of fear Bec’s talking about? What do you worry about? And how do you overcome that concern?

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

Today I got on the scales. Things didn’t go well.

Take a seat. I’m about to tell you how much I weigh.

But I’ll get to that in a sec.

Here’s where I’m at. I haven’t exercised in two years. And I haven’t exercised consistently in five. Once upon a time I went to the gym and had a personal trainer and I did push ups and lifted weights. And I was fit, y’all. And then? Well then I had four kids in six years, I moved house six times and I started wearing clothes with elasticised waistbands and eating my kids leftovers.

In a nutshell? I pulled up a chair to the fridge and never left.

So eight years after I got married, I’m nine kilos heavier. NINE KILOS.

Let me paint a clearer picture for you.

I’m 172cm tall. And I’m currently 72kg. Which gives me a BMI of about 3256. (Okay 24.3 which only just JUST keeps me in the healthy weight range).

So what this means is that right now I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been (excluding my four pregnancies and, err, the 12 months I lived in London in the 90s). I can’t fit into my clothes. I feel unfit and lethargic. How bad is it? My stomach currently sticks out further than my boobs. So yeah, THAT WOULD BE BAD.

Which is why a few weeks ago – as yet another person glanced down at my stomach with the words “How far along are you? “ about to roll off their tongue – I made the somewhat bold move to buy myself an elliptical machine.

I figure exercising at home will be cheaper than gym fees in the long run and also give me the flexibility of exercising at home where there truly are no excuses (It’s raining! The crèche is closed! The gym is closed! Quincy is sleeping! Fin is sleeping! It’s too hot outside! I’ll get my eyes pecked out by magpies!)

Why an elliptical? No idea. Other than the fact someone told me they are better on your joints than treadmills. So here’s my plan. I’m going to actually start exercising again. Forty-five minutes a day, five days a week. I’m being realistic. Right now, that’s as good as it’s going to get.

But I figure that’s better than what I had been doing which was, err, NOTHING AT ALL.

I’m aiming to work hard enough to sweat and be out of breath. But not so hard that I can’t still watch TV or surf the net on my iPad. The best advice I’ve been given is to make exercising such a normal part of my morning routine that I don’t even think about it. It’s non-negotiable. I get up at 5am and I go downstairs and exercise.

elliptical 2 BEC: Today I got on the scales. Things didnt go well...

Wish me luck.

I started yesterday and only managed to be able to do Level 5 (out of 25) but I’ll get there.

You know what’s interesting? Ten years ago if someone had asked me to reveal my weight, I would have rather eaten a box of hair. There was something shameful and embarrassing about admitting what I weighed.

I don’t feel that way anymore. Maybe it’s an age thing. Maybe it’s because at 42, I know that my weight is just one small part of who I am and what I have to offer. At 42, one thing I’ve learned is that the size of my arse has no correlation to my happiness and my worth as a human being.

But I would like to feel strong again. And I’d really rather not have to buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes.

So wish me luck on this journey back into fitness. I’ll let you know how I get on.  (For anyone interested in joining me or following my progress, I’m going to post updates at The Glow)

Anyone else out there want to reveal their height and weight?  And how and when do you exercise? 
This post first appeared on Mamamia.

Does this admission really make me weird?

I’m a freak, apparently.

On a road trip on the weekend, I confessed to something that nearly caused my friend to swerve off the road and crash the car we were in.

So what did I say?

Are you ready? You may want to be sitting down. No seriously, I’ll wait.

Okay. Here goes … I don’t own a dryer.

You know, a CLOTHES DRYER.

Are you still there? Helloooooooooo?

Here’s what I’ve learned over the last 48 hours, apparently admitting to NOT OWNING A DRYER is like saying you don’t have a TV or you don’t believe in electricity or you make your own papier mache toilet paper.

“What do you mean you don’t own a dryer?” my friend said suspiciously, her eyes narrowing as though she suddenly suspected I was a hipster greenie with a cupboard full of activated almonds. “Why would you NOT own a dryer? And how the hell are you drying your washing?”

Err, I hang it out. You know, on a line. WITH PEGS.

Is that so weird?

Apparently it is. Apparently I am the only person in Australia pegging out washing in the suburbs.

It’s at this point my friend started referring to me as Mrs Tiggy Winkle, the famous Beatrix Potter character who spends her days doing washing.

She laughed. I laughed. And then I realised that Mrs Tiggy Winkle is a hedgehog with a BMI of about 127, so I stopped laughing and made her take it back.

But she continued to mock me none the less.

mrstiggywinkle 380x306 Bec: Does this admission really make me weird?

The Mrs Tiggy Winkle Support Group will be meeting on Tuesday.

I think this is what you would call APPLIANCE SHAMING! I’m on the verge of starting a support group.

The truth is the reason I don’t own a dryer has less to do with strong-minded environmental principles and more to do with my obsession with TV.

Over the years conversations about buying a dryer have gone a bit like this:

Me: We have some spare money in our account. We should get a dryer.

My Husband: Did you eat the last bit of chocolate in the fridge?

Me: OR … we could buy the box set of Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and The Sopranos instead.

Over the years we have chosen to take short holidays or buy box set DVDs or you know pay our mortgage rather than buy a dryer.

But I’m not going to lie and say it’s not a total pain in the arse not having a dryer. It’s a total pain. Sure I live in Brisbane now where the weather is nauseatingly perky and sunshiny all the time but I spent two years living in Adelaide where it rained constantly in the winter. You know how we dried our clothes and sheets and towels then? We hung them inside over the dining room chairs. Oh yes we did.

So believe me when I tell you that I understand the seductive lure of the dryer.

And now I have three small kids and I feel like I spend ALL MY TIME hanging out loads of washing and bringing them back in. But I thought everyone was doing that. Clearly not.

Suddenly, a dryer is looking rather appealing.

I mentioned this entire conversation on my Facebook page yesterday and my friends on Team Dryer raved about soft, toasty warm clothes. They talked about how much time it saved them and how much easier life is when you can just chuck all the washing in the dryer and walk away. They started whispering stories about some magical dyer called a “Condenser” which washes everything and shrinks nothing. They were trying to lure me over to the dark side of big, power-sucking appliances. They were like that skinny bad guy Arthur Slugsworth in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

So the question is, do I cave and buy a dryer? And if so, what should I get?

Talk to me people. Am I really the only person still pegging out washing? And if not, the Mrs Tiggy Winkle Support Group will be meeting on Tuesday. BYO pegs.

Do you own a clothes dryer? Why/Why not?

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

A man came to my door on Saturday and wouldn’t leave

A man I don’t know scared me.

That’s what this post is about. That’s it in a nutshell.

And when I say “scared me” what I mean is that I thought I was possibly about to get raped.

Three weeks ago, I was home alone on a Saturday afternoon. My husband was out, my five-year-old was playing at a neighbour’s house and my two little boys were asleep having their daytime naps. I was standing in the lounge room sorting washing when I heard the click of our front garden gate. Then I heard someone knocking on the laundry door downstairs. Our dog started barking madly so I locked him in the bedroom.

I wasn’t worried at this point. I thought perhaps it was Anne who lived next door.

“Hellooooo?” I called out, walking outside onto the veranda.

I could hear footsteps beneath the floorboards. Delivery drivers and couriers had a habit for dropping any packages or parcels underneath the veranda. At this point I wasn’t worried.

“Hello?” I called again, a little louder.

That’s when he appeared. All scruffy beard and laconic grin.

He was 20-something. Holding a clipboard.

I winced. He had one of those random electricity company logo shirts on.

“Oh there you are,” he smiled up at me, as I stood above him.

Internally, I rolled me eyes. I’d seen ACA enough times to know I was about to be asked to sign up to some energy plan from a company I’d never heard of with a shitty discount rate.

But before I could get a word out, the spiel had begun.

“I’m just here to ask if you’d like to save money…”

I cut him off. And in truth, I was probably a little terse.

“Look, honestly, I’m not interested. We’re happy with our current plan.”

I took a step backwards – the universal sign of “See, I’m going back inside my house now. Off you go.”

Except he didn’t go. He took a step forward.

“Are you collecting firewood?” he asked.

What? He was motioning his head towards a pile of tree pods on the lawn that my husband had collected. He took another step towards me.

“This is a great garden.”


“Mate, I’m not interested.” I was shaking my head at him.

186145715 1 BEC: A man came to my door on Saturday and wouldnt leave …

What would you do if someone like this came through your garden gate?

He took another two steps – this time coming up the stairs to where I was.

“What’s that interesting smell downstairs?”

WHAT? He means the citronella candle thingy Anne had burning next door.

“No, no, no – mate. I’ve got kids asleep. I’m busy. I’m not interested.”

Now he looked pissed off.

“I just want to chat to you…” His tone had changed.

And so had mine. Now I was worried.

“Listen, I’m not interested.” Even I could tell my voice sounded panicky.

He kept walking up the steps. “What you don’t even have time to consider a chance to save money?”

GET AWAY FROM ME! I wanted to yell. But I didn’t. Instead I could feel my heart start to race as I began to panic.

I was alone in the house. The boys were asleep in the back rooms.

Did I leave the laundry door downstairs open? If I run and shut this door, can I beat him downstairs and lock the door before he gets there? If I race back inside and shut the door which way is he going to go?

He said something but I wasn’t listening. I was trying to formulate a plan. A plan called ‘how not to get raped on this Saturday afternoon’.

Was I being ridiculous? Possibly.

But all I could think was, if my worst fear is about to unfold, I had no chance. There were too many unlocked doors. I had sleeping babies inside the house.

I have no chance.

“I AM ASKING YOU TO LEAVE. JUST. LEAVE.” I heard myself say forcefully.

He paused. Thunder crossing his face. And then suddenly he turned to go, muttering something as he left.

I watched him leave. I didn’t take my eyes off him until I saw him walk up the street and turn. And then I went back inside my house, locked all the doors and cried.

I cried because nothing had happened. I cried because the reason nothing had happened is purely because that man, that stranger, had decided nothing would happen. My fate for those few seconds on the veranda steps lay with him. The ball was in his court.

And it always is.

I know the vast majority of men are decent and kind. I know that. I’m married to one of those men.

I also know that most likely the ‘energy sales guy’ had no intention of hurting me. Maybe he thought he was just doing his job. Being persistent. The problem is I didn’t know that for sure.

149022279 BEC: A man came to my door on Saturday and wouldnt leave …

No means no when you’re an electricity salesman knocking on suburban doors.

And every time a male courier comes to the door, every time I get into a cab with a male driver, every time I enter a lift alone with a strange man or a group of blokes or walk through a car park or find myself alone with a man, any man, that I don’t know –  I’m taking a leap of faith.

I’m crossing my fingers they don’t decide to turn on me.

As a woman, I walk this earth, live my life with the knowledge that I could pretty much be overpowered by a male at anytime.

And you know what? Most days I don’t think about it. Most days I’m fine and I don’t feel the least bit scared. But some days that reality really, really terrifies me.

I don’t really know what I’m trying to say with this post. Maybe I want to remind parents everywhere that we need to teach our sons how easy it is for a woman to feel scared and vulnerable at times simply because of their presence.

We need to teach our sons how important it is to be respectful. To read situations.

And we need to teach our sons that no means no. No means no when it comes to sex. And no means no when it comes to a sales call at 1pm on a lonely Saturday afternoon.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

I’ve turned into the type of mother I once criticised.

Once upon a time I was a smug mother.

When exactly? 2009 to be precise.

Kevin Rudd was the Prime Minster, Tiger Woods was crashing into fire hydrants while his wife enthusiastically belted him with a 9 iron and my days were spent googling things like ‘Names Matt Preston gives his cravats”.

And when I wasn’t doing that I was swanning around our apartment with my first baby: making my own baby food, going to mother’s group and fastidiously filling in my daughter’s baby album with the intensity of Dustin Hoffman in a Rainman audition.

“Oh I have NAILED this motherhood gig,” I frequently said aloud to myself because I was, um, weird. “NAILED. IT.”

And in some ways, I had.

My six-month-old daughter slept often and easily.

Financially, I was able to work for myself from home doing whatever hours I chose.

I had supportive friends. A mother willing to babysit. A husband who loved being a father.

So what I’m saying, people, is that I was nauseatingly smug.

(How smug? On a scale of one to ten -, ten being say  Gwyneth “Espanola por favor” Paltrow, I clocked in at 275. I was Miranda-Kerr-combined-with-Andrea-Moss-with-a-dash-of-Carol-Brady type of smug.)

But the worst bit about how I behaved back then was that deep down I judged other mothers. I judged them as foolish for not having their baby in a routine. LIKE ME. I judged them as disorganised for not having a neat and tidy home. LIKE ME. I judged them as irresponsible for not putting their kids to bed at a respectable time. LIKE ME. I judged them for not being able to keep calm and not lose their minds LIKE ME.

This is because I was an idiot with NO FREAKING CLUE ABOUT MOTHERHOOD.

Yes my baby slept but I was lucky to have a healthy baby who just so happened to sleep often and easily. Yes I worked but I was fortunate to be financially stable and to be able to work from home when and how I chose.

becandava BEC: Ive turned into the type of mother I used to criticise.

Bec and Ava.

Little wonder I found motherhood a breeze when I wasn’t battling PND, I had just one healthy child and I was #blessed to have supportive friends and family I could call on when I needed.

Of course I realise that now but back then, not so much. I was foolish enough to think it was 8 parts me and 2 parts luck. In truth it was the other way around.

I think back to the mother I used to be and I want to send her a “Congratulations, You’re An Awesome Mother!’ card LACED WITH ANTHRAX.

Because five years and three children later and ladies and gentlemen I have turned into the type of mother I once despaired about.

Last night my two-year-old decided for the first time in history that he no longer likes spaghetti bolognese and communicated his displeasure by pegging random meatballs at our dog before tipping the entire contents of his bowl onto the floor and screaming ‘IPAD!” in a tone reminiscent of say, Kim Jong-il in an Apple store.

In my laundry, there is a load of washing that has been in the washing machine for 24 hours.

Meanwhile my 11-month-old has no routine. None. He gets carted around between school picks ups and drop offs and sleeps when he can. Oh and I have homemade his food ONCE in 11 months. ONCE.

Meanwhile despite the fact my daughter didn’t even really know what McDonald’s was until she was four, my two-year-old son has been known to actually fist pump and cheer “Donald’s! Donald’s! Donald’s!” when we randomly drive past the golden arches.

(I’ll just pause for 3 minutes and play Wrecking Ball on Ava’s toy xylophone while you email Noni Hazlehurst to nominate me for the Barnardo’s Mother of Year 2015 …)

At 6.30pm last night I contemplated hiding in our pantry with a bottle of Moscato and a bowl of chocolate-coated blueberries. But I didn’t. Because I feared my three children would stage a coup.

So this post is an apology of sorts to the mothers who came before me.

supermum1 BEC: Ive turned into the type of mother I used to criticise.

You don’t have to be Super Mum. You just have to be a Mum.

Back in 2009, I didn’t know how tricky and exhausting and gruelling things can get when you have more than one child.

I didn’t understand that the mere thought of loading three small children into the car to do a kindy drop off can make you want to weep tears of exhaustion.

I didn’t really know (until I later saw a friend go through it) how truly crippling PND can be. Or what a difference it is to have the emotional support of a partner or family around. Or how truly truly lucky you are to have a healthy and ‘easy going’ baby at home.

Some babies are just grumpy or fractious or they have health issues that can take a toll on an entire household.

I didn’t know that strict-to-the-minute routines don’t matter! That – guess what? – a baby who gets schlepped about here and there can still get plenty of sleep and be happy and thriving.

I didn’t know that a two-year-old who is more adept at using an iPad than Bill Gates or a four-year-old who has a Happy Meal once a week is not going to stop the world from turning.

It didn’t dawn on me that different approaches work for different families and that NEWSFLASH – who cares? And mind your own business.

So to the mothers who came before me – who knew all this stuff long before I got it – I apologise.

And to the Judgy McJudgersons who are still out there,  I say this (and wish someone had said this to me):

Shut your mother lovin’ cake-hole.

Stay in your own lane. Stick to your own movie. You think everyone else is a terrible parent and that you’re the best? Good for you. Call Oprah. Hold a tickertape parade for your fine self. Start up a “how to be an awesome mother like me” blog and all your friends can pretend to read it while hoping you get salmonella poisoning next time you make your own salmon tartare.

I was once a smug mum. Now I’m just a mum. Not terrific. Not terrible. Just a mum who’s doing her best, one Happy Meal at a time.

Are you guilty of being a smug mum?
This post first appeared on Mamamia.

I was hurting and this is what helped

I have a stock-standard answer that I give when people ask me – and they always ask me – how I survived the death of my daughter Georgie several years ago.

And it’s this: I was saved by friends and strangers; one lasagne at a time.

It’s true.  In those early weeks and months when my strangled heart was so desperately heavy that it threatened to drag me below the waves – small kindnesses were my driftwood.

Lasagnes appeared on my doorstep.

Cards and flowers and letters and homemade baby socks and Christmas decorations bearing my daughter’s name arrived in the mail.

Friends secretly organised weeks of gourmet meals to be delivered. Others paid for cleaners or offered up a weekend at a holiday house on the beach.  Then there was the group of girlfriends who banded together and bought me three months of boxing lessons with a personal trainer so I could start to feel strong again.

Then there was one friend – not a close friend but a friend nonetheless – who simply sent me the prettiest floral handkerchief. I’ve never forgotten it.

lasagne Rebecca Sparrow: I was hurting and this is what helped.

“I was saved by friends and strangers; one lasagne at a time.”

I look back now and the first few weeks and months after Georgie’s death are a bit of a blur. But what it gave me is a lesson in grief.

Not just in living through every parent’s worst nightmare but in seeing first-hand how to care for someone who is grieving.

How often when someone we know goes through a tragedy, do we immediately ask, “What can I do?”  And we’re met with silence.  Of course we are because someone who is grieving usually has neither the energy nor the inclination to delegate tasks.  Just getting out of bed and having a shower is a mammoth effort without having to work out how your work colleagues can ‘help’ you.

Today, what I would like us all to do is to share our stories and ideas of what’s worked for us.

When you have been in trouble – a loved one has been in hospital, you’ve unexpectedly been dumped or fired from your job, when the world has left you sinking beneath the waves – what are the acts of kindness you’ve received that have made a difference?

List them here.  Share your tips and advice and ideas.  Let’s make this post a resource that we can each refer back to in the future.

Share this post. Bookmark it for yourself to refer back to.

So next time someone in your life suffers an unspeakable tragedy or is simply in need of some comfort – you’ll be able to come back here and have an arsenal of ideas.  When your first instinct is to ask ‘What can I do?” … you won’t need an answer. You’ll already know.

Bec’s Suggestions Of Small Acts of Kindness:

Don’t wait to be asked to cook a meal.

Just make something that would suit the whole family – lasagne or bolognaise is always a winner – and just drop it on the doorstep. Better yet put the meal in a disposable container and leave a note to your friend saying “I love you. Enjoy. And keep the container. Xx”

Send a card with a beautiful handkerchief.

One friend did this for me and I’ve never forgotten it (Thank you, Simone.)

If the person has lost a child, make sure you mention that child’s name in the card.

If you’re visiting a friend in hospital (who has been there more than a few days) think about taking them in some non-hospital food that they’re allowed to eat.

Anything fresh like fruit or sushi will most likely be warmly received.

Send text messages without expecting a reply.

Just an “I’m sending you lots of love and strength today.”  Knowing that people are thinking about you and care about you helps enormously.

If your friend has kids, turn up on a Saturday and offer to take them to the park.

Mark 6 weeks ahead in your diary and make a note to call, text or email the person – particularly if they have lost a loved one.

It’s the six-week mark that can really hurt when everyone has moved on with their lives.  A little note in the mail saying ‘I’m thinking about you’ … makes all the difference. As one friend said to me, “Silence is deafening”.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.