So there I was, almost 8 weeks post partem, giving swimming a go for the first time since the Kelvin Grove State High Grade 8 swimming carnival (pretty much)...
I rock up to The Bay Health Club in my newly acquired speedos, goggles, and a swimming cap I would later find was too small for my enormous 'Dean head' (sorry 'bout that Otis)...
I have never been a swimmer for fitness. The thought of wearing togs always put me off. But there I stood in my thigh length speedos (discreet!) practically looking like an Olympic swimmer after emerging from a long...long Winter hibernation. It didn't matter that I couldn't really swim, just that I looked the part. Right?
The only lane free?
The fast lane, of course.
I slip myself into the deep end, awkwardly treading water as I try to fit my goggles over my enormous uncapped head. Shit, it's cold. The only stroke I feel comfortable attempting first off is breaststroke and even then I find myself in a mild to moderate panic. Is it the cold water? My asthma? Or the fact I haven't swum since the 90s?
So, there I am. Almost drowning in the f**king fast lane. To my left is Leisel Jones... to my right...Ian Thorpe (basically). Buns as tight as my violin strings. Gliding past me like a pair of f**king dolphins.
But I keep on going....keep flailing about...one crooked stroke at a time...
Living life in the fast lane. Just really, REALLY slowly.
A Creative Essay by Emma Dean
As I sit at my computer, midway through a Zoom psychology session, I realise something...
This is the first time I have slowed down enough to feel all the things I have been needing so desperately to feel and work through. Things I have pushed deep down into the pit of my stomach and cemented over with a busy schedule, wine, constant movement and big ideas. This is the first time I have been forced into stillness, allowing my residue to bubble up and for me to look directly at the beautiful gunky mess laid out before me.
And it is beautiful, you know. In all its icky, stinky, messiness – it is still a part of me.
Emerging from the gunky residue is a warrior woman, a protector, who takes no shit. She knows how to implement boundaries. She is great at direct communication. She is bold and fierce when she needs to be. She gives no fucks what anyone thinks.
Also emerging from the gunk is a soft, gentle mother. A kind-hearted nurturer who serves others with so much love and care. She cares deeply what people think of her. She is sensitive, self-sacrificing, and never wants to step out of line.
As I begin to learn more about these two parts of me, I realise who I want to be – who I truly am - is somewhere in-between them.
A merging of the emerging.
I have to rupture the version of myself I know best - the safe version - to get to know the new me. And to do this, I have to get messy.
I am in the beautiful mess as I type this. It is exactly where I need to be.
Sloppin’ around in the gunk.
A creative essay by Emma Dean
Ok. So I have to admit, in the weeks leading up to our 7-week scan I had been googling images of what our Blob would look like. I’d read articles about what to expect – that it might be too early to detect a heartbeat; that you might see the heartbeat but not hear it; that you might hear it like a freakin’ steam train ploughing through the doctor’s office. The answers were so diverse and at the end of every single article it was stressed: NOT TO WORRY.
Whoever wrote this shit clearly had not struggled with infertility.
You see, for those of us who know the rollercoaster of In Vitro Fertilization, it is not as easy as having pleasurable sex to make another baby should, Goddess forbid, this one not survive. The process of even getting to this point was over two years in the making…and that’s nothing compared to the many IVF warriors who endure ‘pin cushion’ status for several years at a time.
So there I was. 38 years old. 7 weeks pregnant. For the first time in my life.
The ritual began. A ritual I knew SO well after over a year of IVF as well as investigatory appointments for years before that!
Dr Kroon drew the curtain. I took off my sandals, dropped my undies and scrunched them in a ball placing them unhygienically under my shoes out of sight (to this day I still don’t know where I was expected to put them!) I sat on the examination table, leaned back and boldly spread my legs.
That morning I had neatened my pubic hair, as always, so Dr Kroon would more easily be able to navigate my usually unkept bush as he inserted ‘Wanda’ the ultrasound condomed lubed-up dildo inside me.
As Wanda entered, somewhat romantically (you’re a sweetheart Wanda), I suddenly saw an image on the screen of what looked like blobs. Then there was a moment when the world seemed to stop where we could distinctly hear a heart.
Could this actually be it? Could I have a real, living, baby inside me?
“Here’s the heartbeat! It’s perfect”, Dr Kroon exclaimed.
There were so many moments during our journey when I wondered if we would ever experience this miracle. But today, somehow, this miracle was ours to cherish. No matter what happened next, no one would EVER be able to take this experience away from us.
“Oh my god” was the only thing I could say. Twenty-seven times according to the video (Lucas' Dad counted!). Over and over like a broken record. The relief. The joy. And still…a tinge of disbelief and skepticism. How could something so small create something so big? A steam train. We got the steam train experience!!!
Just as we calmed down, Dr Kroon dropped a bombshell.
“And now… here’s the SECOND heartbeat.”
In the video we watched back later, you can hear me mumble under my breath, ”Oh shit”. Then tears welled and spilled and we realised…we were having twins.
It is amazing what hope can do. It is often the one thing that keeps you going, moving towards the thing you want, no matter how painful it can be to try and fail and try and fail and try and fail again. But hope. Simple hope. When held gently by you and those around you has an unquantifiable power. It is the one thing, apart from sheer stubbornness and a bucket load of love, that led us to this moment.
In Dr Kroon’s office.
Leg’s spread wide.
Realising, quite literally, we got two for the price of one.
A creative essay by Emma Dean
A lot of people ask me how I discovered life coaching. The way I see it is: life coaching found me!
Let me take you back to the beginning…
I met my beautiful partner Lucas on 1 January 2020 (happy new year to ME!) and it became very clear I had met someone extraordinarily special. By our third date (at You Came Again vegan tapas in West End – yummmm!) we found out we were both exploring, or at least thinking about, options to have a baby by ourselves – me through sperm donor and Lucas through surrogacy.
Both being 36 at the time - and me with a few question marks surrounding my fertility - we sprung into action a month later throwing caution to the wind and launching, genitals first, into our TTC (trying to conceive) journey.
Before connecting with Jennifer, I had not spoken openly about our journey. I was filled with shame, embarrassment and feelings of unworthiness and confusion. But after reading her heart-on-sleeve book – The Injustice Of Infertility – I felt called and inspired to speak out.
Or rather, SING out.
So, I began writing songs about infertility. The songs became an album. The album became a tour. And suddenly, before I knew it, I was standing on a stage singing and speaking about infertility and IVF. And these songs were not all cry-your-heart-out numbers. No. They were hopeful, honest and at times even funny, tongue and cheek stories that made people laugh and smile and perhaps reflect on their own journey.
But the best feedback I ever received was that this collection of songs made people feel not so alone.
It got me to thinking about the power of creativity; about how healing it was for me to dig deep and turn some of my pain, my shame, and my broken bits into something beautiful, like the Japanese art of kintsugi. The release was significant. The empowerment was real.
Perhaps I could help others do the same?
Now, for over 20 years I have been coaching in the field of music, singing and songwriting so I am no stranger to their incredible healing powers. But I wanted to learn structure and technique and a way that could potentially cater for people who did not necessarily use music as their creative medium.
Eventually, I found BYCA (Beautiful You Coaching Academy) where I have been studying and learning and loving. My dream is to be able to help people own their own unique stories through creative practice, goal setting, and action! Whether you are a beginner and just want to find your creative spark, or you have a creative dream on the tip of your tongue, I want to help you achieve this, one magical and meaningful step at a time.
As I type this creative essay, I am 21 weeks pregnant with twins. One of them is high kicking me in the ribs like a Radio City Rockette, as if to remind me of the incredible adventure we went on to make this dream a reality and the healing, creative steps I took along the way.
Emma Dean is a Brisbane/Meanjin-based creative coach, musician, writer, composer, arranger, dreamer and choir mama.