It all began at 6 years old.

a little step may the beginning of a journeyWhen i was six I can consciously remember that I was going make a difference in a child’s life.  I can remember sitting at the dinner table and dad reminding me to eat all my food and be thankful because somewhere in the world a child was starving.  I can remember looking at National Geographic magazines and dreaming of travelling the world especially to those that were underdeveloped and helping orphans. I devoured ever book I could find on world cultures and how people lived in other countries.  i read about children from hard places who had been abused/neglected and prayed that one day I could make a difference.  I remember reading a novel called ‘One Child’ by Tory Hayden relating to the little girl and wondering how I could help her.  The story thankfully ended well where a teacher came into her life and could see past the anger and nurtured her till she could fly again.   I had no idea how that dream was going to pan out but the dream still exists even stronger 39 years latter.

39 years latter……you may wonder gees stop dreaming Bernadette and do something about it.  There is so much you can do..like sponsor a child; travel to an underdeveloped country and work in an orphanage, work for an organisation that can make a difference, raise funds; help someone else’s child; become a foster parent; study so you can be equipped to help those less fortune on a professional level.  mmmmm I have done all that and still i feel this desire growing inside me to do more.  Honesty I nearly gave up until I had an shake up that life is not just about yourself and without a goal to help others I felt this horrible emptiness creeping in.  I have no desire for status or being applauded for what I choose to do.  I just need to follow my heart even if it means being misunderstood.

 I began researching the needs in my own country NSW Australia and found that there are over 40 000 children in out of home care and that majority of these children have been moved from several homes before the age of 5.  I also began studying and reading all the literature i could get my hands on from a wonderful source Dr Karyn Purvis.  Dr Karyn has written numerous papers on child attachment and specialises in foster care/adoption and the affects on children who are within the system.  i had the privilege of attending one of her conferences last year in Sydney and knew without a doubt this is where i was needed. ( http://empoweredtoconnect.org)  For now my focus is Australia and the needs of the children here.

So where do I start??

At the end 2011 I completed a degree in Counselling.  I found it very hard to find work within the industry and to be honest I had no idea what I wanted to do,  so in the beginning of 2012 I decided to take a three month trip to Europe with my mum discovering where my family came from and meet some relatives for the first time.  During our trip mum and I decided to see if we could find an orphanage in Malta.  The very next day we went for a morning coffee and I overheard a lady talking about an orphanage in Malta,  I made a quick about turn and asked where was the orphanage?  It was a 10 minute walk from where we were.  So keen and on a mission we walked to the bottom end of Valletta and knocked on the door of the orphanage.  We were greeted by a lovely nun who spoke impeccable English and welcomed us in.  I asked if they needed any help and she said Yes on Mondays.

So the next Monday mum and I went to help in the toddler room for a couple of hours.  I have to say it was the cleanest; well run orphanage i have ever stepped into.  Most of the children who lived there were not Maltese but from families who came as immigrants.  The families were struggling and unable to look after there children so the nuns became their parent.  I was impressed that they had the understanding of one on one connection and the need for the child to become attached to their care giver.  The children seemed happy and well cared for.  For me it brought up the memories of my Africa trip several years ago and my helplessness in not being able to do enough.  On the other hand it was great to work with my mum and to show her my passion for orphans and that desire I had since I was six came rushing back to me fast and hard.  Its funny I have heard the saying to remove yourself from your own environment sometimes makes things seem clearer……..well it did but it also made things much more complicated for me.

Back to Australia:

The desire to love and nurture children grew stronger and stronger..its all i could think of.  I needed to make some phone calls to agencies who trained people for foster care.  It was the only way I could see I could assist in my own country.  I rang several agencies and they came out to interview me but something inside me felt uncomfortable.  Then I heard of a wonderful organisation called Banardos.  I spoke to a lovely case worker and knew immediately this was the organisation to go with.  Two case workers came out and discussed what the process was going to entail and my involvement in an adoption process.  Was my ears hearing right?? “Adoption” um hang on Im single I thought it was impossible to adopt as a single in Australia.  The case workers smiled and said there organisation is going through restructuring and Yes it was very possible for me to adopt as a single in NSW alone.  I needed time to think.  Its what I have always wanted but can I do this as a single.  I had a whole week end of facing my own fears; praying and in dialogue with a friend.  At the end of the week end I rang Bandardos and said Yes ok lets start the process.

The Assessment Process:

1 year of 3.5hour x 15 assessments in my home.

Full disclosure of family upbringing; highs and lows, talking about each developmental stage of my life from earliest memory to date. (some great and some not so great).

My dreams for the future.  My desire to be a Mother and why?

What happens if I meet Mr Right?

Full health check.

Police check & Nation Wide fingerprints.

Adoption Counselling.

Circle of friends/support/networking.

2 x full week end training with other potential parents.

Meeting Birth Families and hearing their stories (LOTS OF TEARS)

Assessment of  my Psychological framework.

Home check for safety.

Financial status and savings.

How a match process works? What are my expectations?

At least 24 Buckets full of tears.

After one year, Banardos compiled my story into a booklet gave me one copy and took the other copy to be assessed.   My case went to a tribunal and I received a phone call saying I was approved to Adopt.  To be exact the date and time being Friday 11.35am on 22/3/13.

 

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Contented.

My home is full of dancing sun rays this afternoon.  I have Zen garden music playing peacefully in the background and I am so contented with sitting on my floral single couch all curled up watching the birds and trees swaying in the gentle wind.  Im smiling with a warm knowing my life is exactly where it is meant to be.   I am enjoying this time alone; on holidays; pottering in the garden; painting; and creating spaces within my home.  Last night for the first time in a very long time (nearly 8 years) I found myself sprawled on the floor painting on canvas again.  My creative side is emerging again.  I felt a sense of joy and a part of myself come alive with excitement knowing that as my roots grow deeper with the Upper Blue Mountains community my true self is also emerging.

 

This morning i had my lovely two caseworkers from Banados come for morning tea.  They occasionally pop in with their kind words and beautiful smiles encouraging me as I wait for my family to grow through adoption.  I am so blessed to have supportive loving case workers that really love their job and also that they genuinely want to make a difference in peoples lives.  I hear some horrible adoption stories from people with other agencies and am so glad my experience is quite the opposite.  In the past two years I have nothing but positive affirmation for Banados and in particular these two ladies who have walked the journey with me.  Its so natural talking to them and I am looking forward to the next step of the journey with them and creating a happy safe home for a child one day soon.  Thank you Banardos for nurturing me and giving me hope along the way.  I highly recommend if you are thinking of adopting to contact Banardos NSW.  The journey is long; its challenging and requires a lot of waiting so having a quality service like Banardos makes it more pleasurable to endure.

Family

The wait and the longing continues but I know I am in very safe hands. Soon my life will change and become a little more busy but for now I embrace this time alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking the Cycle……..July 4th.

statue of libertyJuly 4th 2006 is a significant day for me.  I drove into Sydney with no idea where I was going except for the fact that I knew without a doubt that NSW was going to be my home. I had $1000 in my bank account; a car and a small amount of possessions (clothes and music). I said goodbye to my life on the Sunshine Coast; 2 poodles (for a season) and a couple of friends who stood by my decision to leave. The journey has had its ups and downs; but through the lows I hung on to the knowing the decision I made was the right one. I look back on my process to move from Sunny Qld to Cultured NSW and shake my head in amazement, in taking the small steps in relation to following my instinct. In saying that my steps were so small I couldn’t see too far in front so ‘faith and trust’ during this process was all I had to lean on. The first few years were literally HELL. I found it very hard to make friends; settle into one job; I tried studying and that was a disaster. I suffered many moments of insanity questioning myself about my decision to move to NSW. I was so lonely that most days I found it very very hard to get out of bed..so I bought a fish.

Fish:
Fish is a Zebra fish. he arrived on the scene about six months after my arrival to Warriewood Beach NSW. He became my companion and reason for waking up. Sounds a bit sad doesn’t it. But hey a girl has to do what a girl needs to do to survive. I always had pets around me and I was missing my poodles terribly. The little studio I was living in was cheap and nasty; in other words it was not fit for me let alone 2 poodles. Each day I would wake up with severe asthma and swollen lips. Unless I could find a well paid job it was going to be very hard to find a rental anywhere else. (Sydney rentals are one of the highest in the world.) My health began to deteriorate to the point I had chronic fatigue; anaphylaxis and allergies to just about everything. I was given a referral to Royal North Shore Hospital where every week they attempted to do tests to discover what I was allergic to and lung capacity tests because my ability to breath without medication was deteriorating each week. After about 3 months a new doctor came on the scene and he suggested to get environmental testing within my home. The following week the tests came back that the place I was living in was highly toxic and the suggestion was I move out ASAP. I discovered I was highly allergic to mould; dust; CATS; Guinea Pigs; Rabbits; Horses; Grass and so forth. The lady upstairs had all of the above plus the land I was living on was a rural setting in the past and the studio was full of mould (unseen because I would clean the walls literally weekly and had a dehumidifier running all the time).

Breakthrough:
A friend rang me from Qld with some great news; “Im moving to Sydney; can I stay with you till I get settled?” I explained my situation and we both agreed due to my health and rentals begin so high it was best we found a new place and shared the cost. I was so excited I began searching for a new home that would accommodate my needs; my friends; and the poodles. That night I was deleting emails and found one from a small group I attended saying their property in Fairlight was up for rent..3 bedroom; walk to the beach; back yard; dogs approved. I rang them immediately and went to see it that night. By the next day the property was ours.

Breaking Ground:

I could breath and dream again.  My walks to Fairlight/Manly beach everyday had begun to rejuvenate my health and my thoughts of the future began to become clear again.  I decided to embark on a journey I had always wanted to take; studying my Social Sciences in Counselling degree.   One significant term at university really created havoc and a life changing experience for me.  The class was Family & Marriage.  One of our projects was to construct a time line of our lives from birth to date.  I found this extremely hard to do as I had so many moves in my life and was faced with the fact that I have never really established myself long term anywhere.  I had no lifelong friends. I would change jobs frequently;  I moved just about every 18months whether it was a home or a town or my furniture, somehow every November I would  hear a ticking clock reminding me to move again. As a child I counted we moved approximately 9 times by the time I was 16 years old.  I left home at 17 and continued the same pattern; moving when things didn’t work out; or I felt the need for adventure.  I finally could see how destructive this way of living was and I grieved deeply to settle and belong in one place and to have a community of people who wanted to include me in their lives.  It was my mission to stay; to not move from NSW and as hard as it was I was going to create community around me.  I had to unlearn all those bad patterns.  Those three years during university have given me some of the best memories and I have met lifelong friends along the way.  Finally my life began to show for the risks I had taken and the hard work was proving fruitful. I reconstructed the back yard creating a lovely edible garden and giving me a creative outlet.  The poodles and I would walk to the beach and enjoy the sun in the afternoons. I had a routine and a long term goal.   Work settled and I was able to remain in one job for 5 years (retail and mechanising a baby shop) I loved helping parents to be with their purchases and most of all loved it when they brought their new bundle of joy to come and visit me in the shop.  I started to smile but the ache for community and family grew stronger.

I am so over moving.  Please God help me get my own home.

After University my goal was to save; save save till I had a deposit for a home loan.  I had moved a total of 30 times since I left home at 17.   That’s a lot of wasted $$$ on removalists, bond and dead rent.  I couldn’t believe it when i counted the number of homes I had lived in.  MMM I wonder why  I was stressed.  A psychologist once told me that the stress of moving is second to death.  Well Im an expert on death!!!  I began looking in North Sydney where I had created a community and had lovely friends and my heart sunk.  I couldn’t even afford a shed.  Apartment living was approximately $500 000 plus for a studio or a one bedder.  I don’t want to live in a studio.  I want to be able to have pets again; grow my own vegetables; herbs; have a back yard and clean air to breath.  I began to dream about moving 1 hour away from Sydney City for about 2 year but every time I tried to step out my heart would get fearful because I most likely would loose all my lovely new friends and have to start all over again.  Renting in Sydney was going up…A two bedroom lower ground apartment cost approximately $500 — $700 per week.  This included hearing your neighbours arguments; stomping; babies screaming; and Yes worst of all listening to a man pee each night at 11.30pm and then again before he goes to work at 6.30am and then to make it worse he obtained a non-english speaking  girlfriend and the rest I will leave to your imagination.   NOOO more I said.  I was over living underneath other people and over paying such exorbitant rent to landlords who didn’t care about my wellbeing.

House Hunting.

Once again I was faced with making a huge decision alone.  Thankfully all those years of moving gave me a lot of experience as how to move well.   I vowed this would be my final move for at least the next 10 years. I cannot even begin to tell you in words the desire and importance of having my own home was.  By now I had been approved to adopt and my fear was repeating history with a child in tow.  I did not want to do this.  My dream was to remain in One Home; One School; One Job: One Grocer: One yoga class; and several markets to visit, and to put my towels in the same spot and never move them unless in use; to plant trees and develop a community around me that would grow and be everlasting.  I was approved a home loan and finally found a cute cottage in my price bracket nearby a lovely village called Leura in Blue Mountains NSW.  Before purchasing I talked to the neighbours; checked out the facilities; and schools available in the area.  Everything seemed to align with what I wanted.  Then the Bush fires broke out November 2013.  My bank put my loan on hold till the fires were under control.  I stood my ground and continued to believe this home was mine.  It was a very stressful 3 months.  Finally December 16th 2013 I moved into my own home.  One of the best days of my life.

6 months later.

Moving to Leura, Blue Mountains has been one of my better decisions.  I love it here.  I am slowly building a community around me; playing the African drums; learning pottery and working close to home.  Life has changed significantly pottering around my home; creating a homely atmosphere as I decorate and renovate my back yard.  I have been blessed that several of my Sydney friends have come to visit and stay for week end.  The highway to Sydney is hopefully nearly finished so If I feel like some Harbour or Beach Air or a familiar cafe It’s a hop skip and a jump to go for the day.  Most of all I feel contented within myself for the first time.  I can see myself here for a very long time.  I look forward to the day my life will expand through adoption and begin creating a family I so desire.  Fish is still alive by the way happily sitting on the kitchen bench.  My poodles are now in heaven, my promise to them when they died that I would lay their cremated pots in the garden when i settle.   Tomorrow is 4th July 2014.  I have now lived in NSW 8 years.  My goal is to say I lived in one home for 7 years and hopefully longer.  Happy 4th July to everyone.  In reflection to the American tradition of Independence Day.  4th July is representative to my journey of FREEDOM.

freedom

Why the name MsLadyBug you may ask?

msladybug4orphans

Symbolic meaning of the Ladybug:lady bug 2

Perhaps best known as an emblem of luck. When a Ladybug lands on you, it is said your wish will come true.

Asian traditions hold to the belief that if caught and then released, the Ladybug will faithfully fly to your true love and whisper your name in his/her ear. Upon hearing the Ladybug’s message your true love will hurry his/her way to your side.

In Ireland, the Ladybug is said to be a symbol of protection.

Ancient farmers of the land have considered the Ladybug a good omen as she controls aphid populations.

In Chinese adoptions ladybugs have come to be associated with “good luck.”

In all honesty I love watching LadyBugs. They are cute. When I was a little girl I would go LadyBug hunting; sadly now there are few and far between but when I find one I love to watch them…

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Why the name MsLadyBug you may ask?

Symbolic meaning of the Ladybug:lady bug 2

Perhaps best known as an emblem of luck. When a Ladybug lands on you, it is said your wish will come true.

Asian traditions hold to the belief that if caught and then released, the Ladybug will faithfully fly to your true love and whisper your name in his/her ear. Upon hearing the Ladybug’s message your true love will hurry his/her way to your side.

In Ireland, the Ladybug is said to be a symbol of protection.

Ancient farmers of the land have considered the Ladybug a good omen as she controls aphid populations.

In Chinese adoptions ladybugs have come to be associated with “good luck.”

In all honesty I love watching LadyBugs. They are cute. When I was a little girl I would go LadyBug hunting; sadly now there are few and far between but when I find one I love to watch them for as long as I can.

In 2009 I had the privileged of spending some time with a young boy named Malachi. We sat outside enjoy the sun in the middle of winter. Malachi wanted to share a story with me and I eagerly listened to him. He said: “Bernie Once upon a time there was a Lady Bug who met Mr Lady Bug and they travelled the world together and found a pit of lots of baby Lady Bugs and Mrs Lady Bug and Mr Lady Bug saved all the Baby Bugs and took them home to care for them. I waited and he looked at me and said Bernie you are Mrs Lady Bug and the Baby Lady Bugs are waiting for you. This young boy was 5 years old. i was gobsmacked; tears rolling down my face. Oh how God can use such a precious innocent child to awaken a dream. I gave Malachi a hug and asked him where did he here that story and he said Um God I guess. I walked back upstairs excited and wanting to share what had happened but I had no time because my next class was about to start in Narrative Therapy. Next minute Malachi came into the class room carrying a bunch of toy lady bugs and slowly one by one gave me the Lady Bugs saying Bernie these are your babies. Boy as if the story downstairs wasn’t enough this boy was not going to give up till i got it through my thick skull. This continue for about 10 minutes. Once again I said thank you for giving me my babies Malachi and he walked off with his LadyBugs.

 

After class I walked to my car for the long drive home and to my surprise the back of my car window was full of Real LadyBugs. Ok Im hearing you..’yeh right LadyBugs all over the back of your car?” Well you had to be there to believe it. Im in the middle of Miranda industrial area and my car has LadyBugs all over it.

 

Call it co-incidence? I call it a wake up call. When ever I saw a LadyBug as a little girl I would think about an orphan and say a prayer. LadyBugs are symbolic to orphans for me. Thanks to Malachi my shut down heart had a flutter of joy and a dream awakened. God never leaves me; nor forsakes me; he knows my dreams and my desires. He will see my dreams come to fruition. Whenever I begin to doubt or fears starting taking over along comes a LadyBug to remind me who I am and what my dream is.

 

 

A Baby Thermometer

A Baby Thermometer

There are way too many baby thermometers to choose from HELP!!!!

22/3/2013.  (Approval Day)

I should be jumping up and down for joy.  Its been a long year of assessments instead i feel numb, shock that I was approved; that something wonderful is about to happen to me.  And most of all overwhelmed.  I chose to keep the adoption process private sharing only with close family and a couple of friends I trust my heart with.  I rang mum and dad and they were very happy for me and I rang Ms V who screamed with elation. I went home poured a glass of wine and felt empty.

Two days latter I suddenly realised why the emptiness was overshadowing my joy.  I had nothing to show for the journey i just went through in the past year.  For me I felt like I was pregnant for a whole 12months and then approval day came and NO BABY.  Ahh that’s what it is.  Its the weirdest feeling knowing something can possibly happen but you just don’t know when its going to happen. It took me back to a day that I chose to forget for a long time;  a day where I carried my own child and then miscarried.  That feeling of hope and then hope stolen all over again.  Help I need to see my Adoption Counsellor once again.  (thats another story)

How the adoption process works:

1. Approval.

2. WAIT for the phone call…wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait….can be up to 2 years thats what they said.

3. Phone call…….”Bernie we have a match”  Whats a match you may ask.  A match process is based on my own cultural history (Maltese and many venture across the world); age range, in my instance birth -3years old.  Sex..either one Im happy with. Understanding of grief and loss (Iv had plenty of that) What capacity of care I am willing to welcome into my home..such as alcohol fetal syndrome; mild intellectual disability; abuse sexually; emotionally; physically; How many contact visits am I willing to partake in: (a minimum of 4 contact visits happen with Birth Families each year) Contact visits are with the Birth Family, in some cases Mother or Father or Grandparents and possibly up to 11 siblings. What am i willing to accept as far as family history; depression; bipolar; drug and alcohol issues;   Financial Status; Willingness to take time off work; Willingness to attend extra training for the needs of the child.

4.  After THE PHONE CALL, Banardos will come and visit me to discuss the ‘match’ I will not be allowed to see photos or know names at this point.  I will be given as much history as possible of the Birth Family and of the child that may be placed with me.  Banardos are extremely thorough in ensuring all history; medical; psychological screening  is done before a placement.  After the discussion I get 24hours approximately to say YES or NO.

5. Transition could be in a number of scenarios: Baby is in hospital care and I am to visit daily to start forming an attachment till he or she is healthy enough to come home.   Baby has been in respite care waiting for a court order for adoption so I will visit within the respite home for several weeks.

6. Get the room ready, Get the essentials.

7.  Move in day.  in total the process will be no longer than one month and more likely to be 2 weeks.

So in knowing that how do I prepare myself emotionally; and how do i prepare a room?  Birth to 3years old is such a huge growing stage and each month a babies needs changes dramatically.  Agh this is hard.  If i was pregnant; I get nine months to prepare; the choice of whether I want to know the sex of the baby; I get to prepare the babies room; buy clothes; and cute things; have a baby shower; tell all my friends and family so they celebrate and prepare for the birthing occasion……are you getting my point?  its so different. Where do i start?

Ok i will buy a Baby Thermometer and celebrate for it is now REAL.