Calling Oxford

It was November, 2000, and the location was the food court at Smithfield Shopping Center. The woman standing at the self serve internet kiosk stand was me, and the 6 week old baby in the pusher was Tasha. I remember standing at the kiosk waiting for that eternal dial-up screeching sound to come to an end. I looked around at all the people passing through as they shopped, while others were sitting, eating and talking. I looked at my beautiful little girl peacefully sleeping. Rudolf was back with our friends having coffee. I'd excused myself so I could come and check. No one had a care in the world but me. My stomach was in knots.

A week earlier, I'd called the University to find out when results were being released. I'd been given today's date, but the time difference between UK and Australia had me a little confused. Mooshi mum brain was in full swing. In the weeks that passed after submitting my dissertation, I completely convinced myself that I'd failed. Three years of work, and I was sure I'd failed. The reason for my call was to find out what happens if you fail. I was told to wait for results. I knew I could probably do a re-submission, but how was I going to fit that in with Tasha now taking up all my time?

The whole chapter around returning from England 27 weeks pregnant and then sitting down in the last 10 weeks of the pregnancy to complete my thesis was a blur. I finished writing on 19 September. The reason I remember the date is because Tasha was born the following day. I stopped writing some time in the afternoon and started printing. Back then we only had a little dot printer. It had different cartridges for B&W printing and colour printing, so I had to section up the print job. I had to submit three copies, so it took the whole afternoon. I was exhausted and I had to get ready for hospital the next morning. Somewhere around 7:30pm the last of the printing was done. I stacked each print job neatly on the counter and announced, 'It's done'. Rudolf is a thorough man, so he flicked through the printing piles.

Pages are missing, he said. No they're not, I dismissed. They are, he insisted. I waddled over with swollen ankles and at the every end of my emotional resilience, and checked. He was right. I burst into inconsolable tears and announced, 'That's it, I can't do it, I give up, I fail.' As I balled my eyes out, Rudolf put me to bed and then finished the rest of the printing.

The next morning, we woke at 5am. We had to be at the hospital for 6am to prep for the cesarean (Tasha was breech and I was a geriatric mum at the ripe old age of 36). Rudolf settled me in and then left to drop my thesis at the courier. He arrived back in time for us to go to the theatre together, and there, our gorgeous, beautiful, most precious baby was born. There really isn't any way of describing birth - it's just surreal. Our world's changed.

The dial-up tone came to an end, I navigated to my hotmail account and logged in. My stomach tightened. How could everyone around me be so unaware? I felt in a parallel universe. The email was there. I opened it. I scanned, full of dread and then I saw ... I had passed ... it took a moment to realise ... I had been awarded 'Masters with Distinction'. I stared at the screen unable to comprehend what I was seeing. I had passed? I had done well? The knot in my stomach turned to a tingle and I felt a ridiculous smile creep onto my face. Three in my year level were awarded a distinction, and I was one of them?

I bashfully looked around and there were all the shoppers going about their business; all those people sitting in the food court were eating and chatting, just as they were before. I looked to Tasha and she was still fast asleep. How can this be? How could the world be so oblivious? How could no one know or care?

In a daze and grinning stupidly I pushed Tasha back to the coffee shop. Rudolf looked up and he immediately knew it was good news from the goofy expression on my face.

My world in London, only a few short months earlier, had been very different. I was leading a paediatric occupational therapy team in East London, working part time in a secondment with the College of Occupational Therapists to write a manual on clinical audit, and studying toward my Master's degree in Special Education at Oxford University. Being awarded a distinction for my thesis should have been another professional highlight to market about myself and advance my career.

That afternoon I called my family to share the news. I remember one of my sisters congratulating me, and then saying 'what a shame'. I asked 'why?' and she said, 'all of that, and now you're just going to be a mum.' It stopped me in my tracks.

It was the beginning of a phase of re-evaluation. Everything that had been important, wasn't any more, and everything that felt important, didn't use to be. My values changed. I'd become a Mum. It wasn't a shame, and it wasn't the end of my career, but it was the point that I decided to take the 'just' out of that sentence. I was proudly a Mum. It's the highlight of my life, above all else.

And the irony? It took becoming a Mum to discover the depths of that love and compassion that comes with having a child. It's those deep and inner most emotions that made me see the true hurt of other parents, and, it's everything I'd studied and learned in my professional career that drove me to start GSL. The true focus of GSL is the kids, and their development. We all want our kids to get through those childhood milestones, grow up happy and to be ready for adulthood. My true driver is all the parents and families I know want this for their child, and along the way, may look for a little help.

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