Over the past 12 months, I’ve been lucky enough to cover the full gamut of stories about parenting, babies and children – from the heartwarming to heartbreaking and everything in between. Whittling down my favorite five has been no easy task. Some have been inspiring, others fascinating, some funny and others downright tear-jerking.
So let’s start with one that ticks a few of those boxes. The series of photos taken by Kate T. Parker to document her nephew’s arrival into her sister’s family still makes me break into a grin. Her Blended project captures the beauty and sheer joy of adoption over six months. “I knew as soon as they decided to adopt that this was something so difficult and wonderful at the same time. I thought it might be interesting for others to see, as well as Sam when he is older to know how much he was wanted and celebrated when he got here,” Chicago-based Parker told us.
I also never tire of watching the video of beautiful seven-week-old Melbourne baby Lachlan Lever smiling for the first time as his hearing aid is fitted. Lachlan’s mum, Michelle, told us of the amazing moment: “His whole world just opened up completely. It’s like he just realised there’s a whole new world out there.” The video, taken in 2012, went viral last September after a man in the US found and shared it from the Facebook page of oral language centre Taralye. Lachlan’s story inspired the music video for a new song by Australian country star Troy Cassar-Daley. He’s also been chosen as the face of Loud Shirt Day on October 16.
Next is a story of life after loss, the story of Hope. Sally and Simon Heppleston’s daughter was stillborn in 2008. The Melbourne couple are determined to honour her memory and work tirelessly to raise awareness of stillbirth. They talked to us about the wonderful work done by volunteer organisation Heartfelt for grieving families. Its photographers take professional portraits of children who are stillborn, premature or seriously ill, to give their families memories to last a lifetime. The service is free, but invaluable to the hundreds of families it helps each month across Australia and New Zealand.
If anyone doubted the power of good friendships, they need only read the story of Victoria Branch and best friend Tayla. Victoria has suffered serious spinal and brain problems all her life. At 13, she had yet another operation, this one meant to fix her corkscrew spine and meant to change her life. But after complications during surgery, she woke up to find herself not only still in halo traction, but also now suffering a torn esophagus, collapsed lung and shattered rib. She slumped into a deep depression, losing the will to live.
That’s where charity TLC for Kids stepped in, organising to fly Tayla to Victoria’s bedside at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. “The look on (Victoria’s) face was priceless,” Victoria’s mum, Stephanie, told us. “She laughed, she cried, the smile didn’t go. She was just so happy. Tayla stayed for three days and literally made the difference between Victoria still being here and not.” This story was part of our Christmas Care campaign, which raised more than $42,000 for TLC thanks to generous sponsors.
Last, but not least, anyone who has a toddler (or hasn’t yet blocked those years out) will know they are a force to be reckoned with. Right now I’m in the thick of it with a very independent and forthright, but hilarious, two-year-old. So my fifth favourite post would have to be this list of ways to know you’re parenting a toddler (as if you weren’t already well aware of it). Because if anything’s going to get you through the terrible/terrific twos, it’s being able to laugh about it.
P.S. Don’t tell the boss, but here are the posts that would round out my top 10 if I were allowed to have a top 10: Beautiful photos that show C-sections can be beautiful too; creative ways to upcycle your cot; the mums who didn’t know they were pregnant; six pregnancy time lapse videos we love; and this fun name generator that tells you what you would have been called if you’d been born in a different year.
[Ed – caught you! But you can leave it in because they’re all great…]