In 2006, at the age of 19, I found myself in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with a man whom I had thought cared for me. For three years, I lived in fear, pain, and isolation from the world. When I was finally able to get out, I discovered it wasn’t the end of my journey. In fact, it turned out to only be the catalyst for what was to come.
I spent the better part of the next decade firstly falling deeper and deeper into a hole, before finding help, a purpose, and myself. Now, at 31, I have discovered just how resilient the human mind and body can be. I’ve built an award-winning business and a social following to go with it, found forgiveness and love for myself, discovered and developed a truly loving relationship with my now husband, made in-roads into my campaign against domestic violence, and as I write this, am awaiting the birth of our first child, a daughter.
I’ve experienced a lot in a relatively short period of life. But it has given me not only a number of tools with which to approach life, it has also helped me to appreciate just what being human is, and that it IS okay to be human. I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for the hardships I faced both in that abusive relationship and during the long and troubling healing process afterwards. Now the realisation that I will soon have a young female soul in my care, has helped me to see just why what I have been through is important. Because I have the tools to help her, and anyone else who needs a helping hand, to be just who she is, and to love herself all the more because of it. And so, I write this open letter to my darling daughter, as I wait for her to join us earth-side. But, this letter is for you too, because girl, it is okay.
Dear baby girl,
This letter is for you, my darling daughter. As I write this, it feels as though you are having a party in my tummy – wiggling, rolling, stretching, discovering the newness of your body, and the boundaries of your current home. When I feel you move, I wonder about who you will be, what amazing personality is to be born to me, and what challenges and adventures await you, and also await us, your parents.
Being a woman in this world is a big deal. You are going to be born blessed with attributes and gifts that will not only be unique to you, but will be a blessing for all those whose lives you will touch. You will encounter lessons and opportunities of growth along the way, and I promise you that my goal is to help guide you in understanding them, but I must tell you, that you are also being born into a world where proving yourself is still something that seems to be needed every single day.
There are three reasons I’m writing this for you, baby girl. The first one is because there is a lot of misguided information out there in the world, and it can be confusing at times. People will try to point you in certain directions, both well-meaning and not, and you will sometimes find yourself torn. The second is because there are things I wish I had known better as I was stepping out into the world, and these are things I’ve only learnt through some of the hardest times in my life. Hardness that I pray with all my heart and soul you will never need to know in your own life. The third is simply so that in times of vulnerability and doubt, when you may feel the whole world is on your shoulders, that you will know you are never alone.
IT’S OKAY TO BE YOU. Society (and social media) tell you that you need to be like other people, and there will be times you wish you could be someone else, but you are you for a reason, and if you were any different, you wouldn’t be you. You are perfect as you are.
IT’S OKAY TO SAY NO. Never allow anyone to make you feel like you have to do something. Your life and your choices are your own, and at the end of the day, if someone doesn’t respect your wishes, they’re not the sort of people who should be in your world. Being able to say no is one of the greatest strengths I have found in my life, and it has taught me to be true to myself.
IT’S OKAY TO FEEL SAFE. Personal experience taught me this the hard way, but your safety is always paramount. It is your absolute right to feel safe in your home, in your skin, and in your world. Walk away from anyone or anything that challenges that right. Trust your gut, it never lies. And there is no weakness in walking away from something that doesn’t feel right. It may just save your life.
IT’S OKAY TO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO. I promise you, in your adult life, there will be days (sometimes even weeks or months) where you just don’t know what you want, where you’re going, or what you want to do. And that is okay. Take a breath, and let it flow.
IT’S OKAY TO BE KIND. This is to those around you, but also to yourself. You cannot give your all if you are not taking care of yourself. Be kind, you are doing the best you can. And be kind to those around you, whether you know them or not. You may just save their soul.
IT’S OKAY TO HAVE FUN. Life is so short, baby girl. It is here to be enjoyed. It doesn’t mean don’t be sensible, but it’s okay to discover all that life has to offer, as long as you continue to respect yourself.
IT’S OKAY TO NOT LIKE YOUR PARENTS. This was a hard one for me, because you grow up thinking your parents are supposed to be and know everything, but then you discover that they’re just human. Always love us, and always respect us, but it’s okay if sometimes we don’t get along. Daddy and I are still learning, just like you.
IT’S OKAY TO NOT LIKE YOURSELF. But only temporarily. Some days, you will feel tired, frustrated, and annoyed with yourself, and that’s okay. Allow it to be there, but then stand in front of the mirror, and look at the incredible creature that looks back at you. She will keep you going even when you have no faith in her. I promise.
IT’S OKAY TO CRY. This is for boys and girls, but know that there truly is no weakness in showing emotion. Sometimes, you can take a bad day and make it better, simply by releasing that pent-up emotion. Crying is how the body processes lessons, so let it happen when it needs to. You will learn empathy and compassion through your own tears.
IT’S OKAY TO LEARN. One day you will find yourself leaving school, with the world ahead of you a big, bright, sometimes scary place. And whether you love or hate school, the prospect of never having to learn again may seem too good to be true. But the day you stop learning, you stop growing. Never stop growing.
IT’S OKAY TO WAIT FOR THE RIGHT ONE. We watch those around us discover new paths in life, and if it’s something you one day dream of, don’t rush. A lifetime of ‘settling’ is far worse than waiting for the right partner and the right time to reach you. I swear on my life. Even if you feel as though you’re beyond ready to go down that next path, don’t try to force it. There will be a reason it hasn’t happened yet, and when that right person turns up, I promise you will know it and everything about it will make sense.
IT’S OKAY TO BE ALONE. This is the other side of it. It’s equally okay to be on your own. Don’t define yourself based on your relationship status. I tried, for many years, believing I could only be whole if someone else made up the broken pieces of me. And I couldn’t understand why they kept crumbling around me, until I took time to be by myself. You will never find true peace and happiness in yourself if you believe you can only be happy with someone else there. They can add levels to your life you never imagined, but you should be able to stand independently free of needing someone else.
IT’S OKAY TO TAKE RISKS. You will never know what your body, your mind, and your world can do and can offer if you stay inside a safe, warm box. Jump outside of it, push your boundaries, test your comfort zone, and you might just stumble upon something incredible. If someone tries to stop you, listen to what they have to say, but trust your own gut, and trust your vision or your dream. Your risk is yours, and the success or failure will be yours as well. If I hadn’t taken a leap, I wouldn’t have discovered what following my passion could truly do for me, and while it was hard (and continues to still be hard sometimes), I know now I could never have let the opportunity pass me by.
IT’S OKAY TO MAKE MISTAKES. Some of the greatest inventions in the world came about because of a mistake. It’s okay to screw up. Find the lesson in what went wrong, and change it for next time. Failure is only when you don’t learn the lesson. I have made monumentally huge mistakes in my life. I have found myself in situations I couldn’t get out of fast enough, learnt the hard way about how to be a responsible adult, and burnt relationships that definitely could have been handled in better ways. But those mistakes helped me to learn, helped me to recognise signs, be better prepared, understand compassion and connection with other people, in a way I couldn’t have without having first got it wrong.
IT’S OKAY TO SAY GOODBYE. As you grow through life, people will come and go. You will find friends who will stick for life, but sometimes, you will discover that some people no longer ‘fit’ as well as they used to. Don’t hang onto anyone who doesn’t support you, understand you, and care for you as you do them.
IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE PERFECT. Stop thinking that right now. Nobody is perfect- not physically, not in their relationship, not in their finances, not in their daily life. Do and be the best you can be and somewhere down the track you will realise that’s what life is about. And not being perfect has its perks too – it means you get to truly be you, and learn the lessons that the ‘imperfections’ you may see are there to teach you. Every single one of them will bring you closer to understanding who you are.
IT’S OKAY TO LOVE. Give your heart and your love freely when it desires. Your heart will be one of the truest guides in your life, and when it finds someone to bestow its deepest affection on, don’t hold back for fear of being hurt. Allow yourself to love, and be loved. That true love the fairy tales speak of can indeed exist, and when you find it, you will understand what completeness in your soul can feel like.
Photographed by Airlie Walsh
IT’S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP. A struggle I still battle with, especially in pregnancy. Independence and strength in yourself are valuable qualities that will serve you well, but nobody can do everything on their own. We are human. We fall down, we make mistakes, and sometimes, we need help. There is no shame in asking for a helping hand, no matter how big or small. It’s also okay to give help, even to those who may never be able to repay us. This is part of the honour of being human, that we can help those who need it.
IT’S OKAY TO BELIEVE IN SOMETHING. Whether it be a religion, an idea, a cause, or a goal, if you believe in something, not only will you find a purpose, but you will have the opportunity to make it happen. There are many naysayers out there, who have forgotten to find something to believe in, or have simply turned their attention to bringing down the beliefs of others, but baby girl, there is no life in watching others live theirs. Grab hold of that thing you believe in, learn it, study it, explore it, make it yours. And if somewhere down the track it changes, that’s okay too. This is how you will find your place in the world.
IT’S OKAY TO BE A DAG. Your mother is the perfect example of this, and I promise you, by the time that you find yourself reading this, you will most likely laugh and agree with me. Some of the greatest memories and moments in life can come from dropping all pretences and ‘faces’ and quite simply being the energetic spirit you truly are. Laugh, sing, dance, tell silly jokes, wear your favourite fluffy slippers, whatever it is that makes your heart and your smile come alive. I promise you, your mother will be right beside you. Why? Because we can. You don’t have to be perfectly polished every moment of every day.
IT’S OKAY TO GO WITHOUT. Sacrifice is an important part of life, baby girl. Whether it be because you’re following a dream, because times are tough, or because it simply isn’t necessary for the path you are on, it is okay to not have everything you want. So many people truly do go without even the most basic of necessities. Daddy and I will do everything in our power to ensure you do not go without the simple joys and comforts of your childhood, but we also will do everything we can to help you understand the blessing that truly is. At some point, you may find yourself heading down a path towards a dream you want to achieve, and by following that, you need to make sacrifices in other places. I did, and while there were experiences I know I missed out on at the time, all in all, it brought me to the place I am at today, and brought me to Daddy, and to you. And for that, I’d go without a million times over, if it meant I could have you.
IT’S OKAY TO BE A WOMAN. Being a woman is the greatest thing you can be. People will try to bring you down, stop you, change your mind. But you have the capacity to change lives. There is no greater gift, honour, or responsibility in life. Embrace it.
I’ve long dreamed of the day I would become a mother. So many ideas, so many ideals, so many questions and longings and wonderings. Pregnancy has been a challenge of its own, and I’ve not only had to learn to face the demons of my own past, but I’ve had to learn to let go, and allow this process to unfold. And now, baby girl, you are so close within reach, we are counting down the days to meeting you earth side and discovering exactly what that dream of motherhood (and fatherhood) really means.
I know we will make mistakes along the way, and it won’t be that ‘perfect image’ that can only exist in dreams. But I know it will be perfect for us.The greatest thing I’ve learnt is if you dream big, you can make it happen. Nothing is ever truly in your way that can’t be loved, left, or learnt from. And you are never alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Someone will always be there to hold your hand, guide the way, or help you find the answers.
My goal as your mother is to give you space to grow, to learn, to fly, to discover who you are, and where you fit in this amazing world we live in. I know it won’t be easy at times, for you or for us, but I know it will all be worth it.
I pray that you will find that thing that lights the fire in your soul and uses the grace in your heart.
Forever yours, baby girl.