Meet Charlie A Mum Who Stood By Her Physical Differences And Had Three Beautiful Miracles
A mum of three, Tilba, Tully and Rip, Charlie is a courageous woman who, despite her and her husband’s physical differences, backed her dreams and followed through with extensive genetic testing in order to bring three children into the world who are healthy and thriving.
Q. Can you share a little about your journey into motherhood?
To give a bit of background, my husband Cullen and I both have different forms of Dwarfism. So for us, falling pregnant was the easy part, but the journey throughout was what felt different to others.
With dwarfism our children all had a: 25 per cent chance of inheriting my form of dwarfism, 25 per cent chance of inheriting my husband’s form, 25 per cent chance of being average height and a 25 per cent chance (1 in 4) shot of inheriting both our forms, which sadly is not always a positive outcome.
So for most who find out they are pregnant it’s about excitedly sharing the news with family, friends and announcing to the world. But for us, despite our excitement, each time we had an anxious period where we had to wait 2-3 weeks to find out what was going to happen, undergoing a series of genetic tests.
Each pregnancy they would take different samples to determine the baby's genetic outcome, and unfortunately, these tests don’t occur until 12 weeks, which meant we had to wait until 15 weeks each time to know what was going on.
During this window there would be an anxious wait to find out if the baby inherited both forms of dwarfism. At present, there is no research and data is limited so we weren’t sure what it could look like or what their journey may be. They speculate that babies who have two types of dwarfism may not live long past birth. Should that be the situation, we would have been faced with such a difficult choice. It’s overwhelming and each time that thought would follow us in the weeks leading up to our results, it was a really anxious and nervous time just wondering if we would get to be a parent and have a healthy pregnancy.
The good news is we have been incredibly lucky! Our first girl Tilba is a superstar, she has the same form of dwarfism as me, is happy, healthy and lives her best life. Our second daughter, Tully has the same form as my husband, and is headstrong and a little firecracker who rules the roost. While our third, our little man Rip, is an average height, didn’t inherit any form of dwarfism and will grow up to be potentially 6ft!.
Q. What challenges have you faced from society since becoming a mother?
When you have a physical difference, I find society already has a preconceived idea of what you are capable of. I like to think it’s just a reflection of history, not of anybody individually. So when I encounter people for the first time or people see us down the street, there can be a sense of underestimation, whether people believe that we can do what we’re doing. But we’re standing there and we’re doing it!
As a mother, I feel proud to stand in front of the world and parent my three children, who are very different individuals, and know I am doing a pretty good job of it. Sure there’s pressure sometimes where I feel a need to prove that I’m just as capable as anyone else but there are lots of different pressures that we all feel from society.
In our case, lots of people had opinions on our pregnancy, like whether we should even ‘roll the dice’ and ‘take chances,’ as if it’s not our choice to bring children into the world who are not what society deems ‘physically normal.’ But most people aren’t qualified to engage in the debate. Sure it is a lot to handle. As a parent I see how my kids unknowingly take on that pressure to prove themselves to the outside world: that they are happy, healthy and thriving and that they too deserve to be here as much as any other child. But I also fundamentally believe we deserve to parent our children as much as anyone else.
Q. What advice would you give to other mums who may have societal pressures?
Just back yourself 110 per cent! I have found just through the power of us being us and being present in real life and on social media, we have got to show the world there are many different ways to be a mum and the many ways journeys motherhood can take.
My story is just one beautiful one amongst millions and we all come into the world with a different set of cards. We all have the right to prove to everybody our journey as a mother is just as beautiful and can be just as magical.
I would also say to other mums who feel societal pressures to remind yourself that your children love and adore you and are watching you. They live for every single world you say and no one is better qualified than you. So surround yourself with the women and support networks that can empower you and remind you that you are doing a beautiful thing, you’ve got this.
Yes raising children is hard, it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done. But it’s why I keep a support network around us. So that even when we’ve got the world on our shoulders and have people planting seeds of doubt, we have others who remind us we’re doing okay.
Q. What do you love most about being a mum?
There is so much to love about being a mum! I have three little best friends, the coolest little humans in the world and I get to spend the rest of my life with them.
Sure it is exhausting, and even if you get a break, there really is no break because your brain is constantly running. As mums we are constantly planning, thinking and considering our children even when they're not there in front of us.
However as we see them grow up and we help them on their journey, even on days where there are challenges and they want to lean on me (or not) it gives you such an incredible sense of empowerment. It really is a never ending love story, and something I cherish. I never ever thought I would love it as much as I do, or that I would be that good at it either, but I’m a good mum and I truly love them so much.