Holly & Her Child

Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Holly & Her Child’s personal items - food cover mesh*, baby singlet, hair wig, portable fishing net*, boots, swimming kickboard, picnic rug, toy boat Medium: Watercolor on Paper

*these items are Holly’s child’s favourite things to play with

Autumn/Summer 2019

I was forewarned that Google Maps could not be relied upon to take me to Holly’s home. Driving off from the GPS’s tracks onto the dirt roads, I regularly checked my mobile phone reception to ensure that I was not off-grid, worried that I may be lost. Before long, I drove into the acreage property. As I drove along I noticed a cute monkey soft-toy dangling from the branches of a tree which instantly brought a smile to my face.

Soft-toy on a tree branch along the driveway on the property Medium: Watercolor on Paper

A few yards onwards, my little rental Volkswagen Golf drew the attention of a herd of cows that were peacefully grazing the open land. Their eyes followed the car’s slow progress before their profile distanced further. Crossing a creek that was running quite dry (water can rise to ankle height in the wetter season), I knew I had to continue to drive past two more gates. Sooner than I imagined, I was greeted with a quaint wooden log cabin in the beautiful countryside.

Holly & Her Child’s Log Cabin Medium: Graphite Pencils on Paper

The home made me feel instantly connected to the surrounding nature. It centred on an open-air deck filled with a multi-purpose table, lounge and rocking chair that admired the magnificent views. The decking connected the living, sleeping and cooking spaces. Although small, the place was cosy and just perfect for a family of two; Holly and her child.

Holly & Her Child’s Living Room Medium: Watercolor on Paper

The fireplace in the living room is a favourite spot for Holly and her child to gather around on cooler days. Down a ladder in the corner led unassumingly into a bedroom, where the ceiling of the room is less than the average height of an adult. Its shortfall was nevertheless compensated by the most stunning views of bushland in a room drenched with morning sun. It is a perfect home for a small family that has nature at heart. I could sense how happy and proud Holly’s child was about their home.

Holly & Her Child (Anonymous)

Holly’s child is herein represented as gender-neutral and is referred to using ‘they/them’ pronounce

Holly knows that there are more than two genders in this world and that sexuality and gender are both fluid. She is a cis-gendered woman who does not see her sexuality as normative and does not wish to be categorised either. Consequently, identifying as queer is also a critique of our binary system in addition to the knowledge that the term ‘lesbian’ did not befit her when she started dating and loving partners who were either non-binary people or transgender men.

In the early days of coming out, Holly always envisioned having children in her life together with a partner. Yet, a twist of fate at the end of her third decade of life led her to make one of the biggest decisions of her life. Her relationship broke down and she thought that her hopes to start a family were dashed. As devastated as Holly was, her mum in a lightbulb moment, suggested she consider solo parenting. As her mum put it, “You were always going to need a (sperm) donor anyway.” The fact that her mum had raised Holly and her sister single-handedly for most of their childhood was proof to her that it was a feasible suggestion. This revelation was met with a degree of internal conflict as she confronted public perceptions of single parenting as being an irresponsible decision. Weighing it all up, the desire to have her own child triumphed over trepidations associated with becoming a solo parent.

Due to her medical history that impacted on her ability to conceive naturally, Holly’s general practitioner (GP) referred her to a public fertility service in Sydney, New South Wales. This was a blessing in disguise because at that time she was completing her PhD while living on social support payments and the small gap payments required for the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) service made the journey to parenthood accomplishable. From the time she decided to be a parent to the birth of her child, it took about three years due to the extended wait times associated with accessing a publicly funded service.

Reflecting on her journey through pregnancy, Holly recollected many moments of sheer loneliness and isolation. Frequently, she felt alienated by the system, recalling repeated assumptions from reception staff that she was both heterosexual and partnered, and that all the forms assumed there would be two opposite gendered parents. Additionally, she felt as though the queer community suddenly viewed her as an outsider, as somehow no longer queer due to her choice to reproduce. She also needed to make countless conception-related decisions on her own.

Of course, the moment her baby was born she no longer had time to feel lonely. She realised that having her child was the best decision that she had ever made. Having a child made her feel complete and being a solo parent fit her perfectly. In retrospect, it was liberating that she did not have a partner. When her child was 3 ½ months old, she packed up and drove around Australia in a tear-drop campervan. She loved the complete freedom of making decisions without the need for consulting with a partner. “That first year was the happiest year of my life!” Holly said.

Before and after the birth of Holly’s child, they lived in a queer housing co-operative in the inner suburbs of Sydney. Surrounded by the rainbow community, the new family felt safe yet isolated at the same time. Most of Holly’s friends then did not have children and the majority of the social events were unsuitable for a little one and/or took place late at night. Despite her much-loved community around her, Holly began to feel inadequately supported as a solo rainbow parent. She considered the merits of moving north to Queensland to be closer to her mum and step-father, along with living in a country setting for her child to grow up to be more connected to nature.

Down a dirt track and over a creek in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Holly and her child have a place to belong and call home for the past two years. Although they are only 1.5 hours from Brisbane, they feel very geographically isolated. Her child is now 3 ½ years old. For Holly who had lived a nomadic early childhood life sailing from port to port around Australia with her family until she was about nine years old, the move from city to country was much more challenging than she could have initially imagined. She was actually really scared because she thought she would have to trade her beloved rainbow community for family support.

Magnificent views from their cabin’s patio Medium: Watercolor on Paper

Since then, Holly and her child have discovered their love for the bush environment and thrive in it. They both enjoy being in the countryside and outdoors as much as possible. Her child appreciates and explores the nature that is also their playground. When they are not hanging out indoors in front of their fireplace or breathing in the fresh air at the entry of their little log cabin, Holly and her child would either be wandering around the bush by the dam or hanging out by the creek nearby. In addition, a visit to the beach features regularly in their schedule.

The nearby dam separates Holly’s parents’ home on the other side. It brings Holly tremendous joy to see them every day. They meet up for a cup of tea in the morning and have dinner together most nights. When the weather is good, dinner is cooked on the outdoor fire and that follows with a dip in their outdoor jacuzzi. When Holly needs help with her child, they willingly assist so she can attend to chores, errands or just have some time out. Having a strong family connection and support was the missing link from the city life that she sought.

When considering the sperm donor for her child, Holly identified a known donor, who was a long-time friend from her late teenage years. He did not want children of his own. It was a strong point for Holly that her child grows up knowing their donor and getting to know his background and heritage. Over time, her child has grown up knowing him as an uncle figure and they meet up a few times a year. Her child is also fortunate to benefit from a relationship with his parents (Nan & Poppy) who live nearby as well as getting to know cousins too.

Apart from family, Holly and her child have developed strong ties with other rainbow families in the vicinity. Even though they are living in the bush, they have made the most amazing friendships. In the local area, Holly coordinates a weekly playgroup, where people would drive for up to an hour to attend. To Holly, it spoke a lot about the group’s desire to connect with other rainbow families, which extends beyond the playgroup meetings to include camping holidays and other leisure trips together. She felt that their community members really make an effort to get together and connect. “If I were straight, I would have struggled to come across such a tight-knit community in the bush,” Holly proudly said.

There is no doubt that Holly and her child have family, community and nature well aligned for them. It turned out more perfect than Holly fantasised. However, Holly had encountered challenges when she first engaged a childcare centre for her child. She recalled the earlier days when her child started out and she did not feel that her family was well understood. Holly summarised that her experience is likely to be common for rainbow parents in a community unexposed to diverse families. Consequently, she was motivated to start up “Rainbow Families Queensland”(RFQ), an organisation that supports and advocates on behalf of LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) parents across Queensland. RFQ has developed resources for health and childcare services to guide providers on how to better support rainbow families.

With her boat in calm waters at present, Holly is busy pursuing her aspirations to be a filmmaker on a professional background of creative writing and performance poetry. She has ideas to make a sitcom or a TV series. Hence, she constantly finds herself at the crossroads between her career-defining path and her desire to have a sibling for her child from the frozen embryos that she has left.