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
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.
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