I met Kristin in March 2004 at the Barwon Heads pub. I worked there as an apprentice chef and was talking to my brother after work when he flung his arm around and accidently whacked Kristin in the face. She had been sitting on the table next to us and laughed about it. When I saw her, I thought whoa who’s that and my ears pricked up straight away. I was too scared to walk up and say hi because I was pretty shy back then. The next night I was in the nightclub when I felt this kick up my bum and it was her, we hit it off straight away and the rest is history.
Pretty early on we decided we wanted kids, I was 26 and Kris was a couple of years older than me. We didn’t have much money to splash around so lived simply and did our own thing. We got engaged but never actually got married, I was on an apprentice wage and Kristin wasn’t earning much money. Starting a family was our first priority. We tried naturally for close to two years and it just wasn’t happening. Kris went and got some tests done and found out she wasn’t developing enough eggs. We had to go down the path of IVF which was a pretty turbulent time for us. Airlie was a miracle baby because it was from one egg. That’s pretty rare for IVF to take one egg out and it go through all the stages and work.
We didn’t know until the day after Airlie was born that she had downs syndrome. Even the obstetrician didn’t pick up on it. Kris had a perfect pregnancy, nothing showed up on the ultrasound. Airlie didn’t present any physical features, there were no holes in her heart or anything like that. She was only 33 which is still relatively young and it never crossed our minds. We were pretty shocked at first. If we had of known Airlie would be able to talk, read, write and go to primary school, our fears would’ve been allayed straight away. Those fears didn’t last long though once we had a good chat with the doctor. He said don’t read anything about it, there’s no point. Don’t look into it, she’s just your daughter, bring her up. The doctor said just enjoy your gorgeous little baby and that’s we did.
The first few days were hard but then we thought that’s it, pick yourselves up there’s nothing to mourn. We missed out on that whole elation when a child is born and everyone’s happy. That sucked because it shouldn’t have been like that. People kept coming up saying they were sorry. People who were a bit more mature were better about it. They said it’s all good what’s the problem there’s no dramas. On reflection, sorry is not the right choice of words but it was always an unintentional thing. We weren’t feeling sorry for ourselves, we just didn’t know what the future would hold for Airlie. That was the thing, we didn’t understand it, with hindsight now I know it’s nothing to worry about it.
Airlie was about 18 months when Kris was diagnosed with cancer. Kris had been feeling unwell for a while at this point. Finally, they picked up she had leukaemia in December 2011, she was sick for 2012 and passed away in 2013. I went into a state of shock with it all because I had my business, Kris wasn’t working and I was looking after the family. Obviously, family comes first but I still had to bring an income in and had to balance it all. I had my brother in law working for me which was really good and we had Kris’s mum and my mum helping which allowed me to work.
Kristin never thought of herself once when she was sick. She never cracked it about having all this poison pumped into her body or needles hanging out of her neck, some of the roughest things I’ve seen. What upset Kris the most was what Airlie was missing out on. Kris missed out on being a proper mum and the was the saddest thing. It killed her. We all did, we missed out on being a family and that was hard for all of us. Just spending time together and doing things we didn’t get to do it. I look back now and think it just sucks.
When Kris knew that she was going to die she made me promise that Airlie would go to school. She just wanted us to be happy, have a good little life and for me to be a good dad. Kris wanted Airlie to have brothers and sisters that was a big thing. Even when we knew she only had about two weeks to live the conversation was about setting me and Airlie up. She was pairing up Airlie’s clothes with colours for me to take to kinder and day care. Even though Airlie was very young when Kris died she remembers her vividly. Kris made some videos on the I-pad for Airlie so we watch them. We always look at photos, I always keep her alive, I don’t shy away from that. Quiet often on a Saturday morning when we’re just tired and chilling we will watch the videos and have a look at the old photos. I’m glad she remembers her mum.
Having Airlie didn’t really allow me to fall down to the lows people experience when they lose someone. I had to pick myself up quick and stay positive with everything in life, my business, being a parent. I had a little moment where I did drop my bundle and I saw how bad it is and I knew I couldn’t go down that path because I’d be depressed. I knew I had too much to lose. I do have periods now where I get run down and tired I sort of lose it a little bit. When I am a bit flat no one else really pick up on it or asks me about it so I’m left to my own devices really. At first they do but it dries up a bit after a while, everyone has their own lives too which is fair enough. Airlie makes me feel better when I’m having a rough day. She knows when I’m tired or run down and I’m thinking about everything else. She senses it and looks me in the eyes and gives me a kiss and a cuddle and bang I feel good again. She keeps me grounded with it all.
A lot of the time when people say how good Airlie is doing and how proud Kris would be that makes me feel really good, like things are going ok. The hardest thing for me is when people ask me where Airlie’s mum is or other kids at school ask me. Airlie has a good understanding she knows her mum was sick but sometimes I don’t know if she realises she’s not coming back. We were at the pool the other day and Airlie went up to a lady that looked like Kris and hugged her and said mum. That was really rough.
Sometimes with work if I’m flat out and things are all over the place I have to let clients know I’m a single Dad. It’s not always easy for me to get quotes back straight away. I had to have yesterday off work because Airlie was tired from school. Sometimes people ask me who did Airlie’s hair if I’ve plaited it or put clips in or tell Airlie her mums done a good job. I have always told myself that just because I’m a male doesn’t mean that I can’t match her clothes up, do her hair and nails and make her look pretty. It’s not fair on Airlie if I just give her a pony tail every-day so I’ve googled hairstyles. You have to take on both roles. I was watching television the other day and there was a segment on parenting for mums and sometimes I think there are dads out there too. There’s a lot more single dads out there.
At work, I see a lot of guys complaining about their wives or how they get nagged about this that or the other. A guy will get a phone call at 3pm saying it’s the missus rounding him up to come home and I think to myself I would do anything to have that phone call. That’s one of the things I miss the most, the hardest time for me is coming home and not having anyone here. You work then come home and have to cook and clean, it’s a bigger fish to fry that’s for sure. It’s hard going, sometimes I’m totally stuffed and that’s when my bubble pops and I lose it a bit its mainly just because I’m tired.
You get lonely, you miss the companionship, you miss someone to talk to of a night. I loved everything about Kris. I loved her as a mother and her caring nature with Airlie, she’d do anything for her. I loved talking and being silly, enjoying our time together doing simple things like going for drives and walks. Everyday things that when you can’t do you miss the most.
Adam Hague father to Airlie